CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – A Marine sergeant accused of murdering an unarmed Iraqi captive during heavy fighting in Fallujah was heard on tape Thursday telling how his squad argued over what to do with their prisoners and saying he "did one guy" as they sought to keep up with their unit.
The recording played by military prosecutors was made when Sgt. Ryan Weemer, 25, was applying for a job with the U.S. Secret Service.
In the interview, Weemer said he and other squad members shot unarmed Iraqis they were holding in a boarded-up house because they didn't have time to take the men to a jail.
"We called up to the platoon leader and the response was, 'Are they dead yet?"' Weemer said on the tape.
"We didn't take any prisoners. ... They didn't have weapons. They were just sitting there," Weemer went on. "We argued about it, but we had to move, we had to get out, our unit's moving down the street. I did one guy and then ... I just left, went out to my team."
The 2006 interview, during which Weemer was given a polygraph test and asked whether he had participated in a serious crime, was the first time the alleged crime came to light.
The interviewer suggested it would be a crime to shoot an unarmed person in the back "even if the guy is a scumbag."
"That actually did happen, to be honest," Weemer replied.
Weemer told his interviewer that the killing came shortly after his best friend was shot by snipers.
The killings on Nov. 9, 2004, came after the squad captured men they believed had been shooting at them from a house.
The Marine said his squad was given orders to clear an apparently empty house "to get our heads back in the game," but instead found four or five men inside and subdued them behind the house while they blew up a safe.
In court Thursday, Weemer gave only procedural responses to questions posed at the start of the Article 32 hearing by Marine investigating Maj. Glen Hines, who will determine whether there is sufficient evidence to support court-martialing Weemer on one count of murder and six counts of dereliction of duty.
Weemer faces a life sentence in military prison and dishonorable discharge if he is convicted of murder.
Weemer's squad leader, Jose Nazario Jr., 27, has been charged with two counts of voluntary manslaughter in the killing of two captives "upon a sudden quarrel and a heat of passion."
Because he has already completed his military service, the former sergeant is scheduled to be tried in August in federal court.
A third Marine, 26-year-old Sgt. Jermaine Nelson, is slated to be court-martialed in December on charges of unpremeditated murder and dereliction of duty.
Last month, Nelson and Weemer were jailed for refusing to testify against Nazario before a federal grand jury believed to be investigating the case.
Both were released July 3 and returned to Camp Pendleton, where they are working in a non-combat capacity.