Rep. Seth Moulton Introduces The Brandon Act to Change DoD Mental Health Policy, Pay Tribute to Fallen Navy Sailor Brandon Caserta (June 25, 2020)

The Brandon Act Seth Moulton.png

Representative Seth Moulton Press Release

The bill named in Caserta’s honor would create “Brandon Act” reporting, making it easier for service members to seek mental health care anonymously

Brandon Caserta

PO3 Brandon Caserta, U.S. Navy

WASHINGTON — Today, Representative Seth Moulton (D-MA) and Teri and Patrick Caserta, parents of fallen United States Navy Petty Officer Third Class Brandon Caserta, announced the introduction of The Brandon Act.

The bill would allow service members to anonymously report and seek mental health treatment by using a safe word like “Brandon Act.” It is designed to protect service members who experience mental health emergencies that result from hazing, bullying, or any other issue. It would allow them to seek help anonymously and, if necessary, outside of the chain of command. The bill’s introduction comes on the second anniversary of Brandon Caserta’s death from suicide, which he said was prompted by bullying and hazing within his unit.

“Brandon had a smile that made everyone want to smile. He was a very charismatic and upbeat young man. He made everyone’s day better no matter what they were going through. Brandon has always helped everyone he could. The Brandon Act would do this for his fellow service members in his death,” Teri and Patrick Caserta said, “Brandon did not die in vain and his legacy for helping others will continue long after his death when The Brandon Act is passed.”

Rep. Seth Moulton said: “Brandon tragically lost his life because he wasn’t able to get support for his mental health—something we should provide every American, especially every American hero in uniform. This bill will ensure our service members can get help and have no fear of retaliation for doing so, as it’s the right thing to do. Although we’ll never get Brandon back, his legacy will be the lives of many more great Americans he saves through this bill, and I’m proud of his parents who have fought so hard to tell his story and make this change.”

Brandon Caserta died by suicide on June 25, 2018 on the flight line at Naval Air Station Norfolk, Virginia. After his death, his parents and friends discovered six notes in which Brandon attributed his suicide to persistent hazing and bullying from some members and leaders of his Navy helicopter squadron.

The Brandon Act expands the existing law that regulates how service members are referred for mental health evaluations, in order to provide a confidential channel for service members to self-report mental health issues. The process would protect the anonymity of service members, similar to the restricted reporting option that protects victims of sexual assault.

Moulton made expanding mental health care and breaking the stigma around seeking help a top priority since disclosing last year that he is managing post traumatic stress from his service in Iraq as a United States Marine. In addition to The Brandon Act, Moulton has secured mandatory mental health check ups for service members who saw combat within 21 days of leaving the battlefield in the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act.

He also co-introduced, with fellow veteran Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT), the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, which would make 9-8-8 the national number for mental health emergencies. The bill has passed in the Senate, and is one step away from a vote on the House floor. Yesterday, the FCC announced that it would issue a final rule on the designation of 9-8-8 as the national suicide prevention hotline in mid-July.

A copy of The Brandon Act is available for download here.

A legislative summary for The Brandon Act is available for download here.

Read more from the original source on Rep. Seth Moulton’s website here.

Related Links:
The Brandon Act (website)
The Brandon Act (Facebook)
Moulton Introduces Brandon Act to Change DoD Mental Health Policy, Pay Tribute to Fallen Navy Sailor Brandon Caserta (June 25, 2020)
Navy Sailor Brandon Caserta Died by Suicide at Naval Station Norfolk; Family Pushing for Suicide Prevention Legislation ‘The Brandon Act’ Focusing on Hazing & Bullying (June 25, 2018)
Military Policy and Legislation Considerations for the Investigations of Non Combat Death, Homicide, and Suicide of US Service Members (October 21, 2016)
Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside (Jan 1, 2016 to Present) 
15 Active Duty Cases That Beg for Prevention Efforts, Military Justice Reform, and the End of the Feres Doctrine
Military Justice for All (Facebook)

Fort Hood Army Spc. Mason Webber Died of Injuries Sustained Conducting Maintenance on a Bradley Fighting Vehicle at Texas Base (September 5, 2019)

Mason Webber

Spc. Mason Webber, U.S. Army

Fort Hood Army Spc. Mason Webber, 22, died from injuries sustained while he was conducting maintenance on a Bradley Fighting Vehicle on September 5, 2019 at the base in Texas. Spc. Webber’s home of record is listed as Marion, Iowa. Spc. Webber entered the Army in March 2018 as a Bradley Fighting Vehicle system maintainer. He was assigned to 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood since August 2018. Base officials did not detail how Spc. Webber’s death occurred but said the incident was under investigation by the Army Combat Readiness Center. In one KCRG report, his mom Tonya Grefe said “He was more than just a soldier. He was Mason first and he was very proud to serve his country. He was always wearing that smile no matter what was going on in his life.”

Mason Webber was one of four siblings and loved country music. He was also a husband and his daughter was born on October 28, 2019, a little over a month after he died. The circumstances surrounding Mason’s death have been under investigation since the workplace safety mishap occurred; the family revealed at the time that there were few details released about how it happened (see below for update from the family). Mason Webber was one of thirty Army soldiers who died stateside while stationed at Fort Hood in 2019. Most of the deaths could be attributed to training accidents, auto & motorcycle accidents, drownings, unsolved homicide, and suicide. For a running history of the fallen soldiers at Fort Hood since 2016, please click here: Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside (January 1, 2016 to Present)

Please sign the family’s petition to “close down Ft Hood for the safety of all soldiers there.”

“My son PFC Mason Webber was killed while doing routine Maintenance on a Bradley Fighter Vehicle. The NCO was told specifically not to work on this specific Bradley. The NCO chose to ignore that order. He ordered a strap to be attached to the lifting crane to hold up the compartment panel lid. The strap is only capable of holding up to 500 lbs. The correct eye hooks were all packed away due to deployment. The hydraulic cylinder snapped off and the strap was not able to hold up the lid from dropping on my son and crushing him. The same  NCO was deployed and still leading troops overseas to this day.”

“My sons story is only one of many more where leadership has failed their soldiers. There have been too many missing soldiers, gone for days before anyone notices. Also deaths ruled suicide which later prove to be homicide when families pay to have their own investigations & autopsies done. Too many training accidents have occurred there as well which could have been prevented. My sons death was one of them. Attention needs to be given to this base and either shut down or a major change in leadership roles should occur.”  Source: Petition for Mason Webber by Tonya Grefe

UPDATE (July 17, 2020): I’ll tell you exactly what happened to my son. The correct attachment to the lifting crane was not used due to the hooks all being pack away for deployment….even though they were still being told to work on the Bradley’s. The NCO told the crew to use a strap that can only hold 500 lbs because he didn’t want to take the time to go grab one out of the box. The lid fell when the hydraulic cylinder broke and the strap couldn’t hold it up. My sons skull was crushed. The leadership did not give a shit about their safety. That man is responsible for my sons death. No excuses, none of this “accidents happen” BS either. (Tonya Grefe provided the public with an update on the internal investigation, still awaiting outcome of results) 

Fort Hood Press Center Press Release:

Mason Webber Fort Hood

Death of a Fort Hood Soldier Press Release (including screenshot because they will delete this)

SAY HIS NAME 💔

“My son, PFC Mason Webber was failed by the Army and his NCO’s at FT HOOD. His blood is on their hands. There was a direct order to not work on the Bradley that ended up killing him. Well one NCO ignored those orders and ordered a strap to be used to hook up to the lifting crane to hold up the engine lid. A strap that is only approved to lift 500lbs. The correct hooks were all packed away for deployment and the NCO was too lazy to go look for one. When the hydraulic cylinder snapped off, the strap couldn’t hold up the lid and it fell crushing my son. My son wasn’t even working on that vehicle. He happened to walk by asking the others what was going on. They asked him to take a look and him being the nice guy he is wanted to help so they could all go home. If the correct lifting hook was used my son would still be here. The Army calls it a “mishap” in the investigation. It wasn’t a mishap, it was a huge fuck up on the part of the Army. It was life changing for his family, his wife and his daughter who will never get to meet her father. To the Army his death is just another incident on what not to do in the future. My sons life matters. Please SHARE my sons story so that it may be heard and hopefully changes can be made about the safety of our soldiers.”

Related Links:
Death of a Fort Hood Soldier
PFC Mason Webber – Salado Village Voice
Soldiers Lives Matter | Facebook Group
Fort Hood soldier died in maintenance mishap
Soldier Died While Working on Vehicle at Fort Hood
Fort Hood soldier died in maintenance accident
Ft. Hood names soldier who died after vehicle maintenance incident
Soldier dies while conducting vehicle maintenance at Fort Hood
Soldier dies of injuries sustained during maintenance on a Bradley
Army identifies soldier who died during vehicle maintenance at Fort Hood
Fort Hood soldier dies from injuries sustained while conducting fighting vehicle maintenance
Fort Hood soldier dies from injuries sustained during Bradley vehicle maintenance
Fort Hood soldier dies from injuries sustained during Bradley vehicle maintenance
Fort Hood soldier dies from injuries sustained during Bradley vehicle maintenance
Marion Soldier Dies of Injuries Sustained at Fort Hood
Ft. Hood names soldier who died after vehicle maintenance incident
Family releases photo of Marion soldier killed on Texas base
Iowa soldier who died in maintenance incident remembered for legacy he leaves behind
Salute to the Fallen will honor Mason Webber
ABC World News Tonight with David Muir

Mason Webber ABC News

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Homicide Hunter Premiered ‘Point of No Return’ on ID: Estevan Maestas Killed By Live Hand Grenade Left Behind in Rental Garage (December 1, 2015)

When a mysterious explosion rocks a sleepy suburb, it’s up to Kenda to ID a pile of charred remains and find the killer who triggered the blast. Then…a young mother’s murder leads the CSPD on a harrowing car chase that ends in a violent showdown. -Point of No Return, Homicide Hunter (S5,E13)

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:
Point of No Return | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery (S5,E13)
Point of No Return | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery (website)
Point of No Return | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
Point of No Return | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery (Hulu)
Estevan Maestas Killed After Live Hand Grenade Detonated; Colorado Springs PD Believes Explosive Device Stolen from Fort Carson (November 12, 1978)
Lessons Learned from a Military Ammunitions Explosion in Colorado Springs
Homicide Hunter: 20 Active Duty Military and Veteran Murder Cases Featured on Investigation Discovery

Fear Thy Neighbor Premiered ‘Red Picket Fences’ on Investigation Discovery: Richard Uffelman & Two Children Executed The Phillips in Maine (April 21, 2014)

ID Go: The Phillips’ family moves to a quiet seafront town in Maine to escape a crime wave in Indiana. But their dream home comes with a not so dreamy ex-military neighbor. A barrage of gunfire between the houses one night shatters both families forever. -Red Picket Fences, Fear Thy Neighbor (S1, E2)

On August 29, 1989, Navy veteran Richard Uffelman and his two sons opened fire from their living room window and shot and killed their neighbors Michael and Florence Phillips in Machiasport, Maine. The Phillips family moved back to Maine so they could be closer to their family and the ocean, and they wanted to escape crime in Indiana. Shortly before they moved to Maine, a murder occurred outside their home and this was it for them; they wanted to raise their son Michael in a safe environment. Richard and Anita Uffelman and their two sons were the new neighbors of the Phillips in Maine. Richard was described as an authoritarian and a believer in good order and discipline. He worked at the local post office and taught his two children to shoot guns. Initially the neighbors were good friends and their boys played together. At some point, family came to visit the Phillips for a week. The happy family reunited outside on the front lawn while they barbecued, drank some beers, and enjoyed one another’s company. Apparently Richard found a broken bottle on his lawn during the event and automatically assumed the Phillips threw the bottle on his lawn. Richard called the police to complain about the incident but there was no proof since the Phillips denied doing it. This was it for Richard; the Phillips home interfered with his view of the ocean and he was going to exact his revenge.

After this first broken bottle incident, Richard continued to call the police complaining that the neighbors were throwing bottles on his property. He would bag them up and give them to the police as evidence. The Phillips continued to deny the allegations. The police were beginning to get concerned for the Phillips. Then Richard’s wife Anita called the Phillips family and told them that Richard did not want their two sons playing with Michael anymore. Florence was confused. Soon Richard began harassing them while they were outside on their lawn. He used a megaphone and yelled at them until they went back into their house. The Phillips became fearful of him because he was quite literally bullying them. Richard upped the anti and put up some bright lights that shined directly on their home. He also shot guns in front of his home with his two boys on a regular basis which to the Phillips began feeling threatening. They called the police to ask Uffelman to stop shooting the guns because it felt like he was flexing his muscles but their was nothing illegal about shooting guns for target practice in Maine. The police couldn’t do anything. They needed evidence so Michael and Florence set up a video camera to start taping the behavior because they were not the gun types.

Tension and fear was building daily. The Phillips called the police on Richard Uffelman and Uffelman called the police on them. Now Richard wanted a protection order. It was obvious to police that Richard was getting paranoid and he had some fear that could not be alleviated by the police. Uffelman wanted to play war. Uffelman began dressing in full military fatigues with his two sons and they all carried guns and marched together as if they were in the military or a militia. The kids were impacted by Richard’s paranoia as well; as a matter of fact the whole family was brainwashed. Eventually the Phillips were afraid of Uffelman and his two sons. The Phillips left the city to get away from violence and now they were in the middle of it. They decided to file a harassment suit to get Richard Uffelman to stop. At this point, they felt trapped in their own home and they continued to videotape because it was their only option. One day Richard and his two sons armed with guns started chasing the Phillip’s son after school as if he was prey. The trio scared the entire Phillips family and they called the police again. The cops took it seriously and knew things were not going to turn out right. The Phillips got a protection order and then went on a vacation to Indiana to visit family in July 1989.

While the Phillips were visiting with family, they began viewing the videotapes. All of them were terrified at what they were witnessing but the Phillips were stuck financially. They assured their family they would be fine but in reality they were afraid Richard Uffelman would kill them when they got back. They asked their family to raise their son Michael if Uffelman killed them. They left for Maine the next day because it was their home and they had no other option. They got back to the war zone and the front lines had moved closer to home. When they got out of their vehicle, they realized that someone had dumped gasoline on their front porch. They witnessed someone running in the shadows from their home to Uffelman’s home. They called the police again but they didn’t have any proof that Uffelman had done it. They all recognized that Uffelman was raising the stakes. Unfortunately the system was at a stand still until someone made an overt act. On August 29, 1989, family visited the Phillips because they were celebrating a pregnancy in the family. The Phillips revealed to them that dealing with Uffelman was very stressful because they hadn’t caught anything of value for their harassment case. In this case, the best evidence would come too late.

Michael and Florence Phillips left the house that evening for a walk, just like every other night. This time Michael was carrying a gun as they walked in an effort to let Richard know that they were not going to take it. Then all of a sudden Richard and both of his sons began shooting at both of them from the living room of their home as they walked. The remaining family in the home were fearful that they were going to kill young Michael next. Meanwhile, Michael and Florence are struggling to move to safety in the woods to escape the barrage of gunfire. Uffelman did go to the Phillips home but turned around and left. After this near miss, the three family members in the home left to protect young Michael. They were not sure how Michael and Florence were doing at this point; they were not sure if they had been murdered or if they were still alive. Police arrived on the scene and knocked on Richard Uffelman’s door. They found him sitting at his kitchen table which was covered with handguns and firearms. The police were worried about their own safety but Uffelman surrendered without incident and he was taken into police custody. Michael and Florence Phillips both died at the scene in the woods where they attempted to escape the gunman.

screen-shot-2016-12-29-at-7-06-37-pm

Richard Uffelman, US Navy Veteran

Richard Uffelman was arrested for murder after the Phillips’ bodies were found. His two sons participated in the shootings as well and together they fired twenty-five rounds or so from the inside of their home. Investigators concluded the two boys were doing what they were told to do; they were victims too and as a result were not charged. Upon search of the property, police learned that Uffelman’s land was rigged with trip wire and his home was riddled with explosives. Bomb technicians were called in to remove the undetonated devices. Police also found secret passageways and tunnels. Uffelman tried to claim self-defense at his trial but the video coverage the Phillips had showed otherwise. The videotapes revealed that Uffelman went outside to check to see if his prey were dead; his murderous intent was all captured on film. Richard Uffelman was sentenced to life in prison for the first degree murders of Michael and Florence Phillips. Young Michael sued Richard Uffelman in Maine Superior Court and was awarded a wrongful death judgement for $513,320 but he has never received a dime. According to a YouTube site called Abandonment of Maine, shortly after new owners moved into the Uffelman home, the house caught on fire and burned to the ground.

Source: ‘Red Picket Fences’ Fear Thy Neighbor, Investigation Discovery

Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch all of the 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. Download the ID Go app and binge away. 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 $2.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict.

Related Links:
Fatal Feud Divides a Village in Maine
Killer in Taped Shootings Sentenced to Life in Prison
State of Maine v. Richard B. Uffelman (1993)
Sons Tell of Fear They Felt
Uffelman sons describe fear before killing of neighbors
Machias killer to petition for new trial today
True Crime Stories: Richard Uffelman
10 Disturbing Cases Of Neighbors From Hell
Into Their Own Hands by Gary Provost (Book)
Navy Veteran Richard Uffelman & Two Children Opened Fire & Killed Neighbors Michael & Florence Phillips in Maine; Richard Sentenced to Life in Prison (August 29, 1989)
How Can Broken Soda Bottles Lead To Revenge?
Red Picket Fences | Fear Thy Neighbor | Investigation Discovery (S1, E2)
Red Picket Fences | Fear Thy Neighbor | Investigation Discovery (website)
Red Picket Fences | Fear Thy Neighbor | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
Fear Thy Neighbor: 23 Veteran Cases Featured on Investigation Discovery

Link

US Army SealCourt Stops Lawsuit Over Death of Soldier’s Son

HONOLULU — A federal appeals court “regretfully” upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit that claims the Army caused the death of a newborn by ordering his pregnant mother to do physical training against doctors’ instructions.

January Ritchie was about 5 1/2 months pregnant when she went into premature labor while stationed in Hawaii in 2006.

Her son Gregory died 30 minutes after birth. Her husband, Jonathan Ritchie, filed a wrongful death lawsuit, claiming commanding officers ignored his wife’s pleas not to perform physical duties such as picking up trash and battle-focused training.

Read more: http://www.military.com/daily-news/2013/10/26/court-stops-lawsuit-over-death-of-soldiers-son.html

Disabled Army Veteran Justin Crowley-Smilek Shot and Killed By Farmington, Maine Police Officer in Confrontation Outside Station (November 19, 2011)

Justin Crowley-Smilek

Justin Crowley-Smilek, U.S. Army Veteran

Army veteran Justin Crowley-Smilek was shot and killed by a Farmington, Maine police officer on November 19, 2011. According to reports, it is believed that Justin went to the police station for help but would be accused of yielding a knife and chasing the officer when he was shot. Justin had deployed to Afghanistan in 2006 and returned suffering with Post Traumatic Stress. He was eventually honorably discharged from the military for PTSD. He moved back to Maine to live with his parents after his discharge from the Army. The Maine State Attorney General’s office deemed the shooting justified. In January 2013, the family pursued civil justice in the U.S. District Court against Officer Ryan Rosie and the Town of Farmington. The wrongful death lawsuit claimed their son had gone to the police station in mental distress seeking help and that Rosie used excessive force against him. They believed Rosie had insufficient training and panicked when their son confronted him. According to a notice filed with the court, the lawsuit settled in January 2016.

Related Links:
Man fatally shot outside of town office by Farmington police
Farmington police say man shot dead confronted officer with a knife
Farmington officer opted not to use Taser in fatal shooting
Beyond the yellow ribbon: The tragic death of Justin Crowley-Smilek
Vet killed by police had PTSD: father
Attorney general says deadly force justified in shooting of Farmington veteran
Maine Lawmakers Considering Bill to Create Veterans’ Treatment Court
Veterans, lawmakers hail new veterans’ treatment court signed into law
Maine town sued in shooting death of Army veteran
Deal in Farmington Wrongful Death Suit Rejected
Farmington denies lawsuit allegations that officer in 2011 shooting was not well trained
Farmington police officer will be tried for Crowley-Smilek shooting
Lawsuit alleging excessive force by Farmington police officer to move forward
Farmington officer will head to trial in shooting death
Crowley-Smilek family settles lawsuit against Farmington officer

Estevan Maestas Killed After Live Hand Grenade Detonated; Colorado Springs PD Believes Explosive Device Stolen From Fort Carson (November 12, 1978)

When a mysterious explosion rocks a sleepy suburb, it’s up to Kenda to ID a pile of charred remains and find the killer who triggered the blast. Then…a young mother’s murder leads the CSPD on a harrowing car chase that ends in a violent showdown. -Point of No Return, Homicide Hunter (S5,E13)

Homicide Hunter is an Investigation Discovery show featuring retired police Detective Lt. Joe Kenda (1973-1996). Lt. Kenda worked for the Colorado Springs Police Department for years and investigated and solved hundreds of cases during his employment. Now in his retirement, he outlines the cases that he encountered on the job and explains how he eventually solved the case. Colorado Springs is home of Fort Carson, an Army base with about 30,000 soldiers. This show is especially interesting given the fact that Lt. Kenda worked in a city with a close proximity to a large base. We have learned over time just how intertwined his job was with a military base known for an active role in fighting wars overseas over the years.

Exercises and deployments continually hone the skills of the Fort Carson Soldiers. When not deployed, Soldiers train annually at Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site and the National Training Center in California. Additionally, units participate in joint exercises around the world, including Central and South Africa, Europe, and Southwest Asia. In 2003, most Fort Carson units were deployed in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. ~Fort Carson History

Last night, Lt Joe Kenda discussed an explosives case that had been assigned to him. A powerful explosion occurred in a suburban neighborhood of Colorado Springs on November 12, 1978. He was actually working on paperwork on a Sunday when he received a call from police on the scene. They think they found human remains in the remnants of a detached garage near a single dwelling home. Joe was asked to investigate because this could be an intentional act of murder. Joe shared that the scenes he has investigated over the years have been horrific and quite shocking to include this one. As a result, he admitted that he has a hard time eating and sleeping, which are both signs of Post Traumatic Stress of which he admitted he has. This is a normal response for anyone who witnesses these acts of horror, especially over a long period of time.

After Joe arrived on the scene, he deduced that the damage looked like shrapnel damage. But his immediate thought was that it was most likely a gas explosion. He notices in the garage what looks like a large pile of human remains. Based on the remains, he assumed that it was most likely an adult male who was killed. If it’s not a gas explosion, what is it? A couple theories began to emerge including maybe the man lit a cigarette in an area with gas cans and exposed fuel or the victim was booby trapped with hidden wire. This could have been a murder.

Based on his fears of more explosives on scene, he decided to call the Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD) Bomb Squad to investigate further to determine whether there were any more active munitions. He explained how explosive technicians truly understand explosives and other various devices. As soon as the Bomb Squad arrived at the scene, they immediately recognized the explosive had the smell of a military explosive. Fort Carson had this kind of ammunition on their base since before World War II. The Bomb Squad theorized that somebody from the base most likely smuggled it from Fort Carson and brought it to the current location. A CSPD detective explained how now we have robots to investigate bomb scares but back then we didn’t have that. Explosive technicians put their lives on the line everyday but more so before the advent of robots and other technologies to help minimize the danger of their jobs.

The CSPD Bomb Squad found another hand grenade in the garage that appeared to be live. An ordinance specialist entered the garage and not only found another grenade but he also found evidence of the dead man who was blown up by the first grenade. The second grenade appeared to be untampered with and there were no other explosives found at that location. Police suspected that the victim could have been in the building when someone threw the grenade in. They needed to learn more about the victim to determine if he had any enemies that would do something like this. They learned that the house is a rental and the current tenants only moved in a couple of months ago. The neighbor shared that a man named Estevan had recently retired and moved into this location. While on scene, a police officer found a human index finger quite a distance from the remnants of the garage. This discovery changed the whole direction of the case because the finger was found with a wire around it and this was the pin ring from the hand grenade. The victim may have pulled the pin and detonated the explosive. This could have been an accident.

Joe needed to identify the victim so he started with taking the victim’s finger to the lab so they could attempt to identify him by finger print. The lab technicians told him that without a name, it could take months before they get a match. In the meantime, Estevan’s wife showed up at the police station after learning what happened at her residence. Joe had to tell her that her husband was dead. She shared that his name was Estevan Maestas and he was a custodian at the school with finger prints on file. Estevan was simply going to clean out the garage because the people who lived their before left a bunch of junk in there. She left the house after he went out to the garage. Because his past did not indicate that this could have been a suicide attempt, it was theorized that this was in fact a tragic accident. Estevan most likely found the grenade, had no idea that it was live and maybe he thought it was a toy. He pulled the pin and he never felt a thing, he never knew what hit him.

The CSPD speculated that the grenades had been stolen from Fort Carson and brought into this rental home by a soldier. They assumed that most likely this guy didn’t want to deal with having to dispose of the grenades so he just left them there to become the next person’s problem. This was a hard pill to swallow given a man lost his life over this reckless act. Why was it not followed up on? Given how the military has strict regulations and is supposed to have strict chain of custody records to help them track all explosives, it should be easy to determine whether or not this grenade came from this base. It could have been brought home as a souvenir from World War II, Vietnam, or the Gulf War era. Were they able to cross reference the rental records at the location of the explosion with Fort Carson soldiers? This case revealed more mystery then resolve. If a soldier did smuggle the grenades from the base, why was there no investigation for theft, and now maybe even manslaughter? It is assumed that this person intentionally left them behind because they didn’t want to properly dispose of them.

In theory, no soldier should have been able to get these grenades on a plane or off the base without a search or a documentation trail given how the military usually conducts business. Much like communications security equipment (COMSEC), ammunition is inventoried and kept under lock and key in an effort to prevent compromises with dangerous repercussions. In most circumstances, if Fort Carson recognized that ammunition was missing, they would shut down the base until they found it. If someone dropped the ball at Fort Carson, a man lost his life because of careless documentation and security practices. And the Colorado bomb squad and Lt. Joe Kenda risked their lives in an effort to prevent anyone else from getting hurt or killed. Hopefully, soldiers learn a valuable lesson from this circumstance given it could have been a harmless act that went terribly wrong. Whoever left the grenades behind may not have intended for Estevan Maestas to die but he did. If a military member was responsible, it would be nice to know that the military has implemented safety and security procedures that can help prevent this kind of a tragedy from ever happening in our communities again.

Source: Point of No Return, Homicide Hunter, 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:
Point of No Return | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery (S5,E13)
Point of No Return | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery (website)
Point of No Return | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
Point of No Return | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery (Hulu)
Homicide Hunter Premiered ‘Point of No Return’ on ID: Estevan Maestas Killed By Live Hand Grenade Left Behind in Rental Garage (December 1, 2015)
Lessons Learned from a Military Ammunitions Explosion in Colorado Springs
Homicide Hunter: 15 Active Duty Military and Veteran Murder Cases Featured on Investigation Discovery