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Shooting at Texas College; Interview With Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee

Aired January 22, 2013 - 15:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Ed Lavandera is headed right now to this campus location.

Ed Lavandera, tell me how far you are and what more you know about this.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're still several hours away, Brooke.

But, you know, there is -- it sounds like the victims in this case might have been caught in the cross fire, with whatever was going on between these two shooters. And we're also told a fourth person -- in all of this melee, a fourth person had suffered a heart attack.

So, you know, and in the midst of all of that, that's something else that they are having to deal with in that situation. So, as you mentioned, three people wounded, including one of the shooters, and obviously a swarm of law enforcement agents are going around that campus, looking for that second shooter that was involved in this.

And until that person is found, that scene will continue to be a somewhat chaotic situation, even though the immediate threat, as you reported, has been mitigated at least for the time being. Obviously a great deal of concern to be able to figure out who that other person is.

I would imagine they have been able to have an idea of who that person is, and it is a matter of tracking them down at this point.

BALDWIN: Yes. It is the who and the why. When you talk about a threat being mitigated it one thing for it to be mitigated for the people on campus, but perhaps not yet for the people in the area as law enforcement are searching for that shooter number two.

Ed, what more do you know about this area? From what I -- what I can tell, this is a pretty -- this is a metropolitan area, this is not far from Houston. We know that four schools in the area. You have elementary schools and another high school, they are under lockdown for precautionary measures, but beyond the campus, who is there? Are these homes? Is it residential? Is it business?

LAVANDERA: Yes, this is a sprawling area of Houston here near the Woodlands community, which is just a massive, massive mostly suburban- style area, just on the northern side of Houston. So this is an area with a great number of people, and a lot of, you know, people who have moved into that area. It's a very popular area, very popular part of...


LAVANDERA: So that's that's kind of the situation, kind of setting the scene there for you for the part of Houston that you're in right now.

BALDWIN: Ed Lavandera, let me go -- as I'm listening here. We want to go to a spokesperson from the sheriff's department in Harris County. Let's listen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... with the Lone Star College. He will also give you some information from the college's point of view. We will have another briefing maybe around 4:00 as soon as we have any more information.

So Major Armando Tello with the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

QUESTION: What can you tell us, Major?

MAJ. ARMANDO TELLO, HARRIS COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: What we do know right now is we do have an ongoing situation at this time. Because it is ongoing, I cannot give any further details. We do have, we believe, three people injured at this time. Again, we also have a person of interest that is being detained at this time. Thank you.

QUESTION: And that person is also injured, correct, Major?

QUESTION: Identify yourself again please, sir.

JOHN LUEDEMANN, LONE STAR COLLEGE: My name is John Luedemann -- Luedemann -- I'm with media relations at the college. Right now the campus is obviously closed, on lockdown. We have evacuated everybody.

Like the major said, we don't really have any additional information to provide at this time. We will be using our main number 281-618- 5400 to provide updates if people want to call in. We will have recorded messaging updating the situation at the college.

QUESTION: For folks who are parked on one side or the other, what should they do?

Not a lot of information being given out here at this location, which is probably not at all helpful...

BALDWIN: Back here, not a lot, not a lot, as you just heard that reporter say. Not a lot of information given out. The reason, because this is an active situation. It is an ongoing situation. They're still looking for the second shooter.

Again, to reiterate, what Ed was reporting, which is also what we have confirmed, that three people have been injured, and in the midst of this, a fourth person had suffered a heart attack. Ed Lavandera, you still with me?

LAVANDERA: I am with you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: OK. Let me just -- I think where we left off was you were describing the area, this is a heavily residential area beyond the perimeter of this campus. Continue.

LAVANDERA: Just trying to set the scene a little bit.

The part of town that you're in, North Houston, is a sprawling, sprawling space of, you know, many suburban-style neighborhoods. This is a highly condensed, you know, a lot of people live around there, very popular part of town. It is an area that is very popular in Houston and has grown tremendously in the last 10, 15, 20 years.

BALDWIN: OK. Ed Lavandera, don't go too far from that phone.

I just want to play an interview. I spoke with Jed Young. He is with Lone Star College. Gave a little bit more information and I pressed him on a couple of points he made. Take a listen to that moments ago.


BALDWIN: Jed, please, just tell me what you know. Do we know is this still an active scene?

JED YOUNG, LONE STAR COLLEGE: Here's the latest information.

There was a -- the call began with a call to our dispatcher at 12:31. We do know a shooting has taken place. First glance, it appears to be between two individuals. That's something I can't exactly confirm. But that's what I understand. There were two students we believe who were shot in crossfire. I'm not certain of their status at this moment. The danger, the police believe the danger has been mitigated.

The school is under control, but still being evacuated. One shooter was also shot. And that shooter is in custody. And I understand one fled the campus. Other than that, I have not -- that's all I have got at this juncture.

BALDWIN: OK. Mr. Young, that's a lot more information than we had a little bit ago. So, let me run back through what you said. The shooting, you're saying, appears to be between two individuals. Were these two individuals students?

YOUNG: I can't confirm that, Brooke. I'm sorry, at this point I just understand it was between two individuals.

BALDWIN: Where did the shooting happen? Was it in a building? Was it in the library? Was it in open air?

YOUNG: I don't know the location either, I'm sorry.

BALDWIN: The two students who were shot in the cross fire, Jed, do you know the extent of their injuries? YOUNG: No. But they have been -- all of those wounded have been taken by our EMS folks.

BALDWIN: As we talk injuries, has anyone been killed?

YOUNG: No. Well, I can't confirm that. I don't think so.

BALDWIN: You don't think so.

YOUNG: No, but I can't -- I do not have the update on the condition of the folks that were shot.


BALDWIN: I understand.


BALDWIN: I'm running down my list of mental questions here. When we talk about really the massive variable is this second shooter, who you're saying fled campus. So we have no idea. Law enforcement has no idea where this individual is, correct?

YOUNG: Again, the statement I gave you is what I have. Once we get more information, I will be glad to update it best we can.

BALDWIN: Can you tell me just a little bit more about the college? Did they have an emergency protocol, you know, if and when instances like this happen?

YOUNG: I'm sorry. I didn't hear you.

BALDWIN: My question is, just this particular college, the Lone Star College, do you know if they had a-go to emergency protocol in situations like a school shooting?

YOUNG: I'm still having a hard time. But the situation -- I don't know what you're asking me about this college individually?

BALDWIN: Sir, are you with the college or with you...


YOUNG: Now I can hear you.

BALDWIN: Here we go. We're just going to do this on the fly, sir. I will try to speak as loudly and clearly as I can.


YOUNG: I can hear you now.

BALDWIN: Are you with the college or are you with the Harris County Police?

YOUNG: I'm with the college. But I'm not at the college. I'm at the main office in Woodlands.

BALDWIN: OK. That's what I thought. So being someone calling in from the college, I'm curious if there was a go-to plan, a protocol for an emergency situation like this?



YOUNG: We did have a plan. We have an on-campus alert system. We have other protocols we follow. We do have a chief emergency management officer.

The problem we have had in the last 20, 30 minutes of getting information was due to the fact that the scene was still active. Makes it a little tougher to get updated information.

BALDWIN: Are you still considering this an active scene, given the fact that one of the shooters is still missing?

YOUNG: No. That's not what I understand. The scene -- the situation is under control is what I'm being told at this point.

BALDWIN: So I'm just -- I guess I'm a little confused, how do you have a situation under control when you have one of two shooters missing?

YOUNG: From what I understand, that shooter is not on campus.

BALDWIN: So this is not an issue now with, I get it, with the campus, with the North Harris campus. This is an issue beyond campus bounds. This is now a Harris County police issue.

YOUNG: Correct.


BALDWIN: All right, that was Jed Young who was talking to me just moments ago, and again just trying to clarify some of what we know. But this one shooter of these two shooters, one shot in custody, the other is missing and they're looking for this individual right now.

I want to bring in another voice. This is our first eyewitness voice we have had live here on the show. This is Amanda Vasquez. She's a freshman at Lone Star College.

Amanda, are you with me?


BALDWIN: How are you? How are you?

VASQUEZ: I'm feeling a lot better now than 30 minutes ago.

BALDWIN: I'm glad to hear that. Tell me where you were when the shooting started. VASQUEZ: I was in the academic building waiting for my English class to start.

BALDWIN: And then what did you hear?

VASQUEZ: I heard about six shots and kids started rushing down the hallway. And a few even came into our class. And it really happened so fast.

BALDWIN: What were people shouting?

VASQUEZ: They were just shouting. But I couldn't hear anything. For me, I was just trying to get under a table, get into the back corner of the room, and immediately I just wanted to find some sort of shelter inside the room.

And so we closed the door and we turned off the lights and there is a lady in the room who was trying to be an EMT. And she put a table by the door. I called my mom just because I needed her to know that I was OK and that, you know, I loved her, just in case anything was going to happen.

And then I went to Twitter because I didn't have any real room service. I just had the Wi-Fi. So, all I could -- I was trying to give updates to let people know not to come in here because there is someone in here, because I didn't know the status of the building at the time when we were still locked in the room. I just didn't want anyone else hurt.

BALDWIN: Amanda, my heart is going out to you. And you called your mother. Did you talk to your mom? What did you tell your mom?

VASQUEZ: I told my mom that someone was shooting in the building, and that I didn't know what was going to happen. And at first she didn't believe me because of course you never think this thing would happen to you. But I kept telling her, it is happening. I need you to call the cops. I tried to call the cops too.

And I'm sorry. I just -- what I was telling my mom is that I loved her and I don't know what's going to happen.

BALDWIN: Amanda, how many shots did you hear?

VASQUEZ: I heard about six. Six shots.

BALDWIN: What did they sound like?

VASQUEZ: I can't -- just gunshots. I don't really know about guns or how they sound. I'm sorry.

BALDWIN: How many people were in the class with you trying to hide under desks and behind this table that this EMT had thrown against the door?

VASQUEZ: About 25.


BALDWIN: And how far away how far away were the shots from you, would you guess? Was it far away in the building?

VASQUEZ: No, it was in the hallway. It wasn't far. It wasn't that far. It was...


BALDWIN: Tell me -- tell me -- Amanda, tell me about your college. What's a normal day like?

VASQUEZ: A normal day, it's very friendly people. The teachers are helpful. It's -- to me, I always thought it was a safe campus. We have police. We have security everywhere. And, yes...

BALDWIN: You felt safe.

VASQUEZ: I felt safe on that campus.

BALDWIN: I understand -- had you ever experienced anything, any kind of crime on campus at all?

VASQUEZ: No, ma'am.

BALDWIN: I was talking to someone a moment ago from the Lone Star College and he said that, yes, there absolutely was a plan in place, protocol, officers. You talk about security. Had you all had discussions in the wake of what happened in Connecticut a month ago, what to do, heaven forbid, if and when something like this happened here?

VASQUEZ: There hadn't been, like, any sort of talk, but I guess it is just because you think that your campus is safe. You just don't think it is going to happen to you, but there hadn't been some one-on-one discussion or anything like that. You just...

BALDWIN: Tell me, how big is this North Harris campus? And where on this campus was this? This is a building you called the academic building. This is where the shooting happened.

VASQUEZ: Well, it happened -- there was two gunmen that I know of, and there was shooting that happened in the library as well. It wasn't just in the academic building.

BALDWIN: So it was two different buildings. Tell me what you have heard from people there.

VASQUEZ: So far, what I know is that it started in the library and it then kind of went towards the -- there was a common area in between the cafeteria and the academic building. I have heard from people that it happened -- there was some activity there. But what I know is that it was down the hallway from me in the academic building. That, I can confirm to you is that there were shots in that building.

BALDWIN: Say that again for me. Say that last part again for me. VASQUEZ: I can confirm to you there were six shots at least -- or around that number, six shots in the building that I was in on the first floor. That's for sure what I know.

BALDWIN: Have you -- do you have any other friends who were in the library or anywhere else who can describe what they saw or heard?

VASQUEZ: I'm still hoping all my friends are OK. I didn't really see any of my friends afterwards. I was just trying to get to my parents.

BALDWIN: Amanda Vasquez, I'm so glad that you are OK. And I thank you so much for calling in, and I hope you have been able to call your mom now that everything has been over on campus to tell her you are OK.

Amanda Vasquez, a freshman here at the Lone Star College in Texas.

What a story.

Anderson Cooper is joining me from New York here as we continue to press along and talk about this.

Anderson, and I just sit here, both you and I were in Newtown and I hate this, again, that we are reporting on another school shooting. And you hear, you hear the emotion in this young woman's voice, the fact that she was barricaded in this classroom, she heard these six shots, hiding under a desk, and was calling her mother in the case she wouldn't make it.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And I think it is important at this point to remark on what we don't know as well as what we do know.

We do know one of the alleged shooters is in custody. Most importantly, though, police say that one of the alleged shooters is not in custody. They don't know where he is. You spoke to a school official moments ago who said that they believe that shooter or alleged shooter is not on the campus, which would indicate he's somewhere else on the loose.

But again we have not heard from law enforcement authorities about whether or not they have the identity of the shooter. Assume they do given that they have one suspect in custody, if in fact he's talking, and there were to witnesses as well. One other person has been brought to -- two other people have been brought to a hospital. One person supposedly, reportedly, at this hour shot in some sort of crossfire. The other person may have suffered a heart attack.

But, again, as you well know, Brooke, and everybody knows watching, unfortunately we have experience, too much experience in these kinds of things. Often, the initial reports turn out to be inaccurate. We should take everything we're hearing right now I think with a large grain of salt. Also, there are conflicting reports, Brooke.

The student you just talked to said that she believed the shooting began in the library, then moved into what she described as an academic building. There is another report from another student who said it actually began in what he described as an administration building, and one of the shooters ran into the library. So, again, it is not clear, but it does seem as if this took place in more than one location. And we're trying to gather as much information as we can on it.

Joe Johns is also joining us from Washington, D.C. He's been monitoring the investigation and the reaction by local authorities, as well as any other authorities, federal authorities or state authorities.

Joe, what are you hearing in terms of where things stand right now?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, federal law enforcement authorities are headed to the scene and we're told through our sources that the information that they're working with now, and this is important, is that this was a shooting between two individuals in the library.

At least part of it was between two individuals in the library, which raises a number of questions about how similar or different this is from some of the other school shootings we have heard about, in Newtown, in Aurora, Colorado, and other places, where someone just gratuitously went in and started blowing people away.

This appeared to be an altercation at least part of it between two individuals. So the question is why. You have heard some of our reporters talking about how this is a densely populated area, and it raises issues of urban crime, and whether there is something else afoot here that distinguishes it from some of the other shootings.

Federal authorities headed to the scene. We do know that people were caught in the crossfire. And I guess we just have to wait for the rest of the information as it comes in. I just want to caution about how this is different from some of the other things we have recently heard about, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. That's a very important point, again. Again, this does seem to be some sort of altercation or confrontation between two students. Somebody else was caught in the crossfire. Somebody else seemed to have had a heart attack in all the drama of the situation.

But, again, as of what we know right now, it seems that one alleged shooter is still on the loose, though campus officials believe that the situation on campus is now safe. The campus did go into lockdown, messages were sent out for people to shelter in place, to not leave the location where they were and to not come on to the campus if they were en route to the campus. They didn't want more people arriving on this campus, somewhat of a sprawling campus with thousands of students, so you can imagine how difficult it would be for authorities with large numbers of people coming and going at any one time.

Ed Lavandera is on the way to the scene down there in Houston, Texas.

Ed, I'm wondering what you have been able to gather so far.

LAVANDERA: A lot of what you have been reporting. The question now is of that second shooter that was involved. And the question now becomes, Anderson, is that person in a contained area, are they able to contain where this person is, or has it -- is this person -- has this become -- does this become a wider search for where this suspected second shooter might be?

And obviously that would be of grave concern to the law enforcement agents there on the ground. The question is whether or not that person is still a threat to anybody else or, you know, what that person might be thinking. Those are the kinds of questions that law enforcement are dealing with right now.

COOPER: Ed, are you clear on -- we're seeing three wounded. Are you clear on -- I assume one of those is the person who allegedly had a heart attack. Do we know was one of the shooters wounded? And if so, do we know anything about that person's condition?

LAVANDERA: There were three people wounded. That included the shooter. So -- and then a fourth person is the one that appears to have suffered a heart attack. So if there are two shooters, beyond the shooters that were involved, you have two other people who must have been caught in what appears to be a crossfire or wounded that way. You have those two people who are probably innocent bystanders.

You have the one shooter involved in this altercation that was wounded as well. And then you have a fourth person who apparently suffered a heart attack in this melee. And then we don't know the condition of what the second suspected shooter might be and whether or not that person is dealing with wounds as well.

COOPER: We also don't know why these two individuals would have had guns on this campus. Do you know, Ed, what the policy is in terms of carrying weapons on this campus?

LAVANDERA: Well, it's interesting. There is a -- Texas is one of those states where you can carry a concealed weapon. But there are places where you cannot carry a weapon, churches, schools, and that sort of thing. So from what I have heard, this is obviously one of those campuses where guns would not have been allowed on campus.

Whether or not this has been an ongoing problem or is this something that is unique and that has happened today, we haven't been able to ask those questions. And obviously the school dealing with much bigger issues today, so that's not the kind of question they would be answer -- probably be able to answer it this quickly.

But in the state of Texas, an issue that is being debated right now, Governor Perry here in Texas has brought this up in recent legislative sessions, lawmakers have brought up that they think students should be able to carry weapons on campus. And that's one of the issues that is being debated and will continue to be debated, and it is an interesting backdrop to what we're dealing with here today.

COOPER: You can see there is a very heavy police presence obviously on the campus. Multiple law enforcement agencies. We also saw emergency vehicles, paramedics on the scene earlier, working on one or two people. But, again, we're trying to gather just the latest information and exactly most importantly right now the status of that second alleged shooter, to find out where that person may be, if authorities know who that person is, and have some sort of a lead on where that person may be.

Obviously, that is a high priority for authorities now as well as investigating what exactly occurred than campus. It is very much a crime scene.

And from what we understand, Brooke, I want to bring you back in here, again, conflicting reports on where this shooting actually began, whether it was in the library, whether it was in some sort of academic or administration building as two different people have called it. But it does seem like this was -- this was a very, kinetic active scene in which these shooters moved from one location to another.

BALDWIN: Yes, it still seems pretty kinetic if you're talking about beyond the perimeter of this campus, this North Harris campus, in Texas, where as you point out, we have been trying to stress this point, even though they're saying the threat is mitigated on campus, they're still looking for this variable, this second shooter.

And, again, to underscore the under what we don't know category, we don't know if this person is a student, is at all affiliated with the school, is someone who even lives in the area. We don't know.

Ed Lavandera brought up the governor of Texas. We actually here at CNN just got a statement from Rick Perry's deputy press secretary, so let me just read that to you as obviously his office is well aware of what is happening on this campus and now beyond -- quote -- "Our office is in contact with state law enforcement and Governor Perry has been briefed on what is known so far about the situation. His thoughts and prayers are with those that have been impacted. We have nothing more to add at this point, but the governor will continue to closely monitor the situation. You should contact local law enforcement for any further details."

We have been hearing, as we have been dipping in a little bit, to some of the affiliate coverage from our Houston, Texas, affiliate, some of these eyewitnesses -- I talked to a young woman a moment ago who described in emotional detail hiding under a desk in her English class in what she calls the academic building and hearing six shots and the screams and the fact that she hopped on the phone to try to talk to her mother, fearing for her own life in that moment.

And we have more sound. I just want to play this for you. More people, what did they see? What did they hear? Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Someone said they had one guy and we don't know how many it was. And it is very scary. It is very chaotic. You are thinking if they made us go to the library, I mean, to the cafeteria, if you can't find the guy, how do you know he's not in the crowd with us? All I can do is stay away from windows and pray. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw three people just, you know, arguing, and then -- but I didn't pay attention. I thought that was just playing around. And I made it out there, passed by the library, I started listening to all the shooting and when I looked back, I saw just people running towards me. And I grabbed my -- older teacher that fell, I grabbed her and then we took her out of the building.

QUESTION: What can you tell us, Major?

TELLO: What we do know right now is we do have an ongoing situation at this time. Because it is ongoing, I cannot give any further details. We do have, we believe, three people injured at this time. Again, we also have a person of interest that is being detained at this time. Thank you.


BALDWIN: So as he points out, Anderson, and as we have been reporting, one person of interest. According to the school official I talked to, these two individuals, these two shooters involved in this altercation, was it the library, was it the academic building? We don't know. It does seem to have happened in multiple places.

Screams, shots, we have been reporting that not only was this particular North Harris campus under lockdown, but obviously for precautionary reasons, there were multiple other -- an elementary school, some high schools in the area on lockdown. As police right now are very, very busy, and not just police, I should point out, ATF and FBI on campus and around the perimeter as well, trying to find the second shooter -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. We should point out there's some 10,000 students on this one campus alone.

I want to bring in Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who represents this district.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for being with us.

I'm wondering, what are you hearing at this point about that has occurred than campus?

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: Well, thank you.

First of all, my sincere concern for all those who have been involved, and I have reached out to the leadership. What we know so far obviously is the incident occurred about Central time 1:00-ish, if you will, and the school immediately responded with their alert system, which I want to congratulate them for, in providing notice to students to stand down, shelter in place and those who are about to enter the campus, for them not to come on the campus.

We know that someone is seriously injured. And the leadership of the campus are listening to law enforcement. And there are many on the campus. And they have speculated what it might have been, but they have nothing conclusive. We're all waiting to hear. But our concern is with the injured and particularly the person or persons that are critically injured, that are seriously injured.