November 16, 2006
Kill the Iraqis. Kill them all. And if they shoot back at you, have them kill each other.
Long live the Circus Maximus where Iraqis and their country are pulverized while we watch it all on Real World or Amazing Race or some other asinine show.
U.S. Contractor Fired On Iraqi Vehicles for Sport, Suit Alleges
Where are you now, o righteous Iraqis of the Green Zone? Your turn is coming.
By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 17, 2006; A20
A man who worked in Iraq for a Herndon-based security company is accused in a lawsuit of firing twice into Iraqi civilian vehicles last summer without provocation, possibly killing at least one person.
Two co-workers who witnessed the shootings say in the suit that there has been no investigation, even though they reported the incidents.
All three men worked for Triple Canopy, a corporation formed in 2003 by former military men to provide security in the Middle East for the United States government and private companies. Triple Canopy was the ninth-largest contractor for the U.S. State Department in fiscal 2005, with payments totaling more than $90 million, government records show.
That sum does not include what Triple Canopy is paid by private firms such as KBR, formerly Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton Co. that is involved in rebuilding in Iraq. Former Army Ranger Shane Schmidt, former Marine Charles L. Sheppard III and their shift leader were all working on an assignment for KBR when the shootings occurred near Baghdad on July 8, alleges the suit, filed in Fairfax County Circuit Court.
Schmidt and Sheppard say they reported the shootings to Triple Canopy. Instead of investigating, the men allege, Triple Canopy fired them and prevented their being hired by other companies in the Middle East. The lawsuit alleges wrongful termination and wrongful interference with their professional future.
Triple Canopy and KBR declined comment on the suit. Defense Department officials did not respond to numerous inquiries, and State Department officials said they were unaware of the incidents that are being alleged.
Schmidt and Sheppard allege that Triple Canopy did not report the shootings to KBR or the government. They say that no one has ever contacted them about the shootings.
In court papers, Triple Canopy has not denied that the incidents occurred. The company has tried to have the case dismissed on the grounds that no violation of Virginia law occurred and that Schmidt and Sheppard were "at-will" employees and could be fired for any reason.
At a hearing last month, Fairfax Circuit Court Judge M. Langhorne Keith said the state's "at-will" legal doctrine has exceptions, including "when people allege that they reported a murder, two murders or maybe more than two murders, conducted by a fellow employee, and were fired for making that report."
The lawsuit does not name the person accused of the shootings, a shift leader. Schmidt and Sheppard's attorney, Patricia A. Smith of Alexandria, declined to name the man. The case is scheduled to go to trial July 30.
Smith said Schmidt and Sheppard were not available for interviews yesterday. Schmidt lives in Herndon, and Sheppard resides in Destin, Fla. Both have private security jobs in this country, far removed from the high-adrenaline, $500-a-day work they did for years in Iraq and Afghanistan, Smith said.
Schmidt was a Marine from 1995 to 2003 and was one of the first Marines deployed to Afghanistan, Smith said. He began working for Triple Canopy in Iraq in 2004.
Sheppard served in the Army from 1995 to 2002, including time as a Ranger, and was deployed in Albania and Kosovo. He worked in Iraq and Qatar for other private security companies and began working for Triple Canopy in April.
"These guys are tremendously experienced and well-respected in the field," Smith said. They assert that Triple Canopy has given other companies false reasons for firing them.
On July 8, according to their lawsuit, Schmidt and Sheppard were riding with their shift leader in a convoy to pick up a KBR employee at the Baghdad airport.
As their vehicle approached the airport, their shift leader declared that he was "going to kill someone today," the lawsuit states. The man then stepped out of the vehicle and fired several shots from his M4 rifle into the windshield of a stopped truck.
Schmidt and Sheppard were horrified, Smith said. According to the lawsuit, the shift leader told them, "That didn't happen, understand?"
After their convoy picked up the KBR employee, the crew headed to its next destination. At this point, Schmidt and Sheppard allege, their shift leader declared, "I've never shot anyone with my pistol before." The man then opened his door and fired seven or eight rounds into the windshield of a nearby taxi. Schmidt and Sheppard later heard that a cabdriver was found shot to death in the area, according to the suit.
Schmidt and Sheppard initially hesitated to report the two seemingly unprovoked shootings, especially because their supervisor told them that they would be fired if they did, their lawsuit claims. The men also feared for their safety, they said.
But the next day, the shift leader was returned to the United States at the end of his three-month contract, Smith said. The two men reported the shootings, were suspended, then were fired. Smith said Triple Canopy told them they were fired for not reporting the shootings quickly enough. Schmidt asserts that when he asked who was investigating the incidents, Triple Canopy told him no one was investigating.
Smith said she does not know how many people might have been wounded or killed in the shootings. She said that Schmidt and Sheppard could not see into the truck that was fired on but that they did see a cabdriver in the second vehicle.
Attempts to oversee American contractors in Iraq, including the thousands who have been hired to provide security, have "gone from completely absent to spotty," said Peter W. Singer, a specialist in warfare and the Middle East at the Brookings Institution. Most oversight is focused on how U.S. money is spent, Singer said. But as to the regulating of contractors' conduct, "that part of the discussion is pretty much missing still."