The soldier suspected of shooting dead three people before killing himself at Fort Hood has been identified as Ivan Lopez, the base commander said Thursday, adding that Lopez may have had an argument with colleagues before the shooting.
Lieutenant General Mark Milley said that Lopez may have been involved in a "verbal altercation" shortly before opening fire, although no motive has yet been confirmed.
“There may have been a verbal altercation with another soldier or soldiers. There is a strong possibility that that, in fact, immediately preceded the shooting,” he said.
Milley added that there was no indication that Lopez had targeted specific people, and officials have so far ruled out any link to terrorism.
The shooting spree also left 16 wounded in what was the second mass killing in five years at Fort Hood, one of the largest military bases in the United States.
Lopez, 34, originally from Puerto Rico, had been treated for depression and anxiety. He was also being evaluated to see if he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, military officials said.
“We have very strong evidence that he had a medical history that indicates unstable psychiatric or psychological conditions,” Milley told reporters Thursday.
US Army Secretary John McHugh said Lopez, who joined the service in 2008, had served two tours of duty abroad, including four months in Iraq in 2011. He had no direct involvement in combat and had not been wounded.
“He was undergoing a variety of treatments and diagnoses for mental health conditions, ranging from depression to anxiety to some sleep disturbance. He was prescribed a number of drugs to address those, including Ambien,” McHugh told a US Senate committee hearing.
'Smuggled gun onto base'
Lopez is suspected of smuggling onto the base a recently purchased Smith & Wesson .45-caliber pistol that was used in the shootings. Milley said Lopez purchased the firearm at Guns Galore, the same store in Killeen where former US Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Hasan bought the weapon he used to kill 13 people and wound 32 others at Fort Hood in 2009. Hasan has since been sentenced to death for those shootings.
Lopez served in the Puerto Rico National Guard for several years in an infantry unit and as a band member, both military combat training assignments; he also did a stint as part of an observation mission in the Sinai, Egypt, Puerto Rico National Guard Major Jamie Davis said.
Three of the soldiers listed in critical condition were showing signs of improvement and their condition was upgraded to serious, according to Scott & White Hospital in Temple. Five patients were discharged.
Among those killed was 37-year-old Army Sergeant Timothy Owens, a recently married native of Illinois who was shot in the chest at close range, his mother-in-law told the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper.
One of the injured was identified by his family via Twitter as Major Patrick Miller of New York.
When confronted by a military police officer in a parking lot, Lopez killed himself with his semi-automatic weapon.
“Our thoughts right now in many ways are with the families at Fort Hood. These are folks who make such extraordinary sacrifices for us each and every day for our freedom,” President Barack Obama said at a White House event honouring US athletes from the Sochi Olympics and Paralympics.
At the modest blue-and-gray apartment building in Killeen where Lopez lived with his wife and 2-year-old daughter, American flags flew and “Welcome home” signs adorned the walls of a place favoured by soldiers rotating through the base.
Army chaplains visited the family on Thursday.
Shaneice Banks, 21, was with Lopez’s wife when news of the shooting broke.
“She heard her husband’s name on the news and she just lost it,” Banks told Reuters.
Another neighbour, Mahogoney Jones, 21, said the wife was in a state of panic. “She’s calling and calling her husband because she feels something is wrong. She kept screaming ‘No answer! No answer!’”
Jones said she last saw Ivan Lopez when he came home for lunch on the day of the shooting.
“He was calm. He petted my dog and then went back to base,” she said.
There are about 45,000 soldiers and airmen assigned to the 335-square-mile (870-square-km) base, along with nearly 10,000 civilian employees, according to Fort Hood.
The incident is the third shooting at a military base in the United States in about six months that, along with a series of shootings in schools and malls, has fuelled a national debate over gun violence.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-04-04