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Trial set for alleged killer of Pa. soldier

While in Iraq, Spc. Chris Rolan allegedly shot Pvt. Dylan Paytas, of Freedom, 4 times.

ALBANY, Ga. — An Army medic accused of killing a soldier during a night of heavy drinking in Iraq is set to face a court-martial Tuesday at Fort Benning.

Spc. Chris Rolan, 23, of Albuquerque, is charged with premeditated murder in the Nov. 16, 2005, shooting of Pvt. Dylan Paytas, 20, of Freedom, Pa.

Rolan is accused of shooting Paytas four times with his Army-issue 9mm pistol during an argument at Camp Warhorse in Baqubah, Iraq. Both soldiers were assigned to Fort Benning’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team, which helped lead the 2003 charge to Baghdad.

If convicted, Rolan could face up to life in prison without parole.

Rolan also is charged with assault for allegedly pointing a loaded handgun at another soldier, Spc. Richard Scarlett, 25, of Joshua, Texas, a few months earlier and with threatening to kill him. He’s also accused of wrongfully discharging a firearm and violating a general order against drinking in Iraq.

Initially, Rolan also was accused of shooting at his roommate, Pvt. Mastermichael Ramsey of Milwaukee, during the same night that ended with Paytas’ death, but the Army dropped that charge without explanation.

Ramsey delivered the only eyewitness testimony at Rolan’s Article 32 hearing last May, but now has serious legal problems of his own.

After leaving the Army with an other-than-honorable discharge — given when a soldier’s conduct doesn’t meet military standards — Ramsey and three others were charged with murdering a cab driver in Columbus, Ga., near Fort Benning, during a robbery. When arrested, Ramsey was already in jail on armed robbery and theft charges in unrelated cases.

At the Article 32 hearing — the military equivalent of a grand jury proceeding — Ramsey testified that he, Rolan and Paytas listened to music, played video games and swilled gin and whiskey the night of Nov. 15-16, 2005, in violation of Army regulations.

Ramsey said Paytas provoked the normally calm Rolan, prompting Rolan to suggest a wrestling match. When they wrestled, Paytas pinned Rolan and began taunting him, Ramsey said. Rolan said, “I’m not going to have Paytas disrespect me,” and then he shot Paytas, according to Ramsey’s testimony.

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