Heights officials cancel games after gun incident at Recreation Center
In the aftermath of a gun incident Saturday at a Harker Heights volleyball tournament, the Harker Heights Recreation Department canceled all remaining games and practices for the week.
“Parks and Recreation staff are currently discussing ways to better ensure participant and spectator safety moving forward,” Harker Heights Assistant City Manager Jerry Bark said Monday. “We have halted all games and practices for this week so that staff has the opportunity to regroup.”
Harker Heights police arrested two men Saturday after they allegedly drew their guns during a youth volleyball tournament at a gymnasium in Harker Heights. The incident happened shortly before 2 p.m. Saturday at the Harker Heights Recreation Center, 307 Millers Crossing.
“Officers were dispatched to the 300 block of Miller’s Crossing related to an armed subject inside the gymnasium,” according to a Harker Heights Police Department news release. “While officers were in route to the call, another call came in reporting that there were two males armed with handguns pointing them at one another. Several citizens called the Bell County Communication Center to report seeing two armed subjects and possibly a shot fired.”
Police said both men were taken into custody on charges of unlawful carrying of a weapon and assault. A preliminary investigation revealed the men had an argument inside the building, and at some point, handguns were presented.
Bark said the city is looking at options to increase safety at future Heights sporting events.
The city cannot prevent people from carrying guns to local sporting events because state law prohibits cities from banning firearms from certain public facilities — including recreation areas. Licensed carry is allowed in most public areas in Texas, as long as the handgun is concealed or holstered.
“Beginning September 1st, Texans will be able to carry handguns without a license or training if they are not prohibited by state and federal law from possessing a gun,” Bark said.
Killeen City Council approves hiring of new communications director
The Killeen City Council unanimously approved the appointment of a new communications director Tuesday. The council also discussed the possibility of moving the Bell County Annex downtown.
In a 6-0 vote, the council voted to confirm the appointment of Janell J. Lewis Ford as the city’s new Director of Communications. She will assume her role July 19 and make an annual salary of $105,000.
Mayor Pro Tem Debbie Nash-King was not in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting.
The city’s current communications director, Hilary Shine, is retiring Aug. 1 after 20 years of service to the city.
Ford had lived in Killeen as a child due to both of her parents being stationed at Fort Hood. Now, she’s back and ready to assume her role come July 19.
Ford, who was a civilian working for the military, said her husband is currently stationed at Fort Hood and has served in the U.S. Army for 25 years. She said her and her family plan on staying in Killeen once he retires.
“I look forward to it (serving in Killeen) because it’s a bit of nostalgia for me,” Ford said. “ I look forward to making sure everything that is great about Killeen, everyone knows about it. Everything that is positive about Killeen, everyone knows about it.”
Ford has extensive media experience. Most recently, she worked as a public information officer at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California. She has also worked at several TV stations including CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox News.
Ford has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and public affairs from American University, and a master’s degree from Winston-Salem State University in mass communications.
“I want to make sure that we are reaching as many people as possible. I know that we have a presence already. I just want to expand on that and make sure we are getting face-to-face with the community, and communicating with everyone on every level,” Ford said.
Army confirms Guillen was sexually harassed prior to her death
The Army has confirmed that Spc. Vanessa Guillen, a Fort Hood soldier with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment found murdered last year, was indeed sexually harassed prior to her death.
The Army internal investigation, known as an AR 15-6 investigation, was initiated by U.S. Forces Command and conducted by Gen. John Murray, commander of U.S. Army Futures Command, which is based in Austin. The investigation determined that Guillen had been sexually harassed before her murder, but it had nothing to do with her death.
Murray and other Army officials met with Guillen’s family in Houston on Tuesday to explain the findings.
Guillen’s family and their attorney, Natalie Khawam, held a news conference afterward, in which Khawam thanked Murray for his openness and transparency in dealing with them, according to reports from several media outlets.
The investigating officer highlighted several important events about the findings.
The investigation concluded that “in late summer of 2019, SPC Guillén (then a Private First Class) was in her troop orderly room when one of her supervisors made an inappropriate sexual comment in Spanish which SPC Guillén translated as a solicitation for her to participate in a ‘threesome.’ Following this incident, another supervisor noticed a marked change in her demeanor, which prompted the supervisor to ask if she was okay. It was then that SPC Guillén reported the incident to her supervisor and another soldier. She later confided in select peers. Between 16 September 2019 and 9 October 2019, two soldiers reported this incident to her unit leadership, who failed to initiate an investigation.
“The Investigating Officer determined that SPC Guillén’s supervisor was unprofessional and the supervisor’s counterproductive behaviors adversely affected SPC Guillén and others. This supervisor specifically targeted her, called her out in front of her peers, and consistently made an example out of her.
“During a field training exercise, this same supervisor encountered SPC Guillén while she performed personal hygiene in the wood line and SPC Guillen reported that this made her uncomfortable. During this time, she was under cover in the wood line.
“While the investigating officer did find evidence of sexual harassment and mistreatment toward SPC Guillen, after examining all the evidence and witness statements, he determined that those incidents were not related to her murder.”
As a result of Guillen’s unit’s failure to take action, 21 non-commissioned officers and officers were reprimanded or fired.
Aguilar indicted on more charges relatedto Guillen’s murder
A Killeen woman was reindicted this week on more charges related to the death of Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen last year.
Cecily Aguilar, 23, initially was indicted on July 14, 2020, on one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence and two counts of tampering with evidence. Nearly a year later, in a superseding indictment on Tuesday a federal grand jury indicted Aguilar on 11 counts: Conspiracy to tamper with documents or proceedings (count 1); tampering with documents or proceedings (counts 2 and 3); accessory after the fact (counts 4, 5 and 6); destruction, alteration or falsification of records in a federal investigation (count 7); and false statement or representation (counts 8, 9, 10 and 11).
All of the counts stem from the ways in which Aguilar allegedly helped her boyfriend, 20-year-old Army Spc. Aaron Robinson, dispose of Guillen’s body after he had killed her with a hammer in a Fort Hood arms room on April 22, 2020, according to investigators. Police said that Aguilar repeatedly lied to investigators to cover up the crime.
The new seven-page indictment lists each count along with the date of the accusation, all of which occurred between the dates of April 22-June 30, 2020.
Five of the counts are related to Aguilar allegedly helping Robinson conceal and destroy Guillen’s body and another four are related to false statements made to police during their investigation, according to the indictment.
Months after Guillen, 20, was reported missing on April 23, 2020, her remains were discovered on June 30, 2020, by contractors working along the Leon River near Belton.
Robinson died on July 1, 2020, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after he was confronted by Killeen police.