With the case of Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen continuing to make national headlines, Killeen officials have expressed their views on the possible local impact of her death.
“This case is absolutely heartbreaking,” Killeen City Councilman Butch Menking said by email. “The devastation it has caused the Guillen family is unimaginable.”
Guillen, age 20 at the time of her death, was found dead in late June in eastern Bell County after she was reported missing from Fort Hood since April 22.
A suspect in the case, Fort Hood Spc. Aaron David Robinson, fatally shot himself July 1, and another suspect, Killeen resident Cecily Aguilar, is in custody facing federal charges. Aguilar told investigators that Robinson on April 22 struck a “female soldier in the head with a hammer multiple times at his arms room, killing her on Fort Hood.”
The case has drawn attention to the ongoing problem of sexual harassment within the military, as well as broad-based and unsubstantiated calls by protestors to close Fort Hood and/or disband the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, to which Guillen was assigned.
Prior to her being reported missing, Guillen had told her family she had been sexually harassed by an unnamed soldier at Fort Hood.
Guillen’s family is scheduled to meet with President Donald Trump on Wednesday.
“I’m confident the Army’s investigation will provide valuable information to improve leadership’s ability to detect and confront any and all forms of harassment,” Menking said. “This was not just a Fort Hood tragedy. Unfortunately, workplace harassment is present in large organizations both public and private throughout our society.
“It is incumbent on leadership to not tolerate harassment of any kind within their ranks. I’m not aware of any specific negative impact on our city. I, like everyone, want to see those responsible brought to justice and focused training on the tragic consequences of tolerating any form of workplace harassment.”
Mayor Jose Segarra, while expressing sympathy for Guillen’s family, said he understands the need for patience in waiting for the investigation to continue, further underscoring the relationship between Fort Hood and Killeen.
“Events that affect Fort Hood and its soldiers affect our city, and I believe we all want answers to why something like this happened,” he said. “But we must have patience in the process so a thorough investigation can be completed, justice can be served and changes can be made.
“Killeen is proud to be the home of Fort Hood,” Segarra said. “We are proud of the thousands of soldiers and family members that currently serve here and live within our community and the many, including myself, that have served here. I have no doubt and am confident that its leadership will do what is necessary to ensure soldier safety and seek the answers that the Guillen family deserves.”
Segarra further commented on the relationship between the two cities as being mutually beneficial.
“Fort Hood has helped create one of the most diverse communities in the nation, it has contributed to the highest percentage of minority home ownership in the county within our city, our community has been rated as one of the most patriotic cities in the country and so many other great things that can be directly linked to the relationship we have with Fort Hood,” he said. “What we can do as a community is to let people know that Fort Hood is not just a military base, but a community of people and families that not only serve our county but also engage within our communities and help make Killeen and the surrounding cities a great place to live.”
Councilwoman Debbie Nash-King warned against acting too quickly to respond to the aftermath of the case, and in the event of similar incidents in the future wants to see cooperation between Killeen and Fort Hood.
“It is truly a tragedy what happened to Vanessa Guillen,” Nash-King said. “She had a promising career in the military and it is disturbing that a soldier took her life. To shut down Fort Hood because of a single incident will have a negative impact on thousands of civilians and contractors that depend on their jobs to provide for their families.
“I do agree that sexual harassment is unacceptable not only in the military but also in the civilian sector,” Nash-King said. “There must be another way to report sexual harassment without individuals fearing repercussions. Killeen has always had a great working relationship with Fort Hood and we must continue to work together to support the soldiers and civilians on Fort Hood.”
Councilwoman Shirley Fleming offered her input as well.
“We know that Fort Hood will be doing all they can to assist the family,” Fleming said by email. “I truly stand by Fort Hood, I know they will continue in every way to help bring justice for Vanessa Guilllen. Our prayers and love go out to the family during this time of sadness and sorrow. God be with the family.”