Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Details Emerge about Florida School Shooter; FBI Was Warned about Shooter; Trump Administration Focuses on Mental Health of Shooter, Not Guns. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired February 15, 2018 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TAPPER: ... THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for watching.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Ignored warning? A source says the FBI received at least one warning of threats from the suspect in the Florida high school massacre, including a boast he wanted to be a professional school shooter. Why didn't the bureau share the alarming information with Florida authorities?
[17:00:25] Ready to kill. Chilling evidence emerges about the attack's meticulous planning and methodical way it unfolded. Why are defense attorneys now saying the young man accused of 17 murders feels remorse?
National shame. President Trump offers the usual thoughts and prayers we hear every time a bloody crime traumatizes the nation, but he makes no mention of gun violence. How long can the issue be ignored?
And honoring heroes, amid the grief of students and families, students emerge of heroic coaches and teachers who sacrificed their own lives in order to save others.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking tonight, new and very disturbing information about 19-year-old Nicholas Cruz, who's charged with murdering 17 people at a Florida high school he once attended. Cruz was ordered held without bond during a brief court appearance earlier this afternoon.
We also have alarming new details about at least one warning that was not passed down -- passed on before the attack, as well as new stories of the bloody and chaotic events at the school.
This hour, I'll be speaking live with officials in Florida, including the governor, Rick Scott. We have multiple correspondents on the scene, and our analysts and experts, they are all standing by.
Authorities in Florida are about to update the public on the very latest details. We'll go there in just a few moments for the news conference.
But let's begin with CNN's Brian Todd. He's in Florida, outside the courthouse in Fort Lauderdale.
Brian, way are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're getting new details tonight on the shooter's background and new information how this attack unfolded not far from here.
TODD (voice-over): Moments of terror captured by the intended targets. Students crouching behind their desks during bursts of gunfire. The gunman, armed with an AR-15-style assault weapon and multiple magazines, and a deadly plan to maximize carnage.
Wearing a gas mask and carrying smoke grenades, investigators believe he sets off a fire alarm, sending students into the hallways. Chaos ensues as gunshots ring out. Students flee the school as they quickly realize the fire alarm is no drill, and that an active shooter is on the loose.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five-eight-two-one, I'm with Fire Rescue. We need more units in there. I have victims. I'm trying to evac them out now.
TODD: The shooter is quickly identified and apprehended about 90 minutes later in a nearby community.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guy in the burgundy shirt.
TODD: Today, appearing in court, facing 17 counts of premeditated murder.
Tonight, questions about warning signs and missed clues. Investigators combing through social media posts have uncovered a disturbing digital footprint, including threatening and racist remarks. The shooter recently posted on Instagram these images of himself with a knife in what appears to be a B.B. gun.
And twice the FBI was tipped off about a person with the shooter's name, making threatening social media comments, including this on YouTube, saying, quote, "I'm going to be a professional school shooter."
ROBERT LASKY, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: No other information was included with that comment which would indicate a time, location, or the true identity of the person who made the comment. The FBI conducted database reviews, checks, but was unable to further identify the person who actually made the comment.
TODD: No information related to the postings was shared by the FBI with Florida officials. The Broward County school superintendent says the shooter was not on their radar.
ROBERT RUNCIE, SUPERINTENDENT, BROWARD COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS: We didn't have anyone. There weren't any phone calls or threats that we know of that were made. TODD: But the 19-year-old former student had been expelled for
disciplinary reasons issue. Today, his public defender says he suffers from mental illness.
MELISA MCNEILL, PUBLIC DEFENDER: He's a broken human being. He's a broken child.
SHERIFF SCOTT ISRAEL, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: Right now, the focus of the FBI Broward Sheriff's Office is on the successful prosecution of this killer.
TODD: Meanwhile, students here are calling for fewer words and more action. They say if this can happen in Parkland, a town recently voted the safest in Florida, it can happen anywhere.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can say, yes, we're going to do all these things, thoughts and prayers. What we need more than that is action. Please, we're children. You guys, like, are the adults. You need to take some action and play a role. Work together. Come over your politics, and get something done.
TODD: And to clarify, tonight, the FBI now saying that the shooter made just one threatening remark on a YouTube posting. That one threatening remark was about being a professional school shooter. He did not make more than one threatening remark, according to the FBI.
[17:05:11] Now, according to court documents that we saw this afternoon, during the chaos that ensued after the shooting, the suspect blended in with some students who were running away from the scene and was able to elude police officers who were arriving at the scene. But, of course, he was apprehended a short time later.
The public defenders who were with him told reporters just a short time ago that the suspect's being held in protective custody in jail and that he is under suicide watch -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, tell us about the police officer, the local police officer who actually apprehended the suspect. It was a dramatic development.
TODD: That's right, Wolf. This officer, his name was Michael Leonard. He's with the Coconut Creek, Florida, Police Department. He arrived on scene shortly after the shootings, but after the police had all converged on the scene and had basically taken over the scene. Other police officers were there already.
He said it was heavy with police presence at the school, so he decided on his own just to venture out into the neighborhood and got into an area kind of a back neighborhood area with residential streets and happened to see the suspect walking there and apprehended him.
BLITZER: It was a dramatic story indeed. All right, Brian Todd, reporting for us. Brian, we'll get back to you. I know you're working your sources over there, as well. I quickly want to go to the justice correspondent, Evan Perez. He's
been working his sources, talking to federal officials among others. Evan right now, there seems to be a much greater emphasis on mental health problems than on guns. Update us on that.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Wolf, and I think one of the problems here is that, at least from the indications that we're getting in the investigation, early in this investigation, is that there were plenty of signs that there was something wrong -- going wrong with this young man, and it somehow did not get into the system.
He was able to buy a gun just short of a year ago. He purchased a gun legally. It didn't show up anything -- did not show up in the mental health -- in the background check, nothing about his mental health showed up in the background check. So he was able to buy this AR-15- style firearm without any problems, passed a background check.
Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, addressed this -- this issue this morning when he spoke to reporters. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think effective enforcement of our gun laws focusing on criminals and dangerous people, mentally ill people that where we have the legal ability to do so can reduce violence in our communities and improve public safety. It's not good if we got gun laws that say criminals can't carry guns is they never get enforced. So we intend to enforce our laws, and if anything, the recent events caused us to know we need to do even more in the future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PEREZ: Wolf, one of the things that has emerged is, obviously, the fact that there was this report to the FBI that was flagging a comment the he made about being a professional school shooter. The FBI did look at it, and it appeared they were not able to ever identify who this person was. It's not clear that the FBI did everything it could have. Those are questions now, obviously, being asked of the FBI.
But we also know that there were some other recent incidents, including a shooting at the Ft. Lauderdale airport where the FBI had contact with the shooter, returned a gun to him, and then he was able to get on a flight, checked his gun as luggage, and then opened fire when he landed in Fort Lauderdale.
There are multiple incidents that have come to pass recently, and that's what the attorney general is talking, about possibly looking at the ways in which law enforcement's handling all the cases, and being able to prevent these shootings in the future, Wolf.
BLITZER: As you point out, Evan, this certainly isn't the first deadly incident where there were clear warning signals missed by law enforcement. What specifically, as they're looking at this problem, what do they want to do? PEREZ: Well, one of the things that they're trying to figure out is
when they have contact with these -- with these people, like Omar Mateen, for instance, the person who carried out the shooting at that gay nightclub in Orlando, they have the ability to investigate these people. And one of the concerns that they always have is whether or not they're -- they're violating their privacy, whether or not they can try to find a way to get him off the streets.
Again, there's mental health laws on the books. There's also, obviously, gun laws. But the FBI is also facing the pressure of not inveighing people's privacy and not taking away their Second Amendment rights without having good enough reason to do that. That's something that the FBI has been struggling with for years, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Evan, stand by. We're awaiting the start of this news conference down in Florida. The governor, Rick Scott, expected to make a statement, answer questions; also the Broward County sheriff, Scott Israel, among others. We'll have live coverage of that new information we anticipate will emerge from this news conference, so everyone, get ready for that.
[17:10:05] In the meantime, I want to bring in our panel. Phil Mudd, you've been watching this very carefully. Even if authorities are able to identify and locate someone who has expressed very violent, perhaps even deadly tendencies, do they have the tools right now to do anything about it?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think that is the key question in the coming days. I think there's going to be a rush to judgment, and we've seen this in the past few hours, to say what should the FBI have done?
I talked to school administrators today and police chiefs across the country, including here in Miami. There's one issue that I think we can get out that we might risk missing if we keep focusing on the FBI, and that is when a kid is 15, 16, 17 years old and the school sees evidence of violence...
BLITZER: Hold on. The sheriff -- the sheriff of Broward County is speaking.
SCOTT ISRAEL, SHERIFF, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: ... briefing tonight, I'm going to start out by giving you a timeline and talk about the events that happened yesterday.
I'm then going to introduce Peter Forcelli, the staff of ATF, and he's going to talk about the origin of the rifle. And then lastly, you'll hear from a special agent in charge of the FBI, Rob Blaustein (ph). He's going to expound a little bit more on the tip. Then I'll come back to the podium. We'll answer some questions.
So I wanted to start out by telling you an Uber car dropped off the suspect at 2019 yesterday, 2019 yesterday, 2:19 p.m. in Stoneman Douglas High School. The suspect entered the east stairwell -- that's Building 12 -- with a rifle inside a black soft case. The suspect entered in the stairwell, pulled the rifle out of the
case. At 20 -- 2:21 hours and 33 seconds, the suspect readied his rifle and began shooting into rooms 1215, 1216, 1214. He went back to 1216, back to 1215, and then to 1213.
The suspect -- the suspect then took the west stairwell to the second floor and shot one victim in room 1234 on the second floor.
The suspect then took the east stairwell to the third floor. He dropped his rifle and backpack, ran down the stairs. He exited building 12 and ran towards the tennis courts and then took a southbound turn on foot.
The suspect crossed fields and ran west, along with others who were fleeing, and tried to mix in with the group that were running away fearing for their lives.
The suspect arrived at the Wal-Mart store. He bought a drink at the Subway, and then left the Wal-Mart on foot. The suspect went to McDonald's, sat down for a short period of time. This was at 3:01 p.m. And he left on foot.
At 3:41 p.m., 40 minutes after he departed from the McDonald's, the suspect was detained at 4700 Windham Lakes Drive in Coral Springs by an officer from the Coconut Creek Police Department. He was taken into custody without incident.
Today, we've interviewed, between the FBI, the Broward Sheriff's Office, and a significant amount of investigators from many other agencies, FDLE, a lot of local law enforcement, so over 2,000 people were interviewed, and we continue. This is a fluid investigation. We have so many facts coming in, some true, some unsubstantiated, some rumors. It's going to take a lot of time to sift through what's true, what's accurate, and what's not.
I wanted to honor deceased victims of this horrific killing. I'm going to do my best to pronounce the names accurately. Please forgive me if I don't announce the names exactly how the families do. But I thought it's very important. I want to pay homage to these families and to the victims.
Carmen Schentrup; Meadow Pollack; Peter Wang; Nicholas Dworet; Christopher Hixon, my very, very, very special friend who I'll miss; Aaron Feis; Luke Hoyer; Alaina Petty; Jaime Guttenberg; Martin Duque Anguiano; Alyssa Alhadeff; Helena Ramsay; Scott Beigel; Joaquin Oliver; Cara Loughran; Gina Montalto; and Alexander Schachter. May they rest in peace and may God comfort their families.
At this time, special agent in charge of ATF, Peter Forcelli, will speak about the firearm.
PETER FORECELLI, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE OF ATF: Good afternoon. In behalf of the men and women from ATF, I want to extend my condolences to the families of the victims and to the people in the community, and I also ask that you keep in your thoughts and prayers, the first responders who responded out to the scene. At 30-plus years in law enforcement, I can tell you it was a difficult one.
The firearm that was utilized in this event was purchased lawfully here in the state of Florida, just short of a year ago by the individual who's charged with this crime. We're here to help the Broward County Sheriff's Office follow up on any leads that may pertain to the firearm or anything else that they need.
Again, I ask that you keep the folks who responded to this scene, as well as the families and the victims, in your thoughts and prayers as we get through these difficult days. Thank you.
ISRAEL: Special Agent in Charge Lasky addressed some of the questions you had today about tips received regarding the suspect. Mr. Laskey's going to expound upon some of that information.
ROBERT LASKY, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, FBI, MIAMI DIVISION: Good afternoon. I'd like to take this opportunity to provide some additional information about the tip we spoke about this morning.
On September 25, 2017, the FBI field officer in Jackson, Mississippi, received a tip about a comment posted to a YouTube account by someone with the user name Nikolas Cruz spelled N-I-K-O-L-A-S C-R-U-Z. The comment said, "I'm going to be a professional school shooter." There was no further identifiers about the particular time, location or further identifiers about the person who posted the comment.
The complainant had provided the same information to YouTube. YouTube removed the comment.
After receiving this information, FBI Jackson conducted an interview of the person who made the complaint. This person lives in Mississippi, has no connection to south Florida, and has no knowledge about the person who posted the comment.
The FBI also conducted internal database reviews and open source checks. No additional information was found to positively identify the person who posted this comment. There was no connection found to South Florida.
Moving forward, we will continue to gather all information about the subject as we try to identify his motives, his associates, and his actions leading up to yesterday's events. We are looking into his social media posts, his movements, his conversations leading up to the shooting, as well as any other indicators that may be out there.
Again, my heart goes out to the victims, the families, and the friends and everybody else who suffered by this cowardly, horrific act -- Sheriff.
ISRAEL: I want to take this opportunity to thank this amazing group of people flanking me, your elected officials who came from places as far as Washington, D.C., Tallahassee, and just came down here. The calls I've received from Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz; Mayor Beam Furr; Michael Udine, commissioner, and on and on and on, I can't thank them enough. They just want to see safety in Broward County. To all of you, thank you. We will be going over -- I will be going over at 6 p.m. tonight to
Pine Trails to a vigil for those that passed away.
I know some of you are going to heed my remarks, and I know some of you are not. But I'm going to say them anyway. You need to respect the privacy of these families. These families are going through the most horrific time in their lives, and if they say they don't want to talk to you, respect them. Don't move forward with your camera. Don't move forward with your microphone. Let these families be. Let these families heal. They deserve that. Please honor them. Many of them have called me and asked me to transfer this message. And I hope you'll consider listening. Many of you would have done it anyway, some of you might not. Please respect these families. They lost children, they lost loved ones. Could you imagine what they're going through?
[17:20:07] Thank you for your time. Any questions?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he belong to a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- claiming him as a member.
ISRAEL: It's not confirmed at this time. There's so much -- we've heard that. We're looking into that, you know, and we'll just keep following on with that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he speak to anyone at the McDonalds? And have you interviewed that person, if so?
ISRAEL: He might have. I don't know at this time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two questions. First of all, would that make this a hate crime? And also you had mentioned yesterday, two people were shot outside the school? How does that fit into the narrative?
ISRAEL: Well, it fits in perfectly. He could have shot them. He could have been within the school. They could have been outside. You know, this is an AR-15. This is a powerful rifle and could have easily gone through a door or shot while the door was open. So we're still examining video. It's a great question. It's something we've asked ourselves. Within a day or two, we will have the exact, you know, answer to that, but at this time, it doesn't change or alter the timeline at all.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If it turns out that he was a member of the white nationalist group, would that classify any of these...
ISRAEL: It certainly could.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The rooms that were targeted, were they targeted for any particular reason?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
ISRAEL: Yes. He bought the weapon in Coral Springs at a dealership called Sunrise Tactical.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, you mentioned releasing surveillance video...
ISRAEL: No, I didn't mention release -- I didn't talk about releasing any video. We're examining video, and we might release information we recover or capture from the video. But at this time, we have no plans to release any type of surveillance video.
You know, I also want to acknowledge Superintendent Runcie. He's been with us from the...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What time did...
ISRAEL: I'm just going to -- I'm just going to give way to the mic to Superintendent Runcie. He has some important things to say, and then I'll come back to the microphone.
ROBERT RUNCIE, SUPERINTENDENT, BROWARD COUNTY SCHOOLS: Let me just first say on behalf of the school board members and myself, our school board members here today, just reiterating what the sheriff has said, please respect the privacy of our families as they go through the horrific situation. Again, we can't stress that enough, if you could honor them and respect them during these very difficult times.
We've had hundreds of people today that have gone through our crisis services that we provided at several locations, two here in Parkland, two in Coral Springs. We'll continue to provide those tomorrow and the next day as necessary.
Again, the school is closed from now throughout the weekend. We're going to be spending the next couple days figuring out what the path is to reopen this school, and what type of logistical challenges we're going to have relative to what's occurred in Building 12 on this site. Once that information becomes available, we will be providing it out to the parents and the families in the community and the media, as well.
Again, thank you for respecting our families. Give them the space and time to grieve and get through this very difficult time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there a reason he targeted certain rooms? He seemed to have gone to specific rooms and then upstairs? Have you found any reason for that?
ISRAEL: That's what our detectives and that's what the FBI are doing. We're interviewing him. We'll be -- you know, we'll be speaking to him and gathering that information, but I can't enlighten you on that right now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ISRAEL: Well, he was dropped off by an Uber vehicle. And let me say this: the -- at this point, the driver is not complicit in any way, shape, or form. The driver just simply picked up a fare and dropped the fare off at -- at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He walked into the school, and I don't know that anybody recognized him or knew who he was at that point.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
ISRAEL: I don't know anything -- I don't know anything at this time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any reason to believe a family member -- do you have any -- any reason to believe that a family member or anybody may have assisted him in this?
ISRAEL: At this point, we have no -- there are other people we want to certainly talk to. There are people -- people of interest that might enlighten us as to why he did what he did, but at this point, at this time, there's no -- no accomplice or nobody else that we're looking at from that perspective.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... a student here, do you require...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... made no mention of what Senator... 3 (CROSSTALK)
ISRAEL: I'm sorry. You're talking...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Nelson mentioned yesterday about him wearing a gas mask and a bulletproof vest. No mention of that in the timeline. Could you tell us anything more about that? (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ... took them off or on?
[17:25:00] ISRAEL: No. I have no reason to believe -- I haven't seen the videos yet. I'm going to be briefed tomorrow on that, but I don't know that he had a mask on at any time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he was a student here, was he required to carry his belongings in a clear bag because of a fear of the teachers that he might bring a weapon into the school?
ISRAEL: I've never heard that before.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This morning you said there were still remains inside the school. Have -- have they been taken from the school, and has the school been cleared yet?
ISRAEL: All the -- all the victims are at the medical -- medical examiner's office, and right now, the medical examiner is doing a thorough investigation.
As I said before, we want to release the victims to their families. We understand that the sabbath is tomorrow, and we're very cognizant of that, but the main thing we want to do is we want to make sure there's a successful prosecution, and we want to do -- we want to go as fast as we can, but accurate is better than speedy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure. And is the school still being swept by the -- going to be inspected?
ISRAEL: The school is a crime scene, and we're examining the crime scene. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will our students, will the people here...
ISRAEL: That I read out? No, no, some are -- there's a senior. There are adults on the list, as well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has the family he was staying with said anything that they noticed anything, anything like that? The room that he was staying in?
ISRAEL: I'm not sure at this time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is Zachary Blount (ph) related to Nikolas? Are they blood brothers?
ISRAEL: I've never heard that first -- the first gentleman you named, I've never heard his name before.
3Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Are they blood related?
BLITZER: The Broward County sheriff, Scott Israel, and representatives from both the ATF and the FBI briefing us.
We did learn that the suspect arrived at that school at 2:19 p.m. yesterday. He readied his rifle at 2:21, two minutes later, started shooting, and then he escaped. He was on the loose, went to McDonald's for some 40 minutes and a Wal-Mart. Eventually was detained at 3:41. In other words, he was on the loose after he started shooting for about an hour and 20 minutes.
Evan Perez, we got some new information from the sheriff, from the FBI, and the ATF. What stood out to you?
PEREZ: Wolf, the fact that this suspect not only mixes in with the kids who are running for their lives from that school. He mixes in together to get away, and then ends up essentially behaving like just a normal person. You know, goes to the Wal-Mart and buys something to drink at the Subway inside that store, and then goes to a McDonald's nearby, and then sits there for a while, apparently, perhaps thinking over what he had just done. And then the police manage to arrest him thereafter.
So he's on the loose, as you said, for more than an hour, and just imagine, having just carried out this shooting. He climbs through all three floors of that school, shoots people on all three floors of that school, and then manages to put down his gun, put down the backpack that he carried, and then makes a getaway with all the people who are fleeing for their lives. It's a remarkable thing that they've just described.
BLITZER: He also, the ATF representative told us that the weapon, the AR-15-style rifle was legally purchased by this individual about a year or so again. He's 19 now, so he was only 18 years old, and that's legal in Florida, right?
PEREZ: It's completely legal, Wolf, and here's the thing about our gun laws in this country. And, again, policymakers are going to have to decide what to do about this.
But he was old enough to buy an AR-15 style rifle. I mean, if you looked at those things, he's able to buy that as an 18-year-old, but he's not old enough to buy a handgun. This is a deadly, deadly piece of machinery that he was able to use to carry out this -- this massacre.
Again, completely legal. He passed a background check. Nothing at all out of the ordinary for this gun shop that sold him this rifle. But if he -- you know, at his age, he would not have been able to buy a simple handgun, but he's able to buy this -- this much deadlier weapon.
BLITZER: You know, Shimon is with us, as well. Shimon Prokupecz, our crime and justice reporter. The FBI special agent, Shimon, in charge says that there was a warning. The FBI did get a warning from an individual in Jackson, Mississippi on September 25 of last year about someone by the name Nikolas Cruz, Nikolas spelled N-I-K-O-L-A-S Cruz, C-R-U-Z. But they couldn't find any connection to Florida, and basically, that warning went nowhere.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Wolf. And learned a little more details from the FBI, the special agent in charge from the -- from this morning, from when he first told us about this, they at least explained a little bit about what they did, and that there was an internal database search. They reached out to YouTube. YouTube took down the posting, and then they interviewed the man who made this complaint, to the FBI. He forwarded this link, this tip, to the FBI, and that's essentially where it stopped. They did some open source searching, but that's it. There was no further investigation. They didn't do any other sort of investigative tactics like subpoenas or search warrants or perhaps try to learn more about him.
I guess we will find out later on as to why that is the case. I mean, in many situations like this, the FBI argues we just get too many tips, and so we can't follow all of them. We can't open investigations on all of them, but, however, that may not be enough for families, certainly, who are dealing with this shooting, having lost, you know, one of their children, a child, or one of the adults who were killed here.
So, certainly, I think, as this continues, this will be something the FBI will need to look at and see if there's anything they could have done differently because, look, this tip to the FBI, came to them in September, so plenty of time, and we know by September, he had purchased this weapon, so now the question is, you know, is there anything the FBI could have done differently?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Well, couldn't they have gone to YouTube and couldn't YouTube found out who posted that video or that statement on YouTube with that direct threat to the school or children?
PROKUPECZ: So, I -- you know, that's a good question, Wolf, and that's legally, I'm not entirely certain that they could without a subpoena or some kind of legal authority to go ahead and request YouTube to turn over that information. And it's not even entirely clear that YouTube would know where this posting came. You know, in some situations, these posts are -- come anonymously, they are ways you can mask the IP address. But with the legal authority, with a subpoena and some of the tactics that the FBI has, I'm sure if they would have dug deep, they probably would have been able to discover where this came from, but, again, it's not clear if they would have had the legal authority to go ahead and do that given how little information they had at the time that this posting was made.
BLITZER: You know, let me bring in Anne Milgram, the former New Jersey Attorney General. Did the FBI, Anne, have the legal authority to go to YouTube and question YouTube and ask YouTube, who posted that? Where is that individual? Where does that individual reside? Could they have done that?
ANNE MILGRAM, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL, NEW JERSEY: Yes. So, a couple of points, I mean, the first is, that the short answer is that it's very common in a situation like this to issue a subpoena to YouTube to do exactly what was just discussed, to basically say, can you give us an internet protocol address that would let the FBI essentially track back to figure out if they could, who that internet protocol address was attached to.
And so, that is a common law enforcement tactic. I do want to say here, though, that one of the things that I think we're very focused on this one FBI piece of information, but I think what's really critical in situations like this, is the after action work where we look at everything, where we look at all the dots, because the FBI and this one -- this one piece of information, it is a very important dot, but there are others. There are questions about social media posts, there are questions about e-mails being sent to that school.
And so if I look at this, the question I am left asking is, if the FBI sees one dot, if the school sees another, but nobody sees the full picture, it's really hard for people to understand what they are dealing with. And so I would like to see in a case like this, a really comprehensive look at everything that happened, what people knew, and really, you know, to me, public safety is the number one job of government, and we're clearly failing our kids and families, how do we do this better?
And so, why I think it's important to focus on the FBI, it's one piece of this bigger conversation, and I don't want us to lose the fact that, you know, Phil will be a bigger expert on this than I am, but the last time I remember having a conversation about did we connect the dots well enough, that was after 9/11 when we knew that we weren't doing a good enough job connecting pieces of desperate information. And I feel a little bit like I'm getting that same vibe here, that there are lots of pieces there were out there, but no one person or no one agency necessarily had access to all of that.
BLITZER: Let me ask Phil about that. All of us are always smarter with hindsight, but go ahead and respond, Phil.
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Yes, I think there's a simple question, I could not agree more, a simple question that we're going to miss if we focused on one snippet of information about the FBI. Let me give you a couple of facts, we knew, and the family knew, he had access to a powerful rifle. We knew that there had been disciplinary issues with the school. There was -- there was public knowledge, presumably among his friends or at least associates that he had violent postings on social media. I think the question we'll face is not a federal question.
It's a question that you go to local police and to school officials across the country. When you see someone who requires intervention and you don't have a program or state money to intervene, what should we be doing in that case? Let me give you one example, a closer, Wolf, we do gang interventions among state and local police across this country. Is there a program we need to develop for intervention for people who have these kinds of mental health issues, and does that involve taking away their weapon if they have one?
[17:35:07] BLITZER: Peter Bergen is with us as well. Peter, you did an important article on cnn.com about gun violence here in the United States. Just based on what we just heard from the representative from the ATF that the weapon was legally purchased a year or so ago when this suspect was, what, only 18 years old, legally purchased in Coral Springs, Florida. What jumped out at you?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, the thing that I found very interesting is the FBI has a term for what we've been talking about here, which is this posting, and they call it leakage, and leakage is the idea that in school shootings and also in terrorist incidents, the perpetrator will have told a number of people what he's planning to do.
He may not say it very directly or a time or a place, but there will be many hints. And so, for instance, the FBI really began, first, looking at this in the case of school shootings, but they've also started looking at it in terrorism cases and they found in terrorism cases -- you know, in every incident, there are at least three people who know something, sometimes, up to 15 people, and typically, the people who know the most, are the least likely to come forward because they are peers.
The second most likely group of people to know something are family members. But they are also reluctant to come forward. And finally, you have authority figures like teachers and clerics, and bosses. They often know something and they're quite likely to come forward, but they don't know very much, and finally, strangers are very likely to come forward, but they usually have the least information.
So in all these cases, the people that have the most information, the most useful information, are peers and family members, and that's true whether it's a school shooting or a terrorist incident, and that's really the frame to which to look at prevention.
BLITZER: Evan, tell us more about this shooter. It's only been, what, a little bit more than 24 hours since the shooting began, but we've learned a lot about him.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. I mean, there's a lot of online postings, extremist postings, there's things that sees clearly lashing out, according to his attorney and people close to him, his family members, or people who he lived with, he's obviously had a lot of trauma in his life. His father died some time ago, his mother died more recently, his adoptive mother died more recently. And that appears to have been the thing that perhaps unravelled a lot of what he is doing.
We heard from one of the school officials earlier today that he may have been undergoing some kind of mental health treatment. None of that information appears to have been entered in anywhere where that would have come up in a background check when he went to buy a firearm, and, again, under the federal law, the standard for denying someone to buy their, you know, to use their second amendment rights to buy a firearm is either -- you know, obviously, you have to be a felon or you have to be adjudicated by a judge as mentally detective.
That's the term that they use, and none of those things had been -- had happened here. So, look, we're asking a lot of questions about what could have been done. There were clearly a lot signs that were being picked up by people, including by people close to him, but nobody really thought that he could be capable of doing something like this. And, you know, that's one of the things that, I think, is going to -- is going to nag at everybody, including the FBI and everybody who is coming to contact with this young man.
BLITZER: And they are looking, Shimon, very, very carefully at all these details, not just to fully understand what happened, but to draw important lessons to try to make sure it doesn't happen again.
PROKUPECZ: No, certainly always, after these situations, the FBI, the ATF, local law enforcement, there's usually some, kind of, after action report. And they always look to see what was missed, were there signs? And I think social media is going to play a big part in this, certainly, his mental health. We don't have a full picture of his mental health here because, obviously, there are privacy laws.
He's alive. He didn't die here. So, they are also dealing with a legal case. There's really a lot we don't know about him, and police really, besides saying that he posted disturbing messages on social media and some of the stuff we have found on our own, you know, one can only imagine what we've missed, and really, the key here, I think, and then police have said this, the sheriff has talked about this, the mental health issue, and there were signs of his behavior.
His behavior had changed within the last year or so, and the sheriff said there were signs, and people should have noticed this, and people should have gone to the police, should have gone somewhere to report this, and that's what's missing, I think, in some of our understanding of exactly what led up to this. And this will be all part of what probably law enforcement will look at as they go back. You know, they said, they're going to look -- they're going to try to find people they can talk to, to basically build out an idea of what was going on in his head, leading up to this. And it's an important element here, friends of his, people at the school.
[17:40:04] You know, Wolf, yesterday, we heard from people, from students at the school, some of them who after they ran out of the building said, you know, they had known him. They knew he'd liked guns. They were not surprised to hear that he was behind the shooting. So all of that, for certain, is going to factor into this investigation and things that law enforcement is going to need to learn, learn about, and learn from. BLITZER: Yes, there's a lot of lessons they're going to have to learn
from this. Phil Mudd, the authorities are talking to the suspect right now, and he's talking to them. Walk us through the process. How -- are they trying to come to grips with his motive of why he went to that school and began killing all these people?
MUDD: That's right. That's not the first part of the process, though. You get two initial questions. The first one is imminent threat. That is, were you planning something else? Is there, for example, an explosive device you planted someplace? The second immediate question you're going to have is, is somebody else not only aware of this, but is somebody else involved in a follow-on event? You've got to mitigate threat before you go into future, before you go into past, and start discussing what the motivation was.
My guess is even 24 hours in, they've gone a long way towards saying we're confident there was nobody else, we're confident, obviously, he did not plan anything else. So they're going to have to go through a methodical exercise, not only to talk to him through time. What happened when you were 15, 16, 17, but we heard a few moments ago during a press conference, 2,000 plus interviews already, you've got to start collating that with what those 2,000 interviewees say to get to questions.
For example, like, if he says something happened to him when he was 17. Does that correlate to what we heard from his friends, family, from students at school? That takes a lot of time and a lot of effort, Wolf.
BLITZER: Anne Milgram, once again, you're the former New Jersey Attorney General, as the authorities are questioning this individual right now, they are trying to get some answers. Can they believe what he is saying?
MILGRAM: So, let me say two things, the first is that I would suspect that he's no longer being questioned. As a rule, the question what happened before he was -- before he was arraigned, it is possible he's still talking, but as we saw earlier today, he has a lawyer. Most lawyers would advise their clients not to talk further as they have an opportunity to formulate a defense.
So, we understood yesterday that they were talking to him for hours, and so I suspect he's given a lengthy -- a lengthy statement to the police. And so, that's really, I think, the first point, is that piece of the conversation has probably ended.
The second thing is to -- as to whether or not they can believe them. You know, Phil just explained it, I think, exceptionally well, which is that he will give them a lot of information if he's talking, and they will go and methodically check every single piece of information he has given them to make sure that it's accurate, and it's not, they will go back to him or to his lawyer and say, look, we think that there's a lie here.
And if he wants to come talk to us, he can come talk to them. He can always go talk to them in presence of council but, again, this, sort of, initial questioning, which happens, you know, immediately after someone is in custody would be the imminent threat questions, the future harm, and then they would have gone through, I think, already, what else happened and what he was doing, and, again, they could still question him with the lawyer, but I suspect when you are arraigned, that usually stopped -- that usually stopped at least temporarily.
BLITZER: But Anne, let me follow up with you and talk about what the Broward County Sheriff, Scott Israel, just told us that the suspect arrived at the school yesterday at 2:19 p.m. He readied his weapon, his rifle at 2:21, two minutes later, began killing people going from classroom to classroom, and then he left.
And then at 3:01, after going to a Walmart, he went to a McDonalds, sat there for about 40 minutes, then he left, and eventually, he was detained by a local police officer. What does that say to you about the mind set of an individual like this who after killing a lot of young people and others, just goes to a Walmart for a drink, a cold drink, and then goes to McDonalds?
MILGRAM: You know, Wolf, I mean, we have seen a number -- tragically, we've seen a number of school shootings, and when the police arrive, there's usually one of two outcomes. One is that the police shoot and kill the shooter, second is that the shooter shoots and kills themselves. So, it is in the minority of cases that we see a suspect surrender.
It's not unheard of, but i don't know that our shooter, that Cruz, planned this far ahead that he expected to walk out of that school. And so, you know, he leaves, and I don't want to speculate, but he's clearly wandering around. He's going to get a drink, to have sat at a McDonalds, and when he's apprehended, he's walking through a neighborhood.
So, I don't want to say without knowing more that, you know, that was his plan, and certainly, he left his backpack as the sheriff just told us. It doesn't seem consistent with someone who had a plan given the actions that we've just heard he took after.
[17:44:57] BLITZER: And what does that say, Phil Mudd, to you, that the shooter, you know, after he left -- after he left the school, went to the Wal-Mart, went to the McDonalds, he was walking around, a police officer spotted him. He matched -- he saw the clothes he was wearing that matched the clothes of the suspect, and he gave up without shooting. It was a very orderly arrest. What does that say to you? He stopped shooting after he left the school.
MUDD: A lot of clues, I think about the difference between people who are ideologically motivated, they want to go down, a lot of people I followed, they want to go down in a fight. They want to go down in a hail of bullets. They want what we call suicide by cop, and, also, the fact that he wasn't thinking through the question of whether he could ultimately get away for more than an hour or two.
If you are in his shoes and you think for just a moment, you know, everybody's got a camera, there's a camera on every corner, there's going to be a cop on every corner, they're going to be students in that school that recognize you. He's going to a fast food restaurant. He's got to be thinking if he's mentally stable that he's going to be -- going to be caught any moment now.
I think this says he's not really an ideological shooter. He's got some serious mental issues. One more critical clue, he leaves the gun there. He doesn't want to die in a hail of bullets in a shootout with the police. Again, that goes to my contrast with people I saw who were saying if I'm going to do this, it's going to be big, and I'm taking down law enforcement with me -- with me. He didn't seem to want to die or anticipate dying in this event.
BLITZER: Yes. He was arrested without incident. The police officer just detained him, and put him into the vehicle, and that was that. There was no -- there was no further violence. Evan, talk a little bit about that.
PEREZ: Well, Wolf, I mean, one of the most -- this is excellent police work. I mean, just the fact that they were able to catch this guy, the fact that he mixes in with some of the kids fleeing the school. What I was told by some sources down there, is that the first call that came in, the first reports that came in, someone said there was someone dressed in black who had come out of a car or a taxi or something, and then had opened fire.
And so, when the police were trying to figure out who carried this out, they were looking for someone dressed in black, and as you can see from the video that we have there, of when he was arrested, he was wearing a maroon shirt, not wearing black at all, so, you know, if you think about how quickly just the fact that they were able to track him down, a local police officer in the town next door, was able to find him there, away from the school, it's remarkable police work.
I think one of the things they did that we're able to look at some of the video immediately and we're able to figure out what he was wearing, that it wasn't accurate in the first reports. And so, the police work here just in the fact that nobody else was -- obviously, it's horrific, the number of people that were injured and killed, but it could have been a lot, a lot worse.
BLITZER: Certainly, could have been. All right, everybody stand by. Joining us on the phone right now is Florida's Governor, Rick Scott, Governor, thanks so much for joining us. GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA (through telephone): Well, it's great to join you. This afternoon, I had the opportunity to talk to some of the students that were shot and, as you would expect, they are resilient, they are optimistic. They are looking forward to going home. But I am furious. This has got to stop. We cannot have violence in our schools.
We all love our children, our grandchildren, our nieces, and nephews. Next week, I'm going to have meetings with state leaders in Tallahassee. We're going to figure out how to deal with school safety and get guns away from people with mental illness. This has got to stop in our state.
BLITZER: It certainly does. It's been going on way, way too long not just in your state, in our country. Governor, what can you, first of all, tell us about the shooter's supposedly extremist views and possible motivations?
SCOTT: Yes. There's, you know, you can see what's coming out, you know, there's an active investigation going on. There's going to be a lot of information that comes out. So we will, you know, we're -- you know, we're going to get to know a lot about what happened, but we've got to take this and say, what are we going to do to change? We have got to focus on keeping our kids safe, parents should know when their child goes to school. They're going to come home alive.
BLITZER: The FBI receives at least one warning about this shooter. We just heard from the FBI agent in-charge. They failed to identify him in Florida. The warning was delivered from someone in Jackson, Mississippi. Could they have done more to help find this shooter and prevent this massacre?
SCOTT: Well, what my experience, and fortunately, I had worked with the FBI because of polls and some other things. We had the shooting at the airport, and I've had positive working relationship with them. We're going to find out exactly what happened. I know that, you know, there's clearly an active investigation. We are going to figure out what happened, and we're going to take everything we learn to try to figure out how do we prevent this from happening again.
BLITZER: Here's something that's really hard for a lot of us to believe, but it's true, Governor, and I want you to explain it. This shooter, he wasn't old enough to buy a handgun, you got to be 21, but he could buy at the age of 18, a year or so ago, an AR-15 style assault weapon in Florida. Why is that?
[17:50:14] SCOTT: We are going to look at all these things to figure out, you know, what -- you know, what works and is not working, and we're going to -- and we're going to -- our primary goal, as I bring everybody together, is to say these kids are going to be safe. So we're going to look at all these issues to figure out how can this -- how can we make sure these kids are safe and also make sure that people that are struggling with mental illness, do not have a gun.
BLITZER: Let me phrase it another way because this is really -- this is really shocking to so many of us, Governor. He wasn't old enough to buy a beer, legally, in your state. You got to be 21 years old. So why is it that in Florida, he could buy an assault weapon at the age of 18?
SCOTT: Wolf, I think -- I think it's a legitimate question. We're going to have -- we have to go back and we've got to look at -- we've got to look at these things and say to ourselves, our primary goal is school safety. And so, you know, that's -- you know, I want to make sure we don't ever trample on anybody's constitutional rights, but we've got to focus on keeping these kids safe.
BLITZER: Because if this shooter had a different gun instead of this AR-15 style weapon, and the police say he had multiple, multiple rounds, he could, you know -- he could have gone even further than he did. He certainly wouldn't have been able to kill as many young people and others if he had a different kind of weapon. So, I just want you to tell our viewers you're going to take action as the Governor of Florida to change this, to prevent this from happening again for someone only 18, clearly with a history, this individual, just going into a store and buying an assault weapon.
SCOTT: Wolf, we have to. We cannot -- I mean, look, we all -- I have -- I have grandchildren. I have daughters. I want them all to be safe. I want your children and grandchildren and nieces and nephews to be safe. We are going to figure out how this -- moving forward, this never happens again. I'm going to do everything I can to make sure this never happens again.
WOLF: So -- because this isn't the first mass shooting in Florida. We're all familiar with what happened in Orlando. We know what happened in the Fort Lauderdale Airport. We keep hearing this, Governor, and I know you love the young kids. You want to prevent this from happening again. So do you have an answer that you can give these grieving parents right now, specifically, what you're going to do in terms of new laws to prevent -- to prevent the purchase of these kinds of assault weapons by these kinds of individuals?
SCOTT: Wolf, you know, the terrorist attack in Orlando, was a terrorist attack. We added 46 more counterterrorism experts to try to work on that issue. As I talked to families, I told them we -- I'm going to get people from all over the state.
I'm going to get, you know, individuals to sit down, to figure out how to get this done. I've already talked to my Speaker of the House, my Senate President. I said, we have got to get something done, and they are -- they said they're going to be very supportive of working with me to get something done in this state.
WOLF: Legislative. It's not that complicated. You just got to pass some new laws to make it more difficult for 18-year-olds to buy assault weapons, right?
SCOTT: Wolf, I don't -- we are not going -- we're going to figure out exactly what we can do, and I'm going to work through, you know, all the leaders in this state, local and state, and we're going to -- we're going to figure this out. I do not want this to happen again. WOLF: Because Florida is such an important state right now, and the laws need to be tightened. You have so many tourists that come there. They want to feel safe when they come to Florida. And I go there, as you know, all the time. But I want you to listen, Governor, to this mother of one of the victims, because she is so, so strong. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE, MOTHER OF A FEMALE STUDENT: President Trump, you say what can you do? You can stop the guns from getting into these children's hands. Put metal detectors in every entrance to the schools. What can you do? You can do a lot! This is not fair to our families and our children go to school and have to get killed. I just spent the last two hours putting the burial arrangements for my daughter's funeral, who's 14. President Trump, please do something. Do something. Action. We need it now. These kids need safety now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Governor, how do you answer to this grieving mother?
[17:54:56] SCOTT: Oh, first off, you can't. I mean, there's no way to answer it except you've got to say -- you've got to say, we got to do everything we can to make sure this doesn't happen. We -- you know, one, we are -- I've already talked to my senate president and speaker. I've asked for a funding for school safety.
They said they're going to be committed to working with me to put more money into school safety in our state. We've got to figure these things out. We cannot -- we cannot let this pass without making something happen that hopefully -- it is my goal that this will never happen again in my state.
WOLF: I just want to pin you down on this, Governor, because I've known you for a long time. The President of the United States, that he spoke for about seven minutes -- he didn't mention the word, gun, even once. Are you ready to commit your political team to work to tighten gun control, gun restrictions, in the state of Florida?
SCOTT: I'll be -- I'll be stronger than that, Wolf. Everything's on the table, all right? I'm going to look at every way that we can make sure our kids are safe.
BLITZER: Even if the National Rifle Association goes after you?
SCOTT: Wolf, I'm going to do -- I -- look, i love my kids, my grandkids. I know every family in the state is in the same position. We love our children. I'm going to do whatever I can do to keep these kids safe. I'm going to talk about every issue to keep these kids safe.
BLITZER: Including gun control?
SCOTT: Wolf, I'm going to do -- it's a lot of things. It's looking at, you know, who should have guns? Should individuals with mental illness have guns? Should -- what can we do to create more safety in our schools? What can we do to make it easier for our children and make them feel comfortable to report things? It's not one thing. It's all these things put together.
BLITZER: There's a lot that needs to be done right now and I know, Governor, you, as everyone else, who has seen these awful, awful images, heard these grieving -- heard these grieving parents, spoken with the students, and you're right there in Broward County.
You see what's going on. And I know that everyone who's watching us right now, they're wishing that we could come to some conclusions right now, learn some critically important lessons and make sure it doesn't happen again. Governor, thank you so much for joining us, and we'll have you back soon.
SCOTT: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: There's much more breaking news. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news, red flags, new information about missed warning signs ahead of the Florida High School massacre, including a disturbing online post linked to the shooter. The FBI was warned about him. How did he slip through the fingers of law enforcement? Methodical murder, law enforcement officials have just revealed chilling new details about the massacre, and the shooter's apparent intent to kill as many people as possible. How did he manage to escape from the scene?
Empty words, lawmakers and the President, they speak out about the mass killing in Florida, but few focus on guns. And the President says, it's a mental health issue. With 56 school shootings in the last 14 months, alone, here on the United States. Why is there only rhetoric and not action?