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Shots Fired at the United Nations

Aired October 3, 2002 - 13:10   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We're looking at live pictures now of a shooting that has taken place within the United Nations.
Can anyone tell me if, indeed, this is the shooter that is in custody?

All right, we're going to go to our -- all right -- U.N. correspondent, Richard Roth, on the phone with us now.

Richard, I hope you can see the pictures also. Is this the man that apparently opened fire within the United Nations?


This took place outside the United Nations less than five minutes ago. It's on U.N. grounds, but it's outside the U.N. headquarters. I heard at least three to four shots. We turned around, there was a man firing a pistol directly up in the air. He then tossed the gun on the ground and started to walk away. He did not run away.

And within a few moments, various United Nations security personnel surrounded him. And we believe this is the man, but I could not triply confirm that.

But he threw papers up in the air, which you may see on the ground that some security people are pulling off the ground. He threw at least 25 white pieces of paper in the air. Some sort of protest. And now, he is surrounded by U.N. security personnel.

This took place at the same time the U.N. Security Council was meeting in a closed door session on Iraq.

However, at this moment, there is no known link between these incidents and -- none of the Security Council members were even close to this. And it's not even sure whether they even heard that.

We're not clear whether it was a cap pistol or a loaded gun. We just know we heard shots and certainly security here has been heightened in the wake of terrorism in the last year or so.

And there have been incidents like this over the last 45-year history of the U.N., but it's been some time since anything like this.

So you're looking at a man who fired some type of pistol in the air, straight up in the air, near the fountain pool that is right in front of U.N. headquarters on the east side of the Manhattan. And now he is being put in handcuffs, it appears, and is being held there. Security responded within less than a minute. And these pictures that I would say are exclusive to CNN.

Right now, there is a small crowd gathering outside the U.N. gates. The U.N. is cordoned off from First Avenue in New York to begin with.

So, it is pretty safe to say at the moment that nobody was injured outside. We're not seeing any activity on the public grounds.

PHILLIPS: Richard, has there been a lot of protesting outside the U.N., since everything has been going down with Hans Blix and the debate that's been going on within the U.N. about a possible war with Iraq?

ROTH: No, absolutely not. There's -- any protest was one or two people in the last week or two.

Now the man is being walked away and may go out of our range from our United Nations office.

But the only protests have dealt with other issues, whether it's Kashmir or Taiwan or China. And this shooting took place several weeks after the entire world was here for the big General Assembly debate. So at the moment, we do not see anyone injured in this.

And again, visually, I saw this man fire a pistol straight up in the air and --

PHILLIPS: Where were you at the time, Richard?

ROTH: Well, I was in the fourth floor, where I remain now at the United Nations headquarters. We had just finished a live report and we heard the shots and turned around and that's it.

I mean, you see a lot of emergency vehicles going by the United Nations, you hear a lot of helicopters, but there is a lot of normal street life and helicopter service nearby. At first, I thought it might be a backfire.

But when I saw the man with the gun, it was obviously something different.

He's now being walked, we believe, towards the, what's called the secretariat building, the building I'm in, the tall tower of the U.N.

PHILLIPS: Yes, kind of set us up of where exactly you are and where the shooting took place. You're saying the main fountain in front of the United Nations?

ROTH: Yes, right next to the circular round pool which is not filled at the time with water. And he flung 25 white pieces of paper in the air and now he's being walked away.

Of course, this raises very disturbing questions about how did this man get this type of pistol, whether it's a real gun or a cap pistol, inside the United Nations grounds, where security has dramatically increased with magnetometers and search efforts at many entrances which in the past were rather sparse with security.

You're seeing a little tape now earlier of this man being held by security.

PHILLIPS: Richard, you know, we're talking about the issue of security here. It would be very difficult for someone like this, with a handgun, to get inside the U.N.

There are very hi-tech security systems installed, correct?

ROTH: Yes. There are the, you know, the electronic magnetometers, but there are a lot of entrances.

And, of course, delegates are not necessarily subject to the same searches or people who work at missions. They will be able to flash their credential and then come in. It is not the same. Public tours do take place in the building, and occasionally a tourist has been known to wander off and not been accounted for, even though they have stepped up counting procedures on the tours.

PHILLIPS: Once again, our Richard Roth.

If you're just tuning in, our U.N. correspondent, Richard Roth, joining us, talking about shots fired at the United Nations.

A man in custody now, we're getting videotape as things happen here.

We do have video from -- well, Richard, I guess what's amazing is our cameras were right on this man as soon as security responded to him, and got handcuffs on him and took him away.

I mean, were our cameras -- is it your camera that actually captured this, or were there other cameras on the ground?

ROTH: Yes, that was our camera, that was our video. And...

PHILLIPS: Here we go, we're looking at the pictures again. So as soon as shots were fired, you heard the shots, you guys turned around and were able to capture the arrest of this man after the shots were fired?

ROTH: That's right, within seconds.

I screamed to get a camera on that, and we have a good view over the opening, First Avenue, the entrances to the U.N., and that's what happened.

And I was a little surprised. I didn't see security exactly running over to him, but he immediately threw the gun on the ground, whatever it was. He threw the papers in the air, threw the gun on the ground and looked just basically prepared to say, Come and get me, I know I'm going to be taken away. PHILLIPS: So once again, for those of you just tuning in, our Richard Roth on the phone from inside the U.N. building, but what you're seeing here happened just outside of the U.N. building, in front -- this man, of course, we didn't actually see this man, Richard, but we can pretty much assume that this is the man that fired the shots and that's why security -- we haven't even seen a gun yet, have we?

ROTH: No, he put that on the ground and I saw, I believe, someone pick it up.

If you'll take a look now, they're looking -- if you take our live picture, I think you will see people picking up the documents and sort of looking over the area. There are people standing exactly right now where he shot the gun, and that seems to be a man mimicking the motion right there. At least three to four shots, I believe. One at a time, pop,, pop,. Straight up in the air.

And that's exactly what is being described by that U.N. official right now.

PHILLIPS: Yes, it looks like he's explaining to police exactly what happened and assessing the area where it took place.

Once again, sort of set the scene for our viewers, if they're just tuning in, Richard. This is in front of the United Nations?

ROTH: That's correct. We're on the grounds of the United Nations on the east side of Manhattan in New York.

This -- you can -- if you were walking on famous First Avenue in New York, you can look through the gate and see this.

PHILLIPS: Can you see around and see if they are cordoning off the area? Are people being allowed to walk in and out of the U.N. right now or does it look like they are cordoning off the entire area, I guess, around the U.N.?

ROTH: That's a good question. And I see -- you could say that the U.N., I'd bet is in some state of lockdown because I see that people are not able to walk in on First Avenue, walk in to the normal diplomatic entrance.

You now see, as we widen out to this site, you see the flags of the United Nations up. Over that gate is First Avenue, a public area. But right there, where the shooter was, is international territory. And you see U.N. security in the blue shirts handling this issue.

In the middle of that group of men there is the chief of United Nations security, Mike McCann, a tall man with his back to us at this point.

And at this point, you do not see any New York City police, but outside the gates, there are several New York City police cars and one or two emergency service vehicles. And I see a police man with a very large gun outside the gates. PHILLIPS: So, Richard, how did this man get through the gate? Obviously, it's not an easy process to get through the gate, or is it?

Reporter: No, you have to have a U.N. credential, which you get through the proper letters from your government, which you then allows you to get a pass, which is good for a certain amount of life, six months to a year.

And you can, if you're a diplomat or someone working with the United Nations countries, you can just flash your pass and you're in. And some will not be subject to any inspection.

If you're carrying in a big package, you will be.

PHILLIPS: So this man obviously had some type of pass, unless he just ran through the gate or somehow slipped through.

ROTH: Right, it's too soon to tell that. While security has been tightened, someone could possibly vault an area of a fence and maybe just walk along an area and then suddenly go to the pool and start shooting.

It's too soon to say exactly what happened with this man.

PHILLIPS: All right. Go ahead, Richard.

ROTH: Yes, well, I see out of the corner of my eye, meanwhile, work at the Security Council work continues.

But they are, I think, oblivious to this and I don't know if anybody could hear shots down at the Security Council. I don't think so.

But for the United Nations security, they will now have a major problem on their hands to figure out what happened here.

Sometimes, the U.N. has been described as a definite focus for a potential terrorist target.

And in 1993, when the World Trade Center was attacked, shortly after, it was revealed that someone from the Sudanese mission was implicated in a plot to drive a truck underground with bombs at the U.N.

However, others say the United Nations is the safest place on Earth for the terrorists since the entire world is now represented here, 191 countries.

This man, it would be too early to guess on what his grudge is. It could be related to any world crisis or it could be Iraq related.

We don't know.

PHILLIPS: All right. It's about, well, less than 15 minutes. We're rolling, actually, tape now. These are not live pictures, but this is exclusive tape of a man that security at the United Nations has taken into custody, allegedly opening fire, firing a gun straight into the air, tossing up papers.

Our Richard Roth -- our Richard Roth on the phone with us.

As we continue to follow this breaking news story, there's another breaking news story and that is the shooting -- the shooting death of five individuals in the Maryland suburb of Washington.


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