WOODBRIDGE, Va. — On her first day on the job, Officer Ashley Guindon responded to a call that could have become routine: a domestic disturbance in a well-kept suburban neighbourhood.
But one woman had already been slain inside the northern Virginia home of a Pentagon worker, and Officer Guindon would be next. Army Staff Sgt. Ronald Hamilton opened fire as she arrived at his door, killing her and wounding two other officers, police said Sunday.
Prince William County Police Chief Stephan Hudson was stone-faced Sunday as he lauded Guindon's bravery, intelligence and compassion. The chief offered no details about what might have provoked the gunman, who worked at the Pentagon and, according to neighbours, was about to be transferred to Italy.
Hamilton, 32, and his wife Crystal, 29, had been arguing all day Saturday, but it escalated after she called 911, the chief said. Hamilton fatally shot his wife and then fired at the arriving officers, killing Guindon and seriously wounding the others before emerging from his front door to surrender. Officers recovered a handgun and a rifle.
Prince William County Police Chief Stephan Hudson, left, speaks during a news conference next to a picture of Ashley Guindon at Western District Station, in Manassas, Va., Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, about a fatal shooting Saturday evening. Ronald Williams Hamilton is being held without bond in the Prince William County Adult Detention Center on charges that include murder of a law enforcement officer, Guindon. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
The couple's 11-year-old son was home at the time of the slayings and is being cared for by relatives, Hudson said.
Guindon, 28, was pronounced dead at the hospital where officers Jesse Hempen, 31, and David McKeown, 33, were being treated on Sunday. Police did not detail their injuries. Hudson said they face long recoveries.
Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert said he would likely seek the death penalty against Hamilton, who was held without bond on charges including capital murder, first-degree murder and malicious wounding pending a Monday morning arraignment.
Guindon, a former Marine Corps reservist with a master's degree in forensic science, had been sworn in on Friday, which the department marked with a celebratory tweet.
"We were struck by her passion to do this job,'' Hudson said. "She couldn't get it out of her blood. She clearly had a passion to serve others in a way that went beyond herself.''
Guindon's death was not the first tragedy to strike her family. Her father, David, killed himself the day after he returned home from Iraq, where he served with the New Hampshire Air National Guard. "He came home and took his own life,'' Dorothy Guindon, Ashley's grandmother, told The Associated Press. He was buried with full military honours on Aug. 26, 2004.
"You wonder what she could have been able to accomplish. We'll never know.''
Ashley was his only child. She was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, and the family later moved to Merrimack, New Hampshire, her grandmother said.
"This is really a shock to us,'' Dorothy Guindon said. "Ashley was such a nice person.''
Mark Doyle, the police chief in Merrimack, told The AP that his officers escorted Guindon's mother and aunt to the airport to fly to Virginia.
"You wonder what she could have been able to accomplish,'' Doyle said. "We'll never know.''
Her line-of-duty death was the fourth in the 46-year history of the department, and only the second time a county officer was slain maliciously, county officials said. The county has 446,000 residents, and Woodbridge is one of many bedroom communities popular with federal workers, the military and others who commute to Washington, 30 miles to the north.
"This department is revered. It's respected,'' said Corey Stewart, the Republican chairman of the county's board of supervisors. "She was an example of the kind of person that the department hires and the quality of the men and women who work for the department.''
Hamilton's neighbours, too, were struggling to comprehend how a man who had ingratiated himself to the close-knit community could be accused of such crimes. The neighbourhood of $500,000 houses with manicured lawns and two-car garages is about a 5-minute drive from the county office building.
Charnita Allen, who lives down the street, said Hamilton's son was close with her own 10-year-old son and frequently played at their house. Speaking in a soft voice in her driveway Sunday morning, she said Hamilton was a "nice guy.''
"It's going to be tough getting over this one,'' she said.
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