A soldier shot five times said he locked eyes with Fort Hood massacre suspect Nidal Hasan after the US Army psychiatrist cried “Allahu Akbar” and fired into a crowd of troops preparing for deployment.
Sgt Alonzo Lunsford told the major’s trial that the light from a laser-guided weapon soon trained on him, and he closed his eyes before being shot in the head.
He made his way outside, not realising he had been shot four more times and heard a woman screaming about the gunman: “He’s one of ours! He’s one of ours!”
Sgt Lunsford, who lost most of the sight in his left eye in the attack, was the first in a string of victims who came face-to-face with Hasan at a military hearing at the Texas base to determine whether he should stand trial on 13 counts of pre-meditated murder and 32 counts of attempted pre-meditated murder.
Hasan, 40, wore his army combat uniform and looked on intently as fellow soldiers described diving wounded to the ground, crawling through pools of blood and struggling to pull friends to safety.
He showed no emotion as several identified him in the court as the gunman in the worst mass shooting ever at an American military base.
Staff Sgt Alvin Howard said he was playing solitaire on a computer when he heard yelling and gunshots that he thought were part of a training exercise. Then a bullet casing landed on his laptop and he turned around.
“We looked eye to eye and he just shot me,” now-retired Sgt Howard said, later standing up and pointing at Hasan. “I will never forget his face.”
Hasan sat in a wheelchair just a few feet away from where eight witnesses took the stand. He has been paralysed from the chest down since Fort Hood police officers fired on him during the November 5 attack.
Sgt Lunsford said he saw Hasan earlier that day in Fort Hood’s Soldier Readiness Processing Centre, where soldiers go for medical screening immediately before and after deploying. He said Hasan had that morning received vaccines and other routine tests ahead of a deployment to Afghanistan due for the next month.
But after lunch, Sgt Lunsford saw Hasan in the building again – this time standing near the front doors, pulling a weapon from his combat uniform and shouting “God is Great” in Arabic.
As the shots rang out, a civilian physician assistant, Michael Cahill, one of the 13 killed that day, tried to knock Hasan down with a chair but was shot, Sgt Lunsford said.
Spc James Armstrong, who was shot twice, said he was in a large seating area when he heard shooting and turned around to see soldiers being shot and a chair thrown amid rapid gunfire before Hasan reloaded.
The scene was “the worst horror movie” with wounded soldiers leaving bloody handprints on walls as they tried to get up and blood pooled on the floor where they lay dead, Spc Armstrong said.
The court had earlier heard a recording of a contract worker’s emergency phone call soon after she hid under a desk when the gunfire began.
Medical technician Michelle Harper said she could only see the shooter’s feet as he walked slowly and deliberately through the building.
“Oh my God! Everybody’s shot!” a frantic Ms Harper told the emergency operator as gunshots and groans for help resounded around her.
“Are you safe?” the operator asked at one point. “No,” Ms Harper replied.
Hasan has been in custody since the shooting, in hospital first in San Antonio, then moved to a jail in Bell County, which houses military suspects for nearby Fort Hood. The military justice system does not offer bail.
Prosecutors have not said whether they will seek the death penalty if the case goes to trial.