WASHINGTON DC - A U.S. Navy SEAL who killed a Green Beret in extraordinary circumstances in the West African nation of Mali almost two years ago, appears to have negotiated a plea deal.
Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar was killed at a house he shared with two U.S. Navy SEALS and two Marine Raiders, who were part of the same small joint special operations unit attached to the U.S. Embassy in Bamako, the Mali capital.
The house where the five lived was provided by the embassy.
What is known and has not been disputed is that Sgt. Melgar (pictured right) died when put in a choke hold by one of the Navy SEALS.
Both the SEALs, Petty Officer Antony DeDolph and Chief Petty Officer Adam Cranston Matthews gave investigators conflicting stories as to what had happened leading up to the time of Melgar’s death, the circumstances and the cause. Their stories also kept changing. Initially they took Melgar, a Green Beret, to a medical clinic and told staff there they had found him in the condition he was in, and that DeDolph, a martial arts expert, had tried to revive him by doing an emergency tracheotomy.
Subsequently the pair said DeDolph had been sparring with Melgar in a late night, drunken incident, and he accidently choked the soldier. The problem with that story is that Melgar didn’t drink. The Medical Examiner found no traces of alcohol or drugs in his body.
A witness told investigators that DeDolph had admitted he "choked Logan out" and that Matthews and DeDolph had bound Melgar with duct tape, after a struggle and before the choke hold, according to a 2017 Army Criminal Investigation Command report into the death.
A medical examiner ruled the death a homicide by asphyxiation, according to the same report.
The Army investigation was ultimately superseded by an investigation conducted by NCIS, which reviewed the results of the Army investigation.
NCIS took control of the probe when it became apparent that SEALS were involved in the soldier’s death. NCIS also widened the scope of those under investigation, to include the two Marine Raiders that resided at the house.
NCIS completed the investigation, and November 2018 the Navy ordered an admiral to oversee whether disciplinary actions needed to be taken.
Rear Adm. Charles Rock, the commander of Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, was appointed in late October last year to oversee cases related to the death of Melgar, as the NCIS investigation was concluding.
"NCIS has forwarded an investigation report into the case of the death of Army Staff Sergeant Logan Melgar on June 4, 2017, in Bamako, Mali," read a statement from U.S. Navy spokesman Capt. Greg Hicks. "The report has been forwarded to commander, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, designated as the Consolidated Disposition Authority by the Secretary of the Navy to review all relevant information pertaining to Staff Sergeant Melgar’s death and make determinations regarding administrative or disciplinary actions as appropriate."
DeDolph and Matthews, members of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group also known as SEAL Team 6, at the time were on administrative hold in Virginia.
Following the conclusion of the investigation, Rock was to determine the charges – if any – that would be filed over the death of Melgar.
Now 6 months later, on Thursday of last week Chief Petty Officer Adam Cranston Matthews pled guilty to charges related to Melgar’s death that included conspiracy to commit assault, unlawful entry, obstruction of justice and violating orders related to hazing. This was a significant downgrade as he had previously been charged with murder.
On Friday he was sentenced to one year of confinement
According to court documents, as detailed by USNI News, the final story was that fellow SEAL Chief Special Warfare Operator Anthony DeDolph and Force Recon Marines Gunnery Sgt. Mario Madera-Rodriguez and Staff Sgt. Kevin Maxwell, broke into Melgar’s room in the house they shared in Bamako on 4 June 2017.
The SEALs, the Marines and Melgar, were part of the same joint special operations detachment attached to the U.S. Embassy in Bamako.
The SEALs and the Marines intended to bind Melgar and humiliate him on video as punishment for perceived slights he committed while living with the SEALs, Matthews said during the appearance before a military judge.
Those included "an incident in which Melgar was driving his motorcycle to a party at a diplomatic embassy in the capital city. Two Marines were following in another vehicle before Melgar drove off, Matthews said," reported The Associated Press.
"Matthews suggested that the Marines felt Melgar had abandoned them in an unsafe city that’s been the target of terrorist activity."
On the night of the attack, the quartet broke down Melgar’s door with a sledgehammer and bound him with duct tape, according to investigators.
DeDolph had Melgar in a choke hold during the hazing when Melgar lost consciousness and the SEALS and Marines could not revive him, Matthews said.
"I can’t describe how sorry I am for the death of Staff Sgt. Melgar," Matthews said, reported The AP. "I am truly sorry."
In addition to a year in the brig, Matthews was demoted to Special Operator 2nd Class and risks a bad conduct discharge that could cost him his medical benefits. Matthews was wounded in combat and earned the Purple Heart during an action in Afghanistan.
"I am tormented by my complacency at a time when my teammates required my guidance and the situation required bold, corrective action," Matthews said, reported The Washington Post.
Staff Sergeant Logan J. Melgar was part of the Army Special Forces Group (Airborne) and was stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. He served two tours in Afghanistan.
He was a Lubbock, Texas, native, who graduated from Frenship High School in Wolfforth in 2001. He enlisted in the Army after graduating from college, the school district said. He graduated from Texas Tech University.
"After graduating from Frenship and obtaining his college degree, he enlisted in the Army and became a Green Beret. He earned numerous medals and commendations, and after multiple deployments was deployed for the final time this year," Frenship ISD, at the time of his death, said in a statement.
Melgar left behind his wife Michelle, his two step-sons, aged 13 and 15, and his son from a previous relationship, Braxton.