‘Justice for Vanessa Guillen’ trends after suspect fatally shoots himself following discovery of human remains

On Tuesday, June 30, U.S. Army investigators found “partial human remains” in Leon River, Texas, near where Guillen went missing in April. They did not, however, confirm the body was hers


                            ‘Justice for Vanessa Guillen’ trends after suspect fatally shoots himself following discovery of human remains
Vanessa Guillen (U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command)

KILLEEN, TEXAS: On Wednesday, July 1, the trend #JusticeForVanessaGuillen took over Twitter, with thousands of people demanding justice for the 20-year-old Private First Class, whose disappearance has become national news. The young soldier was last seen more than two months ago in the parking lot of her barracks at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, on April 22. 

On Tuesday, June 30, U.S. Army investigators found “partial human remains” in Leon River, Texas, near where Guillen went missing in April. They did not, however, confirm the body was Guillen's. On Wednesday, the Guillen family lawyer, Natalie Khawam, revealed this at a press conference in Washington, D.C.

“This should never have happened, and we will never know what happened -- ever -- until we get a congressional investigation,” Khawam said. “I don't know who's covering up for who, but it doesn't matter. We lost a beautiful young soldier, and it's time we fix our system.”

But there have been more startling developments in the story. Reportedly, a suspect in Guillen's case, a soldier, died by suicide after police confronted him in Killeen, Texas. Early Wednesday, July 1, U.S. Marshals, the Killeen police, and the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force located the unidentified soldier suspected in Guillen's disappearance. After the suspect left his Fort Hood post, they confronted him, a few miles from the base.

“As officers attempted to make contact with the suspect, the suspect displayed a weapon and discharged it toward himself. The suspect succumbed from a self-inflicted gunshot wound," the Killeen Police Department said in a news release.

A civilian suspect is in custody in connection to Guillen's disappearance. According to Army investigators, she is the estranged wife of a former Fort Hood Soldier.

Guillen’s disappearance has found anger on social media. The trend on Wednesday is proof of that. The anger is also caused by the fact that the Guillen family has alleged the young soldier had been the target of sexual harassment by one of her sergeants at Fort Hood, prior to her disappearance. 

Guillen had reportedly told her mother, her friends, and some fellow service members about the harassment. But as per her family lawyer Khawam, fearing retaliation, she never filed a formal complaint on base. In fact, on Wednesday, Khawam alleged that the dead suspect was the same man who harassed Guillen.

Lupe Guillen, the missing Private’s sister, told the media, “How can this happen on a military base? How can this happen while she's on duty? How can they let this happen and then just let it go under the rug like it was nothing?”

The Army's Criminal Investigation Command has launched an investigation into allegations that Guillen was sexually harassed. Colonel Ralph Overland, Commander of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, said, “I opened an investigation concerning the information provided by the Guillen family that Pfc. Vanessa Guillen was harassed prior to her disappearance. I take allegations of sexual harassment very seriously and we are conducting a thorough investigation.”

But these assurances, it would seem, are not seen as enough by people. Tweeting under the hashtag #JusticeForVanessaGuillen, many expressed their dissatisfaction with how the case has been handled. A Twitter user wrote, “Even if the suspected killer committed suicide shouldn't there be some sort of oversight and chain of command as to who failed in protecting her from having this happen while serving in the military. Answers need to be provided.”

Another wrote, “A rifle goes missing on a base and they shut the entire place down until it’s found. A human being who signed up to defend her country is assaulted and goes missing and they don’t care. Vanessa Guillen deserved so much better.”

Common Defence, a grassroots movement of progressive military veterans, wrote on Twitter: “When a pair of Night Vision Goggles goes missing, @USArmy will shut everything down, but when a Soldier at @forthood disappeared after being sexually harassed, Commanders did nothing. We’re angry and heartbroken. We are not disposable!”

Donna Imam, a U.S. congressional candidate, wrote, “We need a full investigation into what happened in the case of Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillén, missing since April 22. We need justice for her family NOW.”

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