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Continued Coverage of the Orlando Nightclub Shooting. Aired 9- 10p ET
Aired June 12, 2016 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[21:00:04] DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. Our breaking news tonight, the worst terror attack in U.S. history since 9/11.
This is CNN Tonight and I'm Don Lemon in Orlando.
Here's what we know right now. Right at the moment, 50 dead, 53 injured at the Pulse Nightclub, a gay club here in Orlando. The gunman identified as Omar Mateen of Fort Pierce, Florida. He was shot and killed by police, a source says. The gunman called 911 during the attack to pledge allegiance to ISIS, mentioning the Boston bombers.
Orlando Police say the shooter was armed with an assault type weapon, a handgun and an unknown number of rounds. And now according to a neighbor, Mateen worked as a security guard at the Port St. Lucie courthouse. He's been investigated by the FBI for possible ties to Islamic extremism, but no evidence was found to charge him.
No claims of responsibility on the Jihad forums -- Jihadi forums tonight, but ISIS sympathizers are praising the attack. President Barack Obama ordering the flags flown at half-staff and saying this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARRACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American, regardless of race, amnesty, religion, or sexual orientation is an attack on all of us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And security is being tightened all across the country. Tonight, New York City on high alert. The Empire State Building is dark. The spire of the world Trade Center lit up in rainbow colors and tonight's Tony Awards ceremony dedicated to the victims in Orlando.
Let's get right now thought to CNN's Jessica Schneider. Jessica, good evening. Thank you so much for joining us.
This is a sickening attack and the worst in the country's history. Take us through what happened at the nightclub.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Don, you know, it was a Saturday night and this was the most popular night of the week here. It was Latin night.
So, about 350 people were packed in Pulse Nightclub. We're about a block away from it and to give you a rundown of the timeline here, it was 2:00 in the morning. The law enforcement said that that gunman went into the front door. He actually confronted an off-duty police officer who was working security that night then once inside the club he started shooting and taking hostages.
This attack happened in two different parts of the club and it went on for quite some time and we're actually getting a glimpse of some of it through text messages, hearing from people's calls for help to their family members. Finally at 5:00 in the morning that's when the hundred officers or more who had been surrounding the club. They use an armored vehicle to bust through the wall and then get into that nightclub and to rescue the hostages. And that is when, Don, they finally were able to shoot and kill that gunman at 5:00 this morning.
LEMON: And Jessica, one man who was trapped inside the nightclub was texting his mother and here's what he said. He said, "Mommy, I love you. In the club, they're shooting. You OK? I'm trapped in the bathroom. What club? Pulse. Downtown. Call police. I'm going to die. Calling now. You still in there? Answer. Answer your phone. Call me. Call me. Call them mommy now. I'm still in the bathroom. He's coming. I'm going to die."
I mean, we don't know what happened to that young man, Jessica. He was obviously terrified. Do we know how long those hostages were stuck inside?
SCHNEIDER: Yeah. You know, Don, it's those chilling words. I mean, when you see that on text messages and when you read them, I need to hear and see the horror that these people were facing and this wasn't brief. These was three, tense, horrifying hours. The gunman first came in at 2:00 in the morning and it wasn't until 5:00 in the morning. Three hours later when police were finally able to take their bear cat, that armored vehicle and break down the wall, get in there and get the hostages out.
Of course 50 people at that point had died and they had to finally go in and shoot and kill that gunman. But we're hearing all sorts of tales of people and the extraordinary thing that they actually did to stay safe and to stay alive, Don.
LEMON: Unbelievable. Jessica Schneider, thank you very much for that. I want to turn on to CNN Nick Valencia outside Orlando Regional Medical Center.
Nick, so many are injured in this horrific attack. What's the status of the victims?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It has been a sickening day of emotion here with news of 50 people shot and killed by this terrorist. Opened fire at 2:00 a.m. this morning. 53 people still hospitalized and you think of those numbers, Don, 50 people dead. 53 injured.
We've been talking to people that give meaning to those jaw-dropping numbers. The people like Andy Moss who was in the nightclub when the shooting happened. He was there with his boyfriend. He said, fortunately for him he was at the front entrance and was able to get out alive. He's still looking for his boyfriend, Chris Summers. He's holding out hope, but as these hours pass, it's been more than 15 hours since the shooting happened.
Some remaining hopeful, others they're taking that indication that they have not heard from their family or loved ones as an indication of the worst of the worst. We were outside of that hospital when three doctors walked across the street to what was effectively the staging area for their friends and family. They were waiting to hear about their loved ones. They walk in.
[21:05:11] A few minutes later, those doctors walked out and right after they left, we heard those heart wrenching screams, the tears. People are finding out presumably that their loved ones were among those that were shot and killed. What's really frustrating though here for a lot of individuals Don is that, some may not find out what happened to their loved one until 10:00 a.m. tomorrow.
When asked why, the city officials are waiting so long. The people that we talked to, they're still holding out hope say that they have been given no reason, but are expected to wait hours longer until 10:00 a.m. eastern to find out officially anyway, what happened. Don.
LEMON: And Nick, you're talking about the doctors and the first responders and we understand that medical personnel scrambled to respond. Doctors -- more doctors were called in and more surgeons were called into the hospital to treat so many people?
VALENCIA: Well certainly, they had the all call. People asked to come in from throughout the city to help on out, but you bring up a great point. We were at the blood donation center where at least 1,500 people showed up to this one specific donation center. There was more than 10 freckled throughout the community here, but there was not enough nurses there -- staff. There were aren't enough nurses, staff to draw blood from all the people that were showing up to give blood.
To looking for O-negative, O-positive blood, those universal blood donors. So what we saw with our own eyes was that the staff here was overwhelmed by those that who wanted to do good, that those that wanted to help these victims. We can only imagine, it was more of the same inside those hospitals that were being flooded with those victims from the nightclub shooting. Don.
LEMON: OK Nick, I got another question for you. We understand that there was a call for blood for supplies or whatever and a lot of people responded. Are they able to take care of all of those people and get the necessary amount of blood that they need?
VALENCIA: We've been there since -- we've been here, I should say since early this morning and we saw a line wrapped around the corner. Some people are saying that they'd been there since 9:00 this morning. At that time it was the middle of the afternoon. We had to leave to go to another location, but they were starting to turn people away saying that they were overwhelmed and encouraging. Still people are coming and give blood to do good and to do their part and what little they could here, but this community certainly just ravaged by this worst mass shooting in modern day American history. Don?
LEMON: Nick Valencia reporting, and giving us an update on the situation as to how they handle all of those patients and patient conditions. Thank you very much for that Nick.
I want to turn now to CNN's Drew Griffin, outside the shooter's home in Fort Pierce, Florida. He has the latest information on that. Drew, Omar Mateen was an American, homegrown terrorist. What else can you tell us about him?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: First generation, his parents from Afghanistan. He was born in New York. They obviously moved here when he was -- we don't know the exact age, but certainly by his teenage years he was here in Fort Pierce, Florida.
He became a pretty big part of the community here. He had a lot of friends in high school, junior college. He became a security guard and like you see in many of the situations, it seems there was a double life certainly later in his life. Most of the time he spent employed as a security guard, armed security guard at several different venues including the local courthouse where he run the metal detector. And one of his neighbors who run into him, they're quite often described him this way. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRIFFIN: And your interaction with him at the courthouse?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well just because I was always there and I always had to -- him saying to speak to him just from always going there. He seemed pretty normal to me.
MATEEN: Oh yeah, always.
GRIFFIN: And a security guard was he addressed as a security guard?
MATEEN: Yeah. Yeah. Gun and everything.
MATEEN: Yes, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRIFFIN: Don, we do know, Don that he did have troubles at various workplaces, but he remained employed for nine years with the security company. And as such was licensed to carry his weapons, Don.
LEMON: Yeah and which is extraordinary to a lot of people. And I know, you know, you were talking there, but the picture coming from neighbors it's really a mixed picture, right? He was a nice guy, but his ex-wife says that he was violent. Do you know any more about that, Drew?
GRIFFIN: You know we really don't. We know, of course, that the FBI interviewed him over two years, 2013 and 2014 as part of investigations and we're hearing whispers that he had some kind of violent speaking that went on in his past. But just tonight, we talked to the local Imam, the Imam who has known him since 2003. He said this kid has been coming to the local mosque just 10 minutes away.
Since that time, very quiet, very subdued, found the whole thing unbelievable and this is what he told us tonight about the suspect.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He would come. He would pray and he will do. He would not come with any friends. We don't recall any friend of him in this mosque and he would not socialize with anybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[21:10:11] GRIFFIN: And that was a change in his lifestyle from his earlier years according to the Imam. When he was a kid he was playful. He was more interactive. He reached out with his father. His father went to the same mosque with him for prayers, but in these later years he would come. He was very quiet and he kept to himself. Very similar pattern from some of the many, many shootings, Don, you and I have covered over these past several years.
LEMON: Yeah. And details, more details to come for sure. Drew Griffin, thank you very much.
I want to turn to CNN's Pamela Brown. She is here with me in Orlando tonight. We hear that he called 911 20 minutes into the attack, right? What are the details on that? What do you learning about that?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It's bizarre that in the midst of this attack while he's opening fire in that club, Don. We've learned that he called 911. He said who he was. He said his location and he also pledged allegiance to ISIS and the ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. And so that was the initial indication authorities had that, in fact, he was connected to an international terrorism in one way or another.
Now to the extent of that and how far back this goes, that is still very much a question. But the fact that he called 911 in the midst of this, the fact that he was trying to negotiate with the police officers who arrived on the scene while he have these hostages. All of these are very unusual pieces to the puzzle. And right now, Don, investigators are looking at the scenario of whether this was someone who was inspired by hate. He was targeting the gay community, but at the same time had some influence of international terrorism. So this is all part of the investigation at this stage. LEMON: I wonder if he was inspired by the Tsarnaev brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar, because he apparently mentioned them at some point. Was that a model for the Boston bombing? A model for him, possibly?
BROWN: That's right. In fact, he mentioned that during the 911 call, as well. And so the extent to which they influenced him is unclear, but what is interesting to note here is that, of course the Boston bombing was in 2013. And in 2013 the FBI opened up an investigation into this gunman because some of his coworker said that he was making some inflammatory remarks. Some remarks that indicated he could be inspired by terrorism. Now nothing came of that.
The FBI interviewed him twice. They didn't find any wrongdoing. And so it ultimately closed that case, but I can tell you the FBI wants to figure out what the connection is to the Tsarnaev brothers. Obviously the M.O. was different. They used explosives, the gunman on this case had this handgun and a rifle, as well. But there are still a lot of questions that investigators need answered at this hour.
LEMON: Yeah and they certainly do. It's interesting he was able to legally buy guns. What do we know about those guns, Pamela?
BROWN: Yeah. So, he think he had two FBI investigations open in 2013 and 2014. Both of them were closed and at the same time he was a security guard in Port St. Lucie was where he was working more recently at a courthouse. And we learned this from a neighbor. He apparently a couple weeks ago bought this semi-automatic rifle as well as a handgun. He had a firearms license because he was a security guard.
He bought these weapons legally, but this is all going to be, of course under scrutiny given what he went on to do, you know, shortly thereafter opening fire in this nightclub and being responsible for the deadliest mass shooting in American history.
LEMON: They're going to scrutinizing by the hand, you know, been interviewing him twice, right, of the FBI. And then ...
BROWN: Actually it's three times all together.
LEMON: ... three times.
BROWN: So twice in 2013, the second investigation was whether he had a close relationship to an American suicide bomber. So three times then the question is did the FBI miss anything? They're going back to...
LEMON: (Inaudible) was this a breakdown.
LEMON: Thank you, Pamela Brown. We appreciate it. Pamela Brown reporting here on the scene. We're going to be right back with much more on our breaking news tonight. The worst terror attack in this country since 9/11. The deadly attack in the Pulse Nightclub here on Orlando, Florida. Don't go anywhere. We'll be right back.
[21:17:12] LEMON: We're back now live with our breaking news coverage. I want to take you now to some live pictures. This is the Pulse Nightclub. You can see this aerial shot. It is of a -- the investigators who were now at this crime scene doing what they do of course and sadly, you can see some of the stretchers there. And also again, investigators on the scene and ambulances and hearses all there to do what they do, sadly, when something like this happens.
The Orlando community of course in shock tonight after 50 people are killed in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
Joining me now is Patty Sheehan. She's the Orlando City Commissioner in District 4. And that you groaned when I said that. It's awful to hear this.
PATTY SHEEHAN, ORLANDO CITY COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 4: It's just awful Don and I am the first openly gay elected official in Central Florida. And for something this, that this to happen in my community and people are trying to minimize in fact this happened to the gay community and this did happen to my community. This is a very diverse area.
It's a club that caters to gay people, but also they have Latin nights and theme nights. And this is a very accepting neighborhood. And the fact that they came here and this business district is known as the main street. You know, we're very proud of this area. It was a horrible, horrible thing to happen here.
LEMON: How did you hear about it, Patty?
SHEEHAN: They got a call first thing this morning and of course my first thing was to get -- there was really an outcry from the gay community, but let's do a vigil. Let's do something nice. No, let's pull back because you have to understand law enforcement is trying to do their job and maybe to take care of these families. And that's the hard thing it's like. I know people want to do things, but right now it's about these families. It's about getting this -- we're still getting people out of the building. It's very, very sad.
LEMON: You know, I know it's sad. And we just showed a live picture of that. And so many people have not been notified. We're looking at the pictures of that and I know. It's just horrendous for you because you knew people ...
LEMON: ... who were in that club.
SHEEHAN: Yes. I do. I know the owner very well. She's a friend of mine and I was worried about her. I didn't find out that she was OK until this afternoon. I found out from the police and, you know, it's just been a very, very hard day. But again, I hate to say it, but there's all these politicians running around here today that don't want to do hate crime, you know, enhancements.
LEMON: Say it, go ahead.
SHEEHAN: They don't want to do anything to help my community. They don't want to do anything to protect my community, but they'll come out here on the microphone and say, you know, this really isn't about the gay community. Non-sense. My community has a hole in its heart today because of what happened and how dare you come here and front the cameras and minimize the damage that happened in my community.
LEMON: It's a hate crime, clearly for you.
SHEEHAN: I think so. Yes.
SHEEHAN: And this is why we have those enhancements. These men meant to strike, took a dagger on the heart of the gay community. But what they don't understand in this community, we've been through so much, you know? We've lost people to AIDS, the HIV. We've come together so many times to help each other and what they don't understand is that we will come through and persevere because love conquers hate every single time.
LEMON: So many times the gay community, the LGBT communities, like it's like the last group that gets recognition or help from anyone.
LEMON: And you know, sadly, does this show -- does this -- it reminds that?
[21:20:03] SHEEHAN: This shows why we need the protections. This shows that there are people who hate us and hate who we are. And, I think that it needs to be said and I don't care if I upset people by talking about it. I think it's important. I'm the first openly gay elected official of course I'm going to talk about the impact this has on my community.
LEMON: And how detrimental when people take religious doctrine and twist it to, you know something and use it in a way that it's not meant to be used against gay people.
SHEEHAN: Well, you know, this was the very frustrating thing for me is that here we're trying to talk about how we can -- the guns are not the answer, you know, and ...
LEMON: What do you mean by that?
SHEEHAN: I mean people get angry and I think they're going to take -- they're angry and use guns and violence to try to push an agenda against other people and my feeling is that we need to get to the heart of what is making these people so disconnected from their communities, so disconnected from the world that they feel that this is the way to get their message across.
I think this is bigger than guns. I think this is bigger than any of that. I think we need to figure out why these people are becoming so extremely angry that they feel mass murder is the answer to whatever message that you were trying to get across. It's not -- love is the answer. And that's what these people are about here today. This community, without pouring of love today. These people feeding, all the media, water, and everything like that. This was what Orlando is.
LEMON: We've seen so many people coming together, people responding in this moment today. People who are helping, they are carrying, you know, other people into cars and I'm going to interview one young man who was -- who help -- hid under a car to help people ...
LEMON: I've been speaking, you know, Mark NeJame who is a prominent attorney and businessman, here saying this is so antithetical for what Orlando is ...
LEMON: That is just become over the last couple years and especially that ...
SHEEHAN: People think of us as theme parks and things like that, but we are a very close, tight-knit community and we are going to come out of this stronger because of who we are. The Gay and Lesbian Community Center has been doing grief counseling for people all day long.
They're going to be taking up donations for the victims families and all that, but I've got to tell you, something I got to give a shout out, you know, people get angry about the police and everything like that. Our police department save so many lives, they're almost there almost 300 people in that club last night and it's a tragedy how many people we've lost and how many were injured, but it would have been a lot higher if OPD -- the Orlando Police Department, men and women have not gone in there and risked their own lives to save so many people. They actually had to break down a wall to get into the club and save people.
LEMON: Do you know what's inspiring to me in all of these if there's any inspiration is that people like you come on and for what I'm seeing the outpouring people are not responding to hate with hate. They're responding to hate with love.
SHEEHAN: Love conquers hate every single time.
LEMON: Thank you Patty. I appreciate it.
LEMON: .... I'm so, sorry.
LEMON: So, sorry.
SHEEHAN: I saw blood on the sidewalk. I lost -- I just saw blood on the sidewalk this morning, my friend Jorge Estevez (ph) called me and I just look down and I loss him.
LEMON: If we can help in any way. We will. Thank you so much.
SHEEHAN: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: We appreciated. We're going to be right back with our breaking news. The deadliest mass shooting in American history right here in Orlando, we'll be back.
[21:26:33] LEMON: Back now with our breaking news. Live from Orlando, Florida. You're looking at pictures now, live pictures from the Pulse Nightclub. Investigators are on the scene and sadly, as you can see, they're having to deal with those who were injured and killed in this horrific shooting at 2:00 in the morning here in Orlando at the Pulse Nightclub.
We're going to continue to monitor those live pictures for you and give you an update as we get it here on sadly, how many people have been accounted for and those that are not accounted for.
But right now, I want to tell you that President Barack Obama today calling the shooting here in Orlando an act of terror and hate. Let's discuss that now. Tom Fuentes, the former FBI assistant director is here with me. Juliette Kayyem, CNN National Security analyst is also here with us, Michael Weiss who is the senior editor at The Daily Beast and a former NYPD detective Tom Verni all here joining me now. Thank you so much for joining us.
Mike, I want to start with you because you say so far this seems like textbook ISIS inspired even with this LGBT angle here. Why do you say that?
MICHAEL WEISS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I'm surprised people are surprised, frankly, that a Jihadist would want to target homosexuals. I mean, they're -- ISIS is throwing gay men off rooftops in Raqqa. Saleh Abdeslam, the-- one of the terrorist attackers who's now in custody was frequenting gay bars in Brussels.
According to numerous eyewitnesses, either because he had a secret he was keeping from ISIS or he was also scouting these targets. ISIS considers homosexuals to be subhuman, marked for death. And yes, OK, the guy has a history of mental illness.
Well Don, look, I don't know about you. But anybody who straps a suicide bomb to their belt or their vest and decides to blow up a military checkpoint, I don't consider them emotionally stable nor do I consider Jihadists to be pro-LGBT.
This is very textbook to me. This is a guy who likes whatever ISIS is selling and it could be for a variety of reasons, geopolitical, religious, we don't know. But his declaration of allegiance, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the caliph, is pretty resoundingly clear to me. This is exactly what the ISIS spokesperson Abu Muhammad Al-Adnani asked all Muslims and, frankly, non-Muslims to do in 2014.
Strike the kafir wherever you find him. If you have a rock, take the rock, bash him over the head. If you have a car, get in your car, drive over him. The war is now in the west against western targets. It's no longer just about nation building, remaining and expanding in Iraq and Syria.
So, I think this is rather like San Bernardino. I mean, this was somebody who was inspired remotely. He didn't go to Syria. He didn't have to join the army of the so-called caliphate. He is a member of what I've often referred to as the invisible armies of ISIS, the people who ISIS doesn't even know exist but are encouraging, egging on to commit these kind of atrocities.
LEMON: Tom Fuentes, it is going to be in part to gunman's motivation in this investigation, very important.
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well Don, I agree. It is important. But, you know, I also agree that ISIS hates gays, or ISIS hates Jews, Christian, non-Muslim, even Shia Muslims. They just about hate everybody. There's nothing peaceful and loving about the ISIS ideology advocating their form of that good old-fashioned religion that calls for beheadings and stonings and throwing people off of rooftops.
So, I think that, you know, to think otherwise or to think that somehow, you know, to try to attach our values in the west that, wow this is a hate crime. This is difficult. No, this is completely inline with ISIS advocacy of what type of crime to commit and how to commit it.
[21:30:06] LEMON: Juliette, let's talk about this 911 call, allegedly 20 minutes by the gunman into the attack pledging allegiance to ISIS and also mentioning the Boston bombing. How does this tragedy compare to Boston if at all?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I mean it's similar. And someone says, it's a soft target with a lot of people there, high profiled. But it has very important differences. I mean, the first is he wanted to identify he's ISIS and let the world know that he was identifying himself with ISIS.
And so, that was a statement to the world. He also clearly did not have an exit strategy. The Boston bombers, everyone has to remember had attempt or at least were trying to get to New York to continue their violence. So, he knew what this mission was. It was a suicide mission.
I will say one thing about this ISIS notion. It's very important that we make the distinction between ISIS-inspired and ISIS-directed. It is very likely, we don't know -- actually, I should be fair. We don't know yet. But there is a difference between sort of back channel communications where ISIS is directing someone to walk into a gay bar and shoot 50 people.
And someone self-radicalizing, passively absorbing information and then doing the same. It's not a difference to the victims or their families or even to this country right now, but it's a difference for law enforcement and investigation and intelligence purposes.
LEMON: And what does it -- does it make a difference, Juliette, that his father said that he became upset because he saw two men embracing or two men kissing and his child had to witness that.
KAYYEM: You know, fathers say a lot of things about their mass killer sons. And I'm sure the father is trying to explain or understand what would trigger his own child to do this. But this was, you know, as Tom said, you know, that, you know, this is -- this was an attack against people that they hated. In this instance, it was the gay community.
The gay community is impacted by this. Your previous speaker obviously is talking about the essential notion or desire to have a hate crimes legislation. But from the counter terrorism perspective, whether it was two men kissing or two Christians or two Jews, this guy was motivated by a desire to reflect ISIS in violence in the United States.
LEMON: Motivated by hate. Tom Verni, you were in NYPD detective and you focused a lot on hate crimes. I know the NYPD works with a number of law enforcement agencies around the country and really around the world. And they are kept abreast of a lot of this. A lot of people consult with them. What would you do? And if you were looking at this investigation, what would you be looking for?
TOM VERNI, RETIRED NYPD DETECTIVE: Well, first of all, my condolences to the family and friends of the deceased, the murdered folks in the club. I mean, it's just awful, unbelievably awful what took place there. And not only was with the NYPD for nearly 22 years, but I'm also an openly gay man. So, to be an openly gay police officer and a detective and then -- and also having been at that club, I've been to the Pulse Nightclub when I vacationed in Florida.
I have friends down there. We've been there. So, it was unbelievably disturbing to hear this on a number of different levels, you know. You're dealing with the radicalization of certain religions. You're dealing with the easy access to weapons. You're dealing with certainly a lot of hate here, certainly to kill 50 people and to injure another 53 more or more than that requires a lot of hate.
So, yeah, we're talking about someone following some sort of ideology that is just -- we're talking about a mutant here. This is not the Muslim or the Islamic religion that I know. Yeah, I worked with, you know, Muslim police officers. I know many people in the Muslim community in New York City. This is not the religion that I am familiar with. This is a mutant who is basically taking a religion and radicalizing it for their own twisted ideals. And, you know, I don't -- there's not enough information to know whether or not it was ISIS-directed at this, you know -- that's going to come out as the investigation goes on.
And we're going to have to dig into this guy's phone. We're going to have to dig into this guy's family and his friends, his co-workers and to find out what kind of a guy this was and what information people may have had without connecting the dots before all this mayhem took place.
LEMON: Yeah. I need to tell our viewers that we're talking to Tom who's a former NYPD detective. We're going to be speaking to the police commissioner in New York City, Bill Bratton, in just moments here on CNN. Hey Tom, I want to ask you something before we end here.
We know that counter terrorism experts investigated this gunman twice over a possible terror ties. And I think according Pamela Brown questioned him three times. He -- but he was allowed to legally purchase a gun. He was also able to hold a job as a security guard for firm that hosts federal contracts. Do you think the system failed here?
LEMON: Yeah, that's for Tom Fuentes.
VERNI: Oh, Tom Fuentes. Got you.
[21:35:10] FUENTES: OK. Well, the problem, Don, is that we are a free society and you get to think what you want to think. So, we can't have the FBI lock people up because they think bad thoughts. They can only start to lock people up when they take an action in furtherance of those thoughts and the actions become dangerous.
So, you know, in this situation, you know, we don't know that he came close enough to crossing a line where they have anything they can prosecute him for. And as you aware of, the Second Amendment debates that we have in this country that it's considered, you know, a guarded right by the constitution to be able to purchase and possess a firearm. And it requires somebody being convicted of a crime and not just questioned by the FBI or being suspicious on the suspicion list of law enforcement.
They have to commit and be convicted of a crime or judged mentally ill in order to lose their constitutional right to buy a weapon. So this is something that's a guaranteed right.
LEMON: All right. Thank you, everyone. When we come right back much more on our breaking news tonight. NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton coming up, next.
[21:40:02] LEMON: Back now live. You're looking at live pictures of the Pulse Nightclub. Now you can see it's surrounded in police tape and also flashing lights on police cars less than 24 hours after the deadliest shooting in American history right now. A gunman opened fire inside this gay nightclub, killing 50 people and wounding at least 53 more.
Security being tightened all across this country. New York City, on high alert as well, the Empire State Building dark. The spire of the World Trade Center lit up in rainbow colors this evening and right now I want to speak to New York City's police commissioner William Bratton and he joins me now by phone.
Commissioner, thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate it. I know your team is closely monitoring the situation down here in Orlando, Florida. What sort of communication is the NYPD having with the FBI and Florida authorities right now?
WILLIAM BRATTON, NEW YORK CITY'S POLICE COMISSIONER: Oh we have continuous communication, principally through the joint terrorism task force, that was alerted about this attack very early on and based on the early on the information that we're getting, within the city of New York we began to start covering some of the areas where gays would congregate in the city, the nightclub district, Stonewall and certainly a great place to gay movement.
And the intelligence that we, you know, have gathered internally, a lot of those are just not available to the public at this time, we attempt to really, get a sense in here any particular trip, here in New York City. At this time there is nothing that we are aware of based on our intelligence records specifically against New York, but at the same time, I think we have to err on the side of caution. We fortunately, have resources in this city, we have really bought a wide manufacture and we have, in fact, done that.
LEMON: I would imagine that pretty quickly, Commissioner, when something like this happens and New York prepares in the event that it might be a coordinated attack, you try to figure it out versus a lone wolf attack. That's figured out in the early part of this investigation, correct?
BRATTON: Right, it's very early on and it appears it was in fact (inaudible) a lone wolf situation. The investigation that's ongoing, the massive investigation now is attempting to determine was he, in fact, a lone wolf.
We have assistance, family, friends and others. You hear the term very frequently now, inspired, enabled, directed. Quite clearly he was inspired by ISIS, he swore allegiance to them in the phone call he made.
We would now be looking to see was he enabled in any way, enabled oftentimes particularly someone who is seeking to create a long life et cetera and, you know, taught how to do that, taught how to conduct an attack and this attack here in its simplicity could occur any where in America at any given time.
Somebody with an assault weapon, walk into a crowd and just start shooting. It doesn't take much planning, it doesn't take much enabling. In this case, it seemed like it was largely an inspired attack and people by a lot of hatred quite obviously.
And then when we were looking there -- when I say we, I mean, we have the various agencies are looking at that and they'll be looking very closely to see was this directed in anyway, shape or form, meaning was he in touch with ISIS, entities either overseas potentially in this country.
But it's now, a massive review of this young man's life, all of his acquaintances, his activity and certainly any type of electronic devices. So unfortunately, we're getting very skilled with this because events are happening with increasing frequency and liquidity and we've seen that here in New York City, that in the last 16 years, we had about 20-some-odd incidents and made that these incidents is occurring much more frequently.
I think that's going to be a fact of life in America that we'll have to get used to it.
LEMON: Yeah. I'm having a little bit of trouble hearing you with this tiny earpiece that I have out here on the scene, Commissioner, but when you mentioned guns, and you said anyone can walk into a club it doesn't take much planning or walk into any place. Is there -- is the problem guns or access to guns? Is that an issue in this?
BRATTON: In our country, it certainly facilitated in a much easy way because the access to guns is extraordinary in this country, both legally and it appears that this individual bought his weapons legally within the last week or illegally, that the illegal trapping of firearms is incredible. Earlier in your show there was commentary about the issue of his access to firearms even though he'd been investigated on several occasions by the FBI.
Well, have the insanity, in fact into the Congress that is be hold and, you know, array actually being held hostage by the NRA. The idea that we have a terrorist watch list and no-fly list and somebody that's on that list well legally purchase a firearm in the United States of America.
[21:45:16] Well, there's the height of insanity and who is authorizing that insanity? Obviously the United States, so it will be lot take of finger-pointing going on here and hopefully, maybe out of this awful tragedy might come some restoration of sanity where in our lax gun laws we have total insanity.
LEMON: What would you like to see done, Commissioner, in that regard?
BRATTON: Meaningful gun laws, gun control laws that would have helped in this instance, that's what part of the investigation would seek to determine that the investigation should be (inaudible) at particularly these individuals that anything that came out of those investigations that might have been able to keep him from obtaining either the job he had as a security officer apparently or would let him buy a firearm. That would be an aspect of it.
I don't hold out much hope of that, being quite frankly, I'd like to see it would meaningful gun control but I don't hold out much hope for that. Obviously the United States is too afraid of the (inaudible) at this time.
Now what we need to do as we potential (inaudible) the NYPD the FBI., improve our offense and our offense is really identifying these individuals more quickly, more certainly and preventing them from committing their acts and then on the defense side, the defense side as we've also done here in New York, we've increase, the number of officers assigned to counter terrorism functions by almost 60 to 70 the cash (ph) each year to improve our ability to defend.
And so neither New York City have hundreds of officers outside of locations of concern. Gay nightclub is locations where a gay organization have officers that because this attack was specifically focused against the gay community. But also that we'll just enhance our presence in New York towards on this because we've been able to increase the size of the police department in the last two years and we have more resources and most of my colleagues have available to them around the country.
LEMON: Commissioner, we really appreciate you joining us we know the gay pride celebrations are coming up in New York City in just couple of weeks that I've known ...
BRATTON: May have (inaudible) in New York City coming up.
LEMON: Yeah. Thank you, Commissioner. We appreciate you calling in. Thanks so much. Thank you.
As we go to break, I want to show you some live pictures, this is again New York City and this is Stonewall the site of the Stonewall Memorial, the Stonewall Inn, Sheridan Square and that's where it all started, the revolution for gay people and for gay rights right there at the Stonewall Inn in New York City.
We're going to right back with more of our breaking news. The deadliest mass shooting in American history here in Orlando.
[21:51:52] LEMON: We're back now live from Orlando. And you can see these aerial pictures of the Pulse Nightclub and where investigators are on the scene and they're trying to get to the bottom of everything that happened here, all the information they can and collect all of the evidence they can. We'll continue to monitor those pictures for you.
The people of Orlando tonight, really around the world, shocked in sadness at this massacre of 50 people at this gay nightclub. At least 53 others are wounded. I want to talk now to Joshua McGill who escaped this deadly attack. You were in the club last night with two friends. And I'm sorry to have to speak to you about this tragedy. But ...
JOSHUA MCGILL, WITNESS TO ORLANDO SHOOTING: It's fine. It's fine.
LEMON: I mean, it's -- I say that you're a hero. And I'll explain your story. But how are you doing right now?
MCGILL: I'm exhausted. I quite haven't had any down time to actually comprehend what has going on. But I mean, I've always been more of a calm collected person any ways. So, I mean, I'm just kind of taking it one step at a time and processing it the way I know how which is like, you know, music and just chill-lax.
LEMON: So, you weren't supposed to be here. You're working -- you work for the people who own Pulse. You are supposed to be working at their sister club.
MCGILL: It's not like the same owners. But we say we're sister clubs because when their bartenders or whoever were off, they go to our club.
LEMON: So, you help each other out?
MCGILL: Yeah. We all ...
LEMON: So-- And then, you showed up at what time?
MCGILL: My (inaudible) last minute, 11:45, the latest. We were there before midnight. We were in the corner main bar next to our favorite bartender, Kate (ph). She takes care of us all night. And there is actually an exit to the patio bar area right next to Kate, like literally I can push my arm.
LEMON: So, you got out quickly?
MCGILL: That's how ...
LEMON: So, tell me what happened though as you were standing there with your friends?
MCGILL: What happened was around, 1:45 was the last call for alcohol, so everyone's rushing to the bar, close out their tabs, drink another water, drink another drink, whatever not. Our roommate was like, I'm ready to close it out. So, Kate is really busy. She's very popular bartender. It took her about, you know, five minutes to get the printout. My roommate (inaudible)
LEMON: But could you hear the -- yeah.
MCGILL: He signed it. And then, we heard the three gunshots, boom, boom, boom.
LEMON: Wow. MCGILL: It sound like it came from the main entrance which is totally across where we were. But, you know, I couldn't see anything. I didn't see a face of a person.
LEMON: So, did people start scrambling after that, right?
MCGILL: It was kind of like an automatic response when you hear something like a loud bang. You can't just like do like a half duck.
MCGILL: So, we kind of all of did that. And then, someone next to my roommate just grabbed her and pulled her down. She pulled me down. And I pulled my other roommate down. And he was like, that wasn't like a sound blow from the speaker. That was ...
LEMON: That's real.
MCGILL: That's real.
LEMON: So, let's get to your story. So, you are -- you started helping someone out. You pulled someone under a car who had been injured. And there was -- we have a shot of your pants that are bloodied. So, take us through that story. What happened?
MCGILL: We had jumped through the back patio fence. My roommates ran. And then, while we're running, I heard the gunshots and I got scared because I didn't want to get like hit in the crossfire. So, I jumped behind a car or SUV.
I'm hiding behind it. The shots were fired multiple more times. They got a little further away. Then we're before , so I figured it's my time to the run to the safety area that the cops had it set up for a perimeter. That's when I saw Rodney (ph) kind of struggling, limping around ...
[21:55:14] LEMON: Rodney is the victim?
MCGILL: He is the victim.
MCGILL: He had multiple gunshot wounds, one in each arm. And then later, I found out one was in his upper right area of his back. Pulled him over behind the car, and I told him, you know, everything will be OK, I got you, just calm down. I was like, I need to cut off as much blood as I can.
So, I took my shirt off and tied it around one arm as tight as I could, took off his shirt, tied it around his other arm. And I didn't know about the back when until I went to go like help him walk and dodge through cars to get to the safety area. And that's when he was like, oh, my god, my back hurts.
I looked at my hand covered in blood. So, I just held it as high as I could. We got to the safety zone. Officer, whomever was like, all right, you guys stay down, there is a guy standing by. I just looked at him and said, give me your shirt. And he gave me a shirt. I used it to cover up his back -- the wound on his back.
LEMON: Yeah. And I want to show the audiences a picture of your jeans or, you know, the bloody jeans, if we can put that up, that -- and you said you took off your shirt. And that's -- all of that's Rodney's blood.
MCGILL: Yeah. There's actually probably still some on my shoelaces.
LEMON: And you said that you were able to -- because I don't know if the family has been notified. But just say his first name. But he's fine, you heard, right?
MCGILL: Rodney? Yes. I went to the hospital today. I couldn't see him because he was still in the emergency department. But they did say he was stable. So, I mean, on the way to the hospital, the officer had him lay on top of me. And I had to bear hug him. And ...
LEMON: You were making all kind of promises (inaudible) to keep him to stay awake.
MCGILL: Yeah. That's how I got him to stay conscious, what's your name, where are you from, how old are you? I promise you'll be OK. I don't know if you're religious, I am. But I promise you God has got this. It'll be OK. And I was mainly scared. I was like, God, please don't let me break my promise. And so, we get to the hospital. He gets on the stretcher and they take him away.
LEMON: You're a hero. Thank you.
MCGILL: That's right. Thank you very much.
LEMON: Thank you so much. I'm so glad -- I'm glad that you're OK. And I'm glad that you were able to help him.
MCGILL: Nice meeting you too.
LEMON: It's a pleasure meeting you. Thank you so much.
MCGILL: Very welcome.
LEMON: Thank you. We'll be right back, everyone