Another shooting rampage occurred at Fort Hood in Texas on Wednesday afternoon, perpetrated this time by a soldier who was undergoing treatment for “behavioral and mental health issues.” According to reports, Spc. Ivan Lopez killed three other military personnel and wounded 16 before taking his own life. Three of the injured were still in critical condition as of Thursday morning. Early reports of multiple shooters appear to have been inaccurate.
To get the politically-charged details out of the way: Fort Hood remains a “gun-free zone” where soldiers are not permitted to carry firearms, although legislation to lift this 1993 ban was introduced by House Republicans in September; strict gun registration laws are enforced, but the shooter ignored them when he purchased the weapon used in the attack; he used a simple .45 handgun, not an “assault weapon”; and his rampage was ended by a good guy with a gun – actually a good gal with a gun, as he reportedly shot himself after running into a female military police officer.
Both Army and FBI officials have said there was no indication Lopez was connected to terrorism, although as the FBI told Fox News, “it is still early in the investigation and we are not ruling anything out.”
CNN offers a summary of the shooter’s mental health history:
The suspect, a soldier who served for four months in Iraq, “had behavioral health and mental health” issues, said Lt. Gen Mark Milley, the post’s commanding general.
He suffered from depression, anxiety and other psychiatric complaints and was receiving treatment and medication.
He was going through the process required to diagnose Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
“He was not diagnosed, as of today, with PTSD,” Milley said.
Lopez was transferred to Fort Hood from another unnamed base in February. Retired Army Maj. Gen. James “Spider” Marks, a CNN analyst, expressed surprise at the transfer.
Lopez should have remained at the other base for continuity of care, he said.
“We will have to reexamine all of those programs to see if there were any gaps,” Milley said.
A USA Today report says Lopez “had not been assigned to one of the Army Wounded Transition Units, military units that are set up to care for wounded, injured or ill soldiers. Those assigned to these units have case managers who help them track appointments and manage their medical treatments.”
Lopez was married, with a young daughter. Authorities are said to be interviewing his wife and examining his computers to gain insight into his motivations. Witnesses to the shootings are being sought by investigators, to learn what he might have said to the victims during the attack. CNN quotes Ford Hood’s commanding general, Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, speaking of “initial reports there may have been an argument in one of the unit areas.”
The FBI has recently been working on an alert about a possible “Fort Hood-inspired jihad against U.S. soldiers,” but this pertains to an apparently unrelated individual named Muhammad Abdullah Hassan, also known as “Booker,” a recent Army recruit who had not yet begun basic training. He’s believed to be in the Kansas City, Missouri area, after law enforcement learned about his jihad plans and he was discharged. Simply discharging him and letting him disappear doesn’t sound like the best way that situation could have been handled, especially once he started “bidding farewell to his friends and making comments indicating his jihad was imminent.”
Gen. Milley also said there is no record of Lopez being wounded during his four months in Iraq, but he self-reported suffering a traumatic brain injury during the deployment. At Fort Hood, he worked for the 13th Sustainment Command, which handles the distribution of supplies and services, including fuel, ammunition, and health services. Evidently his shooting rampage began at one of the buildings employed by his unit.
The shooting reportedly occurred within a small area, only one or two buildings on the base. CNN says Lopez opened fire in one building, jumped into a car, fired some shots from the vehicle, then entered another building and resumed firing. The entire incident lasted 15 to 20 minutes.
Naturally, there have been many references to the previous Fort Hood shooting by Major Nidal Hasan in 2009, as well as the aborted 2011 bomb plot hatched by Private Naser Jason Abdo. The differences between those incidents and the current horror are significant, however. Hasan and Abdo were terrorists, and Abdo wasn’t actually planning to attack the base itself with his pressure-cooker bomb – he wanted to detonate it at a restaurant favored by soldiers, then use a handgun to murder the survivors. Hasan is currently awaiting execution, while Abdo was sentenced to life in prison.
CNN reports on measures taken after a review of Hasan’s 2009 massacre:
“The tragic shooting of U.S. military personnel at Fort Hood in November 2009 underscored the need for the Department of Defense to thoroughly review its approach to force protection,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote in a memo shortly after that shooting.
Authorities put in place a series of changes.
They included creating a kind of “neighborhood watch” to teach the Army community to recognize and report suspicious behavior.
Gates also called for a plan to educate commanders on signs of workplace violence and an enhanced 911 systems on military installations to enable emergency dispatchers to effectively determine a caller’s location.
Other recommendations included upgraded health care to service members and the hiring of additional providers especially in mental health to help meet that goal.
The Army must transform how it protects its soldiers, collects information about internal threats and communicates with the FBI and terrorism experts, investigators said at the time.
But some residents said there have been no major changes.
“There hasn’t been a whole lot of extra protection on base,” said Lynn Adams, a Fort Hood resident.
Adams said authorities check identification and other things, but there has been no visible extra security.
Better supervision of soldiers with mental health issues might have helped – if that USA Today report is accurate, it sounds like Lopez should have been swiftly moved into an Army Wounded Transition Unit and assigned a case worker. Given that no conceivable security would have prevented him from entering the base he was assigned to, the only perimeter upgrade that might have made a difference would be searching both assigned personnel and visitors thoroughly for weapons when they arrive, but given the amount of traffic passing through the base – tens of thousands per day, according to CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr – such precautions would be just about impossible to implement.
Fox News has reactions from President Obama and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel:
“We’re heartbroken that something like this might have happened again,” Obama said.
Offering thoughts and prayers to the entire Texas community, Obama pledged to do everything possible to ensure Fort Hood had everything it needed to weather a difficult situation and its aftermath. Standing in front of a black curtain, with an American flag nearby, Obama reflected on the sacrifices that troops stationed at Fort Hood have made — including during multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“They serve with valor, they serve with distinction and when they’re at their home base, they need to feel safe,” Obama said. “We don’t yet know what happened tonight, but obviously that sense of safety has been broken once again.”
[…] Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, speaking to reporters while in Honolulu to host a conference of Southeast Asian defense leaders, called the shootings a “terrible tragedy.” Asked about security improvements in the wake of other shootings at U.S. military bases, Hagel said, “Obviously when we have these kinds of tragedies on our bases, something’s not working.”
“Today, Ft. Hood was once again stricken by tragedy. As Texans, our first priority must be caring for the victims and their families,” said Texas Governor Rick Perry. “Ft. Hood has proven its resilience before, and will again. Texas will support those efforts in any way we can, with any resources necessary. The thoughts and prayers of all Texans are with everyone affected by this tragedy.”
“Tonight, Texans’ hearts are once again very heavy,” said Senator John Cornyn (R-TX). “The scenes coming from Fort Hood today are sadly too familiar and still too fresh in our memories. No community should have to go through this horrific violence once, let alone twice. I ask that all Americans join Sandy and me in praying for the victims, their families and the entire Fort Hood community.”
“My prayers are with all in the Fort Hood community who have been impacted by today’s shooting, including first responders who have been actively working to move people out of harm’s way and secure the area,” said Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). “Our office will continue to closely monitor the situation and stands by to offer assistance as necessary.”
Update: “Apparently the only government department without a military force at its disposal is the military,” writes Mark Steyn. “So when a lone shooter opens up at an army base, Fort Shock’n’Awe has to call 911 and “shelter in place” until the county sheriff arrives. For your psycho gunman, a military base is basically a grade-school in uniform. ”
Update: I’ve updated the headline to include the shooter himself among the dead.
Update: ABC News thinks they found the shooter’s Facebook page, created under the name “Ivan Slipknot:”
The social media account is under the name Ivan Slipknot, rather than Ivan Lopez as the shooter has been identified by ABC News sources, but biographical details on the Facebook page match with what is known about the shooter and two of the man???s neighbors confirmed the images show Ivan Lopez. Slipknot is the name of a hardcore heavy metal band, seen in a couple pictures on the Facebook page.
The Facebook page shows several photos of Lopez in and out of uniform. One past profile picture, posted in 2013, shows him in full combat gear and a comment on the image made by Ivan Slipknot mentions ???memories of Fallujah, Iraq 2011.??? Military officials confirmed the Fort Hood shooter had been in Iraq for four months in 2011, but did not see direct combat.
Other photos show Lopez in civilian garb, posing with children at various landmarks, smiling at the camera. The shooter was married with kids, military officials said.
According to CNN, neighbors describe Lopez and his wife as friendly people who would “smile whenever they’d see someone.” The neighbors say Mrs. Lopez initially feared that her husband might have been a victim in the shooting, and became “hysterical” when he was identified as the perpetrator.