Army investigators arrested a comrade in the murder of specialist Vanessa Guillén just hours after her remains were found, but a series of missteps allowed the soldier to flee and then shoot himself fatally, according to one. military report released on Friday that examined what was wrong. the high-profile murder investigation.
The revelation is part of a detailed report on the response to the murder, which rocked the military and sparked a call for increased accountability. Among the findings are findings that specialist Guillen was sexually harassed, but not by the soldier who the military said killed her, and that the alleged murderer was also charged with unrelated sexual harassment. .
In both cases, the report concludes, leaders did not respond appropriately. In response, the military announced Friday that it has punished 21 soldiers and officers who failed to act.
“It has been devastating for all of us,” Major-General Gene LeBoeuf said in a phone call with reporters. “As an army, we failed to protect Vanessa Guillén.”
Specialist Guillén, 20, was working at an armory in Fort Hood on April 22, 2020, when, according to a federal complaint, specialist Aaron Robinson, 20, clubbed her with a hammer, removed her body from the post in a large crate. , then dismembered and burned its remains. Army officials declined to discuss possible motives on Friday.
Family specialist Guillén said she had previously expressed concerns about sexual harassment in the workplace, but never officially reported them. Army investigators said they found no evidence of sexual harassment.
Specialist Guillén 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, his remains were found near the Leon River in Bell County, Texas.
Specialist Robinson was arrested by the military shortly after, but escaped and hours later committed suicide in front of the police. Authorities accused his former girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar, of helping to hide the body and obstructing the investigation.
The military report released on Friday first exposes the final hours of Specialist Robinson’s life and the missteps that allowed him to escape.
At around 5 p.m. on June 30, hours after workers discovered the remains of Specialist Guillén in a shallow, cement-covered grave, an officer from the Army’s Criminal Investigations Command called Specialist Robinson’s unit and their said to place the soldier under strict surveillance.
The soldier’s commander said he was being held for breaking Covid-19 quarantine rules and placed him in a conference room with an unarmed soldier guarding the door. He appeared relaxed, according to the report, but while upset to be detained, he spent much of his time playing video games.
Authorities let specialist Robinson keep his cell phone, which they were monitoring.
After a few hours, commanders learned new information that made them fear Specialist Robinson was trying to flee, according to the report. One officer said in a texting chain that if he tried to escape, the guards were to “go after his ass and call the deputies.” Private Guard specialist Robinson did not get the message, the report said.
Just after 10 p.m. Specialist Robinson received a phone call that appeared to be from his mother. “Don’t believe what you hear about me,” heard a guard. A few minutes after the call, Specialist Robinson fled through the door.
Three hours later, the military and civilian police found Specialist Robinson in the town of Killeen, just outside the gates of Fort Hood. When confronted, the soldier drew a gun and committed suicide.
During Friday’s phone call, Major General LeBoeuf said he could not comment on Specialist Robinson’s escape, saying it was part of an ongoing criminal investigation. The military report revealed that a communication breakdown between the soldier’s unit and criminal investigation officers allowed him to escape.
The death of specialist Guillén sparked a wave of anger and frustration that echoed protests against 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 have started posting their stories with the hashtag “#IAmVanessaGuillen”. Celebrities and politicians quickly joined the cause.
Questions surrounding the soldier’s death forced the military to assess how the force reacts to reports of harassment and violence.
In December, a major climate and cultural survey at Fort Hood, where dozens of soldiers have died from homicide and suicide over the past five years, found “major flaws” that have left women “vulnerable and vulnerable.” prey, but fearing to report and to be ostracized and revictimized. “
The murders and the problems exposed have prompted Congress to introduce sweeping reform bills targeting the military justice system. A bill, named after specialist Guillén, would make sexual harassment a crime in the military; another would remove commanders from the role of prosecuting sexual assault cases, instead placing them in the hands of independent military lawyers.
Congress is also considering proposals that would overhaul the Army’s Criminal Investigations Command, giving it independent civilian leadership and transferring the tasks of enlisted apprentice officers to more experienced civilian investigators.