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One officer killed, one wounded, attacker dead at Capitol; Interview with Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) on Capitol Hill attack today. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired April 2, 2021 - 15:30   ET



JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I mean, I think when we look at sort of this relaxed posture that doesn't mean that a lot isn't going on. There's a lot of communication and there's a lot of coordination between, you know, the FBI, the Park Police, the Capitol Police, D.C. Metro. Again, the reason why we're seeing it in the state that we are is because it's a coordinated effort.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Jonathan, thank you so much, former Secret Service agent there in Washington. I just want to take a moment to reset everything that we know right now.

So just a couple hours ago, according to police, it was 1:02 p.m. Eastern time when this whole incident occurred. We've learned tragically that a Capitol Police officer has died and another Capitol Police officer is in the hospital right now being treated after this suspect hit them with their car at the northern barricade of the Capitol Building.

So if you know Washington, this is at Constitution and Delaware. And the vehicle there in the middle of your screen, beyond that police tape, that blue car, that is the car we're talking about.

We know according to police then that this suspect after hitting these two officers who are posted up near that guard building, then slammed into that barricade. Once they slammed into the barricade, jumped out of the car, had a knife and lunged at these officers and that is when the officers pulled out their weapons and shot the suspect. And we know that the suspect did die. Died actually at the scene.

Police say they believe there is no longer an active threat on Capitol Hill. They also said in that news conference a bit ago they don't believe is terror related. So let's just replay for you what we heard last hour from the Acting Chief of Capitol Police.


YOGANANDA PITTMAN, ACTING CHIEF OF CAPITOL POLICE: 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 MALE: But in the vehicle, 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 FEMALE: (CROSSTALK) -- the suspect ever come in contact, but you mentioned the lunge but did the suspect come in contact and wrestle with the police officer 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.


BALDWIN: All right. So that was Acting Police Chief Yogananda Pittman. And of course, our hearts go out to not only the family of this Capitol Police officer, whose life has been lost, but to the Capitol Police officer sitting in the hospital.

And so let's begin this half hour with Cedric Alexander, with extraordinary law enforcement experience. And just obviously, you know, we see these various officers on the scene. And just for people who are just now tuning in. What is happening right now? And how do they determine a motive since the suspect is dead?

CEDRIC ALEXANDER, FORMER PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION OF BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT EXECUTIVES: Well, first thing they'll do is they're going to identify the subject and they certainly will do a background check through a variety of different sources, with support from their federal, state and local agencies. That's going to be part of this.

And as we know more about who this deceased subject is, we're probably going to learn more about his history, his associations, his affiliations, et cetera. And as that case begins to develop, and if some witnesses emerge, family members emerge, we may be able to gather some additional information.

And there will be some technology sources that's going to be available as well. And of course, there's going to be search warrants are going to be administered once they identify his home address, et cetera.

But I think it's important very much to note -- and I got cut off a little earlier, Brooke, on this -- is as this case continues to emerge on a very dreadful Good Friday, and we talk about the psychological impact and the trauma that's associated with this particular case and what it does to the American people across this country and Capitol Police officers and police in general, we are all kind of going through this kind of post-traumatic place.

And It reminds me from some years ago when I was a practicing clinical psychologist and working with police officers and how they have to endure this type of pain, particularly (INAUDIBLE) you think about there on January 6th and fought off a lot of people who did great injury and harm to a number of Capitol Police officers. And here we are again today, and we're reliving this.

But not just those officers but we as a nation. And we're going through a pandemic. And we're in the middle of a George Floyd trial.


BALDWIN: No, it's all compounded.

ALEXANDER: It is all compounding at one time. But here, let me offer this to the viewers that I think that's very important, too, in all of this. The literature will and does state that when we go through these types of traumas, which we are as a nation, as a community, and certainly there at the U.S. Capitol, it becomes important that we seek social supports.

So for all of us in this nation, we have a responsibility at this time to make sure that we come together as a nation and really kind of console and be there for each other in this very challenging and difficult time. But this is tough. And it's still going to be a lot disclosed around who this subject is in the hours and the days to come.

BALDWIN: No, I appreciate you so much making that point, just about everything that's been happening in the world, just even a snapshot of this week and just the compounded, collective trauma that so many people are suffering in this country. And Cedric, thank you.

And Dana Bash, to you on that point. I mean I was texting with a couple of House members and some of their staff, just reaching out to them. You know, my heart dropped. Everyone's heart dropped, right, when we first got the alert about a lockdown. And I'm just curious what you're hearing from folks. We know the Congress isn't in session, but still.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, no question. People are traumatized who worked in that building, who were in that building and you know they're not on right now but our colleagues who were there on January 6th and are there again today, are pushing through it and working and reporting the news. And that's what we do and people who go to work in the Capitol, that's what they do. But it's a lot.

There's no question. It's a lot. And the thing we all have to keep in mind now is, first of all, this officer who was killed and the second officer who was injured -- we don't know the status of that second officer -- but I just want to emphasize, again, that the question still is, how are members of Congress who have a very big say, frankly, have control to a large extent over the Capitol Police -- operations of the Capitol Police, and the security in and around the Capitol, how are they going to amend that?

Is this going to be something that plays into the commendations that they already have, to build, you know, higher fences. And, you know, I completely get Evan's point about the fact that this is a neighborhood. This is the people's house. It is and was heartbreaking to see it look like a war zone, to see it look very similar to the green zone in Baghdad. If anybody -- you know, whether saw it on TV or saw it by covering it, as I did and I think you did as well, Brooke.

And, you know, there has to be a balance. There has to be a balance. And, you know, yes, there wasn't a mob of people coming here, but this is a reminder that you don't need a mob. You need a person in a car with a knife to disrupt and to wreak havoc.

BALDWIN: Yes, that's all you need. And I was talking to Congressman Ro Khanna a bit ago, I was -- literally stuck in the garage on Capitol Hill sitting in his car because he wasn't allowed to go anywhere. And he was just saying to me, we're talking about all the fencing and the razor wire and he was saying, Brooke, gosh, it's so hard, it's been so hard for me to even get into the Capitol and I'm a Congressman.

And I'm just curious from your perspective, like what are you hearing? The question is, how do we keep our Capitol, the people's Capitol, safe, right? And what are you hearing from members as far as how much America has changed and how our security now needs to change as well?

DASH: The answer is, this probably won't surprise you, Brooke, there's no uniform answer. Different members have different points of view. And you know, it doesn't fall on party lines. You heard from Ro Khanna he's a very proud progressive. And it's not if he wants to have, you know, a fortress around the Capitol and Republicans want the opposite. That's just not the case.

You know, what they have tried to do is make it threat-based and try to, you know, listen to the chatter to see what is necessary. That was true before January 6th and it is even more true now, but we don't know the circumstances of this individual at all.


But let's just assume it was, you know, a lone wolf. There wouldn't necessarily be chatter. It's not as if, you know, he or she was around buying up explosives or bought a firearm. It's just very, very hard to track, which makes the answer to your question so difficult.

And it is going to take some time to find a way for the new normal to settle in. I was on Capitol Hill on 9/11. You could drive right up -- I mean that barrier that you're seeing on the screen right now, it didn't exist. I was able to park right next to the Capitol.

You can't do that anymore post-9/11. So the question is, post-January 6th or where we are right now, how does it change further?

BALDWIN: It's the question. Dana Bash, excellent as always. Thank you so, so much. And Lauren Fox, excellent as well, covering the Capitol for us, has been there from the very beginning. I feel like I would be remiss in just asking you, now that we're on the other side of it, are you OK? How are you and your crew? Number one, and just number two, what are you hearing from members?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, obviously, you know, being up here today. It's a sunny day on Capitol Hill. It's a Friday. It's Good Friday. A lot of sources are out of the office. I was focused on several other stories when I was over in the Dirksen Office Building earlier today.

But immediately the second I started hearing the police chatter on the radios and that announcement come overhead, I started thinking about being in the Capitol on January 6th. I was in this office building when we started to hear about the insurrection. And immediately that's sort of where my mind went. And I know that's where a lot of lawmakers' minds went, that's where a lot of staff who are still here today -- even though it's a holiday coming into work -- that they were thinking the same thing.

I was texting with a source who was in the House chamber who said, watching this all unfold, it's stressful, right? Because there are so many memories from that day. And I think people were starting to feel like they were moving on. I do want to read for you a statement that we are getting from the Majority Leader here in the U.S. Senate, Chuck Schumer, obviously expressing his condolences for the fact that a U.S. Capitol Police officer has died.

He said in a tweet --

I'm heartbroken for the officer killed today, defending our Capitol and for his family. I'm praying for the officer injured and his family. We are in their debt. We thank the Capitol Police, National Guard and first responders for all they do to protect the Capitol and those inside.

And I know so many folks who have been on air, including Dana just a few minutes ago, talked about what it's like to work up here in this building. But I think it's important to say that, you know, we all talk to these officers every day going in and out of the building. They're around in every hallway, by the elevators.

You know, we have sort of an ongoing relationship with these folks. This is a community up here on Capitol Hill. Yes, thousands work here but it is also a place where you work but it's a small and privileged group of us that get to be in this building, in this complex every day.

And you know, I think all of our hearts go out to the officers who defend this building and obviously the family of this officer who died today. I mean it is a place where, you know, these lawmakers really count on the protection that they get from Capitol Police. And obviously, that job, clearly, getting more and more dangerous given what we've seen over the last couple of months -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: And didn't I see a note a bit ago just to that point about it being a community, and out of respect, did I see a note the House Speaker will be lowering flags to half-staff?

FOX: That's exactly right. I mean this happened just moments after this announcement that a Capitol Police officer had died today in this incident. The House Speaker saying that she had ordered those flags to be flown at half-mast. BALDWIN: We are waiting to hear from -- just down the road from you,

the White House. We know President Biden is at Camp David for Easter weekend. But waiting to just get a response from them as well and the passing of this Capitol Police officer. Lauren, thank you.

Evan Perez is with us. He's our chief justice correspondent. And you know has been talking to me sort of, you know, with your justice hat on, talking about your sources and questions about, you know, what's happened here on the Hill and also just as a neighbor in the Capitol Hill community. And the dilemma, right, between having a fortress around this most precious area of our country. And also though, not feeling like a fortress, if you're living in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. What are your thoughts now -- Evan?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN CHIEF JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Look, Brooke, I think, you know again, we have to know a little more about the motivation of this suspect. There is never going to be a perfect security situation for this building, for -- just because you have, again, 535 members of Congress who need to get in and out. You have the right of citizens to be able to go and talk to their lawmakers. There is always going to be a need for public access.


And, of course, as I mentioned, the fact that you have a neighborhood that is built around this complex. This place is part of our neighborhood. And that's also very important for people to think about.

Again, I think one of the things we're going to wait to see, the chief of the Capitol Police mentioned, that at this point there's no indication of a terrorism angle. And I think that's important for the law enforcement folks to continue to look at and figure out, you know, to make sure they cross everything off their list.

And I think then you can have within a space of a few days, perhaps you can have a conversation about what this incident tells us about where security is. At this point it looks like -- these fences are still temporary but they're trying to figure out a way to be able to still have public access but to secure the complex.

And I think that's where -- that's going to take -- that's going to be a period of months, perhaps even years because everything takes forever to be done here. But you know, as you can see, you know, these officers were in front of the barrier. That's how it is. It's going to always going to be that way. Before you get to the barrier, you're going to have to encounter these officers and those officers will always be in danger.

BALDWIN: Evan, thank you. Let's get a member of Congress' reaction. Congressman Adriano Espaillat is with me, and welcome, sir. Are you back home in your home district? I know Congress is on recess. Just making sure you're not on the Capitol Hill grounds.

REP. ADRIANO ESPAILLAT (D-NY): Yes, Brooke, I'm in New York City, yes.

BALDWIN: OK, so you're here in New York City, and how did you first hear about this and what was your just gut reaction?

ESPAILLAT: Well, I heard from my staff because I regularly get these notices, texts and emails from the Capitol Police about street closures and other measures of their taking. So they're routine. I get maybe a dozen of them every day. And so I couldn't distinguish that this was a very serious one.

So, perhaps, there should first be a way to communicate to not just members of Congress, but to everybody that works in the Capitol complex, what level of security matters are being addressed.

I know that some of my staffers did not get a notice in their phone. And they found out, actually, through the media that contacted them. So I think that is important that Capitol Police has the phone number of everyone that works there and that they have access to a clear notice of any attempt to hurt any one of us, including, of course, the Capitol Police officers themselves.

BALDWIN: When ultimately the penny dropped and you realized that this had happened and, again, seeing the headlines, you know, Capitol on lockdown, did that immediately bring you back to January 6th? What were your thoughts when you realized what was happening?

ESPAILLAT: No question. You know, it's been just about a little less than two months since that happened and I sit in the committee, the leg. branch committee that is looking at how to improve security there so that it doesn't happen again.

And I've been very concerned about a potential next attack not being exactly the same way the first one was on January 6th. And so, I've been asking for increase in sweeps for explosives, potential drone attacks. So any other type of attacks like what happened today.

I mean we don't know the details of this incident that led to the unfortunate and tragic death of a police officer, but what it shows is there are people out there that want to hurt us. So we got to do more, and we've got to do better.

BALDWIN: What more do you need to do? What better do police, do law enforcement need to do? Because you know in one case it was a, you know, crowd of people in an insurrection. And today one individual, one car and, again, another Capitol Hill Police officer lost his or her life. What do you do? How do you secure the Capitol grounds?

ESPAILLAT: You increase the number of sweeps as I said for explosives. Last time around there were two pipe bombs that were placed relatively -- within a couple of blocks of the Capitol compound, of our offices, of the Rayburn Building and the Longworth Building. I think you increase the funding for Capitol Police significantly.

But I am really concerned that that car, that vehicle got so close. I mean, basically a barricade away from entering the area right in front of the Senate chambers, right, where the building is. So, we've got to really take a deep dive and see how this doesn't get that close.

[15:50:00] Perhaps that means opening up the perimeter of security further out. You know, we saw how the last time around on the 6th members of Congress were accosted in the airports. Maybe we should be locking at how to patrol the Union Station and the airports and expand the perimeter of security beyond what it is right now,

And, of course, that entails a greater resources for the Capitol Police.

BALDWIN: But Congressman --

ESPAILLAT: But just two months --

BALDWIN: I just want to jump in because the but is, you know, you have colleagues who don't want to feel like they are going to work in a war zone, and this is the people's house and they do want to feel like their constituents can come visit them. How -- what would you say to them?

ESPAILLAT: Well, security should be always first. Now, I got in a cab the other day, Brooke, and the cab driver told me they won because we had that fencing around, and they changed the way we conduct our everyday lives.

I remember back on 9/11 how there was a big effort to sort of like go back to the way we lived our lives before so that the enemy doesn't win, but security should be first and foremost. It should be paramount and a priority, you know. We lost a police officer today, someone -- we don't know the details of it, but obviously they went there to attack. They came out with a knife, and so we've got -- they can't get that close.

You know, I don't have all the answers because I'm not a security expert, but I know that we've got to give more resources to the Capitol Police, so they address this in a way that everyone, including, by the way, our staff -- my staff was in the building in one of the office buildings, including to make sure that they are secure.

BALDWIN: Do you feel like -- so we're looking at this blue car. This is what the suspect was driving when he rammed into the officers and ultimately rammed into this barricade.

You know, Congressman, this barricade didn't exist pre-9/11. And you brought up 9/11 as really this delineation line in our country in terms of all of our lives changed, right, when it came to how we get on planes, how close we can get to the U.S. Capitol?

Do you feel like January 6th and now April 2nd is sort of like the next delineation line in America?

ESPAILLAT: I wouldn't mind changing some things that will not prevent from us exercising our democratic rights and ability to access government but that will secure the people that work there. And that may mean some changes that we will have to get used to it. Yes. I remember back in 9/11 how uncomfortable it was to -- to go through an airport. But guess what, you know, we're now used to it and it's part of everyday life, and it makes people secure. I feel better when someone is going through a metal detector and going -- and getting on a plane with me, although it may be uncomfortable. It could save somebody's life, and I think we've got to take the tough measures to ensure that the police officers there are safe and that the people that work with us are also safe and, yes, there should be access to government, but safety should be first.

BALDWIN: Really, just my last question, Congressman Espaillat, is about this U.S. Capitol Police community. You know, losing one of their own.


BALDWIN: Brian Sicknick in the wake of the insurrection. Several, you know, just with the heaviness of so many officers being attacked that day. Several have committed suicide since and now we have another officer losing his or her life. Just do you have thoughts, a message to this community.

ESPAILLAT: I -- I don't have words to express how thankful I am of those police officers that are there and put their lives on the line every single day so that we can be safe. I know that on January 6th, I spoke to some of them. I know many of them, they're friends of ours. They speak to us, they are nice people, and they take care of us. And I have no words to express how grateful I am and I'm sure all the members of Congress are and our staff for their security. Our heart goes to them and we must do better for them and their safety.

BALDWIN: Congressman, I appreciate you so much. Thank you for jumping on TV with me and just talking us through what we have all been covering live these last couple of hours. Thank you, sir, I appreciate it.

ESPAILLAT: Thank you so much.

BALDWIN: And I have a few minutes left before we turn things over to Jake in Washington.

Cedric Alexander, your thoughts here as we've been covering this for two hours now. And just your thoughts as we move forward and think about security around the Capitol.

ALEXANDER: Well as a nation less on this Good Friday, first of all, all of us offer our condolences to the officer who lost his life today but high up but very important to us I think as a nation in all of this.


Is that we allow ourselves some opportunity and allow our leaders there in Washington, D.C. -- particularly those in the law enforcement community -- to gain more information as to who this subject is, what was the motive and what is it possibly that we can do going forward to help avert these types of attacks.

But I think here, again, we're at a place in this nation where we all have to be aware of our surroundings. We have to be alert. We're going through a very challenging and difficult time. But I think it's important just for all of us as Americans to move through this together and not allow ourselves to be separated but to really come together.

Because here again this is a very traumatic day for everyone leading up to -- to this Easter weekend, and my hearts and prayers go out to all of those that are involved. Particularly those that are in pain at this moment, and that's quite frankly for us as a nation.

BALDWIN: Do you think, just a quick follow-up, I was talking to the Congressman, you know, everything changed after September 11th, 2001. Do you think that this is now a new delineation moment in this country when it comes to security?

ALEXANDER: Well, I think we're at this crossroads where we're have to think about security in a very different way. Certainly, we've got to utilize all the modern technology that is out there. We have to make sure that we have men and women who are trained to do the job and to do it well and with integrity.

But most importantly out of all of that, no matter how many technology that we have, it always comes back to the human element. And the human element of it all is that we have to be supportive of a good public safety and a public safety in which police and community as you often hear me say must work together.

And this is one of those moments right now at this very moment where we have to come together, be supportive of our law enforcement and be supportive of our communities as we all mourn this death as we go through this very challenging time with COVID, with a trial that is -- that is being broadcast around the globe and, of course, the loss of life here today.

BALDWIN: Cedric Alexander, thank you so very much.

ALEXANDER: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Commissioner Charles Ramsey to you, just your final, final thoughts on what we've been discussing.

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, right now my thoughts are with the family of the officer killed in the line of duty but also all the men and women of the U.S. Capitol Police for what they are going through right now, and that includes Chief Pittman.

I mean, I listened to her when she -- during the press announcement and I could hear the trauma in her voice, and I know exactly what it is she's going through right now. You know, I retired January of 2016, but I made up my mind that I was going to retire on March 5th of 2015 and that's when the eighth officer in Philadelphia during my tenure as commissioner was -- was shot and killed in the line of duty. I simply couldn't bury another police officer, and I knew it. I just

-- I just couldn't do it, and I knew it was time for me to move on. So I understand just how hard it is for everybody. You just don't bounce back from something like that, it builds up. It's inside you.

I just hope that they have access to mental health treatment because this is something that we have to take very, very seriously and cops have a tendency, you know, to want to try to tough it out. That's a mistake. That is a huge mistake, and we've got to be able to provide the kind of support for them that they are going to need to have, and that's not -- right now we're talking about the Capitol, but that's the men and women of policing throughout the United States.

It's a tough job. It takes its toll, and if we don't take care of the well-being, the mental health and well-being of our officers then, you know, we're really missing the mark.

BALDWIN: Commissioner Ramsey, I appreciate you so much and all of your thought and your heart and your expertise. Thank you so very much, and I've got about a minute left.

Jonathan Wackrow, do you want to close us out, Jonathan to you--

WACKROW: I sure will. Listen I want to --

BALDWIN: The last 60 seconds, Yes.

WACKROW: I'll keep with the theme here. You know, any time we have a crisis situation, individuals have a physiological and psychological effect to the stress that it causes, and what we have to do is, you know, we have to break down any cultural stigmas that there are for asking for help.

We've gone through a lot of trauma as a country. Law enforcement, the Capitol Police has gone through a lot of trauma. Reaching out, asking for help, getting help, you know, is essential right now to start the healing process. Then we can do everything else. But first and foremost we have to make sure that we're taking care of ourself and that we're -- that there is availability help everywhere. Reach out, get it.

BALDWIN: Appreciate that so much. Jonathan Wackrow, thank you. Live pictures there, Washington, D.C. We're going to continue the coverage with my colleague Jake Tapper. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me the last two hours.