FORT HOOD — Officials released more information Thursday about the 34-year-old soldier who killed three people and injured 16 before fatally shooting himself Wednesday.
Fort Hood and III Corps commander Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley confirmed Spc. Ivan Lopez was the shooter during an afternoon news conference.
Milley said the investigation into the cause of the incident was ongoing, however, Lopez’s mental health and psychiatric issues likely played a role in Wednesday’s deadly shooting.
“We have very strong evidence that he had a medical history that indicated an unstable psychiatric or psychological condition,” Milley said.
According to Milley and other Army officials, Lopez was undergoing treatment and taking medication for multiple mental heath conditions, including anxiety and depression. He was also in the process of being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder.
During testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee Wednesday morning, Secretary of the Army John McHugh said Lopez, a native of Puerto Rico, did not show any signs of violence prior to Wednesday’s shooting.
“He was seen just last month by a psychiatrist,” McHugh told committee members. “He was fully examined. And as of this morning, we had no indication on the record of that examination that there was any sign of likely violence, either to himself or to others, no suicidal ideation.”
Lopez joined the Puerto Rican National Guard in 1999, and was later deployed to Egypt. He joined the U.S. Army in June 2008 as an infantryman, and later became a truck driver after re-enlisting. He was deployed for four months to Iraq in 2011, but did not see any combat, according to Army officials. McHugh said Lopez had a “clean” record, and showed no outstanding bad marks or misbehavior.
He had married for a second time and lived with his wife and a young daughter in an apartment in Killeen.
Lopez had troubles. He returned from a short tour in Iraq and shifted from one base to another in the U.S. He was taking medications to help with depression and anxiety. He had been crushed by his mother’s sudden death last year and was unhappy that the Army had given him so little time off to grieve.
But, apparently, nobody except Lopez himself saw what it was all adding up to.
“They are going through an incredibly difficult period,” said Glidden Lopez, 26, a friend speaking on behalf of Ivan Lopez’s family in Puerto Rico.
Investigators are still trying to learn more about the motives for Wednesday’s rampage. At this point, Lopez seems very different from the gunman in two other shooting sprees on military posts. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 people at Fort Hood in 2009, had communicated with al-Qaida leaders overseas. Aaron Alexis, the civilian contractor who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard last year, was a loner with a history of bizarre outbursts.
Lopez had no apparent connections to terrorism. And, at least on the surface, he was not a man apart. Lopez posted photos of himself and his children at an amusement park on Facebook. When he posted a picture of himself in uniform last year, 55 people “liked” it.
Milley said there was a strong indication that a verbal altercation with another soldier may have led to the shooting.
“We are looking into that to figure out what the trigger was,” Milley said.
Lopez opened fire on soldiers in two buildings in the 1st Medical Brigade area of Fort Hood. Lopez shot himself after a female military police officer engaged him in the parking lot.
Milley said Lopez lived off post, and committed the shooting with a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun purchased at Guns Galore on March 1, the same store where former Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan purchased the weapons he used to fatally shoot 13 people and injure more than 30 on Nov. 5, 2009.
Lopez did not register the weapon with Fort Hood before bringing it on post, a violation of the installation’s firearms policy.
“We tried to do everything we can to encourage soldiers to register their personal weapons,” McHugh said Thursday. “Even when they live off post, we are not legally able to compel them to register weapons when they reside off post.”
Sen. John Cornyn, who spoke after Milley at Thursday’s news conference at Fort Hood, said policies related to personal weapons on military installations would likely get a second look.
“I’m confident that there will be a thorough review of that policy,” Cornyn said.
Five victims released
While officials revealed more information about Lopez, they have yet to release the names of the others killed or wounded. While some media outlets reported the name of at least one soldier killed Thursday, the Herald is waiting for official confirmation from the Army before releasing any information about the victims.
A few of the soldiers who were wounded Wednesday still have a ways to go before they are out of the woods, a Scott & White Hospital trauma surgeon said Thursday.
While three of the shooting victims are still experiencing significant problems, Dr. Matthew Davis, trauma surgeon and director of Scott & White’s trauma program, said he’s not anticipating any more fatalities.
“There’s a tremendous amount of work left to be done for a lot of these patients,” Davis said.
Scott & White treated nine patients, ranging in age from early 20s to 40s, who were wounded during the shooting.
As of Thursday night, three patients are in serious condition and five were discharged. A sixth is expected to be released today.
Officials said a memorial is being planned for the victims, but did not give a date or time for the event.
The Washington Post contributed to this report.