Shootings at Fort Hood

Officials cast wide net in search for answers

By Greg Jaffe, Ann Gerhart and William Booth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 8, 2009

FORT HOOD, TEX . -- Military and federal officials investigating Thursday's mass shooting at this sprawling Army post 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 170 witnesses and plan to question more as they try to piece together what might have motivated Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, to gun down 12 soldiers and one civilian, 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 Thursday were soldiers who were close to deploying with him and would have served alongside him in Afghanistan as mental health professionals.

Two of those killed were captains; one was a psychologist who had come to America barely able to read English. Of the 38 who were injured Thursday, fewer than half remain hospitalized. Two victims remain in the surgical critical unit.

All evidence suggests that Hasan acted alone, said a spokesman for the Army's Criminal Investigative Division and investigators have released no information that would link the case to a terrorist group. Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) told reporters at a news conference Saturday that the shooting was an "isolated" incident, and President Obama, after being briefed by FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, cautioned that the public should not rush to judgment about the case.

In recent days Army, FBI and police investigators have sought out witnesses at Fort Hood, the mosque where Hasan prayed, his apartment complex in nearby Killeen and the gun store where he bought the firearm that officials said he used in the attack. Hasan, meanwhile, was moved Friday night to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, and is now breathing without a ventilator, an Army official said.

Returning to normal

The flurry of investigative activity to determine a motive for the shootings was a stark contrast to the Fort Hood post, where life returned to normal. At the Army post, 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 rampage 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 military installation, which were still at half-staff.

Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will fly to Fort Hood on Tuesday to attend a memorial service for the victims, the White House announced, delaying his trip to Asia by one day.

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 leaders of the mosque. "Many of them have come," said president Manzoor Farooqi, "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 only occasionally prayed at the red-brick building. In May, Hasan indicated he had "no religious preference" in an Army personnel form, called an Officer Record Brief, which he filled out in preparation for his deployment to Afghanistan.

The mosque's imam, Syed Ahmed Ali, last saw Hasan at 6 a.m. prayers on Thursday. The psychiatrist's behavior seemed normal, the imam said he told the FBI when agents questioned him Saturday. A few hours later, Fort Hood chaplains arrived at the mosque and invited Ali to attend Tuesday's memorial service with Obama.

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