Navy SEAL Texted Photo Holding ISIS Fighter's Head, Bragged About Killing Him With a Knife, Government Lawyers Allege

A 19-year veteran of the Navy is facing war crimes charges for violating military law, including premeditated murder, after he allegedly texted a photo of himself holding the head of an ISIS fighter in one hand and a knife in the other.

Purportedly boasting about killing the Islamic State militant, Navy SEAL Chief Edward "Eddie" Gallagher, 39, said he "got him with my hunting knife," government lawyers said during an Article 32 hearing before Navy Judge Advocate Captain Arthur Record on Wednesday, veterans news site Task and Purpose reported. The lawyers argued that the case should be referred to court-martial in the preliminary hearing, presenting the judge with eyewitness statements, interviews, photographs and text messages.

The killing of the ISIS fighter, who was about 15, reportedly took place around May 3, 2017, in Iraq. Gallagher allegedly murdered the wounded fighter, stabbing him in the body and neck. Naval Criminal Investigative Service Special Agent Joe Warbinski testified during the Wednesday hearing, and said that a SEAL medic told him that he had just stabilized the wounded man when Gallagher came over and attacked with his knife. Warbinski also referred to the fighter as "just a brainwashed kid."

Navy SEALs were administering medical aid to a wounded 15-year-old ISIS fighter when one SEAL allegedly stabbed the prisoner to death and then posed for photos next to the body.

The rules of engagement matter. Full stop.

— Jared Keller (@jaredbkeller) November 15, 2018

About a dozen current and former Navy SEALs may be called to testify in the case by military officials, according to Navy Times. Lieutenant Jacob "Jake" Portier, one of Gallagher's commissioned officers, is also accused by prosecutors of covering up the SEAL chief's crimes.

Gallagher was arrested by federal agents on September 11, and he has been incarcerated in San Diego's Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar. In addition to the alleged murder of the fighter, the SEAL faces two charges of aggravated assault against a noncombatant woman and man during the same deployment.

Warbinski said that fellow members of Gallagher's platoon believed he was deliberately "targeting civilians," according to Task and Purpose. He added that some had told him that "their priority was to protect civilians from Chief Gallagher, not ISIS."

Phillip Stackhouse, a civilian military defense attorney, representing Gallagher has criticized the proceedings thus far, pushing for a speedy trial. In comments to Military Times, he questioned why the prosecutors did not bring key witnesses to testify in the preliminary hearing.

"The prosecutors' gamesmanship denying witnesses is an insult to a just and fair hearing," the lawyer said. "If they wanted them to testify, they would have them there." He also said that the sooner Gallagher is exonerated, the better.

Gallagher became a SEAL in 2005 and served as a lead sniper, lead platoon medic and lead petty officer, according to his bio reported by Business Insider. He previously earned the Navy's Sailor of Year distinction in 2014 as well as two Bronze Stars for combat valor. One was from his time in Afghanistan and the other was for actions during his last deployment to Iraq.