Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
50 Dead, 53 Wounded in Worst Mass Shooting - Continuing Coverage. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired June 12, 2016 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We're staying on top of so many fast-moving developments on this truly horrific day.
The developments in Florida. Also disturbing developments in California. We're following leads overseas on a possible connection to terrorist groups, possibly ISIS. Right now, let me bring our viewers in the United States and around the world up to speed. This is what we know right now.
At least 50 people are dead in Orlando, Florida, shot to death when a heavily armed gunman walked into a gay nightclub in Orlando and started shooting and killing. President Obama just a little while ago called this mass murder an act of terror and an act of hate.
The shooter, a 29-year-old Florida resident, born in New York, whose parents came from Afghanistan. That gunman is dead. Orlando S.W.A.T. officers stormed the building, killed the shooter and freed several hostages he was holding then. Right now, the city of Orlando, indeed all of Florida, Orange County, they are under a state of emergency.
Law enforcement agencies at every level there are working to try to nail down definitively whether the gunman was working alone, whether there was immediate danger, whether that danger is over. Also, the bigger picture, what or who inspired this individual of Afghan descent to take so many innocent lives so violently.
CNN's Brian Todd is here with me in Washington. Brian, for our viewers haven't followed it, update us on what we know right now.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of moving parts on this, Wolf, trying to figure out who this man was and what his motivation was right now. The FBI assistant special agent in charge Ronald Hopper gave an update a short time ago to reporters about this suspect, Omar Mateen.
Hopper said there were two law enforcement investigations into Mateen and he was interviewed twice by law enforcement officials. One of those interviews in 2014 came about because he, according to Ronald Hopper, made contact with someone named Moner Abusala (ph).
Now, our terrorism analyst, Peter Bergen, says that Moner Abusala (ph) was a young man from Florida who traveled from Florida to Syria, received training, traveled back to the United States and went back to Syria and staged a suicide bombing against Syrian forces, killing more than 30 people.
The FBI assistant special agent in charge Ronald Hopper saying that this suspect in the Orlando shooting Mateen made contact with Moner Abusala (ph). But the interviews with Mateen, according to Ronald Hopper, were inconclusive. That attack that we're talking about, that suicide attack, by Moner Abusala (ph) that occurred in May of 2014.
Again, you know, this - something we need to point out about Moner Abusala (ph), this man who the FBI says this Orlando suspect had contact with. Moner Abusala (ph) had affiliations with Al Qaeda and not ISIS. Peter Bergen, our terrorism analyst makes that very clear. He did that one suicide attack on behalf of an Al Qaeda-affiliated group and not ISIS.
So according to U.S. and law enforcement officials, Mateen called 911 more than 20 minutes into the attack and pledged allegiance to ISIS. That's what we know so far, Wolf, about a possible motivation.
BLITZER: And this individual, he bought these weapons within the past two weeks, an assault rifle and a handgun?
TODD: He bought at least two weapons within the past couple of weeks, Wolf. One of them was a handgun, the assault rifle he had on him AR- 15 type assault rifle, not quite clear how he might have obtained that weapon yet. We're trying to find out.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, when you get more information, you let us know.
Joining us now from Orlando is the Florida governor, Rick Scott. Governor, thank you so much for joining us. Our deepest condolences to you, to everyone in Florida right now on this worst mass shooting in American history. What can you tell us about the victims? Have all the families already been notified?
GOV. RICK SCOTT, FLORIDA: Wolf, they're working to identify all the individuals and working through getting to their next of kin. It's going to take a period of time. There's a great coordinated effort here down here with local law enforcement, federal, and state. This is sad. It's disgusting. It's clearly an act of terror. You can't imagine it happening anywhere in our country.
I, of course, never wanted it to happen in my state. I can tell you, we're going to work hard. I hope no one's ever thinking about doing this because our justice is swift here and we have severe penalties. I've asked for a moment of silence at 6:00 p.m. tonight nationwide. As soon as I think about this, I think about having daughters and having grandkids. You don't ever want to have a call like this that you lost a loved one. My heart goes out to everybody involved.
BLITZER: It's a horrendous, horrendous situation. The last casualty count, we had 50 dead, 53 injured. Has that changed?
SCOTT: No. And FBI's taking the lead on putting information out like that. There's a lot of details that over time will be coming out. They're working to identify the victims. They're working to get to the next of kin. But they're also trying to make sure they understand the crime scene. They're doing all these things together with local law enforcement. Everybody's cooperating really well.
I just want to thank all the law enforcement that went into that building knowing there was an active shooter there without perfect information to save all those lives which they did this morning. It's heroic what they did. I'm very thankful for law enforcement what they've done.
BLITZER: I know you're being briefed. I know there's restrictions on what you can say. Can you give us an indication, was this an ISIS- inspired attack or an ISIS directed coordinated, organized attack?
SCOTT: Wolf, the FBI will be releasing that information. I know there's more details that will be coming out over time. The - you know, the - whatever it is, it's devastating to our city, Orlando, our state, and this country. And I - the FBI is taking a lead on putting - releasing information at the appropriate time.
BLITZER: I know there's been a state of emergency in Orlando, in Orange County over there. I assume it's still ongoing. Give us an update on the search if there's a search for other suspects or if this was just one individual who was involved?
SCOTT: So I declared a state of emergency for Orange County, which is where Orlando is, just to make sure we coordinate all of our efforts from around the state. At the state level, it's headed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. But the FBI does not believe there is a second shooter. That's what they said. So there's no indication that they have at this time that there's a second shooter.
BLITZER: What can you tell us about the weapons that were specifically used because it's alarming that this individual, even though he was on the FBI's radar, within the past couple of weeks, could go out and buy these things of weapons?
SCOTT: Sure. What the FBI said he had a handgun and a long gun. And so these - again, all this information will be coming out by the FBI as they are - they want to be very clear that they give out accurate information. They'll be putting out that information.
I think, you know, this is the time to mourn for those that have lost their life. We're going to, of course, after anything like this happens, we always want to look back and say, how do we make our society better. Florida is an inclusive state. We love people in our state. We're a state that people move from all over the world, we live that. We have 200 languages spoken in our state and we don't want this ever to happen in anybody in our state again.
BLITZER: So what are the immediate steps, governor, that you're going to be putting in place to make sure it doesn't happen again? I know that, just on my own conversations, there's enormous fear of copy cats out there.
SCOTT: First thing I want to let everybody know that is thinking about doing something like that, we have great law enforcement in our state. We will clearly - we will clearly find you, hunt you down if you try to do anything. We have - we believe in severe penalties for anybody that does anything like this.
But what I tell people from all over our state, if you see something, you got to say something. If you do, we're going to look into it. And we're going to make sure that we do everything we can to take care of everybody in our state. It really starts with you, the citizens, you got to tell us when you see something.
BLITZER: Once again, our deepest condolences, Governor Rick Scott of Florida. Thank you so much for joining us. We'll stay in close touch with you. Good luck to you. Good luck to all the Floridians, our hearts go out to you right now during this really horrendous moment. Thanks for joining us.
SCOTT: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: We know the American-born shooter called 911 to pledge his allegiance to ISIS. But was he a lone wolf as they say or did he have any specific direct contact with ISIS or any other terror group. Let's bring in our panellist, security and counter terrorism experts, joining us, our national security analyst, Juliette Kayyem, our CNN law enforcement analyst Cedric Alexander, our CNN terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank.
Paul, talk a little bit about the ISIS role right now in this investigation. Update our viewers on what we know. We know there was one statement alleging that ISIS was directly involved.
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: That's right, Wolf. This is an ISIS-affiliated news agency, the (INAUDIBLE) news agency in Syria and Iraq saying that the shooter was an ISIS fighter. But they didn't go so far as to expliicitly say that ISIS directed this attack.
Indeed, there is no evidence that we know of whatsoever at this point that this shooter had direct ties to ISIS. No evidence that he travelled to Syria and Iraq and was trained by ISIS. So they'll be looking at whether he might have been inspired by the message of ISIS.
This is somebody from everything we're hearing that had some radical views for at least three years, the FBI started investigating him in 2013, Wolf.
BLITZER: Juliette, we did get a statement in from the Massachusetts State Police. Let me read a little bit of this statement for you. You're up in Boston. You follow this closely. During a conference call with federal law enforcement officials just a short while ago, Massachusetts State Police and other local law enforcement authorities learned that the Orlando nightclub gunman during his rampage pledged allegiance to ISIS and referenced the Tsarnaev brothers, the terrorists who exploded bombs at the 2013 Boston marathon.
In light of that information, the Commonwealth Fusion Center continues to share information and intelligence with federal authorities investigating the Orlando terrorist act as well as with police assigned to the Boston regional intelligence center. What does it say to you that this individual, this terrorist, Omar Saddiqui Mateen, made reference to the 2013 Boston marathon attack in that 911 call he made from that gay nightclub?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Wolf, it tells me a number of things. First of all, he clearly wanted to be known, his identity is not a mystery. He had no exit strategy, nor did he intend on surviving the incident. By invoking the Boston marathon bombers, he's showing allegiance or at least identity to U.S. born or U.S. citizens who are radicalized and then attack a soft target, which is very similar to what we experienced up here at the Boston marathon.
Now what you heard from the Massachusetts State Police and what your viewers need to understand is that what's happening now is scores of phone calls of situational awareness reports, of trying to put the pieces together to see whether there was any try connection between what happened in Orlando and Boston, but also whether the Orlando attack has any ties to anyone still in the United States or abroad. So that's where the investigation is going to go right now.
BLITZER: And Cedric, you spent here your whole professional career working in law enforcement. This is the worst nightmare scenario, a soft target, an individual going in with high-powered weapons and just starting to kill people. How do you prevent anything like that?
CEDRIC ALEXANDER, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, first of all, let me say this, my heart and prayers goes out to the family of all the victims. Law enforcement did an incredible job there today. You know, oftentimes, particularly when you have soft targets, Wolf, we can only do so much. But what was important here, the response of local law enforcement, they were able to contain that scene, they were able to save people, they were able to identify a target, go after that target, neutralize that target. And they saved as many as 30 or 40 lives earlier this morning.
So I think it's important for us to remain diligent, particularly at this very moment, but at the same time too, it becomes very important for us to make sure we exercise our freedoms because that's what makes us a great nation. But that was great work done by local law enforcement and along with the community as well, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Everyone stand by. We're going to have much more on this coming up. Our Pamela Brown is on the scene for us in Orlando. Pamela, this is a horrendous, horrendous day in American history.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is. You can see the crowds here behind me. The nightclub, just about a half mile down. We know, Wolf, that our coverage of this mass shooting in Orlando will continue right after this break. There were cries for help. One man trapped in the nightclub text his mother while the shooter was heading his way, and people are lining up to help the victims who need blood. The Red Cross joins us live, up next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFED MALE: I just know that when I hit the ground, I was crawling. I hit my elbows and my knees. When I got across the street, there were people that had blood everywhere.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Let's get the very latest on the conditions of the wounded. Joining me now on the phone, Dr. Michael Cheatham. He is the chief surgeon at the Orlando Health Regional Medical Center where most of the wounded were taken. Doctor, thank you for coming on. First off, what kinds of injuries are you seeing?
DR. MICHAEL CHEATHAM, ORLANDO HEALTH REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, CHIEF SURGEON: We're seeing a number of injuries consistent with high velocity weapons such as the assault rifle that was apparently used. Many gunshot wounds to the chest, the abdomen and the extremities.
BROWN: Just curious, doctor, in all of your years and experience, have you ever seen anything like this?
CHEATHAM: Well, as a level one trauma center here in central Florida, we see a number of gunshot wounds on a regular basis, but certainly nothing to this magnitude. This was quite an escalation compared to what we normally see.
BROWN: And how would you describe it, doctor, from what you've experienced over the last several hours? Sort of set the stage for us.
CHEATHAM: Well, we had a total of 44 victims who were brought to us. That started soon after the first shots were fired. Our hospital is only a matter of blocks, just a few blocks up a main thoroughfare from the club. We immediately instituted our mass casualty plan and started bringing in our trauma surgeons. We brought six trauma surgeons in to take care of these 44 victims, nine fatalities, many of which, unfortunately, had expired when they got to us. We've done a total of 26 operations so far today on the victims.
BROWN: And doctor, that is so many people, so many wounded. How do you prepare for something like that? Obviously I know you do drills. You expect for the worst. But this high magnitude of people, how do you prepare for that?
CHEATHAM: Well, you're correct. We do a number of drills, as do most trauma centers around the country. But you can never fully prepare for just the devastation of such an event. But our trauma team is prepared for such an event and we basically opened our mass casualty instant plan at its highest designed level to accommodate the large number of victims. BROWN: I know people watching this right now want to be able to help
in some way, help those victims. Is there anything they can do? Go to a blood drive? What would you suggest to those people who want to help out?
CHEATHAM: Certainly giving blood is a tremendous gift. It saves lives. The best way to do that is to identify your local blood bank, contact
them, I know here in central Florida, the blood banks have started a number of blood drives around the city which is a tremendous help. The minute we knew we had these victims coming in, our local blood bank immediately brought us 100 units of blood, which for some victims, they might use all 100 units. So blood is a tremendous gift.
BROWN: Wow. Did you run out of blood at any point? I'm just curious.
CHEATHAM: No, we didn't. Our blood bank is used to the large volume of patients we take care of. And they kept us very well supplied.
BROWN: Anything you would like to add? Anything else, Dr. Cheatham?
CHEATHAM: No, I think this raises a number of concerns for our country as many have alluded to today, just the violence that does occur. I think the most important thing for your viewers is to keep the families and the victims in their prayers. This has just been a devastating day for them.
BROWN: Not only here in Orlando, but just really across the country, everyone is grieving, mourning these losses. Thank you so much, Dr. Michael Cheatham, we do appreciate you coming on.
CHEATHAM: Thank you very much.
BROWN: In the hours after the shooting - thank you. In the hours after the shooting, hospitals put out this desperate call for blood donations as we were just talking about. We go to break with this image.
People answering that call. Blood donors lining up in Florida. Our coverage continues in just a moment.
BROWN: I'm here in Orlando, Florida, right near the nightclub where a gunman walked in, opened fire killing 52 people. That is the latest count. We've learned that at the time there were more than 300 people inside Pulse nightclub.
In fact, this was one of the most popular nights, Saturday nights are Latina night at the club, the most popular of the week. That gunman as we know, opened fire. Many still recovering in the hospital. We are for the first time learning the names of some of those victims. Four of the victims killed in the nightclub shooting, according to police, they have been identified as Edward Sotomayor Jr., Stanley Almodovar III and Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo and Juan Ramon Guerrero. Those are just four of the names of those killed here in this horrific mass shooting, the deadliest in U.S. history.
People of Orlando are literally lining up to help as much as they can, at blood donation centers across the city. CNN's Nick Valencia joins us now from a center where the line to donate stretch all the way around the block. Nick?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pamela, it's hard to say that anything good can come from a tragedy of this magnitude, of this scope. We have certainly seen just how good people can be here in this community of Orlando. More than 1,500 people have shown up to this location, one of 10 locations for blood donations throughout the city.
You mentioned 52 people killed in this just senseless act of violence. We've been speaking to people in line. And they've come for a variety of reasons. Some actually knew some of the victims. Some were actually there at the nightclub. I want to introduce you to one of those people who was there last night.
Andy, I know that this is a really difficult time for you. Just take your time in talking to us. At what point did you realize things were not good?
ANDY MOSS, FRIEND OF SHOOTING VICTIM: I got there like 12:15, 12:30. I wasn't there very long. But, you know, at first, at first it sounded like it's part of the show. (INAUDIBLE) going on, people are having a good time. But once people started screaming and shots just keep ringing out, you know that it's not a show anymore and you got to do what you got to do.
SANCHEZ: You were one of over 300 people there. A lot of people weren't as fortunate to get out. How were you able to get out? How did that happen?
MOSS: I was by the door. I was with my friend, Chris. We were by the door and we both heard the shots. We both looked at each other like what the hell is going on. Once people started screaming, my first instinct was to run and just get out. I knew that it wasn't a game anymore and people weren't joking around. Like something was going on. So my first instinct was to just run.
VALENCIA: You were able to get out of there, but you said your friend, Chris Summers, is that right? You were there with your friend, Chris Summers and you don't know, you still don't know where he's at right now. Can you tell us about him?
MOSS: He's a good guy. He's one of my really good friends. I don't know where he is. I don't know what his status is. He's not answering his phone. I can't go to the hospital. I can't - so I'm just trying to figure out if he's OK. Because right now he's my main priority. Because I'm fine.
VALENCIA: If you can talk to him, if he's watching this, maybe he's in the hospital right now, if you could talk to him, what would you tell him?
MOSS: That you're the best friend - you're my best friend and nothing's going to stop that. There's no bullet that could ever break a friendship that you have with somebody. And that he will forever be my best friend.
VALENCIA: Has it hit you yet, Andy? Has it hit you what you've been through, what
[16:30:00] you, what you saw in there last night?
ANDY MOSS, FRIEND OF SHOOTING VICTIM: I don't know. I still think that I'm going to like wake up and everything is going to be normal, but it's not. This is what happened. I -- there is no going back. You can't change the fact of what this guy did.
And it's always said that God gives his hardest battles to his strongest people, but he gave his strongest community the hardest held battle and we're standing up and we're fighting. That's all we can do. All we can do is fight.
VALENCIA: You showed up here and you're being supported by people you just met. You look behind you here, you have hundreds of people lined up to help those that went through what they went through last night. That's got to feel uplifting in some sense.
MOSS: It's really nice to know that 1,500 people are showing up and there's -- they're not taking any more people for blood because they have that many. And that many people are willing to help people they don't know.
And it's -- it's good to know that even though people are so low in life that they have to go and shoot a group of innocent people that there's people still willing to help and hold up those that didn't get the chance to make it through.
VALENCIA: And of course you want to hear from your friend. Is there anything for those watching at home, the millions that are watching this that want to help, is there anything that you want to tell them, anything that you want to tell the world right now, anything that you need to get through this?
MOSS: Keep praying. I'm not a very religious person whatever. Whatever religion you are, no matter what you believe, just send it whatever our way. We all need it. We all need something. We all need that hope. Just keep praying for us. We all need it.
VALENCIA: Have you been able to go to bed? Have you gotten any rest last night from what's happened? What have you been doing in the hours since the shooting? MOSS: Sleep is optional. I haven't eaten, I haven't slept. I haven't
really done anything but try and find my friend. I've been continually calling.
VALENCIA: Tell us your friend's name again, just in case someone out here knows him. Describe him a little bit maybe.
MOSS: He's 23. He has brown hair. He has blue eyes. His name is Chris.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does he have any tattoos or scars, with marks?
MOSS: He's -- no. He's pretty normal-looking guy. I mean...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How tall is he? Is he taller than you?
MOSS: I think 5'9".
VALENCIA: We'll do the best we can to help get that message out. We know you're not alone and I'm very sorry for what you're going through.
MOSS: Thank you.
VALENCIA: It's an emotional time out here, Pamela, for so many people beginning to understand the scope of what they've gone through here and the reality of what has set in. We can talk about this being the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
You know, we could say all these things but you just heard a story of somebody who actually went through this who's been impacted by this and now missing one of the closest people in his life and he's not alone. So, we wish all the best for Andy and for the friends in this community. We'll throw it back to you, Pamela.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: An extraordinarily emotional interview there, Nick Valencia, thank you so much. That really encapsulates the emotion that people are feeling not just hear in Orlando, but really across the country. This community right here where I am in Orlando is grieving as we have learned 50 people were killed at Pulse nightclub, many other wounded in the hospital.
Our continuing coverage will continue right after this break.
[16:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN BREAKING NEWS HOST: Hello and welcome to CNN's breaking news coverage of what is now the deadliest shooting in U.S. history.
We're watching what's going on in Orlando, Florida, where 50 people are dead, 53 others injured after a man opened fire inside an LGBT nightclub.
Here's what we know right now. The shooting started around 2 a.m. Eastern. Witnesses described the chaotic scene, the shooter identified as Omar Mateen, called 911 to pledge allegiance to ISIS during the course that shooting about 20 minutes into the rampage.
On that call, he also mentioned the Boston marathon bombers. Officials say Mateen was known to the FBI for possibly having ties to being a sympathizer to Islamic extremism, but there were no signs he was actually plotting some direct attack.
Mateen died in a standoff with a SWAT team of officers. His body and weapons are still inside the nightclub along with the bodies of his victims, some of them yet have to be identified. Agents are working to clear the scene right now.
They've also staged -- they've also staged at the apartment where Mateen lived, as well as his parents' house, both nearly two hours away from the site of the attack.
CNN's covering all angles of this developing and very, very disturbing story.
Janet McGuire is the regional communications manager for the American Red Cross in Orlando. Janet, thanks very much for joining us at this very difficult time. What do you need most?
JANET MCGUIRE, AMERICAN RED CROSS COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER: Right now, we need all of the prayers to go for the City of Orlando and anyone that's affected by this horrible tragedy. The entire Red Cross family is thinking of us tonight, and we're very sad that this has happened in our community.
BLITZER: Do you have enough blood for all the victims, the survivors that are in hospitals right now?
MCGUIRE: The Red Cross does not usually provide blood services here in Florida to the hospitals. However, we have been providing some blood products to that they can restock those shelves that have been used.
We are very much in tune with the city here. We have our Red Cross volunteers here serving the community and the first responders that are investigating this crime. Giving them food and water.
[16:40:01] BLITZER: So the most important thing the Red Cross is doing now is what?
MCGUIRE: Right now, we're supporting the community. We do -- we are very closely working with our community partners and of the city itself and the emergency management to find out exactly what they need from us.
At this point, we have just provided canteen services for food and water into the area where they're investigating the crime and we're working very closely with them to determine what other needs so that we can help with.
BLITZER: Janet McGuire, the regional communications manager for the American Red Cross in Orlando, thank you so much for joining us.
MCGUIRE: Thank you.
BLITZER: While calling the Orlando shootings an act of terror and an act of hate, President Obama has ordered federal agencies to provide any assistance they can to local law enforcement.
With me now, our CNN national security analyst, Peter Bergen, and former Dallas police Officer John Matthews. John is the author of the book "Mass Shootings: Six Steps to Survival." John, this is the worst mass shooting in American history. How do you prevent this kind of attack?
JOHN MATTHEWS, FORMER DALLAS POLICE OFFICER: It is. This is the most fatalities we've had in any mass shooting and the second most injuries we've had. I think you've got to be vigilant, especially with these soft targets. These shooters know that there's -- in areas like nightclubs, you've got a small area, a lot of people, it's poorly lit.
Many of the witnesses told us they thought it was part of the show. And when the shooting starts, it's just very difficult for people to get out. But you did hear the people that got out, Wolf, found an exit, found a place to hide, got low and they were able to survive it. So, there is some light there.
BLITZER: Peter Bergen, this is the worst fear that the terror, the counterterror authorities here in the United States have. An individual, a lone individual well-armed going after a soft target.
PETER BERGEN, CNN'S NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, because with no connection, there's no formal connections to a terrorist organization overseas, there's no e-mails to intercept, there's no phone calls to intercept. There's also no co-conspirators that you're meeting with that the FBI can monitor.
And, you know, the FBI is investigating -- there has 900 investigations ongoing in all 50 states. So, I think the FBI is doing, is being pretty aggressive. But as we saw in San Bernardino in December, sometimes people fly beneath the radar and end up killing 14 people.
And as we saw again here, this guy was known to the FBI, but he ended up killing at least 50 people.
BLITZER: John, what is the first thing, as a local law enforcement official, you want the feds, the federal government, the FBI in this particular case, the ATF, other federal authorities to come in and do to help you deal with this horrendous, horrendous situation?
MATTHEWS: Well, one of the things you want them to help you is the imminent threat. Is there another threat out there? Is he part of a larger plot, a larger organization, especially if that threat involves your city? You know, this may not be an isolated incident.
And unfortunately, the last two mass shootings that we've seen have been both terrorist incidents. So, you look to the feds to be the broad picture, the macro picture as you focus on the micro picture. Looking at the crime scene, looking at the suspect, the victims, collecting the evidence.
There's a ton of things that have to be done right there are the crime scene. So, you need ATF, FBI and everybody that you can to provide you the information and the resources that are outside of your scope.
You want as good of a picture as you can of this suspect, of his activities, and of his connections as quickly as possible because we want to prevent future attacks. We don't want to see another tragedy like what happened last night.
BLITZER: All right. John Matthews, Peter Bergen, guys, stand by. We're going to obviously stand up on the breaking. We're getting new information.
I want to go back to Pamela Brown in Orlando. She's on the scene for us. Pamela, this is a story that clearly has shaken the community where you are right now.
BROWN: Absolutely. This is certainly a grieving community. They're in shock to think that the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history happened here just a half a mile down from where I am. And law enforcement is on edge right now interviewing the shooter's family, his ex-wife and learning more about what could be a motive.
We're going to talk about that coming up after the break. But as we know, Wolf, more than 50 lives cut short. Right now, this community is still trying to grasp what exactly happened. After the break, we'll hear from some witnesses as well. We'll be back.
[16:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The deejay was playing a typical set that incorporated what we thought was gunshots as part of the music. Four shots, pop, pop, pop, pop. No one put two and two together until the fifth and sixth, between 10 and 20, that's when everything started really getting real.
We ran out, we jetted. And tried to just saving ourselves and saving as many people as we could just to get out of there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got a text message from my daughter and my two nieces, please, come and get us, please, come and get us now, they're shooting, they're shooting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you had to count, how many shots do you think there were?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, more than 20 or 30. It was just one after another after another after, after everybody was out, people looking at the shootings were still going and the cops are yelling, "go, go clear the area, clear the area.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My son hasn't been heard from. I don't know if he was left in the club, if he got shot or if he's being worked on here. They won't let us know. They're not letting us know any names of anybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: You just hear the emotion in their voices; those are just a few of the counts, of some of the witnesses and relatives of people at the nightclub right behind me here, the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. This all happened overnight.
A former Dallas police officer and author John Matthews rejoins us now to learn more. First off, John, how important is eyewitness testimony for investigators right now?
[16:49:58] MATTHEWS: I think it's extremely important to find out as much information as you possibly can. And these witness statements are extremely important to tell us about what the shooter did when he first got there, what the reactions were and kind of setting the scene for us.
So, the information that we're getting right now is crucial. It's going to help us in the larger investigation as we move forward.
BROWN: It's just so chaotic for these people, for 300 plus people that were in that night club. (AUDIO GAP) liable is eye witness testimony in a situation like this like a mass shooting.
MATTHEWS: Well, it's not just valuable for the crime scene, but it's valuable for the historical. They're telling us what they did to survive, and that's exactly what we need to that we can pass it on to other people, whether they are in a movie theater or in a night club.
What did they do? What actions did they take? And we heard from the bartenders that said, we found the closet, we hid in there with 10 people. We heard from other witnesses that said, we found personnel doors and went down alleys.
Other individuals that laid down the floor among their friends and everything. These survival tactics and learning them are extremely important, because that we, law enforcement can pass them on to other citizens and to you, and to me, and to tell our families that if we're out in public. If we're at an event and a tragedy like this takes place, here are the two, three, four things that we can do to help us survive this event.
BROWN: Because people are watching this unfold, and grieving for the loss of these victims, grieving for their families, but also wondering to themselves, what can I do to protect myself if I am in a so-called soft target and a gunman walks in. What advice do you have for people to keep safe in situations like that?
MATTHEWS: The best thing that you can do is exit as quickly and safely as possible. And you have to be aware of your situation and where the exits are. And we have many witnesses say that, I glance where I saw an exit, and it may not be the main exit, it may be a supply door, it may be a kitchen door, but they got away from the gunman as quickly as possible.
The second thing is to find cover. Something that's going to stop bullets. We heard other witnesses says, I dove behind a bar, I dove behind a table that the bullets deflected off. If you can't find covers find concealment. Get behind a curtain or a cloth, get behind anything that you find in a night club, a deejay stand, anything that will keep you out of that shooter's sight and away from the bullets.
And you want to present a small target, you want to get as small as possible but the best tactic in this situation is to get out as quickly as possible, and to keep running from the scene, don't go back.
Your instinct is to help others to save other people, but that just puts you in jeopardy. The shootings go on for three, five, seven minutes, and as we saw last night, the body count can be horrific.
BROWN: As we heard one witness say, the scene like it went on for the length of the song. John Matthews, thank you for coming on and sharing your perspective.
Let me toss it back now to my colleague, Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Pamela, thanks very much. Lots of grief, lots of shock. When we come back, we'll hear what the President of the United States had to say.
[16:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: President Obama has ordered white flags -- White House flags to fly at half-staff. Earlier this afternoon, he addressed the nation. He said in no one certain terms, this shooting was an act of terror and an act of hate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PRESIDENT: Today as Americans, we grieve the brutal murder, horrific massacre of dozens of innocent people. We pray for their families who are grasping for answers with broken hearts. We stand with the people of Orlando, who have endured a terrible attack on their city.
Although it's still early in the investigation, we know enough to say that this was an act of terror, and an act of hate. As Americans, we are united in grief, an outrage, and in resolve to defend our people.
I just finished the meeting with the FBI director Comey, and my Homeland Security and national security advisors, the FBI is on the scene and leading the investigation in partnership with local law enforcement. I've directed that the full resources of the federal government be available for this investigation.
We are still learning all the facts, this is an open investigation. We've reached no definitive judgment on the precise motivations of the killer. The FBI is appropriately investigating this as an act of terrorism.
And I've directed that we must paranoia -- for to determine what if any inspiration or association this killer may have had with terrorist groups. What is clear is that he was a person filled with hatred.
Over the coming days, we will uncover why and how this happened, and we will go wherever the facts lead us.
This morning, I spoke with my good friend Orlando Mayor, Buddy Dyer. And I conveyed to him the deepest condolences of the American people. This could have been anyone of our communities. So, I told mayor Dyer that whatever help he and the people of Orlando need, they're going to get it.
As a country, we will be there for the people of Orlando today, tomorrow and for all the days to come. We also express our profound gratitude to all the police and first responders who rushed into harm's way. Their courage and professionalism saved lives and kept the carnage from being even worse.
That's the kind of sacrifice that our law enforcement and professionals make every single day for all of us and we can never thank them enough.
This is an especially heartbreaking day for all of our friends, our fellow American who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transsexual. The shooter targeted a night club where people came together to be with friends to dance and to sing and to live.
The place where they were attacked is more than a night club, this was a place of solidarity and empowerment, where people that have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds and to advocate for their civil rights.
So, this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American, regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion, or sexual orientation is an attack on all of us. And on the fundamental values of the quality and dignity that define us as a country.
[17:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Hello, welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
BROWN: I'm Pamela Brown, coming to you live from Orlando. Thank you so much for joining us on this breaking news story.