Fort Hood shooting suspect may be paralyzed

As investigations into the the Nov. 5 massacre at the Fort Hood, Tex. army base ensue, the military community deals with the realities of violence at home and abroad.
By Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 14, 2009

BELTON, TEX.-- The accused Fort Hood gunman has no feeling in his legs and may be paralyzed from the waist down, his attorney said Friday after visiting Maj. Nidal M. Hasan in his hospital room.

Retired Col. John Galligan, who has been hired by Hasan's family to defend him against murder charges, said the Army psychiatrist remains in the intensive care unit of a San Antonio military hospital, where he is in great pain, except for his legs.

"When I grabbed his leg, there was no feeling," Galligan said in an interview in his office here. He said he joined his military co-counsel, Maj. Christopher E. Martin, and a relative of Hasan in a sequence of visits Thursday night that lasted about an hour.

"Tears welled up in his eyes when his relative was there," Galligan said, declining to identify the relation for privacy reasons. "He is still very confused. He's not sitting up and carrying on conversations. His attention span is . . . limited."

Hasan was shot four times by civilian police during a Nov. 5 attack at Fort Hood that left 13 people dead and scores wounded. Army prosecutors charged him this week with premeditated murder. He allegedly opened fire on his unarmed victims with two handguns, taking more than 100 shots before he was stopped.

Galligan said he will seek a psychiatric evaluation of Hasan as he prepares to defend him. He noted the allegations that Hasan opened fire without warning in a Fort Hood waiting room and the comments of former colleagues that he sometimes seemed mentally unstable. "Mental responsibility" will be an issue, he said.

Galligan raised the question of where the evaluation would take place given that Hasan worked as a psychiatrist at Fort Hood and at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, two places that Galligan said he might normally rely upon.

Nor did he express confidence that commanders at Fort Hood could be impartial when responding to defense requests or judging a suspect accused of an act so shocking that it inspired wall-to-wall media coverage and a visit by President Obama to a memorial service at Fort Hood watched by millions. "Can we get a fair trial at Fort Hood?" Galligan asked. "If not, where can we get it?"

As the case develops, Galligan said, he intends to ask military commanders for money to hire an investigator. He also expects to seek a security clearance to review material developed in an inquiry ordered by Obama, who has asked to be told of everything the government knew about Hasan before the shooting.

Hasan, a Muslim, told colleagues and acquaintances before the shooting that he opposed the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and did not believe Muslims should be fighting on the side of the American military. Witnesses said he shouted, "Allahu Akbar!" or God is great, as he began firing.

Investigators are exploring his e-mail correspondence with a prominent anti-American Muslim cleric now based in Yemen and have seized computers and other documents belonging to Hasan. They also want to know how Hasan, who lived in a gritty neighborhood near Fort Hood, spent his Army major's salary.

The first Capitol Hill hearing into the killings is scheduled for Thursday, when the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee is to conduct a session titled "The Fort Hood Attack: A Preliminary Assessment."


© 2009 The Washington Post Company