SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The father of a gunman who opened fire this week on fellow soldiers at Fort Hood and then shot himself said Friday that he is struggling to comprehend his son’s actions.
In a statement from his native Puerto Rico, the elder Ivan Lopez said he was shocked, and called for prayers for the three people killed and 16 wounded in the attack. His brief statement was his first since Wednesday’s shooting at the Army base in Texas where his son was stationed.
The father recalled Spc. Ivan Lopez as a hard worker and peaceful family man who was receiving medical treatment and was struggling with the recent deaths of his mother and grandfather as well as the stress of transferring to a new base.
“This is very painful for me,” he said. “My son could not have been in his right mind. He was not like that.”
Family friends said Lopez last visited Puerto Rico in November to attend his mother’s funeral, and that he had been upset at being granted only a 24-hour leave, noting that the funeral was delayed for nearly a week so he could make it. The leave was then extended to two days.
A family spokesman said Lopez’s father would not issue further comment until the investigation into the shooting is complete.
The motive for the shooting remains unknown. Officials have said the 34-year-old was being treated for depression and anxiety, but that his mental condition was not a direct participating factor in the shooting. Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, senior officer at Fort Hood, said that an “escalating argument” precipitated the attack.
Lopez had told medical personnel that he had suffered a traumatic brain injury. He served four months in Iraq but saw no combat, and he previously had demonstrated no apparent risk of violence.
The shooting has surprised many people in the southwest coastal town of Guayanilla, where Lopez and his three siblings were raised by two staunchly Catholic parents.
Jose Maiz Pagan, Lopez’s high school Spanish teacher, said in a phone interview that Lopez was studious and got along well with his peers and teachers.
“He was very jovial,” Maiz said. “I had him as a friend on Facebook. When I retired last year, he sent me a message congratulating me.”
In an interview with local newspaper El Nuevo Dia, Lopez’s ex-wife is quoted as saying that he was always there for their two children.
“Ivan as a father was a dedicated, responsible and loving man,” Dimaris Cancel said. “He always made sure they never lacked anything.”
Cancel said that Lopez, who remarried and had another child with his second wife, always sent gifts to his two oldest children.
“He always kept in touch with them despite being far away, and not a day went by that he didn’t speak with them,” she said.
Cancel did not respond to emails or voicemails seeking comment, and her Facebook page has been disabled.
Before joining the U.S. Army, Lopez served as a Puerto Rico police officer and was part of the Puerto Rico National Guard.