FORT McPHERSON, Ga. – A soldier was fasting to meet strict military weight guidelines and nearly catatonic when he shot and killed a supervisor who denied his vacation request, his attorney said Monday.
Attorney William Cassara said Army Reserve Sgt. Rashad Valmont was dehydrated, exhausted and delirious when he burst into Master Sgt. Pedro Mercado's office in nearby Fort Gillem in June and shot him six times.
Valmont, 29, faces a premeditated murder charge. The details of the shooting were revealed for the first time Monday at a military hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to go to trial. No immediate recommendation was issued.
The military routinely requires soldiers to pass physical tests and meet body-fat requirements to be eligible for promotions and advanced training courses.
But Cassara said another sergeant, Tracy Mosley, ordered Valmont to lose an additional 3 percent beyond the minimum body fat requirements to attend a course he had long sought. He said his client spent weeks trying body wraps and sauna treatments and starving himself to meet the standards.
"He showed some form of diminished capacity, some sort of delirium in the days and hours leading up to this incident," Cassara said. "He was in a near-catatonic state, a near trance. And after being belittled, humiliated and berated ... you're on this crash course."
Mosley said she set the higher standard because she wanted to make sure Valmont succeeded in the demanding course.
Prosecutors said he had long frustrated his superiors and was known around the base as a lazy worker who frequently showed up to work late. The week of the killings, Mosley gave him a bad review because he arrived to work two hours late and then was tardy to a fitness examination.
Valmont demanded to see one of her bosses, Mercado, who went over his case file "line by excruciating line," said Capt. Sean Sullivan, a military prosecutor. Valmont angrily accused Mercado of being a liar, and the master sergeant denied his vacation request and threatened to seek more disciplinary action.
The next morning, Valmont surprised his co-workers by showing up before his 7 a.m. start time. Witnesses described him as sullen, and a mentor told investigators he tried to calm Valmont and encourage him to apologize to Mercado.
It didn't go smoothly.
Mercado, according to prosecutors, told Valmont: "When you called me a liar, it feels like you shot me."
Witnesses said Valmont stared blankly at his computer screen much of the rest of the day, until he pulled a Glock pistol from his backpack and calmly walked into Mercado's office around 5 p.m.
Sullivan said Valmont raised his left hand and fired six shots at Mercado, who crumpled to the floor.
After emerging from the office, prosecutors said he shouted that he was tired of Mercado giving him a hard time and then sought out Mosley, who said she fled at the sound of gunfire. When he couldn't find her, he hopped in his car and drove to the nearby Lake City Police Department to turn himself in.
Cassara noted that one of the first things he requested was a bite to eat "because he hadn't eaten in days." Prosecutors, however, said the shooting was not a gut reaction but rather a carefully planned outburst.
"This has been a thorough and complete investigation, and evidence points to one thing — this was a cold-blooded, premeditated murder," Sullivan said. "He felt like he had no other choice but to do something drastic, to use that Glock he had in his backpack."