Thursday, January 18, 2018
News Roundup

Army says Fort Hood shooter saw no combat in Iraq

WASHINGTON — The Army's top civilian official says the soldier accused in the Fort Hood shooting this week was deployed for the final months of the Iraq war but did not see combat.

Three people died and 16 were wounded before the shooter committed suicide.

Army Secretary John McHugh testified Thursday that the soldier appeared to have no connections to extremist groups.

The soldier is identified by others as Ivan Lopez. He enlisted in the Army in June 2008 as an infantryman and later switched his specialty to truck driver, the job he had in Iraq.

McHugh says the soldier was examined by a psychiatrist last month and was found to show no violent or suicidal tendencies. He says the soldier had been prescribed Ambien for a sleeping problem.

Within hours of the Wednesday attack, investigators started looking into whether the man's combat experience had caused lingering psychological trauma. Fort Hood's senior officer, Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, said the gunman had sought help for depression, anxiety and other problems.

Among the possibilities investigators planned to explore was whether a fight or argument on the base triggered the attack.

"We have to find all those witnesses, the witnesses to every one of those shootings, and find out what his actions were, and what was said to the victims," said a federal law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity, because he was not authorized to discuss the case by name.

The official said authorities would begin by speaking with the man's wife, and expected to search his home and any computers he owned.

Lopez apparently walked into a building Wednesday afternoon and began firing a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol. He then got into a vehicle and continued firing before entering another building, but he was eventually confronted by military police in a parking lot, according to Milley, senior officer on the base.

As he came within 20 feet of an officer, the gunman put his hands up but then reached under his jacket and pulled out his gun. The officer drew her own weapon, and the suspect put his gun to his head and pulled the trigger a final time, Milley said.

The gunman, who served in Iraq for four months in 2011, had been undergoing an assessment before the attack to determine if he had post-traumatic stress disorder, Milley said.

He arrived at Fort Hood in February from another base in Texas. He was taking medication, and there were reports that he had complained after returning from Iraq about suffering a traumatic brain injury, Milley said. The commander did not elaborate.

The gunman was never wounded in action, according to military records, and there was no indication the attack was related to terrorism, Milley said. His weapon had been recently purchased locally and was not registered to be on the base, Milley said.

Lopez was from the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico and joined the island's National Guard in 1999. He went on a peace and security mission to Egypt's Sinai Peninsula in the mid-2000s, and left the National Guard in 2010 to join the U.S. Army, said Lt. Col. Ruth Diaz, spokeswoman for the Puerto Rico National Guard.

Those injured were taken to the base hospital and other local hospitals. At least three of the nine patients at Scott & White Memorial Hospital in Temple were listed in critical condition.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with all families involved," Diaz said. "There is loss on both sides here."

Wednesday's attack immediately revived memories of the 2009 shooting rampage on Fort Hood, the deadliest attack on a domestic military installation in U.S. history. Thirteen people were killed and more than 30 were wounded.

Until an all-clear siren sounded hours after Wednesday's shooting began, relatives of soldiers waited anxiously for news about their loved ones.

"The last two hours have been the most nerve-wracking I've ever felt," said Tayra DeHart, 33, who had earlier heard from her husband that he was safe but was waiting to hear from him again.

Brooke Conover, whose husband was on base at the time of the shooting, said she found out about it while checking Facebook. She immediately called her husband, Staff Sgt. Sean Conover.

"I just want him to come home," she said.

President Barack Obama vowed a complete investigation. In a hastily arranged statement while in Chicago, Obama reflected on the sacrifices Fort Hood troops have made — including enduring multiple tours to Iraq and Afghanistan.

"They serve with valor. They serve with distinction, and when they're at their home base, they need to feel safe," Obama said Wednesday. "We don't yet know what happened tonight, but obviously that sense of safety has been broken once again."

Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan was convicted last year for the November 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood. According to trial testimony, he walked into a crowded building, shouted "Allahu Akbar!" — Arabic for "God is great!" — and opened fire. The rampage ended when Hasan was shot in the back by base police officers.

Hasan, now paralyzed from the waist down, is on death row at the military prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. He has said he acted to protect Islamic insurgents abroad from American aggression.

After that shooting, the military tightened base security nationwide. That included issuing security personnel long-barreled weapons, adding an insider-attack scenario to their training, and strengthening ties to local law enforcement. The military also joined an FBI intelligence-sharing program aimed at identifying terror threats.

In September, a former Navy man opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard, leaving 13 people dead, including the gunman. After that shooting, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the Pentagon to review security at all U.S. defense installations worldwide and examine the granting of security clearances that allow access to them.

Asked Wednesday about security improvements in the wake of the shootings, Hagel said: "Obviously when we have these kinds of tragedies on our bases, something's not working."

Comments
Lightning falls to Golden Knights

Lightning falls to Golden Knights

TAMPA — The door to the Lightning dressing room remained closed a little longer than usual Thursday night, and that wasn’t surprising.After the kind of performance displayed in its 4-1 loss to the expansion Golden Knights, this had players-only meeti...
Updated: 29 minutes ago

High school scoreboard for Jan. 18

Thursday’s scoreboardGirls basketballNortheast 64, Largo 24Boys soccerIndian Rocks Chr. 3, Berkeley Prep 2Palm Harbor U. 7, Tarpon Springs 0Girls soccerCountryside 5, Pinellas Park 0Palm Harbor U. 5, Tarpon Springs 1...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Police presence at Martin Luther King Jr. Day after-party raises ire

Police presence at Martin Luther King Jr. Day after-party raises ire

ST. PETERSBURG — One after another, speakers stepped to the lectern at City Hall on Thursday and described the same image: police cruisers on every corner in Midtown, uniformed officers lined up across the roadway, souring what should have been a joy...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Tampa Bay record lows burst pipes, threaten berry and fish farms

Tampa Bay record lows burst pipes, threaten berry and fish farms

In winters past, when they ran the irrigation system at Parkesdale Farms to preserve the berry crop in a protective shell of ice, the icicles measured inches.But on Wednesday night, one of the coldest nights in years, the icicles hung more than a foo...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Crystal Lagoon planners cut the ribbon on a chilly day (w/video)

Crystal Lagoon planners cut the ribbon on a chilly day (w/video)

WESLEY CHAPEL — Mother Nature seems to have a way of putting a chill on one of the hottest amenities in residential real estate development.Members of the business community, elected officials and executives with Metro Development Group and Crystal L...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Booty and books on Blackbeard’s ship; critics warn new Trump offic would allow doctors to discriminate; more in U.S. news

Booty and books on Blackbeard’s ship; critics warn new Trump offic would allow doctors to discriminate; more in U.S. news

North CarolinaBooty and books on boardDead men tell no tales, but there’s new evidence that somebody aboard the pirate Blackbeard’s flagship harbored books among the booty. In an unusual find, researchers have discovered shreds of paper bearing legib...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Consumer agency to spend rainy day funds

NEW YORK — The Trump-appointed acting director of the federal government’s consumer watchdog agency requested zero dollars of funding for its second-quarter budget, saying he intends to first spend down the agency’s rainy day fund. In a letter to the...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Man free on bail during DUI manslaughter appeal arrested for drinking alcohol

Man free on bail during DUI manslaughter appeal arrested for drinking alcohol

A Tampa man convicted of DUI manslaughter for drunkenly running down a tourist and released on bail while his case winds through the appeals process was arrested Tuesday.Brock Troutman, 34, violated the conditions of his release from jail by consumin...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Family recalls troubled youth for teen killer, now 39, who seeks new sentence

Family recalls troubled youth for teen killer, now 39, who seeks new sentence

TAMPA — The bearded man with shackled hands sat weeping as he listened to witness after witness — his mother, aunt and sister among them — recount his childhood of poverty, abuse, and depression.Kyle Moran leaned forward occasionally, stretching to w...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Tropical Breeze patron rides shuttle to check on crew

Tropical Breeze patron rides shuttle to check on crew

PORT RICHEY — Loretta Santini was one of a small group of customers boarding a Tropical Breeze Casino shuttle Thursday afternoon as the company sailed for the first day since another of its shuttle boats burned to the water Sunday, killing one woman....
Updated: 7 hours ago