WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 — The former Blackwater USA employee who is the sole suspect in the killing last Christmas Eve of a bodyguard for an Iraqi vice president is a 27-year-old former Army paratrooper from Montana who now lives in Seattle, where he spends much of his time renovating his small home.
The former employee, Andrew J. Moonen, is identified in numerous government and company documents and is known to scores of Blackwater and government officials, but Congress, the State Department and the company have been keeping his identity confidential.
In an interview on Tuesday evening, Mr. Moonen declined to discuss the episode, in which, American and Iraqi officials say, a Blackwater worker who had been drinking heavily got into a confrontation with a bodyguard to Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi and shot him three times. The guard, Raheem Khalif, died early the next day at an American military hospital.
Mr. Moonen, who appeared composed during the interview, said that he had been following closely the flurry of recent news about Blackwater in Iraq, including the Sept. 16 shooting that left 17 Iraqis dead. On Tuesday, the company’s founder, Erik D. Prince, testified before a Congressional committee about the Christmas Eve shooting and other lethal episodes involving Blackwater guards.
Mr. Moonen said the situation made him uneasy. “There’s a lot of dust being kicked up, and I’ll be glad when it settles,” he said.
Mr. Moonen’s father, Alvin Moonen of Kalispell, Mont., where Andrew and his seven brothers and two sisters grew up, said that his son did not speak about his duties in the military or at Blackwater. “He said he was in the 82nd Airborne and that’s all he told me,” the father said in an interview on Tuesday. “He wouldn’t tell me anything.”
Asked about the accusations that his son was involved in the fatal shooting last December, Mr. Moonen’s voice fell. “They train these guys like they do and then they’re surprised?” he said.
More than nine months after the shooting, no charges have been brought. But there is an active investigation of the case in Seattle, an F.B.I. official said, although there is some question about what statutes apply to events occurring overseas and in a war zone.
The case has had wide reverberations from Baghdad to Washington. Iraqi officials have labeled the killing “murder” and say it is a textbook example of the way foreign contractors operate with impunity in their country.
The State Department, which employs Blackwater under a multibillion-dollar contract spread among three companies to provide security for its diplomats in Iraq, hoped to keep the case quiet by helping Blackwater to take Mr. Moonen out of Iraq and by paying the slain guard’s family $20,000 in cash. But the episode has become one of the central exhibits in numerous investigations by Congress, the Justice Department and Iraqi authorities into the operations of Blackwater and 170 other private security contractors working in Iraq.
Within hours of the Christmas Eve shooting, Blackwater officials ended Mr. Moonen’s employment, citing a “blatant and egregious” violation of company policy against possessing a firearm while drunk. Without naming the suspect in the shooting, Mr. Prince said on Tuesday that the company had dismissed him, fined him thousands of dollars and immediately shipped him out of the country. “We can’t flog him; we can’t incarcerate him,” Mr. Prince said. “That’s up to the Justice Department.”
They made him pay his own airfare home and forfeit his $3,000 Christmas bonus. Mr. Prince said that Blackwater paid $20,000 in compensation to the victim’s family, correcting earlier accounts that had put the sum at $15,000.
Mr. Moonen acknowledged that he had served in Baghdad, which he described as “scary,” particularly for a Westerner who found himself alone and isolated in the city. He did not explain why he felt isolated while serving as one of nearly 1,000 Blackwater security agents in Iraq and living in a secure compound in the Green Zone.
Stewart P. Riley, a Seattle lawyer, confirmed that he was representing Mr. Moonen in the investigation into the Baghdad shooting. He said that he had been in contact with federal prosecutors, but cautioned that no charges had been brought and that none may ever be brought.
“Everyone’s rushing to judgment in this case, and they’ve forgotten about the presumption of innocence and it’s a shame,” Mr. Riley said.
Mr. Moonen served in the 82nd Airborne Division from April 2002 to April 2005, according to Army personnel records. He served a seven-month deployment in Iraq, from September 2003 until early April 2004. Army records indicate that he was honorably discharged, but do not show any special medals or commendations.
Mr. Moonen’s family members revealed little about him, referring most questions to his lawyer in Seattle. But according to public records, he was granted a divorce in North Carolina in December 2004 from a woman who appears to live in the Seattle area. She could not be reached.
Washington State court records indicate that Mr. Moonen received six traffic citations between April 2001 and September 2007. An employee of the sheriff’s department in Kalispell said that Mr. Moonen was picked up on a juvenile misdemeanor charge when he was 16, but that records of the case were sealed.
A Blackwater spokeswoman, Anne Tyrrell, would not confirm or deny that Mr. Moonen had ever worked for the company. “I will not give you any information about any current or former employees, period,” she said.
A padlocked chain-link fence surrounds Mr. Moonen’s modest Seattle home, in a working-class neighborhood near the sprawling Boeing Company complex. Mr. Moonen is installing green siding and performing other renovations with the help of some of his brothers, he said. “It helps to have a big family,” he said.
He said that he installed the fence to prevent the theft of building materials, and he keeps it tightly locked even when he is at home. After chatting for a few minutes, he handed a reporter a sheet of paper with his lawyer’s name and telephone number and went back in the house.
J. Michael Kennedy contributed reporting from Seattle, Jim Robbins from Kalispell, Mont., and Barclay Walsh from Washington.