Officials comb suspect’s belongings
President to attend Fort Hood memorial
FORT HOOD, Texas – Military and federal officials investigating Thursday’s mass shooting at this sprawling Army base spent the weekend poring over evidence they seized from the apartment of the alleged shooter, Army Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, including his computer and multiple e-mail accounts he may have controlled, according to a law enforcement source.
Investigators have interviewed more than 120 witnesses and plan to question dozens more as they try to piece together what might have motivated Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, to gun down 12 soldiers and one civilian, U.S. Army officials said.
Hasan was sitting with hundreds of other soldiers, filling out paperwork in a cubicle, when he suddenly stood up and opened fire, said Army officials. More than a dozen of those who were killed and wounded on Thursday were soldiers who were close to deploying with him and would have served alongside him in Afghanistan as mental health professionals.
Of the 38 who were injured Thursday, fewer than half remain hospitalized. Two victims remain in the surgical critical unit.
In recent days Army, FBI and police investigators have sought out witnesses at Fort Hood, the mosque where Hasan prayed, his apartment complex located in nearby Killeen, and the gun store where he bought the firearm that officials said he used in the attack.
Investigators have so far released no information that would link the case to a terrorist group. Texas Gov. Rick Perry told reporters at a news conference Saturday that the shooting was an “isolated” incident.
The flurry of investigative activity to determine a motive for the shootings was a stark contrast to the Fort Hood base, where life returned quickly to normal. At the Army base, which is full of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there were no makeshift memorials, yellow ribbons or black armbands that have become a regular part of the mourning process in the United States after most mass killings. The only signs that there had been a shooting three days earlier were the federal and Army investigators culling evidence near the processing center where the violence had occurred and the flags at the base, which were still at half-staff.
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will fly to Fort Hood on Tuesday to attend a memorial service for the shooting victims.
Investigators fanned out Saturday to interview members of the Muslim community living in the neighborhood around the Islamic Center of Greater Killeen, which was founded decades ago by retired veterans from Fort Hood. Investigators also have interviewed the leaders of the mosque. “Many of them have come,” said president Manzoor Farooqi, a pediatrician, “but what can we really tell them?”
Some acquaintances of Hasan have described the Army psychiatrist as a devout Muslim, saying he even refused to be photographed with female soldiers. But Farooqi said Hasan came to pray only occasionally at the red-brick building. In May, Hasan indicated that he had “no religious preference” on an Army personnel form, called an Officer Record Brief, which he filled out in preparation for his deployment to Afghanistan.
Investigators also focused on Guns Galore, a firearms store just down the highway from the mosque. Store owner David Cheadle said federal agents interviewed him about the sale of an FN Herstal Five-Seven pistol that was used in the shootings. “It is a popular choice for personal defense,” Cheadle said, pulling one from his case, “but it’s expensive” – more than $1,100 at his store.
Made of lightweight polymer construction, the gun can handle magazines with 20 or 30 rounds. It is a controversial weapon among gun control advocates because the weapon can penetrate body armor when used with more powerful, but restricted, ammunition employed by law enforcement and the military.
An Army official said the suspect had fired more than 100 rounds before he was felled by two Army civilian police officers, Sgt. Kimberly Munley and Sgt. Mark Todd.
Members of Hasan’s family, split between the United States and their ancestral home on the outskirts of Ramallah in the West Bank, said they were struggling to reconcile the murderous Fort Hood attack with a man they knew as unassuming and seemingly dedicated to his military career.
The deaths of Hasan’s mother in 2001 and father seemed to have a profound impact on him.
“He became religious after the death of his mother. Before that, he was more secular,” said Hasan’s cousin, Mohammed Mounif Hasan, in the West Bank. The cousin and other family members said that in recent years, Hasan had begun complaining about the perceived prejudice of soldiers he was treating.
“They would complain that he was Muslim and they were coming from Iraq. He never went into details – just in general that they were critical of him,” the cousin said.