Sergeant Melgar, a graduate of Texas Tech University who joined the Army in 2012, was assigned to the Third Special Forces Group, based at Fort Bragg, N.C., the same unit whose soldiers were attacked by a much larger and heavily armed group of Islamic State fighters near the border between Niger and Mali in October 2017.
According to military officials, Sergeant Melgar was part of a small team in Bamako that was assigned to help provide intelligence about Islamic militancies in Mali to the United States ambassador there, Paul A. Folmsbee, to protect American personnel against attacks. The sergeant also helped assess which Malian Army troops might be trained and equipped to build a counterterrorism force.
Sergeant Melgar, a native of Lubbock, Tex., was about four months into what military officials said was a six-month tour in Mali.
The Navy SEALs were in the country on a clandestine mission to support French and Malian counterterrorism forces battling Al Qaeda’s branch in North and West Africa, known as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, as well as smaller cells aligned with Al Qaeda or the Islamic State. The Americans helped provide intelligence for missions, and had participated in at least two such operations in Mali before Sergeant Melgar’s death.
During that period in Mali, tensions grew between Sergeant Melgar and the other commandos.
The two Navy SEALs were under scrutiny in the theft of money from a fund used to pay confidential informants. An American service member who knew Sergeant Melgar said he was under the impression that the sergeant had stumbled on the money-skimming scheme and reported it to the authorities, angering the Navy commandos. Sergeant Melgar’s suspicions were first reported in The Daily Beast.
At about 5 a.m. on June 4, after planning their assault, the four commandos confronted Sergeant Melgar at the team house, according to military investigators. After restraining the sergeant with duct tape, military investigators said, Petty Officer DeDolph, a former professional mixed martial arts fighter, put Sergeant Melgar into a chokehold.