Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan has been identified as the shooting suspect in the the attack that left 12 dead and 31 wounded at the Army base, Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, commanding general III Corps and Fort Hood, said in a press conference Thursday night.
The military in an initial press conference had indicated the suspect was dead. Cone did not offer explanation for the mistake, other than to say there was confusion at the hospital.
During the later press conference, Cone described a scene of chaos at the base that afternoon in which soldiers responded to the shots fired by ripping off pieces of their uniforms to help those who were shot and bleeding. Hasan fired two weapons, including one semi-automatic gun, Cone said.
Cone said Thursday night that Hasan was in stable condition but not speaking to investigators. When asked further about Hasan’s condition, Cone replied, “I would say his death is not imminent.”
The aunt of the alleged suspect said her nephew had been trying to leave the military for years.
“We’re trying to comprehend what happened,” Noel Hamad, Hasan’s aunt, said in an interview. “He was trying to get out of the military since 9/11 because they were giving him a hard time.”
Both of Hasan’s parents died seven years ago and Hamad is the sister of his mother.
Fort Hood in Texas reopened Thursday evening, several hours after the massacre.
President Obama called the shooting “a horrific outburst of violence” and said his thoughts and prayers were with the victims and families. He said his administration was working with law enforcement to get the details of what happened.
“It is horrifying that they would come under fire at a military base on American soil,” Obama said.
The president offered condolences to Cone and received a briefing from him by telephone from the base, the White House said in a statement.
The shootings occurred Thursday afternoon at a family readiness area at the base, said Gary Tallman, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon. The Army closed its massive base covering 339 square miles — the largest active duty armored post in the United States.
A graduation ceremony for soldiers who finished college courses while deployed was going on nearby at the time of the shooting, said Sgt. Rebekah Lampman, a Fort Hood spokeswoman.
Aside from Hasan, two other soldiers were taken into custody, Cone said at a news conference. A law enforcement official who spoke to AP said Hasan, believed to be in his late 30s, was killed after opening fire at the base.
Hasan is a psychiatrist who was on his way to Iraq and “was disturbed” about his deployment, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, told the PBSNewsHour. The Army is trying to determine whether that is his birth name or a name he adopted.
Noel Hamad said, however, that the family did not know he was being sent to Iraq. “He didn’t tell us he was going to deploy,” she said.
After the shooting Fort Hood was “asking for EMTs,” calling it a mass casualty event, said Hilary Shine, spokeswoman for the City of Killeen, where Fort Hood is located. “They are having issues getting on and off post because they’ve locked it down. Right now there are a lot of questions and confusion.”
Fort Hood is set up like its own city with its own fire, police and medical facilities, Shine said. It has not asked for Killeen Police to assist, but the police are on call if needed, she said.
Fort Hood is halfway between Austin and Waco.
Condolences and offers of support poured in to Fort Hood from national officials.
“I can pledge that the Department of Defense will do everything in its power to help the Fort Hood community get through these difficult times,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a prepared statement.
Vice President Biden expressed sympathies along with his wife, Jill, for the families of the people who were shot.
“We are all praying for those who were wounded and hoping for their full and speedy recovery,” his statement read. “Our thoughts and prayers are also with the entire Fort Hood community as they deal with this senseless tragedy.”
Said former president George W. Bush in a statement issued from his office in Dallas, “I was saddened to learn of the tragic incident at Fort Hood. Laura and I are keeping the victims and their families in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”
The Senate Armed Services Committee has requested a detailed account of the day’s events, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., committee chairman, said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to the families of the brave Americans who lost their lives in today’s senseless violence at Fort Hood, Texas, and to those who were injured,” the statement read.
FBI agents are traveling to Fort Hood to assess the crime and work with the Army Criminal Investigation Division, which is the lead agency, said Supervisory Special Agent Jason Pack, a spokesman for the FBI.
Sirens wailed at the base as Tammy Biggers, wife of an Army specialist deployed in Iraq, huddled in her locked house, texting her daughter at the local high school and fielding phone calls from family and friends.
“It’s just nerve-racking,” Biggers said in a telephone interview with USA TODAY. “They just did the overhead warnings again for everyone to seek shelter immediately. It’s going off right now.”
The basewide siren and announcement system, usually used to warn of tornadoes, instructed base residents to seek shelter, lock their doors and turn off the air conditioning, Biggers said. She had been outside her house with their chihuahua when she heard the first sirens.
“Tons of sirens, way more than usual. But down here you don’t think a lot about sirens. It could be a training exercise,” she said.
Then came the orders to seek shelter. Biggers lives in a two-bedroom house on base about a mile from where the shooting began and a half mile from the Clear Creek PX store. She immediately called her daughter, a 10th-grade student at Shoemaker High School.
The school and base were in lockdown. Normal phone lines were working, but cellphones were overloaded.
“Now I can’t even get ahold of her. The cellphones are jammed. I can’t even send a text,” Biggers said. “They still have us on lockdown. I’m just staying right beside my computer with the news on and praying.”
Greg Schannep, an aide to Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, told the Austin American-Statesmen that he was on the Army post to attend the graduation service. He said that as he neared the entrance of a building where the service was being held, a soldier with blood on his uniform ran past him and a man was shooting. Schannep said the injured soldier appeared to have been struck in the shoulder but did not have life-threatening injuries.
Todd Martin, assistant for communication at the Killeen School District, said the district has seven elementary schools and two middle schools on the post.
“Those have been locked down since this began,” Martin said earlier in the day. The other schools in the district outside the post have not been locked down, he said.
Nine gunshot victims were taken to Scott & White Memorial Hospital, the hospital said on its website. The hospital said all the victims “are suffering from wounds,” and all the patients are adults.
The hospital issued an “urgent” call for blood donors of all types. “Please come to the Scott & White Blood Donor Center and donate blood as soon as possible,” the hospital said on its website.
Army Capt. Grant Speakes spent five years posted at Fort Hood and three more as the son of an officer there. He described the post as “friendly, big but manageable.”
Speakes, 27, said Thursday that he has heard from dozens of fellow officers and friends who expressed shock that the attack occurred there.
“Everybody’s amazed that it happened at Fort Hood,” Speakes said. “It feels like home. It feels like community.”
Contributing: Carolyn Pesce in McLean, Va., Tom Vanden Brook and David Jackson in Washington, D.C.; Associated Press.