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FT. HOOD SHOOTING

Motive sought after Ft. Hood attack

Army officials are investigating whether an argument may have spurred gunman Spc. Ivan Lopez.

April 04, 2014|Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Alan Zarembo and Adolfo Flores
  • Army Spc. Ivan Lopez, shown in an undated family photo, opened fire at Ft. Hood on Wednesday, killing three other service members and wounding 16 before turning the gun on himself.
Army Spc. Ivan Lopez, shown in an undated family photo, opened fire at Ft.… (Associated Press )

KILLEEN, TEXAS — After the sudden death of his mother in November, Army Spc. Ivan Lopez was upset that officials at Ft. Hood granted him less than two days to go home to Puerto Rico for her funeral.

Carmen Lopez's death from a heart attack came just a month after that of his grandfather.

Months later, the 34-year-old musician, father and decorated soldier posted a chilling message on his Facebook page about a robbery at his home, saying the devil had taken him and he was "full of hatred."

Lopez opened fire with a semiautomatic handgun, killing three fellow service members and wounding 16 others before turning the weapon on himself at Ft. Hood on Wednesday.

As investigators searched for a motive, a Lopez family spokesman said Thursday that the deaths of his mother and grandfather hit him hard.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday, April 05, 2014 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 58 words Type of Material: Correction
Ft. Hood shooter: An article in the April 4 Section A about the gunman in the April 2 shooting at Ft. Hood said Army Spec. Ivan Lopez was upset last fall when Ft. Hood officials granted him less than two days to attend his mother's funeral. At the time, Lopez was stationed at Ft. Bliss, not Ft. Hood.

"He was extremely upset that he wasn't able to spend more time with his mom," family spokesman Glidden Lopez Torres said. Lopez arrived home five days after his mother's death and couldn't even stay two full days, he said. "In less than a month, he lost his grandfather and his mother. But we can't confirm whether that had anything to do with what happened."

In Ft. Hood and on Capitol Hill, authorities Thursday gave new details of the shooting, the second at Ft. Hood since 2009, when Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others in the deadliest mass shooting on a military base in U.S. history.

Army Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, the commander of Ft. Hood, said the first 911 call came at 4:16 p.m., from two wounded soldiers. Lopez, dressed in military fatigues, stalked the crowded base with a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol, he said, apparently shooting at random targets, sending fellow service members scurrying for cover.

Milley officially confirmed Lopez's identity and said officials were investigating whether he had an argument with a fellow soldier that might have set off the bloodshed. "We do not have that definitively, but we do have strong indications of that," Milley said at a news conference.

The initial shots came inside the 1st Medical Brigade Area, Milley said. Then Lopez got into a vehicle and went to a second building, where he continued shooting.

Milley cited examples of heroism, including a base chaplain who shielded others and broke windows to help them escape.

A military police officer arrived four minutes after the 911 calls, he said. The gunman approached her, stopping about 20 feet away, and pulled the gun from his jacket, Milley said. As the officer opened fire, Lopez shot himself in the head, he said.

Although Milley refused to say whether the officer had hit Lopez, a witness who said he watched him die said he had been shot multiple times, in addition to the self-inflicted shot to the head.

Milley refused to release the officer's identity but said, "She clearly performed her duty exceptionally well."

Doctors said six of Lopez's victims had been treated and released. Ten remain hospitalized.

Officials were scouring Lopez's background for any medical, financial and marital issues that might have triggered the violence. "We have very strong evidence that he had a medical history that indicates unstable psychiatric or psychological conditions," Milley said. "We're going through all the records to make sure that is in fact correct."

Lopez returned after four months in Iraq in 2011, and some time later complained of an unspecified brain injury, even though officials said he saw no combat.

He was being treated for depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances. He'd been examined by a psychiatrist last month and was prescribed Ambien, among other drugs, and was undergoing evaluation for post-traumatic stress disorder, Army Secretary John McHugh told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

The soldier had a "clean record" that offered no signs to indicate he might hurt himself or others, and his background showed "no involvement with extremist organizations of any kind," McHugh said.

According to military records released Thursday, Lopez served with the National Guard in Puerto Rico from 1999 to 2010, receiving nine medals for achievement and good behavior. He had been an infantryman at Ft. Bliss, but was transferred to Ft. Hood as a truck driver shortly before the shooting.

"From what we have seen and heard from people who talked to him, all indications were that he was a good soldier," said Maj. Jamie Davis, deputy public affairs officer at the National Guard Bureau.

Lopez grew up in Guayanilla, a town on Puerto Rico's southeastern coast, part of a family of musicians who were active Roman Catholics. Lopez played percussion, family spokesman Lopez Torres said.

"He was always a very calm person, extremely reserved but at the same time very happy," Lopez Torres said, adding, "He came from a very happy family." Lopez is survived by his father, a sister and two brothers, in addition to his wife and 2-year-old daughter.

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