Fort Hood Army MSG Alva ‘Joe’ Gwinn Led Police on High Speed Car Chase After Welfare Check Initiated; Died by Suicide During the Incident (October 12, 2017)

Master Sergeant Alva Joe Gwinn

MSG Alva ‘Joe’ Gwinn, U.S. Army

Fort Hood Army Master Sergeant Alva ‘Joe’ Gwinn, 39, died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound on October 12, 2017 near the Williamson-Bell County line in Texas. Although the exact set of circumstances that led to MSG Gwinn taking his own life are unknown, the media reported that MSG Gwinn took his own life during an exchange of gunfire after leading the Killeen Police Department (KPD) on a high speed car chase. Prior to the incident, a concerned family member contacted the Fort Hood chain of command to report that Joe was experiencing a mental health breakdown and may be suicidal. The command contacted the military police who then asked the Killeen Police Department to do a ‘welfare check’ on MSG Gwinn. According to the KPD, MSG Gwinn was located in his car but took off when approached; they said MSG Gwinn then led police on a high speed car chase. According to reports, Alva fled on foot after pulling over, there was an exchange of gunfire with the KPD, and MSG Gwinn ended his life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. An officer involved shooting investigation was launched because gunfire was exchanged. Joe left behind two sons from a previous marriage and a wife and family who loved him very much. He is missed dearly.

On March 21, 2018, the media reported that a “Bell County Grand Jury reviewed the completed investigation done by the Texas Rangers and decided no indictment should be returned to the deputy in connection with the events leading to the death of a Fort Hood soldier.” MSG Gwinn’s home of record was listed as Richwood, West Virginia. MSG Gwinn served in the Army National Guard from 1996-1999 and then enlisted in the active-duty Army in September 1999 as a combat engineer. At the time of his death, MSG Gwinn was assigned to the 20th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade at Fort Hood since April 2012. MSG Gwinn served in the military for over twenty years and was eligible for retirement. When the media reported on the death of MSG Gwinn, they also mentioned a sexual assault accusation lodged against him in June 2016. They reported MSG Gwinn was scheduled to go to court in November 2017 as if they were implying there was a connection between the suicide and the court date scheduled the following month. One media source reported MSG Gwinn was a highly decorated combat veteran who was known for being a perfectionist and respected by his peers. MSG Gwinn deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan a total of five times while he served with the U.S. Army.

Editor’s Note: The circumstances that led to MSG Gwinn’s suicide inspired us to include him in a Fort Hood status of forces presentation we prepared for congressional representatives in Washington D.C. We believe things could have been handled better and we hope authorities learn from this experience in an effort to prevent it from happening again. We also found it in poor taste that the media mired MSG Gwinn’s reputation at the time of his death with an accusation of which he had not been found guilty of.

Areas of Concern:

  • On October 12, 2017, family informed the chain of command that MSG Gwinn was experiencing a mental health breakdown & may be suicidal; at the request of the chain of command, the military police asked the Killeen Police Department to do a ‘welfare check’ on MSG Gwinn; according to the KPD, they located MSG Gwinn in his car but he took off when approached and then led them on a high speed car chase that ended with an exchange of gunfire and MSG Gwinn taking his own life
  • How can we prevent a ‘welfare check’ from turning into an officer involved shooting, suicide by cop or suicide? Why was the high speed car chase necessary?
  • According to media reports, in June 2016, MSG Gwinn was arrested, indicted and charged by civilian authorities with “aggravated sexual assault” of a 12-year-old girl in 2012; the accusations surfaced in the midst of a child support and child custody case; MSG Gwinn maintained his innocence but a potential trial loomed and his military career and child visitation rights were on hold; Joe loved his family
  • The accusations negatively impacted MSG Gwinn’s military career and ability to spend time with his two sons; this in turn negatively impacted his mental health; the stress of the child custody case & accusations took their toll; up until this point, MSG Gwinn had a stellar military career and had never been accused of any crimes
  • According to local media, Alva was facing a trial in November 2017 and they made a loose connection between a pending trial date and MSG Gwinn’s suicide
  • What prompted the media to mire MSG Gwinn’s memory with an accusation when they reported on his death? Is that fair when the accused can’t defend themselves?
  • Whether guilty or innocent, this is a tragic end for a man accused of a crime
  • What does the Army do with the accused who are awaiting criminal trial?
  • Is Fort Hood responsible for the mental health of those accused of crimes?
  • What is the military’s policy on child visitation when a military member is accused of a crime against a child other than their own?

Related Links:
Obituary: Alva “Joe” Gwinn
Death of a Fort Hood Soldier (Ft Hood Press Center)
Fort Hood Fallen Warriors
Killeen man arrested for sexual assault of 12-year-old
Man arrested for aggravated sexual assault of a child
Fort Hood soldier arrested on aggravated sexual assault charge
Fort Hood soldier indicted in sexual assault case
Man who died in Thursday chase identified
Man in Bell County Chase was Fort Hood Soldier
Soldier who died in pursuit a decorated combat engineer
Soldier who led officers on Williamson Co. chase was facing sexual assault trial
Deputy in deadly Bell Co. chase was 12-year veteran, Williamson Co. sheriff’s office says
In the military, trusted officers became alleged assailants in sex crimes
Man who died after 2-county chase was facing child rape trial
Affidavit: Man in officer-involved shooting was charged with aggravated sexual assault of child
Ft. Hood Soldier leads police on high speed chase before killing himself
Authorities: Man shot after police chase in Bell County killed himself
Army master sergeant commits suicide during police shoot out after giving chase
Army MSG was facing charges of sexually assaulting 12 year old girl
Man who died during pursuit had court date for sexual assault of a child
Man who took own life after WilCo pursuit was soldier facing child sex assault charge
One dead after officer-involved shooting in Bell County
Affidavit: Suspect in officer-involved shooting was charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child
Man who died during pursuit had court date for sexual assault of a child
Ft. Hood Soldier leads police on high speed chase before killing himself
No charges filed against Williamson County deputy in officer-involved shooting
Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside
Violent Crime, Suicide, and Non Combat Death at Fort Hood, Texas (US Army)
Military Policy and Legislation Considerations for the Investigations of Non Combat Death, Homicide, and Suicide of US Service Members
Washington DC Veteran’s Presentation on the Current Status of the Armed Forces at Fort Hood in Texas (2017)

Caroline Young Killed 2 Grandchildren After Losing Custody to Marine Recruiter Barrington Bruce; Sentenced to Death (June 18, 1993)

A grandmother caring for her grandchildren, a young girl in love with a boy, a mother protecting her son – are all consumed with intense love. But when that love is threatened, they find it too much to bear and take measures into their own hands. -Deadly Possession, Deadly Women (S5, E10)

In 1993, Caroline Young, 51, was as devoted to caring for 6-year-old Darin Torres and 4-year-old Dai-Zshia Torres as any mother, but they were not her children. Darin and Dai-Zshia were her daughter’s children, but her daughter did not care for them so Caroline had to step in. Twenty-five year old Vanessa Torres never looked after her own children because she had significant problems with drugs and prostitution. Caroline had full custody of the children since they were infants because the courts deemed their biological mother unfit as a parent. The children’s two different fathers had nothing to do with them and that’s the way Caroline liked it. Darin’s parents never married and separated when Darin was very young; Darin didn’t see his father for most of his life. And both his mother and grandmother didn’t want Darin’s dad in the picture. But in 1993, that suddenly changed when Marine Corps recruiter Barrington Bruce received a $12,000 bill from the State of California for back child support. Darin’s father Barrington, who was living in Virginia at the time, had been looking for his son Darin since he was a toddler. After Caroline Young applied for child support, the family support division found the young Marine Sergeant who was thankful they found him because he wanted to be reunited with his son.

Active duty Marine Barrington Bruce was determined to get the child back so he took legal steps to get custody. Caroline Young realized she made a mistake by asking for child support because the move revealed her grandson’s whereabouts. Caroline did not want the two kids she had taken care of since they were infants separated. She started making outlandish threats and even talked about killing the children rather than losing custody, but nobody believed that she would do it. Former FBI Profiler Candice DeLong explained that for some people their attachment to other people is unhealthy because it consumes them. In the process, they lose their sense of self and the prospect of losing the person they are consumed with causes tremendous pain and disruption. Barrington Bruce was determined to get his son back so he went to court and was awarded full custody. Barrington went through all the proper channels and his family situation was deemed appropriate for taking custody of the child. He had a full-time job in the military, he was married, and his wife had just had a baby. But Profiler DeLong cautions that the stress of losing Darin caused something deep-seated in Caroline, something that she had not dealt with, possibly a desertion by someone in her past when she was a little girl.

After years of daily devotion, Caroline Young was shattered by the idea of losing her grandson because Darin belonged to her. Candice DeLong explained that for some women, a person that they love is not so much a person but a possession that they can’t live without. What started out as an idle threat seemed like Caroline’s only option, because some women find it easier to kill then to say goodbye. On June 18, 1993, Barrington Bruce won custody of Darin and was excited to pick him up. Across town, his son and Darin’s sister were asleep. Caroline had no intention of relinquishing custody of Darin back to his father. She was operating under the misguided notion that if I can’t have these children, no one can. She wrote a suicide note directed towards Darin’s father and then proceeded with murdering both children. Caroline slit little Darin’s throat first. Afterwards, Caroline calmly smoked a cigarette, which Profiler DeLong reminded us was evidence that she had time to pause, think about it, put the knife down, and call for help but she didn’t. When you think of a grandmother, you don’t think of someone who’s capable of doing such a heinous act. This crime was motivated by pure selfishness and there’s nothing more despicable then the murder of innocent children. This was a horrendous crime, unbelievable in it’s depravity.

Darin’s mother, Vanessa Torres, woke up and found her son Darin in bed with his throat slit. It was a chaotic scene to say the least. Vanessa reported that she saw her mom’s clothing covered in blood and in complete horror she asked her mother why she did it. Caroline replied, “the children needed to stay together.” After this brief encounter, Caroline grabbed the baby girl Dai-Zshia and slit her throat and stabbed her in the chest as well. Vanessa managed to call 911 in the midst of the chaos. Profiler DeLong reminded us that killing someone with a knife is a very personal thing. It’s one thing to shoot somebody but to hold someone against your own body and slash their throats is an entirely different crime. Profiler DeLong explained that she could have silently smothered them while they were sleeping but she didn’t or she could have shot them and they would have been killed instantly but she didn’t do that either. Instead, she used a knife to end their life until they succumbed. But Caroline wasn’t finished; she stabbed herself multiple times in an attempt to kill herself. This was a horrible crime scene and Caroline may have been disturbed at the time of the murders but she was definitely not legally insane. She knew what she was doing was wrong and slaughtered Darin and Dai-Zshia anyways.

Detective Bill Cooper, one of the detective’s tasked with investigating the homicides, shared that every officer that touched the crime scene was impacted. It wasn’t enough for Caroline to simply murder Barrington’s little boy, she wanted to taunt him from her grave. Barrington Bruce found out his son was dead when he went to pick him up after he was awarded full custody, and this told the investigators everything they needed to know about Caroline Young. She was blinded by selfishness and vindictive. At the crime scene, investigators discovered a suicide note. She wrote the note as if she was already dead. She said she was a very angry spirit and was going to get even with those who hurt her and the children. She also said directed to Barrington, “every baby your wife has, I will come back and get it.” Caroline’s stabbing suicide attempt failed. On October 27, 1995, Caroline Young was convicted of two counts of murder and sentenced to death. The reason Caroline killed those two children was because she didn’t want to see them separated. It doesn’t make any sense but in her mind murdering them kept them together. On September 6, 2005, Caroline Young died of kidney failure after ten years in jail. Detective Cooper summarized and said there are a few cases in his career that he wished he could forget about and this was one of them.

Source: Deadly Possession, Deadly Women, Investigation Discovery

Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $3.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict. Download the ID Go app or purchase ID True Crime Files & binge away.

Related Links:
Dai-Zshia Torres (1990-1993) | Find A Grave
Darin Torres (1987-1993) | Find A Grave
Caroline Young (1943-2005) | Find A Grave Memorial
Hayward woman guilty of killing grandkids
Woman sentenced to die for slaying grandchildren
Hayward Woman Is Sentenced to Death, convicted of murdering 2 grandchildren
Kidney failure claims inmate before execution
Caroline Young Murdered Her Grandchildren for Revenge
When Caregivers Kill: Understanding Child Murder by Parents and Other Guardians
Women and the Death Penalty in the United States, 1900-1998
Caroline Young | Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers
Deadly Possession | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery (S5, E10)
Deadly Possession | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery (website)
Deadly Possession | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
Deadly Possession | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery (Hulu)
Deadly Women Premiered ‘Deadly Possession’ on Investigation Discovery: Caroline Young Murdered Two Grandchildren for Revenge (November 11, 2011)
Deadly Women: 30 Military and Veteran Homicide Cases Featured on Investigation Discovery