Witness: Nudson's reaction result of training from Army

Posted: Tuesday, April 10, 2001

The defense team of James McComas and Cindy Strout raised the possibility that Zebulon Nudson's actions that resulted in his being charged with first-degree murder may have been self-defense -- and a trained reaction.

The defense called U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Arthur Burgoyne to the stand Monday with testimony that Nudson was trained by the Army to protect himself in a situation were he felt he was being ambushed.

"Reacting to an ambush is a battle drill," Burgoyne responded when asked by Strout what the Army trains their soldiers to do when ambushed. "You do it over and over until it becomes what we call a muscle reaction. It just becomes a reaction."

According to Burgoyne, a member of the Army is trained that the only rule in an ambush "would be to survive."

John Wolfe, of the district attorney's office, questioned Burgoyne to clarify the Army's training in the use of deadly force.

"In a war situation is it OK to shoot the enemy in the back?" Wolfe asked.

"Sure it is," Burgoyne responded.

"Is it OK to shoot retreating people in the back?" Wolfe asked.

"If they are retreating then they were aggressive toward you," Burgoyne answered after receiving Wolfe's definition of retreating. "If they are retreating then they were aggressive with the intent to harm. It would be OK then."

The defense also used Burgoyne's testimony to open the possibility that Nudson was not shooting to harm, rather firing his rifle in an attempt to keep the group consisting of Robbie and Justin Meireis, Rick Sanchez, Harry Trenton and Gary Waddington from being able to fire upon him.

"Suppressive fire is a tactic to prevent personnel from advancing," Burgoyne said in answer to a question from Strout. "I don't know if anyone here has ever heard a bullet fly over their heads. When it does it makes a crack and gets you to stay down."

"What does suppressive fire allow?" Strout asked.

"It allows you to retreat and to move back without being seen," Burgoyne answered.

Nudson is charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder and eight other charges stemming from a March 12, 2000, shooting incident that killed Justin Meireis, 19, and wounded Robbie Meireis, 22, Sanchez, 33, and Waddington, 16. Trenton, 35, also was present but uninjured.

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