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Afghanistan Shootings Fast Facts

CNN Editorial Research

Here’s a look at former Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who is serving life in prison without parole for the murders of 16 Afghan civilians in 2012.

About former Staff Sgt. Bales

Bales was assigned to the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington.

The unit was deployed in support of Special Forces troops in Kandahar province, Afghanistan.

Bales served three tours of duty in Iraq before being deployed to Afghanistan.


March 11, 2012 – Bales leaves the military base and goes on a house to house shooting spree in two nearby villages. He kills 16 people, including nine children. Eleven of the victims belong to the same family. Bales returns to the base and turns himself in.

March 13, 2012 – US President Barack Obama says that the military will conduct a thorough investigation into the rampage. He says he has told Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the United States “takes this as seriously as if it was our own citizens and our own children who were murdered.”

March 15, 2012 – US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta meets with Karzai, who tells Panetta that troops should be pulled out of Afghan villages.

March 16, 2012 – The military identifies Bales as the suspect in the shootings.

March 23, 2012 – Bales is charged with 17 counts of murder and six counts of assault and attempted murder. US and Afghan officials initially said 16 people died in the attack. No detailed info is released about the 17th fatality, other than an indication from investigators that the victim was an adult.

March 25, 2012 – Afghan officials announce the victims’ families were given money by the US government, $50,000 for each of the 16 people who died, as well as $10,000 for each of the six who was injured.

March 30, 2012 – Bales’ attorney holds a news conference and tells reporters that the military has blocked the defense team’s access to information about the case. He says that he wants to interview witnesses but the military has not made them available as promised.

June 1, 2012 – In amended charges, US military authorities accuse Bales of illicit steroid and alcohol use in addition to 16 counts of premeditated murder.

November 5, 2012 – Bales’ Article 32 hearing begins at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.

December 19, 2012 – The US military releases a statement saying Bales will face a court-martial and could be given the death penalty if found guilty.

June 5, 2013 – Bales pleads guilty to more than 30 criminal charges, including 16 premeditated murder counts. The move spares him a possible death sentence.

August 23, 2013 – Bales is sentenced to life in prison without parole.

October 2015 – A University of Chicago law professor and students launch a project called the Combat Clemency Project. They file a clemency petition for Bales and six other veterans serving sentences for killing civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq. Based on Bales’ mental health issues and a traumatic brain injury, the law team seeks a commutation of his sentence.

October 21, 2015 – GQ publishes an exclusive interview with Bales. He says he was drinking heavily and took sleeping pills before the rampage.

September 27, 2017 – The US Army Court of Criminal Appeals upholds Bales’ life sentence.

June 25, 2018 – The US Supreme Court denies Bales’ petition for a writ of certiorari.

June 24, 2019 – Attorneys for Bales file a petition requesting a new trial in the US District Court of Kansas, claiming that the anti-malarial drug mefloquine in addition to PTSD and traumatic brain injury may have affected his mental state.

June 9, 2020 – Bales’ petition for a new trial is denied.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - Europe/Mideast/Africa

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