Saturday, November 7, 2009

Forensics Key To Single-Shooter Theory

What bothers me is the time frame and number of shots fired from one if not two pistols by Army Maj. Nidal M. Hasan in Thursday's shooting spree at Fort Hood, Tex.

News reports and eye witnesses said the shootings lasted nearly 30 minutes. Army investigators said more than 100 shots were fired. Local police were quoted as saying all the shell casings were recovered from the same gun.

If that is true, what about the shell casings fired by police officer Kimberly Munley who is credited for gunning down Hasan? In all, 13 people (12 soldiers and one civilian) were killed and 38 wounded. Most of the victims were shot multiple times. Based on those numbers, the shooter fired at least 110 rounds without a miss.

I'm not a forensic expert or gun enthusiast or conspiracy freak nor a math major, but the scene reconstructed in words and video do not add up. Of course, we are relying on initial investigation reports. Most important is the confined space in which about 300 soldiers were lined up waiting for their processing papers.

Federal officials said the gun thought to be used is an FN Herstal Five-seveN tactical pistol known as "the Cop Killer" because the impact can pierce so-called bullet-proof vests. It was purchased legally from a gun store in nearby Killeen in August. David Cheadle, the store manager, said it can fire 31 rounds with an extended clip before reloading.

It is unclear whether Hasan purchased the gun in his name and whether it was registered to carry on the sprawling military base which houses 50,000.

The second gun Hasan had with him was a .357 S&W Magnum revolver, federal law enforcement officials told ABC News. Ballistics are still being run to determine if he used the revolver in the shooting.

Because of the close range, it probably doesn't matter if Hasan was a proficient marksman. No news has surfaced yet as to his being certified with military weapons. Eye witnesses said he "fumbled" with the magazines in his efforts to reload.

The heroine cop, 35, confronted Hasan, fell to the ground for cover and at least one of her rounds struck the assailant in the chest. She suffered gun shot wounds to both thighs and one wrist.

The scene at the hospital ER was mayhem, according to this report from Fox News:

Emergency room physician Capt. Reis Ritz was in Darnall, the base hospital, when the loudspeaker came on: "Mass casualties. Mass casualties."

He said the first few to arrive were soldiers with multiple gunshot wounds who had driven themselves to the hospital. Others arrived soon after, some of them carrying friends who were more severely wounded. Many of the victims came into the emergency room with multiple gunshot wounds.

For Maj. Stephen Beckwith, the Emergency Medical Response director at Darnall, the sheer number of gunshot wounds struck him immediately, reminding him of blast injuries he'd seen in combat.

He and other ER personnel told that the gunshot wounds appeared to have been inflicted by semi-automatic pistols loaded with long bullets more often used with a standard M16 rifle. (The FN Herstal Five-seveN fires .57-caliber rounds.)

"Just so many gunshot wounds — gunshot wounds to the torso, the belly, the chest," he said. "It's similar to what you'd see down range."

Ritz has not yet been deployed overseas, and he said it was like nothing he'd ever seen.

"The worst part," he said, "there's all these multiple gunshot wounds, all the victims shot in multiple places, and they keep coming in and I have no idea who's shooting, where they're shooting from, or why.

"The worst part, not knowing when it would end, not knowing how many more, not knowing if it's only going to be gunshots or something else."

"It's not like we're in Iraq or in Afghanistan or in anything — it's home. It's like you'd expect in war, but it's home."

The Fort Hood massacre is a tragic, horrific story with a heroic ending. But many details during the shooting spree have yet to be clarified by a rigorous investigation. It must be established that Hasan was the lone shooter to quiet the conspiracy theorists who always raise their ugly heads in these events.

I have no problem with the military policy forbidding guns being carried by soldiers on base except for training purposes.

It just goes to show that if a person decides to commit a crazy act, there's not much in the way to stop him. That is the constant scenario of almost every mass murder episode.

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