Return to Transcripts main page


Forensics Teams at Navy Yard; Inside the Mind of Aaron Alexis; 12 Killed During Rampage; Interview with Dr. Janice Orlowski; Deadly Colorado Flooding; Bill Clinton Speaks Out On U.S.-Syria Policy

Aired September 17, 2013 - 08:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And then, devastation in Colorado.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's ruined. My basement's gone. Worst day of my life, by far.

BOLDUAN: Intense rescue operations still underway. Hundreds still stranded. With each day, the death toll climbs and more homes are lost to the raging waters.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): We're live in Washington and Colorado this morning.

Your NEW DAY starts right now.


CUOMO: Good morning, and welcome back to NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, September 17th, 8:00 in the East.

We are live from at the Washington Navy Yard, the site, of course, of that deadly shooting rampage yesterday. Twelve people killed, eight others injured.

We want to show you a look at the flags being at half-staff at the White House and the Capitol Building, honoring the lives lost.

Now, the more we learn, the more the question arises, why did the suspected shooter get military clearance as facts about his violent past keep coming out?


BOLDUAN: And we're also keeping an eye out west on the destruction in Colorado this morning. Towns still cut off by that enormous flooding. The death toll now at eight, and more than 600 people remain unaccounted for this morning. But is relief from the rain finally on the way?

We also want to show you some really amazing pictures -- stunning -- of the Costa Concordia, where crews were able to right the doomed cruise ship in a remarkable feat of engineering, the damage done to the ship 20 months ago. You can just see it. It's just incredible.

So, now what? We're going to take you there live.

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

CUOMO: All right, Kate.

To set the scene for you here, 24 hours, day-to-day operations at the Washington Navy Yard were interrupted in the worst possible way. Today, the installation is closed to all but essential personnel. Forensic teams are in there, looking for answers to Monday's deadly rampage.

Twelve people, civilians and contractors, killed at the start of the workday at the compound. Seven of them have been identified. They were mothers, fathers, grandparents, ranging in age from 46 to 73 years old. The rampage only came to an end when police, first responders went in and took down the shooter.

Authorities say that 34-year-old suspect acted alone. Now, initially, there were concerns that may be a second shooter. Those concerns now out of the equation.

The big question, of course, is why? Why was this done? The motive? But also, why was he allowed in, in the first place?

Four separate violent incidents that should have been flagged so that this man never, ever got military clearance.


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 three miles from the White House, two miles from the capitol.

POLICE SCANNER: 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 who the FBI identified as 34-year-old Aaron Alexis, an IT contractor and former Navy reservist. Alexis dies 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 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.

CUOMO: 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.

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

POLICE SCANNER: 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 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.

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 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 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 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. One by one, thousands of employees are allowed to leave their offices on the base, many spending hours hiding and waiting for the carnage to end, then cleared by police.


CUOMO: And the community here still very much rattled by what happened yesterday. Things certainly are not back to normal and won't be for some time.

But some context here, there have been search shootings in the past decade where ten or more people are killed. And often we're looking for a pattern to help understand and prevent them from going forward.

There's something very different in this situation, though. The suspect had military clearance. He was supposed to be vetted. He had a past that we're going to tell you about now that makes it very questionable how he got that. There's also a similarity that we're starting to see develop.

And I want to bring in Pamela brown here investment often in these shootings -- the mental health of the individual becomes relevant. And we're starting to see something now. It was slow, but we're starting to learn more about the shooter here. There are some issues that are coming up.

What do we know?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We're getting a fuller picture, Chris, that Alexis, in fact, did have a history of mental health issues. I've been speaking to law enforcement sources and we've learned that he has recently made contact with two Veterans Affairs hospitals for psychological issues, it's believed. Officials are still investigating the circumstances surrounding that.

And we've also learned that Alexis has had several run-ins with the law in the past year. So, of course, this raises questions, how did he pass two security clearances in the past year and what was his motive for carrying out the deadly shooting?


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.

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's incredible that 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, you know, 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. 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. And 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.


CUOMO: So, the obvious question here is how this man with this past got military clearance. We're still waiting to learn if there was any agenda involved, understanding of why he did this, his motive, and then, of course, the weapons. They're always a big topic of discussion in these shootings.

What do we know about access here? It's been fluid. It's been tough for them to figure out what happened in there. But what do we do now?

BROWN: Right. And as we speak, Chris, they're still trying to piece this all together. We know that there were three weapons recovered at the scene, officials trying to figure out what those weapons were and how he acquired them. It's believed that he walked in with at least one weapon, a shotgun that he purchased recently at a gun shop in Lorton, and now it's believed, Chris, that two pistols recovered at the scene might have perhaps been acquired from guards there at the building.

Law enforcement source says that Alexis rented and then returned an AR-15. We believe perhaps at a gun range. But there's questions about whether he was actually armed with an AR-15.

CUOMO: And, obviously, they're trying to figure this out, piece together his past as well as the crime scene.

Pamela Brown, I know you've been working it all morning and overnight. We'll get the answers when we get them. Thank you very much for that this morning.

Now, obviously, we have fascination about the shooter because we want to learn the motive and we want to understand what could have been done in this situation, what can be done going forward.

But, of course, our real focus, our respect and our point of emphasis is on the victims -- 12 people lost their lives for no good reason. The identities are coming out slowly. Respect for the family, processing of the scene, taking time. We now know seven of the identities involved.

They were civilians, contractors, nonmilitary members. They ranged in age from their 40s to 73 years of age.

We have CNN's Rene Marsh, joining us now with these people who lost their lives. The sound behind you is just typical Washington, D.C., you know, busy city moving, has nothing to do with the scene. But, Rene, thank you for joining us.

What do we know about the people who lost their lives?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have seven of the 12 victims named so far. But before you even get to the victims' names, I just got off the phone with someone who worked in that building where this all happened yesterday.

And, you know, we're talking about the victims who lost their lives. But then you also have the victims who survived this. Now they're waking up this morning and they tell me it's all starting to sink in. He seemed OK yesterday, but this morning, it's starting to sink in.

You know, the question he has this morning is, how do you go back to work? How do you go back to a place where you saw blood on the ground? How do you bring yourself to walk back into the doors?

So, that's what those people are dealing with, who survived this.

But back to the people who, unfortunately, lost their lives. Again, we have seven of the 12 names we're going to read to you seven of those names here.

Michael Arnold, 59. Sylvia Frasier, 53. Kathy Gaarde, 62. Kenneth Bernard Proctor, 46.

John Roger Johnson, 73. Frank Kohler, 50. Vishnu Pandit, 61. And Arthur Daniels, 51 years old.

And, of course, Chris, they will be honored today. Defense Secretary Hagel laying a wreath at the U.S. Navy Memorial.

CUOMO: And, you know, you make a very important point that often gets lost here. We get caught in the numbers very often in these stories. The people who lost their lives are the most obvious victims. People who are injured -- we're going talk to a doctor in a moment who is tending, dealing with those who are still wounded.

But there are a lot of types of injury. And even if it they don't show on the outside, it can be very difficult. That's why therapy is very important in time, right?

MARSH: Internal, internal. And that's what we're seeing those survivors dealing with the mental, the -- what they saw yesterday. People actually saw victims. People saw people lose their lives right in front of them. So, they're dealing with that.

CUOMO: Important point. Thank you for staying on this. This is the most important point in the history.

Rene Marsh, thank you very much. And as Rene was saying, people lost their lives but they're also injured. So, we want to bring in Dr. Janis Orlowski right now. She's helping to tend to some of those who were hurt. She's the chief medical officer of MedStar Washington Hospital here.

And we want to talk to you, Doctor? Can you hear us, Dr. Orlowski?


CUOMO: Good morning. Thank you for joining us.

What do we know about those who are still in the hospital?

ORLOWSKI: Well, I had the opportunity to visit the three victims who were brought to our hospital. And I'm very happy to say that they're doing well.

Their official status, the young woman who was shot in the head, we would have her status as good. She actually was viewed through the night. She has no further injuries and she is doing well.

The other two who underwent surgery are considered in fair condition. They are recovering from their surgery and from their wounds, and I would have to say both of them are very alert, very responsive, talking about their colleagues and I would say they're in fair and stable condition at this time.

CUOMO: We know that, first, these responders were injured in this as well. And you mentioned the head shot. Now, when people here, head shot, they get very concerned.

But this woman was very fortunate in a way, right?

ORLOWSKI: Unbelievable story. I had a chance to talk to this young woman. And she said that she actually had gotten underneath her desk and the shooter came by. And she held her hand up and actually had the tip of her finger and the bullet actually went into her scalp, right behind her right ear.

And thankfully, it sort of hit the bone and bounced off. She's an extremely lucky young lady.

She's terrified. She's had a horrific incident in her life, but she's recovering and she's doing very well. And I have to say she's also surrounded by a very loving family that's helping her.

CUOMO: And, obviously, she's lucky in the land of the unlucky, obviously, who have ever been caught up with this at all.

ORLOWSKI: That's right.

CUOMO: Is your understanding the same as what we're hearing, is that the first responders, while it took a while to get the shooter down, the response was really quick on the medical side as well and that made a difference? ORLOWSKI: I have to say, we received word from the scene. My impression was that they moved people very quickly. I also have to say that there's a story that the woman who was shot in the shoulder told me. She said after she was shot, two gentlemen helped her up to the roof and actually put pressure on her wound and tried to dress her wound.

So, not only first responders but victims who were part of the, you know, part of incident actually went to the aid of their colleagues in order to help out. So, just a terrific response from those that were around them as well as the first responders.

CUOMO: And, you know, doctor, as you know in your line of work and we see all the time in the worst situations, the best in people often come out. Thank you very much for sharing the information. Our hearts and our minds go out to those families, and hopefully, they have a quick and full recovery. Thank you for the information, Dr. Orlowski.

ORLOWSKI: Thank you. Thank you very much.

CUOMO: Kate, I want to go back to you in New York now. Now, we're going to keep pressing for answers, these questions about how this man got clearance, what his motive was, and what we're learning about the victims and those who survived. We'll give you all the latest when we get it.

BOLDUAN: As you always do appropriately keeping the focus, though, on the victims and their families as they're dealing with their forever change this morning. Thanks, Chris. We'll get right back to you.>

But let's move now to Colorado where floodwaters are receding in some areas, but the death toll, unfortunately, still seems to be rising. Flooding is now blamed for eight deaths. Now that it's finally stopped raining, rescue crews are searching for people who may still be stranded by the flood.

CNNs George Howell live in Longmont, Colorado where the sun is just beginning to come up. What are you seeing this morning, George?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, absolutely. The sun coming up. That's great news, because it gives us another day to dry out in this part of the country. I'm sure that you can see the river back there that's still rushing, but to put it in perspective, just a few days ago where I'm standing right now, I would have been in that river.

So, fair to say, the floodwaters are receding and the number unaccounted for is slowly, but surely going down.


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 happen 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 devastating community, residents in Longmont seeing their homes for the first time since Thursday, no longer habitable.

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

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

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They watched it float down the road. And our basement immediately started flooding at that time. And so, I just took my son and his friend, Wyatt and Cole, 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 MALE: 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 (on-camera): Keep this in mind, just the other day here in Boulder County, we know that some 250 people had to be rescued. But overall ,when you look at the entire situation here over the past five days, Kate, some 12,000 people, they were forced to evacuate from this. So, you know, a big, big event out here. And now, we see people starting to get to that recovery process.

BOLDUAN: A long, long road of recovery when you see the damage that those floodwaters have caused. George, thank you so much.

Let's get straight to Indra Petersons to see what Colorado is facing in terms of today and the flooding. Good morning, Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. Looks like they're getting a little bit of a breather today, and they needed again. Boulder, Colorado actually broke records for the amount of rainfall in one day for the month of September and the entire year. So, unbelievable amount of rain which received.

We're looking at dry air pushing into the region today, dry air that they need, keeping in mind that there is a storm behind it by Wednesday night and through Thursday. Another cold front expected a push through the area. We'll have another day of rain there. Behind that, the good news, it will dry up behind it.

The problem is they received so much rain. All that water needs to go somewhere. It looks like it's going through the South Platte River heading towards Nebraska. And as it does so, we'll start to see some moderate and even some major flooding by the weekend pushing in through Nebraska.

It looks like all that buildup from the debris could potentially cause even more flooding than just the water itself. That's something we'll be monitoring.

BOLDUAN: All right. We'll keep a close eye on it. Thank you so much, Indra. There is a lot of news developing at this very hour. So, let's get the update.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. We've got some headlines for you this hour. A man is now facing charges after police say he threw firecrackers toward the White House. He allegedly pulled this stunt near the North Lawn, causing quite a scare, while authorities worked to rule out a possible second suspect from the Navy Yard shootings, the White House is only a few miles from the Navy Yard.

Police are now searching for a teenage girl who was abducted early this morning during a home invasion. This happened in Ellenwood, Georgia, just outside Atlanta. The two suspects ran off with 14-year- old Iviani Hope Perez (ph). We have her picture here after demanding cash from a woman in the house and then fatally shooting the family dog.

Iviani has brown eyes and black hair. She's four feet, nine inches tall, weighing about 93 pounds. She was last seen wearing blue and gray star pajama bottoms and gray superhero shirt. Police say the suspects escaped in what they believe was a gray Dodge.

The case of former Penn State coach and convicted child molester, Jerry Sandusky, going before a Pennsylvania appeals court today. He's arguing he deserves a new trial because his defense team did not have enough time to prepare, and prosecutors should have told jury he did not testify. Sandusky is currently serving a sentence of at least 30 years.

Casey Anthony set to answer questions about her daughter's disappearance and death. Attorneys plan to depose her next month in a civil defamation suit. And they say since Anthony has already been acquitted of killing her daughter, she will have to answer their questions and cannot plead the fifth.

A Philadelphia woman was pulled off a flight to Miami after police say she threw her cell phone at a flight attendant. Sasha Anderson (ph) is also accused of slapping and scratching that attendant. She's facing charges, including simple assault and disorderly conduct. That US Airways flight did manage to make it to Florida, but they were an hour and a half behind schedule.

That's the kind of annoyance you don't want. Air travel these days is already complex enough. BOLDUAN: I know. But sad when half an hour behind schedule doesn't sound like a lot.

PEREIRA: I know. That's true.


BOLDUAN: All right. Thanks, Michaela.

PEREIRA: No problem.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, an exclusive talk with President Clinton. He's defending President Obama's approach to the civil war in Syria. Clinton sat down with CNNs Fareed Zakaria, and Fareed will be joining us live to talk about their wide-ranging conversation.

And also, (INAUDIBLE) Washington, how does D.C. shooting suspect, Aaron Hernandez (ph) get weapons into what is supposed to be a secure Navy Yard? We're going to discuss this with our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, coming up.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. President Obama calls him the secretary of explaining stuff. That's for sure. Now, former President Clinton is explaining the Obama administration's policy on Syria. Clinton sat down with CNNs Fareed Zakaria for an exclusive interview. They covered a whole range of topics from the economy to politics and the state of Democratic Party, even Hillary Clinton possibly in 2016.

Let's try to get to all of that. Fareed is joining us now with a little preview of the interview. Fareed, you really hit -- it was wide-ranging interview, an exclusive interview that you sat down with President Clinton and at a perfect time to get his take on President Obama's approach toward Syria. Obviously, we just get your take, but let's just listen to at least a little bit of what president Clinton had to say.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, there are some who say, well, you know, this gives the initiative to Putin. And who cares how it came up? John Kerry got asked, well, what can we do to stop you from bombing? And he said make the problem go away. So, Putin says, OK, I'll do that.

And, so, they say, well, this puts Russia in a position of leverage and it guarantees that Assad is going to be in power for a while longer. That's a separate issue, but there is inherent and enduring benefit in taking a step that has the potential to rid the world of these chemical weapons.


BOLDUAN: But it's sure proving to be a messy road, even with the news of the Russian foreign minister saying today that they can't agree to any agreement if the threat of force is on the table. What did you think of what Clinton had to say?

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, CNN'S "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: I think Clinton very smartly separated the two issues and said, look, there's an issue of Assad's survival and what happens to Assad. But if you take that out and you just look at the chemical weapons issue, we're getting a lot. We're getting the international community mobilized, we're getting the Russians to agree to try to pressure the Syrians.

We've got the Syrians to admit that they had weapons, which they never admitted in the first place. So, if you just ask yourself a few months ago, would you have been able to get all that done? It's unlikely, even with strikes, right, because the strikes don't actually destroy the chemical weapon sites, because you don't bomb chemical.

The separate issue is what happens to Assad. And Clinton recognized that that's a more difficult challenge, because in a strange way now, you need Assad to implement these accords and this cat and mouse game is just going to begin. But he did seem to think, Clinton did, that we're in a better place today than we were a month ago.

BOLDUAN: And a part of -- a big part of the debate in Washington is the president's kind of surprise move, announcing that he was going to seek Congressional authority for the use of force. And you even asked him about that. Let's listen to that part of the interview.


CLINTON: I think he believed that first there were partisan divisions in the Democratic Party and in the Republican Party. That is, he had strong support within the Republicans for doing something. Senator McCain, Senator Graham, some of the Iraq war veterans in the Republican House caucus and he knew he'd have some opposition in the Democratic Party.

I think after he saw the debate in the U.K., even though you might say -- well, that ought to frighten anybody off. You know, he had a parliamentary majority. Mr. Cameron did and couldn't deliver it. I think it made him think, you know, this is something the country ought to do together. We can't pretend that this is not important.


BOLDUAN: Can't pretend that it's not important, but is it necessary? Did he weigh in on that question? Was it necessary for Obama to get approval?

ZAKARIA: It was really interesting. He dodged that a little bit. And it's interesting because, of course, Bill Clinton as president ordered what is the closest parallel we can think of, which is a four- day strike against Iraq to try to, in short, to punish it on the issue of weapons of mass destruction and compliance.

He did not ask Congress -- Bill Clinton did not ask Congress for either authorization or approval. But I think he felt that the political circumstances were different for Obama. He put a fair amount of weight on the British issue, which was that prime Minister Cameron being rejected, repudiated by his own parliament. And the signal that it would have sent in that context for Obama not to have asked Congress.