Testimony begins in Fort Hood shooting hearing

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 - 10:51am

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) -- A sergeant who lost most of his eyesight after being shot five times in last year's Fort Hood attacks told a military court Wednesday that he made eye contact with the Army psychiatrist accused in the deadly rampage.

Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford is the first witness of the Nov. 5 attacks to testify at the Article 32 hearing.

Maj. Nidal 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.

"I was wondering why he would say 'Allahu Akbar.'" Lunsford said of Hasan, "He reached up, pulled a weapon out and started discharging the weapon."

The 6 foot 9 1/2 serviceman who is 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 try to knock Hasan down with a chair. He said that man was shot.

"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, who was shot five times, including once in his head.

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.

Col. James L. Pohl, a military judge presiding over the hearing as its investigating officer, made no mention Wednesday of a request by Hasan's lawyers to postpone the hearing until Nov. 8, after the anniversary of the attacks.

The hearing was halted almost as soon as it started Tuesday when Hasan's attorneys sought extra time "to process paperwork," according to Pohl. He had said he would hear arguments on the defense request Wednesday, but did not comment on the proposed delay when proceedings resumed at 9 a.m.

Prosecutors are expected to call survivors of the attack among witnesses. They have not said whether they will seek the death penalty if the case goes to trial.

Defense lawyers declined to elaborate on reasons for the requested delay following Tuesday's session, which totaled about 15 minutes in court.

"Nothing can be said," John Galligan, Hasan's lead attorney, said. "We have work to do."

Lead prosecutor Col. Michael Mulligan opposed a postponement, saying Hasan's legal team already has had months to prepare.

Witnesses say Hasan used two personal pistols, one a semiautomatic, to take some 100 shots at about 300 people Nov. 5 at Fort Hood's Soldier Readiness Processing Center, where soldiers were making final preparations to deploy. Fort Hood police officers shot at him during the attack, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down.

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.

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.
 

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