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Capitol Recovers from Navy Yard Shooting; Aftermath of Colorado Flooding; A Weak Holiday Sales Season?

Aired September 17, 2013 - 05:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I heard three shots, pow, pow, pow. Thirty seconds later, I heard four more shots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone going down the stairs. I mean, people are pushing, people are shoving. You know, people are falling down. As we came outside, people are climbing the wall, trying to get out over the wall, get out of the spaces. It was just crazy.


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Thirteen people dead after a mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. We are breaking down exactly what happened, who the gunman was, and new information this morning about all of the victims there as well.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman, live at the Washington Navy Yard.

It is Tuesday, September 17th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And here in Washington this morning, people are waking up to flags at half-staff. Schools are reopened. People going back to business.

But not at all business as usual. Not after what happened here behind me at the Washington Navy Yard and these blocks just past here. It's the oldest naval installation in the United States based on land. Some 3,000 people work there.

And there are so many questions this morning about what happened less than 24 hours ago. How did a man get inside? How did a man have the weapons he had and carry out the shootings that he did? And also, why?

These questions may never be answered but one answer we do have right now is that 12 innocent people are dead this morning. And today, people are still reliving the horror that happened here.


BERMAN (voice-over): Chaos and fear in the nation's capital, after a gunman opens fire at the heavily secured Washington Navy Yard on Monday morning, less than three miles from the White House and two miles from the Capitol.

POLICE SCANNER: Multiple shots fired. Multiple people down.

BERMAN: The death toll, at least 13 killed and at least eight more injured.

The rampage now appearing to be the work of a lone gunman identified by the FBI as 34-year-old Aaron Alexis, an IT contractor and former Navy reservist. Alexis died in a gun battle with police inside the complex.

The frightening events unfolding minutes-by-minute: 8:20 a.m., frantic calls began pouring into 911 moments after shots were fired.

COMMANDER TIM JURIS, WITNESS: Just standing here maybe three feet away and having a conversation and then we heard two more gunshots and he went down and that's when I ran.

BERMAN: The gunman entered building 197 of the Navy Yard with an active military contractor ID and security clearance. The FBI says Alexis began firing from a fourth floor balcony on to office workers in an atrium below.

DR. JANIS ORLOWSKI, MEDSTAR WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER: We have a third individual arrived with a gunshot into the head and into the hand.

BERMAN: Within minutes, Metropolitan Police and the FBI swarmed the area.

POLICE SCANNER: We have an officer down.

BERMAN: By 9:33, ambulances and helicopters descended on the scene, rushing victims to local hospitals. Schools near the Navy Yard locked down. The Senate side of the Capitol closed, and air traffic at Reagan National Airport grounded so it would no interfere with law enforcement choppers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone said, this is no drill. Go, go, go. Emergency exits now, go, go, go.

BERMAN: Just before 10:00 a.m., President Obama was briefed in the Oval Office. Three hours after the shooting spree began, law enforcement officials confirmed the gunman was shot and killed.

President Obama lamenting yet another mass shooting.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are men and women going to work doing their job protecting all of us.

BERMAN: Monday's rampage of the Navy Yard is the deadliest shooting on a military installation in the U.S. since the Ft. Hood massacre in 2009, which killed 13 and injured 30 others. Throughout the afternoon and night, thousands of employees were allowed to leave their offices on the base throughout the night. Many spending hours hiding and waiting for the carnage to end. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: A live picture right now of the U.S. Capitol.

As we mentioned, President Obama has ordered flags in half-staff in honor of the victims. I do want to clear up one thing.

One of the things that added to the drama, to the horror yesterday was the report from officials here that they were on the hunt for a second, possibly a third suspect here, possibly two more gunmen. That appears to be over at this point. Now they are saying just this one lone gunman acting by himself.

This morning, we are finding out the names of some of the victims. They were all civilians or contractors working for the military here at the Washington Navy Yard.

These are the names we know right now: Michael Arnold, age 59; Sylvia Frasier, age 53; Kathy Gaarde, age 52; John Roger Johnson, age 73; Frank Kohler, 50; Kenneth Bernard Proctor, age 46; and Vishnu Pandit, age 61.

Our hearts go out to all of their families. These people weren't doing anything yesterday than their jobs, going to work just like they did every day.

As for the gunman, this is what we know this morning: he was 34 years old, a defense contractor, a former Navy reservist. And he really did lead a life full of contradictions.

Pamela Brown is here following that part of the story.

Good morning, Pam.


That's right. You know, pictures emerging who this gunman was, Aaron Alexis. But we still don't know how he was able to carry out this shooting and why we've learned he was an employee of a company called The Experts, a subcontractor of Hewlett-Packard that refreshed computer equipment for the Navy Corps.

We spoke with some of his family and friends and they say that they are absolutely shocked that he was capable of doing something like this.


BROWN (voice-over): Law enforcement officials say 34-year-old IT subcontractor Aaron Alexis entered Navy Yard Building 197 legally, with a valid military issued ID and an intent to kill, armed with an AR-15, a semiautomatic Glock and a rifle. His motive, unknown.

VALERIE PARLAVE, ASST. DIRECTOR, FBI WASHINGTON FIELD OFC: We are looking to learn everything we can about his recent movements, his contacts and his associates. BROWN: A picture is emerging of a complicated man, at times quiet and polite, who spoke several languages and worshipped at this Buddhist temple.

MICHAEL RITROVATO, GUNMAN'S FRIEND: It is incredible this is all happening, but because he was a good-natured guy. Like I said, it seemed like he wanted to get more out of life.

BROWN: Other times, he could be explosively angry.

NUTPISIT SUTHAMTEWAKUL, GUNMAN'S FRIEND: He might be a little angry at times, but I don't think -- I don't believe he was going to kill all -- I don't believe it.

BROWN: Alexis was born in Queens, New York, joined the Navy as a reservist in May 2007. According to pentagon officials, he was discharged in January 2011 following a, quote, "pattern of misconduct."

While it's unclear what that misconduct was, he did have several run- ins with the law. He was arrested in Seattle in 2004 for shooting out the tires of another man's vehicle described in the police report as an anger-fueled blackout. His father said his son was suffering PTSD after helping post-9/11 rescue efforts at Ground Zero.

In 2008, cited and briefly jailed for disturbing the peace in Georgia. And arrested again in 2010 for discharging a gun in public in Ft. Worth, Texas, where he lived until recently and never charged in that case.

One of Alexis' friends in Ft. Worth said he was locked in a financial dispute with the company that contracted him to work for the Navy.

KRISTI SUTHAMTEWAKUL, FRIEND OF SHOOTER: He did some civilian contract stuff or maybe government contract stuff in Japan for about a month, and then he came back over here. I was excited, because I was the one who picked him up from the airport and he's like a brother, you know, to me. After that, he just didn't feel like he was getting paid the correct amount or just issues with that.

BROWN: Alexis had been staying at this hotel, not far from the Navy Yard since last week. And a law enforcement source tells CNN, Alexis recently purchased one of the guns used in the shooting at a gun store in Lorton, Virginia.

He also passed two security clearances last September and this past July before starting work at the Navy Yard. His violent rampage has left his family devastated.

ANTHONY LITTLE, SHOOTER'S BROTHER-IN-LAW: It's very hurtful. Our hearts are going out more to the victims and people who got hurt because, you know, it's more lives lost. We don't need that right now.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: And government officials say at this point they do not believe this was an act of terrorism. Evidence response teams are processing multiple scenes at this hour trying to figure out how this unfolded and what the motive was. Of course, that is still the big question that remains here, John. But we have learned that from officials, they do believe he was a lone gunman.

BERMAN: Lone gunman. Again, that goes back to what happened here yesterday. So much of the horror based on the fact that, at one point, D.C. officials said they were looking for two other men who may have been involved in this. One other was cleared immediately.

Why was there so much focus on the possibility of this second or third person involved?

BROWN: Well, according to a law enforcement source I spoke with, there is someone in the video that officials are still trying to identify and interview at this time. At one stage, they thought this person was a second suspect. Now I'm told that this person doing something in the video that made authorities want to talk with him and made them more curious to talk to him beyond the other people there on the scene in the video.

So, there was something about this person. But, at this point they do not believe this person was actually involved in the shooting.

BERMAN: Still may be helpful for information, but not a suspect right now?

BROWN: Right.

BERMAN: Pamela Brown, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

BROWN: Thank you.

BERMAN: Some of the many questions this morning about what happened here involved how did this man get into the building? Just how tight is security here at military post in the United States? If a gunman like this can just walk in with a gun and start shooting if, in fact, he had the gun before he went in.

One thing we do know, as Pamela just reported, Aaron Alexis, he had permission to be on the site, he had clearance, and those who work at the Navy Yard say this place took security very seriously.


CAPTAIN MARK VANDROFF, U.S. NAVY: You go past armed security guards. And then your credentials are computer read and there is a kiosk to go through and it either gives you a green or a red light. But the green light shows your credentials are recognized as somebody who is supposed to be in that building.


BERMAN: Now, however, a federal source does tell CNN that a government audit found that the Navy Yard in other installations may have increased the security risk. They did this in an effort to cut costs, even given convicted felons routine unauthorized access to Navy facilities.

Ohio Congressman Mike Turner who is on the Armed Services Committee has now asked the Pentagon inspector general to give Congress more information about this audit. Congressman Turner wrote, "Given the disturbing events of today, I am highly concerned that the access control systems at our nation's military installations have serious security flaws."

We're going to speak to Congressman Turner in a few hours from now on the "CNN NEWSROOM." We'll have much more here from Washington in our next half hour as well.

But, first, let's go back to Zoraida in New York with more of the day's news -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Great to have you. Thank you, John.

And coming up --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All I know is that, you know, I got three kids living in this house and I got to, you know, this is all contaminated.


SAMBOLIN: How do you disinfect that? So, the rain has stopped but the cleanup. It's just beginning. Colorado drying out this morning, the death toll rising, as rescuers finally gain access to some towns. We're going to have the very latest, straight ahead.

And lightning sparking a massive fire in Texas. We are going to show you more dramatic images.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START.

Sorry about that. My mike was falling there.

In Colorado this morning, some residents breathing a sigh of relief with thousands of homes damaged. Rescue crews were finally able to rescue hundreds of folks that are stuck in their homes, but sadly, the death toll continues to rise. It's now at eight.

Tory Dunnan has more.


TORY DUNNAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Conditions in flood ravaged Colorado are showing some signs of improvement, but many people are still waiting to be rescued. The National Guard says this is one of the biggest rescue operations in recent history. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the greatest number of Americans rescued by helicopter since Hurricane Katrina.

DUNNAN: But in contrast to Hurricane Katrina, officials are promising a swift response to get aid to those who need it.

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D), COLORADO: I am very gratified and encouraged that a lot of what people perceived is the old FEMA is gone, and I think what we see now is an agile partner that's going to move a lot faster.

DUNNAN: At least 3,000 families have already registered with FEMA for help, and that number is expected to rise. Meanwhile, as the weather improves, some people are returning to their homes to get a firsthand look at the damage caused by the floodwaters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's ruined. The basement is gone and it stinks so bad in there, and you can barely stand it.

DUNNAN: Nearly 18,000 homes around the state have been damaged, hundreds destroyed in one county alone, where nearly 200 businesses have been washed away.

In Boulder County, officials say it will cost at least $150 billion to repair miles of roadways and bridges damaged by the flooding.

In Longmont, Colorado, I'm Tory Dunnan reporting.


SAMBOLIN: Indra Petersons is watching the forecast for us for it seems like a week now. I saw little sunshine yesterday and I got so excited for those folks.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, I mean, definitely more sunshine on the way today. I wish you could say even longer, because there is another storm on the way tomorrow. So, it's like a day in between here.

I want to talk about how much rain we have. We want to put it in perspective. We have broken record after record in the Boulder area. They actually broke the record for the amount of rain in a day. So, about over nine inches of rain.

The last time we saw that record broken was in 1919, and there it was only 4.8 inches. They pretty much doubled the highest amount of rainfall for one day in just last Thursday. They've also broken the record amount of rain in September, as well as amount of rain so far in the year.

So, unbelievable amount of record rainfall hitting the area. Here's a piece of good news, today, they are drying out. We are seeing a little bit more of a westerly wind so drier conditions expected. Doesn't mean you can't see a pop shower, or stray shower here or there. But again, as we move into tomorrow and a day thereafter tomorrow, we're going to be watching a cold front sliding in from the Pacific Northwest. And so, with that, we're going to enhance our rain chances again, Wednesday night in through Thursday. Good news behind that, we should see drying so a little system kicking through Wednesday and Thursday.

The big story now is also going to be where is all of this water going to be going? Now, keep in mind, when we look at the river, the South Platt River, that's where this is all going down river. We have to know how much water is upstream to know how much water is expected downstream.

Well, unfortunately, all those gauges have broken, so they don't know how much to expect and the debris making its way down the river, could also clogging up the natural system and making less water able to move through. So --

SAMBOLIN: That's terrible. So, more people are going to be facing a mess.

PETERSONS: Yes, especially in Nebraska. Yes.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Indra.

Eighteen minutes past the hour.

It appears lightning to blame for a plant fire. This is Midland, Texas. Take a look at this.

Officials say a salt water disposal system was struck by lightning. This was late last night. It caused several large tanks to erupt into flames. It took crews about three hours to put out that fire. The good news there, folks, no injuries have been reported.

And the North Carolina police officer who shot and killed an unarmed 24-year-old is due in court today. Authorities say Officer Randall Kerrick fired 12 times at Jonathan Ferrell Saturday as police responded to do a suspected breaking and entering call. But it winds up Ferrell may have only been looking for help after being in a serious car accident.

An Arizona mother accused of killing her two children is on suicide watch behind bars. Authorities say 42-year-old Marilyn Edge murdered her two children in a California hotel room, then, tried to take her own life by crashing her car into an electrical box right outside of a store. Police also found propane inside of her vehicle. Court documents show edge was supposed to bring the children back to their father in Georgia last week. But she never showed up.

A notorious home going on the auction block today. It is the mansion in Miami South Beach where fashion designer Gianni Versace was gunned down back in 1997. The 65,000 square foot palace has 10 bedrooms, 11 bathrooms. It even includes an observatory for gazing at the stars.

The property has attracted attention from buyers around the world, including soccer star David Beckham and his wife Victoria. The bidding starts at a cool $25 million.

And coming up, holiday shopping time, can you believe it? But for many retailers, it may not be a very merry Christmas. "Money Time" is coming up next.

And, of course, we will have the very latest from Washington, D.C. on the massacre that left 13 dead at the Navy Yard. We are live with the very latest. John Berman is standing by for us.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. Twenty-three minutes past of the hour. It is "Money Time".

Christine Romans is off. So, here we go.

Investors waking up this morning with two things on their minds. Will the September surge continue for stocks and what will the Fed do about its so-called tapering?

As for the stock, the Dow gained more than a hundred points on Monday. The S&P was also higher. But the NASDAQ closed with a loss. So, so far this year, the Dow is up 18 percent, the NASDAQ is up 23 percent, and the S&P is up 19 percent.

As for the Federal Reserve, Fed Vice Chairwoman Janet Yellen is now considered by many to be the leading candidate to take over for Ben Bernanke when he leaves in January. Her candidacy became stronger after former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers told President Obama on Sunday that he was withdrawing his name from consideration.

Ben Bernanke gets down to business today by opening a two-day meeting of the Fed. He is expected to give a clear indication tomorrow afternoon on the Fed's decision to taper. Economists expect the Fed to cut the $85 billion that it buys in bonds and mortgages every month by about $10 billion.

Still early, but ShopperTrak predicts the holiday shopping season will actually be the worse since 2009. ShopperTrak measures store traffic. In 60,000 locations worldwide and it crunches all that data to come up with this forecast.

It says, this holiday season, sales will rise by only 2.4 percent. That is less than 3 percent increase of last year. And the 4 percent increase in 2011.

JPMorgan Chase is set to pay at least $700 million in fines in connection with the "London Whale" trading debacle. "The New York Times" says the deal will also include a ground breaking admission of wrongdoing. An admission of wrongdoing by JPMorgan may expose it to private litigation. Two former JPMorgan Chase employees were charged recently with conspiring to conceal losses on a complex trade that ended up costing the banks $6 billion.

It was nicknamed the "London Whale" because of its sheer size.

And coming up --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was just upset with the government about all that and this he just felt slighted by his benefits that he was getting each months.


SAMBOLIN: This is our top story of the day. A former Navy reservist murders 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard before police managed to kill him. Next, we look into the gunman's past and how this massacre unfolded.

John Berman is live in Washington, D.C. with the very latest information that is coming in this morning. He is going to join us live right after the break.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop.

The next thing I heard was five more shots.

The captain that was in the office said, come on, ma'am, let's go. He just grabbed me by the arm and we took off down the side steps.


SAMBOLIN: Massacre at a Washington, D.C. Navy Yard. A former reservist murders 12 people and shoots several more before police shoot him. New information this morning about the slain gunman and the people whose lives he took. We are live with that.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman, live at the Washington Navy Yard. About 30 minutes after the hour right now.

And 5:30 in the morning here on the East Coast. Washington, D.C. just beginning to wake up.