An Iraq war veteran who was grappling with mental health issues opened fire at Fort Hood, Texas in an attack that left four people dead and 16 wounded Wednesday afternoon, according to preliminary law enforcement and military reports. The gunfire sent tremors of fear across a n Army post still reeling from one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history.
Nine of the wounded were taken to Scott & White Memorial Hospital in nearby Temple, where three were in critical condition- one with injuries to the neck, another to the spine and the third to the abdomen, said Dr. Matthew Davis, medical director of trauma srvices.
The incident began about 4 p.m. Wednesday, when Spc. Ivan Lopez, 34, went from one building at the sprawling Texas military base to a second, firing his .45-caliber handgun. Lopez then put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger, ending his life.
Officials said they don’t know his motive.
The native of Puerto Rico enlisted in the Army in June 2008 as an infantry soldier and was deployed twice. He and his wife had arrived at the Texas base in February, moving with his wife and their daughter into an apartment a little more than a week before the shooting.
“There are initial reports there may have been an argument in one of the unit areas,” Lt. Gen, Mark Milley said. “Obviously, we are digging deep into his background, any criminal or psychiatric history, his experiences in combat. All of the things you would expect us to do are being done right now.”
Police spent Wednesday night searching his apartment in Killeen, the city that abuts the Army facility. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the commander of Fort hood, said the soldier served four months in Iraq in 2011.
Though he had been diagnosed with depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances, Lopez gave no sign during a psychiatric exam last month that he was likely to commit violence against himself or others, “so the plan (going) forward was just to continue to monitor and treat him as deemed appropriate,” Army Secretary John McHugh said.
Lopez served in the National Guard in Puerto Rico, and he left the Guard to join the U.S. Army, National Guard spokeswoman Ruth Diaz said Thursday. He carried out the killings with his own gun that he bought after arriving in Killeen.
By taking it onto the base, he was breaking the rules.
People who are not military police are not allowed to walk around with guns on a military base. They are required to store them in an armory.
“We’re heartbroken something like this might have happened again,” said President Obama, who was briefed by defense and FBI leaders by phone while traveling on Air Force One.
Fort Hood has been resilient before, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said.
The Department of Defense has the lead on the investigation of the shooting, with help from the FBI and state and local law enforcement personnel, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Thursday.
The shooting was the third major gun attack at a U.S. military installation in five years, leaving the nation grappling with the prospect of yet more flag-draped funerals for troops killed on the home front. A government contractor went on a shooting rampage at the Washing navy yard in September, leaving 12 people dead. In 2009, Army Maj. Nidal M. Hasan opened fire on a group of soldiers at Fort Hood preparing to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan, killing 13 people and wounding more than 30.
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