Fort Hood gunman showed no violent tendencies, Army says

BY Joshua Barajas  April 3, 2014 at 4:50 PM EDT
Lt. Gen. Mark Milley speaks at a news conference, following the shooting at the Fort Hood military base on Wednesday evening. The incident left four dead and at least three in critical condition. Photo by Charlie Pierce / The Daily Texan

Lt. Gen. Mark Milley speaks at a news conference, following the shooting at the Fort Hood military base on Wednesday evening. The incident left four dead and at least three in critical condition. Photo by Charlie Pearce / The Daily Texan

Updated 4:50 p.m. EDT

The Iraq War veteran responsible for Wednesday’s shooting at the Fort Hood military base in Texas — which killed three people and wounded 16 others — has been identified as 34-year-old Spc. Ivan Lopez, Lt. Gen. Mark Milley said Thursday.

The ongoing investigation has a strong indication that the trigger event for the shooting may have been an altercation between Lopez and a soldier, or soldiers, Milley said. He added that there’s evidence that Lopez “had a medical history that indicates an unstable psychiatric or psychological condition.”

Milley said that the soldier’s next of kin have been notified and repeated Army Secretary John McHugh’s statement that the gunman appeared to have no connections to extremist groups, national or international.

McHugh said that Lopez, who served in Iraq for four months as a truck driver from August to December 2011, was last examined by a psychiatrist in March and showed no violent tendencies. Service records indicated that Lopez saw no action during his deployment.

McHugh added that the soldier was prescribed Ambien for a sleeping problem.

Armed with a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol, Lopez, who had sought treatment for mental illness, opened fire on the Army base around 4 p.m. local time before confronting military police in a parking lot, where he then turned the gun on himself, Fort Hood’s senior officer, Milley said.

Lopez grew up in the Puerto Rican coastal town of Guayanilla, the Associated Press reports. Lopez joined the Puerto Rico National Guard in 1999 and enlisted with the U.S. Army in 2008.

A spokesman for the family told the AP that Lopez’s mother, a nurse at a public clinic, died of a heart attack in November, adding that:

The soldier was upset that he was granted only a 24-hour leave to attend her funeral, which was delayed for nearly a week so he could be there, the spokesman said. The leave was then extended to two days.

The gunman had sought help for depression, anxiety and other problems as part of an assessment for post-traumatic stress disorder, Milley said Wednesday, adding that the soldier complained of a traumatic brain injury after he returned from Iraq.

Milley said the gunman transferred from Fort Bliss, an Army base in El Paso, Texas, to Fort Hood in February. Milley said Thursday that military records don’t show any specific incidents at Fort Bliss.

Fort Hood spokesman Chris Haug said that investigators have searched the gunman’s home and questioned his wife Thursday.

Those wounded in the attack were taken to nearby hospitals, including the one on the base, which is about 70 miles north of Austin, Texas. All of the wounded are in the military.

Three of the nine people transferred to the Scott & White Memorial Hospital in Temple, Texas, were in critical condition Thursday. Hospital officials expect them to survive.

Milley said Thursday that four out of the 16 wounded have been released.
A memorial service for the fallen soldiers has been planned for next week.

Wednesday’s attack echoes 2009’s mass shooting on the base when Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan opened fire on Fort Hood, killing 13 people and wounding 30 others.

President Barack Obama, who was attending a Democratic fundraising event in Chicago on Wednesday, vowed to “get to the bottom of what happened” at Fort Hood.

Speaking at an event honoring the U.S. Winter Olympics team, President Barack Obama paid tribute to the Fort Hood victims Thursday.

“During the course of a decade of war, many have served multiple tours of duty,” the president said. “To see the unspeakable senseless violence happening in a place they were supposed to feel safe, home base, is tragic.”

He added: “We will make sure we do everything in our power to keep the troops safe, not just on the battlefield, but when they come home.”