FORT HOOD, Texas – A soldier who recorded the terror of last year’s deadly shooting rampage in Fort Hood using his cell phone was ordered by an officer to delete both videos, a military court heard Friday.
Under cross examination, Pfc. Lance Aviles told an Article 32 hearing that his noncommissioned officer ordered him to destroy the two videos on Nov. 5, the same day a gunman unleashed a volley of bullets inside a processing center at the Texas Army post.
The footage could have been used as evidence at the military hearing to decide if Maj. Nidal Hasan should stand trial in the shootings. The 40-year-old American-born Muslim has been charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder.
Twenty-nine witnesses over three days have appeared either in a courtroom or by video link. Prosecutors have not said whether they’ll seek the death penalty if the case goes to trial.
Aviles described how he was waiting for medical tests at the center with his battle buddy, Pfc. Kham Xiong, when he heard someone shout. Then the gunshots began.
He said he saw a tanned, balding man wearing an Army combat uniform and carrying a black pistol.
“I saw smoke coming from the pistol,” Aviles told the court.
The pair threw themselves to the floor. Aviles turned to his left to check Xiong and discovered his friend had been shot.
“His head was facing the left and a shard of his skull was sticking up,” Aviles said.
Xiong, a 23-year-old father of three from St. Paul, Minn., was among the 13 who died in the attack. Aviles, the 20th person to provide testimony at the hearing, was not hurt.
Addressing the court via video link from Afghanistan, Spc. Megan Martin said she had been waiting to take medical tests when saw a man to her left stand up and shout “Allahu Akbar!” — “God is great!” in Arabic — then start firing a weapon.
He “started shooting to the left of me in a fan motion, left to right,” Martin said.
She described the weapon as “a small handgun (with) … a green light and a red laser.”
Capt. Melissa Kale said the gun was black and had “a red laser and a green laser.”
Only one witness has testified that he saw two weapons.
Kale, who also is serving in Afghanistan and spoke via satellite link, broke down in tears as she described how she tried to pull Sgt. Amy Krueger out of the line of fire. Twenty-nine-year-old Krueger was killed in the attack.
“I tried to pull Sgt. Krueger with me,” she sobbed. “She didn’t move. I had to leave her there.”
Also talking from Afghanistan and with the sound of jets flying overhead, Maj. Eric Torina testified that he saw Maj. Libardo Eduardo Caraveo just after he had been fatally shot, sitting in a chair as if he was still waiting for his medical exam.
The motionless 52-year-old sat “with his head down like he was almost sleeping, but with a bullet hole in his head, dripping blood,” he said.
Martin described how she saw Capt. John Gaffaney attempting to charge at the gunman to prevent further bloodshed. Gaffaney, a 56-year-old psychiatric nurse preparing to deploy to Iraq, was shot at close range and died.
“I could not look away. I laid as still as I could. I couldn’t stop watching. It was a nightmare that reoccurs,” said Martin, who belongs to the 467th Medical Detachment — the unit that Hasan was supposed to deploy with.
Hasan had been trying to get out of his pending deployment because he opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He had been saying goodbye to friends and neighbors, and had given away his Quran and other belongings.
A defense lawyer asked Martin if the tragedy could have prevented her from deploying to a combat zone.
“I did not want to be removed from deployment. I wanted to carry on with the mission, sir, as my fallen soldiers would want me to.”