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Death on Base: The Fort Hood Massacre
By Anita Belles Porterfield, John Porterfield
University of North Texas PressCopyright © 2015 Anita Belles Porterfield and John Porterfield
All rights reserved.
05 November 2009 1320 hours Soldier Readiness Processing Center Fort Hood, Texas Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it for religious conviction.
Latoya Williams glanced up from her desk at Station Thirteen in the Soldier Readiness Processing (SRP) Center. Standing in front of her was a pudgy, bald soldier in fatigues. "Ma'am," he said, "Major Parrish has an emergency and she needs you."
Williams wondered why on earth this man, who she didn't know, would be telling her to go find Maj. Parrish. She glanced up at the clock on the wall. It was twenty-five minutes after one o'clock.
"Ma'am, she said it was urgent."
Williams looked at the embroidered name tab on his shirt: "Hasan." His insignia told her that he was a major.
Just as she got up and moved toward Major Parrish's office, forty-four year-old petroleum supply specialist Paul Martin walked into the crowded Fort Hood SRP Center hoping to be cleared for deployment. He had completed the maze of inoculations, dental and eye checkups, a complete physical, and most of the endless paperwork required for clearance. Three hundred soldiers were packed into the center and chairs were at a premium in the congested space at Station Thirteen. Martin finally spotted a place in the fourth row where he could sit and finish filling out the last of the required deployment forms. Although his unit had been mobilized from New Jersey the week before, Martin had come straight to Fort Hood from his hometown of Adel, Georgia, where he had just buried his father. A tall fit man, a basketball star in his youth, Martin and his cousin joined the Army right out of high school. After twenty-seven years Martin still loved the disciplined life of a soldier. That Army discipline kept him in shape, and it may very well be that his physical conditioning saved his life.
Martin is the first to admit that he was deep in thought and not paying close attention to his surroundings when he heard a fellow soldier shout "Allahu Akbar!" — Arabic for "God is Great!" — and commence shooting. At first he thought it was a prankster with a paintball gun but when people around him began screaming and falling to the floor, Martin realized that this was no joke. The soldiers in that packed space were sitting ducks. He felt a strong blow to his arm and looked down at his hand. It was covered in blood. Martin dropped to the floor and played dead.
An empty magazine from the killer's gun fell to the floor and he shoved a full one into the gun.
One and one-half seconds to reload. The red and green laser lights on his pistol cast macabre patterns and shadows on the walls and the faces of the victims as he methodically sprayed the room with bullets.
When Martin heard the shooter re-arming his pistol he watched some of his buddies jump to their feet and run. Martin did the same but the gunman shot him again, this time in the back. He crawled to a safer spot, then in a few seconds he managed to get up and run for his life.
At 1:25 p.m., twenty-one-year-old Spec. Dayna Ferguson walked up to the counter at Station Thirteen, signed in, and took a seat behind a divider that separated her cubicle from the common area. As bullets pierced the divider behind her chair, people screamed and hit the floor. Ferguson heard the gunman "coming, shooting, getting closer" and in the background there were cries of "my baby, my baby, don't shoot, please don't shoot."
Ferguson spotted an open door and attempted to escape but the killer saw her and fired. The high-powered bullet tore the flesh and muscle from her raised arm. With unusual calm and grace the gunman used a fan motion to spray his unwitting targets with high-velocity bullets from a handgun that could discharge twenty lethal projectiles in a span of seven seconds.
After mowing down several other soldiers nearby, the shooter turned back to Ferguson and shot her twice again, one bullet hitting her leg and the other penetrating deep into her shoulder. She managed to get a glimpse of him — he was fierce, focused, and deliberate. She watched him chase down some of his victims and brutally execute them in cold blood; others he passed over. Ferguson tried to shield herself with a chair. She screamed in terror and prayed, then lost consciousness, remembering nothing until long after the ambulance ride that whisked her away from the carnage.
Josh Berry had just returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan and needed to file some paperwork before heading home to Ohio. When the shooting began, Berry called his wife, Melissa, and told her someone was firing a weapon in the building. After telling her he loved her, he ran. He did not turn his phone off and Melissa heard the commotion in the background. During his escape, Berry dislocated his shoulder.
Ssg. Michael Davis walked into the center just before the shooting started. "It sounded like M-16 fire," he remembers. At first, like many of the solders, he thought it was a training exercise. He asked someone if it was common to have a drill in the SRP Center. Then Davis got shot and hit the ground. He crawled under a desk and played dead. The shooting stopped for a moment and when he heard the gunfire resume outside, he ran all the way to Battalion Avenue into traffic and stopped a truck. The driver took him straight to Carl R. Darnall Medical Center.
Maj. Laura Suttinger was in an exam cubicle with her primary care provider when the shooting started. She knew immediately that something wasn't right and quickly concluded that it was gunfire. She remembers that it lasted less than three minutes. After the shooting stopped she ran out into the open area and tried to administer first aid to several soldiers, but they were dead.
After a quick lunch, civilian Physician Assistant Michael Grant Cahill had just returned to the center with a full afternoon of physical exams ahead of him. Despite a recent heart attack, and against doctors' orders, he had resumed his duties as a civilian contractor at Fort Hood five days after his coronary. He loved his work at the SRP Center so much that he commuted one-hundred-twenty-miles every day from his home in rural Cameron, Texas, a small community seventy-one miles northeast of Austin. Cahill, a former member of the National Guard and Army Reserves, was unyielding in his commitment and desire to deliver first-rate healthcare to his soldiers. No one under his aegis could go to war unless he or she was declared fit for combat. As usual, Cahill was performing a physical exam inside one of the tiny cubicles that served as an examining room. When he heard shots he grabbed a chair and charged the shooter. The gunman callously turned his semi-automatic pistol on Cahill and stopped him in his tracks.
The killer was no stranger to Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford. He had met the man a month earlier while they were working at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center on base. They had an argument over a patient who needed to be transferred from I.C.U. to the psych ward. Lunsford had noticed the shooter earlier that morning in the SRP Center when he caused a scene by refusing a smallpox vaccination.
Lunsford watched in horror as Michael Cahill stormed out of his cubicle and attempted to take down the assassin with a chair. When the gunman abruptly turned and shot Cahill, the flustered six-foot-nine Lunsford jumped up from his seat. As he did, the shooter turned to him and they made eye contact. Lunsford froze as the laser lights on the pistol moved eerily across his line of sight. The killer shot him in the head and Lunsford fell to the floor. He was hit four more times in the back, abdomen, and upper chest before he managed to get out of the building. Clatter. Click.
A few feet away Pfc. Lance Aviles and his battle buddy Pfc. Kham Xiong had been chatting while they waited at Station Thirteen. Xiong heard a shout and turned to look at its source and saw "a tanned, balding man wearing an Army combat uniform and carrying a black pistol." When Aviles saw smoke coming from the weapon he and Xiong dove out of their chairs and lay motionless on the floor. Aviles glanced over at his buddy — he was dead. Aviles grabbed his cell phone and video-recorded the mayhem. Later that afternoon his commander ordered him to delete the footage."
Spec. Logan Barnett also thought the commotion was a drill. But when he saw his friend Ssg. Shawn Manning take six shots to the torso, Barnett hit the floor and started crawling toward the exam cubicles. He watched as Capt. John Gaffney grabbed a folding chair and ran towards the shooter. The killer stopped Gaffney in his tracks, killing him with a burst of bullets. When he stopped to reload, Barnett picked up a folding table, but before he could throw it, the killer shot him in the head. Using his body as a shield while two other soldiers made their getaways, Barnett managed to crawl out of the building.
Sgt. Alan Michael Carroll was sitting with his friend Pfc. Aaron Nemelka in a row of folding chairs when the shooting started. Carroll thought, at first, that someone was firing a pop gun, but when he was hit by a bullet in his shoulder he realized that it was all too real. His friends were shot, too, and he tried to help them, but they were dead. When he finally got out of the center, he had four bullets in his body.
Police officer Kimberly Munley was parked at a car wash cleaning her patrol car when a call came in that shots had been fired at the SRP Center. Munley, a civilian law enforcement officer for the Department of Emergency Services at Fort Hood, immediately drove the half-mile to the SRP Center. She pulled into the parking lot next to another patrol car, got out, and drew her hand gun, a Beretta M9 pistol. A throng of screaming people pointed out the shooting site to her. In the distance Munley heard gunshots and shouts for help. She ran toward the buildings.
Michelle Harper, a civilian lab technician, was sitting at her desk in the SRP Center talking to a friend on her cell phone when the shooting commenced. She believed that the pop, pop, pops she heard were firecrackers. When she realized that someone was firing a gun inside the SRP Center she dove under the desk and called 9-1-1 on her cell phone. "Oh my God, everybody's shot!" she screamed. Several soldiers piled on top of her and as she watched from a crack under the desk, she glimpsed a pair of feet striding past.
Once the gunfire ceased, Harper got up and ran out the back door. She watched in horror as a police officer rounded the corner of the building, engaged in a gunfight. Harper ran to her car, jumped in, and hit reverse. She floored the accelerator and tore through grass and a ditch and between two barracks.
Non-commissioned officer-in-charge (OIC) of the SRP Center, Sfc. Maria Guerra, was sitting in her office at Station Ten when she heard a shout followed by four popping sounds and screams from the packed waiting room. She ran to the doorway and yelled "get down, get down." The scene was total chaos with "soldiers and civilians ... running, running and screaming." She recognized the shooter, a balding man about 5' 9" tall, carrying two weapons. He had been to the Center several times in preparation for his deployment to Afghanistan. His paperwork was never correct and the clerical staff was frustrated because he couldn't, or wouldn't, do it right. To make matters worse, earlier that day he had refused his small pox vaccination.
Guerra stood frozen in horror as the shooter nimbly fired, reloaded three times, and began walking toward her. She retreated into her office where she could still hear the soldiers' screams. A female voice shouted hysterically "please, please don't, my baby, my baby." More shots, then it was quiet.
Guerra cautiously opened her office door, then without hesitation, she flung herself into the maelstrom of death and blood. Fueled by adrenaline, she stumbled through the carnage to the front of the building and quickly bolted the door. Her training kicked in and she began triaging patients, marking the foreheads of the dead with a marker.
The air at Station Three was so thick with smoke and heavy with the smell of gunpowder that Guerra could taste it. The room was a field of devastation. The floor was strewn with bodies and no one was moving. She shouted "is everybody okay?" In response, there were moans and cries for help.
Guerra could still hear gunfire in the rear of the building and shouted for those who were mobile to get out. She placed chucks over the faces of Michael Cahill and a nearby dead female staff sergeant. Guerra remained in the building and treated the injured until police officers rushed in a few minutes later.
Monique Archuleta heard the gunfire and retreated to her office until Guerra called her out. Archuleta ran from dead soldier to dead soldier before she found Lt. Col. Juanita Warman and knelt down by her side to try and help her.
"I'm not going to make it, I'm not going to make it. I'm going to die," Warman whispered to Archuleta. Archuleta tried to comfort her but her injuries were so severe that she slipped away.
Fort Hood police officer Mark Todd was on patrol when he received a call that shots had been fired at the SRP Center. He quickly drove to the site where onlookers pulled him in the direction of the shooter. Todd spotted the red laser at the same moment that the gunman saw him. Shots rang out and Todd ducked behind a building and radioed that "dozens of shots have been fired."
Twenty-one-year-old Pfc. Justin Johnson had been chatting with his mom on his cell phone when the volley of gunfire erupted. At first his mother thought that her son was playing video games while he talked and she chastised him for it. But then she heard screams and cries of terror in the background. Johnson's mom would spend anxious hours awaiting word of her son's condition. She thought back about his desire to join the military right out of high school. After a couple of years of college she finally acquiesced and gave Justin her blessing to enlist in the Army. He adapted very quickly to military life and she had become comfortable with her son's career choice. And now this.
When the bald major pulled out a pistol and started shooting into the SRP crowd, Johnson initially thought that it was a surprise training exercise. He felt a sharp blow to his back but before he could process what was happening he was shot a second time. He watched helplessly as the gunman aimed and fired at the defenseless injured soldiers who were attempting to crawl to safety.
Johnson managed to flee the building and some friends screamed for him to get in their truck. He almost made it but he couldn't run fast enough and they pulled away without him. When the killer ran out of the building and began firing at people in the parking lot, Johnson ducked behind a car. He realized that he had a buddy's keys in his pocket. He very quickly spotted his friend's truck and burned rubber out of the parking lot.
Spc. Frederick Greene watched as his buddies Pfcs. Michael Pearson and Aaron Nemelka were brutally gunned down and he knew he had to stop the shooter. He charged him, running in a zigzag pattern. They locked eyes and the shooter emptied his magazine in him. Greene fell to the floor with a dozen bullets lodged in his body.
Officer Munley spotted her partner, Sergeant Todd, in close proximity just to the west of her. When she saw the killer run out of the back door of the SRP building she got in position to shoot, but bystanders were in the line of fire. The gunman fired in Munley's direction and she returned the volley. He ran behind the building and Munley circled around in the opposite direction, hoping to corner him. When she spotted him, he began firing in her direction, hitting her on her hand and knee. She returned fire but her pistol malfunctioned. She went down.
Maj. Steven Richter, OIC of the SRP complex, was making rounds of the buildings when he heard shots. He ran outside and took cover in the parking lot behind a white van and called his supervisor.
"The shooter appeared between the buildings ... firing upon a soldier tripping in the grass. ... A female white officer assumed a [tactical] position and she fired off a couple rounds and at that point ... he turned and began firing. It appeared to me she was defenseless ... he just stood above her, shot a couple more rounds, turned and started to walk toward my direction again."
The gunman ran over to the officer's pistol and kicked it away from her.
Excerpted from Death on Base: The Fort Hood Massacre by Anita Belles Porterfield, John Porterfield. Copyright © 2015 Anita Belles Porterfield and John Porterfield. Excerpted by permission of University of North Texas Press.
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Table of Contents
ContentsMilitary Rank Abbreviations,
1. Station Thirteen,
2. King of the Hill,
3. American Dream,
4. The Great Place,
5. Rage Against the Machine,
6. A Kick in the Gut,
7. Judgment Day,
8. Ticking Time Bombs,
9. Playing with Fire,
10. One Nation's Terrorist Is Another Nation's Freedom Fighter,
11. Hide and Seek,
12. The System,
Acronyms and Abbreviations,