Soldiers broke law in Alabama shooting response

SAMSON, Ala. — An Army investigation found that soldiers should not have been sent to man traffic stops in a small Alabama town after 11 people were killed in March during a shooting spree.

An Army report released to The Associated Press on Monday in response to a Freedom of Information Act request said the decision to dispatch military police to Samson from nearby Fort Rucker broke the law. But an Army spokesman said no charges have been filed following the Aug. 10 report.

“As a result of the findings of the report, the Army took administrative action against at least one person,” Lt. Col. Christopher Garver said.

The action was less than a transfer or discharge but Garver would not elaborate.

The report from the Department of Army Inspector General found the use of military personnel in Samson violated the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits federal troops from performing law enforcement actions. The names of those involved were redacted from the report.

The officer who made the decision to send the soldiers thought he had the authority based on his experience with responses to Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Andrew, the report said.

According to the report, the officer’s “intent was to be a good Army neighbor and help local civilian authorities facing a difficult, unique tragedy affecting the local community. There were no apparent adverse collateral effects to the support provided.”

The Army has said 22 military police and an officer were sent after Michael McLendon, 28, shot nine people to death in Samson and killed a 10th in neighboring Coffee County. The March 10 spree ended when McLendon killed himself.

The soldiers arrived in the hours after the shootings, which stretched the town’s tiny police force and county officers to the limit with several different crime scenes.

The report said troops were dispatched after the Geneva County Sheriff’s Office and Samson Police requested assistance from Fort Rucker to relieve law enforcement at traffic check points around the crime scene area.

The mission in Samson lasted about five hours. The military also guarded bodies at a makeshift morgue.

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