Ilario Pantano is a member of the United States Marine Corps.
Scholarship to Horace Mann private school
Young Mr Pantano won a scholarship to a prestigious New York private school.
First hitch in the USMC
Following his graduation he enlisted in the Marine Corps, and participated in the first Gulf War. Mr Pantano completed sniper training, and was promoted to Sergeant. Mr Pantano remained in the Marine Corps until 1993.
Return to civilian life
Following his return to civilian life Mr Pantano earned an Economics degree from NYU. He had successful career as an energy trader for Goldman Sachs, and a second successful career as a movie producer. Mr Pantano married Jill Chapman, a fashion model, and has two children.
Second hitch in the USMC
Mr Pantano describes cutting his hair and re-enlisting in the Marines the day the United States was attacked on 2001–9–11. Mr Pantano's apartment was next to a fire station where eleven firemen perished in the attack. Four of them were, like Mr Pantano, former Marines.
Mr Pantano was 30 when he re-enlisted, putting him near the upper age limit for officer school. But Mr Pantano was accepted as an officer candidate, and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. Mr Pantano was a popular officer. His superiors described him as the best platoon commander in his battalian. His men report they appreciated the extra training drills he put them through, although some of them describe him as "motarded".
Return to Iraq
Lieutenant Pantano's unit proceeded to Iraq shortly before the first battle of Fallujah in April 2004. On April 15th 2004, acting on intelligence extracted from captured opposition fighters, Lieutenant Pantano lead his platoon against a compound near the town of Mahmudiyah. As they approached the compound they saw a vehicle with two Iraqis in it. Lieutenant Pantano ordered his men to stop the vehicle. The occupants of the vehicle were handcuffed. The vehicle was searched for weapons. Lieutenant Pantano remained with the captives, while the rest of his platoon secured the compound. The compound was deserted, but his men found a cache of arms, including several mortar aiming stakes, a flare gun, three AK47 rifles, 10 AK magazines with assault vests and IED making material.
When Lieutenant Pantano learned the compound contained weapons he ordered Sergeant George Gobles and a Medical Corpsman to watch for enemies. He then released the captives from their bonds. According to a statement Lieutenant Pantano made in June 2004 he then "used hand signals" to order the captives to search the vehicle again.
During the search of the vehicle Lieutenant Pantano stated he felt the Iraqis posed a threat to him. They were talking, when he wanted them to shut up. Lieutenant Pantano didn't know how to say "shut up" in Arabic. So he said "stop". And when they didn't stop, he shot them.
Lieutenant Pantano emptied his magazine into the captives bodies, in bursts of three round. Lieutenant Pantano's statement says:
- "I then changed magazines and continued to fire until the second magazine was empty .... I had made a decision that when I was firing I was going to send a message to these Iraqis and others that when we say, 'no better friend, no worse enemy,' we mean it. I had fired both magazines into the men, hitting them with about 80 percent of my rounds."
Lieutenant Pantano acknowledges leaving a sign above the corpses that said, "no better friend, no worse enemy". Lieutenant Pantano was reported to have also posed the corpses, as part of the message he wanted to leave.
Lieutenant General James Mattis
The slogan Lieutenant Pantano scrawled over the corpses of the captives he killed was a direct quote from his commanding officer, Lieutenant General James Mattis. On February 1st 2005 General Mattis raised a controversy by giving a speech in which he went on, at length, about how it was "fun to kill".
Under investigation for murder
In February of 2005 it became widely known that Lieutenant Pantano was under investigation for premeditated murder for this shooting. His mother appeared on CNN on February 12th to publicize his case, and to tell the public about the site she founded for his defense
Lt Pantano waives right to Article 32
On April 14, 2005 Lieutenant Pantano waived his right to his article 32 hearing — the military equivalent of a preliminary hearing. His article 32 had been scheduled for April 25, 2005.
Various versions of events
Merry Pantano's version
The web-site created by Lieutenant Pantano's mother, Merry Pantano reports that that the Iraqis had advanced on him in a threatening manner, that he had ordered them to stop, and fired on them, in self-defense, when they failed to do so.
Prior to the press finding access to Lieutenant Pantano's statement journalists and bloggers sympathetic to Lieutenant Pantano echoed the version on his mother's web-site.
Medical corpsman's version
The Medical Corpsman did not witness the danger Lieutenant Pantano reported, because he was looking outwards, as ordered. But when turned back he saw the Iraqis trying to run away.
Sergeant Gobles version
Lieutenant Pantano's defense counsels have said they believe that Sergeant Gobles account should not be given any credit, because he was disgruntled. In this account Sergeant Gobles is reported to have said "As soon as I turned my back, Lt. Pantano opened [fire on] them with approximately 45 rounds,"
On February 17th it was reported that Ms Pantano's site went down, and a parallel site with a similar name went up. It was reported that the parallel site contained threats against Lieutenant Pantano, and his family; that it contained a video simulating Lieutenant Pantano being decapitated.
Retired Marines are reported to have volunteered to stand a security watch over Lieutenant Pantano's home.
Charles Gittins is Lieutenant Pantano's civilian lawyer.