Ziecha Norwillo is still grieving her late husband, Francis, a former soldier. Last year, Francis died will testing grenades that were 30-years-old. His widow and his coworker Michael Dougherty are now suing Purple Shovel, SkyBridge Tactical, SkyBridge Resources, Regulus Global LLC, and Regulus Global Inc. for the circumstances that led to his death. According to official documents, Purple Shovel is a logistics and construction company that the government contracted with to obtain firearms, equipment, and training. SkyBridge worked as a subcontractor.
Norwillo was testing rocket grenades in Bulgaria last June when one of the grenades unexpected exploded. Michael Dougherty was recording the test with his cell phone. When the grenade exploded, it killed Norwillo and injured Dougherty. The defendants named in the lawsuit were responsible for supplying the grenades and Norwillo believes they were aware of the age of the grenades when they ordered her husband and Dougherty to test them. The grenades should have been disposed of long before the tests because they had expired and had defective parts.
The US government knew that the grenades were expired and therefore did not allow troops to use them. The lawsuit says the grenades were labeled as “Defective, unstable, and dangerous”. However, the defendants knowingly still allowed Norwillo and Dougherty to test the weapons, without warning of potential risks. The lawsuit accuses the companies of 15 separate accounts including negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and wrongful death.
Norwillo said that the defendants purposefully lied and tried to cover up the facts surrounding her husband’s death. She said they grossly misrepresented the facts, adding to her distress. Norwillo and Dougherty are suing for medical bills, funeral costs, court and legal fees, emotional distress, and lost wages.
Prior to his death, Francis Norwillo served in the Navy for 11 years. He worked as a small arms ordinance technician for SEAL Team 8. His family remembers him as a loving father, a religious man, and a practical joker.
The Washington Post has given repeated coverage to the story, claiming that Purple Shovel was essentially attempting to arm Syrian rebels with grenades that were known to be defective. The company supposedly purchased the rocket-propelled grenades despite the fact that they were made in 1984 and clearly outdated and degraded.
Christopher Ligori, a personal injury attorney from Tampa, said this wrongful death case could take months or years to untangle. “There is much work ahead for attorneys on both sides of this lawsuit. The paper trail behind this cover-up is multi-faceted and the prosecutors will have a challenging task to prove their allegations. However, it is obvious that someone dropped the ball here and it led to an innocent man’s death. Someone ultimately will have to give an answer for that.”
The attorney for Purple Shovel has declined to give comments on the situation or the lawsuit. However, one attorney on the team did tell BuzzFeed that the reported findings are inaccurate, but the firm is not allowed to discuss details because of federal law that bars giving details about Defense contracts.