I had just gotten back to my desk after our news budget meeting when my phone rang about 4:20 p.m. last Wednesday.
The caller was someone from a Houston TV station asking if I had heard about a Fort Hood shooting. I hadn’t, but the shooting had already begun.
Upon hanging up, I told a reporter to call Fort Hood and see if something was going on. Fort Hood didn’t pick up, but the news of the shooting was already spreading faster than a wild fire. We started to get more calls, and reports quickly sprang up on social media sites. Before the 8-minute shooting was over, the news, without official confirmation, had spread throughout Texas and beyond.
Reporting on an active shooter situation is never easy. Fact and fiction, especially on social media sites like Facebook, mix together in such a way it’s hard to separate the two. Verifying the facts, especially early on, can be nearly impossible.
We sent reporters and photographers to Fort Hood’s gates and other nearby areas. Rumors ran wild: There were two shooters; there was one dead; there were 12 dead; it was terrorism.
Here at the Killeen Daily Herald and Fort Hood Herald newsroom, all hands were on deck. Some staff came in on their day off to help.
Slowly, a picture of what happened become more clear: A lone gunman shot at fellow soldiers, then took his own life. His name, Spc. Ivan Lopez, was released by a Texas congressman to a news station.
We chose, like other media outlets, to not run with the name until it was officially released by Fort Hood. Like it or not, the shooter was a local soldier. And if the congressman who blabbed the name was wrong, we would pay a big price if we had gone with it.
But in times of great peril and confusion, shining lights have a way of popping up.
We understand several of the soldiers who found themselves in the path of the bullets last Saturday took heroic action.
Their stories have not been fully told yet. We’ll be looking for those stories in the days and weeks ahead, and I encourage anyone that can put us in touch with the right people to please do so.
Thanks for reading, and may God bless Fort Hood.
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.