Soldier who shot herself in standoff is identified
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Aug 29, 2014, 12:16
CAITLIN DAVIS/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Entrances to Fort Lee were closed Monday morning after a soldier barricaded herself in a room and shot herself.
FORT LEE — Chaos fell on the Fort Lee army base early Monday morning when a female soldier barricaded herself in an office building. The soldier then turned the gun on herself and later that day, succumbed to her injuries.
The soldier has been identified as Sgt. 1st Class Paula Walker, 33, a human resources specialist. Walker had been stationed at the base since December of 2011. Walker, whose hometown is in Yonkers, N.Y., was on active duty for almost 14 years.
At approximately 8:45 a.m., Walker, armed with a small caliber, non-service weapon, barricaded herself on the third floor of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Support Command building, as reported in a press conference by Maj. Gen. Stephen Lyons, the commanding general at Fort Lee.
Civilians, as well as soldiers, either sheltered in place or evacuated as directed, Lyons said. Law enforcement was notified of the incident and the post was immediately locked down.
“Fort Lee Police responded within two minutes and they quickly established contact with the particular individual and established a dialogue,” Lyons said Monday.
Lyons said she “went into a rampage” of which he indicated her actions were irate and she threw things around the office once she had barricaded herself inside.
At some point during the negotiations, of which Lyons did not provide much detail but said the whole incident lasted about an hour, Walker decided the turn the weapon on herself. No other injuries were reported.
“When I talked to law enforcement on scene, they thought they had achieved a calm level of negotiations only to find out that was not the case,” he said.
Lyons declined to comment on what may have caused Walker to resort to the events that unfolded on Monday morning.
Walker enlisted in the Army in September of 2000. Prior to her time at Fort Lee, Walker served at Fort Devens, Mass., starting in 2010, Fort Eustis, starting in 2006, and other installations, according to Fort Lee. Walker also served a 15-month deployment in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2007 to 2008.
Walker was also a decorated soldier, with three Army Commendation Medals, four Army Achievement Medals, one Joint Meritorious Unit Award and four Army Good Conduct Medals.
“We are sad for our soldier in arms that she faced those kinds of challenges that she thought she thought she had to resort to those kinds of actions,” Lyons said. “At the same time we’re equally grateful because this situation could have been worse.”
The all clear was given on base at 9:50 a.m. and normal operations began on post. Walker was transported to Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center in Richmond and was pronounced dead at 10:16 a.m.
“The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command is investigating the incident. Fort Lee officials take this incident very seriously and are fully cooperating with the investigation,” a press release from the base states.
Although during the press conference on Monday morning, Lyons was not aware of the condition of Walker, the thoughts and prayers from those on base and in the military community remained just as strong.
“We’re going to keep her in our prayers,” Lyons said. “She’s a soldier. She’s one of our teammates.”
In a message to those on post Wednesday, Lyons said Fort Lee is committed keeping the workplace safe and to addressing mental health issues.
“I assure you we are committed to a safe and secure work environment and we will take every opportunity to improve based on what we learn from this event. We are also committed to a review of our programs, procedures, and technology to enhance workforce protection,” he wrote.
“I would encourage all of us to redouble our efforts to remain personally engaged with those we work with. In the highest performing organizations co-workers are like extended family. We all need to know the signs of risk and be willing to take appropriate action. In addition, I ask your support in encouraging our teammates that seeking behavioral health assistance is a sign of strength.”