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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Search Underway for Suspect in Mass Shooting That Left 18 Dead; Congressman Flips on Gun Stance; Gaza Humanitarian Crisis Hits New Depths As Fuel Runs Out. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired October 27, 2023 - 05:00   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Kasie Hunt. It is Friday, October 27th. It is 5:00 a.m. in Lewiston, Maine, where more than 350 law enforcement personnel are engaged in urgent manhunt for the suspect in a mass shooting at a bowling alley and restaurant that left 18 people dead.

Police say 40-year-old Robert Card, quote, should be considered armed and dangerous. Parts of two counties in central Maine are under shelter in place orders again today. Schools and offices also closed.


CHIEF RYAN MCGEE, LISBON POLICE: We've had everything from people calling about noises in the basement, noises in the woods, to suspicious people, gunshots, all night long since the incident in Lewiston. We have our whole department working. I encourage everybody to call if they see something suspicious.


HUNT: The suspect's family is urging him to surrender. His brother tells CNN the family is cooperating with law enforcement in any way possible.

Officers found the suspect's vehicle abandoned at a boat launch in Lisbon, Maine. Public records show he owns a small powerboat.

An acquaintance in the Army Reserves calls Robert Card a skilled marksman, one of the best shooters in his unit. Law enforcement sources tell CNN Card recently spoke about hearing voices and had threatened to shoot up a National Guard facility.

CNN's Mark Morales is live on the ground in Lewiston, Maine.

Mark, good morning to you.

Bring us up to speed. What is the latest on the manhunt?

MARK MORALES, CNN REPORTER: Good morning, Kasie. So, here we are on Friday and here is where we are right now. So,

after seeing armored vehicles drive through town, after seeing clusters of police officers in some cases going door to door, checking on leads, we still don't have a suspect in custody. And two things are happening at once. So, on one side you have community that is completely torn apart by this. They are really feeling this heartbreak.

And on the other, you have fear. This palpable fear that is affecting everybody and the more and longer this man is not brought into custody, the more that fear grows.

Now, that brings us to the latest tragedy that's been done by law enforcement. They have decided to zero in on his home addresses, wherever he's listed as living a previously. They have been going to these places. They've been executing search warrants. They are calling it their due diligence.

Only a few short hours ago, they descended upon his last known address in Bowdoin. You saw heavily armed police officers, they had bullhorns, they had to drones. After a few hours, it was given the all clear.

But you saw this large police presence going in, doing what they call their due diligence to look for any evidence, anything that could have been given them any more clues as to what was going on.

That search, those types of searches are expected to continue. There's one more location that they're going to hit. That's going to happen at some point later today. And that brings us to their searches and the way they've been searching.

So, it has been more like a localized search. So they have been following tips and following leads and going to the particular streets and closing of all those running streets, doing their searches, checking out what they need to check out. And then they up those streets.

That's a little different than something that we have seen in, say, Watertown, during the Boston marathon bombing, where they would close down certain streets and, as time started to take by, you started to seeing more and more street closures.

So they are doing this localized searches with police going down and going and checking on these leads. And all of this comes after we got a briefing yesterday from local leaders where they were telling us, and they finally gave us those numbers of 18 dead and 13 wounded. Although they did not give us a motive, the working theory that law enforcement is working through right now is that the gunman broke up with his girlfriend, he targeted these locations because eased to go to these bars and he used to go to these bowling alley -- Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Mark Morales for us in Lewiston, Maine, thank you very much for that report.

Coming up here, the suspected gunman reported hearing voices and threatened to shoot up a National Guard base, according to Maine law enforcement officials. So why wasn't he disarmed?


We'll walk you through the laws.

Plus, a congressman and Marine Corps veteran who lives in Lewiston is now changing his stance on assault weapons. And, new overnight, the U.S. has carried out air strikes in Syria as tensions continue to rise in the region.


MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Okay, we're having some issues with Kasie's technical lines there. So I'm going to pick up from here.

But we are talking about this top story, the manhunt in Maine, of course. We're going to get the very latest for you now.

Oh, we've got Jennifer Mascia with us.

Thank you so much.

You can see we're having technical problems. Jennifer, thank you for being, and helping us with that.

In terms of the manhunt, obviously, the amount of concern that must be in this area is unimaginable. Just -- you know, Maine isn't immune to shootings, of course, but it does have slightly lax gun laws as I understand it.


And this sort of thing absolutely is not expected there and now they have, literally, the worst situation of gun violence in America this year so far.

JENNIFER MASCIA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Maine has been very lucky. It is a state that has not seen these catastrophic mass shootings. It also has a rich gun culture of hunting and also very permissive gun laws.

When you look at the rest of the Northeast, most of the states have licensing. Maine and a couple of other states are the exceptions and they have had very low gun homicide rates. They are usually only a couple of dozen murders in this state in in entire year.

And this shooting, sadly, is almost that entire toll. But, luck seems to be running out in Maine. I spoke to someone in Lewiston yesterday who said it is amazing it hasn't happened before now. You know, we've been living under a false sense of security. After all, or part of America, and America has a gun violence problem.

HUNT: All right. Jennifer, this is Kasie, and, apologies there. I think we have resolved the tech problems that we were challenged with there.

MASCIA: Sure. HUNT: And can you help us explain a little bit of the difference between a yellow flag law and a red flag law and why that matters here?

MASCIA: Absolutely. So, 21 states have red flag laws and they are emergency orders. They are designed to intervene before somebody can harm themselves or somebody else. Speed is of the essence with these mechanisms. The yellow flag law, no other state has a law like this. It was a bipartisan compromise and it very much acts like that.

It's not really an emergency order. A police -- only a police officer can invoke at this. In many of the red flag states, a family member can go to a police officer with their concerns and then they go to a judge. Here, a police officer will take the patient into custody, a doctor has to sign off, and then they go to a judge.

And this process takes a lot longer than a red flag law and there's a lot of room in there for somebody to lash out violently. I think lawmakers and residents in Maine today are wondering if these yellow flag laws are enough, if they shouldn't just pass a full on red flag emergency risk protection order law?

HUNT: Jennifer, I want to show you what Maine congressman who represents Lewiston. He actually is from Livingston himself. He has, in the past, opposed proposals to ban assault weapons after the shooting. Here's what he had to say about his position on that.


REP. JARED GOLDEN (D-ME): I have opposed at first a ban deadly weapons of war like the assault rifle used to carry out this crime. The time is now come for me to take responsibility for this failure, which is why I now call on the United States Congress to ban assault rifles, like the one used by the sick perpetrator of this mass killing.


HUNT: And even the state's Republican Senator Susan Collins suggesting that the large magazines were a significant problem. Congress has been unable to ban those in recent years, as well.

I mean, this is a remarkable shift for him. And the reality in the past in Maine is that they've had fewer mass shootings than other neighboring states. This obviously changed the congressman's mind.

MASCIA: It did. I mean, these weapons do incredible damage and, especially because they can fire off with so many lethal rounds so quickly. It can kill dozens of people in a matter of minutes.

But, an assault weapon ban might not have actually helped in this case. This is an army reservist who is a firearms instructor. There is an argument out there that's what needed really are laws that allow police to intervene when somebody shouldn't be armed. The bar needs to be lower than in voluntary mental health commitment, focusing on certain categories of weapons, doesn't focus on the vetting of the buyer.

It's really not the weapon. It's who we are getting these weapons to.

HUNT: All right. Jennifer Mascia of "The Trace", thank you very much for being with us this morning. I really appreciate your time today.

MASCIA: You bet.

HUNT: And up next here, aid continuing to arrive in Gaza, but none of it is the fuel they say they so desperately need. How that is worsening the unprecedented to mandatory and crisis there, next.

And what President Biden said that prompted the Hamas-controlled ministry of health to publish the names of thousands of people killed in Gaza.



HUNT: Welcome back.

The U.N. says the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has reached an unprecedented point as more aid trucks enter carrying water, food, medicine, and medical supplies, but no fuel. Now, hospitals are shutting down with a fuel severely rationed to run select critical facilities. Israel is blocking deliveries of fuel altogether, arguing that Hamas, which has diverted from military use.

CNN's Nada Bashir is live in Amman, Jordan.

Nada, is there anything that could break this stalemate over the fuel?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well, Kasie, Israel has been very clear its position on this. They say they will not allow fuel to get into Gaza because they said that it is going to be used by Hamas. We heard earlier in the week from an Israeli adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that said Israel does not intend to fuel, in his words, the mosque military machine. Of course, we have heard mixed messages.


Earlier in the week, we also heard from IDF spokespeople who's suggesting that that we could begin to see fuel coming in, they said it is guaranteed to be headed towards humanitarian efforts of operation is there.

But, clearly this is not what we are seeing. Now, we have heard repeated warning sounds from the U.N. and other aid agencies, as well as from hospitals and doctors on the ground who are telling us that to this shortage of fuel is crippling the humanitarian situation inside the Gaza Strip.

Hospitals are being forced to shut down in some areas, there are warnings that it could begin to see hospital running out of electricity, babies on incubators, of course, facing a dire situation. Many people in desperate need of that fuel.

But, it does not just fuel, we are beginning to see aid coming, in but it is a drop in the ocean compared to what is actually needed to. We are hearing from people on the ground in Gaza telling us that they are rationing their food supply, they don't have any food in some cases. There is no electricity, there's no water, fuel being crucial there for the processing, filtration of safe drinking water.

And that is a huge concern. We have heard from E.U. officials, calling for a pause in the fighting, in the air strikes, to allow for humanitarian aid to come in, not a full cease-fire, but rather a humanitarian pause.

But there is repeated warnings coming in from the, region calling for an end of the airstrikes and in end Israel's war on the Gaza Strip. We've seen that mount death toll now topping 700,000 according to the health ministry inside of Gaza, published a list yesterday. Thousands spent thousands of names, thousands and thousands of children killed in these airstrikes.

Look, we are here today in downtown, you can see hundreds of people lining the streets to pray here. Many wearing the Palestinian scarf in solidarity with the Palestinian people. And we're expecting for the rallies later today.

HUNT: All right. Nada Bashir for us in a Amman, Jordan, thank you very much.

And as Nadia mentioned, there is that new report from the Hamas - controlled health ministry. It lists the names of more than 7,000 people they say are documented deaths since October 7th, which it blames of Israeli military aggression. The list is response to President Biden saying he has no confidence in the casualty numbers being reported by the Gazan health ministry.

Let's bring back CNN's Max Foster.

Max, thank you very much for jumping in there, we apologize.

FOSTER: We can hear you, Kasie.

HUNT: First, springing -- springing that on you and I'm grateful to have you with us.

But, look, let's talk about this death toll controversy, basically, because at a press conference, President Biden was asked about this on Wednesday and he essentially said to the reporter who listed the death toll, that he didn't believe what will the death toll was. Now, the health ministry in Gaza has previously been a very reliable reporter of information like this, according to our teams who have spent, you know, many years kind of lining up what they have said with what has played out.

Obviously, the situation on the ground is much more chaotic, different here. But it is very dramatic to see that list that they published with the names, you know, sometimes dozens from a single family. FOSTER: Yeah, and it is very, very detailed and they're making the

point that these figures are reliable of the Hamas-controlled health authority. They are actually saying that this is an underestimate because there are, you know, it doesn't include bodies, for example, that haven't made it to the hospital yet, for example.

So they are saying that it's an underestimate. I don't think Joe Biden is questioning that people have died in Gaza, it is just the number of people who've died and whether or not you can rely on these figures. But we can't -- the U.S. can't verify, like we can't verify them. They're coming from this Hamas controlled body.

So, but there are figures that we have relied on in the past and the State Department has also relied on them in the past and quoted them as well. And it's this lack of information that we're getting, that were not able to verify all the information. The U.S. can't verify the information like many other nations. So it's a big debate about those figures coming out from this Palestinian health authority, which is run by Hamas right now, which is obviously regarded as a terror organization.

So it's a very difficult situation, but it is the one source of figures that people have been quoting and President Biden, I think, is speaking for quite a lot of people in saying how, and questioning how much we can rely on the exact figures, at least.

HUNT: And, of course, the United Nations is using these figures as well and they periodically put out, you know, statements and they have talked about the urgent need for humanitarian aid. Of course, the challenge there that the United Nations, you know, the Israelis have called their credibility into question. They don't trust the way that the United Nations operates in this plane.

FOSTER: Indeed, and we've got this meeting of the United Nations and they're discussing a cease-fire, which was a motion put forward by the Arab states. You know, this is a huge, huge debate around the world.


I was talking to Jim Bittermann in Paris about this today.

All the Israeli allies have effectively, obviously back up Israel's right to defend itself against Hamas. They can't, then, be seen to call for a cease-fire because that would undermine that message so they are trying to find a way around to the language. So France, the UK, for example, the U.S. now calling for a lull, or a pause in the violence.

But, you know, getting is ceasefire through the U.N. is going to be really difficult, indeed.

HUNT: Yeah, for sure.

All right. Max Foster, thank you very much for being with us this morning. I really appreciate it. Don't go far, just in case.

FOSTER: Kasie, I'm here.

HUNT: Thank you.

All right. Coming up here, a former colleague says the suspect in the Maine mass shooting is a skilled marksman and outdoorsman who was among the best shooters in his army reserve unit. How that impacts the ongoing manhunt.


HUNT: Good morning. Thank you for being up early with us. It is just before 5:30 on the East Coast. I'm Kasie Hunt.