WHEN WAR COMES HOME: Crime Surge Among Veterans Suggest Some Didn’t Leave Horrors Behind
By Greg Barnes
Fayetteville Observer, Feb. 5 2012
It could have been a disaster.
When Fayetteville firefighters showed up to investigate a report of a fire in an apartment building last month, they didn’t know that the Fort Bragg soldier who lived there was armed and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Police say the soldier, Josh Eisenhauer, shot at the firefighters. When police showed up, Eisenhauer appeared on the balcony and fired at them. At least one officer reportedly returned fire, driving Eisenhauer back into the apartment and leading to the evacuation of about 50 nearby residents.
Four hours later, police found the 30-year-old Eisenhauer critically injured on his kitchen floor. No one else was seriously hurt. Eisenhauer, now in the state’s Central Prison for safekeeping, faces 15 counts of attempted murder and other charges.
The shootout with Eisenhauer is the most public of what appears to be a surge in violent behavior and suicides among Fort Bragg soldiers and combat veterans in recent months.
Like Eisenhauer, many of those soldiers suffer from depression, PTSD and other mental health problems brought on by the stresses of war and multiple deployments.
Fayetteville police Sgt. Steven Bates said he has seen the increase in violence firsthand. “Absolutely,” said Bates, who was a negotiator during the standoff with Eisenhauer. “It stands to reason. It’s a statistical fact.”
During a speech Thursday to members of the 18th Airborne Corps headquarters who returned to Fort Bragg after concluding the mission in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick cited concerns. He said that six Fort Bragg soldiers had committed suicide in the past six weeks, and that there were at least 25 cases of spousal abuse at the installation in the past 30 days.
“We have got to stop the violence,” Helmick told an estimated 14,000 troops. He urged soldiers to take advantage of Army mental health services and to realize there is no stigma attached to getting help.
Several high-profile incidents involving soldiers have happened around Fort Bragg since the beginning of December. They include:
• On Dec. 8, Moore County Deputy Rick Rhyne tried to arrest Iraq war veteran Martin Abel Poynter on a child-custody charge at Poynter’s home near Vass. Poynter, 33, fatally shot Rhyne and then himself. Poynter had a long history of mental illness since leaving the Army as a Special Forces soldier in 2007, officials said. At least once, he was involuntary committed to a psychiatric ward. After his release, he lived in a home without electricity. Friends described him as a good Christian man before his illness.
• On Dec. 10, 24-year-old paratrooper Seth Andrews grabbed a .30-06 rifle and fatally shot his new wife, Hillary, and then himself at their Raeford home, investigators said. Andrews had returned from Iraq a few weeks earlier. He also had served a yearlong tour in Afghanistan. Family members said the couple offered no hint of trouble.
• On Dec. 14, Fayetteville police went to the home of Fort Bragg soldier Joshua Robert Kompf, 25, to serve a warrant charging him with choking a woman. At the home, police said, they found military weapons and explosives, drug paraphernalia and steroids.
• On Dec. 16, Fayetteville police reported, Fort Bragg soldier Christopher Ervin McNeal, 23, shot two people and tried to shoot three others at the Brookstone apartment complex. A motive for the shootings has not been revealed. McNeal had served a yearlong tour in Afghanistan.
• On Jan. 8, the body of Fort Bragg paratrooper George James Desormeaux II of New York was found at a home near Cameron in Moore County. Investigators have not said how he died. Desormeaux, who was 34, joined the Army in 1995 and was honorably discharged in 2003. He rejoined in 2005. His parents could not be reached for comment.
• On Jan. 17, Fort Bragg Sgt. Taylor B. Self was found dead in his Fayetteville home. Police said Self, 25, of Oneonta Ala., apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Self’s family declined to comment.
• On Tuesday, Fort Bragg paratrooper Pete Peterson was found dead in his Fayetteville home. Peterson, 32, of North Las Vegas, Nev., had deployed four times, returning from his last deployment in December with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team. Police say it appears Peterson died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
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Filed under: Resources Tagged: | 2nd Brigade Combat Team, Afghanistan, Army, Christopher Ervin McNeal, Combat, Death Investigation, Deployment, Fort Bragg, George James Desormeaux II, Infantry, Iraq, Joshua Robert Kompf, Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, Martin Abel Poynter, Mental Health, Military Suicide, Moore County Deputy Rick Rhyne, Murder-suicide, osh Eisenhauer, Pete Peterson, PTSD, Seth Andrews, Sgt. Taylor B. Self, Special Forces, Stigma, Stress, Veterans, War