Fort Hood

CASE SUMMARY

Manning v. Esper, Civil Action No. 12-1802 CKK (D.D.C. 2019)

  • The owner of that semi-automatic pistol, Major Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, used the weapon to kill 13 people and wound more than 30 others who happened to be in the Soldier Readiness Center, the majority of whom were there to receive medical exams prior to deployment in Afghanistan to fight in the war on terror
  • In 2012, Sean Nelson Manning, along with the other victims and their families, guided by Dr. Engelberg, who was appointed by the victims as their attorney-in-fact, brought suit against Hasan al-Aulaqi, the Secretary of Defense, and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
  • Dr. Engelberg worked tirelessly to bring and keep the case in the public’s eye, exerting pressure to hold the Army accountable for their preventable mistakes. 

A newly promoted Army Major walked into a local gun store in the waning days of July 2009, asking the clerk for “the most technologically advanced weapon on the market and the one with the highest standard magazine capacity.” The clerk suggested a FN Five-Seven semi-automatic pistol, which the Major went home to conduct his own research on. Satisfied, he returned the next day to purchase the gun, as well as the accompanying ammunition and magazines. He continued to return to the store periodically over the next three months, each time buying additional magazines and ammunition until his cache reached at least 400 rounds.

Five months later, the owner of that semi-automatic pistol, Major Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, used the weapon to kill 13 people and wound more than 30 others who happened to be in the Soldier Readiness Center, the majority of whom were there to receive medical exams prior to deployment in Afghanistan to fight in the war on terror. The fight against Islamic radicals began earlier than expected for those in the Center, on November 5, 2009, at their base in Fort Hood, Texas. The killing only ended when Hasan was shot by civilian police officers at Fort Hood, as the policy of the Department of Defense does not permit soldiers at military installations to be armed in most cases.

There had been signs of future problems from the start with Hassan. He barely made it through the Army’s medical school, spending the majority of his six years on academic probation (the program was designed to be completed in four years) and was considered to be pushed through for diversity reasons. While Hasan has been considered a “ticking timebomb” known as an extremist and his superiors reported their concerns as early as 2007, they were never addressed or acted upon as the Army and United States wanted more Muslim soldiers. As an oral presentation during his residency he express his devote allegiance to the Quran and proclaimed his right to kill infidels (i.e. Christians and Americans). He was found to be abusive to the  soldiers with PTSD he was treating during his time at Fort Hood and he would threaten his soldier patients with reporting them for human rights violations.  

He continued to espouse anti-American rhetoric and had been in contact with Anwar Nassar al-Aulaqi, a U.S. citizen and al Qaeda organizer, with the two exchanging 18 emails, mostly written by Hassan, posing questions about the need for violence against Americans. A Joint Terrorism Task Force was aware of these communications but dismissed them as merely those of a soldier seeking spiritual guidance.

In 2012, Sean Nelson Manning, along with the other victims and their families, guided by Dr. Engelberg, who was appointed by the victims as their attorney-in-fact, brought suit against Hasan al-Aulaqi, the Secretary of Defense, and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Manning was shot six times and received the Purple Heart, a medal awarded to soldiers wounded or killed while serving their country. Dr. Engelberg continued to assist Manning in receiving care for his mental health and physical injuries that went beyond what the VA could offer, even after the legal battle was over.

While the case was ultimately dismissed for reasons including not exhausting all remedies with the Army and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and omitting the United States as a defendant, it served to highlight the Army’s errors in judgment. Dr. Engelberg worked tirelessly to bring and keep the case in the public’s eye, exerting pressure to hold the Army accountable for their preventable mistakes. 

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