Fort Hood shooting rampage victims named
LISA MARIA GARZA AND EILEEN O'GRADY
The three people killed in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Texas were all male soldiers in their 30s, friends and family said, as the military looked for a motive behind the second mass shooting in five years at the massive Army base.
Ivan Lopez, a 34-year-old soldier battling mental illness, is suspected of killing the three and wounding 16 others with a recently purchased pistol before turning the gun on himself at Fort Hood on Wednesday (local time).
Among the victims was Army Sergeant Timothy Owens, 37, a recently married native of Effingham, Illinois, who was shot in the chest at close range, his mother-in-law told the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper.
Sergeant First Class Danny Ferguson, 39, from Florida, had just returned from Afghanistan and died while trying to barricade a door to keep the shooter away, his fiancee and fellow soldier Kristen Haley told Tampa broadcaster WTSP-TV. She was nearby when the shooting started.
"If he wasn't the one standing there holding those doors closed, that shooter would have been able to get through and shoot everyone else," she told WTSP-TV.
The third fatality was Carlos Lazaney, 38, of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, the city's mayor told NBC News on Friday (local time).
US Senator Ted Cruz and Texas Governor Rick Perry were due to meet with military officials leading the investigation, and speak with reporters later in the day.
The suspected shooter Lopez enlisted in 2008 and had served two tours of duty abroad, including four months in Iraq in 2011, military officials said. He had no direct involvement in combat and had not been wounded.
There was a strong possibility a verbal altercation with another soldier or soldiers preceded the shooting, Lieutenant General Mark Milley told reporters, adding there was no indication that he targeted specific people.
The Lopez family, who live in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, said in a statement that it is ''dismayed'' by the tragic events.
''This is a very painful situation,'' the father of Ivan Lopez said in the statement. ''I ask for prayers for the affected families.
''My son could not have been in sound mind. He was not that way,'' he said.
The rampage is the third shooting at a military base in the United States in about six months that, along with a series of shootings in public places, such as schools and malls, has intensified a national debate over gun violence.
It has also raised questions about security at US military installations, such as Fort Hood, home to some 45,000 soldiers and airmen assigned to the 870-square-km base, along with thousands of civilian employees.
"Obviously we have a gap. Anytime we lose an individual, something's gone wrong. But ... let the investigators do their work," US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters in Hawaii on Thursday.
Military officials have so far ruled out terrorism as the reason for the attack,
Lopez had been treated for depression and anxiety. He was being evaluated to see if he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, military officials said.
The shooting sent shockwaves through the Central Texas community in Killeen, where the base is located, that is still reeling from a 2009 attack in which a former Army psychiatrist, Major Nidal Hasan, shot dead 13 people and wounded 32 others.
Lopez, originally from Puerto Rico, had recently bought the gun he used, a Smith & Wesson .45-caliber pistol, at Guns Galore, the same store in Killeen where Hasan purchased the weapon he used in his shooting spree.
The Lopez family, who live in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, are expected to release a statement sometime on Friday, according to a spokesman for the town's mayor, Edgardo Arlequin.
Three of the soldiers who had been in critical condition at Scott & White Hospital in Temple have improved and are now listed as serious, the hospital said.
Five patients have been discharged, with one patient staying on through Friday for tests.
The three soldiers who died in the shooting rampage at Texas' Fort Hood this week were all men in their 30s, according to new details from friends and family that emerged, two days after the attack at the massive Army base.
Details on the three victims follows:
* Sergeant First Class Daniel Ferguson, 39, has been described as the hero of Fort Hood, for physically holding a door shut, preventing the gunman from entering a room full of military personnel.
"He held that door shut because it wouldn't lock," fiance and fellow soldier Kristen Haley told WTSP, a CBS TV affiliate in Tampa, Florida. "If he wasn't the one standing there holding those doors closed, that shooter would have been able to get through and shoot everyone else."
Ferguson, who had recently returned from a tour in Afghanistan, was a 1993 graduate of Tampa's Mulberry High School, where he was a five-sport letterman.
* Sergeant Timothy Owens, 37, died after apparently being shot in the chest at close range, his mother-in-law, Darlene Owens, told the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper. Owens, who was born in Effingham, Illinois, and later moved to Missouri, married Owens' stepdaughter, Billy, in a ceremony last summer. The newlyweds had attended the same high school in Rolla, Missouri.
Mary Louise Muntean, Owens' mother, said she never imagined her son would die on American soil.
"I can't believe this has happened. I just can't," she told NBC News. "I just talked to him Sunday night."
* Carlos Lazaney, 38, of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, was the third fatality, the mayor of Aguadilla told NBC News. Mayor Carlos Mendez Martinez said Lazaney was set to retire from the Army later this year.
"They are an excellent family, really good people," said Martinez, according to NBC News. "And what's so sad is that he was 38 years old and had joined the military since he was 18. He was going to retire at the end of the year. It is so sad."