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Police: School Shooting Suspect Dead

Aired December 13, 2013 - 16:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. We're following the breaking news out of Centennial, Colorado this hour. Police say a suspected shooter was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted wound at Arapahoe High School. Two other people, students at the school, were injured at the school. One seriously, according to the sheriff.

Let's get to senior White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar. Brianna, the president, I would assume by now, has been made aware of the situation in Centennial.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He has been briefed, Wolf, and we understand that he first learned of the shooting in Colorado during a meeting that he was having with a number of mayors in the West Wing. In fact, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio said that he was in this meeting and described the scene. Here's what he said.


BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK MAYOR-ELECT: Well, the president said very somberly that the shooting had occurred. Obviously none of us had the details yet, but he informed the room the note was passed to him and he informed the room immediately, and we all cringed. We have all seen this many, many, too many times in this country.

We didn't get into a lengthy conversation, but you know, the immediate comment in the room from some of the mayors was how can we use our abilities, how can we use our local capacity and our bully pulpits to try and move forward sensible gun control legislation, because until we do that, there's too many dangers out there. That's where people are focused.


KEILAR: New York City mayor-elect, I should say, Bill De Blasio there describing the scene as President Obama received a note telling him that this had happened, but we are told, Jake, that the president at this point has been briefed and this is from a White House official saying the White House will remain in touch with our federal, state and local partners.

We are told they continue to encourage the public to follow directions from the local officials and the president has directed his team to keep him apprised of the developing situation. So he's monitoring this, Jake and he will to continue to do so.

TAPPER: Brianna, of course, this comes on the eve of a horrific anniversary, the one year anniversary of the school shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, 26 people killed. How is the president planning on commemorating that sad anniversary tomorrow?

KEILAR: Very sad, and something President Obama, as you know, Jake described as really the saddest day of his presidency. He and the first lady going to be marking that with a moment of silence in the White House tomorrow so that is what we are told from White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, that they going to be doing a moment of silence in honor of what President Obama describes as a horrific day personally and as you know, he went to Sandy Hook there two days after with some very personal words.

So this is certainly I think, when you see what's happening today in Colorado, especially with the timing here, this upon us, this terrible anniversary, this is something that definitely affects President Obama. You heard Bill De Blasio describe it there, that it was very somber as he delivered this news to the mayors in the room.

TAPPER: It is news that we report too often in this country. Brianna Keilar, thanks so much. Parents of the Sandy Hook victims have asked, when asked how should we, the American people, commemorate tomorrow, have said that we should have acts of kindness towards other people. That has been the request of parents of the victims of Sandy Hook, one year ago tomorrow.

It was just a short time ago today that the Arapahoe County sheriff revealed that the suspected shooter was dead from an apparent self-inflicted wound. I want to take a moment and replay some portions of the news conference. Let's roll that tape now.


SHERIFF GRAYSON ROBINSON, ARAPAHOE COUNTY, COLORADO: We located the individual we believe to be the suspect and the active shooter. That individual is currently deceased and he apparently killed himself. That will still be part of the investigation. We know the identity of the suspect. I am not going to release it at this time. I want to again repeat to you the suspect has been found inside the school and he has deceased as a result of what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The injured student was found while we were clearing the school that had been locked down and again, that individual is suffering a minor wound and we very frankly are not sure that it's a gunshot wound.

Can't talk about it right now. We will at a little more detail at 3:00.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long did it take to find the suspect inside?

ROBINSON: It happened very quickly. The time of call on this was 12:33 p.m. today. We had information on the radio that my deputies believe they had the shooter down inside the school within about 14 minutes of the initial call -- of the call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have a student that was hurt. How seriously?

ROBINSON: Again, we have one student that was transported in serious condition with a gunshot wound. I can't go into any further detail on that. We have a second student that had a wound but again, we don't know if that was a gunshot wound or exactly what the cause of that was. I'll have that information for you at my 3:00 news briefing.

At this point in time we have not been able to locate a second suspect, but that's part of our ongoing investigation. That's why we are dealing with family and colleagues of the suspect, to identify any other potential suspects. We will assume other suspects until we know differently. That was certainly the focus of the deputies and police officers that entered the school to alleviate the threat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Other weapons found (inaudible)?

ROBINSON: No weapons found other that the one weapon that was used in the shooting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many shots, sir?

ROBINSON: I won't go into that at this point.

That's something that will be part of our investigation. The student identified a specific teacher at Arapahoe High School that he was interested in confronting, and that teacher was informed of this situation and exited the school quickly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did he name that teacher?

ROBINSON: I won't go into that right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any threats to the school earlier this week?

ROBINSON: We have had no threats. We've had no issues that we had concern with at this school this week or in the immediate past future.


TAPPER: That's the Arapahoe County Sheriff, Grayson Robinson. To recap, he said there was a shooting approximately 12:30. They got the call, 12:30 Mountain Time in Colorado. That's 2:30 Eastern. One student transported to the hospital by Littleton Fire and Rescue in serious condition from gunshot wounds. Another student with injuries, they're not sure whether it's from the gun or from some other way and then the shooter, dead from an apparent gunshot wound, self-inflicted.

I want to bring back in CNN's Tom Foreman along with Chris Voss, a former lead international kidnapping negotiator for the FBI. Chris, I want to start with you. Obviously the information we're getting is very preliminary right now. But you and I were talking during the break and it sounds to you again, on this basic information we've gotten, more like an impulsive act than something planned. CHRIS VOSS, FORMER FBI LEAD INTERNATIONAL KIDNAPPING NEGOTIATOR: Right, yes, Jake. It looks very much like whatever rage triggered this, that it -- he hadn't thought it through in a lot of detail. It doesn't look like there's a lot of complexity to this plan. It doesn't look like he was trying to make a huge significant statement against the world.

Obviously something happened that caused him to feel like probably his life was over, and he couldn't deal with it anymore and there was a focal point of his rage that he was after. It doesn't look a lot more complicated than that right now.

TAPPER: We heard from a local reporter earlier that police now talking to the parents of the shooter, trying to find out who the shooter's friends were so that they could then go interview the friends, find out more. That's basic protocol for law enforcement?

VOSS: Right, exactly. They are going to look for what sort of indicators there might have been in advance, if there were any notes, if he left a note, sent any text message or e-mail, anything specifically talking about what he was intending to do or possibly even just alluding to it or alluding to his rage.

TAPPER: Even with an act that you think is probably based on the little information we have, even based on that, even an act that's impulsive, you think there might be a note or e-mail?

VOSS: I think there's a pretty good chance that he left some sort of written communication some place to somebody about this. How complicated it is and how long ago he wrote it remains to be seen. But there's a pretty good chance there's something somewhere.

TAPPER: Tom Foreman, it was 1999, you were on your way to Kosovo when you got the call and you were told about a school shooting in Columbine at the Jefferson School District in Colorado, 8 miles from Arapahoe High School. What was it like covering that? How difficult is it to cover a school shooting versus -- and what is the community going through that they might -- that might be different from what a community goes through with a shooting somewhere else?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Covering Columbine was unique. I had covered school shootings before. I had experience dealing with the families, the police, having some idea how they manage these things. Columbine was unique because the nation had never seen anything like it. It was just so big and so complicated. You were correct, we were at the airport gate about to leave to Kosovo, we got this call, really couldn't believe it because it was part of our community.

My daughters were little girls, but they had programs at the high school so we rushed back. It was the first time I really understood how much a community is affected by this, not just the people in the school. I had read about it before, heard about it, but being around people actually living through this, I can assure you there are thousands of people in this area right now who are flashing back not only to what they felt at Columbine, but the feeling they have right now.

They may have nothing to do with this school, but it gives them that very, very unsettled feeling about what if. How did this happen, how did it happen again, and just as importantly, one of the things this community went through after Columbine, how do you move forward without acting like you're in a police state, without having schools that look like fortresses.

If you act like that, that's frightening in its own right. This community grappled with that more than any other, really, and they will be doing it again right now.

TAPPER: When we heard from 15-year-old Whitney Riley, a student who was there. Even though she was only 1 when Columbine happened, she had heard about Columbine, knew about columbine, had done drills at the school in case of a school shooting. We will take a very quick break. We are continuing to hear more about just what happened today inside Arapahoe High School from witnesses. Stay with us for our continuing coverage.


TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN's continuing coverage of a school shooting in Arapahoe County, Colorado. One student apparently the shooter, dead from apparently a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Two other students injured. One of them in serious condition from a gunshot wound, that's according to the sheriff of Arapahoe County, Grayson Robinson. The shooting took place shortly after noon Colorado time, roughly 2:00 on the east coast.

And from descriptions, one student came in with a gun looking to confront a teacher who was not there. I want to bring in Dave Cullen, he is the author of the book "Columbine." He joins us by phone.

Dave, thanks for being with us. What was your reaction when you heard about this shooting, unfortunately not all that rare an occurrence anymore in this country, but not all that common in particular areas like right near Columbine.

DAVID CULLEN, AUTHOR, "COLUMBINE" (via telephone): Yes, my heart sank. You know, it's kind of sad because I think because of the Newtown anniversary. Some of the people in that area already sort of had it on their minds. I had just gotten an e-mail from a friend who said she had just gotten back from the Columbine memorial when she got the news. I kind of was, too, this morning I had to turn off the TV because I have rules on I'm not allowed to watch a certain thing or I have problems and I think a lot of people there do.

So it's sort of -- I think one of the moms from Columbine told me that she going to never heal in the sense that as she feels like she's just always more susceptible to these things. Like an injury, like you know, like a sprained ankle that never completely heals. That's how she feels that she has a lower tolerance and I think that's pretty common of people in that area, whoever went through it.

TAPPER: Columbine High School of course just a little bit over 8 miles away from Arapahoe High School. Thankfully it appears as though what happened at Arapahoe today, while tragic, not as horrific as what happened at Columbine in 1999. Dave, when you're talking about avoiding coverage of the Newtown, Sandy Hook anniversary, that sad anniversary tomorrow, of course.

You're talking about specifically from having covered what happened in Colorado, from knowing people, from having developed strong relationships with people who were traumatized forever because of what happened at Columbine in 1999, you're talking about post- traumatic stress.

CULLEN: Right. Yes.

TAPPER: Are the people in Columbine 14 years ago, are they still dealing with what happened?

CULLEN: Yes. They definitely are to different degrees. I was really surprised that it changed over time. In the first week, the parents were dealing with it a lot better and the kids were just distraught. They were almost universally a mess. In fact, those I worked with were really surprised they had almost universal numbness the morning after. I was really shocked to see the kids the morning after. Nobody was crying. There was no emotion at all. They had shut down emotionally, almost all of them, which is extremely rare.

That's really common for 5 percent to 10 percent of people in a horrific situation. To be near universal was really off the map. The parents were dealing OK. Over time, that gradually reversed. I think of it as the kids getting better and a lot of the parents sort of staying in a similar place. The bulk of the kids, I mean, nobody is tracking all of them, but the bulk of them seem to have by years five to six, seven, eight, seem to have sort of put it behind them for the most part.

Obviously not all of them and just sort of feel like it's something that happened to them and it didn't seem to have scarred them that badly although we don't know what's in there, but a lot of the adults who were -- had really a different experience of fear for your child and continuing that fear for your child. Really sort of stuck with them and I think it's a more lasting problem for the adults in general.

TAPPER: Dave Cullen, author of "Columbine," obviously you spent a great deal of time in this area. What can you tell us about this area?

CULLEN: It's a suburban area that's fairly similar, I have friends who went to that high school and you know, many years ago, and they described it very similarly. One of the things that I think people don't understand is that it's sort of this big sort of suburban sprawl area and it was unincorporated Jefferson County that created this area called Centennial out of it.

The reason that's important is there's no downtown, there's no town to most of these towns. I don't think there is any real Centennial downtown so the identity of the people in these areas is surrounding the high school. Whereas I might say I'm from suburban Chicago, people say whatever town they're from, people in Jefferson or Arapahoe County going to refer to their high school as their community.

Of course, the Friday night lights big and all that. But they think of that, that is the center of town and the center of their sort of community world. So when you attack the high school, you are attacking the central symbol and idea of who they all are. I think it has more of an impact in communities like that than in a lot of other places in the country who may not be aware of just how much it hits to the heart.

In the same way like 9/11 obviously, most terrorist acts take on a symbol of the World Trade Center or whatever, a symbol of government or whatever it is. These are really attacks on the symbol of their community.

TAPPER: Dave Cullen, author of "Columbine," thank you so much. We have to take a quick break. We are waiting for a live press conference from police that's minutes away. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. We're listening in on a live news conference from the school shooting at Arapahoe High School. Let's watch and listen.

Obviously they're preparing right now for this press conference with the Arapahoe County Sheriff, Grayson Robinson. When that begins, when they have their microphones in order, let me go to Ana Cabrera who is on location. Ana, what have you learned since we last checked in with you at the top of the show?

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, what an afternoon. We have been talking to parents and students who are now reuniting. You can see this parking lot full behind me where they have cordoned off. This is a church a couple blocks from Arapahoe High School, where parents and students are seeing each other, hugging each other, holding each other and being thankful for that special reunion.

It has been a very traumatic day clearly for the community and particularly for the students who were inside the high school. I had a chance to speak with Whitney Riley, a 15-year-old. Her and her dad were able to reunite fairly quickly, but she heard gunshots inside the school when all of this took place earlier this afternoon.

It was shortly after 12:30 local time, of course, 2:30 Eastern Time, when all this happened, a lot of students just wrapping up lunch. Whitney said she went to her locker to get her computer and went to sort of a study hall to do some homework and she and some students were just talking when they heard at least one what sounded like a gunshot. They looked at each other and heard two more, as she described it.

TAPPER: Ana, I'm sorry. Ana, I'm going to interrupt you right now. We are going to go live to the press conference.