FORT HOOD, Texas – A sergeant shot five times during last year's rampage at Fort Hood said Wednesday he recalled lying on the floor and locking eyes with Maj. Nidal Hasan after the Army psychiatrist cried out "Allahu Akbar" and unleashed a burst of gunfire into a crowd of soldiers preparing for deployment.
Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford said the light from a laser-guided weapon soon trained on him, and he closed his eyes before being shot in the head. He made his way outside, not realizing he'd been shot four more times, and heard a woman screaming about the gunman: "He's one of ours! He's one of ours!"
Lunsford, who lost most of the sight in his left eye in the attack, was the first in a string of victims who came face-to-face with Hasan at a military hearing to determine whether he should stand trial on 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder.
Hasan, 40, wore his Army combat uniform and looked on intently as fellow soldiers described diving wounded to the ground, crawling through pools of blood and struggling to pull friends to safety. He showed no emotion as several identified him in the courtroom as the gunman in the worst mass shooting ever at an American military base.
Staff Sgt. Alvin Bernard Howard said he was playing solitaire on a computer when he heard yelling and gunshots he thought were part of a training exercise. He realized it wasn't when a bullet casing landed on his laptop, and then turned around.
"We looked eye to eye and he just shot me," the now-retired Howard testified, later standing up and pointing at Hasan. "I will never forget his face."
Hasan sat in a wheelchair just a few feet away from where eight witnesses took the stand Wednesday. He has been paralyzed from the chest down since Fort Hood police officers fired on him during the Nov. 5 attack.
Lunsford testified he saw Hasan earlier that day in Fort Hood's Soldier Readiness Processing Center, where soldiers go for medical screening immediately before and after deploying. Lunsford said Hasan that morning received vaccines and other routine tests ahead of a deployment to Afghanistan scheduled for the next month.
But after lunch, Lunsford saw Hasan in the building again — this time standing near the front doors, pulling a weapon from his Army combat uniform and shouting "God is Great" in Arabic. As the shots rang out, a civilian physician assistant, Michael Grant Cahill, tried to knock Hasan down with a chair but was shot, Lunsford said. Cahill was one of the 13 killed that day.
Spc. James Armstrong, who was shot twice, said he was in a large seating area when he heard shooting and turned around to see soldiers being shot and a chair thrown amid rapid gunfire before Hasan reloaded.
The scene was "the worst horror movie," with wounded soldiers leaving bloody handprints on walls as they tried to get up and blood pooled on the floor where they lay dead, Armstrong said.
The court earlier heard a recording of a contract worker's 911 call soon after she hid under a desk when the gunfire began. Medical technician Michelle Harper testified she could only see the shooter's feet as he walked slowly and deliberately through the building.
"Oh my God! Everybody's shot!" a frantic Harper told the 911 operator as gunshots and groans for help resounded around her.
"Are you safe?" the unidentified 911 operator asked at one point.
"No," Harper replied.
Immediately after the shooting spree, some witnesses had reported the gunman used two personal pistols, one a semiautomatic, to take some 100 shots at about 300 people crowded into the building. None of the witnesses Wednesday testified to seeing Hasan with more than one gun, and some said they heard gunfire but did not see the shooter.
Hasan has been in custody since the shooting, hospitalized first in San Antonio, then moved to jail in Bell County, which houses military suspects for nearby Fort Hood. The military justice system does not offer bail.
Prosecutors have not said whether they will seek the death penalty if the case goes to trial.