The Navy on Wednesday released details about a sailor who killed himself during a standoff with police at a luxury resort in Honolulu, saying he was a Supply Corps officer assigned to the Naval Submarine Support Center at Pearl Harbor.
Lt. Cmdr. Russell Cruz, 40, died from “an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound” at The Kahala Hotel & Resort on Sunday, the Navy said in a press release. It said the Honolulu Police Department was the investigating agency.
According to police, Cruz had barricaded himself in a room at the resort Saturday night and allegedly fired at the door. He was found dead when police entered the room early Sunday. No one else was harmed during the incident.
Cruz’s name was released by the Honolulu Medical Examiner on Monday, but Navy officials said policy dictated that they could not confirm his identity or military position until 24 hours after his family had been formally notified.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of a shipmate. Our thoughts and prayers are with the sailor’s family, friends and shipmates,” the Navy said in the press release identifying Cruz. It also said resources including chaplain, fleet and family service counselors were available to support sailors and families during this “painful time.”
Cruz was what service members call a “mustang,” a commissioned officer who began his career as an enlisted man. According to the Navy, Cruz was a New Yorker who joined the Navy on Nov. 7, 2001, nearly a month after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
His first assignment was aboard the supply ship USS Sacramento, where he served until the vessel was decommissioned in 2004.
A Long Career
He then began serving with aviation units, working with military aircraft based in the state of Washington for three years and transferring to Kaneohe Bay for three years in Hawaii.
Cruz began officer training in Rhode Island in 2010 and was commissioned as a supply officer on Feb. 18, 2011. He was assigned to the USS Louisville, a fast-attack submarine based in Bremerton, Washington, until 2014.
After leaving the Louisville he served three more years in Kaneohe before transferring to the Maritime Expeditionary Security Group in San Diego in 2018.
He returned to Hawaii for his most recent assignment on July 25, 2020, and was promoted to lieutenant commander in September.
He was tasked with ensuring that the Navy’s submarines in the Pacific were properly supplied for training and operations. The Pacific Fleet has been conducting ongoing operations across the region amid increasing tensions with China.
Suicides have been a mounting concern for the military across all the service branches. According to the most recent Department of Defense Annual Suicide Report released in October, at least 498 troops died by suicide in 2019, marking a six-year high.
The Navy has been reviewing its handling of mental health issues after a submariner assigned to the USS Columbia killed two civilian dock workers and wounded another before taking his own life on Dec. 4, 2019. After the Navy released a report on the incident, officials with the U.S. Pacific Fleet told Civil Beat they expected a series of reforms to follow.
The Navy’s 190-page investigation into that incident called for a major overhaul of Naval Submarine Support Command’s Embedded Mental Health Program, or eMHP, and for a broader review of Navy polices. The investigation noted that many sailors aboard the Columbia expressed they were “unwilling to seek help for mental health issues due to fear of negative impacts on their security clearance or job.”
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Kevin Knodell reported on the military and veterans for Civil Beat as a corps member for Report For America, a national nonprofit that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover underreported topics.