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At Least 13 Dead In D.C. Mass Shooting; Police Chief Press Conference

Aired September 16, 2013 - 16:30   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you give us a timeline of how this started and how it ended?


CATHY LANIER, METROPOLITAN POLICE CHIEF: The first call for Metropolitan Police arrived and within two to three minutes, Metropolitan Police officers were on the scene. Security had already engaged, identified and engaged the suspect. We already had victims down at that point.

Within seven minutes, we had active shooter teams inside the building moving through the building. There was multiple engagements with the suspect that was eventually deceased. Both Metropolitan Police and park police, our preliminary information, got into a final gun battle with the suspect that is deceased.

So, but there were multiple incidents within that time frame in which there was a gunfight with the suspect that was deceased.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've heard from some of your people that we talked to that this was one of the worst things they have ever seen. Can you describe what they found when they went in?

LANIER: It certainly was one of the worst things we've seen in Washington, D.C. As officers entered the building and moved through the building, they were, you know, making transmissions and keeping command informed as they were coming across as they went through. Multiple victims, there was still gunfire going on.

This is what we train for. We were able to pull active shooter teams together and complements to the partners here in the National Capital Region. We were able to pull disparate officers from different agencies, put them in a single team, and get them into the building within seven minutes.


LANIER: There's no question he would have kept shooting. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long did it take to put him down?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Active shooter teams you had in there, these were officers in their blues, not in S.W.A.T gear, They had AR-15s and are trained to go in there. Is that right?

LANIER: The officers engaged in the first deployment in there are patrol officers that are in uniformed patrol to include the officers that were engaged in the last -- what appears to be the last gun fight. Uniformed patrol officers on routine patrol that responded to the call, on the scene within minutes. I think the years of training and practicing and coordinating with their partners has been --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will take two more questions. Two more questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you give us a ballpark on the number of rounds he may have fired?

LANIER: No. There's just so many questions, I can't give you exact times right now. Obviously there's still a lot of ongoing investigation before we get to the kind of summary, but we're not going to comment on evidence, number of rounds fired. We're not going to comment on, you know, any details of any evidence recovered, and we're certainly not going to comment on after-action type things right now.

We've got police officers that are still actively engaged, still working on threats. So all that will come later.

We will come back in two hours. We will do one more two-hour. One more two-hour briefing, then we'll do then -- another four hours later.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) Navy Yard , how he got in? Did he have an I.D.?

MAYOR VINCENT GRAY (D), WASHINGTON D.C.: Yes. You get the last question for this briefing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long did it take to put down the shooter?

LANIER: We're not going to comment on that right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chief, can we talk about --

GRAY: Thank you all. We'll be back at 6:00. Thank you all very much.


TAPPER: We will take a quick break. Coming up on THE LEAD, the suspected shooter has been identified. What else do we know about him and a possible motive? That's coming right up.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) VALERIE PARLAVE, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, FBI WASHINGTON FIELD OFFICE: We can confirm that the deceased shooter from this morning has been identified as 34-year-old Aaron Alexis of Fort Worth, Texas. We have posted photos of Mr. Alexis on our Web site,, and we ask anyone with information about him to contact us at 1-800-CALL-FBI. No piece of information is too small. We are looking to learn everything we can about his recent movements, his contacts and his associates.


TAPPER: You're listening to Valerie Parlave. She's the assistant director in charge of the Washington field office of the FBI. She and other members of the law enforcement community just got done with a press conference answering some questions about the shooter in this case. He's believed to be Aaron Alexis, 34 years old from Fort Worth. Perhaps a former military contractor and also believed to be a former Navy man.

I want to go to Joe Johns, our correspondent who was just at this press conference. Joe, a lot of information given at this press conference. The first time law enforcement has on the record given the name of the shooter who is now dead.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (on the phone): Right, right. Thirty-four-year-old Aaron Alexis of Fort Worth, Texas. But a lot of the other information they're keeping close to the vest. Apparently they will post his picture and name, and what information they have on their FBI Web site to try to get more information.

Other things, I think we probably have already reported that there's now 13 people dead. We probably know that.

The most interesting thing that I took away from this news conference was D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier describing the interactions between active shooter teams that rushed in within seven minutes after the first shooting and what appear to be something of a kind of running gun battle inside there between themselves and the shooter as they sought to put him down and apparently finally did.

So Cathy Lanier really kind of describing for us, you know, the number one indication that the gunman died in an altercation with police officers, did not shoot himself, and that there were what she called quote, "multiple engagements with the shooter." So it sounds like a running gun battle. We're trying to get more information about it.

Back to you, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Joe Johns.

And indeed law enforcement saying that if the shooter, who has now been identified as 34-year-old Aaron Alexis, if he had not been shot and killed by law enforcement, they say he would have kept on shooting. We know 11 individuals were killed at the Navy Yard this morning. We believe that Aaron Alexis was the shooter responsible, but there is still talk of another potential shooter. Joining me now is Tommy Wells. He's a D.C. councilmember and mayoral candidate. He's also in charge of the task force that supervises the police and the firemen - the firefighters and emergency responders.

This is a booming neighborhood. It's thriving, it's -- when I moved here 20 years ago, if you had heard there was a shooting here, it wouldn't actually be all that unusual, but it would be crime and gang- related. But before I get to the changing nature of this neighborhood, what do you know about the shooting? What have your law enforcement sources told you?

TOMMY WELLS, D.C. COUNCILMEMBER/MAYORAL CANDIDATE: I spoke to the head of the police union, who has been with the police officer that was shot today. Incredible heroism of the police officer that's part of the active shooter unit. They went running down the corridor to capture the shooter. Shooter came out, shot him in both legs. And of course, they were able to give him cover.

And then incredible work of the fire department to get in there and pull him out and the paramedics that helped him, put him in the ambulance, and he's in surgery. He's going to be severely wounded, but it looks like he's going to be okay. But I believe they shot through the leg and they're having to reattach the leg. Not to go too far into that.

But the incredible heroism of what our police do when there's an active shooter is just extraordinary.

TAPPER: That's right. We're told the call to the Metropolitan Police Department came in shortly before 8:15 this morning here in Washington, D.C. And within seven minutes -- within seven minutes -- an active team ran into danger just while everyone else was running away.

Do we have any more leads? And I'm sorry to put you on the spot, I know you're given information you can't share all of it -- but do we have any more information about this possible second shooter? I know there's a lot of potential misinformation out there. There was a third potential shooter, then he was removed as a person of identify -- person of interest by law enforcement. Do law enforcement officials still believe that there's another potential shooter?

WELLS: As you know, this has been confusing all day. We've got about six different law enforcement entities that have responded, and are trying to share information with each other and coordinate it. They have done an amazing job, but in particular, Metropolitan Police Department has done an amazing job today in trying to get consistent information out.

But as you know, the number of victims that have been killed has changed every couple of hours. I think we may even be up to 13 now, including the shooter.

TAPPER: Thirteen. Okay.

WELLS: In terms of, we first thought there may be three shooters, now we're down to two. We certainly know the active shooter that we do know of for certain has been killed. And so now we have to check out to see if there was another shooter.

TAPPER: Of course, the Senate, the U.S. Senate just a few blocks away, they're on lockdown right now because of this potential threat of a second shooter, I would presume. Although the House of Representatives still in business.

Let's just briefly turn to this neighborhood, because what has happened to this neighborhood in the last 10 years is an amazing story. I know part of it is because the city has put a huge effort into building Nats stadium. I'm a Phillies fan, but I can appreciate Nats stadium, really helping to bring this neighborhood back to life.

I don't think that the shooting is going to hurt this neighborhood. Do you?

WELLS: This is one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in America, and it's really one of the best new neighborhoods in America. With all the different transit options, you're right here in the shadow of the Capitol, and we have the Yard's park. The things that have been done here along the Anacostia River to re-embrace the river as an active, wonderful place to be. We have three new parks here that rival any new park on the East Coast. This is an extraordinary investment, but a partnership with the federal government as well.

The area that we're developing used to be part of the Navy Yard once.

TAPPER: Right.

WELLS: So now we're developing it here. But yes, this is an amazing new neighborhood, and we're going to probably have another 10,000 people move here in the next few years.

TAPPER: All right, city councilman Tommy Wells, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

We'll be right back after this brief break.



MAYOR VINCENT GRAY, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: There are many people who have asked us whether we think there's terrorism involved in this. We don't know what the motive is at this stage. Obviously, we'll continue to seek information about what the motive is, but we don't have any reason at this stage to suspect terrorism, but certainly it has not been ruled out.


TAPPER: That was D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray reacting just a few minutes ago to the mass shooting in Washington, D.C. this morning at the Navy Yard, which is just a few blocks that way. Welcome back to THE LEAD. The Navy Yard and surrounding buildings have been on lockdown since the shootings here, adding on the anxiety for family members who are desperate to see their loved ones.

As that lockdown is slowly lifting, people are being shifted from the Navy Yard to nearby Nationals Park, home of the Nationals Baseball Team. That's where CNN's Rene Marsh is standing by witnessing some of these reunions. Rene, what are you seeing?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I'll tell you, Jake, this has become the staging area for these families who have really been waiting hours. They haven't seen their family members since they left for work this morning, and then of course they see those images on television, hearing about shots fired and unfortunately, people being shot there along the Navy Yard.

So now, just a few minutes ago, we saw a couple of buses pull up here right outside of the Nationals Stadium and got a chance to speak to some of the people who have been on lockdown for hours, one of those people standing with me here. You were on lockdown. You were on the campus of the Navy Yard when you got the news that shots had been fired. Tell me what happened next. What did they tell you, what were the instructions?

FADANTE WHITE, WAS AT NAVY YARD WHEN SHOOTING STARTED: We were told to just stay in the visitors' center and await word on when we would be able to leave.

MARSH: Right. Then you say essentially the building that you were in on lockdown. How many hours would you say you were on lockdown and tell me about what that was like?

WHITE: It was basically about eight hours. I had gotten there about 8:00, you know. The shots were fired about 8:20. So I guess around 8:30, they told us shots were fired so we were going to have to lock down all the buildings until they find and apprehend all the suspects. Here we are after 5:00 so we basically left the yard around 4:00 on the buses.

MARSH: When you're on lockdown for all these hours, are you getting information? Do you have any idea what is going on around you?

WHITE: Periodically, we had FBI, a few commanders as well as an employee. She had contact with people on the yard. They would update us, you know, every once in awhile, but no one knew where the suspects were or you know, how many people were actually hurt. So we were just playing it by ear.

MARSH: When you finally made it to this building, did you go inside or when you finally made it on the buses, tell me about this ending moment here, what information you got and what that was like when you finally got out.

WHITE: Well, once the buses pulled over, we just all got off. I was getting ready to get on metro until you stopped me.

MARSH: I see you have a box. What is this?

WHITE: Just water and emergency meals that you can eat, I guess in times of emergency. I said I might as well get a snack because I don't know how long it will take to get home.

MARSH: You got this while on lockdown there.


MARSH: Well, I'm glad that everything worked out for you and everything is OK. Jake, this is just one story. We saw a couple who they were able to reunite, this woman had been waiting with her husband for quite some time and finally, he was able to come out, they were able to reunite and they are headed home.

So that is the very latest from here. We know that inside of this building, there are also crisis management teams. They are talking to anyone who needs help after everything that happened here today. Also, we see the Red Cross on the scene, but we do know that some family members are still waiting even at this hour, because it's a long process.

We know that some people still need to be interviewed by detectives, so if they heard something, if they saw something, those detectives want to get that information before everyone is released to their families -- Jake.

TAPPER: Indeed, Rene Marsh, thank you so much. I want to bring in CNN's Chris Lawrence. He's at the Med-Star Washington Hospital Center where moments ago a news conference took place with updates of the conditions on some of the victims, including the Metropolitan Police Department officer. Chris, how many victims are there and how are they doing?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake, three victims are here, two of them are civilians who work for the Navy at the Navy Yard. The third is that Washington, D.C. police officer that you mentioned. Right now, he's in the middle of what's being called a very complex surgery to try to repair the damage to his legs. It's said that surgery is going to last several hours.

Basically what happened is he came into direct confrontation with the shooter. He was shot several times in the leg. The bullets literally ripping right through his legs, damaging both bones and blood vessels, and I'm told that there is some concern about whether he will be able to walk again. That is something they are going to look at in the next 24 hours after he comes out of surgery and they're able to assess the damage.

There's another young woman who was shot in the shoulder. She also is in surgery right now, and there was a third woman who you would think would have the most traumatic injuries, but will not need surgery at all. She was shot in the head at the Navy Yard, but amazingly, that bullet did not penetrate her skull and she is resting and recovering here at the hospital right now -- Jake.

TAPPER: Unbelievable. Thank you so much, Chris Lawrence. Thank you.

When we come back, we know the first shots were fired shortly after 8:00 this morning, but what happened exactly in the chaos that followed? We'll give you a moment by moment account of the mass shooting in our nation's capital coming up next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Coming to you live from what is essentially an active crime scene here in Southeast Washington, D.C. right near the Washington Navy Yard, where 13 people were killed today in a mass shooting. That includes the suspected gunman. One potential gunman may still be at large. We're not sure. There is inconclusive information about that. But the chief of police keeps talking about it.

Our Tom Foreman joins us now to take us through the chronology of this tragic, tragic day -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Jake, the Navy Yard, as you mentioned, there is a Washington, D.C. institution. It is here in D.C. not terribly far from the capitol. About 3,000 people work here, civilians and military, including the Naval Sea Systems Command, the people in charge of purchasing ships and submarines and weapons systems.

They all work within this perimeter around the base and there are gates in which they all had to come through this morning to go to work. Nonetheless, at about 8:20 or so this morning, came the first report that there was some sort of an active shooter in this building right over here, and people were ordered to shelter in place. How did he get into this building?

Nobody really knows if he officially came through one of these gates. We do know that a lot of witnesses today have had concerns about the back side of this building, where they say are a series of gates and doors they think are somewhat weak compared to other areas. But we don't know if he came in that way.

What we do know is witnesses say over the terrifying minutes that followed a number of events happened, including at one point numerous witnesses say the shooter was up on the fourth floor shooting down into a cafeteria through an atrium. A fire alarm went off in the middle of all this and some of the people who tried to flee by running away say as they ran down the hallways.

They were encountered by the gunman, who fired at them. In any event, authorities say as this went on minute after minute, they encountered the gunman numerous times in gun battles within the building and by 9:00, according to some witnesses, that was the last they heard of any sound inside here, even though people continued to wait inside.

Bottom line, after all was said and done, and these hours had passed, finally we received word at around 11:30 that the gunman was believed to be dead. As you said, Jake, there may be another one, but the gunman to be appeared dead and that sadly, as we now know, 12 other people were also lost -- Jake.

TAPPER: Tom Foreman, thank you. That's right. I'm joined now by Wolf Blitzer, host of "THE SITUATION ROOM." The worst instance of violence on a U.S. military base since the Fort Hood shootings, 13 killed including the shooter, 12 innocent victims presumably. That's almost as bad as what happened at Fort Hood and just a tragic turn of affairs.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S "THE SITUATION ROOM": Just another dozen people injured who were shot, and they're OK, most of them in various stages of their condition, but it's a serious situation.

TAPPER: Sad story. Have a good show.

BLITZER: All right, Jake, thanks very much.