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11/5/2009

L.A. Times Story as of 6:46 p.m. on 11-5-09

Filed under: — Patterico @ 11:15 pm

Fort Hood shooting: Suspected gunman not among fatalities
Major Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, is in custody in the rampage that left 12 dead and 31 injured in Texas.
Army shooting

A private is comforted outside Fort Hood Army base after the shooting deaths of at least a dozen people at a personnel and medical processing office and at a theater, both on base. (Ben Sklar / Getty Images)

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By Julian E. Barnes and Josh Meyer and Kate Linthicum

November 5, 2009 | 6:46 p.m.

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Reporting from Los Angeles and Washington – In an act of violence that sent shock waves through the American military establishment and raised questions about base security, a man armed with two handguns allegedly opened fire Thursday afternoon on the grounds of Ft. Hood, the country’s largest military base. Twelve people were killed and 31 others injured. The suspect, an Army psychologist, was shot and in custody. The base, home to about 70,000 soldiers and their families, was locked down.

Army officials identified the attacker as Nidal Malik Hasan, 39, a major who was recently promoted from captain and worked at the Darnall Army Medical Center, Ft. Hood’s hospital. Officials had previously reported that Hasan was among the dead.

Officials with access to Hasan’s records told the Associated Press that Hasan, who is single and has no children, worked at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for six years before being transferred to the Texas base in July. They said he received a poor performance evaluation while at Walter Reed.

FBI officials in Washington and in San Antonio said that they had not determined whether others were involved in the attack.

President Obama lamented the attack as a “horrific outburst of violence” and promised justice. “We are going to stay on this,” he said.

“These are men and women who have made the selfless decision” to protect the nation, Obama said of the victims. “It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army base on American soil.”

Shooting broke out around 1:30 p.m. local time at a personnel and medical processing office, said Lt. Col. Nathan Banks, an Army spokesman.

A second incident took place at a theater on the base, Banks said. One official who would not give his name said that a graduation had been scheduled for 2 p.m. at the theater.

The base was locked down after the shootings, and people who live there were told to lock their doors and windows. Families, so used to being separated during long deployments, were separated again in a situation that to many seemed surreal.

“My friend’s husband called her from Iraq and said, ‘Isn’t it sad that I am safer over here in Iraq than you are at home?’ ” said Jessica Sullens, 28, who had spent hours in a nearby Wal-Mart parking lot, where she had dashed on a midday errand. Her own husband, Cpl. Thomas Sullens and their 1- and 2-year old daughters were in lockdown on the base, he with his motor pool while the children were with a neighbor. “This is unreal to me,” Sullens said.

Army officials said they did not know whether the handguns used in the assault were military-issued service weapons or personal weapons.

The rules for carrying weapons on an Army post are standard throughout all bases, service officials said. The only personnel allowed to openly display weapons on the base are military police, Banks said. Service weapons are checked daily and are usually only allowed to be removed from an arms room for training on a range or maintenance. Personal weapons must be kept locked and registered with the base provost marshal. The military police keep a record of all of the weapons on a base, Army officials said.

Ft. Hood, which sprawls across 339 square miles of central Texas hill country, is the world’s largest military installation. It supports two full armored divisions — the 1st Cavalry Division and the 4th Infantry Division — and is home to more than 70,000 soldiers, civilian workers and family members. It is the largest single employer in Texas.

Base personnel have accounted for more suicides than any other Army post since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, with 75 tallied through July of this year. Nine of those suicides occurred in 2009, counting two in overseas war zones.

Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the Army’s deputy chief of staff, has been leading an effort to reduce the number of Army suicides, which has climbed sharply this year, possibly as a result from long and repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Three of the four brigades of the 1st Calvary Division are in Iraq. The three brigades — the first, second and third — are on their third Iraq tour. The division’s newest brigade, the fourth, has done two tours in Iraq, returning most recently in June.

Ft. Hood also is home to three of the brigades of the 4th Infantry Division. The fourth brigade is now in Afghanistan. The first brigade has done three tours in Iraq, returning most recently in March. The second brigade has also done three tours, returning most recently in September.

The military has not released the names of those who were wounded or killed.

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