Friday, August 16, 2013

Hasan trial nears testimony about final gunfight

Ft. Hood - Testimony of an FBI evidence recovery team member droned on and on this morning, items regarding just exactly how many 5.7 x 28 mm shell casings were found in clusters – until the first group of 9 mm shell casings were emptied from a little manila evidence bag.

That made the press and broadcasters observing the trial on big screen televisions in the digital courtroom sit up straight in their chairs. Newspapers were folded and dropped, laptops started ticking with keystrokes, because they knew the agent was about to get to a detailed description of the evidence trail depicting the gun fight between the two police officers who stopped the murderous onslaught of deadly fire laid down by Major Nidal Malik Hasan.

Only moments earlier, Col. Tara Osborn had admonished the Army prosecutor, an officer with a pronounced northern accent, and the FBI Special Agent, a lady with the flat inflection and rapid fire enunciation of a midwesterner, “Y'all have to slow down. Down south we talk slower. I need both of y'all to talk slower so the Court Reporter can keep up with y'all.”

When the testimony of Special Agent Donna C. Cowling finalized, she reported cataloguing 63 spent 5.7 x 28 mm shell casings found in the area between the building where Hasan killed 13 and wounded more than 30 people. There were only 13 empty 9 mm shell casings found.

Evidence recovery technicians recovered 28 more unexpended 5.7 x 28 mm cartridges.

Before she was excused, the jury panel passed a written note to the judge asking for what method she used to determine the size and capacity of the shell casings.

Her answer: “For most of my career, I've carried a 9 mm weapon. I was shown a 5.7 x 28 mm shell casing so I would know what to look for.”

When an investigation involving a very large crime scene takes place, Special Agent Cowling is called to head up the teams that catalogue the quantity and the items seized as evidence.

She's seen a lot sad little places where bad actors plotted their deeds, but she took especial notice of the conditions in which Dr. Hasan lived his life in the days before his mass assault on his fellow soldiers.

“It wasn't so much what we saw,” she remarked when prompted to describe the one bedroom apartment where Hasan lived as a bachelor officer. “It was what you didn't see. There was no couch, no love seat, no chairs. The kitchen had few dishes, the bedroom had no bed. Virtually the only thing in the apartment was a card table, a prayer rug, and a shredder.”

Major Hasan had used the shredder to destroy his medical degree and his birth certificate, according to a statement he made to a sanity board released earlier this week.

On the card table, there were items such as paper towels, various hand tools, firearms parts and empty ammunition boxes laid out in methodical rows.

Clearly, this was a dwelling devoted to Islamic meditation and proficiency with a handgun. Hasan lived in preparation for the desperate deed he carried out. He was a man with a mission.

Rules of Courts Martial prohibit the government from announcing in advance the identity of witnesses before they are called, but the smart money is on hearing next from the police officer who took on Hasan in a face to face gunfight.

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