FORT HOOD, Texas — Three young soldiers showed no fear and didn’t try to hide in the face of certain death as a lone gunman approached them during a deadly shooting rampage at Fort Hood, a civilian nurse testified at a military hearing Tuesday.
“All three of these kids just stood their ground. They didn’t flinch. They weren’t afraid of him,” Theodore Coukoulis told the Article 32 hearing. “All three looked directly at the shooter. They were looking at death and they knew it.”
Coukoulis, who was working in the Fort Hood medical building Nov. 5, said all three died in the attack that day — the worst mass shooting at an American Army base.
The military hearing will determine if Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan — charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder — should stand trial.
Coukoulis said several civilian nurses were hiding together under desks but that the shooter walked past them and instead shot the three soldiers who stood nearby.
The prosecutor asked if he was sure the gunman saw the civilian staffers, to which Coukoulis replied, “Yes.” He said the rampage lasted about 10 minutes.
Based on various soldiers’ testimony about where the 13 victims were in the building that day, the three soldiers were Staff Sgt. Justin DeCrow, 32; Spc. Jason Dean “J.D.” Hunt, 22; and Pfc. Michael Pearson, 22.
Coukoulis stood up and identified Hasan in court as the gunman. He said he recognized Hasan that day because about a week before the shooting, the major had been unco-operative during a conversation about vaccinations at the medical centre.
Hasan has attended every day of the hearing, now in its second week, in a wheelchair. The 40-year-old American-born Muslim is paralyzed from the waist down from police gunfire that ended the onslaught.
Earlier Tuesday, the court heard a recording of an emergency call made by the facility’s chief nurse, who was barricaded inside her office throughout the shooting.
In the recording, Regina Huseman’s description of the events unfolding outside her office are punctuated by the sound of gunfire and muffled cries for help.
“He’s coming back in! He’s got all of us! He’s still walking around. … I don’t know where he is,” the clearly terrified Huseman can be heard saying.
Once the shooting ended, Huseman emerged from her office and surveyed the devastation wrought at the centre where soldiers undergo medical tests before deployment.
“Oh my God! There are about 15 down, probably more than that,” she told the 911 operator.
The operator asked if the gunman was dead.
“I don’t know, but I have got to start helping these people,” Huseman said.
The nurse wiped away tears as she told the court how she walked around inside the building, checking for signs of life among the bodies on the floor and one slumped on a chair.
Several witnesses at the hearing have pointed to Hasan as the balding major in Army combat uniform who shouted “Allahu Akbar!” — “God is great!” in Arabic — then opened fired on unarmed military and civilian personnel in the crowded building.
At some point after the hearing, Col. James L. Pohl, the investigating officer in the case, will recommend whether Hasan should go to trial. That decision — and whether the Army will seek the death penalty — ultimately will be made by Fort Hood’s commanding general.
Hasan remains jailed. There is no bail in the military justice system.