San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)
Army disciplines 21 at Fort Hood in soldier’s death
Army investigators detained a fellow soldier in the killing of Spc. Vanessa Guillen just hours after her remains were found, but a series of missteps allowed the soldier to flee, then fatally shoot himself, according to an Army report that examined what went wrong in the highprofile investigation.
The revelation is part of a detailed report into the response to the killing, which has rocked the Army and led to calls for increased accountability. Among the findings are that Guillen had been sexually harassed, but not by the soldier who the Army believes killed her, and that the suspected killer had also been accused of unrelated sexual harassment.
In both cases, the report concludes, leaders did not respond appropriately. In response, the Army announced Friday, it has punished 21 soldiers and officers who failed to act.
“It was devastating to all of us,” Maj. Gen. Gene LeBoeuf said in a phone call with reporters. “We as an Army failed to protect Vanessa Guillen.”
Guillen, 20, was working at an armory at Fort Hood on April 22, 2020, when, according to a federal complaint, Spc. Aaron Robinson, 20, bludgeoned her with a hammer, removed her body from the post in a cargo box, and then dismembered and burned her remains. On Friday, Army leaders declined to discuss possible motives.
Guillen was reported missing the next day. Thousands of soldiers searched for her in buildings, barracks, fields and training areas at Fort Hood. On June 30, her remains were found near the Leon River in Bell County, Texas.
Robinson was detained by the Army a short time later but escaped and shot himself when confronted by police. Authorities have charged his former girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar, with helping to hide the body and impeding the investigation.
The Army report lays out for the first time the last hours of Robinson’s life and the missteps that allowed him to escape.
In the phone call Friday, LeBoeuf said he could not comment on Robinson’s escape, saying it was part of a criminal investigation. The Army report found that a breakdown in communication between the soldier’s unit and criminal investigation agents allowed him to flee.
The death of Guillen caused an outpouring of anger and frustration that echoed the protests over the death of George Floyd and the #MeToo movement. Soldiers angry at what they say is a pervasive atmosphere of sexual harassment and assault in the military began posting their stories with the hashtag “#IAmVanessaGuillen.”
The killing and the problems it laid bare have prompted Congress to introduce sweeping reform bills aimed at the military justice system.