Washington: A Navy SEAL platoon leader controversially pardoned of war crimes by US President Donald Trump was described as “toxic” and “freaking evil” by fellow Iraq veterans, The New York Times reported Friday.
Video testimony to war crimes investigators published by the daily shows former members of Eddie Gallagher’s elite commando unit accusing him of shooting at a 12-year-old and brings up rumours that Gallagher targeted civilians.
“The guy is [expletive] evil,” special operator first class Craig Miller, one of the most experienced members of Alpha Platoon’s SEAL Team 7, tells the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).
Another platoon member, identified by the Times as special operator first class Corey Scott, says: “You could tell he was perfectly OK with killing anybody that was moving.”
“The guy was toxic,” special operator first class Joshua Vriens adds.
Gallagher denies the allegations, dismissing them as smears by platoon members who could not match his performance.
The sniper and medic, now 40, was originally accused of premeditated murder after allegedly stabbing to death a captured, wounded 17-year-old Daesh fighter in Iraq in May 2017.
After he went on trial at the beginning of 2019, his case became a cause célèbre in conservative media, championed especially by Fox News, and Trump voiced support for the SEAL.
In March the president intervened to have Gallagher taken out of a jail and placed in a Navy hospital, where he had more freedom.
In July, he was acquitted of murder by a military jury, but convicted of having posed for a picture next to the body of the Daesh terrorist.
He was demoted and the navy moved to remove his official Trident pin, an insignia that signified he remained a member in good standing of the elite group.
Trump intervened again, however, to order the pin and rank restored.
“The navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin,” Trump tweeted in November.
“This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!”
Eventually, the NCIS began an inquiry and the platoon members were called to give evidence.
“My first reaction to seeing the videos was surprise and disgust that they would make up blatant lies about me, but I quickly realised that they were scared that the truth would come out of how cowardly they acted on deployment,” Gallagher said in a statement to the Times issued by his lawyer.
Last weekend Trump hosted Gallagher and his wife at Mar-a-Lago, the president’s Florida resort, where he is spending the Christmas holidays.