NCIS investigating death of Camp Pendleton Marine shot in head while standing guard on base
CAMP PENDLETON — Lance Cpl. Riley Schultz wasn’t where he was expected to be when his replacement came to relieve him of his guard duty, early morning on March 15, at this seaside base.
A search by fellow Marines found him nearby, dead from a gunshot wound to the head.
“All he wanted to do was protect people,” his mother, Misty Schultz-McCoy, said Monday, March 25, from her home in Longmont, Colo. “That’s why he had his heart set on becoming a Marine. He worked really hard to get himself in shape. When he transformed into a Marine, he didn’t look like himself at all anymore. He felt so much better about himself after becoming a Marine.”
Schultz, 19, who was training for a deployment with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit at Camp Pendleton, was found dead at 4 a.m.
“They found him near some vehicles where he wasn’t supposed to be,” Schultz-McCoy said, recalling what she was told when notified that afternoon of her son’s death. “They said he was dead and had been shot in the head.”
Marine Corps officials from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, on Monday, confirmed Schultz’s death but would not elaborate, citing an ongoing investigation by Navy Criminal Investigative Services.
“We begged her (one of two Marines who broke the news) to ‘unofficially’ tell us what they thought,” Schultz-McCoy said. “She said, they thought it was suicide. The next day they acted differently and said there would be an official memorial because they did not believe he committed suicide.”
The Marine Corps presented Schultz-McCoy with a Gold Star and a citation that said her son died while in the service of his country.
Schultz’s body will be flown to Denver on Thursday. From there he will have a military escort to a funeral home in Loveland, Colo., with services scheduled for April 6 in Longmont. He will be buried next to his father, David Schultz, who was killed in a car crash when Riley Schultz was three years old.
A memorial service is planned for April 3 at Camp Pendleton.
“Riley was right behind his dad,” said Schultz-McCoy, of the fatal accident. “We were hit by a 17-year-old kid that wanted to commit suicide. That’s why I know that Riley would never have committed suicide. He would never do that to us.”
Schultz-McCoy said her son had wanted to become a Marine early in life. Both grandfathers served in the Navy during Vietnam and he had wanted to become a Marine and be part of the infantry.
He wanted to be the one out in front disarming improvised explosive devices, she said.
“The Marine Corps appeared to be the hardest branch to join,” Schultz-McCoy said. “That’s why he wanted to become a Marine. It was the most physically demanding.”
To do that, she said, her son went through a complete transformation. He worked out with Marine recruiters while he was a senior at Roosevelt High School in Johnstown, Colo.
“The last year of high school was the best year he had,” she said. “He really cared about how he looked and wanted to wear clothes that showed off his new physique.”
Schultz enlisted after graduation and went to boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in the summer of 2017.
“He’s my hero,” said his brother, Lincoln Schwartz, 23. “He had grown so much when he made up his mind to join. I was really proud of him.”
Schultz-McCoy last saw Riley Schultz in February during a visit to San Diego. At that point, she recalled, she told him of his older brother, Bryce, 25, and his recent diagnosis of schizophrenia.
“He assured me he would be there to look out for him,” she said. “I guess now, he won’t.”