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Fort Hood shooting suspect: a man of contradictions

Quiet and averse to weapons training, the suspect in the Fort Hood shooting is a study in contradictions. Scale of attack points to premeditation.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / November 6, 2009

With the flag at half-mast in the background, first responders (L-R) Deputy Commander for Clinical Services Col. Kimberly Kesling, Emergency Medical Services Director Maj. Stephen Beckwith, Senior Emergency Medical Resident Capt. Reis Ritz, and Acting Chief of Emergency Room Luit. Col. Larry Mabullo walk out to a news conference at Fort Hood Army Post in Fort Hood, Texas, Friday.

Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters


He is a bookish loner – a soldier who did not like going to the firing range. Coworkers remember him as quiet and inoffensive, yet he had problems with job performance and may have posted inflammatory comments on the Web using the screen name "NidalHasan."

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Then, at some point, for some reason, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan snapped, and he became an all-too-common American archetype: the disturbed single gunman who carries out a mass shooting.

"The whole nation is grieving right now," said President Obama on Friday.

Mr. Obama said he had ordered flags at the White House and other federal agencies to be flown at half-staff as a tribute to those who lost their lives. He also said it is important for the US to not jump to conclusions, and to carefully investigate the tragedy at Fort Hood in Texas.

On Friday morning, more information began to emerge about Army Major Hasan and his rampage, but the picture of him portrayed by authorities so far remains a shadowy one, filled with contradictions.

The most basic contradiction may be this: Trained as a psychiatrist to help soldiers overcome the effects of violence, he perpetrated violence himself.

"I'm not aware of any problems here," said Col. Steven Braverman, the hospital commander at Fort Hood. "We had no problems with his job performance."

On Friday, FBI agents searched Hasan's apartment near the base for clues as to what might have led to a shooting that left 13 dead and 30 wounded. They seized his computer and sifted through materials left in his vehicle.

A neighbor of Hasan's told the Associated Press that the major cleaned out his apartment Wednesday morning and told her he would be deployed on Friday.

The neighbor, Patricia Villa, said he gave her some frozen broccoli, shelves, and new Koran, among other things. Then he offered her $60 to give his place a final clean-out on Friday, supposedly after he would have left.

Meanwhile, some soldiers who witnessed the shooting on Thursday said Hasan shouted "Allahu Akbar," an Arabic phrase meaning "God is Great," as he opened fire.

Fort Hood base commander Lt. Gen. Robert Cone said officials had not yet been able to confirm that Hasan had in fact shouted those words. Hasan himself was wounded in the rampage, shot multiple times by a responding policewoman. He remained hospitalized on a ventilator. Authorities have yet to speak with him in any detail.

An imam from a mosque that Hasan regularly attended said he had seen no sign of extremist behavior from the Army psychiatrist, and that in fact Hasan would wear his Army uniform to prayers, according to Associated Press.