KILLEEN, Texas - Four people were dead, including a gunman, and at least 11 others were wounded in a shooting at Ft. Hood, officials said Wednesday. The base was locked down for about four hours, until a siren sounded shortly before 9 p.m. to end the lockdown.
At least two of the injured had multiple gunshot wounds, a hospital spokesman said. A U.S. military official said at least 11 other people had been wounded, but cautioned that the numbers could change.
Texas Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told CNN he had been told that four people were dead, including the shooter, and that 14 were hurt. He said the incident was not related to terrorism.
The shooting began shortly after 5 p.m., when Ft. Hood tweeted and broadcast an alarm that all personnel should take shelter. The sprawling military base went on lockdown while investigators tried to determine whether there was a second gunman.
The U.S. military official said the shooter was an enlisted soldier named Ivan Lopez, who is dead, but it’s unclear whether he shot himself or was killed by military police. Three others are dead, the official said, noting that that number could change as well. That official said no motive was known as yet.
A spokesman for one of the hospitals where the wounded have been sent, Scott & White Memorial Hospital in Temple, Texas, said their conditions ranged from stable to critical. Two victims have multiple gunshot wounds, he said.
The base north of Austin was the site in 2009 of the deadliest mass shooting at a military base in U.S. history.
President Obama, who was in Chicago, said late Wednesday that he was “heartbroken something like this might have happened again.”
“We’re following it closely. The situation is fluid right now ... I want to just assure all of us we are going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened,” said the president, flanked by an American flag as he addressed reporters inside a Chicago steakhouse.
The chaos began in late afternoon at the base just outside Killeen, a town of 127,000 residents, including many military members and their families. A stream of police cars arrived at the base 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 people on base to close doors and stay away from windows.
Spc. Cody Bishop, 28, said his company of about 140 soldiers was in formation on a training exercise when the order came to “shelter in place.”
“We were standing in formation,” he said. “They suddenly called everybody inside. They said stay inside. You can’t even go outside.”
Bishop said soldiers immediately gathered around television sets to try to learn what was going on. “We’ve got four different news channels on and getting four different reports,” he said not long after the shooting broke out. He texted his wife, with whom he lives off base with his son, that he was OK.
Staff Sgt. Randell Traxler, posted at Ft. Hood since 2007, said cellular networks were overloaded as base residents made frantic phone calls looking for information.
“Our phones keep ringing. There’s nonstop texting,” he said.
Traxler has spoken to several fellow service members. Their emotions, he said, range “from people that are happy that it wasn’t me, to people who think that [base commanders] could have done something [to intervene].
Ft. Hood, he said, has a longstanding policy of allowing only military police and security contractors to carry weapons on base, but a number of soldiers have been arguing that they should be allowed to carry their weapons.
The deadly Nov. 5, 2009, incident occurred when 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 the Soldier Readiness Processing Center, where troops deploying to or returning from Iraq and Afghanistan were waiting to see doctors.
Witnesses said Hasan shouted “God is great” in Arabic before opening fire. Armed with two pistols, Hasan shot more than 40 people before military and civilian police responded. Hasan was wounded by a civilian policewoman, who was also injured in the exchange of fire. Hasan was paralyzed and now uses a wheelchair.
Hasan, a Muslim, was motivated by a “jihad duty” to kill soldiers, prosecutors argued at his military court-martial last year.
Hasan admitted to the court that he killed the soldiers and one civilian because his religious convictions had led him to switch sides and take U.S. lives. He acted as his own attorney, rarely challenging prosecutors. During opening arguments, Hasan said he had a duty to kill fellow soldiers to save fellow Muslims.
He was convicted and sentenced to death, and is now confined to the military prison at Ft. Leavenworth in Kansas.
Killeen was the scene of another mass shooting nearly two decades earlier. In 1991, a man smashed his pickup through the front window of Luby’s Cafeteria, firing on a lunchtime crowd with a high-powered pistol. The gunman, George Hennard, killed 22 people and wounded at least 20 others.