American media outlets report conflicting stories about the death of a U.S. Army Green Beret in Mali believed to have been killed by U.S. Navy SEALS also assigned to a counterterrorism mission, and who shared the same embassy housing.
Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar, a 34-year-old from the state of Texas, died in Bamako on June 4. Army investigators found that one of the SEALS, an elite Special Forces group supporting French and Malian troops, put Melgar into a chokehold about 5 a.m. that morning. He stopped breathing; his American roommates tried to revive him, but he was pronounced dead after being rushed to a nearby French clinic.
Those details aren’t in dispute, but what caused the incident still is, including the possibility that the SEALS were stealing money from a fund to pay local informants.
First came the story that Melgar was drunk that night, but it didn’t make sense because the Green Beret didn’t drink. Moreover, if that were the case it would show up in autopsy and toxicology reports. It didn’t.
Navy SEAL Tony DeDolph, one of the men under investigation, said he and fellow SEAL Adam Matthews engaged in what seemed a hazing or roughhousing incident to get back at Melgar for heading out to a party without them. That’s according to documents seen by NBC News in the U.S.
Yet the New York Times and The Daily Beast raise questions about a much more serious motive, based on the possibility that the SEALS were skimming money from the informants fund. Melgar may have discovered their thefts and refused to be a part of it or cover up the stealing for them. He expressed concerns to his wife before dying, reports say, and said he’d tell her more when he came home. Meanwhile, U.S. military officials are not commenting on an open investigation into his death.
Others, however, are. “This account is based on five members of the special-operations community who were not cleared to speak publicly,” the Daily Beast reporters said in their comprehensive November 12 piece. “Representatives of both U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) declined comment for this story, as the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) has an active investigation into Melgar’s death.”
NCIS would not comment beyond confirming the investigation is underway, the media outlets said.
“All our special operation forces have access to funds in order for them to be able to provide subsistence to themselves and do other operational requirements as long as it’s in their authority to do so,” said Ret. Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, former head of special operations in Africa. “If true that the Navy SEALs were involved in the death of Staff Sgt. Melgar, this is something that would be a huge tragedy and something that I have not witnessed in my entire career.”
Image: Logan Melgar