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Grant Stinchfield, NBCDFW.com
Eight witnesses pointed to Army Maj. Nidal Hasan as the gunman in last year's rampage at Fort Hood and told of the chaos, blood and fear in a soldier processing area that day.
NBC DFW's Grant Stinchfield will send updates from Fort Hood as he is able. Members of the media are not allowed to take phones into the courtroom, so updates will be sent as they can.
Update at 11:46 a.m.: The next witness to testify against Hasan was shooting victim PFC Najee Hull. After being asked if the shooter was in the court room, Hull stood up and scanned the room. In order to identify Maj. Nadal Hasan as the shooter, Hull asked Hasan to remove his green wool cap. The defense team objected, the officer overseeing the proceeding overruled that objection. Hasan removed his cap and Hall continued standing, he stared at Hasan and then confirmed, he is the man that shot him three times.
Hull then told his tale of survival. “I heard Allah Akbar,” Hull said. At that moment he said he heard shots. “I made direct eye contact with the shooter and then after that there was mass caos,” Hull testified. He said he saw Hasan with two guns both equipped with laser sights.
He said Hasan shot him once in the knee. “I tried to crawl away and get away as fast as I can, I tried to live,” said Hasan. Hull said he took cover in a cubicle, but because the woman inside the cubicle with him was so “hysterical” he knew he had to move. "She was drawing to much attention to us." When he came out of the cubicle Hull said he saw Hasan again. “He had just reloaded again as he reloaded he shot me one more time this time it went through my back,” said Hull.
He managed to escape out a nearby door. Two of his fellow soldiers put him in a pick up truck and drove him to safety. Hull may not be able to serve overseas again because he had his spleen removed, which could make him susceptible to infection.
Update at 10:35 a.m.: It is expected to be another emotional day in court. The Article 32 hearing for shooting suspect Maj. Nidal Hasan continues today on the Fort Hood Army Post. The prosecution will call more of the wounded victims. Yesterday eight people testified against Hasan.
This morning, Lt. Brandy Mason described the pain she felt when she was hit in the thigh with a bullet. At first she thought it was a training exercise and she was hit with a training round. “I was angry at the pain,” Branson said in court. She said she soon saw more wounded as the medics held her down on the floor.
“All the blood, I realized this wasn’t a training drill. I said, 'So he really shot me?' They said, 'Yes, maam.'”
Mason recovered from her injuries and continues to serve her country.
Update at: 2:55 p.m.: A total of six witnesses have now taken the stand. All of them told unbelievable stories of survival. PFC George Stratton III told the court he was in the processing center on Nov. 5 when he heard, "loud gunfire right in my ears, round after round, pop, pop, pop, pop, I knew it was close." Stratton dove to the floor to take cover. He saw his staff sergeant bleeding and went to help him. While on his knees, something made Stratton turn around, "I saw Maj Hasan load his weapon, as soon as he loaded it, he looked at me and I looked at him. We made eye contact for a second." Stratton described Hasan's eyes as "dark and piercing."
Stratton said he knew Hasan was about to shoot him, so he dove to the floor again when a bullet struck him in the shoulder. He said he crawled as fast as he could to get out of the building to safety.
Update at 12:10: Court is in recess until 2 p.m.
Update 11:45 a.m.: Latoya Denise Williams took the stand and described how Maj. Nadal Hasan spared her life. She is a civilian data clerk who was working in the processing center last November. Just before the shooting occurred, she said Hasan came up to her, leaned in close to her head and said, “Maj. Parish needs to see you, it’s an emergency.” Williams said, though she had never seen Hasan before, she assumed he worked there. So she got up and walked to her supervisor’s office. Why Hasan decided to tell Williams to leave the room is still a mystery. He essentially spared Williams life by sending her out of harms way.
“Within a matter of seconds, I heard pop, pop, pop,” Williams said. That’s when Williams dropped to the floor in an effort to take cover. "That’s when I prayed,” Williams said.
When Hasan started to make his way toward her and the other soldiers hiding in the area near the front door, Williams said someone yelled, “Here he comes, let's get out of here.” The all took off running out the front door of the processing center. Williams escaped the gunfire unharmed.
Update 11:14 a.m.: The next witness to take the stand was civilian nurse Michelle Harper. She was inside the processing center when she says she heard the shots around her and watched the soldiers inside the building start to fall. She quickly took cover under a desk. Even with a pile of people on top of her, all fighting for their lives, Michelle Harper called 911. For the first time since Nov. 5, we heard that call to 911. As she pleaded for help you could hear the steady stream of gunfire in the background. As she began to cry on the tape, you could also hear some of the victims moaning in pain.
“Oh my god everybody is shot!,” Harper yelled as she pleaded for help. After escaping the gunfire inside the building she ran to her car. She says she then witnessed the gun battle between Hasan and officers outside the processing center. That’s when she says she saw Hasan shoot a female police officer.
Harper became so emotional during the playing of the tape in court that the judge called for recess and had Harper leave the room before the prosecution played the rest of the tape.
When she returned to court, Michelle Harper seemed distraught and mentally drained after being forced to relieve the events of Nov. 5.
Update 10:05 a.m.: Sgt Alonzo Lunsford was the first witness to take the stand. He told an amazing heart-pounding tale of survival. Lunsford said he was working in the processing center and first encountered Hasan when he complained about his need for immunizations. One hour later he saw Hasan walk behind a desk where a civilian was working.
Lunsford said Hasan said something to the civilian who quickly got up and left. Moments later, Hasan pulled up his shirt and pulled out a weapon. Lunsford said Hasan started firing at a steady rate at soldiers sitting down. At one point he recalled Dr. Cahill trying to take Hasan out with a chair. Hasan turned and fired, killing Cahill.
When Sgt Lunsford tried to escape he said,"I saw the laser sight come across my vision and I closed my eyes." That's when a bullet struck Lunsford just above his left eye. Lunsford says he hit the floor, blood pooled around his head, and he thought to himself, "dead men don't sweat."
Some how Lunsford managed to get up and run out the back door and escape. Lunsford said he was transported to Scott and White Hospital in Temple where learned he had been shot five times. Lunsford lost most of the sight in his left eye. He is now stationed at the wounded warrior unit at Fort Bragg, NC.
Lunsford ended his testimony saying he was focused on "healing, returning to duty and continuing to serve."
Update 9:05 a.m.: The presiding officer over the Maj. Nadal Hasan Article 32 hearing denied the defense motion to delay the hearing until Nov. 8. The first witness is now taking the stand to testify about his experience. Thirty-two witnesses are expected to take the stand in the prosecutions efforts to prove there is enough evidence for hasan to stand trial.
Update: 11:21 a.m.: The investigating officer granted Hasan's motion to recess until tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. The defense says they have "paper work" to file that raises constitutional "due process" issues for their client. The prosecution called the delay an "11th hour move" that the prosecution does not support.
The investigating officer did not rule on the motion to delay the hearing until Nov. 8.
Update 10:50 a.m.: Just moments after the hearing was called to order, Hasan's defense team asked for a continuance. They requested the investigating officer, the equivalent of a judge in civilian court, post pone the hearing until Nov. 8.
The hearing is now in recess and will reconvene at 11:15 a.m. The defense team wanted to make their arguments to delay the hearing in a closed session. The investigating officer denied that request but he did give the defense the option to submit their arguments in writing. The defense team is now discussing their options with Hasan.
Defense made it clear there is something in their argument to delay they hearing that they do not want to make public.
They did allude to the fact that they need more time to file "paper work," what that paperwork entails is still a mystery.
Court is set to reconvene at 11:15
Update 9:34 a.m.: The hearing has apparently been delayed. The reason is unknown. Shooting suspect Hasan is in the court house. The media pool has been transported and sat inside the court room. A military attorney with the public affairs unit speculates the defense has made "some kind of motion" that is now being discussed outside the court room.
At this point there is no estimated start time.
Update 8:05 a.m.: The Fort Hood shooting suspect is en route to the court room. The army has locked down the media and will not allow any shots of Hasan being transported.
The mood on base is a somber one. One year after the shooting memories of the day are still fresh. Those memories are expected to be stirred as witnesses and victims take the stand the stand today to testify against Hasan. It will be the first time victims will face there accused attacker. The hearing is expected to last through the 29th before going into recess.