The shooting that killed three people and wounded 16 others at the Fort Hood military post in Texas this week was likely prompted by an argument the suspected shooter had with fellow soldiers just before the incident, officials said Friday.
Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, the post's commanding general, said that the investigation was ongoing – but that authorities do not believe that any underlying medical condition of the suspect, 34-year-old Ivan Lopez, was a "direct precipitating factor" in Wednesday's shooting.
Still, Christopher Grey, with the U.S. Army's Criminal Investigation Command, said officials have yet to established a "concrete motive" for the attacks, in which Lopez allegedly fired on his colleagues before taking his own life.
"The possibility does exist that we may never know why the alleged shooter did what he did," Grey said.
Lopez walked into a base building around 4 p.m. Wednesday and began firing a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol. He then got into a vehicle and continued shooting before entering another building at the Army post. He eventually was confronted by military police in a parking lot, Milley said.
An officer drew her weapon and fired once, according to Milley, who added that authorities do not believe that the alleged shooter was struck during that exchange. Lopez then placed his own firearm to his head and fired one round, killing himself, Milley said.
Also Friday, details that emerged from victims’ families and friends revealed that the three soldiers who died the shooting were all men in their 30s.
Among them was Army Sgt. Timothy Wayne Owens, 37, a recently married native of Effingham, Ill., who was shot in the chest at close range, his mother-in-law told the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper.
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."
Sgt. First Class Daniel Michael Ferguson, 39, from Florida, had just returned from Afghanistan and died while trying to barricade a door to keep the shooter away, his fiancée 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 A. Lazaney-Rodriguez, 38, of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, the city's mayor told NBC News on Friday. 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."
Meanwhile, three of the soldiers who had been in critical condition at Scott & White Hospital in Temple, Texas, have improved and are now listed as being in serious condition, the hospital said. Five patients have been discharged, with one patient staying on through Friday for tests.
Lopez, a 34-year-old soldier battling psychological problems, recently purchased pistol before turning the gun on himself at Fort Hood on Wednesday.
Lopez's father, meanwhile, said he was struggling to comprehend how his son could have opened fire on fellow soldiers.
In a statement from his native Puerto Rico, the elder Ivan Lopez called for prayers for the three people killed and 16 wounded in the attack. His brief statement Friday was his first since the shooting.
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. Lopez had been treated for depression and anxiety, and was being evaluated to see if he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, military officials said.
The incident was the third shooting at a military facility in the United States in about six months and has raised questions about security at installations such as Fort Hood, home to some 45,000 soldiers and airmen assigned to the 335-square-mile post, along with thousands of civilian employees.
The shooting sent shock waves through the Central Texas community in Killeen, where the post is located, 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.
Al Jazeera and Wire services