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Army to delve into Fort Hood gunman's medical history

Apr. 4, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Ivan Lopez
Army Spc. Ivan Lopez killed three people and wounded 16 others in a shooting at Fort Hood, Texas April 2, before killing himself. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Glidden Lopez)
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The Army will deconstruct Spc. Ivan Lopez’s medical history to determine if there were holes in his treatment or whether the service needs to change current policies or programs geared toward helping soldiers with psychiatric conditions.

But Army officials said Friday they believe his medical condition, described earlier as depression and anxiety, was not the “direct precipitating factor” in the deadly rampage that killed three service members and wounded 16 others.

Lopez also died during the incident, shooting himself in the head.

He was under psychiatric care for showing “strong evidence of having an unstable psychological condition,” Army officials said earlier this week.

But he had no history of violence and investigators are looking into what the Army now thinks likely sparked the rampage — an argument with other soldiers prior to the shooting, Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, Fort Hood commanding general, said Thursday.

In addition to conducting the criminal investigation, the Army will dissect existing policies, procedures and programs for any flaws, Milley added.

“The professional medical investigators will tell me whether there are gaps in this particular system,” Milley said at a news conference.

According to Army leadership, Lopez was under evaluation for post-traumatic stress disorder but had not received a diagnosis. He was, however, medicated for other psychological disorders, including depression and anxiety and had been prescribed Ambien and unnamed antidepressants and/or selective seretonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs.

Lopez joined the Army in 2008 after serving in the Puerto Rico National Guard for nine years. Until his transfer from Fort Bliss, Texas, in February, he was an infantry soldier. When he moved to Fort Hood, he was redesignated as a truck driver.

He had a clean behavior record and while he was under a doctor’s care, he was not being considered for discharge, Milley said.

Friends of Lopez told the Associated Press he was passionate musician and a “good person” who displayed no violent tendencies.

Family members were unaware he was being treated for a psychological condition.

“He was a very laid-back person. I would even say a bit shy. That's why we are so surprised,” Glidden Lopez Torres, who is not related to the gunman but identified himself as a family friend speaking on behalf of the soldier's family, told the AP.

A controversial study published in the journal PLOS-1 in 2011 by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices identified 31 drugs with a disproportionate association with violence. Zolpidem, or Ambien, is on the list. And half of those in the top 10 were antidepressants or SSRIs.

The report, which reviewed incidents of violence reported to the FDA by providers or patients prescribed these medications, did not say the medications caused the violence, but the evidence showed that acts of violence towards others “are a genuine and serious adverse drug effect” associated with these drugs.

Many experts say those who take medications for behavioral issues may already be prone to violence or are actually taking the medications to help with violent tendencies and therefore it’s no surprise that there is a link between those taking antidepressants and violence.

Milley said that although the Army does not believe Lopez’s psychological issues were responsible for the shooting spree, he added that investigators are combing through his deployment record in Iraq but so far have not found a traumatic event, contact with the enemy or other incident that could have caused or contributed to a psychological condition such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

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