Soldier testifies that officer ordered him to delete video shot during Fort Hood rampage
A soldier who recorded the terror of last year’s deadly shooting rampage in Fort Hood using his cell phone was ordered by an officer to delete both videos, a military court heard Friday.
Under cross examination, Pfc. Lance Aviles told an Article 32 hearing that his noncommissioned officer ordered him to destroy the two videos on Nov. 5, the same day that a gunman unleashed a volley of bullets inside a processing center at the Texas Army post.
The footage could have been vital evidence at the military hearing to decide if Maj. Nidal Hasan should stand trial in the shootings. The 40-year-old American-born Muslim has been charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder.
Prosecutors have not said whether they’ll seek the death penalty if the case goes to trial.
Aviles described how he was waiting for medical tests at the center with his battle buddy, Pfc. Kham Xiong, when he heard someone shout. Then the gunshots began.
He said he saw a tanned, balding man wearing an Army combat uniform and carrying a black pistol.
“I saw smoke coming from the pistol,” Aviles told the court.
He and Xiong threw themselves to the floor. Aviles turned to his left to check his friend and discovered he had been shot.
“His head was facing the left and a shard of his skull was sticking up,” Aviles said.
Xiong, a 23-year-old father of three from St. Paul, Minn., was among the 13 who died in the attack. Aviles, 20th person to provide testimony at the hearing, was not hurt.
Addressing the court via video link from Afghanistan, Spc. Megan Martin said she had been waiting to take medical tests when saw a man to her left stand up and shout “Allahu Akbar!” — “God is great!” in Arabic — then start firing a weapon.
He “started shooting to the left of me in a fan motion, left to right,” Martin said.
She described the weapon as “a small handgun (with) … a green light and a red laser.”
Capt. Melissa Kell, who also testified via video from Afghanistan, said the gun was black and had “a red laser and a green laser.”
Witnesses have provided conflicting testimony on the number of guns the shooter was carrying. Some say they saw two weapons, but the majority say they saw only one.
Martin described how she saw Capt. John Gaffaney attempting to charge at the gunman to prevent further bloodshed. Gaffaney, a 56-year-old psychiatric nurse preparing to deploy to Iraq, was shot at close range and died.
“I could not look away. I laid as still as I could. I couldn’t stop watching. It was a nightmare that reoccurs.” said Martin, who belongs to the 267th Medical Detachment — the unit that Hasan was supposed to deploy with.
Hasan had been trying to get out of his pending deployment because he opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He had been saying goodbye to friends and neighbors, and had given away his Quran and other belongings.
Lt. Col. James L. Pohl, a military judge, is the investigating officer presiding over the Article 32 hearing — a proceeding unique to military law.