Remarks as Prepared For Delivery at Blackwater Press Conference

WASHINGTON , Dec. 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following remarks are being released by the U.S. Department of Justice: WASHINGTON, D.C. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL PATRICK ROWAN : Good afternoon. My name is Pat...

On September 16, 2007 , the five defendants and 14 other Blackwater independent contractors were assigned to a convoy of four heavily-armored trucks known as a Tactical Support Team, using the call sign "Raven 23," whose function was to provide back-up fire support for other Blackwater personal security guards operating in the city of Baghdad .

On September 16, 2007 , at around noon, the Raven 23 convoy was responding to the detonation of a vehicle-born improvised explosive device that had just exploded in the vicinity of a different Blackwater personal security detail located about a mile away from Nisur Square, and which was transporting a U.S.A.I.D. protectee.

The members of the Raven 23 convoy understood that their mission was defensive in nature. They were not permitted to engage in offensive military actions, use the military tactic known as "suppressive fire," or exercise police powers. They also understood that they were only authorized to discharge their firearms in self-defense and as a last resort.

The four heavily-armored vehicles in the Raven 23 convoy entered Nisur Square and then positioned themselves in order to block any traffic from entering the circle. Seconds after the Raven 23 convoy entered the traffic circle, it is alleged that at least six members of the Raven 23 convoy, including the five defendants named in the indictment, opened fire with automatic weapons and grenade launchers on unarmed civilians located in and around Nisur Square, killing at least 14 persons, wounding at least 20 other individuals, and assaulting but not injuring at least 18 others.

The first victim was later identified as a second-year medical student named Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia'y , who was driving a white Kia sedan that was approaching the traffic circle from the south. The passenger of that vehicle was also shot and killed. That victim was Dr. Al-Khazali, the mother of the driver of the vehicle.

None of the victims of this shooting was armed. None was an insurgent. Many were shot while inside civilian vehicles that were attempting to flee from the convoy. One victim was shot in the chest, while standing in the street with his hands up. Another was injured from a grenade fired into a nearby girls' school. At least 18 civilian vehicles were damaged by gunfire from the convoy, some substantially.

The indictment does not charge or implicate Blackwater Worldwide. It charges only the actions of certain employees for their roles in the September 16th shooting.

They are:

1. Paul A. Slough , 29, of Keller, Texas ;

2. Dustin L. Heard , 27, Maryville, Tennessee ;

3. Evan S. Liberty , 26, Rochester, New Hampshire ;

4. Nicholas A. Slatten , 23, of Sparta, Tennessee ; and

5. Donald W. Ball , 26, West Valley City, Utah .

All five defendants are each charged with 14 counts of voluntary manslaughter, 20 counts of attempt to commit manslaughter, and one count of using and discharging a firearm and destructive devices during and in relation to a crime of violence. The firearms included an SR-25 sniper rifle, M-4 assault rifles and M-240 machine guns. The destructive devices were M-203 grenade launchers and grenades.

If convicted of the charges, the defendants could face up to 10 years in prison on each manslaughter count, seven years in prison on each attempted manslaughter count, and a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years on the firearm charge.

We remind the public that an indictment is merely a formal charging document notifying a defendant of the charges against him. All defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

It is our understanding that earlier today, the defendants surrendered in Utah and will have a court appearance in U.S. District Court there later today.