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Texas Mass Shooting Investigation; Tragedy At Sea In California; Texas State Rep: I Say No To Gun Reform, Yes To Prayer; Trump Golfs, Tweets Political Attacks As Dorian Threatens U.S.; Hurricane Dorian Moving Dangerously Close To Florida Coast. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired September 2, 2019 - 16:30   ET



JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: They want to know if there were any issues that they knew about, perhaps electrical issues and the like.

We are told that the vessel was in compliance. we're told that by the Coast Guard. But, again, they want to recreate what exactly took place just before this incident occurred. This will be part of this investigation that's going on right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Talk to us about what authorities are doing right now to search or to recover the missing.

Again, we're talking numerous fatalities they're expecting. So what are they doing here?

CAMPBELL: Yes, the first goal is always the protection of life.

And this incident occurred about 30 nautical miles from the mainland, and there in Oxnard, you have a number of resources. The Coast Guard Channel Island Station is there, Air Naval Station Point Mugu, Ventura County fire and rescue, but still it takes time to get there.

By this point, we know that that area has been surrounded by resources. And, again, as Nick just mentioned, it is looking more bleak as time passes. But, still, we know that there are dive teams that will be going down, since the vessel did sink, to try to determine if there were survivors.

This isn't a large area. This was, as you mentioned, about 25 yards from the shoreline of Santa Cruz Island. So it's not as though this ship was out under way. A lot of resources there in place, again, going down to try to figure out if there's anyone still alive.

KEILAR: And they're at a depth where they can certainly dive and get answers, hopefully rather quickly.

I do wonder what it tells you, Josh, that they're all of these passengers that are unaccounted for. They were apparently sleeping, and that the crew, which was on deck on the bridge, had to jump off the boat, this all happened so quickly. CAMPBELL: Yes, it tells me that the fire spread very quickly on this


You think about a contained area. We know that the crew members, they were on top of the ship. And the passengers were down below sleeping. And you put yourself in that position. If you're unaware of what's going on in your surroundings, this fire can spread very quickly. Again, it doesn't look good for those who were on board.

KEILAR: All right, Josh Campbell, thank you so much.

We have some breaking new details about the gunman in Texas who shot at dozens of people while driving -- the surprising phone call that he made minutes before his rampage.



KEILAR: Breaking news in our national lead, brand-new details about the shooter in Saturday's rampage in Texas.

Police confirming the gunman had been fired from his job that morning. And we now know that he called the FBI tip line with a rambling diatribe just 15 minutes before being pulled over by police and opening fire.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Odessa, Texas.

And, Ed, the shooter also-called 911 during the actual shooting itself. Tell us about this.


Well, fascinating details emerging today in Odessa. It sounds like this suspect could have made as many as four different phone calls to law enforcement on Saturday, two 911 calls during the shooting rampage itself, which offers tantalizing clues and information about how all of this unfolded.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): Fifteen minutes before 36-year-old Seth Ator engaged in a deadly shooting spree, he called an FBI national tip line with a rambling, incoherent series of complaints.

The gunman had been fired from a truck driving job earlier in the day and also-called 911, but left the office before police arrived. Even before being fired, law enforcement said he was starting to spiral.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He showed up to work in a very distressed mental state. So it's not because he got fired, right? This did not happen because he was fired, which other active shooters have occurred. When he showed up to work, he was already enraged.

LAVANDERA: There are also troubling questions about where the gunman obtained the assault-style rifle used to randomly murder seven people and wound at least 23 others in Odessa, Texas. Investigators say the gunman failed a background check, but still somehow managed to obtain the firearm.

Investigators have not revealed why the shooter failed the background check.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ATF, in partnership with the FBI, DPS, and all the other federal local -- federal and local agencies, are aggressively following up on the source of the supply from the firearm on this.

LAVANDERA: A local law enforcement source tells CNN Ator was fired from his job as a truck driver just before he went on the West Texas rampage. Authorities say the gunman shot and killed U.S. postal carrier Mary Granados, before taking her mail truck and continuing the shooting spree through the city.

Mary was on the phone with her twin sister when the shooting erupted.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was screaming. So, I mean, I was hoping that it could have been just a dog. But it wasn't. It was something worse.

LAVANDERA: The call then went silent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She just lay there. I just wanted to run to her hug her, kiss her.

QUESTION: Did you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't. I didn't get to. They wouldn't let me get close to her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rosie says she ran to the scene and saw her sister's lifeless body on the street.

CNN sat down for a one-on-one interview with FBI special agent in charge Christopher Combs, who says he has seen too many mass shootings up close and that these atrocities are happening every two weeks. He gets emotional trying to talk about how this should be a wakeup call to the country.

(on camera): The phone rings yesterday, you get the call about this. And whatever is going through your mind, it makes you tear up, which is not something that we normally see from an FBI agent.

CHRISTOPHER COMBS, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: I can't. I can't do it. I'm sorry, man. There's no way.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The realities of another mass shooting that has left a veteran law enforcement agent struggling to find the right words.


[16:40:01] LAVANDERA: FBI agent Combs also said today that FBI agents had been searching the suspect's apartment over the course of the last day-and- a-half or so.

He said that what they found in there was very reflective of this gunman's mental state at this time -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Ed Lavandera, thank you so much from Odessa, Texas.

I want to take a listen to President Trump's reaction to the Texas shooting and the calls for changes to gun laws. Here's what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're looking at a lot of different bills, ideas, concepts. It's been going on for a long while. Background checks.

I will say that, for the most part, sadly, if you look at the last four, or five, going back even five or six or seven years, for the most part, as strong as you make your background checks, they would not have stopped any of it. So it's a big problem.


KEILAR: You know, Linda, whether you're talking about this particular shooting, or, more broadly, you're just talking about this issue that we're seeing, and this recent spate of attacks, this one specifically, there's seven people dead.

There's a 17-month-old girl who's been shot in the face. Is this the right tone, just to be talking about what shouldn't be done, what couldn't have stopped it? Or should the president be talking about what can be done to address what is clearly an issue that needs to be dealt with?

LINDA CHAVEZ, DIRECTOR, BECOME AMERICAN INITIATIVE: Well, a normal president would in fact be doing that. He'd be offering solace, and he'd also be offering solutions.

But this particular president, whenever he does put his toe in the water to suggest, well, maybe we do need to look at some changes to gun laws, then the NRA calls him up, or he calls the NRA up, and he changes his mind.

There's no one single solution. Background checks isn't going to solve it. There are a host of different issues, background checks, eliminating these weapons of war from our streets. Nobody has a right to have an AR-15 gun. That's a weapon that was created to be used in wartime.

KEILAR: What do you think, listening to the president and also just too what seems to be, Nayyera, this accumulation now?

Do you think there is a point where Americans say, enough? Or are they becoming immune? Or are they starting to reach their limit? What do you think?

NAYYERA HAQ, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Well, we are seeing that people are not in line with the president right now.

Or I can say that president is out of line with the American public. Universal background checks are highly popular. But, at the same time, when you have 58 Americans killed in the last month alone by gun violence, we are getting numb to it.

And we're not seeing the type of leadership that we want, either from Congress or the president of the United States. It's now breaking down at the state level. And states we see that have passed background checks, red flag laws have reductions in gun violence.

So there are correlations. And there's certainly the emotion that we're looking at behind wanting to do gun laws.

KEILAR: When you look at universal background checks, the numbers are staggering, right? You're talking nine in 10 Americans who want to see this, and yet there's no movement on it. The Senate is going to come back next week.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear that he's not going to tackle these issues of -- when it comes to gun laws and addressing that issue. Is there anything that would push him in -- as we enter this election year, Jeremy, to do that?

He wants a clear signal from the White House. But we're not seeing a clear signal.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I had asked the president during one of these White House departures a few weeks ago whether he was going to show the leadership that some Republicans might need in order to get on board with some of these measures, including background checks, for example.

And the president, his answer was, I don't think I need to do that.

He doesn't feel a need to lead on this issue, to take Republicans further than they are comfortable. We heard him initially talking about potentially supporting expanding background checks. Now he has very much walked away from that.

And the reason ultimately is that the White House is looking at this from an extremely political lens, and they don't necessarily see any benefit to going further than the president's base is demanding that he go.

And certainly the president's base on guns doesn't want him to necessarily take any action to further restrict the sale of weapons. So the White House doesn't see this as a political benefit for them. So what we're seeing is them discussing mental health and other issues.

KEILAR: And then there's another proposal that we have seen from a Republican Texas, state Representative Matt Schaefer. He wrote on Facebook after the shooting about the growing calls for

reform. He said -- quote -- "I say no to red flag pre-crime laws, no to universal background checks, no to bans on AR-15 or high-capacity magazines, no to mandatory gun buybacks. What can we do? Yes to praying for victims? Yes to praying for protection, yes to praying that God would transform the hearts of people with evil intent."

Ray, are Americans powerless?

RAY SUAREZ, CO-HOST, "WORLD AFFAIRS": Well, Representative Schaefer offers a classic false choice.

It's possible to get to work in Austin on changing laws in Texas, and pray for the victims at the same time. Both have their place in a response.


If you're a person who wants to keep the status quo on guns in America, congressional paralysis plus federalism equals never have to having to do anything. Texas is only in the middle of the deck when it comes to gun

ownership, around 20, 21st among all the states. It's number two in the -- in the number of people who die every year from firearms, only behind California which has 11 million more people.

KEILAR: Ray, thank you so much. Thank you to all of you. We are just minutes away from the next hurricane Dorian update. Is the storm going to turn? Plus, President Trump's Labor Day break as the east coast anxiously awaits Dorian's wrath.



KEILAR: Any moment now we'll be getting an update on Hurricane Dorian. And as the storm is threatening the U.S., President Trump today visited his golf course and aired his political grievances on Twitter while keeping an eye on the hurricane. CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports from the White House.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Today, the President teeing up at his golf course outside Washington as Hurricane Dorian battered the Bahamas and bore down on the U.S. Critics reminding him of this promise he once made to supporters.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm going to be working for you. I'm not going to have time to go play golf.

I'm not going to be playing much golf.

COLLINS: He also spent the morning attacking the media and a prominent union leader on Twitter while retweeting updates on the storm and the boat fire in California as White House officials insist he was briefed hourly on Dorian's movements.

TRUMP: The federal government stands ready to assist.

COLLINS: After a weekend at Camp David, the President returned to Washington for a briefing at FEMA's headquarters where he appeared baffled by the storm's intensity.

TRUMP: I'm not sure that I've ever even heard of category five. I know it existed.

COLLINS: Even though there have been four category five hurricanes since he's been in office. It's not the first time he's claimed surprise about the common term. He said the same thing after Hurricane Irma 2017.

TRUMP: I never even knew if category five existed.

COLLINS: The National Weather Service also forced to correct the President after he claimed Alabama was in Dorian's path.

TRUMP: So for Alabama, just please be careful also.

COLLINS: The National Weather Service in Birmingham, Alabama says that's not so tweeting: Alabama will not see any impacts from Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east.


COLLINS: Now, Brianna, after the President spent about four or so hours at his golf club earlier today, he is now back at the White House. And right now, no more public events on his schedule for today.

KEILAR: All right, Kailan Collins at the White House, thank you so much. And joining me now is retired Lieutenant General Russel Honore who is widely credited with turning around the government's response to Hurricane Katrina when he led the military's response there.

So general, looking at this, what does the federal government need to be doing right now to make sure that it's prepared for response in recovery from Hurricane Dorian? Can you tell at this point or will you not be able to know until the storm has hit?

LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE, FORMER COMMANDER, JOINT TASK FORCE KATRINA: Oh they're preparing right now. They're moving helicopters, they've moved task force. Trump prepared to deploy orders within striking business of Florida as well as Georgia, in position to back up the National Guard and the first responders. They move engineer teams in ready to open highway interstate roads with some capacity to do that in a big way. They have a ship with Marines prepared to go help to people in Bahama.

This is a slow big moving storm and it's even giving them even more time collaborating with FEMA establishing the logistics points and places of communications to include all the defense coordinating officers in place. And they've established a couple of joint task forces with the state where they have -- do have commanders that have been identified. They are doing a lot of preparedness and a lot of things that moving today, Brianna.

KEILAR: So you were critical, it's worth noting, of President Trump's administration in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Maria. Is it fair based on what we just heard you say that you have more confidence in the preparation level of the federal government for this one?

HONORE: Absolutely. I see a big effort working with the northern commander and the commander of the National Guard. They have a synchronization team worked out. They are talking daily. They're exchanging information.

And the National Guard who was a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is talking to the adjutant general along with the NORTHCOM commander and they're synchronizing what federal assets, where they might be needed to support the National Guard in doing search and rescue as well as providing doing Road clearing and with the Corps Engineers to provide power backup as required. A lot of good work. I've never seen it done at this level before with any storm.

KEILAR: You feel -- when you're hearing that some people are choosing to wait this out, what's your message for those people who have decided I'm not evacuating.

HONORE: Not a good idea particular if you're in the evacuation zone. Take your -- if you're in the evacuation zone, you've been told to evacuate, there could be eight-foot surge, you take your iPhone, go out there and look at the elevation your first step. If you've got to get surge water, you need to get out of it and get out of there now.


KEILAR: All right, Lieutenant General Russel Honore, thank you so much, sir, for being with us.

HONORE: Have a good day.

KEILAR: So we're just moments away from the latest forecast for hurricane Dorian. We are going to bring that to you.


KEILAR: The National Hurricane Center just released a new forecast for Hurricane Dorian and we will bring that to you in seconds. You can follow me on Twitter @BRIKEILARCNN or tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.