Double slaying, suicide shocks Quantico base
Authorities at Marine Corps Base Quantico moved onto the grim task of notifying next-of-kin in the wake of a double shooting and suicide at the base Thursday night.
In what the base commander termed a “tragic loss” for the Marine Corps, a staff member at Quantico’s Officer Candidates School shot and killed a male colleague and a female staffer before turning the gun on himself.
It was the second blow to the Marines in less than one week. On Monday, an accidental mortar-shell explosion killed seven Marines and injured a half-dozen more during training at Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada.
As of press time, names of those shot at Quantico haven’t been released, pending notification of relatives. ADD A base spokesman said late Friday that the identifications will not be released until 24 hours after that notification as outlined in Department of Defense instruction.
No motive for the shootings has been given.
It all began, officials said, about 10:30 p.m. with an emergency call to the base Provost Marshal’s office.
The sprawling base, in Stafford, Prince William and a small part of Fauquier County, then activated its Giant Voice emergency-notification system about 11 p.m. The base was put on Threat Condition Delta, the highest state of alert for U.S. military bases, and residents and employees were instructed to stay indoors.
The first reports that it involved an on-base shooting came from the base website about 11:50 p.m.; by then, Prince William County police were also involved.
An initial report said a lone shooter had barricaded himself in a building, which later turned out to be the Taylor Hall barracks used by the Officer Candidates School.
After ambulances arrived and the bodies were removed, more grisly details emerged: a male victim had been found dead in the barracks common area, followed by the gunman and a woman. All were said to be members of the OCS junior enlisted staff. No other injuries were reported.
The base, about 26 miles north of Fredericksburg, is home to the FBI’s training academy. Two years ago, Quantico was a target of an ex-Marine reservist who, during five nighttime shootings, fired on the Pentagon and other military targets.
In a Friday morning press conference, Col. David W. Maxwell, the base commander, at one point choking back tears, expressed sorrow for the the loss of three Marines, and for their families, friends and colleagues.
“We ask for your patience as we conduct a thorough investigation into this incident,” he said, adding, “I anticipate a lengthy investigation.”
He said the base and chaplains are providing counseling.
“As we take care of our Marines and their families who are dealing with this tragedy, I would ask the support of our neighbors, and their thoughts and prayers as well for our Marines and families.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was “saddened” to hear of the shootings, Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement Friday.
“This tragedy, as well as the tragedy in Nevada earlier this week, took the lives of Marines who volunteered to serve their nation,” Little said.
Comments on the Quantico Facebook page began early and continued throughout the day.
This one was typical: April Kearchner of Fort Lewis, Wash., wrote, “Praying for the families and all involved. That’s all that needs to be said at this time.”
And there were others like this post: “My son is presently serving there!!! So worried!!!”
Staff Librarian Craig Schulin and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431
Marine Corps Base Quantico is known as “The crossroads of the Marine Corps.” Among its distinctions: every Marine officer goes through Officer Candidates School there.
The OCS mission: “Train, evaluate, and screen officer candidates to ensure that they possess the moral, intellectual, and physical qualities for commissioning; and the leadership potential to serve successfully as company-grade officers in the operating forces.”
The latest class in training is scheduled to graduate and receive its commissions on April 19.
An “Officers Camp of Instruction” was first organized at Quantico in July 1917. It became the Officer Candidates School in a reorganization in 1963.
—Marine Corps Base Quantico