By Curt Yeomans
The U.S. Army is holding a 29-year-old soldier, from the Virgin Islands, in pre-trial confinement, as the suspect in the June 17 shooting of Master Sgt. Pedro Mercado, at Fort Gillem in Forest Park, according to a statement from the Army.
The soldier, Staff Sgt. Rashad J. Valmont, has been charged with premeditated murder under the section of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) that deals with murder, according to a written statement from Army spokesperson, Maj. Lenora Hutchinson.
Mercado, 47, a resident of Stockbridge, was shot multiple times on June 17 at the U.S. Army Reserve Center, at Fort Gillem. Mercado was the Noncommissioned Officer-in-charge of the Personnel Section at the Army Medical Depot Professional Management Command, where Valmont worked as a human resource specialist.
"A charge of premeditated murder was preferred against Staff Sgt. Rashad J. Valmont, under Article 118 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice," Hutchinson said in her written statement.
Although Hutchinson stressed Valmont is presumed innocent unless he is proven guilty, his life could be on the line when his case goes to trial.
Under Article 118 of the UCMJ, a person "shall suffer death, or imprisonment for life as a court-martial may direct," if he or she is found guilty of premeditated murder, or kills another person while "engaged in the perpetration or attempted perpetration or burglary, sodomy, rape, robbery, or aggravated arson," according to a copy of the UCMJ found on the Army's web site, www.army.mil/.
Hutchinson said the Army's Criminal Investigation Command is still investigating the shooting. The Army has not released any information about a possible motive for the shooting. Valmont allegedly turned himself in to Lake City police after the shooting occurred.
Mercado's funeral will be held today, at noon, at the Redemption Fellowship Church, which is located at 418 Ga. Hwy. 279, in Fayetteville, according to both an obituary that ran in a local newspaper, and a woman who answered thse church's phone. There will be a visitation at the church from 10 a.m., to noon.