KILLEEN, Texas (KXAN) - It echoed a war zone without being one, here on American soil. Witnesses who testified in Wednesday's hearing of Maj. Nidal Hasan gave dramatic testimony, one describing the day Hasan opened fire at Fort Hood as "the worst horror movie you could possibly ever see."
Hasan is accused of killing 13 and wounding 32 in the shooting at Fort Hood nearly a year ago.
It was a busy morning for Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford on that fateful day a year ago, when the processing center at Fort Hood came under attack by a brutal killer. Lunsford was the first to take the stand Wednesday.
"Major Hasan and I established eye contact," Lunsford recalled.. "At that time, he brings the weapon (up) and pointed at me and the laser (on the gun) pointed at me. …I closed my eyes and he discharged the weapon... I got hit in the head...I spun around and dropped." Lunsford, who worked in the soldier readiness processing center where the shooting happened, had met Hasan prior to the shooting.
Lunsford's dramatic account began testimony in a hearing that lasted all day Wednesday. The defense had asked the hearing be delayed until Nov. 8, but the request was denied. Testimony resumes Thursday at 9 a.m.
Some, if not all, of the 32 who were wounded in the shooting rampage on the Fort Hood Army post last November are expected to testify in the Article 32 hearing.
An Article 32 hearing is the military version of a grand jury or preliminary hearing, in which the overseeing officer decides whether there's enough evidence to move forward with charges.
Michelle Harper was a worker in the building who called 911 shortly after the shooting started. She stayed on the line inside on her cell phone, and followed the shooting outside - where she saw Hasan and officer Kelly Munley in the final shootout, during which Hasan was finally stopped.
The chilling tape of that call was played in the courtroom, and Harper - obviously too upset to hear the whole thing - was allowed to leave while it played. During her call, a soldier was shot in front of her as she crouched beneath a desk with a crowd of people. The soldier can be heard moaning in pain next to Harper on the tape.
Lunsford described on Wednesday how, on Nov. 5, 2009, he and others were taken by surprise when Hasan yelled "Allahu Akbar" before going on a deadly rampage inside the center - where soldiers are processed before being sent to war.
"I noticed Major Hasan sitting at Station 13 (where soldiers wait to see their health care providers), and he was odd man out, chair on the outside," Lunsford said. "He gets up, I'm standing here on the corner, walks across from me between the check-in counter and other desk and goes around. He says something to my civilian worker, and she gets up and leaves. ...
"After my worker leaves, Major Hasan yells 'Allahu Akbar!' After hearing that, I looked at him, and he reached in his ACU top and pulled out a weapon and discharged a weapon," Lunsford recalled.
Lunsford, who is 6 feet 9 inches, went to crouch under the check-in desk. That's when he noticed that Hasan's weapon had a laser sight on it, and that he was aiming at the soldiers seated in Station 13.
"After taking the crouch position, I'm assessing the scene…what to do next," Lunsford said. "At that time, Dr. Cahill (who screens the soldiers) comes from his cubicle. ... He grabs a chair and tries to hit Major Hasan with his chair. ...
"He's holding a chair, by its legs. ... Major Hasan at that time turns his weapon on Dr. Cahill and shoots Dr. Cahill. He went down."
Michael Cahill, a 67-year-old physician's assistant, died from his injuries.
From under the desk, Lunsford recalled seeing everyone "scrambling and hitting the floor trying to find some cover."
He knew he had to get out.
"I look at the exit points," he said. "Maj. Hasan had that area covered. The only other exit route was to the rear of the building. ...It was time for me to make my move. I decided to make it out the back door or create another door."
That's when Hasan turned his laser sight on Lunsford, the sergeant recalled.
"I closed my eyes and he discharged the weapon. ... I got hit in the head…I spun around and dropped," he said. "The left side of my face was to the floor….Maj. Hasan was still firing. ... My left eye is closed and blood is pooling down my face."
He could still move his hands, his back and his legs. So he lifted his head and saw people trying to get out. He stood up and ran out of the back of the building.
Harper said she was talking to a soldier at her desk when "all of a sudden I heard something that sounded like firecrackers."
"I got up to go see, and there was a bunch of smoke and people screaming and hollering, saying, ‘Get down!'" she said.
Hiding under the desk, she heard someone walking slowly back toward her station and, after a pause, begin firing again. She saw the shooter's foot go by the desk as she huddled beneath it. Finally, she was able to escape.
"I ran down to the parking lot and ran behind some cars trying to get to
my car," she said. "I heard the gunfire battle between him and the officer. ... I see Hasan shoot the officer and then fall to the ground."
The third witness to testify Wednesday morning was Sgt. Latoya Denise Williams, who was a data worker for the SRP Clinic - and the woman Lunsford said he saw Hasan speak to just before he began shooting.
She testified that Hasan told her there was an emergency in her superior's office, so she left her station to go check it out.
"I was about to get to work, was shifting through sheets and logged online. Someone came up to the desk -- the person had on ACUs, was a little chunky," she explained. She identified Hasan as the person - but indicated in her testimony that she didn't know him at all.
"He came up to me, bent down with something in his arm, saying Maj. Parrish had to see me – it was an emergency. As he leaned down, he was pretty close to me," Williams said.
Before she got to her superior's office, Williams said she thought she heard someone calling for "attention."
"Within a matter of seconds, I heard ‘pop, pop, pop.' I thought it was firecrackers," she said. "I thought, 'Is this a drill?' I turned to look back, and all I saw was smoke. I immediately tried to run and take cover somewhere," she said. She tried to get to a cubicle and then to Parrish's office. "When I got to the door, it was locked."
Williams said she threw herself to the floor and other soldiers began to crowd around in the area where she was.
Asked what she did next, Williams said, "Prayed."
Two soldiers testified that they helped other soldiers during the shooting - and that they both had so much adrenaline during the event that neither realized they had been shot themselves.
Pvt. Spc. Matthew Cook had been shot at least four times - in the head, two in the back, and one in the groin - but didn't know it until he got to the hospital and passed out. Spc. Amber Bahr had been shot in the back.
"I heard "Allah!" And then I heard the shooting start," Cook said. "I panicked. I noticed the rounds were getting louder, so I covered my ears, got under the chair. I looked up, saw Sgt. Howard. I saw a shot to the chest, sir."
He heard what sounded like "a cry for help. I looked up and ran over to comfort him. My intention was that he was going to make it."
At the time, he didn't think he was shot. He only remembers just wanting to get out. Once he got into the car, he said, he felt pain in his buttocks and when he got to the hospital, he remembers the staff looking for blood on him. Then he passed out.
Bahr said that on the day of the shooting, she was sitting in a chair near the door of the crowded processing center.
"As a few minutes went on, it got very, very full," Bahr said. "I noticed a major with medical tags walk in front of me . ... He sat down directly behind me. I heard someone from behind me yell in an Arabic phrase. I heard shots fired. The shots stopped for a few seconds. I heard yelling and screaming and saw there was blood, and (I) smelled sulphur in the air, and I knew it wasn't a drill."
Bahr said there were a lot of people bleeding, particularly in the now infamous Station 13. She saw a sergeant who had been shot crawling toward the door, and people hiding behind barriers and lifting up chairs to guard themselves against the rapid-fire bullets.
"There was absolute chaos," she said.
"We got to the doors, then we crawled out to the first set of doors and we ran out the second set of doors," she said. "I tripped on something and fell. I looked behind me and saw (two soldiers) on the ground. I told them they have to get up and run. I grabbed (one of them), and I put his arm over my shoulder and neck and basically drug him to the parking lot."
There she saw a white pickup with other wounded soldiers.
"We went to the emergency room here on post," she said. "I helped carry Staff Sgt. Howard in the nursing room. I sat down and instantly sprung back up. There was a sharp pain in my back. He turned me around and looked me straight in the eyes and said, 'No, you've been shot.' I turned around and looked, and panic took over me."
Sgt. Alvin Howard testified that he was shot in the left shoulder. He said he saw Hasan eye to eye.
"And when it hit me, I lost total control of my arm. After I was shot, I was shocked it was happening. I fell to the floor and crawled outside."
Spc. James Armstrong testified late Wednesday afternoon.
"I looked over my shoulder and there was a major with a weapon," Armstrong said. "'Allah Abdah!' he yelled. I looked over my left shoulder. I heard gunfire. I noticed he was firing. I leaned to my right. I saw a soldier stand up, he was hit...everything happened so fast. When I looked down, I had a hole in my pant leg and noticed I had been shot. I saw him drop one mag[azine] and reload another one.
"People are scrambling. People are getting out of the way. People are running," Armstrong continued. "I see Capt. Seeger. He was sitting on the back row. He stood up, walked forward and leaned over the chair.
He got hit and fell straight to the floor...He stood up, leaned over the chair and said, 'Oh, Jesus Christ' and got shot on the left side of the head...Someone had thrown a chair at the shooter...At this particular point I was trying to get cover...I was sliding chairs in front of me ...The shooter started to fire at people on the floor...I rolled over and laid there, sir...He asks me, 'Where is the shooter?' At this point I lost sight of where the shooter went, sir...Sounds like it's coming from outside the building. As soon as I got up and tired to run, I fell. I ran around the back side of the cubicles to the rear of the room. I'm limping. I wind up in the first office...At this particular point I was scared, fell down to check if (a specialist) was injured...I talk to 911 and kind of tell them where we are and what was happening... I hear more gunfire. It sounds closer. A couple of minutes after that, the gunfire stopped. MP's came through the doors.They cleared the room. Soldiers came in and started doing first aid on soldiers that were hurt.
"It was the worst horror movie you could possibly ever see," Armstrong said. "Blood everywhere. Blood handprints from people trying to get up. Pools of blood."
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