FORT HOOD, Texas (KXAN/AP) - If anything is apparent from all the witness testimony as it continued for a fifth day Tuesday, it is that soldiers -- while trying to save their own lives during the shooting at Fort Hood -- were also concerned about and tried to help severely wounded fellow soldiers as the chaos exploded around them.
Statements about hearing screams, cries and expressing disbelief that the shooter was a man "wearing an Army badge" peppered descriptions of what survivors recalled. More than one witness heard the screaming pleas of a pregnant soldier as she cried "My baby! My baby! My baby!" -- words that made no difference to accused shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, as he gunned her down along with the others that day.
Sgt. 1st Class Maria Guerra spoke via satellite from Michigan late Tuesday afternoon. Guerra explained she recognized Hasan as the officer who didn't want to get his smallpox vaccine a week before the shooting. After hearing the first four shots, Guerra said things turned to chaos.
"...I started hearing a lot of screams...When I opened it (the door to her office), it was chaos," said Guerra. "Soldiers and civilians were running and screaming and all I could hear was rapid fire. He was shooting into the crowd at Station 13. All I could see was his side profile and I was mainly looking at what he was shooting: the soldiers. I was watching the soldiers being shot.
"[I saw] an attachment was added [to the gun] because it was much thicker then a 9mm...," Guerra continued. "I was thinking whether I could rush him...I was too far...I see him reload three times before he started walking my way and I had to retreat into my office...He reloaded so quickly, very efficiently...There were still soldiers trying to run out the back door and that's when he started to move towards the back door....And very distinctly, I heard a female scream, 'Please don't! My baby! My baby!' I heard her scream and I heard shots, and then it was quiet.
"I listened for the shots...," Guerra continued. "It sounded as if he were circling the building. The smoke was so thick and all you could smell was the gunfire, the sulfur...All I saw was soldiers and bodies all over the floor...no one was moving...I ran out to where the first body was...yelled out, 'Is everybody OK?' It was then like a switch turned on -- you could hear, 'Help me, help me, I've been shot.'"
Guerra said she yelled at everyone to take off their belts, to use anything that might serve as tourniquets to stop the bleeding. She explained the survivors started marking the foreheads of victims with a marker pen -- with a "d" or a check mark -- to signify they were dead, to move on and not work on those soldiers. Some of the deceased had their eyes open, Guerra explained.
"There were just bodies everywhere...there were soldiers and civilians tending to them...That's when I saw the shooter on the ground," said Guerra. She explained that two women stood over near Hasan after he'd been shot. The women were upset that his weapons were left lying next to him and that he wasn't handcuffed. "All I did was stand there and watch him."
Staff Sgt. Helen Kennedy worked in the SRP building. She said her job was to give soldiers immunization shots and work in adminstration. Her testimony was told as she tried not to cry, but eventually gave in to her emotions sharing vivid details of how she and others tried to help the wounded.
"I heard pop, pop, pop...grabbed a soldier's hand and went to the back of the building...I was more concerned with their safety...we crawled with our hands and knees under the desk...there were people shoved up underneath the table...I knew that it was gunfire...it didn't make sense it was gunfire because of where we were working...The footsteps got closer as well as the gunfire. I heard gunfire and a soldier fall...I looked to the ground. (she grabs her chest and has trouble speaking) The soldier in front of me fell to the ground...The first ones were behind me as I was sitting under the desk...There was crying...was trying to figure out what building we were in...I was trying to get out there to him (an injured soldier)...
girls kept trying to pull me back.I could hear Sgt. Garrett saying 'Mass cal, mass cal!'
"I crawled out, trying to find out where he was shot...," Kennedy continued. "I checked his pulse and said he was gone...I stood up and tripped and realized that Susan, another nurse, she was laying down..The smoke was so thick in there. I was slipping on blood trying to get out of the building...I took my belt off so I could use it as a tourniquet...I was working on a soldier that was injured...He was begging me not to touch his leg because he thought it was broken. put my belt on his left arm.
"I started working on a female soldier after that...," Kennedy explained. "Her buddy was starting to scream her name, Krueger...I was talking to her, she was still breathing...There was blood everywhere. I couldn't tell what was hers. I got her
undressed. At the same time she started seizing and vomiting...I tried to get the vomit out of her mouth, trying to do chest compressions...couldn't get her airway clear...I said I need suction, I need suction. They said I needed to tag her 'black' as a category of triage. She died. Everyone kept screaming, 'What can I do? What can I do?' I said, 'I'm sorry, there's nothing I can do."
Shemaka L. Hairston worked as a nurse in the Soldier Readiness Processing building -- where the mass shooting at Fort Hood happened -- and had the third 911 call that's been mentioned during testimony. Dressed in scrubs, Hairston described the sights and sounds of that November day.
"I heard what sounded like firecrackers...Then, I tried to peer over the partition, but it was too high... I couldn't see anything...saw a cloud of smoke and it smelled like ammunition ... smelled like a shooting range... I ran back to the station behind us...We get under the desk there... It didn't hit us at the time...We were in a state of shock."
Hairston called 911 and remained on the phone until emergency crews arrived. Replaying the 911 call during the hearing, Hairston cried immediately after it stopped playing.
"It sounded like the gunfire was getting closer ... was getting louder and louder ... footsteps as well."
Hairston she saw two soldiers who didn't make it, "They died."
Hairston's 911 call, which lasted about five minutes:
- Hairston: "Someone is shooting at the SRP site ... Fort Hood, Texas."
- 911 operator: "Ma'am, get down low ... Get on the ground, ma'am."
- (There's some mumbling and then screaming in the background.)
- 911 operator: "Listen to me. Give me the address!" (said in a demanding tone)
- (Gunshots are heard in the background)
- 911 operator: "Ma'am, where are you?"
- (Loud breathing is heard on the phone)
- (911 operator continues to direct Hairston to get down and continues to ask where she is located.)
- (There is crying and again more screaming in the background, still a few minutes in to the call. There is also a lot of mumbling.)
- Hairston: "A lot of people are down." (Saying in between her crying)
- 911 operator: "Is the shooter still there?"
- Hairston: "I don't know ... I'm in the back ... There are five people down ... The shooter just came in and shot [them]."
- 911 operator: "42003 Battalion ... The SRP site, correct? ... Do you know who the shooter is?"
- Hairston: "We don't know who he is ... Someone came in with weapons and just started shooting."
Just minutes into the call, Hairston shielded her face on the stand and rubbed her head - clearly upset about reliving her 911 call.
Nurse Theodore Coukoulis worked inside the SRP building the day of the shooting and remembered seeing Hasan before the shooting. A week before, there was confusion about whether the major had taken his flu or small pox shot. Coukoulis said Hasan was uncooperative during that time -- similar information to Guerra's testimony about the issue.
The witness testimony is being taken in an Article 32 hearing - equivalent to a civilian grand jury trial - that will determine if Hasan will stand trial. He faces 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder for the Nov. 5 shootings.
Coukoulis typically worked inside the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center , where Fort Hood victims were taken following the shooting. However, the day of the shooting, he happened to be working inside the SRP building.
There was shouting, and then "he fired into the group of chairs...I ducked behind the IV poll...He started firing at soldiers here at 12A...He shot at the three soldiers [in] 12A...After he fired at the soldiers, walked over, I could see the laser hit the floor...I don't know if he was pointing the gun in my direction... "
Coukoulis described how he could hear Hasan walking through the building because some of the ammunition had apparently got caught on the major's shoe. The nurse said it sounded like clanking on the floor as he walked through with his weapon, and he likened the kind of walk Hasan was doing as someone who was just casually walking through a mall.
The video that allows the media to see the hearing from another room cut out intermittently during that time, so the details regarding Hasan's shots and parts of Coukoulis' recollection of what happened that day are choppy.
The nurse talked about a dying colonel, "You could tell she was dead because it was like a soaker hose you have in the garden, the amount of blood that was coming out ... Went around and started treating patients. They were everywhere ... The amount of blood in the area, it was slippery from the blood ... It was the most I have [ever] seen before ... I kept slipping. I almost expended as much energy slipping across that floor (as he did helping the wounded soldiers)."
Coukoulis said the blood loss was so heavy that that was a large amount of blood even splashing onto him as he tried to help the victims.
Kimberly Huseman was working
in the SRP building when she heard the gunshots and called 911, a chaotic eight-minute call replayed as she sat on the stand - seemingly upset and reaching for a tissue.
Transcription of parts of 911 call:
- “Are you able to see the person at all? Hmmm mmmm.”
- (Low-pitched sounds, like gunshots, are heard. There is a lot of background noise.)
- “I’m OK ... We’re already outside ... He’s outside! He’s outside! ... People are shot ... Oh, God!”
- (Says something inaubile in a panic.)
- “Oh, my God!"
- (She screams.)
- “Where is he? ... White-Hispanic, I don’t know!"
- (There is a lot of panic in her voice.)
- “We are in the building and don’t know where he is ... He’s down ... Oh, my God!”
- (She cries a lot as she sees all the injured soldiers. Hard to make out words.)
- (She is back in the building trying to help the soldiers) “ ... trying to take care of everybody.”
Huseman was in Station 10, near where the shooting happened in Station 13, and said her world was immediately surrounded by at least 10 or more injured in an instant.
"Pvt. First Class Omolka, checked his pulse. He was cold," continued Huseman, tearing up during her testimony.
Staff Sgt. Michael C. Davis was in Station 12 getting his shots when "there was a loud bang ... It was continuous [popping sound]."
Like many others who have testified, he thought it was a drill or an exercise of some kind and looked at the woman who was administering his shot - who responded with the same perplexity he had.
"We just kind of sat there and tried to figure out what was going on," he said. "I heard a woman screaming, 'My baby! My baby! My baby!'"
That was likely Pvt. Francheska Velez, 21, who was pregnant . She died that day.
Davis got up from his chair and peaked around the corner, where he said he saw what looked like someone who was hit - "a flash of blood." He immediately turned around and told the nurse that people were getting shot and that they needed to go the other direction.
"I dived into a cubicle," said Davis, after hearing smacks near his head.
He tried to get out of the building filled with "constant shooting." With him under the desk he'd jumped under was another soldier, and they sat there looking at each other trying to figure out what to do.
"When I initially heard it, it sounded like an M16," he said. That's the United States' military designation for the high-powered AR-15 rifle. "Heard someone shout, 'Go! Go! He's reloading!' ... It was coming from Station 13."
That's when he came out from under the desk but was met with a shot in the back.
"I face-planted in the ground and hit pretty hard...started yelling...At that point, I didn't know how bad I was hit ... The guy next to me said to be quiet because he [the shooter] was going to come over."
Davis again got under the desk "and played dead...I just knew it was around Station 13."
He re-emerged from the desk and moved out through a hallway and moved along to the north wall, cutting back toward the front of the building.
"There was a lot of blood, a lot of smoke. The chairs were overturned, and there were bodies everywhere," he said, describing the scene inside Station 13.
Davis remembers smelling gunpowder and blood while he went by it on the way out of the building.
Even after all of Davis' testimony, Hasan's defense attorney, John Galligan, asked Davis how he might not have been directly shot, to which Davis replied that it may have ricocheted or went through the wall before it him him.
"There was not a direct line of sight from where he was shooting to where I was," said Davis.
He still has the bullet in his body because doctors said it would do more damage taking it out than leaving it in there.
Dozens of soldiers have already testified during the hearing, which began last week .
Spc. Dayna Roscoe was among those testifying Monday . Roscoe said she heard Lt. Col. Juanita Warman say she'd been shot and ask for someone tell her family that she loved them. Warman died that day.
Witnesses expected this week include the two Fort Hood police officers credited with shooting and stopping Hasan.