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Deadly Fort Hood Shooting; Australia Vows to Keep Search for 370

Aired April 3, 2014 - 08:00   ET


GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, good morning. You said it there. They dealt with this sort of thing here before at Fort Hood.

Yesterday, they had to deal with it again. People were told to shelter in place. This base, the size of a small city, was put on lockdown. Fort Hood, Texas, facing the trauma yet again of another mass shooting.


DISPATCHER: We have an active shooter currently on Fort Hood. We have multiple gunshot victims. We also have people who are escaping through windows.

HOWELL (voice-over): Tragedy strikes again. The Army's largest U.S. base put on lockdown for hours as shots rang out Wednesday. The second deadliest shooting on the Fort Hood military base in Texas in nearly five years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's unreal, really unreal because in 2009, I was here and this thing happened again.

HOWELL: Authorities scramble to the scene shutting the front gates, backing up traffic, urging everyone to stay put.

The lone shooter identified as specialist Ivan Lopez, an American soldier, toting a 45- caliber Smith and Wesson semi-automatic handgun purchased recently.

LT. GEN. MARK MILLEY, FORT HOOD'S SENIOR OFFICER: He was undergoing behavior health and psychiatric treatment for depression and anxiety, and a variety of other psychological and psychiatric issues.

HOWELL: Dressed in combat fatigues, Lopez allegedly opened fire, killing three people and injuring more than a dozen before taking his own life after being confronted by a military police officer.

MILLEY: It was clearly heroic what she did at that moment in time. She did her job. She did exactly what we would expect of a United States Army military police.

HOWELL: Victims were airlifted to nearby hospitals. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Any shooting is troubling. Obviously this reopens the pain of what happened at Fort Hood five years ago.

HOWELL: Fort Hood, the sight of so much pain in 2009 when Major Nidal Hasan opened fire on base killing 13 people and injuring 32. President Obama's touching words on the events of that tragic day almost five years ago sadly relevant again.

OBAMA: So we say goodbye to those who now belong to eternity. May God bless the memory of those that we have lost.


HOWELL: Now, the exact details of the timeline we still have to ask questions to get more specifics on that. But what we know right now, guys is that this was a shooting spree that took place in multiple locations between two buildings, the medical building and the transportation building here on base. We know that Lopez apparently, allegedly, went into a building, opened fire. And then got into his own vehicle, fired shots from his vehicle. Then went to the second building, fired shots.

After all was said and done, we know that some 16 people, at least 16 people, were injured in various states of condition. We know that three people were killed. That number not including Lopez. We understand that he used his own weapon to take his own life after he was confronted by a military officer.

PEREIRA: And who knows how much more damage he could have done if he hadn't encountered that military officer. Very brave standoff there. That military officer luckily saved some lives.

George Howell, thanks so much.

Talk about motivation. What motivated army specialist Lopez to kill? We know that he served in Iraq three years ago. We're getting a bit of a portrait of a man battling serious mental health problems.

Let's bring in Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr for that angle -- Barbara.


You saw Lieutenant General Milley there talking about Lopez being treated for psychological and psychiatric issues. And in fact, when you look at the details, we do know about him, after serving a tour in Iraq in 2011, four-month tour, very short, he did come back and he was being evaluated for possible -- possible post-traumatic stress. That diagnosis had not been made. In fact, PTS is something that can be difficult to diagnose.

But he was undergoing that treatment for anxiety and depression. Not clear with all of that how he did manage to buy a handgun. The issue really at hand here is -- for the investigators, are two things. The security procedures at Fort Hood that were put in place after 2009, were all the standards met?

But the second thing is, another soldier with a history of mental illness and possible post-traumatic stress. This is very sensitive for the military because the reality is, there is no direct link between post-traumatic stress and resorting to mass violence. Soldiers are not ticking time bombs when they come home. They deal with that stigma all too often once they come home in their towns and communities.

But the medical evidence simply doesn't show it. So there's going to be a lot of sensitivity to this and whether this is another case of potential stigma in the public eye if you will, that soldiers will have to deal with.

The reality, Michaela, is tens of thousands of troops have suffered from post-traumatic stress. The overwhelming majority of them come home, get treatment. They still struggle with it but they do not resort to this type of mass violence -- Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Barbara, thank you very much. No question you don't want to stigmatize or extend it to everyone but we need to understand why this man did what he did to get more perspective.

Joining us from Fort Hood is the mayor of Killeen, Texas, the city where Fort Hood is located, obviously. And from Capitol Hill is Republican representative from Texas, chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Appropriations, Representative John Carter. He represents the district where Fort Hood is located.

Gentlemen you both hearing me, OK?



CUOMO: All right, Mr. Mayor, let me start with you.

What is the latest that we understand in terms of the people who have been injured in this situation? We just spoke to one of the trauma surgeons who gave us the medical situation. What are you hearing from them on base about who got hurt?

CORBIN: Well, there's no change in the information from the briefing last night. The Killeen community is mourning and grieving the loss of these three soldiers. And we're praying for the swift recovery of the 16 people who have been injured.

Now is a time for everyone to pray and for the whole community to stand in support of these brave heroes at Fort Hood who put their life on the line every day and are vital members of our community.

CUOMO: Well said, Mr. Mayor. And you have been an ardent advocate. You are a veteran yourself. You've pushed adamantly to have the victims of 2009 treated as victims of a terror attack. That's been a fight for you. Obviously, this is a very different incident. There is no connection to terror, but do you believe this is a story about the military not protecting men and women or do you think this is just a story about violence?

CORBIN: I think it's a story about violence. The military does a great job. There are tens of thousands of cars that come in and out of Fort Hood every day. It would be logistically impossible to search each and every one of those vehicles to the point we can assure with 100 percent certainty there were no weapons being taken on to Fort Hood.

So, I think it's unreasonable to expect any of the people at Fort Hood with regard to their security.

CUOMO: Congressman, do you echo the beliefs of the mayor? Do you believe the management at Fort Hood put in the changes they were supposed to put in after 2009 and that the integrity, security -- the integrity of security at the base is sufficient?

CARTER: I do. If you notice, the General Milley last night talked about the fact that the MP, the female MP, responded exactly as the military would expect. That's the active shooter program they've all been through. And you know, we can see that this is -- the training that was a result of the Hasan shooting.

It was kind of eerie that last night seemed an awful lot like it was in 2009, just kind of shocked that our great community has to go through all this again.

CUOMO: Do you believe, Congressman, that an answer to making a base more safe is to allow the men and women on base to have weapons?

CARTER: Well, I am a believer in the right to keep and bear arms. I believe that licensed carriers should be able to carry.

However, I also believe that if you want to exclude them from your home and tell them they need to leave their pistol at home you can do it. Quite honestly, Fort Hood is the Army's home. I defer to the Army. They get to make that decision.

CUOMO: The big issue that continues to come up in these situations when there's a mass shoot, and there's a component of mental health is about how we treat those who are mentally ill. The fact this man had in recent days bought a powerful handgun despite being treated for behavioral disorders and mental health, do you think it's time to have the discussion about how we do checks on people who are mentally ill and those in general who are allowed to get guns?

CARTER: We have -- in Texas, we have a background check that's run off of your application to purchase guns. I've gone through it as the mayor. And what we feel it's adequate. And we -- I'm a firm believer in the right to keep and bear arms.

And I don't think that's the solution. The solution quite honestly is we have mental health issues in this country not only related to the military but quite honestly walking the streets in any big city and if you think about it, 45,000 soldiers and another probably 20,000 people that work in the post or more. That's, in itself, a big city, not counting the surrounding area.

CUOMO: No question, Congressman.

Let me bounce that question to you, Mr. Mayor. When you hear that the man is being treated for depression, anxiety. He says himself he had TBI, traumatic brain injury, he's going under evaluation for PTSD, he has behavioral problems and it turns out he's able to buy a weapon anyway, do you think it should be that easy?

CORBIN: Well, there's some difficulties. If we impose restrictions on the ability to carry or get a concealed handgun permit because someone is starting to seek help for problems they have, that could serve as a disincentive and keep people from seeking treatment.

So, it's a difficult issue to grapple with. And I know Congressman Carter is a great supporter of the Second Amendment, and in this community, that's very important. But we do have to look at the overall problem in the United States. And it seems like much of the gun violence can be attributed to people who are suffering through some sort of psychological impairments.

So, it's something we need to look at in the future.

CUOMO: One quick question about the victims for you, Mr. Mayor. Do we know if the shooter knew these people? Were they targeted? Do we believe the 16 so far and those killed, the three killed, were randomly selected? What do we know?

CORBIN: There's a team of great law enforcement personnel on Fort Hood and people in the FBI who came in to assist with the investigation. That's certainly one of the things they are looking at. But we don't know the facts on that yet.

I would like to call on all of your viewers to pray for those who are injured. Pray for their speedy recovery and pray that the Lord will give comfort and strength to the families of those who lost loved ones and have loved ones in the hospital this morning.

CUOMO: We were echoing the same sentiment when talking to the trauma surgeon. Certainly the families will need that strength as well as the victims because they are all going through the pain one way or the other. Well said, Mr. Mayor.

I'll end with you, Congressman.

Representative Murphy from Pennsylvania has a bill that's been controversial that deals with mental health and expanding the idea of who gets coverage and what kind of information should be disclosed. It's been a little bit of political infighting there. I don't think it's getting ahead of this situation to talk about that issue because the same issues come up in all of these.

Do you support Representative Murphy's bill? CARTER: Representative Murphy is one of my classmates. We came into the Congress together and I highly respect his opinion. And I am expecting to be a supporter of that bill.

CUOMO: It's going to be important. We do keep seeing the same issues. I do not think, nor do many, that this is about Fort Hood, that this is about the military per se. It's about these larger issues we deal with in all facets of society yet the discussion always seems to fade away as the memory of the incident does as well.

Hopefully this time it does not.

Mr. Mayor, our thoughts are with the community down there. We know you all feel it when anybody on Fort Hood is in pain, especially after what happened in 2009.

And, Congressman, thank you for offering your perspective. We'll be following what happens with Representative Murphy's bill. Thank you to both of you gentleman.

CARTER: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. Mick, over to you.

PEREIRA: All right, Chris.

Next up on NEW DAY, another frustrating day in the search for Flight 370. An Australian ship with a black box pinger on board is now delayed, not arriving until tomorrow. Can it get to the search zone before the flight recorder's batteries go dead?


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

Nearly four weeks since Malaysia Flight 370 vanished, and officials in Australia are not giving up hope. They say they'll keep searching until, quote, "hell freezes over."

We're just learning a British ship has just reached the search area, always important, especially as the search area continues to move.

We have Paula Newton live in Perth.

Paula, what do we know about the ship?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the HMS Echo arrived on the scene in the last 24 hours. We were just told that that ship was on the scene and was trying to listen for sonic transmissions.

It actually had a false alarm, which is really interesting. Now they were able to discount it. Said it was not a trace of 370. But what's significant here is that they now have some specialized assets in the region actually listening for the black boxes. Now, as we said earlier, the Ocean Shield, the one with that specialized equipment from the U.S. Navy not in the search zone yet. It should be there in the next few hours. It's interesting that they are at least trying.

They were concentrating on the new northern zone in this search because it has moved slightly. And I guess they are thinking with some educated guesswork they want to give it a shot. And that, I think, will come as some relief to the families who just want to see this investigation a little bit closer to something, a little more productive -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: All right. Paula, thank you so much.

I want to dig a little deeper on this story. Joining us right now, live on set, in color in person, Miles O'Brien. He is here with us. Of course, he's a CNN aviation analyst and a science correspondent from PBS "NewsHour."

Great to have you here.


PEREIRA: Instead of off in a satellite somewhere.

So, we want to pick up on what Paula has been talking to us about these assets that are coming in, and talk about the time running out on the pingers and the batteries. We know winter is soon approaching.

Is it time or is it going to be time soon for them to reassess, reinvigorate and regroup on this?

O'BRIEN: I think we're right about at that moment.

You know, it's interesting. Using the submarines at this point is a bit premature. For one thing, they aren't ideally suited for this mission. They're much shallower than the bottom of the ocean where you'd presume the pinger to be, of course. So, it would be really lucky if they heard anything.

So the first thing you have to find is just a piece of wreckage floating. And then you have to hind cast from that wreckage almost 30 days now to where the plane might be. That, you know, as good as oceanographers can be and we've had some good ones on our air here, that's a big challenge.

So, getting to the point where you start to think of this as being one of these enduring mysteries. That's a sad moment for the families.


CUOMO: Look, even for -- I think, you know, it's tricky because part of this job is you try and sustain the energy of this story as developments warrant but you also have to deal with perspective.

Air France was such an easier search. They knew basically where it went. Still took two years, had defective black boxes. May happen here. We don't know.

Do you think, Miles, that people have to start being more reasonable in their expectation that maybe that's what we're seeing in the investigation? So much pressure for progress that you have all these assets coming. The U.S. is saying we'll send these special planes but we don't know why you need them when you don't know where to look yet.

Do you think there's a little bit too much pressure on progress?

O'BRIEN: Well, you know, it's natural that you'd like -- this pressure would be there. It's appropriate for the pressure to be there. I still think, overall, the search doesn't have enough resources.

CUOMO: Not enough resources?

O'BRIEN: When you think about it, frankly, a lot of these are wild guesses, frankly. You know, educated, but still pretty wild because they don't have enough information.

We have this sketchy Inmarsat radar, the ping returns which have given us some arcs on the planet. And then from there it's a guess on the speed, range, endurance of the aircraft. That puts you all over the ocean. So given the time frame, the weather, given all the circumstances why not throw more resources. You might see a piece of wreckage.

PEREIRA: Well, given that, you know, we've heard the ambassador to the U.S., the Australian ambassador to the U.S. saying they'll search until hell freezes over.

O'BRIEN: It's about to down there, too.

PEREIRA: It literally is.

And the Malaysian PM says they have a new refined area of search that's given us hope, the northerly area. Is it time to be hopeful still at this point?

O'BRIEN: They have to be careful on their messaging. Using the "H" word right now --

PEREIRA: For the families, it's torturous.

O'BRIEN: You know, the problem with this investigation from the start has been, as much as anything, communication. They haven't communicated well with the families. They haven't communicated well with the outside world.

We really -- for all we know, they are running a very competent investigation. We can't say for certain. It certainly hasn't -- we know it hasn't been well coordinated, which is a reflection of the investigation.

CUOMO: We don't even know if this northward thing is right.

O'BRIEN: Well, I think the northward is a good place to go, though. I do.

CUOMO: Right. We were -- the media got excited because it heard that one of the family members said one of the investigators said that they thought the plane was going northward. We don't know --


O'BRIEN: We have to be careful.

CUOMO: That's about guess work also.

O'BRIEN: It is. The ocean is a big place. This, relatively speaking, a tiny little thing. This is absolutely unprecedented search. We've never done anything this long.

PEREIRA: In terms of the unprecedented, obviously, there's going to be a lot of eyes looking at this -- the airlines, the manufacturers, the investigators. What do you think is going to come out of all of this that we will learn to do better, differently, hopefully for next time?

O'BRIEN: Well, if we come out of this accident and we're not tracking every airliner in a way that, at the very least, GPS information going up to a satellite consistently so we know where they are, shame on us. This is a question for regulators. The airlines are not going to do this unilaterally. They just don't do these things. It's a tough business.

PEREIRA: They need to be forced to.

O'BRIEN: They have to be forced. This is something for the international and the FAA to step up to the plane and say -- and it's really come on, it's basic. We're all sitting here with our devices. Everybody knows where we are. All the people on that plane who had cell phones, we had nor information on where they were than the plane itself. That's crazy.

So this is something that if time goes on and the airlines filibuster this thing somehow, we need collectively to hold them accountable for this.

CUOMO: I think it's one of the most fascinating aspects of this story. You want to give the respect to the 239 families to push for answers. But when you think about the post-9/11 environment that you can't find something used as a weapon on 9/11, and the reason you don't comes down to basically cost effectiveness, not that we don't know how, you know, it almost speaks to what we're deal with G.M.

You know, yes, well, they could do it, but business has to think about money. Business is about money. And then the story will fade. At some point, even the story will fade and then these changes don't get put in place. I mean, how do you make it so this time it is different?

O'BRIEN: This is part of our job. We need to keep asking these questions and not forget this story. If that does happen, it is our responsibility as much as anybody to hold these regulators accountable.

Things do slow down. When you get involved in rule making and what the FAA does and the airlines come back and the pilot union comes back and, you know, 10 years later you're still talking about it and you have another incident. Well, shame on all of us.

After 9/11, this should have been a top priority. Should have been absolutely, you point out a very -- that was weapons headed our way. Now, we can see them coming on radar. But under other circumstances, maybe not.

CUOMO: Not this one.

O'BRIEN: Exactly.

CUOMO: You know? Not this one.

The lamest excuses, also, we've got to find that black box. It only records the first two hours then. What? Why? Pilots thought it would invade their privacy.

Are you kidding me? Well, what about the black box? Better find it within 30 days or the batteries die in 30 days.

Well, why doesn't the think float to the surface? Oh, it does on military ships. Why not on this one? It's a little more expensive. You know, the reasons are so lame. So frustrating.

O'BRIEN: And to say that to the families.

CUOMO: Right.

PEREIRA: To look them in the eye.

O'BRIEN: How can you stare them in the face and say that.

PEREIRA: Miles O'Brien, really delight have you here. Thank so much as always.

O'BRIEN: Great to be here.

CUOMO: We will have you here many more times is my suspicious and hopefully for the right reasons. It's great to have you here. Thank you.

We're going to take a quick break here. When we come back, mostly because everyone wants to take pictures with Miles.

But also, think about this for perspective -- two massacres in less than five years on a military base. That is the story of Fort Hood right now and the community is once again stunned by another shooting from another soldier. We're going to ask two of the nation's finest military minds why this largest base is forced to relive a nightmare.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Four people dead, including the shooter, 16 others injured. The second massacre at Fort Hood in less than five years.

The gunman shot himself in the head when confronted by a female military officer. The Army confirms the shooter was being treated for depression, anxiety. Also being evaluated for PTSD, also had behavioral issues.

How could this happen again? It's a question with probably an all too simple an answer. It really did just happen again. What does this mean for the military? Is it an issue for the military at all?

Let's bring in CNN military analyst, former commanding general of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center, Major General James "Spider" Marks and retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Russel Honore.

Thank you very much gentleman for being with us. Appreciate it. An honor to be with you, to be sure. I'm sorry it's under these circumstances.

Spider, let me start with you. We said earlier in this show I'm not sure this is a military story in terms of why there was violence on base.

But just to iterate, when you look at what Fort Hood did after 2009, how it was supposed to make security changes, make it a better place for our fighting men and women to live. Do you think they did that despite what we just saw?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think everything learned from 2009 was implemented at Fort Hood and that had to go not only to the security, the access to the post, the ability to continue to conduct operations in an efficient and effective way, because you can shut that place down just allowing people to try to get on post every day and then depart at the end of the day. It's a 90,000-person installation.