By Rebecca Fiedler, Rae Jefferson
and Paula Ann Solis
KILLEEN — A lone gunman opened fire at the Fort Hood military post Wednesday, killing three soldiers, injuring 16 others and later taking his own life, said Lt. General Mark A. Milley at a press conference outside the Bernie Beck Gate at Fort Hood.
The initial report of a shooter on base came at 4:04 p.m. near the First Medical Brigade and the 49th Transportation Battalion areas, at which point the base was placed under immediate lockdown. Milley said the sequence of events Wednesday is still unclear, but it is believed the shooter, who was a Fort Hood soldier, fired from inside his vehicle toward two buildings before running on foot.
Military police, Texas Rangers and other emergency responders from the Killeen area were on the scene in approximately 15 minutes, Milley said. A female military officer was the first to find and engage with the shooter. She raised her weapon toward the shooter and he reached under his jacket for a .45 caliber Smith & Wesson semiautomatic and took his own life in a parking lot.
Some of the injured soldiers were taken to the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center while others were treated at Scott & White Healthcare Center. Milley said injuries were sustained from gunfire, shattered debris hitting bystanders and there was one reported injury of a soldier who was trying to jump over a fence.
Milley said the base was thankful to the supportive community that came to immediate aid during this tragedy.
“Thanks also specifically to Scott and White for excellent medical care and their ability to handle additional casualties,” Milley said.
Milley said Fort Hood personnel will not release the shooter’s name or rank until his wife and family are notified. The shooter has been undergoing an analysis for possible posttraumatic stress syndrome. He was also taking unknown medication and suffering from depression.
There is no known motive at this time and Milley said there is no reason to suspect Wednesday’s shooting was an act of terrorism. An extensive background check is under way to learn more about the shooter’s combat experiences, Milley said.
What is known is the shooter was assigned to the Fort Hood base in February and served four months in Iraq. He did not sustain injuries while serving, but there is a history of some traumatic brain injury in his past, Milley said.
“Our focus now is to focus on the families of the injured and focus on the families of the killed and make sure that they have the best care and counseling available,” Milley said. “Events in the past have taught us many things here at Fort Hood. We know the community is strong. We know the community is resilient. We know the soldiers and civilians and the families of this fort who serve so bravely in combat for the last 13 in both in Iraq and Afghanistan are strong and we will get though this.”
Fort Hood officers are asking people with information regarding Wednesday’s shooting to come forward and contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Nine victims of the shooting were taken to Scott & White Memorial Hospital in Temple for treatment of various injuries, said hospital representatives in a press conference Wednesday evening.
“Any time those at Fort Hood hurt, we hurt,” said Dr. Glen Couchman, the hospital’s chief medical officer.
Eight of the patients are male and one is female. Two patients have undergone surgery so far, and officials said they do not foresee the other seven needing surgery.
The first patient was received at 6:12 p.m. and two more were being airlifted in at around 8 p.m., hospital officials said.
The last two patients en route to Scott & White went directly into operating rooms, Couchman said.
Several of the patients are awake and talking, with resilient and positive attitudes, hospital officials said. Three are being kept on ventilators and cannot respond.
Couchman said the patients’ conditions range from stable to critical, with wounds such as gunshots to the chest, abdomen, extremities and neck. The gunshots sustained by the patients range from a single shot to several shots, although it is unknown exactly how many injuries each patient sustained, he said.
“We’re always open to help them out,” Couchman said.
The patients at Scott & White were all transferred from the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood, Couchman said. Scott & White was notified around 5 p.m. that its assistance would be needed, he said. The hospital is a level 1 trauma center, which means it has the resources to care for the critical injuries sustained by the patients, Couchman said.
“We’re heartbroken that something like this might have happened again,” President Barack Obama said.
In 2009, the hospital received roughly 11 patients from the Fort Hood shooting that occurred that year. During the attack, Maj. Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, opened fire on unarmed soldiers in a medical facility at the base. The incident left 31 wounded and 13 dead. Hasan was convicted of 13 murders and 32 attempted murders, and he was sentenced to death on Aug. 28, 2013.
Since that incident, the hospital has run through mass casualty event drills every few months, Couchman said. The last drill occurred about four months ago, he said.
“I’m pleased to say we were well-prepared for that,” he said, referring to Wednesday’s sudden influx of patients.
Couchman expressed his grief for the tragedy.
“This is another sad day for Central Texas,” he said.