US Army seeks motive for Fort Hood shooting rampage

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US Army seeks motive for Fort Hood shooting rampage
Former Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan wrote in a letter that "it would be an honor" to become a "citizen" of the Islamic State.
HARKER HEIGHTS, TX - APRIL 3: Memorial scribbles on the front door of the apartment of Carlos Lazaney, one of the deceased victims of the latest Fort Hood shooting, on Thursday, April 3, 2014, in Harker Heights, TX. Soldier Ivan Lopez killed three people and injured 16 others before turning the gun on himself on Wednesday. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
This undated photo provided by Glidden Lopez shows Army Spc. Ivan Lopez. Authorities said Lopez killed three people and wounded 16 others in a shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, on Wednesday, April 2, 2014, before killing himself. Investigators believe his unstable mental health contributed to the rampage. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Glidden Lopez)
This undated image provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety shows Army Spc. Ivan Lopez. Authorities said Lopez killed three people and wounded 16 others in a shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, on Wednesday, April 2, 2014, before killing himself. Investigators believe his unstable mental health contributed to the rampage. (AP Photo/Texas Department of Public Safety)
This photo provided by Glidden Lopez shows Army Spc. Ivan Lopez. Authorities said Lopez killed three people and wounded 16 others in a shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, on Wednesday, April 2, 2014, before killing himself. Investigators believe his unstable mental health contributed to the rampage. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Glidden Lopez)
This undated photo provided by Glidden Lopez shows Army Spc. Ivan Lopez. Authorities said Lopez killed three people and wounded 16 others in a shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, on Wednesday, April 2, 2014, before killing himself. Investigators believe his unstable mental health contributed to the rampage. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Glidden Lopez)
Lucy Hamlin and her husband, Spc. Timothy Hamlin, wait for permission to re-enter the Fort Hood military base, where they live, following a shooting on the base, Wednesday, April 2, 2014, in Fort Hood, Texas. (AP Photo/ Tamir Kalifa)
FORT HOOD, TX - APRIL 2, 2014: General Mark Milley, III Corps and Fort Hood Commanding General, speaks to media during a press conference about a shooting that occurred earlier in the day at Fort Hood Military Base on April 2, 2014 in Fort Hood, Texas. Milley confirmed that four people were dead in the shooting, including the gunman himself. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
FORT HOOD, TX - APRIL 2, 2014: General Mark Milley, III Corps and Fort Hood Commanding General, speaks to media during a press conference about a shooting that occurred earlier in the day at Fort Hood Military Base on April 2, 2014 in Fort Hood, Texas. Milley confirmed that four people were dead in the shooting, including the gunman himself. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama makes a statement to the press on April 2, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois, on the shooting at the Fort Hood military base in Texas. One person was killed and 14 others wounded April 2, 2014 in a shooting incident at Fort Hood, a US official said. AFP PHOTO / Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
FORT HOOD, TX - APRIL 2, 2014: A soldier watches over media as they prepare to hear General Mark Milley, III Corps and Fort Hood Commanding General, speak during a press conference about a shooting that occurred earlier in the day at Fort Hood Military Base on April 2, 2014 in Fort Hood, Texas. Milley confirmed that four people were dead in the shooting, including the gunman himself. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, the senior officer on base, speaks with the media outside of an entrance to the Fort Hood military base following a shooting that occurred inside, Wednesday, April 2, 2014, in Fort Hood, Texas. Four people were killed, including the gunman, and 16 were wounded in the attack, authorities said. (AP Photo/Tamir Kalifa)
Members of the media wait outside of the Bernie Beck Gate, an entrance to the Fort Hood military base, for updates on a shooting that occurred inside on Wednesday, April 2, 2014, in Fort Hood, Texas. (AP Photo/Tamir Kalifa)
Members of the media wait outside of the Bernie Beck Gate, an entrance to the Fort Hood military base, for updates on a shooting that occurred inside on Wednesday, April 2, 2014 in Fort Hood, Texas. (AP Photo/ Tamir Kalifa)
President Barack Obama arrives on Air Force One, Wednesday, April 2, 2014, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., as he returns from Chicago where he attended Democratic National Committee (DNC) events and the University of Michigan where he spoke about his proposal to raise the national minimum wage. He also spoke about the Fort Hood shooting. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks about the shooting at Fort Hood during a news conference on the flight deck of the USS Anchorage (LPD-23), an amphibious transport dock ship, after a tour with his counterparts from Southeast Asia April 2, 2014 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu, Hawaii. Secretary Hagel is in Hawaii to host a meeting of defense ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). A MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor V/STOL aircraft is in the background, (AP Photo/Alex Wong, Pool)
Local and Military police direct traffic outside of an entrance to Fort Hood following reports of an active shooting on the military base in Wednesday, April 2, 2014, in Fort Hood, Texas. (AP Photo/Tamir Kalifa)
Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, commanding general of III Corps and Fort Hood, speaks with the media outside of an entrance to the Fort Hood military base following a shooting that occurred inside on April 2, 2014 in Fort Hood, TX. Four people died, including the gunman, and 16 were wounded in the attack. (AP Photo/ Tamir Kalifa)
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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.

VICTIMS IMPROVING

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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