Camp Pendleton / Article 32 hearing / July 24, 2007

Before closing arguments in his Article 32 hearing, LCpl Tatum made a statement to the hearing officer, LtCol Paul Ware.

The lance corporal spoke. He did not read a statement, or speak from notes. After so much obfuscation by prosecution witnesses, it was time for some plain talk and that is what LCpl Tatum did.

The following is a non-verbatim recollection (provided by attorney Jack B. Zimmermann) ) of the lance corporal’s statement, given on 24 July 2007. I emphasize this is from memory, not a recording. A transcript of the hearing will not be available to legal counsel until late in August.

LCpl Tatum’s Statement to the Investigating Officer

(As recalled by legal counsel)

Share your soldiers story with us like hundreds of soldiers have already done.


There are some points I’d like to bring to light. 

The reason I fired in house 1 is that I knew small arms fire was coming from the south. I didn’t see where it was coming from, but I saw an M203 round hit house 1. My squad leader told me on the way to house 1 to treat it as hostile. 

I heard a Marine engage a target after entering the house, and I knew Mendoza engaged a target to the right inside the house. I heard an AK-47 being racked in the room to the left, and me and Cpl Salinas threw grenades in that room. 

After the grenade went off, I went in and followed my training firing in my sector. 

The visibility was horrible. There was dust and smoke. I really couldn’t make out more than targets.  Someone yelled there was a runner, so I followed my fire team to house 2. 

Before we entered, Mendoza engaged someone through the door. Inside, I was told to frag a room.  When I saw that room was clear, I heard another Marine engage in the next room. My duty was to help that Marine, so I went in and engaged targets. 

It was dark, I couldn’t make out a whole lot. Just targets. I only went in each room a few steps, and the shooting lasted only seconds in both houses.

I did not tell NCIS I knew there were women and children before I fired. I did not know there was women and children in that house until I went back later in the afternoon with SSgt Laughner. Otherwise, I would have physically stopped everybody from shooting. The conversation Mendoza said happened never happened.

I am not comfortable with the fact that I might have shot a child. I don’t know if my rounds impacted anybody. That is a burden I will have to bear.


Marine Lance Cpl. Stephen B. Tatum, right, arrives with his
civilian defense attorney Jack Zimmerman, for his Article 32 Hearing
at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base in San Diego County
Monday, July 16, 2007. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)