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Air Force: PTSD, other factors led airman to kill commander

SAN ANTONIO >>U.S. Air Force investigators have determined that post-traumatic stress disorder and the unraveling of a distinguished military career led an airman to fatally shoot his commander last year at a San Antonio base before killing himself, according to Air Force documents.

The April shooting at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland prompted a lockdown and officials to abruptly end a nearby military training parade with thousands of spectators.

Investigators determined Tech. Sgt. Steven Bellino confronted Lt. Col. William Schroeder before the two struggled and Schroeder was shot multiple times. Both men were veterans of U.S. Special Operations Command.

Air Force documents given to the San Antonio Express-News by Bellino’s family show he participated in an elite pararescue program with Schroeder but did not complete it.

Investigators believe Bellino, 41, resented the outcome following a remarkable military career that included repeated tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and time as an Army Ranger and Green Beret. He also had served as an FBI agent and was a CIA contractor before enlisting in the Air Force and attempting to join the elite unit.

Friends say Bellino was idealistic and a man of exacting fairness, according to the newspaper. He lived up to the letter of the law and expected it of others, even once accusing a sergeant major of lying in front of a roomful of soldiers. But a series of perceived slights and violations of his sense of honor had accumulated long before he arrived at Lackland.

“I do not like this world, and I do not want to be a part of it any longer,” Bellino wrote in August 2015, the month he quit the pararescue program and then went home to Ohio and was charged with being absent without leave. “I’ve searched for many years to find a home consistent with my ethics and such a place does not exist.”

His comments came in a note that investigators found in a flash drive and they were written about the time his PTSD symptoms appeared to intensify.

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  • Sad story.
    I can understand firsthand the difficulty of reintegration to society after a deployment. And yes, there are bad commanders out there because this isn’t a perfect world, but that’s no excuse to take a life including your own because you cannot cope & have given up.
    Confidential help is there but the key is to know you need it and to seek it.
    Look after one another – If you can tell your battle buddy is struggling or acting unusual, say something.

    Militaryonesource.mil is available 24/7 and they can steer you in the right direction.

  • That degree of grandiose thought is always a red flag — certainly in elite service members, but also in politicians.

    The difference is that in politicians, that kind of thought disorder can result in thousands upon thousands of deaths rather than just one or a small number. (Not that any number of untimely, undeserved deaths is acceptable.)

  • PTSD does not cause people to be killers. It is a convenient crutch for soldiers to use when they get in trouble with military or civilian law. It is a pile of crapo.

    • Ronin006, the article indicates the investigators, not Bellino, determined that PTSD was a contributing cause, along with his “unraveling” military career. From the description, his search for a world of perfect people with ethics such as his could have also contributed.

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