By Kristina Wong - 04/03/14 07:46 AM EDT
A gunman on Wednesday killed three people and wounded 16 others at Fort Hood before killing himself, as tragedy again struck a Texas military base that saw one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history in 2009.
Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, Fort Hood’s commanding officer, said an active duty solider in the 13th Sustainment Command Expeditionary began firing shots in the 1st Medical Brigade area of Fort Hood at around 4 p.m.
The shooter was identified as Spc. Ivan Lopez.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to each of those injured and their families, and the killed and their families. Our focus now is to focus on the families of the injured, and focus on the families of the killed, and ensure that they have the best care and counseling available," Milley said.
"We are strong and we will get through this," he said.
Milley said the suspected guman served in Iraq in 2011, was married and was being evaluated for a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis. He used a .45 caliber Smith and Wesson that was purchased recently, Milley said.
There was no motive identified, and Milley said there was no indication that the incident was related to terrorism, though it hasn't been ruled out. Federal and state authorities are investigating the attack.
The soldier walked into a building and began shooting, then got into a car, drove to another building and resumed shooting, Milley said. The suspect's body was found in the parking lot, where he had been engaged by a military police officer, Milley said.
"A military police officer responded, and he was approaching her at about 20 feet. He put his hands up and then reached under his jacket, pulled out the [gun], and she pulled out her weapon and then she engaged and he put the weapon to his head, and he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound."
The suspect arrived at Fort Hood in February from another military installation, Milley said.
"We are digging deep into his background, any criminal history, psychiatric history, his experiences in combat — all of the things you would expect us to be doing are being done right now," Milley said.
President Obama said he was "heartbroken" by the shooting and vowed that authorities would get to the bottom of what had happened.
"The folks there have sacrificed so much on behalf of our freedom. Many of the people there have been on multiple tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, they served with valor, they served with distinction," Obama said. "At their home base they need to feel safe. We don’t yet know what happened tonight but obviously that sense of safety has been broken once again."
Obama delivered the statement in Chicago, where he was attending a Democratic fundraiser. Later that evening, on a flight back to Washington, the president held a conference call with his national security team, Defense Department officials and the FBI.
During that conference call, Obama praised military personnel, first responders, and medical staff “who responded swiftly and heroically to the horrific shooting,” the White House said.
The president directed his team to utilize every resource available to fully investigate the shooting, the White House said.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called the shooting "a terrible tragedy for the Fort Hood community, the Department and Defense, and for the nation" in a statement Wednesday evening.
"There is nothing more important to us as an institution than the safety and well-being of our people, and for that reason I am grateful to all the first responders who rushed to the scene," he said.
"For the second time in five years Fort Hood has been struck by tragedy," Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas)said in a statement. "As a central Texan, this hits hard and hits home. While we do not yet know how many were tragically injured today, we do know that brave heroes ran to their aid. I join all Americans in offering my thoughts and prayers during this tragic time to those affected by this shooting, especially the victims and their families."
Details were scant as the situation unfolded Wednesday afternoon and the base remained on lockdown for several hours.
At 6:30 p.m. ET, Fort Hood sent out a statement that a shooting had been reported there and emergency crews were responding. It advised personnel on the base to shelter in place.
Bell Country Sheriff Lt. Donnie Adams said there was "an active shooter on post" and that his office and state troops were working to secure the perimeter of the base.
A Twitter message from the First Calvary Division, a combat division based at Fort Hood, warned all personnel to "close doors and stay away from windows."
Fort Hood was already the site of the worst mass shooting at a domestic military base in U.S. history.
In 2009, U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan killed 13 people and injured more than 30 others at the base. It is the largest-active duty military post in the United States, covering 340 square miles, and is located 60 miles north of Austin, Texas.
"My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. And my sympathies go out to this strong and resilient community, which has experienced this kind of senseless violence all too recently," Hagel said.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said in a statement that "tonight, Texans’ hearts are once again very heavy."
"No community should have to go through this horrific violence once, let alone twice," Cornyn said.
Wednesday’s Fort Hood shooting is the second shooting at a military base in just over a week, raising questions over whether there is enough security in place on military bases to prevent such incidents.
Last Monday, a civilian male with access to the Norfolk Naval Station boarded a docked guided-missile destroyer, struggled with an armed guard and used his pistol to fatally shoot a sailor responding to the scene.
Navy security forces then fatally shot the shooter. That incident is still under investigation.
"Anytime you lose any of your people to these kind of tragedy, there's an issue, there's a problem," Hagel said earlier Wednesday during a press conference in Hawaii, where he is meeting with defense ministers of Southeast Asian nations.
Mario Trujillo, Jeremy Herb and Justin Sink contributed to this report.
This story was originally published on Wednesday at 6:39 p.m. and lasat last updated on Thursday at 7:46 a.m.