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FBI Press Conference; Hagel Orders Security Review

Aired September 17, 2013 - 14:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Here we go. You're watching CNN's special live coverage of the shooting here at the Navy Yard in Washington.

I'm Brooke Baldwin, standing alongside Jake Tapper.

At this hour, here in the nation's capital, flags are at half staff and a new wreath stands at the Navy memorial today.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ACNHOR: Those are just some of the signs of a capital in mourning after the massacre at the Washington Navy Yard.

The FBI is about to hold a news conference. In the meantime, police have released the names of all 12 people who were killed yesterday. The mother of one victim, 59-year-old Michael Arnold, spoke to reporters.


MOTHER OF MICHAEL ARNOLD: I thought it's just not possible. It's not possible that they shot him. And just for no reason. He loved his country. He loved the Navy. He loved flying. He was just a happy person.


TAPPER: Just heartbreaking. We're learning more about the eight who were hurt but survived.

BALDWIN: Investigators, they have yet to really learn why this military contractor, this veteran by the name of Aaron Alexis, walked into building 197 on the yard with his shotgun and just kept pulling the trigger. Sources say Alexis may have picked up two more handguns from guards before he was ultimately shot and killed by security.

But we can tell you today that Alexis had a history with guns. You'll hear those details in just a moment. And he had a record, both civilian and military, of behavior problems. Problems that a source says stems from his time in New York on September 11, 2001.

We have now learned also his family says it led to PTSD, a life wandering the country, California, Texas, overseas, and ultimately to the violence at his latest job here at the Navy Yard. The source says recently Alexis began hearing voices. He had sleeping problems. Alexis, according to this source, quote, "basically snapped."

TAPPER: The dead gunman's criminal record includes arrests that stem from apparent bouts of anger and the illegal discharge of guns. But as often is the case, those who knew him well say they're shocked that he would commit mass murder. And we'll hear right now from a friend and coworker at a Thai restaurant in Ft. Worth, Texas.


KRISTI SUTHAMTEWAKUL, FRIEND OF SHOOTER: Aaron was a very polite, very friendly man. I got to know him two years ago when he first started helping out at the restaurant. And he just had an excitement for life. And one of the things he talked about was 9/11 and how he was there and he saw the towers come down from where he was working. I don't know at the time where he was, but he just could not believe -- he and his co-workers at the time were just in shock and disbelief, like all Americans, that the Twin Towers were no longer there. And he had an anger towards the terrorists who did that and who took innocent people.


TAPPER: That friend did say she had some minor disputes with the shooter and that he seemed increasingly anxious about money matters, his career, and his unreliable car. He developed a vent towards Buddhism, but he also had a preoccupation with violent video games, we're told.

In the aftermath of the shooting, there has been a lot of soul searching at the Pentagon, what could have been done better? We heard earlier today that the secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus -- oh, actually, we're going to take a break right now. We're going to go to the FBI press conference right now in progress. Let's go and listen in.

VALERIE PARLAVE, ASST. DIRECTOR IN CHARGE, FBI WASHINGTON FIELD OFFICE: Progress of this investigation. As briefed last night, we believe at this time that the deceased shooter, Aaron Alexis, acted alone. As such, with no other suspects at large, the investigation has moved into a phase of evidence recovery and information gathering. We have confirmed 13 fatalities to include the shooter, all of whom have been positively identified.

Our evidence response teams remain at the Navy Yard and continue to process the scenes. As I mentioned last night, this is a methodical and time-intensive process that includes bullet trajectory and crime scene mapping. And with the assistance of our evidence response personnel from our Baltimore and Richmond field offices, we will remain there for as long as necessary to carefully process each shooting site.

In regards to the weapons used by Mr. Alexis, there has been a lot of information circulating in the media over the past day. Once again, we caution against obtaining information from unofficial sources, and we ask that all inquiries be directed to the FBI. At this time, we believe that Mr. Alexis entered building 197 at the Navy Yard with a shotgun. We do not have any information at this time that he had an AR-15 in his possession. We also believe Mr. Alexis may have gained access to a handgun once inside the facility and after he began shooting. As previously mentioned, Mr. Alexis had legitimate access to the Navy Yard as a result of his work as a contractor, and he utilized a valid pass to gain entry to the building.

We also continue to conduct all other necessary investigation to learn about the activities and contacts of Mr. Alexis. We continue to conduct interviews, exploit digital media, and run down every lead we can to piece together his recent movements and determine the motive behind his attack. We can say that we have determined Mr. Alexis arrived in the Washington, D.C., area on or about August 25th, and he has stayed at local hotels in the area since that time. Most recently he is known to have stayed at a Residence Inn in southwest Washington, D.C., starting on September 7th. We ask anyone who may have had contact with him during this time or previously to contact the FBI with that information.

As a result of the public's cooperation thus far, we have received hundreds of tips which we will continue to follow up. This investigative activity is not only taking place here in Washington, D.C., but in various cities across the country where Mr. Alexis has spent time. We are greatly appreciative of the public's cooperation and we again ask anyone who may have knowledge of Mr. Alexis to report that information to the FBI. No piece of information is too small.

We also continue to put forth other FBI assets towards this investigation. Our office of victim assistance is working together with MPD and the Department of Defense to provide resources and support to victims and next of kin. We also have personnel from our behavioral analysis unit assisting in the investigation as we try to determine the motivation behind the shootings. We continue to look into Mr. Alexis' past, including his medical and criminal histories. But because that part of the investigation is still ongoing, we will not comment further on that at this time.

Once again, I'd like to thank our partner agencies and all those who have participated in yesterday's response. I'd also like to thank all of the individuals who work at the Navy Yard for their cooperation and patience during a long and trying day. And I want to again extend my thanks to the public for their continued support. Please continue to report any and all information regarding Mr. Alexis by calling 1-800- CALL-FBI. That is 1-800-225-5324. Thank you, and I'd like to now invite Chief Lanier to say a few words.

CHIEF CATHY LANIER, METROPOLITAN DC POLICE: I have very little to add from what our last briefing was last night. I will try and answer the questions that I've been getting from most of the press.

First and foremost, our officer is doing well. I visited with him last night. He is in good spirits. He is pretty uncomfortable. He has some pretty serious injuries, but we do expect he will make a full recovery. And he extended multiple times his thanks for the support from the public and also his gratitude for the other law enforcement officers who responded, who helped to get him out of the building and get him to safety after he was injured. So, again, that would not have happened in every case, but the working relationship with MPD and all our partners here in the region and the training that we do was critical yesterday.

Also, I'll say that we have gone and looked further in some of the response and spent several hours this morning, and as proud as I was yesterday of the working relationship, the teamwork, and the heroism of the police officers and first responders, I'm even more so today. I have seen things that we have trained for and planned for, for years, come into place nearly flawlessly. Literally two minutes after the call was dispatched, we had officers at the gates, arriving on the scene. Within seven minutes, had officers at the building, entering the building to engage in active shooter as shots were actively being fired.

We had officers who heroically went into a building, witnessing multiple casualties and continued to pursue and engage a gunman who was determined to kill as many people as possible and law enforcement officers were not discriminated against as far as the shooter was concerned. So the officers, the more we look into it, the officers that responded from all of the agencies did an incredible job, and there's no doubt in my mind that they saved numerous lives by engaging the way they did.

So for all the officers, Metropolitan Police, United States Park Police, all of our federal partners that responded in and worked as multiagency teams -- none of our teams went in as a single unit agency. They all went in multiple agencies and a single team and they did a fantastic job. So I couldn't be any more proud of the work that our law enforcement and first responders did. And also the coordination with the military and with our fire, EMS to get the victims to safety and to medical treatment. Just a fantastic job. Thank you.

MIKE MONROE, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, NCIS: Good afternoon. My name is Mike Monroe. I'm the special agent in charge of the Washington field office of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

Firstly, I'd like to send my condolences to the family members of the fallen. We are the Navy's -- department of the Navy's law enforcement agency. Those that have fallen are colleagues, they're our shipmates, and we send our prayers to the families of those.

NCIS has been engaged with this investigation from the immediate response, and we had three special agents, one of which is embedded on a daily basis at the Naval Sea Systems Command building, respond in a multiagency effort to the building. After three of our special agents and joined with a Metro Police officers, they entered the building, they engaged the threat, during which time the Metro Police officer was wounded. Those agents subsequently covered his exfiltration (ph), removed him from the building and got him to medical care.

Following the engagement with the threat, our special agents have been engaged in every aspect of the investigation as part of this multiagency effort. We're following up on leads arm in arm and collectively with other law enforcement partners, and we'll be engaged in this investigation through its conclusion. We found that this is a model response for a multiagency effort and we appreciate the support of all the agencies involved in supporting the Department of Navy community and those affected at Washington Navy Yard more (ph) in this incident. Thank you.

RONALD MACHEN, U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Good afternoon. I'm Ron Machen, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.

First and foremost, I want to send out thoughts and prayers to the victims of this terrible tragedy. This, as you have heard, remains an ongoing, active investigation. Prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's Office are working hand in hand from yesterday morning with law enforcement officials to try to give them all the tools they need and at our disposal so they can understand the events that led to yesterday's tragedy.

As we have moved from a crisis stage into the investigative stage of this case, our focus and efforts are going to be on answering the questions that we all have. What caused this individual to kill so many innocent men and women? How did he carry out and plan this attack? How did he get access to the weapons? What could have been done to prevent this tragedy? And most importantly, whether anyone else aided or assisted him wittingly or unwittingly in this tragedy. We're not going to stop until we get answers to those questions. That's important not only for this city and this community, but most of all for the loved ones who were lost yesterday. I fully expect that this investigation will take weeks and months. We're going to run down every lead, explore every detail and try to get to the bottom of this terrible event.

Finally, I just want to say that yesterday, which was such a dark moment in our city and our country's history, was also a time of tremendous dedication, courage, and heroism. I'm very proud to stand here today with our law enforcement partners who put aside any thoughts of their own safety as they rushed to the scene to try to save the lives of others. It was truly a tremendous effort. I fully expect that coordination, that dedication and that commitment to continue in the coming days, weeks, and months ahead as we work hard to answer those tough questions that remain. Thank you.

CHIEF KENNETH ELLERBE, DC FIRE & EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICE DEPT.: Good afternoon, everybody. I'm Kenneth Ellerbe, chief of the fire and EMS department in Washington, D.C.

I've heard a lot of words like "tragedy," "darkness." I've also heard some very important words, "collaboration," "cooperation." I'm going to try to answer one or two questions why. First, why do we work multijurisdictionally training for events like this? Yesterday is an example of why we do the training. Also, why do we adhere to such strict rules for our members throughout our organizations? And that's another reason, that's another answer why or a reason why. We don't want to have to think about the responses, we just want to respond. And I want to commend everybody here, all of our partners, for the work that they did, the seamless integration of the different police forces and our fire and EMS department, along with Prince George's County, to do as much as we could to resolve this issue. As they've all said, they're going to continue their investigation. Our part, for the most part, is completed. We hope that we never have to repeat anything like this again.

PARLAVE: OK. We'll go ahead and take a few questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) the suspect's purchase of the shotgun. Was it a lawful purchase and where was it made?

PARLAVE: It was a lawful purchase of a shotgun made in Virginia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And, assistant director, is it possible that he was just mentally ill and that there was no motive here?

PARLAVE: So the motivation, whatever that motivation is, is currently under investigation, and we're not going to comment on it at this time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) honorably or dishonorably discharged?

PARLAVE: I'm can't comment on that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you explain the decision not to lock down the city when you thought there were three gunmen?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE). Assistant director, can you give us any guidance on whether this young man was seeking any kind of psychological treatment?

PARLAVE: No, I can't comment on that at this time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Assistant director, can you explain the decision not to lock down the city at the point where you thought there were three gunmen?


LANIER: The decision to ask the residents and other businesses in the area to shelter in place was a decision that we thought through very carefully. We had information that we could not dismiss, so we thought that was the most prudent decision at the time. And we aired on the side of caution rather than being careless. And I think it was the right decision to keep our residents and everyone else informed, but we had to run down some additional information, one of which we cleared very quickly. The other one took a little bit longer. But I think the decision to ask people to shelter in place was the best decision. Locking down a city is not as easy as it seems watching television, and it's not a decision that we would take lightly. If we felt we had that kind of threat, we may have taken some additional measures, but I think we took the appropriate steps.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chief, how long -- can you explain how, from the time your officers made the entry, you said seven minutes after the call they actually made entry. These were your active shooter officers. And then how long was it before they actually killed him inside the building? LANIER: The question was, how long did it take the officers to actually make entry and how long did it take to actually neutralize the suspect from the time they entered. I can tell you that two minutes after the call was dispatched, we had two units with AR-15s on the scene. We had some additional AR-15 units that had been deployed down in the area for high visibility over the past two weeks. They were very close by. They responded immediately. Within about four or five minutes, we had five to seven units going through the gates into the facility. There was different buildings, calls coming in giving different buildings. We were getting different building numbers. But within seven minutes, we had at least two units and possibly four units outside of the building where will the shooter was that could hear actually the -- another round of gunfire, and they entered immediately upon hearing that gunfire.

And we know at this time two of them went in immediately when they arrived at the building and heard the gunshots, immediately went in the building and started giving lookouts and passing information on. Their actions, once they got inside the building, the thought that they put into ensuring other teams could get in, that other teams could get in quickly, that other teams could move around safely was unbelievable. I don't have the exact time it took before the final engagement. And that will come much later after all the forensics is done. But I can tell you, there was multiple engagements with the suspect with multiple different agencies before the final shots were fired. And I would say that there was - there was a pretty good period of time with multiple engagements before that. So I can't give you an exact time, but -


LANIER: I'll take one more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was it more than a half an hour from start to finish?

LANIER: Yes, I would say it's more than a half an hour from start to finish.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was it more than an hour?

LANIER: I don't believe it was more than an hour. It was more than a half an hour. And, again, we won't know that until all the forensics are done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the suspect or his company have specific business contacts with the offices he visited?

LANIER: I can't answer that question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can anybody with the FBI answer that?

LANIER: They're not going to comment on that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And did he report to work that morning before this happened, or did he just go right in there and open fire? LANIER: I'm not going to comment on that. I don't think we're going to comment on that at this point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The officer, you said he will fully recover. There was a lot of talk that he may never walk again. Can you speak to that at all?

LANIER: The question is about the recovery of the officer that was shot. We have a very good prognosis from the doctors. He does have serious injuries to his legs. Again, I know the officer and I know his personality. I'm real confident that he not only will walk again but probably will outrun most of us again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chief, the AR-15 that was found near his body, was that believe to have belonged to an officer?

LANIER: I'm not going to comment on any evidence or any weapons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any way to truly - truly make sure this doesn't happen again, or is this just something that nature of people in general, can we ever truly prevent this?

LANIER: The question is, is there any way to prevent this in the future? We train every day to try and make sure we prevent this and we train every day to make sure that if it does happen that no additional harm happens once the incident begins. And I think we accomplished that goal yesterday. It's a horrible tragedy. We hope it never happens again anywhere, much less in Washington, D.C. But I think the goal that we have is, if it does happen, to stop that harm as quickly as we possibly can. We met that goal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any (INAUDIBLE) about funding levels, whether that has anything to do with the security at the Washington Navy Yard? Perhaps, Mr. Monroe, you can comment on whether there's anything to that notion, whether it's sequestration or anything in regard to funding having to do with the level of security at the Washington Navy Yard.

MONROE: The level of security, our security -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To the mic please.

MONROE: The level of security and our security posture (ph) is something we don't normally comment on, but --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If people on The Hill are talking about (INAUDIBLE) circulating this (INAUDIBLE) attorney (ph) general report. Is there anything you'd like to add about whether there's any truth to that notion that there is a direct correlation or otherwise between funding levels and security?

MONROE: I'm sorry I can't comment on that or anything that has to do with our security levels.

BALDWIN: OK, so we're going to pull out of this. You've been listening for the -- for really the last 10, 15 minutes to different officials here in Washington, be it FBI out of Washington, D.C., I heard from the chief here of police, Metropolitan Police, NCIS. And so they're trying to answer some of the questions from the media.

A couple of headlines that jumped out at me, first and foremost, hearing them officially say that this shooter acted alone, number one. Number two, that he, according to police and FBI, walked into the Navy Yard, just behind us here, armed with - or at least had a shotgun. I should be careful on how I say that. That at some point inside he perhaps got his hands on a handgun, but they seem to say that he did not -- it doesn't appear that he had an AR-15 and that he was able to enter the Navy Yard with a valid card.

TAPPER: But that's a big step, the idea that they're saying now that he acted alone, because all day yesterday there were questions from the Metropolitan Police Department about whether there were other individuals involved. There was a lot of skepticism on the federal level about that. But, ultimately, we had the police chief say last night, and again reiterating it today, he acted alone, this gunman.

They still don't know, they said, what his motive may have been.

BALDWIN: Motivation.

TAPPER: They're still curious about that.

And also they said he got into the Navy Yard, which is a secure facility, with a valid pass, they said.


TAPPER: It was - it was -- he did not forge a pass. He did not have somebody else's. Those are some of the questions that have been batted around since this happened. But it was a huge panoply (ph) of law enforcement officials telling the latest on the investigation.

BALDWIN: So now that we have that, there is another nugget that has just come out. I want to go straight to the Pentagon to Barbara Starr, who's learned even more, as we're learning new information here about this shooter.

This is news, Barbara, from the defense secretary, from Chuck Hagel, specifically on this bold move involving military installations not just in the U.S. but globally.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right, Brooke and Jake. We have just learned that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, as soon as tomorrow, is going to announce a worldwide security review of all U.S. military installations. We are told by senior officials what Hagel wants is that quick look, is everything working properly? Are people doing their jobs? In the wake of what happened at the Navy Yard, he wants some answers about, is everything working as it's supposed to be? And part two of this, does there need to be a change in physical security measures at U.S. military installations?

It is a trade-off. These are working facilities. Large numbers of people need to get in and out of them every day, get to their jobs, leave and go home. So there are some practical limitations. But given what happened at the Navy Yard, he wants to know, we are told, are there changes that need to be made? He will order the military department to take a look at all of this and report back to him.

But here's part two of it. And this is where it gets more complicated. What about security access and classified access for contractors and other personnel? The clearances they get, those cards that they get to swipe in that say they are legitimately allowed to be there, as this shooter apparently was. Hagel's trying to work out right now what's part two of this, how does he take a look at all of that. That's a part of the bureaucracy that is spread across multiple agencies, but they want to get to this problem. They know that they have a lot of issues here about security clearances. They know there's an inspector general report that is far from complimentary, at least about how the Navy is doing its job in this area. So in the next 48 hours, even less, 24 hour, expect to see a lot of movement from the Pentagon on all of this.

Brooke. Jake.

TAPPER: And, Barbara, just to -- as long as I have you here, one of the things that seems to leap out at me is the idea that Aaron Alexis claimed, after shooting out the tires of a neighbor's car, that he'd had a blackout in 2004. I believe this took place in Washington state. Of everything we've heard about him, from his family's claims that he had PTSD, to the idea that he was a contractor, that seems to be the one thing that jumps out as, well, maybe this guy shouldn't have been given clearance and been able to get into this Naval Yard if he's somebody who has blackouts and shoots things. And that seems to be - I don't fully understand why the review, if he had a valid pass and he got into this facility - I mean, it's always good to take security measures and make sure you're doing things, I suppose, but it seems to me like the contractor angle of this, the security, that that seems to be the weakest part of this.

STARR: Well, I think it's very clear that the department also wants to look at the procedures contractors use. Not different, really, than you would find perhaps for the civilians, the military people, that work at these installations.

The issue of his legal background, his record, his brushes with the law still to be resolved. By all account, Navy officials are telling us, he was never convicted of any charges. So that is something certainly one mark on the wall here.

But that gets to the question you're asking, fine, he wasn't convicted of any charges, but did the contractor, did the company he worked for know his full background? Did the people doing the security clearance know his full background? Would it have made a difference? These are the questions for the investigation right now.

And look, I mean, we saw this in the Edward Snowden case. Very different. He apparently stole information. But again, he had a security clearance. Hasan at Ft. Hood, he had a clearance to get on base. So they're having several cases, very high profile, very concerning. Jake. Brooke.

BALDWIN: I think it's an incredibly valid question. I think it's one we'll explore with Brian Todd coming up here in terms of this system of awarding clearance and how one could perhaps slip through the cracks.

Coming up, though, inside the mind of a Navy Yard shooter. Are there any clues that friends, family, even doctors might have missed? We will tell you about some of his arrests and his apparent mindset post- 9/11.

Plus, just in to CNN, we are learning what caused the fire that destroyed parts of New Jersey's boardwalk. Stay right here.