Video: Soldier thought shooting was 'training'

  1. Closed captioning of: Soldier thought shooting was 'training'

    >>> friday night begins now.

    >>> good evening. as the nation's largest military post deals with the concussion of what happened there yesterday, the colossal loss of life, tonight a single gunman is hospitalized under heavy guard, and the numbers have gone up to 13 killed, 43 injured in that single attack on ft. hood in texas. and a new picture is emerging of this accused gunman literally and figuratively. the army major, a trained psychiatrist. as we now know much more about his past and his personal life . again, tonight we have all of it covered, beginning with lester holt in ft. hood tonight. lester, good evening.

    >> reporter: brian, good evening. the accused shooter, who himself was shot and wounded, has been transferred to the brook army medical center in san antonio . that's about 150 miles from here. he is in stable condition in the intensive care unit there. meantime, his former comrades back here are left to wonder why and also to wonder whether anyone could have or should have seen this coming. the army's top brass at ft. hood today leading soldiers in a moment of silence, exactly 24 hours after one of their own turned this stateside post into a battleground.

    >> i'll tell you candidly, this was a kick in the gut. not only for the ft. hood community but also for our entire army.

    >> reporter: officials today confirmed the carnage was the work of one man, army major and psychiatrist nidal hasan , who they say turned on the very soldiers he was charged with caring for.

    >> people were shot just about everywhere. certainly it's hard to imagine one person doing this much damage.

    >> reporter: the picture emerging of hasan is of a man increasingly anguished over his imminent deployment to afghanistan. still, they say, there was no warning when at 1:34 p.m . hasan , dressed in his army uniform, opened fire inside the fort's soldier readiness center, where men and women preparing for deployment were undergoing medical screenings. also in the line of fire, a group filing into a graduation ceremony. army photographer specialist elliott valdez was hitting into the theater and told his story to a military video crew.

    >> people outside of the theater coming inside screaming. there had been one person that made his way to the theater that had been shot. since that happened, i just grabbed my camera and just went outside.

    >> reporter: in an exclusive interview with nbc's salt lake city affiliate ksl a father of a soldier whose identity he did not want revealed described what his daughter says happened before the gunman started shooting.

    >> he said allah akbar and just opened up on everybody. and initially she thought that it was part of the training some real-life scenario, but it was within a second or two that she realized it was for real because the person next to her was shot and killed instantly.

    >> reporter: the rampage ended when civilian police officer sergeant kimberly munley shot hasan four times, wounding him, despite being shot herself. her father, dennis barbour, back in north carolina .

    >> your primary -- secondary concern is just for your family. so you're not feeling that ill will or hard feelings against someone that would -- you're just questioning why. why would anyone in their right mind start something like this.

    >> reporter: this morning president obama said the motive of the attack is still unknown.

    >> what we do know is that there are families, friends, and an entire nation grieving right now for the valiant men and women who came under attack yesterday.

    >> reporter: army officials are for now treating the attack as an isolated incident and cautioning against a rush to judgment.

    >> i do worry slightly about a potential backlash.

    >> reporter: with 13 dead and over 40 injured, the army hopes the attack won't create deeper wounds within the brotherhood of soldiers. in one of the many sad ironies of this tragedy, the bodies of those who were killed here are making the same solemn journey tonight that america's war dead do. they are being flown, brian, to dover air force base in delaware to a military mortuary, where they will eventually be turned over to their families.

    >> lester holt starting us off tonight from the main gate there at ft. hood in texas. lester, thanks.

    >>> and we are learning more

updated 11/6/2009 7:28:22 PM ET 2009-11-07T00:28:22

As if going off to war, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan cleaned out his apartment, gave leftover frozen broccoli to one neighbor and called another to thank him for his friendship — common courtesies and routines of the departing soldier. Instead, authorities say, he went on the killing spree that left 13 people dead at Fort Hood, Texas.

Investigators examined Hasan's computer, his home and his garbage Friday to learn what motivated the suspect, who lay in a coma, shot four times in the frantic bloodletting that also wounded 30. Hospital officials said some of the wounded had extremely serious injuries and might not survive.

The 39-year-old Army psychiatrist emerged as a study in contradictions: a polite man who stewed with discontent, a counselor who needed to be counseled himself, a professional healer now suspected of cutting down the fellow soldiers he was sworn to help.

Relatives said he felt harassed because of his Muslim faith but did not embrace extremism. Others were not so sure. A recent classmate said Hasan once gave a jarring presentation to students in which he argued the war on terrorism was a war against Islam, and "made himself a lightning rod for things" when he felt his religious beliefs were challenged.

‘Allahu Akbar’
Investigators were trying to piece together how and why Hasan allegedly gunned down his comrades in the worst case of violence on a military base in the U.S. The rampage unfolded at a center where some 300 unarmed soldiers were lined up for vaccines and eye tests.

Soldiers reported that the gunman shouted "Allahu Akbar!" — an Arabic phrase for "God is great!" — before opening fire Thursday, said Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, the base commander. He said officials had not confirmed Hasan made the comment.

Hasan's family said in a statement Friday that his alleged actions were "despicable and deplorable" and don't reflect how the family was reared.

Hasan was due to be deployed to Afghanistan to help soldiers with combat stress, a task he'd done stateside with returning soldiers, the Army said. The timing of his departure was not disclosed.

In any event, the major was saying goodbyes and dispensing belongings to neighbors.

Jose Padilla, the owner of Hasan's apartment complex, said Hasan gave him notice two weeks ago that he was moving out this week.

Video: Alleged gunman's cousin says Hasan was harassed

‘Enemy among us’
Earlier this week, Hasan asked Padilla his native language. When Padilla said it was Spanish, Hasan immediately went up to his apartment to get him a Spanish-language Quran. Padilla said Hasan also refused to reclaim his deposit and last month's rent, surrendering $400 that the major said should go to someone who needed it.

"I cannot comprehend that the enemy was among us," Padilla said, tearing up. "I feel a little guilt that I was basically giving housing to someone who is going to do so much destruction."

Neighbor Patricia Villa said Hasan came to her apartment the day of the shooting, and before, to give her vegetables, an air mattress, T-shirts, a Quran and offer her $60 to clean his Killeen, Texas, apartment after he left. Fort Hood profiles

Jacqueline Harris, 44, who lives with her boyfriend Willie Bell in the apartment next door to Hasan, said he called Thursday at 5 a.m. and left a message.

"He just wanted to thank Willie for being a good friend and thank him for being there for him," Harris said. "That was it. We thought it was just a nice message to leave."

Bell said Hasan offered a farewell, saying "nice knowing you old friend. I'm going to miss you."

According to a Killeen police report in August, an Army employee was charged with scratching Hasan's car, causing $1,000 in damage. Apartment manager John Thompson said the man charged was a soldier back from Iraq, who objected to Hasan's faith and ripped a bumper sticker off the major's car that said: "Allah is Love."

Kim Rosenthal, another neighbor, said Hasan didn't seem too upset by his scratched vehicle, even though it was damaged so badly that he got a new one. "He said it was Ramadan and that he had to forgive people," Rosenthal said. "He forgave him and moved on."

Hasan appeared less forgiving to Dr. Val Finnell when they were classmates in a 2007-08 master's public health program at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md.

She said that at a class presentation by public health students, at which topics like dry cleaning chemicals and house mold were discussed, Hasan talked about U.S. military actions as a war on Islam. Hasan made clear he was a "vociferous opponent" of U.S. wars in Muslim countries, Finnell said.

"He made himself a lightning rod for things," she said. "No one picked on him because he was a Muslim."

Law enforcement officials said they are trying to confirm if Hasan wrote Internet postings that include his name about suicide bombings and other threats, equating suicide bombers to soldiers who throw themselves on a grenade to save the life of fellow soldiers.

Hasan is the Arlington, Va.-born son of Palestinian parents who ran a restaurant and bar in Roanoke, Va., from 1987 to 1995, and owned a small grocery store in that city.

His relatives in the West Bank said they had heard from family members that Hasan felt mistreated in the Army as a Muslim.

"He told (them) that as a Muslim committed to his prayers he was discriminated against and not treated as is fitting for an officer and American," said Mohammed Malik Hasan, 24, a cousin. "He hired a lawyer to get him a discharge."

Mohammed Hasan said outside his home in Ramallah that he heard about the shooting from a relative. "I was surprised, honestly, because the guy and his brothers are so calm, and he, as I know, loves his work."

Nidal Hasan is the eldest of three brothers. One brother, Annas, lives in Ramallah with a wife and daughter, and practices law. The youngest brother, Eyad, lives in Virginia.

"We don't mix with them a lot," Mohammed said. "Nidal liked to stay alone, he was very calm. He minded his own business."

More on: Fort Hood

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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