KILLEEN, TEXAS – Sitting in a wheelchair, his voice soft but unwavering, U.S. Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan took responsibility Tuesday for the 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood.
“Fellow members, good morning,” Hasan began at the opening of his court-martial at the army post in central Texas. “On Nov. 5, 2009, 13 U.S. soldiers were killed and many more injured. The evidence will clearly show that I am the shooter.”
Hasan, a 42-year-old American-born Muslim who is representing himself, was in a small courtroom just a few kilometers from Fort Hood’s Soldier Readiness Processing Center, where he said he opened fire four years ago on fellow soldiers preparing to deploy to Afghanistan.
Dressed in army fatigues and with a full-length beard in defiance of military regulations, Hasan spoke for little more than a minute as he addressed the panel of 13 military officers who will decide whether he should be executed. He said he had been on the wrong side of a war against Islam and had switched over.
“We, the mujahedeen, are imperfect Muslims trying to establish the perfect religion in the land of the supreme God,” said Hasan, a major, who is paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by army civilian police. He apologized for “any mistakes I’ve made in this endeavor.”
During a busy day of testimony, Hasan made little effort to mount a defense. He asked few questions when he had the opportunity to cross-examine 12 witnesses, who included victims of the shooting, preferring to sit placidly and occasionally shuffle his legal papers.
Staff Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford Jr., who lost sight in his left eye as a result of injuries suffered during the shooting, fixed Hasan in his gaze as he testified that the shooter had followed him outside and fired into his back as he tried to crawl away. Hasan declined to cross-examine him.
Earlier, the defendant lowered his head and stared at a table as Col. Steve Henricks, a military prosecutor, gave a detailed account of Hasan’s radicalization, his preparation for the mass shooting and the day itself.
The army lawyer said the psychiatrist — who worked at what is now Walter Reed National Military Medical Center between 2003 and 2009 — meticulously prepared for months and deliberately targeted those in uniform while sparing civilians. Henricks said the accused, who was also set to go to Afghanistan at the end of November 2009, “did not want to deploy, and he came to believe he possessed a jihad duty to kill as many soldiers as possible.”
The court heard that Hasan had researched suicide bombers and paid for a membership at a nearby shooting range, training himself to consistently hit the head and chest of targets from 90 meters away. In the hours before the shooting, Hasan gave away some of his belongings, led the call to prayer at a local mosque, and used his computer to read an article that described Taliban leaders urging their followers “to commit jihad and not be cowards,” Henricks said.
Henricks described how Hasan had entered the processing center shortly after 1 p.m. with two guns, one of them equipped with twin laser sights, concealed in the pockets of his army uniform and then stood behind a desk, shouted “Allahu akbar!” — “God is great” — and “opened fire on unarmed, unsuspecting and defenseless soldiers.”