Spanish arrest warrant issued in October 2005; indictment by a Spanish judge on charges of murder and crime against the international community on 27 April 2007; case filed on 14 July 2009 due to lack of evidence; investigation reopened on 13 July 2010; new indictment filed on 4 October 2011
Captain of the 3rd Infantry Division of the US army in Iraq
Philip Wolford was Captain of the 3rd Infantry Division of the US army in Iraq. On the morning of 8 April 2003, one of the tankers of the 3rd Infantry Division reported spotting a person with binoculars in a building on the east side of the river. It’s not clear whether the tank's commander, Sgt. Shawn Gibson, 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.
Jose Couso, a cameraman for the Spanish network Telecinco, and Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian cameraman for Reuters, were killed.
Captain Wolford, the company commander of the tank unit that opened fire on the Palestine Hotel, admitted that he had given the order to fire on the hotel, not being aware that the building was full of foreign journalists.
A U.S. military investigation in August 2003 cleared Philip Wolford and the other two soldiers concerned, Lt. Col. Philip DeCamp and Sgt. Shawn Gibson, 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, stated 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.
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.
Philip Wolford is no longer assigned to the post in the 3rd Infantry Division.