One died trying to prevent a gunman’s rampage at Fort Hood from becoming much bloodier, according to his fiancée. Another was a counselor on base and a father of two. Another was a 20-year veteran who planned to retire this year.
All three were felled by the Iraq war veteran who opened fire on Wednesday at the base in Texas, killing three people and injuring 16 more.
As authorities continued looking into why the man identified as the gunman, Spc. Ivan Lopez, carried out the attack, portraits of the dead began to emerge.
Sgt. 1st Class Danny Ferguson, 39, had just returned from Afghanistan and was a movement specialist at Fort Hood, Army officials said. He had also served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
His fiancée, Kristen Haley, who is also a soldier, told the station that Ferguson died trying to hold a door shut and keep the gunman from getting into a room packed with military personnel.
“He held that door shut because it wouldn’t lock,” she told WTSP. “If he was not being the one against that door holding it, that shooter would have been able to get through and shoot everyone else.”
Ferguson’s father told NBC News on Friday that he was proud of his son. He declined a further interview.
Haley added in an interview with WTSP, the CBS affiliate in Tampa, Fla.: “I know that he did have a pleasure of serving. This was his life. He was proud to be part of a great service.”
Ferguson, from Mulberry, Fla., played football, baseball and basketball and ran track in high school, WTSP reported. At the high school where Ferguson graduated in 1993, students observed a moment of silence on Friday before the pledge of allegiance.
Army Sgt. Timothy Owens, 37, was an Illinois native who was once stationed in Kuwait. Owens had also served in Iraq. His mother, Mary Louise Muntean, told NBC Chicago that she never imagined he would die in an act of violence on American soil.
“I can’t believe this has happened. I just can’t,” the mother said. “I just talked to him Sunday night.”
Owens had recently remarried and was the father of two teenagers, the station reported. His mother said: “I’m very proud of him because he was fighting for our country.”
The third victim was Carlos Lazaney Rodriguez, 38, of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, who had served in Kuwait and Iraq. His city's Mayor Carlos Mendez Martinez told NBC News Friday that he had spoken to an aunt of Lazaney’s and that the family had been notified in Tampa, Fla.
“They are an excellent family, really good people,” he said. “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.”
One of his aunts, Teresa Rodriguez, told Telemundo in Spanish: “It never crossed my mind that his destiny was in that place. And his destiny took a turn for the worst, to die in the place where he loved to be. He loved the Army.”