SAN DIEGO – Two Navy SEALs testified Friday that Chief Eddie Gallagher shot at and hit at least two Iraqi civilians.
Gallagher is being tried in a military courtroom at Naval Base San Diego for war crimes including the alleged murder of an wounded ISIS prisoner.
Friday, prosecutors shifted their focus to allegations that Gallagher shot at civilians as a sniper in Iraq.
“He got startled and ran straight back,” said Special Warfare Operator Dalton Tolbert, a Navy Seal Sniper who served with Gallagher. Tolbert said he saw an older man standing on the banks of the Tigris River. He said he fired a warning shot at the old man to scare him away. He said that moments later, Gallagher shot him in the back as he ran away.
“You guys missed him, but I got him,” Gallagher said over the radio, according to Tolbert.
Later, Tolbert sent a message to friends which read, in part: "I saw Eddie Gallagher shoot at someone who didn’t deserve to die. I shot more warning shots to protect civilians [from Eddie] than I ever shot at ISIS.”
Attorneys for the defense argued there were discrepancies in Tolbert's testimony. The said he told the jury Friday that the old man had ‘ran straight back,’ but told NCIS investigators last year that the man ‘zig-zagged.’
The defense said that Dolton took part in a group text called "The Sewing Circle," where he warned the other SEAL witnesses to make sure their stories were consistent with each other. Later, he launched in a profanity-laced tirade about the defense attorney, the judge, and how he wanted to burn the court room down.
A second SEAL sniper, Brent Vrens, testified he saw a young Iraqi girl get shot on the river bank, but that he didn't see Gallagher pull the trigger. He originally said “it looked like ISIS had shot her.”
The snipers testified a day after Navy Medic Cory Scott testified that he, not Gallager, killed an ISIS prisoner. He said Gallagher stabbed him in the neck, and he cut off the flow of oxygen to the prisoner's tube to put him out of his misery.
Vrens testified Friday that Gallagher admitted to stabbing the prisoner, but defense attorneys continue to deny the allegation.
“I think we had another good day today. We have the what may be the final two fact witnesses which went to show once again that this entire case was built just on a small core group of people that had personal animosity towards Eddie Gallagher. They told stories that just couldn’t hold up,” Gallagher's lead attorney Tim Parlatore said.
Court will resume Monday with additional SEAL testimony, but the prosecution expected to wrap up its case Tuesday or Wednesday.