4 dead, 16 injured in Ft. Hood shooting
POSTED: Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 10:03am
UPDATED: Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 12:23pm
Ft. Hood, Texas — [Breaking news updates 10:29 a.m.]
• Investigators have not made any conclusions about the motives of the suspected Fort Hood shooter, Army Secretary John McHugh told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. "We're going to keep an open mind. ... Possible extremist involvement is still being looked at very, very carefully." McHugh did not identify Ivan Lopez as the suspect, though other officials have.
• The suspect was fully examined last month by a psychiatrist, McHugh said. There was no record that there was any sign he was likely to commit violence either against himself or others, "so the plan (going) forward was just to continue to monitor and treat him as deemed appropriate," he said.
• The suspect "had a clean record" behaviorally, McHugh added. There were "no major misbehaviors that we're yet aware of," he said.
• He was undergoing a variety of treatments for conditions that included depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances, McHugh said. Prescribed drugs included Ambien, he said.
• The suspect had two deployments, including a four-month deployment to Iraq as a truck driver, McHugh said. His records "show no wounds, no direct involvement in combat ... or any injury that might lead us to further investigate battle-related TBI (traumatic brain injury)."
• The suspect, a native of Puerto Rico, enlisted in the Army in June 2008 as an infantry soldier, later becoming a truck driver, McHugh said.
[Original story, posted at 10:03 a.m.]
(CNN) -- Fort Hood.
The name has been seared in the nation's collective memory since a soldier went on a deadly shooting spree here in 2009.
On Wednesday afternoon, it happened again.
At about 4 p.m., Specialist Ivan Lopez went from one building at the sprawling Texas military base to a second, firing a .45-caliber handgun, killing three people and wounding 16 more.
The 34-year-old Iraq vet then put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger, ending his life.
Authorities say they have not ruled out terrorism, but they were downplaying the possibility.
"There are some initial reports there may have been an argument in one of the unit areas," Lt. Gen Mark Milley, the post's commanding general, told reporters late Wednesday.
Officers picked up Lopez's widow at their apartment near the base in Killeen, and she was cooperating with law enforcement, an FBI official told CNN.
Her husband, who a neighbor said often gave her a friendly wave, had been undergoing treatment for mental health issues, authorities said.
He had arrived at the base in February, moving with his wife and their daughter into an apartment a little more than a week before the shooting.
They appeared to be a normal couple, said neighbor Xanderia Morris. "They would smile whenever they'd see someone," she said.
But behind Lopez's smile lay a history of depression, anxiety and other psychiatric disorders, according to Milley, and he was receiving treatment and taking antidepressants.
He had served for four months in Iraq in 2011. And while Army records don't show him as having been wounded there, Lopez himself reported that he had suffered a traumatic brain injury, Milley said.
And he was undergoing diagnosis procedures for post-traumatic stress disorder.
"He was not diagnosed, as of today, with PTSD," Milley said.
Arriving at a PTSD diagnosis, which is common among war veterans, can take time.
He used his own weapon
Lopez had been part of the National Guard in Puerto Rico, but he had left the Guard to join the U.S. Army, National Guard spokeswoman Ruth Diaz said Thursday. He carried out the killings with his own gun -- a .45-caliber Smith and Wesson semiautomatic pistol he bought after arriving in Killeen.
By taking it onto the base, he was breaking the rules.
"If you have weapons and you're on base, it's supposed to be registered on base," Milley said. "This weapon was not registered on base."
In addition, people who are not military police are not allowed to walk around with guns on a military base. They are required to store them in an armory.
Sequence of events
Around 4 p.m., Lopez walked into an administration building at the base and opened fire. He then got into a car, fired from the vehicle, got out of the car, walked into another nearby administration building and fired again.
Over 15 to 20 minutes, he killed three and wounded 16 -- all of them army personnel, Milley said.
Three of the wounded were in critical condition early Thursday.
Authorities did not say whether Lopez knew his victims.
The shootings took place in the medical brigade and the transportation battalion buildings. Lopez was assigned to the 13th sustainment command, which deals with logistics.
The base, which has more than 45,000 soldiers and nearly 9,000 civilian employees, went on lockdown.
People were told to shelter in place.
As sirens blared, Pvt. Dehlan Kay stayed in his barracks and talked on a phone. "I'm doing good," he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "I'm just a little nervous on what's happening."
The all-clear wouldn't go out for another six hours.
The shooting spree ended when a military police officer confronted Lopez in a parking lot. "He put his hands up and reached under his jacket, pulled out the (gun), and she pulled out her weapon. And then she engaged, and then he put the weapon to his head, and he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound," Milley said.
He added: "She did her job, and she did exactly what we would expect of a U.S. Army military police."
At the Lopez apartment, the shooter's wife was watching the news.
She came out crying, worried about her husband, from whom she had not heard all afternoon. But she had no idea that he was the shooter, said Morris, the neighbor.
"I'm just worried, I'm just worried," Lopez's wife told her.
"I tried to console her and comfort her, let her know everything was OK," Morris said.
It was not. When a local TV station identified the dead gunman as Lopez, his widow became "hysterical," Morris said.
It took law enforcement about 15 minutes to respond to the gunfire, Milley said.
Nine of the wounded were taken to Scott & White Memorial Hospital in nearby Temple, where three were in critical condition and six were in serious condition, with the possibility of being upgraded later in the day to fair, said Dr. Matthew Davis.
"It's been a busy evening," the surgeon said early Thursday.
Two of the most seriously wounded were operated on overnight and will require further surgery, he told CNN. "The next 24 hours are really critical," he said.
Though some of the wounds were superficial, others involved vital structures -- the neck, the chest, the abdomen. The wounds may heal, but "we clearly are going to have some physical scars and emotional scars going forward," he said. He predicted that the actions of a man who himself may have had PTSD will likely be responsible for others experiencing it.
"We'll have to work with some of our long-term professionals who help to work with PTSD," he said.
The previous mass shooter
In squeezing off his final shot, Lopez's actions differed from those of Fort Hood's last mass shooter.
Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan survived after killing 13 people and wounding another 32 on November 5, 2009.
Months later, the former military psychiatrist told a court that he was on a terrorist mission.
During a hearing in June, he said that he fired at soldiers preparing to deploy to Afghanistan to protect leading members of the Taliban.
Hasan was convicted of 13 counts of murder and 32 counts of attempted murder, and a military jury recommended last August that he be put to death.
"My reaction was not 'not again here,' " Milley said in response to reporters' questions. "My reaction was to immediately make sure we had a read on the casualties. Immediately secure the site. Immediately look for one or more shooters."
But others saw the link.
"That was so similar, it just tore up my heartstrings," Staff Sgt. Patrick Zeigler told CNN's "New Day" on Thursday.
Zeigler, who is still recovering from four bullet wounds to the head and body from the 2009 Fort Hood shooting, expressed surprise. "It's just hard to believe that these people that you serve with, who are your brothers in arms, would turn against you," he said. "And it's just incredible that at home, someone in the environment of a military base would decide to do this."
He said security procedures will never suffice to deter someone bent on committing such an act. "It takes somebody brave enough to report these people in order for it to be prevented."
"As a community, it's like you've been kicked in the gut. It can't be happening again," said Killeen Mayor Dan Corbin.
No community should have to experience such violence once, let alone twice, said John Cornyn, a U.S. senator from Texas. "Tonight, Texans' hearts are once again very heavy. The scenes coming from Fort Hood today are sadly too familiar and still too fresh in our memories," he said Wednesday.
"We're heartbroken something like this might have happened again," said President Obama, who was briefed by defense and FBI leaders by phone while traveling on Air Force One.
Fort Hood has been resilient before, Gov. Rick Perry said.
The Department of Defense issued the following statement regarding the Fort Hood tragedy:
For the Fort Hood, Texas, community and the Army family worldwide, "this is a time once again to come together, to stand as one as they have so many times before, drawing strength from each other," Army Secretary John M. McHugh told lawmakers today.
Army Secretary John M. McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno brief senators at an April 3, 2014, hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The Army leaders updated lawmakers on the April 2 shooting incident at Fort Hood, Texas, before proceeding with the hearing's previously scheduled agenda. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Cortez
McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno appeared before a Senate Armed Services Committee posture hearing that was supposed to focus on readiness, manpower, modernization and the budget. But after the hearing opened, the focus quickly shifted to yesterday's tragedy at Fort Hood, in which a soldier allegedly killed three other soldiers and then killed himself.
Sixteen other soldiers were injured, three critically, but the rest were reported to be in stable condition. The gunman killed himself when confronted by a female military policeman, McHugh said.
"We lost people who are part of our Army family," Odierno told the senators, "and we take that incredibly seriously."
The general said he spent a lot of time at Fort Hood as a commander at various levels and understands the "resilience of the community" and that the soldiers there are incredibly proud of the jobs they do. Odierno said he's confident of the leadership of the Fort Hood commander, Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley, who recently returned from Afghanistan.
In November 2009, Fort Hood suffered a similar shooting incident. Then, Army Maj. Nidal Hasan killed 13 people and injured others. Odierno said he believes the alert procedures developed after that shooting, as well as the training provided to soldiers, may have helped prevent yesterday's tragedy from developing into something "much worse."
The FBI, the Veterans Affairs Department and the state of Texas are all providing valuable assistance, he said.
McHugh provided facts about the tragedy that lawmakers requested, describing the investigation as still "fluid."
The alleged shooter joined the Army in June 2008 as an infantryman, McHugh said. He deployed to the Sinai with the Army National Guard for a year, then became a truck driver. In 2011, he deployed to Iraq in the active component during the final four months of the U.S. presence there.
His records show no wounds, no direct involvement in combat and no injury that would warrant further investigation of a battlefield traumatic brain injury, the Army secretary said. He was undergoing a variety of treatment. He had diagnoses for mental health conditions ranging from depression to anxiety to some sleep disturbance, McHugh continued. He was being prescribed a number of drugs to address those, including Ambien.
Last month, the soldier was seen by a psychiatrist. There was no indication or sign of likely violence to himself or others and no suicidal ideation, McHugh said. The plan forward was to continue monitoring and treating him as deemed appropriate.
The soldier's service record is clean in terms of major misbehaviors, he said.
The weapon believed to have been used in the attack was a .45-caliber pistol that the soldier had recently purchased, McHugh said. The weapon wasn't registered, and when he brought it on post it was there illegally, he added.
The alleged shooter lived off post and was married. His wife is being questioned, the secretary said.
Thus far, there's no indication of involvement with extremist organizations of any kind, according to Army records. "But we're not making any assumptions," McHugh said. "We're keeping an open mind and an open investigation. We'll go where the facts lead us."
McHugh laid out what the Army is doing in the tragedy's aftermath.
"Our first responsibility is to the families of the fallen, those who have been wounded and those close to them," he said. "We have ordered all possible means of medical and investigatory support as well as added behavioral health counselors."Any time the Army loses a soldier, we all mourn," he continued. "When that loss comes at the hands of another soldier, ... it just adds to the sorry and the all-consuming sense of loss the Army is feeling this day."
CNN's Joshua Rubin reported from Killeen, Texas; Ben Brumfield and Tom Watkins reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN's Dana Ford, Steve Almasy, Nicole Dow, Greg Botelho, Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz, Pamela Brown, Brian Todd, Matt Smith, Barbara Starr, Carma Hassan and Devon Sayers contributed to this report.