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Three Dead in Maryland Mall Shooting

Aired January 25, 2014 - 16:00   ET


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Fredricka, thank you very much.

You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Miguel Marquez.

We are tracking breaking news at the moment. A shooting with people killed and wounded at a shopping mall outside Washington, D.C. This is Columbia, Maryland this time. Three people are dead, including the person who started the shooting shortly before noon inside the mall. A police update is due any moment now.

While we wait for that news conference, let's get to Erin McPike, who is outside the mall in Columbia.

Erin, what's happening there now?

Erin, can you hear us?

It looks -- it appears we're looking at -- it appears what we're looking at now are some of those investigators headed to --

** 1600 GOES HERE

MARQUEZ: -- fairly small caliber of shotgun, like 20 gauge, which is somewhat less destructive like a 12-gauge for instance. There are a variety of shotguns.

LOU PALUMBO, RETIRED LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENT: Yes, they come in caliber also, 410, 20 gauge, 16 gauge, which is a little obsolete. Shotgun shotguns unto themselves are lethal.

MARQUEZ: Police saying that when they saw the body, they saw that the number of shells that were around it. They backed off at that point. Why?

PALUMBO: Well, I think they may have been concerned for possibly ignition issues. You don't know what this kid could have rigged. You saw this assortment of ammunition on the floor, you're wondering was he just supplying himself, for example. I mean, there's a whole lot of dynamics that lend itself spontaneously.

You know, I can't get into the minds of what the police officers were thinking, but I don't know if they necessarily took a step back, but I'm sure they took inventory of the fact that there was a lot of ammunition there with two dead bodies. He didn't have to arm up, for example, with a lot of ammunition to just go out and kill two people in their 20s.

MARQUEZ: Yes, it sounds like this was contained to a single store there with bodies inside the store and possibly just outside the store. One person has been taken to the hospital. It's not clear whether that person taken to the hospital was just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or was also a target of this shooting. Is there anything about the layout that the police have talked about at this point that raises questions in your mind?

PALUMBO: No, I think they're just going to have to go in and try to recreate exactly what happened to the best of their ability, which in a very positive note is going to be the byproduct of the cameras installed and statements of witnesses who saw what went on here. What I find interesting here is that he took the life of -- lives of two young people and then himself. It wasn't as if he went into a type of Aurora shooting mode where we were just randomly shooting at people. You know, that's where we have this little confusion about a quantity of ammunition, yet a limited target number. See what I'm saying?

So, that's just, you know --

MARQUEZ: This is the second time we've seen in a mall a shooting like this in t last month, month and a half or so. We're going to talk to Evan Perez coming up here after the break as well, who has more information about what exactly happened in Columbia, Maryland.

We'll be right back.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.


REPORTER: This happened on the third floor?


REPORTER: It happened by JCPenney?

JIMENEZ: Yes. Yes, no, it wasn't -- yes, it wasn't the first floor in the food court.

REPORTER: First floor of the food court?

JIMENEZ: Yes. We are on the second floor and we hear. We hear, see everybody is running. REPORTER: You said first floor or third floor.

JIMENEZ: Third floor. Third floor in the food court, yes. Looked like the guy shot him from the second floor but --


MARQUEZ: We are following every detail of the latest American tragedy. This time in Columbia, Maryland, at a mall, the Howard County Mall in Columbia, Maryland.

We have with us on the phone, Evan Perez. He's our justice correspondent.

The police, Evan, very, very clear in saying they don't have a motive yet, but you are hearing otherwise. What do you have?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, Miguel, again, we've been, as we've been reporting all afternoon, this is a very preliminary information from the scene. One of the reasons why we're reporting it is so people can understand a little bit. Obviously, these things are always scary no matter what the situation is, what the motive is. If you're in the mall and there's shooting, obviously everyone's scared. But I find it interesting that the Howard County police said they were not ready yet to confirm or to say what the motive is.

Our reporting from what we've been told from people briefed on the investigation is that the preliminary indications are just based on what they see, was that they believe it might have been a domestic dispute or domestic situation that led to this shooting. Obviously, there's a lot of work left for the Howard County police to do at the scene there and to try to establish fully what happened. I thought one of the reasons why we reported what we did was to sort of give people the context at the time -- especially early on, there was a lot of people still stuck in the mall. I'm sure they were trying to find information.

And not that, you know, domestic situation is any less scary or less concerning, but it does change the tenor of what is happening at the mall, rather than someone coming in randomly shooting at people, something that might have been more contained. So that's what we were trying to portray by relaying the information that we had.

And again, all the caveats are important, which is that it's early information, it's still being worked on. The police are still at the scene trying to establish as they're going through -- as the Howard County police chief said, they're still going through the video to try to see what exactly happened when the shooter came up to this man or this woman after Zumiez Store and opened fire, Miguel.

MARQUEZ: And it is likely, Evan, that even though police aren't saying it at the moment, that the do know who this shooter is.

I want to bring in Lou Palumbo as well -- if you have questions for Evan. Evan, stay with us.

It is likely that search warrants are being served right now, yes? What are they looking for?

PALUMBO: What they're trying to create a profile of the shooter, first of all, and most definitively try to identify the relationship with these two victims. They're going through the cellphone records, he has a cellphone, computers, interviewing neighbors. They want to know as much about this individual as they possibly can and as much about the potential relationship he may have had with the victims as they possibly can.

They want to create a kind of framework of what took place between these three people.

MARQUEZ: Evan, I don't know if your sources are saying anything about this but is there any sense that the one individual taken to the hospital with a wound from a gun, that they were a target of the shooting or just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time?

PEREZ: No, there's no indication yet of anybody else having -- we don't know what that injury is. My understanding is that the -- the shooter -- the person who came in and shot this man and this woman, then took the gun and shot himself at the scene there. It does appear that that's the limit of what was done, there are people who were injured fleeing the scene. Somebody apparently had a cardiac situation perhaps in this scary moments right after that. And some people had injuries, ankle injuries and so on, which is very common, obviously, in this situation.

So, again, this is, again, early information is what we're working on with -- working with here and the police are trying to figure out what took place, obviously.

PALUMBO: Did they identify the victims by gender yet? Did they say whether it was male or female?

MARQUEZ: I believe they said one male, one female.

PEREZ: One female, that's right.

MARQUEZ: The shooter was male.

We are going to get back to a little bit of that information. Evan, stand by for us. We are going to take a quick break. We will be back with breaking news on the latest shooting in Columbia, Maryland.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People were running either straight down the mall corridor or just running into stores. I didn't know how safe it would be to just keep running in the open so when I saw people running into that store that's where I went not even knowing where she went. And we were in the back of the store in the fitting room area -- I mean, literally just, you know, where do you go? You're in a fitting room area. Someone is going to come in. You're still just as vulnerable.


MARQUEZ: Chaos in Columbia, Maryland. The Howard County Mall there, the latest scene of the latest shooting in America.

I'm here with Lou Palumbo, who is a former law enforcement official.

Lou, if this does turn out to be a domestic situation which CNN is hearing from our sources, police there sort of pushing back on it, saying they don't have that done. They don't have that yet, but these guys do work very quickly, we do know.

Does this -- does this fit the profile of that? And why do it publicly?

PALUMBO: It may have done it publicly because of an accessibility, convenience issue, or they may have done it publicly because of notoriety that they feel that he was titled to, you know, their own personal pain or anguish. We're now trying to explore the psyche of the individual who carried out these two murders.

MARQUEZ: And agencies are prepared to look at that psyche now and try and figure out why people do that.

PALUMBO: Absolutely. Our federal agencies in particular have behavioral scientists. We're not quite there locally in local law enforcement but our FBI and Secret Service, for example, they have forensic psychologists, behavioral scientists, they need to understand what's driving people.

Oftentimes with the Secret Service, they receive correspondents that are threatening to the president. They need to create a profile of the individual as accurately as they possibly can in an attempt to predict the likelihood of them carrying out an intention.

MARQUEZ: Yes. Evan Perez, I want to bring you back in. And you heard one Ken Ulman (ph) and Bill McMahon (ph) said at the press conference a short time ago. They did push back a little bit on the fact that this -- they're saying it is not fact yet that this was a domestic situation. But certainly the preliminary information that you are hearing is that it is.

Was there anything else, though, in that press conference that stuck out to you?

PEREZ: Well, you know, Miguel, you know, this -- the way they respond to these things as Mr. Palumbo has been saying is really remarkable and the quickness at which they were able to get in there, you know, is very reassuring for people. I'm very familiar with that mall. I've been there many, many times. It's up in the northern suburbs between D.C. and Baltimore. Not far from the NSA headquarters, for instance. So, it's very interesting that they say that they have trained in this mall for exactly this type of situation. You can tell they did a very professional response and they were very quickly able to determine what had happened, what this was very limited to just these three victims.

Obviously, it's going to take a lot more work to establish exactly what happened and the Howard County police in their Twitter feed keeps tweeting at me that it has not been confirmed and we're obviously saying that, as well. The early indications, again, that's what we've been reporting, is that the early information was that they believed it was possibly a domestic situation.

I think that remains the theory that they're working on and right now, they're just, again, trying to go through the -- any background they can find on this alleged shooter and the victims to determine exactly how they're all tied together, Miguel. MARQUEZ: All right. Evan, stick with us. Coming up in a few moments, we're going to have Ken Ulman. He's the Howard County executive. We're going to have that for you, shortly.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

MARQUEZ: We are following every detail out of Columbia, Maryland, the latest shooting in America. This time at a mall, Howard County Mall. Three people are dead. Five people are at the hospital.

After this shooting, CNN has information that it may, in fact, be a domestic dispute that was targeted publicly at this mall.

Standing by we have Erin McPike at the mall, along with the county executive there who can fill us in a bit more on the details -- Erin.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miguel, this is Ken Ulman. He is the Howard County executive. You may have seen him earlier at the press conference.

So, we want to ask you a little bit more about the first responders. You said they got into the scene very quickly.

Can you tell us a little bit about the training that they had because everybody has been very impressed by how quickly everybody was able to respond and deal with the situation?

KEN ULMAN, HOWARD COUNTY EXECUTIVE: Sure. We have an unbelievably professional attack team, SWAT team, but also the patrol officers.

We put a lot of priority and training. Unfortunately, post-Columbine, you know, we beefed up our efforts, train with our school system, do active shooter training and a number of public places where it be schools or large gathering places. We've been in the Columbia mall doing that kind of training with regional partners.

And I talked to some of our folks on the attack team and said, how did you feel like it went with all of our regional partners? They said actually better than they would have even expected. So, it all came together.

They were -- we were first officer was on the scene about a minute and a half. So I am incredibly proud of our men and women in law enforcement and the job they did.

MCPIKE: Now, obviously we've been hearing all day the investigation is still on going, in the preliminary stages. Can you tell us a little bit more about what the investigation entails, who is in there now, who has been in, who still has to go in and to investigate because obviously we heard there are different levels of this?

ULMAN: Sure. Because there are still so many people sheltering in place we want to go through every inch of the mall to make sure that there were no additional victims, maybe sure everyone was safe, make sure there weren't any explosive or anything else.

If you can picture a large mall, right? The places that we know. The public places, but you don't see how many rest rooms and back offices and hallways there are.

So, tactical teams went through every inch of the small to clear it before the investigators got a chance to go in. So, now, they're going threw. It's essentially a very, very large crime scene.

MCPIKE: But you have Howard County investigators, police department. Also federal investigators as well, how is all that working together because I think that is where we had some confusion?

ULMAN: Our police department has taken the lead. All the other folks, state police, federal partners, other county agencies have been here in support of us, and incredibly grateful for their support. We're investigating this like we would any other crime. It's just a much more public event and a much larger crime scene. I know that doesn't sound -- sounds like I'm minimizing it. I'm not. But that's what we're doing now.

So when it comes to not being able to know the motive, as the chief talked about earlier, they haven't been able to just figure out who the shooter is. He does have lots of ammunition on him so they're being very cautious. Believe it or not even though we've been here for a number of hours it's still very early in the investigation.

MCPIKE: Let me ask you one other thing, obviously, this is 11:15 on a Saturday morning in a mall. Do you have any sense of how many people were inside and how long it took to get everybody out and when that finally concluded, the evacuation?

ULMAN: We don't know the exact numbers. We know -- probably at this mall every other day, my wife, my two daughters.

It's packed on a Saturday morning. This is a very vibrant community. And this is a very successful mall. So there were, you know, thousands of people here. We just don't know exactly how many. And you saw the pictures of people coming out. You know, as we evacuated each area. It took some time, and there were people hiding sheltering in place for hours. I know you've talked to some of them, doing exactly what we ask people to do. If they're unsure, lock themselves in a room, shelter in place.

So, it was a very methodical process that took a long time to clear the mall and now the investigation is going to take a long time.

MCPIKE: So, in terms of that, can you tell us what the mall is like inside now and when you may reopen it?

ULMAN: Sure. Well, it won't be me deciding to reopen it. The mall owners and general growth properties we've been coordinating with. Whether or not they open tomorrow, they will announce -- it's my understanding there's some damage to some of the storefronts and doors as police, you know, got into some spaces and so there will be some clean-up and so the mall will announce how long it will take to get?

MCPIKE: Earlier you were saying that the two victims are adults, male and female in their 20s, who were employees of the store. But have you yet finished telling the next of kin yet? Do you know when we will know their identities?

ULMAN: I believe that's happening right now. So it should be very soon.

MCPIKE: OK. And as far as the suspect is concerned, we still don't know the identity. Do you know about that will happen?

ULMAN: We don't. As the chief said, they're taking their time, being cautious, because he does have some -- so much ammunition, it appears in and around him. So, out of abundance of caution, I want to be careful. Obviously our thoughts and prayers go out to their families and then their loved ones.

MCPIKE: And the five injured, have you spoken with them?

ULMAN: Our investigators are with them, have spoken to them, and are in different levels of process at the hospital.

MCPIKE: Good luck with the investigation. Thanks so much for taking the time.

ULMAN: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

MCPIKE: So, Miguel, that was Ken Ulman. He's the Howard County executive who has been here all day dealing with the situation.

MARQUEZ: Erin McPike in Columbia, Maryland, for us. Thank you very much.

Chaotic moments there in Columbia, Maryland. We will be right back with more information on it.