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2 Marine Raiders, Navy corpsman charged with death of US contractor after fight in Iraq

Chief Petty Officer Eric S. Gilmet (standing), a Fleet Marine Force reconnaissance corpsman and Inspector-Instructor medical staff with 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, speaks to Sailors from across Marine Forces Reserve and the U.S. Navy Reserve during a water confidence exercise at a FMF reconnaissance corpsman screening in San Antonio, April 19, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ian Leones/Released)
December 17, 2019

Two Marines Raiders and a Navy corpsman are facing charges after defense contractor working for Lockheed Martin died after he got into a fight with the three military servicemen.

Gunnery Sgt. Joshua Negron, Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Draher and Chief Petty Officer Eric Gilmet allegedly fought Rick Anthony Rodriguez, a retired Army Special Forces master sergeant, outside a restaurant in Erbil, Iraq, on Jan. 1, 2019. He died a few days after the fight, the Washington Examiner reported.

“At this time, charges against three members of MARSOC in connection with the death of Mr. Rodriguez have been referred to a general court-martial,” spokeswoman Maj. Kristine Tortorici said in a statement to the Washington Examiner.“During this process, it is imperative that the rights of the service members are protected, and the integrity of the military justice system is maintained. We are committed to ensuring this process is conducted in a fair and impartial manner.”

The date for the court-martial hasn’t been scheduled yet and the accused are not in pre-trial custody, the Marine Corps said.

Phillip Stackhouse, Draher’s lawyer, claims the incident was an “absolute self-defense case.”

“To me it’s overcharging for the circumstances that took place,” Stackhouse added.

The people involved were asked to leave the bar after they were in a heated argument. The restaurant’s security camera shows Rodriguez initiated the fight by lunging at the men with a “head fake,” according to Stackhouse.

The four then got into a fistfight, which ended up with Rodriguez on the ground. Since the three thought Rodriguez was drunk, they allegedly turned his head to the side so he wouldn’t throw up on himself or choke on his vomit.

The men then put Rodriguez in their pickup truck and drove him back to their base, where Gilmet gave him medical assistance. The next morning, Rodriguez was brought to the medical facility after it appeared there was something wrong with him. He died within the next few days.

“I am disappointed that my command decided to charge me and my colleagues with Mr. Rodriguez’s death,” Draher said in a statement. “What happened on January 1, 2019 was an accident, not brought on by our actions — but unfortunately by the actions of Mr. Rodriguez.”

“As we have said from the beginning, and is captured on video, Mr. Rodriguez attacked me in a drunken state,” Draher said. “My colleagues and I reacted only in self-defense, once the fight was over it was me and my colleagues — not his friends — who took him back to our base for safety. The fact that Mr. Rodriguez passed away is nothing short of tragic and I wish his family and friends did not have to feel the pain and sorrow that I am sure they do. In the end, I have to trust the system in which I find myself. I would have much preferred to have had the trust and support of my command.”