By Paula Ann Solis
KILLEEN — Spc. Ivan A. Lopez, 34, has been identified as the Fort Hood shooter who killed three soldiers and wounded 16 others before killing himself Wednesday, said Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn joined Milley on Thursday outside the Fort Hood base for a press conference where more details were revealed about Lopez and the possible motive that made the soldier turn on his own unit.
Lopez, who was originally from Puerto Rico, worked in the 49th Transportation Battalion and transferred to Fort Hood from Fort Bliss. Milley said Lopez was not transferred for the purpose of joining Fort Hood’s Warrior Transition Brigade, which provides primary care for soldiers transitioning back into their communities or preparing to return to service.
Milley said it was confirmed that Lopez purchased his .45 caliber Smith & Wesson from Guns Galore LLC in Killeen on March 1. However, Milley said there are no signs at the moment suggesting the date of the purchase indicates the attack was premeditated.
Terrorism and links to the Fort Hood shooting in 2009 are not being considered at this time, Milley said.
Lopez was undergoing an analysis for possible posttraumatic stress disorder, Milley said Wednesday. He was also taking unknown medication, suffering from depression and suffered a traumatic brain injury, although not in combat.
“I would ask that everybody avoid speculation about the incident and let the investigation and the investigators take their course,” Milley said.
He said a division of the U.S. Army will continue the investigation and continues to gather information from local authorities that responded on Wednesday. Investigators are considering Lopez’s family, marital, financial and unit history as they continue to search for possible triggers.
“There may have been a verbal altercation with another soldier or soldiers and there’s a strong possibility that that in fact immediately preceded the shooting,” Milley said.
There is not evidence the shooter targeted specific soldiers. Fort Hood officials will release Lopez’s service record to the public through their website some time this week.
Milley also used the press conference as an opportunity to discuss several acts of heroism displayed by soldiers, emergency responders and medical staff following the shooting.
Two wounded soldiers made the first 911 call at 4:16 p.m. and Milley noted their strength and ability to push forward despite their injuries. Both of these soldiers are at Scott & White Memorial Hospital and have since been visited and thanked by Milley for their service.
There was also a report of a chaplain who shielded several soldiers and broke windows to allow others to escape from danger.
The military officer who was first to confront the shooter remains unnamed, but Milley said her actions are also clear examples of bravery.
Milley said the shooter approached her from a distance of 20 feet and pulled his weapon out. The officer interpreted this as a threat and began firing. Milley said the shooter then took his own life. It is not known at this time if shots fired by the officer made contact with the shooter. The officer was unharmed, Milley said.
He also thanked the two hospitals that took in injured soldiers, Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center and Scott & White. Milley said Both hospitals delivered world class care that he would equate to the medical care he has seen during combat.
“I just returned from Scott & White and visited with our wounded soldiers down there and I’d like to thank publicly the great professional support that we’ve gotten from the entire medical staff,” Milley said. “Tremendous effort by all of them, the medevac pilots and also the great professional medical effort that was done here at Fort Hood at Darnall.”
Four soldiers are continuing to receive care at Scott & White, three are at Darnall and nine have been released. According to Scott & White’s website, three patients previously in critical condition were upgraded to serious condition and one patients are in good condition with the potential for early release.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said he looks forward to visiting with the emergency responders, wounded soldiers and families of the fallen while visiting Fort Hood.
“I’m back here in Fort Hood for the second time in about four and a half years, and what I see is a community that has come together in a time of crisis and heartbreak and is pulling together,” Cornyn said. “But this community is no stranger to hardship and challenges and they have risen and met the test each and every time and I know they will do that again.”
Since the news of Lopez’s history of depression, several questions regarding the army’s policies on mental health care and gun monitoring on bases have been raised, and Cornyn addressed this issue Thursday.
“Mental health issues are the most vexing issues from my perspective in terms of how do we identify people who have genuine problems that need to be treated and need to be helped with,” Cornyn said. “But I think at the same time we have to be very cardful and not paint with too broad a brush and assume that just because someone has been in combat that they necessarily have those issues. We shouldn’t stigmatize healthy people who are resilient, who are able to deal with those stresses.”
Milley said at this time there have been no changes to the rules barring concealed weapons on military installations and at Wednesday’s press conference, he said the need for each person on base to have a weapon is not there because military police are present.
He also said the idea of checking each person and vehicle entering the base is not a reasonable solution because Fort Hood is home to over 100,000 soldiers, veterans and their families. Cornyn offered his support for Milley’s outlook and discusses possible changes for the future.
“I’m confident that there will be a thorough review of that policy and the military will make the best judgment for what needs to happen to protect the people on base,” Cornyn said. “I respect General Milley’s position, I respect the importance of doing that thorough review to see if there are any gaps or anything that needs to be corrected in future policy.”
Milley said a memorial is being planned for sometime next week and any persons wanting to donate should consider donating to the American Red Cross or to the United Service Organizations, both of which have assisted with onsite needs since the shooting.