RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A soldier who barricaded herself in a building at a Virginia base and then fatally shot herself in the head earlier this week was a 33-year-old human resources specialist who had earned Army commendation and good conduct medals in the past, the Army said Wednesday.
Sgt. 1st Class Paula M. Walker of Yonkers, New York, was pronounced dead after being taken to a hospital on Monday. She had barricaded herself in an office on the third floor of the four-story building that houses the Army’s Combined Arms Support Command after brandishing a weapon and throwing things around. About 1,100 people were inside, but no one else was hurt in the morning shooting. Her gun was not a service weapon, officials said.
Walker had been in the Army for nearly 14 years and at Fort Lee since December 2011. Prior to that, the Army said Walker served at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, starting in 2010, and was at Fort Eustis, Virginia, beginning in 2006. Her career included a 15-month combat tour in Iraq from 2007 to 2008.
Base commander Maj. Gen. Stephen R. Lyons has described Walker as upset and enraged but said he couldn’t say whether that was consistent with her personality. The Army says her awards and decorations include three Army Commendation Medals, four Army Achievement Medals, one Joint Meritorious Unit Award and four Army Good Conduct Medals.
Lyons, who took over as commanding general last week, has said he did not know whether Walker was being treated for any mental health issues and could not speculate whether drugs or alcohol might have been a factor. The Army reported 301 soldiers committed suicide in 2013, which was down from 325 in 2012. Those figures include soldiers in the National Guard and Army Reserves.
The heavily trafficked Fort Lee was locked down for about an hour before reopening with normal operations.
The daily population at Fort Lee — 25 miles south of Richmond and 130 miles from Washington — is about 34,000, with members from all branches, their families, civilians and contractors.
The shooting is the fourth violent act at a Virginia military installation this year.
In March, a civilian truck driver shot and killed a sailor aboard a Navy destroyer at Naval Station Norfolk before he was shot and killed by Navy security. In June, authorities said, a sailor repeatedly stabbed another near Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. The same installation was placed on lockdown in April when a sailor shot and killed himself inside a barracks there.