Being accountable for one's own dereliction of duty is perhaps the most honourable act expected of a soldier. Irrespective of the consequence, there is honour only in acceptance. And revenge against a complainant is beyond disgraceful. However, in an extreme case of such vengeance, a former US Army sergeant recently pleaded guilty to brutally stabbing a fellow soldier to death for reporting his misconduct to the US Army leadership.

Byron Booker, 29, from Ludowici, Georgia, pleaded guilty on Thursday to the premeditated murder of a United States Uniformed Services member. Booker and his accomplice, Jordan Brown, 21, from St. Marys, Georgia, were indicted in April 2021 for conspiring and murdering Specialist Austin J. Hawk, 21, at Fort Stewart, a US Army base in Georgia. Hawk was killed in June 2020 for reporting Booker and Brown's misconduct and drug use during service, respectively.

"Hawk's family and friends will never be rid of the pain this senseless murder has caused them, but hopefully it gives them some sense of resolve to know that justice will be served," said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta, in a statement.

Plotting a Murder

Murder (Representational Picture)Flickr/ Marco Verch Professional Photographer

According to court documents, Hawk had reported Booker and Brown to the US Army leadership. He had complained about Booker—prior to his discharge from the army—for "poor leadership, poor military performance, and maltreatment of subordinates", and Brown for the use of marijuana during service. As retaliation, the duo deliberated about "silencing" Hawk and plotted his murder. They also discussed about Brown securing a key to aid Booker in gaining access to Hawk's room.

On 17 June 2020, Booker drove to Fort Stewart from his home. After reaching the military installation, he walked approximately one mile to Hawk's barracks. Shortly after midnight, Booker and Brown entered Hawk's room using the key. Almost immediately, Booker "slashed and stabbed Hawk repeatedly with a sharp-edged weapon."

Following this, he disposed of the shoes and clothing that he wore during the attack. Hawk's body was discovered in his room the next day. According to a medical examiner, 40 stab and slash wounds were found on the victim's body. While Booker was taken into custody in June 2020, Brown's custody was granted after a US District Court grand jury's indictment during its April 2021 term.

No Escape from Law

Mallet at court (Representational Picture)Piqsels

After Booker's guilty plea, David H. Estes, US Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, a retired US Army Colonel himself, said: "Byron Booker murdered a former fellow soldier in cold blood in retaliation for that soldier performing his duties as a service member." He also commended the FBI and the Department of the Army Criminal Investigative Division for their efforts in solving the crime and bringing Booker to justice.

Booker faces a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison, with no possibility of parole. Brown, whose proceedings are awaited, faces several charges: conspiracy; retaliation against a witness with bodily injury; conspiracy to retaliate against a witness; retaliation against a witness with killing; assault upon a member of the United States uniformed services; the murder of a member of the United States uniformed services; and premeditated murder.