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CNN NEWSROOM

Coverage of Possible Hostage Situation in Los Angeles. Aired 7:30-8p ET

Aired July 21, 2018 - 19:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:29:01] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Alex Marquardt in this evening for Ana Cabrera.

We go to breaking news out of Los Angeles where there is a possible hostage situation unfolding at a Trader Joe's. That is just north of downtown Los Angeles, California. These are aerial pictures from the scene, from our affiliates. But they are not live because we have witnessed what could possibly be bodies being carried from the store. And you can see there, a heavy police presence. Several people have been climbing through a window and down a ladder.

It is just before 4:30 p.m. in California right now. Joining us on the phone is CNN national correspondent Miguel Marquez. He is based out there in L.A. and heading to the scene.

Miguel, what do we know right now? I know details, there are few details, but what have we learned so far?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on the phone): Very few details. We believe that this was somebody who was running from the police, possibly a car chase that went into the Trader Joe's. It is not clear whether shots have been fired, though there are some reports of shots being fired in the area.

It is very disturbing, this is not just a Trader Joe's in Los Angeles, this is a Trader Joe's that I actually go to. It's a very, very dense area of Los Angeles. This is a very heavily-used Trader Joe's on a Saturday afternoon. It would be packed with shoppers. There's another grocery store right across the street from it. It is a very busy section of Los Angeles between Hollywood and downtown, an area of town called Silver Lake. It is shopping that this is happening in my own neighborhood. It's not the sort of thing one is typically accustomed to report on -- Alex.

[19:30:48] MARQUARDT: Yes. Miguel, what more can you tell us about this neighborhood in Los Angeles? We are looking at aerial pictures. It looks like there's a golf course. It looks very residential. What can you tell us about this neighborhood?

MARQUEZ: It's an old, lovely neighborhood in Los Angeles, a very -- it's a very big neighborhood, a very large area. There's a big lake that used to be a reservoir for the city. And it is now used as mainly a recreational area. It's a very hilly part of town, in the Hollywood hills, on the east side of town. It is an area where just, you know, tens of thousands of people live. It's a very densely packed area as well. And this is a Trader Joe's that would be very, very busy at this time of the day, on a Saturday.

MARQUARDT: All right. We are looking at aerial pictures from this possible hostage situation just north of downtown Los Angeles in Silver Lake. These are not live pictures. They are on a delay because of possible victims. What you are looking at there are people coming down what looks like a very flimsy rope ladder outside of this Trader Joe's.

When the camera has widened out, we have seen cars essentially that have come to a standstill. There is a heavy police presence that will only grow in the coming -- well, grow very soon.

We also have James Gagliano on the phone. He is a former special agent at the FBI.

James, again, we don't know all that much right now. But we have seen these situations playing out time and time again. From what we do know, what is your assumption about what is happening?

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST (on the phone): Sure, Alex. That's the most difficult part. The earlier reports in these type of crisis incidents, it's difficult to distill what's actually going on. As you pointed out, we're looking at some pictures we've gone on tape delay.

A couple of things, a couple of takeaways here. The first is, any time police are in pursuit, you know, we don't understand what the motivation was for this person running. We don't know if the police had a warrant. We don't know if they saw him conduct some type of criminal activity. We don't know any of those things. So they are in pursuit. And what they want to do is stop that as quickly as possible.

To your point and Miguel's point, moving into a residential area, a place that's heavily populated, that is our number one fear. We don't want to move a situation or a potential crisis situation into that area. The police have a number of techniques that they can use to stop somebody, a pursuit intervention technique, where they try to spin the car out. It sounds like the (INAUDIBLE) crash. And the subject were subjects apparently left the vehicle crashed and then entered a trader Joe's.

That in brings another level of fears and concern for law enforcement in that now you are going to introduce potential hostages into the situation.

The good news is it's no longer a mobile crisis site. The bad news is you have introduced innocent folks into this, and that makes law enforcement's job in this type of situation exponentially more difficult, Alex.

MARQUARDT: Very, very complicated. It's not a mobile. It does appear to be centered around this Trader Joe's.

James, I don't know what you can see, but what we are looking at here in these aerial images, was at least one person, it looked like a man, coming out of the front of the sliding doors of this Trader Joe's with his hands up. He walked around the corner about 20 feet where we can see a line of heavily armed police. It looks like they have shields and certainly are armed.

James, the fact that there might be hostages, how does this impact the police response? Clearly they are not going to go storming in there.

GAGLIANO: Oh, it changes it. It changes it drastically. Because if it's simply a barricaded subject, you can be patient. And what police are looking to do is contain and negotiate, because there is no concern of anybody being killed either from an active shooter or somebody that's taking hostages and then electing to try to hurt somebody or hurt multiple people. So it changes the calculation immeasurably.

And what we are determining as, you know, post-Columbine on, is we are determining that there are a lot less opportunities for the negotiation phase. Law enforcement has to immediately go in and interdict in these situations. What we are telling people that could potentially be caught in this, the people in Trader Joe's, the civilians, we are telling them run. If you are able to, run, or move, because it is much more difficult for somebody to shoot a moving target. I think the hit rate is about four percent successful on a moving target. So don't stay stationary.

In too many of these instances, people are hiding behind desks. They are hiding behind things that are not really cover. They are just concealment. And we are trying to encourage people to run. And then to, if you have to fight, and then make certain as you see some of these people that are brought out or some of the people that had gotten out, they should immediately find law enforcement and share details.

What do we need to know? Who are the bad guys? How many of them? What kind of weaponry do they have? What type of devices they might have been armed with? What did they say? Was there anything that you heard? And then finally, what is the layout of the location that you are in? Are there back doors? Are there other entrances or exit points? Are there different floors here? How many people are in the building? And those type of things.

So, as this thing starts to develop, hopefully more information is being given to the police and they can make an assessment. But I guarantee you, they are not going to sit around. They are going to move to the sound of the guns and try to stop this before anybody else gets hurt.

[19:36:39] MARQUARDT: James, you bring up a good point about the layout of the store. I mean, we all go to these grocery stores. And we all go to Trader Joe's. They, you know, it's a series of aisles with one main entrance. Miguel, if you are still there, you just mentioned that you go there.

This is where you shop. This is where you and thousands of others in the Silver lake area get their food. Is there anything you can tell us about this shop in particular that is special or what the layout is and what the people inside might be dealing with, where they might be?

MARQUEZ: It is not an enormous store. It is by most American standards, it is a fairly small building. Lots of aisles, lots of spaces in between. And lots of areas where one could take cover. But it's not an enormous store. There are -- it's kind of a warren, basically, with lots of different counters and lots of spaces scattered throughout the store. So it wouldn't be easy for anyone to negotiate through there. And if there would be ample spaces for people to get out.

I don't know how much access there is out the back of the store there is, though. There is a parking lot back there. There are other shops back there. There is a shopping mall or strip mall right along one side of it. So there is probably areas where they would be able to escape, where they bring the goods and groceries into the back part of the store.

But it's not clear that there are employees back there that would be able to help out. Trader Joe's is a place that has lots and lots of assistants and help when you are in there. So it would people that is hopefully, hope people get out of there and direct them to safe parts of the store or possibly to escape as well.

MARQUARDT: Yes. We don't really have a sense of the back of the store. What we are seeing is really the front of the store. These are shots from a helicopter. And we are watching now a man come out with his hands up. I believe this is the same shot as we saw just moments ago, because we are, as I mentioned before, we have a delay on these pictures.

But James, back to you. What's interesting here is we have seen at least this one man come out of the front of the store and then be met by what looks like 15 or so heavily armed police officers to the side of the store. So they are not in a line of sight to the front of the building. But at the same time, just to the left of the store we have seen multiple people come out of windows. These are raised windows, about 15 feet or so off the ground. It could be a second floor of this store, we simply don't know. But they are coming down what looks like a rope ladder. They are being greeted at the bottom by police officers.

James, if people are coming out seemingly safely from windows and from the front of the store, from those front doors, is there anything we can glean from that?

GAGLIANO: Well, first of all, Alex, we have to acknowledge and understand that police have to treat everyone coming out of that crisis site, and I'm going to refer to it now as a crisis site, they are going to have to treat everybody with the suspicion that they don't know who is involved in this. They don't necessarily know if the subject or subjects have additional accomplices. So they have to treat everybody coming out of that as a potential armed aggressor.

And then once they can do the sorting or triage, if you will, then make a determination on who are potential victims, can they help them by giving police the layout, giving indication of where the potential shooter or aggressor is, so they can put together what we call a hasty assault plan to make entry.

Another thing you are pointing out about the level of the second floor. So a second floor window is generally speaking you know, 10 to 20 feet off the ground level. Now, people that would be jumping or trying to get out of that, that's a concern and consideration for injuries, because anything that is twice your height, a fall from that level could be a major potential mechanism of injury.

So police have to be, a, concerned about stopping or interdicting whoever the perpetrator is. And then, b, they have also got to worry about how they are going to extricate people from second, third, however many floors of the building there are and make sure they get those folks out safely.

So there's a lot going on right now for law enforcement. There's got to be an inner perimeter established and then a larger, more encompassing outer perimeter, so when they bring these folks out that are witnesses, they can move them outside of the outer perimeter to debrief them and try to get more intelligence. And then focus in on basically closing the net, making the inner perimeter tighter and tighter around that building and then potentially make entry to attempt to either extricate hostages or interdict the gunman or gunmen.

[19:41:29] MARQUARDT: And that's what it looks like we are looking at right now is at least one of the perimeters as you can see, a growing police presence with police officers heavily armed in bulletproof gear.

James, I was just speculating that that might be a second floor, who knows? But the windows are fairly high off the ground. That is why they were using a ladder that police were presumably able to get up to them and get some people near those windows out.

James, at this point, or at what point do the authorities try to make contact with any hostage-taker? And I need to remind our viewers, so far what we know from the LAPD is just a simple tweet, where they said this is an active police incident at Trader Joe's near the intersection of Hyperion Avenue and Griffith Park Boulevard in Silver Lake. That's in Los Angeles. They ask people to please stay clear of the area. So this is clearly still a very active situation.

So James, again, at what point would they try to make contact with any sort of hostage taker and what would they first say to that person?

GAGLIANO: Well, Alex, that is the most difficult part of these type of crisis incidents, is making those assessments in it real time. Tomorrow afternoon, it's easy to sit down and say, wow, well, this is what we should have done or this is what we could have done. But right now, you have potential hostages and you have innocent folks that you are trying to extricate and potentially save their lives, police, law enforcement, have to make decisions in real time and it's really, really difficult.

So to your question with regards to how do they determine whether or not they are going to into an extended negotiations with this person. They have got to try to get contact with him immediately.

Now, the days of the 1975 movie "Dog Day Afternoon" where police set up a perimeter around a back and they throw in a throw phone and they wait for the bank robbers to pick up the phone up to talk to them, those days -- we have moved past that now.

Now, there's a number of different ways that they could communicate. I mean, obviously, they are going to call into the store. They are going to speak to witnesses that have come out and find out if there's other desk numbers or other ways to access. And I'm sure the crisis negotiation team or the hostage negotiators are doing that. The emergency service cops can also use mega horns or bullhorns and they can call out to the person.

But in this situation, where it's fluid and dynamic, as a former FBI SWAT team leader, I would want to get inside as quickly as possible. We simply cannot sit back and wait anymore while someone could go in with the intent of ratcheting up the body count, if that's what their intentions are.

Now from the police perspective, this looks like the selection of this venue, this Trader Joe's, was a venue of opportunity. This is not an inside job. It doesn't appear that the individual or individuals that are involved in this from the bad guy perspective had time to select this venue, meaning they knew the layout and they had a plan in place or there were possibly some obstacles or barricades that were in place that they could reinforce to prevent police from coming in.

This was a venue of opportunity, it appears. And if that's the case, that gives the police the opportunity then to move quickly. Do not give the bad guy a chance to set up and hurt more people or to barricade doors or blockade doors. You have to move to the sounds of the guns, Alex. Unfortunately, in the 21st century, this is how law enforcement has to handle these things.

MARQUARDT: All right. If you're just joining us, we are following a possible hostage situation at a trader Joe's in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles.

James Gagliano, Miguel Marquez, stay with me.

We will have much more ahead when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:49:41] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

MARQUARDT: Welcome back to CNN. I am Alex Marquardt.

We are following breaking news out of Los Angeles where there may be a possible hostage situation under way in a Trader Joe's in the Silver lake area of Los Angeles.

What you are looking at are delayed aerial photos. I repeat they are delayed out of sensitivity to possible victims. We have seen people coming out of this store, right there. What you are looking at, are side windows just to the left of the main entrance. People coming out of those windows, going down a rope ladder about say 10 or 15 feet. We have seen several people coming out of the side there as well as at least one person out of the front which you can now see in your screen there. That's the main entrance of this Trader Joe's.

As people come out of that window, as people come out of that front door, they are running away and being -- running into the arms of police officers who will surely be asking them what they saw, what they heard.

So far all we know from the Los Angeles police department is that this is an active incident at the corner of Hyperion Avenue and Griffith Park. Their asking people to please stay clear of the area.

As we have been on the air we have seen the police presence around this Trader Joe's is growing. You can see heavily armed police officers right there with their guns drawn. A little bit further back, the police have established a perimeter. Again, they are heavily armed. They have their bullet proof jackets on. This is clearly an active situation.

I want to go back to James Gagliano, our law enforcement analyst who spent decades in the FBI, led a SWAT team, worked on hostage rescues.

James, what can we take away are from the fact -- I mean, beyond that the very good news that it appears that several people at least have come out of this Trader Joe's unharmed. Is there anything we can learn from hat?

[19:51:39] GAGLIANO: Well, I mean, obviously, you count the number of innocent soles that you can save or rescue or get extricated in a situation like that. That is number one. But number two, they are a wealth of human intelligence. And police negotiators and police officers and law enforcement members, they are debriefing those folks right now to find out how many folks are in the building, what are they armed with, what were their demands. Did they say anything? What's the layout of the entire building is. Upstairs, down stairs. What the floor plan is. Things like that. Are there locked doors where people could be hiding themselves by and locked themselves in safely. Questions like that.

And Alex, as a former SWAT team leader, we work through these things sequentially. And there's three things in this order that has to be done.

The first is crisis resolution. We have to get in there and interdict this and stop the person who is potentially trying to harm innocents.

The second is consequence management. God forbid that there is a fire or God forbid that the person that is perpetrating this has explosive devices where you need a bomb squad and those kind of folks. And last important but in the chronology of these things. The last

thing then is the evidence collection. You know, trying to find out, you know, the who did it and the why. What was their motivation?

This appears, this venue appears to be venue of opportunity. Now I don't know if all was any previous history between the person that was involved in the police pursuit that ended up crashing the vehicle and entering. I don't know if there was previous history there. That would be interesting to be looking up and to find that out. Police can do that by running a license plate and doing all the other kinds of forensic behind the scenes work to try to identify who this person is. And police may know who it is. Maybe there was a potential stop and the subject ended up taking off. And that called the police pursuit.

But those are all things that are being work behind the scene. The main thing right now is to prevent innocent people from getting hurt. You want to get the innocent folks out, you want to attempt to establish communication with the subject, if it's a barricaded subject. And if it is not a barricaded subject, but somebody who is acting as an active shooter, meaning that is going about trying to take lives, police have to make entry. You mention the folks showing up now.

Now is when the tactical teams are arriving because they are mot the first responders necessarily. They are showing up with the ballistic vests. They are showing up with potentially the mechanical or breaching techniques that police may need to use to enter. The heavy weaponry, those kind of things.

So we are moving into that phase now where we closed in the perimeter. We have a tight inner perimeter. So we know that none of the subject, where the subject can end up rabbiting out of the place and then a broader perimeter, the outer perimeter where you want to make sure you keep all the innocent bystanders away and where you bring all the folks that were potential victims that are now witnesses for their potential debriefings, Alex.

MARQUARDT: James, we have a little bit more from the ground there. It does sound like this is what you have called a target of opportunity. Meaning this was not the intended target. We are learning from the Los Angeles Times that has just tweeted that this incident began as a pursuit from Hollywood. So reminder, we are in Silver Lake here. But this was a pursuit from Hollywood that ended with a car crashing next to this Trader Joe's.

Law enforcement sources telling the "the L.A. Times" that gunman, and they only talk about a single gunman, opened fire on police officers and then ran inside the store. We have also confirmed that a 20 year old female has been taken to a -- what we assume is a nearby hospital but has been taken to hospital in what they say is fair condition. So that's good news can combine would the fact we have seen people coming out of this store.

James, I want you to help me decipher what I'm looking at. I understand that you can't see these images. But what I'm looking at is scores of police officers in their ballistics and we are looking for any glimpses of good news right here. And what I'm seeing is a lot of -- dozens of police officers without their guns chron. Kind of standing around and standing -- about 50 feet away from the front of this store.

Should we assume that their calmer posture means anything? I mean, if this were much more serious, would they all have their guns drawn? If I'm looking at, say, 30 different police officers without their guns drawn, standing about 50 feet back, what does that tell us some.

[19:56:19] GAGLIANO: Well, Alex, I always caution our viewers that if you try to distill too much from either aerial shots or video camera footage from the scene, be careful. Because just because there might be a relaxed posture on the outside, the police might have put an inner perimeter inside. And maybe they have somebody hold up in an office but that office is surrounded so they feel comfortable enough on the outside, the immediate outside of the building having that is out of perimeter. And that's a possibility.

So I wouldn't be too much am to that thinking that there, you know, there's some folks that are standing around outside in a relaxed poster. Because this is the way we do law enforcement. If you bring one bad guy to the fight, we are bringing 100. And that is what is going to happen. Every law enforcement agency in that area, whether it's feds, the locales, the state police, they are going to converge on that site because this started out as a hot pursuit, a police pursuit, which is exceedingly difficult and dangerous for law enforcement because you take vehicle and you turn that into a rolling crisis site.

The it greatest fear we have is that vehicle rolls into the it a are resident's neighborhood or as in this instance crashes into a business and the person jumps out of the vehicle and enters that business.

Now the good news is you have gone from a rolling crisis site to a stationary crisis site. The bad news is we don't know yet the motivation. Was this person being pursued because he had committed some heinous crime somewhere else and thought the police were responding to that and now he figures he has got to go out in a blaze of glory? That is a concern to consideration. Is this person had a grievance there?

Now, as you pointed out, it looks like by all indications this was a venue of opportunity. He just ended up there after the police pursuit. That helps law enforcement again because he is not going to be as familiar with the floor plan, the location, where people are. He probably didn't do a casing job there. But there's still other issues and concerns and considerations. We live in an age of active shooters and mass casualty incidents. We have to automatically presume that's what's going on, Alex, until otherwise ruled out.

MARQUARDT: And James, as you have been speaking we saw at least two more civilians being run away from the site by police officers. I just want to remind the viewers what is being reported by the "L.A. Times" local paper out there is that this is an incident that ended -- rather it started when a car crashed into the store. It was a pursuit from Hollywood and they are saying law enforcement there is saying that gunman opened fire on officers and then ran inside the store. So two more people, we think prom that scene. We have seen a number of others coming out from that store which is all the good news that we have for now.

I want to bring in our other CNN law enforcement analyst, Charles Ramsey. He was the former police commissioner in Philadelphia.

Charles, when you look at this scene and I'm looking at much -- a growing law enforcement presence both medical and police for now. If you are the commissioner in L.A., are you just pouring every resource you have into this area?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST (on the phone): Well, first of all, I can't see the images. I'm actually in Quebec City so I don't have the advantage of seeing what's going on. But, you know, you try to get the resources that are needed there as quickly as possible. And then there's always a problem with over response. That you have too many people there and that can cause more congestion and confusion that scene.

The key is to get the right people there as quickly as possible to be able to contain the scene so that the individual cannot get out. If they need to go in and get any additional people out, they --.