The Pentagon has identified the three U.S. soldiers who were killed by an Afghan police officer who turned on them at the behest of the Taliban.
They are: Sgt. Eric M. Houck, 25, of Baltimore, Maryland; Sgt. William M. Bays, 29, of Barstow, California; and Corporal Dillon C. Baldridge, 22, of Youngsville, North Carolina.
One relative remembered Baldridge as the “best of all of us,” and that could be said for all three of the men.
USA Today labeled the shooting deaths an “insider attack.”
According to USA Today, the Afghan commando “turned his weapon on U.S. soldiers Saturday (June 10),” in eastern Afghanistan.
The Afghan soldier’s identity was not released, but he was killed after the attack.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Shootings Occurred in a District Where the U.S. & Afghan Forces Were Fighting ISIS & a Baldridge Was Remembered as a Person Who Brightened Up ‘Any Room’
On Facebook, a relative of Baldridge wrote: “We must honor him and be our best selves every day❤️🙏🏻” Others filled Facebook with positive remembrances of the young North Carolina man.
“He’s the best of all of us,” Jessie Baldridge wrote on Facebook, sharing this series of photos of the heroic soldier.
“Dillon was such a sweet and kind young man. Everyone in school loved him. He would always smile and brighten up any room he walked into,” wrote one, saying it was a privilege to know and graduate with Baldridge.
Tragically, the Afghan forces and the U.S. soldiers were working together to root out ISIS militancy in Afghanistan.
USA Today reported that the “shooting occurred in Achin district, where U.S. special forces have been fighting alongside Afghan troops against Islamic State and Taliban militants.”
2. Baldridge Once Spoke Out About a High School Graduation Ban on Prayer & the Taliban Says the Attacker Infiltrated the Afghan Military
The young man from North Carolina once spoke out in the news media when his high school graduation banned prayer. “Graduating seniors at Franklinton High shared a moment of silence at their graduation ceremony Saturday after the school board banned public prayer last month,” reported Fox 8 at the time. The story quotes Baldridge as saying he joined a group of students who decided to pray outside the graduation.
“Being able to come out here and pray with the group was great, so it worked out,” he said to the television station. You can watch the interview with him here.
Jessie Baldridge shared the video and wrote, “Dillon Christopher Baldridge is my bonus son, i’ve known him since he was 10. He always inspired me to be better every day. He was the best of all of us. This video of him speaks to who he was as a person.”
Afghan officials said the killer wasn’t turned by the Taliban; he entered Afghanistan’s military in order to attack other soldiers.
At least that’s the account according to the Taliban.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement “that a Taliban loyalist had infiltrated the Afghan army ‘just to attack foreign forces,’” Fox News reported.
3. Insider Attacks Have Happened Before in Afghanistan
It’s not the first time that an insider attack has been staged against U.S. forces in Afghanistan. It’s a tactic the Taliban has used before.
“In March, another Afghan soldier was killed after he opened fire on foreign forces at a base in Helmand province, wounding three U.S. soldiers,” reported Fox News.
4. President Trump Was Briefed on the ‘Emerging’ Situation
The White House confirmed that President Donald Trump was briefed on what it called an “emerging” situation, NBC News reported.
NBC News reported that the shooter was a member of the “Afghan National Army’s Commando Forces.”
5. The Shooter Was Also Killed During the Attack
Although details were still unfolding, NBC News reported that the shooter was also killed, along with the three American soldiers.
The shooter died in “return fire,” reported NBC.
This post is being updated as more information about the soldiers is learned.