Return to Transcripts main page

WOLF

Deadly Shooting At Fort Hood; New Turn In Flight 370 Search; Gunman Kills Three And Wounds 16 At Fort Hood; Time Is Running Out; Interview with Rep. John Carter

Aired April 3, 2014 - 13:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting from Washington. Two major stories developing this hour. The deadly shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, we're now learning new details about the soldier who killed three people, wounded 16 before turning the gun on himself. That's coming up.

Also, the hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. We're learning new information at this hour. Here's what we know right now. Officials coordinating the search in the southern Indian Ocean will have what they describe as a major announcement in a few hours. So far, officials aren't revealing the nature of the announcement, but they describe it as, quote, "big."

We've also learned that a British ship will be conducting a specific -- a specific search when daylight comes in a few hours. It's not clear what they're zeroing in on right now.

The search zone has shifted again. This time a little bit to the north. Officials say, they're refining the zone based on continuing analysis of satellite communications and the plane's capabilities.

In just a few hours, search crews will get some high-tech help. The Australia vessel, Ocean Shield, is expected to arrive carrying a device that could help find the pingers on the data recorders. The batteries on those pingers are expected to run out in about four or five days.

It's a race to find any sign of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 off the coast of Australia. Those pingers and data recorders are about to run out of power and they will go silent. This comes as the search zone shifts once again, as I said, to the north.

Our own Will Ripley is joining us from Perth, Australia. That's the staging point for all these planes and ships that are involved in this search.

You've got some new information. Will, walk us through what you've learned.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, just within the past hour, the Australian defense force confirming this to CNN. So, let's start with the first news. The British ship, the Shield, that will be conducting a specific search. We don't know what they're looking for but this means that it's not random. They are going to a specific location looking for something. What that is we just don't know right now.

But a specific search -- and this is really the first time we're seeing this happen, as opposed to the random search where planes and ships are just kind of scanning the ocean floor and looking for anything that they could possibly see. The other big announcement, the big operations announcement will be coming later on today, on Friday, here in Perth from Angus Houston who's overseeing the joint operations, coordinating this whole thing.

Again, we don't know what the announcement's going to be but we're told a major operations' announcement is coming.

And then, the Ocean Shield just hours away now from the search zone arriving slightly behind schedule. But now arriving to this new search zone to the north with those high-tech tools from the U.S. Navy. So, in addition to the Ocean Shield arriving, we also have the British submarine in the area listening. We have the echo listening as well. So, all of these are signs, Wolf, that this search effort is really ramping up.

BLITZER: What are you hearing from your sources over there, Will? As you know, in four, five, maybe six days, the batteries will dry up that are operating those pingers, if you will, from the flight data and cockpit voice recorders. What are they saying to you about the possibility that they will actually find those so-called black boxes?

RIPLEY: Well, you know, I think everybody is -- I -- we have to be realistic here, because we're still talking about a huge area that's being searched, an area that is being constantly refined. You know, you notice that they're moving the track up to the north. There's a reason for that. The reason being that the plane traveling at a low altitude may have been burning fuel more quickly. And so, the thought is move the search area up north. Perhaps the plane went down earlier in its flight path than what the data originally showed.

But, again, we have to be cautious here because we've had a lot of promising leads over the weeks as we followed this story, Wolf, that have turned out to be nothing. But to hear that there's a specific search happening tomorrow, it's certainly an interesting development that we're definitely going to stay on top of.

BLITZER: And that there will be, in a few hours, a major announcement of what they're calling a big development. We don't know what that is but that's obviously something that is certainly raising a lot of expectations.

All right, Will, standby. We'll get back to you. Much more on the mystery of Flight 370 coming up.

And let's go to Fort Hood, Texas right now. The military base is reeling from the second deadly shooting in five years. Here's the latest on what we know. Officials say the gunman, specialist Ivan Lopez, went from one building to a second firing at the victims with a 45 caliber handgun. Army Secretary John McHugh says Lopez was being treated for depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances. He was being evaluated to determine whether he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder but had not been diagnosed. Lopez served four months in Iraq back in 2011 and had just arrived at Fort Hood, Texas from another base in February.

A neighbor says Lopez and his wife looked like a normal couple and they would smile whenever they'd see someone. Right now, investigators are looking for anything in his military record that might explain his deadly rampage. The Army secretary says, so far, they haven't seen any red flags.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN MCHUGH, SECRETARY, U.S. 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 others. No suicidal ideation. So the plan forward was to just continue to monitor and to treat him as deemed appropriate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Our Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr has more now on Lopez's military history. Our own George Howell is in Killeen, Texas. That's the home of Fort Hood.

Barbara, first to you. Let's talk about Lopez's deployment to Iraq. Do we know whether he actually saw combat? He was -- he served there for four years. Any indication he was injured at the time?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Actually, Wolf, he served it for four months. Let me just correct that.

BLITZER: Four months, you're right.

STARR: Yes, let me clarify that. And that's what's so interesting. Four months at the end of 2011 when the U.S. was wrapping up its operations in Iraq. And basically he was a truck driver. Those are the months in which they would send soldiers in to drive vehicles and equipment out of Iraq, essentially drive it back to Kuwait. We have every reason to believe that is some of the work he did. No indication that he saw any kind of combat in terms of what other soldiers had been through. No indicate -- no record that he got a purple heart, that he was ever wounded. Was it traumatic to him? That is something to be determined. He reported, at some point, that he felt he had traumatic brain injury. And he was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress. No formal diagnosis of that yet.

But Secretary McHugh that you saw there a moment ago, also said that Lopez was on a variety of medications. He named one of them publicly, Ambien. So, all of this, this entire medical, physical, mental health history is going to be part of what investigators now are going to look at to try and determine what was going on with this soldier. Were there any warning signs that might have been overlooked?

BLITZER: Yes. Obviously, no more U.S. troops in Iraq, Barbara. But correct me if I'm wrong, wasn't it normal for U.S. soldiers who served in Iraq to be deployed there for a year at a time? Because when I heard he was deployed for four months, that raised some flags in my mind. But what was going on? Why was he there only for four months?

STARR: Well, we still have to get the full answer on that. The Army has yet to release his full military record. But you're right, Wolf. Let me say that some of the troops who saw really the worst combat years of Iraq served 15-month tours, as you recall. Most served a 12- month tour. But at the very end in 2011, as the U.S. was finishing up pulling out by December of 2011, during those last couple of months, they would send individual soldiers in, or small units in, to work on all that equipment. Tons and tons of equipment and get it driven out of Iraq back to Kuwait. He was a truck driver for the Army. He works those final months in Iraq.

So, the thinking, at this point, by several sources I've spoken to, is that's likely the specific work that he was doing, driving vehicles, working on them, maintaining them in those final months and weeks of the U.S. war in Iraq -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thanks. We're going to learn a lot more about Ivan Lopez in the coming hours and days.

And let's go to George Howell. He's there at Fort Hood. This is the second deadly shooting at Fort Hood, as you know, George, in five years. Major Nidal Hasan, he was convicted in the 2009 rampage that killed 13 people, 12 soldiers, one civilian, wounded 32 others. Walk us through how this latest shooting unfolded, whether there were changes in place since 2009.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We do know, Wolf, of a couple changes here on post. We know, first of all, that there was sort of a neighborhood watch, if you will, here on post. People looking out for potential problems. That's one thing.

Also, we know the commanders were trained to look out for instances of workplace violence. And dispatchers, they have new abilities now, basically to pinpoint the location of phone calls as they're coming in, when they're dealing with the situation like we saw the other day.

Wolf, you have to consider, it was a very traumatic situation for folks here. They've dealt with it before, as you mentioned, back in 2009. They dealt with it, again, yesterday. A situation where the sirens were blaring, people were told to shelter in place. This base, you know, the size of a small city, was put on lockdown.

And, as we understand it, that he went basically from one building to the next, between two buildings, the medical building, the transportation building. Went into one building, fired shots, got into his car, fired shots and then went into this second building. That's where he was met by that military officer, that's when he used his weapon to take his own life.

BLITZER: What do we know, George, about these 16 people that were wounded?

HOWELL: At this point, we did get some information just recently from Scott & White Hospital, and we know nine patients are at that particular hospital. Again, a total of 16 people who were injured here, but nine at that hospital. Of the nine, three remain in critical condition. And so, we continue to monitor. We're keeping in touch with our sources there at the hospital.

We know that some of the patients are doing better. Some may be discharged today. But, again, a total of 16 people who were injured, Wolf. Three people who were killed in this shooting, not including the suspect here who took his own life.

BLITZER: George Howell at Fort Hood for us. Thank you.

When we return, we'll dig deeper into the Flight 370 investigation and the challenges facing search crews right now. They now only have a few days left before the battery power on the flight recorder pingers runs out.

And later, credit for ending the killing spree at Fort Hood is now going to a military police officer who confronted the gunman. The base commander says, what she did was clearly heroic.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Time is clearly ticking for search crews scouring the southern Indian Ocean right now for any sign of Flight 370. The battery life of the data recorder pingers last just about 30 days. That means, they're due to run out of power on Monday. Maybe they'll last a little bit longer, Tuesday or Wednesday. Let's see. But let's bring in our panel of experts to talk about today's developments. Mark Weiss is a CNN aviation analyst, former 777 pilot for American Airlines, Peter Goelz is a CNN aviation analyst, former NTSB managing director. Tom Fuentes is our CNN law enforcement analyst, former assistant director of the FBI.

Tom, so Australian officials, they say they have a major announcement a few hours from now. It's already approaching Friday morning over there. A big announcement they say. I have no idea what it is. Are you hearing anything? Because they raise these expectations -

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Not exactly.

BLITZER: And inevitably, at least over the past four weeks, we've been disappointed. But when they say they have a big announcement, what are they talking about?

FUENTES: I don't know, Wolf. And I agree that, you know, how many times have they done this now, raised the expectations, raised the excitement level only to find nothing. And, I mean, send the ship out there and find something, then you can jump up and down about it.

BLITZER: But they did say now that they're looking at a specific area. They're sending this ship with sonar to look at a specific area, which indicates to me maybe they're onto something that they haven't told us about yet.

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Maybe they got a piece of wreckage. Maybe the sub picked up a faint ping. We can only hope. Maybe they're simply expanding, you know, the fleet that's searching for it. But, I mean, let's hope it's something good and something solid.

BLITZER: Because, Mark, they have to really be careful because the families are listening to every word. Their hearts go up, they go down. I mean they're so confused. They're so frustrated. Totally understandable because of the ups and downs of the public comments by Malaysian and occasionally Australian officials as well.

MARK WEISS, FORMER AMERICAN AIRLINES PILOT: Absolutely. I mean the families don't know who to trust, who to listen to or what to believe. And when you think about how much -- how little information really is out there that we can go on, I mean, you know, this refining an area perhaps they've done some more studies with altitude and distance the plane may have covered.

BLITZER: Once the batteries for the flight data, the cockpit voice recorders are gone, the pingers, it becomes a whole new search operation, right?

GOELZ: It becomes a very difficult search once the batteries are gone.

BLITZER: Describe the difference in searching for these flight data and cockpit voice recorders when they're pinging and when they're not.

GOELZ: Well, when they're pinging, you at least have a two or three- mile underwater area that you can hear. When they shut down, you've got to be directly on top of it. You're using side scanning sonar that has a far limited area to search. You've got remote vehicles that are looking with cameras, which are very limited. It becomes a very challenging and long-term operation.

BLITZER: It took two years just to get some perspective to find that Air France jet liner that went off the coast of Brazil in the Atlantic Ocean, even though they found some debris, some wreckage five days in after the crash, it took two years after that to find the cockpit voice recorders, the data recorders, just to give it some perspective.

GOELZ: Right.

BLITZER: You wanted to make a point?

GOELZ: No, I'm saying that this is -- if we don't find something in the next week, we are in for the long haul.

BLITZER: And what's also frustrating is that once again they're refining the search zone. They seem to be doing this a lot lately.

FUENTES: Well, that's why I say, just go do the searches. Get it done. Find something. Then come back and get people excited. Don't raise these hopes over and over and over only to later be pessimistic when you didn't find anything.

GOELZ: Yes.

BLITZER: I can only assume they're refining the search zone originally in the southern Indian Ocean, then they moved it north 700 miles, then they moved it closer to Australia, east a couple hundred miles. Now they're moving it north a little bit. Is that because of the currents? They think maybe -- or they simply haven't seen anything in the earlier search zones so they're going to adjacent areas?

WEISS: Well, certainly they're going to go to adjacent areas because they haven't found anything. But again, this is not a static situation as you would have on the ground. This is a, you know, the moving currents. But the other thing, and I really do believe that they've probably refined some of the search area based upon the handshake pings, but now new calculations on altitude, speed and the range that the aircraft could have covered and winds aloft at various altitudes.

BLITZER: And it's like a lawn mower, right, Peter, the way they go? They're searching all those areas going up and down. They've got a whole bunch of planes from different nations doing it.

GOELZ: Yes. I've seen charts from a number of searches, very detailed, very painstaking, very slow.

BLITZER: And very frustrating. All right, guys, let's see what this big announcement that they're about to make in a few hours actually is and how specific they're going now for this sonar detection in this search area. Maybe they're onto something, we can only hope.

Just ahead, the Fort Hood shooter was not supposed to bring his gun on base. I'll ask a U.S. congressman who represents Fort Hood and that district if rules should be changed to let all troops be armed while on base, just for situations like this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Nine people remain hospitalized from the mass shooting at Fort Hood, Texas. Three are in critical condition right now. Specialist Ivan Lopez is accused of killing three service members, wounding 16 others before taking his own life. And it happened just blocks from the 2009 mass shooting in which the Army major, Nadal Hasan, shot and killed 13 people and wounded 32 others. Republican Congressman John Carter represents most of Fort Hood in his Texas 31st district.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

REP. JOHN CARTER (R), TEXAS: Thank you for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: And our heart and our deepest condolences to all the families in your district who are suffering right now. As you know, Specialist Lopez legally purchased that .45 caliber handgun at a gun store in Killeen after passing what's described as a standard background check. Did they miss anything here?

CARTER: Probably not. We run fairly good background checks and a lot of it is answering questions of people that are there to do wrong can lie on the questionnaire just like you can go to a doctor and lie about your diagnosis if it suits your purposes. I think it - but it was legally purchased and he went through a background check because you can't purchase a weapon without the -- at least the criminal background check. BLITZER: Let me ask you this question about whether more people on the base should be armed. Here's what the U.S. Army chief of staff, General Ray Odierno, said before Congress earlier today. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: What's your view about one way to deal with attacks like this is to have installations where people are armed and can fight back? What's your view of that?

GEN. RAY ODIERNO, ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: I believe that we have our military police and others that are armed. And I believe that's appropriate. And I think that -- I believe that that allows us the level of protection necessary. Although we carry arms quite regularly overseas when we're deployed and do it on a regular basis, I believe back here in the United States it's more appropriate that we leave it to that, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you agree with General Odierno, congressman?

CARTER: I do agree with General Odierno. I think the Army knows the Army's business best. I have a high respect for General Odierno, along with General Milley there at Fort Hood and they both agree that allowing concealed carry weapons on the post would not be in the best interest of the soldiers or security.

BLITZER: What changes have taken place, if any significant changes, on the base at Fort Hood over the past five years since the mass murder committed by general - by, excuse me, by Major Nadal Hasan?

CARTER: I'm sure there are many. I know of a few. Even though it is the policy of the Army to have a relationship with the surrounding community, it's good for the soldier, it's good for the community, so we do try to have open access available to the community people. And so -- but they still do have -- you have to have a reason for going on the post. You have to ask permission under certain circumstances. And at the gate, they ask your reason for visiting the post. And if you're saying you're meeting with someone, they call that person. I experience it all the time. Now you -- if you're a regular traveler in and out, you can get a special sticker. But those people are checked out.

BLITZER: As you know, congressman, when U.S. troops were deployed to Iraq -- they're no longer there, but when they were over a decade, soldiers from the U.S. Army were deployed at least for a year or 15 months. That was the normal rotation. When I heard that Specialist Ivan Lopez was deployed for four months, that raised some red flags in my mind. I don't know if you've looked into this, but what does it say to you that he was brought back home after four months?

CARTER: Well, it raised red flags for me. Now, first, let's realize that he was there as we were basically exiting the country. So he was in the stand-down that occurred at that time. That may be part of the reason. Of course we now know that he had depression and anxiety issues and he was being treated for. That might have been part of the reason. I guess we'll ultimately find out. I expect the Army to give us a reason for that. But I don't -- can't tell you that I know it for sure. I can only speculate.

BLITZER: Representative John Carter of Texas, thanks very much for joining us. Once again, our deepest condolences to the families in your district in and around Fort Hood, Texas. Thanks very much. We'll stay in close touch with you.

CARTER: Thank you. Pray for Fort Hood. Thank you very much.

BLITZER: We certainly will.

It's a mystery like no other in the world. Many nations are working right now to try to find the missing Malaysian Airlines 777. Up next, we'll return to the base for the massive search. We're going to hear what the leaders of Australia and Malaysia had to say today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)