Witness says Fort Hood gunman shot at random

Details flood in during the trial of Nidal Malik Hasan, the accused gunman in the military base attack

Published October 18, 2010 5:15PM (EDT)

A gunman appeared to be trying to hit anyone who moved -- not any specific person -- as he fired upon Army personnel and civilian workers in a deadly rampage at Fort Hood last November, a military court heard Monday.

Pvt. Justin Johnson said he was chatting with his mother on his cell phone as he waited to undergo pre-deployment medical exams when the shooting began. He threw himself down and started to crawl.

The gunman "was aiming his weapon on the ground and he started shooting, and he was hitting people that were trying to get away," Johnson told the Article 32 hearing via video link from Kandahar in Afghanistan.

"It didn't seem like he was targeting a specific person, sir. He was just shooting at anybody."

Johnson, who was shot three times in the attack and still has a bullet wedged in his lungs, could not identify the shooter.

In the first week of testimony, several witnesses said they made eye contact with Maj. Nidal Hasan, a 40-year-old American-born Muslim, and identified him as the gunman in the Nov. 5 shootings at the Texas Army post.

The hearing is to determine if Hasan will stand trial on 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the worst attack on an American military base.

The investigating officer at the hearing, Col. James L. Pohl, said earlier this year that he wanted to hear from the almost three dozen people who were wounded in the attack. The Article 32 hearing is unique to the military in that Pohl, along with prosecutors and defense attorneys, can call witnesses.

Col. Morgan Lamb, a Fort Hood brigade commander appointed to oversee judicial matters in Hasan's case, will decide if the prosecution has shown probably cause, thereby allowing the case to go to trial.

Witnesses last week told similar stories of how a balding man in an Army combat uniform stood by a front counter, shouted "Allahu Akbar!" -- "God is great!" in Arabic -- and started shooting at unarmed soldiers in a building where they went for routine medical tests before deploying.

When the volley of gunfire sprayed across a crowded waiting area, startled soldiers initially thought it was a training exercise.

On Monday, Spc. Joseph Tracy Foster said he was among those who thought the bullets being fired were not live ammunition.

"I felt a sharp pain in my hip," said Foster, of the 20th Engineer Battalion. "I believed it was a paintball round, or something along those lines. ... I remember bringing my hand up to my face and thinking: 'These paintball rounds feel really real.'"

Many witnesses were shot more than once -- some as they tried to pull buddies to safety, others as they hid under tables or chairs. One wounded soldier ran outside, but the gunman followed him and shot him again, soldiers testified.

Upcoming witnesses are expected to include the two Fort Hood police officers credited with taking the gunman down. Hasan, who was paralyzed from the chest down after being shot, remains jailed.

The hearing is expected to last at least another week.

(This version corrects that less than three dozen were wounded in the attack. )

By Angela K. Brown

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By Michael Graczyk

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Fort Hood Shooting