Four dead, including gunman, at Fort Head: officials


FORT HOOD: A gunman opened fire Wednesday at the US Army’s Fort Hood in an attack that left four dead, including the shooter, law enforcement officials said. One of the officials, citing official internal Justice Department updates, said 14 others were hurt. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to release information by name. The Texas Army base was the scene of a mass shooting in 2009. Thirteen people were killed and more than 30 wounded in what was the deadliest attack on a domestic military installation in history.

A US law enforcement official said reports circulating within the Justice Department indicate the shooter died of what appears to be a self-inflicted wound. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is still ongoing.

The Army said on its official Twitter feed that the post was still on lockdown. Injured people were being treated at the post’s Carl R. Darnall Medical Centre and other local hospitals.

Outside the base, some relatives of soldiers waited for news about their loved ones.

Tayra DeHart, 33, said she had last heard from her husband, a soldier at the post, that he was safe, but that was hours earlier.

“The last two hours have been the most nerve-wracking I’ve ever felt. I know God is here protecting me and all the soldiers, but I have my phone in my hand just hoping it will ring and it will be my husband,” DeHart said.

In Chicago, President Barack Obama vowed that investigators will get to the bottom of the shooting, seeking to reassure the nation whose sense of security once again has been shaken by mass violence.

In a hastily arranged statement, Obama said he and his team were following the situation closely but that details about what happened at the sprawling Army post were still fluid. He said the shooting brought back painful memories of the 2009 attack.

Obama reflected on the sacrifices that troops stationed at Fort Hood have made – including during multiple tours to Iraq and Afghanistan.

“They serve with valour, they serve with distinction and when they’re at their home base, they need to feel safe,” Obama said. “We don’t yet know what happened tonight, but obviously that sense of safety has been broken once again.”

The president spoke without notes or prepared remarks in the same room of a steakhouse where he had just met with about 25 donors at a previously scheduled fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee. White House officials quickly pushed tables to the side of the room to make room for Obama to speak to the nation.

Deadly history

On November 5, 2009, Major Nidal Hasan opened fire at a medical facility in the sprawling base that serves as a staging point for soldiers to deploy to combat zones.

Twelve of the 13 dead and 30 of the wounded were soldiers. Hasan was himself shot by a civilian police officer who responded to the attack and Hasan is now partially paralysed.

A military jury last August sentenced the US-born Muslim of Palestinian descent to death.

The Pentagon said Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel would be kept up to date “as events unfold” at Fort Hood, said a spokesman.

Fort Hood is spread out over almost 900 square kilometres, and is the largest US military base with a population of 70,000 including 42,000 military personnel.

The rest are family and civilian staff. The biggest unit stationed there is the 1st Cavalry Division with 17,000. One of its brigades is slated to be deployed in Europe this year on a rotating basis with European partner countries.

Shooting at US military facilities are not uncommon.

In September last year civilian contractor Aaron Alexis killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard with a sawed-off shotgun.

Just last month a 35-year-old gunman shot and killed a sailor on board the USS Mahan, a guided-missile destroyer, at Naval Station Norfolk, America’s largest naval base in Virginia.