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Police: Serial Bomber Kills Himself with Explosive Device; Allegations from Women Cast Shadow Over Trump. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired March 21, 2018 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHIEF BRIAN MANLEY, AUSTIN POLICE: The suspect is deceased and has significant injuries from a blast that occurred from detonating a bomb inside his vehicle. We cannot name the suspect at this time, because he has not been positively identified yet by the medical examiner, and next of kin have not yet been notified.

[05:59:30] So there will be a lengthy investigation that will take place regarding the officer-involved shooting. The investigation will be conducted by the Austin Police Department's internal affairs unit with the Austin Police monitor participating, as well, for a review of compliance with departmental policy.

There will be a concurrent criminal investigation that will take place by the Texas Rangers of the incident that occurred here tonight.

Again, this is the culmination of three very long weeks for our community. And throughout these weeks, we've talked about the importance of remaining vigilant and looking out for each other. I want to continue that message as we stand here this morning, though, because we don't know where this suspect has spent his last 24 hours and, therefore, we still need to remain vigilant to ensure that no other packages or devices have been left through the community.

So as we go through the day today, we want the community to remain vigilant. But I also want to look at where we are now in Round Rock and remind our neighboring communities of Round Rock, and Cedar Park and the other cities that we do not know where he has been in the past 24 hours; and we need your communities to remain vigilant, as well. And again, if you see something that looks suspicious, if you see something that's out of place, if you see something that gives you concern, call 911 and let us know so that we don't experience any more tragedies in our communities, because we've had far too many over the past three weeks.

I, again, want to thank the tremendous support and participation that we have had from our federal partners. And since this is still an ongoing investigation, we're not going to release a lot of the specific details that led to the incidents that occurred tonight.

We did have one officer who was injured when that bomb detonated as he approached the vehicle, suffering minor injuries. And then we had one officer, as I mentioned early, that fired his weapon at the suspect. That officer has been with the Austin Police Department for 11 years. And, again, as a member of our SWAT team. As is our standard practice, he will be placed on administrative duty while we conduct the necessary investigations into what happened here.

I'm now going to turn it over for comments to Special Agent Pallisti (ph) of the ATF.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. The unprecedented level of cooperation of partnership from the law enforcement agencies at the local, state, and federal level allowed each of our agencies to bring a skill set, different skill set to bear and identify the subject. And fortunately, tonight we were able to bring this part of the investigation to a close.

I also want to thank the public, who continue to support us and cooperate with us and continue to send in tips. And as the chief said, we want them to continue to be vigilant. We are concerned that there still may be other devices out there. We want to make sure if people see suspicious packages or bags, they continue to call 911, report that to the police so we can respond and deal with those packages. Thank you.

CHRISTOPHER COMBS, FBI: I'd like to say today is a great day for law enforcement. I'd like to thank the partners. Chief Manley did an unbelievable job. The federal government brought full resources here to solve this and to stop the injuring and the killing that was occurring.

As the chief said, we're not done yet. It's a long day ahead. We are concerned there may be other packages still out there. We need the public to remain vigilant, especially today as we go through this investigation. We will be here as long as it takes with our partners to figure out exactly what happened, why it happened, and how it happened.

And we're committed to staying here with the Austin Police Department for as long as it takes to make sure we understand exactly what happened here.

I'd just like to say this is what law enforcement does every day in this country. The brave men and women of the Austin Police Department put their lives on the line tonight to stop this man from setting off bombs.

As the chief said, one of their officers was hurt approaching the suspect as he detonated a second device. That's what law enforcement does every day in this country. They put their lives on the line to make sure that are all of us are safe. I'd like to commend the chief and his brave men and women that approached that subjects vehicle and stopped the subject from hurting anybody else. Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand that the investigation is continuing and that everyone still is urged to be vigilant and look for things that are out of place. With that said, gentlemen, on behalf of an incredibly thankful community, I just want to say thank you. And if you would pass that on to the men and women that you work with.

Chief Manley, to you and to your officers, to this literally army of both neighboring cities and state and federal agencies, thank you. [06:05:18] MANLEY: And I'd just like to close with just really a

thought for the families in our community who lost loved ones or who had loved ones seriously hurt in these incidents. Our heart remains with you as you go through your healing process and your time of sorrow, and we stand by you and with you in your time of need.

And with that, we'll open it up for questions.

(CROSSTALK)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Was the suspect an Austin resident? Was the suspect an Austin resident?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- involved, or there still would be other individuals who may be connected to this? Or was this a lone wolf?

MANLEY: This investigation is still under way, so we cannot say that this was an individual acting on their own. That's why this investigation will continue through the day or days coming.

LAVANDERA: Without naming the suspect, would you give us some biographical details? What age? Was he an Austin resident?

MANLEY: The individual involved in this incident was a 24-year-old white male. And we're not going to give out any information regarding his residence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any accomplices?

MANLEY: I'm sorry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any accomplices?

MANLEY: As I said -- as I said, this investigation is ongoing. We want to make sure that we have confirmed that he either acted alone, or if there were any accomplices, that we identify them.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does this date back -- this individual date back to March 2?

MANLEY: We believe that this individual is responsible for all incidents that have taken place in Austin starting March 2. Those that have occurred since then, as well.

LAVANDERA: How long have you been --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- are you still searching the FedEx facility?

MANLEY: There is an operation going on in Schertz, Texas, I believe, at that warehouse, again, wanting to make sure that that warehouse is safe, in addition to the fact that the bomb detonated in that warehouse. Detonated in that warehouse and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) So that's going to take a while -- investigation like that. So that's going to take a while for that one to be cleared.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The FedEx package was what led to the discovery?

MANLEY: There were several leads that led us to this person. We had a lot of evidence that came to us via video sources, as well as witnesses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was he ever on your radar prior to this?

MANLEY: This was a subject that we had developed over the course of the investigation. But we became very interested in him over the past couple of days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why?

MANLEY: You know, that's the one thing we don't have right now is a motive behind this. We do not understand what motivated him to do what he did. And that will also be part of the continuing investigation as we try to learn more about him and to understand why he took the actions that he did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was he on his way to deliver another bomb?

MANLEY: Sorry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was he on his way to deliver another bomb?

MANLEY: We don't know whether he was on his way to deliver another bomb. It is obvious that he had one with him. And that's the one that he detonated in the vehicle as we approached.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Agent Combs -- Agent Combs, let some ask you in regards to how this motive or how the operations into the bombs evolved? You know, it started off with package bombs. It moved to trip wires. It moved to FedEx. It doesn't seem like the same guy so why are you confident that this is the same guy? Or is this just an example of a person, the suspect evolving?

MANLEY: Again, as we said all along, we didn't want to give out specific descriptions of the types of packaging the initial bombs were in, because we knew that there was the potential he would change his methods. And that is, in fact, what occurred here.

We do believe that all of these are related and that he is responsible for these, based on the similarities that we have seen in all of the devices and in the evidence we're finding from those that did detonate.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did he have military experience?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- suspect. Certain of that?

MANLEY: The FedEx packages, we're not going to identify who they were being mailed to. However, we have been in contact with them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was there any contact with the suspect? Was there any contact with the suspect before the device exploded tonight?

MANLEY: No. We had -- again, we had found him in the parking lot of a hotel in this neighborhood behind us, and we did not contact him. Again, we wanted this to come to a peaceful resolution tonight. But we knew how dangerous this situation was, given what he had done in our community leading up to tonight. So we were waiting to get the best assets in place with our tactical teams and ballistic vehicles so that we had the best chance possible to take him into custody.

However, we were not afforded that opportunity when he started driving away. And we could not let him get anywhere into the community. And that's why we ended up having an interaction on the frontage road behind us.

(CROSSTALK)

[06:10:15] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he drive away because he saw police? Any evidence of that?

MANLEY: I don't know why he drove away. The officers that were there had been watching him for quite some time. So nothing had changed there to where I believe that he saw them. But that's something we'll never know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he have a military background?

MANLEY: Don't know what his background was.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To that question --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know what motivated him at this point? Do you know what motivated him at this point, now that you've (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

MANLEY: No. Again, as we stated earlier, we do not know what the motive behind that. And hopefully, as we continue this investigation, we will uncover some facts so that we can try and understand, although this is something that there is no rationale for, but we can try and understand what his motive was.

Thank you very much.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We're monitoring a press conference right now with the sheriff down there in Austin. Here is the big headline.

The authorities in Texas believe that the man who had been detonating these serial bombings, terrorizing the city of Austin for nearly three weeks, is dead. Austin police confirming that the suspect, they believe, killed himself, exploding a device in his car. But there was a whole long series of events that went along, including

a caution. They don't know if there are other packages that may have been deposited before they made contact with this man. They're telling people to be vigilant, to continue to tell people to give word of any suspicious packages. But the big headline is he's gone.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: The big headline is he's gone, and to your point, the sub-headline there is don't give up, you know, being on the lookout for things. Also because they pointed out, they don't really know where he's been or what he's been up to in the last 24 hours. They're not telling us -- well, they're saying they don't know where he's been.

The way that they were able to track him down, this car that they had been following they then tracked to the parking lot of a hotel. And that's where they were watching him, hoping to make contact, have some some sort of a peaceful resolution, in the words of Police Chief Brian Manley there. Obviously, that did not happen, because he is now dead after detonating that bomb.

Let's bring in now CNN law enforcement analyst, retired FBI supervisory special agent James Gagliano.

You were there listening to this along with us. He drove off. They don't know why. But then ultimately, this is what led to him detonating a bomb on the side of the road. What stood out to you in what they did reveal?

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Sure, Erica. And firstly, what an incredible two days for law enforcement. I mean, the investigative efforts that went into this. Nineteen days of terror, essentially, that were very reminiscent of the 2002 D.C. Sniper, which was three weeks in October of 2002.

My takeaways in this: First of all, great investigative work on the police, the ATF and the FBI. Listening to the police chief there, as a former SWAT Team Commander, here's what my takeaway was.

When they identified the parking lot in the hotel in Round Rock where the suspect -- he'd moved from person of interest to suspect -- was located, they then took a step back. They put a perimeter around. And you came up with a hasty plan in the event that the suspect did anything, and then you built out a deliberate plan.

They weren't given the opportunity to move to the deliberate plan, which would have involved, you know, barricades. It would have involved vehicles with Kevlar, support, would have involved a tactical team.

Once the suspect started to move, they had to interdict him. And that's where the hasty plan ended up taking place. They had to interdict him, not let him move into a residential area, because you had to assume he had more explosive devices.

CUOMO: Now, they didn't suggest that he raced away. You know, it seems like they followed him. They stopped him. He detonated the device, which they say blew back one SWAT team member. We don't know about the nature of his injuries. Another member who was there fired a round into the vehicle. But they're believing that the explosion is what took him.

But what's also interesting here is what they still don't know. Was he acting alone? They say, "We don't know." There were questions about, well, it seemed that the devices seemed to evolve. The sheriff seemed to push back on that and be like, "Well, they were evolving to you in the media, but we haven't told you everything. We believe we see signs of connection with this man on all of these devices." Is that uncommon?

GAGLIANO: No. And the cases really encompass the entire city of Austin. first three devices on the east side, right? The ones that were packages dropped off on porches.

The next device, No. 4, the trip wire device, was on the west side of Austin. Then you had the FedEx retail distro center explosion yesterday. South part of Austin. And then today the standoff, brief standoff and the shoot-out, essentially, that took place in Round Rock.

Three parts of the lethality of a bomb are what makes this such a difficult situation for law enforcement. And gives them the right to use deadly force when somebody is in possession of a bomb.

First of all, is the overpressure. The explosion creates great overpressure which crushes organs and causes -- it's the most lethal part of the bomb. Second, fragmentation. And third, Chris, the thermal effect, the fires that could possibly start out of that. Police had to be cognizant of that. But law enforcement officers are trained to go to the sound of the guns and have to accept more risks than the rest of us. And that's why they moved in and interdicted him.

[06:15:10] CUOMO: All right. So let's get some sense of the reporting around this. We have Ed Lavandera down there. We also have the reporter from "The Texas Stateman" who broke the story of the bomber being gone. We'll get him up here, as well.

But Ed, we do know that there was question about surveillance video and whether or not an image of this man had been captured. Were you able to get any sense as to whether our affiliate, KEYE, the surveillance video they have, whether or not they have an image of this man or not?

LAVANDERA: That's our understanding. I think that was apparently coming from that drop-off center in South Austin where the two packages were sent that were eventually found at the FedEx distribution centers, one in Schertz, Texas, that suburb north of San Antonio, and then the one in southeast Austin near the airport. And that would have been, presumably, the first time that investigators had gotten a look at that, at that particular suspect. And it really kind of probably begins to lay out the framework for being able to piece together the movements and the whereabouts of this particular subject. Obviously, the investigators here this morning not going into terribly

too much detail about the timeline of all of that has transpired. Because I think it wasn't just the video surveillance but a great deal of other information that was beginning to come together. Perhaps tips from the public, people who had seen things, and also just evidence collected at the previous bombing sites and from those -- the one detonated bomb at the FedEx facility in Schertz, Texas, and the one that did not detonate at that southeast Austin facility near the airport.

So probably a combination of evidence and information coming from a bunch of different places. It was enough for these officers and these teams to begin surveilling who they believe to be the suspect here.

It was interesting, Chris. We really got the sense that things were starting to change last night as we were reporting from the scene of where the one package was found at the distribution center in southeast Austin. Excuse me. Investigators had really gone radio silent. And late last night, one of the last e-mails we had gotten from ATF official said that they wouldn't be answering any questions -- any more questions for the time being because of, quote, "operational needs."

So we really started getting the sense that perhaps things were starting to change or perhaps there was some sort of break in the case. And that's ultimately what we've seen here this morning.

CUOMO: I'm just wondering if they told you we can use that video, that this is the guy they're talking about. Because when we heard it was a 24-year-old white guy, they said that's all the -- the only information we'll give out, we wound up not going with the surveillance video that we got from our affiliate, because we weren't sure it looked like someone who matched that description.

But I'm just wondering: did they tell you, Ed, straight out, "Yes, the guy who's in that surveillance video, that's the guy that we believe was our suspect?"

LAVANDERA: Haven't gotten that. We're going to continue reporting on that. And until I do that, let me be cautious.

CUOMO: Better to be safe. We don't want to put an image out there that's not accurate. That's why.

HILL: Also want to -- Ed, stay with us here. Also want to bring in Tony Plohetski, who's joining us from the "Austin American-Statesman." And Tony, what do you have?

TONY PLOHETSKI, REPORTER, "AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN" (via phone): Well, what I can tell you is that are touching base with a number of community people, as well, who are breathing a sigh of relief this morning. You can imagine that this community, a relatively safe community for a major U.S. city, has been on edge since all of this began unfolding. And this morning, people are waking up to this news and just feeling a sense of relief. You know, in recent days, as we have seen the activity of the suspect

continue to really increase and for it to -- for his criminal activity to rev up, people have grown more and more frightened. People have grown more and more afraid.

So, again, I think that there's going to be a big sense of relief and a lot of appreciation, frankly, for law enforcement, who we know have been working around the clock in recent days, trying to bring this to a resolution.

HILL: That sigh of relief. But also, we are hearing from that press conference from both the FBI and local officials, that it is important for people to remain vigilant, because there are these questions about where the suspect was in the last 24 hours.

Tony, I know you've also been reporting and we've seen on your social media, part of what brought officials to this person was some of the tracking they did. So not just perhaps that surveillance video but also different receipts. We know that there were reportedly warrants issued related to Google searches that he may have made and even cell phone activity. What more do you know about that?

PLOHETSKI: Well, it's a big combination of all of those things. We know that in recent days, law enforcement has been going to different retail establishments in the city, trying to determine whether or not they can identify someone who is purchasing materials that they believe were using in these explosive devices.

[06:20:08] I'm told that those efforts have paid off and were, in fact, helpful; helpful in trying to identify the suspect through the use of those receipts.

In more recent days, we have seen police using Google searches. They were able to acquire an I.P. address from the suspect's computer and get information from some of the searches that he apparently had been doing.

And then, closer to when this all came to a resolution overnight, authorities also, I'm told from law enforcement sources, were relying upon cell phone technology to track this person, as well. So really using a number of different strategies as they have gone about this investigation.

And law enforcement, you heard them in that briefing, also pointing out that witness interviews and tips from the community also have played a role in this investigation, as well.

CUOMO: Good. Tony, Ed, stay with us for a second here in terms of piecing together what you're hearing from how they found this man to their concerns about who else could be there.

That surveillance video I found interesting, because the guy had gloves on. You know, who's wearing gloves in Texas, dropping something off at a FedEx place? We're still holding off on showing the image until we're exactly sure that that -- we don't want to send out any misinformation. But the idea of stay on your guard. We don't know who else he was working with, how real are those considerations?

GAGLIANO: Very real. The two big things: Are there other devices, whether they're at the FedEx facility in the south part of Austin or somewhere else? Other devices that were left around with a trip wire? That's a big concern. Those are victim-activated devices, meaning that anybody, targets of opportunity, could engage them.

Very important. The two things law enforcement is hyper focused on: making sure that the bombs that are out there have been neutralized or found. And then making sure that they can establish the link analysis between the particular devices.

How did they do that? Bomb maker's signature. There's four components to a bomb. There's a power supply. There's an initiator. There's the actual explosives themselves, and the switch. Those things, you have to have them. Each bomb maker has a particular way of doing that.

The seven devices -- now we know that five of them, we think, are linked. There were two more, including one last night that I think the Austin P.D. referred to as a benign incendiary device. Keep in mind, an incendiary device is something that's combustible, flammable. It can start a fire. So it's really not benign. But was that linked to these two? I think that's going to be very telling.

HILL: And even just real quickly, to pick up on something we've been talking about over the last couple of weeks as we've gone through this. We talk about the material. You're talking about the explosive devices. So we knew from the beginning we were hearing from them that they -- they were looking at shopping records in various places. And that's part of what came up. And so there is enough left in these, because we've talked about this a lot. What's actually left after this bomb explodes? There is enough left to be able to tell what those common household products were and where they could have been purchased.

GAGLIANO: Right. Post-blast analytics are so difficult. Why? Because when the bomb goes off, it destroys much of the evidence. But we've gotten very good at determining trace residue and going through and being able to piece these things together in post-blast analysis.

The other important thing, to your point here, 1993, the first World Trade Center bombing. 1995, the Alfred P. Murrah Building bombing at Oklahoma City. We began tracking large amounts of purchases that involve diesel fuel, fertilizer, the rental of trucks.

The device that this was built, these were very rudimentary. I talked to a number of bomb techs who said these were household items. Difficult, and because they're in small amounts, difficult to track.

CUOMO: It would help them wrap it up if they knew why he was doing it.

GAGLIANO: Motive, Chris. Absolutely. CUOMO: So that's why, I think, they're being cautious. Especially

with them finding him at a hotel. That means, he wasn't a resident. He wasn't a local. He may have been moving around. Who else knows? Where else could he have been to? There's still some questions.

Jimmy, stay with us. Let's take a quick break. We're going to come back and give you more on this breaking news. That the man that the police believe was behind all these bombings in Texas is now gone, but the investigation is not over.

We're also following this morning, the president. The president is facing a number of legal battles. He's got one with a porn star. Another with a Playmate. And there's a former "Apprentice" contestant, who is also bringing a legal action. What will all of these different scenarios mean for the presidency, if anything? We discuss next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:28:04] HILL: President Trump facing legal challenges from three women who want to tell their stories of alleged affairs and sexual harassment. This comes, of course, as the president is facing scrutiny over a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

CNN's Abby Phillip is live at the White House this morning with more.

Abby, good morning.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Erica.

As President Trump plans to sit down with the special counsel, Robert Mueller, there are really growing and increasing legal troubles on the home front and in his personal life.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIP (voice-over): Accusations about President Trump's alleged past sexual exploits now developing on three different fronts. The lawyer for adult film star Stormy Daniels releasing this photograph and the results of a 2011 polygraph test about her alleged affair with Mr. Trump.

The results indicate that Daniels was being honest when she said she had unprotected sex with the president in 2006. Mr. Trump has denied the affair. Polygraphs are generally inadmissible in court, but Daniels's lawyer paid $25,000 for the rights to the footage.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, LAWYER FOR STORMY DANIELS: We want the public to know the facts, to know my client's story. I'm confident that after they view that interview and after they view this evidence they are going to conclude that what they've been told by Mr. Cohen, and the denials, if you can call them denials, from the White House are simply baseless and false.

PHILLIP: President Trump's legal woes don't stop there. On Tuesday, a New York judge denied a motion by the president's lawyers to dismiss a defamation lawsuit from former "Apprentice" contestant Summer Zervos. Weeks before the 2016 election, Zervos accused Mr. Trump of sexually assaulting her in 2007.

SUMMER ZERVOS, FORMER CONTESTANT, "THE APPRENTICE": He came to me and started kissing me open-mouthed as he was pulling me towards him. He put me in an embrace, and I tried to push him away. I pushed his chest, put space between us, and I said, "Come on, man, get real." He repeated my words back to me, "Get real," as he began thrusting his genitals.

PHILLIP: The president denied her claims, saying, "I never met her at a hotel or greeted her inappropriately a decade ago."

Zervos's lawsuit claims Trump damaged her reputation by essentially calling her a liar.

Then there's former "Playboy" model Karen McDougal.