Soldier praised for saving lives during Walmart rampage arrested on desertion charge

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HARKER HEIGHTS, Texas (KWTX) The Fort Bliss soldier hailed a hero in the wake of the Walmart massacre in El Paso was arrested Thursday in Central Texas on a desertion charge.

Harker Heights police confirm the arrest of Army Pfc. Glendon Oakley Jr. on a desertion warrant issued out of Fort Bliss.

Police report Oakley will be picked up from the Bell County Jail by the Fort Hood provost marshal's office.

Oakley grew up in Killeen while his father was stationed at Fort Hood.

After the August shooting, Oakley told El Paso station KTSM he was in a sports store at the mall buying a jersey when a little kid ran in saying there was an active shooter.

"I tried to make my way to the parking lot and I just see a whole bunch of kids running around without their parents and stuff," says Oakley.

The 22-year-old says his past two years of military experience kicked in when he heard the gunshots.

"It was a whole bunch of kids in there. I just hoped nothing happened to the kids- they were without their parents," he adds.

"I tried to pick up as many as I could and bring them out with me."

Retired Army lieutenant colonel and now military defense attorney Wade Faulkner says the charge could carry serious consequences.

“Desertion is essentially the same thing as AWOL with the additional element that the soldier intends not to come back to the Army at any time, to remain away permanently is the element that differentiates desertion from AWOL," he said.

There is also usually a month-time frame before a soldier is moved from AWOL to desertion status.

“Typically a commander will wait about 30 days before doing the paperwork to generate that warrant. Most commanders figure if it is under a month and a soldier comes back, we’ll deal with it but we don’t need to take those extra necessary steps of all that is involved with generating a warrant," Faulkner said.

He says there are many reasons soldiers going missing, including mental health issues or family issues. Now, Oakley's chain of command will have to make a decision.

“They could do anything from as lenient as a counseling statement, or written type of reprimand, all the way up to including a general court martial. It is a serious charge. It could result in jail time, a dishonorable discharge. A charge like desertion is a stain on a soldier military record," Faulkner said.

Oakley was currently working as an automated logistics specialist stationed at Fort Bliss. He returned home from a deployment in Kuwait a few months prior to the shooting.