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NEW DAY SUNDAY
Approx. 20 Dead, 42 Injured in Orlando Shooting; FBI Looking at Possible Ties to Radical Islamic Terrorism Aired 7-8a ET
Aired June 12, 2016 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[07:00:00] CEDRIC ALEXANDER, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: They still can carry a weapon inside. And there are a variety of different ways that can happen. So I think until we know more about this case, who the shooter or shooters are involved, and what's actually occurred this morning, it will become much clearer to us. But it is not unusual, of course, for a firearm to get inside a night club.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Let's pause here for just a moment.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLACKWELL: Top of the hour now. Seven a.m. here in the East Coast, 7:00 a.m. in Orlando, where police are investigating what they call a mass casualty situation, at Pulse Orlando, a night club there in the heart of the city. It happened about five hours ago.
You're looking at video that came in from Facebook, as police fired shots in the direction of that night club, engaging. We expect with someone there in that direction. Now, law enforcement analysts tell us they likely had a target. We know from police that the shooter inside the night club is dead.
Now, we do not know if that is the only shooter. We're waiting for a news conference that's scheduled to start at any moment. We know that as soon as this happened, there was a tweet that came out from the night club, or rather a posting on their Facebook page that said everyone run from Pulse and keep running. Get out of Pulse and keep running.
Here is that post from Facebook. And, you know, we're waiting for this news conference here to report it, but so are the family members. The loved ones, those who were in the club and left, possibly friends there, who got a call and they don't know where their loved one is, because there's been no update on the numbers of those shot, of those killed. We know it's mass casualty, and where those people are.
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: We heard from one mother who said she got a call from her daughter and her daughter's friend that said please come get us. They're shooting. There has been a shooting. And then her daughter one of the girls told her that she had been shot in the arm.
And when you hear something like that as a parent or family to go straight to the club. You can't, because obviously they've cordoned it off. So, you go to the hospital. There are three nearby hospitals, Orlando Regional Medical Center, Arnold Palmer Hospital, Winnie Palmer Hospital, all of which were on lockdown at one point.
We've heard the descriptions of the gurneys that even at this hour are still outside those hospitals that some doctors have been outside the hospitals. So, it gives you a real sense of the desperation and the chaos, not just around the scene of this incident, but at the scene of these hospitals, where we've got these medical officials desperately trying to treat the people who have been hurt.
We, again, when we talk about mass casualty, we do not know how many people we're talking about. And that's what we're waiting to hear. We're a couple of minutes outside of the 7:00 hour here. We were supposed to hear from officials at 4:30 --
BLACKWELL: Two and a half hours ago.
PAUL: Two and a half hours ago. The fact that we did not, Cedric, the fact that we could not hear from them at that time, that speaks to the severity of the situation and what they were dealing with.
ALEXANDER: I would conclude that it does. Here again, this is a very large scene, very intense scene. It's all hands on deck. And before leadership there, police officials there make a statement, I'm quite sure they want to gather as much information as they can in order sense of accuracy, because this is probably going to be a little bit complicated, very convoluted, of course, just about the mere nature of you have so many that were involved and injured. We're going to see here shortly.
BLACKWELL: Let me tell you what we know about the response thus far. We know that there were bomb sniffing dogs at this club, also at the hospitals. There was an explosion that was heard several hours ago, but we have learned from Orlando police through their Twitter account that that was a controlled explosion, using likely what we saw there on the scene, one of those EODs, which is bomb detonating robots, so they can control those explosions.
Do we have Tom Fuentes still with us?
TOM FUENTES, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST (via telephone): I'm here.
BLACKWELL: OK, Tom, let me come to you with this, our law enforcement analyst, who is also former assistant director of the FBI. We're expecting this news conference. It was supposed to start at 7:00, a couple of minutes late now. I want you to kind of give us some insight to what we can expect, because I want to temper expectations going into this.
All questions will not be answered this soon after such a major event. Is that correct to assume that?
FUENTES: Oh, absolutely. I think, Victor, they're going to give us pretty much the bare minimum in terms of -- so they're not putting anything there that's not accurate, you know, proven to be false later.
[07:05:08] But tell us as much as possible about what occurred on that club, how many shooters if they can, how the shooter died, is itself inflicted, you know, what happened in terms of the victims that were taken out of there, are there still people inside that club maybe that might be deceased. And they're still in the process of trying to deal with that. How the crime scene is progressing. I don't think at this point they're going to identify the shooter until they have a chance -- they may not know the identity yet, but if they do, they'll want to be able to execute search warrants at that person's residence and not have the media get there first.
They'll withhold that information, and also notify the next of kind of the shooter and/or anybody else that may be deceased, if that turns out that we have multiple fatalities. We don't know that, but that's a possibility --
PAUL: Sir --
FUENTES: -- at the minimum. Also, I hope the police will say to the family, possibly give them a number to call to try to find out if there is any information about their loved ones, you know, maybe have a central way of controlling that information for the family members of the victims.
PAUL: Yes, no doubt. You feel for the people who witnessed it and the trauma, but also for the families, and those who can't find their family members right now.
Tom, would it be safe to assume that in a night club, there would be surveillance cameras they'll be able to use?
FUENTES: Well, hopefully, but it would be dark, possibly flashing lights going, and just so many people in close proximity that it may be difficult to get valuable information from those cameras if they have them. Yes, they'll be examining, if they have security cameras on the outside. You know, you mentioned the difficulty of getting a long weapon, you know, shoulder held weapon into there as an assault rifle.
But again, a tremendous amount of damage can be done with handguns. So, individuals could more easily conceal handguns and pull them out and start shooting and hurt a lot of people.
I think, also, it struck me, when people said that the music was loud, they couldn't tell if there was actual gunshots or it was part of the music, that kind of told me that it might be handguns involved. That assault rifles, the caliber of bullet is much larger than a handgun, much more powerful, and it is hard for me to believe, even with loud club music that the sound of an assault rifle wouldn't just be a concussion going through that room. So --
PAUL: You would think it would be identifiable?
FUENTES: Right. We'll find out. Again, you know, in due time. What kind of weaponry was used to inflict these wounds. And again, not to be too gruesome -- an assault rifle inflicts much
more severe wounds. When you see people carrying people who appear to have been shot in the leg or arm, you know, they would be in much worse shape, I think, if they were actually hit from a bullet with an assault rifle.
But again, that's speculation on my part, just knowing the difference in bullet calibers and the type of weaponry that would be done.
PAUL: We appreciate your expertise on that.
BLACKWELL: This night club falling into or sharing the classification that Tom, you and I, and Cedric, you and I, all of us have discussed on this show after shootings at airports and restaurants and malls, soft target. Things that are very difficult to secure inside and outside. I'm sure we'll have that conversation as we learn more about what exactly happened and any potential motive behind this shooting.
But again, I want to make sure people know, we're just minutes away potentially from this news conference. It was scheduled for 4:30 a.m. if you're joining us from outside the Eastern Time zone, that's about two and a half hours ago. It was then pushed to 7:00 a.m. So, we're 10 minutes past that. We're expecting to hear -- we got an update now, 7:15. So, we're just a few minutes away from the news conference, Orlando Police Department tweeting out some time ago that we will hear from Sergeant Wanda Ford with the police department.
But this is something now involving not only local law enforcement, but state and FBI involved as well. FBI confirming that they are on the scene. The mayor, Buddy Dyer, Chief John Mina from the Orange County -- I'm sorry, Orlando police department, and Sheriff Jerry Demings there of the Orange County Sheriff's Office will be there as well.
Again, to temper expectations, all of the questions will not be answered, but for those loved ones standing outside for hours now, up to five hours, this will start to give them some clarity about what happened there and where they can find their loved ones.
[07:10:11] PAUL: And it makes you wonder, too. For some reason, I go back to the Colorado Theater shooting.
PAUL: When they're saying mass casualties, we can only assume obviously that there are still people who are deceased inside that night club. Real quickly, we have about 30 seconds, Cedric Alexander, how long before people would get word and they might be able to clear that scene and get these people back to their families?
ALEXANDER: That's a speculation I cannot make, because the sensitivity of this crime scene and the possibility of there being some real casualties there. I think we're going to have to wait and see here in a few minutes. We'll have a much better idea to draw some conclusions.
BLACKWELL: Yes, and I appreciate that.
PAUL: I do, too.
BLACKWELL: Because we've talked about the fog of breaking news here and, often, some of the initial reports. If you've been with us through this breaking news coverage, you've heard a lot of those initial reports that come from the scene and from Twitter, just second as way from getting the confirmation.
Let's take this now as we are getting confirmation about what led to the mass casualty situation there at Pulse Orlando. Let's listen in.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John Harper with the FBI. He'll take a few questions afterwards, but then we'll continue to provide updates as the day goes on.
MAYOR BUDDY DYER, ORLANDO: Tonight, our community witnessed or experienced a very horrific crime. Many lives were lost and many more individuals were impacted by witnessing the crime. Many were saved, however, by the heroic efforts of the men and women of OPD. The Orange County Sheriff's Office, Seminole County Sheriff's Office. We have great, great cooperation from the FDLE, and FBI, all the law enforcement agencies, fire departments from Orlando, Seminole County and Orange County and all of the hospital personnel that have been working through the night.
We are a strong, resilient community. Tonight, we d a crime that will have a lasting effect on our community. We need to stand strong. We need to be supportive of the victims and their families. I'm going to ask Chief Mina to explain what happened.
CHIEF JOHN MINA, ORLANDO POLICE: Good morning. So, at approximately 0202 hours this morning, we had an officer working at Pulse night club who responded to shots fired. This did turn into a hostage situation.
From there, our officer engaged in a gun battle with that suspect. The suspect at some point went back inside the club where more shots were fired. This did turn into a hostage situation.
From there, obviously multiple officers from various agencies responded. SWAT team responded. At approximately 0500 hours this morning, the decision was made to rescue hostages that were in there.
Our SWAT officers exchanged gunfire. The suspect is dead. He appeared to be carrying an assault rifle and handgun and had some type of device on him. That's what we're doing right now, checking the area for the devices.
There are multiple people dead inside. I don't want to give anyone a number right now. There are multiple people are dead inside the Pulse night club. And at least 42 people have been transported to various hospitals around.
So, I do not have an exact count. Obviously, our condolences go out to the friends and families. We're going to continue to work with the FBI, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Orange County Sheriff's Office on this investigation.
And at this time, I'll turn it over to the sheriff.
SHERIFF JERRY DEMINGS, ORANGE COUNTY, FLORIDA: Thank you, Chief.
While this certainly is a tragedy to our community, I will reiterate what Mayor Dyer said tht this community is resilient and this is a time in which we all should come together. The Orange County Sheriff's Office responded along with the Orlando Police Department to the initial incident. There were deputy sheriffs involved with the Orlando Police Personnel on the initial entry, just after 2:00 a.m. this morning.
In addition to that, members of my hazardous device team responded, and have been engaged in helping to secure the scene as well. We have had as many as about 100 of my personnel who have been actively engaged in this incident.
[07:15:04] I will also reiterate that this is a collaborative effort between our federal, state and local law enforcement authorities. At this time, the central Florida intelligence exchange center has been activated. That is our intelligence sharing consortium for this region.
We will be working along with the FBI, as well as the other law enforcement agency as this investigation continues. Again, what I would say to our community is that if you are aware of any of the activities that may have led up to this horrific scene to share that information with your local law enforcement authorities.
As we move forward, we will make every effort that we can to ensure that this community remains a safe and secure community. We have that commitment from all of the local law enforcement agencies. We have multiple sheriff's offices and police agencies who have committed to work to that endeavor.
And if you see some suspicious type activity, we have shared in this community in the past that our expectation is you say something about it. If there's anything that looks unusual, at this point, this is an incident, as I see it, that we can certainly classify as a domestic terror incident.
At this point, I believe the next speaker is going to be the supervisor agent in charge of the Regional Florida Department of Law Enforcement officer, Officer Danny Banks.
DANNY BANKS, REGIONAL FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: Thank you, sheriff. I'll reiterate a couple of things that were already said, but importantly, I know one of the most important questions for the state and even nationally is do we consider this an act of terrorism?
Absolutely, we are investigating this from all parties' perspective as an act of terrorism. Any time we have potentially dozens of victims in any of our communities, that I think we can qualify that as a terrorist activity. Whether that's a domestic terrorist or international one is something we'll get to the bottom of. We're glad to have the partnerships, particularly the FBI here.
One of the important things we're going to get to the bottom of is, did we have any indicators this event happened. Today, we will have more information, I'm sure for the coming to all of you about who this individual is, was he a lone wolf. Does he have any associates? Those are certainly all of the things that will be looked into as part of our intelligence and investigative activities.
You know, the state of Florida is a huge state. Certainly for a lot of different reasons, one of them tourism in our industry and businesses here, and we have no suggestion that there is any threat to either of those, either today or in the near future. But that certainly is a concern. Right now, it's important, the message we want to put out is we have no indication of other types of activities similar to last night's activity, either in the state of Florida or any where else in the nation right now.
But we're putting every resource collective resource together to validate that statement, and to ensure the safety of the remainder of our citizens, not only through today, but the next weeks. As the sheriff said, I really want to reiterate the point. Our see something, say something campaign. It is valid, it works. We want to encourage people to use that.
As you come up with, and you are aware of information that is concerning to you, it is concerning to us. If you are aware of information relative to people either conversations social media or actions of people in community that you believe could threaten the rest of us, please let law enforcement know. Use those tools to let law enforcement be aware of that information so we can act on it.
I'll turnover the rest of the interview now to our assistant special agent in charge for the FBI Orlando office, Ron Harper.
RON HARPER, FBI: Thank you, Danny.
Let me start by saying I offer the condolences to all the friends and family members that are victims to this senseless tragic act of violence this morning. FBI stands shoulder to shoulder with everyone you see here to address this matter. We are not just looking at this from one perspective. I will tell you that every resource in the FBI will be brought to bear on this investigation.
I will echo with what Mr. Banks just said. It, at this particular time there is no reason to believe we have information to suggest there is any further threat to Orlando or the surrounding area or any where else as it relates to this particular incident.
[07:20:02] I would caution everyone to be mindful that the FBI is known for slow methodical detailed investigations. We will follow the facts. We will see where they lead us to. We will take them to the ultimate end.
There is nothing we won't do to get to the bottom of this case. And we will be prepared to present any information we can, when we can and are able to present it to you. We would look forward to being as completely transparent as possible.
I will tell you that we here in the Orlando region, especially with the FBI and partnerships, that we share here, we take that "see something, say something" one step further, if you see something and you say something, we will do something. So, if you have some information, no matter how small you may think it may be, that would relate back to today's events, please share it with us.
And I would urge you to call 1-800-CALLFBI public access line. We have phones standing to take any type of lead or whatsoever. We're conducting countless interviews, and you're going to see a huge presence from the FBI in the coming days to resolve this matter. Thank you.
MINA: I did want to add a few more things. There were at least nine officers that were involved in the shooting of the suspect. One of our officers was injured. It appears his Kevlar helmet saved his life. So, he has an injury to his eye, but the bullet did hit his Kevlar helmet.
So, nine involved in the shooting, and one injured, but not seriously. So, it looks like that Kevlar helmet saved his life. So, I think we'll take questions now.
REPORTER: What do you know about the gunman? Do you know anything at this time?
MINA: We're going to turn everything about the gunman over to the FBI.
REPORTER: Multiple injuries, will you give us like ten, dozens? We've heard the number 20.
MINA: Yes, we're looking probably in the range of 20, but we don't want to give you an exact figure. Multiple people transported to the hospital. Unfortunately, there are people we're trying to clear that the Pulse night club of any devices. We did find a device on the suspect himself, and possibly his car, so we're trying to clear all of that.
Unfortunately, there are people who have succumbed gunshot wounds, maybe around 20, inside the night club.
REPORTER: Can you give your timeline, once you were able to stop the suspect? I know you had some of the surviving victims being interviewed.
MINA: Absolutely. So again, 0200 hour officer who was working extra duties, responds to shots fired. He and two other officers exchange gunfire with the suspect. This went into a hostage situation.
So right about a little at 5:00 this morning, we made the decision to go and rescue. We were being contacted by people in the bathroom, nearby, at least 15 people that were in a separate area. And our biggest concern was future loss of life. We wanted to save those people and so we did an entry, and exchanged
gunfire with the suspect. Again, after some explosive devices were used as well as our bear cat was used to get through the wall. And from there, we exchanged gunfire with the suspect, and he was dead at that scene.
But officers did a great job, SWAT team get a great job. At least 30 people who were saved during that rescue.
REPORTER: Do you have any reason to think there is a connection to radical Islamic terrorism?
HARPER: I would say at this time, we're looking into all angles right now. We do have suggestions that that individual may have leanings toward that particular ideology, but right now, we can't say definitively. So, we're still running everything to ground.
REPORTER: What about the fact that it was a gay night club? Any indication it was an act against gays?
HARPER: From what we know so far we don't know that that had any impact on the actions taken this evening. Not yet.
REPORTER: You said about 42 were taken to the hospital, and approximately 20 dead inside?
MINA: About 42 taken to three area hospitals, and approximately 20 dead inside the club. I don't want to give you and exact number.
REPORTER: What ideology did you just refer to?
HARPER: The question was if it was tied to any type of terrorist activity or Islamic state activity, and we're always looking for any tie in any mass shooting such as this.
REPORTER: Chief, any relation to the shooting that was he saw on Friday, because he was heavily armed as well, or no?
MINA: Absolutely not. There's no indication that this was related to the Christina Grimmie case.
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) shooting began inside or outside and went inside?
MINA: Right at the entrance, we believe. It's all part of the investigation.
REPORTER: Did the suspect shoot himself or one of your officers?
[07:25:00] MINA: Our officer shot the suspect.
REPORTER: Is there a bomb threat right now?
MINA: We're checking the area. There were devices, unknown if they're real or not. So, the Orange County explosive team is checking for devices right now. REPORTER: Could you characterize the shooter, he just came here to
randomly shoot at people, or was he organized and well-prepared what he planned to do?
MINA: It appears he was organized and well-prepared.
REPORTER: Your description of the shooter?
MINA: I don't have any description right now.
REPORTER: Is he local?
MINA: He is not from this area.
REPORTER: Is he as U.S. citizen or --
HARPER: Can't comment on whether he is a U.S. citizen it, because we're trying to positively identify him as the suspect.
REPORTER: What makes you think he could be linked to terrorism --
HARPER: We're looking at all leads right now. We don't leave any stone unturned. So, I said there's a possibility. We will look at everything.
REPORTER: Were there any shots fired near --
MINA: Yes, there was a report of shots ORMC. That turned out to be not true. There was some kind of disturbance to the people responding, but that was taken care of pretty quickly. No shots fired at ORMC.
REPORTER: What about numerous accounts of a second shooter?
MINA: No witness accounts of second shoots that we are aware of.
REPORTER: Can you tell me about the initial incident, there was an officer that was at the club? Can you talk about that initial interaction between your officer and --
MINA: Right. So, the officer was working extra duty in full uniform at the night club at about 0200 hours. He responded to gunfire and at that point, engaged in a gun battle with the suspect. Unknown if he hit the suspect at that time. Two other officers were nearby, and also engaged the suspect as well.
And like I said, we don't know if he was hit during that exchange. But that did turn into a hostage situation, and multiple agencies responded.
REPORTER: Do you have any indication of whether the gunman continued to shoot people inside after he went back in the second time?
MINA: That's all part of the investigation.
REPORTER: How many hostages were there? MINA: Unknown it. We had indications there were approximately 320
people total in the club when it was opened tonight. Like I said, we rescued about 30 people. About 42 people were transported to area hospitals.
REPORTER: Can you take us through one more time how you guys move in that type of situation?
MINA: Absolutely. So, we were getting contacted by multiple people from with inside the club who were alive in a separate part of the club. So we made the decision to do an explosive entry on the outside of the club to get to those people.
We also used the armored vehicle to help defeat that wall, and from there, we were able to rescue people and our SWAT team at that time encountered the suspect. Somewhere in that area, near one of the doorway entrances and shot and killed him.
REPORTER: That was the noise we heard?
MINA: The noise you heard when you were out here were two distractionary devices.
REPORTER: Did that burst the door or window all opened?
MINA: Well, many times, SWAT team members use distractionary devices just for that, to sort of distract the suspect to gain that advantage.
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) condition is of the hospitalized right now, critical?
MINA: All being treated for gunshot wounds. I can't give the exact conditions.
REPORTER: What about the device? I know you said that there was a possible bomb threat. Were you at all concerned about shooting someone who possibly a bomb?
MINA: Well, our officers, swat officers are highly trained for that situation, but we take that all into account. Thank you.
REPORTER: Chief, there are a number of agencies here now. What is the next step for the agencies going forward?
MINA: Obviously, we're all going to work together and investigate this from start to finish. The FBI will be the lead investigative agency for this incident, Florida Department of Law Enforcement will assist with the officer involved shooting portion of the case.
REPORTER: You said device several times. Can we say a bomb?
MINA: No, we just know that he had something on him that we'll say suspicious device it. We're trying to verify that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. We'll plan for the next update at 9:30. We'll keep you updated -- REPORTER: Here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, right here.
REPORTER: Thank you.
BLACKWELL: All right, the headline here coming from local, state and federal officials, approximately 20 dead, and 42 injured here at this shooting at Pulse Orlando. The night club in Orlando, Florida. And this has been classified as a terror incident.
The investigation still into if this is domestic terror or if there is some foreign nexus here as well. But again, a terror incident, ending here with approximately 20 dead, and more than 40 injured at local hospitals.
[07:30:06] PAUL: And the fact that it was indeed, he just clarified, a hostage situation at one point. Again, they got the call, he said at 2:00 a.m. when a police officer was on duty at that night club or was actually off duty, was doing extra work, security outside the night club, engaged with the shooter.
The shooter made it inside the night club, and again, as he says, killed about 20 people, but they were able to save, he says, about 30, when they engaged in a suspect at 5:00 a.m. this morning, in order to get to those people who he said, and it is very compelling to understand, were locked in the bathroom, that were calling police that were telling them what was happening in those moments.
BLACKWELL: Three hours inside, between the start of the shooting and until authorities made the call to go in at 5:00 a.m.
Also, we do not know much about this shooter. We do know, confirmed from law enforcement there, that he was not someone from the area. So he was not a local man. But they found on him a handgun, an assault rifle, and some type of suspicious device. They're also searching his car, his home as well for suspicious devices, and checking the vicinity, the area for any other devices.
We've got with us two law enforcement analysts. We have with us in studio, Cedric Alexander, DeKalb County chief here, and we have on the phone as well, former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes.
Tom, are you still on the phone?
FUENTES (via telephone): Yes, I am.
BLACKWELL: Tom, what stands out to you as we're getting the -- moving into hour five, hour six of this investigation, to what's been classified as a terror incident?
FUENTES: Well, I think just as you heard, the tremendous cooperation from federal, state, local authorities there, trying to work together on this and determine what happened and why it happened, if they can figure out the motive of it. But based on just the sheer number of casualties and the fact that
this person came so heavily armed indicated to the police and to the FBI right away that it was a terrorist attack. They'll do the background on the individual, and see what he, you know, what type of ideology he may have or just a lone wolf, and they can't determine an ideology.
But the act itself constitutes at the minimum, domestic terrorism, and if they find any kind of international inspirations, such as ISIS, then it would be classified as international terrorism. But for now, it's terrorism, one way or the other, and they're going to go forward with doing as much work as it takes to try to find out what caused this, and why the individual decided to do the act he did.
PAUL: And, Tom, as he said, this was organized, well prepared. Now that they have classified it as an act of terrorism, whether it's domestic or otherwise, how does it drive the investigation?
FUENTES: Well, in a way, it doesn't. You know, you have everybody cooperating with each other, even if this was not classified as terrorism, which gives the FBI, you know, lead jurisdiction, but even if it wasn't, they would work as diligently together, and the would cover the national and international leads in any event.
So, it really, it is not going to make a big difference in terms of the level of cooperation. They're all going to cooperate to the fullest extent and be as diligent as possible, and you know, covering this investigation.
BLACKWELL: Some of those victims, still inside the night club. Now, five and a half hours after the shooting began. You heard from the FBI agent there locally, the special agent in charge, who said that the FBI notably is methodical, and this scene will be, and I remember from covering similar scenes, will be cordoned off for days as they continue to collect evidence, to collect information that could lead them potentially to find a motive in this shooting.
Cedric Alexander, I'll ask you the same question I asked Tom. What stands out to you from what we heard?
ALEXANDER: First of all, my heart and prayers goes out to those who loved their lives there tonight, those who were injured. We were hoping it would not be this, and but, unfortunately, that's what we've heard thus far.
But, clearly, what stands out to me is the challenge that the Orlando police department had. You had an off duty officer there that exchanged gunfire, they had identified a target. There was exchange of gunfire. That subsequently, it appears, led to a hostage type situation, and local authority there made a very courageous decision, is that we must go in and challenge this target, and they did.
[07:35:06] And they neutralize the target, saved a number of lives that could have been lost, or more, so just very courageous work on the part of law enforcement there in that community. And the community and the citizens themselves who also took a part in trying to get people to emergency care.
PAUL: And, of course, they were talking about this device. They wouldn't specify exactly what kind of device it is, but we can discern, at least certainly assuming based on the equipment we've seen here, the bomb squad that was there, the SWAT team that was there, they said on his person. Again, here is one of those, the bomb robots there, that is equipped with a camera, the SWAT team outside the night club.
But there was a bomb on his person, but they also seemed to indicate perhaps they thought there might be more.
ALEXANDER: Well, absolutely, you want to take precaution in terms of a situation like this, because if we look back historically over these types of events that have occurred, where there may have been an indication an IED, improvised explosive device, you want to approach it very carefully and secure that device as well so no further injury is inflicted.
BLACKWELL: Authorities also knocked down some of the rumors that were floating about early on, and understandably. Orlando police, they did not give an early statement on much of the details, or many of the details until we saw this just about ten minutes ago.
But there were early reports that there was more than one shooter. Well, they now say that there are no witness accounts of a second shooter. There were claims that there were shots fired near the Orlando Regional Medical Center. We heard from the leader for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that there were no shots fired near ORMC.
Questions about this is a gay night club there, Pulse Orlando. No indication, we heard from the FBI special agent Ron Harper there, that there is no indication that antigay views led to this shooting, but they are of course looking for a motive.
So, again, in the fog of breaking news early on, many of those were, those ideas, those theories, were floating about. Law enforcement just knocked down a few of those. To answer, and that that will be the next few hours.
Tom, what do the next few hours in this location, locally what, does that look like?
FUENTES: Well, I think it is going to be the attempt to start working on the crime scene there. That's a difficult thing. If they have victims that are dead inside that facility, they may still be there, and they may be there for a long time.
I know the Aurora, Colorado shooting, several of the victims were on the floor of that theater for something like 18 hours, and at the Sandy Hook shooting, we had victims that were in that school more than 24 hours. So, it's a very, very difficult, methodical process that they will go through processing the crime scene, and you know, trying to recover all of the bullet casings, and find every bullet hole inside that place as well as recover the bullets from the individuals. And the reason for that will verify that there wasn't another shooter in there. That this was the one and only shooter, and that they don't have additional handguns that haven't been recovered at the scene that were fired or other guns that were fired, that would indicate that somebody else shot while weapon inside there and actually got away.
So, that's part of the investigation too to actually verify that there is just the one and only shooter that they have at the scene. You know, at the present time. So, that in the beginning, that will be the most difficult part right now is to work the crime scene of the inside of that club.
PAUL: Well, Orlando police just tweeting one minute ago, if you have any information, call the FBI hotline, 1-800-CALL FBI. That's the same number they referred to in the press conference as well.
I have to, as I look ahead and think of the job ahead of them, Tom, how do you move forward when you are trying to get information from people who were told to run from the scene, and to keep running as it was posted on the Pulse nightclub website, as it was happening? How often do people really show at the police department and how do you whittle there, how do you filter out the people who were actually there that have valid information and people who might not?
FUENTES: Well, they'll have to, you know, try to verify that when people come in, they actually were witnesses, that they're not just coming in to try to get attention, but in fact, have valuable information.
From my experience, people will come back, even though the original message from the club was run and keep running, they will come back and help in this investigation.
[07:40:08] You know, you have to believe that everybody that was in that club and went through this trauma will want to provide assistance to the police, to the FBI, to get this, you know, to be solved, to have all of the information obtained that they're going to need. And especially, as I mentioned earlier, to verify there wasn't a shooter that got away, that the one and only shooter is the only person responsible and, you know, and is killed at the scene.
PAUL: You have to wonder what happened in those three hours, the three hours some people were locked in the bathroom. Did the suspect say anything, did he say anything that might indicate a motive or was it just a lot of noise and negotiation as police were trying to determine what to do next?
ALEXANDER: Well, it certainly could have been a period of negotiation that was taking place there. We don't know. It certainly is too early to tell.
But clearly, the police there were very methodical in their approach, and they thought this out very carefully as well too. So when you think in terms of time, it is not unusual in a hostage situation that it goes much longer. But in this particular case, based on whatever circumstances intelligence information they have been working with, and I'm not going to second-guess them there, they made a decision at that time to go in and confront that threat and (INAUDIBLE) the threat --
PAUL: Which tells you they had -- they had an inkling he was not going to back down. You've seen enough of this, Cedric. Help us understand, the 30-plus people inside there, they saved. What are they going to need most?
ALEXANDER: Well, they're probably going to need counseling. This is truly a very not just a physical effects that people have suffered there tonight, but it is also the psychological trauma that they had to endure to go through that particular incident. And that oftentimes leads to other types of issues, such as PTSD. Because you're talking about an event, you're talking about an event that happens beyond the realm of normalcy, and when that occurs, it can create for many people a situation where they really have to secure some type of counseling.
But let's not dismiss how challenging also this was for the police officers, who had to engage this threat, who had to save lives and put their lives at risk too. You heard the chief say it. One of his officers was injured, and the fact that it could have on him and also on his or her comrades as well.
BLACKWELL: The good news, there was this Kevlar helmet that saved his life, an eye injury if I remember correctly, but his life was saved. He was one of the nine officers who engaged in this shootout with the suspect.
We're going to get to sound in just a moment. But, Tom, I want to come back to you, because I keep thinking about the family whose have been waiting outside for hours to get some confirmation about their children, their brothers and sisters, their friends and loved ones. When they hear the number of approximately 20 dead, those fears, those concerns are heightened, 42 injured, taken to local hospitals. There is no way to know exactly when the names will be released or when next of kin will be notified.
But walk us through the steps that would allow police to start to release those names. What will they be doing over the next few hours to get them to a point where they can tell the families that your son or daughter is or is not in that number?
FUENTES: Well, first of all, the police will have to find out for themselves who the people are, and situations like this, you know, if they have deceased club members still in the club, still on the floor there, they may have not been identified yet. So as they begin the crime scene investigation and try to remove identification from the victims that are in there and try to verify that, at the some point in the next few hours, that is how they'll go about trying to identify people and trying to get a hold of their family members, next of kin, to try to verify that that is who they have, you know, in the club itself, and of course, at the hospitals where people were taken.
If I could add one more thing to the earlier point.
BLACKWELL: Yes. FUENTES: You know, the chief made a very, very courageous decision to go ahead and attempt that hostage rescue. Having been an on scene commander, this situation is extremely dangerous for the hostages, to go ahead and attempt that rescue is endangering them. You probably would have had a lot of second-guessing if it had gone badly, if a number of hostages had been shot and killed, people would be criticizing that decision.
[07:45:03] However, if he did nothing, and it turned out that many people were alive in that club and during the delay of this hostage taker holding the police at bay, you could have people bleed to death, lying on the floor of that club if it lasted four hours and hours and hours. So, I think that this chief should be commended for making an extremely brave decision that turned out in saving the 30 peoples' lives but may have saved a number of other wounded people's lives as well. We'll find out later.
PAUL: Law enforcement analyst there, Tom Fuentes, praising the police department and the police chief in this decision, echoing what Cedric Alexander, other law enforcement analyst, sitting here at the desk in Atlanta, has said about the police chief.
Let's listen to him, as he talked in this press conference, just a little bit ago about the number of victims there are.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF JOHN MINA, ORLANDO POLICE: We're looking probably in the range of 20, but we don't want to give you an exact figure. Number of people transported to the hospital. Unfortunately, there are a number of people trying to clear that pulse night club of any devices. We did find a device on the suspect himself and possibly his car.
So, we're trying to clear all that. Unfortunately, there are people who have succumbed to gunshot wounds, maybe around 20 inside the night club.
REPORTER: Can you go into your timeline, once you were able to stop a suspect and get in there? I know that you had some of the surviving victims being interviewed.
MINA: Absolutely. So at 0200, our officer who was working extra duty there responds to the shots fired. He and then two other officers exchanged gunfire with the suspect. This developed into a hostage situation.
So, right about a little after 5:00 this morning, we made the decision to go in and rescue. We were being contacted by people in the bathroom nearby, at least 15 people in a separate area, and our biggest concern was future loss of life. We wanted to save those people. So, we did an entry and exchanged gunfire with the suspect. Again, after some explosive devices were used as well as our bear-cat was used to get through the wall.
And from there, we exchanged gunfire with the suspect, and he was dead at that scene. But officers did a great job SWAT team did a great job. At least 30 people who were saved during that rescue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: All right, again, these are some of the live pictures coming to us as the sun has come up now on this scene, where at 2:00 this morning, as I reset this for you, at 2:00 this morning, a shooting at the Pulse nightclub there on South Orange in Orlando.
And what you're looking at there, some video of not only police officers, but citizens, who were helping get people down the street to a nearby hospital. It was nothing short of absolute chaos. As this gunman got into the Pulse nightclub there, the Pulse nightclub even on their Facebook page put out a notice saying, get out of the club, and keep running.
And it was -- there were so many obviously very hysterical moments there, as people were trying to get out of that club, as people were running, people who were shot.
We are getting word now as you heard if you're just joining us, that from the press conference that the suspect is dead. That the suspect was armed with an assault type rifle, a handgun, and had a device of some sort on his person.
One of the things that Tom Fuentes, our law enforcement, as well as Cedric Alexander, a law enforcement too, who are both with us here, both have been praising the police chief and the police departments' work in this case, because it was three hours later, after the shooting started, that they made the decision to go in and rescue the hostages that they knew were there. They knew the hostages were there, because they were communicating with people who were inside the bathroom there at Pulse nightclub. They had barricaded itself it seems.
For whatever reason, the police chief and police department, along with the state and local authorities that were with them at that time, decided this is the -- this is the route that we need to take. We've seen some of that gunfire. There was somebody that posted it on their Facebook page as it was happening. We believe that to be that moment, at 5:00, three hours after this started.
Cedric Alexander, you both keep making the point of how brave it was for them to make that decision. When you're in a situation like this, with hostages, with the gunman, at what point do you know if the only option you have to go in and try to get those hostages in the way they did?
[07:50:08] ALEXANDER: There's two variables that come into play, one, your training, and your experience, and if you've been doing this job for a while and you've been involved in those types of situations, and I certainly have been over the years, like many other chiefs across this country, we know when it's time.
But we also have to remember that each situation is very different, and none of them are ever the same, no matter how much you rehearse a variety of different scenarios. You always go back to your training and to the experience and to the circumstances that you're in, in that particular moment in time. And here, very clearly, law enforcement leadership there, both the chief and the sheriff, decided that a decision needed to be made. They combined their forces and they went in, and they neutralized that target, so that others lives could be saved and make an attempt to rescue those that may have been injured.
PAUL: Thirty people we know were saved. Tom Fuentes, what would you say to the families right now who are waiting to hear from loved ones, who are waiting to hear whether the person that they know to have been in that nightclub is at a hospital or if they're one of the 20-some people that the police chief said, sadly, have passed away and are still in that nightclub at this hour?
FUENTES: Well, our hearts definitely go out to those family members because it could be a very long day and even overnight before they find out definitively where their loved one's at, and I think all they can really do for now is make sure the police know how to get a hold of them immediately. Make sure that their contact information is available, that they've checked with the hospitals, and with the police, and can be notified as soon as possibly can be done.
PAUL: One of the headlines that came from this press conference that was supposed to start by 4:30 this morning, but because of the situation and the way things were breaking down, it didn't happen until half an hour ago, the authorities there have characterized this as an act of terrorism. They do not know if it's domestic or international, if there's something more involved here but they have clarified it as an act of terrorism.
Tom, we know that state, local and federal authorities are working together, but when you add that moniker to it, when you title it as such, an act of terrorism, how does that drive what happens next?
FUENTES: Well, it just means as the chief of police himself mentioned that the FBI will run the case and everyone will fully cooperate, but the FBI will ensure that all leads are covered, including not just in the area of Orlando and what happened at that club, but additionally as they identify who the shooter may know, friends, relatives, colleagues, you know, and track them down, but the leads in this case could end up being national and/or international.
We don't know if the shooter had a military background and may have been in different parts of the world at times, maybe from another country. We just don't know anything about the shooter yet. We only know that it's not a local Orlando resident.
So, you know, that will drive a lot of this investigation of how much has to be done on a nationwide basis or an international basis, in addition to doing the crime scene work and all of the forensic work that needs to be done in Orlando right now.
PAUL: Tom, we know the police said this suspect is not from this area, that this was organized, this was well-prepared. This may be an unorthodox question, but do we know -- and again we know it's an act of terrorism, we do not know any affiliation of this person -- but do we know of, is there a gauge of terror cells in Florida? And how confident are you in the intelligence knowledge of terror cells here in the U.S. and in this area specifically?
FUENTES: Well, we know there are hate groups.
On the domestic side, white supremacist groups, other hate groups who might be anti-gay or anti-other minorities in almost every major state of the union. So, they're everywhere, and the FBI works closely with the local police intelligence agencies, intelligence units to try to keep a handle on how many of them there are and who may be involved in them. We just saw that with the Dylann Roof shooting in Charleston, what his affiliations turned out to be in terms of white hate.
[07:55:05] But also, we don't know yet if the individual might have been inspired or radicalized through other websites from international terrorist groups. So, that will all be part of the investigation.
But unfortunately, terrorist cells groups are everywhere. We have international terrorist cells. We have ISIS. FBI conducting ISIS investigations in every state in the United States, all 50 states.
But then also, domestic terrorism investigations, and probably about 30 or 35 states involving these kind of supremacist hate groups that are of a domestic or local United States origin.
So, there's no shortage of these type of groups and ideologies out there. We don't know which one, if any, this particular shooter, you know, aspired to. But that's going to be a huge part of the investigation is trying to determine who might have inspired this person to do this.
PAUL: All right. Tom Fuentes and Cedric Alexander, our local law enforcement analysts who are sticking with us throughout the morning as we cover this breaking news, and the situation that is still unfolding there on the streets of Orlando.
At least 20 people dead inside that nightclub still at this hour, almost six hours after the shooting started at 2:00 a.m. this morning. The investigation continues. People still at hospitals.
We'll be back in just a moment. Do stay close.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
PAUL: As the sun comes up on the streets of Orlando, Florida, we are watching a situation unfold, one of what could be one of the biggest mass shootings in American history.