3 military lives shattered by tragic shooting
By HEATH DRUZIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 1, 2016
WASHINGTON — A Marine veteran, a wounded warrior caregiver and an Iraq veteran: Three lives intimately connected to the military collided tragically Saturday in a deadly shooting that left two women dead and a soldier charged with murder.
Hundreds of people gathered Tuesday for the funeral of police officer Ashley Guindon, a former Marine reservist. Friends and family of Guindon and the second victim, Crystal Hamilton, who worked with wounded Marines, described the two women as dedicated to service.
Police say both were shot to death Saturday by Hamilton’s husband, Army Staff Sgt. Ronald Hamilton, in Woodbridge, Va. Two other police officers were wounded.
Guindon, 28, was working her first shift as a Prince William County police officer. She was responding to a domestic dispute at the Hamiltons’ home when the gunman ambushed her and fellow officers.
Police found Crystal Hamilton, 29, shot to death and arrested Ronald Hamilton, 32, who works at the Pentagon. The Hamiltons’ 11-year-old son was in the house earlier, but was unharmed.
Ronald Hamilton is charged with multiple felonies, including two counts of murder, and could face the death penalty.
For Guindon, joining the Marines and law enforcement might have been influenced by her father, David.
Her grandmother, Dorothy Guindon, said in a phone interview with Stars and Stripes that he had wanted to join law enforcement but injuries from a car accident had prevented him. He joined the New Hampshire Air National Guard and served in Iraq in 2004.
Several of his colleagues were killed during the deployment and, overwhelmed by his wartime experiences, he took his life the day he returned home.
“Maybe she was fulfilling her father’s dream,” Dorothy Guindon said.
Ashley Guindon grew up in Merrimack, N.H., a shy girl who became a cheerleader and member of ROTC in high school, her grandmother said.
“She was really bubbly and fun,” she said.
After high school, Guindon joined the Marine Reserves in 2007 and attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, where she earned a degree in aeronautical science. She went on to earn a master’s degree in forensic science from George Washington University.
In the reserves, she assisted the Marine Corps Mortuary Affairs Office, which brings home the remains of troops killed at war.
She also worked with a suicide prevention program, according to a biography provided by the police department.
Even in her short time as an officer, she made an impression, according to a statement from the Prince William County Police Department.
“Known as a bright, ambitious and kind-hearted ‘fashionista’ by those who knew her best, Ashley loved dancing, reading and traveling,” the statement said. “The only thing that rivaled her fascination of birds and nature was her love for her furry best friend, her pet pug Scout.”
‘Loving and nurturing’
Crystal Hamilton, too, was deeply intertwined with military life. In addition to being married to an active-duty soldier, she worked as a recovery care coordinator at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., helping wounded Marines and sailors develop a plan to return to service or transition to civilian life.
Frank Blankemeyer, the manager of the recovery care coordinator program for the Marines Wounded Warrior Regiment, said Hamilton “fit the profile perfectly” for helping wounded warriors at what is often the most difficult point of their careers.
“She was caring and loving and nurturing, and that’s what you need to be in this time for these Marines and sailors,” he said. “She was able to guide them down the path they needed to go.”
Hamilton began her work with wounded troops manning a 24/7 call desk, answering questions ranging from how to find counseling to how to apply for benefits, said Victoria Long, a spokeswoman for the Wounded Warrior Regiment.
“She was a devoted mom and so proud of her son, and that probably is what made her such a great recovery coordinator,” Long said. “Some of the Marines have family by their bedsides immediately, but some of them don’t. The recovery coordinator becomes their family.”
Blankemeyer said Hamilton’s death has been a blow to her colleagues.
“She had that type of personality — she was very gregarious, her personality was uplifting and it’s a tragedy.”
What went wrong
What precipitated the killings remains murky.
Crystal Hamilton called 911 after a verbal altercation with her husband turned physical, police say.
When police arrived, Ronald Hamilton allegedly opened fire.
Hamilton, from Mount Pleasant, S.C., has served in the Army since 2002 and is an information signal corps/technology specialist, according to the Army.
He deployed to Iraq twice, once during the invasion in 2003 and again in 2005. His awards do not indicate that he was directly involved in combat, though that is not always an accurate measure. At the time of the shooting he had been working at the Pentagon’s Joint Staff Support Center since 2011.
His family could not be reached Tuesday but Hamilton’s father, Ronald Whaley Hamilton, was quoted in the Washington Post on Monday.
“We are grieving the same as all the people in Prince William County, as well as the law enforcement community across the United States,” said Hamilton, a retired major with the Charleston Police Department in South Carolina. “Ronald has always been a calm person and a very friendly person. He had a bright future with the Army and military. We express our thoughts and condolences to everyone who is affected.”