Air Force Staff Sgt. Luis Walker arrives for the fourth day of his trial on July 20, 2012, at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Walker was sentenced to 20 years after he was found guilty of rape, sexual assault and other related charges. (AP)
A former military training instructor who was serving 20 years at Fort Leavenworth for raping, sexually assaulting or having improper contact with 10 former trainees has died of an apparent suicide, the San Antonio Express-News reported Tuesday.
Fort Leavenworth spokeswoman Denise Haeussler confirmed Luis Walker’s death, but said no further details will be released until the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command finishes its investigation. Col. Sean McKenna, director of public affairs at Air Education and Training Command also confirmed that Walker had died and offered condolences to his family, but referred all other inquiries to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
The Express-News, citing Air Force officials, said Walker died Sunday, one day after he was found hanging in his cell.
Walker was a staff sergeant when he was sentenced to 20 years in prison and reduced in rank to airman basic in July 2012. He was convicted of 28 charges of rape, sexual assault and having improper relations with former trainees. The Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals later upheld his conviction.
His case ignited a sexual misconduct scandal at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. At least 28 MTIs were convicted of sexual assault or other charges in the wake of the scandal.
In a June letter to Air Force Times, Walker maintained he did not commit the crimes.
“These setbacks have discouraged me and at times I have wanted to give up,” he wrote. “But because of my family, I can not.”
Walker had agreed to an interview with Air Force Times, but Fort Leavenworth officials denied the interview request.
In his letter, he appealed to his family and friends to “empathize with my need for help.”
“I am a human being and an American,” Walker wrote. “I deserve the right to a fair trial. There has been a lot of focus on the number of alleged victims in my case, instead of the charges against me, when in fact each charge should stand on its own.”
Walker accused the court of overlooking multiple issues in his case, including an alibi he said was proven through court records. He said he willingly took — and passed — a polygraph.
The government did not give him a fair trial, he said.
“I understand they have a job, but that job should never compromise our Air Force Core Values,” he wrote. “I am not asking the members of the government appellate division to change their position, instead I am asking to simply level out the playing field, otherwise I will never get a fair chance.”
The female airmen who testified in Walker’s trial said his inappropriate behavior began with mild comments, or hugs or kisses, that later escalated to more sexually explicit comments and requests. One airman said he told her to take her clothes off to show him how many piercings she had, and then laughed it off as a test when she resisted.
Another airman said he pulled his pants down as they kissed, and tried to force her hand on him, though she resisted. She said he then forced his hand down her pants as she repeatedly told him no, and said he stopped when she yelled for him to stop.