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US Army seeks motive for Fort Hood shooting rampage

By Lisa Maria Garza

(Reuters) - The U.S. Army was searching on Friday for a clear motive for the second mass killing in five years at a Texas base, one of the largest in the United States.

Ivan Lopez, the 34-year-old soldier suspected of shooting dead three people and wounding 16 others before turning the gun on himself at Fort Hood on Wednesday afternoon, was battling mental illness, the Army said, but no motive has been given.

Lopez joined the service in 2008 and had served two tours of duty abroad, including four months in Iraq in 2011, military officials said. He had no direct involvement in combat and had not been wounded.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and Texas Governor Rick Perry were due to meet with military officials leading the investigation and speak with reporters later on Friday.

There was a strong possibility a verbal altercation with another soldier or soldiers preceded the shooting, Lieutenant General Mark Milley told reporters on Thursday, adding there was no indication that he targeted specific people.

The rampage is the third shooting at a military base in the United States in about six months that, along with a series of shootings in public places, such as schools and malls, has intensified a national debate over gun control regulations.

It has also raised questions about security at U.S. military installations, such as Fort Hood, home to some 45,000 soldiers and airmen assigned to the 335-square-mile (870-square-km) base, along with thousands of civilian employees.

"Obviously we have a gap. Anytime we lose an individual, something's gone wrong. But ... let the investigators do their work," U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters in Hawaii on Thursday.

"We have to be careful not to jump to any conclusions or try to frame this up in some kind of a social statement. We just don't know enough yet. And we will know what we need to know to fix the problem," Hagel said.


Military officials have so far ruled out terrorism as inspiration for the attack, but have said Lopez's medical history indicates unstable psychiatric and psychological conditions. He had been treated for depression and anxiety and was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder.

The shooting sent shockwaves through a Central Texas community still reeling from a 2009 attack during which a former army psychiatrist, Major Nidal Hasan, shot dead 13 people and wounded 32 others.

Lopez, originally from Puerto Rico, had recently bought the gun he used, a Smith & Wesson .45-caliber pistol, at Guns Galore, the same store in Killeen where Hasan shopped.

His family, who live in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, are expected to release a statement sometime on Friday, according to a spokesman for the town's mayor, Edgardo Arlequin.

Three of the soldiers who had been listed in critical condition at Scott & White Hospital in Temple have shown "great signs of improvement", a nursing supervisor said on Friday. Their conditions is now listed as serious.

Five patients have been discharged, with one patient staying on through Friday for tests.

Among those killed was 37-year-old Army Sergeant Timothy Owens, a recently-married native of Effingham, Illinois, who was shot in the chest at close range, his mother-in-law told the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper.

Owens was shot five times as he tried to calm down the shooter, CBS News reported, citing his mother.

One of the injured was identified by his family via Twitter as Major Patrick Miller of New York. Miller, from Allegany, joined the army after graduating from St. Bonaventure University in 2003, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

(Additional reporting by Jonathan Herskovitz in Austin, Texas and Chris Francescani in New York; Writing by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Scott Malone and Sofina Mirza-Reid)

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billdavidison April 04 2014 at 1:09 PM

Different from the last soldier that killed other soldiers in Ft. Hood. That soldier in the past just seemed to kill becuase he didn't like the relgion of the people he killed and that was his duty. Maybe if they had executed him this would not have happened.

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la231 billdavidison April 04 2014 at 1:51 PM

They did have something in common, they both used the same gun store to purchase their gun according to the news.

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barbara92341 April 04 2014 at 2:00 PM

Everyone has an opinion but no one knows what was really going on his that man's mind. The question that always haunts me when I read about a tragedy like this is "Why take innocent people with you if you want to commit suicide"? - in 2000 I had a close friend, an alcoholic who was trying so desperately to get his life on track, commit suicide by jumping from his 23rd floor terrace at midnight. He had no financial problems and the view from that terrace in Sunny Isles is SO Beautiful that most folks who stand there would be in awe. It was on a Condo Penthouse between the Intra Coastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean. Yet, he had no will to live because he was so addicted to alcohol - He was Depressed and suicidal but he had no intention of taking anyone else with him and that was the reason he jumped at Midnight thinking no one would be walking in that area at that time of night. He was right. Again, this is speculation because although he was a good friend, I really have no way of actually knowing just what he was thinking when he took his life. The ones who commit suicide with the intention of harming others along with their action are not only depressed, in my opinion, but are also full of hatred for themselves and others. God Bless all of the Families who are suffering from this senseless Act and that includes the Family of the man who caused it.

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mamaava barbara92341 April 04 2014 at 2:15 PM

You have it correct in that when someone commits suicide WITH murdering others, it's because the perp feels helpless, without power in his life circumstances and unable to get anyone to listen who has power to help in his problem. I DO believe this has to do with the death of his Mother and not being able to be at the funeral or see her before she died. He DID get to go home, but too late and not for as long as he needed. He probably had to go through so much red tape that he was hampered that last moments with someone he obviously felt very close to. Now, that saying, this is NOT the way a NORMAL person WITHOUT stress handles problems. This man just snapped AND was on meds that COULD have ADDED to his instability in thinking.

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tdw844 April 04 2014 at 2:05 PM

I'd like to know why someone who was in the Army/Army Guard as long as he was and served two tours of duty abroad was still only a Spec4. Something is amiss more than claimed PTSD and a brain injury (not confirmed) by this person. Promotions should have come much faster, espcially in the Infantry. It seems as though there were problems unrelated to his military postings. However I guess we are just going to have to wait and see what the investigation reveals.

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1 reply
sugarcreekchile tdw844 April 04 2014 at 2:40 PM

Good observation. He was in the Guard a long time before going regular Army. His rank would have transferred. Spec 4 is equivalent to a corporal. His Guard records need to be looked at. Something was off about this guy from the get-go. There is nothing to substantiate any brain injury in the service. I seriously doubt he'd have developed PTSD when all he served in Iraq in 2011 was 4 months driving a truck when the Army had no combat missions and our troops were pulling out of the country. He was only being evaluated for PTSD. It wasn't confirmed. The only thing that was confirmed was that he was dealing with depression, lack of sleep, etc. that any non-military person could have.

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John batey April 04 2014 at 2:08 PM

theres millions upon millions of guns floating around the world youll never get all the guns taken away so quit beating that horse.. gun control will never work.. think the gang banger in LA gonna turn in their tec nines because you pass some law??? ok lets say you did elimate all the guns ever made oh yea thats gonna stop all the killings if not guns then knives,,,then bats,,,,then hammers,,,,the panty hose....we have the technology to inbed chips into all the guns that law enforcement or school or army bases that can detect with a hand held or mounted scanners try walking out of walmart without paying for a flatscreen youll see what i mean.... tecnology is the answer here figure it out!!!!!

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1 reply
Rich John batey April 04 2014 at 2:14 PM

The technology may exist, but even you say that with all the millions of guns out there, do you really think that existing guns will get retrofitted with your chips? Even if they passed a law and law abiding people did, there's still millions of illegal and underground guns out there. As you say, ...do you think the gang banger in LA will get his retrofitted just because some law gets passed?

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drpj45 April 04 2014 at 12:35 PM

Unfortunately you will never know what goes on in the mind. Someone suffering from a mental illness has thoughts that are not of the average person. He could have been in a state where someone set him off or to him set him off and his only way to reply was what he did and then kill himself. This is normal for the potential suicidal person. Most of the time the person will only hurt or kill themselves but here there were probably circumstances that we will not know about. I do not know how the General can make a statement that we will fix this because the mind is a machine that you can program and fix with a fine tuning. A suicidal person will also know how to act like nothing is really wrong and not let any doctor know what is going on in his/her mind. Mental illness is difficult to foresee what will happen to that person or unfortunately others. I feel for the families of the soldiers that were killed and the innocent that were injured. The one soldier that tried to calm him down was doing his job as a human and a fellow soldier to take the risk that he did to save other peoples lives. Do not judge this sad and sick man until you know all the facts is my opinion.

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Catseyes66 drpj45 April 04 2014 at 12:46 PM

the whole thing is very sad...for all involved..and yes..mantal illness and medications need to be monitored...r

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LewTag April 04 2014 at 3:42 PM

Let's face it, the Army recruits and admits some marginal people to begin with and when you add in mental cases with faulty treatment and diagnosis there is no telling how many ticking bombs there are among the military...I was in the USAF during Korea and I recall a few troubled troops who were expelled and sent home...when you add in the lack of Army empathy and support for this grieving son who lost his mother - why was he denied adequate leave for her funeral?? - it is not a big stretch to see that he was stricken with anger and since he could not get to the general in charge he took it out on the nearest targets...mistaken targets but nevertheless rational behavior from the viewpoint of his troubled soul seeking closure through revenge...if he were a true criminal he would not have committed suicide...the fine print about Ambien includes warning about anger and suicidiation...so maybe the Army psychiatrists and generals will one day realize everyone has their breaking points and get soldiers in crisis adequate help even if their pride and fear prevents them from asking for it...

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1 reply
riognach LewTag April 04 2014 at 4:20 PM

The word would be "suicidality". Unfortunatley the Army cannot always honour a soldier's breaking point. the point of the US Army, as my career Army dad used to say, is to keep marching. Soldiers are excpected to suck it up and put the good of the country above their own feelings. And it's not just the Army. My close friend and colleague had to take a final exam when we were in nursing school on the afternoon of the day in which her mother was buried. She went from the cemetary to the college because the professor and dean refused to reschdule the exam, even with proof of her mom's death and burial. If everyone becomes a special case, the world falls apart waiting for everyone to get it together. And my friend? She got an A on the exam, and then took time to grieve. This guy obviously was too ill to do that. Thre's an old saying which applies to people in many careers; if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen. If I believed in the traditional concept of hell, I would say that Ivan Lopez is in a somewhat hotter place just now...

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fptpi April 04 2014 at 12:31 PM

This guy was a full time military personnel. I don't know what law could have been passed that would have stopped him from buying a gun. If he was being treated for PTSD, was he in any DATA base for it that the gun dealer had access to? If not, what could another new law do. Maybe confining him on base till his PTSD status was determined. At any rate, this is the US Army's problem and its not a new one either. I think that every base should have a "Reactionary Unit" made up of Special Ops soldiers placed at or near various entrances to the base in addition to the MP's. These soldiers would perform their usual duties but be armed at all times and rotate the people and locations frequently. The sole function would be to deal with an active shooter threat
if one comes up while doing their other jobs.
This being unarmed is nothing new. I was in the Marines in the late 60's and I never had a loaded weapon unless at the range. I didn't even have a rifle cause it was locked in the armory.
Some bases in Vietnam, you couldn't even have a magazine in the weapon unless under attack. You had your weapon and ammo, but they could not be together, unless your on guard duty, or some post that called for a loaded weapon.
Basically, any gun free zone is not a safe zone from guns. Its more apt to be a target. Even a nut job knows better than to go to a place where everyone has a gun on them to start a shooting.

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1 reply
Flakatb fptpi April 04 2014 at 12:40 PM

It hasn't changed. But the new mentality of the barracks being the soldiers home and they are entitled to provacy prevent the NCO from checking for unauthorized weapons. While trying to protect the soldiers rights to privacy it is opening the door to other problems. Fort Hood has guards posted at every entrance yet he managed to get the weapona and ammo on post. No one checks the cars entering for weapons. As long as he had a sticker that stated he was authorized to drive on post he was waved through.

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cielito lindo April 04 2014 at 2:24 PM

Bring chaplains, prayer, and support prayers groups back into schools and the military.

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2 replies
sneakyp957 cielito lindo April 04 2014 at 2:38 PM

Chaplins never left the military,and prayer never saved anybody.

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hgeorgech cielito lindo April 04 2014 at 2:48 PM

maybe have all servicemen who purchase weapons from that off-post arms dealer to notify Ft Hood ... seems a pattern is developing

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JIM April 04 2014 at 12:31 PM

I can tell you some of the problems with both Fort Hood shootings, it is the army itself. They knew Hasan was a very high risk and should have put him out of the army instead of sending him over to Hood without even a warning given to their command there. And now we have another shooting, after the army sent this guy over to Hood to have him put out of the army when he was stationed at Bliss, over in El Paso. Maybe the idiots who are trying to run the army should keep these troubled people where they are until they can figure out what they are going to do with them, and stop sending soldiers who have a problem somewhere else so another person has to deal with it. So the problem is still the idiots at the top not doing what is right. If they actually did their jobs maybe we would have a lot more soldiers still alive and well, and not littering up the hospitals and cemetaries because some moron is too stupid and lazy to do their job well.

And now the Army's knee jerk reaction is to have all their personnel go thru mandatory training and have all new safety inspections of everybody's car and work area to make sure they don't have a weapon hiding in there, and go thru even more training they make up. Again, maybe some of the morons who decide to just ship these troubled people somewhere else were actually held accountable for it, and charged for the murders and injuries of the people whom their decision impacted, maybe this would stop.

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drtmalek April 04 2014 at 12:30 PM

Mental health care is inadequate and a buch of crooks running American Board of Psychiatry & Neurology for profit, artficially keeping the supply down in order to generate more revenue. Insurance companies don't give a damn and the government is ineffectual.

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