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Argument may have preceded deadly Fort Hood attack

By Paul J. Weber & Will Weissert

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 12:18 p.m. HST, Apr 03, 2014

FORT HOOD, Texas >> The soldier who killed three people at Fort Hood may have argued with another service member prior to the attack, and investigators believe his unstable mental health contributed to the rampage, authorities said Thursday.

The base's senior officer, Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, said there is a "strong possibility" that Spc. Ivan Lopez had a "verbal altercation" with another soldier or soldiers immediately before Wednesday's shooting, which unfolded on the same Army post that was the scene of an infamous 2009 mass shooting.

However, there's no indication that he targeted specific soldiers, Milley said.

Lopez never saw combat during a deployment to Iraq and had shown no apparent risk of violence before the shooting, officials said.

The 34-year-old truck driver from Puerto Rico seemed to have a clean record that showed no ties to extremist groups. But the Army secretary promised that investigators would keep all avenues open in their inquiry of the soldier whose rampage ended only after he fired a final bullet into his own head.

"We're not making any assumptions by that. We're going to keep an open mind and an open investigation. We will go where the facts lead us," Army Secretary John McHugh said, explaining that "possible extremist involvement is still being looked at very, very carefully."

Scott & White Memorial Hospital in nearby Temple, Texas, was still caring for five of the 16 people who were wounded. Three were in serious condition, and two others were in good condition and could be discharged later Thursday.

Hospital officials had no information about patients being treated elsewhere, including at a base hospital. But because the hospital is the area's only trauma center, the patients with the most serious injuries were probably taken there.

Within hours of Wednesday's assault, investigators started looking into whether Lopez had lingering psychological trauma from his time in Iraq. The shooter had sought help for depression, anxiety and other problems, and was taking medication, military officials said.

Investigators searched the soldier's home Thursday and questioned his wife, Fort Hood spokesman Chris Haug said.

Lopez apparently walked into a building Wednesday and began firing a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol. He then got into a vehicle and continued firing before entering another building. He was eventually confronted by military police in a parking lot, according to Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, senior officer on the base.

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.

Lopez grew up in Guayanilla, a town of fewer than 10,000 people on the southwestern coast of Puerto Rico, with a mother who was a nurse at a public clinic and a father who did maintenance for an electric utility company.

Glidden Lopez Torres, who said he was a friend speaking for the family, said Lopez's mother died of a heart attack in November.

The soldier was upset that he was granted only a 24-hour leave to attend her funeral, which was delayed for nearly a week so he could be there, the spokesman said. The leave was then extended to two days.

Lopez joined the island's National Guard in 1999 and served on a yearlong peacekeeping mission in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula in the mid-2000s. He enlisted with the Army in 2008, McHugh said.

Lopez saw no combat during a four-month deployment to Iraq as a truck driver in 2011. A review of his service record showed no Purple Heart, indicating he was never wounded, McHugh said. He arrived at Fort Hood in February from Fort Bliss, Texas.

He saw a psychiatrist last month and showed no "sign of any likely violence either to himself or others," McHugh said.

Suzie Miller, a 71-year-old retired property manager who lived in the same Killeen apartment complex as Lopez, said few people knew him and his wife well because they had just moved in a few weeks ago.

"I'd see him in his uniform heading out to the car every morning," Miller said. "He was friendly to me and a lot of us around here."

Shaneice Banks, a 21-year-old business-management student who lived downstairs from the Lopezes, said her husband, who also works at Fort Hood, helped the couple move in. Hours before the shooting, Banks said she ran in to Lopez when he came home for lunch.

"He was going to his car, and I was like 'Hey, how's your day going?' And he seemed perfectly fine. He was like, 'Day's going pretty good. I'll see you whenever I come back home.'"

When word came out that there was a shooting at the base, Banks saw Lopez's wife frantically calling her husband over and over, trying to reach him via cellphone from the apartment's shared courtyard.

"She was bawling because they have a 2-year-old, and she was just holding the baby," Banks said. "My heart just went out to her. I was trying to get her information when I could but she doesn't speak a lot of English."

Xanderia Morris lives next door to Banks. She also saw Karla Lopez distraught in the courtyard.

"We tried to console her. She called some people over, and we were consoling her, and then she started up the stairs back to his apartment, and they identified him as the shooter on television. She just broke down. We had to rush her up the stairs so nothing would happen to her," Morris said.

Neighbors took Lopez into Morris' apartment, where she sat crying on the sofa for a long time.

The shootings revived memories of the November 2009 shooting at Fort Hood, the deadliest attack on a domestic military installation in U.S. history. Thirteen people were killed and more than 30 were wounded.

Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan was convicted last year in that assault, which he has said was to protect Islamic insurgents abroad from American aggression.

After that shooting, the military tightened base security nationwide.

In September, a former Navy man opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard, leaving 13 people dead, including the gunman. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the Pentagon to review security at all U.S. defense installations worldwide.


Associated Press writers Ramit Plushnick-Masti in Houston; Christopher Sherman in McAllen; Robert Burns, Eric Tucker and Alicia Caldwell in Washington; and D?nica Coto in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico.

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lokela wrote:
What's with Ft Hood. This base is so big with a lot of solders with PTS. You really have to evaluate all of them. Just a matter of time before someone snaps. So sad since all these brave soldiers risk their lives for us and we can't help them.
on April 3,2014 | 06:38AM
serious wrote:
Having been in combat, I can't think of anyone I served with, including myself, who doesn't have some sort of post traumatic syndrome. It goes with the territory. Everyone handles it differently--for me--keep busy both mentally and physically. I've talked to some who suffer and they weren't near where the bullets were flying.
on April 3,2014 | 07:15AM
Morimoto wrote:
Or it could just be that Ft. Hood has a lot of people. Anywhere there's a lot of people there are bound to be problems, military or otherwise. There's a good chance that what caused this person to snap isn't even related to his military service. I've read the suicide rate for military personnel are approximately the same as the comparable civilian population, so in other words, the suicide problem is sensationalized when it comes to the military, as I"m sure a lot of other problems are. Career criminals probably also have PTSD that led them to a life of crime, but since it doesn't fit the public's common perception of PTSD, it doesn't get reported.
on April 3,2014 | 11:56AM
sailfish1 wrote:
A recent study indicated that 1 out of 5 had some sort of psychological problem before they enlisted into the military.
on April 3,2014 | 01:36PM
Grimbold wrote:
Mental health services ha ha . Crazies are not being locked up. What a weird society we live in. Even Honolulu had many cases where crazies murdered people.
on April 3,2014 | 08:34AM
Morimoto wrote:
Weird society compared to what? There's always been crazies among us since the beginning of time. It's actually "normal" throughout history to have mentally ill people living among us.
on April 3,2014 | 11:58AM
Ronin006 wrote:
PTSD is an overused and overworked term to justify every single problem experienced by just about everyone who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, included those who never heard a shot fired in anger. Millions of American served in extended combat operations in World War II and in Korea. There were some who experienced or claimed shell shock, as PTSD was then known, but the number so diagnosed was an infinitesimally small portion of the millions who served. I have never heard or read of a Pearl Harbor survivor or a D-Day participant claiming PTSD. What has happened between then and now that has caused the majority of those who serve to claim PTSD? For the record, I served in Korea during the war and spent two years as an infantry officer in Vietnam, so I am not insensitive to what soldiers experience in combat. I am just baffled by the large number claiming PTSD.
on April 3,2014 | 01:21PM
sailfish1 wrote:
It's part of the U.S.military culture today to claim PTSD to try to explain peoples' shortcomings.
on April 3,2014 | 01:34PM
bigislandkurt wrote:
Puerto Ricans have natural, generationally manifested PTSD. Thank Columbus for that one.
on April 3,2014 | 04:01PM
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