Sentencing is scheduled Monday for a soldier who pleaded guilty to making bombs that released chlorine gas in a forested training area near a U.S. Army base in Louisiana.
Twenty-five-year-old Ryan Keith Taylor, of New Llano, could get life in prison and a $250,000 fine on the single count of using a chemical weapon, a charge he pleaded guilty to in June.
Expected to testify at the sentencing is an investigator who says he now struggles to breathe as a result of chemical exposure while collecting the evidence.
Prosecutors agreed to drop a separate indictment charging Taylor with possession of child pornography.
A court document says two sergeants and a specialist doing land navigation training near Fort Polk heard several small explosions and saw white smoke, and a sergeant identified only as JM investigated. He saw a uniformed soldier who appeared to be filming an explosion with his smartphone.
“Seeing the rank and nametape on the soldier’s uniform, JM identified the soldier as Specialist TAYLOR,” according to the document, the factual basis for Taylor’s guilty plea.
He told the sergeant he’d been lighting firecrackers. JM smelled a “bleach-like odor” and saw a ring of residue and a black plastic container riddled with small holes.
The specialist who had been working with JM came up afterward, smelled a “chlorine-like” odor and picked up an empty wrapper for chlorine tablets.
Three investigators showed up nearly two hours after the incident was reported. Investigator JF noticed a strong chlorine smell and began using a metal scraper to put rocks “covered in an unknown substance” into a plastic bag, according to the document.
“Shortly after collecting the rocks, the unknown substance had caused the bag to inflate and pop. JF’s latex gloves began to melt. JF quickly experienced difficulty breathing and felt his skin burning,” the document said.
Joshua Farbro, the lead investigator, told The American Press of Lake Charles earlier in September that he now has only 20 percent of his original lung capacity and cannot find employment. He said he planned to testify at Taylor’s sentencing.
Janet McConnaughey reported from New Orleans.
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