Army Secretary John McHugh told the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning that the Fort Hood shooter was on psychiatric meds but an evaluation indicated no signs that he would become violent.
The previously scheduled hearing with McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno was intended to review the Army’s fiscal year 2015 budget request and current posture.
“We meet with heavy hearts,” Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said at the beginning of the hearing. “Once again, our Army must recover from an act of unspeakable violence here at home. Much remains unknown about the shooting incident yesterday evening at Fort Hood, including the question of what prompted this horrible attack. All that is certain is that lives have been lost and that families are grieving. We all share in their grief. Secretary McHugh, General Odierno, please convey this committee’s condolences to the men and women of Fort Hood and the Army, and please be assured that this committee will fully support your efforts to care for those affected.”
Levin asked the officials to begin their testimony with any comments on Fort Hood.
McHugh said the shooter, identified as Army truck driver Ivan Lopez, 34, had visited psychiatrist last month and showed “no sign of any likely violence either to himself or others.”
He was taking medications including Ambien, the secretary said.
Lopez, who joined the Army in June 2008, was in Iraq for four months in 2011 but his record showed no signs of injury. McHugh said the shooter was a Puerto Rico native, and even though it’s not initially suspected “possible extremist involvement is still being looked at very carefully.”
A spokeswoman for the Puerto Rico National Guard said Lopez joined in 1999 and went on a mission to the Sinai Peninsula in the mid-2000s, according to the Associated Press. Lt. Col Ruth Diaz said Lopez left the Guard for the Army in 2010.
Odierno told the committee that some of the procedures put in place at Fort Hood after the 2009 massacre by Nidal Hasan “did help us yesterday,” adding that the toll “could have been much worse.”
President Obama was on a fundraising trip in Chicago when the shooting happened and returned to Washington as scheduled on Wednesday night.
On Air Force One, Obama hopped on a conference call with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, Chief of Staff of the Army General Ray Odierno, FBI Deputy Director Mark Giuliano, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, and Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors, according to the White House.
“The President directed his team to utilize every resource available to fully investigate the shooting. As the President said earlier tonight, these brave men and women serve with valor and distinction, and when at home they need to feel safe. The Fort Hood community is strong and resilient, and the President emphasized the importance of doing everything we can to ensure the community has every resource needed to recover, heal, and come back stronger than before,” the White House said.
“The Department of Defense has the lead on the investigation with support from federal partners including the FBI, as well as state and local law enforcement personnel. The President will continue to receive updates as new information becomes available and has directed that his team do everything it can to assist the families of those lost and wounded today.”