Accidents, Rapes, Murders, Suicides, Guns and Explosives

January 7, 2012 

Here is a sampling of recent news stories related to crimes and accidents involving military personnel.

The city Medical Examiner’s Office today identified the 27-year-old Schofield Barracks soldier who died in a motorcycle accident Thursday as Aaron Bennett.

Bennett, from Parma Heights Ohio, died at the crash scene on Fort Weaver Road near the recently closed Hawaii Medical Center-West. Witnesses told police that he was speeding and weaving in and out of traffic before losing control and crashing at about 5:30 a.m.

Bennett was an Army sergeant who joined the service in January 2007, and served as an infantrymen assigned to 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, according to the Army.

In June, he finished a year-long deployment to Iraq with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, where he was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, an Army Commendation Medal and the Iraqi Campaign Medal with two campaign stars for his service.


The 2009 Yamaha motorcycle he was driving apparently sideswiped a 2001 Nissan sedan near the Farrington Highway junction, causing the motorcyclist to lose control, police said.

Bennett, a 25th Infantry Division soldier, was thrown from the vehicle and slid about 30 feet into a guardrail, severing his arm.

And KITV reported that “Man Commits Apparent Suicide In Police Custody: 27-year-old Schofield Resident Arrested For Drunk Driving Saturday Morning” (1/07/2012):

A 27-year-old Schofield man was found dead in a Wahiawa Police Substation holding cell from an apparent suicide Saturday morning.The man was arrested around 4:10 Saturday morning for drunk driving, reckless driving and speeding near Kamehameha Highway and Whitemore Avenue.He was then booked and processed at the Wahiawa Substation. His body was found alone and unconscious in the holding cell around 7 a.m. with his t-shirt next to him. It is believed that he hung himself with the shirt.

Police say the man is a husband of a Schofield based soldier.

In San Diego, four people were killed in an apparent murder-suicide involving two Navy pilots and the sister of one of the pilots. The AP reported “2 Navy Pilots Among Dead in Murder, Suicide” (1/03/2012):

Two Navy pilots and the sister of one of them were among four people killed in an apparent New Years Day murder-suicide on the wealthy island of Coronado off the coast of San Diego, officials say.

The two F/A-18 pilots were in training at the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, the base said. The San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office initially posted on its website that the pilots were both 25-year-old males and that a third male among the dead was a 31-year-old resident of nearby Chula Vista.

The AP also reported that “Jealousy Eyed for Possible Role in Murder-Suicide” (1/06/2012):

Authorities were looking at all aspects of what could have led up to the gunfire at a Coronado condominium, including whether there was a relationship or romantic feelings between the Navy pilot who committed suicide and the sister of the other pilot who died, sheriff’s Capt. Duncan Fraser said.

John Robert Reeves shot himself in the head, and the three other people with him, including the sister, were murdered. They included Navy pilot David Reis, Karen Reis and Matthew Saturley.


Retired Naval pilot Steve Diamond said the case is shocking because it involves such high achievers.

“The first thing that most people think of even within the Navy community is how could such an enormously tragic thing happen involving people … who are the cream of the crop, highly trained, highly educated, national assets basically,” he said.

It takes years of training to get one’s wings as a Navy pilot, and fighter-jet pilots are considered to be among the top in that group.

They undergo a battery of rigorous physical, psychological and background tests before finishing the highly competitive program. Their top-notch skills and mental toughness were featured in the movie “Top Gun” — parts of which were filmed at Miramar.

Despite the recent dismissal of Cioca v. Rumsfeld, a class action lawsuit to hold Secretaries of Defense Rumsfeld and Gates accountable for the epidemic of sex assault in the military, another Navy commander was convicted for raping two female sailors. The AP reported “Navy Cmdr Gets Prison in Rape of Female Sailors” (10/29/2011):
A Navy ship commander pleaded guilty Friday to sexual assault and rape of two female sailors, and a military judge ordered his dismissal and sentenced him to more than three years in prison.

Cmdr. Jay Wylie was given a 10-year term but will serve 42 months as part of a plea agreement, said Sheila Murray, Navy spokeswoman.


Twenty officers have been relieved of command by the Navy this year.

It seems that the epidemic of sexual violence begins in officer training school.  The Colorado Springs Gazette reported that “3 Air Force Academy Cadets Charged in Sex-Assault Cases” (1/06/2012):

Commanders on Thursday charged three Air Force Academy cadets with sexual assault in separate cases that occurred over the past 15 months.

Charging documents obtained by The Gazette show the three cases involve acts allegedly committed on the campus, including acts against fellow cadets.

Meanwhile, the military is losing control of its weapons and explosives.  The AP reported that “US Rep.: Soldier Had 5 Pounds of C4 in Carry-On” (1/06/2012):
A congressman says two 2.5-pound blocks of a powerful, military-grade explosive were found in a Soldier’s luggage at a West Texas airport. Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway of Midland said Thursday that federal officials gave him details of the Saturday find in Trey Scott Atwater’s luggage at Midland International Airport.

And the Daily Press in Victorville, California reported in December “Military Weapons in Gangsters’ Hands” (12/05/2011):

Gangs are acquiring highpowered, military-grade weapons more frequently, according to the latest National Gang Intelligence Center Report. And FBI and law enforcement officials suggest gang members — both enlisted and those working at military bases as contract civilians — may be funneling the firearms to their street-level counterparts.

In late July, 27 AK-47s were stolen from a Fort Irwin warehouse, officials said.

Weapons getting loose could be really bad.  In San Diego, the AP reported “Police: Navy SEAL Accidentally Shoots Self in Head” (1/06/2012):

San Diego police say a Navy SEAL is on life support after accidentally shooting himself in the head.

Officer Frank Cali tells U-T San Diego that officers were called to a home in Pacific Beach early Thursday morning on a report that a man had been playing with a gun and accidentally shot himself.

Cali says the man was showing guns to a woman he’d met earlier at a bar and put a pistol he believed was unloaded to his head. Cali says he then pulled the trigger.

Marine dies in motorcycle crash

September 14, 2011 

From the Honolulu Star Advertiser:

The Honolulu Medical Examiner’s Office has identified a Kaneohe Marine who died Sunday in a motorcycle crash in Aikahi Park as Brian Zuniga, 25, of Kaneohe.

The medical examiner’s office said the cause of death was multiple blunt force injuries due to an accident.

Zuniga died at Castle Medical Center after a crash that happened at about 5:10 p.m. at the intersection of Mokapu Boulevard and Kaneohe Bay Drive.


Woman motorcyclist killed in crash was Navy veteran and military spouse

May 2, 2011 

According to the Honolulu Star Advertiser, a motorcyclist who was killed in a head-on collision in Waiaula was a former Navy personnel, whose husband is in the military:

Meanwhile, the Medical Examiner’s Office has identified the woman killed in Saturday’s head-on collision between a motorcycle and a Jeep on Kaukonahua Road as 26-year-old Brenda Anderson of Honolulu.

According to police, Anderson was riding northward at a high rate of speed when she lost control of her Harley-Davidson  motorcycle and collided with the Jeep. Anderson was taken to Wahiawa General Hospital in critical condition and was later pronounced dead. The two occupants of the Jeep were not seriously uninjured.

In a message posted on a local Harley-Davidson online forum last month, Anderson, a native of Wisconsin, identified herself as former Navy personnel.

“Husband still serves while I’m out enjoying the freedom of the road,” she wrote.

This is the second military spouse killed in a motorcycle accident in seven months.  In October 2010, a woman who lost control of her motorcycle was run over and killed by another cyclist on the Pali Highway.

Wife of Kane’ohe marine dies in motorcycle crash on Pali Highway

October 16, 2010 

The Honolulu Star Advertiser reported that a wife of a Kane’ohe Marine died today in a motorcycle accident:

A woman who lost control of her motorcycle was run over and killed by another cyclist on the Pali Highway this afternoon, police said.

The two were riding as part of a group.

The woman, 22, was taken to the trauma center, where she was pronounced dead, said Bryan Cheplic, spokesman for the city Department of Emergency Services. Police said she was the wife of a Kaneohe Marine.

A male motorcyclist, 23, was treated at the scene and also transported to the trauma center. Police said he is a Kaneohe Marine but not the woman’s husband.


Soldier dies in motorcycle crash in Waipahu

April 15, 2010

Soldier dies in motorcycle crash in Waipahu

By Star-Bulletin Staff

POSTED: 08:13 a.m. HST, Apr 15, 2010

Speed may have been a factor in a motorcycle crash that killed a U.S. Army soldier on Farrington Highway near Fort Weaver Road last night, police said.

The crash happened at about 9:56 p.m. on Farrington Highway just east of the Fort Weaver Road overpass.

Police said the 45-year-old Ewa Beach resident was driving a black 2008 Kawasaki Ninja VX6R and had just made a turn onto Farrington Highway when he lost control of the motorcycle.

The victim was not wearing a helmet. Police said they have not determined if alcohol was also a factor in the crash.

Marine killed in motorcycle crash

February 28, 2010 

Posted on: Sunday, February 28, 2010

Motorcycle crash kills Marine

Advertiser Staff

A Marine stationed at Camp Smith was killed yesterday when the motorcycle he was riding rear-ended a car on H-1 Freeway near Kapolei.

The motorcyclist, a 24-year-old man, was thrown from the motorcycle.

He was pronounced dead at the scene, said Bryan Cheplic, spokesman for the city Emergency Services Department.

According to the Honolulu Police Department’s Vehicular Homicide Division, a 2009 Suzuki motorcycle was traveling west on H-1 just after 4:20 a.m. when it struck a 2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara from behind.

The driver of the car, a 31-year-old man from Kapolei, was taken to an area hospital in serious condition.

Police said speed was a factor in the collision. It is not known whether drugs or alcohol also were involved.

Marine killed in motorcycle crash

December 8, 2009

Updated at 9:51 p.m., Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Marine dies in Kailua motorcycle crash

Advertiser Staff

A motorcyclist died early Tuesday in Kailua after he crashed into a telephone pole and then concrete wall.

The incident happened a little past midnight near Oneawa and Manono streets. Police said the man, a Marine from Marine Corps Base Hawaii, was heading north on Oneawa when he lost control of his 2008 Suzuki GSX-R 1000.

Police said speed may have been a factor but it is unknown if drugs or alcohol played a role. The man, 24, was wearing a helmet and there were no other vehicles involved.

City emergency services spokesman Bryan Cheplic said paramedics pronounced the man dead at 12:34 a.m.

“They survived the combat, came back and – within two months – died on a motorcycle”

August 20, 2009 

The Army is training soldiers in motorcycle safety to curb the high number of cycle fatalities that have occurred since 2005.  An Army spokesperson said that “motorcycles are a great tool to release adrenaline” and that one possible reason for the fatalities is the “aggressive soldier mind-set”.    First of all, motor vehicles shouldn’t be tools to “release adrenaline”.  Second, it seems that the “aggressive soldier mind-set” point to a deeper pathology within military culture and are symptomatic of the human costs of war.   The Army should look into the death that occurs inside soldiers who experience combat. This may be the real cause of many of the motorcycle fatalities.


Soldiers learn cycling safety

By Darin Moriki

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Aug 20, 2009

About 250 soldiers are participating in a supplemental motorcycle training program instituted because there have been 16 Army cycle fatalities since 2005.

“Many of them were killed soon after returning from combat,” said Bill Maxwell, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii transportation safety manager. “They survived the combat, came back, and – within two months – died on a motorcycle. We want to reverse that trend by providing them every bit of education that we possibly can.”

Maxwell said the Army pilot program was adopted from the Marines after it was found that “they have been having some positive results.” He explained that the free program is essential for motorcycle riders in light of the high number of Army motorcycle deaths.

One possible reason for the fatalities is the “aggressive soldier mind-set” that some may have, Maxwell said.

“We prepare them for combat, they go into a very high-stress situation, and they come back here,” Maxwell explained. “Motorcycles are a great tool to release adrenaline. Unfortunately, we have quite a bad history with motorcycles.”

The Honolulu Police Department reported that 12 of the 38 traffic fatalities this year involved motorcycles. Riders were wearing helmets in only six cases.

For a soldier to operate a bike on military installations, he or she must go through a basic and experienced rider course offered through the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. However, Maxwell said that these courses “provide the basic skills” and are “limited in size.”

“What we wanted to do here is expand the area and bring the speed up to get them a little bit closer to the operational speeds that they encounter out there on the road,” Maxwell said.

The training program, which began Monday at Wheeler Army Airfield, covers eight half-day courses that allow smaller groups of about 25 people.

The Los Angeles-based California Superbike School said the course is meant to boost a rider’s confidence with conditions that they may experience on the road.

“If the rider is unsure of himself, he’s going to panic,” said California Superbike School instructor and project manager Dylan Code. “What we want to make is a confident rider at this point.”

Each course included 30 minutes of classroom instruction before riders were taken out on an obstacle course. It was on the obstacle course that the real instruction began, where instructors – stationed at three checkpoints on various corners of the course – corrected mistakes that a rider made.

Many of the soldiers who attended the motorcycle training course left believing that they were more informed.

“The fundamentals that I learn here can be something that I can use out there on the streets,” said Cpl. Tyler Bridgeman, who has been riding about seven years. “This is one of the best courses that I have been to.”

“I left with a little bit more knowledge, but the knowledge that I left with was extremely important,” said Lt. Col. Rob Howe, who has been riding for 28 years. “I don’t know what I don’t know, but they told me what I needed to know.”


Air Force Sergeant killed in motorcycle crash

February 25, 2009 

H-1 Motorcycle Crash Victim Identified

Examiner Says Air Force Sgt. Died Of Multiple Trauma Injuries

POSTED: 5:56 pm HST February 24, 2009
UPDATED: 6:11 pm HST February 24, 2009

HONOLULU — The man killed in Sunday’s deadly motorcycle crash on the H-1 Freeway has been identified as a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force.

The medical examiner determined Willie Davis, 35, of Kapolei, died from multiple traumatic injuries.

Davis was killed after colliding into a guardrail at high speed near Seventh Avenue, police said.

The motorcycle ended up a half mile away on the Kapiolani Boulevard off-ramp.

HPD closed the freeway for 5.5 hours on Sunday while they conducted their investigation and searched the area for evidence.

Army medic in fatal accident identified

December 21, 2008

December 21, 2008

Motorcyclist from fatal collision identified

Advertiser Staff

The City Medical Examiner’s Office has identified the motorcyclist who died in a crash early Wednesday morning as Bryan Devlin, 24, of Honolulu.

Devlin died of multiple blunt force injuries. Polce reports said Devlin was speeding on Kamehameha Highway at about 12:45 a.m. when he struck a Nissan Altima driven by 35-year-old Gregg Gurtiza of Salt Lake.

Gurtiza was turning onto Camp Catlin Road when his vehicle was struck. Police said the motorcyclist and motorcycle penetrated the car’s passenger side and became lodged inside the vehicle, striking the car with such force it flipped the car over.

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