January 19, 2021

Soldier

A soldier who pulled a driver from a burning vehicle and used his T-shirt to put out the flames on the injured man has earned the Army’s highest award for bravery outside combat.

Sgt. Alexander Jabin, a satellite operator/maintainer with 4th Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) on Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, was presented the Soldier’s Medal for “exceptional heroism” Tuesday for his lifesaving actions one night in March last year.

It was about 2:30 a.m. when Jabin heard a “bang” and looked outside his barracks on the base near Tacoma to see figures running around flames, he said in an Army video released Tuesday. As he ran out of the building to the scene, he yelled for someone to call the fire department.

“Jabin dove quickly under the fence (surrounding the Special Forces compound) and ran to the car, which was on fire,” Sgt. Komi Amenyo, who was the duty noncommissioned officer that night, an Army statement said.

He could hear screaming and, as he got closer to the burning vehicle, heard someone saying “Help me! Help me!,” Jabin said in the Army video.

Josiah Caro-Yost and Aaron Cavazos, who were specialists assigned to the 1st SFG at the time, were already on the scene, but the driver was stuck and the flames were growing hotter.

“The fire had gotten pretty intense, so we backed away,” Cavazos said.

But Jabin rushed in and tried to get the driver out.

“I tried to rip the door open but I was only able to rip off some of the car parts,” Jabin said in the statement. “It was a cold night, but the fire from the collision grew more and more intense, like a big bonfire.”

He reached in and tried to unbuckle the seatbelt, but that failed, so he turned and called for a knife to cut the straps. Amenyo tossed him a knife, but by then the flames had completely engulfed the car and the driver was on fire, Jabin said.

The driver was able to move and had pulled his upper body out of the driver’s side window, but appeared to be trapped and contorted, and continued to scream for help. So Jabin rushed back over to pull him out, calling for Cavazos and Caro-Yost to assist him.

After pulling the driver to safety, Jabin used his sweat-soaked T-shirt to smother the flames on the man’s body, he said. “He was on fire, from the waist down,” he said in the video.

When that shirt caught fire, Caro-Yost took off his jacket and used it to help snuff out the flames, and Jabin “proceeded to use the knife to cut the belt and burning clothes off the victim’s body,” Caro-Yost said.

Jabin, who received second-degree burns to his face, arms and hands during the rescue, provided first aid and comforted the driver until paramedics arrived.

“He reminded us by his actions what a ready soldier looks like,” said Lt. Gen. Randy George, the I Corps and base

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FORT MITCHELL, Ala. — An Alabama soldier was charged with reckless murder after allegedly forcing his girlfriend’s unruly 5-year-old son to get out of a car at night along a road where the boy was hit and killed by another vehicle, authorities said.

Army Sgt. Bryan Starr, 35, surrendered to officials in Russell County after being charged in the death of Austin Birdseye, Sheriff Heath Taylor told a news conference Monday.

Originally from Illinois, Starr is stationed at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia, the sheriff said. He and the child’s mother, Christina Birdseye, 33, share a home in southeast Alabama near the sprawling base.

Court records were not available Tuesday to show whether Starr had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

Starr told investigators the boy began acting up in the car as they traveled on Alabama 165 near their home Sunday night, so he pulled his Dodge Charger into a church parking lot and made the boy get out in the rain, Taylor said. The child’s mother was not in the vehicle, he said.

The man lost sight of the child but soon saw cars stopped in the road, where the boy had been struck by an oncoming Toyota Avalon. The road was dark and the boy was hard to see, and the driver of the Toyota was not at fault, Taylor said.

“We have their information and we’ve spoken to them, and will speak to them again. But at this point, there’s no indication that they had any chance of not hitting the little guy,” Taylor said, the Ledger-Enquirer reported.

The child died at a hospital in Columbus, and Starr was charged with murder because he showed reckless disregard for the child’s safety, Taylor said.

An online campaign meant to raise money for the boy’s family said Austin often sang along with songs “at the top of his lungs” while in the car, but the sheriff said he could not understand the man’s actions.

“What do you say to that? What is your thought process when you tell a 5-year-old to get out of the car on a rainy night, because they were being loud in the car?” he said. “It’s just heartbreaking.”

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FORT MITCHELL, Ala. — An Alabama soldier was charged with reckless murder after allegedly forcing his girlfriend’s unruly 5-year-old son to get out of a car at night along a road where the boy was hit and killed by another vehicle, authorities said.

Army Sgt. Bryan Starr, 35, surrendered to officials in Russell County after being charged in the death of Austin Birdseye, Sheriff Heath Taylor told a news conference Monday.

Originally from Illinois, Starr is stationed at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia, the sheriff said. He and the child’s mother, Christina Birdseye, 33, share a home in southeast Alabama near the sprawling base.

Court records were not available Tuesday to show whether Starr had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

A former Fort Benning, Ga., soldier pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. Here, an Army Reserve MP handcuffs a mock detainee during a training exercise in 2017. (Spc. Therell Frett/Army) A former Fort Benning, Ga., soldier pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. Here, an Army Reserve MP handcuffs a mock detainee during a training exercise in 2017. (Spc. Therell Frett/Army)

Starr told investigators the boy began acting up in the car as they traveled on Alabama 165 near their home Sunday night, so he pulled his Dodge Charger into a church parking lot and made the boy get out in the rain, Taylor said. The child’s mother was not in the vehicle, he said.

The man lost sight of the child but soon saw cars stopped in the road, where the boy had been struck by an oncoming Toyota Avalon. The road was dark and the boy was hard to see, and the driver of the Toyota was not at fault, Taylor said.

“We have their information and we’ve spoken to them, and will speak to them again. But at this point, there’s no indication that they had any chance of not hitting the little guy,” Taylor said, the Ledger-Enquirer reported.

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FORT MITCHELL, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama soldier was charged with reckless murder after allegedly forcing his girlfriend’s unruly 5-year-old son to get out of a car at night along a road where the boy was hit and killed by another vehicle, authorities said.

Army Sgt. Bryan Starr, 35, surrendered to officials in Russell County after being charged in the death of Austin Birdseye, Sheriff Heath Taylor told a news conference Monday.

Originally from Illinois, Starr is stationed at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia, the sheriff said. He and the child’s mother, Christina Birdseye, 33, share a home in southeast Alabama near the sprawling base.

Court records were not available Tuesday to show whether Starr had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

Starr told investigators the boy began acting up in the car as they traveled on Alabama 165 near their home Sunday night, so he pulled his Dodge Charger into a church parking lot and made the boy get out in the rain, Taylor said. The child’s mother was not in the vehicle, he said.

The man lost sight of the child but soon saw cars stopped in the road, where the boy had been struck by an oncoming Toyota Avalon. The road was dark and the boy was hard to see, and the driver of the Toyota was not at fault, Taylor said.

“We have their information and we’ve spoken to them, and will speak to them again. But at this point, there’s no indication that they had any chance of not hitting the little guy,” Taylor said, the Ledger-Enquirer reported.

The child died at a hospital in Columbus, and Starr was charged with murder because he showed reckless disregard for the child’s safety, Taylor said.

An online campaign meant to raise money for the boy’s family said Austin often sang along with songs “at the top of his lungs” while in the car, but the sheriff said he could not understand the man’s actions.

“What do you say to that? What is your thought process when you tell a 5-year-old to get out of the car on a rainy night, because they were being loud in the car?” he said. “It’s just heartbreaking.”

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An active-duty soldier is facing criminal charges after his girlfriend’s 5-year-old son was struck and killed on a busy highway in Alabama after he allegedly forced the child to get out of the car in the rain and after dark as punishment.

Bryan Starr, 35, told investigators he was driving near Fort Mitchell, Ala., when 5-year-old Austin Birdseye started to become “unruly” inside the vehicle. Starr said he then pulled over in a church parking lot and told the boy to get out, Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor explained in a virtual press conference.

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Starr allegedly told investigators he lost view of the child in the rain. It was unclear how much time passed before Birdseye wandered onto the busy Highway 165 near County Road 24, where he was struck around 8 p.m. The boy was rushed to Piedmont Columbus Regional, where he was pronounced dead at 8:51 p.m., Russell County Coroner Arthur Sumbry Jr. confirmed to WTVM.

“It’s just horrific. I can’t imagine the mother’s grief that she is going through. It’s just tough. What do you say to that?” Taylor said at the press conference. “What is your thought process when you tell a 5-year-old to get out of the car on a rainy night because they were loud in the car? It’s just heartbreaking.”

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Bryan Starr was charged with reckless murder in connection with the death of his girlfriend's 5-year-old son. (Russell County Sheriff's Office)

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Bryan Starr was charged with reckless murder in connection with the death of his girlfriend’s 5-year-old son. (Russell County Sheriff’s Office)

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Investigators are retrieving surveillance video from the church parking lot. The deadly crash happened just a few miles from the home Starr shares with his girlfriend in Fort Mitchell, WRBL reported. Taylor said the woman was not with Starr when he told her son to get out in the rain. He added that the driver who struck the boy is not at fault and is devastated. 

Starr, a soldier stationed at Fort Benning, was questioned by investigators at the hospital and later turned himself in to the Russell County Sheriff’s Office. He was charged with reckless murder and was booked into the Russell County Detention Facility. He is eligible for bond.

Originally from Marengo, Ill.,  Starr is a sergeant first class assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 16th Cavalry Regiment, 316th Cavalry Brigade stationed at Fort Benning. The military base is in Georgia, about 3 miles across the state border from where Starr lives in Alabama. Starr has 17 years of service, which include one combat tour to Iraq.

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“We are deeply saddened by this tragic event and extend our heartfelt condolences to the family of the deceased,” Ben Garrett, spokesman for Fort Benning, said in a statement. 

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A veteran soldier is facing a reckless murder charge after he allegedly told his girlfriend’s 5-year-old son get out of a vehicle shortly before the boy was struck and killed on a highway.

Bryan Starr, 35, was questioned after the Russell County Sheriff’s Office investigated a crash which occurred along Highway 165, near County Road 24, in Alabama around 8 p.m. last Sunday.

Starr told detectives that the boy, who was later identified as Austin Birdseye, was misbehaving so he pulled over in the rain at a church and told him to get out, according to police. Fort Benning soldier Starr is said to have lost the child in the rain.

Birdseye then wandered onto the busy Highway 165, where he was struck by a different vehicle. He was taken to Piedmont Columbus Regional, where he was later pronounced dead.

Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor said the boy’s mother was not in the vehicle at the time. Starr was taking the 5-year-old to the Fort Mitchell home he shares with his girlfriend just a few miles away from where the child was struck.

“It’s just horrific,” Taylor told WKRG. “I can’t imagine the mother’s grief that she is going through.

“It’s just tough. What do you say to that? What is your thought process when you tell a five-year-old to get out of the car on a rainy night because they were loud in the car? It’s just heartbreaking.”

Taylor said the driver of the vehicle who hit the child is devastated, and was not at fault for the accident.

It is not known how long the child was outside in the rain before he was hit by the vehicle. Taylor said officers are obtaining surveillance video from the church parking lot as part of the investigation.

In a statement to WRBL, Ben Garrett, spokesman for Fort Benning, said the military base is cooperating with local law enforcement officials.

Starr, originally from Marengo, Illinois, is assigned to 3rd Squadron, 16th Cavalry Regiment, 316th and has 17 years of service.

His previous assignments include the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California; Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Knox, Kentucky; and Schofield Barracks, Hawaii as well as one combat deployment to Iraq.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragic event and extend our heartfelt condolences to the family of the deceased,” Garrett added.

Alabama Troopers are also investigating the crash. The Russell County Sheriff’s Office has been contacted for further comment.

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(File photo) U.S. Soldiers with Delta Company line up to take part in morning team development exercises November 7, 2002 in Fort Benning, Georgia. A Fort Benning soldier has been charged with reckless murder after his girlfriend’s five-year-old boy was run over in Alabama.
Barry Williams/Getty

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