The release of Sergeant Bales’s name, first reported by Fox News, ended an extraordinary six-day blackout of public information about him from the Pentagon, which said it withheld his identity for so long because of concerns about his and his family’s security.
An official said on Friday that Sergeant Bales had been transferred from Kuwait to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where he had a cell to himself in the medium-security prison there. His wife and children were moved from their home in Lake Tapps, Wash., east of Tacoma, onto Joint Base Lewis-McChord, his home base, earlier this week.
Military officials say Sergeant Bales, who has yet to be formally charged, left his small combat outpost in the volatile Panjwai district of Kandahar Province early in the morning last Sunday, walked into two nearby villages and there shot or stabbed 16 people, 9 of them children.
Little more than the outlines of Sergeant Bales’s life are publicly known. His family lived in Lake Tapps, a community about 20 miles northeast of his Army post. NBC News reported that he was from Ohio, and he may have lived there until he joined the Army at 27. Sergeant Bales’s Seattle-based lawyer, John Henry Browne, said several members of the sergeant’s family moved to Washington after he was assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Mr. Browne said the sergeant joined the Army right after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and then spent almost all of his career at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where he was part of the Third Stryker Brigade in the Second Infantry Division, named after the armored Stryker vehicles.
The killings have severely undermined longstanding NATO efforts to win support from villages in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, and have shaken relations with the government of President Hamid Karzai, who this week told Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, who was on a visit to Afghanistan, that he wanted American forces out of villages by next year.
Pentagon officials, who have been scouring the sergeant’s military and health records for clues, have said little about what they think motivated the killings. But one senior government official said Thursday that Sergeant Bales had been drinking alcohol before the killings and that he might have had marital problems.
“When it all comes out, it will be a combination of stress, alcohol and domestic issues — he just snapped,” said the official, who had been briefed on the investigation and spoke on the condition of anonymity because the sergeant had not yet been charged.
Mr. Browne has disputed those assertions, telling reporters on Thursday that the sergeant’s marriage was sound and questioning reports about drinking. On the day before the shootings, he said, the sergeant had seen a fellow soldier lose his leg from a buried mine.
Mr. Browne, who said he had had a short conversation with Sergeant Bales because he was worried that their phone call was being monitored, added that the sergeant had thought he could avoid this deployment and was upset when he could not.
“The family was counting on him not being redeployed,” Mr. Browne said. “He and the family were told that his tours in the Middle East were over.”
He added, “I think that it would be fair to say that he and the family were not happy that he was going back.”
The Bales family lived in a two-story, wood-frame house beneath tall fir and cedar evergreens in Lake Tapps, an unincorporated section of Pierce County, Wash. Kassie Holland, a neighbor, said that as far as she could tell, they were a happy family and the sergeant was a devoted father to his young children, a daughter, Quincy, and a son, Bobby. “There were no signs,” Ms. Holland said when asked whether Mr. Bales seemed troubled.
Reporting was contributed by William Yardley and Serge Kovaleski from Lake Tapps, Wash., Isolde Raftery from Seattle and Eric Schmitt from Washington.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
Afghan Shooting Suspect Identified as Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales