Fort Hood Attack Detailed as Trial Gets Under Way
FORT HOOD, Texas -- The Army psychiatrist charged with killing 13 people in the 2009 Fort Hood massacre likened himself to a soldier who switched sides in what he described as a war between America and his Islamic faith.
"The evidence will clearly show that I am the shooter," Maj. Nidal Hasan said in an opening statement Tuesday that lasted little more than a minute. The evidence, he added, would "only show one side."
Hasan -- the America-born, 42-year-old defendant who is acting as his own attorney -- raised few objections and asked almost no questions on cross-examination as prosecutors began to present a methodical, detailed case.
Staff Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford, who was hit seven times, had waited for the moment he would confront the man who killed 13 of his colleagues in the deadliest attack on a U.S. military installation. A showdown, however, never happened.
When the time came to testify Tuesday, Lunsford, one of the more than 30 people wounded in the attack, was asked by prosecutors to show the 13 jurors where Hasan had shot him. The tall, imposing retired soldier, who told The Associated Press in a recent interview that he still has nightmares about the attack, slowly got to his feet and pointed to each spot on his body where Hasan's bullets had hit him.
Lunsford talked about playing dead, hoping that Hasan wouldn't attack him again, before deciding to flee when he realized he was perspiring.
"When I'm laying there, I do a self-assessment on myself, because I realize that dead men don't sweat," Lunsford said.
Hasan, who was paralyzed after being shot by officers responding to the attack, looked forward impassively throughout the testimony. He didn't ask Lunsford a single question in cross-examination.
When Lunsford was excused from the stand, the two men did not appear to acknowledge each other as Lunsford walked past him and out of the courtroom.
Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder, and faces the death penalty if convicted.
Hasan wanted to plead guilty to murder and attempted murder, but military rules forbid guilty pleas in death penalty cases.
During Tuesday's testimony, he occasionally took notes on a legal pad. While two defense attorneys remain on stand-by, Hasan rarely turned to them for advice.
No American soldier has been executed since 1961, and military prosecutors showed that they would take no chance of fumbling details that could jeopardize any conviction down the line.
Prosecutors described a calculating Hasan, armed with two handguns and carrying paper towels in his pants pockets to conceal the sounds of rattling ammunition as he walked through a deployment-readiness center on the sprawling base.
Employees at a local weapons store described how Hasan bought the pistol he used in the shooting -- and took cellphone video of people instructing him how to clean it.
Hasan spent time at a shooting range and purchased a pistol and extender kit to hold more ammunition before carrying out his plan to "kill as many soldiers as he could" while avoiding civilians, Col. Steve Henricks told jurors in his opening statement.
"He came to believe he had a jihad duty to murder his fellow soldiers," Henricks said, adding that Hasan had researched Taliban leaders' call to wage holy war.
The shooting happened about three weeks after Hasan learned he would be deployed to Afghanistan. Upon getting the orders that he was going overseas, Hasan told a doctor that, "They've got another thing coming if they think they are going to deploy me," Henricks said.
On the day of the attack, Hasan sat among his fellow soldiers who were preparing to go overseas. He tried to clear the area of civilians, even walking over to a civilian data clerk to tell her she was needed elsewhere in the building because a supervisor was looking for her. The prosecutor said the clerk thought that was odd but went anyway.
"He then yelled, `Allahu akbar!' and opened fire on unarmed, unsuspecting and defenseless soldiers," Henricks told the jury. "Allahu akbar!" is an Arabic phrase meaning "God is great."
The trial is playing out amid high security at Fort Hood, where armed guards stood in doorways and 15-foot (4.5-meter) stacks of shock-absorbing barriers obscured the view of the courthouse. Jurors were told to prepare for a trial that could take months, and Hasan, who is in a wheelchair, needs regular breaks because he was paralyzed after being shot by officers responding to the shooting.
|Maj. Nidal Hasan Military Justice|