An American contractor fatally injured in Iraq, apparently by members of the U.S. military, is a former Green Beret who served in the Army for 20 years, his family said Monday.
Rick Rodriguez, who was stationed in Erbil for Lockheed Martin, was flown from Iraq to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, an aunt told The Daily Beast.
His wife and four kids, who live in Fayetteville, North Carolina, were then flown by the military to Germany and, according to a U.S. military source, made a decision to take him off life support on Jan. 4.
Rodriguez’s death, which multiple sources said was the result of a sudden fracas involving U.S. Marines, follows last year’s brutal strangulation of another Green Beret, Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar. Two Navy SEALs and two Marine Raiders were recently charged in the Melgar case.
Two enlisted Marines, said to be gunnery sergeants, are considered persons of interest in Rodriguez’s death, the military source said.
The incident will likely roil a close-knit U.S. special operations community that has deployed practically non-stop in the war on terrorism for nearly two decades.
“Lockheed Martin was saddened to learn of the loss of one of our employees, who was fatally injured while supporting Special Operations Forces within the Operation Inherent Resolve area of operations in a non-combat related incident,” a company spokesperson said Monday. “We are supporting the Naval Criminal Investigation Service as they conduct an investigation into the circumstances of his death. Our thoughts are with his family and friends, and we are committed to supporting them during this difficult time.”
Accounts of his slaying vary. One version, cited by the military source, stemmed from an altercation in an Erbil gym. Another involved a shooting competition.
In both scenarios, an atmosphere of bravado and trash-talking, involving multiple people, spilled over into a brawl that left the contractor pummelled and then stomped into unconsciousness. The military source said the incident had “lots of witnesses.”
The aunt, who lives in California, where Rodriguez was raised, said she was waiting to hear more from the relatives who flew to Germany.
“We really don’t know what happened or what’s going on,” she said.
Rodriguez’s sister, reached by phone, declined to comment.
The incident follows a handful of recent cases involving alleged misconduct at the hands of U.S. special operators.
In October, the Navy charged Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, a SEAL, in connection with the death of an ISIS detainee in custody in Iraq. Another SEAL, Lt. Jacob Portier, was charged with a subsequent cover-up of the alleged murder. Gallagher and Portier have both denied the charges against them.
Separately, the Army charged Green Beret Maj. Mathew Golsteyn with the alleged murder of an Afghan bombmaker while he was in custody in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Prosecutors claim Golsteyn admitted to the murder during a polygraph interview during his application for a position at the CIA. President Trump hinted that he may pardon Golsteyn when he tweeted that “At the request of many, I will be reviewing the case of a ‘U.S. Military hero,’ Major Matt Golsteyn, who is charged with murder.”
In a letter obtained by Military Times in December, Special Operations Command Army Gen. Tony Thomas warned of a “disordered value system” manifested in the recent special operations scandals and pledged a renewed focus on ethics and culture.
-- Tracy Connor contributed reporting.