With trial set to begin Wednesday for the man accused of killing 13 and wounding dozens at Fort Hood in 2009, many victims are preparing for the possibility that they may be confronted by their alleged attacker face to face.
Responding with varying degrees of anger, defiance and suspicion, several victims of the shooting who have been subpoenaed to testify are preparing.
Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan is accused of shooting Staff Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford five times, including a shot to his head that left him blind in one eye.
If Hasan is allowed to cross-examine witnesses, Lunsford wondered what will prevent them from “jumping across that counter and attacking him.”
Lunsford was the first witness called in Hasan’s Article 32 hearing in fall 2010. If put in that place again, the 6-foot-9 North Carolina resident who spent 20 years as a noncommissioned officer said he will set the tone.
“I will conduct myself with dignity and hold myself in military bearing,” Lunsford said. “I will let him know that he cannot push me. I bend, I do not break. I was wounded, but I am a man.
“I am an American and I am a soldier. I will not let them know that they have beaten me. They won a battle that day but they did not win the war.”
On Monday, the presiding judge, Col. Tara Osborn, will decide whether Hasan is capable of acting as his own attorney — something Hasan requested in May.
Most military law experts agree Osborn has no other choice but to let the suspect in the worst mass shooting on a military post in history conduct his own trial.
The likelihood that Hasan, a 42-year-old Army psychiatrist, will have the opportunity to cross-examine the very people he is accused of shooting worries Kimberly Munley, the former Fort Hood police officer shot multiple times during the incident.
Munley has no doubts she will be able to control herself, but said she thinks it will revictimize other victims.
Many have worked for years to put the horrific memories of the shooting behind them.
“I really don’t have a good feeling about it,” Munley said. “I think he is doing this on purpose to continue to taunt and victimize us.”
Though Hasan’s court-martial remains set to begin this week, the protracted journey from Nov. 5, 2009, to an actual trial may not be over. Several victims contacted for this article said Hasan’s recent decision to act as his own attorney is nothing more than a ploy to further delay the trial and their suffering.
“I guess I’m cautious, but I’m hopeful it will start,” said Shawn Manning, a former staff sergeant with the Army Reserve who was shot six times during the attack.
The unprecedented nature of Hasan’s request leaves a lot of room for speculation.
If granted, Munley said she fears the judge will grant Hasan a delay to research his case. If denied, it could set up several appellate possibilities, according to legal experts.
But former Spc. Mick Engenhl, who was shot in the neck and shoulder during the attack at the Soldier Readiness Center, has better things to worry about.
Engenhl said it probably would have been better if Hasan had died that day. He still feels a lack of justice, and even sometimes feels it would be better if someone just outright killed Hasan.
“I’m trying to move on with my life,” he said. “I don’t have time to deal with him. I got dreams and I want to fulfill them.”
Contact Philip Jankowski at email@example.com or (254) 501-7553