Back in the mid-nineties, I did a few months at Fort Leavenworth. Relax, I was there for an Army school, not an involuntary stay at the military penitentiary. However, while there I did tour the prison facility.
The death house sits at the bottom of a set of stairs and sort of resembles a medical facility. Two walls are one-way mirrors. One is for government witnesses. The other is for victims’ families. The ceiling is made of those institutional acoustic tiles.
The condemned is strapped to a table that looks like a cross. Army medics then start IV lines in each arm that run through holes in the wall into a matching pair of closets. On the wall in each closet is a pair of lights-red and green if I recall correctly-and a homemade wooden contraption that holds a container of liquid. One is normal saline. The other is something far more sinister.
At the appointed hour the warden reads the charges against you. He then lets you speak for three minutes. He actually has a stopwatch. There is a microphone hanging from the ceiling to capture your macabre soliloquy for posterity. After three minutes he leaves the room and the lights change in the closets. The two executioners then upend their respective bottles. Neither one knows who administered the real juice. When the time comes for you to die you die in that antiseptic room alone.
It may sound a bit ghoulish, but I climbed up on the table. I just lay there for a while staring at those ceiling tiles. It felt a bit like being at the dentist. The monster we will discuss today will eventually die on that very table staring at those very ceiling tiles. The story of what brought him to that point is quite a cautionary tale.
The Origins of the Beast
With the crystalline clarity of hindsight, Nidal Malik Hasan never was quite right. Born in Arlington County, Virginia, to Palestinian immigrant parents, Nidal was raised alongside his two brothers in the Muslim faith. He was purportedly fairly tepid about Islam during his formative years. He grew up in Roanoke where his father established and operated several successful businesses. Both of his parents died relatively young, his mother when Nidal was 31.
Hasan entered the US Army upon graduation from High School and eventually earned a degree in Biochemistry from Virginia Tech. He was commissioned as an officer in the Army Medical Department in 1997 and accepted into the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS—pronounced “U-shoes” in some circles). Up until this point, on the surface at least, Nidal Hasan personified the American dream.
It took Hasan six years to complete the four-year curriculum at USUHS and earn his MD degree. He spent most of that time on academic probation. Hasan then did a residency in psychiatry at Walter Reed.
During his final year in residency Hasan made a presentation to his fellow Army physicians titled, “The Quranic World as It Relates to Muslims in the US Military.” Considering the author was a commissioned Army officer and his audience was comprised of similar folk the content of this presentation was fairly outlandish. Here are a few quotes:
The Department of Defense “should allow Muslims [sic] Soldiers the option of being released as “Conscientious objectors” to increase troop morale and decrease adverse events.” He explained in a previous slide that “adverse events” could be “refusal to deploy, espionage, or killing of fellow soldiers.”
“…the Muslims should stand up and fight against the aggressor“, referring to American soldiers. In retrospect, somebody obviously should have seen such stuff for what it was, but no one wanted to be labeled a racist. By 2009 CPT Hasan had been promoted to Major.
Just prior to his promotion Hasan received a poor performance review. He was stationed at Darnall Army Medical Center in Fort Hood, Texas, and apparently lived in a fairly squalid part of nearby Killeen. In the summer of 2009, he legally purchased an FN Five-seveN handgun.
Apparently, Nidal Hasan was a fairly sensitive soul. He purportedly fainted at his first exposure to childbirth during medical school. I bet that was awkward. After treating emotionally traumatized US troops returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan he became disillusioned and bitter. Though military records stated that Hasan was unmarried, in 1997 he had two kids living with him whom he described as his sons.
In December of 2008 US intelligence services intercepted email exchanges between Nidal Hasan and Anwar Al-Awlaki. Al-Awlaki had previously served as the Muslim chaplain at George Washington University and was once considered a moderate Muslim. Al-Awlaki was eventually fully radicalized. The FBI reviewed these email chains and determined that they were consistent with authorized research Hasan was doing to assist in his mental health treatment of Muslims serving in the American armed forces. Once again, no one wants to be branded a racist.
Major Hasan was slated to deploy to Afghanistan on November 28, 2009. Twenty-three days prior to his deployment Hasan gave away most of his furniture to friends and acquaintances. A fellow Muslim officer who prayed with him that morning claimed, “He appeared relaxed and not in any way troubled or nervous.”
At 1334 local time Major Nidal Hasan walked into the Soldier Readiness Processing Center (SRPC), a facility where troops receive routine medical treatment both before and after deployments. He bowed his head momentarily, shouted “Allahu Akbar!” and opened fire with his Five-seveN handgun.
Introduced in 2000, the FN Five-seveN pistol was developed alongside the P90 Personal Defense Weapon. Both guns fire the radical bottlenecked 5.7x28mm cartridge. A delayed-blowback, semiautomatic, polymer-framed pistol that fires via a concealed hammer, the Five-seveN is unnaturally lightweight. It weighs a mere 1.3 pounds empty or 1.6 pounds with a loaded 20-round magazine. Feed is via 10, 20, or 30-round boxes.
Milspec SS190 armor-piercing rounds push a 31-grain bullet to around 2,100 fps out of the Five-seveN pistol and can penetrate a NATO CRISAT vest at 100 meters. This round will penetrate a PASGT (Personal Armor System Ground Troops) vest out to 300 meters. The Five-seveN exhibits roughly 30% less recoil than a 9mm parabellum and is exceptionally flat-shooting.
Because of its ability to defeat certain types of body armor, there has been a concerted effort to restrict the availability of the Five-seveN pistol to American shooters. FN limits the sale of AP ammo to military and Law Enforcement organizations. Civilian 5.7x28mm rounds have not been classified as armor piercing by the BATF. Concerted efforts by the Brady Campaign and Democratic members of Congress to have the gun banned by name have sold countless thousands of them to American civilian shooters.
Hasan’s Five-seveN was purportedly equipped with two Lasermax laser sights, one red and one green. I can’t really visualize how he might do that. He also carried an older model Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum revolver but never fired it.
The Rest of the Story
Hasan “sprayed bullets in a fanlike motion” into the accumulated troops before targeting individual soldiers. Throughout his attack, he passed up opportunities to shoot civilians in favor of uniformed military personnel. Coming across a group of five civilian employees hiding under a desk, he swept his laser sight across them but let them be.
CPT John Gaffaney charged Hassan but was mortally wounded. A civilian Physician Assistant named Michael Cahill rushed him with a chair but was shot and killed. SPC Logan Burnett threw a table at him and was shot in the hip but survived. Per Army policy, none of the soldiers were authorized to carry personal firearms. In the middle of the largest active duty armored post in the US housing some 40,000 trained American warriors Major Nidal Hasan, homegrown radicalized terrorist, had found himself a gun-free zone.
Base civilian police officer SGT Kim Munley engaged Hasan outside the SRPC with her Beretta M9. Hasan hit her twice in the leg and took her out of the fight.
Base police SGT Mark Todd then arrived, and the two men engaged in a fierce exchange of fire. Hasan emptied his pistol, and Todd shot him five times while he scrambled for a fresh magazine. Over the course of about ten minutes, Hasan killed thirteen and injured another thirty.
Investigators recovered 146 shell casings from inside the SRPC and another 68 outside. Hasan was still carrying another 177 live rounds when he went down. He packed a total of sixteen magazines for his FN. One of SGT Todd’s 9mm rounds damaged Hasan’s spine and rendered him paraplegic.
Anwar Al-Awlaki was pulverized in an American drone strike in Al Jawf, Yemen, on September 30, 2011. As Al-Awlaki was an American citizen some complained that his targeted killing without due process violated his constitutional rights. These same woke sensitive souls are likely not overly burdened by restrictions on my 2nd Amendment rights. As regards Al-Awlaki’s death, I’m not personally too torn up over it.
Nidal Hasan insisted on representing himself at trial. He was convicted and sentenced to death in short order despite a furious row over whether or not shaving violated his religious beliefs. In 2014 Hasan posted a letter from prison to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi requesting he be made a citizen of the Islamic State. His signature included the abbreviation SoA (Soldier of Allah). His appeals are ongoing, but Nidal Hasan will indeed likely still get his chance to study those ceiling tiles.