A spokeswoman for the family of Greg Gordon, the Schofield Barracks soldier shot and killed by Honolulu police officers after he rammed cars in Waikiki last week, said the family believes his heavy drinking and other behavior resulted from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Officers shot Gordon on Jan. 15 as he tried to flee police on Ala Wai Boulevard, using the Dodge Ram truck he was driving to ram, several times, police vehicles that had boxed him in. Three officers were hospitalized with minor injuries. Witnesses said the truck's tires had been shot out as it proceeded up Kuhio Avenue and Lewers Street, before officers fired upon Gordon.
Police said Gordon had a blood alcohol level of .196, nearly 2 1/2 times the legal limit for driving.
Family spokeswoman Amanda Cureton said Gordon was to have been discharged from the Army next month.
Cureton, speaking from her home in Dothan, Ala., next to Gordon's hometown of Ashford, said she is best friends with Greg Gordon's aunt and that they would often baby-sit the five Gordon boys when they were children.
A positive and "sweet" person when he left Alabama after high school, Gordon turned to drinking and had nightmares after his nine-month tour in Afghanistan during 2011-12, Cureton said.
"If somebody needed money, he was always the first one to give; he was not selfish," Cureton said. "He was just a great guy, and everybody loved him."
Although she had not seen him since just before he left for Afghanistan, his postings and communications on Facebook and her conversations with his family indicated a changed man, Cureton said.
"When he came home from Afghanistan, he came home a different person," Cureton said. "It had done something to him. We believe he was suffering from PTSD. His mom said he would call her crying, and told her that he couldn't get over the nightmares. That was just out of character."
He was drinking constantly, and about a month ago was hospitalized for alcohol poisoning, she said.
"He told friends that he had to kill people and he couldn't handle it," she said.
Cureton said Gordon was to have been discharged in the coming weeks. He went to see a military counselor but not a psychiatrist, she said, and the family believes he should have received more help, she said.
The 25th Infantry Division said Gordon was a fire support specialist with the 3rd Squadron, 4th Calvary Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team stationed at Schofield. He joined the Army in April 2010 and was deployed to Afghanistan in April 2011. He returned in January 2012.
His awards included the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, the Global War on Terrorism Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.
The family believes that police could have used nonlethal means to subdue him in Waikiki, Cureton said.
Police initiated an internal investigation. Police said indications are that the officers responded appropriately in a situation that placed officers and the public in danger.
The family believes that when HPD surrounded him, Gordon's military past kicked in. "It was, more or less, fight or flight, and he chose to fight," Cureton said. The family wants to know why a bar would serve him if he were already intoxicated, she said.
Gordon was the father of a 1-year-old boy, and while he and the boy's mother were no longer a couple, the woman and the child are living with and being supported by his family, Cureton said.
Gordon loved the military and took his job seriously, Cureton said. A service for him will be held at the Ashford High School gymnasium because many are expected to pay their respects, she said.
"We don't know why he'd done that," Cureton said of the actions that led to his death. "But we want people to know we considered him our hero. He was a war hero, he fought for our country, for our freedom and for us to go to bed at night and sleep safely," she said. "He was a father, a brother and a son, and he was loved by everyone that knew him."