Return to Transcripts main page
Eleven Killed In Mall Ambush; Ten People Shot In Chicago In A Day; 22,000 Gallons Of Oil Leaking In Colorado; E.Coli Found In Water Supply; House Passes Plan To Avoid Shutdown; House Votes Against Obamacare Again; Judge Orders New Trial In Bridge Shooting; Interview With Rep. Peter King of New York
Aired September 21, 2013 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Here are the top stories we are following in the CNN NEWSROOM. Gunmen opened fire on shoppers in Kenya and many are killed. Others were being held hostage. The latest on the standoff just moments away.
ERIN MCPIKE, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Erin McPike in Washington. We will tell you about the possibility of a government shutdown.
WHITFIELD: And in Colorado, the rain may have stopped, but the damage from the devastating floods is mounting. We'll tell you why people there now have serious health concerns.
We begin with the deadly attack at an upscale mall in Kenya. Police are frantically trying to rescue hostages still being held. It all began many hours ago when a gunman stormed the mall and opened fire. At least 20 people were killed. More shoppers are wounded according to Red Cross.
Washington, D.C. resident, Sara Head was in the mall when it happened. She was in Kenya on business. She told me that it was a very frightening scene.
SARA HEAD, WITNESS (via telephone): I was very frightened. In fact I felt safer stuck in the stairwell. As soon as I was able to get out, I actually took off running and just ran. There was quite a crowd of people that I had to pass through once I got beyond the loading dock, in fact, but --
WHITFIELD: What were all of those people doing?
HEAD: I was trying to run as far as I could.
WHITFIELD: You said there was quite a crowd of people. What was everyone doing?
HEAD: I don't know if they themselves had escaped the mall or if they had just gathered because the Nairobi traffic is very hectic, quite a mess, so it is possible people had just stopped and gotten out of their cars. There was a good bit of camera men taking photos of people crying as they exited, and then there were policemen in the area.
I don't know if it was community members or other customers or people who had escaped themselves or if there were -- but there were crowds of people along the street sort of looking at the mall. And I am just running past them with my colleague and with the driver that was with us trying to get as far away from the situation as possible.
WHITFIELD: All right, for Sara Head, a very close call there. A Kenyan government source says the attackers appear to be of Somali origin. Joining me right now by phone from Washington is national security analyst, Peter Bergen. So Peter, of course, we still don't know who the gunmen were, if part of a group or acting as individuals, but this happening, what, 15 years after the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi was targeted by terrorist activity. What does this tell you about a shopping mall being targeted?
PETER BERGEN, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST (via telephone): Fredricka, when you look at this attack, we think about who has capability and who has intent, and take that together with the indiscriminate attack on civilians in a shopping mall, frequented by westerners like Sara Head you just had on the show, and you do the math and end up with al- Shabad, which is, of course, an al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia that has in the past attacked outside Somalia, in two cases in 2010, attacking a group of people watching World Cup soccer match in Uganda, killing several dozen.
And then also trying to kill the cartoonist that did the cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad that was deemed offensive by many Muslims, some associated with al-Shabad broke into his house in Denmark, and tried to kill him. Luckily, he had a safe room and was able to survive the attack. So Shabad has done attacks outside Somalia and has frequently done attacks in Kenya, although much more stealth than the one we're seeing today.
WHITFIELD: A couple of those incidents that you described in Kenya, those usually happen on the coast in Mombasa, really very close to the border with Somalia.
BERGEN: That's correct. Shabad itself -- if it is Shabad, and we don't know that yet, why are they attacking in Kenya, and there's a short answer. The Kenyan military has been very effective in fighting against Shabab, the military in Kenya general, it is an enemy when they attack in Uganda, it was to protest the role of Uganda in African union troops fighting in Somalia against al-Shabab.
So the motive here, it is a target that is associated with westerners. It is a soft target, it is civilians. It is the fact that Kenya has played a role fighting against Shabab in Somalia and on the coast. It is hard to think they would have the intent and capability other than Shabab.
WHITFIELD: All right, Peter Bergen, thank you for your insight. The latest numbers, we have an update, earlier it was reported at least 20 killed. Now it appears officials are bringing that number down to 11 killed, but still a very serious situation in the mall shooting there in Nairobi.
All right, back in this country, now Chicago experiences a second night of intense gun violence. Nine shootings result in 10 people getting hit. Five of them killed. The series of shootings began early Friday afternoon, ended early this morning. On Thursday, 13 people were shot at a park on the south side and among those shot, a 3-year-old boy. The shootings overnight police say do not appear to be connected to the Thursday night incident.
Also there was growing concern about the extent of flood damage in Colorado. Officials now say more than 22,000 gallons of oil have spilled at four different sites. Several spills are leaking into lakes, rivers, and streams, adding to the problem, more than two dozen fuel tanks have overturned.
And another big worry, E. Coli has been found in tap water in the hard hit town of Lyons. Dan Simon is live for us right now in Boulder, Colorado. Dan, a lot of problems being underscored all because of this flooding that was just very serious more than a week ago.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Fredricka. You know, in the town of Lyons, just 17 miles north of where we are in Boulder. This is a town of 2,000 people. We saw the flood waters take out much of the town's infrastructure, took out a lot of roads and bridges, et cetera.
But it also took out septic tanks and sewer lines. That caused this toxic sludge to invade the water supply and tests now have confirmed that there is E. Coli in the water. So the tap water has been completely shut off to residents, so if people are going to stay in their homes, they have to provide their own water -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: My goodness, and how many people are being impacted?
SIMON: Yes, that's a good question. A lot of people did leave their homes, but apparently a lot of people stayed so you're talking about fairly significant portion of that community. I also want to talk to you, Fredricka, about insurance because this is a big problem especially for people who live in areas that are not prone to flooding.
Say you live in an area that is supposed to get a flood every 500 years, they call these 500 year flood plains, well, why would you get flood insurance? It doesn't make sense to pay hundreds or thousands for insurance you didn't think you would need. We talked to folks that found themselves in that situation. I want you to take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JESSICA BEACOM, FLOOD VICTIM: When we asked about it to make sure we covered our bases when we moved in, they almost laughed, you know, like ton of money, you don't need that.
DEAN BEACOM, FLOOD VICTIM: We would have had it if we knew it would happen or inkling it might happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIMON: So that couple and other families have homeowners insurance, but that doesn't cover flood damage. They can ask for FEMA relief. They can get some aid, but it won't begin to cover all the damage people need to fix their homes. Obviously, still a lot of problems in this community, E. Coli problems, people don't have flood insurance and people are still cleaning up -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right, Dan Simon, thanks so much from Boulder.
The government is inching closer to a shutdown, just nine days left to reach a deal on a budget. House Republicans passed a plan, but it includes a big problem for Democrats. It would strip funding for the health care reform law. Erin McPike has more.
ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the coming week, the battle will shift to the Senate. But on Friday, it was a rare moment for House Speaker John Boehner, united Republicans celebrated their vote to defund Obamacare.
REPRESENTATIVIE JOHN BOEHNER, HOUSE SPEAKER: The American people don't want the government shutdown and they don't want Obamacare.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yays are 230 and the nays are 199. The joint resolution is passed without objection, motion to reconsider is laid on the table.
MCPIKE: All but one Republican voted for the measure and two Democrats joined them, prompting this exuberant response.
REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP: Today when we acted, it wasn't just a group of Republicans, but it was a bipartisan vote.
MCPIKE: It was a show of force from conservatives, who insisted on defunding Obamacare as a condition for approving a bill that keeps the government running. But their effort is dead on arrival in the Senate and Democrats seized on the potential consequences.
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: What is brought to the floor today is without a doubt, without a doubt a measure designed to shut down government. It could have no other intent. Its purpose is clear.
MCPIKE: House Republicans are working to shift blame for the threat of a government shutdown onto Democrats who control the Senate.
REPRESENTATIVE ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Now it is up to Senate Democrats to show some responsibility and follow the House's lead.
MCPIKE: They're putting the squeeze on vulnerable Democratic senators up for re-election in red states.
CANTOR: I want to know where Senator Pryor stands on protecting the middle class from the consequences of this horrific bill.
MCPIKE: Cantor singled out Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor and three other Democrats, Kay Hagen of North Carolina, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Mark Begich of Alaska. But two of the senators, Landrieu and Begich, have already told CNN they won't vote to strip money from health care. Just nine days remain for the Senate to vote on its plan to fund the government without cutting Obamacare and pass the buck back to the House.
WHITFIELD: Erin McPike joins me live now from Washington. So Erin, what do we expect to happen in the next week?
MCPIKE: Well, Fred, a couple of individual Republican senators have threatened to filibuster when it comes to the floor of the Senate. But the overall Senate Republican strategy is to vote to move forward with debate on this bill. Once that happens, Senate Democrats need just 51 votes to restore funding for Obamacare and then another 51 votes to pass the full bill.
That should happen, we expect it to, sometime later this coming week, and at that point, the bill and debate on it will move back to the House. Of course, we know that this deadline is October 1st, but we expect it to go down to the wire and the House will be in session next weekend debating this. I am sure we will be talking about it then -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: Something tells me we should mark our calendars. All right, thanks so much, Erin. Appreciate that.
All right, a judge throws out the convictions of five New Orleans cops found guilty of shooting unarmed civilians on a bridge after Hurricane Katrina. Wait until you hear why the judge said he had to do it.
The clock is ticking as the federal government is running out of money. House Republicans say it is up to the Senate to avoid a government shutdown. We will talk to New York Congressman Peter King next.
WHITFIELD: One outspoken Republican who has been against shutting down the government is New York Congressman Peter King. Representative King sits on the Homeland Security Committee and he is joining me now from Long Island, New York. Mr. Congressman, good to see you.
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Thank you, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: You were against the proposal that avoids a government shutdown while defunding the president's health care reform. Listen to what you told our Dana Bash on Capitol Hill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We can't let the government shutdown, can't be kamikazes and can't be General Custer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: But then Congressman, yesterday, you voted for the measure and you even compared that measure to that suicide mission. So why did you ultimately vote for it?
KING: Because it was the only way to keep the process going, Ted Cruz and others in the Senate have said, if we sent this over to them that it would be successful in the Senate. I know it's not going to be. But otherwise, we now have gotten out of the House and now it goes to the Senate. The Senate I assume is going to strip it out, send it back to us, send another bill back to us, that's when the real negotiations begin.
WHITFIELD: So you're counting on those changes that would ultimately happen in the Senate. And you're OK with that, the portion that defunds the president's health care plan. Your bottom line is you want to keep the government going. Do you think you're going to like that Senate plan after those amendments are made, you and other House members that voted for the measure?
KING: I would hope so. I would hope the Senate even if some Republicans are not being responsible, that the Senate will be responsible, that they will send us a bill, which does keep the government open through December 15. Ones we can both agree on. I think if the Senate and the House leaders definitely want to negotiate, they can do it.
I am convinced John Boehner doesn't want to shut the government down. Eric Cantor doesn't want to shut the government down. This is opportunity, yesterday's vote, to let some people get it out of their system about Obamacare, but I'm hoping the Senate sends back a reasonable bill. If there are disagreements, let's start negotiating it right away to get this resolved by September 30 or October 1st.
WHITFIELD: Many Americans are getting confused about this, you're saying you believe Cantor and Boehner want to keep the government going, but they're on board with this plan that says there has to be a contingency plan, that Obama's health care has to go to keep the government going. How can you have it both ways?
KING: Yes, the situation like Ted Cruz put us in. They have gone around convincing grass roots Republicans that we can just defund Obamacare. If yesterday's bill was not sent to the Senate, I know it sounds confusing, there's no way anything moves forward. I hope now that it is in the Senate, we can let real negotiations begin.
The Senate will send back something reasonable, and whatever differences can be worked out by October 1st. It is not the way to run the government, the way it should be done. It is trying to make the best of a bad situation created by people like Ted Cruz and Mike Lee.
WHITFIELD: You called Ted Cruz a fraud, yet he seems to be getting a lot of support, if Boehner and Cantor are on board with his plan, and you use the word reasonable, too, and that's where I guess it seems difficult to discern, whose idea is reasonable.
WHITFIELD: Well, first of all, as you know last week John Boehner did not want to include this in the continuing resolution, it was only done as a way to get the bill out of the House and let the Senate see if they can get it done. Ted Cruz said if we sent it to the Senate, it would get done. Now it will go to the Senate, see it can't be done.
It will show he was being fraudulent all summer pedalling the false story that somehow it can be resolved in the Senate and we can get back to real serious business. It again is not the way it should be done. It is a situation the House was put in. I went along yesterday with the purpose of moving forward and hopefully exposing small group of Republican senators that are holding the entire Congress hostage.
WHITFIELD: Before I let you go, Congressman King, you feel confident the government will continue to keep operating after October 1, that a deal can be reached?
KING: I believe so. I know a solid majority of House Republicans do not want the House to shut down in any way. We will do whatever we can, whatever has to be done, we'll see. I am confident that the House will not shut down, and if it does, then it is a real black eye for all of us.
WHITFIELD: All right, Congressman Peter King, thanks so much for your time this Saturday. I appreciate it.
KING: Thank you, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right, coming up in the 1:00 Eastern hour, we'll hear from yet another side, a Democrat, David Scott, from Georgia, a state where Home Depot and UPS have already changed health care plans for thousands of workers ahead of the new law. Congressman David Scott live in the NEWSROOM next hour.
Unarmed citizens gunned down by police officers. It happened on a New Orleans bridge, right after Hurricane Katrina. The cops were convicted, but just days ago this week a shocking twist. Our legal guys are next on this story and case.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, HOST, CNN'S "NEXT LIST": This week on the "NEXT LIST," putting ideas to work. Jim Newton is a lifelong do-it- yourselfer who is passionate about making.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Humans were made to make things. That's why we have thumbs. We have gotten away from making so much. There's that instinctive drive for people to create.
GUPTA: It is one of the reasons he started "Tech Shop." It's an innovation workshop where members can have access to the tools they need to bring their ideas to light.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see them say well, I really can do this. This is stunning. They're stunned. GUPTA: And Graham Hill, the designer, entrepreneur who believes people would be a lot happier with less.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love things and I love having great things, but I don't want too many and I don't want to be overwhelmed.
GUPTA: Hill built his dream micro apartment by crowd sourcing design on the internet and got amazing ideas. The best part of living with less is more freedom. I am Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Join me this Saturday at 2:30 Eastern on the "NEXT LIST."
WHITFIELD: In the chaos following Hurricane Katrina, five police officers shoot and kill unarmed citizens on Danziger Bridge in New Orleans. Two people were killed and four seriously wounded. The officers were convicted of civil rights violations and sentenced up to 65 years in prison. Eight years later, a federal judge throws out the guilty verdicts and orders a retrial, citing, quote, "grotesque prosecutorial misconduct."
Let's bring our legal guys, Avery Friedman, a civil rights attorney and law professor, joining us from Chicago today, and Richard Herman, a New York criminal defense attorney and law professor joining us from Las Vegas. All right, good to see both of you. OK, so Avery, you first, explain what happened here.
AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: This is an amazing story, Fredricka. A 129-page opinion by a federal district judge, many years after convictions, and you're right, it was up to 65 years for dirty cops that were going to jail. But what the federal district judge found there was prosecutorial misconduct of such extent that the court had to vacate the judgment and these dirty cops will be retried again, but significantly the court in 129 pages talked about something called the taint team.
What these Justice Department officials were doing was sending in phony names to the web site associated with the main newspaper in New Orleans, incriminating information, possible leaks, in other words taint so that it would affect the jury pool and fairness. That's what was so appalling to the federal judge, Fredricka, the judge was right, these convictions had to be vacated and there's going to be a brand new trial coming up.
WHITFIELD: Richard, it was something leading up to that case for people to hear justice, so many were outraged something like this happened, especially in the face of tragedy. But now will there be a retrial, how difficult is it to pick up the pieces and start all over again?
RICHARD HERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Emotionally it is devastating, Fred. Can you imagine families having to relive the scenario again? However, Department of Justice will have the moment of truth here. Do they want to proceed again with another trial or will they not have another trial. I don't know how it is going to play out, Fred, but the significance of the reversal by the judge on appeal is just amazing.
It is so rare that something like this would ever happen, and it did. It is because of these win at all costs prosecutors. You can't have that in our system. It is a direct violation of the department of justice rules and regulations to seek to taint a jury pool intentionally, and we see in high profile criminal cases where information is leaked to the press.
Well, who do you think is leaking this, Fred, it is so wrong, and if you look at the conviction rates in federal courts through the United States. They begin at 90 percent conviction rates. It is tough for the defense to begin with. When you have rogue prosecutors like this who won't even but their names attached to it, but do it to taint the jury pool, it is outrageous, the judge made a brave decision here.
WHITFIELD: You talk about it, Richard, reopening a wound. In fact, the brother of one of the shooting victims says this decision reopens a terrible wound not only for our family, but for our entire community.
We'll see you again in 20 minutes, gentlemen, we will talk about another case, how a Facebook like suddenly got much more important. The founding fathers never saw this one coming, Facebook and the first amendment coming up.
And a terrifying attack unfolding now at an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Police are desperately trying to contain the situation and free hostages. We will get the latest after the break.
WHITFIELD: A deadly ambush and hostage crisis at an upscale shopping mall in Kenya. Gunmen stormed the mall, firing shots everywhere. At least 11 people are dead. A security agent tell CNN that the violence point to a terrorist attack. Police are frantically trying to rescue hostages. The Army joined the search to secure all the floors of the shopping mall.
And in that shopping mall or at least in the parking garage of the shopping mall at the time of that shooting was Sara Head. She's an American who is actually doing business in Kenya, and she's joining us right now from Nairobi via Skype.
So Sara, so glad that you're OK. You were with us last hour to describe this terrifying event. You were in the shopping mall garage when you all heard three gunshots and then what happened?
HEAD: I just sort of stood there. I originally thought it was a car accident. I saw people running and honestly, I didn't know what was going on. I saw several people start to go underneath cars. My colleague told me it was gunshots and to get behind or underneath something. I crawled behind cars, I was underneath cars. Then the driver who was with us said we should run. So we all ran away from the shots and toward the stairwell. I thought if we go one level up into the stairwell, we exit the garage --
WHITFIELD: So sorry, we have an interruption in the Skype call from Sara Head. She had been describing how they were in the garage just one level below the shopping mall and heard shots fired, heard her describe people in the group to say run. They eventually found their way in a stairwell where they kind of took safety for about an hour and a half.
When we tried to re-establish the connection with her, we will let her pick up the story from there. Again, police remain on the scene as well as Army personnel trying to release whatever hostages that still may be there at the shopping mall in Nairobi.
Back in this country now, after a downturn in violent deaths this year, Chicago has experienced a second night with at least 11 people shot. Thursday 13 people were hit, including a 3-year-old Deonte Howard. The shooting took place at a Southside Park. No one was killed, but as I mentioned, that little boy was shot.
In the last 24 hours, more gunfire, and this time there are deaths to report. Reporter Randi Belisomo from Chicago affiliate WGN is on the phone with us now. So Randi, what can you tell us about the shooting that took place last night? Was it in any way related to what happened Thursday?
RANDI BELISOMO, WGN REPORTER (via telephone): Not from what we know, Fredricka. We went to the 14-year-old's home this morning. The mother understandably upset and didn't want to speak with us, shot in the back and killed. He walks from his home, shot in the back. And very close to an event that the community activists pastor here tout as part of the solution, a basketball tournament held in the church's gym.
This time two days after a mass shooting, 13 people, including a 3- year-old, and yesterday afternoon after the shooting of that teenage boy, today's basketball games get started in the next half hour, they're getting guys from rival sides of the community to play each other, gang members essentially against other gang members taking part in an activity together, doing so peacefully.
Security is tight where I am. Buses are picking the guys up, bringing them here so they don't have to cross enemy territory, another gang's turf. Last year everything went off without a hitch, and 2,000 packed the bleachers. Fans are also here to see sports celebrities, former NBA player and coach and West Sider Isaiah Thomas here to encourage peace in the neighborhood and Joaquin Noah, doing something positive at the end of an incredibly violent week in Chicago.
WHITFIELD: Terribly sad situation. All right, thanks so much, Randi, for that update.
We're going to have much more on the shooting taking place in Nairobi, Kenya at a shopping mall. We're trying once again to reach out to an American doing business in Kenya who was caught in the crossfire. Much more right after this.
WHITFIELD: Deadly ambush and hostage crisis at an upscale shopping mall in Kenya. Gunmen stormed the mall, firing shots everywhere. At least 11 people are dead. A security agent tells CNN that the violence points to a terrorist attack. Police are trying to frantically rescue hostages. The Army joined the search to secure all floors of the shopping mall.
At that shopping mall at the time of the shooting was an American there on business, her name is Sara Head. We talked to her a short moment before the break and we lost signal, she's back with us now via Skype. So Sara, how far are you staying from where all this took place at the shopping mall?
HEAD: I'm several miles away. I had gone out for a meeting. I don't have business currently in that area of town. From what I hear, it is a relatively safe area and the mall is a pretty busy one.
WHITFIELD: Sorry, from your vantage point now, you can't hear anything or see any type of activity at the mall?
HEAD: That's right. That's right. And when I left it originally, I continued walking as far away from it as I could get.
WHITFIELD: So last we left off before we lost the signal, you and some others were in the stairwell, there you stayed about an hour and a half before you finally felt like it was OK to make it to the ground level outside where the shopping mall is and where the entrance is. When you got to that mall level, what did you see and experience?
HEAD: When we finally got out to the shopping center or actually to the supermarket, people were telling us to be quiet. I was pretty afraid it was unsafe to exit, but I did anyway. There were still employees of the supermarket who were standing there, to some degree directing us to exit. There was blood on the floor, not a substantial amount, but drops that looked like someone that had been wounded had either walked or been carried out of the supermarket, the same path we were taking.
We walked through the hardware section and grocery section and onto their sort of storeroom or stock room, then out the loading dock area where we eventually saw crowds of people milling about, two or three police officers with weapons. There were definitely camera men. Once we made it to the street, I just continued to walk and picked up running after I got, you know, where I didn't feel I had to stay quiet any longer, I guess, I picked up running at that point with my colleague and the driver who was with us.
WHITFIELD: Of all of the people you just described, who did you feel like you could trust or was it an issue of you really didn't know who to trust. Whose direction should you really be taking in all of the chaos?
HEAD: No, I don't think anyone -- I didn't trust anyone, not that I was suspicious of anyone either, I just didn't feel like anyone knew what was going on. And I also really didn't know that exiting through the supermarket was OK. I lingered in the stairwell before I actually did decide to go out, and I'm not, since I wasn't at that door when it opened and people originally decided to exit the supermarket, into the supermarket, I am not sure who made the decision, who originally guided us out there, but no, I didn't -- I felt like no one really knew what was going on.
There was at one point in the stairwell where someone, and there were definitely mall security guards, I didn't speak with any of them, but there was at one point a woman in the stairwell that told us please stop making phone calls, just text your relatives, please turn off your phones, please be quiet. I think people were fearful if someone on the other side of the stairwell heard us that they might somehow enter or, I don't know, look for us or something.
HEAD: So no, I didn't feel like, I personally did not feel like there were many people who knew what was going on there in the stairwell with me.
WHITFIELD: Sara Head, we're glad you're OK. What an incredible experience you had there at the shopping mall while on business in Nairobi, Kenya. Thanks so much, continue to be safe.
Also on the phone with us now, Uche Kaigwa Okoye, who was also in the shopping mall at the time of the shooting. And I understand that you and others were hiding in a bathroom when you heard the shooting?
UCHE KAIGWA OKOYE, TRAPPED IN MALL DURING SHOOTING (via telephone): Yes, that's true. We were hiding in the ladies bathroom on the first floor.
WHITFIELD: And how did this all unfold for you. How did it all begin?
OKOYE: Well, it began, I was having coffee upstairs, and then we heard something sounded like a table had fallen or something, then we heard it repetitively, and it got really loud. So I went to check off the balcony to look down and then the gunshots got really loud. People started screaming and running for exits. I ran as well, I heard gunshots and didn't know where to go. Then we heard gunshots, now we knew they were no longer on the ground floor, they were on our floor. Then we started backing up and just after that, they were firing shots down the corridor where we were. We quickly entered the toilet, hid in one of the cubicles.
WHITFIELD: And so Uche, this is a shopping mall you would frequent. You have been there many times to meet with friends, have a coffee, or even shop?
OKOYE: Yes, absolutely, yes. It is a very metropolitan place. They have cafes. They have all kinds of shops and all kinds of amenities. They even had star jump, trampoline for kids, and unfortunately, people were killed up there as well.
WHITFIELD: It is very sad. We understand last count 11 people may have been killed. We also understand reportedly there's a hostage situation ongoing. When you left, did you understand there were people still held there against their will?
OKOYE: Definitely. They were in the supermarket and we knew that. There were people being held there. The people who were scattered around the mall ran to safety and every now and then, you know, we had people come in from the men's toilet into the ladies toilet. They have different accounts based on where they came from. Some people who ran from downstairs upstairs, some ran all the way upstairs and came back downstairs, piecing it together. Everyone is saying people were being held captive in the supermarket downstairs, which also has an upstairs first floor.
WHITFIELD: What were you all saying to one another, all of you strangers, now in the situation and I am sure because there was so much chaos. It was difficult to know whose side everybody was on.
WHITFIELD: Can you hear me OK, Uche?
OKOYE: I lost you for a second. You were saying?
WHITFIELD: I was wondering, you said you and others would end up in the bathroom, there were men coming into the women's bathroom, et cetera, but then I wonder about your own personal fear if you were worried about who was coming in, you know, into the bathroom, whether these people were on your side or whether, you know, it was somebody who was posing danger.
OKOYE: Absolutely. We were really scared. Every sound sounded scary. We couldn't make out sounds, they had grenades. It was really, really loud. All of us felt like they were close. We heard gunshots down the corridor. When people came into the bathroom, they told them to get on their knees, walk on their knees out of the bathroom, and told they were safe.
We were being told by people that were texting outside not to trust anybody and certainly people that entered could be a threat. So at all points I was actually not looking at any of the people that came in, I didn't want to. Never left the booth of one of the toilet cubicles, completely shut it.
WHITFIELD: How did you eventually get out, Uche?
OKOYE: We waited until there were about 20 police officers on our floor. He was sort of talking to us and helping us figure out where they were staying. When the police started to fire, you don't know who is firing. There was exchange of gunshots. Then they came in, said to put our hands up, came out in single file. They tossed our bags away, and we were made to walk single file all the way out. We got a bit better picture of what was happening. It was more confirmation really because we had a pretty accurate assumption of what was happening. Bullets hit the wall. We knew pretty much OK, they're shooting. WHITFIELD: Very frightening situation. Uche, thank you so much. I'm glad you're OK. We appreciate your account of all that is taking place. We understand still there's a hostage situation still ongoing there at the shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, Westgate Shopping Mall. When we get more updates, we will bring that to you. Again, at least 11 people killed. Much more right after this.
WHITFIELD: Deadly ambush and hostage crisis an upscale shopping mall in Kenya. Gunmen stormed the mall, firing shots everywhere. At least 11 people are dead. A security agent tells CNN that the violence points to a terrorist attack. Police are frantically trying to rescue hostages. The Army has joined the search to secure all the floors of that shopping mall.
WHITFIELD: According to the U.S. Census, more than half the children in this country are growing up without their fathers at home. Today's "CNN Hero" overcame a lot in his own life and is trying to turn deadbeat dads into responsible, loving fathers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I sold drugs on and off throughout my life. The tattoos when I first got them was war pain. I didn't think about my son, I did not think about my family, they did not exist. I have not met one man who didn't want to be a good dad. They just don't know how to be good dads.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What male helped to shape who you are.
JOE JONES, COMMUNITY CRUSADER: We help young men that didn't have fathers in their own lives and cycle of father absence repeated. We want them to change that for their children.
I am Joe Jones. I work to help fathers and families become responsible for themselves, their children, their communities. I was 9 years old when my dad left the house. I began using drugs when I was 13. I spent time in jail consistently and also had a son that I wasn't responsible for.
There's no reason why you can't get out of the hole, regardless of what your circumstances are. I am telling you. There aren't many spaces in the community men can go that are safe and constructive and healthy. We go to the street. You have to penetrate the community.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can make mistakes but you can cover the mistakes. Joe allowed me to find and restore my dignity.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We currently have six classes left for you to take. You're almost done.
JONES: That's one of the greatest things you can offer anyone. You see someone and they got that pride, that light in their eye is relit. Their potential is unlimited, showing their little boys and girls what it means to be a man and what it means to be a dad.