Soldier on trial for fatal shooting

“IF YOU hesitate, you come home in a box and I didn’t want to come home in a box,” said Mario Lozano, the American soldier being tried for murder after fatally shooting an Italian military intelligence agent at a checkpoint in Baghdad in 2005.

He was speaking to the US media in New York on the eve of his trial in absentia in Rome.

The shooting occurred when two Italian agents were driving towards Baghdad Airport having secured the release of Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena.

An Italian judge charged Lozano with the murder of agent Nicola Calipari, and attempted murder of Sgrena and agent Andrea Carpani.

Lozano had been deployed in Iraq for four months before being assigned to secure the Baghdad Airport Road, also known as “Route Irish”.

Lozano, 37, said the car was approaching the temporary checkpoint at excessive speed and didn’t slow down or stop when he used hand gestures and flashing lights. Two soldiers from the 69th were killed on Route Irish by a roadside bomb two days earlier. Fearing for his life and the other soldiers, Lozano said he fired warning shots at the ground and at the vehicle’s engine.

The Italian investigation questions that proper procedures were followed by Lozano’s patrol on the night of the shooting. It states that they hadn’t placed signs or traffic cones to indicate a checkpoint was ahead. It denies the car was speeding and that any warning signs had been issued before Lozano opened fire.

The trial resumes on May 14.

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