Published November 06, 2009
An Army psychiatrist who reportedly feared an impending war deployment is in custody as the sole suspect in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Texas that left 12 dead and 31 wounded, an Army official said Thursday night.
The gunman, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, first said to have been killed, was wounded but alive in a hospital under military guard, said Lt. Gen. Bob Cone at Fort Hood. He was shot four times, and was on a ventilator and unconscious, according to military officials. "I would say his death is not imminent," Cone said.
Two other soldiers who were taken into custody for questioning were later released, Cone said. A female first responder who shot at Hasan also survived, contrary to earlier reports that she had died.
The rampage was believed to be the deadliest at a U.S. military base in history.
Soldiers rushed to treat their injured colleagues by ripping their uniforms into makeshift bandages. Officials have not ruled out the possibility that some casualties may have been victims of "friendly fire," shot by authorities amid the mayhem and confusion at the scene, said a senior U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters that were under investigation.
Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said generals at Fort Hood told her that Hasan, a Virginia native and a Muslim, was about to deploy overseas. Retired Col. Terry Lee, who said he had worked with Hasan, told Fox News he was being sent to Afghanistan.
Lee said Hasan had hoped Obama would pull troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq and got into frequent arguments with others in the military who supported the wars.
Before Thursday's shooting, Hasan reportedly gave away all of his furniture along with copies of the Koran to neighbors, KXXV-TV reported.
Video from the scene showed police patrolling the area with handguns and rifles, ducking behind buildings for cover. Sirens could be heard wailing while a woman's voice on a public-address system urged people to take cover.
"I was confused and just shocked," said Spc. Jerry Richard, 27, who works at the center but was not on duty during the shooting. "Overseas you are ready for it. But here you can't even defend yourself."
Soldiers at Fort Hood don't carry weapons unless they are doing training exercises.
Federal law enforcement officials told the Associated Press that Hasan had come to their attention at least six months ago because of Internet postings that discussed homicide bombings and other threats. The officials said they are still trying to confirm that he was the author.
One of the Web postings that authorities reviewed is a blog that equates homicide bombers with a soldier throwing himself on a grenade to save the lives of his comrades.
"To say that this soldier committed suicide is inappropriate. Its more appropriate to say he is a brave hero that sacrificed his life for a more noble cause," said the Internet posting. "Scholars have paralled (sic) this to suicide bombers whose intention, by sacrificing their lives, is to help save Muslims by killing enemy soldiers."
They say an official investigation was not opened.
Hasan was working with soldiers at Darnall Army Medical Center on Fort Hood after being transferred in July from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he had worked for six years before recently receiving a poor review.
Cone said the shooter used two guns, including a semi-automatic weapon. He added there was no indication they were military weapons.
The shooting took place 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the post's Soldier Readiness Center, where soldiers undergo medical screening before being deployed or after returning from overseas.
"We have a terrible, tragic situation here," said Cone. "Soldiers, family members and the civilians that work here are absolutely devastated."
Cone said the injuries "vary significantly" among the victims wounded in the shooting.
The shooter's cousin, Nader Hasan, told Fox News that their family is in shock.
"We are trying to make sense of all this," Nader Hasan said. "He wasn't even someone who enjoyed going to the firing range."
He said his cousin, who was born and raised in Virginia and graduated from Virginia Tech University, turned against the wars after hearing the stories of those who came back from Afghanistan and Iraq.
Nader Hasan said his cousin, who was raised a Muslim, wanted to go into the military against his parent's wishes — but was taunted by others after the terror attacks of Sept. 11.
A former neighbor of Hasan's in Silver Spring, Md., told Fox News he lived there for two years with his brother and had the word "Allah" on the door.
She said the FBI interviewed her Thursday afternoon, adding she used to see a woman and a 3-year-old girl coming and going.
Authorities provided little information Thursday about the victims of the rampage at Fort Hood.
George Stratton's son, George Stratton III, was five feet away from the shooter at the Soldier Readiness Center and suffered a gunshot wound to his left shoulder.
"He said he was there doing medical stuff and all of a sudden someone came through the door, walked behind the desk and just started shooting," Stratton told FoxNews.com.
He said about 15 rounds went off and people started dropping to the floor.
"He peaked up over the desk and that's when he was shot in the shoulder, and he just went down again. He said he saw one of his NCOs get badly shot," Stratton told FoxNews.com after talking to his son in the hospital. "After he got shot he told me, 'Dad, I got up, held my arm and took off running.'"
Stratton said his son was expected to be deployed to Afghanistan in January after going to basic training exactly a year ago.
"It's pretty hard to believe something like this happened," Stratton told FoxNews.com. "I think he's probably had his fill of war already."
President Obama called the shooting a "horrific outburst of violence" on members of the nation's armed forces. "It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an army base on American soil," he said
Obama said his thoughts and prayers are with the wounded and families of the fallen.
A spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations said they don't know anything about Hasan, and condemned the shooting at Fort Hood.
The group issued a statement calling the shooting as a "cowardly attack." They say no political or religious ideology could ever justify or excuse such violence.
The base and area schools were on lockdown after the mass shooting, and all those on the Army post were asked to gather for a head count, thought the lockdown was lifted Thursday night.
Covering 339 square miles, Fort Hood is the largest active duty armored post in the United States. Home to about 52,000 troops as of earlier this year, the sprawling base is located halfway between Austin and Waco.
FoxNews.com's Michelle Maskaly and The Associated Press contributed to this report.