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Suspect's neighbours tell of shock

Afghan shooting suspect Robert Bales' neighbourhood was the centre of a media frenzy after the US Army staff sergeant was finally identified.

Reporters converged on the rural community of Lake Tapps, in Washington state, about 20 miles north east of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the home of Bales' infantry division.

Kassie Holland, who lives next door, said she would often see Bales playing with his two children 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 towards it."

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 Lewis-McChord and has been dispatched to Iraq three times since 2003.

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

"I kind of sympathise 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."

Bales and his wife purchased the Lake Tapps home in 2005, according to records. The home was placed on the market on Monday, the day after the attack, and was listed at 229,000 dollars. Overflowing boxes were piled on the front porch and a US flag leaned against the siding.

"I just can't believe Bob's the guy who did this," said Paul Wohlberg, a next-door neighbour 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."

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