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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Killer, Wife Exchanged Messages During Shooting; Confusion Over What Gun Store Told FBI; Red Flags on Orlando Shooter Go Back to Elementary School; New Video from Pulse Nightclub During Shooting. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired June 17, 2016 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:24] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman, live in Orlando. Kate is off today.
This city is grieving this morning with funerals and memorials every day for the 49 people who lost their lives nearly one week ago. One local bartender told me he's going to two memorials or funerals a day.
This, as we're learning new details about the killer, disturbing details that paint a picture of a man whose past was filled with red flags.
Want to begin with CNN's Pamela Brown outside the Pulse nightclub with the latest on the investigation.
And, Pamela, you broke news about text messages between the killer and the wife during the shooting.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We're learning from our law enforcement sources there were communications between a wife and the gunman during the three-hour rampage. We've learned that she was frantically calling her husband after news broke of the shooting and that she had a suspicion her husband may be responsible. And at some point there were text messages exchanged where he basically texted her and said, "Have you seen what happened," and basically responded, "I love you." This is what investigators are looking at. And we know, John, she told investigators that when he left the House on Saturday, that even though he said he is going to visit a friend, she suspected he may go to launch an attack and she had suspicions perhaps it was Pulse nightclub. The question remains when she sees news of the shooting, why she didn't call police even at that point if not before? That's something investigators are looking at. She remains under scrutiny in this investigation but she claims she didn't know anything specific about what he was going to do. She tried to talk him out of doing anything harmful -- John?
BERMAN: Pamela, there's also new information about a trip the killer made to Saudi Arabia in 2012. What have you learned there?
BROWN: That's right. We've learned that he went with the Islamic Center at NYU. It was a group of 80 people. It was a pilgrimage to Muslim holy sites in Saudi Arabia. Our law enforcement officials say there's no reason to believe at this point that he had any interaction with any suspicious individuals, and NYU Islamic Center says it has a hard time even recalling him. He didn't really stand out to them, didn't do anything to make himself stand out so that's what they're saying today.
BERMAN: All right. Pamela Brown for us out in front of the Pulse nightclub. Thanks for being with us.
We do know the FBI was contacted by the gun shop where the killer went to buy some weapons, buy a bulletproof vest and some ammunition, but there is also confusion about what exactly that gun store told the FBI, and told them about what and whom exactly.
CNN justice reporter, Evan Perez, is following this for us.
You have been all over this reporting. Clear this up. What did this gun store tell the FBI exactly?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. There's been a lot of confusion because this gun store owner, the store is called Lotus Gun Store, in Jensen Beach. He reported after seeing the shooting in Orlando said -- recognized that the person who carried out the shooting appeared to be a man who had been in the store some weeks earlier, about five weeks earlier, and was attempting to buy level- three body armor, some higher-level body armor. The store doesn't sell it, so he went away. He has since added some more detail to that saying that he heard him speaking in a foreign language and that he acted suspiciously.
Now, we know that around that same time, this same store had called the FBI to report some suspicious men, a group of men who had come in to buy police gear. They thought these people were from the Middle East. The FBI came immediately and came to check it out. It turned out to be a group of law enforcement officers visiting from a Middle Eastern country and the purchase of the police gear was not suspicious at all. When the FBI closed the matter with the gun store, an employee also mentioned this person who had come in to try to buy body armor. It appears that that's what this gun store owner is now referring to, that they mentioned that this person had come in to try to buy body armor. However, they didn't have a name. There was no purchase records. There was no description of a vehicle. They had not saved the surveillance video that would have given the FBI something to work with. So it appears that whatever suspicions they had weren't serious enough to merit them saving any of that information for the FBI investigators -- John?
[11:05:09] BERMAN: Very interesting. So no name, no video, no exact record of the identity, even though the FBI did raise or this gun store owner did raise with the FBI concerns about this individual.
Evan Perez, thank you very much for clearing that up.
This morning, we're learning more about, new information about the terrorist's path.
CNN's Brian Todd has that. He is in the killer's hometown of Port St. Lucie.
Brian, you're learning of a pattern of behavior that goes back to decades.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, it's more than just a pattern. We've uncovered a lifetime's worth of red flags for Omar Mateen dating back to his early childhood and his days at Mariposa Elementary School in Port St. Lucie. We've been combing through disciplinary regards we obtained from the school system, 176 pages of records just about Omar Mateen's disciplinary issues. We have learned from the records that he was disciplined 31 times between 19972, when he would have been about 6 years old, and 1999, when he would be about 13.
Here is a quick passage from one of these records saying he was, "verbally abusive, rude, aggressive, with much talk about violence and sex." That's in the third grade. He would have been about 8 years old.
We had a former classmate here at Mariposa telling us that, one day, in the fourth or fifth grade, that he came to school and threatened to bring a gun to school and kill everyone. That turned out to be a major disciplinary issue for him there.
We've also obtained high school records, and that was just this morning we've gotten those, John. The high school records show that Omar Mateen was suspended for a total of about 48 days in high school, and that among those were two incidents that were cited as, quote, "fighting with injury."
Now, on those high school days, we've talked to former classmates in the Martin County High School system. One of them is Robert Zirkle. They talk to us about right around of 9/11, he was harassed by other students because of his Afghan heritage, but also he mocked the 9/11 attacks.
And here is Robert, a former classmate, talking about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT ZIRKLE, FORMER CLASSMATE OF OMAR MATEEN: He was acting like a plane, like he had his arms out. He was like making a plane noise and like he would -- he made like a boom sound or like an explosion type of sound, fell in his seat, and was laughing about it like it was a joke or something.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Zirkle and other classmates told us he got into several confrontations over those incidents where he would mock planes hitting buildings and he also claimed Osama bin Laden was his uncle.
Right around that time or just after high school, Omar Mateen worked at Gold's Gym not far from here. And he said that -- one of the people who worked out there, his name is Stephan Comvalias. We interviewed him. And he was a personal trainer. And he said Mateen was aggressive and confrontational, and made his clients feel extremely uncomfortable, including a female client that Comvalias had.
Here is an account for one time when they were working out together and Mateen was nearby.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHAN COMVALIAS, ACQUAINTED WITH OMAR MATEEN: One of my clients, she was completing her set on the spot rack, and she, you know, was in full stride all the way down, and he made a derogatory statement about her anatomy, which, I mean, it was just completely unacceptable, and loud at that, like he wanted her to hear it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Gold's Gym told us they have no recollection of any disciplinary actions regarding Omar Mateen.
You have red flag after red flag, John, in this school system. The records here indicate that he had several interventions with counselors, with psychological specialists, and with others. They tried to intervene on his behalf.
Did his family know about this? Well, at least a couple times we have seen in the records that his family was recommended for some kind of a treatment or some kind of monitoring of him, at least one time, and they turned it down. And his father, of course, since the shootings, has said he believed his son was normal -- John?
BERMAN: 48 days suspended in high school, the father says normal.
Brian Todd, thank you very much.
Joining me now is James Copenhaver, a former major case investigator with the Orange County Sheriff's Office, now has his own private investigations firm. Also with us, Art Roderick, CNN law enforcement analyst.
Art, you hear suspended 48 days, you hear concerns dating back to junior high, part of his juvenile record, though that's the kind of thing that gets wiped by the time you're an adult, yes?
ART RODERICK, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes. In criminal investigations you would generally dismiss all that, but here you have a clear year after year pattern all the way through his adult life, starting in elementary school through high school to his adult life, where he tried to hold down jobs as a law enforcement officer, couldn't cut it. He was like released from every single security job that he had. So you've got a pattern that goes way back here, which is pretty unusual. There's nothing usual about this case but this is very unusual that we're standing here talking about an individual's third-grade record.
[11:10:07] BERMAN: It is. And the question is, where along the way could someone or should someone have picked it up? Would it have been the security firm that he worked for? Should they have been aware or been concerned of his record as a juvenile? RODERICK: I mean, this is a situation where this fell through the
cracks every single time. I mean, to be suspended in high school for 48 days, that's a lot. That's a lot of time. And not to be able to pick this up later on. And the father basically is in complete denial that his son has got some issues going on here. And when you look at when he started his adult life and just missed each step in that portion of his life, but it just all makes kind of sense now.
BERMAN: James, talking about cracks and falling through the cracks, this gun store seemed to have done, at least to an extent, what you want gun stores to do, what you want anyone to do, which is when you see something, say something. If you have a cause for concern, alert the FBI. However, they didn't have a name. They didn't have video. They had no credit card records apparently. It just goes to show that even with good intentions, things can be difficult.
JAMES COPENHAVER, FORMER MAJOR CASE INVESTIGATOR, ORANGE COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: Just as Art said, this was the perfect storm. Everything led up to the point where he ended up at a gun store, which is his final act, if you will. And it's just absolutely sad that we're not able to track all of these dots and put them together for the FBI or local law enforcement so they can start tracking these individuals and keep tabs on them, if you will.
BERMAN: This particular store they, when he went to buy the body armor and the ammunition, the translation never took place.
COPENHAVER: Understood, but the owner of the gun store had the wherewithal to say something is wrong. Bells were going off all around. He had enough wherewithal to call the authorities to report this but it kind of missed the mark, if you will.
RODERICK: In complex investigations like this, this would go in the "maybe" file, good story, but there's -- it's not actionable. There's nothing to investigate further on because they never got a name, never got a license plate. There's no video. They have a description, but that's all they have.
COPENHAVER: What helped fill in the pieces such as today --
COPENHAVER: -- we know the witnesses are coming forward, so.
BERMAN: Let's talk about the wife for a second right now. Pamela is reporting, which she just did on this show, text messages between the wife and killer during those three hours that he's inside. So now you have text messages after he has already killed. You have him with the wife going to sites where perhaps they were casing things out before the crime took place. You have her saying that she was aware that he wanted to maybe commit some kind of violent act but not some specific act. She has a lot of information and a lot of knowledge every step of the way right now, Art. RODERICK: And not only that, but each time the FBI talks to her, she
comes a little closer to actually being more heavily involved. I think in the very beginning, it looked like she was minimizing her play in his particular -- especially early on, but now that she's admitted that she's taken him to buy ammunition, she's taken him to case these places out, and the back and forth texting is strange. She should have been on 911. Hey, my husband just called me. He's the killer in the Pulse club right now and he's texting me back and forth. She never did any of that.
BERMAN: Talking now.
Art Roderick, James Copenhaver, thank you so much for being with us. Appreciate it, guys.
We do have some brand new video surfacing showing just terrifying moments inside the bathroom of that club as the gunman took hostages. I will speak live with the man who took that video and was in that bathroom about those awful moments.
Plus, new backlash this morning after Senator John McCain blamed President Obama's policies for the attack here in Orlando. In fact, the first thing he said was that he was directly responsible for the attack here.
This is CNN's special live coverage. Stay with us.
[11:17:35] BERMAN: New video has emerged of hostages inside the nightclub during the massacre here in Orlando. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shh.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chris.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: This is inside a bathroom stall at the Pulse nightclub where more than a dozen hostages, they were huddling together, hiding from the killer, hoping, praying to make it out alive.
Now, the survivor who captured this video on his cell phone is with me now.
Miguel Leiva, thank you so much for joining us.
Miguel, I do appreciate your time. I know you were shot in the foot. You were wounded. How are you doing today?
MIGUEL LEIVA, ORLANDO SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I'm doing OK. Still in a lot of pain. It's going to be a long recovery, but I'll be all right.
BERMAN: You took this video during this horrific three hours. Why? Why did you start filming?
LEIVA: I felt like if we didn't make it out of there, if we were all going to die, that somebody needed to see what happened and how it all went down, and it was the only way we knew how to tell our families to stop calling because our cell phones kept ringing from concerned family members and friends that were outside of the club. So we were just trying to, you know, keep our phones quiet on silent so he wouldn't come back in there and shoot us. He did come in there multiple times and shot at us and we didn't want him to come back in there anymore and kill any more people.
BERMAN: You said he came in multiple times.
BERMAN: This was a three-hour period. It happened at the beginning, in the middle, at the end again? How many times did he come back in?
LEIVA: When the first shots initially rang out, we all like kind of rushed into the bathroom, and there was about maybe 40, 50 people in that one bathroom. And then he told us to -- he said everybody must come out because everybody is going to die. So people started running out frantically and he just started killing people right there in the hallway. And then he left --
BERMAN: It's horrible.
LEIVA: -- and he started shooting at more people and then he came back and shoot into our stall, bathroom over the stall, and into the stall where he was killing more people.
[11:20:05] BERMAN: And then at the end, when the police finally did come in, was there more shooting then?
LEIVA: Yeah. The police never got to come in the bathroom where we were. They actually blew the concrete wall off and used the SWAT battering ram to make a hole so we could go out through. So once the hole was made and we made our way out the hole, it was about 30 of us in there. Only about seven of us made it out alive, and the ones that were alive, we climbed through the hole and we tried to make a run for it, but as soon as the last person came out and we were carrying one of the guys that was already shot, the shooter came back from behind the bar and I guess he started shooting at the SWAT team again. That's when he was killed, and that's when we tried to make our way to the front of the club where authorities were waiting for us to give us help.
BERMAN: Miguel, during those three hours, what was the conversation or the communication between you all inside that bathroom? I know one of the things you were doing was trying to get water to everybody. It was an awfully long time.
LEIVA: Yes, it was really hot in there. There was no power, very little -- there was very, very little lighting, and there was so many people choking on their own blood and people who were just getting dehydrated and sweating and bleeding out, and it was just one cup of water -- one cup and we just kept filling it up in the sink and passing it around and trying to comfort everybody as much as we could and try to stabilize their bleeding.
The conversations were very, very minimal and quiet. We tried to speak as little as possible. And we were just trying to follow the instructions we were getting from the negotiator, from one of the other guys on the phone with the negotiator. And we were just trying to keep everybody calm and we just kept telling each other, hey, look, we made it this far. He hasn't killed us. There's a purpose for us. We're going to make it. We just have to stay strong and we can't give up. The people who were hurt, we were trying to stop the bleeding and keep them calm and comfort them as much as we could.
BERMAN: Well, the courage you must have showed during that time and the courage you're showing now by talking about it, you know, is extraordinary. I have spoken to other survivors who have told me they've had a lot of trouble eating, a lot of trouble day to day. You know, what do you need right now, Miguel? And what do you want people to know about you and what you're going through?
LEIVA: I just want everybody to know that, you know, it's a very traumatic experience. There's a lot of people out there that are offering help and resources and I would just ask everybody use these resources and get the help. Take advantage of it because it was a traumatic experience, and this is something people will never be able to erase out of their heads.
And it's hard, you know, I'm a diabetic, I have a lot of medical expenses, especially now with both my legs being shot. I won't be able to work for a long time, so I'm just trying to stay strong and focused and have faith that everything is going to be OK.
I'm a very spiritual person. I just want to keep my hopes up and I ask everybody else to keep their hopes up, the families, all the victims. I know it's really hard times, but we have to stick together as a community and be strong and move on.
And it's hard to even fathom how people are dealing with this and families are dealing with this with the loss of their loved ones, but we have to be strong and we have to -- we must remain strong so we can continue to make a recovery and it's a long road, but, slowly but surely, I believe we could all make it.
BERMAN: Miguel Leiva, you clearly are strong, so thank you for your strength. Thank you for the time. And also thank you for the message to everyone else to go out and get the help because there is help around here right now. This city, you know, this state, the entire country wants to be here for you right now.
Miguel Leiva, thank you very much.
LEIVA: Thank you.
BERMAN: All right. Just one of the stories of those inside.
Again, a reminder, 49 lives were lost there. There were 300 people inside that hospital. So there are hundreds of families right now dealing with death and injuries. That many more people, that many more families dealing with the aftermath and the emotions of having been there or connected to it and that will not stop anytime soon.
All right, an emotional reunion as a survivor and the police officer who pulled him from the club, they meet for the first time inside this hospital. We'll show you what happened.
[11:25:11] Plus, politics. Donald Trump, in some cases, his support seems to be shrinking. Now George W. Bush riding to the rescue but not exactly for Donald Trump.
BERMAN: All right. A lot of pointed comments, a lot of rhetoric right now over who or what is to blame for the massacre here in Orlando. Of course, the shooter is to blame. But there are politics at play right now, and a lot was made over the last 24 hours about statements made by Senator John McCain, who initially pointed the finger at the Oval Office. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), ARIZONA: Barack Obama is directly responsible for it --