Army Pvt. Nicole Burnham Found Unresponsive in Fort Carson Barracks; Death Ruled Suicide After Sexual Assault, Retaliation & a Three Month Expedited Transfer Delay (January 26, 2018)

Nicole Burnham Army

Pvt. Nicole Burnham, U.S. Army

Army Pvt. Nicole Burnham reported a sexual assault at Camp Casey in Korea on September 15, 2017. Four days later, she requested an expedited victim’s transfer (EVT) asking for reassignment back to the United States. Nicole’s Commander approved the request a few days later but it would be 82 days before the transfer occurred. In the meantime, Nicole Burnham shared the same barracks with her attacker. And there was no evidence to suggest the Army even addressed the fact that Nicole shared the same barracks as her attacker until an incident occurred three weeks later when he allegedly jumped out in front of her in an attempt to scare her. It was at this time, the Commander separated the two and put them in different barracks. In the weeks that followed, Nicole suffered verbal harassment and cyberbullying from within the ranks. She received comments from soldiers and their wives over social media calling her a “slut” and “deserving of rape.” Investigators claimed Nicole did not report the harassment to the Chain of Command but in a sworn statement a fellow soldier said most of the leadership was aware of the harassment yet turned a blind eye.

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Nicole Burnham Justification for Expedited Transfer (photo: KSTP-TV)

In October 2017, a tearful Nicole told her supervisor she couldn’t “take it” anymore and the supervisor believed she was eluding to suicidal ideation. She was referred to the Officer in Charge (OIC) who then handed her off to the Chaplain for counseling. But according to the A.R. 15-6 investigation, it doesn’t appear leadership in the Chain of Command was aware of what the supervisor believed was suicidal ideation. Nicole reported a sexual assault on September 15, 2017 and experienced three months of retaliation before Army leadership finally transferred her on December 12, 2017. In addition, KSTP reports Army leadership at Camp Casey failed to inform Fort Carson that Nicole was a victim of sexual assault (and harassment, bullying, & cyberbullying). Nicole should have been offered mental health care and compassion. Don Christiansen of Protect Our Defenders said in a statement that the Chain of Command was without a doubt responsible for the failures in Nicole’s case that ultimately lead to her ending her life. Nicole’s death triggered two investigations, one into the allegation of sexual assault that allegedly included Nicole being attacked by multiple men at Camp Casey and the other into the cyberbullying. Of course, the Army declined to comment until the investigation was completed. According to the family, Nicole’s main attacker was courtmartialed and agreed to a plea deal that forced him to leave the Army with a less than honorable discharge. The outcome of the cyberbullying investigation of military personnel and military spouses is unknown.

“It’s inconceivable that they let her languish in Korea. After all these failures, we had this tragic ending to her life.” -Don Christiansen, Protect Our Defenders (January 13, 2020)

Editor’s Note: The military wives who lived on a federal base overseas do not fall under the jurisdiction of the military Chain of Command. Civilians living on base fall under the federal jurisdiction of the FBI who at this point are reluctant to investigate anything but murder. The federal government uses a crisis oriented approach with military personnel and crimes on military bases as opposed to a homicide prevention approach. And in the case of reservations, there has been no justice for missing and murdered Native Americans. 

Nicole Burnham KSTP-TV Timeline

AR 15-6 Timeline of Events for Nicole Burnham (Source: KSTP-TV)

As a result of Nicole’s tragic and untimely death and the KSTP-TV investigation, Senator Amy Klobuchar and Representative Tom Emmer of Minnesota pushed the Army to take action and make changes to the expedited victims transfer policy. The pair asked the Army to track the time it takes to transfer victims of sex assault to another military base, citing the ‘unfortunate delays’ in the transfer of Pvt. Nicole Burnham. In response, the Secretary of the Army directed staff to update policies regarding the treatment of victims of sexual assault who request an off-base transfer. He asked that the Army update policies to mirror the timelines in the Department of Defense (DoD) policy. According to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, DoD policy states an EVT should occur within 30 days and Esper said the Army’s policies will now reflect that timeline. Nicole’s mother, Stacey Burnham, said 30 days is too long. She also said, “I cannot imagine being a victim, having your EVT approved but knowing you may still be there for another 30 days.” Stacey Burnham has called for more significant changes in the wake of her daughter’s death suggesting the timeline should be condensed even further. She runs a public Facebook page called Pooters Peeps in honor of her daughter.

Amy Klobuchar Letter

Letter from Amy Klobuchar & Tom Emmer to the Secretary of the Army (photo: KSTP-TV)

Sources: KSTP-TV, Senator Amy Klobuchar, and Stacey Burnham

In the News:

A 21-year-old Fort Carson soldier who died after being found unresponsive on post last Friday was honored with a dignified transfer. -KOAA 5 (February 2, 2018)

Failing Nicole Burnham Tweet

Retweet on Twitter in honor of Pvt. Nicole Burnham.

Photos of Nicole Burnham:

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Nicole Burnham (photo: Pooters Peeps)

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Pvt. Nicole Burnham, U.S. Army (Image: Alex Wentz)

Pooters Peeps (Facebook):

Related Links:
Obituary: Nicole A Burnham of Andover, Minnesota | 1996 – 2018
Failing Private Burnham: How the Army Did Not Protect a Minnesota Soldier after a Sexual Assault
Dignified transfer performed for Fort Carson soldier who died on post
Soldier commits suicide after Army wives bullied her, told her she should die
Report: Soldier Kills Herself After Sexual Assault, Harassment, Cyberbullying
Failing Private Burnham | KSTP-TV | Facebook
5 Investigates “Making a Difference” | Midwestern Emmys
Veterans suicide prevention walk remembers Nicole Burnham
Letter to Secretary of Army from Amy Klobuchar & Tom Emmer
Klobuchar, Emmer look into Minnesota soldier’s sexual assault, suicide
Klobuchar, Emmer Push Army to Take Action after Minnesota Soldier’s Sexual Assault, Suicide
Army Secretary orders changes to policy after Minnesota soldier’s sexual assault, suicide
Army Secretary orders changes to policy after Minnesota soldier’s sexual assault, suicide
Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services Articles of Interest
The Murder of Pvt. Nicole Burnham – When Driven to Suicide, It’s Murder – Failure to Act Prudently Makes the United States Army an Accessory to Her Murder
HOR Oversight Subcommittee on National Security & Foreign Affairs Held a Hearing on Sexual Assault in the Military (July 31, 2008)
Lauterbach Case Prompts Policy Reforms for Victims of Sexual Assault in the Military (December 25, 2011)
Rep. Mike Turner Says New Military Legislation Closes a Loophole & Includes Domestic Violence Victims in the Expedited Transfer Policy Law (May 1, 2018)
Pooters Peeps on Facebook (A Public Page Dedicated to Nicole Burnham)

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