A gunman who appeared to be trying to hit any Army personnel who moved during a deadly rampage at Fort Hood last year fatally shot a pregnant soldier who had recently returned from Iraq, a military court heard Monday.
Spc. Jonathan Sims said he had been talking to a female soldier when the first volley of gunfire rang out. She had just told him she was expecting a baby and was preparing to go home.
“The female soldier that was sitting next to me was in the fetal position. She was screaming: ‘My baby! My baby!’” Sims told the Article 32 hearing to determine if Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan will stand trial in the Nov. 5 shootings — the worst attack on an American military base.
Hasan, a 40-year-old American-born Muslim, has been charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder.
Addressing the hearing via video link from Afghanistan, Sims said he later saw nurses performing first aid on the woman, but that her eyes had rolled back and he knew she was dead.
Pvt. Francheska Velez, a 21-year-old from Chicago, had become pregnant while serving in Iraq. She was among the 13 killed in the Fort Hood attack.
Spc. Dayna Roscoe testified Monday afternoon that she went to the medical building Nov. 5 to get the results of a pregnancy test. The building was crowded, and she was waiting in an overflow area when the shots started.
“I hear someone saying, ‘My baby, my baby.’ Someone saying, ‘Get down,’” Roscoe said.
The gunman came into the overflow area and shot her in the left arm as she hid in a chair with her arms wrapped around her head, she said. He turned away, fired in another direction and then came back and shot her twice more, hitting her leg.
When the gunman left, another soldier came to help her and another woman who was wounded.
The soldier helping “was asking for her name, and she said she’d been shot in the abdomen and was bleeding,” Roscoe said. “She wanted someone to tell her family that she loved them and that she wasn’t going to make it.”
Ten soldiers testified Monday, as the second week of the hearing started. Many had been shot.
Pfc. Justin Johnson said the shooter opened fire on a crowded waiting area and then walked around the building.
“He was aiming his weapon on the ground and he started shooting, and he was hitting people that were trying to get away,” Johnson testified by 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, said he saw the shooter for about five to seven seconds. He was not asked to identify him in court. Several witnesses testified last week that they made eye contact with Hasan and identified him as the Fort Hood gunman.
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.
At some point after the hearing, Pohl will recommend whether Hasan should go to trial and if the Army should seek the death penalty. That recommendation will go to Col. Morgan Lamb, a Fort Hood brigade commander appointed to oversee judicial matters in Hasan’s case, and then to the commanding general, who will make the final decision.
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 shooting started, some startled soldiers thought it was a training exercise.
Sgt. Miguel Valdivia said he hit the ground but became impatient, thinking that whatever drill was going on seemed to be taking a long time. When the shooter came toward him, he looked up.
“We made eye contact,” Valdivia said. “He raised his arm, his weapon, and raised it at me.”
Valdivia, who demonstrated from the witness stand how the gun was pointed at him, said he turned away, exposing his right side, and got shot three times, in his leg, thigh and hip.
“When I saw my own blood, then I realized it was real,” he said.
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.