Spc. Dustin Knapp’s temper flared while he drank beer and argued with his uncle six weeks after coming home from a tour in Afghanistan with a Joint Base Lewis-McChord Stryker brigade.
The 5-foot-2 soldier put his relative in a choke hold, refusing to let go until his older brother broke up the fight.
Knapp stormed out of his uncle’s home and walked barefoot along a two-lane Wisconsin highway. He died moments later when a car plowed into him about 4:30 a.m. Aug. 16, according to a coroner’s report.
Knapp, 23, had been showing signs of distress ever since the unit returned to the base south of Tacoma. He was one of 29 soldiers in a platoon that’s at the center of an Army war crimes investigation unfolding at Lewis-McChord.
Knapp survived a difficult year with his comrades in southern Afghanistan. He was on the scene of at least one of three encounters that led to charges against some platoon mates for allegedly murdering Afghans.
He was close to two principal characters in the investigation: then-Pfc. Justin Stoner, the whistle-blower in the case, was Knapp’s roommate; and Pfc. Andrew Holmes, one of the accused killers, was Knapp’s good friend.
But Knapp wouldn’t live to help in Holmes’ defense or testify about what happened during their tour.
He expressed dark thoughts on his Facebook page starting about the time the investigation began and vented about friends who were facing prison time because of their alleged misconduct.
“Everyone is an enemy,” Knapp wrote July 17. “I must be my biggest one. All the alcohol I had. All the liquor mixed into one bottle as I’m freaking by myself. I have all my knives open and ready to go through separate arteries and main veins. Who’d miss me anyway?”
The Army last week concluded that Knapp’s death resulted from an accident, but law enforcement officials in his hometown aren’t so sure. They believe Knapp – struggling with depression and under the influence of alcohol and marijuana – purposely jumped in front of the car.
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