Dispute over leave agitated fort gunman

By Manny Fernandez / New York Times News Service

Published Apr 5, 2014 at 12:01AM

KILLEEN, Texas — The Army specialist at Fort Hood who killed three and wounded 16 of his fellow soldiers on Wednesday had an angry dispute over a leave request shortly before the shooting rampage, a law enforcement official said Friday.

After a meeting where he had sought a leave to attend to family matters, he was clearly agitated and disrespectful, said the official, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to discuss the investigation.

Fort Hood officials and a spokesman for Army investigators declined to comment on Friday about the meeting and its role in the shooting, but they confirmed in an afternoon news conference that the specialist, Ivan Antonio Lopez, became angry with soldiers from his unit before the attack. Two of those he killed were in his unit, a transportation battalion of the 13th Sustainment Command. Officials stressed that they had still not established a clear motive.

But in an interview with a local Mississippi television station, Theodis Westbrook, of Smithdale, Miss., the father of Sgt. Jonathan Westbrook, who was wounded in the attack, said he was told that a soldier came to Fort Hood’s personnel office, where Jonathan Westbrook worked, to get a leave form. When one of the soldiers told the man to come back the next day to pick that form up, the man left, then returned with a gun and opened fire.

“The first guy he shot right in front of my son was killed, and then he turned the gun towards Jonathan, aimed it, and fired,” Theodis Westbrook said. “I don’t know how many times he fired, but he hit my son four times.”

The Army has said that Lopez had been undergoing evaluation for post-traumatic stress disorder and treatment for depression and anxiety, but the post commander, Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, said on Friday that his “underlying medical conditions” were not a direct factor in the shootings. “We believe that the immediate precipitating factor was more likely an escalating argument in his unit area,” Milley said.

On his Facebook page, Lopez expressed a variety of concerns — including outrage at Adam Lanza’s shooting rampage in Newtown, Conn., the fear he felt in a convoy in Iraq and, more recently, anger with Army bureaucracy.

“Given that the alleged shooter is deceased, the possibility does exist that we may never know exactly why the alleged shooter did what he did,” said Chris Grey, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command in Quantico, Va., the lead agency investigating the shooting.