Fort Hood shooting suspect Nidal Hasan says 'I am the shooter'

2:26 PM, Aug 6, 2013   |    comments
Major Nidal Hasan (Getty Images)
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FORT HOOD, Texas -- The Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people in a 2009 massacre here told the jury at his court-martial Tuesday "the evidence will clearly show that I am the shooter."

But Maj. Nidal Hasan, who is representing himself, said in his opening statement that jurors will not hear the full story at the trial. A judge previously rejected Hasan's effort to argue that he had carried out the shooting in defense of others -- Taliban members fighting in Afghanistan.

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Hasan voiced his allegiance to the mujahideen - the name given to those waging holy war in Muslim countries. Hasan was scheduled to be deploy to Afghanistan the month of the shooting.

"Evidence will show I was on the wrong side of America's war and I later switched sides," said Hasan, now paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair after authorities shot him during his shooting spree. "We in the mujahideen are imperfect beings trying to establish a perfect religion ... I apologize for any mistakes I have made in this endeavor."

In their opening statement, government prosecutors painted a detailed picture of Hasan as a respected Army psychiatrist who became increasingly radicalized in his Muslim religion and resented his upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.

Emails and Google searches conducted by Hasan in the weeks leading up to the shooting showed him scouring jihad websites and essays, while honing his skills with a recently-brought FN 5.7 semiautomatic handgun at a nearby firing range, Col. Steve Henricks said.

"He came to believe he had a jihad duty to kill as many soldiers as possible," Henricks said.

Not far from the courtroom is where prosecutors say Hasan opened fire on civilians and fellow soldiers at the post's Soldier Readiness Processing Center. It was the deadliest gun attack in modern history on a U.S. military installation.

Hasan is charged with with murder and attempted murder. He could face the death penalty if convicted -- and could be the first person the military puts to death in five decades.

Hasan had tried to plead guilty, but military law requires a not-guilty plea in death penalty cases. That failed effort was among numerous requests that delayed the trial for years.

Military prosecutors and witnesses in the Hasan court martial described how Hasan stockpiled ammunition in the weeks leading up to the shooting. Hasan made repeated visits to the Guns Galore gun shop in nearby Killeen, buying 200 to 300 rounds at a time for his recently-purchased FN 5.7 semiautomatic handgun, according to witnesses called by the prosecution.

Hasan emptied four 20-round magazines and two 30-round magazines, firing more than 200 rounds, during his rampage, Henricks said. Another seven magazines carrying 144 bullets, along with an unfired .357 revolver, were found on his person after base police subdued him, he said.

Hasan had placed paper towels between the magazines in the pockets of his cargo pants to keep the clinking sound wouldn't give away his intentions, he said.

When asked why he needed so much ammo, Hasan told gun shop employees he didn't like to waste time reloading at the firing range and would spend nights at his apartment filling magazines, testified Frederick Brannan, a Guns Galore employee who sold Hasan bullets, laser sights and magazine extensions.

"The sheer quantity of ammo being shot was expensive," Brannan said. "Most people don't have $200, $300 dollars to spend on a single afternoon at the shooting range."

Prosecution witness Pat Sonti described how Hasan showed up to the Killeen Islamic Center early on the morning of the shooting and led the call to the prayer, even though the imam had chosen Sonti for the task. Later, Hasan bid farewell to the congregation, saying he was going home.

"I found it a bit odd," Sonti said.

Hasan requires 15- to 20-minute stretching breaks about every four hours, and has to lift himself off his wheelchair for about a minute every half hour to avoid developing sores.

At one point, Hasan was cross-examining one of his former supervisors, Lt. Col. (retired) Ben Phillips, and began asking him about emails describing crimes in Iraq when the prosecution objected to the line of questioning. The judge, Col. Tara Osborn, sustained the objection, then had to explain the procedure to Hasan. After quietly conferring with a defense counsel, Hasan said he had no more questions.

Osborn told jurors the trial could last several months.

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