A 16-year-old Pennsylvania boy was charged Wednesday evening with two dozen felony counts after 20 students and a security guard were stabbed or slashed at a suburban Pittsburgh high school.
The boy, identified as Alex Hribal, a sophomore at Franklin Senior Regional High School in Murrysville, was held without bail on four counts of attempted homicide, 21 counts of aggravated assault and a misdemeanor count of carrying a prohibited weapon.
At least four people remained in intensive care with life-threatening injuries after the rampage Wednesday morning at Franklin Senior Regional High School in the town of Murrysville.
Hribal was remanded to juvenile detention pending a preliminary hearing April 30 in Westmoreland County Magisterial Court.
Prosecutors told Judge Charles R. Conway that Hribal “randomly and indiscriminately” wielded his knives in a hallway at the school and indicated that “he wanted to die.”
They said it was unclear whether he was competent to stand trial.
Attorneys for Hribal — who sat head-down in court in a hospital gown, bearing numerous bandages and stitches with his hands and feet shackled — asked for a psychiatric evaluation.
School Stabbing Spree: 20 Hurt in Pittsburgh-Area Bloodbath
By Erin McClam
A student flashing two knives went on a stabbing rampage through the classrooms and halls of a high school outside Pittsburgh on Wednesday morning, authorities said. At least 19 students and a security guard were hurt, some with life-threatening injuries.
The suspect, a 16-year-old sophomore, was in custody and being questioned by police, authorities said. His motive was unclear, said Dan Stevens, a Westmoreland County emergency management spokesman.
The first photo of the suspect emerged several hours after the mayhem. NBC News is blurring the face of the teen in the photo, from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, because of his age. He had not been charged or identified.
The student was “flashing two knives around” as he moved through the classrooms and a first-floor hallway, said Thomas Seefeld, the Murrysville police chief. A principal tackled the stabber, he said. The security guard suffered a stomach wound.
The attack happened at Franklin Regional High School, in the suburb of Murrysville, just after doors opened for the day. A student described panic in the halls.
Published: 18:24 EST, 9 April 2014 | Updated: 18:27 EST, 9 April 2014
MURRYSVILLE, Pa. (AP) — Flailing away with two kitchen knives, a 16-year-old boy with a “blank expression” stabbed and slashed 21 students and a security guard in the crowded halls of his suburban Pittsburgh high school Wednesday before an assistant principal tackled him.
At least five students were critically wounded, including a boy whose liver was pierced by a knife thrust that narrowly missed his heart and aorta, doctors said.
The rampage — which came after decades in which U.S. schools geared much of their emergency planning toward mass shootings, not stabbings — set off a screaming stampede, left blood on the floor and walls, and brought teachers rushing to help the victims.
A man and woman walk away from Franklin Regional High School after more then a dozen students were stabbed by a knife wielding suspect at the school on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Murrysville, Pa., near Pittsburgh. The suspect, a male student, was taken into custody and is being questioned. (AP Photo/Tribune Review, Brian F. Henry) PITTSBURGH OUT
Police shed little light on the motive.
The suspect, Alex Hribal, was taken into custody and treated for a minor hand wound, then was brought into court in shackles and a hospital gown and charged with four counts of attempted homicide and 21 counts of aggravated assault. Authorities said he would be prosecuted as an adult.
The attack unfolded in the morning just minutes before the start of classes at 1,200-student Franklin Regional High School, in an upper-middle-class area 15 miles east of Pittsburgh. It was over in about five minutes, during which the boy ran wildly down about 200 feet of hallway, slashing away with knives about 8 to 10 inches long, police said.
Nate Moore, 15, said he saw the boy tackle and stab a freshman. He said he going to try to break it up when the boy got up and slashed his face, opening a wound that required 11 stitches.
“It was really fast. It felt like he hit me with a wet rag because I felt the blood splash on my face. It spurted up on my forehead,” he said.
The attacker “had the same expression on his face that he has every day, which was the freakiest part,” Moore said. “He wasn’t saying anything. He didn’t have any anger on his face. It was just a blank expression.”
Assistant Principal Sam King finally tackled the boy and disarmed him, and a Murrysville police officer who is regularly assigned to the school handcuffed him, police said.
Doctors said they expect all the victims to survive, despite deep abdominal puncture wounds in some cases.
King’s son told The Associated Press that his father was treated at a hospital, though authorities have said he did not suffer any knife wounds.
“He says he’s OK. He’s a tough cookie and sometimes hides things, but I believe he’s OK,” Zack King said. He added: “I’m proud of him.”
“There are a number of heroes in this day. Many of them are students,” Gov. Tom Corbett said in a visit to the stricken town. “Students who stayed with their friends and didn’t leave their friends.”
He also commended cafeteria workers, teachers and teacher’s aides who put themselves at risk to help during the attack.
As for what set off the attack, Murrysville Police Chief Thomas Seefeld said investigators were looking into reports of a threatening phone call between the suspect and another student the night before. Seefeld didn’t specify whether the suspect received or made the call.
The FBI joined the investigation and went to the boy’s house, where authorities said they planned to confiscate and search his computer.
While several bloody stabbing rampages at schools in China have made headlines in the past few years, schools in the U.S. have concentrated their emergency preparations on shooting rampages.
Nevertheless, there have been at least two major stabbing attacks at U.S. schools over the past year, one at a community college in Texas last April that wounded at least 14 people, and another, also in Texas, that killed a 17-year-old student and injured three others at a high school in September.
On Wednesday, Mia Meixner, 16, said the rampage touched off a “stampede of kids” yelling, “Run! Get out of here! Someone has a knife!”
The boy had a “blank look,” she said. “He was just kind of looking like he always does, not smiling, not scowling or frowning.”
Meixner and Moore called the attacker a shy boy who largely kept to himself, but they said he was not an outcast and they had no reason to think he might be violent.
“He was never mean to anyone, and I never saw people be mean to him,” Meixner said. “I never saw him with a particular group of friends.”
Michael Float, 18, said he had just gotten to school when he saw “blood all over the floor” and smeared on the wall near the main entrance. Then he saw a wounded student.
“He had his shirt pulled up and he was screaming, ‘Help! Help!'” Float said. “He had a stab wound right at the top right of his stomach, blood pouring down.”
Float said he saw a teacher applying pressure to the wound of another student.
The security guard was wounded after intervening early in the melee, police said. He was treated and released.
About five minutes elapsed between the time the campus police officer summoned help over the radio at 7:13 a.m. and the boy was disarmed, the police chief said.
Someone, possibly a student, pulled a fire alarm during the attack, Seefeld said. Although that created chaos, the police chief said, it emptied out the school more quickly, and “that was a good thing that that was done.”
Also, a girl with “an amazing amount of composure” applied pressure to a schoolmate’s wounds and probably kept the victim from bleeding to death, said Dr. Mark Rubino at Forbes Regional Medical Center.
Public safety and school officials said an emergency plan worked as well as could be expected. The district conducted an emergency exercise three months ago and a full-scale drill about a year ago.
“We haven’t lost a life, and I think that’s what we have to keep in mind,” said county public safety spokesman Dan Stevens.
Associated Press writers Mike Rubinkam in Allentown and Jesse Washington in Murrysville, Pa., and AP news researchers Judith Ausuebel and Barbara Sambriski contributed to this report.
A police officer guards the entrance Heritage Elementary School as students are dismissed after more than a dozen students were stabbed by a knife wielding suspect at nearby Franklin Regional High School on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Murrysville, Pa., near Pittsburgh. The suspect, a male student, was taken into custody and is being questioned. (AP Photo/Tribune Review, Sean Stipp) PITTSBURGH OUT
Students walk past a row of buses as they leave the campus of the Franklin Regional School District after more then a dozen students were stabbed by a knife wielding suspect at nearby Franklin Regional High School on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Murrysville, Pa., near Pittsburgh. The suspect, a male student, was taken into custody and is being questioned. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Students are escorted from the campus of the Franklin Regional School District after more then a dozen students were stabbed by a knife wielding suspect at nearby Franklin Regional High School on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Murrysville, Pa., near Pittsburgh. The suspect, a male student, was taken into custody and is being questioned. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Westmoreland County emergency management spokesman Dan Stevens, left, looks on as Franklin Regional School District Superintendent Gennaro Piraino pauses while addressing the media during a news conference outside of Franklin Regional High School on Wednesday, April 9, 2014.on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Murrysville, Pa., near Pittsburgh. More than a dozen students were stabbed by a knife wielding suspect at the school. The suspect, a male student, was taken into custody and is being questioned. (AP Photo/Tribune Review, Brian F. Henry) PITTSBURGH OUT
A parent holds hands with a Franklin Regional High School while picking up the student after more than a dozen students were stabbed by a knife wielding suspect at the school on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Murrysville, Pa., near Pittsburgh. The suspect, a male student, was taken into custody and is being questioned. (AP Photo/Tribune Review, Sean Stipp) PITTSBURGH OUT
Soldier’s ‘Courageous Act’ Remembered as Fort Hood Begins Healing
In a final heroic act, Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Ferguson threw his body against the entryway of a door as a fellow soldier-turned-gunman blasted away in a terrifying rampage at Fort Hood.
Ferguson, 39, was fatally hit in the moment he became a human shield — a sacrifice remembered in a news conference Saturday.
Ferguson’s “courageous act of blocking the door with his own body prevented further bloodshed,” said Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas.
Also killed in Wednesday’s shooting were Sgt. Timothy Owens, 37, and Staff Sgt. Carlos Lazaney-Rodriguez, 38. Sixteen others were wounded. Gunman Spc. Ivan Lopez died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, officials said.
Rep. Williams, along with Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, met some of the wounded soldiers Saturday, and commended them on their valor. Among the victims was Maj. Patrick Miller, who was shot in the stomach with Lopez’s .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol.
Miller had called 911 as he tended to his own wounds.
Timothy Wayne Owens, a counselor at Fort Hood, was known to friends as a stand-up guy who triumphed over a hardscrabble upbringing to become an empathetic military man, one who helped people and defused conflicts.
So, it was no surprise to residents in his home town of Effingham, Ill., to hear that Owens lost his life trying to calm the shooter in Wednesday’s Fort Hood killings.
“He was a brave man,” said Owens’s mother, Mary Muntean, 77, who said she learned that her son had been killed as he tried to talk with Ivan Lopez, who has been identified as the man who killed three people and injured 16 in the shooting on the Army post.
Muntean said she received a call at her Effingham home from her son’s wife, Billy Owens, on Wednesday evening telling her that he had been shot five times after trying to calm Lopez in a post parking lot. Military officials have not released the names of those killed or injured or confirmed reports of how the violence unfolded. But friends of Owens said the account provided by his family fits the man they knew.
Among Fort Hood Victims, a Sergeant Is Killed, and a Major Is Wounded
By ASHLEY SOUTHALL and STEVEN YACCINOAPRIL 3, 2014
The names of the victims of the shooting in Fort Hood began to come out on Thursday, released by relatives and by officials offering their condolences.
In Effingham, Ill., family members told The Associated Press that Army Sgt. Timothy Owens was one of the three soldiers killed Wednesday in a mass shooting by Specialist Ivan Antonio Lopez. Sixteen others were wounded in the shooting. The Army has not released a list of the victims, pending notification of relatives.
The mother of Sergeant Owens, Mary Muntean, 77, of Effingham, told The Associated Press that she had learned of her son’s death in a telephone call with her daughter-in-law.
Unable to reach her son, she called his wife, Billie Owens, who first said he was in the hospital. Before long, Sergeant Owens’s wife called back, and Mrs. Muntean had her worst fears confirmed. “She said, ‘Mom, I want to tell you how sorry I am. Tim’s gone,’ ” Mrs. Muntean said, according to The A.P. “I broke down.”
Sergeant Owens dropped out of high school in 1995. But his mother said he earned his high school equivalency after joining the Army in 2004.
A friend and former roommate, Paul Eatherton, said Sergeant Owens, whose family moved back to Effingham from Missouri in the mid-1990s, worked at Pizza Hut and studied tae kwon do at a local gym. Mr. Eatherton, a martial arts instructor at the time, said Sergeant Owens got his black belt and started teaching at a gym in Effingham.
“He was the best student I’d ever seen or known,” Mr. Eatherton said. “We’d go to tournaments, and he’d bring first places home every time.”
He said Sergeant Owens, who was in his mid-30s, had recently signed up for another six years in the Army. “I think he was going to be a lifer,” he said. He said he had not talked to Sergeant Owens for several months, but when he heard news of the shooting, he texted him immediately. He got no reply. “That really worried me,” he said.
The commander of Fort Hood, Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley, said in an afternoon news conference, that nine of the 16 people wounded in the attack were taken to Scott & White Memorial Hospital in nearby Temple, Tex., for treatment. Three were upgraded to serious condition on Thursday. Hospital officials said doctors had operated on two patients, a man and a woman, who had been shot in the abdomen and neck. The third person had an abdominal wound. The other victims taken there were discharged.
Specialist Ivan Antonio Lopez had seen a military psychiatrist as recently as last month. He was being treated for depression and anxiety, and had been prescribed Ambien to help him sleep. He had come back from a four-month deployment to Iraq in 2011 and told superiors he had suffered a traumatic head injury there. But military officials said he had never seen combat, and there was no record of any combat-related injury. He was being evaluated for possible post-traumatic stress disorder.
Still, military officials said, they had seen nothing to indicate that Specialist Lopez, 34 — who killed three people and himself and wounded 16 others on Wednesday in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Tex. — was violent or suicidal.
“He had a clean record,” Secretary of the Army John McHugh said Thursday morning in testimony before a Senate panel in Washington. “No outstanding bad marks for any kinds of major misbehaviors that we’re yet aware of.”
Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the Fort Hood commander, said Thursday at a news conference that there were “very strong indications” that there had been a “verbal altercation” between Specialist Lopez and one or more other soldiers in the minutes before the shooting started, but the authorities were still investigating what role, if any, that played in the attack.
“We have very strong evidence looking into his medical history that indicated an unstable psychiatric condition,” General Milley said.
Friends from his hometown in Puerto Rico said that Specialist Lopez was angry with the Army when he returned home for his mother’s funeral in November. Ismael Gonzalez, a former schoolmate who had kept in contact with Specialist Lopez on Facebook, said the soldier was very upset that he had initially been given only 24 hours to attend the funeral.
In addition, Mr. Gonzalez said, Specialist Lopez, who was earning $28,000 a year, told him that he was “in a precarious economic situation” trying to support his family in Texas and two children in Puerto Rico from his first marriage. And he was angry that the Army would not allow him to move his family onto the base at Fort Hood, Mr. Gonzalez said.
None of this had found its way into Specialist Lopez’s official record, though.
“This was an experienced soldier,” said Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the Army’s chief of staff. “He spent actually nine years in the Puerto Rico National Guard before coming on active duty, so he’s a very experienced soldier.”
Those who knew Specialist Lopez as a young man, obsessed with the high school band, were even more stunned to learn what he was suspected of doing.
“I cannot believe you are speaking about the same guy,” said Sgt. Maj. Nelson Bigas, one of Specialist Lopez’s superiors in the National Guard. “He was the most responsible, obedient, humble person, and one of the most skillful guys on the line.”
For a year beginning in 2006, Specialist Lopez was deployed with his guard unit on the Sinai Peninsula, watching the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
But, the authorities say, it was Specialist Lopez who went into Guns Galore in Killeen, Tex., near Fort Hood on March 1 and bought the .45-caliber Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol that was used in the shootings on Wednesday.
It was the same gun store where Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army major, had bought at least one of the weapons used in a 2009 mass shooting on the base.
So information was emerging slowly on Thursday about Mr. Lopez. He was raised in the small fishing village of Guayanilla on the southern coast of Puerto Rico, about an hour and a half from San Juan. While there, he attended the School of Asunción Rodríguez de Sala, where he was active in the band and an enthusiastic drummer.
In 1999, he joined the National Guard, where he also played in the band. Later, he joined the Puerto Rico Police Department and became a member of its band. Officials said his record with the force was clean, with no disciplinary or behavioral problems.
His main job for the police was visiting schools and hospitals around Puerto Rico to give demonstrations on his percussion instruments. After he finished, other police officers would speak to the students or patients about gun violence, drugs and bullying, said Jeann Correa, the director of the unit for which he worked. His pay was $2,400 a month.
In 2010, getting a special leave from the police force, he shifted into the Army as a private first class and was quickly promoted to specialist and stationed with the First Armored Division at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Tex. He was an infantryman there but his military record shows that in November, because of a medical condition identified as plantar fasciitis, a painful foot ailment, he moved to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, where he trained to become a truck driver. In February, he was posted to Fort Hood in that capacity.
Vets, Docs Worry Fort Hood Shootings Will Deepen PTSD Stigma
By Bill Briggs
The word “PTSD” had barely left the mouth of Fort Hood’s commander late Wednesday when, across the nation, many veterans with those symptoms and doctors who treat the malady understood they faced a renewed battle: a resurgence of the stigma that comes with that diagnosis.
The Fort Hood tragedy –- 16 wounded and four killed, including identified shooter Ivan Lopez, a soldier being evaluated for PTSD –- is precisely the type of event that makes combat veterans cringe. Many worry they’ll be further mislabeled as dangerous time bombs, as the next to snap, and that post-traumatic stress will again be misrepresented and misunderstood as a condition that sparks public, violent outbursts.
“That is not what post-traumatic stress is or what it does,” said Ingrid Herrera-Yee, a clinical psychologist in the Washington, D.C. area who treats veterans diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental health issues as well as their family members and civilians. Her husband, Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Ian Yee, spent three combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Yes, there is anger and irritability (associated with PTSD), but it’s usually internalized. You’re more likely to see it as someone who is withdrawn, anxious and numb, who’s lost interest in life. Some veterans explain it to me this way: ‘The last thing you want is to go out and lash out,” said Herrera-Yee, adding: “Just like any victims of a trauma –- rape or domestic violence -– they can become fearful of their surroundings, but they’re not going to react angrily toward their surroundings. For them, it’s all about avoidance.”
“You’re more likely to see it as someone who is withdrawn, anxious and numb, who’s lost interest in life. Some veterans explain it to me this way: ‘The last thing you want is to go out and lash out.'”
For years, Pentagon brass and branch commanders have urged troops and veterans to seek mental-health help if they feel the need, while repeating the message that, if they do see a doctor, they will not be viewed as weak but as strong. That campaign seems to have finally dented the macho-military mantra that every soldier can handle his or her own business. Many veterans are turning to doctors to begin addressing post-service anxiety issues, often fueled by repeated or long deployments.
An Iraq war veteran who was grappling with mental health issues opened fire at Fort Hood, Tex., in an attack that left four people dead and 16 wounded Wednesday afternoon, according to preliminary law enforcement and military reports. The gunfire sent tremors of fear across a sprawling Army post still reeling from one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history.Many basic details about the shooting remained unclear in the chaotic hours after the first calls for help around 4 p.m., but senior U.S. law enforcement officials said the incident did not appear to be linked to any foreign terrorist organizations. The shooter was among those who died, the officials said.
The officials identified the shooter as Army Spec. Ivan Lopez, 34, a military truck driver, who was dressed in his standard-issue green camouflage uniform. Lopez opened fire in two locations on the vast central Texas post, inside a building housing the 1st Medical Brigade and in a facility belonging to the 49th Transportation Battalion.
Police spent Wednesday night searching his apartment in Killeen, the city that abuts the Army facility. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the commander of Fort Hood, said the soldier, whom he did not identify by name, served four months in Iraq in 2011.
Milley said the shooter “had behavioral health and mental health issues.” He said the soldier, who self-reported a traumatic brain injury and was taking anti-depressants, had been under examination to determine whether he had post-traumatic stress disorder. “We are digging deep into his background,” Milley said.
Milley said the soldier opened fire with a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol that was purchased recently but was not authorized to be brought on the post. He was eventually confronted by a female military police officer. He put his hands up but then pulled out a gun from under his jacket. “She engaged,” Milley said, and then the soldier put the gun to his head and shot himself.
The shooting was the third major gun attack at a U.S. military installation in five years, leaving the nation grappling with the prospect of yet more flag-draped funerals for troops killed on the homefront. A government contractor went on a shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard in September, leaving 12 people dead. In 2009, Army Maj. Nidal M. Hasan opened fire on a group of soldiers at Fort Hood preparing to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan, killing 13 people and wounding more than 30.
Doctors at the Scott & White hospital in Temple, Tex., said Wednesday that they have treated eight of the wounded and that one more was on the way. Three of the patients were in critical condition in the ICU, and five were in serious condition. Seven of them were male, and one was female. Their injuries ranged from mild to life-threatening, a majority of them caused by single-gunshot wounds to the neck, chest and abdomen.
President Obama said he was “heartbroken that something like this might have happened again.” Speaking during a fundraising trip to Chicago, he pledged “to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.”
The gunman, identified by multiple government sources as Army Specialist Ivan Lopez, took his own life, officials said.
Lopez, 33, of Kileen, Tex., was wearing an Army uniform at the time of the shooting, Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told reporters.
Four people were taken to Scott and White Memorial Hospital in Temple, Tex., and another two are being brought there, said Glen Couchman, the facility’s chief medical officer. Their injuries that “range from stable to quite critical,” he said.
The installation was locked down for much of the afternoon and into the evening after the shooting before being lifted shortly before 9 p.m. local time.
Speaking in Chicago, President Obama said his administration was following the shooting closely.
“I want to just assure all of us we are going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened,” he said. “We’re heartbroken something like this might have happened again.”
SHOOTING SITUATION STILL ACTIVE, Multiple Gunned Down
FORT HOOD (April 2, 2014) At least one person is dead after a shooting late Wednesday afternoon on Fort Hood, a post spokesman confirmed.
Others were injured in the shooting, but the spokesman didn’t say how many.
The gunman is still at large and the spokesman said the incident is being treated as an active-shooter situation.
Warning sirens sounded late Wednesday afternoon at Fort Hood because of the incident.
A man who said he was a witness told News 10 that about 20 shots were fired in a post motor pool in the area of Motor Pool Road and Tank Destroyer Boulevard.
He said at least three people were hit.
He said the three victims were taken to a hospital.
The post was on lockdown as a result of the shooting, which occurred at around 4:25 p.m.
People on post were told to stay indoors.
A message that scrolled across the top of the post’s website said, “Shelter in place immediately. This is not a test.”
The 1st Calvary Division, which is based at Fort Hood, sent a Twitter alert telling people on base to close doors and stay away from windows.
Texas A&M Central Texas in Killeen canceled evening and night classes Wednesday at Fort Hood and at its Fairway building because of the situation on post.
First responders from surrounding communities were headed to the post.
Bell County sheriff’s deputies and Department Public Safety troopers were also responding, sheriff’s Lt. Donnie Adams said.
Media were being directed to the post’s Visitor’s Center.
On Nov. 5, 2009, Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan opened fire at Fort Hood’s Soldier Readiness Center, killing 12 soldiers and one civilian and wounding 29 others before two Fort Hood civilian police officers shot him.
The Washington Navy Yard gunman who killed 12 people last year conned Veterans Affairs doctors into believing he had no mental health issues before the shootings.
WASHINGTON — The gunman who killed 12 people in last year’s rampage at Washington’s Navy Yard lied so convincingly to Veterans Affairs doctors before the shootings that they concluded he had no mental health issues despite serious problems and encounters with police during the same period, according to a review by The Associated Press of his confidential medical files.
Gunman’s doc. before rampage: ‘No problem there’
Just weeks before the shootings, a doctor treating him for insomnia noted that the patient worked for the Defense Department but wrote hauntingly “no problem there.”
The AP obtained more than 100 pages of treatment and disability claims evaluation records for Aaron Alexis, spanning more than two years. They show Alexis complaining of minor physical ailments, including foot and knee injuries, slight hearing loss and later insomnia, but resolutely denying any mental health issues. He directly denied having suicidal or homicidal thoughts when government doctors asked him about it just three weeks before the shootings.
In a bizarre incident in Newport, R.I., Alexis told police on Aug. 7 that disembodied voices were harassing him at his hotel using a microwave machine to prevent him from sleeping. After police reported the incident to the Navy, his employer, a defense contracting company, pulled his access to classified material for two days after his mental health problems became evident but restored it quickly and never told Navy officials it had done so.
Just 16 days later, after Alexis told a VA emergency room doctor in Providence that he couldn’t sleep, the doctor wrote that his speech and thoughts seemed “clear and focused” and noted that he “denies flashbacks, denies recent stress.”
The medical records said Alexis, 34, was found sleeping in the VA waiting room in Providence on Aug. 23 while waiting to see a doctor. During that visit he was prescribed 50 milligrams of trazodone, an antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication that in such low doses can be used to treat insomnia.
“Denies any pain except discomfort rt (right) temple,” a nurse wrote on Aug. 23. “Pt (patient) taking no medications including any otc (over-the-counter) medications.”
An attending doctor provided additional details, saying Alexis suffered from fatigue after sleeping only two or three hours every night over the past three weeks.
“Speech and thoughts clear and focused. Denies flashbacks. Denies recent stress. Denies drugs, cocaine, heroin, caffeine product, depression, anxiety, chest pain, sob (shortness of breath), nightmares. He denies taking nap during the day. Denies SI (suicidal ideation) or HI (homicidal ideation),” the doctor wrote.
“He works in the Defense Department, no problem there,” the doctor added.
The medical records showed that Alexis answered “no” when asked, “Do you have anything that could be considered a weapon?” The VA told the AP that was a standard question it asks veterans whom it treats in a triage setting.
Five days later, on Aug. 28, Alexis visited a VA medical facility in Washington, again complaining of sleeplessness: “Patient presents to ER with c/o (case of) awakening each morning about 4 a.m. like clockwork and he cannot figure out why this is happening.”
He answered “no” when asked whether he was having feelings of hopelessness for the present and the future. Another doctor that night described the examination as “unremarkable.” The VA gave him 10 more tablets of trazodone and sent him home just before 9 p.m.
Doctors found ‘no problem’ with Navy Yard shooter weeks before rampage
Published time: January 31, 2014 21:31
Aaron Alexis moves through the hallways of Building #197 carrying a Remington 870 shotgun in this undated handout photo released by the FBI (Reuters)
Veteran Affairs doctors were so sure the Washington, DC, Navy Yard gunman was clear of mental issues they declared there was “no problem” with him just weeks before his shooting spree killed 12 people.
According to a new report by the Associated Press, medical records for the 34-year-old gunman Aaron Alexis showed him complaining of insomnia multiple times, as well as physical problems such as hearing loss and foot injuries. Three weeks before his violent outburst, Alexis adamantly denied harboring any suicidal or homicidal thoughts.
In early August, Alexis told police that disembodied voices were using a microwave in his hotel room to keep him awake. The defense contractor employing Alexis revoked his ability to access classified material after this came to their attention, but reinstated his access soon afterwards and declined to inform the Navy of its actions.
Just over two weeks later, Alexis was treated by a VA doctor for insomnia and given an antidepressant to help him sleep. The medical staff did not find anything of significant concern.
“Speech and thoughts clear and focused. Denies flashbacks. Denies recent stress. Denies drugs, cocaine, heroin, caffeine product, depression, anxiety, chest pain, [shortness of breath], nightmares. He denies taking nap during the day. Denies [suicidal ideation] or [homicidal ideation],” the doctor wrote, according to the AP.
Former U.S. president George W. Bush watches before the start of the MLB American between the Rangers and White Sox in Arlington, Texas
By Reuters of Joseph Ax
On Thursday, the man’s mother called police to report she had found a threatening note in the home she shares with her son and that a rifle was also missing.
NEW YORK – A New York man sitting in a car that had a loaded rifle, machete and a container of gasoline was charged on Friday with threatening to kill George W. Bush after professing a romantic interest in one of the twin daughters of the former president, prosecutors said.
Benjamin Smith, 44, of Pittsford in upstate New York was arrested in Manhattan by the U.S. Secret Service, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court.
“Bush will get his,” Smith screamed as he was taken into custody, according to the complaint. Later, when asked about his marital status, he told agents he was divorced and “working on a relationship with Barbara Bush.”
At a preliminary hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Griswold told U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman the government believes Smith was referring to the former president’s daughter and not Bush’s mother, who shares the same name.
Man arrested for threatening to kill Bush over daughter
by YAMICHE ALCINDOR
Posted on February 1, 2014 at 5:25 PM
Updated today at 6:40 PM
A man with a loaded rifle, a machete and gasoline was arrested Friday after threatening to kill former president George W. Bush and expressing interest in a relationship with his daughter, according to multiple media reports.
Benjamin Smith, 44, was arrested by the Secret Service in New York City after telling agents he was divorced and “working on a relationship with Barbara Bush.” Reuters, quoting from a criminal complaint filed in federal court, reported Smith screamed “Bush will get his!” as he was taken into custody. Barbara Pierce Bush, 32, is the elder of the 43rd president’s twin girls.
George Ogilvie, a spokesman for the U.S. Secret Service, told USA TODAY that Smith was arrested under U.S. Code Title 18 Section 879, which prohibits threats against a former president. Ogilvie would not go into detail about the incident.
At a preliminary hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Griswold told U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman that the government believes Smith was referring to the former president’s oldest daughter and not Bush’s mother, who shares the same name, Reuters reported.
On a recent frigid night near Reykjavik, Iceland, Sigurdur “Siggi” Thordarson slips into a bubbling geothermal pool at a suburban swim club. The cherubic, blond 21-year-old, who has been called everything in the press from “attention seeker” to “traitor” to “psychopath,” ends many of his days here, where, like most places around the city, he’s notorious. But even at a spa, he can find only the briefest moment of relaxation. Soon, the local prosecutor who is trying him for leaking financial records joins him in the tub, and Siggi quickly has to flee to another pool. “How does it feel to be the most dangerous man in Iceland?” a bather shouts across the steam.
In person, Siggi’s doughy shape and boyish smile make him seem less than menacing – unless you’re another one of the world’s most dangerous men, Julian Assange. Four years ago, just as WikiLeaks was winning international notoriety, the then-17-year-old hacking prodigy became Assange’s youngest and most trusted sidekick. “It was like Batman and Robin,” says Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a former WikiLeaks volunteer and member of the Icelandic parliament. But as Assange became more embattled and besieged, the protégé turned on his mentor in the most shocking of ways: becoming the first FBI informant inside the group.
Siggi’s story of international espionage and teenage high-roller antics plays like James Bond meets Superbad, starring a confounding mash-up of awkward man-child and balls-out tech savant. And his tale reveals not only the paranoia and strife within WikiLeaks, but just how far the feds were willing to go to get Assange.
Siggi still lives with his parents in a nondescript high-rise, sitting at his computer in a bedroom lined with stuffed animals, including an orangutan-size Garfield he bought for $2,000. But his jet-black Mercedes ML350 is parked outside, which, along with his recent conviction for sexual misconduct against a 17-year-old boy (he says the relationship was consensual), speaks to his bizarre double life.
The revelation of Siggi’s role as an FBI snitch has polarized WikiLeaks insiders. When I met with WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson (Assange declined to talk for this story), he grew red in the face, dismissing Siggi as “a pathological liar,” a party line echoed by the WikiLeaks faithful. “It all sounds rather absurd,” Hrafnsson says, “to go and to spend all this time analyzing the absolute bullshit that is flowing out of this young man, who is so troubled that he should be hospitalized.”
While other WikiLeaks insiders also question Siggi’s credibility, they insist that his story can’t be discounted, and there’s more to it than the organization is letting on. Tangerine Bolen, founder of the whistle-blowing advocacy organization RevolutionTruth, which used to work closely with WikiLeaks, is among those who say the group’s efforts to discredit Siggi are “patently false. They’re scared. The fact is Siggi played a key role in the organization and was very close to Julian.”
The truth, it seems, may be held in the leaks. Siggi has provided Rolling Stone with more than a terabyte of secret files he claims to have taken from WikiLeaks before he left in November 2011 and gave to the FBI: thousands of pages of chat logs, videos, tapped phone calls, government documents and more than a few bombshells from the organization’s most heated years. They’re either the real thing, or the most elaborate lie of the digital age.
Assange himself validated the importance of Siggi’s documents when he filed an affidavit late this past summer asserting that “the FBI illegally acquired stolen organisational and personal data belonging to WikiLeaks, me and other third parties in Denmark in March 2012” and that the FBI “was attempting to entrap me through Sigurdur Thordarson.”
Whatever their origins, the SiggiLeaks are a deep and revealing portal into one of the most guarded and influential organizations of the 21st century – and the extreme measures its embattled leader is willing to take. Of all Assange’s allies who’ve come and gone, few served him as faithfully as Siggi, or betrayed him so utterly. “One thing is sure,” Siggi tells me in his thick Icelandic accent, as the vapors from the thermal pool rise around him. “I have not lived a life like a teenager.”
Like Assange and so many gifted hackers, Siggi had an isolated childhood. The son of a hairdresser and a paint-company sales manager, he grew up with his little sister in a middleclass suburb of Reykjavik. Though puckish and bright, he was bored by school, alienated from his classmates and dreamed of a life beyond bourgeois Nordic comfort. “When I was, like, 12 years old, I wished for a couple of things,” he tells me as we drive one afternoon past some lava fields outside the capital. “I wished to be rich; I wished to be a famous guy; I wished to live an adventureful life.”
He found the excitement he craved in computers, and at age 12 he says he hacked into his first website, a local union’s home page, which he replaced with a picture of “a big fluffy monkey.” The experience empowered him. “When you do something like that, you feel invincible,” he says, “and if you can do that, what else can you do?”
He found out two years later, when, on a plane back from a family vacation, he fixed a laptop for a businessman sitting next to him. The executive was so impressed by his skills that he offered him a job at the Icelandic financial firm Milestone: scrubbing computers of sensitive documents. Siggi figures the company trusted him with such data because he was only 14 and must have thought, as he says, “I wouldn’t understand what I was supposed to delete.” Plus, the pay dwarfed that of his paper route.
Curious about the files he was erasing, he’d copy them and study them at night. What he eventually discovered astonished him: Employees of Milestone seemed guilty of large-scale corruption in collusion with local politicians. At this time, in 2009, Iceland was reeling from the worldwide financial crisis, and Siggi believed the people deserved to know the role of Milestone and their dirty politicians – even if that meant leaking the files. “Someone has to do it,” he thought, “and why not me?”
In the fall, Siggi says he brought more than 600 gigabytes of Milestone data to the Icelandic newspaper Dagbladid Vísir, making front-page news and leading to investigations against the politicians and businessmen he exposed. Siggi believed in the importance of exposing the corruption he describes as “illegal as it gets.” With his identity still secret, he kept on leaking to other media outlets until, for reasons he never learned, his childhood friend outed him, a betrayal that changed him. “I literally just stopped believing in humanity,” he says. “Since then, I just basically stopped having feelings.”
But after being arrested and splashed across the news, he found a powerful connection in Kristinn Hrafnsson. A well-known TV reporter in Reykjavik at the time, Hrafnsson considered Siggi’s leaks to be “quite significant” and worthy of an introduction to another up-and-coming whistle-blower, Julian Assange, who was speaking at the University of Iceland. Though WikiLeaks had already exposed death squads in Kenya and financial malfeasance in the Swiss bank Julius Baer, the group was still largely unknown. But at the panel, Siggi found, to his surprise, that Assange was well aware of his work – he even chastised the reporter who revealed Siggi’s name in the Milestone leak. “He was basically just condemning the guy, sayingouting whistleblowers is wrong,” recalls Siggi, who reveled in the support.
The bond between the two was immediate. Assange too had been arrested for hacking when he was a young man in Australia. He also had a son, Daniel, who was roughly Siggi’s age, whom he had little contact. “I think Julian saw himself in Siggi,” says Jónsdóttir. “Julian felt an immediate sympathy toward the kid.”
After the panel, Siggi says he took Assange to Sea Bar, a small, rustic restaurant on the water. Over lobster soup and whale steak, they spoke about politics, hacking and their shared sense of purpose in exposing the secrets of the elite. Assange struck Siggi as someone with the courage to take on anyone. “He’s the kind of activist that does the thing that has to be done,” Siggi tells me. After talking for a few hours, Assange took out a small metal box. “Have you ever seen this before?” he said.
Assange cracked open the container and revealed three phones inside. “These are encrypted cellphones,” he said. “I’m going to give you one. Just keep it on at all times so I can communicate with you, day and night.”
The U.S. government lobotomized roughly 2,000 mentally ill veterans — and likely hundreds more — during and after World War II, according to a cache of forgotten memos, letters and government reports unearthed by The Wall Street Journal.
“They got the notion they were going to come to give me a lobotomy,” Roman Tritz, a World War II bomber pilot, told the newspaper in a report published Wednesday. “To hell with them.”
Tritz said the orderlies at the veterans hospital pinned him to the floor, and he initially fought them off. A few weeks later, just before his 30th birthday, he was lobotomized.
Besieged by psychologically damaged troops returning from the battlefields of North Africa, Europe and the Pacific, the Veterans Administration performed the brain-altering operation on former servicemen it diagnosed as depressives, psychotics and schizophrenics, and occasionally on people identified as homosexuals, according to the report.
The VA’s use of lobotomy, in which doctors severed connections between parts of the brain then thought to control emotions, was known in medical circles in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and is occasionally cited in medical texts. But the VA’s practice, never widely publicized, long ago slipped from public view. Even the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says it possesses no records detailing the creation and breadth of its lobotomy program.
The Wall Street Journal’s reporting series began with Wednesday’s Forgotten Soldiers and included a documentary, archived photos, maps and medical records.
The Journal quoted the VA’s response to its inquiry: “In the late 1940s and into the 1950s, VA and other physicians throughout the United States and the world debated the utility of lobotomies. The procedure became available to severely ill patients who had not improved with other treatments. Within a few years, the procedure disappeared within VA, and across the United States, as safer and more effective treatments were developed.”
The newspaper reported that musty files warehoused in the National Archives show VA doctors resorting to brain surgery as they struggled with a vexing question that absorbs America to this day: How best to treat the psychological crises that afflict soldiers returning from combat.
Between April 1, 1947, and Sept. 30, 1950, VA doctors lobotomized 1,464 veterans at 50 hospitals authorized to perform the surgery, according to agency documents rediscovered by the Journal. Scores of records from 22 of those hospitals list another 466 lobotomies performed outside that time period, bringing the total documented operations to 1,930.
Roman Tritz was one of thousands of WWll veterans who were lobotomized by the Veterans Administration. The nation forgot, but Mr. Tritz remembers. WSJ’s Michael M. Phillips reports. See the complete project at http://WSJ.com/LobotomyFiles.
By TAMI ABDOLLAH and JUSTIN PRITCHARD Associated Press
A baggage handler arrested after dry ice bombs exploded at Los Angeles International Airport planted the devices as a prank, police said Wednesday.
The motive was disclosed a day after the arrest of Dicarlo Bennett, a 28-year-old employee for the ground handling company Servisair.
“I think we can safely say he is not a terrorist or an organized crime boss. He did this for his own amusement,” said Los Angeles police Deputy Chief Michael Downing, who heads the department’s counter-terrorism and special operations bureau.
No one was hurt on Sunday when two plastic bottles packed with dry ice exploded in an employee bathroom and on the airport’s tarmac. An unexploded device was found Monday night.
As a result of the incident, airport officials plan to meet with law enforcement authorities to examine potential security enhancements at one of the nation’s busiest airports.
The meeting also will explore the handling and transport of dry ice and other hazardous materials and possible improvements to those procedures.
Arif Alikhan, deputy executive director for Homeland Security and Law Enforcement at Los Angeles World Airports, said such meetings are routine after problems.
“We’ll look at all layers of security existing at the airport, including technology, physical infrastructure, the partnership of tenants, awareness of employees to potential hazardous items like dry ice,” Alikhan said.
Workers at the airport must pass a criminal background check before they can get a security badge for access to restricted areas, LAX spokeswoman Nancy Castles said.
On Tuesday, police arrested Bennett, who was booked for possession of a destructive device near an aircraft and held on $1 million bail.
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