Wilfredo Ramirez Lopez didn't notice anything out of the ordinary when he last saw Ivan Lopez, which was at the funeral for Lopez's mother, Carmen, last year. Aside from normal grief, Ramirez Lopez said, the 34-year-old soldier seemed normal.
Lopez was stationed at Ft. Bliss in El Paso at the time, as was Ramirez Lopez's son. He told Lopez to contact his son if he needed someone to talk to.
Ramirez Lopez, 69, awoke Thursday to the news that Ivan Lopez had gone on a shooting rampage at Ft. Hood, killing three people and himself and leaving 16 people injured.
Ramirez Lopez was shocked. He has lived next door to Lopez’s parents for more than a decade in a quiet neighborhood of Guayanilla, Puerto Rico.
“When they gave the name of Ivan Lopez, everyone here was surprised,” he said.
Ramirez Lopez said he did not know that Lopez had complained about traumatic brain injury after a four-month stint in Iraq. He had heard through news outlets that Lopez was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Lopez was upset that the Army had given him less than two days to attend his mother's funeral, according to a Lopez family spokesman. Carmen Lopez had died of a heart attack in November. His grandfather had died a month before.
“They should have given him three or four days,” Ramirez Lopez said. “The death of his grandfather earlier and the death of his mother, those things can really affect a person.”
Ramirez Lopez, a Vietnam War veteran, said many soldiers returning from war suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, which he said could have played a role in Lopez’s actions. Lopez was deployed to Iraq in 2011 but did not see combat.
“We’re not taking care of veterans when they come back from the war,” he said. “It happened to me, but I was able to work through it. Maybe he couldn’t and look at the tragedy that has happened.”
He said he has not communicated with the Lopez family, who were not home Thursday.
Lopez’s sister, Ivanis, said on her Facebook page she was too upset to comment.
"I'm completely devastated," she wrote in Spanish. "I will not be able to respond to messages. Thank you for your condolences."
Guayanilla Mayor Edgardo Arlequin Velez expressed sadness.
“We’re united in the grief that has overcome the family of [Ivan] Lopez and our town,” he said. “Our deepest condolences on the tragedy that has occurred. Strength for all.”
Meanwhile, in El Paso, the wife of a soldier who knew Lopez when he was stationed at Ft. Bliss said she remembered him as a quiet person with an appetite for street food. She sold him pasteles filled with green plantains, sweet rice and vegetable fritters called alcapurrias.
“I remember him like an awesome person,” she said, speaking on condition of anonymity because members of the military have been told not to discuss Lopez. “I didn’t know his wife, but he was always talking about her, his daughter Angelique and his [family] in Puerto Rico. This is really hard for all of us that shared with him here in Bliss.”