As they search for a motive in America’s latest mass shooting, investigators at Fort Hood are focusing on the mental health of Ivan Lopez, the Army specialist accused of gunning down three fellow soldiers on Wednesday before turning his gun on himself.
They are also examining reports of an earlier altercation between himself and others on the base.
State Governor Rick Perry and Senator Ted Cruz were due to visit the Texas base yesterday to pay condolences. It has become clear that efforts to tighten security at military installations, after 13 people were shot dead at Fort Hood in 2009, have come up short.
The picture slowly emerging of Lopez was of a man filled with anger at the Army and suffering from depression and anxiety; he was also being assessed for post-traumatic stress disorder. He had self-reported a brain injury, even though there is no record of his having been injured during a four-month, no-combat deployment to Iraq in 2011.
“We have very strong evidence that he had a medical history that indicates unstable psychiatric or psychological condition,” Lt Gen Mark Milley, the senior officer at the base, told reporters. “We believe that to be a fundamental, underlying cause.” Lopez, who was Puerto Rican and lived off base with his wife, had been taking Ambien, a prescription medication used to treat insomnia.
There are reports that Lopez had grown to resent the Army for refusing to give him leave to attend the funeral of his mother who died in Puerto Rico last year. It appeared that he had not singled out any of those involved in the earlier, reported altercation with him but, rather, that he had opened fire indiscriminately.
Among those killed, officials said, was Sgt Danny Ferguson, who had just returned from Afghanistan and who, according to his fiancée, Kristen Haley, also a soldier, died a hero blocking a doorway into a room filled with personnel.