President Trump pardons Maryville man, three others convicted in deadly 2007 Iraq shootings

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WASHINGTON (WATE) — President Trump on Tuesday night granted a full pardon to a Maryville man who was a former Blackwater security guard who had been sentenced to a 30-year prison term for his role in a 2007 shooting that killed 14 Iraqi civilians and wounded 17 others.

Dustin Heard, along with the three other veterans and ex-guards who had been sentenced along with him, was granted a full pardon by the president.

Heard, Evan Liberty, Nicholas Slatten and Paul Slough worked as security guards for Blackwater, a private security firm under contract with the State Department, in Iraq. On September 16, 2007, they were involved in a shooting that strained international relations and drew scrutiny to the role of American contractors in war-torn Iraq.

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In a release from The White House, Heard and the three other veterans were granted pardons with the support by several lawmakers.

Read the full statement below:

Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard – Today, President Trump granted full pardons to Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard.  The pardon of these four veterans is broadly supported by the public, including Pete Hegseth, and elected officials such as Rep. Louie Gohmert, Rep. Paul Gosar, Rep. Ralph Norman, Rep. Bill Flores, Rep. Brian Babin, Rep. Michael Burgess, Rep. Daniel Webster, Rep. Steve King, and Rep. Ted Yoho.

Mr. Slatten, Mr. Slough, Mr. Liberty, and Mr. Heard have a long history of service to the Nation.  Mr. Slatten was inspired to serve his country after the attacks of September 11, 2001, and served two tours in Iraq with the 82nd Airborne Division.  Mr. Slough served in the United States Army and deployed to Iraq with his National Guard unit.  Mr. Liberty served in the United States Marine Corps and protected United States Embassies abroad.  Mr. Heard served in the United States Marine Corps during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

These veterans were working in Iraq in 2007 as security contractors responsible for securing the safety of United States personnel. When the convoy attempted to establish a blockade outside the “Green Zone,” the situation turned violent, which resulted in the unfortunate deaths and injuries of Iraqi civilians. Initial charges against the men were dismissed, but they were eventually tried and convicted on charges ranging from first degree murder to voluntary manslaughter. On appeal, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that additional evidence should have been presented at Mr. Slatten’s trial. Further, prosecutors recently disclosed—more than 10 years after the incident—that the lead Iraqi investigator, who prosecutors relied heavily on to verify that there were no insurgent victims and to collect evidence, may have had ties to insurgent groups himself.”

The Associated Press also contributed to this story.

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