Originally created 05/08/02

Army admits to post breach



Despite tightened security at Fort Gordon after Sept. 11, a man entered the post with a loaded .38-caliber revolver, found his way into a restroom at Eisenhower Army Medical Center and wounded himself.

The incident occurred Dec. 3. Five months later, the Department of the Army admitted that it happened.

After rumors of the December shooting surfaced, Fort Gordon spokeswoman Marla Jones said an incident was being investigated but would not provide any details nor confirm that a shooting had occurred. After repeated unsuccessful requests for more information, The Augusta Chronicle filed a Freedom of Information request Dec. 12.

The newspaper received a response Tuesday in the form of an investigative file. Throughout the pages, the 63-year-old man's name was blacked out. An accompanying letter cited new Department of Defense guidelines issued after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as justification for withholding his identity.

The file says the man entered a restroom in Eisenhower's Orthopedic Clinic at 11:30 a.m. Dec. 3. He apparently did not have an appointment. After shooting himself in the left shoulder, he was treated in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit, according to the file.

North Augusta Department of Public Safety Chief T. Lee Wetherington said Tuesday that the man was Carl Pagano, a Vietnam veteran and a retired North Augusta police officer.

Chief Wetherington was contacted by military investigators after the shooting, according to the documents. The December incident was the second in which Mr. Pagano had shot himself in the left shoulder. In 1987, while working for North Augusta, then-Lt. Pagano did the same thing at his Belvedere home.

Although military investigators said there was sufficient evidence to charge him with possession of a firearm in a federal facility, Mr. Pagano apparently was not charged. Lt. Col. Gerald Lawson, Fort Gordon's director of public safety, said there were mitigating circumstances, which he could not disclose.

Fort Gordon spokesman James Hudgins said Tuesday that there would be no official comment until today as to why information was withheld.

Security at Fort Gordon was at its highest level after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Months later, cars entering the post are being checked and drivers questioned, one at a time.

But with thousands of cars entering every day, Lt. Col. Lawson said, every car and every visitor cannot be searched.

Eisenhower spokeswoman Jennifer Chipman said roving guards have been assigned to the hospital, and outside doors are locked at night.

"Everyone's more aware of what's going on," she said.

No additional safeguards were put in place after the December shooting, Ms. Chipman said.

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.