Maj. Gen. Stephen Lyons, commanding general of Fort Lee, Va., speaks at a news conference on Monday after a female soldier shot and wounded herself inside of the Combined Arms Support Command Headquarters. (Patrick Kane/The Associated Press)
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RICHMOND, VA. — A soldier who barricaded herself in a building at a Virginia base and then fatally shot herself in the head earlier this week was a 33-year-old human resources specialist from New York, the Army said Wednesday.
Fort Lee officials identified her as Sgt. 1st Class Paula M. Walker of Yonkers.
Walker was pronounced dead after being taken to Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center on Monday. She had barricaded herself in an office on the third floor of the four-story building that houses the Army's Combined Arms Support Command after brandishing a weapon and throwing things around. About 1,100 people were inside, but no one else was hurt. Her gun was not a service weapon, officials said.
Walker had been in the Army for nearly 14 years and at Fort Lee since December 2011. Maj. Gen. Stephen R. Lyons, who took over as commanding general of the support command last week, has said he did not know whether she was being treated for any mental health issues and could not speculate whether drugs or alcohol might have been a factor. The Army reported 301 soldiers committed suicide in 2013, which was down from 325 in 2012. Those figures include soldiers in the National Guard and Army Reserves.
Prior to coming to Fort Lee, the Army said Walker served at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, starting in 2010 and was at Fort Eustis, Virginia, beginning in 2006. Her career included a 15-month combat tour in Iraq from 2007 to 2008.
Lyons has described Walker as upset and enraged but said he couldn't say whether that was consistent with her personality. The Army says her awards and decorations include three Army Commendation Medals, four Army Achievement Medals, one Joint Meritorious Unit Award and four Army Good Conduct Medals.
An alarm was sounded across the post and those in the building either took shelter inside or evacuated as directed, officials said.
The heavily trafficked Fort Lee reopened and normal operations resumed within an hour of the morning shooting.
The daily population at Fort Lee — 25 miles south of Richmond and 130 miles from Washington — is about 34,000, with members from all branches, their families, civilians and contractors.
The shooting is the fourth violent act at a Virginia military installation this year.
In March, a civilian truck driver shot and killed a sailor aboard a Navy destroyer at Naval Station Norfolk before he was shot and killed by Navy security. In June, authorities said, a sailor repeatedly stabbed another near Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. The same installation was placed on lockdown in April when a sailor shot and killed himself inside a barracks there.