Family of US soldier sues security firm over death
LOS ANGELES July 11, 2011 CBS News— The family of a California soldier killed in Afghanistan sued a military contractor for rehiring an Afghan national as a security guard after he allegedly threatened to attack U.S. troops and eventually killed two service members and wounded four others.
The federal wrongful death lawsuit filed Monday claims Tundra Strategies failed to document threats made by Shir Ahmed and didn’t tell U.S. military officials about the danger he posed before the March 2011 attack at Forward Operating Base Frontenac.
A phone message left Tuesday for Tundra was not immediately returned. The company is based in Ontario, Canada.
The shooting was a factor in improved screening of Afghan nationals hired to provide security for U.S. and coalition forces. Among those killed was medic Rudy Acosta, 19, of Santa Clarita, Calif., whose family is named as a plaintiffs in the lawsuit along with three survivors.
The lawsuit said Tundra was hired in November 2009 by the U.S. government to screen and monitor private security guards at nine military installations but did not adhere to basic duties in dealing with Ahmed, who was first hired by the company in May 2010.
He was fired two months later after being accused of threatening to kill U.S. and coalition troops, according to the lawsuit. The firm rehired Ahmed in early 2011, despite concerns by a Tundra manager, the suit states.
It also alleges the shooting was avoidable, and Tundra management did not record Ahmed’s threats or flag that he was a potential danger to re-hire.
U.S. military officials later said Tundra records showed Ahmed wasn’t deemed a threat because the allegations against him were unsubstantiated.
“All we know at this point is (Tundra) didn’t do what it was hired to do,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Michael Doyle. “It was clear enough that this guy shouldn’t be given a weapon around the troops.”
Within days of being rehired, Ahmed opened fire on U.S. troops as they were cleaning their weapons for an upcoming mission. Wearing body armor, he unloaded the first magazine of his Tundra-issued AK-47 before reloading, according to the lawsuit.
Other U.S. troops returned fire and killed Ahmed.
Among the other plaintiffs are Chris Hemwall, 22, of Monroe, Mich., and Patrick Shelley, 23, of Marana, Ariz., each of whom was shot three times, and Zackary Hombel, 25, of Norfolk, Va., who suffered unspecified, serious injuries.
Acosta’s father, Dante Acosta, said his son was serving his first tour of duty and planned to marry and go to medical school after he completed his military service.
“He was all about serving others,” the senior Acosta said. “He’s missed every moment of every day by his family and friends.”
Security companies that hire Afghans are required to vet an applicant by checking their identities, work history and other personal information, as well as conducting checks with police and taking fingerprints and iris scans. Contractors also have to report individuals who turn out to be security risks.
After the shooting, U.S. military officials beefed up the process by doing random checks of private security companies, but they have warned the added safeguards won’t eliminate the problem.
Doyle said the lawsuit was filed to hold military contractors accountable for their role during wartime.
“If there aren’t any consequences, it’s a continuing danger to the troops and that’s not acceptable,” he said.
The suit seeks unspecified damages.
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