WASHINGTON DC – Seventeen months after a Green Beret died in unusual circumstances in Mali, the U.S. Department of Defense is no closer to disclosing the circumstances of his death or whether charges should be laid against any individual or individuals.
Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar was killed at a house he shared with two U.S. Navy SEALS and two Marine Raiders, who were part of the same small joint special operations unit attached to the U.S. Embassy in Bamako, the Mali capital.
The house where the five lived was provided by the embassy.
What is known is that Sgt. Melgar died when put in a choke hold by one of the Navy SEALS.
Both the SEALs, Petty Officer Antony DeDolph and Chief Petty Officer Adam Cranston Matthews gave investigators conflicting stories as to what had happened leading up to the time of Melgar’s death, the circumstances and the cause. Their stories also kept changing. Initially they took Melgar to a medical clinic and told staff there they had found him in the condition he was in, and that DeDolph, a martial arts expert, had tried to revive him by doing an emergency tracheotomy.
Subsequently the pair said DeDolph had been sparring with Melgar in a late night, drunken incident, he accidently choked the soldier. The problem with story is that Melgar didn’t drink. The Medical Examiner found no traces of alcohol or drugs in his body.
A witness told investigators that DeDolph had admitted he “choked Logan out” and that Matthews and DeDolph had bound Melgar with duct tape, after a struggle and before the choke hold, according to a 2017 Army Criminal Investigation Command report into the death.
A medical examiner ruled the death a homicide by asphyxiation, according to the same report.
The Army investigation was ultimately superseded by an investigation conducted by NCIS, which reviewed the results of the Army investigation.
NCIS took control of the probe when it became apparent that SEALS were involved in the soldier’s death. NCIS also widened the scope of those under investigation, to include the two Marine Raiders that resided at the house.
NCIS completed the investigation, and on Tuesday the Navy ordered an admiral to oversee whether disciplinary actions need to be taken.
Rear Adm. Charles Rock, the commander of Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, was appointed in late October to oversee cases related to the death of Melgar, as the NCIS investigation was concluding.
“NCIS has forwarded an investigation report into the case of the death of Army Staff Sergeant Logan Melgar on June 4, 2017, in Bamako, Mali,” read a statement from U.S. Navy spokesman Capt. Greg Hicks. “The report has been forwarded to commander, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, designated as the Consolidated Disposition Authority by the Secretary of the Navy to review all relevant information pertaining to Staff Sergeant Melgar’s death and make determinations regarding administrative or disciplinary actions as appropriate.”
DeDolph and Matthews, members of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group also known as SEAL Team 6, are currently on administrative hold in Virginia.
Following the conclusion of the investigation, Rock will determine the charges – if any – that will be filed over the death of Melgar.
In his role as the consolidated disposition authority, Rock is responsible for meting out punishments for the Marines and SEALs involved in Melgar’s death. It would be the first time that a CDA would oversee cases across two services, Rob “Butch” Bracknell, a former Marine and military lawyer, told USNI News last week.
“CDAs are appointed primarily as an efficiency measure, as there are common facts on multiple related cases, and to mitigate the risk of disparate outcomes among the cases,” he said. “However, consistency of outcomes is usually warranted within a service, but I’m not sure it’s a highly prized characteristic between services. In fact, the services all have distinct cultures when it comes to punishment. [For example] cases that earn a court-martial in the Marine Corps can frequently be handled through administrative action in other services.”
While the CDA arrangement between the Marines and the Navy is “highly unusual,” the appointment of Rock indicates the Department of the Navy is likely set to take at least some of the cases to courts-martial, Bracknell said.
“If the case has been forwarded to a CDA, the D stands for ‘disposition’,” he said. “While no action and administrative action are dispositions, it seems like the services are gearing up for a more formal punishment process.”