Last August, Killeen police officers visited area businesses and restaurants asking staff to keep their eyes open for any suspicious behavior.
A flyer police handed out encouraged businesses to establish security procedures and a “threat alert system.”
The reason for the beefed-up security was the looming trial of the accused Fort Hood shooter, Maj. Nidal Hasan. The major’s original trial date of Aug. 20, 2012, was eventually canceled after a back-and-forth chess match between his defense attorneys, the prosecution and the former judge in the case, who was removed due to his unwavering persistence that Hasan must shave his ever-growing beard.
The delay in the trial, however, shouldn’t downplay the Fort Hood and Killeen area’s vigilance when it comes to being on the lookout for possible threats.
One only needs to glance at the walls of the war-like defenses that surround the Lawrence J. Williams Judicial Center on post — the venue that will host the trial — to see that the Army is serious about keeping the trial safe from would-be attackers.
And guess what, folks? It’s that time again.
Jury selection in Hasan’s trial is set to start May 30, with testimony beginning a month or so later. Short of a major catastrophe, I don’t see anything — Hasan’s beard included — delaying the start of the trial. The time is now for the public to keep its eyes and ears open when it comes to being on the watch for possible threats.
While the courthouse may be an impenetrable fortress, there are far more easy targets that a would-be terrorist or Hasan-sympathizer could attack. I don’t think an attack is imminent or even likely, but it’s a possibility we shouldn’t ignore.
In fact, a real terror threat connected to Hasan happened in July 2011 with the actions of a twisted AWOL soldier. Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo had been stationed in Fort Campbell, Ky., before coming to Killeen in an attempt to carry out an elaborate, and especially bloody, terrorist attack.
Abdo planned to ignite a pressure-cooker bomb at a Chinese restaurant in Killeen frequented by Fort Hood soldiers and then shoot any survivors. Abdo has since been convicted and sentenced to back-to-back life sentences for his foiled plot, but if not for the vigilant actions of a watchful employee at a local gun shop, Abdo may have very well carried out his plan to honor Hasan in the most sickening of ways.
“I am comfortable in the shadow of my brother Nidal Hasan that outdid me in jihad,” Abdo told the court when he was sentenced to life behind bars. “I do not ask for mercy.”
That’s crazy talk. But it goes to show what the public is up against when it comes to minds like Hasan and Abdo. I’d like to think that there are no more people in America similar to that pair, but I’d be fooling myself if I did.
The truth is our area knows all too well the terror and tragedy that comes with a mass shooting. We shouldn’t let suspicious activity go unchecked. If you see or hear of something that is even remotely linked to a possible terrorist act, call the police and let them handle it. You may just save a lot of lives.
Jacob Brooks, a former Army tanker, is the city editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7468.