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Bob Gordon works on a memorial for the victims of Wednesday's shooting at Fort Hood, Thursday, April 3, 2014, at Central Christian Church in Killeen, Texas. A soldier opened fire Wednesday on fellow service members at the Fort Hood military base, killing three people and wounding 16 before committing suicide. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Fort Hood shooter described as introverted, musical

Investigators, family struggle to understand what drove the soldier to such a violent end.

First Published Apr 03 2014 05:37 pm • Last Updated Apr 03 2014 07:37 pm

Army Specialist Ivan Lopez, the soldier suspected in a deadly shooting rampage at Fort Hood, is a father of four children and a former police officer who served 10 years on the force in his native Puerto Rico before taking leave to join the Army.

Lopez, 34, is now believed to be the gunman who killed three and wounded many others at the sprawling Army post in central Texas. The spree only ended, authorities said, when Lopez was confronted by a military police officer. He put his hands up, then pulled a handgun and killed himself with a shot to the head.

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On Thursday, both investigators and Lopez’s own family were struggling to understand what had driven him to such a violent and destructive end.

Friends described Lopez as introverted and quiet, a talented percussionist from a musical family. He had joined the Puerto Rican police force as a young man, in part to join the police department’s band. The department was still expecting him to return to police work after spending four years in the Army.

At Fort Hood, officials saw Lopez as a "low-risk" soldier whose behavior raised no obvious red flags. He had married for a second time and lived with his wife and a young daughter in an apartment near the base.

Lopez had troubles. He had returned from a short tour in Iraq and shifted from one base to another in the U.S. He was taking medications to help with depression and anxiety. He had been crushed by his mother’s sudden death last year and was unhappy that the Army had given him so little time off to grieve.

But, apparently, nobody except Lopez himself saw what it was all adding up to.

"They are going through an incredibly difficult period," said Glidden Lopez, 26, a friend speaking on behalf of Ivan Lopez’s family in Puerto Rico.

Investigators are still trying to learn more about the motives for Wednesday’s rampage. At this point, Lopez seems very different from the gunman in two other shooting sprees on military posts. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 people at Fort Hood in 2009, had communicated with al-Qaida leaders overseas. Aaron Alexis, the civilian contractor who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard last year, was a loner with a history of bizarre outbursts.

Lopez had no apparent connections to terrorism. And, at least on the surface, he was not a man apart. Lopez posted photos of himself and his children at an amusement park on Facebook. When he posted a picture of himself in uniform last year, 55 people "liked" it.

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"Oh my God. . . . I can’t believe it," said Phanie Somar, a friend of Lopez and his wife from their time in El Paso. Until a reporter called on Thursday, Somar did not know Lopez was involved in the Fort Hood attacks. "He’s very friendly, too. He’s sweet."

Lopez grew up in Guayanilla, a small town on Puerto Rico’s southwest coast. The town’s current mayor, Edgardo Arlequín, was the director of a local band for schoolchildren when Lopez joined. That was about 1990, the year Lopez turned 11.

The mayor said that Lopez came from a musical family; his father and brother both played guitars in the local Catholic church.

"Ivan was quiet . . . introverted, calm," Arlequín said in Spanish in a telephone interview. He said he knew Lopez for several years and had never seen him show anger with another student. "Never. Never. I never saw him get in a fight."

What stood out, Arlequín said, was Lopez’s talent as a musician: He was a percussionist, and a very fast learner. When Lopez left Guayanilla, Arlequín said, he had "become an excellent human being."

In 2000, around age 21, Lopez joined the island’s main police force. On Thursday, Puerto Rican police officials said they were still trying to find detailed records of his career. They said it was likely that Lopez began as a patrol officer.

Then, at some point, he joined the police force’s band. As a member of the band, Lopez would have spent much of his time practicing and performing, said Officer Angel Miriani, a spokesman for the police force. But, Miriani said, the members of the band are still police officers, and they can be called out to reinforce units in other parts of the island.

"The record is clean," Miriani said Thursday, talking about Lopez’s disciplinary files. "We looked for disciplinary problems, and all show up clean."

In 2010, police said, Lopez joined the U.S. Army, and took a leave from the police.

When he entered the military, Lopez was a divorced father of two young children, who both remained in Puerto Rico. All the rest of his immediate family, including a sister, brother and mother, were in Puerto Rico as well.

While stationed in Fort Bliss in West Texas, Lopez met a woman named Karla, a pretty, dark-haired El Paso Community College student, in a nightclub. Lopez and Karla began dating exclusively, said Somar, their friend from that time.

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