A Fort Hood soldier brought a civilian semiautomatic pistol to the sprawling military post 60 miles north of the Capitol city on April 2 and opened fire, killing three fellow service members and wounding 16 others before turning the .45-caliber weapon on himself.
The suspect, Specialist Ivan Lopez, 34, died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound reportedly after a female military police officer confronted him.
Gov. Rick Perry released a statement the day of the shooting.
“Today, Fort Hood was once again stricken by tragedy. As Texans, our first priority must be caring for the victims and their families. Fort Hood has proven its resilience before and will again. Texas will support those efforts in any way we can, with any resources necessary. The thoughts and prayers of all Texans are with everyone affected by this tragedy.”
Attorney General Greg Abbott, on April 3, said he would send members of his Crime Victim Services Division to Fort Hood to work with victims of the attack and that victims may apply for reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses through the state Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund.
“Our hearts break for the wounded military men and women and the families of those who died,” said Abbott, the state’s chief law enforcement officer. “Few answers can be found in the days immediately after such a tragedy, but we pledge to assist in anyway we can. Members of our military and Texans in the Fort Hood area have stared down adversity before and they will do it again.”
An April 3 White House news release said “the Department of Defense has the lead on the investigation with support from federal partners including the FBI, as well as state and local law enforcement personnel.”
‘OBAMACARE’ ENROLLMENT ENDS
With an official enrollment total and supporting information yet to come, a few hundred thousand Texans applied and obtained health insurance coverage under the U.S. Affordable Care Act before the March 31 enrollment deadline.
The Obama administration’s national goal of gaining 7 million enrollees reportedly was met after months of technical problems with the healthcare.gov website created to process applications.
Still, an estimated one-fourth of the state’s 26 million residents do not have health insurance but are eligible under “Obamacare” – leaving Texas among the least-covered states.
PUBLIC SCHOOL ENROLLMENT CLIMBS
Public school enrollment in Texas reached 5,075,840 in 2012-2013 and “continues to surge, growing by 820,019 students or more than 19 percent over the past decade,” the Texas Education Agency reported on April 1.
The 2012-2013 school year marked the first time that statewide enrollment officially topped five million, the agency said, and from the 1987-1988 school year to the 2012-2013 school year enrollment grew 57.4 percent, or about 1.85 million students.
Pulling information from its new report, “Enrollment in Texas Public Schools 2012-2013,” the agency noted the composition of the overall student body was 51.3 percent Hispanic, 30.0 percent white, 12.7 percent African American, 3.6 percent Asian and 1.8 percent multiracial.
SAFETY CAMPAIGN IS LAUNCHED
Texas Department of Transportation on April 2 urged motorists “to put away their mobile devices and other distractions, and pay attention to the road.”
April, the agency said, marks National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and the kickoff of TxDOT’s annual “Talk, Text, Crash” public education campaign.
The “Talk, Text, Crash” campaign warns motorists about the dangers of distractions and urges them to avoid multitasking or engaging in non-driving activities until they arrive at their destination.
John Barton, TxDOT deputy executive director, said, “The statistics in Texas are sobering. One in five traffic crashes in Texas is caused by a distracted driver, and last year, 459 people were killed as a result. Those deaths were preventable. ”
TxDOT gave examples of distractions, including: texting, checking email, eating and drinking, grooming, reading, programming a navigation system, watching a video, and adjusting a radio, CD player or other audio device.
UNEMPLOYMENT RATE DROPS
Texas Workforce Commission on March 28 reported employers added 37,600 seasonally adjusted total nonfarm jobs in February and “those additions, coupled with a revised gain of 43,000 jobs in January, boosted annual growth to 314,200 jobs in Texas.”
Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.7 percent in February, the commission reported, adding that the rate was down from 6.5 percent in February 2013, a full percentage point below the nation’s February unemployment rate of 6.7 percent.
Ed Sterling is member services director for the Texas Press Association, headquartered in Austin.