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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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August 6th, 2013
06:01 PM ET

Fort Hood victim: Shooter deserves the death penalty

During his own opening statement, Major Nidal Hasan said, "the evidence will clearly show that I am the shooter."

Hasan is on trial in Texas for the Fort Hood shooting spree that took place November 5, 2009. He is charged with killing 13 people and wounding 32 others on that day.

If he is found guilty, at least one man who witnessed the attack wants him to face the ultimate punishment.

"The death penalty is reserved for those who do the most heinous of crimes, and they need to pay for their crimes, if they do what this individual did by killing 13 men and women," said former Army Sgt. Howard Ray. "I think the punishment should be reserved for him."

Ray was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for his actions that day at Fort Hood. He was credited for saving the lives of six soldiers and three civilians.

On that day, when Ray first saw Hasan shooting, he ushered a woman out of the building they were in, and the two of them hid behind a car. He heard someone yelling that the shooter was coming around the corner of the building. Ray instinctively swept his shirt back to grab his pistol, but he was in civilian clothes, and had left his weapon at home.

Ray made a fast decision to run with the woman to the back side of the parking lot where there was coverage – but Hasan shot at them along the way.

To be "shot at on a military installation is obviously something you don't go to work to experience," said Ray, "It certainly was a shock."

For Ray, the most devastating part of that day is that he had a clean shot of Hasan, but couldn't take it. 

Read: 'I am the shooter,' Hasan tells Fort Hood court-martial

Ray said the Army missed warning signs that could have prevented the attack, such as Hasan's officer evaluation report.

"He was subpar, calling out for such things as jihad, and that he was a soldier of Allah, and things of that nature," said Ray.

Since he is defending himself, Hasan could very well end up cross-examining the very people he's accused of trying to kill.

Hasan is a psychiatrist - a man trained to get into people's heads. On the day of the attack, prosecutors say he walked into a waiting room at the army base with a semi-automatic pistol and just started firing.

The attack did not stop until a civilian police officer, Sgt. Kimberly Munley, arrived on the scene and shot Hasan, suffering three gunshots herself.

Hasan is now in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist-down. His trial was supposed to begin 18 months ago, but a series of legal fights delayed it, over everything from Hasan's representation, to whether he was allowed to keep his beard for religious reasons.

Hasan freely admits carrying out this rampage. But he was not allowed to enter a guilty plea under military law, because prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

The FBI has released e-mails between Hasan and Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical American-born cleric who was a purported force behind al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Al Awlaki was killed in a drone strike in Yemen in 2011.

The very first e-mail shows Hasan asking al Awlaki whether Islamic law would permit the killing of American soldiers.

Yet, even with that e-mail out there, the Pentagon is not officially calling this a terror attack, preferring the term "workplace violence," Which makes a serious difference in benefits for survivors and victims' families.

Pentagon sources tell CNN that if they were to call the attack an act of terrorism, and award soldiers for acts of bravery that day, they would be giving Hasan a way to claim that there is no way he could get a fair trial; the Pentagon would have effectively already decided he was guilty of having committed a terrorist act.

"We can play semantics, you know, calling it one thing or not the other, the bottom line is it is terrorism, and I don't think that necessarily would inhibit him from getting a fair trial," said Ray.

"Victims like myself and others, we deserve answers and we deserve closure to this event," said Ray. "Here we are struggling nearly almost four years ... and we're just barely starting this process."

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