Grandmother Questions Local Soldier's Death

POSTED: 6:58 am PST January 16, 2008
UPDATED: 8:39 am PST January 16, 2008

SAN DIEGO -- A 19-year-old Army private from San Marcos who was killed in Iraq this month may have been the victim of friendly fire, it was reported Wednesday.

Pfc. Ivan E. Merlo died in Samaraa, Iraq, on Jan. 8 along with two other soldiers, when their unit was attacked by as many as 15 insurgents, triggering a three-hour firefight, according to Pentagon officials.

The North County Times reported Wednesday that Pentagon officials are investigating the incident to determine whether the fatal shots were fired by the insurgents or other U.S. soldiers and aircraft called in for backup.

Ana Ramirez, Merlo's grandmother who raised the soldier as a son, told 10News of the fear she had for her grandson after a recent conversation with him.

"My son told me that he was worried because there was a lot of envy and jealousy because he was chosen to do many duties and activities that they were not chosen for," Ramirez said.

The fighting began when Merlo's unit came across more than 1,000 pounds of homemade explosives and other bomb materials while searching a building, then discovered a heavily guarded enemy tunnel, the Times reported.

Merlo was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky. He is survived by a wife and a young daughter.

The other soldiers killed in the Jan. 9 incident were Sgt. David J. Hart, 22, of Lake View Terrace, Calif., and Pfc. Phillip J. Pannier, 20, of Washburn, Ill.