On Saturday evening, Prince William County Police Officer Ashley M. Guindon was shot and killed in Woodbridge, Virginia. It was her first day on the job after being sworn in on Friday.
Her death has caused an outpouring of sympathy and shock from law enforcement agencies around the country. Meanwhile, military officials haven’t spoken up about this incident, even though the alleged shooter is one Ronald Williams Hamilton, an Army Staff Sergeant stationed at the Pentagon.
Hamilton is accused of firing upon Guindon and two other officers, David McKeown and Jesse Hempen, as they responded to a domestic violence call made by Hamilton’s wife, Crystal. Hamilton reportedly killed Crystal inside their suburban home before police arrived, the Washington Post reported Saturday. The couple’s 11-year-old son was also present during the shooting, but he was able to escape to a nearby neighbor’s house. Officers McKeown and Hempen are expected to make a full recovery.
Police have no motive for Hamilton’s rampage, but it’s easy to speculate that this was a crime of passion. A friend of Crystal told Vice that Hamilton was prone to jealously, specifically over the fact that Crystal helped various men at the Wounded Warrior Regiment in Bethesda, Maryland. With his military training, Hamilton would have surely been an expert shot and a .45 caliber pistol as well as a high-powered rifle were found at the crime scene. More importantly, though, such training would have made Hamilton more than capable of being a killer.
Brutalization, for instance, is a military process meant to detach trainees from their sense of individual worth through often humiliating training exercises. This makes it easier to face battle and kill without much thought. Many psychologists have even seen traits of brutalization in killers who were never soldiers. And many serial killers have had some sort of military training, including Timothy McVeigh and David Berkowitz.
Hamilton is set to have his arraignment hearing today. He faces charges of capital murder of a police officer, the first-degree murder of his wife, and two counts of malicious wounding of a police officer, which will get him plenty of years in jail. But Prince William County prosecutor Paul Ebert said Sunday that he plans to pursue the death penalty against him.
Yesterday, a memorial was erected for Crystal by her friends and family, who described her as a great mother and truly helpful person. Although Guindon was not a mother, people considered her a born service member. She enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve while working on a bachelor’s degree in aeronautics and, then, graduate classes. Last night more than 500 friends, family members, and fellow police personnel held a candlelight vigil for the slain officer.
This is the second time Guindon’s family has been hurt by military related violence. In 2004, Guindon’s father, a Air National Guardsman, committed suicide after returning from a tour in Iraq. Perhaps it’s time for the military to better enforce its updated psychiatric evaluation policy?
Two years ago the House passed new mental health screenings to help prevent soldier suicides and mass shootings. Army studies from 2014 found that one in five soldiers have a common mental disorder and more than one in 100 had a past suicide attempt. Sadly, if Hamilton was the shooter, these updated screenings somehow didn’t save Guindon and Crystal.