US airman: Shooter had 'hate in his eyes'

AP News

10/24/2011 11:34:19 AM - AP News

A U.S. airman who survived an attack by a radical Islamist that left two fellow servicemen dead told a German court Monday that he looked the gunman in the face and saw "hate in his eyes."

Staff Sgt. Trevor Brewer, 23, was on a U.S. Air Force bus at Frankfurt airport when Arid Uka, a 21-year-old Kosovo Albanian, began shooting. Brewer was unhurt as Uka's 9mm pistol jammed due to a defective cartridge.

He told the court that he had ducked behind his seat after he heard the shots, then came face to face with Uka.

"When I looked up, the pistol was in my face. I heard the words 'Allahu Akbar' and the pistol went 'click,'" Brewer said. "Allahu Akbar" means "God is great" in Arabic.

Uka is charged with murder for the March 2 slayings of Senior Airman Nicholas J. Alden, 25, from South Carolina, and Airman 1st Class Zachary R. Cuddeback, 21, from Virginia. He also faces three counts of attempted murder.

German investigators say Uka was a lone attacker who had become radicalized by reading and watching Islamist propaganda on the Internet.

Brewer, who is from Gray, Tennessee, testified that he saw "hate in his eyes" as he stood face to face with Uka.

"I stood up to take him out ... or to seize the weapon," Brewer said. "He said 'Allahu Akbar' again and the gun clicked again."

Uka fled and Brewer gave chase but slipped and fell behind. He ran into the airport and watched police arrest Uka.

"With my job, we expect danger," he said. "We expect to fight a war and possibly lose our lives. But we don't expect that in Europe or America."

Uka briefly made eye contact across the courtroom with Cuddeback's father but otherwise looked down at the table in front of him during the testimony and showed no emotion.

He gave a teary confession at the trial's opening in August, saying that the night before he had seen a video on Facebook that purported to show American soldiers raping a teenage Muslim girl. It turned out to be a scene from the 2007 Brian De Palma anti-war film "Redacted," taken out of context.

Uka has told the court that the video prompted him to do anything possible to prevent American soldiers from going to Afghanistan. Before opening fire, he asked if the group of airmen were heading for Afghanistan, and was told they were.

Under German law, the court is still required to hear all evidence in the case even though Uka has confessed.

Uka, who grew up in Germany, faces attempted murder charges for wounding airmen Kristoffer Schneider and Edgar Veguilla, and for taking aim at Brewer. Schneider was shot in the head and lost the sight in one eye. Veguilla was shot in the jaw, abdomen and elbow.

The airmen were on their way to Afghanistan from a base in Lakenheath, Britain. Most were out of uniform, but recognizable as military personnel from their camouflage bags and short haircuts. Their weapons were unloaded and locked in cases.

Alden left behind a wife and two small children.

Airman Cuddeback's father, Robert Cuddeback of Millerton, New York, sat as co-plaintiff at the prosecution's table, as allowed under German law. An Army veteran, the elder Cuddeback wore the Gold Star lapel pin given to family members of fallen military personnel.

Airman Cuddeback was awarded the Purple Heart, the U.S. military's decoration for soldiers wounded or killed in action.

Robert Cuddeback said he came to Germany to support Brewer and other servicemen testifying in the case. He said it was "very difficult" to be in the same room with Uka.

"It's surreal for me, being here, and actually looking Uka in the eyes," he said. "I can tell you I think that he is unemotional, he has not looked up during the witness testimonies, and I think he does not have any regrets about what he's done."

He said he hopes the court sentences Uka to life in prison.

Uka faces a life sentence upon conviction but any cooperation with authorities could lower the amount of time he would have to serve before parole can be considered to as little as 15 years. The judge in the case has said Uka's confession is not complete because he has not said where he obtained the weapon.