A Navy probe into a junior sailor who said his ship bunk was defaced with racial slurs concluded that he staged the incidents himself, according to a copy of the investigation obtained by Navy Times.
It is the sort of episode that might not normally draw attention outside the carrier George H.W. Bush’s crew.
But in a November Facebook post, Marquie Little, an aviation boatswain’s mate, posted photos of his berthing covered in trash and his walls covered with racial slurs.
The post went viral, and shortly after, Navy officials said that Little, who is black, had staged the incident.
A copy of the investigation obtained by Navy Times via a Freedom of Information request lays out the sea service’s case against Little.
“In my opinion, (Little) staged this incident in an attempt to avoid having to provide a Family Care Plan and to get off the ship before its next underway period,” the Navy investigator wrote.
The 27-year-old sailor was kicked out of the Navy in recent weeks in connection to the incident, yet he still maintains he did nothing wrong. Little told Navy Times this week he felt “a proper investigation wasn’t conducted.”
Little agreed at one point to take a lie detector test, which investigators did not actually conduct, and provide a handwriting sample to compare to the racist scrawls, according to the investigation.
“As for the handwriting analysis, an informal review of writing samples was conducted by investigators from the ship and NCIS,” said Cmdr. Dave Hecht, spokesman for Naval Air Force Atlantic, or AIRLANT. “That review found there were similarities between the graffiti and the handwriting sample provided by the Sailor.”
Little said this week that officials told him they did not have the manpower to give him a lie detector test and full handwriting analysis.
He was separated from the Navy recently on charges of making a false statement, destruction of government property and disorderly conduct in connection to the vandalism, Hecht said.
A counseling record included in the investigation and dated two days before the first vandalism incident notes a custody court date in December that would overlap with the Bush getting underway.
The sailor “has physical custody of his child and is requesting to stay behind again,” the record states. “Servicemember was left behind last underway for the same reason in which the court set another date. Servicemember does not have any documentation for court date.”
Little said he liked getting underway and did not need a family care plan because he did not have custody of his son.
“There’s no proof, there’s no witnesses, there’s no facts in the investigation stating I’ve done so,” Little said of the findings that he made the whole thing up. “The investigation is based solely off the opinion of other people, which happens to be the people that dislike me.”
Vandalism down in 3-44-1-L
The incidents at the heart of the investigation took place on Nov. 11 and Nov. 15, when Little came aboard the ship for watch duties.
In the opinions section of the report, the investigator wrote that Little later made inconsistent statements regarding the two incidents.
He told officials at one point that he did not know who would do such a thing, and later suggested several sailors could be to blame, according to the investigation.
“There are no witnesses to the vandalism,” the investigator wrote. “The only person seen in the berthing near (Little’s) rack was (Little) himself.”
The investigator also questioned the vandalism photos that Little posted to social media.
“The Facebook photos of the vandalism show inconsistent amounts of trash, or none at all, in the same location on (Little’s) rack, indicating that he took pictures of the vandalism while he was in the process of carrying it out and heaping various amounts of trash onto his bedding,” the investigator wrote.
The investigation shows eight sailors were interviewed as part of the investigation.
“No person interviewed who has worked with (Little) or knows him believed that anyone would vandalize his rack,” the investigator wrote. “All those interviewed believe that (Little) vandalized his own rack.”
Little said the investigator should have interviewed more personnel.
He told officials he first found the vandalism on Nov. 11 before heading to stand watch.
“When he arrived at his rack, he saw that the curtains were closed and ripped up and his mattress had cuts in it as if someone had taken a knife to them,” according to the investigation’s findings of fact section.
Little informed a petty officer second class of the damage, but refused any help in getting new rack supplies, saying “he wanted his chain of command to see the vandalism before it was cleaned up,” the investigator wrote.
In one interview, Little said he reported the vandalism to security right away, but could not recall with whom he spoke, according to the investigation.
In a follow-on interview five days later, he said he reported the incident to a specific petty officer third class.
According to the investigation, the security department’s records showed Little did not report it until Nov. 13, two days later.
Little returned to his rack on Nov. 15 to get some belongings and told officials he found the second act of vandalism, the report states.
“When he arrived, he noticed that dry trash was placed on top of his mattress and someone had written (racial slurs) in multiple locations on the walls and mattress in his rack,” according to the report.
The investigator wrote that Little initially told security he discovered the Nov. 15 vandalism at about 1 p.m., but he later told investigators his rack was vandalized for a second time that day when he went for help.
“He stated that he left the berthing area to get assistance, and when he returned less than 15 minutes later, more trash and several more instances of the (racial slur) were written along the walls of the rack,” the report states.
That same day, another sailor reported coming across Little “taking pictures of his rack and moving ‘things’ around on his rack,” according to the report.
“(The other sailor) left the berthing space for about 45 minutes, and when he returned, he noticed the profanity written on the rack as well as ripped up cardboard placed on the mattress,” the investigator wrote.
A 24-hour watch on Little’s berthing area was set up after that, according to the report.
He posted the vandalism to Facebook on Nov. 15.
“I am a United States sailor,” Little wrote. “This has been happening to me for a while and I asked my chain of command for help and the only thing they did was switch my rack.”
He then pleaded for help.
“I proudly serve the Navy and this is what I’m receiving for help,” he wrote in the post. “#SailorAskingForHelp things are getting out of hand. Please share. Somebody knows something.”
In a Nov. 27 interview with NCIS, Little “admitted that his chain of command has helped him significantly, and he changed his Facebook post to represent that,” the report states.
At that same interview, he said he posted on Facebook “to see if anyone would ‘fess up’ to committing the vandalism.”
Little met with a lieutenant and another person at one point after the Facebook post and expressed unease, according to the investigation.
“(Little) informed us that he was getting unsolicited messages from people on Facebook saying they they knew he had vandalized his own rack,” according to the statement. “These people claimed to be in contact with his chain of command. He also told us that because of these messages, he did not feel safe on the ship.”
The investigator wrote that Little had previously refused to sign counseling forms explaining that he needed to set up his family care plan on the day before the first vandalism incident.
A sailor’s statement about Little included in the investigation called him “indifferent concerning his work environment.”
Little had requested “on numerous occasions” that his chain of command not use profanity toward him, according to the sailor’s statement.
“More recently the member had to request that his (chief petty officer) and (leading chief petty officer) not curse at him in relation to a conversation concerning a Family Care Plan,” the sailor wrote.
A chief in Little’s chain told investigators that “nobody in the division has any issues with Little.”
“They all have a great repour [sic] together,” according to a summary of the chief’s statement. “He can’t see anyone doing this.”
The lead petty officer from Little’s division called him “an unreliable Sailor who tends to have a lot of excuses for not completing tasks.”
Another sailor stated “he can’t see anyone in berthing doing that” to Little’s rack.
A sailor in Little’s duty section told investigators that someone in another duty section vandalized Little’s rack, or that “he did it hisself (sic).”
“I don’t think nobody in our duty section did it,” the sailor wrote. “Everybody is cool and stick to their self.”
After seeing “a big bad word on the side wall of his rack,” another shipmate said they suspected Little was behind it.
“Given the time that I have known (Little), his work ethic and his personal attitude, and given the time frame of the incidents, I suspect that he has done this to himself,” the sailor wrote in a statement. “In my professional association with all our sailors, I do not believe any one of them could do this or show this behaviors [sic].”
Another sailor said that “everybody gets along,” and that he thought Little did it “because he was the only one that was seen in his rack during the time it was vandalized.”
At least one shipmate was not sure what to believe when it came to Little’s rack.
“He believes that the member is hiding something,” according to the sailor’s statement summary, “but states that he is not a detective.”
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.