Commander, NCO die in Lackland murder-suicide
By SIG CHRISTENSON | San Antonio Express-News | Published: April 9, 2016
SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Tribune News Service) — The shooting that left an airman and a squadron commander dead Friday occurred after the airman, accompanied by a first sergeant, was brought into the commander’s office for a disciplinary proceeding, according to multiple sources.
An Air Force technical sergeant armed with two handguns killed the commander and himself at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland’s Medina Annex on Friday morning. Joint Base San Antonio wouldn’t identify the men and would not provide details about how the incident unfolded, but multiple sources spoke to the Express-News about the incident.
The building is home to dozens and sometimes hundreds of battlefield airmen training for such combat jobs as coordinating close air support.
Bexar County sheriff’s deputies, guns drawn, swarmed the building, searching for gunmen and survivors a few minutes after a 911 call at 8:40 a.m. Sheriff’s Office spokesman James Keith described the shooting as a murder-suicide. Authorities would not speculate on what prompted the incident but said it was not an act of terrorism.
“Our deputies made entry into the building and conducted a search. They were able to find the two victims,” he said. “Our deputies then continued with the assistance of military police clearing the building, making sure there were no more victims or other shooters.”
The shooting was the second on a military base in San Antonio since 2013, when a man wounded a female active-duty captain at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston.
A source familiar with Friday’s incident said the technical sergeant’s meeting with the commander was brief. The technical sergeant, armed with two Glock handguns, shot the officer and then killed himself. The first sergeant was not injured.
“I don’t have details about the actual conversation that took place, but clearly a shooting took place and things didn’t end well,” the source said.
At a news conference, Air Force officials declined to identify the shooter or victim or to confirm that the incident was a murder-suicide.
The lockdown quickly took effect across Lackland, a major Air Force instructional hub and long home to the service’s basic military training course. A basic training graduation parade abruptly stopped after an active-shooter alert was issued, and an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 airmen and visitors quickly moved from the parade field to the Gateway Club near Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, which also was on lockdown.
Airmen and visitors, many of them parents, siblings and friends, remained there until an all-clear was issued, one person at the scene said, saying it “went down by the numbers” without incident, ending around 10:30 a.m.
Lackland, like most U.S. military installations, prohibits the private possession of firearms but does not screen the thousands of vehicles that enter and exit daily.
“I would say that we are safe and secure,” said Brig. Gen. Robert LaBrutta, commander of Joint Base San Antonio. “These unfortunate events happen. We have 82,000 people that come to work at Joint Base San Antonio every single day, and just like … in the community, we have some one-offs, and that’s what I would consider this — a one-off.”
Some people nonetheless were chilled by the incident.
Across the street from the Medina Annex gate, Valley Hi Elementary School fifth-grader Gabriel Jaramillo, 11, was listening to his teacher read a book when a shelter-in-place order came.
“My teacher told us to get in the corner and not to talk,” he said. “Everyone was kind of frightened, and I was telling everyone not to be frightened, and then we were sitting there awhile, so I figured it was a real lockdown.”
Jennifer Roberts, who has children at Valley Hi, left work at a dental office to rush to the school after hearing a television report.
“I know they were freaking out,” she said of the students, who have gone through drills and were worried about an incident such as a shooting.
“If it is in fact a tech sergeant and a squadron commander, that means two senior professionals — it really doesn’t matter whether it’s officer or enlisted — two senior professionals who have significant time in the Air Force,” a retired Air Force officer said, asking not to be named.
“For this to happen is an absolutely terrible thing. It would be a terrible thing under any circumstances, but this would depress me a lot,” he added.
“This is just sad. It’s disturbing for me. It’s going to be disturbing for everybody.”
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