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D.C. Shooter's Background Examined; Interview with Lt. Col. Rick Francona; Colorado Recovering from Massive Flooding; Search for Teen Abducted at Gunpoint; Leave the Gun at Home, Starbucks CEO Writes Open Letter to Gun Owners

Aired September 18, 2013 - 07:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome back to NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, September 18th, 7:00 in the east. And we have brand new information this morning on the Navy yard shooter. Police told the military about his mental health issues. Question, why wasn't something done sooner? Also new this morning, police dispatch calls from the shooting, painting a picture of fear and chaos. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have an officer down, building 197 on the third floor. There's also a female shot on the roof of building 1333, female on the roof.


CUOMO: We'll be covering all the angles on that story for you this morning.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Of course. We're also watching the dangerous and deadly floods in Colorado where evacuations are still ongoing even though the waters are receding in some areas. Thousands of people are now homeless. Meanwhile a neighboring state could be in danger at this point in morning. We'll tell you more about that.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: We also have a CNN exclusive for you today. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is asking gun owners don't bring your guns into our stores, police. Our Poppy Harlow sat down with the CEO and asked why he's coming out with his own stance on the gun control debate. We'll have that for you coming up.

BOLDUAN: First off this hour, we're learning more about the red flags that were missed by authorities before Aaron Alexis opened fire at the Washington Navy yard. It turns out that Navy officers knew about his 2004 arrest in Seattle for shooting the tires of a car and let him enlist anyway. Just last month, Aaron Alexis called police and told them that voices in the walls and ceilings were keeping him awake.

Let's get more on this. Let's go live to the Washington Navy yard where Pamela Brown has the latest on the investigation. Good morning, Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Kate. That's right. You look at the movements of Aaron Alexis in the months leading up to the shooting on Monday, and there are a number of red flags suggesting that he suffered from mental health issues. Yet nothing prevented him from walking into the building 197 on Monday, his security clearance was not taken away despite these issues. In fact we have learned that police notified the Navy about a troubling incident in August.


BROWN: This morning we're learning new details about how Aaron Alexis brought a gun on to the Washington Navy yard. A federal law enforcement official tells CNN that the gunman entered building 197 with a small bag that's believed to have carried a disassembled Remington 870 shotgun. He's then seen on surveillance video ducking into the bathroom with a bag and emerging seconds later with a gun. Moments later, he opens fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a report on the fourth floor, a male with a shotgun, multiple shots fired, multiple people down.

BROWN: As investigators continue pouring over Alexis's life, the trail of red flags leading to Monday's massacre is troubling. August 7th, he calls Rhode Island police, complaining of hearing voices coming through the walls of his hotel room. According to this police report, Alexis said those voices were sending vibrations into his body using some sort of microwave machine.

August 25, Alexis arrives in the Washington area where he contacts a VA hospital for a second time for sleep problems. September 14th, two days before the shooting, Alexis stops at this small arms range in Lorton, Virginia. An attorney for the gun range says Alexis practiced shooting, then paid $419 for a gun and two boxes of ammunition. And on Monday, he accessed a Navy yard with legitimate I.D. and proper security clearance.

SHAWN HENRY, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: In a case like this where you've got so many red flags over a protracted period of time, I mean, it almost seems this is the type of thing that was bound to happen.

BROWN: Even more troubling, Alexis's record while serving as a Navy reservist -- eight instances of misconduct including insubordination, disorderly contact, and unauthorized absences from work.

HENRY: It's easy now to look back and piece it together and say somebody should have known. If you look at it over a period of time, it's a little more challenging.

BROWN: He was honorably discharged in September 2011 and retained his Navy issued security clearance which is good for 10 years. The defense contractor he was working for is pointing the finger at the military for overlooking his misconduct as a civilian and curing his service. REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CHIEF OF U.S. NAVY SPOKESMAN: Look at the offenses while he was in the Navy, in uniform. None of those give you an indication he was capable of this sort of brutal, vicious violence.

BROWN: Investigators are now collecting evidence from multiple crime scenes, towing away his rental car, removing boxes of materials from his hotel room, interviewing family members in Brooklyn, all in hope of understanding why he did this.


BROWN: And Congress is now reacting to a report released yesterday by the defense department's inspector general. It released several security lapses at military installations, including at the Navy yard. It says that 52 convicted felons received routine, unauthorized access to military installations, and nine out of 10 installations allowed contractors people temporary access before background checks were completed. The report blames budget constraints and bureaucratic bungles for the security failures. But important to re-emphasize here that Aaron Alexis did have legitimate access into the Navy yard on Monday.

The administration is launching three investigations, looking at security at military installations worldwide and looking at standards for federal contractors and employees in the wake of the shooting. Back to you.

CUOMO: Pamela Brown, thank you for the reporting.

Also new this morning, we're getting a glimpse into the chaos from first responders. Remember, the rampage lasted two hours, and police dispatch recordings reveal the moments immediately after the shootings. We're also learning more about the people who matter the most. The 12 men and women lost in Monday's shooting, the lives they lived and loved ones they leave behind. CNN's Rene Marsh joins now. Good morning, Rene.

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning Chris. This morning we're going to put the faces to the names of those 12 victims who lost their lives, and also new audio from first responders you are about to hear. It takes us into the moment they got on the scene at the height of this massacre.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, police confirm five people shot.

MARSH: Dramatic new audio from police dispatch as the massacre unfolded at the Navy yard Monday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have an officer down, building 197 on the third floor. Also, a female shot on the roof of building 1333, female on the roof.

MARSH: Victims found one by one as first responders rush to the scene. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All units in the main triage group need to move west. The ambulance is in line, need to move west away out of the line of fire.

MARSH: Police flood the compound in fear there might be more than one gunman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're doing a sweep of the building, for security. We still have a second suspect possibly in, so the scene is not secure.

MARSH: Law enforcement later confirming there was no additional shooter.

Two days later, just miles from the site of Monday's shooting rampage, Washington pays tribute to the 12 lives cut short, 12 families forever changed by this senseless tragedy. Kathy Gaarde remembered for her selfless devotion to her 94-year-old mother who died last year.

JESSICA GAARDE, DAUGHTER OF KATHY GAARDE: She was so caring, and she would do anything for anyone she loved.

MARSH: Richard Michael Ridgell served three years as a contract security worker in Iraq. He is survived by three daughters.

MEGAN RIDGELL, DAUGHTER OF RICHARD MICHAEL RIDGELL: I want him to be known as a dad above a victim of a shooting because he was a great dad for all of us.

MARSH: Martin Bodrog graduated from the naval academy and was a decorated officer.

RON EARLEY, NEIGHBOR OF MARTIN BODROG: My knees just got weak, you know. Everything about Marty, just a great guy, you know, wonderful husband, father.

MARSH: Michael Arnold, Frank Kohler, Vishnu Pandit, Mary Francis Knight, Arthur Daniels, Sylvia Frasier, Gerald L. Read, and Kenneth Bernard Proctor, all victims of this inexplicable tragedy.


MARSH: All right, well, three people were shot but they survived. We can tell you this morning that only two of the three remain in the hospital. Kate?

BOLDUAN: All right, Rene, thank you so much for that.

So why was Aaron Alexis granted security clearance to work at the Washington Navy yard despite his arrest record? That's, of course, an ongoing question. And how do we make sure this doesn't happen again? How can we make sure of that? Joining me to discuss this is CNN military analyst Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, a former intelligence agency officer who also served with the CIA. It's great to see you. I know a lot of these questions are unanswerable at the moment because there are reviews underway. But it does need to be discussed. You said you were surprised that he was granted security clearance with that kind of police record. What do you think should have been flagged?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET): These arrest records, anytime you have security clearance someone comes to interview you. The first thing they ask you, what's your arrest record, and then they check that out. And normally a pattern of arrests for this kind of behavior would be instantly a disapproval. So I was shocked when I heard about the arrest for the use of firearms. That's a nonstarter.

BOLDUAN: What do you make of this most recent incident in the August that we've been talking about a lot this morning, that Aaron Alexis told police that he had voices in his head, that he was being followed, the microwaves in the room? Clearly he was disturbed. He alerted police and police alerted the Navy. But his access was still not revoked.

FRANCONA: This is a problem. This has been an ongoing thing for years. Anytime you talk about mental health, that always raises flags but also raises cautions, because if you as a security officer, you as a supervisor, bring this to the attention of the security people, then they refer him to a mental health review. And that for several career fields is a career-ending event. If you're an intelligence officer, your career pretty much is over as soon as the mental health people get involved.

BOLDUAN: So is this going to come down to, the system is broken, bureaucratic red tape, or did someone drop the wall?

FRANCONA: I think it's all of those. But there's a systemic problem, anytime you mention mental health, there's a taboo, we don't want to go there, because it brings up all of the things we don't want to talk about. So the system is broken, yes, but I don't know if there's an instant fix.

BOLDUAN: Now it seems there is a trend throughout all of these occurrences, that what he did and how it was handled fell just below the need for review or the need for someone to step in. What do you make of that?

FRANCONA: Yes, and I looked at his -- the eight instances of misconduct while he was in the Navy, those were all handled non- judicial punishment. And this is more corrective action than punishment. And it's to try and get a sailor back on the right path. I understand that. But after a pattern of eight of these, you have to wonder, what was he still doing in the Navy? I think they removed him from the Navy. But that didn't seem to carry over to the security people who were doing his clearance for that job. They should have had those records.

BOLDUAN: In the president's ordered review of how vetting of contractors is done, clearly there's a long process going forward. We'll talk to a senator about this later. Is there one thing that you think should or can be done to at least begin to fix the system?

FRANCONA: They need to hire more investigators and they need to bring this back to professional investigators. Right now all these clearances are done by contractors. I just recently had my security review and it was done by a contractor. I would prefer, you know, we had defense or federal agency people with badges conduct reviews because they're part of the government. They're not contractors. They're not there for the profit.

BOLDUAN: The difference between government handling versus private contractors, which they're largely firmed out to, for background checks at this point.

FRANCONA: Exactly.

BOLDUAN: Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, thank you so much, and I'm sure we'll be talking to you much more ahead.

Later this hour, we'll speak with a woman who came face to face with a gunman and had to hide under her desk. We'll hear her really harrowing story.

CUOMO: All right, we turn to Colorado now where better weather is finally allowing emergency crews to evacuate, more towns cut off for days by the flooding there. Hundreds of people, though, still unaccounted for. That said, there's a bright spot. The number of unaccounted is coming down. CNN's George Howell is live in Longmont, Colorado. Good morning, George.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, good morning. And just as sure as this river is receding, that number has dropped dramatically, now down to 306 people unaccounted for. And officials hope as we get light of day, more people will be found.


HOWELL: Rescue efforts continue in Colorado as crews remain on the lookout for survivors still stranded in remote areas, cut off after days of deadly flooding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have a white cross on the ground.

HOWELL: A white cross signals for help as these people are air lifted to safety near Fort Carson, just one of hundreds of dramatic rescues throughout the state.

SHERIFF JUSTIN SMITH, LARIMER COUNTY CEO: I expected to see a lot more frustration and feel it with folks. Overall it was just amazing. It spoke to the spirit of the folks that live here.

HOWELL: FEMA task force teams go door to door in search of residents refusing to leave their homes, warning them of the continued risk of rising floodwaters. Some 12,000 people so far have been evacuated to shelters. For those returning to their homes for the first time, many find no house to call home. In Larimer County alone, officials estimate 1,500 homes have been destroyed, with another 4,500 damaged, cleanup becoming an increasingly daunting task.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was overwhelming, really. I didn't realize floods brought in a ton of mud. It just ruined everything.

HOWELL: In Boulder, homeowner Michael Birdsong and his neighbors built a homemade levee to protect his house, but it was no match for Mother Nature.

MICHAEL BIRDSONG, RESIDENT, BOULDER, COLORADO: My basement filled with five feet of water in the first 20 minutes. That was a wall of water, this could have kept out but we didn't know.

HOWELL: Faced with the reality of having to rebuild their wrecked homes, residents are finally coming to grips with the price of the devastating damage.

If you were to put a dollar estimate on this, what would you think?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're already planning for probably about $50,000, $60,000 to get it all redone.


HOWELL: So, look, when you drive around here, you see businesses that have a lot of damage. You go to the residential areas, there's damage. Do keep in mind, FEMA is here. They are helping people with temporary housing and grants, Kate, to help people rebuild after a difficult, difficult six days.

BOLDUAN: Difficult is almost an understatement when you see the images of what they're dealing with. George, thanks so much for the update.

Let's go to Georgia now where a frantic manhunt is under way. Police have released sketches of two men they say broke into a home and abducted a 14-year-old girl at gunpoint right in front of her mother and brother. The FBI joined the search for the girl, believed to be in extreme danger this morning. Martin Savidge is at the CNN center in Atlanta with more on this. Good morning, Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. It's been a difficult night again for the Ellenwood area, that's the neighborhood in which this young girl was taken. It's a home invasion that has just shocked the entire neighborhood there. The FBI is leading the investigation. They say they have leads they're following up on. Meanwhile in that community they're relying on two things, law enforcement and their faith.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the name of Jesus we pray to you.

SAVIDGE: Friends and classmates pray for the safe return of Ayvani Hope Perez as a frantic search for the kidnapped teen continued throughout the night. Fourteenyear-old Perez was violently taken from her suburban Atlanta home in the middle of the night.

PHONG NGUYEN, CLAYTON COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: They pried the back door and entered the residence.

SAVIDGE: Police say the men forced her way inside and Perez's mother did what she could to spare her two teens.

NGUYEN: She tried to hide the kids, the dog was barking and these suspects shot the dog.

SAVIDGE: : The man demanded money and jewelry. When the mother said she didn't have either, authorities say the suspects grabbed Ayvani and fled in a dark blue or gray car. Now, helicopters hover overhead. Investigation trucks patrol usually quiet streets. And neighbors are shocked.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It doesn't make sense to me at all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just hope they don't do nothing to her.

SAVIDGE: A suburban sense of security has been shattered, thanks to a new and unexpected resident, fear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We thought we lived in a safe neighborhood. Now we're not sure what's going on here.


SAVIDGE: A lot of people have asked us about the dog that was shot inside of the house. It actually was taken to a veterinarian and is recovering. The hope is that soon they will get this young teenager back. They will work diligently throughout the day. We'll update you when we have information.

BOLDUAN: The more time that passes, it seems the more danger she's in. Martin, thank you so much for that.

CUOMO: We're following a lot of other stories this morning. Let's get to Michaela for the latest.

PEREIRA: Right, here's your healines at this hour, thank you, making news. Benghazi back in the spotlight with two House hearings this week on the deadly consulate attack. Patrick Kennedy, undersecretary of state for management, goes before the Foreign Affairs Committee today. Republicans are demanding accountability for the attack, in which four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stephens died on September 11th of last year.

President Obama speaking out on Syria. In an interview with Telemundo, the president says he believes Syria would be better off without Bashar al-Assad at the help, but the president says dismantling Syria's chemical weapons program remains his top priority. He believes the conclusions reached by U.N. weapons inspectors have changed the way other countries see the situation they're in Syria.

New hope to solve some cold cases in Oklahoma, the remains of six bodies found in two cars pulled out of Foss Lake, each vehicle covered in rust and silt. Families have been searching for missing loved ones for more than 40 years showing up at that lake in Custer County to see if they recognize those behicles. The cars were found by accident as police tested new sonar equipment.

A fire at the fuel pumps at Boston's Logan Airport, thick, black smoke sent billowing in the air, forcing some international flights to make stops elsewhere to refuel. The airport's underground fuel system was temporarily taken off-line as a precaution. The fire was under control in about a half hour. No delays, major delays at least, were reported.

We'll show you video out of Australia that will likely make your heart stop. A 20-year-old man lucky to be alive after pushing through closed pedestrian gates and crossing the train tracks a split second before the train speeds past. The train hit his leg and he was sent to the hospital, but it could have been a very, very different outcome if he had been walking a touch slower. The lucky young man says he was too into his music to notice the train. Certainly, a cautionary tale to be sure.

A lot of these -- around the world there are crossings -- well, I was going to say crossings that wasn't marked -- it was marked. He pushed past it. He pushed past the area where he wasn't supposed to be.

BOLDUAN: How are you -- That music must have been really loud to not hear an oncoming train.

PEREIRA: You can get really sucked into your music, but that's no excuse there, especially if you knoow you're crossing at a dangerous crossing like that.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Michaela.

CUOMO: Too true. All right, let's get to Indra right now. She's watching the forecast for us. What do we know, Indra?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I know it is the last week of summer and temperatures are freezing, literally, out there. Frost warnings, freeze warnings out there, all thanks to this cold, arctic air coming down from Canada. A cool start to the morning.

The good news we want to see how warm we can get for the last little bit of summer we have left. It doesn't look like it will warm up too much. We see the temperatures rise as we get closer to the weekend. New York average about 75. We get to 78. Warmer in D.C., we will start to see some 80s by Friday. We'll see a cold front swing through and bring rain.

It is that cold front that's all the way in the pacific northwest. We'll monitor this closely. It's expected to go through Colorado today. We are going to be looking for that potential again for a hint of rain, not expected to see much but any rain that does fall in the region is something we'll monitor at this time.

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much, Indra. Coming up next on NEW DAY, a CNN exclusive, the CEO of Starbucks is taking a stand. Why he's asking customers to not bring their guns into his stores, but he's also not putting an official ban in place. We'll hear from him, coming up next.

CUOMO: The spotlight is back on the dangers of football after a high school player dies from injuries sustain on the field. Parents are demanding that they try and do something to help. We'll bring in chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who will talk to us about what football can do to the body.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. A CNN exclusive for you. Guns are not banned in Starbucks but the CEO is taking a stand and asking gun owners to keep their weapons put away. Howard Schultz will make his case in an open letter in newspapers, that's tomorrow, but he gave his first TV interview on this topic to our very own Poppy Harlow who is joining us now with more on this.

It's interesting how Starbucks got roped into this debate, but what is he saying now?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. That's exactly how they put it. Good morning, Kate. Starbucks says they have been thrust unwillingly into the middle of the gun debate. The CEO, Howard Schultz, a very well-known CEO, is now speaking out publicly for the first time, giving his stance on guns.

In this open letter that you will see in your newspaper likely tomorrow morning, it will be in newspapers across the country, he says guns are no longer welcome at Starbucks. Forty-three states in this country have open carry law. That's what Starbucks has followed. If you can legally have a gun in your state, you can have it in Starbucks. Howard Schultz is saying please don't bring it into Starbucks. He's not banning it but he makes this request.

In part he writes in this letter, quote, "Pro-gun activists have used our stores as a political stage for media events misleadingly called "Starbucks Appreciation Day" that disingenuously portrays Starbucks has a champion of open carry. To be clear, we do not want these events in our stores."

I talked about this in detail with Howard Schultz. Take a listen to what he said.


HOWARD SCHULTZ, CEO, STARBUCKS: I think it's very important just to start the conversation by framing the fact that Starbucks is not a policymaker, and in fact we're not pro or anti-gun. However, we do believe that guns should not be part of the Starbucks experience. As a result of that, making that decision, we are respectfully requesting that those customers who are carrying a gun just honor the request and not bring the gun into Starbucks. We're also saying something else. This is not a ban. And the reason it's not a ban is that we don't want to put our own people in a position of having to confront somebody who is carrying a weapon. Those customers who will bring in the gun, we hope they won't, we're still going to serve them, we're not going to ask them to leave.


HARLOW: So a request, not a ban. I think we have to see how this plays out, Kate, in the stores.

BOLDUAN: Other companies have similar policy. It just seems --

HARLOW: Most companies.

BOLDUAN: -- he's making. Right. He's the one -- this company is the one making headlines. What if -- did you ask him what will happen if people do not respect the request he's making, will he move towards a ban?

HARLOW: I asked him that. That's a big question, why didn't you ban it if you feel this way? He said at this point this is our stance, and he didn't say whether or not they will move towards a ban, but I think we have to see if people do request this.

I will say, this is not the first time Starbucks has thrown itself in the middle of a very controversial social issue. They came out vocally in support of gay marriage. They recently this year banned smoking outside of their stores. Howard Schultz personally called on all Americans not to donate to political campaigns until Washington got its act together and got our fiscal house in order. This is yet again, this CEO stepping into a controversial topic, but a topic they've been thrust into, this gun debate.

BOLDUAN: I wonder if that's part of it, that this is a company, this is a CEO, that has been out there talking about social issues, political issues and so he's getting pulled into this one. I think it's fascinating. Poppy, thanks so much. Great interview. We'll see much more of that.

CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, we have one of the survivors from the Navy yard shooting. She's with us here this morning. She got too close to the shooter. She literally was able to look into his eyes. She's here today, on the rebound and you'll want to hear her story.

BOLDUAN: Another story that we're going to bring to you a little later: a teenage football star dies three days after a pretty violent helmet-to-helmet hit on the field. What parents need to know before they let their kids get on the field. Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been looking into this for a very long time. He'll come on to explain.