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Toronto Van Attack; Melania Plans State Dinner; Eyewitnesses to Toronto Attack. Aired 6:30-7:00a ET

Aired April 24, 2018 - 06:30   ET



[06:33:09] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: We're following this deadly van attack in Toronto. The suspect's going to be in court soon. Ten people were murdered. Another 15 were injured. This driver just plowed into a crowd of pedestrians. He may have gone anywhere from half to a mile trying to find targets. How this unfolded, what the intentions were, the dramatic standoff that ended it, we're getting a lot of new details.

We have CNN's Alex Marquardt live in Toronto digging in for us.

What have you learned, my friend?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Chris, a lot of new details, you're right.

The alleged attacker is expected to be in court at 10:00 in the morning. At that point we are expecting to learn more about the charges.

In the meantime, police releasing more about the identity of the alleged attacker. He's a 25-year-old male from Richmond Hill, which is a suburb about half an hour away from where I'm standing here in Toronto. His name is Alek Minassian.

And, of course, the big question is, what is the motive? What drove him to carry out this horrific attack? The police are saying it definitely looks deliberate, but they were very quick to say this does not look like a terror attack. They said it does not affect -- it did not affect national security. They have not raised the terror threat level.

One thing they are digging into this morning, Chris and Alisyn, is a FaceBook post that appeared on one of Minassian's alleged FaceBook accounts shortly before the attack in which he wrote, all hail the supreme gentleman Elliott Roger. Now, Elliott Rodger is a name that we haven't really heard from since 2014. He carried out a shooting and ramming attack near UC-Santa Barbara in which six people were killed. So they are looking into that link, that possible -- that could -- he possibly could have been inspired by Roger and that 2014 attack.

Now, this is where the attack took place right here on Young Street. The attacker barreling down Young Street for about two-thirds of a mile in that white Ryder rental van, just plowing into people. Witnesses saying that he drove some 40 or 50 miles an hour.

[06:35:00] The entire attack took some 26 minutes. It came to a very dramatic end. And it looked like, there's speculation, that Minassian wanted to do what's called suicide by cop, get killed by the police, because there was a dramatic standoff with the police in which he pointed an object at the police and you can hear him saying, kill me.

Take a listen.


OFFICER: Come on! Get down!

SUSPECT: Kill me!

OFFICER: No, get down!

OFFICER: Get down!

SUSPECT: (INAUDIBLE) gun in my pocket.

OFFICER: I don't care, get down!

SUSPECT: (INAUDIBLE) gun in my pocket.

OFFICER: Get down!

OFFICER: Get down or you're going to get shot.

SUSPECT: Shoot me in the head!


MARQUARDT: So incredibly dramatic moments there. Minassian was taken into custody without incident.

Alisyn, even if this isn't officially a terror attack, of course it's darkly reminiscent of those terror attacks that were also ramming attacks in both Europe and New York on Halloween last year.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, my gosh, Alex, there's so many questions still about this.

Thank you very much for the reporting from Toronto.

On a much lighter note, it's a big night for the first lady as she and the president host their first state dinner. We have an inside look at Melania Trump's role and the preparations, next.


CAMEROTA: OK, so tonight the Trumps will host their first state dinner for French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife. First Lady Melania planning every detail, we're told, for tonight's dinner. She tweeted this video of the preparations. A major diplomatic moment for President Trump, but it's also an opportunity for the first lady to make her mark tonight.

So joining us now is CNN White House reporter Kate Bennett, who got CNN's first look at the dining room.

[06:40:02] So, Kate, you know, listen, you've been reporting that Melania wanted to plan every element of this. She doesn't use a party planner, which first ladies often do. Why is this so important to her?

KATE BENNETT, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: I mean, it's her first stepping out on the global stage in terms of hostessing. And I really think that this has been a first lady who is trying to find -- I mean, listen, her background isn't law. It's not being a political wife. It's not sort of knowing how to navigate this new world she's in. But it is design and it is social stuff and it is hostessing. So in a way this is very much plays into Melania Trump's strength. And I think that's why she likely didn't hire an event planner, which actually saves quite a bit of money.

The party itself or the dinner is much smaller than previous state dinners we've seen towards the end of the Obama administration when the guest lists ran up to about 400 people. This one is going to be a lot smaller, about 100, 130 people. And I think she just felt very capable and able to handle it.

CAMEROTA: And so speaking of the guest list, this one breaks with tradition in that no Democrats from Congress are invited. Typically I believe at least the leadership of the other party is invited to these state dinners. And so, why? Why is it breaking with tradition in that way?

BENNETT: Well, we won't know for sure until the actual guest list is released, which happens, you know, at the dinner tonight. However, we've heard, yes, that there are no Democrats coming, except we did hear that John Bell Edwards, the governor of Louisiana, who is a Democrat, will be there. But we aren't for sure certain.

You know, listen, this is a divisive political climate and Washington has changed in many ways since President Trump took over as president, so certainly this is a reflection. I don't think anyone's necessarily surprised by the invite list in that sense, but I think it is a surprise in the break from tradition.

But, again, this is a smaller dinner. We'll also not see as many celebrities there that we've seen in the past likely and not as many media people as sometimes are invited.

CAMEROTA: No journalists, right?

BENNETT: No journalists, as far as we know. You know, I'm not sure if there will be folks from another network that the president tends to watch quite a bit. But as far as we understand, it's not going to be the media heavy situation that we've seen before in guest lists of the past.

CAMEROTA: I understood that coded reference.

And what -- who's in charge of the guest list? Did the first lady choose the guests or the president or someone else?

BENNETT: Likely most the -- most of them came from the West Wing. However, there is a strong influence at these state dinners. Diplomacy does play a part. So certainly the State Department was involved.

You know, the French delegation has their own list. There are people who work with France here in Washington, embassy people, et cetera. So there was a hardy invite portion that will go to the guest's side.

However, most of the attendees are people, friends of the president's. Those who have supported his presidency. We'll see a lot of people at the West Wing he's probably comfortable and familiar with.

I'm sure Melania Trump had a chance to invite a few people herself and she may have done that. We'll have to again wait and see. But, really, her concern over the past several months, which is how long she's spent planning this thing, has been just that the night goes off without a hitch, that the decor looks beautiful, those sorts of things. She even picked the chair cushions. So we know that she's been actively involved.

CAMEROTA: And we've seen more of the first lady lately, certainly in this video that they have just distributed. Will we hear from her around this?

BENNETT: I'm not -- you know, Alisyn, that's a really good question. Typically the first lady doesn't speak at the podium. I noticed last night in the setup at the state dining room when I got a peek, the podium was there. And typically it's the president who gives a toast and then the French president will likely say something as well. But the first lady, probably not.

She has a day planned, an outing with the French first lady, Brigitte Macron, today. The two are going to visit a museum here in Washington. Again, I don't think that she'll be making remarks, so to speak, but I think we will see her more today. We're certainly waiting to see what she wears tonight.

CAMEROTA: For sure.

BENNETT: And -- and that and she'll have a big day in front of her.

CAMEROTA: Yes, it's always fun to watch what she and the first lady of France are wearing.

Kate Bennett, thank you very much for that.

BENNETT: Thank you.


CUOMO: The royal baby, fifth in line to the British throne, but no name. What are the leading contenders? We name names, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:48:08] CUOMO: The gunman who killed four people at a Nashville area Waffle House is set to appear in court tomorrow morning. His name is Travis Reinking and he faces four counts of criminal homicide. A tip from the community led police to capture him in a wooded area near his apartment after an intense manhunt.

This shooting raises serious questions about whether the father's -- the suspect's father should face charges for giving his son guns when he himself, the son, was banned from possessing them.

CAMEROTA: I think we know the answer.

Court filings by Special Counsel Robert Mueller reveal that Paul Manafort and Rick Gates spoke to investigators or gave depositions in lawsuits six times since 2013. All of those statements may be used in the money laundering and conspiracy case against Manafort, the president's former campaign chairman. Gates is cooperating with investigators. Mueller made the filing with the court to defend the FBI's raid on Manafort last year.

CUOMO: All right, British bookmakers are laying odds on the royal baby name. This is what they do over there. Arthur, Albert --


CUOMO: And James are among the betting favorites. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge bringing the new prince, thank God healthy, home from the hospital. Big too, like 8 pounds 7 ounces. So the baby now in Kensington Palace. The royal baby fifth in line to the throne.

CAMEROTA: Look at her. I mean this was -- she had just given birth. You know, in the United States --

CUOMO: She looks great.

CAMEROTA: But, I mean, we get wheeled out in the wheelchair.

CUOMO: Right, well, that's protocol.

CAMEROTA: Right. We get wheeled out. Here she -- apparently you don't need to be if you look at Kate. I was in bed for three days, so I -- she's just astounding to me.

CUOMO: Right.

CAMEROTA: She's dressed up. Her makeup --

CUOMO: One, you're a little soft.


CUOMO: Two, did you watch Churchill?

CAMEROTA: That's a good point. CUOMO: Stiff upper lip.

CAMEROTA: Yes, yes, that's what I'm saying.

CUOMO: Tough it out.

CAMEROTA: Look at this. They're toughing it out. Look at her. She's not even toughing it out.

[06:50:01] CUOMO: But she looks great. She, by all accounts, has been a great mom. We do not have royalty here in America for good reason, but we do have The Rock and he too has a new child.

CAMEROTA: Is that right?

CUOMO: A second daughter named Tiana Gia.

CAMEROTA: How did he come through birth, child labor?

CUOMO: Well, he was shirtless in his first picture holding the child.

CAMEROTA: Thank goodness. Perfect.

CUOMO: So maybe there is more to the story than I understand at this point. The child can already bench press 175 pounds.

CAMEROTA: OK. Very good. Moving on.

We do have some new developments to tell you about in that deadly van attack in Toronto. This is one of the worst mass killings in Canada's modern history. Two people who witnessed this carnage join us next.


CUOMO: The suspect accused of driving a rental van into pedestrians on a busy Toronto street is going to appear in court today. He killed ten people, 15 were injured.

Joining us now are two people who witnessed the carnage. Diego DeMatos and Christian Ali.

[06:55:00] Gentlemen, sorry to meet you this way, but thank you very much for helping us understand this situation better.



CUOMO: Diego, let's start with you.

You witnessed the van actually hitting people on your way to the gym. What did you see? What did you make of it?

DEMATOS: Well, it was a regular Monday afternoon. It was a beautiful day. So I'm going to the gym. And slowly looking for a parking spot. I look over and I see this van coming down really fast. And all of a sudden it hits two people across the street that was going north and the van was coming south. So it hits two people. It was so fast, it threw one of the ladies all the way back into the building and then one of the guys forward into the pavement and then just kept driving off.

And then at first I thought it was a hit and run. I had a friend in the car with me. And I said, oh my gosh, that guy just hit two people and kept driving. And then I think he hit -- he must have hit a car or a pole. I don't know what he hit. And then went back on the sidewalk and -- and -- and he stopped. And then people start screaming it was that truck, it was that truck, it was that truck and people start panicking at this point because there was blood gushing out of the guy's head. And the lady was bleeding really bad as well.

And then I slowly kept driving because there was a lot of car behind me. And as I drive a few meters up north, there's about maybe four or five bodies again on the floor and people screaming and crying, looking panicked. There was broken glass shelter, garbage cans, everything up on the pavement in the middle of the street.

And -- and I keep driving a little bit more and then I see all this panic and this guy asking for help. And then I pull my car over to the side and run over to him in the middle of the street and try to help him and -- by doing CPR on this guy. And -- but he was dead. So he basically just passed away in our arms. Sorry, I get emotional just seeing his face again in front of me.

So we waited for the police and the paramedics and firefighters, everybody came. We backed off a little bit and waited to speak with them. And as we're waiting, a lot more police started to show up and then they started removing everybody from the scene.

It was -- it was like a movie scene. It was like a war zone. I couldn't believe what I was seeing, what was happening in Toronto. So we waited a little bit longer and then after that we got back in the car and we started driving again. And as we're driving slowly up, we see more dead bodies on the floor and then -- and people that just in pure panic and crying and screaming and calling 911. And this all happening maybe eight, nine blocks. I don't know how far it was. Maybe it was a long stretch of road. And it just seemed like he was going on and off on to the sidewalk, on and out off, on and off, on and off. And I tried to help a guy, but it was a little bit too late.

CUOMO: Well, look, you did what you could. We're showing video that you shot because you wanted to make sure that there was proof of what was being done there so you could be helpful. You got out of your car and you did what you could. And that -- that says something about you. And thank you for sharing that part of it. I know this is something that you never wanted to have happen and you never wanted to witness.

Now, Christian, when you came upon it, you know, you weren't seeing it in a real-time. What did you think you were seeing?

ALI: Well, I wasn't too sure what was happening. I was heading northbound and it appears I approached a scene just minutes after everything. I passed a gentleman who was unconscious at the side of the road. He had no shoes on. There was a bunch of car debris but no car. So, I thought maybe it was a hit and run. There were people around him just completely confused.

I continued north and probably about ten, 20 seconds later there's another gentleman on the other side of the road. So that's a good 60, 70 feet. And there's a police officer leaning over him bracing his neck, talking to him. He was moving, so I could tell he was alive. And I thought, you know, there's a lot of bad accidents in just such a short space of time or short area.

And then about ten seconds later, I happen upon a lady, and she was face down on the sidewalk, you know, and surely deceased at that point. And it started slowly -- just started quickly coming together. It was surreal.

[07:00:00] And then probably ten seconds after that is when I got to Young and Finch and there were probably about 20, 30 people standing around, four or five people on the sidewalk, a number of pedestrians frantically performing CPR on some of those people. There was a lot of blood.