Return to Transcripts main page


Orlando Nightclub Mass Shooting; Authorities Say Some 20 Dead, 42 Injured; Interview With New York Representative Peter King. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired June 12, 2016 - 09:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington with breaking news, specifically, a horrific massacre in Florida.

Police say that some 20 people are dead and 42 injured, after a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando. The special FBI agent in charge says there are suggestions the suspects may have had leanings toward radical Islamic terrorism, although nothing is definitive yet. Police released the first details a short time ago.


JOHN MINA, ORLANDO, FLORIDA, POLICE CHIEF: The suspect is dead. He appeared to be carrying a rifle, an assault-type rifle, and a handgun, and had some type of device on him.


TAPPER: The incident started around 2:00 this morning Eastern time, shortly after the nightclub posted this message on its Facebook page: "Everyone get out of Pulse and keep running." Pulse is the name of the nightclub.

Police now say an officer responded, and there was a shoot-out outside the club. The gunman then ran inside and a hostage situation began. About three hours later, around 5:00 a.m. Eastern, police used an armored vehicle to knock down the door and enter the club. They shot and killed the gunman.

Throughout the ordeal, ambulances and emergency vehicles surrounded the club. We saw one person being loaded onto a pickup truck. Three local hospitals began handling victims around -- at one point this morning, all were put down -- put on lockdown. Police are calling this a terror incident.


QUESTION: Do you have any reason to think that there's a connection to radical Islamic terrorism?

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


TAPPER: We're expecting a news conference shortly to address the many unanswered questions.

Let's go to Boris Sanchez. He's live in Orlando.

Boris, tell us the latest. What's going on where you are?


Just to give you an idea, we're about three blocks away from the Pulse nightclub. This is just down the street. And just about an hour ago, this was inundated with police officers, law enforcement officers from about a dozen different agencies. Now they have mostly reconfigured. They have mostly left, though I should tell you that in just the past half-hour or so, we saw a line of coroner vehicles start heading toward the club.

They're beginning the very difficult process of not only identifying, but also collecting the remains of those 20 or so people that were killed inside the Pulse nightclub. One bit of good news, though, initially, when we arrived here this morning, there was chaos outside the Orlando Regional Medical Center, which is -- just so happens to be about a block from where we are now. It's just down the street from the club.

And outside there were gurneys and doctors and nurses trying to tend to those that were wounded, as well as many family members, the loved ones of those that they believed were at the club, trying to find any information that they could about their family members. Now things have mostly calmed down. They are taking people, a steady stream of people, into the hospital bit by bit.

What we're still waiting to find out is more about this suspect. As you mentioned, officials tell us he's not from the Orlando area. They say that this was a very organized attack, and there's a suggestion, a -- quote, unquote -- "suggestion" that he may have radical leanings.

What we heard from officials is that, at about 2:00 a.m., an off-duty police officer who was outside the club engaged with him, he ran inside. That's where the hostage situation unfolded. It really coincides with what many witnesses were telling us about the assault rifle, the sounds that they heard inside, and, as they were leaving, all the bodies that they told us they saw.

Sadly, this is obviously a devastating situation, but part of the reason we were here in Orlando is because there was just another shooting yesterday. An online star, Christina Grimmie, was shot and killed at a theater. So, as you hear the mayor of Orlando talk about this being a strong city, a resilient city, we have to imagine it's also a very difficult time for people that are dealing with one shooting after another, this one potentially one of the worst in American history.

Right now, we're still working to find out more information about the suspect. You can imagine officials are investigating all of his online activity, his computer, his phone, trying to find any information that might lead them to why someone would walk into a club at 2:00 in the morning and open fire this way, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Boris Sanchez in Orlando, thank you so much. We will come back to you later this hour.

Other correspondents have been working their sources. CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez joins me now on the phone.

Evan, you heard law enforcement refer to a possible device on the suspect. Tell us more about that. What could that be?


EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, at this point, Jake, they really don't even know whether or not it's real or not.

They see the device, and they can -- they have to treat it as if it is real, which is why you would -- at the scene there, they're using a robot to try to -- to try to figure out whether they need to detonate the device. They obviously want to preserve as much evidence as possible. They're also concerned about a possible device that might have been in his vehicle, which is how he got to this club.

And, obviously, the angle of radical Islamic terrorism is the one that is going to be dominating this case. It's something remarkable to me, at least, that pretty quickly investigators seemed to have gone there. And that tells us that they have -- that tells me at least that they must have some kind of evidence.

We don't know what it is, but they have some kind of evidence that leads them to believe that this is where they need to be focusing on. We know that, at this point, they're reaching out to his family members. They're reaching out to people who live near where the suspect lived to try to figure out what he's been doing in the last few days.

But I suspect for the next few days, we are going to talking about the fact that radical Islamic terrorism has struck again in America. Obviously, this is a time that they are on guard for these types of events.

The beginning of Ramadan, you always hear Islamic terrorist groups urging their supporters to carry out attacks. It's not very common that the they would attack a gay nightclub, but, obviously, you never know. These are the types of soft targets that they know they can hit and where they can get away with killing a lot of people.

TAPPER: And, Evan Perez, we're looking at pictures right now, Evan Perez, of this robot going into the nightclub, presumably to see if the device on the now dead terrorist is in fact a legitimate explosive device. Theoretically, we're talking about like a suicide vest or suicide belt

of some sort?

PEREZ: It would be, yes, at this point, probably some kind of rudimentary IED, something -- something that he may have made himself and probably would have been using very common recipes that you can find online.

These are what we see typically in these types of situations, Jake. We don't know a little bit -- we don't know more about what exactly this device is. And, again, they don't even know if it's real, but they have to treat it like it's a real device.

TAPPER: That's right.

And viewers watching at home can see this robotic device on screen right now moving through the parking lot of the Pulse nightclub.

Evan Perez, thank you so much.

Check back with us when you have more information.

Let me bring now in CNN analyst Art Roderick, former assistant director of the U.S. Marshals Service.

Art, good to see you.


TAPPER: Albeit under these horrible circumstances.


TAPPER: Let me just start with something that Evan was just talking about, which is -- and we were talking about this during the break -- for the FBI special agent in charge to say publicly on the record at an internationally televised press conference that radical Islamic terrorism is -- there are suggestions of that and they're looking into that, although nothing definitive, that's a strong statement, couched though it is, from the FBI so early in this investigation.

RODERICK: It is. And it's very unusual for them to come out that early. So, they must have found something right away, either something that he said inside the club or something that he possibly had on him or dropped or possibly something that he posted that was -- that put him on alert right away, when they looked at the individual Web site or social media.

He might have had something out there already talking about what he was going to do in this particular instance. The only thing I find strange here is, they have already announced leanings towards radical Islam. And, generally, what happens in these types of instances, they don't shoot. There's no negotiation going on.

And in this particular case, we do have a break in the shooting before they were able to breach the door of the club with the BearCat and move in and take him out. So, that is something a little different in this particular instance.

TAPPER: The idea he wouldn't just -- the assailant wouldn't just carry out his act of terrorism, that there actually -- that there seems to be suggestion that there was some sort of negotiation between law enforcement and the terrorist as he held hostages?

RODERICK: Exactly.

Generally, what we see is mass -- mass shootings. So he stopped. And whether they were able to actually negotiate with him or not, we're not quite sure, but, obviously, all those individuals were in danger of just being shot.

TAPPER: And we have seen radical Islamic terrorists attack Jewish targets, Christian targets, women, secular targets, media, and obviously we have seen horrific images out of Syria by ISIS, and those specific radical Islamic terrorists when it comes to homosexuals, gays and lesbians.

RODERICK: It's all about numbers. It's all about how many people that they kill, what type of impact can they make in the media.

Obviously, we're going to be covering this for several days, now that we know that there's some indication that he was -- that he's been radicalized. And that's the other point, too. Was he directed or was he -- was he radicalized here in the U.S.?


And all this will come out over the next 24, 48 hours.

TAPPER: And that's one of the things we have also seen in the United States, is that we have seen -- and throughout the world, unfortunately, as well -- that, sometimes, these radical Islamic terrorists are self-radicalized.

RODERICK: Right. Exactly.

TAPPER: It's not necessarily Anwar al-Awlaki reaching to them through the Internet. They might just be reading something online.

RODERICK: And we will know that very shortly, once they get into his social media accounts, talk to family, friends. What associations did he have? Did he have contact with somebody over in the Middle East? So, all this will come out in the next 24 or 48 hours.

TAPPER: And it's just a horrific act of terrorism we're talking about.

RODERICK: Horrible.

TAPPER: Approximately 20 people killed, more than 40 people taken to the hospital. Some of those injuries, as far as we know, possibly could be life-threatening.

RODERICK: Could be.

TAPPER: Could be debilitating forever.

As somebody who worked for the U.S. Marshals, when there is an enormous mass shooting like this, what are some of the first things that law enforcement has to do, once they have secured the scene in terms of the gunman being either caught or killed?

RODERICK: Well, I mean, they obviously have this incident now where they have some type of device on his body. They also have to assume that there's probably a device in his vehicle, so they're going through this process of making -- and they don't want to -- if they have to, they will detonate the device, but, obviously, his body, himself, could hold quite a bit of evidence, if he's got something on him, some papers, some notebooks, whatever, his possible cell phone.

Does he have a tablet on him? So they want to try to be able to make that device safe without having to detonate it. Same thing with his vehicle. I mean, they want to get as much evidence as they can out of his vehicle. I'm sure he probably had more ammunition in the vehicle. He's in there with an assault rifle and a handgun. Can do a lot of damage, as obviously he's done at this particular point.

TAPPER: As purely a law enforcement matter, does radical Islamic terrorism -- is it different at all from other forms of terrorism that we see in this country?

RODERICK: Well, generally, it's mass casualties. It's the numbers. Radical Islamic terrorists want to have -- create as many casualties as they can. Domestic terrorism is a little different.

Obviously, we have already moved -- initially, when I heard about this, it obviously falls in the category of domestic terrorism...

TAPPER: Right.

RODERICK: ... when you're talking about this many casualties and what individual is doing.

But when we move over to radical Islam, then this becomes a whole different category.

TAPPER: So, we're looking right now, if you look over there, Art, we're seeing pictures of the investigators. One of them was in a hazmat suit. And it looks like they are, in addition to trying to make sure that the device on the now dead terrorist is not going to be explosive, not going to pose a hazard to law enforcement, they're now going through the process of investigation, and labeling evidence and such.

Art, stay with us.

We are going to take a very quick break.

We will be right back after this with this breaking news story.




We are following breaking news, a horrific massacre in Florida, police saying that some 20 people have been killed and 42 injured after a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The FBI special agent in charge said that there are suggestions that the terrorist may have had leanings towards radical Islamic terrorism, though nothing definitive has been established as of now.

The ordeal began shortly after 2:00 this morning Eastern time, and turned into a hostage situation that lasted for about three hours. At about 5:00 in the morning, police broke down a door, then shot and killed the gunman. Police who were inside the club are telling harrowing stories about their escape.

Let's bring in Christal Hayes. She's a reporter from "The Orlando Sentinel."

And, Christal thanks for joining us. You have been speaking to witnesses all night. What are they telling you?

CHRISTAL HAYES, "THE ORLANDO SENTINEL": Absolutely terrifying situation.

You know, I spoke to many who had family members that were in the club. They didn't know where they were. Spoke with a mother who was crying. Her son was in the club with her boy -- with his boyfriend, and his boyfriend had been shot multiple times, and she couldn't get ahold of her son, just breaking down crying.

The whole entire situation is obviously very, very devastating, but, you know, to be from this area and to know this area, to go to college in this area, just, it's absolutely horrifying.

TAPPER: It's awful, and grueling duty that you're on there.

And my understanding is that families are being told to gather in a specific place. A lot of people don't even know yet the whereabouts or what has happened or not happened to their loved ones. Is that what's going on?


They have a location on West Underwood Street in Orlando, where they were telling family members to gather. There was also a large amount of family outside the hospital ORMC, and a lot of them, as we were seeing truckloads of deputies coming by with victims in the backs of the pickup trucks, you know, families were just breaking down crying.

It was, you know, obviously very horrifying. Deputies were giving chest compressions to victims in the back of these pickup trucks. It was absolutely terrifying.


TAPPER: And, Christal, Christal, tell us, because a lot of people are watching right not be familiar with Orlando, obviously, Orlando is the home of Disney World and a lot of other tourist destination. It's in Central Florida on the I-4 Corridor, the major highway in the center of the state, but tell us about the neighborhood where this took place, and tell us about the club and what you can tell us about It.

It's obviously a major nightclub that caters to LGBT clientele.



So, there's a lot. This is actually in the downtown area. There are a number of nightclubs in this area. This is one of quite a few LGBT clubs. Orlando is very friendly to LGBT community. And this was just one of the few in the area.

So, lot of the people who were inside said that they were just having a great time. One witness that I spoke with told me that he had just moved to the area. This was his first nightclub experience. And he helped save a few lives while he was there.

TAPPER: How did he do that?

HAYES: He told me that, when the shooting took place, he sat with two victims, one of which had been shot in the back. He took off a bandana from his head, and actually tied it in a knot and shoved it into the bullet hole of this victim.

He said that later, when police got there, they tagged the bodies either red or yellow. And the man that he stayed with and put that bandana, he was tagged red. He didn't -- this witness told me he didn't know if this man was dead or arrive at this point, but he stayed with him. And he helped another woman who was shot in the arm.

He stayed with her as well. He helped carry out victims who were shot inside the club. He described the scene as pools of blood. He had to crawl out of the nightclub. As I was talking to him, he just broke down crying. And, you know, so did I. It's absolutely terrifying.

I'm around the age of a lot of these victims, I'm sure, in my mid-20s, and, you know, that easily could have been anyone that I know.

TAPPER: Christal, how did the individuals that you spoke with who escaped, how did they escape? Did they just run out the door? Were there other ways that they escaped?

HAYES: So, a few witnesses that I talked to, a few of them crawled out the front of the club. People were running out the back entrance of the club.

I heard that some of the people inside were actually, you know, running, crawling through windows to get out. Of course, we know that not everyone made it out. There was quite a few people left that were hiding in bathrooms. I'm just glad that some were able to get out before this got much worse.

TAPPER: Christal, did they describe the gunman at all? Did the gunman say anything? Did he have any specific appearance?


You know, and everyone that we asked that, a lot of people said that they didn't necessarily see the gunman. They just heard the gunshots starting. And most people thought it was just part of the music, until the gunshots started to get louder and closer and more of them.

And so most people didn't actually see the gunman, but many people actually thought there was more than one, just because of the number of gunshots. Most people say that it was at least a full song length of gunshots, at least 40, if not more.

TAPPER: Just a horrific ordeal.

Christal Hayes with "The Orlando Sentinel," thank you so much for calling in.

HAYES: Thank you.

TAPPER: And good luck. It's tough reporting stories like these.

We just received a statement from the White House. It says that the president was briefed this morning by Lisa Monaco -- that's the assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism -- on the tragic shooting in Orlando, Florida.

The White House goes on to say: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of the victims. President Obama has asked to receive regular updates as the FBI and other federal officials work with the Orlando police to gather more information. And the president directed that the federal government provide any assistance necessary to pursue the investigation and support the community."

Let's go now to Christopher Hansen. Christopher Hansen is a witness to what happened at the nightclub.

Chris, we're so glad that you're OK. Tell us what you saw.

CHRISTOPHER HANSEN, WITNESS: Well, I know I was trying to enjoy my night.

And all you hear was banging -- or not banging, just the boom, boom of bullets. And you think it's part of a song. And when you looked -- I looked behind me, and I noticed that it wasn't just a song, that there was bodies falling down. The guy next to me was shot. And that's when I dropped.

And I made sure that I had to crawl my way out, because there was no way. It's either fight or flight, and I had to flee. And by the time I got, I felt the cement on my elbows, I knew -- I knew I was OK. I crouched. And my dad taught me to zigzag. So I zigzagged my way, so that, just in case there was anything flying, because you could still hear the bullets going off inside the club, and as we were out.

And then I noticed there was a gentleman on the ground who had a bullet wound in the back, so I helped assist with him. And then, after we did that, the -- he was helped. I was able to help somebody else as well.


And then they were pushing us down the street. They didn't want everybody out and about. So, they said there was a bomb threat, and we had to move further down toward the hospital. And all you saw was people running and screaming. And there was bodies in the parking lot, where they were tagging them. And it was just -- it was just like a scene from a horror movie.

It was absolutely tragic.

TAPPER: Sounds absolutely...


HANSEN: You go to try to enjoy yourself, and...

TAPPER: Sounds absolutely horrific, Christopher.

HANSEN: Yes. It was a great night, until the end of the night, until the end of the night.

TAPPER: Christopher, there are reports that the gunman could be heard laughing. Did you see the gunman? Did you hear anything from him?

HANSEN: I didn't hear the gunman, except for the shoot -- the shootings itself, actually the bullets going off.

I didn't hear the laughter. It's a nightclub, so you hear the music still. And I don't even -- I mean, I don't even know if the music went down.

All I know is that the screaming -- and there was just so much chaos, that it's just -- your mind just kind of goes blank until you realize and you look and you see what's going on, that it's real.

TAPPER: What kind of security did the nightclub have that you could see as a patron?

HANSEN: They have their normal bouncers. They did have the security shirts.

But, at the front, you show your I.D., and you pay to get in after 11:00. I showed up at 11:08, eight minutes a little too late for the free admittance. And that's pretty much really all they have.

TAPPER: Are there any friends that you have that you don't know their...

HANSEN: But they said that... (CROSSTALK)

HANSEN: ... normally goes like this.

TAPPER: Are there any friends you have that you don't know about, that you don't know their whereabouts right now that were at the club this morning?

HANSEN: No, I just actually recently moved here. And I was meeting somebody up here to enjoy. And they left early, so they made it safe. But I stayed to enjoy the festivities. So, everybody I was with, there was nobody there. So, we're good.

TAPPER: Christopher -- well, we're glad to hear that. Christopher, there's -- there are reports that there was a hostage situation at Pulse nightclub after the initial shoot-out, where individuals were hiding in bathrooms, and the gunman was involved in some sort of standoff with law enforcement.

It sounds like you had gotten out of the club by then, but I don't know if you were around to witness any of it.

HANSEN: I wasn't able to witness it, but they had explained to me that a hostile situation is when a -- when someone takes fires and comes in and there's people in there and patrons.

So, we were all considered a hostile situation. So, when I guess those that stayed in that didn't make it, that locked themselves in -- there was a guy that crawled up through the attic. I talked to him in -- at the police station. There were some that escaped through the Vidox (ph), through the air conditioning vents.

The ones that were at the front door were able to leave out the front door, but there was -- where I went was out the back, so I was able to make it out of the back by the patio. It was pushed down, and people were running out.

TAPPER: And tell us about the individual who had been wounded, who had been shot in the back that you sat with and you spent time with. What can you tell us about him?

HANSEN: Well, I just know that he was -- may have been Portuguese, Spanish-speaking. I didn't really know Spanish, so there was another gentleman helping as well that was staying there, that was actually on the 911 call.

And we were helping each other out on that aspect with him. And he wasn't talking really, except for when I was holding his hand. I was like, "Talk to me, stay with me," and I was holding pressure down, like, "It's OK," while the other gentleman was with dispatch.

And then the police officer showed up and took care of us from there. And then we continued to help other people, until they pulled us all out of the parking lot that we were able to -- to go, that we were able to leave, that weren't wounded.

TAPPER: Chris, just one last question for you, and you have been so generous with your time.


TAPPER: And we really appreciate it. And we're -- and we're so glad that you're OK.

But I was just talking to one of the law enforcement analysts we have here about the fact that the shooter, the terrorist chose 2:00 a.m. as the time to attack. Is 2:00 in the morning pretty much guaranteed when the club would be the most crowded?

HANSEN: Yes, I would imagine so.

It was closing time. They didn't quite have the last call yet because I was able to get a drink. And I didn't even get to take my first sip before the bullets started going off.

TAPPER: So, 2:00 a.m. -- 2:00 a.m. is closing time?


HANSEN: I would imagine. I don't know. It was my first time at the bar.


HANSEN: So, possibly?

TAPPER: But it was packed?

HANSEN: Because I know, when I went to ask -- it was packed, yes.

TAPPER: Christopher Hansen -- yes.

HANSEN: I know, when we were getting questioned, the whole -- the whole -- the whole question area, the conference room at the police station, it was full of people.



TAPPER: Christopher Hanson, a survivor of a terrorist attack in Orlando at the Pulse nightclub from 2:00 until 5:00 a.m. this morning, we're so glad you're OK. Thank you for joining us.

We have much more ahead on this terrorist attack at the Pulse nightclub. We're also awaiting a police news conference which should begin any minute now. We're going to take a very quick break. We'll be right back after this.



We are following breaking news, a horrific massacre in Florida. Police saying that some 20 people have been killed, 42 injured, after a mass shooting at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The ordeal began at about 2:00 a.m. this morning Eastern Time. It turned into a hostage situation, that lasted for about three hours before police broke into the club, using a bearcat, killing the gunman.


Orlando's police chief says the gunman had an assault type weapon, a handgun and had some other type of device on him. However a U.S. official now telling CNN that the suspicious devices that people thought, feared were explosive have been cleared and so far no improvised explosive devices have been found, presumably that's on the dead terrorist's person as well as in his car. The FBI agent special agent in charge did say earlier this morning that there are suggestions the terrorist may have had radical Islamic leanings but nothing definitive has been established yet.

Joining us now CNN national security contributor Juliette Kayyem. She's a former assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. And also joining us CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd, a former CIA official as well as in the studio with us, Art Roderick, formerly with the U.S. marshal service and a CNN law enforcement analyst.

Let me start with you, Juliette Kayyem. Unfortunately, I was standing with you maybe a day after a similar type horrific terrorist attack took place, this was in Boston, and it feels somewhat similar in the sense that we don't know whether or not this is part of some grander plot or just somebody who was self-radicalized.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY, DHS: That's exactly right. So here's what we know now. The FBI rarely would say something like there are leanings towards Islamic terrorism, unless they already knew who it was, he was already known to them or a joint terrorism task force, and now they're just trying to figure out, was anyone else involved.

So people what answers right now. We are in the fog of the incident. Look, family members haven't even been notified if their children are among the deceased, so we are in this foggish area, but what the FBI agent said leads one to believe that they actually know who it is. And now the question is, for investigative purposes is, was it directed? Was it -- was he trained? Or was he just inspired?

Those are very different categories, for purposes of both law enforcement and whether it has any foreign impact. And so I know waiting is a hard thing, but this is what we know now. I suspect in this next press conference we will learn more but the data points are heading towards that this was someone inspired by Islamic terrorism, the hostage situation makes it unique in that regard, but that's where someone like me looks at the data points and sort of says this is where I am right now.

TAPPER: And Phil Mudd, as a former official of not only the CIA but the FBI, you would know protocol better than any of us. That is how Art Roderick and I and Juliette all interpreted the fact that the FBI special agent in charge was so forward leaning in talking about radical Islamic terrorism. Is that also how you interpret his remarks?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I would not interpret it that they know who he is yet but the FBI and I served there for four and a half years would not come out with a statement without some reason.

For example witness statements where an individual was saying that the shooter was shouting language during the shooting that indicated radicalization. The FBI is not going to come out with speculation. So I don't know if they identified him. That would be the first major step obviously in determining motivation. But the comments they've made just hours after the shooting suggest that they know more than they've told us so far and I'd expect to hear about that during the initial statement.

TAPPER: And Art Roderick, formerly with U.S. marshal service, you and I were talking about this and you heard from Christopher Hanson, a survivor of the attack, there is some significance to the fact that this attack took place at 2:00 a.m. when the club was packed.

RODERICK: Absolutely. You're talking about a soft target. You're talking about a lot of people, and when you have the JTTF at this point jump in this early that's an indicator that they're really looking at what this individual's back ground is.

He could be known to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which opens up all the other joint terrorism task forces around the country to gather intel and information. So this was very well planned, obviously going in with an assault rifle and a handgun and did a lot of damage here. This is a horrific incident. And you know, we will know the next press conference I'm sure will have a lot more information about this individual's background.

TAPPER: And Juliette, this is reminiscent to a degree one government intelligence source told me reminiscent of the attack by ISIS inspired terrorists on the Bataclan, that French -- the Paris theater. Many, many targets, all crammed together, dark space, lots of confusion.


KAYYEM: That's exactly right, and people who, as we've already seen from your witnesses, who may not know the site very well. In other words they would not know how to escape. They may not even know what is going on. These are typical soft targets there.

They are not high profile in the sense of you know, a major baseball stadium or football stadium. This is a nightclub that you and I and almost -- and no one else has heard of before, but that means that their entry security system is probably, you know, relatively novice- like. They don't have any training or evacuation plans, and this is the challenge.

You know, look you are -- this is a challenge for a society like ours is, there's just an infinite number of soft targets at this stage, and a nightclub, a packed nightclub where noise becomes an issue, you don't actually know what is going on, is a very good target from the perspective of someone who wants to do mass casualties.

TAPPER: And Phil Mudd, if, in fact, the terrorist was radical Islamist, then the fact that he picked an LGBT nightclub is not incidental, that feels like that's part of the zealotry, the warped ideology.

MUDD: Sort of, but I wouldn't make that judgment yet.

You're right in interpreting this as an attack on a sort of cultural target. We've seen these targets attacked, you mentioned Bataclan. I'd go back further about a decade in Southeast Asia and Indonesia, clubs like this were attacked. We you got a lot of people coming together in a form of culture that is not acknowledged as acceptable by people who are radical Islamists.

That said, Jake, there is a significant difference from Bataclan. And that is my experience in looking at these cases is if you have one individual, obviously Bataclan and the Paris attacks was a major sell. When you have one individual with the likelihood that that individual was mentally sane, decreases, as soon as you get a conspiracy that the people who are sort of mentally unstable get weeded out, so I'd want to know initially if this person acted alone what his mental state was. I'm not sure we can determine this was terrorism yet, if we don't know the mental state of the person who did it, Jake.

TAPPER: Fair enough. I was just alluding to the fact that law enforcement said they were investigating this as an act of terrorism.

MUDD: Yes.

TAPPER: We have much more coming up, stay with us, including some breaking news from our own reporters reporting on this horrific terrorist attacks being investigated as a terrorist attack, this massacre in Orlando, Florida, stay with us.




We're covering this horrific breaking news and right now we're standing by waiting for a law enforcement press conference about the mass shooting incident at an Orlando nightclub.

Some 20 people have been killed, 42 others injured. Police shot and killed the gunman when they broke into the club. It's called Pulse. It's an LGBT nightclub in Orlando. That happened at about 5:00 in the morning. That was after a standoff lasted about three hours.

CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown has been working our sources. She joins us now on the phone. Pamela, what more can you tell us about what's going on at the scene right now? PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (on the phone): Well, we

learned, Jake that during all of this, the suspect inside that nightclub is actually trying to negotiate with police (ph). He was taking hostages and making demands in order to release some of those hostages.

It's unclear at this point, Jake, what exactly those demands were but we do know during that time he gave police his name, and so from there, authorities have a possible identity of the suspect. They've been going to -- trying to interview his relatives, his family members, friends, trying to piece this together.

Initially it was thought, Jake, that he may have had explosives on him or in his car. That has been ruled out through further investigation. There were no explosives at this point. And I can tell you, it's still very early on, but authorities are not ruling out that this is a hate crime, targeting the gay community.

It's being looked at as an act of terrorism, whether it's domestic terrorism or Islamic terrorism. They're still trying to sort that out, but the FBI is taking the lead. Still very early on. Investigators still gathering the facts, but they do have a possible identity and right now they're piecing this all together. Jake.

TAPPER: Pamela, just one point of clarification. So we were told about an hour or so ago that the assailants, the killer, the terrorist had some device on him, and they were also law enforcement was also worried about devices in his car. What you're telling us is that the device on him, whatever it was, poses no danger, but it's possible...

BROWN: Exactly.

TAPPER: ... it's possible that it was -- he wanted to pose danger but didn't do a good job making it.

BROWN: That's a possibility. You know, Jake, early on there's a lot of -- to clear through the clutter. So initially they thought he (ph) had (ph) a (ph) device. It could just be debris so they were taking all the necessary steps and you know, they were using k-9s. They were using robots to try to rule out that the -- what they thought could be an explosive was actually an explosive.

And so through the course of the investigation, Jake, they were able to determine that there were no explosives on the suspect, or in the suspect's car, but of course, this investigation continues. They still want to go to his home and search that, not to say there weren't any explosives at all but at this point there weren't any on his person or in the car.

TAPPER: All right. Pamela Brown, thank you so much for the excellent reporting. We appreciate it.

This is a good time as any to remind viewers that when there is a breaking law enforcement story such as this often a lot of the early information shared by law enforcement sources even if they share it on the record at a press conference, sometimes that information is not proven correct.

That cautionary note, that being said we will continue to bring you the latest up-to-date information that we have from our sources, on the record and on background.


We're going to take a very quick break. More of this breaking news story when we come back.


TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN's breaking news coverage of this horrific massacre in Orlando, Florida, which law enforcement is investigating, they say, as a terrorist incident with possible, possible Islamic terrorist ties or motivations.

This is, of course, the 2016 political season. We cannot escape that fact. And both the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee have weighed in on the shooting with the way that people weigh in these days, which is on Twitter.

Donald Trump writing, "Really bad shooting in Orlando. Police investigating possible terrorism, many people dead and wounded."


That's from the Republican presidential nominee, presumptive nominee. Hillary Clinton, the Democrat, writing, "Woke up to hear the devastating news from Florida. As we wait for more information, my thoughts are with those affected by this horrific act." Signing it H indicating that she herself wrote that tweet.

Let's talk more about the actual incident with New York Republican Congressman Pete King. He's a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, and he has also sat on the House Intelligence Committee before.

Congressman King, thanks so much for meeting with us today. What more can you tell us about the individual, the terrorist? We were told by law enforcement that he was not from the Orlando area. Have you heard anything about where he may have been from?

REP. PETER KING (R), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Yes, I have. I can tell you he's from overseas. It was from a Muslim country. I will leave it at that right now. Also as you know there's a name out there which law enforcement thinks is the person that's not been released yet, so I don't want to release it.

I want to make it clear I did not get this from law enforcement. I got this from my own sources. In the past, they've always been reliable. And I see now why so early on the FBI agent said why they were leaning toward, you know, an Islamist influence there.

TAPPER: Any indication from your source or from official sources that this was not just a lone wolf, not somebody who may have been self- radicalized but possibly part of a grander, wider conspiracy?

KING: No, I've not, but I do know that things are being looked into, the fact is this is the Ramadan season. And I know whether it's the European soccer championships, whether it's other events around the world, this is a time when ISIS would be trying to either inspire people or actually direct people to carry out attacks. All of that is being looked into.

I think it's too early to say definitively that this is not part of an overall plot, if there is one. On the other hand, there could well be a psychotic (INAUDIBLE) or a person who's being directed by ISIS or it could just be a plain lone wolf. But again, it's really early n the investigation. But the indicators are clear that this person did have, you know, Islamist leanings.

TAPPER: And one of the other things that's obviously being looked at right now, since the victims and survivors were all at Pulse, which is a prominent LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida, as to whether or not this was a possible hate crime. That's also being investigated. And of course, the question since radical Islamists think rather ill of gays and lesbians, whether that was a motivation for this, or if it's just that it was a soft target and a crowded group of people in the dark, much like the Bataclan nightclub, where ISIS attacked in November in Paris.

KING: Again, it may be too early to say, but I think people don't often realize the hatred that Islamists have toward gays and transgenders. So that certainly could be an added factor. But again, it's early to say, but that's definitely, you know, one of the factors they're looking into.

To be honest my first thought this morning was that it was not Islamist, that it was somebody carrying out an attack because it was a gay club. But in this instance, you may have both. An Islamist who want to show their hatred of gays and as probably what they see -- you know, the decadence of American society.

TAPPER: It's pretty horrific.

Congressman, when you're at home and people come up to you and say that they're worried for their safety because there seem to be this rash of attacks, these terrorist attacks, whether in San Bernardino or Fort Hood or Boston or now Orlando, Florida, possibly, or around the world, what do you tell them to reassure them?

KING: It's almost a schizophrenic answer. I say, yes, there are these threats there. We have to constantly be on guard. On the other hand, we have to go on with our lives and we have to give law enforcement and the intelligence community the support they need. And obviously when we see something, say something.

If we walk around with our heads down, if we're afraid to come out at night or wake up in the morning, then we've given into the terrorists. But it's a dangerous world in which we live. I think too often people -- once an instance like this is over, they put it in the back of their minds and they do forget how dangerous it is. And that's why often you see in political seasons there's very little intelligence conversation that comes to terrorism. Either it's very intense or there's nothing at all.

The fact is, this is going to be a long, complicated war against terrorists. And the American people have to be part of that, but not in a way which interferes with their regular lives. They just have to be alert and be aware and have faith in law enforcement and the intelligence community.

TAPPER: Congressman Peter King, Republican of New York, member of the House Homeland Security Committee, thank you so much for your time this morning. We appreciate it.

KING: Thank you. Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: And CNN will continue its coverage in the next hour of this horrific terrorist attack.


In fact, we are going to start again right now. Good morning. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, continuing CNN's coverage of the breaking news. A horrific massacre at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida.