FRANKFURT, Germany — A U.S. airman who survived a fatal shooting by a radicalized Islamist who killed two fellow servicemen in Germany told a court Monday how 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 who has confessed to the attack, began shooting. Brewer was unhurt when Uka's 9mm pistol jammed due to a defective cartridge.
He told the court that he had ducked behind his seat when he heard the shots ring out. He could only see the gunman's legs as he approached through the bus.
"When I looked up, the pistol was in my face. I heard the words 'Allahu Akbar' and the pistol went 'click,'" Brewer said.
Uka is charged with two counts of 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.
He confessed to the attacks as his trial opened in August, saying that the night before the crime he had seen a video posted on Facebook that purported to show American soldiers raping a teenage Muslim girl. It turned out to be a scene from the 2007 anti-war Brian De Palma film "Redacted," taken out of context.
Uka has told the court that the video prompted him to try and do anything possible to prevent more 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.
Brewer, a native of Gray, Tennessee, testified that as he stood face to face with the gunman he saw "hate in his eyes."
"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 then fled, and Brewer gave chase, but slipped and fell behind. He ran into the airport and watched police take Uka into custody.
"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."
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 the three counts of attempted murder for wounding airmen Kristoffer Schneider and Edgar Veguilla, and for taking aim at Brewer. Schneider was shot in the head and lost the sight of his right eye. Veguilla was shot in the jaw, abdomen and elbow.
The airmen were on their way to deployment in Afghanistan from a base in Lakenheath, Britain. They were out of uniform, but recognizable as military personnel from their camouflage bags and short haircuts. Their weapons were unloaded and locked in cases.
German investigators say Uka was a lone attacker who had become radicalized by reading and watching Islamist propaganda on the Internet.Comment on this story
Alden left behind a wife and two small children.
Airman Cuddeback's father, Robert Cuddeback of Millerton, New York, sat as co-complainant at the prosecution table, as allowed under German law. An Army veteran who served in Germany, the elder Cuddeback wore the Gold Star pin given to parents of fallen military personnel in his lapel, along with an American flag.
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 three service members" and that the airmen were "brave men, men of honor, and the shooter was a coward, attacking unarmed men."