by Maggie Ybarra and Kelly Riddell
FORT HOOD, TEXAS – An Iraq veteran who was being diagnosed for mental issues killed three people and then himself in another shooting rampage at the same Texas Army base where 13 people were killed in a 2009 murder spree.
Three soldiers were killed and 16 others injured, according to Lt. Gen. Mark Milley in a press conference Wednesday night.
The gunman used a 45-caliber Smith and Wesson semi-automatic gun to carry out the assault, and then later turned the gun on himself after being pursued by a female law enforcement officer in a parking lot.
The shooter’s gun was recently purchased and not registered on the Army base, according to Gen. Milley.
The Army has decided not to release the soldier’s name at this time, but Rep. Michael McCaul, Texas Republican and chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, identified the gunman as Spc. Ivan Lopez as did several news outlets.
No victims were officially identified either.
No motive is known, but Gen. Milley said the gunman was on medication, “had behavior and mental-health issues and was being treated” for depression, anxiety and related matters.
The commanding general said the attacker had not been diagnosed as suffering from PTSD though he was in the process of being diagnosed. He had served four months in Iraq in 2011 and arrived at Fort Hood in February.
The gunman had self-reported “a traumatic brain injury” from Iraq, Gen. Milley said, though he added that the gunman was not considered as having been “wounded in action” and had not received the customary Purple Heart.
Department of Defense officials are working with the FBI to comb through all social media, including Facebook and Twitter to look for any potential leads, he said.
There is “no indication this incident is related to terrorism, although we’re not ruling it out,” Gen. Milley said.
According to Rep. John Carter, Texas Republican and chairman of the Homeland Security appropriations subcommittee, the gunman worked at Fort Hood as a truck driver.
Gen. Milley said the gunman went to one building and fired, drove to another while firing and being fired upon, then went to another building and fired on people again, before being confronted in a parking lot by Fort Hood military police.
In that confrontation, a female officer brandished her weapon at him, the killer put up his hands, reached inside his clothes to pull out his gun and shot himself in the head.
The whole series of attacks lasted 10-15 minutes, the general estimated. The base remained on lockdown until just before 10 p.m. EDT, more than five hours after the first shots were fired.
The injured were taken to Carl R. Darnall Medical Center on base and to Scott and White Memorial Hospital in nearby Temple, the region’s principal trauma center.
Eight victims were hospitalized at Scott and White with wounds to their extremities, abdomen, chest and neck, in conditions ranging from stable to severe.
Three victims remain in critical condition with five more in serious condition, the hospital said Wednesday night. All had single gunshot wounds.
In 2009, Maj. Malik Nidal Hasan attacked the base in a similar manner, killing 12 soldiers and one civilian, and wounding another 30 people, in an assault he said he was inspired by al Qaeda and radical Islamist imams. He was sentenced to death for those attacks last year.
“For the second time in five years Fort Hood has been struck by tragedy. As a central Texan, this hits hard and hits home,” Mr. McCaul said in a statement. “I join all Americans in offering my thoughts and prayers during this tragic time to those affected by this shooting, especially the victims and their families.”
In a statement Wednesday night, President Obama alluded to the Hassan shootings, saying that the country was “heartbroken that something like this might have happened again.”
“We are going to get to bottom of what happened. Any shooting is troubling. Obviously this reopens the pain of what happened at Fort Hood five years ago. We know these families, we know their incredible service to our country and the sacrifices that they make,” he said urging Americans to “keep the families of Fort Hood in our thoughts and our prayers.”
Wednesday’s incident came a day after Fox News reported the FBI and military were searching for an Army recruit said to be planning a “Fort Hood-inspired jihad against U.S. soldiers,” in reference to the Hasan attack.
However, Fox later said there was “no connection” between that report and Wednesday’s shootings.
After the Nidal shooting, security improvements were ordered at U.S. military bases.
When Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was asked by reporters in Hawaii about those changes, he said “something’s not working.”
• Ben Wolfgang and Douglas Ernst contributed to this report.