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Five People Dead, Six Injured In The Mass Shooting at a Florida Airport; FBI and Police Hold News Conference on Florida Shooting Suspect. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired January 7, 2017 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[16:00:29] PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour, I'm Pamela Brown in Washington in for Poppy Harlow.
And we are following two major developments on this Saturday afternoon. Yesterday's deadly mass shooting at a Florida airport as two investigations play out on opposite sides of the country.
One in the alleged gunman's state of Alaska. We are waiting to hear from the FBI's field office in Anchorage. It is the same field office the suspect visited just a few months ago. A source says Esteban Santiago told authorities during that visit that an intelligent agency was instructing him to watch ISIS videos and that he was hearing lots of voices in his head. This new detail emerging as police records shed light on the suspect's violent past.
Meanwhile in Florida, police are trying to get answers from Santiago himself. And they tell us so far, no motive has been ruled out, including terrorism.
And we are learning more about the victims. Five people dead, six injured.
Let me begin with my colleague on the justice beat, Shimon Prokupecz, CNN crime and justice producer.
And Shimon, you are just getting some brand new information. What are you learning?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Well, Pam, you know, now that we are into about 24 hours since the attack, the FBI has learned a lot more about the shooting suspect, about his frame of mind, perhaps what he was thinking, where he was mentally. And we have learned that it appears that he had been planning this attack for some time.
Now, this comes off interviews with family members and friends of the shooting suspect. And they've been able to learn that he had recently sold his vehicle, a red ford explorer, he had sold other personal objects, leading investigators to believe he was selling off items because he had been planning this attack for some time.
Today the FBI said they believe he came to Ft. Lauderdale to this airport, specifically to carry out this attack. They would not say what made them believe that. But in talking to our sources, Evan Perez and I, and we have learned now that they have a better idea of what his life has been for the last several months and what he was thinking. This certainly changes things for the FBI. And they really need to consider what motivated him and whether or not as we know, he had been, he went to the FBI back in November, said someone was making him -- intelligence agency was making him watch ISIS videos. And they are now looking at his social media, his computers to see if he was actually looking at ISIS videos and perhaps may have been inspired by those videos.
BROWN: And so, you say interviews with his family and friends and talking to him. They say all that together indicate he had been planning this for some time. When you look at him selling off his item and he kind in kind of going MIA and not responding to calls. But what about his social media activity have you been able to glean anything, any posts he made, before the shooting rampage, Shimon?
PROKUPECZ: Yes. So they do have some postings or some writings are telling us. They would not go into detail about what those writings are. But they have some writings, they are looking at them. They're sort of dissecting them. You know, this is like one big puzzle for them now. But I think they're getting closer to figuring out what happened.
As you know how these things go, Pam. It takes quite some time to figure everything out. But the postings are of particular interest to them. And again, we know he had twitter accounts and Instagram.
So they are going through. That they have that. His Facebook. But still I think the key now, is going to be, what was he doing at home? Was he looking at videos? As he told the FBI back in November.
BROWN: And Tom Fuentes is standing by. He is our CNN senior law enforcement analyst and former assistant director of the FBI.
But before I go to you, Tom, I just want to quickly ask Shimon, the idea that this could be terrorism, we heard last night. They are not ruling that out. We know back in November, he went to the FBI. He said he was hearing voices in his head, pushing to join ISIS. Do investigators have any clear understanding of motive or whether terrorism could have played a role in this?
PROKUPECZ: I don't know. I don't get the sense that they are any clearer. Certainly, in talking to them they are not any clearer. I think they are just trying to really go back at everything now from November -- before November his time in the military, what he was doing the last year and to sort of see where his mind was.
I think the key is going to be obviously the computers. They have talked to the family. They have talked to friends and they have learned a lot. And this - that pretty much advanced the investigation in the last 24 hours. And you know, it's just a matter of can they say this is terrorism? And it's pretty difficult to do sometimes. And they are very careful in that. And you know we should see perhaps some charges today, at least one charge from the U.S. attorney's office something to do with maybe shootings at an air force, some kind of charges associated with that.
[16:05:12] BROWN: All right. We will be looking for that. And what is interesting, they are presumably talking to some of the same people who went list him to the FBI November that concern that he was hearing these voices.
Tom Fuentes, what is your reaction to this latest reporting from Shimon?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I think this makes it more important, Pamela, to hear more about the investigation as it goes. I think that, you know, unfortunately we want to get this news as fast as we can possibly get it. And in a way it is better if they are methodical. We want accuracy, not speed in terms of that.
He is in custody. He is not going anywhere. He is no longer a danger to anybody. So let's see the authorities do the investigation thoroughly and methodically and meticulously. And be able to determine if in fact it was an act of terror.
Now, one thing, you know, in the modern era, radicalization, it used to take someone months, even years, to find - radicalized. Now happen in a day. So there could have been postings or searches on the computer within the last day or two before the incident that would shed light on whether it was terrorism that even friends and neighbors may not be aware of.
BROWN: And we know, Tom, that he went to the FBI in November. And the FBI assessed this was someone who had mental health issues. They did not view him as a threat. They did not put him on any counterterrorism database. Looking back and, of course, hindsight, you know, is always easier. But was were there any missed opportunities here? And how does the FBI handle situations when someone comes in and presents as mentally ill, but yet talks about ISIS? I mean, how does the FBI differentiate and determine whether to take the case seriously, someone who could be a threat or not a threat?
FUENTES: Well, I think when someone comes in and claims they are being inspired by ISIS or contacted or, you know, somehow influenced, they look for the source of that. Is this someone who is already radicalized? Is this someone they are talking to in the community? Is it emails or dark mail from overseas that it could be an ISIS recruiter? When they come in and say that, you know, intelligence agencies are putting this in their brain, you know, it tends to kind of hurt the credibility of the individual if he thinks he is going to be claiming ISIS.
So it's a difficult problem for them to try to read his mind, analyze, is he sane or not? He is a real threat? They look into all the social media and things at that time. And if they don't find anything, not much they can do with someone who just makes wild statements. In this case they turned him over to the local police. And his weapon that he had with him to the local police so that they could get him into a medical facility for mental review. You know that's the steps they took. Next thing, he is free. He is out. He has got his gun back. So, you know, from that standpoint, there's not much that can be done at that point.
BROWN: It just raises a larger question about the system, what can be done to fix the system. So someone who presents, who has mental health issues, as his family has said, cannot go on, get a gun and go on a rampage like this.
I want to go to some of our other reporters covering the story because they are following every development coast to coast. Dan Simon is in anchorage. Ryan Young is at the Florida hospital where victims are being treated. And Boris Sanchez is at the Ft. Lauderdale airport.
So Dan, there are brand new details as we just heard from Shimon suggesting this was a premeditated attack.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well that's exactly right, Pamela. And hopefully that when the news conference begins here at the Anchorage police department in about 30 minutes from now, some of those questions will be addressed. We are told that it will begin promptly at the bottom of the hour.
As we have been reporting now, that you know, Santiago came to the FBI with a weapon, actually. And it was ultimately given to the local police department, and then given back to him following his mental health evaluation that lasted about 72 hours. I think some of the questions that will come about during the press conference and hopefully the authorities will answer them, were all of the procedures followed? Did they miss something here? Also, can they trace what Santiago's whereabouts in the days leading up to this attack? Those are some of the questions that are unanswered and hopefully they will be able to shed light on some of them.
BROWN: Yes, hopefully. Still a lot to learn and still very early on in the investigation. But people want those answers.
And Boris, you were there on the ground. You have been there since shortly after the rampage yesterday. What's the latest there? Has the airport fully reopened yet?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not completely. As you know, we are here at terminal two, the delta and air Canada terminal at the Ft. Lauderdale Hollywood international airport. The second level where we are now is the departure area and that has reopened just about an hour and a half or so ago. Security lines were open to passengers that were getting set to travel. That area had been closed just about all morning long. So we are expecting flights to take off from here soon. That level that's closed is the lower level. The baggage claim area where the shooting actually took place. It hasn't needed to be used because no flights have landed to this terminal since the shooting took place. We are expecting once they do, that will reopen, but right now the security lines are huge here at terminal two. In part because so many people were stranded yesterday because of the shooting. You had about 10,000 people that were taken from the airport here in Ft. Lauderdale throughout the night being bussed out of here to port everglades, not far from here to get assistance from agencies like the Red Cross and others because they spent literally hours waiting to be let out of the airport. We spoke to several people yesterday who were actually on planes from
about 1:30 shortly after the airport was put on lockdown after the shooting took place, until about 9:00 p.m. at night. So it's going to take a while, but things are slowly starting to get back to normal here, Pam.
[16:11:11] BROWN: And Ryan, what about the victims? What have you learned about them?
RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well so far, we are standing outside the hospital. We have been able to talk with the hospital emergency staff. What we have learned is the idea that when everyone arrived here, there were teams ready to help them. They rushed them on the inside and started treating those critical gunshot wounds. There were six people arrived here who are in critical condition. We are told three have been upgraded, three still remain in critical condition. In fact, the governor told us about two hours ago, they believe that one of the victims who is in critical condition would be released this afternoon. The hospital not really getting into those details. The governor also talked about - talking to one man who was shot three times, who still felt like he could continue running to get away from the shooter. This is what the governor said during that news conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Mostly what you think about is the positive stories. I had one who told Johnny Damon that he could outrun him even though he had three bullets sitting. So there is some positive stories. But you know, I tell you, when you talk to people that have been impacted, they are appreciative. They are appreciative of the care they are giving. The people here, the caregivers here are outstanding. They very appreciatively care. Now, you know, if you lost somebody, you know, just traumatic because it's totally out of context.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YOUNG: Pamela, a few things here. We have seen several people leave the hospital with luggage. And of course, everybody run (INAUDIBLE), they were part of this. There's so many people who are traveling through the area. Most of the people that we talk to had nothing to do with the situation. The hospital did say, though, when that mass casualty situation happened at the airport, they activated the team that was ready on standby. So when people arrived here they could start giving them the critical care.
Once again, the positive update here is that three remain in critical, but three have been upgraded at this point. We were trying to talk to them about what the injuries they were suffering. But because of HIPAA, the laws that, you know of course, make sure everyone's privacy is secure, they did not want to go into what gunshot wounds those people had suffered.
We are also trying to get in contact with some of the nurses and doctors who did an excellent job saving these lives to figure out exactly what's going on. But as you can imagine, some of them are off today, getting the much-needed rest after a very long night here.
BROWN: And we certainly hope all those of the victims will be released from hospital very soon.
Ryan Young, Boris Sanchez, Dan Simon, thank you all.
And much more on this fast moving stories. Stay with us. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[16:16:49] BROWN: Five people dead, six others is wounded by a man with handgun who opened fire inside the Ft. Lauderdale airport. That suspect is now in police custody and officials are trying to determine what motivated him and how he was able to do it.
I want to talk to Dwayne Dickerson now. Dwayne was inside that airport when the shooting started.
Dwayne, I imagine it has been a crazy 24 hours for you since that shooting. First of all, how are you doing and tell us what happened yesterday?
I'm doing all right. It's nice to be with you, Pamela. And thank you for asking. It was a normal day. I got to the airport around 12:45, and I walked in, terminal 2, which is the delta terminal departure. So I was upstairs. And I walked. I got in line. And the airport was so packed, they were starting to call passengers out of line that had flights that they needed to check bags for quickly. So I got called out and that's how I ended up. I was the very first person in line to check my bag next. And I was standing there, and then I heard this loud bang. And I looked at the other passenger the around me and it definitely startling enough for everybody to say, what was that? But you know, nobody wanted to assume yet that it was danger.
DWAYNE DICKERSON, WITNESSED AIRPORT SHOOTING: And second after that, you heard a second, third, fourth, fifth shots, and we all looked at each other and said, they are shooting. They are shooting. And so, we ran in all different directions. I happened to run towards the ticketing counter. I jumped over the ticketing counter and I grabbed the ticketing agent and said, where are the exits? Where are the exits? Show us to the exits. We got to get people to the exits. And unfortunately she was in shock, Pamela. She just froze. So she didn't say anything. She didn't show -- she wasn't able to, I don't think.
So then I kind of grabbed her hand and I saw two doors to the right and I said, are those exits? And she still wasn't able to articulate whether or not that was a safe way to get out. And so, there were some passengers that had gotten to that doorway. And so, they looked in and I asked, I said is that an exit. And they said no, it's not. And at that point you know we all had to make the terrifying decision of are we going to go in through a one way in, one way out supply closet? Would it end up being? Or are we going to make a run for it through the terminal and try to find a known exit. And at the end of the day, it seemed to be based on where we could hear the proximity of the shooting coming from, it seemed to us that he was shooting upstairs in the ticketing or right outside. And so we all made the choice to go into the storage closet and huddle up.
BROWN: Yes, that is a choice that no one ever wants to make. So as you are huddled up in that room hiding, and you are hearing presumably the gunshots, what is going through your mind, what was that like?
DICKERSON: Well, the first thing I did was I text my family, and I just looked back through my phone. That was about 12:56. It was a very short text, it said shooting at airport, I'm hiding, I love you guys. And that was going through my mind that I wanted the family to know that I love them, if for some reason I didn't make it out.
[16:20:11] BROWN: Well fortunately, you made it out alive, sadly others did not.
But Dwayne Dickerson, we do appreciate you coming on and sharing that story.
DICKERSON: Thank you for having me, Pamela.
BROWN: And police tell us that the man who opened fire inside the airport did not break any laws by having a gun in his possession. He reportedly checked that weapon into a commercial flight in Ft. Lauderdale and collected it inside the terminal after he landed and he filled out all the necessary paperwork he was supposed to fill out.
Joining me now live from Sarasota, Florida, state senator Greg Steube.
Thank you for coming on our show. I want to talk about this bill that you introduced last month that would allow anyone with a permit, as this shooter had, to openly carry a gun inside any airport in Florida. After what happened yesterday, are you standing by that bill?
GREG STEUBE (R), FLORIDA STATE SENATE: Well that individual shooter if he was from Alaska, he didn't have a concealed permit in the state of Florida. What my bill does is allow people that have a concealed carry permit in the state of Florida, on the non-secure shooting side of the airport, which is where the shooting occurred, to carry their firearm just like they carry in other places in our state. And we have seen a lot of these events, the pulse nightclub, other shootings have occurred have been in gun-free zones. In that airport no -- concealed permit carry holder was legally able to carry at that airport. Just currently they are restricted from carrying.
So right now that's a gun-free zone. And I just don't think that law- abiding citizens with no necessary background check and training should be prohibited from carrying when the facts show over 28 years of concealed carry, that it's a very law-abiding people that have a permit.
BROWN: So do you think then that the Ft. Lauderdale tragedy would have had fewer victims, if people -- have guns with them?
STEUBE: I'm sorry? BROWN: So then in your view, do you think that the tragedy would have
been minimized or there would have been fewer victims had people with permits been able to have guns with them in that area of the airport?
STEUBE: Certainly could have. And I certainly think that I as a concealed permit carry holder, should have a right to defend myself. Because I walk to a college campus or a non-secure area of an airport, my right to carry shouldn't be stripped just because there is a law that says I can't carry to protect myself where I could carry in other parts of the state. So yes, if there was somebody there who was a concealed carry permit holder, they were following the law and didn't have their gun on them at the time, had the law been changed like I want it changed, it very possibly could have.
BROWN: Airports in Florida right now are gun-free zones. Do you want there to be zero gun-free zones anywhere in in Florida?
STEUBE: There are several different areas within the statute that we have gone in and looked at over the past several years. I filed a bill to repeal the gun-free zone on college campuses. That bill has passed the House of Representatives the last couple of years. Now that I'm in the Senate I'm going to try to work to repeal that gun- free zone. And there are areas in our state where we have seen consistently they have been targeted by terrorists and others, wishing to cause havoc and murder our citizens.
BROWN: So to be clear, and again this suspect, he did have a permit, but it was in Alaska, it is true that it was not in Florida, we believe. But to be clear, after the tragedy, you have not changed your stance on this bill that you introduced, allowing people with permits to carry gun in these, right now, no-gun zones in the airports, correct?
STEUBE: Well, to be clear, right now, as we stood here today when that shooting occurred, no licensed concealed carry permit holder legally could carry in that airport. And that didn't stop an individual from coming and shooting and killing individuals. So why would repealing that and giving law-abiding citizens like myself and other who have the training and the ability to protect themselves, why wouldn't we want to give them that ability just like they have in any other places in our state?
BROWN: All right. Florida state senator Greg Steube, thank you for coming on.
STEUBE: Thank you.
BROWN: Along the trail of a killer, a trail that takes all of us to anchorage, Alaska. Right here, there's the podium. We are going to take you there live next in search of what the motivation could possibly be behind the deadly shooting in a Florida airport.
We will be back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [16:28:10] BROWN: So if you're a technology fan, Las Vegas is a place to be this weekend, apparently. More than 150,000 people including our own Andy Scholes are expected to attend the consumer electronics show.
ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS REPORTER: Pamela, here at CES, we have gotten the chance to speak with some of the biggest names in all of sports. And yesterday I sat down and talked to none other than Joe Montana, as this report brought to you by Ford, Go Farther.
Now, the former super bowl champ was here taking part in Turner Sports' sports business innovation showcase. And Montana, he has his own tech investment company and he also has a virtual reality game called Montana 17 coming out next month. And I sat down with Montana asked him about his love for technology and which NFL team he could see making a run in the playoffs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE MONTANA, HALL OF FAME QUARTERBACK: I love technology. I'm just not a big techie. I still have to call my son who is actually part of the team, hey, how do you do this. But it's been a lot of fun. And actually, he is the quarterback in the game. So -- well, they did. But somehow the younger body just moves a lot quicker than mine. I grew up in Pittsburgh. How could I not take the Steelers?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: All right, thanks so much, Andy. We go live now to Alaska where the FBI's Anchorage field office is holding a press conference.
CHRISTOPHER TOLLEY, ANCHORAGE POLICE CHIEF: Special agent in charge of the FBI's Anchorage field office. First, I would like to offer my prayers and condolences to the families of the victims in yesterday's attack. There's been much media speculation about Mr. Santiago's interaction with our office. I want to clear up as much as I can.
In November, 2016, Mr. Santiago walked into the Anchorage FBI office to report that his mind was being controlled by U.S. intelligence agencies. During the interview, Mr. Santiago appeared agitated, incoherent and made disjointed statements.
[16:30:00] Although he stated he did not wish to harm anyone, as a result of his erratic behavior our agents contacted local authorities, who took custody of Mr. Santiago and transported him to the local medical facility for evaluation.
The FBI closed its assessment of Mr. Santiago after conducting database reviews and interagency checks. There have been reports Mr. Santiago turned himself in. This is not true. He was a walk-in complaint. This is something that happens at FBI offices around the country every day. There have been concerns raised about why Mr. Santiago was not placed on a no-fly list.
I want to be clear, during our initial investigation, we found no ties to terrorism. He broke no laws when he came into our office, making disjointed comments about mind control. Since yesterday, in conduction with the Anchorage Police Department, other federal agencies and our state partners, we have conducted numerous interviews of Mr. Santiago's associates, we have executed several search warrants at multiple locations around the Anchorage area.
And while we are early in the investigation, there's currently no indication Mr. Santiago was working with any other individuals when he planned and carried out yesterday's attack. I would like to stress that point. Our community here in Anchorage is not facing any known threat in connection with Mr. Santiago.
I would like now to turn it over to Chief Chris Tolley for his comments.
CHRISTOPHER TOLLEY, ANCHORAGE POLICE DEPARTMENT: Good afternoon. I'm going to cover three things. Contact Mr. Santiago has had with the Anchorage Police Department in the past, what we've been doing since this tragic incident occurred yesterday morning and then where we go from here.
On January 11th, 2016, there was a physical disturbance and an arrest warrant was issued for criminal mischief for Mr. Santiago. On February 23rd, violation conditions of release, Mr. Santiago was restricted from his Medford Street address. During a compliance check officers found him there, arrested and remanded. On March 18th, 2016, a physical disturbance, officers were not able to establish probable cause for an arrest.
On October 15th, 2016, the domestic violence physical disturbance. Officers investigated and contacted the municipal prosecutor who gave authorization not to arrest Mr. Santiago. On October 21st, 2016, a physical disturbance allegation of strangulation. Officers investigated and no probable cause was established for arrest. On November 7th, 2016, mental health crisis at the FBI building. On that day, FAPD was contacted by the Anchorage FBI requesting assistance with a mentally ill person having disjointed thoughts.
An APD arrived on scene. They were informed by investigating agents Mr. Santiago had arrived at the FBI building asking for help. Santiago was having terroristic thoughts and believed he was being influenced by ISIS. Santiago go ahead and load a magazine on him, but had left his firearm in his vehicle prior to contacting agents. Also in the vehicle was Santiago's newborn child.
Based on the statements made to the agents on scene and their own contact with Santiago, APD transported him to a mental health facility where he was admitted. During this incident, Santiago's weapon was loaded -- I mean, was logged into APD evidence for safekeeping.
On November 30th, Santiago attempted to retrieve the firearm placed in safekeeping on November 7th. At which time Anchorage FBI was notified and contacted Santiago while at the Anchorage Police Department. Santiago left without the firearm that day. On 11/17, a letter was sent to Santiago about picking up his weapon at APD. An appointment was set for it. On the 30th, matters were re-coordinated with the FBI. On December 8th, the weapon was released to Santiago. In closing, our hearts go out to the families of the five innocent
people who lost their lives and the eight who were injured during the shooting in Fort Lauderdale. The investigation continues and we are working tirelessly to assist our law enforcement partners from the Broward County Sheriff's Department and the FBI.
We're asking for the continued support and assistance from the citizens of Anchorage. There will be additional information provided to you on how the citizens can help.
[16:35:03] RITZMAN: Currently the FBI has set up a tip hotline that individuals in the area or anywhere in the country actually can call if you have any information that may aid us in our investigation. That number is 1-800-CALL-FBI. And then you press the option for number 1. At this time we will go ahead and open it up for a few questions, realize that this still an active investigation. So the information we can provide is going to be very limited.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was the gun that was released to him the same gun that was used in the shooting?
RITZMAN: I have not received that information at this time. So -- I cannot comment positive or negative on that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How about you, Police Chief? Your department was the one that released that gun, correct?
TOLLEY: There is speculation that this is the same gun. I have not received confirmation that it is in fact that gun.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Now when he went into the FBI to talk to agents, was the child left in the car? Or did he bring the child in?
RITZMAN: The --
TOLLEY: It's my understanding the child was left in the car at the time.
RITZMAN: Correct. His girlfriend at the time was contacted. We -- we had retrieved the child and she was contacted and came and picked the child up.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dan Simon here with CNN. Can you talk a little bit about the mental health evaluation, who conducted it and how long he was under supervision?
RITZMAN: At this time we have subpoenaed all the records pertaining to the mental health. But because it's an ongoing investigation, it would be inappropriate for me to respond to that at this time.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Hi. What do we know about his travel to South Florida and what his reason was for going down there?
RITZMAN: At this point we're still in the investigative phase. We're trying to make those determinations. So once we have more information on his purpose for the travel, we'll certainly put that out. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Could you tell me about Alaska's policy for
releasing a weapon to someone with mental health issues?
RITZMAN: We'll ask Karen Loeffler, U.S. attorney to address it.
KAREN LOEFFLER, U.S. ATTORNEY, DISTRICT OF ALASKA: Right. I'm Karen Loeffler. I'm the U.S. attorney here.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you spell your name?
LOEFFLER: Karen Loeffler, L-O-E-F-F-L-E-R. I'm the U.S. attorney for the district of Alaska.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Could you go to the camera?
LOEFFLER: I'm sorry. Yes. I can talk to about the federal laws. Obviously law enforcement operates within the statutes that are given to them. There is a federal law with regard to having a gun by somebody who is mentally ill. But the law requires that the person be, quote, "adjudicated mentally ill," which is a difficult standard. I don't want to go into all of the details. But as far as I know there was -- this is not somebody that would have been prohibited based on the information that they have.
I think that law enforcement acted within the laws that they have. You know, we're a country of laws and they operate within them. Absent a law allowing them to keep the gun, I don't believe -- I'm not, you know, a city attorney but under federal law there wouldn't have been a basis that I'm aware of.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE), I'm wondering if the storage was conducted to the investigation?
RITZMAN: We've conducted two searches locally. And both of those searches were known residence where the subject had stayed.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So that would be the Medfra Street on -- or however you say it?
RITZMAN: Yes. Yes.
TOLLEY: So as you can imagine our primary concern here is for the safety and the well-being and making sure no one in Anchorage is at further risks due to this individual or possibly related events. That's what we've been doing tirelessly for the past 28 hours since this occurred. There's been complete coordination between the federal, state and local partners. We've worked very, very closely, and we are grateful for the community of Anchorage, their support in helping us with providing information and making our community safe.
Thank you very much. Have a good afternoon.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: One quick question, one quick question about the gun one more time. PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: We're hearing from law enforcement
officials in Anchorage, Alaska, about the investigation so far into the suspect that opened fire at the airport in Fort Lauderdale yesterday, killing five people, and laid out more information about his past contact with law enforcement, including the FBI back in November, as we heard officials say, he -- this was a complaint apparently, a walk-in complaint they called it.
The FBI spoke to him and they said that he was disjointed in his thoughts. But they believed that this was a mental health issue, not a terrorist concern and he was turned over to local police, he then, as we know, underwent a mental health evaluation voluntarily and he was able to get his gun back that he had with him when he went to police.
[16:40:09] And we have learned from our sources that that is the same gun that was used in the shooting at that airport yesterday. So I want to bring in now, our analyst, Tom Fuentes, CNN senior law enforcement analyst and former assistant director of the FBI.
What stuck out to you from that press conference, Tom?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think the first thing, Pamela, is how many encounters they had with him for various incidents. And, you know, we also know of the domestic violence incidents with his girlfriend and that apparently one of the charges related to him strangling her is still pending. And you know, that's another factor for not being eligible to possess a firearm is if you're convicted of a felony, but he wasn't convicted yet.
We understand that sentencing was scheduled or additional part of that trial was scheduled for later this year. But he hadn't been adjudicated a felon and he hadn't been adjudicated mentally ill. So again, you know, we have this situation where he slipped through the cracks.
BROWN: And you know, you look back and you're saying, well, how can this happen? He was there acting with authorities, he displayed mental health issues and we heard the U.S. attorney there say well, law enforcement did act within the law, because you have to be adjudicated by a judge and be found mentally defective in order for you to be prevented from owning a firearm.
What does it take, Tom, for someone to be, to go before a judge? In the first place? Clearly this didn't happen in this case, even though he walked into the FBI's office and was rambling and talking about ISIS and voices in his head pushing him to join ISIS.
FUENTES: The problem as parts of our legal system and our constitutional rights is that you have to actually break the law, not think bad thoughts. And that's what we have is over and over you hear of individuals who are expressing terrible things, they think bad thoughts. They're not stable. And yet none of that rises to the level of being able to incarcerate them or deny them of constitutional rights until they actually do something. BROWN: But I'm talking about -- and you may, and that's OK if you
don't know the ins and outs of this, but from a mental health standpoint to be adjudicated and judged as mentally defective and having mental health issues, what does it take to go before a judge, because that didn't happen in this case. But this is clearly someone who was mentally ill and had exhibited that for quite some time.
FUENTES: Every state has its own set of local statutes governing a process for dealing with mentally ill people. And I think that, you know, in many of these cases, you have to first have a judge hear about what the situation is with someone and make a ruling that he's judged mentally incompetent and then that ruling has to be passed on to others.
You know, we had that with the Virginia Tech shooter where a judge ruled that he was mentally incompetent. Yet the authorities were never notified of that ruling. And he was able to go into a Roanoke, Virginia, gun shop and buy the firearms that he used for the massacre at Virginia Tech. So, you know, there's a whole series of events here and basically obstacles, if you will, for law enforcement to basically take someone's gun away or take their freedom away, based on what they're expressing or how they're acting or how they're thinking. And it's a very, very difficult area.
And law enforcement is put in a terrible situation because the whole mental health system in the United States is completely inadequate. And then we turn it over to the police because we don't have an adequate system for family members or other members of society or law enforcement to deal with these individuals and ensure our safety.
BROWN: And real quick before I go to my other reporters, they made the point to say that he was a walk-in complaint in November. What does that mean exactly?
FUENTES: Exactly that. Walked into the FBI office.
BROWN: But was that from him or other associates? Because the reporting had been that he had walked in with associates.
FUENTES: Well, if he went into the FBI office under his own power and voluntarily, that's a walk-in.
FUENTES: So he's not in custody. He's not under arrest, nobody is forcing him into that office. And this is very common. And I know from the time I was a police officer and the time as an FBI agent, people walk in almost on a daily basis into the offices and express all kinds of things. And you know that the Russians are turning their refrigerator on and off or their thermostat on and off and you realize that -- you know, that's not exactly the case. And that's common. It's very common for law enforcement to deal with individuals in our society who are mentally disturbed.
[16:45:02] BROWN: Shimon, I want to bring you in because you have some new reporting that this was the belief among investigators at this early stage is that this was a premeditated act. What more can you tell us about that?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Well, and that, Pam, is based off their interviews with family and friends of the alleged shooter. So they've spent the last 24 hours talking to family members, his aunt, his brother. Some of the closer friends, and everyone in his sort of circle, his friends, his family could tell that he was having some difficulties. Some mental issues.
We even spoke to his aunt who said he had dropped off. She had not heard from him for several months. So this is sort of the picture that's being painted to investigators. What's also interesting is that the investigators learned that in the last several months, he had been selling his possessions, his car, other items that he was selling off. Sort of indicating to them that he was planning something. Something was about to happen.
There was a significant change in his life, in his thinking. And so he was sort of getting rid of stuff. This is not uncommon in people, as you know, Pam, who are planning these kinds of attacks.
PROKUPECZ: They tend to sort of change things in their life, get rid of stuff and, you know, drop off. But they start planning and there's every indication to authorities that he was planning this. And also keep in mind he's been cooperating, he's been talking to them for several hours.
BROWN: And he surrendered. He surrendered to authorities yesterday.
PROKUPECZ: Yes, that is also an interesting part because it doesn't appear that he wanted to die in this attack. Right? If he surrendered, it seems that he wanted to survive. So they do have the benefit of having a shooter, an alleged shooter surviving that normally does not happen. So now they're just going back.
PROKUPECZ: And the other thing that they're looking at is to see whether or not he actually did use ISIS videos.
PROKUPECZ: And what role that may have had. It's a little disconcerting to them. And you know, as this happens they sort of go back, you know, you have these attacks and then they go back, what did we miss. What was going on in this person's life and they're sort of putting that all together now and getting a better idea of where he was, what he was thinking. And really, it's just a matter of, you know, what could the family have done more, what could he have done more?
PROKUPECZ: I mean, he did. He went for help. And was -- BROWN: Right. And that's what's so interesting, Shimon, is it seems
as though he was proactive, he was sort of crying out for help back in November when he went to the FBI voluntarily, underwent that psychological exam.
Dan, before I go to you in Anchorage, I just want to ask Shimon one more question because the early belief in this investigation is that this was premeditated. But it begs the question, why would he wait until he got to Florida to launch his attack? What is his connection to Florida? Presumably the victims there were strangers, he didn't know them. Do we know anything more about that connection?
PROKUPECZ: Well, that's right, Pam, they were strangers. There's nothing to indicate that he knew any of the people who he targeted. I think that's the big puzzle. And that's the big question for them. Sort of that piece that perhaps maybe missing right now. That they haven't told us why he chose Florida. But they were pretty direct this morning, the FBI, the special agent in charge there in saying that they believe that he went to Fort Lauderdale specifically to do this attack.
And I think that comes from probably his statements. I think that comes from everything that they're seeing from his family, from his friends. We don't know when he purchased the ticket. They have not told us. So I bet all of that is sort of factoring into their thinking.
BROWN: Well, and I want to go to Dan Simon. You asked a great question there at the press conference, Dan, about his mental health records and they mentioned that they were subpoenaing these records. But what more do we know about how long that evaluation lasted. Any more insight into that -- Dan?
SIMON: Well, we're hearing that it lasted for about 72 hours or even less. That it was a quick mental health evaluation then he was essentially let go.
But, Pamela, I think the posture that you're hearing from law enforcement is that they did everything according to protocol. That you had somebody come in, essentially check himself in. Said he was having some mental health issues and police do what they normally do, is that they referred him to the hospital and so from their point of view, they feel like, you know, this is a situation that was really beyond our control. That we did what we're instructed to do and that is refer him to local police, the FBI referred him to local police and then referred him to the hospital.
But I think, you know, some of the things that you're hearing that are interesting is that when he came to the FBI, he had a newborn child in his car. And essentially left that child in the car. So that is somebody right there, who you would suggest is mentally unstable.
[16:50:07] Authorities also saying that he appeared to be disjointed and really incoherent in his thoughts, when he talked about hearing those voices and talked about wanting to, you know, watch ISIS videos or those voices instructing him to watch ISIS videos. So this investigation obviously still early in its stages but now you're hearing law enforcement beginning to defend how they handled this case.
BROWN: Right. And they say they followed protocol. No indication they didn't but of course after something like this, you go back and look at whether the protocol needs to be revised and that certainly will likely happen in this case.
Thank you to the three of you for your perspective and insights. Stick around. We'll be going back to you soon. But I want to get some more insight on Santiago's state of mind. Talk to Terry Lyles, he is a psychologist and stress coach who has worked with veterans suffering from PTSD.
Terry, listen to what Marlin Ritzman, FBI Anchorage field office special agent in charge, said during this news conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RITZMAN: In November 2016 Mr. Santiago walked into the Anchorage FBI office to report that his mind was being controlled by a U.S. intelligence agency. During the interview Mr. Santiago appeared agitated, incoherent and made disjointed statements, although he stated he did not wish to harm anyone as a result of his erratic behavior, our agents contacted local authorities, who took custody of Mr. Santiago and transported him to the local medical facility for evaluation.
The FBI closed its assessment of Mr. Santiago, after conducting database reviews and interagency checks. There have been reports Mr. Santiago turned himself in. This is not true. He was a walk-in complaint. This is something that happens in FBI offices around the country every day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: All right. Terry, you hear that. What's your reaction? What's going through your mind?
TERRY LYLES, PSYCHOLOGIST AND STRESS COACH: Well, I mean, I reported earlier on this that, you know, this is where our system has to keep tightening up and learning from what's happening because as we're talking about this right now, you and I, live real-time, these incidents are happening live real-time. You know, 36 hours ago, this was going on. So I think we're going to learn that protocols need to be adjusted.
LYLES: I mean, when somebody walks in that's mentally unstable, we need to be able to put parameters around them. Check the right boxes but also make sure due diligence is done. Like how is he still able to carry a firearm? You know if he's released?
BROWN: Well --
BROWN: Yes, I just want to ask you on that point, Terry, and I'm sorry to cut you off there. But it does beg the question, because all the authorities, they're saying look, we followed protocol. He had never been determined mentally defective by a judge therefore there was nothing stopping us from giving his gun back. But I mean, this is someone who was crying out for help. He went to the FBI and said he's hearing voices.
BROWN: And talking about ISIS and intelligence agencies pushing him to join ISIS. I mean, what more would it take to get in front of a judge and be declared mentally defective?
LYLES: Well, I think, you know, at the lowest level you put a cooling period, if someone has a firearm and they have a license, that's fine. We don't want to, you know, circumvent their Second Amendment rights. But you know what, maybe we say, let's pause this for 30 days or 60 days, let's get in front of a judge, let's make sure everything is, you know. according to our protocol. Instead, I used to live in Anchorage. I was on the Air Force base there in Elmendorf, so and he just boarded a plane, flew back and did exactly what he was saying was in his head.
LYLES: That's a problem.
BROWN: And they talked about, you know, look, there was -- again, they had the gun for a month because when he went to the hospital, they took the gun from him and then went through all the steps to give him the gun back. But something like this, and of course people can -- people in your view who have post traumatic stress, that can happen.
BROWN: But then you start peeling back the layers, and you look back at 2010, 2011, he served in Iraq, his family said after that that he had exhibited signs of post traumatic stress. And then we know he went to the FBI, he had this domestic dispute with his girlfriend. It seems like the flags are there. What can be done to prevent something similar from happening? I mean, this is a clear-cut case where the flags clearly didn't stop this from happening.
LYLES: Well, you're right and sadly, you know, we're having the same conversation again. You know, I work closely with the VA and also some of the DOD, and you know, this is something that we've got to keep circling around and figuring out. Because, you know, I'm a stress expert, that's what I do by day. And there's good stress, there's also bad stress.
PTSD is the exasperation of that bad stress. It leaks out of us. Any trauma will leak out of us unless it's processed. A lot of these individuals fall through the cracks, they don't get the proper release that they need through therapy and services. And people listening to them. And that's what we need to keep stepping up.
[16:55:03] And I mentioned earlier with Connected Warriors, that's part of what we do. We try to help individuals around the country that are walking into places saying, I'm not sure I'm 100 percent, but I need help. When that happens, we go to another level protocol to say we need to pull out all the stops, to make sure their family is alerted, that they're alerted, their health care professionals are alerted. To make sure that we're not only protecting this individual, but to protecting their families, and our society at large.
BROWN: And make sure, like you say, everyone is on the same page and that the person who needs help is getting the help that they need.
BROWN: An ongoing problem, certainly the story is a tragedy, but it also raises all these larger questions we discussed.
Terry Lyles, thank you for sharing your analysis and your very important perspective and experience on this. We'll be right back.
BROWN: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM on this Saturday. I'm Pamela Brown in Washington. Poppy Harlow is off today and we have some breaking news.
A disturbing picture emerging tonight of the war veteran accused in Friday's shooting spree at the Fort Lauderdale airport. A rampage that killed five people, injured six and sent hundreds running for their lives across the tarmac. Officials now believe he was planning the attack for some time. Moments ago the FBI wrapped up a press conference at a field office in Alaska.