Suspect in Fruita slaying embellished service record
A Fruita man who told police after the fatal shooting of his roommate that he had been “trained to shoot to kill” had served five years in the U.S. Army, but saw no combat, according to Army records and the suspect’s father.
Army public affairs spokesman Wayne Hall said Monday that Wayne Gert joined the Army in March 1992 and was promoted to the rank of specialist, working with multiple rocket launch systems before leaving the Army in September 1997.
Gert’s Facebook page lists the Army as his employer.
Hall said Army policy prevents him from discussing circumstances of a soldier’s discharge, with the exception of cases ending in court martial.
“We have no information on him being in combat,” Hall said.
Gert, 37, was arrested Friday on suspicion of second-degree murder in the death of his roommate, Henry Trisler Jr., at a mobile home at 530 Virgo Way in Fruita. Formal charges are expected to be filed this Friday.
Gert’s father, William, 68, said his son was discharged honorably following his involvement in an Army “overweight program,” saying his son left the Army “by mutual agreement.”
During his service, Gert was stationed for a period in Germany, where he worked as a rocket fire control specialist, William Gert said.
Some local media outlets quoted Gert’s neighbors as saying he served in Operation Desert Storm, which ended 13 months before Gert joined the Army, while others reportedly claimed he suffered from related post-traumatic stress disorder.
William Gert on Monday said his son had been living nearly exclusively on disability pension benefits from the Veterans Affairs Administration, and struggled to find regular work after leaving the Army.
“He couldn’t get along with people,” Gert said.
The VA confirmed Monday that Gert receives monthly benefits of $2,673.
“He’s been a patient of the VA’s for years,” William Gert said, adding his son has received medication and psychiatric care for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia through the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Grand Junction.
Paul Sweeney, local spokesman for the VA, said he couldn’t confirm the nature of Gert’s care but noted that individuals drawing VA benefits also are eligible for a host of medical services.
An arrest affidavit alleges that Gert, who appeared intoxicated to arresting Fruita officers, claimed he shot in self-defense after Trisler had lunged at him. He also told officers that Trisler didn’t need a doctor, but instead a coroner, explaining, “I’ve been trained to shoot to kill,” the affidavit said.
According to Colorado Bureau of Investigation records, Gert had no prior arrests in Colorado.
His father on Monday said he wasn’t aware of any major events in Gert’s life leading up to the shooting. Gert had been making regular mortgage payments to his father on the mobile home where the shooting happened.
Another theme in Gert’s life: drinking.
“Continuous,” William Gert said of his son’s alcohol consumption.