Families of dead Blackwater contractors settle suit
Bill Sizemore The Virginian Pilot January 6, 2012
As a result, the security company formerly known as Blackwater has avoided a public examination of the bloody event that catapulted the company to worldwide attention and changed the course of the Iraq war.
The lawsuit was filed in January 2005 by the families of four Blackwater guards killed in a convoy ambush in Fallujah, Iraq, in March 2004. In what became an iconic image of the war, the four were shot and dismembered, and two of the bodies were strung from a bridge while a crowd of Iraqis cheered and chanted.
Televised images of the gruesome scene were flashed worldwide, prompting a devastating retaliatory assault on the city by U.S. forces that fanned the flames of the Iraqi insurgency.
The security company, now known as Academi, reached a confidential settlement with the families last week.
Two sources who insisted on anonymity said the company agreed to a total payout of $635,000 – a mere fraction of the legal fees in the long-running case, let alone the $30 million in claims and counterclaims at stake.
The settlement is in keeping with an aggressive makeover effort by Academi’s current owners, who bought the company from founder Erik Prince a year ago and are doing their best to distance themselves from allegations of lawless behavior at Blackwater, from the streets of Baghdad to the executive suite in Moyock, N.C.
Beyond any financial considerations, the Fallujah victims’ families never got what they always said they wanted most: an opportunity to hold the company publicly accountable for their loved ones’ deaths.
The four men – Wesley Batalona, Scott Helvenston, Michael Teague and Jerry Zovko – were traveling in two Mitsubishi SUVs, escorting a convoy of flatbed trucks to pick up kitchen equipment from a U.S. military base.
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