FORT HOOD, Texas — There was the classroom presentation that justified suicide bombings. Comments to colleagues about a climate of persecution faced by Muslims in the military. Conversations with a mosque leader that became incoherent.
Some who knew Nidal Malik Hasan as a student said they saw clear signs the young Army psychiatrist — who authorities say went on a shooting spree at Fort Hood that left 13 dead and 29 others wounded — had no place in the military. After arriving at Fort Hood, he was conflicted about what to tell fellow Muslim soldiers about the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, alarming an Islamic community leader from whom he sought counsel.
"I told him, ‘There's something wrong with you,'" Osman Danquah, co-founder of the Islamic Community of Greater Killeen, told The Associated Press on Saturday. "I didn't get the feeling he was talking for himself, but something just didn't seem right."
Danquah assumed the military's chain of command knew about Hasan's doubts, which had been known for more than a year to classmates in a graduate military medical program. His fellow students complained to the faculty about Hasan's "anti-American propaganda," but said a fear of appearing discriminatory against a Muslim student kept officers from filing a formal written complaint.
"The system is not doing what it's supposed to do," said Dr. Val Finnell, who studied with Hasan from 2007-2008 in the master's program in public health at the military's Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. "He at least should have been confronted about these beliefs, told to cease and desist, and to shape up or ship out."
Military authorities continued Saturday to refer to Hasan as the only suspect in the shootings, and have not yet said if they plan to charge him in a military or civilian court. "We have not established a motive for the shootings at this time," said Army Criminal Investigative Command spokesman Chris Grey.
A U.S. Army spokesman said Hasan had been taken off a ventilator but still remained in intensive care at a military hospital. Col. John Rossi said he wasn't sure if Hasan could communicate.
‘Peaceful, loving,’ his brother says
His family described a man incapable of the attack, calling him a devoted doctor and devout Muslim who showed no signs that he might lash out with violence.
"I've known my brother Nidal to be a peaceful, loving and compassionate person who has shown great interest in the medical field and in helping others," said his brother, Eyad Hasan, of Sterling, Va., in a statement. "He has never committed an act of violence and was always known to be a good, law-abiding citizen."
Video: Names released Others recalled a pleasant neighbor who forgave a fellow soldier charged with tearing up his "Allah is Love" bumper sticker. A superior officer at Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood, Col. Kimberly Kesling, has said Hasan was a quiet man with a strong work ethic who provided excellent care for his patients.
Still, in the days since authorities believe Hasan fired more than 100 rounds in a soldier processing center at Fort Hood in the worst mass shooting on a military facility in the U.S., a picture has emerged of a man who was forcefully opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was trying to get out of his pending deployment to a war zone and had struggled professionally in his work as an Army psychiatrist.
"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, told the AP from his home on the outskirts of the Palestinian city of Ramallah. "He hired a lawyer to get him a discharge."
Looking for guidance
Twice this summer, Danquah said, Hasan asked him what to tell soldiers who expressed misgivings about fighting fellow Muslims. The retired Army first sergeant and Gulf War veteran said he reminded Hasan that these soldiers had volunteered to fight, and that Muslims were fighting against each other in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Palestinian territories.
Fort Hood profiles "But what if a person gets in and feels that it's just not right?" Danquah recalled Hasan asking him.
"I'd give him my response. It didn't seem settled, you know. It didn't seem to satisfy," he said. "It would be like a person playing the devil's advocate. ... I said, `Look. I'm not impressed by you.'"
Danquah said he was so disturbed by Hasan's persistent questioning that he recommended the mosque reject Hasan's request to become a lay Muslim leader at Fort Hood. But he never saw a need tell anyone at the sprawling Army post about the talks, because Hasan never expressed anger toward the Army or indicated any plans for violence.
"If I had an inkling that he had this type of inclination or intentions, definitely I would have brought it to their attention," he said.
Finnell said he did just that during a year of study in which Hasan made a presentation "that justified suicide bombing" and spewed "anti-American propaganda" as he argued the war on terror was "a war against Islam." Finnell said he and at least one other student complained about Hasan, surprised that someone with "this type of vile ideology" would be allowed to wear an officer's uniform.
But Finnell said no one filed a formal, written complaint about Hasan's comments out of fear of appearing discriminatory.
"In retrospect, I'm not surprised he did it," Finnell said. "I had real questions about what his priorities were, what his beliefs were."
Hasan received a poor performance evaluation while at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly. And while he was an intern at the suburban Washington hospital, Hasan had some "difficulties" that required counseling and extra supervision, said Dr. Thomas Grieger, who was the training director at the time.
Hasan was promoted from captain to major in 2008, the same year he graduated from the master's program. Bernard Rostker, a military personnel expert at the Rand Corp., said Hasan's advancement was all but certain absent a serious blemish on his record, such as a DUI or a drug charge.
"We're short of officers, particularly at the major and lieutenant colonel level because of the war, and we're short of psychiatrists," said Rostker, who served as under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness during the Clinton administration. "There would have had to be something very detrimental in his record before there would have been a banner that would have said, 'No, we don't want to promote him.'"
Both military and civilian investigators have yet to talk with Hasan, who reportedly jumped up on a desk and shouted "Allahu akbar!" — Arabic for "God is great!" — at the start of Thursday's attack. He was seriously wounded by police and transferred Friday to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, where officials gave no indication of his condition except to say he was "not able to converse."
"Hopefully, they can put together the pieces and find out what in the world was in his mind and why he went crazy," Danquah said. "Aaaaah, it's sad. Those soldiers could have been my soldiers."
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