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Shot Fired on American Airlines Plane at Miami International Airport, Threatening Passenger Killed
Aired December 07, 2005 - 14:01 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: President Bush, commander in chief, defending his war, hailing its accomplishments, and owning up to its weak spots. All of that today in a layout of his deep and wide plan to boost -- boast support for a war that has dragged his approval numbers further south than ever before, accentuating the positive.
President Bush says TV screens never show the real progress. His critics say that's because there is little of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will continue to hunt down the terrorists wherever they hide. We'll help the Iraqi people so they can build a free society in the heart of a troubled region. And by laying the foundations of freedom in Iraq and across the broader Middle East, we will lay the foundation of peace for generations to come.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Bin Laden said he attacked the United States because of the troops in Saudi Arabia. That's terrorism.
Terrorism was in London, terrorism was in Spain, terrorism was, obviously, in the United States. That's completely separate from what's going on in Iraq.
Iraq is an insurgency. In one of the hearings early on, Secretary Rumsfeld denied there was an insurgency. He said it was a gang of something or other, but he -- they wouldn't admit that they were having real problems over there. They kept being unrealistic, illusionary about what was going on in Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: President Bush, in between touting the successes in Iraq, pointed to the insurgency as a force that is slowing progress there. Some lawmakers say there's much more to criticize.
Senator Ben Nelson is a Democrat from Nebraska. His colleague, Republican Jeff Sessions, from Alabama, both served on the Armed Services Committee. Both join me from Washington.
Gentlemen, good to have you both.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: Thank you.
SEN. BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA: Nice to be with you.
PHILLIPS: I think I want to go with the freshest sound, if you don't mind, since we just heard from John Murtha. And he pointed something out that I thought was interesting, and that was he said there is a difference between terrorism and insurgency. This is what he had to say. I want to get both of you to respond.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MURTHA: We think that foreign fighters are about 7 percent. It might be a little bit more, might be a little bit less. A very small proportion of the people involved in the insurgency are terrorists, or how I would interpret them as terrorists. And we don't have enough troops to guard against the border.
The general that's in charges of that part of Anbar said, "I don't have enough troops. They gave me a mission to protect against the Syrian border, I don't have enough troops to do that."
They have never had enough troops to get it under control. They didn't have enough troops for the looters, and they haven't had enough troops ever since then to get the place under control.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: Senator Sessions, do you agree with that?
SESSION: I absolutely do not agree with that. Terrorism is a tactic. These people are different groups, they have different reasons for what they do. But they're using terrorist tactics, and that makes them terrorists.
They use suicidal bombings, they blow up innocent people in the streets. This is the kind of thing that's typical of terrorism.
I don't know what Congressman Murtha is referring to. And we're, indeed, making progress. And I think the secretary defense's idea about insurgency is that they are different groups.
You've got the old Baathists, you've got the Zarqawi extremists. You've got other groups that are sometimes at work there. So they're hard to characterize as a -- some insurgency that has a single grievance that is trying to improve the lives of their people.
These are negative people who have no vision positively for the future and cannot be allowed to succeed in Iraq. It's just that simple.
PHILLIPS: Senator Nelson, do you agree with what Murtha said? And I'll go on to say that Murtha said, basically, this is civil war and troops have to get out, it's only going to get worse if troops stay in. NELSON: Well, I think that I have a great deal of respect for Jack Murtha's war record, and certainly he's a very able person. I don't know that I agree with him about his statement about the lack of these people being terrorists.
I think when they use terrorist activity, they're killing their own people, as well as trying to attack the coalition forces, the American forces with their tactics, I think you have to say that they're also terrorists. Now, there may be an insurgency involved in this, there may be some civil war aspects of it, but that's different than saying that there is no terrorism there. They are terrorists.
PHILLIPS: Senator Sessions, do you want a timetable for when troops can get out?
SESSIONS: No. I think that would do nothing more than assist our enemies. They would lay back and wait for that day and then try to destabilize the remaining government.
What we need to do is help them be successful. And what the president made clear today was that the argument that we should immediately withdraw is totally bogus and is not justified. He demolished that argument by showing what happened in Mosul, for example.
I went to Mosul. I've seen that city, and they had a hard time when the terrorists there attacked the police stations and killed people. Then the city has now been recaptured by the good guys. And it's being stabilized and making progress. So is Najaf.
Both of those were areas that we had difficulties in. They were not smooth from the beginning as a large part of Iraq has been relatively smooth from the beginning. These were tough areas.
They've both been greatly improved. And to pull out now would be the height of stupidity, totally unjustified. I can't believe the leader of the Democratic Party of the United States of America would say that we are losing this effort and we're doomed to lose this effort.
SESSIONS: I don't see how he can justify holding that position, frankly.
PHILLIPS: Well, he -- Congressman Murtha laid out what he sees as a different definition of progress. While the president was talking about progress in a number of areas, Congressman Murtha coming forward, saying, look, I've got the charts. He even showed charts showing oil production, water production, electricity, among other types of numbers and charts.
Senator Nelson, with their validity to those charts? Did you see those same charts? Do you support what he had to say with regard to those numbers and what the Bush administration is saying and what Murtha is saying that he is seeing on paper? NELSON: Well, I don't know I have any facts that would substantiate what Congressman Murtha is saying. I don't know that I would disagree with him. I just don't have that kind of information. But I think the president should take a look at trying to establish identifiable goals, a mission that is clearly established so that we can measure success against those goals.
Now, if we are not reestablishing the oil production, which was one of our major efforts and one of our goals, we need to be sure that's -- that is one of the goals, and also measure for the American people how we're doing. I really think that that's what we need.
Whether you call it metrics or whether you call it measurable goals, we need to know if we're 25 percent more capable, the Iraqis are 25 percent more capable of fighting off the insurgency the same way we have measurable goals on self-governance.
We've got an election coming up. We've had an election. We've got a constitution. Those are points in time that you can measure.
If we're able to do that on the self-defense side, and we push them to solve their own political problems, then I think it's quite possible to win this war.
PHILLIPS: All right. I want to talk not only about Iraq now, but let's get just a little more broad and talk about the future of the Middle East.
This is what the president had to say. I want to get both of you to react.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We are not going to yield the future of Iraq to men like Zarqawi. And we're not going to yield the future of the Middle East to men like bin Laden. We will complete our mission in Iraq and lead leave behind a democracy that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: Now, talking about the future of the Middle East, Senator Sessions, some critics have come forward and said, look, we're not just talking about Iraq here, but the president needs to get tougher on Egypt, on Saudi Arabia, on some of these other countries in order to truly start to integrate democracy throughout the Middle East.
Do you agree with that?
SESSIONS: Well, some good things are happening. King Hussein in Jordan has just been a tower of strength and wisdom for that whole region. I hope and I believe he'll be listened to more as time goes along. Yes, Saudi Arabia and Egypt can do better, but they are doing more to help us today fight terrorism than they ever have in the past. Musharraf in Pakistan has done a tremendous job of standing against terrorism. The -- Libya has now renounced terrorism. Lebanon has really thrown off the Syrian domination there to a large degree.
So we've had a lot of good things that are happening, but when change occurs after decades of inertia and calcification of the relationships, we're going to have some difficulties and ups and downs. But the general trend for me looks good.
We've had elections in Saudi Arabia, elections in Egypt. And while they're not -- certainly not perfect, they're better than we've had in the past.
PHILLIPS: Senator Nelson, do you agree with that? And do you think that President Bush and his administration is being just as tough on other countries in the Middle East as he is on Iraq right now?
NELSON: Well, it's hard to assess how tough the White House, the administration is being on these other countries. I think it's important that we continue to work with them so that we're establishing democracies all across the region with the support of the people from those countries.
And we cannot impose our standards, our democracy on them. But we can help them establish their own democracies. And that's going to take some pressure, but it's also going to take, in my opinion, some sort of encouragement for them, as well.
We just simply can't force it. We have to help them establish it.
So I hope the administration is doing everything it can. I have no reason to believe that they're not.
PHILLIPS: Senators Jeff Sessions and Ben Nelson.
Gentlemen, we sure appreciate your time.
NELSON: Thank you.
SESSIONS: Thank you.
PHILLIPS: Straight ahead, Saddam Hussein plays hard to get. The latest on his trial in Iraq.
The news keeps coming. We're going to keep bringing it to you.
More LIVE FROM straight ahead.
PHILLIPS: Saddam Hussein, angry over what he calls a sham of a trial, boycotts today's proceedings in Baghdad. The ousted dictator refused to come to court. Hussein's absence wasn't much of a surprise, though. Yesterday he threatened to boycott today's proceedings and told the judge to go to hell. After an hour's long delay, the judge resumed the trial, calling to the stand Witness F and Witness G.
Witness F recounted the abuse and torture that he and other prisoners endured at Abu Ghraib prison.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Before we left intelligence (ph), Your Honor, we were so hungry that some knocked on the door and told the guards, "Either kill us or give us -- give us food or kill us. We're so hungry." And we are very hungry.
He took him outside, and he came back with blood on his face because of the beating.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: Witness G described beatings and other abuses by the regime. After his testimony, the judge adjourned the trial until December 21.
Iraqi authorities on the hunt today for a terror suspect sprung during a brazen hospital attack. Police say at least 15 gunmen stormed into a hospital in Kirkuk and opened fire, killing three police officers who were guarding that suspect. He escaped, along with the gunman.
Farther west, a U.S. soldier has been killed while on combat control. The U.S. military says that the soldier died yesterday after his vehicle hit a mine in Anbar province. Since the start of the war, 2,131 U.S. troops have died in Iraq.
The death toll from a suicide attack on an Iraqi police academy is climbing. Two bombers blew themselves up in back-to-back attacks yesterday in Baghdad. Four more people have died, bringing the number of officers and recruits killed to 40. Dozens more were wounded. Two insurgent groups, Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Islamic Army in Iraq, have claimed responsibility.
Progress reported in neighboring Afghanistan. U.S., Afghan and other coalition forces killed 22 militants in separate operations this week. The U.S. military says 13 were killed in an attack against an enemy cell just north of Kandahar. Three American troops were among eight coalition soldiers wounded in that operation.
Still ahead, tough talk on torture and debate over CIA prisons.
The news keeps coming. We'll keep bringing it to you.
More LIVE FROM straight ahead.
(STOCK MARKET REPORT)
PHILLIPS: The buzz around the CNN water cooler today, a pizza delivery man in Norway who had his wallet stolen out of his car over the weekend, well, a couple of days later he was making a delivery. Lo and behold, the customer handed the pizza guy his own stolen credit card.
The pizza man played it cool, called the cops. They were there in 30 minutes.
PHILLIPS (voice over): Where does a 700-pound bear hibernate? Anywhere it wants. Animal control officers were dispatched to this Pennsylvania residence after two young children spotted the bruin snoozing under the porch.
Residents new a bear had been loitering in the area because of tipped-over trash cans. But they didn't realize it had moved in for the winter.
The World Wildlife Fund says an unknown species of carnivore may have been discovered in Borneo. The animal, which has been twice captured on film, at first was thought to be a type of lemur. But further investigation has now led scientists to concludes it's probably a previously unknown species.
A teenage girl in Memphis has been charged with trying to order a hit man to take out the owners of this block of white cheese. She thought it was cocaine. The man she contacted to do the dirty deed turned out to be an undercover cop.
When children at a mall in Roanoke, Virginia, asked Santa for a teddy, he won't have to wonder if they mean the one in the Victoria's Secret window. After a number of complaints from parents, mall officials put up a black curtain to shield Santa's legions of young fans from the risque display just a few feet away.
PHILLIPS: Well, if you spend a lot of time searching for stuff on the Internet, you've probably had to Google something. That is, use the Google search engine.
A new study says that Google users have higher incomes and more experience on the Internet than people using other sites. Hmm.
(INAUDIBLE), an investment banking and research firm, says more than half the people it surveyed go Googling. About 22 percent use Yahoo! Fewer use other engines.
Washington is warning Americans to brace for a sharp rise in home heating costs. Kathleen Hays has that story live from the New York Stock Exchange. (STOCK MARKET REPORT)
PHILLIPS: Well, we're just getting in these live pictures. We're monitoring them right behind me out of Miami, Florida. These live pictures coming to us from our affiliate WFOR.
We're being told that apparently a shooting took place on this American Airlines jet. Our producer Kim Segal on the line with me right now.
Kim, what do you know?
KIM SEGAL, CNN PRODUCER: We don't know too much at this moment. I just got off the phone, though, with Miami-Dade Police Department, and they were able to confirm to us that a shooting did take place on an American Airlines airplane.
This plane right now, the pictures that you're looking at, is Miami International Airport. That's all we know right now.
PHILLIPS: OK. So, all right, Miami International Airport. How did you hear this, Kim? Is it something that you got word over the scanners? Or how did you come across this story? Because it looks like -- oh, we're seeing actually a stretcher right now.
I don't know if you can see these live -- are you monitoring these pictures with me, Kim?
SEGAL: Yes, I am.
PHILLIPS: OK. Well, OK, let's look at these live pictures, I guess, as this is sort of happening here.
We're seeing more police cars coming to the scene. They're actually putting out police tape. In addition, you can see a stretcher there at the bottom of the ladder there on the outside of the back of the aircraft.
As we monitor these live pictures, we'll -- and you can see the paramedics, actually, coming up and down. So it looks like somebody possibly is going to be brought out at any moment here.
But Kim, tell me how you came across this story.
SEGAL: Well, like many new stories, we got a phone call and a tip that something would be happening over at the airport.
SEGAL: They weren't sure what it was. We've just found out American Airlines confirmed something was going on, as the pictures do. And we were just told by the airport spokesman -- this is at D-42 is the gate, and there were shots fired. So as the information is coming in, as we're making phone calls, we'll bring it to you.
PHILLIPS: So we don't know if shots were fired inside this aircraft or just before they got on the aircraft. Is that right?
SEGAL: Well, according to Miami-Dade Police Department, they told us that shots were fired on the aircraft.
PHILLIPS: And -- well, it would make sense. I mean, you're seeing paramedics here going up and down the ramp at the back of the aircraft.
Do we know if -- and, you know, forgive me, because I know you're getting this information just as quickly or as slowly as we are, Kim. But do you know if all the passengers were on this aircraft, or if they were all just kind of coming on the aircraft? Do we know possibly when it could have happened?
Oh, wait, we're seeing somebody in handcuffs. OK. It looks like someone is getting padded down.
There is. There are some people getting padded down on the police car over there, too, as we continue to watch and see if someone is brought out at the back of this aircraft.
But Kim, do we know if everyone had already boarded the plane or they were starting to board when this happened?
SEGAL: Unfortunately, we don't. We don't know if this plane was coming or was getting ready to depart. We're trying to find that out now. Now that we have the gate number, we should be able to find out where that plane either originated here or somewhere else.
PHILLIPS: OK. So we don't know if it had just landed or if had taken off, right?
SEGAL: That's correct.
PHILLIPS: Getting ready to take off, rather.
SEGAL: Aside from the, you know, American Airlines and that, you know, they have a lot of flights out of here. This is a big airport for them. And it was one of their planes and they are aware of the situation and they're just waiting to be briefed by people on the scene.
PHILLIPS: All right. Of course, we're trying to get folks from Miami-Dade on the line with us to try to bring us more details and we're working some of our security experts too, Kim, to kind of add to this.
I mean, it's definitely a bizarre situation. If you're just tuning in, Kim Segal, our producer -- stay with me, Kim. And do you need to work the phones, Kim, or can you stay with me as we sort of unravel what's going on?
SEGAL: Actually, my colleagues here are working the phones and feeding me information as I'm talking to you.
PHILLIPS: Perfect. All right, well jump in as you get information. I'm just going to kind of recap for our viewers. We really don't know much right now, but we're watching live pictures out of Miami International Airport coming to us from our affiliate WFOR in Miami.
And what you're seeing are paramedics and police on the scene. They're on the tarmac, an American Airlines jet. We don't know if something happened while this aircraft was airborne or if it happened as people were boarding this aircraft.
OK, we're getting -- we have confirmed that it was a federal air marshal that fired his or her weapon. All right. So, obviously, there was an issue, possibly with someone -- possibly one of the passengers. And we're now confirming that a federal air marshal that was on this aircraft had to fire his or her weapon.
Those were the shots fired. Don't know the condition of the person or persons that air marshal had to fire upon. We're still trying to work that information right now, but we're getting a number of calls in. Kim, are you getting that same information? This is coming straight into us to the control room about the federal air marshal.
SEGAL: We had heard that earlier. We were not able to confirm it, but apparently our people in Atlanta were and that would explain the -- at least why there was a gun on this airplane, because that was the big question.
PHILLIPS: Right. Like who brought it on, whether it was a passenger or it was the air marshal. And, of course, for an air marshal to open fire on somebody, there had to be some type of threat where that air marshal thought there was a threat to his or her life or somebody else, some innocent person on that aircraft.
So it is possible that whoever that air marshal fired upon did have some type of weapon. Obviously, there was a threat that happened, if, indeed, he or she had to fire.
Right now we're watching live pictures via our affiliate WFOR out of Miami. CNN's Kim Segal, one of our producers, on the phone with us right now as we're monitoring these live pictures. If you're just tuning in, this is an American Airlines jet at Miami International Airport, shots fired on this aircraft.
We are being told now it came from the gun of an air marshal that was on board this plane. We don't know if those shots were fired while that aircraft was airborne which, Kim, probably would not be the case. Because if it's airborne that could cause, obviously, some serious problems with regard to that plane in flight.
SEGAL: Yes, our understanding is that the plane was actually on the runway. We just didn't know if it was coming or going.
PHILLIPS: OK, so it was on the runway when shots rang out.
SEGAL: That's correct. PHILLIPS: Got it. OK, so -- and we don't know where this plane was headed to or where it had landed from. We're still trying to work that information right now.
Once again, we are confirming, we are able to confirm that a federal air marshal had to open fire on this American Airlines jet at Miami International Airport. Live pictures to us coming to us via WFOR. And we're getting some more information.
I'm being told from WFOR, our affiliate, that this was Flight 924, which originated from Medellin, Colombia with a stopover in Miami before heading to Orlando. Well, this adds a lot of interesting information.
Of course, Kim, you know, there could be talk of a possible -- drugs possibly involved. I mean, you have covered, obviously, a number of stories involving the drug situation in Colombia and Miami. This could be interesting with regard to how this develops now that we're getting this new information.
SEGAL: I think it will be interesting regardless, just the fact that an air marshal did discharge their weapon. The reason for that will, you know, obviously, be interesting because, you know, it could have been a threat. It could have been, who knows, maybe an accidental discharge. Unfortunately at this point, we just don't -- we have no idea.
PHILLIPS: All right. Once again, Medellin, Columbia is where this flight was coming from. They were doing a stopover in Miami. If you're just tuning in, Scott, you said this is D-42? Gate D-42? All right. Gate D-42 is where this aircraft is and I also -- tell me what that flight number was again, guys. Can you give me the flight number? Was it 924?
All right, American Airlines Flight 924, it's there. You can see it at Miami International Airport, gate D-42. This is what we know so far, is that this aircraft was coming from Medellin, Colombia, a stopover in Miami.
Evidently when this plane was on the tarmac, shots rang out. We're being told that those shots came from a federal air marshal. Not sure if that federal air marshal was already on that aircraft or got on that aircraft once that plane landed. We're not sure.
You can see paramedics on the scene and the paramedics had also been going up and down the ladder at the back of that aircraft. Now we're seeing a number of various, looks like -- can we get a close up on that logo, you guys, on that truck? Can anybody make out what that says?
Mattie (ph), can you make out what that says? OK. That's OK, we're trying to figure out as we move in on some of these picture if we can get an image. Obviously, we're seeing federal and state response to this. That will be interesting to see -- it's a first time what? OK. OK, we are -- federal air marshal is the one that had to fire on that aircraft. Possibly these could be -- it does look like, well, it looks like possibly SWAT teams could be coming to the scene. Possibly -- that could be a federal SWAT team. You're seeing them come out of the back of that truck.
All right, we see, obviously, armed officers approaching the aircraft in a quick fashion. All right, we don't know -- boy, this could intensify. This could end up being some sort of a standoff. We're not quite sure, but we are seeing armed officers, some type of possibly SWAT officers.
This could be federal SWAT team or local SWAT team, not quite sure. But you can see that they are circling the aircraft right now giving hand signals with the pilots -- presumably the pilots. It could also be authorities that are on board that aircraft.
So, the fact -- and it looks like -- oh, we're losing our signal. That is not good news. We're going to try to keep this signal up. We're going to see if anybody else is rolling on a live signal. But this is coming from WFOR in Miami.
Just to kind of update you on the situation as things sort of intensify and we see more armed officers, are we going to put this -- we're going to put this on a five-second delay because, obviously, we don't know what is going to happen. We don't want to show anybody getting shot, of course.
MIKE BROOKS, SECURITY EXPERT: I can hear you.
PHILLIPS: Mike Brooks, you can hear me OK?
BROOKS: I can hear you.
PHILLIPS: OK, all right. You're hot with me now. Mike Brooks is one of our law enforcement analysts. He has worked in all branches of law enforcement from the FBI to local police. Mike, I'm assuming you can see these live pictures, right?
BROOKS: Yes, I can, Kyra. And it looks like an international flight, Flight 924, American Airlines. It looks like right now ...
PHILLIPS: You can see the live pictures though, Mike?
BROOKS: Yes, I can.
PHILLIPS: I just want to let you know, we put it on a five- second delay because, of course, if anything gets hairy we don't want to have it on live television but you, obviously, have seen -- can you tell me those trucks that have approached, are those federal SWAT teams, local SWAT teams, do you know?
Because they're building a perimeter and surrounding this aircraft and also doing hand signals with, I'm not sure if it's air marshals on board or with the pilots or some type of authorities there on that aircraft. BROOKS: Right now it looks like it's local law enforcement there, Kyra, which would probably be the protocol there for Miami International Airport. And, you know, keep in mind too, we're heard that possibly it could be a federal air marshal, but, also, keep in mind that there are a number of pilots who are also armed on board aircrafts, as part of the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program.
So, I've got some calls into some of my sources hoping to find out a little bit more, but you're going to see this kind of response, especially when there's shots fired. They will be dealing with the pilot, the captain who is in command of that aircraft.
PHILLIPS: OK, so you're saying that the officers on the ground are more than likely using hand signals with the pilot in the cockpit?
BROOKS: Well, most likely they are -- the captain is talking to the ground tower there. The tower is then talking to the units there on the scene. I know at Miami International Airport, along with other international airports, that they have practiced scenarios this on a regular basis should something like this happen on board an aircraft.
So the web of the communication most likely is from the law enforcement agencies there on the ground with the tower going possibly direct to the captain inside the aircraft. Now, we saw some officers, some law enforcement at the rear door of the -- up on -- as we saw the stairs pushed up to the plane at the rear door. Now, you know ...
PHILLIPS: Hey, Mike. Mike, stay with me for a minute because Kathleen Koch is working her sources in Washington. Evidently she's got some information on the shots fired on this American Airlines plane at Miami International Airport. Kathleen, what do you know?
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, what we've been able to confirm by talking to a federal government official is that, yes, indeed, it was a federal air marshal on this flight, United Flight 924 at gate 42, that apparently discharged firearm onboard the aircraft. The federal official said it was because a passenger did something that was considered threatening. The federal official said the passenger has been wounded, but, apparently, has not been killed. So, that's the latest that we have on this.
PHILLIPS: All right, Kathleen, stay with us as you're working your sources. So, Mike Brooks, that's interesting. I mean, you and I know very well that when someone is a threat, I mean, these officers shoot to kill, they don't shoot to injure. So it's possible that this could have been a struggle maybe?
BROOKS: It's a possibility. The job of the federal air marshals on board an aircraft, Kyra -- their job is to protect the cockpit. That's their main function onboard the aircraft, is to make sure no one gets inside that cockpit. If there's something going on, you know, in the cabin area, if someone pulls a weapon, yes, they're going to go ahead and then they're going to use deadly force against that particular threat and try to neutralize that threat and take that person down. But, again, as I said, their main job is to protect that cockpit. What happened on board the aircraft? That's what we're trying to find out right now because, you know, there had not been many instances on board an aircraft since we had all the number of air marshals increased after 9/11. There had been a couple incidents on board, but this is one of the first ones where I've heard there has been an actual threat.
PHILLIPS: Well, Mike, let me ask you this. I mean, you worked -- you were in charge of security for Delta Airlines at some point. You know a lout of the airplane industry and the security procedures. This plane was coming from Colombia, OK -- Medellin, Colombia. Do you know what the safety precautions are when you board an aircraft, an American airliner like this coming out of Colombia? Do you know how strict and how secure it is going through the airports there?
BROOKS: I can tell you, Kyra, when I was in law enforcement I was working a case down in Colombia coming out of Medellin. Even prior to 9/11, it was extremely, extremely hard to get anything on that aircraft. There was a number of checkpoints going on board the aircraft. And, you know, I -- since 9/11 happened, I haven't been down to that region, but I can tell you that from working with Delta that there is, there are, you know, a lot of security on board.
But, is it possible that someone could get a gun onboard the aircraft? Absolutely. It could happen internationally, it could happen here domestically. But exactly what happened, I'm sure right now that the FBI -- because once something happens onboard the aircraft, if there is shots fired onboard the aircraft while it's in flight and as soon as that door is closed at the gate and it pulls away, that aircraft's considered in flight.
The federal air marshals, they protect the cockpit. If there is a crime on board the aircraft, it's worked with the federal air marshals. And the lead agency for that would be the FBI. So I'm sure the FBI is -- their joint terrorism task force down there in Miami is also on the scene, if not responding.
PHILLIPS: All right, Mike, let me just recap real quickly. And then I've got a couple more questions for you. If you're just tuning in, you're watching live pictures now via our affiliate out of Miami, Florida, WFOR. This is sort of a wide scene on the tarmac at Miami International Airport.
An American Airlines jet -- commercial aircraft -- Flight 924 coming from Medellin, Colombia, stopping here in Miami, was going to -- just was here for a stopover. Shots rang out on that aircraft and we've now been able to confirm that those shots were from the gun of a federal air marshal.
Do not know why he or she had to fire, but we are being told that a passenger on that aircraft did something, proved to be a threat, and that federal air marshal had to open fire. We are told that that passenger that has been shot has survived. We know that our sources have been telling us that that passenger has just been injured by those shots. And you can see just the number of law enforcement officials continuing to roll up at the scene, a number of paramedics. We saw paramedics going up and down those stairs. And this is tape from earlier before, where we saw one of the SWAT teams arriving on the scene, quickly circling the aircraft and communicating, possibly, with the pilot and co-pilot in the cockpit. They started some using hand signals.
And Mike Brooks, one of our security experts on the phone with us, not only worked within the FBI and various SWAT teams and local law enforcement, but also in the airline industry with regard to security. And Mike, you can see the guys rolling up to the front there and obviously having some type of communication, possibly with a pilot or co-pilot.
And like you said, very important that they stay locked inside behind secured doors just so whoever is causing the problem can't, of course, hijack that aircraft. But let me ask you a question.
BROOKS: Right, Kyra. And what we see now, you know, we're seeing -- I didn't mean to interrupt you. But we saw people coming down the steps. That looks like part of the flight crew that has come down...
PHILLIPS: Right. And this is tape. This is tape from just a little while ago, by the way. It's not live, Mike, just so you know.
BROOKS: Yes, this is -- looks like some of the flight crew that they've taken off and they would be the first ones that law enforcement wants to interview, because they're the ones that know exactly what happened. And they'll know also why the federal air marshal had to take that kind of action.
Now, I want to point out also that the federal air marshals are very highly trained, highly disciplined organization. And these agents are very highly trained and, you know, they don't pull their weapons unless they need to use them.
PHILLIPS: Well, and I'm trying to remember. I think we talked about this a few minutes ago. I mean, is this the first time a federal air marshal has had to open fire on an airliner, inside a commercial airliner?
BROOKS: There have been -- there have been some discharges on the airline, if I recall correctly. But this is one of the first ones, Kyra, that can I remember where someone has had to take action against someone that they thought was posing a threat and had to use deadly force. This is one of the first ones.
Maybe first -- maybe there's been one other incident I can recall. When I was at Delta Airlines, I was the liaison with the federal air marshals and I tell you that they are a very professional group and are highly trained and if they need...
PHILLIPS: But we talked about the training. We've talked about the training and even done stories on the training that they've had to do, Mike.
PHILLIPS: And just, you know -- just so viewers understand -- a number of things to think about. For a federal air marshal to open fire inside this American Airlines jet, I mean, it's interesting -- what would be interesting to know if, indeed, how many passengers were on that plane when the air marshal had to open fire.
Because, I mean, that is -- to actually have to pull the trigger, it must have been a tremendous threat, especially if other people were on that aircraft. It's tight quarters, you better be a pretty good shot and you have to consider everything else around you. I mean, talk about a high stress situation.
BROOKS: Very much so, Kyra. And I'd also be interested in finding out exactly how many air marshals were on this particular flight. You know, normally on domestic flights in the United States, you usually have at least two federal air marshals.
And think about it, Kyra. Before 9/11, there were only 31 federal air marshals in the world. I mean, for the United States. They would fly on flights all over the world. Now there are -- their numbers are confidential, but they're somewhere in the ballpark of about 3,400 post-9/11.
I mean, it took a lot of work with the federal air marshal system to get their system up and running to where they wanted it to be and to get that many people trained and on the aircraft, you know, both domestically and internationally on a daily basis.
PHILLIPS: All right, Mike, stay with me. If you're tuning in, you're watching breaking news coverage now. Shots fired on this American Airlines jet. You're looking at a live picture on one side of the screen, but then tape via WFOR on the other side of the screen. Because we're on delay right now because authorities have surrounded this aircraft. Possibly somebody still armed and dangerous on board this American Airlines Flight 924 that left Medellin, Colombia, for a stopover in Miami.
We're going to listen in to another one of our affiliates, WSVN, to see how they're reporting on the story, see if we can any new information as we now follow their live pictures and listen to their newscast.
UNIDENTIFIED WSVN REPORTER: And with protocol and procedure in a case like this, we see it's very isolated incident, has nothing to do with the rest of the airport. Officials are just entering the tail section of this 757. Do they close -- do they lean on the side of caution and close the rest of the airport air traffic coming in and out? Or do they have the ability to isolate it, to keep it to Concourse D and to conduct their investigation on site?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, they're going to lockdown Concourse D for now. Then they're going to ratchet it back to that particular aircraft. But that aircraft is a crime scene so that will be there on the ground sealed off probably for the next 10, 15, 20 hours, at least. And I think that they'll get back to normal very soon.
UNIDENTIFIED WSVN REPORTER: Guina (ph), I know your time is at a premium. I really appreciate you being with us. If you could just tell us real quick -- back to the federal air marshal situation. Federal air marshals, they're not on board all aircrafts, correct? They're scattered about different commercial airliners?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're on important flights. I think they're probably on and nobody really knows the number for sure because of scheduling. I think they're probably on 80 or 90 percent of the flights.
UNIDENTIFIED WSVN REPORTER: And this flight, we understand, American Airlines -- pardon me while I look through my notes here -- Flight 924 from Miami to Orlando. Would you consider that a high-risk route?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE; Well, it all depends. You know, the plan is to be systematically...
PHILLIPS: You're listening to live coverage via one of our affiliates out of Miami, Florida, WSVN, as we continue to follow breaking news coverage. Is this a live picture right here, guys? Are they bringing a body out on that stretcher? I think that -- does that look like earlier tape?
OK, I think that might have been -- I don't know if we can rerack what we just aired, but it looks like there is a -- there is possibly a body on that stretcher. Mike Brooks -- no, it doesn't look like -- Mike Brooks, are you still with us?
BROOKS: Yes, Kyra, and you know, there's something -- there's something that's a little troubling to me, too, is what phase of flight did this incident happen in?
Because by protocol, if it was in the air, if there was trouble in the air or right after it landed, they would not pull up to the gate. They would take it to an area, where they -- an isolated area where they could deal with the situation. And that's what, you know, I'm just thinking about, you know, why did they pull up to the gate?
Usually they would not pull up to the gate, put the stairways up. If there had been a problem while it was in flight or while it was -- during the landing process.
PHILLIPS: So we don't know -- but we don't know if something happened while it was out there. Like if it -- obviously it was coming from Medellin, Colombia. It landed. And you're saying if something would have happened as soon as it landed, that they would have kept the plane there on the runway? They wouldn't have pulled up to the gate?
BROOKS: That's the normal protocol. If something had happened while it was in flight, they would declare an emergency. The airline would -- the plane would land and then it would pull up to what we call a run-up site that is used for when they have hijackings and that kind of thing, usually in an isolated part of the airport. Where there would be no ground personnel, no passengers at the gate.
So if there were shots -- a possibility of shots being fired, or there had already been shots fired, nobody would be in harm's way. And that's what I -- you know, did something happen after it pulled up to the gate, after it landed, and after the passengers -- while the passengers were disembarking? Because usually there's not a threat to a cockpit when you are on the ground at the gate. That's what's a little troubling to me.
PHILLIPS: All right, Mike, Mike, I'm just getting word that according to American Airlines it happened in the jetway, OK? So it happened in the jetway. As -- Mike, as people were coming in and off the plane, don't know, just happened on the jetway between the gate and the aircraft.
All right, so it happened in the jetway. So obviously the plane landed, they pulled up, and either someone got off that aircraft or someone was trying to get on that aircraft and the incident happened when it pulled up to the gate.
BROOKS: Well, you know, sometimes federal air marshals are sometimes put on board different aircraft -- believe that there's somebody maybe of suspicious nature. You know, depending on the what kind of intelligence they have about a particular flight. And in this one, having come from Medellin, Colombia, to -- with a stopover in Miami.
You know, who knows what exactly -- maybe it was someone they had followed, who was getting off the aircraft, maybe some law enforcement, another law enforcement officer onboard the aircraft, who had approached someone. We don't know. I don't want to speculate, but now I find it very interesting that it did happen in the jetway.
PHILLIPS: OK, so -- yes, that's a good point. Did you ever work when you were at the FBI or various law enforcement agencies, did you ever work Colombia?
BROOKS: I had been down there working on a particular case in Bogota, Medellin, and Cali, but that's the extent of it.
PHILLIPS: And of course, the feds are highly involved with regard to the, you know, the drug trade. Obviously the issues with drugs there in Colombia and what comes here into the United States. We don't want to -- of course, don't know if that's tied to it. Mike, stay with me. Jeanne Meserve working her sources out of Washington right now. Jeanne, what do you know?
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, from a single source, but a source that's quite well informed. I'm hearing that the individual involved in this was a passenger on the aircraft who threatened to have a bomb.
He left the aircraft, was told by federal air marshals to stop. He did not do so. And the federal air marshals fired. This is what I'm hearing from a single source on this story, as we try to put together the pieces here. Kyra?
PHILLIPS: So your sources saying that this passenger threatened that he or she, is he? That he had a bomb?
MESERVE: I was he had a bomb.
PHILLIPS: All right, so he says he has a bomb and the air marshal approached this passenger and he started to run?
MESERVE: Well, I wasn't told whether the air marshal approached him, exactly where they were located when this happened. But that the air marshals were in pursuit of this individual. They asked this individual to stop, he did not so, and at that point they fired. This is what I'm hearing, again, from a single source.
PHILLIPS: From a single source. OK. Well we've been -- American Airlines, we talked with American Airlines, Jeanne and we know it happened in the jetway. So it's possible this could have been somebody either trying to get on the aircraft or getting off the aircraft.
But we did confirm that the shots fired happened in the jetway. Anything else, Jeanne, in addition to what you've brought us thus far?
MESERVE: Not in the specifics of what happened in this incident. I can tell you that several months ago, I spent a couple of days with an air marshal as he went through his job, we looked at the marshal training. Let me tell you, these air marshals are never travelling alone on aircraft, there are always at least two of them.
They do concern themselves with security, not just, obviously, when the aircraft is in the ground, but also anything they might see on the ground, on the aircraft or anywhere in the terminal. So it's a more all-encompassing job than you might think. Of course, they're all armed.
PHILLIPS: Well, and of course, Jeanne, you probably saw first- hand and you learned that, you know, for an air marshal to open fire -- I mean, there has got to be a pretty strong threat, because the issues afterwards can be pretty intense if the threat, indeed, didn't entail a shooting, yes?
MESERVE: I can't spell out for you exactly what the rules of engagement are for the air marshals, when it is that they're authorized to use force and where they aren't.
I certainly can't tell you the specifics here of what might have happened, beyond what I've been by this single source, that this individual didn't stop, he threatened, said he had a bomb, and they fired.
PHILLIPS: Mike Brooks, can you talk about rules of engagement when it comes to federal air marshals?
BROOKS: Well, as I said earlier, Kyra, while the plane is in the air, the rules of engagement are to protect that cockpit. If someone comes up, there is basically something, I don't want to get into too much specifics.
It's called the common strategy. It's kind of a four-level approach that's used onboard the aircraft. And if it comes down to a breach, an attempted breach or an actual breach of the cockpit, and someone is armed, I can guarantee you that the federal marshals would most likely try to use deadly force.
Now, if they are on the ground and there are, you know, faced with a scenario of someone possibly having a bomb, and there might be other intelligence, and we haven't heard that would even make it more possible. There would be more information this person could have a bomb with this person, and this person was going to run into the airport. Did that air marshal possibly use deadly force? There's a possibility and that what it sounds like.
But we don't know what kind of information that federal air marshal had about this particular passenger during that whole flight. But as I said earlier, if they thought that while they were landing or while they were in the air that any person on board that aircraft had some sort of explosive device, they would not have pulled up to this gate.
So it sounds to me, Kyra, that this happened while the plane had -- after the plane had pulled up to the gate or while they were just pulling up and before they put the jetway up, that this happened after the it landed or they would not have pulled up to that gate of that airport.
PHILLIPS: Well let's try to piece together all the bits of information that we know. We've been able to confirm from American Airlines that the shots fired took place in the jetway. So, it happened, you know, in between, obviously, the aircraft and the gate.
So it happened in that little jetway, the little area that we walk through as we board the aircraft. We've confirmed that. So, and then Jeanne Meserve saying only one source she's been able to talk to, says that this individual threatened to have a bomb, that the federal air marshal told that person to stop, they were in a pursuit and shots fired.
Now, in order to fire shots, I mean, that individual has to prove a threat physically to that federal air marshal or someone around him or her, right?
BROOKS: That's correct. But, then, again, if this person was thought -- and this federal air marshal thought that his life, his partner's life or the life of other passengers were in eminent danger, he would probably -- he or she could use deadly force.
PHILLIPS: And if this were...
BROOKS: So, there is something, and that's again, as Jeanne said, and I can tell you because I've been through training such as the air marshals and I've been to their training facility before, see what kind of training they go through. And just like any law enforcement officer, its a split-second decision that he or she has to make to use deadly force. Am I or am I not going to use deadly force to protect myself, to protect other law enforcement officers or to protect the public against this particular person and what threat this person posed?
PHILLIPS: All right Mike, stay with me. Kathleen Koch, you've been able to talk to your sources. Are you confirming anything for us?
KOCH: Well, actually, we just got this from Mike Ahlers (ph). I think Jeanne Meserve was about to report this. But according to another government official, this passenger was moving aggressively through the cabin. And we also are getting, I've confirmed with another government official that, yes, indeed, this passenger did threaten to have a bomb. But I think Jeanne Meserve has more information on this.
PHILLIPS: OK, I'm getting a number of -- a lot of information going on. Eric, do you want to tell me -- all right, let me start with you Jeanne Meserve. You've got more information and then I'm tracking other things from other people right now, as well. What do you have, Jeanne?
MESERVE: Oh, Kyra -- OK, Kyra, this is from the Department of Homeland Security.
They say that there was a -- a passenger on board this aircraft who said -- who indicated that he had a bomb in his carry-on luggage. He was confronted by a team of air marshals on the flight. The passenger exited the flight. He was pursued by the air marshals. They ordered him to go to ground.
This individual appeared to reach into his bag. And the department says the air marshals took action consistent with their training. They are not being specific about what that action is, but, of course, we have heard it from other sources, that shots were fired.
So, that's the official line from the Department of Homeland Security about what happened on this flight.
PHILLIPS: All right, that's from the Department of Homeland Security.
Now, Jeanne -- Kathleen Koch, you had said that that passenger not killed, only injured.
Jeanne, are you hearing the same thing?
MESERVE: I have not heard anything about the condition of the -- of the passenger. I would have to defer to Kathleen on that.
PHILLIPS: All right, Kathleen, is that still what your source is saying, injured, not killed?
KOCH: That is, Kyra. We have not heard any new information on that. And I think it's -- it's interesting to point out, if this passenger was threatening to have a bomb, this was just the sort of thing that was prompting this change on the part of the Department of Homeland Security and Transportation Security Administration when it comes to the -- the checks that they perform on passengers before you board planes, saying that now you can begin to carry scissors, knives with very short blades, because they want to focus on just this kind of threat, the TSA saying that they really believe that this is where the threat to the future of aviation comes from, is from bombs that could be carried on board planes.
PHILLIPS: Mike Brooks, you still with us?
BROOKS: I'm still with you, Kyra.
So, we have got Kathleen Koch and Jeanne Meserve, both working their sources from the Department of Homeland Security to the federal air marshals.
If you're just tuning in, quickly want to just kind of give everybody, all of our viewers, Mike, a debrief on what has happened, and welcome our international viewers as well.
If you're watching our live coverage here on CNN, what we can tell you is, this American Airlines that was jet coming from Medellin, Colombia, for a stopover in Miami
will be staying here for a while now, as you can see, because, according to our sources telling our various reporters, there was a passenger that said that he had a bomb in his carry-on luggage.
And, as he was getting off that aircraft, federal air marshals were responding to that threat. They ordered that man to get on the ground. According to Homeland Security sources, that man reached into his bag. And that's when federal air marshals opened fire on that passenger.
The videotape that you're seeing right now, the SWAT teams responding -- there's obviously local and federal agencies there on the scene. But the SWAT team responded. They circled that aircraft, immediately tried to start communicating with the pilot and the authorities on board, just to secure the situation.
And, then, here, at the back of the aircraft, we saw paramedics going up and down that ladder, possibly responding to the passenger that was shot. We still don't know if anybody else was injured and if anybody else was shot in this situation.
But, according to American Airlines, the shooting took place in the jetway. So, this passenger, this flight coming from Medellin, Colombia, for a stopover in Miami, here, this American Airlines aircraft on the tarmac at Miami International. That passenger that appeared to be a threat said that he had a bomb in his carry-on luggage, started to walk off the plane. Air marshals immediately approached him, told him to get to the ground. Air marshals said that he reached into his bag, and that's when they opened fire.
Right now, we can tell you that that passenger, according to our sources, is not dead, has only been injured -- lots of questions to be asked.
Mike Brooks, former law enforcement, also worked with the FBI counterterrorism, on the line with us now.
So, Mike, now considering all the details that we have, all this new information, that seems like proper -- proper procedure, from a law enforcement angle. If he is told to stop, he's saying that he has a bomb and he reaches into his bag, obviously, federal air marshals saw this man as a threat and opened fire.
BROOKS: It's -- that's just what -- exactly what it sounds like to me, too, Kyra.
It sounds -- if this is exactly what happened, and that person, you know -- one of the first things they tell you, you know, let me see your hands; let me see your hands; get on the ground. If that person reaches into the bag, it could -- could possibly contain a bomb, after he said there was. It sounds like it would be a good shoot to me by the federal -- on the federal air marshals' side, because he or she is protecting the public.
If that person did have a bomb and that person got into that terminal at Miami International Airport, there could have been other people injured. But, again, they will go -- you know, whether or not this person had a bomb or not, that remains to be seen. I'm sure the investigation has started already. And I -- as I told you, the flight crew are going to be some of the first ones that they interview to see how this person acted in the air, how -- you know, from the time that this person boarded the plane in the particular sitting on board the aircraft, you know, how many drinks did this person have?
Was there any conversation between any particular person who was involved in this, exactly what this person said or did. The American Airlines flight attendants are extremely well-trained. As you recall, they -- it was an American Airlines flight attendant that saved the day back on an American Airlines flight from France, when the shoe bomber, Richard Reid, tried to set off a bomb on board another American Airlines flight.
So, these flight attendants are very attuned as to what's going on, on board the aircraft, behavior of these passengers. So, I -- I would be very, very anxious to hear what they had to say about all of this leading up to this particular shooting.
PHILLIPS: And, in addition to having Mike Brooks -- Mike Brooks with us, Jeanne Meserve and Kathleen Koch working their sources from Washington there from Department of Homeland Security to the federal air marshals. Jeanne Meserve, you actually went into training and followed federal air marshals, as you learned about the procedure and how they, of course, try to prevent situations like this. Is this the first time this has happened?
MESERVE: This is the first time that a federal air marshal has fired their weapon on or near an aircraft, according to a federal official I just spoke with.
They're trained, of course, to take other kinds of action, because you don't want to be firing a gun in an aircraft, particularly if it's aloft. The kind of training that I saw had to do with a different sort of threat, generally, when -- when people were either seated or in the -- or moving down the corridors of the aircraft and there were various sorts of physical techniques they used borrowed from martial arts fighting.
You can see some video here that we shot. This gives you an idea of the sort of training they're going through. They go through these drills over and over again -- this, of course, today a very different situation. I just heard a slight bit more detail from a federal official, saying that this individual indicated they had a bomb in the carry-on. They were confronted by the team of air marshals that were on board the flight.
The passenger exited. And I'm told he ran. He ran towards the jetway when he was pursued. He was told to go to the ground. He appeared to reach into his bag. He was ordered again to drop. And, again, he refused. And it's at that point in time that they fired their gun.
The federal official with whom I was speaking did not know how many shots were fired. They did not have any description of the individual on whom they fired, as to his -- as to his age, as to his possible ethnicity, as to anything about his demeanor whatsoever -- all those details still spending.
This federal official did tell us that the TSA, the federal air marshals, Metro-Dade Police and the FBI are all involved in this investigation, which is, of course, just in its fairly really early stages at this point in time -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: OK, Jeanne Meserve, I know you're working the phones for us right now and bringing us all this information, as well as Kathleen Koch -- also, Mike Brooks on the line with us, former law enforcement and FBI, just talking about what is happening here.
If you're just tuning in, I will recap for you. We are handling breaking news coverage now. And we also want to welcome our international viewers, too, for tuning in.
What you're looking at is videotape right now, not live pictures, of what has been taking place within, oh, I would say about the last 45 minutes or so. It's Miami International airport, American Airlines aircraft there surrounded by various law enforcement agencies. Now we have got a live picture there out in front of Miami International Airport. But what is happening here is that, according to air marshals, federal air marshals, American Airlines, also Department of Homeland Security -- this is where we're getting all of our information -- that this -- you will see the SWAT team here responding, when the shots were -- were first -- were first heard, within the past hour or so.
But this American Airlines jet, Flight 924, was coming from Medellin, Colombia, for a stopover here in Miami. And, apparently, one of the passengers after the plane stopped and pulled up to the gate, one of the passengers said that he had a bomb in his carry-on luggage. Air -- air -- federal air marshals responded immediately, ordered him to get to the ground. He started to reach into his bag, according to authorities, and, once again, was told to take his hand out of the bag.
He did not, so, federal air marshals -- one federal air marshal opened fire on that passenger. That passenger, we are told, is not dead, has been injured -- but, as you can imagine, authorities definitely wanting to question him, in addition to the crew of this aircraft being questioned right now by a number of authorities to try to find out what the deal was with this passenger.
And, Mike Brooks, you bring up a really good point. We don't know anything about this passenger yet. We don't know if he's from Colombia. We don't know if he's an American. We don't know if he had been drinking. We don't know if he was just, you know, playing around and didn't realize what he was dealing with, or if, indeed, this truly was a -- a serious threat.
BROOKS: No, we don't, Kyra.
You know, and when something like this happens on board, in this particular case, it's a -- it's a Boeing 757. And, you know, it -- you -- if he's joking around, that's just -- we hear, you know, stories all the time, and I have heard stories all the time about people being arrested even at the -- you know, at the gatehouse, joking around that they have -- that they have a bomb in their carry- on, or they have a bomb that they're taking on board.
It's not something you joke around with. But I -- to piece together everything that happened leading up to this shooting, you know, I -- going back again, it had to have happened after the plane pulled up to this gate. And it had to have happened fairly quickly, while the passengers were disembarking off of the aircraft.
You know, exactly what happened, I will be very anxious to hear. But, you know, it sounds as if it did not happen until it pulled -- they actually pulled up to the gate. Otherwise, they would have taken it to a remote location and dealt with the incident there.
PHILLIPS: And -- and, Mike, I am still -- I am still just a little -- I guess I'm -- I'm a little surprised to hear that this passenger is injured, because, as we well know, whether you're a federal air marshal or a police officer or a member of the SWAT team or whatever it is, when you fire upon someone who is a threat, you feel is a threat, you shoot to kill. You don't shoot to injure.
So, I'm a little surprised to hear that he's injured. Does that surprise you?
BROOKS: No, it doesn't surprise me. There's been many times -- depending on a lot of different -- a lot of different factors, when you shoot somebody, you can shoot the person with one round, two rounds, three rounds, four rounds, and that person may not go down.
But, if you shoot the person one time and that person is wounded and they go down to the ground, and the threat is -- is no longer there, then you're not going to stand there and shoot the person. You're going to go ahead, handcuff that person, make sure they're not a threat, search the person to find out whether or not they have any additional weapons.
And, in this particular case, you know, the person could have had a bomb. So, no, that doesn't -- that doesn't surprise me. You know, it -- I don't -- we -- we don't know right now. We haven't heard any witness accounts on exactly how many shots they heard fired, that kind of thing.
But -- but these -- these professionals know that they continue to fire until that threat is neutralized, is on the ground.
PHILLIPS: And we are being told that that threat has been neutralized, at least this one passenger, who our resources are telling us now threatened that he had a bomb. He was reaching into his bag when federal air marshals told him to stop and get to the ground. He did not listen to authorities and, indeed, continued to go in that bag. And the federal air marshals opened fire on that passenger.
If you're just tuning in to our breaking news coverage, we want to welcome our international viewers -- these pictures coming to us via our affiliate WFOR in Miami right now. Without our affiliates, you know, this is -- right here is the power of television and working with our affiliates, because we wouldn't have these live pictures and wouldn't be able to bring you this story unless we were able to have these -- these -- the live pictures coming to us out of Miami.
But WFOR and WSVN both have been bringing us great pictures to give us a sense for what is happening on this story. And if you just look around this American Airlines aircraft, you can see the number of law enforcement officials that have responded to the scene. This is actually tape, videotape -- or tape -- for about -- from about a half- an-hour ago, when word got out that there was a threat aboard this American Airlines Flight 924, coming from Medellin, Colombia, for a stopover in Miami.
You can see here SWAT teams responding and gathering around that aircraft. And this is what we know now. This is what happened earlier. But now we can tell you -- we have confirmed that a federal air marshal had to open fire on a passenger that was on this aircraft coming from Medellin, Colombia, to this stopover in Miami, because he threatened that he had a bomb in his carry-on bag. And when authorities told him to go to -- to go the ground, he reached in his bag. Once again, they told him to take his hand out of the bag. He didn't. And that's when the federal air marshals opened fire.
You can see here from tape earlier that the flight crew immediately taken off that aircraft, being questioned by authorities -- our Mike Brooks, of course, telling us how important it is to get testimony immediately after the fact from flight crew, because they're tuned -- tuned into everything that is going on, on that aircraft, and they're trained to make sure they remember and record everything that has happened.
You can see paramedics there on the scene -- not quite sure if these are the ones that tended to that passenger that was shot or not. But we can tell you that the shooting took place in the jetway. So, it didn't happen on the aircraft, we're told, or there in the airport at the gate, but, rather, in that jetway that leads you from the aircraft into the airport. That is where the passenger made that threat and federal air marshals had to open fire.
This is -- we can tell you it's Flight 924. It's at gate D-42 at Miami International Airport -- still a lot of questions to be answered. We don't know if, indeed, this passenger was from Colombia. We don't know if this person is -- is an American. We cannot tell you, as of right now, the medical or the physical condition of that passenger that was shot.
Earlier, one of our sources told Kathleen Koch that he was injured. That could have changed by now, as time has rolled on. We do not know. We're still working to get information on that. But that's all that we can tell you at this point, as this aircraft remains grounded at Miami International Airport after shots were fired, after a passenger made a threat of a bomb, didn't listen to federal air marshals to get his hand out of the bag, they saw it as a threat, and they fired upon him.
Mike Brooks on -- still on the line with us right now, formal -- former law enforcement agent, also worked within security at Delta Airlines.
Mike, jut a couple of things to talk about. We have talked about just the shoot-to-kill procedure. We have talked about security at the airport there in Medellin, Colombia.
I'm curious to know what was inside that carry-on luggage. Was there a bomb? Was there a gun? And, of course, I'm sure authorities have their hands on that bag right now and, hopefully, can bring us those answers.
BROOKS: I'm sure that the -- the bomb squad, the very, very capable bomb squad of Metro-Dade and the police department there at the airport, they probably took a look inside, took -- evaluated the -- what the bag -- probably X-rayed it. In fact, they could be still doing that right now to make sure that -- that there is no hazardous material inside that bag. And, if there was, they would perform a render-safe procedure on it. But, Kyra, also keep in mind that -- that, while the passengers were disembarking from that plane, in that jetway, anyone that has flown knows how -- how small those jetways are. And that shooting occurred in the jetway.
There were probably many passengers inside that jetway when the shooting occurred. And, you know, we know -- now, maybe that's also another reason why the person is wounded. We were talking about the use-of-force policy and, you know, was it possible that, you know, they didn't kill the person; they just wounded him? Well, that's -- also could be another reason, that maybe that -- that federal air marshal was -- was not able to get a good shot because of the amount of people who were in the jetway.
PHILLIPS: Yes, I mean, that is -- having to worry about everything else around you, in addition to dealing with a passenger that is deemed a threat -- I mean, just from a law -- law enforcement perspective, Mike, and what you know and all the training that you have gone through as a -- as a former member of SWAT team and also working with the FBI, with counterterrorism, I mean, when you're in a situation like that and -- and you have got a passenger that makes a threat, I mean, everything is happening at a split-second. And you have got to be pretty darn sure that there is a problem if you open fire.
BROOKS: Yes, you do, Kyra.
You know, and the use of -- when you -- when you decide to use deadly force -- when any law enforcement officer decides to use deadly force and goes -- and goes ahead and pulls that trigger, you have got to make sure that you're doing the right thing when -- when you pull that trigger and send that round downrange.
And, you know, and it's -- it's -- I can tell you, it's -- it's not something that any law enforcement officer wants to have to -- wants to do in his or her career. But the federal air marshals are faced with things like this every single day, you know, shoot, don't shoot.
And -- and, always, no matter what happens, you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't. But you're -- the federal air marshals, just like any other law enforcement officer, they're there to protect the lives of their fellow law enforcement officers and the public at large. And it sounds like, if everything that we have heard so far is -- is in fact true -- and all the statements, you know, say that this officer, this federal air marshal, did -- had to pull the trigger, it sounds like a good shoot to me, Kyra.
And, you know, I -- it's not something that anyone wants to have -- wants to have to do in their law enforcement career.
PHILLIPS: Well, and -- and -- and that's -- you make a great point.
And, according to our sources, this passenger was warned twice -- warned twice. And, you know, not everyone's that lucky to get two warnings.
BROOKS: No, they're not, not at all.
And, you know, was this person of altered mental status. Was this person under the influence of alcohol? Is this people -- you know, keep in mind, coming out of Colombia, all that -- we have heard of all the kidnappings and everything else that happens in Columbia. You know, is this person involved with the FARC, with the ELN, two terrorist groups that operate on a regular basis in Colombia?
We don't know. And that -- those will be -- that's information that I will like to know, you know, what led up to this and was this person involved in any of these kind of groups.
PHILLIPS: You know what, Mike? You bring up a very good point.
And this brings up the whole issue of knowing who is on an aircraft, knowing the name, where they're from, and information, because, let's say that problems started with this passenger before the plane landed. Obviously, that information, via the crew, would be through communications, you know, dealt to authorities. And it's possible -- I mean, obviously, they were doing a profile on this -- if this passenger proved to be a threat before the plane landed, I mean, authorities were already working the profile, right? So, it's very possible...
BROOKS: That's exactly right.
PHILLIPS: OK. So, let's say -- let's say something happened on that aircraft as it was en route, so a profile was already being developed on this passenger.
And you bring up a very interesting point. If this person is from Columbia, there are -- it's possible that these officers, this federal air marshal that had to open fire, maybe this federal air marshal wasn't just dealing with somebody threatening that he had a bomb and was going in a bag looking for a gun. This air marshal could have had other intel on this passenger which led him to believe, yes, this is definitely a threat. I'm not just telling him to -- to be grounded, but, you know, I have got other information tucked away in addition.
BROOKS: There's that possibility, Kyra.
And, you know, because, sometimes, the federal air marshals, as I said earlier, were -- are put on board the aircraft because of specific intelligence that they receive. And, you know, it could be that there is someone on the -- board that aircraft whose name came up in an investigation, possibly with, you know, God knows what. It could be with drugs, terrorism. And, you know, they are no imminent threat to that aircraft or to the passengers on board, but they're just -- they're just going to sit there and watch this guy, this person, to make sure that nothing happens.
PHILLIPS: You know, Mike, we...
BROOKS: You know....
PHILLIPS: We talk a lot about the drug cartel and the issue of -- of drugs, you know, coming out of Colombia and the fight against drugs there. But you mentioned two active -- were those terrorist cells that you mentioned?
BROOKS: Those are two -- those are two terror -- those are two terrorist groups, the FARC and ELN, that operate, that have been operating for a number of years inside Colombia.
These -- and they are -- they are known terrorist groups that they're dealt with every day by counterterrorism officials in Colombia and here in the United States.
And one other thing I -- I wanted to point out, Kyra, is, you know, we hear about all the time about -- we hear of stories, and CNN has covered, many, many stories of planes taking off from overseas, from international destinations, coming to the United States, and they're -- and they're diverted to other places because names pop up on a list.
You know, keep in mind that the names of the passengers -- the passenger manifest is sent to the United States after -- about 15 to 30 minutes after that plane usually takes off from the international destination.
And, then, those names are usually run through a -- a database fairly quickly to make sure that no one is on board. And we hear of planes diverting, you know, to Bangor, Maine, and other locations on a regular basis because a name pops up on its manifest.
But, in this particular case, apparently, that didn't happen, because that plane would not have landed and pulled up to the gate, as I said.
PHILLIPS: But it's possible...
BROOKS: So, you know, what exactly led up...
PHILLIPS: ... he could have been a threat, right?
BROOKS: ... to -- to this whole situation, it -- that -- that's a mystery. And it's going to be -- and I -- I -- I can't wait to hear exactly what happened to...
PHILLIPS: But even -- even, though, Mike, even...
BROOKS: ... and what this person is involved in...
PHILLIPS: Even though...
BROOKS: If -- even if this person's not -- not a terrorist, not involved with drugs, who knows...
BROOKS: This person could be, you know, altered mental status, something like that.
PHILLIPS: Even -- even though his -- his name didn't pop up on -- on a list -- well, we don't know. His name could have popped up, right?
PHILLIPS: But let -- let's say that -- I mean, that doesn't always -- I mean, that manifest has not always proven to be, you know, 100 percent accurate.
I mean, there are individuals that pop up on these lists that pop up just because of the -- their last name, and they have got no criminal record. They don't have a criminal record. So, I mean, he could -- he could have some sort of -- of rap sheet and could have easily boarded this plane, and -- and they wouldn't have been warned.
BROOKS: No, exactly.
And -- you know, and, sometimes, as -- as I said, the -- the federal air marshals do receive intelligence information, you know, of possibly a known criminal coming out of there that they maybe just wanted to keep an eye on, someone who may have never posed a threat at any time at all, but they just wanted -- they didn't feel comfortable with this person being on an aircraft.
And, again, this -- this subject could not have been -- initially, may have not been known, may have not been a threat to the aircraft, to the crew on board, but they went ahead and -- and followed this person anywhere.
PHILLIPS: Hey, Mike?
BROOKS: You know, and...
PHILLIPS: I want to...
BROOKS: Go ahead, Kyra.
PHILLIPS: I just want to toss this out.
One of our correspondents who has done training with the federal air marshals is e-mailing me right now, saying that a high-ranking law enforcement source of hers, one source only, telling her that there was no evidence of a bomb, that this passenger did not have an actual bomb.
So, of course, a number of our correspondents who have worked with the air marshals are working their sources right now. So, there is a possibility that this source -- OK, I'm getting more information here from her, same source now telling -- as a matter of fact, I'm going to ask our correspondent if I can go to air with this.
So, if you don't mind, if you are still listening, e-mail me and let me know if I can go with what your source tell -- told you with regard to the status of this passenger.
So, more information coming in by the second here, as I'm just reading e-mail, Mike.
It -- you know, you do that with me also in breaking news, when things are going on, as you're talking to your sources.
OK. I'm being told we are just working more of this information with regard to the bomb.
But, if you're just tuning in, what we can tell you is that you're looking at tape from WFOR out of Miami earlier, within the past hour. And -- and that is this aircraft that landed in Miami, was coming from Medellin, Colombia.
And this passenger that authorities had an issue with was apparently getting off the aircraft and was threatening that he had a bomb. Federal air marshals responded immediately, told him to get down, get on the ground. He reached in his bag. And he was warned again to take his hand out of that bag. He didn't. And that's when they fired upon him.
So, Mike -- and -- and so you and I have been discussing a number of things here about the procedure of -- of this passenger, if, indeed, had any type of weapon or bomb. The security in Medellin, Colombia, is -- is so tight, you would be very surprised if, indeed, he got on his aircraft with either one of those things.
BROOKS: Yes. I would be surprised.
But, then again, Kyra, you know, there -- it's always been a concern, not only with American Airlines, but other -- other American carriers, you know, dealing with security person -- persons -- at international stations.
There's always a possibility that the security at that particular station isn't as good as we have here in the United States. You know, they send security representatives from all the different -- from all the different airlines, as well as from the Department of Homeland Security, to these international stations to make sure that they -- they are in compliance with -- you know, the -- with the inter -- International Air Transport Association regulations, with the United States regulations, on -- on flights coming into the United States.
So, usually, they are pretty -- you know, they are pretty well up to -- up to date and -- and do a good job. But you never know what could slip by.
PHILLIPS: Well, Mike, we...
BROOKS: But we are hearing...
PHILLIPS: We -- we might have to steer away from the issue of -- of terrorism and possibly this person being connected with one of those terrorist groups in Colombia.
According to -- I'm being told that another network is actually reporting that this man was running up and down the aisles of the aircraft and -- with his wife chasing him -- evidently, this man possibly having some mental issues, and that the federal air marshal approached him at that moment.
Kathleen Koch, you're talking to your sources as this is developing. Are you able to confirm any of this?
KOCH: Kyra, what we are able to confirm now is that the passenger who was shot by the air marshals has now died. And we have that based on two sources. So, yes, apparently that person is now deceased.
And, Kyra, it -- it's interesting to point out, American Airlines is one of the airlines that, at least in the Miami area, has been taking additional precautions and steps when it comes to explosives getting on board aircraft.
I did a story a year or so ago on a special demonstration program they had where they were actually screening cargo that was going into the belly of American Airlines aircraft in the Miami area. They were testing using the same sort of machines that they currently screen luggage with when you fly on an aircraft, because, largely, cargo is completely unscreened in the U.S. -- no mandate that it all be screened. So, they were trying something new and different there because of this ongoing concern that someone might put a bomb in their suitcase, bring in it on -- in carry-on, or actually put it in some kind of a piece of cargo and mail it.
PHILLIPS: All right. So, you are -- you have now confirmed that that passenger is dead, Kathleen Koch, right?
KOCH: Yes, we have confirmed it.
PHILLIPS: All right, so, Mike Brooks -- Kathleen, thank you so much.
As you can imagine, this story keeps developing, as you continue to watch the breaking news coverage here on CNN. We want to welcome our international viewers right now.
This is what I can tell you to this point. And then we will try and break it up a little bit and answer some questions that -- that you might have, questions that we are still asking. Now we are confirming -- two sources -- in addition to Kathleen Koch, we have got more -- additional sources now confirming that that passenger is dead. American Airlines, this aircraft you see here, Flight 924, was -- left Medellin, Colombia, for a stopover here at Miami International Airport in Miami. And it -- it -- we don't know if there were issues with this passenger before the plane landed.
One network is reporting that -- that the man was running up and down the aisles, the wife was chasing after him. He was approached by an air marshal. It's possible that he may have had some mental issues, which would dispel the conversation Mike Brooks and I were having about possibly this man being tied to some type of terrorist organization.
Active cells are -- Mike Brooks was telling us -- that operating in Medellin, Colombia, Mike being former counterterrorism with the FBI. So this plane landed and evidently this passenger started saying that he had a bomb in his carry-on and that is when air marshals, once again, pursued him in the jetway.
You can see the jetway right now from where that plane is to where you can get into the airport. And that's where the shooting took place. This passenger apparently was warned to get down on the ground. He didn't do so. He started reaching in his bag. Federal air marshals told him to get the hand out of the bag; he didn't to that.
That's when federal air marshals shot that passenger, and now we're told that passenger is dead. A lot more questions, though. We still, Mike Brooks, are getting more information. All of our reporters and everybody working this story. So if it's true, you know, we want to know what was at issue with this passenger.
And apparently, according to some sources, that federal air marshals did not find any evidence of a bomb, so that threat could have possibly not been true. But if this man is deemed a threat and authorities think he's reaching into a bag for a gun, I mean they shoot to kill.
BROOKS: Exactly right, Kyra. And, you know, as we were talking about all of these possible scenarios that could have unfolded here, with terrorism being one of them, which looks like that's not involved now, but one of the ones we did talk about also was altered mental status.
You know, was this person of an altered mental status? What brought this person to be of an altered mental status? Was it because the person didn't take their drugs, you know, or what kind of altered mental status, you know, does this person have? And if you know that person did threaten, I mean, it's -- you know, again, as I said earlier, Kyra, you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't when it comes to using deadly force.
This person -- if this person presented a threat to the people in that airport and was told to, you know, get on the ground, and this person reaches into their bag and the federal air marshal had to use deadly force, well, you know, this is something that will be investigated and statements taken from everyone who is there on the scene.
Now, you know, if this person had been exhibiting some mental problem before the aircraft even took off, the flight attendants, as I said, are very attuned to this having dealt with a number of issues before on board American Airlines aircraft. This person would have been denied boarding. I mean, they'll even deny boarding for someone who appears -- they have to, by law, deny boarding to someone who appears to be drunk, you know, even when alcohol is involved.
So, you know, was there any mental illness exhibited before this person even boarded, even in the gate house in Medellin, Colombia? Most likely this person would not have been denied boarding had they exhibited any mental illness before they got on board the aircraft.
PHILLIPS: Well, Mike, we're now able to get live pictures once again from WSVN of the aircraft, of the American Airlines aircraft 924 that was coming from Medellin, Colombia, for a stopover here in Miami. That's when things -- when we started getting tips that shots were fired on this aircraft.
We soon found out that an air marshal confronted a passenger that became unruly, threatened that he had a bomb on his carry-on luggage, got off the plan. And within the jetway -- as you monitor these live pictures, on the left side of the aircraft is the jetway where you walk from the aircraft into the airport there, Miami International Airport.
Apparently that's where the confrontation happened. That passenger threatening that he had a bomb in his suitcase and the federal air marshals told him to get to the ground. He didn't do that. He reached into his bag.
Once again, according to our sources, the federal air marshals told him to get his hand out of that bag. He didn't do it, and that's when federal air marshals fired upon that passenger. And we have now confirmed that that passenger is dead.
And there are other reports out there now, Mike, too, that possibly this man had mental problems and was running up and down the aisle of this aircraft, his wife chasing after him. That's when he was confronted by an air marshal.
So it's very possible that this whole scenario started when this aircraft was airborne and then it landed and I'm also being told that this plane was supposed to go to Orlando. Would it stop off in Miami before going to Orlando?
BROOKS: Yes, most likely it would have. It would have gone ahead and landed at the airport where it was supposed to land. But, you know, I seriously doubt, Kyra, you know -- just go back to the behavior he was exhibiting, just allegedly chasing his wife up and down the aisle. They may have pulled up to the gate, if this person was just exhibiting that.
But if that person had said, while that plane was in the air, that he had a bomb in his carry-on it would not have gone up to that gate. Even though he was exhibiting the weird behavior, they would have taken it off to a remote location and dealt with that, you know, alleged explosive device on board the aircraft. They would not have pulled up to the gate. So ...
PHILLIPS: So the bomb threat probably came afterwards?
BROOKS: Exactly. That's exactly what I'm saying. Yes, if he was exhibiting some strange behavior, they probably would have pulled up to the gate. They would have called ahead. The captain would have called the tower in Miami. They would have had law enforcement, other law enforcement officers awaiting their arrival there at the gate to deal with this person with this altered mental status who was behaving strangely.
But it does not sound like this person even mentioned a bomb until they pulled up to the gate because otherwise, as I said, they would have gone to a remote location.
PHILLIPS: All right. Let's talk about the U.S. -- the federal air marshals. On a flight from Medellin, Colombia, are there usually two federal air marshals on international flights, Mike?
BROOKS: On any flight, Kyra, domestic or international, there are at least two. Now, some international, I've seen some flights where they have had six to eight on board, for some international flights. But it also depends on the size of the aircraft.
This is a Boeing 757, with a cockpit crew of two, pilot and co- pilot, and it could have anywhere from five to six flight attendants with a single aisle. You know, on a wide body 767 or 777, those kind of things, you know, it depends on where the person -- you know, if they have a target on board the plane that they're keeping an eye on, you know, they'll seat themselves around different places.
You know, I can't say -- I don't want to speculate exactly what kind of operation they had going or whether or not it was a routine ride for the air marshals, but they have at least two on board. And they could have more than that, too.
PHILLIPS: All right, so what happens now? We have confirmed that this passenger is dead. So this is basically -- I mean, we can assume the situation is over. There are no other individuals deemed a threat at this point.
The situation has calmed down quite a bit if you look at these live pictures now on the tarmac. So if it's true that he was flying with his wife, obviously authorities interviewing the wife, interviewing the crew, I mean, where does it go from here with regard to the investigation and how this is dealt with?
BROOKS: Well, that investigation started, Kyra, as soon as that door of that aircraft was cracked open. And you'll have a joint investigation between the federal air marshals, you know, whose member was involved in the shooting. You're going to have the Federal Bureau of Investigations that investigates, you know, crimes aboard aircraft, whether, you know, if this -- you know, occurred prior to them landing and cracking that door open.
Now, as soon as that door's cracked open, it becomes a logan (ph) that's happened in the jetway that would also fall under the jurisdiction of Metro-Dade. So this is going to be a joint investigation between the federal air marshals, the FBI, and the local police there in Miami.
PHILLIPS: Mike, stay with us.
Clark Kent Ervin, another one of our security analysts, he actually used to work for the Department of Homeland Security. Clark, what do you know about this? Have you been able to talk to any of your sources? Do you know anything about this passenger that was shot dead after threatening authorities?
CLARK KENT ERVIN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: I don't know anything about the passenger, Kyra, I'm afraid. Based on what I've heard so far, it appears as though the air marshals did the right thing. If in fact this passenger said that he had a bomb, if he was ordered to the ground, if after being told not to he reached into the bag, then it seems to me that the officers, the air marshals did the right thing but we'll just have to wait for the investigation to determine whether that was, in fact, the case.
PHILLIPS: So what does this tell us about training? Our Jeanne Meserve -- of course, we showed part of her package from when she went into training with the federal air marshals. This became a big issue after 9/11.
We started talking about the security of our skies and air defense and having more air marshals, more funds for air marshals. Were you a part of all of that budget process and also that push to get more air marshals on commercial airliners since 9/11?
ERVIN: Well, I wasn't part of the budget process or the push to get more air marshals on airlines, but certainly after the fact, once the Department of Homeland Security was created and after TSA was transferred to the department, my office, the Office of Inspector General, did do a report on the Federal Air Marshal Program.
One of the things we found is that a number of air marshals were hired before their criminal background checks were completed, and we found after the fact, after they had been hired, a number of them had actually rather serious criminal convictions including some gun violations.
And TSA pledged to clean that up after the fact, and I hope that's the case. This would be relevant, of course, only if the facts are not as they appear to be now. As I say, it appears, based on everything we know now, that the air marshals did exactly the right thing. They have to be on hair-trigger alert under 9/11 circumstances like these.
PHILLIPS: So, let me back up just for a minute. You're saying that as it was investigated, the quality, I guess, of federal air marshals, you're saying it wasn't necessarily up to par as -- after 9/11 and this whole issue of air security came forward, you're saying that a lot of changes had to be made with regard to the quality of the federal air marshals?
ERVIN: Right. This report was issued in august of 2004. As I say, in was some very serious violations of law and very, very serious things in the backgrounds of certain of the air marshals who were hired. We made a number of recommendations, including doing background checks on air marshals before they're hired. And I'm hopeful, of course, the TSA has implemented those recommendations. I have no reason to believe, by the way, that they have not been implemented. But, again, as I say, that would be relevant only in facts are not as they appear to be now.
PHILLIPS: I see. It could become a sticky issue because there could be history with this federal air marshal that opened fire, that possibility you're saying, exists.
ERVIN: That's right.
PHILLIPS: OK. All right. Got it. All right, if you're just joining in, you're watching live coverage, breaking news coverage, as we continue to follow what has happened here at Miami International Airport. We want to welcome our international viewers as well as our domestic viewers. You're looking at videotape that was shot earlier. This has been going on for almost two hours now.
And this is everything that we can tell you. This aircraft, this American Airlines 757, left Medellin, Colombia today, Flight 924, headed to Orlando. It stopped off in Miami. There was an issue with a passenger on board. We're not quite sure when the problem started. We've been told that he was running up and down the aisles, his wife chasing after him. Possibly a history of mental illness.
He was confronted by a federal air marshal. That aircraft, it landed, and as the passengers were -- we're not sure if the passengers had gotten off the plane yet, but this one passenger that authorities said was a threat apparently told authorities he had a bomb in his carry-on luggage. And so federal air marshals once again told him to get to the ground when he reached for that bag. And authorities saying he went into the bag, once again they told him to pull his hand out of the bag. He didn't do that.
Federal air marshal had to open fire. That passenger that was deemed a threat, now dead. And that's where it stands now. Authorities -- as you can see, the number of law enforcement agencies that responded to the scene - we had seen paramedics going up and down the back ladder right here to the back of this aircraft. Never did see anybody come out on a stretcher. As you can see, paramedics actually taking it away. And that's because we were told that that shooting happened in the jetway, not on the aircraft. So, obviously, the body of that dead passenger dealt with in another manner.
So, that's where we are right now. We don't know anything about the passenger. We don't know his background or his ethnicity, if he was from Colombia or if he is an American and what the issues were with regard to his behavior on that aircraft. We just know that federal air marshals warned him a number of times to get to the ground, get his hand away from a bag and out of a bag. And when he didn't listen, of course, these federal air marshals are trained to shoot and shoot to kill when someone is a threat to them or anybody in the public in a situation like that.
Jeanne Meserve, working a number of her sources on this story, joins us once again. She's got some new information -- Jeanne?
MESERVE: Yes, Kyra. Just to tell you that an official with the Department of Homeland Security says that this was a U.S. citizen that was shot. He is 44 years old. At this point in time, that is the only information that we have about this individual. Forty-four years old, U.S. citizen. And from other sources, we have been told this individual is dead -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: You're saying -- your sources say he, indeed, is dead?
MESERVE: Well, we've reported from multiple sources previously that this person was dead. The Department of Homeland Security official with whom I'm speaking who told me it was a 44-year-old American is not confirming.
PHILLIPS: Oh, is not confirming that.
MESERVE: Yes. They are not confirming one way or another. But telling us that it was a U.S. citizen, an individual who was 44 years of old -- 44 years old.
PHILLIPS: All right. Jeanne Meserve, thank you so much. And we're getting a number of our players now rounded up in Washington to help us figure out what is happening and to develop more information on this passenger that we have been reporting, through a number of sources, that an air marshal shot and killed this passenger that was deemed a threat. Jeanne Meserve, though, still talking to one of her sources at the Department of Homeland Security, saying that he will not confirm whether that passenger has died.
Richard Falkenrath, another one of our security analysts, joining us now out of Washington. Richard, I'm just going to ask you, have you been able to talk to any of your sources? What do you know? What can you add to what we've told folks so far?
RICHARD FALKENRATH, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it's a very fast-breaking story, Kyra. What I can tell you about the air marshal program -- this program had been around for a long time, but it was very small prior to 9/11. And after 9/11, then the Department of Transportation very significantly enlarged the program.
The exact number of federal air marshals is classified. But they are assigned to different flights based on the risk of those flights. And so a flight out of Medellin, Colombia, is a logical place where you would expect to see a team of air marshals.
PHILLIPS: OK, let's talk about what we know through Jeanne Meserve and what she was able to confirm, that he's a 44-year-old U.S. citizen. There are reports out there that he was having some sort of mental issues, was running up and down the aisles of this aircraft. He was apparently approached by a federal air marshal.
What else is important to know about this passenger? Because it pretty -- you know, why was he coming, obviously, from Colombia? Questions to be asked. Could he have been drinking on this flight? You know, what could have contributed to his behavior? These are all things that obviously we want to try and find out.
FALKENRATH: Well, that's right. And I'm sure there will be an investigation. It has every indication being a great tragedy, what happened. And the things they'll want to know is whether the air marshals had been observing this individual for the duration of its flight or if they had just encountered him for the first time? And did they have any reason to believe he was mentally unstable?
There are a lot of cases of unruly behavior on aircraft. You've probably experienced it yourself. They're often reported to the Department of Homeland Security. This is the first time of a shooting that I am aware of since 9/11 and certainly the first fatal shooting. So it's going to get looked at very, very closely.
PHILLIPS: And that's what Jeanne Meserve was saying, too, that this is the first time that it's happened, Richard. And that's interesting because it is the first time. And according to our sources, it is -- it was fatal shooting. How is this going to sort of -- to play out now with regard to the role of federal air marshals and security at the airports and how to deal with -- I mean, this will, no doubt, be used in training because it's the first time that it's happened.
FALKENRATH: Well, that's right. And people will be looking at this air marshal program. You know, the air marshals have had a somewhat checkered history over the last four years. They're very proficient law enforcement operators, generally. They are very good shots. They spend a lot of time training. But they really don't get a lot of action, of activity. They spend their time riding airplanes back and forth and the vast majority of airplane trips have no incident whatsoever.
So, they don't get a chance to actually perform every day the way normal law enforcement officers do, your local police officer or secret service agent or whomever. So people are going to look at, I think, is this an appropriate use of a very highly-trained law enforcement person to just have them sit on airplanes and fly back and forth, day in, day out when things that actually happen are very rare.
In addition, Kyra, remember, we now have quite good screening at our -- for passengers coming on board. For the U.S. portion, at least, those bags would have been screened by TSA screeners and there would be a presumption, I think, that there probably isn't a bomb, at least if he was screened at the U.S. checkpoint.
PHILLIPS: Yes, and one of the federal air marshals -- one of the sources within federal air marshal telling one of our correspondents that there has been no evidence of a bomb in that situation. So it is possible that the passenger was just saying that. But even though -- I mean, that brings up an interesting point, Richard. Because let's say he did not have a bomb in his carry-on. He still reached into his bag.
And according to sources, the federal air marshal said take your hand out of the bag because that would be considered a threat if he were going for a weapon. And he did not respond to that second warning. So, obviously, from a federal air marshal's perspective, he or she can't take any risks.
FALKENRATH: And that's exactly right. That is likely what the rules of engagement are. What we'll have to find out is whether the air marshals had any reason to believe that he was mentally imbalanced. And if they had evidence that he was mentally imbalanced, then people are going to ask, why did you shoot lethally in this case?
But their rules of engagement are very what we call risk-averse. They really don't want to take any chances in these circumstances. And if they think the person is a risk to themselves, to the air marshals or to the passengers, they're there to take them out.
PHILLIPS: Richard Falkenrath, stay with me. I'm just getting news, a number of things developing as we are talking right now.
We're just getting word, we have confirmed out of London that former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has been hospitalized, apparently she had been feeling faint and has is now in the hospital. This coming to us out of London. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher hospitalized after feeling faint. We're going to -- we're working this story over at our international desk. We'll keep you updated on the condition of her, as we continue to also monitor this developing story out of Miami International Airport.
We want to welcome our international viewers as well as our domestic viewers as we follow this situation that, still a lot of unanswered questions and we're trying to work through those. But this is what we can tell you at this point. That here at Miami International Airport, there was an American Airlines flight out of Medellin, Colombia, flight 924, that was headed to Orlando, but it made a stopover in Miami.
There was an issue with a passenger on board, a passenger who is now dead. Federal air marshals shot and killed that passenger after he threatened them with a bomb and then when they approached him and told him to get down to the ground, he did not listen to authorities. He reached into the bag.
Once again, authorities warning him to get his hand out of the bag. He didn't do that, they shot and killed him. You see here, this is when the plane pulled up at jetway where the shooting actually took place. The SWAT team responding immediately, using hand signals to communicate with possibly those inside the cockpit or other law enforcement officials that were on that aircraft to sort of secure the area and try find out what was happening.
And then you'll see this tape from earlier. We saw paramedics there on the tarmac going up and down the backside of that aircraft, because we weren't sure if that passenger that was shot and killed was on the aircraft or off the aircraft. We were able to confirm that the shooting took place in the jetway off that aircraft.
We also have learned that possibly there was talk of who this man was, was he from Colombia, is he an American? Jeanne Meserve confirming through her sources, we have confirmed that he's a 44-year- old U.S. citizen, the passenger that was shot and killed.
We don't know his mental stability at the time, if he had been drinking, what the situation was that would cause him to not listen to authorities as they warned him to get down on the ground and put down his bag. So far no evidence of a bomb has been found, according to our sources.
So that threat could have been a phony threat that passenger made to the federal air marshal, but he did reach into that bag. Federal air marshals saying to pull his hand out, to get down on the ground. He didn't listen to numerous warnings, according to federal air marshal sources, and therefore they shot and killed that passenger.
We have a number of people with us as we sort of flush this story out. Mike Brooks, a security analyst, also Clark Kent Ervin, he used to work with the Department of Homeland Security, he's one of our security analysts. And also Richard Falkenrath, extensive background on these issues with regard to homeland security and law enforcement.
I guess as we continue to move forward and cover this, Mike, I'll go back to you. All right we -- OK, we don't have Mike with us right now and we've lost Richard for the moment. so Clark Kent Ervin, let's talk about -- you brought something -- you brought up an interesting point in that there are a number of things that will have to be looked at here.
Obviously No. 1, more information on this U.S. citizen, this 44- year-old that was flying from Medellin, Colombia. That's No. 1. Trying to find out more on him, correct? And then No. 2, would be trying to figure out or flush out why the shooting had to occur.
ERVIN: That's exactly right. I agree with Richard, we'll have to take a look at whether there was strange behavior on the part of this passenger during the course of the flight, or whether this happened just toward the end.
And certainly, there's going to be more questions, now that there was not a bomb. If there had been a bomb, needless to say, there would be either no questions or fewer questions because obviously the action taken was exactly right.
As you pointed out just a second ago, Kyra, these air marshals have to make split-second real-time decisions. They cannot err on the side of error. And, if in fact this passenger, now deceased, reached into his bag after saying that he had a bomb in that bag, then it was incumbent upon the air marshals to do what they did and to shoot to kill.
PHILLIPS: That's exactly what they're trained to do. Shoot to kill in a situation where a threat appears not only against them, but the public. I mean, we still don't know, Clark, if there were hundreds of passengers still on this aircraft.
ERVIN: That's exactly right. And of course, the fact that the plane originated from Colombia only heightened, I'm sure, the concern of the air marshals. Colombia, as we all know, has been a hotbed of narco-trafficking. There really hasn't been indications of any terrorism link, at least that I'm aware of in Colombia itself, but there's concern about other countries in South America, in that regard. And again, in this post-9/11 environment, we have to be extra vigilant.
PHILLIPS: Well, Clark, let me ask you about this passenger. OK, he had already gone through security. He was on this aircraft and he threatened that he had a bomb and he reached into his bag. So obviously, authorities would think, "OK, he could have a weapon to come at me." But if he was already on that aircraft with a screened piece of luggage, the chances of him having a gun or a bomb in his luggage on that aircraft, wouldn't it be pretty slim?
ERVIN: Well, I must say, I wouldn't say pretty slim. When I was the inspector general, we did a number of undercover investigations, too, during the course of my tenure, where we found that it was -- it's easier than it should be, to sneak guns and knives and explosives past the screener workforce.
Now that said, it's not easy to do, but it's easier than it should be. So I wouldn't say pretty slim. I'd say that there would be a significantly reduced chance of a gun or a knife or a bomb. But again, in these times, a significantly reduced chance is not a zero chance. And the air marshals have to act if there's any chance at all, that there's an explosive, particularly after a passenger says he has one, and after that passenger reaches into his bag.
PHILLIPS: What triggered those investigations? Did you help conduct those after 9/11, Clark?
ERVIN: They were after 9/11. They were after the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. They were after the transfer of the Transportation Security Administration from the Department of Transportation to the Department of Homeland Security.
PHILLIPS: And if you're just tuning in, you're listening to Clark Kent Ervin, one of our security analysts. He used to work for the Department of Homeland Security. And we're talking about a breaking news story that we're continuing to follow here.
If you're just tuning in, we want to welcome our international viewers as well as our domestic viewers. An air marshal had to open fire on a passenger that he or she deemed a threat.
This is how it all began. This is American Airlines flight 924 that was leaving Medellin, Colombia, headed to Orlando. It made a stopover in Miami, and that's where all of this drama unfolded.
What had happened was, according to the various sources that we've talked to, with American Airlines and the air marshals and the Department of Homeland Security, that this plane had landed and a passenger had apparently become unruly, either when it landed or prior to the landing.
But when the passenger was getting off that airplane, he threatened the air marshals that he had a bomb in his bag. The air marshal, federal air marshal, told him to get down to the ground. He didn't do that.
According to our sources, he reached into his bag, the federal air marshal once again warned him to get his hand out of the bag. He did not do that and that is when the federal air marshal open fired and killed that passenger.
Once again, it happened in the jetway, we are told, that you're seeing right there, a D-42 at Miami International Airport. It did not happen on that airplane. We don't know if passengers were still on that plane or if all the passengers had gotten off when this confrontation had happened. We saw paramedics respond to the scene. We have not seen the body of that passenger that has been killed.
Apparently it happened in the skyway there, between the aircraft and the airport, as you see those live pictures. We know through our sources, he is a U.S. citizen, he is not from Colombia. He's 44- years-old. Apparently he was flying with his wife. Now we have no idea, anything -- we don't know anything else about his background, why he was coming from Medellin, Colombia and heading to Miami International Airport.
But this is going to wrap up our coverage here on behalf of our team here on LIVE FROM in Atlanta. We're going to toss it off now to Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM in Washington, D.C. He's going to continue our breaking news coverage of this fatal situation at Miami International Airport after a man had it out with federal air marshals there, and now this 44-year-old American is dead. Wolf?
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