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Deadly Fort Hood Shooting; Search for Flight 370; Crisis in Ukraine

Aired April 3, 2014 - 04:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news overnight: four people dead, 16 others injured after a gunman opened fire at Fort Hood. This morning, new information about the shooter and his history of mental illness.

Also new, how the tragedy played out and how it's affecting a community hit by the same violence just five years ago.

We are live with the very latest.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Poppy Harlow. It is Thursday, April 3rd, 4:00 a.m. here on the East Coast.

A lot of news this morning.

We do begin at Fort Hood, a base reeling this morning from yet another deadly shooting involving a soldier and his fellow service members. This happened in the middle of an otherwise quiet afternoon, when multiple sources tell CNN, Army Specialist Ivan Lopez opened fire, taking three lives and then his own, and injuring 16 of his colleagues.

More on Lopez in just a moment. But first, let's go live to the base.

Our George Howell is there.

What is the latest? What can you tell us this morning from Fort Hood?


Just hours ago, this base was on lockdown. People were told to shelter in place, to stay out of harm's way, as specialist Ivan Lopez came on the base with a .45 caliber Smith and Wesson semiautomatic pistol, a weapon that was not registered to this base, but a weapon that he used to shoot and kill three people, to injure at least 16 others, a weapon that he used to shoot and kill himself when confronted with a military officer.

What we know about him at this point, we know that he was married, we know that he had a daughter, about 3 years old, and that he was recently transferred here to the Killeen area to Fort Hood from another military installation, an unknown base. I do want you to hear what played out as dispatchers were talking to each other as the situation was happening here in Killeen. Take a listen.


DISPATCHER: We have an active shooter currently on Fort Hood coming in from the motor pool area. We have currently two victims with gunshot wounds. There is one walking around conscious and breathing. Wound to his left side, upper rib cage.


HOWELL: What we know about him at this point, he was a veteran. Back in 2009, he was back in Iraq for four months, until he self reported that he had traumatic brain injury that he suffered from that. He was getting treatment, taking medication, getting treatment. He was also going through evaluation for post-traumatic stress disorder, though he was not officially diagnosed with that.

Officials tell us that that takes some time, that evaluation process. But again, 16 people in the hospital this morning, 3 dead and then also this specialist.

HARLOW: I can't imagine what they're going through there. They just went through this, a horrible, tragic shooting five years ago. I'm wondering if you know anything about the condition of the victims.

HOWELL: We've been checking with hospitals, and obviously, this happening so soon --

HARLOW: Right.

HOWELL: We're trying to get the latest conditions. But again, 16 people in the hospital at this point.


HOWELL: As we get word, Poppy, we will pass it on to you.

HARLOW: And quickly, George, I also know that, apparently, his wife, who lived in an apartment complex nearby, is cooperating with authorities?

HOWELL: She is. And from what we're hearing from neighbors, from our reporting, this is something that neighbors never expected to happen. When neighbors describe this family, Poppy, they say that it was an average family, a family that would smile at you when they see you.

And from what we understand, as neighbors saw the wife come outside, she was hysterical when she saw that his name was reported in the news associated with this. Again, what we understand at this point is that his wife is cooperating with the investigation.

HARLOW: Of course. Appreciate the reporting early this morning for us, George. We'll get back to you later in the show. Well, Fort Hood is the largest military base in the country, home to more than 70,000 soldiers, their families and civilian employees.

Lynn Adams lives off the base with her husband, an army soldier who was in that lockdown yesterday in the hours after this shooting happened. She says it does not seem like extra measures, security measures, have been taken on the base. Listen.


LYNN ADAMS (via telephone): The post doesn't really have any extra security. They check IDs at the gate, they do random checks at the gate, and they're trained to look out for things that might signify that someone might be up to something, much like airport security and things like that or police officers, but there isn't really a whole lot of extra protection for us.


ROMANS: All right. Meantime, President Obama spoke from Chicago shortly after we first heard about these shootings.


OBAMA: Any shooting is troubling. Obviously, this reopens the pain of what happened at Fort Hood five years ago. We know these families. We know their incredible service to our country and the sacrifices that they make.

Obviously, our thoughts and prayers are with the entire community, and we are going to do everything we can to make sure that the community at Fort Hood has what it needs to deal with the current situation, but also any potential aftermath. We're heartbroken that something like this might have happened again, and I don't want to comment on the facts until I know exactly what has happened. But for now, I would just hope that everybody across the country is keeping the families and the community of Fort Hood in our thoughts and in our prayers.


HARLOW: As the president mentioned, Fort Hood has been the site of tragedy before. Five years ago, Major Nidal Hasan, who was an Army psychologist, opened fire there, killing 13 people, injuring dozens of others.

Russel Honore once was a commander at Fort Hood. He told our Wolf Blitzer, shootings like this make it difficult for soldiers to feel safe in the one place where they're supposed to be protected.


GEN. RUSSEL HONORE, RET. LT. GEN. U.S. ARMY (via telephone): Army post by tradition, that's our sanctuary. That's a place we come back to, to be with our families, to train for the next mission or deployment, to go on that deployment, come back to our families that we leave, to those who remain behind as well as the surrounding communities to take care of them. And when violence like this happens and breaks that trust between the soldier and his family and his community.


HARLOW: All right. Stay with us throughout the morning. We're going to bring you the latest breaking developments on this tragic shooting at Fort Hood.

ROMANS: Now to Australia, where planes and ships are out again this morning hunting for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The search area moving slightly to the west, some 1,000 miles from Perth, as crews try again to find any identifiable debris from this jet.

The Malaysian prime minister, he is now in Australia. He insists they will figure out what happened.

Senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is live in Perth for us this morning.

Matthew, how is the search going so far today?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's been going. It's been continuing. There's been about eight aircraft up in the skies, scouring the waters in the south Indian Ocean. There's been a number of surface ships, as many as nine surface ships, in fact, doing the same thing.

It's a vast area they're looking at there, Christine, really big. I mean, we're talking about something in the area of 85,000 square miles. And so, it really is difficult for them to find anything. They haven't found anything as far as we're aware.

A number of the planes have come back, including the search planes from the United States. They've come back, they haven't announced that they've found anything today that could resemble any debris from this missing plane.

But you're right, the Malaysian prime minister is indeed in town, Najib Razak his name, is here to insist that Malaysia will do everything in its powers to reach a successful conclusion to this search operation.

Take a listen.


NAJIB RAZAK, MALAYSIAN PRIME MINISTER: In a time of great tragedy, countries with citizens on board and of families whose loved ones are missing, this cooperation has given us all heart. Differences have been set aside as 26 nations have united behind a common cause. The disappearance of MH370 is without precedent. So, too, is the search.


CHANCE: The Malaysian prime minister saying that we will not give up, we will do everything we can to try and find the debris, to at least alleviate the grief and the suffering of the family members of the 239 people who were on board -- Christine.

ROMANS: You know, Matthew, 27 days now since this flight disappeared. There are two facts, two real facts here. One, the plane did not land where it was supposed to. Two, Inmarsat data show that it turned to the south and flew southward, well off of its flight path.

That is really -- those are really the only two facts still -- we're not getting new facts any day.

CHANCE: No. It's deeply frustrating. It's frustrating for us, but, of course, it's frustrating for the families of those 239 people on board.

We're not being given many facts. We don't know if there are any facts that the authorities know but they're not disclosing to us, either. All we know is that the search area is being, according to the authorities here, the search authorities, it's being slowly refined to take into account what they say is a fresh analysis and fresh data, sort of like, you know, define the search area more clearly.

But it's still extremely large, and underlining all of that, they still haven't found anything that even vaguely resembles debris from this missing plane, so it's very frustrating for everybody involved.

ROMANS: It really is.

Matthew Chance, thank you so much, live for us this morning in Perth, Australia. Thank you, Matthew.

HARLOW: Meanwhile, there are no signs of breakthrough yet, as we just discussed with Matthew, in this investigation into what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Officials say, though, that all 227 passengers have been cleared of hijacking or psychological issues, and a review of the pilot's flight simulator has so far proved just inconclusive.

Let's get to Jim Clancy. He's live in Kuala Lumpur with the latest.

Jim, you have been following this throughout, for weeks and weeks now. And you know, we're getting sort of a difference sense. It's feeling to us, at least, here, like this investigation has stalled in a way that it hasn't in the past few weeks.

Would you say that's a fair assessment?

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is a fair assessment, especially looking from the outside in. Huge thunderstorm going on right now in Kuala Lumpur, just to explain that. From the outside in, it looks stalled. Perhaps they have evidence they're not telling us about.

But already, you know, you have some family members, some loved ones, like Sarah Bajc, who's come here. Philip Wood was her longtime companion, and she has come here. He was the American on board. She has come here to take up residence, take up a new job. This was all preplanned, and she wants to get together with the families. She told CNN today, wants to get together with them and discuss with them, keeping the investigation alive, number one, and number two, perhaps lending an international dimension to it, somehow getting international investigators more involved.

I must say, the FBI is already here, the NTSB is already here, the Federal Aviation Administration is already here. They have been the source of a lot of what we have heard from the investigators' side. But the progress -- well, that's what we haven't heard. And some even openly question --

HARLOW: And it looks like we lost Jim Clancy there, as you saw. Major weather behind him, a big, big thunderstorm. So, that affects the signal. We'll get him back as soon as we can.

ROMANS: All right. More news breaking overnight. Another strong earthquake off the coast of Chile, this one measuring 7.6. Another strong earthquake leading to evacuations all along the country's northern coast.

This was a day after another very, very big quake, 8.2 magnitude, rattling that same region. That left six people dead and thousands of homes damaged. No word yet on damage or injuries from this latest earthquake, but we know, Poppy, that indeed, there have been a lot of tremors recently.

HARLOW: Right.

ROMANS: That big one, 8.2, but tremors before and after, now another 7.6. So really frayed nerves, I would say, in northern Chile.

HARLOW: Absolutely.

Well, our breaking news coverage continues on the shooting at Fort Hood and also missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. We'll continue to track that all morning.

First, though, the death toll rising in that mudslide that buried people in Washington neighborhood, the breaking developments overnight from there a well.


HARLOW: Following breaking news this morning from Fort Hood, from Fort Hood, where four soldiers are dead this morning, 16 others injured after a gunman opened fire at two locations on the base, and then he took his own life.

CNN has learned the gunman was Specialist Ivan Lopez. He had only transferred to Fort Hood a few months ago. He was undergoing treatment for depression and anxiety.

Fort Hood and the community around it has been through this before. A soldier opening fire on fellow service members, and the mayor of Killeen, Texas, tells CNN's Don Lemon it's heartbreaking to see this happen again.


MAYOR DANIEL CORBIN, KILLEEN, TEXAS (via telephone): It's a military community. We experienced the tragedy in November -- on November 5th, 2009, where 13 people were killed and 30 wounded.

We've experienced the horrors of war, you know, since the first troops deployed to Iraq in 2003, we've had hundreds of soldiers from Fort Hood who have been killed and thousands wounded. These people have done the bulk of the fighting in the 1st Cavalry Division and the 4th Infantry Division and more soldiers deploying from Fort Hood were killed than from any other installation.

So, we've experienced the grieving. It's a community, it's like you've been kicked in the gut. You just -- it can't be happening again.

You know, these are our friends. We go to church together. We pray together. We play together. It's a really tight-knit community, and we have so much respect for these soldiers who put their life on the line for our country, and they, many of them pay the ultimate sacrifice.


ROMANS: "It can't be happening again," but it did.

Stay with us for the very latest on the shooting at Fort Hood. We'll have all those new developments right here on CNN throughout the morning.

HARLOW: Also this morning, the death toll has risen again in the Washington state landslide. Twenty-nine people are now confirmed dead, 20 more, though, are still missing. President Obama has now declared this area major disaster zone. That opens up the door for more federal aid. This as the Army Corps of Engineers is planning to build a channel to change the flow of the Stillaguamish River, which is threatening to flood that site.

ROMANS: Appeal denied. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court says it will not review the Jerry Sandusky case. The former Penn State assistant football coach was convicted in 2012 on 45, 45 counts of child molestation.

The appeal claims defense attorneys were rushed to trial and takes issue with the jury instructions. Sandusky, though, is serving 30 to 60-year sentence for sexually abusing 10 boys. He is free to file a new appeal, but he is not free. He is behind bars.

HARLOW: A major Supreme Court ruling likely to increase the flood of money into political campaigns. The high court in a 5-4 decision has lifted the cap on how much one person can donate in total in an election season. But here's a caveat, you will still be limited on how much you can give to a single candidate. Dissenting Justice Stephen Breyer said the ruling, quote, "under mines, perhaps, devastates what remains of campaign finance reform."

ROMANS: President Obama says 2014 will be his last campaign. Speaking in Michigan and Illinois, the president sought to rally his base and raise some cash. And he admitted, the Democrats could be vulnerable this fall. Republicans who currently hold the House are eyeing a takeover of the Senate in the November midterm elections.

HARLOW: Las Vegas now pretty much the odds are in its favor to host the 2016 Republican National Convention, but the party of so-called family values shouldn't congregate in Sin City? That's what critics are saying. Many hailing from its five competitor states, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver and Kansas, Republican officials are expected to go all in on a destination this summer.

We'll see where it ends up.

ROMANS: Vegas is so much more than just sin these days.

HARLOW: Vegas is fun, but only for two days at a time. That's all I can handle it for.

ROMANS: Exactly.

All right. Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell insists politics played no role in revisions to talking points about the consulate attack in Benghazi, Libya. During a three-hour grilling on Capitol Hill, Morell said he deleted references to advance terror warnings because analysts still wrongly thought a protest against an anti- Islamic video was to blame. Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, died in that attack.

HARLOW: Also focus on Russia and Ukraine this morning. Questions about whether we will see another Russian invasion of Ukraine.

A new warning this morning on how fast troops could flood into that country. We'll take you live with the latest, next.


ROMANS: Twenty-four minutes past the hour.

Now to Ukraine, on edge this morning after a new warning from the top NATO general about the potential for a Russian invasion. General Philip Breedlove tells CNN's Christiane Amanpour, the Russian troops along Ukraine's eastern border are poised to move and could do so in as little as 12 hours.

Phil Black is live in Moscow.

Phil, just a few days ago, it seemed that Vladimir Putin was trying to pull or planning to pull those troops back, but still high alert this morning that an invasion could be imminent. What has changed?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine, I guess that's the point, nothing has changed. It has been a significant week diplomatically with Russia pushing a possible diplomatic solution, Russia suggesting a partial withdrawal of forces from that area near the Ukrainian border.

The NATO assessment of Russia's capability in that border area hasn't changed. That assessment remains, 40,000-plus soldiers at a very high state of readiness with all the logistics and support necessary to move into Ukraine with pretty much no warning. Now, they've put a figure on it.

In less than 12 hours, which in military terms is really nothing, they say they have seen no evidence of a significant drawdown of forces at that border area. Russia's position publicly hasn't changed, either. It says what forces there are, and never talks about numbers, are simply conducting exercises and Russia has no intention of invading Ukraine.

Just this morning, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the soldiers near the border will return to their bases once the exercises are finished. He didn't mention a time frame, but he did say the West and Ukraine are very much exaggerating the importance of those maneuvers. But what is pretty clear is the consistent message from NATO and Western countries.

They're not going to buy that sort of talk until they see action, evidence that really backs it up. At the moment, after weeks, weeks after those forces first moved into place at the border, it seems that NATO, the United States, Europe, they still do not have a clear idea of what Russia's intention is, what its next step will be -- Christine.

ROMANS: And that is so troubling.

All right. Thank you so much, Phil Black.

HARLOW: Two big breaking news stories this morning: four dead, 16 others injured at a shooting at Fort Hood once again.

Plus, the search for Flight 370 moves yet again, for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. We're going to have live team coverage straight ahead.