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Former SEAL sniper testifies his chief shot Iraqi civilian during 2017 deployment

Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher leaves a military courtroom on Naval Base San Diego with his wife, Andrea Gallagher. (Andrew Dyer/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)

The third day of the court-martial trial of Navy SEAL Edward R. Gallagher featured testimony from a platoon sniper who said he saw his chief — Gallagher — shoot an old man during a deployment to Iraq in 2017.

Gallagher is charged with premeditated murder for allegedly killing a wounded ISIS fighter while providing medical treatment. He’s also charged with shooting two civilians and, at other times during that deployment, shooting indiscriminately at civilians.

Gallagher denies all the charges and has pleaded not guilty.

A former sniper in Gallagher’s platoon, Dylan Dille, testified Wednesday that he was present when, on at least three different occasions, Gallagher fired his sniper rifle at people Dille said were civilians — an old man, two women and a crowd of people. Dille said Gallagher hit the old man.

Dille said he and other members of the platoon had felt obligated to protect civilians from Gallagher because he “kept shooting” at them. Dille said he kept a journal during the deployment and had noted that on Father’s Day that year he had “failed” to protect the old man.

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Timothy Parlatore, Gallagher’s lead defense attorney, has said in court that there is evidence some of Gallagher’s team members were conspiring against Gallagher and had concocted the allegations as part of a “mutiny,” to get Gallagher removed.

Parlatore on Wednesday asked Dille about texts messages exchanged on the WhatsApp messaging application between service members who are now witnesses in the trial. Their group chat, called the “Sewing Circle,” included some witnesses discussing the allegations against their chief.

Parlatore asked Dille about a comment he made in the group text about the story being “watertight.”

Dille responded, “The truth is watertight, Mr. Parlatore.”

The two continued to verbally spar over the contents of the group chat.

The text conversation among witnesses at some point turned to news media coverage and a public backlash against the prosecution of Gallagher from some of his supporters who have called themselves the “Real Brotherhood.”

“It ain’t over until we’re sitting on a front porch with six shooters and the ‘Real Brotherhood’ comes knocking,” Dille wrote in a text. “I look forward to laying down some lead again on that occasion.”

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Parlatore asked Dille, “Who is the “Real Brotherhood?”

“People who are OK with war crimes,” answered Dille.

Cmdr. Jeff Pietrzyk, the Navy’s lead prosecutor, asked Dille to explain why he said that.

Dille said the comment was in regard to people who had threatened him.

“I was prepared for an angry mob to come knocking,” he said. “Conservative media, former SEALs — that’s where these threats are coming from.”

Gallagher’s wife, Andrea Gallagher, and his brother, Sean Gallagher, have appeared several times on Fox News programs and maintain social networking websites to advocate on behalf of the chief.

One of President Donald Trump’s personal attorneys, Marc Mukasey, also is representing Gallagher. So far Mukasey has been arguing defense objections to prosecutor questions.

Chief Special Operator Craig Miller, the government’s star witness, also was expected to testify when the trial resumed Wednesday afternoon.

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© 2019 The San Diego Union-Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.