It has not even been five years since the terrifying mass shooting that took 13 lives in Fort Hood, Texas. Yet the headlines read all the same on April 2, 2014: another shooting spree with multiple fatalities.
On April 2, 2014, Sergeant Ivan Lopez was in a medical building when he began firing his .45 caliber Smith and Wesson pistol (purchased at the same gun store as the previous Fort Hood shooter, Nidal Hasan) around 4:00pm. He soon left that building and went into another, continuing to fire. He shot nearly 20 people, killing three of them and then turning the gun on himself in the end once police intervened.
Lopez was a 34-year-old Puerto Rican who had previously served in the National Guard in Puerto Rico before being transferred to Fort Bliss, Texas (another post near El Paso, Texas). He was deployed to Egypt in 2007 for a year and then to Iraq in 2011 for four months. Family members allege that he was deeply affected by his deployments and was showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, though he was never officially diagnosed with it. He was being treated for his depression and anxiety and was working as an army truck driver at the time of the shooting. He had been seen by a psychiatrist but was not seen as a threat to himself or society. His motive behind the shooting is currently unclear, though witnesses did report hearing a verbal altercation between Lopez and others before the shooting. He is not thought to have any ties to extremist organizations, unlike the previous Fort Hood shooter, who had allegedly been in communication with Anwar al-Awlaki, a talent recruiter for Al Qaeda. If Lopez’s motive was not fueled by terrorism or radical beliefs, could he have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder that went undetected? With Lopez now dead by a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, the motive behind his violent rage may never be found.
Just four and a half years prior to Lopez’s outrage, the 2009 Fort Hood shooting happened on November 5, 2009. The sole shooter was identified as Major Nidal Malik Hasan, ironically a psychiatrist for the United States Army. His motive for the shooting, however, stemmed from his radical Muslim beliefs and ultimately, jihad. Some refer to Major Hasan’s killing spree as an act of domestic terrorism, though it has officially been deemed as an act of workplace violence. No matter the classification, Major Hasan murdered over a dozen people on his own accord, and wounded more than 30 individuals. He was arraigned in 2011 on charges of murder and attempted murder and a court-martial was set to begin in May 2013. Hasan represented himself in the trial in which military prosecutors were seeking the death penalty. His defense strategy was anything but a defense – he admitted he was the sole shooter responsible for the deaths of his fellow soldiers. He also indicated that he had “switched sides” and was now declaring jihad with the United States. Not surprisingly, the jury convicted him of all murder and attempted murder charges after deliberating for just seven hours and he was sentenced to death.