Fort Hood survivors recount terror of Hasan’s massacre in vivid detail

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by JASON WHITELY

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonwhitely

WFAA

Posted on August 8, 2013 at 9:27 AM

Updated Thursday, Aug 8 at 3:30 PM

Editor’s note: This story contains graphic testimony from survivors of the 2009 massacre as they testified on Thursday in the court martial trial of Maj. Nidal Hasan.

FORT HOOD – One victim pled for the life of the child inside her. Another three were gunned down as they charged their attacker with chairs. Another comforted victims while desperately trying to stay out of his line of sight. And after the shooter left, another began marking the foreheads of the dead with the letter "D" –– there were other living victims to attend to.

Thursday was another gripping and graphic day in the court martial of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan as survivors recalled in vivid detail the 2009 massacre he’s accused of committing.

He faces 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. If convicted, he faces the death penalty. Hasan is representing himself.

Monique Archuleta, a civilian who worked in the Solider Readiness Processing Center on Nov. 5, 2009, broke down several times during her testimony Thursday afternoon.

She recalled taking cover in her office when the shooting began and only emerged after her boss, Sgt. Maria Guerra, summoned her out when it was safe.

“There’s a soldier who was lying on the ground but raising his arms and saying, 'I’m here! I’m here!',” she recalled. “Next to him there was a soldier that was laying face down in a pool of blood who was not breathing – not moving,”

“I said, ‘Private First Class, I’m here to help you.’ I took off my belt and attempted a tourniquet the best I could. While this is going on I’m still hearing the gunshots outside. He had a right leg wound," Archuleta continued. “As I continue to care for him, he continues to say, ‘I’m here! I’m here!’ I sensed something else was wrong but couldn’t find a wound.”

Archuleta then got emotional as she continued. 

“I notice swelling over the right side of his face. I did a sweep of his head and when I did that my hands came back with blood and some brain matter. I’m trying to help him the best I could. But with a head injury I didn’t know what I could do.” 

Archuleta said she then raced to another downed soldier.

“She was light brown skin, had dark hair,” she continued. “Her eyes were wide open. She was breathing but it was not normal. It was a heavy breathing. She was frothing with her mouth.  I tried smacking in the face. I could not get anything. I could not see any bleeding on her.”

“I noticed a body by the filing cabinet,” Archuleta added saying she was trying to assist anyone. 

Then she noticed two civilian nurses helping someone.

“They were attempting CPR on a male soldier. He had no pulse. He was not breathing.

At that time I told them to stop and go on to the front,” Archuleta said before pausing to check her emotions. “There were more soldiers who needed help.”

She said she then came across Lt. Col. Juanita Warman.

“She said ‘I’m not going to make it. I’m not going to make it. I’m going to die,'” Archuleta said, crying. “I remember telling her ‘Don’t say that! You’re not going to die.’”

Sgt. Kennedy was doing CPR on a female soldier nearby, Archuleta testified. 

“I saw no visible blood. She was not responsive. She was very pale. Her eyes were wide open," Archuleta said. "I had at that time determined she was not alive. There was nothing I could do.”

Hasan did not cross-examine her. 

Sgt. Maria Guerra ran the Solider Readiness Processing Center and supervised Archuleta. Guerra testified she had just walked into her office for lunch when Hasan yelled out “Allhau Ahkbar!” 

“I sprung up from my chair and basically said ‘What the f–– is going on?’ I come running around my desk and that’s when I hear the POP, POP, POP!,” Guerra said. “I opened the door and I said, ‘What the **** is going on in my building?!’ Somebody yelled, 'Shooter! Shooter! Somebody’s shooting!'”

Guerra said she crouched down in the office she shared with Archuleta and two others and told them to stay down and call 911. 

“As he’s firing he’s very efficiently dropping his magazine and coming up with another magazine. It was seconds. Literally seconds,” Guerra said. “He was firing at soldiers running out the front door. He was firing at soldiers running out the back door.” 

“Very distinctly, I hear someone say, 'When he reloads, get him! When he reloads get him!,’” she added. “Then I saw someone come from the double doors. He had a chair over his head. I also saw two other people charging him as well.”

Guerra paused as her voice began to break up when she recalled seeing all three get cut down by Hasan’s bullets. “I’m still in the doorway crouched down and I’m thinking “YOU MOTHER******! I try and look around to see if I can find anything to stop him.”

Guerra then identified Hasan as the shooter. 

“Barbara, one of my civilian staff, was underneath my desk at station 13. She was so scared. She was so frightened. I told her to be quiet. I said ‘Be quiet, Don’t move!’ I said ‘He’s coming. Don’t move!’” 

Sgt. Guerra then closed and barricaded the office door.

“Then I began to listen. I listened for the shots,” she said, “where they were coming from. I hear a lot of screaming. I hear yelling. I hear RUN, RUN! I hear MOVE, MOVE, I hear ‘HE’S COMING, HE’S COMING! I heard PLEASE DON’T, MY BABY,  MY BABY! And then I heard shots.

Pvt. Franchesca Velez, one of the murdered victims, was pregnant. 

When the shots moved outside, Guerra said she got up and opened the office door.

“When I open the door I see darkness,” she explained. “I thought the lights were out. It was so dark because of intense smoke that was in the room. I could taste it and I could see it.”

“There was no movement. There was no sound,” Guerra testified. “So I yelled it out. Is everybody OK?’ And as soon as I did that it was as if a switch was turned on. Then I heard ‘Help me! I’m bleeding. I’ve been shot!”

“I started yelling out IF YOU CAN WALK, IF YOU CAN RUN, GET UP, GET OUT! EVERYBODY! GET OUT OF THE BUILDING! And I saw there was just a rush of soldiers, civilians,” she continued.

“I started yelling ‘MASS CAL! MASS CAL! NURSES AND MEDICS! SOLDIERS DOWN, SOLDIERS DOWN!’ And no one came out at first. So I yelled again! ‘SOLDIERS DOWN! NURSES AND MEDICS GET THE **** OUT HERE RIGHT NOW!’” 

Guerra said almost 20 civilians were working in the building that day.

“I saw Mr. Cahill. He was the first one I came to,” she remembered. “I did check his pulse and I put my head down to see if he was still breathing. He was not. His eyes were wide open and he was very purple.”

“I yelled out to everyone,” she said. “’Utilize your belts. Take your belts. Utilize anything you need to do as tourniquets.’ I moved on to Staff Sgt. Kruger. She was lying on her back. Her eyes were wide open. Her pupils were pinpoint. She wasn’t breathing. The sound she made was ‘cuh, cuh, cuh.’:

Guerra continued: "I was looking for blood so I could see where she was hit. I turned here around and I couldn’t see blood. I told Sgt. Alvarado ‘I can’t find anything.’ Finally in her lower back I noticed a small – what looked like a bruise in her lower back and when I turned her back over she was not making any more sounds. So I moved on.” 

“I went over to where there was a young soldier. He was still sitting in his seat. This soldier didn’t have a chance to get up out of his seat,” Guerra said. “He was still sitting in his seat and his eyes were open and he was white. That’s what sticks out with me. He was white as a ghost.” 

She recalled that soldier was Pfc. Aaron Nemelka. 

“At one point, I looked over and they were working on Pfc. Nemelka and I said ‘HE’S DEAD! YOU NEED TO MOVE ON!,’” she continued. 

“I said if they were dead,” Guerra testified, “I will mark their foreheads. You need to move on. ‘TRIAGE! TRIAGE!’ I went over to Pfc. Nemelka and I put a ‘D’ on his forehead and I looked at my watch and wrote ‘D 1325’” to signal the time of death. 

Guerra broke down when she said she did the same with Dr. Michael Cahill and Staff Sgt. Amy Krueger. 

Hasan did not cross-examine Guerra.

Maj. Laura Suttinger testified that she had just walked into a cubicle to meet with a medical provider in the Soldier Readiness Processing Center.

“We both heard something that stopped us – made us look at each other,” she testified. “We heard a pop, pop, pop, sound. I knew immediately something wasn’t right and made the conclusion it was gunfire.”

Maj. Suttinger spoke slowly, providing a vivid recollection of the massacre.

It lasted less than three minutes, she testified.

“There was intermittent gunfire. There were people screaming. There was certainly a lot of chaos. Noises such as things falling down and being moved around,” Suttinger recalled. “There was a short period of silence and that’s when somebody said ‘Get out of here!’”

She testified she immediately tried to help several soldiers but at least two, a captain and a sergeant, already appeared dead. 

Still, Suttinger admitted she did not see the shooter.

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the accused gunman who is representing himself, did not cross-examine Maj. Suttinger. 

Sgt. Alan Michael Carroll testified next for prosecutors. He was sitting in a row of folding chairs with friends in the middle of the Soldier Readiness Processing Center when the shooting started.

“I thought it was a pop gun at first,” Sgt. Carroll told jurors. “I didn’t exactly know what was going on. That’s when I realized to myself this is a lot louder than what a pop gun should sound like. Then I felt a sharp pain in my shoulder.” 

Sgt. Carroll said he heard rapid gunfire and the room began to smell like gun powder.

“I had my hand over my left shoulder,” he continued. “I was trying to figure out what was going on. I turned around and there was a man behind me and he was laughing. From that point on I thought it was a training exercise.”

After being shot, Sgt. Carroll said he still tried to help his colleagues who had also been wounded but both were killed. After the shooting was over, Carroll said bullets had struck him four times, in his shoulder, back, leg and arm.

Hasan did not cross-examine Carroll. 

Staff Sgt. Michael Davis walked into the Soldier Readiness Processing Center to get immunizations just before it happened. Almost immediately after taking his shift off he testified hearing a “loud bang and some popping.” 

“It sounded like M-16 rapid fire. It sounded like some sort of weapon but I didn’t know what it was. I believed it was some sort of drill and I asked the lady if this was common. She didn’t know what it was going on either,” he recalled.

“Somebody ran passed the cubicle and said something to the effect ‘Is somebody going to take this guy out?,” Sgt. Davis added. “As soon as I stood up I got hit in the back and hit the ground pretty hard – face first.”

He said he crawled under a desk and played dead until he heard the gunfire move outside the building. 

“There was a lot of bodies on the ground,” Davis said he saw as he ran out of the building with a bullet in his back. “The chairs were overturned. It smelled like gunpowder, feces, blood.” 

Staff Sgt. Davis said he jumped in a truck driving down Battalion Avenue “and slapped on the back of the window – said I’ve been shot – can you take me to the hospital?”

Hasan did not cross-examine Davis.

That’s what irks Hasan’s standby defense attorneys.

Just before testimony resumed, a military judge ordered three Army attorneys to continue assisting Maj. Nidal Hasan in his defense despite them disagreeing over his strategy. 

But his standby attorneys have now threatened to request a stay in their roles preventing them for assisting Hasan.

“Standby counsel may not agree with the way the accused is proceeding,” said Col. Tara Osborn, the judge. “But Major Hasan determines his strategy, not standby counsel.”

On Wednesday morning, Lt. Col. Kris Poppe complained to the court that Hasan apparently wants to die and is throwing his case by not objecting or cross-examining prosecution witnesses.

“It became clear during his opening statements – his goal is to remove impediments to the death penalty and is working towards a death penalty,” Poppe told the judge yesterday. “It’s repugnant to a defense counsel and contrary to what our professional obligations may be.” 

After recessing the trial early yesterday, Judge Osborn returned Thursday morning and ordered Poppe and the two other standby attorneys to continue assisting Hasan with whatever he needs despite them disagreeing with his strategy.

But Poppe threatened to ask for a stay – not in the trial and testimony – but for the roles of the three Army attorneys who are assisting Hasan.

“We wish to enter an extraordinary writ because we believe your order is repugnant and we are asking for a stay for a period time as the as the wit is withstanding,” Poppe told the judge.

“I’ll make it easy for you Col, Poppe. I have given you an order. If I am wrong, which I am not, you are acting on my order and this relieves you of any ethical [issue],” the judge responded. 

“It’s unethical to perform the duties as standby counsel in the way that you have so ordered,” Poppe told Judge Osborn.

“We’re going to move forward with this trial,” the judge said. “Absent a higher court striking down my order – it remains in effect.

Prosecutors plan to call a dozen witnesses on this third day of trial. 

Hasan is accused of murdering 13 soldiers and wounding 32 others during a massacre on post in November 2009.

Hasan provided FOX News with more details of what led to it.

“When he arrived at Fort Hood, he reported that receiving a deployment tasking would be “the trigger point” for his actions, according a page from Hasan’s Sanity Board Report he directed his attorney to given exclusively to FOX News. “He stated that he purchased this weapon because ‘I knew something was going to happen’ (i.e. he knew he was going to undertake an action).”

FOX News said it has reviewed three pages of the 49-page confidential report.

“He stated he became conflicted during general psychiatry residency about his religious identity and his secular identity (i.e. being a U.S. soldier). Near the end of his third year of residency and beginning of fourth year of residency, MAJ Hasan became convinced that “I am on the wrong side…I am Muslim first…I have to help my Muslim brothers overseas…the wars (in Iraq and Afghanistan) are wars against Islam.”

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