13 Investigates


NEW DEVELOPMENTS: Charges filed in military death mystery

Posted at 6:36 AM, Oct 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-15 11:02:44-04

LA VEGAS (KTNV) — A military service member has been charged in connection with the shooting death of a Navy medic on the Twentynine Palms military base.

Other service members could be facing charges, too.

As we reported in November, the medic's death was first called a suicide, but family and close friends always believed he'd been killed by someone else.

Jose and Sandra De Leon were overcome when they learned a service member has been charged and others are being investigated in connection with the death of their son, 30-year-old Navy Corpsman Michael Vincent De Leon.

Speaking with our sister station in San Diego, the couple shared the sense of loss they feel to this day.

"Sometimes I just listen to his recordings... Just to hear his voice," said Sandra as she tried to hold back tears.

Now, the grieving parents finally see the case moving forward.

A Marine spokesperson confirmed that one person has been charged with dereliction of duty resulting in death.

A hearing has not yet been set.

De Leon's parents first contacted our San Diego sister station for help after claiming the military stonewalled them from getting answers about their son's death.

A source with close military ties said Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) confirmed the shooting death was being investigated as a homicide and not a suicide like his parents said they were led to believe.

"The phone call from that residence using my son's phone was that it was a suicide," Jose said.

And that's what led to speculation of a cover-up.

"When the family was initially told that this was suicide, when you heard that, what was your reaction?" Darcy Spears asked Navy veteran Christopher Bastean, a long-time friend of the De Leon family.

"No. It's not suicide," Bastean said. "That's not Michael."

Bastean, who lives here in Las Vegas, served alongside HM3 De Leon.

"That was my friend. Someone I served with. That I would go hand in hand with."

Calling him a military brother and close personal friend, Bastean says Michael would never take his own life.

"Inside my gut I knew. I knew. That "S" word was not real. That was not real at all."

Bastean has been working with Michael's parents in a quest for justice since the couple learned of their son's death last summer.

"It's been hard for them. They just want accountability. They want accountability and they want answers. Don't put somebody in the dark like that! Tell them! They need to know. It's their son!"

Jose De Leon said prosecutors told him the service member charged in connection with his son's death is also a Navy corpsmen -- a type of medic -- who was at a house party on-base with Michael and other corpsmen.

De Leon said prosecutors also told him that some of those corpsmen are likely facing upcoming charges.

"And we know that the firearm was dry-fired at Michael, the firearm was put away and it came out again. And according to some statements, they were horsing around and the firearm come out again and that's when Michael was killed."

"These men need to be held accountable for what they did, for their actions, for their lack of courage, for their lack of honor," said Sandra.

Bastean can't make sense of the actions that reportedly surrounded Michael's death.

"You know your rules! You treat it like it's loaded at all times! You don't point a weapon at somebody you don't intend to shoot! Those are basic foundations that cause you to be responsible for your actions!"

De Leon echoes that, saying "They're trained in firearms and in trauma response. They knew better."

NCIS is not providing any details. A spokesperson reported the investigation is still open.

The good news in all of this is that the long wait has not been in vain," Jose said.

A Marine spokesperson said they are not giving out the names or ranks of those who may have been involved, or what punishment they could face if convicted.

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