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'Trust' game death reported at Marine Barracks Washington

Aug. 12, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
A lance corporal died Saturday morning after sustaining a gunshot wound at Marine Barracks Washington while reportedly playing a 'trust game.'
A lance corporal died Saturday morning after sustaining a gunshot wound at Marine Barracks Washington while reportedly playing a 'trust game.' (DoD)
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A Marine lance corporal died Saturday morning after sustaining a gunshot wound at Marine Barracks Washington, Marine officials said, and one media outlet reported it could have occurred in a “trust game.”

Lance Cpl. Cody Schoenfelder, 19, died after sustaining a self-inflicted gunshot wound Friday night, said Capt. Jack Norton, a spokesman for the post. He was an infantry rifleman who enlisted out of Huron, S.D., officials said.

Marine officials offered no additional comment on Monday, but NBC News 4 in Washington reported that authorities are investigating whether the shooting was part of a game of “Trust.” Variations of the game have persisted in the military for years, with service members taking unnecessary risks to show faith in one another and to entertain themselves.

Norton declined to comment on whether the death can be linked to a trust game. NBC 4 reported there was another Marine present when the shooting occurred.

Marine Barracks Washington is the Marine Corps’ oldest active post. It is the home of Commandant Gen. Jim Amos and several other general officers, as well as the service’s elite ceremonial units, which conduct evening parades each Friday throughout the summer.

The shooting occurred at 1007 7th St. in Southeast Washington, a short distance from where the parades are held, at a residential complex occupied by junior Marines assigned to the base. An initial incident report filed by Washington, D.C., police said they responded at 6:36 p.m. and found a Marine with a gunshot wound. The Marine was on duty at the time of the incident, the police report states. Norton said D.C. police are heading the investigation.

Norton said Schoenfelder entered the Corps in January 2012, and arrived at Marine Barracks Washington in October 2012. He had not deployed.

This would not be the first time a Marine has died playing a trust game. In perhaps the most infamous example, a Marine corporal shot to death a lance corporal in Iraq in March 2009 with his M9 pistol. Then-Cpl. Mathew Nelson asked Lance Cpl. Patrick Malone, 21, if he trusted him, and then shot the Marine in the forehead, Nelson later told military investigators. Nelson had dropped the magazine of ammunition from the pistol before pointing the weapon, but did not realize there was still a round in the chamber, he said.

Nelson pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and seven counts of reckless endangerment in September 2009 at a general court-martial at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and was sentenced to eight years in the brig.

There are examples in the other services, as well. An airman at Offut Air Force Base, Neb., shot and killed a colleague in December 2009 while playing “Trust” in an off-base apartment, authorities said. Senior Airman Michael Garcia, 23, sustained a fatal gunshot wound to the head in that incident. Airman 1st Class Corey Hernandez pleaded guilty the following year to involuntary manslaughter and knowingly providing false information to a peace officer, Air Force officials said.

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