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Shooting Investigation at Fort Hood Focuses on Verbal Altercation

This undated image shows Army Spc. Ivan Lopez, who shot three people April 2 before killing himself.

This undated image shows Army Spc. Ivan Lopez, who shot three people April 2 before killing himself.

U.S. military officials say they have evidence that a verbal argument prompted 34-year-old Army Specialist Ivan Lopez to open fire Wednesday on fellow soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas before taking his own life. The dead soldier's family says his mental illness, however, was to blame.

A spokesman for the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, Chris Gray, told reporters that "credible information" indicates that Ivan Lopez "was involved in a verbal altercation with soldiers from his unit just prior to allegedly opening fire." Gray said he could not provide details about the argument since it is still under investigation, but he said that the gunman apparently had no specific targets after leaving the scene of the dispute.

"The subject then proceeded to travel to two other nearby buildings, entering those locations and opening fire. In transit to those locations, while in his personal vehicle, he indiscriminately fired at other soldiers while moving from one location to another," said Gray.

After being confronted by a female military police officer, Lopez then shot himself in the head. Gray said investigators may never know exactly why he did what he did.

Family members of Lopez released a statement saying that he had been under medical treatment. His father, Ivan Lopez, Sr., said what his son did Wednesday "was not like him." The elder Lopez said his son "must have been out of his mind."

Watch related video by VOA's Greg Flakus

The soldier was taking medication for depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances and had asked for an evaluation for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a mental affliction usually associated with the extreme stress or danger soldiers encounter in combat. Military doctors had not diagnosed that condition, and Lt. General Mark Milley said there is no evidence that Lopez was ever in such a situation while stationed for four months in Iraq in 2011.

"We are digging into his combat experience in Iraq and, so far, we have not discovered any specific traumatic event, wounds received in action, contact with the enemy, or anything else specific that he may have been exposed to while deployed," said Milley.

Milley also provided an update on the three soldiers killed, revealing their names -- Sergeant Carlos Rodriguez, Sergeant Timothy Owens and Sergeant First Class Danny Ferguson, who held a door shut and allowed others to escape before bullets hit him. He had just returned from a tour in Afghanistan.

Investigators say they have interviewed more than 900 people to gather details of the crime scene.

Wednesday's attack was the second at the base since 2009 when an Army psychiatrist opened fire on fellow soldiers, killing 13.

Milley said all but six of the soldiers treated at area hospitals after the shooting Wednesday now have been released, and he described them as "resilient."

The continuing investigation of the shooting at Fort Hood involves about 150 law enforcement personnel from the military, the FBI, the Texas Rangers, and local area police. They have established a basic timeline of what happened, but the biggest mystery remains the motive that drove Lopez to fire on his fellow soldiers.

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