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StarBulletin.com

Schofield soldier killed by colleague


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POSTED: Friday, May 01, 2009

A 33-year-old Schofield Barracks soldier has been charged with shooting and killing a fellow 25th Infantry Division soldier in Iraq three months ago.

Sgt. Miguel A. Vegaquinones of Havelock, N.C., was charged yesterday with involuntary manslaughter and making a false official statement in connection with the death of Pfc. Sean McCune on Jan. 11.

McCune, 20, died after allegedly being shot by Vegaquinones after their guard duty shift in Samarra.

The Army said Vegaquinones negligently shot McCune, but did not provide details.

The shooting death has been under investigation by the Army's Criminal Investigation Command since early January.

The Army did not say when an Article 32 hearing — the military's equivalent of a preliminary hearing — would be held.

If Vegaquinones' case is sent to a general court-martial, he faces a maximum jail sentence of 10 years, if convicted.

The false official statement charges carry a maximum sentence of five years' confinement.

The two soldiers were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

The Army said that Vegaquinones is a former Marine and is serving his first deployment to Iraq as a soldier. His Marine Corps service record was not immediately available.

McCune's death is the seventh noncombat death this year involving soldiers and Marines with Hawaii-based ties now serving in Iraq.

Until now the Pentagon had given the reason for only one of the deaths.

Hawaii Army National Guard Spc. Cwislyn K. Walter, 19, died Feb. 19 from injuries sustained in a single-vehicle accident outside Kuwait City in Kuwait. She was assigned to the 29th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

Army and Marine Corps spokesmen have said the noncombat deaths are under investigation.

The 3rd Brigade has recorded two noncombat deaths since it arrived in Iraq in October.

McCune had been an infantryman for only six months and was on his first deployment. He joined the Army in 2008 and deployed to Iraq in October.

McCune died nine days before he was supposed to come home for a two-week furlough.

He had told his family in Alabama that he planned to leave the Army after three years and use his GI Bill to go to Auburn University so he could become a zoologist.