FORT HOOD, Tex. €” Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan returned Tuesday to Fort Hood in a wheelchair and combat fatigues for a pretrial hearing 11 months after he opened fire in a base processing center, killing 13 people and wounding 32 more.
The 10-minute rampage last Nov. 5 was the bloodiest shooting on a United States military base in modern times. Roughly 100 rounds were fired until two police officers shot Major Hasan, a 40-year-old Army psychiatrist. He is the only suspect in the shooting.
Major Hasan has been charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. He is paralyzed below the middle of his chest, spending most of this year at an infirmary cell at the Bell County jail 15 miles from Fort Hood.
The military hearing, known as an Article 32, is roughly equivalent to a civilian grand jury. Colonel Pohl has said that he will call all of the 32 wounded victims, who will be asked to describe what they saw of the shooting.
At the end of the proceedings, which are expected to continue for weeks or even months, Colonel Pohl will decide whether Major Hasan will face a court-martial, and possibly the death penalty.
Military justice experts have said they do not believe the hearing will investigate Major Hasan’s motivations. That would probably wait for a trial.
The shootings raised questions of Major Hassan’s mental health, or whether he was a terrorist. Military investigators have not found a direct link between Major Hassan and any radical Jihadist groups, although he exchanged numerous e-mails with Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical American-born cleric based in Yemen who has encouraged and applauded terrorist acts.
After the shootings, Mr. Awlaki called Major Hasan “a hero” on his Web site.
Major Hasan was born in the United States to Palestinian immigrant parents who apparently were not particularly devout Muslims. But Major Hasan became increasingly religious after his mother died in 2001. As a resident at the Walter Reed hospital, he received mediocre reviews and reportedly made several extreme statements to colleagues about how the United States was making war on Islam. He argued that Muslim soldiers could not be expected to kill fellow Muslims.
A Pentagon review of the case found that supervisors missed repeated warning signs about Major Hasan.
Four months before the shooting, he had been transferred to Fort Hood. Major Hasan became a regular participant at a local mosque, and purchased a handgun.
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