October 2002:Army Brigadier General Bernardo C. Negrete, a 1973 Vanderbilt graduate, is being assigned as Deputy Commanding General and Chief of Staff, U.S. Army Accessions Command, Fort Monroe, Virginia. Negrete is currently serving as Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army Recruiting Command, Fort Knox, Kentucky.
19 September 2005:Retired Brigadier General Bernardo Negrete Maza died in a shooting accident at his San Antonio home. For 30 years he served in the Army and participated in high-profile combat tours such as Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada, Operation Just Cause in Panama, Operation Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia and Iraq and Operation Desert Thunder in Kuwait.
During his military career, he was honored with prestigious accolades such as the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, among others. Negrete is survived by wife Victoria V. Negrete and his children Christopher and Alexis.
September 19, 2005:Retired Brigadier General Bernardo Negrete Maza died Friday in a shooting accident at his home in San Antonio. Negrete was the husband of Victoria Varela-Negrete, CEO of The Cartel Group.
Brigadier General (ret), Bernardo C. Negrete, U.S. Army, a beloved husband, father and son, passed away on September 16, 2005. Brigadier General “Bernie” Negrete retired from active duty after 30 years exceptional service and 4 combat tours with both conventional and special operations units.
After graduating with a Bachelors degree in Political Science from Vanderbilt University, General Bernardo Negrete served our country for the next 30 years in a series of command and staff positions worldwide. They included combat tours in Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada, Operation Just Cause in Panama, Operation Desert Shield/Storm in Saudi Arabia and Iraq and Operation Desert Thunder in Kuwait.
General Negrete's final posting was to Fort Monroe Virginia, with the United States Army Recruiting Command as Deputy Commanding General (West) and as Deputy Commanding General and Chief of Staff of the newly created Accessions Command, before moving to San Antonio, Texas.
General Negrete's numerous honors, awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit (with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters), Bronze Star Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster), the Defense Meritorious Service Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster), and the Meritorious Service Medal (with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters). Additionally, General Negrete was entitled to wear the Expert Infantryman Badge, Military Free Fall Parachutist Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, Senior Army Aviator Badge, Air Assault Badge, Ranger Tab, and the Recruiter Badge, to name a few.
He is Survived by his beloved wife, Victoria V. Negrete of San Antonio, Texas, his mother, Irma Negrete of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; son, Christopher Negrete of Philadelphia; step-daughter, Alexis Anthony; granddaughter, Ariana Greenleaf; brothers: Francisco J. Negrete, Javier Negrete and Jorge Negrete; 4 aunts and one uncle: Norma Festa, Angela and Verisimo Sanchez, Leticia Negrete and Hazel Calvet; 6 cousins: Melinda Wingate, Jason Mowatt, Rosa Calvet, Maria Gonzalez, Elena Coates, Alina Sanchez and Jorge Sanchez; and numerous family in Mexico and Cuba including Guadalupe Solorzano, Elena Solarzano, Stevi Varela and Monica Ramirez Solorzano, who will be in attendance, as well as his wife, children and Aunt Angela.
SERVICES IN SAN ANTONIO
The family will receive friends from 5:00 – 9:00 PM on Tuesday, September 20 at Mission Park Funeral Chapels North with a Rosary recited at 7:00 PM. Memorial services will be held at 3:30 PM on Wednesday, September 21 at the Main Post Chapel at Ft. Sam Houston, with a reception immediately following at The Sam Houston Club located at Building 1395, Chaffee Rd, Fort Sam Houston.
FUNERAL SERVICES IN ARLINGTON:
The funeral and interment with Full Military Honors will be held at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date, to be announced.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in his name to the Fisher House Foundation, c/o 1401 Rockville Pike, Suite 600, Rockville, Maryland 20852.
The General will be buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery on 5 December 2005.
1 January 2006
Courtesy of the Express-News
The question of how a retired brigadier general died in his bedroom was officially settled last week, even if the ruling — suicide — did nothing to convince friends and relatives who don't believe the stoic combat veteran would intentionally take his life.
The autopsy report released Thursday ruled out homicide and concluded that Bernardo C. Negrete, one of a dozen Hispanics to ever wear an Army star, was killed by a self-inflicted gunshot fired from a muzzle held firmly to his right temple.
Closing the investigation into a sudden death that startled soldiers who had served with the former paratrooper in Grenada, Panama and Iraq, the medical examiner's ruling also ended a largely one-sided argument over the definition of suicide.
The general's wife, the only witness to the shooting, has insisted that the shooting was a mistake, and she had pressed authorities to classify the tragedy as an accident — the unfortunate collision of several factors, including her husband's daylong drinking binge in the couple's San Antonio home.
But although Victoria Negrete was backed by a psychiatrist's opinion that the general probably didn't realize his gun was loaded, the medical examiner's office took a simpler view of the normally cautious gun collector's conduct on the night of September 16, 2005.
“Look, we're not mind readers,” said Bexar County Medical Examiner Vincent Di Maio. “All we know is, if you put a 9 mm pistol to your head and pull the trigger, we're going to call it a suicide.”
Bernardo Negrete's second cousin is one of many who find the medical examiner's conclusion implausible. She had spoken with the general, who was 53, a week before his death, when he came to Florida for his mother's hip replacement surgery. He sounded upbeat, and they talked of getting together during his next visit.
“He loved life. There's no way he'd commit suicide,” Melinda Wingate said. “Could it have been an accident? Maybe. But suicide? No way.”
Only slight traces of lead were found on the general's hands — not enough to conclude that he fired the pistol, Di Maio said.
However, the Beretta was a semi-automatic with a lock breach that, experts said, doesn't always spray much gunshot residue on the hand that's holding it.
Although police haven't revealed the results of the tests on Victoria Negrete's hands, she said the tests found no traces of gunpowder. Moreover, only the general's fingerprints were on the gun.
Victoria Negrete's account of what happened has varied at times, but she has consistently described the shooting as a self-inflicted accident — though a designation of suicide would not have canceled the soldier's life insurance.
When she dialed 911 around 10:30 p.m., hers was the second call to police. The first came moments earlier from her grown daughter, who was upstairs in the house and told dispatchers only that she had heard a gunshot.
When Victoria Negrete called, according to a recording, her quaking voice pleaded for help.
“A gun just went off,” she told a dispatcher. “My husband was playing in the bedroom with guns. Uhm. He was … acting crazy. A gun went off. Please get an ambulance here right away.”
When police arrived, she told them that her husband was drunk, abusive and demanding sex; but days later, she gave the general's friends and relatives sanitized versions.
In one account, she said the gun discharged while “Bernie” was preparing for that weekend's skeet-shooting trip.
That, she says now, was an attempt to spare the family additional pain and to avoid dwelling on traumatic details.
“Anyone who doesn't understand that can't imagine what it's like to watch a loved one take their life,” she said.
Lack of despair
About a quarter of American suicides are impulsive, carried out within five minutes of the decision, and, experts say, more than half of them claim middle-aged men.
Bernardo Negrete's death might fit those descriptions, but what distinguishes his case is his lack of despair, said Dr. Robert L. Jimenez, a psychiatrist hired by the general's widow to review his history and perform what's known as a psychological autopsy.
In interviewing the people who had been in the house that day — Victoria Negrete, her daughter and housekeeper — plus one of the general's close friends, Doug Morelen, Jimenez heard no evidence that Bernardo Negrete was despondent and seeking death.
Instead, Jimenez concluded, the retired soldier more likely pointed the pistol at his head as a dramatic gesture during an argument inflamed by his drunkenness.
“This would be very typical of an Army man that's a bit macho, doing this to really impress Mrs. Negrete and get his point across,” said Jimenez, who served as a Navy surgeon attached to a Marine unit in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.
Other experts, however, say it's possible that the warning signs could have been silent and hidden.
Some people may contemplate suicide without ever mentioning it, said David Litts, a retired Air Force Colonel and an associate director of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.
There's no way to know for sure whether Negrete quietly considered suicide for some time, Litts said, or if he drunkenly decided to kill himself in the heat of argument.
Whatever it's called — suicide or “irrational behavior due to stress and intoxication” — the label doesn't matter in the grand scheme, Victoria Negrete said.
“It still doesn't bring my husband back,” she said.
Detectives have yet to disclose any details of their probe, so the only accounts of Negrete's final moments have come from his wife, the official autopsy, the psychological autopsy and the initial police report filed the night of his death.
Taken together, they provide this narrative:
Retirement had not rewarded the general with the kind of high-dollar work he had hoped, although he had started a consulting business.
Always a drinker, he had started drinking more in retirement. That afternoon, he drank more than usual on an almost empty stomach and spent much of the day upstairs in rooms without air conditioning.
Although he usually stored his weapons collection and ammunition separately, he loaded two pistols, the Beretta and a .380-caliber Walter, and placed them in the bedroom for his personal safety.
When Victoria Negrete came home from work, she found her husband argumentative and thoroughly intoxicated — the level of alcohol later found in his blood, 0.24, was the equivalent of a dozen beers.
At one point, she locked the general on the patio outside the bedroom, hoping he'd sober up, but he re-entered the house through another door.
He wanted to have sex. They quarreled more. He grabbed her arm and she responded, “You're hurting me.”
“I was talking about the drinking hurting him and hurting me,” Victoria Negrete recalled. “I wanted him to stop drinking and come to bed. That's when he said, ‘Hurt? I'll show you hurt.'”
And he pressed the gun to his temple.
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard