Army chaplain seeks prayers for meaning in rampage

Sunday, November 8, 2009 | 5:23 p.m. CST

FORT HOOD, Texas — Mourners were asked to pray for the man authorities said went on a shooting spree at Fort Hood and his family, and an Army chaplain who exhorted his congregation on Sunday to draw together even if the gunman's motives may never be fully known.

"Lord, all those around us search for motive, search for meaning, search for something, someone to blame. That is so frustrating," Col. Frank Jackson told a group of about 120 people gathered at the post's chapel. "Today, we pause to hear from you. So Lord, as we pray together, we focus on things we know."

Worshippers hugged each other and raised their hands in prayer during the service, in which Jackson asked the congregation to pray for the 13 dead and 29 wounded that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan is accused of shooting.

The chaplain also urged the crowd to pray for Hasan and his family "as they find themselves in a position that no person ever desires to be."

Candles burned Saturday night outside the apartment complex where Hasan lived. Small white crosses, one for each of the dead, dotted a lawn at a Killeen church on Sunday.

At least 16 victims remained hospitalized with gunshot wounds, and seven were in intensive care.

Col. John Rossi, Fort Hood's spokesman, acknowledged that the country's largest military installation was trying to move forward with its usual business of soldiering.

The processing center where the shooting occurred on Thursday remains a crime scene, but the activities that went on there were relocated, with the goal of reopening the center as soon as Sunday.

Fort Hood is "continuing to prepare for the mission at hand," Rossi said. "There's a lot of routine activity still happening. You'll hear cannon fire and artillery fire. Soldiers in units are still trying to execute the missions we have been tasked with."

Military criminal investigators continue to refer to Hasan as the only suspect in the shootings but won't say when charges would be filed.

Hasan, who was shot by civilian police to end the rampage, was in critical but stable condition at an Army hospital in San Antonio. He was breathing on his own after being taken off a ventilator on Saturday, but officials won't say whether Hasan can communicate.

A government official speaking on condition of anonymity said this decision is because the person was not authorized to discuss the case said an initial review of Hasan's computer use has found no evidence of links to terror groups or anyone who might have helped plan or push him toward the attack. The review of Hasan's computer is continuing, the official said.

Army investigators on Sunday were searching for additional evidence to put together a comprehensive bullet trajectory analysis. Investigators were "seeking any military or civilian personnel who may have left the scene ... with gunshot damage such as damaged privately owned vehicles," said Fort Hood spokesman Chris Haug in a statement.

Hasan likely would face military justice rather than federal criminal charges if investigators determine the violence was the work of just one person.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said he plans to begin a congressional investigation to determine whether the shootings constitute a terrorist attack. Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, said on "Fox News Sunday" that he wants to find out whether the Army missed warning signs that Hasan was becoming extreme.

"If Hasan was showing signs, saying to people that he had become an Islamist extremist, the U.S. Army has to have zero tolerance," he said. "He should have been gone."

Army Chief of Staff George Casey warned against reaching conclusions about the suspected shooter's motives until investigators have fully explored the attack. He said on ABC's "This Week" that focusing on Hasan's Islamic roots could "heighten the backlash" against all Muslims in the military.

There had been signs in recent months that Hasan's growing anger with the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were at odds with his military service, including his comments that the war on terror was "a war on Islam." Others who knew Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, said he had wrestled with what to tell fellow Muslim soldiers who had their doubts about fighting in Islamic countries.

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