Robert Bales

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Robert Bales
Robert Bales.jpg
Full Name: Robert Bales
Origin: Norwood, Ohio, United States
Occupation: U.S. Army soldier (former)
Skills: Military training
Hobby: Taking steroids
Drinking alcohol
Crimes: War crimes
Mass murder
Type of Villain: War Criminal

Robert Bales (born June 30, 1973) is an American war criminal who carried out the Kandahar Massacre on March 11, 2012 in the Panjwayi District of Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. He killed 16 Afghan civilians, with nine of his victims being children, and eleven being from the same family.

In order to avoid the death penalty, he pleaded guilty to 16 counts of murder and six counts of assault and attempted murder in a plea deal. On August 23, 2013, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Early life

Bales was born on June 30, 1973, and raised in Norwood, Ohio, near the city of Cincinnati, the youngest of five brothers. He attended Norwood High School. After high school Bales briefly enrolled at College of Mount St. Joseph, then transferred to Ohio State University, where he studied economics for three years, but left without graduating in 1996.

After leaving college, Bales worked as a stockbroker at five financial services firms in Columbus, Ohio. The firms were related, sharing employees and corporate offices. During that period, while employed with Michael Patterson, Inc., Bales and the firm engaged in fraudulent securities activities. An arbitration panel later found both Bales and his employer liable for financial fraud related to the handling of a retirement account and ordered them to pay $1.4 million in civil damages. Gary Liebschner, the victim, said he "never got paid a penny" of the award. According to Liebschner's lawyer, they had not pursued legal action against Bales to collect the judgment because they were unable to locate Bales, who had joined the U.S. Army 18 months after the long-running arbitration case was filed.

In May 1999, while still employed with a securities firm in Ohio, Bales, his brother Mark, and Marc Edwards co-founded a financial services firm named Spartina Investments in Doral, Florida. The state dissolved Spartina in September 2000, after the company failed to file its annual report in a timely manner.

Military career

Bales enlisted in the U.S. Army in November 2001, shortly after the September 11 attacks. He was initially assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry of the 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division in Fort Lewis. He completed three tours in the Iraq War: twelve months in 2003 and 2004, fifteen months in 2006 and 2007, and ten months in 2009 and 2010. During the 2007 tour he reportedly injured his foot in the Battle of Najaf, and during the 2010 tour he was treated for traumatic brain injury after his vehicle was rolled in an accident.

According to public records Bales had been involved in incidents while stationed at Fort Lewis which had resulted in the police responding. In 2002 he got into a fight with a security guard at a Tacoma area casino and was charged with misdemeanor criminal assault, but the charge was dismissed after he paid a small fine and attended anger management classes. Another confrontation outside of a bar in 2008 was also reported to police, but no charges were filed.

Bales was promoted to staff sergeant on April 1, 2008. On February 1, 2012, he was assigned to Camp Belambai in Kandahar Province in Afghanistan, where he was responsible for providing base security for U.S. Army Special Forces and U.S. Navy SEALs who were engaged in village stability operations.

The massacre

On the night of March 11, 2012, 16 Afghan civilians (nine children, some as young as two years old, four women and three men) were shot and killed in the villages of Balandi and Alkozai near Camp Belambai. On March 24, U.S. Army investigators said Bales was the only person responsible for the shootings and the deaths were the result of two separate attacks. Investigators said Bales returned to Camp Belambai after the first attack and left the camp an hour later to commit the second attack.

A senior military official said Bales had been drinking alcohol with two other soldiers on the night of the shootings, in violation of military rules in combat zones. According to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Bales acknowledged the killings and "told individuals what happened" immediately after being captured. Minutes later he refused to speak with investigators and asked for an attorney. Bales' civilian attorney John Henry Browne, later said, "I don't know that the government is going to prove much. There's no forensic evidence. There's no confession." However, in May 2013, Browne said his client would confess to the massacre in return for avoiding the death penalty.


Bales had no documented history of mental disorder, and had undergone an extensive mental health screening to become a sniper in 2008. In 2010, he suffered a concussion in a car accident, underwent traumatic brain injury treatment at Fort Lewis, and was deemed healthy. Investigators examining his medical history described his ten-year U.S. Army tenure as "unremarkable" and found no evidence of serious traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress. A high-ranking U.S. official told The New York Times, "When it all comes out, it will be a combination of stress, alcohol and domestic issues—he just snapped." However, Bales had been taking an anti-malaria medication, mefloquine, now known to cause a wide range of side effects including psychiatric. He had also started taking stanozolol three weeks before the massacre.

On August 23, a six-person panel sentenced Bales to life in prison without parole. He was also demoted to the lowest enlisted rank, dishonorably discharged and will forfeit all pay and allowances. A commanding general overseeing the court-martial has the option of reducing the sentence to life with the possibility of parole. Afghan villagers and the families of Bales' victims were upset by the decision, saying he deserved death. Bales is incarcerated in the maximum security section of United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth.