Four Former Blackwater Employees Found Guilty of Charges in Fatal Nisur Square Shooting in Iraq
Jury Verdict Follows 2 ½-Month Trial
Four former security guards for Blackwater USA were found guilty today of charges stemming from the Sept. 16, 2007, shooting at Nisur Square in Baghdad, Iraq, that resulted in the killing of 14 unarmed civilians and the wounding of numerous others.
The jury verdicts, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, were announced by Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, and Andrew G. McCabe, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.
The defendants include Nicholas Abram Slatten, 30, of Sparta, Tenn.; Paul Alvin Slough, 35, of Keller, Texas; Evan Shawn Liberty, 32, of Rochester, N.H.; and Dustin Laurent Heard, 33, of Maryville, Tenn. Slatten, who was accused of firing the first shots, was found guilty of one count of first-degree murder. Slough was found guilty of 13 counts of voluntary manslaughter, 17 counts of attempted manslaughter, and one firearms offense. Liberty was found guilty of eight counts of voluntary manslaughter, 12 counts of attempted manslaughter, and one firearms offense. Heard was found guilty of six counts of voluntary manslaughter, 11 counts of attempted manslaughter, and one firearms offense.
“This verdict is a resounding affirmation of the commitment of the American people to the rule of law, even in times of war,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “Seven years ago, these Blackwater contractors unleashed powerful sniper fire, machine guns, and grenade launchers on innocent men, women, and children. Today they were held accountable for that outrageous attack and its devastating consequences for so many Iraqi families. I pray that this verdict will bring some sense of comfort to the survivors of that massacre. I want to thank the prosecutors and law enforcement agents who have fought for the past seven years to bring justice to the memories of those who were gunned down in Nisur Square.”
“Today’s verdict demonstrates the FBI's dedication to investigating violations of U.S. law no matter where they occur,” said Assistant Director in Charge McCabe. “International investigations such as this one are very complex and frequently dangerous. This case took a tremendous amount of coordination to bring over a large number of foreign witnesses in support of this prosecution. I commend the FBI Special Agents, Task Force Officers, Intelligence Analysts and Language Specialists and our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for working to bring those responsible to justice and conveying some measure of comfort to the victims’ families in Iraq.”
The verdicts came on the 28th day of jury deliberations and followed more than two months of trial. The Honorable Senior Judge Royce C. Lamberth ordered that the four defendants be detained pending sentencing. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
The murder charge against Slatten calls for a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Each of the voluntary manslaughter counts against the other defendants carries a statutory maximum of 15 years in prison. Each of the attempted manslaughter counts carries a statutory maximum of seven years of incarceration. The weapons offense carries a mandatory 30-year prison sentence.
Another Blackwater security guard, Jeremy P. Ridgeway, pled guilty in December 2008 to voluntary manslaughter and attempt to commit manslaughter. Ridgeway, who testified as a government witness in the trial, has not yet been sentenced.
The defendants worked for Blackwater USA, a private security contractor that was paid by the U.S. government to provide protective services to U.S. officials.
The trial began June 17, 2014. Over the next 10 weeks, the government presented testimony from 71 witnesses, including 30 from Iraq. This represented the largest group of foreign witnesses ever to travel to the United States for a criminal trial. The witnesses included 13 people who were wounded in the shootings, as well as relatives of many of those who died. The government’s witnesses also included nine members of “Raven 23,” the Blackwater team that was on the scene on the day of the shootings.
According to the government’s evidence, at approximately noon on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2007, several Blackwater security contractors, including the four defendants, opened fire in and around Nisur Square, a busy traffic circle in the heart of Baghdad. When they stopped shooting, 14 Iraqi civilians were dead. Those killed included 10 men, two women, and two boys, ages 9 and 11. Another 18 victims were injured.
The four defendants and 15 other Blackwater security contractors were assigned to a convoy of four heavily-armed trucks known as a Tactical Support Team, using the call sign “Raven 23.” Shortly before noon, Raven 23 learned that a car bomb had detonated in central Baghdad near a location where a U.S official was being escorted by a Blackwater personal security detail team. Raven 23 team members promptly reported to their convoy vehicles, and the convoy drove to a secured checkpoint between the Green Zone and Red Zone.
Once there, in disregard of an order from Blackwater’s command, the team’s shift leader directed Raven 23 to leave the Green Zone and establish a blockade in Nisur Square, a busy traffic circle that was immediately adjacent to the Green Zone. While occupying the southern part of the traffic circle, seven of the 19 members of Raven 23, including the four defendants and Ridgeway, fired their weapons, resulting in the deaths or injury of the unarmed Iraqi civilians there. While leaving the traffic circle, Slough continued to fire his weapon, resulting in additional deaths and injuries.
Finally, further away, north of the traffic circle, Slough and Ridgeway again fired their weapons, resulting in the injury of three more unarmed Iraqi civilians.
The first to be killed was Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia’y, 21, an aspiring doctor, who was driving his mother to an appointment. His mother, Mahassin Mohssen Kadhum Al-Khazali, 44, a medical doctor, also was killed. Others who died included Ali Mohammed Hafedh Abdul Razzaq, 9, who was traveling with his family; Osama Fadhil Abbas, 52, a businessman who sold used cars and who was enroute to a business meeting; Mohamed Abbas Mahmoud, 47, a delivery truck driver, and his 11-year-old son, Qasim Mohamed Abbas Mahmoud; Sa’adi Ali Abbas Alkarkh, 52, a businessman; Mushtaq Karim Abd Al-Razzaq, 18, an Iraqi soldier who was standing at a military checkpoint; Ghaniyah Hassan Ali, 55, who was traveling with her daughter on a public bus, and who was in the area to get documentation for a trip to holy sites; Ibrahim Abid Ayash, 77, a gardener, who was traveling in another bus; Hamoud Sa’eed Abttan, 33, and his cousin, Usday Ismail Ibrahiem, 27, who were out looking for work with the Iraqi Army; Mahdi Sahib Nasir, 26, a taxi driver, and Ali Khalil Abdul Hussein, 54, a motorcyclist who was commuting to work.
The jury considered charges involving injuries to 14 men and three women. Because of travel issues, witnesses to support an 18th charge of attempted manslaughter did not appear at the trial, and the charge related to that victim’s injuries was dismissed by the government.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office. The Iraqi Ministry of Interior and the Iraqi National Police provided cooperation and assistance in the investigation.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anthony Asuncion, John Crabb, Jr., Christopher R. Kavanaugh, T. Patrick Martin, and David Mudd, of the National Security Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. The case was originally indicted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jonathan M. Malis and Kenneth Kohl.