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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD

Fort Hood Shooting; Civilians Getting Involved in Flight 370 Search; Troubled Soldier Kills Three, Himself; Soldier Was Being Treated for Depression

Aired April 3, 2014 - 12:00   ET

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


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: This just in, pictures of the man who went on a shooting rampage in Fort Hood, Texas. Three people are dead, plus this gunman himself, and at least 16 other people were hurt. But who was Specialist Ivan Lopez? And did psychological problems push him to kill?

Also ahead, it's now being called the toughest search in human history. The hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 now in its 27th day. A top official is vowing to search, quote, "until hell freezes over." And severe weather already ravaging the country's midsection. Dangerous storms with the chance of strong tornadoes forecast from Texas all the way to Indiana. And if you thought winter was over, think again. Minnesota could get yet another foot of snow.

Hello, everyone ,and welcome to LEGAL VIEW. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. And it is Thursday, April 3rd.

Let's begin here, no direct combat, no apparent injury, no behavioral problems and as recently as last month no indication of likely violence. These are just glimpses into the seasoned and yet clearly troubled soldier who killed three people yesterday at Fort Hood, Texas, before turning the gun on himself.

These are brand new pictures just into CNN of Army Specialist Ivan Lopez. He's from the Puerto Rico National Guard originally. And there's where these pictures come from because he served with the National Guard for nine years before joining the Army.

On Capitol Hill today, just hours after the second deadly rampage in five years at the nation's largest military base, the secretary of the Army and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee. All of this was meant to be a routine budget hearing, but it wasn't. Instead, the focus turned to Ivan Lopez.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN MCHUGH, SECRETARY OF THE ARMY: 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 that there was any sign of likely violence, either to himself or to others, no suicidal ideation. So the plan forward was to just continue to monitor and to treat him as deemed appropriate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Besides the three dead plus Lopez, there were 16 other people who were hurt yesterday too. And among them, Major Patrick Miller of Allegheny, New York. He's seen here in these pictures. He's got an MBA from Syracuse and he joined the Army in 2003. Again, injured in the attack.

Authorities say Lopez, the shooter, opened fire with a .45 caliber pistol that he himself had bought after he transferred to Texas in February. He claimed that he had suffered a traumatic brain injury while serving in Iraq. The trouble is, the records do not back up that claim. Nothing was registered. Lopez was being treated, however, for anxiety, as well as depression. He was also being evaluated for post- traumatic stress. I want to bring in CNN's George Howell, who is live right outside of Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas.

And, George, maybe you could just get us up to speed on everything we know about this man and how the attack actually went down.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we know here on base, and you have to remember the sirens were blaring, people were told to shelter in place. This base which is really, Ashleigh, the size of a small city, it was on lockdown. We understand that the shooting took place in several different places on the post. We know that it happened between the medical building and the transportation building. We understand that Lopez allegedly opened fire in one of those buildings, got into his vehicle, then fired shots from the car, then went into this other building, opened shots - opened fire, rather, and wasn't stopped until he ran into that military officer. That's when he used his weapon to take his own life.

BANFIELD: This is not the first major incident. It was just five years ago the name Army Major Nidal Hasan became famous because of the massacre that he actually took out on his colleagues at that base. And I'm told even the Joint Chiefs of -- the chairman of the Joint Chiefs said today that there were specific procedures put in place after that attack that helped save lives yesterday. Do you know specifically which ones?

HOWELL: Well, you know, and we're still digging into that because a lot of the security procedures here -- we're waiting for a news conference to get more word on exactly what they did. One thing that we find interesting though today, we do know, according to reporting from our sources -- law enforcement sources, we now know that Lopez bought that gun legally.

According to our sources, we know that he went to a store called Guns Galore and he passed the standard background checks to get that weapon. We also know that he had no history of violence and had no criminal record. So nothing would disqualify him, Ashleigh, from getting that weapon.

BANFIELD: All right, George Howell live for us just outside of Fort Hood.

And, of course, one of the issues a lot of people are asking about is weapons on the base and who's allowed to carry what weapons, if any, on the base and where do you register them. We're going to talk about that a little bit later in the program.

But we want to also talk about our other top story. Twenty-seven days since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 just vanished mid-flight. And almost unbelievably so far there is no sign of that airplane anywhere. Australia's prime minister said today that the world should prepare for the possibility that that plane simply may never be found.

Tony Abbott describing the search as, quote, "the most difficult in human history." Planes and ships in the search areas have spotted plenty of things, like fishing gear and garbage and debris. But, so far, nothing even close to airplane parts and certainly no pingers, no clues.

As for quitting, Australia's ambassador to the United States tells CNN, quote, "we'll keep going until hell freezes over."

I want to go live to Perth, Australia now, the headquarters of this multinational search mission. It is just after midnight right now but the crews are getting ready to start again at dawn. And CNN's will Ripley has been monitoring these crews. He's been going out alongside them as well.

So talk to me a little bit about the high-tech ship. We had an arrival date that was sort of pushed ahead. Has that stymied anything at all. Is there anything new to report, Will?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, you mentioned it's just after midnight here. But as you know, Ashleigh, this is a 24/7 flow of information. Just within the last 30 minutes, we have confirmed some new details.

We know that the British ship, Echo, is in the search area and tomorrow this ship will be conducting a specific search. CNN has confirmed a specific search. It means it will be going to a specific area looking for something. We don't know what that is. We don't know the connection to Flight 370. But again, a specific search tomorrow with the British ship, Echo, which does have sonar equipment.

We know that sonar equipment also has confirmed it heard a ping, it heard a sound. I wouldn't say a ping. It heard a sound on its sonar. It turned out to be a false alarm. So, you know, a false alarm can come from something like a whale in the ocean. It could come from another ship in the area. But we know that this ship does have sonar equipment and, again, conducting a specific search tomorrow.

We've also confirmed that the Ocean Shield, that Australian ship, equipped with high-tech tools from the U.S. Navy, will be arriving in the search zone within the next few hours. As you said, the arrival time was delayed. It was pushed back. But now we know the Ocean Shield is about to get in place we were told in the overnight hours. So it's getting close with that technology in the search zone.

One more new piece of information to report. We are expecting what we're told is a big announcement, a major announcement tomorrow from Angus Houston, who is the head of the joint coordinated efforts here. We don't know what that announcement's going to be, but we're told tomorrow there will be a big announcement coming. So three big pieces of news to report.

And speaking of the Ocean Shield, we were with that ship when it began its journey earlier this week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RIPLEY: We really wanted to tell the story of the Ocean Shield as it moves out into the Indian Ocean. And so we chartered this fishing boat, The Thunder.

RIPLEY (voice-over): We wanted to get as close to the Ocean Shield as possible, curious about its high-tech cargo and underwater listening device to detect pings from MH-370's data recorders and underwater drones to scan the ocean floor for debris.

RIPLEY (on camera): It actually takes 11 people just to operate those two pieces of naval technology that I was telling you about.

RIPLEY (voice-over): At one point, the Australian Navy and Water Police asked us to put a little more space between our boat and the ship's dock at Stirling Naval Base. We watched and waited for more than 10 hours. After dark, the Ocean Shield finally pulled away with CNN showing the first moments of its journey to the search zone.

RIPLEY (on camera): And then if one of the search planes or one of the search boats spots some debris, something that's connected to Flight 370, this ship will be ready to help solve the mystery.

RIPLEY (voice-over): As the Ocean Shield accelerates, our captain spots another boat flashing an SOS call.

RAY RUBY, CAPTAIN, THE THUNDER (ph): And we had to give up following the Ocean Shield because it could be risk of life.

RIPLEY: The boat, carrying another network's news crew, blew its engine, drifting into potential danger. We towed them to safety and dropped anchor for the night.

After sunrise, we learned the Ocean Shield was sailing into very rough weather. Just 12 miles from shore, we were getting tossed around.

RIPLEY (on camera): Believe it or not, this would be considered a clear day.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Farther out, our captain says waves can get so big, they block almost everything from view.

RUBY: I feel sorry for the guys on the shield heading out to the wreck zone because we're at idle. We're running along about five knots. Those guys are punching this at 15 knots. So every wave is straight over the top.

RIPLEY: Grueling conditions, only adding to an already difficult journey.

RIPLEY (on camera): Constantly on our minds here as we're out here doing this is the reason why we're out here, this story that we're covering, the disappearance of Flight 370, the families of those 239 people who still don't have answers.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Their hopes, and ours, rest on the shoulders of the Ocean Shield and on the more than 1,000 people working tirelessly in the search zone. Hope that we can finally solve the mystery of MH- 370.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RIPLEY: And again, Ashleigh, CNN has now confirmed the Ocean Shield just hours away from the search zone.

BANFIELD: All right, Will Ripley doing some terrific work for us. And, by the way, working day and night, so our thanks to you. And we'll continue to see what is happening with that search. He'll update us live when need be.

In addition to the military ships and the aircraft, civilians are also getting in on this, and they're helping to search for this plane as well. If you can believe it, the director of "Lord of the Rings," Peter Jackson, has a private plane and it's been involved in the search. So what can civilians really do to help? You actually might be very surprised to hear what they can and are doing. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: So I want to talk a little bit more about the efforts to find this missing plane as the time is actually ticking down to those pingers stopping pinging. And then the search takes on a whole new mission. With me now to talk about this is Michael Kay, a retired Royal Air Force pilot, and Christine Dennison, whose company specializes in ocean exploration.

So the reality, Colonel Kay, is that this search can't go on forever, and we're starting to hear that articulated by some of the officials in Australia.

Some say we're going to search "until hell freezes over," and the others say we need to be prepared for us never finding the plane. As a searcher, how are you supposed to read that?

LIEUTENANT COLONEL MICHAEL KAY, ROYAL AIR FORCE (RETIRED): I think it's right to be cautious, and I think the prime minister has, as we saw last night, started to take a slightly more cautious approach when he's delivering his information, which is a good thing.

One thing I will say is it would be virtually impossible to replace the military assets that we currently have used on the search. We talk about the P-8 Poseidon. That's a $280 million airplane. You're not going to be able to pull in those --

BANFIELD: I think there's two of them now on-site. There was one and then another one was coming from the Pacific at some point, as well, and joining in the search, which is great, again, if you're searching in the right place.

KAY: It is, absolutely right. What the military bring is through a contingency budget, so there's no real pressure on budget. It's a contingency budget. They will be able to employ all sorts of technology. We've seen a nuclear submarine come in and has the most sophisticated and active passive sonar on it.

I was speaking with Christine earlier off the set. There are some incredibly good assets which Christine will brief you on in a second. But whether we can replace what we've got at the moment, I think is highly unlikely.

BANFIELD: I want to get to that, because at some point the various militaries involved they don't have the open-ended budgets like you said, and they are going to have to ramp things down, and some civilian assets are already being used, as being reported to CNN.

The Ocean Shield has a civilian crew on board, and a famous Hollywood director is lending his private jet to help out. But that's pretty significant.

A private jet, what can civilians do differently that the military can't? What exactly would Peter Jackson be able to do with his private plane, Christine?

CHRISTINE DENNISON, OCEAN EXPLORER: For example, the ocean shield, it does have a civilian crew of 30 on board. But that civilian crew is working under contract with the navy usually. And they are boat captains, they are technicians, they are there to launch -- the ocean shield is a platform, a diving operation platform from which they can watch.

BANFIELD: A big work space.

DENNISON: A large work space. There's a lot of redundancy involved. They carry batteries, cable, a lot of extras for these machines and the crew to be able --

BANFIELD: But Peter Jackson's jet? What can that -- and it's marvelous. I can't thank the guy enough for being so magnanimous, but what can it do to help in this effort?

DENNISON: Well, he has a very state-of-the-art gulf stream 650 which is top of the line private jet. And this has the capability to travel 7,000-mile range, it can climb up to 50,000 feet. It has up to 700 miles an hour, which military jets I think obviously can go much faster, but nonetheless this provides an extra aircraft with extra eyes on the ocean.

KAY: I would agree with Christine it compliments what is already a comprehensive search but doesn't replace what we've got. The assets Christine is talking about is pretty much the phase 2 of the operation, it's the bit of the operation once you've found the debris field. That's when you can employ the ocean shield. BANFIELD: There was some mention that the civilian aircraft could actually help operate as a relay, whether it's a communications relay, I wasn't clear what that meant. Does that sound logistically accurate to you?

KAY: Yes. What it goes back to is because we're dealing in such a unique and isolated area, communications are very difficult. So when we do things like that, we use airborne talk-throughs. So you put a platform in the air, you have communications on it and allows effectively air bridge communication from assets working at the search area to the RCC, which would be based back in Perth.

BANFIELD: Like I said, extraordinarily thankful and really interesting to hear that. And that's not a small tab either operating a jet like gulf stream like that.

Christine Dennison and Colonel Kay, thank you both.

We're going to look ahead into the investigation and the plane and, specifically, the crew. You've probably heard a lot about the investigation into the pilots, but what about clearing the crew members, because so far we're not getting any announcements that they've been cleared? So we're going to talk about that in a moment.

Oh, also want to take you back to our other top story and that's the shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, because this is the second time this community has faced a deadly shooting rampage.

We're also going to talk live as I'm just being told with the mayor of colleen, Texas, right next door, about how this community is coping, especially since this is round two.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Yesterday's rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, is doubly painful for a base and a community that has been through this before, and it wasn't that long ago either, just five years.

I'm joined now by the Killeen, Texas, mayor, Dan Corbin, who's standing by live. Mayor Corbin, I just want to touch base with you.

As this story continues to unfold, is there anything you can update us coming out from the area where you are?

MAYOR DAN CORBIN, KILLEEN, TEXAS: I don't have any new information, but at 1:00, Lieutenant Gerald Martinelli (ph) is meeting with community leaders, and I think at that time we're going to get an update. I think he wants to get us updated before his press conference this afternoon.

BANFIELD: And I know that, you know, the community of Killeen is so connected to this base, really hand-in-hand, it would seem.

Are they keeping you in the loop? Are you being updated as to all the different specifics? There seems to be a lot we don't know yet.

CORBIN: Yes. We have a very close relationship with the leadership at Fort Hood.

Our community is really -- it's all one community, Fort Hood, Killeen and the surrounding communities. Seventy percent of the soldiers who live -- who are assigned to Fort Hood live in our communities, most of those in Killeen.

So we go to church with these people, and we go to all kinds of events. Their kids go to our schools. And we're just really one big community and very patriotic and very concerned about the soldiers on Fort Hood.

BANFIELD: So what happens in Fort Hood certainly affects the people of Killeen.

And many people who work in Fort Hood actually live in Killeen or in the surrounding areas. And one of the questions I had for you was the transportation aspect, the cars and vehicles that go in and out of that post every day, there are thousands.

Is it logistically possible to search every vehicle to prevent what happened yesterday, which was a rogue soldier who had an unregistered weapon that he turned on his colleagues?

CORBIN: Well, there are tens of thousands of cars that go through the gates of Fort Hood. There's not just the main gate, but there's other gates as well. There's a lot of heavy traffic.

I think it would be logistically impossible to do a thorough search of every one of those vehicles. There are 6,000 homes on Fort Hood. You would also have to search all of those, and many of those homes they have children who are teenagers in high school.

You know, there's no way, I think, that we could ever be 100 percent certain that no one could have a gun on Fort Hood. It just isn't logistically possible.

BANFIELD: Mayor Corbin, I am very sorry for what your community and for the greater community of Fort Hood is going through. Our thoughts are with you.

I hope we can certainly get to the bottom of this, find out more and hopefully prevent this from ever happening again.

CORBIN: Our community needs the prayers of everyone for the speedy recovery of those who have been injured, and pray for comfort for the families of those who have lost their loved ones.

BANFIELD: Well, you've got ours. That's for sure. Thank you, Mayor, Mayor Dan Corbin, joining us live from just outside the gates. Investigators are certainly trying to figure out what that Army specialist, Ivan Lopez, was doing.

Why he would consider killing three people and then turning the gun on himself? Sixteen others injured in his rampage.

We've got some new pictures into CNN we want to show you of the time where he was a National Guardsman serving in Puerto Rico. That's what he did for nine years before he decided to join the Army. We're finding out that he was an Army veteran and a father and someone who sought medical help for a handful of mental-health issues.

One of his neighbors called Lopez an average guy, and she spoke in detail about the moments after the shooting and the reaction from Lopez's wife.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

XANDERIA MORRIS, FORT HOOD SHOOTER'S NEIGHBOR: We were all outside talking about it, and I saw her come out of her apartment, and she seemed to be -- she was -- you know, she was worried, and she was crying.

And she had a little girl with her, so, you know, I walked over to her, and I tried to console her and comfort her and let her know everything was OK.

But it didn't seem to, you know, pretty much sink in. As far as I knew, he was a nice guy. He's always smiled and waved, and that's about it. Typical average family, you know, they were always coming and going. They'd smile whenever they'd see someone, and that was it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Never the words that you expect to hear from someone who's just shot up a number of his comrades.

One other thing we have to tell you. We don't know at this point if Lopez knew any of the victims that he injured, but hopefully, that information will be coming out soon, but a seemingly nice guy who we now know faced his own demons.

CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins me live now from the Pentagon.

What else is the Pentagon telling us? So little, it seems, at this early stage about this man, Ivan Lopez?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Ashleigh.

A full investigation under way, the Army, a short time ago, offering some additional details, underscoring that their current information shows this soldier was undergoing treatment for a variety of behavioral, mental health, psychiatric disorders, including anxiety and depression.

The secretary of the Army says that he had -- the soldier, Lopez, had just undergone a full, mental-health evaluation and that there had not been any reason to change his treatment.

They were going to continue to monitor him, that he had a number of prescription drugs, including Ambien, that he'd been given, so investigators will be looking at this entire mental-health picture to see what part, if any, it played. We also know that he was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress. He said that he -- he had reported that he felt he had a traumatic brain injury, was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress, but there had not been a formal diagnosis of that yet.

So a lot of this, I have to say, one of the other costs, one of the other challenges of this entire incident is this mental-health issue, which has really resonated across the military for so many years, so many young troops feeling the stigma of trying to get help.