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THE SITUATION ROOM
Mass Shooting at Ford Hood Army Base
Aired November 5, 2009 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Rick, thanks. Thank you.
We're tracking the breaking news out of Fort Hood, Texas. There's been a mass shooting at the Army post there. It's the largest in the world. At least seven people are dead and a number of people are hurt, perhaps as many as 15, maybe more. There are multiple shooters, not one, but at least two, we are now told.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, has been following the fast-moving developments for us.
Update our viewers, what we know, Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, according to all of the military officials we have talked to over the last several minutes, here's the emerging picture -- 1:30 this afternoon, Central time, at least two shooters -- shooters began this incident on Fort Hood.
We believe, at this hour, seven people dead, 12 to 15 wounded, taken to the Darnall Medical Center, possibly more wounded. We do not know how many of the dead and wounded are military, how many are civilian.
Fort Hood is a massive installation. Tens of thousands of military and civilian personnel work there. As you just saw Rick Sanchez interviewing Sergeant Major Jamie Poston at Fort Hood, he said one shooter has been apprehended. They are looking at this hour for another shooter. The base is in lockdown, nobody in, nobody out Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, troops, normally, they rotate off to Afghanistan or Iraq -- a lot of them do, at least -- from Fort Hood. Is that right?
STARR: Absolutely, Wolf.
And, in fact, that may prove to be critical in this incident. The -- one of the shooting locations was a soldier processing center and a nearby theater complex next door. But the soldier processing center is the area where troops move in and out. When they come back to Fort Hood from tours in Iraq or Afghanistan, they come through this facility. When they process out of Fort Hood to go to the war zone, they go through there.
There's always a lot of traffic in that area, a lot of soldiers lined up coming and going all the time. To be clear, Wolf, we don't have very many facts about this. But Fort Hood is an installation that's had very heavy deployments. They have had issues with suicides, combat stress down there.
We have no idea if that played a role in any of this. But these young troops who come through Fort Hood have seen an awful lot of combat action. Those of them that have come back certainly thought they were at Fort Hood safe back at home, and now this terrible incident -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, we just want to stress, we have no idea why these shooters -- and the -- the spokesman for the base says there were at least two shooters, one apprehended, one still on the loose right now -- we have no idea what motive -- what the motive was, if there's any rational motive, indeed, at all.
Barbara, stand by.
Your colleague Chris Lawrence is in Kabul, Afghanistan, right now, our other Pentagon correspondent.
Chris, you recently were at Fort Hood in Texas. And Barbara was just saying how U.S. troops rotate in and out of Fort Hood on their way to where you are in Afghanistan now, also to Iraq.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
And not only that, but they rotate in and out of the service. Every -- I was told when I was there that, about every month, about 1,000 soldiers there at Fort Hood get out of the Army and try to transition back to the civilian world.
So, it is a -- it is a base that is constantly in flux from those in combat, returning to combat, those preparing to go to combat, and then those returning to their civilian life. We were at an area where people were looking at resumes, trying to get their -- their job prospects lined up, a lot of soldiers just continually flowing through that area, trying to set up things in terms of getting out of the service. So, it is a -- it is a very dynamic base in that respect -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And it's huge. The whole complex is huge. It's described as the largest U.S. military facility in the world, Chris.
LAWRENCE: Yes, exactly.
We were at this -- like, this readiness center where, you know, a lot of the soldiers would come in, and they would start the process of getting out of (AUDIO GAP) counselors, things like that.
And then we went to go interview a young woman who was getting out of the Army. And we had to drive a good, you know, well over a half (AUDIO GAP) 45 minutes (AUDIO GAP) still on the base. It was just a different part of the base. It is a (AUDIO GAP) big base, a varied base in terms of the skills and the MOSes and the number of jobs that different personnel have on that base as well. BLITZER: As we're speaking, we're getting a statement in from U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, and this incident taking place in Texas -- Fort Hood, Texas.
Let me read it to you and our viewers.
"I'm shocked and saddened by today's outburst of violence at Fort Hood that has cost seven of our brave service members their lives and has gravely injured others. My heart goes out to their loved ones. Our dedicated military personnel have sacrificed so much in service to our country, and it sickens me that the men and women of Fort Hood have been subjected to this senseless, random violence. I know all Americans share this concern for the soldiers and their families who are affected by this tragedy" -- that statement from Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is going to be joining us shortly here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry. They're getting some reaction over there at the White House.
I'm sure the president by now has been notified, Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, two significant points.
Number one, Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, we're told by top officials, informed the president a short time ago, based on media reports, other information coming into the White House about the fact that they believe at least seven people are dead at Fort Hood, many more injured.
That is significant, that it's now reached the level of the president. But second, and perhaps more importantly, I'm told by top officials here that staff here at the White House at least have gathered in the Situation Room here at the White House in order to collect information from the Pentagon and other sources, perhaps a precautionary measure.
We don't want to push that too far and read too much into it. But, as you know, when there are other shootings, it doesn't necessarily rise to the level of going into the White House Situation Room for top officials to sort of monitor it.
That could be just the sensitivity because of the fact that it's on a military base. It also could be just a precautionary measure to make sure that there are not more gunmen, make sure that they know everything about what's happening on the ground there -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed, so, stand by, because I know you're getting more information from your sources at the White House. We will get back to you.
Retired U.S. Army General Russel Honore is joining us on the phone right now.
General Honore, you served at Fort Hood. Remind our viewers when you were there and what your capacity was.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL RUSSEL HONORE (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Yes.
I was there as deputy commander of the 1st Cavalry Division for two years in 1998 to '99. Fort Hood is the home of the 1st Cavalry Division, one of the most deployed units in the United States Army, and the 3rd Armored Cavalry Division, as well as the home of III U.S. Corps, which is a Corps headquarter stationed at Fort Hood. They have been in and out of Iraq repeatedly since the war started.
BLITZER: And explain to our viewers what the Corps means, because this is a huge number of troops.
STARR: Yes. Corps is basically the headquarters that goes to Baghdad. The size of it, it controls up to five to six divisions.
And it is the major command in operation in and around Iraq at this time. And the Corps headquarters is home now. But the headquarters of the 1st Cavalry Division is deployed to Iraq as we speak.
BLITZER: And that Corps could be 80,000, maybe even 100,000 troops; is that right?
HONORE: That is correct. They're the major combat headquarters in Iraq is what the rotating mission of the III Corps, which is the senior headquarters at Fort Hood, as I said, joined by the 1st Cavalry Division, which is in Iraq now, and division headquarters, and the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment.
There has been no reporting from my sources at Fort Hood that change number of dead or wounded. However, in my recent source, the siren system, the people warning system, one of those systems post -- that was installed post-9/11, the loudspeaker, I just heard, telling people to take immediate cover, take shelter immediately, stay inside, and turn off all heating and air-conditioning.
That post is on lockdown as we speak. You can't get off. You can't get in.
You are reminded that Fort Hood has several schools on its post, kid -- schools that my kids went to. It's about the time of day they get out. It's also a day at Fort Hood when they let soldiers off so they can spend time with their families., so, a lot of families moving in and around.
And it's absolutely a situation now, I feel for those families and those soldiers and that command that's dealing with the situation now. And there's a lot of unknowns, Wolf. And all this information is first report.
And, as we know, first reports sometimes are not correct.
BLITZER: I know. HONORE: But that is what we have learned within the last few minutes.
BLITZER: I know you're speaking to your sources over there at Fort Hood, Texas, General Honore. And -- and -- and I'm -- I'm glad you point out that these initial reports sometimes can be right, sometimes can be wrong. So, we want to put that caveat out there.
Under normal circumstances, what would be the procedure in a huge base like this where there were snipers or a shooting incident, at least two shooters involved, and seven dead, maybe 12 to 15 already reported injured? Walk us through the lockdown, how that -- how that is carried out.
HONORE: First, there's a physical (INAUDIBLE) report goes to all units to -- for troops to get accountability and for them to stay inside.
So, this evening and afternoon, where many soldiers who have been recently deployed were allowed to go home early some time, as was the case today in some of those units, they're going to have a tough time to get accountability of all their soldiers, because some of them would leave early so they could have time with their families (INAUDIBLE) they have been deployed.
So, that -- it could have been from units doing that, or they could have been units getting ready to deploy, because Fort Hood is in a constant process of either redeploying troops or deploying troops. It's one of the largest installations we have in the Army, with up to 40,000 troops stationed there.
BLITZER: And, so, at any one time, there are, what, 40,000 troops there, and there's a lot of weaponry out there as well there -- that -- that -- that folks have access to.
And -- and, under normal circumstances, there are family members, as you point out, living -- there's -- there's family residences right on the base. And I assume a lot of those folks are very worried right now, since they're saying at least one of these shooters is still on the loose.
HONORE: That is correct. And the post announcement system, which is a very good system, they're using it effectively to tell people to take immediate cover, take shelter, and to turn off all heating and air-conditioning.
I don't know what that means, the heating and air-conditioning. But I heard it myself over the post announcement system. So, the people on the ground, they're dealing with it, I'm sure as soon as we can get an official report out there, they will be putting the release out.
BLITZER: And we don't want to speculate about what -- what potentially could have -- who could have caused these shooters to open fire on U.S. troops at Fort Hood, Texas.
General Honore, I'm going to have you stand by. We're going to get back to you.
Want to walk over to Tom Foreman, who is right over there. That's who I want to walk over to, because, Tom, you have got a map over here. We're looking at the map. Give us the lay of the land where Fort Hood is right now.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: General point of reference here, Wolf, this is Texas, obvious, Fort Hood more or less near the middle. It's a very, very big state, obviously. So, it's -- to say the middle is -- there's a lot of middle there.
But this moves into Fort Hood. As Barbara said earlier, this is a big, sprawling base. Wolf, I have been down to this area before. And there are a lot of places here. These are the areas we're interested in. We talk about the development center.
As we move into the base here, I want you to look at -- this is the area that we're primarily talking about. And this really is sort of near the middle of everything here. There's a gate to the base down this way, then a gate down this way to the south, only looks like about a quarter-mile away, maybe a little bit more than that.
This is the didn't development center that we were talking about a little while ago. I will turn that on, so you can see the tag on that. Right over here, you heard mentioned a little while ago about the Howze Theater. That's right over here. So, these are right in the same area, areas of concern.
The development center, the Howze Theater seem to be the focal points. We also mentioned this is the 1st Cavalry headquarters. Well, this is actually very close to the location of the 1st Cavalry headquarters building.
If you look very closely, those of you who are familiar with the military, you can see the -- the insignia for the 1st Cav out in front of the headquarters here. So, this is very close to the heart and soul of the 1st Cav, the development center, or the Howze Theater here. You've also heard some talk about the softball fields nearby. Those are over here, again, quite close, if you measure it out.
We heard General Honore mention a minute ago the schools. There's a school right over here across from this whole area. And then down here, when we will -- have talked about the post exchange, which is, if you're not familiar with the military, the post exchange is where people buy many of the normal things they need, groceries, all of that. That's right down in this area.
So, Wolf, when you look at the base, the areas that we're most interested in really are right in the middle of things in this great big base, the headquarters over here. And this is the area we're most interested in right now.
BLITZER: Unless you have been to a huge base like this -- and I have been to Fort Hood -- you don't realize, this is like a city, really, 40,000 people.
BLITZER: That's 40,000 troops and family members, schools, shopping centers, all sorts of stuff.
Stand by, Tom, for a moment.
Retired U.S. Army General John Tilelli is joining us on the phone now. He's a former commander of the 1st Cavalry Division.
You served at Fort Hood there for some time, General. Tell us a little bit about what's going through your mind right now as you hear these disturbing reports that at least two individuals opened fire, seven U.S. troops reportedly killed, 12 to 15 injured, one of those who opened fire still on the -- on the loose right now. What do you think about this?
Unfortunately, I'm not hearing General Tilelli. We may -- we must have lost him.
But let me go back to Tom Foreman over here.
Tom, there's no -- there's no doubt, as we watch all of this unfold on this base, when they say there's a lockdown, they mean there's a lockdown over this entire facility. And give our viewers a little sense of the geography, or how big this whole facility is.
FOREMAN: Well, as there is with a lot of military facilities, it's very hard actually in many ways to see where the base ends and everything else begins.
As I mentioned, there are some gates to the base down in here and down over in here, I believe. I'm -- I'm sort of winging it a little bit here, Wolf. But -- but, as you can see that, even beyond the base, you get into communities that sprawl much beyond that.
So, if we widen this out a little bit, this isn't the best satellite image, I must say. But you can see that this is a highly populated area out in all directions. I mean, you go over this way, look at this. You have just complete areas of housing over here.
So, you're right, Wolf. Every military base in its own right is sort of a -- a city unto itself. And here, however, we're talking about a very limited area. I'm going to fly back into the 1st Cav headquarters, so we have, again, a sense of the areas we're most focused on.
This would be on any base on a typical afternoon, you have got to know that, an area like this, an area like this, and particularly when you throw in things like the softball fields and the post exchange down in this area, you're going to have a tremendous amount of traffic there of soldiers, families, different people coming and going.
Ken Robinson is joining us on the phone, a familiar name to a lot of our viewers. He used to be a CNN military affairs contributor.
Ken, you served at Fort Hood, didn't you? KEN ROBINSON, FORMER CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I actually served with John Tilelli in the first Gulf War from the 1st Cavalry Division. And I have never served on Fort Hood specifically, but trained there several times.
The -- Wolf, the -- the thing that comes to my mind the quickest is the issue regarding the Situation Room and the decisions that need to be made at the higher headquarters. What's happening right now is, people have to ask themselves, is this an isolated incident? And the answer to that is no, because there's more than one shooter. That means there's a conspiracy of some type.
Then they have to ask themselves, is this something just at Fort Hood, or is there a potential that this could be a campaign? Could another fort, another troop processing center also be hit? So, the questions that are happening at Fort Hood are also being asked at every other military-concentrated location, because we still don't know who is involved and what their motivations are.
The issues of the air-conditioning, that makes perfect sense, because it's a protocol. One of the things -- the reasons you take off HVAC systems is, you want to prevent anything from being introduced into the building. And, by that, I mean chemical or biological. These are just large protocols that people do when they don't understand what the terrorist incident is or is it an isolated shooting.
So, there's so much uncertainty, they have to plan for the worst.
BLITZER: They have to just -- what I hear you saying, Ken, is, they have to worry about the worst-case scenario. And that's why there are presumably these kinds of precautions taking place at other U.S. military facilities around the country. Is that what you're saying?
BLITZER: And, so, we don't know for sure that that's taken place, if those orders have gone out to other facilities. But -- and we -- and we have no idea if this is an isolated incident, two guys just opening fire, going berserk, or if there's something more of a -- a widespread conspiracy involved. And I'm sure that investigation is under way right now.
But when you hear that one of those shooters has now been apprehended, the other is supposedly cornered -- I don't know exactly what that means -- but is supposedly cornered, that would be good news, if they could get the second guy, and then they could begin to find out what's going on.
ROBINSON: Well, I know for sure that the first thing they're going to look for, is they're going to -- it's -- it's an unfortunate situation, but they're going to look for ethnicity. They're going to try to determine, are these American citizens or are they not? Could this have been some type of a rage incident involving a soldier? Or is this an incident involving people who are targeting soldiers from a terrorist organization? That's the uncertainty that has to be answered quickly to determine how to give orders to all the other posts, because you have to assume that -- that that means that it could happen again in ones and twos and threes.
BLITZER: But if they have got the first shooter apprehended, either dead or alive, they -- they would be -- they would be able to answer some of those very sensitive questions that you have just raised, isn't that right, Ken?
ROBINSON: It is right. But they're not prepared to answer it at this time. I was listening to the command sergeant major's interview. And he was very careful about what type of information he could confirm or deny at this time, because they're trying to get a sense. And they don't want to be wrong.
The issue would be the information coming out incorrectly, and then the American public reaction to it. If we think back to the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, the original information that came out targeted Arab-Americans, when, actually, we know it was white Christian fundamentalist militia.
And, so, they want to be very careful as to who exactly is the sponsor and who exactly are the perpetrators.
BLITZER: Stand by, Ken.
I want to bring in Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas.
We read your statement, Senator, to your viewers expressing your deep concern, your shock at what's going on. But have you already been briefed by authorities on -- on what they know?
SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: I have talked to one of the generals on the base a few minutes ago. I wouldn't say it's a briefing, because the -- everything is very sketchy right now.
But they are obviously trying very hard to handle a lot of things right now. And, as was mentioned before, at the time I talked to the general, they weren't sure if it was, in fact, a military person or someone impersonating a military person.
BLITZER: The -- the shooter, you're -- you're talking about?
HUTCHISON: Yes. They have -- the one who's wounded, they were trying to determine right away whether that person was actually military or an impersonator. The wounded one had been shot by the military police. The other one at the time I talked to the general was still in the building, but not yet apprehended.
BLITZER: Do you know, Senator, if that individual, the -- the one who was shot and wounded, the shooter, the alleged shooter, I should say, was wearing a military uniform?
HUTCHISON: I'm told that they were in military uniform, yes. But that didn't necessarily mean that they were military.
BLITZER: So, they're determining whether or not they stole a uniform and impersonated a member of the United States military, or if, in fact, they were genuine U.S. soldiers.
BLITZER: Right now, we -- we're reporting seven confirmed dead, 12 to 15 wounded. But there's other reports that many more have been wounded. Do you have any new -- new information on that, Senator?
HUTCHISON: I was told around 30 wounded.
BLITZER: Thirty wounded?
HUTCHISON: Yes. That's what...
BLITZER: And did...
HUTCHISON: ... the estimate was right -- right then, a few minutes ago.
BLITZER: And did they tell you the extent of the injuries?
HUTCHISON: No, not -- no. I did not have that information. He didn't have that information, the general.
But, of course, one of the things that you have to remember is that there are 9,000 civilian employees on this base who are authorized to be there, plus around 50,000 who are military. And many of those are deployed, so around 35,000 military right now. And it's a huge base.
BLITZER: And there are a lot of family members -- there's a lot of family members, young kids and spouses, on the base as well.
HUTCHISON: Oh, absolutely. There are big housing complexes and housing facilities. There are nine schools on the base, nine.
So, they have all been cleared. And I don't think that was ever a danger. But it's just, you have to understand, it's the largest military base in the world, Army base in the world, for America.
HUTCHISON: And, so, that's why I think it's just going -- they're going to have to determine if this was a person who was authorized to be on the base or not authorized to be on the base. That will tell us something. But they didn't know that yet.
BLITZER: And we should -- we will learn more about that, obviously, very, very soon.
Did -- did -- did they suggest any warning, any indication to you that this was coming, or is this just out of the blue that shots were fired? HUTCHISON: A complete surprise, because, as you can imagine, people walk around with weapons, but, generally, the weapons don't have ammunition.
So, whether they could have detected that this -- that these people actually had ammunition is unclear. And, of course, these were -- it was a processing center, where these soldiers were going to go to Iraq and Afghanistan. So, there was a lot of pressure, of course, among the people who were there and their families.
BLITZER: The incident, I take it, took place at the 1st Cavalry Division in the area there. Is that what you're hearing as well, Senator?
HUTCHISON: I didn't ask if it was the 1st Cav. There are three major different units on Fort Hood. And I don't know if it was 1st Cav or not. I didn't ask the general that. But it was a processing center.
BLITZER: Did -- did you ask -- did you ask if the incident occurred on the inside or outside of a building?
HUTCHISON: Inside the building.
BLITZER: Inside a building, one or two guys just opened fire and started killing people, basically. That's what you're hearing. Do you know what kind of room it was inside of the building?
HUTCHISON: I cannot tell you that, other than that it was a processing center. So, there was a lot of paperwork and sort of the -- all of the things that you have to do before you go out. So, it would be forms and a lot of paperwork and checkups and just a lot of the basic things that you have to do before you're deployed.
BLITZER: Give us a little flavor of this facility. You're the United States senator from Texas. I assume you have been to Fort Hood on many occasions, Senator. Tell us a little bit about this -- this sprawling facility.
HUTCHISON: It is a sprawling facility. It's huge.
And it's a major training base. And I would say that, probably, they have deployed more soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan than any other base., because they are combat-ready. And, so -- and it's a wonderful base. And they have beautiful subdivisions with -- in fact, they have been in the leadership of the best housing for families there.
And, as I said, they have nine schools. So, they have a lot of families, and they take care of families. They -- I know they're taking care of these families right now, because they have such a great facility to do that, because so many have been deployed and leave loved ones at home.
And the people who are there will surround these families. They will take care of them. The ones who are going to have loved ones who have been killed and then those who are wounded, this family will surround these people and do everything possible to ease their pain.
HUTCHISON: But, of course, there's a lot of pressure there already.
BLITZER: No doubt about that.
HUTCHISON: So, it's -- it's a tough situation.
BLITZER: When -- when you say that the incident occurred inside this building and that troops were, what, filling out papers, doing paperwork as they were getting ready to be deployed or coming back, do you know more specifics, what they were filling out paperwork about?
HUTCHISON: I'm told that they were filling out paper processing to go, to go to Iraq or Afghanistan.
BLITZER: To Afghanistan, not to Iraq?
HUTCHISON: To both. To both.
BLITZER: To both Afghanistan -- this is the facility from which troops go back and forth.
I want you to stand by, if you don't mind, Senator.
Our Barbara Starr at the Pentagon is getting some additional information, working her sources.
Barbara, what are you learning?
STARR: Wolf, U.S. military officials now saying that the numbers may be changing. It may now be up to nine people dead, we are being told. We had seven before. They now believe up to nine people may be dead.
And now the number of wounded may be reaching close to 30 people wounded -- U.S. official -- military officials also saying, again, one gunman in custody, a suspected gunman in custody, apprehended. Another one, they are still trying to apprehend.
And, of course, the possibility here that there are -- or were multiple gunmen on a U.S. military installation very, very troubling. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, has been informed about the incident and is being kept up to date.
His spokesman, Navy Captain John Kirby, tells us the chairman is -- quote -- "greatly disturbed" about all of this. The chairman has been to Fort Hood, spoken to soldiers just back from the war. He has been observing the mental health facilities that they have there for these soldiers who have been coming back from the war, suffering from combat stress -- Fort Hood, again, an installation that has been making a number of strides, trying to help families -- the situation, of course, still evolving -- Wolf. BLITZER: And you heard Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Barbara, say that the shooters were wearing uniforms, but it's unclear whether they were uniforms that they deserved to wear or whether they were stolen uniforms to impersonate U.S. military personnel.
Barbara, stand by.
Congressman John Carter is joining us on the phone. Fort Hood is -- is in his congressional district.
Congressman, what are you hearing about what -- what happened?
REP. JOHN CARTER (R), TEXAS: I had a -- one of my aides, the -- my regional director, was actually at the scene when it broke out. He was going to a graduation of some sort there, representing our congressional office, when he said that as he was -- I think he was stepping out of his car, a young soldier came running up to him.
And he's a former post chaplain for Fort Hood, so an awful lot of soldiers know -- know my -- my employee Greg. And they -- and said: "Sir, there's shooting over there. Don't go there."
And when -- then the soldier ran past him, and he saw that the soldier had been hit and didn't know it. He -- he dealt with that. I think the soldier was wounded. And they got a medical -- and taking care of that soldier. They moved him into the building where the graduation was -- was going on.
He called us and told us what he had seen and what was being reported by the people who were now protecting their building. There were soldiers, armed soldiers, protecting their building. They were going on to keep people busy inside, going on with the graduation when I talked to him, because I could hear them singing the national anthem as they were beginning the program.
He told me that they were not allowed to leave the building. They were reporting one or two one -- one custody -- one in custody -- you have heard a lot of this -- possibly another shooter. And then there are others who are reporting there could have been three shooters. I find that really -- if there's three that would be a very unique, very strange circumstance.
BLITZER: Did anyone suggest these were actual members of the U.S. military? We were told by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison that they were wearing uniforms, but they could have been stolen uniforms, they could have been impersonating U.S. military personnel. Did you get any specifics on that?
CARTER: I have confirmation they were wearing military uniforms. We talked to a former colonel who works on post a lot. And we got in touch with him. And he told us that the one in custody was wearing a uniform. They thought there was another shooter. And some rumor of a third, but he wasn't going to confirm any kind of third shooter. So probably, possibly two shooters one in custody. They're saying that the -- that the other shooter could be inside the PX. That was one of the things that they were saying. I'm going to try to get a hold of Greg as soon as I get done talking to everybody in the world on this thing. Since he's right there where it happened, being a chaplain, I'm sure he's out helping out. That's the kind of guy he is.
BLITZER: We'd love to speak to Greg ourselves if he has a chance to call us and let us know he is an eye witness to what has been going on. Congressman, it was taking place where on the base? You know Ft. Hood well?
CARTER: As I understand, between the Howze Theater and the soldier preparation center, which is what Senator Hutchison was talking about, which is basically the initial stage for deployment. It is where -- there's usually a lot of people lined up in there. I've been to deployments. There are a lot of folks lined up in there. Many of them, if they're ready to go, they got weapons on them. And they got helmets. They're moving out.
BLITZER: They were ready to be deployed. Congressman, I'm going to show our viewer this is location. Tom Foreman is here at our map, Google map. Tom, show us the location where the theater is and where -- this area where we're talking about.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The congressman is talking about this area in here. The Howze Theater. This is the development center where he's talking about all these troops, I haven't been in this particular base, but I've certainly seen other bases. There's a lot of activity often in these areas.
I do want to point out something to you, Wolf, and Congressman, if you can hear this, this might be useful to you as well. What we've had Wolf so far is various reports saying the trouble was here. This was the center of it. We've also heard about things at the softball field down here, which is right up this road. Then we've heard about things involving the PX, which is right down here.
BLITZER: That's a pretty widespread area.
FOREMAN: It is pretty far from here -- from the original starting point, at the Development Center, I measured this a moment ago out in the fields over here, it is about a half mile to here. Then you come down here to the PX it looks like another half mile. Importantly, to go to what Senator Hutchison had to say, if you go right down this road, you also come to a gate to the base.
BLITZER: The Clear Creek Gate.
FOREMAN: The Clear Creek Gate coming off Highway 90 here. I don't know if that has anything to do with this. It certainly jumps out.
BLITZER: Congressman, you know this base quite well. What you hear Tom Foreman explaining to our viewers, what do you think about this?
CARTER: I was thinking when everything was making these comments that we're talking about some pretty good distances. Now as I see it on the map, it's a good distance. A lot of open country to move across without being -- and from what Greg told me, they already had helicopters in the air. Last time I talked to Greg there was probably now about 45 minutes ago. He said there are helicopters in the air.
They are medics everywhere. There are EMS responders everywhere. So, yes, to have another reported shooting down at that PX is a pretty good ways from the place where they reported. But Greg heard gunfire. Greg heard the gunfire when the soldier ran up to him. It was relatively close to him. He said it was missile fire and rifle fire.
BLITZER: Well, the pistol fire could have been U.S. troops returning fire, if you will. That could have been what he was hearing.
CARTER: Yes, it could have been.
BLITZER: We're going to show our viewers, Congressman, bear with us. He's going to show us this area. How big of an area we're talking about between where the Howze Theater is the PX and some of the other related facilities. It looks like an area that is pretty spread out.
FOREMAN: It is fairly spread out Wolf. We'll measure it on the air. From the Howze Theater here to the Development Center, that is not very big, a tenth of a mile. That's nothing. Then if we go from the Howze Theater down here to the softball fields, now we're getting to a half mile of distance. From the softball fields up here down to the PX, now we're a little over three-quarters of a mile to that point. And then if we go all the way down from here, from the PX to the gate, that's not very far at all, I don't think. Again we are about a halftime.
But I will ask you this, Congressman, if I can. This is quite -- this is a fair amount of distance if you're on foot the whole time. But also I'm thinking about cases in the past where you've had a moving gunman. And if there's a car involved, it seems like this would also be a very natural route if somebody had started shooting over here at the Darnell -- excuse me.
At the Howze Theater or the Development Center it would be a very natural thing to follow this route out by the softball fields to follow down by the PX back toward the gate or working in from the gate, it would be a fairly natural thing to follow. Congressman any thoughts on that?
CARTER: I agree with that. They could have been trying to exit the post. I will tell you this. The security on post by my experience when I've been there has been very good. And I would bet that before the third shot was fired they had the gates pretty well shut down. I would be surprised if they didn't. They're a pretty efficient bunch.
BLITZER: How hard is it on normal days to just get in and off that base?
CATER: Well, you either have to have gone through a security check. We have a vehicle tag we can use. We have it on two of our vehicles. If we're there in another vehicle we have to present our credentials. We have to have a destination. And they check it out to see that we're due at that destination. The Third Corps is also there. Which is the essential headquarters for multiple army posts all over the United States.
BLITZER: That's a huge corps. We were talking with General Honore before. We're talking 80,000, maybe 100,000 troops in that Third Corps based at Ft. Hood, which is, as you say, the largest army base that we have. We're going to ask Congressman John Carter to stand by. You've been very, very helpful to us. We're going to be -- we're very grateful to you for your help.
We've also just been told that President Obama will be speaking about this very soon, within the next few moments. We're going to get a statement from the president of the United States. We will, of course, bring that to you live once the president speaks. I'm sure he's been briefed from the situation room, his national security advisers, military advisers have been keeping him and the senior staff at the White House up to date on what's going on.
Joining us on the phone right now Lashonda Summerlin she is with the American Federation of Government Employees. She's part of the group on lockdown at Ft. Hood right now. Tell us what's going on where you are, Lashonda.
LASHONDA SUMMERLIN, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES (via telephone): Not really sure about all the details. We are definitely getting our information from the news stations at this point. I've just been told they are dispersing at least 500 soldiers to -- I'm assuming to do some type of sweep of Ft. Hood. They are getting some outside help from the police department to secure the outer perimeter of Ft. Hood.
So we are not far, maybe I would say a mile from Clear Creek. And it's a little bit farther down from Clear Creek where the actual incident happened. So we're not that far from it. But we are kind of still in the gray about what's going on exactly and when it'll be over.
BLITZER: Are you near the Howze Theater or the Development Center there, where this incident apparently took place?
SUMMERLIN: We're not in that close of a proximity to it. But it's not very far. It's not on the other side of post for us. So, yes, it's within a five minute drive.
BLITZER: So what's it like to be in a lockdown situation, you and your colleagues and friends?
SUMMERLIN: A little nerve-racking. A little scary. Actually, we have someone here whose daughter was supposed to be at the site. And he has not been able to get in touch with her.
BLITZER: Do you know what his daughter was doing there?
SUMMERLIN: She is a dental assistant. She's working with -- in processing those soldiers, I guess doing whatever they do.
BLITZER: Well Lashonda thanks very much for joining us. Wish everybody our best. We'll stay in touch with you as well. Let's hope this incident ends and ends quickly. Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry. Ed, I take it the president is getting ready to speak out on this?
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He is Wolf. He was already scheduled to be at the Interior Department just a few blocks from the White House here. Addressing a travel lead or something in the American Indian leaders, we're now told by senior officials at the top of those remarks we can expect the president to address this tragedy at Ft. Hood as we also already reported. Officials here at the White House have been meeting in the situation room here to get a handle on the situation. That's not routine as you know, they don't do that for every sing shooting around the country.
It could be just because of the sensitivity of the fact that it's on a military base or it could be that there's, as we've been suggesting and reporting, at least one other shooter that could still be at large. So they are trying to stay on top of this. We're told by officials they're monitoring the situation. We can expect the president to probably address this very broadly and not get into the details of the investigation, obviously, while it still plays out, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Ed, we will, of course, carry the president's remarks live as soon as he starts speaking at this event. We will speak to him. We'll speak to the governor of Texas, Rick Perry, as well. He's going to be speaking out on this. A lot of folks are weighing in right now. Very, very closely to make sure they get precise information because these first reports very often turn out not necessarily to be all that accurate.
Let's bring in retired U.S. Army General Wesly Clark, former NATO supreme allied commander. General Clark I know you've been to Ft. Hood. I know you know this area. Obviously this is a very sensitive situation unfolding right now.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK (via telephone): Wolf, we don't know exactly what happened yet. As you said, most usually these first reports are inaccurate. Maybe these were soldiers. Maybe these were people who somehow infiltrated on to the base. We just don't know. Ft. Hood is the largest base in the army, as you said. It has close to 50,000 troops assigned to it. It has lots of families, a lot of retirees in the area. And it's a wonderful training facility there.
The people at Ft. Hood have been in and out of Iraq on numerous occasions and Afghanistan. I'm sure there's a lot of family stress in the area, there's a lot of fatigue, there's a lot of former soldiers who hang around the base. So it's all speculation at this point. It's a terrible tragedy no matter what are the causes and motivations behind it.
BLITZER: We're told, General, just to update our viewers, to update you, an army official tells CNN nine people are confirmed dead in these shootings. And perhaps as many as 30 people are wounded. We've been speaking with the Congressman from the district that includes Ft. Hood and the U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison from Texas. They both confirm that perhaps 20 or 30 are wounded in this incident. It happened inside a building. You know, how do you prepare for a situation, General Clark, like this? There's so many troops on a base. There are so many weapons on a base at any one time.
CLARK: You don't prepare for the situation. You rely on your chain of command to know the people in their units, to get them help when they need help and to deal with these situations. If this was a soldier, he reports to someone.
Someone's responsible in the chain of command for knowing what was going on. If it wasn't a soldier, well, then you have your -- you have your guards at the gate. They check the people who are coming in. If you're not a DOD, Department of Defense, person, if you don't have your car registered, if you don't show the right ID cards then they search the vehicle and presumably they'd screen this out.
I guess it's possible somebody could have walked on to the base, hidden in the location, somehow gotten in, set up an ambush for people. But if it was soldiers, and you have to start with the assumption that these were people who knew the military and had some connection with it, then they worked for people. They're part of an organization, a team, and a family. If it turns out to be that, of course, it would be a real tragedy.
BLITZER: As you watch this unfold, what's the normal standard operating procedure after an incident like this on a huge base like Ft. Hood? We're told there's a complete lockdown. Elaborate a little bit on that. :
CLARK: Well, there is no standard operating procedure because these things, they just don't happen on bases. They never happened on a base certainly when I was there. What a lockdown would be, would be get people off the streets. Basically, put people back where they belong. Get accountability on the people. Find out who's where and who has been...
BLITZER: I think we've just lost connection with General Clark. We'll get back to him. General Wesley Clark, the former NATO supreme allied commander helping us better appreciate what's going on. Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. Barbara, are you getting more information?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we have just learned indeed as you would expect Defense Secretary Robert Gates informed of the incident and being kept informed. We are told the Secretary is being kept informed of all the developments as they happen, as is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen. We also now know that the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, as you would expect, sharing what information they have and assessing the facts.
But the human toll of this incident, Wolf, already expanding throughout the military, especially the U.S. Army which considers itself a family. I want to share one anecdote. We are here in the Pentagon; of course a few minutes ago I was out in the hallway talking to a young soldier I know who works just a few offices away. He was out in the hallway. His eyes were full of tears. He said to me, "I have buddies down there at Ft. Hood right now." He said, "I haven't heard from any of them." This is obviously rapidly spreading news throughout the U.S. Army. Ft. Hood with 50,000 people on that base. An awful lot of people know people who are there. A lot of people waiting for phone calls.
BLITZER: Barbara stand by for a moment. Because joining us on the phone is a resident living on the base. Her name is Nicole. She doesn't want us to release her last name. She was very near the shootings. Nicole, can you hear me?
NICOLE (via telephone): Yes.
BLITZER: Tell us what you saw and what you heard.
NICOLE: I didn't hear anything. Me and my daughter were inside. And my husband had called and told us that we need to stay inside. And I asked him why, what was going on. He said that there was a shooting, that he couldn't really talk about it at the moment but he would let me know as soon as he knew something. And we got off the phone.
About 20 minutes later he called me back and told me that we need to go upstairs, stay away from the doors and the windows and keep the doors locked and all this different stuff. So it's just been crazy, sirens everywhere.
BLITZER: Are you far away from the area where this incident took place near the Howze Theater.
NICOLE: Sir, we are on Hockie Street. Which is probably seven or eight blocks away from the PX and the theater.
BLITZER: Your husband, where is he?
NICOLE: He is in his barracks right now.
BLITZER: On the base at Ft. Hood?
NICOLE: Yes. He's on base about a mile from our house.
BLITZER: And he's OK?
NICOLE: Yes. He says that he's fine. That everybody in their company is accounted for at this moment. He just texted me and said they just found someone at the Dollar General.
BLITZER: The Dollar General.
BLITZER: What is the Dollar General?
NICOLE: It's not on post. It's off of post.
BLITZER: It's a PX facility?
NICOLE: No. The Dollar General off of post from what I understand. BLITZER: Yes. All right. Stand by, Nicole. Barbara Starr is getting some more information at the Pentagon. What are you picking up Barbara?
STARR: Wolf, another update. Sad news, the U.S. military now confirming to the news media 12 killed in this incident and they are saying at this point one of the gunmen killed. We do not know if -- one of the alleged gunmen. We do not know if that was the one apprehended or the one described as cornered. But that now the latest information.
A couple of hours ago when this first unfolded it was seven dead, now 12. Perhaps some of these people passing away from their injuries and wounds in this incident. The latest is it is believed up to about 30 people wounded in this shooting incident.
BLITZER: We don't know how seriously wounded, as you point out. Some of those could be critically wounded right now. We could only hope that they all turn out to be OK. So we don't have a better sense right now if we know there are one, two or three gunmen. We had heard earlier that they believed there were two. One gunman apprehended, wounded and then a second gunman, as you point out, cornered. Are we getting any indication there could have been three or more?
STARR: You know I have seen news reports on that, Wolf. But all of the calls, everyone at CNN is making across the CNN network organization, no one has come back to us and said anything about a third gunman. But, look, I have to tell you, as everyone has said on the air for the last couple of hours, any notion that there was any gunman and more than one gunman on a U.S. military installation is just the most traumatic news.
Because it means there was some sort of planning, organization, and conversation between these alleged perpetrators, alleged at the moment. But it could not be more troubling. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff already described as greatly disturbed by what has happened at Ft. Hood today, Wolf.
BLITZER: Are they confirming at the Pentagon what we heard Congressman John Carter whose district includes Ft. Hood and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, that the gunmen were wearing uniforms? We don't know if they were real uniforms, if they were stolen, if these were actual members of the U.S. military. What are they saying about that at the Pentagon?
STARR: Yes. No confirmation of any of that. I think it's important, Wolf, what most people realize, that some military uniforms of some sort are available in many military surplus stores, which often are located outside U.S. military installations in the towns that surround U.S. military bases in this country.
We simply do not know at this hour the identities of the alleged gunmen, whether they were wearing military uniforms, whether they were authorized to wear military uniforms, whether they bought them off base, how these people came to be on Ft. Hood. We really must be very clear, I think, to our viewers, we have no confirmed information at this hour, Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara, good reporting. Stand by. We're going to get back to you. Barbara Starr reporting. Twelve now confirmed dead, at least 20 or 30 injured. One of the gunmen reportedly now killed. We don't know if that was the gunman who was cornered earlier or the gunman who was wounded in the return of fire who may have died as a result of that wound. We're checking all this out. We want to be very precise and we want to remind our viewers these are all initial reports. They usually have a tendency to change over time.
General Clark is still with us. Wesley Clark, the former NATO supreme allied commander. It's a big difference, General Clark, if they were authorized to wear uniforms or if they weren't. They were just pretending to be members of the United States military. Isn't that right?
CLARK: That's exactly right, Wolf. You know, we had one of our young people in Arkansas gunned down by a terrorist who was apprehended at Little Rock, Arkansas, and he was motivated to kill people in uniform. That would be -- that's terrible. But I have to say as a former soldier, when I -- I'd almost rather it be something like that than something from our own people. And it's just a terrible tragedy, and unprecedented.
You know, I know we've got great leadership at Ft. Hood. We'll get to the bottom of it as rapidly as possible. I think they did exactly the right thing by telling the soldiers to go back to their bases, go back to their barracks, back to headquarter, get people accounted for, get them off the streets, get them safe.
BLITZER: If, in fact, these were ideological killers who had some sort of commitment to kill as many U.S. troops as possible as opposed to an American soldier who just may have gone berserk and decided to go ahead and start killing people, if it's an ideological issue here, terrorism, then you have to wonder are there others out there who are planning or plotting to do the same thing.
CLARK: Right. There's a lot of questions something like this raises. But, you know, the important thing is for everyone is not to jump to conclusions. Take the immediate steps, get people safe, and get your soldiers and family members accounted for.
BLITZER: General, I'm going to interrupt for a moment. There's a news conference at Ft. Hood right now. I want to listen in.
LT. BOB CONE, U.S. ARMY: In many cases a lot of facilities, a lot of our families, children are locked in facilities. We're making a call right now as to determine whether we think the situation is at a conclusion such that we can release people and get them back to their homes. It is locked downright now. It will be -- we will err on the side of caution. In terms of making sure that the situation is stabilized. We have not had any casualties. All the casualties took place in the initial incident that took place at 1330.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was that again?
CONE: That was at a soldier readiness facility.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were they working...
CONE: No. This is -- these -- the individuals involved were U.S. soldiers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was there someone arrested at a Dollar General in Queens related to this?
CONE: I do not know. I only know what's going on at Ft. Hood.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your reaction?
CONE: Stunning. As I say, as I've gone around to the hospital here, as I've been at the scene, soldiers and family members and many of the great civilians that work here are absolutely devastated.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was the motive for the shooting?
CONE: We don't know that right now. Again, this is all under investigation. I came out to give you our very preliminary report to make sure we had clarity in regards to the numbers of dead and wounded at this time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were the 12 dead all shot at the same area? Was it spread out over the post?
CONE: No. They were all right in this soldier readiness facility. It actually comprises several buildings in this same general area. Many of you know, it's the old sports dome complex.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What kind of weapon are we talking about here?
CONE: There were two weapons involved the primary shooter had. Both were handguns.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he ever reload at any point?
CONE: We don't have that degree of fidelity at this point.
UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: Can you tell us what...
BLITZER: All right. There you have it. Lieutenant General Bob Cone from the CBS affiliate there. Two of those, the headline he gave at the beginning, the two shooters, alleged shooters, he says were, in fact, soldiers who opened fire at what he described as this readiness facility where troops are deployed to head off to war zones from Ft. Hood, Texas.
Whether they're off to Iraq or Afghanistan, this readiness facility is where they're doing paperwork, getting ready for the final stages of deployment, to head off to war. He says 31 are now confirmed wounded in this incident, and we heard from Barbara Starr at the Pentagon tell us that 12 confirmed dead.
Apparently all of the wounded and the dead U.S. military personnel, and the two alleged shooters, the two alleged shooters, also reportedly, according to Lieutenant General Bob Cone, of the base there in Ft. Hood, Texas, United States army soldiers as well. The picture that you just saw of the flags there, that's where the president of the United States, President Obama, will be making a statement very soon on what -- on what going on.
It was a statement that was previously scheduled to speak about Native Americans. But he's going to open up the statement with -- he's going to open up with a statement on what's going on at Ft. Hood. Let me replay the beginning of this news conference, this little statement Lieutenant General Bob Cone of Ft. Hood told us right at the beginning because we missed the top. I'll play it for you right now.
CONE: We've had a terrible tragedy here at ft. Hood today. The situation is ongoing, although I think we have positive news that we're very close to a resolution. At approximately 1330 hours today, a shooter entered what we call the soldier readiness facility where soldiers who are preparing to deploy go for last minute medical check- ups and dental treatment, et cetera. A shooter opened fire. Due to the quick response of the police forces, was killed.
At this time the numbers that we're looking at are 12 dead and 31 wounded. They're dispersed among the local hospitals here in the central Texas area. Again, the extent of injuries varies significantly. And, again, we're getting great cooperation from the central Texas medical facilities.
As I said, the shooter was killed. He was a soldier. We since then have apprehended two additional soldiers that are suspects. And I would go into the point that there are eyewitness accounts that there may have been more than one shooter.
They tracked the suspected individuals to an adjacent facility. And they were apprehended. They are soldiers, but, again, they are suspects at this time. And we're looking into that. The challenge that we face right now is the installation is locked down. And in many cases a lot of facilities, a lot of our families, children are locked in facilities. We're making a call right now as to determine whether we think the situation is at a conclusion such that we can release people and get them back to their home.
BLITZER: All right. There the part of the tape that we missed at the top. Lieutenant General Bob Cone briefing all of us just seconds ago on what has happened at around 1:30 p.m. Local Time, Central Time zone, in Texas. He says a soldier opened fire killing 12, wounding 31, all U.S. military personnel. There are two other soldiers who are determined to be suspects right now who have been arrested. Out of an abundance of caution, they're continuing the lockdown to make sure that everything has been resolved.
But he clarified for all of us exactly what they know right now. And I just want to report that, remember, these are all initial reports. He's getting his information from individuals. This is obviously subject to change. But let me bring in retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, the former NATO supreme allied commander. You heard lieutenant General Cone explain what's going on, General Clark. He did clarify a lot.
CLARK: He seems like he's got as good a grip on the situation now as you could possibly expect. Obviously there's going to be an intensive investigation to determine what the motivations were. Who are the suspects? Are they really soldiers? And who else might have known about it. There'll be a lot of -- lot to come out of this over the days to come. The most important thing for him right now and for Ft. Hood is that the incident is over. And that the other soldiers are all accounted for.
BLITZER: That was the good news. Let me just update our viewers here in the United States and around the world what's going on. We have been covering the breaking news out of Ft. Hood, Texas, now for the past hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM. And this is what we know.
This coming from U.S. Army Lieutenant General Bob Cone who just briefed reporters at Ft. Hood, Texas, the largest U.S. army base in the world. At any one time 40,000 or 50,000 soldiers based at Ft. Hood. At around 1:30 p.m. Central Time that would be 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time a soldier he said opened fire inside what is called the soldier readiness facility, the Army readiness facility.