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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Fort Hood Investigation; Interview with Doctor at Hospital Treating Fort Hood Wounded; Briefing on Fort Hood Shooting
Aired April 3, 2014 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL WEIR, CNN ANCHOR: Any moment now, the commander of Fort Hood, Texas, will update the nation about the deadly shootings on his post, and you will see it here live. I'm Bill Weir, and this is THE LEAD.
In the national lead, Tuesday, he was a husband, father, soldier. On Wednesday, he became a murderer of his comrades. So, what drove this man to commit such violent horror? And with another rampage on the nation's largest military post still fresh in our memory, how could this possibly happen there again?
In the world lead, the search for Flight 370 now called the most difficult in human history. In the coming hours, a ship with advanced U.S. technology will finally arrive to help find the black boxes, but is it too little, too late?
And also in national news, for some, spring brings blessed relief from the cold, but for others it's time to duck and cover, because tornado season has arrived. Much of the Central Time Zone is under the threat of extreme weather at this hour. So we are watching the skies.
And welcome to THE LEAD. My friend Jake Tapper resting his froggy voice for another day. I'm Bill Weir.
And we begin with the national lead. Any minute now, we're expecting the commander of Fort Hood to hold a news conference to give us the very latest on the shooting rampage that stunned all those Army families serving on that post, stunned them yet again. The second that begins, of course we will bring it to you live.
So many questions swirling around this man today, specialist Ivan Lopez, a 34-year-old husband and father of a little girl. We know he was a truck driver for a few months in Iraq, but saw no actual combat.
We do know the Army says that he is the man who opened fire inside Fort Hood, killing three soldiers and wounding 16 others before putting that .45 Smith & Wesson to his own head. And while Fort Lee has a proud legacy going back to World War II, we can't help but flash back to one of its more infamous moments, that 2009 mass shooting, very same military post in Texas, which left 13 dead.
Our George Howell is at Fort Hood. He's been there all day, where the commander will speak soon.
George, once again, the enemy came from within.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bill, you put it best.
This community, they have gone through this again, some five years ago, Major Nidal Hasan opening fire. This community was put on lockdown. People were told to stay inside, to stay safe. The sirens were blaring.
It happened again yesterday and this community again went through the tragedy of loss.
HOWELL (voice-over): As Fort Hood struggles to find out why Ivan Lopez went on a shooting rampage, new details are emerging about what happened. Three people are dead, plus the shooter himself, and at least 16 others were hurt.
Three remain in critical condition and some of the injured will be released today.
DR. MATTHEW DAVIS, SCOTT & WHITE HOSPITAL: There's a tremendous amount of work left to be done for a lot of these patients. I would say that in terms of life-threatening events right now, I feel pretty good for our patients.
HOWELL: Lopez served four months in 2011 as a truck driver in Iraq, but was never in combat. He was transferred to Fort Hood from Fort Bliss just two months ago.
The 34-year-old Army specialist claimed he was suffering from PTSD, and was being evaluated, but had not been definitively diagnosed. He was being treated for anxiety, depression, and was on a variety of medications, including aid Ambien.
CNN has learned Lopez passed a background check when he recently bought a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun near the post. Fort Hood is no stranger to shooting tragedies. Five years ago, in 2009, Army Major Nidal Hasan killed 13 people and injured 32 on Fort Hood in one of the deadliest shootings on a U.S. military base.
And in 1991, a shooter crashed his pickup truck through Luby's Cafeteria in nearby Killeen, just off the Fort Hood post, and shot 50 people, legal 22. The latest shooting has some in town wondering how a gun got through the post's security checks, but Killeen's mayor says he's not surprised.
DAN CORBIN, MAYOR OF KILLEEN, TEXAS: The truth is, you can't make sure that something like this doesn't happen again. It's impossible to search these tens and thousands of vehicles to ensure that nobody is bringing a handgun on post. You couldn't possibly do that and still have an effective work force.
HOWELL: And, Bill, we know, since that 2009 shooting, there are some new security measures in place. For instance, on post, there's more of a community watch atmosphere, people looking out for each other. Also, we know commanders have been given training to look for workplace violence, and dispatchers, they using technology now to pinpoint the source, the location of cell phone calls when they are dealing with a situation like this.
All of those systems were in play yesterday, Bill.
WEIR: But as your guest mentioned there, this is still a place that houses and employs over 50,000 people. It's like a city there and so difficult to...
HOWELL: Absolutely. It's a big city.
WEIR: George, thank you so much.
And as George did also mention, that shooter being treated for depression and anxiety, but Army officials say quote had he "a clean record" when it came to his behavior. Specialist Lopez underwent a psychiatric exam just last month, and yet the Army said he showed no sign that he was going to do anything like this.
Our Miguel Marquez is digging deeper into Lopez's background.
Miguel, you're learning also about the weapon involved. What can you tell us?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
Look, not only was his long career in the military not marred by any major transgressions, but even in the hours leading up to this shooting, at noon, his neighbor saw him wave goodbye to him. He was friendly. He went over to the leasing office, paid his rent at 12:30.
Just hours later, he was shooting people dead. The gun that he purchased was at a local place called Guns Galore. In addition to him buying that gun there, Nidal Hasan also purchased a weapon there before his 2009 rampage here at Fort Hood.
And then there was a copycat that got caught before he was able to kill anyone, Jason Abdo, who also purchased ammunition and gunpowder also at Guns Galore, but the government set up in sting in that situation and were able to get him before he carried out any deadly acts.
But absolutely incredible that this guy was basically completely normal to everyone around him, but under the surface, the concerns about -- his own concern about PTSD, and anxiety, and depression that he was being treated for were right there -- Bill.
WEIR: All right. Miguel Marquez from just outside the post down at Fort Hood now.
And nine of those shooting victims are being treated at Scott & White Memorial Hospital in Temple, Texas, three in critical condition at this hour, but they are expected to survive. Still, doctors have warned that they are not out of the woods yet. Those are their words.
I want to bring in one doctor, Matthew Davis, director of trauma at Scott & White Memorial.
Doctor, thank you for being with us.
We have followed your updates and appreciate them throughout the day.
What can you tell us about the ages, the conditions of those folks hospitalized right now?
DAVIS: Thanks for having me, Bill. I appreciate the opportunity to be on today.
We have -- as you know, we had nine patients that were brought to Scott & white last evening. At that time, three of them were critical, and the remainder of them at that time were in fair condition. I'm happy to report that we have actually been able to upgrade conditions on multiple of those patients, essentially all of them.
The three that were in critical condition last night are considered now in serious condition. They have been stable in the overnight period. They still require some more work and they still have some significant issues we have to address, but overall they are doing fairly well considering the magnitude of their injuries.
Of the remaining six, four have actually been able to be discharged home today. That was following a visit from some of the senior commanders at Fort Hood who came by to make sure they were OK and had their needs met.
Overall, the remaining two who are able to converse with us are in good spirits and have been gracious, as usual, for the Fort Hood soldiers.
WEIR: Now, did you -- did they give you any sense or can you, as a doctor, give us any sense of what happened to them, how it went down, how they were hit?
DAVIS: I didn't get a lot of those details.
I'm sure that will be coming out in the coming days with the military during their investigation. What I can tell you is that it seemed unexpected. It was a sudden thing. I believe that most of them felt kind of shocked, and it was a surreal moment, as I imagine it would be for most anybody in that kind of a circumstance.
WEIR: And does the nature of the wounds tell you anything about, were they running from this shooter or trying to defend themselves in any way?
DAVIS: I think when you're in a situation like that with multiple gunshots being fired and people trying to flee or hide, trajectory of the bullets can be very difficult to understand. And so we don't read too much into that. But we do try to pay attention to obviously where the bullet wounds are located, what particular vital organs could have been impacted. And that's the most important thing to us when we're trying to stabilize and save someone's life.
WEIR: I think I saw you say earlier today that their ages -- there's eight men and one woman still hospitalized between 20 -- in their early 20s to mid-40s or so.
What about their hopes for rehabilitation? Do you think these nine will be able to continue their service?
DAVIS: Yes, I think that, of the three that I'm mentioned before, there are a couple who I don't know how long-term effects are going to be. There may be some lingering potential disability from that.
I think it's too early to definitively say that, but certainly there is some concern there. There will be some extensive rehab on the part of the three who have been in critical, now serious condition. The others seem to have less severe physical wounds. I think that the thing that we're cognizant of at this point is that they will all have significant emotional wounds as they move forward from this.
And that's going to be important for us to recognize and to address head on as we go forward.
WEIR: Well, let me ask you a personal question now. You seem like the kind of sort of ice-veined professional we'd all want in an emergency, but this must affect you.
What was it like seeing all of those victims come in, one after another, and then seeing some of them reunited with their families?
DAVIS: You know, I think that the first feeling, whenever this -- whenever I found out about the potential of this, you know, when the news began to trickle in, was a little bit of disbelief, how can this possibly happen again-type feeling.
Very quickly, you move to resolve and determination to make sure that you have got all your systems in place to care for these patients appropriately. And we moved to that pretty quickly, set up our command center and got going.
Really, through years of training that not just myself, but the doctors at Darnall, who provided excellent care, the doctors here at Scott & White who were providing a lot of the hands-on patient care, and the nurses, a lot of our training goes to understanding how to, in those moments, be able to key in on saving someone's life.
You certainly experience those emotions, but we have a -- by virtue of our training and experience, we have a way to kind of put them away for a minute...
DAVIS: ... and take care of that.
I will say that, over the course of today, it's been humbling to watch their interaction.
WEIR: Dr. Davis, I'm going to only to interrupt there.
Let's go now to the commander of Fort Hood, Lieutenant General Mark Milley.
LT. GEN. MARK MILLEY, U.S. ARMY: Good afternoon.
Again, condolences to the families of the fallen, and our compassion and condolences for all of those who were injured in this affair, for all their families. We're working closely with all of them at this time.
Right now, I would like the provide you an update. I won't repeat the information that I provided yesterday, or last night, but an update, a short update on the shooting incident that happened yesterday.
First, I want to announce that we have positively identified, and we are able to release, as next of kin have been notified, the alleged shooter, is Specialist Ivan A. Lopez. He is 34 years old, originally from Puerto Rico. Specialist Lopez was assigned to the 49th Transportation Movement Control Battalion of the 13th Sustainment Brigade.
And, again, his next of kin notification has been complete. We will be publishing later on this afternoon, this evening Specialist Lopez's releasable service record. And you can find that on FortHoodpresscenter.com.
In regards to Specialist Lopez's medical status, out of respect, as you understand, for his family and the integrity of the ongoing investigation, I will not say anything further than the comments that I made yesterday.
As for the investigation, Criminal Investigation, Division of the United States Army continues as the lead investigating agency. And they are right now synchronizing all of the investigative work of the federal, state, local, and Army agencies throughout Fort Hood and the surrounding area.
They are interviewing witnesses, and that is an ongoing and active investigation. I would ask that everyone avoid speculation about the incident and let the investigation and the investigators take their course.
Many of those are also -- many of those soldiers are also witnesses, and I would ask the media to respect the integrity of the investigation to try to stay clear of soldiers who may have been witnesses.
And, as I stated last night, at this point we have not yet ruled out anything whatsoever. And we are committed to letting the investigation run its course. But we have, again, no indications at this time of any links to terrorist organizations of any type, either national or international.
I just returned from Scott & White, visited with our wounded soldiers down there. And I would like to thank publicly the great professional support that we have gotten from the entire medical staff at Scott & White, tremendous effort by all of them, of the medevac pilots, and then also the great professional medical effort that was done here on Fort Hood at Darnell.
There are casualties still at Darnell, and there are casualties still being treated at Scott & White. And they are getting world-class medical care. And we appreciate all of that.
Currently, we have 16 wounded soldiers and as we've said yesterday, four killed, the shooter and three victims. Of the 16 soldiers, nine of them are at Scott & White currently. And three are at Darnall. Four of the soldiers have already been released.
We're planning a memorial ceremony early next week and we'll keep you advised of when that is to honor our fallen. I'd also like to thank the outpouring of support from the central part of Texas and entire state of Texas and national leadership within the military and our civilian leadership at the national level. Everyone is chipping in to try to assist in any way that they can and I would recommend that any individual wanting to donate support in any manner, shape or form, contact the Fort Hood PIO that's on the Facebook page and they can point you in the right direction. But a variety of organizations from the USO, the Red Cross and a wide variety of organizations are providing assistance right now and we deeply appreciate their support as well.
With that, I'll take questions after I turn this over to Senator Cornyn. But then I ask that you keep the fallen and the families of the fallen, along with the wounded and families of the wounded in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you very much.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN, R-TEXAS: Well, General Milley, thank you for your strong and steady leadership during difficult both here in assignment abroad from where we last met.
I'm back here at Fort Hood for the second time in about 4 1/2 years and what I see is a community that has come together in a time of crisis and heartbreak and is pulling together. But this community is no stranger to hardship and challenges and they have risen and met the test each and every time and I know that they will do that again. I'm here today to offer my support to my constituents, and certainly the military leadership as they conduct their investigations in a very deliberate and careful sort of way, not jumping to conclusions but seeing this thing through to the very end, as I know they will and we will.
But I look forward, not only to the briefing that I just had with General Milley, but also having a chance to meet with the first responders, the people who showed up and confronted this crisis and dealt with it as professionals and then I look forward to having a chance with General Milley to visit some of the wounded and perhaps to help comfort some of the families of those who were fallen.
MILLEY: So with that, I'd be happy to take a few questions. Sir?
MILLEY: I'll wait until the investigation confirms that to me, I have some reports to that effect, but I don't have confirmation.
MILLEY: No. He was transferred to Fort Hood from Fort Bliss. He was assigned to a unit at Fort Bliss, Texas. He was reclassified into another MOS. While he was at Fort Bliss, he was an infantryman, he reclassified into 88 Mike, a vehicle operator, and he came to Fort Hood under that MOS.
He was not being transferred here to be assigned to the WTU.
MILLEY: No, that is not the reason why he's transferred. That is not the reason why he's transferred. Thank you.
MILLEY: We're looking into that right now. Yes. There are reports of that, trying to confirm or deny that exactly.
QUESTION: General, specialist Lopez back in Puerto Rico say that he was upset that he was given only 24 hours by the military to attend his mother's funeral. What exactly were the terms of his leave for that funeral?
MILLEY: Yes, I don't have the details on that right now.
QUESTION: Are you aware of him purchasing a gun around that same time?
MILLEY: Say that again, please.
The unit mission was complete at four months.
QUESTION: Was the purchase of the gun, did that happen in about the same time that his mother passed away?
MILLEY: I do not know.
MILLEY: At this time, there's no change in the DOD policy that I'm aware of in terms of carrying weapons on a military installation.
QUESTION: General, do you feel like you're any closer -- do you feel like you're any closer than you were last night in understanding why he did this?
MILLEY: We have very strong evidence that he had a medical history that indicates unstable psychiatric or psychological condition. Going through all of the records to ensure that that is in fact correct but we believe that to be the fundamental underlying causal factor.
QUESTION: Is there any incidents at Fort Bliss that you can speak to? You said there is history there.
MILLEY: Yes. No specific incidents, that's correct, that I'm aware of.
MILLEY: I'm sorry?
QUESTION: Ever filed a complaint about assault?
MILLEY: Not that I'm aware of. Not that I'm aware.
QUESTION: Sir, are you referring to records that are within his career in the military?
MILLEY: That's correct.
MILLEY: I'm sorry?
MILLEY: We're looking into that and I try to figure out what the trigger event was. It was mentioned yesterday there may have been a verbal altercation with another soldier or soldiers, and it's a strong possibility that that, in fact, immediately preceded this shooting. We do not have that definitively at this point but we have strong indications of that.
MILLEY: I'm not sure I understood the question.
MILLEY: He's not registered a weapon on Fort Hood. That's correct.
MILLEY: As you know, Fort Hood is a big installation. We've got about 70,000 or 80,000 folks here that work on a day-to-day basis. There's another 40,000 family members. Add on to that retirees, contractors and others. We've got a population well over 100,000 here.
It would not be realistic to do a pat-down search in every single soldier and an employee at Fort Hood for a weapon on a daily basis. That would be unrealistic. Thank you.
QUESTION: Talk more about the female MP --
MILLEY: The female MP, and then we'll come back to your question for the senator. But there were several instances of clear heroism. I would cite that female MP. We're not going to release her name yet. She's germane to the investigation. But she clearly performed her duty, except she will. But there's others.
There were folks inside some of these buildings who performed very heroic, personal acts in saving others. There's at least one chaplain that I'm aware of that shielded and saved other soldiers, broke some windows, got them to safety.
I think the performance of the medical staff, the initial performance of medical staff at Darnall was exceptional and I've seen a lot of medical staff perform in combat and the performance at Darnall and performance at Scott & White, easily rose those levels of combat standard. So, there's an awful lot of heroism out there. Yes, he did fire a weapon.
QUESTION: What is the impact of QUESTION: (Inaudible).?
MILLEY: We've got all the commands and command information throughout the day to day, but all our reports and my personal observation so far. You've got an installation that's strong and resilient and we're professional soldiers. A very high percentage of combat veterans here so the morale of soldiers is serious, professional, and we're going about our duties to take care of this and move on and take care of the families.
MILLEY: No indication at this point. No indication that he's targeting specific people. I'll await the investigation. I think somebody had a -- yes, go ahead.
CORNYN: Well, General Milley's job is to carry out the Department of Defense but I'm competent that there will be a thorough review of the policy and the military will make the best judgment of what needs to happen in order to protect people on base. So, I respect General Milley's position. I respect the importance of doing that thorough review to see if there are any gaps or any things that need to be corrected in the future policy.
QUESTION: General, you mentioned the soldier's mental condition. Are you all concerned that this soldier may not have gotten the psychological help that's needed?
MILLEY: We're going to do a thorough investigation of all of the systems to include medical. I've asked for external investigators to come in and help us with that, to ensure that there's no gaps or seams. We do know that he was under treatment. So, he was in the system and he was being looked at.
QUESTION: -- that he might not, or are you concern that he might not have gotten enough psychological --
MILLEY: I think that's too early to tell. I'll wait until we get the investigators in here, the professional medical investigators tell me whether there's gaps in that particular system.
MILLEY: I do not know that.
MILLEY: I do not know. We'll wait until the official investigation comes out to determine whether it's premeditated or not.
I'm sorry. Go ahead.
MILLEY: Yes, she responded to the scene.
Let me back up. At 16:16 hours yesterday is the first 911 call. That call was made by two wounded soldiers who themselves demonstrated heroism and presence of mind to make a 911 call. And I've talked to both of them down at Scott & White.
The shooting began just a few minutes prior to that and they were able to get that call. She arrived with her vehicle at 16:20 hours. She arrived four minutes after that 911 call and she began working the scene with other law enforcement that began to show up. A short time later, the shooter showed up, approached her at approximately 20 feet and, as I described yesterday, put his hands up, went down and underneath his jacket he pulled out the .45 caliber Smith & Wesson and determined that was a threat and then engaged him with a small arms fire in which time the shooter did a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
QUESTION: (Inaudible). MILLEY: I doubt it, based on her rank. But I don't know the answer to that.
QUESTION: The army chaplain, what is his status? Did he survive?
I'm sorry? Yes.
QUESTION: How close was it?
MILLEY: Close. Close.
MILLEY: I'm sorry?
MILLEY: No. At this point, I'd like to not shed any light on that because it's being fully developed. It's part of the investigation. Thanks.
Let me go over on this side here.
MILLEY: That would be real speculation and I don't -- I'm not going to engage in that.
We are looking at all of the factors that you would suspect we're looking at, everything from finance to medical, personal relationships, marital issues, family health issues, all of those things. We're looking to all of that.
MILLEY: I'm sorry. Did she strike him?
QUESTION: Did she strike him with her --
MILLEY: I don't have the full autopsy report at this time. I do not know if the other wounds or not, other than the self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
MILLEY: I don't have all of those rules.
MILLEY: He did what I said he did, which is shielded some individuals, took control of the situation, broke a window and got them out to safety.
Yes, ma'am? QUESTION: (Inaudible).
MILLEY: I couldn't hear the question. Say that again.
QUESTION: Can you tell me more about the reasons why it happened and what happened?
MILLEY: I don't know all of the facts on that report of a leave request yet. That's being developed by the investigators. So I don't want to comment on that until I get accurate information on it. Go ahead.
MILLEY: No, there's no connection to that that we know of. Over here?
MILLEY: She was not wounded.
MILLEY: You're going to have to speak up.
MILLEY: I don't know. We've got local law enforcement checking all of that. Yes?
MILLEY: No indications of any of that.
QUESTION: General, which building did he go into first?
MILLEY: He went into the 49th transportation headquarters building. Yes, ma'am?
QUESTION: Have you confirmed that he purchased the gun from Guns Galore?
He purchased the gun from Guns Galore on 1 March.
QUESTION: When did he buy that?
MILLEY: 1 March.
CORNYN: Well, mental health issues are the most vexing in terms of how do we identify those who have problems that they need to be helped with and I think at the same time we have to be very careful and not paint with too broad of a brush and assume because someone has been in combat that they necessarily have those issues. We shouldn't stigmatize healthy people who are resilient and able to deal with those stresses. We ought to identify those people the best we can who do need help and get them the help that they need.
And this remains, to me, one of the most vexing but also one of the most urgent issues, not just with regard to the military but the mass shooting incidents that we've seen, not only on military installations but in our country, period.
QUESTION: Senator, did you envision --
MILLEY: We'll take two more questions.
QUESTION: -- this leading towards an investigationary hearing or a renewed call in Washington for veterans and active duty mental health issues?
CORNYN: Well, the debate about and discussion about how to appropriately deal with veterans and active duty military mental health issues is one that has been ongoing for at least the last 13 years with the special intensity because of Afghanistan and Iraq. But it's not going to abate. My sense is that it's going to accelerate the scrutiny and investigation will need to heighten and we'll need to deal more extensively with it. This is a very challenging issue but one we can't shrink from and we won't.
MILLEY: Take one more question from over here. Go ahead. One more question from over here.
MILLEY: There's no indication at this time that he was targeting soldiers.
MILLEY: We do. But I'm not prepared to release that at this time. Thank you. Appreciate that. We'll do this again tomorrow. Thank you.