Return to Transcripts main page
Breaking News: El Paso Police: Multiple Fatalities In Mass Shooting At Mall; El Paso Police Briefing: Suspect In Custody Apparently Only Shooter; El Paso Mall Shooting Suspect Identified; Blood Donation Centers See Huge Turnout After Mass Shooting. Aired 5- 6p ET
Aired August 3, 2019 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We're following breaking news, very sad breaking news here in the United States.
Gunfire, lots of gunfire in a very crowded shopping center a mall in El Paso Texas. Many people were taken to hospitals. Several people are now dead. I'm about to show our viewers some very, very disturbing video. It's just in to CNN. Disturbing because it shows victims of this shooting lying on the ground and the terrifying first moments of this awful, awful mass murder.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: SPEAKING IN SPANISH
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That was just outside the mall at that Walmart outside in the parking lot. And take a look at this. This was inside.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AUDIO: Gunshots ringing out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That was exactly 10 gunshots. But unfortunately, unfortunately there were so many more. Police say 22 people were taken to area hospitals and there are multiple fatalities. The exact number has not yet been made public.
As for who suddenly opened fire on this very busy shopping center. And why police say they have one person in custody and are confident that there is no longer an active shooter situation, and that the community is no longer under threat.
This young woman was inside the mall when the shooting started.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNKNOWN: SPEAKING IN SPANISH
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN FEMALE: I was in Journeys getting shoes, and then, the manager, she closed the gate, and my mom asked her, what's going on? She just said, oh, they said to close down everything. And then, we saw a cop running and we went to the back. She told us to go to the back and we waited for, like, 20, 30 minutes in the back. It was very, like, (inaudible). Like, people can't, you can't trust no one. Like, there's crazy people everywhere. You know.
REPORTER: Were you afraid for your life?
UNKNOWN FEMALE: Yes.
REPORTER: What about your moms and dads?
UNKNOWN FEMALE: Oh yes, because they mean everything to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's begin. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz, is following all the breaking news for us. I know you're speaking to your sources. You've got a lot of sources in El Paso and elsewhere. Federal authorities are also involved, the FBI, the DEA, ATF, and of course, local authorities.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ: CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Right.
BLITZER: What are you hearing?
PROKUPECZ: Right. So the FBI is there, the ATF, and I guess now, at this point, right now the locals are managing all of this. The local police, the El Paso police. But there is a chance , the FBI is there, that they could come in and take the lead on this investigation. And then, so that would significantly ramp up the entire investigation. Certainly it would ramp up -- there could be some cause for the FBI -- there would have to be what --
BLITZER: What would be the cause be for the FBI to take over responsibility?
PROKUPECZ: Well, any kind of terrorism with links to overseas terrorism, right? Not necessarily domestic terrorism. But the other thing here is any kind of hate crime. Was this some kind of a hate crime. And then, the FBI would certainly, in consultation with the Department of Justice, they would come in and take the lead on something like this.
Right now, we've seen FBI agents, as you see there on your screen, those are FBI agents from the -- essentially, it's this response team. That they go in. They were helping searching the building, through the mall, through the Walmart, trying to find victims, perhaps if see there were any other shooters involved. And as we've been saying, the one person that police believe is
responsible for this, he is in custody. So they are going to learn a lot of information from him. We don't know if he's talking to authorities if he's cooperating with them. They have a good idea of how this shooting started.
It started, they believe, in a parking lot. We've now heard from multiple people that this started in the parking lot of a Walmart. He then went into the mall Walmart where he continued to shoot people. The question is, is this shooting extend into the mall. A lot of panic inside that mall that caused a lot of people to run, hide. People were hiding in closets, under desks, under tables, and storage rooms.
PROKUPECZ: A lot of people fleeing from that mall were injured and the Walmart as well. So you're going to have those kinds of injuries here, too. And really, right now, we're just waiting for more definitive word from authorities as to how many people have been killed here. We keep hearing multiple, but authorities are not yet, well, sharing with us exactly how many.
And as you're seeing, happening about now, close to five hours or so, we're into this incident, and authorities have yet to share with us exact numbers in terms of terms of their fatalities. And they've just may still be trying to figure this out themselves.
BLITZER: Well, we have been told that some people who were injured, taken to a local hospital, unfortunately died.
BLITZER: And when they got to the hospital --
PROKUPECZ: There are critical injuries that the hospital is still dealing with. A lot of critically injured --
BLITZER: Life threatening injuries right now.
PROKUPECZ: Life threatening injuries that people have suffered. And I think as this day goes on, the news probably isn't going to get better in terms of the injuries, or the fatalities. It's looking like things will only get worse in terms of that. And, you know, it's going to be a really difficult night, and probably, you know, some time for people there in El Paso who are going to have to deal with this.
BLITZER: Yes. The numbers, unfortunately, based on what we're hearing, we don't have any exact numbers, but the numbers could be really large.
BLITZER: When we heard those 10 shots that were fired in that really terrifying video, we saw the individual lying on the floor. And then you hear those 10 shots. What does it say about the nature, the type of weapon that was used? PROKUPECZ: So we've heard the police say that -- described it -- they describe it as a rifle. We've heard others, you know, and this is assault-type rifle, and possibly an AK style. It's very similar to what we see in other mass shootings. The question is, was the rapid continuous gunfire to indicate that this was automatic, or semiautomatic? That I don't that I can tell from the video.
But certainly there was a lot of firepower -- you had a lot of -- that weapon, it could do a lot of damage, as we know, Wolf, from covering many of these stories. And it seems like based on the number of injuries, that there were a lot of shots fired, a lot of people shot. So he probably came prepared with some extra ammunition.
But we, you know, we haven't heard that from authorities yet. So that's going to be an important part of this, because obviously the weapon -- when did he obtain the weapon and how did he obtain it? And how long has he been planning this? That's going to be a key part here for authorities also.
BLITZER: We're just getting word from the spokesman from one of the hospitals where victims have been taken, the Del Sol Medical Center in El Paso. Of the 11 patients they received from the shooting, nine are in critical but stable condition. Two other patients are in stable condition. I didn't have any other information about the level of the injuries. Eleven were taken to that hospital. Eleven taken to a different hospital in El Paso as well. And some of them continue to be in life threatening situations.
PROKUPECZ: Yes. And, you know, we're going to -- it just seems the way things are developing here and based on the video that we keep seeing, the scene out there, the number of people who were shot in the parking lot outside, you can hear people, the screams, people in pain, the sound that people saying, who needs CPR, who needs CPR? And just as we start getting more and more of this video, it just really seems like things are going to get worse out there in terms of the casualties, fatalities and the injuries.
BLITZER: Multiple fatalities. As we've been pointing out, we don't have a specific number, but when they say multiple --
PROKUPECZ: Yes. It's usually an indication there's many, but they just don't have a good grasp yet in terms of the entire number. Because you have to also remember that they're going through the mall with the shooting scene at the Walmart, the law enforcement sadly stepping over bodies, blood everywhere. And so, they're still going through that.
And then, they could be waiting for more officials to arrive there in El Paso, the governor, perhaps other state officials, before they hold any kind of a briefing, so that we can learn more about the number of victims. And that's going to be the story here. You know, it's going to be that these victims, these families who, no doubt, this community is going to suffer for quite some time now.
BLITZER: I think we have on the phone right now, with the Director of Public Affairs for the University Medical Center of El Paso, where 11 people have been taken. Ryan Miekle, can you hear me OK? Are you there?
RYAN MIELKE, DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER OF EL PASO: Yes, I sure can, Wolf. And actually, it's 13 patients have been transferred to our hospital.
BLITZER: Thirteen patients. And can you tell us their status? How are they doing?
MIELKE: Well, we're the region's only level one trauma center. So when situations like this occur with these patients do come to us. Again, we've had patients ranging in the age from two-years-old to senior citizen. We have had one fatality among those 13. But for the most part, our surgeons and staff.
MIELKE: But for the most part, our surgeons and staff are doing the very best they can to help.
BLITZER: Are you there?
MIELKE: Yes, I'm here.
BLITZER: OK. Go ahead. I'm sorry to interrupt. For the most part, I lost you for a second.
BLITZER: Yes. Go ahead.
MIELKE: What was last part you heard?
BLITZER: No, you were telling us that of the 13 who were taken to your hospital, the University Medical Center of El Paso, one person, unfortunately, has passed. Is that right?
MIELKE: That is correct. We did have two children with non-life threatening injuries. They have been transferred to El Paso Children's Hospital. They have the very best in child care here in the region. And those children are, of course, receiving the best of care.
BLITZER: So of the 13, one passed away, two are children. So that would bring it down to 10. How are the 10 others doing right now?
MIELKE: Of those who have arrived, some are still in surgery. Others are in stable condition. I can't give you an exact condition of each patient at this point. However, we do have the very best trauma surgeons. We practice for these types of situations every year. We want to make sure that our community knows that we are prepared for this, and we're definitely doing our best to help each and every one of those patients that have arrived.
BLITZER: Were all 13, Ryan, the victims of gunshots?
MIELKE: They were all victims as a result of that shooting. BLITZER: So they all had -- they all had shooting. They were shooting injuries. They weren't just falling off of a stair or something like that. They were injuries resulting from direct shooting. Is that right?
MIELKE: Wolf, I cannot give you the exact confirmation of each and every patient. However, the majority of those patients are victims of the shooting.
BLITZER: And are some are still in life threatening situations right now?
BLITZER: So they're working there -- obviously, your medical personnel --
BLITZER: -- on trying to save lives.
MIELKE: Again, we are the only trauma center in the region. So our surgeons are doing the very best they can to help these patients. We've got a full category of staff, nurses, techs. We also have our partners from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. We have residents. We have everyone who can help helping.
BLITZER: Have you ever seen anything like this before in your area? And you correctly point out, the University Medical Center of El Paso is specifically trained to deal with these kinds of emergencies.
MIELKE: Yes, that's correct. We obviously -- these types of things are very -- well, unfortunately, they're becoming more commonplace in our country. And that's a terrible tragedy. However, in El Paso, we have one of the lowest crime rates in the nation. So these types of things people don't expect, so to actually have that happen here as a shock to everyone. Luckily, we do have the very best surgeons who are trained to take care of this type of situation.
BLITZER: Well, please thank them. Thank all the surgeons, all the doctors, the nurses, all the medical personnel at the University Medical Center of El Paso for what they're doing. They're saving lives right now.
MIELKE: We do, Wolf. And please ask your viewers to say a prayer for the families.
BLITZER: And we've been telling our viewers that blood -- you have a crisis right now. You need blood, people to volunteer and provide blood. Is that right?
MIELKE: That's correct. Anybody who's willing to donate blood. By the way, Wolf, we are going to have a press conference at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time to provide an update.
BLITZER: Well, we will, of course, monitor that as well. Ryan Mielke, thank you so much for what you and your team at the University Medical Center of El Paso are doing. We have a lot more. And unfortunately, the news is awful right now. And presumably as we get more information, it's going to get even worse. We'll continue our special coverage right after this.
BLITZER: We're back with a very sad breaking news. A mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, at the Cielo Vista Shopping Mall. We're hearing there are multiple fatalities. No specific numbers have yet been released. We anticipate we will start getting those numbers fairly soon.
Police say one person, one suspect is in custody. As the shooting occurred, people hid as the shots rang out, as this video purportedly shows. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AUDIO: Gunshots ringing out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Just heard 10 shots within a matter of only maybe 10, 15 seconds. We're also hearing more from an eyewitness on the ground.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIIP)
REPORTER: Did you ever expect something like this to happen?
UNKNOWN FEMALE: To be honest, no. I never expected it. I always felt, like, I heard that this was, like, one of the worst bombers to break out, right? But in the year that I've been there, it's just been busy. But this is the craziest thing that's ever happened. I never expected it to happen. It's something really shocking for me. And I'm pretty shocked. I'm scared, to be honest.
REPORTER: Is there anyone that you haven't been able to get in contact with that works with you? Anyone in the Walmart? Nobody knows where they are, maybe employees.
UNKNOWN FEMALE: Actually, we've been pretty good at contacting each other. Some have contacted with others, but we've been contacting with some other people. So we're trying to get the word around, trying to make sure that everybody's OK. But from my people, like, I know that they're OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Let's bring in our police and law enforcement experts right now. Juliette Kayyem is joining us, our National Security Analyst. Jonathan Wackrow is a former Secret Service agent and our Law Enforcement Analyst. And Charles Ramsey is the former police commissioner in Philadelphia, the former police chief here in Washington, D.C., as well.
Chief Ramsey, as you and I have been pointing out, the news is unfortunately, tragically only going to get worse as we get to more specifics. The number of fatalities, multiple fatalities, and we're told those numbers are very significant. I assume they will be men, women and children who were murdered at this shopping mall on this Saturday, just a week or so before the kids in El Paso have to go back to school.
CHARLES RAMSEY, FORMER POLICE CHIEF, PHILADELPHIA & WASHINGTON D.C.: Yes. It is tragic. And when the doctor was speaking, he mentioned a two-year-old. Now, we don't know if that two-year-old was suffering from a gunshot wound, or some other injury as a result of the chaos that occurs whenever you have these kinds of things.
But, definitely, with a lot of kids there, it's highly unlikely that you'll have a situation where there were none that were seriously injured.
RAMSEY: Unfortunately, you know, only having one level one trauma center, which is understandable. But we're blessed that we do have good hospital facilities in this country. But that certainly puts a huge strain on them.
And I'm sure they had to triage patients. They had to deal with a lot of different issues. He didn't mention whether or not they airlifted anyone to any other hospital, anywhere else. But clearly, there are a lot of people that have very critical life threatening injuries that they're attending to right now.
BLITZER: Yes. Thirteen shooting victims were transported to that University Medical Center of El Paso. One of those victims, unfortunately, has passed away. And two of the kids have been sent over to the El Paso Children's Hospital for specific treatment.
You know, Juliette, this is so heartbreaking. People watching us throughout the United States, indeed around the world. They see what's going on, on a Saturday, a Saturday, late morning, early afternoon, at a shopping mall. People just going there with their kids, buying clothes for school and school supplies. And all of a sudden a killer goes in there and starts shooting.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. Shooting very -- you know, shooting with a weapon that kills lots of people. And presumably, or at least what we're hearing, is children. You know, I've studied this a lot around this issue of family unification and the motivation that cuts across every society, every geography, every socio-economic status, every race, immigrant, undocumented, doesn't matter.
Is that desire for family unification after a tragedy. I was pleased how quickly El Paso set it up, because you want to get parents with their children, especially in a mall or a Walmart where they likely were separated, or they might not even have been together. They're also teenagers who do shopping alone in these shopping malls.
They may not have I.D. So there's just going to be a focus on parents figuring out who victims might be. And unfortunately, it's one of their children. And then more, as you were saying, Wolf, socially, you know, I just wasn't on your last segment. I realized I didn't know where one of my kids were. I mean, you know, he gives me a text that he's in the square, right? We live in Cambridge.
But, you know, that idea that you, sort of, know where your kid is, but maybe not specifically in that sentiment, that's just going to animate every parent today, as you think about. Well, my kid just goes off and we think that they're fine. And it's the nature of violence in America today that that's not true. I found my son, but it's just that thing that even a security analyst, I sort of had to take a few minutes to make sure everyone was accounted for.
BLITZER: Yes. There are so many heartbreaking -- families are unfortunately going to be getting very, very, very awful news. Jonathan, we're standing by momentarily. Sergeant Robert Gomez of the past El Paso Police Department is going to be giving us an update.
If I interrupt you, that's because I want to hear exactly what he has to say. We're told he has new information to release to the folks in El Paso, and people all over the country. But this is a sensitive moment right now before we get the specific number of fatalities. And we're told there are multiple fatalities, Jonathan.
JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You know, Wolf, I just took a quick glance down to look at the panel. My colleagues, I think I speak for everybody, which is bracing for impact as we know what's coming. We know that it's going to be a high number of fatalities just based upon the dynamic nature of this attack, based upon the number of wounded that we already know we have and have been confirmed at the two hospitals.
So this going to be a tragic situation. And, you know, quite frankly, it is avoidable. We need to get ahead of these situations. There's a lot of factors that go into --
BLITZER: All right. Hold on a second. Here's Sergeant Gomez.
SGT. ROBERT GOMEZ, EL PASO POLICE DEPT. SPOKESMAN -- Information officer with the El Paso Police Department. Like we said earlier, we were going to be giving you briefs throughout the day to give you information as it develops. As of right now, like I confirmed earlier, we do have one person in custody. I can confirm that it is a white male in his 20s. I don't have any other information on that. That will be released at a later time. But that's the information we have right now.
The estimates of the shoppers at the Walmart were between one and 3,000 with 100 employees present. It is back-to-school and the Walmart was at capacity when the shootings occurred. We have secured Walmart and we have secured Cielo Vista Mall. We don't feel that there is a threat to the public, or there are any other shooters at this time. As we were from the last conference, we are transitioning into the
criminal investigation side. We still have the area locked down and we have started our criminal investigation to find out exactly what took place. I can't confirm there have been fatalities. I cannot confirm how many. There have been injuries. There were several injuries. I don't have those numbers as of right now.
The delay with the injuries and the fatalities is that we can't account for anyone that transported themselves. So our numbers will be a little delayed. Once we have that information, we will definitely make it available to all.
GOMEZ: Again, I would like to reiterate that anybody. They got separated from their family during these incidents to please report to MacArthur Elementary School to possibly gain information, or be reunified with any loved ones that got separated during the chaos. That's pretty much all we have at this time.
Later in the day, as we become more concrete on what information we have, we will have another press conference with our city leaders at the Emergency Operation Center on Threadgill. We will announce that on Twitter, so that everybody, not only our local media, but our national media, will be aware of that. That date and time is to be determined, because the investigation is still ongoing. That's about all the information I have right now. But I will take any questions.
REPORTER: Where was the shooter apprehended?
GOMEZ: I don't have the location of where the shooter was apprehended. That information I don't have.
REPORTER: Was it in Walmart, or out of Walmart?
GOMEZ: I don't know if it's inside or outside. I don't have the location.
REPORTER: Was the shooter from out of town?
GOMEZ: I have no information of where he's from.
REPORTER: Can you confirm that more than 10 people have died and 30 people were injured?
GOMEZ: I don't have the numbers. I know that people have died. And I know that there are a number of people injured. I don't have those numbers right now.
REPORTER: (Inaudible) the gunman posted a manifesto online before this shooting?
GOMEZ: I don't have any information of a manifesto.
REPORTER: Can you confirm that there's only one shooter? GOMEZ: As far as we understand at this moment in time, we have one person in custody. We believe he is the sole shooter. But that could change. Like I said earlier, when this started, we did have multiple reports of multiple shootings. So we are sorting that out. But at this time, we only have one person in custody that the investigation is ongoing.
REPORTER: Is there any search still ongoing for possible other suspects?
GOMEZ: We have cleared the mall area for victims and suspects. We have secured Walmart. And we do know that that area is secure of suspects. And we are attending to the victims at Walmart. Those areas are still being secured, but will not be released as of yet. But we do find that those areas are secure at this moment.
REPORTER: Were all the victims at the Walmart, or any place else?
GOMEZ: The reports are that most of the victims, we believe, are from Walmart. But I can't 100 percent confirm that right now.
REPORTER: Were there any next Mexican nationals who were slain?
GOMEZ: I don't have the demographics of anybody that was injured or killed.
REPORTER: Can you clarify the number of ???. If it's one, or more than one?
GOMEZ: I don't have that information.
REPORTER: But, you know, it's at least one?
GOMEZ: I know there is a fatality. So that would be one, yes.
REPORTER: There's been a call from other nations. Can you talk more about that?
GOMEZ: Well, you know, I know that the Red Cross is on scene, or are working with our EOC. I don't have that information. But I would assume with any kind of mass casualty that blood would be in demand. So I will if I have that information, when I get that information, I would definitely put it out.
REPORTER: Sir, you said the suspect was white. White, not Hispanic, white?
GOMEZ: What I have is a white male.
REPORTER: In his 20s?
GOMEZ: In his 20s.
REPORTER: That emergency notification went out alerting all of El Paso County and city. Do you believe that there is still a threat to the city and the county? GOMEZ: As of right now, we don't believe there's a threat. But we are
continuing the investigation.
REPORTER: The police commissioner said that there were two male suspects. Can you confirm that?
GOMEZ: We have one detained at this time.
REPORTER: (SPEAKING IN SPANISH).
GOMEZ: (SPEAKING IN SPANISH).
REPORTER: Is there any motive?
GOMEZ: Well, we are still investigating the motive. So we don't have that at this time.
REPORTER: How prepared are you for these kind of incidents here in El Paso most of the time?
GOMEZ: As far as the police department, all the federal agencies, law enforcement, state and local, we train for these types of scenarios. Nobody can be 100 percent prepared for anything that happens. We do routinely train. I think we do work well with each other and we have a coordinated effort today. So I don't think there's any agency in the country that's prepared for something like this. But we do prepare for it and do our best to make sure that these situations are handled as best as possible.
REPORTER: In terms of the weapon, we've heard reports from city council members that it was an AK 47.
GOMEZ: I don't have the make and model of the weapon. The only report that I have from initial reports is that it was a rifle. The make and model of that rifle, I have no -- I don't have that confirmed at this moment.
REPORTER: There are reports that there was shootings outside of the Walmart. Can you confirm that?
GOMEZ: We had multiple reports during the active shooter situation. We had reports at other malls and other locations. We have verified at this time that those reports were false. We have no separate shootings or reports of shootings. The only active location that we believe shootings occurred were at the Walmart and possibly Cielo Vista Mall.
But that is to be determined. Anywhere outside of that -- it has been confirmed that those incidents that were reported to us are false. There was reports of other malls during the time that were false. The only active investigation we have right now is at Walmart and Cielo Vista Mall.
REPORTER: What do you mean when they say terrorist gang activity?
GOMEZ: You know, I didn't say that.
REPORTER: There were reports that said that.
[17:30:00] GOMEZ: Oh, I can't confirm on the motives, or the location, or any basis for the shooting right now.
REPORTER: Do you expect the number of fatalities to grow?
GOMEZ: I don't know. And like I said earlier, we want to make sure we give an accurate account. We know that a lot of people were separated during the chaos and we don't want people -- we don't want to worry people unnecessarily. So we want to be very sure that the count that we give you of injured and dead are accurate. And also we are prepared -- that we are prepared to deal with those family members when we do make notification.
Like I said earlier, we have to deal with people that transported themselves on their own. They could have gone to area hospitals. That takes time to confirm that they are a part of this incident. So we are not going to have that until later on, possibly today, maybe even tomorrow.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What do you know up to now about the path that the gunman took, from where to where? Where did the shooting start and how did it continue?
GOMEZ: All of the reports that I have are based on 911 calls so it's not very reliable. We did get reports initially from Walmart and then secondarily at the mall. Now whether one happened before the other, I couldn't confirm it.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you have any idea on the duration of the shooting?
GOMEZ: I don't have the total duration, no.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How much longer do you think the scene will remain active today?
GOMEZ: It's safe to say that the scene will be active the rest of the day and possibly throughout the night. That's a safe estimate. But, again, this is a crime scene. If we do have multiple fatalities and multiple victims, we do have to investigate each and every one of those.
So a murder investigation can take a day. If this turns out to be a mass casualty, as we expect, it could be longer. So those estimates are just estimates right now.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: In terms of the duration of this, give us an idea from when the first 911 call came in to when the officers arrived on the scene.
GOMEZ: That, I don't have that information. That would be guessing. I'm not comfortable giving you that estimate.
I know that it was very quickly. I know that there were officers -- at -- in the mall area that weren't on duty that responded. I know there were agencies that weren't on duty that responded. The response by local law enforcement has been overwhelming, not only state and local. Some of those individuals were not actively working but were in the area when the call went out. So I couldn't give you the estimate of how quickly we showed up on scene.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Were there any inside Walmart when the shooting happened?
GOMEZ: I don't have that information.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Were there armed security personnel at Walmart?
GOMEZ: I don't believe that there's any armed, but I couldn't confirm that either.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Officer, are there any estimates on the number of rounds that were used?
GOMEZ: No. That, I don't have. I don't have estimates on round counts right now.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Any from police-fired weapons?
GOMEZ: I can confirm that no law enforcement personnel fired their weapons during this incident. The person that was taken into custody was taken into custody without incident and no law enforcement personnel fired their weapons.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did the suspect drop his weapon and abandon it?
GOMEZ: All I can say is it happened without incident so I can assume that the person dropped his weapon.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was there --
GOMEZ: Without incident means there was little to minimal force when they took the person into custody.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Has everyone was evacuated and have they been taken anywhere else?
GOMEZ: The reunification center is at MacArthur Elementary School. Anybody that's been evacuated, we're taking them on busses to that location so they can meet with family members. So anyone that has been evacuated will be taken to that location.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Were there injuries from people running out of the store -- (INAUDIBLE)
GOMEZ: I'm sure there were injuries in the panic. I don't have specific information.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)
GOMEZ: Hotels or homes relate to this? Not that I'm aware of, no.
OK. We are going to try to give you as much information as we can. The next tactical brief -- we call them tactical briefs from the scene here -- should our main press conference with city officials come out, I'll be posting that on Twitter with the location and that's to be determined. Any other tactical brief or anything else that I come up with or we are able to release to you, I will put it on Twitter and let you know exactly when we will have that. It will be at this location.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is it your personal Twitter?
GOMEZ: No, El Paso Police Department Twitter page.
That's the most accurate information that we're putting out. That's where we're funneling everything.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you confirm there's one person -- (INAUDIBLE).
GOMEZ: I can't confirm. I know at least one person is dead. I --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you know if there are children dead?
GOMEZ: I don't know the demographics of the people injured or dead.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
BLITZER: All right. There's Sergeant Robert Gomez, of the El Paso Police Department, updating our viewers. He says 3,000 shoppers were at that mall and a hundred employees at the time.
[17:35:04] The suspect, Sergeant Gomez says, was taken into custody without incident, meaning he wasn't shot.
Now, we have major breaking news. Three sources, while the sergeant was speaking, have now confirmed to CNN that they've identified the suspect in custody. His name Patrick Crusius, 21 years old, of Allen, Texas.
These federal sources all telling CNN that investigators are reviewing an online writing posted only days before the shootings that may speak, repeat, may speak to a motive. The sources say the online postings were believed to be written by Crusius but they have not confirmed that yet.
Let's bring in our analysts and our reporter.
Shimon Prokupecz, this is significant news about the suspect. And he's been taken into custody without being shot.
PROKUPECZ: Without being shot and without incident. They were looking for him and the police found him and they did a search. It is not clear if he was outside or inside the Walmart or somewhere else.
But there were a couple of other significant pieces. The police saying that, the officials out there saying that the shooting, they believe the entire shooting took place outside the Walmart and inside the Walmart and that he never went inside the mall during the shooting. And that, because of the shooting, the mall was put on lockdown and, obviously, there was a lot of panic. So some folks there were probably injured.
The other thing that I think is very interesting is that Allen, Texas, where this suspect is from, according to the map, is about 10 hours or so away from this scene. It's about 650 miles. So he would have had to have driven to this area. When did he get to this area? How long has he been on the road? How long has he been planning that? That will all factor into what investigators are going to be looking into.
And obviously, these online postings that you just spoke about, that is going to be some pretty significant pieces of information that is going to help investigators in determining a motive. Obviously, there's a lot of information out there about what's on, what's in these writings. That is something that the FBI will be looking at, the Department of Justice is going to be looking at and, obviously, the local authorities.
BLITZER: The only thing Sergeant Gomez would say, a white male in his 20s. And we have now confirmed the white male in his twenties, the suspect taken into custody is Patrick Crusius, of Allen, Texas, 21 years old.
Chief Ramsey, you were listening to what Sergeant Gomez had to say. What's your analysis?
RAMSEY: First of all, it was a lot of good information that came out of that. You have a description of the suspect now. We believe we have his name and his identity. That means that they're going to be, obviously, going over social media and executing warrants, vehicle, house, and all those kinds of things.
But just let me say this as well. Sergeant Gomez is doing a good job under the circumstances. But I think because the case is what it is now, people need to see one of these official. So I don't know why the delay.
But my experience is, the quicker you get someone of rank out there, the more you kind of ease concerns on the part of a lot of people. You may not have accurate information to give, but at least you're there and your presence does make a difference.
BLITZER: It's very reassuring to see the police come out and start giving at least some information, though he didn't have a whole lot of detail as far as the number of fatalities.
He's not ready to release the number of fatalities, Juliette, but we suspect that number could be rather significant?
KAYYEM: If it were small, we'd know it by now. So there will be identification and then, of course, family notification, which they clearly want to do before.
And you will just have an issue about whether people have identifications. What was their legal status? This is a border city. This is a community that is racially diverse.
And actually the sergeant had alluded to this. And I just have a recommendation to local officials that they're worried that people that are wounded either walked away or that people are not unifying with their family because of the immigration status. I think El Paso should make it very clear that there will be no immigration enforcement at either the family unification centers or the hospital. Because as the sergeant said, this is a concern.
It's clear there are people that are not unifying with their family and that there are people that are worried and injured that did not go to hospitals, likely because of the immigration status. And that's something that El Paso should get ahead of if they're concerned about it.
As for the suspect, of course, we'll all wait. But it would suggest why the FBI seems to be involved that. If this is a hate crime or an ideologically motivated crime, a white male with a manifesto or something that we are now reporting on, that the FBI would have jurisdiction because it could be a federal hate crime.
[17:40:02] BLITZER: That's a very important point, Shimon, that if, in fact, there's extensive online postings, and as one of the reporters at that news conference just asked whether there was sort of formal manifesto, that would be significant in determining whether local authorities would take the lead or the FBI.
PROKUPECZ: That's right. If this is some kind of hate crime, there's a high probability that the FBI would come in and try, as we've seen in other cases, they would file federal charges, federal hate crime charges. But there's a lot of work that still needs to be done before we get there.
The other thing, in terms of getting information, it will be harder for authorities to talk about certain pieces of this investigation because you still -- you now have a suspect who is in custody, who is going to have to go eventually to court and possibly to trial. So we will hear later on a lot about that and how that's going to limit authorities in terms of how much information they're going to be able to provide to us.
But still significant that we are about five hours or so or more now into this incident and we still have not gotten from police on the record the number of fatalities. So there does seem to be that they're still working through it, trying to get all of the numbers on the injured, the number of dead.
And really, keep in mind, I can't even imagine what that Walmart must look like right now for authorities and for the evidence collection team that's going to have to go in there. And it will probably have to be the FBI. We've seen in this almost every mass shooting, the FBI goes into these situations and they process the crime scene. And that's probably what's going to happen here -- Wolf?
BLITZER: You heard, Chief Ramsey, Sergeant Gomez say that there could have been as many as 1,000, but perhaps as many as 3,000 shoppers inside that Walmart and at least a hundred employees at that Walmart, as well. That's an enormous number of potential targets.
RAMSEY: I mean, it's incredible. One to 3,000 people and he's firing perhaps an assault weapon. That's why your body count could be very, very high. It would be very difficult to miss, quite frankly, with that many people there. So that just adds to the entire tragedy that we see going on here right now.
But Juliette hit it right on the head. I mean, I do think that with this manifesto, and looking at the age and the race of the individual there, it's very possible. And I think Shimon also hit it when he mentioned that manifesto will lead to a motive more than likely. And that motive is probably leaning heavily toward a hate crime.
RAMSEY: If that's the case, the FBI will jump in, but the El Paso police will still be involved.
BLITZER: We are reporting that there were online postings by this individual that authorities are now going through and I suspect a lot of other people are going through as well. Others have reported some sort of manifesto. We haven't specifically reported that yet.
But that would be very disturbing, Juliette, if, in fact --
BLITZER: -- there was some indication of an individual plotting or planning this kind of mass murder.
KAYYEM: Right. I mean, and we've seen it before that, you know, the radicalization process is happening online.
So a couple of things. Facebook, Twitter, all of these platforms tell us every single time that they will do better this time. And I'm looking online and they're not doing better this time. So it's to the extent that they should take the stuff down because it's used to amplify and radicalize others. Get these documents off of online. The law enforcement already has them.
And that's the promise they've made to us in this world of radicalization online. And it's still -- they still seem to be hours behind. And we saw this in New Zealand, as well. That's the first thing. The second is, what's that radicalization process, if, in fact, it is -- we are reporting that there were some documents online. And who else did he -- who was part of that, either online or even in-person radicalization process. He's a young male. He had access to a lot of guns or at least -- or at least he had access to a gun that killed a lot of people. And this was a process that didn't happen overnight.
Was he known to law enforcement? Was he getting radicalized online through hate groups? And what was their motivation? We can surmise or think what it is, but we'll be careful.
But certainly, over the next couple of hours, we will learn what his motivation was. He drove eight to 10 hours to a border city, to a Walmart that is in an area that's predominantly Hispanic. Those are just facts, but facts relevant to law enforcement.
BLITZER: And people -- authorities, Shimon, will be watching those facts very, very closely.
PROKUPECZ: They have already reviewed most of this information and trying to line it up with some kind of -- other ways to verify. That's the issue here.
[17:45:05] While they believe these postings and these online writings are from the shooter, the question is now, how can they prove that? Is he cooperating with them? He is in custody. And there's the possibility that he has answered questions from the investigators. It could be that he may have said some things when they arrested him. We don't know that. But that will be up to the investigators.
And then they'll go to his home and try and go through his electronics at his home, his computer, his cell phone trying to piece it all together. And the fact that potentially they think this is linked to him, that these online writings, it is significant. And it is going to be one big clue for investigators.
And, again, I think what's significant here is that where he's from, which is about -- Allen, Texas, which is about 650 miles. You are talking about a nine and a half, 10-hour drive. That is significant. And that will tell the investigators something as well. We don't know what that is yet. But certainly they're going to be able to trace when he planned on coming here. Did he map this out, his GPS? When did he plan to come here? That will be significant.
The fact that where he's from, where he drove to, these postings, if they link all of this to him, certainly, very significant here.
BLITZER: So tragically and so sad, Chief Ramsey. And a lot of our viewers are saying to themselves what I'm about to say to you, we've seen this, unfortunately, so often here in our country in recent years. It happens every few months. Sometimes there are multiple, multiple fatalities and injuries. And then we -- we grieve. We watch it and then we move on.
What could be done, realistically, to stop these kinds of mass murders? RAMSEY: We can't afford to keep moving on, first of all. We have to
keep this on the front burner. We have to -- it's kind of like we go through a period of where there's shock, grief, and then, after that, it's business as usual. We can't afford it.
It's going to happen again. It's just a question of where and when and how many people are going die. And at some point in time, enough is enough, and we have got to get a handle on this.
We've got too many guns out there in the hands of people that should not have them. And you don't have to repeal the Second Amendment in order to get a handle on this and to start at least taking some action. Make it more difficult for people to carry this out.
As citizen, we all need to be mindful that we've got a lot of people with very extreme and violent views. And when you see this stuff on the Internet, and you hear them talking or anything else, don't just write it off. Say something, because you're going to save lives if you do that, perhaps.
We've got to take this stuff serious. And right now, quite frankly, I don't think we do.
Our elected officials have totally dropped the ball. They are totally worthless, as far as I'm concerned, when it comes to trying to effectively deal with this.
BLITZER: And I know authorities are already very, very concerned about potential copycats out there at the same time.
Let's take a quick break. Resume all of our special coverage. Lots on the breaking news, very sad breaking news out of El Paso, Texas, a mass killing.
We'll be right back.
[17:52:00] BLITZER: We have breaking news on today's deadly mass shooting near a shopping mall in El Paso, Texas. Three sources telling CNN the suspected gunman has been identified as Patrick Crusius, 21 years old, of Allen, Texas. Investigators are reviewing an online writing posted a few days ago that may indicate a motive.
Authorities say multiple people were gunned down when the gunman opened up at a Walmart near the Cielo Vista Shopping Mall in El Paso. Nearly two dozen people were taken to area hospitals. We've just learned that one of the 13 patients taken to one of those hospitals, the University Medical Center of El Paso, has died.
CNN has obtained new video showing people hiding in terror as the shots were fired. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(GUNFIRE) (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: As we still gather more information about the mass shooting in El Paso, there has been an outpouring of support from the community. There are lines. Local blood donation centers have been established. The United Blood Service Center among them, as hundreds of volunteers wait to give their blood to help out the urgent need.
I want to bring in Frances Yepez on the phone. She's standing in line at one of those blood donation centers. She says it's a two-hour wait to give blood.
Frances, thank you so much for what you are doing. As you know, your blood could potentially save someone's life.
But give us a sense of the mood that you see in this line where you are waiting to donate blood.
FRANCES YEPEZ, BLOOD DONOR IN EL PASO, TEXAS (via telephone): Sure. Good afternoon, everyone.
It is somber. We heard some sniffling earlier as it was coming across the TV we have here in the waiting room. The line continues to grow.
At this time, the blood center is no longer taking donation for today. They are at max capacity. However, everyone in line, easily 75 to 100 people in line, and they are aware that all they are doing is standing in line to make appointments for tomorrow and Monday. They are waiting to get up to the front to make an appointment.
I believe El Paso was 100 and something today. Or is was supposed to be in the 100s.
BLITZER: You are doing a really, really life-saving work. What motivated you Frances?
YEPEZ: You know, I am B-positive with my blood type. If there's ever something that I can help with, it is easy to make a dollar but it's harder to make a difference. I try to get out there and do whatever I can to help.
BLITZER: When you speak to others in line what are they saying to you?
YEPEZ: How can this happen here? This is crazy. This is Walmart. You know, even though El Paso is big, it is still a small city. Everybody knows everybody.
[17:55:07] Immediately, when everything happened this morning, my son called me from work. And the group text started with everybody checking in. Everybody from my work family to my extended family in Louisiana, extended family in California, the local family, everybody checking in and making sure everybody was safe.
BLITZER: I assume you have been to the Walmart near the Cielo Vista Mall. I assume so, right. YEPEZ: You would assume correctly, yes. Numerous times. It is one
of the busiest Walmarts. It's right off of I-10 in the center, between downtown and east El Paso. It is a very busy one. Sam's next to it and a movie theater. One of the bus stations is a hub.
A lot of people come from El Paso, go to that Walmart, the closest one, and jump back on the bus to go wherever they are throughout El Paso. There's a mixed array of people from all over El Paso that use that Walmart.
BLITZER: Frances Yepez, thank you so much. You are potentially saving someone's life by donating blood and waiting in line over there.
We will continue our special coverage right after this.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I am Wolf Blitzer, in Washington.
[18:00:01] We are following breaking news, very sad breaking news, a deadly mass shooting at a very crowded Walmart store in El Paso, Texas. There are many casualties.