Pinoys rethink safety after Fort Hood shooting spree

By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Posted at Apr 04 2014 12:11 PM | Updated as of Apr 04 2014 08:11 PM

REDWOOD CITY, California – The shooting incident inside America's largest base, Fort Hood, has made many Filipinos worried over their safety.

But a Filipino-American army member and his family still feel safe inside the base.

On Wednesday afternoon, specialist Ivan Lopez opened fire at Fort Hood in Texas, killing three people before taking his own life. Sixteen people were also wounded in the incident.

The Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles, which has jurisdiction over Texas, has yet to respond to Balitang America's query if Filipinos were among those who died or hurt when the lone gunman opened fire.

The 34-year-old Lopez reportedly wore combat fatigues and was armed with a .45 caliber Smith and Wesson handgun he purchased recently. He was married and had a 3-year-old daughter.

Neighbors of Lopez thought he was a good guy.

"As far as I knew, he was a nice guy. He always smiled and waved. And that’s about it — typical average family. They were always coming and going. They’d smile whenever they’d see someone and that was it," said Xanderia Morris.

Although police are still trying to determine a motive behind this heinous crime, the army’s post commander, Lt. Gen Mark Milley said the gunman — who served in Iraq — had behavioral health and mental issues.

"He was currently under diagnosis for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) but he had not yet been diagnosed for PTSD. He was undergoing behavioral health and psychiatric treatment for depression and anxiety and a variety of other psychological and psychiatric issues. He was on medication," Milley said.

A Filipino member of the army, who works and lives in Fort Hood with his family, asked not to be identified after he was advised by his superiors not to speak to the media.

But in a phone interview with Balitang America, he said he was worried for his wife and his young son’s safety, who were at a friend’s house nearby when the shooting happened.

"Of course I was worried on how they were doing. They were out there and I was locked down inside the base," he said.

He said they were on lockdown for four hours. "You just wait, wait for the word…wait until they said it's all clear," he said.

The Pinoy army member expressed his dismay that Fort Hood is at the center of another shooting spree. In 2009, a US major opened fire at the base, killing 13. But he said, somehow, he still feels safe inside the base.

"This kind of stuff could happen anywhere. It'll happen. It's just a matter of keeping yourself safe, doing the right thing," he said.

Still, this experience made his wife realize about the uncertainties of life. She said, "Tomorrow is never a promise."

For his part, President Barack Obama assured the people that his administration will get to to bottom of things. He appealed to Americans, saying, “But just for now, I would hope that everyone across the country keep the families and the community of Fort Hood in our thoughts and prayers.”

Authorities said the suspect has had no “involvement with extremist organizations of any kind” and that he had a “clean record. They continue to look into what could have really pushed him to the edge to create terror at Fort Hood.