FORT HOOD, Texas — An Army psychiatrist set to be shipped overseas opened fire at the Fort Hood Army post Thursday, authorities said, a rampage that killed 12 people and left 31 wounded in the worst mass shooting ever at a military base in the United States.
The gunman, first said to have been killed, was wounded but alive and in stable condition under military guard, said Lt. Gen. Bob Cone at Fort Hood. "I would say his death is not imminent," Cone said. Col. Ben Danner said the suspect was shot at least four times.
The man was identified as Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, a 39-year-old, eight-year veteran from Virginia.
President Obama called the shooting at the Soldier Readiness Center, where soldiers who are about to be deployed or who are returning undergo medical screening, "a horrific outburst of violence."
"It's difficult enough when we lose these brave Americans in battles overseas," the commander in chief said. "It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army base on American soil."
The news of the shooting hasn't directly affected McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, said spokeswoman Staff Sgt. Amanda Courrier.
Safety is always a priority at the base, but she said there have been no messages to change any security measures.
There was no official word on motive. Hasan had transferred to Fort Hood in July from Walter Reed Medical Center, where he received a poor performance evaluation, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, said generals at Fort Hood told her that Hasan was about to deploy overseas. Retired Col. Terry Lee, who said he had worked with Hasan, told Fox News he was being sent to Afghanistan.
Lee said Hasan had hoped Obama would pull troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq and got into frequent arguments with others in the military who supported the wars.
Video from the scene showed police patrolling the area with handguns and rifles, ducking behind buildings for cover. Sirens could be heard wailing while a woman's voice on a public-address system urged people to take cover.
"I was confused and just shocked," said Spc. Jerry Richard, 27, who works at the center but was not on duty during the shooting. "Overseas you are ready for it. But here you can't even defend yourself."
Soldiers at Fort Hood don't carry weapons unless they are doing training exercises.
The Rev. Greg Schannep was about to head into a graduation ceremony when a man in uniform approached him, warning him that someone had opened fire. Schannep heard three volleys of gunfire and saw people running.
"There was a burst of shots and more bursts of shots and people running everywhere," said Schannep, who works for local Congressman John Carter.
The uniformed man who had warned him ran to the theater. Schannep said he could see the man's back was bloodied from a wound. The man survived, was treated and will be fine, Schannep said.
Cone said initially three people were held, and all have been interviewed. Authorities believe, however, that there was a single shooter.
The Soldier Readiness Center holds hundreds of people and is one of the most populated parts of the post, 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.
The wounded were dispersed among hospitals in central Texas, Cone said. Their identities, and the identities of the dead, were not immediately released. One of the dead was a civilian police officer, Cone said.
Amber Bahr, 19, was shot in the stomach but was in stable condition, said her mother, Lisa Pfund of Random Lake, Wis.
"We know nothing, just that she was shot in the belly," Pfund told the Associated Press. She couldn't provide more details and only spoke with emergency personnel.
Distraught Fort Hood family members, including parents rushing to pick up their children from day care, gathered at the main gate after the base was locked down.
"When I first heard, I was in tears," said Cynthia Wood, whose son, Conner, was in day care on the base. "It's very disheartening not being able to get your child."
As she was talking to reporters, her husband, Army Spc. Joshua Wood, was sending her a frantic text message from Iraq asking for more details.
Monica Cain brushed back tears as she explained that she was unable to reach her husband, whom she had taken to Fort Hood earlier in the day for medical treatment of a head injury he suffered in combat. Sgt. Barren Cain had told her he planned to call at 1 p.m. to summon her to pick him up. But by mid-afternoon, after news of the shooting spread across the region, she hadn't heard from him and was unable to reach him by cell phone.
"I don't know what's going on," she said. "I'm very scared."
Hasan 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 and was at Walter Reed for six years for his internship, residency and a fellowship.
The attack happened just down the road from one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history. On Oct. 16, 1991, George Hennard smashed his pickup through a Luby's Cafeteria window in Killeen, Texas, and fired on the lunchtime crowd with a high-powered pistol, killing 22 people and wounding at least 20 others.
No other shooting at a military base in the U.S. has been anywhere near as deadly as Thursday's. In 1993, a gunman at Fort Knox shot five civilian co-workers, killing three, and then fatally shot himself.
Around the country, some bases stepped up security precautions, but no others were locked down.
Fort Riley, an Army post near Junction City, remains open, according to a news release.
The post is adjusting some of its security measures in response to the Texas shooting, including random checks of people entering the base, the release states.
Covering 339 square miles, Fort Hood, adjacent to the city of Killeen and about 60 miles from Austin, is the largest active duty armored post in the U.S., with about 52,000 troops from the 1st Cavalry Division, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division and other units stationed there. Nearly all of its units are deployed in Iraq.