A former Alabama National Guard officer who was seriously wounded during the November 5, 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, said the weight he has carried since that incident is lighter now that an Army psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal Hasan, has been convicted of premeditated murder in the shooting.
“I’m glad,” Randy Royer said today from Fort Hood after a military jury unanimously found Hasan guilty in one of the worst shooting incidents in U.S. history. “It makes me feel better. I’ve got a little burden lifted up off my shoulders.”
Thirteen people were killed and more than 30 were wounded in the shooting. Royer, a resident of Dale County in southeast Alabama, was one of dozens of witnesses who testified during Hasan’s trial, which lasted less than three weeks. The verdict was no surprise, because the American-born Muslim represented himself during the military trial and mounted virtually no defense. Hasan admitted to being the shooter and, according to the AP, “had argued in letters to media outlets that the rampage was necessary to protect Muslim insurgents abroad from American soldiers in combat.”
“If it had been a different verdict, it would have been a blind side to everybody,” Royer said.
Royer said he and his wife Tricia will have to remain in Fort Hood a while longer because military prosecutors want him to testify in the sentencing hearing that begins next Monday. Hasan could receive the death penalty. More than a few observers, including some defense attorneys whom he basically ignored during the trial, have suggested that’s what he wants.
“I just hope he gets the death penalty now,” Royer said. “I hope it keeps going.”
At the time of the shooting, Royer was a major in the 135th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, a Birmingham-based Alabama National Guard unit that was at Fort Hood preparing for a deployment to Afghanistan. The shooting took place in a building called the Soldier Readiness Processing Center in the heart of Fort Hood, and Royer and some other 135th soldiers were on hand when the shooting started.
Royer was shot twice, sustained a broken left leg and left arm, and might have lost one or both limbs had he not received prompt attention from caregivers who used a belt as a tourniquet on his arm and a bra to stop the bleeding from his leg. In subsequent interviews, Royer said that the anniversary of the shooting was a difficult time for him, that he walks with a cane, and that his leg and arm still give him pain. He testified at a hearing to determine if Hasan should stand trial, and he was medically discharged from the Guard last April after being promoted to lieutenant colonel.
Another 135th soldier on hand when the shooting started was Maj. Kendrick Traylor, who now is an ROTC instructor at the University of Alabama.
Commenting on the verdict, Traylor said, “I’m just glad that finally some justice has been served and we now can move on.”
When the shooting started, Traylor was meeting in a cubicle in a partitioned off part of the processing center with a physician’s assistant, a retired Army warrant officer named Michael Cahill. Cahill left the cubicle and, according to witness accounts, saw what was going on and charged the shooter. He was fatally wounded, the only civilian to die that day.
Traylor, who was not wounded, made a cell phone call to his unit commanders to tell them what was happening so they could stop any other 135th solders from heading to the Readiness Processing Center.
One of the officers to whom he spoke was Col. Dennis Butters, the 135th chief of staff.
Butters, now the Alabama Guard’s public affairs officer, said the trial and its outcome showed the justice system was working — “though it may be a little slow at times” — and that fact should provide some relief to 135th soldiers and their families who were directly affected by the shooting incident.
Randy Royer’s younger brother Dave said if Hasan wants to die, he should not be granted his wish, but be locked up for the rest of his days. He also said authorities owe to it his brother and other shooting victims to call the shooting a terrorist attack.
“I think that’s the only way they’ll get closure,” Dave Royer said. “We knew he was guilty, everybody knew he was guilty, he even admitted he was guilty. So these folks, I think, need this coming from our government that, ‘Yes, he’s not only guilty, but he was an enemy combatant also.’”
UPDATE: On August 28, Nidal Hasan was sentenced to death.