VIP Treatment: Accused Fort Hood Shooter Gets Daily Helicopter Rides

Father of Fort Hood victim wants prosecutors to add 14th murder charge

NBC 5 Investigates has learned the accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan receives extraordinary treatment in jail while victims of the attack argue they have been forgotten and mistreated by the U.S. Army.

While a prisoner awaiting trial, Hasan is ferried by helicopter nearly every day, complete with an additional helicopter escort and security detail, for the 20-mile journey between the Bell County Jail and Fort Hood, courtesy of the United States Army and American taxpayers.

The Army told NBC 5 Investigates the daily helicopter rides are necessary because the jail does not have the proper facilities for Hasan to work on his legal defense and transporting Hasan by car creates additional security concerns.  Fort Hood does not have its own jail, so Hasan is being held at the Bell County Jail under a special Army contract.

Inside the Bell County Jail, the Army requires the Bell County Sheriff provide a private guard for Hasan at least 12 hours a day.  He lives in a special room that, using U.S. Army funds, was equipped to specifically accommodate the injuries he suffered after he was shot by officers responding to the attack on the Army post.

Victims of the Fort Hood massacre told NBC 5 Investigates the Army’s efforts to provide for Hasan’s needs do not match the treatment they have received since the shooting.  They feel the Army has gone the extra mile for Hasan but not for them. 

Howard Berry said his son, Staff Sgt. Josh Berry, struggled to understand the treatment the Army afforded Hasan compared to those he’s accused of injuring.

Josh Berry ultimately committed suicide on Feb. 13, 2013, after his family said he suffered years of post-traumatic stress caused by the Fort Hood shooting.

“He felt there were more considerations that were being given to the shooter that weren’t being given to the victims and he couldn’t understand,” said Howard Berry, Josh’s father.

Howard Berry said his son was constantly bothered by what he saw as a lack of consideration such as the Army denying victims of the massacre Purple Heart medals and other combat-related benefits while insisting the shooting was not an act of terrorism – a classification Fort Hood shooting victim Logan Burnett strongly disputes.

“The day that came out was the day the government looked at every single one of the victims of the Fort Hood shooting and spit in our faces, literally spit in our faces,” said Burnett.

Burnett, who was shot three times in the attack, also feels the Army has gone to great lengths to accommodate Hasan by allowing him to grow a beard, despite military rules that forbid it.  The courtroom debate over Hasan’s beard, and other trial delays have dragged on the case for more than three years.

Meanwhile, as NBC 5 Investigates first reported, Hasan has received nearly $300,000 in military pay since his arrest.  The Army said it cannot suspend Hasan’s pay unless he’s convicted.  However, the defense department can suspend the pay of civilian employees charged with a serious crime.

After NBC5 Investigates revealed Hasan’s total pay, three U.S. Congressmen introduced a bill that would strip Hasan of his salary and prevent other soldiers charged with serious crimes from continuing to remain on the government payroll.

One of Josh Berry’s friends and former military commanders said Josh constantly talked about the trial delays and the denial of benefits for the victims.

“It weighed on him heavily and affected his ability to cope because he would definitely get obsessive about it.  It was something that was constantly on his mind,” said Greg Majewski, Josh’s former commander. 

“I just cannot imagine Josh taking his life if the events at Fort Hood had not happened that day,” said Majewski.  “And whatever coping skills and whatever threads he was holding on to that day were pretty much obliterated for him.

“I can understand why he did what he did. Because our country left a wounded soldier on the battlefield,” said Howard Berry.  “And he felt he wasn’t given the same consideration that our enemies were.  And he didn’t understand.”

Josh Berry Injured in Massacre Awaiting Paperwork to Head Home

Josh had just returned from a tour in Afghanistan and needed to file some final paperwork before he headed home to Ohio.

“He sounded like he had won the lottery.  He sounded like the most incredible, I couldn’t wait to see him,” recounted Howard Berry.

But the next day, 13 people were killed and dozens of others were injured in the mass shooting at the base, including Josh.  Though he was able to dive for cover and only suffered a shoulder injury, the mental wounds were far worse.

“The guy that came home was not the guy I talked to the night before and he was never the same,” said Howard Berry.

Josh had suffered some post-traumatic stress in Afghanistan, and now he had seen a fellow soldier gun people down at an Army base that was supposed to be safe.

The Army eventually sent Josh home to Cincinnati for treatment at a local Veterans Affairs Hospital.  For a while friends and family said he seemed to be getting better, but the scars of Fort Hood were deep. Josh’s relationship with his wife deteriorated and PTSD continued to torment him.  More than two years after the shooting on the Army base, police were called to Josh’s apartment.  In a police report, Josh is quoted as telling officers he had “…a gun under his pillow” and that he was “a war veteran from Fort Hood and needs the gun for protection because he believes he’s in danger.”

“He was in a war zone 24-7. He honestly was,” said Howard Berry. “He was never at peace.  He was never at peace.”

And like many soldiers that suffer from PTSD, despite efforts to help, there would be no recovery.

“My wife called me and she said Josh is dead,” said Howard Berry.

Howard Berry said one of his son’s proudest moments was when he was able to shake President Barack Obama’s hand at a memorial service for victims of the attack.

“That was his absolute proudest moment as a member of the United States Army.  Absolutely,” said Howard Berry.  However, Berry says the government’s handling of the victims since that day left Josh hurt and angry.

Howard Berry is still waging Josh’s war.  He has written hundreds of letters to Congress, and the president, asking them to pass a law that would give the Fort Hood victims the same benefits as soldiers wounded in attacks overseas.  He has also called Fort Hood prosecutors asking them to file another murder charge in his son’s name against Hasan.

“The number that died shouldn’t be 13, it should be 14.  That’s what I feel. I feel Josh’s name should be added to the list of those on the memorial because that was it.  It just took him three and half years to die,” said Howard Berry.

NBC 5 Investigates contacted the Fort Hood prosecutors.  In a statement, an Army spokesman said, “the prosecution will not comment on the ongoing procedures at this time.  In the interest of due process for Maj. Nidal Hasan, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

A request by NBC 5 Investigates to interview Lt. Gen. Dana Chipman, who oversees the Army’s law division, was denied. In a recent letter to a congressman, Chipman said the Army is willing to reconsider whether the attack was terrorism if there’s any new evidence that warrants that at a later time.

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