Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Fort Drum Soldier Accused Of Double Murder Had A Dark Past The Army Didn’t Catch
On July 9, Army Staff Sgt. Justin Walters allegedly shot his wife, Nichole, and a state trooper named Joel Davis after a domestic dispute at their double-wide trailer in Theresa, New York.
While the killing has brought shock and grief to the military community, Walters, an infantryman who was stationed at Fort Drum, had a troubled childhood and a juvenile record despite serving in the Army for 10 years — something the Army either excused or missed, according to local New York news site Syracuse.com.
When he was 15 and living in Michigan, Walters made a plan with a fellow student to kill minorities at his middle school. In an Ottawa County Family Court, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to carry a dangerous weapon after police received a tip that he and classmate John Beyrle were going to murder students and then commit suicide, according to records from the Ottawa County sheriff's office from November 1999.
Under normal circumstances, this criminal record would have prevented Walters from joining the armed forces. But he enlisted in the Army in March 2007, during a period when the service lowered its standards to recruit higher volumes of soldiers and fill ranks — at the peak of the Iraq War surge. “The number of incoming soldiers with prior felony arrests or convictions has more than tripled in the past five years. This year alone, the Army accepted an estimated 8,000 recruits with rap sheets,” CBS News reported in 2007.
As a result, the Army issued thousands of enlistment waivers for recruits with shady pasts.
U.S. Army Recruiting Command told Syracuse.com that federal privacy laws keep it from sharing records that could confirm or deny whether anyone knew of Walters' criminal past or if he was among the thousands that had obtained waivers to enlist.
Walters, 32, has been formally charged with two counts of murder.
This case calls into question the problem the Army had, and continues to have, with issues of misconduct.
Walters isn’t the only soldier waived into the Army who then went on to commit a serious crime in uniform. In 2008, Bowe Bergdahl enlisted into the Army as an infantryman; however, two years prior he had been kicked out of Coast Guard basic training for psychological reasons. The Army medically waived him into service anyway. A year later, Bergdahl would walk off an outpost in Afghanistan and get captured by the Haqqani network, leading to several weeks of failed search-and-rescue operations by U.S. troops throughout the country.
Bergdahl was released in a high-profile prisoner exchange in 2014, and remains on active duty while he awaits trial for desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. In 2016, it was revealed that Bergdahl was diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder, a disorder that typically would prevent someone from enlisting in the armed forces.
Today, the Army no longer recruits men and women with felony convictions or arrests, and all the military branches have taken steps to perform more thorough psychological testing during recruitment.
And in fiscal year 2016, fewer than 1300 criminal waivers were accepted, Kelli Bland, spokesperson for the Army Recruitment Command, told Syracuse.com.
Still given that 71% of Americans are ineligible for military service, it’s concerning to think that the Army could return to this practice if and when it faces another sudden need to boost numbers within its ranks.
A former Marine arrested as he tried to enter the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May with a modified AK-47 rifle, handgun, body armor and ammunition faces federal weapons charges, officials said Friday.
There are 'thousands' of decisions to make about the new Space Force, but the military's 2nd-highest-ranking officer already knows the 'perfect partner'
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
The US military's newest service, the Space Force, is only about a month old, having been signed into law by President Donald Trump on December 20.
Military veterans from throughout Northeast Florida came together Saturday morning to honor comrades in arms who were prisoners of war or missing in action, and remember their sacrifice.
After the plane landed, Pope Army Airfield was silent on Saturday.
A chaplain prayed and a family member sobbed.
Tarah McLaughlin's fingers traced her husband's flag-draped coffin before she pressed two fingers to her lips then pressed her fingers to the coffin.
The remains of Staff Sgt. Ian McLaughlin, 29, of Newport News, Virginia, arrived back to Fort Bragg a week after he was killed Jan. 11 by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
Pfc. Miguel Angel Villalon, 21, of Joliet, Illinois, also was killed in the same incident.
The U.S. Space Force has a name tape for uniforms now. Get excited people.
In a tweet from its official account, the Space Force said its uniform name tapes have "touched down in the Pentagon," sharing a photo of it on the chest of Gen. John W. Raymond, the newly-minted Chief of Space Operations for the new service branch nested in the Department of the Air Force.