An order issued by the 1st Armored Division commanding general permitted units to look for any unregistered firearms in soldiers' vehicles and rooms on Fort Bliss, Texas, following a shooting that occurred on post just after midnight Tuesday, according to a source at the installation.
But post officials told Army Times the search was not explicitly intended to look for weapons, though it did give them the ability to do so.
A fragmentary order was issued to all of 1st Armored Division to conduct a 100 percent “health and welfare inspection of the barracks and personal areas in an effort to ensure good order and discipline," said Lt. Col. Allie Payne, a division spokeswoman.
“That did give us the ability to look for weapons if there are any unregistered,” Payne said over the telephone Wednesday afternoon. Whether or not any unregistered weapons were found was not immediately available.
“It was not targeted at anyone or for any particular outcome, but it does provide the opportunity to look for violations of commander’s policies or violations of barracks policies," Payne wrote in a follow-on email. "It is within a commander’s purview to call health and welfare inspections at any point they feel appropriate and prudent to maintaining good order and discipline.”
Five military police shot a 20-year-old infantryman just after midnight Tuesday after he threatened MPs with a handgun, according to Fort Bliss officials. The soldier, who is in stable condition at an El Paso hospital, was not identified by the Army, though officials did say he had been in the service for less than a year and only assigned to Fort Bliss for about three weeks.
MPs were called after a private company’s driver, who was picking up the soldier, said he was behaving erratically. The driver did not feel safe and asked a bystander to call emergency services.
When the MPs arrived, they were unable to deescalate the situation and “both parties” exchanged gunshots after the soldier brandished a handgun at MPs, according to Fort Bliss officials. The number of shots fired was not provided.
“Regarding the subject’s weapon in yesterday’s incident, that information is still in discovery,” Payne said when asked whether the soldier’s firearm was properly registered with MPs and his unit. “As stated yesterday, we did recover his weapon from the scene, past that it is still with the investigators.”
Army CID spokesman Chris Grey did not immediately return a request for comment about the investigation.
Service members are allowed to own personal weapons and keep those weapons on post. However, weapons must be properly registered with their unit and the MP office, according to Payne.
For soldiers who live in the barracks, properly registered weapons are stored in the unit arms rooms when not properly signed out by the owner, she stated. Residents of on-post housing may be allowed to store the weapon at home in accordance with a lease agreement, she added.
Kyle Rempfer was an editor and reporter who has covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.