Friday, November 13, 2009

'Mighty Mouse' legend meets reality as Fort Hood witness points to Senior Sergeant Mark Todd

IT was a feel-good hero story that for several days gave Americans some comfort after the murder of 13 soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas.

But like so many war stories - including the infamous rescue of Private Jessica Lynch during the 2003 invasion of Iraq - the exact details of how last Thursday's mass shooting at Fort Hood was brought to a violent end are growing more murky by the day.

Initially it was claimed that a slightly built female police officer, Sergeant Kimberly "Mighty Mouse" Munley, opened fire on the suspect, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, and kept shooting even after being hit three times.

But at least one witness now claims that Sergeant Munley, 35, was in fact hit by Major Hasan before she had time to get off a single round, and that it was her partner, Senior Sergeant Mark Todd - a 42-year-old African-American - who actually felled the man now charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder. The witness, whose account was reported in The New York Times, declined to give his or her name.

Mr Grey confirmed, however, that "both [police officers] engaged the suspect" and that Major Hasan "did not have a scheduled appointment" at Fort Hood's Soldier Readiness Processing Centre, where the shooting began.

There are now suggestions that the US military - with the help of the media - helped to create a Hollywood script out of messy reality, perhaps in the hope that a tale about the Bruce Willis-style bravado of a mother-of-one would obscure less flattering headlines about army incompetence.

It has now emerged that Major Hasan, an army psychiatrist, had sent e-mails to a hardline imam - Anwar al-Aulaqi, an al-Qa'ida sympathiser linked to two of the 9/11 hijackers - before the shooting spree. Although the FBI was reportedly aware of the e-mails, no action was ever taken.

Likewise, no red flags were raised in August when Major Hasan bought an FN Herstal tactical pistol from Guns Galore, a shop in the town of Killeen, even though he was subjected to an FBI background check.

The check was reportedly not shared with the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Washington, which knew about his e-mails to Anwar al-Aulaqi. Major Hasan's supportive online postings about suicide bombers were also ignored.

As charges were officially made against Major Hasan yesterday, the Obama administration issued a Presidential Memorandum demanding an "immediate inventory" of all intelligence in US government files relevant to the shooting. The President also ordered a review of how "any such intelligence was handled, shared, and acted upon within individual departments and agencies and what intelligence was shared with others".

Meanwhile, Sergeants Todd and Munley, both members of Fort Hood's civilian police force, made their first public comments on the shooting during Wednesday night's edition of the Oprah Winfrey Show and yesterday morning's Good Morning America. But they did not comment on the chronology of how the worst mass-shooting on a US military base ended.

"The entire incident was very confusing and chaotic," said Sergeant Manley, who was washing her patrol car when she received an emergency call. "There were many people outside [the deployment centre] pointing to the direction this individual was apparently located, and as soon as I got out of my vehicle and ran up the hill is when things began getting really bad and we started encountering fire."

Sergeant Todd, who turned up at the crime scene in a separate car, added: "When we first approached the scene there was a slight incline we had to go up. She [Sergeant Munley] broke to the right and I broke to the left and we both took cover. I gave [the suspect] commands - `halt, drop your weapon' - and he fired on me. There was really no time to think. We just relied on our training. We're trained to shoot until there is no longer a threat."

The police officer added that after firing at the suspect, he rushed him, kicked away his gun, and handcuffed him. It was the first time in 25 years he'd had to use his weapon, he said.

When they were sure Major Hasan was no longer a threat, the officers began trying to save his life. The suspect is now at Brooke Army Medical Centre in San Antonio, where he is thought to be paralysed - and heavily sedated. He also now has a lawyer, retired Army Colonel John Galligan.

Army prosecutors are likely to seek the death penalty, even though the US military has not executed anyone after a court martial since 1961.

Asked about her recovery in hospital from three gunshot wounds, Sergeant Munley said: "I'm doing well. Every day is progress for me and things are getting better day by day and emotionally, I'm just hoping the rest of the officers and the families of the deceased are healing as well."

She described the moment she was hit by one bullet as feeling as if the muscle was being ripped out of her leg.

Source: The Australian

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