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Hill Air Force Base tech sergeant charged with setting off explosions in Syria, injuring troops

Posted at 5:47 PM, Aug 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-23 19:47:51-04

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — A Hill Air Force Base airman appeared in court today, facing charges related to an explosion that injured U.S. troops in Syria back in April.

Tech Sgt. David W. Dezwaan Jr., an explosive ordinance disposal specialist, has been charged with dereliction of duty, destroying military property, reckless endangerment, access of a government computer with an unauthorized purpose, obtaining classified information, and aggravated assault.

In a two-hour preliminary hearing at Hill Air Force Base Tuesday morning, Dezwaan, surrounded by his military and civilian counsel, listened as the government laid out what they believe took place on the morning of April 7, near the Mission Support Site Green Village, Syria.

The counsel for the government brought in one witness, Special Agent Timothy Weinhold, who took the government and the defense through a timeline of events that he believes show Dezwaan was responsible for two explosions at the base.

Weinhold said according to footage from several camera angles, the first explosion happened at an ammunition holding area at 1:07 a.m., and the other at a shower facility at 1:10 a.m.

Col. Brian Thompson, a staff judge advocate presiding over the hearing, said there was some discrepancy on the time stamps from the cameras, saying he thought the explosion at the Basic Load Ammunition Holding Area happened at 1:14 a.m.

Weinhold said some of the time stamps from the cameras were off, but that he pulled times and information from an agent who was on the ground and adjusted to come to the conclusion of the two times he believes the explosions took place.

Weinhold noted that the footage, which is not very high quality, also showed someone walking towardsthe area at 11:36 p.m. the previous night, wearing clothing similar to what they say Dezwaan had on after the explosions took place.

He also said Dezwaan texted his wife at 12:44 a.m. that morning, saying he was going to the shower. Weinhold said that's when they believe he took and set one of the explosives in the area shortly after.

Data was recovered from Dezwaan's phone, and Weinhold said a digital forensic consultant determined a stopwatch application on the phone had been running for 44 minutes, ending at 1:06 a.m.

The government said Dezwaan was mostly unaccounted for between the hours of 11 p.m. and 1 a.m., adding that his roommates said he wasn't with them. During Weinhold's testimony, he said Dezwaan submitted some reports just before 11:30 p.m.

The government said the shower latrine unit that was damaged in the explosion costs $35,000 to replace. Two shipping containers with explosive equipment in them were also damaged. Those containers include explosive ordinance disposal teams' equipment, blasting caps and grenades.

The defense, led by military lawyers Nathan Freeburg and Phil Cave, contended that there was no DNA or fingerprints from Dezwaan to show he was responsible. They also said there were no witnesses.

Cave was asked if this was a case of mistaken identity.

"You've heard the evidence — or lack of evidence — and certainly that would be anything that people may consider," said Cave.

Dezwaan is charged with aggravated assault because the government says the explosions injured three people, causing traumatic brain injuries to all three.

The defense was quick to point out that Dezwaan was also injured during the explosions, suffering a concussion and lacerations.

"For background, once you get medical reports, you will see that he may have had more injury than the other three," said Cave.

The government believes Dezwaan inflicted some of these injuries on himself.

The government said they believe they have overwhelming evidence and that Dezwaan should face a general court-martial, the military's highest level trial court.

"We anticipate that if it goes to trial, this will be a contested trial where we will seek to show that he is in fact not guilty of the charges," said Cave.

Now, Cave says Thompson (the staff judge advocate) will analyze the evidence and prepare a written report, determining whether there is or isn't sufficient probable cause in this case to move forward.

Dezwaan has been in pretrial confinement since June 16 and remains behind bars at the Weber County Jail.