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Police to Hold Conference on San Bernardino Shooting; President Obama Responds to Another Mass Shooting. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired December 2, 2015 - 16:30   ET



TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: But you have to look at some of the details of that to understand why it goes further. We had this basic issue with these buildings here. We actually believe it may be this building that they're focused on right in here, because that's where all the activity seems to be, from the ground, really pretty nondescript. It's like any other building you might expect in an area like this, three stories here.

We don't know where this facility is, this auditorium that people have been talking about. But what we do know that the concern right now has gone considerably beyond this. We have been talking about these hospitals. This is the area over here that is the target area. When we talk about the Arrowhead Center, that's down here a little bit down in this area.

When we talk about the Loma Linda Center, it's all the way over here. Now, if you will widen out here, take a look at how much area we're talking about right now, where people are under lockdown and concerned about what might have gone on here, principally because they don't have any answers right now.

And they actually right now have the families of people connected to this gathering quite some distance away. I won't specifically say, but way over in this area away from this because they don't want them too close. So, really, Jake, the key here in part is to figure out what went on here before they're able to say whether or not all those other faraway places might be involved.

Just a couple of other interesting facts to know about the area, because I think they are worthwhile. This town is about 200,000 people. They have dealt with some issues in the past years about crime. It's one of the cities that had a serious crime issue, made some progress on that, went bankrupt a few years ago and slid back a little bit on that.

Whether that has anything to do with any of this, we don't know. But that's also part of the geography of this area right now, Jake.

TAPPER: Thanks, Tom Foreman. Appreciate it.

Let's go on the phone now to Lavinia Johnson. She's the executive director of the Inland Regional Center, which is located in this three-building facility.

Ms. Johnson, thank you for joining us.

Obviously, our thoughts and prayers with the people in the area.

What can you tell us about, first of all, how the individuals who work for your organization, who are served by your organization, how they are?

LAVINIA JOHNSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, INLAND REGIONAL CENTER: Our staff are just patiently waiting right now.

It was a very traumatic event for us. And we're just waiting to be evacuated to another location. We're located in the three two-story buildings. And the two-story building where this incident took place is the conference center. We have a conference center that we rent out to other agencies.

And I believe it was the County San Bernardino Health that was having a holiday event in that center this morning when one to three shooters walked into that situation and shot at people.


So, just to clarify for those who are watching who are not familiar with the facility, and if we could -- if the director could put an image of the facilities again on the -- up on the screen -- we see two large buildings. I guess they're three stories each maybe next to each other.

And then there's a smaller conference building, which I guess is the southernmost building. And you're saying that the shooting was at that southernmost smaller building, is that right?

JOHNSON: That's right.

TAPPER: And that is the conference center. And that, you say that you rent it out to other agencies, and there was a county personnel banquet or holiday party or something that was going on in that facility.

JOHNSON: Correct.

TAPPER: OK. And just to make sure I understand as clearly as possible, so that means that none of the children and none of the people, those who have disabilities and none of the staff members who work hard for them -- you are all OK?

JOHNSON: As far as I know, we are all OK. They are currently evacuating more of our staff out of the building and looking for the active shooter who may be in one of our buildings.

TAPPER: OK. So it's still obviously a very potentially dangerous situation.

Where are you right now, Ms. Johnson? JOHNSON: We're across the street from the agency. There's a golf

course. And we are located there in small groups throughout the park.

TAPPER: Do you have any idea who specifically had rented out the conference center that apparently was the area that was shot up?

JOHNSON: I'm sorry. Could you repeat that?

TAPPER: Who had rented out the conference center where the shooting you say took place?

JOHNSON: Inland Regional Center rented out the conference center for this event today. And we often rent out our conference center.


TAPPER: Right, but who -- so, who had rented it from you? Who was in there?


JOHNSON: Well, I believe it was the Department of Health.

TAPPER: The Department of Health potentially was in there. OK.


TAPPER: And tell us about the experience you went through. The fire alarm was pulled. Is that the first time you were aware of something happening?

JOHNSON: Yes. The fire alarm was pulled.

And all the staff started to evacuate, as we thought it was a fire drill. But when we started to exit, we were told to go back into the building and to go into locked offices. So we re-entered and waited and we received messages that there was an active shooter and we needed to stay and get all staff behind locked doors.

So we stayed there until the SWAT teams came in and evacuated us about two hours ago.

TAPPER: So this at about -- somewhere in the 11:00 hour in California?

JOHNSON: Correct.

TAPPER: And then, since then, as far as you can tell, your staff members and those individuals who your center helps have been successfully evacuated, as far as you know?

JOHNSON: As much is possible. Most of the individuals are or they're still in the process of being evacuated, because there are many small rooms or closets where people may be hiding.

TAPPER: And how are you doing? JOHNSON: I'm very concerned about my staff, and just want to be sure

that they get the support that they need at this time.

TAPPER: All right.

Lavinia Johnson, the director of the Inland Regional Center, we're glad that you're OK, your staff is OK, those who you serve are, as far as you know, OK. And thank you so much for calling in. We appreciate it.

We're now told police are expected to hold a press conference to update on this shooting situation in just a few minutes.

Let's go to retired NYPD detective Harry Houck and Jonathan Gilliam, a former Navy SEAL and former FBI special agent, to talk about this horrific event.

Jonathan, if I could start with you, take us through what the law enforcement response to a situation like this is where the scene is still active. You heard Lavinia Johnson, the head of the Inland Regional Center, saying, as far as she knows, there is still potentially, potentially an active shooter on the grounds of this three-building facility.

JONATHAN GILLIAM, FORMER U.S. NAVY SEAL: Well, this is a very tense time for law enforcement when they rush into this, because, even though they get phone calls saying there's three shooters, there may be one, as we have seen in the past where you mentioned with the Washington Navy Yards.

So they have to be aggressive, but careful in who they engage as they move into these types of situation, because you could end up killing somebody who has nothing to do with this, or even another officer that may be responding from another department.

As the department moves in, it's a very quick reaction and then it slows down a bit as they systemically go through these different buildings. And they start to quickly -- if they can pull videotape, that typically is something that really helps in these situations. The easier it is -- which we saw in the recent shooting at the Planned Parenthood, the security firm there had videotapes, or had video, real-time video, so they could actually see who the shooter was.

In this kind of a scenario, it's good to get to those videos as quickly as possible to pull them, because we are -- you see, Jake, when you have a facility that you rent out, you are actually inviting a soft target to your location. Different groups have different people that don't like them.

And as they move in to that theater, now you may potentially have an outside threat that is now targeting your facility. And I just -- I have to say, when I'm looking at this -- I know Mr. Fuentes has years and years of experience. I don't like to use the word militia or any other term right now, because I just don't want people specifically looking for specific people. But I do think that fire alarm, the fact that it was pulled, it was

one of two things. It was either somebody panicking and trying to get authorities there, or that was a way for these attackers to get people out of that area or out of that building, so that they could attack them on the outside.

So I think law enforcement is taking all these different things into account right now. And this is still a very, very fluid situation.

TAPPER: Yes, absolutely.

Harry, let me ask you. Obviously, as Jonathan just noted, any security tape is going to be -- I'm sure has been long under review by law enforcement as they approach this situation.

Is it standard for government facilities, all of them, to have closed- circuit TV cameras and video, so that in a situation like this, it can be immediately reviewed?

HARRY HOUCK, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Probably, I would say, for federal buildings, yes, but I'm not so sure if this had it or not.

And like Jon said, if there is video there, that the police would look at that right away and be able to identify the shooters, at least what they were wearing, to be able to find out if there's one or three shooters.


The police seemed pretty clear, though, that it was more than one shooter, because one witness did say that several men came into the room. Now, another thing I was looking at here is the fact that somebody pulled the fire alarm.

This is the worst thing that you can do in an active shooter incident, because all it does is make people escape and run into the shooter. I thought this kind of stuff was already cleared up. There should be a separate alarm, a separate sounding alarm for an active shooter incident.

Now, this also still could be very hot zone here, because the fact is, they have not confirmed yet that that black SUV, all right, was the vehicle that they escaped in. And like Tom had said, that could have been a police vehicle, for all everyone knows.

So, the fact is that this is still a hot area here, in that the police have got to search and check that whole area out because there still is a chance that the shooter still is in the area.

TAPPER: Harry Houck, Jonathan Gilliam, thank you both.

President Obama, we are told, has been briefed on the situation and he continues to be briefed.

CNN senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns is at the White House. We are told, Joe, that President Obama just sat down for an interview

with CBS as this situation in San Bernardino was unfolding. What did the president have to say about the shooting?


And, as you know, Jake, the president has been responding with increasing frequency to these reports of shootings. He was just sitting down for an interview with CBS News. That interview, we're told, was temporarily, you know, postponed until the president got a briefing, a bit more information about the situation in San Bernardino as federal authorities now know it.

Now, listen to some of what the president said to CBS in that interview.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, we don't know that much yet. It's still an active situation. FBI is on the ground offering assistance to local officials as they need it.

It does appear that there are going to be some casualties. And, you know, obviously, our hearts go out to the victims and the families.

The one thing we do know is that we have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world. And there are some steps we could take, not to eliminate every one of these mass shootings, but to improve the odds that they don't happen as frequently.


JOHNS: And, Jake, you know, the president has been responding to these shootings a lot.

Just over the weekend, the White House put out a statement that's really seemingly applicable right now, although we don't have all the facts about what happened in California, saying, in part: This is not normal, we can't let it become normal if we truly care about this, meaning shootings like this, if we're going to offer up thoughts and prayers again for God knows how many times with a truly clean conscience, then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets.

So, that was a response to the Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado. And, as you know, Jake, the president was also in the briefing room on November 13 talking about the shootings in Paris, Jake.

TAPPER: Joe Johns at the White House, thank you.

Still so much we don't know about this shooting, including how many victims and how many shooters. We are awaiting the San Bernardino Police Department, which will brief on this shooting situation in just a few minutes. We are going to, of course, carry that live. But let's continue to talk until that press conference happens,

continue to talk with Ron Hosko, former assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Investigations Division, CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, and Art Roderick, a former assistant director of U.S. Marshals Service.

Ron, let me start with you.

You heard the head of the Inland Regional Center, which serves members of the disabled community in this area of California, say that the shooting took place in this third building, the smaller building, the southernmost building that they rent out. And she said she thought it was -- it had been rented out specifically by Department of Health personnel for the county.

That certainly changes the mystery a bit. We were talking earlier about targeting -- potentially, we thought, all these disabled children had been targeted. This is instead targeting a government function of some sort, potentially.

RON HOSKO, LAW ENFORCEMENT LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: What strikes me is this, that you have dozens, if not hundreds, of police officers speeding to a scene where they expect to be in a gunfight.

And what develops is the scene is to some extent stabilized. And what becomes important is this next phase of the investigation, where, suddenly, I need dozens of those people to start conducting interviews of victims and witnesses, to understand what truly went on, to start thinking about victimology, why this particular office, why these particular victims, who did it start with, what was said, the details of what was worn, rounds that might have been e expended, the description of the weapons.

And so the complexion of the investigation changes very dramatically from SWAT, tactical, gunfight to logical investigation so I understood what happened.

TAPPER: Tom Fuentes, it is very rare, statistically speaking, for a mass shooting to have been conducted in this country by more than one person.

The idea that it was three people potentially based on the information we're being given by law enforcement is not a normal circumstance when it comes to mass shootings in this country, sad enough as it is to say that there is a normal circumstance for mass shootings.

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: That's true. So that makes you wonder if this is some group if they've been putting out literature or e-mails or other social media of their disgust with either the county or this organization. Have there been threats on the organization as Ron mentioned? That type of investigation.

But this is going to be more of an intelligence driven investigation now than the tactical operation they expected when they arrived at the scene. And that intelligence is going to include are there people out there that have been expressing some type of a threatening comments about either this organization or the government in general or San Bernardino County in general.

If it was just one shooter that came and went, you'd say, well, could be a fired employee, disgruntled, something like that. But if it's true what the witnesses in the room -- not out on the street.

But in the room say that multiple people with long guns and body armor came into that room shooting, then that's a whole different story. And that's going to require a lot of intelligence to look at.

TAPPER: Art Roderick, obviously we are just a few weeks away -- or few weeks since the Paris shooting, which was a mass shooting by ISIS terrorists. This potentially could be terrorism. We don't know. The information is still coming in. The police are going to share it any minute.

We'll bring that press conference to you live. Is there anything that suggests to you that it could be an act of terrorism by an extremist Islamist group or not?

ART RODERICK, FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF THE U.S. MARSHAL'S OFFICE: Well, I think there's enough information here to look at and say, you know, of course we don't know yet.

TAPPER: Right.

RODERICK: We're still looking at one to three shooters.

TAPPER: Right.

RODERICK: Law enforcement always when they initially respond always think there's more than one shooter.

TAPPER: Right.

RODERICK: That's number one. So you're always going to hear that initial report. If there are three shooters and there obviously is some organization. Based on what organization to this particular crime, what's behind that is I think the key.

What's the motivation here for these individuals to commit this crime? When you look at it in a larger perspective it's kind of an odd group to target, the Department of Health from California.

It's not somebody you would expect that would have somebody come after them in this type of organization -- this type of organized crime here where you've got three individuals heavily armed, supposedly at this point in time.

TAPPER: Right.

RODERICK: Heavily armed in a black SUV leaving the scene and possibly leaving some package behind that had to be checked out. It's a very odd set of circumstances.

TAPPER: It is an odd set of circumstances. We were discussing earlier it's obviously a soft target.


TAPPER: A banquet hall where county employees are having some sort of holiday celebration and we're told by one individual at the Inland Regional Center that she believes it was the local health department that may or may not be significant. We don't know. Does the fact that it is government employees, county government employees, does that say anything to you, Art?

RODERICK: I mean, it could. Usually when you get these anti- government people it's usually the federal government.

TAPPER: Right. Not county.

RODERICK: Not county because a lot of them do recognize the county seat as the real true law enforcement or true government for their area. So, again, it's kind of an odd group to target. The county health department, I'm not sure if that is the target or it's just they knew there was a large group of individuals in this conference room at the time.

TAPPER: It's horrifying and a mystery, stay with us. I want to go now to CNN's Deb Feyerick who joins me on the phone. Deb, you've been working your sources. What can you tell us about this suspicious package that witnesses say was inside the Inland Regional Center building? What do you know about that?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, what I'm told from the source is that the SWAT team went in to try to clear the building. And as they were clearing the building they noticed some sort of box, some sort of a package that looked in the words of the source, not normal.

So therefore they called in the explosive ordinance team, the bomb squad essentially. The bomb squad remains in that building. What they do first is they're going to x-ray the package or try to get the package.

[16:50:05]But right now the words I'm being told is it has not been disrupted yet. That means they don't know what it is and they're still handling the situation. We're also told, Jake, again we've heard witnesses say that the gunmen seen carrying long rifles, long guns essentially.

I am told now by a source that there were rifle casings that were found on scene and clearly what that suggests law enforcement being told to use extreme caution in this.

Because they don't know whether in fact the individuals are still together in that black SUV or whether they may have disbursed and are just waiting for a time to regroup.

And what you're looking at right now, Jake, right there on the scene, that is actually the bomb squad -- the vehicles that are in that building trying to handle that situation and try to figure out exactly what is happening. Still active in that area while they try to determine what's going on.

TAPPER: Deb, just to recap for those just joining us. Obviously there was a shooting, police are saying multiple casualties, and they have confirmed there have been some fatalities. It seems based on what we've been able to piece together that of these three buildings at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, which is east of Los Angeles.

It's the conference center, the southernmost building you see on the map right there where at least according to the head of the Inland Regional Center that's where the shooting took place. They say the conference center they regularly rent out and she believes the local county Department of Health was having some sort of event or banquet.

Law enforcement has been told by witnesses at this event that three individuals wearing body armor entered with long rifles of some sort. Deb, you just told us that they found casings backing that up.

Deb, are police still operating on the assumption that these three individuals escaped in a dark SUV or do they believe that one or more shooters may still be on site?

FEYERICK: Well, what I had initially been told by a source according to witnesses who were questioned by police, these witnesses, multiple witnesses saw individuals dressed in some sort of darkish kind of clothing get into a black SUV and pull out of the parking lot.

That was the assumption that they're working on. It's unclear whether anybody was in the building. I know a woman who had sort of said she thought that's what the working assumption was may have happened earlier because now we're well into an hour that this has taken place.

We do know that they are, again, you're looking at the bomb squad, the bomb technicians. They are on the scene there. But it would be a much more aggressive scene with law enforcement in those buildings.

The one building where the shooting took place, we were told that the SWAT team did clear that building meaning nobody else aside from the victims remained inside that building -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Deb Feyerick, thanks so much. Let's go back to San Bernardino where Kyung Lah has been reporting for us. Kyung, I'm not sure how much of the show you've been able to listen to as you report, but the head of the Inland Regional Center believes the shooting was in the southernmost building, the conference center. What else have you been able to learn on the scene there?

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Basically been just trying to talk to people who are trying to find out what happened to their spouses, to the people who were inside that building, over to my right in an area you can't quite see from here is a golf course where those relatives are trying to meet. And as you look over this police car, what you're seeing here

is a number of officials. I recognize the sheriff of San Bernardino County. There's also the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, one of the men is wearing that on the back of his jacket.

There is also the San Bernardino Police Department. The woman who was speaking to us from the police department says that they are still searching for multiple suspects. They are believed to be wearing some type of military gear.

But as you can see that group as they're talking amongst each other they're information sharing right now and they're still trying to piece this together.

Meanwhile, Jake, remember this is still a very active scene. What we're hearing -- and this is through the text messages of the relatives who are here near where I'm standing is that the people are still being pulled out of this building.

They're still trying to account for everyone in the building, SWAT still going through this building so all of this active scene is happening while the authorities are trying to conduct a manhunt in this city for multiple shooters.

Certainly appear to be targeted and may have potentially, you know, targeted this place. We're still waiting for a news conference that is expected to happen in just about 5 minutes from now, hopefully getting the very latest information to you -- Jake.

[16:55:12]TAPPER: Actually, Kyung, we were given 2-minute warning while you were talking there about that news conference. When that happens we'll bring it to you, but until -- here they come right now. Let's pause and listen to what they have to say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, I'm Lieutenant Brad Tom with the San Bernardino County Sheriffs Public Affairs Division. Just like to provide you with a telephone number in the event that you have information for investigative leads.

The number that will be manned by the sheriff's department will be 1-866-346-7632. You can also call 1-800-78-crime if you wish to remain anonymous. I'll make a couple quick introductions.

We have Chief Jared (inaudible) from the San Bernardino Police Department standing to my right, Sheriff John McMahon to my left here, and the assistant director of the -- in charge of the L.A. office of FBI, David Abodish (ph). With that I will hand over to Chief (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good afternoon, everybody. So this originally started off at 11:00 this morning, late this morning early afternoon. We received a call here at the Inland Regional Center 1400 block of South Waterman of a shooting. It was quickly apparent that we had what amounted to an active shooter situation.

There was a massive law enforcement response that initially was officers from our department that responded and then very quickly as word spread through the region we had a massive mutual aid response from virtually every law enforcement agency in the immediate area to include the sheriff's department, Fontana Police Department, California Highway Patrol, probation department, parole, number of agencies responded.

What we have so far is information up to three people had entered the building and had opened fire on people inside of the building. We do have some preliminary numbers of upwards of 14 people that are dead and upwards of 14 people that are injured.

Keep in mind those are preliminary numbers. The 14 wounded have been taken to various area hospitals. In addition to the law enforcement response there was a massive medical aid response from San Jose City Fire Department, other area fire departments as well as the ambulance and American medical response.

As officers initially arrived on scene they went into the active shooter protocols, the things that we train for. They immediately entered the building in search of the suspects. Initial information is that the suspects were potentially still inside of the building.

It is a massive facility, employs several hundred people, and it's taken a long time to clear the building. In fact, I think we still have assets inside that are completing that clearing process.

Information that I think is probably the most reliable at this point is that the suspects have fled potentially in a dark colored SUV. We do not have any identification on who those suspects are.

We do not know what the motive is for the shooting at this point. With that I'm going to turn over to the sheriff for comments.

SHERIFF JOHN MCMAHON, SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: Thank you, chief. We're working closely with the San Bernardino Unified Police Department as well as federal partners to make sure we have the resources we need to thoroughly investigate this event.

Our officers are working hand in hand with members of the San Bernardino Police Department as well as the other agencies to search the building as the chief indicated. That search is still ongoing.

We have also because of the information that the suspects may have fled the area, we have also shut down and locked down the courts and the local city and county buildings in the general area around San Bernardino.

We have an increased law enforcement presence at all the high profile areas including hospitals. We've been in contact with the school district and their school police chief to take care of the school side of things.

We continue to make sure that we do everything we can to keep the public safe. We've been in contact with the board of supervisors. They've pledged their full support and the resources that they have to help solve this as well.

We will work together to investigate this case once the scene is secure. And work hand in hand with the city of San Bernardino as we do at other high profile events.

I will not have Dave Bowdich, assistant director of the FBI, to say a few words.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Sheriff. The FBI is here with our state and local partners as well as our partners from the ATF. And we here to essentially assure that all the wounded are extracted and ultimately public safety is the number goal --