A U.S. soldier charged with the murder of an Italian intelligence official in Iraq said he was doing everything by the book when he fired his machine gun at the approaching vehicle, according to the New York Post.

Spc. Mark Lozano, who served in New York's Fighting 69th Infantry Regiment in Baghdad, was guarding an Iraqi checkpoint near the Baghdad Airport in March 2005 when a vehicle carrying Nicola Calipari and Il Manifesto journalist Giuliana Sgrena approached. Calipari had just negotiated for Sgrena’s release after she was kidnapped in Iraq, and they were on their way to catch a flight to Italy.

Click here for the New York Post story.

Lozano told the Post the vehicle was going about 50 mph. He said he first displayed his “300 million watt” light at the car, then fired shots to the ground in front of the car and finally aimed at the car’s engine after it wouldn’t slow down.

“If you hesitate, you come home in a box - and I didn't want to come home in a box. I did what any soldier would do in my position,” Lozano told the Post.

Sgrena, who was wounded in the gunfire, later said that the flashing lights and the bullets came all at once.

Lozano will be tried in abstentia by Italian officials. If he is found guilty, however, the U.S. will not turn him over because the U.S. Military has cleared him of any wrongdoing, the Post reported.