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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Shooting at LAX; Shooter Wounded, Taken to Hospital; TSA: Multiple Agents Shot, 1 Killed at LAX
Aired November 1, 2013 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.
We're continuing CNN's breaking news coverage of the shooting at Los Angeles International Airport at roughly 9:20 a.m. Pacific time, 12:20 here on the East Coast.
Air traffic at LAX, one of the biggest airports in the nation is at a crawl this hour after a gunman opened fire in terminal three. He unleashed chaos inside. The Transportation Security Administration now confirms that one of its agents was killed in the shooting. And other TSA employees were injured.
Police list a total of seven people wounded. It's unclear exactly how that breaks down. The gunman is believed to have acted alone, according to LAPD. According to police, this individual, the suspect, pulled an assault rifle out of his bag. That's the words of the police, assault rifle, and he opened fire. He charged back into the screening area and walked well inside the airport terminal before security ultimately caught up with him.
An intelligence officer briefed by the LAPD says the gunman was shot in the chest multiple times. Now that shooter is said to be in custody. Two sources now tell CNN that the shooter is not, repeat, not a current or former TSA officer, despite reports from other media.
Airport officials say LAX is technically still open, but it's only accepting flights at less than half the normal rate. Any flight coming out of LAX or through LAX will be significantly late. Officials are hoping passengers just stay away from the airport at this point, at least for the rest of the afternoon.
As for the passengers already inside terminal three, many are trapped for now in other terminals. They will all have to be rescreened before being allowed to leave.
We want to bring you the very latest now live from the scene.
Let's go right to CNN's Stephanie Elam, who is standing by outside LAX.
Stephanie Elam, what's the latest there?
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, it is still a place of a little bit of chaos, a little bit of fear as patients -- not patients, but as travelers are starting to feel better about things. We still people in their uniforms, men in uniform, women in uniform, with their guns walking around with them exposed. That said, they do believe that the shooter was acting alone. Also, as you look around at the other terminals around here, just hundreds of people just standing there, sitting in chairs.
They are able to get into some of the other terminals as they figure out what they're going to do. As I got to the terminal today, I actually walked here from off of the streets. Century Boulevard is a major artery into the airport. That's completely closed still. And so people were having to make their way around it. I encountered a few people who had landed here at LAX and they were allowed to get off of their planes.
The ones who had their bags with them, they were fine. They just kept making their way out into the hot Southern California sun. Lots of people sweating, lugging their luggage off the property here. That's what they were just trying to get away as best they could, hoping they will be able to find a cab further away.
Other people are just waiting here to see what happens, but they are making it very clear that they do want travelers to get away from the airport, to try to book their travel for another day because they're saying it's going to be hours, Jake, before this airport is reopened.
And a lot of the terminal space around here is still just blocked by police cars. There's a lot of news vans. It would be very difficult to open back up the terminal at this point. So it's still very much feeling like a lockdown area and on top of it, they are very, very extra heavy on security. Even with my badge and credentials visible, they are still asking me several times. They're not taking any chances at this point -- Jake.
TAPPER: Stephanie, thanks so much.
Details are coming in about what happened leading up to the shooting at LAX.
CNN's Deborah Feyerick has been tracking down her sources and joins us live from New York with some new information.
Deborah, what can you tell us?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: OK.
We want to paint a picture of exactly what happened for you. Apparently, this gunman approached the screeners. He pulled out what police say was an assault rifle from a bag. The weapon had been concealed. He walked over to the screeners. And that's when he opened fire. Now, we are told that he shot one fatally and then another was injured in the leg. TSA has now confirmed that others were injured, but it's not clear whether in fact they were injured in the pandemonium.
Now, Jake, before, you just held up a shot of LAX, and you can see it's sort of shaped almost like I guess a long lollipop. We are now being told that the shooter was able to breach the security checkpoint and then he was able to run all the way down that long jetway basically to that circular area. And that's when LAPD and LAX police officers confronted him and an LAPD officer was able to shoot him multiple times center mass. That means right in the chest.
And they were able to take him down and stop the rampage from continuing. Now, we are told that he was wearing sort of camouflage. He was wearing a gray kind of camouflage gear. He also had multiple magazines for this assault rifle, we're told by a source. He had one that was actually in the firearm and he had two in clothing that he was wearing.
He was taken to a local hospital. He is being treated -- excuse me -- doctors have said that there is one person in critical, others in serious condition. The nature of his injuries, shot several times right in the chest. We're trying to get an update right now. We are being told also that ATF is going to be tracing the gun to see how it was purchased, when it was purchased along with those magazines to see when he came into possession of those as well.
They have not yet released any identity on the gunman, but one TSA agent killed, another shot in the leg that we know, others injured, but we don't know the kinds of injuries they sustained, and right now, a lot of witnesses who saw this shooting, who saw him run down that jetway, they are being questioned. Surveillance video is being pulled to see how he got in and where he went.
So, right now, a very active investigation as they try to determine who this man is and what specifically he was doing -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Deborah Feyerick, thanks so much. We will come back to you when you have more information. We appreciate it.
We are seeing pictures right now of passengers walking en masse from the airport, a calm scene that's not anything like how witnesses are describing what happened when the shooting was actually happening. Witnesses are using words such as panic and mayhem to describe the scene moments after the shooting.
Now I want to bring in witness Vernon Cardenas. He's an L.A.-based chef. He was at the airport when this all went down and he joins us by phone.
Vernon, we're so glad that you're OK. Tell us what you saw.
VERNON CARDENAS, WITNESS: Pretty much, I don't know, we were just sitting in our terminal and, you know, normal day as usual. Flight's delayed and all of a sudden, we hear like some commotion and before you know it, people are like running right past us, but the weird thing is, we're at the end of the terminal, the gate 33-B, so it wasn't like they had anywhere to run.
So it quickly filled up in our terminal at the end of the terminal, and then that's when we heard a couple of pops and somebody just kicked open the only exit door there was, which led down to the tarmac, and people started running on to the tarmac downstairs. TAPPER: And they were running from where, from the security checkpoint into that area?
CARDENAS: Yes, from the center -- the terminal is sort of like, if you could picture like a spider with legs, and we were at the end of one of those wings. So all the commotion came from the middle and people were running towards us, towards the dead end.
TAPPER: You saw the shooter?
CARDENAS: Yes, I did, actually.
TAPPER: When did you see him?
CARDENAS: It was near the end, because all the commotion was going on. People were like going out the door and I was next to the door, but I didn't want to quite go out because my bag, I left my bag, you know, where I was sitting and I wanted to keep an eye on it. So I was, you know, looking around, making sure I was safe, but at the same time, keeping an eye.
And then as everybody's going out, it started emptying out and before you know it, it was me and another guy with a blue shirt were the only two people left in there, and then that's when I saw him walking in the middle of the -- like the center part of the terminal. At first I didn't see a rifle.
I saw him holding something, but right when I first saw him, he walked behind like some kind of advertising billboard in the middle of the room and then when he walked out from behind it, that's when I saw the rifle.
TAPPER: And do you know guns at all? Do you know what kind of gun it was?
CARDENAS: You know what, it's like a -- you know, the guy I was talking earlier said he thought it was a shotgun, but he didn't see it. I think he heard.
But I saw it and it had a narrow -- you know, narrow nozzle which is not, you know, a shotgun.
TAPPER: So it was a long gun, though, perhaps a semiautomatic rifle of some sort?
CARDENAS: Yes. That's what it seemed like.
TAPPER: And what did he look like and how was he dressed?
CARDENAS: He was dressed -- he was dressed in like Navy blue dark clothing. It almost looked like he was an employee of the airport.
And then -- and then, you know, he was a tall white guy, dirty blond hair, but more darker. And he pretty caught eye -- he was like around 50 to 75 yards away from me, and it was just me and this other guy with the blue shirt. And once I didn't feel I was in immediate danger because he wasn't pointing the gun, he was just walking around sort of dazed, but then once we sort of looked into -- you know, he looked in our direction, and that's when I just left.
I didn't want to stick around after that.
TAPPER: How soon after you saw him did you realize that he was the shooter, that he was a bad guy?
CARDENAS: You know what? As soon as I saw, I thought so, because, I mean, he wasn't running around with a sense of urgency like a police officer would be.
He was just roaming, and the terminal was empty so it wasn't like -- if he was searching, he probably would have been running some place.
TAPPER: Was he clean-cut? How old do you think he was?
CARDENAS: You know, my guesstimation, because I was 50 to 75 yards, like I said, he looked like anywhere between 21 to 28 years old. I mean, he didn't seem too old.
TAPPER: Did you -- did your eyes meet at all? Or did he just look in your direction and you scooted out the door?
I mean, just too far to see if we got eye contact, but, yes, he looked in our direction, and me and the guy with the blue shirt who was, you know, looking for his wife and children, we just went out real quick. But, I mean...
TAPPER: Did he approach anyone? Did he look like he was out to kill a lot of people?
CARDENAS: No, that's the thing. He was just roaming around. If he was like looking to kill, as soon as he looked in our direction, he would have raised the gun, and it didn't look like he raised the gun.
TAPPER: And after you went outside, apparently, he was shot. And I don't -- I'm not sure of the status of him right now. After you went outside, did you hear any more gunfire?
CARDENAS: No, not outside. But, you know, yes, we were out on the tarmac, so we couldn't hear anything.
TAPPER: Oh, Vernon, we are so glad that you're OK. That must have been terrifying. You sound quite calm.
CARDENAS: Yes. Yes, it was a pretty weird situation.
TAPPER: All right. Vernon Cardenas, I guess you're not going to be able to get to Philadelphia necessarily any time soon. I know you want to audition for "Master Chef."
CARDENAS: Yes. Well, I work for the TV show and I'm auditioning people. So, they're going to try to get me out there either way. TAPPER: All right. Thank you so much, Vernon Cardenas. We appreciate it. And we're so glad that you're OK.
CARDENAS: All right. Thank you so much, man. Have a good day.
TAPPER: You, too. Bye-bye.
CARDENAS: OK. Bye-bye.
TAPPER: You're now looking at live pictures from LAX of law enforcement around terminal three courtesy of KCAL, KCBS in Los Angeles.
We are going to get in a quick break here and then we will pick up our breaking news coverage right after that. We are getting some new information on a possible motive for the shooting. And I will talk to a former FBI agent about the investigation coming back in just a couple minutes.
TAPPER: We're back with CNN's breaking coverage of the shooting at LAX. You're looking at live shots from KTLA of passengers and some law enforcement outside terminal three at LAX, where there was a shooting earlier today.
Just to catch you up -- at roughly 9:20 a.m. Pacific Time, 12:20 a.m. here on the East Coast, a shooter shot a TSA guard, TSA agent, then went through the terminal. He ultimately was shot as well. Police say that he is in custody. We're not sure about how he is doing. Seven other individuals were wounded at least, according to law enforcement officials.
I want to now go to senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen for the latest on the condition of individuals.
Elizabeth, we know from Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center that three individuals were admitted there. What do we know about them and what do we know about the other wounded?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Those three who are at UCLA Ronald Reagan, there are two who are in fair condition, excuse me, and one in critical condition. And all we know about these patients, Jake, is that they're adult males. That's all we know. One in critical, two in fair. And they did note the patients in fair condition usually go home within a day or two, so it seems like those injuries really aren't terribly severe.
Now, as you noted, three were sent -- three patients were sent to other area hospitals. We don't know anything about those patients right now.
TAPPER: And we were told from law enforcement officials, Deb Feyerick was, that the shooter was shot multiple times in the chest by law enforcement. Presumably if he is still alive, he would be in critical condition but we have not yet heard any official notification about where the shooter is. Is that right?
COHEN: Right, Jake. That's true. So it is possible that the shooter is the critical condition patient at UCLA Ronald Reagan. It's also possible that it's not him and it's someone else. But yes, someone who was shot multiple times in the chest would very likely be in critical condition.
TAPPER: All right. Elizabeth, we'll come back to you when you have more information about the wounded. Thank you so much. We appreciate it.
We're going to go to Deb Feyerick now who's in New York. She has been calling all her sources getting information about the shooting.
Deb, what is the latest?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we can tell you, there's now a photograph that is coming out of both the firearm that was used by the shooter as well as what's believed to be an item of his clothing. You can see it right there. That is the assault rifle that the shooter allegedly used. Next to it you can see a magazine. There was one magazine that was actually in the gun. There were two taken from his clothing as well.
He was wearing gray camouflage. He made it deep into the terminal, that's according to the police chief, who responded to that. He made it deep into the terminal and that's when officers from the LAPD and LAX responded. One LAPD officer opening fire.
You can see the heavy police presence there. They had to make sure that he acted alone because they just weren't sure. It all happened so fast that they had to check other terminals.
But you can imagine that an area that was so secure all of a sudden there was just total pandemonium that ensued. They clearly have that firearm. I am told that the ATF, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, they are going to be running a trace on that weapon to see where it was purchased and when -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Deb, thanks so much.
I want to bring in two individuals I have in the studio here with me.
Tom Fuentes, CNN law enforcement analyst and former FBI associate director, I believe? Assistant director, I apologize.
And Mary Ellen O'Toole, former senior FBI profiler and former FBI special agent.
Thank you both for being here.
First, I'm sorry to even put you on the spot. Can you tell from this angle what kind of gun that is? What kind of semi -- it looks like a semiautomatic rifle of some sort.
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, the monitor is a little small. Can't quite make it out.
FOREMAN: All right. I apologize for putting you on the spot like that.
Tell us -- the FBI obviously involved in the investigation here. What is the FBI likely doing right now?
FUENTES: Right now, they're trying to find out everything they can about the shooter -- his identity, friends, associates, co-workers, family members, anybody that could shed some light on what the motivation was for doing this, whether or not he sent out e-mails or text messages to others saying he was going to do it and why. And whether he might have been involved or had help from other people.
So they're trying to piece everything together about that person from e-mail records, from phone records, business records, credit card records -- everything that they can get as soon as they can get it to try to assess the motivation here, which would then play into Mary Ellen's specialty about why he would do it.
TAPPER: What kind of motivations would law enforcement be looking at right now? What would they be trying to figure out?
MARY ELLEN O'TOOLE, FORMER SR. FBI PROFILER: Well, motivations could be multiple and usually with a case like this, they are most often, it's not just a singularly motivated crime. So, it could have included targeted victims. He could have had someone that he was angry with, a former boss, a spouse, a girlfriend.
Usually, however, these individuals, of course they don't snap and they don't develop this global hatred of the world where I'm going to take a gun to LAX and start shooting. This behavior evolves over time. So, the motivation could be personal in one way but again, it takes time to develop the idea that this is the way for me to handle my problems, it's appropriate, it will work very efficiently and I'm very comfortable with it.
And unfortunately, when people get to this point in their thinking, all those people at LAX were more than likely viewed by him as objects. He really couldn't control how many he killed. It probably didn't matter if he killed as many as he could.
TAPPER: Although you heard an eyewitness we just interviewed him earlier, who was one of the last people to see the shooter before the shooter himself was taken down by law enforcement, and he said he and another gentleman who were there to get a plane were standing by an exit and they saw him, the shooter, about 50 or 75 yards away. He saw them, could have shot them if he had wanted to but didn't make a motion to do that. They skedaddled before he could do anything.
But he -- this witness said very clearly he didn't seem to be just trying out to kill as many -- trying to kill as many people as possible. Does that jibe with what you've seen before?
O'TOOLE: It does. They don't have to annihilate everyone but they know that they have only a small amount of time before law enforcement is going to intervene. If they wanted to shoot just one person because they had a personal vendetta with them, they could choose a non-public place to do it.
This individual chose a public place to do it. There was going to be collateral damage and that was OK with him. And that's what I'm referring to is that if there were other people injured or killed on top of the targeted victim, if there was a targeted victim, he was going to be OK with that.
TAPPER: All right. We will take a very, very quick break. Stick around, Mary Ellen and Tom. We're going to keep talking to you in a second. We've got to get this commercial in. We're getting some new information on the shooter's motive. And we'll have that next.
Stay with us for our breaking news coverage of the shooting at LAX.
TAPPER: Welcome to CNN's breaking coverage of the shooting at LAX, Los Angeles International Airport.
At roughly 9:20 this morning, Pacific Time, 12:20 here on the East Coast, a shooter shot and killed a TSA agent, got through and was walking through the terminal when a law enforcement officer shot him in the chest. There you can see the semiautomatic rifle that is believed to have been his weapon, the shooter's weapon. There's more law enforcement inside the terminal.
President Obama asked about this just minutes ago said that he is concerned about the shooting, he's been getting updates from local authorities.
You can see right now that is a shot from KABC outside Los Angeles International Airport, which is just a mess right now in terms of traffic and no one being able to get in and only being able to get out on foot.
I want to now bring in Shawn Henry. He's the former executive assistant director for the FBI and president of CrowdStrike, which provides security technology services.
Sean, thanks so much for talking to us.
Last time we spoke, it was during the navy yard shooting. We have been talking here with two other former FBI officials about possible reasons why this might have happened. It was raised perhaps the shooter was targeting a specific individual.
Shawn, is it also possible the shooter may have been targeting the TSA in general?
SHAWN HENRY, CROWDSTRIKE: Yes, you know, Jake, the police go through a very methodical process when there's an incident like this. First, they want to make sure they mitigate the threat and ID some of the co- conspirator. And now, in trying to piece this together, that's absolutely the question they're going to be asking is, what's the motivation?
You'll typically go through a list. I think terrorism has been ruled out, at least initially, based on the incident here. This doesn't seem to be a disgruntled employee, having no prior history of working there with TSA.
I think that you've got to look at potentially somebody who may have some concerns about TSA security. They may have some issues previously about being treated unfairly at the airport by TSA officials. That's got to be one of the motives that has to be taken into consideration. We certainly have all heard people with outrage. Certainly nobody that might take it to this level, but that has to be a motivation to look at.
TAPPER: All right. Stand by, Shawn. President Obama just commented on the shooting at LAX moments ago. Let's take a listen to that.
We're not ready with that sound yet? I apologize.