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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
84 Killed, 50 Critical in Nice Attack; Nice Attacker Identified; French Prosecutor Gives Briefing on Nice Attack; American Father, Son Killed in Nice. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired July 15, 2016 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: AT THIS HOUR with Berman and Bolduan begins right now.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Kate Bolduan. We want to welcome viewers in the United States and around the world.
Get straight to our breaking news. The capitol of the French Riviera becomes the latest target of terror. The main promenade in Nice littered with bodies, stained with blood. Overnight, 84 people are dead. Another 50 people are critically injured. Many victims are children. That information coming just a short time ago from French President Francois Hollande.
BERMAN: Witnesses described the driver of a huge truck firing a gun while zigzagging through a crowded street. This amateur video shows the truck plowing through all those innocent people. The driver barreled down more than a mile of the main promenade, not stopping until police shot him dead. Investigators did find an I.D. in the truck. They have identified the terrorist, a 31-year-old French- Tunisian.
We're following all angles of this attack. Want to begin with CNN senior international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, near the scene for us this morning in Nice.
Clarissa, what are you seeing?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. As you can see behind me, police have completely sealed off any visuals on the crime scene. That crime scene, as you said, stretches more than a mile long. But suffice it to say that the Promenade des Anglais behind me is one of the main tourist attractions in Nice. Nice itself, the Coast de Azure, a main destination for people all over the world, and also French people. And there have been thousands of them packed on the promenade behind me.
Yesterday was Bastille Day, France's Independence Day. People were gathered, children, many of them, to watch the fireworks. As the fireworks finished, essentially, eye witnesses reported hearing cracking sounds were the fireworks was actually the gunman firing from his truck. He then began to plow over crowds of people, hitting the accelerator. A lot of witnesses said when they first saw this happening, they thought there was some kind of an accident. It was only after they realized he was hitting the gas and deliberately zigzagging into the people that they realized, in fact, this was some kind of terrorist attack.
Now, nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack yet but I do want to read you a quote from two years ago from the ISIS spokesman, Mohammed al Anini (ph). And he said to all followers across the world if you can't find a gun or a bomb, quote, "Smash the head of the infidel with a rock or slaughter him with a knife or run him over with your car."
In a sense, while it seems shocking to all of us, John and Kate, who have never witnessed an attack like this, ISIS and groups like ISIS have been thinking along these lines for many, many years.
One more thing I just wanted to mention is that the French President Francois Hollande passed by here in a motorcade, a relatively short time ago. What was interesting to hear from the crowd, were not cheers or a moment of solemnity, but a lot of people angry, a lot of people shouting, "You're a murder." The reality is with the situation in France regarding the security deteriorating and three major attacks in just over a year and a half, a lot of people don't feel safe.
BERMAN: It's the third time in 18 months we've seen terror in France.
Right now, Francois Molins, the prosecutor in France, right now, the man leading the instigation into this terror attack, he is standing behind microphones right now, set to brief. We'll hear from him.
FRANCOIS MOLINS, FRENCH PROSECUTOR (through translation): (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) OK?
Ladies and gentlemen, I am having this press conference with the public prosecutor from Nice, the gentleman from the police, and this gentleman from the police force. It wasn't said in the communique this is going to be a statement. First update on an investigation, which is just starting, so I will not take any questions. That will be for subsequent press updates, which I will do according to how the investigation precedes.
[11:05:03] First, I'd like to express my emotional thoughts to the victims after this new terrorist barbarism which has hit the town of Nice in its heart, and I'd like to express a thought for all their relatives. At the moment, 84 people Died, of which 10 children and adolescents. 202 people were injured, 52 in a critical state. Among those 52 people in a critical state, 25 are still subject to being in a coma. This may change upwards according to the people involved in this terrorist attack which may present themselves through the police forces or the health services.
As you know, the terrorist who drove the lorry was shot so he could not pursue his criminal activity. Then the police who neutralized this person and then avoided further victims, I'd like to congratulate them. The security forces, the fire brigade, emergency services, doctors, victim assistance associations, and also all the people living in Nice who expressed a great sense of duty and solidarity. Also, I'd like to talk about the mobilization of the legal and medical
institution Nice who offered all their staff so the procedures to identify victims could start in the best possible time frame. This process of identification is of course necessary so as to be absolutely sure of the identity of all the victims. I will, for my part, with all my prosecutor's office, ensure all as much as possible the painful wait for all families. I'll remind you the inter- ministerial cell phone for assistance for victims was activated after the attack. You can get it at 01-4317-5646. And this cell seeks to give support and respond to needs the victims, those close to them with psychological assistance or giving social aid. I'd like to tell you also a cell for giving information to the public has been set up and you can get it at the following number, 04-9372-2222.
With respect to the legal investigation, working closely with the prosecutor of Nice, who started the first investigation elements. They were as of 1:00 in the morning immediately animating the crisis cell of the public prosecutor's office in Paris. Four members of that office went to Nice and have been leading the investigation and inquiries since then. The investigation given to the central security forces and to the legal forces have been opened with assassination and attempt to assassinate in an organized band with terrorists and also to public services working with a terrorist organization and also the gathering together of terrorists seeking to bring injury to people including an association of criminals.
I'd like to come to the facts. The first statements and -- so 14th of July, about 22:45 in the evening, a man on his own in a refrigerated lorry of 18 tons hired on the 11th of July to be given back on the 13th of July, Wednesday. This truck went on to Promenade des Anglais. It went about on two kilometers, between numbers 11 and 147 of the promenade. And it hit many spectators gathered together on the promenade for the traditional fireworks display on 14th of July. The terrorist fired several times on three police officers close to the Negresco Hotel. Police chased the lorry, which was able to go on for about 300 meters. The police officer was able to neutralize the person by shooting and the terrorist was found dead on the passenger seat.
[11:10:19] The lorry trailer only held a bicycle and eight empty pallets. In the cab we found a .765 millimeter semiautomatic handgun, a charger and some ammunition of the same caliber and a second automatic pistol, which was a replica, two assault rifles, replicas, Kalashnikov and M-16, so they were replicas a pierce grenade, various documents, also being looked at.
Also found still in the cab of the lorry a driver's card, in the name of Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel born on the 3rd of July 1985 in Tunisia and living in Nice. Using the fingerprints, it was possible to confirm the identity Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel was a delivery driver. He was married and head of a family. His wife has been detained as of 11:00 this morning.
Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel was known by the judicial and police authorities for threats, violence, thefts between 2010 and 2016. On the 24th of march 2016 the court of Nice condemned him to six months in prison suspended for violence with a weapon used on the other hand, he was entirely unknown by the intelligence services. Whether nationally or locally, he had never been the subject of any kind of file or indication of radicalization. The first look at surveillance video makes it possible to see the lorry in the area east of Nice where it was parked as of the 13th of July. In fact, the lorry was taken on the 14th of July at 2034 hours by Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who had arrived on his own on his bicycle, the bicycle found in the trailer, and then he went to the town. We see again the truck at 2430 in the area before going on to the Promenade des Anglais.
Searches were carried out this morning, as you know, at two addresses where various equipment, I.T. and telephone equipment was seized, as well as various documents. This material is of course being looked at. Those are the only elements I can give you at this stage of the investigation. As I told you, it's just starting. In order to maintain as much as possible the work of the investigators who want to determine and make use of all the equipment and the video surveillance. The investigation will try to determine under what conditions the person was able to get the weapons he used and the lorry. They will seek to determine whether there were accomplices. And also they will try to determine what links Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel might have with criminal terrorist Islamic organizations. Because I would remind you, if yesterday's attack has not to date been claimed by anyone, I would remind you this kind of action fits in and exactly corresponds to the calls these terrorist organizations regularly give out on their videos and elsewhere.
Thank you for your attention. And of course I'll keep you informed as soon as possible how the investigation progresses.
BERMAN: You've been listening to Francois Molins, the prosecutor on the terror investigations. He gave us new details. First off, 10 children among the 84 dead, 10 children. We know one of them is an American, 11-year-old Brodie Copeland of Texas, killed along with his father, Sean. So 10 children dead, 52 in critical condition. Of those in critical, 25 are still in a coma.
BOLDUAN: It's just amazing when you think about those numbers. 25. So those numbers can change. May change quickly. A lot more detail about how this terrorist did this. He very quickly said the terrorist is dead. He's talking about an 18-ton lorry, a truck, that we've now seen pictures of. It went two kilometers, as we've reported. He fired several times on police. Police responded and chased the truck, eventually stopping him by shooting and said the terrorist was found dead in the passenger seat. He talked about a handgun that was found with him, ammo. A telephone also found in the cab, in the truck, that they said they're still going through along with documents they're still going through. A man born in Tunisia, who was living in Nice. His fingerprints were used to I.D. him. His wife, as the prosecutor said, has been detained as of this morning.
[11:15:49] BERMAN: Crucially, they say he has a criminal past, in fact, convicted of crimes and sentenced to six months suspended for a weapons charge. But entirely unknown, entirely unknown by intelligence service, as we've been reporting. Not on the radar at all for any sign of radicalization.
Want to get to Nic Robertson, who I believe is outside the home of the attacker.
Nic, are you with us?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: I am, indeed. One of the things that was very, very striking about what we heard from the prosecutor there, he talked about this 18-ton refrigerated truck and apart from those weapons and hand grenade, there was a bicycle. He said the only other thing inside there was a bicycle.
Just 20 minutes ago, I talked to a neighbor of Mohamed Bouhlel in the apartment here and she told me he used to come and go from the apartment on a bicycle. That's how she remembered him as being someone who stuck to himself, who was living alone, separate from his family, his wife and three young children living not far away but not with him. She described how he would come and go, always with his bicycle, carrying his bicycle up the stairs to his apartment.
I was able to look through the broken door into that apartment because we heard the prosecutor describe how a search had been done from this apartment, that they'd taken telephone equipment, taken I.D. equipment. I can see through the broken door, the draws from some of the furniture was strewn on the floor and it appeared to be a relatively hasty search had been done. There was monitor standing on the floor of the apartment as well.
So certainly what we've heard from the prosecutor there seems to tally with what we heard from neighbors here, that this was a man who used a bicycle. He approached, as we heard from the prosecutor, he approached the truck on this bicycle, put it the` in the truck, and committed this horrible, horrible crime -- John?
BOLDUAN: Nic, you mentioned that neighbors describe him as keeping to himself. The prosecutors said in his criminal past, he's been charged with threats, violence, theft. As John mentioned, six months suspended prison sentence for violence with a weapon. Did neighbors describe anything like that?
ROBERTSON: No, the details that we got from the neighbors there are about 12 different apartment buildings in here. I was talking to a lady on the floor beneath where he lived. The family, the man and lady who were actually in the apartment, immediately adjacent to his, they really didn't want to say anything when they came in. We asked, you know, what can you tell us, and they really just kept quiet and went inside. We haven't heard specifically about any violence while he was here. More so that he kept to himself when going out to a local cafe. We don't yet know why his wife separated from him, taking the three children, three young children, and moving off to another area in Nice. But certainly the picture we're getting from the prosecutor perhaps gives us some detail that could lead to an explanation of why his wife left him, if nothing else.
BERMAN: Nic, standby.
Crucially, the prosecutor said he was entirely unknown to the intelligence services.
BOLDUAN: He went on, very specifically, saying never subject to an Intel file for any kind of radicalization.
BERMAN: No sign at all of radicalization.
Want to bring in our justice correspondent, Evan Perez, here in the United States.
You've been working your sources inside the FBI and just and elsewhere. What are they saying right now?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, it's exactly the same thing, that the French and U.S. investigators haven't found any links so far to terrorist groups. Obviously, this is still very early in the investigation and they're still looking but they're going through communications, and other databases to see what they can learn about this terrorist. So far, they only know that he had this criminal background and that he wasn't on the radar as a possible extremist, and they believe he rented this truck just a few days ago as the prosecutor just mentioned. That gives you a sense of how difficult it is to try to prevent something like this.
[11:20:06] This morning, security's being beefed up here in the United States, at some locations including in New York where the Governor Andrew Cuomo says he's ordered more security at places like the airports and mass transit and tunnels and the Homeland Security Department say you can expect more measures both seen and unseen. U.S. law enforcement are going through their own review of cases here in the United States of suspected extremists, you know, they're looking for people who, you know, might have commercial driver's licenses, who might have access to large trucks through their work or someone who perhaps is already under surveillance and might try to rent a vehicle like this. The thing is, the use of a vehicle for terrorism, isn't a new tactic, they've seen it before, but what this attack in Nice means is there's going to be a new focus on this as a possible use for terrorists -- John and Kate?
BOLDUAN: It is so early on, of course, Evan, and many more details will be coming out. We heard from the French prosecutor when he was saying he's completely unknown to intelligence services. He did say we're going to seek to see if there are accomplices and look to see if there are any links to terror groups. He said they're going to look. He didn't say there was any evidence of it, though, at this point. That, any sense of what U.S. officials believe on those two fronts?
PEREZ: Right now, they really have found absolutely no links. And one of the things that we've seen, Kate, in particular, in the last -- overnight certainly on jihadi forums is a lot of celebration about this attack. But, really, there has been no mention from ISIS. ISIS does, like, a daily newsletter, if you will, that they put out every morning. And they didn't mention this attack at all, which may mean that they had nothing to do with it or possibly, again, that it might take some time before they figure it out. It's certainly what is being done by investigators in France and here in the United States is scouring any kind of communications that he may have made before he carried out this attack. Obviously something flipped. The fact that someone with a criminal background turns into a terrorist almost overnight. We've seen it before certainly. That appears to be what has happened in this case.
BERMAN: All right, Evan Perez for us in Washington.
The French prosecutor says no known direct ties to any organized terror groups but he did note this is the kind of attack ISIS has been calling for to two years.
BOLDUAN: Exactly right. A lot more ahead. A lot more to work through AT THIS HOUR, including this, dozens of people, as we mentioned, still fighting for their lives in France. 50 people in critical condition. The French prosecutor saying 25 people still in a coma today. We're going to go live to the hospital that the president of France visited a short time ago.
BERMAN: Plus, two Americans among the victims of the attack, a father and his 11-year-old son. We're going to speak live with that boy's baseball coach.
This is CNN special live coverage. Stay with us.
[11:27:00] BERMAN: John Berman, along with Kate Bolduan, here.
The French prosecutor, Francois Molins, just wrapped up a press conference, gave us new details about the attack and the casualties. He says more than 200 people were injured. 10 of the 84 killed children.
BOLDUAN: France President Francois Hollande visited some victims at a hospital a short time ago.
CNN International correspondent, Atika Shubert, is at the hospital in Nice.
Atika, what are you hearing?
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We've been speaking with doctors, victims, family member just horrific details. One doctor described the injury saying these were really caused by a massive blunt trauma, people being crushed by this truck or injured because they jumped out of the way but then were caught up in the stampede. Unfortunately, many of those caught up were children. We know, for example, a 3-year-old boy who was trampled over as people tried to escape. He's in critical care, now still upstairs. There are three in serious condition, critical care. One of them still remains unidentified. These are all children here.
We also had a chance to speak with the 16-year-old who she tried to describe to us what she saw, but then broke down in tears, as she -- because she couldn't get the words out. She says it's something that will remain with her forever, the kinds of mangled bodies that were crushed by the truck and then the sheer panic as she lost her mother in the chaos afterwards. So it's been a very difficult day, a very long night for doctors here.
The good news for some people is some of the families have been reunited. But it is a trauma that's going to live with them for the rest of their lives.
Atika Shubert, outside the hospital. We'll get back to Atika for updates whenever that comes. Thank you so much.
U.S. officials confirm at least two Americans were killed in the attack. The "Austin American Statesmen Newspaper" in Texas reports the victims were Sean Copeland and that little boy, 11-year-old, Brodie, his son. They were in Nice for a family vacation.
BERMAN: Now their friends and family in Lakeway, Texas, are all grieving.
On the phone with us now is Jonathan Paiz. He was Brodie's baseball coach.
Coach, thanks for being with us, our condolences to you and your community. How did you find out about this horrific news?
JONATHAN PAIZ, BASEBALL COACH OF BRODIE COPELAND (voice-over): We're very close in the hill country and we are families connected to the Copelands as we are and we were up in New York for a national tournament and one of the parents broke the last game and it's very devastate. We're all trying to get back to Texas to join the rest of the family.
BOLDUAN: It's understandable. Sean Copeland's niece, Coach, tweeted, "I don't even know how to put this in words." Kind of sending out a tweet about what happened. I'm sure you feel the same way. So many other people do around you. Can you put into words, can you tell us a little bit about that little boy you know so well, Brodie Copeland?
PAIZ: Brodie was a bright light to us --