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Navy Yard Shooting Leaves 13 Dead; Colorado Flooding; Concordia Righted; Steelers Struggle, Bengals Cruise

Aired September 17, 2013 - 05:30   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: 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. They're waking up to flags at half-staff. They're waking up to people going back to work, going back to business, schools reopened, but not at all business as usual.

There are still so many questions about what happened here at the Washington Navy Yard just a few blocks behind me. How did that man get inside? What caused him to open fire, ultimately killing 12 people inside? The chaos here started just after 8:00 a.m. when authorities say that Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old from Ft. Worth, Texas, he used his military contractor I.D. to get into a building here at the Washington Navy Yard. He walked in and began firing down from an atrium.


PATRICIA WARD, WITNESS: They were quick shots like bam, bam, bam. Two seconds later, bam, bam, bam. I just started running.

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

CAPT. MARK VANDROFF, U.S. NAVY: People were yelling to close the doors, lock the doors. We heard a very loud gunshot very close by, and 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.

TERRIE 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 BRUNDIDGE, WITNESS: As we came outside, people were climbing the wall trying to get out over the wall to get out of the spaces. It was just crazy.


BERMAN: Alexis is the only gunman now, officials say. Yesterday, there was word that there was maybe a second, a third possible person involved in the attack. That is no longer the case. Officials say that Aaron Alexis was a lone gunman. This is what we know about him this morning. We know that he had an AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle. He also had a different rifle and a glock, that is a handgun with him. It's believed that the AR-15 was the main murder weapon used from the atrium above. That is also the weapon you'll remember used by Adam Lanza in the Newtown massacre and James Holmes in aurora. That's the Colorado movie theater massacre.

We do not know yet how he came upon that AR-15 where it was bought. He also followed all procedures. He did getting into this building. He had security clearances for access. Right now, investigators are workings. They work through the night, trying to collect all the evidence, scouring the facility and finding out everything that might possibly explain what led to this brutal unthinkable crime.

Sometimes, there is no good explanation. We've seen a trickle of law enforcement officials, police and FBI right behind us here. The bulk of the work, though, happening again all night several blocks away. Something we should note here. His co-workers and the people who did come across him at the navy yard say that Alexis seemed to be a good worker and a lot of these people say there were no indications that he had any kind of disagreements with anyone here.

Now, as we mentioned again, the man you're looking at right now, he has been identified as Aaron Alexis, 34 years old, a former navy reservist who'd been working as a military contractor, an I.T. contractor. He was employed by a computer consulting company called the ex-births (ph) working on a giant project updating computer systems at the navy and marine corps installations worldwide.

His security clearance was just renewed in July. That despite the fact there seems to be some incidents in his past. He had several run-ins with the law, arrests that involved guns. He was discharged from the navy reserves in 2011 for, quote, "a pattern of misconduct," a pattern of misconduct. I mentioned the arrests. They involved a Seattle incident in 2004 for shooting out a man's tires.

He was also cited in 2008 for disturbing the peace in Georgia. And just in 2010, in Ft. Worth, Texas, he was arrested for firing a gun in public, believed to be in his home there. Still, those who knew him describe Alexis as quiet and polite. He spoke several languages. He worshipped at a Buddhist temple, very involved in the Buddhist community in Ft. Worth.

Still, his father says, this is his father, says his son suffered from PTSD after helping with the rescue efforts at ground zero after the September 11th attacks. That's just his father saying that right now. We're unclear about that account. One friend said he was in the middle of a financial dispute with the company that he worked for recently.

So, a lot of different threats here and they're not always along the same lines. We're joined now by Mary Ellen O'Toole. She's a former FBI profiler and a special agent. She's now a forensic behavioral consultant. Mary Ellen, you've heard that account of this man. So many contradictions.

Some of the biggest this man apparently studying Buddhism, Buddhism, a huge part of his life, yet we've also heard that he liked violent video games, yet, he had arrests at least three that we know about, some involving violent, certainly firearms here. Seem to be pretty big contradictions.

MARY ELLEN O'TOOLE, FMR. SR. FBI PROFILER & SPECIAL AGENT: Big contradictions. I would call them inconsistencies. We all have them as human beings. But in this case, what is really very stunning is that you have him described as a sweet to a very aggressive guy. That shift in mood, that shift in behavior suggests someone that is unpredictable and someone that is unstable.

What you look at is where does that mood swing take them? That aggression with a gun is very, very significant and I think it was really downplayed over the years, but that is someone that's very unpredictable.

BERMAN: You are saying, though, is that they seem like contradictions, but it is possible for one person to live with these contradictions. You have had arrests that involve some violence while, at the same time, studying peace and Buddhism.

O'TOOLE: Well, that's possible, because we all have those differences about us. But here's the thing I think that's really important. When you have someone that's what I would call an injustice collector. They go through life and they feel like they're wrong every time they turn around. They've been passed over for a job or demoted or discharged from the military.

When you combine an injustice collector or someone who copes with using guns if somebody slights them, that combination is very dangerous, especially if you have an injustice collector who feels his rights have been violated or feelings hurt and then he acts out with a firearm. Very dangerous.

BERMAN: So, you're focusing on his discharge from the military. You're focusing on the friends who say that he had lost employment, may have been looking for work, may have been frustrated there. Those injustice collections, those frustrations, is that where you would start if you were investigating this man's past?

O'TOOLE: I would start there, because we see that in many of these cases of mass homicide. But that's where I would start to look at. And it didn't just happen two weeks ago. These crimes are not impulsive acts. He didn't snap. So, I'd been going --

BERMAN: He didn't snap. That's what you're saying.

O'TOOLE: He did not snap.

BERMAN: Because this seems to involve a level of planning here. It seems like it'd very difficult just to walk into a facility like this without thinking about it and shoot up 12 people from an atrium.

O'TOOLE: Every time I hear somebody say that person just snapped, I mean, it makes -- it's stunning to me. These crimes take sometimes months, but they take years just in thinking about it. You have to get to the point in your thinking that killing other humans is OK. So, you have to be able to basically turn people into objects. That thinking doesn't just happen a year ago or two years ago.

That's an evolutionary process. So, they're going to be going back in his childhood and looking for patterns of behavior that demonstrate a certain amount of callousness which is what we saw yesterday.

BERMAN: I also think it's important to know, Mary Ellen O'Toole, that whatever they find, what explanations they come up with, never going to be satisfying, I think to the people here who lost loved ones and whose lives were upturned.

O'TOOLE: Not ever.

BERMAN: All right. Mary Ellen O'Toole, thank you so much for help us shed light on this. To the extent that is even possible. Appreciate it.

This massacre has many people asking so many questions this morning. One of them has to do with security here at U.S. military facilities like this one all around the country. These are the questions raised in 2009 when an army psychiatrist Major Nadal Hasan opened fire at Ft. Hood, killing 13, injuring dozens. He had clearance to be there. He was an officer there.

By all accounts, as Pamela Brown told us earlier, Aaron Alexis had passed his background checks, had clearance to be here at the Navy Yard, too. Still, that is something that will not provide any comfort to those who witnessed the shootings here.


CMDR. TIM JIRUS, NAVY YARD SHOOTING WITNESS: I think right now, a lot of people are wondering, you know, just how safe the building is or how safe the office environment is.

MATT MAASDAM, FORMER NAVY SEAL: Security is a balance between total safety and -- and -- and freedom, right? So, you have to provide some level in the middle so that people can actually get to work.


BERMAN: People who do work here at the Washington Navy Yard say that security, generally speaking, is tight. You do have to go past a series of armed guards. You have to show your I.D. to both humans and often a computer system that verifies you're supposed to be there. That's the swipe kind of card. Security experts say, still, even with the security, there is only so much that you can do to stop a person who is bent on destruction.

Again, CNN reporting, he drove a car onto the facility here. He had the clearance he needed to be there. Still, the questions remain, how he got from the car into the building. Did he have the guns on him when he went in? Did he have to go through a metal detector? Those are the key questions and the key moments that investigators are looking into this morning. We are following all the developments for you from the Washington Navy Yard here this morning. There's much more to come. But first, let's go back to Zoraida in New York for more of today's other news.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, it's really remarkable, John, because it seems like he had these two different personalities, too, when you talk to people who knew him who say he never would have harmed anyone, that they would have expected him to maybe harm himself but not anyone else, and yet this.

BERMAN: Yet this. And of course, in the end, Zoraida, you know, he's dead. So, the ultimate harm to himself, whatever actions he finally did take did lead to his death. The thing that is truly tragic this morning, it also led to the death of 12 other innocent people.

SAMBOLIN: So much sadness and I suspect so much anger as well. John Berman live for us. We'll check back in with you. Thank you.

Forty-one minutes past the hour.

Coming up, the death toll rising in Colorado as floodwaters recede. Rescuers gain access to a lot of towns that were left underwater by last week's massive flood.

Plus, the "Costa Concordia" turned upright this morning, pulling up the wrecked cruise liner taking a massive team effort. Matthew Chance is live in Italy with how that crew managed to keep the ship in one piece. That's coming up right after the break.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. In Colorado this morning, there is some relief. A break in the weather meant rescues could resume. Hundreds were picked up by helicopter, also by boat, but many remain stranded and the death toll is up to eight across the state. And Indra Petersons is watching the weather for us. We're hoping that they get a break, because we are very concerned about the folks who are unaccounted for still.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Exactly. They need that water to recede then go and get relief efforts in there. And today, it looks like some dry air will be pushing into the region so that's the good news. Unfortunately, as we move in through tomorrow, we'll have to watch one other system making its way through. A cold front at the Pacific Northwest is expected to slide through Wednesday in through Thursday.

We'll be watching for potential for enhanced amount of showers again Wednesday and Thursday. Nothing expected like what we saw last week. But either way, so much rain already in play. Otherwise, the big story is where all this water expected to go? Unfortunately, this is going to be concern as it makes its way down the South Platte River. So, we're looking for concerns now in Nebraska as this water heads in their direction.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you, Indra.

Forty-five minutes past the hour.

In Italy this morning, one of the most complicated salvage efforts in history is now a big step closer to completion. The "Costa Concordia" is now upright for the first time in 20 months since it was grounded, killing 32 people on board. Matthew Chance is in Italy. He is watching all of the salvage efforts. A lot of people were skeptical that they would not be able to see this sight.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. A lot of people were very worried as this salvage operation would not go according to plan, particularly, the villages of Giglio, the people who live on the Island. It's not only (ph) just a thousand people deeply concerned that if it had gone wrong, this ship here could have turned into the biggest environmental disaster this part of the world has ever seen.

Inside it remember has some 20,000 liters gallons or so of really toxic fluids looking back fuel from the engine. Chemical waste from the cleaning materials, the rotten food that's mixed with the sea water. So, really awful stuff that would have recaused environmental damage to this surrounding area.

For the moment, it seems to have been avoided. The salvage operation at least this first step of it appears to have gone according to plan. They've managed to tilt it from it side upright. You can see the brown water mark along the side of the "Costa Concordia." That's where it's been lying underneath the sea for the past 20 months. And so, this step of the operation very successful indeed, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Very successful. What happens next?

CHANCE: Well, now, the salvage teams got to be two things. First of all, they're going to be stabilizing the vessel. It looks like it's standing there pretty safe, but if the seas pick up, they could still tip over again. It's standing on a very fragile platform built on the ocean bed. So, they're going it stabilize it with the views of taking it away in the spring.

But before that, they're going to have to look, unfortunately, for the two bodies that have never been recovered from this disaster. Thirty- two people died and 30 bodies recovered. There's two people they still haven't found. They believe they could be inside that ship wreck.

SAMBOLIN: I know the families are looking for answers there. Matthew chance live in Italy for us. Thank you so much.

So, let's take a look at what's coming up ahead on "NEW DAY." Chris Cuomo is live in Washington D.C. at the Navy Yard this morning. Good morning to you, Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Zoraida, how are you? I'm picking up on where John Berman has been this morning with the reporting. There are a lot of questions coming up in this situation. You know, one of the terrible facts is that this is the seventh mass shooting in the past decade where ten or more people were killed. And all too offered (ph), and we see patterns and that's a big part of the search this morning for investigators to figure out how this shooter got to where he was.

What kind of clearance he had? How did he get a weapon into a secure naval facility? And then, of course, the big question, the haunting one is why this happened? We're learning more this morning and that's an important effort. People struggle with how much to dig into the shooter's past but only by learning why these shootings happen do we have any chance of helping to prevent them in the future.

And of course, we're also learning about the innocence, about those who lost their lives here for no good reason, and we will deliver it all to you this morning as we work the story very hard on the ground here in the nation's capital -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: You know, we want to learn more about the victims and keep their memory alive. Thank you so much, Chris. We'll be right back.


SAMBOLIN: Fifty-two minutes past the hour. Monday's tragic shooting in Washington, D.C. was felt all around the country. And last night, sports teams from coast-to-coast paid tribute to those who lost their lives in the Navy Yard attack. Andy Scholes joins us now with more in this morning's "Bleacher Report." That's nice to hear, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Yes. Good morning, Zoraida. Sporting events at times are the best way for people to come together and we saw that last night on "Monday Night Football." The Steelers and Bengals, they're big division rivals but before kickoff, it wasn't about football, it about honoring those who lost their lives. Everyone at Paul Brown Stadium observed a moment of silence before the game to pay tribute to the victims of yesterday's tragic shooting.

And once the game got started, Bengals showed why many picked them to win the division this year. They took care of the Steelers pretty easily. They've won 20-10. Pittsburgh is now 0-2 to start the season. First time that's happened in more than a decade.

Washington Nationals postponed their game against the Atlanta Braves last night due to yesterday's tragic shooting. Washington's Park is just a stone's throw away from the nearby Navy Yard. In the face of the nationals, Bryce Harper tweeted this yesterday, "Thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and responders at the navy yard. It is absolute sickening that people do this."

Let's make up for the missed game. The Nationals and Braves will play a day/night double-header today.

Well, for the second straight week, Tampa Bay Bucs safety Dashon Goldson has been penalized by the NFL for an illegal hit. The league also suspending Goldson one game without pay for this hit on Darren Sproles on Sunday. Goldson has a reputation as one of the game's hardest hitters, and it's definitely hurting his wallet.

Just this season, he lost more than $250,000 of his salary. Goldson is appealing the suspension. On the lineup section on, the Jacksonville Jaguars aren't very good and some of their fan-based looking for a savior. So, who better than Tim Tebow? Literally, dozens of Jags fans rallied yesterday in the team's parking lot. Their goal, to show support for their hometown boy and tell ownership they want Tebow on the team.

Now, the rally started at 3:16 eastern and was scheduled to last three hours and 16 minutes in honor of tebow's iconic John 316 eye black that he wore. And Zoraida, worthy to note that there were about 20 people at this rally and 30 members of the media covering it!


SAMBOLIN: You know, I was about to say, did you say dozens?


SCHOLES: Dozens!

SAMBOLIN: Not a lot of people there. All right. Andy Scholes, thank you. Appreciate it.

We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.


SAMBOLIN: That's it for EARLY START. Thanks for being with us today. "NEW DAY" begins right now.