A soldier who was under psychiatric treatment opened fire Wednesday at the massive Fort Hood U.S. Army post in Texas and killed three people before apparently committing suicide, law enforcement officials said. It was the second shooting attack in five years at the installation.
One of the officials, citing internal U.S. Justice Department reports, said 14 other people were wounded.
Fort Hood was placed under lockdown for several hours after the shootings, before authorities sounded an all-clear siren. Hundreds of cars immediately began streaming from the huge facility, and children were finally allowed to leave schools on the post.
A U.S. law enforcement official said reports circulating within the Justice Department indicate the suspected shooter died of what appears to be a self-inflicted wound. No motive has been ascertained.
At a news conference at Fort Hood, the post’s commander Lt. Gen. Mark Milley told reporters that the suspected shooter had been under evaluation for possible post-traumatic stress disorder at the time of the attacks.
“We know that this soldier had behavioral and mental health issues and was being treated for them," Milley said.
The suspected shooter had previously served a four-month long tour of duty in Iraq in 2011, he said.
The injured were taken to Darnall Army Community Hospital at Fort Hood and other local hospitals. Dr. Glen Couchman, chief medical officer at Scott and White Hospital in Temple, Texas, said that the first four people admitted there had gunshots to the chest, abdomen, neck and extremities, and that their conditions ranged from stable to "quite critical."
Hours after the shooting, a fatigue-clad soldier and a military police officer stood about a quarter-mile from the main gate waving away traffic. Other lanes were blocked by a police car and van.
Fort Hood was the scene of a 2009 mass shooting in which an Army major killed 13 people and wounded more than 30.
Responding to the shooting Wednesday night, President Barack Obama told reporters: "We're heartbroken something like this might have happened again."
"I would hope that everyone across the country keep the families of Fort Hood in our thoughts and our prayers," said Obama, who was visiting Chicago.
"Many of the people there have been on multiple tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, they served with valor, they served with distinction. At their home base they need to feel safe. We don’t yet know what happened tonight but obviously that sense of safety has been broken once again."
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Fort Hood community in the aftermath of this tragedy," said Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
On Nov. 5, 2009, U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan shot and killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others during a shooting spree at Fort Hood.
Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, was convicted and sentenced to death last year over the attack on his fellow soldiers inside a crowded building at the post. The soldiers had been waiting to get vaccines and routine paperwork after recently returning from deployments or while preparing to go to Afghanistan and Iraq.
After that shooting, the military tightened security at bases nationwide. Those measures included issuing security personnel long-barreled weapons, adding an insider-attack scenario to their training and strengthening ties to local law enforcement, according to Peter Daly, a vice admiral who retired from the Navy in 2011. The military also joined an FBI intelligence-sharing program aimed at identifying terror threats.
In September, a former Navy man opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard, leaving 13 people dead, including the gunman. After that shooting, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the Pentagon to review security at all U.S. defense installations worldwide and examine the granting of security clearances that allow access to them.
Asked Wednesday about security improvements in the wake of other shootings at U.S. military bases, Hagel said, "Obviously when we have these kinds of tragedies on our bases, something's not working."
Al Jazeera and The Associated Press