An enraged soldier barricaded herself in a building at a Virginia Army base, threw objects around the office and then fatally shot herself in the head Monday as law enforcement officials tried to negotiate with her, authorities said.
The soldier, who had not been identified, was pronounced dead after being taken to Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, according to a news release issued by Fort Lee, where the Monday morning shooting took place. No other injuries were reported.
The heavily trafficked base went on lockdown while the soldier was barricaded on the third floor of the four-story building that houses the Army’s Combined Arms Support Command. About 1,100 people were inside, but no one else was hurt, Fort Lee officials said.
The Army said an alert was sounded across the post and those in the building either took shelter inside or evacuated as directed. Fort Lee police responded within two minutes of being alerted, the news release said.
“This situation could’ve been worse,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen Lyons, who took over as commanding general of the support command Friday.
The soldier was a sergeant 1st class who has been in the Army for 14 years and at Fort Lee for three, Lyons said. Her gun was not a service weapon, he said. Army officials said they would not release her identity until 24 hours after notifying her next of kin.
“We are sad for our soldier in arms that she faced those kinds of challenges she had to resort to those kinds of actions,” Lyons said.
He said officials did not know whether she was being treated for any mental health issues and could not speculate whether drugs or alcohol might have been a factor. Lyons described the soldier as upset and enraged during the incident but said he couldn’t say whether that was consistent with her personality.
Fort Lee reopened and normal operations resumed within an hour of the shooting, Lyons said, with trucks and cars entering and exiting the base. The main gate – closest to the scene – continued to control traffic, but other gates were operating as normal.
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.
Army officials initially labeled Monday’s incident an “active shooter” situation. The Department of Homeland Security uses the term to describe someone actively trying to kill people, usually in populated areas, with no pattern of choosing victims.