Army Sgt. that killed 5 comrades in Iraq a Sherman native

Sgt. John M. Russell
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SHERMAN, TX -- A Sherman man is accused of the deadliest incidence of soldier-on-soldier violence in the six year Iraq War. Sergeant John M. Russell allegedly shot and killed five fellow servicemen at a military stress center in Baghdad Monday. Rashi Vats spoke with Russell's family, who explain why he may have been driven to such violence.

"He had been threatened by officers. He had the worst two days of his life," said Russell's father Wilburn Russell.

Two days of the almost 6,000 days he'd served his country. And it's those two days that changed the lives of six American soldiers and their families forever.

"We can't function. We are totally devastated. Not for our son but for the families involved," Wilburn Russell said.

Concerned about his mental state, Russell's superiors had referred him to a stress clinic, but his father says the clinic did more harm than good for Russell.

"The purpose of the stress clinic is to find out what will break your spirit, what will break your will and one way to do it is to them that's it. You don't belong. Get out of here. They train him to kill. He had a short fuse when they antagonized him and I guess he couldn't help himself," Wilburn Russell said.

Upon leaving the clinic, he reportedly took his escort's weapon, and returned, shooting and killing five of his comrades.

"We didn't expect anything like this. We thought he was the most stable guy in the world," Wilburn Russell said. "He has a stack of declarations that high. From all the things he has done."

Russell served his country for 16 years, was on his third tour to Iraq, and was admired by many, including his 20-year-old son.

"He was ready to retire and everything. That was his life. He enjoyed doing what he did and he's got medals. He was doing good for the country and its just unbelievable that something like this can even happen," said Russell's son John Russell.

While Sgt. Russell's son cannot talk to his father, Sgt. Russell's own father would like to say something to his son.

"Son you've ruined your life, and you've ruined up a lot of lives. There's hundreds that are concerned about family and friends," said Wilburn Russell.

SHERMAN, TX -- The U.S. Army Sergeant charged with five counts of murder in Monday's shooting at a Baghdad military counseling clinic has ties to Texoma. Sgt. John M. Russell, 44, is from Sherman, Texas, as are his parents and other family.

The Army lists Russell's address in southeast Sherman near Luella. He is a graduate of Tom Bean High School.

His unit is the 54th Engineering Battalion out of Bamberg, Germany.

Maj. Gen. David Perkins told reporters Tuesday that Russell has been charged with five counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault in the fatal shooting at a military counseling clinic in Baghdad. Russell was taken into custody following the Monday shooting at Camp Liberty that killed five soldiers. Perkins said the dead included two doctors - one from the Navy and the other from the Army. The other three dead were enlisted personnel.

According to sources Russell had his weapon taken away from him last week by the Army. An investigation is underway as to how Russell reacquired a weapon.

Russell's family tells us he was serving on his third tour of duty in Iraq and was scheduled to return home in six weeks.

Sgt. Russell sent his mother flowers on Sunday for Mothers' Day.

First News reporter Rashi Vats was the first reporter to talk to Sgt. Russell's father on Tuesday. You can watch the interview by clicking the video links on this story.

Wilburn Russell, Sgt. Russell's father, explained what he think pushed his son over the edge.

"He had been threatened by a few officers, and it had been the worst day of his life. I guess they scheduled him in for a stress test, and it’s possible that he was in charge of the stress center," Wilburn Russell said Tuesday outside his Sherman home.

“His beer drinking buddies decided they wanted to get rid of him, so I think they broke him. They didn’t want him to come back home to kill his wife or himself. But because he got argumentative with him, they had him escorted out with a guy and a gun. That was the worst thing they could have done because they train him to kill, he had a short fuse, and when they antagonized him, and I guess he couldn’t help himself.

Wilburn Russell says his family is going through a horrendous experience.

“My wife and I are taking turns crying. We can’t do anything. We don’t know anything. She’s calling our friends and kin folks and asking them to pray for them, not just John, but the families."

The Associated Press and CNN contributed to this report.

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