A distraught female soldier at the Fort Lee army garrison shot herself in the head Monday morning as negotiators tried to calm her at the base south of Richmond, Virginia. The incident triggered fears of another deadly base rampage.
Maj. Gen. Stephen R. Lyons, commander of Fort Lee, told reporters that the soldier shot herself in the head in a barricaded room, where she had been throwing items and was clearly enraged. First responders had established with contact with her and thought she was calming down before she turned the gun on herself, he said.
The soldier, Lyons said, was a sergeant 1st class and had served in Iraq in 2007. She was a 14- year Army veteran, the three most recent years at Fort Lee. She shot herself with a small caliber handgun brought to the base in a purse. It was not a service weapon.
The incident began around 9 a.m. EDT and prompted reports of an active shooter. That led to a lock-down across the base and in Building 5020 of the Combined Arms Support Command Headquarters. Lyons, who leads the command and the base, was among those in the building during the lock-down.
In a real-time statement on its Facebook page, Fort Lee leaders said first responders handled reports of a female soldier with a gun inside Building 5020 and that “early reports indicate the soldier turned the weapon on herself and fired one shot, injuring herself. Her condition is not known at this time.”
No other injuries were reported special agents from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command were on scene and investigating the incident.
Fort Lee, located just south of Petersburg, serves as the headquarters to the Combined Arms Support Command, and is also home a number of training schools, including the Army Logistics University, the U.S. Army Ordnance School, the U.S. Army Quartermaster School and the U.S. Army Transportation School.
The incident was a test for new leaders on the base. Maj. Gen. Lyons became the new commanding general of the Combined Arms Support Command just last Friday.
Hundreds of readers of the Fort Lee Facebook page posted comments about the shooting event, most concerned about friends or family who work at the large military complex. However, some expressed frustration about the initial lack of details, perhaps worried about a repeat of deadly base shootings in Fort Hood, Texas, and the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.
The incident was first described an active shooter scenario, but in the all-clear notice was described as a law enforcement matter.
“They can say the law enforcement event which is a poor choice or words is over but they cannot say that a suspect or shooter has been shot and taken into custody? it's not that difficult....should not have to wait for local news at 1200 to get answers. Absolutely ridiculous,” wrote one commenter on the Fort Lee Facebook page.
Another commenter was also vexed at the term “law enforcement” event.
He wrote, “the law enforcement event ? was this a drill?”