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THE SITUATION ROOM

Houston Police News Conference on Standoff at Johnson Space Center

Aired April 20, 2007 - 17:00   ET

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


O'BRIEN: And so that's typically been the way things have worked there. The contractors are hired en masse by NASA. They bid out to build the spacecraft. It was -- years ago it was Rockwell that built -- was the prime contractor on the space shuttle orbiters themselves.
That has led to a couple of generations to a now group called the United Space Alliance. But there are many other smaller contractors that are involved there. And that's generally the way they do business -- NASA civil servants, government employees in more of these supervisory, overseeing roles, the roles where you have a lot of public contact are NASA civil servant jobs like the public affairs jobs.

Of course, we know the astronauts are civil servant. They're, of course, on loan from the military. But beyond that, most of the people you see sitting in those seats who are in mission control who are on the radios talking to the crew members and talking to the flight directors, those people are contractors and they are -- they are vetted just the way a government employee would be. They're treated just the way the government employees would be.

And there's nothing -- when you say contractor in the sense of hiring, you know, a carpenter at your house, it's not quite the same. They're given a high level of vetting before they're brought onto the campus and just because their paycheck comes from, you know, Lockheed Martin or Boeing or United Space Alliance and the person in the next cubicle is actually getting a check from the U.S. government, really is not a factor in day to day operations.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: All right, Miles, stand by.

we're going to be speaking shortly with James Hartsfield, a NASA spokesman in Houston at the Johnson Space Center.

But let me recap -- it's now the top of the hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM -- what's going on at the Johnson Space Center.

Reports coming in over the past two hours and 20 minutes or so that a gunman walked into a conference room at Building 44 on the complex, on the campus of the Johnson Space Center and told everyone to get out, apparently.

And the SWAT teams from the Houston police, NASA security, were brought in. This stand-off, though, continues. There are reports that shots have been fired. There are no reports that anyone has been injured. But let's bring in James Hartsfield right now.

He's joining us on the phone.

He's a NASA spokesman.

Maybe you can update us, Mr. Hartsfield, on what we know.

JAMES HARTSFIELD, NEWS DIRECTOR, JOHNSON SPACE CENTER: I really don't have a lot of new details, Wolf, on the situation. As you know, it continues to develop. The Houston police are in charge of the operations at the building. Their communications and their statements eventually will be your best source of information on what has occurred or is occurring.

I would tell you that we did send out a notice to all employees at the center a short time ago that they are certainly free to leave. It's near the end of the work day here. They can leave as they would normally, as their work wraps up. And we just sent some advice to them on what gates they might want to leave out of the center -- it's in an e-mail that was sent to all employees -- so that they could avoid areas that are blocked off by police at present.

BLITZER: And we're talking, Mr. Hartsfield, of, about, what, 15,000, 16,000 people when you add up the NASA employees and all of the contractors and everyone else?

HARTSFIELD: Approximately. That's correct. Yes. That -- that actually is not the whole number on site. It's probably more like 10,000 on site. That is the number for all around the center here.

BLITZER: Miles O'Brien is with us.

He's a veteran space correspondent, Mr. Hartsfield.

I want him to weigh in and ask you a few questions -- Miles.

HARTSFIELD: Yes, hi, Miles.

O'BRIEN: James, yes, I'm curious how you first found out about it and how the notifications all went. That's obviously (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

HARTSFIELD: Well, we have a -- we have a notification...

O'BRIEN: You were talking a lot about...

HARTSFIELD: Yes, the call first came in from Building 44 to our security dispatcher on site with the JSC security department. We in public affairs hear about it immediately when a call comes in, any call, through a ring down system that we have that alerts us to any call that takes place. So that was at 1:40 p.m. that the call initially came in.

As would be the normal procedure in an incident of this type, Houston police are notified immediately and really, for this certain instance, of course, the police are the authorities in charge.

O'BRIEN: And so explain then how you notify.

What is the process for notifying employees there?

I was explaining earlier, before you can on, James, that, you know, at NASA -- at Johnson Space Center, unlike a college campus, e- mail is a pretty effective way of getting a hold of everybody.

How did the e-mail go out? How quickly was it sent out and what were people told?

HARTSFIELD: It really is the most effective way to notify employees, e-mail here. And we sent out an initial e-mail that did have information of what we knew at the time, which -- that a person with a weapon had been called in in Building 44 and that police and security were responding to it, asking employees to, at that time, shelter in their building.

Since then, with the situation in the perimeter established around Building 44, the decision has been made that employees can leave. And another subsequent e-mail has been sent out with advice to that effect and advising them routes they can take as they leave work, not telling them they have to leave.

Certainly if they're working, they can continue their jobs. But we're near the end of the work day, so a lot of people are reaching the point where they would normally go home. And we want to make sure they understand they can do that.

BLITZER: Mr. Hartsfield, can you confirm that the individual, the person with the gun, is a contractor who works at the Johnson Space Center?

HARTSFIELD: I really cannot at this time. I won't confirm it and I can't -- I can't tell you it's not true. So as I've said, the police are probably going to be the best source -- are definitely going to be the best source, when they have time to provide the detail on that.

BLITZER: What about injuries? Is anyone, as far as you know, been injured?

HARTSFIELD: I don't have that for u either, at this point.

BLITZER: Miles, go ahead and ask your question.

O'BRIEN: Well, yes, James, first of all, I did hear from other people in public affairs that this was, in fact, an employee. But beyond that...

BLITZER: When you say employee, Miles, you mean a contractor?

O'BRIEN: Yes, an employee in the larger sense of the term there, a contractor, which would -- which would be under that larger umbrella. But at this point, James, do you have more information on this person than you're able to release?

HARTSFIELD: No, I really don't, Miles. You know, we're following it. The police are -- are operating there. And as soon as the incident reaches a point where it is the right time to do so, I'm sure they will provide all the detail they can.

I can tell you that the operations in mission control -- I think I heard you meaning that earlier -- that is all proceeding as normal. There is no interruption in any of the activity with the space station or space flight activities underway.

O'BRIEN: And, James, tell me, I've been to a lot of buildings here. I'm not sure I've been to 44.

Tell us what goes on there.

HARTSFIELD: It is an engineering, primarily an office building. There are a couple of small laboratories. And primarily the engineering force there works with communications and tracking systems for spacecraft, like the space shuttle and the space station, the antennas and communications systems they use on board.

O'BRIEN: And do we know -- do we have some specifics on how it began?

There were some reports we've heard that perhaps it began with the gunman entering into an ongoing meeting.

Do you know much about that?

HARTSFIELD: Really, again, I can't -- I can't confirm that for you. I've heard the same reports, of course, from the media. But we don't have the details that we have gotten from the incident site yet that would confirm that. And I'm sure that there will be a point where all those details can be released and the police will primarily be the parties that can do that.

BLITZER: There's one report that's coming out from one of our affiliates, Mr. Hartsfield, suggesting this employee was either fired or about to be fired.

Do you have any information on that?

HARTSFIELD: I'm sorry, I don't. Again, I -- you know, beyond what pretty much I have told you, I will not have a lot more details at this point. I'll be happy to provide anything I can as soon as I can do that.

BLITZER: But as of right now, that building is still under lockdown. Law enforcement has surrounded the building and hopefully all the employees who work there are out.

Is that your understanding?

HARTSFIELD: That's correct. The police are in charge of the scene at the building.

BLITZER: And everyone else on the sprawling campus, the complex, they are either in the process of leaving or they've left already? They're free to go?

HARTSFIELD: Well, not necessarily. There are people here that are still doing their normal job. It's just that we're reaching the end of the work day, where the majority of people on site do work a normal regular day that ends around 4:00, 5:00 or 6:00. So they will be heading home.

BLITZER: This is...

HARTSFIELD: And they can do so.

BLITZER: This is not an everyday occurrence. One of your colleagues there, who's been there for some 10 years, said she doesn't remember anything like this ever happening at the Johnson Space Center.

Mr. Hartsfield, do you remember anything like this ever happening there?

HARTSFIELD: No. This is certainly unusual.

BLITZER: Miles, anything else you want to ask Mr. Hartsfield before we let him go?

O'BRIEN: Yes, James, I just want to ask you, as well, I know you've been busy fielding queries and calls all day.

But have you had a moment to pause, to reflect, and especially in the wake of what happened at Virginia Tech, just what went through people's minds as they processed this whole thing unfolding?

HARTSFIELD: Well, I think, you know, any incident of this type, any activity that you see of this type leaves you confused and certainly, you know, basically saddened that there's any activity of this type that goes on, whatever the severity of it, which we really can't give you yet, because I don't have the details for.

BLITZER: All right, Mr. Hartsfield, we'll let you get back and we'll check back with you for more information as it becomes available.

Let's hope that everything gets resolved very, very quickly, safely and -- and without any injuries to anyone.

James Hartsfield is a spokesman for NASA at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Miles, talk a little bit about this complex, the Johnson Space Center, the history and the environment that goes on with this important work that's done over there.

O'BRIEN: Well, it is in every sense a campus like atmosphere. It's a lot like being on a college campus. As I've mentioned before, Wolf, it was land owned by Rice University. It was deliberately built college campus style on the chance that they might one day want to take it back and run it as a college campus. That -- there's not much of a chance of that happening any time soon, of course.

And so it's and -- it is -- it has a pretty tight perimeter and security around it. And inside is sort of -- you have the sense of being at the center of the manned space universe. It is really there, because that's where you walk down the -- the courtyards and the lush ponds sprinkled courtyards and quads and you see who's ever made their mark in space. And that's -- that's what this place is all about.

BLITZER: It is, Miles...

O'BRIEN: It's about going to space.

BLITZER: I've been there. It is almost like an academic environment, almost like a college campus, if you go to an aeronautical engineering department at a big major university or some science structures, engineering structures, it's almost like that at NASA.

O'BRIEN: Yes. And that's, you know, that's quite deliberate and that certainly is in keeping with what the mission is there, after all, and there's a strong academic under -- underpinning to everything they do, of course. And there's strong associations with universities.

So, yes, going inside there, it's like -- it's like a college campus with, you know, a cyclone fence with razor wire around it -- around the perimeter. Obviously, a lot more security associated with it than the average college campus.

But the interesting thing is, Wolf -- and I know you've had this experience, too -- but once you get inside there, it's a -- it's -- your freedom of movement is pretty good. And while you're limited, people like us in the media, limited to visit only certain buildings, and that's displayed on our badges as we go in. We get permission to go to specific buildings on our visits.

BLITZER: Miles...

O'BRIEN: Basically...

BLITZER: ... hold on for one second.

O'BRIEN: Yes.

BLITZER: A reporter from our affiliate, KTRK, is adjacent to the complex and she's making this report right now.

I want you to listen.

JESSICA WILLEY, ABC 13 NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Standing by outside, securing the entrances and exits. The parents, as you can see, are picking up their children. They're lining up and this school is just across the street, really, from Johnson Space Center. We think we can even see Building 44, albeit way off in the distance, from where we are standing.

As you said, this school in lockdown mode shortly after they learned of this incident over at Johnson Space Center. But that lockdown was lifted around 3:15 this afternoon. Parents were told that they could come pick up their kids here at school and a lot of parents whose kids take the bus normally, well, they wanted to get out of work earlier and head over here to pick their children up for themselves.

We talked to one father about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLEY: As far as what's going on with the colleges and what they're showing on TV, you know, a lot of people are -- copycats are out and about. And I don't know if we're having any downsizing in the area, but I'm sure it's a concern, people getting depressed and trying to do things on their own and not seeking counseling.

It's a scary thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELANIE LAWSON, CO-ANCHOR: And, as you can see, just across the street there, the children getting out of school. Obviously in pretty good spirits, but probably some pretty frightening moments when they heard about this lockdown, heard about what was happening just across the street from them.

Again, this lockdown lifted. Police officers, though, still on the scene here, trying to make it a smooth transition for the parents and their children.

Back to you guys in the studio.

ART RASCON, CO-ANCHOR: You know, Jessica, in light of what's happened in the past week, again, this would be a nerve-wracking situation for parents anyway. But in light of what's happened during the past week and the images we've seen on television, this obviously could even cause panic in some people today.

WILLEY: Absolutely. I mean you heard from that one father. And, as you can see, just across the street, you know, that school has the flags there at half staff. Everybody remembering -- or everybody very, you know, high in their minds what happened at Virginia Tech.

So obviously anything that's related to any kind of gunman at an office park or in a school, people very -- that's really high in their minds and people a little rattled by that. So certainly the parents we spoke to said that they wanted to get over here and pick up their children for themselves, as quickly as they could.

LAWSON: All right, Jessica Willey, thank you so much, reporting live there. We'll get back to you in just a few minutes.

RASCON: Back to live pictures of Building 44. This is a communication and engineering building, a two story off that you see to the left there. This is a building that NASA tells us consists primarily of office space and then a few labs. And that is the area where they support the tracking of satellites that are above the Earth, orbiting and taking aerial pictures of -- or taking space pictures of the Earth, as well as helping track the International Space Station and then the space shuttle, when it's flying, this afternoon.

LAWSON: Now, at this point, we can report at least a couple of things.

Two shots were fired inside that building. That much we do know. And, at this point, two JSC employees are unaccounted for.

What we don't know is whether or not they are inside that building. Perhaps they are being held hostage by the gunman or maybe they're out for a late lunch, perhaps decided to leave a little bit early on a beautiful Friday afternoon. That has not yet been determined.

But at least at this point, two employees have not yet been accounted for by JSC officials and they are looking for them, obviously, trying to raise them by telephone or other ways. And still, at this point, trying to determine whether or not they may be in some way connected with this or perhaps out there somewhere oblivious to the fact that anyone is even, at this point, searching for them.

RASCON: And we are also waiting, in the next couple of minutes, for Houston Police Department to hold a press conference and update us on the current situation here and tell us exactly what is going on.

As Melanie said, we have heard that shots were fired and a couple of JSC employees are still unaccounted for. We have heard also that the gunman is on the second floor. Whether or not they have talked to him, again, he said a couple of times, we haven't heard that yet. So they may just simply be trying to establish communications with him or her right now.

But again, it was earlier reported it was a man in his early 50s wearing blue jeans and a pullover shirt this afternoon, who reportedly had that gun and walked into Building 44 and fired a couple of shots.

LAWSON: Yes, a very loose description.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to break away from our affiliate, KTRK, doing some good reporting down there in Houston at the Johnson Space Center.

We're standing by for this news conference. We expect it to begin soon. Houston police are -- it's a NASA news conference. We are expecting it to begin very soon. We'll bring it to you live as soon as it starts, with the latest information on what we know about Building 44 at the Johnson Space Center.

And as you heard James Hartsfield, a NASA spokesman, tell us earlier, they did send out some e-mails warning all the employees, the contractors, everyone on that campus of the Johnson Space Center, there was a problem.

And this is what it said. Let me read it to you, that e-mail that was sent out by NASA: "You may be aware that there is a situation in B44" -- that would be Building 44 -- "where a person has a gun. The news is reporting that all the occupants have been evacuated, but there were shots fired. The Houston Police Department is responding. There is a lockdown of B44 and four adjacent buildings only. Residents of all other buildings are advised to shelter in place until further notice. The roads around B44 are blocked."

That was an e-mail sent out by NASA early on in this situation. It's been about two-and-a-half hours since those shots were fired and this incident began.

Our space correspondent, Miles O'Brien, is with us -- that's a pretty chilling e-mail.

If I were to get something like that on my text message or Blackberry, I'd start getting nervous, especially, Miles, in the aftermath of what happened at Virginia Tech on Monday.

O'BRIEN: I can't imagine anyone, Wolf, getting that message wouldn't think immediately of what happened, of course, at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Just a -- just a chilling message.

And, once again, you know, that -- that whole notion of having to shelter in place. We should point out that since then, they've told employees who are outside of Building 44 where that cordon is and where the SWAT team is, they've told the remainder of the employees on the campus that when it comes time for their work day to be over, they are free and safe to go home.

But, you know, given -- given what happened there and the whole issue, as well, about notification of people, I'm sure that was not only chilling, it was a confusing message, because, you know, what do you do?

What does this mean?

At are the implications?

Is there something that is more widespread than -- than we are first given indication of?

BLITZER: I guess it's also indicative of the deep concern in the aftermath of Virginia Tech that once an incident like this starts, you've got to move very, very quickly and responsibly in alerting everyone that there's a potential danger out there and you have to take quick, quick action when they say that the news -- the news is reporting that all the occupants have been evacuated, but there were shots fired.

Those words clearly would be very, very disturbing.

O'BRIEN: Yes, they would. And -- yes. I mean, clearly, it is the prudent and wise thing to do to let people know as quickly as possible in these situations. But I'm sure that, you know, one of the things that security often grapples with is causing unnecessary fear and panic as a result of something like this.

So, you know, when you read a message like that, given what has happened in the world, you have to wonder what the ripples of fear that went through the Johnson Space Center as they considered what the possibilities were and imagine also, you know, having a -- a loved one inside there, a mother, a father or whatever -- wondering what was going on as this all unfolded.

It was very difficult to get a hold of people inside there for quite some time. I'm sure that's still the case. I'm still having a hard time reaching some people.

BLITZER: And we're standing by for a news conference from NASA down at the Johnson Space Center. We expect that to begin soon.

We'll have live coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Miles, we have another NASA spokesman.

Allard Beutel is joining us now on the phone from NASA headquarters here in Washington.

Allard Beutel, thanks very much for helping us better understand what's going on.

What do you know?

What can you tell us?

ALLARD BEUTEL, NASA SPOKESMAN: I think you've been covering it pretty -- pretty well. I can let you know that at least from here in Washington, we have stood up what we call our emergency operations center. That's, say, during the Katrina hurricane a couple of years ago, we had -- that was stood up to help with not only the Kennedy Space Center, the Johnson Space Center and Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and then our Michoud assembly facility out in -- that makes the big orange external fuel tanks for the shuttle in Louisiana. That -- the emergency operations center is now up and running and we're getting additional information in there just to help coordinate this effort and provide any support we can.

But right now, since this is an ongoing situation, it's still entirely in the hands of the Johnson security and the Houston Police Department.

BLITZER: We're approaching three hours of this situation, this stand-off unfolding there, Mr. Beutel.

What do you know about shots being fired, about hostages being held, about supposedly a contractor who is responsible for all of this?

What, if anything, can you share with us?

BEUTEL: Well, I wish I had answers to every single thing that you just asked. And when I think I know -- you know, we will eventually have that information.

But right now we're getting the information -- nothing has been confirmed from the Houston police and since, you know, they're -- they have still cordoned off that building and are, you know, are still in charge of the situation, we're -- I'm not able to confirm whether it's an individual or individuals, whether it was a gun.

I mean I've seen the information you have. I don't even know whether that was confirmed through the Houston police.

So unfortunately we're still -- we're still rolling, as you guys are, with the information as it comes in live.

BLITZER: Miles O'Brien is with us, as well -- Miles, I'm sure you want to ask Mr. Beutel a question.

O'BRIEN: Well, Allan, yes. In a situation like this, what is headquarters' role in all of this and what can you do in Washington to assist the folks in Houston?

BEUTEL: Well, at least at the moment, there's a good sense there's an active -- I don't want to say crime -- but at least an active situation down there. It's still going to be handled immediately out of Houston. NASA will support -- will, you know, Houston up -- mission control will help with any federal assistance that we have -- if there is any, in the sense of providing support from federal agencies, if there's -- you know, through -- whether it's the FBI or whatever it might come down the line.

It's more of a coordination right now. This isn't something like a natural disaster, where we can step in and coordinate the supplies coming in and, you know, and satellite phones for communication and basic water and stuff.

I mean this is not that kind of situation. Employees are -- you know, if their day is over, they are being allowed to go home now. So it's not quite that sort of situation where you had with Katrina or -- or, say, you know, something as horrible as a shuttle accident.

O'BRIEN: And, Allan, can you, first of all, just quickly, is the NASA administrator, Mike Griffin, aware?

BEUTEL: Yes, absolutely. Yes. The...

O'BRIEN: All right. And...

BEUTEL: And...

O'BRIEN: And who -- when you say you stood up this emergency response center, who -- who populates that and what are they hearing at all from the scene? What's your point of communication?

BEUTEL: Well, they are -- they are in contact, again, with other federal agencies, you know, the White House, members of Congress, staffers. It's the -- kind of the legislative, the -- and the executive branch conduit for information for them. We -- they're in contact with them, with security and management down at -- in Houston.

It's populated by, as you can imagine, emergency operations -- pretty much standard emergency operations personnel from infrastructure, I.T. forwarding information we may need to get on our Web site for employees to keep them updated. It's populated with, you know, with mgrs and liaisons to various -- to both Congress and to, you know, the White House, as well.

So it's -- it's, again, right now it's in a support role because the focus is clearly still in Houston.

BLITZER: I just want to ask Mr. Allard -- Mr. -- excuse me, Mr. Beutel, to weigh in on this report that we're getting from our affiliate, KTRK.

I don't know if you can add anything, but police are telling our affiliate that there is this man inside this building, Building 44, with a gun and they cannot, repeat, cannot account for all the employees in the building.

Have you been told that?

BEUTEL: I have not been able to either confirm that information or even whether it's true or not. I apologize.

BLITZER: But you can confirm, based on the latest information, that you have is that this situation continues unresolved?

BEUTEL: As -- for -- yes. The last information that I have from just a few minutes ago was, yes, it was still an ongoing situation.

BLITZER: The whole notion of contractors working there -- and there are a lot more contractors than NASA employees, Mr. Beutel, who work at the Johnson Space Center, I assume -- and you know this, Miles knows this a little better than I do -- they have to go through extensive background checks in order to be qualified to work at such a sensitive location.

BEUTEL: At any, actually, government facility. NASA does have primarily, at least, I can tell you on the human space flight side, primarily it's about 90 percent, you know, contractors or from private companies and 10 percent federal, you know, federal workers. It's a vast majority contractors.

But honestly, when you get into a situation like we have at NASA, you know, you really don't tell the contractors from the civil servant and there really is not much of a difference in the sense of how you work with them. They're trusted employees like everybody else.

So -- but again, I can't even confirm that this is a contractor or a civil servant or if there is an individual. I just -- at this particular moment, it's just too fluid. So I apologize for that.

BLITZER: Has this incident affected any of NASA's operations underway right now involving astronauts, the International Space Station, anything along those lines?

BEUTEL: No. We are -- that's -- that's the one bit of good news I can tell you, at least right now, with the International Space Station and mission control, you know, several blocks away from this particular building, it -- the operations are going on as usual. Of course, they're keeping aware, you know, they're keeping track of this.

Nobody is going home if they don't -- if they don't have to be.

O'BRIEN: Yes.

BEUTEL: I think people are keeping -- keeping at their station. And we are preparing to return three astronauts from the space station early tomorrow morning.

So we've got, you know, we had ourselves a little bit of news preparing ourselves, just, you know, less than 24 hours from now, and now we have this situation going on.

BLITZER: But you're still -- this is not affecting the return of those astronauts?

BEUTEL: It is not. They are going to return. The plan is still to return them in about -- and land in Kazakhstan at 8:30 Eastern time tomorrow morning.

BLITZER: And so I take it Building 44, as important as it may be, an engineering building there, is not directly involved in any of the ongoing operations?

BEUTEL: Yes, actually, it's not a -- it does provide engineering support for -- for tracking of spacecraft. But it's -- it's not for, you know, real time operations, say, at mission control. It's a -- it's a support building, primarily office spaces, is my understanding. But they do have some labs there, as well.

But, no, it is not the ongoing operations, say, that mission control is. It's -- it's still up -- mission control is still up and running fine.

BLITZER: I want to remind our viewers we're standing by for a news conference from NASA at the Johnson Space Center, with, presumably, more information, more specific information on what has been unfolding.

We're getting close to three hours of this stand-off continuing. Miles O'Brien is still with us -- Miles, do you have any other questions you want to ask Allard Beutel, the NASA spokesman from NASA headquarters here in Washington?

O'BRIEN: Well, Allan, I'm curious, too, how the work filtered up to headquarters and what the reaction was there when you heard about this one, especially in light of what we've seen this past week in Virginia.

BEUTEL: Well, I'll tell you, I was -- I was surprised. There's no question about that. And I made an immediate phone call down to -- to Houston just to confirm this. And by then, they had been getting -- at least in my office. I'm not the be all and end all of NASA, by any means. But by the time I had called down to talk to my colleagues in Houston, they were already being inundated with phone calls themselves.

So needless to say, it was quite an unexpected surprise for a Friday afternoon.

BLITZER: It's a sad situation unfolding right now.

I want to thank Allard Beutel for helping us better appreciate what's going on.

Before I let you go, Mr. Beutel, one final question on NASA security, as opposed to Houston police, the Houston Police Department, which, of course, is on the scene. A SWAT team is there.

What is the role of NASA security in an incident like this?

BEUTEL: I honestly don't know the details that I could -- I could, you know, talk about it, since we are a federal facility. But it is complementary and I know that they are involved in this. And, again, they were -- Houston's -- well, the NASA Johnson Space Center security was the first to get the phone call, as you would expect, being a federal facility. They're the first ones that got notified and then they immediately, you know, the Houston police responded, as well.

BLITZER: Allard Beutel, a spokesman for NASA headquarters here in Washington.

We'll check back with you and get more information as it becomes available.

Thank you very much.

And once again, we're standing by for this news conference.

We expect it to begin fairly soon, at least that's what we're told, a news conference in which we are hoping to get some more specific details on what's going on.

There is an individual with a gun holed up right now on the second floor of Building 44 at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. We also have confirmed now, according to local police, that shots were fired.

There are two employees, or at least some employees, who have worked in that building who are not accounted for.

Let's go to the news conference right now.

CAPT. DWAYNE READY, HOUSTON POLICE: Is everybody up?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're up.

READY: Let me know when you're ready.

All right, you good?

(CROSSTALK)

READY: All right, guys, let me just kind of tell you where we are. Let me confirm for you what I can and then I'll take your questions after that.

Shortly before 2:00 this afternoon, we received a call in the Houston Police Department regarding possible shots fired here in the Nassau complex.

Our patrol units arrived. They were met with security personnel of both NASA, as well as some of the constable's office.

They took some preliminary information, determined that a suspect was still possibly inside the building. They then made a call out to SWAT. Our SWAT team is now here. They have taken control of the inner perimeter and they are working with our other partners in the FBI.

We have the constables out here, as well as the fire department.

But what we believe at this point is that we have one suspect, a white male, approximately 50 to 60 years old, with one weapon, that being a handgun. And I cannot confirm for you that that's a revolver or a semi-automatic or what caliber at this time.

But our SWAT team members are here. Their negotiators are here. We do not know if there's another person inside with this suspect and I cannot confirm whether or not we've established communication, because we're still in the throes of that, as I speak.

Let me stop there and take whatever questions you have.

QUESTION: Do you know what the motive was, sir?

READY: No. We have no idea what his motive his. We don't even have confirmed who he is or communication.

QUESTION: How many employees are unaccounted for right now? READY: I can't confirm whether any employees are unaccounted for. What I can tell you is that our personnel, they are working with NASA authorities to determine the whereabouts of all their employees.

They have, I believe, called the end of work day here at NASA, and our SWAT team members have gone through their procedures of clearing the immediate area. But I'm still waiting on confirmation for that.

QUESTION: Have you developed communication with this gentleman?

READY: No, we have not developed communication yet.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

READY: Yes, we can confirm that -- at least from the initial reports -- that there were two shots fired, according to one employee here at NASA. He actually saw the suspect. That's why I can give you information on that. And he indicated that he heard two shots and actually saw the gun and the suspect.

QUESTION: Was anyone hit, sir?

READY: No, I cannot confirm whether anybody's been hit. Nobody's been able to say.

QUESTION: Have paramedics treated anybody for any injuries?

READY: No, HFD has not treated anybody that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: Captain, some people have reported that he went into a conference room and ordered everyone out but one person. Do you know of that story?

READY: At this point, we believe he is in one of the rooms. He's barricaded himself in that room. But we're not going to know anything more until we establish communication.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

READY: No, not that's been reported to me.

QUESTION: Have you determined who he is?

READY: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: Have you determined who he is?

READY: No, not at this point.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: How many officers are here at this point? READY: You know, that would be a wild guess to tell you how many officers are here. What I can tell you is that we have our first responders, patrol here. They are working with NASA security officials, as well as the constables in securing the outer perimeter.

We have our SWAT team members established on the inner perimeter, our negotiators trying to establish communication. We are still bringing equipment to the scene. So it's still an active scene.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

READY: I cannot confirm. You know, I might be able to in a little bit, but at this point, I cannot confirm.

QUESTION: Are you sure he's still alive?

READY: At this point, I can't tell you a whole lot because we have not established communication. And whether or not he's alive or dead, I simply don't know.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

READY: The object of those first two shots? Do not know. I don't know if they were shot in the ground, up through the ceiling, at somebody in particular. Don't know.

QUESTION: Captain, it clearly looks like he knew where he was going, right? I mean, was he wasn't targeting building 44?

READY: I don't know. And I wasn't there. I'm not the one that saw him. So I can't tell you what his motive or focus was.

QUESTION: But it would appear he knows this area.

READY: I don't know. That would be speculation on my part to say what he knows and what he does not know.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: What do you know if those shots were fired in or out, and how he was able to bring a gun on to a facility where you are not supposed to have a weapon?

READY: The shots that were fired were inside the building on the complex. That is what's been reported. I don't know about any security precautions here at NASA. Eileen might be able to speak to that.

Do you want her to speak to that now, or we have some other questions?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

READY: I don't know where he is in the building. And eve if I did, I wouldn't tell you, because that would be a tactical error for our SWAT team members. Have any police officers seen him yet? No. The only report of an observation has come from an employee here at NASA.

QUESTION: You have a number of heavy equipment being brought in. What is that equipment?

READY: Let me go with this one first.

QUESTION: What's the challenges to establishing communication?

READY: Well, initially, getting close enough to speak with the individual. If he refuses to speak, then putting up the equipment, whether it be speaker, phones, or some other means to communicate with that. And assuming he's willing to communicate. Those are the barriers.

QUESTION: Have you tried to communicate with him?

READY: Yes. Our negotiators have tried to communicate both at the close level, but they have been unsuccessful so far.

QUESTION: The heavy equipment that's brought in, what is that for?

READY: The heavy equipment are going to be our command post, vehicles that are command staff is going to work out of as they go about trying to bring a successful resolution.

QUESTION: Captain, how large of an area have you have blocked off?

READY: Well, right now, our focus is the building because we believe the suspect is in the building. But obviously, the immediate area around it.

QUESTION: Do you have armored vehicles here, too?

READY: We do have armored vehicles here, as well as other equipment that might be called upon, but not necessarily because we'll have to use it.

QUESTION: Captain, did you guys ask NASA to release the rest of the employees on campus here earlier today?

READY: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: Did you guys ask NASA to release the rest of the employees early today because of this?

READY: No, I think that was a question that NASA -- Eileen, why don't you address that.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

EILEEN HAWLEY, NASA SPOKESWOMAN: It's Hawley. We did initially issue a communication to our employees to let them know what was going on sight. In the initial communication that went out, we advised them to shelter in place until we had a firm understanding of the situation.

QUESTION: How did you locate them?

HAWLEY: By e-mail. We sent e-mail out through a variety of mechanisms that we have. In addition, our human resource representatives called all of our major directorate offices to ensure that they would get the word out to their employees.

One second.

And then we sent out a second e-mail telling our employees that there was no need for them to shelter in place, that the situation was confined to this one area. Ad told them that they were free to go home at their normal quitting time or any time that they desired to do that.

QUESTION: What time was that?

HAWLEY: I'll have to get it to you, Mark (ph). I don't recall what time we sent that out.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

HAWLEY: I haven't looked recently. They were released to go home if their vehicles were in a spot where they could get to them and not in an area that's cordoned off.

QUESTION: How many are we talking about?

HAWLEY: I don't have a count for you. I can get that for you, though.

QUESTION: Are your employees in building 44 accounted for?

HAWLEY: I don't know. I believe Captain Ready already answered that question. We don't know whether we have anyone unaccounted for.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

HAWLEY: In 44? I don't know. We can check. We've heard -- we've heard talk.

QUESTION: Eileen, security guards about an hour, an hour and a half ago were getting pictures, photographs and pictures of what we were told was the suspect. Can you tell me about that? Why (INAUDIBLE)?

READY: Let me address that one, because we have the law enforcement side. I don't know which pictures you are referring to or which ones have come. I would have to look at them myself and talk to the incident commander to determine whether or not they have anything to do either with identifying employees or the possible suspect or anything else. But I haven't seen them, so it's hard to say.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

READY: No, we have not -- no, we have not.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

READY: You know, I don't know what the entrance and the exits to the buildings are, but even if I did, again, I would not be releasing that kind of information because of the type of scene that we have, and because it's still active.

Did somebody else have a question for Eileen?

Oh, I'm sorry.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

READY: Yes.

QUESTION: All right. Does he know who he saw?

READY: I don't know, because that question has not been asked and I haven't been able to get it from the incident commander.

QUESTION: Captain, how many people normally work in that building?

READY: Do you know, Eileen?

HAWLEY: I don't. I bet we can find out.

READY: We'll find that out.

QUESTION: It might be premature to ask, but is it safe to say that you will be reviewing your security after this incident?

HAWLEY: Reviewing security in terms of the incident in general or the fact that he brought a -- that a weapon was brought on site?

QUESTION: I understand that no vehicles or people are ever searched. Is this something that you'll be looking into, whether or not (INAUDIBLE)?

HAWLEY: We have a standard set of security rules that do include random vehicle searches. And so there are searches of vehicles at random times, and of employees.

Certainly, I would -- I would believe that our security and our senior leadership is going to take a very close look at this incident and see if there was anything that we should have done or could have done differently.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) READY: No, I can't, because I can't even tell you who the suspect is at this point.

QUESTION: Eileen, has this disrupted any procedures at NASA? I understand that was part of a tracking building. Has this disrupted anything to do with ISS (ph) or normal operations?

HAWLEY: No, sir. Absolutely no disruptions to center operations.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

READY: The question was, do we believe the suspect has access to any other weapons at this time? The answer is no. The only thing that's been reported, the only thing we believe at this point is that he's armed with a handgun.

But I will tell you that our SWAT team members, all officers, always, you k now, assume that there may be other weapons, so -- yes, sir?

QUESTION: We heard that the bomb squad had been requested. Can you talk to that?

READY: That may be part of our regular protocol that I will not go into, because those are strategic types of policy concerns that we don't necessarily want out there, especially in a case like this, where if the suspect has any access to the media, then we would be giving up information.

QUESTION: Is there a normal complement of ambulances with this SWAT team. Or -- you know, we're seeing a couple, I think, plus a fire engine.

READY: Now that I can speak to. That is normal protocol. Whenever SWAT team members respond, HFD also responds with both fire apparatuses, including ambulances.

Let me just take one more question, and then, guys, we're going to have to shut it down. And I will go back and get some information regarding what you have already asked that we did not know.

QUESTION: When is your next briefing?

READY: We'll be here. It will probably be at 5:00. So, if you all can stand by until then, we'll try to get you some more information.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

READY: Well, obviously, to where you are to right now, and then take a radius all the way around.

Thank you very much.

BLITZER: All right. That's captain Dwayne Ready of the Houston Police Department briefing us on what we know, what we don't know. Clearly, there's a lot that all of us do not know.

The police might know a lot more than they are telling us right now. But he's limiting what he can say.

Miles O'Brien, you listened to all of this very closely, together with all of our viewers. A very disturbing situation unfolding.

It's been now three hours or so since a gunman was in that building 44 on the Johnson Space Center, and shots were fired. This captain of the Houston Police Department has now confirmed no word of injuries. But clearly, it's a very disturbing situation, especially given what happened at the campus of Virginia Tech earlier in the week.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, especially that, Wolf. I think we're all kind of rattled by that. Not kind of rattled. We're deeply rattled by it.

But I think, you know, really at this point, this could be anywhere from a full-blown hostage situation to a suicide at this point. And we don't know.

We do know that there is at least one man inside a room there, inside building 44, the Johnson Space Center. And as to his state and well-being, and whether he is alive or not, we don't know. And whether there is somebody else in there we don't know, because there's not so much as the first bit of communication between him and the SWAT team.

Of course, the SWAT teams have all kinds of technology and capability at hand to determine if that is in fact the case, if somebody is in there, and if there's more than one person in there. I'm sure they'll find that out pretty quickly. But given what has transpired so far, we really -- it's hard to know the full dimensions of this story and how long -- or how long it will be before it could be resolved one way or another.

BLITZER: And it's still continuing. The suspect described as someone between 50 and 60 years old, with a weapon, a handgun. Unclear whether that's some sort of semi-automatic handgun or what, but clearly a handgun in and of itself is very, very disturbing.

We are also getting reports, Miles, that at least -- there are some unaccounted for individuals who normally would be working in that building. That may or may not mean anything given the fact this is a Friday, some individuals might simply leave work early, and as a result, they are unaccounted for. But that at least was chilling when I heard that.

O'BRIEN: Yes, and I think -- yes, let's not put too much into that, because it's not as if -- it's not like going into a mine, where you know exactly the number of people inside, and when they check out they make it very clear that they have left, and when they go in they make it clear that they are there. It's not that kind of security level either, where they would be signing in and signing out at the door. So, it could very well be some people just knocking off work early, maybe getting caught playing hooky a little bit on a Friday, or for whatever reason had a good reason to leave and didn't necessarily notify everybody. So it's almost impossible to pull that kind of information together in a quick fashion.

So, I think that -- let's put that in the -- in the realm of facts we are checking, and should not raise too much alarm at this point. Of course, given the fact that we have a fair amount of alarm, given the fact of what's going on there, but nevertheless, I think we need to take that with a bit of a grain of salt.

BLITZER: And I believe the captain from the Houston Police Department -- I'm looking at my notes -- said that two shots were fired. Earlier, there had been some reports saying as many as five or six or seven. But he says two shots. You heard that, right, Miles?

O'BRIEN: Yes, two shots was the number. And that was less than we heard from some previous reports. So we'll put that also in the category of how frequently early reports from these situations tend to be inaccurate, and we ask our viewers to just bear with us on that, as we try to learn the story together.

BLITZER: And the SWAT team that's been brought in from the Houston Police Department, they have, according to Captain Ready of the Houston Police Department, negotiators whose job it is to try to talk to this individual and resolve it peacefully. That's what they train for, that's what they do, and presumably, they are trying to do this right now to end this standoff in a peaceful way, without any lives or anyone being hurt.

O'BRIEN: Exactly. And, you know, just opening up that dialogue is the key, and what any negotiator will tell you is the thing that is most important is to keep the hostage-taker, if there is a hostage- taker, or the barricaded person, keep him talking and find ways to get to them and to try to break down the wall and the barriers that are there. But a lot of it for them is just getting that conversation going and keeping it going.

But so far, we have no reports that there is a conversation. And that in and of itself could be rather troubling, or it could mean that this is already all over and we just don't know it yet. That he has taken his own life.

BLITZER: And it's been three hours, almost exactly, since this incident happened.

I want to read to our viewers, Miles, once again, the initial e- mail that NASA sent out to its employees at the Johnson Space Center, thousands of them were working on this Friday.

"You may be aware that there is a situation in B44" -- building 44 -- "where a person has a gun. The news is reporting that all the occupants have been evacuated but there were shots fired. Houston Police Department is responding." "There is a lockdown of B44 and four adjacent buildings only. Residents of all other buildings are advised to shelter in place until further notice. The roads around B44 are blocked."

Now, since that initial e-mail went out, the shelter in place for all of the other buildings on this huge, huge campus, that went away. But I was struck at how quickly NASA moved to send out this e-mail, and I assume they were at least in part influenced by the complaints that happened at Virginia Tech that it took too long to send out an e- mail to the students, the faculty, the administrators about that initial shooting incident early Monday morning, 7:15 or so. It took them a couple of hours before they sent out any e-mail warning that there was a problem.

O'BRIEN: Yes, Wolf, and I think, you know, part of this is a couple of things.

First of all, of course, in the wake of Blacksburg, everybody is attuned to how important it is to get the word out for a lot of good reasons. If nothing else, to explain later that you were acting as quickly as possible to protect your people. But there's a couple of things to consider here.

First of all, at a place like NASA, e-mail is a very effective way to reach just about everybody, because just about everybody is constantly on or near their computer screens, and working in ways that would put them very close to their e-mail, or their BlackBerrys, or whatever the case may be. And so, it's -- it is an effective means in this case.

And I think the other thing to consider, too, is that NASA, because of the nature of the work there, because of the sometimes hazardous nature of the work there, is, frankly, an organization that is a little bit more spring-loaded to respond to emergencies. There's hazardous materials there, there are things that can blow up there.

There's fires that can occur just in the nature of doing their business, with the volatile chemicals that they deal with. And so, safety is such an important factor in everything they do, and is so much apart of the drill, if you will. More so than it would be at any typical, you know, open university, that I think, you know, that this is -- this is an organization that, when things happen, they respond quickly, because they have the mechanisms there, they drill for it, and the lines of communication are already there.

BLITZER: I want to show a Google Earth image of building 44, Miles. And we're going to zoom in on the location of the Johnson Space Center and get our viewers a sense of where this building is, what's going on.

There you see it right there, but if you see, it's part of a much bigger complex, a complex you visited on numerous occasions.

O'BRIEN: Yes. And Wolf, I've got to be frank with you, it's not a building I visited. It's not one of the buildings that typically a TV news crew would be terribly interested in, with mostly offices, a few small laboratories.

At that facility there, there -- the facility you see the most on television is building nine, which is pretty far away from there. And that's one of the primary astronaut training facilities.

That's where they have all sorts of mockups of the space shuttle, and the robot arm on the space shuttle, as well as the International Space Station. And astronauts spend a lot of time there drilling for missions and learning what the real hardware is going to be like and what the procedures are going to be like.

Building one, right at the center, is the administration building. Building two, right beside it, is the Public Affairs Office.

And then building four, which is adjacent to the administration building, is where the astronaut offices are. And all those are a fairly good distance away from building 44. And as I say, on the well-worn path for folks in the media, building 44 is not a stop that I've been on.

BLITZER: Stand by for a moment, Miles. Lou Dobbs is joining us right now as well. Lou is someone who's covered the space program for many, many years.

Lou, what do you think about this unfolding drama?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Well, it is -- as Miles has been saying, this is a very secure facility, as you would expect, and also, it is an expansive facility. And I've been trying to wrack my brain as to whether I've been through building 44, because it's off Space Park.

But there are some very important engineering labs there, and communications for not only the space shuttle, but for the space station. Companies like -- contractors like Jacobs Engineering, Johnson Engineering. Some of the contractors whose labs I've been through there I believe are located in that building.

So, with all that has been happening with this space program, and the difficulties that they've had, it is remarkable to see and to -- of course tragic to see this happening. It is hard to believe, though -- again, I say, the security there is so tight -- for even a contractor, with all of the documentation and badges, to get into that facility with a gun, is stunning to me.

BLITZER: This complex does have good security. But once you get on the complex, Lou, especially if you're a NASA employee, or a NASA contractor, you can basically roam around free and easy.

DOBBS: I think that's correct, but again, security is literally at every building in that -- in that facility. I've been there to go through, you know, light training, to sit in the space shuttle mockups, to go through some of the instrumentation testing, some of the equipment testing. It is really a very well-organized and secure facility. This is not a run of the mill industrial complex, I assure you.

BLITZER: I know you are getting ready to pick up our coverage right at the top of the hour. What do you have on the agenda?

DOBBS: Well, Wolf, we are obviously -- like you, we're going to continue the coverage of this standoff in Houston. We'll be talking with Miles O'Brien and the NASA officials there trying to deal with this situation.

We'll also tonight be reporting on the escalating political confrontation over the conduct of this war in Iraq. The Senate majority leader has said the United States has lost this war. The White House saying it's outright wrong. The generals in charge of our military operations in Iraq with quite different views from those of the White House.

And we'll be covering all of that, as Republicans and Democrats are raising the call for the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

All the days news, all of that coming up here at the top of the hour -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. About eight minutes from now.

Lou, thank you very much.

DOBBS: Thank you.

DOBBS: Miles O'Brien is still with us.

We heard from Allard Beutel, Miles, the NASA spokesman at NASA headquarters here in Washington, that so far this incident at building 44 has not disrupted any of the work of NASA, especially as it gets ready to help in bringing the back the crew of five, including an American space tourist, Charles Simonyi, who's been on the International Space Station, which is very, very good news, that they can continue their mission, they can continue their operation, even in the midst of this drama.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Well, there's things to think about.

First of all, yes, the Mission Control building, first of all, is one of the most secure buildings. It is -- actually, I can say, it is the most secure building at that facility. Getting in there is more difficult than most. The layers of security there are tremendous for obvious reasons.

A couple of things to also consider, though, is that they are returning, that three-member crew is returning on a Russian Soyuz capsule, and that is controlled by Russian Mission Control in the Moscow suburb of Koyulev (ph). And so the primary control rests is in the hands of the Russians.

Now, the space station control center is in Mission Control in Houston, and so there is a kind of coordination which goes on between the space station and the Russian control center as well. But the primary responsibility for bringing that Soyuz craft, Charles Simonyi and the other two, back to Earth safely is, in fact, the Russians.

It's interesting, Wolf. If it had not been for a quirk of weather, they would already be home by now. They got an extra day in space because of some flooding in the steps of Kazakhstan. And as a result of that, they have decided to wait one more day, which offered them a more southerly landing location for that Soyuz capsule.

And so, they would have already been on the ground normally had it not been for some rain in Kazakhstan. So it's interesting how fate kind of deals a hand.

BLITZER: But there's no reason at all to fear that what's happened in that one isolated building at the Johnson Space Center is going to have any impact on bringing these guys back to Kazakhstan.

O'BRIEN: No. I mean, Mission Control is designed -- you know, people that you see in Mission Control sitting in the so-called trenches there on those consoles are talking to people in other offices, as -- to back themselves up in support. But this particular office has no real-time responsibility.

In other words, there's nobody there on a headset communicating with the people in the frontlines there in Mission Control that would offer any sort of mission critical capability. This is -- this is the kind of research that isn't involved in -- well, it's involved in future missions, but not involved in the current mission. And as a result, we should need not worry about the crew on the space station or the crew headed back on the Soyuz.

BLITZER: And the man in the dark suit there right in the middle of the screen in Charles Simonyi. He's the American space tourist who's been spending a few days up there at the International Space Station. It cost him a lot of money to go up there, didn't it, Miles?

O'BRIEN: Yes, about a $20 million trip and -- for 10 days. And he got an extra bonus day. I don't think they charge him any extra for that. So I'm sure he's happy he got the extra day. But yes, it's -- that's the ultimate e-ticket ride there.

BLITZER: It's not a cheap venture, but if you can afford it and you like that kind of stuff, that's what you do, and that's what Charles Simonyi has done. He clearly can afford to spend that kind of money for a ticket.

Let's get back to the situation, Miles, what's happening on the ground. And I just want to update our viewers.

It's a -- it's a nerve-wracking situation, because it's been going on now for more than three hours, the standoff at building 44 at the Johnson Space Center. A man walks in, he's armed, shots were fired.

Houston police saying two shots were fired. We do not know if anyone was injured. There is a report that there are some individuals who are unaccounted for, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they are still in the building. They could have left early, they could be someplace else on this Friday afternoon in Houston.

It's all very worrisome, especially because of what happened earlier in the week at Virginia Tech. And as a result, it underscores the jittery sense that so many campuses have.

And Miles, it's an issue that law enforcement has been worried about, they have been discussing openly over these past few days, whether or not there's a copycat out there, although in this particular case, we don't know enough about this suspect described as someone between 50 and 60 years old to come to any such conclusions.

O'BRIEN: Well, you know, it's interesting Wolf, this whole notion of copycats becomes a real issue, where not only are we are on the heels of what happened in Blacksburg at Virginia Tech, but we're right in the midst of the Columbine anniversary, and also the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing at the Murrah Federal Building.

And so, law enforcement authorities pay attention to those dates because that would provide an opportunity for either a copycat or some sort of twisted commemorative attack. And these things, as they happen, you have to ask those questions, if that was in some way a motivator that would cause somebody to do something and try to do harm to others.

BLITZER: I want to play for our viewers what Houston Police Department Captain Dwayne Ready said only a few moments ago. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

READY: Shortly before 2:00 this afternoon, we received a call in the Houston Police Department regarding possible shots fired here in the NASA complex. Our patrol units arrived. They were met with security personnel, both NASA, as well as some of the constable's office.

They took some preliminary information, determined that a suspect was still possibly inside the building. They then made a call out to SWAT.

Our SWAT team is now here. They have taken control of the inner perimeter, and they are working with our other partners in the FBI.

We have the constables out here, as well as the fire department. But what we believe at this point is that we have one suspect, a white male, approximately 50 to 60 years old, with one weapon, that being a handgun. And I cannot confirm for you whether that's a revolver or a semi-automatic, or what caliber at this time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That's the captain from the Houston Police Department. Also, in a series of questions, he could not confirm that the individual, the suspect, was a contractor who may be employed over at the Johnson Space Center. Couldn't confirm or say anything really about anyone had been injured.

They are continuing to watch this story, although what is encouraging, I suspect, Miles, and correct me if I'm wrong, is that it is still going on. It has not been resolved, and as a result, maybe those SWAT team negotiators are in contact with this individual and they're going to try to resolve it through a discussion.

O'BRIEN: Well, yes, or, it could be that he's taken his own life, possibly taken someone else's life, and they just have not learned that yet. But that's all within the range of possibility given what we know and what the police have released. And is often the case, I'm sure there's a lot more they know right now that they are not sharing with us -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Miles is going to continue to stand by for our coverage. We're going to watch this drama unfold here on CNN, and let's hope and pray that it resolves itself peacefully.

There's no indication that anyone has been injured so far, although the police, the Houston Police Department, are saying that at least two shots -- two shots were fired in this incident.

We're also told we're going to be getting another update from authorities in Houston at the Johnson Space Center. That's coming up in an hour or so from now, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

We're going to have a lot more coverage of this story coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Lou Dobbs, which is coming up in just a few seconds, he's going to be all over this story as well.

We're watching it from all angles. We want to make sure that you know what we know as authoritatively, as responsibly as we have it.

Until then, thanks very much for joining us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Lou Dobbs is continuing our coverage.

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