A Marine security guard has been charged with murder and manslaughter in the death on New Year’s Day of a Marine from northwestern Minnesota.
Lance Cpl. Andrew M. Johnson was charged with shooting Lance Cpl. Riley S. Kuznia, 20, of Karlstad, on Jan. 1 at Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C. Kuznia was a team leader in the guard company at the barracks.
“Preliminary findings from the investigation indicated Guard Company policies and proper firearm handling procedures were not followed,” according to a news release issued Thursday by the Marine Corps.
A charge sheet detailing the accusations, but containing some redactions, was obtained by the Marine Corps Times, an independent publication. .
The sheet, provided to the Star Tribune by the Marine Corps Times, accuses Johnson of pointing a pistol at Kuznia and “pulling the trigger in jest,” shooting him in the head.
Capt. Katie Kochert, a Marine Corps spokeswoman, said that the charges will be referred to a preliminary hearing where a hearing officer will make a recommendation of what level of court martial will be held.
At such a hearing, she said it will be decided whether some or all of the charges will be dropped.
She said the hearing will take place at Lejeune Hall at the Quantico, Va., Marine Corps Base on Aug. 22.
The Marine Times, citing an official, reported that Johnson was not being held in pretrial confinement.
Kuznia graduated from Tri-County High School in Karlstad in 2017. He played soldier as a child and was very patriotic, according to his mother, Markelle Kuznia.
The charge sheet includes a series of accusations against Johnson, including four counts of dereliction of duty for failing to follow guard procedures. He is also charged with murder, involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide.
Among the dereliction charges were using his personal cellphone while on standing duty between Nov. 1, 2018, and Jan. 1, 2019, and removing his pistol from his holster while dancing on Nov. 25, 2018.
On Dec. 31, 2018, he is accused of “removing his pistol from his holster, chambering a round and stating, ‘Oh, you’re going to a party,’ ” and then swearing. According to initial reports, Kunzia was shot around 5 a.m. on Jan. 1.
Marine Barracks are located about a mile east of the U.S. Capitol.
Col. Donald Tomich, the Marine Barracks Washington commanding officer, issued a statement Thursday saying: “The Barracks remains committed to supporting Lance Cpl. Kuznia’s family as the legal process will undoubtedly reopen some wounds. Time does not ease the pain of their loss or make dealing with this any easier for them and our thoughts and prayers remain with them. They are part of the Marine Barracks Washington family.”
Randy Furst • 612-673-4224