Fort Hood shooter was Army psychiatrist who treated stress

McClatchy NewspapersNovember 5, 2009 

Nidal Malik Hasan, the alleged killer of 13 soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, was included in photos of new graduate students in the Uniformed Services University's Fall 2007 newsletter.

UNIFORM SERVICES UNIVERSITY

FORT HOOD, Texas — An Army psychiatrist who'd recently completed training in treating traumatic stress disorder opened fire Thursday on a group of soldiers preparing to deploy to Iraq, killing at least 12 and wounding 31.

Base commander Lt. Gen. Robert Cone told reporters late Thursday that the shooter, identified as Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, was in custody and that he was expected to live, despite having been shot multiple times. Earlier, Cone had reported that Hasan had been killed.

Virginia medical licensing records identify Hasan as a psychiatrist who earlier this year completed training in disaster psychiatry at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., just outside Washington. He also served in a residency at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington in 2007.

Chuck Dasey, a spokesman at Walter Reed, said he couldn't confirm whether Hasan worked at the facility, "pending notification of next of kin."

The Virginia records give the location of Hasan's primary practice as Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood, where many of the wounded were taken. A Maryland telephone number listed as Hasan's was not answered.

Neighbors in the high-rise building in Silver Spring, Md., where Hasan lived on the 18th floor before his transfer to Fort Hood described him as quiet and pleasant looking, but none said they really knew him. They said he was always in uniform. "The man was a quiet person," said Viviane Tchanzhan, 30, a waitress. "I never spoke to him."

Records show that he was born in Virginia in 1970 and graduated from Virginia Tech University in 1997.

In an interview with Fox News, a man claiming to be the suspect's cousin, Nader Hasan, said that Major Hasan considered an upcoming deployment to Iraq "his worst nightmare." Nader Hasan added that his cousin wasn't violent, telling Fox News: "He wasn't somebody who even enjoyed going to the firing range."

It was unclear whether Hasan acted alone. Cone said three soldiers who'd been taken into custody as possible accomplices had been released. Cone said that while there was nothing suggesting terrorism, "I couldn't rule that out."

Cone said two of the wounded were civilians. The identities of the dead and wounded weren't released. "It's a terrible tragedy. It's stunning," Cone said.

Fort Hood, adjacent to the city of Killeen and about 60 miles from Austin, is the largest active duty armored post in the U.S., with about 52,000 troops from the 1st Cavalry Division, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division and other units stationed there. More than 15,000 of its men are currently deployed in Iraq.

Hasan used two handguns during the attack, Cone said, which began at about 1:30 p.m. CST at a personnel and medical processing center on the base.

After Hasan began firing, he was shot by a policewoman, who also was wounded, Cone said. Cone noted that soldiers on the base ordinarily aren't armed.

"As a matter of practice we do not carry weapons," he said. "This is our home."

Cone said that as the shooting unfolded, quick thinking bystanders sealed off an auditorium about 50 yards away where a graduation ceremony was being held for 138 soldiers who'd completed correspondence courses during their deployment. About 600 friends and family members were in the audience, Cone said.

Greg Schannep, the regional director for U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, whose district includes Fort Hood, was representing the congressman at the graduation, said John Stone, a spokesman for Carter.

Schannep was at the ceremony when a soldier who'd been shot in the back came running toward him and alerted him of the shooting, Stone said. The soldier told Schannep not to go in the direction of the shooter, he said.

Distraught Fort Hood family members, including parents rushing to pick up their children from day care, gathered at the main gate after the base was locked down.

"When I first heard, I was in tears,'' said Cynthia Wood, whose son, Conner, was in day care on the base. "It's very disheartening not being able to get your child.''

As she was talking to reporters, her husband, Army Spec. Joshua Wood, was sending her a frantic text message from Iraq asking for more details.

Monica Cain brushed back tears as she explained that she was unable to reach her husband, whom she'd taken to Fort Hood earlier in the day for medical treatment of a head injury he suffered in combat. Sgt. Barren Cain had told her he planned to call at 1 p.m. to summon her to pick him up. But by mid-afternoon, after news of the shooting spread across the region, she hadn't heard from him and was unable to reach him by cell phone.

"I don't know what's going on,'' she said. "I'm very scared.''

She said the medical center wasn't far from the reported scene of the shooting.

A public affairs officer at the base said that sirens sounded on the base to alert all personnel to remain where they were. A scrolling notice on the base's Web site declared "Organizations/units are instructed to execute a 100 percent accountability of all personnel. This is not a drill. It is an emergency situation."

Officials at the Pentagon said the wounded were taken to Darnell Army Hospital for treatment.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, asked her colleagues on the Senate floor to observe a minute of silence in honor of those killed and wounded at Fort Hood. The normally loquacious senators then stood in silence.

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

"The bottom line for us is that we are increasing security at our gates because the threat hasn't yet been defined, and we're reminding our Marines to be vigilant in their areas of responsibility," said Capt. Rob Dolan, a public affairs officer for the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Ariz.

In Washington, President Barack Obama called the shooting "a horrific outburst of violence." He said it's a tragedy to lose a soldier overseas and even more horrifying when they come under fire at an Army base on American soil.

"We will make sure that we get answers to every single question about this horrible incident," Obama said. "We are going to stay on this."

Obama spoke late Thursday afternoon with Cone, to express condolences and to offer any help he might need, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said.

Obama was getting regular Oval Office updates on the shooting from his staff, led by his homeland security adviser, John Brennan.

Stephanie Reyes, a civilian clerk at the Sportsmen's Center Grill on base said at 3 p.m. that everyone has been told to stay indoors.

"We're just on lockdown," she said. "Honestly, we have no idea what's going on.''

Reyes said her husband is in the military at the base, but she hasn't had a chance to talk to him.

"They're in lockdown as well,'' she said. "There's not really much more we can do.''

(Montgomery, of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, reported from Fort Hood; Youssef from Washington. Tish Wells in Washington, Renee Schoof in Silver Srpings, Md., and Steve Campbell and Bill Miller of the Star-Telegram in Fort Worth contributed.)

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