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Capitol on Lockdown Due to External Security Threat; Capitol Police: Someone Rammed a Vehicle into 2 Capitol Hill Officers. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired April 2, 2021 - 13:30   ET



CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, they coordinate well but the U.S. Capitol Police are the ones that really are the primary agency on capitol grounds. The MPD only comes there if requested by the U.S. Capitol Police.

Obviously, I mean, they've got the barricades set up. I'm not talking about just the fencing. That's something that is temporary and it's in the process of coming down.

But they have bollards and so forth. They have check points where they would check anyone trying to get onto the grounds at all.

And I'm not sure what took place today but that's the normal setup. I know they still have some fencing up from -- you know, as a result of January 6th. How much is still up, I don't know.

But from what I'm hearing now, it sounds like maybe a vehicle did try to get on the grounds. And whether or not there was any shooting that took place at all, I'm not sure. I'm not clear.

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: I want to -- I'm going to share a little information we're just getting actually from the U.S. Capitol Police, tweeting out that they've been responding, a suspect is in custody.

And that both officers -- let's see. Reports that someone rammed a vehicle into two officers, two U.S. Capitol Police officers. A suspect is in custody.

Both officers are injured. All three, which I would read as those officers and the suspect, have now been transported to the hospital.

So we see this car.


HILL: We see the tweet there from U.S. Capitol Police. And I know you can't see this right now.

If we could maybe put that video back up where we have the tight shot of that blue car.

So we're -- the video will advance a little bit if you just give us a moment, folks at home. As it zooms in, you can actually see it slamming into the barrier there.

I mean, it really makes you wonder, you look at the state of that car, and just the idea that a car would slam into two Capitol Police officers.

Charles, I mean, that alone makes you stop in your tracks. Where would they typically be positioned?

RAMSEY: Well, they would man every entry point around the capitol building.

Now, I'm not sure exactly where this is. You say it's the north side of the building but they would be stationed there and it would be checking every week that came in.

It sounds like perhaps this person rammed its car into the officers at some point in time, which is where the injuries come from. Hopefully, they're not critically injured.

But the officers would be standing there. And they would challenge any vehicle at all that tried to enter the grounds. And so that apparently is what took place in this situation as well.

HILL: And, Lauren, you were walk us through some of the security measures, since January 6th, that have changed. Some are still in places.

What is the presence like of Capitol Hill police officers, you know, today, April 2nd, versus what you would have seen maybe on a January 5th?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean obviously, there was a period of time where a number of officers had appeared to increase by exponential numbers. You also had, of course, a large presence of National Guard troops. That has started to drip off in the last couple of weeks.

And like I said before, there had been this barrier where normal cars were not driving up and down the road right near this barrier.

Perhaps, if you were a member of Congress, you could get through those barriers. But that road was not opened to the American public traveling up and down that thoroughfare.

This barrier, in particular, is close to the U.S. capitol. And like I said, this is right where the U.S. capitol dome is, the capitol building, not just the office building associated with this complex.

You know, this is an area where you would have had officers checking I.D.s, checking to make sure that the cars were tagged and appropriately able to enter that security area. This is an area, of course, that not just anyone can drive their car

into. You have to show your I.D. You have to show that your car is eligible to be within this area.

And obviously, it appears that what we are learning from that tweet from the U.S. Capitol Police is that U.S. Capitol Police are responding to a north barricade after a vehicle tried to access it, and then ran into two USCP officers.

Again, like you said, the subject is in custody and both officers are injured. So obviously, a critical incident here.

And that's why we heard on the loudspeaker a few minutes ago that you could not enter or exit U.S. capitol office buildings at this time.

HILL: Again, going back for folks just joining us now, the capitol on lockdown because of a security threat. Two officers injured. We've learned from U.S. Capitol Police they were apparently rammed by a vehicle.

The suspect is in custody. Both officers are injured. We're told, have been transported to the hospital.

Our Lauren Fox, who's with us now, a congressional correspondent, also reported seeing ambulances and a helicopter outside the building.

Lauren, you said you saw one person on a stretcher as well.


I also want to bring in Josh Campbell, who is with us.

You know, it doesn't feel like that long ago, of course, that the insurrection happened. I'm sure, for Lauren, for you especially, it doesn't feel like that long ago.

But as we're looking at everything unfolding today, Josh, I'm curious what you're hearing. I know we have you in Minneapolis for the trial but I know you've got a lot of sources you're working at all times. And just what you're making of what we know so far at the scene, Josh.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: You mentioned the U.S. Capitol Police, obviously, on high alert since the January insurrection. And they've been under the microscope because of the security posture in and around the capitol.

I think that means that those who were there, if you think about the layers around the United States capitol, maybe for those who aren't familiar, you have security personnel in and around the building.

But you also have lookouts that are looking outward. You have a series of barrier systems, perhaps unlike anywhere we've seen in the United States, around government buildings, where they're far off from the buildings, different layers, the so-called final denial barriers, up near close to the building as well.

It looks as though this vehicle, from this image that we're looking at, made it at least a close -- relatively close to the building.

I think we can read a couple things just looking. The first thing that I always try to look at when we have these types of emergent situations, what is the posture of law enforcement personnel in and around the scene.

And based on this footage that we're seeing from moments ago, you don't see people running. It doesn't appear as though there's an ongoing emergent situation. That's obviously a good thing.

Obviously, until the authorities come out with the "all clear," you're going to continue to see personnel there.

But also, we've seen incidents in the past in and around the United States capitol and other buildings where -- for example, there was one incident where a police pursuit ended outside the capitol and there was an exchange between the person and law enforcement.

So we don't know if this was someone there targeting the building.

I don't see police officers, cruisers in and around that car. It doesn't look as though this was the final part of some type of police chase.

Again, there's a lot we don't know but just kind of reading what we're seeing from this image.

It does look, though -- you look at that small sedan up against that barrier, and the way that that hood is somewhat accordioned out, that car was not -- was traveling at some rate of speed whenever it made that contact. You wouldn't see that kind of damage on a vehicle.

So a lot we don't know about what transpired there. But we can read at least initially from some of these images, it doesn't appear there's ongoing limiting threat.

But obviously, very concerning. That building, obviously, remains a target to this day. That's something that we continue to see in talking to our law enforcement sources.

And obviously, an ongoing review into the capitol security parameters in place to try to ensure that lawmakers, their staff and members of the public in and around the building stay safe.

HILL: Lauren, bring is up to speed, if you could, in terms of what you first heard and what you were told in terms of the lockdown and what that meant for everybody there at the complex for the U.S. capitol.

FOX: Yes. Just a short time ago, I was in the Dirksen Office Senate building and what I heard over the loudspeaker, I was trying to go back to my office in the capitol what I heard was this announcement basically saying that you could not deal -- they could not basically have us going in and out of the capitol building because of a security situation outside.

We also just saw a Capitol Police officer coming through here right in front of me as we were doing this live shot, going out there to look at the scene.

I also want to say, this is the main entrance to that U.S. capitol building. I want to emphasize, there are office buildings at the capitol and then there's the capitol dome, which is so synonymous with the scene on Capitol Hill. That's where those chambers are. That's where the insurrection happened on January 6th.

What you are seeing is that is the main check point to get to the U.S. capitol building. It's on the corner of Constitution and Delaware.

And like I was saying before, just a couple of weeks ago, you wouldn't have been able to drive up and down Constitution. That street was closed off because of that exterior fencing.

And I just -- you know, I think that that's important to point out to viewers at home. Because obviously, this is the kind of scenario that they had been really trying to prevent happening since January 6th, and obviously prior to January 6th as well.

But there's heightened, heightened security on Capitol Hill. Some of that had come down, just because of, you know, there was a sense that things could move beyond January 6th in the insurrection.

So a shocking moment for people on Capitol Hill.

Like Josh said, I think it's important to point out, that it appears that this scene, you know, had unfolded, and perhaps had been at the end. It didn't look like there was any imminent danger when I was outside.

But I will tell you that there's just a sense of anxiety up here on Capitol Hill, given what we just saw a couple of months ago. And this just a reminder that the threat is still very much in existence.

HILL: Absolutely. I can only imagine.

I want to bring in our colleague, Jessica Dean, who is also there at the capitol.

Slightly different vantage point that you have, Jessica. Give us a sense, what are you seeing and hearing from where you're at?


JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Right, Erica. As to where I am, I'm on the base floor of the capitol, looking directly at the scene right now. And what I can tell you is there are dozens of first responders, law enforcement out there, gathered around this scene.

And as Lauren was just describing to you, this is a main entrance into the capitol. If you've been to the capitol, you'll remember, that there are barricades that come off the ground that will stop traffic from coming in.

And what I'm looking at is that barricade that is currently up, which would stop traffic from coming in. And like a little hut, that's the check point.

There's a police guard directly in front of that barricade. And there appears to be a civilian car on the other side of it. They are looking at that right now. There are a number of Capitol Police vehicles out here. I'm looking at an ambulance right now.

So a large law enforcement presence right in front of the capitol where this scene is. It is taped off right now with that crime scene tape you would typically see.

But again, just a large presence. It looks like they're having kind of what looks like a meeting. Everyone standing together and talking, all of these law enforcement officials who have gathered here.

And, again, as Lauren pointed out -- and I think this is really important as people try to put together exactly what it looks like here.

If you were to come by the capitol, not that long ago, this is where these barricades would have been in terms of fencing. This is where the National Guard stood outside.

So we do see Capitol Police are responding, as well as Washington, D.C., police, it appears. I don't want to misspeak. I am certainly looking at Capitol Police right now.

And we have seen the officers, Erica, here inside. We're not allowed to go outside at this moment. And they are certainly as concerned as anybody else. They're watching as well from the inside.

I talked to one when I asked if I could go outside and look, and they said you're safe inside, stay inside here. That was after we had the all call that went out to our building alerting us to stay away from windows and doors -- Erica?

HILL: Jessica, thank you.

I also want to bring in our colleague, Noah Gray, CNN producer, who's there on the scene.

Noah, give us a sense, what are you able to see at this point from where you are? And give us a sense, too, Noah, if you could, of where are you so we can piece together what we're hearing from Lauren and Jessica as well.

NOAH GRAY, CNN PRODUCER (via telephone): Yes, absolutely, Erica. So I'm here on the corner of Constitution and first street northwest.

You might have my pictures of what you're seeing of the National Guard and the Capitol Police have established a wider perimeter.

As Jessica was saying, this would have been where the barricade used to exist. These are the roadblocks here that Capitol Police have erected. And you see the scene is getting a little bit larger here.

So my colleagues and I were out working on a story nearby when we got reports of this. So we responded over here.

At the time, this perimeter was not -- was not being held. But we did see an active fire and police scene at the corner of what is New Jersey or Delaware and Constitution Avenue.

We did see two D.C. fire ambulances leaving the scene, I believe transporting those two victims. I don't want to get ahead of what our reporting is and what you all have been reporting when I haven't been able to hear it.

But did see the park police helicopter flew by. It was cancelled for medical evacuation.

Right now, we're seeing additional federal law enforcement officials, as well as D.C. police detectives respond to the scene.

The fire officials have mostly -- excuse me. The first responders, the fire department, the emergency medical resources have largely cleared the scene as those victims have been transported to local D.C. hospitals.

Right now, it looks like the investigation is starting to beef up -- Erica?

HILL: Noah, stick with me. Thank you for that.

And I can -- for folks just joining us, I'll bring you up to speed quickly. You've been hearing from our producer Noah Gray on the ground, some of the pictures that he had fed into us.

On the left side of your screen is video we have of that area. And if you'll watch, there's -- you see it zooming in right now on this blue car that looks as if it has slammed into a barricade. You see the trunk up on that car.

We've learned from U.S. Capitol Police that two Capitol Police officers were injured after being rammed by a vehicle. A suspect, according to Capitol Police, is in custody. All three transported to the hospital. The capitol area on lockdown because of this external security threat.

We, of course, have a number of folks who there in their office every day in terms of their jobs with us here at CNN, who have been filling us in on the different vantage points, what they're seeing.

And we've been talking a lot about the fact that a couple weeks ago this area where the car likely drove up would have been blocked off to vehicles, to civilian vehicles, to people driving by.

Also with us our CNN security correspondent, Josh Campbell, and Jonathan Wackrow, our law enforcement analyst.


Jonathan, as we look at what we're seeing here, as we heard from Noah, he's talking about how he's seeing this increase in the presence. So we saw initially it was Capitol Hill police. And he says fire was

on the scene. Then we're seeing more enforcement come in. He was talking about also seeing some folks from the Metro D.C. Police Department.

I'm not sure how much you're able to see from where you are, Jonathan, how much you can see on your television.

But just give us a sense of what would be happening at this point, especially based on some of the reporting we have and some of the pictures we've been able to bring in about who's on scene.

JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Sure. So across Washington, D.C., any type of critical asset that has the protection that the U.S. capitol has -- and I'll reference the White House and other locations like that -- anytime that you have a vehicle ramming situation, it puts into motion a specific set of action steps.

Why? Because at the moment, we don't know if this was a deliberate act, or if this was just an errant vehicle accident.

So law enforcement is always going to err on the side of caution and put forth a more comprehensive response to any type of action that tries to infiltrate a secure perimeter.

What we see here is a vehicle that actually, you know, came down, a high-speed avenue of approach towards the capitol. And the defenses worked. This is why we have perimeter defenses. The anti-ramming barricade worked. It stopped the vehicle.

Unfortunately, in the process, two law enforcement officers, you know, got injured. But again, the system worked.

But what we didn't know at the moment, what we may not know right now, is, was this a diversionary tactic. Was there a secondary attack potentially being planned for another location?

That's why you take the action steps of locking down the U.S. capitol, you know restricting movement around the campus.

There's a different security posture and response from the Capitol Police. Notification will go out to all mutual-aid partners, such as the D.C. Metro Police, other federal law enforcement entities, to get them ready to respond to this location in the event that it is, you know, a multi-prong attack on the U.S. capitol.

Again, tensions are really high. We just started lowering the defenses around the perimeter of the U.S. capitol.

But, you know, what I've always said -- and I think my colleagues have always said -- is that the threat hasn't gone away. So there has to be a comprehensive security program put forth at the U.S. capitol to address these types of incidents, plus coordinated attacks.

HILL: You know, to that, speaking to that point, Josh, you were talking a short time ago about, obviously, we talk about what's changed.

We know what's changed since January 6th. Things have changed in the last couple of weeks, as Lauren Fox was pointing out to us, in terms of security, extra security that's been removed.

But when we talk about the heightened security, it's also just -- it's not just what we can see, Josh, right? It's what we can't see that can be really important in terms of how officers and how law enforcement are responding, and what they're looking for that may have changed since January 6th, Josh.

CAMPBELL: Absolutely. I mean, you mentioned these different layers of security. Things that you can see that you're supposed to see. There are physical security barriers out there. They serve the purpose of stopping threats.

But also, they're there for a reason. When you're in law enforcement, you want potential perpetrators to know that there are security posture parameters in place to stop these kinds of threats.

But there are also things that you don't see that -- you know, cameras in and around the capitol. There are personnel who are this charge of gathering intelligence.

And obviously, after that January 6th insurrection, the U.S. Capitol Police came under scrutiny for their efforts to protect that building. So that has been a major focus of them to ensure that they're one step ahead of the next threat.

I will say, in law enforcement, there's this mantra that action always beats reaction.

And the perpetrator, someone who's trying to do something wrong -- we don't know if that's the case here. If this was someone intentionally traveling at a high a rate of speed and crashed into officers and a barrier or it could have perhaps been an accident. We don't yet know that.

If it turns out this was someone trying to cause harm, they make the first move and it's up to law enforcement to try to respond. That's just the way it is.

But when we talk about these partnerships, and your question earlier about all these other agencies that will be responding, if this does turn out to be a criminal act, law enforcement will be working backwards.

Where was this person from? Where was this vehicle coming from? It may have crossed multiple jurisdictions. The District of Columbia isn't that large.

If you have someone coming from elsewhere that will require federal, state and local resources to try to identify and track that person. To Jonathan's point, maybe there are other people out there.

[13:50:01] And so this is going to take some time in order for them to sort that out. It's too soon for us I think right now to draw any conclusions. But certainly this raises major concerns because of the threat that we've seen there at that building.

HILL: Absolutely.

I want to go back to Lauren Fox, who has new reporting for us.

Lauren, what are you learning?

FOX: Well, we're getting more information about what the event was that transpired when this individual potentially ran into this barrier.

What we are learning is that USCP, which is the U.S. Capitol Police, was responding to this scene after an individual rammed into their vehicle and hit two of those officers.

Now, we are also getting new reporting about the fact that this individual, according to one source familiar, was brandishing a knife when they got out of this vehicle. And that was part of why they were responding to this.

So obviously, we're just getting more drips from our sources, trying to understand what occurred at this barricade.

Now I just want to underscore, once again, this is on the corner of Constitution and Delaware. Again, Constitution, for weeks, had been shut down. You couldn't travel up and down that main thoroughfare in Washington, D.C.

So over the last several weeks, some of the fencing, some of the security perimeter had been taken down because of concerns, you know, about the fact that it potentially was time to move on from January 6th.

But the concern has been that evolving threat on Capitol Hill. And potentially people who wanted to do harm to the capitol.

I will keep you posted as we get more information. But that is the new detail we are learning in the last few minutes.

HILL: So, again, Lauren Fox reporting for us. She is hearing from a source familiar more details on what happened.

And as you see at the bottom of your screen, the driver may have been brandishing a knife.

Again if you are just joining us, what you are looking at here, this video from moments ago, a car, which appears to have slammed into a barrier outside the capitol.

U.S. Capitol Police noting that two of their officers were rammed with a vehicle. A suspect is in custody, we're told. All three have been transported to the hospital. Also with us, Josh Campbell, Jonathan Wackrow.

And as we -- Jonathan, what we just learned from Lauren there -- again, it's so important for us to say this in these moments that are unfolding, we're all learning a lot of this together. Things can change in an investigation, obviously. This is all breaking at the moment.

But those new details that Lauren was able to get for us in some of her reporting, Jonathan, that does help to start to paint a picture.

WACKROW: Yes, it starts. And, again, this is the -- the moment that the officers arrive, that starts the investigative process. Understanding what happened here, what was the intent of this driver.

Again, I think when we hear the reporting that there's a suspect in custody, that really, you know, negates the fact that this could have been an errant vehicle accident. There was some sort of intent here or a criminal act. They just didn't -- this wasn't an accident, OK?

So now, was this a lone actor or was this part of a coordinated event? Again, investigative resources are going to be pulled. Josh Campbell talked about this a couple moments ago.

All the federal resources are coming together to understand, you know, and backtrack, where did this vehicle come from, where was it going.

And what was the actual intended target? Was it to just ram into this gate? If there was any type of preplanning, pre-attack indicators that they can see.

Investigators will start looking at all the videotape. One thing we saw out of the January 6th insurrection was that Washington, D.C., has a significant amount of video surveillance. That's going to play a big factor in adjudicating this incident right away.

Again, we're going to try to find out what was the intent of this vehicle, of the driver. You know, did they have a weapon? How were they brandishing that weapon? What was the use case of that? Were they going to try to ram the gate and flee on foot with the weapon? Again, a lot of unknowns here.

Investigators as we see -- it may look like a lot of people are putting -- standing around. But this is part of the investigative process.

They are looking at every detail of the vehicle. They're reconstructing the pathway it entered to see anything of evidentiary value that's going to answer the question, why did this happen.

HILL: Right.

I also want to bring with us -- we're talking about more law enforcement coming on the scene. We are told National Guard troops are there. Also with us is our law enforcement analyst, Charles Ramsey, who spent

a fair amount of time in D.C. as chief of the Metropolitan Police Department.

Chief Ramsey, as we look at what we see here in terms of the coordination that would be happening, our CNN producer, Noah Gray, said a short time ago he saw Metro Police arriving.


How will they play into the role? I know you said earlier that Capitol Police need to ask them to come onboard. But they will definitely be helpful at this point.

Just talk to us about how that coordination would be unfolding at this moment if you could.

RAMSEY: I know the chief of MPD is on scene. I sent him a text earlier. He responded that he was en route.

What normally would happen -- and I look back to 1998, when the two Capitol Police officers were murdered on capitol grounds, FBI, Secret Service, MPD, Capitol Police, everyone responded to the scene and coordinated their activities. Who does what? Who is responsible for doing what?

And those are the kinds of things that are taking place now, I'm sure. You know, you've got two injured officers. You've got a suspect, as both Jonathan and Josh mentioned earlier.

I can't tell the license tag on the car because the trunk is up. I was trying to catch a glimpse to get an idea at least where the car may be from.

It's not uncommon to see foreign tags in Washington, D.C., from all over the country. So there's no telling where in person is from.

But now they are trying to backtrack. They're trying to find out who are we dealing with here. They searched the vehicle, obviously. Whether they recovered any weapons or not is uncertain. But those are the kinds of things taking place right now.

But the Metropolitan Police Department will assist in any way possible. I'm sure they have investigators on the scene now. You have federal investigators there, clearly. And you have the U.S. Capitol Police.

And of course, the National Guard can help secure the perimeter. They'll beef up security now. They were starting to lessen it. I'm sure they beef it up.

That doesn't necessarily mean the fencing goes up. But personnel-wise, they'll certainly beef it up because of what just took place.

I heard Jonathan earlier and he's absolutely right. You know, you can't discount the fact that something else could be going on. Remember, it was only last month that a person was arrested outside

the vice president's residence with weapons. So there's a lot going on in Washington right now.

HILL: It's a good point to bring up, both what happened a couple of weeks ago, but could something else be happening at this very moment?

We also talked about the fact that there are cameras, as we learned. I think sort of knew. But you get a better sense of the extent to which there are cameras around this area, certainly after January 6th.

Just give us a sense, Chief Ramsey, about how that's changed, right, based on your experience, your time in D.C., and what we know to be the case now.

RAMSEY: A lot changed since January 6th obviously. Yes -- I'm sorry.

HILL: No, go ahead.

RAMSEY: Yes, a lot changed since January 6th, obviously, simply because of what took place.

I don't know what level of alert they're on now. But I would guess it's still pretty high as far as the Capitol Police goes, and as far as still having some National Guard.

Now again, the Metropolitan Police play a supporting role. Whether or not they are using their personnel, I can't tell. I don't know.

But they have good security -- you see the bollard right now that pops up. Those things are in all of the different areas around the capitol.

Anyone trying to drive on the grounds, believe me, they're going to be stopped. They're going to be searched. You cannot get on the grounds with a vehicle. If -- through any of the entrances.

HILL: And, again, as you point out, we don't know exactly how many officers are on scene, who is there. But you were saying, you said you were texting with the current chief of Metropolitan who said they were on their way there.

As we look at -- Josh Campbell, bring you in now -- from a federal experience, based on your experience, your time in the FBI, let's talk about that coordination and what role they could be playing even at this moment.

CAMPBELL: Yes, you know, I just got a statement in from the FBI saying they are responding to the incident at the U.S. capitol to provide support to the U.S. Capitol Police. A very brief statement. But yet another federal resource that they are bringing to bear here to try to assist authorities at the capitol.

Now, we talked a little bit earlier, obviously, the capitol is within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Capitol Police. Where you have these relationships, you have different entities there in the national capitol region that work together hand in glove on a regular day. So when you have an emergent situation, they are certainly working

with each other.

Now when it comes to what they would do, they have the immediate resources if they need forensic support, for example, trying to process the scene, trying to process the car. That is something the FBI would bring to bear.

But also looking out, if this turns out to be something else with a federal nexus, terrorism, something like that, you will see a greater presence there from the feds.

HILL: Josh Campbell, thank you.

Thanks to all of analysts and our correspondents.

Stay with us. We are going to continue to follow this breaking news. The U.S. capitol on lockdown due to an external threat we've learned from U.S. Capitol Police.


Two officers were rammed with a vehicle. They are injured. A suspect is in custody. All three have been taken to the hospital, we're told, according to U.S. Capitol Police.