Local News

Soldier pleads guilty to Bragg shooting rampage

Posted March 11, 2009 1:27 p.m. EDT
Updated March 11, 2009 6:17 p.m. EDT

— A former Fort Bragg soldier unexpectedly pleaded guilty Wednesday to opening fire on his own unit on post in 1995.

During a pre-trial hearing, Sgt. William J. Kreutzer Jr. pleaded guilty to one count each of premeditated murder, attempted premeditated murder and aggravated assault with a means likely to inflict grievous bodily injury and 16 counts of aggravated assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily injury.

In exchange for the pleas, military prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty against Kreutzer.

The charges stem from the Oct. 27, 1995, shooting of members of the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade during their morning exercise at Towle Stadium on post. Maj. Stephen Badger, an intelligence officer in the 82nd Airborne Division’s 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, was killed in the rampage, and 18 other soldiers were wounded.

Kreutzer said during Wednesday's hearing that he decided to carry out the shooting because he was mad that he had to spend his own money to buy supplies for his unit. He said he called Womack Army Medical Center the night before the shooting in an attempt to talk to a mental health professional, but no one was available to talk to him.

He said he spent the night in a motel near Fort Bragg and got up at 5 a.m. to drive to a wooded area near Towle Stadium. He said he asked God for guidance, and a dense fog in the area lifted a short time later.

When he saw his brigade stretching and warming up before a morning run, he said, he began firing. He said he expected to kill some people and be killed himself.

The shooting ended when some soldiers tackled Kreutzer from behind, knocking his weapons from his hands. He said he tried to grab a handgun to shoot himself, but he couldn't reach it.

Kreutzer was sentenced to death in a 1996 court-martial, but a military appeals court overturned the conviction in 2005, ruling that his previous lawyers were ineffective.

In addition to his guilty pleas, Kreutzer waived his right to a jury hearing and will let Col. Patrick Parrish, the military judge handling the case, decide his fate.

Prosecutors were expected to ask Parrish next week to raise the 16 aggravated assault charges to attempted premeditated murder.

Parrish ruled last week that Kreutzer was competent to again stand trial in the case.

Defense attorney Maj. Eric Carpenter said Kreutzer's inability to show his emotions would make him unsympathetic to the military jury. A jury would be more inclined to vote for a death sentence if members felt Kreutzer wasn't remorseful for the shooting, Carpenter argued.