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Shooting in Jacksonville; Remembering Senator John McCain; CNN Hero, Florence Phillips. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired August 26, 2018 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
[16:00:26] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, again. Thanks so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We continue to follow our breaking news out of Florida where there has been a mass shooting in Jacksonville at a video gaming tournament. A source tells CNN that at least 11 people have been injured, four people are dead.
We're learning the Jacksonville Sheriff Department will hold a press conference in about three minutes from now. We'll bring that to you as it happens.
Jacksonville Police are saying on Twitter one suspect is dead. It's unknown if there is a second suspect. Authorities are warning people to stay away from the area called the Jacksonville Landing Area saying it is not safe at this time. We are told that gun fire erupted at a game bar during what is known as a Madden X-Box Football gaming tournament at a game bar there in Jacksonville.
And we do have video of what appears to be the shooting while the tournament was being streamed live. We want to warn you that what you will hear is disturbing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is going to be hard to get it on screen. It is a lot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is not a tough out today. Excuse me, not an easy out -- excuse me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED) What is he shooting with?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: That is as it was happening and people were part of the video gaming tournament.
Let's bring in reporter Vic Micolucci from WJXT in Jacksonville, Florida.
What can you tell us, Vic? VIC MICOLUCCI, WJXT REPORTER: It's obviously a very somber scene. A
lot of people coming by here trying to get information first of all about the victims. So I just got off the phone with some of my sources that are first responders here that work throughout Jacksonville for the various government agencies. They tell me right now 15 total victims, at first we heard 11, now we are told 15 total victims, four confirmed dead.
We, personally, have seen some victims. These people were OK, they were alive, but we saw one person, my photographer Jerry saw him, with the multiple gunshot wounds in the leg. He was triaged at the scene and then he was taken to the hospital. There are several hospitals within the vicinity. There's one about three miles north. That's the level one trauma center that's called UF Health. That's where they brought the worst of the patients. There's also another hospital just across the river here behind us at this Baptist Medical Center and there are several others in the vicinity.
Now this is an area in downtown Jacksonville that a lot of people work Monday through Friday. But unless there is a sporting event or some sort of festival, you don't see too many people on the weekends. The Landing has been there for about 30 years. You've got the high-rises. You've got the river front view. There's a lot of restaurants, there's a lot of shops in there.
Now, personally speaking, I have been inside this restaurant where it happened. It is called Chicago Pizza. Recently they opened a game bar for gamers that is inside of this venue. That's where this official Madden Sports gaming tournament was taking place. And as you heard there, the gunshots and the terror, the mayhem, were caught and posted online.
As far as the details, police telling us right now one person who is believed to be the shooter is dead somewhere at the scene. They are saying multiple fatalities. They have not released the official numbers yet. But once again my sources are telling me 15 total people shot right now, at least four are dead.
I also spoke with the general manager of a restaurant that is down the road here at the Landing. He told me he was inside. He was on lockdown. He couldn't leave, he couldn't see much. But he and his employees saw three to four bodies outside of the Chicago Pizza there.
Speaking of lockdown, a lot of people still being held in lockdown right now as the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office works to systematically clear the area. They are going room by room, building by building to make sure that there are not other threats.
I covered the Pulse shooting in Orlando. I covered the Parkland shooting in south Florida, police have to be very careful not to jump to conclusions, and I can tell you the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and the fire department here as well as their sister partner agencies train quite often for this worst case scenario. And they have told me many times personally, you know, it is only a matter of time until unfortunately a tragedy like this happens. So that is why you have heavily armed officers with the SWAT team
gear, with tactical rifles walking around here. They are clearing every building, every room to see exactly what happened, because just because we are hearing from police that there is one shooter dead does not mean that there are not more threats, that there are not more people holed out.
[16:05:08] So a lot of the witnesses, a lot of the people that were in the vicinity are being kept inside sterile, quarantined areas as they wait to be cleared by police.
WHITFIELD: So, Vic, police were telling us 11 injured, four dead, the suspect dead. Do we know how he died?
MICOLUCCI: We don't have any details about the suspect. And police are going to be very careful with what they release there because they don't want to compromise the situation. They don't want to compromise the integrity of the investigation, and again, there is always that possibility that this shooter could have not worked alone. There could be other people, there could be other threats still out here, and there are just a lot of areas for the people to hide here in the downtown Jacksonville area.
We have high rises, we have parking garage, we have restaurants, we have parks. So police just not releasing those details. I do know that the sheriff is going to hold a press conference for us. Just about five minutes ago before I came on the air with you, C2 (PH), the public information officer, so they're the spokespeople for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, they just got here to the scene. They drove past this crime scene tape behind me, they're going to get a briefing from the detectives and they're coordinate what information they release.
As far as the first responders from the fire rescue department, I have been talking to them and it was all hands on deck, and they brought everybody they could for the mass casualty incident and they got here quickly, because not only is the main police headquarters a mile down the road here, but the main fire station is this way, and half a dozen of fire stations within the vicinity of a mile or two from where we are. They are here as well providing the support to the sheriff's office.
WHITFIELD: All right. Vic Micolucci, thank you so much. We'll check back with you.
All right. Joining me now right now on the phone CNN law enforcement analyst and retired FBI supervisory special agent, James Gagliano.
So, James, in a situation like this, first of all, you know, folks are having a good time. They're at this video, you know, gaming conference, and then you hear the gunfire erupt while they are live- streaming. How do police end up responding to a situation like this?
JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST (via phone): Fred, you and I have had far too many sober conversations like this in the wake of these shootings, and I have traveled for CNN down to -- you know, to Las Vegas and to Parkland, Florida, and to Texas and Santa Fe, and a number of these places where these incidents happen.
Look, this is not a criminal justice issue anymore. It is a homeland security issue that, you know, kids can't get together and gather to play video games and not worry about somebody, and again, I've got to stress, we don't know the motivations behind this. We know nothing about the motivations, and I certainly don't want to get out in front of that, but from the law enforcement perspective, our immediate focus is on interdiction and stopping whatever type of killing or whatever type of maiming is being done.
And that appears to be what the law enforcement officers down there did. Now we don't know if the suspect took his own life. We don't know if it was interdiction by the police, but the days of sitting back, putting a large perimeter out and contain and negotiate as our number one strategy are over.
Law enforcement has to be prepared to meet the threat. This is an emerging threat where people for whatever reason, whatever purpose, whatever perverse ideological beliefs that they have, have decided that going into places like this and shooting it up is the way to go.
Fred, it's depressing, but it could have been a lot worse if law enforcement did not move in as quickly as they did.
WHITFIELD: Yes, you're painting a picture -- while we're looking at this live picture, and now, you know, earlier shot images, too, you see the squad cars on the outside of this establishment. But you've painted the picture when police likely responded, they moved right in. We talked to an eyewitness earlier who said that his first instinct was to go into the bathroom, you know, lock the door, and he emerged once it sounded, you know, safe. It was quiet.
But this is also a very difficult situation in which -- for police to respond because, right, they're going in there with caution, they also are looking at the injured, you know, trying to tend to assess the situation, but describe for us if you could, you know, what police are up against when they are, you know, descending on a situation like that which is still live, they don't know who the suspect is. You know, they don't really know who among the victims, you know, what they have at hand.
GAGLIANO: Well, Fred, I've got to tell you, as a former FBI SWAT team leader, the most difficult aspect of this is trying, attempting to discern in real time whether or not this is somebody that is looking to, you know, shoot a place up, but not injure anybody and wants to take the hostages and wants to negotiate something, as opposed to somebody that wants to go in and for whatever perverse ideological reasons that they have, or that their depraved mind convinces them with the right thing to do, just wants to ratchet up the body count.
[16:10:12] And for law enforcement, that's an assessment you have to make on the fly. You don't have the ability to sit back with 20/20 hindsight. You don't have the ability to take in all of the -- of the intelligence because on an emergent threat scene like that, you really are responding to something and doing your best, using your judgment, your expertise and experience to try to discern this in a situation where somebody is shooting back at you.
So it's very, very difficult, probably the most difficult part for law enforcement is to decide whether or not patience and methodical negotiations are the way to go or if we have to put law enforcement officers into harm's way, we have to put them into jeopardy because they've sworn an oath, they wear a badge, they carry a sidearm and their job is to accept a higher level of risk than the average citizen, and their job is to go to the sound of the guns.
And unfortunately, Fred, from Columbine forward, and Columbine was just over 19 years ago, really, the lessons learned in the wake of all of these from Orlando to Las Vegas, to Santa Fe to Parkland, it seems that the job is go to the sound of the guns. Unfortunately, that's kind of the paradigm that we're dealing with now, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. James Gagliano, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
So we're going to continue to monitor this situation here with this breaking news in Jacksonville, Florida. Sheriffs say they will have a press conference scheduled for about 20 minutes from now. All this taking place during a video gaming tournament taking place, and the video, you can hear the sounds of the gunfire, because it was happening while this gaming tournament was live-streaming. We'll continue to monitor. We'll be right back.
[16:16:12] WHITFIELD: So many are mourning the loss of John McCain and simultaneously to that, we're also keeping a close watch on another breaking news story taking place in Jacksonville, Florida. There has been a mass shooting there, and police say there will be a press conference in about 15 minutes from now. We're take you there live.
Meantime, condolences are pouring in from around the world following the death last night of Senator John McCain. He died at the age of 81 there in Arizona.
We've got our team coverage of the passing of Senator John McCain. Our Kyung Lah is there in Phoenix, Arizona. We join her in a moment because people are mourning the loss of this warrior politician who crossed the aisle. He is known as a loving father, a real jokester, a presidential hopeful times two, and he defines what it is to be a true American hero.
McCain endured more challenges than most could imagine during his lifetime, and never let it break his spirit. He thrived on fighting for a cause larger than himself. McCain also was a fierce champion for democracy during his decades in the U.S. Senate, and was unafraid to call out his colleagues and demand a higher standard of conduct from them.
McCain was a courageous leader, a loyal friend and an inspiration to so many. He also had many brushes with death over the years, surviving plane crashes, several bouts of skin cancer, and more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, including part of it in solitary confinement. But to no surprise, even while battling brain cancer, McCain embodied bravery in every sense of the word, wanting to the leave the world a better place.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We need each other. We need friends in the world, and they need us. The bell tolls for us, my friends. Humanity counts on us, and we ought to take measured pride in that. We have not been an island, we were involved in mankind.
Before I leave, I'd like to see our politics begin to return to the purposes and the practices that distinguish our history from the history of other nations. I'd like to see us recover our sense that we are more alike than different. We are citizens of the republic made of shared ideals, forged in a new world to replace the tribal enmities that tormented the old one.
Even in times of political turmoil such as these, we share that awesome heritage and the responsibility to embrace it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: He passed away at his home in Sedona and there in Phoenix is our senior national correspondent Kyung Lah.
So the senator, and Kyung, you can give us an idea, really he crafted his good-bye down to planning his own funeral services. What are you learning?
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So much -- yes, so much of his life, Fredricka, was done in service of the public, much of his farewell now to the public will also unfold because he wanted to say farewell. He wanted the public to have a moment to pause with him. He planned this over the last year privately as people, his friends would come visit him at his Arizona ranch. And what he wanted were three different locations for that funeral.
They will be in Arizona here, and they will also be a service at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and one in Annapolis where his military career began. Here in Arizona, we've already begun to see the public grieving for the senator. A solemn procession which began last night.
[16:20:04] The hearse with the senator's body leaving his beloved ranch, traveling 100 miles south here to Phoenix. And as the procession passed, winding through these desert roads, going through some of the populated areas, what you saw, and we should put this in context. This was not a planned route. People didn't know about this. They were simply watching local television, they wanted to come out, wave the flags, say farewell as the senator arrived at this funeral home in Phoenix. People were there to greet him to say thank you.
Here live at the Phoenix, at the Arizona capitol, you can see that the flags have been lowered in memory of the senator. The senator's body will lie here in state at the Arizona capitol on Wednesday. Wednesday would have been the senator's 82nd birthday.
Arizona's governor tweeting that, "This is a rare and distinct occurrence for a truly special man. John McCain is Arizona, and we will honor his life in every way we can."
This is a man, Fredricka, who we've been hearing about for the last, you know, 24 hours. National figures have been coming out, a national treasure, someone who set the national tone as far as politics. A maverick through many decades here, but here in Arizona, he has been such an institution that people we've spoken to say they simply do not remember politics in this state before there was a John McCain -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right, Kyung Lah. Thank you so much, in Phoenix.
So reaction is pouring in from McCain's colleagues on Capitol Hill. Listen to what Senator Amy Klobuchar told CNN about her final memories with McCain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: My husband and I went to Sedona and saw Cindy and John, and of course he was pretty fragile, but he was still his irascible self, yelling things when things came up on the TV. Telling me his views on things. But there was this moment, I had brought a few of his books with me, and I don't know what I thought we're going to talk them through, but he pointed to a sentence from one of his books and it said, "Nothing in life is more liberating than to fight for a cause larger than yourself." And that's John McCain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Joining me right now, Congressman Ryan Costello.
Good to see you, Congressman. What are your, you know, best memories of John McCain?
REP. RYAN COSTELLO (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I think when he spoke up to that supporter when he was campaigning for president in 2008, and just explained that President Obama, then senator, was a kind and decent man, that was a point -- an inflection point for our party. And I have some concerns about some of the animus out there in the country and in our party, and he pushed back and said, no, the senator is a kind and decent person, we just happen to have disagreements.
Look, Senator McCain was a combative personality, but ultimately a collaborator when it came to getting things done. He was a hero that he had humility, and while he was a leader, he was also a legislator. He would get in the weeds and get things done. And you knew that his word was his bond, and that he was going to see things through to the finish, and that is why, as a senator, he goes down as one of the really great ones in American history.
WHITFIELD: And what does it say to you that he really did handcraft his funeral, and that he -- it's his request to be eulogized by former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama?
COSTELLO: Well, and if you look, and your has done a great job at this, of what George W. Bush and Barack Obama had to say about him, just very, very beautiful. Really captures the essence of the man and his place in the history of our country, and what it means to be an American.
John McCain demonstrated courage, vision, humility, it's just a really sad loss for our democracy, but it's also a time where I think we can reflect and learn and relearn some lessons about what it means to be a good citizen, what it means to be an elected official, what we should look for in elected officials, which is that blend of standing up for what you believe in, being independent, but also realizing that after you fight hard for what you want, then you've got to fight hard for finding bipartisan compromise. And Senator McCain was really a true leader in that realm.
WHITFIELD: Congressman Ryan Costello, thank you so much.
And we are continuing to follow breaking news out of Jacksonville, Florida, where there has been a mass shooting at a Madden X-Box video gaming tournament.
[16:25:00] The Jacksonville Sheriff's Department is scheduled to hold a press conference within minutes. Sources telling CNN that at least 11 people injured, four killed. We'll bring you that the press conference in more details as soon as we get it.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
WHITFIELD: We continue to follow breaking news out of Jacksonville, Florida, where there has been a mass shooting at a video gaming tournament taking place at a gaming bar there in Jacksonville in the area that you're seeing right now called Jacksonville Landing. And we're also awaiting a news conference to start at any moment. Law enforcement telling CNN that 11 people were injured and have been transported to hospitals. Four people have been killed. And the -- or one suspect is also dead.
Joining me right now on the phone is Jason Lake, the CEO of Complexity Gaming, who actually had a player at this tournament during the shooting.
So Jason, first off, this Complexity Gaming, what is this, a team, and so you had a team member at this Jacksonville location during the shooting? Explain.
JASON LAKE, CEO, COMPLEXITY GAMING: Exactly. Complexity Gaming is one of America's foremost e-sport teams. We hire professional gamers of several of different games and send them around the world to compete in professional gaming tournaments. This weekend, our Madden player, (Inaudible), was in Jacksonville competing at a Madden regional event when this all took place.
WHITFIELD: So have you heard from -- you said his name was Joey, have you heard from him.
LAKE: Yeah, (Inaudible) actually, and we (Inaudible) battery died. He was playing before when the shots started to ring out. He believes that the person next to him was actually shot and he got shot. It grazed his thumb. He was not severely injured, thank god. He then ran out of the building down the street. He took shelter in a nearby gym.
He was obviously pretty shaken so we contacted the police to let them know where he was so they could go and interview him, and they were going to try to get him on a plane out of there tonight.
WHITFIELD: So this shooting took place while this gaming was live streaming. We played the audio tape earlier, and then you could see, you know, one of the screens just kind of, you know, going blank. Were you watching it, or were you watching this live streaming at the time?
LAKE: We were. And to be honest with you, I am still a little shaken. You know when you are enjoying something like e-sports, and like Madden, like video games, and to have something like this happen, it is just a shocking reality of it.
WHITFIELD: I am sorry to interrupt you, Jason. I want to go straight to the press conference underway right now in Jacksonville.
MIKE WILLIAMS, SHERIFF, JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA: We will come back out in a couple hours with a lot more detail. At this point, we have some information we wanted to put out just again, to answer brief questions at this point. So we just finished clearing the landing of potential witnesses and victims and that type of thing. Here is what we know at this point.
We have no outstanding suspects at this time. No outstanding suspects. We have one suspect in this case. He is deceased at the scene at this point. He is a white male, and we are still working to confirm his identity. We have deceased victims at the scene. And we also have injured people at the hospital. We will release the counts later on.
We don't have a count for you today currently. We are aware of a video that's out on social media. We have that the video. We would encourage you if you have additional video or any other information about the incident, please reach out to 630-500, our emergency number to crime stoppers and, you know, 1866-845-tips and share that information.
You can also share a lot of (Inaudible) at Jacksonvillesheriff.org. So as I mentioned, we just finished the Jacksonville cleared the landing of the potential witnesses, other victims, that type of thing. We have no outstanding suspects at this point. And we will have, again, more information and a full brief in a few hours.
One thing I can add is that we would encourage people not to come downtown to spectate. We don't need that at this point. We have got a very large crime scene downtown, a very large perimeter on this crime scene, and we will divert you away from that obviously, so with that, a couple of quick questions?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a lot of speculation...
WILLIAMS: Sorry, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you believe that the suspect is from our area or near possibly Baltimore.
WILLIAMS: It is still waiting to be determined.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) speculation of what led up to this...
WILLIAMS: So at this point, none. As soon as we have more information about that, we'll share it.
WILLIAMS: We're still working with the witnesses right now.
WILLIAMS: Several, several witnesses.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible)
WILLIAMS: In landing. Again, we'll more detail about that (Inaudible) as the night unfolds.
(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible)
WILLIAMS: Yes, inside of one of the restaurants, yes.
WILLIAMS: No. We have not gotten that detail yet.
WILLIAMS: So we will talk about an operation to try to get the families information as quickly as we can. Again, this information today right now, we wanted to get out that we have no outstanding suspects, and the scene is secure and we will follow up in a couple of hours with more information.
(CROSSTALK) WHITFIELD: All right. We are listening to a press conference there, very brief. No outstanding suspects. The one suspect according to what we just heard is dead. We didn't hear the circumstances as to how that suspect died. But again, there have been many injured, taken to the area hospitals, and four dead.
So I want to bring in CNN correspondent Polo Sandoval, who is also covering the story for us. So Polo, what more can you tell us?
[16:35:04] POLO SANDOVAL, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes. Some of key points there from that press just a few moments ago, Fred, that the scene has been cleared according to authorities, also that they have no outstanding suspects. Initially, they had said that they were following up on various reports, trying to make sure that they had all of the information that they needed to have.
But at this point, they can't can say and can't confirm that only one suspect was involved who is among the dead, and also, that we can expect a full briefing later, and they are obviously encouraging people to stay away from the area. We heard the authorities just a short while ago describe this as a large crime scene. Various reports that we have received from the ground is that the shooting was possibly not just inside that restaurant at that location, but also potentially outside.
So those were the key points again from authorities just a few moments ago. The scene is secure. The building has been cleared. They are now in the process of debriefing some of the witnesses, and they also can confirm that there are no outstanding suspects in this shooting case, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Polo Sandoval, thank you so much. Before that press conference, I was talking to Jason Lake. He is the CEO of Complexity Gaming. He is on the phone with me still coming out of Dallas. And Jason, you explained earlier that your company, you hire professional gamers, and then you send them out to various tournaments.
One of your players was at this Jacksonville tournament. You were watching it video stream live, and as were a lot of people were. You heard the gunfire. So pick it up from there, and what your reaction was when you heard the gunfire immediately. Could you tell that that was gunfire, and at what point did it sink in for you.
LAKE: I mean that was that was our reaction. I was watching the show and chatting with some people from our front office over slack. And you have that moment where you just you think that can't be real, right? And then when people started running, you know, I guess it did become a reality. Our player bolted out of the building and was lucky enough to get down the street to the gym to take cover.
And we actually called the police to let him know where our player was, so they could go and get his statement. And it is just a scary day overall. The e-sport generally sticks together closely, and everyone knows each other. So we are definitely in mourning today. WHITFIELD: Yeah. And I am glad that your player is OK, was able to
get out, but has he been able to convey to you, you know, who else was there? I mean, what is the age, you know, of folks? How many in general were at this particular site, you know, engaging in this gaming tournament?
LAKE: This is a regional Madden event. So we're going to be measuring the participants in dozens and not in hundreds. The average age is probably 18 to 22, right in that frame. I don't know the exact number of people that were there. But there were several professional gaming players there. The community was (Inaudible) the event.
There are different rumors as to what might have caused the outburst, but I'm not just going to speculate on that. I don't think that's healthy. And you know our thoughts and prayers just go out to families. We're going to look after our guy and do whatever we can to help everybody that's...
WHITFIELD: And people generally feel like this is a safe activity, safe place of these, you know, gaming bars or the locations of tournaments like this, either when you have dozens as opposed, as you described, the hundreds, you know, at some of the major tournaments. Describe for me what is the atmosphere generally people feeling safe, they're excited, what is going on?
LAKE: Yeah. I mean, you know, it is a sad thing that we mourn the loss of an American hero, John McCain, this weekend, guys that went abroad and fought for our freedom so we can do fun things like play video games. We can get together and celebrate games and (Inaudible) things that we like in our lives. To have someone to walk into an event like this that is all about, you know, good sportsmanship and teamwork and just good vibes, and to do something like this.
It is heartbreaking. I think the e-sports industry as a whole is going to have to step back and take a look at further strengthening our security and -- I don't know. I guess I am a little bit at a loss for words with this day, and it is really a concern for us.
WHITFIELD: It is so very shocking. All right, Jason Lake, appreciate your time. Thank you so much.
LAKE: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: And we continue to follow this breaking news this hour out of Jacksonville, Florida, mass shooting at a Madden Xbox gaming tournament. At least 11 people injured, 4 dead, 1 suspect also dead. No outstanding suspects according to the police. We will have more details right after this.
[16:40:00] WHITFIELD: Remembering Senator John McCain, who died last night after a year-long battle with brain cancer. McCain was a man not only revered for his decades of public service in government, but maybe more than that, for his years of service and sacrifice in the United States military. His capture defiance and survival in Vietnam as a prisoner of war was truly inspirational.
My next guest Everett Alvarez knows all too well what that was like. He was the first U.S. pilot shot down during the Vietnam War. He was held there as a prisoner of war for over eight years. Good to see you.
EVERETT ALVAREZ, FORMER POW, VIETNAM WAR: Thank you, Fredricka, nice to be here.
WHITFIELD: Thank you so much. So tell me of your first memory with John McCain.
ALVAREZ: Well, I could first again reiterate our sincere condolences to Cindy and the family. We have, you know, we knew this day would come, but there is still a sadness that it is in the air. My memory of John McCain, of course, we -- John was a unique individual. He is very, very fortunate to have lived episodes that happened several times in his career prior to being shot down and captured and while being shot down.
[16:45:11] He was -- if you will recall, severely injured. He was in a body cast. He was taken care of by other fellow POWs. John could not feed himself, couldn't bathe himself, couldn't clean himself, and all of this was done with the assistance of cellmates like Bud Day, the medal of honor winner who is now deceased, Orson Swindle, other people who were the key people in his survival during the day.
And we kept track of stories like John through our covert communications system, tapping on the wall, keeping up with the day- to-day activities of what was happening in the camp. Well, John's story is not only unique, but he was one courageous individual. He served his country well. And I didn't get to meet John until just before we were released.
And I tell the story that when the Vietnamese removed the barriers between the cells in the Hanoi Hilton, and we were able to roam around, and we could see other POWs from other cells. There was a day when I was looking across the courtyard, and I saw this individual who was greeting everybody he saw. He was shaking hands. He was slapping them back, talking away, very animated.
And I looked at this fellow and I said to one of my colleagues, who is that fellow over there with the shocking white hair. And he looked and he said that is Johnny McCain. And I said, you know, he's going to be a politician some day. Well, history shows that, well, see what has happened.
ITWHFIELD: Wow. So I mean there is something about him, and you saw it in each other I mean through that experience, you know, character as well. I mean it seems as though, as you read each other and you tried to help each other survive that time, it sounds like you also saw a hope in him by being able to, you know, think of that in his future that perhaps he would be a politician.
ALVAREZ: Well, I think that that experience rally formed a lot of people's -- it had an effect with the element of the character. And that is what came through with the individuals like John that carried him the rest of their lives. He was always, you know, a service over self. You know, John, with his father, and his grandfather and, you know, they, very senior naval officers.
He could have used his influence to remain safer, but not John. He was up, wanted to be in the frontlines. He wanted to be there. And so he had a lot of -- there was a lot of courage. He had a lot of sacrifice on his part. But it was for his commitment to his service to his country. And these are the characteristics that I think carried him through for the rest of his career.
He, as I recall, always tried to do what was in the best interest of the country. You know, no one is perfect, but the bottom line is that he was devoted to that cause.
WHITFIELD: Well, Everett Alvarez, we appreciate your service and sacrifice and your reflections of John McCain.
ALVAREZ: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Senator McCain will always be remembered as a political maverick. He spoke his mind and never hesitated to the reach across the aisle. Our special coverage of the life of John McCain continues right here on CNN.
[16:50:00] WHITFIELD: So among the many things that Senator John McCain will be remembered for is his quick wit. Some of his most memorable laughs came at the Al Smith Memorial Dinner in 2008, when he was the Republican Presidential nominee. And he brought the house down when he poked fun at his own campaign and roasted his competitor, President Obama. Take a listen.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Events were moving fast in my campaign. And yes, it is true that this morning, I dismissed my entire team of senior advisers. All of their positions will now be held by a man named Joe the Plumber. Already, but already, my friends, my opponents have been subjecting Joe to their vicious attack machine.
His veracity has been questioned by Barack Obama's running mate, Joe the six-term Senator. He claims that this honest, hardworking, small businessman could not possibly have enough income to face a tax increase under the Obama plan. What they don't know, what they don't know is that Joe the Plumber recently signed a very lucrative contract with a wealthy couple to handle all of the work on all seven of their houses.
This campaign needed the common touch of a working man. After all, it began so long ago with the heralded arrival of a man known to Oprah Winfrey as the one. Being a friend and colleague of Barack, I just called him that one. He -- friends, he doesn't mind at all. In fact, he even has a pet name for me, George Bush. It has been that kind of contest. [16:55:02] And I come here tonight to the Al Smith Dinner knowing
that I am the underdog in these final weeks. But if you know where to look, there are signs of hope. There are signs of hope, even in the most unexpected places, even in this room full of proud Manhattan Democrats. I can't, I can't shake that feeling that some people here are pulling for me.
Some advocates for Senator Obama are less restrained in their enthusiasm, even in the media. (Inaudible) he usually is over at table 228 for example, was my old friend and greenroom pal Chris Matthews. He used to like me, but he found somebody new, somebody who opened his eyes, somebody who gave him a thrill up his leg.
And we have talked about it. I told him, maverick I can do, but messiah is above my pay grade.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Senator John McCain will lie in state this Wednesday at the state capital building in Phoenix. There will be a church service there on Thursday followed by additional services in Washington. Before we go, we want to highlight this week's CNN Hero. Florence Phillips has a passion for helping immigrants be able to achieve the American dream.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is the immigrants that made the United States. It was the immigrants that came here to have freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of doing whatever they wanted to do, and they're the ones that made this country. We are giving them the key to unlock all doors, and I see the pride when they say I am an American.
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WHITFIELD: And to see more of Florence's program, go to CNNheroes.com. We have got so much more straight ahead in the Newsroom. I am Fredricka Whitfield. Have a great week. Ana Cabrera is up next.