Balesis accused of having gone on a shooting rampage on the night of March 11 in Afghanistan's Kandahar Province. He is alleged to have snuck out of his remote outpost in the middle of the night and gone on a shooting spree at two nearby villages where he killed 16 and injured six.
Evidence is being presented at an Article 32 hearing for Bales at Joint Base Lewis-McChord outside of Tacoma, Wash. The military's equivalent of a civilian grand jury, at the hearing prosecutors will present evidence before a presiding officer who will determine if Bales' case should go to a court martial.
Sporting a shaved head, Bales sat quietly in court with a stoic demeanor as he heard prosecutors recount new details of the shooting spree he is alleged to have committed.
In his opening arguments Army prosecutor Lt. Colonel Joseph Morse said Bales had returned to the camp with his weapons and entire uniform covered in blood, some of which was later matched to at least one of the shooting victims.
Morse said that when he returned to his base Bales' demeanor seemed "completely normal" and when told to disarm at gunpoint, he responded "are you F-in' kidding me?!"
The prosecutor said Bales has made multiple admissions to the shootings "that clearly show--with chilling premeditation… Staff Sgt. Bales murdered these people." That included telling a fellow soldier, "Hey Mac, I just shot some people."
Bales allegedly stated that he "thought I was doing the right thing" and that he was apparently motivated by revenge for previous attacks to his unit.
Testifying Monday was Bale's colleague, Corporal Dave Godwin, who was granted immunity for his testimony. Godwin recounted how he and Bales had been drinking alcohol prior to the shooting rampage. American troops serving in Afghanistan are expressly forbidden from drinking alcohol while in the country.
Drinking Jack Daniels whiskey with soda Godwin said they and another soldier "weren't drinking to get drunk." They had watched a portion of the movie "Man on Fire," about a former CIA operative who goes on a revenge rampage.
Before the shooting rampage, Bales allegedly told his fellow soldiers that he had a "disgruntled family at home" and that he did not care "whether he gets killed or not." According to Sergeant First Class Clayton Blackshear, who also testified under immunity Monday, Bales referenced a roadside blast two weeks before where a fellow soldier had lost a leg.
When they went to sleep at 11 p.m. Godwin said there was nothing odd about Bales' behavior. He recalled being awoken at 12:30 a.m. by loud banging on the door from fellow soldiers who said Bales had gone missing. A quick search did not turn up Bale.
Sgt. Jason McLaughlin testified that he remembered Bales having appeared in his living quarters in the middle of the night saying he had been to one of the villages where "he had shot up some people." McLaughlin recalled telling Bales, "No you didn't Bob." But Bales replied, "I shot some military-aged males" and told McLaughlin to "smell my weapon."
McLaughlin said Bales then told him he was going to the other village. Not understanding why Bales was in his room, he remembered Bales grabbing his hand and saying, "take care of my kids!" McLaughlin then fell back asleep only to learn hours later that Bales had gone missing and that shots had been fired.
When Bales returned to the outpost Godwin was one of the soldiers who ordered him to put down his weapons including an M-4 rifle, a grenade launcher and a 40 millimeter grenade belt.
Godwin and McLaughlin recalled Bales yelling, "Mac, did you rat me out, did you rat me out?!"
Godwin said in addition to the t-shirt and camouflaged pants Bales was wearing, he had a blue sheet tied like a cape around his neck. And he was fully covered in blood, Blackshear testified he had "never seen anyone with that amount of blood on them" in all his years of combat.
According to Godwin, "he said something like I thought 'I was doing the right thing' as we were taking his stuff away and he had his hands on his head." He added Bales seemed "very coherent" and looked like "he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar."
Blackshear recalled Bales having said that "he was sorry a couple of times."
When McLaughlin saw Bales later in a holding area where "he said his count was 20," referring to the number of victims, and that "it's bad, it's really bad."
"I didn't want to believe it, " said McLaughlin. "I just kind of stepped back."
The Article 32 hearing is expected to last two weeks and some survivors of the attack will testify via a live satellite feed from Afghanistan.