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U.S. Capitol on Lockdown after Car Rammed into Officers; Source: One of the Capitol Police Officers Was Stabbed; Officials Give Briefing on Car Ramming Incident at Capitol; USCP Acting Chief: Capitol Police Officer Who Was Stabbed Has Died. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired April 2, 2021 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): But it was clear that they'd been here, right, ever since that insurrection. And they were moving very calmly, as you saw, through the hallways to go outside.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: And as I'm -- I'm mindful of the National Guard -- Chief Ramsey, just back to you.
Of course, the capitol insurrection, January 6th, just a couple months ago, and there was a lot of confusion and frustration over, you know, calls to the National Guard, why aren't they getting to the capitol sooner?
And here you go. Talk about major changes three months later. Bang! They're inside.
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes. And I believe they still had some actually on the grounds. I don't think they had withdrawn all of the National Guard. I don't know.
But if they had, they certainly have a quick reaction force in place now. Because not much time passed before you started seeing a significant presence of National Guard. Which is a good thing.
And I heard Jonathan earlier and he is absolutely right. I mean, this is something that is encouraging because at least things worked this time.
I mean the barriers worked. The officers were able to neutralize the threat. The guard and other resources were able to get to the capitol quickly. I mean, this is all important stuff.
And granted, you know, in light of January 6th, the threat level has been elevated. But this is the way it should be.
BALDWIN: This is the way it should be.
Let me read for everyone. I've got a wire from Barbara Starr, our Pentagon correspondent, just on D.C. National Guard. This is from a spokesperson: "The D.C. National Guard deployed an immediate response force composed of National Guard soldiers and airmen to the capitol complex this afternoon to support the U.S. Capitol Police. Due to operational security, we cannot discuss further details regarding the QRF. No National Guard members were injured in the incident at the capitol."
Again, a reminder, we're going to be getting a briefing from U.S. Capitol Police in about 15 minutes from now.
Two of their officers were injured as it sounds like they tried to stop the suspect from getting anywhere near the capitol.
Josh Campbell, I'm going to pop you back on TV.
Talk to me about possible motives and how law enforcement goes about determining with a suspect who is now dead, how they figure out why he or she he wanted to do this.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It's obviously the first challenge when you have a suspect who can no longer be interviewed.
We'll have -- that vehicle to see if they can pull identification, license plate from the VIN number, whether the suspect had identifying information in the car or on his or her person. That will be the first step to try to make that identification.
I will say that, you know, there's a lot we don't yet know in the early hour.
A couple of things that we can read into that tell us that there's no longer an emergent situation. The first is the fact that authorities are about to hold a press conference here in a short period of time. They wouldn't do that if they were still trying to focus on some kind of threat.
We also know based on some footage we've been seeing. You don't see an emergent posture by authority. That's a good thing. We appear to be beyond the emergent phase.
But when we get to the why, why did this happen, at first, whenever this first happened, we were asking ourselves whether it was intentional, whether perhaps an accident.
The new piece of information that we got, that the suspect not only rammed the vehicle but then stepped out wielding a knife, tells us they are going to be treating this as a criminal act. Someone who was involved in an accident doesn't step out with a deadly weapon.
One thing I look at as well -- we do this, unfortunately, after so many of these violent incidents we cover -- is try to look at what's going on at the scene.
If this person's goal was to cause mass loss of life, this was not the way to go about doing it, to go towards the building, that sure is a target, sure is a target symbolic but is also heavily secured. You have members of the National Guard. You have, obviously, members
of Capitol Police there that is securing it. A lot of the barrier systems that are in place.
But also, Congress is in recess right now. You do have some members and their staff that are there certainly.
But again, to try to get in the mindset of what was the goal intentional --
BALDWIN: Josh to that point, let me jump in. Let me jump in.
BALDWIN: Because the point is -- listen, we can't ever crawl into the mind of this, you know, individual who did this. But the Congress isn't in session.
CAMPBELL: Right. No, exactly. And you know, around the capitol, for those who know Washington, D.C., you have, obviously, Capitol Police that are there in and around the building when there are votes.
Which means when you have members of Congress leaving their respective House and Senate office buildings and going to the main chambers, you'll see a beefing up of security for the very reason you have a lot of the VIPs moving in and around the building.
They are in recess. Even if this person wanted to cause, you know, some mass incident here, they obviously didn't do their homework. And there's a lot that we don't know about, what went into the mindset.
But what I'm trying to read into what could be the possible focus of the building. That leaves me -- and again with we don't know. But obviously, the building itself, as a symbolic target, which all
CAMPBELL: And we don't know what range of motivation this is across any type of political strum, ideology. Certainly, too early for that.
But again, it tells me that there's a lot here that investigators have to work with. Because there's nothing apparent from the initial indication of the very little information that we have thus far leading us to a clear reason why it happened today.
BALDWIN: All right, Josh, thank you. Stand by.
Jessica Dean covers Capitol Hill for us here at CNN.
Jessica, I know you are back there in the bureau. Where were you when the -- the announcement came over the loudspeaker, lockdown, and what can you add to the conversation.
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, let me give you an idea of what this is. We are in a tiny little booth here deep on the Senate side of the U.S. capitol.
BALDWIN: Oh, you're on the Hill. OK.
DEAN: Yes, I'm here. And I was down at my desk on the other side. And we heard the alert go out telling us to stay away from windows, stay away from doors, which, of course, everything goes through your mind.
But what was especially weird, I have to tell you, this is a Senate Friday, which typically is quiet, even when they're in session. As Josh noted, they are in recess. There are very few people here. So it was eerily quiet once that went out.
So I kind of poked my head out and looked down the stairs. You could hear a pin drop, except for the announcement that was going out over the loudspeaker.
From that point, we kind of started piecing together what exactly had happened.
I went downstairs to the ground level of the Senate building and was looking over the video that you see right now. So I could see that from inside. We're still on lockdown, not allowed to go outside.
You could see a large law enforcement presence there. Of course, other Capitol Police officers were standing right next to me.
And you have to acknowledge the fact that, just a few months ago, what happened here, that is still very heavy in the air here for so many people.
BALDWIN: Of course.
DEAN: And it certainly hung heavy in the air today as people tried to figure out what was going on.
I was asking them if they knew anything at the time. They were still trying to piece it together.
What we do know right now, sources telling me and my colleagues that the suspect in this case is dead. We know that any rammed that car -- or attempted to ram that car into the barrier there, injuring two Capitol Police officers, here.
Again, a force that has seen so much and lost -- and experienced so much loss recently to have this happen now today is simply, I think, unbelievable for so many people. But here we are.
And, Brooke, you know, people worried about this when the fencing came down. I walk in sometimes through that entrance. And before the fencing came down, it was all there.
It was barricaded. National Guard members were there. U.S. police were there. And then you go in through a security checkpoint beyond that to get into the building.
As so many noted, this just recently came down. And you're now able to drive up and walk in there. So just, I think, for a lot of people it's unbelievable to see this unfolding.
DEAN: But, again, the news to take away right now is that we know that the suspect -- we have confirmed with sources the suspect is dead and that these two U.S. Capitol Police officers have been injured. We're waiting to hear on the status of them.
And, Brooke, I know you noted this but we are expecting to hear from Capitol Police very soon. I'm not sure what time it is. But I think around 2:45.
BALDWIN: Exactly. Exactly. But just, you know, thinking of these two capitol officers who were there doing their jobs, only recently buried one of their own. And here they are just a couple of months later having to respond to this.
Jessica, thank you.
BALDWIN: Stand by.
Let's go to -- as you mentioned the briefing -- the Capitol Hill police will be briefing reporters. We'll take it live in a matter of minutes.
Brian Todd is now on the scene near where the briefing will take place.
Brian, tell me what you've been able to see from your vantage and what you know.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, the media has been pushed about 100 or so yards away from where this incident taking place. You can see it over my left shoulder. I'll point to it and our photojournalist will zoom in.
You see the ambulance there on Constitutional Avenue. You see other police and security vehicles there. Obviously, the security posture here is very heavy at this moment. Tensions are very, very high.
This unfolded a little over an hour ago as we've been saying. Sources telling us the suspect in this case is dead.
That one of the police officers was stabbed. Two police officers who were injured here, you know are in the hospital. Their condition is not clear at this point. But one police officer stabbed in this incident.
And the suspect is dead after being shot by police officers. We have the account, of course, from multiple sources that the -- the
car itself rammed into a barricade. That barricade would have been there on Constitution Avenue, right over my left shoulder there.
The barricades remain here all the time, even after the fencing at the capitol was taken down recently.
The security posture, up until this incident, had been reduced slightly. The fencing taken down. The razor wire fencing taken down. Thousands of National Guard troops have left the city.
But thousands of National Guard troops remain. And we are told they are helping to secure the area as well.
That's what we have for you at the scene, Brooke. Still very, very tense and security very railroad heavy. We hope to hear from officers shortly on more details of what unfolded.
BALDWIN: Should be a couple of minutes away from the press briefing.
Brian Todd, thank you so much. We'll come back to you.
Brian mentioned the presence of the National Guard. Let's go to the Pentagon. And our correspondent there, Barbara Starr, on more how they are helping protect the capitol grounds -- Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The National Guard troops moving very quickly through the capitol hallways just moments ago. And then a group of several dozen National Guard troops walking down to one of the checkpoints.
And these troops moving through the Capitol Hill complex, we are told, are now part of a so-called immediate reaction force that has been deployed. This is the backup force of the National Guard to try and help out, to provide more security when it's needed.
You saw them with shields and other equipment. This is part of how they are outfitted to help when they're needed for in kind of activity.
There's about 2,300 total National Guard devoted to the Capitol Hill mission to protect the complex. This is just a small part of a separate 300 immediate reaction force group.
And why could they be there today? How could they react so fast? Well, the difference between today and January 6th is they are already on site. They were approved to be there. The Capitol Police didn't mind having them there, obviously.
The city had National Guard out in Washington, D.C. Back on January 6th, the Capitol Hill police had not approved to have that National Guard on site when the insurrection riot unfolded. And they couldn't all deal -- they didn't have enough manpower to deal with it. Today, very different. They could get several dozen quick reaction
force troops right out there and help secure the checkpoints -- Brooke?
BALDWIN: Barbara, thank you.
We are looking at some of these officers. Looks like they are approaching what I imagine will be the podium for this press briefing happening.
Here we go. Let's see if they step behind the microphones. Hopefully, we'll start to get some answers. Obviously, way too early on motive but we can hopefully get an update on the officer's condition.
Two officers, we're told, in the hospital. The suspect is dead.
UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: -- Capitol Hill Police Department. You're going to be hearing from Chief Yogananda Pittman, with the Capitol Hill Police, as well as Chief Contee with MPD.
YOGANANDA PITTMAN, ACTING CHIEF, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE DEPARTMENT: Good afternoon, everyone. My name is acting chief, Yogananda Pittman, for the United States Capitol Police.
It's with a heavy heart that I come here this afternoon to shed some light on the incident that occurred at the United States capitol.
At approximately 1:02 hours this afternoon, a suspect entered what we refer to as the north barricade of the capitol. The suspect rammed his car into two of our officers and then hit the north barricade barrier.
At such time, the suspect exited the vehicle with a knife in hand. Our officers then engaged that suspect. He did not respond to verbal commands.
The suspect did start lunging toward U.S. Capitol Police officers, at which time U.S. Capitol Police officers fired upon the suspect. At this time, the suspect has been pronounced deceased.
Two U.S. Capitol Police officers were transported to two different hospitals.
And it is with a very, very heavy heart that I announce one of our officers has succumbed to his injuries.
We are not able to release any information, names, age, date of birth, or anything of that nature at this time because we still have to notify the next of kin.
I just ask that the public continue to keep U.S. Capitol Police and their families in your prayers.
It has been an extremely difficult time for U.S. Capitol Police after the events of January 6th and now the events that have occurred here today.
So I ask that you keep our U.S. Capitol Police family in your thoughts and prayers.
At this time, I'm going to turn it over to the Metropolitan Police chief, Mr. Robert Contee, for the Metropolitan Police Department's portion of this investigation.
ROBERT CONTEE, ACTING CHIEF, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT: Good afternoon. I'm Robert Contee, acting chief of the Metropolitan Police Department.
Our members responded to the U.S. capitol today just after 1:00 p.m. to investigate an officer-involved shooting.
At this time, the Metropolitan Police Department's Homicide Division as well as our Internal Affairs Division will now take over the investigation with respect to the shooting death that occurred as well as the officer's death.
There's not a lot of information we can release to the public at this time. But we certainly -- I will be working very closely with our partners at the park police, the U.S. Capitol Police.
At this time, I just want to extend my deepest condolences on behalf of the entire Metropolitan Police Department to all of the officers at the United States Capitol Police for their service.
And, unfortunately, for the loss of life that have occurred here today at the United States Capitol Police.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Chief is there an ongoing threat here on Capitol Hill and the neighborhood? What can you tell residents living here as well and folks working in the area?
CONTEE: At this time, it does not appear to be an ongoing threat. Obviously, we are in the early stages of our investigation. We need to obviously understand the motivation behind this senseless act. So the Metropolitan Police Department will certainly be doing that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You said the suspect -- any reason to note that he was known to Capitol Police or MPD beforehand? Any indication he had been around the capitol beforehand, spotted or something like that.
CONTEE: It does not appear he is known to the Capitol Police or Metropolitan Police Department at this time.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is this a terrorism-related incident?
CONTEE: It does not appear to be terrorism related. But obviously, we'll continue to investigate to see if there's some type of nexus along those lines.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- change at all? What's the mission look like the next couple of days.
CONTEE: I'll refer that to the United States Capitol Police.
TODD: Chief, did the suspect say anything or yell anything at the time?
PITTMAN: I would say that, at this time, the investigation is still in its preliminary stages. So we don't have that information.
And the Capitol Police, as far as its security posture, remains in a steady state at this time.
We are very thankful for our National Guard partnership. We do have National Guard on the campus.
But the security posture at this time remains the same.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You said that it -- you said that, obviously, you're still looking at motive. I understand that.
Any reason to believe there was any specific target -- specific member of Congress the suspect may have been trying to go after? Any indication who that may have been.
PITTMAN: We do not have the suspect on file with the U.S. Capitol Police. So there's no indication at this time that there's any nexus to any member of Congress.
PITTMAN: Yes, ma'am?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was there drugs or alcohol involved? Did you find any of that in the car?
PITTMAN: We can't confirm that. But the investigation is ongoing.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Any records in the car?
PITTMAN: The suspect did exit the vehicle with a knife in hand. And at that time, he started to lunge toward, run aggressively toward U.S. Capitol Police officers.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Where there any weapons?
PITTMAN: No, that part of the investigation is still ongoing. The scene is still being processed by Metropolitan Police Department. So we will have additional information at a later time.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- ever come in contact -- you mentioned the lunge but did the suspect come in contact and wrestle with the police there.
PITTMAN: The investigation is ongoing. From what we can see from video at this time, I do not see the suspect wrestling with a U.S. Capitol Police officer. But when he exited the vehicle, the knife was clearly in his hand and he did start to run toward the officers.
PITTMAN: So at this time, this is all the questions that I am going to take.
I'll turn it back over to the Metropolitan Police Department's chief.
Again, I ask you to please keep the United States Capitol Police family in your thoughts and prayers at this time. It has been an extremely difficult and challenging year for us. But we will get through this. And we do appreciate the community support.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The second officer -- can you tell --
UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: Hey, folks, we understand you guys have a lot of questions. Obviously, this is a complex situation. We'll be putting out more information as we can on social media.
And if we decide to do any more briefings later on, we'll, of course, let you know right away.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you take one more question?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: One question I have, looking at the grand fabric of all of this, USCP has changed their intelligence, the way they're sharing it. They've been doing what they can to try to beef up the security here and still they're under attack. What is the answer?
CONTEE: Yes, well, I think just our responsibilities and duties as law enforcement officers, we're here to protect and serve the community.
Clearly, this Was someone who was actively trying to just get at whoever, whatever. We just don't know right now.
We have a responsibility to investigate that, to get to the bottom of this. Whether to tackle law enforcement, whoever. We have the responsibility to get to the bottom of it. And we'll do that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is he at the scene or the hospital, sir?
BALDWIN: As you heard from the U.S. Capitol Police acting chief, Yogananda Pittman, that with a heavy heart she had to stand there before reporters, really before America, not soon after burying their own officer, Brian Sicknick, from the death after the U.S. capitol insurrection, now announcing one of these two officers has also died.
Lauren Fox covers the capitol for us here at CNN.
Lauren, obviously, our thoughts and prayers to this family who has not even been identified -- or, rather, notified. We don't know the name of this officer yet.
But another U.S. Capitol Police officer, protecting the capitol, protecting America, dying.
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brooke. Look, this is absolutely heartbreaking. This force has already been through so much, especially after the January 6th attack.
When you think about what happened during the insurrection and now, a couple of weeks later, just a couple of months later, this happening again at the U.S. capitol.
It's a reminder of what these men and women do every single day when they show up for work. They keep us safe. We see them every day going in and out of these buildings.
I think it's an important reminder to viewers, the U.S. capitol is a staff of thousands of people, including these U.S. Capitol Police officers who work to keep it very safe.
Now, you know, we learned a couple of additional details as part of this press conference.
They were asked specifically if this was a target, if this individual was trying to target any one member of Congress. They said they did not have this person in their files.
At this time, they didn't have any further information about what that motive was. This investigation, of course, still ongoing.
Just devastating news here that one of the Capitol Police officers has been killed in this incident. Just a reminder to our viewers at home, this individual rammed into a
barrier here at the U.S. capitol at the north entrance of the capitol on the corner of Constitution and Delaware.
That person -- this was confirmed moments ago in this press conference -- got out of the vehicle, brandishing a weapon, brandishing a knife. They were then shot by a U.S. Capitol Police officer.
We have now learned that the suspect is dead and that a U.S. Capitol Police officer has died -- Brooke?
BALDWIN: Lauren Fox, thank you.
Brian Todd to you, about 100 yards from that -- there you go -- there at the news conference.
We also heard that there doesn't appear to be an ongoing threat.
TODD: Yes, Brooke. The chief of the D.C. Metropolitan Police, Robert Contee, did say there did not appear to be an ongoing threat at this time. He also said this does not appear to be terrorism-related at this time.
Every official at this news conference and officials that CNN has talked to has said this is very early in the investigation. They do not as of now have a motive for this incident.
If my photojournalist can pan to his right, my left, we can get a better look now of where this occurred just beyond these National Guardsmen, where you see that ambulance.
That's Constitutional Avenue. That's the area where the suspect rammed into the barrier at around 1:00 this afternoon.
According to acting Capitol Police chief, Yogananda Pittman, the suspect got out, clearly brandishing a knife, and quickly ran over and lunged at officers, stabbing at least one of them.
You heard the horrible news moments ago from Chief Pittman that that officer has died. They are not releasing the name of that officer just yet.
We do not have the name of the suspect just yet.
Again, motive is key. We peppered both Chief Contee and Chief Pittman about possible motives. I asked if the suspect yelled or said anything when they got out of the car and ran over towards the officers.
They're not giving that information yet. They may not know it yet. They're probably still interviewing other officers and witnesses who were at the scene, Brooke.
But, again, what you get a sense of here is that this horrible incident unfolded probably over the course of just a few seconds. This seems to have taken place in a very quick, short amount of time, around 1:00 this afternoon. It probably unfolded and unfolded within moments.
But the officers did fire at the suspect after the suspect clearly stabbed one of the officers. Unfortunately, the officer did succumb to their injuries a short time later. Probably at a hospital here.
I asked the officers here whether the suspect actually died at the scene or a hospital. They were not able to give those answers, Brooke.
Here you have it, a synopsis of what we're told occurred. The suspect is dead after having been shot by police officers. One U.S. Capitol Police officer is dead. Another has been hurt. We do not know the condition of that officer as of now. We hope to get that soon.
Again, this unfolded just over my left shoulder on Constitution Avenue right next to the capitol, right next to the capitol grounds.
Police are not able to say what the motive was, what the suspect was trying to do, whether he or she was trying to get at someone at the capitol, inside the capitol, or maybe just trying to get inside the grounds with the vehicle.
I asked if there were any weapons in the vehicle. Chief Pittman was not able to give those answers either, Brooke.
Again, a very, very violent episode here just steps away from the capitol occurring a little less than two hours ago.
BALDWIN: Awful. Awful. Again, hearing Chief Pittman say it's an extremely difficult time, please, keep the Capitol Police in your prayers.
Brian, thank you.
Evan Perez, back over to you.
I know you were chatting earlier about -- I know you're a big runner. You're running around Capitol Hill and you know exactly where this is and you know exactly where these Capitol Police officers stand right before, you know, this barrier --
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Barrier, right.
BALDWIN: -- where this car clearly slammed into.
It gives you a sense to imagine that one of these officers has died from his or her injuries after this car slammed into him or her before slamming into this barrier.
PEREZ: Right. These officers put themselves in the way before this vehicle even gets to the barrier. Just because of the way the setup is for you to enter the complex and for you to be able to get to the parking areas, you have to first go past a couple of officers.
There's also a couple of National Guards soldiers posted right there at the entrance.
This suspect would have rammed into the officers and then rammed into the barrier, which is where you see the vehicle.
It's important -- a couple things really stand out, Brooke. One is the suspect was wielding a knife. This is a country where it's pretty easy to get a gun. And so that's one of the first things that occurred to me.
Certainly, occurred to law enforcement, the investigators who are on the scene is, why is that?
We've seen a lot of attacks in Europe, in other places, a few in this country as well with knife attacks. That's one of the first things people immediately want to know.
And you heard from the acting police chief there for the Capitol Police that, at this point, they don't know of any connection to terrorist groups.
That's an important thing at least at this point that at least, from what they can see at this point, they don't believe that it is connected to Islamic terrorism.
Again, that's one of the things we've seen in other countries, a lot of knife attacks.
This is obviously something that's still very, very early in the process. They're still working to investigate the background of this suspect.
They're going to the suspect's home. They're going to try to figure out anything on social media or any other thing on their social devices to see what the motivation would be.
But it is strange, in a country where it's not that hard to get a gun that this person comes out wielding a knife. So that bears, I think, more watching from the law enforcement side.
Just going back to -- I think you rightly have been heartbroken with what's going on with the Capitol Police and what they've had to bear.
PEREZ: Keep in mind, beyond Officer Sicknick, who died after the insurrection, and obviously, right now, two people are charged with assaulting him, there's also two Capitol Police officers who committed suicide after the insurrection.
PEREZ: And many, many more have been hurting from what happened that day.
That's one of the things that I think the chief there, Yogananda Pittman, was getting at, which is these officers are going through a lot. They were attacked relentlessly for hours.
And that is something that a lot of them are carrying right now. And then, now, you have this incident.