US Congress Officially Launches Investigation Into Fort Hood Deaths


Image via AP Photo/Tamir Kalifa, File

By Araceli Cruz

September 9, 2020

Two congressional committees want to determine what’s behind the “pattern of recent tragedies” at the Texas base.

Fort Hood has another investigation on their hands. The heads of two congressional committees, the Committee on Oversight and Reform and the Committee on Armed Services, issued a letter to U.S. Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy announcing they are investigating the recent deaths at Fort Hood. 

Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), said they would be “investigating whether an alarming pattern of recent tragedies at Fort Hood, Texas, may be symptomatic of underlying leadership, discipline, and morale deficiencies throughout the chain-of-command.”

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The missive noted the deaths of service members Vanessa Guillén, Mejhor Morta, and Elder Fernandes and the similarities in their cases. All three service members went missing and were later found dead. In the case of Private Gregory Wedel-Morales, the 24-year-old went missing last year, and his remains were discovered in June. 

The letter also referenced the deaths of Private First Class Brandon Scott Rosecrans, Specialist Freddy Delacruz Jr., and Specialist Shelby Tyler Jones, all of which are being investigated as homicides. 

“It is significant and disturbing that both Specialist Guillén and Sergeant Fernandes allegedly were sexually abused or harassed prior to their deaths,” the document states. “An attorney for the family of Sergeant Fernandes claims that he was ‘bullied’ and ‘hazed’ by his peers after he reported his harassment, while Specialist Guillén reportedly was too afraid of retribution to file a formal complaint.”

The investigation requests documents from Fort Hood officials, military police, the Army Criminal Investigative Division (CID), and local and state police. They also seek timeline reports of the Fernandes, Guillén, Wedel-Morales, and Private Mejhor Morta cases. Additionally, the investigation requests policies, guidance, and standards provided to military officers for handling allegations of sexual assault, abuse, and harassment. 

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Earlier this month, the Texas Senate Hispanic Caucus called for a congressional investigation into the base. Congressional Hispanic Caucus Second Vice-Chair, Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA), along with Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX), expressed dismay over the killing of Latino service members that died at Fort Hood. 

“Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus conveyed our collective outrage to senior Army officials over recent murders,” Rep. Barragán said in a statement. “Sexual assault and harassment in the US Armed Forces continue to be a pervasive challenge, and fear of retaliation remains a significant barrier to accountability. From Fort Hood to Fort Bragg, there are clearly systemic issues in the chain of command that must be addressed and a lack of transparency that must be improved.”


CATEGORIES: Law and Policy | Military


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