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Fort Gillem shooting victim was decorated soldier

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Master Sgt. Pedro Mercado, a decorated soldier with 29 years of military service, is the victim of last week's deadly shooting at Fort Gillem, according to the U.S. Army.

Mercado, 47, was the Noncommissioned Officer-in-charge of the Personnel Section, at the Army Medical Department Professional Management Command unit at the U.S. Army Reserve Center, according to Army spokesperson, Maj. Lenora Hutchinson. The reserve center is located at Fort Gillem, in Forest Park.

Mercado was shot multiple times by a fellow soldier, who also worked in the command unit, on Thursday, at approximately 5 p.m., at the reserve center, according to Hutchinson. She said the alleged shooter turned himself in to Lake City police that evening.

The army spokesperson added that the suspect's identity will not be released until formal charges are filed.

"The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command is investigating the shooting in coordination with the FBI, and civilian law enforcement," Hutchinson said in a written statement.

The Associated Press has reported that Mercado lived in Stockbridge, with his wife of 12 years, Kimberly.

Mercado, who was born in New York, entered the military on Feb. 10, 1981, just two months before he turned 18, according to Hutchinson. She said Mercado had a specialty in human resources. Prior to his most recent job at Fort Gillem, he served in overseas deployments to Kuwait, Germany, and Kosovo, the Army spokesperson said.

Hutchinson also said Mercado's military file shows that he received several awards and decorations during his military career, including three Meritorious Service Medals, six Army Commendation Medals, eight Army Achievement Medals, seven Army Good Conduct Medals, an Army Parachutist Badge, and several military service ribbons.

Kimberly Mercado told the Associated Press that her husband loved the Army, and was dedicated to making sure his fellow soldiers were taken care of. She did not talk about the shooting, however, saying that she did not want to compromise the ongoing investigation into her husband's death.

"The Army has lost one of their best soldiers," she told the Associated Press. "You couldn't ask for a more dedicated soldier. He upheld the values of the Army to the utmost."

Hutchinson said behavioral science counselors and chaplains have been meeting with unit personnel since shortly after the shooting occurred, to provide grief counseling, and assistance to Mercado's fellow soldiers, and co-workers.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this article.