Before deployment, he commissioned a friend and former SEAL to make him a custom hunting knife and a hatchet, vowing in a text, “I’ll try and dig that knife or hatchet on someone’s skull!”
He was in charge of 22 men in SEAL Team 7’s Alpha Platoon, which deployed to Mosul, Iraq, in early 2017. But his platoon was nowhere near the action, assigned an “advise and assist” mission supporting Iraqi commandos doing the block-by-block fighting. The SEALs were required to stay 1,000 meters behind the front lines.
That changed on May 6, 2017, when an Apache helicopter banked over a dusty patchwork of fields outside Mosul, fixed its sights on a farmhouse serving as an Islamic State command post and fired two Hellfire missiles reducing it to rubble.
Chief Gallagher saw the distant explosion from an armored gun truck. When he heard on the radio that Iraqi soldiers had captured an Islamic State fighter and took him to a nearby staging area, he raced to the scene. “No one touch him,” he radioed other SEALs. “He’s mine.”
‘Got Him With My Hunting Knife’
When the captive was killed, other SEALs were shocked. A medic inches from Chief Gallagher testified that he froze, unsure what to do. Some SEALs said in interviews that the stabbing immediately struck them as wrong, but because it was Chief Gallagher, the most experienced commando in the group, no one knew how to react. When senior platoon members confronted Chief Gallagher, they said, he told them, “Stop worrying about it; they do a lot worse to us.”
The officer in charge, Lt. Jacob Portier, who was in his first command, gathered everyone for trophy photos, then held a re-enlistment ceremony for Chief Gallagher over the corpse, several SEALs testified.
A week later, Chief Gallagher sent a friend in California a text with a photo of himself with a knife in one hand, holding the captive up by the hair with the other. “Good story behind this, got him with my hunting knife,” he wrote.