WASHINGTON (AP) — In a recitation of death and destruction, a federal prosecutor on Tuesday chronicled for a jury the alleged conduct of four Blackwater security guards accused of killing 14 Iraqis and wounding 18 others in downtown Baghdad nearly seven years ago.
In opening statements at the trial of the four guards, Assistant U.S. Attorney T. Patrick Martin said some of the victims were "simply trying to get out" of the way of gunfire from Blackwater guards. "Fourteen died, 18 injured. For what?" he said.
One component of the prosecutors' case is that the Blackwater guards harbored deep hostility toward Iraqis and boasted of indiscriminate firing of their weapons.
Immediately after the shootings at Nisoor Square on Sept. 16, 2007, as soon as the guards got back to their base, they participated in a lie that there were insurgents in the area, said Martin
"That lie that they had begun that day would unravel within moments" because two veteran Army officers showed up on the scene to see what was going on, he said.
The State Department hired Blackwater and Martin said it took four days for the department to arrive on the scene to look into the shootings. He said the investigation was pathetic, incomplete, haphazard and that "most of all it seemed bent on clearing the contractors."
"Six investigators just stuffed things in their pockets," Martin said.
The State Department did not immediately respond to an email request for comment late Tuesday.
One of the guards, Nicholas Slatten, is accused of first-degree murder. The other three — Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard — are on trial for voluntary manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and gun charges.
In the aftermath of the shootings, Liberty was slapping people on the back, just as at a football game, Martin said.
The guards pleaded innocent to all charges.
On Tuesday, Martin displayed graphic photos and video of the scene in the Iraqi capital, including a picture said to be the face of a motorist prosecutors said had been shot in the head. The victim was identified by the prosecution as the first victim to be killed in the shootings, Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia'y. Slatten is charged with first-degree murder in his death.