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The Situation Room
Now, Official Briefing On Monterey Park Massacre; Sheriff Says, Rifle, Electronics And Ammunition Recovered At Gunman's Home; Sheriff Says, Gunman Had Limited Criminal History, Was Arrested In 1995 On Firearms Charge; Garland Defends Approach To Dueling Biden And Trump Docs Probes; Ex-High Level FBI Official Charged In Alleged Schemes To Help Sanctioned Russian Oligarch. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired January 23, 2023 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We are standing by for a new briefing on the California shooting massacre at any moment. An 11th victim has died as police learn more about the gunman and the search for a motive.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Let's get right to the California mass shooting as we await a briefing momentarily by local officials, including the L.A. County sheriff.
CNN's Nick Watt is following the investigation in Monterey Park.
NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The suspect dead in a panel van, a self-inflicted gunshot after an overnight manhunt. Officials say this 72-year-old man murdered 11, injured nine more, opened fire during Lunar New Year celebrations at an Asian-American dance hall Saturday night.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are so surprised. Here is safe.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm scared.
WATT: This was apparently an old man attacking the middle-aged and older out dancing. But why?
SHERIFF ROBERT LUNA, LOS ANGELES COUNTY: We still are not clear on the motive. The investigation continues.
WATT: Apparently the suspect taught dance here informally at one point, met his now ex-wife at this very dance hall. They divorced in 2006. She told CNN he could be quick to anger if he missed a dance step, for example.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was it an issue of being disgruntled or an issue of domestic violence? We don't know, unfortunately. I was told in the past he was a frequent attendee of this dance hall. WATT: His last known address, a trailer home in a senior community further east in Hemet was searched. Hemet P.D. says he came by twice, a couple a weeks or so, alleging past fraud, theft and poisoning allegations involving his family in the Los Angeles area 10 to 20 years ago, but he never came back. And then Saturday night --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Additional units requested, multiple victims, gunshot wounds.
WATT: 10:22 P.M., police respond to a shooting at the Star Ballroom and Dance Studio in Monterey Park, a suburb of L.A.
CHIEF SCOTT WIESE, MONTEREY PARK POLICE DEPARTMENT: It was chaos. There were wounded people, there were people trying to flee out all the doors.
WATT: At around 10:40 P.M., the gunman arrived at another dance hall in nearby Alhambra.
BRANDON TSAY, DISARMED MASS SHOOTER: I turned around and saw that there was an Asian man holding a gun. When he was looking around the room, it seemed like he was looking for targets, people to harm.
WATT: Brandon Tsay was getting ready to close up for the night.
TSAY: When I got the courage, I lunged at him with both my hands, grabbed the weapon and we had a struggle. We struggled into the lobby, trying to get this gun away from each other. He was hitting me across the face, bashing the back of my head.
WATT: Eventually the suspect fled leaving that weapon behind.
LUNA: An assault pistol that had an extended large-capacity magazine attached to it.
STEVE MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTRIBUTOR: When you have 30 rounds, you've got 30 potential targets before you have to reload. And, by the way, the minute in California that 30-round magazine went into that gun, it was illegal.
WATT: And that weapon led investigators to a name and identity.
WATT (on camera): And we are now learning the identities of some of the victims here. 11 dead, 10 of them died here at the scene, 1 person died in the hospital. We are getting some names. Xiujan Yu had just turned 57. Lilan Li was 63. Mymy Nhan was 65, and according to her family, she was, quote, a loving aunt, sister, daughter, friend and she loved to dance. She loved to dance here. She danced here for years and this is where she died.
Now, as we've discuss, we are waiting for this press conference from the sheriff and hopefully some more light to be shed on exactly why this happened, why did this man open fire, was there a coherent motive. We hope to hear a little bit more about that. But as I mentioned before, Hemet police said that he had come to them complaining about some family issues 10 to 20 years ago and also police say that they did manage to get a lot of evidence from that van in which the suspect was found, evidence that ties that suspect to this crime. But the motive, Wolf, we are still waiting to find out.
BLITZER: Yes, we're waiting for this news conference. We will have live coverage of that.
And later this hour, we'll have much more on the victims, the victims of this massacre out in California. They were all in their 50s, 60s and 70s. All right, Nick, thank you very, very much.
Let's discuss what's going on with a member of the California State Assembly who represents Monterey Park, Mike Fong.
Mike, thank you for joining us. As you know, we're standing by for this news conference. If it begins, I'll interrupt you, I apologize now, but we want to hear what the L.A. County sheriff has to say.
We're learning more about the gunman all the time. What questions do you have about this shooter and whether any warning signs were potentially missed?
MIKE FONG, CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLY: Thank you so much, Wolf. The questions I would have is why did he have access to these web weapons? Did he have any run-ins with law enforcement? What was his background? And those are some questions that I think we all need answers to. I want to send my deepest condolences to everyone affected here.
BLITZER: Yes. We all express our deepest condolences. The death toll, as you know, has sadly risen today. It was 10, now it's 11. How is your community processing this latest act of violence on what was supposed to be a very joyful weekend celebrating the Lunar New Year?
FONG: At the dawn of the Lunar New Year, there's a big festival, a big celebration in the city of Monterey Park, where tens of thousands of residents were celebrating the Lunar New Year, the year of the rabbit, a symbol of peace and hope.
And to have that peace and hope shattered in a matter of moments later that night is unfathomable. Right now, residents are mourning and grieving for the families and everyone involved. And we send our deepest concern and grievances -- grieving with everyone in the community.
BLITZER: Yes. These were really wonderful, wonderful people who simply wanted to celebrate a little bit and then a gunman goes in thee and starts killing people.
Are you learning anything yet, Mike, about the 11 people who were so sadly killed?
FONG: We're learning details as the day proceeds and as more information comes out. These are neighbors, folks involved in the community, family members and friends of many folks in the community. This is just so heart wrenching to hear this news that another person has succumb earlier today.
BLITZER: Yes. We see they're beginning to walk out. We're getting ready for this news conference, latest briefing on what happened.
What will it take, Mike, for the Asian-American community right now and the wider community for that matter to feel safe after this latest horrific attack?
FONG: Thank you so much for that question. In terms of safetyness, we're partnering with our local law enforcement agencies with the Monterey Park Police Department --
BLITZER: Let me interrupt, Mike. Hold on a minute. I want to listen to what they're saying already.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will provide an update on the Monterey Park shooting. The order of speakers today are Sheriff Robert Luna, representing the first district, Supervisor Hilda Solis, representing the fourth District, Supervisor Janice Hahn, District Attorney George Gascon, and closing, Monterey Park Police Chief Scott Wiese. Now it is my honor to present the sheriff of Los Angeles County, Robert Luna.
LUNA: Good afternoon, everybody. I'd like to thank you all for being here today. And I really want to thank everyone standing behind me for coming out to support us. You'll hear from some of them, but many of those you won't hear from have really been doing a great job of either offering assistance, giving assistance, but we're here today with some successes and I think a lot of that is because of the partnerships that we have with the people behind us.
So, just to start off, our homicide investigators are still working very hard, as they were yesterday, through the night and today. This is a very complex investigation. There's so many other things we don't know. But as I told you yesterday, when we started or when we get more information, we'll be happy to bring it forth as we get it. And it's not only the sheriff's department that's working on this. We're still working very hard with our partners from the FBI, the ATF, the district attorney's office, the list goes on and on.
And so anyways, we have additional information that we're going to be sharing with you today. I think some of this information may have gotten out the last several hours, but I do regret to inform everybody that we did unfortunately have an 11th victim that passed away. So now we have a total of 11 victims that unfortunately have died as a result of this tragic incident.
I also want to share the names of three victims in which -- and this is a key. I'm sharing these because the next of kin notifications have been completed. That's, number one, Mymy Nhan, female, 65 years of age, Lilian Li, female, 63 years of age, and Alvero Valentino, a male, 68 years of age.
[18:10:05] I'm going to pause there for a second. It's not so much because the siren is going by, but when you think of it, these are three people who aren't with us anymore, three families who will never be the same. And we have to remember that as we're talking about these, at the end of the day, it truly should be about the victims and their families, and the support and love, our prayers, our thoughts should be with all of them as we move forward.
So, as most of you are aware last night, we served a search warrant at the suspect's residence in the city of Hemet. As a result of the search warrant service, investigators recovered a few items of interest. These are just -- it's a summary, not everything we recovered.
We recovered one 308 caliber rifle, numerous electronic devices, such as cell phones, computers et cetera, items that lead us to believe that the suspect was manufacturing homemade firearm suppressors, an unknown amount -- I say unknown amount and I'll explain that here -- of 308 caliber and 9 millimeter caliber ammunition. And the reason we say an unknown amount, they were in containers and there are hundreds around. We don't know exactly how many there were, a lot of loose ammunition. So, eventually, we'll get to exactly how many those were.
From the Monterey Park scene where the victims were assassinated, investigators recovered a total of 42 shell casings and a large capacity magazine. So, 42 rounds were fired by the suspect at that location.
Investigators also recovered a Norinco 7.62 by 25 handgun from inside the suspect's cargo van. That's the handgun that you saw being recovered from the van yesterday afternoon. That firearm was registered to the suspect. There was also clothing that the suspect wore during the commission of this crime and that was also recovered from the van.
We have also learned that the firearm that was wrestled away from the suspect at the Alhambra scene was a 9-millimeter caliber semiautomatic MAC-10 assault weapon.
I want to emphasize that all the firearms recovered still require additional forensic ballistic examinations and comparisons that we're doing with our partners as well as additional investigations into the origins of where the suspect got those weapons. A lot of work to be done there, but we don't want to leave any stone unturned.
We are still not able to release additional information and photographs of the weapon. And that was one thing I was pushing our people to release the picture of the weapons that we recovered. But there're still witnesses that need to identify some of these things, and if we put them out there, it starts impacting the investigation. So, that's why we're not releasing pictures yet.
Regarding the suspect's background, he has a limited criminal history with an arrest in 1990 for an unlawful possession of a firearm. I'd like to take a second to also thank Mr. Brandon Tsay, for his heroic action, which saved countless lives. He's the hero that disarmed the suspect at the Alhambra location, and in my opinion, saved many of lives.
Originally, we put out that there were two people, we find out ultimately as we normally do, as these things get investigated, there was only actually one person who disarmed him. But as you know, we're trying to put out information. It was preliminary. So, there was one, and that's his name, and what a brave man he is.
The Langley Center continues to be open for victim resources and next of kin notifications where we are being assisted by a lot of partners who have come forward embracing all of the victims, different organizations, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate them. And they're going to be needed for weeks and months and who knows how long to come. So, thank you very much for your efforts on that.
And then I just want to remind everybody, and the other speakers will speak. I'll come back up here. I'll answer as many questions as I can, but just please remember that our investigators along with our partners continue to investigate all the details.
There're a lot of stories coming forward. We're not ignoring any of them. But we've heard some things that just are second, third-hand information and the investigators are siphoning through all of that information to make sure that we determine the motive. We still don't have a motive, but we want to know the motive behind this tragic event and the FBI continues to collaborate with us in that portion of the investigation.
And then, finally, before I turn the microphone over, I would like to thank Chief Wiese and the Monterey Park Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the district attorney's office, the California governor's office of emergency services and the United States Department of Justice, the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner Coroner's Office and all the various agencies that assisted us.
And like I said yesterday, I'm getting calls all the way from our attorney general. I spoke to our governor before coming down here and he has been very kind in offering not only his condolences but his support for anything that we may need. So, with that, I will turn it over to Supervisor Hilda Solis thank you.
HILDA SOLIS, MEMBER, L.A. COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERSISORS: Thank you, Sheriff Luna. I represent the first district, my name is Hilda Solis, and included in the district the communities of Monterey Park and the city of Alhambra.
For the last two days as you know, we have seen just a tragic mass shooting take place in the city, our very own city of Monterey Park, trauma, deep loss for many families that are suffering. We are all grieving, all of us are grieving. And I continue to have the families of those who lost a loved one in my thoughts and in my prayers.
The chief medical examiner was able to identify two of those victims. You heard some of that already from our sheriff, the 65-year-old Mymy Nhan, and 64-year-old Lilian Li, all of the county is with those that have lost their lives.
First, I'm grateful for the swift and united actions of our law enforcement partners, the Monterey Park Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the Torrance Police Department, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies that assisted in keeping our public safe. Within a day they were able to identify and secure the shooter quickly without causing more harm to our community. And I'm also grateful to the medical personnel at LAC + USC Medical Center and other nearby hospitals for continuing to treat those that were injured.
Unfortunately, as we heard, one person who was critically injured succumbed to injuries and passed away last night. We know that their path to healing physically and mentally may be long, but they will not be alone in their journey.
I'm coming directly from LAC + USC Medical Center where I visited with at least two of the survivors. One was going to be released today, another one will be released in time, but are both recuperating. And you could see in their faces their spirit to fight and the fact that they are resolved that they are still here. They want to be with their families. And they want to know what happened to the others on that night.
I also visited earlier with some of the folks here, the Langley Senior Center in Monterey Park, to see what services our county, L.A. County, and the community are providing. And that is, I can tell you without a doubt, some of the best resources that I have seen united at every level, the federal level, the state level, the county and the city and community groups, the Red Cross, including other organizations.
My hat goes off to our D.A.'s office as well for doing all that he can to help provide services on site and on time and to all of us. Our department of mental health physicians and psychiatrists are on hand and they are there able to speak the different languages that are needed and provided for these families and also they're providing legal assistance that's being offered to the families, which is much needed.
I've also received -- I've also seen the support that we've received from communities like the Chinatown Service Center and the Sue Shi Center, the Red Cross and many others that were there.
As our law enforcement partners work diligently to determine the motive of the shooting and as details continue to emerge, we have learned that we have true heroes and we heard about one earlier that the sheriff spoke about.
And I thank that individual. He is a hero for all of us. Someone who put their own life at stake and actually prevented more deaths from occurring is a hero in my books.
Thankfully, members of our community, also our men and women in uniform fought also to protect our community. So, I personally want to thank them and had an opportunity to meet with some of the staff from Monterey Park Police Department who were there, who are also going to need help, also going to need assistance. So, we need to be there. It isn't just a one-off that we're going to be here one day. The county will remain there for a long time. And we continue to mourn with all of the families.
I also want to say, I want to thank the governor of California, Gavin Newsom, who, last night, was also here. He visited with one of the patients, I believe, at LAC + USC, and also toured the Langley Center. He also is in strong support of whatever resources we need.
Last night, I also had the privilege to receive a call from our president, President Biden, who asked me what was needed here. And I told him we just need more reinforcements, we need more help. We need to stop this type of violence in terms of guns and also to provide more assistance by way of mental health services, not just for the community of Monterey Park but for the entire AAPI community and in particular some of our senior centers that service that community.
So, again, I stand strong with you, L.A. County mourns with you, our community, but we are here to serve. Thank you very much.
JANICE HAHN, MEMBER, L.A. COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: I'm Supervisor Janice Hahn, and I am currently the Chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. And I'm here today, of course, provide support to my colleagues, Supervisor Hilda Solis, who had this tragedy unfold in her district in Monterey Park.
Sheriff Luna, you've been in this office for less than two months and you already had to deal with the worst mass shooting in L.A. County's history. Watching you yesterday, I want to thank you for your grace and dignity in how you handled it.
I also want to thank our governor for reaching out and for offering resources to us. Los Angeles County is in mourning. And as chair of the board of supervisors, I ordered our county flags to be lowered to half staff in honor of the victims of this tragedy.
Certainly our prayers continue to be with the family members of those who were murdered, a number that's tragically increased this morning to 11, as well as to all those who continue to suffer from their injuries. Thank you, Supervisor Solis, for taking the time to go and visit those in the hospital. I'm sure that meant so much to them.
And as our sheriff's department continues their investigation and works to determine a motive, I want to take the opportunity to recognize the good police work that brought this terrifying situation to an end yesterday in the City of Torrance.
As law enforcement conducted a massive manhunt in the early hours of yesterday morning, the suspect was in Torrance, miles and miles away from the scene of the crime in a non-descript white van. But because L.A. County Sheriff's Department made sure that they got the information out to all law enforcement agencies in the County of Los Angeles, Torrance patrol officers were able to spot this van and help bring this dangerous situation to an end. Thank you again for the idea of cooperation, for the idea of sharing information among all agencies working together, collaborating together, we were able to in a timely manner bring this to an end. Those in my district in Torrance, of course, were anxious knowing that he -- this gunman was at large all day. There's a large Asian-American community in Torrance and no one at that point understood what the motive was. So, I really wanted to thank the Torrance Police Department. I was with them yesterday. They did good police work.
So, thank you again to everyone to brought this situation to an end.
GEORGE GASCON, L.A. DISTRICT ATTORNEY: You know, this was a moment that was supposed to be a moment of celebration, not only for the AAPI community but for many of us that have friends, family members in this community, and one individual with guns caused this incredible tragedy.
And I think it's important that we reflect on what has occurred.
I want to thank, first of all, the family of the Monterey Park community, the police department, mayor, city organizations and others that were not only there immediately before many of us were able to get there, but they have continued to bear the brunt of the work.
I think it's really a testament to the leadership in Monterey Park. I also want to thank our sheriff and the sheriff's department and all the other both local and state and federal agencies that have worked together in order to make sure that we brought accountability to this case and that we stop a potential threat to our community so quickly and our Supervisor Solis who has been there with us from the very beginning.
You know, the role of my office is a complex one in these cases. Obviously had there been an arrest, we would have been engaging in the issue of looking for prosecution, but that not being the case here, we play other roles. And we were there from very early on providing investigative support in order to make sure that if there were going to be a prosecution, that we would have the right information.
We also provided legal assistance in order to make sure that search warrants were conducted appropriately. But more importantly, our role now is one of dealing with a recovery. Our victim services, our mass casualty impact team has been at Langley and in the Monterey Park area since yesterday.
We have worked already with families trying to get them into services. And we will continue to do so for the weeks to come and will continue to work with communities in order to deal with the grieving and assuring that all the resources that are available in our community and even outside the community will come to bear.
This will be a long haul for the victims, the victims' families and the communities, and I want to make sure that we continue not only today but for the weeks and months to come. We know that trauma, we know that the impact of trauma sometimes plays differently for each of us. Some of us have immediately the symptoms and deal with them. Others it may be weeks or months and it's important that we recognize as a community we will continue to be there with you.
Again, I want to thank all of our partners for this and to show our commitment that we'll continue to work with everyone. Thank you.
WIESE: Hello, everybody. I'm Scott Wiese, Chief of Police, Monterey Park P.D. I want to start off by talking about the partnership. You've heard a lot of agencies listed today. There's no way that my police department could have worked through this without the help of everybody you see behind me.
Not just the partnership locally, and countywide and federal but the partnerships amongst all of the law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles County. I'm a relatively new chief. I've been in an acting role for a few months, but I was sworn in Thursday night, two days before this event.
So it's a little bit of trial by fire for me. But I had a lot of chiefs help out when I needed that assistance. My focus now as it has been from the beginning is the safety of our community in Monterey Park. We have a lot of events that are going to come up in the next few weeks, one tonight.
My officers are dedicated to make sure that everybody that comes to our city, all of the residents that want to come out and grieve are safe. We will be there, we will always be there, and our diligence and our commitment to the community will never stop.
I also want to talk a little bit about the wellness of my officers. I had one of the youngest shifts that I have on the job there that night. My three young female police officers who had only been on the job less than a year, they made entry into that building, knowing what they were going to run into, without any hesitation.
From the moment the call came out to the moment they went through that door, we're talking about minutes. They didn't think about what they were going to encounter, all they thought about was getting in there and helping the people that needed help and stopping that gunman.
They are feeling it today. I've sat down with each one of them, and I guess kind of like that father figure that the chief becomes, kind of wrapped my arms around them.
My whole department has collapsed onto them to make sure that they're safe and they understand how proud of them I am and how proud the department is of them. They want to stand that line. They're back on duty or they will be soon, but I need to make sure that my officers are safe. And officer wellness is a huge part of being a police officer in today's age.
Officers get a bad rap, and I can tell you I have 77 of the greatest human beings on the planet that work for me. They dedicate their lives to the City of Monterey Park. And they will go into whatever danger they see in front of them to make sure our community is safe. We will continue to do that and I love each one of them.
At this point, I'm going to open it up to questions.
LUNA: No. The question is do we have a motive yet, and we do not have a motive yet. We want to know as much as all of you and we're working very hard to attain that.
LUNA: The question is there's information out there that the suspect may have committed these crimes, and I'm paraphrasing, due to jealousy or some relationship issues. We're hearing those things too, but have not confirmed any of that information. It's part of what our investigators are diligently looking into.
REPORTER: A question about the timeline. Did the shooting start in the parking lot? And also what time did the Monterey Park in order to (INAUDIBLE)? And also why did it take five hours to alert the public there was a shooter on the loose?
LUNA: I'm going to let the Monterey Park Police chief answer the first part of the question and I'll come back and answer the second.
WIESE: So, our 911 dispatch received 911 calls about a shooting in progress at 10:22 to 10:23, within 30 seconds we received numerous calls. My officers were on scene within three or four minutes. Once we stabilized the situation, which means my officers dealt with all of the people fleeing the business, both the ones that were shot, the ones that weren't shot, the whole thing, they then suited up and went inside. So, imagine the group of people coming out and my officers going -- swimming upstream to get inside to stop the problem.
Once we stabilized the scene, did our search, made sure there was-no- hiding suspects and set up our perimeter, we do an assessment. It was very clear at that point that we needed the sheriff's department's help, and when I -- so I got there in about 20 minutes. I don't live that far away. I walked the scene and it was very clear to me that I couldn't handle this on my own with the people I have. It was going to be too much of a burden.
The partnership that we have with the sheriff's department in Los Angeles County is very, very close. The first call went to sheriff's homicide and that began the process.
My next call, quite honestly, was to Sheriff Luna in the middle of the night. I think I woke him up about 11:30 maybe. I'd have to look at my phone. Don't quote me on the time, but I texted him. He called me back. We talked about what was going to be needed. But his people were already rolling at that point. So within a few minutes of us assessing what it was, that's when the call went out for help.
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)? WIESE: I'll leave that up to the Sheriff but we have one of the victims in the parking lot outside. I don't know if that victim was shot prior to him going in or as he came out. I don't know.
LUNA: So, to answer that last question about the shooting outside versus inside, we did have one victim who was shot outside of the dance hall in a vehicle. And we believe -- and again, I'd like to tell you this is exactly what happened, but we're still putting it altogether. We believe that that victim was probably shot before he started his rampage going inside.
In regards to the previous question you asked in regards to the hours in notifying the public, I believe we put out a statement. I don't have the time in front of me of when we put out that statement. I know when I arrived early in the morning, those were questions we were asking each other and trying to weigh not only assisting the victims, trying to investigate this and the other priority of apprehending the suspect.
Our detectives had done some really good work and felt they had some really good clues. When we started putting out public information, the priority was to get this person into custody. So, we were very strategic in the way we were putting out information. Ultimately it worked.
We will go back and look at, as we always do, nobody is as critical as we are to ourselves about what worked and specifically what didn't work and evaluate that and see what the wait was in determining what the public risk was at that time.
LUNA: All excellent questions that we are going to be looking for answers on. Did he plan this? Was it the day of? Was it a week before? What drove a madman to do this? We don't know. But we intend to find out.
And we're as curious as you are, because it's -- I mean, this is disturbing. I don't -- how can you even come to reason that somebody would even think about doing something like this? It's horrendous.
LUNA: Allegations about family poisoning, we've heard the same information. I believe the information we have is that the Hemet Police Department put that out. I would recommend you call them. We don't have specific information, although the investigators will -- our investigators will be looking at all of those factors to see if it contributed to the madness that occurred that day.
LUNA: Was the suspect known to the individuals at the dance studio? We're hearing that there were possible relationships there, but I'm not going to confirm that yet because that's part of everything that we're looking at. But we hear the same thing over and over, so obviously it has to be looked into, and more importantly, verified.
Because I'm getting a lot of questions in the last 24 hours about information coming to all of you, it's second and third-hand information. It seems like a lot of people definitely have opinions. Everybody has a perspective. But what we're finding out is it's not supported by facts and evidence. And we're in the business of reporting facts and evidence the best that we can. So --
LUNA: We're in the process of looking at all that. I'm trying to -- the question is have we talked to any next of kin for the suspect. The information I had coming up here is I don't believe we have yet. It doesn't mean we're not going to. It's not on our list of things to do. But that's part of the process of finding out more about his background, whatever made him do something like this leading to the motive.
LUNA: He was -- were there any modifications to the weapon that was found? You were talking about the weapon that was recovered where? So the MAC-10 that was recovered in Alhambra, there are some modifications to that. But as we're having it thoroughly examined, we're going to wait until we put that out. And please remember I don't want to sit here and describe the weapon to a T. We have witnesses that still need to be interviewed, part of the questions all of you are asking, we start putting out information in this format, that's not good for any of us.
So I want to make sure.
LUNA: Were there modifications? I'm just going to leave it at yes.
LUNA: So, the question is, if I understand it correctly, the modifications, again, to the weapon and the arrest having -- when he was arrested in 1990. So ,that's exactly what we're analyzing with our partners at the ATF. Nobody does fire examinations like they do. So, we'll look at that.
And what gets confusing, and I will not try to explain, is remember that California has some of the most strictest gun laws in the country. But then you look back historically over the last 10 and 15 years, there's been modifications. So, if you look at somebody who may have been arrested back in 1990, maybe then it was or was not illegal and what it is today may be not only a firearm but a potential modification and even the magazines being used.
So, a little bit more complex. It's part of the puzzle that we're trying to put together, but very good questions.
LUNA: Confirm or deny that the -- one of the victims is related to the suspect. At this point, we don't have any evidence of that but that could change. We don't know. And as we're getting information from the coroner's office, who is responsible for identifying and notifications to the next of kin, we'll continue to work with them.
So, thank you, guys, all very much for coming out. I appreciate you.
BLITZER: So, there you heard the Los Angeles County sheriff, Robert Luna, giving us the latest. There's still no word on some sort of motivation for why this suspect went into that dance hall and simply started murdering all these elderly people who were out there simply trying to have a good time.
Nick Watt is on the scene for us. Nick, you've been covering this from the beginning. What jumped out at you?
WATT: Well, what we just heard there, that officials will not confirm or deny whether this gunman was related to anybody inside this dance hall. He says the officials have been hearing that he certainly knew people. They are trying to confirm that. That is all part of the investigation. But as you said, Wolf, the headline, they are still not coming out with a motive. We are still no closer to knowing why this man might have done this.
However, we did hear a lot more about what he left behind in that van where the gunman died, apparently of a self-inflicted wound. He left the clothing that he was apparently wearing during this attack. He left a weapon, and also more importantly perhaps, a search warrant was executed at his home, a trailer home about 80 miles away from here. And in that home, we are told, investigators found electronics, cell phones, computers, they were taken away, a rifle, also a huge amount of ammunition. They didn't even -- they weren't able to tell us how much ammunition. A lot of it loose, a lot of it in boxes. And also we are told in that house there was equipment that leads investigators to believe that this man was making homemade firearm suppressors, essentially silencers. He was making them in his trailer home.
Now, we also hear that what was left here at the scene of the crime were 32 shell casings and that extended magazine that we've been told he was using. Also we have found out that one of the victims was actually out here in the parking lot. They are not sure exactly when that person was shot but they believe that person was shot before this man went inside and opened fire on the dancers in there.
Now, of course, the investigation goes on, forensics under way right now on all of those weapons that were seized, on the shell casings, et cetera, but officials say they're not going to release any photographs of the weapons yet because there are witnesses who still need to be interviewed who still need to identify those firearms. So, still no motive. That's the headline, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, still no motive, but there is some information that Sheriff Luna did provide that they found large-capacity magazines, 42 rounds were fired by the suspect with his 9-millimeter semi-caliber weapon that went in there and simply started killing all these elderly people.
I want to get some analysis right now. Joining us, CNN senior law enforcement analyst, Charles Ramsey, former D.C. police chief, the former commissioner of Philadelphia. Also with us, defense attorney Shan Wu, and CNN contributor Jennifer Mascia who's joining us as well.
Chief Ramsey, let me start with you. What stands out to you from these new details we just heard and what authorities were able to recover from the gunman?
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I mean, Nick covered things pretty well in terms of his analysis of that -- the electronic equipment, the amount of firearms ammunition that they recovered, another firearm. I mean there was a lot of evidence that they were able to recover. And even though they can't come up with an exact motive yet, things are starting to really shape up when you take a look at all the information that we've had so far in this case.
You know, of course originally we all kind of thought this was hate motivated. It's beginning to look like it's personal. He had issues with people there at least at the ballroom, worked there previously -- could be something with his ex-wife, who knows. But it's starting to shape up as some kind of personal motive that he had that led him to commit this particular crime.
One of the most interesting things that they recovered is the fact that he was manufacturing homemade silencers or suppressors. That's interesting. Those -- you don't see that every day.
BLITZER: Clearly, he's been thinking about this for a while. A motive, Shan, is still unclear as we heard from the sheriff there. How critical is the investigation right now, even though the shooter is dead, how critical is it to determine what the motive may have been?
SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's really critical, Wolf, because the shooter is dead, there will never be a prosecution so it's really all on this investigation to explain to the public what happened here and to see if there are any issues.
So as the chief was just referring to, it initially seemed like a hate crime. It's also important to realize hate crimes aren't always just a cross race situation. There can be political ones like the one that happened earlier this year in California, a political motivation, the Atlanta spa shooting. There's also hate crime charges based on gender as well. One thing that struck me here that I think would bear further
investigation is they alluded to his conviction in 1990 of unlawful possession of a firearm. There are certain crimes like that, could be misdemeanors, maybe only banned him for ten years but many of them if it was a felony would have banned him for life.
So that's something to take a look at, as to whether he was locally or illegally in possession of these firearms.
BLITZER: Good point.
You know, Jennifer, as you heard the sheriff there, said that they believe the gunman was making homemade firearm suppressors or silencers. How revealing is that along with the details on the actual weapon used?
JENNIFER MASCIA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's quite alarming. Suppressors are regulated under the same law that regulates machine guns. Homemade guns and devices are a huge problem lately. They're called ghost guns. They're showing up increasingly at crime scenes and it's always a warning sign when someone is manufacturing their own federally prohibited devices.
But, you know, something that stands out to me is that he had a handgun registered in the state of California. So it's not clear if all the guns found in his home were registered, including the rifle. But at least one was. That means he did go through background checks and vetting at some point.
And the fact is that mass shooters do not all display warning signs that rise to the level of a gun ban unless you've had an involuntary mental health commitment or a prison sentence. You can still own guns, even under California's strict laws. I am very interested to see what happened with that 1990 case. Why there was no conviction.
BLITZER: Good point.
All right, everybody stand by. We're going to have much more on the breaking news. We'll take a quick break and we'll be right back.
BLITZER: We're also following the growing fallout right now from the Biden classified document investigation. Tonight, the U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland is clearly on the defensive over the Justice Department's handling of dueling probes of the president and his predecessor.
CNN's chief White House correspondent Phil Mattingly is joining us right now.
Phil, so, what are you hearing over there at the White House?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So, there has been a continued focus on cooperation, making clear the president an his personal attorneys have made clear to the Justice Department that whatever they need, whatever search they need to conduct, the president is willing to say okay. That included over the weekend his home in Wilmington.
But with that search also came a new discovery, just the latest in a classified documents issue that continues to be a significant issue for the president.
MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We do not have different rules for Democrats or Republicans.
MATTINGLY: Tonight, Attorney General Merrick Garland pledging impartiality.
GARLAND: We apply the facts and the law in each case in a neutral, nonpartisan manner. That is what we always do, and that is what we do in matters that you're referring to.
MATTINGLY: As two investigations, one of a current president, one of a former president grip a divided country. After another weekend of new discoveries and new questions.
REPORTER: Mr. President, did you know those documents were there, sir?
MATTINGLY: President Biden again ignoring those questions as he arrived at the White House Monday, facing the reality of a rapidly developing investigation into his handling of classified documents.
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): The fact is the FBI conducted this search, not his attorneys. That really ratchets the investigation up.
MATTINGLY: After the FBI spent more than 13 hours searching his Wilmington home, discovering even more items with classified markings.
REP. TOM EMMER (R), MAJORITY WHIP: At worst, this is sloppy.
This is an oversight flouting of the law by someone who has been in government for 50 years. And it gets worse because it could be a severe, severe problem with our national security.
MATTINGLY: The search coming with coordination and the approval of Biden's legal team.
IAN SAMS, SPOKESMAN, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL'S OFFICE: The president and his lawyers offered up access, unprecedented access to every single room of the president's personal home to ensure that any documents that need to be properly in possession of the government are taken and are in proper possession of the government.
MATTINGLY: As Biden's lawyers continue to pledge full cooperation and Democratic allies grow increasingly uncomfortable.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): It's unbelievable how this could happen. It's totally irresponsible, and who is at fault?
MATTINGLY: Even as they press the sharp differences between Biden's developing case.
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): It's outrageous that either occurred.
MATTINGLY: In the investigation into Donald Trump, which has been defined by a deliberate effort not to cooperate.
DURBIN: But the reaction by the former president and the current president could not be in sharper contrast.
MATTINGLY: All as House Republicans ramp up their own investigations into Biden's actions. House Oversight Committee James Comer asking the Secret Service for details, quote, regarding who had access to the home since serving as vice president as the White House and its first response to a House GOP request pledged to respond to legitimate requests, even as it noted, quote, the critical need to protect the integrity and independence of law enforcement investigations.
Those challenges now confronting a White House in transition with powerful White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain set to step down in the coming weeks, and set to be replaced by Jeff Zients, Biden's former COVID-19 response chief and a veteran of top positions across two administrations, a move designed to elevate and sharpen the administration's focus on its agenda, priorities outside the ongoing investigation.
MATTINGLY (on camera): And, Wolf, that's an important point here for Ron Klain's predecessor. Making the trains move on time is a primary responsibility for the new chief of staff when he is announced. The investigations themselves, they are being handled, mostly by the president's private attorney. Bob Bauer, a long-time Washington hand, long time lawyer for the president continues to drive the strategy.
When you talk to White House officials, they make clear the things you don't hear publicly in terms of publicly are not so much effort to hide the ball. They're largely driven by Bauer's efforts to try and reach an outcome that resolves in the favor of the president, not necessarily in the near term, but certainly in the long-term. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Phil, thank you very much. Phil Mattingly at the White House.
There is another story we're following, a former very high-ranking FBI counter intelligence official accused of working for a Russian oligarch has been granted a half million bail after pleading not guilty to some extremely serious charges.
CNN's Kara Scannell is working this story for us.
Kara, so what are you learning about the two cases against this former high-ranking FBI official?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, those first charges in New York that you mentioned were brought against Charles McGonigal. He was the head of the counterintelligence division at the FBI's New York field office until he retired in 2018.
What prosecutors allege is that after McGonigal retired, he began working with a Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska. Deripaska is under U.S. sanctions. He is also someone that McGonigal, as that top FBI official, supervised investigations into. But the prosecutors say, once he retired, he began working for Deripaska, violating U.S. sanctions laws and money-laundering laws by concealing the work he was doing for him using shell companies and forged signatures.
But then also, hours later, out of Washington, new charges were announced against McGonigal. In that case, prosecutors alleged that while he was serving in that top FBI position, he had received $225,000 from a former employee of Albanian intelligence. They do not identify who that person is or exactly what his role was for Albanian intelligence, but the prosecutors allege that McGonigal failed to expose as he concealed the payments to the FBI, disclose any payments of foreign officials. Not only did he file false statements and file false documents by concealing those payments, they say he also failed to tell them any trips he took overseas.
He took several trips to Europe with this individual, and he also met with foreign officials, including the prime minister of Albania. None of that was included. He entered a plea of not guilty today in court. We caught up with his attorney after the hearing. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SETH DUCHARME, ATTORNEY FOR CHARLES MCGONIGAL: Charlie has had a long, distinguished career with the FBI. He served the United States. This is obviously, you know, a distressing day for Mr. McGonigal and his family, but we'll review the evidence. We'll closely scrutinize it, and we have a lot of confidence in Mr. McGonigal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCANNELL: And, Wolf, he will appear in court in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday to face the charges there relating to the Albanian official.
BLITZER: Very serious charges indeed. He could face many, many years potentially in prison.
Kara Scannell, thank you very, very much.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.