FT. HOOD, Texas — Retired Staff Sgt. Shawn Manning had dreaded returning to this central Texas Army base for the first time this week to testify against the man who he says shot him and dozens of fellow soldiers back in 2009.
Manning, an Army mental health counselor from Lacey, Wash., had been mentally preparing himself for weeks to face his alleged attacker, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. He did not expect to walk away from the court hearing with closure — he says even a conviction would not right the wrong that was done that day. Manning has sued the government to classify the attack as an act of terrorism so that he and other victims will be compensated accordingly.
What Manning wanted, he said, was to remain composed. He knew Hasan had been representing himself at his court-martial, which entitled him to cross-examine Manning and other witnesses.
On Friday, Manning walked into court wearing a dark suit and accompanied by his wife, who took a seat in the gallery as he continued walking, past the defendant and onto the stand, where he locked eyes with Hasan.
Hasan’s court-martial was entering its fourth day, with graphic testimony from Manning and other victims — and the introduction into evidence of bullet fragments recovered from victims.
Hasan, 42, an Army psychiatrist, is defending himself against 13 charges of premeditated murder and 32 charges of attempted premeditated murder.
In Manning’s testimony Friday, he walked the military jury of 13 officers, all Hasan’s rank or higher, through events the day of the shooting.
Manning had been preparing for his third deployment, and was at Ft. Hood’s soldier readiness processing center for treatment when he heard someone shout “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great” in Arabic.
“That’s when I saw Hasan start shooting — basically in a left-right motion, firing as fast as he can,” Manning said.
Before the military prosecutor had a chance to ask, Manning turned to face Hasan and pointed.
The prosecutor asked him to identify Hasan again, and Manning repeated the gesture.
Manning told the jury that soon after the shooting started, he felt a bullet strike his chest. He had trouble breathing. He dropped to the ground to take cover, but kept getting shot — first in his right leg, then his foot.
Manning played dead.
“I figured the shooter would finish me off if he saw that I was alive,” he said.
He felt his lungs filling with blood, and managed to flee the building. As he left, he caught sight of a body: Capt. John Gaffaney, 56, of San Diego. They had been scheduled to deploy to Iraq together.
Recalling that moment Friday, Manning faltered. But then he continued, telling jurors how many times he had been shot: six times, with one bullet narrowly missing his heart. He still has bullets lodged in his thigh and back, he said.
Finally, about 15 minutes after Manning took the stand, the moment came — would Hasan cross-examine him?
Hasan declined, as he had with many others. Manning kept his cool. He stepped down, walked past Hasan again, and left court with his wife.
Since the trial started, 44 witnesses have testified. Prosecutors originally planned to call as many as 270 witnesses, and the judge has said she expects the trial to last at least a month.
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