Justice for Kamisha Block commanding officers are not above the law.

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Shonta Block
Shonta Block signed this petition

Our family is seeking justice for Army Spc. Kamisha Block. Because we don't trust the Army will do the right thing when it comes to holding the Command accountable, we request hearings with the House Armed Services Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee to address the negligence that lead to Kamisha's murder. 

 


After years of investigating the situation ourselves, we want to hold the Command accountable for poor leadership decisions that lead to the murder of Kamisha. We come to you today because witnesses have come forward with their truths. Those truths include but are not limited to the fact that Brandon Norris' actions were problematic prior to the murder of Kamisha and the Command has been accused of destroying evidence after the murder. How can we prevent murder and the destruction of records in the future? 

 


The Command failed us the moment they reported to our family that Kamisha had died from friendly fire. We learned how Kamisha actually died when we opened the casket at the funeral home. At this point, an apology will not suffice and in order for us to move on, we need justice for Kamisha. Kamisha's death was preventable and the Chain of Command needs to be held responsible for negligence and wrongful death. We want Lieutenant Colonel John Copeland, Sergeant Major Clayton Sneeds, Lieutenant Martinez, and Platoon Sergeant Starsky Smith to answer for their decisions to issue an ineffective protective order in Iraq and so much more (see goals). In our efforts to get justice for Kamisha, we hope that we are able to get justice for other service members as well. The individuals who made these poor decisions need to be held accountable for their actions and inaction. They did not protect Kamisha. None of these individuals should lead anyone ever again. There should be consequences for their decisions because Kamisha lost her life as a result. And there should be consequences for the cover-up that occurred after Kamisha's death. 

 


Kamisha's death in and of itself traumatized us but the behavior of the U.S. Army leadership re-traumatized us over and over. We want the process streamlined when a family questions the outcome of an investigation by Army leadership and/or Army CID. We should not have to fight for twelve years to get her case reopened. Every family should receive support from a victim advocate or special victims counsel to help us navigate how to get justice when we question a cause of death ruling and the circumstances that lead to a preventable crime. Our family should be compensated for the pain and suffering Kamisha's untimely death and subsequent investigation has caused. No family should ever go through what we have been through to find the truth. As with any victim of homicide, we are their voice and we should be afforded the support any other victim of crime in the military is eligible for.

 


Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. We can make a difference for Kamisha and we can make a difference for other victims of crime in the military. 

 


Sincerely,

Shonta Block

 


Goals:

 


1. Hearings to discuss service wide responses to dangerous situations, negligence, and preventable deaths

 


2. There's a break down in continuity of 'no contact orders.' For example, may be enforced in US but not in Iraq, may be enforced in civilian jurisdiction but not on base, etc.

 


3. Discussion of how a victim of crime copes when they report and are ignored or they don't report for fear of their lives, loss of career, retaliation.

 


4. Brandon Norris was in Kamisha's enlisted chain of command and was able to manipulate the situation to keep Kamisha under his control. When Chain of Command learned about the forbidden relationship, one of them should have been moved to address the situation.

 


5. When the homicide-suicide occurred in Iraq, military members were told not to talk to Kamisha Block's family. Out of fear, they remained silent until they watched an Investigation Discovery episode outlining what happened in Iraq. Most are veterans now and as a result of time and conscience, they now are willing to come forward and testify at hearings.

 


6. The service members who were in Iraq are now suffering with what we would refer to as moral injury. They knew the truth, they were shocked the Army told Kamisha Block's family she died by friendly fire. They were fearful of coming forward while still serving in the US Army.

 


7. Brandon Norris was problematic before being deployed to Iraq. His behavior was erratic, he was drinking, he very likely could have had PTSD due to prior deployments, and he should not have been sent back to Iraq. When the command found out about the forbidden relationship, they did not separate the two or issue a no contact order, which is virtually useless when both parties are on the same small base anyways. They sent Brandon Norris to Iraq knowing he would be working with Kamisha and it wasn't until he arrived in Iraq that they gave him a no contact order. It didn't work obviously. There were a number of red flags in Brandon's history to warrant getting him evaluated and medically retiring him. Although PTSD isn't an excuse for violence, the mental health breakdown that comes with that diagnosis will send someone into a downward spiral if not addressed. These are co-occuring issues. Prior problems with domestic violence and PTSD are a deadly combination if no intervention.

 


8. When they sent Brandon Norris back to Iraq, it made Kamisha even more fearful because she could not escape him, there was nowhere to turn and she was isolated. The expedited transfer policy needs to be expanded to include all victims of crime and those who are fearful of their lives and trapped in dangerous situations. Did Brandon manipulate fellow leaders to see things his way as opposed to protecting Kamisha from Brandon's escalating violence?

 


9. Why didn't the Command issue a no contact order immediately when they found out about Brandon and Kamisha's relationship, why was Brandon not removed from Kamisha's Chain of Command, why was Brandon sent to Iraq with Kamisha, why did the Army tell Kamisha's family she died by friendly fire, why was the Chain of Command not held responsible for negligence, why did Kamisha feel like she had nowhere to turn, why were service members told to remain silent, why did it take this long to get Kamisha's case reopened?

 


10. Why was Kamisha's computer wiped clean before it was returned to the family? Why was it returned to the family if it was considered evidence? Why would anyone wipe the computer clean when it was full of potential evidence that would help us understand the victimology of Kamisha and what was going on in her life at the time? Service members informed family they were asked to destroy all paperwork and personnel records before Army CID arrived to investigate. Why would anyone destroy evidence needed to evaluate and investigate a homicide-suicide? How can we prevent the Chain of Command from destroying evidence?

 


11. The morning of the homicide-suicide, it is alleged that Brandon Norris was experiencing a mental health breakdown. Why was his gun not taken from him immediately if there were already concerns about his behavior, actions, and deteriorating mental health state. Another example of how this tragedy could have been prevented had the Army intervened and sent him home. Again, he should have never been sent to Iraq on a deployment with Kamisha. The no contact order is impossible to enforce if both are in the same unit on the same base in Iraq. Kamisha clearly expressed fear of Brandon and wanted the no contact order in Iraq enforced. Why was Brandon not sent to medical? Did they need warm bodies in Iraq? Did Norris manipulate them? Did the chain of command not care about Kamisha's safety?

 


12. Why was Brandon sent to Iraq instead of discharged? Why was he not held responsible for an illegal relationship with a subordinate? Why was his mental health and problematic behavior ignored? Why would the chain of command wait to issue a no contact order that can't be enforced when two service members are serving together in the same unit on the same base whether in the US or overseas? Had any of these things been addressed and investigated, it could have saved Kamisha's life. 

 


Was Brandon Norris taking any medication for his mental health issues? If so, what were they and what are the side effects. It is alleged that Brandon was taking ambien to help with sleep in a war zone. If this is the case, what is the responsibility of the mental health professionals or other military doctors who prescribed this medication to him? What is the responsibility of the chain of command if they have knowledge of medications? It was alleged Brandon was on steroids but not enough urine was available to test . Steroids are done by blood test . Do the health professionals and chain of command discuss whether it is healthy for a service member to deploy while on said medications? Did the medications or the side effects of the medications contribute to a downward spiral? Did he abruptly stop taking the medications at any point? Why was his health and medication management not considered before he was sent to Iraq? This puts everyone in danger if the person is not well.

 

14. Discussion of Feres Doctrine. This archaic, unconstitutional Supreme Court decision is preventing us from holding key players accountable. Lawsuits are a form of checks and balances in the system. How do we hold them accountable if we can't utilize one of the three forms of government to force positive change for all in the future? Wrongful death lawsuits help us find the answers we may not get in an investigation or if something was not investigated. Lawsuits are used to force change and prevent the same tragedies from happening over and over. This is not happening in the military as evidenced by the research included. Preventable deaths are a common occurrence and until we can hold them accountable, nothing is going to change. How do we begin the process of getting the Feres Doctrine overturned? If congressional members do not do their jobs and help family members learn the truth, where do we turn? How do we get a case reopened without re-traumatizing ourselves over and over. It took years for Kamisha's family to get her homicide case reopened. The family wants the chain of command held criminally responsible for they know was a preventable death. What do families do if Congress doesn't help them? What do families do if the media won't help tell their story? What do families do when they want an independent investigation because they question the outcome of the Chain of Command's and CIDs investigation?

 


15. Does the Chain of Command involved in the wrongful death of a soldier deserve to continue serving in the military? Why are they not held responsible for manslaughter or negligence? If their actions or inaction lead to the death of someone under their command, shouldn't they be held responsible for that death as well? Shouldn't they be held responsible for not taking care of Brandon or Kamisha when they had the chance? Why was Brandon's escalating violence and problematic behavior ignored at Kamisha's expense? How do we hold them accountable when they destroy evidence? How do we prevent them from destroying  evidence and wiping computers and phones clean before giving them back to the family?

 


16. The research included in this e-mail (see below) includes a list of other female soldiers who have died under suspicious circumstances while deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and other overseas locations. There were a cluster of deaths around the time Kamisha died as well. if you study each female service members story, it fits a pattern, a pattern recognized in Kamisha's case as well. This shows the continued repeated pattern of placing people in dangerous situations with potentially dangerous service members. We need an evaluation of all the non combat deaths overseas to find out what the root causes are in an effort to prevent these suspicious deaths and/or suicides from happening in the first place. Did the service member ask for help, report a crime, etc. before they died. We need to know how and why they died to help us create deployment policy that can be enforced in an effort to prevent a wrongful death. They need the expedited transfer policy expanded to capture all the dangerous situations not related to a sexual assault or rape. This can be used to save the service members life if they chain of command ignores them. The danger increases exponentially in a war-time environment one cannot escape.

 


17. What about the impact this has on the loved ones left behind? First off, the families should be compensated for the pain and suffering the military causes them when they question the cause of death ruling or they question what happened to their loved one who died under suspicious circumstances. We must address how the military treats families in these situations. Most don't even know where to start. They don't know how the military works. They don't know the Commander is the central investigator and CID does what is asked of them. They don't know how to FOIA records. They can't make sense of records they do obtain because most of it is blacked out. No family should have to FOIA any records related to their loved ones death. This should be an automatic for them. The system is set up to make the family feel hopeless and give up, and that's exactly what most do because the current system re-traumatizes them when they learn that no one will take responsibility for what happened under their watch or help them find the answers they deserve to have. They should not be expected to simply accept the military's outcomes. In the civilian world, they have more access to the case and those involved and it is a proven fact a second set of eyes on a case can be the deciding factor in learning the truth. They don't have this option. They should be assigned a victim advocate and or a special victims counsel like those provided to victims of sexual assault and rape. They should be treated with kindness, not ignored, transferred from person to person, and intimidated. The current system is reinforcing the trauma originally experienced from losing their loved one to a preventable death. This is unacceptable and causes irreversible harm. The truth is all that is wanted and it shouldn't come at the expense of the family member's health and wellness.

 


18. Lastly, what is the role of the FBI? Why is it that they can investigate a case in Nigeria involving folks pretending to be soldiers to scam people of money but they can't investigate any of the suspicious deaths of female soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. If you do the research and look at how many suspicious deaths of service members occurred overseas, you will see the pattern. Every family who loses a loved one to a non combat death overseas deserves answers and a full investigation of the circumstances if they believe they were murdered or pushed to suicide because they had no way out. We lost a lot of female soldiers to non combat death overseas but we also lost a lot of male service members too. Would the expansion of the expedited transfer policy saved their life? Or are they still trapped because current policy dictates their commander make that decision. Why can't we have a bug out plan for the service members who were ignored like Kamisha? Why can't we provide them with a plan that safely helps them extricate themselves from a dangerous situation if the chain of command chooses to do nothing because they don't care or don't understand how violence escalates?