The fathers of three Special Forces soldiers killed by a Jordanian airman last November during a training mission in that country want to clear their sons' names and see murder charges for the man who killed them.
A Jordanian air force guard named Cpl. Ma'arik Al-Tawayha, who is referred to in a letter from the Jordanian ambassador to the U.S. as Staff Sgt. M'aarek Abu Tayeh, shot and killed the three soldiers from Fort Campbell, Kentucky's 5th Special Forces Group, according to an Army 15-6 investigation released Tuesday.
The same morning, the fathers of Staff Sgt. Kevin McEnroe, Staff Sgt. Jimmy Moriarty and Sgt. 1st Class Matt Lewellen said in a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., that the Jordanian government has fed American investigators a string of lies as to what happened to their sons.
Brian McEnroe, Chuck Lewellen and James Moriarty were briefed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Defense Department on Feb. 28, they said.
They also saw surveillance video that leads them to believe that, contrary to statements made by Jordanian authorities after the shooting, their sons did not fail to follow protocol or negligently discharge a weapon inside their vehicle.
"The shooter testified that he heard a loud noise as the Americans approached the gate, and thinking that he was under attack, he panicked and opened fire," McEnroe said. "I can tell you with absolute certainty that anyone who views this video will only conclude that this third false narrative is equally as insulting as the first two."
The Army's 82-page investigation lays out the narrative of the day: The Green Berets were heading back to King Faisal Air Base in al-Jafr, Jordan, in a four-vehicle convoy when a gate guard opened fire on the second vehicle, instantly killing McEnroe and Lewellen.
"Because of the surveillance video, we know that Kevin and Matt's survival chances were almost zero," the elder Moriarty said. "They were caught completely by surprise by the Jordanian soldier, M'aarek Abu Tayeh, they died quickly and mercifully in a hail of gunfire."
Moriarty would not be so lucky, his father said.
"My son Jimmy and a fellow Special Forces soldier I'll call Mike exited their trucks just in time to avoid being killed in cold blood. Then spent the next six and a half minutes of my son's life communicating with Abu Tayeh both in English — and cursing — and in Arabic," Moriarty said.
The soldiers signaled that they were Americans, that they were friends, holding up their hands and trying to signal to a group of Jordanians 200 yards down the road, he said.
"And that's how I watched my son die," he added.
Abu Tayeh opened fire on Moriarty before "Mike" was able to draw his weapon and shoot several rounds into his side, a spot the body armor didn't cover, Moriarty's father said.
Moriarty, McEnroe and Lewellen were joined at the news conference by Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Missouri, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, who made a plea in support of her Stop Arming Terrorists Act.
"The fact that American taxpayer dollars are being used to strengthen the very terrorists groups that we should be focused on defeating should alarm every American and every member of Congress," Gabbard said.
The congresswoman's bill would end support to rebel groups aligned with ISIS or al Qaida, some of whom the U.S. has teamed up with to help overthrow the Syrian government.
"I understand the fog of war ... and I understand confusion when there’s combat," said Moriarty, a former Marine sergeant and veteran of three tours in Vietnam. "But I knew as soon as I heard the story, that there were mistakes made at the gate, that that was a complete lie."
Call for justice
Initial reports from Jordanian authorities laid blame on the soldiers for not stopping at the gate.
"It’s interesting to note that the first American vehicle was allowed through the second security gate," Poe said. "Then the attack started after the first American vehicle had already gone through."
According to the investigation, the Americans were not required to stop at the guard shack or show identification to enter the base, and the same guard rotation that had watched them leave that morning was still on duty when they returned around noon. They were also wearing obviously Western garb that distinguished them from locals or trainees, the report said.
James Moriarty, father of fallen Green Beret Staff Sgt. Jimmy Moriarty, at a news conference March 7 in Washington, D.C. Moriarty and the fathers of two other Green Berets are calling on murder charges for the Jordanian airman who shot and killed their sons during a training mission in that country in November.
Photo Credit: Meghann Myers/Staff
Subsequent reports from Jordanian officials alleged that the soldiers had accidentally fired a weapon in the vehicle, alarming the gate guard. Then authorities said a loud noise had startled the gate guard, making him think he was under attack.
According to the Army's investigation, the shooter fired "numerous shots" through the open side window of the guard building and into the windshield of the second vehicle in the soldiers' convoy, killing McEnroe and Lewellen. Abu Tayeh then went to the driver's side "in an apparent attempt to check for occupants," the report said.
He then moved onto another vehicle, but the soldiers inside had already abandoned it. They were Moriarty and "Mike," and Abu Tayeh caught up with them behind a nearby cement barrier.
There, Moriarty stood and fired his pistol directly at the shooter, who was wearing body armor, the report said. Abu Tayeh shot Moriarty twice, mortally wounding him. Because of Moriarty's actions, "Mike" was able to move around the barrier and shoot Abu Tayeh "until he fell to the ground and was no longer a threat," according to the report.
According to the senior Moriarty, there is no response to a loud noise from any of the Jordanians on the tape.
"The government of Jordan began its lies to the world while my son’s body was still warm. They have continued those lies to this moment," he said. "There was no way there were shots fired. There is no way there was a loud noise that would have caused anyone any concern."
The fathers are content with the narrative provided to them by the FBI and DoD, they said, but determined to find out from Jordanian authorities why it really happened.
"The shooter now is apparently in custody, in an induced medical coma by the Jordanians," Poe said. "Other than that, we do not know his medical status or what’s going to happen to him."
In a March 6 letter to Poe's office, Jordanian ambassador to the U.S. Dina Kawarconfirmed that Abu Tayeh has no known ties to extremists and per a search of his electronics, had apparently not been radicalized in any way.
Abu Tayeh had drawn his M16 rifle upon hearing gunshots while making his way from his position to the base gate to recharge his wireless phone.
"Against the backdrop of fire exchange, rules of engagement were applied by the swift response vehicle in the base to defend the latter without knowing that Americans were on the other side," Kawar wrote. "The fire exchange was quickly halted upon knowing that friendly U.S. members were on the other side."
But that explanation did not satisfy McEnroe, Moriarty and Lewellen.
"We were told that their wepaons weren’t loaded," McEnroe said. "He had to un-shoulder his weapon, load the magazine, chamber the bullet and take aim at a moving vehicle — it’s so implausible."
Despite that anomaly, Moriarty said, there is no evidence that the attack was pre-planned. The theories are that the shooter could have lost his mind or become otherwise radicalized, though there's no evidence of that.
"And the third explanation is he was doing what he was told to do by people who had the authority to tell him to do it," he said. "Now, I don’t mean to be a tin-foil hat guy, but there’s no evidence whatsoever that this guy went wacko. We’re told that there’s no evidence whatsoever that he went over the dark side."
Defense Secretary James Mattis saw the video on Friday, according to Moriarty, but they have not been in any contact with the White House about their effort.
Their goal is to see murder charges in Jordan for Abu Tayeh and for the Jordanian government to admit that the Green Berets were not at fault.
"Nobody’s going to bad mouth my son," Moriarty said. "Nobody’s going to bad mouth their sons. It's not going to be allowed to happen."
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.