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May 04, 2006

"For My Brown Brothers"

I glanced through Michelle Malkin's this afternoon and noticed her post on gang bangers in the military. I thought "dang, that's old news" because of something that happened in 1996 that shocked the sh*t out of us. It was even more appalling to major dad and Kcruella because they had served with ~ and very much liked ~ the victim, LtCol Dan Kidd.

A Marine officer was fatally shot and another was critically wounded this afternoon when a sergeant opened fire at Camp Pendleton, a Marine Corps base, the authorities said.

The sergeant, Jessie A. Quintanilla, was arrested in the shooting. Lieut. Col. Daniel W. Kidd, the executive officer of the unit, was pronounced dead at 3:28 P.M. A motive was not known.

We were pretty stunned, thinking "dang, the Sgt. go whacko or what?" It turned out to be far worse than that.
In March of 1996, the appellant was assigned to Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 39 at Camp Pendleton, California. He worked on the night crew at the squadron, meaning that he routinely reported for work in mid-afternoon. The squadron CO was Lieutenant Colonel (LtCol) Thomas A. Heffner, United States Marine Corps (USMC). The XO was LtCol Daniel W. Kidd, USMC.

On the morning of 5 March 1996, the appellant consumed an undetermined quantity of alcohol, then left his home to drive to work. When he left his car parked in the squadron parking lot, he had a .45 caliber pistol tucked into his clothing. The appellant entered the squadron spaces, walked upstairs to the command office suite, then waited outside the XO’s office until other Marines left.

A uniform inspection was scheduled for the night crew at 1500. In preparation for the inspection, LtCol Heffner was changing into his dress uniform, in a changing room located next to LtCol Kidd’s office, where LtCol Kidd was working at his desk.

The appellant walked into LtCol Kidd’s office, pulled out his pistol, asked him, “Remember me, f---er?” and then shot the XO as he tried to exit the office through the door into the changing room. The bullet entered the right side of his lower back, exited the right front side of his abdomen, and then amputated his right ring finger. LtCol Kidd managed to stagger into the changing room, with the appellant close behind him.

LtCol Heffner was changing uniforms when the door to the changing room burst open and LtCol Kidd rushed in. LtCol Heffner first glanced at his XO, and then noticed the appellant in the doorway. The appellant raised his pistol and shot LtCol Heffner in the chest, at which point LtCol Heffner ran out of the office suite. The appellant then shot LtCol Kidd again, the bullet entering his upper back. LtCol Kidd collapsed to the floor and bled to death within a matter of minutes.

After the third and fatal shot was fired, the appellant left the office suite and followed the bloody trail left by LtCol Heffner. As he moved down the passageway, he confronted Gunnery Sergeant (GySgt) W.J. Till and Staff Sergeant (SSgt) A.L. Karr. The appellant pointed the pistol at both Marines but did not fire.

By this time, LtCol Heffner was lying just outside one of the ground floor entrances to the building. Various Marines were providing first aid to their CO. GySgt W.E. Tiller was there and heard someone ask where the XO was. He then went up to the second floor to find the XO. As he proceeded down the passageway toward the command office suite, he saw the appellant a few feet away. GySgt Tiller stepped toward the appellant and reached for the gun. The appellant raised the gun toward GySgt Tiller and fired. GySgt Tiller avoided the shot and struggled with the appellant, eventually disarming him.

The appellant broke away from GySgt Tiller and went down the stairs to the ground floor to the Production Control Office. A number of senior enlisted Marines were in the office at the time. When the appellant entered the office, none of them knew what had just happened. The appellant said, “Gunnery Sergeant, apprehend me, I just shot the CO and XO,” or words to that effect. GySgt P.T. Sullivan asked the appellant to sit down, and he did so.

Soon other Marines entered the office. The appellant talked about why he shot the CO and XO, complaining that he wasn’t treated well in the squadron and that he did it for his “brown brothers,” or words to that effect. At one point, the appellant stood up, pulled down his coveralls, took off his undershirt, and displayed the tattoos that covered his upper body. One of the large tattoos read “Sureno,” which the Government argued was a reference to Southern California gangs. Shortly thereafter, a military policeman arrived and took the appellant into custody.

That dry dissertation of the events is from the U.S. NAVY-MARINE CORPS COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS decision concerning the death sentence Sgt. Quintanilla received at his 1996 court martial. In one of those odd, maddening twists of fate, a reserve Marine Corps Colonel who just happened to work for the ACLU got called up in 2003 and handed the case. The death sentence was set aside due to numerous errors of both judgement and protocol.
One argument for retrial: A military prosecutor kept the murder weapon after the trial and had it mounted on a plaque as a trophy. While that was not the specific legal claim that carried the day, the court set aside Quintanilla's death sentence.

The bastard deserves the death penalty and the prosecution f*cked their slam dunk case up badly. (It's not a shame there was an ACLU lawyer called to war around that day. It's a criminal shame the prosecution left holes a truck could drive through nine years before.)

But the gang bangers are, will be and have been in uniform for some time. What makes it different/worse now? Maybe they have a bigger agenda or a plan. I don't know ~ in chaos there is opportunity, they say. But it's not 'new'.

Posted by tree hugging sister at May 4, 2006 03:52 PM


I've known about this ever since I read The Cross and the Switchblade back in the late 1970s.

They dumped a hell of a lot of these guys into the Americal Division in VN, to predicable results.

Posted by: John at May 4, 2006 04:10 PM

I remember when that happened. Tragic.

We had a recognized gang problem in Quantico when I was stationed there from 91 to 93. It seems that gangs send members to the military for the weapons training.

Posted by: Mike Rentner at May 4, 2006 04:23 PM

I'm wondering if it's mitigated in any way now by the stricter enlistment requirements the Marine Corps has? There's always going to be some, but are there less (proportionally speaking)?

Posted by: tree hugging sister at May 4, 2006 04:34 PM

Hardly news at all. It's an OLD

And the Guard and Reserves have the same problem. I experienced this in the Illinois Army Guard back in the late 1980's. Had one ganger lift a .45 from a Chicago armsroom. We couldn't prove he did it (long story), but the armorer -- a full time technician -- got busted. I won't go into the efforts during drill and annual training to steal M16s, M203s, even M60s.

God knows how much stolen equipment (TA50, tools, etc) got into the hands of the gangs. And the local militias liked us as well, especially for radios and such.

And many gangers would attend basic and AIT (usually infantry), and then suddenly vanish, never to complete their enlistment. The ILARNG had a certain lack of gonads back then, you see, and seldom followed up on these scoflaws. Does the ILARNG still have this lack? I dunno, it has been almost 20 years since I was there.

But old news, all around.

Posted by: The_Real_JeffS at May 4, 2006 06:07 PM

Never ran into any gang problems in my time in the USAR back in the 80s. We did have an issue in AIT where a couple of bangers from LA tried to flex their muscles. When the cadre didn't seem to care too much we dealt with them....uh, extrajudicially.

Posted by: Dave E. at May 4, 2006 07:18 PM

Good for you, Dave. We had gangers everywhere in my unit (an infantry brigade).

Posted by: The_Real_JeffS at May 4, 2006 07:29 PM

I just read the whole opinion. While I'm not familiar with the UCMJ, I'm stll inclined to agree with the partial dissent, in that, while the trial judge committed error with respect to voir dire, that really seems to go only to sentence, not to the findings, and so an appropriate remedy would have been to vacate the sentence and simply hold another proceeding with respect to sentence only.

I assume he can still be retried, but time never makes any case easier.

Posted by: Dave J at May 4, 2006 08:49 PM

I thought of the exact same story when I read Malkin's piece. Thanks for posting on it.

Posted by: Rambix at May 7, 2006 08:42 AM