14 News Exclusive: U.S. Army Special Forces react to Lindh release

14 News Exclusive: U.S. Army Special Forces react to Lindh release
Updated: May. 23, 2019 at 5:40 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - “I think it’s insane for an early release because John Walker Lindh, he trained to be a Jihadist,” says Dave Betz with U.S. Army Special Forces.

A 14 News Exclusive, an Evansville man, who helped capture Lindh, is outraged as the man known as the “American Taliban,” walked free from federal prison Thursday. Lindh walked out of the federal prison in Terre Haute after more than 17 years behind bars, three years early for good behavior.

We sat down with a U.S. Army Special Forces veteran who was instrumental in Lindh’s capture.

Lindh was the first U.S. born detainee in the “War on Terrorism.” In 2002, he pleaded guilty to 10 charges including supplying services to the Taliban and carrying an explosive during the commission of a felony.

On Thursday, an Evansville man who served in that special forces unit that captured him tells us Lindh had fallen off his radar until learning the Jihadist would be set free.

“That says it all," Dave Bets explains. "I really don’t enjoy coming to places like this too much.”

A first look at the War Memorial on the Owensboro Riverfront brings back emotional memories for Betz of his years in the U.S. Army Special Forces. One mission in particular resonates.

In 2001, Betz’s Special Forces unit captured the California man on an Afghanistan battlefield.

Lindh tried to kill Betz and fellow Americans at the Battle of Qala-i-Jangi.

"He could have easily surrendered,” says Betz.

But he did not, and CIA officer Mike Spann became the first American killed in the War on Terror. Betz tells us he was the last to see Spann alive and made it his mission to bring his body home.

“That was my mission, and I failed my mission and ended up being severely wounded over it,” says Betz.

It is Spann’s family Betz feels the most compassion for as those he left behind are forced to relive his death. U.S. officials say Lindh, now 38 years old, could still be a potentially violent extremist.

“I just think they should just kind of slow down and do a little bit more investigating,” says Betz.

As for what is next for Lindh, he will be under strict probation terms for three years.

On Tuesday, Spann’s daughter Alison sent a letter to President Trump asking for Lindh’s early release to be stopped, writing that it feels like a slap in the face. She says Lindh is not a reformed prisoner following reports that he has continued to “advocate for global jihad.”

Copyright 2019 WFIE. All rights reserved.