FORT HOOD, Texas — An Army psychiatrist accused in last year's deadly Fort Hood shooting rampage bought the "most high-tech handgun" and started frequenting a firing range just before the attack, witnesses told a military hearing Thursday.
Maj. Nidal Hasan bought an FN 5.7 semiautomatic handgun on Aug. 1, a few weeks after he entered the store and asked for "the most high-tech weapon we had," Fredrick Brannon, a former store employee, testified Thursday.
The Article 32 hearing will determine whether Hasan will stand trial on 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder for the Nov. 5 rampage at the Texas Army post. Col. James Pohl, the investigating officer in the case, delayed the hearing after prosecutors finished presenting evidence Thursday.
The hearing is to resume Nov. 15, when defense attorneys will say whether they will present any evidence. They sought the delay so a defense expert can complete a psychiatric evaluation of their
American-born Muslim client.
In court Thursday, prosecutors showed footage they said Hasan recorded on his cell phone of a manager at the gun store in nearby Killeen demonstrating how to use the gun — including reloading and cleaning it. The footage does not show Hasan, but he can be heard saying, "OK," in the background several times as the manager — who did not testify — gave him detailed instructions.
John Choats, part owner of Stan's Outdoor Shooting Range and a certified shooting instructor, said Hasan completed a concealed handgun class Oct. 10 and purchased a membership at the shooting range in Florence, about 20 miles south of Killeen. Hasan went to the firing range once or twice a week, sometimes doing long-range shooting with an FN 5.7 gun at the rifle range, Choats said.
Hasan chose silhouette targets rather than bulls-eye targets, aiming at the head and chest from 100 yards away, and began to improve his accuracy, Choats said. "Most of the time in training it's (aiming for) entirely center mass, the chest and abdominal (region)," Choats said, when asked by a defense attorney whether he noticed anything unusual about the target practice.
Hasan was shot by police officers during last year's rampage, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down. He's been attending the hearing in a wheelchair. Hasan remains jailed. The military justice system does not have bail.
Pohl, the investigating officer in the case, will at some point after the hearing recommend whether Hasan should go to trial, though the decision will ultimately be made by Fort Hood's commanding general.