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THE SITUATION ROOM

President Obama Prepares to Deliver State of the Union; North Korean Nuclear Threat; Dorner Believed to Be Shooting at Cops; Big Bear Schools On Lockdown; Two Officers Wounded In Shootout

Aired February 12, 2013 - 16:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: a stricken ship plagued by raw sewage. Some 4,000 passengers and crew describe conditions on the Carnival Triumph as disgusting.

Countdown to tonight's State of the Union. We're learning new details of what President Obama will say.

And North Korea's young leader defies the world with an underground nuclear test and now the United States is responding.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A picture of nightmare at sea. These passengers on the Carnival Triumph aren't on deck to soak up the sun. They're trying to escape the unbearable stench of raw sewage reportedly dripping down walls and filling hallways after the ship lost power in the engine room fire on Sunday.

The National Transportation Safety Board just announced it will join the U.S. Coast Guard in an investigation of the fire. After two days adrift, the Triumph is now being towed to Mobile, Alabama, with more than 3,000 passengers whose vacation stories have turned into horror stories.

Another 1,000 crew members are aboard.

CNN's David Mattingly is in Mobile for us.

David, what is the latest that you're hearing over there? It sounds awful.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Carnival cruise ship Triumph will finally dock just behind me in the gates behind me where you see the ship back there right now.

When it gets here it will be greeted by investigators from the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board. They're launching a probe into what caused that fire that ultimately launched thousands of people on a voyage of misery.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY (voice-over): It's no exaggeration to say this cruise to paradise has turned into a cruise through hell. ANN BARLOW, PASSENGER: There is sewage, raw sewage, pretty bad. When you walk in the hallways, you have to cover your face. We don't have any masks for breathing. It's just -- it's disgusting.

MATTINGLY: Sunday's fire which disabled the cruise ship's engines also knocked out many of the cabin toilets, the hot water and the air conditioning.

DONNA GUTZMAN, PASSENGER: The rooms are very hot unless you have a balcony room and then you can kind of get air and light, but if you have an interior room like mine, it's pretty dark in there and it's very stuffy, especially if someone used your bathroom.

MATTINGLY: Of more than 3,100 passengers, many are sleeping outside on mattresses and deck chairs. As for food...

BARLOW: Bread, boxed cereal and water and sodas and they just opened the bar to give people free beer and wine. There's only really a couple of lines. It takes three-and-a-half-hours to get your food.

MATTINGLY: Fresh food is being brought aboard from other cruise ships. Two tugboats are towing the disabled liner to Mobile, Alabama. But at a whopping seven miles an hour, it will take until late Wednesday or Thursday. Meanwhile, the crew are doing what they can.

GUTZMAN: We're not having as much fun as what we had planned, but everyone seems to be doing OK.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: When the passengers disembark near the city of Mobile, officials here say that they plan to have medical personnel available just in case anyone needs to get checked out.

In the meantime, Carnival making plans to get everyone back home providing them with a plane trip, a plane ticket, also providing refunds for the cruise they have just been on and as well, Wolf, a credit for a cruise if they decide to take another one in the future.

BLITZER: So at least until Wednesday night, maybe even Thursday, they're going to be stuck on there. I assume they thought about seeing if they could get the folks, get another boat out to transfer everyone to another ship and see if they could do that. That was impractical, is that what the explanation is?

MATTINGLY: Transferring people from large vessels like that to another vessel is very problematic out on the open seas, and right now the ship has had some trouble with the wind. It's actually listing a couple of degrees, not causing a safety problem, but they do have some environmental factors out there to consider as well.

The best thing, the safest thing is to keep everybody on board that ship and to bring them right here to disembark -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, we will stand by. Much more coming up on this story. Thanks very much. And to our viewers, you can read more of the passengers' descriptions of these very unpleasant conditions on board. Go to our Web site, CNN.com, for more on that.

Other news we're following, CNN has learned President Obama will talk about North Korea's latest nuclear test in his State of the Union speech later tonight. The underground blast was so strong, it was actually registered, get this, as a magnitude -5.1 earthquake by U.S. geologists.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence has details of the nuclear test, the diplomatic fallout.

Let's go to Chris over at the Pentagon.

What's the latest?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, South Korean officials estimate that this explosion could have been as high as six to seven kilotons, which would make it about half the explosive power of the bomb that the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima.

But the key thing that U.S. officials are trying to determine is whether North Korea managed to miniaturize the device, in other words, make it small enough that one day soon they would be able to marry a nuclear warhead on top of a long-range missile.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE (voice-over): On the eve of President Obama's address to the American people, North Korea sent a message of its own and muscled its way into the State of the Union.

LEON PANETTA, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: They represent a serious threat to the United States of America. We have got to be prepared to deal with that.

LAWRENCE: North Korea detonated an explosion deep underground, sparking immediate worry in Japan, South Korea and others in the region. The U.S. military deployed a special plane to Japan that collects radioactive particles. But the plume has to extend outside North Korean airspace before the plane can collect samples.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You will find out everything I have got to say tonight.

LAWRENCE: Sources say President Obama adjusted his speech to mention North Korea's nuclear ambitions, but after the U.N. called an emergency meeting, the message is already being delivered.

SUSAN RICE, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: It will not be tolerated and they will be met with North Korea's increasing isolation.

LAWRENCE: That means sanctions, although how do you isolate the world's most isolated regime is an open question. VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: We are looking at the full suite of options.

LAWRENCE: Officials say they will go to the Iran playbook, sanctioning specific individuals and clamping down on banks and shipping companies.

JOSEPH CIRINCIONE, PRESIDENT, PLOUGHSHARES FUND: You can't just play nuclear Whac-A-Mole.

LAWRENCE: Nuclear arms analyst Joe Cirincione says this test proves the U.S. cannot crush the regime.

CIRINCIONE: If you can't force them to comply, and we have proven that we can't, the only choice you have left is one of engagement.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: Well, it's going to be a few days before we know, but those choices are going to narrow if North Korea used uranium for the first time. It's much easier to hide than plutonium. In fact, you can make it in a building about the size of a warehouse. And North Korea can mine uranium at home. So international sanctions wouldn't do much to affect their supply -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A lot of analysts out there are suggesting that the new young leader of North Korea, Chris, Kim Jong-un, he's trying to prove that he's a tough guy, especially with his own military hard-liners. That's why he's taking these provocative steps.

What are you hearing over at the Pentagon?

LAWRENCE: The same thing we always hear, Wolf. We hear a lot of that, but the one thing it's always followed by is the caveat, we just don't know for sure. There is an incredible amount of frustration in the fact that they can never entirely pinpoint exactly what the motives are behind anything that North Korea does, although you're right, there is a lot of sentiment that this may be more domestically driven more so than outward towards the world.

BLITZER: All right, Chris, thanks very much, Chris Lawrence over at the Pentagon.

By the way, we are awaiting a vote on the nomination of the former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel to become the nation's next defense secretary. The Senate Armed Services Committee is meeting right now. It is expected to approve the nomination largely along party lines.

The majority leader, Harry Reid, says he hopes for a full Senate vote this week, but that would be barring a Republican filibuster. This saga of Chuck Hagel is by no means over with yet.

We are just learning now details about what President Obama will say at tonight's State of the Union address before a joint meeting of the United States Congress. We're going to the White House. That's coming up.

Also, new video emerging right now in Southern California that appears to show that the former police officer wanted for multiple murders was actually -- was he buying scuba gear and if he was, why?

Plus, growing Vatican intrigue about who will be in charge when the pope steps down at the end of this month, plus word of Pope Benedict's secret surgery.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: New video has surfaced possibly showing one of the most wanted men in America and it could give police some new clues as they search for the fired police officer Christopher Dorner, who is wanted now for multiple murders.

CNN's Casey Wian has the video. He's got the latest on the manhunt.

Casey, what's going on? Because there are suggestions there's a lot of activity especially in what's called the Big Bear area.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we are hearing those reports of increased law enforcement activity in the Big Bear area, which is the area where Christopher Dorner was last known or suspected to have been.

I just talked with a spokeswoman with the Los Angeles Police Department here at headquarters. She said they are in touch with the command post in the area, but they cannot confirm anything for us at this point.

What we do know is that investigators are looking at more than 1,000 clues in their effort to find Christopher Dorner.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN (voice-over): Could this video of a man resembling murder suspect Christopher Dorner provide a clue to his whereabouts? The video obtained by TMZ shows him walking through the aisles of a Southern California sporting goods store. He carries what appears to be one large scuba tank and two smaller ones to the checkout counter, then chats with the cashier, all this two days before police say Dorner's killing spree began.

LT. ANDY NEIMAN, LAPD: The investigators are going to look at every aspect. Obviously, they would look at the transactions that occurred at that time at that store and try to line up and make sure those transactions were done by Dorner and that Dorner is actually the one depicted in the video.

WIAN: The video could be significant because investigators say last week Dorner tried to steal a boat in San Diego and his wallet and I.D. were found near the San Ysidro port of entry into Mexico. From Tijuana to a home improvement store north of Los Angeles, reported Dorner sightings have poured into the task force conducting the manhunt. None have panned out.

Since Sunday, when officials offered a $1 million reward for Dorner's capture and conviction, the number of public tips has quadrupled to more than 1,000. But investigators concede they still don't know where he is.

NEIMAN: It's frustrating. And we're hopeful that something will break loose from the public.

WIAN: A door-to-door search continues in the Big Bear area. Residents with security cameras are being asked to check for evidence with Dorner. Fifty LAPD families remain under police protection because they are linked to targets mentioned in Dorner's manifesto.

CHARLIE BECK, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, POLICE CHIEF: If Dorner still lives, we believe that these are all very, very viable targets. And we will continue to protect them.

WIAN: The Holy Angeles School in Arcadia closed for a second day. Its pastor is related to someone threatened by Dorner.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: One law enforcement source telling us, Wolf, we really have to think out of the box with this guy. He's been one step ahead of us.

Of course we'll let you know if that continues, if we get anymore information and confirm those reports that we're hearing out of the Big Bear area, Wolf.

BLITZER: Supposedly, correct me if I'm wrong, Dorner had some sort of longstanding connection to that Big Bear area. He's pretty familiar with the area. Maybe that's why he went back there, is that right?

WIAN: That's certainly one of the things that investigators have been looking at. A known associate of Dorner, according to the marshals' arrest warrant, has -- his family has property in the Big Bear area. Dorner's vehicle, when it was found on Thursday on fire, was very near that property. So that's one of the things that they have been looking at to see if he had any kind of assistance from anybody or any connection to that area and may have been one of the places where he fled -- Wolf.

BLITZER: This search is about as huge a search in southern California, Casey, as we have seen in a long time. But folks really want to catch this guy?

WIAN: Absolutely, I can't tell you how on edge the law enforcement community has been for well over a week now. Fifty members of the LAPD and their families on 24-hour -- being protected 24 hours by the security detail of the LAPD because they are identified as potential targets of Dorner, people that he has mentioned in his manifesto, very much on edge.

It's one of those weird situations where the general public is nervous, but the law enforcement officers who are sworn to protect the again public are the most nervous because they're the ones that Dorner has vowed to target, Wolf.

BLITZER: There are all these reports coming in, Casey, including "The L.A. Times", suggesting that perhaps there was an exchange of fire recently involving Dorner and local law enforcement. Is there anything you know about this?

WIAN: There's nothing I can confirm other than I have heard those reports as well, Wolf. And we just spoke with public information officers here at headquarters and they are in touch with the command post up there in the Big Bear area. So far, there's nothing they can tell us to confirm whether those gunshots are related to Dorner and his possible apprehension.

BLITZER: Because there have been a lot of false sightings over these past few days, Casey, they thought they were close to this guy and it turned out to be false alarms, if you will, so everyone wants to be very, very precise right now. This is obviously the most sensitive issue out there.

WIAN: That's right. There have been false sightings in Tijuana, false sightings in a big box home improvement store north of Los Angeles, more than 1,000 tips have come in, 750 of those since the Los Angeles City officials and the southern California regional officials announced the $1 million reward for information leading to Dorner's capture and conviction.

We'll see if any of those turned out to be the tips that led them, if in fact that's what's going on, to Christopher Dorner.

BLITZER: "The L.A. Times" suggesting that this gun battle potentially may be involving Dorner, may have occurred when he was trying to burglarize a home as part of an effort to steal a car. We know his other car had been burned to a crisp, if you will. These are unconfirmed reports, there are a lot of local TV stations, "The L.A. Times" now suggests there has been an exchange of gun fire believed to be with Dorner but we have not independently confirmed that.

"The L.A. times" tweeting just a little while ago, "Christopher Dorner was engaged in a shoot-out with authorities in the Big Bear area, sources have told the "Times'". When we say federal authorities, FBI, local authorities, a lot of law enforcement are involved in this massive man hunt.

WIAN: That's right, Wolf. And we also know through law enforcement that they expect and have anticipated that Dorner is very armed, very well-armed, very dangerous, his manifesto, they talked about his expertise as a marksman trained in the military. He delivered to our own Anderson Cooper, a medallion that had bullet holes in it.

So they're very aware that he is apparently well-armed and it's no surprise if in fact this is what happened that there has been an exchange of gun fire, Wolf.

BLITZER: And this new report, also from "The L.A. Times," I'll read it to our viewers, "Sources say the gun battle occurred after Dorner allegedly tried to burglarize a home and steal a car." "The L.A. Times" says Dorner's condition was not clear. We know he's been on the run now for several days after allegedly killing three people in the southern California area.

But these reports from "The L.A. times," local TV stations suggesting that there's been an exchange of gun fire and that they may, repeat may be -- they may have involved Christopher Dorner. We have not, once again, independently confirmed this.

We do know -- and, Casey, I want to be precise -- we do know, based on our own reporting heightened activity in that big bear area? Casey, we know there's been heightened activity in the past hour or two in that Big Bear area?

WIAN: That's right, Wolf, and law enforcement officials I have just been told by my producer Chuck Connor (ph), law enforcement officials now confirm to CNN that there has been an exchange in gun fire, they believe involving Dorner. There are reports that he was involved in an attempt to steal a vehicle. So, we can now confirm that law enforcement has engaged Christopher Dorner in the area east of Los Angeles, those mountains near Big Bear, Wolf.

We don't know what his condition is.

BLITZER: How far is that Big Bear mountain area, how far is that from the Los Angeles area?

WIAN: It's about a two-hour drive from downtown Los Angeles. Give or take a few, it's a very windy road up there, several ways to get into the Big Bear area, it's one of the local ski resorts that Angelinos go to. And you can do it in a day trip. There's also a lot of residences in that area, some of these residences vacant for most of the year, some of them are rentals. And that has complicated the search as law enforcement officials have gone door to door for the past week or so searching for Dorner.

We had hundreds of law enforcement officers in that Big Bear area last week, those numbers have been scaled down gradually, on Saturday. There were 125 people searching for him. And just over the last couple of days, that number had dwindled to 30. And it appears that search has paid off, Wolf.

BLITZER: We don't know the -- we don't know what happened, that we have confirmed that there's been an exchange of gun fire and we believe it involves Christopher Dorner. We don't know what the end result is, if he's alive, what his condition is, if he was found, those questions remain unanswered. Is that right, Casey?

WIAN: That's right. And let me read you what we had, just for very latest here. Law enforcement is responding to reports that are believed to be credible that Christopher Dorner has been sighted and may have been involved in a robbery in the Big Bear area. San Bernardino sheriff's deputies are currently responding and are in touch with the command post in Big Bear. The robbery possibly involved the stealing of a vehicle. That's the latest that we have, Wolf.

BLITZER: But we don't know if Dorner has been shot, we don't know his condition, and we don't know if he's in custody or still on the loose, isn't that right?

WIAN: That is absolutely correct. What we do know is that investigators who were searching for Dorner in that Big Bear area, had helicopters at their disposal ready to go, they have been using those helicopters in the search, it seems very likely that if they have engaged him, and they have found where he is, that he's not going to get away, Wolf.

BLITZER: So many people are looking for him. We're now being told, I guess, Casey, KCDH (ph), now reporting, one of the local stations in Los Angeles, that the federal government's fish and game officials were involved in this exchange of gunfire with someone they believe to be Dorner. These federal law enforcement authorities on the scene, part of a massive, massive hunt underway.

And just to be precise, there's a $1 million reward that's now available for information leading to the arrest of Christopher Dorner. We have no idea if that reward played any role in that gunfire with this individual believed to be Christopher Dorner. We do know, as you've been reported, there's been literally, what, 1,000 tips in the past few days, some leads that have been coming in? Is that right?

WIAN: That's right. There were 250 leads as of Saturday. Then, the Los Angeles City government and the governments of other cities, counties throughout southern California, put together a $1 million reward hoping that that would lead someone who may have known where Dorner was, perhaps even someone who may have been assisting him in some way, to come forward and give them information that would lead to his apprehension and ultimately his conviction.

Once that reward was posted, the number of calls and tips received by the task force looking for Dorner quadrupled, from 250 to 1,000 tips within just a matter of days, Wolf.

So the public response was overwhelming. We don't know, though, if this engagement with Dorner or this sighting of Dorner, this encounter was the result of a tip. We mentioned the fish and game officials. That's very remote territory up in the Big Bear area, up in the mountains. It would make sense that they would be among the people best suited to find him knowing that back country so well, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Let's be precise. This is what we know right now, based on law enforcement sources providing this information to CNN: law enforcement is responding to reports that are believed to be credible -- I want to be precise, believed to be credible -- that Christopher Dorner has been sighted and may have been involved in a robbery in the Big Bear area. San Bernardino sheriff deputies are currently responding and are in touch with the command post in Big Bear. The robbery possibly involved a stealing of a vehicle.

Chris Welch, our producer, is in Big Bear right now.

What are you seeing there, Chris. What are you learning?

CHRIS WELCH, CNN PRODUCER: Well, Wolf, we've definitely -- we're actually on the road just west of Big Bear proper. And we were driving down little bit ways down the mountain. We saw police cars, three law enforcement vehicles going very quickly, with their sirens on, we immediately turned around, and we lost them.

So, to be quite frank with you, we don't know exactly where they are at this moment. But for the last couple of days, the last several days, we know that there has been a heavy law enforcement presence here. They have been going on searches. They have been doing air searches, ground searches.

Today, we're told that the air searches have stopped and it's been pretty much ground searches. But it has been a 24 hour operation for the last several days, Wolf. But other than that right now, what you've been reporting, that always got right now, we're working on more details. And as we get them, we'll bring them to you.

BLITZER: This vehicle that has been destroyed, that was found where you are in the Big Bear area, Chris. Isn't that right?

WELCH: That's right. Yes, just a few miles from where I'm standing right now. The reports that have been out there indicate that at least if they turn out to be accurate, these reports say that what's happening now is occurring far -- well, at least several miles away from where that vehicle was. So, at this point, at least, it doesn't appear that what's happening is in that same location.

BLITZER: And do you know what Christopher Dorner's connection with Big Bear is? Because I have seen all sorts of reports that relatives or family, friends had a home there, that he was very familiar with this mountainous area outside Los Angeles.

WELCH: Yes, there were various reports that he had an acquaintance in the area or either had property up here or who had visited up here very often. There were also reports that his mother had at one time owned some property south of the Big Bear area. It was a property, it was not a house, but she had owned some property there. That's all the intel we have to go on at this point.

But we do have sources who've said, yes, he knew someone and he had connections to this area. But, you know, whether or not he came up here to stay and then leave, or, you know, if he was staying for a longer period of time or if he was planning to go back down the mountain and head somewhere else.

You know, this search as you know, Wolf, has extended from Mexico into Nevada, and, of course, California.

BLITZER: Chris, I want you to stand by for a moment.

Casey is still with us. Casey Wian, can you hear me OK?

WIAN: I can, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Just remind our viewers why potentially what's happening in the Big Bear area is so critically important right now. What's been going on these last several days in southern California and why there has been this massive manhunt underway for viewers who may just been tuning in right now.

WIAN: Well, the story began, Wolf, a week ago Sunday when two people, an engaged couple, a woman who was the -- one of the coaches of the Cal State-Fullerton women's basketball team. Her father was a former LAPD official. Her fiance, a public safety officer at the University of Southern California were killed by multiple gunshots that police now say were fired by Christopher Dorner.

He's a former Los Angeles Police Department officer who was fired several years ago and he posted a very long manifesto, on social media, vowing revenge against the LAPD. He targeted -- he vowed revenge against specific individuals and their families and that's one of the things that has folks here, law enforcement in southern California so worried.

Several days later, in the community of Corona, just east of Los Angeles, he fired shots at two Los Angeles police officers. And then in the city of Riverside, he fired shots again at two Riverside police officers, killing one of them. That police officer, 34 years old, 11- year veteran of the Riverside police department, someone who was also a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, who served two tours in Kuwait.

Since then he has been gone. They have not been able to find Christopher Dorner, although we have talked about the thousands of tips that have come in while they have been looking for him. They did find his truck burning in the community of Big Bear, near property that was owned by family members of a known associate of Dorner.

There has been videotape where he was seen in the San Diego area that CNN aired exclusively over the weekend showing him behind an auto accessories store dumping items into the Dumpster. The owner of that store reported it to police. It turned out to be magazines filled with bullets, a helmet and also a military-style belt.

There's video that we showed not too long ago obtained by the Web site TMZ buying and refilling scuba tanks in a Los Angeles area sporting goods store two days before those first killings of that engaged couple. There was also evidence revealed by the U.S. marshals who had a warrant out for his arrest, showing that they suspected he might be trying to head to Mexico. He tried apparently tried to steal a boat in San Diego, and his ID was found near the border, Wolf.

BLITZER: Casey, hold on a minute. Chris Welch is in Big Bear in the area. You're getting some new information. Chris, what are you picking up?

WELCH: That's right. We're hearing from the PIO's office here in San Bernardino at the sheriff's office. They're saying this is an ongoing incident. They will not confirm what the person involved is Dorner or isn't. And they will not say whether Dorner is in - or actually, excuse me. Dorner is not in custody, that's what they're saying at this point. He is not in custody and there's no confirmation that it was Dorner in this incident.

They're also saying that there's no confirmation that an officer is down. That's the new information we have got at this point, Wolf.

BLITZER: But it is ongoing? In other words, the incident is continuing because we're hearing these reports that people in the area are still hearing gunshots.

WELCH: That's right, the incident is definitely ongoing. There seems to be a lot of chaos on law enforcement's side and definitely on the media side. There are a lot of reports out there right now. But we're going to work this and make sure we can find out what's going on and if in fact Dorner is involved..

BLITZER: We're going to be very, very precise. It's believed to be Dorner, but we don't know that, what you're saying, 100 percent.

Joe Johns has been checking with his sources. Joe, what are you learning?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRSPONDENT: Well, the first question is we do know or we think we know that federal officers were involved. So the question is which federal assets, and that's important. We have been checking again and again with the United States Marshal Service, and we know or at least we think we know, the United States Marshal service is involved in looking for him, particularly the West Coast fugitive squad. So, those are among the people who might have engaged in suspected, whoever he was at that time.

We also know the FBI is out there, ATF, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and explosives. So all of those in place looking for this individual. And it's important to say in the big picture, this guy is thought to have a lot of weapons at his disposal, including a 50-caliber rifle, a sniper rifle, even an earth- to-sky missile launcher. So there's a lot of different things they have to worry about when they engage this suspect with weapons, Wolf.

BLITZER: You see these aerial shots coming in from our affiliate KABC in the Big Bear area. There is an incident that is ongoing. Casey Wian is getting more information. What else are you learning, Casey?

WIAN: Hi, Wolf. The San Bernardino Police Department is confirming that they are in the process right now of chasing a 4- wheel-drive pick-up truck. Again, chasing a 4-wheel drive pick-up truck through apparently the mountainous terrain near the community of Big Bear.

I want to add one other thing, Wolf. If you read that manifesto that Christopher Dorner posted online, this is written at least in the beginning, in the past tense, indicating that he had no desire to be taken alive. So these reports that we are hearing, unconfirmed reports that we are hearing, exchanges of gunfire are not at all surprising, because he made it very clear that his manifesto was going to be discovered after he was dead, Wolf.

BLITZER: A lot of these unconfirmed reports coming in, continuing gunfire being heard. But as far as the officers being shot, or officers being gunned down, we can't confirm that, Casey, right?

WIAN: We cannot confirm that at this point, Wolf, there are those reports that are out there, but I do not have any information on that. I will say that that has been the greatest fear of everyone who has been trying to find Christopher Dorner for a week-and-a-half or so. They are very worried about that list of people that he is targeting and their families. And as we have mentioned, 50 different families with ties to the Los Angeles Police Department under 24-hour protection since Dorner has been on the loose, Wolf.

BLITZER: I just want you to repeat what you just reported, Casey, as far as this 4-wheel-drive vehicle, concerning a chase under way right now? What exactly have you learned?

WIAN: That's all that I have learned, Wolf. San Bernardino law enforcement officials confirming to CNN that in fact they are chasing a 4-wheel-drive vehicle.

BLITZER: And I just want to alert our viewers, two of our affiliates out in Los Angeles, KCAL and KCBS are both - both reporting right now that there's a gunfight under way right now in the Big Bear area. The suspect in this particular case, Christopher Dorner, is believed to be involved in this. We know that there's been an exchange of fire, we have independently confirmed that. There's no word on whether or not Christopher Dorner has been captured or injured in any way.

But we do hear from these CNN two affiliates out in Los Angeles that gun fire is being exchanged even as we speak right now. So this clearly -- Chris Welch, let me bring you back into this conversation. You're reporting from Big Bear yourself. This is clearly an ongoing operation right now as we see these aerial shots coming in from KABC.

WELCH: That's right, definitely an ongoing situation. As we reported just moments ago, actually, the PIO, the public information officer here at the San Bernadino sheriff's office saying that this incident is ongoing. She could not confirm that this was in fact Dorner. Obviously, there are other reports out there that say it was Dorner.

But she also added that Dorner is not in custody. I repeat, Dorner is not in custody. And of course, that would mesh with what Casey and others have been reporting that this car chase is happening at the moment, Wolf.

BLITZER: A car chase involved in Big Bear, right now a four-wheel vehicle. We suspect - and I want to be precise that Dorner is involved in this, that's what all the reporting is. But there have been false alarms over the past few days, so I don't want to get too far ahead, but it looks like there's a major development unfolding right now.

We're watching these shots coming in from our affiliate KABC in the Big Bear area. They're obviously looking for this car chase themselves on the road in Big Bear.

How big is this whole area, Chris, this Big Bear area? Because we're looking at shots, but I have no idea how big this area -- I see a fire truck driving up there right now.

WELCH: The town itself is really only about six square miles, but of course, the mountains around the area are much wider. They cover a much wider ground than that. They said, you know, they have been searching not just the town but the wilderness, the back country, so to speak. And that has been 25, 30 square miles, and of course, covered in snow over the last several days. There was about a foot or so of snow that came through Thursday and Friday. So that's made things even tougher to find him. There's been some speculation over the last several days that maybe Dorner was not alive anymore, maybe he was somewhere out there and did not make it because of these frigid, frigid temperatures.

BLITZER: How cold is it out there right now?

WELCH: I would say it's about 15 degrees right now, maybe about 20 degrees right now. The sun came out, so it's warmed things just up a little bit. But overnight it got to about zero and with the wind chill on top of that, it makes things very difficult.

BLITZER: In this small community, Big Bear, since this is where his other vehicle was found destroyed the other day, have people just basically stayed in their homes or are they getting out of town?

WELCH: It's interesting because I think for the first couple of days, there was more of that fear in the air. But literally not half an hour ago, we were talking to some folks at a diner, and they said frankly, we're really not that scared anymore. We don't believe he's still in the area. So folks were kind of getting up and going about their lives. School was back in session and that sort of thing. And now only just an hour-and-a-half later, here we are covering this.

BLITZER: So, regular -- they didn't cancel school in the area. The kids were all going to school as if there was business as usual, is that right?

WELCH: Yesterday when they returned to school, it was not exactly business as usual. Parents were there, there was more law enforcement protection at the school, that sort of thing, just to keep people's peace of mind. But today we drove past that same school; there was not any kind of law enforcement present at least outside the school today, Wolf.

BLITZER: We are hearing from one of our affiliates, KCBS out in Los Angeles: two officers have been shot. We don't know their condition. Chris, you don't have anything specific on that, have you?

WELCH: On that, Wolf, unfortunately, I do not.

BLITZER: And Casey, what are you hearing -- Casey Wian, you're all over this story. KCBS reporting two officers have been shot? WIAN: A couple of things come to mind, Wolf. One a conversation I had just a couple hours ago, before all this happened with a law enforcement official. And I asked him the question, isn't it likely that Dorner, if he's up in the Big Bear area -- because remember, we had a big snowstorm in that area a couple of days ago. Temperatures as Chris mentioned have been very, very, very cold. I said isn't it likely that he is dead if he's still in that area? And that law enforcement official told me, it's a possibility. But don't forget, this guy's very experienced, it's very possible that he had the equipment, he had the gear to survive in this elements whether he got into a house or didn't get into a house.

Also, we have to point out that this has to be one of the nightmare scenarios for law enforcement: a heavily armed military- and law enforcement-trained fugitive on the loose with a vendetta against police, now being chased apparently through the San Bernadino mountains east of Los Angeles, endangering not only law enforcement but the general public. It is fortunate that that is not a heavily populated area, but it is still a very dangerous situation if there is this ongoing pursuit and ongoing gun battles as we are hearing reports of that I can't confirm from here, Wolf

BLITZER: We are confirming, Casey and Chris - Joe Johns is here. We are confirming now, according to our sources here at CNN, that there was a home invasion believed to be involving Chris Dorner, and that he is pinned down. I don't know precisely what that means, pinned down, in the area. Whether he's pinned down as part of a car chase, pinned down in a specific area. These are live pictures that our viewers are seeing from our affiliate KABC. You see activity there. This is Big Bear, about a two-hour drive outside of Los Angeles, in a mountainous area, an area that Christopher Dorner is rather familiar with.

We have once again confirmed that he apparently -- apparently was involved in a home invasion. Local authorities are involved. There have been several reports from our affiliate stations out there that two officers have been shot. We don't know their conditions. We do know based on everything we're hearing right now that this incident, this operation is continuing right now. It has not been resolved by any means.

Joe Johns, you've been checking in with your federal authorities here in Washington. We know the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the FBI, a lot of federal authorities are assisting local authorities in this massive man hunt.

JOHNS: Right, and it's a very tough situation. I mean, you can look at that picture right there and see the kind of terrain they're dealing with. So the most important question right now is he in a car or is he on foot? And if he's in a car, he might very well be much easier to track for the authorities. If he's on foot, you can get behind those trees, you can go into crevices. Could be a lot more difficult to try to find this man and end this manhut.

Pin down, of course, that's another very imprecise law enforcement term. And you're right, Wolf, it can mean just about anything. Whether pinned down means he was in a two- or three-mile radius and can drive there, or is he pinned down in a house? These are things we just don't know. But I do know that authorities would very much like to end this man hunt soon because this guy has proved over and over again that he's a pretty good shot. And he's aiming at the police.

BLITZER: And he's well-armed, we're told, as well with a lot of experience as a former local LAPD cop as well as in the U.S. Navy. He served in Afghanistan.

JOHNS: Yes. His experience goes back. He knows how to shoot these firearms. And we're talking about a 50 caliber-Barrett semi-automatic rifle. One of the things he's said he's had. Or maybe more than one. And that could mean he'd be able to hit a target, put a round in a target up to a mile away. So, if anybody walks in front of his gun sights from that kind of distance, and if it's true he's carrying that kind of a weapon, it's a pretty formidable situation.

BLITZER: We're being told, Chris Welch, that the schools now in the Big Bear area where you are have been put on a lockdown situation right now. Apparently Christopher Dorner is still on the loose. Supposedly pinned down, but once again, we don't know what that means, pinned down. But the schools are in a lockdown area out of an abundance of caution right now, which Chris Welch, obviously makes a lot of sense.

WELCH: Well, that -- as you just said right now, the school is on lockdown. That's the new information. We got confirmation from a high school in the area that all schools in the district here and that would be Bear Valley Unified School District has all schools on lockdown here in Big Bear.

So at this point, they are taking this obviously still very seriously. At this point, we understand it is still an ongoing situation. We do expect a little more information momentarily as well.

BLITZER: The "L.A. Times" now reporting that this incident -- that Dorner apparently invaded someone's home, tied up two people, stole their car, and he is now being chased apparently. There are numerous reports out there as well that two police officers have been shot, we don't know their condition.

These are live pictures coming in from our affiliate KABC, showing this area, this mountainous area of Big Bear, California where it's cold right now. So it's obviously a massive man hunt under way right now.

But we are hearing once again that two deputies have been shot in this gunfight that apparently with Christopher Dorner that is continuing, but we don't have more information. Casey Wian is watching what's going on. What else are you picking up, Casey?

WIAN: Well, Wolf, in that conversation I had with a law enforcement official just a couple of hours ago, one of the things that he brought up that was sort of surprising is despite Dorner's military background, law enforcement background, this law enforcement source tells me that everyone who knew him at the LAPD when he was an officer thought that this was very out of character for him.

And they have also gone through his military record, you mentioned that deployment, but Dorner, according to the best information that the law enforcement source I had had have never killed anyone in his life, either as a law enforcement officer or as a member of the military.

So these murders, these three killings that he is suspected of and one of them has been formally charged with, that murder of the police officer in Riverside, California were completely out of character for Dorner.

And something that would just taking even those who are investigating him, have been investigating him, involved in this man hunt, very surprised that he would engage in this type of behavior -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And I want to be precise, with what we know right now, what CNN has now independently confirmed, this coming from a law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the situation, there was a home invasion in this Big Bear area, this mountainous area, a lot of resort homes outside of Los Angeles.

There was a home invasion, a carjacking in the Big Bear area. Police got a description of the vehicle. They set up a road block. When Dorner allegedly approached, he opened fire and in the process, he wounded two deputy sheriffs' officers, he is now supposedly pinned down somewhere in the area, all this coming from a law enforcement official with knowledge of the situation.

Once again we don't know what pinned down means, whether he is actually holed up someplace with his weapons or he is driving someplace, but we do know that there was a carjacking, so supposedly, he has a vehicle. Chris Welch, you're in Big Bear right now. Are you seeing any of this activity from your location where you are?

WELCH: Well, I can tell you I'm not seeing it, but I'm definitely hearing sirens go by every now and then and we're hearing helicopters and it sounds like they could be news helicopters, not positive at this point.

But schools here in Big Bear where we are, are on lock down right now and just a few minutes ago, we learned from the public information officer that say Dorner is not in custody. Obviously, that could have changed recently in the last 2 or 3 minutes or so.

And we are expecting an updated press release to come out just moments from now that hopefully will have a few more answers some of those unanswered questions that we have right now.

BLITZER: Hopefully, this will be over with very soon. And this whole man hunt will have been resolved, we can only hope now right now. But as of right now, at least based on the latest information we're getting it is continuing. We are told he is allegedly pinned down somewhere in this Big Bear area.

Chris Lawrence is our Pentagon correspondent. Chris, tell our viewers here in the United States and around the world a little bit about his military background, what kind of capabilities Chris Dorner has.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I can tell you specifically when you talk about being pinned down right now, although you mentioned, we don't know exactly what that means and in what context, but I can tell you some of the training he received was in weak side shooting.

In other words, if your right hand is your strong hand, learning and gaining proficiency with the left hand. That could come into play one of two ways. If your right hand is injured or incapacitated, you could still get off fairly accurate shots with your other hand.

Also if you are concealed and trying to fire from a concealed position, if you can only fire with this hand, you may have to expose more of your body, make yourself a bigger target to fire.

But if you're proficient in weak side shooting, you could make yourself less of a target and still get off shot. Whether that comes into play, we don't know. But it's something that he has received training on. In his manifesto, he claimed that he was an expert shot.

The top of his class in every sort of qualification, that was overstating the case by a long shot, but he did qualify as a marksman with the rifle and he qualified two levels higher, expert, the highest level possible for an everyday sailor with the 9-millimeter.

So he does have some proficiency and because he was involve in security, operations with this (inaudible) in the Navy, he's had more combat training than you would think a typical sailor going on say, an aircraft carrier would get. So he is proficient, not as qualified as he makes himself out to be, but he's a good shot -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we are now hearing that as he was approached allegedly, he opened fire and wounded two more deputy sheriff's officers here in the Big Bear area, so obviously whether he is at the top of his class as far as a marksman is concerned that's probably irrelevant right now. He is well armed we are told and he's fully capable of shooting and succeeding in killing people allegedly.

That's what the fear is, that more of this could go under way. We are told he is pinned down somewhere in that area, we don't know precisely where. These are pictures coming in from our affiliate KABC of the Big Bear, California area.

So you can see what's going on. Joe Johns, as we watch what's going on, there was one report that federal authorities got this initial tip and they went in this home that was burglarized, he stole a vehicle and he's now being pinned down somewhere.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the thing that is also critical here is we're getting kind of conflicting reports out of the area as to whether the sheriff's deputies who apparently were injured have actually been taken out of the area, transported to a hospital or what have you.

Or if they're still somewhere there, we do know that a helicopter has been sent to the area, the question of course is whether that helicopter would be medivac to get them out of there. We don't know the severity of the wounds of the two deputies right now.

All of that is still a question because as I say sort of conflicting information about whether these deputies are already on their way to medical attention -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What we do know from a law enforcement official is that there was a home invasion, allegedly by Christopher Dorner. There was a carjacking just within the past couple of hours, maybe within the last hour or so in the Big Bear area, police have a description of the vehicle.

They've set up a road block. Indeed, they've set up multiple road blocks in this area. When Dorner allegedly approached this road block, he opened fire, wounded two deputy sheriff's officers, we don't know their condition as Joe is reporting right now.

We don't know if they have been medivac. We don't know what's going on, on that front. The only thing we do know based on this latest information from a law enforcement official is that Christopher Dorner allegedly is pinned down somewhere in this area, the Big Bear, California area.

In an abundance of caution, all the local schools are now in a lockdown situation as well. Let me bring back Chris Welch who is in the Big Bear area. He is watching all of this going on.

There can't be that many roads out of Big Bear, Chris, so there's probably a limited number, you set up a few road blocks, and you can clearly pin down someone, right?

WELCH: Well, that's right, we have heard several reports that they have closed down these highways that he's allegedly on. But I do want to give you one quick update before we go further, Wolf. We are told just moments ago by the same public information officer that he is still not in custody, Christopher Dorner not in custody.

That was just about a minute or two ago from the same spokeswoman here at to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Office. So again, Christopher Dorner, they are saying is not in custody.

We've been talking about conflicting reports, this might one of those. We've heard that he's pinned down. What exactly does pinned down mean if they are also saying he's not in custody. So it remains somewhat of a confusing situation.

BLITZER: Obviously, a very confusing. We don't know what pinned down, pinned down in a little are or pinned down in a bigger area. Whether he's driving or if he has abandoned this vehicle he allegedly stole as part of a robbery in this home.

He allegedly tied up two individuals in a home, stole their car and still apparently on the loose although police are obviously in huge, huge numbers in that area. They are involved in this manhunt.

Casey Wian is getting more information as well. What else are you picking, Casey?

WIAN: Well, Wolf, you talked about the number of roads in and out of that Big Bear area, and that's something that law enforcement has going for them. Christopher Dorner has remained one step ahead of law enforcement, in the words of one official that I talked to a little while ago for a week and a half now.

But there are only three roads to the best of my knowledge, down from that mountain, the Big Bear area, so it should be fairly simple for law enforcement to seal that area off and prevent him from escaping.

We don't know what his location is right now, but it's not very likely that he's going to get off of that mountain other than in law enforcement custody or killed by law enforcement.

BLITZER: Let's hope no more law enforcement officials or anyone else is killed in this process. So just to be precise, he is not in custody, Christopher Dorner, but he is believed to be pinned down in this Big Bear area where there has been an exchange of gun fire.

We are told that two law enforcement, two local deputy sheriff's officers have been wounded as part of this exchange, but once again, Christopher Dorner is not yet in custody, at least as far as we know right now.

We do know that a massive man hunt is under way in this area. It's approaching, what, 2:00 p.m. there, Casey Wian, on the west coast. It's going to get dark at some point pretty soon. So this could get more complicated.

WIAN: It certainly could and it's going to be more complicated if this extends into the evening for law enforcement and for Dorner if in fact he is pinned down and alive, as you said. It's going to get cold up there in the Big Bear mountains, as Chris Welch was saying just a little while ago.

I think he said it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 degrees or so now, but once that sun drops and in those mountain communities, that sun's going to go down a lot sooner, the wind chill factor over the last couple of days has been down below zero.

So it's going to be very, very difficult without any sort of survival gear for Dorner to stay alive in those conditions. It's also going to make the job of law enforcement a built more difficult in trying to get him into custody -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We're seeing smoke, Casey, I just want to interrupt. I don't know if you can see our air. This is from our affiliate KTLA. We're seeing smoke emerging. I have no idea what that smoke may be coming from. Joe Johns, you're watching it together with me, what does it look like to you? I have no idea what that could be.

JOHNS: I don't have the slightest idea and I would actually be very worried to try to speculate on what we're seeing right now. It appears to be at the end of some type of a driveway. It could be condensation. It could be, you know, steam. It could also be fuel burn-off, any number of things there.

I just can't tell you what it is. It could also perhaps be a flare. You know, Christopher Dorner is known to be a very cagey guy, to have so many different kinds of threats, by air, land or sea, according to some accounts.

Certainly on land, he's a threat. It's been said that he carjacked a car. By sea, people have talked about him taking a boat, getting scuba equipment. There's even been speculation of him being able to fly a plane. So almost anything could happen here looking at these pictures right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We're looking at those pictures and once again, we see that smoke, but we have no idea what if anything that is if it's at all related to this massive manhunt for Christopher Dorner. Chris Welch, you're there in Big Bear, I don't know if you have seen these pictures, do you have any idea what that smoke was?

WELCH: You know, I would take the same tag as Joe Johns. I would be hesitant to speculate on what that is at this point. There's a lot of confusion in the air at this point, but what we do know is that there has been a home invasion and a carjacking.

I just want to reiterate a couple of things that we know at this point. The police have a description of this vehicle. They setup road blocks. I know you're seeing some of this video. I don't know if you can hear it now, but you can probably -- might be able to pick up some of those sirens.

Actually I can just barely make out a couple of police cars and sirens going by this way across. It's very hard to see in the distance behind a few sheds at this point. But obviously there's a lot of action going on right now.

You're seeing the pictures. I know there are police cars and law enforcement vehicles parked on the side of the road, but again, we have reports that Dorner opened fire and as you reported as, as we have all been saying, he has wounded two deputy officers.

He's allegedly pinned down someone in that area. What that means we're not sure. We're still waiting for that press release that I mentioned a few moments ago from the sheriff's office here in San Bernardino County.

As of a few minutes ago, maybe about 5 to 7 minutes ago, we were still told that Dorner was not in custody. Now whether that could change in the next few minutes, remains to be seen.