A U.S. Army officer opened fire on a large military base in Texas Thursday, killing at least 13 people and wounding more than 30. Local officials identified the shooter as Major Nidal Malik Hasan.
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U.S. military officials say a U.S. Army officer opened fire on a large base in Texas Thursday, killing at least 12 people and wounding more than 30. Officials identified the alleged shooter as Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a psychiatrist who worked at the base hospital. They say they do not know his motive.
The commander of Fort Hood, Lieutenant General Robert Cone, says the officer opened fire in a building where soldiers were preparing to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan. The general says the man had two handguns, and in a stunning announcement late Thursday evening, the general said his own earlier report that the suspect had been killed was wrong.
"He was not killed as previously reported. He is currently in custody and in stable condition. I say again, the shooter is not dead, but in custody and in stable condition," the general said.
Then, standing at the base gate in the glare of television lights, General Cone contradicted another early report.
He said "Earlier it was reported that one victim (who) was killed was a female civilian (police) officer. We now know that the female officer is alive, just out of surgery and in stable condition. She is believed to be the first-responder who shot the suspect."
The general would not provide any further information about the alleged shooter or his possible motive, nor would he confirm the major's first name, which was released by local civilian law enforcement officials. Nidal Malik Hasan is believed to be about 39 years old.
General Cone says two other suspects were questioned and released, and that investigators believe Major Hasan acted alone.
The general also said with Hasan firing two guns in a small, crowded room, the results could have been even worse than they were, if not for the training and quick action of those who survived.
"People tell stories of soldiers ripping their uniforms apart and basically applying first aid. We put a great investment in soldiers' first aid and taking care of each other. I'm sure this could have been much worse. As horrible as this was, I think it could have been much worse," the general said.
Officials and observers have expressed surprise that the shooter was an officer. Major is the fourth of 10 ranks in the U.S. Army corps of commissioned officer, which has 75,000 members. They handle professional duties, like medical care, and supervise the work of the Army's 450,000 enlisted personnel.
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Nidal Malik Hasan was a Muslim, and the New York Times reports he became disenchanted with the Army after being teased about his religion by some other soldiers. The Times also reports he was concerned about possibly being deployed himself, after hearing traumatic stories from dozens of soldiers he counseled who had returned from the war zones. The Times says Major Hasan was born in the United States after his parents immigrated from a Palestinian village near Jerusalem.
He was licensed to practice medicine in his home-state,Virginia. According to the website of the state's Medical Board, he got his degree from a military medical school near Washington, DC in 2003. He finished his training in psychiatry at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington in 2007, and completed additional training in Disaster and Preventive Psychiatry at the same two facilities just this year. According to the website, he has been in "active clinical practice" for less than a year and is based at the hospital on Ft. Hood. Major Hasan was also a member of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress.
Officials have not said what his motive was, and Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell says speculation about a motive is premature.
"I don't know how anybody is possibly speculating about motives, given how few facts we have," he said.
Fort Hood is one of the largest U.S. Army bases in the world. Nearly 30,000 soldiers and civilians work on the base, and thousands of their family members live there. Another 15,000 are currently deployed overseas. Its troops have had multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, leading to speculation that post-combat stress could have contributed to the shooting. But Major Hasan has never been deployed.
There were also reports quoting people who say they know him, and claiming he has expressed opposition to U.S. involvement in the wars.