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Deadly Capitol Attack. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired April 2, 2021 - 15:00   ET



EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: And then now you have this incident.

And we have been talking how, after the 6th, there was a lot of concern that other groups or other people might be inspired to try to do something just because of what happened on the 6th.

And, again, that's one of the top things that investigators are looking at.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: I so appreciate you making, of course, both of those points, but especially the second one.

Evan, thank you, thank you. Stay with me.

We are at the top of the hour. You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Breaking news we're covering this afternoon. We have just learned a Capitol Hill police officer is dead and another officer is injured after someone rammed this vehicle, this blue vehicle in the middle of your screen, in the middle of all the crime scene tape, rammed this car into these two officers, and then ultimately into that barricade.

You see the word "Stop" on the white metal, ramming the car into the barricade, on the northern barricade of the Capitol Building. And this is obviously video of the car.

If you know the area, this is Constitution Avenue and Delaware. We know this person, this suspect, according to the police, who just gave this news conference, jumped out of this car, had a knife, was lunging at these Capitol Police officers.

And so what did the officers have to do? They reached for guns and fired shots in response. That suspect, we can also confirm, is dead. That person died at the scene.

As far as a motive, it's still so early. They don't have any sort of motivation at this time. But they say they don't believe the incident is terror-related. And they also believe -- they don't -- it doesn't appear to be an ongoing threat. But step back from all of this. This is all happening today, unfolding

less than three months since the Capitol insurrection January 6. So, staff on the Hill, lawmakers obviously can't help but be triggered by what happened mere months ago, all hearing -- Congress is on recess, but there are some staffers, some members there just reliving that horrific day from three years ago.

Listen to what we just heard from the acting chief of the Capitol Police, Chief Pittman.


YOGANANDA PITTMAN, ACTING U.S. CAPITOL POLICE CHIEF: 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 the public continue to keep U.S. Capitol Police and their families in your prayers.


BALDWIN: I have with me the former metropolitan D.C. police chief Charles Ramsey and also former Secret Service agent Jonathan Wackrow.

But, Chief, to you first.

And I just want to begin, of course, our -- of course, as Chief Pittman said, keeping Capitol Police in our thoughts and prayers, that they lost yet another officer, compounded with the Officer Sicknick's death from the insurrection and the suicides afterward.

What is it like to lose one of your own?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, first of all, my prayers are with the men and women of the U.S. Capitol Police. This is tough.

And I know what they're going through. And I know what Chief Pittman is going through. I mean, I lost four officers when I was the chief in D.C. I lost eight when I was the commissioner in Philly. There's nothing tougher for a police chief to deal with than the death of an officer in the line of duty. So, I truly understand what she's going through.

And I would be remiss if I didn't say one other thing, because we're in the middle of this Derek Chauvin trial for murder. Derek Chauvin doesn't represent what policing is all about and what the men and women stand for. This does, the willingness to put your own life at risk to save others.


That's what the profession of policing is all about, not that guy sitting in a courtroom in Minnesota. And I hope people take a step back and realize and think about what it is they're witnessing here today, because that's really -- when it comes down to it, that's what being a police officer is really all about.

And I don't know what else to say. But this is tough. It is very, very tough to go through something like this.

BALDWIN: I appreciate you saying that.

Jonathan, you want to jump in on that?


I mean, listen, this is -- listening to acting Chief Pittman hold back her emotions and just describe what was going on, and that they lost an officer, was devastating. My head sank. I felt for the chief. I felt for every member of the Capitol Police, but law enforcement in general.

And I think that this moment speaks to the persistent threats that law enforcement officers face every single day. We just talked about the Capitol Police losing an officer on January 6. We talked about the suicides by officers after the fact.

Now we're talking about another loss of an officer in the line of duty. Yet, tomorrow morning, the women and men of the Capitol Police Department are going to wake up and they're going to go and do their job again. Why? Because they're mission-driven, they're dedicated, they're good people, they're good officers that want to serve the community.

And that's what law enforcement is about around the country. Yes, there are outliers, but, as Chief Ramsey just indicated, what we're seeing with this trial in Minneapolis. But that's not the essence, that's not the ethos of law enforcement.

And moments like this is where we see why we have law enforcement officers, why these individuals put themselves between danger and the public time and time again. I mean, this is law enforcement at its finest and at its saddest moment, when we lose somebody.

BALDWIN: I -- as I'm listening to you so closely, I just found out House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has ordered that flags flown -- be flown over the U.S. Capitol -- should be flown at half-staff in the wake of yet another Capitol Police officer death. Cedric Alexander to you with a deep background in law enforcement,

your thoughts, sir?


And those of us who have been around the profession for a long time know there are these challenges and these types of unfortunate incidents that occur. It's very painful to the police community, and it's very painful to the community at large and also to the country.

So, certainly, our hearts and prayers go back to the officer who lost their life. And we are going to pray for the recovery of those that were injured.

But let me also add that, in the midst of all this, in the hours and the days and the weeks to come, and we have a better understanding of what the motive was behind this shooting, it certainly is going to help law enforcement and it's going to help us as a nation to begin to understand and prepare, hopefully defend ourselves as best we can, against another attack such as this.

I think so many questions come to mind, but yet so many answers are still out there to be -- questions to be responded to. And, right now, we have very few answers.

BALDWIN: I want to come back to your point about how we best defend ourselves in a moment.

But, Lauren Fox, our Capitol Hill reporter. You were there. You heard some time ago the blast on the loudspeaker, the lockdown announcement, and now here we are with a bit more detail, still not a lot, still not understanding why this person, this suspect, who is now dead, would dare do such a thing.

But what else did you learn from the news conference?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we obviously got a bit more detail on the fact that an officer had died.

And I think that that is a significant thing here on Capitol Hill. Like I said before, Brooke, this is a Capitol Hill force that is still really mourning after January 6, still dealing with PTSD after what many of the officers had to do in the field.

They were fighting back those crowds for not just minutes, but for hours. And I think that, in the wake of that attack, you did see not just the death of an officer on that day, but then suicides afterwards of two officers. And I think that that was something that the force is really still carrying with them.

I mean, I also want to point out that, just a few minutes ago, we got another update from the U.S. Capitol Police that we are still not allowed to leave the building at this point. They believe that the threat has been neutralized, but we are still being asked to stay in the building at this time.

I think, obviously, that's significant, given the fact that they are still trying to investigate the perimeter around where the scene of the crime happened.


And, again, what happened, so far, as we understand it, is that this vehicle rammed into a barrier of the north entrance of the U.S. Capitol. There were two officers who were there.

This suspect then got out of the vehicle wielding a knife, of course, that a significant detail that was reiterated in that press conference just a few minutes ago.

Then an officer shot the suspect. We, of course, now know that one of the officers has died, significant development there just a few minutes ago -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Lauren, thank you.

And, Dana Bash, to you.

You have covered the Hill for years and years and years. We were talking a little while ago about some of the silver linings, that the barricade worked, that Congress was not in session. But, still, obviously, that is clouded by the tragic news of this Capitol officer's death.

Just your thoughts on all of this?


I mean, this is devastating. This is devastating. It would be devastating even if this were an incident that happened in an isolated way. If January 6 didn't happen, this would be -- the U.S. Capitol Police has not lost very many officers in -- since it's existed.

And we have heard Chief Ramsey and others talk about the fact that, when they were the head of police forces, metropolitan police forces like here in Philadelphia, it does happen. But it -- up until January 6, it was very rare.

And so the fact that it happened at all is heartbreaking. The fact it happened today, against the backdrop and as part of the atmosphere that still exists on Capitol Hill and all throughout Washington of January 6, is just hard to wrap your mind around.

I mean, I don't cover Capitol Hill on a daily basis the way I did for a couple of decades, all told, but the times that I have gone up there, Brooke, every single Capitol Police officer that I encountered, I, just like any other reporters and people who work there, not only said thank you, but how are you?

And we heard a lot about the post-traumatic stress that they're feeling, about the concern that they're still not fully equipped to handle the potential threats to the Capitol. And were they fully equipped today? Perhaps.

I said -- and we have heard from some of our law enforcement colleagues saying that things worked the way they were supposed to. But when a law enforcement officer dies, I'm not sure that's the case. Yes, this person swore to defend the Capitol, the building, and, more importantly, the people who work in it and around it, but there should be and there generally are procedures and processes that protect the officers, as well as the people they're trying to protect.

So, it's just the beginning. We're going to see what happened. But this does also come as there is still -- despite the fact that the big fencing that made it look like a war zone has come down, there is still an active discussion going on among members of Congress who are on the pertinent committees, among law enforcement in around the Capitol about how to best protect the Capitol long-term.

And this is going to be another very sad data point.


Dana, thank you.

Evan Perez, to you, because, of course, I'm mindful, as we're talking about the tragedy of this death of this Capitol Police officer, there's still another officer in the hospital. Do we have any update on him or her?

PEREZ: Not that I'm aware of at this point.

We know that person, they were taken to a separate hospital. Presumably, that's because one of them was in more serious condition and needed to be taken -- need to be taken to the trauma center. There are closer hospitals for you to be able to -- for you to treat the injured.

So, perhaps that's the reason why they did it that way, Brooke. But, at this point, we know that at least one of the officers was stabbed in the incident. And it's not clear, again, whether the officer that died, died from the -- being struck by the car or whether they were struck by the knife.

That's all still obviously part of this investigation. And at this point, again, though the chief there said that no terrorism is viewed right now, as -- or is suspected to be a part of this, I can tell you, just from talking to law enforcement officials, that they are still looking into that.

They're still trying to make sure. You want to make sure you know everything about the suspect's background. They're going -- they're getting search warrants. They're going to go to this person's home. They're going to look through their devices.


They're going to try to make sure that they cross off everything. As you noted, it's very important for people to understand what happened here, the motive. And they're far from concluding that there is no tie to something else here.

It is strange, obviously, to be using a knife in a country where getting guns is so easy.


I have another question. It's a bigger-picture question, which you're not going to totally have an answer to, but it's something that has to be on the minds. And I know you're so in contact with the law enforcement community.

Like, we all witnessed what happened on January 6, and now we have witnessed what's happened today. And how do we best protect these government buildings?


Look, and I can tell you, I live in that neighborhood. The Capitol is part of my backyard. I mean, we go there to picnic. And people who live in the neighborhood, we view the Capitol as part of our neighborhood. And so the barbed-wire fence was offensive to people who live in the neighborhood, people who live in the city, because it just -- it made you -- frankly, it made you angry every day you saw it.

And I think I speak for a lot of my neighbors who feel that way. And we know that it's important to protect the building. And we know it's important to protect the people who live, who work there, and, of course, to protect those officers.

The thing is that, wherever you have an entrance -- you have to have entrances for the complex, because you have people who work there, thousands of people who work there.


PEREZ: That is always going to be a weak point, because you are going to have to have to have officers are going to come out to try to check your -- whether you belong there, your identification, the vehicles.

They're going to have to come out. And so they're always going to be at risk. And that's just part of the job. And so the question for lawmakers is going to be, what kind of barrier can you put in place and also keep access?

Because the public, people come from all over the country to go to those buildings, to visit their members of Congress, to try to petition for their issues to be heard. And, look, I mean, the other thing that I -- that a lot of people don't know, especially on weekends, a lot of -- I see a lot of people come by to take pictures, wedding pictures, quinceaneras, confirmation pictures.

A lot of people see this building and the grounds there as part of our national identity. And so you don't want to cut access to the building and to those grounds because of that. It's a very difficult thing, because you have to improve the security. But, at the same time, you don't want to cut this off and turn it into a fortress that is unapproachable.

BALDWIN: Of course. Of course. You can appreciate -- anyone can appreciate the dilemma.

Evan, thank you so, so much.

Let me read this. This notice was just sent to Capitol Hill staff, so let me just read this for everyone.

It reads -- quote -- "The external security threat located at all of the U.S. Capitol campus buildings has been neutralized. But the USCP" -- that's the U.S. Capitol Police -- "is continuing to investigate out of an abundance of caution. And there is still no entry or exit permitted at this time."

So that's the latest we have from police there.

Arlette, Arlette Saenz, you cover this White House. I am sure not only has President Biden been aware of this. I imagine, that the threat level around places like the White House went up for a little while. Has the president responded yet to what's happened?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, we have not heard yet from President Biden about this attack at the Capitol.

But the White House press secretary said that the president is aware of the incident that has taken place there. The president right now is spending the Easter weekend at Camp David. He actually left the White House. Marine One was wheels up at 12:15 p.m.

And a little over -- a little less than an hour later was when that attack at the Capitol played out. So we are still waiting to hear whether the president will offer any further statement relating to this incident. We know that he is traveling with a small contingent of staff with him at Camp David, including his deputy chief of staff, Bruce Reed.

There is also the chief of staff of the National Security Council, Yohannes Abraham, is over at Camp David with him this weekend. So, we're waiting to hear more about what any type of briefing has been like or whether he will issue a statement.

We are always also watching in incidents like this whether the White House will lower flags to half-staff. But, certainly, this is something that will likely hit very close to home for President Biden. He spent 36 years serving in the Senate, walked the halls of the Senate, the buildings and the Capitol, and also visiting with these law enforcement officers who worked there.

So, he will certainly likely be reacting to this at some point.


You will remember that, early on in his administration, he actually -- he went and visited the Capitol when Officer Brian Sicknick laid in rest there after that insurrection on January 6. So, we are waiting to see how exactly the president will respond to this incident, as he has a very close personal connection to Capitol Hill.

BALDWIN: Let us know the moment you do hear anything from the president, which, of course, I'm sure you will.

Arlette, thank you so much for now.

And, Lauren Fox, let me go back over to you covering the Capitol for us, because it's my understanding the lockdown is now lifted? Is that correct?

FOX: Yes, that's exactly right, obviously, just a few moments ago, this announcement that the lockdown has been lifted.

But I think it's just important to remember that the threat that we're all feeling up here on the Capitol when it comes to the security of here is going to continue for some time. It now means that you can move about the building.

But I think that the larger concern for the Capitol Hill community, for officers, for staff that work up here, for members, I was just texting with some lawmakers who were there on January 6, and they said that this is really stressful to watch on television. This is bringing back a lot of bad memories for members who had been in the chamber on January 6, because of the fact that you start to feel like things are starting to become safer up here on Capitol Hill.

The fences start coming down. The cherry blossoms are blooming around the Capitol. It's just a really beautiful time of year. I think that it's Easter weekend, a lot of people feeling very hopeful about the future. And I think that this incident just underscores the ongoing threat that exists up here on Capitol Hill.

So, yes, the lockdown has been lifted. But I think that there is just a collective sense of anxiety up here about where this community is going to be moving in the days and months ahead. And there's going to be a longer discussion, as Evan was saying, about how do you keep the Capitol safe--


FOX: -- but also allow the community to continue living around here, continue working around here.

It's really a difficult balance, something that we're going to have to be looking forward to in the future -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: You hit the nail on the head, and also just painting this just horrible juxtaposition.

This is one of the most beautiful times to be in Washington, D.C., the cherry blossoms, Good Friday, Easter weekend, and yet this tragedy with this -- with this attack and yet another Capitol Police officer dying.

Lauren, thank you so much.

And, Cedric Alexander, to you, sir.

Just from your law enforcement lens, I want to bring up a point that Evan Perez brought up as he's talking to his law enforcement sources, the point about the suspect with the knife. And we heard from D.C. Metropolitan Chief Contee saying this is not terror-related.

But I'm curious your thoughts, because he is absolutely right. In this country, it is mighty easy to get your hands on a gun. And the fact that this suspect had a knife, do you read anything into that?

ALEXANDER: No, I think it's way too early to read anything into it, to be honest with you. We don't know what planning he may have had that went into, whether it was sporadic, whether it was someone who was in a mental health crisis all of a sudden.

I just think it's way too early to tell. But I think it's very important for us to recognize the fact that the threats are still out there.

BALDWIN: Oh, did we just lose them? I think we just lost him.

Chief Ramsey, let me go to you.

Your thoughts on the knife?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, I think that's a good point. I mean, we don't know. Cedric's right. It is too early to tell. We don't know, if the motive was to attack the Capitol, if the motive was to attack a Capitol Police officer, or if this was suicide by cop.

I mean, you hit a police officer, run into a barricade, jump out of the car with a knife, as opposed to a firearm, I mean, the outcome can't -- you can't expect the outcome for yourself to be that good.

So, I mean, we don't know. I mean, as Cedric said, the person could be mentally ill. It's just too soon. But they will figure it out or at least kind of narrow it down a bit as they start to background this individual. I mean, I don't think, right now, we know if it's a man or a woman.

I don't know.

BALDWIN: We don't. We don't. We don't. We don't.

RAMSEY: Right. And so, yes, there's a lot -- an awful lot of work that has to be done.

And, hopefully, the remaining officer is doing OK. This is all just so tragic.

BALDWIN: It is. And, of course, we all sending prayers up both to the family who lost the officer and the family hoping to hear some positive news from the other officer who's in a different hospital.

I'm wondering, to you -- and, by the way, these are live pictures, just so everyone -- everyone watching. We saw a bunch of National Guard there with their shields.

Big picture, Chief, how do you protect the U.S. Capitol, while also not having all the wired fencing for the neighbors and the Capitol Hill area? How do you thread that needle?


RAMSEY: It's going to be very challenging.

Just personally -- and I understand that people want to have the campus open and all that sort of thing. I think about the kind of fencing that's around the White House. I mean, we have to face the reality of today, and take whatever steps we can.

And even then, it's not a guarantee that you won't have somebody injured. I mean, I understand what Dana was saying earlier, when she said -- because the officer died. And, certainly, the outcome isn't what you want to see.

But the reality is, police officers sometimes die. They put themselves in harm's way. I mean, the sacrifice that they're willing to make is part of the job. And so it's -- there's no perfect way of doing it. There's going to be some stuff, bad stuff that could still happen.

But they could -- they definitely could enhance the security around the building. And I hope it's a wakeup call for members of Congress to really take a hard look at the recommendations that have been made around security improvements and move forward with it, because this is essential.

I mean, I was the chief for D.C. in '98, when we lost to Capitol Police officers that were shot to death inside the Capitol, and responded immediately to the scene. And until Sicknick, they had not had any deaths in the line of duty. And now they have had two in three months.

And that's not counting the two suicides. I mean, the environment has changed. It's just different. And we have to realize it.

BALDWIN: And we don't even know the slain officer's identity--


BALDWIN: -- because we heard from acting Chief Pittman that they haven't even notified the family yet.

How do you--


BALDWIN: How do you do that?

RAMSEY: Well, they may have notified. It's hard to really make that kind of notification.

They may have notified some family, but you have to be concerned about extended family as well. So, you want to give them a chance to reach out and inform extended family, so they don't find out watching CNN, for an example. They need to be able to reach out best they can.

So, they may have reached a spouse or a sibling or someone in terms of the family. Otherwise, I doubt if they would have announced a death of an officer at all, until they have at least made one notification. But it's tough duty. There's no question about it.

I mean, it's -- and just being with the family. I mean, their lives have changed forever today, on Good Friday.

BALDWIN: On Good Friday.

RAMSEY: Somebody goes to work on a day where you figure, hey, it's going to be pretty much of a light day. Congress isn't in session. It's somewhat of a holiday. And that's the day that you wind up getting killed in the line of duty. I mean, it's just -- you never know when and where.

BALDWIN: Never a light day for a police officer in this country.

Chief, thank you.

Jonathan Wackrow, we're looking at these pictures. I'm seeing some of these members of U.S. Capitol Police walking around the scene. Tell us -- and we have seen National Guard troops. What's happening right now. What are they looking for?

WACKROW: Well, actually, they're looking for anything of evidentiary value. They're trying to figure out -- again, answer the question why.

What was the intent here? I mean, not only do we have the vehicle ramming into the barricade, but we have the suspect exit the vehicle, armed, and then lunged at the police officer. And we have another officer that's injured from that weapon.

Again, law enforcement did a great job here. We talked about the difference of whether or not -- does it make a difference, a gun or a knife?

From a law enforcement perspective, no, it's a threat. And they respond to the threat that's presented to them at the moment. And they neutralized that threat. So, right now, law enforcement, from an investigative standpoint, they're looking at the vehicle. They're looking at any digital trace, digital footprint of this suspect, whether or not she or he was tied to any groups.

Again, notionally, we have discounted that there's a connection to terrorism, but was this person guided or informed by somebody else, another type of group? All of that will come out through the investigative process, but, right now, they have to process this scene.

I mean, it is an officer-involved shooting. An officer has lost their life in the line of duty. You have the motor vehicle accident. You have to think about how large this crime scene is going to be to process, because the vehicle hit that at a high -- high rate of speed from a high-speed avenue of approach.

So, there's a lot of things going on here. I mean, I think, when we look at sort of this relaxed posture, that doesn't mean that a lot isn't going on.