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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Now, Urgent Manhunt Underway For Gunman After 18 Killed; U.S Conducts Airstrikes In Syria, Targeting Iranian Proxy Facilities; CNN's John Miller Weighs In On The Mass Shooting Incident In Maine; U.S. Strikes Two Facilities In Syria Targeting Iranian-Backed Militias Following Attacks On U.S. Forces. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired October 26, 2023 - 22:00   ET




ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Abby Phillip. Our breaking news coverage continues tonight of the urgent manhunt that is underway right now in the state of Maine for the suspect who is accused of killing at least 18 people at a bowling alley and at a restaurant.

As many of the victims injured fight for their lives tonight for the past three hours, the FBI has been outside of Robert Card, the suspect's home, shouting commands. The home has already been searched today, but apparently there was some activity that was noticed that prompted those teams to return and surround the place.

Now, at this very moment, it's still not clear if anyone was inside of that home or what the activity was aimed at. But what we do know is that the suspect is an Army reservist who knows survival techniques. We also know that his home is on hundreds of acres of land and woods.

Now, I'm about to speak live with the Lewiston mayor on everything that has transpired right now for his community. But, first, I want to get straight to the ground with CNN's Brian Todd, who is outside of Robert Card's home in Bowdoin, Maine.

Brian, quite a few last few hours of activity and you were there for so much of it. They were surrounding this home tonight with armored vehicles and drones on the scene. Walk us through what's happening right now and what led us to this point.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Abby. Well, we can tell you that as of now, all the law enforcement assets that were here have been extracted. A law enforcement officer came up to us a short time ago and said this is no longer a scene.

But we can tell you, as you've been explaining over the last couple of minutes, it really was a scene for the last three hours, starting at about 7:00 P.M. Eastern time when law enforcement assets just flooded the zone here and surrounded Robert Card's home behind me, about 250 yards behind me, with a lot of tactical vehicles, armored vehicles, personnel, air assets like drones and other things. They had a K-9 team here. They surrounded the house. At that point, they came up to our cameras here at this position and said, you've got to cut your camera lights off because the camera lights are creating a danger for law enforcement. So, at that point, we, of course, cut our lights off and we filmed for the next two and a half hours in complete darkness. But we did get a pretty good view of everything that was going on.

At one point, after we had turned our lights off and they surrounded the house, they moved a tactical vehicle pretty close to the house. Then they moved a spotlight onto the house. At that point, they began kind of a one-way dialogue. And we were told later on that it was unknown if the suspect was in the house or not.

But they began a one-way dialogue. A law enforcement officer on a loudspeaker was saying things like, come out with your hands up. We don't want anyone else to get hurt. Please come out and follow our instructions. Walk to the front of the truck, indicating there was some kind of a truck in the driveway. And he even spoke on a personal level, saying we know this could be intimidating to you. We really just don't want anyone to get hurt. So, please come out and talk to us.

That was a one-way dialogue. There was no indication that there was anyone on the other end conversing with them. But they did move around a lot. They positioned, again, their drones, their spotlights, all around the house, seemingly looking for something.

We did get the impression when there was that dialogue going on, Abby, that this was possibly a standoff. It turns out it very likely was not a standoff. And, again, they've extracted from here. It is the second time they showed up today because a couple of hours before they came in with this latest influx, they had other law enforcement personnel here who kind of approached the house using flash bangs and calling out, FBI, come out.

So, they did that and then processed the scene there and then left and came back and kind of did what I just described. So, kind of a dramatic night out here, and what they got out of it, we don't know. We don't know if they got some information. Maybe they got some kind of indication that he was not there or something else. But it was a pretty tense couple of hours.

PHILLIP: It very much sounds like it. Brian Todd, I want you to stay with us. We'll stay close with you as this night goes on. But now I want to bring in CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director.

Andrew, I want to just play for you and for our audience, actually just what Brian was just talking about, some of the audio of what was happening outside of that home today.


Now, Andy, I want to break this down a little bit. Let's start with just what we heard there. Some of this, I imagine, is boilerplate, but what caught my ear was hearing Brian say they were kind of -- it kind of got more personal. This might be intimidating. Please come out. How do you interpret that as a law enforcement officer?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: So, there's been a bit of a shift in tactics, what we call entry tactics in law enforcement in the last few years. Back when I was on the SWAT team in New York, things were much more -- we were much more inclined to use what we call dynamic entries. Those are flash bangs, you rush in quickly, you try to overwhelm the occupants of the space and take everybody into custody quickly. Now, they try to mitigate as much risk as possible.

So, what you'll see, what we saw here tonight, what you often see outside of residences where they're trying to arrest someone who is thought to be armed and dangerous, a large team will pull up, armored vehicles, loudspeakers, and they call people out of the residence.

There's no rush. If you don't believe there's any hostages inside, there's no people whose lives are at risk, you have the luxury of time. And that's what we saw tonight in this second approach by the FBI of this residence.

PHILLIP: And with that time, what are they doing? Are they looking into the home? Are they trying to see signs of movement? We also have some reporting suggesting that perhaps they had other means to believe that perhaps something was in that home.

MCCABE: There had to have been some intelligence that brought them back to this home. That's the one thing that really doesn't add up for me right now. It's odd to have had them at the home an hour or two before executing some sort of a dynamic entry and then to come back later and do it much more slowly.

But, nevertheless, on the second run, while they were calling him out, you saw some very aggressive use of spotlights lighting up the residence, clearly trying to like take a look into windows, using drones to facilitate that look in windows and entry and potential entry points.

PHILLIP: Do you believe they entered or they would have had to?

MCCABE: It was not clear. We couldn't see from the footage an actual entry. However, they were certainly there long enough to do it. After the calling out, portion ceased, the lights turned down, they went back to a cover of darkness and there was a prolonged period where they could have entered the residence.

PHILLIP: All right. Andy, can you just stand by for us as this continues?

I want to now go to the mayor of Lewiston, Carl Sheline. Mayor, thank you so much for being with us tonight. Your community, I know, is an extraordinary amount of pain because of what has transpired. I think a lot of people in Lewiston and probably in the surrounding communities really want to understand what's going on here. Is there anything that you can tell us about why police ended up back at the suspect's home tonight? And is there a remaining risk for the community in that area? MAYOR CARL L. SHELINE, LEWISTON, MAINE: Thank you. No, I cannot answer that question. I would need to refer you to Maine State Police for that. I cannot comment on the investigation.

Here in Lewiston, there is still a shelter-in-place order in effect and I urge residents to stay inside.

PHILLIP: And is that shelter-in-place order because there is perhaps a belief that there is a risk that remains right now to the Lewiston community?

SHELINE: The police have this order in effect. Yes, just to cover all bases and keep the residents safe. And it is certainly best to stay home at this time.

PHILLIP: So, we are also learning that there have been search warrants executed at a number of residences in the area. Do you have any sense of whether those are precautionary or are police following up on specific tips?

SHELINE: Once again, I cannot answer that question. I would have to refer you to the police.

PHILLIP: Do you -- I want to turn now just to the victims here because there are many of them, many of them still hospitalized and, of course, the families of those who were lost. Do you personally know any of the victims who were affected by this? This is such a small community that you are the mayor of.

SHELINE: Yes. You know, the senseless tragedy last night has really affected our community and certainly my heart goes out to the victims and their families. Not all -- I don't believe any names have been released, some family members that certainly disclosed some victims who were their friends or family.


It does not appear that I know any of them at this time.

But, once again, the names have not been released, and so, yes, I can't know for sure.

PHILLIP: And have all the family members been notified by this hour?

SHELINE: I would like to think so but that would be a question for Maine State Police.

PHILLIP: And just so that we understand where things stand right now, we -- the last we've been told is that there have been 18 killed. Do you know the number that are injured and who are still hospitalized tonight?

SHELINE: I believe that, yes, 18 were killed and 13 were injured. A number of those are still in the hospital. I know that some were able to be -- you know, they were treated and then released. But it is unclear at this time exactly how many are in the hospital. PHILLIP: How are your hospitals doing right now? Do they have the resources that they need to deal with this kind of mass casualty event?

SHELINE: Absolutely. We have two wonderful hospitals in town, Central Maine Medical Center and St. Mary's Medical Center. And I was speaking with the president of Central Maine Medical Center earlier this evening. And they have done a wonderful job to sort of rise to the occasion, treat the wounded and, you know, and help ensure a great outcome.

PHILLIP: Earlier today, the Auburn City councilor, Leroy Walker, I don't know if you know him personally or not. But he said, sadly, he learned that his son was one of the victims and he said it took 14 hours to find out that his son, Joey Walker, had been killed. Do you have any sense of why it took so long for that family to learn about the loss of their son and the other families as well? Why did this process take so long to identify these victims?

SHELINE: Yes. I cannot speak to the specifics of the case, but I do know that in a large crime scene, it can take some time to understand everything, gather all the evidence, determine identity of victims. And, yes, it can -- just the nature of what happened, it can take some time, and it is certainly unfortunate.

But I know --

PHILLIP: Go ahead.

SHELINE: I was just going to say that I know that the Maine State Police and the Lewiston Police Department were certainly working extremely hard to not only investigate this crime but get word out to families as quickly as possible.

PHILLIP: There was a timeline that was put out earlier by officials. There was a lot of information provided there about the sequence of events at the two crime scenes. But one thing that was not included was the response time by police. Do you have any more information about how quickly police were able to get to the scene of either of these shootings?

SHELINE: I do not have exact specifics, but I do understand that the police were on the scene extremely fast, almost immediately.

PHILLIP: All right. Mayor Carl Sheline, thank you very much again for joining us. And, again, our hearts go out to you and your entire community as you deal with this heart-breaking tragedy. Thanks so much.

SHELINE: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And there is more breaking news tonight. The Pentagon now says that the U.S. is conducting airstrikes in Syria, targeting Iranian proxy facilities.

I want to go straight to the Pentagon where Oren Liebermann is standing by for us. Oren, what can you tell us about this operation?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Abby. We just got a statement from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in which he says the U.S. carried out strikes targeting two facilities used by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and affiliated groups. So, those would be Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria.

And this follows a series of attacks on U.S. forces that we've seen in Syria and Iraq over the course of the last nine or ten days. In fact, according to the Pentagon, there were at least a dozen attacks in Iraq and four attacks in Syria.

Following those attacks on U.S. forces, in which 21 U.S. service members suffered minor injuries and one U.S. contractor was killed as a result of a false alarm there, the U.S. carried out these strikes targeting the two facilities in Eastern Syria, again, used by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to the United States, and by these affiliated groups or militias that the U.S. has blamed for carrying out these attacks.

Now, it's interesting how Austin described these strikes. He said they were self-defense in nature, but he also described them as narrowly tailored strikes in self-defense intended solely to protect and defend U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria.

So, it's clear here by Austin's wording that the U.S. trying to make sure that given all the tension in the region, given all the anti- Israel and anti-U.S. sentiment that we've seen in protests across the region, the U.S. doing what it can here to make sure that this response, this retaliation for the attacks on U.S. forces doesn't spread beyond this and that it doesn't spiral into something bigger in Iraq and Syria, an ongoing back-and-forth between the U.S. and these Iranian-backed militias in Syria.


And that comes clearly across in this statement from Austin.

Austin also says that Iran has tried to hide from its responsibility, even as the U.S. has called out Iran for backing these groups. I'll read a short part of the statement here. He says, quote, Iran wants to hide its hand and deny its role in these attacks against our forces. We will not let them. And then he warns that if these attacks continue, the U.S. will further respond and take additional measures.

We have seen a warning from the Pentagon and from U.S. officials that they were expecting escalation in other parts of the region because of the ongoing conflict in Gaza and Iranian-backed groups that might look to take advantage of the situation. As a result of that, the U.S. has moved to started deploying troops, 900 already there or on their way in and additional air defenses, a FAD (ph) battery and Patriot systems to try to shore up air defenses in the region.

This is what they were worried about, an escalation. The U.S., however, feeling the need to respond, President Joe Biden said, or hinted strongly that a response would be coming, as has the Pentagon. This year is that response. Again, the U.S. striking two facilities used by Iran's IRGC and affiliated groups, but Abby, a clear desire here to make sure it doesn't escalate beyond this and doesn't continue.

PHILLIP: Yes. There's clearly, though, sending a warning sign to Iran and these Iranian-backed groups to back off, basically.

Today, Oren, the Pentagon did announce those 900 troops deploying to the region with more potentially coming. Does that mean that the likelihood with all those troops now, more of them in the region, the likelihood of these kinds of clashes that could potentially endanger these troops increases?

LIEBERMANN: I wouldn't necessarily say the likelihood increases, but I would say the Pentagon is very much aware of the possibility of escalation. And that's why you've seen not only these troops but also the additional air defenses. The U.S. already tried to send a message to keep these Iranian-affiliated groups out of the picture when it sent in two U.S. carrier strike groups, the Gerald R. Ford and the Dwight D. Eisenhower to the Eastern Med. And then there's also the Baton Amphibious Ready group.

So, the U.S. very aware of how easily this could spiral, especially given all the tension and all the focus on the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, aware of all the sensitivities around that, the public sentiment in many of the Arab nations around the region. And that's why they're trying to essentially deter any other actors from getting involved.

They have clearly called out Hezbollah in Lebanon multiple times as well as sending pretty much a stark warning to some of these groups in Iraq and Syria that might try to get involved or try to target U.S. forces. So, that's the purpose there to try to prevent that from happening. But because of the links there and because of the tension throughout the region, the U.S. very well aware that perhaps it can't keep this solely confined to Gaza.

It is worth noting that in Austin's statement, he says that the U.S. response is not linked in any way to the fighting in Gaza, trying to keep the back and forth between the U.S. and these Iranian-backed groups in Iraq and Syria as a separate entity or a separate situation from what's going on in Israel and Gaza. Abby?

PHILLIP: That's an interesting note there, Oren.

Oren, please stay close for us. We're going to speak with a general in just a moment about all that you just laid out there. But also, we're following a number of stories tonight, breaking news on the latest on that manhunt in Maine that is currently unfolding. John Berman is there for us live. We'll speak to him next.

Plus, CNN is investigating the suspect's past and the possible motives that investigators are now studying and considering.

This is CNN's special live coverage.



PHILLIP: We are following two major breaking news stories tonight, the U.S. conducting airstrikes in Syria against Iranian proxies facilities. That comes after attacks against U.S. interests and bases in the region. We will speak with generals in just a moment about all of that. Plus, we are back to the urgent manhunt that is underway right now in the state of Maine. Police are surrounding the home of the suspected shooter who killed 18 people in Lewiston just over 24 hours ago. But it remains unclear where this suspect is as communities near Lewiston and in Lewiston remain sheltering in place tonight and overnight.

Joining me now is CNN Anchor John Berman, who is on the ground for us in Lewiston. John, what is the situation right now where you are? Residents being told don't leave your homes, don't let your guard down, this manhunt continues.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. I'm in Lewiston, not far from Shemegees Bar, which was the second location where the suspect, Robert Card, allegedly opened fire killing a total of 18 people. And here in Lewiston, population 40,000, there is a shelter-in-place order still under effect. People have been told very directly secure your homes, also secure your car. There's very much of a concern that perhaps this suspect would try to approach someone's vehicle armed, take the car and then use that car to flee. So, secure your home, secure your car.

And it's not just here in Lewiston. It's really parts of two pretty big counties where there are shelter-in-place orders. We did the count. It amounts to more than 100,000 people who are being told to stay home. And all over the state, there are people taking precautions. There are banks and 39 branches of T.D. Bank were shut today. L.L. Bean, the main headquarters in Freeport, which is about 15 miles toward the coast, that was shut today. L.L. Beans open on Christmas Day. So, for them to shut for one, maybe two days, it tells you just how much concern there is.

And, Abby, you know I was ten years ago I was in Boston during the Boston Marathon bombing investigation, when there was that shelter-in- place order in the city, and part of it feels similar to here in that the streets are empty, stores are closed.


I mean, you can't get coffee anywhere. Everywhere is shut down.

The difference here from Boston, in Boston, you would see motorcades of police vehicles driving by at all hours, at all times. There was visible law enforcement activity all the time everywhere. Today, it's been localized intense activity, I would say.

Here in Lewiston where the shootings actually took place, we haven't seen that much police activity in terms of searches. We have seen crime scene. The crime scene, one of the crime scenes is right behind me, we've seen a lot of activity at different crime scenes, but not so much in the search category.

What you saw in Bowdoin, Maine, which is about 15 minutes from here, that's where a lot of the searching has taken place. Also in Lisbon, Lisbon, which is about 15 miles from here as well, Lisbon is where they found the suspect, Robert Card's car, at a boat launch. And there were a great number of searches around that area.

That's where they were actually basing some of their search operations for most of the day and they were doing it on the ground, which we saw in the location in Bowdoin, Maine, but also from the air helicopters and air surveillance and on the water as well, Abby, because there has been a concern that perhaps this man, Robert Card, used the various waterways, the rivers, the Androscoggin River, which flows here, the Kennebec River, which is north of here. Maybe he got away on the river or the ocean is only about 15 miles to the east of here as well, all kinds of ports and inlets almost everywhere you look.

So, the search operation is really pretty sprawling now and a lot of people on edge just waiting, hoping that they can safely leave their houses soon.

PHILLIP: And the time continues to tick on, which it seems makes the search more complex as it goes along.

John Berman, thanks for all of that. Stand by for us as well as we come back to you as the night goes on.

We also have some new reporting tonight though on the suspect's past. I want to bring in CNN Anchor and Chief Investigative Correspondent Pamela Brown.

Pamela, you and our investigative team have been really digging into this because it's giving us some clues about how we might have gotten here. He has a military background. He's known to be a very skilled shooter, also has some mental health issues. What do we know?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And these clues are also telling me maybe why it's so hard to track him down because of all the military training he had. We know he enlisted in 2002 into the Army Reserve. A former colleague of his said that he was a skilled marksman, that he was actually one of the best shooters in his Army Reserve unit, and that he was also an avid outdoorsman, one former colleague said that he would be very comfortable in the woods, that he was very outdoorsy.

We know from the pictures we've seen, he's out fishing, he has a boat. And so all of this put together paints a picture of someone who has skills from the military and knows how to operate in the outdoors.

And then you also have the mental health component here. We spoke to his sister-in-law, Kelly O'Neill (ph), who told us that he had showed no signs of mental health issues and that this was an acute mental health episode that he had over the summer where we know now, according to our sources, that he was hearing voices, that he had thoughts of wanting to harm his fellow soldiers and shooting up a base. He was admitted to a mental health clinic then and he was released after only a couple of weeks.

We also have learned through our law enforcement sources that he recently lost a job at a recycling plant. He also recently broke up with a long-term girlfriend who apparently frequented -- together, they frequented the two sites where these shootings occurred, Abby.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, that might prove to be incredibly critical information and acute mental health issue, but also somebody who has access to at least one weapon, perhaps more.

Maine does not have a red flag law, but it has a yellow flag law. Would any of that have come into play in a situation like this?

BROWN: Yes, that is the big question. Clearly, the yellow flag law, from our reporting, based on what we know, was not initiated here. And what that means is, because some people may have not heard about that, is, basically, it adds more layers, more steps the law enforcement has to take before weapons are taken away from someone.

They have to bring someone to a hospital to get a medical evaluation, spend hours filling out forms for weapons retrieval before this even makes it to a court. As you know, red flag laws, you can go to the court, you can say, my loved one has a crisis, mental health issues, and the court can present an order for those weapons to be taken away.

But in this case, we know that the suspect was able to leave that mental health clinic and go and get his legally-bought weapons that we know he has from sources, that he had a stash of weapons. He was an avid shooter, and he was able to use this assault-style rifle in these shootings. They're killing 18 people, and he's now still on the loose.

So, there're still a lot of questions as to the terms of being released from that mental health clinic, why he was. Clearly, it seems, as though they didn't believe he was an ongoing threat, and he was able to retrieve those weapons.


So, a lot of looming questions here tonight, Abby.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I mean, look, in this debate over Second Amendment Rights, there's also a question about whether time is of the essence in situations like this when people are perhaps a danger to themselves or others. Pamela, stand by for us. Thank you for all of that.

I want to bring in now CNN's Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst John Miller. John, we just heard what Pam told us about, you know, just the last few months perhaps a year of this shooter's life involved a breakup, perhaps this bar as a place that he had frequent with the past girlfriend, do we have any sense of why he might have chosen these targets?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, I think you're looking at a train that we have seen before in other active shooter situations. I don't want to minimize it by saying it's almost textbook, but it is. What you're seeing is a person who had lived a normal life in a normal

way for a long time. And then you see a series of stressors. You see the mental health crisis he comes into in the summer, where he's hearing voices. Another family member told "The Daily Beast" that he bought powerful hearing aids because he thought people were talking about him and when he wore those, he could hear people, you know, criticizing him.

So, there's a touch of paranoia, if you accept that story, working in there. Then you see the loss of a job. That's stressor number one, the mental health issues. Stressor number two, the loss of a job. Stressor number three, and a critical one, is the loss of a key relationship. The woman he was involved with leaves, and now he is without work, without a girlfriend, suffering from these other issues.

And you know, some people, when they suffer from anxiety, paranoia, depression, can internalize. They might seek help, or they might take their own lives. Others will externalize. I think that's what we're looking at here.

And as Pamela said, they're going to have to look backwards and say, what was the determination they made based on that let him leave the hospital that didn't show other people that he was heading for trouble, especially people who knew he had weapons?

But you know, this is a thing. Looking back, all those things are very clear. The signs that people can report that they would move forward to authorities with, have to be the kinds of things that were knowable to them at the time. A lot of this was going on inside him.

PHILLIP: There's so much more that we need to learn about what went on here, in addition to the fact that this suspect is still on the loose and there's an ongoing manhunt. John Miller, thank you very much for all of that.

And we have a lot more coming on our breaking news from the Pentagon. The U.S. has struck Iranian proxies in Syria in retaliation for attacks against U.S. troops in the region. Stand by for more on that.




PHILLIP: And back now with more on the breaking news. The United States striking two facilities in Syria targeting Iranian-backed militias following attacks on U.S. forces. I want to bring in now our CNN Military Analyst, retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton, and also retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.

Colonel Layton, first of all, these strikes do come after what we saw were a series of attacks on U.S. interests in the region that seemed very much coordinated. What message is the United States sending here?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, RETIRED COLONEL, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, basically, Abby, the message is don't do this. Don't attack us. There were 12 attacks against bases in Iraq and four attacks, I believe, in Syria. So, these kinds of attacks are ones that put U.S. personnel at risk.

And ironically, they are bases that have been used to fight ISIS, which is also in Iran's interest to fight ISIS. They were, in essence, quasi-allies with us in a very odd way against ISIS.

And this is something that, you know, they should not be doing to us at this particular point. But of course, they have a larger mission in mind on the Iranian side. They're supporting Hamas. And yes, these attacks were most certainly coordinated.

PHILLIP: And General Hertling, we've been talking to you on this show for weeks now about the risk of escalation in the region. The United States is walking a real tightrope here in how it responds to Iranian provocation, but how it's trying to not actually escalate this crisis. How do you think they are striking that balance right now?

MARK HERTLING, RETIRED LIEUTENANT GENERAL, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, first of all, Abby, you have to understand that the President has given the Ayatollah a warning to stop these attacks. As Cedric said, It's against the Al-Tanf Air Base in Syria and against both Erbil and Al-Assad Air Base in Iraq. Those are three places, truthfully, that have been struck multiple times by Iranian missiles and attempted Iranian proxy attacks.

But they've been somewhat ad hoc. But within the last couple of days, since the 17th of October, the Iranian forces have those attacks, as Cedric just said, have increased in not only missile attacks, rocket attacks, but also drone attacks. They have been warned several times by both the President and the Secretary of Defense that we have the right to defend our military personnel in bases overseas.

Secretary Austin also put out a message tonight after the President gave the same message to the Ayatollah, saying this is not an extension of the war in Gaza. This is us protecting our personnel.

And he has warned the Iranians several times that they knew, the United States knows through their intelligence sources, that Iranian proxies were behind these attacks. So, it was a warning. It was finally executed in terms of an attack against those Iranian proxy elements, the PMF.


And I think there's continuous attempts to say this is not part of the Israeli mission in Israel, but it is us defending our soldiers who are stationed in bases in the region. All right, gentlemen, stand by for us. We are getting a pretty forceful statement from the Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin. We'll hear from him right after this.


PHILLIP: Back now with more on the breaking news. The U.S. striking two facilities in Syria targeting Iranian-backed militias following attacks on U.S. forces. Now, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issuing a strongly worded statement tonight directed at Iran. He says, Iran wants to hide its hand and deny its role in these attacks against our forces. We will not let them.


I want to bring in now back to the show, General Mark Hertling, who is here with us. Lloyd Austin also saying these are targeted and in self- defense. What's your reaction to the way that he directed this at Iran, but tried to say it's limited in its scope?

Well, Abby, first you have to know that there are 900 U.S. military personnel at the Al-Tanf Base that was attempted to be struck and was struck by these Iranian proxies.

The second thing you need to know is there is great intelligence. We have been watching these proxies with various means, various intelligence means. That's the way the U.S. military works. So, when Secretary Austin, who has fought in this area before, in fact, he was my boss in Iraq, says that, hey, we know they're hiding their hand, we know they're hiding their hand.

We know there's intelligence behind them giving orders to Iranian proxies, the so-called popular mobilization front, saying, strike the Americans. And because there have been so many strikes in the last few days, these are not the typical random strikes by these paramilitary groups.

This is a planned attempt at intimidating the U.S. And what the Secretary is saying is, we're not going to allow you to do that. And we know that Iran is trying to expand this conflict to take the attention away from what Israel's doing in Gaza.

PHILLIP: Yeah. General Mark Hertling, grateful to have you here on all of that, thank you. And we're staying all over this, plus more on the manhunt that is underway for the mass killer in Maine. I'll speak with a friend and a co-worker of one of the victims tonight.




PHILLIP: As a manhunt unfolds tonight for the shooter in Maine, we are remembering the 18 victims. One of them was Trisha Asselin. She and her sister were both at the bowling alley. Trisha actually worked there, but last night she was just there having fun on a normal night, and her sister told Jake Tapper what happened when the shooting started.


BOBBI NICHOLS, SISTER OF TRISHA ASSELIN: We heard a loud noise and I wasn't sure what it was till I heard another shot and I knew and I seen -- that -- I couldn't see her and everybody was running and I got caught in people trampling and running out. I didn't know she was hurt. Until like two hours later somebody came out and said that she called 911 and when she called 911 to save everybody she lost her life because of it.


PHILLIP: And instead of running away, she went to call 911. Joining me now is Trisha's friend, Sarah Prew. Sarah, I'm so, so sorry about the loss of your friend. How are you holding up tonight? How's your community holding up tonight?

SARAH PROULX, CLOSE FRIEND AND CO-WORKER OF TRISHA ASSELIN, SHOOTING VICTIM: I am without words, I'm pretty speechless. I'm feeling really helpless in a way. We're in lockdown. Everyone's trying to process this information. Our -- my community is that community that you're showing on TV right now, those pictures, those were the Apple Valley.

We were one big family there. And every one of them, I've been reading on the social media and reaching out to people, everyone has been really affected and they're really devastated. Many of those people in the picture were in the boat, bowling alley that night with her.

PHILLIP: I cannot even imagine that for you and for all of them. When you hear Trisha's sister giving that account of the two of them just trying to survive on a night that was supposed to be about fun, she tried to call 911 to get help for everyone. What goes through your mind when you hear that?

PROULX: I am not surprised. She is the hero. She is the hero. She wants to take care of everyone. she wants, she would put herself in front for anyone. She would -- I am a hundred percent like, it's exactly who she is. It's an exact correct account and it encompasses her characteristic perfectly.

Although it's, you know, there's a lot of winds and every, you know, there's a lot of people that did make it out, but it doesn't come without the tragedy of one of our sisters, one of our co-workers, one of someone that we love so much.

PHILLIP: You shared with us that recently, Tricia had commented on a Facebook note on your page after you'd had an operation asking her, you know, she was saying, call me, I want to hear how you're doing. You thought you'd have a chance to talk to her soon. And now --

PROULX: Yeah, to bring that into perspective, that was yesterday. That was yesterday morning, I had my surgery. It was my seventh surgery. And she was a driving force behind a fundraiser to help me get through this.


I've been going through quite a recovery from a snowmobile accident and my fifth surgery, I was getting my new hip and she knew what financial trouble I was in. And she put together a whole fundraiser for me, tricked, you know, I'm not one easily tricked, but she set it all up. And I was there and she really pulled it off at the end of the day.

She presented me with all the -- with the, you know, cash money and everything like that. And it was just it was hard. It was just so heartfelt. And that's who she is. And then, so yesterday, when I saw that on my phone, I was still in recovery. I put my phone down and I said, I'll get back to her. And. Obviously I can't now. I can't.

PHILLIP: Well, what a profound loss for all of us that Tricia is no longer with us. And I'm so sorry, Sarah, for the loss of your friend. Thank you for sharing a little bit about her with us. Thank you for joining us tonight.

PROULX: You're welcome. Thank you.

PHILLIP: And we'll be back in just a moment.