Unstable mental health may be a "fundamental, underlying cause" of a soldier's shooting rampage at Fort Hood that left four people dead, though an argument with another service member likely preceded the attack, according to investigators.
The Associated Press
FORT HOOD, Texas — Unstable mental health may be a "fundamental, underlying cause" of a soldier's shooting rampage at Fort Hood that left four people dead, though an argument with another service member likely preceded the attack, according to investigators.
Spc. Ivan Lopez turned his gun on himself after killing three people and wounding 16 others Wednesday at the sprawling Texas military base, where more than a dozen people were fatally shot by a soldier in 2009. An Army truck driver from Puerto Rico, Lopez was undergoing treatment for depression and anxiety while being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder, base officials said.
Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, senior officer at the nation's largest Army base, said there was a "strong indication" that Lopez was involved in a verbal altercation shortly before the shooting, though it doesn't appear he targeted specific soldiers during the attack. Investigators also are focusing on his mental health.
"We have very strong evidence that he had a medical history that indicates unstable psychiatric or psychological condition," Milley said. "We believe that to be a fundamental, underlying cause."
Lopez had reported to medical personnel that he had suffered a traumatic brain injury. The 34-year-old served four months in Iraq but saw no combat, and he previously had demonstrated no apparent risk of violence.
He seemed to have a clean record that showed no ties to potential terrorists, though military officials said the investigation was ongoing.
"We're not making any assumptions by that. We're going to keep an open mind and an open investigation," Army Secretary John McHugh said Thursday in Washington, explaining that "possible extremist involvement is still being looked at very, very carefully."
Three people who were critically injured in the attack improved to fair condition Friday at Scott & White Memorial Hospital in Temple. A fourth victim was expected to be released later in the day. At the military's request, the hospital said, it would not make the wounded or their families available for media interviews.
Investigators searched Lopez's home on Thursday and questioned his wife, who declined to comment in Spanish when reached by phone by The Associated Press.
Lopez walked into a base building around 4 p.m. Wednesday and began firing a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol. He then got into a vehicle and continued shooting before entering another building on the Army post. He eventually was confronted by military police in a parking lot, Milley said.
As he came within 20 feet of a police officer, the gunman put his hands up but then reached under his jacket and pulled out his gun. The officer drew her own weapon, and the suspect put his gun to his head and pulled the trigger a final time, Milley said.
The base's commander praised the actions of the female police officer but declined to release her name. Milley also said authorities were first alerted to the rampage when two soldiers who had been shot managed to dial 911, and that a base chaplain shielded soldiers with his own body before smashing window glass to allow them to flee the area.