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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
New Eyewitness Video Of D.C. Car Chase; Source: Incident Began At White House Checkpoint; Interview with Sen. Sanders
Aired October 3, 2013 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to CNN's breaking news of this coverage of this shooting that took place here on Capitol Hill. We're just getting a look now at new eyewitness video of much of the car chase that started near the white house and ended on Capitol Hill. The cops opened fire. This is near Capitol Hill.
I want you to watch this. These are police officers. You are going to hear some gun shots. That's seven gunshots. The woman in the coupe keeps driving. You see her car. That's the car zooming away after the police officers fired upon her. It takes a turn. There's a police officer chasing her as she continues to try to evade the police.
This is right near Capitol Hill. There's the car -- you are hearing some Arabic that is apparently from the person who filmed the video. I want to bring in Tom Foreman to discuss what we're watching. There is some foul language you might detect also, of course, gunshots.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is interesting, Jake, because this is something we didn't really know is the car was clearly stopped. This is by the James Garfield Memorial, which is not very far from the capitol steps, really. When this car is cutting right here, it is cutting between the steps of the capitol where the president takes his oath of office and the National Mall.
And then when the car starts circling around here, it's driving around sort of the mirror image roundabout or circular. This is called the Peace Memorial this car is circling around right now and then it sort of breaks for the back there. It's really quite interesting. If we get back to the top of this again in a moment after the car goes out of sight, you can see where it was stopped there in the beginning, really pulled up to the curb and quite surrounded by officers, and then when it backs up, you will watch that it appears to hit the police car that's pulled in behind it.
There's still no gunfire at that point. Watch as it lurches backward. Watch the car behind it. It comes back and you see the movement of it hitting that police car. These officers are still not shooting.
TAPPER: You can see why the police officers -- there are the gunshots, about seven shots they fired at her. FOREMAN: Yes. That was quite a period of time. You've been around police situations. A tremendous amount of training actually in that circumstance for police to not fire sooner when a car like that is truly being used as a weapon to batter its way out from a position like that. And then as you can see, they're right on her tail here for a moment, then there's a little bit of separation here as she starts heading toward the other side of the capitol.
I would say the back of the capitol, but it's actually the front of the capitol, the part that faces the Supreme Court. So I think it will be interesting to analyze this again. From this point, this is going one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. We're talking about 10, 12 seconds there from the time the car starts moving again until the gunfire.
We don't know how long she was at that curb or what was happening at that curb. We also don't know yet if this child is in the car as we now believe. How the officers were unable to see that or why they were unable to see a child in the car at that point.
TAPPER: Tom, let's also discuss what the officers know at this point as the scene takes place. They know that police at the White House are suggesting that this woman was behaving erratically and had hit one of the barriers at the White House, had been pursued through Washington on Constitution Avenue, I suppose, for the mile to two miles between the White House and Congress. This is just as you say, right near Capitol Hill.
FOREMAN: This is -- if you were the president taking the oath of office, you could watch all of this easily from that position, obviously it would be relatively close. The other thing that as you know, we should impress upon viewers here, the area you're looking at right now, on a normal day when nothing is happening, has some of the highest security you will find anywhere in this country precisely because it's so close to the capitol.
If you did anything erratic in that area on a normal day, you would have a police response and it would be something much smaller than what this woman was doing, you would draw police to you very quickly. We all know that in the news media because we go up there all the time. So you are correct, to have the warm up of her coming from the White House down here.
Even if she had no traffic at all, that would take her several minutes to get to this position so they were aware of this situation for awhile, and obviously, when you look at the cars around her, they had her pulled over. They were surrounding her. Yet she sort of battered her way out.
TAPPER: Just as context, the point I was trying to make is just these officers, these law enforcement officers, whether those are Capitol Hill Police or Metropolitan Police with Washington, D.C. City, they don't know what this person is doing. They are trying to get her to stop and they are -- the scene is taking place literally yards from where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. This is obviously a time that's fraught with a lot of tension politically. In addition, of course, this is a time where we just had a horrific shooting at the navy yard just a few blocks away.
FOREMAN: Importantly, too, I think this is worth noting and I don't want to be alarmist about this. I think it's important to note they also don't know anything about this vehicle. The reason they have vehicle barricades up around the White House and around the capitol, even as she's driving she's not far from places where there are vehicle barricades, is precisely because of the fear of someone trying to get a vehicle close enough to a target and blowing the vehicle up.
Now, this may have nothing to do with that. It may not be the issue at all, but they don't know that, and especially if someone is trying to get a vehicle close to one of these buildings by hitting a barricade. So there are so, so many unknowns these officers were dealing with in that moment before they decided to open fire on this vehicle.
And clearly at this point, there's no opening fire. They're simply watching and some of those officers are a bit lucky they didn't get caught in the movement of that car.
TAPPER: We do know that one police officer was injured in this chase. Apparently when in pursuit of this suspect, this woman, his car crashed. Tom, stay with us. I want to bring in Deb Feyerick with more details on the shooting. Deb, what are you learning?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So a little bit more. We know the car had Connecticut license plates. We're now being told that a task force is being convened, both Secret Service and FBI agents. They're going to Connecticut to the home where it's believed she lived, possibly with her daughter there.
You can see the car as it sort of speeds away. It was speeding, it was running red lights. We're told that she actually hit the police car. We've seen video of a police car with the airbag deployed. What you don't see from the other side, it was almost t- boned. The car, this image right now, that is her car. That is the car that was driving.
Police officers opened fire. We're told that all the shots were to the driver's side where she was behind the wheel. We are being told that she was hit, but police right now, while they know her condition, they are not releasing her condition right now. We do know, we are looking right now there at footage of the floor. But after she pulled away, we know that that's when the chase began.
TAPPER: Deb, just stand by. I want to play some video here from Congress. They're thanking the Capitol Hill Police.
REPRESENTATIVE ERIC CANTOR (R), MAJORITY LEADER: -- the majority side of the aisle, we want to express our thanks to Paul Irving, the Sergeant At Arms Office and the entire team that he heads up in this capitol for their tireless dedication to our safety and wellbeing, to our families' safety and wellbeing. Each and every one of us have been affected and touched by some threat or some risk at some time, and again, I want to express that gratitude to him and his team. Mr. Speaker, as to the gentleman's request about information on the schedule, we did put out an e-mail --
TAPPER: All right, so that was House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia thanking Capitol Hill Police. Deb Feyerick, I'm sorry, I interrupted you before continue.
FEYERICK: Yes, no, of course. Well, the police began, you see how she pulls away from those police officers so right there, she has already escalated the situation. She has threatened those police officers by driving in a way where one of them clearly could have been hurt. Then she takes off away from the scene. She's driving quickly down Pennsylvania Avenue.
It's there that she hits the police car, the one that we saw with the airbag deployed. And you can see she's not obeying what police are telling her to do and all of a sudden by pulling away, by risking the lives of those officers who are trying to get her to do what they need her to do, all of a sudden that situation has now gone to something far more extreme.
That's when you hear the shots ring out plus this is being done in an area where there were other people. Again, the threat level much higher because of where this all took place. They didn't know what her intent was. They didn't know where she was going. But she began heading in the direction of Capitol Hill.
You can see the black car, that's where it came to rest. That's where the shootout occurred with law enforcement firing shots at that vehicle. Police did not know that there was a child in that car. We are being told that the child was taken to a local hospital. We did see some images of the child being led away from the car by a police officer. The child appears to have been in good condition and that's the child right there.
We believe it is the child belonging to the woman who was driving the vehicle. Again, police not releasing her status right now, but we do have an image of some officers responding, looking like they were performing what appears to be some sort of CPR or something. But again, all of this very much in play right now.
TAPPER: Deb Feyerick. I want to bring in Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont. He was walking with some of his colleagues when he heard the gunshots. He ran for cover. Senator, welcome. We're glad you're OK. Tell us what you went through.
SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Well, actually, I was at a meeting over at the capitol and when the meeting ended I just was actually walking right down here just a few yards away. And what we -- what I saw on Constitution Avenue was just a bunch of police cars racing down the street, sirens blaring, and then I stopped to look at that. Then I heard the gunshots, four or five shots, ring out from that area over there.
TAPPER: Then we see them in the video right there. For a lot of us who work in this town, this is obviously a horrific scene, but as a senator, as somebody who works in this building and who has been here for a long time, you were here when the Capitol Hill Police officers were shot and killed protecting Tom Delay and his staffers in the late '90s. What is it like to watch this video? A lot of emotions must be going through you.
SANDERS: Look, these guys here do a great job. They really do. We appreciate, you know, they put their lives on the line. That's just not rhetoric. As you indicated, a bunch of years ago, two guys were shot, killed by some deranged guy. A few weeks ago we went through the tragedy over at the Navy Yard, dozen people killed.
There's a lot of tension in the air right now, a lot of unhinged folks out there. So you don't know what's going on. You don't know if that's a decoy, if something else is going on. But the police officers reacted I think very effectively. They said get down, get down, Senator Wicker and I kind of ducked behind one of the SUVs over there, and we were escorted back into the capitol.
TAPPER: That's just horrific, just the idea. I know this is not new to this country. There's been violence since it began. But watching this video taking place, a block from the capitol and in an area where you stroll all the time, seeing these police officers approach her car, surround her, you know, I'm sure they're trying to tell her to get out of the car.
She's not, I mean, that's not normal behavior. Police come at you and tell you to get out of the car and you start driving. I don't know about you, I'll speak for myself, I'm putting myself in the shoes of the police officers and I'm thinking they don't know what that is.
SANDERS: That's the main thing. Look, their job is to look at the worst case scenario. Is there a bomb in that car? Is this part of an overall attack on the capitol, who knows? They don't know at that moment. I think at this point we can just hope that the police officer who was injured gets well as soon as possible and to thank these guys for continuing to do good work and to try to get this country together so we don't see horrific incidents like this.
TAPPER: Senator Bernie Sanders, thank you so much. We appreciate your patience. We appreciate your coming by and telling the story. We'll take a -- we're not going to take a break. OK. Joining me on the phone is Julie Paladino. She was a witness here on Capitol Hill. She took some of the video we have been showing you. Let's take a look.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody go this way now! Go!
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TAPPER: Julie, we're glad you're OK. Tell us where you were. Was that an iPhone? Tell us what you saw.
JULIE PALADINO, WITNESS (via telephone): Well, what I saw is exactly what is in that video. It was terrifying. It was very surreal. What you think is going to be a normal day, very quiet day, with the government shutdown, turned out to be the opposite. It was very frightening, crazy. It happened very fast. We had been there on Capitol Hill for about 30 minutes, just enjoying the scenery, the environment.
It wasn't very busy at all. We were fixing to leave and what you're seeing right now is we were fixing to walk that direction when all of this suddenly just changed and we saw the black vehicle hit the barricade with the police officer cars right behind it, then the shots are fired. That's when everyone -- yes.
TAPPER: Tell us what we're seeing when everybody starts running. Did Capitol Hill Police or law enforcement tell you to run or was this instinct, you and your friends just ran?
PALADINO: The Capitol Hill Police did direct us to run. They told us to run this direction, to move, move, move, and that's exactly what we did. We followed their direction. Hopefully, you know, to get to safe ground and that's what we did. They did a great job doing it.
TAPPER: We hear shots on your video.
TAPPER: Did you see those shots being fired?
PALADINO: I saw the shots being fired. What direction that they went into, I'm not sure. It happened just really fast. Once those shots were fired, everyone immediately realized this is not an ordinary police, you know, someone getting pulled over. This is something extreme. Honestly, we didn't know if there was going to be something else to happen, for instance, you know, another --- a bomb or more gunshots or we didn't know. Everyone was just kind of confused.
TAPPER: Julie, we are so glad you and your friends are all right. Thank you so much for sharing your video and your experience. I want to go to Brian Todd in a second. Before I do, law enforcement and other sources are telling CNN that it's not believed any shots were fired by the suspect. No weapon has been found so far belonging to her. I want to turn to Brian Todd, who has more information on the scene. What do you know?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, we can set the scene for you a little here on Constitution Avenue. Our photojournalist, Mark Walsh, is going to pan to your left, my right. Take you up Constitution Avenue, where the streets are still blocked off, but you see the yellow tabs on the street. Those are what we believe are evidence tags. I counted 15 or 16 of those on the street, clearly some evidence that police are interested in collecting just about a block away from me here on Constitution Avenue northeast.
This part of Capitol Hill obviously still blocked off. Obviously still a large police presence here. What we can do is kind of come back over this way and show you where witnesses, at least two witnesses, have now told us that the scene played out behind me toward the botanical gardens. What we have gotten from two witnesses who were here and over here toward the south of me on the west side of the capitol was that the car, the suspect's car, the black sedan, was chased toward this way from the White House area south, that way on third street, which is just about a half block that way, over here toward the botanical garden and the confrontation with police played out just over my left shoulder in that area near the botanical garden on the west side of the capitol.
That's where Frank Schwing told us he saw the suspect's car stopped by police. He said he saw doors opening in that car, whether it was opened by the suspect or police, not clear, but then he said that car went quickly into reverse and just slammed right into a police vehicle, knocking it backward. Not clear if that is where the police officer in question was injured. That witness said that at that scene, again, right over here behind us toward the botanical garden, he saw shots fired.
We now know from Deborah Feyerick's reporting and others that it's very likely those shots were fired by law enforcement. We were told by the Capitol Hill police chief that the suspect is in custody. They are assessing the suspect for any possible injuries. It looks like again that the shots were fired toward the suspect's car by law enforcement but it's not clear the condition of the suspect right now.
TAPPER: Brian Todd, we'll come back to you. We're waiting for an update from Capitol Hill Police. We will bring that to you live when it happens. I will be right back in a second from Capitol Hill with the latest on this shooting.
TAPPER: You're watching video of a scene played out just over two hours ago here on the capitol grounds. A woman in a black car who, according to police, hit a barrier near the White House, was then chased to here near Capitol Hill. A police car crashed. She was asked to get out of her car by police officers.
You can see them. Asking her to get out, telling her to get out, with their firearms drawn. She does not. She drives away. Shots were fired. A police officer has since been medevac out of this area. People in the surrounding area were running chaotically, panicked, from the scene as Capitol Hill police yelled at them to leave the area.
Capitol Hill itself was on lockdown. As of right now, all we know is that a police officer was medevac to a hospital. We do not know the condition of the suspect. She has been taken into custody. We also know she had a child and that she's from Connecticut. I want to go to Deb Feyerick, who has more details on the shooting and on this video that you've been watching. What else have you learned?
FEYERICK: All right, so this is what we're learning now. A task force made up of both FBI and Secret Service are executing a search warrant at a home in Connecticut where it's believed the woman lived. Cameras also are being pulled from areas, from the vicinity of where all of this started, where it took place near the white house, where words were exchanged before this car chase ensued.
I have seen an image of the woman on a gurney being taken away and she -- it appears she's got some sort of ventilator that is helping her breathe but again, police are not releasing her condition right now. We do know there was a child in the car, appears to be about 2 or 3 years old, a little girl who was in the car when this was taking place. That child was also taken to a hospital.
It does not appear that that child was injured. You see the image of that child right there. The police taking her away from the car while all of this was going on. It happened at about 2:18 this afternoon. It was over within six minutes, this entire car chase, but she tried to gain access to a white house checkpoint, was turned away. Words were exchanged and then as you see, police officers tried to stop her and that's when she peeled off.
She was driving at high speed. She was running red lights. She was considered a danger. Law enforcement authorized use of force to stop this woman. They didn't know who she was, what she was doing, and so as she was driving and the police cars were chasing her, law enforcement did open fire. We're being told that in fact, there were about four or five shots that were in the driver's side, in the passenger door of the vehicle. The woman was hit.
Again, we don't know what her condition was. There's no sense of what the motive is, why she was behaving this way, why she was driving so quickly, why she wasn't listening to the commands that were being given to her. But we do believe that she's from Connecticut. Actually, you can even see the license plate on her car is from Connecticut. So right now, they're executing a search warrant just to try to get some information on who this woman might be -- Jake.
TAPPER: Let's walk through this for a second. I also want to bring in Evan Perez at the Justice Department. So we know this began shortly after 2:15 Eastern Time. She was at the White House and her car, I was told her car hit a barrier. Evan, do we know yet if she was trying to ram it definitively or still just that it hit?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: No. There's no indication she was trying to ram the bollards or trying to get to the White House. As you know that area very well, you have to go some distance between the bollards to actually get on to the White House property itself. There's parking lots and so on, parking areas nearby. But it does appear that she struck some of these as she was trying to get away.
We're told by law enforcement sources that there was a very high speed chase, speeds of up to 80 miles an hour perhaps on Constitution Avenue as they were fleeing, trying to get her to stop, then this scene that the video shows very well is over near Garfield Circle, which is on the west side of the capitol, of the capitol grounds. The botanical garden is right there.
This is a neighborhood I know well because I live there. This is my neighborhood where I live. You see her going around in circles as she's trying to get away from the police. Then ends up back on Constitution Avenue, where the black Infiniti there crashes into one of the bollards for the capitol police, which is right across from the Supreme Court building.
This all took place as Deb Feyerick says in a matter of minutes. It's not a very long distance to go and certainly if you're driving at 80 miles an hour, you can get there pretty quickly.
TAPPER: Deb, if you're still there, I just want to check, do you have any information from your sources about whether or not she was definitively trying to ram the barrier near the White House at 15th and Pennsylvania, or is your information just that she hit the barrier and it's unclear whether she was trying to get through?
FEYERICK: All we know is that there was -- she was at sort of this checkpoint, there were words that were exchanged. What's interesting is that you see that as she's sort of trying to get away from the police that are surrounding her car. She backs into a police vehicle and by backing into that vehicle. She's clearly escalating the situation.
I'm also being told there was another car accident involving a police officer but it's unclear right now whether in fact she's the one who hit that second police car or whether that police car got into an accident as he was responding to the scene, to what was going on here. You can see the guns are drawn.
Right there, boom, she hits the police car, again, escalating the whole situation. Then she's effective driving towards those police officers. They didn't know what her intent was or what she was doing. You could see at that point they're firing.
TAPPER: Deb Feyerick, thank you so much. You have been watching our coverage. We will continue live coverage of this shooting near Capitol Hill, a very chaotic situation that started at the White House and led here to Capitol Hill. We have a police officer who has been injured in a car crash, medevac out. We have a suspect in custody and apparently, this woman who was driving so erratically as law enforcement officers see it had a child in the car as well.
That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer. He's in "THE SITUATION ROOM."