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AC 360 LATER
New Info on Navy Yard Shooter
Aired September 17, 2013 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. And welcome to "AC360 Later."
Once again, we are right down the street from the Washington Navy Yard.
There is breaking news on a number of fronts tonight about how the killer armed himself and how he got a shotgun inside that facility, also word that the Navy granted him a security clearance even though it knew about a gun-related arrest in his immediate past and new details today about an encounter the gunman had with police as recently as last month where he claimed to be hearing voices.
Tonight, a day-and-a-half since that gunman drove into the Navy Yard, walked into Building 197, pulled out a shotgun and shot a dozen people, those warning signs and others began coming into view.
So we're going to, of course, be focusing heavily on the indications dating back nearly a decade that the shooter was slowly being overtaken by serious mental illness. We will also cover what is being done to address what now seems to be serious breaches in security.
But tonight as we do with many mass shootings we want to look first on the lives that were lost. Too often we think we focus on the spotlight on the killer. In this case, it's understandable. Authorities are still trying to learn as much as they can. They still are looking for information from the public about the killer. That said, we hope that history remembers not his name but the names of those 12 innocent lives lost yesterday.
With that in mind, we begin with a daughter's simple request, which is really a privilege to honor for her and for everyone who lost someone they loved yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JESSICA GAARDE, DAUGHTER OF VICTIM: With everything going on, I want them to know she lived. She's not a number.
COOPER: You want them to know the person that she was and the life that she lived?
J. GAARDE: Yes, because she was so caring, and she would do anything for anyone she loved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That's Jessica Gaarde talking with her father about her mom, Kathy Gaarde. Kathy was 62 years old. She was killed yesterday. She was a huge fan of the Washington Capitals hockey team. She loved Hall & Oates, the Bee Gees. She loved animals, counted bluebirds in fact for the local wildlife refuge.
She and Douglass were planning their retirement. In fact, Kathy was just a few months away from her retirement. She was killed yesterday at the age of 62. We will have more about the life of Kathy Gaarde and more from Douglass and her daughter later on in the program.
We have also learned about some of the others killed yesterday. Mike Ridgell was just 52. He was a security guard at the Navy Yard. After 17 years with the Maryland State Police, he served three years as a security contractor in Iraq. His daughter Megan echoes what Jessica Gaarde said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't want people to remember him as a victim, because he never was in hi life and he never will be. He's strong. I want him to be known as a dad above a victim of a shooting, because he was a great dad for all of us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, Michael Arnold, he was a graduate of the Naval Academy, an avid pilot. In fact, he was building his own plane that he hoped to fly to go visit his mom. He wanted to do it before he turned 60. Michael Arnold was killed yesterday at the age of 59.
John Roger Johnson, who went by J.J., lived in the same suburban Maryland town for the last three decades. A neighbor there says he always had a smile on his face. He was 73 years old.
Want you to know about 50-year-old Frank Kohler as well. He lived south of here in Tall Timbers, Maryland. He leaves behind a wife and two devastated daughters.
Forty-six-year-old Kenneth Bernard Proctor worked as a utilities foreman at the Navy Yard. He had two teenage kids, one who just joined the Army.
Vishnu Pandit and his wife lived in North Potomac, Maryland, whether a neighbor described him as a very nice man. Vishnu Pandit was 61. Mary Francis Knight was the daughter of a Green Beret with two daughters of her own. In addition to her work as an I.T. contractor, she taught as a nearby community college.
Like Michael Arnold, Martin Bodrog was a Midshipman. He served 22 years in the military, taught Sunday school for preschoolers and in wintertime helped shovel driveways for elderly neighbors. He was the kind of neighbor anybody would want to have. He leaves a wife of 23 and three daughters as well. Martin was 54. Arthur Daniels lived right here in Southeast Washington. He and his wife, Priscilla, had five kids, and they had nine grandchildren. What a family. He worked as a handyman in Building 197. Arthur was 51.
Sylvia Frasier was the second youngest of seven kids. Her sister told "The Washington Post": "We have to forgive the gunman. We can't become bitter." Sylvia Frasier was 53.
And Gerald Read, spent much of his career in military law enforcement and as a systems analyst. He had two master's degrees, worked in risk management at the Navy Yard, loved books about the Civil War and loved animals. He had three rescue Labrador retrievers, an Irish setter and two cats.
As we said at the top, we do have breaking news tonight on three fronts how the killer got a shotgun inside the building, what the Navy knew when they gave him a security clearance and recent claims by the gunman that he was hearing voices in his head.
John King is covering all of that and more and he joins me now live.
So officials knew about this 2004 incident.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they did. And the fact he was still allowed into the Navy and allowed to have a security clearance is one of the many red flags, one of the many questions those families and all Americans will be asking about.
Here's what we know, much of this reporting from our colleague Jake Tapper. They knew about the 2004 incident in Seattle where he shot out some tires of some construction workers' cars. He said they were mocking him. He used a handgun, he shot out the tires. He was arrested and he was questioned. His dad said he had PTSD from 9/11. He was never prosecuted because it fell through the cracks of the bureaucracy there. But the Navy did know about it.
He talked to investigators about it when he was trying to join the Navy. They decided essentially to forgive it and to let him into the Navy. They will be asked questions about that now. They haven't acknowledged that publicly. These are officials talking on a source basis to Jake Tapper. It will be one of the many questions asked.
You remember the time frame and there was a lot of questions about whether they had lowered the bar recruiting-wise to get people into the military when the unpopularity of the Iraq war was going on.
COOPER: In terms of the investigation now, ballistics experts are still on the site. They're literally piecing this together minute-by-minute.
KING: They're piecing it together. They say it's a gruesome crime scene. There are shell casings everywhere. There are drawings where the markings where the bodies were. There's blood. What they do know, though, from video surveillance inside is they believe the shooter walked in with a bag. He had the shotgun, a pump action shotgun unassembled, went up to the fourth floor, went into a men's room, put the gun together, came out shotgun ready.
That's when the carnage started essentially from the fourth quarter looking down at the atrium, there's a cafeteria in the lobby atrium, and just firing down on that. At some point up there, too, you mentioned Mike Ridgell, he's a security guard. At some point early on they believe he encountered Mike Ridgell, killed him and took his handgun and used that as well.
COOPER: He was actually two weapons, one that he had brought in, a shotgun. Yesterday it had been reported it was an AR-15, but it was not, it was a shotgun.
KING: It was not. Many of the responding officers did have AR- 15s, so there are AR-15 shell casings in the area. Law enforcement sources say that was probably part of the confusion early on.
They did tell us early on, a lot of sources they believed an AR- 15 was involved, but now they say they are absolutely certain the primary weapon was a pump action shotgun. He used buckshot. Pretty gruesome. Hunters would know what a buckshot is.
COOPER: Particularly if he's firing from a distance, then it's got a wide dispersal.
KING: It disperses wide and it's meant for hunting deer and large animals. It's a gruesome tactic to use in there. They say from the video surveillance, from the witnesses now, they're putting a computer model together, they say they have a pretty good idea how it all played out and they say it's horrible.
COOPER: John King, appreciate the update. Thank you.
Tonight, a new perspective, a voice we haven't yet heard from someone who met the shooter at a hotel in Washington just last week. Her name is Benita Bell. She ran into the gunman in a Residence Inn lobby twice and even gave him her phone number in case he had trouble getting around the city.
Here's what she told Joe Johns about the shooter's demeanor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENITA BELL, MET SHOOTER: We talked for about 15 minutes. We talked about Southern culture. We talked about the fact that we were both there. He asked me how long I would be there. I said overnight. And he said that he would be there for awhile.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Did he tell you how long?
BELL: Yes. I asked him. I said, awhile? I said, awhile? He said, yes, I will be here for quite sometime. I said, how long? He said for a couple of weeks.
JOHNS: So you met him again the next day.
BELL: I ran into him again on Wednesday. And his countenance was markedly different on Wednesday.
JOHNS: How so?
BELL: He was very hurried. He said that he was extremely tired. He said, I'm tired. I'm exhausted. I got to go. I got to go. I'm going to take my food up to the room. And...
JOHNS: Did you get a sense that he was troubled?
BELL: His demeanor on Wednesday was, as I say, the antithesis of Tuesday. And so he did appear troubled. He appeared stressed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: When she talks about him being different on Wednesday, that was last Wednesday, which, of course, was the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks again going to perhaps his state of mind.
Now, the shooter's father told Seattle police in 2004 that his son had PTSD after taking part in 9/11 rescue efforts. But we don't have real details on that.
More now on the shooter's run-in with the law back in 2004 in Seattle. That's where Gary Tuchman is tonight.
What have you learned, Gary?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we have learned a number of things here in Seattle, firstly this chilling information. This is an athletic field that's been in the community for decades. Hundreds of children practice football and soccer here every day, and it's right across the street from where the Washington, D.C., shooter lived with his grandmother and his guns.
And we know that from this police report. The shooter lived here in 2004. In May of 2004, we know according to this report he was very angry. He was inside the house, walked down the sidewalk, outside the fence and walked in this direction to this lot where construction workers were on the scene. This building wasn't here in 2004. They were building it. Cars were parked here like they are right now.
He was angry, thought he was disrespected by the construction workers. According to this police report, he took out a .45-caliber gun and he started firing, three shots, one shot at the right rear tire of a Honda that was here, another shot at the left rear tire, another shot in the sky. He then stood here, put it back in his waist holster and went back inside the house.
The construction workers called the police. The police came to the scene. They couldn't get in touch with the shooter for four weeks. Finally, they got in touch with him. According to this police report, the officer said -- quote -- "I have obtained a post-Miranda confession from the Alexis. He explained how he perceived the constructions workers had disrespected him and how that perception led to what Alexis described as a blackout fueled by anger."
He was arrested for malicious mischief. He faced the possibility of one year in prison. But that's when things when down the toilet as far as the legal system goes. The police are supposed to give their information to the municipal court and to the city attorney's office. But the city attorney's office told us today they never got any information about the prosecution. Therefore, they couldn't do a prosecution. They never knew about the case and he never got in any trouble for it, Anderson.
COOPER: Wow. Interesting. Gary, appreciate you with that update. Thank you.
I want to turn next to a former FBI profiler, Mary Ellen O'Toole. She's with us now.
It's interesting this latest report now about that he called police saying he heard voices in his head. How significant do you think that is?
MARY ELLEN O'TOOLE, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Well, it could be very significant. And what will become important is to have that verified by a doctor or psychiatrist.
But here's the issue. Even if there is the presence of mental illness, what's important is was he able to put together a plan, sustain a very complicated plan, go into the building and proceed to kill 12 people in almost a hypoemotional way?
So you can have mental illness, but you can still understand the consequences of your actions. So that's what's really important to understand.
COOPER: Are there studies about how much -- with these kind of shootings, how much is mental illness at play often in retrospect?
O'TOOLE: It's so difficult to say it's 50 percent mental illness, it's 50 percent this.
And all of these shooters who are the mission-oriented really maximum lethality type shooters, sure, they do have some type of mental illness. But is that the reason? Are they out of touch with reality when they go in and they shoot up a place of business? The key is, do they understand the nature of their actions and the consequences?
Again, to be able to put together a complicated plan, sustain it and have it be very strategized and be very cool, calm and collected means that they're in touch with reality despite their mental issues and they know right from wrong. They know what they were doing.
COOPER: Certainly he was functional in that he had jobs. The people at the restaurant where he was working for awhile and people he lived with, they had no indications from them about that either.
O'TOOLE: None. In fact, some people were saying that just was not part of who he was. But I have heard a lot of people say, well, he just snapped. He did not just snap. This was planning that went on for a long time.
COOPER: These things don't -- somebody doesn't just snap?
O'TOOLE: No, no. They have to plan it, get the weapons. They may even surveil the area where they're going to do the shooting. And then you have the mental preparation, the thinking about how you're going to kill all those people. And that can go back years and years.
COOPER: You described him earlier as an injustice collector. Explain that.
O'TOOLE: An injustice collector is someone who's very hypervigilant, and they go through life collecting real or perceived insults and put-downs.
COOPER: All grievances and they store them up.
O'TOOLE: They never forget them. But the difference between an injustice collector who does only that and an injustice collector who is dangerous is if someone incurs a grievance or an injustice and their response to that is very disproportional to what the grievance was, in other words, in 2004, he thought he was disrespected by the construction workers.
Rather than come out and get into an argument with them, what did he do? He took out a gun and he shot tires. So he used a deadly weapon to react to them. That is a dangerous injustice collector.
COOPER: Interesting. Mary Ellen O'Toole, appreciate you being on. Thank you very much.
Again, we're just trying to piece together as much as we can bit by bit about what exactly occurred here yesterday and again tonight trying to focus as much as we can on the people who lost their lives.
Next, more on how someone with such a collection of red flags managed to get and keep a security clearance. And later, remembering a mom and a wife. My interview with Jessica and Douglass Gaarde about a remarkable woman and the emptiness felt they will never quite fill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUGLASS GAARDE, HUSBAND OF VICTIM: I don't know where my life goes now. She was my partner. We had plans to do things. And now it's gone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Tonight, we are just down the street from the Washington Navy Yard. We have breaking news on yesterday's massacre. As John King reported a moment ago, the U.S. Navy has confirmed to CNN the shooter was given his initial security clearance back in 2007 when he was enlisted. The clearance issued by the Navy itself is good for 10 years.
And we have learned tonight that the Navy issued it despite that violent incident in Seattle three years before. That and a lot more we have learned puts that security clearance in a different light.
Drew Griffin has been digging into all of this. What he's found is disturbing, to say the least.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here is the fact. Aaron Alexis was getting onto bases all summer long with a military-approved pass called a CAC card with, with all the approvals and access that came with it.
VALERIE PARLAVE, D.C. FBI FIELD OFFICE: Mr. Alexis had legitimate access to the Navy Yard as a result of his work as a contractor. And he utilized a valid pass to gain entry to the building.
GRIFFIN: From July until yesterday morning, Alexis had worked at six military facilities up and down the Eastern Seaboard, refreshing computers as part of a massive contract.
The U.S. Navy Yard would be his seventh job site. The question, how did he get approved? Take a look at what we found easily in just one day of searching, a 2004 arrest in Seattle. According to the investigating officer, Alexis didn't like the way a car was parked so he shot out the tires.
He would tell police as a New Yorker he was still suffering from the effects of the 9/11 terrorist attack. In 2007, he joins the Navy, where in nearly four years he has eight disciplinary issues ranging from insubordination to disorderly conduct. He received nonjudicial punishment, a red glad in itself.
And in 2008, Alexis is briefly jailed in DeKalb County, Georgia, for an outburst that included damaging furnishings and swearing at officers outside a nightclub, another red flag. Then in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2010, he's arrested again, for firing a bullet through the ceiling of his apartment. He told police he was cleaning a gun and his hand slipped and pulled the trigger.
Three arrests, possible mental health issues, and a less-than- exemplary military record. What happened?
We asked the Navy spokesman, Rear Admiral John Kirby.
(on camera): In 2007, he didn't have nearly the paperwork problems that we have now. So he passes a security clearance. But while he's in the Navy, this guy has a bunch of problems and yet the Navy allows him to essentially leave the service with his clearance intact.
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, U.S. NAVY: That's right.
GRIFFIN: Making him gold to these contractors who are scrambling to get workers.
KIRBY: The administrative offenses that he was guilty of in the Navy, the dereliction of duty, absent without leave, habitually late for work, while certainly not commendable offenses for a Navy sailor, don't rise to the level that would instantly call for a revocation of a security clearance.
GRIFFIN: And do you know if the Navy had access to his criminal arrest behavior?
KIRBY: Those are the forensics that we're doing. That's exactly what we're trying to take a look at is through those brushes with civilian law enforcement, if we missed anything. And so we're looking at that right now.
COOPER: So, Drew, he was checked out just this past year by this defense contractor.
GRIFFIN: Twice, according to the defense contractor, which is really troubling, because they say that they actually hired a firm to do a security check on this suspect, and twice came back, said he was cleared. In fact, in its last clearance, which was just June of this year, they said that they revealed no issues other than one minor traffic violation.
COOPER: So, what, they didn't find the previous run-ins with police?
GRIFFIN: They didn't find all the stuff that we found. Didn't find what the Navy apparently found in 2004. So it makes you question just what is the value of any of these security clearance checks that are being done by these defense contractors if they couldn't find any of this stuff we could find?
COOPER: What else have you been learning that -- or what else kind of do you need answers to or do you want answers to?
GRIFFIN: I think the big answer now, the Naval approval of this guy back in 2007 with a blanket 10-year security clearance which has allowed him to become a contractor really has to be looked at.
That's a whole different dimension. That security clearance did not involve private contractors. That involved the U.S. military, the Department of Defense. It was all government controlled and it was extensive. And I think the Navy in the end is going to have to ask itself and the questions that Congress is going to have, how could you even allow this guy into the U.S. Navy, let alone have some kind of security clearance for a defense contractor? And then you're going to have to look beyond that to these -- whoever did the security check for this defense contractor in June of 2013 and September and 2012 stunk it up. I mean, you can't think of anything other than that, because they can't find obvious public records that are so easy to anybody, you know, with an iPad and Google.
COOPER: Right. All right. Drew, appreciate it. We will continue to follow that.
Want to bring in CNN national security analyst and former Bush homeland security adviser Fran Townsend. She's currently a member of the DHS and CIA external advisory boards, also Shawn Henry, president of CrowdStrike Services and a former executive assistant director of the FBI where he was responsible for cyber-criminal and international divisions.
Fran, talking about what Drew was just talking about, it's hard to believe the Navy knew, A., about the incident in 2004 in Seattle and still granted him a security clearance and then that the security company most recently didn't find these other incidents.
FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: That's right, Anderson.
You know, as you listen to Drew's interview of John Kirby, the Navy spokesman, he uses some pretty specific language, that the conduct that led to his discharge wasn't a basis to revoke the clearance. Well, that's probably true. But it begs the question, it should have in fact triggered a review of whether or not they should have begun a proceeding to reconsider or revoke the clearance, and he didn't say that in the interview.
They're not saying that now. Look, based on what they knew about the 2004 incident and his conduct, his sort of inappropriate conduct while he was in the Navy, they certainly had enough basis for a review that may have led to the revocation. And so you have got to expect the Navy is conducting their review.
Even the most recent conduct in Rhode Island in August of this year that was reported to the Navy about him hearing voices, his interaction with law enforcement in his hotel in Rhode Island, what happened to that information? And why didn't somebody act on it?
TOWNSEND: So there's a lot of questions the Navy is going to have to answer for why this man remained with a security clearance.
Shawn, for you what are the biggest questions?
SHAWN HENRY, FORMER EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT FBI DIRECTOR: I think it's just what Fran said.
When you look at a series of incidents, these things don't just happen in a vacuum. They typically happen over a period of time. Why isn't anybody asking these questions to see time and time again for him to be able to get access to maintain that clearance? It raises a lot of questions about...
COOPER: So if private companies are the ones doing these background checks, I mean, are there just too many people in the pipeline for security clearances, and that's -- it's got to be these private companies?
HENRY: There are millions of government employees. There are a limited number of groups that actually do these background investigations. I think that oftentimes these things are pushed through pretty quickly. Sometimes, people will ask to get clearances. They need to use them somewhere. They give them an interim clearance where they do a very limited background check investigation and not the full, through background check you would expect and they allow them on-site without that full clearance.
There is oftentimes pressure to push people through.
COOPER: You must have gone through these kind of reviews as well when you're with the FBI.
HENRY: Certainly, absolutely.
So all the people that worked for me, myself included, they're very thorough. Typically, they go through your employment history, all of your residences, neighborhood investigations. They go out and talk to people that you grew up with, et cetera. It goes on. These take many months sometimes.
COOPER: Is that even for a secret level security clearance?
HENRY: It would be for a secret level, that's right. And these will take sometimes three months to get done or longer.
COOPER: So even if it's a private company doing these security clearances, they would still send people out up into the field?
HENRY: They absolutely would do the same type of investigation. The investigation is typically the same.
COOPER: So how did they not come across his criminal background record?
HENRY: That's the question. Your folks were able to find it within an hour or so. If it was out there, why weren't people checking? If they did find it, why didn't they pursue it? Why weren't they asking the really hard questions you would expect them to ask?
COOPER: Fran, is this whole private industry that conducts these background checks, is this something that clearly need to be looked at?
TOWNSEND: Oh, absolutely, Anderson.
Look, because it's a private business, the quicker you do it the less you have to do to get it through the system, the more money you make. So the incentives on the private sector side are different from what the government's interest is. And when it goes through the government, that's why the government checks the work and makes sure that this is done to their standard. So the system broke down.
Typically in these cases, when you're looking at them after the fact, it's broken down on the private sector side, on the government review side, and then sort of in the ongoing monitoring and reinvestigation side from soup to nuts, the system has failed the public servants who were working at the Navy Yard. And I'm sure Congress and now, of course, the secretary of defense want to understand where that happened, why it happened and how do you fix it.
COOPER: Shawn, should it make a difference that maybe he was apprehended by police, but never prosecuted? Should that make a difference in what pops up in a background check?
HENRY: I think people are still going to ask the questions. If firearms were discharged whether he was charged or not they're going to ask questions. They're going to want to know, does he have a violent history, does he have mental illness, what caused it, what's the motivation for those actions?
Those are the hard questions that are going to be asked. I think that on the heels of this, there will be some policy and some process reviews that are going to be done.
COOPER: All right, Shawn, Fran, thank you very much.
Up ahead, I'm going to speak with the husband and daughter of Kathy Gaarde. They want you to know about her life, about the life she lived, about the woman she was, the loving wife and mom who's been taken from them. We will hear from them next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
J. GAARDE: I have these periods of numbness where it's like the water is receding and I just feel nothing.
And something, whether it be a bill on the counter or -- heck, I was in the bathroom and she recently bought me new towels, and I just see the towels, and it just all hits.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Welcome back to our live coverage here from Washington, D.C.
Every one of the 12 people killed yesterday was obviously a special person, special to ones that they loved and were loved by in return. Kathy Gaarde was 62 years old. She lived in Woodbridge, Virginia, with her husband of 38 years. They'd been together for 43 years.
Douglass Gaarde told me that Kathy was a devoted daughter, who took care of her aging mom until her mom died just last year at the age of 94. She also loved professional ice hockey. For years they had season tickets to the Washington Capitals. And she had a soft spot in her heart for animals.
We feel it's essential, really, to remember those whose lives have been taken, to remember the people that they were, the lives that they lived. People who innocently went to work yesterday morning, never to return again to their families.
In their grief today, Douglass Gaarde and his daughter, Jessica, spoke to us about Kathy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: What do you want people to know about Kathy?
DOUGLASS GAARDE, WIDOWER OF KATHY GAARDE: I guess what I want them to know most about her is what a caring person she was, particularly how she cared about her family.
As I mentioned, we took care or she took care of her mother, who's lived with us for ten years. She moved here when she was about 85, lived here until she was 94. And that's a lot to take on when you're a full-time mom and a full-time worker. And she did a great job of that in addition to raising our two kids, which of course is Jessica here.
COOPER: And she loved nature. She loved animals?
D. GAARDE: She loved animals. We've got them tied up. We've got two dogs and two cats. And that's actually down from the number we used to have.
COOPER: You used to have more than that?
D. GAARDE: Yes.
COOPER: Yes. Quite a menagerie.
What do you want people to know, Jessica?
JESSICA GAARDE, DAUGHTER OF KATHY GAARDE: I guess, in addition to what my dad is saying, just with everything going on I want them to know she lived. She's not a number or some statistic.
COOPER: You want them to know the person that she was and the life that she lived?
J. GAARDE: Yes. Because she was so caring, and she would do anything for anyone she loved. And she really did have a deep heart for animals, no matter what the cause. If any one of her animals was sick she would do everything that need to be done to make sure they were OK. COOPER: You were planning retirement.
D. GAARDE: I am basically retired. She was -- we were trying to pick the best time for her to retire. She was pretty much planning on probably this January toward the end of the year, unless sometimes they offer buyouts when the budget gets in the kind of situation it is. So she might have left a little bit earlier.
COOPER: So she could have already retired?
D. GAARDE: Oh, yes. She was 62 with, what, 33 years of government service. So we'd have been very comfortable. But...
COOPER: Does it seem real at this point?
J. GAARDE: For me it's very surreal but it's also -- it's like a constant tsunami. Because I have these periods of numbness where it's like the water's receding, and I just feel nothing. And then something, whether it be a bill on the counter or, heck, I was in the bathroom, and she recently bought me new towels. And I just see the towels. And it just all hits.
COOPER: It comes in waves.
J. GAARDE: Yes. Yes.
COOPER: And you went down there yesterday.
D. GAARDE: Yes. I was sitting at my computer. Actually, she had sent an e-mail to me about 10 to 8. That was the last I heard from her. And of course, as the day wore on, at first you don't think it could happen to her. There's 3,000 people in there. What are the chances of her being one of the ten that was injured?
But as it gets later in the day, and you know if she was able to get to a phone, she would have called home. And then I kind of kept it from Jessica. I didn't bother telling her while she was at work. But when it was time to come home, she found out. When she called me, that's when I told her, "OK, you come home and take care of the dogs. I'll go down to the parking lot down there and meet Kathy there, hopefully."
And I got down there, and it was probably about that time. I guess it was about 7 p.m. or so. And they were down to the last -- there was about maybe four or five series of buses still coming through. But just the later it got, the more desperate I got. And it wasn't until later that I'd gotten a call from one of my wife's co- workers, who said that she had talked to some of her co-workers and that they had seen Kathy was one of the ones who was hit.
COOPER: One of the co-workers actually saw her?
D. GAARDE: Yes. Saw that she was one of the ones that had been hit. And at that point I kind of said, "Look, this is crap. You guys -- you got to tell me what's going on." And it was at that point that they went back to a room further in behind the gates of the stadium there and came back out. And they said, yes, she was one of the ones. That was it.
COOPER: How do you -- how do you deal with something like this? How do you get through it?
D. GAARDE: I don't know. I haven't done it yet. I mean, I've lost my parents. So I know what that's like. And I'm not going to say I know what you feel. But I know that your life goes on beyond us, beyond your parents.
I don't know where my life goes now. She was my partner. We had plans to do things. And now it's gone. So I want my kids, you know, to have their own lives. And so I don't know.
COOPER: It's incredible that you had 43 years together.
D. GAARDE: Yes, it is. I mean, it's incredible on the one hand, and it's a huge loss on the other.
COOPER: Of course.
D. GAARDE: I mean, like I said, where I was going before is I don't know where I go after this. But you just go on, I guess.
COOPER: It's hard to imagine life without her.
D. GAARDE: I mean, I only had 20 years of life without her and 43 with her. So that's two-thirds of my life where she was always there. Always partners.
COOPER: Well, thank you so much.
D. GAARDE: Thank you.
COOPER: We wish you peace and strength in the days ahead.
D. GAARDE: Thank you for coming.
J. GAARDE: Thank you.
COOPER: Forty-three years of life together, all ended just yesterday.
We're trying as much as possible to, obviously, honor the privacy of all those families who have been affected. We don't want to intrude on anybody's grief. But some families have been reaching out, do want to tell you about their loved ones. And so we want to provide that opportunity to as much as possible.
Just ahead, a witness to the Navy Yard massacre. She describes what happened yesterday, what she saw with her own eyes, and how she was able to barely escape the shooter's bullets.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: An update on our breaking news and how the gunman got a shotgun into Building 197. A federal law enforcement official telling us that he broke it down, put it in a bag and reassembled it inside the building.
We now have the emergency dispatch recordings that capture moment by moment what happened next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got a report on the fourth floor, a male with a shotgun. Multiple shots fired. Multiple people down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have conflicting reports about the scene security. We're sorting it out now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now police confirm five people shot. Could be others.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you give me a brief of how many we've taken, to which facilities so far, please?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All units in the main triage group need to move left. The ambulances line you can move left, away out of the line of fire.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have an officer down. Building 197 on the third floor. Also a female shot on the roof of Building 1333, as they call (ph). Female on the roof.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're doing a sweep of the building for security. We still have a second suspect possibly in. So scene is not secure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, Terrie Durham was right in the middle of it all. She works at the Navy Yard. She saw the shooter. She actually saw the shooter, could easily have become a victim herself. Listen to what she told reporters as the scene unfolded yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TERRIE DURHAM, SURVIVOR: 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.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was going through your mind?
DURHAM: Get everybody out of the building right now. Get everybody out of the building because there's someone shooting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And Terrie Durham joins us now on the phone. Terrie, first of all, I'm so glad that you're OK. If you can, just walk us through what happened yesterday. You originally thought -- thought there was a fire.
DURHAM (via phone): Yes, Anderson. The fire alarm had gone off in the building for a brief time, and an announcement came on that there was a fire emergency. And we were told to evacuate the building. So we were going into our standard protocol for that. Getting our identity cards, our CAC cards, grabbing our notebooks so we could muster everyone, shutting the doors and evacuating the building as quickly as we could.
As we started to leave our office, a number of people came running from the outside into our space, just saying, "Get out of the building now. Get out of the building now."
I was not aware that there had been a shooting, although some people had heard that. And because they were in such a hurry, I assumed that there really was a fire emergency in the building.
So we got the front doors shut, and we were heading into the back hallway, which would take us into a short passageway to the stairwell to get out, and it was at that point of time that four of us were standing there, and we saw what was -- turned out to be the gunman standing down about halfway down our hallway. We saw him moving. He said nothing. He held something up. And the next thing we knew, he was shooting at us.
COOPER: So you didn't actually see the weapon in his hands. Was it -- why not?
DURHAM: He was far enough away that you -- you knew he was holding something long in his hand. We didn't even -- I just didn't realize that he was holding a weapon in his hand until he actually shot. I kept thinking what is he doing? There's a fire in the building. We need to get out.
And then we started hearing the pop-pop sounds. And the guys that were with me started ducking. And I saw a round hit not too far from us. And he had missed us completely. And then we realized he was shooting.
COOPER: Oh, my gosh. So he was aiming right -- right at you, and he never said anything?
DURHAM: He never said a word. And when we -- when we started talking about it, we realized that he had taken dead aim on us directly down the hall. He had a straight shot at us. And he -- he somehow missed us. We don't know how that happened.
COOPER: I'm so glad he did. And I know you lost friends yesterday. And I'm so sorry for your loss, Terrie. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us.
DURHAM: Thank you, Anderson. COOPER: Coming up, surveying the damage in Colorado as the search and rescue operations there continue after devastating flooding. We're going to take you out with a FEMA team to see why more than 6,000 residents have applied for help.
And later, authorities now think they know what caused that New Jersey boardwalk fire that had to -- had been rebuilt after Superstorm Sandy. Details on that ahead.
COOPER: Welcome back.
Rescuers in Colorado are still working to help hundreds of people stranded in communities cut off by the devastating flooding there. The National Guard says the air rescues currently happening in Colorado may be the largest evacuations in the country since Hurricane Katrina.
There's one bit of good news. The number of people unaccounted for continues to drop, and most of the people on -- on that list are probably alive but just have no way to get in touch with authorities. The death toll was also revised downward to six.
However, as Kyung Lah reports now, the damage is epic.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just days ago, this was a desirable place to live, a small creek lined with homes and walkways, now a raging waterway.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just listen for whistle signals. I'll tell you. I'm going to watch the river and make sure nothing comes down at us.
Just work this house, work around.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is actually not the river, either. This is the street.
LAH: Door by door, FEMA task force teams look for those who rode out the storm in this flooded canyon neighborhood and warn them that it's not safe to be here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: House is complete vacant. Can do. Next building recon.
LAH: It's been days of dramatic rescues through these treacherous mountain canyons, hundreds plucked out of desperate conditions here by the National Guard. These are the people waving and signaling to rescuers who have run out of food, fuel and water, praying for dry land. Officials estimate only a few hundred residents may still remain in flooded areas, and not all of them want to go.
In this neighborhood, the team comes across this resident, who refuses to leave.
LLOYD MUELLER, URBAN SEARCH & RESCUE, NEBRASKA: When we leave, we really can't -- there's no way to police this whole area. So if they're here, we definitely -- if they fall in, it's going to become a rescue scenario for us, and we're going to have to be going in after them.
LAH: The terrain's been completely redrawn through much of Boulder and Larimer counties.
(on camera): Where I'm standing this used to be the road. Right in front of me, this is a new waterway. The stream used to be all the way over there. It used to be a small stream. You can see it's now a raging river.
(voice-over): The road in front of David Mamolen's house was ironically called Stream Crest Road. The new stream now surrounds his home.
(on camera): Why stay, though? If this is what it's looking like? Why stay?
DAVID MAMOLEN, RESIDENT: Well, I don't know. It's our home; 27 years been here. My son grew up here. I mean, it's -- and it's so beautiful.
COOPER: Kyung Lah joins me now.
Kyung, it's extraordinary to see, I mean, those rivers which used to be just little streams. What happens to the residents who decide to stay and then need help later on?
LAH: Well, frankly, Anderson, they actually have to get rescued. And that really puts the search-and-rescue teams at a really tough spot. You can see how fast the water is behind me. That's happening all over this region. If you get in trouble, you have to have rescues. That's what these guys are trained to do.
The hard part is, though, please listen to them. That is the request from the people who are plucking you out of these dangerous situations, Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Kyung, appreciate it. Thanks very much.
Late word on another disaster, that one in New Jersey. We now know what caused that fire that destroyed a massive expanse of the New Jersey boardwalk last week. It's been ruled accidental. Authorities today said the blaze was likely sparked by electrical wiring, wiring that was damaged by Superstorm Sandy.
We'll be right back.
COOPER: That's it for this edition of AC 360 LATER from Washington, D.C. Thanks for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.