Return to Transcripts main page


Shooting at California College; Interview With Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter; Arrest in Ricin Case; Interview with Rep. Keith Ellison

Aired June 7, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Three major stories breaking right now, another college shooting, an arrest in the investigation in to who sent the ricin letters, and shocking news about the Philadelphia building collapse.

I'm Jake Tapper, and this is THE LEAD.

The national lead, there's a breaking twist in the investigation of that building collapse in Philadelphia that killed six people. We will get the latest from the mayor.

Also in national, shots fired on the campus of Santa Monica College, just miles from where President Obama is right now. We will go there live.

And just when you thought the case could not get any more bizarre, there's been an arrest into the investigation into who sent letters containing the lethal poison ricin to President Obama and to New York City Mayor Bloomberg. Guess what? She's an actress. She's been on TV shows such as "The Walking Dead" and "The Vampire Diaries."

Hi. I'm Jake Tapper. Welcome to THE LEAD.

Breaking news now on THE LEAD. The campus of Santa Monica College in California is on lockdown after a school shooting. Our affiliate in the area, KCBS, reports that several people have been injured, and California Highway Patrol tells us that a suspect is in custody and there are reports of a possible second shooter.

All area schools are reportedly on lockdown as a precaution. The president is currently at a fund-raiser in Santa Monica, not too far away from this campus, but far enough away, the Secret Service says, this is not affecting his visit, and it's a local police matter.

Let's listen in to our affiliate right now KCAL.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kara, you have another person who appears to have experienced this morning's terror?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. I have someone else who was sitting in the library.

You are a student here; is that right?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And tell me what you heard, what you saw.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was studying for my bio final, saw kids looking back and running past my window, so I got up and started to head towards the front of the library and heard what sounded like a small bomb or maybe a shotgun blast and then a bunch of repetitive shots.

So, I said, everybody, let's get out of the library, and started -- we all started funneling and then panic ensued. And everybody started racing. One of the doors wouldn't open. And we all screamed out the back, came around and saw a car in the middle of campus that was clearly shot up with broken windows on a part of campus where you can't drive.

And then SWAT teams were arriving at that point and I helped one of them get across -- to figure out how to get across the field and that's kind of it. My stuff's still sitting in the library.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Frightening experience I know for all of you and some of you have been expressing to me that you're still in shock. Did you see any of your fellow students that were injured in this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gratefully, I didn't see anybody get injured. I heard the shots and everything, but I didn't see anybody get hurt. I did my best to help everybody stay calm and just get towards the outside of campus, and, you know, I hope everybody's all right.

This is the third time that we have been told there was something going on, on campus, and it's usually not true, but this one was definitely real.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And have you -- have you received any kind of word from police or from campus officials as to what they would like all of you to do at this point?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. There was a robo-call made to us say the campus was on lockdown. If you are on campus, stay inside, don't open the doors. If you're off campus, stay away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have been kind of conflicting reports from some of the students here, maybe one, maybe two students or suspects involved that were on campus. Have you -- did you have any kind of a feel for whether there may have been one or two weapons involved?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no idea. I sounded -- what I heard sounded like two distinct weapons, like I said, whether it was a shotgun or a small bomb and then what sounded like a semiautomatic handgun or rifle or something that could fire quickly.

And we heard a number of shots fired in pretty rapid succession.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, thanks so much for joining us.

We will continue panning around here and you can see some of the other students who are gathered here. I did hear from another student here who said that before these blasts rang out, there...

TAPPER: If you're just tuning in, we're watching the local KCAL coverage of a school shooting at the campus of Santa Monica College. We're going to dip in and out of that coverage, but joining us on the phone right now is Madi Gunther. She heard gunshots on campus.

Madi, tell us what you heard.


Well, we're on Pico and Cloverfield. And it sounded like the gun was on our building shooting at something or someone, and so we all just kind of ran. At first, class, we just froze not knowing what it was, but then after that we kind of just ran.

TAPPER: Where were you exactly when the shots started being fired? You didn't see this person, right? You just heard it.

GUNTHER: Yes. We're in an office building and so we just heard (INAUDIBLE) there were seven of them.

TAPPER: Seven -- seven what, seven victims?

GUNTHER: Seven gunshots.

TAPPER: Seven gunshots, OK.

And after you heard the seven gunshots, you ran for cover or you ran as soon as you heard the first one?

GUNTHER: At like the second one, we ran for cover.

TAPPER: And where are you right now?

GUNTHER: Pico and Cloverfield in an office building.

TAPPER: Our CNN affiliate KCAL spoke to witnesses who say they think they heard a shotgun and a handgun. Did you hear different sounding blasts or were they all the same?

GUNTHER: They all -- they all kind of sounded the same. We were all just a little panicky and confused.

TAPPER: There's also some confusion right now about whether or not there was more than one shooter, according to witnesses. Do you have any take on that? Did the gunshots all seem to come from the same place or were they coming from different locations?

GUNTHER: We heard -- we also heard (INAUDIBLE) down the street. So -- but that was kind of it.

TAPPER: So, you heard gunshots from two different directions?

GUNTHER: No, the other one, we just heard about. We didn't hear it. We just heard, like, seven gunshots right from outside of our building. TAPPER: All right. Madi Gunther, thank you so much.

We're going to dip right now back in to the local coverage of the Santa Monica College shooting with our affiliate KCAL in California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scheduled to be a very shortstop in Southern California, at least close to the coast, before a 2:00 departure for the Palm Springs area, and a meeting with China's new president there.

So, the president currently is not too far from where all this is going on. And because of his presence, there is a no-fly zone in the area, which is explaining to you why this afternoon you're not seeing pictures from Sky 2 or Sky 9 because they are not allowed to fly in an area where the president is immediately in the area.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Left side of your picture, Kent, right now, those live pictures from the scene near Santa Monica College, right side of your screen, is a picture we just got from Facebook, and this shows some of the ambulance activity in the area, paramedics responding to the scene.

This is a multi-agency response. And that was interesting. Left side of your screen, you just saw that man describing what he saw, making motions as if someone was shooting a gun several times, Culver City, CHP, Santa Monica Police.

TAPPER: We're going to turn to different coverage right now to KABC out of Los Angeles, who has a witness and we're going to listen to him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Set the scene for me then. Today is finals for a lot of students. The library area would have been what, just packed with students?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty full today, yes. It's Friday. Friday is a little lighter than, you know, Monday through Thursday.

But it's finals. I don't know. They have extended hours during finals, so the library is open usually until 6:00 and it's open until 10:00 at night. They have four extra hours, which I have been -- I have been needing to do my work and I have been continuously coming here and was getting here several hours early for my class to once again work in the library.

And I'm terrified. And I got to say the news that's currently in the media about our government spying on us and things like this is not irrelevant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure. Let me tell you, thank you very much, Omar, for your time here again.

The stories have been very consistent from students here, noontime about the library...

TAPPER: We are going to dip now from KABC local coverage to KCAL local coverage, KCAL now interviewing another witness to the school shooting at Santa Monica College.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... hear the initial gunfire. You were kind of buried in your studies. But tell me what did you hear?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I did hear was a girl it sounded like in pain in or suffering in some way.

And then I just turned and I see a bunch of students coming my way running. And everyone was like panicking and people were crying. And it was just like a lot of mixed feelings and emotions at the same time.

And for me, I was like shocked and I didn't know how to react, so what I did, everyone -- as soon as the guy said, everybody, leave, leave, leave, I just left my things there. And I started running with the rest. And then the officers and the people who is at the staff were like get off the campus, get off the campus.

So, I really didn't know where to go or what to do because I was just like shocked with the whole -- this thing was just, like, a shock for many of us. And so for me now, I'm just like waiting to hopefully get, like, the clear so I can go back and get my things.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And, now, I know some people saw a car on campus that also had some -- like, a window shattered. Did you see that as you were leaving?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I didn't see that, but I did hear comments from students that there was a shooting, like a car that had shotguns and everything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That had the windows blown out or that had...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, that had the windows blown out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And also that there was, like, a baby car seat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A baby car seat in that car?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Thank you so much for joining us, one of the witnesses here who was in the library at that time.

If we pan around, again, you can see the students here kind of waiting for direction from school officials or from the CHP here. This remains, they're telling us, a very active scene. We have seen more officials going into campus, some of them with weapons, trying to determine exactly what the situation is there with that suspect who we're told is down and then possibly -- according to the witnesses here, possibly a second suspect on campus as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it was full of students. Today is finals day. Next week, more finals are scheduled. But, today, there were a lot of students in there studying, preparing for the final exams, when the shots broke -- rang out. Again, we're not hearing anything about injuries to victims here or the shooter or shooters right now.

It's still a very fluid situation here, as more and more officers arrive here to help in the investigation and gather evidence and to basically look for anybody else who could be armed and dangerous roaming around this neighborhood. But we are right now at the bus stop at 18th and Pico.

Again, you see the strong CHP presence here. We have seen LAPD and Santa Monica P.D. officers running onto campus. Earlier, we showed you a couple of CHP officers running on with rifles running onto campus as well.

Right now, we are, 18th, that is blocked off -- 17th Street at the light to my left, that is blocked off as well all the way down to 20th street. Nobody is coming through this section of Pico Boulevard right now. Again, this all happened about an hour ago, about noontime, just over an hour ago, one hour and 10 minutes ago, in the middle of the day as students were preparing for finals, preparing their reports, as -- preparing to wrap up the school year, and this breaks out.

Again, no -- we haven't been able to get anything confirmed as far as injuries are concerned, but we're hearing reports as well about the windows of a car and a bus being shot out and injuries there.

I spoke to one CHP officer here. The little that he knew, he said, is that they're still looking for evidence here, and they're still not sure what exactly they're dealing with on campus, other than they're dealing with a shooter. They're trying to figure out who that person is. What students have been describing to us here is that there was one shooter in the library who got off one shot, and then they heard a loud bang or an explosion and then...

TAPPER: That's KABC in Los Angeles, coverage of a school shooting at Santa Monica College.

We're going to continue to cover this developing story ahead.

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, there's some breaking news on what may have caused the building collapse that killed six people. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter will join me live next.

Stick around, lots of breaking news today.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

You're looking at live shots from the Los Angeles TV station KCAL, a CNN affiliate, of Santa Monica College.

We're breaking -- breaking right now is news from Santa Monica College. There was a shooter on campus. The call of the shooting came in before noon Pacific Time. One suspect is reportedly in custody.

The streets around the area are closed and the area is on lockdown. There's no confirmation of a second suspect. Police are searching buildings to see if there is a possible second suspect but no confirmation right now. They said that Santa Monica police is handling the case.

In addition, three individuals who have been apparently wounded have been transported to the UCLA Medical Center. We've not been told the ages of the individuals taken to UCLA Medical Center.

Let's now toss to some sound from an eyewitness to the event.


REPORTER: You said you were just down the street here and you saw all this begin.

EYEWITNESS: It happened right in front of me. I mean, I was in my car and a guy on the left side of the street jumped out of a car with a big black gun and started blasting rounds at all of our cars and the buildings and the bus. Maybe, like, 10 rounds. He jumped back in the car and went on the left, took off.

REPORTER: Did he go on to campus at that point?

EYEWITNESS: I don't know. He took -- I wanted to take a right turn and he took left on Cloverfield and took off. That's all what I saw, I was hiding under my dashboard because I thought one bullet hit my car because I heard a ching on my car and that was it, you know?

REPORTER: Was he alone in the car or was someone else with him?

EYEWITNESS: It seemed like he was alone in his car. But I saw him jumping out of the car. He had a big black gun in his hand and he started blasting maybe 10 rounds from all -- from left to the right.

REPORTER: I know you said your car got a ping and we're so glad that you're OK. Was there anyone else hit at this point out here?

EYEWITNESS: Somebody dropped down to the ground but apparently she didn't got hit. I think she had a shock. So, I think over there after these ten rounds, nobody got really hit. I just saw, like, broken glass from the cars.

REPORTER: Was he saying anything? Any idea why this may have been taking place?

EYEWITNESS: No, no. And it went so fast. He got out of the car and he was standing in the middle of the intersection and from left to the right, he just started blasting rounds.

REPORTER: I saw you speaking with police just a short while ago before you came over to speak with us.

EYEWITNESS: Yes. REPORTER: They're trying to gather information. Anything else that they've been able to tell you about what may have happened?

EYEWITNESS: Well, I was asking them if there's a second shooter, but they couldn't confirm a second shooter. I only saw one shooter two blocks away. And he took off to the left and I think he hided in there. Police thinks there might be a second shooter but I don't know about that and it's not confirmed.


TAPPER: You're watching -- you are watching an interview with the witness to the school shooting at Santa Monica College, courtesy of CNN affiliates KCAL, KCBS.

There is more breaking news that we'll get to in a second but first just know that we'll stay on the Santa Monica school shooting and continue to cover it as events warrant.

Reports of a new twist in the deadly collapse in Philadelphia of that building at 22nd and Market. CNN affiliates are reporting that pain medication and marijuana were found in the blood of the crane operator after the accident. Recall that on Wednesday a building crumbled on top of a Salvation Army thrift store. Six people were killed and several others were injured, some of whom were trapped in the rubble for hours.

We have on the phone right now, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.

Mayor Nutter, thanks so much for doing this.

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER (D), PHILADELPHIA (via telephone): Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: I wish it were under better circumstances.


TAPPER: What can you tell us about these reports now widespread in Philadelphia of a blood test of the crane operator with traces of marijuana and a prescription pain medication?

NUTTER: Jake, all I can tell you is that those reports are around. They are not confirmed. And I certainly don't have any confirmation. There's been no public announcement in that regard.

What I can tell you is the actions that we're taking here in the city. Obviously, a tragedy here in Philadelphia. But as a government, we're trying to do all we can to protect the public.

So, I made a series of announcements about two hours ago related to significant changes that we will make in our departments and agencies regarding demolition permitting, demolition inspections, construction site task force that we already planned to create and a variety of other recommendations to get at the heart of, you know, what the experience and the qualifications of demolition companies, heavy equipment operators. All of those kinds of processes and systems, as well as asking my own inspector general to conduct an internal administrative investigation into the entire matter. The buildings department, license and inspections, they're conducting an investigation, the police department as well and the fire marshal. In addition, federal agency OSHA has been engaged and involved as well.

So, you know, these investigations will go where they go. We'll get to the bottom of it. Hold those accountable.

But as a government, again, our job is to make sure that people are safe, and I'm going to take every possible action I can to ensure the safety of our citizens and visitors going forward. Our hearts and prayers go out certainly to the victims and their families, but also and certainly, the survivors and their families as well. And I announced on behalf of the city today that I apologize for them for what has happened in our great city, but we will come back stronger and with better systems to ensure public safety.

TAPPER: But just to confirm, Mayor Nutter, you are not confirming reports from the local CBS and NBC affiliates in Philadelphia?

NUTTER: I'm not in a position to confirm because I don't know those to be true.


NUTTER: All I can say (ph) is that I know is those reports are out there as you mentioned them, but I have no confirmation from any law enforcement source to confirm that information. So, all they are right now is news reports. They're out in the public space.

TAPPER: OK. But certainly if you knew them to be false and that does not know that you know them to be true, but certainly if you knew them to be false, you would tell us that.

NUTTER: If I knew them to be true, I would confirm them. That's what I'm going to say.


NUTTER: I don't know anything about them one way or the other.

TAPPER: Fair enough.

NUTTER: As soon as I get a confirmation, I'll be in a position to say something.

TAPPER: Now, it has been reporter that the crane operator had a criminal record. I'm not sure if the city, when it comes to demolition projects, has any sort of rules or regulations about that. Did these new rules that you're outlining, did they have -- would they have any impact on whether or not individuals with criminal records, especially for criminal records for drug possession, would that have any sort of relevance?

NUTTER: So, two parts. One, I can confirm the individual in question does have a criminal record. Second, the procedures that we're looking to put into place look specifically at background, qualifications for doing the kind of work that we're talking about, and we are actually looking at one of the recommendations is to put in place a random drug testing procedure for those who are operating heavy equipment.

The issue of previous criminal record, certainly we will take a look at that, but it should not -- in certain instances, should not automatically depending on the job, what someone is doing, certainly should not automatically disqualify someone from working on a construction site. But as you mentioned, if there is a previous abuse, drug or alcohol or substance abuse history, that certainly is a factor that we want to take into consideration, especially if someone is operating equipment.

TAPPER: And lastly, Mayor Nutter, there are reports from witnesses in Philadelphia who say that the crane operator removed a load-bearing beam from the building that was being taken down right before the building collapsed. Do you know anything more about that or the cause of the collapse?

NUTTER: I've read those reports in the newspapers here in Philadelphia. All of that, Jake, will be a part of the kinds of investigations by the different agencies that I mentioned to you so that we can get to the bottom of it, not speculate about it. These things seem to be knowable facts and details that we have to get to the heart of.

I have every confidence that those respective agencies will do their job. We'll have the facts and we'll lay them out and let the chips fall where they may.

TAPPER: All right, Mayor Michael Nutter of the great city of Philadelphia, thank you so much for joining us.

NUTTER: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: We're continuing to follow that breaking news story in Santa Monica, the school shooting at the college there. We'll have the latest when we come back.

Plus, more breaking news. There's been an arrest in the ricin-tainted letters sent to President Obama. We'll tell you who's now in custody in one of the most bizarre cases we followed all year.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

In the last few days, there's a huge debate going on right now about what we do in the name of security and how much that infringes upon liberty. The story started with the revelation that the National Security Agency was collecting data on telephones related to Verizon. Then, of course, there was another news story that broke last night about whether or not the National Security Agency was able to monitor all sorts of Web sites, Google and Apple. Then, of course, President Obama earlier today was asked about these programs and he gave this pithy defense of what he is doing in the name of protecting this country.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You can't have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience. You know, we're going to have to make some choices as a society.


TAPPER: It is an extremely difficult debate. Obviously, nobody likes the notion of having their phones and e-mails monitored in any way, but how much did we care about privacy after the Boston marathon terrorist attacks? We suspected, we pleaded for omniscient national security apparatus that could figure out who do this horrible thing. Pundits expressed, at the time, gratitude for the cameras in downtown Boston. We were confused as to why it took so long.

And even though many now wish the Feds kept an eye on Tamerlan Tsarnaev after the Russians warned the U.S. about him, surely that doesn't we expected millions of Americans to be monitored, we just expected Tamerlan Tsarnaev to be monitored.

Can that be done without the system that's been set up?

I want to now bring two individuals who know a lot about this and come from different positions, even though they are both Democrats.

I'm going to start with Congressman Keith Ellison, Democrat from Minnesota, and then in studio with me, the former ranking Democrat of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, Jane Harman.

Congressman Ellison, I want to start with you. What are your concerns about the news that we have been hearing about the National Security Agency and their monitor?

REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: Well, my concern is that I just don't think a million people are legitimate suspects based on facts of terrorist activity and I think it's just too broad.

But I think this is an occasion for Congress to go back and try to more narrowly tailor the latitude under the Patriot Act. I think this is not really something you can blame the Obama administration for because I think any executive branch is going to operate at the extent of the law.

But I think the law is overbroad and I think we need to have some requirement that there be some real basis for surveiling people before you look at their phone records like that.

TAPPER: Congresswoman Harman, is the law too broad? Does it need to be narrowed? Or knowing what you knew, having served in the as a ranking Democrat on the House Select Committee on Intelligence, do they need this law enforcement and National Security Agency, do they need to be able to look at all of this data?

JANE HARMAN, PRESIDENT, WILSON CENTER: Well, first of all, let me say how closely Keith and I have worked together over the years and how much I admire him and his particular courage and perspectives. On this subject, Congress has been careful.