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Kyle Rittenhouse Found Not Guilty On All Charges By Jury; Analysts Examine How Make-Up Of Jury Can Affect Trial Verdicts; Gun Discharges At Security Check Point At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Causing Ground Stop Of Flights And Passengers; Atlanta Airport Reports Gun Discharge Accidental And No Active Shooter Situation Exists. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired November 20, 2021 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN HUBER, FATHER OF ANTHONY HUBER: And there's no closure. And there wasn't going to be justice in that Kenosha court with that judge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is in Kenosha, Wisconsin for us. Shimon, some pretty strong words there, understandably, from Anthony Huber's father. We're also hearing from Kyle Rittenhouse for the first time since the verdict. And what more is he saying?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, cameras were following him throughout this trial and apparently with him throughout each day of this trial and as they prepared for this trial. Obviously feeling a lot of relief. You see him happy in this video, feeling relieved, saying that he believes that self-defense was right here and that the jury followed the law. Here is more of what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KYLE RITTENHOUSE, ACQUITTED IN KENOSHA SHOOTINGS TRIAL: The jury reached the correct verdict. Self-defense is not illegal, and I believe they came to the correct verdict. And I'm glad that everything went well. And it's been a rough journey, but we made it through it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PROKUPECZ: We also spoke to the great aunt of one of the victims here, Anthony Huber, one of the people shot by Kyle Rittenhouse. She was in court almost every day. She, of course, is worried. She's worried that he's going to become some kind of a folk hero in all of this. And she said that if she were to talk to him, she would warn him not to become a political pawn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUSAN HUGHES, GREAT AUNT OF ANTHONY HUBER: He wanted to have an adult gun, be in an adult situation. He's going to have to man-up real quickly and learn to say no, and say, I'm in charge of my own person. I'm going to say no to these people that are going to use me as a pawn.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PROKUPECZ: It's also the same message that his attorney, Mark Richmond, had here after he spoke. He had the same concern for Kyle Rittenhouse. Also interestingly enough, with the cameras following them around, Kyle Rittenhouse, the attorney said that he didn't always agree with them. In fact, at one point he told them to leave the room. They did not want the cameras all around them. They basically said they had to do it because of the people who were funding his defense.
WHITFIELD: Shimon Prokupecz, thank you so much.
Still lots to talk about here. Joining us right now is CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson, also attorney and jury consultant Alan Tuerkheimer. Good to see both of you.
I wonder on that note of the embed crew, Joey, you first. Is there any potential, I guess, legal ramification that comes in an embed crew? I only ask that because I wonder about the whole sanctity of the process, and if there were parameters for the defense team allowing a crew to be embed, or if that's just an independent decision.
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Fredricka, good to be with you. So it's an independent decision. The defense attorneys are about preparing the case for trial, and with respect to that, there are obviously confidences that attach to conversations that they have with their client, which are ongoing. But the ultimate goal and objective here from the defense perspective was to really pronounce a narrative that would resonate.
The other issues and the sideshows that go along with it and whether he'll be a political pawn or not, and the causes and what have you, that's just a separate, independent, and outside type of thing that attaches to this.
The bottom line here is they had a job to do, which was to prepare their case. The prosecution's narrative, obviously, Fredricka, being far different from theirs. But with respect to the legal issues, no. The reality is that as long as you're in court you preserve and otherwise do the job that you're prepared and really want to do, that's as far as it goes.
WHITFIELD: Alan, I wonder, what is your point of view on the fact that there was this embed crew? Does it speak to perhaps the confidence level that Rittenhouse and his defense team had in reaching a decision that was favorable to them?
ALAN TUERKHEIMER, JURY CONSULTANT: I think they just wanted to cover all their bases and do everything possible and turn over every stone, not leave anything to change. So you heard Mark Richards yesterday said he even did a little exercise where they had Rittenhouse appear in front of a mock jury, and one group heard from him and the other didn't. And he did better, Rittenhouse did, with the group that heard from him. And so they decided to put him on the stand and personify him. And so I think everything they did leading up to it is what good trial
lawyers do. They don't leave anything to chance, and they try to take charge of the situation and put everything in place that's going to give them the best chance of, in this case, an acquittal.
WHITFIELD: And then Alan, let me ask you a little more about the preparedness, that really studying the jury, doing these mock trials. This is not something that every defense team can afford, but obviously it pays off for the team if they can do something like this. How unusual is it?
TUERKHEIMER: It's become more and more common. Certainly, people with means are at an advantage, just like they are hiring certain lawyers and having access to the legal system. There's different ways to do it. I don't know exactly what his methodology was with the mock jury exercise, but even just getting people in to evaluate Kyle Rittenhouse for a half-hour or a half-hour videotaped testimony and getting feedback will be of value.
And, again, I don't know exactly what his methodology was, but it's so invaluable to get feedback on a defendant and try to inform whether or not the defendant should testify. And it's key to get feedback from people who approximate the actual jurors.
So it's one thing if you're going to ask somebody in your office or a relative to give feedback when they know that you're representing Kyle Rittenhouse. You really want people who can truly be objective, people from Kenosha County that don't know anything or just know very little about the case so they can give you a far and objective assessment.
WHITFIELD: And then Joey, Wisconsin has a favorable, pro-gun law, or a variety of pro-gun laws, and the jury was made up of people from Kenosha. But given what you saw, do you think this verdict could have been different had the case been tried elsewhere, if there were a change of venue?
JACKSON: It's so important, that question, because, really, it's about who you're speaking to. It's about the target audience. And we know that that target audience is different in different jurisdictions. There are some jurisdictions, to your question, that have favorable gun laws. There are other jurisdictions that don't. There's some jurisdictions that have the death penalty. There are others that don't.
What am I speaking to? I'm speaking to the values and really the cultures of different states and different communities. And so it's not only in that particular state where you can have a jurisdiction, perhaps, that's more liberal or conservative than another, but it's in states throughout really the country. And so of course, in the event that you select a jury that's more favorable to a particular issue, they would potentially produce a more favorable outcome.
But this case really, Fredricka, briefly, was about the battling narratives, the prosecution attempting to paint Kyle Rittenhouse as an active shooter, a person who was indiscriminately going around exercising poor judgment, a person who shouldn't have been there in the first place, a person who came from another community, fancying himself a police officer or emergency medical technician.
The jury didn't buy that. They bought the narrative of the defense, who were constantly bringing up the notion of rioters, of a mob, of this combative and caustic environment where their client had no choice but to do what he did. And so in the final analysis, I think this case turned on the framing of the narratives and the defense's ability to paint their client and the immediately fear of death and serious injury, their ability to paint, the defense's ability, that is, to paint their client as a person who acted reasonably and responsibly.
And that's what resonated with this specific jury. But in the final analysis, absolutely, depending upon who is sitting in those chairs, those 12 people, has a real effect on how they visualize the case, interpret the facts, and render a decision.
WHITFIELD: All right, gentlemen, we'll have to leave it there for now. Joey Jackson, Alan Tuerkheimer, thank you so much. We've got some breaking news we now need to attend to, but appreciate your input.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.
WHITFIELD: And now this breaking news. Evacuations are happening right now Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. There are reports that a gun was accidently fired inside. The airport just tweeted, quote, "There is not an active shooter. There was an accidental discharge at the airport. There is no danger to passengers or employees. An investigation is ongoing. More information will be published on this channel." That coming from the folks at the Atlanta airport.
Joining me right now, CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem, as well as CNN law enforcement analyst Charles Ramsey. And then I think, do we have a third person here? Do we have an aviation analyst Mary Schiavo? OK, gang is all here.
Thank you so much to all of you. I wonder, Juliette, you can tackle this first, so evacuations are taking place, even though we hear from that statement it was an accidental discharge. Does that kind of information make a real correlation, accidental discharge, yet an evacuation?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, basically at this stage you're going to want an evacuation at any sign or hint of a gun -- of the use of a gun. At the moment that it goes off, no one knows what the motive is or what the reason is. These evacuations will stop.
This is a huge airport, so there's going to be lots of rumors, as we've been holding off for a little bit before coming on air. And those evacuations will now end and people will come back in. This is a good news story. We rarely get them.
[14:10:00] The accidental discharge, finally, we don't know if that's a law enforcement member or someone who was authorized to bring a gun to the airport. You are allowed to travel with guns, but not guns with bullets. So we'll see what that's about. But this is exactly the way you want the protocol to work.
WHITFIELD: And then Chief Ramsey, I understand now the FAA has called for a ground stop, so nothing is happening in terms of movement at that airport while they're investigating, no planes coming in, no planes going out. So in your view, is this about customary where you have an accidental discharge and this is what would happen?
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, that would be protocol. First of all, you wouldn't know if it was accidental or intentional until you do some sort of investigation. My understanding is this happened at a security gate. It was not a police officer who discharged the firearm. It was a passenger, a civilian who apparently had a gun. I don't have any more information than that. But I was able to reach out and get a little bit more information.
But when something like that occurs in an airport, and it's unfortunate that we live in a world now where, whether it's an airport, a store, or wherever it is, people are going to react to it. And they've got protocols in place, and they should have protocols in place. Once they get this where they actually have all the information they need, then things will start to resume, I think, pretty quickly.
WHITFIELD: And we're still trying to confirm images, but out there in social media already are images of people in that security checkpoint area who hear the gunfire and who all hit the ground, lots of people scrambling. Mary, this is at a time of what a spike in travel, particularly after the pandemic.
We're still in the middle of a pandemic, but especially after last year, people staying put, and now people, vaccinated and otherwise, feeling more freely to travel. Airports are crowded, and then you have a moment like this.
MARY SCHIAVO, FORMER INSPECTOR GENERAL, TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT: Well, yes, and of course airport authorities, the FAA, and of course the TSA and others are going to be looking from experience and history as well. We have had other situations in airports in the past where someone has discharged a gun at security, and then they proceeded to go through security and, in fact, behind security in the sterile areas of the airport. We had an attack in Los Angeles a number of years ago where it started outside of security at the check-in counters and then tried to proceed onwards.
And so the fact that it was not a law enforcement gun with an accidental discharge, it does sound like it was discovered at security. Not saying it was intentional by the passenger. Lots of people forget that they have a gun. But because in times past, a discharge at the security gate was a distraction or was the start of other events, that's why they had to take such precautions and why they have had a ground stop. And they probably will rescreen everyone, even if you're inside security, because it's a very dangerous situation.
WHITFIELD: That leads to my next question, because I was wondering, Chief Ramsey, and perhaps there isn't a standard procedure, it depends on every airport. But I wonder, when you talk about evacuation, are you talking about all the people who have yet to go through TSA screening that would be evacuated, or is it, to Mary's point, that perhaps even those who have been through screening who are now in all of the terminals about to board airplanes, even though it's a ground stop now, everyone will have to evacuate and get out of the airport proper?
RAMSEY: Well, Mary would certainly know better than I, but if that is the protocol, then that's exactly what would happen where they would rescreen. And if they rescreen, that means even people who have gone through screening before.
Now, if that is the case, then obviously there's going to be a long shutdown in Atlanta, and that being a major hub, that's going to affect flights around the country. So it remains to be seen just how far they're going to take it. But if that does occur, then we can look for airline delays across the country because Atlanta is a major hub.
WHITFIELD: Major hub, yes, oh, my gosh. What a mess we're talking about. And Juliette, again, we have not heard reportedly anyone being injured. That's some good news there. But talk to me now about perhaps the investigation of getting to the bottom of how this happened. The airport is filled with cameras from every which way, direction. In terms of the investigative end here, how are they trying to get to the bottom of what happened, who, or what might be responsible?
KAYYEM: They already know it's an accidental discharge. They were confident in saying that, so they likely have the person who accidently discharged and have some sense of what led up to an accidental discharge.
I want to make it clear for people who are not part of gun culture, lots of people travel with guns, as Mary was saying. So things like this do happen. But they are going to have to clear at least the gate area. The thing with Atlanta is you can separate different gate areas, so that's a good thing. So maybe they'll just do security in a certain and not the entire airport.
Remember, as Chief Ramsey was saying, this is an airport that doesn't only have people flying out, but flying in. So they're going to have to reopen -- people are sitting in airplanes right now waiting to get out of their airplanes. This is just the nature of systems that are tightly connected.
Any break, any fissure, any accidental shooting is going to have effects throughout the United States and globe at this stage. But they'll regroup relatively quickly. So people should still plan on traveling, and check your airlines at this stage and see what's going on in terms of your gate Atlanta. WHITFIELD: And so Chief Ramsey, in a case like this, TSA, Atlanta P.D.
can't possibly be equipped to be able to handle -- you're talking about the mass of people, ground stop, people who are now having to leave the gated areas, some people who won't have a place to go. Who and what entity would now assist in security just for the number of people who would amass here?
RAMSEY: Well, between TSA and Atlanta P.D., and I would imagine they tabletop this sort of thing on a regular basis or fairly regular basis to know who is responsible for doing what, to try to make this as quick as possible. But they're still, right now they're saying an accidental discharge, but that doesn't mean there still isn't an investigation that has to take place as to why it happened, because these things just simply should not happen.
Now, it doesn't mean it's a threat to other people at all, but they still have to get to the bottom of it. But as far as airline operations go, I'm sure they tabletop this to try to minimize the amount of time that there is a disruption when you have something occur.
WHITFIELD: Mary, a major disruption here, as we said. Atlanta is a major hub, so you've got planes already in the air who, within minutes, were to land, and now there's a ground stop. Perhaps they've been diverted to other areas. Talk to me about the coordination -- we do see one plane taking off right there.
But unclear whether that's a taped image that could have happened just moments before the ground stop, or whether that's a live picture. Tell me if that's a live picture if we know in the control. OK, that is a live picture, so we see one plane taking off. But talk to me about the coordinated effort here of why some planes are going to continue to take off and why there's a ground stop for others.
SCHIAVO: The chief is exactly right. Atlanta, people criticize Atlanta, but Atlanta is a mighty good airport, and everyone has their assigned jobs. The airport security does one thing, TSA does another. The FAA is fully equipped to handle the ground stop and the reassessment and the diverting of flights.
For Atlanta, given that it appears, what they would have done is literally just put them in areas to circle and hold, stack and hold, and most likely bring them back so there would be a short schedule disruption, but hopefully not the ripple effect that Atlanta can cause.
And then also Juliette was right, Atlanta is the airport that you can sectionalize it off. So one area having a problem, Atlanta has table- topped lots of exercises, and they have different law enforcement authority, so most likely they were able to seal off just the one area, assess the situation.
It sounds like they did not have to take people out of that whole gate area or terminal area. So because it is Atlanta and they have practiced everything and they have so much law enforcement there, they'll probably why the airplanes have taken back to the air so quickly.
WHITFIELD: All right, Mary, our Nadia Romero is there at the airport for us, she's on the phone with us. And so Nadia, we do understand that Atlanta P.D. say no injuries. What more are you learning there?
NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, we are still inching our way towards the airport right now, because traffic, as you might imagine, is just a mess outside of the airport. I'm receiving pictures of people walking along the interstate, just trying to get out of the airport because everything is at a standstill.
And as you know, Fred, but for viewers who may not be aware, Atlanta is the busiest airport in the country and long since has been the busiest in the world up until recently. There's a train system within the airport, which is really the fastest, most convenient way to get from terminal to terminal. And coincidently, my in-laws were flying into town for Thanksgiving.
They landed around the same time as this shooting situation, which people had believed was an active shooter situation, but we're hearing from the Atlanta airport that it is not. An accidental discharge, as you mentioned. But people in the airport did not know that at the time, and that information is slowly trickling around to people as they get on their phones.
My in-laws told me, my father-in-law, that he was able to get off of the train. There was an overhead announcement, an emergency announcement, telling everyone they had to get off the train and to go up the escalator, to go upstairs.
And now people who were in the airport at the time of the shooting are in the holding situation where they are just hanging around, trying to get more information. As you might imagine, the airport staff doesn't want to alarm anyone, so they're really not giving them a lot of details.
Most of the passengers, people who have just landed or they're trying to connect to a different flight, are learning information piece by piece through social media and different news outlets because they say they're not getting much information from the airport at all.
So that's what I'm learning from people who are inside, my own family members who are in the airport right now, who are trying to figure out what's going on and how they can get out. There are concerns, because this is such a large airport, and this is such a busy travel season right now, Fredricka.
And we know that TSA says that they've had the busiest crowds they've had all pandemic long. So now you have all these people in the nation's busiest airport on standby, figuring out what to do next.
WHITFIELD: My goodness. And Nadia, you're getting your information from sourced -- credentialed sources right there at the airport, as well as your own family members. And so while your family members have made it off the train and gotten up the escalators, do they feel like they're like many of the other travelers there, they're kind of stuck at the airport? Or are they able to leave the airport, since they have successfully landed in Atlanta before now having to find a way, I guess, to get to your home?
ROMERO: Yes, Fred, they are not able to leave. They are not at the right concourse. They haven't been able to make their way to baggage claim. It's a very large airport, so you are trying to get to where you need to via the train, and that's not running right now. So everyone is just in a holding pattern at their gate, the gate not where they landed, but a different gate.
And at the moment, they are trying to get more information from airport employees, but unfortunately, they're being told that they can't go anywhere, that they're not allowed to leave their concourse area. And there are people who are noticeably very upset about what they're learning on social media, what they're hearing about the situation, and not being able to make their connecting flight.
So we have just arrived on the airport ground. I'm looking out the window here, and I can see a flight, it looks like a Delta flight just took off, so there has been some movement, at least from what I can see from my vantage point. Inside the airport, though, it sounds like everything right now is still at a standstill.
I do know people that are coming to the airport who are trying to reach their loved ones that they're supposed to pick up for the Thanksgiving holiday, and they're having a part time getting to the airport, getting around, because there's just so much confusion right now, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: My goodness. So Chief Ramsey back with us now. So this really is a security nightmare, even though we are hearing from officials at the Atlanta airport this was an accidental discharge, and that no one has been injured. But now you still have to coordinate all the people who are kind of stuck there, because even with Nadia's family members, nobody can really leave. So how do officials prioritize the needs here so that you don't have tempers flaring and you don't end up with now another big problem?
RAMSEY: Well, obviously, it's a challenge. There's no question about that, which is part of the tabletop exercises, I would imagine, is how to deal with the aftermath once something like this occurs. But, again, part of the problem here, and it was mentioned earlier, is around social media. I would imagine you've got a lot of information on social media, much of which is probably not very accurate.
So hopefully part of the plan that they have in place there in Atlanta, at the airport, authorities there, is to be able to put out good information, because people need to know what's going on. Because without that, that's what usually causes the anger, the panic, and everything else, people don't know. And they're starving for information. So social media is putting stuff out, that's what they're going to read. And if that's not accurate, then that's what they're going to believe. So that's got to be part of the plan. WHITFIELD: I see Mary, I see you gesturing, other people can't see
because they're looking at the live picture of the airport. But I saw you on our preset gesturing. So do you want to add to what Chief Ramsey is saying?
SCHIAVO: Yes, and you just performed a very important public service because I'm in and out of Atlanta airport practically every week, and CNN is playing on almost every TV in the airport. So everyone in the airport now knows, thanks to you, that it was an accidental discharge and things will be moving again soon. But kudos to CNN because you just made a massive broadcast throughout the Atlanta airport. So thank you.
WHITFIELD: OK, and then, Mary, we've got some new images that have just come in, and we can't confirm all the video, but this is what is being distributed by travelers about what they're experiencing inside. And do we know which terminal? We don't know which terminal, but I think -- and we still are approved to show these kinds of images that is being circulated about what people are experiencing? All right, let's try and get some of this confirmed first. But I understand that there is some video that is being circulated about what people are experiencing inside the airport there.
Again, we do understand that there was -- ah-ha, OK, once a discovery, I guess, was made about a weapon discharge, now we're seeing video of how people just simply scrambled. This is -- if anyone is familiar with the airport there at the TSA check-ins, you've got ropes of hundreds of people who are waiting to go through the TSA screening.
And apparently, after this discovery was made, this is how you see people essentially hitting paydirt, hitting the ground there. And this video is now being circulated out there. You can see people are having their human reactions there, Chief Ramsey, some people hitting the ground, some people climbing under the ropes. Obviously, a lot of confusion. But, again, we do understand now from authorities that it was an accidental discharge and no one has been reported injured. What are your thoughts as you see this, chief?
RAMSEY: Well, listen, if you hear a gunshot, in today's world, you're going to hit the deck, you're going to run, you're going to do whatever. That's just, unfortunately, the reality. That was an accidental discharge, but you never know. It could have been an active shooter. So people are going to react that way.
But once things settle down, I think the most important thing after that is trying to communicate and let people know exactly what's going on and what they should be doing, where they should go. Stay in place, do they need to leave, are they going to have to filter back in. Whatever it is, they just need to have information, because otherwise it's going to go from that initial panic and people reacting the way they did to frustration, anger.
And those are the people in the airport. You've still got a ton of people coming to the airport. And so it's going to be a bottleneck for a period of time. So people just need to take a deep breath and relax a little bit, because this isn't going to be easy to sort through, probably.
WHITFIELD: Right. And as someone who travels in and out of that airport a lot, what you're seeing now, you're seeing the floor and you're seeing a lot of those turnstiles and rows. Usually that is packed with people. So typically you don't get a chance to see the floor there. But you see those turned over turnstiles and columns, and people there in this video are on the ground. They've sought cover as best they could.
So especially ahead of this holiday, Juliette, the presumption is this was filled with people. You usually cannot see the tile on the floor because there are so many people just ahead of security at the Atlanta Hartsfield airport here. So talk to me about, what are the rules of carrying a weapon?
Earlier you talked about it. It may not be that unusual that people are traveling with, but that there was a discharge, we're still unclear about how that discharge happened. But talk to us about customarily the handling of weapons.
KAYYEM: Yes, so this is where the investigation is going to turn. And I am following online as well, lots of discussion about Georgia's permissive gun laws. Listen, this is a secure area from what we can see, and this is where -- this is called the cleared area. This is where TSA does have security control.
The rules generally, and this is why there's going to be an investigation, is you can transport unloaded firearms in what's called a locked, hard-sided container as checked baggage. So this is where people who want to transport guns, which is legitimate, are allowed to do so. You also have to declare it, the gun, and ammunition at time of check-in. So it's not unlike a piece of precious cargo, a pet or a piece of art that you need the airlines to know it is actually being checked.
So it is very rare to have a civilian have access. So we don't know -- this is where the investigation has to turn. But what we do know -- so that's important to know, or was there a breach in the security clearance that TSA didn't pick up. So that's important. This is the largest airport in the U.S.
This is a heavy, massively heavy travel weekend after a pandemic. We are all just beginning to travel again, many of us, many people taking their first flight for a very long time this weekend. And so that combination has led to this.
Like what Chief Ramsey said, the Atlanta airport got out quickly. Hopefully they're going to start to do some PSAs within the airport if they aren't already to tell passengers what is going on. People are driving in to pick up their family and friends this holiday weekend, essentially, and so there's just going to have to be massive communication. But once again, this is not a tragedy. It is a massive inconvenience, and in this day and age that is great news.
WHITFIELD: OK, and then this information coming from Atlanta P.D. in this tweet they just now sent out, saying "At approximately 1:30 p.m. today a weapon accidently discharged Atlanta security screening area. There is not an active shooter at the airport. APD" Atlanta Police Department, "is on the scene. More information about the situation will be made available on our social media channels."
So perhaps, Mary, that offers some comfort to people, that this was an accidental discharge, that no one was injured. But, of course, the answer of how it happened and whose weapon is it, still unclear.
SCHIAVO: Right, and people don't realize, unless you follow aviation law very carefully, that people accidently taking weapons to the airport and going through security. Now, they don't get through, but people accidently taking weapons in their bags that they intend to carry on, that happens a couple thousand times a year. So the fact this was an accidental discharge and why we have this happen literally hundreds of times a month across the country, we are lucky, as Juliette said.
And then the next thing people are going to ask for if their flights are disrupted and they aren't going to get out today is hotel rooms. This is a scheduled irregularity but not caused by the airline, and they're probably not going to want to hear that most likely if they can't get out tonight, they will not get hotel rooms because in most airline regulations, they don't have to provide them unless they caused the scheduled irregularity.
WHITFIELD: And it's also likely the case there may not be hotel rooms, also, because we are still in the middle of a pandemic, and so staffing isn't what it used to be at some of the hotels and establishments, even around the airport. So that is yet another big challenge.
So Chief Ramsey, cameras will be assisting, while APD is already able to say that, look, they're looking into this. They have the situation under control, it was accidental. Already there is access to the litany of cameras that are within that security checkpoint area. They're able to find out and get a good understanding about the discovery made, whose weapon was discharged, who was in that proximity. What are some of the tools that they have to get to the bottom of what happened and how?
RAMSEY: Well, there are cameras everywhere, so I'm sure that's how they were able to come up and say so quickly that it was an accidental discharge, because they probably reviewed footage to see exactly what took place. So they're confident that that's what took place.
But Juliette mentioned earlier, there's ways in which you can transport firearms. That is not one of the ways to transport firearms. This happened at a security gate, so obviously it was not part of checked luggage. There was some negligence on the part of the individual. Guns just don't go off. Something had to have made that happen. But having said that, they'll deal with it now as part of the
investigation that is taking place. But you're right, there are cameras everywhere, so the video footage is going to be key, plus the personnel that were staffing that gate at the time, whatever information they have, they'll be taking statements from them and maybe some others that were standing there waiting to be screened. So, yes, there's still a lot of work that has to be done.
WHITFIELD: Interesting. Hey, ladies and gentlemen, I have an interesting guest with us now, who is Greg Romero, who happens to be the father-in-law of our correspondent Nadia Romero. Remember just moments ago Nadia was talking about her in-laws coming into town at the airport, making their way through?
Well, Greg Romero is on the line with me right now. So Mr. Romero, you're our Nadia Romero's father-in-law. I wonder if you can tell me about your experience. Where are you in the airport, and what have you experienced?
GREG ROMERO, TRAVELING THROUGH ATLANTA AIRPORT: Well, we had just gotten off of our flight, and we were headed toward Concourse T, and we heard there was an emergency happening.
So from Concourse T, we were trying to get there. They shut off all the escalators and cut off all passengers and turned off the trams. Right now we're being told that you can get to -- if you have no luggage to pick up, you can walk to Concourse F, which is 30 minutes away, and that you can exit the airport that way.
Otherwise, we're still on hold. Right now, I think the airport personnel is doing a really good job keeping everyone calm. There's not a whole lot of word. A lot of people are sitting on the floors. It's hot and stuffy down here, but it will be OK. We just have to be patient.
WHITFIELD: Mr. Romero, you sound very calm because you've got some information that you're able to impart on all of us. But initially, what did you experience? At what point did you realize, oh, there's a problem here?
G. ROMERO: Well, to be quite honest with you, I think there's still a lot of people down here that don't know quite what the problem is. They just know there's an emergency. All airport personnel is saying is there's an emergency, the baggage area has been shut down, you can't get to it or have access to it right now. So there's nothing in regards to what exactly happened, from what I'm hearing from different people.
WHITFIELD: And can you describe what you're seeing in the other travelers? Are people trying to be calm? Are they a little panicked? What have you seen?
G. ROMERO: There's a few that are a little bit panicked. More frustrated, they're trying to catch flights, trying to get out of the airport. But for the most part, people are just lined up against the walls. They do have the escalators running now, but they said right now we're just stuck where we're at, saying you aren't going to get any further from here, at least toward Concourse T, the baggage claim.
WHITFIELD: So, Mr. Romero, so you were successful enough for your plane to actually land. And then you get to a concourse, you deplane and now all of this has happened. Can you describe for me what you're seeing in the terminals as you're walking your way now through the airport to get to the main airport from the terminals?
G. ROMERO: Yes, I'm in the lower area toward the tram. We got off our plane and we're just walking toward the baggage claim area. Everything was pretty much normal and then everything came to a grinding halt, and then pretty much anybody, they turned them all off, all the escalators, nobody could go up or down.
And then they just released everybody to go ahead and come down into another hall. So people are just lined up against walls, hanging out by the tram to wait for that to go ahead and start operating. Some people are walking by foot, a lot of people in wheelchairs. For the most part right now, everybody is being pretty calm. For us it was the airport authority down here in the area I'm at started handling this.
WHITFIELD: As unfortunate as this is, I know you are also kind of considering yourself one of the lucky ones, because this was your final destination, the Atlanta airport, after deplaning. But can you describe what you're seeing in the other travelers who either might feel or appear to be confused or upset? Or are people taking this in stride? What are you seeing?
G. ROMERO: People are taking it in stride for the most part. Again, they have people scattered throughout, airport workers, that are giving out information, and some elderly folks are traveling on their own. And they're not sure what to do, where to go, how long they're going to be held up. But, again, everybody is pretty calm for the most part right now.
WHITFIELD: So, Mr. Romero, now, once you get through the terminals and you're trying to exit the airport, have you thought about your plan? How are you going to be able to exit the airport or be on your way?
G. ROMERO: Right now, they've told us we are just on lockdown. We're just hanging out here. Don't even try to go any further than were we're at. If we don't have baggage, then we can go to Concourse F, which is a 30-minute walk, and we can exit and have our rides or try to get to rental cars that way. You could come back later in the night or day if you have your airline tickets and claim your baggage later or tomorrow, whenever they open it.
WHITFIELD: And what was the city that you were traveling from, if I might ask?
G. ROMERO: Salt Lake City.
WHITFIELD: OK, so you had a really -- a long flight, a pretty long flight, about three or four hour flight to Atlanta, and now you're going to hang out in the airport for a while. You have to because of the security situation.
G. ROMERO: That's exactly what we're going to do, yes. Not the way we wanted to start out our vacation with our son and daughter-in-law, but we've got to do what we've got to do.
WHITFIELD: I understand, but I know you are also counting your blessings, because as we understand, everybody is safe. It's just very inconvenient as they try to get to the bottom of this investigation.
G. ROMERO: Right.
WHITFIELD: All right, well, Mr. Greg Romero, again, the father-in-law of CNN's Nadia Romero, thank you so much for talking with us. I hope you finally get a chance to reunite with your family there, not in the airport, but in the comforts of our Nadia Romero's home. But glad you're safe.
G. ROMERO: Thank you. Thank you so much. Have a great day.
WHITFIELD: Thank you so much.
Again, that was Greg Romero, who happens to be the father-in-law of CNN's Nadia Romero, who is among the thousands of people right now in Atlanta airport. Everyone has to stay exactly where they are because of what was a ground stop and what continues to be an investigation as a result of a firearm that went off there in the airport. But good news is, Atlanta P.D. able to tell us that no one has been injured after this accidental discharge.
We're going to have much more on this story right after this.
WHITFIELD: Welcome back. We're following breaking news out of Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, and you see on the left-hand side of the screen what really demonstrates kind of the panic after a gun accidently discharged inside the airport near the screening area. And then on the right-hand side you see a near ground stop at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport there as they investigate.
Atlanta airport tweeting this, saying "At approximately 1:30 p.m. today, a weapon accidently discharged at Atlanta's security screening area. There is not an active shooter at the airport. APD, Atlanta Police Department, is on the scene. More information about the situation will be made available on our social media channels."
The FAA did order a ground stop that has since been lifted. Meantime, you still have thousands of travelers that are inside the airport. We spoke with one traveler who also happens to be the father-in-law of one of our correspondents, Nadia Romero, who said he has not been allowed to leave the airport. The investigation is ongoing. I have a host of people with me now, Juliette Kayyem, Mary Schiavo,
and Chief Charles Ramsey, all with me now. So I wonder, Chief, to you first, as they investigate -- while Atlanta P.D. has put out a rather comforting statement saying, essentially, we've got it under control. It was an accidental shooting, but they still have to investigate.
What are some of the first steps of their investigation, even while you still have thousands of travelers who remain in the airport, many of whom cannot leave, according to the father-in-law of our correspondent, Nadia Romero?
RAMSEY: Well, they'll certainly have a lot of people they have to interview. We mentioned earlier the closed-circuit video that exists within the airport, which is part of the evidence that will be used. But then interviews of individuals, the person who is the owner of that particular firearm, security personnel that were at the gate where the discharge took place, passengers that were waiting to be screened that witnessed this whole event take place.
So there's a lot of interviews that have to take place. That's all going to be part of the investigation at this point. And if they lifted the ground stop, hopefully things will start gradually getting back to normal. But the screening of passengers still has to be done in a very orderly fashion. They cannot shortcut security screening. So things are going to be backed up for a while there, I would imagine, at the airport.
WHITFIELD: My gosh, and Mary, before they could resume screening, of course even though Atlanta P.D. says yes, this was an accidental shooting, they're essentially getting it under control. You look at the video on the left where you see people who panicking, some hit paydirt there, others just simply ran. It's going to take a long time to get some sort of semblance right there in that security screening area before they can start to welcome people back in who want to make their way to whatever flights may still be able to take off today.
SCHIAVO: That's absolutely right. Besides just getting the place put back together physically, as Chief Ramsey said, they have to get the footage, electronic now, but all that security coverage footage of what was going on at the checkpoint.
Who touched the gun, who did that, et cetera, is very important, because law enforcement and anyone who travels probably will be thinking and remembering, I think it was 2017 with the shooting in the Fort Lauderdale airport, and people are going to be understandably worried. Was this is just a one-off thing? Do we have to go back and check lots of records, what went on? Was there anyone else involved?
But it's going to take a while to sort it all out, and of course everybody is very glad, but there have been shootings in U.S. airports outside security. It's always outside security in the last 20 years. And so this is something that's going to take a while to sort through. But most important it's going to be video footage and the TSA and the people around the event.
WHITFIELD: And Juliette, this investigation is going to be painstaking, even though we are hearing some comforting words coming from the Atlanta P.D., saying that yes, it was an accidental discharge and no one has been injured.
But when we just talked with Greg Romero, who happens to be the father-in-law of our correspondent Nadia Romero, who was traveling there, he and other travelers have not been allowed to leave the area, even though a landing passenger. He may not able to collect his luggage, but if he wanted, he can't really even leave the airport right now. So talk to us about the investigative stages here that have to take place before any travelers can really come and go again?
KAYYEM: I think you're going to start to see a release of the passengers, a landing of the planes, an opening up of the airport. I would guess it's 2:50 eastern standard time now, within 30 to 40 minutes. They just have to. The airport can't survive if it stops with every accidental discharge of a gun.
And so what they're doing right now is what we would call no regret security. They are just making sure nothing is amiss, remiss, and they'll start to move people relatively quickly. And hopefully there's a strong communication plan for those people, like Mr. Ramirez, who seemed to not have specifics what's happening.
I want to make clear that there's not -- we have debates about gun culture in this country, and they are legitimate debates about the permissiveness of gun. I just want to be clear, there's no debate on the security side of the FAA. There are rules, and the rules are clear, state laws, the NRA. No one can trump those rules. You have to disclose and declare guns and ammunition. They have to be in a secure lock, and they have to be checked.
So there's only two options right now, and that's why this investigation will be quick. Either someone forgot they had a gun -- I know that's hard for people to imagine -- forgot that they had a gun and it accidentally discharges as they're going through security in some bag, or someone got through with a loaded gun and there was an accidental discharge near or on the other side of the security gate. Neither of those is good, but neither is an active shooter case. And we need to get to the bottom of that.
But responsible gun ownership comes with a requirement to follow the FAA rules. So my suspicion, or my -- since the airport seems very clear that this was accidental, the passenger may not have known -- I know it's surprising -- that they had a gun, and that happens, as Mary was saying.
WHITFIELD: And Chief Ramsey, you have got layers of security concerns here, right? Even while you're investigating what happened, even if they zero in on the what happened, that it was an accident, and there appear to be no continuing threat.
Now you have thousands of people who are really in the dark, trying to figure out what's going on. Some might panic, and others may not. But then you have another new security concern that's layered upon your initial one. So how are investigators to prioritize and try to maintain and keep the peace, and investigate all at once?
RAMSEY: They have to do everything all at once. You just can't do one thing at a time. You'll never get through the process, but they'll be investigators that are already in the process of pulling the tape, of interviewing the individual who the gun belonged to, other people who were actually there at the same time.
But once all this settles down, there will be another stage of the investigation, and that is to actually go back over everything that took place to find out were there any breakdowns in security? Were there anything that took place that needs to be tightened up?
And that's just a normal process. That's not saying that security did anything wrong. But anytime you have an incident, you have to debrief, and you have to go back and find out whether or not there was anything that was done on the part of the security that could be improved at all. So --
WHITFIELD: And then while you're talking, Chief, we're seeing some new images here coming in from Greg Romero. He is the father-in-law of our Nadia Romero who we had talked to just a short time ago. He shot this video presumably with his phone, sent it in. And you can see a lot of people converged there at the train area.
We understand escalators and trains have ceased operation, Mary, while the investigation is ongoing. And it looks like people are pretty calm, keeping it together. You know they are also tempers that are flaring because people want to get to where they're trying to get, especially on this holiday week.
SCHIAVO: Well, that's right. And of course because this is at airports, most of the night has been at the check-in or the bag claim. But people were understandably if they remember the Los Angeles, there were two there. There was one in Fort Lauderdale. I think there was one in San Antonio. They obviously were fleeing for their lives, not knowing it was accidental.
But the other thing, and both Chief and Juliette mentioned this, is that they're going to also looking at whether we need different protocols for searching bags, because what could have happened is someone thought they had a loaded gun in their bag, it happens a few thousand time as year, believe it or not.
And if the security personnel was searching the bag, once they start the search, the passenger cannot access the bag. It's the security personnel. This could have had a much different outcome if the person after searching the bag was wounded or killed by a loaded gun in bag. So they will be revisiting protocols of the TSA as well, and well she should. Protect everyone, TSA and the passengers.
WHITFIELD: Certainly, this has been very inconvenient for travelers ahead of this holiday week, but, boy, aren't we glad to be able to report, at least according to Atlanta P.D., that there have been no reports of incidents or injury, but certainly a big inconvenience as a result of the discovery of this weapon. I want to thank you so much, Mary Schiavo, Charles Ramsey, Juliette
Kayyem, and also our Nadia Romero and her father-in-law, Greg Romero, who gave us an inside peak information about what travelers, what everybody was experienced there at Atlanta P.D. But the inconvenience continues because still thousands of people are still in that airport as investigators try to figure out what happened, how it happened, and what's next.
Thanks so much for being with us. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Our breaking news coverage continues with Jim Acosta right after this.