Thursday, December 18, 2014

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Soldiers paint picture from day of Fort Hood shooting

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Web Exclusive: At the end of day four of witness testimony in the Article 32 hearing for accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan, 10 more soldiers gave their accounts of what happened inside the Soldier Readiness Processing Center on Nov. 5.

That brings the total number of prosecution witnesses so far to 39.

During the first few days of testimony, it was very common for the witnesses to be asked by the prosecution to stand up and point toward the man they believed to be the shooter.

However, between four witnesses testifying via video teleconference Monday and some who said they did not get a look at the shooter, the number of witnesses who have directly pointed out Hasan, as the shooter, has lessened.

Despite that, the questions each witness has faced by both the prosecution and defense have stayed the same.

On the stand

Whether it be thousands of miles away or inside the courtroom at the Lawrence J. Williams Judicial Center, witnesses who take the stand go through the same procedure.

Upon stepping up to the witness stand, they are asked to raise their right hand and take an oath about the testimony they are about to give.

Even in situations where a soldier is testifying from Iraq or Afghanistan, soldiers are asked to stand and raise their right hand.

From there, the witness is asked to give their full name, rank and the unit they have been assigned to.

The prosecution usually begins by establishing why the witness was at the SRP site on November 5.

The majority of the witnesses who have testified were inside the building to be processed in preparation for an upcoming deployment.

After that has been established, a series of questions are asked to determine what circumstances led the witness to be inside the building at the specific time of the shooting.

Many of the soldiers, who’ve testified, have recalled a very busy day at the SRP medical building. They reported being given an appointment after the lunch hour to return and complete their processing.

Once the prosecution hears testimony that places the witness inside the building at the time of the shooting, questioning to determine what they saw begins.

In some instances witnesses are asked about what they were doing in the moments before shots started to ring out, including who they were sitting next to.

The next round of questions includes what they heard, saw or noticed once the shooting started. This usually includes observations about what the shooter was wearing, description of the shooter and what the shooter had in his hands.

After these questions are answered accordingly, usually, the witness is asked to recount what they did next.

For witnesses who testify inside the courtroom, a map with a layout of the medical building is used to retrace where the witness traveled inside the room while the shooting was going on.

All the while, the prosecution may ask questions about what they saw and heard, including their observations on the rate of fire or if they saw any soldiers being shot.

At this point, the soldiers who were injured are asked to point out where they were shot and the treatment they received directly following the shooting.

This is usually the point where the prosecution rests, and the defense has the opportunity to begin its line of questioning.

The defense typically starts by asking the witness about the treatment each soldier has sought out after the shooting. This includes both medical and psychological treatment each witness continues to receive.

From there, the defense will question the witness about the statements made to authorities in the days following the shooting.

Some have been asked whether they remember giving a sworn or written statement to officials. In cases where there may be some discrepancies between the testimony and the statement, the defense has raised questions about it with the witness.

The final series of questions by the defense primarily deals with how the injuries have affected the soldier. This includes whether the soldier has been able to return to active duty, the limitations the injuries have led when it comes to their work, as well as the psychological effects.

After the defense finishes their questioning the prosecution has an opportunity to redirect questions to the witness, and the whole process starts all over again when the next witness is called.

Day 4 Witness Testimony

Pfc. Justin Johnson

Through video teleconference from Afghanistan, Pfc. Justin Johnson of the 20th Engineer Battalion testified that he decided to call his mother while he was waiting to get through processing for his upcoming deployment.

Johnson said this is when a man which he described as having light brown skin, balding and with a rank of a major started shooting.

He said even though he initially believed it to be a training exercise, he hit the ground and started crawling.

According to Johnson he saw a few soldiers get shot, and the shooter started to shoot people who were on the ground either crawling away or those who had been injured.

Johnson said he was shot a total of three times, including twice in the back and once in the foot.

He said he went over to a cubicle to take cover, where he noticed three people who were huddled and crying.

"We don't have time for this. We need to get out of here now," Johnson told those three.

Johnson said he eventually made it outside of the building, where he tried to get onto the back of a pickup truck. However, when the shooter started to shoot outside the building, he said he fell off the back of the truck as it was driving away.

He said he thought he was going to die in the parking lot, until he realized he had his friend's car keys in his pocket. He said he then made his way to the car, and was driving on his way to the motor pool to tell his squad leader what was happening.

However, before he could get there, he said he was stopped by another soldier who then drove him to Darnall Army Medical Center.

Spc. Joseph Foster

Also through video teleconference from Afghanistan, Spc. Joseph Foster with the 20th Engineer Battalion said he was texting an old friend in Utah when he heard what he described as a stern and strong voice say "Alli (sic) Akbar."

According to Foster, that’s when he saw a man draw a weapon from his right cargo pocket.

He described the weapon as a Baretta semiautomatic 9 millimeter, with a laser light attachment under the barrel.

Foster testified that he saw the laser over his eyes, and shortly after, he fell to the ground with a sharp pain in the hip. He said he thought it was a paint ball round and grabbed his hip. When he brought his hand up, he said he remembered thinking that the paint balls looked very real.

Even though he had been shot, he said it was not until he saw a soldier raising his hand with part of his index finger missing that he realized it was not a drill.

Foster said he eventually made his way out of the building, and was treated at Darnall Army Medical Center, for a gunshot to his upper hip. He said the bullet went in above the pelvic bone, hit the femur bone and bounced out. The only thing removed at the hospital was pieces of his uniform which had to be pulled out.

"My main goal was not letting this stop me," he said about being cleared to go to Afghanistan.

Spc. Johnathan Sims

Spc. Johnathan Sims also with the 20th Engineer Battalion said he was with his friend inside the SRP medical building. He recalled sitting next to a female soldier while waiting his turn to be processed that day.

According to Sims, the female soldier told him that she had gotten pregnant in Iraq and was there for "reverse SRP." This is a process soldiers go through once they return from deployment.

Sims testified that a dark male wearing ACU's spoke out and said "Alli (sic) Akbar" and started shooting with what he described as a 9 millimeter pistol with a laser sight.

He said he started to crawl away from the shooter when he started to feel pressure on his chest. Sims said his friend had gotten shot in his neck and so he was applying pressure on his friend's wounds when he felt pressure more pressure on his back.

Sims testified that he pulled a table over himself and his friend for cover when he felt pressure on the table as though someone was standing on it, which he assumed to be the shooter.

When asked how he knew it was the shooter, he replied, "Who else would be dumb enough to stand up on a table at the time of a shooting?"

According to Sims, he heard the female soldier who had been sitting next to him yell while in the fetal position, "my baby, my baby.”

On his way out of the building he said he saw the same female soldier on the floor face down not moving.

Sgt. Christopher Burgess

From Iraq, Sgt. Christopher Burgess said he was sitting and watching television while waiting inside the SRP medical building when he heard someone yell something in Arabic.

According to Burgess, the man was “heavy set” and held the rank of a major.

He thought it was just part of a training exercise when that man opened fire, using what he described as a small handgun with laser lights.

Burgess said he made it over to a cubicle, where he pulled a soldier, who had fallen to the ground, into the cubicle.

He said the soldier was being trampled on by others who were trying to move to safety.

Burgess described the shooter as firing into a crowd of people as they moved back and forth trying to get out of the line of fire.

Maj. Randy Royer

Maj. Randy Royer said he was listening to his iPod, when someone yelled in a loud voice "Allah Akbar," upon which he heard what sounded like firecrackers.

He said he remembered thinking to himself that there was some crazy training going on.

"Even if it's nothing, I'm not going to sit there and do nothing," he said.

According to Royer, there was the smell of gun powder in the air, and he started to crawl.

He said he was shot below his elbow and in the back of his left leg, which required several surgeries.

Ssgt. Thuan Nguyen

After arriving at about noon, Ssgt. Thuan Nguyen said he had just sat down after stretching out when he heard what he described as a “lock and load” sound. His initial reaction, he said, was that it was part of a training exercise.

When shots were first fired, he testified that he saw people dispersing and he tried to get down. That is when he said he saw a laser jump off the ground, and he felt “numbness” from what he initially believed was a stun gun.

Nguyen said he was shot once in the thigh area during the shooting.

Spc. Dayna Roscoe

Since it was such a busy day at the SRP medical building, Spc. Dayna Roscoe said she was seated in the overflow area waiting her turn to see a provider.

According to Roscoe, she was on the phone when she heard a loud sound and saw holes in the partition separating her area.

Roscoe said she remembers putting her arms up and covering her face in order to protect herself when she was shot in the left arm. A bullet which she said would have otherwise ended up hitting her chest.

She was eventually shot two more times in the arm and left leg.

Roscoe said she heard Lt. Col. Juanita Warman tell another soldier to tell her family she loved them because she didn't think she was going to make it.

Lt. Col. Warman was among the 12 soldiers killed in the shooting.

Sfc. Miguel Valdivia

Sfc. Miguel Valdivia said he was in the process of getting his medical records when someone started yelling something in a foreign language he did not understand.

He had been at the SRP medical building earlier, but he was told the system was down.

Instead of waiting until the next day, he said he returned to see if the system was back up and running when the shooting started.

Valdivia said he thought it was all a drill, when someone yelled for everyone to get down.

Still believing it was just a drill, he said he only got down on one knee.

"I was getting frustrated because I wanted to finish my paperwork," he said.

Valdivia said he made eye contact with the shooter, who he described as having a blank expression on his face.

He said when he turned around; he was shot in the right thigh and left hip.

"When I realized it wasn't a drill was when I saw my own blood," he said.

Ssgt. Eric Jackson

Ssgt. Eric Jackson, who was preparing to deploy with III Corps said he remembers hearing a loud bang, which he described as “sounding like a simulator.”

When he heard the noise, he said he remained sitting because it did not make sense for these types of sounds to be going off inside the building.

He said he noticed a red laser and felt a sting on his right arm.

Cpt. Dorothy Carskadon

Cpt. Dorothy Carskadon who is a Reservist with the 467 Combat Stress Control said she immediately recognized the phrase "Allah Akbar” due to recent training she received.

However, when shots rang out, she believed it was all part of the training exercise, and recalled thinking the blanks being shot were very strong.

Carskadon said she approached a woman who was crying about her baby, and told her to calm down until the training exercise was over.

That is when she said she felt something in her hip, which eventually went numb.

At that point she said she laid down and remembers thinking to herself that she was through with this field exercise.

She said she never saw who shot her, but she suffered two gunshot wounds to the hip, once in the head and once in the stomach.

Prosecution witness testimony is scheduled to continue tomorrow at 9 a.m. ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP