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THE SITUATION ROOM
Arapahoe County Sherrif's Briefing; Remarks by Gov. Hickenlooper; Suspect Was Armed with Shotgun
Aired December 13, 2013 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Ana, I'm going to interrupt you right now, just because we're going to go live to the press conference.
SHERIFF GRAYSON ROBINSON, ARAPAHOE COUNTY, COLORADO: (In progress) - regarding this particular situation.
Today, at 12:33 p.m., a lone gunman entered the school on the west side. The gunman came into the school and immediately asked for the location of a very specific teacher, and he named that teacher by name. When the teacher heard that he - that this individual was asking for him, the teacher exited the school immediately - in my opinion was the most important tactical decision that could have been made, that he knew he was a - he was the target. And he left that school in an effort to try to encourage the shooter to also leave the school, with the focus of safety and security and well-being of our students in his mind.
When that happened, one student was shot by the shooter. That student was transported immediately by Littleton Fire Rescue, and that student is currently in serious condition at a local hospital, undergoing surgery.
A second victim was shot. That individual suffered a very minor gunshot wound, and is being treated at a local hospital. We believe that that individual will be released before the end of the evening.
Our active shooter protocol was immediately initiated by our school resource officer. The officer went immediately to the threat as he is trained and all of the responding deputies and police officers also activated our regional active shooter protocol.
And that is to go to the threat and try to eliminate the threat while keeping students and staff safe. Within 20 minutes of the time of the report of the shooting, our deputies found the suspect dead inside the school. Currently, right now, it appears to us that that shooter is dead as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. However, that determination remains under investigation and we will continue to look at those details.
At this point in time, we have victims' advocates with the families and the victims at the hospital, and we have investigators with the family of the shooter. We are beginning our investigation now as a crime scene. We have evacuated the entire school. The school was evacuated very slowly, deliberately, and meticulously. We wanted to ensure that all of our students number one were safe, and secondly, we wanted to ensure that we had no other suspects or individuals that were collaborators with our shooter.
Although, it will remain under investigation, we -- at this point in time, we believe the shooter that is deceased is the only individual that was armed in the school today and came here to cause harm to the students and/or faculty of this facility. However, that remains under investigation.
We also have assets coming from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to assist us with our responsibilities to process this crime scene, collect evidence and do the work that we need to do so that we can come to a final conclusion of why this happened and how it happened. At this point in time, we have assets across the south metro area talking with people who either know the suspect or have some association with him and we are trying to collect that information.
As I indicated, the school was evacuated methodically and very deliberately. We initially evacuated students to the Shepherd of the Hills Church, which is located about a block south of our current location. Very quickly, that facility became overwhelmed with the numbers of students and parents that were trying to reunite and we had to select a second reunification site which is the Euclid middle school located at 777 West Euclid Avenue in Littleton, Colorado.
Very frankly, that is a distance from here, but it is the most convenient and it's the largest facility that we could come up with quickly in order to do the work that we need to do quickly and efficiently. We are in the process now of reunifying our students and our families. We are in the process now of putting together a crisis intervention team that will be available for staff and students of Arapahoe High School as long as that group of crisis intervention professionals are needed.
We will work in collaboration with the school district and we will work in collaboration with our colleagues across the state that provide crisis intervention and mental health assistance to anyone that needs it as a result of this tragic shooting. With that, that is the information I currently have to share.
I will be back with you in a few moments with questions, but before I answer any questions, I would like superintendent of schools, Scott Murphy, to join me and make some comments, please.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sheriff, can he stand next to you so he can take advantage of your microphone. Can you just step up a little closer? Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our thoughts, our prayers are with all the families, students affected. We are doing everything we can to work with Arapahoe County Sheriff's department and will do the care that we need to for the families as we go forward. It's a very, very difficult day for Arapahoe High School.
ROBINSON: Thank you, Scott. With that, Governor Hickenlooper would also like to make some comments. Governor, thank you for joining us.
GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER, (D) COLORADO: I'm not sure what I can add. Obviously, our hearts go out to the principal, Natalie Pramenko, Scott Murphy, the superintendent, you just heard. I mean, this is a good school district and to have this all too familiar sequence where you have gunshots and parents racing to the school and unspeakable horror in a place of learning, and in this case, we saw the incredible training and preparation of our first responders.
I give Sheriff Robinson, who announced his retirement today, of all the ironies, I mean, they had this training so that, again, officers from all across the south metro area were trained in how to go in immediately into that school and make sure that the perpetrator, this kid, was -- I mean, the officers went right to him and they got to him within literally within minutes.
That is a world of change from the way response used to happen and I think it just says volumes about these guys. Again, our hearts and prayers are with the entire Arapahoe school community, and we'll do everything we can to help them get through this.
ROBINSON: Thank you, governor. With that, I will try to answer questions. I want to also tell you that there are some questions that clearly, I am not in a position to answer because of the ongoing investigation. But I will certainly as I usually try to tell you when I can and cannot. Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, I heard that the suspect's locker was a cause of concern. Can you tell us anything about that?
ROBINSON: It's a process of the ongoing investigation. We certainly will look at every aspect and detail that may be associated with the suspect, not only his locker, anyplace that he may have frequented in the school and very frankly, his home as well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it locker 444?
ROBINSON: I have no idea.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff, you said that the teacher left the school immediately (INAUDIBLE) relationship between him and the student? Why he should (ph) leave?
ROBINSON: Still a matter under investigation of what the relationship between the shooter and the teacher was. We know that the student that was armed with a shotgun, as he entered the west side of Arapahoe High School, immediately asked for the location of this specific teacher and asked for that teacher by name.
As soon as the teacher realized that, as I indicated in my initial comment, he departed the school. That was a very wise tactical decision. He took himself away from the school with an effort to try to encourage the shooter to go with him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What can you tell us about the student who was shot? How did that occur and what was going on there? ROBINSON: Don't know the details. Still a matter under investigation. We do know that that student suffered a serious gunshot wound. We believe that the student is still in surgery in a local hospital. We certainly share our thoughts and our prayers with her and her family.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What can you tell us about explosives or Molotov cocktails?
ROBINSON: Certainly as part of our protocol, our bomb squad from the sheriff's office responded initially because of the fact that we never know and we want to be err on the side of more assets than fewer. We believe that we have one device in the school. Initially, it was reported to me that it was a Molotov cocktail, but my bomb squad is working that, trying to identify it. I'll have more information the next briefing that we provide.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What can you tell us about the shooter, his age, class --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Name?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Graduate?
ROBINSON: First off, I will not -- he's a current student of Arapahoe High School. I will not release -- we have identified him. We have investigators that are with his family and with his colleagues. I will not identify him at this point in time. When it is appropriate, I will identify the shooter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about the age, sheriff?
ROBINSON: Again, I won't identify. I will provide any information relative to the shooter until I am prepared to do so relative to the ongoing investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about the student who intervened?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were talking about the west side of the school where the shooter entered. Give us a sense because I've never been to this school. Give us a sense. Is this the office area? Is this one of the exits on the other side?
ROBINSON: The question was the configuration of the school on the west side. The west side of this school is typically made up of the student parking lot. It is an area that has at least two and probably three, if the kids are real innovative, different entrances and exits that can be used. Goes into the immediate area of the gymnasium and the pool on the west side so that gives you a bit of a configuration where we're at.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sheriff, who did the student ask for the specific teacher?
ROBINSON: He asked the other students that were in the immediate area, the location of the specific teacher. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who was it -- no teacher or administrator encounter this student first? How did the student get to the armed student first?
ROBINSON: Well, I think, first off, you have to understand that this is a high school. These young men and women that are here to be educated come and go fairly freely. They have down time, they have breaks in their day. So, they are moving in and about the school on a regular basis. Certainly as the individual entered the school, he asked for the teacher immediately from the students that were in the area. There were no other teachers in the area.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was the gun visible at that time?
ROBINSON: Yes. The suspect was carrying a --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pump action (ph) or rifle?
ROBINSON: The student that entered the high school was armed with a shotgun. I'm not at liberty nor will I discuss the details of that weapon at this point. However, it was clear he was armed with a shotgun. He made no effort to hide it or conceal it. He carried it into the school as he entered the school.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was it the other students who alerted the teacher, then?
ROBINSON: No. The word got around immediately that he was looking for the teacher.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the active shooter protocol, is that something that was started right after columbine or just in the last several years? A little bit with the history about that program?
ROBINSON: Well, clearly, the active shooter protocol has to do with going to the threat and not waiting. It is a protocol that has been trained across the state of Colorado, not just in one or two local agencies, but we not only train in our individual agencies, but then we come together regionally and we train on these particular protocols. I will remind you of training programs that we put together in exercises around operation mountain guardian several months ago that had to do with active shooter.
Those protocols, unfortunately, have had to be used far, far, far too many times in Colorado and across the United States because of these tragic episodes where people decide they've got to even up the score with a weapon.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sheriff, can you tell us if there was an SRO?
ROBINSON: We had an SRO. The SRO immediately responded on his own to the area of the threat.
ROBINSON: I do not know. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What can you tell us about the confrontation between the --
ROBINSON: Initially, we were told there was a confrontation between the shooter and the student that was wounded. At this point in time, it appears that that is probably not accurate. It appears that the student was simply in the area of the shooter and was shot at the time the shooter came through the school.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you describe where this person was shot?
ROBINSON: I will not discuss the wounds or any information around the victims at this point.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many shots were fired?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How was the shooter able to get into the school before we assume he took his own life?
ROBINSON: Well, the shooter actually went quite a ways into the school because we found his body in the internal portion of the school in a classroom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff, anybody discharge (INAUDIBLE) weapons?
ROBINSON: There was no law enforcement weapons discharged in the school. They were armed. Certainly, if you speak with students and faculty that were in the school, the deputy sheriffs and the police officers that responded and reacted to this active shooter were adequately armed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many shots --
ROBINSON: They were armed with urban street rifles and their service weapons, which is part of our protocols. They entered the facility with the absolute responsibility and purpose of eliminating the threat. They quickly worked the school to try to find that threat and as soon as they found the individual down, they realized what the situation was.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sheriff, will your folks or CBI or the FBI searching the home of the shooter looking for any notes or evidence that this might have been seen coming?
ROBINSON: We will -- the question was if we will search the home of the shooter. We will conduct a thorough and complete investigation. We will take our time to ensure that it's done right. We will not do it quick.
Part of our protocol will be a thorough investigation which includes a search of the suspect's home, a search of areas where the suspect may have had access to other weapons or material that would have motivated him to do this tragic act and we will search portions of the school that he would have had individual and immediate access to.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this point, is there any indication that this is tied to the anniversary of Sandy Hook?
ROBINSON: Absolutely no indication at all that this would be tied to Sandy Hook. Certainly, something that we will look into, always an issue we have to focus our attention on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff, is there a vehicle being searched in the parking lot that he drove here?
ROBINSON: If he brought a vehicle to this school, it will be searched. It will be rendered safe first, and then it will be searched.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many shots fired and where did the shooting take place?
ROBINSON: Shooting happened in the immediate west entry of the school. I don't know how many shots were fired. Part of what our investigation -- investigators will be trying to conclude.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And did the suspect actually have a class with this particular teacher? Did they know each other?
ROBINSON: They clearly had a relationship. The degree and level of that relationship is yet to be determined. Something that we will talk about in days, not hours to come.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you identify the teacher?
ROBINSON: I will not.
ROBINSON: I don't have any information.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This may be one for the school superintendent -- how long before classes resume?
ROBINSON: I certainly would leave that to the school board and the superintendent. And I'm sure that's an issue that they will discuss in the hours to come and will make a decision. Folks, I will take about three more questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff, earlier, you said that there were no accomplices -- have there been any accomplices to collaborate or identified and the second question part of it is, there was no threats made to the school prior, not by this man, but by another person that you also perhaps investigate?
ROBINSON: First off, the question was if there were other threats. We don't know yet. No threats that we are aware of to this school or this teacher but that's part of what we are trying to investigate. At my 1:45 briefing, I told you that it appeared to us that there were no other co-conspirators or collaborators.
It continues to appear to us that the shooter that is deceased was the lone actor in this tragic event, but we will continue to try to confirm that and ensure that we have that information accurately taken care of.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said that he's talking with his family and colleagues. What do you mean by colleagues?
ROBINSON: Certainly other students, friends, family members, anyone who had -- may have been associated with this individual that he may have indicated days or weeks or months ago that this was something on his mind. We will do a thorough and complete investigation and that includes dealing with anyone who may have been associated with our shooter over the last several months or weeks. Yes, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As far as people who live around here, any idea how long everything is going to be shut down? They need to find a new route?
ROBINSON: I think that's a great question. We will keep this intersection and this immediate area shut down for the remainder of the night. I can't imagine we will open this area until shortly after 10:00 p.m. tonight. So, folks that are traveling need to make appropriate arrangements.
The fact that we are keeping it closed down is a product of the resources we currently have in the immediate area and the fact that we have an ongoing investigation that will require our public safety professionals to move back and forth safely. We will keep this closed for a period of time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) is your last day. Are you retiring?
ROBINSON: No, ma'am. It is not my last day. I simply announced yesterday my retirement, but that's not relevant to our situation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has everyone been evacuated, sheriff?
ROBINSON: They have.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was there anyone injured in the evacuation?
ROBINSON: We have no other schools on lockdown. We initially thought about it but immediately realized that this situation was isolated specifically to Arapahoe High School.
With that, folks, I thank you for your time. We will put out another media release, but it will be my intention that we are currently at 3:15, pushing 3:20 p.m. Mountain standard time. I will give another media brief at 6:00 p.m. And I don't know the location, but I can guarantee you it will not be in this intersection. Thank you all very much.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: there you have it. From the sheriff, Grayson Robinson, Arapahoe County, out there in Colorado, where there was a shooting at this high school, Arapahoe High School today. The shooter, the suspect in this particular case according to the sheriff, shot himself, and unfortunately, though, one student is in serious condition right now.
A woman, a young girl was shot, another one in very minor condition, a minor wound sustained in this shooting at this high school. These are pictures from earlier when the students were asked to leave the high school with their hands up. They didn't know if there were any others involved and the sheriff now saying once again, does not believe others were involved.
Joe Johns was listening and watching. For our viewers, Joe, who are just tuning in to the SITUATION ROOM right now, want to get an update on what was going on, update us on what we know.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: There was a lot of new information in that news conference and kudos to the sheriff for putting it out there. What we now know is this shooter goes to the school, he goes to the west side of the building near a student parking lot, three entrances back there, and he asks for a teacher by name, and where that teacher's location is. He's carrying a shotgun.
Then, he apparently walks into the building, somehow, the teacher he's looking for is alerted to the fact that the shooter's coming for him. The teacher exits the building and authorities are giving him credit for that tonight because the whole idea was to get outside the building so that the shooter would get outside of the building so that all the students would be safe. The shooter apparently goes further inside the building and shoots a student, and sometime thereafter, actually turns the gun on himself.
Apparently the shot he took, authorities think, was self-inflicted. Now, a couple pieces of information that we hadn't been able to confirm until just now. Some type of incendiary device is believed to be inside that school. The sheriff said possibly a Molotov cocktail. So, that's one of the things they have to deal with. There's also a lot of concern about what might be in this young student, presumably a male's locker, so they have to check that.
There's also talk of going to the house, perhaps, even a search warrant to see what might be at his home. And another question is whether he might have driven an automobile to the school, so if he did, they'll want to check that out as well. Otherwise, this is pretty much wrapped up there, but a very, very scary day at Arapahoe High School, Wolf
BLITZER: The student apparently, the suspect, was a high school student at that high school, walked in pretty easily with a shotgun, the sheriff said, right?
JOHNS: That's absolutely right. He walked in with a shot gun and there are a lot of questions about what kind of a shotgun it was. Also, one of the questions that I have as a journalist, of course, is whether it was a sawed-off shotgun because he apparently turned that weapon on himself and you know the long stock of a shotgun, it's very difficult to turn a shotgun on yourself, unless, it's sawed-off.
But that's one question I would say, Wolf. The most important and key question here that we all want to know is about the motivation. What was the beef between this young student and the teacher he came to that school to find with the gun? So many questions, of course, that authorities will be asking for days about what was the relationship between the student and the teacher he came looking for, Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm sure we'll be getting many of those answers fairly soon, a relatively cohesive community there and I know the investigation is only just beginning. Joe, stand by. Summer Skrzypek (ph) is joining us on the phone right now, a senior at the high school. Summer, are you OK?
VOICE OF SUMMER SKRZYPEK (PH), STUDENT AT ARAPAHOE HIGH SCHOOL: I'm really shaken up. I still feel sick. I don't think my hands have stood still for the past like three hours.
BLITZER: YOU'RE 17 years old. You're a junior or senior in the high school?
SKRZYPEK: Sadly, I'm a senior. And this is the memory that I get to take away from my high school experience.
BLITZER: Tell us what happened, if you don't mind, Summer. And if it's too painful, I'll leave you alone, but if you want to walk us through, what happened, where were you when you first heard that there was a shooter in the school?
SKRZYPEK: I was in about two hallways down by the library from the west wing. The shots sounded like they were right outside the classroom. I, at first thought, it was a chair, like banging against the ground, but then three more shots were fired and my teacher immediately got up, did the lockdown drill, the lights were off and we were in the corner within 30 seconds. That's what probably saved us.
BLITZER: And I just want to point out, your parents have authorized this interview with us, right?
SKRZYPEK: Yes. That is correct.
BLITZER: OK. I just want to make sure that we're not doing anything that would be inappropriate. All right. So, you must have been scared. Do you have any idea what -- did you have any idea what was going on at that point?
SKRZYPEK: All I could think was I can't believe this is happening. Like, we've all heard about columbine, we're all well aware of it. We're well aware of Sandy Hook. I said not here, this can't be happening here. It seemed like I was in a dream. Then, when I looked around and saw the girls around me were crying, I just kind of, we all kind of hugged each other and I knew we were all terrified.
BLITZER: Without mentioning the suspect, the shooter's name, do you have any idea who this individual was? SKRZYPEK: No. Right now, I don't want to know. I just want to know that all my friends and everybody I care about are safe and that the Arapahoe student body can get past this. That's all I want to know right now.
BLITZER: And the teacher that this shooter was supposedly going after, did you know who the teacher was?
SKRZYPEK: No. But I am thankful for his planning to get outside the school and get the shooter away and I'm thankful that all the teachers at Arapahoe were so well-prepared and saved all of us basically with their quick action.
BLITZER: We're showing our viewers video -- pictures of the students as they were leaving. I assume you were one of them with their hands up. Police came and said everybody leave, but raise your hands, is that what was going on?
SKRZYPEK: I had not been out at that point. We were rushed out by the S.W.A.T. team and we were told to run towards the other side of the street and everybody just started running as fast as they could to get across the street, the buildings there.
BLITZER: How --
SKRZYPEK: We were taken out fast.
BLITZER: How were your friends doing, Summer?
SKRZYPEK: I have only heard from a few of them. From my school, they're all shaken up. Some of them are still waiting for their parents to come get them. I know my friends around community, I've been getting tons of calls and everybody is joining together and trying to like get past this and be a community.
BLITZER: Summer, well, thank you so much for sharing. I know this must be an awful, awful, very painful day for you. Good luck. Good luck to all the students at the Arapahoe High School and your families and friends as well. Our hearts go out to all of you. Thank you very much.
SKRZYPEK: Yes, thank you.
BLITZER: I want to listen in, one of our affiliates, KDVR, is now speaking to another student.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I pray for everybody, you know? I hope nothing happen, but I hear two people got shot. I hear she's OK, something like that. Yes. I got the answer -- Thank God this is OK (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said you couldn't believe hearing this again in Colorado. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I couldn't believe it, because you know, I thought this would be like a safe area (INAUDIBLE) but I was very surprised. Like -- at this area like wow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you glad to see your sister?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'm very glad to see my sister.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you give her a hug yet? OK. All right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for talking.
BLITZER: All right. There you have the reunion, that young girl is OK. Obviously shaken, totally understandable. You're looking at these pictures of the Arapahoe High School in Colorado. Tom Foreman is with us watching what's going on. He used to live over there, Tom. So, you know this area well.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And we have new news out of there, Wolf, right now. We are being told by Swedish hospital, an excellent hospital not far from the high school there, that they are now treating two students who are both in good condition and Littleton Adventist Hospital has the student that is in the most serious condition. At least that's what we understand now. So, up until this point, listening to the sheriff, we thought there were only two students who are injured. Now, we're talking about three.
BLITZER: Two injured not that seriously, but one very seriously.
FOREMAN: One quite seriously. We don't have any more about the condition right now, but there are two different hospitals there not terribly far away, but that's the latest we know about that. This would be again, as we talked about, everybody being prepared there, Wolf, and the law enforcement and school community, certainly, the medical community there, too.
Having lived through Columbine, I will assure you there are police officers on the scene and medical experts who are dealing with this today or at least in these institutions where the kids have been taken. There are people there who were there when columbine happened in 1999 who had firsthand experience. So, I'm sure they're on hand right now dealing with this and seeing what they can find out.
BLITZER: Yes. So close. Sheriff Grayson Robinson also saying that the student who's in serious condition, in surgery right now, is a young girl. So, we'll watch that and pray for her.
FOREMAN: I just want to point out in case anybody missed it there, he did note the student who was shot at that point, he said there did not seem to be any sort of targeting. It was simply happenstance. That student happened to be where the gun man was. That's one of those details we always look at when we're looking for motive and what was actually happening --
BLITZER: And the sheriff says the gunman then shot himself and is dead right now. We're going to continue on top of this story. Another awful shooting at a high school in Colorado. Much more of our special report right after this.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
BLITZER: Another shooting at an American high school today in Colorado. Arapahoe High School not far from Denver. You see these pictures. It's a huge high school. The children were asked to walk out with their hands up as law enforcement arrived and they heard gunfire.
A shooter went inside, shot -- used a shotgun, was going after a teacher who managed to get out of the building, but three students were injured. One is in serious condition, a young girl who is in the hospital in surgery right now. Two others in minor -- suffering minor wounds, minor wounds, but one in serious condition.
CNN's Ana Cabrera is on the scene for us at the school.
Ana, this is awful. We just spoke to a young student there. I'm sure it's very painful for everyone involved, not very far from Columbine. What was going on there and I know you are getting the latest and have a special guest as well.
ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So many emotions, so -- such a situation that nobody expected to have to address on a day like today.
I want to first set the scene. Right behind me, you see flashing lights, you see lots of cars. There's a parking lot here full of people. These are still parents, students, teachers, folks who are reuniting and trying to make sense of what has happened here in Littleton, Colorado, this afternoon.
It all began around 12:30, Wolf, as you know, when this student, according to Sheriff Grayson Robinson, the student of the school entered the school with a shotgun. That shotgun was not concealed. He specifically asked to talk to a teacher and that teacher was notified that the student was looking for him. The teacher left.
Another student who happened to be in the vicinity at some point when the student opened fire was shot. That student we understand is currently in very serious condition undergoing surgery.
The other side of all this is the students who were locked away extremely scared and the parents who were desperate for information.
We had a chance to talk to one mother about what she's been going through.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Your student was inside when this happened. Tell me -- tell me how did this all come across to you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of my neighbors called me and asked if I had spoken to my son, and she said that there was a shooting at Arapahoe High School and that I needed to find out if he was OK, and so I basically hung up on her and began texting my son to see if I could get any communication and shortly thereafter he did text back and say that he was OK.
CABRERA: And what did he tell you about what he knows of what happened inside there?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He just said -- he said that there was a gunman and that they were shooting and that they were on lockdown right at that time, and -- but he said that he was OK at that moment so.
CABRERA: As a parent, I mean, they don't give you a manual, a handbook, on how to handle something like this, right? What do you -- what do you say to your child? What do you say to your son? And what's it going to be like when you reunite with him?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to hug him like crazy.
CABRERA: It makes you think about probably all the things you still want to do with your son and how blessed you are right now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It very much brings it to the forefront, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Ana, I want you to stand by for a few moments.
Ana Cabrera is on the scene for us at the Arapahoe High School in Colorado. But joining us now, Dr. Drew Pinsky, the host of HLN's "DR. DREW ON CALL."
The parents and the children, the students are going through I think it's fair to say a very difficult traumatic situation right now.
Talk a little bit about what these young people and their parents are going through and what advice you would give them, Dr. Drew.
DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST, HLN'S "DR. DREW ON CALL": Well, Wolf, here we are again. And you spoke just in that last block to a very courageous young senior named Summer who talked about the experience of what we call acute stress reaction or acute stress disorder as opposed to what we commonly think of as a post-traumatic stress disorder which is a more sustained condition that can come later when people don't deal with the acute stress response.
So they would have difficulty sleeping, to be shaking, to be having flashbacks -- having fluctuating moods, all that is completely normal for the next few days both for the students and -- excuse me, and for the parents. But, Wolf, I want us to comment just for a second. Here you and I are again with another high school. Two things concerns me. One is what's going on in Colorado. That seems to be ground zero for a lot of these events, for young people. Is there something about the mental health issues in that state? Is there something about the availability of guns? What exactly is going on in Colorado to help us understand how to prevent this sort of thing from happening again, number one.
And number two, I think based on what we know so far, we can speculate a little bit about the mindset of this shooter.
I suspect once again, it's going to be an untreated mental health issue. Think about how agitated a young person would have to be to come in, walk in with a -- with a shotgun openly in hand, scare, cause other students to scatter, so much so that they quickly got the information throughout the school and to this -- the teacher in question that this kid was looking for him.
He randomly shoots, we think, three other kids and then quickly shoots himself. That is a very altered state for him to have been in to be that violent so we are going to hear more about I think the mental state once again of this young person.
BLITZER: Yes. And we don't know how old this shooter was, the shooter then, as you point out killed himself, presumably with that shotgun, after shooting at these other students. We know that there are three injured, two minor injuries, one very serious injured, a young girl.
PINSKY: Random shooting.
PINSKY: Random shooting.
BLITZER: And --
PINSKY: At that peers. That's a terribly agitated state. Again, he walks in brandishing a shotgun. That's not a kid who is sort of diabolically planning something. That is a kid who is in state that is altered, and then quickly, when he can't find the teacher, turns the gun on himself. There's more to be told here.
BLITZER: I'm sure this investigation is only beginning.
Don't go away. Mike Brooks is also joining us, our HLN law enforcement analyst.
Take a look, we got a map. We're going to show you, Drew just raised this whole notion of what's going on in Colorado.
BLITZER: You see in the bottom of the screen, the Arapahoe High School, not far away, 8.1 miles to Columbine High School, not far away from there, the Aurora movie theater.
You've been looking into Colorado, availability of guns, treatment for young people, and mental health. What are you finding out?
MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I tell you, Wolf, you know, I know this area very, very well. And you know, guns are available in the state of Colorado much like they are anywhere else. And that's going to be part of the investigation that we heard Sheriff Robinson talking about, Wolf.
You know, what happened? Usually there is something, a precipitating event. And apparently it was against this teacher, but what happened in the last 24 to 48 hours that set this kid off. Where did he get the gun? Was it his? Did it belong to a relative, his parents, someone else? These are all questions as part of this investigation.
And, you know, and Dr. Drew brings up a very good point. Is there a mental health issue dealing with maybe in the schools.
And the other thing, too, Wolf, was this shooter, was this kid, was he, you know, exhibiting any characteristics to his friends, associates and parents. That's why you also heard Sheriff Robinson saying they're talking to them now to try to find out what happened. Most likely serving a search warrant.
But I can tell you, Wolf, the first responder responds to this. You heard it was a regional active shooter response. And they -- since Columbine, they have set in protocols, particularly in this particular area, you know, Columbine, even though it was a little over eight miles, was in Jefferson County. This is in Arapahoe County.
But all across the state of Colorado and all across the United States, everything has changed. The paradigm has shifted on active shooter response, because Jefferson County Sheriff's Department, Wolf, as you recall, they took a lot of heat because they were waiting for the SWAT team to come there.
You heard what the sheriff said. The school resource officer is one of the first responders who was there at the school, assigned to that school. He or she responded to that shooting and then as the officers got there, they usually form in either two, three or four person teams to go in and directly confront the threat.
And you've seen the change in training, you've seen the change in weapons that the officers carry, so they are not outgunned hopefully by a shooter that comes into the school. But it was only 20 minutes, the sheriff said, from that initial call that they got there, from the high school, of shots fired, until they found this student who apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Wolf.
BLITZER: Stand by for a moment.
Dr. Drew, the student apparently, according to the reports, all the information we're getting from the Sheriff Grayson Robinson and others, walked in with the shotgun, openly showing the shotgun, and not only that, started saying, I'm going after and then he named the teacher that he was going -- you can only imagine the rage, what was going on in this young student's mind as he was going in there with a shotgun -- looking for that teacher for whatever reason.
The teacher, as we know, got out of the building pretty quickly and is OK. But you can only imagine the rage, what was going on.
PINSKY: That's right. That's right. We may be able to understand in terms of motivation about what it is he had as a bone of contention with that teacher, but that does not explain -- I don't care what is going on between him and that teacher, that does not explain the magnitude of the alteration of his mental state, the magnitude of the agitation a young person would have to manifest in order to walk into his own high school.
Imagine this, not with a concealed weapon, brandishing a shotgun and then randomly shooting peers and then quickly turning that weapon on himself. That is not a kid in a normal mental state, in my estimation. Obviously I'm speculating but you've got to think about mania, you got to think about drugs, you got to think about -- other sorts of disorders all of which an unregulated state of agitation can manifest in a young person, and again, what's going on in Colorado.
I have a concern that there may be difficulty in Colorado intervening when there are the kinds of symptoms that suggest somebody is in trouble. I believe that's what we're going to see in Aurora. I'm concerned that's what we're going to see here, that people don't intervene with the same kind of intentionality that they need to.
I -- I'm concerned in that state, in order to prevent this sort of thing. It's OK to help someone when they are about to move into a state where they can hurt themselves and other people. You are helping them by doing that, no matter how much they dislike it. And I have a concern that there might be a -- I don't know if it's a cultural issue, a legal issue or a medical issue, that is preventing that from being carried out in that state.
BLITZER: But we've seen it elsewhere outside of Colorado, Dr. Drew, including in Newtown, Connecticut, right?
PINSKY: Absolutely. Absolutely. That is -- but there, at least what you have is a parent in denial who'd seemingly, as we are learning more about this case, that case, did not want to intervene, did not want to admit to herself she had a paranoid, agitated, violent, plotting child on her hands.
It's difficult to deal with as a parent. No parent wants to deal with that. But it seems like there's a system problem, Aurora, the school had been intervening in that kid.
Wolf, I wonder what we're going to find out about this child and what this school might have been dealing with, with him.
BLITZER: Dr. Drew Pinsky, the host of HLN's "DR. DREW ON CALL," thank you very much.
PINSKY: You bet. BLITZER: Mike Brooks, don't go too far away. We'll stay on top of this story. New information coming in.
We're also following other important news including an American, new information on that American being held supposedly in Iran right now. Stand by. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. We're now told the president has been briefed on the latest shooting at a high school in Colorado.
Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar. She's getting the details.
So what do we know on this front, Brianna?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We've learned, Wolf, that President Obama was briefed so he is certainly aware of the situation on the ground there and we understand that he first learned of it when he was in a meeting this afternoon with a number of mayors and actually, it was New York City Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio who said President Obama was handed a note and he informed the group then that this had happened.
It was a very somber moment as he described.
But we're also told by a White House official, Wolf, that the White House is in touch with federal, local and state law enforcement officials and that President Obama will continue to monitor the situation.
BLITZER: All right, Brianna, stand by. We will get more from you as well.
And we're going to get back to the shooting incident in Colorado momentarily but there's another breaking news story we're following right now. An American prisoner in Iran, we have new information that an American who vanished in Iran nearly seven years ago was actually working for the CIA.
Bob Levinson's family is coming forward to accuse the U.S. government of failing to do enough to find a man who risked his life to serve his country.
And the Associated Press which first reported this story is calling it one of the biggest scandals in recent CIA history.
Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is here in THE SITUATION ROOM looking into this.
What are you finding out?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, the story really began as a family tragedy. A father of seven, missing in Iran for nearly seven years, barely heard from since, but as these details have come out of his ties working for the CIA, more and more, it's becoming a story of an intelligence operation gone too far.
ROBERT LEVINSON, MISSING IN IRAN: Please help me get home.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): This is Robert Levinson, pleading with Washington for help three years after he disappeared in Iran.
LEVINSON: Thirty-three years of service to the United States deserves something. Please help me.
SCIUTTO: He hasn't been seen or heard from since. Now new information that when he went missing, he was working undercover for the CIA. It's a point the agency and the White House have publicly denied for years, and today against refused to confirm, though carefully.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Bob Levinson was not a U.S. government employee when he went missing in Iran.
SCIUTTO: However, documents and e-mails first reported by the AP detail the CIA's connection to Levinson's 2007 trip to Iran's Kish Island. It was a rogue operation, his lawyer tells CNN, spying on Iran's nuclear program and Hezbollah under direction from a group within the CIA.
Outing him, in effect, as a spy has heightened concerns for his safety, but after nearly seven years of imprisonment and interrogation, even his family concedes it's likely whoever is holding him already knows of his CIA ties. Iran has never acknowledged holding Levinson.
Asked about him by CNN's Christiane Amanpour in September, President Hassan Rouhani said he didn't even know his name.
HASSAN ROUHANI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT: First you mentioned a person I have never heard of. Mr. Levinson, we don't know where he is, who he is.
SCIUTTO: U.S. officials say they continue to raise his case with Tehran at every level.
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: I personally raised it with the Iranians in the course of our discussions, and we will continue to try to seek his release and return to the United States.
SCIUTTO: The Levinson family has criticized the U.S. government for in effect abandoning him. But the U.S. government pushing back, a statement today from Marie Harf, State Department's spokesperson, saying it has been a top priority for the U.S. government to find him, to help him return to his family, has remained consistently a top priority for us.
BLITZER: Don't go away, Jim, I want you to participate in this next interview.
Let's bring in one of the most well-known former CIA clandestine officers, at least in recent history. Valerie Plame has worked for the spy agency, was leaked back in 2003, blowing her cover and prompting an investigation and a huge political scandal. She's now an author among other things. She has a brand new book entitled "Blowblack," a thriller about a CIA operative.
Valerie, thanks very much for joining us.
Thank you for having me, Wolf.
BLITZER: I want to get your thoughts on Bob Levinson. But I want to play this clip. This is the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, when he was asked about Levinson and his connection to the CIA and the U.S. government earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARNEY: Bob Levinson was not a U.S. government employee when he went missing in Iran. I'm not going to fact check every allegation made in the story you referenced, a story we believe it was highly irresponsible to publish and which we strongly urged the outlet not to publish out of concerns for Mr. Levinson's safety.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Valerie, let's talk about that. He was not a U.S. government employee. But if he was a contractor for the CIA, if he was a private businessman getting money from the CIA to do certain work, would the Carney statement still be accurate that he was not a government employee?
PLAME: I think that statement can be parsed into tiny little pieces. I find this whole case so astonishing on many levels. What has come out in the reporting from AP and other places now is that essentially the director of intelligence, these are the analysts, they're the ones who are taking all the information and disseminating it throughout the intelligence community, they are running an operation.
That should be under the auspices, under the rubric of the director of operations. They are the ones responsible for recruiting foreign spies and providing intelligence. This really was so strange, not only apparently this woman, an analyst who is highly regarded, she knows a lot about Russian criminal syndicates, and so forth. She was his friend, brought him in on contract, and I think in many ways he was a victim of his own success.
They were really delighted, his information was good. He had a long career with the FBI and DEA. He knew what he was doing on the ground, but as one of the e-mails surfaced from this analyst that was essentially running him, that they were so pleased that they were able to do this, and basically best the directorate of operation guys, you know, the other guys in the building.
And what this shows, I think, is an agency that's completely since 9/11 has grown too big, too reliant on contractors and just no one can get their arms around it.
BLITZER: Is there a real rivalry within the agency, between the analysts, those who try to come up with intelligence assessments and the clandestine service, the actual spies who go out there, like you used to do, and try to recruit foreigners to help the United States?
PLAME: I wouldn't use the term a rivalry. They're two very different functions. They're two different types of people. The type of person that goes into the analytical side is completely different than what you'd find on the ops side. And that's as it should be. They work -- in most cases work together very well, but I think with so much money coming in and contractors, and as we know, since 9/11, the explosion of contractors, I think something like 60 to 70 percent of the intelligence budget is now dedicated to contractors.
We have Snowden and others, that's a whole other conversation, but it shows that the huge money that has come into the intelligence community is not being well spent or well supervised. And what I find really distressing is that it took so long for both the FBI and the CIA to get into gear and to deeply investigate this, do their own internal investigations.
Apparently initially this woman and probably her chain of command stonewalled the investigators. And that further put Bob Levinson into extreme jeopardy to the point we don't know, of course, if he is dead or alive today.
BLITZER: We don't know, that's what they're saying. Do you agree with the White House that the Associated Press' decision to release this information that he was working on behalf of the CIA, was being paid by the CIA when he was captured, taken prisoner in Iran, that that was, in the words of Jay Carney, highly irresponsible to publish?
PLAME: I respectfully disagree with that because at this point in time it is absolutely clear that whoever is holding him, I think the Iranians for sure had him, but where he is now, we don't know. Somewhere in southwest Asia, perhaps, was the last proof of life video that they had, but it's pretty clear that he had connections to the CIA.
But this is a problem, when you have the analytical side of the house attempting to run operations without proper training, without taking precautions to keep him safe, it's not surprising that this is the end result, and it's just really sad.
BLITZER: Apparently the -- Associated Press identified this woman, this CIA analyst who was supposedly running Levinson. I don't know if you ever -- you knew her personally, ran across her during your years at the CIA. Did you?
PLAME: I did not. I know her name. She apparently was either given the choice of being fired or resigned. She resigned, and protesting all the way. But from what we see, what has come out now, it's very clear that she -- had no business doing what she was doing, or again -- her chain of command. He was a victim of his own success. They thought, this is really good information he's getting, let's keep it going.
But what he was doing on Kish Island, which is fully owned and operated by Iranian intelligence, without proper backup. She claimed well, I had no idea that he was going to Kish Island and so forth. This is no way to run an operation.
BLITZER: Jim Sciutto has a quick question for you.
SCIUTTO: It just, I agree with you that it's clear that the Iranians after seven years or probably far earlier knew that he had these CIA ties, but I've spoken to a number of Americans who have been held in Iran under false charges of spying. You know, this is a favorite charge from the Iranians. Roxana Saberi, a journalist held there.
SCIUTTO: Sentenced to eight years, although she was released.
PLAME: That's right.
SCIUTTO: Now you have the Amir --
PLAME: The hikers, sure.
SCIUTTO: Exactly. The hikers. They used the charge. Amir Hekmati, former U.S. Marine being held there now on similar charges.
There's a propaganda value here. Do you worry that they would use this revelation about Levinson as further ammunition for other Americans falsely accused?
PLAME: I'm not a hostage negotiator, but I would say that since 9/11 we have been overly, both media and the courts, have been overly deferential to anytime someone says national security, and they back off. So too much has happened this time. The family has agreed to allow this to go ahead and they want him home.
BLITZER: Valerie Plame, thank you so much for joining us. We'll continue this conversation.
Valerie Plame, the former CIA clandestine officer.
PLAME: Thank you.
BLITZER: And the author of the new book "Blowback."
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
BLITZER: And we're following the breaking news. The coverage of the new school shooting in Colorado this time.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Take a look at this. We're showing you live pictures from the Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado. These aren't live actually. These are taped pictures right now. It's now a crime scene.
Just a few hours ago a student at the school walked in and opened fire. Authorities say he was armed with a shotgun, that he didn't try to hide, and he was planning to target a specific teacher. That teacher left the building.
We're learning also that three people are being treated for injuries. At least two of them are students who were wounded in the shooting. One of them is now in surgery.
The shooter is dead. He apparently killed himself. Students have been evacuated from the school. They are reuniting with their families.