Thursday, November 5, 2009
The United States Army has confirmed that thirteen people have been killed after a shooting rampage at the Fort Hood army base in Texas. An additional thirty are reported wounded, and the gunman is in stable condition after being shot by military police. Two other soldiers are in detention.
The incident took place at a deployment readiness center. According to local congressman John Carter, shooting broke out shortly before a graduation ceremony.
The gunman has been identified as an army officer, Major Malik Nadal Hasan. He is a mental health professional, presumably either a psychologist or psychiatrist, according to an unnamed defense official. Two other suspects were in custody, the base commander, Lieutenant-General Bob Cone, said.”Our investigation is ongoing, but preliminary reports indicate that there was a single shooter,” Cone said at a news conference. “The shooter is not dead, but in custody in stable condition.”
Initial reports said that the gunman had been shot to death by military police; however, General Cone now says that the man is in custody and is in the hospital with injuries, but is in stable condition. FOX40 News in Sacramento managed to record a military spokesperson commenting on why the media wasn’t informed about the status of the gunman until four hours after the initial announcement was made that he had been fatally shot. That military spokesman replied, “the doctors didn’t know who they were working on.”
When asked at the conference whether Hasan’s attack might have been a terrorist act, General Cone replied that “I couldn’t rule that out, but I’m telling you that right now the evidence does not suggest that.”
It is not currently clear if those killed and wounded are civilian or military. The gunman is reported to have been in uniform and using handguns. Eyewitnesses claim at least one man was armed with a high-power sniper rifle. The chief of media at the base, Christopher Hogue, said to reporters that “the only one we know who was shooting was killed and he had two handguns.”
There may have been other people involved in the shooting, however. “We […] have apprehended two additional soldiers that are suspects. There were eyewitness accounts that there may have been more than one shooter,” General Cone said.
|Effective immediately Fort Hood is closed. This is not a Drill. It is an Emergency Situation.”|
The Killeen Independent School District said that all schools in the area were placed on lockdown. The base was closed down following the incident as well. “Effective immediately Fort Hood is closed,” a statement on the Fort Hood website read. “This is not a Drill. It is an Emergency Situation.” The website appears to have gone down shortly after the announcement.
A serviceman at the base described his experiences to the BBC. “I heard the emergency announcement over the speakers outside and saw people rushing to get indoors. In our office we’re okay but we’re hearing about the deaths. […] We are still on lockdown. I am hearing that at least nine people may be dead.”
Greg Schannep, a retired colonel, was heading to the 2 P.M. graduation ceremony when he heard gunshots and saw an injured soldier run past him. “Initially, I thought it was a training exercise,” he recounted, as quoted by the New York Daily News. “A soldier came running past me and said ‘sir, there is someone shooting.’ As he ran past me I saw blood on his back. I don’t think he even knew he had been shot.”
“It’s chaotic,” said the director of a local coffee shop near the base, as quoted by the Associated Press. “They’re just saying that they’re under attack they don’t know what’s going on. […] The phones are jammed. Everybody is calling family members and friends. Soldiers are running around with M-16s.”
The authorities are still gathering information about the shooting, according to Homeland Security spokeswoman Sara Kuban. “DoD [Department of Defense], DHS [Department of Homeland Security], FBI and other members of the intelligence community are assessing and gathering facts about the shooting. Because this is early in this event, we cannot at this time confirm motives behind these shootings,” she said.
The Scott & White Memorial Hospital in the town of Temple received ten of the injured victims from the attack. Its website has posted an appeal for blood donations. “Due to the recent events on Fort Hood, we are in URGENT need of ALL blood types,” it said. The hospital received 200 blood donations since 2:45 P.M. local time.
The hospital was soon closed to visitors after the wounded people were received. “[We are] no longer open to visitors as we focus our attention upon the victims and their families,” a statement on the website said. The associate system chief medical officer said that they did not have specific information on their conditions. “We get patients like this, but not usually all at once,” said director Glen Couchman.
Another health facility, the Metroplex Adventist Hospital, received seven other victims. The hospital stated that one of them was soon pronounced dead, and two others, including an EMS paramedic, are in surgery.
Fort Hood is situated in the town of Killeen. It is the largest military base in the world, houses around 40,000 US troops, and is about 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of Austin. It has been compared to a small town, with its own schools, convenience stores, and even two museums.
This is not the first time Killen has witnessed a shooting spree. The town was the site of the worst shooting spree in American history until the Virginia Tech massacre, when on October 16, 1991, George Jo Hennard drove his truck through the front window of Luby’s Cafeteria and proceeded to shoot and kill 23 people and wound another 20, before commiting suicide in what is know as the Luby’s massacre. It should be noted Major Hasan is an alumnus of Virginia Tech.
Hasan’s motives for the shooting spree were not immediately clear, however, Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison told the FOX news agency that “I do know that he has been known to have told people that he was upset about going [to Iraq].”
|[Going to Iraq] was probably his worst nightmare|
A cousin of the gunman, Nader Hasan, told FOX that his cousin had been ordered to deploy to Iraq, but was unwilling to do so. “We’ve known over the last five years that was probably his worst nightmare,” he said.
According to Nader, Nidal is a US-born Muslim who had joined the military after finishing high school, and was a graduate of Virginia Tech, where he received a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. He was also a member of the ROTC, and used to be a psychiatrist at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
“He was a psychiatrist at Walter Reed dealing with the people coming back and […] trying to help them with their trauma,” Nader said.
Retired colonel Terry Lee told FOX that “[Hasan] said maybe Muslims should stand up and fight against the aggressor. At first we thought he meant help the armed forces, but apparently that wasn’t the case. Other times he would make comments we shouldn’t be in the war in the first place.”
Security officials said that some Internet postings made half a year ago, discussing suicide bombings and other forms of violence, appeared to have been posted by Hasan, but this has not been officially confirmed.
Some army bases around the US increased security measures following the attacks. “The bottom line for us is that we are increasing security at our gates because the threat hasn’t yet been defined, and we’re reminding our Marines to be vigilant in their areas of responsibility,” said the public affairs officer for the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Arizona, Captain Rob Dolan.
|We don’t have reason to believe that this is anything other than an isolated incident|
However, a spokesman for the Department of Defense said that the attack appeared to be an isolated incident. “This is an isolated and tragic case and we’re obviously in the process of obtaining more information as the events unfold,” said Lieutenant Colonel Eric Butterbaugh.
“We don’t have reason to believe that this is anything other than an isolated incident,” an army spokesman from Fort Lewis in the state of Washington, Joe Piek, commented. “We don’t normally discuss security operations at the post anyways, but I am sure this is something that our security law enforcement will be reviewing. As we are watching and listening, there is a lot we don’t know.”
|…a horrific outburst of violence|
President Barack Obama described the incident as “a horrific outburst of violence” in a press conference in Washington D.C., going on to say, “It is difficult enough when we lose these brave men and women abroad, but it is horrifying that they should come under fire at an army base on US soil. […] We will make sure that we get answers to every single question about this horrible incident. We are going to stay on this.”
Texas Senator Hutchison released a statement regarding the incident. “I am shocked and saddened by today’s outburst of violence at Fort Hood that has cost seven of our brave service members their lives and has gravely injured others. My heart goes out to their loved ones,” she said.
“Our dedicated military personnel have sacrificed so much in service to our country, and it sickens me that the men and women of Fort Hood have been subjected to this senseless, random violence. I know all Americans share this concern for the soldiers and their families who are affected by this tragedy,” the statement continued.
Robert Gates, the Defense Secretary, expressed his sympathy to those affected by the attack. “I can pledge that the Department of Defense will do everything in its power to help the Fort Hood community get through these difficult times,” he said in a statement.
Vice President Joe Biden also offered his condolences. “We are all praying for those who were wounded and hoping for their full and speedy recovery. Our thoughts and prayers are also with the entire Fort Hood community as they deal with this senseless tragedy,” he remarked.
“I was saddened to learn of the tragic incident at Fort Hood. Laura and I are keeping the victims and their families in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time,” wrote former president George W. Bush in a statement from his office in Dallas.
The state’s governor, Rick Perry, ordered all flags in Texas to be flown at half-staff until Sunday. “[I am] keeping those affected by today’s incidents in our thoughts and prayers,” he said.
The junior senator from Texas, John Cornyn, also issued a statement. “My heart goes out to the victims of the tragedy that occurred today at Fort Hood, as well as their families. Fort Hood is one of our nation’s finest and largest military installations, and a place that has long been a source of pride for Texans, and for all Americans who value the selfless service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform,” the statement read.
“It is imperative that we take the time to gather all the facts, as it would be irresponsible to be the source of rumors or inaccurate information regarding such a horrific event. Once we have ascertained all the facts, working with our military leaders and law enforcement officials on the ground, we can determine what exactly happened at Fort Hood today and how to prevent something like this from ever happening again.”