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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Shooting At Hudson Valley Mall In New York

Aired February 13, 2005 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, I'm Rand Kaye in the CNN center in Atlanta. We are following a breaking story out of Kingston, New York at the Hudson Valley Mall. On the line with us right now is Wayne Platte, the assistant fire chief. He was in the mall when we were told, a shooting occurred. Mr. Platte, what can you tell us?
WAYNE PLATTE, ASSISTANT FIRE CHIEF (via telephone): Well, I was in a Wicks & Sticks candle shop at the time. And what I heard was, I saw a large crowd of people running down the hall. It looked as though they were moving in to observe a fight, possibly.

And people had said then that they had some people with some guns down at the other end of mall. And I heard a couple of pops of gunfire. And more people started to run down the hall. And then the shots got louder progressively louder. And it sounded like automatic weapon fire at the time. So, what we did...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where do we need to go exactly? We're not sure.

KAYE: Sir, you still with us?

PLATTE: Yes.

KAYE: OK. While we're waiting for him to come back on the line with us, we do know that there has been a shooting at the Hudson Valley Mall in Kingston, New York. We're not sure how many people have been injured there. At least 2 gunmen we know opened fire Sunday inside the mall. And we're going to get more information for you right now with Aaron Brilbeck. Mr. Brilbeck, are you on the line with us?

AARON BRILBECK, WXXA-TV (via telephone): Yes, I am.

KAYE: Can you tell me where you are and what you saw?

BRILBECK: Right now we're directly in front of the mall. Police aren't releasing too many details right now. Essentially what we're getting is information from witnesses who tell us at least one person, possibly more have been shot. You can hear helicopters flying overhead right now.

They're searching for a gunmen. The mall is crawling with police officers, dozens of police cars circling the mall right now. Many officers are carrying very high-powered rifles as they go into the mall. They're not telling us whether they're looking for anyone, but it's probably safe to assume that they are at this point. At this at this point they are also pushing the media away from the mall. They're saying it's for our safety. So, we'll more details as they become available.

KAYE: Aaron, don't leave us just yet. We want to mention that you are a reporter with XXA there. Can you give us an idea of what this mall is like? Has there been trouble there before? Tell me a little bit about the mall.

BRILBECK: It's a very quiet, very small community. It's a rather tidy mall, a few anchor stores. It's got a JC Penney, it's got a Best Buy. And the Best Buy right now -- it looks like police tape surrounding it. So it's possible that's where at least one of the shootings might have been.

And talking with witnesses, they say there really aren't a whole lot of problems in this mall, but they said it sounded as though there were shots fired in several different areas of the mall.

One woman that I spoke with said that as soon as she heard the shots, she and several children immediately hit the ground. They scurried into one of the stores where they closed the door on them. And then shortly there afterwards they heard other shots that she thought were coming from another area of the mall.

KAYE: Aaron, there have been some conflicting reports about whether or not the shooters may have had a handgun or possibly an automatic weapon. What have you been able to confirm there on the scene?

BRILBECK: Right now, police aren't confirming much. The information that we're getting from the scanner is that they maybe looking for one person who may have some type of an automatic machine gun. Again, that is an unconfirmed report.

KAYE: And is the mall still under lockdown as far as you can tell? Are you seeing anybody going in and out of there?

BRILBECK: The mall is under lockdown right now, but they are bringing out employees pretty much one by one. The city of Kingston has brought in several buses. They're loading the employees into a bus.

They're being very careful, they're screening each one of the employees as they leave the building, taking a look at them, making sure that this person may or may not be the gunmen.

KAYE: And have you been able to see any of the injured being taken out of the mall?

BRILBECK: We have not. But it's our understanding that one person was flown out by mediflight, but we can't confirm that either.

KAYE: All right. Aaron Brilbeck, reporter with WXXA-TV, thank you for that update. We want to go back now to Wayne Platte, the assistant fire chief there in Kingston, New York, who was inside the mall when it happened.

Now, Mr. Platte, have you been able to confirm what type of weapon may have been used here? Mr. Platte?

PLATTE: Yes, I'm sorry.

KAYE: Have you been able to confirm what type of weapon may have been used here?

PLATTE: No. I have not been able to confirm that yet.

KAYE: Can you give us an idea on the extent of possible injuries? How many people are we talking?

PLATTE: I'm told possibly at least 5 people injured. I'm not sure how many -- what the combination of civilians and perpetrators there are in that situation, but I'm told that at least 5 people injured.

KAYE: And how many shooters, for sure, do we know were inside that mall? And if any, how many have been taken into custody?

PLATTE: Judging by the news accounts, I'm told there's 3 shooters. And I'm told one of them is in custody at this time.

KAYE: And Mr. Platte, where are you at this moment?

PLATTE: I'm at the central fire station in the city of Kingston.

KAYE: Can you give us an idea of what the scene is there in town and around the mall. Do things seem to be under control? Is there any type of hysteria under way there?

PLATTE: I don't think there's any type of hysteria right now. I am on my way into work. I did see that there are some police agencies and various fire departments throughout the neighboring community so provided traffic control in cordoning off the area so that people are restricted from travelling into the area that they're looking for these people right now.

KAYE: And you said that you were inside the mall at this time.

If you didn't see the shooters themselves, can you give us an idea of what heard from witnesses there they may have been wearing, what they may have looked like or carrying with them?

PLATTE: I wasn't able to see any of the shooters, so I don't' know what they were wearing. All I know is that there was some rapid fire, sounded like automatic weaponry going off inside the mall which I point -- at that point we had to take cover behind the counter in the candle shop.

KAYE: All right. Wayne Platte, assistant fire chief there in Kingston, New York. Thank so much for the update.

Just want to update you one more time. At least 5 injured now we're being told at a shooting in Kingston, New York at the Hudson Valley Mall. The mall now on lockdown. A search underway for possible suspects. One in custody, but a search underway for others who may have involved in this shooting at the Hudson Valley Mall.

We're going to go to a break right here, but after the break NEXT@CNN continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAYE: Now back to that breaking story out of Kingston, New York. The Hudson Valley Mall is the scene of a shooting this afternoon. We want the very latest now, we're going to give it to you with Jana Decker who was inside the mall. She joins us by phone from Kingston.

Janet, you were in the mall, did you see anything or did you hear anything?

JANA DECKER, KINGSTON RESIDENT (via telephone): Yeah, my boyfriend and I were in the center of the mall when it was occurring. And the first thing we did was hear the shots. And come to find out they were from a machine gun and it sounded almost like, you know, like pop rock fireworks. And then a few minutes later we see the whole mob of people coming through the mall. So we just turned around and ran out with them. And then we stuck around in the parking lot for the proceeding four hours after it happened.

KAYE: How far do you believe you were from that scene of the shooting in the mall?

DECKER: Well, from what I hear, the shooter started out in Best Buy, which is pretty much at like one end of the mall and then ended up at the Filene's which is at the other end of the mall. Where we were was probably about halfway on that course and I guess they passed just as we were running out. So, I did not get to visually see them, but, I mean, the shots that we heard were very close.

KAYE: Jana, can you give me an idea of how crowded this mall was, it is a Sunday afternoon there?

DECKER: Yes, it was very crowded. There were a lot of sales going on. It was hard to even get a parking spot. So there was definitely -- I mean, when I say mobs of people, people were just tripping over each other just to try and get out.

KAYE: And are you a frequent visitor to that mall?

DECKER: Yes, it's right down the road from where we live. We go there weekly.

KAYE: Jana, can you give me an idea of security there. Is there security on sight regularly at that mall?

DECKER: Yes, they do have a good security system. As far as I know there was a fight last night, a gang-related fight and this shooting is a result of someone getting in trouble, actually, from the fight last night. That's what we've been told so far from the people that were working in the mall and people that were in the parking lot.

KAYE: What is the clientele there at the Hudson Valley Mall? Do you often see people you believe to be gang members?

DECKER: If you go there in the late night, there is a chance you will see, you know, vicious people, but it's (AUDIO GAP) nice mall. We don't have, you know, huge problems there. There's usually hardly any kind of fights or anything.

KAYE: OK, Jana Decker, who was inside the mall during the shooting and heard it. Thank you very much for that update. We want to check in now with Jeanne Lenzer. Who is also on the line with us. Jean, are you at the mall?

JEANNE LENZER, REPORTER (via telephone): Yes.

KAYE: What can you tell us from your vantage point there?

LENZER: Well, this is a large suburban mall with multiple entrances around about a one to one and a half mile perimeter and all the entrances have been closed off. There are police everywhere. We know that one shooter is in custody. They think that may be the only shooter, but there's a multi-agency task force in there now trying to make sure there are no other shooters.

KAYE: Jeanne, you're a reporter in the area, is that correct?

LENZER: Yes.

KAYE: You have had a chance to talk with police there?

LENZER: Yes.

KAYE: Tell me exactly what they're telling you.

LENZER: Just what I said, that one shooter is in custody. They're trying to ensure now that there are no other shooters. One person has been injured. They don't know how seriously. That person was taken to Albany Medical Center, which is about an hour away. And that's all we know so far.

There are a lot of the parents out here, milling around. Family members who have loved ones who are in the mall and they've been unable to reach them on cell phones. But I'm told that the place has been evacuated.

KAYE: And does it appear to you that they are still searching for another suspect or suspects? What is the scene outside the mall right now?

LENZER: Like I said, there is a multi-agency task force and SWAT teams are in the mall now. I guess, searching every area of the mall and there's going to be a news conference at 6:00 where they said they will tell us more.

KAYE: All right. Jeanne Lenzer, thank you for getting us more information here.

We'll take a break and "NEXT@CNN" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAYE: More news now for you on this breaking story out of Kingston, New York. At the Hudson Valley Mall, we're told at least five people are injured, one gunman in custody after a shooting at that mall this afternoon. That mall an Kingston is about 90 miles north of New York City.

On the line with us right now is the mayor of Kingston, New York, with the very latest for us.

Good evening, Mayor.

JAMES SOTTILE, MAYOR, KINGSTON, N.Y.: Hi. How are you?

Just to let you know, the actually shooting, the actual mall is located in the town of Olster, which is a just little hamlet, or a little town, outside of Kingston. But certainly our Kingston professional services and we're assisting in any way that we possibly can.

My information is that they do have one individual in custody. We do not know, at this time, how many total shooters -- at least I do not have that information. We do have a number of emergency services units locking down the mall, certainly going through and doing the investigation. We are assisting -- the City of Kingston is assisting in any way shape or form that we can with those town officials and county officials and certainly, you know, we have a number of personnel up there at this point in time.

KAYE: OK, just let me confirm a few things with you. One man in custody, correct?

SOTTILE: From my information, they do have one person in custody. That is correct.

KAYE: How many more might they be looking for?

SOTTILE: I do not have that information. That is still under investigation. I know they are interviewing a number of witnesses that were at this chaotic scene. Certainly they will interview those individuals and then certainly continue with the investigation.

I know there are a number of helicopters waiting and ambulance personnel waiting to assist with those who have been injured. And they will continue to secure the area and do their investigation.

KAYE: Do you know or have any idea how severe these injuries might be; and if there may be more of the injured inside the mall?

SOTTILE: At this point, I do not. I know one person was medevaced, airvacced (ph) down to Westchester, from what I understand. Certainly there was a lot of activity with regard to local ambulance companies transporting some folks. But at this point in time it's too premature to know how many people, how severe, and the number of people that were injured.

KAYE: Mayor, can you tell us anything about that person who was airlifted out of there? We had one reporter on the scene say it might have been a military recruiter who had been working at the mall.

SOTTILE: That I do not know. I don't know the identity. I don't have any information with regard to the person that was medevaced.

KAYE: All right. We just want to tell our viewers, now, you're looking at a live picture at the scene at the Hudson Valley Mall in Olster, New York.

Mayor, if you would, give me an idea of the layout of this mall and where the shooting may have occurred?

SOTTILE: I'm not exactly sure where the incident started, but the mall, it's on an elevated piece of land, it is a large mall. There are a number major anchor tenants there Filene's and Best Buy. It is a large mall. It's one of the most popular, busiest shopping areas in the area. A number of people come over from Duchess County, which is across the Hudson River to shop there. Typically on a Sunday afternoon it tends to be extremely busy. And my understanding is that the mall was very crowded when the incident occurred.

KAYE: Can you confirm for us whether or not we were hearing that there may have been a fight that was possibly gang related that mall, and this was the outcome of that fight. Can you confirm that?

SOTTILE: No, I cannot confirm that. I do not have any of that information. I think that's way premature. I know there are a number of scenarios and rumors that are flying, but we do not have that information at this point in time. It's still under investigation.

Again, the Kingston Police Department, partnering with the town of Olster Police Department, the County of Olster, and many other police agencies from around the county are assisting at this point in time; a number of fire agencies assisting. And we'll continue to investigate it and as soon as we have more information, I'm sure they'll make it available.

KAYE: Can you tell us what these the shooter or shooters may have been wearing? Have you heard anything?

SOTTILE: I do not have that information. I don't have any information with regard to the shooters or the number of shooters or what they may have been wearing.

KAYE: Before I let you go I want to try and clear up one more thing. Some conflicting reports about what type of weapon may have been used here, may have been a handgun, we're told. Also being told they heard machine gun fire. Can you clear that up?

SOTTILE: I'm hearing it may have been a combination of both. I cannot confirm officially, but there is some talk it was an AK-47 and some people, apparently, did see some small arms weapons. Again, I cannot confirm that through official sources but that's what I'm hearing.

KAYE: All right. Kingston Mayor James Sottile, joining us with the very latest from the Hudson Valley Mall shooting in Olster, New York. That occurred this afternoon, at least five injured, mall still on lockdown; one gunman in custody. We'll take a break right here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAYE: Back here, once again, at the CNN Global Headquarters in Atlanta. I'm Randi Kaye.

We're talking about the shooting in Kingston, New York, at the Hudson Valley Mall that we've been following all afternoon. Gunshots have broken out inside a crowded mall in the town of Olster in the Hudson Valley, about 80 miles north of New York City.

We're hearing that anywhere from one person to as many as five have been wounded. The mall is under lockdown and at least one gunman is in custody. Wayne Plattee, an assistant fire chief was inside the mall when the shots rang out. This is what he told us just a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I heard was -- I saw a large crowd of people running down the hall. It looked as though they were moving to observe a fight, possibly. People had said then that they had some people with some guns down at the other end of the mall. And I heard a couple pops of gunfire, some more people started to run down the hall. And then, the shots got progressively louder and it sounded like automatic weapon fire at the time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: All right. Joining us now, Michael Trani who was inside the mall. Michael is joining us by phone, from Kingston, New York.

Michael, how close were you to this shooting?

MICHAEL TRANI, KINGSTON RESIDENT (via telephone): Well, I was in the store directly across from Best Buy. I was approximately, probably about 40 feet from the gunman at the time. But I couldn't see them.

KAYE: Could you hear them?

TRANI: I could definitely hear them. The gunfight was very rapid, very loud, in my opinion, it was definitely an automatic weapon.

KAYE: Did you see people running? Set the scene for us, if you can just a little bit.

TRANI: Yeah, people were definitely running, there was definitely chaos. I was actually trying on sneakers. And I heard the pop and, first, it sounded like something had fell. And then second later it was just so sporadic, the gunfire. You couldn't mistake it.

That's when I said, that's definitely gunfire, everybody down. Run, run! I grabbed my wife who was absolutely horrified and we jumped to back of the display room, where they supply the merchandise for the store. I had stuck my head out and people were absolutely running everywhere and tripping all over each other. We had hid in the back for a while and the gunfire had a lull in it. We stuck our heads out, the gate started coming down to the store that we were in.

And all of a sudden it started going up and the gunshots were coming again rapidly. And the gate went back down and a gentleman screamed, keep that gate down, keep that gate down! And at that time, the manager or an employee there had screamed for all of us to head to the back of the store out to the parking lot to exit the mall.

And it got even worse from there. Everybody just rushed to the door to get out. We had gotten into the parking lot and everybody was just, you know, in chaos and confused what was going on. Another rush had come on and everybody started rushing another way and I don't know what happened at that point, I don't know if the gunman made it out of the building, or what was going on. But everyone started rushing again for no apparent reason.

KAYE: Michael, could you tell that second set of gunfire that you were describing could that be police or was the suspect firing again? Did you have any vantage point there?

TRANI: I believe it sounded like the same gunfire. I believe it was still the suspect, at that point, as they were making their out through Best Buy and up the mall. You know, Best Buy is on one side of the mall. And I saw from your report earlier that he made his way through the mall. So that's what I had to assume at the time, because the gunshots did get a little bit distant, the longer we stayed in the mall. But I made it out, you know?

KAYE: How did you eventually get out of the mall? Were there escorts or security or anybody helping all you folks shopping there today outside the mall?

TRANI: Just like I said, the store employees were pretty much showing us which exit to go out of and we go out.

KAYE: Did you ever see security, though, was security there to help?

TRANI: Not in the store, no, because they had shut their gates so nobody could have gotten in or out at that point.

KAYE: You were in the shoe department and you were saying you had yelled for everybody to get down, get down. And you were the one who organized that shoe department to go to the back room?

TRANI: I guess you could say that, yeah, sure. That's good, sure.

KAYE: Once you got outside the mall what was the scene there? Did the employees come with, or were they kept inside?

TRANI: I didn't even look back, because my wife, like I said, was fearing for her life. We actually ran into the flow of traffic and I begged a lady to let us in the car. And she saw the expression on my wife's face. And we jumped in the car and she escorted us off the mall area.

KAYE: We're looking at live pictures there of the mall parking lot. I assume you were able to get out of the parking lot. And if so, how difficult was it. Were they searching cars? Were they interviewing everybody?

TRANI: We actually pretty much got out of the mall pretty fast. There was nobody stopping any cars. There was nobody checking for any kind of identification or anything like that. But it was extremely difficult to get out of the mall. The traffic, you know, was just backed up. I mean, there were just people every where.

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