A Fort Benning soldier accused of shooting his girlfriend at American Storage Rental Spaces before turning the gun on himself Tuesday had been in the military more than four years and never deployed, a post spokeswoman said Wednesday.
Authorities identified the Army captain as Gonzalo Raphael Garcia, 38, of California and the woman as Victoria Andrea Jacquez, 27, of Las Cruces, N.M. Both died of a gunshot wound to the head in what police called a murder-suicide at 3560 Victory Drive.
Elsie Jackson, a public affairs spokeswoman, said Garcia entered the military in November 2008. In October 2012, he was assigned to the 199th Infantry Regiment, a training unit at Fort Benning. His last duty station was at Fort Bliss, Texas, she said.
Garcia was a graduate of the Airborne School at Fort Benning but was never deployed.
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Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan said the soldier and the woman were engaged. She was wearing what appeared to be an engagement ring on her finger. "She was here to see him," he said. "Her family didn't know she was here."
Police Lt. John McMichael said police are still trying to piece together details about the couple. They were at the Victory Drive storage business because he had a space there. "It was open," McMichael said.
He confirmed the woman was in town to see the soldier but didn't know where she was staying.
Garcia was wearing an Army battle dress uniform during the shooting. His body lay between a black Mitsubishi Eclipse, which was registered in his name, and the fence at the end of the row of storage units. The woman lay on her back a few feet away with her legs partially in a storage unit doorway. A .40-caliber Smith & Wesson pistol was recovered at the scene.
The coroner said the shooting occurred around 2:50 p.m. Police were called at 4:13 p.m. when an employee was checking the grounds and found the bodies next to an open storage unit.
The murder is the fifth homicide of the year in Columbus.
Police said the homicide and suicide involved family violence.
Suicide in the military hit a record high in 2012 while deaths of local soldiers declined. The post had three of 182 Army suicides last year, a total that continued a decline from six in 2011 and 10 in 2010, an official said.
An investigation, which may take months, will determine if Garcia's death will be counted as an Army suicide.
Many of the local soldiers who committed suicide included those with service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
To prevent suicides, Denise Stephens, the suicide prevention program services manager on post, said in January that information is available to all soldiers including basic trainees and veteran soldiers being reassigned to Fort Benning. The information focuses on high-risk behavior, the abuse of substances, financial problems, trouble in relationships and behavioral health.
"We have programs to facilitate what we are seeing as some high-risk trends or factors in the Army," she said.