SAN DIEGO – An ex-Marine at the center of a probe into whether Camp Pendleton troops killed between five and 10 unarmed captives during a battle in Iraq is a hero who faced vicious enemies, his lawyer said Friday.
"Weemer is an American hero," Hackett said. "Every American should be on their hands and knees thanking their god that there are men in the American military like Ryan Weemer doing the heavy lifting their country requires."
Weemer, 24, is at the center of a military probe into the actions of his squad in Fallujah on or about Nov. 10, 2004.
The investigation was launched after Weemer left the Marines and applied for a job with the Secret Service, according to a military writer who interviewed him last year. Weemer described the killings of the suspected insurgents when asked before a polygraph test if he had ever participated in a wrongful death.
Hackett declined to comment on Weemer's discussions with the Secret Service but said his client had not yet spoken to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
Weemer was a rifleman in a four-man fireteam in the 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, Hackett said.
Weemer told writer Nathaniel Helms about the killings last year for a book he was writing on Fallujah, saying the suspected insurgents had been held in an abandoned house after being captured in combat.
One of the Marines radioed headquarters for guidance on what to do. The group's leader interpreted the response, "They're still alive?" as an order to kill, Helms said. The captives were then shot.
Attempts to reach Weemer, who now lives in Kentucky, were unsuccessful, but his sister Felicia Hudson told The Associated Press on Thursday that he was trying to put the incident behind him and take college courses.
Fallujah was the scene of two fierce Marine battles in 2004, including the deadly November offensive against insurgents that produced heavy casualties on both sides.
Other members of Weemer's company in were later accused of wrongdoing in the killings of 24 civilians in Haditha in 2005.
Camp Pendleton Marines are the focus of two high-profile criminal cases, including the Haditha case in which three enlisted Marines are charged with murder, and four officers are charged with failing to investigate the deaths.
The Marines say they are innocent because the deaths were the result of lawful combat.