Marine May Have Died After “Trust Game,” Sources Say

19-Year-Old Suffered Self-Inflicted Gunshot Wound

A 19-year-old Marine from South Dakota who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head may have been playing a so-called "trust game" Friday evening, sources close to the investigation said.

Lance Cpl. Cody Scott Schoenfelder died Saturday morning after the shooting inside the Marine Barracks in southeast Washington about 6:45 p.m. Friday, the U.S. Marine Corps confirmed Monday.

News4 Washington confirmed that another Marine was present at the time of the shooting. They were on guard duty in one of the guard shacks at the barracks. Schoenfelder may have been attempting to demonstrate how a 9 mm handgun could be prevented from firing even if the trigger was pulled, NBC News reported.

Now, investigators are looking into whether the shooting was part of a trust game, sources told News4.

Several published reports have described trust games in which Marines dare each other to risk dangerous stunts.

“There’s several variations of the trust game that we’ve written about in the past,” Marine Corps Times Senior Editor Dan Lamothe said. “The most common one involves one Marine pointing a pistol at another Marine and asking ‘Do you trust me?’ and then pulling the trigger. It doesn’t seem clear what happened here yet, especially because they are reporting it was self-inflicted.”

There’s not supposed to be a round in the chamber of the weapon. But in 2009, Marine Cpl. Mathew Nelson was sentenced to eight years for killing a fellow Marine during a trust game.

In March 2009, Nelson played the game with two Marines, shooting and killing the second, Lance Cpl. Patrick Malone. That investigation uncovered several incidents of the game in that platoon, though Malone was the only fatality.

At least two other soldiers' deaths have been linked to trust games, according to Trista Talton, who covered the case for the Marine Corps Times. She cited the 1997 death of a lance corporal in Okinawa after other Marines dropped him from the third story of his barracks and the 2007 death of a soldier shot and killed by his best friend, a Kentucky National Guardsman.

Schoenfelder, of Huron, S.D., was a decorated infantry rifleman, having received the National Defense Service Medal and Global War on Terror Service Medal.   

“Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family and loved ones of Lance Corporal Schoenfelder, as we mourn the loss of one of our Marines,” read a statement from the Marines.

The case is being investigated by D.C. police and Marine Barracks Washington, D.C. as an accidental, self-inflicted gunshot wound.


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