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Court-martial opens with details of Alaska soldier's shooting death

Casey Grove
Courtesy U.S. Army

The screaming recorded in a pained 911 call shattered the somber calm of a military courtroom Wednesday at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

"Oh my god!" Army Spc. Marshall Drake yelled over and over. "I'm going to jail for life!"

Drake, 23, is facing a court-martial for involuntary manslaughter for shooting and killing his friend, Pfc. Grant Wise, 25, early last Christmas Day. Drake has pleaded not guilty. He had already pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to register and properly store the handgun with which the fatal shot was fired.

Wearing his dark green uniform, and with two family members looking on, Drake put a hand to his eyes in an apparent effort to stop himself from crying as the audio played.

"Please! No! Why?!" Drake heard himself wail.

Drake and Wise had been drinking, prosecutor Capt. Christopher Chatelain said in his opening statement. The two banged on barracks doors, shouting, "No one should be alone on Christmas," Chatelain said.

About 3:30 a.m., they woke Pvt. David Hubbard, who gave them cigarettes, Hubbard testified. Three hours later, they woke Hubbard again and persuaded him to come to Drake's room, Hubbard said. The two told him they'd been drinking all night, he said. None of them had Christmas plans.

Drake, originally from Mount Pleasant, S.C., is an infantryman assigned to the 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. Wise was from Fairport, N.Y., and also assigned to the 4-25th. Hubbard said he belonged to the same company. Of the three, Drake was the only one who had been deployed overseas, Hubbard said.

Hubbard gave the following account of what happened next:

As the men talked, Drake grabbed a black, .45-caliber Kimber 1911 Custom II handgun out of a drawer. He hadn't mentioned the gun before pulling it out.

"I was a little shocked. Weapons aren't allowed in the barracks. I was the new guy. I didn't want to be weird about it. He was the senior guy, so I didn't want to be harping about rules."

Drake removed the loaded magazine and pulled the gun's slide, ejecting a bullet from the chamber. Drake looked for the bullet but didn't find it. He pulled the slide a couple more times and showed them it was empty, then handed the gun to Wise, who was sitting on Drake's bed. Wise pulled the slide and pulled the trigger, "dry-firing" the gun. He handed the gun to Hubbard, who did the same.

Wise started joking around. He said something sarcastic, and Drake pointed the gun at Wise's face. Drake was talking in a "tough guy" voice, like a mobster. Drake pulled the trigger and the gun fired.

Wise fell back on the bed. Hubbard and Drake froze, then Drake jumped on Wise to put pressure on the wound. Drake lifted his hands to look.

"That's when all the blood came out. It seemed like a lot of blood."

"I thought it was a joke. I thought it was an elaborate prank. It was Christmas morning, and I just saw my buddy get shot. It didn't seem real."

Hubbard called 911 but the call disconnected. Drake told Hubbard to say that Wise had shot himself, which made Hubbard so mad he punched a wall.

The prosecutor asked Hubbard to describe how he felt.

"Angry. Because he just shot his friend, and he was only concerned about himself."

In his next call to 911, Hubbard told the dispatcher a soldier had accidentally shot another soldier. He told Drake, who was pacing back and forth from his room to a common area, to calm down.

Hubbard initially told investigators Wise had never touched the handgun, said Drake's attorney, Capt. John Haberland. But Hubbard later changed his story, saying Wise handled the gun before Drake shot him, Haberland said. The attorney attacked Hubbard's truthfulness.

"Pvt. Hubbard is a young man who believed he had to change details to get the desired result," Haberland said. "Hubbard's inconsistencies will make it clear ... there was no negligent act on the part of Spc. Drake that caused the demise of Pfc. Wise."

After Drake removed the gun's magazine, did Hubbard see or hear the magazine or a bullet go back into the gun, Haberland asked.

No, Hubbard said.

Did Drake or Wise ever hold the magazine or bullets again?

Not that he saw, Hubbard said.

Why did Hubbard lie to investigators when he said Wise had never held the gun?

"I didn't want anyone to think Wise shot himself," Hubbard said.

Hubbard was unable to explain how the fatal bullet ended up in the gun.

The presentation of testimony and evidence ended Wednesday. A verdict and sentence are expected Thursday morning.

 

Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.

 

 


By CASEY GROVE
casey.grove@adn.com