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D.C. Massacre At Washington Navy Yard

Aired September 16, 2013 - 18:02   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Breaking news this hour, a mass shooting here in the nation's capital, an urgent manhunt. We're here at the Washington Navy Yard. It is just behind me, right in the heart of the nation's capital.

Police say at least 12 people were killed. And the gunman also is dead. Another potential suspect may, repeat, may be on the loose right now, although there is by no means 100 percent confirmation that there was a second shooter. The dead shooter has been identified as Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old military contractor from Texas.

He was able to penetrate this well-secured U.S. military installation not far from Capitol Hill, only about a mile from Capitol Hill, only about three miles, or so, from the White House. There were several injuries including two law enforcement officers. At last word, an FBI team was still working to clear buildings at the Naval facility nearly 10 hours after the shooting.

Police say they have no information, at least not yet on a motive. We're standing by for a news conference, by the way, from local authorities. Authorities describe the potential suspect they're searching for, the second suspect, as a black man between the ages of 40 and 50 carrying what's described as a long gun or a rifle wearing an olive military-style uniform. We are told he is 5'10'', 180 pounds or so, with gray, or graying side burns.

Another man who was considered a so-called person of interest has been identified and ruled out as a suspect.

Let's bring in CNN's Jake Tapper, who is here watching what is going on.

Jake, like everybody here in Washington, we woke up this morning, thinking there were going to be a lot of other stories we would be covering, not this one.


You know what's interesting about Secretary Mabus, secretary of the Navy, who you were just interviewing, he has actually gone through this before with survivors, because he was the ambassador to Saudi Arabia in 1995 when there was the terrorist attack that killed five Americans and wounded about 60 others. He has gone through this before. We don't happen to look to think of the United States as being a place where that type of horrific violence, whatever you want to call it takes place. But increasingly we're seeing incidents like this. This is the second attack on a U.S. military base in just the last five years. I'm thinking about Fort Hood being the deadliest one.

BLITZER: And this one with 12 people killed, another 12 or so people injured. This an awful, awful deadly attack as well. What are you hearing? Because we are getting conflicting information. We just heard the secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, say maybe there wasn't a second suspect. The police chief, Cathy Lanier, keeps staying maybe there is a second suspect. Clearly they don't know.

TAPPER: That's right.

And law enforcement sources with whom I have spoken say they're not sure. You can't rule anything out at this point. For that reason, Cathy Lanier, the chief of police here, is constantly bringing the information out there to the public in case there is some lead they can get.

But at the same time, the situation was so fluid. And they have already ruled out one individual who they said they were suspected, they suspected at one point.


BLITZER: At one point they thought there were three shooters.


BLITZER: Now maybe two.

TAPPER: Now maybe two, including the one that has already been killed. They don't know. There is a lot of skepticism internally among those behind this investigation about whether or not there is another shooter. But at this point they can't rule it out. They continue to ask the public for information about it.

BLITZER: We know among the casualties, those injured, some are very serious injuries, others not so much. But they're all in local hospitals right now and they're being treated.

TAPPER: That's right. One of the injured, Metropolitan Police Department officer, injuries were fairly horrific. He will apparently according to the prognosis survive. But we're told -- what a city councilman told me earlier today is that he was shot in the legs by the shooter, the shooter who is now dead.

And it went through one of his legs so horrifically, it almost -- it didn't, but it almost severed one of his legs. That's how bad the wound was. But apparently he will survive. He is still in surgery. Reconnecting the leg is very, very difficult, the doctors say, but they're continuing this valiant effort by the medical personnel of Washington Hospital Center. BLITZER: Jake Tapper, our chief Washington correspondent, the anchor of "THE LEAD," I know you are doing serious reporting. We will check back with you. Thanks very much.

Ed Lavandera is joining us now from Fort Worth, Texas.

Ed, I take it you spoke with a friend of this gunman, Aaron Alexis. What are you learning?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A couple friends we have spoken with this afternoon. Wolf. Everything centers around the Happy Bowl Thai Restaurant here on the northwest side of Fort Worth, Texas.

From what we can tell, Aaron Alexis spent a great deal of time here in the last three to four years. He was the roommate of the owner of this restaurant. They moved around various different places. They met at a Buddhist temple just down the road here a little more than three years ago and struck up a friendship.

The owner of the restaurant is a new immigrant here to the United States. He says that Aaron Alexis helped him get acclimated here in the United States, helped him solve a lot of problems and get used through the immigrant experience here in opening up this business. In fact, Aaron Alexis also helped out here time to time waiting tables.

Many other people we have spoken with here today say they used to see Aaron Alexis around here waiting tables. Another friend of Aaron Alexis that we spoke with talked about this experience working with a civilian contractor in the Navy. This friend of his tells us several months ago, Aaron Alexis called him and was complaining that he had been sent on a trip to Tokyo, Japan, and was having problems getting paid for the trip. There seemed to be some sort of dispute about payment for the trip. Not sure salary or if it is expenses, that sort of thing, but that it had gotten him quite a bit frustrated.

In fact, Aaron Alexis had called him asking for any kind of work. Sounded like he was having some sort of financial trouble. But here, the mood with these friends and people who have known Aaron Alexis over the course of the last three, four years, they tell us they're stunned and saddened by what has unfolded today and that they never saw any signs that Aaron Alexis could be violent in any way.


NUTPISIT SUTHAMTEWAKUL, FRIEND: If he did that, I just don't know. I have no idea. For me, he was living with me. Even my customers, that -- that when I first started business, it was him that helped me out all the time. All the customers that know him, he is very nice and talking to our people.

He is very, very, well-spoken. He speak good, good English.

LAVANDERA: He came here as a customer?

(CROSSTALK) SUTHAMTEWAKUL: No, no, no. I met him at the temple. We became like best friends. We hanging out and we stayed at the same house for like three years.


LAVANDERA: That owner of the restaurant says that Aaron Alexis was a fixture at the Buddhist temple, that he loved Asian culture, loved being around the people there at the temple, actually spoke the Thai language fluently.

Interestingly enough, Wolf, just a few moments again we saw four FBI agents walk into the restaurant here and they're speaking with the owner and his wife now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed, any indication of relatives? We know he was born in New York. Any indication some relatives may be out there who may be an indication of what caused him to do this?

LAVANDERA: You know, it's interesting. That's some of the questions we have for the various people we have talked to today, here, who have known Aaron Alexis in many ways and saw him frequently. I asked him where does he consider home to be?

They said this area, this neighborhood here in northwest Fort Worth is where they consider -- I asked about family members. None of the people here were really able to tell me any kind of specifics about any kind of family members that he was close to or spoke about often. So a little bit in the dark on that issue right there.

BLITZER: I suspect within the next few hours, we will know a whole lot more about this individual. Let's go to the mayor of Washington, D.C., Vincent Gray. He's speaking out at this news conference.

VINCENT GRAY (D), MAYOR OF WASHINGTON, D.C.: All right, good afternoon.

Good afternoon. I guess I should say good evening at this point. It has been a very long day, a very tragic day in the District of Columbia. And we all are deeply saddened by the events of the day.

We wanted to take this opportunity to brief you as much as we can. We really don't have a lot of new information as the investigation continues to unfold. We're still seeking the identity of the person who was identified as having been in I guess a drab, olive-colored uniform, a man about 50. You heard the description earlier of that person.

Again, I want to extend on behalf of the entire city and those who are with us our heartfelt condolences to the families of those who were killed in this horrific tragedy. We know there are 13 fatalities at this stage. 12 of which occurred on the site, including the shooter and then one of whom died at the hospital.

Again, we don't have any known motive at this juncture. There are those who asked about whether terrorism was involved. We have no information that would suggest that's the case at this point. And we will continue through the night, continue with this investigation and obviously within the days and weeks ahead.

I want to call upon -- first of all, we will do this in the same order as we did before. First of all, our chief of the Metropolitan Police Chief, Chief Cathy Lanier. Then we will have our FBI representative. We will have our chief of the Park Police and then our congresswoman, Eleanor Holmes Norton.

Chief Lanier?

CATHY LANIER, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA POLICE CHIEF: The only thing additional we can add right now is we are still continuing to ask our community to remain out of the area and shelter in place.

We still are working diligently to either verify of clear whether we have that last additional person of interest out, whether they're going to be involved or not. That process is not complete. So this is still an active investigation. We still have a lot of law enforcement activity in the area. Please bear with us and ask that people stay out of the area until we give the all-clear.

I will also add that our officer from MPD is recovering. He does have serious injuries, but we know he's going to be OK. And I wanted to thank all of our community members who have shown an outpouring of support for our MPD family. So we do have the officer now who is out of surgery and stable. He's going to be OK.

So traffic closures remain the same as before. There probably will remain closures across M Street throughout the night. This is going to be a little bit longer-term information. I think once we clear that last suspect whether that is going to be a person we're looking for or not, we will have some additional closures lifted. But for right now everything remains closed that was closed earlier.

And this is still very active. So we're asking the shelter in place to remain. The moment we have additional information, we will put it to the community and make sure the press is updated. Thank you.

VALERIE PARLAVE, FBI: Good afternoon.

Though we do not have any further detail to share at this time about the deceased shooter, we again ask the public to look at the photos of Aaron Alexis and contact the FBI with any and all information. The photos are available on and all information can be reported to 1-800-CALL-FBI.

This investigation is still very active. We will continue to work with our partners to track down every bit of information that we learn. The assistance of the public is vital in investigations of this type as we try to piece together the recent movements and contacts of the subject.

No piece of information is too small. Please call to report any and all information to 1-800-CALL-FBI. Thank you. LANIER: I just want to add one thing. For all of our local folks that are following the news coverage here, there is misinformation that is getting out through a variety of different sources. I will say to our friends in the media, if you have sources inside of the law enforcement agencies that are reporting, they're not official reports unless they come through this body or from the FBI.

So what unfortunately happens is law enforcement sources will hear something. As that gets passed around, it oftentimes is not completely accurate and then is reported in the press. Please, if it's not coming from this official body or from the FBI, it is not confirmed. There's a lot of misinformation getting out. We are trying to make sure factual information is being pushed out through all of our MPD sources and through city sources on our Twitter and our D.C. alert and all of our contracts.

We made sure the press get any updates as they go out. Please, if you have sources reporting something, if you can try to verify through us before you put it out, that would be helpful with some of the misinformation that results in additional calls coming in that divert our resources.

So, please, if I could just ask for everybody's patience there, thank you.

TERESA CHAMBERS, U.S. PARK POLICE CHIEF: And a personal note at this point, that we're now in a support role.

As the United States Park Police we were among the first-responders this morning. But I wanted to thank the community who puts up with some disruption in the day when a tragedy like this happens and we have to reroute traffic or we don't have a lot of information initially.

But as the day has gone on, our officers have been stopped on the street and said thank you to over and over again. Thank you for recognizing the heroics of officers who run towards danger every day and the aviators who plucked people off of the roof.

It does make it very meaningful to them when they have had a day like today. So thank you.


And let me thank the mayor and all who gathered here several times, because by coming forward to give residents of the region information, you have done something very important. You have kept the fear level down. The fear rises when people don't have information and don't feel safe.

This happens to be a thriving area of residents. This is not just a place just for the large federal facilities you see here. When I go on the floor tomorrow evening, I will remind the Congress that this shooting occurred in their neighborhood. This is the neighborhood of the Capitol of the United States. Very close to Congress. And yet I just want to say to residents who are coming home today that the response of the police, the taking down of the shooter so quickly, convinces me yet again this is the safest city in the United States. Not safe from attack, but safe.

Today, the police and the responders saved many lives. Perhaps when this investigation is over, we will have some sense of just how many. Much of that has the to do with the close working relationship between MPD and federal police of which there are several and showed today. I think it showed up very well.

When I say this is the safest city in the United States, I want also to reinforce the safety that -- that the security of the Naval Sea Systems Command has always generated and we know that because of the difficulty of getting there, but also because it was open to the community in the evenings. Even built a facility so it could accommodate community events. We want to maintain that balance.

And tonight we want to say to residents that we don't think there is anything to fear in the city. I think you saw by the way in which multiple police forces worked so closely together achieved a closure here that this is a safe city. We should go about our business in the usual way. Thank you very much.



LANIER: We're not going to comment on any of that at this point. All of that right now is still under investigation. It all pertains to evidence. None of that will be commented on at this point, probably not for some time.

QUESTION: Was your officer part of the active shooter team or on patrol?

LANIER: We had both respond. We had initial responding officers who entered the base. And again as I reported earlier, we had official active shooter teams assembled.

QUESTION: The one who was wounded, was he active shooter or patrol?

LANIER: I'm not going to comment on that at this point.


QUESTION: The mayor at 4:00 mentioned a video you had seen that you pulled some images off of, the description of the person that you are looking for. Is there a reason why stills or video (OFF-MIKE)

LANIER: Obviously, there is no place you can go in any city and not have multiple videos that available. There are multiple videos that are being reviewed. We have no video that we can release to the public at this point. Right now the video that we're reviewing is part of the investigative process.

If at some point we have something we can release to the public, we certainly will.


GRAY: Let me add too the video to which I was referring was the one that identified the person in the other uniform who we thought was a suspect initially.

And we were able to confirm that he was not a suspect, that he actually was on the scene when someone else was shot. And he moved out of the way for obvious reasons when the shooting occurred. And he was then interviewed. And he's been absolved of any responsibility in this crime.

QUESTION: Can you talk about your helicopter unit? And you said something that sounded like you were saying (OFF-MIKE) taking people out besides the wounded. Can you expand on that?

CHAMBERS: No, I was talking about people that were wounded or being evacuated who'd fled to the roof of some of the buildings. I think some of your cameras actually caught that footage. At the same time, they served as eyes on the sky while they were there, and with Maryland State Police in Fairfax County as well. It was just a well- coordinated effort.

QUESTION: Do you know how many people were actually Medevaced?

CHAMBERS: I don't, sir.

GRAY: Patrick. And then you will get the last question, sir.

QUESTION: Have family members of these victims been notified? (OFF- MIKE)

GRAY: No, they have not. We're still in the process of identifying who the victims are. There is no information that has been fully confirmed at this stage. That process continues. And so we will identify the families, of course, first once we know fully who has involved.

Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) sheltering in place in the Navy Yard?

GRAY: There are people still coming out of the Navy Yard. How many there remain there, I do not know at this stage. But as we were coming over, there were still -- some of them uniformed officers of the Navy who were coming out and getting on a bus. So there are people still there.

Thank you all very much.

BLITZER: There he is, the mayor of Washington, D.C., Vincent Gray, together with the police chief, Cathy Lanier.

They're not completely, Cathy Lanier not completely ruling out the possibility of a second shooter. They're continuing to investigate. But you heard the member of Congress, delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton say people in Washington, D.C., have nothing to fear. That would suggest to me she is not worried about a second suspect maybe on the loose.

But clearly they're still looking for some one that fits the description that was identified that was out earlier by the police chief, Cathy Lanier.

We have a lot more to cover on what is going on. We will continue, what's happening here, at the Washington Navy Yard, the moments when the bullets flew and the workers in the Navy are panicked. We have eyewitness accounts of what happened. You will hear from the eyewitnesses. That's coming up in our special SITUATION ROOM report.

Also, how could this happen in a heavy guarded U.S. military facility? We have former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. He's standing by to join us, other experts as well.


BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer here in Washington.

"CROSSFIRE" will not be seen tonight so we can continue CNN breaking news coverage of today's mass shooting here at the Washington Navy Yard, which is just behind me.

Twelve shooting victims and a gunman, they are dead as the bloody rampage brings fear and horror right into the nation's capital. The hunt for a possible second shooter kept thousands of people locked down here in their nearby offices, their schools and their homes.

Federal authorities and local police are swarming the crime scene, even as we speak right now. We'll talk about the investigation with a former top official of the FBI.

Also, the former secretary of homeland security, all standing by. We'll also hear survivors of the bloody shooting tell us of the panic and the chaos as the shooter aimed his weapon directly at them.

Once again, we want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. You're watching a special SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Let's get to the breaking news. The Washington, D.C., mayor, Vincent Gray, said officials still -- still -- are looking for a potential second suspect in the mass shooting here at the Washington Navy Yard. It's not clear if that person actually was involved. It's all very, very murky right now. But police are asking people in this area to stay indoors while the search continues.

Authorities say 12 people were killed when at least one gunman opened fire in the naval facility earlier in the day. The shooter is dead. He's been identified as 34-year-old Aaron Alexis of Texas. Just a little while ago, the Navy secretary, Ray Mabus, told me Alexis was a civilian IT contractor with the U.S. Navy. Authorities say they still do not have the motive. They don't know what led to this mass shooting here at the Navy Yard. But let's bring in our justice reporter, Evan Perez. He's been doing some reporting on what's going on.

First of all, the suspect, the 34-year-old Alexis, what do we know about him? Specifically, any criminal record?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know -- we know that there have been previous incidents, the -- as happens in these scenes. Now the FBI is going to go back and look at -- look at every one of those incidents and determine if there's something there that they could -- perhaps, you know, indicated something more that could have led to this today.

We know of a 2010 arrest in Ft. Worth, for instance, in which a neighbor reported that someone shot through the floor of her apartment. The police went there and talked to him. He was very calm. Apparently, he simply said that he was cleaning his gun in his apartment. It went through the floor of the apartment above. He was arrested for -- for discharge of his weapon. That's one of the incidents.

Right now, FBI agents who are working the scene are trying to figure out if there's something else there that could indicate what -- what could have happened here today.

BLITZER: And Evan, what are you hearing about a possible second suspect who may still be at large?

PEREZ: Well, that is something that, I think the Captain Lanier, the police chief here, mentioned this morning. We still -- right now, there's no indications that there is a second shooter. They are looking to speak to someone else, a second person who was seen at the scene and was reported by witnesses.

There was another person who was reported this morning. They've already talked to that person. They've determined that person had nothing to do with this.

Obviously, in the chaos of the scene, it's very -- it's very normal for you to have reports like that, especially in a scene where you have a lot of armed military people in camouflage and in fatigues who might be running around the scene.

BLITZER: Yes and the FBI is the lead investigative agency right now.

PEREZ: That's correct. Exactly.

BLITZER: Though the military is involved. Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police, they're all involved. But the FBI...

PEREZ: The FBI its leading the scene, yes.

BLITZER: It occurred on a federal piece of federal property.

PEREZ: Exactly.

BLITZER: Navy Yard right behind us.


BLITZER: Evan, thanks very much.

Shots first rang out early this morning. CNN's Brian Todd has been covering the breaking news for all of us all day. Here's Brian's report.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first frantic calls to police came in just after 8:15 a.m., shots fired, several people injured at the U.S. Navy Yard.

PATRICIA WARD, WITNESS: I heard three shots. Pow, pow, pow. And 30 second later, I heard four more shots. And a couple (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the cafeteria. I knew they were shot. And started panicking.

CAPT. MARK VANDROFF, WITNESS: I know that I lost a friend today. I lost someone who I served with in the Pentagon years ago with; I believe to be one of the fatalities.

TODD BRUNDIDGE, WITNESS: And he came around the corner. He aimed the gun at us, and he fired at least two or three shots.

TODD: Three thousand people work at the facility just miles from the White House and Capitol.

TERRIE DURUM, WITNESS: He was far enough down the hall that we couldn't see his face, but we could see him with the rifle. And he raised and aimed at us and fired, and he hit high on the wall.

TODD: Security was tightened around the Capitol. Schools nearby locked down. Reagan National Airport grounded all air traffic.

9:56 a.m., President Obama is briefed by his homeland security and counterterrorism team.

Eyewitnesses like Commander Tim Jirus told horrific tales. Jirus was talking to a man who was shot right in front of him.

COMMANDER TIM JIRuS, WITNESS: He walked up and told me that he heard there was a shooter in our building. And we were just standing here, maybe three feet away, having a conversation. And then we heard two more gunshots. And he went down. And that's when I ran.

DR. JANIS ORLOWSKI, MEDSTAR WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER: The reports from the victims, it was -- it had to be a semiautomatic. Because they're talking about gunshots that they heard in rapid succession.

TODD: Washington, D.C., Police Chief Cathy Lanier recounted gripping details of the police response.

POLICE CHIEF CATHY LANIER, WASHINGTON, D.C., POLICE: Within literally two to three minutes, metropolitan police officers were on the scene. Now, internal security had already engaged. Identified and engaged the suspect. We already had victims down at this point. Within seven minutes we had active shooter teams inside the building, moving through the building. There was multiple engagements with the suspect that was eventually deceased.

TODD: D.C.'s mayor does not think the shootings are tied to terrorism. But police still don't have a motive.


BLITZER: And Brian Todd is joining us here. We're not far away from the Navy Yard, right behind us. Do we know how this individual actually got into this facility, this Navy Yard?

TODD: Wolf, that's what they're still investigating. Police and FBI officials saying that that's something that they are looking into right now. We pressed them on that at this news conference and previous ones. They don't know, at least they're not saying right now. Not able to say exactly how he got in there.

We have been told by officials throughout the day that this is an incredibly secure facility. You can't get in, really, without some kind of a special clearance or some kind of a special pass. How he exactly got in, I think that's a subject of the investigation.

BLITZER: So we don't know right now whether he walked in through a gate or drove in in a vehicle. He could have had weapons in his trunk, for example.

TODD: We don't know that. We don't know whether he -- if he got in in a vehicle. Did that vehicle have some kind of a clearance? Because a lot of these military bases, you have to a special sticker or some kind of other clearance to get on the bases, and you have to have a military I.D. So these are all things that they're trying to figure out now.

We have not heard about a vehicle yet. So that's not been the subject of anything that any the authorities have said throughout the day about whether this man had a vehicle. But that's something they're going to be trying to find out.

And again, we have to reiterate that what the police chief said just a short time ago, of a possible second suspect. They don't know who that is. They're looking for a possible second suspect, maybe a man in his 50s wearing olive drab clothing. But they're looking for help in trying to find that person, as well.

And they are still trying to clear a lot of these buildings, which has been an all-day job. We're going on now 10-plus hours since the shooting.

BLITZER: Yes. I've spoken to some people who work at the Navy Yard. There's plenty of parking for those who work there. So if you -- if you're cleared, you can just drive your vehicle on there. You go, drive your vehicle. You may have something in a trunk. But who knows whether this individual walked in or drove in.

TODD: Not sure.

BLITZER: That's an important part of the investigation.

Brian, thanks very much.

Coming up, the massacre raising new questions, very serious new question about security right here in the nation's capital. We're going to talk to a panel of experts, including the former homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff.


BLITZER: Just got a picture in from the White House. The president of the United States being briefed on this mass shooting here at the Washington Navy Yard.

There you see the president in the Oval Office. That's Lisa Monaco, the assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism. The president clearly, like all of us very, very worried. Very disturbed. Upset about this massacre. That's the only word you can really use to hear what happened here earlier today.

Much more of our special coverage right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM of this mass shooting, this massacre that occurred here at the Washington Navy Yard just behind me, 12 people shot and killed. Another 12 people injured, shot and injured. They're recovering. They're being treated at local D.C. hospitals. The suspect in this case, shot and killed as well.

The simple fact that today's shooting happened at Washington's Navy Yard sets up the potential for conflict and confusion among so many of the different investigators. It would include the military, the FBI, the local D.C. police force, among others. They all need how to work together. Certainly, it would be awful if they worked independently.

Let's talk about some of the challenges in this investigation. Joining us now, Michael Chertoff. He served as the secretary of homeland security under President George W. Bush. He's the co-founder and the chairman of the Chertoff Group. That's a global security advisory firm.

Also joining us is behavioral consultant Mary Ellen O'Toole. She's a former FBI special agent and senior profiler.

And CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes is joining us, again, a former assistant director of the FBI. Tom is joining us by phone. Michael Chertoff, coordinating this investigation -- You speak as a former secretary of homeland security -- will not be easy, given all these various agencies involved, even though the FBI is the lead agency. Take us a little bit behind the scenes, how this will unfold.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, FORMER SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Well, you're right, Wolf, it is challenging.

Now the good news is, the law enforcement agencies in the District of Columbia and surrounding regions actually have a lot of experience working together on investigations. Back in the day of the sniper, for example, which was in 2001, the two snipers, we had very good coordination between the bureau, which had the lead, and then the county prosecutors and county detectives that were investigating the individual shootings. So there's a lot of experience here.

What also helps a little bit is that it took place on a federal reservation, federal premises. So the federal government has control over the domain. It's not a question where you're going to have a lot of civilians coming in and out. And I think that's going to aid the investigation, as well.

BLITZER: Mary Ellen O'Toole, you're a former FBI special agent, a senior profiler. Tell us, if you were called in right now, to get involved and investigate, what would you be doing as a senior profiler?

MARY ELLEN O'TOOLE, SENIOR PROFILER: Well, one of the first things I would want to find out is more about the shooter's background. And I'd want to find out about the warning behaviors that we know exist in these kinds of cases. I'd want to find out about the preparation. These cases are not impulsive. There is a lot of planning that goes into it.

So I would be going back to look at, at the background. And how this evolved over a -- probably a fairly long period of time.

BLITZER: Because right now we have no idea what, if any, motive this -- the shooter may have had.

O'TOOLE: Well, typically, in these cases, these are cases that involve the need for retaliation and for revenge. These are also thrill seekers. These are people that want a lot of attention. And he's basically stopped the world right now, because all the focus has been on him today. And as awful as that sounds, those are some of the motives that we've seen in other cases.

BLITZER: Yes, but he's also stopped himself, because he is dead right now.

Tom Fuentes, if you were involved in this investigation, I know you'd be going through all the videotape, all the closed-circuit TV cameras that may have been watching what was going on, taking a look at the forensic evidence, specifically the weapons, the bullets, all of that. Walk us through what you would be doing. TOM FUENTES, CNN ANALYST (via phone): Well, I think, Wolf, what Mary Ellen said is very key to the case. What was he thinking? What were his motivation to do something like this? So very critical is to try to locate his mobile phone records, his e-mail records, any text messages, talk to colleagues, co-workers, family, friends and find out what, if anything, he had said in recent times about his mental condition or his attitude about the U.S. government or the Navy in particular.

Is he looking for that, for revenge or attention, 15 minutes of fame? Or is he mentally unstable and je just snapped? And this caused that.

High-level contacts I've just spoken with in the last 30 minutes indicate that so far the investigators, it's still a mystery. They have not determined or come across any evidence of radicalization or -- or disgruntled employee, workplace violence, that type of motive yet. Doesn't mean they won't find it. But so far there's been no indication.

So you very, very much could have a mentally unstable individual committing this act for many of the reasons Mary Ellen just mentioned.

BLITZER: Tom, everyone stand by. We're going to continue our breaking news coverage.

We're also going to hear from a woman, terrified about the fate of her husband. She says he worked on the floor where the Navy shooting happened.

More of our special report and dramatic eyewitness accounts, that's coming up.


BLITZER: What began as a normal back-to-work Monday here in Washington, D.C., including over at the Washington Naval Yard, which is right behind me, suddenly turned to confusion, then panic and chaos.

CNN's Rene Marsh spent all day listening to people's stories of how they escaped the scene of today's massacre. Rene is joining us now.

Rene, these stories are so powerful and so true.

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. And you know, not only do you hear the stories, but then you have the other side of this, which is family members that simply feel helpless, because they've seen the images. They've heard the news, and they just want nothing more than to know for certain that their family member is OK.

I am standing right outside of Nationals Stadium. And for hours, we have seen buses roll off in front of the stadium, dropping off people who were on the Navy Yard campus at the time of the shooting. They've been shuttling these people over. And when they get here, they're met by family members or they make their way home to the metro. Now again, we've been out here since early this morning. That's a lot of time to see family members come here, very frantic, wanting to know for sure that their family member's OK. Take a listen.


MIRIAM ROGAL, WIFE OF NAVY YARD EMPLOYEE: You don't know who's in there and they're hurt and who isn't, and who's on his floor?

MARSH: Have you heard from your husband?

M. ROGAL: Yes.

MARSH: Did he call you?

M. ROGAL: He didn't know anything. But I want to turn around and...

MARSH: And you're trying to find him now?

M. ROGAL: Yes, I'm trying to get into Parking Lot B, because I don't know if he's in there or not.


MARSH: All right. Well, Wolf, that was hours ago. This woman, as you can see, she was in tears. She was feeling a lot of anxiety, because her husband worked in the building where the shooting happened. She knew he was OK but seeing is believing. So she wasn't going to feel settled until she was able to wrap her arms around him.

And then fast forward about seven hours later. Then came the reunion and perhaps a sigh of relief. We were here for that reunion. Take a listen.


MARSH: I saw the anxiety on your face.

M. ROGAL: That he's OK. And that he will not have any aftereffect from this. And that -- that life will resume a normal pace, normal stride. It's scary.

MARSH: Are you OK?

JIM ROGAL, NAVY YARD EMPLOYEE: Well, being that there's at least one person that I understand those of us that enter the building every day knew was apparently injured, it's -- it's a matter of concern, a place that you go every day and that you're very familiar with the people. It's -- it's shocking.


MARSH: All right. Well, Wolf, many of these people that you saw there, they were on lockdown for maybe eight hours or so.

There was one woman who got off of the bus, and she said it like this, and she put it in perspective. She said, "We all came to work on a Monday not expecting any of this to happen." To put it in one word, she says it was hell -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly was. And for a lot of people it remains hell indeed. All right, Rene, thank you.

Up next, shots rang out, police swarmed the Washington Navy Yard. It's been a dramatic and scary day right here in the nation's capital. Stand by for the powerful images when our special report continues.


BLITZER: American flags will fly at half-staff here in Washington, D.C., until Friday in memory of the 12 people killed in today's horrific mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard just behind me. It's been a terrifying day for so many people in the nation's capital. Watch this.



BUNBRIDGE: As he came around the corner, he aimed his gun at us, and then he fired at least two or three shots. And we ran downstairs to get out of the building.

DURUM: He was far enough down the hall that we couldn't see his face, but we could see him with a rifle. And he raised and aimed at us. And he fired, and he hit high on the wall just as we were trying to leave.

JIRUS: Just standing here, maybe three feet away having a conversation. And then we heard two more gunshots. And he went down. And that's when I ran.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just gunshots. Multiple gunshots. And someone yelled gun, and we ran. Everybody ran.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone said this is no drill. Go. Go. Go. Emergency exits now. Go, go, go. And a whole bunch of us were able to make it to the emergency exits. And we heard several more shots.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She heard gunfire?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She saw, actually, the guy shooting one of her co- workers.

WARD: We froze up one minute, and we didn't know which direction to go into. I'm getting out of here. I'm running. They were trying to keep us in the cafeteria. I'm like, no. I'm running. I'm running, you know. All I could think about was my family.


BLITZER: And once again, a massacre. A massacre happened here in Washington, D.C., earlier today. Twelve people killed. Another dozen people injured, some critically injured. They're being dealt with in local D.C. hospitals right now. The shooter also dead.

We're going to continue our non-stop coverage here on CNN, what's going on. I'll be back, certainly, tomorrow with much more of the coverage.

Remember, you can always follow us, what's going on in THE SITUATION ROOM on Twitter. You can always tweet me, @WolfBlitzer. Tweet the show, @CNNSitRoom.

Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.