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Posted: 2/25/2002 2:49:06 PM EDT
[url]http://www.fayettevillenc.com/obj_stories/2002/feb/m25shoot.shtml[/url] [i]Monday, February 25, 2002[/i] [b]Soldier killing ‘tragic’ error Deputy unaware of role-playing[/b] By Henry Cuningham, Military editor The Moore County sheriff’s deputy who shot a Fort Bragg soldier to death and injured another on Saturday did not know the soldiers were part of a role-playing Special Forces exercise, said Lane Carter, chief deputy of the Moore County Sheriff’s Department. ‘‘They attacked the deputy with everything they had, and he responded accordingly,’’ Carter said. ‘‘One was trying to get the deputy’s weapon. The other was pulling a weapon out of a bag. They ended up getting shot over it. He reacted as any officer would react.’’ The soldiers were not wearing uniforms. One of them carried a bag containing a disassembled M-4 carbine, a standard Special Forces weapon, Army officials said. Participants in the exercise do not carry live ammunition. The Army on Sunday night had not identified the soldiers, pending notification of their families. The injured soldier was in serious but stable condition at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst. ‘‘It was a tragic misunderstanding and miscommunication between those individuals,’’ said Maj. Gary Kolb, a spokesman for U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg. Deputy Randall Butler shot the soldiers at 2:30 p.m. Saturday on Acorn Ridge Road, about one-half mile from N.C. 705 near Robbins in northern Moore County, the Sheriff’s Department said. The State Bureau of Investigation said Butler stopped what appeared to be a suspicious vehicle. Randy Myers, a criminal specialist in the Fayetteville district office of the SBI, said there was a confrontation and "Deputy Butler felt like his life was in imminent danger.’’ Soldiers were students The soldiers were among about 200 students in the Robin Sage exercise, the culminating part of the Special Forces Qualification Course. The 19-day exercise takes place in the Uwharrie National Forest and 10 counties in central North Carolina, which make up a fictitious country called "Pineland." The 10 counties are Richmond, Scotland, Anson, Stanly, Montgomery, Moore, Lee, Chatham, Randolph and Davidson. Kolb said it has been ‘‘standard procedure for many years’’ for students to wear civilian clothes and drive in civilian vehicles during the exercise. The exercise tests skills in survival, tactics and dealing with people, as well as ethics, judgment and decision-making. The Army has received help from local residents and governmental agencies for Robin Sage for years, and that support is crucial to the program’s success, Kolb said. But Saturday’s scenario did not anticipate the involvement of local law enforcement, he said. ‘‘Because of that, we would not have notified any of the agencies involved that this was taking place,’’ Kolb said. The scenario involved a reconnaissance mission to observe a target that would be part of an objective for a future mission, Kolb said. The soldiers were riding in a truck with a civilian driver. The civilian was a local resident playing a role as a resident of "Pineland." ‘No earthly idea’ Carter, the Moore County chief deputy, said Butler had "no earthly idea’’ what was going on. ‘‘He thought they were going to kill him,’’ Carter said.
Link Posted: 2/25/2002 2:52:47 PM EDT
Butler is on administrative leave ‘‘for his emotional health,’’ Carter said. The deputy has been with the Sheriff’s Department since 2000 and has been in law enforcement for about 15 years, Carter said. ‘‘He will come back any time he gets ready,’’ Carter said. No charges have been filed. Carter compared the traffic stop to a 1997 incident on Interstate 95 when two law enforcement officers were killed. Cumberland County Deputy David Hathcock and N.C. Highway Patrolman Ed Lowery were shot to death on Sept. 22, 1997, after a routine traffic stop on I-95. Brothers Kevin and Tilmon Golphin of Richmond, Va., have been sentenced to death for the killings. Carter said the situation was similar on Saturday in that one person tried to get the officer’s attention while the other tried to fire a rifle. Carter said he understood that law-enforcement officials in adjacent Randolph County had been involved in part of the exercise, but Moore County was not involved. Kolb said the Army "will look at where the miscommunication happened and make sure we take some of the steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again." ‘‘Our sympathy goes out to everyone involved,’’ Kolb said. Kolb said police in the Moore County town of Robbins had been involved in an exercise with the same group of students several nights before. ‘‘When we know ahead of time a training scenario involves local law enforcement, we will coordinate with those agencies ahead of time,’’ Kolb said. Exercise to continue The Robin Sage exercise began on Feb. 16 and will continue through March 2, said Maj. Rich Patterson, a spokesman for the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg. The JFK Center and School has ‘‘recontacted all of the counties we are currently operating in,’’ Patterson said. ‘‘We also asked the Moore County Sheriff’s Department through their law-enforcement channels to ensure the municipalities know we will be continuing to train through March 2.’’ The Army’s standard procedure is to notify the counties and municipalities in the 10-county area, Patterson said. The responsibility for notifying local officials of exercises is with the 1st Battalion of the 1st Special Warfare Training Group of the JFK Center and School, Patterson said. The battalion is in charge of the qualification course. The training has been conducted in central North Carolina since the mid-1950s ‘‘without incident,’’ an Army statement said. Patterson said Special Forces soldiers returning from Afghanistan have said their work there was a ‘‘mirror image of what they are trained to do in Robin Sage. ‘‘The operations they are conducting in Afghanistan validate the superb training scenario of unconventional warfare using their skills as expert trainers to train a host nation’s military to win back its country," Patterson said. Military editor Henry Cuningham can be reached at 486-3585 or cuninghamh@fayettevillenc.com.
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