FORT HOOD, United States / Texas (AFP) – With the one eye he has left, Staff Sergeant Alonzo Lunsford stared down the U.S. army psychiatrist standing trial for the Fort Hood massacre, and recounted how he was repeatedly shot.
Lunsford was the first victim to testify Tuesday at the trial of Major Nidal Hasan, who could face the death penalty if he is convicted of killing 13 people and wounding dozens more at the Texas army base in 2009.
Hasan, who has fired his lawyers and is representing himself, earlier gave an opening statement in which he admitted his guilt over the mass shooting.
Lunsford, now retired, who was shot in the head and the body, detailed how the carnage unfolded, pointing to the seven places where Hasan’s bullets left their mark on his large frame.
He recalled how people initially froze in shock after Hasan started to open fire on troops in a pre-Afghanistan deployment center, before realizing that the shooting was premeditated.
Lunsford rushed for an exit but as he gazed back he saw a laser sight from Hasan’s weapon focused on him. He blinked, and was then felled by a bullet smashing into the right side of his head. After trying to crawl away he was shot in the back, after which he decided to “play dead.”
Hasan, who did not ask Lunsford any questions, had spoken only for a few minutes earlier Tuesday, telling the jury of 13 Army officers that the people he killed were casualties of war after he “switched sides.”
“The evidence will clearly show I am the shooter,” Hasan declared.
Paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by police trying to stop the bloodbath, Hasan was calm and collected as he monitored the proceedings from his wheelchair in a green camouflage uniform.
He was sporting a thick beard responsible for delaying the trial by months as he fought to win the right to violate the military’s grooming rules.
Now aged 42, Hasan was due to deploy to Afghanistan weeks after the attack. He has said he shot the soldiers to protect his fellow Muslims from an “illegal” war.
His opening statement reiterated his radical views.
“We, the mujahedeen, are imperfect Muslims trying to establish a perfect religion in the land of the supreme God,” Hasan said. “I apologize for any mistakes that I made in this endeavor.”
Military law prohibits Hasan from pleading guilty to a capital offense and so he has been given the opportunity to try to convince the jury that he does not deserve death for his actions.
Michelle Harper, a civilian who worked in the pre-deployment processing center where Hasan opened fire, described how the initial gunshots sounded like firecrackers going off, before chaos and bloodshed followed.
Huddled beneath a desk in a far corner of the building, she called 911. In a recording played for the court, gunshots could be heard as she whimpered “please hurry.”
“Oh my god, everybody is shot,” she told the operator.