KILLEEN, Texas — The Army specialist at Fort Hood who killed three and wounded 16 of his fellow soldiers Wednesday had an angry dispute over a leave request shortly before the shooting rampage, a law enforcement official said Friday.
After a meeting where he had sought a leave to attend to family matters, he was clearly agitated and disrespectful, said the official, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to discuss the investigation.
Fort Hood officials and a spokesman for Army investigators declined to comment Friday about the meeting and its role in the shooting, but they confirmed in an afternoon news conference that the specialist, Ivan Antonio Lopez, became angry with soldiers from his unit before the attack.
Two of those he killed were in his unit, a transportation battalion of the 13th Sustainment Command.
Officials stressed that they had still not established a clear motive.
But in an interview with a local Mississippi television station, Theodis Westbrook, of Smithdale, Miss., the father of Sergeant Jonathan Westbrook, who was wounded in the attack, said he was told that a soldier came to Fort Hood’s personnel office, where Jonathan Westbrook worked, to get a leave form.
When one of the soldiers told the man to come back the next day to pick that form up, the man left, then returned with a gun and opened fire.
“The first guy he shot right in front of my son was killed, and then he turned the gun towards Jonathan, aimed it, and fired,” Theodis Westbrook said. “I don’t know how many times he fired, but he hit my son four times.”
The Army has said that Lopez had been undergoing evaluation for post-traumatic stress disorder and treatment for depression and anxiety, but the post commander, Lieutenant General Mark A. Milley, said on Friday that his “underlying medical conditions” were not a direct factor in the shootings.
“We believe that the immediate precipitating factor was more likely an escalating argument in his unit area,” Milley said.
On his Facebook page, Lopez expressed a variety of concerns — including outrage at Adam Lanza’s shooting rampage in Newtown, Conn., the fear he felt in a convoy in Iraq, and, more recently, anger with Army bureaucracy.
He arrived on base in February after being transferred from Fort Bliss in El Paso.
It was unclear how his writing might help explain his increasingly troubled state of mind.
“Given that the alleged shooter is deceased, the possibility does exist that we may never know exactly why the alleged shooter did what he did,” said Chris Grey, a spokesman for the US Army Criminal Investigation Command in Quantico, Va., the lead agency investigating the shooting.
Lopez’s father released a written statement, in Spanish, on Friday in which he suggested that mental illness must have played a role in his son’s actions. “My son could not have been in his right mind,” said Ivan Lopez. “This is not who he was.”
The statement, released in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, where Ivan Lopez grew up and where his family still lives, said that the deaths of his mother and grandfather, along with “the recent changes he experienced in his transfer to the base affected his condition as a result of his experiences as a soldier.”
He was divorced from his first wife, who also lives in Puerto Rico with their two children.
His second wife and a child lived with him in Texas.
The troubled Facebook posts and comments Ivan Lopez made in the last two years appeared as posts from “Ivan Slipknot,” his Facebook identity and a reference to a favorite heavy metal band, friends said.
On March 1, the day he purchased the .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol he used in the attack, Ivan Lopez wrote an especially angry and vaguely threatening post. “My spiritual peace has all gone away, I am full of hate, I believe now the devil is taking me.”
The post was unclear about whether he was referring to an actual robbery, or a figurative robbery in which he was, perhaps, denied something that he felt was owed to him.