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Suspect Worked At Navy Yard; Who Was Aaron Alexis?; "He's Like A Brother"; Navy Yard Shooting; Eight Dead in Colorado Storms

Aired September 17, 2013 - 06:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): This morning, the navy yard shooting. A day of terror.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The navy family today suffered a horrific attack.

CUOMO: Breaking new details from inside the military facility during those terrifying moments.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I heard three shots. Pow, pow, pow.

CUOMO: The survivors who fled for their lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We heard two more gunshots and he went down and that's where I ran.

CUOMO: The names of the dozen innocent lives lost, just released, fathers and mothers. And new information on the gunman, his possible motive and his troubled past. What drove him to this? We are live in our nation's capital this morning with all angles covered. Your "NEW DAY" starts right now.


CUOMO: Good morning and welcome to "NEW DAY." It's Tuesday, September 17th, six o'clock in the east. I am live in Washington, D.C. just behind me in building 197 where 12 innocent people lost their lives, many others inside kept until close to midnight as investigators worked the scene. This morning, there is new information for you -- Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good to see you, Chris. And also, sadness and horror in Washington, but we don't want to lose sight of that other tragedy unfolding out west. Colorado still in a state of emergency. Many of those towns cut off by flooding are still unreachable. And the death toll is rising. We're going to take you there live this morning.

And we're also going to take you live to Italy. Take a look at this live picture. That is the "Costa Concordia." And overnight, they were able to finally right this massive ship. An operation that took 20 months. The images just stunning. So, what is next? We're going to get that coming up. But first, let's get straight back to Chris in Washington -- Chris. CUOMO: All right. Thank you, Kate. As I was saying, there is new information this morning leading to new questions about the man police say is responsible for the deadly shootings here at the Washington Navy Yard. We also know a lot more this morning about those who lost their lives.

There are two big questions we're tracking at this hour, how this man got clearance and the ability to smuggle at least one weapon into a secure facility and then, of course, the biggest question of all, what motivated this attack? The suspect does not as yet fit the description of past mass shooters, a terrible fact to remind you off.

There've been seven mass shootings, killing ten or more people in the past decade. Here, we can't say yet that there was a stated agenda, grudge, or illness driving his actions, but here's what we do know. The shooter had been arrested more than once in the past for incidents involving guns, and he was discharged from the Navy Reserves in 2011 due to a pattern of misconduct.

All this raises red flags about how the shooter got clearance to enter the facility as a military subcontractor. We've learned no military personnel were killed in the attack. Authorities say the 12 people who lost their lives were all civilians or contractors like the shooter.

So far they have identified seven of the 12 killed at the Navy Yard, their ages range between 46 and 73 years old. They were mothers, fathers, grandparents and all of them were taken too soon.


CUOMO (voice-over): Monday morning, chaos and fear in the nation's capital after a gunman opens fire at the heavily secured Washington Navy Yard, less than 3 miles from the White House, 2 miles from the capital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Multiple shots fired. Multiple people down.

CUOMO: The death toll rising by the hour, at least 13 killed, eight more injured. The rampage now appearing to be the work of a lone gunman, whom the FBI identified as 34-year-old Aaron Alexis, an I.T. contractor and a former Navy reservist. Alexis dies in a gun battle with police inside the complex. The frightening events unfolding minute by minute, 8:20 a.m., frantic calls begin pouring into 911 moments after shots fired.

COMMANDER TIM JURIS, WITNESS: We were just standing here maybe 3 feet away having a conversation and then we heard two more gunshots. And he went down and that's when I ran.

CUOMO: The gunman entered Building 197 of the Navy Yard with an active military contractor I.D. and security clearance. The FBI says Alexis begins firing from a fourth floor balcony on to office workers in the atrium below using a semi-automatic rifle.

DR. JANIS ORLOWSKI, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, MEDSTAR WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER: We have a third individual who just arrive who had had a gunshot wound to the head and to the hand.

CUOMO: Within minutes, Metropolitan Police, U.S. Capital Police and the FBI swarmed the area.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have an officer down.

CUOMO: By 9:33 a.m., ambulances and helicopters descend upon the scene, rushing victims to local hospitals. Schools near the Navy Yard locked down. The Senate side of the capital closed and air traffic at Reagan National Airport grounded so it would not interfere with law enforcement choppers.

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

CUOMO: Just before 10:00 a.m., President Obama is briefed in the oval office. Three hours after the shooting spree begins law enforcement officials confirm the gunman shot and killed. President Obama lamenting yet another mass shooting.

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

CUOMO: The president orders flags be lowered to half-staff to honor the victims. Monday's rampage at the Navy Yard is the deadliest shooting on a military installation in the U.S. since Fort Hood in 2009, which killed 13 and injured 30 others. One by one, thousands of employees are allowed to leave their offices on base, many spending hours hiding and waiting for the carnage to end, then cleared by police.


CUOMO: The stories of the fear of the unknown that these people dealt with coming out, we were hearing them all night. It was just horrible. Of course, there's never been a good reason for one of these attacks, but knowing why they occur is an important part to preventing more in the future.

And here, a picture is only starting to develop that reveals this gunman has a troubled man, a violent past, a history of emotional problems, in part, stemming from an attachment to the horror of 9/11. CNN's Pamela Brown is following all that for us.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So Chris, we do know -- we've learned from officials that he suffered mental health issues and even though a picture is emerging we don't know exactly why yet. What the motive could be. We have learned CNN has learned that he was an employee of a company called "The Experts," a subcontractor of Hewlett-Packard that refreshed equipment for the Navy Corps.

His friends and family we've spoken to say they are shocked by this. That he could carry out such an attack, but we still have a lot of unanswered questions.


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

VALERIE PARLAVE, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, FBI WASHINGTON FIELD OFFICE: We are looking to learn everything we can about his recent movements, his contacts and 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 NITROVATO, FRIEND OF SHOOTER: It's incredible that this is all happening because he was a very 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, FORMER ROOMMATE OF SHOOTER: He might be a little angry sometimes, you know, but I don't believe that he's going to kill others.

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 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-fuelled 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 begun in public in Fort Worth, Texas, where he lived until recently, never charged in that case.

Alexis had been staying at this hotel, not far from the Navy Yard since last week and the 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. Their hearts are going out more to the victims, the people that got hurt. More lives lost. We don't need that right now.


CUOMO: And obviously the attention is on the victims, but we are trying to understand more about why this happened. It's a very fluid investigation. There's curiosity about the weapons involved. What's the latest? The information has been changing. BROWN: Yes, you know, officials are still investigating what weapons he brought in with him and what weapons he may have acquired on the scene. There are also questions about whether he was armed with an AR-15. Officials do believe that he came in with at least a shotgun. But still, a lot of, you know, officials are still trying to chase down and figure out exactly what weapons he had on him. Right now, evidence recovery teams are on the scenes processing the information. So we should learn more soon.

CUOMO: It's important because it gives some focus to what he was doing leading in the days up to this. Also how he got in, what he was able to carry in with him and then, of course, there are questions and suggestions about what was going on in his head and his heart in the days and weeks preceding this, right?

BROWN: That's right. I mean, officials I spoke with said that they are looking at his mental health history. We know from his father. He said that he suffered from PTSD after 9/11. There are indications that he could have suffered other mental health issues. We're still trying to gather the facts about that.

CUOMO: He himself reportedly told police after at least one of the incidents where he was arrested that he had emotional problems because of 9/11.

BROWN: That's right.

CUOMO: A lot of questions to track it down. I know you've been working all night. I've been watching you do it. So thank you and we'll get more as we get it throughout the morning. Pamela, appreciate it.

Now obviously these questions are haunting investigators, most of all, as they look for the motive. So they're asking for anyone with information to come forward. They're talking to people who knew the shooter best. Friends who worked closely with him in a Fort Worth, Texas restaurant have come forward.

Joining us is one of those friends, Kristi Suthamtewakul. Kristi, can you hear me?


CUOMO: All right, thank you. I can. Thank you for joining us this morning. I can hear you.

SUTHAMTEWAKUL: You're welcome.

CUOMO: Let's start with the obvious here. This situation obviously does not square with your understanding of this shooter. Tell us about the man you knew.

SUTHAMTEWAKUL: First of all, I just want to say prayers are going out to the victims and the families and everyone affected. I'm so sorry that that happened. Aaron was a very polite, very friendly man. I got to know him two years ago when he first started helping out at the restaurant. He had an excitement for life, learning Thai, getting involved with the community, the Buddhist temple down the road.

At first we got to know him as a waiter. It wasn't until I started dating my husband, who is the owner of the restaurant, in spring of 2012 that I got to know Aaron more. One of the things he talked about was 9/11 and how he was there and he saw the towers come down from where he was working. I don't know at the time where he was.

But he just cannot believe, he and his co-workers at the time were just in shock and disbelief like all Americans, that the twin towers were no longer there. He had an anger towards the terrorists who did that and took innocent people. I'm just really sad that first of all Aaron's gone, but the 12 people that he took down 12 people, too, with him. And because -- I mean, he was a Buddhist. Buddhists, apparently it's a peaceful religion.

On top of that, he expressed the anger and hurt like all Americans at why terrorists would take down innocent people. It was very confusing. I got to know him more over the past year, because I ended up moving in with a family, and they came with us. Everything was great. We got along really well, great conversationalist. I had come home and gone to sleep and my husband later said at the time he said did you hear that?

I was like, what? You didn't hear the gun go off this morning? Apparently, Aaron was in his room cleaning his gun and the gun went off and Aaron was freaking out. He came out of his room as did my husband. And Aaron was just like terrified, mortified that the gun went off, and was afraid that someone might have gotten hurt or something, and thankful that no one got hurt. But I had no problems up until then. That was one separated incident. My husband and my husband's family knew him for --

CUOMO: Kristi --

SUTHAMTEWAKUL: Like two and a half years. Yes, sir.

CUOMO: As we get closer to the events that unfolded yesterday, in your mind, do you have any recollection of anything that seemed to change in him, anything that he was struggling with, anything that might help explain how he would arrive at the decision to do something so horrible?

SUTHAMTEWAKUL: What I can tell you, he went to Japan. He was sent on the contractor's job to Japan for a month. That was from November to December, and he got back and he felt very slighted about his benefits at the time, financial issues. He wasn't getting paid on time. He wasn't getting paid what he was supposed to be getting paid.

His point of contact wasn't able to clearly explain to him what was going on and why his benefits were so messed up at the time. I know he expressed a lot of frustration and a lot towards that. That's when I first started hearing statements about how he wanted to move out of America. He was very frustrated with the government and how as a veteran he didn't feel like he getting treated right or fairly. I know he also talked about just wanting to change a different job and -- but then he couldn't because his car was in the shop. That was another issue. It was in the shop the whole time he was in Japan and then when he got back, it took an additional two to three months, and it still didn't even really get fixed.

Then we had another issue at the house with fleas and the pets, who doesn't, and that kind of just exacerbated things and I started to notice some changes in him. Nothing that would alarm me to something of this magnitude, but he started taking food that was mine. I would address him at certain times about this and he'd be like that was yours? I'm sorry.

But then he would still take and it wasn't a lot of food. It was just like one or two items here and there. But I told him anyway -- he had actually -- sorry. Go ahead. I just started to notice the change in personality with him there.

CUOMO: I get it. Kristi, I'm sorry, there's been a delay with the communication system here, but I appreciate you so much giving us insight.

SUTHAMTEWAKUL: I have one more event to tell you about real quick.

CUOMO: What is it, please?

SUTHAMTEWAKUL: Back when he moved out in July, right before that happened, for July 4th we left our brand new car in the garage. The garage was closed. He's the only one that has access to it and we noticed the next day that our car wouldn't work. We had to get it towed. Apparently, Honda said that someone had put sugar in the gas tank. There was only one person that had access to our garage that was still living with us.

We had a fence that was locked. Apparently, we had to file a report that we think he did that, that he put the sugar in the tank. He's the only one that could have done that. I didn't understand why. I still wanted to give him the -- I just was in denial that he would have done that because he was so polite. Up until recently he started having those issues with us and me nagging him about him owing me money still. It was still such a shock to us this morning that he would have done something of this magnitude.

CUOMO: Kristi?


CUOMO: It has to be and I'm sorry for you to experience it this way, and thank you for shedding light on who this man was and what may have been going wrong inside of him. We appreciate it very much. Thank you.

Now, obviously, there's a lot of fascination with who this shooter was and most importantly how he was able to do this. But the real focus here is on the victims. So far, seven of the 12 killed at the Navy Yard have been identified. CNN's Rene Marsh is joining us with that. And we want to make sure we give dignity and respect to the people who lost their lives.

What do we know so far, Rene?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, absolutely. And, you know, Chris, I mean, it's really surreal when you step back and look at this big picture here.

I mean, these 12 victims, they left home on a Monday morning headed for work. They had no way of knowing this was going to be their last day alive. Their families had no way of knowing they would never see them again.

And just late last night, we got seven of the 12 victims' names. We're going to read some of those names right now.

Michael Arnold, he's 59 years old. Sylvia Frasier, 53 years old. Kathy Gaarde, 62. Kenneth Bernard Proctor, 46.

John Roger Johnson, 73. Frank Kohler, 50. Vishnu Pandit, 61. And "The Washington Post" reporting this morning, Arthur Daniels, 51 years old.

The youngest, 46, the oldest 73. We know at this point at least one of them lived right here in Washington, D.C.

Last night -- as of last night, they were still in the process of notifying families. So, it won't be until those other five families are notified that we get the other five names. But aside from the people who passed away, you also have those eight people who were injured, Chris.

CUOMO: And a lot of that is developing. There's so many people there, numbers of who were injured and how, still unclear. Obviously, we're trying to give the families their space to heal and deal with this most terrible information because these were fathers, mothers, people who had loved ones and children. So, we'll learn more in the coming days.

MARSH: And today, they will be honored today. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will be laying a wreath at the U.S. Naval Memorial in their honor.

CUOMO: An important to remember that what matters most, the lives that were taken.

Rene, thank you very much for the reporting. Appreciate it.

Kate, we're going to have more here with talking to people who survived as we piece together the clues that were coming out, about the man who did this shooting, how he was able to get in with a weapon and why he thought that this was a way to end his own life.

But, now, back to you.

BOLDUAN: All right. Chris, thank you so much. So many questions still unanswered, of course.

We'll get right back to Washington. But as Chris said, but there's a lot of news developing at this very hour. So, of course, let's get straight to Michaela for the latest.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning to you, two. Let's take a look at those headlines making news within just hours of that shooting at the Washington Navy Yard.

Loud pops which initially sounded like gunshots, sent people scrambling from the north lawn of the White House. It turns out the man allegedly threw fireworks over the north lawn fence. He was arrested outside the gate on Pennsylvania Avenue. Thankfully, no one was injured.

Overwhelming and indisputable evidence that sarin nerve gas was used in Syria. U.N. weapons inspectors issuing their report, but not assigning blame. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon not speculating on who launched the attack.

Also now, tensions escalating between Syria and Turkey. Turkey saying it shot down a Syrian helicopter that flew into Turkish airspace Monday. That chopper crash landed in Syria.

The hull of the crippled cruise liner Costa Concordia now sitting completely upright in Italy. Look at these incredible pictures showing the damage to that ship. It took 19 hours to raise the ship from its side where it capsized off the coast of Tuscany in January of last year, killing 32 people. The bodies of two people were never recovered and are believed to be in or near the wreckage.

Italian officials calling Monday's effort a perfect end to a daring and unprecedented feat. We'll bring you a live report on NEW DAY later in the hour.

Some spectacular video to show you overnight. Raging flames in Texas after several salt water disposal tanks caught fire. CNN affiliate KWES says lightning struck when stormy weather rolled through the region. The fire happened along the border of Martin and Midland Counties, about 50 miles east of the border with New Mexico. It took fire crews there about three hours to put those flames out.

Finally, emotions certainly running high during the season premiere of "Dancing with the Stars" because of this extraordinary lady, actress Valerie Harper, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer received a standing ovation before she even danced. Her debut performance was a foxtrot. And I've got to say, it turns out, Rhoda Morganstern is pretty light on her feet. Afterward, Harper said it's good to be alive and even better to be dancing -- a tremendous inspiration.

BOLDUAN: Can sure use that infectious smile today, right?

PEREIRA: Absolutely. Of all days.

BOLDUAN: She looks absolutely beautiful. Thanks so much, Michaela.


BOLDUAN: Coming up on NEW DAY, a break in the weather helping rescuers in Colorado getting to people completely cut off for days by the severe flooding there. Is more relief on the way? They sure hope so. We'll have the live details coming up.

Plus, of course, much more on the deadly shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard. We're going to hear the dramatic stories of two survivors.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After we came outside, people were climbing the walls, trying to get out over the walls, to get out of the spaces. It was just crazy.



BOLDUAN: And welcome back to NEW DAY.

The death toll is climbing in Colorado from the severe flooding there. Eight people now confirmed dead, 648 remain missing or unaccounted for. Finally, though, Mother Nature giving rescue workers a much- needed break, allowing them to search for people who have been stranded and cut off for days.

CNN's George Howell has the latest for us this morning from Colorado.

You've been following it from the beginning, George. How's it looking this morning?


So, I'm sure you can see here, this river still rushing. Just a few days ago from where I'm standing right now, I would have been under water. So fair to say the floodwaters are starting to recede. We're also seeing the number unaccounted for slowly go down. And for the first time, people are returning to their homes to see what's left.


HOWELL (voice-over): New images emerged overnight. Choppers once again taking to the sky, evacuating at least 100 people.

Emergency response out in full force. Searching homes, a desperate search for anyone still stranded in the mountains or unaccounted for, following Colorado's deadly flash floods.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some areas in Larimer County experienced a 100- year flood, others experienced a 1,000-year flood. So, something that would only happened every 1,000 years.

HOWELL: This is what the region looked like from space, just days before, compared to this image taken after the massive flood that inundated northern and eastern Colorado.

Returning to a devastated community, residents in Longmont seeing their homes for the first time since Thursday no longer habitable.

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

HOWELL: Jeff Larson's wife, Nina, watched as their SUV was swept away by rushing water.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I watched it being swept down the road. Our basement immediately started flooding. And so, I just took my son and his friends, Wyatt and Cole (ph), and we went to the third level with the belly boats.

HOWELL: Evacuated nine hours later, they consider themselves lucky. Thick mud and water moved through Lyons, shifting entire homes from their foundation.

This woman unable to reach her home on the other side of the river, in utter disbelief that it was picked up and moved several feet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today is our first day up here since we've been evacuated. And I feel like it's worse than I thought it would be. We lost absolutely everything we own.


HOWELL: So, when you look at, you know, this entire story, the past five days that we've covered here on NEW DAY, some 12,000 people were forced to evacuate because of the storm system. Just in the last day, we know of some 250 people who were rescued in Boulder County.

And, Kate, those rescues continue.

BOLDUAN: And still, hundreds of people unaccounted for, hopefully with a break in the weather that number will drop dramatically today. George, thank you very much. We'll talk to you later in the show.

Let's get straight to Indra Petersons, though, with the latest forecast and what they can be expecting in Colorado today.

How it's looking?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. I mean, it's really amazing the amount of records they've broken. Getting a breather today but it's not going to say that way. They broke the record for the most amount of rain in a day, for the month of September, and for the year so far.

So, they really need this dry air moving in today, still an isolated threat for shower here and there, but the bigger concern were really be into tomorrow, and through Thursday, as another cold front makes its way into the Pacific Northwest, Wednesday night through Thursday and enhanced amount of rain. We are going to be seeing some dry air behind that for the rest of the week does look. But, of course, all this rain has to go somewhere. That's going to be the concern.

As we make this way to the South Platte River, we're going to be looking at major flooding now spreading into places like Nebraska where they didn't see the rain. But now, they're worried about that debris blocking the river, and all that flooding heading their direction.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And still coming their way.

PETERSONS: Unfortunately.

BOLDUAN: All right. Indra, thank you so much. We'll get back to that later today.

But, also coming up next on NEW DAY, it took 19 long hours to get the Costa Concordia fully upright. Take a look at this time lapse video. An operation, though, 20 months in the making.

The question now, how do they get the massive ship out of the water altogether? We're going to go live to Italy, just ahead.

CUOMO: Plus, from here in the nation's capital, we're going to talk to survivors of the Navy Yard shooting. What happened inside? New information and details on how they were able to get out.

Stay with us.