Soldier Recalls Locking Eyes With Fort Hood Shooter
LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
The military is holding a hearing that will decide whether Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Hasan will be court-martialed on 13 counts of murder and 32 counts of attempted murder. Yesterday's proceedings were filled with dramatic intensity. From Ft. Hood, Texas, NPR's Wade Goodwyn has a report. We want to warn you that this story, which lasts for about four minutes, does contain graphic descriptions of violence.
WADE GOODWYN: The first witness, Sergeant Alonzo Lunsford, set the stage for the many who were to follow. Lunsford described how he locked eyes with Major Hasan seconds before a laser guided pistol raked across his face just before the Army psychiatrist allegedly shot him in his left eye.
As he lay on the floor, the blood pooling under his head, the 6 foot 9 inch sergeant realized he could feel himself sweating and told the court, I thought to myself, dead men don't sweat. So he got to his feet and ran out the door, though, unbeknownst to him, he'd been shot four more times.
Prosecutors played a 911 tape from a medical technician who was cowering under a cubicle desk, pleading with the operator for help. Screaming, crying, multiple gun shots and the moaning of a dying soldier all can clearly be heard on the tape.
Help us, please, Michelle Harper begs the 911 operator. Who's that moaning next to you, the operator asks. A guy who's been shot, Harper whispers as the shooter walks so close to the desk where she's hiding that she can see his boots go back and forth.�
There were stories of admirable bravery, soldiers throwing themselves over the wounded to provide cover as the shooter tried to finish them off. Several times soldiers escorted badly wounded comrades to the hospital only to discover, to their shock, that they themselves had been shot in the back and didn't know it.
One soldier, specialist Matthew Cook, brought his badly wounded sergeant to the hospital and told ER workers he didn't feel good. Cook was examined, found to be OK and told to sit down. When the adrenaline wore off, he passed out and woke up in a hospital bed. He'd actually been shot four times, once in the head.
Perhaps no one has heard more of these kinds of courtroom dramas and witnessed more death penalty trials than courtroom artist Pat Lopez. Lopez says the quiet confrontations between the testifying soldiers and the man who allegedly tried to murder them was riveting to watch.�
Ms. PAT LOPEZ (Courtroom artist): I watched Sergeant Lunsford as he walked into the courtroom. He's a massive man. He's six foot nine and very, very large. He sat down and scanned the courtroom. And I knew he was looking for Major Hasan. When they found each other's eyes, their eyes locked. And Sergeant Lunsford didn't back down. So I looked at Major Hasan, and he didn't back down either. He didn't blink. He didn't move. And it was intense.
And every time Sergeant Lunsford had a moment, he would look back and glare at him. It was almost as if he was saying I'm here. I'm still here.�
GOODWYN: Lopez also covered the trial of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. She says Hasan keeps an expression on his face of determined indifference, even while the witnesses on the stand describe scenes of epic horror. It reminds her of McVeigh, who had also been in the Army.
Ms. LOPEZ: Very similar in the way they both present themselves in the courtroom. There's no emotion on his face. It's almost as if it were planned. You know, there's nothing there to show that they had any regrets or any idea of how - you know - how horrible this was.�
GOODWYN: There is much more to come, prosecutors plan to put on dozens of witnesses who were in the Soldier Readiness Processing Center that day. It could take three weeks.
Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Killeen, Texas.
WERTHEIMER: It's NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.