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Police Search for Motive in Shooting; Conditions of Wounded Improving; Three Weapons Recovered at Scene; Ceremony Honors Shooting Victims; Navy Secretary Orders Security Review; 9/11 May Have Started Gunman's Slide; Teen Girl Snatched from Her Home
Aired September 17, 2013 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And here were are live in Washington. This is special live coverage of this tragedy that struck just blocks away from us here at the Washington Navy Yard here in the nation's capital. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jake Tapper.
Police search for a motive as new details emerge about the deadly shooting rampage at Washington's Navy Yard, but we may never really know why a gunman killed 12 people and wounded eight others.
BALDWIN: We're learning new details today, so here is the latest exactly as far as what we know beginning with this, that law enforcement sources say the gunman it, Aaron Alexis, recently contacted not one but two V.A. hospitals apparently for psychological issues. Authorities say Alexis was a former Navy reservist who was discharged after eight instances of misconduct.
TAPPER: Eight instances. Right now forensics investigators are scouring the Navy Yard for evidence. Sources say police have recovered three weapons from the scene. One is a shotgun that police believe Alexis brought into the compound. The other two are handguns that may have been taken from guards.
BALDWIN: Police have now released the names and the ages of all 12 shooting victims. We have learned today that the oldest was 73, the youngest 46. As far as those wounded, and there are several, we know that three were hit by the gunfire. Hospital officials say their conditions today are improving.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JANIS ORLOWSKI, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, MEDSTAR WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER: I'm very happy to say that they are doing well. Their official punish status, the young woman who was shot in the head, we would have her status as good. She actually was viewed through the night. She has no further injuries and she's doing very well.
The other two that underwent surgery are considered in fair condition. They are recovering from their surgery and from their wounds. And I would have to say, both of them very alert, very responsive, talking about their colleagues, and I would say they're in fair and stable condition at this time. (END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: And we're now joined by Crime and Justice Correspondent Joe Johns. He's following the investigation for us. Joe, what are we learning about the weapons?
JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Tons of questions about the weapons. Obviously, this issue of a shotgun. I did talk to law enforcement authorities today who told me there was no long gun, but that law enforcement official also said that as to whether there was a rifle or not, it could change even tomorrow as they continue the investigation.
TAPPER: A lot of conflicting information.
JOHNS: Right. One of the most interesting things I think that investigators are trying to get a handle on, and I know we've talked a little bit about this before, is what type of relationship, if any, existed between the shooter and the victims?
JOHNS: Right. So, a huge question there, really. And that starts with the issue of all of the victims being either civilians or contractors, meaning there were no military personnel who were actually targeted from what we can tell. That raises the question of whether this was random or not. And I personally asked law enforcement authorities and others whether it was possible that this individual was actually avoiding shooting military personnel. We would get no answer on that. So, the next question is, where did these people work on the third and fourth floors, I believe, of the building --
TAPPER: Right over there.
JOHNS: Right, and there were also some people apparently in the cafeteria area. And as you go through and look at just the general outline of their lives, I mean, there is -- there's a person who's an analyst. There's a person who's in I.T. Security. And we know that the shooter, Alexis, actually told a woman here in Washington, D.C. that he worked in I.T. Security, although we haven't been able to flesh that out very much. So, a big question here as to whether there was some relationship between the victims and the shooters and if that might have had anything to do with the motivation.
BALDWIN: What about the fact we know he was staying here recently at a hotel not far from where we're standing. He was a military contractor. So, that begs the question whether or not he had proper access to get into the Navy Yard and specifically into this building. What do you know?
JOHNS: Right. What we know is from everything I know from talking to authorities, he did have a legitimate pass to get --
BALDWIN: He did.
JOHNS: -- into the building. So, that's the first thing.
TAPPER: He was a contractor --
TAPPER: -- currently employed --
TAPPER: -- with access to the --
TAPPER: Navy Yard? OK.
JOHNS: And which is also interesting. And the Residence Inn, that's a huge question. The authorities are keeping a tight lid on whatever they got. We do know that they went to that the hotel not too far from here in southwest Washington and retrieved a number of items that they took out. So, we presume there's also a search warrant for whatever they may have taken out of there. So, a lot of questions yet on this man, why was there.
Also interestingly, I talked to a woman who said she met him at that hotel and she said a lot of different things. But one of the most interesting things I remember in retrospect is that she said he told her he was planning on being in town at least another two weeks. Now, if you're planning on being in town another two work weeks and working in I.T. Security, what would cause you to go walking in there and shooting up the place the way this individual did? Another question we'd like the investigators to answer.
TAPPER: Yes. The question now, outstanding obviously based on that anecdote, is did he snap or was this planned?
JOHN: Right. Precisely right.
TAPPER: Joe Johns, lots of interesting information. A lot of questions still outstanding. Thank you so much.
BALDWIN: Joe, thank you.
Also just this morning, we saw defense secretary Chuck Hagel and top military brass. They were paying tribute to the shooting victims this morning in this wreath-laying ceremony here in Washington. So, we just want to show you the scene this morning at the Navy Memorial Plaza in D.C.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: They were military contractors and civilian workers. They were also, of course, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, daughters, sons. Who simply went to work and they never came home. Authorities have now released the names of all 12 people killed in the Navy Yard massacre.
Rene Marsh joins with us that part of the story. Renee, what do we know so far about the victims?
RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. Well, we'll start off by naming them one by one and honoring them in that way. So, the complete list goes like this: Michael Arnold, 59 years old, we know that he was a pilot, an avid pilot; Sylvia Frasier, 53 years old; Kenneth Bernard Proctor, 46 years old; John Roger Johnson, 73 years old; Frank Kohler, 50 years old; Vishnu Pandit, 61 years old; Arthur Daniels, 51 years old; Mary Francis Knight, 51; Gerald L. Read, 58; Martin Bodrog, 54; and Richard Michael Ridgell, 52 years old.
That is the complete list of the victims here that just came down. We are learning more and more about these victims. More like victims like Kathy Gaarde. She's 62 years old pictured here with her 94-year- old mother who she cared for before she passed away last year. We know that Gaarde was a daughter. She was a mother. She was a wife. She loved animals and she also loved hockey.
And as the day goes on, we're going to learn even more about these victims. I'll tell you, I am standing right outside of National Stadium. I want to give you a live look as to what the scene looks like here. The fans are arriving for this game. We just had a moment of silence here at Nationals Park and they played tribute -- paid tribute to these victims that we just named here. The flags are flying at half-staff. We know that the team will be wearing special jerseys, patriotic jerseys to honor these victims.
I had a chance to speak to some of these fans walking in through the gates. Again, this game was postponed yesterday because of the events. And no doubt, they are walking in here with these victims on their minds and they all admitted that the start of this game with that moment of silence would be emotionally heavy but they say they would have it no other way -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Rene, thank you so much.
BALDWIN: Yesterday, the Mets Stadium was the staging area for families. Today, a couple minutes ago, the first pitch thrown out there not too far from where we're standing. And, you know, the shooting at the Navy Yard have left so many wondering specifically about security. So now that we have learned that the secretary of Navy, Ray Mabus, has ordered a review of all Navy and Marine Corps installations.
I want to go straight to the Pentagon and Barbara Starr who's been digging on this. And, Barbara, from what we are learning, the order is actually for two reviews, correct?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brooke and Jake. Secretary Mabus, the civilian head of the Navy, wants first a quick look, quite understandable, I think. He wants a quick look at the physical security measures and installations and whether those standards are being met. Is everybody out there doing their job on the security gates at the checkpoints in the buildings? He wants a quick look at that.
And then, we're told a more in-depth-look at the requirements and does something different need to be done? Do new measures need to be put in place? This is likely to touch on the very critical issue right now not just of the security measures but the ways in which people are granted access to these bases, the security clearances they get that let them on to these installations -- Brooke, Jake.
TAPPER: Barbara, Aaron Alexis, we're told, was honorably discharged from the Navy reserve but he had a pattern of misconduct. You've learned that there were eight instances of misconduct?
STARR: That's right. Bear with me. This is a little bit of military bureaucracy for everybody so hang in there. He had eight instances, we are told, of misconduct while he served as a Navy reservist. Things like insubordination, being absent from his job without authorization, that type of thing. Things the military takes seriously but it didn't rise to the level of the most serious disciplinary action. They didn't take him to court-martial.
At the same time, in the civilian sector, he's getting into trouble for gun offenses but he's not convicted of any of those offenses. So, the military decides, we're told, they want him to get out of the military, that he's not suitable for service. But because he's not convicted of anything, they can't discharge him under the most onerous of penalizing circumstances. They can't give him a dishonorable discharge. Nothing he did that he was ever charged with rose to that level.
So, they eventually wound up giving him an honorable discharge, an early dismissal from his enlistment in the U.S. Navy, but there is a list of trouble that this man got into -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Barbara Starr. Interesting, he has problems in the military but not serious enough to --
BALDWIN: To dishonorably discharge him.
TAPPER: -- (INAUDIBLE.) And then, he has problems in civilian life.
BALDWIN: It's like --
TAPPER: And then, ultimately, the military contractors still hires him and I know that's one of the things Mabus is looking into, clearance and background checks for people who are military contractors.
BALDWIN: Pretty interesting this new government audit that's out. We're going to talk to somebody with "Time" magazine, that's coming up, about really what they found in terms of convicted felons even going on some of these military installations. So, stay tuned to that.
Also today, some new insight into the shooter's mind and his life before this rampage. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He just didn't seem like he would be that kind of person that would be that upset enough to go out and do something like this so that's why we're confused.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I couldn't believe that he did that anyway. He's not -- he's not that kind of guy who kill people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: We have more from the people who knew him and we are just getting word about his apparent PTDS after 911. This information just into us here at CNN right after the break. You are watching CNN's special live coverage from our nation's capital.
BALDWIN: Welcome back to live coverage here in our nation's capital of the absolute tragedy that happened here just blocks from where we're standing here at the Washington Navy Yard. I'm Brooke Baldwin, standing alongside Jake Tapper.
TAPPER: As the investigation unfolds, we're learning more about the shooter, Aaron Alexis. We know he had south help at a Veterans Administration facility for mental health issues and his father told Seattle Police that his son was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after taking part in the rescue efforts for 9/11. Deborah Feyerick has been looking into Alexis' background and has some new information.
Deborah, what have you learned?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake and Brooke, what we're learning now is that apparently 9/11 was the catalyst that really triggered Aaron Alexis to leave his home here in New York City. His father did tell police that his son was suffering from PTSD having taken part in the 9/11 recovery effort. After that he effectively became a wander. He traveled to San Diego and Seattle, Texas, also overseas.
Recently, according to the source, Aaron Alexis was having trouble sleeping. He was hearing voices and he was growing increasingly troubled. It's why he sought help at VA hospitals. One of them was in Rhode Island. And according to his company, Alexis was in Rhode Island just this past August. Less than six weeks ago, he was in Newport, Rhode Island, where he was working as an information technology contractor. The source says that based on family accounts, it appears that Aaron Alexis was unraveling. That he, quote/unquote, "just snapped."
Brooke. Jake. BALDWIN: Deb, let me just follow up and ask you this. You know, when I'm hearing you saying that this father said he snapped and that 9/11 was the catalyst, he's having trouble sleeping, he's hearing voices, the first question I'm thinking is, did this father, or the mother, I know they divorced, did they ever sit down with him, did they try to talk to him, did they try to get him to get help?
FEYERICK: You know, it's really unclear because once he left New York City, he really didn't return very often. The last time he was here was back in 2010. He did maintain contact with both his mother and his father, but it's unclear how regular this communication was. They did know enough to basically say that he was having trouble sleeping, that he was, you know, hearing these voices. So they were in touch with him. What the nature of their conversations are, we don't know. We don't know whether it was their suggestion who said, go to the VA hospital. You know, he worked as a Navy Reservist, but all of this is sort of being pieced together right now. But clearly this was a man who was -- who understood that something was troubling him, something very serious.
BALDWIN: OK, Deborah Feyerick, thank you so much for talking to your sources and helping us fill in some of the gaps. There are still so many when it comes to this man, but, Deb, thank you.
TAPPER: We have much more ahead on the Navy Yard shooting, but we're also watching a developing story in Georgia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They demanded money and jewelry from the mother, at which time she didn't have any money and jewelry, so she told them that. And so instead they kidnapped the 14-year-old girl.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: When we come back, we'll have the latest on this horrific home invasion and the search for a teen girl who was grabbed away from her frightened mother.
BALDWIN: Welcome back to our special coverage of the Washington Navy Yard shooting. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We will have much more on that, some new details we're learning today, in just a moment.
First I want to just take a turn and tell you about this frightening story out of Georgia that we are watching for you right now. There's a girl, her name is Ayvani Hope Perez. She is 14 years of age. She was snatched from her home overnight and now police are in this desperate search to find her and to find her abductor or abductors. CNN's Martin Savidge is working this for us out of Atlanta.
And, Martin, take me back. What happened?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brooke, this is the kind of story that will frighten anybody, but it terrifies a parent because I's right up there in your worst nightmares. You're sound asleep in your home and suddenly you hear somebody breaking in. And that's what happened last night. 2:15 in the morning, in this suburb of Atlanta, it's a big subdivision, very much like a subdivision many people in this country live in, two intruders broke in the backdoor. Here's what the authorities, the Clayton County Police Department, say happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OFC. PHONG NGUYEN, CLAYTON COUNTY POLICE: In the house and started barking. So the intruders shot the dog. They demanded money and jewelry from the mother, at which time she didn't have any money and jewelry, so she told them that. And so instead they kidnapped the 14- year-old girl.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: And that is Ayvani Hope Perez, as you mentioned. There has been no sighting of the suspects, who are not named, but we do have images. These are drawings. And then on top of that, there has been no sighting of the 14-year-old. So, really, images here are the only hope that authorities have. They have kind of a limited description of a vehicle. They say it was a gray, maybe Dodge or Chrysler. But beyond that, they have not got much. The FBI's involved, the GBI, that's the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, and the Clayton County Police Department. They're asking if anybody knows anything, to please contact them. They are very concerned, Brooke, about the welfare of this girl.
BALDWIN: Understandably so. And I know that this just happened, but do police, do GBI, have any idea whether this home was specifically targeted, Martin, or does this appear to be entirely random?
SAVIDGE: Isn't that the question that really jumps into all of our minds because you wonder, gosh, is it really just a random event. Right now authorities are not saying it is anything other than a random home invasion. They are clearly probably investigating all avenues, I can assure you on that. We have raised this issue with them. What they will tell us is that this 14-year-old girl is an innocent victim, regardless, and that she is in grave peril they fear and so they are asking that you look for her.
She was described - I can only give you the clothing she was wearing, blue and gray Star Wars pajamas with a gray superhero shirt. So little to go on except for the photographs and the drawings of the suspects. And, of course, the strong hope she's found before the day is done.
BALDWIN: Let's hope so. Martin Savidge in Atlanta. Martin, thank you very much.
Back here in Washington, back here for the search really for answers in this Washington Navy Yard shooting as more and more people are revealing their relationships with this particular shooter here. Very soon we will be hearing -- there will be a news conference from the FBI where we will be getting additional details on this ongoing investigation. That is coming up right here. You're watching special CNN coverage. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)