'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, July 23rd, 2015
Read the transcript to the Thursday show
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: July 23, 2015
Guest: Seth Dickerson, Jim Cavanaugh, Kristin Askelson, Jim Cavanaugh,
Kiefer Sanders, Seth Dickerson, Clint Van Zandt
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, in another American movie theater --
whether or not James Holmes, the Aurora movie theater massacre shooter is
going to get the death penalty for his crimes.
That jury is deliberating right now on that case, but there`s apparently
been another mass shooting tonight in another American movie theater.
That does it for us tonight, we will see you again tomorrow, now it`s time
for more on this story with Lawrence O`Donnell on THE LAST WORD, good
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening Rachel, thank you.
O`DONNELL: We continue with our breaking news right now that Rachel has
been telling you about. Authorities in Lafayette, Louisiana, tell "Nbc
News" that there has been a shooting at a movie theater there.
What we know so far is that police responded to a shooting at the Grand 16
theater in Lafayette, Louisiana, earlier tonight. An ambulance service
tells "Nbc News" that eight people are injured and two are dead on arrival.
State police confirmed that the shooter is dead. Louisiana Governor Bobby
Jindal tweeted a few minutes ago, "I`m on my way to Lafayette right now,
please say a prayer for the victims at the Grand theater and their
Joining us now is Seth Dickerson, a reporter with "The Advertiser" in
Lafayette, Louisiana who`s at the scene. Seth, what can you tell us about
what`s happened there tonight?
SETH DICKERSON, JOURNALIST, THE ADVERTISER: Lawrence, hey, it seemed that
the suspect open fire in a movie theater that`s going -- that`s crazy over
here. But two -- it seems like two are dead, but we`re working to confirm
that for sure.
O`DONNELL: And Seth, where -- how did you hear about this?
DICKERSON: We just heard of people that -- we heard people were coming out
of the theater, were clutching their purses and running, and the alarms
were going off and then we got a tip.
O`DONNELL: How long ago did this happen?
DICKERSON: Must have been around 7:30, no, it`s around -- maybe, it`s
somewhere around there.
O`DONNELL: And the theater, it`s called the Grand 16. Does that mean that
it`s a 16-screen theater, one of these big multiplex theaters?
DICKERSON: I believe so. The -- it seems like the man opened fire in
theater 14, but -- so, yes, that would make sense.
O`DONNELL: And then theater 14, yes. And is the -- I assume the police
response is still going on there, has everyone evacuated the theater? Do
DICKERSON: Probably, yes, everyone is outside of the movie theater, and
we`re all out around the perimeter, and the cops have it surrounded.
O`DONNELL: And what are you learning about how many people have been
DICKERSON: Sounds like six or seven so far.
O`DONNELL: And apparently we do have two confirmed dead at this point.
DICKERSON: Oh, yes --
O`DONNELL: The -- how -- can you gauge how quickly the response was
between the time of the shooting and police officers arriving there?
DICKERSON: Very quickly. We heard the tip, we raced over here and as soon
as we got here, the cops were out, armed with assault rifles, they were --
they had the whole place surrounded, they were very quick.
O`DONNELL: And where are you now, Seth?
DICKERSON: We are outside of the -- we`re outside of the theater across
the street, just watching everything.
O`DONNELL: And is there a large crowd gathered there now?
DICKERSON: Sort of, yes, there`s a lot of people who were in the theater
around the neighborhood, are out here right now.
O`DONNELL: And what did -- police sealed off the area of the movie
DICKERSON: Yes, sir. They`ve completely sealed it off, no one goes in, no
one comes out at this point.
O`DONNELL: We`re joined now by Jim Cavanaugh, "Nbc" law enforcement
expert. Jim, what is the standard procedure now on that scene?
JIM CAVANAUGH, NBC LAW ENFORCEMENT EXPERT: Well, they do an active shooter
response which sounds like they might have already done, Lawrence.
You know, to get to the person or persons who are shooting and try to
engage and stop their activity of course.
And that means the officers may have engaged with the shooter and you know,
shot him, like we saw in Chattanooga just last week.
Or it could be a suicide, you know, a murder-suicide type case -- we don`t
know. We know -- we -- the officers -- once they get the shooter down, if
they can determine there is no other shooters there, then the protocol is,
you know, does he have any explosives on him in his vehicle, in his home.
I mean, if you remember James Holmes in Aurora, which we -- you know,
looking at that trial this week. He booby-trapped his home, he had all
kinds of explosive devices, he gets smoked grenades.
So, if the shooter is dead, and there`s no other shooters, the next
protocol is explosives on him and his car and his -- and his residence.
Of course, they lock it down, you know, try to determine if there`s any
conspirators or you know, people should always be alert, one shooter in
town could be a confederate somewhere else who is going to do something we
don`t know the motive.
So, everybody should always be on the alert when they see these things
happening. Just like in Chattanooga when they -- when he attacked the
reserve center -- oh, sorry, when he attacked the recruiting center, you
know, six miles later, he went to the reserve center.
So -- and if you have two actors, you`ve got to have two places. There`s
no indication of that, but everybody should always be alert when these
O`DONNELL: And Seth Dickerson, if you`re still with us, did you hear any
gun fire there as you approached the scene?
DICKERSON: Oh, no, as soon as we got in there -- the theater is pretty
big, so from outside, it`s pretty thick walled, so we didn`t hear anything.
O`DONNELL: And was it your sense of it, Seth, that all the action was over
by the time you got there?
DICKERSON: It sounded like it. When we got here, the shooter was --
people were saying the shooter was still inside, but at the time, like he`s
O`DONNELL: Oh, so when you got there, you had information that indicated
the shooter had been subdued by that time.
DICKERSON: That`s -- yes, well, that he was still inside the theater,
that`s all we knew for sure.
O`DONNELL: Still inside the theater. Jim Cavanaugh, how long does it take
for a response team like this, to be confident that in a 16-screen
multiplex theater they have the situation under control?
CAVANAUGH: Yes, exactly, a great question, Lawrence. And that`s the
question facing the commanders.
Once they subdued the shooter, like the reporters on the scene said,
they`re going to have to sweep the other theaters to make sure there`s not
somebody else in another movie theater holding some people hostage or you
know, shot some people before or hiding out.
Because they don`t know how many players could be involved. So, they`re
going to have to sweep that whole theater, of course, still do that with
their patrol units that engage active shooters and also SWAT team officers
will come in and they will sweep that.
It`ll take them a little while to do that. But if there`s nobody else, I
mean, they`ll get them out safely and get everybody static if there is just
one shooter there.
O`DONNELL: And Jim, we`re seeing, obviously some cellphone video that`s
been fed to us. Where we will obviously -- on a situation like this,
ultimately be able to harvest a great deal of that.
And some of that, if it`s inside the theater itself could obviously be
crucially important evidence.
CAVANAUGH: Well, it`s exactly right. And you know, these modern movie
theaters, Lawrence, I mean, we all go to them, they are a great review in
the films, but once you get up in the seating, sometimes there is no exit
on the top.
The exits are on the sides and the bottom for the fire, and if you can`t,
if the shooter comes in the bottom, in some places, there is no exit on the
So, you have to file down the seats on the side and then of course, that
might be toward the shooter. So, every place is set up different, but
those places can be tough if somebody has got you trapped in there.
And you`re trying to escape and you know, Holmes did that to a horror when
he did that attack in Aurora, Colorado.
But for the bravery of some of the patrons there, the quick response of the
Aurora police actually would have been even worse and it was horrible
So, this is another attack on a theater, but we don`t know the motive, it
could be domestic or somebody could have been after a spouse, it could be
revenge on somebody, it could be a lot of things that`s going on there.
O`DONNELL: Seth Dickerson, are you familiar with the inside of those movie
theaters, the screen, this --
DICKERSON: Oh, yes --
O`DONNELL: Yes --
DICKERSON: Very well --
O`DONNELL: Are they -- a lot of these theaters when there`re -- one of the
16 screens, the screening rooms themselves tend to be smaller. The -- how
would you describe the size of these -- the theaters inside the multiplex?
DICKERSON: It`s a pretty big theater, this is a stadium-seating, so, it`s
kind of stacked, staggered down, but it`s a pretty big theater.
O`DONNELL: Any indication whether this was a big attendance night there?
It`s a Thursday night, luckily it`s not a Friday or Saturday night where
attendance would be considerably higher.
DICKERSON: Yes, and it looks like there are a lot of people on -- Thursday
is not a very slow night here at the theater especially when it`s --
O`DONNELL: And --
DICKERSON: Like the hit movies that are coming out.
O`DONNELL: And have you heard anything about the suspect in this case?
DICKERSON: It sounds like he was an older male, and that`s about all we
got for now I assume, crazy.
O`DONNELL: Yes, I`m sure it is. And was that -- Seth, was that a police
source saying that it was an older male or was that a witness that --
DICKERSON: There are --
O`DONNELL: Found who was --
DICKERSON: These are all witnesses.
O`DONNELL: Oh, OK, what are -- what are the -- and witnesses who --
eyewitnesses who saw this shooter? You`ve been able to speak to some?
DICKERSON: Yes, but we got cut off from them and now, but earlier I spoke
to some people.
O`DONNELL: And what -- can you tell -- share with us anything more that
you learned from any eyewitnesses who actually saw the shooter? Where did
they see the shooter?
DICKERSON: Yes, just as he opened -- he opened fire, he stood up and
opened fire on them, I guess, but --
O`DONNELL: So, they --
DICKERSON: What it sounds like --
O`DONNELL: They actually --
O`DONNELL: The -- you spoke to eyewitnesses who witnessed the actual
DICKERSON: Yes --
O`DONNELL: And what did they describe to you?
DICKERSON: There was blood, there was a lot of blood.
O`DONNELL: And the eyewitnesses you spoke to, what did they do when the
shooting broke out?
DICKERSON: Yes, they tried to get out of there. From what I was able to
surmise, they ran and --
O`DONNELL: Did -- Seth, did they say anything about the weapon itself, how
rapidly the weapon was firing, how many shots they thought they heard.
DICKERSON: I don`t know, I haven`t heard anything about the amount of
shots heard or dispersed or the weapon.
O`DONNELL: Jim Cavanaugh, it sounds like there are eyewitnesses available
to the police right now who surely are being questioned by the police right
CAVANAUGH: No, exactly right, Lawrence. And the questions you were asking
the reporter, exactly, the ones, you know, was it a long gun? Was it a
handgun? What kind of arms did he have?
Of course, if he is deceased, they should be lying right there and the
police have a good handle on those. They want to grab his wallet, see who
You know, find out all about him, if they`re going to take those guns,
they`re going to trace them back. You know, they`re going to find out,
what is the motive here?
Because that`s the thing to stop another one. Hopefully, it`s just an
isolated one, regardless of what the motive is, it`s horrible enough like
But they -- it`s the -- that`s the eminent thing for commanders on the
ground, is he acting alone? Is there anybody else helping him? Could it be
something else afoot?
That`s the eminent thing. Are there any explosives -- and then, you know,
and then you get into a crime scene process, again, of course caring for
the wounded and the families that have lost someone or injured.
O`DONNELL: I just want to update on the latest information we have, comes
from Lafayette police spokesman, Kyle Suarez, who says, "at least two
victims dead at the scene including the shooter between six and eight
victims transported to three local hospitals."
Shooting took place inside the theater with only -- they had only described
the shooter as a male, but they gave us no age or other identifiers.
Seth Dickerson just told us that witnesses have told him that it was an
older male. The FBI, Louisiana State Police, the University police are
assisting the Lafayette police in the investigation.
And Kyle Suarez of the Lafayette police has said we believe the scene is
safe at this time. Seth Dickerson, I want to go back to the description
you obtained of the shooter.
Eyewitnesses to the shooting told you it was an older male, did they give
you any sense of how old this man was?
DICKERSON: No, they told me like 50s-plus --
DICKERSON: I mean, I mean, that`s all from, you know, a dark movie
theater, so --
O`DONNELL: Sure, yes --
DICKERSON: Yes, I wouldn`t be sure about that.
O`DONNELL: Yes -- no, we`re -- but we all understand that this is -- you
know, that this is a first flash of information and that people are doing
their best and they could see somebody there who they think is in their 50s
who turns out to be much younger or conceivably older.
And -- but Jim Cavanaugh, that alone is an interesting observation that
this is a male of that age. Is it -- is it just my impression from things
like Aurora that these kinds of shootings tend to be done by younger
CAVANAUGH: Right, I think mass shootings really, when you look at this
numbers, they go really across almost all age groups.
But you know, you do see incidental and anecdotal cases like in the case in
Pasco County, Florida where a retired police captain in a movie theater
pulled out a pistol and killed a man.
And you know, you could have a dispute arise in a theater, a pistol can be
pulled out or shots going off and now, of course, in this day and age, we
have citizens who, you know, don`t want to be slaughtered and they`re going
to fight and you know, that could wind up people getting shot.
So, we don`t know the scenario, we don`t know if this guy came in to the
theater shooting like James Holmes.
We don`t know if he was a patron who got in a dispute, we don`t know if he
came into the theater to kill someone over a domestic, a revenge or a
We just don`t have enough detail, but it is an interesting fact that he,
you know, he might be an older male. So, it`s just something to put in the
-- in the pocket now to see how it develops.
So, I think, you know, the officers certainly, Lawrence, have a lot more
answers already than we do. They know who he is, they have his identity.
They probably have inklings of the motive and, you know, they`re starting
to put it together. It comes together pretty quick. They start sizing it
up and then start getting some directions to send their major lead teams
And this will be a city, county, state and federal investigators going out
trying to put all this back together.
O`DONNELL: Seth Dickerson, in your conversations with eyewitnesses, did
any of them remember the shooter saying anything?
DICKERSON: No, they didn`t say anything like that. I heard about in the -
- any words that he may have said.
O`DONNELL: And Seth, what about when this happened, did this happen at the
very beginning of the movie? Did this happen at the end of the movie?
You know, I`m wondering, do we have the sense that this shooter might have
been sitting there for two hours through a movie?
DICKERSON: I wouldn`t be able to have a guess in that. It sounded -- it
sounded like -- I mean, it was 7:30, so it could have just been in the very
beginning, but I wouldn`t be able to tell you for sure.
O`DONNELL: Yes, 7:30 that I think it`s possible that you could expect that
to be sort -- around the beginning with an audience.
Jim Cavanaugh, probably an audience just collected in that theater at that
hour and with the lights dimmed, maybe watching trailers of movies to come.
But at that hour, given, you know, movie exhibition schedules, that is
probably toward the beginning of that audience experience that everyone was
going there to hope to enjoy that tonight.
CAVANAUGH: Right, Lawrence, and you know, the reason these kinds of
activities, just as you describe, you`re describing something that all
Americans do, we all go to the movies, it`s a pretty common practice.
And so, you know, that`s why these kind of shootings are, you know, kind of
strike at the heart of the nation. We say, well, what`s going on? I go to
the -- I go to the movies.
You know, when we see gangsters shooting each other, we say well, I`m not a
gangster, so I`m not at risk, you know.
Or we see police officers that get hurt, we say, well, I`m not a police
officer, I don`t have that high-risk occupation.
But when you talk about things like going to the movies or going to a
shopping mall or going to work, and then people come in and start shooting
you or are there and start shooting you, as we`ve discussed, you know, it
just puts a different flavor on everything.
You know, that`s why, you know, we look at it and say, you know, what`s
going on here? You know, is it a local incident?
There`re shootings every night in America that are local incidents, that
are domestic cases, that are fights between patrons that escalate, that
robbery attempts and you know, sometimes even in those cases, multiple
people are shot.
And sometimes the case winds up being a murder-suicide or a guy trying to
kill his spouse and then others intervene, if he pulls out a gun and he
So, there`s a lot of things that this could be, we just don`t exactly know.
And you know, it would be interesting to find out from the reporter on the
ground if he knows -- you know, was it a long gun or was it a handgun or
did a witness say that?
You know, did they tell was it a long gun or was it a handgun? I`d be
interested to hear. It`s quite a different scenario if someone walks in to
the front of a theater like James Holmes and you know, pulls out a long gun
and starts shooting into the crowd, that`s quite --
DICKERSON: Yes --
CAVANAUGH: A different scenario.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and we`re now getting confirmation that the call to the
police came at 7:29 p.m. Central Time.
And -- Seth Dickerson, one of the comments made by the Lafayette police is
that the FBI, the Louisiana State Police and the university police are
What university would that be where their police are assisting?
DICKERSON: That would be the University of Louisiana at Lafayette -- all
right, it`s about -- I would say two miles away from here.
O`DONNELL: And so this movie theater is no doubt a magnet for the
university students in that area?
O`DONNELL: Yes, and Jim Cavanaugh, the -- one of the reports we`re
getting, "Newsweek" at this point is reporting that the shooter committed
That`s from "Newsweek", that`s not confirmed by "Nbc News", but they`re --
they`re calling this now a murder-suicide.
CAVANAUGH: Right, I wouldn`t be surprised at that kind of scenario,
Lawrence, and when there is one other person dead, you know, you question,
you know, were they targeting the other person who was killed?
You know, is it -- is some kind of -- like I say revenge or domestic
situation where they`re going after that person and there is some, you
know, intervention from patrons.
Or you know, he may kill -- well, the person he`s after and then shoot his
gun wildly and then kill himself.
DICKERSON: Yes --
CAVANAUGH: We don`t know, but if it`s a suicide, you know, that wouldn`t
be out of character in some of these cases.
O`DONNELL: And Seth Dickerson, the -- did you -- when you were speaking to
witnesses who saw the shooting, was it there -- had they already spoken to
police or was it their intention to seek out the police to report to the
police what they had seen?
DICKERSON: No -- yes, we got here early to (INAUDIBLE) they may not have
spoken to police yet. But police start talking to them, so I`m guessing
they were talked to afterwards.
O`DONNELL: And certainly in a movie theater like that, the police are
going to have a very large number of witnesses to talk to.
Have the police -- have you observed any area that the police have set
aside to kind of collect witnesses?
DICKERSON: Not specifically. It`s kind of hard, that is -- most of the
cars are just blocking a lot of the view. So, if there would be one, it`d
be hard to see.
O`DONNELL: Seth, how far away are you from the -- from the actual theater
at this point in the parking lot there?
DICKERSON: From the parking lot, we`re just across the street, which is
we`re about maybe 50 feet away from the theater itself.
O`DONNELL: Yes, Jim Cavanaugh, the police will obviously be working
overnight here and picking up -- what are -- what are the kind of forensic
evidence searches that will be going on within that theater tonight?
CAVANAUGH: Right, well, the whole theater of course will be a crime scene,
totally roped off and you`ll have the two bodies there.
You`re going to have the medical examiner who is going to have to come in
and look at that. Look -- the first thing, I mean, you do in a crime scene
is complete photography.
Everything is photographed before anything is moved. So, there is a
forensic team that comes in, crime scene processing team, they will
And then once the photographs are taken, the medical examiners are going to
look at those bodies and approve them to be examined, and first, at the
scene and then to be moved.
And then in a case like this, the shell casings are going to be recovered,
which will be on the floor, if we got semi-automatic or fully automatic
There will be -- if it`s a revolver for example, it`d be showcasing --
DICKERSON: Yes --
CAVANAUGH: Still in the gun. Big firearms will be recovered, one or more,
any other weapons that might be present, certainly his identification is --
and the identification of the other deceased person quickly.
Then we all will send detectives immediately to the hospital to interview
those who are wounded, who are able to speak because they have a lot of
information and then you try to round up the eyewitnesses.
You know, if someone was in that theater and they were an eyewitness, they
should contact the Lafayette Police Detective Bureau and let them know who
they are and that they were there and just give them their name and address
so they can get to them this evening or quickly in the morning.
So when you get -- put their picture of everything back together, then we
go back and get tapes you`d want, all the tapes, the movie theater`s
videotapes to see when a person come in.
And of course, you go back to the shooter`s house, you talk to all those
relatives -- his car in the parking lot, that all has to be swept for
Other guns, the booby traps, you talk to his significant others and then
you start putting the pieces together.
And the question that we all have is why? Why is this being done? Why is
this murder rampage happening? And you try to get some answers.
O`DONNELL: We`ve been speaking with Jim Cavanaugh, "Nbc" law enforcement
expert and also Seth Dickerson, a reporter for the local newspaper there,
"The Advertiser" in Lafayette, has been reporting to us from the scene.
Seth Dickerson responded immediately after the call came out at 7:30
tonight. We`re now joined by the news director for the Lafayette
"Advertiser", Kristin Askelson.
Kristin, what more do we know about the case at this point?
KRISTIN ASKELSON, NEWS DIRECTOR, THE ADVERTISER: They`re still not
releasing a lot of details, as you reported, they have confirmed two people
dead, including the shooter.
Their ambulances have taken numerous victims to the hospital. We have at
least confirmed six, but there may be more than that.
The latest news that we have is that Governor Jindal is en route to the
scene with the head of the state police Michael Edmonson.
O`DONNELL: And Kristin, the Lafayette Police Department, how big a police
department is that?
ASKELSON: I mean, it`s a decent size police department, 300, 350 officers.
O`DONNELL: So, on a -- on a typical night like tonight with 300 officer
force, you may have 75 maybe out there normally in service --
O`DONNELL: Is there any indication that the police department has been put
on a full alert and everyone who`s available has been called in?
ASKELSON: I am not sure if everyone available has been called in. I do
know that they have been calling in multiple agencies.
So, we know that the state police, the FBI, the sheriff`s office, and the
University of Louisiana Police Department are all assisting.
O`DONNELL: And when do you -- do you expect -- has there been any
indication from any of the officials there that there will be an
opportunity for some kind of press briefing, where someone can clarify what
the facts are as we know them now?
ASKELSON: We were told by Jim Craft, the Chief of the Lafayette Police
Department that there would be an update. And that was -- he said in an
hour and that was maybe 30 minutes ago.
So, we`re expecting in about 30 minutes, he is going to give some sort of
press briefing. I don`t know whether there is going to be an opportunity
to ask questions at that point.
O`DONNELL: And we certainly wouldn`t want them to be distracted from their
important work right now.
But was it your sense, Kristin, that the situation was under control enough
and the facts were well known enough that it would not be too burdensome on
the Lafayette police to have a press briefing within the hour?
ASKELSON: Yes, I think that it`s certainly not an active shooting
situation anymore. They very quickly got the theater evacuated.
I am -- you know, we`re getting images from our photographer of the entire
area being sealed off. And now, I`m sure they`re bringing in forensic
So, I think that it`s probably appropriate for them to have a press
O`DONNELL: Your reporter Seth Dickerson has supplied us with invaluable
insights about what`s happened there including his own conversations with
eyewitnesses who saw the shooting.
Have any of your other reporters or resources been able to obtain any more
statements from any eyewitnesses?
DICKERSON: Not anything at the moment --
ASKELSON: Yes, we talked to a witness, a girl who was in the movie with
her fianc‚, who was sitting, you know, a few rows back from the shooter and
said what she heard -- about 20 minutes into the movie, she heard a loud
She saw a man stand up and start shooting down beneath him, away from her
because she was behind him.
And she heard several shots, at that point, she and her fianc‚ ran toward
the exit, leaving her purse and shoes behind. So, that was all that she
O`DONNELL: Did she indicate --
ASKELSON: She described him as a middle-aged white man.
O`DONNELL: A middle-aged white man. The -- one of the witnesses suggested
to Seth, that the man might be in his 50s, so that seems consistent.
O`DONNELL: Did she have any sense that the shooter had a specific target
ASKELSON: It didn`t sound like it. It`s -- from what she could see, he
just stood up and started shooting toward the rows of seats beneath them.
O`DONNELL: And did she hear him say anything?
ASKELSON: No, she didn`t.
O`DONNELL: Did she say anything about how long the shooting went on?
ASKELSON: She said she only heard a few shots because, of course, they ran
toward the exit as soon as they realized that there was a gun and there was
a shooting taking place.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and did she -- did she suggest that others around her were
running out in the same way that she was?
ASKELSON: Yes, that`s what it sounded like.
O`DONNELL: Yes, just a -- just a rush for that exit. And just in terms of
ASKELSON: Right --
O`DONNELL: The ability to exit that theater, did she report any struggles
with that? Is that a theater that is well designed for easy exit in an
ASKELSON: Yes, multiple exits and it sounded like she was sitting toward
the back of the theater, so it would have been -- put them through easy for
the people to get out.
O`DONNELL: And what was her -- did her fianc‚ have anything to add to what
her observations were?
ASKELSON: No, we did not get a chance to speak to him.
O`DONNELL: OK, you just spoke to her, yes. And this is near a university,
this movie theater, so is it fair to assume that on an evening like this,
there`d be an awful lot of university-aged people in that audience?
ASKELSON: Yes. School is not in session right now. There are probably
some students here taking summer classes. There are a lot of local
students that attend the university. So -- you know, on any given week
night there would be some college-aged students there.
O`DONNELL: And, what -- in terms of Lafayette and Lafayette`s history and
what life is like in Lafayette, this is obviously shocking anywhere. It is
devastating if it happens anywhere. But talk to us about what something
like this feels like in Lafayette and feels like to this community.
ASKELSON: It feels a little surreal, because of the things they are used
to seeing on the news. We do not have a lot of shootings of this
O`DONNELL: No. And, luckily no community has a lot of shootings in this
magnitude. And, there is no way for a community to be prepared for it.
Your police department there is dealing with something they have never
dealt with before. What is your sense of their response to it? Do they --
do they sound like they got the situation under control?
ASKELSON: You know, as far as I can tell, they do. You know, they are not
talking a lot right now, but hopefully we will know more as soon as they
have a briefing.
O`DONNELL: I want to go back to Jim Cavanaugh, NBC Law Enforcement Expert,
who has been with us from the beginning of our coverage of this, our
breaking news coverage starting this hour. Jim picked up some information
there about this shooter, middle-aged white man. One witness saying she
heard a few shots -- and she immediately ran out of the theater, so she is
not sure how many more shots.
And, Kristin, let me just go back to you for one thing. Kristin, did the
witness say anything about the weapon itself and about -- was it a long
barrel? Was it a handgun? Any observations about the weapon?
ASKELSON: No. I do not think that she had a clear view of it as he was
standing in front of her and was holding the gun in front of him.
O`DONNELL: Yes, so his back was to her. She may not have seen the weapon
O`DONNELL: Jim Cavanaugh, what do you make about what Kristin has added to
our understanding of this?
JIM CAVANAUGH, NBC LAW ENFORCEMENT EXPERT: Well, first I think it is great
reporting that Kristin and her team have done.
O`DONNELL: Yes, I just want to stress that, that "The Advertiser" there in
Lafayette with Seth Dickerson and now Kristin Askelson, without them we
would know virtually nothing about what has happened there.
CAVANAUGH: Yes. They are right on in getting the facts directly right
there. And, you are sharing it here with the MSNBC audience. Yes, very
significant fact, I think, that the person is in the theater, in the seats
and then raises up and begin shooting. That is quite a different tactic
than we saw, say for example, from James Holmes.
So, what is afoot here? You know, is he tar getting anyone? Does he want
to just shoot at anyone? Is he shooting at a specific individual, or some
specific people that he might hate? You know, we just do not know why yet
he did it. But, the behavior is interesting.
The detectives will want to know, you know, did he filter in to that
theater, buy a ticket, you know, have a firearm secreted -- they clearly
did have a firearm secreted on this person, but then find a seat and sit in
a certain place where he was going to shoot people in the front row, for
some reason that is right now only known to him.
So, the interesting facts that I think the Lafayette LAPD will put it
together. Yes, and I agree with Kristin, you know, few hundred -- they got
good forensics on those kind of sized departments. They got plenty of
personnel for that. Good detective bureau.
You know, they are going to be able to put this together. And, they are
going to have all the help they need to be able to find out exactly what
happened. And, hopefully, they will give us some good information in the
press briefing. That is key to them, too, Lawrence, because they want to
calm the fears of the community and further afoot in Louisiana and the
country that, you know, whatever this thing is.
So, the more information they can give out, if it is really one guy and
there is no prosecution going to happen on this one guy, the more
information they can give out, the better is for the police and all the
citizens to know that early on.
O`DONNELL: We just gotten a report from WVLA T.V. about what one witness
has said. Let us listen to that.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
PHILIP BOUDREAUX, WVLA REPORTER: They did hear some the witnesses say that
the shooter was chasing after a barefoot woman, but not really -- I cannot
really confirm that at this point. But, The Lafayette Police Chief Jim
Craft did say that he plans to release more information within the next
hour or so. I have not heard anything about a motive. I have no idea why
the shooting may have occurred at this point in time.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Kristin, did you hear anything like that from any of the
witness statements you have heard, that the shooter was chasing a barefoot
woman? Seth Dickerson, let me ask you, you have spoken to some witnesses
directly. Did you hear anything from any witness about the shooter chasing
after a barefoot woman?
SETH DICKERSON, WVLA REPORTER: No. It sounded like he just opened fire.
He got up and turned around, opened fire. No one said anything about a
chase but it definitely would not rule that out.
O`DONNELL: All right. We are joined now by Kiefer Sanders. He was
actually in the theater across the hall from where the shooting took place.
Kiefer, what did you hear? What did you see?
KIEFER SANDERS, 23-YEAR-OLD MALE WHO WAS INSIDE THE LAFAYETTE THEATER
COMPLEX: I was, like you said, across the hall from it. And, the movie
had just began that we were in. And, the screen went black and the
emergency system went off saying please evacuate the building to the
And, once we evacuated to the back of the theater. When I walked
throughout to the front, I witnessed a lady who was lying just kind of on
the cement and the grass who had been shot in the leg. And, throughout the
shooting, I ran out -- she was shot and then the cops arrived. The very
As soon as we evacuated, cops were pulling up. The cop went in and they
had another guy who came out who was actually in the movie theater and told
me that it was quiet whenever the movie was starting that the guy pulled up
opened fire. They did not have any concerns about getting out of the movie
theater. Just casually started firing.
O`DONNELL: And, Kiefer, when you ran out, was it -- did it seem as though
the shooter was still in the theater?
SANDERS: Yes, sir. Yes. When we came out the back door, we were not sure
what the evacuation was for. And once we got to the front, all the cops
had the building surrounded and they said the shooter was inside. They
pushed everybody back behind the barricades and all, and went inside to get
the shooter and found out that he had committed suicide.
O`DONNELL: How did you -- where did you hear that he committed suicide?
How did you hear that?
SANDERS: I heard that -- overheard the police talking.
SANDERS: And there were six or seven people shot in the theater, and I saw
the lady lying on the ground with an apparent leg injury, with a wound to
O`DONNELL: And, did that look like a bad wound to the leg? Did it look
like a surface wound, possibly a grazing by the bullet? Was she in obvious
severe pain? Was she screaming? Any pain reaction from her?
SANDERS: She was not yelling or anything but she was just lying there with
her head down in the grass. She is kind of heavily breathing and had a
couple of men surrounding her kind of coaching her through, waiting for the
ambulance to arrive.
And, once the ambulance got there, they carried her to the ambulance. It
was not a severe wound, I would say but it definitely was an apparent leg
injury. She had blood down her leg.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And, could you estimate her age, that woman victim that
SANDERS: Probably mid-40s.
O`DONNELL: Mid-40s. Yes. And, how soon after you got out of the theater
did you overhear the police saying that the shooter committed suicide?
SANDERS: It was probably 15 to 20 minutes, I would say. I mean I am not
exactly sure, but we got evacuated probably at about 7:30. The movie was
set to start at 7:15. The previews had just got done. The movie was just
starting and that is when the alarm went off.
O`DONNELL: And, were you able to hear shots -- you were in the theater
across the hall from the theater from where the shots were fired, were you
able to hear shots in the theater you were in?
SANDERS: No, sir. I never heard the shots. The movie had just started.
It was in the louder part of the movie. And, like I said, the alarm just
went off and we were not really sure what it was. And, as they had us
coming out in, in fact we are not in a panic either, just kind slowly
walked out. There are couple people that came out later, kind of running
and we knew it was something more serious.
O`DONNELL: And, as you were evacuating the theater, I am going to assume
you did not hear any shots then either. You never heard shots inside the
theater or when you are outside of the theater?
SANDERS: No, sir, I never heard any shots. I was standing outside of the
front of the theater whenever the police went in, probably a hundred yards
off. And, again, never heard any shots fired.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And, was the -- the woman you saw injured, was she the
only person you saw, who was obviously from inside the theater where the
shooting took place, did you get a chance to talk to anyone, who was inside
the theater, where the shooting took place?
SANDERS: Yes. She was the only lady I saw injured, only person they had.
The ambulance pulled off to the side and they were bringing out stretchers.
At that time, I did speak to one guy who was actually inside of the
theater, and he said whenever the guy stood up and started shooting, he
just grabbed his fiance and they hurried up and ran outside of the theater.
O`DONNELL: So, the witness that you spoke to, did he see the gun that the
shooter was using?
SANDERS: No, sir. He never said anything about the gun. He said it was
quiet, thought the movies was about to begin and the guy just stoop up and
started firing, and there was no arguments going on. No, nothing.
O`DONNELL: And, did he hear the shooter say anything?
SANDERS: No, sir. He did not say.
O`DONNELL: And, do you know if he was behind the shooter? How did he
escape being shot at himself?
SANDERS: He did not go in to full detail. He was kind of shook it up, but
all he said is, once the guy stood up and started shooting he heard
multiple shot going off. And, he said he grabbed his fiance and took off
out of the movie.
O`DONNELL: Yes. I think that is -- we have already heard that exact kind
of story, Kiefer from other people who were in there. And, that is
apparent exactly what the people who could do did. They went for those
O`DONNELL: And, Kiefer, tell us about the inside of the theater. I am
going to assume that the theater you are in is very similar, usually a twin
to the theater that is across the hall from you. Your ability to exit that
theater, how well constructed is that theater for emergency exits?
SANDERS: It was good. They had the emergency door down by the actual
movie screen. There are two entrances on each side to get out. We got out
fairly quickly. It is a very nice theater. It was a big place. A lot of
people come here.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And, were you in a group of people at the theater, or
just with one other person or --?
SANDERS: I was with my brother and a friend.
O`DONNELL: And, I assume you are all making sure you were getting out
SANDERS: Yes, sir. We all went out together.
O`DONNELL: Yes. Thank you very much, Kiefer. It is really helpful to
have an account of what occurred inside that building and getting out. I
assume you saw all the other -- there are 16 screens at that theater,
right? I mean, all the other theaters, they must have been emptying out at
the same time.
SANDERS: Yes, sir. Yes. We exited in the back was probably at least 100
people coming out of the theater in multiple spots just coming out of the
O`DONNELL: And, it is a Thursday night there. I am just wondering, how
full the theater was that you were in? Was it half full? Was is less than
SANDERS: It was kind of a little over half full. It was not completely
full but, there are a lot of people at the movies right now. And, the
theater is located right by a pretty popular bar, a pizza place. It is a
very populated area.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And, so, we just want to try to get a feeling for how
many were in the theater where the shooting occurred that, that was maybe
similar to yours, maybe a little more than half or maybe more.
SANDERS: Yes. And, it is probably around -- ours was probably about 50
people, 50 to 75 people. So, I am assuming it was around the same. It was
in the movie "Trainwreck," is where the shooting was.
O`DONNELL: The shooting occurred in the theater that was showing
SANDERS: Yes , sir.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And, that is one of the new releases. And, so those are
the movies that tend to have the larger audiences in there.
SANDERS: Right. We were in the movie, "Southpaw."
O`DONNELL: Yes. Jim Cavanaugh, it sounds like everything that could go
right in this situation did go right in the sense that the theater as we
were being told is well designed for emergency exit, and they needed that
emergency exiting to work tonight in all 16 theaters.
CAVANAUGH: Yes, it sounds like it did work. You know, ten people wounded.
So, you know, somewhere around ten shots coming out of the barrel of that
gun at a minimum.
And, you know, Sometimes you can have one bullet wound more than one
person, but generally speaking, you know, probably somewhere close to ten
shots that we know of were fired. Then people are all scrambling to get
out from every witness, the reporters are talking to.
So, that probably would have been even worse carnage here. And, then we do
not know, the information that you have uncovered here, Lawrence, is
possibly a suicide, not confirmed by NBC but possibly a suicide. So, you
know, he might have shot and everybody scrambles out, some are wounded. At
least one is dead.
And, then he might have possibly commit suicide, not confirmed. And, then
of course the officers are there within minutes and can get in there and
secure while other theaters are all being evacuated.
So, yes, it is a horrible, horrible scene and a horrible case and they will
be there all night, but it sounds like a lot of people were able to
scramble out, as you say. And, you know, we might have saved their own
lives getting out there quickly.
O`DONNELL: We are joined now by former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt.
Clint, the only profile element that we know so far, is the clearest
description we have is middle-aged white man.
CLINT VAN ZANDT, FMR. FBI PROFILE: Well, there is going to be a lot done.
I mean we do these psychological autopsies every time we have these
shooting. We are just in the folds of the most recent shooting every time
we the shootings as you know Lawrence.
We are just in the folds of the most recent shooting from the marines and
the sailor who were killed. And, we are starting to go back over that
individual`s background. We have always got two situations here. Number
one, of course, is we are concerned about those wounded or even worse
killed and their families.
Number two, we try to understand why someone does something like this, so
perhaps we can intervene. We could stop. We could do something about it.
You know, whether it is a violence in a work place scenario or in here, a
violence in a movie theater -- just like, you know, we saw James Holmes Do
When we see somebody act out like this, it can be defiance. It can be
anger. It can be revenge. There could be a number of motives. And, we
will try to understand that in the days and weeks ahead, hopefully to find
ways to intervene in the lives of people who might act out like this, that
we could stop another terrible act in America.
O`DONNELL: Clint Van Zandt, what is your reaction to the information we
have now from more than one eyewitness saying that the movie was getting
started. And, the shooter just stood up, seemingly in the middle of the
theater, and just started firing without saying anything and apparently
without seeming to direct the fire to any individual.
ZANDT: We have a lot yet still to learn on this, Lawrence. I mean we saw
a situation in Florida in January 2014, where a 72-year-old former police
captain pulled a gun in a movie theater, because he was upset over an
individual who was texting on his phone during the movie.
That former police officer shot and killed a man and wounded the guy`s --
wounded the victim`s wife. And, we contrast that to something like James
Holmes, obviously much younger and who came with a lot of fire power,
planning to kill too.
What we may and realize I am way ahead of our information right now. But
taking the age of this individual into consideration, the act that he is
alleged to have committed and with some of your guests suggesting that they
either know or they heard police officers say the shooter did, in fact,
If this, in fact, is true, this is the type of individual many times we see
-- we may call someone like this, Lawrence, it may turn out that this is
kind of a wound collector. This may be someone, for example, over a period
of life he was offended for a number of reasons. And, this is the way that
he acts out.
This is the final punishment against others. Now, do I know this is the
case with this individual? Of course I do not. I know this has been the
case with dozens and dozens of people that Jim Cavanaugh and I have looked
at, who have been mass shooters, who have participated.
So, when you ask for a profile, that is the start -- that is the kind of
profile we start to put together, because we know some of these facts have
been so constant over the years that if it is different than what we are
talking about right now. You know, it is going to be another lesson for
law enforcement and the psychological community to learn.
Because the question is always, "How do we identify the person at risk who
has the potential for acting out like this, and how do we intervene before
he takes a gun, not only in to a movie theater, but acts out in this
And, again, this could be somebody modeling the behavior that we have seen
in the last few weeks. A church shooting. We have seen mall shootings.
We have seen the shootings in the recruiting stations. There are many
people, Lawrence, who psychologically sit on the edge of the psychological
abyss, waiting to jump over that edge.
And, they need an example, many times a terrible example that they can
model their behavior from. That is another thing that law enforcement, the
FBI, the police, as they try to understand they will be looking at what was
the final catalyst?
You know? Why not yesterday, why not tomorrow? Why did this individual a
choose today to act out? That is part of the investigation. Part of the
psychological autopsy as one more time, we, as Americans, struggle to
understand why someone commits a terrible act of violence like this.
O`DONNELL: We just learned that federal ATF agents have arrived on the
scene. Jim Cavanaugh, you used to be with ATF. What is their role in an
investigation like this?
CAVANAUGH: Well, you know, certainly ATF`s specialties are the guns,
bombs, arson, tracing guns, but really what happens in these big cases is
they seamlessly mesh in with detectives and the FBI, state police.
And, you know, when we give assignments in these things and current members
and I know they were doing that this week in Tennessee. You know, they
will send out a team. It might be an FBI, an ATF or FBI or city detective
or ATF agent and state trooper.
They are out there doing the interviews, who are doing the investigation on
a broad scale. So, they are all acting as investigators to bring the
information back to the command post. Of course, ATF does specialize in
guns and tracing guns and ballistic information and everything to do with
weapons, bombs and arson.
And, of course, you have the -- the FBI has their explosive unit as well
and state police bomb squad, so everybody has forensic maps. They put it
all together to try to get, you know, to the place where Clint is
describing. You know, Clint worked at the behavioral analysis section in
the FBI. And, just one of the great units of America.
And, by the way, the ATF is part of that. It has been in that unit since
1984. We have had profilers in there, behavior analysis, great bunch of
investigators, FBI, ATF. They put together those packages on who and why
people do this. And, they tell the commanders, "You know, it could be
this. It could be that."
They often get criticized they were wrong, but in all of my years that I
was involved with them and I supervised some of our ATF profilers that were
in that unit, and the FBI agents that I worked with, they never steered you
wrong on that stuff. They always gave you possibilities.
Let you know what the caveats were, just like Clint did in his description.
They were very insightful, because they analyze past criminal behavior.
And, so that is what we want to look at. And, that is what they are going
to do here, like Clint described, the psychological autopsies.
They are going to go back and you know put this together. But, they are
way ahead of us now. They know right now, probably something about this
guy. You know, did he hate society? Did he hate someone? Did he hate a
particular person? Is it hate? Is it revenge? Is it anger? And, it is
going to come up.
You know, if we look at Chattanooga, this guy is targeting the military.
There is some reason for him to target the military. And, of course, that
is starting to bubble up in that investigation. Roof in Charleston was
pretty clear. That was just evil hate and a targeted assassination, in my
view of Pastor Pinckney and those leaders, a targeted assassination.
And, so, he hated people and he was going to show it. And, you know,
sometimes we see a person like Holmes whose anger, as Clint can describe.
You know, his anger is sort of at society as a whole. And, you know, a lot
of mental issues come up in the trial. But, the jury did not seem to want
to hear that and they saw through that.
They saw him as a cold-blooded killer. And, even if he is mad at society,
you know, it does not mean you can just be a cold-blooded killer and
slaughter everyone. So, the motive is always of interest. It is of
interest to the commanders to stop the next one, to see what is afoot, to
put it back together.
And, hopefully, they can give some information tonight that can, you know,
maybe see why this occurred and what happened here. And then we can go
back, as a country, and as law enforcement, to see is there anything we
could have done to stop it. And, so many times there is, just little
I mean if there was a better secure gate at the Naval Reserve Center in
Chattanooga. Just a secure gate that you could not crash your car through,
we probably would not have four dead marines and a dead sailor. Because
the Chattanooga PD was on the heels of that killer there. They were on his
And, if he could have been delayed just at a secure gate, and if we could
have had faster notification from the recruit center to the reserve center.
He had to drive 6-1/2 miles. That might have taken him five to eight
minutes. If we could have had faster notification. You know, we do it in
tornados and so forth.
We ought to be able to have faster notification for at risk locations,
where they can lock down and secure gates. This guy could have been dead
at the gate at Chattanooga. So, there is a lot of things we need to learn
from each shooting and then need to say, "Could it have been stopped?
Could we have done better? Let us not make the same mistake again and
maybe we can do better." And, sometimes it is a gun check. Sometimes it
is a security issue. Sometimes, it is mental health.
O`DONNELL: Clint Van Zandt, to the question of what can we do about
shootings like this. Movie Theaters present a unique challenge as we saw
in Aurora Colorado in terms of security and safety without metal detectors
that would be preventing guns from entering the theaters.
It is hard to imagine how you could enhance security in movie theaters.
Especially when one reports from an eyewitness that we have tonight, is
that this shooter stood up and basically in the middle of the theater, in
the middle of the rows of audience seats and shot forward at people whose
backs were to the shooter.
This would be assassination from behind without them having any idea that
someone had just stood up with a gun. And, the people, who we know to have
escaped were sitting behind the shooter. But you -- when you think about
someone who wants to do this kind of mass murder, the movie theater is
obviously a very difficult target to defend.
VANDT: What we find so much, Lawrence, that we look at are the soft
targets, where we find these mass shooters, these mass murders, they will
go in to a soft or target-rich environment where they know there is going
to be a lot of potential victims and the chance that someone in there is
going to be able to defend the victims or defend themselves is going to be
Now, you know, am I saying this -- this guy goes in knowing that there is
not going to be an off-duty police officer or ATF agent, who is wearing a
gun in a movie theater, where the chances are probably slim. But he knows,
just like you presented, Lawrence, there is going to be a lot of backs and
a lot of heads exposed.
And, when we are bunched in that close in a movie theater or another
environment like that you do not have to be a good shot with a handgun or
with Holmes with a long gun, all you have to do is throw enough rounds out
that you are going to hit people.
And, again, if you are angry -- we all remember the shooting that took
place at Virginia Tech. I was there for a week covering it for NBC and
MSNBC. And, we know, Cho, the shooter there moved from the dormitory to a
classroom building. And, again, this was an angry individual. This was a
younger man, but this was someone who was angry at society.
And, he was someone who, instead of looking in the mirror and saying there
is my problem in the mirror, he looked out across that college campus and
saw potential victims, and he blamed everybody for his problems in life.
That may be the same type of case we have here.
You know, you and I talked earlier, Lawrence about a case last year, where
there was a targeted shooting in a movie theater. And, now we have seen
just random shootings in movie theaters. But what we know is whether an
individual is simply experiencing significant mental health issues or
whether it is someone who has been radicalized with some type of view such
as ISIS might present on the internet.
We see these people, once they take up arms, looking for a target area
where there is going to be a lot of victims that they can take down, and it
does not take us 727 to crash. All it takes is a handgun. Lawrence, we
are 315 million Americans, about plus or minus 300 million guns. So, guns
are not the issue in and of themselves. Part of it is we have to work with
human behavior and get people to understand violence is not a problem-
And, we have to start with kids in first and second grade and take that up
to like this shooter, who is said to be about 50. And, of course, you
recall the shooter at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. a few years
ago. He was in his 70s.
So, even though we look for these mass shooters to be in their late teens,
their early to mid-20s, we see the extremes many times too, of someone who
has harbored this anger, frustration, this desire for revenge. Sometimes,
they harbor it for weeks and sometimes for decades.
O`DONNELL: We are going to continue MSNBC`s live coverage of the shooting
in Lafayette, Louisiana now with Milissa Rehberger.
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