Apr 30, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Army disciplines more Fort Hood leaders in probe of Vanessa Guillén's death

Photo of a person holding up a poster of Vanessa Guillén as they walk among a crowd of protesters

Supporters of murdered U.S. Army Private First Class Vanessa Guillen at a rally last year. Photo: Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Army said Friday it has punished several Fort Hood leaders after an investigation revealed that the chain of command of slain soldier, Spc. Vanessa Guillén, failed to address the sexual harassment she faced before she was killed last year.

Why it matters: While the military has been criticized for its handling of sexual misconduct allegations for years, the issue gained renewed attention following the murder of 20-year-old Guillén, who told family and friends she had been sexually harassed before she disappeared from Fort Hood in April 2020.

Background: Spc. Aaron Robinson bludgeoned Guillén to death using a hammer, according to investigators. He then allegedly dismembered her body and buried her remains with assistance from a girlfriend.

  • Investigators uncovered her remains on June 30, 2020, over a month after the killing. Robinson was placed under guard but fled and died by suicide.

Details: The report released on Friday found that Guillén was sexually harassed by a supervisor. Though it was reported to leaders, no one addressed the incident.

  • "This supervisor created an intimidating, hostile environment. The unit leadership was informed of the harassment as well as the supervisor’s counterproductive leadership, and failed to take appropriate action," the report said.
  • Her family said she had felt unable to push her chain of command to take action.
  • "It was devastating to all of us," Maj. Gen. Gene LeBoeuf said, per the Washington Post. "We as an Army failed to protect Vanessa Guillén."

Army officials had previously denied allegations that Guillén faced sexual harassment.

  • According to investigators, Robinson did not harass Guillén, but he did sexually harass another woman.

Guillén's family issued a statement Friday, saying there are many inconsistencies in the report, per AP.

  • “Vanessa’s case was severely mishandled. We are upset that the names of the soldiers that sexually harassed Vanessa are not included. It’s heartbreaking and frustrating for all of us,” the family said.

The big picture: After a review in December identified similar systemic issues, the Army reprimanded or suspended a number of leaders.

  • Altogether, 21 soldiers, including one general and other officers, have been punished or suspended, the Post reports.
  • Lawmakers have proposed legislation, named in Guillén's honor, to overhaul the military's system of addressing sexual assault and harassment allegations.
  • Guillén’s death has also led the military to begin to recognize the mistreatment women and people of color often face on their bases.
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