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Hasan grinned as he fired, witness testifies

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Posted: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 4:30 am | Updated: 2:13 pm, Thu Jan 23, 2014.

THE FOLLOWING STORY CONTAINS graphic testimony.

FORT HOOD — An immunization specialist at the scene of the Fort Hood shooting told the court he could track the shooter by the clinking noise of a spent shell casing stuck between the treads of his boots.

Theodore Coukoulis gave possibly the most graphic eyewitness testimony so far in the trial of accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan, describing the wide grin Hasan wore as he gunned down soldiers.

Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. He has admitted to being the shooter and could face execution if convicted.

Coukoulis was the last of 18 witnesses to testify Monday. He said he knew Hasan by sight after getting into an argument over a flu shot with the 42-year-old Army psychiatrist the week prior to the mass shooting.

When gunfire broke out at the medical building at Fort Hood’s soldier processing complex on Nov. 5, 2009, Coukoulis said the room became a cacophony of screams, gunshots and the clanging of metal folding chairs being strewn about the building.

The screaming died down as soldiers scrambled into cubicles, under desks and behind whatever cover they could find. Soon, all Coukoulis heard were gunshots.

But between sporadic bursts of fire, he said he heard a steady clinking noise.

“We heard a ‘clack, clack, clack.’ I figured out in retrospect, it was a round stuck in the treads of his boots,” Coukoulis testified. “There were so many rounds on the floor.”

As the sound grew nearer, Coukoulis came out from his cover and peered down the aisle. Bearing a “wide grin,” Hasan gunned down two soldiers, Lt. Col. Juanita Warman and an unspecified captain, he told the court.

Hasan then turned toward Coukoulis’ direction, where three soldiers stood. Hasan shot all three of them, with one soldier falling on the civilian technician’s feet. Staff Sgt. Justin M. Decrow fell a few feet from him.

“I could tell (Decrow) wasn’t dead yet,” Coukoulis said. “I was hoping Hasan didn’t notice it, but he shot him in the left armpit which killed him instantly.”

The major then leaned down and looked under the desk where Coukoulis had hidden. Coukoulis said he could see the red dot of a laser sight on the floor moving toward him.

Coukoulis told the court he opened his mouth in hopes that Hasan would shoot him in the back of the head so he could die instantly. Instead, the major moved on.

When it became apparent Hasan had left the building, Coukoulis emerged from his hiding spot and began to help perform triage.

He described a bloody scene filled with bodies piled on top of each other in areas where fleeing soldiers had tried to flee the shooter. Numerous unwounded soldiers continued to perform life-saving efforts on victims who were obviously dead, he said.

Coukoulis ran out of pressure dressings for wounds and began using articles of clothing to dress gunshot injuries.

“I was sprayed over and over with blood,” he said “I don’t know how much I swallowed. I didn’t take off my sweatshirt; I was using it to clean my glasses and my face.”

Coukoulis’ shocking account rounded out a day of testimony from shooting victims, witnesses and recordings of 911 calls in which court members could clearly hear gunshots and the screams of people within the soldier processing center.

Prosecutors presented a second 911 call from the scene Monday giving an account of the confusion surrounding the first reports of the mass shooting.

A 911 operator repeatedly asked Monday’s first witness, nurse Shemeka Hairston, to give the location of the shooting. Cries, whimpers and the repeated pops of gunshots could be heard as Hairston huddled under a desk at the processing center where the shooting began.

“Oh God, help me,” Hairston said as the operator repeatedly asked her the location of the shooting.

Hairston cried as the prosecution played a recording of the call. She told the jury at one point she opened her eyes and saw a soldier stand up during a pause in the gunshots.

“His eyes got big, and he fell,” she told the court. Hairston’s sobs could be heard in a hallway outside of the courtroom after her testimony ended.

Prosecutors also called 10 shooting victims, all active-duty soldiers at the time preparing for deployments to either Iraq or Afghanistan.

One of the victims, retired Lt. Col. Randy Lee Royer, suffered a gunshot to his leg that broke his femur a few inches above the knee. Royer required the assistance of a cane as he walked to the stand.

He spoke of how he hid in a cubicle while the shooting took place. Unable to walk, he remained in the processing center during the entire shooting.

When it was over, he said the building was “deathly quiet.”

“I could see the blood, the crumpled uniforms I assumed were soldiers,” Royer said. “It was carnage.”

Testimony resumes today at 9 a.m. at the Fort Hood court. Presiding judge Col. Tara Osborn said prosecution experts will testify.

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