Ivan Lopez, who allegedly gunned down three other military men and injured scores more before killing himself at the Fort Hood Army base in Texas, had an argument with colleagues in his unit just prior to his rampage, according to authorities, who have also released names of the three slain soldiers.
An "escalating argument" took place between Lopez and his colleagues in the 49th Transportation Battalion before Wednesday's shooting rampage but just one of the soldiers shot was involved in the dispute, the base's commander, Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, said Friday according to AP.
"There may have been a verbal altercation with another soldier or soldiers. There is a strong possibility that that in fact immediately preceded the shooting," Milley said of Lopez, an Army truck driver who also did a short stint in Iraq in 2011.
Milley had earlier said that Lopez's mental condition appeared to be a primary factor in the shooting.
The dispute was over paperwork, a law enforcement official told The Washington Post. Lopez, a married father of four, appeared infuriated after he walked into a personnel office and asked for a leave-of-absence application, but was asked to come back the following day, the official explained.
Lopez came back soon thereafter with a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistol and began firing at fellow soldiers, the official added. The suspect then walked outside and continued to indiscriminately fire at other soldiers.
Theodis Westbrook, the father of a wounded soldier, Sgt Jonathan Westbrook, spoke to Mississippi News Now about the shooting.
"I could only imagine what my child was going through, to see somebody else get shot down and then realize the gun is coming at you next," Theodis said. "I could only imagine what my child was going through, to see somebody else get shot down and then realize the gun is coming at you next."
Theodis' son has served in Afghanistan. "The fact that he went to Afghanistan and could have lost his life in any number of ways over there, survived that, and then come back here and almost lose his life in a secure U.S. Army installation, military installation. That's really hard to reconcile," the father added.
Chris Grey, a spokesman for the Army's Criminal Investigation Command based in Quantico, Va., was quoted as saying that a "concrete motive" for the shooting wasn't clear. "The possibility does exist that we may never know why the alleged shooter did what he did."
The attack spanned several buildings as Lopez drove in his vehicle firing indiscriminately, Grey said, adding that a military police officer confronted the shooter and exchanged words with him before firing a single round at him that missed. The 34-year-old gunman soon after put his pistol against his head and pulled the trigger.
Lopez's father said his son was receiving medical treatment but was a peaceful family man. "This is very painful for me," he said in a statement, urging prayers for the dead and the 16 people who were wounded in the shooting. "My son could not have been in his right mind. He was not like that."
The three slain soldiers were identified as Sgt Danny Ferguson from Mulberry, Fla.; Sgt Carlos A. Lazaney-Rodriguez from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico; and Sgt Timothy Owens from Effingham, Ill.
Ferguson was shot as he was holding a door shut to stop the shooter, his fiancée, Kristen Haley, told WTSP-TV. "He held that door shut because it wouldn't lock. It seems the doors would be bullet proof, but apparently they're not," she said. "If he wasn't the one standing there holding those doors closed, that shooter would have been able to get through and shoot everyone else."
Lazaney-Rodriguez served as a unit supply sergeant with deployments to Kuwait and Iraq. Owens served as a heavy vehicle driver and had been deployed to Iraq and Kuwait.