JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD — An Army sergeant pleaded guilty Monday to killing four other soldiers and a Navy officer in 2009 at mental health clinic in Baghdad during the Iraq War, describing how he gunned down the men and saying he was in a “rage” when he began his rampage.
The plea agreement in a military court at Joint Base Lewis-McChord means Sgt. John Russell will avoid the death sentence. His maximum sentence would be a life term. He testified Monday to persuade Army judge Col. David Conn to accept the agreement. Conn agreed.
Russell — who is from Sherman, Texas — went on a shooting spree at the Camp Liberty Combat Stress Center near Baghdad in May 2009. It was one of the worst instances of soldier-on-soldier violence in the Iraq war.
In court, Russell said he was in a “rage” when he opened fire.
“I wanted the pain to stop,” he testified in court at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, talking in a husky voice. He read a written statement detailing his memories of the killings.
Russell was nearing the end of his third tour when his behavior changed, members of his unit testified in 2009. They said he became more distant in the days before the May 11, 2009, attack and that he seemed paranoid that his unit was trying to end his career.