Video shows an M9 pistol being pointed at a soldier.

Video shows an M9 pistol being pointed at a soldier. (Screen grab of TikTok video via Twitter)

(Screen grab of TikTok video via Twitter)

July 28, 2020

This article by Matthew Cox and Hope Hodge Seck originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community

A video clip circulating on social media appears to be proof the U.S. military can’t stress weapons safety enough. But the former soldier who posted it says it’s all a joke — albeit one that triggered an Army criminal investigation.

The short clip, posted on TikTok and reshared by the Twitter account @RecruitingTruth, shows an Army specialist locking the slide of an M9 9mm pistol to the rear to ensure it’s clear and then placing it in front of another soldier, who is recording the video.

“Here you go, Sergeant; it’s clear,” the specialist says, turning his back and walking away.

The other soldier shows the camera a magazine apparently loaded with live ammunition, inserts the magazine into the pistol, then picks the weapon up and releases the slide forward to chamber a live round.

“What are you doing, Sergeant?” the specialist asks.

Still recording, the “sergeant” then points the loaded pistol at the specialist, who puts his hands up and says, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa,” as he backs away with fear on his face.

Army Criminal Investigation Command at Fort Drum, New York, investigated the incident in early June, base spokesman Maj. Harold Huff III told Military.com. He said the identity of the sergeant pointing the gun is unknown.

Kyle Benton, the specialist who appears in the video, confirmed to Military.com on Friday that he had posted it to his TikTok account in June, around the time he finished his service contract and left the Army.

Benton said the video was staged and that the pistol was loaded with dummy rounds, which he said viewers could see if they paused the clip at the right moment. A former infantryman, Benton said he had had the video on his phone for more than a year, waiting until his discharge to post it.

The response, he said, had surprised him: He deleted the video after threatening comments started to roll in.

Benton is no stranger to provocation on social media; since leaving the military, he has posted a number of racially provocative and offensive comments on multiple Twitter accounts and was accused on a local Antifa website of distributing Nazi propaganda at a Black Lives Matter rally in Portland, Oregon.

He declined to discuss his posts and said he had never been investigated while in the Army for any viewpoints he held and had only become outspoken on social media after separating.

Benton said Army investigators had reached out to him about the TikTok video, but he had declined to speak with them.

Asked whether the soldier had been investigated by the Army over views espoused on social media, Huff said he could confirm only that Benton’s discharge was not over an issue with the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

If he could do it over, Benton said he would not repost the staged video.

“I just want people to stop thinking I was the person holding the gun so they can stop threatening me,” he said. “I will never reveal the person who was holding it.”

No one was hurt making the video. But that can’t be said in the case of former Beaufort, South Carolina-based Marine Corps Cpl. Spencer Daily, who admitted to playing around with his personal handgun before he accidently shot and killed his roommate, Cpl. Tyler Wallingford, on April 12, 2019, according to a U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigation.

Daily had been drinking heavily while playing a video game with Wallingford. During the game, Daily picked up his handgun and pointed it at Wallingford in a teasing way, he told investigators. Then, he pulled the trigger and shot Wallingford in the head, killing him.

Daily immediately called 911.

“Hi, I’m sorry. I’m on the Air Station in Beaufort. I just shot my roommate. I’m so f—— sorry. I accidentally shot him.”

Daily was dishonorably discharged and is now serving a 69-month prison sentence in the Naval Consolidated Brig in Hanahan, South Carolina, after pleading guilty at a January general court-martial to involuntary manslaughter, willful discharge of a firearm, and violating a military order.

6 days ago

by Geoff Ziezulewicz

A Navy chief pleaded guilty to a child pornography possession charge earlier this month, officials confirmed.

Chief Personnel Specialist Justin D. McQuillin was charged with “knowingly and wrongfully” possessing “videos of minors…engaging in sexually explicit conduct” from October 2017 to May 2018 while on active duty with Navy Personnel Command in Millington, Tennessee, according to his charge sheet.

McQuillin pleaded guilty on July 3 and was sentenced to two years’ confinement and a dishonorable discharge, according to Arwen Fitzgerald, a spokeswoman for Navy Region Southeast.

Fitzgerald said there was a plea agreement in the case, but she did not respond to requests for further information or trial result records.

“I do not know where he will serve his confinement at this point,” she said in an email.

In response to a request for comment from the chief’s attorney, Fitzgerald said his military counsel “will not be providing comment.”

Officials with the Navy’s Defense Service Office Southeast did not respond to a separate request from Navy Times to speak to McQuillin’s attorney.

by Geoff Ziezulewicz

A Mississippi-based U.S. Navy senior chief is facing court-marital over allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman and threatened to distribute nude photos on social media, among other alleged crimes, according to charge sheets.

Prosecutors allege Senior Chief Construction Mechanic Luis H. Garcia sexually assaulted the woman in Guam on Sept. 16, 2018. The woman’s name is redacted in the charge sheet copy provided to Navy Times.

Garcia is also charged on the same date for violating the Navy’s sexual harassment policy when he allegedly kissed the neck of an individual whose name is redacted on the charge sheet and said, “let me see it (expletive)” to the individual.

Names of alleged victims are redacted throughout the charge sheet copy provided to Navy Times, so it remains unclear how many individuals accused Garcia of wrongdoing.

Garcia’s military attorney, Lt. Cmdr. Michael Collett, declined to comment.

Chief Personnel Specialist Justin D. McQuillin was charged with “knowingly and wrongfully” possessing “videos of minors…engaging in sexually explicit conduct.” (Getty Images)

After he serves his time, the chief will leave the Navy with a dishonorable discharge, officials said.

Assigned to the Seventh Naval Construction Regiment in Gulfport, Mississippi, the senior chief also faces a charge for threatening to distribute nude photographs of a woman on social media in September, according to charge sheets.

He is also charged with disobeying a senior officer when he communicated with “a named protected person in a Military Protective Order” in September and October, after a superior officer told him not to communicate with the individual, according to his charge sheet.

Garcia is also charged with calling his superior officer a “dick” on Oct. 1, charge sheets show.

Prosecutors further allege that Garcia left his unit without permission on Sept. 27 and was apprehended on Oct. 9.

His trial was slated for earlier this month but a military judge ordered a continuance and the trial is now scheduled to begin in late August, according to Navy Region Southeast spokesman Stephen Strickland.

A Texas native, Garcia’s awards and decorations include the combat action ribbon, according to his service record.

He also has qualifications for enlisted seabee combat warfare specialist, enlisted naval parachutist and enlisted expeditionary warfare specialist.

Naval Academy midshipman guilty of sexual assault

A Naval Academy midshipman has been found guilty of sexually violating three female classmates who were asleep after consuming alcohol in separate incidents in 2018 and 2019.

Midshipman Third Class Nixon Keago, 24, was convicted on Wednesday of two counts of sexual assault, attempted sexual assault, burglary and obstruction of justice.

He was found not guilty of two counts of attempted sexual assault, and Judge Capt. Aaron Rugh had also previously found Keago not guilty of another attempted sexual assault count.

Prosecutor Lt. Cmdr. Paul LaPlante said Keago broke into the rooms of three female midshipmen while they were drunk and asleep. One of the women is now an ensign, reported The Capital Gazette.

LaPlante said Keago found midshipmen who he could control and when they woke up, Keago manipulated them into lying for him.

‘He found midshipmen who were vulnerable,’ LaPlante said.

While Keago was on active duty in February 2018 and October 2018, he went into two midshipmen’s rooms and had sex with them while they slept, according to court documents.

In the February incident, the prosecutor said Keago entered the victim’s room at the academy in Annapolis, Maryland, undressed her, then sexually assaulted her while she slept after a night of drinking.

Keago attempted to have sex with another midshipmen in May 2019, court documents said.

The two met at a bar in New York City during fleet week and did some shots together. Keago then offered to walk the woman back to her yard patrol boat, reported The Capital Gazette.

The woman, who is now an ensign, testified during Keago’s court-martial trial that on the walk Keago tried to put his arm around her, but she did not want him to do that.

When they got to the boat, the female midshipman told Keago to leave and went to bed, only to wake up later and find him near her bed.

She sent Keago away again, but he returned three more times.

The ensign that the midshipman repeatedly entered her sleeping area, got in bed with her, kissed her neck, pulled down her shorts and pressed his body against hers without consent.

‘I did not tell him to come into my rack,’ she said. ‘I did not tell him to take my clothes off.’

Keago’s attorney, Lt. Dan Phipps, said his client deserved better because the investigation was fueled by rumors and incompetency.

Phipps said the rumors tarnished Keago’s reputation and also led the second and third victim to come forward with allegations.

Keago previously served four years as an enlisted US Marine. While serving in the Marines, Keago was a platoon sergeant, according to his LinkedIn profile.

His duties included training marines as well as ‘troop welfare’, his page stated.

He played on the All-Marine soccer team but was placed on a ‘leave of absence’ and later removed from the Naval Academy after the allegations came to light, a spokeswoman said.

He also represented Team USA at the 6th World Military Games in 2015 and was then assigned to Marine Corps Base in Hawaii.

Front of Bancroft Hall with Canon at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland (Julie Thurston/Julie Thurston/Getty Images)
Front of Bancroft Hall with Canon at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland (Julie Thurston/Julie Thurston/Getty Images)

Naval Academy Midshipman 3rd Class Nixon Keago has been found not guilty of attempted sexual assault, stemming from a September 2018 incident.

Keago, who is currently standing trial, still faces several charges including sexual assault, attempted sexual assault, obstruction of justice and burglary.

Defense attorney Lt. Dan Phipps motioned Monday morning for the attempted sexual assault charge and one of the burglary charges, both connected to September 2018, be dismissed.

In arguing for the charges to be dropped, Phipps said that the prosecution, represented by attorneys Lt. Cmdr. Paul LaPlante, Lt. Cmdr. Chris Cox and Lt. Josh Won, did not prove that there was an overt action that shows that Keago intended to commit sexual assault.

He pointed to the government calling only one witness to testify about the night.

An ensign testified Wednesday that she woke up to find Keago in her bed. It was the second time the midshipman was in her bed. This time they were both clothed, she said.

The Capital does not identify victims of sexual violence.

The ensign had not invited Keago into her bed, she said.

The lack of invitation and other evidence of Keago’s alleged pattern of conduct show that he planned to commit sexual assault, LaPlante argued Monday morning.

Even with the ensign and Keago still clothed, there was a substantial act because he went into her room uninvited, LaPlante said.

Judge Capt. Aaron Rugh did not agree. He granted the defense motion to find Keago not guilty of attempted sexual assault.

Rugh denied the motion to find Keago not guilty of burglary, saying there was enough evidence provided for the members, the court-martial equivalent of a jury, to find Keago guilty.

The defense began and rested its case Monday. Keago did not testify as part of the defense’s case.

The defense’s case, as outlined in Lt. Cmdr. Andrea Kissner’s opening statements, was that the charges against Keago were the result of rumors and a poor investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

The defense called the two NCIS special agents who handled the investigations into Keago investigations. Through his questioning, Phipps pointed out lapses in their investigations, highlighting delays in interviews and evidence collection.

Neither of the two special agents were able to collect video surveillance of the bars where the victims had gone the night of their alleged sexual assault or attempted sexual assault.

One of the agents, Christin Curington, went to Federal House Bar, where the first midshipman to report Keago’s actions was the night of her alleged assault, to get video. However, she could not get a copy, and even if she had, the quality was too low, she testified.

Curington could not identify the midshipman in the video, she said.

NCIS also tried to get video from the Mean Fiddler, but the agent was told the video had been overwritten, another NCIS special agent said. Defense attorneys were able to get a copy of the video, which they played last week.

There were delays in asking for the videos, as well as logs, the two NCIS special agents testified, and, in most cases, the evidence they requested no longer existed.

Phipps, through his questioning, also pointed out concerns with the special agents not asking questions about discrepancies in statements.

The investigations were of special interest to the NCIS director, which meant the agents were required to send reports to the director and had additional people reviewing their work, they testified.

The defense also called two witnesses to demonstrate the connections between the ensign and the midshipmen, as well as the rumors spreading around the Naval Academy.

Lt. Anthony Spicher testified that the ensign and the last midshipman to report were on the same yard patrol boat during New York Fleet Week. They were also on the same team and watch team, Spicher said.

Keago, despite witness testimony from previous days of the court-martial saying he was on the boat, was not assigned to the yard patrol.

Ensign Sean Lennon testified that he was interviewed by NCIS. While he was in the waiting room to be interviewed, he spoke with the ensign, who would make her own sexual assault report while talking to NCIS.

Lennon was not sure why he was interviewed. While talking to the other ensign in the waiting room, the ensign told him the gravity of the situation, that it involved sexual assault, he testified. He had heard rumors that Keago was in the room of the first midshipman who said she was assaulted by him and that she had come out screaming.

In all, the defense’s case lasted less than 2.5 hours, considering the court recessed for five to 10 minutes each time a witness left the stand.

The government declined to put on a case in rebuttal to the defense’s.

The defense and government attorneys will make closing statements Tuesday morning. Rugh will also give the members instructions before they are sent to deliberate.