Fort Hood

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

The soldier who killed three people and left more than a dozen injured at Fort Hood on Wednesday evening may have argued with another service member prior to the shooting, according to Lt. Gen. Mark Milley. 

.Milley, joined by Sen. John Cornyn, identified the gunman as 34-year-old Ivan Lopez in a press conference held Thursday afternoon. Milley said there is a “strong possibility” that Lopez engaged in a verbal argument with another soldier before the attack, yet there is no indication that he targeted specific individuals.

“At this point we have not yet ruled out anything whatsoever,” Milley said. “We are committed to letting the investigation run its course.”

Milley said Lopez was undergoing treatment for depression and diagnostic procedures for post-traumatic stress disorder.

“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.”

Mental health issues are some of the most difficult to identify, Cornyn said.

“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,” Cornyn said. “At the same time, we have to be very careful and not paint with too broad a brush and assume because someone has been in combat that they necessarily have those issues.”

Lopez served four months in Iraq but had not been in combat, according to Milley.

KILLEEN, Texas (AP) — Officials with the Texas A&M Forest Service and the Army's Fort Hood have reached agreement on a plan to accelerate wildfire response.

Under the deal announced Tuesday, state and military officials will be able to communicate and assist each other directly and cut bureaucratic procedures.

Previously, the Forest Service had to request help from Fort Hood through the Texas Division of Emergency Management, which then would seek assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA then had to make a request to the Defense Department.

Forest Service Executive Director Tom Boggus says emergency response needs to be swift and efficient and the agreement goes a long way toward better protection of lives and property.

The two also can collaborate on training, prescribed burns and wildfire suppression under the deal.

FORT WORTH — The new judge in the Fort Hood shooting rampage case faces a controversial decision next week: whether to spare Maj. Nidal Hasan a possible death sentence and let him plead guilty in the worst mass shooting on a U.S. military installation.

Defense attorneys said Hasan wants to plead guilty to 13 counts of premeditated murder, but Army rules prohibit a judge from accepting a guilty plea in a death penalty case. If the death sentence is removed, Hasan’s punishment would be life without parole — which he already faces if convicted of the 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the 2009 attack on the Texas Army post.

The date for his long-delayed trial has not been set, but pretrial hearings are scheduled Wednesday through Friday so the new military judge, Col. Tara Osborn, can reconsider several defense requests previously rejected by the former judge. That judge was removed after the military’s highest court said he appeared to show bias, a ruling that ended appeals that had delayed the case more than three months.

Defense attorneys argue that Hasan should be spared a possible death sentence because his rights have been violated — including by the former judge who ordered that Hasan’s beard be forcibly shaved. Hasan first showed up in court in June with a beard, later saying it was required by his Muslim faith, but facial hair violates Army rules.

Defense attorneys also claim Fort Hood’s commanding general was not impartial when he decided in July 2011 that Hasan would face the death penalty, and had been influenced by high-ranking government officials. Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, has not yet entered a plea.

Osborn has full authority to decide on the death penalty issue because she is ruling on legal matters raised by the defense, said Jeff Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio.

“I think the case will go forward as a death penalty case, because it’s dragged on for years, and if ever there was a case fitting of the death penalty, this is it,” said Addicott, who is not involved in the Hasan case, adding that he believed Hasan is “a radical extremist … and he has no remorse.”

He said defense attorneys are simply trying to quickly end the case by having their client plead guilty and avoid a death sentence.

Witnesses have said that a gunman wearing an Army combat uniform opened fire after shouting “Allahu Akbar!” — or “God is great!” in Arabic — inside a crowded medical building on Nov. 5, 2009, where deploying and returning soldiers received vaccines and other tests. Hasan was also about to deploy to Afghanistan.

A Senate report released in 2011 said the FBI missed warning signs about Hasan, alleging he had become an Islamic extremist and a “ticking time bomb” before the rampage at Fort Hood, about 125 miles southwest of Fort Worth.

WACO — An AWOL soldier planned to detonate bombs in a restaurant filled with Fort Hood troops and then shoot those who survived, federal authorities said in a new six-count indictment returned against him Tuesday.

Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo was indicted on one count of trying to use a weapon of mass destruction, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. The other charges returned by the federal grand jury in Waco on Tuesday were attempted murder of officers or employees of the United States, two counts of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a federal crime of violence, and two counts of possession of a destructive device in furtherance of a federal crime of violence.

Abdo was indicted in August on three federal charges related to the bomb plot near the Texas Army post this summer. The maximum penalty for each of those charges — possession of an unregistered destructive device, possession of a firearm and possession of ammunition by a fugitive from justice — is 10 years in prison. He had not yet entered a plea on those charges.

Prosecutors said they plan to try him first on the six new charges, which carry lengthier prison terms and are part of what is called a superseding indictment.

Abdo, who remains in federal custody in Waco, was arrested in July at a Killeen motel near Fort Hood. Investigators say they found a handgun, an article titled “Make a bomb in the kitchen of your Mom” and the ingredients for an explosive device, including gunpowder, shrapnel and pressure cookers. An article with that title appears in an al-Qaida magazine.

After his arrest, he told authorities he planned to make two bombs and detonate them in a restaurant where Fort Hood soldiers eat, according to documents filed in the case.

Abdo, 21, was approved as a conscientious objector this year after citing his Muslim beliefs, but that status was put on hold after he was charged with possessing child pornography. He went absent without leave from Fort Campbell, Ky., in early July.

Authorities have said there is a gag order in the Texas case.

Printed on Wednesday, November 9, 2011 as: Soldier behind bomb plot faces additional charges

Scott Dickson of the Killeen Police Department holds a sign of Pfc. Naser Abdo on Thursday July 28, 2011. Abdo, an AWOL soldier from Fort Campbell, Kentucky was found with suspicious materials upon his arrest. (AP Photo/Stephen M. Keller)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

WACO, Texas — An AWOL soldier accused of plotting to launch an attack on Fort Hood was defiant during his first court appearance on Friday, yelling out the name of the Army psychiatrist blamed in the 2009 deadly shooting rampage at the same Texas base.

Federal prosecutors charged 21-year-old Pfc. Naser Abdo with possessing an illegal firearm, two days after he was arrested at a motel about 3 miles from the front gate of Fort Hood. He told authorities he planned to construct two bombs in the motel room using gunpowder and shrapnel packed into pressure cookers and then detonate the explosives at a restaurant frequented by soldiers, court documents released Friday said.

Abdo, who had requested conscientious objector status because his Muslim beliefs prevented him from fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, refused to stand up during Friday's court hearing when asked. As he left the room, he shouted: "Nidal Hasan Fort Hood 2009."

Hasan, an Army major and psychiatrist, is charged in the 2009 deaths of 13 people at Fort Hood in the worst mass shooting ever on a U.S. military installation.

Abdo's words in court were a sharp contrast to an essay he wrote last year as the first anniversary of the Fort Hood shootings approached and as he petitioned for conscientious objector status. In the essay, obtained by The Associated Press, Abdo said the attacks ran against his beliefs as a Muslim and were "an act of aggression by a man and not by Islam."

Abdo was approved as a conscientious objector this year, but that status was put on hold after he was charged with possessing child pornography. He went absent without leave from Fort Campbell, Ky., during the July 4 weekend.

On July 3, Abdo tried to buy a gun at a store near the Kentucky post, according to the company that owns the store. Police in Killeen, where Fort Hood is located, said their break in the case came Tuesday from Guns Galore LLC — the same gun store where Hasan bought a pistol used in the 2009 attack. Store clerk Greg Ebert said Abdo arrived by taxi and bought 6 pounds of smokeless gunpowder, three boxes of shotgun ammunition and a magazine for a semi-automatic pistol.

"We would probably be here today, giving you a different briefing, had he not been stopped," said Killeen Police Chief Dennis Baldwin, who called the plan "a terror plot."

Authorities said they found two clocks, spools of auto wire, a Winchester .40 caliber ammunition and a handgun in a backpack, according to court documents. They also discovered an article titled "Make a bomb in the kitchen of your Mom," the same title of a how-to article featured in Inspire, the English-language magazine by the terror group based in Yemen, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

It was not immediately known of Abdo had any connections to terror groups or Hasan. James Branum, an Oklahoma attorney who had been representing Abdo on the child pornography charges, said Friday he had not heard from Abdo.

He said Abdo was "stressed and anxious" about the child pornography charges but "I didn't see any indication he would do anything like this. ... I would not have taken the case if I had any indication of this kind of mindset."

In several writings by Abdo obtained by the AP portray a devout infantry soldier struggling with his faith while facing the prospect of deployment and what he felt was the scorn of his peers.

"Overall, as a Muslim I feel that I will not be able to carry out my military duties due to my conscientious objection," Abdo wrote in his application for conscientious objector status. "Therefore, unless I separate myself from the military, I would potentially be putting the soldiers I work with in jeopardy.

FBI, police and military officials have said little about whether or how they were tracking Abdo since he left Fort Campbell. Patrick J. Connor, special agent in charge with Army Criminal Investigation Command at Fort Hood, said efforts had been made to locate him after an arrest warrant was issued but he would not elaborate.

Abdo grew up in Garland, a Dallas suburb about 170 miles from Fort Hood. In his essay, which he sent to the AP last year as he made his conscientious-objector plea, he said his mother is Christian and his father is Muslim, and that he decided to follow Islam when he was 17.

He wrote that he joined the Army believing he could serve in the military and honor his religion, but he ended up having to endure insults and threats from fellow soldiers over his religion during basic and advanced training. He said life was better after he arrived at his first duty station, but that he studied Islam more closely as he neared deployment to learn "whether going to war was the right thing to do Islamically."

"I began to understand and believe that only God can give legitimacy to war and not humankind," he wrote. "That's when I realized my conscience would not allow me to deploy."

His application was filed in June 2010. The Army's Conscientious Objector Review board denied his request, but the deputy assistant secretary of the Army Review Boards Agency recommended he be separated from the Army as a conscientious objector. The discharge was delayed when he was charged with possession of child pornography on May 13.

Fort Campbell civilian spokesman Bob Jenkins said Abdo had been aware of the child pornography investigation since November.

KILLEEN — An AWOL soldier who had weapons stashed in a motel room near Fort Hood admitted planning an attack on the Texas post, where 13 people died in 2009 in the worst mass shooting ever on a U.S. military installation, the Army said in an alert issued Thursday.

Pfc. Naser Abdo, a 21-year-old soldier who was granted conscientious objector status this year after he said his Muslim beliefs prevented him from fighting, was arrested Wednesday. Agents found firearms and "items that could be identified as bomb-making components, including gunpowder," in his motel room, according to FBI spokesman Erik Vasys.

The Army alert sent via email and obtained by The Associated Press says the man arrested by Killeen police "was in possession of a large quantity of ammunition, weapons and a bomb inside a backpack." Upon questioning, the alert says, he admitted to planning an attack on Fort Hood.

Officials have not offered details about Abdo's possible intentions. The infantry soldier from Garland, Texas, had applied for conscientious objector status last year. A military review board recommended this spring that he be separated from the Army.

But the discharge was delayed after he was charged with possessing child pornography and an Article 32 military hearing last month recommended he be court-martialed. He's been absent without leave from Fort Campbell, Ky., since the July 4 weekend.

Abdo's arrest came after the owners of a local gun store — the same store where the 2009 Fort Hood shootings suspect Maj. Nidal Hasan bought a pistol used in the attack — called police, the Army's alert said.

Store clerk Greg Ebert said the man arrived at Guns Galore LLC by taxi Tuesday and bought 6 pounds of smokeless gunpowder, three boxes of shotgun ammunition and a magazine for a semi-automatic pistol, paying about $250. Ebert said he became concerned when the man asked questions indicating he didn't know much about the items.

"(We) felt uncomfortable with his overall demeanor and the fact he didn't know what the hell he was buying," Ebert said. "I thought it prudent to contact the local authorities, which I did."

Killeen police learned from the taxi company that Abdo had been picked up from a local motel and that he also had visited an Army surplus store where he paid cash for a uniform bearing Fort Hood unit patches, according to the Army alert.

Vasys said the FBI would charge Abdo with possessing bomb-making components and he would be transferred from Killeen police into federal custody. Vasys said there was nothing to indicate Abdo was "working with others."

An Oklahoma attorney who has represented Abdo said Thursday he hadn't heard from Abdo in weeks and learned of the arrest from a Texas television station.

"I've been quite anxious to get in touch with him," said attorney James Branum.

Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, faces a possible death sentence when he is tried next year on 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the 2009 rampage at Fort Hood.

The Army post issued a statement seeking to reassure the community after Abdo's arrest Thursday.

"At this time, there has been no incident at Fort Hood," the statement said. "We continue our diligence in keeping our force protection at appropriate levels."

Fort Campbell spokesman Rick Rzepka referred all questions to the Pentagon.

FORT WORTH, Texas — For the victims' families and those wounded in the Fort Hood shooting rampage, news that the suspect will face a military trial and the death penalty came as no surprise.

Many have cried and prayed together since a gunman opened fire on the Texas Army post that sunny day in November 2009, killing 13 people and injuring more than two dozen others. Some of them celebrated Wednesday's announcement that Maj. Nidal Hasan would face a death sentence if convicted, though others were more solemn. Yet all said it was another step in their healing process.

"I'm glad I'm not the one deciding what happens to Hasan," said Leila Hunt Willingham, whose brother, Spc. Jason Dean "J.D." Hunt was killed while protecting civilian nurses during the shootings.

"People think the default (emotion) is always anger and revenge," she said. "No one seems to understand that the outcome of this will not bring any more peace or closure than what I can get on my own. No matter what happens to Hasan, my brother is still dead."

Fort Hood's commanding general, Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell, said Wednesday that Hasan would be tried in a military court and, if convicted, possibly be sentenced to death. The decision echoed the recommendations of two Army colonels who previously reviewed the case against the Army psychiatrist, who is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder.

"I believe the Army as an institution has long been planning to go this route," Hasan's lead attorney, John Galligan, said from his office near Fort Hood, about 125 miles south of Fort Worth.

Many relatives and friends of those who survived the attack applauded the decision. Staff Sgt. Jeannette Juroff, who was working in a nearby building that day and helped wounded soldiers, said the rampage deeply affected those at Fort Hood, a sprawling compound where tens of thousands of soldiers are stationed.

"If he's convicted and sentenced to death, maybe the (victims') families can get closure because he won't be here anymore and we'll no longer have to talk about him," Juroff said.

Keely Cahill Vanacker, whose father Michael Grant Cahill — the lone civilian killed that day — tried to stop the gunman with a chair, said she doesn't think about Hasan.

"This may be unusual and certainly not everyone's opinion, but worrying about what happens to the man who killed my father — I don't spend time thinking about it," Vanacker said, adding that she has "full faith in the prosecution team. There will be a fair trial and justice will be done."

A military judge has not been named to oversee the military trial, and it was not immediately clear when Hasan would be arraigned. Under military law, he must plead not guilty because it is a death penalty case.

Galligan, Hasan's lawyer, had urged Fort Hood's commander at a meeting in May not to seek the death penalty, saying such cases were more costly, time consuming and restrictive. In cases where death is not a punishment option for military jurors, soldiers convicted of capital murder are automatically sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

Galligan has declined to say whether he is considering an insanity defense for his client. He also has refused to disclose results of a military mental health panel's evaluation of Hasan. The three-member panel was asked to decide whether Hasan is competent to stand trial, if he had a severe mental illness that day and, if so, whether that prevented him from knowing at the time that his alleged actions were wrong.

Hasan, 40, was paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by police the day of the rampage. He remains in the Bell County jail, which houses defendants for nearby Fort Hood.

Hasan has attended several brief court hearings and an evidentiary hearing last fall that lasted about two weeks. He sometimes took notes during that hearing and showed no reaction as 56 witnesses testified, including more than two dozen soldiers who survived gunshot wounds.

Witnesses testified that a gunman wearing an Army combat uniform shouted "Allahu Akbar!" — which is Arabic for "God is great!" — and started shooting in a small but crowded medical building where deploying soldiers are vaccinated and undergo other tests. The gunman fired rapidly, pausing only to reload, even shooting some people as they hid under tables or fled the building, witnesses said.

The gunman fatally shot two people who tried to stop him by throwing chairs, and killed three soldiers who were protecting civilian nurses, according to testimony.

Most of the witnesses identified the gunman as Hasan, an American-born Muslim who was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan the following month. Before the attack, Hasan bought a laser-equipped semiautomatic handgun and repeatedly visited a firing range, where he honed his skills by shooting at the heads on silhouette targets, witnesses testified during the hearing.