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Shock to neighbors of soldier in Afghanistan massacre case

Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians, has been deployed three times to Iraq where officials say he suffered a traumatic head injury. NBC's Miguel Almaguer reports.

Neighbors of the Army staff sergeant accused of shooting to death 16 civilians in Afghanistan expressed disbelief Friday after he was identified by U.S. officials.

Reporters swarmed Staff Sgt. Robert Bales' neighborhood along Lake Tapps, a reservoir about 20 miles northeast of the military base in Washington state where he was based. Bales lived there with his wife and two children.

Bales, who was identified by U.S. officials on Friday, has not been charged with a crime. Military officials said he arrived at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., on Friday night.

Pierce County records show that Robert and Karilyn Bales bought their house in the Lake Tapps area in 2005, the Seattle Times reported.

"I just can't believe Bob's the guy who did this," said Paul Wohlberg, a next-door neighbor who said his family was friends with the Bales. "A good guy got put in the wrong place at the wrong time ... I never thought something like this would happen to him."

Kassie Holland, who lives next door, said she would often see Bales playing with his two kids and the family together at the modern split-level home.

"My reaction is that I'm shocked," she said. "I can't believe it was him. There were no signs. It's really sad. I don't want to believe that he did it."

"He always had a good attitude about being in the service. He was never really angry about it. When I heard him talk, he said, it seemed like, 'yeah, that's my job. That's what I do.' He never expressed a lot of emotion toward it."

Soldier suspected in Afghanistan massacre is identified

Military officials say the soldier received sniper training and is assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, of the 2nd Infantry Division, which is based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and has been dispatched to Iraq three times since 2003.

Bales, a native of Ohio, has been based at Lewis-McChord his entire career. Bales’ wife is said to be an executive at a Seattle-area company.

The family was moved onto the base for their own protection, and Bales' civilian attorney said they would remain there for the forseeable future.

Beau Britt, who lives across the street, said: "For something like that to be right across the street from us is just amazing."

"I kind of sympathize for him, being gone, being sent over there four times. I can understand he's probably quite wracked mentally, so I just hope that things are justified in court. I hope it goes OK."

This article includes reporting by NBC News, msnbc.com staff and The Associated Press.

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