A Marine charged in the death of Lance Cpl. Kristopher Cody Warren, a 19-year-old Marine from Calhoun, Ga., faces a general court martial at Camp Pendleton, Calif., next month, according to the victim’s mother.
Cpl. Douglas Michael Sullivan, serving in Iraq with a military police unit based at Camp Pendleton, faces a charge of culpable negligence, authorities said. Lance Cpl. Warren was shot and killed during deployment to Iraq in 2006.
Robin Patterson, Lance Cpl. Warren’s mother, said she will be in California for the court martial on Feb. 26.
“A herd of stampeding horses couldn’t keep me away,” Mrs. Patterson said. “I have to speak for my child. I have to tell them who my child was.”
Lance Cpl. Warren was a member of the Chattanooga-based Mike Battery Marine Reserve unit. Another member of that unit, Lance Cpl. Cody Michelena, said Lance Cpl. Warren was shot in the face while working radio duty in a combat operations center.
Lance Cpl. Michelena said he was a few feet outside the room where the men were working when he heard a pop and saw a flash of light.
“I heard Sullivan start screaming, ‘Oh, my God, Oh, my God, and he just kept saying that over and over,” Lance Cpl. Michelena said.
He ran into the room to find Lance Cpl. Warren slumped over with a bullet wound under his left nostril, Lance Cpl. Michelena said. Lance Cpl. Warren and Cpl. Sullivan were close friends, Lance Cpl. Michelena said. The shooting had to have been unintentional, he said.
Lance Cpl. Blake Knowles, another Mike Battery Marine, said the shooter broke a military rule by aiming a gun at Lance Cpl. Warren’s face.
“From day one as a Marine we are taught never to point a weapon at anything you don’t intend to shoot,” he said.
Mrs. Patterson said the court martial has been postponed six times since Cpl. Sullivan was charged on Nov. 27, 2006, in the shooting.
“It has just been a long and painful experience for me and my family,” she said, crying.
Local Marine Corps personnel said they did not know until recently that the case resulted in charges.
“In any shooting, Naval Criminal Investigative Services would conduct an investigation, but the scope of the investigation we wouldn’t necessarily be privy to,” said Lt. Col. Eric Mekrle, a Mike Battery Marine. “We didn’t know there was a criminal investigation.”
When she learned her son was dead, the Marine Corps told Mrs. Patterson he had been shot but did not tell her what had happened, she said. Three weeks later she learned the whole story from investigators.
“It’s different when a soldier is killed and they come and tell you and you know they were fighting and doing what they needed to,” she said. “It is different when you are told three weeks later that it was his brother Marine.”
The charge of culpable negligence is not enough, she said.
“The Christian in me knows I need to forgive this young man, but the mother in me cannot,” she said.
Lance Cpl. Warren, a 2005 graduate of Gordon Central High School, was a talented musician and a devoted Marine, said Gunnery Sgt. Jason Foster, who recruited the teenager to join the Marine Corps.
“He had a little bit of a difficult time getting in. He had tubes in his ears and got disqualified, but he was persistent,” Gunnery Sgt. Foster said. “Most people would have given up when they were told they were disqualified, but he found a way to get in.”