Return to Transcripts main page


Multiple Gunshots Fired Near Capitol Building; Interview With Congressman Matt Cartwright

Aired October 3, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper live from Capitol Hill, where, just minutes ago, there was a dramatic scene.

The dust is now just settling after shots were fired very close to where I'm sitting presently. It was chaos as Capitol Hill Police sprung into action and took positions around the dome. Tourists and staffers were sent scrambling. People inside the Senate, including our elected leaders and CNN reporters and crew, they were ordered to take shelter as this blared from the loudspeakers.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shelter in place. Close, lock and move away from doors and windows. If you are outside of an office building, seek cover away from the area. Additional information will follow.


TAPPER: Did you hear that? Just to translate, shelter in place, step away from the doors and windows. If you are outside an office area, please leave the area. More information will be coming out. Not the kind of thing you want to hear when you're inside the House of Representatives or the Senate.

The lockdown was thankfully lifted just a short time ago after shots were fired. Police say the suspect is a woman who led police on a car chase, according to authorities. It started apparently near the White House at a barrier about a block away from the White House, to be exact, 15th and Pennsylvania Avenue.

It ended in a wreck outside the gates of the U.S. Capitol Building. We're also told now that there was a child in the car. One officer was injured, though it's not clear how it may have been from being hit by a car, not from any other means of injury, not through gunfire.

We're told the police believe this is not terrorism-related. We're waiting for an update right now from Capitol Police. We will bring that to you as soon as it begins.

Moments ago, police wrapped up a news conference where they gave us a few more details about what went down.

CNN's Brian Todd is live with a witness right now, though. And I would like to go live to him right now. Brian, who is your witness and what did he see?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, our witness is Frank Schwing (ph). He's a D.C. resident who saw one of the more dramatic moments of this incident play out just a short distance from where you were.

Tell us where you were and what you saw happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was on the Capitol on the Mall side at the base of the steps. I saw a black sedan coming in at a high rate of speed followed by three or four cruisers.

They stopped in the grove of trees at the base of the Capitol. The police came out with their guns drawn, opened the passenger side, tried to get the driver out. At that point, the driver slammed into reverse, slammed into a cruiser, did a 180, took off, and at that point, there were half a dozen or so shots fired.

TODD: And who do you believe fired those shots, from what you saw?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I suspect they were probably small arms from police.

TODD: And then what happened right after that? Did others give chase?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At that point, yes, we could hear a number of cars coming in. The police up on the hill had us get down. They were trying to evacuate us into a safe place. They had their guns drawn though as well. It was pretty chaotic all over.

TODD: I was just going to say, describe the overall scene with witnesses around and police and helicopters. Were people running, panicking? What was going on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People were very fairly orderly. A lot of tourists, foreign tourists, probably first time here, and so it wasn't really certain what we were supposed to be doing. The police had us down. Then they were trying to move us into what I feel was probably out of the line of fire.

TODD: You may have been too far away to see this. We're told there may have been a child in the suspect's car. Did you see anything like that? Could you get a good glimpse in there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I couldn't see anything in the car.

TODD: All right, Frank, thanks very much.

There you have it, Jake, one witness who saw a pretty dramatic part of this play out just a block or two away from here. That would have been on the west side of the Capitol, just a little bit of south of where we are now -- Jake.

TAPPER: Brian Todd, thank you.

I want to go now to our own Deb Feyerick with the very latest details on what may have happened in this car chase.

Deb, first of all, is there any indication that the suspect, the woman who was shot, who led police through this chase from the White House to Capitol Hill, is there any indication that we have right now that she had a gun or do we believe as of the information we have right now that the shots were only fired by law enforcement?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we're hearing, Jake, is that, in fact, all the shots came from law enforcement. The officers who were chasing the car.

We are also now learning that there may have been another grownup in the vehicle along with the woman and the child. All of that developing right now as we speak. We do know this started about 2:18 this afternoon. By 2:24, the whole thing was over.

The black car pulled up to a checkpoint about 300 yards away from the White House. Words were exchanged and then the black car took off followed by other police cars. The driver was acting erratically, would not stop, just was blowing through red lights. And so the police cars pursued the car.

That's when this black vehicle, as you see right there, hit another police car. We are told that the officer who was in that car had to be extricated, the car that you see there, using the jaws of life. We're learning that now that police officer was medevaced out of that area, helicoptered out of the area, I should say.

But, again, we're learning that there was a woman, possibly another adult in the car, but there was also a child as well. They gave chase because they just didn't know what the intent was of those who were in that vehicle at the time, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Deb Feyerick, thank you so much.

I want to now bring in CNN chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash. She was about to interview a senator and she was inside the Senate office building. In fact, specifically, it was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid -- when all of this went down.

Dana, what are you hearing? What's the latest?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's certainly a different feel now than it was a half-an-hour ago in this building. By this building, I mean the United States Capitol.

That's where we are, that's where we were, actually, you're right, in the office of the Senate majority leader, about to do an interview, which we will bring some of that to you later in the hour. But we were sitting in part of his suite and we heard the loudspeaker, the big buzz go off, which is part of the alert system in the Capitol.

And then we heard somebody from I guess the sergeant at arms office, whomever gives those announcements, telling everybody that we should be -- that shots were fired and that everybody in the Capitol should be in shelter in place mode, meaning lockdown. We were basically in his office, inside the Capitol, which faces the west front of the Capitol, waiting and trying to figure out what was going on, trying to get updates, as everybody else was.

So it certainly was not your typical day inside the office of the Senate majority leader, but I have to tell you, despite knowing that feeling when you don't really have a sense of what's going to happen, it was very calm. And the Capitol does have things, sort of a formula for this and they followed it pretty well.

And everybody got their alerts on their BlackBerrys from the Senate sergeant at arms office telling them what to do, why they're doing it, and how long they think it could last.

TAPPER: All right, Dana Bash, we will come back to you later in the hour.

I'm joined now here at our site outside the Capitol by Congressman Matt Cartwright. He was on the Hill. He heard the shots ring out.

Congressman, what happened from your vantage point? Where were you and where did you go?


Jake, what we had done, we had just finished in the House the first series of votes. It was something after 2:00. Outside the speaker's lobby, there is a balcony. It is on the south side of the Capitol, faces south. I was having a quiet chat, as many members of Congress do, with Gerry Connolly, congressman from Northern Virginia, having a quiet chat, sitting on the balcony outside.

And we heard in quick succession, it sounded like seven or eight shots all in less than a second. And what we heard was that they were coming from right behind me, the way I was seated, and looking southwest toward the Rayburn House Office Building. And I suspected it was either coming from there or it was a sound ricochet.

TAPPER: Yes, echoing because there are a lot of big cavernous buildings around here.

CARTWRIGHT: Right, off the face of the Rayburn Building.

And it turns out that's what it was. But what struck me was we had probably in the space of 30 seconds 15 or 20 Capitol Policemen running towards the Rayburn Building, running out, running toward the danger, and what really comes home to me is that these are all people who are working without pay right now.

TAPPER: We will get to that later in the show. But one thing I want to ask you, how long have you been in Congress?

CARTWRIGHT: Since January the 3rd this year. TAPPER: OK. So you don't remember firsthand, but some of us who have been in this town for a few decades remember that there was an incident where shooters actually got into this building and killed two Capitol Hill police officers.

So for Capitol Hill policemen that you're talking about right now, this is not an existential danger. They know people who were killed on the job.

Where did you go? Did police tell you to go into your office building, into the room? Did they tell you to go away from windows and doors? What came next?

CARTWRIGHT: Well, obviously, Congressman Connelly and I got up. We went right to the edge of the balcony and we looked toward Rayburn again, which is southwest from where our position was, and then a Capitol Policeman with a machine gun looked up at us and shouted for us to get inside the building because the House was going to be on lockdown.

TAPPER: And then where did you go? You just went into an interior part of the building?

CARTWRIGHT: Which is the speaker's lobby. There's a little library off the speaker's lobby and Congressman Connelly and I went in there. And probably within three or four minutes, a higher-up officer in the Capitol Police informed us that the suspect was in custody.

TAPPER: All right. Congressman Matt Cartwright, thank you so much. We appreciate your coming in. And we're glad that you and most people who were around to hear this us are safe. Thank you so much.

CARTWRIGHT: Thank you.

TAPPER: I want to go now to CNN's Evan Perez with more on the events that just unfolded on Capitol Hill.

Evan, what are you hearing about the investigation? We know the FBI is on the scene, along with Metropolitan Police Department officers from Washington, D.C. What do you know?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, when the scene -- when this scene first unfolded, the FBI thought that they were responding to shots fired near the Capitol, near Garfield Circle, which is on the west side, near the Senate side of the Capitol.

It now appears that they think the situation is going to be handled by the Metropolitan Police. It basically looks like a car chase that went really bad. You know this area very well. It's not a place where you run away from the cops and get away from. It's very heavy police presence in this area.

And it appears that none of the shots were fired by any suspect. It appears at this time that the only shots were fired were those by the police who were trying to stop this car and trying to figure out what was making this driver drive so erratically and trying to get away from them.

Given the recent situation at the Navy Yard, obviously police are on heightened alert, and given the furloughs and so on, I'm sure this is all -- these are all things that played into the situation today. But the FBI, it looks like, is going to pull out and this is going to be a local police investigation, Jake.

TAPPER: Evan, I was talking to a source earlier who was describing when the car hit the bollard or the barrier right near the White House. And this is a barrier that goes up and it goes down, so that cars, when the presidential limousine drives through, it's able to, but most of the time it's up as a barrier.

And this source used the term hit, but he didn't use the term ram. What do we know exactly about when this car came into contact? Was it definitely trying to get through the White House or was it just somebody driving poorly, erratically, in a way that alarmed officers?

PEREZ: Right, and that's actually not clear right now. But I think the language that the police are now using, initially, there was a feeling that someone was trying to get into the complex there near the White House.

Obviously, those bollards are there and some distance away from getting to the White House. You can't really get to it very quickly. But it does appear that this driver just struck it as they were trying to get away from the police, from the Secret Service, uniformed police that were there, and then fled, as Deb has been reporting, fled down Constitution Avenue and ended up near the Capitol complex.

It doesn't appear that they were trying to get into the White House now. It does appear that this person just hit cars and bollards as they were trying to make their getaway.

TAPPER: All right, Evan Perez, we will come back to you later in the show. Thank you so much.

We're learning new information that two people from Capitol Hill were taken to the hospital. One is a U.S. Capitol Police officer. We're also waiting on another Capitol Hill police -- I'm sorry, Capitol Police press conference. That's expected any minute.

When that happens, we will bring it to you live.

Kate Nocera is a Capitol Hill reporter for Chris Moody is with Yahoo! News. They were both on Capitol Hill when this all went down.

Chris, we just had you on the show yesterday, but now you have new information.

Kate, you were smoking a cigarette outside the Capitol, I'm sure your parents will be delighted to hear. What happened after that?

(CROSSTALK) KATE NOCERA, BUZZFEED: I was smoking a cigarette with a police officer friend of mine who was standing out there, and he heard it come over his radio. I heard a loud noise up the street. And he said, Kate, you need to get in, you need to get in right now.


TAPPER: Did you recognize it as a gunshot?

NOCERA: I did not recognize it immediately as a gunshot, no.

TAPPER: Where were you?

NOCERA: We were literally standing right under there, under the carriage entrance. And he pulled me in, and they just react so quickly. We are just chilling out there. It was a quiet afternoon and he just reacted so fast.


TAPPER: You took an amazing photograph, if we can put that up. There it is right there. Tell us what you're looking at right there.


NOCERA: So, what we're looking at there is there are police officers that usually post outside the Capitol doors with guns and he had gotten down, and he was just waiting for anything to happen.

And I just -- I was standing up on the third floor gallery. We were locked in. They were saying get away from the windows, but I saw that and took that picture and I had no idea what was going on at that point. No one knew what was happening then. It was pretty scary.

TAPPER: Are you still a little...

NOCERA: I need a cigarette for sure, yes.


TAPPER: Or maybe a glass of wine.


TAPPER: Chris, what about you? Where were you?

CHRIS MOODY, YAHOO! NEWS: I had just finished an outdoor interview with Congressman Peter King from New York on the corner of Constitution and Capitol right down the street here. We just finished up.

He walked across the street, went inside and that's when the shots rang out. It was almost instantaneous, shots and then sirens, which, at first, the police cars were going down Constitution Avenue that way, and then they closed off the street and then they turned around and then went back toward this way, where the actual shooting occurred and where the crash was.

TAPPER: Did you hear the crash or just the gunfire?

MOODY: I heard the gunfire, and it was like a pop, pop, pop, and then a Capitol Hill policeman said that was shots. Get underground is what he told me.

TAPPER: Get underground?

MOODY: Get underground, if you can.

Sorry, mom. I didn't go underground. I stuck around and got as close as I could. But...

TAPPER: Kate was taking a picture out the window.


NOCERA: They were telling us to get away from the windows.

It was amazing to watch. I saw Senator Bob Casey, who I later read was crouched near a car at some point, and he -- just watched him run across the yard here to get in the Capitol. And it was amazing to watch everyone sort of mobilize at that point.

TAPPER: Chris and Kate, stick around.

I want to go right now to Deb Feyerick. She has more details on the shooting in this very rapidly developing story.

Deb, what are you learning?

FEYERICK: Yes, and -- and it is developing very quickly.

So we are now -- we now understand that there is a task force that is being convened to go to the area where this woman is believed to have come from. We're now hearing that it is likely Connecticut, that there was a child in the car with her. No other identification on who this woman might be but we do believe she was taken to a hospital. Police are not releasing her condition right now. The child it does appear is in good condition. Again, the woman at the hospital.

This happened very quickly and because she would not stop, police were authorized to use force. We believe that child you just see right there, we believe that that is the woman's child that was just taken. That was the car she was driving because she would not stop, because she was driving quickly, because she was running lights, they were authorized to use force and then after she hit that police car, and the airbag deployed, injuring a police officer, that's when the shots rang out.

We're now being told, Jake, that the shots were from law enforcement, that there were no shots fired from the black vehicle, that all the shots were to the driver's side, fired by law enforcement. That's what we're learning right now, Jake.

TAPPER: Deb Feyerick with the latest.

We want to go now to the field, where Brian Todd has more information as well.

Brian, earlier you brought us a witness earlier who saw some of what transpired. Brian, what can you tell us?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we can kind of put together some of the pieces of this based on what the police chief of the U.S. Capitol Police told us, Kim Dine, a short time ago, plus witnesses that we spoke to and some of it of course jibes with that Deb Feyerick has just said.

According to the Capitol Hill Police Chief Kim Dine, this started at about 2:18 p.m. A car near the White House attempted to run through a barricade. That car confronted by Secret Service police, it sped away. Police from Secret Service and other agencies chased the car.

According to a witness we spoke to, Frank Swang (ph), he talked to us just a moment ago, the chase played out toward the west side of the Capitol, near the base of the Capitol grounds on the west side, where this witness Frank Swang said he saw the car actually stopped by police. Not clear whether it was by a barricade or by some other means. And then the car stopped, then backed up quickly. Actually they got the doors open, according to this witness, but the car quickly slammed into reverse, backed up into a police vehicle and knocked it backward.

At that point, this witness Frank Swang said he saw shots fired. He believed the shots were fired from law enforcement and not from the suspect's car. That, of course, jibes with what Deborah Feyerick just told you.

We have another witness, Travis Gilbert (ph), who told us he saw a car chase down Pennsylvania Avenue, a black sedan, said he saw it turn left -- turn south on third street with five police cars chasing it.

Another witness told us he saw at least three or four cars chasing this, plus a police chopper circling around at the time. So a very, you know, rapidly moving scene, a very scary scene, potentially a lot of witnesses to this. One of the witnesses actually is Travis Gilbert. He was hauled away from us just as he was giving us an account, hauled away from us by police to be a possible witness to this scene.

So, you just get really a vision here with all these accounts pieced together, Jake, of a very rapidly moving, frightening scene, shots fired, apparently now we know by law enforcement in an effort to stop that car. We did also find out from the Capitol Hill police chief that the suspect is in custody but they are assessing that suspect, not clear if the suspect has been injured, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Brian Todd.

We're going to turn now to Kate Nocera and Chris Moody, who were ear witnesses to some of what happened, reporters on Capitol Hill. Let's just step back for those individuals who are just tuning in and not clear on why exactly we're all giving these breathless reports.

At about 2:18 earlier today, a woman apparently driving a car, maybe an SUV of some sort, hit a bollard, which is one of these removable barriers near the White House, apparently words were exchanged of some sort. There was a chase from police chasing her down Constitution Avenue. Her car crashed right near the Capitol here.

Apparently, Capitol Hill police haven't been given the authority to shoot because of her erratic behavior, shot her. We're told a police officer was injured from the crash when her car -- his car crashed at some point, I'm not sure.

NOCERA: Crashed into a barricade. That's what I understand from the Senate sergeant-at-arms, is that it crashed into a barricade.

TAPPER: The police car or the woman's car?

NOCERA: The police car. That it was not a car-on-car collision.

TAPPER: OK, so during the chase?

NOCERA: During the pursuit, yes.

TAPPER: OK, and he's injured, he was medevaced by a park police helicopter to a local hospital, and we don't know her condition. We also know there was a child in the car.

Very dramatic. You guys look too young to have been here for I believe it was in 1997 or '98, there was a shooting of Capitol Hill police, a shooter went in there. I think he was trying to get the House majority whip or majority leader, Tom DeLay, and went into that office and shot and killed two police officers.

So, we now know bad things can happen here at the Capitol. It's a target as is the White House and also, this is a city on edge to a degree because of the Navy Yard shooting just a few weeks ago, just a few blocks away.

What else, what other information -- it sounds like you have information from the sergeant-at-arms. What other information can you tell us?

NOCERA: You said most of it. The only other piece I heard was that the officer that was injured, his injuries are non-life threatening. He has been taken to the hospital and he crashed while he was in pursuit. That's what he told me.

TAPPER: All right. Go ahead, Chris.

CHRIS MOODY, YAHOO! NEWS: We talk a little bit of a context of what's going on in Washington right now, we are in this government shutdown scenario. There's far fewer staffers and tourists around. So it's a lot quieter than it usually is this time of day this time of year.

TAPPER: That's right. Good context.

I want -- we have new eyewitness video I want to bring in. I haven't even seen it, it's so new. Let's play it right now.






TAPPER: Wow. That is astounding video. It looked like it was taken maybe on an iPhone of some sort. You hear sirens and you hear shots.

Maybe we can play that again, because it was so quick.

OK. I'm told we will play it in a little bit. We're not going to play right now.

The context, Chris, that you were talking about, about the fact we're in the middle of a partial government shutdown, I don't think the Capitol Hill police are -- their ranks are diminished. I'm not sure --

NOCERA: The ranks aren't diminished but my understanding is that it's the same -- they're all essential, but --

TAPPER: Just to translate, that essential means they have to come in even if they're not going to be paid. Apparently we have an eyewitness on the phone right now, David Loewenberg. He joins us on the phone. He was an eyewitness.

David, you have a house nearby. Tell us what you saw.

DAVID LOEWENBERG, EYEWITNESS (via telephone): That's right. My house is about a block away from that guard post on the corner of Third and Constitution. I was in my basement. I heard about maybe seven or eight successive loud bursts. I immediately thought they were gun shots.

Against my better judgment, I came outside to see what was happening and I walked up the sidewalk a bit towards that guard post. It was a pretty chaotic scene. There was many police swarming that location.

I could make out a black vehicle of some sort, looked like it was either run up the side of the curb or it crashed. A few seconds later, I saw a police officer hugging a child, a small child, and taking that child away from the scene.

TAPPER: That's remarkable. It seems that you saw what we have seen photographs of and film of, which is the child that was in the car of this suspect, this woman who was chased and then shot, we don't know her condition, you saw -- was it a female police officer, you say? Carrying her?

LOEWENBERG: I couldn't make out really the police officer. There were a dozen police cars responding to the scene at that point. I just made out that the police officer kind of, you know, bear hugging almost this child and taking the child away from the scene. Within a minute, more and more police officers responded and we were told to get back, that it wasn't safe, and at that point I went back inside.

TAPPER: All right. So you didn't see the medevac helicopter that took the injured police officer to the hospital. Did you hear the helicopter?

LOEWENBERG: I did not see or hear the helicopter. No.

TAPPER: All right. Well, David Loewenberg, thanks for joining us. We're glad you're safe. What a horrific thing to witness. Thanks for calling in. We appreciate it.

If you're just joining us, we're live from Capitol Hill with breaking news on a very chaotic scene that unfolded just a couple hours ago.

Here's what we know: a police chase that started near the White House ended on Capitol Hill when cops opened fire on the driver -- a woman who was behind the wheel was hit in the gunfire. We also learned there was a child inside that car. Police say that that child is in good condition.

Joining me now is Shawn Henry. He's a former executive assistant director for the FBI, president of CrowdStrike, viewers of our program know Shawn.

Shawn, thanks for joining us.

We know FBI units were sent to the scene. What should we interpret from that, if anything, or is that just standard protocol in any kind of security breach so close to the White House, where this apparently began, as well as the capitol?

SHAWN HENRY, CROWDSTRIKE (via telephone): Yes, Jake, thanks for having me. That is the protocol.

The law enforcement agencies and there are many -- the Capitol Police, Park Police, Metropolitan Police, FBI and other federal agencies, they train together regularly in this city for any type of crisis. Washington, D.C. is a highly targeted area. It's always on high alert.

So any response like this, until you're able to determine exactly what the cause and motivation is of the perpetrators, you are going to have a multiple agency response to help sort this through.

Secondly, the Joint Terrorism Task Force is typically involved in an incident like this, where it's really unclear. And you describe the scene multiple times as chaotic and I think that's exactly right, as people try to sort through some of the facts and get the truth. But the JTTF will have representatives from all of the agencies, state, local and federal, in the Washington metropolitan region, each of them bringing a different area of expertise and different access to information and intelligence to help them put the pieces of the puzzle together.

TAPPER: Now, Shawn, the police officer, the Capitol Hill police officer gave a press conference not long ago, said he did not believe that this was terrorism related. Is that an easy thing to rule out?

HENRY: You know, it really is something that takes some time. I think when you look at the initial facts that we see here and we talk about this erratic behavior, a woman who was driving and was in some type of altercation, I think they can make some assumptions early on. The reality of it is it really does take some time to sort through the facts. There will be search warrants that will be executed. People will be looking at documentation in the vehicle, certainly interviewing all the witnesses in the area.

So while you can start to lean towards one particular motive rather than another, I don't think you can completely rule out terrorism. In this case, it doesn't appear that way based on the facts that we see, but I think they always start at the highest level and work their way backwards, in this city, in an area like this.

TAPPER: And you and I were talking about this a few weeks ago, regrettably when we were standing not far from the site of the navy yard shooting. As much as it looks like something, one lone person, erratic behavior, it is the nightmare of law enforcement that a few weeks later, something else happens and there is evidence that that person was connected to the first person, whether Aaron Alexis or in this case, this woman.

Capitol Hill went on lockdown. Shawn, before you go, I just want to ask you quickly, how difficult is that to do logistically or is that just a matter of putting police officers at the doors and putting up the loudspeaker shelter in place?

HENRY: You know, Jake, I'm actually on the other side of the Capitol here and I'm looking at Capitol Hill police officers. They really do train for this very, very well. They've got protocols in place.

Employees are trained when they come on board, they are given training on incidents like this -- how to respond, how to react, you take directions from the police officers so that they're provided a safe haven until this is finally ironed out.

Right now, these police officers continue to direct traffic. There are some employees that are emerging from the buildings, but the fact of the matter is that top priority for these law enforcement officials is to ensure that citizens are safe and by having them shelter in place, it allows them to sort out what's happening on the outside of the building until they can determine that, then allow people to leave.

TAPPER: All right. Shawn Henry, thank you so much. We're going to take a very, very quick break. We have some new eyewitness video of the incident. We are cueing it up during this commercial break.

Stay with us. We will be right back.