On the night of March 21, 2013, Sgt. Eusebio Lopez, 25, stalked through the Marine baracks at Quantico’s Officer Candidates School with a loaded pistol. Lopez, a tactics instructor,
eventually gunned down two fellow Marines— Lance Cpl. Sara Castromata, 19, a warehouse clerk, and Cpl. Jacob Wooley, 23, a field radio operator — before turning the weapon on himself.
The top officer at OCS, Col. Kris Stillings, was later relieved for cause in April.
In a series of further investigations, it was found that there were several breaches in security and protocol ahead of the shooting.
Castromata had recently dumped Lopez, which is a problem since he should have been prohibited from dating a junior Marine in the first place. Lopez had a pistol, even though servicemembers living on base are required to register and turn in their weapons to the local armory.
He was able to access Castromata’s room after the barracks duty officer gave him the duty master key — he said he had locked himself out — when the duty officer should have gone with him to unlock the door. Perhaps most notably, there was the possibility of Lopez slipping through the mental health cracks. He had deployed twice, been blown up, and even sported a tattoo that read “What consumes your mind controls your life.”
The investigation of the shooting yielded nearly a dozen officers to be punished formally, as well as calls for procedural changes.
But in the end, only one person can truly be blamed, as pointed out by Stillings in a statement released this week:
To make a cause-and-effect relationship between a small number of violations of regulations or the well-documented positive command climate at OCS and the most horrendous act a human being can commit, murder of innocent people and suicide, is simply wrong. The one who is responsible for these actions is the shooter …
Yes, something went wrong as no one commits an act like this without having issues, but the fact is that we will never know why — the truth went to the grave with him.
For once, why don’t we call it what it is: A young Marine murdered two people and killed himself. He is responsible. Yes it is extremely sad and we must do everything we can to not let this happen again as three young people are dead, families in ruins and careers are destroyed. We have to learn what we can from this horrible event and institutionalize the lessons for the betterment of our Corps as this tragic event is a part of our society’s larger problem of gun violence and mental health issues. But the continued public discourse on who is to blame now only hurts the families involved and the unit.
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