Nightly News   |  November 06, 2009

Soldier thought shooting was 'training'

Nov. 6: The father of a Fort Hood soldier described the scene relayed to him by his daughter as 13 men and women died in a hail of gunfire around her on Thursday. NBC's Lester Holt reports.

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>>> 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