Philip DeCamp was lieutenant colonel of the 3rd Infantry Division of the US army in Iraq. On the morning of 8 April 2003, Sgt. Shawn Gibson, the commander of a 3rd Infantry Division M-1 Abrams tank positioned on the Al-Jumhuriya Bridge in Bagdad reported spotting a person with binoculars in a building on the east side of the river. It is not clear whether he then received an immediate order to fire or whether he fired after superiors deliberated for 10 minutes. However, the building attacked, the Palestine Hotel, served as a base from where numerous foreign journalists covered the battle. DeCamp headed the regiment in charge of the tank in question.
Jose Couso, a cameraman for the Spanish network Telecinco, and Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian cameraman for Reuters, were killed after the tank fired the high-explosive shell at the Palestine Hotel.
A U.S. military investigation in August 2003 cleared Philip DeCamp and the other two soldiers concerned, Sgt. Shawn Gibson and Capt. Philip Wolford, of wrongdoing, saying they acted properly because they believed they were firing on enemy troops.
An inquiry conducted by a news media advocacy group, the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in May 2003 that it had uncovered no evidence that enemy fire had been directed at American forces from the Palestine Hotel. But the group's report also concluded that the killing of the two journalists was not intentional, though it said their deaths could have been avoided because Pentagon officials and field commanders in Baghdad had been aware of the hotel's location and knew that journalists were staying there.
According to the inquiry American commanders reacted to the tank's firing on the building immediately with anger and consternation, with Lieutenant Colonel DeCamp, the battalion commander, berating Captain Wolford, his subordinate, for giving Sergeant Gibson clearance to fire. However, the enquiry never clarified why he or anybody else were unable to prevent the attack from taking place.
A few days after the incident, DeCamp was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying "I'm sorry to say it, but I'm the guy who killed the journalists. I'm really sorry, and I feel badly for their families, but I had no choice. My soldiers' lives were in danger."
In February 2004, the NGO Reporters Without Borders, after undertaking their own investigation (see ”links“), called for the reopening of the enquiry into the incident of 8 April 2003. The NGO stated that the soldiers on the ground, including Philip Wolford, Philip DeCamp and Shawn Gibson, could probably not be held responsible for their lack of information about the function of the Palestine Hotel. Reporters Without Borders however demanded that the responsibility of higher commanding levels be investigated, as they withheld the crucial information from their lower ranking officers that the Palestine Hotel was used by journalists.
Trial Watch would like to remind its users that any person charged by national or international authorities is presumed innocent until proven guilty.