Soldier says 'in retrospect' options existed to shooting comrade in Afghanistan

SYDNEY, N.S. - A soldier accused of manslaughter in the shooting death of his comrade in Afghanistan says "in retrospect" he realizes he had other options to pulling the trigger when he felt threatened.

SYDNEY, N.S. - A soldier accused of manslaughter in the shooting death of his comrade in Afghanistan says "in retrospect" he realizes he had other options to pulling the trigger when he felt threatened.

Cpl. Matthew Wilcox has told a court martial he was acting in self-defence when he shot Cpl. Kevin Megeney on March 6, 2007, in the tent they shared at Kandahar Airfield.

He testified last week that he heard the sound of a pistol bolt sliding, turned slightly to see a barrel pointed at his back, and "instinctively" pivoted and fired a shot.

On Monday, prosecutor Maj. Jason Samson pressed the 24-year-old reservist on whether a "reasonable person" would hesitate before shooting.

"If they had all of the facts now, yes, sir. But not at the time," replied Wilcox, who is from Glace Bay, N.S.

With several members of the Megeney and Wilcox families watching from the public gallery, the accused soldier said he realizes now there were other alternatives.

"In retrospect, I would have done things differently," he said.

Wilcox said he could have fled or taken cover behind nearby metal lockers in the same period of time he had to shoot Megeney. But at the time, he said he felt threatened and simply "reacted."

Wilcox's defence team is arguing that under the Criminal Code, the soldier had a right to shoot Megeney. A portion of Section 34 of the code states a person can kill an "assailant" when there is "reasonable apprehension of death or grievous harm from the violence with which the assault was originally made or with which the assailant pursues his purposes."

But the prosecution attempted to chip away at Wilcox's assertion that he was acting in self-defence, suggesting the soldier had little to fear.

Samson asked if it was reasonable to assume that Megeney's gun wasn't loaded because military rules at the base in Kandahar require that off-duty soldiers unload their rifles and pistols.

Wilcox responded that he didn't know, "one way or another," if the Browning 9-mm pistol of his tentmate was loaded.

"I just know it (Megeney's pistol) was ready," he added.

Wilcox has pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter, criminal negligence causing death, and negligent performance of a military duty in the death of Megeney, 25, of Stellarton, N.S.

The prosecution alleges that Wilcox and Megeney - described as close friends in Afghanistan - were playing a game of "quick draw" when the shooting happened, an accusation that Wilcox has denied.

Samson asked whether Megeney might have been checking his pistol to see if there was any ammunition in it.

Wilcox agreed that was possible, but added it was also "speculation."

Megeney died about 30 minutes after he was shot in the chest. Both Wilcox and Megeney were members of 1 Platoon, force protection company, which was responsible for protecting Kandahar Airfield.



The trial is being held before a four-member military panel and a judge, Cmdr. Peter Lamont.

The maximum penalty for a conviction of manslaughter or criminal negligence causing death is life in prison. A conviction for negligence of military duty has a maximum penalty of two years less a day in military prison.

The prosecution and the defence present their closing arguments on Tuesday in the nine-week trial.

 
 
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