Fort Riley soldier deaths up to eight since July

Fort Riley sign as seen in July 13, 2016, posting.


By MIKE SELLMAN | The Junction City Daily Union (Tribune News Service) | Published: November 7, 2017

Since July, approximately eight Fort Riley soldiers have died. Some of those deaths have been suicides. Others have not been officially confirmed yet by police or Fort Riley officials.

On July 31, Staff Sgt. Alejandro Jonathan Franquiz, 30, was found dead in his car along Interstate 70 milemarker 311 eastbound from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

On, Aug. 8, Spc. Peter Robbins, a field artillery firefinder radar operator, was killed in an incident with Junction City Police in the parking lot of Walmart Neighborhood Market.

It was reported that Robbins had a handgun pointed at officers, and one pointed at his temple. His death occurred shortly after officers responded to a call at a residence along Windwood Drive regarding a suicidal subject.

Spc. Richard Cox, an indirect fire infantryman, died Aug. 16 from a gunshot wound while on Fort Riley. He was airlifted to Stormont Vail Hospital in Topeka where he died. His cause of death hasn’t been made known at this time.

Pvt. John Martinez was found unconscious in his barracks room and later pronounced dead on Fort Riley, in the early morning of Aug. 19. His cause of death has yet to be made know at this time.

Staff Sgt. Garett Michael Swift, a fire support specialist, was found dead in his Junction City home on Sept. 4. In April, he had been reported missing but was later found.

The cause of his death was ruled a suicide by Junction City Police.

Spc. Kashyap Bhakta, a combat engineer, was found dead in his car in the Warner-Peterson neighborhood of Fort Riley around Sept. 21.

The cause of death hasn’t yet been revealed.

On Oct. 12, Sgt. 1st Class Jamie Boone was found dead in his Fort Riley home. The cause of his death still hasn’t been made public.

And recently, on Oct. 21, Sgt. 1st Class George Bible III was found unresponsive in his on-post residence. He was later pronounced dead at Irwin Army Community Hospital. As of Oct. 23, the incident remains under investigation by the Fort Riley Criminal Investigations Command office.

In September, Geary County Sheriff Tony Wolf attempted to make contact with Fort Riley officials regarding the suicides/ deaths which at the time was up to six separate incidents.

At the time, Wolf said all the soldier deaths the Geary County Sheriff’s Department had dealt with were suicides.

He stated that in some cases, notes had been left indicating the death was a suicide.

And though notes are sometimes left behind, each being different, Wolf said there’s was similarity among them leaving the Sheriff’s Department with an indication as to what is ultimately leading soldiers to commit suicide.

Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin issued a statement Thursday regarding the death of those eight soldiers.

“When we lose one of our teammates it impacts the entire Fort Riley community,” Martin said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Families and friends of those we have lost.”

Martin also said that he directed a stand down on Sept. 22 for the entire 1st Infantry Division and asked soldiers and leaders to provide feedback.

The feedback they provided was used to assist all leaders on post to “better understand” the operational environment that impacts those on Fort Riley.

“We are taking a hard look at how we conduct leader development and we also want to provide more predictability for our Soldiers. We want to make the 1st Infantry Division stronger through engaged leadership,” he said. “We encourage our Soldiers to seek help, as doing so is a sign of strength and courage. All of our soldiers are valued members of the 1st Infantry Division team as we focus on building readiness.”

Martin issued statements on his “Value of Life” post on Facebook in September. In the post, he stated that “suicide ideation and behavior is a struggle that we must confront and fight head-on together. Losing even one Soldier to suicide is unacceptable.”

“I believe that the only way to win this battle is to build and reinforce a culture that cherishes the value of life,” he said in his post. “Research shows that suicide is not caused by a character flaw or weakness and, most importantly, it is preventable.”

©2017 the Junction City Daily Union (Junction City, Kan.)
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