FORT HOOD (CBSDFW.COM/AP)– A terrified worker begged a 911 dispatcher for help as gunfire and screams rang out during a deadly rampage at Fort Hood, according to a recording of the phone call played Wednesday at a military hearing to decide if an Army psychiatrist accused in the attack should stand trial.
Medical technician Michelle Harper testified during the Article 32 hearing that she was working at the Army post’s processing center when gunfire erupted there Nov. 5. She said she hid under a desk and could only see the shooter’s slow, deliberate footsteps around the center as the tragedy unfolded.
Harper was the second witness to testify at the hearing to determine if Maj. Nidal Hasan should stand trial.
Hasan, 40, is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the attack — the worst mass shooting at an American military base.
The Article 32 hearing, a proceeding unique to military law, will determine if there’s enough evidence to move forward to a trial. It is expected to last at least three weeks.
Harper told the dispatcher “Hurry, hurry, hurry please,” according to the recording, which was peppered with the background sounds of gunshots, the moans of injured victims — including a soldier who was standing in front of Harper when he was shot three times — and people yelling for help.
The dispatcher tried to reassure her. “They’re on the way, sweetheart.”
Harper cried as the 911 tape was played, but no one else in the courtroom showed any reaction, including Hasan and some of the victims’ relatives assembled there.
Hasan, who has been paralyzed from the chest down since Fort Hood police officers fired at him during the rampage, was expressionless throughout the morning session of the hearing. He wore his Army combat uniform and pulled a blanket around him while sitting in his wheelchair.
Earlier Wednesday, a sergeant who lost most of the sight in his left eye after being shot five times in the attack, said Hasan pulled out weapons from his Army combat uniform and shouted “Allahu Akbar,” which means “God is Great,” in Arabic.
“I was wondering why he would say ‘Allahu Akbar.'” Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford said of Hasan, “He reached up, pulled a weapon out and started discharging the weapon.”
“Maj. Hasan and I made eye contact. The laser (on the weapon’s barrel) comes across my line of sight. I closed my eyes. He discharged his weapon,” said Lunsford.
Lunsford, a 6 foot 9 1/2 serviceman who is now based at Fort Bragg, N.C., testified that he crouched behind a check-in counter at the processing center and watched as a civilian physician assistant, Michael Grant Cahill, tried to knock Hasan down with a chair. Cahill was one of the 13 killed that day.
“Sgt. Lunsford didn’t take a moment. He scanned the courtroom, found Hasan and stared directly at him,” said Pat Lopez, the courtroom artist. “That was the moment of the day; the victim staring at Hasan saying, ‘I’m still here.'”
Army Specialists Amber Gaitlin and Matthew Cooke testified they pulled some of the injured to safety despite being shot themselves. Cooke said he was shot four times, but didn’t discover his wounds until after he moved several of the injured to the hospital.
Witnesses have said Hasan used two personal pistols, one a semiautomatic, to take some 100 shots at about 300 people at Fort Hood’s Soldier Readiness Processing Center, where soldiers were making final preparations to deploy.
He’s been in custody since, hospitalized first in San Antonio, then moved to jail in Bell County, which houses military suspects for nearby Fort Hood. The military justice system does not offer bail.
Prosecutors have not said whether they will seek the death penalty if the case goes to trial.
Col. James L. Pohl, a military judge presiding over the hearing as its investigating officer, earlier denied a request by Hasan’s lawyers to postpone the hearing until Nov. 8 — after the anniversary of the attacks.
Security has been tight at the Fort Hood courthouse, where soldiers at newly installed barriers restricted traffic. Patrol cars cruised the area. Bomb-sniffing dogs scrutinized vehicles. A small group of reporters allowed into the courtroom went through metal detectors, while photographers outside were blocked from any view of Hasan arriving.
At an auxiliary courtroom where other media monitored proceedings on a closed-circuit TV feed, cell phones were collected and access to the Internet was barred.
Almost all of the 32 survivors are expected to testify. Witness Testimony could last up to three weeks.
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