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Pittsburgh Tribune-Review November 29, 2005

Army investigating Beaver County soldier's shooting death

By Brian Bowling

The Army's criminal unit is investigating the killing of a Beaver County soldier, military officials said Monday.

Army Pvt. Dylan Paytas, 20, of Freedom, died of multiple gunshot wounds "sustained during a noncombat-related incident" Nov. 16 at the Warhorse forward base near Baqubah about 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Stacy Simon of the Coalition Press Information Center in Iraq.

Simon referred questions to the Army's Criminal Investigation Division. Spokesman Christopher Grey declined to provide details about the incident. The agency investigates all noncombat deaths and some combat deaths, he said.

"People can't assume that just because it's us that there has been a crime," he said.

The criminal investigation unit investigates felonies, but Grey said that doesn't mean the Army suspects a felony was committed in Paytas' death.

The Defense Department defines a "noncombat-related incident" as one that is not attributable to enemy action.

Paytas' family did not return calls.

Paytas was a combat engineer in the 3rd Brigade Troops Battalion, part of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division. He deployed to Iraq in January.

He was buried Saturday with military honors.

Paytas' unit was assigned to Task Force Liberty, which has conducted more than 4,500 raids and search missions this year and has seized 425 weapons caches. The task force also supervised the completion of 1,400 reconstruction projects worth $757 million.

Grey said the Army would tell Paytas' family the results of its investigation before releasing details to the public.

Of the 2,290 soldiers, sailors and Marines killed in Afghanistan and Iraq as of Nov. 5, about a fourth, or 571, died in "nonhostile" circumstances. Most of those deaths are attributed to accidents, including accidental shootings. Eleven were classified as homicides, which the Defense Department defines as a service member killing a fellow service member.

John Pike, a defense analyst who operates GlobalSecurity.org, said the criminal investigation unit rarely releases information until its investigations are completed.

Copyright 2005, The Tribune-Review Publishing Co.