FORT HOOD, Texas — The relaxed and professional bearing of the guards at Fort Hood's main gate Thursday belied the brutal violence that struck this sprawling Army post only hours earlier when a soldier killed three people and wounded 16 others before turning the gun on himself.
Distant howls of coyotes cut into the eerie quiet at the tragic scene, which only five years ago had suffered the worst attack on a domestic U.S. military installation in history. On Nov. 5, 2009, Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan went on a shooting rampage that left 13 dead and 31 wounded.
Parts of the Army base, with two full divisions and more than 40,000 soldiers the nation's largest active-duty armored post, resemble any typical suburban neighborhood. Such violence would seem totally out of place, although the streets bear names such as Tank Destroyer Blvd. and Hell on Wheels Ave.
Now, Fort Hood is reeling from another bloody attack. Once again the suspected gunman came from within the Army's ranks, a soldier identified by U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas as Spc. Ivan Lopez.
Although it appears much of Fort Hood is returning to business as usual, all physical training for soldiers has been cancelled for Thursday and they have been ordered to report to their units at 10 a.m. Chaplains have setup family counseling centers at the Spirit of Fort Hood Chapel and nearby Scott & White Hospital.
Krystina Cassidy and Dianna Simpson attempt to make contact with their husbands who are stationed at Fort Hood. (Photo: Tamir Kalifa, AP)View FullscreenNext Slide
Hospital spokeswoman Deontrea Jones said it had received eight of the wounded, including seven males and one female. All were in intensive care late Wednesday, three in critical condition and five in serious condition.
Officials did not say what might have motivated Lopez to kill his fellow soldiers and commit suicide. They do not suspect terrorism, but have not ruled it out either.
Lopez had a history of mental-health problems, according to Army officials. He was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder, but had not yet been diagnosed for the illness.
"We do know that this soldier had behavioral health and mental health issues and was being treated for that," said Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, head of the Army's III Corps at the Texas post.
Lopez was married and "does have family," Milley said.
A federal law enforcement official told the Associated Press that investigators will interview the gunman's wife, search his home, and examine whether his combat experience caused lingering psychological trauma.
"We're heartbroken something like this might have happened again,'' President Obama said in Chicago, after being briefed on the events.
A statement from the White House said the Department of Defense with lead the investigation with support from the FBI and state and local law enforcement.
Milley said the shooter walked into a building on the post at about 4 p.m.and opened fire with a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol. He then got into a car, fired more shots, went to another building and began shooting. When a military police officer encountered him and drew her weapon, the shooter turned the gun on himself.
Contributing: William Cummings and John Bacon in McLean, Va.; William Welch in Los Angeles; Yamiche Alcindor in New York; The Associated Press