Army psychiatrist kills 11, injures 32 on Texas military base

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Army Lt. General Robert Cone talks to the media about the shooting on base at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, Thursday, November 5, 2009. Cone said there were 12 dead and 31 wounded.
Joyce Marshall/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT

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FORT HOOD, Texas — The bloody scene might have been drawn
from the scarred memories of Iraq war veterans assigned to this Army outpost in
the hills of Central Texas: 12 dead and 31 wounded, gunned down in a sudden
attack.

But Thursday’s bloody assault at Fort Hood was committed by
one of the Army’s own. As night fell across the nation’s largest military
outpost on Thursday, investigators sought to explain why Maj. Nidal Malik
Hasan, a 39-year-old Army psychiatrist, turned a pair of pistols on his
comrades.

Late Thursday, Lt. Gen. Robert Cone and Col. Ben Danner gave
an account of the chaos and carnage that began about 1:30 p.m. inside two
buildings that house psychiatric, medical and dental units:

Hasan used two handguns, including a semi-automatic, to fire
at fellow soldiers. Neither of the guns was military-issue.

As Hasan fired, an unidentified female civilian officer
managed to shoot him at least once before being shot herself.

The gunman was finally felled by four bullets and airlifted
by medical helicopter to an undisclosed hospital, where he underwent surgery.
Cone said Hasan was in critical condition but “his death is not
imminent.”

The general said that many of the military personnel used
life-saving skills learned as part of their training. He described a scene
where people were “ripping their uniforms and taking care of each
other.”

Still unexplained Thursday night was the motive for Hasan’s
attack.

Asked if it could be considered a terrorist attack, Cone
replied, “I couldn’t rule that out” but said the evidence does not
point to that.

Family members said Hasan, a native-born Virginian and 1997
biochemistry graduate of Virginia Tech University, had been distraught over an
impending overseas deployment.

Hasan had been posted to Fort Hood in July after serving for
six years at Water Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He was
unmarried, authorities said.

Nader Hasan, a cousin of the gunman, told Fox News that
Hasan had suffered harassment from comrades over his Middle Eastern heritage.

“He is a good American,” Hasan told the news
channel. “We are shocked.”

While wounded were being transported to hospitals around the
area, authorities ordered the massive post closed. About 120,000 to 130,000
people live or work on the post, one of the country’s largest military
installations.

“It’s a terrible tragedy. It’s stunning,” Cone
told reporters gathered outside the vast facility northeast of Austin, Texas.
“Soldiers and family members and many of the great civilians who work here
are absolutely devastated.”

At the Military Personnel Center, where arriving soldiers
are processed and records updated, civilian employee Poi Shaffer was updating
records for a soldier when she heard sirens on Battalion Avenue-about a mile
away from the scene of the shooting.

“I heard sirens, ambulances, fire trucks, all kinds of
stuff,” said Shaffer. “At first I thought it was a wreck, but I kept
hearing more sirens. It kept going on.”

When she finished processing the soldier’s records, she
checked her phone and saw her husband, who works on the base for the Army and
Air Force Exchange Service, had been trying to call her. Her husband phoned
again and said urgently: “Where are you? Stay put.”

Her husband was close enough to the scene of the attack to
hear the gunfire, said Shaffer.

{::PAGEBREAK::}

Spc. Joshua Branum, just recently back from his second long
tour in Iraq, was at the Killeen, Texas, courthouse taking care of a minor
traffic issue when he heard of shootings and death at Fort Hood.

Three months back, and now it was his wife and 1-year-daughter
in harm’s way. “I went into combat mode-autopilot,” he said.

He immediately called his wife and told her to lock the
doors and windows, ” ‘keep yourself and the baby down at all costs,’ and
then I started on my way.”

For almost two hours, Branum paced outside the main gate at
Fort Hood in his desert fatigues as he and more than dozen active military
personnel awaited the lifting of a lockdown so they could see their loved ones.
Phone lines were jammed, and some had trouble getting through.

He said he wanted to patrol the perimeter in his truck, to
feel he could help in some way.

“In a situation like this, any soldier feels that ‘
should have been there.’ Maybe there wouldn’t have been so many dead; maybe
there wouldn’t have been so many wounded,” Branum said.

He said he was angered to hear that it was a soldier who
fired at colleagues.

Having defused bombs and cleared roadways during his first
two-year tour in Iraq, Branum said he knows all about post traumatic stress
disorder and has suffered from it the past two years.

“If they blame this on PTSD, I’ll lose my faith,”
Branum said. “PTSD does not cause you to organize and carry out a
shooting.”

Among those stuck in lockdown at Fort Hood was retired Col.
Greg Schannep, a former chaplain at Fort Hood. Since 2004 he has been a
regional director for U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Texas.

He was representing Carter at a graduation ceremony for
military personnel Thursday at Fort Hood. Schannep told House colleagues that a
soldier who had been shot in the back ran toward him and warned him against
heading toward the shooter, said Carter spokesman John Stone.

“This is a great loss for the Fort Hood family, and
we’re praying for all those involved,” Carter said through an aide.

In Austin, Texas Gov. Rick Perry issued a statement that
read in part: “The Texas family suffered a significant loss today with the
tragedy at Fort Hood. Along with all Texans, Anita and I are keeping those
affected by today’s incidents in our thoughts and prayers.”

Perry ordered that all Texas flags be lowered to half-staff
until Sunday.

The FBI and Texas Rangers joined with military investigators
in the search to determine how and why the attack occurred.

Around the country, some bases stepped up security
precautions, but no others were locked down.

After nightfall at Fort Hood, as the religious gathered to
pray, the patriotic gave blood, and doctors and nurses worked to save the lives
of the wounded, the post returned to a semblance of normalcy. Sirens continued
to sound, but traffic once again rumbled along Battalion Avenue and speakers
blared, “The emergency no longer exists.”

Via McClatchy-Tribune News Service.