Missouri National Guard Releases Looting Records from Joplin Tornado

The Missouri National Guard has released records confirming that four soldiers were disciplined for taking merchandise from the ruins of a Wal-Mart store in Joplin one day after the tornado that devastated the city a year ago.

The names of the soldiers were redacted from the records released to the Globe by the Guard on Tuesday. They are identified only as three specialists and a sergeant who were part of a team of 16 soldiers assigned to look for survivors and assist in recovery operations on May 23, 2011, at the Wal-Mart store at 1501 S. Range Line Road.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported last week that the Guard did not respond to an open-records request for details about purported post-tornado looting by Guard members.

Brig. Gen. Randy Alewel, commander of the 35th Engineer Brigade, had acknowledged that members of his unit took items after the tornado that claimed 161 lives and wiped out thousands of homes and businesses in Joplin. But Alewel had not provided any further details.

While the Guard is exempted from the Missouri Sunshine Law, Maj. Tammy Spicer said last week that the Guard seeks to provide “the maximum amount of information allowed under the laws that we follow.”

The 13 pages of memorandums released Tuesday reveal that an internal investigation determined that the soldiers took merchandise under the impression that it was going to be discarded by Wal-Mart.

Two specialists took hand-held Nintendo video game players valued at $138 and $169, according to the memos. A third specialist took a Kodak Easyshare camera priced at about $115. The sergeant took a notebook-size Nintendo video game player, some Xbox games and a headset, with an estimated combined retail value of $354.

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