One of the two Navy SEALs being investigated in the strangulation death of a Special Forces soldier in Africa told a witness he choked out the soldier to “get back” at him for an earlier slight.
The new report also said the SEAL might have used duct tape in the alleged attack.
SEAL and Navy Petty Officer Anthony DeDolph, 38, told a witness that he was wrestling with Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar, 34, when fellow SEAL Chief Petty Officer Adam Cranston Matthews entered Melgar’s room at around 4 a.m. on June 4, according to NBC News. The three fell onto the bed with Matthews on top of Melgar.
According to an Army investigative report cited by multiple media outlets, DeDolph and Matthews were mad at Melgar “after they felt he intentionally tried to evade them while he was driving to a party.”
DeDolph and Matthews realized Melgar wasn’t breathing, according to what they told investigators. They then tried to resuscitate him with CPR and open a hole in his throat. Along with another Green Beret, the SEALs took Melgar to a nearby French medical facility but he was already dead.
DeDolph and Matthews have been scrutinized for potentially stealing money from a fund used to pay confidential informants as part of their mission to gather intelligence in Mali, according to a New York Times report.
A Navy official told the Times there was “insufficient evidence” to take criminal or disciplinary action against the SEALs. But another official said the “inquiry was continuing.”
A recent report by the Intercept said that the SEALs first told investigators they’d found Melgar unresponsive and didn’t admit to the grappling episode until after an autopsy revealed that Melgar had died of “homicide by asphyxiation.”
The pair also told investigators that Melgar was drunk. But toxicology found no evidence of alcohol or drugs in his system. Friends and colleagues also knew that Melgar didn’t drink, according to a report by the Daily Beast.
The pair also used duct tape on Melgar, according to a witness referenced by the Times, but didn’t disclose that because they worried it would be considered hazing.
DeDolph and Matthews were flown out of Mali after Melgar’s death and put on administrative leave at the SEAL Team Six headquarters in Dam Neck, Virginia, the Times reported.
Melgar was four months into a six-month tour, working with a crisis-response team in the Mali capital of Bamako, the Times reported. He helped provide intelligence about Islamic militants in the African nation and asses Malian troops who could be used to build a counterterrorism force.
Sources close to the investigation told The Daily Beast that the SEALs had offered Melgar money from the alleged illicit cash scheme but he declined. He’d also referenced concerns about the SEALs in emails to his wife, Michelle Melgar, who shared those messages with investigators.
Michelle has declined to comment on her husband’s death to the media, according to CNN.
There have been no charges yet filed in the case, which was initiated by Army Criminal Investigation Command and then turned over to Naval Criminal Investigative Service on Sept. 24.
U.S. Special Operations Command, U.S. Africa Command and Army Criminal Investigation spokespersons have referred questions to NCIS.
NCIS spokesman Ed Buice has said officials will not comment on the ongoing investigation.
A native of Lubbock, Texas, Melgar, 34, joined the Army in 2012 and served two tours in Afghanistan with 3rd Special Forces Group out of Fort Bragg, North Carolan, which he was serving with at the time of his death.
He was awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal posthumously.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.