The Iraq War veteran who opened fire at the Fort Hood military base Wednesday afternoon, killing three, wounding 16 and then fatally shooting himself, was a married 34-year-old Army specialist who was being treated for mental illness, authorities said.
Army Spc. Ivan A. Lopez, who was from Puerto Rico and had joined the island’s National Guard in 1999, had only been assigned to Fort Hood earlier this year, working as a truck driver. Officials have so far not said what Lopez’s motive was, and while Army Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, the senior officer at the facility, said Wednesday evening there was no indication of terrorism, he added “we’re not ruling anything out.”
Lopez was armed with a .45 caliber Smith & Wesson and turned the gun on himself when confronted by a female military police officer in a parking lot of the base, near Killeen, Texas. Lopez, who had served four months in Iraq in 2011, was married with a family and had arrived at Fort Hood in February, Milley said.
Secretary of the Army John McHugh said records show Lopez, who was a military truck driver in Iraq, suffered no wounds during his deployment there. McHugh testified Thursday at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, during which he said Lopez was undergoing a variety of treatment for psychiatric issues, ranging from depression to anxiety to sleep disturbances. He said Lopez was taking “a number of drugs,” including Ambien, for these conditions, and that he had seen a psychiatrist just last month. McHugh said there were no indications during that examination that Lopez showed any “sign of likely violence.”
Milley said Wednesday that Lopez had been undergoing an assessment to determine whether he had post-traumatic stress disorder. McHugh said Lopez served two deployments, but did not elaborate on the first one, which was in 2008.
Wednesday’s attack came at the same base where in 2009 U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan killed 13 and wounded 30, and renewed debate about the military’s policy of not allowing soldiers on bases to carry personal or concealed weapons. Critics of the policy say it leaves service members and civilian employees vulnerable to such attacks.
“We need to harden our military bases so this can’t happen, and one possible way to do that is to allow our veterans and active duty military … to carry weapons,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
Army Sgt. Howard Ray, who survived the 2009 attack, added, “When our soldiers are unarmed they will find themselves in a situation like yesterday and in 2009.”
Wednesday’s gunfire began around 4 p.m. local time and occurred in two buildings at the post, the scene of a 2009 shooting that left 13 soldiers dead.
Lopez, who had arrived at Fort Hood in February from another base in Texas, was taking medication, and there were reports that he had complained after returning from Iraq about suffering a traumatic brain injury, Milley said. The commander did not elaborate.
An FBI official told Fox News there no initial indication Lopez was motivated by any religiously-fueled ideology.
Late Wednesday, investigators had already started looking into whether the gunman’s combat experience caused lingering psychological trauma. Among the possibilities they planned to explore was whether a fight or argument on base triggered the shooting.
“We have to find all those witnesses, the witnesses to every one of those shootings, and find out what his actions were, and what was said to the victims,” a federal law enforcement official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case by name.
The official said authorities would begin by speaking with Lopez’s wife and also expected to search his home and any computers he owned.
President Obama said the U.S. government will get to the bottom of what happened in the shooting, and said officials are doing everything they can to make sure everyone is secure.
“We’re heartbroken that something like this might’ve happened again,” Obama said.
Meanwhile, officials at Scott & White Hospital in Temple, Texas said late Wednesday that three of the nine patients brought there were in critical condition. Other victims were being treated at other local hospitals.
When gunfire was reported on the base, Bell County Sheriff’s deputies and troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety were sent to the base, Bell County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Donnie Adams said.
Fort Hood officials ordered everyone at the base to “shelter in place.” The order was sent on the base’s Twitter feed and posted on its Facebook page.
The 1st Calvary Division, which is based at Fort Hood, had sent a Twitter alert telling people on base to close doors and stay away from windows.
In 2009, U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, a psychiatrist who had become a radical Muslim while serving in the military, opened fire inside the Army post in Killeen, Texas. Hasan, who represented himself at a military trial after clashing with his appointed attorneys, was sentenced to death in August.
Lisa Pfund told WFTX-TV her daughter Amber, was shot during the 2009 attack and praised as a hero for helping wounded soldiers to safety. She said Wednesday’s shooting brought back a flood of emotions.
“I went on Facebook and I thought not again,” Pfund said. “It shouldn’t have happened again. I thought things were put in place where it wouldn’t happen again.”
After the 2009 shooting, the military tightened base security nationwide. That included issuing security personnel long-barreled weapons, adding an insider-attack scenario to their training, and strengthening ties to local law enforcement. The military also joined an FBI intelligence-sharing program aimed at identifying terror threats.
In September, a former Navy man opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard, leaving 13 people dead, including the gunman. After that shooting, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the Pentagon to review security at all U.S. defense installations worldwide and examine the granting of security clearances that allow access to them.
Asked Wednesday about security improvements in the wake of the shootings, Hagel said: “Obviously when we have these kinds of tragedies on our bases, something’s not working.”
Fox News’ Martin Finn, Jennifer Griffin, Shayla Bezdrob, Jana Winter, Cristina Corbin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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