1st Lieutenant, U.S. Army
In June 2012, 1LT Clint Lorance deployed to Zhari, Afghanistan, also known as the "Heart of Darkness," with elements of the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division in support of the on-going combat operations associated with the "Global War On Terror."
When a platoon leader, 1LT Latino was medically evacuated from the battlefield due to shrapnel wounds to his eyes, face, and abdomen from the blast of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED), Clint was identified to replace him.
On July 2, 2012, three days after taking charge of the platoon, Clint led his Paratroopers on a combat patrol. They patrolled through a minefield near where previous attacks on the platoon resulted in four casualties, including the one which wounded the previous platoon leader.
While patrolling up and down 6 to 8-foot "grape berms" (mud mounds Afghan farmers use to grow grapes), one of Clint’s Paratroopers, PFC Skelton, a former policeman, identified three Taliban speeding toward their patrol on a motorcycle.
Correctly perceiving the riders on the motorcycle as an immediate threat to the exposed platoon, PFC Skelton called out the threat to Clint, who was standing below a grape berm. Clint had no observation of the motorcycle riders approaching at a faster-than-normal rate of speed.
PFC Skelton fired, but missed.
Immediately after PFC Skelton missed, and still unable to observe the situation, Clint radioed a “gun truck” (a lightly armored vehicle mounted with a machine gun he had placed in an over-watch position to protect the patrol) to fire on the Taliban riders of the motorcycle.
Two Taliban were were killed. One escaped.
5 witnesses testified hearing the fatal rounds being fired seconds after PFC Skelton's initial volley missed.
It was reported, the two who were killed did not have any weapons or radios on them. However, their motorcycle was taken away by an Afghan a few minutes after the engagement without US Forces checking it for explosives, weapons, or communication devices, and there was no report of what the third Taliban, who escaped, had in his possession.
Just moments and meters away, from this incident, a second tense and quickly evolving engagement occurred in which Clint’s platoon shot and killed two other Taliban and wounded a third in the arm.
Minutes later, in the same area, Clint's platoon captured two more Taliban who tested positive for explosives residue on their hands.
While patrolling back to their outpost, a US soldier believed he recognized one of the deceased motorcycle riders as a village elder. At that point, the case became a “civilian casualty” or “CIVCAS” case.
As a result, the Army prosecuted Clint for double murder, attempted murder, and several lesser offenses... despite the fact that:
1. PFC Skelton, who first fired on the motorcycle riders, testified his actions were consistent with the ROEs;
2. Clint relied upon the PFC Skelton's correct assessment of the threat when he authorized the "gun truck" to fire within seconds after PFC Skelton missed; and
3. Clint never fired his own rifle.
Leading up to Clint's Court-Martial, nine Paratroopers in the platoon were also initially accused of murder. But, they were eventually given immunity and ordered to cooperate in the case against 1LT Lorance.
Moreover, prosecutors withheld evidence which would have justified Clint's order and confirmed that his instincts were correct, specifically a US Army report stating Clint's platoon was being targeted for an "attack or ambush," and evidence the Afghans killed were not "civilians," as the prosecutors claimed, but enemy combatants, as confirmed by "biometric" data (fingerprints and DNA).
As a result, Clint was convicted, sentenced to 20 years (later reduced to 19 years) in prison in the United States Disciplinary Barracks (USDB) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and dismissed from the Army.
On November 15, 2019 President Trump intervened in 1LT Clint Lorance's case and granted him a Presidential Pardon. He was released from Leavenworth prison later that evening and reunited with family after serving more than six years of a nineteen year sentence.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES