Soldier kills 12, hurts 31 in Fort Hood rampage

Military psychiatrist facing deployment abroad is accused

By April Castro and Devlin Barrett
Associated Press / November 6, 2009

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FORT HOOD, Texas - An Army psychiatrist set to be shipped overseas opened fire at the Fort Hood Army post yesterday, authorities said, a rampage that killed 12 people and left 31 wounded in the worst mass shooting ever at a military base in the United States.

The gunman, first said to have been killed, was wounded but alive and in stable condition under military guard, said Lieutenant General Bob Cone at Fort Hood.

“I would say his death is not imminent,’’ Cone said.

Colonel Ben Danner said the suspect was shot four times and was in critical condition.

The man was identified as Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a 39-year-old from Virginia.

President Obama called the shooting at the Soldier Readiness Center, where soldiers who are about to be deployed or who are returning undergo medical screening, “a horrific outburst of violence.’’

“It’s difficult enough when we lose these brave Americans in battles overseas,’’ Obama said. “It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army base on American soil.’’

There was no official word on motive. Hasan had transferred to Fort Hood in July from Walter Reed Medical Center, where he received a poor performance evaluation, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas, said generals at Fort Hood told her that Hasan was about to deploy overseas. Retired Colonel Terry Lee, who said he had worked with Hasan, told Fox News Hasan was being sent to Afghanistan.

Lee said that Hasan had hoped Obama would pull troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq, and that the major argued frequently with others in the military who supported the wars.

Faizul Khan, a former imam at a mosque Hasan attended in Silver Spring, Md., said he spoke often with Hasan about how Hasan wanted to find a wife. Hasan was a lifelong Muslim and attended prayers regularly, often in his Army uniform, Khan said.

The shooter used two pistols, one of them semiautomatic. Neither was military-issued, Danner said. Video from the scene showed police patrolling the area with handguns and rifles, ducking behind buildings for cover. Sirens could be heard wailing, and a woman’s voice on a public-address system urged people to take cover.

“I was confused and just shocked,’’ said Specialist Jerry Richard, 27, who works at the center but was not on duty during the shooting. “Overseas you are ready for it. But here you can’t even defend yourself.’’

Soldiers at Fort Hood do not carry weapons unless they are engaged in training exercises.

The Reverend Greg Schannep was about to head into a graduation ceremony when a man in uniform approached him, warning him that someone had opened fire. Schannep heard three volleys of gunfire and saw people running.

“There was a burst of shots and more bursts of shots, and people running everywhere,’’ said Schannep, who works for US Representative John Carter.

The uniformed man who had warned him ran to the theater. Schannep said he could see the man’s back was bloodied from a wound. The man survived, was treated, and will be fine, Schannep said.

Cone said that initially three people were held, and that all have been interviewed. Authorities believe, however, that there was just one shooter.

The Soldier Readiness Center holds hundreds of people and is one of the most populated parts of the base, said Steve Moore, a spokesman for III Corps at Fort Hood. Nearby there are barracks and a food center where there are fast-food chains.

The wounded were taken to hospitals in central Texas, Cone said. Their identities, and the identities of the dead, were not immediately released.

Amber Bahr, 19, was shot in the stomach but was in stable condition, said her mother, Lisa Pfund of Random Lake, Wis.

“We know nothing, just that she was shot in the belly,’’ Pfund said. She could not provide more details and only spoke with emergency personnel.

Hasan was single with no children. He graduated from Virginia Tech, where he was a member of the ROTC and earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry in 1997. He received a medical degree from the military’s Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., in 2001 and completed his internship, residency, and a fellowship at Walter Reed.

The attack happened just down the road from one of the worst mass shootings in US history. On Oct. 16, 1991, George Hennard smashed his pickup truck through a Luby’s Cafeteria window in Killeen, and fired on the lunchtime crowd with a high-powered pistol, killing 22 people and wounding at least 20 others.

No other shooting at a military base in the United States has been as deadly as yesterday’s. In 1993 a gunman at Fort Knox shot five civilian co-workers, killing three, and then fatally shot himself.

Around the country, some bases stepped up security precautions, but no others were locked down.

Covering 339 square miles, Fort Hood is the largest active duty armored post in the United States. Home to about 52,000 troops, it is located halfway between Austin and Waco.

■39 years old, US Army psychiatrist, and a 1997 graduate of Virginia Tech University. Commissioned as a captain, he was promoted to major in May.
■From 2003 through this summer, he was an intern, a resident, then a fellow at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, in Washington, D.C.
■He was single and had no children, and he showed no sign of physical or mental problems in examinations as recently as September.