Inquiry Studies Case Against Marine

Times Wire Services

The U.S. military held a public hearing Tuesday into possible murder charges against a Marine who shot and killed a Somali boy last month.

The Marine, Sgt. Walter Andrew Johnson, 25, of Abilene, Tex., was riding at the back of a two-vehicle convoy from the coalition headquarters to the airport when a tractor-trailer rig stopped at a bottleneck in the midst of a busy marketplace, forcing two Humvees, including Johnson's, to halt behind it.

Omer Ahmed Mohamed, 13, ran toward the back of the Humvee and appeared to be trying to climb in. Johnson and witnesses said they saw a box in the boy's hand.

When the boy refused entreaties to stop, Johnson fired a single shot from his M-16 rifle, hitting the boy in the shoulder and neck. He later died. The box was never found.

The prosecuting officer said the boy was "murdered." Johnson's lawyer said he was merely following standing orders and the rules of engagement.

The hearing will determine whether Johnson should face a court-martial.

Witnesses said the incident was a deep shock to Johnson, who had an exemplary Marine Corps record.

It was the second such hearing in Mogadishu since thousands of U.S. troops arrived in December to stop bandits from stealing relief food meant for starving Somalis. The U.S. military has not yet announced the outcome of the first case, in which Gunnery Sgt. Harry Conde, 33, shot and wounded a Somali youth who tried to steal his sunglasses.

Meanwhile, Marines on Tuesday shot and killed a Somali who had shot and wounded a Marine in a busy market in central Mogadishu.

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