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50 Dead, 53 Wounded in Worst Mass Shooting in U.S. History; Orlando Terror Attack; Possible Attack Thwarted at L.A. Pride Parade. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 12, 2016 - 18:00   ET


[18:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Our coverage continues right now with the community in Orlando remembering what happened overnight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we know that the stakes are very high in our country right now. The kind of violence and rhetoric that we've had that has degraded in our country is the very soil in which this kind of violence happens. Violence against Muslims or violence against Jews or violence against people of color, violence against transgender member of our community, violence for people just dancing for pride.

It is time for us once again in our community to stand with each other as we are tonight, because in the next several hours and days and weeks, this community will learn the names of all 59 people thus far who have died and of the others, over 100 people in total, who are injured and wounded. And as they come to know that, the grief will grow and deepen.

So we need to be here not just tonight but tomorrow and the day after and the day after. And we will be. And love will win. Thank you.


BLITZER: The community in grief in Orlando right now.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And I'm Pamela Brown coming to you live from Orlando. Thank you so much for joining us on the breaking news story, the worst mass shooting in American history.

BLITZER: It's awful, Pamela. We'll get back to you in a moment.

A nightclub in Orlando still an active crime scene just hours after a horrific and terrifying predawn massacre. As we have been reporting, 50 people, at least 50 people are dead. More than 50 people wounded. All shot by a gunman who opened fire on the crowd there.

Here are the latest developments. Dozens of people are still in the hospital in Orlando. Most of them needing emergency surgery. The hospital released the names of a few of those victims. I'll have those names in just a moment. President Obama calling the shooting "an act of terror and an act of hate". He also ordered American flags across the United States lowered to half-staff to honor the victims.

The gunman, there is a name: Omar Mir Saddiqui Mateen, 29 years old, born in New York. His parents from Afghanistan. Police shot him dead inside the nightclub and now the FBI is learning all they can about his background and possible connections to any groups overseas.

And meanwhile, all this happening on the West Coast, there are also disturbing developments. Police there arrested a man with guns and explosives in his car. They are trying to figure out if he intended to target the weekend's gay pride parade in the Los Angeles area.

Back in Orlando, we're getting heartbreaking accounts from survivors of the horrific massacre there.

Nick Valencia spoke just moments ago to a young man inside the nightclub when the shots rang out. Listen to this.


ANDY MOSS, FRIEND OF SHOOTING VICTIM: I got, like, there at 12:15, 12:30, and I wasn't there very long. But -- you know, at first it sounded like it was part of the show because there was an event going on, we were all having a good time, but once people start 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.



Nick Valencia is joining us now from the Orlando regional medical center where families are anxiously waiting to hear about their loved ones.

Nick, that young man still looking for his best friend. Update us.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That man, Andy Moss, is still looking for his best friend. We are outside here, Wolf, effectively this is the staging area for friends and family waiting to hear word whether or not those loved ones that are missing survived this mass shooting that happened about 2:00 a.m. in the overnight hours. It was just about 15, 20 minutes ago that many family members here, they received the terrible news that their loved ones that perished in this massacre.

We are joined by one of those people. I want to walk over here, Ernesto, your buddy Peter is now listed among the dead. You just got news a little while ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I came here to donate blood hoping nothing happened to him. And I just received the news from my girlfriend that, you know, my friend and her cousin just passed away in this terror attack. And -- that's it. VALENCIA: I understand. Thanks, Ernesto.

[18:05:00] It is clearly a raw scene out here. A lot of emotion. We heard a lot of tears, we heard a lot of screams out here from family members holding out hope for all these hours.

This was perhaps one of the most emotional scenes that I have ever been a part of just watching these family members who had just been so hopeful that perhaps their family member had survived and had not gotten in touch with them. We saw three doctors walk over here across the street from the Orlando Health Medical Center to deliver the news. They did not take questions but just moments after they left, that's when we heard the wails and screams, those cries, people just -- a horrific sound when you find out that your loved one has been killed. There's just really no words, Wolf.

A lot of these family members here still have not received word whether or not their loved one is alive or dead. Some people expressing some frustration saying city officials won't notify them until tomorrow whether or not their friends and family are officially among those that were killed by this terrorist. But here, some still holding out hope. Some just now starting the grieving process -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Why won't they share the information immediately if they know, in fact, if they have identified a victim as having passed as dead, why won't they share that with a family member?

VALENCIA: That's a fantastic question. That speaks to the frustration of some of these family members. We had one individual come out here crying, pleading, calling out city officials by name, saying that he's being not given information that he needs, information that he wants to know about whether his loved one is dead or alive.

It's unclear to us and it would only be speculation at this point as to why they are withholding the napes from some of the family members, perhaps just to be abundantly clear and 100 percent certain that it is who it is. But there are some people here, that we can report are frustrated with the process of having to wait so long to find out this terrible news -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's terrible. Our hearts go out to all those people as they so anxiously await word.

Nick, standby, we'll get back to you.

We are also learning some of the names of the shooting victims. It's so heartbreaking. Authorities are beginning to release names after they make proper notifications. So far, they have actually released the names of six men who were killed. And they are Edward Sotomayor Jr., Stanley Almodovar III, Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, Juan Ramon Guerrero, Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, Peter Gonzalez-Cruz. Our deepest, deepest condolences and their loved ones.

Pamela Brown is on the scene for us in Florida. Pamela, update us on the investigation. What are officials there telling you about the shooter, his background, possible motivations?

BROWN: We can tell you, we're just now learning, Wolf, that the law enforcement here in Orlando is really asking people to hold off, on holding vigils in honor of the victims of those nightclub because the law enforcement resources are maxed out here.

Right now, the FBI is coordinating with local officials trying to trace anything they can about this gunman, Omar Mateen, 29 years old, born in New York. His parents are from Afghanistan.

FBI investigators have been speaking with his family members as well as his ex-wife. And the family members expressed shock that he pledged allegiance to ISIS during this 911 call during the shooting. They say that he was not overtly religious, but they did say that he held anti-gay views. In fact, there was an episode just recently last week in Miami where the father says he was very unhappy when he saw two men kissing. It was very upsetting to him.

His ex-wife has told investigators he had a bad temper. That he had anger management issues. They were only married four months.

We do know the FBI had contact with the gunman several years ago in 2013. They looked into him because he allegedly had made inflammatory remarks and his coworkers went to the FBI and they interviewed him twice. They did physical surveillance. They took all the necessary steps in the investigation, couldn't find anything to add substance to those remarks and verified them and therefore, they close the case.

And then, the next year, the FBI looked into him as a possible person who had ties to the American suicide bomber. But they were found, the two men, didn't have a substantive relationship. So that investigation was closed.

The big question now, of course, Wolf, is whether any signs were missed following those two open investigations. We know the gunman rented a car and drove an hour and 45 minutes here to Pulse nightclub. Opened fire and the nightclub was packed with more than 300 people. He had a rifle, he had a handgun on him and he killed at least 50 people.

[18:10:02] And bizarrely, Wolf, law enforcement sources say that he was negotiating with the hostage and rescue team that came here to respond to the situation, making demands in order to release some of the hostages. It's unclear exactly what those demands are, but right now, officials are focused on whether this could be a hybrid situation, whether this is hate crime mixed with international terrorism. Still, a lot of unanswered questions and the investigation is very active.

I just want to add quickly the fact that he was a security guard, Wolf, at a courthouse in St. Port Lucie, Florida. He manned the security area there. Just really bizarre this person was a security guard, legally bought the two guns two weeks ago and came into this nightclub and opened fire -- Wolf. BLITZER: And it's clear, Pamela, because you have been doing a lot of

reporting on this, that a few years ago some of his friends, this terrorist, some of his friends were complaining about statements he had made suggesting sympathy or support for ISIS or other radical Islamic terror groups. The FBI then twice interviewed him and said it was inconclusive. And later, they did a third interview once again inconclusive.

But he still managed to retain his job as a security officer for a private firm that had federal contracts. And he still was able to go out and buy an assault rifle and a hand begun within the past two weeks. Is that right?

BROWN: That's right. That's under scrutiny here, Wolf. At the time the FBI didn't find any wrongdoing. The FBI opens up the investigations all the time and then closes them. They don't find wrongdoing and those people are still able to go get jobs. We know that this gunman actually got his job, I believe, it was in 2007 as a security guard.

And from there, the FBI had interviewed him a couple times because of remarks he made that led officials and some of his coworkers to believe he had terrorism ties, but they didn't find anything to support the comments and anything to make officials believe that he was, in fact, a terrorist. And then as you know, the next year, they believed he might have had some association with an American suicide bomber, found they didn't have a substantive relationship and moved on, essentially, from this gunman.

So I can tell you right now that the FBI is going to look back over the last few years since those investigations were closed to say, to look and take a hard look and say, did we miss something? Was this the right move?

As I mentioned earlier, Wolf, his family members, his ex-wife said that he had not overtly expressed any sympathies toward ISIS. No indication yet that we know of on social media. But that he did express anti-gay sentiments. All of this is under investigation. Officials are trying to piece this altogether as we speak.

BLITZER: All right. Pamela, standby. We're going to get back to you.

I want to bring in our panel of terrorism experts right now. Our national security analyst, Juliette Kayyem is with us, and our CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen is with us as well.

It's interesting the local authorities as Pamela just reported are asking local communities to hold off on the vigils because the police are needed to do another responsibility, another job. They represent a very strain on our limited resources, they said, which we need to dedicate to law enforcement and victims.

They've got a lot of work to do right now.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, and presumably, out of an abundance of caution, there's no evidence that this guy had co- conspirators, but they don't want, if there's a co-conspirator, to launch an attack on the vigil in the city where this attack happened.

BLITZER: Juliette, you used to work at the Department of Homeland Security, how do they coordinate right now what the FBI, the ATF, the federal lead investigators are going to be doing and local state and local officials?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So this is all going to be investigated under the Joint Terrorism Task Force led by the FBI but includes local, state and federal entities including other federal agencies. So, it literally is an incident command. They are all sitting in a room right now communicating, sharing information, you know, what is really important right now is, is there any travel information or recent movements that he made that may give us a clue as to how he radicalized? That's all being done within the Joint Terrorism Task Force based in Orlando with support from D.C.

The other pieces as Peter was saying is going to be protecting potential future sites. That will then be led by the Department of Homeland Security with every federal agency, local and state. I think what is clear here is our local emergency managers, police officers, firefighters are really sort of, you know, first in line when it comes to counterterrorism now. You saw remarkable response today in Orlando as we saw in Boston. It's really falling on these police departments in ways they never anticipated 20 years ago.

BLITZER: And we know the local authorities and federal authorities, Peter, they must be going through all of his phone records, his social media, going through his computers, looking to see what he posted on Facebook or Twitter.

[18:15:05] They are going to know pretty soon if this guy had a record, a discernable record that could have led them to this.

BERGEN: Oh, I think they already know the answer in part, because of these investigations. I mean, you know, in 2013, he was making these statements. In 2014 he had some kind of connection to a known American suicide bomber that traveled to Syria. At the time, they said, they must've thought he seemed somewhat innocuous.

But with hindsight these are not innocuous. There's already plenty of evidence of his views. The 9/11 call. The real question is, was this actually directed by ISIS itself? Did he get an encrypted social media contact with members of ISIS?

We've seen in Garland, Texas, where there was an attempt to attack a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest. We have seen it in cases in Chicago that I've covered where a group of teenagers were in direct encrypted connection with ISIS. So, that is not out of the question. There's no evidence of that but it's not out of the question.

BLITZER: Juliette, the fact that this has occurred at the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, what does that say?

KAYYEM: Well, basically, ISIS has been saying, generically, anyone who follows them would know this, that any attack during Ramadan actually is a better attack than not. So, they've been promoting that more attacks over this period, this holy month essentially.

And it's important to understand what Peter is saying, people in our field talk about ISIS-inspired and ISIS-directed. Those are very important distinctions. ISIS-directed means someone was telling that someone in the United States, a U.S. citizen what to do, how to do it and where to go.

ISIS-inspired is much more passive. It's someone who may be, you know, getting radicalized through social media and other means but there's no direct tie to ISIS. Regardless if ISIS is taking credit for this or not, it's important that law enforcement figure out which of the two as Peter was saying it is.

BLITZER: All right. Juliette and Peter, we'll have you standing by as well.

We have a lot of coverage coming up, lots of questions about what exactly happened in Florida, who is responsible. Some are desperate for information about loved ones right now. This is heartbreaking. The loved ones who were inside the nightclub and they have not yet been able to get that information.

We're going to have much more details. We're going back to the scene right after this.


BLITZER: So far only six of the victims of the Orlando massacre have been identified. The bodies of so many others remain inside the nightclub as agents work feverishly to clear the scene. Family members and friends, they are desperate to know what happened to their loved ones.

CNN's Jessica Schneider is outside Pulse Club, that's the night club, now the scene of the worst mass shooting in modern American history.

Jessica, what can you tell us about what is going on there? Can you see the fence so many had to climb in order to simply get out and survive?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we're starting to hear those stories from survivors, the people who were inside the club. We are just about a block away. Pulse nightclub there, there were about 300 to 350 people inside the nightclub last night. Saturday night being their most popular night. It was Latin night.

This club is billed as Orlando's premier gay club. And as we're hearing some of the stories coming out, we are also getting a timeline out here. Police say that it was 2:00 in the morning when the gunman entered the front door. He then encountered an off-duty cop who was serving security last night. They had a brief encounter but then the gunman made his way in.

At that point, there was shooting, he took hostages. This lasted for three tense hours. We're getting some information from people who were texting, crying out for help, we are hearing from people hiding in a bathroom.

After three tense hours, it was 5:00 in the morning, that's when police, law enforcement moved in and actually busted down a wall. That's when they were able to rescue some of those hostages and then eventually shoot and kill the gunman.

What we're hearing now from the survivors is absolutely chilling. We did get a statement from the Pulse nightclub owners that say they are devastated, they say they can't believe this happened. But also, a source close to the nightclub's owners are giving some stories from inside. We heard that one person was inside a bathroom actually covered herself with dead bodies to survive.

We heard of several performers at the club last night who were in a dressing room and they held together and stayed close until police were actually able to take out an air-conditioning unit. That's how they were able to get out. We heard of another bartender who hid underneath the glass bar until police came around and said, if anyone's alive, please raise your hand.

So, just some chilling stories from inside the club. Outside what we're seeing now, obviously, a completely locked down scene. Law enforcement are canvassing here. This will take a long time to investigate and process this scene.

And in a very grim glimpse of what we're seeing out here, we've already seen a long line of coroners van -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Heartbreaking, indeed, Jessica Schneider on the scene for us. Jessica, thanks for that report.

Medical centers in Orlando are rushing to help dozens of the victims. Many of whom were apparently shot with a military-style rifle.

Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is joining us now.

Sanjay, talk about what kind of injuries we're seeing here, how the hospitals are coping.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, sadly, Wolf, so many hospitals around the country do training exercises nowadays for this sort of thing. I guess it's the world in which we now live. The types of injuries that we're hearing about, we have talked to people at Orlando Regional Medical Center, it's the only level 1 medical center in that area.

So, that's where the vast majority of patients would go and the vast majority are gunshot wounds to the trunk, meaning the chest and abdomen and also to the extremities. We did not hear of gunshot wounds to the head, for example, Wolf, that came to the hospital, likely because those patients did not survive.

We know, as you have been pointing out, Wolf, many patients came to this one hospital, Orlando Regional Medical Center. [18:25:07] And let me just give you a little bit of an idea, the level

1 means that there is a trauma surgeon on call in the hospital at all times. They have operating rooms available. They have a certain amount of blood available.

But obviously one surgeon wouldn't be able to handle this number of patients so he call in two more doctors. They call in three more after that. So there were six surgeons that were operating. We hear that they performed 26 operations in a relatively short period of time, 26 of those, 43 again needed. There were 26 operations that were needed.

So, you know, Wolf, I work at a hospital, a level 1 trauma center. We do again exercises in planning like this, but how do you really plan for something with this number of patients? It is nearly impossible. But they, again, call in a lot of to people who weren't on call and had them come in to help.

BLITZER: Would a level one hospital Sunday morning, Saturday night, overnight, on a weekend, they would not necessarily be at full strength. They would have to start calling in people very, very quickly.

GUPTA: Yes, no question about it. Being a level one designation means there will be somebody who is in house, so to speak, meaning in the hospital, a trauma surgeon who is available. That person, you know, basically has to determine very quickly, A, is this person likely to survive? B, do they need an operation? C, what is that sort of operation they need?

Do I have the resources available to do that? That means operating rooms, that means equipment, that means blood, that means many different things have to come together. And again, hospitals do these exercises. I don't know when Orlando Regional most recently did an exercise, but we know they occur quite frequently.

But still, I can tell you, having been through these exercises versus real life scenario, you have to depend on a lot of other things coming together. Just like you say, calling people in the middle of the night, other trauma surgeons and saying, we need help. We need more bodies in here to take care of patients.

BLITZER: And do they have enough blood normally to -- I assume they have enough blood for five or ten people, but for 40 people in an emergency situation like this?

GUPTA: Well, you almost have to triage blood the way you triage everything else. What I mean by that is that sometimes there are orations where the patient may require dozens and dozens of units to transfuse blood into that one patient. What you have to do is you have to say, look, we have 43 patients now in the hospital, 26 operations are necessary. Who are in the ICU, even if they are not getting operations, may still need blood. So you have to start using that blood more judiciously and anticipating the needs.

There's often a fair amount of blood in a blood bank at the level one trauma center. But again, to your point, Wolf, there's not enough probably to give every single patient all the blood they need. So, sometimes they'll use other types of tissue and liquids to try and give that patient another type of expander into their blood system until more blood becomes available.

BLITZER: We're showing, Sanjay, live video of these people, huge lines, people waiting in line to donate blood right now. They want to help. They want to do whatever they can. This is really significant because there are all sorts of blood types. And this is something that they want to make sure they have the right type for every survivor.

GUPTA: They have to make sure they have the right type. As you pointed out, they have not identified many of the survivors. They don't know who they are, yet still one of the things they do immediately when a patient comes to the hospital is identify their blood type.

So, they can start to get a handle on what types of blood are needed, how much of these specific types are need. There are certain blood types you may have heard, Wolf, that are more universal donor type blood that can be given if needed to people of all sorts of different blood types. There are people who are universal recipients who can accept blood from different types.

But this is a real-time decision that I'm sure is happening in the hospital. Making sure we can continue to replenish the blood supply that's needed. Look, we're talking about right now, but over the next several hours, weeks, that demand for all sorts of services including blood transfusions is going to remain. So, all these people who are sitting out there and donating blood, that help is going to be felt over the next several days.

BLITZER: And that could help save lives. That's why we applaud these people. We thank these people for waiting in these long lines to donate blood here on a Sunday evening in Orlando.

Sanjay, we're going to l get back to you. Thank you very much for your expertise.

Our breaking news coverage of this mass shooting in Orlando will continue after a short break.

This tragedy comes during a bitterly divisive campaign season here in the United States. The presidential candidates, they are responding.

[18:30:01] BLITZER: We're going to tell you what they are saying and lots more of our coverage right after this.


BROWN: Welcome back to CNN's breaking news coverage of the horrifying mass shooting out of Florida nightclub. I'm Pamela Brown live in Orlando.

Just seven of the 50 people killed have been identified so far as police work to clear the scene. Now we're getting a better understanding of the terror of those inside the Pulse nightclub experience. New video showing the shootout between police and the gunman.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that, they are shooting back and forth. That's crazy. Look at this.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my god. They are all shooting back and forth.



BROWN: Dramatics details coming into CNN about what some of the survivors had to go through.

[18:35:01] One woman said she hid in the bathroom and surrounded herself with dead bodies. She survived and other people hid in the dressing room. And the only way to escape is when the police took out the air-conditioning unit and that is how they got out of the building.

So many horrifying stories. And officials say that shooting was an act of terror. And police have now identified this shooter as 29- year-old Omar Mateen. Mateen was known to the FBI for possibly being a sympathizer to Islamic extremism. But officials tell CNN there were no signs, he was plotting any kind of attack. His family says he wasn't particularly religious and had expressed anti-gay feelings in the past according law enforcement sources I've been speaking with.

And all of this happened as across the country police say they thwarted a similar threat. The man described as heavily armed was arrested on his way to Los Angeles' gay pride festival.

Our Kyung Lah will have an update on that chilling story unfolding on the West Coast, but I want to bring in someone who actually knew the victims firsthand. Some that were sadly killed in the mass shooting and others who survived. His name is Bret Harvey. He joins me now. Brett has been a patron at t nightclub in the past. Fortunately, you were not there last night but your friends were. What have you learned from them? What have they told you?

BRETT HARVEY, PATRON OF PULSE NIGHTCLUB IN ORLANDO: So early this morning there's a -- so there's a lot of text messages going on, some Facebook posts and a lot of check-in on Facebook. So a lot of my friends were there obviously on a Saturday night. I also have some colleagues and coworkers, some people that I play ball with on the weekends as well that are part of league. And I also have people that left a little bit early. So the version of events are a little bit scattered. So I have saddened learned just about an hour ago three of my friends that I play ball with are -- were also, you know what I mean, reported as deceased at this time. And we're still waiting to find out on the rest of those.

BROWN: I'm so sorry to hear that, Brett. I just can't imagine what you are going through right now.

Those that were fortunate enough to survive, what are some of the harrowing stories that they shared with you?

HARVEY: Well, I think -- you know what I mean, I think the reaction -- I think the -- so some of my friends who were able to get out reacted very quickly. They -- you know what I mean, when they heard the shots of the gunfire, some of them recognized that as being a little bit odd and so they started leaving very quickly, I think. For the most part, from the conversations this morning, the deejay turning off the sound system, I think, helped a tremendous amount considering that there was some issues in trying to distinguish the gunshots versus the music that was playing.

So that helped tremendously as well. I think the -- some of the other victims of this tragedy in terms of the comfortness I think has helped as well, just based on the conversations that I've had and the Facebook messages that have been going back and forth this morning with me.

BROWN: Take us inside that nightclub. Is it really big? We know that more than 300 people were in there. It was Latin night, a popular night there. Are there a lot of places to escape? Bring us inside.

HARVEY: So the club is -- the club is not entirely small, but it is somewhat compact for that amount of people. So kind of -- if you're walking in the entranceway, there would have been a host stand immediately there with a club member, obviously greeting and checking your I.D., and taking your cover. And then from there, there would have been two entranceways door sides that would have either led to the main bar area which leads off into the patio. That would have been to the right. And then to the left there would have been the smaller bar area, the second bar, where the stage and smaller dressing room is.

So it's not untypical for that amount of people to be there on Saturday. It's pretty popular. But it's -- when there's that amount of people, it's very crowded, it's very compact. And it is pretty open in either direction.

BROWN: I know, Brett, you're still letting all of this sink in, the loss of three of your friends, the fact that this was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. How are you feeling right now? What's going through your mind? How has this impacted your community here in Orlando? And how has this impacted your life personally?

HARVEY: Well, I think, you know what I mean, for me personally, one, I'm disheartened by it. I'm a little sad. I still think it really hasn't fully sunk in because we don't know the extent of everybody that's been impacted within our community. Whether LGBT, straight. You know, I think Orlando has a very solid community. I think you heard Commissioner Sheehan speak about that. A lot of my friends in this community and even colleagues, there's a Central Florida softball league that has several hundred members in it. A lot of these individuals participate in that league. And that's really where the friendship kind of drives out of.

So I think the community is taking it very hard. I think a lot of people are just kind of reserved. There's been a little information shared but a lot of it -- a lot of people still digesting, they're still regrouping in terms of living through that experience, and I think for a lot of folks just like myself, it really hasn't hit home.

[18:40:09] I think of the coming days that's when a lot of the trials and tribulations will happen. And I think those feelings will start to set in. But knowing Orlando, knowing the city that we have and the individuals that I'm friends, colleagues with, or teammates with, I think, you know what I mean, the city will grow strong. I think we have --

BLITZER: Unfortunately we have lost our connection with Pamela and that guest. A heartbreaking story, indeed. That's just one story. There are so many stories. So many heartbreaking stories that we're going to be sharing those stories with you.

At least 50 people were murdered, massacred last night, overnight in Orlando at that Pulse nightclub.

We want to tell you, in just about four hours, a gofundme page has raised over $600,000 in donations to support the victims of the horrific shooting at Orlando's Pulse nightclub. That according to the description. The goal is to set -- to get a million dollars. I'm sure that goal will be achieved. You can participate.

Hours after the shooting in Florida, by the way, doctors, they are still desperately treating the wounded right now. And investigators, they're finding out more about the details of how this attack went down.

You can help. Make a contribution. Say a prayer. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.


[18:45:17] BLITZER: President Obama called the Orlando massacre a sobering reminder that attacks on any Americans are on attack on all Americans.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today as Americans we grieve the brutal murder of a horrific massacre of dozens of innocent people. We pray for the 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: The presidential candidates, they are also responding to the tragedy. Donald Trump called the attack the work of a radical Islamic terrorist. Hillary Clinton called it an act of terror and an act of hate.

CNN's Chris Frates is joining us now live from the White House.

Chris, the president immediately announced -- his staff announcing he was not going to go on Wednesday for that first campaign trip with Hillary Clinton to Green Bay, Wisconsin. This is not the time he believes to go out there and start campaigning given what just happened in Orlando.

CHRIS FRATES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's exactly right, Wolf. We are seeing, you know, this tragedy already start to play itself out on the campaign trail. And as you point out, this was going to be the first joint appearance by President Obama and Secretary Clinton to kick off the general election. The president excited to get out there campaigning and postponing that. And in fact, the White House telling me that his whole schedule is now in flux. They're going to let us know as soon as possible what his schedule will look like, whether or not he'll go down to Orlando.

But on the Republican side, Donald Trump hitting the president very hard. In fact, he was scheduled to give a speech in New Hampshire tomorrow hitting Hillary Clinton. The Trump campaign saying they're going to change subjects, that they're going to take on national security, terrorism and immigration. An Donald Trump hitting the president for not calling this radical Islamic terrorism. Trump saying that the president is not calling it what it is.

But, Wolf, it's important to point out here, the president did call this an act of terror. He called it an act of hate. He said the FBI is investigating the motivations behind the shooter and the full resources of the federal government are going to follow every lead to wherever it ends. And in fact, he met with FBI Director James Comey in the Oval Office and his National Security team right before he came to the White House podium to address the nation.

So, you know, certainly he is in close contact with the FBI and his national security team. And it's also important to kind of point out here for context that this is the 14th shooting that the president has come to the camera to address. And so this is something that in the past the president has expressed frustration over. He's expressed anger over. And today, you know, we heard him talk about this is what happens when you have easy access to firearms.

You get shootings at nightclubs, at churches, at schools, at movie theaters, kind of alluding to all the different mass shootings we've seen over his seven years in office here. And President Obama saying, you know, we have to make a choice as a society if this is the kind of culture that we want, you know, for our future. And so certainly guns, immigration, terrorism, all of those issues really set to come to the forefront here in the coming days and weeks as this all gets incorporated into a very heated presidential race -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Chris Frates at the White House. Thanks very much.

So was this an attack -- was this attack in Orlando tied to ISIS or simply inspired by ISIS or some other terror group?

Let's discuss, let's bring in CNN law enforcement contributor Steve Moore, Peter Bergen is still with us as well.

Steve, one official compared this attack to the shooting at the Bataclan Theater in Paris. Is there anything that this shooter did that stands out to you, something that ISIS teaches?

STEVE MORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTRIBUTOR: Well, he did things that ISIS might teach. But we won't know whether he got it directly from ISIS. What he was doing and why the casualties were so high was that he had knowledge of small unit tactics. He knew how to fire, he knew how to re-load he knew how to keep the attack moving. He even had time to call 911 and make a statement.

So this was a very trained and poised individual. I can't tell you where he got that training. But certainly he had it.

BLITZER: Well, he worked for a security firm that had federal contracts for the past nine years. A bureau former FBI agent, the bureau says it was aware of Mateen. Didn't see any signs specific signs that he was plotting an attack. Even though they did interview him three times over these past few years. Some of his colleagues were complaining that he was saying things supportive of ISIS, very anti-gay rhetoric, as well.

[18:50:06] Looking back and obviously all of us are smarter with hindsights, clearly some signs were missed.

MOORE: Well, yes. Some signs were missed. The problem is this, first of all, as far as the tactics are used those aren't even taught to the standard street agents or policemen. So he didn't get them from being a security officer. As far as what was missed here, when I was the supervisor for al Qaeda on the Joint Terrorism Task Force I would come in every morning and have 20 or so similar suspicious Arab neighbor leads that we would have to vet and the -- I had 25 agents, so -- and I don't think Orlando has more than that. So what you're dealing with is every day trying to triage -- as Dr. Gupta was talking about, you're trying to triage the leads.

Who is the most dangerous? Who is the biggest and most imminent threat? And so the fact that the FBI looked at this and closed it might have been due to the fact that they had bigger things to work and frankly if you look at this, until Mateen entered the Pulse nightclub what crime had he committed?

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Peter, the family now says that Mateen was not an especially religious or observant Muslim. How unusual is that?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I mean, you know, we've seen different kinds of cases. You'll recall Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was the younger brother in the Boston case. He wasn't -- (CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: In the Boston marathon, Tsarnaev. Yes.

BERGEN: Yes. Yes. I mean, he -- you know, smoking a lot of weed, he was drinking, he was flunking out of college, he was chasing girls. I mean, this is not an observant Muslim.

BLITZER: And the 9/11 -- the 9/hijackers, many of them were hanging out in Las Vegas only weeks or months before.

BERGEN: Right. Then the kind of counter example is the older brother in the Boston marathon bombing became very observant, married someone who converted to Islam. She wore, you know, kind of Islamic clothing. So did he. And he was a regular mosque-goer. So, you know, we've seen -- it's not surprising that a non-observant Muslim then does this kind of act of terrorism. What I'm saying by that is that we've seen this kind of development before where somebody who didn't appear to be that observant suddenly does an act of jihadi terrorism.

BLITZER: It was no coincidence that the attack occurred at a gay nightclub.

BERGEN: No. I mean, not at all. And of course, people with these views are pathologically homophobic.

BLITZER: Because -- go into depth.

BERGEN: Well, I mean, you know, we've seen ISIS throw people off buildings to their certain deaths. We've seen them stone homosexuals to death. We've seen them -- you know, we saw the Taliban do this in Afghanistan where they would, you know, roll stones on to somebody's body until they died. I mean, this is unfortunately part of this world view.

BLITZER: And literally stone these people to death. They just threw stones at them until they died or they burned them or cut off their heads or threw them off the top of buildings.

Steve, you know, you've investigated a lot of these kinds of incidents over the years, but this is the worst mass shooting in American history. What's the most important thing the FBI, your former agency has to do right now?

MOORE: The most important thing is going to be getting the information on this guy and get it fast so you know whether or not this guy is one of a - one of a dozen, one of half a dozen or simply a lone wolf. Then they have to go back and find out what we missed, what were the signs that we should have seen and how could -- how can we in the future make sure that somebody who we're looking at seriously as a terrorist potentially, how is he able to go in and buy assault rifles and how does he keep a guard cart that lets him do this?

BLITZER: It's all pretty shocking. And they're going to have to really review lessons learned to make sure it doesn't happen again. Steve Moore, Peter Bergen, thanks very much.

Much more of our special coverage right after this.


[18:57:57] BLITZER: As we continue to track the awful developments in Orlando, that mass shooting, there's new information coming in to CNN right now from Santa Monica, California. A man with weapons and potential explosives has been arrested and, though police said earlier the suspect had said he wanted to, quote, "harm" the L.A. gay pride festival, they now say he merely told them he was going there.

Kyung Lah is joining us now.

Kyung, update our viewers. What do we know?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we know is what the Santa Monica police have released is a name. James Howell, he's 20 years old, he is from Indiana, and let me walk you through what we know so far.

At 5:00 a.m. local time here in Los Angeles, this is, if you're looking at your clocks, everything that has happened in the last 24 hours just about three hours after the shooting happened in -- excuse me, six hours after the shooting in Orlando, so just hours after Orlando began in Orlando, police were called to the report of a prowler in -- on the western side of Los Angeles. When they stopped this man and they pulled him out of the vehicle and he did tell them according to the police that he was heading to the Pride Festival.

What they found inside his vehicle and I'll just run down this list, they found three -- several guns, three assault rifles, magazines, bullets, ammunition, a five-gallon bucket with chemicals -- enough chemicals that could potentially make a bomb as well as a vest and some sort of a badge attached to that vest. The fact that this is happening just hours after what happened in Orlando, certainly police were very concerned. You're talking about thousands of people lining the streets of West Hollywood for the Gay Pride Parade today, and I was out there, Wolf, it was a festive atmosphere.

After that moment of silence, but a lot of concern. If you talk to the people there they say what would have happened had the police not stopped this man. Was he indeed heading to the Pride Festival where so many people lined the streets? So certainly, a lot of concern here and the timing of all of this is very concerning.


LAH: What we are hearing from the mayor here, though, Wolf, is that it does not have a direct connection to what happened in Orlando.

BLITZER: Kyung Lah, thanks very much.

Erin Burnett picks up our coverage.