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Security Guard Shot at Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.; Obama Schedules Town Hall Meeting in Wisconsin
Aired June 10, 2009 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Apologize for that. That's obviously not Maria.
But Ed Henry, I know you were able to -- you saw her again and were able to bring her in for a live shot. Maybe she can give that account now on camera about what she saw.
HENRY: She can. That's right.
I have Maria here. She lives here in the United States. Some of her relatives are here visiting from Puerto Rico. So they were going to the museum.
Describe what you saw, Maria.
MARIA: Well, we were in the "Remember the Children" exhibit. We were just exiting and we heard shooting.
I ran towards the glass doors to see what was going on. I thought it was a joke or something. And there I could see a security man pull out his gun and shoot towards the shooter.
I also saw another security man on his belly. There was blood everywhere. So I didn't actually see him get shot, but I saw that he was badly hurt and he did get shot.
HENRY: And then you saw some of the return fire from the security personnel?
MARIA: Yes, it hit the security man. I am not sure where, but he was flat on his back.
HENRY: Do you remember what floor -- is that the second floor?
MARIA: We were on the second floor, right where "Remember the Children" was. I could see a few other security people there.
HENRY: And describe the scene. How many people were around the security personnel? Were there people near where the gun shots were being fired?
MARIA: No, people ran as far away as possible. They were running towards me, towards the "Remember the Children" exhibit.
People were on the floor. No one was standing up. No one dared move. We were all very scared. Finally, I ran back towards where my grandparents were to see if they were OK. And there we stayed until further instructions on how to go from the building, just exit the building safely.
HENRY: And so were you able to ascertain -- you said that it appeared that the one security guard who had been shot described -- it sounded like it was a bad scene.
MARIA: It was, just terrible. I looked back, and what I saw from, there was already a lot of blood on the floor. It was just heartbreaking, because I spoke to a security guard earlier who was very friendly. And it just hurts to see him just fall, yes.
HENRY: And so was this near where some of the metal detectors were and entry point to the museum?
MARIA: I wasn't close enough to see, but they were shooting towards the entrance of the museum. So I am assuming that they were. They were heading towards there. All the security guards were running towards the entrance of the museum.
HENRY: And so this children's exhibit you were talking about where you were is close to that, and so that is close to the front of the museum that's on the 14th Street side?
MARIA: Yes. You go up the stairs and there it is. It's outside of the actual museum. You don't go inside. You wait outside in the lobby to wait for you to enter the museum, the actual Holocaust Museum.
HENRY: And did you see the original shooter? You said that there were shots fired by the security personnel, return fire. Did you see him get hit?
MARIA: No, I didn't actually see him get hit. I already ran to the back. I didn't want to be near the entrance anymore.
HENRY: And when we say "him," did you get an idea of what he looked like, how old he was?
MARIA: No, not at all. I just ran from the building as fast as I could. I didn't want to stay to look. I really didn't.
HENRY: OK. And did you get any sense of what weapon the original shooter had? There were some reports of a shotgun or something like that. Were you able to ascertain that?
MARIA: From what I heard, it did not seem -- it sounded like a handgun, like the ones that the security guards had. It wasn't very loud.
I thought that the security guards were just shooting, but then I know that they were shooting at someone. So it sounded like a small gun. It did not sound very loud. It sounded like the ones that the security guards -- almost the same as the ones the security guards were shooting. HENRY: OK, so a very dramatic scene you're talking about that played out.
Describe what other people -- you seem to have stayed pretty calm through all this. I have heard other eyewitnesses say there were some screaming, there was some -- describe the scene.
MARIA: Oh yes. There was chaos everywhere. People were running towards me trying to get into the "Remember the Children" exhibit, because that's the place that people were on the floor. Everyone was trying to just stay calm and exit the building. I actually was too busy to see where my grandparents were to really care what was going on.
HENRY: And your grandparents are sitting right near us and they are well.
MARIA: Yes, they are well, thank God. I was just trying to see where they were and make sure they were OK.
HENRY: OK. And then describe -- some eyewitnesses say that then the security personnel, once they accounted for people in the building, told some people to start running, clear the scene. Describe that.
MARIA: Yes. They were like "Run. Run." As soon as they knew there was a clear way for us to go, "Run and do not stop. Do not look back."
I tried to go back for my grandparents. They were like, "Just go. Just go. We'll take care of it. Just go. Get out of here."
So, yes -- so...
HENRY: OK. And then what happened once you got outside the building? Because when we got there, we have now been pushed a full block away towards the Washington Monument.
Describe the scene out on 14th Street once you cleared the building.
MARIA: All the people that worked in the museum were like, "Get away from the museum as much as possible. Get on the lawn."
They were pushing people to get on the lawn. From the lawn, they told us to even go further from there. They just -- and they actually told us to turn our backs towards the museum at one point. If you are going to stay there, turn your backs off the museum. It was just, "Get out, get away, get away." That's the main goal.
HENRY: Do you live here in Washington? Have you been to the museum before?
MARIA: Yes, I have been to the museum, actually. And I just took my grandparents there for the first time. So, yes. HENRY: Yes, obviously a very harrowing scene. You seem to have stayed very calmly. Appreciate you spending so much time with us explaining what you saw.
MARIA: No problem. No problem.
HENRY: So you heard it right from Maria. She was there on the scene.
Obviously, it sounds like a very tragic scene in terms of the security officer -- we don't have a name yet -- who was down, as Maria describes it, face down, bleeding profusely amid the back-and-forth gunfire in trying to stop this shooter. A very chaotic scene in there -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: All right. Ed Henry there in front of the Holocaust Museum for us.
Ed, you had actually a chance not to talk to Maria, who had some pretty incredible testimony there, but you talked to other eyewitnesses, and they were able to confirm they heard five shots. We have now been able to confirm one security guard shot, transported to the hospital. The alleged gunman shot, transported to the hospital.
Have you learned anything else about the confrontation between the gunman and security, if the gunman said anything or was there any type of demands made, or anything when he entered that museum? Does Maria by chance know if the gunman said anything?
HENRY: That's a really good question.
If I could ask you one more question, Maria -- I have not in my reporting been able to determine whether or not the shooter said anything as he entered the building. Did you hear -- what was going on? Was the shooter saying anything while they were shooting at him?
MARIA: All I heard was, like, a very angry yell. I'm not sure if it was from the shooter. There was just a very angry yell coming out from the entrance. That could have been the shooter, but I didn't see him, so I'm not sure if it was him. But it was just angry.
HENRY: He wasn't airing any grievances or anything that you could hear?
MARIA: No, not at all.
HENRY: And what were the security personnel -- were they saying, "Drop the weapon," things like that?
MARIA: Yes, they were like, "Get on the floor! Drop the weapon! Drop the weapon!" Once he didn't respond, they started shooting.
HENRY: Thank you again, Maria.
So you hear -- that's the best we can determine right now, are from the eyewitnesses. We're still trying to get more information from law enforcement on the scene.
As you know in Washington, there are many layers of law enforcement from the Metropolitan Police Department, Secret Service police, Park Police, because this is a U.S. Park Police area here, right around the Washington Monument. You can still hear the siren around me of various law enforcement personnel overlapping authorities, responding to this scene, trying to blanket the scene.
You can still hear this park police helicopter flying over me as well. That has been on the scene throughout. In addition to, of course, all the media descending upon the scene, a lot of tourists who saw something, heard something. We're talking to them and a lot of other people who were nearby and are just trying to figure out exactly what happened.
So, we're trying to get more information from law enforcement. We are expecting more press conferences and updates, so that's what we'll work on next -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Got it. Keep working your sources for us, Ed. I'll kind of recap for our viewers. Let me know as soon as you have something.
I am also being told the police chief there on the scene now. Here's some pictures coming to us, live pictures, actually, from our affiliate WJLA there in Washington, D.C.
The mayor on the scene. The police chief on the scene. You can see Mayor Fenty right there with his hand on his chin, obviously talking with law enforcement, and also it looks like some reporters there trying to get word with him as well.
We are following these live pictures. Let me bring you up to date until we hear from the mayor, from the police chief, from anybody else there at the scene.
This has been going on for a little more than an hour right now. We got word that there was possibly a shooting at the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. We have now been able to confirm that. A shooting did, indeed, take place.
We were able to hear from Sergeant David Schlosser. He's with the U.S. Park Police. He gave a news conference just a few minutes.
Here is what happened.
A man entered the museum either with a rifle or a shotgun. At this point, police say it was just described as a long gun.
He entered into the museum. They're not sure if he went through the metal detectors or not. And immediately, gunfire erupted. According to police, the gunman opened fire on one of the armed security guards there at the museum. You heard from 19-year-old Maria. She was a witness there inside the museum.
She said she heard the security guards demand that that gunman put his gun down. When he didn't do that, they opened fire.
Then, once that exchange happened, one or more additional security guards returned fire on the gunman that opened fire on the one security guard that was shot and dropped to the floor. Someone that -- one of the eyewitnesses Ed talked to actually saw on the floor bleeding profusely. And we were able to confirm that that security guard, in addition to the gunman, were transported to George Washington University Hospital. Do not know the condition of those two at this time.
Another man was injured, possibly by some glass that was shattered when that shooting happened. There was reports possibly of a suspicious package somewhere as well. That has not been confirmed. But Sergeant Schlosser said that they are looking into that information.
Live pictures now from our affiliate WJLA, one of our other affiliates there in D.C. You can see all the response -- the ambulances, the police cars. The fire department also there on the scene.
The museum is closed. It has been secured. It has been evacuated.
And now, as you can see, all leading members of law enforcement, including the police chief, the D.C. police chief, and also the mayor of D.C., there on the scene, more than likely to hold a news conference any minute now. And we will take that live.
Our Ed Henry is on the scene. He is talking to eyewitnesses. He is gathering information for us as well.
But we can tell you two individuals have been shot, a security guard and the alleged gunman. Both taken to George Washington University Hospital.
Let's go ahead and listen to another eyewitness that we were able to get an interview with thanks to our affiliate WJLA. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were in the "Daniel's Story" section on the main floor and we heard what sounded like four loud pops. And I thought somebody had just dropped something on the floor. And my fiancee said to me, "That sounded like gunshots."
All of the sudden, three kids ran into the area where we were and they had looks on their faces like I have never seen before. And it was just a horrified, scared look. I knew something was absolutely wrong.
We were all in that little small enclosed area. Nobody really knew what to do. You could feel the panic starting to rise up.
And I thought the only thing we can do is try and find a door out. I didn't know if we needed to find a door out. I didn't really know if something was absolutely really wrong.
But we were able to find an emergency door out, and I had to hold the door button for 15 seconds before that door would open. It was like the longest 15 seconds of my life because I didn't know what was going on down at the other end. But it finally did open and we got out the door, and everybody started filing out behind us.
And when I turned around and watched people coming out of the door, that's when I knew something really had happened wrong because they were crying and scared. You could just see it in their faces.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: All right. And as I was telling you just a few minutes ago -- as we look at live pictures here from our affiliate WJLA, you can see actually members of the S.W.A.T. team, members of the various police forces there on the scene out in front of the National Holocaust Museum -- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, rather, in Washington, D.C., just about two blocks from the Washington Monument, directly across from the United States Department of Agriculture.
Just real quickly, a security guard and a gunman both shot, both taken to G. W. University Hospital. Trying to confirm their conditions. The museum has been closed, secured, evacuated.
Here is how it all went down, according to Sergeant David Schlosser with the U.S. Park Police.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Is he in the hospital? Is that true? Do you know if he's critical?
SGT. DAVID SCHLOSSER, U.S. PARK POLICE: I don't know, but I'll try to find that out for you.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what he was dressed like?
SCHLOSSER: I don't know.
QUESTION: Are you looking for anyone else.
QUESTION: There's two people shot, that's it?
SCHLOSSER: My understanding is that it's going to be a total of two victims, one being the security guard and one being the gentleman -- and one being the person that had initially gone into the museum.
QUESTION: The reason for shutting everything down is because you still have a response team doing a secondary search?
SCHLOSSER: Absolutely. We want to make absolutely certain that the scene is completely secure.
QUESTION: Are there people hiding in there?
SCHLOSSER: Let's wait one second.
QUESTION: All three (OFF-MIKE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's wait for that helicopter to clear.
SCHLOSSER: OK. All right.
Going back to the number of shooters involved, I do know that obviously we had the gunman that walked in there and that one or more security officers returned fire. The number, I don't know yet. I'm going to try and get that. So it could be one or more.
QUESTION: Sergeant, are there people hiding?
SCHLOSSER: There were two that I heard returned fire, but I want to confirm that.
QUESTION: Are there people hiding inside the building right now?
SCHLOSSER: Not to my knowledge. No, I believe the museum has been completely secured and evaluated.
QUESTION: Do you have a rough age on this guy?
SCHLOSSER: No, I have no age on him.
QUESTION: His condition, sir?
SCHLOSSER: I don't know. Apparently pretty serious, but that's all I know. And I'll try to get that.
QUESTION: And the guard's condition?
SCHLOSSER: I think the same for that.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir.
QUESTION: Is it safe to say that one of the most secure of the institutions in Washington?
SCHLOSSER: All the institutions in Washington do threat analysis of their particular facilities, and I think the majority of the public gathering areas have done a good job as far as putting metal detectors and any other detection equipment necessary that's appropriate for the type of facility they have.
QUESTION: Your name, sir?
SCHLOSSER: OK. A matter of housekeeping, my name is David Schlosser.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: All right. Once again, you were listening to Sergeant David Schlosser of the U.S. Park Police.
That was a news conference that he held about 25 minutes ago.
Live pictures now from our affiliate WUSA, there in Washington, D.C.
If you just listened to his news conference -- OK. I'm being told now that Robert Gibbs addressing this at the White House press briefing. Let's go ahead and listen in.
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Again, in my endeavoring pursuit to bring you special guests, today, obviously, we have the secretary of commerce, Gary Locke, who is going to talk to you guys...
PHILLIPS: Apologize for that. We are going to monitor the White House press briefing and see if indeed he mentions the shooting at the museum here.
Meanwhile, we are going to stay on this breaking news coverage.
This is a live picture coming to us from WUSA.
The shooting has taken place inside the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I can tell you there are two men that have been shot, a security guard and the alleged gunman. They both are at the G. W. University Hospital right now.
The motive, still not sure. We are trying to confirm that at this time.
We do know that tonight was the debut of the play "Anne and Emmett" by Janet Langhart Cohen at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, and that was bringing some heavy hitters to the museum tonight. Apparently, Attorney General Eric Holder and members of Congress were supposed to be there at the museum tonight, but we have made no link between that, nor the president's recent visit to Buchenwald concentration camp. As you know, he was there remembering the Holocaust and also the 65th anniversary of D-Day.
And so with keeping that all in context, that is what is happening at the museum tonight. The president's trip just a few days ago, and now you have got this shooting here at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
Just to tell you a little more about the Holocaust Memorial Museum, it's considered a living memorial. We were rolling some video a little bit ago, some file video that we have inside the museum. So if that comes up again, that is not of the crime scene that has taken plays inside the museum, it's file video that we have had as we monitor a number of live pictures as well from our affiliates. There it is right there. This is the stock video that we have had inside that museum. We covered its opening, its dedication back in 1993, but it's considered a living memorial, like I told you, exhibits and programs that teach millions of visitors each year about the dangers of unchecked hatred, anti-Semitism, the need to prevent genocide.
It's got permanent exhibits that span actually three floors of the building, more than 900 artifacts, 70 video monitors, as you're seeing here, a number of pictures of those that survived the Holocaust. There's actually four theaters that show historic film footage and eyewitness testimonies.
The exhibitions actually show pictures of Nazi propaganda, also the Nuremberg trials, the entire history of the Holocaust. Pretty haunting images of death and destruction, and even these original uniforms that the Jews were forced to wear when they were held in those concentration camps that were finally liberated in 1945.
Now back to our live pictures. WUSA, our affiliate there in Washington, D.C., helping us bring live coverage of this event.
Our Ed Henry was able to get to the scene. He talked to a number of eyewitnesses there shortly after it happened.
Ed, have you been able to talk to anybody else to get any more information about the motive behind this shooting?
HENRY: We have not been able to get to the motive. I just spoke to two officials from the Holocaust Museum who were getting eyewitness reports from some of their employees, really repeating what we have been hearing about perhaps five gunshots, at least a security officer at the museum being shot and being hit pretty badly, as we heard from that eyewitness, Maria, 19 years old, who was saying that the security officer was bleeding profusely, was face down on the ground, was bleeding from the back, she believed, and that there was return fire from other security personnel on the original shooter. And others -- other officials have said that the shooter was hit as well, that there were two people shot.
I just spoke to some museum officials who may be coming back in a moment to do a live interview who were saying they were getting similar reports from their employees.
We're standing here now a little bit closer than we were before to the Holocaust Museum. Jocco Riggs (ph) is with me, our photojournalist.
You can see where that American flag is waving just beyond the construction. That is where the Holocaust Memorial Museum is. That's where the shooting took place.
Now, from eyewitnesses, we have gathered that the shooting took place inside the museum. When I first arrived on the scene, it was pretty chaotic on the street, and there was so much security personnel and police personnel on the street, that it originally appeared that perhaps the shooting had taken place outside. But instead, from various eyewitnesses, we've gathered that the shooting took place inside, we believe, on the second floor of that museum, perhaps somewhere close to where the magnetometers, where the machines are where you get screened -- the security screening machines are, the metal detectors.
It happened near there, and that there may have been some sort of confrontation with the shooter and that security officer who was hit. Again, he was down. We are told face down on the ground after he was shot, Kyra.
We are now standing here because, here in the middle of the street, we are expecting perhaps the Park Police -- and you can see, some Park Police behind me -- are going to be having a news conference, we believe, in the next few moments to give us an update on exactly what happened and perhaps any sort of motive -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: All right. And as we wait for that, Ed, if you don't mind, just kind of give our viewers a description of where exactly the museum is.
It's about two blocks from the Washington Monument; right? How close is it to the White House? I know it's across the street from the Department of Agriculture.
HENRY: Well, if Jocco (ph) follows me one more time, you can see the Holocaust Museum over my left shoulder here. See the construction, some of the greenery and the trees. And I don't know if he can do a complete circle because there is a lot of other media here who are getting ready to the news conference.
But a little bit to Jocco's (ph) right, he's going to turn around.
Watch yourself here.
And you can see the Washington Monument.
If you can get on the monument there, Jocco (ph).
And so the monument is very close to the Holocaust Museum, maybe a block or two. Then if you go beyond the monument, of course, just another block or so is the White House. And obviously that's where Jocco (ph) and I were working when we got the initial readout from Vito Maggiolo (ph) on our desk saying that there was some sort of a shooting here at the Holocaust Museum.
And since we were only a couple blocks away, we decided to gather and start racing over here. We jumped in a taxi, and from the White House, maybe four blocks away, you could hear sirens coming from every direction at that point. This is maybe an hour or so ago, right after the shooting.
We saw, as we got into the cab, ambulances passing us. Again, police personnel from the U.S. Park Police, the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police, the Secret Service police, you name it, all the various overlapping law enforcement agencies here in Washington were here descending upon the scene.
That's when we started -- we got here, we got pretty close to the museum, maybe just a couple hundred feet outside the museum before police started moving us back here, say, a block, block and a half away from the crime scene. There have been helicopters hovering over throughout our reporting from the Park Police, perhaps to make sure the scene is secure now, obviously.
They want to make sure -- again, this is just maybe four or five blocks from the White House. So they want to make sure the scene is safe and secure.
There's also hundreds, thousands of tourists just in this area right around us who have gathered upon the scene. Some are eyewitnesses. Others just happen to be here and have heard, obviously, the commotion, seen the scene, and have wanted to figure out exactly what's going on.
I saw one gentlemen who had a family member or a friend who was inside the museum during the shooting. He has not been able to find that person, was asking us for our help.
So, you get the idea that that kind of a chaotic scene where the eyewitnesses are pretty shaken by what they saw, the folks who are not eyewitnesses are wondering what happened. And then there are others looking for family members or friends who were in there and obviously hoping that they are OK.
We have only heard about two people who were shot, so we should pass that along to try to assuage any concerns anyone has about other people being potentially hurt. But certainly there are a lot of people concerned about this entire scene and exactly how it unfolded -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: And Ed, stay with me.
Just getting a statement here from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. This statement is coming from its director of media relations.
It says, "A shooting incident occurred at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's 14th Street entrance. An assailant shot a museum security officer."
"Two museum security officers returned fire, hitting the assailant. The museum officer and the suspect have been transported to a local hospital. The museum is closed for the remainder of the day and expects to be open tomorrow."
"We'll release more information as it becomes available. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the officer and his family."
Ed, this is the first we are hearing directly from the media relations department there at the Holocaust Memorial Museum.
HENRY: Yes. And I spoke to two officials from the museum who were -- just in the last few moments who were returning to the scene. They had been away when the shooting took place.
I believe, actually -- let me correct that. One person, one of the officials I spoke to, was here. The other one was not here. And they were meeting here at the scene to try to trade information, swap information about exactly how it unfolded.
I was trying to get them over to our camera. And they may come in a moment. But then they were pulled over and they were talking to law enforcement and other people behind me.
So, obviously, the museum officials have been drawn into this unfortunately, obviously, because there is now a crime scene right at their museum. And they are trying to figure out how it unfolded. And they obviously -- one of the security personnel was hit.
PHILLIPS: Well, Ed, and as you are talking about it, we are just getting video in from our affiliate, WJLA, of the two ambulances. And we are getting our first pieces of video here of the alleged gunman and also the security guard that was shot.
This is a photographer from one of our affiliates, WJLA, in Washington, D.C. Two ambulances arriving at G. W. University Hospital. One ambulance carrying that alleged shooter, we believe. The other ambulance carrying that of the security guard.
We are just going to kind of hold on this video to see exactly what D.C. Fire -- and we apologize for how this could be a little uncomfortable to see. OK.
There is -- this individual is in green pants, looks like a white male in green pants on oxygen. The paramedics there are talking to this individual lying on his side. And then the video just cut away.
I don't know if we are going to be able to come back to that or not, if we are going to be able to see the other individual that was in the other ambulance there.
We are actually working that videotape. We'll let you know if we do have video of the other ambulance and who, indeed, was taken out of that other ambulance.
Ed, are you with me still by chance as we are watching this?
HENRY: Yes. Yes.
PHILLIPS: Is there any way you can find out from somebody what type of uniform -- maybe you know -- these security guards wear inside the museum? This guy had green pants on, this one victim that was being brought in.
PHILLIPS: Go ahead, Ed. Go ahead and ask.
Our affiliate -- yes, go ahead, Ed.
HENRY: No, go ahead with your information and then I'll tell you.
PHILLIPS: All right. WJLA, the affiliate, is reporting that the video we are looking at right now of this man being taken out of the ambulance is the alleged shooter.
PHILLIPS: OK. That is what we are getting from the affiliate. That is what they are reporting. They are reporting it's the alleged shooter.
But I can tell you -- and I'm going to look at video again, Ed -- it looks like he has got khaki green -- like Army green. He's got Army green pants on. It looks like a white male, and he is up on his side.
So if there is any way we can confirm what the security guard's uniform looks like, the guys that takes care of those inside the museum, we might be able to confirm that -- go ahead.
HENRY: Well, I have a still photo. And I am going to e-mail this to you in a moment, but I don't know if you can actually see it.
I'm going to put it in for Jocco (ph). And these were some of the security personnel that I saw outside the Holocaust Museum. And they were wearing white shirts and they look like dark pants.
I don't know if you can make out this shot. And I will e-mail it to you -- I'll e-mail it in a moment.
Can you see that?
PHILLIPS: OK. Yes, go ahead and e-mail it to me. Yes. It's hard to make out, Ed. It's too much of a glare.
HENRY: It's too much of a glare. OK. I'm going to e-mail it to you, and then maybe from there in Atlanta, you can get it made into...
PHILLIPS: And stay with me, Ed. Robert Gibbs is saying something now at the White House briefing.
Let's listen in, Ed.
GIBBS: Earlier today, the president called President Sulayman to congratulate him on Lebanon's successful parliamentary elections, commended Lebanon's Interior Ministry and security services for their hard work. President Obama reiterated his strong commitment to Lebanon's sovereignty and independence and indicated that he looked forward to working with the president to strengthen the relationship between the United States and Lebanon.
Finally, President Obama noted that special envoy -- his special envoy for Middle East peace, George Mitchell, would be in Lebanon on Friday and looked forward to...
PHILLIPS: OK. Ed, you know how Robert Gibbs usually comes out, says a couple of things, and then reporters ask their questions. So we'll take the Q&A. I'm sure a reporter will ask about that shooting. We'll go back to that in a minute. But meanwhile, you know, we don't want to leave these pictures and the fact that we actually have video possibly of that alleged gunman.
I will wait for your e-mail to see the picture of exactly what those security guards wear. And I will try and see if there looks like a correlation between the uniform and what that man was wearing that was coming out of the ambulance into the hospital.
HENRY: And obviously, there could be more than one uniform in different areas of the building. These were folks who were outside securing the Holocaust Museum when I first arrived on the scene about an hour or so ago. I just sent that to you. And, you know, so, we'll try to figure that out. And we're trying to figure out whether this press conference --
PHILLIPS: You were able to confirm through the eyewitness, or at least the eyewitness said that the gunman was shot in the back. Is that correct, or was it the security guard?
HENRY: That the security guard, we believe, was shot in the back, because Maria, the 19-year-old eyewitness that we interviewed a few moments ago, she was saying that she saw a security guard on the ground face down...
HENRY: ... and that it appeared he was bleeding from the back. But obviously, it was a chaotic scene, and it's unclear, unfortunately. If blood was coming out quickly, it's unclear exactly where it was coming from. But she thought that he was shot in the back and that the security guard had blood coming out of his back and he was face down on the ground.
PHILLIPS: All right, and I'm getting a wire coming across from NBC News and news services, updated about four minutes ago. It's reporting that law enforcement officials are identifying the suspect. Do we want to go with this name? All right, we're going to go to Bob -- Robert Gibbs at the White House. He's talking about the shooting now. We will get back to the suspect's possible name.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRTARY: ... the security guard that appears to have been hurt. I gave him mostly a factual briefing of the facts as we knew it or knew them at that point. And that's about it. Obviously, saddened by what has happened.
QUESTION: And in terms of -- can you just give us a little bit more detail about the White House involvement in a tragedy like this? How does coordination work through the Homeland Security (INAUDIBLE)?
GIBBS: Well, you know, we get regular updates through the Situation Room. We're in contact with and we get updates from Homeland Security Council and other agencies like the FBI. So, I assume throughout the day, we'll continue to get information about facts and what's happened (INAUDIBLE).
QUESTION: I also want to ask you a couple quick things on health care. Can you give us a progress report on the president's meeting today with the key senators, just to start? How does the White House think it went? Was anything accomplished today?
GIBBS: Well, I think the president continued to discuss with important and leading members of Congress on health care reform the challenges that we have before us. Obviously, he'll travel tomorrow to Green Bay and have a town hall meeting on this. We just announced, obviously, the speech in Chicago on Monday.
The president is pleased that what appears to be happening is making progress. I think you'll hear him both tomorrow and Monday, as I said, lay out the strong case for health care reform to bring about some relief for families and small business from the costs that they're seeing rise each and every year.
PHILLIPS: All right, we'll continue to monitor the White House briefing there. We did hear just a few comments from Robert Gibbs when asked about that shooting. Meanwhile, we're going to continue to monitor that as well as bring you information as quickly as we can surrounding this shooting that has taken place at the Holocaust Museum here in Washington, D.C. We're getting in new video now from our affiliates in addition to our shooter, Jocko Riggs (ph), who's there on the scene bringing us video of what it looks like right now.
Let me try and bring you up to date. This is what we know so far, that about an hour and a half, an hour 35 minutes ago, a man entered the inside of this museum. And as soon as he came inside the entryway, we are told that he opened fire on a security guard, an armed security guard right there inside the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
At that time, one or more other security guards, but according to a statement now from the museum, it was two security guards that opened fire on that gunman. Two men were rushed to the hospital. GW University hospital. And this is the video we're getting in from our affiliate, WJLA. And they're reporting that this is the alleged gunman, that this man right here that we're seeing brought in, bleeding, it looks like from the front and the back, on his side is the alleged gunman that opened fire, possibly taking the life of that security guard that has been shot. Still cannot confirm, cannot confirm the condition of those two men, the alleged gunman that apparently we just saw video of and the security guard that was shot.
Our Ed Henry is on the scene, has been monitoring this for us. Have you been able to get any more information?
HENRY: No. I mean, to be honest with you, we are still trying to gather more about the motive, about exactly how it played out. And we are expecting a press conference to start at some time soon, right here behind me. That's why we're gathered here. We are right now standing in the middle of 14th Street. That's where this has been set up because several blocks have been actually shut down on the National Mall as you can imagine.
Just behind my left shoulder here, you can see here out there the Holocaust Museum where the American flag is. That's where the museum is. It's been cordoned off now for well over an hour, hour and a half. There's now even another fire and EMS unit, appears to be an ambulance coming to the scene. Obviously, it's not rushing to the scene. But you can see that that has been happening over the last hour and a half or so throughout.
PHILLIPS: And Ed?
PHILLIPS: Apparently, and this is -- we're going to hang this on NBC News right now. But apparently, law enforcement officials have identified the suspect as James Wenneker von Brunn, 88 years old, from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Apparently, NBC reporting he may have had connection to hate groups or anti-government groups. This is the information that we're getting right now.
Stay with me because Mike Brooks, who used to work in law enforcement there in Washington, D.C. -- he was on the SWAT team -- he was talking to us by phone. He's here on set with me now. You know, Mike, you've got obviously a number of sources there within the police department. Do you know anything about what is being reported now on NBC about this possible suspect, James Wenneker von Brunn, from Eastern Shore of Maryland, possibly connections to hate groups or anti-government groups?
MIKE BROOKS, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: We're looking into that right now. We do have that name. That's not the first time we've heard -- that I've heard that name myself.
PHILLIPS: You know that name?
BROOKS: I've heard that name because, if you recall, I was on the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force. And we used to investigate domestic hate groups. So, and I can tell you right now that the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Washington field office, is there on the scene. You also have the FBI SWAT team assisting U.S. Park Police and D.C. Police there on the scene.
Now, the Holocaust, you know, dedicated in the early '90s. I was part of the actual...
PHILLIPS: This museum, the memorial museum.
BROOKS: The museum was dedicated in the early '90s. And when it was dedicated, you had revisionists who believed, you know, who say the Holocaust never happened. You had different hate groups, skinhead groups, Aryan nations, all there protesting the opening of this.
Now, you know, is this guy part of an organized group? That remains to be seen. But one of the things that law enforcement, and former law enforcement myself, Kyra, are always concerned about are these lone wolves. These people who have this ideology in their head and, you know, as I call them, some of the true believers that will go out and carry out acts like this.
But we will find out more about this guy. You know, there are a number of different hate groups around the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Virginia, northern Virginia, southwestern Virginia. I know that for sure. Does he have any affiliation with any of these groups? It's not known at this time.
PHILLIPS: All right, and I'm right now -- bear with me because I'm getting some information from our investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin. We have now confirmed this name as well, this suspect, James Wenneker von Brunn, 88 years old, from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Possibly connections to some hate groups, anti-government groups. You say the name rings a bell, as in, you think you remember him as being tied to one of these groups, Mike?
BROOKS: I know he has -- I don't know if he's tied specifically to a group, but I do know he has a Web site, and...
PHILLIPS: Is this the HolyWesternEmpire.org?
BROOKS: I believe that is it, yes.
PHILLIPS: I'm trying to bring it up right now. Looks like it's getting a lot of hits right now. I'm having a hard time bringing that up. Maybe we can bring that up in the -- here we go. This is actually his bio. James Von Brunn holds a bachelor of science Journalism degree from Midwestern University where he was president of SAE, a fraternity, played varsity football.
It says here, during World War II, he served as a P.T. boat captain, lieutenant. Receiving commendation and four battle stars for 20 years. He was an advertising executive, a film producer in New York City, a member of Mensa. I'm trying to work my way down.
Here we go. Here's the -- in 1981, apparently he attempted to place the Federal Reserve Board of Governors under legal nonviolent citizens arrest. He was tried in a D.C. court, convicted. Oh, I see. This is his Web site. So, in his words, he's talking about and he uses derogatory terms for African-Americans. He talks about being convicted by a Negro jury, Jew/Negro attorneys. It's quite a racist Web site here. And I'm just going to seek guidance on if I should continue to even give this Website any more attention.
Boy, it sure lays out some pretty crude statements about his past and how he views blacks and Jews.
I can tell you right now that in the initial investigation like this, they will send a lead down to the Baltimore office of the FBI in Salisbury, Maryland and in Annapolis, they have RAs. I guarantee you they are working with local law enforcement in getting together a search warrant for this guy's house to see whether or not there is anything dangerous at his house. Many times, you see people carry out incidents like this, and many times they don't expect to come back from an incident like this, Kyra.
They will sometimes set something for police. Again, that's just something that we have seen in the past. As I said, though, I'm sure the FBI joint terrorism task force out of the Baltimore office is also involved in this, along with the domestic joint terrorism task force, the group that I used to be with there at the Washington field office.
PHILLIPS: We are working more information obviously on him and his ties to anti-Semitism, to racial groups, to hate groups, to antigovernment groups. The name we are hearing now is James W. Van Brunn. James Wenneker von Brunn. We are actually looking at his Web site, trying to confirm more information about this possible shooter here outside the museum.
Let me update you. If you are just tuning in, we are following breaking news right now. A shooting that has taken place inside the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. If you are not familiar with the location, it's just about two blocks from the Washington Monument, directly across in the United States Department of Agriculture, not far from the White House, which is why our Ed Henry was able to get so there quickly by a cab and cover this for us.
Mike Brooks, who used to work in law enforcement, even the anti- terrorism group out of D.C., he is working his sources. He is with me here on the set. Here is what happened. A man that we now believe to be identified as James Wenneker von Brunn, 88 years old, connections to hate groups, antigovernment groups, possibly even serving in World War II in the United States military. Having connections to hate groups now, possibly police looking at him now as the gunman that opened fire on an armed security guard inside the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.
Ed Henry was able to get an incredible testimony with an eyewitness, a 19-year-old girl by the name of Maria. I am told Ed is ready now, too. Ed is up live with us in front of the museum. I was just talking about the fact that she saw this security guard that was shot.
A lot of developments now. We still can't confirm, Ed, if the gunman is still alive and if the security guard is still alive. We were able to see some video of the alleged gunman, James Wenneker Von Brunn being brought into the George Washington University Hospital. This video captured by one of the photographers at WJLA. They have been extremely aggressive on this story. We appreciate them getting this video to us. This came in to us just about 15 minutes ago. In just a second, you will see video of the alleged gunman that authorities are saying could be James Wenneker Von Brunn, a man known to be tied to hate groups, anti-government groups. Eighty-eight years old if he is, indeed, confirmed to be the shooter right now. Police believing that is indeed him.
Now, the security guard. How is the security guard? We still cannot get a status on him at this point. We do know he was shot. One of the eyewitnesses saw him facedown in a pool of blood inside that museum. He was rushed to the hospital as well.
We did get a statement from the museum. The head of media relations saying their thoughts and prayers go out to the officer and his family right now. They did confirm that that shooting incident occurred at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum right there at the 14th Street entrance. That's what you are looking at right now.
This alleged gunman, James Wenneker Von Brunn entered into the front of that museum. Still not sure what he said, if there was any kind of verbal confrontation. Witnesses said they just heard the police officer say, "Put your gun down, put your gun down," and he did not. That's when gunshots were heard. Witnesses hearing five gun shots.
We can confirm the security guard indeed was shot, and two additional security guards inside that museum shot the alleged gunman who is now at the G.W. University Hospital. You saw a video of him moments ago. We have been able to identify him. According to law enforcement officials, they believe it is James Wenneker Von Brunn, a man known to be tied to hate groups and anti-government groups, possibly a man who served in the U.S. military during World War II. We are working to confirm that.
Now, the statement -- you can see the mayor right here possibly getting ready to step up to the mike out here in front of -- you see the police chief, too. You can see the head of the police force there in Washington, D.C. Right behind -- there she is. It looks like she might be coming up possibly to the mikes to give a news conference. We will see.
We are monitoring these live pictures hoping they will step up to the mike to say a statement. We will take that live as soon as it happens. It looks like the mayor is getting out some notes here and will be approaching the mike. Let's go ahead and take a listen. Are we set up for this, guys, audio wise? Great. As soon as the mayor steps up to the mike, we will take this live. We want to thank our affiliate WJLA. Let's take it live.
ADRIAN FENTY, MAYOR, WASHINGTON D.C.: I would like to start off by saying we are going to give some statements and we would be glad to answer as many questions as possible. What we have tried to do is arrange everybody who has a role in the investigation of what happened earlier this afternoon so that you can get one message, and then we would be able to have one single stream of communication. We expect to do the same thing again early tomorrow morning after our law enforcement officials have had the night to do their investigation. First of all, my name is Adrian Fenty, mayor of Washington, D.C. At approximately 1:00 this afternoon, there was a shooting in the entranceway of the Holocaust Museum. The Holocaust Memorial Museum is an agent of the federal government. It comes under the Department of the Interior. We are joined by William Parsons, the chief of staff of the museum who will answer questions about all museum affairs.
Again, this was earlier in the afternoon, just before :00, an armed gunman came into the entrance and immediately opened fire, striking one security guard. There was fire -- gunfire returned. The gunman was hit. As of right now, the armed gunman is in the hospital in critical condition. There is also a security guard who was hit who is in grave condition.
Our hearts and thoughts go out to the security guard and his family. No name will be released as of right now, and we will bring more information to you as more information comes to us.
The other thing that we want to talk about is that we have a partnership with the FBI. Joe Persichini will speak from the FBI about their investigation. Our chief of police, Cathy Lanier, will give the specifics of the incident. We want to thank the United States Park Police for their work so far. We know there will be questions about everything from what is going on in the museum, the museum's hours, to traffic around the incident right now. We will do our best to answer those questions in turn. The next person who will speak is the chief of police for the District of Columbia, Cathy Lanier.
As the mayor said, it is still very early on in this investigation. We will give you all the information we can give you at this point. Please recognize that all this information right now is still determined to be preliminary. We will give you the best information that we have, knowing that some information will develop as time goes on and some may change.
CATHY LANIER, CHIEF OF POLICE, WASHINGTON D.C.: About ten minutes to 1:00 this afternoon, there was what appeared to be a lone gunman who approached and entered the main entrance of the Holocaust Museum. Immediately upon entering the museum, he was engaged by security guards, and there was an exchange of gunfire. As he mayor said, we have one security guard who has been struck that is at an area hospital getting treatment. We also have a gunman who was struck obviously from the return fire from security.
Off-duty police officer from the Metropolitan Police Department was in the block just as the shooting was being dispatched. The officer immediately entered the museum, was supported by United States Park Police, and security from the museum and rendered aid immediately to the victims until they were transported by the D.C. Fire Department and EMS.
At this point, this appears to be a lone gunman. He appears to be acting alone. We do have information that we are following up on to try and confirm identities, which we do not have confirmed at this point, and this area -- immediate area around the museum will remain closed for probably an extended period of time. However, we are going to open traffic around the area. And we'll get that update from DDOT Director here on what areas will be open for rush-hour traffic.
So, at this point, we had no prior information. There was no prior threats of this nature about this incident. So, it appears to be a lone gunman who entered into the museum and opened fire with what appears to be a rifle at this point.
QUESTION: Can you confirm that the gunman is 89-year-old James Von Brunn?
LANIER: We have no confirmation on any identity at this point. So, we can't confirm identity. That's going to take a little bit of time.
FENTY: That's all the questions until we introduce the last few speakers.
Joe Persichini, from the FBI.
JOE PERSICHINI, FBI: I think that as Chief Lanier said that we have a lot of work to do right now. And I want to reiterate again that we had no prior knowledge of any act that was going to take plays at Holocaust. We have an outstanding relationship, both the Metropolitan Police Department and the FBI with Holocaust.
We'll be working through the night to develop the facts. And as the mayor and the chief said, we'll have a press conference tomorrow morning and hopefully provide you some of the facts of the investigation. It is a joint investigation. Again, we're working through the night to develop all the facts that we possibly can.
FENTY: Last speaker, Bill Parsons, Chief of Staff for the Holocaust Memorial Museum.
WILLIAM PARSONS, CHIEF OF STAFF, U.S. HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM: On behalf of everybody at the museum, we just want to say that, never take your guard force or your security people for granted.
These folks are trained. They train all the time. They did exactly what they were supposed to do to protect people at the museum. Our hearts really go out to the family right now and to the guard who was shot. And we appreciate all the support we're getting. The museum will be -- is closed today. It will be open tomorrow for business as usual.
So, thank you.
QUESTION: Do you have any information that the museum was targeted because it's the Holocaust museum? Is there any information suggesting that it was targeted?
PARSONS: We don't have any of that, no.
PARSONS: It's a security force at the museum.
QUESTION: How many people was inside the museum when it happened?
PARSONS: It was a full museum, a couple thousand.
QUESTION: Did he go through the metal detectors to get in? Do you know if there was (INAUDIBLE)?
PARSONS: I'll defer that to the law enforcement.
QUESTION: Chief, can you tell us if you've located the shooter's car?
LANIER: I'm not going to comment on evidence. We are working on a lot of evidence at this point. From right now, what it appears is that the gunman did enter alone, was engaged by at least two of the security guards immediately upon entering the door. So, the security forces as was commented on, did exactly what they are here to do and our hearts certainly go out to them.
QUESTION: Chief, did the bomb-sniffing dogs make a hit on his car though? Are you X-raying that car to make sure --
LANIER: As a precaution on every scene that we go to involving incidents and particularities around the area, we sweep the area with bomb dogs. We have swept all the areas around the museum as a matter of routine.
LANIER: My understanding that the gunman entered with a long rifle -- that was visible when he entered the museum.
QUESTION: Did he saying anything, Chief?
LANIER: We have no information on that.
LANIER: We have nothing -- no confirmation on identity at this point. So, we're not going to speculate until we confirm identity.
QUESTION: Can you tell us anything about him? His age, his gender?
LANIER: We haven't confirmed ID.
QUESTION: How many shots (INAUDIBLE) getting fired?
LANIER: It's too early for us to say.
QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) immediately engaged. Does that mean they saw the rifle? Otherwise, why would you immediately engage somebody? LANIER: Well, from the information that we have at this point, it appears that immediately as he entered the front doors of the museum, he raised the rifle and started shooting.
QUESTION: It was a rifle, not a shotgun?
LANIER: It is a rifle.
QUESTION: What was the approximate age?
LANIER: Can't give you that at this point.
QUESTION: What about the guard?
LANIER: Can't give you anything on the guard at this point.
LANIER: Actually, the second he was stepped into the building, he began firing.
QUESTION: Conscious or unconscious?
LANIER: Both the guard and the suspect are at area hospitals being treated. I can't comment any further on their condition because we just don't know yet.
FENTY: We'll take one more question for the FBI and then we'll see you all in the morning.
QUESTION: What is the FBI's role here?
PERSICHINI: As a joint member of the JTTF, we're always looking at any possible connection for domestic terrorism. This is a collaborative effort and representatives from the Metropolitan Police Department and the FBI are assisting with this case.
QUESTION: Mayor, Mayor, Mayor.
PERSICHINI: We have not received any other information about any other site in the city. And I think that's all.
QUESTION: Mayor, Mayor, Mayor, Mayor --
FENTY: We're going to do a local traffic briefing for the local folks who will have to get the routes.
QUESTION: Mayor, I talked to several sources their first time in the city today. What do you have to say to them about safety in D.C.?
FENTY: Again, I think this is an extremely isolated incident. Not only that, as Mr. Parsons said, this was something that happened where the security guards performed exceptionally well and exactly as they were supposed to.
In these days and times, you never know when someone is going to grab a gun and use it in an inappropriate way as was done today. But we want to thank the heroism of the security guards and the Metropolitan Police Department for being on hand very early for making the arrest. We believe we have someone who was a lone gunman. But, we're going to spend the night investigating any and all other leads.
What we'd like to do now is have our Department of Transportation director come forward and just give the local press a briefing on where we stand with traffic.
QUESTION: Who was the third person that was injured? We understood there was another person.
Hello, everybody. My name is Gabe Klein. I'm the director of the D.C. Department of Transportation. We initially had a closure on the 14th Street bridge northbound. The 14th Street bridge is now open in both directions, excuse me. And I'm happy to announce that all the major arterials are open except for this area on 14th Street, from Constitution to D.
So, we have switched timing now to rush-hour timing as we have seen a surge on all the major arterials heading out of D.C.
(END OF COVERAGE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, guys, I don't hear it. Guys?
PHILLIPS: All right. We're trying to get our audio looped in there. You were just listening to a live news conference with the chief of police and the mayor there in D.C. Really, we have been giving you more information actually than they were able to give. So I'm just going to get right down to it.
Right now, law enforcement officials looking at white supremacist James Wenneker von Brunn, born 1920's, believed to be 88 or 89; known for a history of being involved with hate groups, anti-government groups.
On the phone with us right now from the Southern Poverty Law Center, Heidi Beirich.
Heidi, As we are learning more information about this shooting at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C., we now have the name of the suspect. We've seen video of him being brought into the George Washington University medical center. We're told he is in critical condition. You have actually been investigating -- your organization, has been investigating James Wenneker von Brunn for a number of years, right?
VOICE OF HEIDI BEIRICH, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: Yes. He is in our files going way back to the 1980's. He has extremely long history with Neo-Nazis and white supremacist. He's written extremely incendiary publications raging about Jews and Blacks and the like. He's been employed in a Holocaust denial bookstore. So, this guy is a hard core Neo-Nazi.
PHILLIPS: And I'm looking at his web site. And you know, he's referring to the 1983 case where he was found guilty in this incident with the Feds, calling the jury a Negro jury and that the attorneys were Negro and Jews. I mean, it's a very nasty discriminatory description of his lawsuit and how he feels about Blacks and Jews.
Did you start looking into him after this case with the District of Columbia's Superior Court, when he was convicted in New Hampshire of attempting to kidnap members of the Federal Reserve board because of his anti-government feelings?
BEIRICH: Well actually, we have materials on von Brunn going into the late '70s when he was working with probably one of the prominent Neo-Nazis, American Neo-Nazis of the modern era, a guy named William Pierce, who actually wrote the book "The Turner Diaries" that inspired Timothy McVeigh's Oklahoma City bombing.
Von Brunn was a close associate of William Pierce at something called the National Youth Alliance. So, it was before that time. But you're right. That incident is really scary. If you read von Brunn's web site talking about it, he talks about how he wants to bind the Fed members hands, make them go on television. He was -- had a bunch of concealed weapons in a London Fog raincoat. So, this guy's really scary.
PHILLIPS: And he says that he was in the Military -- the United States Military during World War II. Is that true, do you know?
BEIRICH: I'm not sure if it's true. It's possibly true in the sense that he was very close allies with a guy named Rear Admiral John Cromolyn (ph), who was an Alabamian, who came back from the war pretty well-decorated hero. But he was raging anti-semi. He was also associated with these same kinds of crazies.
So, it's possible.
PHILLIPS: Well, it's heart-wrenching and it's disgusting when you just read the background.
Heidi Beirich with the Southern Poverty Law Center. Please stay with us. Our ongoing coverage here of the breaking news story. A security guard shot. An alleged gunman shot. That alleged gunman believed to be white Supremacist James Wenneker von Brunn. It all happened at the Holocaust museum -- Memorial Museum, there in Washington, D.C.
We've been following this for two hours.
We've got much more ahead with Rick Sanchez. He takes it from here.