ATLANTA (AP) _ The Army has decided to move forward with murder charges against a Georgia soldier accused of killing an unarmed Iraqi civilian during a nighttime raid.
Spc. Christopher P. Shore, 25, of Winder, will be charged with third-degree murder, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Thursday.
Murder in the third degree amounts to a manslaughter charge in the civilian world. The charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, commander of the Hawaii-based 25th Infantry Division, gave approval for a murder trial, a decision that goes against the recommendation made during a preliminary hearing known as an Article 32.
Lt. Col. Raul Gonzalez, the Article 32 investigating officer, had recommended that the charges against Shore be reduced to aggravated assault. Shore had initially faced a premeditated murder charge.
Shore and his platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Trey A. Corrales of San Antonio, were accused of killing an Iraqi detainee during a nighttime raid on June 23 in a village near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk.
During the Article 32 hearing, Shore testified that he shot at the Iraqi man after Corrales fired several shots at him and then ordered Shore to ``finish'' the Iraqi. But Shore said he intentionally missed and only fired because he was afraid of openly disobeying an order from Corrales.
Shore, who returned from a 15-month tour of Iraq in October, maintained his innocence and expressed disappointment in the Army's latest decision. ``I guess they're playing hardball,'' he told the Atlanta newspaper.
Corrales has waived his right to an Article 32 hearing. Maj. Gary Johnson, the attorney for Shore's brigade, said no decision has been made on Corrales yet.