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Sergeant faces hearing in killing of soldiers

Army Sergeant Joseph Bozicevich was led from court during a break yesterday. Army Sergeant Joseph Bozicevich was led from court during a break yesterday. (Stephen Morton/ Associated Press)
Associated Press / April 14, 2009
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FORT STEWART, Ga. - An Army sergeant shouted "My career's over, just kill me," as soldiers pinned him to the ground after he shot and killed two fellow soldiers in Iraq, members of their unit told a military judge yesterday.

The two slain soldiers had been giving Sergeant Joseph Bozicevich of Minneapolis a critique for poor performance before he shot them Sept. 14 at a small patrol base south of Baghdad, witnesses said in a Fort Stewart courtroom.

Their platoon leader, First Lieutenant Ryan Daly, said Bozicevich's squad leader - one of the men slain - was pulling him off patrol duty after he left a soldier behind during a foot patrol the night before. Bozicevich had another problem a few hours earlier, when he lost one of his grenades and couldn't find it.

"He was having a bad day and making some mistakes," Daly testified. "Leaving a soldier behind, that was kind of it."

Bozicevich is charged with murdering his squad leader, Staff Sergeant Darris Dawson of Pensacola, Fla., and a fellow four-man team leader, Sergeant Wesley Durbin of Dallas. His Article 32 hearing, similar to a civilian grand jury, began yesterday to determine whether Army prosecutors have enough evidence to try him in a court-martial.

The testimony yesterday provided the first glimpse into the circumstances surrounding the slayings. The Army had previously released few details.

None of the Third Infantry Division soldiers testifying before lunch yesterday saw the shootings. Several said they were awakened by several rapid gunshots about 2 a.m. and rushed from their bunks thinking the base was under attack.

Sergeant Darren Brown, who helped another soldier restrain Bozicevich, said the accused sergeant said "Just kill me" as they held him face-down in the dirt.

Brown said another soldier standing nearby asked, "Why'd you do it, Boz?"

"The accused just smiled and said, 'You know why,' " Brown told the judge, Colonel Michael J. Hargis of Fort Hood, Texas.

Daly said Durbin was found shot inside a security station where Bozicevich was supposed to be on duty that night. He said medics worked furiously to try to save Dawson and Durbin.