At least four military personnel died and 16 others were wounded, some critically, in a shooting spree Wednesday about 4:30 p.m. local time at Fort Hood, in Killeen, Texas.
The base, located near Waco, was immediately sealed off and held on lock-down for nearly four hours, until the “all-clear” could be sounded.
The shooter, 34-year-old combat veteran Spc. Ivan Lopez, killed himself at the end of the shooting spree with a single shot. He used a .45-caliber Smith and Wesson semi-automatic pistol he had recently purchased in the area, and had not registered at the base, officials said.
In November 2009, a military psychiatrist with Arabic ancestry proclaimed jihad against the United States at Fort Hood and went on a similar rampage, killing 13 people.
Military officials stressed that this time the cause seemed to be a personal dispute, unrelated to terrorism.
The gunman “walked into one of the unit buildings, opened fire, got into a vehicle, fired from [the vehicle], got out of the vehicle, walked into another building, opened fire again and was engaged by local law enforcement here at Fort Hood,” according to Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, who spoke with reporters.
U.S. President Barack Obama also made an effort to play down the terror factor but acknowledged that something indeed had gone terribly wrong and needed to be dealt with.
In a statement following the shooting, Obama said, “We’re heartbroken something like this might have happened again. We’re following it closely. I want to just assure all of us we are going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened… Obviously this reopens the pain of what happened at Fort Hood five years ago. We know their incredible service to our country and the sacrifices that they make. Obviously our thoughts and prayers are with the entire community, and we are going to do everything we can to make sure the community of Fort Hood has what it needs to deal with a tough situation, but also any potential aftermath.”
Lopez was in the process of being evaluated for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which Lt. Gen. Milley described as “a lengthy process.” He added that the soldier – whom he did not identify at any time during his briefing — was also “undergoing behavioral health, psychiatric treatment for depression and anxiety and a variety of other psychological and psychiatric issues” at the time of the attack. He added that he also had a self-reported traumatic brain injury.
Lopez had served four months in Iraq during 2011. He remained on active duty and was subsequently assigned to the 13th Sustainment Command based at Fort Hood.
The tragedy ended when a female police officer drew her weapon, according to Lt. Gen. Milley, who said that in response, the armed soldier “put his hands up and then reached under his jacket. He pulled out the gun, and she engaged, and he put the weapon to his head.” He paused. “It was clearly heroic, what she did at that moment in time.”
His body was found in a parking lot near the First Medical Brigade area. Three of the victims died in local hospitals. Seven of the injured were admitted to nearby Scott & White Memorial Hospital. Three of the injured are in critical condition and being maintained on respirators. Five are listed in serious condition with gunshot wounds to abdomens, chest, necks and extremities, doctors told reporters. Other victims are being treated on base at the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center.
“Experience has taught us many things here at Fort Hood,” Milley said. “The soldiers who have served so bravely through the last 13 years in Iraq are strong, and we will get through this.”