Return to Transcripts main page
AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Was Orlando Gunman's Wife an Accomplice; Orlando Survivor Talks Horrifying Situation; Boy, 2, Snatched by Alligator at Disney; Interview with Orlando Gunman's Father. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired June 15, 2016 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
[11:00:27] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan, in New York.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman, live in Orlando.
Breaking news taking place not far from where I'm standing right now at Walt Disney World. An alligator attacked a 2-year-old boy and dragged him into the water at a hotel beach. His father tried to pull him free, to no avail. A frantic search has been underway for many hours now. We are expecting new information as authorities plan to hold a news conference shortly. We will bring that you to live when it happens.
Plus, we have new information on the terror attack here at the gay nightclub, the Pulse nightclub, which is just behind me now on the street. Authorities are focused on the killer's wife. Officials tell CNN she admits to knowing he wanted to carry out a jihadist attack. She admits to accompanying him to two potential targets, including the club, which was the place where he massacred 49 people. She claims, authorities tell us, that she did not know of a specific plan of attack. So does this make her an accomplice?
All that, plus new information about the killer's connections and use of online gay chat rooms.
Want to begin with new information. Joining me, CNN chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto; and CNN legal analyst, Mark O'Mara, who, by the way, is from Orlando.
Jim, we have new information on the wife. Plus, we have new information on a phone call that the killer made during the attack.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: In the middle of the attack, 45 minutes in, after he'd committed many murders and before he committed more, he had the wherewithal and took the time make a phone call to a local television station. We have this confirmed by local law enforcement. In the phone call, according to the local television station, he calls and says, do you know about the shooting? The producer on the other end says, we do. He says, as well, I am the killer. I am the shooter. We know that he had pledged allegiance to ISIS in a call to 911. He had done the same to this news station. In addition to wanting that credit, attaching it to the Islamic State, he wanted to make sure the news media would come and cover the story.
BERMAN: Where are we on the wife? What does she admit to having done, and what does she say she not do?
SCIUTTO: She admits that he had talked about carrying out a jihadist attack. She said that when he did, she tried to dissuade him. She admits that she accompanied him when he went to visit potential sites or what the FBI's concern might have been, scouting potential sites. One of them was, she drove him at one time to the Pulse. Not just that, there, they went to Disney World, the huge theme park, in April. In the days before the attack, they went to Disney springs downtown. She said she didn't know that those were scouting missions, in effect. But you have a lot of information there that doesn't quite add up. The answers don't quite add up.
BERMAN: Stand by for a minute.
I want to bring justice correspondent, Pamela Brown.
Pamela, I understand you have information on a call that the killer made. Is this the same call that Jim is reporting on, to the television station or a different call?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We're being told by law enforcement sources that he made a different call to a friend while this was going on, while he was inside the nightclub during the mass shooting, to say good-bye to this friend. From law enforcement, we've learned that the FBI has interviewed this friend. At this stage, no indication that the friend took any part of the shooting at all. But of course, law enforcement wants to be able to know whether or not this person had any prior knowledge of what the gunman's plans were or if he was completely in the dark. So that is certainly under investigation.
She is a crucial person in this investigation. And in addition, we know he called a television producer, as well, during the attack. Of course he made those three 911 calls, as well. Really just bizarre that while all this is going on, John, he made all of these calls to various people.
BERMAN: Pamela Brown. I know it was a tough connection. Pamela is reporting that in addition to the 911 calls the killer made, in addition to the call to the television station that Jim Sciutto reported on. Pamela Brown reporting that the killer also made a call to a friend during this attack, that investigators have been speaking with this friend. As of now, I believe Pamela just said they don't think that the friend was in any way connected to the attack. I guarantee they're going to go down that investigation and follow those leads as long as they need to.
I want to bring in Mark O'Mara, our CNN legal analyst.
Mark, I want to shift gears and focus on the wife. Jim's reporting on the wife. She claims to have known or been told by the husband that he wanted to carry out a jihadist attack. Apparently, she claims not to have known about the specific attack. What's the law here? Where is the line? I mean, if she was told he wanted to carry out a jihadist attack and didn't do anything to stop him, is she in legal jeopardy?
[11:05:35] MARK O'MARA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: There's a spectrum. There's not one line. Her words that I knew about, this even if she took him to the Pulse lounge herself, is not enough. They need probable cause that she intended a criminal act. However, where that's going to come from if it comes, it's going to come from the forensic evidence. The evidence will include social media, certainly texts between the two, e-mails back and forth.
Whatever can show her knowledge of not just this ranting of a madman, which she can say it was, but just that it was more information that she knew or should have been aware. If she knew about the conspiracy to commit murder, the most serious charge, down to misprision of a felony, you know it's a felony about to happen and you do nothing. There can be criminal responsibility for that. We know the FBI's looking into it, we know they're trying to get more information about that. But they're in the middle of it.
BERMAN: That word misprision, knowledge of an imminent criminal act. Has to be imminent and specific. Has to be knowing that her husband was going to go shoot up the Pulse nightclub. It can't just be knowing that he wanted to kill people?
O'MARA: Law enforcement will try to expand that and say if you have this much information, six months of somewhat planning, going this place, that place, along with a bunch of comments to you of wanting to kill people, of hating gays, foreign exchange, of ISIS being a -- for example, of ISIS being a focus point, that could be put one brick on top of another to where knowledge can be inferred. She can't be willfully blind of what he was doing.
SCIUTTO: This gets to a legal question here. Are the laws today, do they match the threat, right? You have this on another issue. After the Paris attacks, Paris, France, enacted emergency powers which allowed them, for instance, to round people up, in effect protective arrests before they had evidence to charge them with a crime.
BERMAN: That does not exist here?
SCIUTTO: Tat does not exist here. And that goes back to the FBI investigation that they had in 2014. They did not have the enough prosecutorial evidence on his. They had a lot of smoke but no fire. A similar question here is, is there another law, the laws have to be changed because that's a problem.
BERMAN: We'll talk about that coming up with security experts.
Jim Sciutto, Mark O'Mara, stand by, because there's a lot of information coming in. We'll come back as we get more. Thank you.
This horrific attack sparking an outpouring of love and support not just in the city but all over the country and world. There's a gofundme account set up for the victims that's raised more than $4 million so far. Equality Florida, the state's LGBT civil rights organization, has set a goal of $5 million to help victims and their families.
My next guest who -- I have to wait, he's walking in -- Orlando Torres. He was inside the nightclub as the attack took place. Orlando hid inside a bathroom stall for three hours during the attack and had to endure the sounds of gunfire again and again and again for three hours. Also heard the end of the attack, was there to witness the police storming the building, storming the nightclub, coming in and rescuing the remaining survivors inside. Orlando was one of the last people taken out of the building.
Orlando, step right in here.
Thank you very much for being with us. I appreciate your time, Orlando Torres.
Three hours. We keep hearing three hours. That seems like an excruciatingly long length of time.
ORLANDO TORRES, ORLANDO SHOOTING SURVIVOR: It did. I kept wondering whether are they going to save us. Felt like forever. Forever.
BERMAN: Three hours listening to this man? What was that like?
TORRES: When I heard him saying to police dispatch that America bombing ISIS in Syria, I knew this was not a small, isolated -- small, isolated situation where someone's upset, justice getting even. I knew it was something very big.
BERMAN: How did you manage to keep your resolve?
[11:09:49] BOLDUAN: Thanks for joining me in New York. Obviously, we're having a technical issue with John's shot in Orlando. We'll get back to him as soon as we get it fixed.
We'll take a break and come right back.
BOLDUAN: We're getting back to Orlando to follow the attack there, the investigation into the attack in a moment.
We're also following more breaking news out of Orlando. An alligator snatching a toddler on a beach there, dragging him into the water. This morning Disney has announced that it's closing all of its beaches as the search-and-rescue efforts continue for this 2-year-old boy. Police say the little boy was wading in a lagoon near a hotel when the alligator attacked. We learned of a news conference a short time from now. We'll bring it to you when it comes to us.
We'll get the latest from the ground. Boris Sanchez with the latest on what the search efforts look like.
Boris, what are you hearing?
[11:14:33] BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kate. As you said, we're supposed to hear from the officials charge at about noon. They've not given us any indication that they're any closer to the whereabouts of the toddler, the 2-year-old.
It is an absolutely horrifying story. This family on vacation from Nebraska coming to what's supposed to be the happiest place on earth. They go to this manmade beach on the shore of this huge manmade lagoon. They're hanging out with other families. At one point, the 2-year-old was wading in the water, no further than a foot to the water, the water reaching no higher than his knees. Out of nowhere, this alligator snatched him. Immediately, his father sprung up and tried to wrestle the child from the alligator, obviously unsuccessfully. His mother also got in the water. The father also injured his hands as he was trying to get his kid away from this beast. Their efforts were to no avail. Authorities brought in boats with sonar, alligator trap force try to locate it in the lagoon. This happened at 9:00 p.m. This happened in a dark area. They were hoping with daylight they would have better luck. So far, we've not heard any indication that they have.
Despite that, officials tell us this is a search-and-rescue effort. Not a search-and-recovery effort. They are holding out hope that they will find the toddler alive. Despite that, when we asked them to give us any other example, give us a description of alligator behavior, had they ever heard that a child this young had been missing for this long after an alligator attack and survived, they struggled to come one an answer. As the hours pass, hope continues to dim -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Very sad story. It's getting sadder by the moment.
Boris, thank you very much.
Want to talk more about this with Ron Magill, communications director at the Miami -- communications director at the Miami Metro Zoo.
Ron, thanks for joining me.
I want your reaction to what's happened and the circumstances surrounding this horrible incident this. Little boy of the no further than a foot in the water is what Boris is hearing. It was 9:00 when the family was there at this beach. What's your reaction to this?
RON MAGILL, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, MIAMI METRO ZOO: Unfortunately, it's not surprising. It's incredibly rare for gators to be attacking people. This is a small child in the shallow end of water at night. That gator could have mistaken it for a raccoon, possum. It's normal feeding time. The males the last couple of months have been moving from pond to pond, canal to canal. Every body of fresh water in Florida is basically a place where an alligator can be found. Anybody in the state of Florida must assume that there's an alligator in any fresh water area that they see. Having said that, this alligator I'm sure did not go after this child maliciously. It was acting instinctively. In the evening, it doesn't know it's a child. Could be a splashing duck or a dog, anything it normally feeds on. That's the tragedy of the situation.
BOLDUAN: Authorities say they've pulled four gators out of the water, euthanized them in the search. What does that tell you?
MAGILL: It tells me that there are gators everywhere. I've seen them hit on the road on major expressways near Miami International Airport. There are over a million gators in the state of Florida now. This is going to become an ongoing issue. What people need to understand is if you respect the animal, if you understand you shouldn't be walking along the lakes' edges, edges of lakes and canals -- especially the next couple of months, alligators are nesting. They want to protect their nests. For the next couple of months especially, any time you're around a water area or shoreline, be aware if it's a nest area or you see them, an alligator will come after you, which is something they don't normally do.
BOLDUAN: Ron, Disney now -- Disney announced it's closing all o4 the beaches as the search-and-rescue continue for this little boy. What do you make of the fact that resorts have beach areas but also the signs throughout that say don't go in the water? No swimming area? What do you make of it?
MAGILL: You know, it's kind of a catch 22. You want to have this area that gives you this wonderful view of the natural beauty of south Florida, of central Florida, wherever are you in the state of Florida, but at the same time, Disney knows that alligator can be found in any body of water. It can be in a small pond on a golf course. They are everywhere here.
The bottom line, I've been at that beach, I've been to the Grand Floridian. I've seen the signs that say don't swim. People need to pay attention. They're not there for any reason other than the fact that the danger does exist. It's not prominent, it's not common, but it exists. We need to be aware of that.
BOLDUAN: The danger is very real. This is a horrible reminder of that.
Ron Magill, thank you very much. Appreciate your time as always.
MAGILL: Thank you.
[11:19:24] BOLDUAN: Again, we're waiting. Any moment, we'll have an update on the search-and-rescue efforts for that little boy, what's happening near the Disney resort. We'll bring it when it comes to us.
We're also talk being other news this morning. A spotlight on the Orlando gunman's wife and what she knew.
And the killer's visits to gay chat rooms. More in the investigation ahead.
Plus, moments from now, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are expected to speak live about national security. And it comes right after President Obama and his blistering attack on Trump for Donald Trump's rhetoric on this attack.
This is CNN special live coverage. We'll be right back.
BERMAN: John Berman, back in Orlando, Florida, in front of what is very much an active crime scene, the Pulse nightclub, right behind me.
I'm joined by Orlando Torres, who was inside that nightclub for three excruciating hours Saturday night as this attack of going on.
You were hiding inside a bathroom stall that whole time. How many shots do you think you heard?
TORRES: Well, I heard like five quick shots outside the bathroom at first. And then another ten seconds after that, another five rapid pop, pop, pop, pop, pop shots. My friend with me in the stall assumed it was the music or -- I said, no, I know the music and know that the deejay's effects, and that doesn't sound right.
[11:25:20] BERMAN: You heard at one point over the three hours, you heard the gunman essentially say he had a lot more bullets.
TORRES: Yes, he did.
BERMAN: What did he say?
TORRES: When he finished fixing -- I don't know if his weapons were jammed or whatever, but the people in the back stall mentioned, oh, his swept jammed, I don't know if that was a sign of, you know, of us charging him or whatever, coming out of the stalls. Nobody did. But he was still fixing it. He was happy he fixed it and said, yeah, I have plenty of bullets.
BERMAN: He said a number of things and made phone calls. Did he make specific threat about having an explosive vest or being anyone else --
TORRES: Yes. After he spoke with police and telling the that America needs to stop bombing ISIS, a few minutes later he was talking to somebody as if he knew that person, filling them in that he was there, it should be in the news media, and that there's three others and he's the fourth shooter. There's a female, naming addressing her that was playing dead or laying on the other side with the other victims with a bomb vest. And he had stated he also had his bomb vest on, as well.
BERMAN: We don't believe there was anyone else involved with the attack inside. Clearly he was making that threat to scare people. Finally, how are you doing? About the investigation right now and what the shooter's motives were?
TORRES: Well, I recorded his statements on my phone. And apparently, the FBI must have my phone.
BERMAN: The FBI has your phone? TORRES: I believe I do, because they took my information down. I was
recording the sounds, you know, for protection or -- evidence if I would have passed away, at least they had something to go on. I was recording the incident.
BERMAN: We're glad you're OK. We're glad at that FBI investigators had information. Obviously it will help them. And you know, I can't tell you how impressed we are with your strength.
I appreciate it. Thank you.
We have breaking news in this investigation right now.
Our Drew Griffin just had an interview with the gunman's father.
Drew, I believe joins me live from Ft. Pierce. What did you learn?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Somewhat bizarre. The father has not stopped talking since police have told him -- talking since police have told him his son was involved in this. We met him on the side of the road in front of one of his daughter's homes, got the camera out. It gives us an opportunity to ask questions as we learn more in this investigation. Some of what we learned came from survivors just like that person you were interviewing, that during the shooting the shooter said he was doing this because he wanted to stop the bombing in his home country. It's presumed the home country he was the talking about is Afghanistan. That is the home of his parents. His father is heavily involved, at least in his own mind, in Afghan politics, and has a television show and Internet videos that he posts concerning Afghanistan. So we did ask this morning, was his son directly involved with it and did they discuss it?
And here's the Q&A with him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRIFFIN: Did you talk about the politics of what happened with your son?
SADDIQUE MIR MATEEN, FATHER OF OMAR MATEEN: He is born here. He's born here. He's gone to school. He's gone to college. He worked here. He's never been back in Afghanistan. He had no interest.
GRIFFIN: He made comments that he was doing what he did in Orlando for his home country, that stopped the bombing of his home country. Do you know why he would say that?
MATEEN: That's not the reason to endorse ISIS. ISIS --
GRIFFIN: I understand that, but do you know why he would have said that?
MATEEN: ISIS is the enemy of the humanity. I don't know -- what you heard, I heard. I wish I did catch him, I could have called out law enforcement people, given them to them, he is -- you wouldn't be here, I wouldn't be here. I would have had my son and those people that lost their family, they wouldn't lose that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRIFFIN: John, that's his answer. The father, as you know, and as everybody knows now is heavily involved in Afghan politics. I say at least in his own mind, because he does live here in Ft. Pierce, in Port St. Lucie, Florida. He talks about Afghan politics and messages to the Afghan people but says, to me at least, that he never talked about it with his son.
We did also learn one tidbit of information. And this comes from the Ft. Pierce Police Department. They were the ones, they say, who informed the widow in the condominium behind me early Sunday morning that her husband was involved in this attack. They would only say that they went to her door, notified her.