Special Warfare Operator Chief Edward Gallagher, known to friends and family as Eddie, was greeted with cheers from supporters Friday, as he entered a San Diego naval base court in handcuffs.
Gallagher is charged with premeditated murder for stabbing a wounded teen, who was also an ISIS fighter according to the military, killing him during a combat mission in Iraq in 2017. He is also accused of posing for a photo, performing his re-enlistment ceremony, with the dead body of the alleged ISIS fighter.
"Eddie's being demonized and not characterized as a good human being. His 19 and a half years of service is being dismissed, not appreciated by the American public, including our government," said Gallagher's friend Aaron Kahn. "I think he's probably confused about it you know? How the country could allow this to happen."
Gallagher has pleaded not guilty of all charges — nearly a dozen of them according to the New York Times — which include:
- Shooting at two civilians while stationed in Iraq
- Obstruction of justice for allegedly trying to prevent members of his platoon from reporting him
- Performing re-enlistment ceremony next to body
- Posing for a photo with the body
- Killing wounded ISIS fighter
The Navy says they are taking the allegations against Gallagher very seriously, but his friends and supporters say they believe he will be found innocent.
"He's innocent until proven guilty okay? Eddie has done so much for this country. He's done 8 combat deployments," said an attendee Friday.
His sentiments were backed by friends of Gallagher.
"We think Eddie's being a scapegoat for somebody's own personal agenda," Kahn said.
Gallagher was the center of a widely shared New York Times profile in November, which provided further investigative detail on Gallagher's actions overseas. On the account of Gallagher posing with a dead body, the Times piece provides detail on a similar incident.
It occurred in May 2017, where Iraqi forces are said to have captured an enemy fighter who was hurt from an airstrike. The Times reported video images showed the bleeding fighter, believed to be between the ages 12 and 17, being brought to the SEAL platoon on the hood of a truck.
Gallagher and others could be seen in the images cutting away his clothing to give medical aid. The Times explained medics had put tubes used to treat a collapsed lung in his side, and had cut an emergency airway in his throat. What happened next, reported by the publication, took a different turn.
"Navy investigators said that one SEAL medic was kneeling over the fighter’s head, treating him, when Chief Gallagher walked up and, without saying a word, took out a handmade knife and stabbed the teenager several times in the neck and side," the article states.
It continued, "Members of the platoon then posed for photos with Chief Gallagher as he held the teenager’s head up by the hair with one hand, and held his knife in the other. Photos show Chief Gallagher then raising his right hand to perform a re-enlistment ceremony over the dead body, while another SEAL member [held] an American flag."
The Times says investigators into the matter were able to confirm the incident via two other SEALs. Following the alleged murder, Gallagher texted a photo of the body to another SEAL member saying, “I got him with my hunting knife,” according to the Times.
On Friday, a military judge ruled Gallagher would go on trail in a court-martial February 19, during an arraignment at Naval Base San Diego.