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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Fort Hood Base Commander: Investigators Searching For A "Trigger Event" That Led To Shooting; Waiting For Australian Officials To Hold Conference On Malaysian Flight 370; Deadly Fort Hood Shooting; Man Behind Deadly Rampage; Storm and Tornado Threats; Fort Hood Shooting Casualties; A Look at PTSD
Aired April 3, 2014 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm John Berman sitting in for Anderson Cooper. There's a lot happening right now. We're following some very dangerous weather, flooding, tornadoes, that could cause some big trouble deep into the night.
This is what it looks like right now not far from Dallas where local authorities have just reported a tornado touching down. A confirmed tornado hitting Osage County in Missouri as well. Nearly 48 million Americans are in this risk area and Chad Myers will be joining us shortly to give us the latest information.
Also we're expecting new information about the search for Flight 370. We begin, though, with Fort Hood and breaking news. We are learning more now about the man who killed three and wounded 16 before killing himself. Investigators have been turning Army Specialist Ivan Lopez's life inside out looking for what brought him on post with his own private mission to kill.
We're learning too about how the shootings unfolded moment by moment and how the aftermath is being so very deeply felt in the Fort Hood extended family.
Let's go first, though, to justice correspondent Pamela Brown with the latest on the investigation.
And, Pamela, the big question tonight is one of motive. What are we learning about the why? Why Ivan Lopez went on this rampage?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that is the big question, John. Investigators still trying to figure out what the trigger was. But we're learning from sources that they're looking into whether he was angry over canceled leave, they're looking into whether that might have played a role. Also General Milley spoke here earlier today, the general of Fort Hood. He said that there was a possible verbal altercation between Lopez and another soldier right before the shooting happened. So they're looking at that as well.
But General Milley making it clear here that Lopez's long history of mental instability was a fundamental underlying cause of what happened here yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have an active shooter currently on Fort Hood.
BROWN: 4:00 p.m. Wednesday Specialist Ivan Lopez walked into the First Medical Brigade Building on base, opening fire on his fellow soldiers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Take shelter immediately.
BROWN: The base immediately goes on lockdown just after the first 911 call is made at 4:16 according to military officials.
LT. GEN. MARK MILLEY, COMMANDER, FORT HOOD: That call was made by two wounded soldiers who themselves demonstrated heroism and presence of mind to go ahead and make a 911 call.
BROWN: But witnesses say Lopez isn't finished. He gets into a vehicle and fires off more shots, then walks into a second administrative building and opens fire on soldiers there. Fear sweeps across the base.
TYLER, EYEWITNESS: It literally looks as if you were going into a room and turned on a light and there were a bunch of bugs and they just scattered. Everyone instantly went to their rooms, locked their doors, and you could just feel the intensity and the sense of fear in the area.
BROWN: Within 15 minutes, local police arrive on the scene surrounding the base.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have some people on the ground. We have multiple gunshot victims. We also have people that are escaping through windows.
BROWN: Outside in a park lot, a military police officer confronts Lopez. He walks toward her, raises his hands in the air, then suddenly reaches into his jacket and pulls out his gun.
MILLEY: She saw that, interpreted that as a threat, correctly so, and then engaged him with small arms fire, at which time then the shooter did a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
BROWN: Tens of thousands of people remain hunkered down in fear while police search every building. Nearly six hours after the shooting began the all-clear is given. Four people are dead, including Lopez, 16 more injured, rushed away on stretchers to the hospital. Tonight some remain in serious condition. But the general of Fort Hood says selfless acts of heroism likely prevented this from being an even bigger tragedy.
MILLEY: There were folks inside some of these buildings who performed very heroic personal acts in saving others. There's at least one chaplain that I'm aware of that shielded and saved other soldiers.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: And John, we're learning from sources that Lopez's wife has been cooperating with authorities. She has been since last night. Also we know the FBI and army investigators are looking through Lopez's computers, cell phones, talking to witnesses trying to figure out what the motive was. But at this point General Milley telling us that there appears to be no clear connection between Lopez and his victims.
BERMAN: All right. Pamela Brown at Fort Hood for us. Thank you so much.
As always in the immediate aftermath of one of these tragedies there is intense focus on the shooter. We all understand that. But we don't want to overlook the people who lost their lives or had their lives change forever. At the end of the day it's their stories that should be remembered, not some killer's.
So tonight we remember Army Sergeant Timothy Owens, one of the three killed yesterday. He grew up in Illinois and Missouri. In a statement released to 360 his family says he was outgoing and enjoyed taekwondo. They say he was going to make the army his career. He's survived by a wife and two children. Sergeant Timothy Owens was 37.
We don't yet know much about the other two fatalities nor many of those injured. We do know that those who love wounded Major Patrick Miller have been talking to social media. They say he's been through a pair of operations so far to repair a stomach wound and is doing much better. Major Miller has been in the Army since 2003 and served two tours of duty in Iraq.
That said, there does continue to be new information at least for now on the man who did this. It will take time for the pieces of his life to become more fully known and longer still if at all to figure out how they factored into this rampage. Some things are just unknowable. For the moment they're fragmentary, preliminary, contradictory and emerging as we speak.
Let's get the latest now from Miguel Marquez.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The hours leading up to Specialist Ivan Lopez's deadly rampage gave no hint of what was to come.
(On camera): So you see him coming down the stairs, he says good-bye and that's the last you saw of him hours before the attack?
AYESHA BRADLEY, NEIGHBOR: Yes.
MARQUEZ: Ayesha Bradley says Lopez moved into this off-base apartment building about a month ago. He, his wife and young daughter were friendly, approachable and in every way, she says, normal.
(On camera): You've said hello to him, you've talked to him?
MARQUEZ: What did he -- what did he seem like?
BRADLEY: He seemed pretty fine, happy. He didn't seem like, you know, the type that would do what he did.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): At 12:30, just minutes later Lopez paid the rent, added his wife's name to the lease, and left. Still no sign of trouble.
Command Sergeant Major Nelson Bigas worked closely with Lopez for more than a year and a half.
SGT. MAJOR NELSON BIGAS, PUERTO RICO NATIONAL GUARD: He was one of my best soldiers in the organization. And he has the dynamic leadership. Specialist Lopez was an outstanding soldier with great initiative. He showed great leadership and a very great military discipline.
MARQUEZ: Lopez spent nine years in the Puerto Rico National Guard, one year with an observer force in Egypt's Sinai Desert. In 2011 he served four months driving trucks in Iraq, he went on to Fort Bliss near El Paso, and in February he transitioned here to Fort Hood.
JOHN MCHUGH, ARMY SECRETARY: He had a clean record in terms of his behavioral, no outstanding bad marks for any kinds of major misbehaviors that we are yet aware of.
MARQUEZ: Yet there were concerns lurking just beneath the surface. Lopez asked for help with PTSD, but had yet to be diagnosed with it.
MILLEY: We have very strong evidence that he had a medical history that indicates unstable psychiatric or psychological condition.
MARQUEZ: Lopez had been prescribed powerful anti-depressants and the sleep drug Ambien. He was getting help.
MCHUGH: He was seen just last month by a psychiatrist. He was fully examined. And as of this morning, we had no indication on the record of that examination, if there was any sign of likely violence either to himself or to others, no suicidal ideation.
MARQUEZ: The gun Lopez used in his killing spree, a Smith & Wesson .45 like this one. It was purchased legally and properly, sources say, on March 1st at Guns Galore here in Killeen. It's the same place Major Nidal Hasan purchased his semiautomatic pistol before his 2009 rampage. Even though Lopez bought his gun legally the military says any gun on base must be registered. His was not.
BERMAN: Miguel Marquez joins us now from Fort Hood in Texas.
And, Miguel, the authorities have been pretty clear here. They do not think that Lopez had any connection to any kind of terror groups, correct? MARQUEZ: They are saying that outright, that everything that they are looking into right now there is no indication of that. They can't even tell whether this is a premeditated attack at the moment. They do are checking out claims that there was an argument with some of the soldiers beforehand. The gun they say was legally purchased.
Why he brought it onto this base, though, yesterday is not clear. At this point they can't say it's premeditated and no ties to terror -- John.
BERMAN: All right. Miguel Marquez with us on the man behind this all. Thanks so much, Miguel.
I want to quickly update you now on some dangerous weather including in parts of Texas. Let's turn right away to Chad Myers in the weather center.
Chad, we understand that there was just a confirmed tornado touched down near the area of Denton, north of Dallas. What can you tell us about this?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's about an hour ago, just south of the town of Crum just west of Denton, very close to the Denton Airport. So I'm sure we'll get very quick responses there on how much damage was caused.
John, this storm is so big, there's snow on the north side and there's severe weather on the south side. And that's not all that unusual for that to happen. But from St. Louis all the way down to Dallas, Texas, tonight we have the potential for severe weather. The biggest threat right now is near Belle, Missouri. That's that storm right there.
And Belle, Missouri, you are under a tornado warning. If you can hear me, you see me, get inside the house. Get away from windows, get under something sturdy. This storm is rotating.
Now, just to keep in mind, if this storm stays together and it continues to move to the northeast like it's going, St. Louis, you're a couple hours away but it's certainly not out of the question that that could be in your neighborhood. Not all that long, probably after your sun set. All the way back down to Springfield, Missouri, we're seeing storms.
And every one of these storms, John, tonight could get stronger. But each one of them, if it's all by itself it's called a supercell thunderstorm. Not when they line up but when they become a supercell thunderstorm they could rotate enough to put down a tornado. And the most dangerous tornadoes are the ones that happen when you're sleeping.
BERMAN: And, Chad, you said each one of these storms could get stronger.
BERMAN: Is this situation going to continue throughout the night? MYERS: Without a doubt, each one of these storms because we're waiting. Look, how far -- I'm almost down to Texas here. This is now Oklahoma. Every storm tonight could get bigger because the energy from the west, over near Amarillo right now, is coming into these storms. If these storms get more vigorous with that cold air aloft, now think about this. If you have a hot air balloon and you put more air in it it's going to go hot up -- and it's going to go higher faster.
But if you have the same hot air balloon but you make the air above it colder, it's also going to go up faster. And that's what this energy out west does. It's going to make the air above it get colder, and so these bubbles of air that are thunderstorms will want to go up more vigorously. And that could cause them to rotate. And that could cause more tornadoes -- John.
BERMAN: All right. Good information, Chad Myers, and some ominous pictures from Texas and beyond. We will stay on this all night.
Meanwhile, though, we're going to return to Fort Hood next. We'll check in on how the survivors are doing and tell you about some of the people who prevented a bad situation from turning much worse.
And later, we are expecting new information in the search for Flight 370. Officials expected to brief reporters in a little bit. So stand by for that.
We'll also have the very latest from search headquarters when 360 continues.
BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone.
Ivan Lopez took three lives before taking his own. He wounded 16 others. He had far more besides. The military is, in many ways, a large extended family. It grieves like one both in war time and in these times.
A family that mourns the fallen and pulls for the wounded has so many around Fort Hood are doing tonight.
Ed Lavandera is at the main gate and joins us now with the latest on the surviving victims.
Ed, what more do we know about the wounded at this point and their condition?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, as you said so well there, so many people really clinging to any kind of information they can get at this point and really pulling for all of those victims that are hospitalized last night.
There is several amounts of good news on this front. There were nine of these victims that were taken to a hospital nearby Temple, Texas, which is about a 30-minute drive from here. Five of those patients have already been discharged. And the three that we were most concerned about, three soldiers that were in critical condition have been upgraded to serious. So there seems to be some good movement there.
There are also three sole years that are being held at the hospital on post here at Fort Hood. But we're not aware of the conditions of those three soldiers. But many of the people who -- some of them suffered several gunshot wound. There were other people who were -- hurt and injured with broken glass and that sort of thing.
And one of the victims that we do know about, shooting victims who has survived is a man by the name of Major Patrick Miller. He is from Alleghany, New York. And his mother sent out a tweet earlier today saying, please say prayers for my son. He joined the Army back in 2003, got his master's in business from Syracuse University. So a lot of people pulling for all of these soldiers very intently here in the Fort Hood community tonight -- John.
BERMAN: Everyone's pulling for them. And it is good news as some of their conditions do seem to be improving.
Ed, General Milley earlier today made a point of saying that many of those who were hurt could be the most important witnesses in the investigation. Have any of those who have been released been talking to authorities yet?
LAVANDERA: We suspect that that has been going on. Obviously it depends on the conditions and some of these patients and victims' ability to speak with investigators and whether or not they're ready. But as you mentioned, one of the things that the general had mentioned this afternoon as well is that there's a strong possibility that the shooting -- that what led up to it was an argument between Ivan Lopez and another soldier.
So perhaps one of these victims witnessed something that they can shed a lot of light as to what exactly transpired there. So obviously speaking to these people directly will be a key into piecing everything together there in those final moments leading up to the shooting.
BERMAN: Some of the key information they want to find out as these victims recover and as this entire community recovers.
Ed Lavandera for us at Fort Hood, thanks so much.
I want to turn now to Dr. Matthew Davis, director of Trauma at Scott & White Memorial Hospital where many of the wounded were rushed to right after the shooting. Three patients are still being cared for tonight.
Dr. Davis, thank you so much for joining us, taking the time to talk to us. Wonder if you could tell us the latest conditions of those who are still in your care.
DR. MATTHEW DAVIS, DIRECTOR OF TRAUMA, SCOTT & WHITE MEMORIAL HOSPITAL: Sure, John. Thanks for having me on. I really appreciate it. Tonight we have four remaining in the hospital here at Scott & White. We have one who's in good condition and was potentially slated to be discharged today but due to some late testing will probably stay until tomorrow.
We also have three that were the ones that were initially listed as critical and have since been upgraded to serious. And I'm happy to report that those are doing well. They're stable and have been improving continuously since they've been here.
BERMAN: Well, that is wonderful news, Dr. Davis. Is it too soon to know if all those who are wounded will be able to make a full recovery?
DAVIS: I think that it's too soon to know that on at least a couple of them. We may have some long-term issues that may require some rehab. There may be some long-term potential disability for one of two of them. It's a little bit too early for me to say whether or not that's absolutely going to be the case but we're concerned about that and we've been directing our efforts towards detecting ways that we can prevent any kind of long-term disability right now.
We are also concerned clearly about not just their physical state but their emotional state. And we're working on that as well.
BERMAN: Indeed. No, understandable. I know this has been a dramatic 24 hours from you. We also know again from General Milley that some of the most important witnesses to this crime may be some of those people who have been in and out of your doors over the last 24 hours. Have you been able to learn anything from them about what went on, on this post?
DAVIS: You know, I think -- I don't have any real specifics on that. I believe there are military investigators that have been speaking with some of them. And General Milley may be able to speak to that question a little bit more thoroughly. All I will say is that, you know, in the very brief conversations that I've had with them, which were just kind of their general comments, it was just that it was a shocking episode, it felt very surreal, it was a very unexpected thing in the middle of a workday. And beyond that, the details of this shooting I'm not privy to all those details right now.
BERMAN: Yes, I understand. Shocking and surreal. What makes it even more shocking and more surreal, Dr. Davis, is what this community went through five years ago in 2009 and what you went through five years ago in 2009 at this hospital, treating patients in another shooting rampage.
You know, what went through your mind when you heard that there was another shooting at Fort Hood? When you heard there were going to be more patients coming to your hospital?
DAVIS: Yes. I think the first thought was a little bit of disbelief. You know, I think we had -- we felt that the first event went fairly well from a health care perspective here. And we've obviously taken that episode seriously and have worked really hard to be able to respond to a similar event in the future. But you never really think that something like that's going to happen again. This is something that we're really all shocked about. But once the reality of the situation kind of set in then everybody had a job to do and we got down to work. And that job was to take care of our patients.
I want to say that I think there's been a tremendous amount of cooperation between Darnell Army Community Hospital as well as the regional firefighters, paramedics who were on the scene, and Scott & white is a level one trauma center. And I want to congratulate those individuals on their hard work. And I think they saved many lives yesterday.
BERMAN: I think there are a lot of people who want to congratulate you tonight on the phenomenal work you've been doing. We only hear great things about your facility. So thank you. And you know, I think it's safe to say we all hope you never have to go through something like this again.
Dr. Davis, thanks.
BERMAN: Ahead, what role if any did post-traumatic stress play in Ivan Davis' rampage -- Ivan Lopez's rampage? We'll explore the subject with Dr. Sanjay Gupta and retired Major General Spider Marks ahead.
And later we will update you on the search for Flight 370 from Western Australia where new information is expected shortly.
That and we continue to follow the breaking news on the tornadoes hitting the midsection of this country. Another one just reported moments ago in Missouri. This is what it looks like there right now. This is Mansfield, Missouri. We'll bring you the latest information about this touchdown straight ahead.
BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. Throughout this latest Fort Hood tragedy, Commanding General Mark Milley has been called on to deliver the worst news imaginable. But today he also delivered some welcome details on the servicemen and women, some of them tested in combat, who rose to the occasion here at home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MILLEY: There were folks inside some of these buildings who performed very heroic personal acts in saving others. There's at least one chaplain that I'm aware of that shielded and saved other soldiers, broke some windows, got them to safety.
I think the performance of the medical staff, the initial performance of medical staff at Darnell was exceptional. And I've seen a lot of medical staffs perform in combat. And the performance at Darnell and the performance at Scott & white easily rose to those levels of combat standards.
At 1616 hours yesterday is the first 911 call. That call was made by two wounded soldiers who in and of themselves demonstrated heroism and presence of mind to go ahead and make a 911 call.
You've got an installation that's strong, that's resilient, were professional soldiers. A very high percentage of combat veterans here. So the morale of soldiers is serious, it's professional, and we're going about our duties to take care of this and move on and take care of the families.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: As we have been reporting, the Fort Hood shooter served in the Iraq war but his records show that he was not directly involved in combat.
Ivan Lopez was being treated for depression and anxiety, and although he was not officially diagnosed with post-traumatic stress or post- traumatic stress disorder -- it matters what you call it, we'll talk about that in a second -- he was in the process of being evaluated for it.
We may never know if PTSD was a factor in this incident. Just last month a psychiatric evaluation showed no sign that he was a danger to himself or a danger to others.
So joining me now to talk about this, chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and CNN military analyst Major General James "Spider" Marks.
And, Sanjay, I want to start with you. We know Army Specialist Lopez had behavioral and mental issues and was in the process of being evaluated for PTSD. General Milley said he was in the system.
Generally speaking, can you explain the evaluation process here? How long it takes, what this entails?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Sure. You know, while there is screening effort for a lot of returning soldiers, the first step oftentimes is they have to identify if they may be having some of these symptoms and seek out an evaluation. So that's an important first step.
It can take some time to get an evaluation when you're actually going through this. Unlike a routine physical exam, a thorough evaluation for PTSD can take a couple of hours. So it's pretty intensive once they do it. You're looking for evidence of some sort of trauma, either real or perceived threat that you may have had. You sort of re-immerse yourself in this or you re-experience it. You may be having avoidance type things.
And ultimately there's a change in mood that affects how you conduct your life. But they have to sort of evaluate for all of this. What was the trauma, how long ago did it occur? And it can take some time for the symptoms to develop. So it's tough sometimes.
I will point out, just real quick, John. The science has emerged. There are now more objective findings in the brain that can be imaged to show what PTSD looks like in the brain. There are researchers who are looking for genetic predispositions.
Two soldiers see the same thing, have the same experience. Why does one develop PTSD and the other not? That's probably where the research is headed.
BERMAN: It's important research.
General Marks, you say that when soldiers come home from deployment it is standard procedure to go through medical and mental health evaluations in the span of first couple of weeks back with their units. Explain this to me.
GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Absolutely, John. What happens is, when a soldier comes back from deployment, whether it's deployment that's specifically in a combat or an extended deployment in a go-over and execute tasks in a very controlled environment, isolated from everybody else, isolated from their families in their home post, when you return the unit is held together. That's objective number one.
Primarily because all of your buddies and comrades that have been together during this period of stress as Sanjay has pointed out, they're the best indicators. They know what is abhorrent behavior, what seems to be a little bit different. So it's important to hold the unit together during this period of what we call reintegration.
Because you're going through an environment of extreme stress where you were extremely narrow and very deep where the throes and the complications of living are compartmentalized and moved to the side. You're in a very stressed environment, have missions to accomplish. So your focus gets very, very deep.
Now you're brought back into a world that's very chaotic, very broad. You're suddenly a lot more narrow and all over the map. Somebody's asking you to cut your lawn and you've got to go fill the car up with gas. Forty eight hours ago this didn't matter at all. Now it's the most important thing in my life.
This period of reintegration really forces the unit -- really encourages the unit to stay together and to evaluate each other. So it's important, and it's a requirement to go through this re- evaluation, this medical re-evaluation upon redeployment. It's mandated.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So is this period upon redeployment, this period right when you get back, Sanjay, is that the most important time here? Is that when you need to be screened or does being screened later help as well? I mean, Specialist Lopez served in Iraq three years ago.
GUPTA: Yes. Right. The time frame's a little bit difficult to sort of pinpoint, but I think there is some case to be made if you look at the science for screening later of as well. A couple of reasons. One is that some of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress may not appear for a month. Those are still considered the immediate symptoms a month later. But the longer-term, more chronic or persistent symptoms can take up to -- several months to develop. So I think it really does make the case that a screening is necessary probably upon return, but also a few months after that as well.
BERMAN: I think everyone wishes we were not having this discussion about this topic after an incident like this. But talking about post- traumatic stress in the military, Spider, is so important. I know it's so important to a lot of people in and out of the military. How we talk about it is important, too. I know a lot of veterans don't want it called post-traumatic stress disorder. They point out that it's not a disorder, it's an injury like getting your arm hurt. George W. Bush, the former president talked about this also. What are your thoughts about this?
MARKS: Completely concur. Sanjay is the expert to describe the difference between a disorder or an injury. Clearly, I would say that everyone suffers. When you're in this type of environment, everyone suffers and then everybody accommodates and can compartmentalize and can adjust to this type of post-traumatic stress. It's a matter of stress and how you handle that stress.
And I think it will evidence itself across the board in a whole bunch of different ways. To Sanjay's point, the fact that PTSD and the evaluation for PTSD might be better served later on really comes to the point of how often do -- the army is a peripatetic organization. You come back and star burst. You go in a whole bunch of different directions.
There are permanent change of order requirements. You move around. It should be, and I'm not certain that it is, a routine evaluation when soldiers have to be medically evaluated, which they are annually, that this become a very foundational piece of all of that.
BERMAN: We know about this case. They say Ivan Lopez was in the system, was a sign missed. We don't know yet. That will be discussed in the coming days to be sure. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, General James "Spider" Marks, thanks so much for having this discussion.
Coming up, we do have breaking news, tornadoes touching down both in Texas and Missouri. Look at these pictures right now. Tens of millions of people in the Central U.S. in the path of these powerful storm systems. We'll get the latest from meteorologist, Chad Myers, just ahead.
Also, the latest on the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. We'll take a look at what's being called a specific mission for one British ship. We are standing by for a news conference on the way from the man who's overseeing this entire search. We'll have a live report from Australia next.
BERMAN: I want to show you now these radar pictures of the Midwest. Those red areas bad, bad storms striking a large part of the country. Forty eight million people in this storm. This storm system's path. There have been confirmed tornado touchdowns in Missouri as well as in Texas. We are following this potentially damaging weather. We're going to check back in with Chad Myers in just a little bit.
Now the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. It is resuming in the Indian Ocean with 14 aircraft, nine ships, including a British vessel that will be conducting what's being called a specific search. Also expected to reach the search zone soon, an Australian ship that's equipped with U.S. technology to listen for pings from the black boxes.
We're also hearing there will be a news conference in the coming hours from the man who is heading up the search effort. Kyung Lah joins us now from Australia with the latest on this. Kyung, here we are 28 days into this. What's the latest on today's search effort?
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, today's search effort will have more assets in the area than we've seen. We've heard the prime minister of Australia say that we're still in the ramping up phase, and certainly the numbers evidence of that. You mentioned the 14 planes. There are up to ten military planes, four civilian plains, three of those civilian planes will have spotters aboard. Continue assets going into the search. There's also that British nuclear submarine as well as the "HMS Echo" -- John.
BERMAN: Interesting language, new language we heard today. The new British vessel the HMS Echo we're told will be conducting a specific search today. What does that mean? This about a specific location and if so what are they looking for?
LAH: That's a little unclear. We're hoping to learn much more about what the HMS Echo will be doing during that news conference with Angus Houston. What we do know is that the search is going to generally be in the area that it was yesterday. It is being divided into three specific locations of concentration. That's where they're going to be looking today.
BERMAN: All right, Kyung, there has been a lot of talk over the last several hours about this news conference from the people running this search. An operational news conference where we're expecting some new information. Can you tell us what this might be?
LAH: What we know is that this is really going to be the first substantial news conference being led by the man who is in charge of this entire operation. He did make comments when he took control on Sunday. But this is really going to be the first update, the first briefing that he's held with reporters since then ad so we are expecting we'll at least learn new details about how it's going so far. We have heard from the prime minister. He did point out yesterday, John, that it is something that is an enormous effort, a number of countries involved but still no debris.
BERMAN: Right. It will be very interesting for figure out what he has to say, including on that specific search by this British vessel. Kyung Lah, thanks so much for joining us.
Just a short time ago I spoke with Commander William Marks of the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet, which is taking part in this search.
BERMAN: Commander Marks, you know, we've been told to expect some kind of big operational news conference some point. Do you have any information about this? Have there been any developments that you've heard of? Any positive developments you think they might be announcing?
COMMANDER WILLIAM MARKS, ABOARD USS BLUE RIDGE (via telephone): Hello. It's about 7:30 in the morning here in the Western Pacific. So looking through the information that came in through last night I do not have any significant developments.
BERMAN: The HMS Echo we understand is now conducting a specific search, we're told. What exactly does that mean, a specific search and why now? Do they have any information that's letting them close in on a certain area?
MARKS: Well, right now we are making the best judgment call we can based on the life running out of the black box. So the Echo is out there. We also moved the Ocean Shield with cooperation with the Australian government that has the TPL, the towed pinger locator and the Blue Fin, the sonar side. So really the best thing we can do right now is put these assets in the best location, the best guess we have, and kind of let them go.
And so that's what we're doing now. I have not seen any conclusive evidence found of any debris or wreckage from the aircraft. So for now we just do the best we can and make the best estimate we can and put them out there.
BERMAN: A this point you said it's the best we can do. To be blunt here, are you just hoping to get lucky?
MARKS: Yes. We are. So the area is still hundreds of miles big and we fly every day our P8 and even back to the P3s. We've flown 300,000 square nautical miles of coverage. Until we get conclusive evidence of debris, it is just a guess.
BERMAN: Friday's search involves 14 planes, nine ships. What do you say to those people who will look at this and say, that may be a lot to you, but couldn't there be more?
MARKS: Yes, good question. When requested we'll provide the best assets we can. How much do you throw at this? I don't know. One thing is you've got to be careful. You don't want another accident out here. So there's been tremendous coordination of the air space management, water space management.
BERMAN: The Australian prime minister said today quote, "We cannot be certain of success." But do you and your team remain confident that you can find this plane?
MARKS: We all know and especially those pilots and the air crew that every time it takes off we have nine hours of search time. Nine more hours, 15,000, 16,000 square miles that we're going to cover that day. And every time it takes off, there's a little bit of hope and optimism. And every time we fly over something and get a hit on our radar, there's that little bit of hope that it could be a piece of evidence. That we can help get closure for these families and help solve this mystery. So the spirits are still pretty high. This is what we train for.
BERMAN: Commander Marks, we wish you the best of luck. Thank you for joining us.
MARKS: Thanks. Appreciate it.
BERMAN: We'll have much more on the search for Flight 370 coming up. We're going to check in with our panel of experts next.
Also I want you to look at this. Look at those threatening skies right now in St. Louis. There has been a tornado touch down in the area with more expected throughout the night. In just a little bit we'll check back in with our Chad Myers.
BERMAN: Two ships that could be crucial for the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 are arriving now in the search area. A British Navy ship and an Australian vessel to look for pings from the black boxes. We're also waiting for a news conference from the man who is now coordinating the search efforts in Australia.
So joining me now live talk about this, CNN aviation analyst and veteran private pilot, Miles O'Brien. David Gallo, CNN analyst and co-leader of the search for Air France Flight 447. He is currently the director of special projects in the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and CNN's safety analyst, David Soucie, author of "Why Planes Crash" and accident investigator.
David, let me start with you here. Just before the break, I spoke to Commander Marks of the Seventh Fleet. He basically told me -- they're just trying to get lucky here. Right now we're searching off the sides of the ship with the towed ping locater. Just trying to get lucky. Didn't inspire much confidence in me I have to say. Is that really the best they can do right now?
DAVID GALLO, CNN ANALYST: I know what he means. I know how it sounded. It didn't sound particularly -- didn't inspire confidence. But I know just what he means. That lacking any shred of evidence on the surface or the pings, you're hoping against hope you're going to put a vehicle in the water and hear something or find something on the surface. You can't take anything away from the dedication of those teams. They've got to be exhausted by now and yet they keep going because they understand the importance of finding that aircraft.
BERMAN: I'm sure they're doing whatever they can, David Gallo. Is there one piece of this equipment, towed pinger locater or Blue Fin submersible, which one of those is probably the most helpful right now? GALLA: Well, right now I think it's the towed pinger, TPL, because it's got the ability to listen for that pinging. But that's got to be pretty close. It's like throwing a dart. With that you've got to be fairly close. With the Blue Fin 21, it does sea floor surveys. But again you've got to be in the right neck of the woods for that to be effective, too. So it's pretty tough going right now.
BERMAN: Miles, we also heard Commander Marks tell us a short time ago that the U.S. might provide more assistance if the Malaysians ask for it. Right now the Malaysians haven't asked for it?
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: I thought they did ask for it at one time. Maybe they need to be clearer. Just say look, send us an aircraft carrier, more P8s, P3s. I thought his answer was a bit of a sidestep saying we don't want planes to bonk into each other. That can be worked out.
BERMAN: A lot of people say send an aircraft carrier. Why aren't there 50 planes and not 20 planes?
O'BRIEN: Some sort of flat top vehicle, ship. Maybe need the George Washington in Japan for strategic reasons. But there's plenty of assets in the U.S. Navy that could come into play. Once you put an aircraft carrier of some kind in the region, you don't have the range issues. You have people right on target. That's what you want to go after.
BERMAN: David Soucie, the search area has shifted yet again. Now northward. This is clearly a deliberate action here to move this around as their best guess. But every time they move it leads to the question how do they know this is the right one?
DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Well, by knowing what isn't the right one, they're moving it out of those areas. And I think that they're getting to a certain percentage of coverage on the areas that they're at and then saying look we're at 50 percent, 60 percent, 70 percent, whatever the number and we haven't seen anything. Let's abandon that and move it over to this area.
Relocate those assets into another area. As Miles points out why not have more assets doing that. But as we were talking about that I remembered working in Hawaii when there were so many helicopters there uncontrolled in a kind of a quick tourism issue over there, there were a lot of helicopter accidents.
But helicopters are different than airplanes for sure. You can work around those issues with airplanes. But I can appreciate his concern for safety. But I think, too, what I heard in his voice was I would like to have more assets, but they're not being asked for.
BERMAN: Interesting. David Gallo, a week and a half ago we used to see satellite pictures every day, from a Japanese satellite, from a satellite from Thailand, from France, from the United States. Now we're not seeing any more of these satellite images. I assume the satellites are all still taking the pictures. Do you think we're not seeing them now because they're taking them and all the stuff turns up to be debris or just empty?
GALLO: I've asked that question too, John. That's been my question of the day. What happened to the satellites? Why aren't they training the satellites up and down that arc. There was very little success for the planes to find what the satellites saw and for the ships to find what the planes saw. So maybe they've given up on that particular strategy as being non-effective or maybe those satellites are doing what they're supposed to be doing elsewhere on the globe.
BERMAN: Maybe they stopped telling us because they didn't want to get everyone's hopes up and dashed again. Miles, I think it's odd we haven't seen them in over a week.
O'BRIEN: It is. I suppose when you have that many air assets actually covering an area, the satellites become irrelevant in that particular area. Maybe they should be looking in other places and maybe that's happening. Maybe we're just not seeing them because it does provide false hope for the families.
BERMAN: Miles, all 227 passengers have now been cleared. The Malaysian officials say they don't think they're at all involved with this. At the same time they still say we're investigating this as a criminal investigation. But there could still be a mechanical reason behind it, too. Doesn't seem to narrow it down very much.
O'BRIEN: No, it doesn't. The process of elimination is very difficult in this case. When you talk about the search area, the passengers, they haven't specifically said the cabin crew has been eliminated from suspicion. They seem to be pushing toward suspicion on the flight crew, the captain himself. But nothing is limited.
BERMAN: No clues yet. All right, Miles O'Brien, David Gallo, David Soucie, thank you so much for being with us tonight. We are expecting a press conference on the latest regarding the search. We don't have the exact time, but we have been told it will happen in the morning. It is morning there now. So be sure to stay with CNN. We'll bring that to you the minute it happens.
Meanwhile we've just received reports of another tornado. This one about 30 miles northeast of Dallas. A tornado outbreak this evening in that state also in Missouri. These are pictures right now of Missouri. Clearly threatened right now. Chad Myers is tracking this all. We'll be back with Chad in just a moment.
BERMAN: Dangerous weather hitting a big part of the country right now. Let's get straight to Chad Myers with the latest -- Chad.
MYERS: Let's get to the two most dangerous areas right now. We know there's a large area with tornado watches in effect. This is the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Just to your north and northeast we have the tornado on the ground not that far here. Zoom in. Move you over here and zoom you right in. A brand-new machine. We can zoom right into Farmersville, Merritt. Near Princeton, Farmersville and Merritt the tornado was on the ground just north here. This is I-30, this is 380, state Highway 380, that was one of the tornadoes on the ground. The next one we're worried about moving into St. Louis. We could have 50 or 60-mile-per-hour winds with that storm. That could cause damage. These watches go for the next five or six hours. If you're in the plains you need to pay attention tonight -- John.
BERMAN: These are ominous pictures, Chad. Chad Myers, thanks so much for that. That does it for this edition of 360. Thanks for watching. Make sure you set your DVR so you never miss 360. "SMERCONISH" starts right now.