FORT HOOD, Texas — A military mental health doctor facing deployment overseas opened fire at the Fort Hood Army post Thursday, setting off on a rampage that killed 12 people and left 31 wounded, Army officials said.
Authorities said immediately after the shootings that they had killed the suspected shooter, but later in the evening said that he was alive and in stable condition at a hospital, watched by a guard.
“His death is not imminent,” said Lt. Gen. Bob Cone at Fort Hood. He offered little explanation for the mistake, other than to say there was confusion at the hospital.
A law enforcement official identified the shooting suspect as Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly.
Investigators were trying to piece together how and why Hasan allegedly gunned down his comrades in the worst case of violence on a military base in the U.S. The rampage unfolded at a center where some 300 unarmed soldiers were lined up for vaccines and eye tests.
Soldiers reported that the gunman shouted “Allahu Akbar!” — an Arabic phrase for “God is great!” — before opening fire Thursday, said Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, the base commander. He said officials had not confirmed Hasan made the comment.
Hasan’s family said in a statement Friday that his alleged actions were deplorable and don’t reflect how the family was reared.
“Our family is filled with grief for the victims and their families involved in yesterday’s tragedy,” said Nader Hasan, a cousin who lives in northern Virginia. “We are mortified with what has unfolded and there is no justification, whatsoever, for what happened. We are all asking why this happened, and the answer is that we simply do not know.”
The wounded were dispersed among hospitals in central Texas. W. Roy Smythe, chairman of surgery at Scott and White Memorial Hospital, said several patients were still at “significant risk” of losing their lives. Army briefers told lawmakers in Washington that 38 people were wounded, eight more than officials had reported previously.
The dead included a pregnant woman who was preparing to return home, a man who quit a furniture company job to join the military about a year ago, a newlywed who had served in Iraq and a woman who had vowed to take on Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The violence was believed to be the worst mass shooting in history at a U.S. military base.
The shooting began around 1:30 p.m., when shots were fired at the base’s Soldier Readiness Center, where soldiers who are about to be deployed or who are returning undergo medical screening, Cone said.
It was unclear what the motive was, though it appeared he was upset about a scheduled deployment. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said the Army major was about to deploy overseas, though it was unclear if he was headed to Iraq or Afghanistan and when he was scheduled to leave. Hutchison said she was told about the upcoming deployment by generals based at Fort Hood.