TPD officers train with ex-Navy SEAL whose corpse photo conviction led Trump to intervene




  • In US
  • 2022-08-08 20:59:12Z
  • By Tallahassee Democrat

Tallahassee police officers have recently trained with former Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, who in 2019 was acquitted of murder charges but convicted of illegally posing for a photo with a corpse - a war crimes trial that drew extraordinary intervention from President Donald Trump.

Gallagher posted a photo to Instagram Thursday that showed him among over a dozen TPD officers holding rifles.

"Awesome day of training ... with the Tallahassee Police Department," the caption read. "They were an extraordinary group of men who were ready to train and take on their new concepts of shooting and CQB (close-quarters battle) to add to their toolbox. It was truly an honor!"

Timeline: How Trump intervened in the Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher's war crimes case

A screenshot of author and journalist Wesley Morgan
A screenshot of author and journalist Wesley Morgan's Twitter post on Eddie Gallagher's training of Tallahassee Police Department officers.  

The Tallahassee Police Department has not commented on the training overseen by Gallagher, who hosted the session in partnership with the nonprofit Stronghold SOF Solutions, based in Destin, Fla.

TPD Chief Lawrence Revell was unavailable to comment Monday because he was attending the Florida Police Chief's Conference, he told a reporter in a text. He referred questions to a TPD spokesperson, who has not responded to multiple requests for comment since Monday morning.

Thomas Morton, the business development director of Stronghold SOF Solutions, said the nonprofit will defer all comment to TPD.

The training - which will be reviewed by the TPD Citizens Police Review Board - was revealed through a tweet by American author and journalist Wesley Morgan that included a screenshot of Gallagher's Instagram post and was captioned, "Great, the police department of a major American city is having Eddie Gallagher train its officers."

Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher leaves a military court on Naval Base San Diego.
Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher leaves a military court on Naval Base San Diego.  

Back story:

Stronghold SOF Solutions provides "tactical training solutions for the warfighter and law enforcement officer," according to its website. The organization's 50 acre-training facility, where TPD officers were trained, is in DeFuniak Springs, Fla.

Gallagher referred comment to an attorney, who did not wish to comment on the training or his relationship with the nonprofit.

"He's got a lot of experience and skill and he's happy to pass that on to our first responders to help them be better prepared to save lives," said Gallagher's legal representative Timothy Parlatore, a New York based attorney.

"For nearly twenty years, Eddie served as a Navy Corpsman, Marine Scout Sniper and Navy SEAL," reads Gallagher's official website, which links to the training he oversees at the nonprofit, adding that he served in eight overseas combat deployments, earned two Bronze Star medals and one Navy Achievement Medal before the court marshal.

Who is Edward Gallagher?

Gallagher, the former chief petty officer and SEAL Team 7 platoon leader was accused of fatally stabbing a teenage-ISIS captive in the neck before posing with his corpse; firing a sniper rifle at unarmed civilians, striking a teenage girl and an adult man.

Several platoon member broke the team's code of silence when they testified in July 2019 against Gallagher in a military trial that lasted two weeks.

Navy SEAL Special Operations Chief Eddie Gallagher
Navy SEAL Special Operations Chief Eddie Gallagher  

The jury, made up of five Marines and two sailors acquitted him of a majority of the charges including premeditated murder, willfully discharging a firearm to endanger human life, retaliation against members of his platoon for reporting his alleged actions, obstruction of justice and the killing of two Iraqi civilians.

Gallagher was, however, found guilty of posing for photos with the dead captive and was sentenced to four months confinement - time he had served before trial.

Prosecutors said Gallagher used the photos as a prop in a re-enlistment ceremony. Gallagher also allegedly texted "I got this one with my knife" along with the photo.

Per the jury, he was also demoted to petty officer 1st class, a punishment Trump reversed before having Gallagher's pay reinstated.

Even before trial began, several media outlets reported that Trump was considering a pardon for Gallagher. The president in March also moved Gallagher to "less restrictive confinement" due to the "honor of his past service to our country."

Trump's intervention exposed rifts within the Pentagon and led to the firing of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer.

In Nov. 20, 2019, the Navy announced it planned to review Gallagher's status, a likely precursor to the chief petty officer being ousted from the SEALs and losing the coveted SEAL Trident pin.

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 02: Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher walks out of military court during lunch recess on July 2, 2019 in San Diego, California.
SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 02: Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher walks out of military court during lunch recess on July 2, 2019 in San Diego, California.  

Days later Spencer was ousted, later saying he had been given an order he could not in "good conscience obey."

On Nov. 26, the Navy announced Gallagher's retirement from active duty and that he would keep his SEAL status and Trident pin. The status review was not conducted.

Early backlash

As news spread of the training, backlash began to swirl on social media.

Among those critical of the training is Taylor Biro, a former member of the mayor's LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee and a current Citizen Police Review Board member. In an email to John Dailey she requested the city "create policies for vetting trainers especially with police."

She pointed to objectionable posts Gallagher made on Instagram about transgender people, Black Lives Matter and others.

"Since there is no real way for the police to face accountability as our state statutes are designed, we are left with minimal oversight or recourse," Biro wrote, adding that until changes are made police will have a hard time ensuring the safety of "our most vulnerable communities in Tallahassee."

Rudy Ferguson, the chairman of the TPD's citizens advisory committee who is running for the at-large Leon County commission, said the training has been brought to his attention and "will be something he will bring to the rest of the advisory council to discuss."

USA Today contributed to this story. This is a developing story, check back for updates.

Contact Christopher Cann at ccann@tallahassee.com and follow @ChrisCannFL on Twitter.

Never miss a story: Subscribe to the Tallahassee Democrat using the link at the top of the page.

This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Tallahassee police train with ex-Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher

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