FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (AP) — U.S. Army investigators have concluded that a 101st Airborne Division soldier’s death during training exercise last year was preventable.
Documents obtained by The Leaf-Chronicle of Clarksville (http://leafne.ws/2au5HB8) through a Freedom of Information Act request show the shooter who killed 22-year-old Spc. Kevin J. Rodriguez on Oct. 6 was using live ammunition left over from a previous training exercise on Sept. 23-24.
Investigators were not able to determine whether the soldier took the live ammunition on purpose, but they did find that errors led the leaders of the earlier exercise to give a false report that 100 percent of the ammunition was accounted for.
They also found the shooter, whose name was redacted from the files given to the newspaper, lied to investigators in an attempt to cover up his use of live ammunition.
Rodriguez, a soldier with Company A, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, “Rakkasans,” was part of a team of four soldiers participating in a blank firing exercise the morning of Oct. 6, according to the investigation.
During the exercise, his team waited behind a mound as other troops approached. Rodriguez then fired multiple blank rounds toward one of the opposing soldiers who was about 7 meters away. The soldier returned fire with “no less than three and no more than five live rounds,” three of which struck Rodriguez.
Two rounds struck Rodriguez in his chest protector while a third struck his upper left arm and chest area, entering his heart and killing him.
The shooter later told investigators he had emptied all of his magazines on the range and had none remaining, which investigators found to be “highly unlikely” since the exercise only lasted a few minutes. The report said the shooter was not searched until he arrived at Criminal Investigation Command, several hours after the shooting, “providing the soldier ample opportunity to dispose of the magazine.”
The investigation found the shooting was unintentional, but also said that as an experienced soldier, the shooter should have known he had live ammunition with him.
The report concluded that the soldiers and unit leaders responsible for the accident received “appropriate administrative and disciplinary action,” although it did not say what action was taken.
Rodriguez was a native of Barceloneta, Puerto Rico, who enlisted in 2013 and completed a nine-month deployment in Afghanistan in June 2015. He was a private first class at the time of his death and was promoted to specialist posthumously.
Information from: The Leaf-Chronicle, http://www.theleafchronicle.com