Two Marine Raiders and a Navy corpsman will face charges related to the death of a defense contractor during a street fight in Iraq, the Marine Corps said.
Gunnery Sgt. Joshua Negron, Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Draher, and Chief Petty Officer Eric Gilmet are alleged to have fought with Rick Anthony Rodriguez, a retired Army Special Forces master sergeant, outside a restaurant in Erbil, Iraq, on Jan. 1, 2019. Rodriguez died after the fight with the three men from Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command.
“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.”
Negron, Draher, and Gilmet were assigned to the 3rd Raider Battalion at the time of the incident, while Rodriguez was working as a defense contractor for Lockheed Martin in Erbil. Lawyers for Negron and Gilmet could not be reached for comment, but the attorney for Draher offered his view of the incident to the Washington Examiner.
“This is an absolute self-defense case,” Phillip Stackhouse, Draher’s lawyer, told the Washington Examiner.
The restaurant’s security camera footage showed Rodriguez speaking with Gilmet, according to Stackhouse. The conversation grew heated, Stackhouse said, adding that security then asked Rodriguez to leave.
Rodriguez and some of his colleagues allegedly made their way to their vehicle outside the restaurant. Some time later, Draher, Negron, and Gilmet went outside to speak with Rodriguez in an effort to settle the dispute, Stackhouse said.
The former Green Beret lunged at Draher with a “head fake,” Stackhouse said, after which the men commenced fighting. At some point, Rodriguez fell to the ground. Because Rodriguez appeared drunk, Stackhouse said, Gilmet turned the man to his side so he would not choke on his own vomit. The three MARSOC men put Rodriguez in their pickup truck and drove him back to their base, where Gilmet gave him medical assistance. Later that morning, it appeared something was wrong with Rodriguez, so he was brought to a medical facility. He was transferred for treatment to Landstuhl, Germany, where he died some days later.
When asked why the men did not bring Rodriguez to the medical facility immediately, Stackhouse noted they thought he simply was drunk and that Gilmet likely would have been the one to check him out first.
“I am disappointed that my command decided to charge me and my colleagues with Mr. Rodriguez’s death,” Draher said in a statement provided to the Washington Examiner. “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.”
A trial date has yet to be scheduled for the court-martial. The accused are not in pre-trial custody, the Marine Corps said