Sgt. La David Johnson, one of the four American soldiers killed in an ambush in Niger last month, may have been kidnapped by Islamic State militants before he was killed, CBS News reported on Nov. 3.
Johnson, 25, was one of four soldiers killed Oct. 4 after they were hit by gunfire near the village of Tongo Tongo. Three of the soldiers’ bodies were recovered quickly, but Johnson’s was not for nearly 48 hours.
Nigerien sources said that Johnson’s body —which was found in bushes about half a mile from his fellow troops two days later — had been shot and his hands roped together, suggesting he had been captured.
Johnson’s death, already surrounded by questions about how he had become separated from the other troops, also drew national attention last month when President Donald Trump’s condolence call to his widow was criticized by his family and Rep. Frederica Wilson, Democrat from Miami Gardens, as insensitive and callous.
The Pentagon declined to comment to CBS News. A U.S. official told Voice of America that there was “no indication” that Johnson was ever in the custody of hostile forces.
Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, 29, Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, 35, and Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, 39, were also killed in the attack.
Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wrigh, Sgt. La David T. JohnsonPhotos via DoD
During the service, six of his fellow soldiers folded the American flag draped over his casket and presented it with two other folded flags to his widow and two children. An honor guard fired three volleys from rifles before Taps warbled over the crowd.
Sgt. Johnson grew up in Miami Gardens. Before he joined the Army in January 2014, it was where he found a second family, and where he met his childhood sweetheart and future wife, Myeshia.
And it was where — before he was killed Oct. 4 in the ambush — he planned to return and raise his son and daughter, as well as another baby girl, due in January. He had been sent on his second deployment to Africa in August.
The Marine lieutenant colonel removed from command of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in May was ousted over alleged "misconduct" but has not been charged with a crime, Task & Purpose has learned.
Lt. Col. Francisco Zavala, 42, who was removed from his post by the commanding general of 1st Marine Division on May 7, has since been reassigned to the command element of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, and a decision on whether he will be charged is "still pending," MEF spokeswoman 1st Lt. Virginia Burger told Task & Purpose last week.
"We are not aware of any ongoing or additional investigations of Lt. Col. Zavala at this time," MEF spokesman 2nd Lt. Brian Tuthill told Task & Purpose on Monday. "The command investigation was closed May 14 and the alleged misconduct concerns Articles 128 and 133 of the UCMJ," Tuthill added, mentioning offenses under military law that deal with assault and conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.
"There is a period of due process afforded the accused and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty," he said.
When asked for an explanation for the delay, MEF officials directed Task & Purpose to contact 1st Marine Division officials, who did not respond before deadline.
The investigation of Zavala, completed on May 3 and released to Task & Purpose in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, showed that he had allegedly acted inappropriately. The report also confirmed some details of his wife's account of alleged domestic violence that Task & Purpose first reported last month.
On Monday, Staff Sgt. Daniel Christopher Evans received a suspended sentence of 60 days in jail, said Samantha Dooies, an assistant to the New Hanover County District Attorney.
Evans must complete 18 months of unsupervised probation, pay $8,000 in restitution, complete a domestic violence offenders program, and he cannot have any contact with his former girlfriend, Dooies told Task & Purpose. The special operations Marine is also only allowed to have access to firearms though the military while on base or deployed.