Lawmaker: Family Learned of Soldier's Remains from News Reports

	U.S. Army Sergeant La David Johnson, who was among four special forces soldiers killed in Niger. (U.S. Army photo)
U.S. Army Sergeant La David Johnson, who was among four special forces soldiers killed in Niger. (U.S. Army photo)

A Florida congresswoman charged Tuesday that the family of Sgt. La David Johnson learned from news reports that more of his remains had been found in Niger.

A U.S. official told ABC News that the family had been notified, but Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Florida, said, "It is a shame for any Gold Star Family to go through the pain and agony of learning about their son's last moments on TV."

Wilson, a close Johnson family friend who was a mentor to the soldier, told reporters, "He left a Gold Star Family and to learn about his final moments on TV and in the newspaper is a shame for this nation," NBC News reported.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford told reporters last month that his "first priority" was to make sure any information on the Oct. 4 ambush in which Johnson and three other soldiers were killed would go to the families before it was made public.

Related content:

Wilson previously had clashed with President Donald Trump and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, a retired Marine four-star general, over Trump's phone call to Johnson's widow, Myeshia, as she was on her way to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, to recover his body.

Wilson was in the car with Myeshia Johnson when the call came on speaker phone. Trump has denied being disrespectful.

However, Myeshia Johnson later told ABC's "Good Morning America" that "I heard him [Trump] stumbling on trying to remember my husband's nameand that's what hurt me the most because if my husband is out there fighting for our country and he risked his life for our country, why can't you remember his name? And that made me cry even more."

Johnson was one of four members of the 3rd Special Forces Group who died as a result of an Oct. 4 firefight outside the village of Tongo Tongo in western Niger near the Mali border.

The bodies of three of the soldiers were recovered Oct. 4 and later identified as Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia.

The body of La David Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Florida, was not recovered until two days later. Local villagers have since told several news outlets that his hands were bound and he had suffered a severe head wound.

A statement Tuesday from Pentagon chief spokesperson Dana White said that an Article 15-6 fact-finding investigation team on a visit to the Tongo Tongo area Nov. 12 discovered additional remains.

DNA testing later confirmed that the remains were those of Sgt. Johnson, White's statement said. NBC News, citing defense officials, reported that the remains were bone fragments.

The Article 15-6 investigation into the ambush is being led by Army Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier, a career infantry officer, Iraq veteran and chief of staff to Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, commander of U.S. Africa Command.

Dunford told reporters traveling with him to South Korea last month that the results of the Article 15-6 investigation would be made known to the families first before being released to the public.

"That's my primary target audience right now. We'll address it fully" in public once the families are informed, he said.

Dunford gave no timeline for the completion of the investigation, which is expected to continue into early next year.

Currently, there are about 800 U.S. service members in Niger, according to the Pentagon. The contingent includes Special Forces soldiers, who began arriving in 2012 to provide counter-terrorism training to the Nigerien forces, as well as others who work on a drone base.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

Show Full Article