A view of the courtroom during Nidal Hasan's trial on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013. Hasan is being tried in the 2009 Ft. Hood shooting.
Four years ago, many soldiers reacted to the rampage at the sprawling Fort Hood base in Texas with disbelief — even as they saw their own blood.
"I was seeing blood and saying, 'So that's really my blood?'" Captain Brandy Mason testified on Friday in the court martial of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 soldiers and wounding 31 other people that day. "They said, 'Yes ma'am.'"
Mason was shot in the thigh, Reuters reported, but it wasn't until she was carried out of the large hall where the shooting took place that she realized it wasn't a training exercise.
Mason had been playing a video game on her phone when the shots rang out inside the medical facility.
"I continued to hear the gunshots and then something wet splashed across me," Mason said. "I looked at it and thought it was a sim [simulated training] round, paint balls. I wiped it off my phone and ... went to find somewhere else to hide."
Other soldiers testified that they escaped by dragging their paralyzed legs out of the building, some of them enduring shots in the head and other bullet wounds.
Staff Sgt. Shawn Manning received six bullets in his body, including one in the chest, Reuters said. He lay on the ground, playing dead, because he was unable to speak or breathe, he said.
"I figured that the shooter would finish me off if he saw that I was still alive,'' Manning said, according to Reuters. "At that time I could feel my lung starting to collapse and fill full of fluid, and as a medic I knew that if the scene wasn't safe and if I didn't get medical treatment right away, I would most likely drown in my own blood in my lung.''
But he survived, as did Staff Sgt. Joy Clark, who also testified Friday.
"I had thought about possibly throwing a chair at the shooter, and I saw somebody else do that and watched them get shot, so I decided at that time it wasn't really a smart idea," Clark said, reported Reuters.
Friday was another day of trying testimony from soldiers for jurors, a day after 15 witnesses testified about the chaos of that day, with soldier after soldier recalling how it all started with Hasan opening fire on the sprawling military base before he was scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan.
"There were a lot of bodies on the ground. The chairs were overturned, a lot of blood on the floor. It smelled like gunpowder, feces, blood. Pretty bad," Staff Sgt. Michael Davis said on Thursday. He said he thought the gunfire was a drill until "I saw somebody get hit, I saw a blood spray," Reuters reported.
Hasan, an American-born Muslim who is serving as his own attorney after twice dismissing his legal team, is accused of meticulously planning an attack on anyone in uniform on that day. He chose not to cross-examine any of his fellow soldiers on the witness stand on Thursday.
Instead, he remained silent in the wheelchair he has been confined to since a civilian police officer shot him after the attack, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.
Hasan said in a brief opening statement on Tuesday that "evidence will clearly show" he was responsible for the massacre.
Prosecutors did not bring terrorism charges against him.
A standby defense team is on hand to help Hasan. Earlier in the week, the lawyers told military judge Col. Tara Osborn that they felt Hasan's approach to the trial was "morally repugnant" because they believe he is actively seeking the death penalty instead of life in prison — the only two punishment options, if he is found guilty.
Hasan disputed the standby attorneys' claim. He is not allowed to plead guilty to avoid a death sentence.
On Thursday, a retired major testified that she tried to help several victims.
"There was intermittent gunfire, there were people screaming," Maj. Laura Suttinger testified, according to Reuters. "There was a short period of silence, and that's when somebody said 'Get out of here!'"
After taking cover, she surveyed the bloody scene and was able to rush over to a victim who had been shot in the leg.
Another witness, Alan Carroll, testified that he told his friend, Pfc. Aaron Nemelka, to get off his chair and hit the ground. But Nemelka didn't move, as if he were in shock, Carroll said, reported Reuters.
"I grabbed his legs and pulled him down to the floor. I was telling him to get on the ground and act like he's dead," Carroll said. "I told him he has a chance - he needs to roll over, put his head on the ground and hold his breath."
Hasan faces a panel of 13 senior Army officers — including nine colonels, three lieutenant colonels, and one major.
Reuters contributed to this report.
- Fort Hood trial adjourns for day after attorneys' discussions on death penalty
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This story was originally published on Fri Aug 9, 2013 11:40 AM EDT