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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Four Marines Killed, Three Hurt In Shootings; Shooter ID'ed As Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired July 16, 2015 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN GUEST HOST: All right. Welcome back to THE LEAD. John Berman in for Jake Tapper today. Our breaking news, four Marines killed, two military offices shot up in the city of Chattanooga right now. The shooter is also now dead.
We just got a statement from the secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, on the shooting, let me read it to you, "The Department of Homeland Security is closely monitoring the tragic shooting in Chattanooga and we are supporting the FBI-led investigation.
We caution that at this time there are many unconfirmed and possibly false reports about events. Department officials are actively supporting the local response to this is dent. The department is also enhancing the security posture at certain federal facilities out of an abundance of caution.
We express our condolences to the families of those members of the United State Marine Corps who were killed." Again, that statement is just in from the secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson.
I want to go to Evan Perez right now, our justice correspondent in our D.C. Bureau. Evan, I understand we have the identity now of the shooter.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. The name, according to sources to CNN is Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez. The date of birth is 1990 that would make him about 24, 25 years old. That is the name of the suspected shooter who carried out these attacks today in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Now what we're trying to figure out a little more about him, what is his background, perhaps if there's any kind of relationship with the military or whether or not he was inspired by, again, some of these threats that we have seen all summer long against U.S. military facilities.
Again those are the unanswered questions that we still have. At this point we haven't heard officially from law enforcement exactly what they believed was motivating these attacks, but again the name, according to sources that we've talked to is Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, 24 or 25 years old. He is the one that is believed to have carried out this attack today in Chattanooga. BERMAN: All right, Evan Perez, the identity of the shooter, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, 24 or 25 years old, that is all we know at this point, but we know that officials are digging for much more and Evan is digging for much more. Evan, we'll get back to you in just a minute.
[16:35:10] I want to bring in our security analyst, Juliet Kayyem, a Homeland Security analyst, and former Massachusetts Homeland Security adviser and federal Homeland Security adviser, Harry Houck, a former cop and security adviser to us as well, CNN analyst.
This is a name -- this is a Muslim name, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez. Does that change the nature of this investigation?
JULIET KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: We just don't know where it began so change is a strong word, but it does obviously make people concerned both about other domestic ties? Are there others that he was affiliated with and then, of course, international ones.
I should say just from my knowledge of this, Youssef is a common Iraqi or Kuwaiti name, just something for people to know. So this will now require not just the FBI's domestic case, but obviously now the CIA and other foreign intelligence agencies.
Jake, Secretary Johnson's statement is actually absolutely right at this stage. We no longer have the color code in the United States. We got rid of it a couple years ago.
This is basically an advisory alert saying, OK, we're going to put more force protection at a variety of federal facilities and make sure that people are on heightened alert, in particular as we've seen in military recruitment centers that are just completely vulnerable. So those are the two pieces right now.
BERMAN: Harry, you've been looking at these pictures right now, you know, the bullet pattern, the impact pattern on the glass right there. Someone who, you know, hit what he was shooting at. Someone who had thought about what he wanted to shoot at had some sense of aim, had obviously some confidence with the rifle there. When you look at these pictures, you see the investigation as it stands right now, what is being done in these hours?
HARRY HOUCK, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, you have several things going on. You got federal authorities, the local authorities, and the crime scene unit there who is taking care of both crime scenes. As you could see by the shell casings that are on the crime scene there that it looks like the vehicle came very, very close to those doors.
And he didn't miss. He hit those doors. He hit exactly what he wanted to do. At the same time, he was so determined he had to make himself get to the second location to be able to shoot. This is why police are chasing him.
Sometime between when he left here and when he got to the second scene, police were chasing him somehow. We don't know too much about that. All right, he was able to get to that location, suicidal, knowing that he's going to be killed, get out and able to kill four Marines also before the police finally took him down.
BERMAN: It does seem that from the beginning he had it in his head that he wanted to go to more than one location. He never got out of the car in the first place.
HOUCK: There might have been a third for all we know.
BERMAN: All right, Harry, Juliet, stick around. We've a lot more questions for you. Again, we're getting a lot more information including the name of the shooter. Let me say it one more time, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, 24 or 25 years old.
A lot more questions being asked right now, four Marines killed in Chattanooga, Tennessee. You're looking at live pictures right now. Our breaking news coverage on THE LEAD continues right after this.
BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD. John Berman in for Jake Tapper. Our breaking news, sources have told CNN, the shooter responsible for the carnage in Chattanooga, Tennessee, we have told his name, four Marines were killed there.
The name is Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez according to two sources briefed on the case, and according to law enforcement, he was born in 1990. Again, four Marines killed by this shooter, shootings in two separate locations.
Joining us to discuss, Julia Kayyem, Harry Houck, Tom Fuentes, and Paul Cruickshank, all standing by, but first I want to go to Drew Griffin, he is at the location of the second shooting, a naval reserve center, an operation center. That is where four Marines were killed. Drew, I understand you have information about the search of this shooter's car?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Yes, you can see that -- first of all, the entrance to the center is down about a 400 yards narrow driveway so the intent was clearly to go to the place. The car is in the middle of the entrance to the parking lot.
As we look at the crime scene developing here, the doors are open, the trunk is open. The hood is open. I can only surmise that there was a very deliberate and probably very frantic search, number one, to make sure that car was empty of all passengers.
And number two to make sure there weren't any inherent risks or threats along with the car itself. What we can't see, John, is the location of the suspect's body, if that body is still here.
There's a huge presence by the FBI, ATF, and local law enforcement, but we're being kept back as they continue to do what looks to be a very thorough forensic investigation -- John. BERMAN: Drew, we are looking at -- just a second ago, we are looking at a picture of the car, which I believed you put on Twitter. It's a convertible. What's interesting, Drew, you say there's a large security presence, but it doesn't seem as if there's a bomb squad or people normally associated with explosives around that car. So clearly they do not think there's something about to go off inside?
GRIFFIN: No, I think what you are seeing are the remnants of what was, most likely a very thorough check of that car. They didn't bother to clean it up after they were done. It looks to me the fact that everybody is opened on that car and looked through including the trunk, that whatever bomb detection they did do or threat detection they did do is over.
Now they feel they can walk away from that, allow the forensic tales to come in and do whatever -- kind of CSI-style collection that they need to do. We believe that the big pictures, looking at that photo, the suspect who was killed is over towards the left side in what appears to me to be a green area or a forested area.
[16:45:08] I can't confirm that because we're being kept so far back, but what I want to tell you is that there is no body around that car.
BERMAN: All right, Drew Griffin for us at the scene where four Marines were killed. You're looking at pictures of the suspect's car, clearly a thorough search of that. Thank you so much, Drew.
I want to bring in the panel right now, Tom Fuentes with us, Paul Cruickshank with us, Harry Houck and Juliet Kayyem. Harry, let me go first to you. The nuts and bolts of this car right now, I am right, I mean, if they were concerned about explosives, we wouldn't be getting this close to the car. There are people swarming all over it right now.
HOUCK: That would have been the first thing they did when they approached the vehicle was bring a bomb dog in, bring in some bomb experts to see if that car was rigged, and apparently it doesn't look like it was rigged.
So now they decided to go through the car entirely because there is so much you can find here. We don't know what the shooter kept in the car? Is there more ammunition? Are there more guns? Does he have a manifesto in there?
BERMAN: It was a convertible, which is interesting.
HOUCK: And the top was open to make it easier for him to shoot. I'm kind of wondering why police officers didn't get a shot at him why they were driving.
BERMAN: We don't know. We do know they were in pursuit for some time. Tom Fuentes, I want to bring you in right now because we do have the name of the shooter, two law enforcement sources telling CNN the name is Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez.
Now obviously that appears to be a Muslim name. That is all we know. We just know the name. We don't know where this person was born, born in 1990, we do not know where.
Again these are moving pictures, video of this suspect's car, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez. Tom, tell me what is going on right now in this investigation? Now that we have the name, the key questions are what?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, first of all, John, I know that what the name sounds like, but we don't know it's a Muslim name. We know it's an Arabic name. We don't know what this individual was believing in and that's what they're going to be trying to determine.
But I'd like to add that, you know, the beginning discussions of whether this is domestic terrorism or national terrorism, what's the jurisdiction? From the time these uniformed Marine officers were gunned down, it became an FBI intensive investigation because they are members of the U.S. military not engaged in combat.
So that's regardless of whether it's either, you know, domestic or international terrorism, but now, you know, as they're looking at this, they'll be looking at all of his e-mails, phone records, everything.
They'll go back and look at past records, the so-called metadata, trying to find out every connection that he has, who has he talked to, who's he been e-mailing? What social media postings has he had if any?
And whether he's gone to dark sites, the dark apps as the bureau has been calling it for communication with other people to talk about this plan in effect, but the diligence of the investigation didn't require they had to have his name or that they had to have a connection to a terrorist organization. It is going to be as thorough as possible from the very beginning.
BERMAN: Paul Cruickshank, some things we do know, we do that the threat level this summer has been very high specifically in military installations around the country.
We know that over the 4th of July there was great concern of all kinds of possible attacks by lone wolves in this country. Again, we don't know if that is what this was right now, but we do know there was concern over it. If this -- does this attack have the hallmarks of one of these so-called lone wolf attacks that ISIS has been calling for?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: I'm going to echo what Tom was saying that we need to be very, very cautious about ascribing a motive for this attack, but clearly there is a particular threat environment right now in which ISIS have called for attacks during Ramadan. This is the last day today of Ramadan.
Their leaders have sent their followers around the world will be rewarded ten times more in the afterlife for attacks during Ramadan. They also believe that their rewards can go up exponentially in the last stretch of Ramadan. It's the last day of Ramadan today. But I think what Tom was saying about us being very cautious about motive is absolutely spot on right. Now we just don't know whether this was the case of Islamist terrorism. It has some of the hallmarks of previous lone wolf plots and attacks.
BERMAN: Absolutely, Paul. I think it goes without saying at this point we're only going to report what we know, but we do know is there has been a heightened level of concern this summer at military installations during Ramadan, which we're in right now, and two locations were military locations and the four people who were deceased are U.S. Marines. So that much we do know.
BERMAN: This is just the early stages, Paul. I don't even know if you have a chance to look any chatter on the internet in any of these terror related web sites or social media groups?
[16:50:00] CRUICKSHANK: Well, John, what we're seeing is these ISIS fan boys react on Twitter, celebrating this, but there's no official claim of responsibility yet from any group. These kinds of people they tend to celebrate thunderstorms or hurricanes against the United States.
So I don't think we should put too much store in that clearly this is an active investigation right now. One of the questions will be did this individual have any overseas links.
Potentially if it does end up being an Islamist terrorism type of attack, it would appear that this individual had some degree of personal wealth potentially, given the car that he was traveling in.
BERMAN: It's a nice car, a convertible. All right, Paul, stand by. Julie and Harry, I want to bring you both in because during the break there was an interesting discussion right now.
You both noted that this man never got out of the car at the first location. He shot out of the car at the first location, went to the second location, and Julia, you first. You both think this indicates he knew he was going to die.
KAYYEM: I think so. He has an open hood in a convertible. So he is not worried about his own protection. Now whether he thought he was going to be able to drive away after the second shooting might have been wishful thinking on his part.
And so just picking up on what's been talked about. We don't know much yet. We have a name. We don't know whether that name is affiliated with others abroad or even affiliated with a certain religion.
People may say if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, the reason why we want to be cautious is because if investigators or the media go in the wrong direction, you may miss all sorts of clues.
That is maybe there were a whole bunch of other reasons. Eventually we'll get to the answer. That's OK. We can wait at this stage. So where that investigation will be right is the most important part, which is are there others that he was in contact with who are going to copycat or follow along on this, you know, as Paul said, this Ramadan surge of attacks, and might we be able to stop him.
So that is why you saw the Department of Homeland Security step in and say, look, we have a few more hours until the end of Ramadan. We're going to sort of surge resources at federal facilities.
So it's not that we are not -- we are taking in all the information and it's just important to put the pieces together in the right order because you could just go down a direction that no one wants to go in because we want to find out what motivated him.
BERMAN: Harry, look -- go ahead.
HOUCK: You follow the evidence, not what you think, all right. Once you follow the evidence, we'll be able to see whether or not there is any kind of terrorist link here. Whether or not -- it's not some kind of domestic thing going on. We have no clue.
All right, we have all these little indicators that tell us it maybe or might be a terrorist attack. We don't know for sure. So following the evidence is key. Have no preconceived notions.
BERMAN: What's the most important evidence you're seeing right now, Harry?
HOUCK: Well, finding out who he is. That's the important things, finding his identity. You know, once we know exactly who he is, where he lives? All his contacts, things like that. I think that's the most important part in this case right now.
BERMAN: And you can bet that's happening right now. Harry, Juliet, Tom Fuentes, Paul Cruickshank, thank you so much for being with us. Stick around. Again, as we say, there is so much information still to be learned, finding out things by the minute here. We'll have much more right after this.
BERMAN: All right, welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm John Berman in for Jake Tapper. Breaking news, four Marines killed, three others including a police officer hurt in two shootings at two locations today in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Sources have told CNN, the shooter responsible for the carnage, the name of that shooter, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez. While that's going on, we have breaking developments on another story.
The trial for James Holmes for killing 12 people and injuring 70 at a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises." James Holmes is about to learn his fate. The jury has reached a verdict, which would be announced in about an hour from.
Our Ana Cabrera right now is in Centennial, Colorado. Ana, again one hour from now we will learn that verdict.
ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This comes after 12-1/2 hours of deliberation among these nine women and three men who are on the jury. These are people who sat through 11-1/2 weeks of testimony. They heard from more than 250 witnesses, including victims, including professors, including mental health experts as they weighed whether or not James Holmes was insane at the time he committed the crime.
He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. He is facing 165 charges. It's two charges for each of the victims. There were 12 people killed. There 70 other people wounded. He's also facing an explosive charge as well.
And now they'll decide whether or not he is guilty and if found guilty, this all moves into a sentencing phase, which means that we could still be here for about a month in which they'll consider whether he would spend life in prison or receive the death penalty, John. So a lot on the line here, some three years after this movie theater massacre.
BERMAN: Ana, who do we expect to be in the courtroom when this verdict is read? I've been speaking -- I've spoken to several of the family members who have been there almost every day.
CABRERA: Absolutely. We've been in the courtroom for much of the past three months since this trial started and we have seen a lot of those family members. I spoke just the other day with the grandparents of the youngest of the theater shooting victims, and we know that many of these victims are wanting closure and they want justice. They'll be there when the verdict is read -- John.
BERMAN: All right, Ana Cabrera for us in Centennial. Again, that verdict coming just one hour from now so that's coming up.
We're getting breaking information on the shootings in Chattanooga. I turn you now over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."