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How they really died

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  1. Freedom of Information
From the Spring 2007 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 14. Through families and meticulous research, reporters…

From the Spring 2007 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 14.

Through families and meticulous research, reporters have uncovered the truth about a number of soldier deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. The following soldiers have been profiled in major news stories since 2003:

Pvt. Matthew Zeimer, 18, and Spc. Alan E. McPeek, 20. Their deaths in February were originally attributed to enemy fire, but the Pentagon announced in April that a friendly fire investigation is being conducted in their deaths.

Lt. Andre Tyson, 33, and Spc. Patrick Ryan McCaffrey Sr., 34. The cause of their June 2004 deaths was first reported as enemy fire in the Army press release. Nine months later, a military investigation into their deaths found they were murdered by Iraqi soldiers who were patrolling with Tyson and McCaffrey.

Lt. Ken Ballard, 26. Ballard’s mother, Karen Meredith, was told he died in battle in May 2004. Fifteen months later, she found out he had been killed when his tank backed into a tree and set off a machine gun.

Cpl. Kenny F. Stanton Jr., 20. Army officials originally told the press he died Oct. 13 from a roadside bomb, according to media accounts. But The Washington Post reported Oct. 31 that Stanton was ambushed by the Iraqi police.

Lance Cpl. Russell White, 19. In 2004, White was shot in the head. His family was told it was due to a gun-cleaning accident, but a few months later learned through their son’s friends that White had been shot by a fellow soldier who had a history of reprimands for mishandling weapons.

Spc. Alyssa Peterson, 27. A Pentagon press release said Peterson died in September 2003 from a “non-combat weapons discharge.” Reporter Kevin Elston of Flagstaff, Ariz., public radio station KNAU, used FOIA to find out in 2005 that she committed suicide because she disagreed with the military’s torture procedures. –LM

Spc. Wesley Wells, 21. The casualty officer told Wells’ mother, Joan Neal, that he was killed in action in September 2004. She found out right away, from the soldier who escorted Wells’ body home, that he might have been killed by friendly fire. But after seven months without answers from the Army, she went to Hawaii in 2005 to speak with his superiors. She learned the military knew all along he had been killed by a friendly bullet, even though they only admitted it after a new investigation into his death.