Security arrangements at the Presidential Office will be enhanced after a guard shot himself in an apparent suicide while on duty, authorities said yesterday.
The 22-year-old guard, identified only by his family name, Kao (高), shot himself in the chest with his service T91 rifle while on duty at the main entrance to the Presidential Office at around 3am, according to a press statement issued by the Military Police Command.
Kao was rushed to National Taiwan University Hospital for treatment, but showed no vital signs on arrival, the statement said, adding that the conscript was pronounced dead after an hour of emergency treatment failed to resuscitate him.
The incident triggered security concerns, especially since it took place at the front gate of the Presidential Office, which President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) passes through every day.
“We will review the screening and assignment of personnel and continue to enhance procedures ... using the highest standards,” said Cheng Sheng-yang (鄭昇陽), a spokesman for the military police command.
The results of an initial investigation show that Kao’s suicide was probably related to relationship problems, Deputy Minister of National Defense Chao Shih-chang (趙世璋) said.
“It was an isolated case and might be related to relationship problems ... Kao’s superiors had recently discovered from his memos and military daybook that he was troubled by such problems and offered him counseling,” Chao said on the sidelines of a legislative committee hearing.
“We feel deep regret over the tragedy,” Chao added. “I apologize to the family of the soldier and to the public on behalf of the Ministry of National Defense for the tragedy.”
Ministry of National Defense spokesman Major General David Lo (羅紹和) said the ministry has formed a special task force to investigate the case.
“In addition to collaborating with military prosecutors, the special panel will assist various military units in offering counseling or psychological help to all service members,” he said.
The uniformed guard force at the Presidential Office in downtown Taipei consists mostly of young men doing national service.
Military sources said military police guards on duty at the main entrances of major government buildings on the 10pm to 6am watch are usually issued with two magazines, each containing six bullets.
Military police guards receive regular training and military instructors avoid assigning those who have had problems to guard duty at office buildings, the sources added.
Yesterday was the second time in recent years that a presidential guard committed suicide while on duty.
In 2007, a soldier shot himself in the head while guarding the president’s residence, also allegedly over relationship problems, according to security authorities.
Additional reporting by AFP