A Fort Bragg soldier accused of shooting at firefighters and police outside his Fayetteville apartment in January wants to be prosecuted by the Army instead of in civilian courts.
Staff Sgt. Joshua P. Eisenhauer filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday to try to force the case into the military system. His lawyer, Mark Waple, argues in the filings that the military system can provide medical care that all soldiers are entitled to under federal law.
Eisenhauer's family and his lawyer say the soldier suffers from war-induced mental problems. He believed he was being attacked by Afghan insurgents when the emergency workers responded to a fire at his apartment building, they say.
Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West said Friday he wants to keep jurisdiction over the case.
Although the state courts handle most crimes committed by soldiers off post, the Army can and sometimes does take jurisdiction. Since 2000, the military has prosecuted two soldiers for murders that took place on civilian property.
Waple said Eisenhauer is being held at the hospital at North Carolina's Central Prison in Raleigh while he awaits trial. A prison psychiatrist wrote a letter saying that the medical staff is not trained to treat Eisenhauer's mental illness, according to a copy filed with the lawsuit. Without proper care, Eisenhauer's condition probably will worsen, the psychiatrist said.
Letters from three other doctors say the shooting likely was precipitated by Eisenhauer's post-traumatic stress disorder.
Waple says Eisenhauer began shooting after he awoke about 10 p.m. Jan. 13. He saw a fire on his back deck and heard the loud noises of emergency personnel at his door and running up the outside stairs. He had a mental flashback to his grueling combat experiences during two tours in Afghanistan, Waple said.
Dozens of his neighbors were evacuated, and the police took cover and secured a perimeter. Officers eventually shot Eisenhauer, nearly killing him. Two officers suffered minor injuries.
If the military takes over the case, Waple said, the military can take custody of Eisenhauer and military doctors can give him the care he is entitled to.
Waple has correspondence from the Army saying that it would take over only if West is willing to give it up. West said that he spoke with military prosecutors this week who told him they don't want the case.
"They specifically told me they had no desire to exercise jurisdiction to prosecute the case and it was properly located in the state system," West said.
Further, West said, it's appropriate to keep the case in the state system because the victims were local police officers and firefighters.
Eisenhauer is charged with 15 counts of attempted murder and 15 other assault charges. He has court appearances scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday. A trial or plea hearing is unlikely until at least early next year.
His lawsuit was filed against West's office, the state attorney general and the state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, which operates the prison system.