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Hood shooter had clean record, McHugh says

Apr. 3, 2014 - 08:29PM   |  
US-MILITARY-SHOOTING
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, foreground, and Army Secretary John McHugh. (Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Images)
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Top Army leaders sought to rally the force Thursday morning in the aftermath of the shooting at Fort Hood, Texas.

“The past 13 years have been fraught with much loss, much pain, much suffering, but through it all, the men and women of the Army have come through the storm together,” Army Secretary John McHugh said. “I know, as we have in the past, we’ll come out on the other side of this tempest poorer for the losses, but stronger for our resolve.”

The investigation into Wednesday’s shooting, which left four dead and 16 wounded, continues and many details “remain very fluid,” said McHugh, who on Thursday morning was testifying in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill alongside Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno.

Fort Hood “suffered so much pain and so much anguish in just the last four and half years,” McHugh said, referring to the November 2009 rampage by former Maj. Nidal Hasan that killed 13 people.

“This is a time, once again, to come together to stand as one, as they have so many times before, drawing strength from each other,” McHugh said.

The shooting hit “close to home,” said Odierno, who served as a brigade commander and later as the corps commander on Fort Hood.

“We talk a lot in the Army that we have an Army family, and we’ve lost young people who are part of our Army family, and we take this incredibly seriously,” he said. “This is close to home. I’ve spent a lot of time at Fort Hood personally. I understand the resilience of the community, how proud the soldiers are of what they do, and we will do everything we can to make sure they move forward.”

The alleged shooter, who shot himself after he was confronted by a female military police soldier, has been identified as Spc. Ivan Lopez, 34.

He spent nine years in the Puerto Rico National Guard as an infantryman, including a 12-month deployment to the Sinai, before going on active duty, Odierno said.

On active duty, the alleged shooter served as a motor transport operator and was assigned to 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, at Fort Bliss, Texas, according to information obtained by Army Times. He arrived at Fort Hood in February, and was assigned to the 154th Transportation Company, which belongs to the 13th Sustainment Command.

He deployed to Iraq in August 2011, and served a four-month tour, McHugh said.

“His records show no wounds, no direct involvement in combat, no record of a Purple Heart or any injury that might lead us to further investigate a battle-related [traumatic brain injury],” he said.

The alleged shooter was undergoing a “variety of treatment,” McHugh said, and was being seen for “mental health conditions ranging from depression and anxiety to sleep disturbance.”

He also had been prescribed drugs, including Ambien.

The alleged shooter also had just been seen last month by a psychiatrist, and “as of this morning we had no indication … that there was any sign of violence toward others or himself or suicidal ideations.”

On Wednesday, the alleged shooter used a .45-caliber weapon that he had recently purchased, McHugh said.

The soldier lived off-post, McHugh said.

“We try to do everything we can to encourage soldiers to register their personal weapons, even when they live off post, but we are not legally able to compel them to register their weapons when they live off post,” he said.

The alleged shooter was married, and his wife was being questioned Wednesday evening, McHugh said.

Both of them are native to Puerto Rico, and “the background checks we’ve done thus far show no involvement with extremist organizations of any kind,” McHugh said.

However, in order to maintain an “open mind and open investigation,” investigators are not ruling out anything yet, he said.

The alleged shooter had a “clean record in terms of his behavior, no outstanding bad marks or major misbehavior that we’re yet aware of,” McHugh said.

Of the 16 who were wounded Wednesday, three are in critical condition, and the others are considered to be in stable condition, McHugh said.

“We obviously are going to continue to make sure they get the best of care, because we want to ensure absolutely no bad thing comes out of this more than already has,” McHugh said.

The procedures put in place after the 2009 shooting helped emergency responders Wednesday, Odierno said.

“The alerts, the response, the training to response forces that responded contributed to stopping this from becoming something that could have been much, much worse,” he said.

Odierno also pledged the full resources of the Army behind Fort Hood.

“We are very confident in the leadership of [III Corps commander Lt. Gen.] Mark Milley,” Odierno said. “We will continue to work through this issue, continue to investigate. We have an incredibly talented, resilient Army that will continue to be incredibly resilient and move forward, but we’ll also reach out to the victims and the families of this tragic incident.”

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