An Army psychiatrist set to be shipped overseas opened fire at the Fort Hood Army post Thursday, authorites said, a rampage that killed 12 people and left 31 wounded in the worst mass shooting ever at a military base in the United States.
The gunman, first said to have been killed, was wounded but alive and in stable condition under military guard, said Lt. Gen. Bob Cone at Fort Hood. “I would say his death is not imminent,” Cone said. Col. Ben Danner said the suspect was shot at least four times.
The man was identified as Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, a 39-year-old, eight-year veteran from Virginia.
President Barack Obama called the shooting at the Soldier Readiness Center, where soldiers who are about to be deployed or who are returning undergo medical screening, “a horrific outburst of violence.”
“It’s difficult enough when we lose these brave Americans in battles overseas,” the commander in chief said. “It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army base on American soil.”
There was no official word on motive. Hasan had transferred to Fort Hood in July from Walter Reed Medical Center, where he received a poor performance evaluation, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, said generals at Fort Hood told her that Hasan was about to deploy overseas. Retired Col. Terry Lee, who said he had worked with Hasan, told Fox News he was being sent to Afghanistan.
Lee said Hasan had hoped Obama would pull troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq and got into frequent arguments with others in the military who supported the wars.
Officials were investigating whether Hasan was his birth name or if he may have changed his name, possibly as part of a conversion to Islam. However, they were not certain of his religion.
Video from the scene showed police patrolling the area with handguns and rifles, ducking behind buildings for cover. Sirens could be heard wailing while a woman’s voice on a public-address system urged people to take cover.
“I was confused and just shocked,” said Spc. Jerry Richard, 27, who works at the center but was not on duty during the shooting. “Overseas you are ready for it. But here you can’t even defend yourself.”
Soldiers at Fort Hood don’t carry weapons unless they are doing training exercises.
The Rev. Greg Schannep was about to head into a graduation ceremony when a man in uniform approached him, warning him that someone had opened fire. Schannep heard three volleys of gunfire and saw people running.
“There was a burst of shots and more bursts of shots and people running everywhere,” said Schannep, who works for local Congressman John Carter.
The uniformed man who had warned him ran to the theater. Schannep said he could see the man’s back was bloodied from a wound. The man survived, was treated and will be fine, Schanepp said.
Cone said initially three people were held, and all have been interviewed. Authorities believe, however, that there was a single shooter.
The Soldier Readiness Center holds hundreds of people and is one of the most populated parts of the base, said Steve Moore, a spokesman for III Corps at Fort Hood. Nearby there are barracks and a food center where there are fast food chains.
The wounded were dispersed among hospitals in central Texas, Cone said. Their identities, and the identities of the dead, were not immediately released.
Amber Bahr, 19, was shot in the stomach but was in stable condition, said her mother, Lisa Pfund of Random Lake, Wis.
“We know nothing, just that she was shot in the belly,” Pfund told The Associated Press. She couldn’t provide more details and only spoke with emergency personnel.
Hasan was single with no children. He graduated from Virginia Tech, where he was a member of the ROTC and earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry in 1997. He received his medical degree from the military’s Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., in 2001 and was at Walter Reed for six years for his internship, residency and a fellowship.
The attack happened just down the road from one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history. On Oct. 16, 1991, George Hennard smashed his pickup truck through a Luby’s Cafeteria window in Killeen, Texas, and fired on the lunchtime crowd with a high-powered pistol, killing 22 people and wounding at least 20 others.
No other shooting at a military base in the U.S. has been anywhere near as deadly as Thursday’s. In 1993, a gunman at Fort Knox shot five civilian co-workers, killing three, and then fatally shot himself.
Around the country, some bases stepped up security precautions, but no others were locked down.
Covering 339 square miles, Fort Hood is the largest active duty armored post in the United States. Home to about 52,000 troops as of earlier this year, it is located halfway between Austin and Waco.
Barrett reported from Washington, D.C. Associated Press Writers Pam Hess, Anne Gearan, Lara Jakes, Suzanne Gamboa and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington, D.C., Jay Root in Temple, Linda Stewart Ball, Anabelle Garay and Andre Coe in Dallas and Colin Fly in Milwaukee and the Associated Press News Research Center contributed to this report.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.