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New Mexico Authorities Discuss School Shooting In Press Conference; New Video of Only American P.O.W.; Report: Benghazi Attacks Preventable

Aired January 15, 2014 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Right now, we are bringing you a live news conference on that school shooting in Roswell, New Mexico.

Let's listen in.


TOM BURRIS, SUPERINTENDENT, ROSWELL INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT: ... kids from Colorado schools who were involved with things like this offering to come send a group of kids here, and we will consider that.

This is a very difficult situation and we have been very, very well- supported. Our focus, of course, is our kids. Our focus is the well- being of the two that were injured and the well-being of the one who was the perpetrator.

These are our kids. It doesn't stop being our kids because they're injured or because they're incarcerated. Our teachers tomorrow have a very, very difficult and stressful day coming.

And they have all worked very hard today to prepare for tomorrow. As the governor said, Tuesday, when those kids came to school, the teachers were different than they will be tomorrow. Tomorrow, they will all be counselors. Every staff member is in there working to prepare the kids for tomorrow.

Our hearts go out to our two in Lubbock, and we wish them speedy recovery. We wish them back at school. I am a parent of two little girls in the school district, elementary age. They went to school yesterday. They went to school today. Their mother is an employee of the school district. She's a counselor.

She was here today with a group to work with kids tomorrow. I have the confidence in Roswell Independent School District. I have the confidence that we're safe. I have the confidence that we have the best teachers in the state who will do the best job with our kids.

And, tomorrow, I told the teachers it's a face of courage, it's a face of love, and a face of positive that you have to put on for every one of our kids. You're the leader of the class. You're the leader that is going to lead these kids back from where they have been in the last two days. I appreciate all of the consideration of the media. There are a lot of things with school that I can't talk about. And I have been very well-respected with that.

And just know that my position as a superintendent, my position as a teacher and a principal and a dad is, these kids are number one and appreciate what you do.

Thank you.



I will provide you with an update as far as our investigation. I know there's been some discussion about the suspect and his name and why I haven't been able to disclose that. It's because I'm bound as a law enforcement agency by the criminal code, the children's code as to what I can say and confirm at this point in time.

Again, I want to reiterate that we believe we have the sole individual in custody that's responsible for this event, this situation. We're still working with the district attorney's office on the actual charging and how that will role out, so I don't have any definitive information for you on that.

To confirm, we did -- we worked through to night to ensure that we would finish serving or executing the three search warrants so we could return the school back to the -- or the gymnasium back to the school. We went in and executed those warrants on the suspect's locker, on a -- I will categorize it as a duffel bag.

I believe it was categorized as an instrument case. That's not correct. It's a duffel bag. And also the residence on Sycamore Street in Roswell. Due to the fact that the warrants are sealed, I cannot disclose exactly what we found at this time.

However, I can tell you we did find evidence that the suspect had planned this event. I can't discuss the particulars as to why, but we definitely discovered that through the warrant process.

To speak to the weapon that was used, again, I will reconfirm that it's a .20-gauge pump shotgun. The handle or stock was sawed off, making more of a pistol grip-type weapon. It had three rounds of ammunition in that weapon, what I would categorize as bird shot.

All three rounds were expended during the incident. We believe from our criminalistics, one round went into the ceiling area, and not in any particular order. Second round was shot into the floor of the gymnasium, and the third round was aimed into the stands at the students.

We believe that the distance that weapon when fired at the two young individuals that were struck was about 12 to 15 feet in distance.

Our investigation is somewhat wrapping up. We have done over 60 what we would categorize as primary interviews. Our efforts will continue to continue to reach out to anybody else that believes they're a witness to this and saw exactly what happened and what was pertinent to the investigation.

I want to stress that I believe that this is an isolated incident. I'm very pleased throughout yesterday and today how the school officials and local officials have interacted with the state police to allow us to do our jobs and get this process as completed as we can.

That's all I have for you on the investigative part.


KASSETAS: No. No. I can't talk about exactly what we found on the particular search warrants, but I'm of the belief that there are no other firearms that were involved.


KASSETAS: He's in Albuquerque at a location there.

QUESTION: Any more evidence that he warned other students or posted anything anywhere to suggest kids ought not to come to school on Tuesday?

KASSETAS: You know, we have some indication of that. We're still going through the social media, as I talked about, but we believe there were some preliminary warnings as he arrived at school, but we're working through those with those interviews.

QUESTION: Were they online or...

KASSETAS: We believe that they were in person to some select students that he ran into before he entered that gymnasium.

QUESTION: The morning of?

KASSETAS: The morning of, yes.

QUESTION: How did you know that there was planned? Is there a note?

KASSETAS: I can't disclose exactly how we know that. I can just tell you that we found evidence to believe that it was thought out and planned prior to.

QUESTION: Can you tell if it was a random shooting or was it targeted?

KASSETAS: I can probably speak to the fact that I believe when the incident occurred, it was random, the victims were random.


KASSETAS: You know what, that's a great question. It's a very complex case, as you all know. The district attorney can speak to that a little better. I don't believe she's here now. She's working through the process with my investigators.

But I don't believe it's anything other than it is a very complex case and we need to make sure we get it right.

QUESTION: Is it possible when you look at where his weapon came from, that it came from the parents, or whoever it came from, that they could face charges with the fact that this minor had this gun?

KASSETAS: That's a district attorney question. I don't know that.

QUESTION: Where did the gun come from?

KASSETAS: The gun came from the residence of the suspect.

QUESTION: Is it fair to say the parents (OFF-MIKE)

KASSETAS: I would say so, yes.

QUESTION: Some of his classmates have said that he was bullied. Is that's something that you have found in your interviews. Is that something you feel played a part in this at all?

KASSETAS: We still have not put down those statements. We're still working on those.


KASSETAS: We're well over 60. I don't have the exact number, but I believe that we're at 60 what we're calling primary witnesses.

QUESTION: Can you tell who modified the gun?

KASSETAS: We believe the suspect modified the weapon by cutting off the stock.

QUESTION: How does the system treat a 12-year-old accused of this?

KASSETAS: It's a pretty complex, I would say, system we're navigating through.

If you want the particulars, I say that it would be best to talk to the district attorney and my investigators. I know they're working through the complexities of that. But it's definitely -- the age puts a different spin on it from an adult offender.

QUESTION: Chief, the first two shots, were they inadvertent or was he trying to scare someone?

KASSETAS: I don't know that.

QUESTION: Chief, you said there's evidence that he planned this event. Can you elaborate on that at all as to who the target -- was the target the school, was it students in general? Was it -- it sounds like you don't think it was a particular student. Can you comment on that at all? KASSETAS: You know, not right now, because I haven't -- I think I need to let my investigators continue to work through the evidence they found. I don't want to give you misleading information. So I have to hold off on commenting further on that.

QUESTION: Is there any indication he had a plan that was in any way interrupted by the teacher or the state police officer? Did he have more ammunition in the bag, or did it seem like he had more in mind than what he ended up doing?

KASSETAS: There's no indication that he had any ammunition other than what was loaded in that weapon, three rounds.

QUESTION: What do you know about the suspect's involvement in the (OFF-MIKE)

KASSETAS: I don't know much about that myself. I can't comment on that right now.

QUESTION: Any kind of legal timeline you can give us?

KASSETAS: No, again, I'm not a lawyer. You are going to have to go to the district attorney for that.

QUESTION: Chief, we have held off not releasing the suspect's name out of respect for your investigation. If we release it, does it hinder your investigation in any way? I know you can't say who he is, but I think everybody else knows.

KASSETAS: It doesn't hinder -- it doesn't hinder our investigation in any way, no.

QUESTION: Are his parents cooperating?

KASSETAS: I don't know. I haven't spoken to them. I know my investigators have been in contact with them. But I would only assume, yes, I believe so.

QUESTION: Do you know if they have seen their son?


QUESTION: Chief, the .20-gauge shotgun, do you have any idea of the make and model?

KASSETAS: I don't know right now.

TAPPER: We have been listening to the press conference live from Roswell, New Mexico, New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas talking about the school shooting in Roswell, two students shot, the suspect 12 years old, one of the victims 12, the other 13.

The tragic shooting in New Mexico is just one of the latest active shooter events in this country. It's so common, the examples roll off the tongue these days, Newtown, Navy Yard, Fort Hood, Virginia Tech. A recent report out by the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center looked at over 100 active shooting events which are defined as one or more persons whose primary motive is mass murder in a confined or populated area. This does not include gang-related shootings or family-related shootings.

The researchers found the number of these types of mass shootings has increased from an average of about five a year prior to 2009 and in 2013 it was 15.

For more, let's turn to J. Peter Blair, associate professor of criminal justice at Texas State University, who worked on this study.

Mr. Blair, thanks so much for joining us. You found an increase in these active shooter events. Do we have any idea why?

J. PETER BLAIR, TEXAS STATE UNIVERSITY: No, we don't at this time.

That wasn't a primary focus for our study. When we looked at these events, we're a law enforcement training center and we're primarily concerned about helping law enforcement to respond to them.

I think it's also important to point out that because these are pretty infrequent events that small changes can make it look like there have been big movements when there may not have been. There's always the possibility that for some reason our search strategy, we searched through LexisNexis, that, previous, before 2008, maybe we weren't able to identify as many things because they weren't archived as well.

Keep that in mind as well. But in looking at them, it does appear that there's been an increase.

TAPPER: An increase in these type of active shooter events, mass shootings.

Peter, first of all, let's get your reaction to the press conference we just heard in Roswell, New Mexico. We have a 12-year-old suspect. He gets a .20-gauge pump shotgun from his parents, according to the state chief of police. He brings it in to school, starts shooting, apparently randomly. Does this fit the mold?

BLAIR: Yes, it sounds very typical for school shooters in particular getting their weapons from their family, going to school, and then maybe being frustrated with particular individuals at school, but taking out their frustration more randomly and more generally against the school as a whole.

TAPPER: Let's talk about the common locations for these shootings, 29 percent in schools, 40 percent in businesses.

If you're caught in one of these situations, what do you do?

BLAIR: Well, there's some guidance at the federal level.

The federal government talks about run, hide, fight. And certainly we think that's a good strategy. If you can get away from the attacker, avoid them, run away, that's the best thing to do. If, for some reason, you can't get away from them, maybe there's gunfire ringing out in the hallway, that sort of thing, and you're worried about you might get shot if you were to go out there, then the next best thing to do is what the government refers to as hide.

But I think, when we talk about hide, we want to be very clear that we're not talking about just hiding under a desk somewhere where if the shooter does come in the room with you, you're helpless. We're really talking about taking action to prevent the shooter from getting to you, so closing and locking doors, barricading them, that sort of thing.

The last result is to fight or defend yourself if you do get stuck in that situation. And again, you want to place yourself in the room, so if the attacker does come in, you're in a position to fight as opposed to being too far away to do anything.

TAPPER: In your study of these active shooter events or mass shootings, is there a commonality to the shooters themselves? Do they have any sort of similarity?

BLAIR: There's not a demographic profile, if that's what you're asking. Most of the shooters tend to be male. There are some female shooters. Because we looked at events that weren't just school-based, we looked across school, business, and other locations. We see there's no pattern as far as age. There's really not a pattern as far as ethnicity or race either.

TAPPER: What about mental health history? Are they usually people like the shooter we saw in Newtown, people who have had mental health issues for a long, long time, or sometimes are they people that seemed perfectly fine up until the moment they walked into the school or the business and had a gun?

BLAIR: Well, that was outside the scope of our study. But other work that's been done suggests that these aren't just situations where somebody snaps and then all of a sudden launches the attack. Instead, there tends to be an ongoing downward spiral of people who are not very successful in their lives and they have a period of time where they're in serious trouble before they actually launch an attack.

But, again, that really was outside the scope of what our study looked at.

TAPPER: All right. Peter Blair, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.

Coming up next, proof that an American soldier held by the Taliban is still alive after a video is released by his captors. But while it appears to be made in the last month, it does raise serious questions about Bowe Bergdahl's health.

Plus, the smash reality hit "Duck Dynasty" returns tonight, of course, with a brand-new cast member, foster daughter Rebecca. Will ratings stay sky-high despite the controversy?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Now, it's time for our world lead. He is the only American POW believed to still be in captivity. U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl reportedly left the base in eastern Afghanistan in 2009 and fell into the hands of the enemy. Since then, his family has only seen him in proof of life and propaganda videos. But for almost three years there hasn't been a new one until apparently now.

Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is on the story for us.

Jim, Bergdahl's family has new hope he's still alive?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: They do. I mean, these things are always a bit of a double-edged sword because on the one hand, they're a reminder how long he's been in captivity, nearly five years. But on the other hand, it is, as you say, proof of life. I'm told by a U.S. official who's seen the video there's a time reference to December 14th last month, so up to that point we know he was alive and not necessarily well. There's some deterioration in his health but at least alive, and that's something that the family is grateful for.

I should make it clear that the video you're about to see is not the latest video. It's the previous video. We've only had this video described to us by officials with knowledge of it.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): For the first time in three years, evidence abducted U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is still alive. The new video described to CNN includes a time reference to December 14th, 2013. It is the first proof of life since a series of tapes released in 2010 and 2011 by the Taliban.

SGT. BOWE BERGDAHL, AMERICAN POW: Release me, please? I'm begging you. Bring me home. Please?

SCIUTTO: Unlike earlier recordings, however, these new images show Bergdahl in declining health, says a U.S. military official with knowledge of it. Bergdahl was captured in June 2009 and is believed to be held by the Taliban-aligned Haqqani Network inside Pakistan.

Today, yellow ribbons lined the streets of his hometown, Hailey, Idaho, where his family has been fighting for his return ever since.

BOB BERGDAHL, FATHER OF BOWE BERGDAHL: A father does not leave his son alone on the battlefield. I do not live here. I live in Afghanistan. My cell phone is set on Afghan time. My weather is Afghan weather.

I might be standing here, but I am living vicariously through my son. I will not leave you on the battlefield, Bowe.

SCIUTTO: In 2011, his father made this impassioned video appeal direct to his son's kidnappers.

BOB BERGDAHL: It's past time for Bowe and the others to come down. To the nation of Pakistan, our family, we wish to convey our compassionate respect.

SCIUTTO: U.S. officials say his safe return is a top priority. U.S. Central Command keeps a constant reminder of him in its headquarters in Florida.

CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Our hearts today are with the Bergdahl family. Using our military, intelligence, and diplomatic tools, the United States is continuing its strong efforts to secure Sergeant Bergdahl's safe release.

SCIUTTO: Bergdahl is the only American soldier currently in captivity.

DAVID ROHDE, FORMER TALIBAN PRISONER: Over time, you're going to deteriorate physically. You're going to deteriorate psychologically because it's very isolating. So, you just hold on and hope that it's going to come to an end eventually.

SCIUTTO: David Rohde captured and held for eight months by the Taliban in 2008 while working for "The New York Times", keeps in touch with the Bergdahl family.

ROHDE: You decide essentially it's your job to survive, to stay alive and just wait and hope there's some kind of resolution to the case, and it's absolutely incredible that Bowe Bergdahl has stayed alive through these 4 1/2 years.


SCIUTTO: Now, the family of Sergeant Bergdahl released a statement today. And I want to read part of it. "As we have said many times over the past 4 1/2 years, they say, we request his captors to release him safely so our only son can be reunited with his mother and father.

And then a message to Bowe: Bowe, if you see this, continue to remain strong through patience. Your endurance will carry you to the finish line. Breathe."

You know, I've been to Sun Valley, where he's from, a number of times, and you see those yellow ribbons there, you see the messages on the hotels and restaurants, the whole town waiting for some news. I mean, this is not the news they want. They want him to be free. But at least now they know, as of last month, he was alive.

TAPPER: In the summer, it will be five years.


TAPPER: Heartbreaking.

SCIUTTO: The only American in captivity.

TAPPER: The only American.

Jim Sciutto, thank you so much.

Coming up -- sorry, president of France, the invitation only comes with a plus one when you come to the White House for dinner next month, not a plus two. So, you'll have to either bring your girlfriend or your mistress. That's coming up next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Turning now to the politics lead. A newly declassified report out today states that the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi that claimed four American lives never should have happened. Both Democrats and Republicans agree the attacks were preventable. The attacks that horrific night claimed the lives of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.

The bipartisan report from the Senate Intelligence Committee faults the State Department, saying officials there ignored, did not respond or did not fulfill cables asking for more security personnel.

Senator Dianne Feinstein is chair of the committee.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: The security was inadequate and should have been beefed up.


TAPPER: Report states despite initial official statements, the intelligence community now beliefs there were no protests outside the Benghazi facility, sparking a siege of the U.S. compound, and despite claims that the attacks were spontaneous, the report says, quote, "The collective assessment of the intelligence community remains that the attacks were deliberate and organized," something U.S. officials, including now national security advisor Susan Rice contradicted in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.


SUSAN RICE, THEN-U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that in fact what this began as was a spontaneous, not a premeditated, response to what had transpired in Cairo.


TAPPER: But the report blames those misstatements on the intelligence community for not correcting its initial erroneous reporting. Terrorist groups were involved in the onslaught including two al Qaeda affiliates and Ansar al Sharia, the report says. The report also shoots down the unsubstantiated allegation that the military could have saved the lives of the four Americans killed but had been told to stand down.

Sadly, security conditions on the ground in Benghazi remain in tatters. The report notes disturbingly that 15 individuals supporting the FBI's investigation have been killed in Libya since the attacks, though it's not clear that's why they were killed.

In separate statements at the end of the report, the Democrats on the committee assail others for misinformed speculation and accusations long after the basic facts of the attack have been determined. Republicans on the committee are going after the Obama administration for refusing or being unable to attain accountability from the attackers themselves and from those U.S. government officials who made poor management decisions relating to the Benghazi facilities, singling out for ultimate criticism, former secretary of state and potentially 2016 presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Coming up next on THE LEAD, he's not denying it. France's president hounded by reporters over an alleged affair. But the real question being asked, will he bring the first lady or his rumored mistress to the White House state dinner?

And later, the nominations for worst movies of the year are out. Which comedies -- and I, of course use that term loosely -- are on the list?