An Iraq veteran who was being treated for depression and anxiety opened fire at the Fort Hood Army base in Texas, killing three military personnel and injuring 16 more before taking his own life in a tragic and jarring echo of the deadly rampage at the same base five years ago.
The shooter, identified in media reports as Specialist Ivan Lopez, used a semi-automatic pistol in an area of the sprawling base where medical and motor transport personnel work. When the shooting stopped, Lopez was confronted in a parking lot by a female military police officer, according to Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, the senior commander at the base.
As the officer attempted to "engage" the shooter, Milley said, Lopez pulled a pistol out from underneath his jacket and shot himself in the head. He had been transferred to Fort Hood from another Army installation, also in Texas, in February, Milley said.
Lopez, who had a wife and children living in the area, had not been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, the signature invisible wound of the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But he had "self-reported" a traumatic brain injury and was being treated for a number of mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety, Milley said. The soldier was a combat veteran, he said.
Fort Hood officials said they could not rule out that the shooting was an act of terrorism, but said there was not yet any indication that it was. Base officials had contacted the Army installation where Lopez had previously served to try learn more about the shooter and his background.
"Obviously we are digging deep into his background, any criminal history, psychiatric history, his experiences in combat, all the things you'd expect us to do are being done right now," Milley said at a press conference outside the base.
Wednesday's assault wasn't the first mass shooting at the base in recent years. In November 2009, Maj. Nidal Hasan shot and killed 13 people and wounded 32 others in what remains the worst mass murder at a military installation in American history. Last year, he was sentenced to death for the killings. He awaits execution at a facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
The new shooting reopened wounds within Fort Hood and across the military.
"Events in the past have taught us many things here at Fort Hood: we know the community is strong, we know the community is resilient, and we know the soldiers and the civilians and the families of this fort who have served so bravely in combat for the last 13 years in both Iraq and Afghanistan are strong and we will get through this," Milley said.
There were few other details available about the shooting as military, federal investigators and local law enforcement all converged on the base shortly after the shooting occurred, at around 4 PM local time.
On Wednesday, President Obama pledged to get to the bottom of what took place at Fort Hood. "We're heartbroken something like this might have happened again," Obama said. "Obviously this reopens the pain of what happened at Fort Hood five years ago."
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, traveling to Asia, called the shooting "a terrible tragedy" for the Fort Hood community, the Defense Department and the nation. "My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families," Hagel said. "And my sympathies go out to this strong and resilient community, which has experienced this kind of senseless violence all too recently."
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