Navy investigating death of SEAL during live-fire exercise

Published 8:25 am Friday, February 1, 2008

WALLS, Miss. (AP) — Investigators began arriving in DeSoto County on Friday to investgiate the shooting death of a 23-year-old Navy SEAL during a live-ammunition training exercise.

The death occurred Wednesday during close-quarters combat training at the Mid-South Institute of Self-Defense Shooting, a training facility in the Walls area of western DeSoto County that is used frequently by the military and law enforcement agencies.

The identity of the victim has not been released pending notification of family. No charges have been filed in the death.

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While unusual, a Navy spokesman said fatalities can occur during exercises such as those being conducted at the time of the shooting.

“It’s a rarity that we have things of this nature,” said Navy Lt. Tommy Crosby, spokesman for Naval Special Warfare Group 1 in Coronado, Calif.

The accident happened during close-quarters combat training. SEALs work together in small units, training to engage the enemy in tight areas, Crosby said.

Cmdr. Mark Blackson of the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department said 20 SEALs were in the shoot house at the time of the incident, but only two were firing.

Blackson said the victim was struck in the upper chest.

Crosby said the victim was a Special Warfare Operator assigned to a San Diego-based SEAL team. He said the Navy has used the Walls training facility in the past and that SEAL teams often use different training facilities across the country.

“Field teams train in various locations around the country in terrain that best meets their various training,” Crosby said.

Ross Sanders, manager of the training facility, said the death was the first in the more than 20-year history of the center. It was closed Thursday pending the outcome of the investigation.

The Walls center provides facilities for specialized firearms programs, training SEALs and other military service members and law enforcement officers in house-to-house procedures and other combat-type weapons training, Sanders said.

“We only provide the facilities,” Sanders said. “We rent out the buildings to the agencies that want to come here and train.”

He said the agencies provide their own trainers or they hire specialists.

The Navy has about 2,300 SEALS, known for their elite special operations training and missions, based in Coronado and Little Creek, Va.