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Wednesday, September 18 2019 @ 02:57 am EDT

US Southern Command Issues Press Release (US Army MSG Omar Velez - Murder Suspect - Panama Case)

Expat Tales An Army soldier assigned to the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) is under military custody on suspicion of being responsible for the death of a young Panamanian woman, whose body was found near a shooting range used for training.

The Southern Command issued a press release expressing "sincere regret" over the woman's death. SOUTHCOM is cooperating with the Panamanian judicial and law enforcement authorities in the investigation of the case. They call for "this tragedy to be fully investigated" and the US military promises to take "all corresponding actions" resulting from the investigation.

"We are cooperating with Panamanian law enforcement authorities in the investigation, and we want to assure the government and the Panamanian people that the U.S. military authorities will thoroughly investigate this tragedy and take all appropriate action," says the press release that was published on the Southern Command's website.

Last Thursday, the office of the Attorney General issued a press release reporting that on 23 June "the lifeless body of a woman was discovered, on a farm near the bridge over the Guararé river, where firearms training was taking place."

The site of the discovery is located in the province of Los Santos, 284 kilometers west of Panama City.  

The victim was identified by relatives as Vanesa Rodriguez, 25, a native of the western province of Chiriqui and a resident of Panama City.

"A member of the U.S. Army, who is now in custody at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, USA, is a suspect in this case," says the Southern Command statement. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: Why the FUCK is everyone tip-toeing around using the name of US Army Master Sergeant Omar Velez as the suspect in this case? When the Panamanian National Police first arrested him - while standing over the body of his dead girlfriend next to a bag of lime, a shovel, a pickaxe, and a freshly dug grave - they released his name as the person who was arrested, and identified him as the suspect in the case.

Since then, the Panamanian Attorney General's office issued a statement clarifying for the Panamanian people and the family members of the victim that the suspect (Velez) was working for the US Embassy at the time, so therefore he could not be arrested. No sweat, he was arrested by the US Army, flown back to Ft Bragg, and he's now in custody there. Great.

The US Southern Command finally issued a press release designed to further reduce anxiety over the concept that Velez might not face justice. And of course to express their regret and remorse. Note - that this statement was issued only after I pointed out that the US government and the US Embassy in Panama had remained silent (until then). Whatever, they finally have started to to the right thing, and communicate a little.

But still it makes no sense to try to protect - what - Omar Velez's privacy? When a murder suspect is arrested in the United States does any prosecutor anywhere try to protect his name? Don't they stand up in front of the media and proclaim to the world they've arrested a suspect in the brutal murder case of (whatever)? It makes no sense. I don't get it. In short, WTF?

Speaking as a retired Master Sergeant myself - military guys simply hate it when "one of their own" makes some really stupid decision and does something criminal - whatever it is. I've had friends of mine go down in legal flames for making some bone headed mistakes while serving in the military. But serving in the military is all about levels of trust, personal responsibility, emotional maturity, and making the right decision in the heat of the moment. This guy apparently blew it. And while that's too damn bad (for both him and his victim) it makes no sense for anyone, on any side, to try to "protect" his identity, or to keep his name out of the papers. In short, fuck that guy...

Most civilians don't understand that military members are held to a higher standard. MSG Omar Velez will be held accountable under the US Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). There's an obvious reason for this. If a civilian doesn't show up for his job at Walmart, he's fired. If a military member doesn't show up for his job, that's desertion. A civilian can't get sent to prison for falling asleep on the job, but a soldier can go to prison for falling asleep while manning a forward observation post in a war zone. Things are different for military guys, in many ways.

But murder is murder. Guys in the military are trained to kill. We have guns. We usually have physical superiority over civilians due to strength training and regularly scheduled exercise. We are trained in hand-to-hand combat and martial arts. Military guys have a "keep hitting it until it's gone" mentality sometimes. And when a military guy kills a hostile in a war zone, he gets a medal. We are trained to be lethal, and we are expected to know when to pull the trigger (and of course, when not to...)

Refer to the UCMJ Article 118: Murder - Any person subject to this chapter who, without justification or excuse, unlawfully kills a human being, when he- (1) has a premeditated design to kill; (2) intends to kill or inflict great bodily harm; (3) is engaged in an act which is inherently dangerous to another and evinces a wanton disregard of human life; or (4) is engaged in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of burglary, sodomy, rape, robbery, or aggravated arson; is guilty of murder, and shall suffer such punishment as a court-martial may direct, except that if found guilty under clause (1) or (4), he shall suffer death or imprisonment for life as a court-martial may direct.

And Article 119: Manslaughter - (a) Any person subject to this chapter who, with an intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm, unlawfully kills a human being in the heat of sudden passion caused by adequate provocation is guilty of voluntary manslaughter and shall be punished as a court-martial may direct. (b) Any person subject to this chapter who, without an intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm, unlawfully kills a human being- (1) by culpable negligence; or (2) while perpetrating or attempting to perpetrate an offense, other than those named in clause (4) of section 918 of this title (article 118), directly affecting the person; is guilty of involuntary manslaughter and shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

MSG Omar Velez will probably say he got into an argument with his girlfriend, got mad, hit her in the face, and she died. If there was no intent to kill her then that's manslaughter. The key words being "in the heat of sudden passion caused by adequate provocation."

But still, why dance around the identity of the suspect? What wasn't his name included in this Southcom press release? Do they have the photo the victim posted on her Facebook page, of her handling a weapon on the same range where MSG Omar Velez was training Panamanians how to shoot? You know, the same place where he was digging her grave?

You won't find me dancing around this asshole, trying to protect anything. If it turns out the victim is someone else, then so be it. As of right now, the Panamanian National Police released his name as being the suspect. Until I hear otherwise, it's on him. Everything else that's flowed since has been in sync with the initial assessment, so I have to assume it's correct. And I also have to assume the US Army, the US government, SOUTHCOM, and everyone else is - for some unknown reason - trying to protect something by not uttering the name of Master Sergeant Omar Velez. Thankfully, I do not drink from the same pitcher of kool-aid as those idiots...

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