HAPPIER TIMES: Jacob Sanders, center, with his father, Greg, and brother Ty. Jacob Sanders, who is stationed at Fort Hood, witnessed the shooting at the military base Wednesday. He talked with The Madison Courier on Thursday. (Photo courtesy of Sanders family)
HAPPIER TIMES: Jacob Sanders, center, with his father, Greg, and brother Ty. Jacob Sanders, who is stationed at Fort Hood, witnessed the shooting at the military base Wednesday. He talked with The Madison Courier on Thursday. (Photo courtesy of Sanders family)
Private First Class Jacob Sanders has been in the Army for a little more than a year, but he's already been in a battlefield ... on U.S. soil.

Sanders, a 2011 Shawe Memorial High School graduate who is stationed at Fort Hood in Texas, was in the same building as the man who opened fire at the military base Wednesday, killing three people and wounding 16 others before killing himself.

Spc. Ivan Lopez walked into a building on the base Wednesday and began firing a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol. He then took a vehicle and went to a second location on the base where Sanders was stationed, the Associated Press reported.

"It's devastating," Sanders said.

Sanders was inside the building when the gunman entered. While he has been told to not disclose any information about how the incident unfolded, he did confirm that he was "just feet away" from the shooter at one point.

Lopez later left the building and - after being confronted by the base military police - turned the gun on himself, according to the AP.

"I'm still kind of numb to everything. Everything is just starting to sink in," Sanders said.

Sanders is the son of Greg Sanders and Becky Pyles.

"My son was born and raised here," Greg Sanders told The Madison Courier.

Greg Sanders said his son enlisted in October 2012, and was sent to Fort Hood earlier this year.

"He was just home last week," Greg Sanders said. "He went back on Saturday."

Jacob Sanders said he was administering CPR on one of the victims before emergency crews arrived. He, along with the other witnesses, were interviewed by the Army's Criminal Investigation Department and held overnight.

"I was still covered in blood," he said.

He had been texting his family members throughout the night and sent a message to friends and family the following morning.

"That was absolutely crucial for me and my overall sanity," he said. "To be able to communicate with my family and friends and the ones I love back home and let them know that I was all right."

According to the most recent reports from the Associated Press, Army officials believe that Lopez' unstable mental health might be the "fundamental underlying cause" of the incident.

Lopez seemed to have a clean record that showed no ties to extremist groups. But Army Secretary John McHugh promised that investigators would keep all avenues open in their inquiry of the truck driver whose rampage ended only after he fired a final bullet into his own head.

"We're not making any assumptions by that. We're going to keep an open mind and an open investigation. We will go where the facts lead us," McHugh said, explaining that "possible extremist involvement is still being looked at very, very carefully."

Within hours of Wednesday's assault, investigators started looking into whether Lopez had lingering psychological trauma from his time in Iraq. Fort Hood's senior officer, Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, said the shooter had sought help for depression, anxiety and other problems, and was taking medication.

Among the possibilities investigators were exploring was whether a fight or argument on the base triggered the attack.

Investigators searched the soldier's home Thursday and questioned his wife, Fort Hood spokesman Chris Haug said.



The Associated Press contributed to this report.