Naval JAG, Not DA, Will Prosecute Four Medics Involved Hospitalman’s Shooting Death In 29 Palms

A military court has taken jurisdiction with regard to the prosecution of those involved in the August 16, 2019 shooting death of Hospitalman 3rd Class Michael Vincent De Leon that occurred in Twentynine Palms.
Neither the San Bernardino Superior Court nor the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office will take up the matter pertaining to the actions of Mason Williams, Ryan Dini, Sterling Wold and Jesse Humes that fateful summer evening. Rather, the matter is being left to the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
Off duty, De Leon, 30, was at a Friday night party at a base housing unit with other medical corpsmen when he was shot, reportedly in the head, as he stood in the residential unit’s living room.
Initially, the fatality was represented by the military service as a suicide, but the Naval Criminal Investigative Service ultimately undertook an investigation into the matter as a homicide.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service has not made public disclosure of the precise facts or circumstances of De Leon’s death. Based on the charges against the four defendants, it appears there was no malicious intent in what occurred, but a combination of intoxication and foolishness led to the fatal event, followed by an effort on the part of those involved to misrepresent what occurred.
What can be reported has been pieced together from disparate sources, including official Navy statements as well as ones by the family to various media outlets.
Williams, Dini, Wold, Humes and De Leon were present in the housing unit, where an abundant amount of liquor was being consumed. At some point, a gun was produced. In the course of what was characterized as “horsing around” the gun was “dry fired” while pointed at De Leon and perhaps others in the room.
Dry firing is defined as simulating the discharge of a firearm that is not loaded with live ammunition.
Sometime later, the firearm or another one , this time with bullets in it, came out and was aimed and fired at De Leon, who sustained a single shot to the head.
The other corpsmen, all of whom had extensive training in medical response and are referred to as medics, failed, or were unable, to administer lifesaving assistance to De Leon. There followed a several minute delay after the shooting before a 911 call was made. That call was made from DeLeon’s cell phone. The caller reported the incident as a “suicide.”
After the shooting, a report on the matter was provided to Major General Roger Turner, then the commander of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms. Turner is said to have remarked that those involved were “idiots.”
Williams, 23, of Fort Lee, Virginia is charged with reckless endangerment, violation of a lawful general order, dereliction of duty, drunk and disorderly conduct and making a false official statement.
Dini, 37, of San Diego is charged with dereliction of duty resulting in death and drunk and disorderly conduct.
Wold, 28, of New Orleans is charged with dereliction of duty and making a false official statement.
Humes, 27, of Detroit is charged with dereliction of duty and making a false official statement.
De Leon joined the Navy on November 18, 2014. According to a statement from the U.S. Navy, “HM3 De Leon was one of our most rounded and capable sailors and corpsmen and could be counted on no matter what the task. He was always first to raise his hand anytime additional tasks required attention.”
The proceedings are to take place in a Marine Corps courtroom at the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base, with the testimony and evidence for the prosecution provided in the main by Naval Criminal Investigation Service personnel and the case being presented by Navy judge advocates. The Marine Corps is the maritime land force service branch of the United States Armed Forces and is part of the U.S. Department of the Navy.
Word has come that one of the corpsmen, in accordance with a plea deal arrived at with the Judge Advocates General’s Corps, will testify against the other three.
-Mark Gutglueck

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