Local News

Police standoff was 'out of character' for Fort Bragg soldier

Posted January 16, 2012 6:23 p.m. EST
Updated January 16, 2012 7:40 p.m. EST

— A Fort Bragg soldier injured in a four-hour standoff with police had recently been overwhelmed by the mental and physical stress of deployment, a former comrade said Monday.

Staff Sgt. Joshua Eisenhauer, 30, was charged Saturday with 15 counts of attempted murder, six counts of felony assault on a law enforcement official with a firearm and nine counts of felony assault on a government official with a firearm after allegedly shooting at police and firefighters at his Fayetteville apartment Friday night.

The 30-year-old Eisenhauer was taken to UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, where he was listed Monday evening in critical condition for injuries he suffered during the standoff. Authorities haven't said how Eisenhauer was injured.

"I know that he was reaching out for help, and see, I don't think he felt he was getting the help he needed," Eisenhauer's former squad leader, Joseph Moser, said.

Moser served with Eisenhauer in 2007 and 2008, and the two kept in touch over the years, often speaking on the phone.

What happened Friday, he said, was "completely out of character" for Eisenhauer.

"When I knew him, he was the best soldier I had, a very optimistic person. I loved him, because I loved his energy. He was just so outgoing," Moser said. "Then, to have this sort of a change in him – it's a breakdown, really, just a collapse of being overwhelmed by the emotions that coincide with what these guys go through overseas."

Moser said Eisenhauer had become depressed in recent months after returning this past summer from his third deployment overseas and suffering a traumatic brain injury. He also never got over the loss of two good friends who were killed in Afghanistan in 2009.

Eisenhauer is assigned to Fort Bragg's Warrior Transition Battalion, which is for soldiers who have been physically or mentally wounded in combat.

He and Moser last talked on the phone about two months ago, Moser said, during which Eisenhauer complained about being on a variety of medications to combat depression, anxiety and pain.

"He just got really, really frustrated with the system, I think," Moser said.

He said Eisenhauer also told him that he felt others looked down on him because of his post-traumatic stress.

“I know he felt like he was getting demeaned a lot because of his situation,” Moser said. “There’s a number of times when me and him would actually talk. He’d call me or I’d call him because I was worried about him."

"You really heard a change in his tone. He became very, very depressed," Moser added.

A soldier who didn't want to be identified also said Monday that Eisenhauer stopped by his house around 6 p.m. Friday – about four hours before the standoff began.

“There was nothing out of the ordinary,” the soldier said, “ but I could tell he was a little off.”

He said Eisenhauer had only slept about five hours in the previous three days and had been in pain from a recent back surgery.

Neighbors said that Eisenhauer, who lives alone, also texted his ex-girlfriend that night, telling her to take care of herself and that he didn't want to be a burden.

Around 10 p.m., firefighters were called to his apartment to investigate reports of smoke from Eisenhauer's balcony.

When firefighters couldn't get into the apartment, they called for backup.

Police officers arrived at the scene and that's when, they said, Eisenhauer fired multiple shots and then barricaded himself inside the third-floor apartment.

Residents were evacuated from the apartment building.

After four hours of trying to contact Eisenhauer, police called in a special team to take down the door with explosives shortly after 2 a.m.

Eisenhauer was found injured on the kitchen floor.

Police spokesman Gavin MacRoberts said two officers suffered minor injuries. One officer was transported to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, while the other was treated on site.

The two officers who returned fire will be placed on administrative duty while the State Bureau of Investigation looks into the incident. That is standard procedure when an officer is involved in a shooting.