Spec. Marshall D. Drake was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the Christmas Day shooting of Pfc. Grant W. Wise. (Army /via AP)
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ANCHORAGE, ALASKA — An Alaska-based soldier from South Carolina will serve nearly 12 years in a military prison and be dishonorably discharged after shooting a fellow soldier in the face on Christmas morning, killing him, a military judge determined Thursday.
Spec. Marshall D. Drake Jr., of Mount Pleasant, S.C., was sentenced by Maj. Stefan Wolfe on Thursday to 11 years, 9 months after being convicted in a general court-martial of involuntary manslaughter.
The 23-year-old Drake was accused of shooting Pfc. Grant W. Wise, of Fairport, N.Y., in Drake's barracks room on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, The Anchorage Daily News reported.
The general court-martial began at the base Wednesday, when witness Pvt. David Hubbard said that the handgun had been dry-fired multiple times before it discharged the fatal shot.
The prosecutor, Capt. Christopher Chatelain, said in his opening statement that Drake and Wise had been drinking the morning of the shooting and banged on doors shouting, "No one should be alone on Christmas."
They woke up Hubbard at 3:30 a.m., he said. They returned three hours later and persuaded Hubbard to join them.
In Drake's room, Hubbard said, Drake opened a drawer and removed a .45-caliber Kimber 1911 Custom II handgun.
"I was a little shocked," Hubbard said. "Weapons aren't allowed in the barracks. I was the new guy. I didn't want to be weird about it. He was the senior guy, so I didn't want to be harping about rules."
Drake took a loaded magazine from the handgun and ejected a round from the chamber. He pulled the slide a couple more times to show his friends the gun was empty and handed it to Wise, who dry-fired the gun. Wise handed the gun to Hubbard, who also worked the slide and dry-fired.
Wise and Drake began joking, and after Wise made a sarcastic remark, Drake pointed the gun at Wise's face as he talked in a "tough guy" voice, like a mobster, Hubbard said.
Drake then pulled the trigger and the gun discharged, striking Wise. Drake tried to put pressure on the wound, and when he lifted his hands, Wise was bleeding profusely.
"I thought it was a joke," Hubbard said. "I thought it was an elaborate prank. It was Christmas morning, and I just saw my buddy get shot. It didn't seem real."
Hubbard called 911 but became disconnected, he said. Drake told him he should say Wise had shot himself, Hubbard testified. That made him mad and he punched a wall, he said.
Hubbard called 911 again and said a soldier had accidentally shot another soldier.
Hubbard at first told investigators Wise had not touched the gun and Drake's attorney, Capt. John Haberland, questioned why he changed his testimony.
"Pvt. Hubbard is a young man who believed he had to change details to get the desired result," Haberland said. "Hubbard's inconsistencies will make it clear ... there was no negligent act on the part of Spc. Drake that caused the demise of Pfc. Wise."
Hubbard said he could not explain how a bullet got into the gun.