KILLEEN, Texas — Four people were killed, including the gunman, and 16 others were hurt Wednesday in a shooting rampage at Ft. Hood, which in 2009 was the scene of the deadliest mass shooting on a military base in U.S. history.
The gunman was a soldier, an Iraq war veteran who was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder, the military said at an evening news conference. Army Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, the base commander, refused to identify the gunman but said he had killed himself when confronted by a military policewoman.
Although investigators were ruling nothing out, Milley said, "at this time there is no indication that this incident is related to terrorism."
The FBI was assisting in the investigation.
At least two of the victims were shot multiple times in the abdomen and extremities. The most seriously injured were taken to two local hospitals, including Carl R. Darnall Medical Center, where their conditions ranged from stable to critical, a hospital spokesman said.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff in honor of the victims.
President Obama, informed of the shooting while on a visit to Chicago, vowed to get to the bottom of the incident. "Obviously this reopens the pain of what happened at Ft. Hood five years ago.... We're heartbroken something like this might have happened again," Obama said.
The chaos erupted in the late afternoon at the nation's largest military base, about 60 miles north of Austin. Ft. Hood officials broadcast and tweeted an alert that all personnel should "shelter in place." The base remained on lockdown until just before 9 p.m., when a siren sounded the all-clear.
A U.S. military official who spoke on condition of anonymity identified the gunman as Spc. Ivan Lopez.
In a late-night briefing, Milley said the shooter was at Ft. Hood being evaluated for PTSD, including anxiety and depression. Milley said the gunman was married with a family in the area.
The dead and wounded were all military personnel. A few of the injured had superficial wounds from shattered glass or cuts suffered while they scaled fences to flee the scene, Milley said.
Milley said the gunman, dressed in military fatigues, opened fire about 4 p.m. with a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol purchased recently in the area. The initial shots came inside the 1st Medical Brigade Area, he said, then the gunman got into a vehicle and went to a second building, where he also opened fire.
Within 15 minutes, military police responded. Milley said a female officer confronted the suspect in a parking lot near the second building. He approached the officer but stopped about 20 feet from her and put his hands up. Then, Milley said, the gunman reached into his jacket and pulled out his weapon. As the officer opened fire, the man shot himself in the head.
Word spread quickly around Ft. Hood and Killeen about Wednesday's shooting. At an apartment complex in northwest Killeen where the suspect lived, neighbors gathered in the courtyard to discuss the shooting. A woman whom one resident identified as the shooter's wife was extremely worried because she hadn't talked to her husband since 3 p.m. The neighbor, Xanderia Morris, said the woman feared her husband was one of the victims.
A group whom neighbors deduced were family arrived to comfort the woman. When she heard her husband's name in the news as the alleged shooter, she became hysterical, Morris said. "Everybody [in the family] broke down in tears," she said. The wife left the scene with police about 8 p.m., Morris said, and the family who had gathered to support her left separately.
Residents said the family — the couple and a 2-year-old girl — had moved into the complex a few weeks ago.
"He was always smiling whenever I'd see him," said Morris, who lives beneath the family. "The wife — she was really nice too but she didn't speak much English. Nobody knew them."
Soldiers who were on the base when the shooting broke out described the chaos. Spc. Cody Bishop, 28, said his company of about 140 soldiers was in formation on a training exercise late. Suddenly, a stream of police cars arrived as service members, followed by family members, congregated outside the gate. The 1st Cavalry Division, which is based at Ft. Hood, sent a Twitter alert telling on-base troops and others to close doors and stay away from windows.
"They suddenly called everybody inside," Bishop said. "They said stay inside."
Staff Sgt. Randell Traxler, stationed at Ft. Hood since 2007, said fellow service members' emotions ranged "from people that are happy that it wasn't [them] to people who think that [base commanders] could have done something" to intervene.
Ft. Hood, he said, allows only military police and security contractors to carry weapons on base, but some soldiers have been arguing that they should be allowed to carry their weapons.
On Nov. 5, 2009, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist set to be deployed to Afghanistan, shot and killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others at a processing center where troops deploying to or returning from foreign wars were waiting to see doctors.
Dressed in his military uniform, Hasan sprayed bullets with an automatic pistol and another weapon, shouting "God is great" in Arabic before opening fire, witnesses said.
Hasan, who is Muslim, was motivated by a "jihad duty" to kill soldiers, prosecutors argued at his court-martial. He was convicted last year in a subsequent military trial and sentenced to death.
Ft. Hood has been singled out for attacks in the past. In 2012, a federal judge in Texas sentenced a former soldier to two consecutive life sentences plus 60 years for plotting to bomb and shoot Ft. Hood soldiers the previous year. Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo told prosecutors that he remained committed as a Muslim to pursuing a holy war.
As recently as February, an FBI alert mentioned a possible suspect who made public threats against Ft. Hood. That person has a different name from the man suspected of Wednesday's shooting.
Milley said the base community would draw on its strength from the previous tragedy to get through the recent shooting.
Late Wednesday, a dozen soldiers who recently returned from Afghanistan huddled at the base visitor's center, trying to account for all 50 members in their unit. They called each one by cellphone, and one by one crossed them off the list of the missing as they reached them.
The soldiers had survived a war abroad, but nobody knew if they would all survive the war at home.
Zarembo reported from Texas, Hennessy-Fiske from Washington state and Glionna from Las Vegas. Times staff writers David S. Cloud, Richard A. Serrano, Matt Pearce and Paresh Dave contributed to this report.
Paresh Dave contributed to this report.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times