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New Details on Fort Hood Shooting and Gunman; Search for Fort Hood Shooting Motive; Mystery of Flight 370; Passengers' Families Grow Angry; Big News Conference Expected in Plane Search; Tornado Threat Across Midwest; Obama on "Unspeakable" Fort Hood Shooting

Aired April 3, 2014 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, the U.S. Army reveals new information about the Fort Hood gunman, saying nothing is being ruled out in the search for a motive. We're going to hear from people who knew him and his family.

The Texas military bases reeling after this, the second deadly rampage in less than five years. Were there warning signs or security gaps that could have been or should have been seen?

And an announcement may be coming in the search for Flight 370. We're expecting a news conference. Officials in Australia say they have a, quote, "big announcement" to make as search planes get ready to take off.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: And we're following two major breaking news stories this hour. The investigation into the shooting rampage at Fort Hood. The dead gunman's service record is just released soon after the base commander shared new details about Ivan Lopez and his, quote, "unstable mental condition."

We're also told there will be a major announcement at a news conference involving the search for Flight 370. We could get some kind of announcement very, very soon. Planes, in the meantime, they're getting ready to return to the search area right now.

We have a full team of correspondents and analysts covering both stories. They're here in the SITUATION ROOM. They're across the United States and around the world.

First, let's go to Fort Hood, Texas, for the very latest. CNN's Miguel Marquez is standing by -- Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there, Wolf. That service record was just released. There's lots of commendations and medals in there for Mr. Lopez, but it is very clear that hindsight is 20/20, that there were deeper and darker things going on in Mr. Lopez's life.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MARQUEZ (voice-over): The hours leading up to Specialist Ivan Lopez's deadly rampage gave no hint of what was to come.

(On camera): So you see him coming down the stairs, he says good-bye and that's the last you saw of him hours before the attack?


MARQUEZ: Ayesha Bradley says Lopez moved into this off-base apartment building about a month ago. He, his wife and young daughter were friendly, approachable and in every way, she says, normal.

(On camera): You've said hello to him, you've talked to him?

BRADLEY: Yesterday.

MARQUEZ: What did he -- what did he seem like?

BRADLEY: He seemed pretty fine, happy. He didn't seem like, you know, the type that would do what he did.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): At 12:30, just minutes later Lopez paid the rent, added his wife's name to the lease, and left. Still no sign of trouble.

Command Sergeant Major Nelson Bigas worked closely with Lopez for more than a year and a half.

SGT. MAJOR NELSON BIGAS, PUERTO RICO NATIONAL GUARD: He was one of my best soldiers in the organization. And he has the dynamic leadership. Specialist Lopez was an outstanding soldier with great initiative. He showed great leadership and a very great military discipline.

MARQUEZ: Lopez spent nine years in the Puerto Rico National Guard, one year with an observer force in Egypt's Sinai Desert. In 2011 he served four months driving trucks in Iraq, he went on to Fort Bliss near El Paso, and in February he transitioned here to Fort Hood.

JOHN MCHUGH, ARMY SECRETARY: He had a clean record in terms of his behavioral, no outstanding bad marks for any kinds of major misbehaviors that we are yet aware of.

MARQUEZ: Yet there were concerns lurking just beneath the surface. Lopez asked for help with PTSD, but had yet to be diagnosed with it.

LT. GEN. MARK MILLEY, COMMANDER, FORT HOOD: We have very strong evidence that he had a medical history that indicates unstable psychiatric or psychological condition.

MARQUEZ: Lopez had been prescribed powerful anti-depressants and the sleep drug Ambien. He was getting help.

MCHUGH: He was seen just last month by a psychiatrist. He was fully examined. And as of this morning, we had no indication on the record of that examination, if there was any sign of likely violence either to himself or to others, no suicidal ideation. MARQUEZ: Dr. Xavier Amador interviewed Nidal Hasan who killed 13 people here at Fort Hood in 2009. Mental health issues, he says, must be aggressively treated particularly when anti-depressants are given.

DR. XAVIER AMADOR, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: You have to be very cautious and take care to be aware of which symptoms are improving more quickly than others. People's motivation comes back, their ability to sleep comes back, they feel mo energy, but they're still feeling hopeless and suicidal.

MARQUEZ: The gun Lopez used in his killing spree, a Smith & Wesson .45 like this one. It was purchased legally and properly, sources say, on March 1st at Guns Galore here in Killeen. It's the same place Major Nidal Hasan purchased his semiautomatic pistol before his 2009 rampage and where Jason Abdo who wanted to repeat Hasan's acts purchased ammunition and gunpowder. Those purchases led to a government sting operation and Abdo's arrest before he could carry out his plans to kill.

Even though Lopez bought his gun legally the military says any gun on base must be registered. His was not.


MARQUEZ: Now what we still do not know, Wolf, is whether or not this act was premeditated or not. The general saying that there are reports that there was an argument with other soldiers before the shooting started. All of that is part of the investigation and they're going to look into whether or not he brought that gun on base specifically in order to take other's lives -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And he lived there with his wife and young child, right? What do we know about them?

MARQUEZ: He did indeed. We do know that authorities descended on that apartment complex yesterday and swooped them up and took them away. There were a lot of tears in that apartment complex. The girl is about -- the daughter is about 3 years old. The wife is also from either Puerto Rico or from Mexico. And they've been together for some years.

It is, I think, to everybody's sensibility that this just comes as a giant shock that this would happen -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a story, what an awful, awful story.

Miguel Marquez, thank you.

We also have just -- we've learned that the just-released details on the Fort Hood gunman's service record contain some very important information.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. She's picking up this part of this story -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as Miguel just mentioned, Lopez joined the Puerto Rican National Guard in 1999 and served there for some years being promoted from a private first class to a specialist. Still a very junior enlisted rank in the United States military. It was in 2010 he apparently made the decision to leave the National Guard, which essentially is part time and become a full-time member of the active duty U.S. Army.

Still, you know, years later now from '99 to today, 2014, achieving only the rank of a specialist. His record fairly undistinguished. Very routine. Medals and service recognition, if you will.

I think, Wolf, what the military may be deciding to focus on quite significantly is his mental health record. That statement from General Milley that he had -- there was an unstable psychiatric condition, that he was being psychiatrically evaluated, that he had multiple prescription drugs including Ambien, this is someone who, by all accounts, was in serious mental health treatment and counseling.

The question will be why did no member of the military mental health team notice something was going terribly wrong -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ambien, as you know, Barbara, that's used if you have problems sleeping, but that's not considered some sort of major psychiatric drug or anything like that. Do we know what other medications he was taking?

STARR: That has actually not been released. It was the secretary of the Army early this morning testifying on Capitol Hill who revealed that he had -- he spoke about prescription drugs, multiple, and Secretary John McHugh of the Army specifically mentioned Ambien.

I will tell you, Wolf, it's very well understood in the military, as it is in much of society, that prescription drugs are a serious issue -- and we're not saying that's what happened here, but it's a serious issue for potential abuse, prescription pill abuse, taking your medication wrong, drug interactions, all of that.

I will tell you that is something that the military has struggled with for some time when soldiers have come back from the war zone, they have a variety of medical issues, they get multiple prescriptions to deal with those and it is a real challenge to keep track of all those prescriptions, make sure there are no interactions, that's just fact.

That is an issue the military is dealing with very significantly across the board. So I think there's good reason to believe we know that they're going to look at his medical history, his prescription medication certainly will be part of that investigation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Barbara, thanks very much. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

We have more now on the Fort Hood shooting investigation. Let's go to our justice correspondent Pamela Brown. She's joining us from Fort Hood, Texas.

What are you learning over there, Pamela? PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're learning that investigators are right now in this moment looking at Lopez's laptops, his cell phones, interviewing witnesses, trying to figure out and piece together why he did this, why he opened fire on his fellow soldiers.

We can tell you according to sources and from General Milley who spoke here earlier today, the general of Fort Hood, that they're looking into a verbal altercation that possibly happened between Lopez and another soldier. They're looking into whether that might have set him off. And also they're looking into a leave request that was possibly canceled recently, whether that might have played a role.

But what General Milley made clear here today, Wolf, is that Lopez had a long history of mental instability. And he says that was a fundamental underlying cause. He says there's an investigation under way to see if Lopez was receiving the proper care, the treatment that he needed. And an overall investigation into the system as a whole, whether it's working the way it should, in light of the fact this is the second shooting here in 4 and a half years.

Also, General Milley talking about all the selfless acts of heroism and how that likely prevented this from being an even bigger tragedy. In particular he talked about a female MP who confronted Lopez in a parking lot here yesterday. Let's take a listen to what he said about that.


MILLEY: A short time later the shooter showed up, approached her at approximately 20 feet and, as I described yesterday, put his hands up and went down and underneath his jacket he pulled out the .45 caliber Smith & Wesson weapon, at which time she saw that, interpreted that as a threat, correctly so, and then engaged him with small arms fire, at which time then the shooter did a self-inflicted gunshot wound.


BROWN: And General Milley also talked about a chaplain here who swooped in and shielded soldiers bringing them to safety by breaking windows. There are several acts of heroism, Wolf. You talked about how this is a community that is no stranger to hardship, but today they are back on their feet. And this is certainly a resilient community -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly is. I feel awful for all the folks there at Fort Hood, Texas.

Pamela Brown with the latest. Thank you.

We're joined now by CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes. He's a former FBI assistant director. Also with us former senior FBI profiler Mary Ellen O'Toole. Also a former FBI agent.

Guys, thanks very much for joining us. Tom, the commander of the base, General Milley said they haven't ruled anything out, but as of now, there are no indications of terrorism. They're going through his whole life right now.


BLITZER: To see if he -- for example, if there's any reason to believe he may have been inspired to do something like this as Major Nidal Hasan was by al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula?

FUENTES: No. Exactly. As Pamela Brown mentioned they'll be going through his computers and his e-mail records, his contacts with fellow soldiers, family, friends, anybody that he would have had a conversation with to see if he gave some type of indication that that would be a motive for what was to come.

BLITZER: Because as of now there's no indication of that whatsoever, as far as everything we're hearing, right?

FUENTES: From what we're hearing, that's correct.

BLITZER: But they're not ruling out anything.

Mary Ellen, you said earlier today, you were on "NEW DAY" here on CNN, you didn't think that this was something that's called snapping behavior. That this was more well thought out of what he did, is that right?


BLITZER: Explain your thinking because you're a specialist in these kinds of -- what they would call workplace-related massacres.

O'TOOLE: Snapping behavior means that five minutes ago you were fine, you had no ideation of suicide, no ideation of homicide. Everything was fine in your life. Then all of a sudden Tom gives you a dirty look and you decide that you're going to kill him. That's called snapping behavior. That's not what we see in these cases.

We see that these kinds of cases are preceded by some level of preparation, whether it's acquiring a weapon or it's thinking about it and fantasizing about it. So it's not this incredible transition from everything's fine to this is how I'm going to handle my problems and my frustrations.

BLITZER: You think he's -- you know, based on what you know, he was thinking about doing something like this for a while?

O'TOOLE: I would suspect that he was. Now what's a while? It varies from shooter to shooter, but I have to say I'm really stunned by the general saying that the underlying cause is unstable mental health. Unstable mental health, many people in the world have unstable mental health. Many people take Ambien. They don't go out and kill themselves and kill other people.

Unstable mental health can be one of the risk factors for someone deciding that that's what they're going to do, but it's not the only risk factor. And our concern has been over the last 20 years that we not stigmatize people that have serious mental health issues because most people with mental health issues, they're not violent.

BLITZER: Tom, you've investigated these kinds of mass killings over the years. You agree with Mary Ellen?

FUENTES: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Tell us, you know, what would trigger someone who seemingly was normal, served in the U.S. military, served in Iraq, spent a year with the U.S. military serving in Sinai, part of that international peacekeeping operation that the U.S. is involved in, served in the Puerto Rico National Guard then enlisted, became a full-time U.S. Army soldier. How does that -- how does that develop into a massacre like this?

FUENTES: Well, it's hard to tell what becomes the last straw in that person's mind. And often, the unfortunate problem is that in many of these cases they take that to the grave. And we really don't know what they were thinking for sure, what actually the final motivation was. Obviously, he did acquire the weapon beforehand and the ammunition and probably with his military training was capable already of shooting and shooting well.

But you know, what led, you know, this is something that was developing for a while, and what that -- what the final straws were isn't a snap decision but it is something that was an issue in progress.

BLITZER: A sort of building up inside. Now what about medication? Because if you take a whole bunch of serious medication -- forget about Ambien which a lot of people take just to get a goodnight's sleep. But if you're taking serious psychiatric medication and you're mixing prescriptions, could that lead to something like this?

O'TOOLE: No. If you're taking a lot of medication and you're not going to -- still, you're not going to create this violent persona about yourself, I mean, a lot of medication can certainly impact on you, and who's ever treating someone like this should be aware when they do the threat assessment that your risk level is going up even higher because you're mixing your medication and maybe you're drinking at the same time.

So you're causing yourself to maybe even feel more hopeless and more depressed. But if you're going to give somebody a lot of medication for unstable psychiatric conditions, you should realize that threat assessments or psychiatric assessments have to be done almost on a daily basis. How are you feeling? You are thinking about killing yourself? What's going on in your head? How are your frustrations? You just don't give somebody medication and send them on their way.

BLITZER: Yes, unfortunately there's a lot of suicides in the U.S. military, a lot of suicides among veterans. What's not that common is what they call murder/suicide. You go out and you murder somebody, and then you kill yourself. That's apparently what happened in this particular case.

FUENTES: Well, it appears so. And again, we're going to learn more, you know, as time goes on, but we may not know the final, you know, truth of what happened here specifically in his mind.

BLITZER: I assume the wife, the wife will have a lot to help investigators learn about this man.

O'TOOLE: His wife will have a lot. The psychologist, the psychiatrist, people that he's worked with. Everybody will have a little piece of the puzzle. And it's likely that no one thinks they had the whole puzzle which is why they didn't come forward with warning behaviors because, frankly, we know that there are warning behaviors before these events take place, but we have to educate people to say, when you look for these kinds of behavior, here's what they mean, come forward and tell us that.

But yes, his wife, she'll come forward and she'll say, I noticed this, this and this, but I didn't think it meant anything. And so it will be with others that worked with him or were friends with him.

BLITZER: And the psychiatrists and psychologists with whom he was dealing, because he was under treatment, they presumably will have useful information for the investigators as well.

FUENTES: Well, that's true. But don't forget we're training our war fighters at this place. This is not your average American city of 100,000 people. So that macho combative type thing, I mean, for the most part that's encouraged in a lot of people. And that's going -- the swagger of a soldier is going to be present in the environment. So this is not, you know, some little town in the Midwest. This is a military base training our war fighters for 13 years we've been at war.

BLITZER: It's a heartbreaking story no matter how you look at it.

Tom Fuentes, thanks very much. Mary Ellen O'Toole, thanks to you as well.

Still ahead, there are breaking developments unfolding in the Flight 370 mystery. The search is getting back under way. Right now we're told there will be a news conference. Officials in Australia say they will have a, quote, "big announcement." You'll hear it as soon as it's made.

And a new demand by passengers' relatives. They want some very specific things from Malaysian officials. We'll have details of that as well.


BLITZER: We're standing by for new information about the flight, the search for Flight 370. We're told there will be a news conference soon. Stand by for that. Right now the search is resuming and a British ship has set out -- is set to head out on a new mission, a revised location. Our aviation correspondent Rene Marsh is here in the SITUATION ROOM with all the new developments.

What are you learning?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Well, Wolf, they're being pretty tight-lipped about this news conference that we're expecting to happen here. Will it be another announcement about a new search zone or will they announce more refined data analysis. We just don't know at this point. But we do know in week four not one piece of this plane has been found. And Australian officials warn there's no guarantee it will be found.


MARSH (voice-over): A new ship searching for new leads. The British ship HMS Echo will do a specific search Friday. It's unclear what they're zeroing in on. But what this ship can do is detect pings from the flight data recorders and take detailed images of the ocean floor like these. It detected something Thursday. But it was a false alarm. After nearly a month, the search zone continues to shift.

TONY ABBOTT, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: It is a very difficult search. The most difficult in human history.

MARSH: The prime ministers of both Australia and Malaysia standing side by side in Perth. The center of the search operations. Both vowing to keep looking. But a distinct shift in Australia's tone suggests hope the plane will be found may be evaporating.

ABBOTT: We cannot be certain of ultimate success in the search for MH-370, but we can be certain that we will spare no effort, that we will not rest, until we have done everything we humanly can.

MARSH: The search zone remains vast, about 86,000 square miles of deep sea.

NAJIB RAZAK, MALAYSIAN PRIME MINISTER: I can promise them that we will not give up.

MARSH: In Kuala Lumpur, the last scheduled daily media briefing is Monday.

It's unclear how long this search can go on without finding wreckage, but there is a deadline. The pingers on the plane's recorders are required to last 30 days, designed to last 35. Key equipment to find them is arriving on board Australia's ship the Ocean Shield, but it wouldn't be used until debris is found.


MARSH: Well, the pinger manufacturer tells CNN Flight 370's pingers were due for a maintenance overhaul and new batteries in 2012 but they were never returned for the fix. Now that could mean three things. Malaysia Airlines got brand new pingers, they had maintenance done someplace else or the airline had outdated pingers. And if they were outdated, they may not be working at all.

We did, Wolf, reach out to Malaysia Airlines to hash this all out as far as the pingers go. We have not received a response as yet.

BLITZER: No response at all?

MARSH: Not yet.

BLITZER: All right. Rene, thank you very much.

Let's go to Perth, Australia, right now for more on the search operation that is about to begin. Kyung Lah standing by with the latest on that.

What's going on in Perth right now, Kyung?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the very first of the planes has indeed taken off. We understand just getting this latest news from the Australian authorities that there will be a total of 10 planes in the air today, nine ships that remain at sea. This is very much like the other days that we've seen prior to this. It will be a comprehensive search we are told. Those planes flying low to the sea. Mowing the sea back and forth, looking for any sort of debris.

And we understand also, Wolf, that there will be a big news conference regarding the operations of this search. We do not know what the content of it will be, but we understand that it will be some sort of new detail regarding what this search is going to be looking like -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we will of course stand by for that. And as soon as we learn what's going on, we'll share it with all of our viewers.

The weather, I take it, is much better today? They should have relatively clear skies, relatively calm waters?

LAH: Absolutely. We've heard that the weather is going to be quite good today. They're going to have excellent visibility. So there is renewed hope that they can actually find something because weather, of course, Wolf, is going to be critical in order for the spotters in those planes to be able to see anything on the surface of the water.

BLITZER: Are you getting any indication from any of the Australian officials -- we know that Angus Houston is in charge of this investigation right now, he's trying to make sure the search operation is going smoothly, that they're on top of everything that's going on. Are you getting any indications whether verbally, body language, they think they've got some sort of breakthrough under way?

LAH: Nothing. And what we know is that they are continuing to search, that this is very much a one foot in front of the other. We're not getting any sense that they're making any more headway. It is exhausting. That -- we can tell you that every single day these planes are taking to the air. There's more than a hundred people in them. There's a thousand sailors at sea. And they are working around the clock. It is exhausting, and they're continuing to search but so far there hasn't been anything sighted connected to this plane -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We'll stand by for the announcement at the news conference in Australia and we'll share it with our viewers as soon as it comes in.

Kyung Lah, thanks very much.

After enduring nearly four weeks of uncertainty, some of the passengers' relatives they are understandably very angry and also understandably they've lost their trust in Malaysian officials.

Our senior correspondent Joe Johns has traveled to Kuala Lumpur. He's there now. He's got more on how the families are dealing with all of this uncertainty.

What is the latest on that front -- John.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this evening Malaysian officials held a three-hour meeting for Malaysian families of passengers on the plane. According to one individual who was there. He told CNN on the plane -- on the phone, in fact, that officials weren't even able to tell them for sure whether the plane had crashed. The unanswered questions only leading to the feeling of frustration and that perhaps the briefing was actually just a waste of time.


JOHNS (voice-over): It's been weeks since MH-370 disappeared and the Malaysian government is still struggling to meet the needs of the passengers' families.

RAZAK: We owe it to the grieving families to find -- to give them comfort and closure to this rather tragic event, and the world expects us to do our level best.

JOHNS: Waiting for word on the fate of the plane, the Chinese families are channeling their anger and frustration.


GRAPHIC: We want evidence. We want the truth. We want our families back.

JOHNS: They have now made public more than a dozen highly technical questions and requests that go to the very heart of the investigation. Questions so tough the authorities can't or won't answer, which makes the families suspicious.

Distrust is not uncommon for the relatives of passengers in airliner mishaps, as authorities work to uncover the truth.

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: There's the fog of the investigation. How hard it is to get facts right. JOHNS: Even though Malaysian officials have released transcripts of cockpit communications from Flight 370, the families are asking for more. They have demanded records of all communications between the plane and the Malaysian military. They want a three-dimensional illustration of the plane's flight path and a comparison with the analysis of the last satellite pings. They want calculation formulas of the last known flight position over the Indian Ocean and why all these calculations could vary by as much as 1,000 kilometers.

The families were briefed by officials from both Malaysia and China at a closed-door meeting which was live telecast to families gathered in Beijing.

(on camera): But the briefing failed to satisfy the families, who issued an angry statement titled, "We were fooled once again," accusing the authorities of trickery, complaining they did not receive direct answers.

GOELZ: Some of them cannot be answered, but that's part of establishing a level of trust with the family members over time of saying, listen, we don't know the answer to that yet.


JOHNS: And the Malaysian government continues to insist it's doing all it can to inform the members of the families. But just the same, it's very difficult to draw any correct conclusions until they find the plane -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Joe Johns reporting for us from Kuala Lumpur. We'll stay, obviously, in very close touch with you once we get that announcement from the news conference in Australia. We'll get immediate reaction from family members in Kuala Lumpur, Beijing and elsewhere.

"CROSSFIRE," by the way, won't be seen tonight so we can bring you more of our breaking news coverage.

CNN's being told a British survey ship will be conducting a specific search in the area over the coming hours. Up next, a former U.S. Navy oceanographer joins us to explain what that may involve.

Plus, breaking news affecting millions of people across the United States' Midwest. Forecasters now saying tornadoes are very possible all throughout the night. We're going to check in with a storm chaser.


BLITZER: We're awaiting what a spokesman from the Australian defense force tells us will be a big operational news conference in the search for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. We're also told a British survey ship will be conducting what's described as a specific search in the coming hours.

Let's bring in our correspondent Richard Quest along with former U.S. Navy oceanographer Van Gurley. Richard, do you have any idea what they're talking about here?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When they say that there's going to be a big announcement, no. It is going to come from one Australian defense force. And having said that, one can only imagine that, you know, expectations have been raised.

I suppose they're talking -- they're going to be talking about the future direction of the search area and how they're going to move it forward. Because clearly, the area that they first identified wasn't the right area, and then the search zone moved northeast.

Then, as you can see from this map, it moved out to the east of that. Then it moved slightly back to the west.

And what's happening, Wolf, is that the planes and ships are combing these areas. They're not finding anything. So within the confines of the Inmarsat data -- and it's interesting to note that even tonight the AMSA, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, even in their announcement today of what the search is that will be taking place on Friday, Australia time, they refer again to this international group, based in KL, that is refining that Inmarsat data. So they're continuing, Wolf, to refine where they believe the plane would have been when it went down.

BLITZER: KL being Kuala Lumpur.

Van, we know that the Australian ship the Ocean Shield is there, has the U.S. Navy towed pinger locator. They're looking for the so-called black boxes. The British HMS Echo is there. There's a British submarine in the area.

Does that give you reason to believe they may be on to something?

VAN GURLEY, U.S. NAVY OCEANOGRAPHER: Well, Wolf, not really. What it tells me is that they're about to shift the search to the next phase. Up until now for the last four weeks, we've been searching the ocean surface looking for debris. Obviously haven't found anything yet.

Now what we're -- now what I think they're probably going to do is announce they're going to start searching the ocean bottom. They've brought all the right assets in to do that, and that would make sense, given the way this has sort of led up in the types of ships and equipment that are there.

BLITZER: As you know, Richard, they may be searching the ocean bottom, but that clock is clearly ticking. There may only be three or four or five days left before the battery life for those pingers that are emitting that sound coming from the black boxes dries up. So that -- there's not a whole lot of time.

QUEST: Oh, time is absolutely against them. It has been from the moment this began, this tragedy took place.

Here's an interesting thought, though, Wolf. If they still believe -- and bear with me on this. If they still believe that they are in the right location, and there is no debris on the surface and they've found nothing, certainly nothing of a large debris field that one might have expected, then you're moving into a very interesting scenario where you start to question that the plane ditched into the water and it might have broken up partially but actually went down pretty much whole.

Now, then you're into a very different scenario. I'm not saying that's what happened, but the lack of debris on the surface either means they are completely in the wrong area or the plane entered the water and remained substantially intact.

BLITZER: If that happened, Van, if there is a plane at the bottom 20,000 feet under sea level, let's say, right now, how difficult would it be to find? That's a pretty big object.

GURLEY: It is a big object, and the types of equipment that they're bringing into the area can do that. But it's going to be much slower than even the things we've seen so far.

Again, this is talking about moving along at three to four miles an hour and only covering a chunk of ocean maybe a mile wide at best. So it's going to take a lot of time.

But again, the fact that they've got Tireless there and the fact that Echo is getting ready to get under way, those are the things that you should see happen before you move from the surface to the ocean bottom.

BLITZER: Tireless" is the British submarine. Van Gurley, thanks.

Richard Quest, thanks to you.

Just ahead, we're going to check in with a storm chaser in Joplin, Missouri. Tornadoes, we're now told they are possible throughout the night over across much of the Midwest.

Plus, for the second day in a row, President Obama speaking out about the shooting at Fort Hood, Texas. His message to the fort's military families. That's coming up.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The latest report on the situation.



BLITZER: We're going to have more of our special coverage of the Fort Hood shooting investigation as well as the search for Flight 370. But the weather could also turn out to be a huge story tonight.

Forecasters say tornadoes are possible throughout the night across much of the Midwest. Weather Nation storm chaser Jeff Petrowski is joining us on the phone right now. He's in Branson, Missouri. What are you seeing there, Jeff?

JEFF PETROWSKI, WEATHER NATION STORM CHASER (via telephone): Earlier, we were out back towards Springfield. We had severe thunderstorms and a couple tornado warnings near Springfield. We had a brand new severe thunderstorm and storms rotating now southwest of Branson coming right at us. (INAUDIBLE) warnings, just southwest to here, golf ball sized hail. It is rotating. It is increasing now from southern Missouri to Arkansas as the evening approaches from this large scale complex of storms.

So, we're actually (INAUDIBLE) just to me.

BLITZER: These are live pictures you're showing us from your vehicle. It looks sort of ominous. Are these the signs you see pre-tornado activity?

PETROWSKI: That's right, Wolf. The temperature today was near 80. And dew point in the upper 60s. We have a lot of wind shear. And as the evening approaches, the winds are going to actually (INAUDIBLE) wind shear is going to get stronger this evening across southern Missouri, and central and northern Arkansas. The risk is actually increasing. We have tornado watches up from 1:00. And (INAUDIBLE) still yet tonight --

BLITZER: Hold on for a moment, Jeff, because our meteorologist Chad Myers is at the CNN weather center.

Give us the forecast, chad, then I know you have a question for Jeff yourself.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, as Jeff just said, the tornado threat is increasing, wolf. Now, the energy from the upper levels -- we're talking about some cold air coming in aloft. We're talking about shear coming in. All the ingredients like making a cake, those ingredients are coming together now.

And as chasers we think this is already 6:00, this should be over by now. But that's not the case. Because the energy, the upper level support has been late to arrive with this system but also when Jeff and I were chasing together back in 1991, we wouldn't be Daylight Saving Time yet. It would still only be 4:45 p.m. Central Time because it would still be Central Standard Time. They moved those times, those changing of your clock times a little bit.

So we still had more sunshine, we still had more heat. We are not cooling down just yet. The storms are all the way from west of St. Louis just through Osage Beach. Lake of the Ozarks just really got pounded here. And all the way down into Dallas, Texas. I'll zoom in here.

Dallas, you're about to get, especially Fort Worth, a very large storm to your southwest. It's moving your way. And more storms moving up toward Hugo, Oklahoma and even to the east of Denton into Texas itself. Here's Oklahoma, here's Arkansas. This is the storm right now that Jeff is looking at. There's Little Rock, move the view this way to see his storm. This is the storm that you're seeing on his live view right there. That's the one that's headed toward Branson where he's going to be watching that and intercepting that storm from the Southwest.

Now, part of the problem here is that the roads, unlike in Oklahoma and Texas, don't all go in straight lines. There are hills here. And it's difficult to chase. And please if you are home and you hear the sirens, don't look for them, just go inside and be safe. Because I believe the tornado threat is increasing tonight, Wolf.

BLITZER: You want to ask Jeff a question, Chad?

MYERS: Well, we've been chasing a long time, Jeff. Just to go back a little bit, there's video of you, we've had it on our air a number of times with the Joplin tornado, you literally telling the police officers get a warning out, a monster tornado is headed your way, that was years ago in the Joplin tornado.

But this is another type of day that we could get some fairly large tornadoes, especially F2s, F3s, F4s. And if they happen that night, Jeff, are you prepare today chase at night or pack it in?

PETROWSKI: Well, we're going to watch this system and see how they fall. The tornado in Joplin, I don't know if it would be quite that bad of a day, but tornadoes especially if the main dynamics coming in now and things will change over the next hour or two and we're going to start seeing more and more thunderstorms and more thunderstorms producing tornadoes, especially -- I'm very concerned now, Chad, watching storms from the southwest and starting to rotate so we may start having tornado warnings soon, south of Springfield, Missouri, watching storm southwest. They are definitely in Central Plains and starting to rotate (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: Chad, take a look -- hold on a second, Chad. Look at this -- this is from KTVT in Denton County, Texas. These are live pictures we're just getting in right now into THE SITUATION ROOM. That I've got to tell you, looks pretty ominous.

MYERS: It certainly does. We're at the distance here, that could be dust, that could be debris, that could be a wall cloud, but as we get closer and closer to it, we will know more. What I can tell you right now, Wolf, is there is a new brand-new tornado warning for this storm that you're watching there.

This Denton County storm in North Central Texas, a tornado warning until 6:30 Central Daylight Time because Doppler indicating a developing tornado with that storm. It's difficult at the distance we were looking at, especially through the lens of a zoomed helicopter, whether there was a tornado on the ground or not, but the National Weather Service believes there is enough for that happening and maybe right in the middle of the screen through the raindrops I could maybe see something developing there coming out of the cloud, it's difficult to tell at this distance, but we'll keep you advised if we know anything more. BLITZER: All right. Chad, thanks. We'll stay on top of the story. Obviously, Jeff Petrowski, thanks to you as well.

Stay with CNN, obviously, for all the latest developments on what's going on on the tornado front.

Just ahead, President Obama and the Fort Hood shooting, and what he plans to do to keep U.S. troops safe.


BLITZER: President Obama speaking out again about the Fort Hood shooting and what he is calling the unspeakable and senseless violence in the country.

Let's go to our White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski. She's got the latest.

The president obviously very moved, Michelle, by what's going on.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we didn't expect more remarks today but the impact of this is obviously felt here. Now for the second time in two days, the president has wanted to talk about Fort Hood.

Today, this was a ceremony to honor American Olympic and Paralympic athletes, this very happy, relax staycation. But both the president and first lady took a few moments at the beginning to acknowledge their sadness over what happened at Fort Hood. And this is a place were they both were back in 2009, to eulogize those soldiers who were killed in that prior shooting there.

And today, they even related the Olympic spirit to that of America's servicemen and women.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are folks who make such extraordinary sacrifices for us each and every day for our freedom. During the course of a decade of war, many of them have been on multiple, you know, tours of duty. To see unspeakable, senseless violence happen in a place where they're supposed to feel safe, home base, is tragic.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: I know that many of the athletes here today are veterans themselves. And when something like this happens, it touches all of us. I know that the president and I are just torn apart when things like this happen. So, today, as we celebrate the Olympic spirit, we remember that this same spirit, the spirit of hard work and team work is shared by our military men and women, and we stand with them today and every day.


KOSINSKI: The president, again, emphasized the emotional aspect of this. The added pain for families that this happened at home -- I mean, they send their loved ones off to battle overseas and imagine the relief of surviving that and then getting the news that they were shot down in a place designed to protect them, that they call home.

President Obama said we need to do everything in our power to keep American troops safe and strong, and to make sure that they're taken care of once they do come home -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I know he's getting regular briefings from the Pentagon from top U.S. military commanders on what they're learning, as far as this investigation is concerned. He clearly is focused on it and wants to know, right?

KOSINSKI: Right, absolutely. We learned a little bit more today about how sort of hectic it was while they were traveling yesterday, and first finding out from one of the staff members then trying to get briefings here and there while they were on the plane. So, yes, obviously, there is an emphasis being put on this as there needs to be even at the highest levels, Wolf.

BLITZER: Michelle Kosinski, our White House correspondent with the very latest on that front. Michelle, thanks very, very much.

That's it for me, thanks very much for watching. Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Go ahead, tweet me @WolfBlitzer. You can always tweet the show at the same time @CNNSitRoom. If you have questions on any of the subjects, we're following, use the #sitroom and try to get some answers for you in the course of the day tomorrow.

That's it, once again. Thanks very much.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.