Surviving a rampage
| November 29, 2010 8:00 PM
POCATELLO - Army Staff Sgt. and former Idaho State University psychology student Shawn Manning was texting his wife when Maj. Nidal Hasan opened fire in a crowded medical building at Fort Hood, Texas, last year. Manning was one of dozens of witnesses who testified last month that he heard someone yell "Allahu Akbar" and then heard gunfire. Manning was one of the first people shot in the Nov. 5, 2009, rampage, during which 13 people were killed and 32 wounded. He was hit in the chest and knocked hard to the ground. But his ordeal wasn't over. He would be shot five more times at close range by Hasan, who is accused of carrying out the deadly rampage at the country's largest military base. "When he opened fire, I was one of the first people that got hit," Manning told the Journal in a recent interview. "I thought it might be a drill but then I looked down at my chest and I knew it wasn't. Then he kept shooting."
Manning said the first shot felt like someone had hit him in the chest with a baseball bat. After falling to the floor, he tried unsuccessfully to take cover.
"When I went to the ground, he aimed at me and he shot me another five times," says Manning, who celebrated his 35th birthday Nov. 15 in Lacey, Wash., where he lives with his wife, Autumn.
Manning survived despite being shot six times: once in the chest, three times in the abdomen, once in the leg and once in the foot.
He said he definitely considers his survival a miracle, especially since one bullet went through his lung, another pierced his liver and another missed his heart by centimeters.
"Statistically, I should be dead," he says. "Some people who didn't make it were shot a lot less times than I was."
A Twin Falls native, Manning graduated from ISU in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in psychology. He joined the Army in 2000 and served twice in Iraq. He was called back to active duty last October and was preparing to deploy to Afghanistan as a mental health professional. He had only been at Fort Hood for less than two days before the shooting took place.
As he lay on the ground wounded, Manning, a trained medic, knew his lung was starting to collapse and he knew it would eventually fill up with blood and he would drown if he didn't get assistance quickly. He also knew help wouldn't arrive until Hasan was dealt with, but he didn't know how long that would take.
He also figured it was a matter of time before Hasan realized he wasn't dead and shot him again, this time in the head.
"I knew my time could be numbered if I didn't get a stroke of luck and get out of there," he says.
When someone yelled "run," that was all the prodding Manning needed. "I got up and ran out of the building through the front door," he says.
Manning didn't know Hasan but ironically, the two would have worked together had the shooting not taken place because Hasan was set to be the psychiatrist in his unit.
Manning believes he got shot so many times simply because of his size - he's 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds - and the fact he was in Hasan's initial line of fire.
"I'm a tall guy and I went down in his line of fire," he says. "I think I was a target of convenience."
In an Article 32 hearing that has been under way since October to decide if Hasan should face trial in a military court, the prosecution presented 56 witnesses to support its claim Hasan acted with premeditation.
Army officials have not said whether they would seek the death penalty if the case goes to trial.
Hasan, who was left partially paralyzed after being shot by Fort Hood police the day of the shooting, remains in jail.
Prosecutors said Hasan fired more than 200 rounds during his attack.
He could face the death penalty if convicted, which is OK with Manning, who feels no sympathy or forgiveness toward the man accused of mowing down his friends and fellow soldiers and trying to kill him. Several medical health professionals from his unit were among those killed.
He told prosecutors during the trial he would support the death penalty if it came to that.
"He killed my friends and he could have killed me," Manning says. "Hopefully, he gets what he deserves."
He also says he doesn't even particularly care if he ever hears an answer from Hasan as to why he carried out the shooting.
"I don't know if I would even understand," he says. "There really isn't any justification I can think of for what he did. It's pretty senseless."
After the shooting, Manning was moved between several hospitals in Texas before being transferred to Madigan Hospital at Fort Lewis, Wash., where he worked as a civilian before being called back to active duty.
After undergoing a medical discharge, Manning will resume work at Madigan as a civilian.
Manning says he is about 80 percent recovered, though he still has a bullet in his leg and one in his back, and it hurts to walk a long ways because of the bullet that went through his foot. He also sometimes gets a sharp pain in his thigh when the bullet still lodged in there moves around.
Manning spent his 35th birthday riding in the hills in his new Yamaha Rhino 4x4.
"I'm still able to get out there and do stuff," he says. "I'm just glad to still be here and get a second chance."