SAN DIEGO (CN) – Navy SEAL colleagues of Chief Special Warfare Officer Edward R. Gallagher testified against him Wednesday, claiming they witnessed their deployment leader shoot an elderly Iraqi civilian and stab an adolescent Islamic State group fighter in the neck, killing him.
Gallagher faces charges of premeditated murder and other war crimes which Navy prosecutors say took place when his SEAL Team 7 platoon was deployed to Mosul, Iraq in 2017. He has pleaded not guilty.
Two of Gallagher’s colleagues testified against him Wednesday, following the first day of trial where Lt. Thomas MacNeil said he saw Gallagher with his custom-made knife standing next to an IS detainee who had been stabbed in the neck during their deployment in May 2017.
Chief Special Warfare Operator Craig Miller said Wednesday afternoon he was eating lunch when an injured IS detainee was brought to their camp bleeding from his leg.
Gallagher put pressure on the “scrawny young” combatant’s leg, who Miller said “raised up” in pain when he was receiving medical treatment. Miller said he put his shoe on the IS fighter’s chest to push him back down.
Miller left the scene for several minutes to attend to other duties and returned to find Gallagher on both knees, leaning next to the right side of the detainee’s head.
“I saw him stab the prisoner,” Miller said in Navy Judge Capt. Aaron Rugh’s courtroom, gesturing to where his jugular vein is on his neck.
“The blood just came out. It looked similar to a baby throwing up,” Miller added, saying he saw Gallagher stab the IS fighter twice.
Miller said he immediately left the scene and reported what happened to his lieutenant. But Miller said later in the day the lieutenant conducted Gallagher’s re-enlistment ceremony next to the corpse and encouraged members of the platoon to take group pictures with the body.
Miller pointed himself out in a group photo with the corpse shown in court. He expressed regret about posing for the picture.
“It could be used for propaganda purposes. It’s just unprofessional, I shouldn’t have done it,” he said.
Former Special Warfare Operator sniper Dylan Dille testified Wednesday morning and shared the same sentiments, saying they’re why he chose not to appear in the photos.
“It was resistance,” Dille said.
When a radio message went out to the troops stating a winded IS fighter had been brought to their camp, Dille said Gallagher responded to the call, saying, “Don’t touch him, he’s all mine.”
Dille said the IS fighter looked about 12 years old and was “rail thin” and was wearing a wrist watch around his bicep.
The IS fighter was conscious before Dille went back to work; later he was dead and had a tube sticking out of his neck from a medical procedure, Dille said.
After the incident, Dille said Gallagher held a private meeting with senior members of the platoon where he acknowledged his teammates were “not alright with what happened.” Dille said Gallagher called the fighter an “ISIS dirt bag” and told his platoon, “Next time we get a prisoner, it will be out of sight, out of mind.”
On Father’s Day 2017, Dille said, Gallagher shot and hit an elderly Iraqi civilian who was unarmed.
Dille said he, Gallagher and a couple other snipers were positioned in two towers to get a “90 degree” angle on enemy troops nearby when the shooting took place. Dille saw a vapor trail and rifle being fired, viewed from his scope. He said Gallagher came on the radio saying he thought he missed after the man was shot.
In other incidents, Gallagher also shot at a crowd of people and at two women wearing traditional garb and walking near a river, according to Dille.
But on cross-examination, Gallagher’s attorney Timothy Parlatore pointed out Dille “never personally watched” Gallagher pull the trigger and shoot at civilians.
Parlatore also questioned Dille about some of the platoon members “coordinating” over WhatsApp text message on how to report Gallagher’s alleged misconduct to investigators after they returned from deployment.
Echoing the language in one of the group text messages where Dille expressed confidence in his recollection of events in Iraq, Parlatore asked, “That’s right because your shit is watertight, isn’t it?”
“The truth is watertight, Mr. Parlatore,” Dille responded.
The trial is expected to last three weeks.