updated 9/28/2006 11:54:38 AM ET 2006-09-28T15:54:38

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC HOST:  Welcome to the show.  I‘m Tucker Carlson.  Breaking news out of Bailey, Colorado, today where an unidentified gunman is now in police custody.  That is after holding several people hostage at Platt Canyon High School.  A Jefferson County spokesman says the hostage taker is male, is between 30 and 50 years old.  One student reportedly is critically injured.  We are not sure how.

For more on the story we turn now to Clint van Zandt.  He joins by phone. 

Clint, what do we—what can we assume from the information that we have?  There is a report that the hostage taker is somehow tied to a school employee.  Do you know anything about that?

CLINT VAN ZANDT, MSNBC ANALYST:  I think right now, Tucker there is probably more we don‘t know than we know.  My background as a hostage negotiator as I watched this situation develop, the good news throughout was that as has been announced that initially, hostages have been released.  So that would have given law enforcement some information on who the hostage taker was, what his relationship with other people might have been.

So there was a lot of information that could have been gleaned at that time initially.  The challenge, of course, came for hostage negotiators trying to start a dialogue with this guy and now we‘re told that he did in fact have an explosive device and that a student has been injured.

We know Tucker, for example that 85 percent of the hostages worldwide injured are injured either in the initial taking or they are injured when law enforcement goes in to try to rescue them from the hostage taker.  What we don‘t know now whether she was injured by the explosive device going off, by the gunman, hostage taker shooting her in an exchange perhaps between law enforcement and the hostage taker.  There is a lot that is unknown right now.

TUCKER:  As someone who has actually negotiated a crisis like this, tell us at what point do you decide to stop talking and break down the doors?

VAN ZANDT:  Well, as long as you are talking, Tucker, that is the positive thing.  My philosophy has always been if I have someone talking, they are not shooting.  So as long as I can keep them on the line, keep them talking, have them talking about positive thing, not about dying, not about killing other people, but about what their issue—obviously this individual had some issue to come in this particular school on this day.  If he came in, we are told with an explosive device that actually went off, he would have had to have built this device.  So it sounds like there was some type of preplanning.  Whether there was a domestic situation, some type of challenge he may have had with someone inside the school, another parent, a spouse, these are things that law enforcement is going to have to develop.

He had a reason to go in this school and it sounds like he had planning.  The good thing was we wound up with only two student and not the terrible situations we‘ve seen where entire schools are held hostage at the same time.

TUCKER:  Clint, as we said a second ago, a station, KUSA is reporting that the police or some law enforcement in any case did storm the area where the hostage taker was holed up with the hostages.  What are the risks that law enforcement has to take into account before making the decision to storm a room?

VAN ZANDT:  These are big risks, Tucker.  As I say, in most cases, when either a hostage taker takes someone or when you go in, that‘s when someone will be injured.  The cancellation is kind of the scales that you measure something like this on, is you have to look at what is the current threat to the hostages, what is the negotiations assessment of the hostage taker, does he sound like she going over the edge, like he is losing it, is he saying I‘m going to do some terrible thing at this moment.

And again, law enforcement has to make the decision if they think they have the opportunity.  If perhaps they have him separated from the hostages.  They have him looking left and they have an opportunity to come in from the right, that‘s a very coordinated type of tactical situation where both the negotiators and the SWAT team have to be on the same sheet of music, everybody has to understand what they‘re going to be doing.  And in this case, Tucker, some on scene commander, he or she is going to make a decision that we have negotiated as long as we can, it looks like the danger to the two hostages is so great that we have to make this tactical entry.

The question that you and I and others need to understand is that when did that explosive device go off and how was one of the two hostages actually injured.

CARLSON:  I hope we find that information out now or in moments.  I want to ask you to stay right there for a second, Clint.  We‘re going to go down to KUSA and listen in and get hopefully more facts on what‘s happening there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  . another teenager come outside the building for now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Have you seen any bomb sniffing dogs going in and out?  We saw one earlier.  And I know there were some seen earlier, Tanya (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yeah, there was just the one that we saw, the German shepherd that I believe came from Arvata (ph), just that one.  And he was sniffing some back packs that you can kind of see faintly out in the middle of the field here.  There‘s one that looks pink or red.  He sniffed those and he sniffed the outside of the building.  By the time we got there and we saw that, supposedly the explosive device had already gone off.

So perhaps he was inside the building earlier and now he was—rather after that he was outside.  I haven‘t seen a sign of him since or perhaps they took him back inside to double check and what is going on in there we have no indication by what we‘re seeing on the outside.  So that is the tough part.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All right, Tanya.  Again, if you joined us at 4:00, we still don‘t know who this gunman is and what possible motive there might have been for taking hostages today at Platt Canyon High School.  It is a big question remaining.  And his condition still a big question as well.  We do know the other female hostage is OK although we‘ve seen no sign of her yet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It has been a tough afternoon as you might well imagine for all of the parents .

CARLSON:  We want to go now to Tom Costello, MSNBC‘s Tom Costello who used to work at KUSA as I understand it.  Tom, what do you know about what happened this afternoon?

TOM COSTELLO, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m from Denver.  I‘d just point out a couple of things here.  First of all I‘d point out as you and Clint were talking about under what scenario do the police move in with SWAT operation and that still has to be determined.  But I would have you recall that after Columbine in April of 1999 when they had 13 students - 13 people were killed—one of them as of teacher and the two shooters as well committed suicide.  Twenty-one people injured.

The Sheriff‘s Department took tremendous heat for laying back too much, for being too timid and not moving in quickly and aggressively.  And so I‘m just posing this because we don‘t know how this went down.  But you would think it is possible in the seven years or so since that event, the area police departments and sheriff‘s departments which have trained extensively to immediately move in to a situation like this and not have a repeat of Columbine that it may well be that they have come up with a more aggressive way of handling hostage takers under the idea they would never again have a repeat of Columbine and keeping in mind the heat they took for holding back, for laying back and not moving in as aggressively as they did and of course the killers - those two high school students back in 1999 killed so many people.  So it is yet to be determined.

Just a reminder of the lay of the land here.  We are about 45 minutes west of Denver.  It is in Park County, rather rural county.  It is bordering Jefferson County and Jefferson County is the county that dealt with Columbine.  It is their SWAT team, their sheriff‘s department, their bomb squad and a very proactive and rather sophisticated police department in west metro Denver if you will that extends up into the mountains.

CARLSON:  And how far is this - pardon me, Tom.  For those of us not intimately familiar with the area, how far is this school from Columbine High School?

COSTELLO:  You‘re probably talking about 45 minute drive or so.  You‘ve got to go down 285 and then go down Wadsworth.  I won‘t bore you with the details.  But it is not that far.  In fact the helicopter you saw taking off, lifting off going back to Denver may well be going.  There are multiple trauma centers.  But one of them would be the trauma center, Swedish Medical Center, that they took a lot of those kids to during Columbine.

CARLSON:  How vivid is the legacy of Columbine in Colorado today?

COSTELLO:  People live with that and are reminded it of on a daily basis. 

I grew up in Littleton.  I grew up on South Columbine Way in Littleton.  Columbine is very real in my mind and I wasn‘t living in Denver at the time but I had family and friends there.  And I‘ll tell you all the people you‘ve been watching on KUSA today, all of those anchors and reporters were also around during the days of Columbine.  So it left a terrible scar on Colorado and on Denver and they are—they live it with every day.

CARLSON:  NBC‘s Tom Costello.  Thanks, Tom.

COSTELLO:  You bet.

CARLSON:  Want to go back now to Clint Van Zandt who is standing by.  Clint, you heard what Tom said, that there is a possibility anyway theoretically that the SWAT team or the law enforcement officers staking this situation out maybe felt pressured not to wait as they had in Columbine.  What do you think of that?

VAN ZANDT:  Tucker, let me differentiate between two situations.  One, I agree with Tom that law enforcement agencies all over the country since Columbine have learned a critical lesson.  That lesson is when people are being .

CARLSON:  I‘m sorry, Clint, I‘m sorry to interrupt.  I have to say for our viewers that KUSA is reporting right now that the gunman is dead.  We have no more information on what might have killed him when he died.  But again KUSA is saying right now as of this moment he is dead.

VAN ZANDT:  Tucker, let me differentiate between two situations.  Again, law enforcement learned a critical lesson from Columbine.  That is when shots are being fired, when students, teachers, when people are killed, you don‘t have the time to set up a inner perimeter and outer parameter and establish negotiations.  That‘s the time you have to go in with the forces you have to directly confront the shooter, otherwise the body count is going to go up.

I will contrast that to a stabilized hostage situation where you have someone in a room where you‘ve got hostages released where you‘ve got some type of communication or conversation going on.  That‘s when law enforcement can go back to the traditional type of setting.  But again as you and I talked earlier, that is a decision by the on scene commander.

If negotiations are going successfully, let‘s not risk anyone being hurt by committing a SWAT team.  But if you the on scene commander believe that lives are in danger if the negotiator says I‘ve lost this guy, he is going over the edge, he is going to do something terrible, that‘s the time that law enforcement would commitment a SWAT team knowing that is your final option.  When that SWAT team goes in, there is a very good chance somebody is going to be injured.

CARLSON:  Give us a sense of what happens physically.  Are smoke grenades thrown, tear gas, flash bang grenades, how exactly does a SWAT team take a room over from a hostage taker?

VAN ZANDT:  Let‘s say it is my understanding that this individual was barricaded in a second-floor classroom of this high school with two students.  Law enforcement would have the diagram, the schematics, they would know the in and the outs and know what windows and doors and everything else was connected.  They‘d use SWAT teams and regular officers to clear the first floor and then they‘d go up and clear the second floor of any students who are hiding under their desks in a restroom or anything like that.  So they knew we only have this one room where the hostage taker is and the two hostages are.

Then they‘ll try to use a listening device to hear what is going on inside the room and also we had the communications off and on we are told between a police negotiator and the subject who was inside and armed and who had an explosive device, a very explosive type of situation.

All that said and done, when SWAT made a decision to go in, their options are if they could, they‘d use a sniper if you saw the subject in a window.  If you had to go through the door if the door can be opened just by opening it, you do it.

Sometimes you‘d use a explosive charge to open the door and then just like you suggested, a tactical team could flow a flash bang diversionary devices.  They look like they‘re about the size of a can of Coca Cola.  They go off with a bright light and a very loud sound and their purpose is to divert attention from the hostages toward the sound of that.

What do you want do is get the subject to turn toward you, the SWAT team, turn away from the hostages and then you can confront him, deal with him and drop the gun and if he doesn‘t drop the gun, the SWAT team is very capable of dealing with him.

The question that we have now is number one how is the student injured by an explosive device, by being shot by the subject or in an exchange of gun fire with law enforcement.  And number two, did the hostage taker, was he killed in an exchange with police, did he commit suicide and of course the overall question is why this school, why today and why these two students were taken as hostages.

CARLSON:  Now we‘re getting—thank you for that.  Now we‘re getting a conflicting report also from KUSA in Colorado that the gunman, the hostage taker may not be dead.

Excuse me.  That the female victim is not dead.  She is believed to be a student from the high school and that she has vital signs, they are measurable and she is being taken now by helicopter to the nearest life support center and hospital.

We go back now to NBC‘s Tom Costello.  Tom, you‘ve been listening to what Clint van Zandt said.  What do you want to add?

COSTELLO:  Well, two things.  First of all the helicopter is inbound to St.  Anthony Central in Denver.  It‘s a fantastic trauma center.  By the way, that flight for life program, one of the first in the country and known around the country as one of the best.

I would point out that if this in fact was a SWAT operation, we know the SWAT was on the scene.  We don‘t yet know how exactly this whole thing went down.  But the Jefferson County SWAT Department is the same SWAT unit that responded to Columbine.  Don‘t know if it‘s the same officers but you can imagine that would be fresh in their minds.  Park County is where this occurred, a rather rural area.  They called in for help from Jefferson County, a bigger, more sophisticated department.  With all the tools, the whistles and the bells and the SWAT teams and everything else.

And you can imagine that in the minds of those folks on the Jefferson County SWAT team was Columbine.  How this went down will be interesting to see in the coming days.  When they tell us all what happened.

CARLSON:  Clint, Clint van Zandt is there always a shoot to kill—sort of a standing shoot to kill order for SWAT teams in a hostage situation like this?

VAN ZANDT:  There is not.  There is never even a shoot to kill in law enforcement.  They are always bound, Tucker, whether you are a police officer, an FBI agent, a SWAT team member.  You‘re still bound by the law that says you can only use deadly physical force when your life is in danger or the life of someone else is in danger.

Now, I won‘t kid you it is not like the movies where you can take a shot and shoot the gun out of somebody‘s hand or shoot him in the shoulder.  You are going to shoot for the wide part of somebody‘s body if they present a threat to you.  And the reason is not to kill them.  The reason is to eliminate the threat.  To make them drop that weapon before they get off a second or a third shot at you.  So a SWAT team is not going in to kill.  The SWAT team is going in to rescue the hostage and if they can, get that guy to throw his gun down.

But I tell you, SWAT teams are not negotiators.  They are not going to stand there debate with this guy.  If he has a gun in his hand pointed at the hostages or if he is turning it at them, he has made a decision and SWAT is fully capable of dealing with that decision that he made.

CARLSON:  Presumably, though, a sniper team or a sniper would be shooting to kill, wouldn‘t it?

VAN ZANDT:  Again, a sniper is going to shoot—they may shoot for a head shot, they may shoot for a body shot.  You know when you have a hostage situation, Tucker, your options are to contain and demand surrender, contain, isolate and negotiate.

You can use a sniper, you can use gas or you can use a frontal assault by a SWAT team to break down the door and go in and take the guy out.  You have a tactical number of option, but the on scene commander, he or she—it is like going up the steps of a ladder.  You want to do the least intrusive, least dangerous thing first which in this case is going to be negotiate.

And then you‘ll step that up as fast as you have to based upon the threat that he presents to the hostages or to the police officers.

CARLSON:  All right.  I want to go back to Tom Costello now who has been monitoring the situation.  Tom?

COSTELLO:  Well, KUSA‘s Web site, 9news.com is on top of this and a couple of developments.  First of all, the SWAT team did in fact rush into the high school.  During the raid one of the students held hostage was critically injured and the gunman was killed according to the KUSA Web site.

According to ATF, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the bomb squad set off the explosive or set off an explosive, rather, to—in order to gain entry.  One would think that might be a way to distract the gunman.

The gunman then fired a shot hitting one of the two female students being held hostage.  That according to ATF.  Medical personnel on the field confirmed that the gunman is dead and that the injured student brought out as we saw was taken away by helicopter to St. Anthony‘s Central in Denver.

So again, according to KUSA now the SWAT team did in fact rush the gunman after setting off - ATF set off an explosive and the gunman according to KUSA‘s Web site is the one who injured the student in some sort of a gunfire incident.

CARLSON:  That is awful.  If that is true, that is awful.  Do we have any indication of who this guy was, the dead man?  The hostage taker.

COSTELLO:  We don‘t.  But there was all day, there had been talk about who this gentleman was and initial reports and we caution because these are always taken with a great deal of salt, a great deal of caution and skepticism.  But the initial reports were that he was a parent.  That was the initial report that came into the com center, the communication center with Park County Sheriff‘s Department about noon Mountain Time.

CARLSON:  But we don‘t know his name, his age, where he lived?  We know nothing about him at this point?

COSTELLO:  We know absolutely none of that.  Of course, this is the Platt Canyon High School which is in Bailey, Colorado.  Forty-five minutes or so west of Denver.

And all of the surrounding schools and there were quite a few of them in Jefferson County and elsewhere that were locked down for a good period of time just because of taking precautions.  You don‘t know who else might be out there or what the overall motive or plot may be.  But it does appear at this point that SWAT is responsible for taking out the gunman and the gunman apparently shot and injured the student according to KUSA.

CARLSON:  Thanks a lot for that, Tom.  We want to take you back now to KUSA‘s rolling coverage of this tragedy now unfolding in Colorado.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Where now apparently SWAT team members have cleared the building but now bomb sniffing, dogs at least one from Arvata (ph) has gone into the school and is looking for additional explosive devices.  Let‘s go to Sky Nine reporter Tanya Hotman (ph) who was over the high school.  Tanya?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hi, Adele (ph).  And we are watching two investigators or supposedly police officers looking, sweeping the entire building here.  I‘m going to pull up a little bit.  We are getting a fuzzy picture there.  They are sweeping the building.  They‘ve gone from front to back.  They are closer to Fitzsimmons Middle School.  And they‘ve been checking every door, checking inside the windows to make sure there is nobody left behind and at the same time we still have these plainclothes officers and other uniformed officers here towards the front of the building, the same door where that critically wounded student came out and they are just standing there waiting for the next move.

So it is clear that we‘re doing a full sweep of the building to see if everything is safe now, to make sure all the doors are locked and of course they‘ll start up with their investigation.  But it is still active at the scene.  We have yellow police tape on the back side of the building.  There are literally officers with weapons at every single in and out point on the back side of that building.  So they are taking every precaution that they need to in this investigation process.  Back to you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Tanya, I had a question for you.  There were reports from ATF that there was an explosive device that went off, that there was an explosion.  Do you see any evidence of that or did you hear anything?

I‘m sure it was difficult to hear over the rotors of the helicopter, but did you see any evidence of an explosion?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We didn‘t.  But when we got here, Adele, we did hear that.  So I was looking on the part of the lawn that you see there - I‘ll just tilt down just a little bit.  We are looking on the lawn for maybe some papers or anything that would give us an indication that yes, there was an explosive device that maybe shattered a window or came out of a door.

I didn‘t see any of that.  All of the wings look intact and we had heard that the suspect had the hostages in a classroom.  So perhaps it was in an inner part of the building.  I will say when they took the stretcher in, it did take them probably five or 10 minutes to get out of the door with the injured student.  So if that is any indication, perhaps they were more centralized in the building and that could have been where the explosive device was as well.  The dog, I saw him sniffing outside but never saw him react to anything that he was sniffing outside of the building.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  All right.  Tanya, we‘ll get back to you in just a moment.  We do have some new information as we continue to monitor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘re going to get this confirmed, while it is confirmed from our sources right now.  We‘ll get it from the sheriff himself at a news conference.  But we are told now what happened at the resolution of this was that SWAT set off percussion devices perhaps some concussion grenades to distract the gunman.  And at that point they rushed the scene and then the gunman opened fire.

There was a hostage taking, two hostages taken.  One was injured in the exchange and the other one was OK.  That‘s basically how this was resolved.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  So that‘s new information we have.  We are waiting for a news conference that will come up in a little less than 10 minutes.  Right around 4:30 or so and until then we‘ll take a break and be right back.

CARLSON:  Go back to Clint van Zandt who has been standing by.  MSNBC analyst.  Clint, from what you have heard, does this sound like a conventional hostage rescue operation?

VAN ZANDT:  Well, it does in a way.  We don‘t know how they got through the door of the classroom.  That is called breaching and there is two ways you can breach a door, one is mechanically where you take sledgehammers and just beat it down if you don‘t have a key, obviously.

Number two is explosive breaching where you take det cord which is basically a piece of rope with explosive built into it, put that around the frame of the door, at least around the lock and blow that up and it basically blows the door off.  Then the SWAT team would throw one or two flash bangs as you and I just discussed, diversionary devices in and as soon as they went off, they‘d go through the door, multiple SWAT agents would go through the door, engaging the gunman and yelling drop the gun, drop the gun, drop the gun.

Now if he turned the gun towards the hostages or toward SWAT then they‘d engage him with the weapons they had.  The challenge is going to be is this thing unfolds as we talked earlier, 85 percent of the time someone is injured it is either when you are taken hostage or SWAT goes in to make a rescue.  What the sheriff and law enforcement is going to have to unfortunately be able to justify is that the threat level to the hostages was so critical that they had to discontinue negotiations and go tactical.

CARLSON:  Is it your—from your years of experience in talking to hostage takers, is it your experience that the hostage taker becomes more desperate, more prone to violence as the hours go by or less?

VAN ZANDT:  If you‘re doing the right job as a negotiator, if you have got that psychological hook into the hostage taker, you‘re talking—that‘s my job to talk in a voice that is lower and slower, find out what the subject needs, help him with this crisis that he is involved in and get him out.  But conversely if I‘m not able to lower that, if he continues the threat, to yell, to curse, to threaten the life of a hostage, to fire a gun, if I as a negotiator have to turn to you, Tucker, you‘re the on scene commander and I say, “Boss, I can‘t get a hook in this guy, I‘m losing him, she getting worse, I‘m afraid he‘s going to hurt one of the hostgages,” as a negotiator, I‘ve got to give you an honest opinion and then you have to make a decision, Clint, keep trying to negotiate or you turn to SWAT and say, guys, this is yours, do the best you can.

CARLSON:  Clint van Zandt, someone who has actually done this.  It‘s great to talk to you.  Thank you.

VAN ZANDT:  Thank you, Tucker.

CARLSON:  I want to go now back to NBC‘s Tom Costello who is from Denver, once reported for KUSA who has been following this story as it unfolds.  Tom?

COSTELLO:  Well, a couple of points here.  KUSA is now saying that one parent got a text message from his 15-year-old son saying quote, “hey, there is a gun hijacking in our school right now, I‘m fine, bad situation.”

That occurred at about 11:30 or so.  That‘s Mountain Time.  So that gives you a sense of how long this had been going on before they actually resolved the situation.

Also, the Sheriff‘s Department confirms that it appears that some of the first responders were in fact Columbine veterans as well.  Some of the emergency personnel who responded to today‘s incident, one would imagine the Jefferson County Sheriff‘s Department and their SWAT team and bomb squad team, some of those members responded to Columbine.

So as we are discussing, it is entirely possible that with that incident fresh in their minds and as I said, it‘s left a deep scar on the psyche of that city, that those people were adamant they weren‘t going to lose more children if they could avoid it.

Lastly, there is also this.  There apparently had been some face-to-face contact between negotiators or the police and the suspect today.  We don‘t know how, we don‘t know if one of the suspects or rather one of the officers just looked through the glass door at the suspect.  We don‘t know how that happened.  But there had been some.

Finally it was April 1999 when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered 13 of their classmates and a teachers and they wounded 21 students.  So we talk about how that has reverberated across the nation.  You understand how deep that scar is in that area.

CARLSON:  NBC‘s Tom Costello.  Thanks a lot, Tom.  We‘ll talk to you soon.  We are waiting now for a press conference from Bailey, Colorado to fill in some of the many blanks that remain from this tragedy.  Stay tuned.  We‘ll be right back.


CARLSON:  Welcome back.  We‘ve been following breaking news out of Bailey, Colorado tonight where a still unidentified gunman held at least two hostages believed to be female students in a room at Platt Canyon High School for a number of hours today.  Apparently that man was killed.  The hostage taker was killed.  It was believed to be by the SWAT team which broke into the room where he was holding these girls.  One of the girls was apparently gravely wounded.  She is now on a helicopter on the way to the hospital.

That is about all we know now.  The hostage taker is believed to be between 30 and 50 years old.  There are reports that he is in some way related to the school, either married and 50 years old.  There are reports that he is in some way related to the school, either married to a teacher or the father of students.  But those reports are at this moment unconfirmed.  We are awaiting a press conference from Bailey, Colorado which should fill in a number of the blanks.  In the meantime we have on the phone Clint van Zandt, who in addition to being an MSNBC analyst is also a long time hostage negotiator.  Clint, how does a SWAT team prepare for a situation like this?  Do you go through realistic training?

VAN ZANDT:  Yeah, they really do.  In this particular case Tucker, if this was in a second-floor classroom, there would obviously be identical rooms, perhaps on the first floor.  So they‘d have two different approaches.  Number one they have men and women called breachers.  These are the people whose job it is to get the door open.  As you discussed, as you and I discussed, you can use let‘s say a sledgehammer and knock it open.  There are especially made shotgun rounds that you can put up against the lock and blow the lock off or in fact you can use det cord, you can use explosive breeching to get that door open.  So it‘s the breeching team or the breachers‘ job to figure out how that door is going to get open.  What the SWAT team would do is go to an identical classroom and say ok the door has just been breached, in goes the flash bang, the diversionary device and then they would practice.  First man or woman through the door, second man or woman through the door, which way they‘re going to go, which way they‘re going to step.  They would make sure that they each—each SWAT team member had a separate field of fire that they were covering when they went.  And this would be a very carefully practiced, orchestrated event.  In essence, they wouldn‘t just go crashing in, they would have thought about it, they would have seen the room and practiced before they went in. 

CARLSON:  We‘re getting a report now Clint that one of the hostages, apparently a female student at the school has arrived at the hospital, she‘s in critical condition.  We got an earlier report, KUSA was reporting that apparently she was shot by the hostage taker.  Would that be unusual, typical behavior for a hostage taker, the SWAT team bursts in and he shoots one of the hostages?  Have you seen that before?

VAN ZANDT:  I‘ve seen that before, I‘ve had it happen to me and it‘s guaranteed death on his part.  I mean if he wanted to die, if he shoots a hostage or turns that gun toward law enforcement, he is—it‘s what sometimes we call suicide by cop, Tucker that you‘re familiar with, where an individual decides he‘s going to die and he creates a scenario where law enforcement is going to be his executioner.  We don‘t know if that‘s this situation yet.  But by shooting a hostage, I mean that would accomplish nothing as far as him getting away.  But it would, of course, require law enforcement to return the fire.  So it sounds like someone was very—someone who was so emotionally challenged that they made a decision they were going to commit this horrific act and knowing full well what the response would be once they shot a hostage.  

CARLSON:  Yeah, but to shoot a girl in the process, if that‘s true, what a pig, truly.  Will you stand by for a sec Clint, we‘re going to go now to NBC‘s Tom Costello‘s who‘s been monitoring developments here.  Tom, what have you heard?

COSTELLO:  And of all places to do it, you take on the Jefferson County Sheriff‘s Department which has dealt with this stuff as we know in the most horrific way?  You know, this guy clearly wasn‘t thinking.  Listen, one other thought here.  Authorities also now say they had sporadic, their words, sporadic conversations or negotiations with the suspect.  They were trying to continue those negotiations and then at that point SWAT moved in.  One assumes from that discussion or that description that perhaps the negotiations weren‘t going well and SWAT realized they had to move in.  

CARLSON:  Interesting.  Do we know how they were communicating with the hostage taker? 

COSTELLO:  We don‘t know.  But there was an earlier description that there had been some face to face contact, but we don‘t know if that was the negotiation that was taking place or if that was just one moment and they had in fact carried on the negotiations over the phone.  We don‘t know.  The video you‘re seeing by the way, are the school buses that were called in to take out all of the other students because they did manage to evacuate the bulk of the student body, both the middle and the high schools out of the school and they brought them out through a back or a side door and then they escorted them away in the school buses.  Parents absolutely frantic as you can imagine waiting for some word.  They had been down the highway a good distance at an elementary school waiting for word.  Some of them had given up and were hiking up the highway trying to get as close as they could. But of course the police had shut down the highway.

CARLSON:  All right.  Thanks for that Tom.  We‘re going to go now to KUSA and listen in to their coverage right now. 

RANDALL, STUDENT:  -- these cop cars were speeding real fast towards our school.  Then the vice principal told us to go into the school and wait there until further notice.  

BOB KENDRICK, KUSA:  You did not see this gunman come into the school? 

RANDALL:  Was he in the school?

KENDRICK  Yeah.  So obviously you didn‘t see him go in. 

RANDALL:  No, I did not see him go in.

KENDRICK:  Characterize the—sort of the level of order or lack of order, Randall, as far as the evacuation went.  Did it seem to go pretty smoothly from your viewpoint?

RANDALL:  Sorry.  Hold on.  My dad‘s yelling at me. 

KENDRICK:  As dads will do that from time to time.  

Hello Randall, Bob Kendrick here again.  Give us an idea of how the evacuation went.  Was it pretty smooth?


KENDRICK:  Ok.  Tell us what happened. 

RANDALL:  It was—we never practiced this before, we‘ve only done fire drills and we just went into lockdown for about 30 minutes and then they were just telling us or—hands on your head and evacuate over to the atrium. 


RANDALL:  And then we stayed there and we got around there about 12:47.  

FEMALE REPORTER:  Randall, did you think you saw the gunman, did you see anyone unusual?

RANDALL:  Well we were supposed to have --  me, I didn‘t really pay attention to what was going on, but my friends, they were with me and they saw a guy in this empty classroom right across from mine.  And he was in a black hoody, carrying a little backpack and was just standing there just staring into space. 

FEMALE REPORTER:  Oh really, could you tell or could your friends tell if he had a gun? 

RANDALL:  No, he was just standing there and he looked—he blended in perfect with our school. 

KENDRICK:  What were you told was going on? 

RANDALL:  We were told—well, they didn‘t tell us exactly, you know, they just said that there is a number of people being held hostage.  But I got my information from the students who were in the classroom when it happened.  

KENDRICK:  Well it had to have been a very unsettling situation at best for you Randall.  We thank you for giving us a call this afternoon and filling us in on some information we didn‘t know.  Much appreciated.  

FEMALE REPORTER:  All right.  We‘re going to go to the Park County Sheriff, Fred Wegener who is getting ready to hold a news conference and put some of these questions to rest.  Ok we‘re still waiting for him, he‘s on his way.  We have been getting updates pretty much throughout the day from the Jefferson County Sheriff‘s Dept. who has been handling the scene and working in conjunction with other agencies and now it has been turned over to Park County which is where this happened.  And Fred Wegener who is the Park County Sheriff there, is expected to kind of fill in the blanks for us and tell us exactly what happened.  We do know for a fact that the gunman is dead, we do know for a fact that one of the female hostages, a high school student was wounded and is now at St. Anthony Central.  We do know that the other female student who was held hostage, two of the remaining hostages, is ok, being debriefed, being interviewed and calmed down I‘m sure at this point of the afternoon.  Four other hostages were released earlier in the day. 

KENDRICK:  As for motive, still unknown.  Perhaps we‘ll learn more about that if the gunman in fact did declare that before he was shot dead.  Here‘s a look at some of the reunions at Deer Creek Elementary as relieved parents met their students who had been evacuated.  There are again about 770 students between Platte Canyon High and Fitz Simmons Middle that adjoin each other near Bailey.  The students were all bused two and three to a seat on packed buses off to Deer Creek Elementary where the parents were told to wait for them as part of the plan.  And there you saw some very happy, relieved families. 

F.M.R:  A lot of the parents didn‘t know for a very, very long time where their students were, if their children were ok, where they were going to be taken or anything like that.  So it‘s been very stressful.  A few of them managed to get off a text message or two, let their parents know that they were ok but what was going on inside the school.  We understand now that some of the cellphone service in that area was sporadic and we actually heard some students say that they were not allowed to use their cellphones.  A lot of questions still remain.  The gunman is dead.   One hostage critically injured, that is one of the female high school students.  One ok.  No officers injured.  No one else as far as we know injured.  The school is still being swept to see if there are any other explosive devices.  The gunman had called 911 shortly after noon and said that he had taken hostages, did have an explosive device and as you heard, one of the students, Randall, we just talked with on the phone, said that a guy in a black hoody, apparently had a back pack with him.  We do not know if that was indeed the gunman or not.  It sounds like by at least his description that there were some kind of chaotic moments inside the school when they were trying to kind of coordinate what they were going to do.  

KENDRICK:  At one point there were six hostages, four of whom were released fairly shortly after this began.  And then that left the gunman and two hostages and there are some more reunions.  

CARLSON:  If you‘ve been following our rolling news coverage here, you know from Platte Canyon High School in Colorado, the hostage taker is dead.  Not clear yet how he died.  One hostage is ok.  The other is gravely wounded and has just arrived by helicopter at a local hospital.  I have on the phone Clint Van Zandt, MSNBC analyst, former hostage negotiator himself.  Clint, is there in the moments before the SWAT team breaks down a door in a situation like this, is there a head fake?  I mean is there a verbal set up?  Do you tell the hostage taker something before you come barging in?

VAN ZANDT:  Well head fake is probably a good way to say it Tucker.  I mean you always conduct straight forward honest negotiations, but you realize negotiations is like the two tracks of a railroad train.  Track number one says I keep talking, that I‘m trying to get him out and I‘ll tell him whatever I have to, to keep him calmed down.  Track number two says I realize we may have to go tactical and I want to keep him in one position, I want to keep him focused on something, I want to keep him looking in one direction if I can because if the on-scene commander makes a decision we‘re going to go tactical, it‘s my job as a negotiator to give that SWAT team the extra second or two where this guy is somewhat confused, he‘s a little ambivalent about what‘s going on, he doesn‘t understand.  And if I can give SWAT that extra second or two to get in, hopefully they can save a life.  So that‘s that challenge.  So even though on television you see the negotiator only doing one thing and pounding his fist if SWAT wants to go on, you have to realize you still carry a badge, you still have a gun, you‘re still a boss and you have to do what he or she says.  

CARLSON:  So here‘s this guy who‘s got two girls, two female students held hostage, it‘s hard to imagine anything more contemptible than that.  Do you have to pretend you like him when you talk to him? Can you scold a hostage taker? Can you ever portray that you‘re angry?

VAN ZANDT:  Oh I have before.  I mean I‘ve told a hostage taker one time when he was threatening to commit suicide I told him he didn‘t have the right to do that because he had children and grandchildren and he didn‘t have the right to deprive his grandchildren of a grandfather.  I said you can‘t do that.  

CARLSON:  Did he kill himself? 

VAN ZANDT:  Yeah, he listened, he gave up afterwards. 

CARLSON:  Where is he now? 

VAN ZANDT:  The last I knew, he was in jail. But the idea is you say what you have to say to get someone to come out.  You try to be understanding, you try to listen to the person.  Again, if I can keep somebody talking, they‘re not shooting.  So whatever they want to talk about, if they want another gun, if they want a nuclear weapon, I‘ll talk to them about that because if I can calm them down, hopefully I can get them out.  But again Tucker, there is this powwow that takes place between negotiation, SWAT and the on-scene commander where a decision is made.  Do we keep negotiating, what are the odds?  And it‘s that scale that I‘m talking about.  And when the odds of a negotiated solution go down somewhat drastically and the lives of hostages are in danger, that‘s when somebody has to make a decision we‘re going to go in and get this guy out.  

CARLSON:  Clint Van Zandt, thanks a lot, Clint.  There is still so much we don‘t know about what happened today in Colorado.  We‘re awaiting a news conference that we hope will answer many of those questions.  We‘ll take you to it the moment it occurs.  Stay with us.


CARLSON:  Welcome back.  If you‘re just joining us, we‘ve been following a tragedy in Bailey, Colorado where a still unidentified gunman took at least two hostages in a high school.  One of them is gravely injured.  It‘s not clear whether the hostage taker himself shot her, whether she was injured in the apparently fairly dramatic rescue by the SWAT team just a little over an hour ago.  She is in any case in a local hospital receiving treatment.  The other hostage is apparently unarmed, again the hostage taker himself is dead.  That‘s about what we know.  Let‘s go now to NBC‘s Tom Costello who has been following it and may have more details.  Tom are you there? 

COSTELLO:  Well the gunman fired two shots we are told before he died.  So we don‘t know if he fired one shot at police and shot himself.  We don‘t know how that went down.  We don‘t know if the police shot him.  We do know that the SWAT team, the Jefferson County SWAT team finally stormed this classroom after setting off—

CARLSON:  Tom I‘m sorry to interrupt you.  We‘re going to go now to a news conference out of Bailey, Colorado for more details. We‘ll be back. 

FRED WEGENER, PARK COUNTY, CO. SHERIFF DEPT.:  Standing next to me is Sheriff Mink from Jefferson County.  Still I‘m somewhat shocked that this could happen in a rural county.  What we had was, we had an armed gunman that entered into Platte Canyon High School, went into one of the classrooms and took several kids hostage.  Deputies from my agency responded to the high school, along with myself, we evacuated the high school, contained the individual to one classroom.  We then asked for the assistance from Jefferson County‘s SWAT team and the—their bomb techs.  We tried to talk to this individual and we were having some success with a member of my department.  He started to release hostages, released them one at a time.  Eventually he gave us a deadline of 4:00 at which time this happened about 15:30, somewhere along there and ceased talking to the negotiators.  It was then decided that a tactical solution needed to be done in an effort to save the two hostages that were in the room.  Entry was made.  The suspect shot one of the hostages and then shot himself.  That‘s what it looks like at this time, the investigation is still ongoing. 

I have not yet got to talk to the family of the female student that was

shot, but my prayers are with the family.  She was transported by air life

excuse me—flight for life to St. Anthony‘s Central in critical condition.  I don‘t know the identity of the gunman at this time.  I don‘t know why he wanted to do this.  And hopefully the investigation will reveal why.  I‘ll entertain a few questions, but please be kind.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sheriff, you don‘t have his identity or you just aren‘t releasing it, or you really don‘t know who this fellow is?

WEGENER:  No sir, at this time I don‘t know who he is.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What were the demands, what was conversation? 

WEGENER:  You know, most of the demands strictly were they wanted us to back off.  I don‘t know why he wanted to do this. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did he have any explosive device or possible package or back pack?  

WEGENER:  That‘s correct, he did have a back pack and said it had a bomb in it.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Was there any relationship between the gunman and the student that was shot?

WEGENER:  None that I‘m aware of.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Do you know the student, like where she was shot and her condition in terms of—

WEGENER:  At this time I really can‘t speak to that until the—you know I—

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  She‘s still alive?

WEGENER:  As far as I know, she was transported by flight for life down to the hospital.  


WEGENER:  He had a handgun and I‘m not sure what else.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Anything in the back pack? 

WEGENER:  It looks like there was nothing in the back pack.  But I don‘t know that for sure.  Like I say, they‘re still investigating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is a small community.  Did you know both of these female students?

WEGENER:  Unfortunately I‘ve been here 36 years, so I do know the family.  Did you have a question?  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Can you talk about the time frame of when you made entry and when the hostage was shot?

WEGENER:  I don‘t have a lot—I don‘t know.  I mean we‘ll still have to find out.  We‘re still doing a lot of interviews, so it‘s going to be a little bit before I‘ll know exactly how that transpired.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did someone go through the door of the classroom?

How was entry -- 

WEGENER:  Again, for the investigation, I can‘t tell you about how entry was made.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What was the 4:00 p.m. deadline -- 

WEGENER:  Your guess is as good as mine, but I—I don‘t know. 


WEGENER:  I think she‘s16 I believe but I don‘t know that for sure. 

I‘ll have to see.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Did the gunman just walk into the school, and went into a classroom and then—

WEGENER:  That‘s correct. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Did he fire shots as he entered?

WEGENER:  He did fire one shot when he entered the classroom. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We heard it was more than one shot. 

WEGENER:  Initially I was told it was the one shot.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do we know if the gunman had children at (INAUDIBLE) -- 

WEGENER:  No I don‘t, like I said, we don‘t know the identity of the gunman so I can‘t, I don‘t know if he has children or not.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Are you talking to the other hostages? 

WEGENER: Yes we‘re talking to the other hostages now and we‘ll be debriefing.  We have—we‘ve gotten a little bit of intell off of—but again for the investigation, I don‘t want to reveal what we‘ve gleaned.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  -- in the wake of Columbine you tell us that you‘d prepare for this type of situation?

WEGENER: The active shooter program that we‘ve participated in, we‘ve talked to the school district, we‘ve exercised the plans, we‘ve—you know, I believe that‘s why we were able to isolate it to just one room and get everybody else out.  Still, though, it doesn‘t—you know, you can‘t prepare yourself for something like this.  I mean this is—you know you do the best you can and I think that‘s what we did.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Were any shots fired by police officers?

WEGENER:  We‘re still gleaning with the SWAT team so we‘ll find out.   

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Can you explain why you had to go in—did something escalate in the conversation between your negotiator? 

WEGENER:  He broke off negotiations, he wouldn‘t talk to the negotiator anymore, so—I think we were afraid for the worst and we had to do what we had to do.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Was he threatening the hostages at that time? 

WEGENER:  The whole time. 


WEGENER:  He was shielding himself with one of the hostages.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You could see into the window? 

WEGENER:  We had limited visibility just due to the area he was in.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Were you talking to him directly or by cell phone?

WEGENER:  He actually at times at the beginning, the only way he‘d talk to us and I believe throughout as far as when I was in there, he would only talk to us via a hostage.  He wouldn‘t communicate directly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  So did he say something to the hostage --  

WEGENER:  She would relay -- 


WEGENER:  No, directly.  Yelling through the door.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Tell us about the other four hostages how they got out.  Were they all students? 

WEGENER:  Yes they were all students and he released them all one at a time.  


WEGENER:  Yes.  


WEGENER:  Yes.  


WEGENER:  Oh, yes.  It is hard.  The community is probably going to be in shock right now.  I mean, rightfully so. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sheriff, do you know the (INAUDIBLE) families well?

WEGENER:  Yes.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When you were close to the area there, we heard the flash bang.  I assume it was the flash bang and then how many SWAT people went in?

WEGENER:  I don‘t know exactly how many SWAT members made entry.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you know how many shots might have been fired before --  specific number of shots fired before the gunman went in initially? 

WEGENER:  There were no shots fired before.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But do you know—I mean obviously—do you know how the hostage was shot, the gunman shot the hostage do you know? 

WEGENER:  I can only speculate.  I mean that‘s part of the investigation we‘ll have to find out.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Did any officers -- 

WEGENER:  That I know of.  Well again, like I say, I‘m going to have to find out.   It is still early. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did the gunman shoot himself?

WEGENER:  I don‘t know.  He might have taken the coward‘s way out.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Is the school clear at this point or are you still going through the school? 

WEGENER:  Still going through the school, we still got a lot of investigating to do.  CBI is going to head up the investigation with Jefferson County and Park County investigators assisting, also the district attorney‘s office is going to have some folks down.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Did it seem that he targeted this particular girl, this particular  classroom or was this random? 

WEGENER:  Good question.  I don‘t know.  I mean, I don‘t know why he went to that classroom.  I don‘t know.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sheriff, one of the—one of the witnesses says that the guy said that he was going to the English classroom, are you aware of that?   

WEGENER:  No, that‘s the information we‘re going to have to sit down with all of the hostages and talk about.  Tom, did you have a question? 


WEGENER:  I had—my SWAT team was doing the inner perimeter and the Jefferson County SWAT team made entry. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What was it that convinced you that you had to go in at a relatively early time?

WEGENER:  I don‘t know about early. It started—everything started at 11:40 this morning.  So I think we just looked at the situation and his behavior was becoming more and more agitated and I think the really deciding factor is when he broke off negotiations.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You talk about thousand --  [inaudible] 

SHERIFF MINK:  No again, we‘re debriefing the Jefferson County SWAT team right now, so I won‘t comment on that until it‘s been fully debriefed.  

CARLSON:  You‘ve been watching a press conference led by the Park County sheriff explaining what happened today at Platte Canyon High School.  A shooting has left the hostage taker himself dead.  One of his hostages, a teenage girl, gravely injured.  You just heard the sheriff say that he believes that the hostage taker shot the girl and then turned the gun on himself, although he said that without seeming to be sure.  We bring in now Clint Van Zandt who‘s been with us the entire hour analyzing what may have happened here.  Clint what‘s your sense of what happened and why they went in when they did?

VAN ZANDT:  Well Tucker as a hostage negotiator, were I there and had

to make a case to continue to negotiate or not to negotiate, I picked up

six points that said why the SWAT team had to go in.  Number one, we had

the subject talking only through the hostages, therefore the negotiator

never had direct discussion with him.  Number two, the hostage taker never

made a demand that law enforcement could meet other than just back off,

which of course, they couldn‘t do.  Number three, the sheriff tells us that

the lives of the hostages were threatened by the hostage taker, number four

that the hostage taker set a deadline when he ostensibly was going to start

hurting hostages and number five, the hostage taker broke off

communications, he broke off negotiations with the negotiator.  If you take

those five factors together and you have to make a decision do we wait

until after the deadline and see if he‘s going to do it or not, just real -

it happened to me Tucker, one time.  I pressed to wait.  We waited and we had a hostage killed on deadline by a hostage taker.  It‘s a horrible situation if you wait.  It‘s a horrible situation if you go in—you know you are on the absolute horns of a dilemma.  But those five points I just pointed out to you were I the negotiator or the on scene commander that would be reason enough for me to suggest the SWAT team had to go in.  

CARLSON:  It‘s a decision the rest of us are grateful we don‘t have to make.  Clint Van Zandt, thanks very much for your expertise on this subject.

VAN ZANDT:  Thank you Tucker.

CARLSON:  We‘ve been following of course this tragedy unfolding in Colorado.  MSNBC will continue to bring you details as they emerge tonight and they will.  Thanks a lot for joining us.  We appreciate it.  Up next, Chris Matthews and “HARDBALL.”  We‘ll be back here tomorrow, same time, same place, see you then.



Copy: Content and programming copyright 2006 NBC.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon NBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.


Watch Tucker each weeknight at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET


Discussion comments