TACOMA, Wash. -- The Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier who allegedly massacred Afghan civilians in Kandahar Province three months ago now faces charges that he used alcohol and steroids during his deployment.
The Army on Friday refined the charges it pressed against Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, 38, of Lewis-McChord's 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. It added the new misconduct charges while dropping one of the 17 murder counts it initially filed against the soldier.
Bales now stands accused of murdering 16 Afghan noncombatants in a March 11 massacre in Kandahar's Panjwai District.
The number of victims has been a point of contention since news broke of the killings. Afghan sources initially reported that there were 16 victims, and it was not clear why the Army investigation reported 17 deaths.
Military officials have leaked information for months suggesting that alcohol was a factor in the killings. The Seattle Times last year reported that steroid use was on the rise in the Army, including at Lewis-McChord.
Bales belonged to a unit in the 3rd Brigade that has been assigned to support Special Forces outposts in southern Afghanistan. He allegedly slipped out of his outpost and killed the Afghans in two separate villages.
Emma Scanlan, an attorney on Bales' defense team, said the Army alleges that Bales obtained steroids from a Special Forces soldier at his base in Panjwai. She said witness statements suggest Bales consumed a "moderate amount" of alcohol with other service members on the day of the killings, and the amount should not have influenced his behavior.
"He is not an alcoholic and the idea that the alcohol he used that day fueled this incident is laughable," she said.