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Gunman kills 12, wounds 31 in rampage

Photo by Nate McCullough

Photo by Nate McCullough

FORT HOOD, Texas -- A military mental health doctor facing deployment overseas opened fire at the Fort Hood Army base on Thursday, setting off on a rampage that killed 12 other people and left 31 wounded.

Authorities said immediately after the shootings that they had killed the suspected shooter, but later in the evening they recanted and said that he was alive and in stable condition at a hospital, watched by a guard.

''His death is not imminent,'' said Lt. Gen. Bob Cone at Fort Hood. He offered little explanation for the mistake, other than to say there was confusion at the hospital.

The shooting began around 1:30 p.m., when shots were fired at the base's Soldier Readiness Center, where soldiers who are about to be deployed or who are returning undergo medical screening, said Cone.

''It's a terrible tragedy. It's stunning,'' Cone said.

A law enforcement official identified the shooting suspect as Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly.

Two other soldiers taken into custody following the deadly rampage were later released, the office of a Texas congressman said. A spokesman for Rep. John Carter says Fort Hood officials informed Carter's office of the release. Carter's congressional district includes the Army base.

A Fort Hood spokesman could not confirm that the two had been released.

It was unclear what the motive was. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said the Army major was about to deploy overseas, though it was unclear if he was headed to Iraq or Afghanistan and when he was scheduled to leave. Hutchison said she was told about the upcoming deployment by generals based at Fort Hood.

Military officials said Hasan, 39, was a psychiatrist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for six years before being transferred to the Texas base in July. The officials, who had access to Hasan's military record, said he received a poor performance evaluation while at Walter Reed. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because military records are confidential.

The Virginia-born soldier was single with no children. He graduated from Virginia Tech, where he was a member of the ROTC and earned a bachelor's degree in biochemistry in 1997. He received his medical degree from the military's Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., in 2001. At Walter Reed, he did his internship, residency and a fellowship.

Officials were investigating whether Hasan was his birth name or if he may have changed his name, possibly as part of a conversion to Islam. However, they were not certain of his religion.

The Soldier Readiness Center holds hundreds of people and is one of the most populated parts of the base, said Steve Moore, a spokesman for III Corps at Fort Hood. Nearby there are barracks and a food center where there are fast food chains.

A graduation ceremony for soldiers who finished college courses while deployed was going on nearby at the time of the shooting, said Sgt. Rebekah Lampman, a Fort Hood spokeswoman.