Two Marines Raiders and a Navy Corpsman assigned to the 3rd Raider Battalion, Marines Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC), are facing manslaughter charges over the death of Rick Rodriguez, a contractor and retired Special Forces operator, in Iraq in 2018.
The three men, Gunnery Sergeant Joshua Negron, Gunnery Sergeant Daniel Draher and Chief Petty Officer Eric Gilmet, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter, negligent homicide, obstructing justice and orders violations.
Rodriguez, a retired Master Sergeant, was working as a Lockheed Martin contractor in Irbil, in northern Iraq. On New Year’s Eve, he was involved in an altercation with the charged Marines and Sailor outside a nightclub. The fight left him dead.
Gunnery Sgt. Draher released a statement through his lawyer that offers a glimpse at what transpired:
“I am disappointed that my command decided to charge me and my colleagues with Mr. Rodriguez’s death. What happened on January 1, 2019 was an accident, not brought on by our actions – but unfortunately by the actions of Mr. Rodriguez. As we have said from the beginning, and is captured on video, Mr. Rodriguez attacked me in a drunken state. My colleagues and I reacted only in self-defense, once the fight was over it was me and my colleagues – not his friends – who took him back to our base for safety. The fact that Mr. Rodriguez passed away is nothing short of tragic and I wish his family and friends did not have to feel the pain and sorrow that I am sure they do. In the end, I have to trust the system in which I find myself. I would have much preferred to have had the trust and support of my command.”
Marine Raiders have been deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria. They have been training, advising and assisting the Iraqi and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
“At this time, charges against three members of MARSOC in connection with the death of Mr. Rodriguez have been referred to a general court-martial,” according to a MARSOC statement emailed to the Marine Corps Times. “During this process, it is imperative that the rights of the service members are protected, and the integrity of the military justice system is maintained. We are committed to ensuring this process is conducted in a fair and impartial manner.”
MSG Rodriguez served 20 years in the military. He finished his career as a Team Sergeant in a 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA). He left behind a wife and four children.