Indictment Against Two Ex-Blackwater Security Guards Includes Murder Charge

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Two arrests were made on Thursday in the controversial Blackwater case, in which two Afghan men were shot and killed, and a third wounded, during a traffic incident.

The men who were arrested, Justin Cannon and Chris Drotleff, were security contractors with the company, which has since changed its name to Xe. They are charged with having opened fire on a vehicle in a Kabul intersection, after the driver of that vehicle caused an accident and then drove towards the men as they were attempting to help.

Cannon, 27, and Drotleff, 29, claim that their lives were in danger and that the shooting was therefore justified.

“I feel comfortable firing my weapon any time I feel my life is in danger,” said Drotleff. “That night, my life was 100 percent in danger.”

An indictment unsealed after the arrest lists the charges as 13 counts of second-degree murder, attempted murder and weapons charges. The men were arrested without incident by FBI agents, according to a spokesperson for the U.S. attorney’s office in eastern Virginia.

Other Blackwater contractors had been charged with 14 counts of manslaughter in another shooting, this one in Baghdad. Yet last week a federal judge dismissed those charges, claiming that prosecutors for the government had improperly taken sworn statements that had been given under a promise of immunity.

The judge’s decision has caused an uproar, with some Iraqis claiming that the United States does not hold its security contractors accountable for their action. The government in Iraq has said that it will pursue this case.

Federal prosecutors have also announced their intention to charge yet another security contractor for Blackwater with the killing of an Iraqi guard in 2006.

Cannon and Drotleff were among four Blackwater contractors who were fired after the incident. Steve McClain spoke to a Virginia grand jury earlier in the week to recount his memory of the accident and subsequent shooting. Neither he nor Amando Hamid, the fourth contractor, were charged.

According to the men involved, they were traveling on a Kabul road when a speeding car crashed into one of the vehicles in their convey, flipping it. Cannon and Drotleff stopped their own vehicle and got out to lend assistance, but the car that caused the accident turned and began speeding towards them, at which point they drew their weapons and began shooting.

 

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