Some stories seem too good to ever hit the mainstream media headlines. A story involving green berets, SEAL Team Six, hand-to-hand combat training and a squeaky-clean Green Beret strangled to death doesn’t qualify as ‘good’, but it’s definitely the stuff of a Tom Clancy or James Lee Burke thriller. When was the last time you came across something as surreal as this nestled amidst stultifying headlines detailing the latest partisan squabble or celebrity sexual misconduct allegations:
‘Report: Green Beret Killed After Discovering SEALs' Alleged Money Scheme’
Sad as it is, that is some real international, spy thriller stuff. If you haven’t already caught wind of this story, you’re probably wondering how this mystery unfolds.
It begins with an intelligence operation in the West African nation of Mali, where U.S. troops primarily protect ambassadors and gather intelligence on Islamist militants operating in the region. Prior to 2012, Mali was often cited as a pinnacle of stability and cooperation with U.S. forces against Islamic extremism in a constantly unstable region. An uprising by Tuareg separatists in the nation circa 2012 provided for some holes in national security which Al-Qaeda linked extremists worked quickly to fill. Insurgent attacks have been consistently unpredictable since, stripping Mali of its status as a nation of relative stability, though still relatively peaceful by the region’s standards. A breakdown in the Malian army which arose when many Malian soldiers defected to aid invading Islamist groups further deteriorated the situation. But the neighboring country of Niger remains far more dangerous. In fact, four Green Berets were killed as the result of an ambush while conducting a counterterrorism mission in Niger in October, though whispers of potential involvement by American troops has shrouded the deaths. In Mali, however, American forces were considered safer by comparison. If there was one place in particular where they were considered free from attack, it was in their embassy housing barracks amongst their own.
As a staff sergeant in the Army’s 3rd Special Forces Group, 34-year-old Logan Melgar was well-regarded by fellow soldiers and the ambassadors he was charged to protect. He was born and raised in the West Texas town of Lubbock, and graduated from Texas Tech University, also located in his hometown. Having served two tours in Afghanistan between July 2014 and February 2016, he was tapped for an intelligence gathering mission that would help provide protection to U.S. forces and ambassador Paul Folmsbee against attacks by Islamic militants. But on June 4th, about four months into his six-month assignment, Sergeant Melgar was found dead in embassy housing in the Malian capital, Bamako.
The ruling in his death: homicide by asphyxiation. Melgar’s superiors, stationed in Stuttgart, Germany, suspected foul play when the cause of death was disclosed, sending an investigative team to Bamako within 24 hours. Soon, two Navy SEALs and members of the famed Seal Team Six, the team made famous for killing Osama bin Laden, went from ‘witnesses’ to ‘persons of interest’ in the alleged homicide of Sergeant Melgar. They are thought to be two of the three housemates who were sharing the embassy housing unit with him.
As months passed and more information trickled out, it became clear that the two Navy SEALs who had been flown out of Mali initially as witnesses were in the crosshairs of the homicide investigation. The Daily Beast reported that Melgar had told his wife Michelle in the days before his death that he had a “bad feeling” about two of his partners in the Malian intelligence gathering operation, and that he would elaborate further when he saw her in person. It is now believed that a potential motive for Melgar’s lies in connection to a fund that is designated to pay Malian informants for information.
Sources within the military who have not been cleared to speak publicly have provided some details about the ongoing investigation conducted by NCIS. According to these sources, it appears that Melgar came across mishandling of the informant fund by at least two SEALs, and that he declined to be cut into the operation when they were found out. Reportedly caught red-handed and in want of recourse, the SEALs seem to have taken matters, and Melgar’s life, into their own hands.
The incident that left Melgar dead by means of strangulation reportedly began around 5 a.m. on June 4th. According to sources, at least two accounts given by SEALs involved said that Melgar was drunk when they began to wrestle as part of combatives, the term given to hand-to-hand fighting exercises conducted in the military. As the exercises escalated, Melgar was eventually put in a chokehold and held there until he was unconscious. After ‘rushing’ Melgar to the hospital with assistance from a Green Beret, the SEALs were informed that Melgar was dead upon arrival. Making the matter more suspicious is that one of the SEALs involved is said to be a professional in mixed martial arts, in which submission by chokehold is a primary tactic.
But the damning aspect of the accounts are that Melgar was drunk. For one, it was his dry day, which means drinking was forbidden. Worse, the toxicology report doesn’t lie, and it was found that Melgar had neither alcohol nor drugs in his system at the time of death, a finding which put the SEALs’ accounts in a chokehold. Melgar’s wife has also reportedly forwarded email accounts that her husband sent to her detailing the suspicions he had about wrongdoing pertaining to the Malian informant fund. The walls appear to be closing in on two once-revered members of military elite forces who seem increasingly likely to have taken the life of a brother in arms. Unfortunately, this is no Tom Clancy novel, this is real life.