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Police Hold Press Conference on Nightclub Shooting in Columbus; Peterson's Penalty

Aired December 9, 2004 - 10:59   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: And coming up in just a few moments, we're expecting a police news conference on that deadly nightclub shooting in Ohio. We will go there live when it happens.
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: A second hour of CNN LIVE TODAY starts right now. As a matter of fact, right now there is that news conference taking place in Ohio. Let's join it live.

SGT. BRENT MULL, COLUMBIA, OHIO POLICE: He is a five-year veteran. He's assigned to this district on late watch. He entered through the rear of the facility. He was motioned to come in by someone inside and told that there was an active shooter inside.

The officer was able to identify that active shooter obviously immediately. The officer was forced to engage in gunfire with this suspect. From what we understand, he did have a hostage.

The officer was able to strategically gun this guy down before he was able to kill his hostage. And it appeared that he was about to kill his hostage when the officer basically put an end to it.

And again, I can't say enough of his abilities, his skills, and the way he went about and conducted this investigation. And keep in mind, as he was coming into this scene, he was getting more calls coming in, stating that there was one shot, there was two people shot, multiple gunfire.

The officer ran in without any backup, from what I'm being told at this time. And obviously put himself at risk with everybody else.

Right now I want to give you the gunman's name. We have identified him as Nathan Gale. He's a male white, 25 years old, last known address believed in the Marysville area.

Darrell Abbott was a member of the band. He was 39 years old. He was one of the ones that was a victim of the gunman.

The second victim, Nathan Bray -- B-R-A-Y, male, white, 23 years old. We believe he was a fan enjoying the concert.

I have Erin Halk, E-R-I-N H-A-L-K, male, white, 29 years old. Unknown if he was a fan or a member of the band.

I can take a couple questions at this time. And if you would, just take -- take one at a time with me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was this the officer's first shooting?


MULL: Right. We believe that there may have been some amateur video into that -- in there. We have our homicide detectives looking into that now and hopefully review it and see if there's anything usable. And understand that it would be amateur and unknown where it was pointed at, at that time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have a better understand of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) between Gale and the band?

MULL: As far as the band and connection with this guy, we weren't going to rule out anything. But right now we don't see any connection at all. That could change. Again, this is a fluid investigation, but we see no connection with him and the band, no motive at this time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) exactly how close was the officer? Was he driving right here, or he's down the street? How close was he?

MULL: We believe he was within a couple blocks. From what we understand, we received the call at 10:18. By 10:20 he was inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the nature of security inside the facility, outside the facility?

MULL: They are in charge of their own security inside the facility. There are times when they hire Columbus police officers off duty to work special duty in the parking lot.

Columbus police officers are prohibited from working inside a liquor establishment, but we will work outside. There was none at this venue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know how this guy got up on stage? Did he walk behind?

MULL: From the information that we got is that he just jumped up onto the stage.


MULL: Correct.


MULL: We have four fatalities from the gunman, and the gunman makes five.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You didn't list them all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We believe it was a handgun at this time. That's what I'm being told.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)? MULL: Absolutely. I think the community has a hero here. And obviously our community has suffered a loss recently, and that's on everybody's minds as well. And then we've got an officer going in there alone.

Obviously backup is coming. But if we know someone is in danger, if we have reason to believe that somebody's life is in danger, we're going to go in anyway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sergeant Mull, is there any sense that security could have, should have been better last night?

MULL: Well, I mean, hindsight is 20-20. So a lot of these venues, they'll have -- they'll have magnetometers or gun detectors, metal detectors. From what I'm told, they had none. But again, that's going to be up to the venue themselves to take care of that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did they have a surveillance system in there that you can review?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looking at this place, there have been other incidents here?

MULL: We've had other incidents here. I don't want to get into too much of that. Some of them minor. And we've had a shooting in the lot before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was it problematic given the history of this place?

MULL: Sorry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was security problematic here given the history of this -- of this club?

MULL: At this point, I don't know.


MULL: At this point we don't see any motive for this. It's obviously an isolated case.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), or was it just by chance he happened to be patrolling (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

MULL: Right. The officer's district was 185's district, which is one of the farthest north districts that we have. However, his substation is quite a ways south.

As you know, we're stretched thin on personnel. Some nights he probably won't even make it up to his district because he's taking run, run, run, trying to get north. And obviously he wasn't north.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So how did he end up in this area? MULL: It's probably from a previous run.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They had no special duty officers at this...

MULL: Last night? No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do they at times have...

MULL: Yes, sometimes they will employ us to work the parking lot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you talk to the shooter's family or friends or anyone who would have any idea what he was here for?

MULL: We have, but we're not going to release any of that information at this time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did they have theories on what was involved in this?

MULL: Just theories at this point. But nothing -- nothing that we need to release to the media at this point.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you searched his residence and found out any information about him?

MULL: At this point that's still early on in the investigation, and that's probably the next step.


MULL: Witnesses believe that he said something when he came up on stage. Understand there is a band playing, then shots are being fired. What was exactly said, we can't quote it at this point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Witnesses say he was saying something about, "You broke up Pantera." Have you heard that?

MULL: Yes. But we don't know that this is the guy that they're talking about.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was he a fan of the band?

MULL: We don't know.


MULL: We may never know the motive for this. That's just going to be one of the facts that we have right now. Unless he left a note or there is something he left somewhere else, we may never know the motive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does an officer learn during training about handling a situation like this, a fluid -- an active shooter, as you call it, with a hostage in a crowded room? This is something right out of the movies. How do you train an officer to handle a situation like that the way he did?

MULL: Well, you're going to train him in several ways. It's going to be impossible for me to tell you every what-if situation right here in this forum. But he did not have backup. We normally train with a backup situation.

The training that he's received is probably second to none. But in this situation, from what I understand, he reacted when he could react, and he reacted immediately and made the right -- the right choice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once he was inside the club -- you said about 10:20 -- what's the time frame from that point up until he shot the suspect? And also, if you will, tell us about the hostage scenario that the officer faced.

MULL: Once the officer entered, it was probably less than a minute that he engaged the suspect. What was the second part of your question?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what was the scenario with the hostage before the officer opened fire?

MULL: It is believed that the suspect had a hostage underneath his arm. Pretty much in a headlock situation. Had his firearm out shooting, and the -- it was believed that the suspect at that point was going to take the gun to his hostage. Once the hostage was able to help us out, as far as getting out of the way somewhat, the officer took advantage of that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who was the hostage and how did they get in that situation?

MULL: The hostage was not injured. The hostage was probably a fan, maybe someone that worked with the band. We don't know. Somebody that worked there. We don't know.

If I -- one, two more questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many witnesses...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sergeant, has this officer ever been involved in a shooting incident?

MULL: This officer has never been involved in a shooting incident before. He's a five-year veteran. I know that he's got a safe driving award and numerous compliments, and an excellent officer by all accounts.


MULL: Yes. I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many witnesses have you interviewed? Like tons?

MULL: Last night, please understand that we had well over 250 people here. We considered them victims as well. They were inside of there, basically taking gunfire with everybody else.

Our concern after we secured the inside of the scene was to take care of their well being and get them home to their loved ones. We were fortunate that the COTA bus systems gave us three buses. We were able to sequester them basically on the buses and then put numerous detectives on overtime to come in.

I would say well over 60 detectives just to do the interviewing, to get each one of them interviewed so we could get them home and get their statements. And it was tough work.

What -- I'm sorry?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were all interviewed last night?

MULL: Yes. Yes, the detectives worked a lot of overtime. We brought detectives in from numerous shifts. And obviously we were stretched thin, but they got it done.


MULL: Yes. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the investigation goes on from here? Certainly the shooter is dead. What are you doing now...

MULL: Right. This is going to be a normal officer involved shooting handled in the same manner that most of our local media sees it handled in.

The officer will have the opportunity to seek counseling, have the opportunity to take some time off. And then come back at his leisure.

And this will be -- an investigation will be conducted by our firearms review board, made up of the commanders. And those commanders will look at policy, an administrative aspect of it, and then we have our CERT team which is made up of experienced homicide detectives.

Those detectives will look at it more from the criminal aspect and provide the prosecutor with copy of it. The prosecutor will decide if it goes do a grand jury, and it will be handled that way.

KAGAN: We've been listening in to a news conference from Columbus, Ohio, talking about a tragic nightclub shooting overnight that apparently could have been even worse. Five people are dead, including the gunman. He's been identified as 25-year-old Nathan Gale of nearby Marysville, Ohio.

Apparently he jumped on stage during a concert, a concert of the band Damageplan that contained two members of a group that was -- used to be known as Pantera. He started shooting. At least one member of the band was killed, along with some other people in the audience.

And then a man -- a patrol officer who appears to be a hero today. James Nigmire (ph) of the Columbus Police Department came in, in less than a minute, assessed the situation and killed the gunman.

According to the police, this could have been a lot worse. Over 200 people inside of that nightclub in Columbus, Ohio. Many more people could have been shot and killed. Five people dead today in Columbus, Ohio.

Our Keith Oppenheim is there on the scene. He's going to be joining us later in the hour with much more on the story.

Now with other news, here's Rick.

SANCHEZ: Daryn, we're going to turn now to the Scott Peterson trial. Will he live or will he die for his crime? This case should go to the jurors today, who are going to recommend a penalty.

CNN's Rusty Dornin is live today in Redwood City, California, where Peterson's mother, Jackie, took the stand yesterday in defense of her son -- Rusty.

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Rick. And Jackie Peterson, the 39th and what we thought was going to be the final witness for the defense, she strikes a sympathetic figure on her own.

She's showed a lot of strength during this trial, but she suffers from a lung condition and has to use an oxygen machine. She was -- her father was murdered, she was an orphan. She had to give up two children for adoption.

She told of that whole history before she began describing her son, Scott Peterson, that he was kind, gentle, loving, that sort of thing. She broke down several times on the stand, at the very end was sobbing uncontrollably.

It was very difficult to understand what she was saying, but she was basically saying, "If you kill him, you will wipe out an entire family," meaning Scott and Laci and Conner, the unborn son, would all -- it would be like they didn't exist. She said, "I beg you to consider how he helps people."

Now, the law in California does forbid jurors to consider sympathy for the families when they are considering a death penalty case. But as some attorneys are saying, look, you can't unring the bell in this case. The damage could be done.

But the jury, for the most part, seemed -- did not appear moved by her testimony. Only one juror wiped her eyes during Jackie Peterson's testimony while she was crying on the stand.

Laci Peterson's family was in the front row. They did not show any emotion while she was testifying as well.

The jury appeared at their hotel this morning, bags packed. And then they'll be brought over to the courthouse here just in a few minutes, probably, to hear the final arguments from both sides, which are expected to take about two hours.

Now, there -- it was -- the judge said there is a possibility that there could be a final witness. And it is interesting, because the defense did say early on that they were going to have one of Scott Peterson's ex-girlfriends testify, and that never happened. So we don't know if that -- this last witness could be that person, or if that person is even going to show up, because the judge said there was a possibility it wouldn't happen.

So he did tell the jury, though, that they will be beginning deliberations this afternoon. He's probably going to give them instructions about 3:30 local time -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: Rusty Dornin following the story there for us in California. We thank you, Rusty, for bringing us up to date.

KAGAN: Fighting winter depression? There is now a new way to beat the blues. Elizabeth Cohen will explain in today's edition of "Daily Dose" still to come.

SANCHEZ: Bill Clinton had no worries earlier this week. That's part of today's "Web Talk." Bill Clinton a capitalist? LIVE TODAY rolls on.


SANCHEZ: There is little hope this morning of finding survivors of a Coast Guard helicopter crash in the Baring Straits. Six people are missing in the frigid waters off the Alaskan Aleutian Islands. The helicopter crashed in choppy seas while rescuing crewmembers of a stricken freighter. Another Coast Guard on the scene picked up four people, we understand.

KAGAN: A busy morning for President Bush. A wide mix of topics on his agenda, including Social Security.

Our Elaine Quijano is live at the White House.

Elaine, good morning.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Daryn.

Well, as you know, President Bush, the White House has faced ongoing criticism about Iraq. Now, this is a topic that came up during President Bush's meeting just a short time ago with Social Security trustees. President Bush being asked about that.

But the White House has faced criticism that it did not have an adequate plan in place for post-war Iraq. That in fact the U.S. was not prepared for the intensity of the insurgency in that country.

In fact, yesterday we heard a soldier question Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about that issue. And today, at that meeting just a short time ago, President Bush was asked about equipment concerns as well.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The concerns expressed are being addressed. And that is we expect our troops to have the best possible equipment.

And if I were a soldier overseas wanting to defend my country, I'd want to ask the secretary of defense the same question. And that is, are we getting the best we can get us? And they deserve the best.


QUIJANO: Now, earlier this morning, the president announced his nominee to replace the outgoing Veterans Affairs secretary, Anthony Principi. That person you see there, Jim Nicholson, the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, a former Army Ranger himself, a decorated Vietnam veteran. Was also -- was a former chairman of the RNC. Now, President Bush saying that he is looking to Nicholson to continue the work that was begun by Anthony Principi in modernizing the VA's health care system.

Now, the White House also announced this morning that four of the cabinet secretaries that the president has asked to stay on have agreed to do so. And those four include Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta; Labor Secretary Elaine Chao; Interior Secretary Gale Norton; and the secretary of Housing and Urban development, Alphonso Jackson.

Now, also, looking at the bigger picture, this is what it looks like right now. A total of nine cabinet secretaries have announced their resignations. The president has made known his nominees for all but two of those positions.

You see them there. Still up in the air who may be tapped to fill the Energy secretary's post, replacing Spence Abraham. Also an open question, who may be a replacement for the outgoing Health and Human Services secretary, Tommy Thompson.

But the White House, Daryn, definitely looking to move quite quickly in putting the president's new team in place. The president has some ambitious goals in his second term, including reforming Social Security and reforming the tax code -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Elaine Quijano at the White House. Elaine, thank you.

SANCHEZ: Putting the ring in new year. That's what online users have been doing Our Regina Lewis explains in this edition of "Web Talk" that is coming your way.

KAGAN: Plus, the light on a new way to combat winter woes, especially during the holidays. We're going to tell you about that when CNN LIVE TODAY returns.


KAGAN: All right. Laptop computers, there is a reason they have that name. Because you stick them on your lap and use them.

Doctors, though, warning it might not be a good idea for you men out there. Laptops can generate a significant amount of heat. And when placed on the lap, they can raise the temperature of the scrotum.


KAGAN: Damaging the quantity and quality of sperm. Researchers say teenage boys and young men are especially at risk for infertility.

Rick, you take it from here.

SANCHEZ: Maybe a little ice is called for in more ways than one on this holiday season.



SANCHEZ: Good gosh, I can't believe this segue that way.

A spike in online diamond sales shows this continues to be the most popular time of the year for engagements. And speaking of the Internet, former President Bill Clinton is now cashing in on the -- on a search engine. Bill Clinton the capitalist. Yes, we'll have that too.

Here with the buzz on the AOL online adviser is Regina Lewis. She's joining us from AOL headquarters in Dulles, Virginia.

And we begin with -- with diamonds on the Internet. And what does it have to do with Donald Trump?

REGINA LEWIS, AOL ONLINE ADVISER: That was quite a segue. Of course he gets his diamonds for free. He got a $100,000 ring for his fiance. But the rest of us have to pay the old-fashioned way.

And one out of three engagements actually happen this time of year. On AOL, we're seeing spikes for diamonds triple this month.


LEWIS: And a big online retailer,, says they now sell as many engagement rings as Tiffany's. Here's the site, here's what's neat about it. On behalf of women worldwide, you get more bling for your buck because they don't have to operate...

KAGAN: All right.

LEWIS: Yes. See? I got Daryn's attention.

Because they don't have to operate all of those fancy-schmancy stores, they say, carat per carat, it's about a 40 percent discount. You get the authentication, you can design your own ring. You can play around with it. It's such fun once you start playing. You can't stop, because a lot of people say, "Look, what if I don't care about clarity, what if I'm just going for size? What are the tradeoffs?" Pretty neat.

SANCHEZ: Yes. It better come with a guarantee, though, since you're not actually looking at it with that little magnifying thing. You know, it's...

LEWIS: It does.


LEWIS: You get all of the authentication you would from a fine jeweler.

SANCHEZ: Well, that's certainly important.

Yesterday, many people in the United States watched as Donald Rumsfeld fielded some really tough questions from some seemingly dissatisfied soldiers overseas. They certainly have some concerns over there. Is there anything we here state-side can do to try and help some of those soldiers?

LEWIS: Yes. Great question.

We're seeing a couple of things online that are pretty neat. Operation Uplink will allow you to sponsor some calling cards since getting in touch with your loved ones overseas can really ramp up the cost on your home phone bill.

Also, you can make the call online. Some AOL engineers actually came up with this -- it's pretty neat. We'll take a listen where you can record a three-minute voicemail. And then when the soldier overseas logs on, they'll hear it.

SANCHEZ: Are we going to hear it?

LEWIS: I think -- I think we can hear it. Can we play this?

Well, it works pretty -- this one is from a real mom. But we have an example from a real mom.

But what's really neat is great use of the technology. Plus, it's not so time-sensitive. They get the message when they can, and a little more personal than just a text message.

Plus, you mentioned Don Rumsfeld. The Defense Department saying, you know, you can't send USO packages anymore.

I spoke with the USO. Their favorite kind of donation is an online donation because it's so much more efficient. So you can sponsor a package, $25, you even get to type in a little greeting.

SANCHEZ: Yes. I talked to some guys on the Teddy Roosevelt not long ago and they told me, anything you can do e-mail-wise is certainly well received over here. LEWIS: That's right.

SANCHEZ: Let's talk about Bill Clinton, former president, liberal Democrat. Capitalist? With a question mark.

LEWIS: Yes, because that's the Chinese connection. Interesting announcement this week.

Accoona, C-C-O-O, as in accoona matata, the Swahili phrase popularized by the Disney movie, as you know, "no worries," these guys are going to have no worries if they can pull this off. Their goal here is to really link up five million Chinese companies with about 10 million searches for U.S. companies. And of course they're doing this in advance of the 2008 Olympic games there.

He was in on it because the founder here actually made a big donation to his library. The best thing that I saw online in terms of making light of the story was, "I did not Google that will woman" on a conservative blog.

SANCHEZ: Hey, Regina Lewis, thanks so much for being with us. And accoona matata to you.

LEWIS: Thank you. You too.

SANCHEZ: All right.

KAGAN: An Ohio cop today is being called a hero. We're getting new information this hour on last night's deadly shooting at a rock concert. Apparently it could have even been worse. We're going to get the latest on the victims, the suspect and the hero in a live report when CNN LIVE TODAY returns.



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