Return to Transcripts main page


President Lays Wreath at Tomb of Unknowns; New Details Into Killer's Manifesto; Why Was Killer Not Stopped Earlier?

Aired May 26, 2014 - 11:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Hello there, everyone -- I'm John Berman.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN HOST: And I'm Michaela Pereira. It's 11:00 a.m. in the east; 8:00 a.m. out west. We know it's one of the most somber acts of the presidency. Paying respects at the nation's most hallowed grounds. This hour President Obama will honor service men and women who sacrificed their lives for the nation.

BERMAN: He's laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery and making remarks at the Memorial Day ceremony there. You're looking at a live picture there of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, of course an honored veteran injured in the Vietnam War. He served as chief of staff for the army itself under Presidents Clinton and Bush. Of course now he's embroiled in a scandal at the Veterans Affairs Department.

As a veteran, as an honored veteran of service, he is there today to remember his brothers and sisters who gave their lives in service of this country.

PEREIRA: Yes, the men and women who serve our nation with dignity, with honor and with the ultimate sacrifice, this is the 147th memorial service held here at Arlington.

It's a beautiful and very warm day, 87 degrees, I'm told, in Arlington, a big crowd gathered there.

We want to hear the sights and sounds, so we'll make sure to keep quiet so you can pay your respects at home, as well.

BERMAN (voice-over): The first thing we'll see in just a little bit is the president who will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns which is one of the most sacred sites in our nation.

It was placed there. built in 1921, inscribed with words, I think, that are very, very poignant. "Here rests in honor an glory an American soldier known but to God." Looking at pictures of it right there.

PEREIRA (voice-over): We're waiting on the president's arrival where he will lay that wreath. Later he'll make remarks as will Chuck Hagel, secretary of defense. We'll bring those comments to you live.

We want to bring our -- in our -- actually, we see the wreath arriving. I think we should just sit back and watch this happen.

BERMAN (voice-over): We are waiting for the president's arrival at this ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery. He will lay a wreath at the tomb.

While we're waiting for the president, let's bring in Michelle Kosinski. Of course, Michelle, the president just returned from an unannounced trip to Afghanistan to meet with the troops serving there.

What was his message when he was on the ground during this visit?


Yeah, I think it's a nice contrast to see this very solemn ceremony about to get under way today, and he's just getting off a flight, a 14-hour flight from Afghanistan from that surprise trip.

He spent about four hours on the ground there. He didn't land back in Washington until 7:00 this morning.

And while he was there, although the time was brief, as could be expected for a situation like that, for security and other reasons, he was able to be briefed about operations on the ground and then he was able to give this address to soldiers, and he was joking around a couple times, saying he just happened to be in the neighborhood.

He also said, off-camera, aside from his speech that he was there to bring Brad Paisley, the country singer, over so that they could have a concert.

So his mood there was relaxed, but it was also energetic at times. Obviously the president wanted to make a grand gesture. And you look at the sort of milieu of how this is happening.

It's Memorial Day. It's in the midst of the V.A. scandal that is happening at home that's caused so much controversy and a closer look at what happened within the administration and the people chosen to lead that agency over the last several years.

It's also happening in the midst of a shift that's going to happen in foreign policy. We're going to hear from the president this week, in fact, in an important speech midweek that he's going to be giving on foreign policy, on the shifting of America's resources away from Afghanistan, away from Iraq, but still wanting to maintain a force there in Afghanistan, as the president put it yesterday, to preserve the gains that soldiers made there.

So he wants to keep the focus on America's soldiers, on America's veterans, and he didn't address the V.A. scandal specifically in his speech to soldiers in Afghanistan yesterday, but he did seem to make mention of it or at least allude to it when he talked with emphasis about America's sacred obligation, as he put it, to take care of its wounded warriors.

PEREIRA (voice-over): And, Michelle, you talk about that sacred obligation, no more poignant words to a group of people who themselves wonder if at some point they're going to need the aid of the V.A.

As you said, he didn't mention it directly, but I'm sure it was front of mind for many of them, and obviously it's a concern that we know is drawing a lot of the president's attention.

KOSINSKI (voice-over): I think it was interesting. We were looking at some video of this same ceremony from Memorial Day last year in which he thanked Secretary Shinseki for the work he did.

He didn't really single him out. It was in a list of people that the president was thanking, but I think it will be interesting this year to see if he's singled out in a similar way.

We know that he is present here, and you kind of look at the politics of this. To leave Shinseki out would have made a statement that we want him on the outside of this. We don't want him -- it's kind of like if you have someone there, that becomes a lightning rod, but if they're not president -- not present, maybe more of a lightning rod, drawing more attention to the issue.

So it seems like the administration felt it was the appropriate thing to do to have Shinseki in attendance today. We'll see if there's any mention made of him specifically, and there's sure not to be mention of this scandal in the president's remarks.

But we'll see. I mean, perhaps he feels as he did yesterday to make a mention of America's commitment to its veterans once they come home from war, and as he put it, caring for those wounded warriors.

They depend on the care not only of an administration but also their families and volunteers, and he really emphasized that in his remarks yesterday to the soldiers in Afghanistan.

It was interesting to see, too, where he got the big cheers yesterday in talking about America's armed forces and veterans, telling the soldiers, You know what? This is probably going to be your last tour of duty here in Afghanistan. Big cheer went up there.

But then an even bigger one when he talked about the war, the combat mission, ending later this year, saying that he wants it to be brought to a responsible end.

That's where the cheer really came u, and that was the moment that seemed to be most welcome to the soldiers there on the ground in Afghanistan.

America still has about 32,000 soldiers there, coming home soon.

BERMAN (voice-over): And, of course, whenever a president is greeted overseas, it's an event that really is devoid of politics, as well it should be, much like the events we're watching today.

The president is now arriving here at the Tomb of the Unknowns, as Michelle Kosinski just noted before.

We have seen Secretary of Veteran Affairs Eric Shinseki in the crowd. He is there for this ceremony, as are Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey will be there.

And we are seeing the vice president and Dr. Jill Biden arriving right now --

PEREIRA (voice-over): First lady there, as well.

BERMAN (voice-over): ... as well. And I assume we'll see the president shortly. He will laying a wreath. Let's just take a chance to watch and let this soak in.

PEREIRA (voice-over): Very touching moment there, President Obama now making his way into the amphitheater at the National Cemetery there in Arlington, a beautiful day, quite a crowd gathered, he was there along with the first lady, as you can see her, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden.

They will go inside. There will be a ceremony there. And we know there will be comments. The president will speak as well as the secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel.

BERMAN (voice-over): We'll bring you those events and those speeches when they happen, so stay with us for that.

And when we come back, we'll have more news for you today, including new updates on the shootings in Santa Barbara, California, new information about what that killer had been writing and saying in the days and weeks before the rampage.

Stay with us.


PEREIRA: Turning now to California, the horror of a killing spree carried out by a very troubled young man. We're learning today new details from the manifesto left by the 22-year-old shooter, Elliott Rodger. He's the man police say killed six young people, wounded 13 others Friday night before taking his own life.

BERMAN: Our Alison Kosik is at the Santa Barbara sheriffs office with more details. Alison I understand we're getting new information now from this manifesto.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are. And when you look at this manifesto, we heard about rejection he talked about by girls, and rejection by society, and the jealousy he felt, and the vow to kill beautiful girls. Interestingly enough there's a section in that manifesto that focuses on winning the Lottery, specifically he says the Lottery, winning it, is quote, my only way out. Here's his rationale, if you call it that, he says that by becoming wealthy, he thinks that he would have a better chance of getting girls. Here is the thing with that he obsessively played it, at one time traveling from California to Arizona four times to play the games. Even spent $700 on one of the games. Now after he repeatedly lost, especially losing $120 million mega millions game, he then went on in this manifesto to say he started practicing shooting at a gun range about 20 minutes outside from where I am in Oxnard California. He started shooting, and he said this, this is what's really chilling. In this statement that he makes, there is a bit of clarity but then he goes back to going back to his plan of having this massacre. He says quote, as I fired my first few rounds, I felt sick to my stomach. I questioned my whole life and I asked myself what am I doing here? How could things have led to this? There I was practicing shooting with real guns because I had a plan to carry out a massacre. It was very calculated, clearly, what he had planned yet he did have that very brief, brief moment of clarity. Michaela and John.

PEREIRA: And it goes on to be more disturbing and frightening is that we know some steps were followed to intervene. We know that his family reached out to police. Police went about a month ago and made a wellness check, a well-being check on the request of his mother after she saw these videos posted online. There's many people wondering if there could have been more done. If police could have noticed -- missed some signs.

KOSIK: : It really does make you wonder if this was a missed opportunity. Here's why. You talk about Elliott Rodger's mother being concerned because there was a block of time where she didn't hear from him and then spotted Youtube videos, some very disturbing apparently, disturbing enough that police were called to Rodger's home. Not one, not two, but six police officers arrived at his doorstep and somehow he convinced them that everything was okay. That it was all just a misunderstanding. In fact, all of the police officers wound up convincing his mother that everything was okay because they got on the phone as such and even more chilling, in this manifesto, Rodger talks about this saying if police searched his home, they would have found guns, weapons, and writings and he says quote, for a horrible few seconds I thought it was all over. So clearly there was relief from Rodger and obviously it was a missed opportunity.

BERMAN: If only. If only, it was all over because clearly as we now know it wasn't. Alison Kosik for us in Santa Barbara. Thanks so much.

PEREIRA: Ahead @ THIS HOUR, it is clear this young man had mental health issues, he made threats online, he posted video diatribes. We continue to explore the question, why wasn't something more done to prevent all of those deaths. We're taking a look at that ahead.



MICHAEL WELNER, FORENSIC PSYCHIATRIST: Folks don't snap. This is the end of a fuse that's lit a long time earlier. It starts with a posture of blaming others and then latching onto people that one feels are the source of one's lack of ability to advance.


BERMAN: That's psychiatrist Michael Welner saying folks don't just snap like this. It's a longtime coming. The question that is out there for so many people is what could have been done? What more could have been done along the way to prevent these terrible, terrible killings in Santa Barbara?

PEREIRA: We do know that this young man saw a therapist, we are told, since he was about 8 years old. He put together a 137-page manifesto, he sent it to his parents, detailing the frustration he felt over being rejected by girls. The police even came to his house after his parents saw alarming threats online. However, the police never looked for his stash of guns in his bedroom.

Joining us is a psychotherapist Robi Ludwig, and former ATF official Rich Marianos on the phone with us from Washington. Good to have you both here. I think, Robi, and we've discussed it a lot on "NEW DAY" this morning. So many people at home are struggling to hear the fact that six young people were killed. College students. When they're supposed to be in the prime of their lives. We look at the fact that this young man killed three people, stabbed them to death. Killed three more people. Then took his own life. Anybody that is capable of doing that would have shown signs of coming undone before this. Why wasn't anything done to stop him?

ROBI LUDWIG, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: Sometimes with these very sick individuals, they have a paranoia or they are very invested in carrying out their crime. So it is not something that they are going to say, oh by the way I plan to kill several people and go on a spree killing venture. They don't want anyone to know. And that's what gives them the sense of power, because they often walk around feeling powerless. So we like to think that we can see the signs and we can know but sometimes we can't, because they're not revealing it to us.

BERMAN: Let's take a different tact here. Because I think what's interesting in this case is how much was known and how much was done prior to this killing. Rich, let me bring you in here. This is a case where the parents raised red flags to a therapist. The therapist raised red flags to the police. The police went to the apartment and actually had an encounter with this man weeks before he went on to kill more people. Where is the missed sign there? Was anything missed at all? Could anything have been done legally speaking to stop this earlier on?

RICH MARIANOS, RETIRED ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, ATF: It's very difficult for law enforcement because there's a reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot before we as police officials or law enforcement walk into somebody's house, search, question and interrogate. And if the signs aren't there or the individual answers the door, he's calm, he's peaceful, he's not showing any signs of disruption like there's not broken glass. He's not cut up. No one is screaming.

Cops cannot just walk into the house and start tossing it. You need a search warrant and you need, as the law says, reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot. The seven officers went there. They did their job. They had no reason to go in there. That's part of our country and our culture that in America is we just can't go in and conduct irrelevant searches and seizures. And there's a certain expectation for law enforcement and in this case the police followed that. Now, if the situation were changed where there was screaming in the background, or they saw in plain view a gun, or they were led to believe the individual had a knife and someone was hostage, or there were cuts and bruises, yes, they can go in and take a look around and question, they can stop and search but they can't do that unless the law allows them to.

PEREIRA: Rich, you know, it's always after a horrible tragedy like this that we begin to look at every aspect of what happened and where our laws and our regulations and procedures are. Do you think change will be afoot? Do you think changes needs to come given what happened here and what failed?

MARIANUS: We have to work better with our mental professionals. They have to become more open, and these HIPAA laws have to be cut back a little bit