Camp Lejeune Navy commander one of five killed in Baghdad
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May 12, 2009 - 6:13 PM


A Navy commander stationed at Camp Lejeune was one of five people allegedly killed by an Army sergeant in Baghdad on Monday.

Cmdr. Charles Keith Springle, 52, of Wilmington, a licensed clinical social worker assigned to the 55th Medical Company, served as the director of the Community Counseling Center aboard Camp Lejeune, according to a statement from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune spokesman 1st Lt. Craig Thomas.

He died Monday at Camp Liberty, Iraq, during a shooting incident.

Army Sgt. John Russell, 44, a communications specialist from Sherman, Texas, has been charged with five counts of premeditated murder and one count of aggravated assault in connection with the killings of Cmdr. Springle and four other service members at the Liberty Combat Stress Cetner on Camp Liberty, Baghdad, at approximately 2 p.m. Monday, said Lt. Kathy Ferrero, Multi-National Corps-Iraq spokesperson.

Russell who first joined the Army in 1988, is assigned to the 370th Engineer Company, 54th Engineering Battalion in Bamberg, Germany.

It's unclear if Russell targeted his victims. Officials said the slain service members included an Army doctor and a Navy doctor who worked at the clinic and three enlisted soldiers.

Russell remains in custody in Iraq.

The Army Times reports that according to an Army official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, preliminary reports show Russell was unarmed when he was escorted to the combat stress clinic at Camp Liberty, a sprawling U.S. base near Baghdad's international airport. Once inside, he got into a verbal altercation with the staff and was asked to leave. Russell and his escort got back into their vehicle and began to drive away, according to the Army official.

At some point during the drive, Russell got control of his escort's weapon and ordered the escort out of the vehicle, the Army official said. The soldier then drove back to the clinic, walked in and began shooting, the official said.

During a press briefing Monday afternoon at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressed his "horror and deep regret" over the shooting, adding that officials are still in the process of gathering information on exactly what happened.

"Such a tragic loss of life at the hands of our own forces is a cause of great and urgent concern," he said.

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he did not know whether or not Russell had been deployed multiple times, according to the Army Times. However, he said, the tragedy occurred while service members were seeking help at the clinic.

"It does speak to me for the need for us to redouble our efforts in terms of dealing with the stress (of combat)," Mullen said. "It also speaks to the issues of multiple deployments (and) increasing dwell time."

Springle's decorations include three Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medals, Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation and three Navy/Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbons, according to Thomas.

Contact military reporter Amanda Hickey at 910-219-8461 or Contact crime reporter Lindell Kay at 910-219-8456 or