Twelve people were killed and 31 others were wounded Thursday in a shooting rampage at the sprawling Fort Hood Army post in Central Texas, apparently by an Army officer firing two handguns.
The gunman, who was still alive after being shot several times, was identified by law-enforcement authorities as Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, 39, an Army psychiatrist who had been in the service since 1995 and was about to be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, according to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.
Hasan was apparently dressed in a military uniform when he sprayed bullets inside a crowded processing center for soldiers returning or about to be sent overseas.
As a parade of ambulances wailed to the scene of the shootings, officials said the extent of injuries to the wounded varied significantly, with some in critical condition and others slightly wounded. It was not immediately clear how many of the dead and wounded were soldiers.
Government officials called it the worst attack at a military installation in the United States in memory. It recalled other mass shootings, including 13 killed at a center for immigrants in upstate New York last April, the deaths of 10 during a gunman’s rampage in Alabama in March and 32 people killed at Virginia Tech in 2007, the deadliest shooting in modern American history.
As a widespread investigation by the military, the FBI, and other agencies began, much about the assault in Texas remained unclear, including the gunman’s motive. Department of Homeland Security officials said the Army would take the lead in the investigation.
President Barack Obama called the shootings “a horrific outburst of violence” and urged Americans to pray for those who were killed and wounded.
“It is difficult enough when we lose these men and women in battles overseas,” Obama said. “It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army base on American soil.”
He pledged “to get answers to every single question about this horrible incident.”
Military records indicated that Hasan, was unmarried, born in Virginia, had never served abroad and listed “no religious preference” on his personnel records. He opened fire on soldiers obtaining medical clearance before and after deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Two other soldiers, their roles unclear, were taken into custody in connection with the shootings. The office of Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, said they were later released, but a Fort Hood spokesman could not confirm that.
Fort Hood, near Killeen, 100 miles south of Dallas-Fort Worth, is the largest active duty military post in the United States, 340 square miles of training and support facilities and homes, a virtual city for more than 50,000 military personnel and some 150,000 family members and civilian support personnel. It has been a major center for troops being deployed or returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The base went into lockdown shortly after the shootings. Gates were closed and barriers put up at all entrance and exit checkpoints, and the military police turned away all but essential personnel. Schools on the base were closed, playgrounds were deserted and sidewalks were empty.