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THE SITUATION ROOM
Four Marines Killed in Tennessee; James Holmes Convicted; Gunman Identified in Chattanooga Rampage; Obama Briefed on Shootings at Military Centers. Aired 18-19:00p ET
Aired July 16, 2015 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The admitted gunman, James Holmes, will quickly learn his fate in just a matter of minutes.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, U.S. military personnel brutally, brazenly targeted in a deadly shooting rampage. And, tonight, some federal facilities are on a heightened state of alert. We're told the FBI now considers this to be a terrorism investigation.
Four U.S. Marines were killed in attacks on two U.S. Navy recruitment centers in Tennessee. The gunman also is dead. The FBI says he's been identified as Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez. President Obama says the U.S. military is being vigilant about security at all its defense facilities, as the investigation unfolds.
Also breaking, we're standing by for a verdict this hour in one of the nation's most horrific mass shootings. James Holmes is about to learn his fate three years after he admittedly opened fire inside a Colorado movie theater during a midnight film, killing a dozen people. Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
We have our analysts, our correspondents and newsmakers, they're all standing by to cover these breaking stories.
But first let's go to Chattanooga.
CNN's Victor Blackwell is on the scene for us with the very latest -- Victor.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the FBI evidence response team has just pulled in, attempting to find out exactly why the man who's accused of pulling off this two-scene attack pulled this off today, his name, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, we know from sources 24 years old.
We know that there are local, state and federal authorities here on the scene, not just the FBI, but also the ATF here on the scene. We have seen dozens of bullet holes inside the military recruitment center here at this Lee Highway location. The attack started we're told at just before 11:00 a.m. Local time, where several shots were fired by Abdulazeez from his convertible, then drove to another location, a naval resource center several miles away, where four Marines were killed, three others were wounded.
We're told that police then responded, gave chase and that shooter has been killed. Now, there were local officials who have considered this an investigation focused on domestic terror, but the FBI has said several times that they will be looking at this case from several different angles, and we will continue to follow that investigation, Wolf.
BLITZER: When you say the shooter was killed, do we know now for sure, Victor, that he was shot by law enforcement? Because earlier there was some suspicion maybe he killed himself.
BLACKWELL: Well, Wolf, there are still facts coming in from several different sources, so I can't say for sure that he was shot by law enforcement.
Maybe one of our other reporters from their FBI sources can, but here on the scene, these authorities aren't saying much to us at this location. I can tell you something that we have seen, though, a show of force from the community, bringing flags and flowers and showing their support for their community and the military.
We actually saw one airman who came here and collapsed onto his knees sobbing, saying that those doors that have been riddled with bullets were not just doors to him, they were a gateway to a better life and the men and women on the other side of that door helped to build him into the man that he is today -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Victor Blackwell in Chattanooga for us, thank you.
I want to quickly go to our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown. She's working her sources, getting new information.
Pamela, what are you learning?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're learning the FBI has identified the shooter in this statement as 24-year-old Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez.
And what I'm being told through sources, along with my colleague Evan Perez, is that this person was born in Kuwait. He's a Jordanian citizen and that his parents were naturalized U.S. citizens, which would lead you to believe that he is too. Law enforcement is actively working this case, trying to find out more about this shooter, but we do know that he, apparently, according to authorities in Chattanooga, is from the area. He lived in the area.
The FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force is investigating this. And to be clear here, Wolf, authorities have not determined a specific motive yet, so they're trying to determine, is this domestic terrorism, is it international terrorism, is there another motive unrelated to terrorism? As they figure this out, though, this is being investigated by
the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is a mix of federal and local law enforcement agencies, still a very active investigation. They will be poring through his social media, through any information on his laptop, talking to associates, trying to piece together what caused this shooter, 24-year-old Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, to open fire at these two different military facilities, killing four Marines -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Pamela, thank you very much.
I want to bring in our investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin. He's also in Chattanooga working the story for us.
Drew, I understand we now have a photo of Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right.
We have confirmed that this is his photo from various social media sites. He does seem to have an extensive family, a close family in the Chattanooga area, though, as you know, our reporters are reporting he was born in Kuwait. He appears to have had a long life here, went to school here, applied for jobs here. His father was an engineer here as well.
So this was a person who knew the area and was well in tune with the Chattanooga community, as far as we can tell in the early stages of this investigation. And, Wolf, I'm standing across the street from that naval operations center where this all ended, where those four Marines were killed and where the suspect either was chased down and killed or either ran and killed himself.
We simply do not know how this ended yet, because so much of the investigation is under way. Quite frankly, the police themselves, the FBI themselves may not know until they get forensic evidence back. But that is the situation right now here, Wolf, where those Marines died. And we are just waiting for more information to come from the investigators themselves.
BLITZER: All right, Drew, we will get back to you.
I want to go to Gary Tuchman. He's in Chattanooga tonight for us tonight as well. He's right near the home of this dead gunman, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez.
Gary, what are you learning?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this beautiful upscale neighborhood is where it appears this gunman spent most of his life.
We have talked to neighbors who knew this gunman and have told us a little bit about him. Before that, though, I will tell you the street where lived his family is now closed off because a raid is taking place. The police are not only letting us through here. They're not letting residents, many of whom are angry, go back to their homes.
But down the street about three-tenths of a mile is where Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez lived with at least two siblings and parents. It's not clear -- we're going to step back now so we don't hit by a car -- it's not clear, according to the neighbors we have talked to, that he lived there now, but we have been told by one neighbor who has lived here 17 years who lives two doors down from them that he knew Muhammad since he was 7 years old and that he told us he was a good kid.
He said Muhammad's older sister and younger sister baby-sat for his children several years ago and that occasionally Muhammad would come in the house. This neighbor he had had conversations with Muhammad, was totally stunned out of his mind when he heard the news that this man was the gunman.
Azeez lived down here for at 17 years. As I said, it's not clear if he lived here now. But, as we speak, there are federal, local and state officials, including SWAT vehicles, at the house making sure there's nothing still dangerous in the house. We are told there were some family members inside when the raid began. We're told by some other neighbors that they heard police say hands up, get out of the house. And people then left the house.
They're inside the house looking as we speak. But we're told that this family lived here a long time. And we have talked to at least three neighbors who either knew the family slightly or knew them very well and they all say they're stunned, that there's nothing in this man's past that indicated something like this could possibly happen -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Wow. What a development this story is. All right, Gary, thank you very much.
I want to quickly go to Barbara Starr, our Pentagon correspondent.
You're getting more information as well, Barbara. What are you learning?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight the U.S. military reaching out to four Marine Corps families with help and assistance for the families of the fallen.
This is the same procedure, Wolf, they would follow as if these Marines fell on the battlefield of Iraq and Afghanistan, helping them through the next difficult days and weeks.
Now, that said, the question that is front and center, of course, did the gunman have a motive that the military might -- if they look back through their intelligence, might have picked up on? They will be looking at all of their intelligence, cooperating with federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
The question about security at U.S. military bases, the president talked about making all defense facilities secure. Right now, they are already at a heightened state of alert because of the concern about ISIS, about a lone wolf threat in the United States. But these facilities in Tennessee, it's a very difficult problem.
You look at that strip mall where the recruiting center was. That is part of the community. They want to be open, they want young people to come in, talk about signing up, having a military career. They want to be open and part of the community, even the operations center, the support center where those Marines lost their lives. It's open relatively.
It's all part of the community. This happens in towns and cities across this country where military families work and live. So, once again, it's going to be a question, what is the level of security, how can the military be part of communities in this country, as it always is and still ensure security, Wolf?
BLITZER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thanks very much.
I just want to remind our viewers momentarily we will get the verdict in that Aurora, Colorado, July 20, 2012, movie massacre. Twelve people were shot and killed by James Holmes. We're awaiting that verdict. The judge has just called everyone back into court. As soon as he gets ready to read the verdict, we will go there live.
In the meantime, I want to bring in our panel of experts, including our justice reporter, Evan Perez, our law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes, the former ATF special agent in charge Matthew Horace, as well as Paul Cruickshank, who's our CNN terrorism analyst.
These developments are coming in fast. Tom Fuentes, first to you. Apparently, according to Pamela Brown, our sources, and, Evan, you have been learning this as well, this individual, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, born in Kuwait, a Jordanian citizen, brought to the United States by his family years ago. There's a picture of him. What does this tell us, if anything, about what happened?
TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It tells us a good reason for the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force to work the case, because they have the connections and the resources worldwide to be able to do background checks into Kuwait, into Jordan, find out more about him, find out more about the family and other possible connections.
BLITZER: What are you learning, Evan?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, foremost in the mind of investigators obviously is the ongoing threats from ISIS.
This summer, we have been talking a lot about this, especially military facilities. Law enforcement has been frankly at the center of all these threats. We know over that the period of months, the Pentagon has increased security at various times because of specific threats to military members, and obviously when members of the military are back home, back here in the United States is when, frankly, they're most vulnerable.
They're more -- they're better protected when they're overseas than they are here because you can open fire on any of them if they're in uniform as they're walking down the street. We have a statement that we just received from the Justice Department that we can use here from Loretta Lynch, the attorney general.
She says that she offered her condolences and deepest sympathies to the loved ones of service members who were murdered and law enforcement officer who was wounded. "I have directed the FBI to take the lead in the national security investigation of this heinous attack on members of our military. The U.S. attorney's office and department prosecutors are also actively involved. In the days ahead, we intend to work with our partners in law enforcement and the intelligence community to ensure the American people are protected and that justice is served."
Wolf, the question here now is, what did the U.S. have in any kind of intelligence matters that might have indicated some of this was coming? We know that was not -- this suspect was not on the radar before today. So why was that? Was there something that was missed or was it simply that he was one of these many people that we have talked about here so many times who are sitting at home, consuming propaganda from some of these foreign terrorist groups, and then decides on their own when to act?
BLITZER: How difficult will it be, Paul Cruickshank, for the authorities? They're obviously going through his parents' home right now. We just saw that report. They're going through his -- they're looking for computers, they're looking for any evidence, social media contacts, what he was saying.
How difficult will it be to get all that kind of information?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, they will be looking through all of that, particularly social media, also whether there was any overseas travel in recent months, given the concern about this ISIS threat.
ISIS have called for a surge in terrorism during Ramadan. It's the last day of Ramadan today. They have said to their followers around the world that they will get more rewards, 10 more times rewards in the afterlife if they carry out a terrorist attack during Ramadan. But we don't yet know whether this was an Islamist terrorist attack.
We do not yet know whether this individual had radical views. I think we will hear a lot more about that in the hours ahead.
BLITZER: We do know that the Joint Terrorism Task Force is now taking the lead in this investigation, together with the FBI, so clearly there's deep concern about that aspect of this development.
Matthew Horace is a former ATF special agent. He's joining us right now.
Take us inside what's going on in that parents' house in Chattanooga right now. What are the authorities doing?
MATTHEW HORACE, FORMER ATF AGENT: Wolf, first, they need to secure the residence and determine if there are any other devices inside the home, if he might have left booby-traps there for law enforcement or other people that might have tried to enter the home, and then they will begin the arduous task of searching for evidence and clues to tell us what was in his mind prior to committing this heinous act.
BLITZER: It's an arduous ordeal going through all that stuff in a house.
Then they have got to go through all the social media, all the computers, the laptops, the phones and everything else.
HORACE: Well, Wolf, I have been on search warrants that have taken an hour and I have been on search warrants that have taken several days.
In this case, given the gravity of the situation and the impact, I'm sure that the JTTF, along with the collateral agencies, will take their time and they will search that house from top to bottom looking for any and every thing that will lead us to why and how this crime occurred.
BLITZER: Is there any evidence, Tom Fuentes, right now, have you seen any indication that he was active in social media?
FUENTES: No, I haven't heard whether he was or not. But that's what they will be looking at. Was he?
And the other aspect of this is, is that his house, is that his real residence?
BLITZER: Because we know it's his parents' house. We don't know if he was living there.
FUENTES: His parent's house. Yes, where has he been living recently? With them, somewhere else, and are there other computers, laptops, cell phones, documents, literature, magazines at other locations? And that would be another set of neighbors to talk to and other people that would be associated.
BLITZER: All right.
I want to go to Centennial, Colorado, right now. We do have a verdict in the James Holmes case, the massacre in that movie theater some three years ago. Let's listen in.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... guilty of murder in the first degree after deliberation. That's part A.
Part B is left unmarked. Part C, did the defendant use or possess and threaten the use of a deadly weapon. Answer, yes. Verdict form count two, murder in the first degree after deliberation, Alexander Boik. We, the jury, find the defendant, James Eagan Holmes, guilty of murder in the first degree after deliberation.
Part B is left unmarked. And part C reads, did the defendant use or possess and threaten the use of a deadly weapon? Answer, yes. Verdict form count three, murder in the first degree. After deliberation, We, the jury, find the defendant, James Eagan Holmes, guilty of murder in the first degree after deliberation.
We, the jury, find the defendant, James Eagan Holmes, guilty of murder in the first degree after deliberation.
Part B is left unanswered and part C is marked yes in response to the question that I mentioned a couple of times already. Verdict form count four, murder in the first degree after deliberation, Gordon Cowden. We the jury find the defendant, James Eagan Holmes, guilty of murder in the first degree after deliberation.
Part B is left unanswered and part C is marked yes. Verdict form count five, murder in the first degree after deliberation. We, the jury, find the defendant, James Eagan Holmes, guilty of murder in the first degree after deliberation. Part B is left unanswered. Part C is answered yes.
Verdict form count six, murder in the first degree after deliberation, John Larimer. We, the jury, find the defendant, James Eagan Holmes, guilty of murder in the first degree after deliberation. Part B is left unanswered. The answer to part C is yes.
Verdict form count seven, murder in the first degree after deliberation, Matthew McQuinn. We, the jury, find the defendant, James Eagan Holmes, guilty of murder in the first degree after deliberation. Part B is left unanswered. And the answer to the question on part C is yes.
Verdict form count eight, murder in the first degree after deliberation, Micayla Medek. We, the jury, find the defendant, James Eagan Holmes, guilty of murder in the first degree after deliberation. Part B is left unanswered and the answer to part C is yes.
Verdict form count nine, murder in the first degree after deliberation, Veronica Moser-Sullivan. We, the jury, find the defendant, James Eagan Holmes, guilty of murder in the first degree after deliberation. Part B is left unanswered. And the answer on part C is yes.
Verdict form count 10, murder in the first degree after deliberation, Alex Sullivan. We, the jury, find the defendant, James Eagan Holmes, guilty of murder in the first degree after deliberation. Part B is left unanswered, and the answer on part C is yes.
Verdict form count 11, murder in the first degree after deliberation, Alexander Teves. We, the jury, find the defendant, James Eagan Holmes, guilty of murder in the first degree after deliberation. Part B is left unanswered. And the answer on part C is yes.
Verdict form count 12, murder in the first degree after deliberation, Rebecca Wingo. We, the jury, find the defendant, James Eagan Holmes, guilty of murder in the first degree after deliberation. Part B is left unanswered and the answer on part C is yes.
Verdict form count 13, murder in the first degree, extreme indifference, Jonathan Blunk. We, the jury, find the defendant, James Eagan Holmes, guilty of murder in the first degree extreme indifference. Part B is left unanswered and the answer on part C is yes.
Verdict form count 14, murder in the first degree extreme indifference, Alexander Boik. We, the jury, find the defendant, James Eagan Holmes, guilty of murder in the first degree, extreme indifference. Part B...
BLITZER: All right, so there you have it, James Eagan Holmes found guilty, all 12 counts involving first degree murder.
He and his attorneys had been hoping he would be found not guilty by reason of insanity. The jurors have decided he is guilty as far as first degree murder is concerned.
There are 165 charges actually that they are considering, but the major ones, the 12 murder charges, first degree murder, he has been found guilty in all 12, killing 12 people, injuring some 70 others three years ago almost exactly at those Aurora movie theaters in Colorado.
CNN's Ana Cabrera is on the scene for us.
You have been covering the story for us, Ana. Take us inside. Give us a little bit more background on what's going on, because James Eagan Holmes, he now potentially faces the death sentence. The jurors decided he was not going to be found not guilty by reason of insanity.
ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
We're still hearing the judge continuing to go through the additional charges that James Holmes is facing. You mentioned he was found guilty on the first 12 first degree murder charges. He's actually facing two counts of first degree murder for each of his victims because his case was tried under two separate legal theories. It's murder in the first degree with extreme indifference, as well as murder in the first degree after deliberation. And we're hearing them continue to read through those additional
first degree murder charges, so far guilty on all charges the judge has read. He will also go through all the attempted murder charges for the 70 victims who were wounded. And, again, there are two counts for each of those victims and so that's why there are so many charges.
But the crucial charges were those first degree murder charges, which pushes this trial now into a sentencing phase. That sentencing phase could last up to a month. We understand it will be like a mini- trial and that's when the jury, this same panel of people, there were three men and nine women who deliberated and there are still a handful of alternates who will continue to wait through the sentencing phase and through the sentencing trial -- that's when they will decide his fate, whether he spends life in prison or he could face the death penalty.
Important to note, Wolf, that there has not been an execution here in the state of Colorado for almost two decades; 1997 in fact was the last execution in Colorado, and before that it was in the 1960s, so this is a state that really has not been death penalty-friendly, we shall say, but we will see what comes down in this particular trial as we continue to cover it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: James Holmes, now 27 years old, found guilty, first degree murder, found guilty all 12 of those people he massacred that night almost exactly three years ago in Aurora, Colorado.
Those are the pictures of those 12 innocent people who were simply brutally massacred by James Eagan Holmes. He has now been found guilty on all 12 first degree murder counts. He and his lawyers hoped he would be found not guilty by reason of insanity. The jurors decided he knew exactly what he was doing and he is guilty.
We will get back to the other breaking news we're watching, what happened in Chattanooga, Tennessee, four U.S. Marines gunned down today. We have new information coming in. There, you see the man who shot those four U.S. Marines, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez. We're getting new information about him.
Stay with us.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following two breaking stories.
James Holmes has just been convicted of first degree murder in the Colorado theater massacre, all 12 individuals, first degree murder. He tried to get a not guilty verdict as a result of insanity. The jurors decided he knew what he was doing. He has been convicted on all 12 murder charges, first degree murder. The only question now, does he spend the rest of his life in jail or will he get the death sentence? We're watching that. There's other breaking news we're following in Chattanooga,
Tennessee, where a gunman attacked two U.S. military offices, a military recruiting center, then a U.S. Naval Reserve center, where he killed four U.S. Marines. The suspect is dead as well.
CNN's Victor Blackwell is on the scene for us in Chattanooga with the latest developments.
What are you learning, victor?
BLACKWELL: Wolf, the response team from the FBI are working aggressively here. There are evidence markers that are scattered all across this scene, presumably next to the bullet casings that are still littering this parking lot.
We know that they're now beginning the detailed and really minute work to try to figure out why this suspected shooter pulled off this attack in two locations.
BLACKWELL (voice-over): This is the aftermath of 24-year-old gunman Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez's rampage. He targeted U.S. military personnel at two locations. This is being investigated as an act of terrorism.
BILL KILLIAN, U.S. ATTORNEY: This is a sad day for the United States. These service members served their country with pride and they have been the victims of these shootings.
BLACKWELL: Shortly before 11:00 a.m., Abdulazeez drove up to a military recruitment center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, pulled out a high-powered rifle, and opened fire, according to witnesses.
GINA MULE, WITNESS (via phone): I seen the guy in his car. It was a silver Mustang, drop top, a white guy. And he had a high- powered rifle. It wasn't simultaneously, but it was pow, pow, pow, and he was just firing shots over here right next door to us and to the Air Force, Navy and Marines office. And I mean, I can't -- I don't even know how many shots he fired, but it was a lot.
BLACKWELL: The suspect then headed to a nearby naval reserve center about seven miles away. There, Abdulazeez opened fire, killing four Marines and wounding three others, including a policeman and a military serviceman. He was engaged by authorities and is now deceased, ending a 30-minute-long incident.
CHIEF FRED FLETCHER, CHATTANOOGA POLICE: What we do know is that somebody brutally and brazenly attacked members of our armed services.
BLACKWELL: Tonight authorities are doing a thorough forensic examination of the suspect's car, hoping to find any evidence or clues it might hold. It is believed that he acted alone. FBI and ATF are actively investigating and have declared it a federal crime scene.
A former recruit is devastated to see the aftermath. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That door with bullet holes all over it, was
the door that I walked through in 2009 to join the military. And it hurts me.
BLACKWELL: Wolf, as we're seeing the response from federal agencies, local and state authorities here are, as well.
We're seeing also that reaction from the community. They're coming here, leaving flowers and cards and flags, as everyone is asking why this happened here in Chattanooga today -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Victor, thanks very much.
We're just getting this word in that the NYPD, the New York Police Department, is increasing its security at various U.S. military recruiting stations throughout New York: "The NYPD has deployed an increased number of what are called critical response vehicles to provide additional coverage at military recruiting stations and other sensitive locations in the city of New York." The statement says, "While we have no specific information about any plot against the city, until we learn more about the attack, we have placed additional officers in key locations. We have been in regular contact with Tennessee authorities, the FBI's joint terrorism task force and the intelligence community." Increased security at U.S. military recruiting stations in New York City.
Let's discuss what's going on. Joining us now is Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. She's a leading member of the House Armed Services Committee, also a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
You yourself served in the U.S. military as an Iraq War veteran. Congresswoman, thanks very much for coming in.
When you hear the painful story, four U.S. Marines gunned down at a recruiting station in Chattanooga, Tennessee, by this individual -- we don't know the motive -- Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, what goes through your mind?
REP. TULSI GABBARD (D), HAWAII: It's heartbreaking. It's absolutely heartbreaking to see our brothers in arms, sons of our nation, sons and daughters of our nation gunned down like this. These are people who volunteered to put their lives on the line for our country. And just, you know, my heart and prayers go out to their family members and the family members of those who were injured by this horrible attack.
And we have to do -- clearly, we have to do more. This is not the first attack that we've seen on these recruiting stations, and we can't allow these service members to really be sitting ducks for these types of attacks.
BLITZER: As much as you want these recruiting stations to be open, anyone can walk in. Young men and women want to get some information about possibly serving their country, just going and chatting with an officer. You've got to be worried about the security. You've got to beef up security.
GABBARD: And I think there's some things that we can look at. I recognize what the recruiters are saying, that you know, they want to have an open and inviting and welcoming environment to be able to talk to those who are interested in serving our country in uniform.
But when you look at this attack and you look at the attack that occurred in Arkansas in 2009, both of them were drive-by shootings. This tells me we need to do more about putting bulletproof glass, perhaps, to make it so you have at least one more line of defense in these recruiting stations. Look into the possibility of having some kind of armed guard there, whether it's a military service member or some other type of guard, so that you at least have a way for our trained warriors to be able to defend themselves against these types of attacks.
BLITZER: Because we heard from Barbara Starr, our Pentagon correspondent, that they deliberately decided, for whatever reason over the years, to make it an inviting place. The U.S. military personnel, the recruiters -- whether Marines, sailors, airmen, soldiers, whatever -- they wouldn't be armed at these various facilities. No weapons would be there. You say take another look at that.
GABBARD: I think we're dealing with some very serious threats that are making themselves prominent now, as we see, unfortunately, like occurred today.
[18:35:11] I know recruiters -- I have many of them who are friends of mine. They go out into the community, and they spend time with folks out where they are, but I think when you have a situation where you have a recruiting station, it's sitting there; it's not moving. You can predict when our service members are going to be there, and that's where we've got to take steps to be able to make sure that they're kept safe.
BLITZER: Because we know just before July 4th, when there was a heightened state of alert, there was deep concern about some sort of terrorist plot, ISIS sympathizers or whatever, the U.S. military did increase security at various bases all over the United States, indeed around the world. They went to a higher level of security, but not necessarily at these recruiting stations.
GABBARD: Exactly. And I think that's a vulnerability that we've got to make sure that we take action to change and to overcome.
But I think it's also important as we look at this, I know we don't know the motive of this particular shooter in this instance, but we do know that ISIS and other extremist groups, Islamic extremist groups are recruiting heavily online.
And still no action has yet been taken to shut down their websites and social media sites where they are actively recruiting through the masses so that they can get more foreign fighters, so that they can get these kinds of lone wolves to launch these types of attacks. So we've got to take action to shut those down. If we do that seriously, we can seriously eliminate their ability to be able to recruit online.
BLITZER: So you would recommend doing, at various military recruiting stations in your home state of Hawaii, what the NYPD has now done in New York City?
GABBARD: I think we need to look at what actions we can take that still allow them to do their job, but also that they are protected and kept safe, as we're seeing these types of threats, unfortunately, continue to rise across the country.
BLITZER: Congresswoman, I want you to stay with us. We have more to discuss.
We're following the breaking news. Much more right after this.
[18:41:21] BLITZER: Following the breaking news, the murder of four U.S. Marines at a recruiting station in Chattanooga, Tennessee. One individual, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, he's the shooter; he is dead. There you see a picture of him right there.
Let's go to the White House. Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is standing by.
Jim, the president of the United States took the unusual step of immediately delivering a statement from the Oval Office to the American people.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. That's right, Wolf. President Obama vowed the FBI will conduct a prompt and thorough investigation into the shootings down in Tennessee that left four Marines dead.
As you said, just as he returned from a trip to Oklahoma, the president rushed into the Oval Office, something we don't see very often, for an immediate statement to the country about the attack.
He said he received a briefing from FBI Director James Comey. And at this point, the president said it appears this was the work of a lone gunman but that it's too early to say what the motive was behind these shootings.
He added he's been in contact with the Pentagon to make sure that those facilities that are run by the Defense Department are being vigilant as investigators sort out what happened.
And the president expressed sympathies to the families of the fallen Marines, noting that their family members are still being contacted by authorities. And here's more of what the president had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My main message right now is, obviously, the deepest sympathizes of the American people to the four Marines that have been killed. It is a heart- breaking circumstance for these individuals, who have served our country with great valor, to be -- to be killed in this fashion. And although the families are still in the process of being contacted, I want them to know that I speak for the American people in expressing our deepest condolences and knowing that they have their full -- they have our full support as they try to overcome the grief that's involved here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: And the president stressed that, because this was an attack on a military facility, he wants his administration to have all of the information necessary to make an assessment about any motives.
In the meantime, he is asking the entire country to pray for the Marines and their families. And White House officials tell us, Wolf, that the president will receive continuing updates on this investigation, that he's going to stay on top of it as authorities get to the bottom of what happened down in Tennessee, Wolf.
BLITZER: And we know James Comey, the FBI director, Jim, he was in the Oval Office with the president. Do we know if he was there, by chance, for some other unrelated meetings or the president asked him to come over to brief him?
ACOSTA: We can ask about that at this point. You know, it's not unusual to have the FBI director pay a visit over to the White House, so he could have been here for other meetings and just happened to be here when the president got here.
But, Wolf, no question about it, as you said, to have the president land on the South Lawn of the White House in Marine One and be rushed by his aides into the Oval Office and have the press rushed into the Oval Office for this kind of statement, it was rather extraordinary. It's not something we see every day here at the White House.
But the president, as you said, received an immediate briefing from FBI Director Comey and was able to give that statement to the nation within minutes after touching down on the South Lawn of the White House.
BLITZER: These four U.S. Marines, they were killed in the line of duty. He's the commander in chief. I'm sure that's why he wanted to speak out immediately.
We have full analysis of what's coming on. Our panel of experts standing by. We're getting new information, as well, but let's take a quick break. Much more right after this.
[18:49:33] BLITZER: We're getting new information on Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, the killer, the shooter of these four U.S. marines at a recruiting station in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Our justice reporter Evan Perez is getting more information about him. Evan, what are you learning?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: That's right. We are learning that Abdulazeez was killed at the second shooting location, which is the navy training center. He was killed by a Chattanooga police officer. That's where this rampage ended.
BLITZER: Right, he didn't commit suicide?
[18:50:00] PEREZ: He did not commit suicide.
The shooting obviously began at the recruiting center about five miles away. He rammed the gate at the second location, which is the naval training center. And that's where a Chattanooga police officer managed to kill him -- shoot and kill him before he managed to do more damage.
Now, one of the questions is, why this happened. That's what the FBI is focusing on. But also, was there something missed? Was there a reason why they did not have their eyes on him?
Because we're told he was not in the FBI's databases of people that they were investigating, that they suspect might be supporters of ISIS or might be looking into doing something on behalf of ISIS. He did not show up on any of these databases. He was not on their radar as far as that's concerned.
So, because of that, they don't necessarily at this point have any proof that this shooting was related to the chatter about ISIS- inspired attacks that we've been hearing so much about in the last few weeks.
Also, I'm told by sources that he was a U.S. citizen, a naturalized U.S. citizen, as we mentioned before. He was born in Kuwait. He also had Jordanian citizenship but grew up -- as Gary Tuchman said -- he grew up largely here in the Chattanooga area in the United States. And he became a citizen, along with the rest of his family, some years ago.
BLITZER: Important information, Evan Perez. Thanks very much.
Joey Jackson, very quickly to you. Walk us through what's going on right now from the legal perspective.
JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: Wolf, from a legal perspective, obviously, there's a lot that needs to be done. First and foremost, obviously, if you're talking about someone who's been dead, that's one thing. But you want to ensure that there's not other people that are associated with him, that there are not other instances that may be forthcoming.
Certainly, they're going to be looking at any social media sites, Twitter sites, Facebook sites, e-mail, a lot of surveillance, a lot of search warrants to be executed not only as it relates to him, but as to anyone who's known to him, family members, friends. Where did this come from? How did it come? Was it plotted? Was it planned? So, there's a lot of investigation that needs to be done
certainly as it relates to someone that's dead, there's no criminal prosecution. But you certainly want to protect and ensure that something like this is not forthcoming either at this base or any others in the near future.
BLITZER: All right. Guys, stand by. We have more coming up. We will take a quick break. We'll be right back.
[18:56:47] BLITZER: We're following breaking news tonight: the FBI now wrapping up its investigation into a possible act of terror. Four U.S. marines were gunned down in a shooting attack targeting two U.S. military centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The individual that you're seeing on the screen right there, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24 years old. He's the shooter. He was subsequently shot and killed by local law enforcement in Chattanooga.
You know, Paul Cruickshank, I know they're looking at his social media, but there's deep concern that some of these guys, if, in fact, he's related to ISIS or anything like that -- we don't know if he is -- they are engaged in sophisticated encrypted social media. It's hard for the NSA, the FBI to monitor this kind of stuff.
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: That's absolutely right. A lot of concern about these encrypted online apps. ISIS operatives in Syria and Iraq are using to communicate directly with Americans, with Europeans. We saw that in the Garland, Texas, attempted attack a few months ago, that there was a British ISIS operative in Syria communicating with Elton Simpson, the gunman in that attempted attack.
So, concern that we could see more of this. The FBI is extremely concerned that ISIS is able to communicate in secret in ways that they just cannot monitor with American sympathizers.
PEREZ: And actually, in addition to the Garland case, just in this -- how quickly this changes. Just since the Garland case, which just is a few weeks ago, they have seen it show up in additional cases as well where you have suspects who are communicating with ISIS recruiters. They start on public forums like twitter and then they move to encrypted forums.
And so, that's -- these apps that people are using on their phones, they easily can just go dark and the FBI doesn't know what they are saying. And that's what worries them.
BLITZER: This is a huge issue of concern for the FBI.
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Oh, absolutely. And these are apps downloadable to your smartphone. This is not some mysterious, exotic system to communicate. Anybody can get this. No matter who makes your fun, if it's able to have applications on it and there's a number of these, once you go to the app, the other person has the app, the communications cannot be cracked by the federal government.
BLITZER: Joey Jackson, this picture we are showing of Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, this was a picture in connection with an arrest for DU, driving under the influence. Yet, he had a very sophisticated weapon. If you are convicted of DUI, can you go out legally and buy a weapon?
JACKSON: Yes. Therein lies the issue. We would have to determine where he got the weapon, where it originated from. Did he purchase the weapon? You know, exactly how this occurred.
And so, therefore, there are obviously federal background checks that are done. But every state varies in terms of how you ultimately acquire a weapon.
BLITZER: It's a very sophisticated, very serious operation, indeed.
All right. We're going to stay on top of this story for all of our viewers. Lots going on. We expect to get a lot more information in the course of the next few hours.
Please be sure to join us once again here in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow. Remember, you can always watch us live or you can always DVR the show so you won't miss a moment. Tweet me @wolfblitzer. You can always tweet the show @CNNsitroom as well. We'd love to hear from you.
Our CNN breaking news continues right now with "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT."