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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Sheriff: 10 Killed in Campus Shooting; Obama Makes Plea Again for New Gun Laws; Officials: Gunman identified as 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer; Awaiting News Conference on Oregon Mass Shooting; Obama on Mass Shootings: "Prayers are not enough"; Obama Makes Plea Again for New Gun Laws; Hurricane Joaquin Presses On; Virginia, Carolinas Prepare for Rain and Flooding
Aired October 1, 2015 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[21:00:20] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us for another live hour of AC 360. I'm Wolf Blitzer filling in for Anderson this hour.
The breaking news tonight, another heartbreaking evening from the small town in America, gun violence shattering the peace of a community in Oregon. At least 10 people were killed when a gunman opened fire in a community college in Roseburg, Oregon.
Tonight we know the shooter is also dead. He was in a gunfire exchange with police. President Obama spoke this evening from the White House, clearly frustrated that yet another mass shooting has happened in the United States. He said the gun laws have to change.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths, so the notion that gun laws don't work, or just will make it harder for law-abiding citizens and criminals will still get their guns is not borne out by the evidence.
We know that other countries, in response to one mass shooting, have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings. Friends of ours, allies of ours, Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours. So we know there are ways to prevent it. And, of course, what's also routine is that somebody, somewhere will comment and say, "Obama politicized this issue." Well, this is something we should politicize. It is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Again, at least 10 people dead in today's shooting. The people on campus who lived through the ordeal were quickly taken to local fairgrounds to reunite with their loved ones.
Sarah Sidner is on the scene for us tonight. She has the very latest. What are you seeing? What's happening now, Sarah? SARAH SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. We're at the Douglas
County Fairgrounds Complex. It's about seven miles from where the community college is and we've just talked to a student who was inside of this complex.
She said that every single student, everyone who is inside of that building when the shooting took place has been brought here and is being questioned by, for example, the F.B.I. who is here trying to get as much information and as many details as possible from those who either heard something, saw something, who were on the scene at the time of the shooting, around 10:30 or so in the morning.
The student told us, her name is Sarah Cobb. She said she was on her fourth day of school and had just come from Eugene, had come to the school and was enjoying herself until this happened. She said it was terrifying. She could hear the sound of the shot. She was literally in the room right next to where the shooting began. She could hear the shots. They had an adjoining door between her room and the room where the shooter was. And at one point, she said the teacher went up to that door and started listening and was about to open it, and then decided better of it, and everyone started to run.
People were screaming to get out. She says she was one of the first people out. She could hear a couple of shots, and then she heard a couple more shots before she was able to get to safety. A lot of folks terrified here, Wolf.
This is where the families have been coming who do not have injured, but these are students, everyone is worried about their family members who were inside of that school during this absolutely terrible and terrifying time. And this is also where law enforcement has basically corralled folks, trying to get as much information as possible as to what happened. A lot of rumors splitting around, but there's a lot of talk about what the shooter was doing inside of the room before he started firing. Wolf?
BLITZER: I assume, Sarah, they're going to be providing counseling for all the students, all the people who were impacted, the family members. The enormity of what has occurred is really only going to start hitting them in the immediate days ahead.
SIDNER: Yeah. And for the student we talked to, she says, "Look, you know, am I going to go back? Maybe at some point, but I can't even fathom doing that right now after what I heard and what I saw and the terror that I experienced." And you're going to find that students who were actually in that room, those who were shot, those who were in the hospital, those who witnessed such tragedy, this is going to be an extremely long recovery time for those going through this.
As you know, 10 people so far reported dead. This is the worst thing that has ever happened to that community college, and that was something that we heard from authorities, as well as the students who go to this school, as well as the teachers. As you might imagine, a lot of sorrow here in this community. Wolf?
BLITZER: Sarah Sidner, thanks very much. Kyung Lah is also in Roseburg for us tonight. She's joining us on the phone.
What's the latest update on the victims, Kyung?
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've been speaking to the hospitals, Wolf. There are two hospitals where these victims are being treated. The most serious are in a hospital about an hour away. All of the victims there are women. There are three of them at Sacred Heart Medical Center. Two of them are in serious condition. One is in critical. They are all between the ages of 18 to 34 years old.
And in speaking to the public information officer, you could hear in her voice, she says, "It was an excruciating day. It was a very tough day." The first responders, the doctors, the nurses, there was an army, people who didn't want to get off their shift, who are volunteering to assist and try to help these kids through.
You mentioned whether there might be any counseling. They've already set up a safe room here at the hospital to try to get some of these counselors to start talking to these families because they are simply shell shocked.
The bulk of the patients are in Roseburg, the town hospital is Mercy Medical. There are 10 patients there. We don't have very much information beyond that. The hospital is quickly trying to treat their patients. These are very seriously injured people. And they did put out a community call, Wolf, saying that they need people to donate blood. The community is responding. Wolf?
BLITZER: Kyung, I just want to be precise, you're saying all of the patients, all those who were injured at the hospital there are women?
LAH: The ones at Sacred Heart Medical Center, three of the victims. These are the most seriously injured patients, three of them are there. All three of those are women. We don't have genders on the patients who are at Mercy Medical. There are 10 patients there. We don't have very much information beyond the fact that they do have 10 patients at the hospital in Roseburg Mercy Medical.
BLITZER: It's unclear, Kyung, whether or not the number of dead, 10, that's what police say includes the shooter himself. Do you have an update on that?
LAH: We don't know beyond that particular number. But we've heard from the Douglas County Sheriff's Office is that there are 10 deaths, there are seven who are injured. What we do know is that number is fluctuating because from our count, there are 13 in the hospital.
So the sheriff's office says that they're trying to get accurate numbers. They're trying to figure out exactly who and working through the identification. So it's still unclear right now, Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll stay in close touch with you. Kyung, thank you very much. Joining us on the phone now is Melody Boqua. She was a witness to the shooting. First of all, Melody, are you OK? How are you doing?
MELODY BOQUA, WITNESS TO THE CAMPUS SHOOTING: I'm physically OK. Mentally, I'm a little shaken up.
BLITZER: Which is totally understandable. Tell us where you were and what you saw.
BOQUA: I was actually in the library, back in the quiet area, and all of a sudden I heard somebody yell, "Get out of here" and "Shooter." And I stood up and looked, and there was this chaos outside the window from where we were at.
So a lot of people from the library were praying, another girl and I stayed in there and actually hid under the desk and pulled the chair in, so if somebody was to walk in, it would look as if no one was there.
BLITZER: Did you see -- did you actually see the shooting going on or you just heard shots?
BOQUA: No, I just heard the shots.
BLITZER: Did you know any -- do you know any of the victims?
BOQUA: I don't. I don't know who's been shot. I don't know as much as everybody else does.
BLITZER: How long, Melody, were you hiding underneath that desk before you could get yourself up?
BOQUA: I believe we were under there for at least an hour before we finally heard somebody yell, "Clear," and then we poked our heads out and looked to make sure things were cleared up.
BLITZER: The indications are that at least some of the victims were women. Was there any indication that the shooter was deliberately going after women?
BOQUA: Not to my knowledge.
BLITZER: Because there's been these reports out there that there was some sort of anti-women attitude, those are unconfirmed, but it's a very disturbing development if true. The gunshots you did hear, the back and forth between the gunman and the police, what was that like?
BOQUA: Terrifying because honestly, we didn't know where the shots were coming from. We didn't know if it was the shooter, if it was the police department. All we heard were shots and we just stayed under the desk.
BLITZER: What was going through your mind when you heard these gunshots going back and forth?
BOQUA: My kids, my husband, my family, my friends. Honestly, the first thing I did when I got under that desk was start praying, and then put my phone on silent because I've always got it on vibrate just in case somebody needs to get a hold of me because of my kids. And I put my phone on silent so that way we wouldn't be heard in there. But the only -- the first thing running through my head were my kids and my husband, and then I just started crying.
[21:10:28] BLITZER: Did you make any phone calls from that cell phone you had?
BOQUA: I did after we were cleared out. I was honestly too frightened to make any kind of a peep while we were hiding, so I did not make any phone calls while we were under the desk.
BLITZER: You must have been so terrified. Well, thank you very much, Melody Boqua, for sharing your eyewitness account and good luck to you, good luck to your whole family. I'm glad you're back home, at least for now, safe and sound.
Pamela Brown, our justice correspondent, getting some new information right now. Pamela, what are you learning?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have learned from law enforcement sources, Wolf, that the gunman has now been identified as 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer. This is according to multiple law enforcement officials. We know investigators have been interviewing his friends and associates, anyone he may have come in contact with recently.
What we're still trying to find out at this hour, Wolf, is whether he lived in the area, whether perhaps he was a student at the community college there. We don't have those answers, but we do know that investigators are actively piecing this together, trying to figure out a motive, talking to family and friends. And again, we're learning it is 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer.
You may have recall the governor there in Oregon earlier today said that he -- it was a 20-year old, but the fact that he's 26-year old-- he's 26 years old is significant because we have learned that four guns were recovered from that scene, three pistols and one long gun. You have to be 21, of course, to buy a gun.
We know ATF right now is in the process of tracing those weapons to see how he purchased them. Was -- were they gifted to him? Did he buy them legally? All those questions are trying -- are being answered right now by investigators.
But again, Wolf, the big news right now, the gunman has been identified by law enforcement officials as 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer. Wolf?
BLITZER: Do we know, Pamela, how they identified him? Was it the cellphone that this individual had, a driver's license, an eyewitness, anything along those lines?
BROWN: I personally, from my sources, haven't been told anything about a cellphone. What I can tell you here, Wolf, is that earlier today, among law enforcement officials, there was some confusion about the possible identity of that gunman and perhaps that is why we heard from the governor that he was 20 years old.
So we're not exactly sure how they were able to come to this conclusion. I know they collected everything at the scene. Of course, they would look at an I.D., a car he may have been driving, but what we're being told is that through talking to friends, family, and associates, that is what ultimately helped law enforcement conclude that this is the identity of the gunman.
As you know, Wolf, in the very beginning after this mass shooting, it's the fog of war, a lot of what comes out initially is inaccurate, but at this stage, this is who law enforcement is confident is the gunman.
BLITZER: All right, Pamela, I want you to stick around. I know you're working your sources. We're going to get the latest on the investigation as we continue our special coverage here on AC 360.
Officials, as Pamela just reported, they have now identified the gunman. And we'll be right back.
BLITZER: The breaking news tonight. The shooter who killed at least 10 people today at the Umpqua Community College in Oregon has been identified. Our Justice Correspondent Pamela Brown once again with us. Pamela, you've learned the name of this -- now we learned 26- year-old shooter.
BROWN: That's right. This is who law enforcement believes is the gunman at the shooting earlier today at that community college in Oregon, 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer. This is according to multiple law enforcement officials who have spoken to myself, to my colleague, Shimon Prokupecz, and Evan Perez.
And to be clear here, Wolf, in the very beginning, there was some confusion about what the gunman's possible identity could have been, but now we're learning, after investigators interviewed his family and friends, that they believe this is the gunman, this 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer. Of course, the big question now, Wolf, is who is he and why did he do what he did?
We can tell you investigators are looking through, combing through his social media, through his laptops, through his cellphone. And also, we want to know if he lives in the area. I don't have the answer to that question yet, but of course, that is something that we're trying to put together. Right now, we have a team of people digging on his background. Wolf?
BLITZER: Does this individual, this Chris Harper Mercer, Pamela, have an extensive social media background there, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, all those social media sites?
BROWN: I can tell you that law enforcement officials talked about that he, you know, they're looking at his possible postings on the social media, but everyone, it seems, is on social media this day, so it's unclear as far as his footprint, his social media footprint. And that is something that, of course, we're looking into and what law enforcement, actively, is looking at right now, trying to figure out where he may have posted online, if there were any missed pre-event indicators, missed warning signs that he may have posted something alluding what he was going to do.
That is -- these are all things that law enforcement are looking at right now, trying to determine and validate these sites that he may have been in part with and involved with. Wolf?
BLITZER: And you also learned from law enforcement sources that this individual had four guns with him. Is that right?
BROWN: We have learned four guns were recovered from the scene, Wolf, three pistols and one long gun. And it is believed, at this stage, that those guns did belong to the shooter.
We know that ATF right now is actively tracing these guns, trying to see how he obtained them, whether they were obtained legally or not. The fact that he is 26, he is above the age where he could buy a gun, but the question is, did he have a criminal record that could have prevented him, and therefore were these guns bought illegally? We don't have the answers to that, but right now, ATF it is -- has put an urgent trace on these guns, trying to figure out where they were bought and where they came from. Wolf?
BLITZER: Pamela, I like you to stay with us. I also want to bring in the Former FBI Profiler Mary Ellen O'Toole, the Former NYPD Officer and Former Secret Service Agent Dan Bongino, and our Law Enforcement Analysis, the Former FBI Assistant Director Tom Fuentes.
And so Tom, a name now has been attached to the shooter, 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer. That's going to give law enforcement, whether local, state, federal, a huge break in trying to determine why this happened, how this occurred.
TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Absolutely, Wolf. They'll be looking at his whole background and try to go back to his childhood and see what kind of development he had. Did he have mental health issues, did he have a criminal record, what led him from wherever he came from to end up on this campus at this time today and commit these acts?
[21:20:28] BLITZER: The FBI -- and you worked for the FBI, Mary Ellen. They have to find out exactly what happened to learn from this so that it won't happen again.
MARY ELLEN O'TOOLE, FORMER FBI PROFILER: That's right. And they'll be looking at everything in his computer and in his smartphone. They'll be reading anything that he's written, and they will be particularly interested in what he's saying out there in social media that actually shows him enjoying this before the event. And that's really very disturbing, but they will be looking for that.
BLITZER: It's a sick, sick thought to think about that. But unfortunately, as you know, Tom and Dan, not all of viewers know it happens all too often here in the United States.
Dan, I assume they're also going to be looking if anyone else was tipped off in advance that this mass murder could in fact be underway, could take place. And if they were, why didn't they do something? Why didn't they make a phone call to police to try to stop it?
DAN BONGINO, FORMER NYPD OFFICER: Right, and it's a good question, Wolf. And, you know, the Secret Service did an exhaustive analysis of school shooting type events and what they found out, Wolf, and this is important, these were rarely impulsive events. These weren't passion crimes. Most of these crimes were thought out in advance. And, most importantly, in their research, they found out that multiple people had some suspicions at something, not necessarily a horrific shooting like this, but then something was going to happen in advance.
So I wouldn't be remotely surprise if there are some people out there has -- have had some idea that this individual was -- had some malicious intent.
BLITZER: Pamela Brown, you're getting more information even as we speak right now. What else are you learning?
BROWN: Well, we're still trying to learn here, Wolf, where this gunman is from, whether or not he was from the area. And, of course, we're piecing together right now his social media footprint.
There are indications from law enforcement officials that he was on social media, but as in all of these cases, social media has to determine whether those postings are valid, whether they actually came from him. But again, we are learning that this gunman, according to law enforcement officials, is 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer.
That is what law enforcement officials have determined at this hour. And they're trying right now to piece together a motive by talking to his friends, associates, anyone he may have been in touch with recently to figure out if there were warning signs, if they missed something along the way. Wolf.
BLITZER: Do we know, Pamela, if the shooter, who's obviously now dead, was killed in a fire fight with law enforcement, if the shooter made any statements as he was going on this massacre, on this rampage?
BROWN: Nothing that we have confirmed ourselves. There have been reports that he spoke to the students in the classroom and said certain things. But Wolf, at this point we haven't confirmed that, we haven't spoken to those eyewitnesses.
BLITZER: It's really important. That's a good point that Pamela Brown, Tom Fuentes, makes that there's always a lot of information that goes out there, especially in this day of the internet and social media, information that you want to be precise, you don't want to report on until you have it nailed down.
FUENTES: You know, that's true, but that would also apply to some of these other people that were in this chat room with him and some of the other listeners and participants in social media. If they thought he was kidding, if they thought, well, we just take each other around and we don't mean it. If they're not positive enough to take a step and they may not either. Something else is that we're assuming, in a way, that the people he's communicating with, that somehow they're sane and he is not. Well, they're equally as insane as him probably. So now the question is, when they're going back and forth with each other, they have a whole network of this people that in years past wouldn't have found each other. But in the internet era, no problem, they hook up, and then they rant and rave together and encourage each other to commit these acts.
BLITZER: Would they be legally in trouble, these individuals, if they were on some sort of chat with this killer the night before and they read or they heard what he was planning on doing, but they didn't do anything about it?
O'TOOLE: I mean, their exposure is certainly there, particularly if they knew his name, particularly if he spoke with specificity. They're certainly going to be looking at that. They have to because that's leakage. And had someone acted on that, but we know leakage happens before these cases, this could have been prevented.
BLITZER: You think this could have been prevented, Dan Bongino?
BONGINO: Yeah. I think it could have been prevented, but I think the answers are awfully inconvenient, Wolf. You know, the only thing that's going to stop the type of people who engage in these mass shootings, lone-wolf terrorist, terrorist, and sociopathic individuals is an arm-trained person.
There is just no other -- there's no easy answer for that. And I'm sorry that that makes people uncomfortable, but in my professional opinion, in 17 years in law enforcement, I've never arrested anyone who committed a crime with a gun, who had the gun legally, ever.
BLITZER: All right, Dan Bongino. We're going to get back to you, Mary Ellen O'toole, Tom Fuentes. Pamela Brown sticking around, she's getting more information.
Just ahead, more of President Obama's very, very angry tough words in the wake of this mass massacre in Oregon. His plea for Americans to push for gun law reforms to prevent any more mass shootings in the United States. His anger today clearly visible.
BLITZER: After today's mass shooting in Oregon, President Obama's spoke, offering his condolences to the victims' families. His remarks broadcast live. We have seen him do this time after time, but as we've touched on earlier today, he was very, very different. His anger was visible, his words extraordinary blunt. Here's more of his message.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: As I said just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that, and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It's not enough.
It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel. And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America, next week, or a couple of months from now.
Earlier this year, I answered a question in an interview by saying, "The United States of America is the one advanced nation on Earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense-gun-safety laws even in the face of repeated mass killings."
[21:30:13] And later that day, there was a mass shooting at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana. That day. Somehow this has become routine. We've become numb to this.
We talked about this after Columbine and Blacksburg, after Tucson, after Newtown, after Aurora, after Charleston. It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun.
And what's become routine, of course, is the response of those who oppose any kind of common-sense gun legislation. Right now, I can imagine the press releases being cranked out, "We need more guns, they'll argue. Fewer gun safety laws."
Does anybody really believe that? Here are scores of responsible gun owners in this country, they know that's not true. We know because of the polling that says the majority of Americans understand we should be changing these laws, including the majority of responsible, law- abiding gun owners.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Obama, as you notice, not had much luck in passing legislation to tighten gun laws here in the United States.
Let's discuss what's going on with our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger and our Senior Washington Correspondent Jeff Zeleny.
He was about as angry as I have ever seen him in the seven years, almost, that he's been president, Gloria. They used to call him "No Drama Obama", but ...
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Not anymore.
BLITZER: ... he was pretty dramatic today.
BORGER: Yeah. I thought -- I think Obama was raw there. I think he was furious. He was frustrated. He's exasperated, Wolf. And, you know, this is a president who said all of us are collectively answerable to those families. And what the president did, which is different from what he's done before, is he said to people, if you care about the gun control issue, make this a single issue, vote on this issue, which is what all the pro-gun control groups really want.
BLITZER: Let me run another little clip of the president. Jeff, listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We spend over a trillion dollars, and pass countless laws, and devote entire agencies to preventing terrorist attacks on our soil, and rightfully so. And yet, we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths. How can that be?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Really blaming Congress for the lack of, what he calls, sensible gun control legislation. He's tried, he's tried his best, I think, to get something passed, but he's failed basically because of the opposition in the House and the Senate.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, he has tried and he has tried his best, but it's mainly Republicans, but not entirely Republicans. I remember that debate in Congress so well after Newtown. Everyone thought, this is the moment, this is the time. So many Sandy Hook families were in Congress, lobbying the senators and it didn't happen.
It didn't happen also because of some Democrats who are opposed to this, mainly Republicans. But the president has not found a willing partner in Congress, but boy, Wolf, this was not this President Obama during that moment. This is a different time for this president.
I have covered him for more than a decade in the Senate, before, during his whole tenure in the White House. He feels this, as Gloria said, in a raw, frustrated way.
Who knows if he is going to be able to do anything here, but we are seeing an activist president in the final years of his time in office here, so boy, I think that he is going to try and do something. The question is, can he find a willing partner in Congress? So far, he's not been able?
BLITZER: He's got a year left, basically.
BORGER: He does. And the question is, what more can he do? He's done some executive orders which kind of are at the margin here. He needs big congressional action, Wolf, on background checks. He wasn't able to get it. He lost four Democrats after Newtown in the Senate. So he's going to have a really difficult time.
And, by the way, public opinion is not necessarily with him. I know he says that it is, but our polls, Wolf, show that the -- a majority of Americans think that the current laws are just about right. It's very divided politically, most Democrats don't think they are right, most Republicans think it's OK, but majority say, if you expand background checks, it's not going to do much on mental illness.
So the public is skeptical, you got a Congress that's worried about the NRA. So it's not a great formula for getting anything done.
BLITZER: Is this going to spill over now in the presidential campaigns, Jeff, you think on the Republican side, the Democratic side? ZELENY: I think without a doubt, but I think we know where the lines are here, Wolf. And we saw Hillary Clinton tonight in Boston, saying she is going to make this an issue, you know, but she has been and Democrats have been.
I find it hard to believe that a presidential campaign, unfortunately, is a way to sort of bring any sense to all of this here. I mean, the reality is there's not been a willing partner in Congress, not a bipartisan really a spirit to do anything, certainly something like this here.
So I think it's -- I hate to be cynical about this, but Gloria and I have been in Washington a long time as have you, it's hard to imagine that any shooting can be horrific enough to bring everyone together on this. But this president, I think, since I talked to people in the White House tonight after that speech, I said, "Wow. He seems fired up." And they said, "He is fired up. He wants to do something." So we'll see.
BLITZER: It was almost, Gloria, like he was embarrassed of the United States in front of the whole world, say ...
BLITZER: ... every other industrialized country ...
BLITZER: ... every other western country, they don't have these kinds of mass ...
BLITZER: ... shootings every few weeks as we have here in the United States.
BORGER: Exactly. And Joe Biden was speaking tonight and he said we're basically the only civilized country in the world with so many mass shootings.
And the president can say this all he wants, but this is, as Jeff was pointing out, it's a geographic issue. You have Democrats who are in pro-gun states, who are just not going to support the president on this.
He worked really hard on this after Newtown. He couldn't get it done. It seems to me that he has less leverage now as an outgoing president than he did a couple of years ago. So it's -- you know, I wouldn't be optimistic from this White House for getting anything done and by the way, neither are they. They ...
BLITZER: And there's ...
BORGER: ... they understand the political reality.
BLITZER: ... Republican majorities in the House and the Senate, right?
BLITZER: So that's a problem. The sheriff overseeing this investigation in Oregon right now, he actually opposes, at least he's been on the record, opposes legislation for background checks, which is something the president says, you need to have greater background checks. So it sort of underscores the opposition out there in the country to what the president is pitching.
ZELENY: No question about it. And that sort of does explain, as Gloria was saying, in the urban and rural divide here, the beltway America divide here, but it will be interesting to see if this sheriff keeps opposing them.
If there is any -- what we need here if you talk to experts in both sides is a change of minds here, people to come together here. So let's check in with that sheriff in a couple days to see if he's still opposes that.
Of course, mental illness is at the root of all of this. We have this 20-year-olds, usually in their 20s, these young men who are, you know, the same suspects time after time after time. But background checks, without a question, most people believe would at least do something to solve these problems. They're buying these guns, Wolf.
BORGER: And you hear Republican candidates tonight saying this is about mental illness, it's not about background checks.
BORGER: Exactly, exactly.
BLITZER: Gloria, Jeff, guys, thanks very much.
Once again, we now know the shooter's name. Law enforcement officials have identified him as Chris Harper Mercer, 26 years old. We're going to bring you some new details about him as soon as we get them. We're also waiting a news conference. We'll bring that to you live.
Also ahead, the vital lessons first responders learned 16 years ago from the mass shooting at Columbine High School, a massacre that shaped the way school shootings are now handled.
[21:42:18] BLITZER: Breaking news, we're following multiple law enforcement officials now telling us the gunman at the Umpqua Community College in Oregon has been identified as 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer. Unfortunately, as we all know, this is not the first mass shooting at a school here in the United States. Many of the lessons for law enforcement were learned at the Columbine High School shooting back in 1999. Sergeant A.J. DeAndrea was the first responder to the Columbine shooting. He is joining us now along with Dave Cullen, who wrote the definitive book on the incident. His book entitled "Columbine". Thanks very much gentlemen for joining us. The shooting is they often happen in schools or college campuses instead of malls or workplaces, why is that?
DAVE CULLEN, AUTHOR OF "COLUMBINE": Well, there are three major reasons for that. The first is that these people nearly always choose symbolic targets. And usually symbols of authority. That's something that they get from straight terrorist tactic and these people are using the terrorist tactics. For instances, in 9/11 we saw victims of government and capitalism. But it's nearly always authority and school is sort of the central authority figure in the world for many of them.
The second one though is practicality and this person doesn't -- we're not sure whether, at least, last I heard I'm not sure if he's in the school, but a frequently, it's a practical matter where it's their turf. They know it very well. They know where the security is, how to get in and out, what will work and what won't. If go instead to a mall, it's really unknown territory. There's a lot of possibilities here. And remember that most of these plans fail so practicality is a really important issue.
But the third and these days perhaps the biggest one is that after Columbine, I think we all saw that schools really terrorize us. And that's what this is about. This is a form of using terrorism and we're terrified about children being vulnerable and parents, especially. So, more and more of these people are realizing to conduct it at a school, they're going to get a lot more coverage from us.
BLITZER: Good points. Sergeant DeAndrea, you've been a first responder in three school shootings. What lessons have we learned what's changed, if anything?
A.J. DEANDREA, COLUMBINE SHOOTING FIRST RESPONDER: Probably the most important lesson that we've learned over the years is that we need to get inside the school as quickly as we can to be able to effectively save lives. And the lessons from Columbine where it was a perimeter based operation waiting for the tactical teams to get there. And now, it has evolved from that to patrolmen going directly in and addressing the threat.
BLITZER: When you're part of the first responder entry team, sergeant, in a situation like this, are you first looking to find the shooter? Are you trying to get to the victims? Or are you doing all of that simultaneously?
DEANDREA: Well, there's a lot of moving parts that are taking place. So the first officers on scene, they are headed to the gunman to stop the threat. Right on the heels of that, we have the rescue task force philosophy which integrates the fire department and law enforcement who enter in to start to attend to the victims, to give them the fastest medical care that we can.
BLITZER: Dave, when you see, you know, what happened there, obviously, a lot of questions that have to be answered. A lot of this investigation really only beginning, but it happens so often, what do you think? How do you prevent these kinds of horrible, horrible massacres?
CULLEN: Well, there's a lot of things. I am really glad to see President Obama getting angry because I frequently get really angry, too. I think we need to do something on guns as a no brainier. We need to do something about mental health, but that's such a big overwhelming problem. And most of these shooters turn out to be deeply depressed. It's much easier to just deal with the, you know, break up a small piece and deal with depression.
But the third and -- I think the way the media covers this is crucial. And I think we didn't start this, obviously, we didn't create this problem. But now, we're playing a role in making stars out of these people. We need to really come to grips with that. I would love to see the media get together in some way, hash this out, and really accept partial ownership for the role we're playing and perpetuating and start to figure out something to a way of dealing with these differently.
BLITZER: Dave Cullen, Sergeant A.J. DeAndrea, guys thanks very much.
We're going to continue to follow the breaking news. But there's other important news we're following as well, including a powerful hurricane slamming the Bahamas and pressing on. Will it cause problems here in the United States? We'll get the latest.
[21:50:46] BLITZER: More breaking news and new advisory on Hurricane Joaquin. Tonight, the dangerous category four storm is pounding the Bahamas with maximum winds of 130 miles per hour. Then it will press on heading into the Atlantic. Our meteorologist Jennifer Gray is tracking Joaquin for us is joining us. Now, what's the latest on the storms path Jennifer?
JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi Wolf. Yeah, we are looking at a 30 mile per hour sustained winds with gusts of 160. The storm has been sitting right over the Bahamas all day long, and it is going to sit here tomorrow as well. So we're talking about 24 to 48 hours of sustained winds of major hurricane force and so, it is going to be devastating for the Central Bahamas. This is going to sit here for much of tomorrow morning and then finally start to lift to the north. That's where we're starting to see a little bit of weakening, category three, possibly category two by Sunday afternoon.
And what's interesting in the cone, Wolf, we've been talking the past couple of days and we've seen different shifts in the track. The storm is now starting to shift a little farther to the east, which is good news. We want this storm to stay out to sea. We don't want it to have a huge impact on the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast. Portions of the Northeast yes, still on the cone. But we do expect its track to the east to continue, which would be better news. The farther the storm could stay off shore, the better news it is for the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast. We will see higher than normal surf, we will get the possibility of winds, even rain, but the farther this track heads to the east, the better off we are.
Here the bright white line is the National Hurricane Center, the forecast cone. And you can see most of the models now agreeing that it is going to stay to the east. So when the hurricane center comes out with their next forecast track in about an hour, Wolf, it will be interesting to see if they pull it even more to the east.
BLITZER: There will though be a feeling, there will be an impact on the east coast of the United States even if it does stay to the east, right?
GRAY: Absolutely. Not only will the storm possibly bring higher than normal surf and wind to the northeast, we're talking about major impacts in the southeast. And this is actually not quite due to this storm. This is due to a cutoff low that's in the southeast. It's going to pump a lot of tropical moisture up across say the Carolinas mainly and even Virginia. Some of these areas could see 10 to 15 inches of rain. North Carolina could see six to 10 inches. And with the topography of South Carolina and North Carolina, you have the mountains and then you have the low country right around the coast, we only need about four to five inches in some of these areas to produce flooding. And when you're talking about 10 to 15 inches, we could see catastrophic flooding across the Carolinas. So we're going to be watching that very closely for the next couple of days, Wolf.
BLITZER: We certainly will. All right Jennifer, thank you.
Let's go to the coast of Virginia right now where heavy rains have already caused problems in some of the places. Jennifer was just mentioning. This is the scene in Norfolk yesterday, not one you want to be in as you're driving around. The Virginia governor has declared a state of emergency as they wait to see how much more rain Hurricane Joaquin may dump on them. Our Martin Savidge is not far from Norfolk right now. He's joining us from Virginia Beach, what's it like there, Martin?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's very windy, Wolf. I got to tell you. This week has been terrible for the Eastern Seaboard. They have had a series of storms and this one that they're getting battered by now. This is not Hurricane Joaquin. That's a thousand miles to the south. What they're getting hit with is that storm system that Jennifer was just talking about. Torrential rains have impacted everywhere from the Carolinas up to Massachusetts. Now, this is where you set in with the possibility of a Joaquin. And not necessarily a direct hit by any means. Even offshore, that huge massive rainmaker would create all sorts of problems on top of the problems they have. That's why they have the state of emergency here in Virginia and in some of the Carolinas and also up in New Jersey. They needed to make sure that their emergency services could have full clearance to get out there. They're worried about not just flooding but now weakened trees coming down, blocking roads, blocking evacuation routes, blocking emergency crews getting in. They're also worried about massive power outages and then you heard, the severe flooding problem. And the winds, all of that combined, it could be a horrendous weekend even if the storm's offshore, Wolf?
BLITZER: And very quickly, how are people preparing for at least a lot more rain?
SAVIDGE: They're taking it seriously. A lot of the store shelves have been heavily hit up the usuals, water, bread and milk and they're hunkering down and waiting to see which way the storm's going to go, Wolf?
BLITZER: It's going to be a tough few days either way. Let's hope that Hurricane Joaquin stays to the east, does not get close to the East Coast, although, as Jennifer Gray pointed out, there will be an impact either way. Let's hope it's minimal because it's a bad situation. Martin Savidge, thank you very much. Much more news right after this quick break.
BLITZER: Once again, our breaking news tonight, the shooter who killed at least 10 people today at a community college in Oregon has been identified as 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer. Stay with CNN throughout the night for all the latest information on the shooting. We're getting new details. They're coming in all the time. We're also waiting for a news conference in Oregon. CNN will bring you that live as soon as it happens. Stay tuned for all the latest on the path of Hurricane Joaquin as well. In the meantime, "CNN Tonight" with Don Lemon starts right now.