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Interview With Senator Bill Nelson; Shooting at Medical Center in Nevada; North Korean Intrigue

Aired December 17, 2013 - 18:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I want to update you on the breaking news, disturbing news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

We have just learned there's been a shooting at a major medical center in Reno, Nevada. Police say the situation is active. We're gathering information. There you see some pictures. This is the Renown Medical Center in Reno, Nevada.

The authorities there say there has been a shooting. We don't know details. We know that police are there on the scene. The Renown Regional Medical Center is the region's only level two trauma center, provides, according to its own Web site, a wide variety of specialties, including cancer, heart, neurosciences, orthopedic surgery, intensive care, women and children's services.

Renown Regional, by the way, is also the home to the area's only children's hospital. Fellowship-trained and board-certified radiologists are there as well. It offers access to the largest number of clinical research trials in the region.

There's an active shooter, we're told, at this hospital right now. In addition to the medical center, Renown Regional is comprised of two other centers for advanced medicine that house medical practices from dozens of medical specialties and sub-specialties.

The police now are telling us there are casualties in this hospital shooting at the Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno, Nevada.

Keith Garcia, the chief of police with the University of Nevada, Reno, tells CNN there are casualties as a result of what's called an active shooter, saying that the shooter is on the third floor of the Renown Medical Center campus. They're in the process of evacuating this hospital right now.

Quote: "We have had an active shooter at the third floor of the Renown campus," Garcia says. "I don't have the number of casualties. There are casualties. I don't know the extent of the casualties or the people injured or how many were injured." He goes on to say, "We are in the process of working with Reno Police Department in evacuating the building. We will have additional information," he says, "as time allows us to release it. We don't know if the suspect is dead."

But there is, there is a shooting incident, very disturbing incident coming in right now from Reno, Nevada. We don't know if the shooter is still shooting or if the shooter is dead, all of this information coming in piecemeal, as you know, which is often the case in a situation like this.

But you see this is the Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno, Nevada, the second largest city in Nevada after Las Vegas. This is the major medical facility in that area. And on the third floor, we are told, there is a shooter. We don't know the condition.

Once again, Keith Garcia, the chief of police of the University of Nevada, Reno, which is right there on the scene, is saying there are casualties as a result of this shooter, the shooter being on the third floor of the medical center campus.

The hospital, we are also told from the chief of police, from the chief of police, Keith Garcia that they are in the process of evacuating the hospital. And once again, he says there are casualties. There are people who are injured. Four people, we are now told, have been injured in this incident in Reno, Nevada.

Once again, the information is coming in slowly, but it's very disturbing information coming in from Reno, another shooting incident, this time at a medical center in Reno, not far from the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno, right now. This is the hospital that serves this area.

We're getting some more information thanks to Joe Johns, who's joining us right now, who has been checking with his sources. And I know the information is coming in, a disturbing piece of information.

What are you learning, Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It is, Wolf, and I have to tell you there are conflicting pieces of information coming in out of Nevada at this hour.

We have got the one report of an active shooter. There are also unconfirmed reports that the shooter may already be down and some suggestion that, yes, there are some casualties, we're told, talking to law enforcement sources. And the question is, how severe is it?

But mixed information coming in. The bottom line is unconfirmed reports coming in to us that the shooter may already be down -- back to you.

BLITZER: We are getting this information, Joe, from authorities in Nevada, four people confirmed injured. And the words of the authorities in Nevada, the shooter has been contained. Not exactly sure what that means.

But, earlier, the chief of police of the University of Nevada, Reno, Keith Garcia, saying, we don't know if the suspect is dead. But now the new information is the shooter is contained. I assume that means the shooter is either dead or has been arrested or is no longer a threat to the hospital and the people there. University of Nevada, Reno, Police Chief Keith Garcia saying that there had been an active shooter on the third floor of the Renown Medical Center campus. The other sources now telling us there are four people who are injured, four casualties. We don't know the extent of the casualties. We do know, according to authorities in Reno right now, the shooter has been contained.

This is disturbing, Joe. And I know you're getting more information even as we speak right now.

JOHNS: Yes. We also have to just talk about these active shooter situations. And they seem to be coming now more and more frequently, as some people have actually suggested, Wolf.

And in one of these situations, there's a certain amount of time, some say about nine minutes on average before that shooter is actually contained. And, typically, authorities say, in most cases it's, the shooter who decides to give himself up or in many other cases actually to shoot himself, as we saw in the Colorado Arapahoe High School situation just last week.

So it takes a lot of time for authorities to go from room to room, door to door to try to figure out who's where, who's injured, and where the shooter is, and then to try in one form or another to contain him or take him out. So I would imagine there are a number of authorities there, even if we do have this report of a person being contained, a number of authorities moving through that building very methodically to see if there are any other surprises, if there might be another shooter, for example or are there people holed up and need to get out, a lot of questions for authorities to handle in generally a short amount of time, because a person in this kind of situation can do so much damage before the authorities even arrive, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. So now we have four people injured. We don't know the extent of the injuries. But the shooter has been, in the words of authorities, contained at the Renown Regional Medical Center.

The shooter had been spotted on the third floor of that campus. This is a major hospital in the Reno, Nevada, area.

We will stay on top of this story, bring you all the day's other important news. Let's take a quick break. We will recap right after this.


BLITZER: Once again, we have been following the disturbing breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. We learned about a shooting at a major medical center in Reno, Nevada.

Four people now confirmed injured, according to the University of Nevada police chief. They're in the process of evacuating the hospital. Reno police say they believe the shooter is down from what they describe a self-inflicted gunshot. You're looking at live pictures coming in from Reno, Nevada. The shooter went to the neurology department at the advanced medical center, that would be on the third floor, and opened fire. Four people injured. But the shooter has been contained. The suspicion is, the suspicion is that the shooter died from a self-inflicted gunshot after shooting four individuals.

More information coming in, but this is the latest information we're getting from Reno, Nevada. Looks like the authorities say the incident has been contained. But it's very disturbing. They believe the shooter is down from a self-inflicted gunshot. The four people are injured. Once again, we're going to try to find out how seriously they have been injured. Those are live pictures.

We will stay on top of the story and get you more information as it becomes available. But that's what we know right now from Reno, Nevada.

Other news we're following, very important news, members of North Korea's military are vowing to protect Kim Jong-un to his death by becoming human bullets and bombs. The volatile strong man is trying to show the world that he's in charge as he marks two years since the death of his father and his own rise to power.

The highly staged ceremonies come just days after the execution of Kim's uncle and right before another visit by a surprising new pal, the retired basketball star Dennis Rodman. These are strange and dangerous times in the nuclear-armed nation to be sure.

Brian Todd is here. We're going to get to him in a moment.

But let's get to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, for more on the latest developments, very disturbing developments coming out of North Korea -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there were extraordinary pictures out of Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, today and U.S. intelligence is scratching its head trying to figure out what it all means.


STARR (voice-over): Thousands of North Korean military personnel swear their loyalty to leader Kim Jong-un at a massive ceremony marking the second anniversary of the death of his father, Kim surrounded by senior officials to show he is in full command days after executing the second most powerful man in North Korea, his uncle, Jang Song Thaek.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The threat is continuing to grow. It's continuing to evolve. And with Kim Jong-un, we have a leader not only as dangerous as his father, but more unpredictable, more erratic.

STARR: So, what happens next is the big worry for the U.S. and South Korea?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The competition for showing loyalty could result in the possibility of provocation. Therefore,, we consider that it is highly likely the North would attempt provocations next year between late January and early March.

STARR: U.S. satellites are watching for any signs of troops on the move or more weapons testing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We should be very concerned, because it's very likely that he will do a fourth nuclear test, perhaps this time using uranium-based nuclear weapons. The earlier ones were plutonium. If it is detected to be uranium, that shows they now have a parallel second path to augmenting their nuclear arsenal. It's very likely we will see yet another long-range missile test.

STARR: And U.S. intelligence analysts are scouring these images for clues about the regime after Jang Song Thaek's execution. Kim's young wife has suddenly reappeared after several weeks. Is Kim now more confident with his uncle dead?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The wife was rumored to perhaps have had an affair with Jang Song Thaek before her marriage, while she was still a member of a dance troupe.


STARR: And in the latest development, the U.S. is looking at reports that North Korea dropped leaflets on a South Korean island threatening a new attack -- Wolf.

BLITZER: This is a pretty dangerous time right now on the Korean Peninsula, to be sure, given all the uncertainty of what is going on inside North Korea.

Barbara, thanks, very much.

And amidst all of this, a NBA former star is getting ready to arrive in Pyongyang.

Brian Todd is picking up this part of the story.

Dennis Rodman making another visit to North Korea.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yet another one, Wolf, and Rodman and his team say this is all about basketball. They want to set up an exhibition in North Korea next month. Rodman says he's not going to press the case of Kenneth Bae, the American detained in North Korea. But observers say there's an opening there with the erratic young North Korean leader.


TODD (voice-over): He's had his uncle executed, purged other top officials, hasn't met with any foreign dignitaries, but he's about to warmly receive, for the third time, an eccentric ex-basketball player nicknamed the Worm.

The latest strange chapter on North Korea's Kim Jong-un? Another visit from former NBA star Dennis Rodman.

MIKE GREEN, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: It's bizarre, and it raises serious questions about Kim Jong-un's own judgment.

TODD: Rodman's visit is sponsored by an Irish online betting company, Paddy Power. It was Rodman's idea, a company spokesman says, and he will be there only to talk about organizing a basketball exhibition that Rodman hopes will bring former NBA stars to North Korea next month.

The White House, CIA and State Department are not commenting, saying he's going as a private citizen. But Rodman is the highest-profile American to ever meet with Kim Jong-un. He once tweeted a call for Kim to release American missionary Kenneth Bae, detained in North Korea for more than a year. Rodman insists he's not going to deal with Bae's case on this trip, but analysts say this could be an opening.

BOB BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: They will make gestures like this to a celebrity like Rodman. I have seen this over and over again. We had Muhammad Ali going in and doing diplomacy back in the '80s.

TODD: And Bob Baer says, despite the no-comment from the CIA, the agency will likely want to ask Rodman questions after his visit about conditions there, conditions now prompting serious questions about the Kim family dynamic.

Why did Kim Jong-un have his uncle Jang Song Thaek, a former mentor, executed? The regime says it was for treason, but the plot may be thicker.

JONATHAN POLLACK, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Here's a guy who knows where all the bodies are buried. He knows everything about relationships in this system. And at the end of the day, that may be why he was shot.

TODD: A kind of palace intrigue consistent in this clan.

GREEN: The violence within the Kim family can be compared to Borgias, to Caligula. The oldest brother to the current leader, Kim Jong-un, is named Kim Jong-nam. He lives in Macau most of the year. He is protected by the Chinese from assassination because he has openly told secrets and even been critical of the regime and his family.


TODD: And there was another sibling who Kim Jong-un leapfrogged to take power, the mysterious middle brother, his name Kim Jong-chol. There's a picture of him. Analysts say their father, Kim Jong Il, found him to be too effeminate, timid, and not interested enough in politics to be the country's leader. He has rarely been seen in public, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, palace intrigue is intense. It would be funny if it weren't so serious right now, given the fact that there are so many U.S. troops along the DMZ, the demilitarized zone, so many North Korean troops facing South Korean troops. So, it's a serious situation. Thanks very much for that, Brian, Brian Todd reporting.


BLITZER: We're following once again that breaking news out of Reno, Nevada. Authorities say four people are injured at a shooting at the major Reno medical center. There's a picture of it. We're continuing to gather information. We will share what we know.

That's coming up.

Also, Senator Bill Nelson is standing by. I will ask the Florida Democrat about his offer to go to Iran right now if it will help bring back an American home.


BLITZER: We're following the breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM, and we have some new information about that shooting incident at a major medical center in Reno, Nevada.

CNN's Joe Johns has been following the latest information.

What do we know, Joe?

JOHNS: Wolf, we just learned that two people are dead, this according to Reno police.

Reno police say they believe the shooter is one of those people and that he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Four people are injured, according to the University of Nevada chief of police. Police say the shooter went to the Neurology School of Advanced Medicine on the third floor and opened fire, which police say they are now in the process of evacuating -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, we will stay on top of this very disturbing story, another shooting incident on the campus of a major medical facility in Reno, Nevada.

Other new we're following, including questions right now about whether the NSA surveillance tactics should be reviewed eventually by the United States Supreme Court.

We're joined now by Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida.

I want your quick thoughts. Do you believe this case, how far the NSA can go in its surveillance, should go up to the Supreme Court, given what the judge, that federal judge decided yesterday, that it was probably unconstitutional?

SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: I think it will go to the Supreme Court, because you have a completely contradictory opinion by a federal judge in California a few months ago.

He said it was constitutional, so I think the issue will go to the Supreme Court. BLITZER: Let me talk about one of your constituents from Florida, Bob Levinson, who's been missing. He's been somewhere we assume in Iran for seven years. He disappeared. He was a former FBI agent, spent almost three decades as a FBI agent. But now it's been disclosed he -- when he went missing, he was actually on some sort of assignment for the CIA.

And you have now come forward, Senator. Correct me if I'm wrong. You now say you're willing to go to Iran to bring him home. Tell us what's going on.

NELSON: Well, I have been involved in this from the beginning, because Christine Levinson and seven children are from Florida.

And I happened to be on the Intelligence Committee at the time that all this started seven years ago. And, as reported in some of the newspapers, the case was moribund. And we started up to start searching for Levinson.

And there have been high-level contacts between our government and the government of Iran. And so my call two nights ago with the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations was, look, at a time where there is success between our two governments in starting to negotiate on a nuclear agreement, you could really step forward and offer a gesture of humanitarian goodwill to return this father and dad to his family.

The ambassador said he would pass that on to the foreign minister, who I had talked to back in September as well, making the offer. So we will see what happens.

BLITZER: When did you know, Senator, that he was really on some sort of assignment for the CIA when he disappeared in Iran?

NELSON: Wolf, I cannot confirm that, because, as a member of the Intelligence Committee, all of that is classified information.

But, obviously, what has been reported in the newspapers -- and, by the way, "The New York Times"' Barry Meier has it the most accurate. He disappeared seven years ago. It was, according to "The New York Times," a rogue operation. And the higher-ups supposedly did not know.

BLITZER: We will stay in very close touch with you, Senator Nelson. Let us know if you're going to make that trip to Iran. And good luck. We'd all like to see Bob Levinson back here in the United States.

NELSON: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Senator Bill Nelson joining us from Capitol Hill.

I want to check in one more time with Joe Johns. He has got some more information on that very disturbing shooting incident in Nevada -- Joe.

JOHNS: Wolf, this goes back to how fluid these situations become. Police had initially told us that they believed two people were dead, including the shooter. Now police are revising that, saying they believe that the shooter is dead, but another person they thought was dead turns out to be alive.

So we do know several people we believe shot. We don't know the severity of the other two people who may have been injured. That's about all we know from Nevada right now. We do know that the active shooter situation apparently is over. And now the investigation begins, Wolf.

BLITZER: And we believe the shooter died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, is that right?

JOHNS: Yes. That's our understanding, the shooter died from a self- inflicted gunshot wound, which is so common in these active shooter situations, because the shooter can do so much damage, but he is the one who decides whether to give himself up or shoot himself, Wolf.

BLITZER: We will stay on top of this story for our viewers, very disturbing information.

Joe Johns, thanks very much.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.