Two portraits of Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher are emerging. In one, the highly decorated Navy SEAL is a coolheaded leader, medic, and sniper, who as his wife tells the New York Times, “is that guy who runs into the burning building when other people are running out.” In the other, Gallagher, who served eight combat tours, is alleged to be an unhinged war criminal who indiscriminately shot at civilians and posed with the bloody corpse of a teenage prisoner who he had stabbed to death. Gallagher, who returned from his last deployment in Iraq in May of last year, stands charged with 14 criminal counts, the Navy Times reports, including murder, aggravated assault, obstructing justice, and drug charges.
Prosecutors outlined those charges—all of which Gallagher denies—this week in a two-day Article 32 hearing at Naval Base San Diego. Accounts from other SEALs presented during the hearing include Gallagher gunning down a girl and an old man and shooting into civilian crowds, among other alleged atrocities. Some said they tampered with Gallagher’s rifle to make it less accurate to protect civilians. Gallagher also is accused of trying to intimidate other SEALs to keep them quiet. During the hearing, held to determine whether Gallagher will go to trial, Gallagher’s defense lawyer argued that the charges are false—lies and rumors cooked up by SEALs under his command who chaffed at his gruff leadership style and wanted him to be removed. (Two SEALs and two Marines are charged with murder in the death of an Army Green Beret.)