Fort Hood Shooter Showed No Suicidal Tendencies, U.S. Army Says
By Lisa Maria Garza
FORT HOOD, Texas (Reuters) - The soldier suspected of shooting dead three people before killing himself at the FortHood Army base in Texas was under psychiatric care but showed no signs of violence or suicidal tendencies, a U.S. official said on Thursday.
No motive was given for the rampage, which also left 16 wounded, in what was the second mass shooting at the base in five years, raising questions about security at U.S. military posts. Officials have so far ruled out terrorism.
The gunman, who had been treated for depression and anxiety, was yet to be officially named but security officials said preliminary information identified him as 34-year-old Ivan Lopez.
U.S. Army Secretary John McHugh said the soldier, who joined the service in 2008, had served two tours of duty abroad, including four months in Iraq in 2011. He had no direct involvement in combat and had not been wounded.
"He was undergoing a variety of treatment and diagnoses for mental health conditions, ranging from depression to anxiety to some sleep disturbance. He was prescribed a number of drugs to address those, including Ambien," McHugh told a U.S. Senate committee hearing.
McHugh said the soldier and his wife were from Puerto Rico and that he had served in the Puerto Rican national guardbefore joining the U.S. Army.
Puerto Rico National Guard Major Jamie Davis told Reuters he had confirmed that Lopez was the same person believed to be at the center of the Fort Hood shooting.
Lopez served in the Puerto Rico National Guard from January, 1999 to 2009, in an infantry unit and as a band member, both military combat training assignments; he also had a six-month stint as part of an observation mission in the Sinai,Egypt, in 2006 Davis said.
A neighbor of the Lopez family in Killeen, Texas, told ABC News that the soldier's wife was "shaking and crying" when informed of the shooting.
"She told me that she hasn't talked to (her husband) since 3 o'clock and was hysterical," said Xanderia Morris, who could not immediately be reached by Reuters to confirm the account.
Military families at Fort Hood, a base still reeling from the 2009 attack when an Army psychiatrist killed 13 people and wounded 32 others, appeared shaken on Thursday. The wife of an emergency room doctor who treated some of the victims said she panicked when she heard the news.
"The problem is, both shootings have been an inside job. A soldier already stationed here and allowed access. I think a positive step would be better care for the mentally ill, since that seems to play a part in the majority of mass shootings - not just within the military," Chrissie Jennette told Reuters.
Doctors at one local hospital said three shooting victims remained in critical condition.
The shooter, who arrived at Fort Hood in February, had "self-reported" a traumatic brain injury after returning from Iraqbut was never wounded in action, Fort Hood commanding officer Lieutenant General Mark Milley said. Before the shooting, he was being evaluated for PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder.
It was not clear what spurred the gunman to enter two base buildings and open fire on fellow soldiers at about 4:00 p.m. local time (2100 GMT) on Wednesday.
The shooter walked into one of the unit buildings, opened fire, then got into a vehicle and fired from there. He then went into another building and opened fire again, until he was engaged by Fort Hood law enforcement officers, Milley said.
When confronted by a female military police officer in a parking lot, he shot himself with his semi-automatic weapon.
"He was approaching her at about 20 feet. He put his hands up, then reached under his jacket, pulled out the (handgun) and she pulled out her weapon and then she engaged, and he then put the weapon to his head," Milley said.
One of the buildings housed medical brigade day-to-day operations and the other served the administration of the transportation battalion.
Milley said law enforcement was looking into reports of an argument at the base ahead of the shooting.
The incident is the third shooting at a military base in the United States in about six months that, along with a series of shootings in schools and malls, has sparked a national debate over gun violence.
U.S. President Barack Obama was "heartbroken" that another shooting had occurred, and said the incident "reopens the pain of what happened at Fort Hood five years ago.
The latest violence highlights the U.S. military's so-far frustrated efforts to secure its bases from potential shooters, who appear to target the facilities.
Fort Hood, a base from which soldiers prepare to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan, had overhauled its security to better deal with potential "insider threats" after the 2009 shooting rampage.
In September, a gunman opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard, killing 12 and wounding four before being killed by police. Last month, a civilian shot dead a sailor aboard a ship at a U.S. Navy base in Norfolk, Virginia.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered steps to improve Pentagon security after reviews found the Navy Yard shooting could have been averted if the gunman's mental health had been properly handled.
(Additional reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis, Chris Francescani in New York, Colleen Jenkins in North Carolina; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; editing by Bernadette Baum and Gunna Dickson)