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THE SITUATION ROOM

Navy Yard Gunman Heard "Voices"; Interview with Vincent Gray; Lawmakers Question Security Procedures; Rick Warren Opens Up about Son's Suicide

Aired September 17, 2013 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, we have extraordinary new details about the gunman who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard. Police, family and friends, they are painting a picture of a deeply troubled individual who heard voices, felt vibrations, before he apparently snapped.

We also are getting new information right now about the weapon. Authorities say Alexis walked into the Navy Yard with a shotgun. We're going to tell you where and how he managed to buy that weapon.

And a city known for its tough gun laws is now in mourning, amid deep anger over apparent security lapses. I'll speak live in the coming minutes with the Washington, DC mayor, Vincent Gray.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A day after gunfire and sirens echoed in the nation's capital, mourning has begun for the 12 people shot dead at the Washington Navy Yard. Today, we finally learned the identities of all of them. And we're learning so much more about the man who authorities say walked into the Navy Yard with a shotgun and quickly began a bloody rampage.

And that's raising serious questions about security at U.S. military facilities and prompting an urgent review.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us now.

He's been at the scene all day.

He's getting new information -- Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, new information tonight about the shooter's emotional problems, about his arrest record, about the

Misconduct he was cited for in the Navy and how apparently none of it was picked up by the people who gave him his security clearance.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Based on family accounts, a source with knowledge of the investigation says Aaron Alexis had trouble sleeping in recent years, was hearing voices in his head. Law enforcement sources say he made contact with two VA hospitals for psychological issues. A Defense Department official says Alexis had eight instances of misconduct in the Navy before his honorable discharge in 2011. Police records say he had three arrests between 2004 and 2010, one for disorderly conduct, two for gun-related offenses, including an incident when he fired two shots into the tires of a construction worker's car in Seattle.

SHELDON COHEN, SECURITY CLEARANCE ATTORNEY: An arrest for gun violations should have disqualified him.

TODD: Disqualified him from getting a secret security clearance, according to Sheldon Cohen, an attorney who specializes in that. Cohen and other attorneys say a private firm does background checks on civilian contractors for the government's Office of Personnel Management. OPM checks the information, Cohen says, then passes it to the Defense Department. There's one office in DOD that then determines whether someone gets the kind of security clearance Alexis had.

Cohen says somewhere in those three layers, someone dropped the ball.

(on camera): Should all of this cumulatively, or at least a little piece of it, been flagged and been a reason for him not to get that clearance?

COHEN: From my experience with this, he absolutely should not have gotten a clearance. Anybody that I have encountered with any kind of -- even half of this record -- does not get a clearance.

TODD (voice-over): We've reached out to that Pentagon office, the Office of Personnel Management, and a private firm we believe could have done Alexis' background check. None of them have commented on Alexis' case. Investigators, meanwhile, say they're still trying to piece together a motive for why Alexis would have shot and killed 12 people at the Navy Yard.

A friend says he had one dispute with the Navy over a contracting job in Japan late last year.

KRISTI SUTHAMTEWAKUL, FRIEND OF AARON ALEXIS: He got back and he felt very slighted about his benefits at the time. Financial issues -- he wasn't getting paid on time, he wasn't getting paid what he was supposed to be getting paid.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

TODD: The CEO of the private contracting firm that Alexis worked for says no one at any of his recent contracting jobs had any problems with him, or at least didn't report those problems if they had any -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The Pentagon is about to begin a worldwide investigation into this whole process. What are we learning on that front?

TODD: We are learning from our Barbara So there are, Wolf, that -- from a senior Pentagon official -- that the Defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, intends to order a full and comprehensive review of the physical security and the clearance process at all of the Defense Department installations worldwide. That announcement should be coming soon.

BLITZER: I'll be speaking later here in THE SITUATION ROOM with the chief spokesman for the U.S. Navy. We have lots of questions for Rear Admiral John Kirby. He'll be joining us live here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Brian, thanks very much.

The shooting victims were honored today in a very solemn ceremony at the U.S. Navy Memorial. The Defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, Joint Chiefs chairman, General Martin Dempsey, they laid a wreath next to the Lone Sailor Statue. A bugler then played "Taps." The Senate today also observed a moment of silence. Flags will fly at half staff across the country through Friday.

Beyond the serial disciplinary issues that led to his Naval Reserve discharge, friends and family members of gunman Aaron Alexis make it clear he was deeply, deeply troubled. We're going to hear shortly about his past behavior.

But CNN national correspondent, Deborah Feyerick, has some new information about a disturbing incident that occurred, what, just last month -- Deborah, what are you learning?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it happened about six weeks ago. Two key pieces of information that we've been able to develop.

First, just over six weeks ago, a naval base in Newport, Rhode Island was contacted by local police, who warned them that one of their contractors, Aaron Alexis, was behaving strangely.

Second, at the same time in August, Alexis reached out to a VA facility, also in Rhode Island, at the very same time. Now Newport lieutenant, William Fitzgerald, tells us that on August 7th, Alexis called the police to his hotel. He had actually switched hotels three times.

Alexis explained that while traveling from Virginia to Rhode Island, he had gotten into a verbal altercation with a man during his flight. He believed that the man had sent three people to talk to him, keep him awake and send vibrations through his body.

Alexis told police he had not seen the people, but he believed that there were two men and a woman, and that they were, quote, "using a microwave machine to send vibrations through the ceiling, penetrating his body so he could not sleep," unquote. And he told police that he never felt anything like this. He felt the individuals would harm him.

He would not tell police specifically what these people who allegedly were harassing him were saying. But he did tell police that he had no history of mental illness in his family, that he had never had a mental episode.

Now, Newport police notified the Naval station at 8:30 -- that's just about two hours after this incident happened -- to tell them what had happened and notify them of the possible implications, given Alexis' access to the base and that he was working there as a contractor.

Newport Naval had no comment. They referred us to the FBI in D.C.

The FBI also not commenting.

But a big question as to whether someone at a Navy base knew there was a problem with one of their contractors -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. It seems like there was blunder after blunder. And as I said, we're going to speak to the chief spokesman for the U.S. Navy. We've got lots of questions for Rear Admiral John Kirby. He's going to be joining us live later in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Deborah Feyerick, thanks very much.

The bloody rampage at the Navy Yard is raising serious questions about security. Now, as first reported by CNN's Barbara So there are, the Pentagon is confirming that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is ordering this review of physical security and access at all U.S. military installations worldwide.

Meanwhile, we're also learning about the mass shooting and the gun battle after Aaron Alexis entered the Navy Yard.

Let's bring in our justice reporter, Evan Perez, who's got the -- who's been doing some excellent reporting.

You're learning about what exactly happened in that encounter.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

Shortly after 8:00, when this all went down at the Washington Navy Yard, about seven minutes after the shooting begins, the Washington police, the Metropolitan Police Department and other departments, rushed to the scene. And within seven minutes, they had begun shooting.

There is now a gun battle that starts inside Building 197, which is where the victims were shot and killed.

The police end up engaging in a running gun battle, essentially, with the suspect, with Alexis. He's up on the fourth floor. He's shooting down at the victims. And they start shooting at him as they are going through the building. It lasts for about more than 30 minutes, according to the police department. And so it takes about, altogether, probably about 40 minutes for this entire episode to go down.

BLITZER: He was there with, what, the shotgun, right...

PEREZ: Right.

BLITZER: -- that, apparently, he purchased legally in Virginia.

PEREZ: That's right.

BLITZER: Did he have any other weapons, as far as we know?

PEREZ: Well, we know that he purchased a Remington 870, a tactical shotgun, it's called. It's fairly well concealable, according to the officials we've spoken to. It's not a very long gun, so it's possible some people might have not have noticed him.

He also is known to have had at least one handgun that he took from a guard who he shot early in the exchange at the -- at Building 197.

BLITZER: And we heard from the FBI agent in charge of this investigation. She said there's no indication,, at least that we know of, that he did, in fact, have this AR-15 assault weapon.

PEREZ: That's right. That was some of the early information yesterday. The authorities were circulating some of that information internally. And we all learned about it.

It's now known that perhaps people saw -- as you know, there were some early witness reports that said there were multiple shooters. And so apparently some of that information got out incorrectly, as you said.

He's, you know, as you know, he has been around in Washington for a couple of weeks now. And so authorities today are trying to piece together where he's been in the last three weeks in Washington.

BLITZER: Staying at various hotels with people, without, you know, sometimes by himself.

PEREZ: Correct.

BLITZER: And I'm sure they're going through every step of the way.

Thanks very much, Evan Perez, for that good reporting.

Just ahead, we will hear from friends of the gunman, Aaron Alexis, who say he gave no indication he was about to set out on a bloody killing spree.

And the Washington, DC mayor, Vincent Gray, he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's walking in right now. I'm going to ask him what he knows about these bloody events.

Mayor, we're going to be speaking to you in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're learning a lot more about the gunman who carried out a bloody rampage at the Washington Navy Yard. But details are only now beginning to emerge about what happened inside that complex.

In the tense hours after the assault, the Washington, DC mayor, Vincent Gray, delivered a series of updates to the American public.

Now the mayor is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Mayor, first of all, our deepest condolences. This is a shock to all of us who live in this area. I know it's been a serious shock to you, as well.

MAYOR VINCENT GRAY (D), WASHINGTON: It has, Wolf. It's just an incredible situation. In fact, I took some time this afternoon to call every one of the families that I could reach of...

BLITZER: Of the 12 people who were killed?

GRAY: Yes. Exactly. Right.

BLITZER: How did those conversations go?

GRAY: They were -- they were tough. They were really tough.

The first person I talked to was the wife of the one resident who lived in the District of Columbia.

BLITZER: The other 11 lived either in Virginia or Maryland?

GRAY: That's right. This was Arthur Daniels, who lived in the District of Columbia. And his wife was just absolutely devastated. She talked about their children. She talked about, you know, where they live. She talked about they had been married for 30 years. And a...

BLITZER: What do you say to a family like this?

GRAY: You know, it...

BLITZER: What can you say?

GRAY: -- you really can't say anything that's going to make a huge difference in a situation like this. I typically start out by saying, I just wanted to call and reach out to you myself. I said I know there's nothing I can say that can change this or make it different, but I wanted you to know that I care about this, I care about you. And I want you to know that I'm here to do anything I possibly can to be able to help you get through this.

BLITZER: And if they had asked you to come over, you would, of course, go over there...

GRAY: I absolutely would.

BLITZER: -- and pay a visit and see how they're doing and try to...

GRAY: I -- I would.

BLITZER: -- help as much as the city and the District of Columbia can do?

I know there are certain things you can't share with us, but maybe you can share some of the details.

Do we know how this Aaron Alexis actually wound up dead?

GRAY: Yes, it was a shootout.

BLITZER: How did that -- how did that -- if you'd walk us through how that happened, because we understand the shootout lasted, what, a half an hour?

GRAY: A half hour, that's right.

BLITZER: So tell us how that went down.

GRAY: Well, Chief Lanier has talked about it already. And she knows the details much better than I do. But he was inside and he was shooting people. He was able to get a hold of a gun of one of the law enforcement officials at the site...

BLITZER: He came in with a shotgun...

GRAY: He did.

BLITZER: -- but he got a handgun...

GRAY: Right.

BLITZER: -- from one of the law enforcement?

GRAY: That's exactly right.

BLITZER: So he had two weapons that he was using?

GRAY: He had two weapons. And he was shooting, you know, he was shooting people down in the atrium. He was just picking people off. And a...

BLITZER: And he was on the fourth floor looking down at this, what was it a food court, like a...

GRAY: Absolutely.

BLITZER: -- it was like a little balcony?

GRAY: Yes.

BLITZER: And he was just sniping at people, is that right?

GRAY: Yes. That's essentially -- you know, I wasn't there, of course. But that's essentially the account that we've had of how this happened. There were people who were eating. You know, they were eating breakfast, because it was early. They hadn't even started their shift yet.

BLITZER: Was he saying anything?

Did anyone hear him talking?

Or was he just methodically pointing his weapon and shooting people?

GRAY: He may have been. I've had no indication, though, from anybody I've talked to that it were -- there was any dialogue or any monologue from him, that he just was shooting people.

BLITZER: DC police went in there.

Were they the ones that eventually got him?

GRAY: Yes. In fact, we had an officer who was shot, Officer Scott Williams, who absolutely did a phenomenal job. He's part of our canine corps, been on the force for 24, 25 years. He was shot in the legs, had surgery last night. I was up at the hospital center, along with Chief Lanier last night.

And after the surgery, it was unbelievable how good his spirits were, how positive he was about what he did and how proud he was to be able to defend the city and...

BLITZER: Is he going to be OK?

GRAY: He's going to be fine. We don't know fully -- you know, the surgery, we think, was very successful. And, of course, the healing process now is underway. But if his spirits last night were any indication, Wolf, he's going to be fine.

BLITZER: Did the DC police get there as quickly as they should have gotten there with...

GRAY: Absolutely.

BLITZER: -- in terms of post-mortems, after action reviews, were you satisfied with what you've heard, at least as of now?

GRAY: I am. Our first responders were absolutely phenomenal. The police arrived within eight minutes of this incident starting. And then we had more police. You know, we had the, you know, shooting teams that, you know, work with us. They went in. They were...

BLITZER: Your SWAT teams, in effect?

GRAY: Yes. So -- exactly, very much like SWAT teams.

BLITZER: But you -- the DC police were really in charge of this effort...

GRAY: That's right.

BLITZER: -- to con -- to apprehend this guy?

GRAY: That's exactly right. And they...

BLITZER: Even though there's a military base, you went on there?

GRAY: That's right. We went on there. It's still our city and we were the first responders in this instance. Of course, the investigation now has been turned over to the leadership of the FBI. They have taken over.

But for the first 24 hours, it was us. It was the Park Police that was involved. And, of course, our fire and emergency medical services, which, Wolf, did a phenomenal job getting people who were hurt. There were eight people -- actually nine people who had to be transported. One of the people who died was actually dead on arrival with...

BLITZER: At George Washington Hospital?

GRAY: Yes. That's right. He was transported. We transported nine people out of there really in a quick fashion. So our emergency medical services people and the fire chief and the firefighters did a phenomenal job.

BLITZER: Walk us through how he managed to get on this secure Navy Yard facility.

Did he sneak in?

Did he have access?

We heard he had some sort of pass.

GRAY: Yes.

BLITZER: It was all above board. You...

GRAY: Well...

BLITZER: -- you -- there must have been a security failure some place along the line.

GRAY: Well, he had the credentials to get in. He was working with a contractor that had a contract at the Navy Yard. And he was able to show credentials that were perfectly valid.

BLITZER: With a shotgun, he could walk in?

GRAY: Yes, it's unclear yet. BLITZER: How does he -- how does he go onto a Navy base, the Navy Yard, with a shotgun?

GRAY: It's unclear yet exactly how that happened. That's still information that's being developed. And we're -- but we'll find out, how that happened.

BLITZER: Did he walk onto the base or did he drive onto the base?

GRAY: He had a car.

BLITZER: So the shotgun may have been in the trunk?

You don't open the trunk...

GRAY: It may have been.

BLITZER: -- when you drive in...

GRAY: No.

BLITZER: -- if you have the credentials.

GRAY: That's right. It may have been concealed in the car. But then there's still the question how you get into the building. And there's questions about whether his credentials, even though they were valid for the base, were valid for Building 197, which is the building he went into.

BLITZER: Now, you're the mayor of Washington, DC, which has very strict gun control laws. But you cross the Potomac River into Virginia, as this man did, you go to Lorton, Virginia...

GRAY: Yes.

BLITZER: -- which is not that far away, you can buy a shotgun and then come back into Washington, DC.

GRAY: Which is exactly what he did. You know, we have the -- some of the strictest gun control laws in America. You know, you've got to have background checks. We don't permit assault weapons. We don't do any of that.

But we are vulnerable to what goes on in the surrounding states. That's why we need national policies on this, because it's fine for the District of Columbia to do this. But if Virginia has a different set of policies, or Maryland has a different set of policies, what good does it do us, because people will go right across the border and come right back into our jurisdiction?

BLITZER: Well, it doesn't look like much is going to be done as far as federal tightening of the laws, even after nine...

GRAY: (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: -- months ago, after what happened in Connecticut, in Newtown, Connecticut.

GRAY: Right.

BLITZER: The president hasn't been able -- has not been able to get new stricter background checks even...

GRAY: That's right. I thought we would...

BLITZER: -- passed.

GRAY: -- at least have background checks. And we've gotten nothing. And, you know, people have to step back from this and ask, what are they willing to tolerate, when you see a massacre, you know, a rampage like this take place?

You know, again, you've got to ask why is it that our legislators at the national level are not stepping up and saying enough is enough?

How many of these incidents have to happen before people say, I'm not taking it anymore?

BLITZER: What's the most -- and we're out of time -- but what's the most important lesson that you have immediately learned from what happened yesterday?

GRAY: Well, I think the lesson for us is that even though this is a military base, which we know has been phenomenally secure over the years, it's the oldest, 200 years old -- that still people were -- this man was able to circumvent the security procedures that were in place. And we've got to look at these contractors.

How did he get this in -- how did he get these credentials in the first place?

And how did he get past, you know, what should have been required of someone with a record like his?

BLITZER: Yes. I mean we're investigating it, but it is amazing. The guy has eight instances of misconduct in the Navy...

GRAY: Yes.

BLITZER: -- and he gets an honorable discharge. Not a general discharge...

GRAY: That's right.

BLITZER: -- Not a dishonorable discharge, he gets an honorable discharge. And because, in part, of that honorable discharge, he then parlays that and goes on and gets a job with top secret security clearances working for a defense contractor.

GRAY: You know, I would say you're -- you know, you shake your head, but it's far more serious than just head shaking. We've got to have -- and I'm glad that the secretary of Defense is now having a worldwide top to bottom review of our security procedures, because when you get a breach like this, it means we're doing something wrong.

BLITZER: Have you -- and you've conveyed that concern to the authorities...

GRAY: Oh, absolutely.

BLITZER: -- the Navy, the...

GRAY: Absolutely.

BLITZER: -- elsewhere at the Defense -- but you've had conversations...

GRAY: Yes.

BLITZER: -- with them?

What's the -- what do you want them to do?

GRAY: I want them, first of all, to review the procedures as they've talked about. And then let's do background checks. Let's do thorough background checks.

BLITZER: Well, you know, with...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: -- background checks, what's intriguing to me is this guy has a background check. He's a contractor. He wants a job as a contractor. But another contractor does the background -- the initial stage of the background. They outsource the background check to outside contractors. I think that that doesn't sound right to me. I don't know about you.

GRAY: It doesn't sound right to me. These are the kinds of things that should be done by people who are working for the federal government, working for the military. There are certain things that are -- that should be treasured in a way that they are not released from the hands of the government.

BLITZER: Because you get a background check and the first phase, if he gets a clear background, he goes to the next one, OK, he must be fine.

GRAY: Sure. You're fine.

BLITZER: Then you go to the third phase, OK. He gets the background check. And, obviously, we're going to have to learn...

GRAY: Yes.

BLITZER: -- lessons from what happened...

GRAY: And...

BLITZER: -- to make sure it doesn't happen again. GRAY: That's right. And it's shameful that it took this, maybe, to bring this issue to bear in the way it's being brought to bear at this point.

BLITZER: You know what is nice, though, is Washington, DC is coming through right now. And the pride and the outpouring of support for the victims and their families...

GRAY: Absolutely.

BLITZER: -- is really palpable.

GRAY: Well, again, I'm very proud of what our people did, this government did to stand up and address this heinous situation as quickly and as effectively as it did. But what would be even more satisfying is that we never have to do this again.

BLITZER: And we know for sure there were no others involved. This was a lone gunman.

GRAY: Yes. We had, you know, we had initially reported the possibility of two additional suspects. Fairly quickly, we were able to eliminate one. It was a man who was seen running away, but he was running away because someone near him got shot. And he was running away from the possibility of himself being shot.

And then there was a second suspect who was described, but we've never been able to identify this person.

So we have abandoned the possibility of other suspects at this stage.

BLITZER: Mayor Vincent Gray, thanks very much for coming in.

GRAY: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right.

Good luck to all of the residents of the District.

GRAY: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, we're learning other details about the weapon, including where Aaron Alexis bought it. We're going live to Virginia, where it was sold.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A day after a bloody rampage took the lives of 12 innocent people, we're learning much more now about the Navy Yard gunman, Aaron Alexis. Eight cases of misconduct. Let me repeat that. Eight cases of misconduct in the U.S. naval reserve led to a discharge.

Family members and police telling us of other incidents as well in which clearly, very troubled man heard voices, complained of people out to get him with microwave vibrations. Let's bring in CNN's Ed Lavandera right. he tracked down some friend of Alexis in Ft. Worth, Texas. Ed, what are you learning?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting, Wolf that the details that are emerging about the mental issues that Aaron Alexis has been struggling with in recent months seems to fly right into the face of what all of his friends here in Ft. Worth saw up close.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MELINDA DOWNS, AARON ALEXIS FRIEND: And it's like Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde. Who was this guy?

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Melinda Downs spoke to Aaron Alexis week ago. She says there were no hints that her friend was on the brink of launching a violent killing spree.

DOWNS: Then you ask yourself, you go from denial to reality to fear to blame. Is there something I could have done? Is there something I could have saw? Is there some type of behavior that I ignored or didn't see that I could have prevented this? But there is no answers.

LAVANDERA: But there are clues that Aaron Alexis started unraveling mentally in recent months. According to Newport, Rhode Island police, Alexis called officers to his hotel room there in August. Alexis told police that three individuals talking to him through a wall were sent to, quote, "harass him."

He told police the harassers were using a microwave machine to send vibrations through the ceiling, penetrating his body so he could not speak. But Alexis' friends in Texas say they never saw this side of him.

DOWNS: I can honestly tell you Aaron was not hearing voices. There was no mental illness in him other than if you want to say that the posttraumatic stress disorder was mental. He was very intellectual. His mind was sound. He can hold a conversation with the best of us, and he was not hearing voices. And if he did, he hid it very well. So, that's -- I never had anything --

(INAUDIBLE)

DOWNS: Never paranoid. Never.

LAVANDERA: But another friend says he did show signs of paranoia. Aaron Alexis' life in Texas revolved around the Happy Bowl Thai Restaurant in Ft. Worth. His long-time roommate and the restaurant's owner Nutpisit Suthamtewakul says Alexis often acted paranoid. He says the Navy Yard killer carried a handgun, because he always thought someone was trying to hurt him. They met at a Buddhist temple. So to Nutpisit Alexis was a peaceful soul.

NUTPISIT SUTHAMTEWAKUL, AARON ALEXIS' ROOMMATE: Buddhism, very concerned about killing people or killing life. Any kind of life, you know. You do not want to be --

LAVANDERA (on camera): Peaceful?

SUTHAMTEWAKUL: Yes. Peaceful people. And then -- and then he is not -- all the time that he's with me, he never showed any sign of angry or aggressive or, you know, anything. You know. You know, I don't know, I mean --

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: You know, it's interesting, Wolf, we spent yesterday speaking with several friends asking about if Aaron Alexis ever talked about any family members. It was Melinda Downs who actually shed some light, the first light we have, on his family situation. We asked if he ever talked about his parents or siblings. According to Melinda Downs, Aaron Alexis had a very good relationship with his mother, loved her very much, and with his sister and a newborn child, a niece that his sister had.

But she goes on to describe that he had a very tough relationship with his father. That apparently there was quite a bit of tension there and according to Melissa Downs, that that was perhaps one of the reasons why he had joined the Navy, the Navy Reserves, to try to show his dad that he was an upstanding man and could impress him in that way. So interesting insight from a friend here in Ft. Worth -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And I'm sure we're going to be learning a lot more about this guy as well.

All right. Ed, thank you.

Coming up, we're also getting in some new details on where and how Alexis managed to buy the shotgun.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We have some new information coming into the SITUATION ROOM on where and when Aaron Alexis actually purchased the shotgun.

Our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence is joining us from Lorton, Virginia, that's in northern Virginia, right outside Washington, D.C.

What are you learning over there, Chris?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. We're getting some new information about what Aaron Alexis was doing less than 24 hours before he walked on the base at the Navy Yard.

On Sunday, the day before that shooting, he came right here to the SharpShooters Gun Shop and Target Range here in Lorton, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C. We have confirmed now through the shop's owners that he came in and that he took target practice. He used one of the guns, one of the rifles, that the store owns, and their ammunition, and he took target practice with that rifle. And then when he was done, he purchased a shotgun. It was a Remington 870 Express Tactical model, it's a 12-gauge shotgun. And he also bought two boxes of ammunition, about 24 shells total.

While he was here, he waited as the store ran the National Criminal Background Check. It's an instant background check that's done on site. They ran it, he didn't have any sort of convictions that would prevent him from getting that gun, and so he was able to purchase it, take it with him.

And we're also told now that the FBI has been here and they took the video of Aaron Alexis inside the store that day -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Chris Lawrence in Lorton, Virginia, for us over at that gun store. Thank you.

Here's what else is coming up later today on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: CNN tonight. At 8:00 on "ANDERSON COOPER 360" the shooting rampage at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. Anderson Cooper is there live with the latest on the investigation.

And at 9:00 on "PIERS MORGAN LIVE" a test of faith for the man known as America's pastor. Piers talks exclusively with Rick Warren and his wife, their first interview since their son's suicide. And about what he did when he heard about the Navy Yard shootings in Washington.

PASTOR RICK WARREN, SADDLEBACK CHURCH: The first thing I did is get down on my knees and pray for those families.

ANNOUNCER: It's all on CNN tonight, starting with "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" at 7:00, "ANDERSON COOPER 360" at 8:00, and "PIERS MORGAN LIVE" at 9:00.

Tonight on CNN.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And this programming note, Anderson will also speak with the widower of one of the victims.

Just ahead, in the wake of the Navy Yard rampage, lawmakers are asking tough new questions about security at U.S. Defense installations and the background checks on Defense contractors.

And a CNN exclusive. He's given spiritual advice to millions. Now the Pastor Rick Warren talks with CNN's Piers Morgan about his personal tragedy, the suicide of his son.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Lawmakers are asking some very tough questions about security at the Washington Navy Yard. Background checks on Defense contractors and a whole lot more.

Joining us now, our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, our chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.

I -- the scrutiny of these outsourced contractors doing sensitive work, I assume that's going to have to escalate big time right now.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It will escalate. I spoke with Senator Susan Collins about this last night. She said it really makes me question the kind of vetting that military contractors do.

And here's the problem, Wolf. And we've both done a bunch of reporting on this today. There were a lot of red flags for Alexis, but for some reason they weren't noticed. For example, he wasn't charged with reckless gun use, although he was arrested for it. And he was honorably discharged from the Navy, although there was a backstory to it.

So in talking to people today, they were saying well, on a regular vet for him at this kind of midlevel position, they might not have known about these things.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And just this afternoon, Capitol Hill got an inspector general report on this very issue.

BORGER: Right.

BASH: And it was absolutely incredible to read, how many holes there really are in security clearance specifically for these contractors at the naval facility. Just really quickly, nine out of 10 of these Navy installations allowed temporary access to people like Alexis for 28 days before any background check was finished. They could walk around these facilities for 28 days just by filling out the application.

BLITZER: Pretty outrageous. I don't understand why they also allow the initial round of background checks to be outsourced to private contractors who are checking the background capabilities of other outside contractors.

BORGER: So I spoke with somebody who runs a trade association for contractors who says that doesn't always occur, for example, the CIA always does its background checks and -- its own background checks. And the forms are identical but the question is, would somebody in the government do a different kind of a check than a contractor would do?

And you know, this is a large, large problem. Fourteen percent of the federal budget is now spent on these private contractors so it's not -- it's not a small issue here. And you can be sure that they're going to be looking at this.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Any prospects this will do anything to move further gun control legislation through the Senate and the House?

BASH: In a word right now, no. The Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said today, I asked him about this, that he'll do it once he has the votes. They're still five votes short of expanding background checks. The question also is whether or not they would just do something very limited on helping the mentally ill and so the answer to that was also no. Why? Because they concluded back after Newtown that strategically they thought that would give up their leverage for getting more gun control and so they want to marry the two.

They don't want to give it up and it doesn't look like this is going to move the ball at all, particularly since it looks like he did have a background check.

BORGER: If they didn't do it after Newtown --

BASH: Exactly.

BORGER: Not going to do it now.

BLITZER: Probably not going to do it now.

BORGER: Yes.

BLITZER: All right, Gloria, Dana Bash, thanks very much.

A vigil was held for the victims last night. We now know the names of all 12 people who lost their lives.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Get back to the Navy Yard shooting investigation in just a few moments, but there's another story I want to go to right now.

The suicide of a child certainly takes on an added dimension when you're one of the best known pastors in the United States. Now Pastor Rick Warren is opening up with brutal honesty.

He spoke exclusively to CNN's Piers Morgan who will have the entire interview on his program later tonight.

Piers, this is amazing stuff that you've done. Just briefly remind our viewers what happened to Pastor Warren's son.

PIERS MORGAN, HOST, PIERS MORGAN LIVE: Well, Matthew is in his late 20s, 27. He suffered a lifetime of depression and mental illness. He received endless treatment from all sorts of experts, the best that money can buy. The Warrens are wealthy family. But nothing worked. And there was a slow but steady escalation in his despair and his despondency and his attempt to try and take his life. He tried several times. He took overdoses and was unsuccessful.

And there's a very really poignant moment in the middle of what is an incredibly heartbreaking interview. And I talked to Kay Warren, Rick's wife, about the moment that her son told her a month before he died that he'd bought a gun illegally over the Internet for a lot of money. He'd been trying to get one for a while but he said to her, if you tell anybody I've got this gun, if you tell the police and they turned up, I will shoot myself dead immediately.

And so she was trapped in the ultimate mother's nightmare, really, of not being able to tell anybody, not being able to tell the police because he said he would kill himself, but aware that he would almost certainly try and kill himself anyway. And sure enough, a month later, that's what he did.

And it's utterly heartbreaking. The Warrens, if you know them, Wolf, they're such positive, God-fearing people. They are people who have devoted their lives to helping others in their huge church down here in California. You know, they've helped endless people with endless tragedies, and then they get hit with this absolutely appalling, gut-wrenching family tragedy themselves.

And it was at times in the interview very, very hard not to get emotional with them because as anyone who watches it tonight will see, it is -- it is really raw and really emotional.

BLITZER: Let me play a little clip for our viewers right now, Piers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WARREN: It's not supposed to end like this. Because we had had close calls. Matthew had made attempts on his life before in other ways. And we just kept -- you know, when Matthew was born, even as a young child, he struggled with mental illness. So we knew that this day might happen someday, but it's a day no parent wants. It's your worst nightmare. And I'll never forget, I'll never forget the agony of that moment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Piers, this is really an amazing interview. And I want to just alert our viewers, the full hour tonight on your program. I think our viewers are going to want to see this. And thank you so much for doing it because I'm sure we're all going to learn a lot of lessons from this horrible, horrible tragedy.

Piers, thanks very much.

MORGAN: And what I -- what I would say, Wolf -- what I would say quickly, Wolf, is just it's -- although it's heartbreaking, the reason people should watch it, it's very inspiring, too. And they get a really clear and important message about how you deal with mental health in this country. And it couldn't be more pertinent after what happened at the Naval Yard yesterday in Washington.

The whole issue of mental health and easy access to guns. All of it comes together. The Warren Family story. And I think everyone should watch it and try and work out collectively how we can try and deal with these dual problems that are facing American society right now. BLITZER: 9:00 p.m. Eastern. We would all be watching, Piers. Thanks so much for doing this.

MORGAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: And please pass along our best wishes, our deepest condolences to the Warrens as well.

9:00 p.m. Eastern, "PIERS MORGAN LIVE" later tonight.

Just ahead here in the SITUATION ROOM, CNN investigations. We investigate into the security at U.S. military facilities worldwide as a result of what happened in Washington yesterday.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Prancercise lady is going a little bit nuts right now, specifically pistachios.

Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Prancercise meets Dennis Rodman, even the lady who invented the rhythmic exercise can't hold it in.

(On camera): What do Dennis Rodman and the Prancercise lady have in common?

(Voice-over): It turns out both --

JOANNA ROHRBACK, PRANCERCISE LADY: Ready to Prancercise?

MOOS: -- are now pitching pistachios.

DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER NBA PLAYER: The secret to world peace is pistachios.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dennis Rodman does it because he's nuts.

MOOS: Rodman and Johanna Rohrback star in the latest season of the "Get Cracking" campaign.

ROHRBACK: Let's stop yakking and get cracking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Prancercise lady does it to stay fit.

MOOS: How many takes did it take?

ROHRBACK: Between 100 and 200.

MOOS (on camera): Wow.

The Prancercise lady says she and pistachios are a good fit because she is a health nut and besides. ROHRBACK: It tastes very well.

MOOS (voice-over): Johanna's life changed when her Prancercise video went viral this past spring.

ROHRBACK: Jeanne, I'm telling you.

(LAUGHTER)

MOOS (on camera): It's a wild ride, huh?

ROHRBACK: Oh, god, honey. It's a buckin' bronco when it first started out.

MOOS (voice-over): She was spoofed. She was imitated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just a lot of flailing around right now is what I see.

MOOS: Not long after Prancercise, another dance routine went viral. Cafe owners across the street recorded Ellie Cole without her knowledge waiting for a bus in England. She was dubbed "The Dancing Queen at the Bus Stop."

The Abba song that plays is what she was actually listening to on her headphones. Now that viral video has made one of Ellie's dreams come true. She was asked to join a chorus line for a performance at a prestigious theater called the Point. This was rehearsal.

Whether bus stop bogeying or Prancercising, these two managed to --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get cracking.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)