Fort Hood Suffers Another Shooting Tragedy

Military officials say a soldier opened fire at the base killing three people before taking his own life. A senior officer says the shooter was being assessed for post-traumatic stress disorder.

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And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

A soldier opened fire on his comrades at Fort Hood, Texas, yesterday and killed three of them. He also wounded at least 16 service members before killing himself. A few hours after the incident, the base commander, Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, spoke to reporters. He provided a rough description of what happened.

LT. GEN. MIKE MILLEY: It is believed that he walked into one of the unit buildings, opened fire, got into a vehicle, fired from a vehicle, got out of the vehicle, walked into another building and opened fire again, and then was engaged by local law enforcement here at Fort Hood.

WERTHEIMER: NPR's John Burnett is covering the story. He joins us now from Killeen, Texas, just outside the base. John, can you tell us in a little bit more detail what happened yesterday afternoon?

JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: Sure, Linda. The soldier, who's identified as Spc. Ivan Lopez - 34 years old, married - he apparently had mental issues. He went on a shooting rampage on this sprawling military post in Central Texas. All the casualties are reportedly military service members.

The sequence of events, as the post commander said, the shooter walked into one building that was housing a medical brigade command. He opened fire. He then got into a vehicle and started shooting from inside that vehicle. He walked into a second building, and opened fire again on soldiers.

It was a military police officer who confronted the gunman in a parking lot. She drew her weapon; the post commander described her as heroic. Lopez put up his hands, then reached under his jacket and pulled out the handgun, put it to his head and committed suicide. He had a 45-caliber Smith & Wesson, semiautomatic handgun. It was not a military weapon. It was reportedly bought off-post, and it was not registered to be inside the military facility.

WERTHEIMER: Now, this is the second time something like this has happened at Fort Hood in the last five years - a mass shooting. How did the post react?

BURNETT: Well, it was about 4 p.m. yesterday. First, this huge military post was locked down. The police secured the perimeter, went building to building looking for the shooter. The news went out. A nearby junior college canceled their classes at Fort Hood. Obviously, people were frantic - as you can imagine - because of the earlier shooting here, worrying about loved ones on post. And then several hours later, the all-clear siren was sounded when they confirmed that the lone gunman had shot himself.

WERTHEIMER: Remind us about the shooting five years ago.

BURNETT: Well, it was on Nov. 5th in 2009. As we remember, Maj. Nidal Hasan, the former Army psychiatrist, opened fire at a soldier readiness center here at Fort Hood. As troops were preparing to ship out to Afghanistan and Iraq, he killed 13 and wounded 32. It was the deadliest attack on a domestic military installation in U.S. history. Just in February, the military demolished the building where the shooting took place, and they're putting up a memorial in its place. Hasan was court-martialed last August. He was found guilty of premeditated murder, and he was sentenced to death by a military jury.

WERTHEIMER: The two shootings do appear to be very different - at least in motivation - at this point, don't they?

BURNETT: They do appear to be very different. Gen. Milley stressed there is no motive yet for Wednesday's shooting - not terrorism. But we do know that Maj. Nadal Hasan came to believe that the U.S. military's war on terror was a war on Islam whereas Ivan Lopez may have had a case of combat-related PTSD. Lopez had been under psychiatric care. He had sought help for depression and anxiety. He was being diagnosed for post-traumatic stress disorder. Milley said that the shooter had served four months in Iraq, in 2011. He said he had complained of a traumatic brain injury, and he had just arrived at Fort Hood from another military base - just in February.

WERTHEIMER: John Burnett, reporting from Killeen, Texas. John, thank you very much.

BURNETT: It's my pleasure, Linda.

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