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Ivan Lopez May Have Argued With Soldiers Before Fort Hood Shooting


FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) -- The soldier who killed three people at Fort Hood may have argued with another service member prior to the attack, and investigators believe his unstable mental health contributed to the rampage, authorities said Thursday.

The base's senior officer, Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, said there is a "strong possibility" that Spc. Ivan Lopez had a "verbal altercation" with another soldier or soldiers immediately before Wednesday's shooting, which unfolded on the same Army post that was the scene of an infamous 2009 mass shooting.

However, there's no indication that he targeted specific soldiers, Milley said.

Lopez never saw combat during a deployment to Iraq and had shown no apparent risk of violence before the shooting, officials said.

The 34-year-old truck driver from Puerto Rico seemed to have a clean record that showed no ties to extremist groups. But the Army secretary promised that investigators would keep all avenues open in their inquiry of the soldier whose rampage ended only after he fired a final bullet into his own head.

"We're not making any assumptions by that. We're going to keep an open mind and an open investigation. We will go where the facts lead us," Army Secretary John McHugh said, explaining that "possible extremist involvement is still being looked at very, very carefully."

Scott & White Memorial Hospital in nearby Temple, Texas, was still caring for five of the 16 people who were wounded. Three were in serious condition, and two others were in good condition and could be discharged later Thursday.

Hospital officials had no information about patients being treated elsewhere, including at a base hospital. But because the hospital is the area's only trauma center, the patients with the most serious injuries were probably taken there.

Within hours of Wednesday's assault, investigators started looking into whether Lopez had lingering psychological trauma from his time in Iraq. The shooter had sought help for depression, anxiety and other problems, and was taking medication, military officials said.

Investigators searched the soldier's home Thursday and questioned his wife, Fort Hood spokesman Chris Haug said.

Lopez apparently walked into a building Wednesday and began firing a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol. He then got into a vehicle and continued firing before entering another building. He was eventually confronted by military police in a parking lot, according to Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, senior officer on the base.

As he came within 20 feet of a police officer, the gunman put his hands up but then reached under his jacket and pulled out his gun. The officer drew her own weapon, and the suspect put his gun to his head and pulled the trigger a final time, Milley said.

Lopez grew up in Guayanilla, a town of fewer than 10,000 people on the southwestern coast of Puerto Rico, with a mother who was a nurse at a public clinic and a father who did maintenance for an electric utility company.

Glidden Lopez Torres, who said he was a friend speaking for the family, said Lopez's mother died of a heart attack in November.

The soldier was upset that he was granted only a 24-hour leave to attend her funeral, which was delayed for nearly a week so he could be there, the spokesman said. The leave was then extended to two days.

Lopez joined the island's National Guard in 1999 and served on a yearlong peacekeeping mission in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula in the mid-2000s. He enlisted with the Army in 2008, McHugh said.

Lopez saw no combat during a four-month deployment to Iraq as a truck driver in 2011. A review of his service record showed no Purple Heart, indicating he was never wounded, McHugh said. He arrived at Fort Hood in February from Fort Bliss, Texas.

He saw a psychiatrist last month and showed no "sign of any likely violence either to himself or others," McHugh said.

Suzie Miller, a 71-year-old retired property manager who lived in the same Killeen apartment complex as Lopez, said few people knew him and his wife well because they had just moved in a few weeks ago.

"I'd see him in his uniform heading out to the car every morning," Miller said. "He was friendly to me and a lot of us around here."

Shaneice Banks, a 21-year-old business-management student who lived downstairs from the Lopezes, said her husband, who also works at Fort Hood, helped the couple move in. Hours before the shooting, Banks said she ran in to Lopez when he came home for lunch.

"He was going to his car, and I was like `Hey, how's your day going?' And he seemed perfectly fine. He was like, `Day's going pretty good. I'll see you whenever I come back home.'"

When word came out that there was a shooting at the base, Banks saw Lopez's wife frantically calling her husband over and over, trying to reach him via cellphone from the apartment's shared courtyard.

"She was bawling because they have a 2-year-old, and she was just holding the baby," Banks said. "My heart just went out to her. I was trying to get her information when I could but she doesn't speak a lot of English."

Xanderia Morris lives next door to Banks. She also saw Karla Lopez distraught in the courtyard.

"We tried to console her. She called some people over, and we were consoling her, and then she started up the stairs back to his apartment, and they identified him as the shooter on television. She just broke down. We had to rush her up the stairs so nothing would happen to her," Morris said.

Neighbors took Lopez into Morris' apartment, where she sat crying on the sofa for a long time.

The shootings revived memories of the November 2009 shooting at Fort Hood, the deadliest attack on a domestic military installation in U.S. history. Thirteen people were killed and more than 30 were wounded.

Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan was convicted last year in that assault, which he has said was to protect Islamic insurgents abroad from American aggression.

After that shooting, the military tightened base security nationwide.

In September, a former Navy man opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard, leaving 13 people dead, including the gunman. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the Pentagon to review security at all U.S. defense installations worldwide.

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TiredSenior April 04 2014 at 9:46 AM

Seen this type of thing all to often, both in my home neighborhood as well as in national news. As the economy grows worse - and trust me - at least in the greater Bridgeport Ct area it is still growing worse, more and more people - entire families - are showing evidence of increasing stress. More people are experiencing insomnia, eating disorders and both acute and chronic depression. More people are being prescribed anti-anxiety medications. More people are displaying tempers in a way that they never did 7 years ago.

We are all worn down.

The entire country is experiencing the psychological effects of the past 7 years. It is a crisis of national proportions that is only being indirectly dealt with. Expanded Medicaid can help people with little money and stress and trauma issues, but sometimes a person is so lost that they do not know themselves that stress is destroying them. They simply reach their limit and "snap".

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Wayne April 04 2014 at 10:06 AM

Being a Desert Storm Vet, I personally feel that aside from officers being able to don a side arm, enlisted personnel E5-Sgt and above should be able to as well. Most officers, while valuable, have administrative positions by nature, and many times are far away from situations like these as they unravel. Other than MP's you rarely see other on post personnel with a side arm. Sad really, these men and women defend us with the best in class weaponry abroad, and cant carry a .45 on post.

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xpphil12 April 04 2014 at 9:10 AM

Its not just people with serious emotional problems (mental problems) who can snap and become violent enough to kill.Some, I emphasize some people with low self esteem can become violent when they are rebuked or embarrassed in public.If I had to bet money, I would say road rage incidents arise from a person with low self esteem.Unfortunatley psychologists don't know how to work to undo the damage to self esteem so they just push pills with no improvement.Fortunately there are resources on the internet you can buy to work on yourself successfully.

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cessnatx April 04 2014 at 10:06 AM

I'm ex Navy..and we always had people aboard who wore sidearms at all times...Not MP's...It's just a normal thing. On the base all personel were unarmed except for MP's. We never had a problem with someone going violent. If they were unbalanced...someone noticed and soon enough they silently disappeared....shipped off to a hospital or other duty. Sometimes someone would lose it and jump overboard...It's pretty tough to turn a ship around in mid ocean and find someone...so he must have been serious about wanting out. His wish was granted.
As far as todays violence...It's in the mindset of some people that killing is the equivalent of solving their personal anquish somehow. A study of when this kind of thing began to happen would be in order. A study of the positive influences that are no longer allowed would be a great step in the right direction..I'm referring of course to religious expression...prayer...Bibles readily available...I've heard Chaplains can't even lead a prayer anymore....I guess we're lucky the Bases still allow the Flag to be flown...Folks the Liberals and the Athiest have taken over....Since that began ....Things have changed in this country....look around....See it with your own eyes....Is it okay with you that this has been allowed to happen...? Or are you going to stand up and do something....
To the "anti" gun crowd....Get a life....If you could solve the problem of violence by removing all the tools used "one at a time"....Seems you'd start with the first most commonly used tool of violence....The KNIFE.....Look it up...At any rate...The criminals won't turn them in....It's already been tried

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3 replies
aristars April 04 2014 at 9:07 AM

[... and investigators believe his unstable mental health contributed to the rampage, authorities said Thursday.]
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why somebody with mental health poblems is not put on leave until solving wgatever issues?
was upset for 24 hour leave? upset enough to kill others and himself? that proves his unstable mental health! sure it was wrong to give him only 24 houres to attend his mother's funeral, it was really stupid, why not one week. and that might have helped him with the mental issues? after all , there are no urgent military duties needed now! just training, and whatever!!! it seems common sense is not allowed in some places such as this one!!

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1 reply
prawn259 aristars April 04 2014 at 9:18 AM

Well, mostly because it's the military, and the military doesn't put you on leave until things work out. They put you in a mental hospital or jail, but they don't send you home. It's not like working for Apple or IBM. There is no sick leave.

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1 reply
Mark prawn259 April 04 2014 at 9:37 AM

The medic's or command can place an individual on light duty, no duty, or order the individual restricted to about any place they wish. You learn early on that any time off is something granted to you by higher authority and can be withheld at any time.

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jerwaters April 04 2014 at 9:02 AM

Of course there are guns on an Army post, but they're locked up. They are only handed out during training exercises. MP's carry weapons, but individual weapons are usually forbidden. Lopez was not supposed to have that weapon, but he broke the rules. Its probably not much different from where you live.
Perhaps Lopez did have PTSD. He didn't necessarily have to be in direct combat.
As a wounded Vietnam veteran with PTSD and 60% disability, I feel qualified to make these comments.

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2 replies
prawn259 jerwaters April 04 2014 at 9:20 AM

Don't know if it's still this way, but we were allowed to own guns, but we had to fill out the proper paperwork, and they were store at the armorer, where it wouldn't get stolen. We were allowed to check them out to go target shooting, and when we were transferring out.

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jdsept jerwaters April 04 2014 at 9:34 AM

This guy had not been diagnosed with PTSD though having been under care at two different bases. I wonder why? Perhaps because he also claimed a "self-diagnosed" a traumatic brain injury. Though records show no combat or injury ever happening. It should also be noted this guy served active duty since 202010 and only obtained the rank of an E-4 which says a lot. I obtained the rank of E-5 twice though only serving 2 years. This guy also enlisted in the reserves in 1999 though was kicked out because of failing training. He was allowed back into the reserves in 2003 to be in a military band. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/04/fort-hood-shooter-had-lengthy-but-unremarkable-military-career/ My feelings is that this guy was a phony looking for a way out along with a disability, he might not deserve. It looks like this all came about because of a direct conflict with another soldier or more that just expanded. Granted the guy obviously had issues. My question would be is why this guy with such a poor military history over numerous years (again E-4 highest rank obtained) was allowed to reenlist.

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1 reply
Shalom, Carmela jdsept April 04 2014 at 1:47 PM

You bring up valid points, he was not diagnoised with PTSD and he "self diagnoised" a traumatic brain injury but there is no record of it. I thought I saw a report that said he was sent state side because of bahavorial and mental health issues. I would be curious to know what happened in the those 4 months in Iraq.
I do disagree with you tho on the point that this came about because of a verbal confrontation.
MY opinion he purchased the gun weeks ago with intent to do harm to specific people, 3 dead and 16 wounded in 2 different locations does not say random to me.
If it were random then why when he was confronted by female did he raise his hands and then pull weapon out of jacket and shoot himself in the head.
To me it says he accomplished what he intended and this was his end game.

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rolfsbug April 04 2014 at 8:58 AM

By trying to figure this guy out, unfortunately we're just spinning our wheels. It goes without saying that this is truly tragic. Taking away the guns will only serve to have law abiding citizens unarmed and those that should not have guns, armed. This situation underscores the absolute need for us to understand that mental illness NEEDS to be taken much more seriously and no longer stigmatized.
I suffer from depression and I have no problem realizing that my illness is beyond anything that I can manage alone. I see a psychologist weekly and exercise almost daily. I'm also in a 12 step program and actively work my steps. The 4th key to my treatment is that I volunteer every week cooking for my neighbors that have fallen on hard times. My depression, my illness, is no different than say- managing diabetes. You admit that you have it and take care of it. If you don't, it will kill you!
Sadly, we live in a culture that encourages men to be brutal and unfeeling, rather than be loving and compassionate. Across the land, our prisons are full of men and women with untreated and undiagnosed depression and mental illness. By destigmatizing mental illness and placing treatment in it's proper place we would reduce spending on the various departments of corrections, shift those resources to other important needs and have a much more productive and healthier society. Telling men to "just suck it up and stuff it!" will only serve to destroy us all.

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rhondaburke1 April 04 2014 at 8:56 AM

Shame on those of you who's opinions are cold and brutal. this was a soldier who obviously had mental issues with depression etc. and his wife and child will forever be affected by this. My heart goes out to his family, and although this tragedy happened, I know that it had something to do with the meds he was on and that is unfortunate.

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2 replies
soft620 rhondaburke1 April 04 2014 at 9:38 AM

agree!!

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jdsept rhondaburke1 April 04 2014 at 9:44 AM

Well of course you know? Obviously you have a medical degree and examined him? And it was the meds though others take the same meds and don't do this. Let see the guy was in the service for how many years (reserves since 2003, full active duty since 2010) and only obtained the rank of E-4? Heck I did just two years and made E-5 twice. They guy claimed a traumatic head injury though medical and military records showed none. This guy was treat at two bases and was NOT diagnosed as having PTSD for a reason though obviously might have had other issues. My feeling a guy looking for a discharge with a disability. My question is why thus guy was allowed to reenlist. This could simply be an issue of somebody having a gun on base (illegally) who got into an argument with at least one other soldier possibly more and an instantaneous explosion occurred, as he showed no violence in his past.

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luialva April 04 2014 at 8:56 AM

This shouldn't be a debate about Guns are good nor bad.

Things sadly happen and unless someone can see in to the future, no way to prevent it.

More guns or less guns was not going to make a difference.

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Gayle April 04 2014 at 8:40 AM

The VA should be more concious of the side effects of the psyche drugs they hand out. All warn they could exacerbate the problems. They will never take responsiblility because it is easier to label the soldier.

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2 replies
alirae78 Gayle April 04 2014 at 9:15 AM

Being an active duty soldier, he would have been under the care of the medical facilities on base, which are NOT part of the Veteran's Administration.

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jdsept Gayle April 04 2014 at 10:22 AM

There are 9mil who take just Ambien or like drugs in this country on almost a daily basis. Guess what, a vast majority don't do this stuff. Only 4% stop taking these drugs because of side effects. Aspirin has side effects. An easy and over prescribed drugs? Yes most likely. But not to the many who find no side effects and allows them to sleep and makes their days easier. One is quick to blame the drug or giver rather than blame the real fault, the person doing the act. This guy in the reserves since 2003, after flunking out of the reserves in 1999 full active duty since 2010 and only obtained the rank of E-4? medically addressed at two bases with no final diagnosis of PSTD, hum. A guy claiming brain injury though records show no event of that? No possibly a guy looking for an out and disability could it be? The military didn't label this guy, he labeled himself with the non brain injury. This is just an event that happened over an argument with one or more other soldiers it looks like. This happens everyday in the outside world usually between a man and a woman and expands to the others. Not because of any meds but rather because of weakness on an individual's part to be socially responsible. This guy could have walked away from the disagreement and didn't, not because of the meds he was taking but because of his choice at that moment. How do we know this? This guy had been treated on two bases for issues and showed no history of violence.

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