No Evidence Marine Gunnery Sergeant Killed by Friendly Fire, Officials Say

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Gunnery Sergeant Scott A. Koppenhafer, 35, of Mancos, Colorado, died Aug. 11, 2019 while supporting Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq. (Courtesy U.S. Marine Corps)
Gunnery Sergeant Scott A. Koppenhafer, 35, of Mancos, Colorado, died Aug. 11, 2019 while supporting Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq. (Courtesy U.S. Marine Corps)

A Marine who died supporting the fight against ISIS in Iraq earlier this year was killed by enemy fire and not friendly forces, officials said Tuesday.

Gunnery Sgt. Scott Koppenhafer, 35, of Mancos, Colorado was killed Aug. 10 alongside an American military contractor. Days after officials announced Koppenhafer's death, news broke that the military had opened an investigation into the possibility that he died as a result of friendly fire.

The Wall Street Journal at the time reported that Koppenhafer, a Raider with Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, had been in a team of U.S. and Iraqi troops tracking an ISIS suspect in Iraq's Nineveh province. Koppenhafer was in an advisory capacity on the mission, officials said.

"On August 10, 2019, Gunnery Sgt. Scott Koppenhafer and a U.S. military contractor were killed by enemy fire while conducting combat operations to defeat ISIS near Qanoos Island," an official with Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve told Military.com in a statement. "Another U.S. Service Member and two members of the Mosul SWAT were wounded by enemy fire. There is no evidence that suggests Iraqi Partner Forces engaged U.S. or Coalition forces on this operation."

All deaths and injuries occurred in the line of duty, the official added. Marine Corps Times first reported the new findings.

Related: Former MARSOC Operator of the Year Killed in Iraq

No additional information was provided about the length of the investigation, how it was carried out, or how officials reached the final conclusion that Koppenhafer was killed by enemy fire.

Qanoos, or Qanus, Island, in the center of the Tigris river in Northern Iraq, has been a known refuge for ISIS fighters. In September, Air Force F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and F-15 Strike Eagles dropped some 80,000 pounds of ordnance on the island to "deny safe haven" to the militants.

Koppenhafer, a seasoned and decorated Marine, had been named MARSOC Critical Skills Operator of the Year in 2018. He had joined the elite command in 2009 and deployed four times as a Raider, earning two Bronze Star Medals with combat distinguishing device, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals with Combat Distinguishing Device, one Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals and two Combat Action Ribbons.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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