Morning News Brief: Florida Shooting, Sen. McCain Dies

Aug 27, 2018
Originally published on August 27, 2018 8:36 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There were three dead and at least 11 injured after a man opened fire at a video game tournament in Jacksonville, Fla., yesterday afternoon.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Sheriff Mike Williams said at a press conference that the suspect, who reportedly killed himself, was a 24-year-old from Baltimore, Md., who was playing in this tournament.

MARTIN: Lindsey Kilbride of member station WJCT has been covering this story and joins us now. Lindsey, what more are you learning? I mean, this was a video game competition that was taking place at a mall, right?

LINDSEY KILBRIDE, BYLINE: Yeah, it was a video game competition for - it was a Madden tournament - so the NFL game. It was a qualifying match, and there's supposed to be a national finals round I think next month. And so as people are eliminated, they go into different brackets and kind of get narrowed down. And it was at the Landing, which is sort of a waterfront shopping and eatery area. And it happened around 1:30 in the afternoon. So that was sort of the timeline for all that.

MARTIN: What do we know, if anything, about the victims at this point?

KILBRIDE: The victims we - there are - two are deceased. The police aren't confirming their names, although online, there's - circulating in the gaming community, there are photos basically saying, champions forever. Nine other people were shot, and two other people were injured in other ways just through the whole chaos of the entire event.

MARTIN: Authorities are now releasing more information, I understand, about the man alleged to have done this.

KILBRIDE: Yeah. He was a gamer. He's from Maryland. His car was here in Jacksonville. Police believe that he stayed at a local hotel. And there's a video of him playing the game, Madden. It's circulating on Twitter. And announcers are talking about his personality, saying - describing him as someone who wants to keep to himself, focused on the game, hard to get him to talk to you. So that's sort of all we know about him. We know that he used a single handgun at least. We don't know much more about how he got the gun or where he got it or when. So those are questions we're hopefully going to get the answers to today.

MARTIN: Or why - still no indications right now about motive.

KILBRIDE: There are rumors. People are saying he was upset he lost, but we have no confirmation of that. So the Jacksonville police - they are saying they will not comment on his motive at this...

MARTIN: At the same time, it's - Florida's getting ready for elections, right? Primaries are tomorrow. In the wake of the Parkland shooting, clearly guns, gun rights, but security surrounding guns was already going to be part of the debate. I imagine it's going to be amplified now.

KILBRIDE: Absolutely. A lot of candidates are actually scheduled to be campaigning here in Jacksonville today. A couple of them canceled their appearances. A couple of them are sort of amping up their appearances because that's a key issue they are campaigning on. We have a very crowded gubernatorial race right now. So that is a - that's a huge issue. It's something that they've all had to answer to in debates, whether they wanted to or not, this election season.

MARTIN: Lindsey Kilbride, a reporter at our member station WJCT in Jacksonville, Fla., with more emerging details about the mass shooting at that video game competition in Jacksonville over the weekend. Thanks so much, Lindsey. We appreciate it.

KILBRIDE: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: John McCain led an extraordinary life, and as such, he will be remembered in an extraordinary way.

GREENE: Yeah, the Arizona senator and former Republican presidential nominee died on Saturday at the age of 81 years old. He was diagnosed with brain cancer about a year ago. McCain is being remembered by friends and former colleagues in the Senate as a man who gave his life in service to his country. And to honor that sacrifice, McCain's body will lie in state at both the Arizona and U.S. capitols.

MARTIN: I'm joined now by NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman as well as NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Good morning, guys.

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Good morning.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: Tom, let's start with you. We heard a lot over the weekend about John McCain's political legacy, his two runs for president, his often complicated relationship with his own party. You knew him, though, in the context of reporting on the U.S. military, a place where he really did have an outsized impact on policy, didn't he?

BOWMAN: You know, he did, Rachel. He was a firm believer in the rightness of American power as a moral force. He called himself an idealist, a nation builder and a hawk. And his political hero was Theodore Roosevelt. And he was among those who wanted to promote democracy around the world, support allies against any form of tyranny, so he backed the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, though he only recently said it was a mistake and he shares part of the blame because there were no, of course, weapons of mass destruction found. And more recently, he wanted a lot more support for rebels fighting Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. And in Afghanistan, he criticized any timelines for withdrawing American troops set by President Obama. So he wanted to stay the course in all of these, fight tyranny, but he was no rubber stamp for the Pentagon by any means. He was a harsh interrogator - one of the harshest I can remember - of, you know, Pentagon officials, particularly Donald Rumsfeld, the former defense...

MARTIN: Right.

BOWMAN: ...Secretary. He saw him as bungling the Iraq war and the policy there. And also, you know, he was always on the lookout for waste and fraud at the Pentagon as well. He led an investigation into a scandal involving the Boeing Company and payoffs to a Pentagon official over leasing of aircraft refueling tankers.

MARTIN: You talk about how he was so convinced of the rightness of American power and such a strong belief in American ideals. It's hard to see how - you can't really separate that from his experience as a prisoner of war, can you?

BOWMAN: Right. And there were two things I think about Vietnam. I think it taught him to stay the course with American military missions even though some had grave doubts about such missions. And also, as we all know, he was tortured when he was held prisoner in Vietnam, so he didn't want the U.S. to get involved in anything like that. He thought the U.S. was much better than that, so he spoke out strongly against it when some suggested enhanced interrogation tactics.

MARTIN: Right.

BOWMAN: And, of course, he was a son and grandson of admirals who fought in World War II, a time when war could come to a firm conclusion. His grandfather was aboard the USS Missouri when it was - the surrender document was signed with Japan. But the war John McCain fought in Vietnam and the ones he helped shape in the Senate were not as clear-cut and much more messy, more open-ended. But again, I think he firmly believed in the rightness of American military missions abroad.

MARTIN: Tamara Keith with us now, who has been looking into all the different ways that John McCain is going to be honored this week. I mentioned - David mentioned in the intro that he's going to lie in state. This is an extraordinary honor. It doesn't go to many Americans, does it?

KEITH: That's right. Well - and in Arizona where he'll also lie in state, in 40 years, only two other people have had that honor. So there will be a memorial service in Arizona, then he comes - his body comes to Washington, D.C., where he'll lie in state in the U.S. Capitol. There'll be a ceremony there, then a national memorial service at the Washington National cathedral, and then, ultimately, he will be buried with a small private service at the U.S. Naval Academy. Of course, that's where his father, grandfather and son all attended in addition to Senator McCain himself. I mean, these are the kind of funeral arrangements for presidents. But, you know, Senator McCain was not your ordinary senator.

MARTIN: Right, an extraordinary leader, even if he never achieved that goal of the Oval Office. So Senator Chuck Schumer, longtime friend, sometimes - often adversary of John McCain - the Democratic leader in the Senate proposed renaming the Senate office building - the Russell building, as it's known now - he wants to name it after John McCain. He spoke to NPR yesterday. Let's listen.

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CHUCK SCHUMER: He was such a towering figure and stood for so much the right thing - so needed at this time when our politics is so nasty and so fractious. I want future generations to remember. I'd like, when little children visit the Senate and they say, who was John McCain? - because the building was named after him - have their parents and grandparents explain it to them.

MARTIN: So Tamara, is this something - I mean, it's already generating bipartisan buzz. Could it actually happen?

KEITH: Well, Senator Schumer says he's getting positive responses from both sides of the aisle. His office told me that he wants to move on this quickly. In checking in with the majority leader's office, they aren't clear exactly how it would work, so there's still some things to figure out.

You know, Senator Richard Russell - the building was named after him in 1972. And even his official bio from the Senate historian indicates that he had sort of a mixed history. He was known as a senator's senator, but at the same time, he was part of a southern bloc in the Senate that used parliamentary skills to oppose civil rights legislation including bans on lynching as well as desegregation and the Civil Rights Act. He opposed those measures.

MARTIN: So Democrats and Republicans could be keen on making this change. Before we close, Tom, just because you covered McCain for so long, do you have any personal recollections? What do you - what will you remember of him?

BOWMAN: Well, a lot of reporters liked John McCain because he was very irreverent, and he would tell you exactly what he thought. And as I said, he hated wasteful spending at the Pentagon. And many years ago, Congressman Newt Gingrich added more C-130 aircraft to the Pentagon budget, much more than the Pentagon wanted. These planes were assembled in Gingrich's district. And McCain told me and other reporters, Newt Gingrich's education policy is to have a C-130 in every schoolyard.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: One thing I want to add - I want to read from the end of McCain's memoir, "The Restless Wave." Here's this quote. (Reading) I hope those who mourn my passing, and even those who don't, will celebrate as I celebrate a happy life lived in imperfect service to a country made of ideals, whose continued service is the hope of the world. And I wish all of you great adventures, good company and lives as lucky as mine.

NPR's Tom Bowman and NPR's Tamara Keith. We are all continuing to remember the life and legacy of Senator John McCain. Thanks, you two.

KEITH: You're welcome.

BOWMAN: Thanks.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAKEY INSPIRED'S "STREET DREAMS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.