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Coverage Of A Mass Shooting, A Rampage At A Crowded Shopping Mall In South Texas; One Man in Custody, Multiple Fatalities, 22 Injured in El Paso Mall Shooting; Beto O'Rourke Spoke Earlier about El Pass Shooting; Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX) Discusses El Paso Shooting. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired August 3, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:00] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. Breaking news here in the United States. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

We are following breaking news right now. Very sad breaking news here in the United States. A mass shooting, a rampage at a crowded shopping mall in south Texas. Several people are dead. The exact number unknown at this time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's go home. Run, mamas. Come on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: This is El Paso, Texas, just a little while ago. Video recorded as panicked shoppers ran out of the mall when gun fire rang out. Police officers swarmed the mall and at least one suspect was in custody earlier reports alluded to more than one suspect, but the El Paso police department just reconfirmed to reporters, you saw it live here on CNN, that one suspect is now in their custody.

And now the victims, more than 20 people are wounded and 22 specifically being treated at local hospitals and 11 at one hospital and 11 at another hospital. As for those killed, an official at the El Paso mayor's office saying only that there are multiple fatalities, multiple fatalities. The exact number of people killed is still not known or at least has not yet been released publicly.

Here is what we are hearing among other things from eyewitnesses.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GLENDON OAKLEY, U.S. ARMY SPECIALIST: I was in a sports store (INAUDIBLE). I was buying a jersey and I looked here and a little kid runs in there and says there is an active shooter at Walmart, but me and the guy didn't pay him no mind because he's a little kid so I walked out and I go to footlocker and all I hear is pop, pop. So I got my licensed (INAUDIBLE) and all I know is think my gun to think past. And the footlocker closed the cage and some people lifted it and they got so scared and they wanted to get out. So I go out with them and I just followed them and I seen a whole bunch of kids running out without their parents. So -- I was thinking about the kids so I picked up as many as I could and another guy did as well. And -- I'm sorry, I'm shaking. I can't think. And I just peeled out and I just hope the kids make it safe, man, because there were a whole bunch of kids without the parents and I was more worried about the kids than myself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So said you heard the shots?

OAKLEY: Yes. He did, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Again, just tell us how this feels like.

OAKLEY: Well, I'm in the military so I probably feel different for me because, you know, we were trained to -- when you hear gunshots and pull out your weapon and think fast. I really wasn't worried about myself. I worry about the kids. So I pull stull. I just picked up the kids and just carried them with me and me and the other guy did and we made it through Dillard's. So I really wasn't worried about myself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What run to your mind when the first shot -- when you head the first shot, what ran through your mind?

OAKLEY: You know, I'm in the military so I cant even say. It's a feeling that you can't explain, you know what I'm saying? You heart is -- all you think is pull out your weapon and think fast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm curious. What were the kids --

OAKLEY: They were running around crying. Just running around. And all I could think about was the kids. I think about it if my child, if I had one, what I would want someone else to do and I picked them up and them up and the other guy did as well. I couldn't go back and -- I tried my best -- me and the other guy tried to get as many out as possible and that's all that was. I couldn't really do nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you so much for your time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

BLITZER: That was U.S. army specialist Glendon Oakley. We spoke to him earlier as well. Clearly, he is totally understandably shaken by what he saw but he tried to protect the little kids who were in that mall. A lot of shopping, going on back to school shopping in El Paso.

Let's bring in Shimon Prokupecz. He is following all the breaking news for us.

Shimon, you are working your sources for us. What else can you tell us?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Right. So police are saying that this happened just after 10:00 a.m. at El Paso time. Early, the shooter, it's believed he walked in from the Walmart. There are witnesses who say that they saw the shooter leave. There was a Walmart that one person described as maybe 200 yards from this mall. He left that Walmart. There was a shooting inside the Walmart and then he walked across into the mall where there was more gun fire according to the police.

And as you said, Wolf, right now police are saying they are sticking to the words of multiple dead. They are not saying exactly how many people have been killed. We know as you said, more than 20 people have been injured.

The shooter, they believe, is only one person right now responsible for this. They have questioned other people. There were initial reports that there may be other shooters. But police right now believe that there was only one shooter. That person, they believe they have him in custody. They also say that they have witnesses who tell them that he used a rifle-style assault-type style weapon in the shooting. So police have him in custody. And all indications are that he's alive and they'll be able to learn a lot of information from him. They have not told us what his condition is.

And the other thing right now obviously for police, you have the FBI there and you have the ATF and then you also have other federal agencies on scene. But the motive here, that yet unknown. And they are still trying to sort through that. We know that a high level of folks here in Washington, D.C., and also over at the department of justice, the attorney general, he has been briefed on this investigation on what happened here.

And right now we are waiting to get more specific information, Wolf, from police as to how many exactly have been killed here and how many people have been injured. And obviously, what more can we learn about the suspect here and the motive, Wolf?

[16:05:42] BLITZER: We know 22 people have been injured, transported to two local hospitals. We know there are multiple fatalities and we don't know how many yet. I know you're working your sources.

Shimon, we'll get back to you.

We have brand-new video coming from inside the Walmart at that Cielo vista mall. And it purports to show people hiding as shots are heard. Let's listen.

(VIDEOCLIP PLAYING)

BLITZER: Awful situation. Texas state representative Cesar Blanco. He is joining us right now. He represents part of El Paso and his district officers are down the street from where the shooting took place.

First of all, how are you doing? I understand you have been in touch with authorities. Can you help us clarify what the latest information is, state representative?

CESAR BLANCO, TEXAS STATE REPRESENTATIVE (on the phone): Wolf, thank you so much. Watching and hearing the shots fired as a veteran, it's a tragedy that this is happening in our country and in my community. We do know that 19 people have been shot. Multiple folks are injured and filling in our level one trauma center.

You know, this is -- it's a Saturday. Parents and children are in our shopping malls as well as Walmart preparing for back to school. So there's a lot of traffic in these areas. My district office is right down the street from it and it's unfortunate that this has happened.

I have been in touch with governor Greg Abbott who is in route to El Paso to provide support and his leadership. I have been in communication with our chief of state police colonel McCraw here at DPS who has confirmed that there have been multiple people shot north of 19 people and there is a suspect in custody. It is a male. And it no longer is an active shooting situation. It is a homicide scene situation according to the El Paso police department. But really a tragedy for one of the safest cities in the world that this is happening here at home.

BLITZER: Representative Blanco, you say 19 people have been shot. That doesn't necessarily mean they have been killed, is that right?

BLANCO: No. However, I am receiving reports from our level one trauma center that they are receiving numerous patients coming in with injuries from the location. So my concern is that it's going to be north of that number.

BLITZER: Eventually, we have been told from the University Medical Center of El Paso that they have received 11 victims and the Del Sol Medical Center has received another 11 people, that would be 22. Where are you getting the 19 number from?

BLANCO: These are local reports from our -- from the local police department in coordination with the state police. But obviously, these numbers are always in flux as it's a chaotic situation. But look, you know, I do know that to my understanding that it was an assault weapon that was utilized which could provide mass casualties. My understanding based on these reports that the shooter began shooting in a parking lot area. And as of this moment only one suspect has been apprehended and no knowledge of any other suspects.

BLITZER: When the police -- the authorities say there have been multiple fatalities have they indicated to you an approximate number of people who were shot and killed?

BLANCO: The have not. State police is providing updates. They have not been firmed anyone killed at this point. So we are waiting to hear back from those report.

But you know, this is such a tragedy in our community. We have been victims in our community of a shooting not long ago at one of our VA hospital facilities here in El Paso but nothing of this magnitude, you know. This is -- as I had said before, this is a back-to-school season and lots of children as we heard from that army specialist on your program that lots of kids are at the mall or at the Walmart with their parents shopping, preparing for school. And it's just so sad that these mass shootings are happening in these civilian locations in our country at such a high magnitude.

[16:10:47] BLITZER: Yes. It's awful.

State representative Cesar Blanco, do you have any information on the suspect or any possible motive for this mass murder?

BLANCO: I haven't received reports of motive. I do know it is a male suspect. I have no other details of the individual as of right now. But I will be receiving updates as we go along from local police and state police.

BLITZER: What can you tell us about this mall? Because we have heard it's a very popular mall. And as you continue to point out and very importantly, it's very busy on this Saturday as kids are getting ready to go back to school. Their moms and dads are taking them to get school clothes presumably, maybe some books and other stuff for school. Tell us about this mall, the Cielo vista mall.

BLANCO: Right. Right. Absolutely. This is the most popular mall in El Paso. And the mall is adjacent to a Walmart. So it's really a retail area across the street from the mall is a very large outdoor mall called the fountain affair as well. So this area is a high- traffic area. One of the reasons I have my district office in the area is because a lot of people are in this area all of the time. So there's going to be a lot of people on a Saturday especially when they are getting ready to go back to school.

You know, it's the largest mall in El Paso which obviously attracts a lot of people to the area. There are a lot of restaurants naturally around the shopping area. There is a movie theater right next to the mall. Large parking lots that surround the mall obviously and lots of eateries and things like that.

You know, the hospitals that a lot of these patients and victims are going to are not far away from the mall. And the interstate are right off -- the mall is right off the interstate so there is going to be access for the emergency vehicles to go in and go out, but a high- traffic area. This is the center of El Paso. You know, I was a stock boy for shoe when I was in high school and it's a families come and enjoy their weekend. Such a tragedy that this is happening in our community.

BLITZER: I have been to a lot of malls all over the United States, state representative. I have been to malls all over the world. In Europe and the Middle East, for example, you go to a mall you have to go through security, unfortunately. Here in the United States some part of the country, you do go through some security as you walk into a mall. What kind of security, if any, do they have at the mall in El Paso?

BLANCO: You know, I do frequent the mall and, you know, you have got store security. You have got a mall security. But you know, this is an open place. There aren't any metal detectors. You do see a police presence every now and then from the local police department. But look, it's like any mall in America, you know. Folks feel safe and people are shopping and eating and enjoying their time at the mall. We have never had a scenario in this mall where you would need metal detectors or any kind of strong presence from law enforcement. It's just like any other city in the United States and now this community will be changed forever.

BLITZER: Yes. Certainly will be. And I am sure that there will be increased security now. Unfortunately, that will be required at other malls around the country as well.

State representative Cesar Blanco, thank you so much for joining us. So once again, our hearts go out to the families in your beautiful community. El Paso is a great, great city. And is there, before I let you go, anything else you want to share with our viewers?

BLANCO: You know, I just want to say that El Paso is a very strong community. It's a tight-knit, family oriented community. This will not break us. We will continue to be strong just like many cities across our country that deal with these type of tragedies. We will survive this. And hopefully as legislators and elected officials that there is the courage and the will to do something more regarding these type of fight abilities and tragic scenarios that are plaguing our nation.

[16:15:11] BLITZER: Let's hope, state representative Cesar Blanco, thank you so much. Good luck to the folks over there. Our hearts go out to the families of these victims. And once we get more specific numbers of this tragedy, this horrendous mass shooting, the enormity of it will increase. Thank you. Good luck over there.

BLANCO: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We are just getting a tweet in and a statement from the President. President Trump just tweeted this, let me read it to our viewers.

Terrible shootings in El Paso, Texas. Reports are very bad, many killed. Working with state and local authorities and law enforcement. Spoke to governor to pledge total support of federal government. God be with you all. The statement from the President.

You are looking at pictures coming in from the mall in El Paso. Much more on all the breaking news right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:19:06] BLITZER: We Are back with the breaking news. A shooting in El Paso, Texas at the Cielo vista mall. We are hearing there are multiple fatalities. Police say one person is in custody. We are getting video from inside that Walmart at the mall. And it shows people hiding, reportedly hiding as the shots rang out. Watch this.

(VIDEOCLIP PLAYING)

BLITZER: You hear those gunshots, it is so frightening. We are also hearing more from eyewitnesses who were there at the shooting including from this man who was at the Walmart, at the mall, who uttered a message of unity and love. Watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[16:20:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For anybody that went through this, no matter what, even though I wanted to fight I couldn't, I had to run. Run then hide. As I say, if you can fight, fight. If you can't run. If you can't run, hide. And help everyone as you possibly can.

Yes, I'm trying to get through to get to my wife because she was ahead of me, but yes, help everybody you can. Maybe all for one, one for all, but when all for one is gone then, it's -- like, it's not about you, it's about everyone else. What if they got shot and you didn't know what to do and the other way around.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Love everybody, man. This is a dark world. We all need love. We all need peace with each other. We all need (INAUDIBLE) we are all the same.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's get some analysis now to this heartbreaking story. Our police and law enforcement experts are joining us right now. Juliette Kayyem is our national security analyst, Jonathan Wackrow, former secret service agent and our law enforcement analyst and Charles Ramsey is the former police commissioner in Philadelphia.

Commissioner Ramsey, let me start with you. You hear what's going on. You see these preliminary accounts of the number of people -- multiple fatalities at least 22 or so people injured in this mass shooting. What goes through your mind?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I mean, another tragedy. Here we are again. It's a week ago that we had the issue at the garlic festival. This isn't going to stop. It's just a question of where and when unfortunately, because nothing's being done that's really going to cause it to stop. So we need to be prepared. We need to be on guard, but we shouldn't be surprised about this. It's just one more tragedy. And I feel for the people whose loved ones have been victims, you know. Whether they were killed or whether they survived, they will never be the same.

BLITZER: Yes. You and I will personally remember the shootings that were going on with the D.C. sniper shootings that you were the police chief here in Washington, D.C. at the time and there were people who lived through that who are still suffering this very day.

RAMSEY: That's right. I mean, it's a collateral damage, I will call it. This cause when you have these things. And even just watching it on television. How many kids and their parents are getting ready to go to a mall somewhere in the United States to shop for school supplies now and they see what happened in El Paso.

I mean, this is totally out of hand in this country. And something needs to be done and at least the conversation started in order to bring some of this to an end. I mean, I know everybody is concerned right now and at least I haven't heard the thoughts and prayers stuff all over again. If thoughts and prayers worked this would have been solved a long time ago. We need to be taking action, strong action or we'll be right back here again.

BLITZER: Yes. You see these kids, young people leaving the mall and it's an awful, awful situation.

Juliette Kayyem, what goes through your mind as we continue to get more information, multiple fatalities, 22 people injured and 22 people taken to local hospitals, a suspect is in custody.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So three things, professionally. So one, of course, is why are the numbers all over the place in terms of the fatalities. And it maybe that the police are actually waiting to do identification until they give a number especially if there are children that were killed. We are hearing a lot about children in the mall. So I suspect we will get a definitive number but that might explain why this delay.

The second from a security perspective, is of course, we know how to secure big buildings, right. We do this at the super bowl or football stadium. The challenge, of course, in Texas is that it's open carry. So you can't have the kind of security that you might have, say at a Walmart in Massachusetts which is not open carry. So Walmart is very sophisticated in their security but they just have to deal with whatever state or area that they are in.

The third thing, I just want to say is about chief Ramsey's point, and you know, chief Ramsey has been in this a lot longer than me at position at what he seen the impact of guns. But what we can began to address and what number we do know now is at a single shooter who has been able to shoot at least 40 people in a very small period of time.

And so one area that we begin to talk about is the capacity of gun, of certain guns in this country to kill people very, very quickly in a short period of time because that means they can't respond. and it means law enforcement can't respond.

And so I do think that if we just look at these numbers how quickly it happened last weekend and this weekend, as well and if that's a particularly American phenomenon and it has nothing to do with handguns and I think from what you heard from people, we are looking at, you know, a very fast gun and they won't say what it is.

Finally, I'm not going to be professional now, but personal, this is -- I mean, this is a mall on a Saturday before school starts. Every parent knows exactly what that situation could feel like and knows exactly the fear in a child's heart and mind forever if you happen to be at the wrong Walmart, at the wrong time. School starts a week from Monday in Texas. We have all gone that shop before. And this is just -- it's just madness. I mean, it is at this stage.

[16:25:36] BLITZER: Yes, chief Ramsey is 100 percent right when he says that parents are watching what has just happened in El Paso at this big mall there and they are wondering is it safe to go to the local mall where I live to take my kids and get clothes for the new school year?

Jonathan, you are a former secret service agent. You are law enforcement analyst. Based on the information we are getting from the El Paso police department, from the mayor, from the state representatives, from other authorities including local media, what do you think?

JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, listen. I want to jump back to the video that we saw from inside the Walmart where we heard the gun fire. What we did not hear in the gun fire was, you know, a rapid burst, you know, a fully automatic or three-round burst. What we heard was a very systematic, firing process, one, two, three. To me that's indicative of, you know, target acquisition and someone that's just not going into spray bullets around a room.

He -- he or she, the suspect, was methodically looking and picking out their targets. That is terrifying for those people who were there. That video showing somebody underneath a table. That is a terrifying moment that will stay with him for the rest of their life.

We have been talking about 22 injured. Actually, everyone who is involved in this is injured. There is a physiological and psychological effect that everyone is going to undertake because they are involved in this situation. The psychological impact that these traumatic situations have last a lifetime.

We had a young woman 16 years old earlier talking about she was fearful for her life. Just think about how this moment in time, this Sunday morning, 10:00 in El Paso where she was buying school supplies will stay with her for the rest of her life. There is a ripple effect to these incidents and we have to start solving for them.

BLITZER: Yes. There's got to be something. And looking at these live pictures coming in, you are looking at law enforcement, heavily armed law enforcement. They are coming into the mall right now where we are showing our viewers these live pictures and the aftermath of this mass murder. This mass shooting is going to be significant.

Let's take a quick break. Resume our special coverage right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:31:36] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're back with the breaking news out of El Paso, Texas, where one person is now in police custody after a mass shooting at the Cielo Vista Mall.

Police are telling us there are multiple fatalities. They're not releasing specific numbers. At least 22 people have been taken to local hospitals. We are gathering more information right now and specific numbers of fatalities.

And we are also hearing from the Democratic presidential candidate, Beto O'Rourke, who is from El Paso. He represented that city in the U.S. Congress. Is part of the 16th congressional district. He also temporarily served as the city mayor, sat on the city council. Moments ago, Beto O'Rourke reacted to this mass shooting that happened

in his hometown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BETO O'ROURKE, (D), FORMER CONGRESSMAN & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: At this point, the area has still not been cleared. It's still considered active.

We know that a lot of injury, a lot of suffering in El Paso right now. I'm incredibly saddened. And it is very hard to think about this this.

But I'll tell you El Paso is the strongest place in the world. This community is going to come together.

I'm going back there right now to be with my family and to be with my hometown.

And I want to thank the El Paso police department and the first responders that are there right now and we're going back to be with them.

And -- I've spoken to the mayor of El Paso, Dee Margo, and I've spoken to Congresswoman Escobar, and spoken to Sheriff Wiles. They're all doing everything they can. And we are still learning information about this situation.

So I just ask for -- ask for everyone's strength for El Paso right now, everyone's resolve to make sure that this does not continue to happen in this country. And we'll share more as I learn more going forward.

I thank you all for being here today. Thanks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Beto O'Rourke was in Las Vegas when he got the word of this mass shooting going on in his hometown of El Paso. He is now on his way back.

But the first thing he did, like so many people who know individuals and have loved ones in El Paso, they immediately called to make sure they were OK, they weren't at the mall at the time. He called his wife and spoke to his wife and spoke to his daughter. And they were reassuring him that they were OK. And so many people had been shaken by this horrendous, horrendous situation.

As we reported, at least 22 people, at least 22 people were injured. The Del Sol Medical Center in El Paso has received 11 of the victims from today's mass shooting.

The hospital spokesman, Victor Guerrero, is joining us on the phone right now.

Victor, thanks so much. How are you doing? How is everyone at the hospital doing? Tell us

about the condition of these victims.

(AUDIO PROBLEM)

[16:35:03] BLITZER: Victor, are you there?

VICTOR GUERRERO, SPOKESMAN, DEL SOL MEDICAL CENTER (via telephone): Yes.

BLITZER: Victor, this is Wolf Blitzer, in Washington. I just want to -- if you can hear me OK, give us an update on what's happening at the hospital.

(AUDIO PROBLEM)

BLITZER: All right. We will try to re-connect with Victor Guerrero. He represents the Del Sol Medical Center in El Paso where 11 of the victims, the shooting victims have been transported.

We'll get back to him, continue all the breaking news right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get the latest now on the breaking news, the shooting, the mass shooting in Texas at an El Paso shopping center. Police now say multiple people are dead. We can confirm that the 22 injured victims are being treated at two area hospitals.

One suspect, according to the police, is now in custody. Police say no active shooter remains at the Cielo Vista Shopping Mall.

We've been seeing employees calmly helping people evacuate while SWAT teams were hunting for the shooters. Keep in mind, many stores were offering back-to-school specials just days before El Paso schools were getting ready to re-open after the summer break.

Terrifying scenes of panicked shoppers running through the stores as the shooting went on unfolded. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Run, Mija, run.

UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: Hands up! Hands up! Hands up! Hands up!

Let's go! Let's go!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: Let's go! Let's go!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) Let's go. Let's go. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: El Paso police are working with the FBI, the DEA, federal and state agencies in their investigation, which is only just beginning. However, the Cielo Vista Mall remains on lockdown right now, totally understandable.

Evacuated shoppers are starting to process the terrifying events of this afternoon and they're describing what they saw. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was people running from inside the mall to Dillard's and they were just screaming to get out and that's when everyone started getting out. And then the store manager said for everybody to evacuate so we had to stay behind and make sure everybody was out. And then the police came in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[16:40:10] BLITZER: I want to bring in Texas Congresswoman Escobar. She's joining us on the phone right now. Her district includes El Paso.

First of all, Congresswoman, how are you doing?

REP. VERONICA ESCOBAR (D-TX) (via telephone): Wolf, I'm heart broken. But I'm, you know, I'm far more worried about obviously about all of our families.

There are a number of people who have been injured, a number of fatalities. People who were conducting their Saturday business, who were running their errands, going to the grocery store, shopping for school supplies. These incredible people in my community are warm- hearted, compassionate, kind people. And this was a massacre.

BLITZER: What's the latest information, Congresswoman, that you're getting from local and federal authorities on the number of people killed?

ESCOBAR: Well, we have received some confirmation from DPS and from local officials. But you know, it's an ever-changing -- it's a dynamic environment. We keep getting updated with different information, sometimes there's conflicting reports.

So I don't want to announce anything, but I will say that the numbers are shocking.

BLITZER: When we heard from the mayor, we heard from the local police department, we heard from a state representative that there are multiple fatalities. And I can only imagine how heartbreaking that must be. I assume they're waiting to give notification to next of kin. I can only imagine that that's what they normally do, right?

ESCOBAR: Right. And they've -- El Paso police have set up a family reunification site that is maybe just a couple of miles away from the crime scene so that family members who know that their next of kin was in the area and in the shopping center. If they haven't been able to reach them, if they haven't heard from them, they're able to go there to try to gather some more information. There's obviously a lot of concerned families.

I know I spoke with one of our hospital CEOs earlier and one of the individuals who -- who died in their care had really no identification and so there's going to be a lot of confusion and a lot of, you know, very, very, very worried families in the next few hours.

And so I think the best thing that we can do is let law enforcement do their job.

And what America needs to know is that this is a very, very heartbreaking moment for a very safe and wonderful, warm and beautiful community.

BLITZER: What can you tell us, if anything, Congresswoman, about the suspect who is now in custody and a possible motive for this horrendous mass murder?

ESCOBAR: We don't -- we don't have the motive yet. And I have received the name of the suspect in custody and have a little bit of information. But, again, I'm going to leave that to law enforcement to -- to share.

BLITZER: You've been told that this is -- the person in custody is the shooter and one person is in custody, not multiple people, right?

ESCOBAR: Right. And one of the -- we heard conflicting reports throughout the early afternoon that there might be three shooters, for example, and one person is in custody, but we don't know if there were others who were helping.

I mean, we have been told that -- to stay away from the area that it's, you know, it's not quite secure yet. And so that leads me to believe that they are still looking for at least one other person.

BLITZER: We heard the former congressman from your district, Beto O'Rourke, say as soon as he got word -- he was in Las Vegas at the time campaigning. As soon as he got word, the first thing he did was call his wife to find out and make sure she was OK and the kids are OK. What did you do first when you heard about this shooting?

ESCOBAR: Wolf, we were having our town hall meeting, actually. And we were in the midst of the Q-and-A session and folks were lined up ready to ask their questions. We were in the middle of that. And a member of my staff approached me, and I immediately, of course, became concerned because that was unusual.

But she walked up and told me that law enforcement asked that we immediately end the town hall meeting, send everyone home, and let folks know that there was an active shooter in the community in the Cielo Vista area.

[16:45:04] So we did that. We asked everyone to -- you know, calmly make their way out and get to their car, go home and get safe. And we immediately left, as well and en route to downtown El Paso.

I, you know, spoke with law enforcement and with local leaders. And we've been in contact with DPS, the FBI, health care leaders.

You know, we're all just trying to piece together what is unfolding in our community. It is unfathomable. It is -- there are -- Wolf, there are no words for the kind of pain that -- that this great community is experiencing. And it's, unfortunately, an all too common pain across America.

BLITZER: It is so heartbreaking just the thought, Congresswoman, of you know, moms and dads walking around the mall holding the hands of their little kids and buying school supplies and getting new clothes for school set to start a week from Monday and all of a Sunday and, all of a sudden, a mass murderer shows up, but starts killing people and injuring people.

And it's going to shake up not only your community, Congresswoman. It will shake up the country. And our viewers around the world who are watching right now are going to continue to ask what is going on. And then they will ask the next question, what can be done to stop this? Because, as you correctly point out, we've gone through too many of these horrendous mass shootings in our country in recent years.

ESCOBAR: Wolf, we have the solution. They are right in front of us. What we need is the will to act as a country. And we have to, at some point, say that enough is enough. And we have to ask ourselves how many more wake-up calls does this country need.

I -- I am imploring that those of us who have the capacity and the power to make change, that we work together to end this epidemic. This is needless. There are families in tear, weeping right now, and it did not have to be this way.

BLITZER: It is so heartbreaking to think -- and we don't know the nature of the victims. We know 22 people were taken to two local hospitals. We know there are multiple fatalities.

And what is so awful -- and every victim is so sad, but presumably we'll hear about kids being shot at this mall, and it is going to be so awful when we hear that, Congresswoman.

I assume you've spent some time at the local mall and you know about the people who go there and you've seen the mall in action. It's never going to be the same.

ESCOBAR: It was -- the shooting, Wolf, my understanding is that it took place on the same property as the mall, but at the Walmart that is right next to the mall. And the shooter or shooters were not -- we're not completely sure yet how many, if there was just one or if there were two -- started in the parking lot and walked into the Walmart.

And there's, unfortunately, very graphic video that has been circulating. And I would encourage folks not to watch it. It is far too traumatizing. But then there were reports that the shooter or a shooter then went

into the adjacent mall. And all of that is still being pieced together. So I am not sure if anyone went in after all or not. But the mall went on lockdown and everyone was doing everything possible to keep folks safe.

BLITZER: As far as you know, Congresswoman, you represent -- your district includes El Paso.

And we're speaking with Veronica Escobar, the U.S. congresswoman from El Paso.

Has anything like this ever happened before, as far as you know, in your community?

ESCOBAR: No, Wolf. El Paso has been one of the safest communities in all of the nation for decades. We routinely rank in the top-three safest cities of our size in the nation. We are a community of hardworking families, people who take care of each other, people who take care of others. We never imagined, I never imagined anything like this could or would happen.

[16:50:05] I suspect that we will have a lot of people in our community who are going to be in shock and disbelief. And this feels unreal. This feels so unreal. But it's real. And unfortunately, we are now part of a family of communities that have suffered this unspeakable tragedy.

BLITZER: It is so heartbreaking.

Congresswoman, we are getting some new information. A hospital official has told "The El Paso Times" that some people have died after being transported to the medical hospital. Earlier, we were told that 11 people -- that hospital received 11 patients following the shootings. I know you're getting more information all of the time.

We've also just received some new video from the ground in El Paso. I want to play it for our viewers.

And, Congresswoman, if you can stick around, I want to get your reaction.

I want to warn our viewers that this is incredibly disturbing and it shows injured people laying on the ground outside the Walmart.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

(SHOUTING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Help! Help! Help!

(SHOUTING)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need CPR! (SHOUTING)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Help me turn him over! Help me!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Congresswoman, it is so heartbreaking to see that. I know it's heartbreaking for you. It's heartbreaking for all of our viewers. And I know you've got a lot that you've got to do. But give us some final thoughts before I let you go.

ESCOBAR: I would just encourage to all of us to come together. El Paso is a resilient, wonderful city. We are all going to step up and take care of one another during this very difficult time.

And while we mourn and while we regroup and while we take care of one another, I -- again, I would implore that those of us who have the ability to create change, and I am among them, that we create the change that we desperately, desperately need.

BLITZER: Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, whose district includes El Paso, thank you so much for joining us. Our deepest, deepest condolences go out to those families in your community, who are suffering right now. And let's hope all of those injured recover completely. It's such an awful situation that has unfolded.

Thank you so much for joining us.

ESCOBAR: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: I want to bring in Jonathan Wackrow, a former Secret Service agent, a CNN law enforcement analyst. And also joining us is Charles Ramsey. He is the former police commissioner of Philadelphia and former police chief here in Washington, D.C.

Chief Ramsey, give us your thoughts as you just heard that painful, painful conversation we had and the video that is coming in.

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, this is really going to be bad once the numbers are finally released. You have people outside the building, probably inside the building, as well. You know, they keep saying they have one in custody. It's important to note, I don't think we know the condition of the person in custody.

BLITZER: We don't.

RAMSEY: We don't know if that person was shot or if they're in any condition to be interviewed at all. But this is not going to be good at all, especially when you start seeing victims in the parking lot. He was probably shooting before he even got in there, he was already shooting. So that's -- that's terrible.

BLITZER: Terrible.

Jonathan, what was your analysis based on what we saw?

JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Wolf, these are unpredictable and dynamic situations. They can occur at any moment.

And the key is here to survival is maintaining situational awareness and having a protection plan. We saw the benefits of that in the videos. We see people following DHS recommendations to run, hide and fight. People who can run and create distance from the threat, did it. We saw it in the videos. But people who could not, they hid. They tried to hide from that threat.

Listen, these are survival tactics at this point in time. It's tragic that we are talking about this, but it is a necessary conversation that we must have.

BLITZER: Are we going to need to do what is done in big parts of Europe and the Middle East? If you go to a mall in Tel Aviv, for example, in Israel, you have to go through security and you have to go through metal detectors.

Chief Ramsey, is that going to be necessary here in the United States?

[16:55:09] RAMSEY: I sure hope not. But, I mean, we do have to take a look, a serious look at security. Today, it's a mall. We've had churches. We've had schools. I mean, you know, venues like concerts. I mean, we do need to take a look, a strong look at security.

But this is the United States, too. There's freedom of movement. People will come and go. You look at malls. You can leave a parking lot and walk right into the store that you want to go to. They have numerous ways to get in and out. It would be very difficult to really shut that down the way you would like to for purposes of security.

So, yes, we need to look at it, but we need to be reasonable in our approach, too.

BLITZER: Everybody, stand by. There's a lot more going on.

And I also want to remind our viewers as we go to break that there's an urgent need right now for blood in the El Paso area. Blood donation centers are in El Paso right now, including at 424 South Mesa Hills and 133 North Zaragoza.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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