FORT HOOD — As officials released the names of three soldiers killed in Wednesday’s shooting, a clearer picture emerged of what led to the attack.
Investigators believe a verbal altercation between Spc. Ivan A. Lopez and other soldiers was the likely trigger for the rampage — not Lopez’s mental state as officials said Thursday.
“There was an argument,” Lt. Gen. Mark Milley said during a Friday afternoon news conference. “It escalated.”
Milley and Christopher Grey, a spokesman for the Army Criminal Investigation Command, declined to specify the nature of the argument, citing the ongoing investigation, but witnesses and family members of victims told media outlets it was over paperwork for a leave of absence.
Lopez left a human resources office, but returned moments later with a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol and opened fire on soldiers in his unit, the 49th Transportation Battalion, killing two of them.
Lopez then walked outside and indiscriminately shot at other soldiers killing one more and wounding 16, Army officials said. He sprayed bullets over an area the size of two city blocks, shooting people in two nearby buildings as well as from his vehicle before he was confronted by a military police officer in a parking lot.
The officer fired once at Lopez but missed. Before she could shoot again, he put his pistol to his head and squeezed the trigger, ending the four-minute rampage.
What was going through Lopez’s head before his outburst remains a mystery. Investigators said he left no explanation behind.
“We have not established a concrete motive, but we will do everything in our power to do so,” Grey said at Friday’s news conference at Club Hood. “Given that the alleged shooter is deceased, the possibility does exist that we may never know exactly why the alleged shooter did what he did.”
The dead soldiers were identified Friday as Sgt. 1st Class Daniel M. Ferguson, 39, Sgt. Timothy W. Owens, 37, and Staff Sgt. Carlos A. Lazaney-Rodriguez, 38.
Ferguson was from Mulberry, Fla., and entered active service in July 1993 as a transportation management coordinator. He was assigned to the 49th Transportation Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command. Ferguson’s fiancee, Kristen Haley, told reporters he was fatally shot while trying to bar an office door to keep the gunman out. Haley also is a soldier at Fort Hood and was nearby when the shootings occurred.
“He held that door shut because it wouldn’t lock,” she told Tampa, Fla., television station WTSP. “If he wasn’t the one standing there holding those doors closed, that shooter would have been able to get through and shoot everyone else.”
Owens was from Effingham, Ill., and entered active-duty service in July 2004 as a motor transport operator, Milley said. He was assigned to the 49th Transportation Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command, where he served as a heavy vehicle driver.
Owens’ cousin, Glen Welton of Effingham, said Owens grew up with military dreams.
“He was one of those kids who wanted to wear camouflage and wanted to wear bomber jackets and sunglasses,” said Welton, a National Guard veteran of Iraq. “It took him a few years before he got himself in.”
Lazaney-Rodriguez was from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, and entered active-duty service in February 1995 as a unit supply specialist. He was assigned to the 21st Combat Support Hospital, 1st Medical Brigade.
“We are all keeping them in our thoughts and prayers,” Milley said. “Both the victims and the wounded.”
A memorial service is slated for Wednesday, Fort Hood officials said, and further details are expected early next week.
Milley’s and Grey’s comments Friday revealed the massive scope of the ongoing multi-jurisdictional investigation. More than 150 federal, state and local investigators were involved in the effort, which included processing the crime scene, and interviewing more than 900 individuals.
“Let me assure you that we are fully committed to this investigation,” Grey said.
Herald staff writers Vanessa Lynch and Natalie Stewart, The Washington Post and The Associated Press contributed to this report.