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Sailor who died in barricade incident was lieutenant commander

By WILLIAM COLE | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: April 15, 2021

HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — The Navy has confirmed that the sailor who died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound Sunday at the Kahala Hotel & Resort was a lieutenant commander assigned to the Naval Submarine Support Center at Pearl Harbor.

Russell Cruz, 40, of New York, had been previously identified by the Honolulu Medical Examiner's office as the individual involved in the barricade situation in which several shots were reportedly fired through a hotel room door.

The Naval Submarine Support Center provides operational support for Pearl Harbor home-ported submarines, their crews, families, and the staffs of Submarine Squadrons One and Seven, the U.S. Pacific Fleet submarine force said.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of a shipmate. Our thoughts and prayers are with the sailors' family, friends and shipmates," the command said in a statement Wednesday.

Cruz, who lived in Kailua, was a shore-based supply officer but was submarine warfare-qualified and had served on the Pearl Harbor fast attack submarine USS Louisville from 2011 to 2014, the Navy said.

His death was at least the fourth suicide within the Pearl Harbor submarine force since July of 2019 when an armed watch-stander on the USS Chicago killed himself.

Cruz enlisted in the Navy on Nov. 7, 2001, and was commissioned as an officer on Feb. 18, 2011, according to his service record. He became a lieutenant commander in September.

A lieutenant commander is considered a junior officer who can be in charge of a smaller ship such as a minesweeper, according to FederalPay.org. On larger ships such as submarines or destroyers, a lieutenant commander can be either a senior department head or the executive officer (second-in-command ). Starting pay for the rank is $4,985 per month, the site said.

Cruz checked into recruit training at Great Lakes, Ill., in late 2001, according to his service record. He was with Patrol Reconnaissance Wing 2 at Kaneohe Bay from 2007 to 2010 and had some other unspecified assignment at Marine Corps Base Hawaii from 2015 to 2018.

From there, he was a student at the Center for Security Forces Learning Site in Gulfport, Miss., and then with Maritime Expeditionary Security Group 1 Detachment in San Diego.

Cruz reported to Hawaii and the Naval Submarine Support Center on July 25. His background is unusual in that little to no information could be found about him in online searches. His wife could not be reached for comment.

"Every member of our Navy team is important ; this is a painful time for our local community and the U.S. Navy. Resources available to support sailors and families include chaplain, Fleet and Family Service Center counselors, the command ombudsmen, and mental health care teams," the Pacific Fleet submarine force said.

The incident began before 6 p.m. Saturday when the man later identified as Cruz barricaded himself in a room at the hotel and communicated with family that he was suicidal, according to the Honolulu Police Department's Criminal Investigative Division.

Dozens of law enforcement officers, including HPD's Specialized Services Division, negotiators and military representatives, responded.

"Police were called and negotiations were set up," HPD said in a report. During the incident, the man allegedly fired shots into the door of his fourth-floor room at the luxury resort.

No one was injured, but the hotel was put on lockdown, with more than 100 guests kept in a secure location. After more than seven hours, guests and staff were finally released.

SWAT officers entered the room around 3:30 a.m. and found the suspect dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. The investigation is ongoing with HPD in the lead and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service acting as a liaison for the Navy.

Star-Advertiser staff writer Allison Schaefers contributed to this report.

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