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THE SITUATION ROOM
Dead Shooting Suspect Identified; Thirteen Confirmed Dead In Navy Yard Shooting; Witness Describes Mass Shooting; ; Interview With Secretary Of The Navy Ray Mabus
Aired September 16, 2013 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, we're following the breaking news. This is "THE SITUATION ROOM" special report, mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, which is right behind me, chaos and carnage here in the nation's capital. Thirteen people are confirmed dead this hour, one of them a shooter who sprayed gunfire inside a U.S. Navy facility.
Police have now identified the gunman. But they say they don't have a motive, at least not yet, and there is still an urgent hunt under way for another possible, possible suspect. You'll hear this hour incredible stories from survivors as they tell of the horror they faced during the bloody rampage this morning.
I'm Wolf Blitzer here in Washington. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
Shock, fear and grief today right here in the nation's capital. At least, at least 13 people are dead after a mass shooting at the Washington navy yard, including a gunman who opened fire this morning inside building 197. That's the naval sea systems command headquarters. As S.W.A.T. teams rushed in, wounded were evacuated by helicopter.
The dead suspect has now been identified as a military contractor from Texas, but authorities say another potential shooter may, repeat, may still be at large. That's kept much of the surrounding area, including Capitol Hill, which is only about a mile or so away, on alert. The U.S. Senate went into lockdown. Schools were shuttered.
It's a horrible, horrible situation unfolding here in Washington. We've seen street closures, flight delays. People are obviously very nervous, among other things, the Washington Nationals have postponed tonight's baseball game against the Atlanta Braves. The stadium is only a block or two away from the navy yard where we are right now.
We have full extensive coverage coming up here in a special SITUATION ROOM report beginning with CNN's Brian Todd. You've been here since basically 8:20 this morning when we heard that there were gunshots at the navy yard behind us.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And the latest information we have right now is 13 fatalities, including the shooter. That shooter identified as Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old man from Ft. Worth, Texas. He is responsible for what police now say is one of the worst shooting scenes they have ever come across.
TODD (voice-over): The first frantic calls to police came in just after 8:15 a.m. Shots fired, several people injured at the U.S. navy yard.
PATRICIA WARD, WITNESSED SHOOTING: I heard three shots, pow, pow, pow. Thirty seconds later, I heard four more shots and a couple of us that were in the cafeteria knew they were shots and started panicking.
CAPT. MARK VANDROFF, WITNESSED SHOOTING: I know that I lost a friend today. I lost someone who I had served with in the Pentagon years ago with, I believed to be one of the fatalities.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As he came around the corner, he aimed his gun at us and he fired at least two or three shots.
TODD: Three thousand people work at the facility just miles from the White House and the Capitol.
TERRI DURHAM, WITNESS: He was far enough down the hall that we couldn't see his face, but we could see him with a rifle and he raised and aimed at us and fired and he hit high on the wall.
TODD: Security was tightened around the capital city. Schools locked down. Reagan National Airport grounded all air traffic. 9:56 a.m., President Obama is briefed by his homeland security and counterterrorism team. Eyewitnesses like Commander Tim Juris told horrific tales. Juris was talking to a man who was shot right in front of him.
CMDR. TIM JURIS, WITNESS: He walked up and told me that he heard that there was a shooter in our building, and we were just standing here maybe three feet away having a conversation, and then we heard two more gunshots and he went down. That's when I ran.
DR. JANIS ORLOWSKI, MEDSTAR WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER: The reports of the victims, it was -- it had to be a semiautomatic because they're talking about gunshots that they heard in rapid succession.
TODD: President Obama called the shooting a cowardly act.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're confronting yet another mass shooting. And today, it happened on a military installation in our nation's capital. We will do everything in our power to make sure whoever carried out this cowardly act is held responsible.
TODD: D.C.'s mayor doesn't think the shootings are tied to terrorism, but the police still don't have a motive.
MAYOR VINCENT GRAY, WASHINGTON: We now have a total of 13 fatalities, including the shooter. We had one additional since we last convened that one of the victims who died at a hospital.
BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Authorities say they still don't have a motive, at least, now. You just heard Brian report that the FBI has identified the dead shooting suspect as we know. CNN justice reporter, Evan Perez, is here. He's getting more information on this suspect, among other things. What are you learning?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, we know that he's a former navy man. And so, we know that the FBI is now trying to figure out exactly what connection he has in this building. Right now, the going theory is this appears to be a workplace shooting of some kind, something, perhaps, some beef he had with people inside the navy yard. Right now --
BLITZER: We're looking for your microphone over there. They're not hearing you. Here it is.
PEREZ: Here we go. Sorry about that.
BLITZER: I don't know if that's the microphone or this is the microphone. All right. Well, go ahead. Just talk to me. Tell us what you know.
PEREZ: Well, right now, the FBI is still trying to figure out exactly what connection he has with this building, whether or not he was able to -- whether or not he had some beef with someone inside or whether there's, you know, some other reason why he came here today. But as of now, we know that he's a former navy man.
We know that he worked previously with a former contractor. That's what the FBI believes. They're still trying to figure out exactly what brought him here today.
BLITZER: And we don't know but will be learning more. He's 34 years old. All right. Evan, thanks very much.
Once again, 13 people are confirmed dead in today's horrific mass shooting. It's an ongoing situation that we're following right now. Thirteen people dead, including the suspected shooter. Twelve people or so, we are told, have been injured as well. You're going to hear a number, a number of stories of what happened during the course of this ordeal earlier in the day.
Hundreds of workers actually wound up taking cover or fled the scene of the massacre when it was ongoing. They were watching the situation unfold and they heard sirens going off, they heard gunshots, obviously, in the process. If, in fact, 12 people were shot and killed, another dozen or so were injured, you can only imagine how that situation was unfolding here.
We're going to be speaking with eyewitnesses during the course of what was going on, including maybe Captain Mark Vandroff who's joining us right now. Captain, thanks very much for coming in.
CAPT. MARK VANDROFF, U.S. NAVY: Thank you, sir. BLITZER: All right. So, we're only a block or so away from the Washington navy yard. You got there early this morning. Pick up the story. Where were you? You were in building 197 where the shooting occurred. We believe on the fourth floor, right?
VANDROFF: I don't know where exactly the shooting occurred, but I was -- my office is on the third floor of that building. At eight o'clock, I had a regularly scheduled meeting with members of my staff. We were in the conference room that's next to my office. And a few minutes after 8:00, we heard a loud noise that sounded unusual.
Didn't think anything of it. A few minutes after that, we heard what was definitely gunfire and we heard people shouting something, I don't know the exact words, but something to the effect that there was a shooter and lock the doors, lock the doors. And then, someone in my office who I have not found out yet who, but who I'm very grateful for, they closed and locked the exterior doors to our office space.
And then, all the people in my office area went either into the interior conference room or interior offices and barricaded themselves in. At that point, we started Blackberrying and texting each other trying to see who was safe, what was going on. Few minutes later, I'm not sure, 10 or 15, we heard another gunshot that sounded very close.
And we were all on the floor. When we looked up, we saw two bullet holes in the wall of the conference room we were in.
BLITZER: They basically told you stay in that room.
VANDROFF: They said shelter in place. There were e-mails put out.
BLITZER: You were on the ground.
VANDROFF: We were on the ground.
BLITZER: You were lying down for how long?
VANDROFF: We were there until a little after 10:00. So, we were there for about an hour and a half until police came and confirmed their identity and then escorted us out of the building.
BLITZER: So, what was going through your mind during that hour and a half, you were in the building, 197, here at the Washington navy yard, and you had heard gunshots.
VANDROFF: We heard gunshots several times throughout the course of that. I think the last gunshots we heard were a little after 9:00.
BLITZER: So, in other words they started at 8:20, the gunshots, and went until nine o'clock? A half hour or 40 minutes or so?
VANDROFF: Intermittent gunfire. What we were thinking is I was very proud of my people. We were all afraid, but no one panicked. We spent our time trying to get ahold of each other by phone or by text, trying to see who was accounted for. There were about 60 people in that building who report to me. So my deputy and I, my deputy, she had sheltered in a different office close by where we were.
And so, she and I were texting each other trying to check off who did we know was safe, who were we still missing, and then I was reporting up to my boss to let her know who we knew was safe, who we didn't have any word on until the police came and got us. And then even after that, the police had evacuated some of my folks to a different part of the navy yard.
So, the rest of the time other than giving statements to the police, we were trying to find those last few people to make sure all of the folks that are in my organization had gotten out and gotten out safely.
BLITZER: We know that the shooter shot and killed 12 people at the navy yard, injured another dozen or so, and I understand you knew one of those --
VANDROFF: I don't want to say the name. When the police evacuated us, one of my colleagues from another part of the organization came up to me and he had seen one of our colleagues who had been shot and was on the floor dead in the office building. I did not see that myself.
He came up to me because he knew that the two of us were friends, and he told me that he had lost his life. I don't want to put out any names until the navy officially puts out names. That's been hard to process, because -- and I don't know. It's very possible that additional friends and colleagues are among the 12. I've just gotten out here when they let us go so I don't know who among the rest of the organization, which is the headquarters organization's large.
There's a few thousand people there. But at the navy yard, but 60 or so that worked for me of those, they all got out alive and that was my main focus during the day was just trying to track them down and see where they were.
BLITZER: Have you confirmed that all those under your command --
VANDROFF: I've either talked to them personally or I've gotten voicemail or e-mail or text messages from them saying that they were OK.
BLITZER: So captain, tell us about the naval sea systems command building 197 here at the navy yard. What is it all about? What do you guys do there?
VANDROFF: The naval sea systems command is the navy's organization for the acquisition and maintaining of its ships, submarines, and the systems that go on those ships and submarines. It's housed in three buildings on the navy yard. Building 197 is the largest of those three.
And in building 97, you've got the organizations, like my organization that's primarily in charge of the non-nuclear surface ships. You also have its contract directorates, a lot of the technical directorate is there, the legal staff is there, the cost estimating staff is there.
BLITZER: A lot of civilians and a lot of active duty military --
VANDROFF: A mix of active military and a mix of civilians. Mostly civilian maybe 90 percent civilian and 10 percent military.
BLITZER: You know, when I heard President Obama earlier today over at the White House, he made the point that, you know, this kind of stuff happens if you're in Afghanistan in a war zone, but you don't really expect to see something like this here in the United States, especially in Washington, D.C. at a military facility.
VANDROFF: I had a very routine day planned for myself. I worked out at the gym this morning at the yard. I had a very -- when the shooting started, I was in the middle of a very routine meeting with my staff. I was supposed to drive over and talk to some of my colleagues in the Pentagon later this afternoon about my program.
I was not -- it was not supposed to be an unusual day. It turned out to be maybe one of the most unusual days of my life, but didn't start out that way.
BLITZER: So, when you come on the navy yard, you have to go through certain security procedures? What is the nature to getting on that base?
VANDROFF: To drive or walk on the base, you present credentials, your D.O.D. common access card to an armed security guard who then clears you on to the base. Then, to get into Building 197, there's armed security at the door of the building.
BLITZER: This specific building where the shooting took place.
VANDROFF: Where the shooting took place.
BLITZER: This is a secure facility because classified information, is that it?
VANDROFF: For a variety of reasons, but you go past armed security guards and then your credentials are computer-read and there's a kiosk you go through and it either gives you a green or red light, but the green light shows that your credentials are recognized s someone who is supposed to be in that building.
So, you have to go through a couple of layers of security to get into building 197. First to get access on to the yard and then through the doors to get in.
BLITZER: It's a tough situation. Captain, can you stay with us?
VANDROFF: I shall.
BLITZER: Captain Vandroff is going to stay with us. We're going to continue our special eport here in the SITUATION ROOM. We're taking you also to a hospital that's giving emergency care to some of those wounded in today's mass shooting here at the navy yard in Washington. Much more of our special breaking news coverage right after this.
BLITZER: Even as S.W.A.T. teams worked to clear the scene of the shooting and flush out possible, possible suspects, wounded people were being airlifted to a nearby hospital here in Washington. Our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, is there with an update on their conditions. Chris, first of all, tell us where you are and what you're learning.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Wolf, we're at the MedStar Washington National Hospital, and basically, there are three patients here. Two of them were women who worked for the navy as civilians at the navy yard. The third was that Washington, D.C. police officer. Right now, Wolf, he is in the middle of what's being called a very complex surgery to try to save the use of his legs.
He came into direct confrontation with the shooter, took multiple gunshots to the legs that basically ripped right through both bone and blood tissue. He is in surgery now. It's going to be another few hours until he gets out. And when he gets out, in about 24 hours, that's when they will have to assess the damage to see if he will be able to retain the use of those legs.
Another young woman is also in surgery. She was shot in the shoulder. But a third woman who you may have thought suffered the most traumatic injuries after being shot in the head, she may be the first to go home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. JANIS ORLOWSKI, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, MEDSTAR WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER: She actually has injury to her hand and to her head, but the bullet actually did not penetrate the skull. It means it did not penetrate the bone. So, she is obviously -- has suffered a significant wound, but she will recover without surgery and we've done a couple of procedures to take care of her hand and her head.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE: So, she is resting right now. And again, the other two still in surgery and within the last couple hours, senior U.S. navy officials were here at the hospital visiting these victims, and the secretary of the navy, Ray Mabus, and the chief of naval operations, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, both here at the hospital talking to some of the victims. They talked about the impact this has had on the navy as a whole.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAY MABUS, NAVY SECRETARY: The navy family today suffered a horrific attack, and we are a family. The civilians that work in navy and do the critical work that has to be done suffered just a stunning and horrific blow today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE: Investigators talked briefly to some of the victims before they went in to surgery. What normally happens at this point is before that, some of the investigators will try to take pictures of some of their clothing, look at some of where the bullet holes went.
There's a chain of custody with some of the bullet fragments in surgery going from the surgeon directly to some of the investigators, because ultimately, as they recover, the investigation obviously still continuing at a very high pitch, Wolf.
BLITZER: So Chris, just to recap, 12 people or so confirmed injured in the shooting, 12 killed by this shooter, and various stages of the nature of the injury, some very serious, some critical, some obviously a lot less so. Do we have any specifics on all 12 of those who were wounded in the shootings?
LAWRENCE: Not specifics on all of them, Wolf. I mean, there was one elderly man who died in the ambulance as he was, you know, leaving the scene. He was one of the first to be rushed out of that scene after suffering injuries. Various people have what's being termed minor injuries. You heard some of the patients here, two of them are in surgery.
A third who was shot in the head, the bullet did not enter her skull, so she actually is still here recovering. We expect to get some more updates on some of these conditions, perhaps, as the surgeries conclude later here in the evening, Wolf.
BLITZER: I know that they'll be briefing all of us at the hospital where you are. Chris Lawrence, our Pentagon correspondent, thanks very much.
Coming up here in our special SITUATION ROOM, panicked witnesses come face-to-face with the gunman and they live to tell us about it. You're watching a SITUATION ROOM special report.
BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer here in Washington. We're following the breaking news, the shooting rampage here at the Washington navy yard. Here are some of the latest developments right now. Just about an hour or so ago, the mayor of Washington, D.C., Vincent Gray, announced the death of another victim, bringing the total to 13 people, including the gunman, 12 victims, plus the gunman.
He's now been identified as 34-year-old Aaron Alexis (ph), a U.S. military contractor from Texas. The FBI is asking anyone with information about him to contact them right away. The search, meanwhile, is continuing right now for a possible, a possible second suspect in the rampage. Not 100 percent clear there is a second suspect, but authorities say they're looking possibly for a second suspect.
You can imagine the panic as people ran for their lives. Some people trying to escape ran right into a gunman. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TERRIE DURHAM, WITNESS: We were just working at our desks, and the fire alarm went off, which, you know, occasionally, there's a practice or there's a fire in the building, and immediately, there was an announcement that there was a fire emergency in the building, but our fire wardens came running very quickly yelling for everyone to get out of the building now. And that's when we started moving.
He was far enough down the hall that we couldn't see his face, but we could see him with the rifle and he raised and aimed at us and fired. And he hit high on the wall just as we were trying to leave.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The bloody incident is still clouded by lots and lots of chaos. Tom Foreman is joining us now. He's been trying to piece together a timeline of today's events. Go ahead, Tom, tell us what we know right now and obviously, everything is subject to change. Initial reports often prove to be inaccurate.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. I'll tell you this. We know a lot more than we knew 30 minutes ago. The information is coming in really fast now about what happened here. Let's place the scene again. The navy yard, about a mile and a half, two miles from the U.S. Capitol, it's been around since 1799. About 3,000 people work here, including the naval sea systems command which is basically in charge of purchasing ships and submarines and keeping them running.
They all work in this perimeter here with security all around. But now, I want to talk about this timeline that we mentioned earlier, Wolf. Right in this building right here, the first problem showed up at about 8:18 in the morning. We knew that's when the first shooter came up, but now what we're hearing from authorities is really quite telling.
They're now saying that within two minutes, there were officers who were there already engaging this shooter. So, if you look at this, you're talking about 8:18, you're talking about by 8:20 actually having officers actively engaging the shooter as he was moving through the building and shooting at people.
In some cases, shooting over an atrium as we understand it down on people down below. By 8:25, local police say extra teams had shown up and they had officers inside engaging in running battles with this gunman. Look at this incredibly short period of time, Wolf. From 8:18 to 8:25, this may very well turn out to be the bulk of the heaviest shooting, but after this time, the shooting continued to go on.
We do know that we've had a witness who said that they believe the last time they heard shots was sometime around nine o'clock. So, this gives us a better picture than we've had all day in terms of the short period of time that this may have been going on, and this engagement by officers here based on my past experience may very well be the reason that ultimately we didn't wind up with more fatalities when people are trapped in a building like that or get cornered by a gunman in a situation. We'll have to find out as time goes on. What we do know is in the end, despite the short period of time, it was all the way up until almost 11:30 before we heard that they had successfully taken this gunman down, and as you know, Wolf, they're still looking to see if maybe there might be somebody else involved.
BLITZER: They certainly are. No confirmation, but they are looking. Tom Foreman, thanks very much.
Let's bring back navy captain, Mark Vangroff. He's joining us. Now, you survived today's massacre. You were inside that building. You heard the gunshots. You saw the timeline that Tom was just showing, 8:20, 8:18, it starts. But you say that you actually heard gunshots going until almost nine o'clock in the morning.
CAPT. MARK VANDROFF, U.S. NAVY: I wasn't looking at my watch, but I was in a conference room in a meeting that started at 8:00, and the conference had been going a short time when we heard the first sound that sounded unusual and we kind of looked at each other, what's that. A very few minutes after that, we heard the sound of what was definitely gunfire.
People were yelling to close the doors, lock the doors. The conference room that I was in was behind some other doors. So, someone in my office, and I don't know who, locked those outer doors and then we all barricaded ourselves either in the interior conference room or an interior offices. And we were on the ground sheltering in place for several minutes.
A short time after that, again, I wasn't looking at my watch, we heard a very loud gunshot, very close by. When we looked up and we saw bullet holes in the wall to the conference room that we were in about a foot down from the ceiling. We heard sporadic gunfire a little bit after that. The nine o'clock in the timeline sounds about right.
Didn't hear much gunfire after -- I don't know when the last gunfire I heard, but it was for several minutes after the shot that had the holes in the wall. And then, at a little after 10:00, uniformed police officers came to our location, identified us, escorted us out of the building.
BLITZER: Could you tell if it was automatic gunfire?
Was it like individual single shots?
VANDROFF: Some of the shots were individual shots. I don't -- I'm not a ballistics expert. Some of the shots were not -- were rapid fire, were several shots one after another. I don't know if that was a semiautomatic or fully automatic weapon, because I was only going by what I heard. But it was -- some shots were rapid fire. Other shots were single shots.
BLITZER: Did they seem to be coming from the same area?
VANDROFF: Some shots seemed very close to where we were and others were distant to where we couldn't really tell where in the building they were coming from.
BLITZER: And so you couldn't tell if there was one gunman or two gunmen?
VANDROFF: Absolutely no way to tell from where I was.
BLITZER: Just based on your listening...
VANDROFF: No, we were just listening because we didn't see anything after we barricaded ourselves.
BLITZER: And you were basically on the ground?
VANDROFF: We were on the ground. Most of the time what we spent doing was, we had our BlackBerries out and we spent our time texting each other, other people in the -- my colleagues in the building, trying to find out who was safe and who was still unaccounted for.
BLITZER: And we know one of those dead, somebody you knew in the building?
VANDROFF: I do have confirmation that one of the victims is someone that I know and have served with in the past, so.
BLITZER: Captain Vandroff, I'm glad you're OK.
Thanks very much for joining us.
VANDROFF: Thank you, sir.
VANDROFF: Mark Vandroff, U.S. Navy.
Coming up in our special report here in THE SITUATION ROOM, incredible images from the shooting rampage.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Flags at the U.S. Capitol, about a mile or so away from here, at the Washington Navy Yard, have been lowered to half staff in honor of the victims of this Navy Yard shooting that happened today.
Here's a quick look at some of the other dramatic images from this awful, awful day. A helicopter lifts a person from a rooftop near the scene of the shooting. An armored vehicle speeds -- racing down the street just outside the Navy Yard. People exit a building with hands above their heads. And armed federal agents stage on a bridge adjacent to the shooting.
Incredible images coming in from here at the Washington Navy Yard.
Let's bring in our special guest right now. Matt Maasdam is a retired U.S. Navy SEAL. He's a Reservist right now. He's a high threat security expert who was recently stationed right here at the Washington Navy Yard.
He also served as a military aide to President Obama.
Thanks very much for joining us.
LT. CMDR. MATT MAASDAM (RET.), FORMER NAVY SEAL: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: I know you're also founder and CEO -- co-founder of Move to Safety, which trains people in dealing with active security shooting situations sort of like this.
MAASDAM: That's right.
BLITZER: So when you heard about what happened -- you, until, what, about six months ago, a year ago you worked here at the Navy Yard?
MAASDAM: I worked right down here, yes.
BLITZER: And so you're familiar with this facility. You heard what was going on.
What went through your mind?
MAASDAM: Well, when I heard that there was a shooting down here, I was surprised. And I'm a father, as well. And so I got my kids safe and...
BLITZER: Because you live right near here.
MAASDAM: Because I live just up the street, yes. And I heard that they were going into lockdown. And it was a little concerning to me, because depending on where you are in the building, it can lock you in with the shooter.
BLITZER: Building 197?
MAASDAM: Right. And so my concern was for the people that could get away, that they got locked together with the shooter and didn't get away so...
BLITZER: Because we just heard the captain say that they told him -- he was in that building -- "Get down on the floor."
MAASDAM: That's right.
BLITZER: They wound up spending an hour-and-a-half lying on the floor.
MAASDAM: Yes, I mean that's a really long time. And bullets were coming through his room.
BLITZER: Right. MAASDAM: I mean that's a long time to spend in an area where bullets are coming through your room. So that's a bit concerning to me. I mean, he lived through it, so it was a call that worked. But it's a very difficult...
BLITZER: There you see the White House flag, by the way.
BLITZER: It has now been lowered to half staff, as well, the flags on Capitol Hill, flags at the White House. A dozen people killed by the shooter. The shooter is dead, too.
But there may be a second shooter that's still at large. We don't have confirmation of that.
MAASDAM: That's right.
BLITZER: Authorities say they are looking for someone, but it's unclear if, in fact, there is a second shooter.
MAASDAM: That's right. But if anybody sees somebody like that, they need to contact the FBI and they need to get away from that person, as far away as they can. They need to get blocks away, buildings away.
So do not stay around to (INAUDIBLE) if they...
BLITZER: If they suspect that somebody like that...
MAASDAM: That's right. If they see something funny.
BLITZER: So you're a Navy SEAL. So you're highly trained in these kind of situations.
MAASDAM: That's right.
BLITZER: Had you not been there, in that building, what would you have done?
MAASDAM: I mean I would have done what I'm telling people to do, get away. You are not -- you are not prepared. You're not armed. You're not wearing the right body armor to get away. I would get away and I would call 911. And then -- I -- and I would help as many people out of that scenario as I possibly could.
BLITZER: You'd run away as quickly...
MAASDAM: That's right.
BLITZER: -- as possible and ducking while you're running.
MAASDAM: And staying low, staying behind cover. If there's anything between you and the shooter, so he can't see you, your chances of survival go way up.
BLITZER: All right, Matt, stay with me. MAASDAM: I will.
BLITZER: Because I'm going to need your expertise. We're going to continue the breaking news coverage.
BLITZER: Just ahead, President Obama speaking out earlier about the shooting rampage here in Washington. We'll hear what he had to say.
Plus, we'll hear from more eyewitnesses, some who saw victims killed before their eyes. Others narrowly escaped the gunman's bullets.
BLITZER: President Obama is calling for a thorough and seamless investigation of this deadly shooting at the Washington Navy Yard just behind me.
He spoke about the rampage earlier in the day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've been briefed by my team on the situation. We still don't know all the facts, but we do know that several people have been shot and some have been killed. So we are confronting yet another mass shooting. And today it happened on a military installation in our nation's capital.
It's a shooting that targeted our military and civilian personnel. These are men and women who were going to work, doing their job protecting all of us. They're patriots. And they know the dangers of serving abroad, but today they faced the unimaginable violence that they wouldn't have expected here at home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The president speaking earlier today.
The White House has just released another statement saying the president placed a phone call to the Navy secretary, Ray Mabus.
Here's what the statement says.
Let me read it to you. "Today, the president called secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, to express his condolences to the families and colleagues of the victims of today's mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. The president also commended the brave Navy personnel and local law enforcement who worked in concert with federal authorities to respond to this tragedy. The president has been briefed throughout the day by assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, Lisa Monaco, and the deputy chief of staff, Alyssa Mastromonaco, and the ongoing -- about the ongoing situation and he continues to remain in contact with his team."
That statement just coming in from the White House. I know the president is deeply, deeply concerned, as are all officials here in Washington. Everyone in the country is deeply concerned about what happened.
Witnesses, meanwhile, describe a really terrifying scene earlier in the day, when it all unfolded here at the Washington Navy Yard.
Some of them saw victims shot right before their eyes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CMDR. TIM JIRUS, U.S. NAVY: We were the only two people in the alleyway at that point. There was another person, security, who was at the far end of the building. He fell down to the ground and I ran out of there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know what happened to him?
JIRUS: I do not know.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was this man in the process of evacuating?
JIRUS: He was not. He actually worked in the maintenance building behind me. He simply walked up to try to say, hey, there's a shooter in your building, do you know what's going on. I'm like, I don't know what's going on, fire alarm went off, we were trying to evacuate everybody. That's when he got shot.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You don't know what happened to the man who was shot?
JIRUS: I'm fairly certain he was dead because he was shot in the head. So I understand gunshots at that point because before inside the building they were kind of muffled, like you didn't know exactly what it was, in the alleyway, with -- the sound reverberating, you know exactly what it was. Not to mention that he's on the ground in front of you, you know, bleeding.
So I turned, ran, the back side of that building. I went to get something between me and wherever the shooter was, make sure that he couldn't, you know, shoot me as well. So I ended up running around the maintenance building, jumping like a 20-foot fence and then ended up over here.
PATRICIA WARD, WITNESS: Well, I was in the cafeteria getting breakfast and I had just paid for my breakfast, and I heard three shots, and then the young lady that was with me, we were like what's that. I said somebody's shooting because it didn't sound like something falling on the floor. Three seconds later, there were more shots. A few of us more that were in the cafeteria, we started panicking which way to run out, do we go out the side we came in, or do we go out the back way.
So we took the back exit where they have a security guard on the loading dock back there. She had her gun drawn. And somebody had pushed a fire alarm. And she told us to run, get away as fast as you can. They were quick shots, like bam, bam, bam. A few seconds later, bam, bam, bam. And I just started running, running.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was there a lot of screaming? How was -- what was the scene like at the moments that the shots broke out?
WARD: There wasn't any screaming from the ones in the cafeteria but everybody's eyes got like panicked, you know. Everybody just -- we froze up for a minute because we didn't know which direction to go into, and then I'm like, I'm getting out of here, I'm running, I'm running. You know, they were trying to keep us in the cafeteria. I said no, I'm running, I'm running, you know. All I could think about was my family. So I just started running.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Eyewitnesses telling us what they saw, what they heard. We're standing by, by the way, local D.C. police are about to have a news conference right at the top of the hour. New information coming in. We'll have live coverage, of course, here in the SITUATION ROOM.
We'll also have much more on the mass shooting here at the Washington Navy Yard, the race to learn more about the dead gunman, and possibly a second suspect who may, repeat, may still be at large.
BLITZER: We are following the shooting here at the Washington Navy Yard. Joining us now, the secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus.
Mr. Secretary, thanks very much for coming in.
You probably never expected in your life, as secretary of the Navy, you would be here in Washington, D.C. talking about a mass shooting right here at the Washington Navy Yard.
RAY MABUS, SECRETARY OF THE NAVY: Didn't expect it. And I am heartbroken that it happened.
BLITZER: Where were you when you got word that there was a shooting going on?
MABUS: I was at the Pentagon in my office. Just a normal Monday morning. And we immediately put the emergency plans that we have in motion. But that was already happening also at the Navy Yard.
BLITZER: We have confirmed a dozen people were shot and killed by this shooter. The shooter is dead as well, another dozen or so have been injured. They're being treated at local hospitals. Are those basically the numbers that you have as well?
MABUS: The numbers have been a little bit fluid, Wolf. And we have done a muster at the Navy Yard.
BLITZER: You've done a what?
MABUS: A muster. We've just taken roll of people there. It takes a little while because some people are gone just on business or leave or something like that. It's going to take a little while to go through -- to go through all of the things.
BLITZER: To make sure everyone is accounted for?
MABUS: Yes. And I went to the hospital. Actually got to meet with one of the shooting victims. A young woman who is, under the circumstances, doing remarkably well. She is going to be fine physically. Met with her parents. And her first question was about her co-workers. About her friends, did they make it?
I also met with the husband of another Navy employee who was in surgery at the time. The three taken, two Navy employees, one Metropolitan Police officer, taken to MedStar Hospital. I understand none of the injuries is life threatening.
BLITZER: And important to note. You saw this. This is the FBI seeking information on Aaron Alexis, deceased, the shooter. It says, "Aaron Alexis, deceased, is believed to be responsible for the shootings at the Washington Navy Yard."
What do we know about this individual? Was he was active duty Navy? Was he in the reserves? A contractor? What do you -- what can you share with us about Aaron Alexis?
MABUS: The two things I know that I have been told about Mr. Alexis: one is that he was in the ready reserve which is a -- he doesn't drill. There is no contact day-to-day with the Navy. Just if there is a general mobilization, he would be one of the ones mobilized. And secondly that, in some capacity or another, he was a Navy contractor.
BLITZER: A Navy contractor. Do you know who he was working for, what company or anything like that?
MABUS: I don't. And I believe that -- but I do believe he was a Navy contractor. He is from Fort Worth, Texas, was what I was told.
BLITZER: We got this information, biographical data. His rank was aviation electrician's mate, third class, meaning what?
MABUS: Meaning that he was a petty officer working on airplanes' electrical systems.
BLITZER: Like an electrician, basically --
BLITZER: Preparing electrical equipment on ships, presumably? That would be his -- that would be his job?
BLITZER: He was originally -- home of record, New York City, 34 years old. Do we have any idea of possible motive that he might -- may have had in doing this mass shooting?
MABUS: You know, this is under investigation. Whatever motive, whatever, why here, why now? We just have to wait until the investigation --
BLITZER: It's just preliminary. All part of the investigation. The Navy is investigating together with the FBI, local law enforcement, there's a whole group of people.
Now the contracting job that he had, do you know what it was? What his contracting job was?
MABUS: He was contracting in the I.T. area, we believe. Information technology. But past that, don't know.
BLITZER: We don't know. And what about the notion of a second suspect at large? What have they told you?
MABUS: Well, again, it's an ongoing investigation, a current investigation. They told me they're interviewing everybody before they leave the Navy Yard. And that -- at least right now -- seems to be this one shooter.
BLITZER: So there may not be a second person. But they haven't --
MABUS: May not.
BLITZER: But they haven't definitively -- any link at all? The mayor has repeatedly been asked, the police chief -- to terrorism? Any indication of some sort of foreign terrorist organization? Anything along those lines?
MABUS: Again, whatever motive, whatever reason why, just have to wait for this investigation. We simply don't have any of that information.
What we are doing -- and I do want to say this -- is to support our Navy family. This was -- a Naval Sea System Command, NAVSEA. They build our ships, they design our ships. Civilians and military working side by side is reaching out to the -- to the victims, reaching out to their families, reaching out to the entire Navy family. Giving them whatever assistance they need.
We have grief counselors right now for people coming out of the Navy Yard for longer-term care. We've set up a center at Joint Base Bowling. And just encourage people to -- you know, we are dealing with this as a family, as a Navy family.
BLITZER: Of the 12 people who were shot and killed, you know -- I know you haven't released names yet, pending notification of next of kin. But do we know how many are military and how many are civilian?
MABUS: I cannot comment on that until the next of kin is notified.
BLITZER: It's a heart-wrenching situation. As secretary of the Navy, you've got to deal with these families.
The White House just released a little readout on the president's phone call with you saying that, you know, you updated him on what was going on. He obviously, as all of us are, deeply disturbed, shaken by what has happened. Can you give us a little nature of that -- how that phone call with the president went?
MABUS: Well, clearly he is deeply concerned. And what he wanted besides an update was to let the families know, to let the larger Navy family know, of his concern, of his thoughts, of his prayers and those of Mrs. Obama. And of the American people that just go out so much to our Navy family to -- we lost friends, we lost family, we lost coworkers today. And -- we're going to -- we're going to deal with this as a family. We are going to marshal all of the resources that the United States Navy and the United States government has to deal with this.
BLITZER: So you met with some of the family members of those injured. You went to the MedStar Washington Hospital Center, met with some of the families. How are they coping?
MABUS: They're doing -- they're doing very well under the circumstances. They got word very quickly. The one young woman that I actually got to meet, her parents got there quickly. And they were just thankful that their daughter is going to be okay.
BLITZER: Thank God for that.
MABUS: The husband of the person in surgery said that when she got there, she began giving orders to doctors, telling them what she wanted to eat when she woke up. And not to give her too much anesthesia.
BLITZER: Did you -- have you spoken with any of the deceased family?
MABUS: I have not. We are waiting until the casual team assistance team speaks to them first.
BLITZER: So -- how does that work? Just walk us through the process. Somebody noted -- goes to their homes? Calls them? How does that work notifying them that a brother, or a sister, a son or a daughter, a father may have died right behind us here at the Washington Navy Yard?
MABUS: A chaplain or other -- usually a chaplain is assigned along with a -- an entire crisis casualty team. How they contact -- how they contact the families is done on an individual basis. They try to do it in person if at all possible. And then they -- this is what they're trained to do. And they take the family through what's going to happen next. And then later down the road, when the initial grief and shock has worn off, what assistance is available for them.
BLITZER: And you as the secretary of the Navy, at some point, you'll want to speak to these families. You don't just write a letter to them. You will call them. Talk to them. Reassure them. How -- how does that work out? I mean, that's such a -- I know that if someone is killed in action in Afghanistan or Iraq or someplace else, you do that as well. But you don't expect to do it here in the United States.
MABUS: No, you don't. But it's it's always in terms of being heartbreaking and heart-wrenching. I went and met with the family of the SEALs killed in August of '11 the day that their remains were brought back into Dover.
I meet with families of with sailors and Marines that we -- that we lose. I write a handwritten letter to every family member. It is never easy. But these people we lost today now see were serving their country no less than people in Afghanistan or Iraq. These people we lost today were patriots, were devoted parts of this Navy Yard, Marine Corps team, and no less than those who wear the uniform and go into combat.
BLITZER: The whole notion of a gunman going in there, and with an automatic weapon, or a handgun, whatever, and just randomly shooting individuals, at this stage, do we know that he was looking for something, wanted something? Is there any indication of any, any possible motive?
MABUS: Again, we will just have to wait for the investigation. You know, I don't know anything about motive or why here, why now.
BLITZER: Now, this Aaron Alexis, was he allowed to be on the Navy Yard? Did he have authorization to get on the base? Or how did he get on the base? Do we know that?
MABUS: Again, that is part of the investigation.
All the things that lead up to this, the only thing we know was that at one point he was a Navy contractor. Whether he was today, I don't know.
BLITZER: And do you know anything about his record? Criminal record? Anything along those lines? Have they have briefed you on that?
The only -- I told you everything that I know about Mr. Alexis.
BLITZER: Where do you go from here? What is your next stop on this awful, awful day?
MABUS: Well, I have been over to the Washington Nationals' stadium. They have canceled the game tonight. They're bringing people from the Washington Navy Yard and going back there and meet the people coming in.
BLITZER: And then go back. I assume when you spoke to the president at some point, knowing this president, he will want to participate in some sort of memorial service.
MABUS: Knowing this president, knowing this country, we will mourn our dead in an appropriate way because they died patriots, they died serving their country.
BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, thanks very much.
Ray Mabus, the former governor of Mississippi as well, a difficult assignment you have. Please, please express, convey our deepest, deepest condolences to all those families.
MABUS: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you very much.