Congressional lawmakers from MA ask that probe into climate at Fort Hood include case of Army Sgt. Elder Fernandes

Congressional lawmakers from MA ask that probe into climate at Fort Hood include case of Army Sgt. Elder Fernandes
U.S. Army SGT Elder Fernandes, 23, was found hanging from a tree Aug. 25, 2020, in Temple, Texas. Fernandes, who was stationed at Fort Hood, had last been seen alive by fellow soldiers Aug. 17 in Killeen. His death has been ruled a suicide. (U.S. Army)

BOSTON — Congressional lawmakers from Massachusetts are calling on an independent review panel investigating the command climate and culture at U.S. Army Base Fort Hood, Texas to include the case of Brockton native Army Sgt. Elder Fernandes in its review of the base.

Fernandes, a 23-year-old Brockton High School graduate, had been missing for more than a week before his body was found hanging from a tree in Temple, Texas, about 30 miles north of Fort Hood, where he was stationed.

Prior to Fernandes’s disappearance, he had reported being sexually assaulted by a superior. The male superior had grabbed his buttocks, he alleged.

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In a letter, U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey and Elizabeth Warren and Congressman Stephen Lynch, all D-Mass., urged the Fort Hood panel to review the following issues:

• The circumstances surrounding Sgt. Fernandes’s treatment by commanding officers and peers while serving at Fort Hood, including allegations of sexual assault, bullying, hazing, or harassment;

• The adequacy of the investigation conducted by the Army of his reported sexual assault;

• The circumstances surrounding his disappearance and death, including the Army’s coordination with local and state law enforcement in the search for him after he was reported missing, and;

• The adequacy of Army’s coordination with and treatment of Sgt. Fernandes’s family, including but not limited to information-sharing during the search for Fernandes and in the period after his body was discovered, and the release of his medical, service, and treatment records thereafter.

“Although an Army-led investigation remains ongoing into the cause and circumstances of Sergeant Fernandes’s death, the evidence suggests that the Army failed to give him the proper support and care that he needed while serving at Fort Hood,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter. “As you conduct your independent, comprehensive review of Fort Hood, we urge you to consider the facts of Sergeant Fernandes’s case. We will do everything we can to ensure that Sergeant Fernandes receives the justice he deserves, that Army leaders are held accountable, and to prevent harm to any other soldiers at Fort Hood. We stand by, ready to assist in your review in any way possible, and we look forward to seeing your final report.”

Warren and Markey along with Senator John Cornyn (R-Tex.) on Friday sent a bipartisan request to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Ok.) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) asking that the Committee hold a public hearing to probe the findings and recommendations of the independent review panel on the command climate and culture at U.S. Army Base Fort Hood, Texas.


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