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Orlando Shooting Overnight; FBI Investigating Attack for Ties to Radical Islamic Terrorism. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired June 12, 2016 - 08:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CHRISTI PAUL. CNN ANCHOR: As the sun comes up on the streets of Orlando, Florida, we are watching a situation unfold, one of what could be one of the biggest mass shootings in American history.

[08:00:04] We have at least 42 people taken to hospitals, at least 20 people who are dead, after Pulse nightclub was the target. The people in Pulse nightclub, when a shooter came in, armed with an assault type rifle, a handgun and some sort of device, and started shooting.

The gunman fired about 2:00 this morning, when all of this happened, and we know as I said 42 people were taken to the hospital.

You are seeing some of the video there, where we have authorities, police, people from police, state and local authorities helping citizens get people into trucks, to hospitals that are nearby, because for whatever reason, maybe there were not enough emergency vehicles to get them there, but police have said multiple devices were found with the suspect. They are not releasing much about him, only to say he is not from this area, from Orlando. He was organized, and this seems to be very well-prepared.

And as it started at 2:00 in the morning, three hours later, as police determined there were hostages involved, they decided to go in and try to save those hostages. Take a look.


CHIEF JOHN MINA, ORLANDO POLICE: We're looking probably in the range of 20, but we don't want to give you an exact figure. Like I said multiple people transported to the hospital. Unfortunately, there are people we're trying to clear the Pulse nightclub of all, any devices. We did find a device on the suspect himself, and possibly his car so we're trying to clear all that and unfortunately there are some people who have succumbed to gunshot wounds, maybe around 20, inside the nightclub.

REPORTER: Can you go into more detail about your time line once you were able to stop the suspect and get in there? I know that you had some of the surviving victims being interviewed?

MINA: Absolutely. So, again, at 0200, our officer who was working extra duty there responds to the shots fired. He and then two other officers exchanged gunfire with the suspect. This developed into a hostage situation.

So, right about a little after 5:00 this morning, we made the decision to go in and rescue. We were being contacted by people in the bathroom nearby, at least 15 people in a separate area, and our biggest concern was future loss of life. We wanted to save those people. So, we did an entry and exchanged gunfire with the suspect. Again, after some explosive devices were used as well as our bear-cat was used to get through the wall.

And from there, we exchanged gunfire with the suspect, and he was dead at that scene. But officers did a great job, SWAT team did a great job. At least 30 people who were saved during that rescue.


PAUL: OK. You heard something there as we talk about exactly how this panned out. They used a bearcat to get through the wall.

Cedric Alexander, law enforcement analyst with us now.

This was a very, very delicate situation. You have at least 30 people in there. You have no idea if you're going to be able to bring them out dead or alive.

Help us understand at what point they make that decision to, that this is their option, this is the only option they have to try to save these people and using the bearcat, the armory that they used, the weaponry they used. Help us understand how that went down.

CEDRIC ALEXANDER, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, our tactical units across the country, SWAT teams are certainly trained and equipped with high-powered weaponry, and very well-trained with high- powered weaponry and tactics for these type of situations. They're also equipped with vehicles such as the bearcat, many people may refer to them as small tanks, but they have the ability for officers to get behind or inside, so that they can cover themselves in these vehicles as they enter into a threat zone. And that was clearly the case here.

Those decisions are made when oftentimes it becomes the final option or circumstances suggest that we need to move now so that we can save lives, and this clearly was a decision that was made by the chief this morning.

PAUL: OK, Cedric, thank you so much.

I want to go out to Boris Sanchez who is live a few blocks from where this all happened.

Boris, what are you seeing there now?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The police presence here, Christi, has dwindled down significantly.

[08:05:02] Earlier today, there were dozens of agents all over the street, covering the street. We saw ambulances rushing back and forth. Right now, things are much more calm. As a matter of fact within the past half hour or so, we saw about 30 people down the street from here get picked up, two busloads and driven to downtown Orlando.

We're not sure who those people are but just the number and the look on their faces kind of coincides with the 30 or so people we heard were rescued from inside the club by police when they went inside.

To kind of review where we're at right now, what we know about the suspect, officials tell us that he was not from the Orlando area, that this was an organized attack, and there was a suggestion that he may have had a radical Islamist leanings.

From what I can tell you from the press briefing, it really minute by minute goes with what we saw standing out here about three blocks away from the club. At 2:00 a.m. after the initial shots were fired an off-duty police officer responded, there was that hostage situation that unfolded where we heard witnesses tell us they saw inside as they were trying to get out.

And then at about 5:00 a.m. we heard that explosion out here. It turned out to be a distractionary device used by officers they staged to interfere, go inside and save some of the hostages. At that point, they exchanged gunfire with the shooter and he was killed. They mentioned also during that press briefing that he had some him. Investigators are now working to figure out exactly what that device was.

Obviously, this investigation will take quite some time. There's a lot of background to look into as far as the suspect. Also, one thing to consider. We heard the mayor earlier say a lot of consideration should be given to the victims, that this is a strong city.

Just yesterday, the city of Orlando was dealing with a different shooting, this one at a concert hall where an online superstar, Christina Grimmie was shot and killed. So, this is obviously community was already sensitive to shootings and have this happen at this point has to be considered one of the worst shootings in American history if we're talking about potentially 20 people killed inside the club, rattling for people here in Orlando -- Christi and Victor.

PAUL: You're absolutely right.

I do want to make a point to those of you watching. Victor has left. He is on his way down to Orlando as we speak to continue to get more information and push this story forward, as things develop over the next couple of days.

I am sitting here with law enforcement analyst Cedric Alexander, who is with me at the desk, as well as former FBI assistant director Tom Fuentes and our law enforcement analyst as well on the phone.

I want to listen to something the police chief said. He was asked the question as to whether this shooter may have had a connection to radical Islamic terrorism. This was his answer. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD HOPPER, FBI ASSISTANT SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: I'd say at this time we're looking into all angles right now. We do have suggestions that individual may have leanings towards that are particular ideology, but right now we can't say definitively so we're still running everything to ground.


PAUL: OK, so basically they are saying nothing's off the table, is Cedric.

ALEXANDER: Nothing is off the table at this point because --

PAUL: He said we did have the police chief saying we do have suggestions that the individual may have leanings as we heard there. What suggestions would that be? Does that suggest to you they've already looked on social media, they've already gotten some information -- gleaned some information about this person, possibly from other people.

ALEXANDER: It could be all the above. We really don't know, but I'm quite sure over the next number of hours we'll have much more clarification as to why they may be leaning or not leaning in that direction, but of course an investigation of this magnitude, and if we consider what's going on in the country today, where we know we have people who are being recruited through social media.

We have those that very well already be in the homeland or this could have been domestic terrorism, they're going to take a 360-degree view of this, and the investigation over time and probably over a very short period of time, because the FBI is very good at this, and they have all the resources and intelligence to draw some pretty good conclusions, probably within a reasonable amount of time, to be able to share.

PAUL: Juliette Kayyem is with us, national security analyst.

Juliette, when you hear everything we've been hearing this morning, what's your first thought?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST (via telephone): Well, I obviously would always put a terror incident at the top of potentials, only because these kinds of events just don't happen regularly, and we have seen things like in Paris and Brussels, mass casualty events.

But, and I'm going to put a big on this, the only evidence it has ties to Islamic statements is a statement by one police officer. And so, it's important to just wait -- I know it's hard to do because people want to, to wait out an investigation like this, because this is still an active investigation.

[08:10:11] Did the person have colleagues involved? How did he plan an event like this? Who else knew? And so, we want to make sure that our investigation doesn't close off any other potential but I just want to say, you know, this is, whatever it is, this is just a horror, and we've seen this kind of horror, whatever type of motivation, you know, in Paris and other places, the soft target places that are meant to be fun, young people. And so, this is definitely just a shock to all of us, even those of us who are in the field.

PAUL: Um-hum. Juliette, thank you so much and do stay with us.

Tom Fuentes, when we hear from Juliette, she's making very good points. We only have the police chief or the police department's words to go on, and again, he said I would say if we're looking into all angles right now, we do have suggestions that the individual may have leanings toward that particular ideology, but we cannot say definitively. Again, that was the answer to the question as to whether the shooter may have had a connection to radical Islamic terrorism.

With that said, Tom Fuentes, where do you see -- I guess how long does it take? I mean, you've been involved in enough of these situations, how long does it take to quash whether that connection is indeed made? I mean, don't people who do these kinds of acts, who perpetrate these kinds of -- and it is a mass killing at this nightclub -- have a motive and want you to know the motive eventually?

TOM FUENTES, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST (via telephone): Well, yes. It could be a very short period of time. If you recall San Bernardino, the individual called the police that had bought the guns for Farook and who have been involved with him a couple years earlier, but decided not to commit a terrorist act. So, as soon as he heard about the shooting, he knew immediately it was his former neighbor and friend who was probably responsible and notified the police.

So, the police could get calls almost immediately, if somebody that knows this person or knows of his ideology phoned in, and said I'll bet it's so-and-so and here's why I think so. So, it can be very quick or if it takes time for the search of his residence to try to find his computers, to see if he has cell phone information or computerized information that reveal contact with other individuals or going to other websites, that can take a little bit longer but that's a probability as well.

But again, I agree with Juliette that we shouldn't speculate, just based on the comment he made, I was surprised he made that comment. I would wait for a little more detail before saying that's what it's about.

PAUL: Juliette, do you agree with that? Are you surprised he made that comment this morning?

KAYYEM: Only surprised just because it does get people thinking in one direction and you don't want them to do that because I don't think we know -- look, here's what we know now. There's a perpetrator who is dead. So, they're going to have his identity relatively soon, they'll know where he lives, see what he's in his house. They're going to determine whether it's known to the Joint Terrorism Task Forces either in Orlando, or Florida or anywhere else.

I mean, right now, there is so much activity going on in the federal government with the FBI and Department of Homeland Security to figure out who is he is. I think we're talking right now, in two to three hours, we will have a sense of what this is, because everyone is now -- look, you have, we know who did it, so that is beneficial from the perspective of motive.

PAUL: So, Juliette, when we talk about waiting a couple of hours, and until we find out more about this person, what do you tell people? Because you know that the nation is watching this, and they're waking up and they're satisfying this now act of terrorism as it has been dubbed, as it has been categorized by authorities there in Orlando, and they're waking up, they're looking at it and thinking of course they're wondering why and we don't have those answers.

But what would you say to the viewers who are watching this and who may be wondering what more might be behind it and anybody who might have more information. I mean, how do authorities get information from people when they think oh, I saw him do something, you know, I saw him looking at a website a couple of weeks ago but I didn't think anything of it.

[08:15:04] What do you tell the American people about our safety and about our awareness right now?

KAYYEM: So, I mean, that's a great question. The first as we find out who the perpetrator is, anyone who has come across him, who may have information absolutely has to come forward if only to ensure there isn't more activity planned if he was part of a larger group. If he was a lone guy, you know, then that is also beneficial.

I will say just in this regard because it was a known gay club and I'd love Tom's thoughts on this, that's not typical for sort of targeted terrorists, especially those with international ties, because they don't -- I don't know how to say this perfectly, but they tend not to target things that they might view as socially not pristine. They go into sort of generic sporting events or clubs.

I will say to the American public, and I've dealt with this before, people are nervous. We are also in an election season, where this will obviously have consequences. We are relatively safe nation overall.

These incidents happen. They happened before 9/11. They will happen again, unfortunately. We have to remain smart but we also have to put things like this, no matter how horrible, in perspective, and we have to work together to reduce the risk to ourselves, but also maintain who we are as a nation.

We will not close down because of this, and I recognize the fear. I'm a mother of three, with kids who were out last night, you know? I recognize the fear and we just have to put it in perspective.

PAUL: All right. Juliette, you make a very good point. And, Tom, I want to take that to you. As we hear of act of terrorism, how do you define act of terrorism? Whether you have radical Islamic ties, correct?

FUENTES: Well, terrorism means that you're submit committing those crimes, you're committing murder for either a religious ideology, a political ideology or some to affect government policy or to make some political statement. So, it's more than just the personal murder that you want to kill somebody. It's more than just being a deranged psychopath that commits a random act of violence.

There's some political or religious purpose behind it, and that can be domestic. We have no shortage of domestic hate groups in this country. You know, the original Ku Klux Klan, going back 150 years to other more moderate hate groups that we have, and the international front, we have no shortage there. As I mentioned, the FBI has investigations of ISIS in all 50 states right now.

So, while we haven't had ISIS targeting gays here or what we've seen in their messages here, we have seen them put videos online of marching gays and pushing them off tall buildings and killing them in that matter and saying that's how they should be killed. So, you know, now we have a shooting like this, this is what makes it difficult for the FBI and for the police is you don't know. It could be motivated by so many different ideologies or just one person that's deranged, doing it on their own. And that's the problem here, too many suspects instead of too few.

PAUL: Very good point. Thank you very much. Juliette made a great, I wanted to clarify that with you, Tom, and get your perspective.

Harry Houck is, CNN law enforcement analyst as well who's watching all of this unfold with you this morning in the last over six hours now that this has been happening.

Harry, give me your immediate assessment based on what we know thus far.

HARRY HOUCK, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You know, excuse me, one of the first things I'm seeing here is that, you know, the fact that we had a hostage situation for a short period of time, that's kind of strange to me. Why didn't he keep on shooting until the police finally stopped him?

So, that's not typical of a terrorist attack that we've seen in the past where people are held hostage. The shooters will keep on shooting and shooting and shooting, so I don't know exactly what this is right now. The fact is maybe at the time that he stopped shooting, they said he had some kind of a device on him, maybe he was trying to make the device work but the police made the right decision to go in and take this shooter out right away.

So, when the police chief who talking there said something about possible Islamic terrorist attack, you know, they've had information about this guy for over five hours now and they've had dozens of detectives. [08:20:03] They have the FBI. They have the CIA -- everybody working.

So if it seems -- so it seems to me that the police know something that they don't want to give any information further out because they want to make sure they're 100 percent confirmed if this is a terrorist attack. The odd thing for me was, why did he stop shooting for a period of time?

PAUL: Cedric Alexander, what do you say to that? Did it seem odd to you there was a three-hour span of holding hostages?

ALEXANDER: Well, here again, like you just heard Harry said in these type of situations, three hours can be considered very short, but each set of circumstances, when it comes to these types of events are very different. We don't know yet and it's hard to speculate whether the officers were engaged in negotiation, what was occurring in that three-hour time span. They will tell us that at some point but I think it's important still very early in the investigation, we have more information than what we had at 5:00 this morning.

However, the investigation is continuing and I think by midday, hopefully by 9:30, we'll know more information but in a situation like this it's important we step back, we wait, we see what law enforcement investigation reveals because we don't want to alert people or cause or create a situation in the minds of people that may not be there.

PAUL: That may not be true.

ALEXANDER: That may not be true, and we have to be very careful of that but at the same time as well, too, we got to be thinking about those things, because this we know, we live in a very different world today, and these incidents are coming it appears more frequently than what we had ever imagined.

PAUL: So, Harry Houck, other than this hostage situation that has perplexed you, what else about this are you looking at with all the information we know as of this point, that stands out to you?

HOUCK: Yes, you know, that hostage situation is really, really a big thing for me, watching that, and I didn't know that went on for three hours. Now that I'm finding out it went on for three hours, that's really perplexing to me.

If somebody is looking to kill as many people, as fast as possible and a terrorist type person, why hold people hostage for three hours? That's what tends to make me think maybe this might not be a typical terrorist attack or terrorist attack at all. I'm not sure --

PAUL: If you're walking into, if you start shooting first of all, as this happened at 2:00, you get in a gun fight with a security officer, police officer who is off duty but working security at this nightclub, you make your way into this nightclub with an assault type rifle, a handgun and another device.

HOUCK: Right.

PAUL: Obviously, your intent is to kill, you would think, a lot of people.

HOUCK: Sure, exactly, and this three-hour standoff is really strange to me. I tend to think that maybe this is not an Islamic terrorist attack, based on that, but you know, of course --

PAUL: Based on the hostage situation alone?

HOUCK: Based on the hostage situation alone. I mean, why? We've seen these guys go out and kill and kill until they're stopped. Why did this guy stop?

Of course, I could be wrong here. I mean, this guy might not be attached operationally to anybody. He might be a lone wolf who planned this attack and all of a sudden, during the attack he stopped. That's definitely a possibility out there.

But the way I'm looking at now and based on the information we have right now, the fact he had stopped for a while and negotiations might have been going on. Police had to make a decision, because when the place arrived there were people already dead.

People were already shot, and you make a decision, listen, a guy who is willing to kill this many people at this time, do we wait and negotiate for three hours or we go right in on this guy? It's a very hard decision to make. You're trying to save as many lives as possible, but the fact that this guy might have already killed 10, 15, 20 people already, you know?

That's a very tough decision for the police to be able to make and luckily they did finally make it and go there and take the shooter out.

PAUL: Right, and that is one of the things that has been praised by our law enforcement analyst all morning is the fact they did make that decision to go in there and in doing so they saved at least 30 people we know.

Tom Fuentes, what do you make -- let me ask you this -- of that three- hour period between the time that the shooter started shooting and then there was the hostage situation before the police came and took fire, open fire on him and were able to kill this suspect.

[08:25:05] What do you make of the fact that he did stop shooting? Do we have any indication -- I don't remember hearing anything about negotiations actually going on during that time?

FUENTES: Well, first of all, Christi, I'd like to say that Harry raises a great point here about why stop shooting, if you're out to kill as many people as you can for whatever reason you want to kill them. Obviously, he was on a rampage to begin with and clearly didn't run out of ammunition since he had enough bullets left to engage with the police, so that's a great point of why he stopped, what was going through his mind to start the shooting, what was going through his mind to cause him to stop.

And the other thing is that as far as the three hours, you know, when you're running one of these and I've been an on-scene commander in hostage situations, when you're running one of these things, trying to get as much information as you can that's credible, it's very difficult in a chaotic situation. You've got a dark club, you want to get a floor plan of the building, how many rooms are there, where could people be as the witnesses have been debriefed that have run out the door, try to find out where other people could be hiding and obviously some of them were sending messages out while they were hiding in the various, the bathroom and other places in that building.

So that's a big part of what you're going to do, before you order an assault, to rescue hostages, is know where is the shooter, where is that person, try and place him at specific point in that building, so you can focus on that, and specifically identify where, whether they're hostages or other barricaded people that just lock themselves in various rooms where they might be and get that type of information.

You know, some of them have phones and were sending messages out of there, they could have been communicating with the police as well, and so, the police would be gathering intelligence at all through that time period to try to see when and where they could make a rescue attempt and carry it off successfully.

PAUL: All right. Tom, thank you so much. Do stay with us.

Juliette Kayyem made a good point today. We are in a dicey political season. People are polarized in the way that they see things right now on many different sides of the aisles.

In fact, Donald Trump just tweeting this morning now about this saying, "Really bad shooting in Orlando. Police investigating possible terrorism. Many people dead and wounded."

We know police are investigating this as an act of terrorism, because they defined it as such during a press conference just a short while ago. We're going to take a quick break here. We're back in just a moment.


[08:31:57] PAUL: If you're just joining us, we're following breaking news out of Orlando, Florida. Thirty-one minutes past the hour.

Police are investigating a mass shooting, they're now calling an act of terrorism, up to 20 people have been killed in this shooting that later turned into a hostage situation and a single gunman is dead inside that club.


CHIEF JOHN MINA, ORLANDO POLICE: We're looking probably in the range of 20, but we don't want to give you an exact figure. Like I said multiple people transported to the hospital. Unfortunately, there are people we're trying to clear the Pulse nightclub of all, any devices. We did find a device on the suspect himself, and possibly his car so we're trying to clear all that and unfortunately there are some people who have succumbed to gunshot wounds, maybe around 20, inside the nightclub.

REPORTER: Can you go into more detail about your time line once you were able to stop the suspect and get in there? I know that you had some of the surviving victims being interviewed?

MINA: Absolutely. So, again, at 0200, our officer who was working extra duty there responds to the shots fired. He and then two other officers exchanged gunfire with the suspect. This developed into a hostage situation.

So, right about a little after 5:00 this morning, we made the decision to go in and rescue. We were being contacted by people in the bathroom nearby, at least 15 people in a separate area, and our biggest concern was future loss of life. We wanted to save those people. So, we did an entry and exchanged gunfire with the suspect. Again, after some explosive devices were used as well as our bear-cat was used to get through the wall.

And from there, we exchanged gunfire with the suspect, and he was dead at that scene. But officers did a great job, SWAT team did a great job. There were at least 30 people who were saved during that rescue.


PAUL: Officers being highly praised by law enforcement analyst this is morning. Police are looking into whether the shooter had possible ties to radical Islamic terrorism. But we know at least 42 people have been injured including a police officer who got into a gun battle with that shooter.

Here's what witnesses saw as it was happening.


CHRISTOPHER HANSEN, WITNESS: I didn't see any of the actual shooters. I saw bodies going down. I fell down, crawled out. People were trying to escape out the back. I believe things may have been knocked down. When I hit the ground I was crawling and hit my elbows and knees and I got across the street, blood everywhere.

I was helping somebody because he was laying down, wasn't sure where he was dead OR alive, hey, are you alive? Hey, are you okay? He didn't speak English but the person next to us who was helping us spoke, I don't know if it was Portuguese but able to get his name and I took my bandana off, put it in a knot and shoved it in the bullet hole in his back, because it didn't go through.

[08:35:05] It stayed in.

The second person I helped, she got hit in the arm, and her name is Carlesha (ph) and she came from Ohio as well because I moved here from Ohio. So moving here, this is my first nightclub being out here two months and this is the experience. I didn't know it was Latin night. I didn't understand the music, I still danced. I sweat but it's under my nails a little bit and it was tragic.

REPORTER: What did you hear?

HANSEN: Loud, banging noise like gunshots going off the course. I wasn't sure if it was the music, I thought it was a song. It was kind of like it went with the beat almost until you heard too many shots. It was just like bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang! That's when you just know chaos is just, it was in turmoil.

And there had to have been one or two, or an extended clip, I don't know much about the guns but it sounded like it could have been a handgun or something.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But they won't let us know. They're not letting us know any names of anybody.

REPORTER: What can you tell us about what happened?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I could tell you that my son was in there with his boyfriend, and two other guys, two other friends, and the two friends went to the bathroom and when they went to the bathroom, they heard about 20 shots, and then they recognized and took off running and while they were waiting outside the club, they saw Juan, who was my son's boyfriend, they saw him being transported into an ambulance with multiple gunshots but my son hasn't been heard from. I don't know if he was left in the club if he got shot or if he's being worked on here.


PAUL: And that's the most disturbing elements of all this, the people who are wondering where their loved ones are. It's been six and a half hours since this shooting, and there are people just like that mom who are asking a lot of questions and wondering if they can find the people that they love, who they know were in that club at the time of the shooting.

Boris Sanchez is there. We've been talking a lot about the why, but let's talk about the who. Let's talk about the people who had been walking up and down those streets trying to get some information about the people that they love. What are you learning this hour?

SANCHEZ: Christi, it's difficult to imagine what those family members had to have been going through in the hours after all was unfolding, with the reports there was a hostage situation and reports there were mass casualties.

I can tell you there say bit of good news in all of this. Initially, our team saw chaos outside the Orlando regional medical center with gurneys and doctors and nurses outside, trying to talk to family members, and tend to those that were wounded. Now things have calmed down considerably. Everyone that was outside has basically been taken inside the hospital and now they're requesting anyone that believes that they had an immediate family member inside the club to go through the main entrance at the hospital and provide I.D. so they can make sure that everyone is vouched for and that they're supposed to be there. You remember the hospital is only about five blocks from the actual

club itself and it was on lockdown from 2:00 a.m. around the time that shots rang out as well. So many questions to be answered here, not the least of which who was hurt. Obviously tense time for family members, and I should also note as we were standing here we saw several corner vehicles we can drive to the scene.

So it's going to be a long, painful process to help those that are injured in healing but also to identify the dead and ultimately to figure out why all of this had to happen -- Christi.

PAUL: A lot of families just want to, they just want the people that they love to be back with them, and if they happen to be some of those people who are, who have passed away inside that nightclub, they just want their bodies back. Tom Fuentes, law enforcement analyst telling us it could be hours before those bodies are taken out, as this investigation continues.

We're going to take a very quick break. Do stay with us.


[08:43:44] PAUL: If you're joining us, it's been a very disturbing morning, we're following breaking news out of Orlando, Florida, where police are investigating a mass shooting, what could be one of the worst mass shootings in American history and they are now calling it an act of terrorism. At least 20 people have been killed. This shooting later turned into a hostage situation. We know that a single gunman is dead, inside this club, it's a gay nightclub in downtown Orlando called the Pulse.

Police are looking at possible ties between this shooter and radical Islamic terrorism, but at least 42 people have been injured including a police officer who got into a gun battle with that shooter. Listen here to a witness at the nightclub describe what happened.


HANSEN: It's shocking.

REPORTER: If you had to count, how many shots?

HANSEN: More than 20 or 30. It was just one after another after another after another and it could have lasted a whole song I mean, because after everybody was out the shootings were still going and the cops were yelling, "Go, go, clear the area! Clear the area!" We're like (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

So, you know, when I bent down to help this guy, it's like, are you kidding?

[08:45:01] It's like you're still watching yourself and then you see people on the side of the buildings and I jumped a couple times, I wasn't sure if that person was someone with a gun or if there were somebody who was hiding, because you don't know. You don't know who is what and who is where. You're just like, oh, man. (END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: I want to let you now, too, that the lockdown -- we're just getting word -- the lockdown has been lifted at two of the hospitals in Orlando, Winnie Hospital and Arnold Palmer Hospital were lifted. Orlando Regional Medical Center was on lockdown, we have not gotten word as to whether that lockdown has been lifted.

But I want to go to Brian Stelter, because I want to point something out that was interesting this morning. The majority of the communication between the Orlando police department and the public was being done via Twitter.


PAUL: And one of the things that came out of the press conference that they did eventually have about an hour and 15 minutes ago or an hour and a half ago was the fact that they have definitively characterized this tragedy as an act of terrorism.

Brian, what are you seeing?

STELTER: I'm struck by that because I think we're seeing a gradual evolution in the use of the word terrorism by American law enforcement and media. Oftentimes, when you hear terrorism, you instinctively think about international terrorist attacks, international actors. But in this case, authorities are saying it may be domestic terror, international terror. One way or another it is terrorism.

It gets to the heart of the word. Any time 60 plus people struck by bullets, this an act designed to instill fear and terror and thus it matches the definition of terrorism. Approximately 20 dead and 42 injured, that gets you above 60 people that were struck by gunfire. It's heart-wrenching to think about the fact we don't know exactly how many people are inside of this club dead.

In some ways, Christi, it is reminiscent of the attack in Paris last November which was clearly an act of international Islamic terrorism. But in that attack, it took a long time to know how many people were inside that nightclub, that theater. In this case, as your guests were saying earlier it will take several hours for us to know the death toll.

In the meantime, the search for the missing, the search for friends is heartbreaking to see on social media. As you mentioned the police using Twitter to communication because the scene was so chaotic they couldn't hold a press conference.

Well, we're seeing friends and club goers are using Facebook and Twitter as well to communicate, messages from people still six and a half hours later not able to find their friends or loved ones still searching for people and that will go on I suppose as we go on this morning.

PAUL: Yes. Cedric Alexander, sitting on the set here with me mentioned how tough

it is to be at some of these crime scenes and there are these people who have passed away now and their phones are ringing, because people are desperately trying to call them to get to them, and real quickly, you say I ask, do officers ever actually answer those phones?

ALEXANDER: Well, in this circumstance, probably not. I think there's going to be a way to make identification, probably many victims probably have some form of identification on their person. Under extreme circumstances that may be the case. It just all depends.

But here again, in a situation such as that, it's very traumatic. I can only imagine for the rescue workers who have to walk in and around that scene and do the work that they do, when you have that large number of people who are laying there deceased.

PAUL: Yes. You want to hold them in reverence certainly.


PAUL: Do stay close. We'll take a real quick break. We'll be right back.


[08:52:59] PAUL: We're following breaking news this morning that has been clarified as an act of terrorism and a very horrific crime there in Orlando, Florida. Police investigating a mass shooting, what could be one of the worst mass shootings in American history, approximately 20 people have been killed. Forty-two injured in a shooting that later turned into a hostage situation.

This happened at Pulse nightclub. It's a gay nightclub in Orlando. Single gunman is dead inside that club, and police are looking into possible ties between the shooter and radical Islamic terrorism. We know lockdowns have now bee lifted at two area hospitals, where some of the victims were taken.

Three area hospitals were on lockdown and a very expansive perimeter was set after this 2:00 a.m. shooting, and now we are almost seven hours later, and there are we believe still people who do not have word as to what has happened to their loved ones, people that they believe who may have been in that club.

I do want to listen here to what one of the police officers was saying about their investigation.


DANNY BANKS, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Do we consider this an act of terrorism? Absolutely, we are investigating this from all parties' perspective as an act of terrorism. Any time that we have potentially dozens of victims and any of our communities that I think we can qualify that as a terrorist activity.

Whether that's a domestic terrorist activity or an international one is certainly something we will get to the bottom of. We're glad to have the partnerships we've spoken about, particularly the partnership of the FBI here. One of the important things we'll get to the bottom of is, do we have any indicators before this event happened today?

We will have some more information I'm sure forthcoming to all of you about who this individual is, was he a lone wolf? Does he have any associates? Those are certainly all of the things that will be looked into now as part of our intelligence and investigative activities.


[08:55:07] PAUL: I want to bring in Brian Stelter who has been studying social media. And so much information thrown out there on social media as we watch this unfold. When they talk about an act of terrorism, we want to remind people, that doesn't immediately attach it to an international arena here. An act of terrorism could be domestic. It could be a hate crime, and that's something that a lot of people are concerned about today.

STELTER: Yes, by some definitions, terrorism is an act for political purposes. However, in some cases, authorities use it in a broader way.

And we should note the context here involving the gay nightclub. We're seeing some reactions on social media, people saying we're downplaying that. I don't think we are. But this was a gay nightclub, there were many people there, sounds like about 300 people there at the time.

Authorities don't have any indication that this location was targeted because it was a gay nightclub. Pride weekend is going on in some other parts of the country right now -- D.C., and L.A. and elsewhere. There's no evidence it was linked because it was a gay nightclub.

But already, we are hearing from the executive director of LGBT center of Central Florida, Terry de Carlo (ph) telling "The Orlando Sentinel", quote, "This just makes no sense, this was an attack on the LGBT community."

And whether or not this location was targeted because there were gays and lesbians celebrating dancing at 2:00 in the morning, whether or not this was targeted or not, this is very personal for the people who were there, the people that were nearby and we're seeing a lot of reactions online this morning.

PAUL: It's personal for all of us who watch this, this break down. I mean, these are people who were just there to be together to have a good time and it is what we have come to know as being defined as a soft target, if somebody wanted to hurt people, you wouldn't expect it to be in a situation like this.

I want to go to John Matthews now. And, Brian, thank you so much.

STELTER: Thanks.

PAUL: John Matthews is a former Dallas police officer. He's the author of "Mass Shootings: Six Steps to Survival."

John, when you hear everything that we're hearing thus far this morning as we are now seven hours into this tragedy, what are your first thoughts?

JOHN MATTHEWS, FORMER DALLAS POLICE OFFICER: Well, that there's a tremendous number of dead, tremendous number of injured. We started looking at some of the comparisons to other shootings that we've had around the country.

Only at the Cinemax in 2012 in Colorado did we have injured 58. So, this is number two as far as mass shootings and it's a round number, Virginia tech, Sandy Hook, Lube's and McDonald's as the number of dead.

So, this is horrific number of injured and dead, one of the largest mass shootings that we've seen. But unfortunately it's not the first one we have' seen at a nightclub. We've had a number of shootings at nightclubs dating all the way back to the early 1980s, so --

PAUL: But certainly nothing of this magnitude.

MATTHEWS: Nothing of this magnitude.

PAUL: This man came in -- just to clarify, this man came in with an assault type rifle, a handgun and other devices.

MATTHEWS: Well, yes, certainly, he was well-armed. He was prepared. He knew it was a soft target, just like you were talking about. You had a tremendous number of people in a very small place and unfortunately that's what leads to a very high body count.

PAUL: So, when you -- since you've written this book, six steps to mass shootings, six steps to survival, were you surprised as many of our law enforcement analysts were, that it was a mass shooting that turned into a hostage situation at one point?

MATTHEWS: Yes, usually you don't see that. Typical characteristics that we see as the shooter goes in, he actually will commit the act, and then they'll usually either kill themselves or do suicide by cop. Very rarely does it turn into a hostage situation and a negotiation type situation. That is extremely unusual for these type of attacks.

PAUL: So what is your gut tell you about that?

MATTHEWS: Well, I think that this is something that was well-planned. I think this shooter had probably a primary target, is what I would imagine. He was going to look at a specific victim or set of victims. After he did that, he probably shot a number of other individuals, but didn't have the plan clear in his head as far as an exit plan. Most of our shooters don't have an exit plan, and they want to die in a hail of gunfire. This shows me this shooter was conflicted and didn't know, did he want to die or did he want to tell his story.

PAUL: Yes, law enforcement analyst Cedric Alexander said sometimes in his experience people might have second thoughts but never ends well when they do.

John Matthews, we appreciate it so much and to all of you who stayed with us this morning. We thank you for being here.

Our thoughts and prayers to all of those folks in Orlando as they try to reconcile what has happened and to the police officers and the authorities there who have done such a stellar job as our law enforcement analysts have been saying all morning.

Do stay with us. Thank you so much.