A soldier accused of a deadly sniper attack on his own unit during dawn calisthenics was "a coldblooded murderer," a prosecutor said Monday at the opening of the soldier's court-martial.
Sgt. William J. Kreutzer, 27, took his time to select targets during the Oct. 27, 1995, shooting, the prosecuting attorney, Capt. Paul Barden, told the jury.The gunman, hiding behind trees, fired onto a field of 1,300 soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division who were lined up for a morning run, killing a major and wounding 18 others.
"The firing at first was slow, methodical and aiming," Barden said. "The man sitting right there is a coldblooded murderer."
Kreutzer started shooting with a .22-caliber semiautomatic rifle with two 50-round magazines, then switched to a more powerful weapon, the civilian version of the Army's M-16, Barden said.
The first witness after opening statements was Col. John C. Scroggins, who commanded the brigade of soldiers gathered on the exercise field. He described hearing the shots and trying to find the gunman.
Kreutzer pleaded guilty to non-capital murder May 9, but his plea wasn't accepted because prosecutors are seeking the death penalty on a capital murder charge.
Kreutzer's attorney said the defendant had been harassed by members of his unit and tried to avoid situations in which he might erupt in anger.
Kreutzer asked to be taken off duty with live ammunition because he was afraid he might shoot members of his unit, said Capt. Stephen C. Stokes. Kreutzer was assigned to administrative duty, Stokes said.
Kreutzer's father, William Kreutzer of Clinton, Md., said last month that his son sought help for mental problems and threatened mass murder the day before the shootings, but officers ignored him.
"This case is about a crumbling human condition," Stokes said.
Stokes said Kreutzer was harassed because he was a college graduate who entered the Army at a higher rank than others. He said members of Kreutzer's squad called him "Crazy K" and "Wild Bill."