A soldier with mental health problems went on a shooting rampage Wednesday that killed three other service members and wounded or injured 16 at Fort Hood in Texas.
The enlisted soldier later killed himself following a dramatic confrontation in a base parking lot with a female military police officer, said Army Lt. Gen. Mark Miley, the base commander.
At a distance of about 20 feet, the soldier and the Military Policeman faced each other, Miley said. The suspect took a .45 caliber Smith & Wesson pistol out of his jacket and the MP also raised her weapon. The suspect then pointed his weapon at his head and fired.
"It was clearly heroic what she did," Miley said of the MP. "There is no indication that this incident was related to terrorism although we are not ruling anything out."
Miley said the soldier was married and lived off-base. He declined to identify him, but NBC reported that he was Ivan Lopez, 34.
The suspect "had behavior, health and mental issues and was being treated for that," Miley said. He also had shown symptoms of depression and anxiety, and "was currently under diagnosis for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)," Miley said.
The suspect claimed to have suffered a traumatic brain injury while serving four months in Iraq in 2011, Miley said, but an initial search of records showed no reports of TBI.
"He was not wounded in action, had no Purple Heart," Miley said.
The 16 wounded were all soldiers, Miley said. Most were hit by gunfire but at least two suffered injuries while trying to escape the gunfire, Miley said.
Miley said the suspect bought the .45 caliber handgun at a nearby gunshop off-base and brought the weapon onto the base without authorization. "You're not allowed to have a concealed weapon on base and I don't endorse carrying concealed weapons on base," Miley said.
There were initial reports that the suspect may have been involved in an argument before the shooting spree but Miley said he could not confirm that account.
Miley said the shooting was confined to the areas of the 1st Medical Brigade and the Transportation Command's motor pool. The suspect began shooting, got into a vehicle and drove a short distance, then got out and began shooting again before confronting the MP in the parking lot, Miley said.
Fort Hood officials said that shots were fired beginning at about 4:30 p.m. local time on the sprawling 214,000-acre base.
There were initial reports of a possible second shooter but those reports were not confirmed.
At the onset of the incident, sirens wailed across the base and loudspeakers warned that an "active shooter" was on the loose and directed those on the base to "shelter in place." Officers from the Bell County sheriff's office and other law enforcement agencies rushed to block exits to the base and President Obama was quickly notified of the incident.
"Many questions remain and our focus is on supporting the victims and their families," said Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"Obviously this reopens the pain of what happened at Fort Hood five years ago," said President Obama. "We know these families. We know their incredible service to our country and the sacrifices that they make."
The president went on to say "we're heartbroken that something like this might have happened again."
"Events of the past taught us many things here at Fort Hood," Miley said in a reference to the 2009 mass shootings on the base.
At Fort Hood last August, a court martial sentenced Maj. Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, to death for the 2009 shooting rampage that left 13 dead and 32 wounded in what remains the worst mass shooting on record at a military base.
The shootings Wednesday at Fort Hood came as the military was conducting a major review ordered by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on access to military bases.
The review was prompted by the shootings last Sept. 16, 2013, at the Naval Sea Systems Command building at the Washington Navy Yard in southeast Washington, D.C., that left 12 dead.
The sole gunman, Aaron Alexis, was employed by a defense contractor and managed to get a weapon past the entrance to the Navy Yard. Alexis was killed by responding officers.
The Navy was also investigating how Jeffrey Savage, 35, of Portsmouth, Va., a civilian with a criminal record, managed to get access to Naval Station Norfolk, Va., on March 21 and board the destroyer Mahan where he killed Petty Officer Mark A. Mayo. Security officers responding to the scene later killed Savage.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@monster.com