On a recent Saturday morning, residents of Skwierzyna, a sleepy town in western Poland, awoke to news that a local dentist and his two sons had been viciously assaulted during the night by a trio of English-speaking toughs.
Now, investigations are underway to determine whether the assailants were American service members.
“We take any allegations of soldier misconduct seriously and are fully cooperating with Polish authorities,” Master Sgt. Nathan Hoskins, a spokesman for the Atlantic Resolve Mission Command Element in Poznan, Poland, told Army Times in an email. “We appreciate the strong partnership we have with our Polish allies and surrounding community.”
Although the Army is refusing to disclose specific details about the incident — which occurred on the evening of Oct. 5 — until “the investigation is concluded,” local news reports cited by Stars and Stripes paint a troubling scene that unfolded after the suspects allegedly starting banging on an apartment door.
According to the reports, an attempt by the dentist and his sons to quell the raucous resulted in all three being thrashed so savagely that an ambulance was called. The culprits fled the scene.
As Stripes notes, Skwierzyna is about 60 miles from the city of Poznan, where the U.S. Army maintains a force of approximately 5,000 troops to deter potential Russian aggression along NATO’s eastern flank. The Army also garrisons armor brigade soldiers in Skwierzyna. Whether or not the suspects are stationed there, the Army will not say. No other identifying information has been released.
Polish authorities are currently spearheading the investigation, Hoskins told Stripes. “We are invited guests of Poland, and the Polish authorities have jurisdiction over any cases like this that occur within their country,” he said, adding, “I can’t speculate on whether or not they will release jurisdiction to U.S. authorities.”
To what extent the bloody ordeal will impact the strategic relationship between the U.S. and Poland remains to be seen. The latter would like the U.S. military to establish a permanent base on its soil and has even offered to pay for it.
Polish President Andrzej Duda said during a visit to the White House last month that the new garrison could be called “Fort Trump.” The proposal seemed to be well received by the American president.
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.
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.