Return to Transcripts main page


Updates On Deadly Shooting In Columbia, Maryland Mall; Dow Takes A Nosedive This Week; Marlise Munoz Passes Away

Aired January 25, 2014 - 15:00   ET


KEN ULMAN, COUNTY EXECUTIVE, HOWARD COUNTY, MARYLAND (via phone): So the sounds probably appeared to people to be taken place in the food court. If you can imagine, you've been there. It's a large mall that would have been packed at 11:15 on a Saturday morning, and it caused a lot of, a very scary incident.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And at this point, what do you see in terms of trying to, you know, piece together these events and doing what you can as a county executive, you know, to ensure people in that area, and other places, you know, how do you make a public place like a shopping mall a safe place? It's presumably one of the places that people of all walks converge and naturally presume that they're going to be safe, and the OK, but when something like this happens, it certainly rocks the core of every potential patron or employee.

ULMAN: It's very difficult. Look, I'm a father of two young daughters, and you know, we're at the mall, you know, all the time, and lots of public places, you know. Unfortunately since columbine we've had to create a tactical team, S.W.A.T. team. We train with our school system, our community college, at the Columbia mall, large shopping places, gathering places. And we have to drill on these things and we have to make people aware that they need to be vigilant.

Unfortunately, there are people with weapons that clearly, whether its criminal intent or mental illness, you know, are out there to do damage, but at the same time we are an incredibly safe community. People sheltered in place, they left the scene in an orderly fashion. We did have a few injuries, so it's a very difficult issue and not one that we in Columbia, Maryland are immune to, unfortunately.

WHITFIELD: All right. Ken Ulman, thanks so much. Howard county executive, appreciate it. We know this continues to be an active crime scene there at the mall in Columbia, Maryland. Thank you so much.

Again if you're just now joining us, a deadly shooting taking place at the mall in Columbia, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland. We're in the CNN NEWSROOM. That tops our story. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Thanks again for being with us.

We're following this story, which continues to be an active crime scene at that mall. Three people are dead, four others injured after a shooting took place earlier today. Police say the suspected shooter just might be among the dead.

Erin McPike is outside the mall. SO, what is the latest, Erin?

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, from early information that we're getting, some early reporting, we understand that there are three victims. One may be the shooter himself. A man and a woman, he apparently shot dead. Those are, of course, some of the early investigative reports we're getting. But there is supposed to be another news conference right here behind me in about an hour, and we should get some more information then. But authorities have stressed that this is still an ongoing investigation, and they don't have all the answers yet.

But, Fred, you can probably see behind me that it's calmed down a lot. It looks like most of the evacuating has been done. There are some school buses over at the movie theater to my right, and that's where a lot of people were removed to earlier today. But it appears that it's calmed down quite a bit, but the investigation obviously is still going on.


LAUREN MCKINDLES, MALL SHOOTING WITNESS: I ran into -- we all hid in the back room, locked the door and waited for police to come and they came twice. Once to tell us to stay put, to be completely silent. And the second time, when they came back was to tell us they wanted us out of the mall.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: How many people were hiding with you?

MCKINDLES: All four others. We were in a very small stockroom.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: What was running through your mind and what's running in to your mind now?

MCKINDLES: This country needs a lot of help. For somebody to be that angry to go to a mall on a Saturday morning in the freezing cold and shoot people -- we're in a lot of trouble, in this country that that happened. I heard three people have died. Why? What motivates somebody to do that? I just don't understand. I mean I know that everyone in this world is struggling right now, but to push people to those limits where things like that happen just, makes no sense.


MCPIKE: Now, Fred, from some of the people we have spoken to, some witnesses said that they heard three shots, others said six to eight, eight to ten. We haven't heard from investigators how many shots were fired. What they did tell us, though, is that law enforcement didn't fire at all. But, again we should get some more information here in just about an hour.

WHITFIELD: So, what you're saying is it is believed that the shots that were fired were strictly from the shooter, if it is indeed just one or shooters, and because the police didn't respond until much further after the shootings took place, right? The shootings were heard? MCPIKE: That's right. But from what we do understand, police did respond very quickly. And as you heard, there, people who were here in the mall, as soon as they heard the shots they sheltered, went into stores, closets that kind of thing, but people were in there several hours sheltering until police led them out.

WHITFIELD: Erin McPike, outside the mall in Columbia, Maryland.

So, of course that mall, the middle of the day, middle of the morning even, very busy with shoppers. Last hour I talked with Colin Ready, a mall employee inside at the time.


COLIN READY, MALL EMPLOYEE (via phone): I was at work. I work at (INAUDIBLE). It was a regular day, you know. We were chilling at work and then I heard, like, a boom sound. So, I went to see what was happening and then I heard it again. Well, the first time I heard the sound I thought it was construction, because there's a lot of construction going on at the mall right now. Then I heard it again like, boom, boom, boom. Then I saw everybody running.

So we started running to the back, me and my co-workers, and I ran. I ran -- I was almost out the door, like, outside, before my assistant manager called me back and told me I had to stay there, because, I don't know by I had to stay. I wanted to leave, but she said I had to stay. So then she closed the gates and we were just waiting in the back room. I heard about eight or nine shots go off completely, I think, and we were just waiting in the stockroom for about 45 minutes before the Howard county police officer came. He knocked on the door. We had people on the back door. He knocked on the door, he wasn't in this uniform. So we didn't know whether to believe him or not.

My assistant manager, can we see badge or something? I don't think he had a badge or anything. So, we were really scared before she decided to open the door, but she did. And it was him. He let us out and we were safe.

WHITFIELD: Boy, that's a pretty frightening sequence of events. So were other stores, had you as an employee of the store, or were other stores kind of given the same kinds of instructions? When something like this happens, it's time to close the gate, protecting, I guess, your store, to what may be going on outside in the mall?

READY: I don't know. I just know, like, that was our first instinct. First we ran to the back of the store. Like, we didn't close the gate or anything, we just ran to the back of the store trying to be safer and we kept hearing the shots. So, then we were like, wait. We need to close the gate in case he tries to come in here or anything. So then my assistant manager crawled out there to close the gate and locked it up. And then, she just came back. I don't know about the other stores though.

WHITFIELD: And you mentioned that, you know, you heard the boom, you knew it was gunshot, even though, at first, you thought it was construction in the area, was ever there any yelling? Did you ever hear any voices?

READY: Yes, everybody was screaming. There were kids running around. I saw, like, a couple, they were just -- I guess they couldn't run or anything so they were crouched under, like, under the subway trying to -- not like the subway, the store, trying to take cover or anything.

WHITFIELD: All right. And Colin, so you're no longer on the property, right? You were outside of the mall, because you did get out of the mall, correct?

READY: Yes. I'm home now. They let us go.

WHITFIELD: All right. Well, Colin Ready, thank you so much and glad you're safe. And thanks so much for sharing your account of events with us. Appreciate that.


WHITFIELD: All right, frightening moment at the shopping mall earlier today in Columbia, Maryland. There will be another police briefing coming up in about 50 minutes or so from now. We'll take that or at least get the information to update all of us. We understand that during that presser we just might hear identities of the three people killed during this shooting earlier today. We'll have much more right after this and other news, as well.


WHITFIELD: All right. We've been following a shooting in Maryland, but there's also a lot of other news we want to keep you abreast of.

This one is a legal battle in Texas where there are no winners. But it appears the family of Marlise Munoz may finally get what they want and be able to lay their loved one to rest. The brain dead pregnant mother has been on a ventilator the last 8.5 weeks. The John Peter Smith hospital refused to remove it saying life support should not be withdrawn from pregnant patients. Well, now a judge has ordered the tubes be removed.

CNN's Nick Valencia is live for us outside the Fort Forth hospital.

So Nick, this comes after the hospital conceded at two main points. Tell us about that.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It has been an agonizing 8.5 weeks for the Munoz family and all those parties that have been involved. But yesterday, during a court hearing, two very crucial facts agreed upon by both side, both the hospital and the Munoz family. One is that since November 28th, Marlise Munoz is being kept alive by the ventilator here at the John Peter Smith hospital has been legally brain dead since November 28th. The other is that the fetus is not viable. But court records don't indicate worth that lack of viability is because of the age of the fetus or abnormalities.

As you indicated Fred, the hospital all along has maintained that they simply been following state law and there's no legal precedent or case law for them to have gone off of and they felt that they were doing the right thing. Yesterday, when the attorney for the Munoz family left the courthouse she addressed the media.


HEATHER KING, MUNOZ FAMILY ATTORNEY: The decision we sought, there's nothing happy about today. This was a sad situation all the way around. We are relieved that Eric Munoz can now move forward with the process of burying his wife.


VALENCIA: Interestingly enough, one of the co-writers of this law, Fred, is now an SMU law professor said it's a law passed with unintended consequences as he believes that JPS hospital has been misinterpreting this law all along. And really for the family, the Munoz family, this is about closing a chapter and moving forward and going on with their grieving process.

Eric Munoz, the father early on was speaking to early media. He declined to comment as he left the courthouse yesterday. But for him, in his words initially when he did speak to local media, he was very upset and upset at the hospital saying in his words, been conducting a science experiment on his wife.

I want to share with you quickly, Fred, some graphic details that emerged from the courtroom yesterday. The Munoz attorney arguing that Marlise Munoz has been dead for 8.5 weeks. The husband saying every time he touches his wife, that her bones crack. That a smells death coming off her. And when he looks in her eyes, that she is solace, there are no longer there.

The family can't understand why the hospital wouldn't abide by the rules or wishes, I should say. But again, I should reiterate, the hospital saying that they feel that they've done the right thing abide big the state law. They have until 5:00 p.m. on Monday, 5:00 p.m. on Monday to appeal or that ventilator is going to be shut off -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Nick Valencia. Thanks so much in Fort Worth.

VALENCIA: You bet.

WHITFIELD: All right, eight people are dead and more than 20 still missing after a massive fire at a nursing home in Canada. Authority says it's unlikely any of the missing escaped alive. Search efforts are complicated by ice that coated the collapsed building when firefighters tried to battle that blaze. Police officials spoke to reporters earlier.


GUY LAPOINTE, PROVINCIAL POLICE, SURETE DU QUEBEC: The total number is 32 people that are currently missing. Eight of which that are now confirmed dead. When you conduct an investigation of something of this magnitude, you have to determine all the facts and not simply one or two in order to achieve a conclusion. We have dozens of investigators, which are conducting interviews. We are working on the scene as you know. For us, we'll wait until we have collected all the facts before we come forward with a final conclusion and the cause. And for us, there are still many hypotheses on the table, not simply the one that was mentioned in the media yesterday.


WHITFIELD: Investigators are looking into a cigarette as to a potential cause of that blaze.

U.S. athletes headed to the Sochi Olympic Games are getting a new warning about security at the games. The U.S. state department says wearing red, white and blue could put team USA in danger. It is urging the American athletes to avoid wearing their U.S. branded Olympic outfits when they are outside the Olympic venues. The state department also says security officials will accompany athletes to the games. Overall, about 10,000 Americans are expected in Sochi.

On Wall Street, the days of the raging bull may be coming to an end. The Dow took a nosedive this week. It dropped 3.5 percent including a triple digit point loss on Friday.

Alison Kosik looks at what's killing the bull market.


Stocks ended with a huge thud on Friday. There was a sea of red arrows on the board. The Dow plunged almost 320 points or almost two percent. It was a culmination of especially brutal week in which stocks fell every single day. In the end, the major averages lost one to three percent each.

The selling also circled the globe hitting major markets in Asia and Europe. Friday, the big issue was a sell-off in currencies in emerging markets. Countries like Argentina and Turkey saw their currency plunge against the dollar amid renew concerns about the U.S. Federal Reserve ending a stimulus program. That stimulus has been giving economists around the world a boost.

And that's not all. Wall Street also got slammed by concerns about China's economy slowing down, an economy that has been growing at a really solid pace.

And then, here at home, worries about corporate America added insult to injury. Big names like Verizon, IBM and Johnson and Johnson reported earnings that disappointed the street. The thinking is, if companies aren't doing well they won't grow, high and invest.

Roll it all together, a perfect storm. Investors went running for exits and the pace of Friday's session as it wore on. But Fredricka, remember this, the S&P 500 surged by 29 percent last year. So, we still got lots some wiggle room.

WHITFIELD: All right, very good. Encouragement there, Alison Kosik.

And this political programming note, Tuesday night President Obama delivers his state of the union address. Our coverage begins live from Washington starting at 7:00, Tuesday night.

All right, we will be right back with much more in the NEWSROOM.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WHITFIELD: More now on that shooting takes place at a shopping mall in Columbia, Maryland. We're just about 40 minutes way from the scheduled press conference, an update from Howard county police.

Meantime, to update you, three people are dead and four hurt from that shooting. It is believed according to police there was a single shooter, and he is among the dead. But unclear about the gender or even the ages of all three involved.

CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez, however, has new details. He is joining us on the phone.

What do you know, Evan?


Again, this is very early preliminary information. We are told by sources that it appears to be a domestic dispute situation that led to the shooting. The shooter entered and apparently shot a woman and a man, and then turned the gun on himself and killed himself, is what we're told from the early reports at the scene. Again, the authorities are still working the investigation to try to, you know, verify all of this stuff. But the early indications, again, that it appears to be a domestic dispute that led to this, as you said just now, the Howard county police have also indicated that the shooting occurred in, I guess, a clothing store called Zoomies, which is, caters to skaters and so on. And that the gun used or found at the scene was a shotgun. Again, that's early information from authorities at the scene, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Evan Perez, thank you so much.

And gain, about 40 minutes from now, another press briefing from Howard county police, and perhaps they will be identifying those involved.

Thanks so much, Evan.

We will have much more in the NEWSROOM after this.


WHITFIELD: Folks, in Columbia, Maryland are still shaken up after a shooting taking place at a popular mall in the middle of the day, busy Saturday shopping day, at the mall at Columbia, Maryland, outside Baltimore and not far away from Washington, D.C. as well.

Three people killed, including, according to police what they believe to be the single shooter. Four other people injured. And sources are telling our own justice correspondent Evan Perez that the belief is, it was a domestic dispute.

Well, earlier I spoke to John Matthews about the shooting. He's the executive director of the commune safety institute. And I asked him about, how people in general need to be treating public spaces, if there really is a safe place any more.


JOHN MATTHEWS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMUNE SAFETY INSTITUTE (via phone): Well, the majority of folks, it seemed, did take the right tactics. Unfortunately because of all of these events, there's been a lot of press coverage and we've had a lot of media out there telling people you can't hesitate. As soon as you hear gunfire, you've got to exit the area. You have got out of that shooter's line of sight and you can't sit and think, I wonder what that was? You've got to be prepared.

I heard many of your witnesses say that we went into a locked storeroom or we secured ourselves in a bathroom or a hallway and that's exactly what you need to do. But it was kind of disturbing to hear some witnesses say that they went outside. They exited the building were safer and then returned back inside.

WHITFIELD: Well, that was remarkable to me. Yes, so in the case of, say some of the employees who said they left and then they turned around and came back because of certain responsibilities, you know, as expected of them as an employee.

Still, what is your recommendation? I mean if you're already in a safe place, you're now out of the mall, doesn't seem you would recommend to anybody to go back in where there's potential danger?

MATTHEWS: No. You'd never go back into the line of fire. And in many of these mass shootings, the shooter stops shooting periodically. They stop shooting to reload. Sometimes, many times they gone out in the parking lot to get weapons, change weapons, get more ammo and will come in and start shooting again. So know that number one thing we recommend is that you exit the area, to do it quickly and safely and you stay away. You stay as far away as you can.

This is one case where curiosity may get you killed. So you want to stay away from the building, and not go back inside. And there's no store, no employee, that's going to tell you, hey, you've got to do this and put yourself in harm's way. The number one thing we want people to know is, they've got to be safer and they've got to react quickly in these situations.

Now, I did hear several people say, we locked ourselves in a storeroom, or we locked ourselves in the bathroom. That's exactly what we want to you do. We want you to seek cover away from potential bullets, away from potential gunfire and we want you to stay there until the police come and get you. Don't open the door. Don't get out to see if everything's OK. You stay there, because an officer with an I.D., with a badge, with a uniform, will come get you and say, hey, it's over. WHITFIELD: Right, but John, here's the other crossroad. And we heard that, you know, from one of the employees. Sometimes you just don't know. You know, if that officer comes and if they're not in uniform, and they open the door, in the case of, you know, this employee and some other people, they weren't even sure if this was an officer. They weren't sure whether to trust the one manager apparently had the instinct to say I want to see a badge, but you know, sometimes you just don't have that opportunity ask those kinds of questions. So, you know, you're fearful. You're afraid to trust anyone.

MATTHEWS: And you shouldn't. And you should stay locked, you should stay secured. That officer is going to have either his badge or his I.D. card. And if he doesn't have it for some reason, say he was off- duty and came in to help, he's going to grab another officer to let you know, look, it's us, we're the police, you're OK, and we're going to get you out. I think people need to know in these situations, like this huge shopping mall, we still have people being evacuated two hours later.


MATTHEWS: It takes the police a very long time. We have to secure every room, every passageway, every storeroom. And people need to know that when they go to get locked down it may not be for six or seven minutes. It may be for two, three or four hour, but you've got to wait.


MATTHEWS: You can't take that chance and get hurt.

WHITFIELD: All right, John Matthews with advice there.

Much more on the shooting taking place early today at the mall in Columbia, Maryland. A deadly shooting. And why it's still not considered a place to end the lockdown.

Right back with much more news after this.


WHITFIELD: In less than 30 minutes we understand Howard County, Maryland, police will have another update about the crime scene investigation at the mall in Columbia, Maryland, where earlier today there was a shooting. And according to police, three people are dead, four injured. And among the dead, police say the single shooter.

And sources are telling our justice correspondent, Evan Perez, this just might be a domestic situation gone very bad. But, again, no confirmation coming from police as yet. That's from the sources that Evan Perez has, however. So when that press conference takes place in about 30 minutes, perhaps we'll learn the identities of the three people whose lives ended today at that shopping mall in Columbia, Maryland.

Also -- and these are live images actually outside the mall. You can see that the police presence is still very big there. There are still shoppers and even many employees that are inside the mall, according to the police chief a couple hours ago, who said it's a painstaking process because so many people took shelter inside, going into closets, going into storage rooms and even dressing rooms, and so police continue to scour the mall, interviewing people who are there, uncovering people hiding a long time, not knowing whether the shooting had ended, whether it is safe now. And so in small groups, we've seen that police have been escorting some of the shoppers and the employees out of the mall, and then escorting them to a location where they then get shuttle buses where people can pick them up. Their personal cars have to stay at that shopping mall. That is just a matter of procedure, according to the county executive earlier who said they've got to keep the flow of people in and out around the mall to a minimum.

Let's bring in Tom Fuentes, formerly with the FBI. He has been joining us in and out throughout the afternoon, helping us understand this cooperative effort involving local, state and, in some cases, federal authorities, because we are talking about Columbia, Maryland, just outside the Washington, D.C., area, a federal city. It is not unusual that federal law enforcement also respond to crime scenes in the Washington, D.C., even the Baltimore area, just as precaution.

But in this case, Tom, it appears as though this is a local matter, and so Park Police, which arrived there, even FBI, they haven't been involved in this investigation. But give us an idea what local authorities are doing right now as they try to secure this mall? They still have not lifted officially the lockdown?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST & FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR (voice-over): Yes, Fredricka. The federal agencies working here would be involved in the investigation. Just not in charge of it. So Chief McMahon of Howard County Police is running this investigation. He's in charge. Howard County has the lead on it, but the other agencies, Maryland State Police, the other nearby counties, federal, state agencies, are providing assistance, you know, for a variety of ways. One would be just sheer man power and, secondly, if he needs evidence response capability, forensic crime scene investigation capability, that type of things, to augment his own capability, the other agencies would be available to provide it, as assistance, again.

WHITFIELD: And, Tom, we heard from the Police Chief McMahon earlier who said they still don't have a clear motive, even though some sources are telling our correspondents other information. But without a motive, without a clear identity of these victims, people naturally are going to be very worried about going to public places like shopping malls, whether it be this incident or even others. What do you say to people to either reassure them or best prepare them for when they are in a public place? How do you respond when terrible things happen? What do you do?

FUENTES: Well, if you're going to be honest, you're not going to tell them it's perfectly safe to go anywhere outside your house. It's a fact of life. In this case, if it turns out the individual went to the mall looking for a specific person to shoot, you could say, well, you know, as long as nobody goes there to shoot me, it's OK. The only problem with that is that if you have other near by people who are innocent, not necessarily innocent but weren't the target but ended up getting killed anyway, that's not very reassuring. So I guess there is -- you know, the public wants to know whether a person that's mentally disturbed, mentally deranged went and just was looking for anybody at random to shoot, which means anybody could be in danger, or whether there was a specific reason to go to a given store and look for a single person to shoot. Again, you have other people killed besides maybe the one that may have been targeted, if that turns out to be true.


FUENTES: Now, the chief's press conference a couple hours ago, you know, they didn't want to speculate on the motive. And he may still not speculate during the 4:00 press briefing. To really fully understand that, that may still take some time. And as I said earlier, you know, the rumors can come out as to motive and, at the end of the day, it may be impossible to determine exactly the motive that somebody had for opening fire.

WHITFIELD: Tom, in this day and age, most shopping malls have their own mall security. Almost every mall, public space for that matter, has surveillance cameras in the parking lot, in the mall, et cetera. What else, if anything, do you see on the horizon for shopping malls, for public places like this so people can feel safer?

FUENTES: Well, the limitations of the security is, first of all, it's wintertime in the Washington area. So people can wear long coats and it looks perfectly normal to be wearing a lot of winter clothing, and that makes it easy to conceal either a shotgun or an assault rifle, or any long-barreled rifle. That's number one. Secondly, the mall police, even if the mall has hundreds of security officers, and even if they're armed, they're going to be carrying pistols. They're not going to be walking around with assault rifles or shotguns or M-16s, at least not typically. Most malls, you don't see that. So an individual that arrives at a mall, walks in undetected because he's got a gun hidden in his clothing, and then pulls the gun out and opens fire, even if you have mall security and even if they engage in a gun battle, the mall security is probably going to be out-gunned basically by the individual.

Now, again, in this case, if this person went and had a specific individual or a couple of individuals in mind to shoot, did that and then shot himself, the mall security becomes irrelevant. The mall cameras in a sense become irrelevant except to help the investigation after the fact.

WHITFIELD: Tom Fuentes, thank you very much. Formerly with the FBI. Appreciate your insight.

In about 20 minutes or so from now, Howard County Police will have another update about all that transpired involving three people killed. And according to police, among the three, just might be the single shooter. Four were others injured.

Our Erin McPike is outside the shopping mall.

As Tom was saying, it's wintry, it's cold. The wind is blowing, and a bit of snow flurries, too. But what's going on outside of that shopping mall as a few people still are released?

MCPIKE: Well, Fred, you can see that they've been setting up for this press conference that's going to happen just at the top of the 4:00 hour. So we hope to hear from officials some more details about the shooting. Obviously, they couldn't give us many at the earlier press conference today, other than we know that three people were killed. Most likely the shooter, the shooter, in fact, was confirmed dead, but they believe, investigators, we've been told from some early reporting, they think it was a domestic dispute, but wouldn't speculate much on that in the earlier briefing. We may hear more about that coming up in the next hour or so.

Fred, I can tell you right now what was going on behind us. We are seeing a little security, but the evacuations have been complete, at least on this side. Obviously, you can see some state troopers, and a lot of cars leaving here. So the activity is going down a little bit, but obviously we're looking forward to hear be more details in the 4:00 hour -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right. And just over 15 minutes away.

Thanks so much. Erin McPike there in Columbia, Maryland.

We'll have much more from the NEWSROOM right after this.


WHITFIELD: All right. A lot of people are counting blessing if they happened to be at the mall in Columbia, Maryland today. Earlier there was a shooting taking place. Three people are dead in the end, and Howard County Police there say that among the dead, just might be the single shooter. Meantime, in about 15 minutes or so from now, Howard County Police say they'll have another press conference, updating reporters about the situation there. Updating us as to whether the shopping mall, the lockdown has been lifted. They'll update us on whether there remain people, shoppers, many employees, still in that mall. Because earlier today, the police chief said it's a painstaking process. It could take hours before they're able to get through, completely comb the interior of that mall of 200 stores and four big department stores, and check and see whether there are anymore employees or even shoppers who were holed up in closets and storage spaces, dressing rooms. Those are some of the areas that people took to shelter when they heard the gunshots fired at 11:15 a.m. eastern time.

Among those who heard the gun shots, Shannon Washington. She's an employee at a store called The Art of Shaving in that mall.

I understand now, Shannon, you're at home. But earlier, when you were in your store, describe for me what you experienced, how you knew there was a shooting taking place and what you did. SHANNON WASHINGTON, MALL EMPLOYEE (voice-over): Well, in the store we're located on the Nordstrom wing. So it is a ways away from where the initial shooting took place. Initially, we did not know what was going on. We saw people running by. The mall opens at 10:00. It wasn't that busy at that time, but then we saw more people just, like, running, and then actually another worker in the mall, in the store next to me, I think he has a stand closer to the food court and he was the one that, when he was running back, he says there's a shooter with a shotgun in the mall. So immediately, me and the lady that works next door, we went in our stores, locked the doors, and then I started calling the police. There were no alerts or nothing going on, but later closer to the 12 hour, they did call all the stores with a pre- recorded message to let us know what was going on. It just was very chaotic.

WHITFIELD: I'm sure it was nerve-racking and frightening. Once you realized what was taking place, you know, a shooting, and you had locked your doors, then what did you do, and tell me what you were thinking and feeling?

WASHINGTON: Well, at the time, we knew that they did not know where the shooter was. So rather than run out into the mall to try to get out -- you know, if you're running out there, there could be a shooter right behind you. So our protocol is to go and hide where no one can see us, and that's --

WHITFIELD: Where did you hide?

WASHINGTON: That's what we pretty much did. Behind our counter. Behind our counter.

WHITFIELD: OK. And what did you --


WASHINGTON: Then a couple --


WHITFIELD: Go ahead. What did you hear and experience while you were hiding?

WASHINGTON: Well, initially, I heard something, but you don't correlate it to a gunshot. It just sounded like scaffolding fell or something hit the floor. But that was earlier and I only heard that once. I didn't hear as other people heard more gunshots, one after the other and after the other. Then a couple hours later, we saw the SWAT and everybody walks around the mall, and then they came and unlocked the door. Put my hand up to make sure. And so a couple of hour, we stay crouched behind that counter not knowing, you know, what was going to happen next.

WHITFIELD: And why did you feel confident enough that the folks who were saying they were law enforcement, they really were and that you came out your hands up? WASHINGTON: Because you would see them periodically. Like, I never stood up. But when I would like peek across, you saw them. And since they're on the top floor, we saw the shoppers. And, like I said, the mall did start making that phone call to let us know that there were police in the building with canine units in the building. So that phone call was made to let us know what was going on.

WHITFIELD: Wow. Pretty scary moments. A couple hours later, you understood it was safe. And then what happened?

WASHINGTON: We got escorted out. We actually, the route that we took, I'm on the other side of the mall. We actually -- they walked us all of the way around the mall to the food court where I guess part of it actually happened.

WHITFIELD: What was that like for you as you were being escorted? What was that like for you as you were being escorted passed the food court, passed areas where you thought shots may have been coming from? How nervous were you?

WASHINGTON: To me it was still scary because as we were walking through the police that were still in the building. It looked like they still were actively looking for something. So when I'm looking around and I'm seeing that, that kind of scared me because, at that point, I didn't know for sure if they caught the guy or what was going on because the people in the mall, we didn't know anything. We were learning from social media. Like the people outside of the mall knew more than we knew at the time.

WHITFIELD: And now you're being escorted out. Then what happens once you're exiting?

WASHINGTON: Well, of course, there were a lot of reporters and police officers outside and they did have a lot of public transportation available to drive the workers in the mall to their cars so that they wouldn't have to walk all of the way around the mall because it was still an active crime scene.

WHITFIELD: Now a few hours now after the fact, you're at home. You're safe. How do you reflect now on your day at work at the mall in Columbia, Maryland?

WASHINGTON: I mean, one was prayer. You know, that's first and foremost on a day like today. But I kind of reflect on the fact that this is the world. Like, it's just not in Columbia, Maryland. It seems like every time I turn on the news something like this is happening. And it's just -- it's the world we live in. That's really sad to say.

WHITFIELD: What do you think it's going to be like going back to work now, whenever that is?

WASHINGTON: I can't -- I can't even think of that right now. I don't know. I don't know. This isn't my first time being through something like this. There were shoutings in the Townsend Center Mall a few years ago. You know, they expect you to go back to work as normal, but it's hard. You know, luckily, my company does have things set up, you know, that we can call a hot line and be able to vent and talk if we need to, so that is a good thing. But it's just hard. It's hard for everybody.

WHITFIELD: Shannon Washington, thanks so much for your perspective, your point of view on this. It is sad to think that this is the world that we now live in.

All right. Thank you.

We're going to have much more from the NEWSROOM right after this.


WHITFIELD: All right. We're just minutes away from another scheduled police briefing out of Howard County, Maryland, just hours after a shooting taking place at the Mall at Columbia, Maryland. Three people left dead. And police say, among the dead, is the single shooter. Four other people were hurt.

Tom Fuentes has been with us, formerly of the FBI, throughout the afternoon, analyzing what has been taking place.

Tom, as we're just a few minutes away from the press briefing, what is it that you want to hear that will paint a more complete picture of what happened today and what the response has been like and what's next?

FUENTES: I'd like to hear the chief verify exactly why they're sure that this is a lone shooter and no one else was involved. Although he said it earlier, again, to reiterate it would be a good thing, as well. But I don't know that we're going to hear about the motive. You know, I think that even though there might be great speculation or that the shooter knew one of the victims, or when the shooter walked into the location, other people recognized that he was related to someone or a friend of someone that was working there, I don't know that he's going to release that kind of information just yet. But I think it's, again, going to reassure the public that the mall is going to be safe, possibly say at what point the mall will reopen, if it's going to be available to be open tomorrow. And reassurance to all of the people that have relatives or loved ones that work there or shopped there that they've all been released, they've all been found, located, and allowed to leave.

WHITFIELD: And, Tom, earlier, we heard from the police chief, Bill McMahon, who said it's a lengthy process to get through the shopping mall to try to help all those that are still in there to exit. So now it's been many hours after that shooting at 11:15. Do you think now they have found everyone who would be hiding by now?

FUENTES: Yes, I would expect that, by now, they should be able to, given the large number of personnel that they would have doing it. And the fact that most people have cell phones. So if you're hiding in a closet in that place, you know, you either could make a call or get a call from someone telling you they're watching this on CNN and it's safe, that the chief has said that the single shooter is dead, at least to their belief, and it would be at least safe not to be as hidden away.

Now, maybe you might not come completely out of the store, but if you have a number of people crowded together in a very small closet, I would think that one of those people would be able to learn from the outside what the situation is. And I mean, that would be the first thing that I would do if I was trapped in a closet, is call someone and say turn on CNN and see what's going on.

WHITFIELD: Tom Fuentes, formerly of the FBI. Thank you so much for your insight throughout the afternoon. Appreciate it.

FUENTES: You're welcome.

WHITFIELD: That's going to do it for me. I'm Fredericka Whitfield. Much more of the NEWSROOM straight ahead.

And again, that press conference taking place minutes from now, at least scheduled to take place minutes from now.

Miguel Marquez joining us now to take it from here -- Miguel?