Those are the opening salvos of Lopez’s April 2, 2014, attack on a sprawling Army base still smarting from a similar 2009 attack by another soldier, Maj. Nidal Hasan, that killed 13 people. By the time Lopez, 34, took his own life, he had killed three other people and injured at least 12 others, according to the results of an Army investigation released Friday.
“You better kill me now,” Lopez told a military police officer who approached him 10 minutes after the shooting began, the investigation found. “I was the shooter … kill me.”
Moments later, Lopez shot himself in the right side of the head with his pistol. The other soldiers he killed were identified as Sgt. Timothy Owens and Staff Sgt. Carlos Lazaney-Rodriguez.
Service officials found that while Lopez exhibited no warning signs that he could be violent, he had a long history of troubling behavior, financial difficulties and problems in his personal life that may have played a factor in his rampage.
Among his issues, Lopez had a history of deceiving others, investigators said. In one example, he claimed repeatedly that he had been exposed to an improvised explosive device attack in Iraq in December 2011, during the closing days of U.S. operations there. Investigators found that there is no evidence he was within the blast radius of the bomb, and was actually at least 700 meters away in another vehicle, based on interviews with other soldiers present.
Lopez also relayed a story to others about falling down a hill while in his combat gear in Iraq and hitting his head, witnesses told investigators. Other soldiers he deployed with questioned whether that was possible, saying that his unit did not conduct any patrols at night on large hills and that it would been difficult for him to disappear for several minutes, as he had claimed.
Lopez, who married his second wife in 2010, also maintained a secret second Facebook account under the name Anthony Drako through which he communicated with other women and claimed to be an Army sniper who had traveled to the Central African Republic and other countries, the investigation found. Army officials said that while it isn’t clear if he met these women, “it is reasonable to conclude that concealing these relationships from his family was a source of additional stress.” One of the women listed herself as married to him on her own Facebook page.
Lopez also struggled with a language and cultural barriers. A native of Puerto Rico, he spoke mostly Spanish. Some witnesses told Army investigators that he struggled to communicate in English, while others contended that he used the language barrier as a way to get out of work. Regardless, his immediate enlisted leaders struggled to learn much about him, the Army found.
In the year prior to the attack, Lopez also sought treatment for a variety of medical and behavioral health-related issues, the Army found. In July 2013, he was reclassified as a motor transport operator after expressing “discomfort” with remaining an infantryman and repeatedly visiting Army doctors for the same undisclosed physical ailment.
Lopez also was struggling with his career in other ways. In December 2012, he became a team leader, but was moved shortly thereafter to another soldier’s team because a private first class — a soldier in his squad junior to him in rank — was viewed to be more qualified for the job, the Army investigation found. If he was overlooked for promotion to sergeant again, he could have faced involuntary separation in June 2016, Army officials said.
Lopez’s move to Fort Hood came shortly before the shooting, and after his grandfather and mother died within six weeks of each other in October and November 2013. He took emergency leave to bury his mother in Puerto Rico, and was reassigned from another base, Fort Bliss, Tex., around the same time, Army officials said.
After arriving at Fort Hood, Lopez — who is referred in the report by his apparent full surname, Lopez-Lopez — moved into an apartment off base in Killeen, but did not tell his his commanders that his wife and daughter were still living with her mother in Odessa, Tex. The day of the shooting, he told a higher-ranking enlisted leader, a first sergeant, that his apartment in Killeen had been broken into and that he needed time off to find another place to live. Both claims were found to be untrue, investigators found.
“What SPC Lopez-Lopez told (and did not tell) his leaders determined how they assessed his issues and tried to help him address them,” the Army investigation report states. “Thus, SPC Lopez-Lopez’s credibility and the reliability of his statements are of central importance to this investigation.”
Army officials said in the report that there “are several indications” that Lopez was working to build justification to receive disability payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs, although they stopped short of saying there was evidence to confirm he was faking injuries.
“It remains true that leaders are accountable for all that happens or fails to happen in their units, and SPC Lopez-Lopez’s leaders have been held accountable in the truest sense of the word,” the report concludes. “During this investigation, they were called to account for their actions on 2 April and before, and they have done so with great cooperation, candor, and introspection. SPC Lopez-Lopez alone was responsible for his actions, and no one else should bear that responsibility. We find no further accounting is necessary.”