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Shooting At Columbia, Maryland Mall; Judge: No Respirator For Brain Dead Mom; Syria Foes At Fragile Peace Talks
Aired January 25, 2014 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right, this is breaking story we're following out of Columbia, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C. According to the Howard County Fire and EMS, there is an active shooting taking place at the mall in Columbia, very popular mall, and of course, at this time of day, certainly a place where many families like to go, about 200 stores at that popular mall.
It's about 45 minutes outside the Washington, D.C. area serving many counties, Howard County, Prince Georgia's County, Montgomery County, all there in the Washington, D.C. area. We understand according to the Twitter account of the Howard County Fire and EMS, an active shooting taking place. Unclear how many people may have been injured, hurt or involved in this active shooting.
And we don't even know how many people, whether it be one alleged gunman or more involved. All we know an active shooting taking place at the mall in Columbia, Maryland, in Howard County just outside Washington, D.C. Of course, we have our own CNN crews on the way to that mall to bring us the latest information. And of course, we continue to reach out to a number of sources in that vicinity.
Mike Brooks, our security analyst, is on the phone with us now. Mike, you know that area, given that you once worked in the Washington, D.C. area, Metropolitan Police. What are your sources telling you about what this means, this active shooting, and what kind of details are you able to gather?
MIKE BROOKS, CNN SECURITY ANALYST (via telephone): Well, there are not too many details right now. The mall apparently, Fredricka, is on complete lockdown right now. Employees are sheltering in place in their stores as they have probably practiced in the past, and the Howard County Police and Fire, they are both on the scene. Howard County Police all so on their Twitter account, en route. They don't have many facts right now.
A couple of my sources are telling me that there's a possibility of numerous people shot. We have not been able to confirm that. They are trying to do that right now, but still, a very, very tense situation right there at the mall in Columbia. You know, it's about 45 minutes north of D.C. and just outside Baltimore, Maryland.
So as you know, Fredricka, from living in that area, a very popular mall in that area, but right now, everything is on lockdown. Again, as you said, don't know how many active shooters there are, if anyone is in custody yet, the amount of injury, we don't know yet. WHITFIELD: Right, very popular mall, just straight up the Columbia pike as you put it. At least when I was a kid and we would go to that mall, it was one that especially on the weekends you would go to ice skate. I don't know if the ice skating rink is still a part of the mall there. But it is one that has four very large department stores kind of anchoring it, about 200 stores in all, a very popular place.
I always remember it being very docile, you know, quiet kind of environment there in Columbia, Maryland. There an ampitheater not far from the mall there in Columbia. But as you say, you know, Mike, is this is the kind of jurisdiction because it is up against so many metropolitan counties that it would likely get the kind of support from say PG County or even Montgomery County since this is -- you know, it's an area that has grown considerably over the years.
WHITFIELD: But it is not a sizable location.
BROOKS: No, but -- however I can tell you having worked with them in the past on a number of cases, the Howard County Police Department, that they are very, very capable. They have their own tactical element. They have negotiators. They -- everybody in that department is trained in dealing with active shooters whether it be at a school, at a mall, they've had that training, very, very good police department.
I'm sure if they do need help, they could call in help from other jurisdictions and also from the FBI Baltimore office since it is so close to Baltimore. Right now, looks like Howard County police, they are the ones who are going to be hand this right from the initial stages.
WHITFIELD: And I'm sorry, are your stories telling you anything about one alleged shooter or whether there are more?
BROOKS: Not hearing that as of yet. No, not hearing that as of yet, but just that there is a possible -- looks like an active shooter inside the mall and the mall is on complete lockdown.
WHITFIELD: OK, all right, Mike Brooks, thanks so much. Let us know what you hear from your sources. Again, an active shooting taking place at the mall in Columbia, Maryland, about 45 minutes outside of Washington D.C. this according to Howard County Fire and EMS, their Twitter account. They are the ones saying that an active shooting is taking place there. And of course, we are also looking at some still images here.
I don't know the story behind this still image that we're looking at, but clearly you can see an aircraft overhead as it relates to this, not sure. We're trying to get a little bit more information so we can give you a context to the image that we are looking at here.
But again you heard from your security expert, Mike Brooks, talking about Howard County Police on the scene there. At this point, able to respond to any and all that's taking place there at the mall. Here midday on a Saturday, typically a very busy day for families and individuals taking to the mall experience there in Columbia, Maryland. We'll give you as much information as we can as we get it.
All right, it's noon Eastern Time and the NEWSROOM continues right now. Top story we continue to follow out of Texas. A judge there ordering a hospital to remove the ventilator of a brain dead woman carrying a 22-week-old fetus. It may finally bring an end to the saga of the family of Marlice Munoz.
Her loved ones have been fighting the John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth for some time now. Officials there say Texas law directs its doctors to not withdraw any life support from a pregnant patient.
Our Nick Valencia is live for us now in Fort Worth. So Nick, this ruling comes after the hospital admitted that the fetus is not viable. Is that really what led to this judge's order?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's one of the crucial facts. The other is that both sides, the hospital and the family, agreeing that on November 28th, that's when Marlice Munoz was legally pronounced dead. As you mentioned the hospital all along has maintained, Fred, that they were doing the right thing. That they were simply following state law and that they could not deny life- saving treatment to a pregnant woman.
The main point of contention though the family says that Marlice Munoz hasn't been alive since November 28th. It's been a very emotional time, as you can imagine. It would be an understatement to say it's been an emotional time for the Munoz family and yesterday, you could see that anguish on the face of the husband, Erick Munoz as he left the courthouse.
The attorney for the Munoz family spoke to the media after leaving the courthouse yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HEATHER KING, MUNOZ FAMILY ATTORNEY: The decision we sought, there is nothing happy about today. This was a sad situation all the way around. We are relieved that Erick Munoz can now move forward with the process of burying his wife.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VALENCIA: And this really is about the grieving process for the Munoz family. They want to move forward. They want to go forward with the burial process and they don't understand -- they call it how a hospital could be using their loved ones body as essentially what they say in their words was a science experiment -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: And so, Nick, I understand for Erick Munoz, I mean, this has been a huge emotional roller coaster. They are parents of a small child --
VALENCIA: Yes. WHITFIELD: And this whole notion of a conversation that he and his wife had prior to her being found unconscious that she never wanted to be on ventilators and any kind of -- any kind of apparatus to keep -- to prolong her life. But give us an idea what his reaction was like from the judge's order.
VALENCIA: Yes. Both were paramedics. Both have training as EMTs. According to the husband they had spoken about this. He was saying all along that his wife would never want to be kept alive by a ventilator. Really graphic details emerging from the courthouse yesterday, we'll spare some of the graphic details. But the husband saying that when he looks at his wife's eyes that she's soulless.
When he touches her hand, her bones crack that he could smell her organs deteriorating and that there really is nothing left of the wife. This was very difficult for Erick Munoz to relive. He didn't comment as he left the courthouse yesterday.
Now it's really just a wait and see for the Munoz family although the judge did give this order, that at 5 p.m. on Monday that when the hospital has until 5:00 p.m. on Monday to remove her from the ventilator, it really is a wait and see. I just spoke to the hospital a little ago. They say the discussions with the District Attorney's Office is ongoing, they have that window until 5:00 p.m. on Monday to appeal -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: Interesting. All right, Nick Valencia, keep us posted on that. Thank you so much.
VALENCIA: You bet.
WHITFIELD: All right it was a pretty rough week on Wall Street. The Dow plummeted nearly 600 points in total. That's a 3.5 percent drop, the worst week since 2011. Investors have been worried by weak corporate earnings and concerns that China's economic growth may be slowing down.
Overseas delegates from Syria's government and opposition are actually meeting in Geneva. The talks are aimed at ending nearly three years of violence that has claimed more than 100,000 lives. CNN Nic Robertson joins me live now from Geneva. So how are those talks going?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the first session seemed to go off fairly well this morning, a very brief meeting. We're told that Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. special representative here, the mediator between sides really just gave both sides an address of what to expect of how things would go. Now they were all sitting in the same room around the same table, a u-shaped table we were told.
According to one opposition delegate, the meeting was calm, but you know what, away from the meeting, the rhetoric has still been sky high between these two sides, basically contesting whether or not Bashar Al-Assad can be part of this transitional government that they hear, that they are supposed to agree upon in the future. So although they're actually sitting down at that same table, Fred, they're not actually talking to each other yesterday. They're talking through the mediator, Lakhdar Brahimi -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, what kind of reaction and response is coming from Syria on whether it will be any way cooperating and what kind of representation are we talking about from Syria?
ROBERTSON: Well, you've got the government side represented by the foreign minister, by the deputy foreign minister and by various senior officials in and around the government. The opposition is not fully represented, of all the rebels and all the opposition that are in Syria at the moment and this is one of the big questions if these guys do agree a cease fire, how are they going to implement it because they don't actually control the fighting forces on the ground.
I think there's a lot of disbelief in Syria that this is actually going to achieve anything. They are so far apart, but the hope is, and there is a hope here that they may get some small cease fires, may get some humanitarian aid through to some of those really badly affected areas and also there might be some prisoner releases. The opposition is asking for a lot of women and children, to release them first -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, and speaking of women and children, children in particular, I understand that there was some sort of rescue taking place inside Syria involving a child. What do you know about is this that?
ROBERTSON: These pictures are both incredible and tragic. This is a small girl, we believe. We're told it was filmed on Wednesday. When you see the rescuers digging with their hands in the rubble of the building, first, you can't see that there is anyone there, then the head of the child appears, and you don't know if she is alive. And then you can see her moving her arm.
Eventually, they're able to pull her out of the rubble. The message from the people meeting in the building behind us, the longer that they sit across the table from each other, they don't talk to each other directly, but they can make agreements. The more these sorts of images and these sorts of daily tragedies are going to play out in Syria. Young children here, and this girl clearly very lucky. Seventy eight people killed we were told yesterday.
WHITFIELD: So glad that little girl is OK. You don't have to be a parent of small children to be touched by that kind of image. All right, Nic Robertson, thank you so much. Appreciate that from Geneva.
All right, straight ahead, we are going to have much. We hope to have much more on that active shooting taking place at a mall in Columbia, Maryland. We got new images that have come in ads well. Police and fire ems say it's an active situation right now in Columbia, Maryland.
WHITFIELD: We continue to watch a breaking news situation in Columbia, Maryland, which is about 45 minutes outside of the Washington, D.C. area. We're talking about the mall in Columbia where Howard County Fire and EMS, according to their Twitter account are detailing there's an active shooting situation there at the mall in Columbia. It's a shopping mall, pretty sizable one of about 200 stores, four big anchor department stores.
We have some new images for folks there. You're seeing a helicopter there either upon landing or takeoff there at the mall. We understand there is also an image of perhaps a shopper who is outside of a Sears Department Store who took an image of what appear to be some, there you go, a police presence. We understand that Howard County Police, Fire are all on the scene there. It's unclear how many people may have been involved. We do know that this mall has been locked down.
Of course, you are talking about midday on a Saturday presumably a lot of people at the shopping mall. This is a shopping mall that I frequented as a kid. At the time there was ice skating rink in the mall that was very appealing to a lot of families. Don't know if it's still there, but it is a very busy, sophisticated mall there. We'll continue to watch the situation there. As we get any more information about how many alleged gunmen may be involved, we don't know if it's one, we don't know if it's several.
And no confirmation as to whether there have been any injuries as well. Police, fire, EMS are all on the scene. The mall is in lockdown. We have with us a former FBI crisis response agent, Carl Herron. We invited him to come in to talk about the security situation in Sochi. We know the state department has issued some warnings, but we wanted to tube to you -- talk to you about this situation.
Explain to us how law enforcement goes about trying to contain, secure a situation, at the same time, offer assistance to those who might be injured and look for the alleged perpetrators.
CARL HERRON, FORMER FBI CRISIS RESPONSE AGENT: Yes. I think the first thing is the lockdown of the facility and that could be with, you know, additional law enforcement coming in to provide assistance. The second part of that would be to -- first part of the operation would be to find the shooter. That would be the utmost thing to do at this point.
WHITFIELD: And the difficulty here, you've got a mall like in this case on lockdown. So no one can exit and enter. Law enforcement doesn't really know who they might be looking for unless they've been giving a description or because of what they're wearing makes it very obvious that they are perpetrators. Talk to me about the delicate situation law enforcements are in to really treat everybody as a suspect, right?
HERRON: That's correct. There are a number of things they can do as you might have seen on some of the school incidents when they have the kid to come out, they come out each one and they either check them or if they have identification. Now, if they have some type of ID or description then they can go off of that. As they go in to try to find the shooter, they would have to check everybody that's inside the mall.
WHITFIELD: Is there generally a very common protocol for shopping malls when there's trouble? Say the department stores, you know, doors start locking doors, you know, anything like that. Is it typical for American malls or is it really at the discretion of each privately owned mall to do what they think is feasible?
HERRON: The malls all should have security and some type of security plan, an overall plan and each store would have some type of plan. Within that, they would all have a very seamless come together on how they are going to operate in an incident like this.
WHITFIELD: Well, you saw some of the still images that have been provided to us by various people, shoppers and the like. Where you show the law enforcement presence outside the Sears Department, it's one of four big department stores anchoring that mall. We also saw an image of a helicopter either landing or on take off. In a situation like that helicopter landing usually on the rooftop or what can you decipher from this image if anything?
HERRON: It depends if it's trying to land and if it has enough area to land in. From that image, it looked like it was trying to land so I would assume that it is landing there. That could be for medicine vac.
WHITFIELD: I was going to say could you tell whether that kind of chopper is medical related or whether that is a chopper that would be more suitable for dropping off --
HERRON: Not from the image --
WHITFIELD: OK, hard to tell. OK, well, you know, it seems as though in recent years, there has been -- there have been protocols put in place for many shopping malls just in case. Nobody wants to think they have to put it into place.
WHITFIELD: Put it is a protection that has to be there simply.
HERRON: Yes. You have to have some type of plan for incidents that occur like this.
WHITFIELD: As we wait for more information on this -- OK, I'm hearing from my producer now that there is confirmation now that CNN is getting that three people are dead from this shooting according to the Howard County Police Department. Three people dead at this shooting at the mall in Columbia, Maryland, unclear who the victims are.
Of course, we when get more information on that, we'll be able to share that. But again, breaking news, three reportedly dead, confirmed now actually from Howard police, three dead at the shooting at the mall in Columbia, which is about 45 minutes outside of Washington, D.C. This is taking place in the middle of the day, busy shopping day typically on a Saturday. You're looking at still images that have come in from various shoppers, passers-by, helicopter either landing or taking off there. You also saw the police presence outside this mall in Columbia, Maryland, very popular, very sizable, upscale shopping mall. You're seeing one of the anchor department stores, Sears. There are others as well like a Lord and Taylor and a J.C. Penny.
Unclear the circumstances of the shooting and we don't know who are among the three dead now confirmed by Howard County Police. As we get more information, we'll be able to dip into this situation and reveal more. But for now, Carl, let me also try and make a turn, if we could, and talk about the security overseas and the concerns that many Olympian's families have about the Sochi games.
We know about the Ring of Steel. We know the U.S. State Department is now asking family members and Olympians to be careful about wearing all of your patriotic gear especially when you leave that Ring of Steel. How concerned are you based on what you know about security and all that Russia can do? You were involved in the preparation of security for the Atlanta Olympic Games. What can Sochi do? How much control can you have?
HERRON: I think the -- picture that's painted here with this event is the incidents that have occurred in such a short time span before the games are going to start.
HERRON: And also in the proximity of where the locations. Most major events of this size that are international going to have some type of threats and this -- what has happened here is the threats have been made. They've shown that they can carry out the threats. They have the means to do that. So that is a very big concern when you have threats made and people that are able to carry them out. So a big concern there with regards to security.
WHITFIELD: Yes. And how concerning is it when you're talking about locations that outside of the Olympic games, it was already a place where people were living, working, doing business. There's only, you know, so much restriction you can put in place by keeping people in and out. There are already people who have accomplished there, place of residence, conducting business there in Sochi. You can't necessarily keep them out can you?
HERRON: No, I think if the Ring of Steel is within and some of those residents are within there, then there is something probably already in place that would have that -- so those people can go freely and come back, such as some type of investigation, a credential or something so they can back and forth out of that steel of ring.
WHITFIELD: Russia says without this security, we have it at the -- you know, height nd state here, we don't need anybody else's assistance. But when you're dealing with a worldwide event of this capacity, to what degree can you expect a host nation or even city to rely on security intelligence of other countries given that they do have their interests, they are worried about their own delegations. What kind of cooperation can be expected?
HERRON: I think the sharing of information is definitely going on. I was at the London Olympics in 2012. There were daily briefings. I'm sure that's what's going on now. Each country is concerned about its security. There are security briefings going on now. I'm sure the Russians are providing information to all of the countries attending so they can make the appropriate changes or necessary things to do for security.
WHITFIELD: All right, Carl, thank you so much.
Meantime, we continue to watch the breaking news situation out of Columbia, Maryland, as well. We're still awaiting new information on that shooting situation at the mall in Columbia, Maryland. It's 45 minutes outside of Washington D.C. According to Howard Police, three confirmed dead, unclear whether that involves a gunman or more than one. We don't' know the circumstance of the deaths.
But again, here are some still images we've been able to receive showing the police presence outside the Sears, one of four department stores at that mall as well as you're helicopter either upon landing or taking off, unclear whether that's Medivac, any final thoughts on that, Carl, on the situation there?
HERRON: I'm sure at this point in time, with the facility being locked down, that law enforcement is starting their operation and trying to, if they have not already, found the suspect or suspects.
WHITFIELD: All right, Carl Herron, thanks so much. We're going to continue to watch the situation in Columbia, Maryland. We are going to take a short break for now. We'll be right back with much more from the NEWSROOM.
WHITFIELD: Welcome back. We're following this breaking news situation out of Columbia, Maryland, just about 45 minutes or so outside of Washington D.C. at the mall in Columbia where police and fire are on the scene of what's been described as an active shooting situation at the mall in Columbia. Now Howard County Police have confirmed that three people are dead from that shooting in Columbia, Maryland.
And we just learned according to Howard County Police that one of the people found dead there was located near ammunition and the identification however unknown. So it's unclear as they continue to law enforcement descend on the situation there to try and extrapolate all that's taken place.
We don't know how many gunmen may have been involved here and we don't know how many are victims of the shooting? We just know that three have been confirmed killed there at the mall in Columbia, Maryland. And among them, one person who was found -- the body was placed apparently or is located near ammunition, but no identification has been revealed as yet. You're looking at still images of aircraft overheard. You are also going to see some images of a helicopter there either landing or taking off. Unclear whether that helicopter brought more law enforcement or whether that was a Medivac helicopter to remove any who may have been injured, and of course, this image too showing the law enforcement presence outside of that shopping, four department stores anchoring this shopping mall of about 200 stores in all.
You're looking at the aerial Google Earth image there showing a fairly sizable mall. This is taking place in the middle of the day. Typically very popular among families there, the shopping mall is a place that so many people go on the weekends. Here is the mall in Columbia, Maryland.
We have on the phone with us Tom Fuentes who is a former FBI assistant director joining us on the phone for Fairfax, Virgina. So, Tom, being that you're from the Washington D.C. area you may have frequented or familiar with this mall. It was one that I went to as a kid growing up in the Washington, D.C. area. What do you know about the situation? What are your sources perhaps telling you about what transpired there today?
TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR (via telephone): Well, Fredricka, yes, it's a typical mall and there are many of them in the Washington area. This is in the suburbs of Maryland just outside of Washington. My question here is do we still have an active shooting situation or is the shooter maybe one of the dead that's already been located by the police.
And in that case, then it becomes a crime scene. They'll search if there's any other individuals that may be involved. They'll be reviewing security cameras to see if the person came in alone or see what vehicle out in the parking lot the person may have arrived in. It could very easily turn out to be workplace violence where someone came back and had vengeance against someone that they worked with or worked for.
We don't know all of that. But the question mainly is, is this still an active shooting or has the shooter killed himself, let's say, in the -- in the location of killing the other people. And maybe the situation is over and will now be a crime scene. We don't know that until the police let us know more information.
WHITFIELD: That is correct. We don't know if it remains an active shooting situation, however, from Howard County Police and ems twitter account right now, we are able to report that they are spelling out on their Twitter account that the call came into 911 around 11:15. One found near a gun and ammunition, but again identification not being revealed as yet. As you said, still unclear whether there may be an active situation still underway.
We can extrapolate whether just because this body was found near ammunition and a gun, you can't presume that is the gunman. Nor is it clear whether there are others that may continue to be in the mall that pose harm or threat. Now does law enforcement go about the business of trying to get a good comprehension of what is taking place inside the mall, whether to lift the lockdown, whether to continue to treat everyone they come into contact with as a suspect, or whether it's time to treat everyone as a potential victim?
FUENTES: Well, the first thing is to try to determine if they do have the shooter possibly at the scene is that the only person or if they are not in the three people dead, where did that person or persons go. So they're going to be trying to interview as many people in that mall, review security cameras inside the mall and outside the mall to try to determine is this one person who came in there by himself to do this shooting and do they have that person at the crime scene already dead, let's say. That's the primary thing.
They have to do as many interviews as they can with witnesses in the mall, witnesses in close proximity to the shooting scene, maybe in the store or near the closet where these people were at the time of the shooting. And then, of course, it's a very difficult process, but they'll be doing that right now, trying to look at all security cameras from all of the stores in the mall as well as the main mall entrances and the mall parking lot outside to see if they can identify that person arriving at the mall, walking through the mall and then going to the location of the shooting.
WHITFIELD: And so, Tom, if you could prioritize those things for me. Are we in a day and age where law enforcement is trying to do all of that simultaneously, looking at the cameras, also trying to contain the mall, interviewing people or is there a real priority, a list of activities in which they want to tick off first?
FUENTES: There will be enough police responders from the call for assistance from the mall -- looks like we lost that call from Tom Fuentes there out of Fairfax, Virginia. I do want to give you the latest information that we have from the shooting at the mall in Columbia as soon as we get it.
Meantime, just give you a little bit of context. According to authorities that apparently they did report at about 11:15 they received a 911 call that an active shooter was on the second floor of the mall in Columbia in Howard County, also this being reported by our affiliate WBAL. They do say from the local scanner reports they were able to determine that authorities were requesting multiple mass casualty units to that mall, the mall in Columbia, Maryland just 45 minutes or so outside of Washington D.C.
There have been a lot of images that have been put on Twitter as well as the Howard County EMS and Fire on their Twitter account. According to one tweet coming from the scene that mall employees and customers were hiding in a stock room. We're going to try to get more information on this situation, but three confirmed dead in the shooting at Columbia, Maryland. We'll have much more from THE NEWSROOM right after this.
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. This breaking news, three confirmed dead at a shooting taking place at the mall in Columbia, Maryland, just outside of Washington D.C. and not far from Baltimore, Maryland, as well. We understand according to Howard County Police and EMS that about 11:15 Eastern Time they had an active shooting situation on the second floor of that shopping mall of about 200 stores.
And we're just learning from Howard County Police just moments ago that among the bodies found of the three dead, one of the bodies was near ammunition, but no id and near a gun. Unclear whether that person was the shooter, we don't have any more details than that.
However, Mike Brooks, our security analyst with CNN has been talking with his sources. He used to work outside of this area in Metropolitan Police in D.C. So Mike, what are your sources telling you about this situation? Is it still an active shooting or does it appeared as though now law enforcement is trying to assess after the shooting activity has ceased?
BROOKS: Well, I think right now they believe that one of the dead could be the gunman. Until they are totally sure and they have been id on the subject, they are going to make sure, go back, look at all the video surveillance coming from the entrances from the parking lot. Since this happened on the second floor of the mall, that person had to have gotten there somehow, had to have walked through the mall.
And you know, was this somebody who was targeted, was it workplace violence incident, is it someone that the shooter knew, we don't know at this time yet, Fredricka. We're looking at pictures here. We saw another picture helicopter in the air. Right now, until they get a positive id on this subject, they're going to keep the mall locked down. They're going to try to interview everyone who may have heard something, may have seen something.
A lot of investigations going on right now making sure that the area is secure to securing the crime scene and also investigating exactly what everybody saw, try to get all the witnesses together. And Howard County Police Department, they're going to be the lead in this. They are extremely good. I've worked with them in the past. You also have Maryland State Police there at the scene and also fire and ems.
I've been listening to the scanner traffic. And there are units that are clearing the hospital and then going back to a staging area just in case there should be any other injured folks that they should come upon. They also have created a triage area there at the mall to put people from the lowest injuries all the way to a black tag or any people that are deceased.
WHITFIELD: So from that scanner --
BROOKS: Go ahead.
WHITFIELD: So from that scanner activity, has it been indicated that people have been transported to the hospital or that everyone is being treated at the triage unit there at the mall?
BROOKS: It sounds like there were some people transported. Trying to get that from my sources right now for sure, but the mall is still on lockdown and probably will be for quite some time.
WHITFIELD: So Mike, if you could try to explain when you have a mall, which is pretty sizable. This is a pretty big mall. It is on lockdown. It's at least two levels. Will police be able to -- Howard County Police, Maryland State Police be able to check essentially every corner of the mall while it also tries to investigate whether, you know, the -- the person who was -- whose body was found near the ammunition is that of the shooter? How are they going to be able to do that and at the same time treat those who were injured or in most immediate need?
BROOKS: It's going to take some time to clear this whole mall. You've got people locked in their stores. You're going to try to get them to see if anybody heard anything, saw anything and then just do a methodical clearing of that mall. One of the other big things is going back to take a look at the movements of the shooter or shooters. See exactly where the shooter went, where they came in, was there anyone with them when they came in there.
These are all things that are very, very critical intelligence, if you will, that will help law enforcement's actions as they move forward. We see pictures here of Howard County Police outside staging in the mall, again, a big effort by law enforcement. It's going to take some time, but they wanted to make sure it's done right.
WHITFIELD: And so, Mike, I also have with us Tom Fuentes, former FBI assistant director, joining us again on the phone out of Fairfax, Virginia. We lost you earlier with our connection. But Tom, at what point does -- because you're talking about the Washington, D.C. area and we are, you know, around the federal city. At what point do agencies like the FBI get involved when it seems like something that localities are handling at least right now.
FUENTES (via telephone): Well, Fredricka, the FBI, unless this was a terrorism incident are not going to have direct jurisdiction. They would come in if Howard County or the Maryland State Police asked the FBI for specific kind of technical assistance. Maybe crime scene or sheer manpower to have addition law enforcement personnel, but this is going to be, you know, Howard County will have the lead on this. This is their case.
They'll stay in charge of the investigation. So the FBI in no way, even if they came in to provide assistance, it will only be assistance. They will not come in and take over the case. This is Howard County. It's up to them to run this investigation with assistance from Maryland State Police. Maybe they have assistance from other surrounding local jurisdictions to give them more manpower to clear the mall because Mike is correct.
The clearing process is going to be very lengthy and meticulous. They'll have to look in every single closet, storeroom, utility area, as well as the stores themselves to try to make sure that there isn't another shooter hiding or the people in the mall or employees in the mall, they may hunker down in place and hide and not come out of it until a police officer comes and says it's safe. WHITFIELD: And of course -- and in fact, according to some reporting involving twitter images saying that there have been some mall employees and customers hiding in the stock room. So when you have a situation like this, Tom, and police are looking, scouring every corner trying to figure out who might be alleged shooter, who might be alleged victim here, when they try to clear, identify who they're encountering at what point do they make a determination, OK, I'm going to allow you to leave the mall or does everyone have to stay the mall together separating them in contained areas until law enforcement feels like the lockdown has been lifted?
FUENTES: I think they'll be able to make a judgment call pretty quickly you know, to determine, who the employees are in other stores or who the shoppers are that are not involved in this or may not have any information of value. So they'll identify everybody and take their -- their names and their e-mail addresses and their telephone numbers. But they're certainly not going to hold, you know, hundreds or maybe thousands of people in that mall all day while they search every closet. If they can make a call and reasonably believe someone's innocent and not involved, I think they'll be letting them go so they don't have to have that many extra people to deal with at the site.
WHITFIELD: All right, Tom Fuentes, formerly with the FBI, if you could hold tight and stick with us. And Mike Brooks, security analyst for CNN also hold tight. Stick with us both of you on the phone. We're going to take a short break right now. We understand our CNN crews are there at the mall now. We're going to check in with them. Three confirmed dead at a shooting there at the mall in Columbia, Maryland, outside of Washington, D.C. and also not far from Baltimore, Maryland. Much more after this.
WHITFIELD: Welcome back to the NEWSROOM. Three confirmed dead at a mall in Columbia, Maryland. The mall at Columbia is where the shooting took place, 11:15, Howard County Police got a call that active shooting was taking place. Law enforcement has descended. We understand that the shooter is among the dead there. There was one body found near ammunition, gun, but no id.
Law enforcement still on the scene there. We have with us now Mike Ollers who is a CNN senior producer who has also arrived on the scene. Mike, give us an idea what you've been able to see. We've heard from law enforcement in various ways, either from the Twitter account or through phone calls as well, that right now, they believe that the mall may be secure. What can you tell us?
MIKE AHLERS, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER (via telephone): First of all, police just told us minutes ago that there will be a formal briefing at around 1:15. They have very little information here on the scene that they're ready to release now. When I arrived, there were still a good number of people arriving. Lights and sirens on the scene, getting out of their vehicles, putting on body armor and carrying assault weapon. I talked to a young couple in the mall at the time of shooting. They say they were on the upper floors. They say not far from the shooting. They did not see it, but said they heard it. They heard six very loud banks and the young man, he said he believed them to be from a shotgun, but again, he did not see that.
People started fleeing. He said -- he was in the store for an hour. I'm not sure the timeline works out, but I'm sure it seemed like an hour before he was taken from -- from the building. And he was on his way to give police a statement. Right now, the mall is still surrounded by -- by police.
WHITFIELD: Let me just stop you right there if you don't mind. I have KT who is an employee there at the mall. KT, where were you when you heard the shots or did you hear shots? Tell me of your experience.
K.T., COLUMBIA MALL EMPLOYEE (via telephone): OK. I was in the back of my store working, with my other co-workers. All of a sudden, these two people run to the back of my back room saying somebody's in the mall shooting. So we go out the back door. Behind there is a hallway where deliveries are maid, but there's only one exit back there which is kind of stupid. A lot of other people didn't know where the exit were. Going the other way and hiding out in rooms.
So -- there were people huddled around the end of the bathroom hallway, which kind of goes out to the food court and that's where the girl told me, yes, it was a -- looked like a guy that was Latino or Middle Eastern. He was wearing khaki pants and he definitely had a shotgun. It was either a shotgun or a rifle. I took a picture. That was taken by the cookie.
There's one big hole and a bunch of pelts around it. I went back into the hallway where the deliveries are made. A lot of people are crying and all that. Got people out through the exits, showed them where that was. Then all of a sudden, one lady I think was talking to her husband and she said that he said that they had got the guy. So that's why we went back inside.
So went back inside and just stayed locked in the store with me and some other employees and we saw the cops walking around the store, guns out, that's when we figured, yes, they must not have to the gotten this guy. We were in there about half hour. That's when we saw the SWAT team. They said whoever's in here, you got to go.
WHITFIELD: So K.T., you were in your store. The picture we just showed. There we go. We're looking at it again. This was near the food court when you took this image, if I heard you correctly. But then you said you and others ended up going back to the store. At what point did you or others make a decision to leave the mall, leave period, and some of you stayed in to, I guess --
K.T.: We left -- I originally left I was trying to help a lot of other people go out. So I was hanging around the back entrance waiting for word and we really didn't hear anything. And there were no cops in the back of the mall where we were exiting at. There were none back there. So there was nobody to tell us not to go back into the mall. So like I said, the other lady said she had heard they got the guy, I said let me go back inside, get my belongings. That's when I was like, wow, I guess they didn't find the guy. That's when we were just kind of hanging out there.
WHITFIELD: So how frightened were you through all this?
K.T.: I mean, I guess as frightened as you can be. If God is going to take me off the earth he going to take me so can't be too scared.
WHITFIELD: I know this mall at least as a kid. I frequented that mall and it's certainly a place that I would feel safe at all times and imaged for you, you're working there on a busy Saturday, you know, you know what a Saturday looks like there. An awful lot of people at this mall, but when you heard the shots fired, did it seem as though people knew what to do in terms of trying to find a safe place, trying to find a place to -- you know, cower to be safe?
K.T.: Of course not.
WHITFIELD: Give me an idea.
K.T.: I mean it's a mall shooting. Nobody knows what's going on. In today's world that we live in, when you hear gunshots, you run. There's nothing else to do. People, you know, just started dipping.
WHITFIELD: And for those who decide to find safe place in storage rooms in closets et cetera, how concerned or frightened were you about whether police would know that you are trying to save yourself, save others or whether you were a suspect?
K.T.: That was the biggest concern because a lot of cops, especially in Maryland, they got itchy trigger fingers. They will shoot you no matter who you are. That was a big concern. Just -- I mean, just seeing like a lot of kids back there crying and a lot of mothers holding onto them crying and shaking. That was the biggest deal. For me myself personally, wasn't really worried about me. I'll be all right. I was making sure everybody else was going to get out of there.
WHITFIELD: I'm amazed you had the wherewithal to take the pictures of the bullet holes in the wall.
K.T.: There was a bunch of us standing there. We were back there and everybody was running, everybody's like what's going on, all we hear was gunshots, just standing there we didn't hear anything as far as, like, anybody running through the mall or people saying hid, hid hide, or move, move, move. That was just my first thinking to take a picture of it.
WHITFIELD: Thanks so much. Glad you're safe. So right now are you still in the mall?
K.T.: They made everybody leave. After a while, I think the cops were trying to get everybody off the premises, period.
WHITFIELD: Does it -- when you left, did it seem like there was still a lot of people inside the mall?
K.T.: I don't think so. It's kind of hard to say, but -- it seemed pretty empty for the most part. I -- I guess people, you know -- I think the SWAT team was going from store to store trying -- telling people to get out because when everybody left not all of the stores closed their doors.