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Army: Over 150 Special Agents Investigating Shooting; Digging Into Shooter's Past; Growing Frustration with Malaysian Government; Interview with Rep. Tim Murphy

Aired April 4, 2014 - 16:30   ET


LT. GEN. MARK MILLEY, COMMANDER, FORT HOOD: -- some of the -- within the existing SOPs, we have increased some of the force protection measures here. The temporary in nature, we shut down the base. There are some additional MPs out, et cetera. But an overall change in policy, no, we have not done that yet.

QUESTION: Is one of the crime scenes the chaplain service?

GREY: I'm not getting into the details. I've given you as much about the crime scene and the location.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)

GREY: Idan.

QUESTION: The pronunciation of it.

GREY: Excuse me?

QUESTION: How many of the victims were involved in the altercation? Do you have a number?

GREY: Again, I'm not getting into numbers or details. Like I said in my briefing, I'm not getting into specifics of a timeline. I'm not getting into specifics of the timeline, step by step.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We're going to break away from this press conference featuring Lieutenant General Mark Milley, the commander of Fort Hood, as well as Chris Gray, a spokesman for the Criminal Investigation Command at Quantico. They are basically deferring answering questions from the reporters about the shooting at Fort Hood.

I want to bring back Barbara Starr, our Pentagon correspondent. Barbara, it seems that there has been an updating of some sort of some of the information that we were told yesterday. It seems that some of the individuals who were wounded were individuals that Specialist Lopez was involved in an altercation with. So there was no premeditated targeting, but perhaps a conflict that escalated and then they were targeted.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That seems to be what General Milley and Chris Gray, the CID spokesman are talking about. They are saying that Lopez was all -- all their evidence now shows Lopez was involved in a verbal altercation with some members of his unit and that is escalated from there, that that verbal altercation may have been what they are calling the precipitating factor that led to these shootings.

But that may be the precipitating factor that led to the shootings. What the Army investigation is not talking about yet is where they will go back and see what led this Army soldier to have a state of mind, a frame of mind that would have led him to be perhaps so angry, perhaps so much full of emotion. That -- they will go back and look at everything about his mental health, his situation at Fort Hood and try and determine how it got to this point -- Jake.

TAPPER: That's right, Barbara Starr. In fact, after the altercation, those individuals were shot by Specialist Lopez. He then shot proceeded to shoot other individuals in two other buildings and the road outside. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you so much.

Coming up, could better treatment of our veterans have prevented this from happening in any way? We'll ask the congressman who is pushing to overhaul mental health care in this country, Congressman Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Continuing with some breaking news in our "National Lead," the shootings at Fort Hood, Texas. Moments ago, we learned that investigators have found no evidence of any combat injuries or traumatic brain injuries in the shooter's past. We are also learning that Specialist Ivan Lopez was involved in a verbal altercation with other soldiers from his unit before killing three fellow soldiers and wounding 16 and then taking his own life.

Investigators have been zeroing in on the shooter's psychological history, but now even his own father in a statement that his son, quote, "must not have been in his right mind." There is, of course, still so much we do not know about the killer's true mental state.

Let's bring in Congressman Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania, Republican congressman, also a clinical psychologist to talk more about all of these new details. Congressman, thanks for being here, as always.

I want to get your immediate reaction to what Lieutenant General Mark Milley, the commander at Fort Hood said they have been looking into Specialist Lopez's past. They had found in his combat experience in Iraq where he was reportedly a truck driver, no combat with the enemy, no specific event, no specific wounds.

They also said they have concluded, as of now, that the underlying medical condition he had presumably if this was posttraumatic stress, depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, that none of that were a direct precipitating factor in these killings specifically they said it's more likely the confrontation.

I find that -- that doesn't make sense to me. It makes sense in terms of the shooting the individuals and the altercation but then he went to two other buildings and apparently shot randomly. REPRESENTATIVE TIM MURPHY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: When you have an altercation, it's not normal to look for somebody and shoot them. It's not giving the full depth and understanding. We also know that most TBIs in the military --

TAPPER: Traumatic brain injuries?

MURPHY: Are not related to combat. Auto accidents, falls, fights, or whatever it is. So we need to find out. I don't know how much is accurate or true, but that can certainly affect a person's thinking and it can add to anxiety and worries because it does affect your balance, your stability, your visual perception. And those can contribute to what appears to be a posttraumatic stress disorder, very similar to symptoms in many ways.

They have also reported depression and anxiety. I'm not here to diagnose him, but when they talk about medications, it's very important to understand that when a person is on medications, starting a medication, adjusting the dose, there can be a number of side effects which, for example, there can be an increase in suicide, an increase in hostility, anxiety, worry.

TAPPER: Sometimes it can have the exact opposite affect?

MURPHY: That's why they have to be monitored very, very closely. When a person is engaged in that, you're watching them closely.

TAPPER: Can I say one thing? I want to talk about these issues and you and I have talked about them and we'll continue to do so on the show because mental health is something that the country needs to talk about much more, but we also don't want to stigmatize. Most people with anxiety, sleeplessness, posttraumatic stress do not have any propensity to violence.

MURPHY: Thank you for saying that. Because I've seen too many people get into the media and talk about this and even military uses statements like crazy and lost it. This is a human being. It's terrible what happened to him. It's terrible what happened to other people. But what we don't want to have a situation where other soldiers are now afraid to go and get help because they think they are going to be branded as a killer.

They will be stand down and taken away from their responsibility. They won't get promoted. That's what the military has fought so hard for the last two years. Something else was going on for this young man. Something was taking place and that will be part of it. But to simply say a single event, an altercation precipitated it, no, it's multiple things and let's look at the depth of what happened.

TAPPER: When we go back and look for information about his past, when the army does that and the Criminal Investigative Division from Quantico, what kinds of things can they be looking for?

MURPHY: In his background?

TAPPER: Yes. MURPHY: Well, they should look at where their family stresses. His mother died recently, his grandfather died. That can lead to some problems. What was his sleeplessness? One of the predominant factors for military, they have studied that has led to problems is problems with sleep. When you do not get enough sleep.

TAPPER: It's a form of torture, literally.

MURPHY: You're thinking is not clear. If he was not sleeping a lot, we don't know what was taking place there, which drug was he taking? All of those things have to fit together, but we know it really affects a person's thinking ability, cognition, aim and performance in combat, on their job, all of those things. Was he being reprimanded for his job performance? He had just moved to a new base.

They should find out what was happening with his family, what stresses were there. There were so many things that take place in the social, emotional, the background and biological -- you have to look at that whole picture to really understand. But let's not make it simple.

TAPPER: I want to read this quote to you from a clerk at Guns Galore, the store where he bought his gun. And we don't want to demonize the store either. The store reportedly was involved in stopping the shooting at Fort Hood as well. The clerk said based on the fact that the military officials said Specialist Lopez was unstable. "Why on earth did they not flag his name? Whose responsibility is it? Ours or the government?"

This is an issue -- everybody says we need to keep guns out of the hands of those who are not mentally stable. It doesn't seem to me that the bar right now is adjudicated unstable. It doesn't seem to me that he was at that level at all to be told that he shouldn't be allowed to buy a gun.

MURPHY: Well, when someone in the military is undergoing some treatment, one of the appropriate procedures to do is to do a risk assessment. What I do with my patients at Walter Reed, you say, do you own any firearms, do you have any ceremonial blades or swords in the house? You talk to perhaps a sergeant or some other officer and you get the team working as a team. That can be hugely beneficial. Say, we need to have somebody check on your buddy, check the risks. I don't know if that was done either.

TAPPER: We've talked about your legislation before. We're out of time right now. We're going to have you back again to talk about your legislation to address the mental health problems in this country. Congressman Tim Murphy as always, thank you so much for being here. We appreciate it.

MURPHY: Thank you.

TAPPER: Up next on THE LEAD, families of the passengers of Flight 370 have been briefed by authorities, but they have not been getting a lot of answers. And they've now been denied a crucial piece of information. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Now it's time for our "World Lead." Four weeks ago to the day since Malaysia Flight 370 vanished, it has been a gruelling 29 days for those with loved ones aboard the flight and not just because so little progress seems to have been made in the search for the plane. There's also growing frustration with the Malaysian government for what many perceived to be a lack of cooperation to keep families merely in the loop on certain aspects of the investigation.

Many are asking whether this has something to do with incompetence on the part of these Malaysian government officials or if there's something there that they are trying to hide. CNN's senior correspondent, Joe Johns spoke with some family members in Kuala Lumpur.


JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Anger, frustration, and suspicion dominated the meeting between the passengers' relatives and Malaysian investigators and officials. The partner of American passenger, Philip Wood who attended the three-hour session told CNN, quote, "It is impossible that this relatively sophisticated military power didn't see it. They are clearly hiding something. We just don't know what."

A journalist and a family member of a Flight 370 passenger, both present at the closed-door briefing tell CNN officials refuse to release the audio recording of air-to-ground conversation from the cockpit. They did, however, release a transcript of the recording this week. The families are suspicious because officials changed their story about whether the last words came from the captain or co- pilot.

And that the final message was, "Good night Malaysian 370" and not "All right, good night," as they had heard before. Malaysian officials gave no explanation for the discrepancy between the two quotes, but it was another blow to their credibility. The recording is part of the ongoing investigation and has not been released.

They also haven't released Flight 370's complete cargo list. Earlier they said that the plane was carrying fruit, some electronic equipment and a load of lithium batteries which, if stored improperly, can be a fire hazard. The airline's CEO said that the batteries were packed properly and not considered hazardous.

Officials did answer a few questions telling the families the plane made a westward turn after it lost contact rather than turning east and then looping around to head west. The families also want to know more about the satellite data that tracked the plane after it left its intended route. They want a representative of the satellite company Inmarsat to attend the next briefing.

Also, since some family members don't trust the satellite data, they want a search of the remote Indian Ocean of Diego Garcia. Some of the passengers' relatives still buy the conspiracy theory that the jet was hijacked and either flown to a military base and hidden or shot down as it approached. In the end, the passengers' relatives left the meeting dissatisfied.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): So they told you old information?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Yes, we had to keep asking them questions.


JOHNS: It's important to say that Malaysian law enforcement officials have not been willing to release certain information because, in their view, this is still a criminal investigation until and unless the evidence suggests otherwise -- Jake.

TAPPER: Joe Johns in Malaysia, thank you so much.

Coming up on THE LEAD, the families of Flight 370 were offered an initial $5,000 a piece but Malaysia Airlines will not get off that cheaply. Lawsuits are about to smack the company that managed to lose an airplane.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Now it's time for the "Money Lead." Financial compensation cannot bring back their loved ones, but that is certainly not stopping teams of lawyers from lining up to offer their services to the families of the missing passengers from Flight 370. Jean Casarez joins me now with more. Jean, what kind of legal action have we already seen?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, we've only seen one suit that we know of, initiated in Illinois. Dismissed outright by a judge saying it was improper at this time to ask for maintenance and sales documentation on the Boeing aircraft that went missing four weeks ago. But that does not stop attorneys from the United States and elsewhere flying to Malaysia to try and get clients. Those clients being grieving family members.


CASAREZ (voice-over): The images are heart-wrenching. Families of the missing slowly coming to terms with what is beginning to seem inevitable.

MD MOR YUSOF, CHAIRMAN, MALAYSIA AIRLINES: We must now face the reality that the plane is now lost.

CASAREZ: But there is also another group on site waiting anxiously, the lawyer ready to scope up clients and begin the long battle for financial compensation.

JUSTIN GREEN, AVIATION ATTORNEY: Right now the families are being misled from very unethical U.S. lawyers. CASAREZ: Attorney Justin Green has tried aviation cases for 17 years. Green says he is aware of multiple U.S. law firms who are in Asia right now soliciting families from Flight MH370. Earlier then United States law and ethical rules would permit.

GREEN: These lawyers launched within days, maybe even hours of a crash. Ambulance chasers, in essence, but they are ambulance chasers on a global scale.

CASAREZ: How high are the stakes? A possibly limitless windfall of millions perhaps even billions of dollars in cases that could potentially be brought against Malaysia Airlines and Boeing, among others. But a legal victory is by no means guaranteed.

(on camera): And there are many legal challenges that grieving family members may not understand. They can recover some money, 100,000 to 160,000 with a death certificate, but to really be compensated, they've got to show airline responsibility for the disaster. Where is that evidence? And for the manufacturer, Boeing, the same thing. What evidence shows their wrongdoing?

(voice-over): In fact, one firm already initiated a suit in Illinois. The judge threw it out as improper and warned attorneys not to do it again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These families don't have closure.

CASAREZ: Psychiatrist, Gail Saltz, says the lack of answers make grieving relatives especially vulnerable.

DR. GAIL SALTZ, PSYCHIATRIST: Someone comes in and says we're going to hold the airline accountable or this court accountable and we're going to sue them and punish them for what happened. That, unfortunately, is very appealing to anyone who is struggling with I want someone to be responsible for this. I want to blame them and I want them to pay.


CASAREZ: And Congress passed in 1996 the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act, which states that attorneys have to wait 45 days before they can approach potential clients, family members who are grieving from an airline disaster. But the law doesn't specifically include overseas disasters. So some attorneys believe they have an obligation to let families know that there are a lot of legal decisions to make, but the overwhelming majority say this is not the time -- Jake.

TAPPER: Jean, how much money are we talking about here?

CASAREZ: We can be talking about anything virtually. Under the Montreal Convention, which is what Malaysia Airlines will be governed under, families will go to the courtroom to look for the Montreal convention, which is the applicable law. And once you get past the accident, which they can recover about 150,000, then, if the airline cannot prove that they were not negligent, they can really get many, many thousands, thousands which would amount into billions of dollars ultimately.

TAPPER: Jean Casarez, thank you so much. We appreciate it. Make sure to follow me on Twitter @jaketapper and also @theleadcnn. Check out our show page for video, blogs and extras, and of course, you can also subscribe to our magazine on Flipboard. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Mr. Blitzer.