Fort Hood shooter practiced to kill

2010-10-22 08:09

Fort Hood - In the weeks before the deadly Fort Hood rampage, an Army psychiatrist repeatedly visited a firing range to hone his skills with his new laser-equipped semi-automatic handgun by shooting at the heads on silhouette targets, witnesses told a military hearing on Thursday.

Major Nidal Hasan bought an FN 5.7 semi-automatic handgun on August 1, a few weeks after he entered the store and made "an interesting request... for the most high-tech weapon we had," said Fredrick Brannon, a former Guns Galore employee.

He said Hasan seemed to have little knowledge of guns at that point.

The Article 32 hearing will determine whether Hasan will stand trial on 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder for the November 5 rampage at the Texas Army post.

James Pohl, the investigating officer in the case, delayed the hearing after prosecutors finished presenting evidence and set it to resume November 15, when defence attorneys will say whether they'll present any evidence.

They sought the delay so a defence expert can complete a psychiatric evaluation of their American-born Muslim client.

Hasan was shot by police officers during last year's rampage, leaving him paralysed from the chest down. He's been attending the hearing in a wheelchair. Hasan remains jailed, as the military justice system does not have bail.

Concealed handgun class

In court on Thursday, prosecutors showed footage they said Hasan recorded on his cell phone of the gun store manager in nearby Killeen demonstrating how to use the gun - including reloading and cleaning it.

The footage does not show Hasan, but he can be heard saying, "OK," in the background several times as the manager - who did not testify - gave him detailed instructions.

John Choats, part owner of Stan's Outdoor Shooting Range and a certified shooting instructor, said Hasan completed a concealed handgun class on October 10 and purchased a membership at the shooting range in Florence, about 30km south of Killeen.

Hasan returned once or twice a week, doing long-range shooting with an FN 5.7 gun at the rifle range, Choats said.

Hasan chose silhouette targets rather than bullseye targets, aiming at the head and chest from 100 meters away, and began to improve his accuracy, Choats said.

"Most of the time in training it's (aiming for) entirely centre mass, the chest and abdominal (region)," Choats said, when asked by a defence attorney whether he noticed anything unusual about the target practice.

During seven days of testimony, 56 witnesses testified, including more than two dozen soldiers wounded in the rampage in a medical building where soldiers get vaccines and other medical tests before deployment.

Many witnesses said a gunman wearing an Army combat uniform stood near the front door, shouted "Allahu Akbar!" - "God is great!" in Arabic -then opened fired in a crowded waiting area.

He kept firing rapidly, pausing only to reload, and shot people as they hid under tables or curled up in chairs - even shooting soldiers after they fled outside. Investigators found 146 shell casings inside and another 68 outside - and some 177 unused rounds of ammunition in Hasan's pockets after he was shot.

Pohl, the investigating officer in the case, will at some point after the hearing recommend whether Hasan should go to trial, though the decision ultimately will be made by Fort Hood's commanding general.

Read more on:    nidal hasan  |  us  |  fort hood shooting
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