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EARLY START

Las Vegas Massacre: 59 Dead, 500+ Injured; Portrait Of The Victims Of The Las Vegas Shooting; Tragedies To Test Trump As Nation's Comforter. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired October 3, 2017 - 05:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[05:30:00] SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: -- so that he has an equal level of concern for their plight. And then, in Las Vegas, obviously, he has to show empathy for the victims of the shooting.

Once he gets through these two days of travel where he's playing this unifying role of comforter in chief, that's probably when we're going to see him confront this debate about gun control head on because we'll will likely know much more about why the shooter did this by Thursday when all of this travel is done.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump was supportive of President Obama's statement calling for gun control measures after the Sandy Hook shooting. One might not expect him to do that in the wake of what happened here in Vegas.

Sarah Westwood from the "Washington Examiner," thanks so much. We appreciate it.

WESTWOOD: Thank you.

BRIGGS: EARLY START continues right now with the latest from the Vegas shooting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH LOMBARDO, SHERIFF, CLARK COUNTY, NEVADA: We are currently standing at 527 for individuals injured and individuals that have died or passed away, 59.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Unimaginable grief and the lack of a motive still in the worst shooting in modern American history. New details emerging about the Las Vegas shooter but they don't seem to answer the big question here, why?

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans in New York where it is 5:31 in the east.

BRIGGS: It is 2:31 here in Las Vegas. I'm Dave Briggs.

We are just over 24 hours since the worst mass shooting in modern American history. The headline is not what we know at this hour, it's really what we

don't -- the motive. Why did 64-year-old Stephen Paddock open fire from his 32nd floor window at the Mandalay Bay here behind me? He killed at least 59 people, injured more than 500 as 22,000 panicked concertgoers ran for their lives.

Authorities have recovered an astonishing 23 guns from the shooter's hotel room, 19 more from his home in Mesquite, Nevada. We'll have more on what we know about this gunman in a moment.

But now, investigators have started piecing together how this attack happened, how it was stopped. Officials says a team of six officers spoke with security at the Mandalay Bay and searched the hotel floor- by-floor until they found the gunman's room. The smoke alarm was pivotal in locating the exact room because of the smoke that came from those weapons.

The shooter fired at the officers through the door, forcing the SWAT team to move in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DISPATCH: Copy. All units on the 32nd floor, SWAT has explosive breach. Everyone in the hall needs to move back. All units move back.

OFFICER: Breach, breach, breach. (Explosion).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: SWAT officers moved in to find the gunman had already killed himself.

So many questions now haunting investigators and, of course, the families of the victims. Why? Why did a man described as a retired accountant with no known history of violence suddenly arm himself with an arsenal of largely military-style weapons and open fire from a hotel window? The answer is just impossible this morning.

Jean Casarez has been reporting on the shooter, Stephen Paddock. Let's start with any sort of digital footprint. Is there anything that we know that links him to hate groups or to terror groups at this hour?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Law enforcement has not made that public and with all the search warrants that they have executed in the hotel room and in his home in Mesquite, and I'm sure in northern Nevada, we don't know the inventory. We don't know everything they collected.

But, forensic investigators, you know are going to search through those computers and that can take some time to do that. But they're going to want to look at everything.

You know, Dave, we've talked about all the weapons -- 23 weapons in that hotel room right behind us. Eighteen weapons -- 19 weapons in his home in Mesquite.

But let's look at his targets for a minute. It was a crowd of 22,000 people. They were all country music fans.

So many law enforcement officers off-duty from California had come in. Was that just a coincidence or did they all plan to come in to this concert?

But here is what is so interesting when we look at that target audience. The Harvest -- Route 91 Harvest Festival was the 29th through the Sunday, the first, so it was Friday through Sunday. It was a three-day festival.

BRIGGS: Yes.

CASAREZ: Stephen Paddock checked in to that room on Thursday, the 28th, the day before the festival began. Was that coincidence or was he looking, and scanning, and premeditating that festival from the very beginning? And did it take those days because it was the final song of Jason Aldean's in that show is when he began to shoot?

[05:35:03] BRIGGS: Well, we do know this about the shooter. He was no stranger her to the Strip. He played a lot of poker -- was a huge gambler. At one point, texted his brother that he won some $250,000 at a casino, so his presence here was not unusual.

What do we know about friends, girlfriends, and relatives? What are they saying about the shooter?

CASAREZ: We haven't had any friends speak out. Just as you had mentioned, not one friend has said oh, a good friend. I've known him for years -- no.

Neighbors have spoken out. And, you know, a neighbor is somebody that you know in passing, right? It's not somebody you really know.

And neighbors are shocked. There's not one neighbor that says oh, I saw this coming. A gentle giant is how some explain him, others saying I don't think he would have known a gun if he had seen one.

Well, that's so contrary to the facts. The only person -- five to six years ago, his own mother said to a neighbor in Dallas -- in the Mesquite area of Texas -- we don't know what she meant but "he's the bad one," referring to her son.

But yet, we also hear from Eric, his brother, that he would send his mother boxes of cookies. So, I don't know.

BRIGGS: No answers.

CASAREZ: No.

BRIGGS: We know he checked on his mom after the hurricane went through the Florida area and that was the last his brother --

CASAREZ: They had service -- BRIGGS: -- had heard from him.

CASAREZ: -- and he texted the brother.

BRIGGS: Yes.

CASAREZ: So we don't know that he even actually called his mother at any point. So there was a bit of communication.

BRIGGS: So many questions.

CASAREZ: It could have been more.

BRIGGS: Yes. Jean, thanks.

The girlfriend, many want to talk to. She was out of the country at the time of shooting. Was she a girlfriend, was she a roommate?

Initial reports had her in the Philippines meeting with family, visiting family. Jean told us she is in Tokyo. Investigators certainly want to talk to her.

So, so many questions ahead.

What about the law enforcement response? What is the local government doing here? And can you imagine for a moment what the parents of people were like in the Vegas area that had children at this concert and what those moments were like waiting to hear from their children?

A man who can answer all of those questions, Las Vegas City Councilor Stavros Anthony. He is a former Las Vegas police captain, retired after 29 years in the department. As I mentioned, Las Vegas councilman.

And also, you had many friends who had children at this concert at the Jason Aldean show. Have you spoken with them and what those hours of hell were like waiting to hear from their kids? You certainly wondered what if my kids were there.

STAVROS ANTHONY, LAS VEGAS COUNCILMAN, FORMER CAPTAIN, LAS VEGAS POLICE DEPARTMENT: Yes, that's really one of the things that happened during the middle of the night when everybody started hearing about the shooting is do I have friends at the concert? Do I have -- are there kids at the concert?

We ended up finding out there were five or six kids from our church that were there and, you know, we were working with the parents trying to track them down. And, you know, God willing, they ended up being OK.

But, I'll tell you, this is -- in 37 years this is the most devastating 24 hours this city has faced, and we came together.

And we're going to wake up this morning -- it's early right now but we're going to wake up this morning and we're going to mourn the 59 people that died in this tragic event. And we're going to pray for those 500-plus that are still injured that they get well and they get back to their homes, whether it's here in Las Vegas or somewhere throughout the country.

BRIGGS: You've worn many hats here in this Las Vegas area, including that of Las Vegas police captain. How difficult is it to secure a venue like this Harvest music festival? There are live events any given night of the week here in Vegas.

ANTHONY: You know, there are. We have thousands of events like this throughout the years and we never have any problems.

We know how to run these events. We staff them with police officers. They run smoothly.

The casinos do a great job. Casino security does a great job.

And why this particular incident happened -- why this, you know, this nut case decided to focus on this particular concert, hopefully we're going to find out what that is. But this is just such a tragic isolated incident and for this many people to get killed during a concert is just a -- it's been tough on the first responders. They are absolutely just worn out and the resources that we put into this just amazing.

BRIGGS: No question.

If you could talk about the initial police response and what you make of the first responders -- the police on the floor -- and the time it took from the time that the shooter opened fire at 10:08 to get through that room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay.

ANTHONY: Well, you know, I've talked to my friends at Metro that are-- that are involved in this and you're going to hear some heroic stories coming out in the next couple of weeks about officers that came to the aid of citizens, that got on top of them to make sure they didn't get shot. What happened at the concert is just unbelievable. I guarantee you there are lives -- people are alive today because of these law enforcement officers.

And then for them to take -- you know, we practice active shooter training all the time but it's usually in a smaller building. It's nothing massive like the Mandalay Bay.

And for them to come together, put a plan together, go up 30 stories, find out exactly where this guy is and go in and get ready to take him out, if he's still shooting people, is just -- it's a major undertaking. And I commend every single one of them for being able to go up there and do that.

[05:40:22] Luckily, he killed himself --

BRIGGS: Yes.

ANTHONY: -- so they didn't have to take any action.

BRIGGS: A coordinated effort there as well as the government effort has been. You're a city councilman. What is the local and the state government doing to respond to this tragedy?

ANTHONY: You know, I was at City Hall all day. We have a -- with our country, our state.

We all came together to make sure what is it that our first responders need. We have to get everything together that they need to make sure that they're rendering assistance. We have to make sure our hospitals have everything that they need.

And it wasn't just -- I mean, we were doing our part but to see private citizens over at the hospital -- they were carrying wagons down the street with water and snacks, and going up to people -- do you need anything to drink. And going up to the doctors, can we help you out with anything.

And people showing up to blood drives. They're turning people away. There just weren't enough staff to take blood.

I mean, this community just came together remarkable. And I'll tell you, I'm proud of this country for thinking about Las Vegas. And the phone calls I've received from my fellow law enforcement officers throughout the country has just been remarkable.

And it's great to see, you know, the media coming out and supporting us, and supporting our efforts, and supporting the family and trying to get these folks back to where they live.

BRIGGS: The worst of tragedies brought out the best in your city.

ANTHONY: Thank you.

BRIGGS: Stavros Anthony, we appreciate it.

Lots of questions. Stavros has some of the answers to those questions in the days ahead, Christine, but he points out a good thing. Donations for blood --

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: -- incredible. Four hours after the shooting hundreds of people lining up to donate blood.

ROMANS: Just amazing.

All right, great interview. Thanks, Dave.

You know, we've spoken about the attacker but it's the victims of this crime who deserve to be remembered. We're going to tell you about some of them, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:46:20] ROMANS: They are a special ed teacher, a new husband, a Las Vegas mother of three. They are local residents, they are visitors from near and far. They are Americans, they are Canadians, they are country music fans.

They are the victims of the mass shooting in Las Vegas. They came from all walks of life. There are so many names and so many grieving families, 59 of them.

CNN's Scott McLean is at University Medical Center in Las Vegas. He joins us now live with more on the victims of the tragedy -- Scott.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Christine.

Police are trying to learn more about the suspect in this case but there is a whole heck of a lot more to learn about the victims.

There are 59 of them. As you said, they came from all walks of life. What they had in common is they wanted to enjoy a country music concert.

And they all left behind people, as well, and I'll tell you about just a few of them.

Jennifer Irvine was from San Diego. She was an attorney. She was also a black belt in Taekwondo. She practiced hot yoga and she was an avid snowboarder.

Sonny Melton, he was just 29 years old, a registered nurse from Tennessee. His wife actually survived the shooting.

Jenny Parks was 35. She was a kindergarten teacher from California. Her husband was also wounded in this shooting. Her school district said quote "She was truly one of the most loving people you could ever hope to meet."

Susan Smith was 53. She was a mother and an office manager from California. She was married with two adult children.

And, Angela -- or Angie Gomez was just 20 years old from Riverside, California. She, according to her employer, is one of the victims. Her employer, the Riverside Unified School District, who said she was fun-loving, had a great sense of humor, and always had a smile on her face.

Also keep in mind that there are many other victims of this shooting who survived who have a long road to recovery ahead of them. At this hospital alone, there are 12 people who are still in critical condition.

Officials, yesterday morning, put out a call to the public in the Las Vegas area to donate blood and the response was absolutely overwhelming. One clinic in particular, at one point, had a line of some 200 people lined up to donate blood. They also had a blood clinic here.

They actually had to turn people away because they just could not accommodate the number of people who wanted to give. The good news, though, is that the blood supply in Las Vegas is healthy. They have enough blood for the next little bit but they are still asking people to go ahead and donate blood over the coming days and weeks, Dave.

BRIGGS: Yes, the blood donation starts at 7:00 a.m., so just a couple of -- just a short time from now.

Scott, thanks so much.

The outpouring of emotion from people here in Las Vegas has been incredible. It was also an emotional day for President Trump, forced to fill a role no president wants but every president must.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To the families of the victims, we are praying for you and we are here for you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: President Trump travels here to Las Vegas tomorrow. More of his response, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:53:04] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Our unity cannot be shattered by evil. Our bonds cannot be broken by violence. And though we feel such great anger at the senseless murder of our fellow citizens, it is our love that defines us today and always will, forever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: President Trump heading to Las Vegas tomorrow to directly address the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. In that subdued statement from the White House, he said the nation is united in sadness, shock, and grief.

Now, the conversation inevitably turns to guns and some Democrats are moving quickly on this.

Let's bring in Sarah Westwood, White House correspondent for the "Washington Examiner."

First, Sarah, welcome back. And tell me, how do you rate the president's performance?

You know, every president has to deal with this. President Obama many times had to stand up there and talk about the sadness, and the grief, and the unity of a country that had been shattered by gun violence.

How do you rate this president's first performance there?

WESTWOOD: Well, I think that's the kind of speech that you could have imagined any Republican president giving in the wake of a shooting, and it was well received on both sides of the aisle.

He kept politics out of it. He stayed off social media for the day. He stuck to his script.

And, more importantly, his aides stayed on message by refusing to get dragged into the gun control debate, which would have created headlines that overshadowed that performance.

So I think President Trump did just about what any reasonable person could have expected him to do yesterday in the face of such a tragedy.

ROMANS: President Obama, by my count, 14 mass shootings and 14 times he stood there and had to give that speech.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, yesterday, actually growing -- the president's spokeswoman growing emotional about the loss of life and about the heroics of people trying to help each other. Just the best of American humanity there on the -- on the -- on the concert grounds.

Yet, she dismissed talk, for today at least, of how to address gun violence -- listen.

[05:55:05] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that's something that we can talk about in the coming days and see what that looks like moving forward. I think one of the things that we don't want to do is try to create laws that won't create -- or stop these types of things from happening.

I think if you look to Chicago where you had over 4,000 victims of gun-related crimes last year, they have the strictest gun laws in the country. That certainly hasn't helped there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Is it not the time? You know, the law enforcement folks that we've had on for the past 24 hours on this program have said it is exactly -- it is exactly the time.

And they're particularly concerned about a bill moving through Congress right now that would make it easier to buy silencers. You know, law enforcement, they don't like that at all.

Is she -- is she -- what do you make of her comments there?

WESTWOOD: Well, obviously, President Trump is going to face an enormous amount of pressure to engage in the gun control debate in the coming days, particularly when you learn how the suspected shooter was able to get his hands on these guns.

Because right now you can have a conceptual debate about gun control but we don't really know what kinds of policies would have prevented this man from getting his hands --

ROMANS: Right.

WESTWOOD: -- on these specific kinds of firearms. So until that is known, it is true that the White House can sort of buy itself some time and stay out of the debate.

That legislation that you mentioned that would make it easier for people to buy suppressors --

ROMANS: Yes.

WESTWOOD: -- that is one thing some centrist Republicans have begun floating as a way for Trump to take kind of a middle ground through this debate. To be able to come out against this suppressor law which is not necessarily popular among even staunch gun advocates.

It's not something that would necessarily cause his base to revolt but could give him the appearance --

ROMANS: Right.

WESTWOOD: -- of taking a stand for gun safety. That's one option that's been floated by people close to the White House.

ROMANS: Well, even, it will be interesting to hear even if the president weighs into this debate what his language is going to be because gun control is a loaded, you know, figuratively and literally, phrase -- gun control.

But, gun safety or efforts against gun violence, that has a different connotation. One wonders if the president -- you know, after Sandy Hook, he told President Obama that something should be done, right? So it would be interesting if the president breaks with his party on this.

WESTWOOD: Absolutely. He was a very strong supporter of gun rights during the campaign. He had a controversial moment where he called on Second Amendment people to intervene to stop Hillary Clinton from becoming president.

But he has not always been such a strong gun rights supporter like every position that he's taken just about in the campaign. You can trace a line back to a time in his history when he wasn't necessarily so conservative on that issue.

So there's been some hope on the left that President Trump might be able to move back toward a more moderate position and he has shown more of an affinity for making deals with Democrats than a lot of people, I think, expected. So some people wonder if there might be some wiggle room for him to chart a middle path here.

ROMANS: Interesting. He'll be in Puerto Rico today. And then tomorrow, we're told he will be heading to Las Vegas. So there will, presumably, be plenty of opportunity for the president to speak.

What do you expect from him? Do you think he will keep up this tone of sadness and unity or is there a risk for him to get off message here?

WESTWOOD: Well, certainly in Puerto Rico it's important that he stay on message because when he did deviate from the message and went after the mayor of San Juan, that's when he really created problems for himself in a situation that was already fraught with tension because the situation is Puerto Rico is so dire.

So he has to be very careful when he goes to Las Vegas not to repeat those same mistakes. That he does stay on message. Keep to this solemn tone that he struck yesterday.

And then, once more is known about the case, he will have to articulate some kind of position on gun control.

ROMANS: Interesting. Sarah Westwood, thank you so much. Nice to see you.

WESTWOOD: Thank you.

ROMANS: Have a great day.

All right, thanks for joining us. For Dave Briggs in Las Vegas, for me here, I'm Christine Romans.

"NEW DAY" starts right now.