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What It's Like in Killeen After the Latest Fort Hood Shooting

Ashley Landis/EPA/Landov
Crosses and flags representing victims of Wednesday's Fort Hood shooting are displayed at Central Christian Church in Killeen.

At Fort Hood in Killeen, people are accustomed to the idea of death. At any given point, around ten percent of soldiers from the post are deployed overseas.

This week, soldiers, families and residents were reminded of how close to home tragedy can strike – when Ivan Lopez opened fire killing three others and wounding 16 before turning the gun on himself.

The Mercado Azteca Restaurant and Market sits across from the Army Post on North Fort Hood Street in Killeen. It’s a popular spot for soldiers. “Lunch rush is just military," employee Carmen Alvarado says.

One day after the shooting at the army post, she says people are acting normal – complaining about heavy traffic on post.  Alvarado says the shooting was upsetting – but not extremely surprising.

“It doesn’t seem shocking that it’s happening again, but you still worry," Alvarado says.

This not the first time this community has dealt with a mass shooting. In 1991, a man killed 23 people at a Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen. In 2009, former Army Maj. Nidal Hasan fatally shot 13 people and wounded more than 30 at a soldier processing center at the post. He was convicted and sentenced to death last summer after a lengthy trial.

Fort Hood and the city of Killeen were happy to close another tragic chapter in the area’s history. Now, those emotions have risen again to the surface.

“It’s kind of like not again and it’s such a great place you don’t want to be known for negative. Anytime you tell someone you’re from Killeen, they go 'Oh, okay, that’s where this and that happened,'" long-time resident Jimmy Hogberg says.

But Killeen Chamber of Commerce President John Crutchfield says this shooting is different the one in 2009.

“That one drug out for a long time and there was a trial and it was really hard to get to some closure in that situation. This case won’t be like that. Closure will come much more quickly, unless you’re a victim or a member of a victim’s family. But the community will heal pretty quickly," Crutchfield says.

And while death is a part of war – and a part of Fort Hood – Killeen Mayor Dan Corbin says the community must deal with this tragedy differently than a soldier dying in combat.

"It’s kind of like a relative that dies suddenly and a relative who dies after a long painful illness. There’s a difference in how you deal with it," Corbin says. "There’s an expectation that they might give their life for their country. When someone is at Fort Hood minding their own business and gets shot, it’s harder to deal with like a family member who dies suddenly in a car accident. It hits you like a ton of bricks."

Corbin doesn’t think these tragedies define Killeen. Instead, he thinks it’s defined by how the community unites afterwards.

There are still many unknowns surrounding the shooting, including a motive. But it’s believed  the shooter’s mental health did play a role.

For Carmen Alvarado, that’s the scary reality of living near the largest army base in the country: “It is scary to think that a lot of people come back and they come like that… I don’t know… traumatized?”

Officials say Spc. Ivan Lopez did not see any combat during his four months in Iraq in 2011. But he was being treated for depression and anxiety. They say he was also in the process of being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

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