In the small tight-knit community of Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, friends of Army Spc. Ivan Lopez remain stunned over the native son’s role in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood.
“You never think your best friend is going to be involved in something like that,” said childhood friend Josue Blasini, who had known Lopez since they were 13.
Blasini said Lopez came from a close, religious family and always displayed a humble, fun-loving disposition.
“He was a very good person, laughing all the time,” he told NBC’s Stephanie Gosk.
Authorities say Lopez, 34, opened fire Wednesday on Fort Hood, killing three fellow service members and injuring 16 others before he turned the gun on himself. The attack comes five years after another shooting rampage on the installation left 13 people dead.
Lopez, the married father of four, joined the Army National Guard at age 19 in his native Puerto Rico. Years later, he signed up for the Army infantry at Fort Bliss, Texas. He later was deployed to Egypt and Iraq, where he worked as a truck driver.
Military officials have said that Lopez was being treated for anxiety and depression and was being evaluated for possible post-traumatic stress disorder. He never saw combat in the Army, but had a "self-reported" severe head trauma.
Lopez returned to Guayanilla last November when his mother unexpectedly died from a heart attack. Friends say her death deeply affected Lopez, who was frustrated he was only back home for 24 hours because he couldn't get more leave for the funeral. Yet, no one noticed anything unusual about him.
“He had this gift. He knew how to hide emotions, so if anything happened, nobody knew,” Blasini said. “He was joking; he was trying to make the best of the situation.”
Authorities have told NBC they are looking into whether his frustration over lack of bereavement leave may have played into his mental state earlier this week.