Return to Transcripts main page


Navy Yard Shooting; Suspect Used Valid Military ID; Raising Concordia

Aired September 17, 2013 - 06:30   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to NEW DAY. It's Tuesday, September 17th. And we are live in Washington at the Naval Yard, the site of that deadly shooting rampage.

There is new information but questions remain, how did a man with a history of run-ins with the law get access to this military facility? How did he manage to get at least one weapon inside? We'll take you through all of that.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Take a look at these live pictures of the Costa Concordia. We want to show these to you. They're just incredible.

Twenty months after the cruise ship hit rocks after of Giglio, Italy. Crews were able to right, finally, showing the extent of the damage. Just take a look at that. We're going to have a live report on that coming up.

But let's straight get back to Washington -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Thank you, Kate.

We are following developments in the aftermath of a deadly shooting rampage at Washington's naval yard. Thirteen people killed, including the alleged gunman, now known as the man you see on your screen, 34 years old. Eight other people were injured but this very fluid situation, numbers may still change.

What we know is it was an absolute day of horror, a story that tragically we've heard too many times. We talked with two survivors who worked in the building where the shooting took place and were hiding out for their lives.


CUOMO (voice-over): It's a scene that's become all too familiar -- reports of gunfire, panicked people rushing out of a building, countless stories of survival.

Witnesses of Monday's hooting spree at Washington's historic Navy Yard say the obvious. This was a day they'll never forget.

STEVE SIKORA, SHOOTING SURVIVOR: It's kind of sobering. I mean, I can't fathom what drives people or what makes them do things like this.

CUOMO: Steve Sikora is an IT specialist who works in Building 197. He says he crossed paths with the shooter Monday morning while taking a break outside of the office, a walk he doesn't normally take.

(on camera): And why did you notice him?

SIKORA: It's just -- just how fast he went around that corner and went into the building, and the way he was dressed. He stuck out. You know, not like anybody that should have been there. You notice how you walk real fast to the direction when you're intent on doing something? It just seemed that way.

CUOMO (voice-over): Moments later, Aaron Alexis opened fire inside the building.

(on camera): How did he get the weapons in?

SIKORA: Yes. That's -- well, that's anybody's guess. I mean, I don't know. I was outside. When I passed him he didn't appear to have anything. I didn't see anything on him. But just that he right in that door.

CUOMO (voice-over): The incident leaving those that work there wonder if they've seen Alexis before.

(on camera): The shooter's name, his face, ever see it before, ever hear it before?

SIKORA: You know what, he -- he's been around. He's been around. When she showed his face on TV, yes, I know that guy, I've seen him around.

CUOMO: Because he does the same kind of work, IT contracting?


CUOMO: Do you have any recollection of him, any kind of memory at all?

SIKORA: I've seen him around but nothing, you know, sitting here talking like you and I are. It was nothing like that. I just saw him.

CUOMO (voice-over): Alba Gonzalez is another survivor of the Navy Yard shooting. She and co-workers locked themselves in an office. But in a room next door, she says someone they didn't know barricaded himself inside.

SWAT teams eventually pulling him from the room after they called police to report his behavior.

ALBA GONZALEZ, SHOOTING SURVIVOR: When we called the office and the individual picked up, we asked him to identify himself and he just asked us, well, who is this? We identified ourselves and then he just hung up. CUOMO (on camera): That was the last communication you had?

GONZALEZ: That was the last communication we had.

CUOMO (voice-over): The common thread among survivors, their concern for those they work with and their loved ones.

SIKORA: I hope that, you know, my friends and people that I know aren't among the fatalities and I get to see them again.


CUOMO: And so far, we know the names of seven of those who lost their lives, but there's information still to come in our hearts and minds go out to the people and families that were affected. It's important to note that this was a very long night once this became a crime scene. As the night progressed, investigators were processing the scene and people there until just about midnight, going over accounts to figure out just what happened.

We're doing the same this morning. Let's bring in Chris Voss. He is a former FBI lead international kidnapping negotiator, and was a member of the New York City Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Chris, thank you for joining us, as always.


CUOMO: Now, you heard one of the survivors say, I saw him, or who I believe to him. He was purposeful. He did not see a weapon on him.

What does that mean to you?

VOSS: Well, the shooter rehearsed this in his mind and he probably walked through it a few times physically ahead of time. He thought about a lot of things and how this would go down.

For example, the reports he didn't say to anybody. He probably anticipated what he would do if somebody spoke to him. And he didn't want to speak to anybody at all. He wanted to make sure he did this.

So, he came in very focused, and made sure he wasn't distracted, and probably did exactly as he had rehearsed it for --

CUOMO: And rehearsal could be consistent with his having made two trips inside. You know, it's still developing theory about how he got the weapon in, what his pattern of events was. But the witness says I did not see a weapon on him. Could he have been casing, reviewing?

VOSS: Yes, more than likely he was. If he did that, he certainly probably did it in the days leading up to it. And he anticipated those problems and he prepared for them.

CUOMO: Now, the man also said he believes he had seen him before. That is a little inconsistent with information coming out from investigators, because he wasn't scheduled to start work yet, though he did have clearance. But he did have the ability to go inside and you're saying that may have been consistent with preparation?

VOSS: Right, yes. He absolutely would have probably walked through this. He walked through it in his mind and he walked through it physically to know that it would happen the way that he wanted it to happen.

CUOMO: Now, what we understand about the configuration of the building. A large atrium hallway off of it, that the shooter reportedly found a high vantage point. You're saying that makes sense strategically?

VOSS: Yes, absolutely. He would have wanted to make sure that he accomplished his mission which led him on what he would have felt was a killing journey. And that was the objective of his killing journey and what he wanted at all to go down.

CUOMO: And why is that such a good position for him to take? We always here about high ground. But what did it enable him to do?

VOSS: Well, tactically, it gives him the opportunity to attack as many people as possible, keep him focused. It's also a defensive position so that he can keep doing it for as long as he possibly can before he's attacked.

CUOMO: And, obviously, the important ingredients we don't have yet, what was going on in his mind in the days preceding this attack and figuring out how he got to this dark place.

VOSS: Right, exactly.

CUOMO: Chris Voss, thank you very much for helping us filling the picture.

VOSS: My pleasure. Thanks for having me on this morning.

CUOMO: Obviously, we're focusing on what's happening in the nation's capital, also what's out in Colorado. But there's a lot of other news as well.

Let's get right to Michaela Pereira with all the top stories -- Mick.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Chris, thanks so much.

Making news: with D.C. already on edge, an arrest outside a White House gate, loud pops which initially sounded like gunshots sent people scrambling from the North Lawn of the White House Monday evening. It turns out a man allegedly threw fireworks over the North Lawn fence. Secret Service immediately arrested him. Thankfully, no one was injured.

From drought to deluge in New Mexico. Check out these aerial pictures. Floodwaters have stranded some 20 people who live in Mogollon, a small community in southwestern New Mexico. They have no electricity, and since the main road was washed out, there's no way in or out as of Monday evening. Transportation officials say they hope to get parts of the road cleaned up in the next few days.

Jerry Sandusky's challenge to this challenge sex abuse conviction goes before a state appeals court in Pennsylvania today. The former Penn State assistant football coach wants a new trial. Among the issues they're expected to tackle, whether a prosecutor improperly referenced the fact that Sandusky didn't testify, and whether jury instructions were mishandled.

Investigators say last week's fire that engulfed dozens of businesses and the boardwalk along the Jersey Shore was an accident. We're expecting more specifics today. But it is believed the cause was electrical. The fire started in an ice cream stand, then spread and quickly got out of control. Crews had already spent months rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy rolled through last October.

Police in Austin, Texas, were caught on dash cam video picking up an unusual -- oh, yes, that's the suspect right there. That's a pot belly pig, my friends. CNN affiliate KXAN reports that officers spotted this little pig wandering the streets of south Austin.

Well, so, they did what they had to, picked up the pig, transported it to an animal shelter until its owner could claim it. Police say the pig is not in any legal trouble. He might be in a little bit of heat for the mess he left in the back of the patrol car. But other than that, pretty interesting day at the office.

BOLDUAN: Not a day on the job those police officers will forget.

PEREIRA: I don't think you get trained for that.

BOLDUAN: No, this was not in my job description, what to do.

PEREIRA: You have a pot belly roaming the streets.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY: a remarkable site in Italy. Salvage crews raising the wrecked cruise liner Costa Concordia, in unprecedented effort, months in the making. A live report, just ahead.

Plus, the deadly shooting at the heavily fortified Washington Navy Yard. Just how secure is this and other major military post? We're digging deeper on that.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

We are live at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. The scene, of course, of Monday's horrific shooting.

As we learn more about the shooter involved here, one of the big questions remains unanswered: how did a man with a history of military misconduct and run-ins with the law walk on to a military base with clearance and find a way to get firearms to go along with him.

Joining us now to discuss security at the Navy Yard is former U.S. Navy Commander Kirk Lippold, his ship, "the U.S.S. Cole," bombed by al Qaeda nearly 13 years ago. Really, the introduction to the American people of the modern age of terrorism and our efforts against. Commander, thank you so much for joining us.

CMDR. KIRK LIPPOLD, FMR. NAVY COMMANDER: Thank you for having me on, Chris.

CUOMO: The first piece of insight, you happen to know some of the people involved in this investigation and it gives you confidence that we're going to learn as much as possible. Is that true?

LIPPOLD: Absolutely yes. I know that one of the FBI agents that was investigating the attack on "U.S.S. Cole" had previously investigated the embassy bombings as well as 9/11, works at the Washington field office. So, you are getting the best and brightest that the FBI has to work on this case to figure out how it happened.

CUOMO: All right. Now, let me try to put your mind and experience to some of the big questions here. The first one is how did this guy get military clearance to go on to a base like this after all of his run- ins, a pattern of misconduct that got him discharged, the event where he was arrested for mistakenly, we believe, discharging a firearm. How does someone like that get clearance?

LIPPOLD: I think what you have to look at is when somebody applies for a clearance and they look at it, whoever is hired to do that investigation, and ultimately the navy makes that determination whether to grant them a clearance, to give them access to classified information is they have to go through all of that.

You remember, we are a nation that safeguards an individual's privacy. So, an individual's privacy is taken into consideration. What was he charged with versus what was he found guilty of? But when you look at it in total, the fact that he was given the clearance, given this number of incidents should have been a red flag that maybe we need to delve a little deeper into this individual. And just because they may appear cleared doesn't mean that we should be granting them clearance.

CUOMO: So, you're saying that he wasn't really charged with anything in these events. But, you knew in the military there was a pattern of misconduct. You knew he was arrested, but you're saying those kinds of things can get missed in this process?

LIPPOLD: Absolutely. And I think we're going to do a thorough investigation to find out, but the pattern of misconduct more than anything else is what concerns me, because clearly, you have a documented case for this individual misbehaved. The navy knew it, and yet, still, when he got out, he was allowed to get a clearance.

And people need to be asking the question, why? Who made that authorization, did that misconduct wise (ph) to a level where he should have been done? I'm one of those who say if you make those kinds of mistakes early in life, you and you alone are responsible for those actions, and consequences should result from those.

CUOMO: The idea of how he was able to get a weapon inside. We're told they are armed guards, you need to have a card swipe. How do you get a weapon into a facility like that?

LIPPOLD: Well, when you walk in to that building itself having been inside myself, when you walk in, immediately to your left, you have the security desk. You've got the armed guard right there. Ahead of you are a series of turnstiles where you have to be able to swipe your badge to be able to actually gain access.

While I don't know and the investigation will tell, I believe that it was at that point or even prior to going into the building, he knew that he would have to shoot his way in. So, this wasn't just a walk- in, announce yourself and think you can walk up to the third floor and then start shooting people down into the atrium area in the middle. I think he actually fought his way in and was killing people on his way to the third floor where he began that rampage the result --

CUOMO: And as you're saying, they're excellent investigators. If they find out he didn't shoot his way in and that on top of what we know about him getting clearance, there'll be some big questions about how money is spent and how policy is applied to keep these facilities safe.

LIPPOLD: Absolutely. I think at this point to say the sequester may have had a role in this is very premature. And I would advise people at this point, don't make that jump to conclusion. Let these investigators, these true professionals at the FBI and local law enforcement, navy criminal investigative surface do a thorough investigation, because then we're really going to understand how did it happen, why did it happen?

And we need to do that first and foremost for the families that lost loved ones that are going to want answers into how their loved ones came to die.s

CUOMO: All important in keeping us safe and trying to prevent the next one (ph) of these events as well.

LIPPOLD: Absolutely.

CUOMO: Cmdr. Kirk Lippold, thank you so much for the prospective.

LIPPOLD: Thank you.

CUOMO: Kate, back to you.

BOLDUAN: All right. Chris, thank you. We'll continue our coverage in Washington but we also have this. Coming up next on NEW DAY, raising the "Costa Concordia." The capsized cruise ship is once again upright, a massive engineering effort off the Italian coast. It went off without a hitch. So, what's next?


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. That you're looking at is the "Costa Concordia" cruise ship upright for the first time in 20 months. Italian officials called the effort to pull the ship completely upright a perfect salvage operation. Just look at that time-lapsed video. CNN's Matthew Chance is live in Italy with more on this unprecedented effort. Good morning, Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. Absolutely extraordinary, isn't it, to see the ship upright for the first time, as you mentioned, after a salvage effort that was fraught with dangers but appears to have gone off without a hitch.


CHANCE (voice-over): These are the very first images of the "Costa Concordia," now upright after an unprecedented operation to lift the crippled cruise liner from its side. Salvage crews worked through the night to hoist the 114,000-ton vessel 20 months after it ran aground off the Italian coast, killing 32 people.

The new images reveal the severe damage. Half the ship is mangled, a huge bend where it slammed against the rocks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a perfect operation, I would say.

CHANCE: The operation took 19 hours in total. A team of engineers monitored every move as the ship emerged from the sea inch by inch. Onlookers could measure the progress made by the line of scum embedded in the water logged "Concordia's" side. The $800 million salvage operation effort took much longer than expected, first delayed when a violent electrical storm battered the island.

By midday, onlookers didn't see much progress, but under water, a major milestone, the ship was finally wrenched free from the granite sea bed then moved on to six underwater steel platforms. After ten hours, the crippled ship edged upward by only 13 degrees.

Then the wee hours, all move swiftly according to plan. Despite the painstakingly slow removal procedure, the people of Giglio waking up, relieved that the deteriorating vessel is once again -- and will soon be taken away.

FRANCO PORCELLACCHIA, HEAD OF TECHNICAL TEAM, COSTA CONCORDIA: Struggle been a bit of a roller coaster. But yes, I mean, for the whole team, it's fantastic that it worked just like they said it would work. It's time for a beer.


CHANCE (on-camera): Kate, the salvage teams now working to stabilize the structure in preparation to take it away to be broken up. That's also going to be looking for the two bodies of still not been accounted for of the 32 that died on the shipwreck -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Hopefully, this 20-month nightmare will soon be coming to an end for everyone involved. Matthew, thank you so much for bringing us that.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, the latest on the deadly shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard. What we're learning now about the 12 victims? That's coming up. Also, police want to know what motivated the suspect to open fire on those innocent people? Washington, D.C. mayor, Vincent Gray, will be joining us live.



CUOMO (voice-over): This morning, the Navy Yard shooting, breaking new details from inside the military facility where gunshots rung out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He aimed his gun at us and then he fired at least two or three shots.

CUOMO: Twelve innocent victims killed, eight people injured, the shooter, dead. For several terrifying hours, a city on edge, gripped by fear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People were yelling close the doors, look the doors. We heard a very loud gunshot, very close by.

CUOMO: We're now learning much more about the lone gunman, his sketchy past and criminal record. What drove him to commit such an unthinkable act? And the victims, their names just released, family men and women, just doing their jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We lost friends, we lost family, and we lost co- workers.

CUOMO: We're live in our nation's capital this morning with all angles covered. Your NEW DAY starts right now.


CUOMO (on-camera): Good morning and welcome back to a special edition of NEW DAY. I am live in the nation's capital on this Wednesday, September 17th. And it is a somber morning, following a shooting rampage here at the Washington Navy Yard. This is a live look at the flag at half-staff at the White House and the capitol building, of course, honoring the 12 victims.

So many questions this morning surrounding the event. Most importantly, why did the shooter do it? How did he get access to this building? We'll take you through everything we know at this hour -- Kate.