HOUSTON— Many questions remain unanswered as investigators continue to gather and analyze evidence connected to last week's shooting at Fort Hood in Texas that left four dead, including the gunman, and 16 others wounded. Military investigators say the rampage likely resulted from a denied leave request.
While investigators say they still have not determined why 34-year-old U.S. Army Specialist Ivan Lopez opened fire on his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood last Wednesday, they have pinpointed the incident that seems to have sparked the violence.
A spokesman for the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, Chris Grey, told reporters Monday that Ivan Lopez began his shooting spree after being denied a request for leave. Grey provided a complete step-by-step description of what happened, but he maintained investigation protocol by not saying who did it or whether he acted alone.
"We have only one alleged subject [suspect] connected to these shootings and he is deceased. We have found no evidence that these crimes were connected to a terrorist or extremist organization, but again, we have not completely ruled that out in order to conduct a thorough and complete felony investigation," said Grey.
Using a map of the two city block-sized crime scene, Grey showed how the shooter moved from the first location to various other nearby sites. Twice, Grey said, the gunman fired from his car, wounding a soldier standing by a building. Later, Grey said, he fired his .45 caliber pistol through the windshield of another vehicle, wounding a passenger inside.
Grey said army investigators, assisted by the FBI, the Texas Rangers and other law enforcement agencies, have interviewed more than 1,000 people and collected 235 pieces of evidence. He said they have picked up 35 shell casings from the gun used in the incident, three of which were found in Lopez's car.
The entire shooting rampage lasted eight minutes and ended when Lopez was confronted by a female military police officer and then took his own life. Grey said she fired her weapon at him, but missed.
Grey said the thoroughness of the investigation will not only provide the Army and law enforcement with more information about what happened, but also could benefit people who were directly or indirectly affected by the shocking event.
"We sincerely hope, all of us in law enforcement, that our efforts to diligently seek the truth will in some way provide comfort to the loved ones of the deceased and wounded who are struggling through this difficult time," said Grey.
Fort Hood commanders say 11 of the 16 people wounded last week are already back on duty, but five remain hospitalized. This is the second time in less than five years that a soldier has shot and killed comrades at the sprawling base in central Texas.
Fort Hood has established a hotline phone number for anyone affiliated with the base to seek help if they are experiencing psychological disturbances stemming from the shooting. Area churches and social groups also have been reaching out to the military community to help people cope. A memorial ceremony is planned for Wednesday, one week after the incident, and President Barack Obama and his wife, first lady Michelle Obama, are scheduled to attend.