FORT HOOD, Texas: A US Army staff sergeant partly paralysed and brain damaged from the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, yesterday said his injuries have left him angry and struggling to find work, to remain married and to care for his infant son.
Staff Sergeant Patrick Ziegler was one of 31 people wounded by Major Nidal Hasan, who also killed 13 people in the November 5, 2009 melee.
Hasan could face execution. The military jury of 13 officers who convicted Hasan on Friday of all 45 charges of premeditated murder and attempted premeditated murder are now considering his punishment.
Ziegler, the first of 19 witnesses expected to appear in the sentencing phase, limped heavily to the witness stand and testified that he was shot four times, including once in the head. He underwent emergency surgery that removed 20 percent of his brain, he said.
“I was expected to either die or remain in a vegetative state for the rest of my life,” he testified.
His injuries rendered him partly paralysed, unable to use his left hand and with vision troubles, he said. A college graduate, Ziegler said he now has the cognitive abilities of a 10th- or 11th-grader and fears he will be unable to hold a regular job when he is discharged from the military next month.
“Eventually I will succumb to my wounds,” he said. “I won’t be able to function.”
The shooting left him severely depressed and angry, he said.
“It pretty much affected every facet of my personality. I’m a lot angrier and a lot darker than I used to be,” he testified.
He said his wife “kind of has to lead me around,” and in caring for his 10-month-old son, he said: “I’m unable to interact and play with him like a normal father would.”
Hasan did not cross-examine Patrick during yesterday’s hearing. During the trial, Hasan did not call any witnesses on his behalf. The day’s testimony began at about 10am CST.
If the jury is unanimous, Hasan could face the death penalty by lethal injection, possibly making him the first US soldier to be executed by the US. military since 1961.
Hasan, 42, an American-born Muslim who acted as his own defense lawyer, told mental health evaluators he wanted to become a martyr and lawyers assisting him said he was actively seeking the death penalty, though Hasan has disputed that claim.
Hasan will continue to represent himself in the penalty phase. Judge Colonel Tara Osborn has repeatedly reminded him that military-appointed lawyers can represent him but he has declined.
Hasan was convicted of opening fire on unarmed soldiers weeks before he was to be deployed to Afghanistan. He had admitted in his opening statement to being the shooter, saying he switched sides in what he considered a U.S. war on Islam.
Twelve of the dead were active-duty soldiers and one retired. Of the 31 wounded, 30 were soldiers and one a police officer. Hasan was also charged for shooting at another police officer and missing.