Iraq vet pleads guilty to killing fellow soldiers

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. (AP) — As family members of his victims looked on, Army Sgt. John Russell described on Monday how in 2009 he rampaged at a mental health clinic in Baghdad during the Iraq War, killing four soldiers and a Navy officer.

Russell’s testimony was part of an agreement in which Russell pleaded guilty to the murders. In doing so, he’ll avoid the death sentence. His maximum sentence would be a life term. He testified Monday to persuade Army judge Col. David Conn to accept the agreement. Conn agreed.

Russell — who is from Sherman, Texas — went on a shooting spree at the Camp Liberty Combat Stress Center near Baghdad in May 2009. It was one of the worst instances of soldier-on-soldier violence in the Iraq war.

In court, Russell said he was in a “rage” when he opened fire.

Russell said he wanted to hurt a doctor who he thought had earlier encouraged him to commit suicide. He didn’t find that doctor, but still carried out the shooting.

Two evaluations presented during a 2009 hearing said Russell suffered from severe depression with psychotic features and chronic post-traumatic stress disorder.

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