Why The Soldier Killed In Orlando Could Receive A Purple Heart

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The Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, witnessed the worst mass shooting in U.S. history on June 12. Among the 49 killed in what the the White House and the Justice Department have deemed an act of terrorism, is Army Reserve Capt. Antonio D. Brown.


Now, the Army will decide if Brown will receive a Purple Heart, the medal reserved for U.S. service members killed or wounded in actions against the enemy.

According to Army Times, Army spokesman Lt. Col. Jerry Pionk said the branch “will need the facts and clarifications from law enforcement to make future determination.”

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There is, however, precedent for awarding the Purple Heart in cases of military personnel shootings, as well as international acts of terrorism.

Earlier this year, Airman Spencer Stone received the medal after subduing a gunmen and being stabbed in the Paris, France attack perpetrated by the Islamic State. Stone was on vacation in Europe at the time, and like Brown, was not operating in a military capacity.

In addition, the military personnel killed in the Chattanooga and Fort Hood attacks led officials to look at the valor awards process. As a result, four Marines and one sailor were given Purple Hearts posthumously after the Chattanooga shooting — an attack that was determined to be inspired by al Qaeda.

In 2014, the National Defense Authorization Act also added a section to federal law that allows the military branches to award Purple Hearts to those injured or killed in an attack made by a foreign terrorist organization.

Authorities are still investigating Orlando shooter Omar Mir Seddique Mateen relationship with the Islamic State. However, he did call 911 to pledge allegiance to the terrorist group in the midst of the attack.

The fact that Brown was off duty and out of uniform may still factor into the Army’s decision to award him a Purple Heart, however. Regardless, the Army will likely not be able to rule on the issue until police investigations have ended.

Army photo
Photo: Lance Cpl. Taylor Cooper

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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.

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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.

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