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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 07/16/15

Guests: Andy Berke, Robert Dodge

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. In just a moment, we`re going to have an eyewitness account from somebody who was inside the military recruiting center in Chattanooga today when the shooting started there. That`s coming up in just a moment. We`ve got a live interview tonight with a survivor of the attack today. Joining us now from Chattanooga is the mayor of that fine city, Andy Berke. Mr. Mayor, I know this is a day like no other for you. Thank you very much for taking time to be with us tonight. I really appreciate it, sir. MAYOR ANDY BERKE (D), CHATTANOOGA, TN: Well, this has been a really difficult day for our city. Certainly when I woke up this morning, we thought it was going to be a normal day. Instead, it`s really turned into a nightmare. MADDOW: What can you tell us about the ongoing response, specifically about the investigation, the work that`s still being done at this hour. What things aren`t knowable, aren`t answered yet but might be soon as the investigation goes forward? BERKE: We`ve got federal, state and local officials devoting all their resources, literally every person for the Chattanooga Police Department is somehow involved in this. We are coordinating with the federal officials. You know, we took down this gunman, but now the real questions start and we`re trying to figure out every single thing that we can about the days, months and years that led up to this moment. MADDOW: One of the striking things that we`ve seen just recently just tonight is these reports that two women were apparently led away from the suspect`s home in handcuffs with law enforcement personnel. Do you have any insight or any reporting as to what was going on there? BERKE: Well, we are continuing to investigate every aspect of this crime. I really can`t go into the details because the investigation is ongoing, but I promise you that we`re going to leave no stone unturned as we try to figure out anybody who was at all involved in this. MADDOW: Are you concerned, as the mayor of Chattanooga, as somebody who`s obviously got to be concerned about the overall welfare of your city in every aspect, are you concerned about potential further violence, either copycat attacks or acts of revenge of some kind? Are you at all worried about that or do you have any signs of anything like that to worry about? BERKE: Every indication that we have says that there`s nothing else that`s active in our community. There`s no other imminent threats. By the same token, we don`t want to take any chances either for our city or someplace else in our country. I think that`s why you`ve seen a tremendous federal response -- as well as, you know, our entire community really coming together to do something about this. MADDOW: Do you have the resources that you need? You`re talking about the large scale federal response, the state, federal and local officials being involved here. Does Chattanooga as a city have everything that you feel you need as mayor tonight to take care of people, to handle the aftermath of this, to handle the investigation and all of the resources that are going to need to be intensely focused on that investigation? Do you have what you need? BERKE: Well, we really do have what we need on the investigative side. We`re pulling together so that we can do this -- I mean, first I would just say that the -- I spent several hours today listening to our police officers and the Hamilton County sheriff`s department talking about exactly what happened at the scene. It was an incredible heroism that we saw from a number of our officers to engage this criminal immediately. Then, we have done nothing but put together, I think, a coordinated response to make sure that we know exactly where we need to go from here. The other part of the equation tonight is it`s the personal side. As a community, you know, our hearts are broken for the families of these individuals. We know that we still have others who are injured in our community. And really as a city that has a connection to the military, we`re called the volunteer state for a reason. It is really very difficult for us to expect to accept that something like this could happen in Chattanooga, Tennessee. MADDOW: Andy Berke, the mayor of Chattanooga. I really appreciate your time, sir. Obviously, as I said, a day like no other in Chattanooga. The whole country is thinking about your city and saying prayers for Chattanooga tonight. So, thank you for being with us, sir. BERKE: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: All right. So there are hundreds of military installations. Actually if you define every kinds of military installation that there is, there may even be thousands of military installations inside the United States of various types, various sizes, various degrees of public access. At large military bases, big bases that serve active duty service members and that house those service members and their families and everybody, a lot of those bases are actually very large communities with all of the attending issues that big communities face anywhere in this country. So, yes, at those big facilities you do have the same kinds of crime, the same kinds of shootings on some military installations that you have in other places, other parts of American life. So, at big military installations you get incidents of domestic violence that result in shootings, you get disgruntled employees. You get former employees who have attacked military installations inside the country. You get normal rates of American-style shootings. But separate and apart from those instances, we have also had ideologically or politically terrorist motivate attacks on military personnel and military installations at a really uncomfortable pace over the last several years. I`m not talking about U.S. military installations abroad, I`m talking about them here at home. June, 2009, 24-year-old man armed to the teeth saw two soldiers taking a break from their jobs inside this U.S. Army recruiting station in Little Rock, Arkansas. He had an arsenal of weapons in his car. He had hundreds of rounds of ammunition. His name was Abdul Hakeem Mohammed. He opened fire on those two soldiers working in that recruiting office in Arkansas. He killed one of those soldiers, Private William Long. He injured the other soldier. That 24-year-old gunman in Little Rock, he acted alone. U.S. citizen, he converted to Islam. He had changed his name, he traveled to Yemen. Interestingly, he was known to federal authorities at the time of the shooting, due in part to that overseas travel but also due to his loudly expressed extremist views which he expressed openly and publicly and which had caught the eye of federal officials. Nevertheless, he pulled this off. The Little Rock shooter admitted to being religiously motivated when he shot and killed that American soldier at that recruitment facility in June of 2009. After the shooting, the gunman surrendered peacefully to police. He was tried and convicted. He was ultimately sentenced to life in prison. That was Little Rock, Arkansas, June, 2009. Five months later, Ft. Hood. Shortly after 1:00, November 5th, 2009, reports of shots fired at the soldier readiness center at the Ft. Hood military base in Killeen, Texas. That shooting lasted such a long time, there were so many shots fired, there were so many people killed, there were so many injured that initial reports out of Ft. Hood claimed that there must have been at least two, if not three or more shooters involved in that attack. There were not three shooters involved in that attack, there was just one. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LT. GEN. ROBERT CONE, ARMY`S IN CORPS COMMANDING GENERAL: There was a single shooter that was shot multiple times at the scene. However, he was not killed as previously reported. He is currently in custody and in stable condition. I say again -- the shooter is not dead, but in custody and in stable condition. REPORTER: What can you tell us about the alleged shooter and what his motives might have been? CONE: I think there`s been a lot reported on that. I can`t tell you much other than his name of the suspect we have in custody and that is Hassan, Major Hasan. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Major Nidal Hasan was an army psychiatrist. He killed 13 people that day at Ft. Hood, injured 32 others with a high-powered handgun that he modified to make it more accurate, he added laser sights to that powerful handgun. Nidal Hasan was an American citizen, he was a practicing Muslim. He had expressed anti-American and anti-American military views during his time serving in the Army and working as a psychiatrist at Walter Reed. Hasan served as his own attorney during his court-martial, which is always a bad idea. He was sentenced to death. He`s now one of six people on the U.S. military`s death row. So, that was the Ft. Hood shooting. That was the worst mass shooting on a U.S. military installation in American history. The following year, October 2010, there were a rash of shootings. Mysterious middle of the night drive-by shootings at a bunch of different military installations in and around northern Virginia. From "The Washington Post" at the time, quote, "The incidents began the night of October 16th or early the next morning. The first target was the National Museum of the Marine Corps in the Federal Triangle, then the Pentagon, then a U.S. marine recruiting center in Chantilly, then the Marine Corps museum again and a coast guard recruiting center. It was really strange. It was mysterious, it was scary. Nobody knew who was doing it or why. And at the time in the coverage you could sort of tell that nobody ever expected to identify a suspect in all of those shootings of all of those military facilities. Snipers can be notoriously difficult to find, as gun crimes go. But they did know that all of those shots fired at all those military institutions, all of those shots that hit all of those different buildings, they had all been fired from the same weapon, and that clue was apparently enough to produce a solid lead. It took almost a year, but law enforcement officials eventually found the guy who was randomly shooting into various types of military buildings. He turned out to be a marine reservist himself. He was 22 years old at the time of his arrest. He was arrested at Arlington National Cemetery with bomb-making material on him. He had bomb-making material in his backpack. Apparently, he had plans to vandalize the tombstones of soldiers who had served and died in Iraq and Afghanistan. And even though his random drive-by sniper-like shootings didn`t kill or injure anybody, he ended up getting sentenced to serve 25 years in prison. That was the fall of 2010. Three years later, September of 2013, it was a 34-year-old military contractor and former navy reservist who made his way onto the Washington Navy yard where he entered a building and then proceed to go from floor to floor shooting and killing whoever he could find. His name was Aaron Alexis. He killed 12 people that day at the navy yard. After that rampage, the extent of Aaron Alexis` own mental illness became clear. He left behind documents in which he explained that the U.S. government had been attacking his brain, using extremely low frequency electromagnetic waves created by the navy. That was why he had to go do this. He wrote something on his shotgun. He wrote, I think you can see it here, scrawled on his sawed-off shotgun, he wrote "end to the torment!" Aaron Alexis was shot and killed by police on that day, the same day that he shot and killed those 12 people and injured eight others, September 2013. And then last spring, yet again, this time it was Ft. Hood again, April 2014. A disgruntled army specialist walked into a personnel office at the Ft. Hood military base, opened fire. Specialist Ivan Lopez unleashed something like 35 rounds at his fellow soldiers that day. Initial reporting was that he was angry over a dispute that he had with the Army over his leave. Ivan Lopez started that shooting spree at a personnel office. He then got in his car and drove from building to building at Ft. Hood shooting and killing whoever he could find along the way. He killed four people. He injured 14 people before he killed himself last spring. And in addition to those attacks that were planned and carried through and resulted in all of those killings at all of those military bases, there have been two other attacks worth remembering today after what happened in Chattanooga. Two other attacks that were purportedly planned but never carried out because they were interrupted by law enforcement because they could be. In 2007 six men were arrested and charged in a plot to attack an army base called Ft. Dix in New Jersey. They planned apparently to go on a rampage using assault rifles and grenades. They vowed in taped conversations that they would kill as many soldiers as possible. It didn`t happen. They were caught. They attempted to have some jihadi training videos copied onto a DVD. Somebody turned them in, they got caught, under then U.S. attorney Chris Christie in New Jersey, those men were tried and received life sentences. The Ft. Dix plot. The second plot involved a former AWOL soldier, Private First Class Naser Jason Abdo. His plot again involved Ft. Hood. Private Abdo apparently planned to detonate a homemade bomb inside a Killeen, Texas, restaurant that was popular with Ft. Hood soldiers. He aroused suspicion after he was trying to purchase bomb-making materials at a local gun store. When the FBI looked into him, when they raided his motel room, they found tons of bomb-making materials and ammunition. He was arrested in July, 2011. He`s often remembered as the guy who during his first court appearance, he yelled in the courtroom "Nidal Hasan, Ft. Hood, 2009." He yelled that in open court. He was tried, convicted and sentenced to two consecutive life terms plus 60 years in prison. In terms of today`s suspect, in terms of the shooter, the dead shooter from today`s multiple shootings in Chattanooga, Tennessee, this is what the FBI has said so far. He`s a 24-year-old man, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez. Officials say he lived in the nearby town of Hixson, Tennessee. He`s the son of a Chattanooga City employee. He`s a naturalized U.S. citizen from Kuwait. He graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2012 with a degree in electrical engineering. The Tennessee Valley Authority confirmed this evening that he was an intern there in engineering about five years ago. Officials confirmed to NBC News tonight that he was not on federal law enforcement radar for any reason before this attack today. They say he was not in any terrorism database. He was not under FBI surveillance. As far as we know, Mohammod Abdulazeez only run-in with law enforcement was an arrest earlier this year for DUI, for driving under the influence. That was the source of the mug shot you`ve seen all over the place today. Well, investigators descended on the Abdulazeez household this evening. We don`t know why, but two women were seen being led away in handcuffs. We do not know why, we do not know who they are. We don`t know if they were taken in for questioning or what their status is right now. The local press is also reporting that Mr. Abdulazeez became a mixed martial artist after high school. Several local residents have identified one of the men in this video, the man not in the green shorts but the other guy in the sort of camo shorts, several people have identified him as Mr. Abdulazeez. Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez died today at some point during this attack. We do not yet know if he was shot and killed by police or if he shot and killed himself or if he died in some other way altogether. Honestly, we do not know a lot about this suspect yet or exactly what happened today or the hugely important question of why. We do not yet know enough to be able to place him on this terrible and surprisingly long list of mass shootings and mass murder and murderous targeting of U.S. military installations inside this country, in our own very recent history. We are told by officials that he personally had no known ties to the U.S. military. We know he was apparently not on any federal radar or law enforcement radar of any kind. But was he part of some organized terrorism plot? Was he an activated operative working for somebody else? Was he a self-radicalized person inspired by terrorism? Was this unrelated to terrorism? Was he motivated by religious or other extremist ideology? We don`t know. Was he mentally ill? We don`t know. There are a lot more unanswered questions than there are answered questions tonight, but we will have much more coverage of this most recent American mass shooting coming up, including our interview live with somebody who witnessed it and survived it tonight, someone who was inside that U.S. military recruiting center when it was shot up today. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We`ve got much more ahead tonight on the story of the murder of four U.S. marines today in the state of Tennessee. We`ve got a live report on the latest in the investigation coming up in just a moment. We`ve also got a live interview with a survivor of the first shooting today, one of the U.S. army recruiters who was inside the military recruiting office when that gunman turned up and opened fire on that office. We`ve got the sergeant first class who was the lead army recruiter inside that office when the shooting happened. He`s going to explain to us exactly what happened today. That`s coming up. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, here`s one of the details that hasn`t gotten a lot of attention yet but is a pretty incredible part of how this attack, this mass shooting, this murder of these four marines happened today in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and specifically how the shooter ended up dead. And that`s the fact that there was a police pursuit in the middle of this attack. The mayor of Chattanooga alluded to this in our interview with him at the top of the show. But what we know about this, this is basically the details that have been made publicly available. When the first shooting happened, law enforcement responded to that shooting. That was about 10:45 this morning. Local police turned up at the armed forces career center along lee highway in Chattanooga to respond to that initial shooting, the first shooting. By the time law enforcement was there, the shooter had taken off. He had left by car. So, the police started a pursuit of the suspect by car for seven miles. They were actively in pursuit of that suspect as he drove across Chattanooga to that second military facility, to the Navy Operational Support Center and Marine Corps Reserve Center which is along the Amnicola Highway. The Chattanooga police chief said his officers arrived at the Amnicola Highway Location quickly. And he says once they got there, Chattanooga police officers actively and enthusiastically engaged the suspect, which means we believe that they started shooting. It was in the course of that shootout that one of the Chattanooga police officers involved in that pursuit, Officer Dennis Pedigo, he was injured. He was shot in the ankle. He`s now reportedly recovering at a nearby hospital. He`s in stable condition. But despite the fact that those police were in pursuit and they believe they were not only chasing but engaging with a suspect who had already shot up the military recruitment center a few miles away, somehow that shooter at that second site was able to shoot and kill four marines at that second location. How did that happen? Joining us now is NBC News correspondent Gabe Gutierrez, who`s at the Armed Forces Career Center, the location of the first shooting which took place this morning in Chattanooga. Gabe, it`s good to have you here. Thanks for joining us. GABE GUTIERREZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: You bet, Rachel. MADDOW: Do we know anything further about the circumstances of these four deaths, how this one gunman was able to kill these four marines? GUTIERREZ: Well, the short answer is, Rachel, right now there are still a lot of unanswered questions. Local authorities and federal authorities haven`t released many details on exactly what happened at that second location. As you mentioned, police did engage with the suspect. That could mean a variety of things. It could mean they went up to him with guns drawn, perhaps there were shots fired. However, officials have not yet confirmed whether the bullet that killed the gunman, whether he shot himself, whether he was shot by police officers. There`s still a lot of questions at this point. There are also some people asking what about security at these types of military facilities. Was there enough? Did the -- we don`t know if the military personnel had come out to see what was going on. We just don`t know that. Now, the location where we`re at, we`re at the scene of the first shooting that happened around 10:35 or so. Witnesses say that they saw a volley of gunfire. Excuse me, that they heard noises that sounded like gunfire but they just at first weren`t sure exactly what they were. They thought it might have been some sort of construction project or something like that. The witnesses came out and noticed something was very wrong. As you reported, the gunman left here after firing more than 25 rounds or so, amazingly no one at this location was killed. Then he drove the seven miles or so to the other location and that is where -- that is the place where four marines lost their lives, Rachel. MADDOW: Gabe, we`re also told that there are three injuries here as far as I understand it in addition to the four marines who were killed. We do have the name of a Chattanooga police officer who was injured. We`re told he was shot in the ankle. Do we know for sure if he was shot by the suspect or whether he might have been shot in the crossfire, if there was some sort of shootout at that second location? GUTIERREZ: We don`t know for sure. We do know that he has been treated and released. We do know one of the other people who was injured is in pretty critical condition at last check, but at this point there is still some confusion about whether they were shot, caught in the crossfire, whether shot by the suspect. We don`t have those details at this point. MADDOW: Gabe, what do you expect in terms of the investigation, what we expect to learn next? We`re told that the FBI is taking the lead in this investigation. Does that tell you anything about when we`re going to get further information, when we expect further briefings, when some of these questions might be answered? GUTIERREZ: Well, Rachel, you`ve seen these things unfold. There`s a trickle of information as it gets under way. The FBI is on the scene, as you can see behind me. They`re working into the night and they are taking the lead in this investigation, but ATF is also working this. So are authorities from some of the local agencies here. We are starting to learn a little bit more about the suspected gunman, who as you mentioned lived near this area. Authorities this evening have been going to his home and have been -- they`re going to try to find out what he was doing in these last couple of weeks, whether he was talking to anyone particularly online, whether he had e-mail communications, phone communications with some people. And federal authorities mentioned earlier in the day that they were considering this or they were investigating this as an act of domestic terrorism. Now, federal law enforcement officials do say that they are looking into this, whether this might, and the big question is might, have been inspired -- ISIS-inspired perhaps because of the timing with Ramadan wrapping up. We just don`t know that at this point. But federal officials are being careful and very methodical as they go through this investigation and see if he might have been inspired, you know, by any terrorism groups. At this point we don`t know. He was not known, as you mentioned, to federal law enforcement officials before this. He was not part of any terror watch group. An interesting piece of information is that his father at one point years ago was investigated for potential ties to terror organization, but that investigation was closed and he wasn`t on any type of terror watch list at this point. So we just don`t know what may have motivated him to do this, and that is something that the FBI and other authorities will be looking at over the coming hours through the night and hopefully we can at least find out some more information tomorrow -- Rachel. MADDOW: NBC News correspondent Gabe Gutierrez -- Gabe, thank you -- joining us live from Chattanooga tonight. It`s good to have that bit of information. I mean -- to Gabe`s point there about what we know and what we don`t know and what we`re going to learn, there`s one further thing to know about the investigation into the killing of these four marines in Tennessee. I mean, as of right now the only information we`ve got about the shooter`s motive is what we basically can infer from his choice of targets or what we can piece together about what we might guess about his personality from the traces he`s left of his personality around in social media, online and among people who he`s known doing different things in his life. It`s very thin stuff. But Attorney General Loretta Lynch released a statement earlier tonight that said, quote, "I have directed the FBI to take the lead in the national security investigation of this heinous attack on members of our military." As Gabe alluded to there, the FBI special agent in charge today said that this will be handled as a terrorism investigation, in his words, until we determine that it`s not. So, Attorney General Lynch calling it a national security investigation. The FBI saying it`s a terrorism investigation, meaning we`re looking to see if it is terrorism. I mean, all that any of that means honestly in practical terms as far as we can tell is that this is going to be investigated as a crime, as a mass shooting and a multiple murder, but it will be investigated as a mass shooting and a multiple murder in which the motive and any nexus to international or domestic terrorist causes or groups will get priority attention. Doesn`t mean that those exist, it means that`s what they`re looking for. So far, the National Counterterrorism Center says it doesn`t know of any nexus to terrorist groups here nor, as we`ve been saying, was the shooter known to be under any scrutiny by federal law enforcement for any reason. The National Counterterrorism Center also says that for this attack, as far as they have been able to tell thus far, there was absolutely no warning given nor has there been any reputable claim of responsibility for anybody who might have been in touch with this shooter who might have tried to inspire this shooter before he did what he did today in Tennessee. Coming up next, we`re going to be speaking with the lead Army recruiter who was inside the first target of today`s attack as the shooter opened fire. He`s with us next. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, we know that the shootings today in Chattanooga, Tennessee, took place in two separate locations. Four marines and the suspected shooter were killed at the second site, at the U.S. Navy and Marine Reserve Center. But the first shots were fired several miles away in an armed forces recruiting center. That recruiting center is in basically a strip mall on the Lee Highway between a wireless store and an Italian restaurant. All five branches of the U.S. military have recruiting offices at that center. And at about 10:45 this morning, gunshots erupted at that site. Several witnesses described hearing a series of shots in rapid succession and then a pause and then another series of shots. Witnesses described seeing a man in a silver Ford Mustang convertible. Some say they only saw the man drive away after the shots were fired. Others say they saw him actively shooting from the car. One military official tells NBC News that 25 to 30 rounds were fired. The holes in the plate glass window at the recruitment center look as though the shooter sprayed in a roughly horizontal line but it`s a pretty wide array. In one of the offices at the recruiting center, one recruiter was shot in the leg. Some of the service members at that facility escaped out the back exit. An employee at a nearby auto parts store told the "Chattanooga Free Press" that he saw them, and I quote, "running through the brush and the briars yelling `call 911, someone is shooting at us.`" But not all of them went out the back door. Some of the service members were still inside the recruiting station at that point when the shooting started. They had taken cover and basically barricaded their position. Joining us now is one of those service members who was barricaded inside. He`s Sergeant First Class Robert Dodge. He`s the head of the Army center at that recruiting station. Sergeant Dodge, thank you so much for your time tonight. I`m sure this has been a hell of a day for you, sir. SFC ROBERT DODGE, WITNESSED SHOOTING: It has. Thank you for having me. MADDOW: Can you just -- obviously, we`ve got reports and witness reports and law enforcement sources telling us what they think happened. Can you just tell us what happened from your own perspective, your own experience? DODGE: It`s not much different from the other reports. We heard one shot go off, which kind of alerted us. At that time about a second or two went by and we heard the first volley of fire. At that time we knew it was gunfire at our location and then we went into what we call an active shooter drill. We moved to the rear of our building and barricaded ourselves in and got down on the ground and waited for it to be all clear. MADDOW: About how many people were inside the recruiting center at the time this all happened? DODGE: I had four personnel in my office, ma`am. MADDOW: Was it all people staffing the facility there or were there recruits? Were there people there to sign up? DODGE: It was all military, ma`am. MADDOW: Once you heard the gunfire start, was it -- how quickly was it clear to you that it definitely was gunfire? And could you tell just from your own experience and what you were hearing what kind of weapon this was, if this was more than one person, if this might be an attack by more than one person potentially? DODGE: We pretty much knew right away that it was gunfire after that initial first pop. Most of us in the office are combat veterans, we`ve heard it before. You know, we`re soldiers. We shoot all the time, so we know what a gunfire sounds like. So, it was pretty much instantaneous that we knew it was gunfire. So, it was only a matter of maybe one or two seconds and we knew exactly what we needed to do. MADDOW: When you say that you knew what you needed to do and you went into the active shooter drill. Is this the sort of thing that you have trained for specifically, either in your training to be working at a soft target army recruiting office like this or something that you trained for more generally, just in terms of your -- in terms of your army training? DODGE: As a normal army training, I never trained on an active shooter drill. But since I`ve been in recruiting working in an office such as we do, then -- yes, it`s something that we do train and practice on a regular basis. MADDOW: Thank God. I mean it is remarkable with all of those shots fired and looking at that glass front of that building, it is remarkable that no lives were lost. I have to ask if you feel like -- DODGE: We -- MADDOW: Sorry, go ahead, sir. DODGE: I was going to say we are very fortunate. MADDOW: Yes. You mentioned that a lot of you there are combat veterans. As far as I understand it, you served a number of tours in Iraq, is that right? DODGE: Yes, ma`am. MADDOW: I don`t mean to pry, and don`t feel like you have to answer if you don`t want to, but I wonder if this -- how this connected, if at all, if this resonated for you at all in terms of some of the combat situations that you were in in Iraq, if this brought back any of the either same training reflexes or any of the fear of what it`s like to be in a combat situation? I wonder if that -- if this connected for you with your combat experience? DODGE: To a point it did. You know, being in those kind of situations and going through that sort of training, it does help you prepare for situations like this. The difference is, is when you`re in combat, you`re in full gear and you have a weapon in your hands and you`re more ready for it. When you`re out in a civilian community, it`s not something that you`re ready for on a regular basis, but the additional training and experience has definitely helped us and my team react the way we were supposed to react today. MADDOW: How long have you been in Chattanooga? How long have you been working at that recruiting center? DODGE: Thirty-five days, ma`am. MADDOW: Wow. Well, Sergeant First Class Robert Dodge, I`m glad that everybody survived this. I`m so sorry for what happens today in Tennessee. Thanks for helping us understand what it was like today, and good luck to you, sir. DODGE: Thank you, ma`am. MADDOW: Thank you. All right. Unbelievable. Much more ahead tonight. It`s just unfreaking believable this has happened again. We have much more again tonight from Tennessee, including some very interesting questions about the weapons, weapons the killer apparently used today. Plus, we`ve got other news unrelated to what happened today in Tennessee. Please just stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: One note about how the people of Tennessee has responded today and tonight to the murder of these four marines, the attack on two military facilities in the city of Chattanooga, so many Chattanooga residents have turned out to donate blood today that the blood donation centers are staying open longer tonight and opening earlier tomorrow to try to handle the demand. Do you call it demand when it`s offered? We got reports of people lining up for six-hour waits to give blood today. One regional blood bank tonight, which is called Blood Assurance, says they`re going to expand their hours tomorrow in order to let everybody who wants to give blood get in and have an appointment. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Almost exactly three years ago today, there was another mass shooting in the United States, one of the worst in American history. A 24- year-old Colorado grad student shot 70 people in a full, dark movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Twelve of the people he shot were killed, 58 were wounded. Many of those grievously wounded. The shooter survived. He was arrested, he was put on trial. He did not contest the fact that he did it, but he pled not guilty by reason of insanity, which is a defense honestly that almost never works. But because he pled not guilty, for months now, Colorado has been riveted to his trial, with so many victims and so many victims` families and so many survivors, one after the other getting up on the witness stand, looking straight across at the man who did it. I mean, it has been such a traumatic trial in Colorado that the judge at one point ordered the availability of therapy dogs for anybody who might need that kind of comfort simply for going through this trial. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he walked into the theater on the right-hand side, you could see this big -- this light and he just kept firing. But you could see him moving this way and that way and moving this way and that way, and so the light would move with it, but the noise remained the same, just boom, boom, just like thunder. MUNIRIH GRAVELLY, AURORA THEATRE SHOOTING SURVIVOR: And I remember seeing Jesse Childers (ph), he was face down on the floor. And I asked Derrick, hey, is Jesse OK? And he was shaking him and calling his name, but the policemen were still yelling at us to leave, so -- so we did. I had to step over him to get out, but we -- sorry. We exited out the door that was next to the movie screen. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Do you recognize the person in that photograph? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, ma`am. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who is that person? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sully, Alex Sullivan. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, when you were at the theater on July 19th of 2012, was Alex Sullivan alive? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you seen Alex Sullivan alive since then? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, ma`am. BRENTON DAVID LOWAK, AURORA THEATRE SHOOTING SURVIVOR: As soon as I saw that Jesse had been shot, my focus transitioned to taking care of her. So, I -- the shots continued and I at that point -- I had gotten out my phone and I fumbled around to call 911 as soon as I could. I noticed at this point that the screaming had stopped and Jesse had sustained a shot to the head in which case brain matter was exposed. It was, at that point, I crawled a little closer to her and I prayed over her. I didn`t really know what to do. It just felt right. I just gave her the best send-off I could. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So, after this astonishingly grueling trial, 256 witnesses, hundreds of hours of testimony, today, the jury in this case rejected the defense claim that this man with an unimportant name was somehow not guilty by reason of insanity. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Would the defendant please stand for the reading of the verdicts? Verdict form count 1, murder in the first degree after deliberation. Jonathan Blunk. We, the jury, find the defendant, James Eagan Holmes, guilty of murder in the first degree after deliberation. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So that was the first count. And then the judge continued guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, over and over and over again. The judge reading verdict after verdict after verdict, all guilty. The man used his legally purchased Glock .40 caliber pistol and his Smith & Wesson semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle and his Remington shotgun and his tear gas grenades and his 6,000 rounds of ammunition all purchased legally, and he took 12 lives and tried to take 70 more. Guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty. And now, the same jury will decide if he gets the death penalty on the day that we have to now return to more coverage of today`s mass shooting, the latest one. Not anywhere near the next one after Aurora, just the one that happened today. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, once news broke in Tennessee about the murder of these four U.S. marines, it became clear almost immediately that that story would dominate the news cycle, as it should. But ahead of that news, this morning, President Obama did something that no sitting U.S. president has ever done before. President Obama this morning visited a federal prison, the El Reno Federal Correctional facility in Oklahoma. He was taken to cell block B where he got a look at the 9- foot by 10-foot cells that are home to as many as three men at a time, nine feet by ten feet. He spent time with workers who are in for non-violent drug offenses. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are young people who made mistakes that aren`t that different than the mistakes I made and mistakes a lot of you guys made. The difference is they did not have the kind of support structures, the second chances, the resources that would allow them to survive those mistakes. I think we have a tendency sometimes to almost take for granted, or think it`s normal that so many young people end up in our criminal justice system. It`s not normal. It`s not what happens in other countries. What is normal is teenagers doing stupid things. What is normal is young people making mistakes. That`s what strikes me. There but for the grace of God. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Over the course of my lifetime, if any prominent politician, particularly a Democrat, had made a statement like, this let a loan a trip like this, they wouldn`t be a prominent politician anymore, right? They would be announced soft on crime and coddling criminals or something. But the politics around prisons and our criminal justice are evolving in a way that seemed impossible for most of my life. The politics of this issue really are different now. They really are changing. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Speaker Boehner, President Obama is visiting a prison today. He had some commutations during the week. Bipartisan bill by Congressman Sensenbrenner and Congressman Scott about criminal justice reform -- will you allow that to move forward in your House? REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Absolutely. I have long believed there need to be reform of our criminal justice system. We have a lot of people in prison frankly, that really in my view really don`t need to be there. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Republican House Speaker John Boehner saying the president is pushing on an open door when it comes to asking for some criminal justice reform, prison reform from this Congress. Since President Obama has been in office, his administration has been able to make a lot of changes at the executive, the administrative level, sentencing commission and Justice Department and the president commuting sentences, the real test, though, for like big change is going to be whether or not our laws can change, and that has to be Congress. And maybe they can. I mean, we`ll see. But politically it seems more possible than it has in decades, decades, more than one generation. Watch this space. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: What was the suspect armed with? ED REINHOLD, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Numerous questions and I`m not going to go into details into what those are. REPORTER: Nothing bolt action, right? All semi-auto? REINHOLD: Again, I`m not going to discuss what he had on him at the time. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Interesting point that. That was the FBI special agent in charge in Tennessee being asked about the type of weapons that were used in this attack today in Chattanooga, which murdered four U.S. Marines. The FBI said today there were numerous weapons used, but they wouldn`t say what types of weapons exactly. As you heard there, one reporter narrow it down, asked if the weapons were all semiautomatic weapons, but so far, officials are not saying. That it may turn out to be an important or at least interesting point here. There were a bunch of news reports today that describe the weapons used in this attack as automatic weapons. One defense official said the gunman used an automatic weapon as did one of the witnesses to this attack whose witness report was widely reported. There were numerous sources telling reporters today that the weapons involved or at least one of the weapons involved was an automatic weapon. And that may yet be true. There are often early reports in situation like this of automatic weapons fire, but automatic weapon fire means essentially a machine gun, right? I mean, you hold the trigger down and while you hold it down bullets are flying faster than you could possibly fire those bullets yourself. It`s basically just a steady stream of bullets. Semiautomatic means puling the trigger separately for each individual bullet. A semi-automatic weapon is a very, very common thing in the United States. There are millions of semi-automatic weapons in civilian hands in the United States. Automatic weapons on the other hand, fully auto, almost unheard of in the civilian context in the U.S., and that`s because they were all but banned by Congress in the 1930s. So, while there are these reports and you will hear people talking about automatic weapons fired today, it may yet turn out the shooter had an automatic weapon. But if that`s true, that will be a very, very big deal in this investigation. If it turns out that he really did have an automatic weapon, as is so widely reported today, that will turn out to be a big deal about this shooter. If it turns out that`s what he had, that will be a big deal about him and about this crime. It is way more likely that it will turn out it was not that kind of weapon. We`ll see. They`re tight lips so far. Stick a pin in that specific point, though. This is one of the important pieces of information that will presumably come out of this investigation soon as we continue to learn more. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow. Now, it`s time for the "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." Good evening, Lawrence. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END