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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Twelve People Killed in Nay Yard Shooting Spree; New Details on Suspected Gunman
Aired September 16, 2013 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Erin, thanks. Good evening, everyone.
What a day it has been in Washington, D.C. And tonight, there is breaking news. New details about the gunman behind today's mass killing and late word tonight that the FBI has now concluded he was the only shooter.
There's a lot of moving parts of this story. The mass murders took place at a Washington Navy Yard, at the headquarters of Naval Sea Systems Command. It is just a few miles from the White House and a few miles, too, from the MedStar Washington Hospital Center where three seriously wounded people are recovering tonight.
The shooter has been identified, as you know, as Aaron Alexis. A private computer subcontractor and former Navy reservist with a troubled military career and two gun-related brushes with the law. How he was able to become a contractor is unclear and one question we're looking into tonight.
We are learning almost by the minute new details about his background, his recent movements, what friends and acquaintances thought of him. We are hearing from a lot of different people tonight.
We are learning as well about the heroes who saved lives and how minute by minute this tragedy unfolded.
Now Randi Kaye takes us through those terrible moments.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 8:20 a.m. inside Building 197, shots fired. It's the middle of the morning commute and suddenly everyone inside the Washington Navy Ship Yard is on high alert.
TODD BRUNDIDGE, WITNESS: As he came around the corner, he aimed his gun at us. And he fired at least two or three shots. We ran down the stairs to get out of the building.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was far enough down the hall that we couldn't see his face but we could see him with a rifle and he raised and aimed at us and fired. Then it hit high on the wall just as we were trying to leave.
KAYE: Metropolitan Police, U.S. Marshals and the FBI immediately respond to the scene. They have no idea how many shooters are involved in the attack or how many victims are down.
By mid-morning, departing flights at Reagan National Airport are grounded. At least eight schools near the Navy Yard shut down. Then word one suspect is dead. But are there more shooters out there?
CHIEF CATHY LANIER, METROPOLITAN D.C. POLICE: The big concern for us right now is, is that we potentially have two other shooters that we have not located at this point.
KAYE: Helicopters search for the other potential suspects. Meanwhile, employees continue to file out of Building 197, recounting what they saw.
This Navy officer saw a man right in front of him get shot in the head.
CMDR. TIM JIRUS, U.S. NAVY: He walked up and told me that he heard that there was a shooter in our building and we were just standing here, maybe three feet away having a conversation. Then we heard two more gunshots and he went down and that's when I ran.
KAYE: Around 11:30, news on some of the victims.
DR. JANIS ORLOWSKI, MEDSTAR WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER: We have a gentleman who is in -- who has multiple gunshot wounds to his legs. His injuries involve bones and the blood vessels of his lower legs. We have a -- another individual who was shot in the shoulder and we have a third individual who just arrived who had a gunshot wound to the head and to the hand.
KAYE: Minutes later, confirmation of the first victim's death.
DR. BABAK SARANI, CHIEF OF TRAUMA, GWU HOSPITAL: A man in his 60s with a gunshot wound to the head received CPR en route to the hospital. He was pronounced dead upon arrival to George Washington due to his injuries, which were unfortunately not survivable.
KAYE (on camera): Hours after the shooting, one suspect is clear, but police are still looking for another. He's described as a black male, around 40 to 50-years-old, about 180 pounds, and he's carrying a long gun.
(Voice-over): About four hours after the shooting, the president addresses the nation.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We do know that several people have been shot and some have been killed. So we are confronting yet another mass shooting and today it happened on a military installation in our nation's capitol.
KAYE: By late afternoon, the news is even more grim. At least 13 fatalities, including the suspected shooter. MAYOR VINCENT GRAY, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: We are continuing to try to ascertain how serious this situation is.
KAYE: Soon after 4:00 p.m., the dead suspect is identified through fingerprints and his I.D. as Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old contractor from Fort Worth, Texas. And late into the evening, the FBI rules out any other shooter.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: And the FBI would like your help in getting a better understanding of who Aaron Alexis is, his background. If you know anything about him, they'd appreciate a call at 1-800-CALL-FBI. Again, that number is 1-800-CALL-FBI.
Already, though, in just the last few hours, we've been learning a lot of course. Chief national correspondent John King is on that angle.
So we do have new details about this guy. What do we know?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We do. All of our correspondents, especially our justice correspondent, Evan Perez, our national correspondent Susan Candiotti, have been doing some reporting.
And, Anderson, when you piece together what they believe happened, it's chilling how this began in such a matter-of-fact way. The suspect had an I.D. He was allowed to be at the Navy Yard. Drove up to the gate this morning, they say, showed his I.D., was allowed access to the site.
COOPER: And it was a legally valid I.D. according to the --
KING: A legally valid I.D., he was a Navy contractor. He was working for Hewlett-Packard, the high tech company, he was an I.T. contractor. Drove onto the Navy Yard just across the street here this way. Parked his car, then allegedly walked into the building.
Again, the questions will remain, how did he walk into the building with an AR-15, with a Glock, and a rifle. That will be a serious question. It's supposed to be a fortress, supposed to be one of the most secure facilities in Washington, D.C.
It was just the idea enough to get in with all those firearms. But according to all of our source accounts, walked in the building, went upstairs several floors, over the atrium to where this cafeteria area is, and just started opening fire.
COOPER: Do we know much about his background?
KING: His own background, and again this will raise a lot of questions when you look at it. Because he was a contractor now. He had the -- had the I.D. to be on the base, though we still don't know about his business on the base except that he did work for Hewlett- Packard.
Why was he here on this day? We were told he was staying at a hotel near here. But when you go back to his history, that's what has --raises questions. I am holding here a police report from Seattle back in 2004.
COOPER: He'd had at least two run-ins with the law.
KING: Two run-ins with the law, one before he joined the military, Seattle in 2004. They said he had some issues, confrontation with some construction workers. He told police they mocked him at one point. So he was arrested for shooting out their tires, using a handgun to shoot out their tires. That was in Seattle. His dad told --
COOPER: That was Seattle, 2004.
KING: Seattle in 2004.
COOPER: And he doesn't join the military until 2007.
KING: 2007 he joins the Navy. In 2010, he has a run-in with the police again. His neighbor below him says he shot through the floor of their apartment. He says he was cleaning a gun. It was an accident. But that is reported to police. And then he is discharged from the Navy in -- late 2010 and out in 2011. In part, we are told, because of discipline issues, including potentially this gun issue.
And then remember, so a gun incident in Seattle in 2004, another one in Fort Worth in 2010. He is discharged and yet he has somehow, with these two gun incidents in his record, allowed to get a job as a government contractor and allowed to get access to a sensitive military installations.
So those are some of the questions about his background. And as you know, the FBI wants to know more. They're not saying much tonight about motive. There are some saying he had some grievances as a contractor, some pay issues, but that has been rumored.
And to your other point, the D.C. police, some witnesses reported other people running away in odd directions.
COOPER: Right. All day long there were reports about two other people. But those have basically been --
KING: One has been officially ruled out. And the FBI essentially is saying they understand for the sensitivity purposes and of course, you want to be extra careful, the D.C. police is looking for another person who some witnesses said seem to be acting strange and running in a different direction. How they thought he maybe had a firearm. But all of the federal law enforcement agencies at this point are fairly certain. In fact, they say they are certain he's the lone shooter.
COOPER: And if you are watching the coverage throughout the day, there are earlier reports that perhaps he had used somebody else's I.D. to get on the base, or Susan Candiotti is reporting based on a federal law enforcement source, that another person's I.D. was found near the shooter, but they have ruled out that person.
KING: Ruled out any connection there, whether the person was running from the scene and dropped an I.D. or how it got there is a question that would have to be asked. But that was -- originally there was some question of whether he had a fake I.D. or stolen I.D. to get on the base. But our reporting tonight is that he drove up to the gate, showed his I.D. and was waved in.
COOPER: So at this point are they still looking for that one other person of interest who are earlier in the day that they had been talking about?
KING: The D.C. Police wants to check that box. There was an African-American man, he was described out with gray sideburns.
KING: Who was wearing a khaki military style uniform. And again, when you have witnesses telling you, they saw somebody they thought was behaving, you want to check that report out. But in piecing together what happened to the crime scene and in interviewing all of the people who survived, the federal law enforcement agencies who now have the lead say, of course, you want to check that out to be extra careful. But they are overwhelmingly convinced tonight this was a lone shooter.
COOPER: In a situation like this where you have multiple eyewitnesses and multiple people who heard the shots going off, people who experienced different things. Law enforcement at this point have to go through interview all of those people. And that's where you get some of these conflicting reports about well, I saw another person with a handgun, somebody was described as a military figure, Caucasian, that person again has also been ruled out.
KING: The first person -- there was a white person who was on the list, and an African-American gentleman on the list. The white person they have interviewed and cleared him of any involvement. They are still looking for one more. And again the D.C. Police Department says they want to follow up all of these potential leads.
But the FBI which has taken the leads, which is based on what you're talking about, everybody in that building was taken in, they all gave witness statements. They are convinced that this is a lone shooter. But obviously you want to check out all those leads.
COOPER: Do we know at this point how many shots he was able to get off or is that something that's still being assessed?
KING: No, that is still being assessed, although they do believe that most of the gunshots were fired from the AR-15. That's what federal law enforcement officials are saying tonight that most of the shooting was done aiming down from up above and then during the chase when he started to run. The first police were on the scene relatively quickly. Then other police came in. There was a bit of a run and chaos in the building at the time. You will hear from eyewitnesses as that played out. And that again, you talk about conflicting information, some people see things, some people hear things, some people are running when they hear things.
KING: There's echoes and the like whenever gunshots are involved. That's why you have a meticulous piece --
COOPER: And there is no doubt a number of video surveillance cameras. Federal law enforcement are going through that. So there's -- this is still very much an active investigation, an active crime scene.
KING: And on a scene like that, when he got out of the car and walked into the building, one would assume there are video cameras on the installation. And again, one of the big questions tonight is just having an I.D. that allows you access to the bases, that also allow you to park your car.
KING: Get out and walk into a building carrying three deadly firearms.
COOPER: Right. We're going to continue checking with John King throughout the evening. We're going to be back on again at 10:00, a live AC 360 later.
As we've been reporting, Aaron Alexis did much of his Navy reserve duty in Fort Worth. Ed Lavandera has been following that end of the story. He joins us now from Texas.
Ed, what have you been hearing? You've been digging into Fort Worth, interviewing people who knew the shooter. What have you learned?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the world of Aaron Alexis seems to swirl around this place, the Happy Bowl Thai Restaurant on the northwest side of Fort Worth. And this is a place where Aaron Alexis apparently spent a great deal of time and was actually roommates with the owner of the restaurant over the course of the last three years.
They separated or they moved -- Aaron Alexis had moved out about five months ago when the owner of the restaurant was married and then Aaron Alexis, from what his friend have been telling us, is that he's been trying to find work to better himself.
The news that he is the shooter, the alleged shooter, in this massacre has stunned his friends who have seen him here at this restaurant for so many years. And the owner of the restaurant say it took him hours today to finally come to the realization that it was his friend that might very well be responsible for this attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I mean, you know, for me, you know, for me -- we've been good friends. He's not -- never angry to me. Always like, OK, you OK, you got to do this. I he loved. We have been good friends. You know, he was never angry to me. Always, are you OK? Are you going to do this? I don't know. It might be like he might get mad sometimes. He might be angry sometime.
LAVANDERA: But you didn't sense any deep anger about anything?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. No. No. Well, I mean, like some of those guys asked me that, why he quit Navy, because he didn't want to get up early. That's the only reason why he always tell me, hey, why -- I mean, I asked him, what the heck you are quit the job, man. You're going to -- you're going to be a good -- you know, are you going to have good -- you know, go to school for free, you know, stuff like that. You know, just keep on doing. I don't want to get up early, man. I just want to quit. And he quit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAVANDERA: So, Anderson, that's interesting, telling his friends here in Fort Worth that he quit the Navy because he didn't want to get up early. But according to those Department of Defense officials, Alexis was actually discharged for, quote, "a pattern of misconduct." So a mixed image that we're starting to emerge here in Fort Worth of what we're able to dig up -- Anderson.
COOPER: You also found Alexis was a member of a what? A Buddhist temple, is that correct?
LAVANDERA: Well, this was actually one of the interesting things, the owner of this restaurant emigrated here to the United States several years ago. He says it was Aaron Alexis who befriended him and helped him kind of through the immigrant process and if he had questions about American culture and how to do business that Alexis would help him out.
They -- they became friends just at a Buddhist temple just down the road. The owner says that Aaron Alexis loves -- loved Asian culture. He was actually fluent in the Thai language, was helping other people and people that he befriended here at the restaurant, learned the Thai language.
Everything of the owner and several other friends that we've spoken to say everything around Aaron Alexis was kind of an image of peacefulness, which is obviously, you know, a kind of a hard thing to mix with the other reports of gun violence that we're hearing here in the Fort Worth area and also in Seattle as well.
COOPER: Yes, it doesn't add up at this point. But again, we are learning more and more by the minute, literally. Ed Lavandera, appreciate it. We'll continue to check in with you.
A quick reminder, the number to call with any information about Aaron Alexis, no matter how small, is 1-800-CALL-FBI. That's 1-800- CALL-FBI. If you cross paths with him or can shed any light on what made him tick, the FBI wants to hear from you.
I want to turn next to another Fort Worth acquaintance, a man named Bud Kennedy, who met Alexis at that restaurant, the Happy Bowl Restaurant.
Bud, thanks for being with us. You visit restaurants as a part of your job as a columnist for the "Fort Worth Star-Telegram." The shooter apparently waited on you at the restaurant. He worked at -- what did you think of him?
BUD KENNEDY, FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM: I write about news, but I also write about food here in Fort Worth. And the Happy Bowl is one of the highest rated Thai restaurants in town. You know, I came in to go to try and, you know, this fellow comes over and I thought when he came over, I thought, well, you know, this doesn't seem like a regular Thai restaurant guy.
He was a -- you know, I have been telling he seemed like bookish, he seemed like somebody who might be more of a librarian than a Thai restaurant server. He was very polite and soft-spoken. He didn't -- this was two years ago. He didn't seem to know the Thai dishes very well. He went back and ask but he -- at the time he was learning how to be a partner of the restaurant or run the restaurant.
I think he might still a bit in the reserves here at the time. But he was -- you know, he's showing interest in the Thai culture and helping out his friend here at Happy Bowl.
COOPER: So this was back in, what, 2011, is that correct?
KENNEDY: This was -- this was 2011, 2012, he waited on me. He served a lot of our other staff members. One of our copy editors is a regular here, came here all the time. And said he was like part of the family, that he loved seeing everybody's children. That the customers here have been asking.
He's been gone from here about six to nine months. And the customers have been asking, you know, when is Aaron coming back? When is Aaron coming back? They miss him very much at this tight-knit restaurant in White Settlement, Texas.
COOPER: Well, and now what we're learning about his personal time, that if he was discharged from the military around -- at the end of 2010, 2011, this would have been -- he would have been employed at this restaurant after that. Did he ever seem, I mean, like he could by aggressive? Did anything seem off about him at all?
KENNEDY: The customers here say they never saw any anger or any kind of hostility at all. He seemed very soft spoken to me. I am told that once there was a customer who needed to be ejected. And, you know, Aaron was a little bigger than the owner. The owner tried to eject him. Aaron came in and helped. But nothing at all that was a sign of any hostility. He was very quiet and friendly toward everyone here.
COOPER: And any word about his personal life, any information about the kind of life he led outside the restaurant?
KENNEDY: You know, I think people here knew he was learning Thai and showing an interest. I don't think people here knew much about his private life. He was friends with the folks here. And he was a regular face here. And the customers who come here all the time, you know, treated him like family.
I don't think people knew much about him privately. There was the one gun arrest as you know here in Fort Worth. The gun went off through the ceiling of his apartment into an apartment above while he was cleaning it. In Texas that sounds like something that could happen. People could understand, you know, a misfire like that. So I don't think people take something like that very seriously.
We're here in White Settlement, we're about a mile from Naval Air Station Forth Worth. So there are a lot of Defense community here. Defense contractors who arrived by Lockheed Martin. You know, we're used to seeing people from all over the world.
KENNEDY: Coming into this community and immigrants that owned restaurants here. You know, he seemed to be a part of the White Settlement community.
COOPER: Well, it's such shock, obviously, for everybody who knew him.
Bud Kennedy, I appreciate you telling us what you do know. Again, we're just trying to piece together as much as we can at this late hour.
Let us know what you think. You can follow me on Twitter @andersoncooper.
Coming up next, more on what happened here today and what we're learning tonight, what people saw, heard and did when the shots rang out.
COOPER: Welcome back to the breaking news here in Washington.
Suspected gunman, Aaron Alexis, acted alone according to FBI, though authorities are still investigating another individual for any possible ties to the shooting. Basically a person of interest.
All day, survivors have told their stories. Here's some of them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATRICIA WARD, WITNESS: I heard three shots. Pow, pow, pow. Thirty second later, I heard four more shots.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When that happened, everyone said, "This is no drill, go, go, go, emergency exits now. Go, go, go."
JIRUS: He walked up and told me that he heard that there was a shooter in our building and we were just standing here maybe three feet away having a conversation. And then we heard two more gunshots. And he went down, and that's when I ran.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People were yelping to close the doors, lock the doors. We heard very loud gunshot very close by. And we looked up and we saw bullet holes in the wall to the conference room that we were in about a foot down from the ceiling.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was far enough down the hall that we couldn't see his face but we could see him with the rifle and he raised and aimed at us and fire, and he hit high on the wall.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After we came outside, people were climbing the wall, trying to get -- you know, and trying to get over the wall to get out of the spaces. It was just crazy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, the security is perfect, but it almost goes without saying, tighter security may have been able to prevent this. There is a lot we still don't know.
Matt Maasdam is a former Navy SEAL who served as military aide to President Obama. He's one of the -- one of the people who carried the nuclear launch codes, the so-called nuclear football. Also with us, retired Navy commander, Kirk Lippold. His ship, the USS Cole, was bombed by al Qaeda nearly 13 years ago.
I appreciate you both you being with us. You have both been on the Navy Yard. This is a dumb question. But I've been getting a lot of tweets from it. A lot of viewers don't know what the Navy Yard is. And -- can you -- what is it?
CMDR. KIRK LIPPOLD, U.S. NAVY: It's actually a Navy facility located here in Washington, D.C. that is the headquarters. You have a lot of senior Naval staff who lives there. The chief of naval operations, for example. Plus, there are a number of naval facilities who are slowly moving onto the yard for forced protection reasons, but also that's where our Naval Sea Systems Command is. That's where our judge advocate and general command is. It's all there on the Navy Yard.
COOPER: About 3,000 people work at the Navy Yard.
LIPPOLD: Yes, actually --
COOPER: Those are the numbers I've heard. LIPPOLD: Yes.
COOPER: OK. How secure is it? I mean difficult, Matt, is it to get on?
MATT MAASDAM, FORMER U.S. NAVY SEAL: It's as secure as any other military base in the country. So you have to show an I.D. and if that I.D. matches who you are, they pretty much let you on so --
COOPER: So no difference if you're a contractor or you're a member of the military, as long as you have an active, valid I.D.?
MAASDAM: That's right.
COOPER: And any searches of vehicles, anything like that?
LIPPOLD: Typically, they'd be random. If you come into the gate and you show your I.D. card, there is nothing that raises a suspicion, you're going to be allowed on the base. If something either triggers suspicion or if they're doing random checks of vehicles, at that point they would ask to you drive the vehicle to a side area, they would bring in dogs and other people and they do a thorough check of the vehicle, which they do as a matter of routine.
COOPER: And there is -- the building where most of these shootings that we understand took place has even another layer of security.
LIPPOLD: It does. Right as you walk in the door, immediately to your left is a security area where you go and get your badge checked and in front of you are turnstiles. So, for example, if you have a badge to actually work in that building, you just walk straight to the turnstiles, swipe. And the gate would open and you'd be allowed access.
If you're someone like the shooter, I would guess, although the investigation is going to tell, that's the point where he was probably challenged by security and started to shoot his way into the building, taking out security and other people there that were challenging his ability to come in.
COOPER: This isn't the sort of base where somebody would be walking around with an AR-15 or a long gun?
MAASDAM: This is mostly a civilian institution, DOD civilians, and so there is not a large gun carrying presence on this base.
COOPER: Right. So that anybody with a weapon, it would draw some attention?
MAASDAM: A lot of attention.
COOPER: A lot of attention.
MAASDAM: Yes. COOPER: At this point what are -- what are the biggest red flags to you? I mean, what do you kind of want answered? Because some people have asked, how could a guy who apparently had two incidents with police, one in 2004, one in Texas, not only become -- well, really -- you know, become a contractor so quickly after being discharged from the military?
LIPPOLD: I think the biggest question is going to be, how did he -- what was the type of discharge he had from the military. What kind of background check did he have to do for the job that he was taking with the contractor, and what type of access was he being allowed to military installations.
COOPER: There's a lot of different kind of discharges. There's administrative discharge and a judicial one.
LIPPOLD: Correct. Judicial is where you have like a bad conduct discharge through a general court martial for a dishonorable discharge. Administrative, you end up being discharged due to bad performance or misconduct and those run in three categories. You can have an honorable discharge, a general discharge or an other-than- honorable discharge.
COOPER: So if there were a series of incidents, which is what the early word we're getting there were a series of incidents leading to his discharge, you could still get an honorable discharge?
LIPPOLD: You could. Most commanding officers, including myself, would be the type that would say no. If you cannot conform to the highest standards that our U.S. Navy and U.S. military demands of the members that used to serve our nation, then you're going to get another honorable discharge. And you deserve that. Society would expect no less.
COOPER: And you know, people who served with you on the Cole and others were there today.
LIPPOLD: I do. As a matter of fact, it's amazing how far those go back. I had a young officer that worked for me that's now the Navy captain that interviewed earlier with Wolf Blitzer, Captain Mark Vandroff. I had a Naval Academy classmate and company mate, Todd Helmand, that's his deputy. And then two officers that were with me on board USS Cole when it was attacked.
LIPPOLD: My Auxiliary Officer Jason Dravel (ph) and my supply officer, Bob Overturf (ph), both of them were on the third floor, heard the shots and immediately assessed the situation and began the evacuation process to get people out to safety almost immediately.
COOPER: Matt, what are you -- what are you going to be looking for over the next 24, 48 hours?
MAASDAM: I want to know if there were any signs that said he was going to do this today. So typically, in a mass shooting there are precursors to that event. Whether it's a confrontation with someone or a pattern of behavior.
COOPER: Nidal Hasan communicating with others.
MAASDAM: Exactly. Exactly. So it would be nice to know if that's a factor in this.
COOPER: Yes. Well, guys, thank you very much for being on. I appreciate it. Thank you very much.
LIPPOLD: Thank you.
COOPER: Good to talk to you.
Ahead, new information. A woman who may have unique insights into the shooter's motive. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Welcome back. Tonight Washington police are at a hotel where it is believed Aaron Alexis was staying. Our Peter Hamby is there as well. Peter, what have you learned?
PETER HAMBY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Anderson. Earlier today we got a tip from our Joe Johns that Alexis had actually talked to a woman and told him that he was staying at this hotel here in Southwest Washington, the Residence Inn by Marriott, just about two miles away from the Navy Yard. So we came over here earlier today to check it out.
Actually, as we were arriving, so were a number of law enforcement vehicles, a number of Washington police cars and a number of unmarked cars, at least one FBI vehicle. Our producer Jan Rizzo and I went into the lobby and were inside talking to hotel employees who were being very cagey.
Then we were actually asked to leave for a quote, "security reasons" and we came outside. Investigators, Anderson, have been in the hotel for about two hours now and the hotel doors are locked. They are not letting anybody in there, but we are still seeing some law enforcement officials arrive and come and go -- Anderson.
COOPER: And very briefly, Peter, the bottom line, any word on how long this guy was allegedly staying at the hotel?
HAMBY: According to source that Joe Johns talked to, he may have been here for at least a couple of weeks, Anderson. That's what we know now. We can also definitely say by our justice correspondence Evan Perez that this is definitely the hotel where Alexis was staying.
COOPER: All right, a couple of weeks. Peter Hamby, appreciate it. All day, we have been getting bits and pieces of information about the shooter, Aaron Alexis, some of it coming from people at the Happy Bowl Restaurant in Fort Worth where he works as a waiter. Some may be able to shed a whole lot more light on the question of a motive. Her name is Kristi. Aaron Alexis was going to be the best man at her wedding. Kristi joins us now. Kristi, thank you very much for being with us. What was Aaron Alexis like?
KRISTI SUTHAMTEWAKUL, KNEW GUNMAN AARON ALEXIS: He was very, very helpful. He actually helped us as our restaurant was getting on its feet and business was picking up. He would help serve. He would help deliver food. A lot of the customers loved him because he now how to talk. He could talk in Thai actually. He was pretty fluent in Thai. He was so helpful in helping us out however he can. He was very friendly.
COOPER: How long was he working there? Was he working full time?
SUTHAMTEWAKUL: Well, actually, he wasn't working because that indicates that he got paid. He was volunteering. He was helping while he was doing contracting work and trying to get on his feet. He was just helping us and, you know, whatever he got tips from deliveries, you know, he would use that money for gas and stuff. But he actually was not working full time with us. He wasn't working. He was helping us out a lot. What was your question again? I'm sorry.
COOPER: Did he have another job? Did he have another job at the time, any source of income other than the tips and the like?
SUTHAMTEWAKUL: I did not know him before I met him a year-and-a- half ago when my husband and I started dating. I just knew that he was helping a lot at the restaurant. He was using this as an educational experience to help learn Thai and to further Thai. So he was thinking of moving to Thailand at one point because he could speak it fluently.
COOPER: Well, Thai is a tough language. I tried to study it myself and I did miserably with it. I can understand why he would want real life experience working at a restaurant. Do you have any sense of -- I mean, was there something in his past? I had heard some reports about a disagreement with a contractor, a feeling he didn't get paid? Have you heard any of those reports?
SUTHAMTEWAKUL: I just knew that there were some problems with him getting his benefits as a veteran and some problems with him not getting paid the right amount with his contract jobs, but I didn't know they were connected at all. I had no idea. I just knew there were some issues with.
COOPER: Was that something he talked about? How did you know that?
SUTHAMTEWAKUL: Because we talked. I worked the night shift. So I was with him at the house all day, every day, when he came back from Japan, he did some civilian contract stuff or maybe government contract stuff in Japan for about a month. And then he came back over here. I was excited. I was the one that picked him up from the airport. He's like a brother to me. We were excited to see each opts. I was so excited to see and hear all about how his time went. But I just, after that, he didn't feel like he was getting paid the correct amount or issues with that.
COOPER: Does any of this make sense to you?
SUTHAMTEWAKUL: No, it really doesn't. I know he was a practicing Buddhist. That's how he and my husband met was the Buddhist temple just down the street, and he was very caring and very helpful and very nice, very friendly. People actually loved having him as a waiter and loved it when they delivered to his door. He was a great conversationalist.
The customers loved him because he could speak Thai. He was very friendly. That's why we got along so well. I saw him like my other brother. The brother I never had or something. So it's just, it's kind of confusing. I still don't know the details of what happened this morning. All I was told at 2:45 when the "Houston Chronicle" called me. I had just woken up from a nap.
They're like Aaron Alexis. Yes, the Navy Yard. So I, then I got on Yahoo and it pulled up right away. So this, just, obviously, it's surreal. It doesn't make sense because being, you know, frustrated with life is one thing. But going out and taking other people with you is another thing for stuff like this.
It's just, we're still trying to piece it together and we're still grieving because he was like one of our best friend, like a brother to us and always willing to go out of his way to help us out with things.
COOPER: Sure. And Kristi, I'm sure investigators will want to talk to you if they haven't already. I appreciate your time tonight. It is going to be some time before we know the identity of the victims. If you follow our coverage in the wake of mass shootings, you know we'd like to focus on those people whose lives are lost rather than the person who took lives.
But in this case the police are -- the reason we are still using the name, showing the pictures, police are desperate for information from anybody out there. So that's why we are trying to talk it and learn as much about him as we can. We know D.C. police officer was wounded. He was admitted to the Medstar Washington Hospital Center, a number of people there.
There are three people being treated. They are all expected to survive. Dr. Janis Orlowski is the chief medical officer, the chief operating officer at the hospital. She joins us now. Can you tell us the latest on the people you currently have, the three survivors, how are they doing?
DR. JANIS ORLOWSKI, MEDSTAR WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER: Sure. I'd be happy to, Anderson. Our D.C. police officer is out of surgery right now. He is stable. I have actually seen him. He's alert. He is talkative. He is doing very well. We have another gunshot victim who is actually in surgery. We expect her out of surgery very shortly.
The third victim that we received here at Medstar Washington Hospital Center did not need surgery and she's in our hospital right now. She's recovering from a bullet wound that she has to her hand and to her head.
COOPER: The 24 hour-year-old young woman, I understand that she called her dad after she was shot and he fought tooth and nail to get to her.
ORLOWSKI: That's what she told us as well. She was the third victim that we received at the hospital center's trauma unit and she was at the hospital center maybe for about 10 minutes or so and her father came walking in and as usual, the case we walk up to the family, you know, we try to grab them right away and prepare them to enter the room.
He says, you don't have to do that, I have been with her the whole time. And I asked him, I said, how is that the case? And he said she called me after she was shot. And he said I was a maniac. I was sitting at my desk at work. The next thing I knew I was driving off to get her. He said, I got to the Navy Yard and I got to my daughter.
And he was a father who had to get to his daughter's side. It was a very, very touching story for us and, you know, obviously, he's a very lucky man tonight because his daughter is going to do very well and it was just great to see him together.
COOPER: Well, I'm not asking a lot of details, obviously, about the police officers and others. I don't evade their privacy at this point. But Dr. Janis Orlowski, I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. Thank you.
Coming up tonight, at least a thousand people in Colorado are waiting to be rescued after devastating flooding. We are going to take you to one of the many towns that are in dire straits next.
COOPER: Welcome back. We have more breaking news now on the shooter. Drew Griffin just got it. He joins us now. Drew, what have you learned?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I was just talking with the CEO of the company that this Mr. Alexis worked for. His name is Thomas Hushko, fully cooperating right now with the FBI and obviously distraught. What he told me should raise questions about the security clearance that Alexis was able to get at the Navy Yard and from Mr. Hushko, he believes that this was either Mr. Alexis' first day on the job at a Navy Yard or he was going to start this week.
He did have security clearance. He cleared security in September of 2012 to work on that contract in Japan. It was a Hewlett-Packard subcontract that the experts had with HP. He was also re-cleared then, Anderson, in July of 2013, just this summer, re-cleared through the Department of Defense Central Clearing Office for a secret clearance. That is the middle level of the three clearances you can get. What is disturbing, Anderson, based on the history we now know of this man with his run-ins with the law and with his gun discharges in Seattle and in Texas and we also understand there is a disturbance, disturbing the peace charge in Georgia, in DeKalb County, Georgia in 2008.
All of that would be outlined on a questionnaire that alexia would have filled out to get this security clearance from the government. They certainly would have asked him those very questions. It's very specific, Anderson. They don't ask you, what have you been convicted of? It's what have you been charged of, all charges brought against you and the outcome in the last seven years.
Obviously, the CEO, Thomas Hushko, is again providing all the information he can with the FBI, but two things we can lock at here from what he told me. Number one, there were two security clearances done on Mr. Alexis within the last year or so and, secondly, that this may have been Mr. Alexis' first day on the job at that U.S. Navy Yard.
COOPER: That's right a startling piece of information if that is, in fact, turns out to be accurate. That not only was he supposed to work at this Navy Yard, but today was the first day. Peter Hamby reporting that Johns as well that he had actually been at the hotel here in Washington apparently for a few weeks.
That's from early reporting, it is unclear what he has been doing, how long he may have been planning this for, but it's fascinating to hear this may have been his first day at work. Again, we are trying to piece this together on a fly. Drew Griffin, appreciate the update. Joining me now is a former FBI executive assistant director, Shawn Henry. Shawn, thanks, very much for being with us.
SHAWN HENRY, FORMER FBI EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Thank you.
COOPER: To you, what are the big red flags here? That we are told, we just learned from Drew Griffin this may have been his first day at work here at the Navy Yard, but that he passed two security clearances within the last year or so.
HENRY: Well, these things clearly don't happen in a vacuum. There is warning signs in advance, whether they be bouts of anger or rhetoric, angry language, people that he may have talked to, writings or computer searches, and those sorts of things. Those are the types of things the FBI would be looking for in the coming days.
COOPER: In terms of the investigation, where at this hour would an investigation be? Obviously, they are looking at the video cameras that are on this base.
HENRY: Sure, the most important thing, really, is still public safety. They will be looking to make sure there are no collaborators, co-conspirators that might be with him or other potential attacks. Historically, we've seen terrorist attacks in every multiple incidents so they want to make sure that is not the case here. What they will be doing is serving search warrants at his residence, at any place he's lived. They will be talking to colleagues, co-workers, et cetera. They will be looking at all types of digital media. They really want to get a full sense of who this guy is, who he knew, how he knew them, and what other plans he might have had.
COOPER: An investigation like this can take a long time.
HENRY: I imagine it will be many days or weeks before they really have true answers and get down to ground. This will be an evolving process. It's going to be a long term investigation.
COOPER: Shawn, I appreciate your expertise. Thanks. Appreciate it. Shawn Henry.
Up next, the latest on the other big story, of course, that we are following tonight, the massive flooding in Colorado. A lot of people are in desperate straits right now.
COOPER: Well, there is breaking news not only here in Washington, D.C. tonight, but also about 1600 miles to the west. We're talking about Colorado, of course, and major rescue operation going on across hundreds of square miles in Colorado where flooding has killed at least seven people, left countless people stranded with less dwindling food and water supplies.
The National Guard says more than 2,100 people have been rescued by air and ground as of last night. That is an awful lot of people, but more than 1,200 people were reported unaccounted for as of last night, simply people who may have lost their cell phones and have no way to communicate with their loved one. We have more now from Kyung Lah.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The water was this high.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDNT: My God, my God.
(voice-over): What else can you say? Two feet of thick mud and sewage covering this entire home in Lyons, Colorado. Town pummeled with pounding rain and flood waters for days. This is where Abe Vasquez's 78-year-old mother barely escaped from. We tried to step from the living room, our feet slowly sinking as we spoke.
(on camera): Do you understand standing here how people could have lost their lives?
ABE VASQUEZ, LYONS, COLORADO RESIDENT: Yes, easily, thank God, it didn't happen but it could have.
LAH: Is it hard looking at your mom's house?
VASQUEZ: Yes. It is, very hard.
LAH (voice-over): The water just beginning to recede, reveals the extent of the damage to Vasquez's property. Cars stuck in debris, what was pavement leading to his business, gone.
(on camera): How many years did it take to build this place?
VASQUEZ: Since '79.
LAH: And in 24 hours?
VASQUEZ: It is gone. It's hard.
LAH (voice-over): By ATV, the only way to travel now, Vasquez wanted to show us the rest of his town, where many residents have yet to be able to return, snapped power poles, road blocks and heavy machinery, people walking where cars failed up and rescuers and the National Guard more visible than the evacuees who left here as the two branches of the river in the middle of the town nearly swallowed it whole.
(on camera): If you want to understand the force of the water this used to be a bridge, a road, take a look at where the bridge is right here. Right over there, there is a black bridge covered with trees, those houses in between all flooded. And take a look at that. That is a car, completely flipped over.
(voice-over): In this neighborhood, explains Vasquez, the flood pushed entire houses around like furniture. As we talked, Kelly Hunt walks up. She can see the roof of her home, but can't get to the other side of the river.
(on camera): Are you saying your house was picked up and moved?
KELLY HUNT, LYONS, COLORADO RESIDENT: Yes, absolutely. Our house has been picked up and moved several feet. Today was our first day up here since we have been evacuated and I feel like it is worse than I thought it would be. We lost absolutely everything we own.
COOPER: It is just so terrible. Kyung Lah joins me now from Longmont, Colorado. There are a hundreds of people now reported missing, but those number will obviously change a lot as rescue workers can get into these communities and communications re- establish, right?
LAH: You are absolutely right about that. We actually, Anderson, that the number start to drop today, there were some 200 people pulled out of Boulder by the National Guard. But a word of caution, the officials are saying the death toll which does stand at seven that could rise.
COOPER: Well, let's hope not. Kyung Lah, appreciate the reporting. We want to remind you to help people affected by disasters like these floods, make a donation to Red Cross, or you can text Red Cross to 90999 to make a $10 donation. We'll be right back.
COOPER: That is it for this hour of 360. We'll see you again one hour from now at 10 p.m. Eastern for "AC360 LATER." We're expecting news conference from authorities right at 10:00 so be sure to join us for that. A lot of details still to come, a lot of questions, obviously, still unanswered about what exactly happened here today in Washington, D.C. Thanks very much for watching. "PIERS MORGAN LIVE" starts now.