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Antelope Valley soldier among 6 killed in ambush by Afghan border police officer

December 2, 2010 |  6:50 pm

Matthew_ramsey Army Spc. Matthew Ramsey, 20, of Quartz Hill in the Antelope Valley was among six U.S. soldiers shot and killed Monday by an Afghan  police officer at an observation point near the Pakistani border.

The lone gunman fired at five of the six, including Ramsey, from behind as they were gathered together at an observation point in eastern Afghanistan's Nangarhar province, said Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell, commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Ft. Campbell, Ky.

All six soldiers were assigned to the 101st Airborne's 1st Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team.

On Thursday, Campbell spoke about the shooting at a news conference at Ft. Campbell. The Times obtained a recording of the news conference from base officials.

Campbell said the incident took place during "a routine mission where the guys were going out on patrol with their partners."

"They had some tea and were getting ready for some firing," Campbell said. "The first round impacted. To the best of my knowledge, once it impacted that were making some adjustments and the lone ABP [Afghan border patrolman] fired at them, instantly killed five, then turned to where the platoon leader and the platoon sergeant were and shot the platoon sergeant."

At that point, other soldiers shot and killed the gunman.

"The whole thing was maybe five or 10 seconds in duration," Campbell said.

In addition to Ramsey, also killed were Pfc. Jacob A. Gassen, 21, of Beaver Dam, Wis.; Sgt. 1st Class Barry E. Jarvis, 36, of Tell City, Ind.; Pvt. Buddy W. McLain, 24, of Mexico, Maine; Staff Sgt. Curtis A. Oakes, 29, of Athens, Ohio; and Pfc. Austin G. Staggs, 19, of Senoia, Ga.

Campbell said military investigators at this point believe the gunman acted alone. He had been a member of the border patrol for nearly three years and had been at the location where the attack took place for three or four months.

"I don't usually get emotionally drained,  but I tell you sitting down in that platoon it was emotionally draining," Campbell said Wednesday, "but I felt so good coming out of there because of their spirit."

He said the platoon's young leader told his soldiers he was eager to continue to work with their Afghan counterparts.

"Before I even got there, he was telling his guys the future of this thing is we've got to continue to partner. We can't let one lone gunman turn this thing around," Campbell said.

Ramsey is survived by his wife, Mirella; a son, Zachary; and his parents, Wayne and Melissa Cochran, who live in Quartz Hill, an unincorporated community of about 9,000 residents.

Readers are invited to share memories about Ramsey on his memorial page on The Times' California's War Dead database.

-- Megan Garvey

Photo: Army Spc. Matthew Ramsey

Credit: Ft. Campbell, Ky.