Fort Hood gunman had tests for post-traumatic stress
Army truck driver Ivan Lopez, who served in Iraq, had visited a psychiatrist last month
Bob Gordon (left) and Bob Butler paint crosses they placed in front of 16 American flags as they build a memorial in front of Central Christian Disciples of Christ church for the victims of the shooting at Fort Hood on April 3rd, 2014 in Killeen, Texas. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
The soldier who killed three people and wounded 16 at the Fort Hood military post in Texas on Wednesday before turning the gun on himself had visited a psychiatrist last month.
Army leaders testifying before a US Senate hearing yesterday said that the suspected gunman, named elsewhere as 34-year-old army truck driver Ivan A Lopez, was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder at the time of the shooting after serving in Iraq from August to December 2011.
Lopez opened fire with a semi-automatic pistol at a medical building on the military base in Killeen near Waco at about 4.30pm before getting into a vehicle from where he fired more shots and entered another building.
The Iraqi war veteran, who was being treated for depression and anxiety, shot himself when confronted by an armed female police officer, according to a report on NBC News.
Speaking before the Senate armed services committee, secretary of the army John McHugh said that Lopez was fully examined by a psychiatrist last month.
There had been no indication on the record from that examination that there was any sign of “likely violence either to himself or to others”, said Mr McHugh. “So the plan forward was to just continue to monitor and treat him as deemed appropriate.”
This is the second shooting rampage at Fort Hood in less than five years and the latest in a number of shootings on military and naval bases to have reopened the debate about access to firearms by the mentally ill and whether soldiers stationed on military bases should be allowed to arm themselves.
Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan, a self-radicalised jihadist, killed 13 people and injured more than 30 others in a killing spree at Fort Hood in November 2009 before he was shot and injured by police.
“We’re heartbroken something like this might have happened again,” US President Barack Obama said at an event in Chicago on Wednesday night.
A review conducted by military leadership at the Pentagon following the 2009 shootings advised the military to improve its ability to detect “insider threats” and better protect staff at military bases.
Texas congressman Roger Williams told Fox News that rules prohibiting guns on the Fort Hood military base should be examined in light of the latest shootings.
Senior Republican John Boehner, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, said that there was “no question” that mentally ill people should be prevented from buying guns.
“The issue we need to continue to look at [is] to find a way to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them,” he said.
Representative Michael McCaul, chairman of the House homeland security committee, also from Texas, identified Lopez, a native of Puerto Rico, as the alleged gunman on Wednesday night.
The suspect was a member of the Puerto Rican National Guard for nine years before joining the army.
“He was a very experienced soldier,” army chief of staff General Raymond Odierno told the congressional panel yesterday.
Speaking at the hearing, Mr McHugh said that the suspect was undergoing “a variety of treatment and diagnoses for mental conditions ranging from depression and anxiety to some sleep disturbance”.
He said Lopez had been prescribed drugs including the anti-insomnia drug Ambien.
Without identifying Lopez, Fort Hood’s commander, Lieutenant General Mark Milley, said that the gunman used a Smith & Wesson semi-automatic handgun in the shooting but that the weapon had not been issued by the military.
The weapon was not registered on the base as this was not an obligation for soldiers living outside the base. Lopez lived off the base with his wife, who has been questioned by investigators.
General Milley said that there were indications that Lopez had reported a traumatic brain injury when he returned from Iraq in 2011.
The Fort Hood killings come more than a week after a man shot a military police officer and was later killed himself after boarding a naval ship at Norfolk in Virginia.
Last September, 34-year-old military contractor Aaron Alexis, from Fort Worth, Texas, killed 12 people at a naval yard in Washington DC.