A U.S. Army soldier preparing to take her teen-age son to football practice was killed Tuesday evening on Fort Belvoir, Virginia, by an estranged boyfriend, who then committed suicide, FBI and Army officials said.
Staff Sergeant Spring Law was in her car outside a base housing unit, but exited her car when the ex-boyfriend approached her. They began talking, and the discussion quickly escalated into an argument, witnesses said.
The man then pulled out a 9 mm handgun and shot Law twice, once in the leg and once in the chest, FBI spokeswoman Susan Lloyd said.
He then turned the gun and shot himself in the head, Lloyd said. Law, a native of Connecticut, was flown by helicopter to a nearby hospital, but died nearly 1½ hours after the shooting, Lloyd said.
Law had broken off her relationship with the 35-year-old man a week ago, Lloyd said. Officials said the man, whose identity was not released by press time Wednesday, lived in the general area of the base. He was not in the military, they said.
Law, 41, was an executive administrative assistant in the Defense Logistics Agency Command Group at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, a base official said. Law joined the military in October 1983 and came to the Defense Logistics Agency Command Group in September 1997.
She and her 13-year-old son had been living temporarily with friends at the military housing unit where the shooting occurred, FBI officials said.
Law also has a 15-year-old son who was not at home during the shooting. Both sons now are with their father, who lives in Maryland.
The younger son was inside the house when the shooting occurred. He did witness the confrontation between the ex-boyfriend and his mother but he did not see the shooting, Lloyd said.
The condominium-style housing where the woman and her son were living is in the 2700 block of Orchard Court in the Woodlawn Village housing area, a section of the Army base with no military sentry, said base spokeswoman Rebecca Wriggle.
People can come and go without checking in with military police because there is no gate, she said. Although it’s part of the base, Woodlawn Village is separated from the main post by roughly 150 acres of the federally maintained Jackson Miles Abbot Wetland Refuge, Wriggle said.
The FBI has assumed the lead role in the investigation because a crime was committed on a “government reservation,” Lloyd said.
Courtesy of the Washington Post: 7 September 2000
Slaying Leaves Scar On Fort Belvoir Community
By Steve Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday , September 7, 2000
There was something about Army Staff Sergeant Spring Law that had an impact on people, from young enlisted soldiers to three-star generals.
Law was preparing to take one of her teenage sons to football practice when she was shot to death in broad daylight August 15, 2000, by Charles T. Saunders, her ex-boyfriend. Saunders then fatally shot himself.
The shocking manner of her death, combined with the loss of Law's ebullient personality, has left the Fort Belvoir community deeply shaken.
Law, 41, was an executive assistant to the command staff at the Defense Logistics Agency, where she served as the gatekeeper for Lieutenant General Henry T. Glisson, director of the agency. “So many people in the building knew her and were stricken by the tragedy,” said Don Carr, a Fort Belvoir spokesman.
Glisson was one of many soldiers and civilian co-workers who wrote open letters published recently in the Belvoir Eagle, themilitary paper at the installation.
“Once or twice in a lifetime, there is an event or person who changes the way you think or approach life,” Glisson wrote. “For me, Spring Law was such a person. From the first moment I met her several years ago, I was uplifted by her spirit and zest for
“She was a boost of spirit and energy and refused to let anyone around her be down,” said Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Jennifer L. Kennedy. “She was enthusiasm, and grace, and dignity beyond words. . . . Spring was a fountain of youth and good
advice, which she was always willing to share, giving of herself to better others.”
Law had moved on post to stay with friends at Fort Belvoir after her relationship with Saunders ended. Shortly after 5 p.m. on a Tuesday evening, Saunders pulled into the driveway at the home where Law was staying as she prepared to take her
13-year-old son to practice.
As neighborhood children played basketball nearby in the cul-de-sac, the two exchanged words and Saunders pulled out a 9mm pistol and shot Law twice, first in the leg and then in the chest. Then he turned the gun on himself.
Shocked neighbors called for help and performed first aid on Law, but she was pronounced dead a short time later at Inova Fairfax Hospital. Law's son did not witness the shooting but saw his mother on the ground, neighbors said.
Carr said the killings have prompted some in the Fort Belvoir community to ask, “How come we're not a closed post?”
But Army commanders do not think changes to limit access to the base are warranted or particularly feasible, Carr said. “The resources just aren't there to provide the additional manning,” he said. “This sort of thing was going to happen whether or not the post was closed.”
Colonel Kurt Weaver, the garrison commander, met with residents the night of the shooting. Counselors from DeWitt Army Community Hospital were also sent to help those closest to Law. Major General James Jackson, the new commander of the
Military District of Washington, visited Fort Belvoir the next day to meet with those who helped respond to the shooting. Law's two sons are being cared for by their father, who lives in Maryland, officials said.
About 350 people attended Law's funeral August 21, 2000, at the Fort Belvoir Main Post Chapel. She was buried that afternoon at Arlington National Cemetery. “This is one of those tragedies that pull the community together,” Carr said.
But the pain left by Law's death is unmistakable in letters published in the base paper.
“I'm just one of the many people whose life you touched,” wrote Army Sgt. 1st Class James Washington. “It's tearing me up inside because you left, and I didn't get a chance to say goodbye.”
LAW, SPRING L
SFC US ARMY
- VETERAN SERVICE DATES: 10/17/1983 – 08/15/2000
- DATE OF BIRTH: 02/23/1959
- DATE OF DEATH: 08/15/2000
- DATE OF INTERMENT: 08/28/2000
- BURIED AT: SECTION 66 SITE 5863
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
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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