Gunman in Lackland murder-suicide had 61 rounds of ammunition
The Air Force has long maintained that Lt. Col. William Schroeder made a heroic last stand when he fought and was killed by a disgruntled pararescue trainee who had arrived in his office armed with two handguns and a knife.
Days before Saturday’s first anniversary of the killing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, commanders said Schroeder “saved the lives of countless fellow airmen” by confronting Tech. Sgt Steven Bellino, a veteran Special Forces soldier.
Citing a still-ongoing investigation, the Air Force now says Bellino also was carrying a stun gun — and 61 rounds of ammunition. The handgun he used to kill Schroeder, and then himself, had an extended magazine loaded with 30 bullets.
“Bill Schroeder is a hero,” said Col. Sean McKenna, chief spokesman for the Air Education and Training Command. “His swift and selfless actions have been recognized as preventing what could have been a much more terrifying event.”
The Air Force has credited Schroeder with sacrificing himself to save his first sergeant, who was in the office as the confrontation began.
McKenna noted that Bellino had the chance to seek other victims after killing Schroeder, 39, of Ames, Iowa, but instead shot himself.
He said investigators believe Bellino, 41, of Parma Heights, Ohio, who had washed out of the base’s elite Battlefield Airmen training school, came to an office at Lackland’s Medina Annex intending a showdown with Schroeder.
The April 8, 2016 meeting at Forbes Hall was to discuss a disciplinary hearing for Bellino, who had gone AWOL months before. He was armed with a Glock 17, which he used, and a Glock 27 tucked into his trouser waistband of his Air Force blue service dress uniform trousers. He did not use the stun gun.
Several hundred people usually are in Forbes Hall at any given time during the week. Only a few airmen, typically those in law enforcement, are allowed to carry weapons on the city’s three bases.
Schroeder “recognized a perilous situation developing in his squadron headquarters and reacted swiftly by putting himself between an armed individual and his first sergeant,” McKenna said.
Bellino’s family, which will gather Saturday morning in Parma Heights for a memorial ceremony, believes he might have killed Schroeder but did not commit suicide.
An Air Force autopsy ruled Bellino shot himself to death.
Bellino’s half-brother, Scott Workman, 49, of Millen, Georgia, said investigators had said Bellino had two guns and a knife but “never said anything about the amount of ammunition, that he had a stun gun on him.”
“I don’t believe what they’re saying, no, because their story’s changing, and you can quote me on that.”
Audio recordings, military records, an Air Force psychiatric evaluation, and a timeline Bellino made of key events in his life — most provided to the San Antonio Express-News by his family — show Bellino dealt with steadily-worsening symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder as he struggled to change careers after a stellar record throughf multiple Army deployments and CIA contract work in Afghanistan and Iraq.
He quit the FBI after a short stint as a special agent, and grew frustrated with the highly competitive training at Lackland in 2015, quitting going to his parents’ home in Ohio for 10 days before returning to Lackland.
Charged with being absent without leave, he spent the next eight months in San Antonio rejecting offers by Air Force prosecutors to discharge him under an Article 15, a form of nonjudicial punishment, fearing it would damage his chances of entering another branch of the military or landing a civilian security job.
Bellino instead sought a court-martial, which could have resulted in a felony conviction. He fired two of his attorneys, one of whom called him crazy, a transcript of a recorded conversation shows.
Bellino’s statements suggest he held a grudge against Schroeder, who he’d met only briefly, because of the way trainers treated students who weren’t from the Air Force. Just before they fought, Bellino accused Schroeder of ruining “a lot of airmens’ lives.”
The investigation, AETC said, found that Bellino “grew increasingly disillusioned with his training squadron and belligerent toward both cadre and leadership.” It found no evidence of maltreatment or improper training.
Schroeder was posthumously awarded the Airman’s Medal, given to those who distinguish themselves by a heroic act — usually at the voluntary risk of their lives but not involving combat.
“Bill, himself, was genuine as an officer and as a man … he loved his family, inspired those that had the pleasure of being around him, and truly cared about building the next generation of airmen,” said Col. Thomas Sherman, who was Schroeder’s boss as the 37th Training Group commander one year ago.