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THE SITUATION ROOM
Officials: Truck Plows Bike Riders in NYC, 6 Dead; Interview with Richard Blumenthal. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired October 31, 2017 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:10] CLAPPER: Exactly. And to the point just made here about the importance of all of the JTTFs, I think there are some 104 of them around the country, all being on alert to look for a similar circumstance.
And we have made a lot of progress, I believe, in sharing from the federal, state, local and private sector and particularly between the FBI and police forces. And the JTTF in New York is the oldest one in existence and also one of the largest ones. And while the FBI may be in the lead, the NYPD will be deeply involved.
TAPPER: All right. Everyone, thank you so much. That's it for "THE LEAD." I'm Jake Tapper, turning you over to Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM with much more on this breaking news.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. We're following major breaking news right now.
Police are investigating a possible act of terrorism in New York City. There are multiple fatalities after a truck drove down a bike path, striking several people. Law enforcement sources now say the driver exited the vehicle with what appeared to be a gun and was shot and wounded. The driver has been hospitalized.
Police say six people are dead in what appears to be a deliberate act. A law enforcement source says the FBI's joint terrorism task force is now taking over the lead in the investigation. The mayor of New York, other top officials, they are at the scene. We're standing by for a live news conference. We'll, of course, have all of that.
We have full coverage of the breaking story. Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is standing by. Let's go first to our CNN national correspondent, Brynn Gingras. She's on the scene in Lower Manhattan for us.
Update our viewers. Brynn, tell us what you're learning.
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I want to actually zoom in right away so you can look further down this avenue, how far away we are from all of those police officers. That is where this truck ended up. What we know from NYPD sources is that a truck with a Home Depot
sticker on the rental side -- a rental sticker on the side of it went down the wrong way of the bike path on the West Side Highway, obviously a very busy area -- bike path here in New York City. Mowing over people and then coming to a stop, a collision, rather.
We're told by sources that the person driving that truck got out of it with at least what appeared to be one firearm and then was immediately shot by police. We're told by sources that that person was shot in the leg, is expected to survive, was then brought to the hospital.
But what a chaotic scene at this point. As you can see, all those investigators right now trying to determine exactly what unfolded, who this person is.
Also we know that there were multiple deaths. I know you mentioned, Wolf, at least six at this point, and that's where we're at right now here with the investigation very early and ongoing, Wolf.
More than a dozen people injured, as well.
Stand by. I quickly want to go to our crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, who's also monitoring these developments. You're working your sources. Shimon, what are you hearing?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Wolf. So what we're hearing is that the FBI and the NYPD are now investigating this as a terrorism act. So it's the FBI's joint terrorism task force along with the NYPD. They are part of this task force. It appears that that task force has taken the lead on the investigation.
And part of that is because they have witnesses who have now told them, the investigators, have told investigators that the driver of this truck was shouting "Allahu Akbar" during the incident. And obviously, this is a phrase very well-known and has been used in other terrorism acts. And so this is now part of what is leading investigators to believe that this was terrorism.
BLITZER: And, Shimon, how long of a distance did this rental truck go down this bike path ramming over people?
PROKUPECZ: So, Wolf, you're familiar with New York. This -- this went for several blocks, probably close to 20 blocks. The car -- witnesses told police that the pickup truck entered the bike path at Houston street and drove south as it was driving along the bike path, coming to a stop somewhere along Chambers Street which is here the World Trade Center. So that is probably over 20 blocks or so. And it struck people as it drove. It stopped after it crashed into a truck or a school bus. And that is when police encountered the driver and shot him.
And I should also note, Wolf, now that the FBI and the NYPD are standing up a command center to try and figure out more about this driver, to make sure he doesn't have any associates. Also, they're going to fan out all across New York, if that's where he lives, to talk to people that may know him.
[17:05:14] So this is being treated extremely serious from the FBI and the NYPD right now, and, really, they're all in overdrive right now trying to figure out who this guy is and if he's connected to anyone.
BLITZER: Shimon, I want you to stand by. Jim Sciutto is with us, as well.
Jim, they're investigating this now as an act of terrorism. Eyewitnesses saying they heard the driver shouting "Allahu Akbar" in Arabic, "God is great." What are you learning?
SCIUTTO: That is one sign that points them in that direction, but it's also the M.O. It's the mode of this attack which we've seen before, quite frankly. Think back to the Nice attack last summer, in Nice, France. It was during their holiday celebrations there. But a driver took a truck, drove it down that promenade there and, in that case, killed dozens of people.
We also know that this is a mode of attack that ISIS, one terror group of many, that an attacker, if this turns out to be the case here, could be following. But we know that a group like ISIS has encouraged its supporters to use vehicles in attacks. They're easy to obtain. And a car at speed is a very, very deadly weapon. We've seen that repeatedly, from Nice to attacks in Canada to attacks in London. Those terror attacks we saw in London recently were proceeded by a vehicle attack and then followed by a follow-on attack here.
It turns out in this case, it appears the attacker was carrying fake guns rather than real guns, which makes it -- if you can find something good in this, that it wasn't worse, had he been carrying deadly weapons when he left that vehicle and then was encountered by police.
But the mode of attack is something that police will certainly be looking at and might lead them to believe -- or treat this as a potential terror case because of that.
BLITZER: Yes. The attorney general of the United States, Jeff Sessions, has spoken with the FBI director, Chris Wray, and they are monitoring this. And the FBI has now taken the lead, which clearly suggests this is an act of terrorism that they're investigating.
You point out that ISIS -- we don't know if this is ISIS-related, but back in September of 2014, we looked it up. The ISIS spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, said this. And let me just read it. "If you are not able to find an IED or a bullet, then single out the disbelieving American, Frenchman or any of their allies, smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him." That the instructions from the ISIS spokesman.
SCIUTTO: Right. And you know the way these groups attack. They attack in places where they're going to get the most impact. So that often means, sadly, big cities such as New York. Of course, New Yorkers don't have to be told that after the events of
9/11, but if you look at recent history, attacks in London, certainly, repeatedly; Paris, we covered those. That, again, fits the modus operandi of terrorists because it adds to the impact if, in the end, this is determined to be a terror attack.
BLITZER: The FBI is now the lead investigator, and they're investigating this as an act of terrorism.
We're standing by for a news conference from NYPD, the New York City Police Department, with the latest. The mayor, presumably, will be joining at that news conference, as well.
Phil Mudd is joining us, a former CIA official, a former official at the FBI, as well. Phil, I take it you were there in that exact area earlier today. Is that right?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: That's right. Every day I'm here in New York. I teach up here, and that's my running route in the morning.
What you're looking at on that route right along the Hudson River is a lot of pedestrian activity, people running like me who are running, bicyclists, people walking their dogs. It's a heavily trafficked area on the West Side for the people in the urban element of southern Manhattan to walk over and get some fresh air. So you're going to see a lot of pedestrian activity and bicycle activity like, presumably, the tragedy we witnessed today when this man, presumably a man, mowed down so many people.
BLITZER: And once again, this is still early. We are getting information from our sources. The FBI is clearly in charge of this investigation.
Phil, you used to work at the FBI in addition to working at the CIA. The fact that they are in charge now and eyewitnesses heard the driver shouting out "Allahu Akbar," "God is great" in Arabic, that clearly suggests that this almost certainly was some sort of act of terror.
MUDD: It suggests it. That's not a fact yet. They have to investigate this now as an act of terror, even if they haven't made that final determination.
The reason is simply this, Wolf. They can't default and say, "We're sure this individual acted individually without a broader conspiracy, and we're sure we understand what his motivation was.
In any case like this, when you see a method that we've seen in other terror attacks, particularly in western Europe, when you see someone yelling that phrase, you have to default and say, A, that it looks like an act of terror, and, B, the second default you make right away is so ensure that you're confident nobody else was part of a conspiracy, that there wasn't a follow-on attack somewhere. So they've got to default to the terror label at this point, Wolf.
BLITZER: Phil, hold on for a moment. Jim Sciutto is getting more information. What else are you learning?
SCIUTTO: This is coming in from the site Intelligence Group. This is a group that monitors terror websites, terror groups, posting, et cetera. And they posted this picture. This was posted on an ISIS site in August of this year, August 2017. That is on that iPhone there an ISIS flag displayed.
[17:10:20] And this site, if you can see in the background there, that is Freedom Tower, rising, of course, with what replaced the Twin Towers after the 9/11 attacks.
But this photo taken with that ISIS flag within a mile of where today's attack took place, and the language attached to this photo when it was posted, warned crusaders that ISIS, the self-proclaimed Islamic State supporters are in their lands and, in effect, a threat.
We don't know if this is connected. Again, this is now being treated, it's being investigated, rather, as a terror case for a number of reasons. We don't know if ISIS will claim responsibility or if, indeed, the attacker, the suspect, is tied to ISIS or will post -- or will proclaim allegiance to ISIS in any way. But the timing of this photo, the location of this photo and that threat is certainly ominous, as you see something like this.
BLITZER: Very ominous. Let me go back to Phil. You were just running on that bike path over there. How close is that area? You said it goes about 20 blocks. This driver was going about 20 blocks, ramming over people who were walking, people who were running, people who were on bikes. How close is it to the World Trade Center, the area downtown?
MUDD: Boy, it is directly adjacent to the World Trade Center. If you're running along that route, you can see the trade center during the entirety of the running route. In some cases, you're just a few blocks away.
And, again, you're talking about people not just visitors like me but people from all over the neighborhoods coming over in the morning, walking their kids. Sometimes kids on scooters. People with small dogs. So it's a heavily trafficked area right in the neighborhood of the trade center.
BLITZER: And you know this area, Jim Sciutto, as well. You grew up in New York City. This is an area that's very popular, especially with bikers and joggers.
SCIUTTO: It is. And the day, you know, again, you go back to what are terrorists' M.O., right? Big cities, soft targets. You try to cause as much mayhem as possible.
And to do it on Halloween. Right? Which is a day where down in Lower Manhattan but all -- listen, all over the country people are going to be going out with their young children. And downtown in Greenwich Village, not far from this site, there's a famous Halloween day parade that's happening this evening. So you have to take all that context together: the location, the kind
of target, the weapon used. The day that they chose to do this. The fact that they choose to do it in New York City, again, in the shadow of the tower that rose up in the ashes of the Twin Towers. All of this fits a certain M.O.
No conclusions yet. We know the police are treating this as a possible terror event, but you have a lot of clues that make you understand why they're doing so.
BLITZER: Yes, we're standing by for this news conference. We assume the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, will be there, the NYPD, the -- and they'll give us the latest information that they can release at this point.
We're also getting some very graphic accounts of the deadly incident. One eyewitness describes the chaos and the violence. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I'm going to cross the street, I hear a loud commotion coming from behind me. So when I go back across where I was crossing the street from, I look down, and I see a truck going down towards Chambers Street, and I'm saying what's going on?
So as I go down more, I see two -- he's in the bike lane. Clearly in the bike lane. And I see when I go down, I see two gentlemen laying right there in the bike lane with tire marks across their body. And you could tell that they're not here no more. And you hear the lady screaming.
That's what made me, you know, that's what made me go back that way and look. And when -- when I looked down to see where the truck went, I hear nine or ten gunshots. That's when I ducked out of the way.
And all the police came running towards where I was, not knowing what's going on. They don't know what happened. You know, they're just as much confused as I was.
And so when I go, you know, they clear the area. After I see the two gentlemen, I go down to Chambers Street. I see a yellow school bus that this truck clearly crashed into, and then he crashed into another car. Because -- and on the yellow school bus, there was a few adults on there. And then FDNY were taking them out of their truck.
It's just an eerie, scary -- you know, I just came out of work. I just want to go watch the baseball game tonight. And this is what I see.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could you tell that he wanted to be in that bike lane? Did it seem like it was an accident or something?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looked intentional. You know, when I saw it, I looked -- I see the car in a bike lane. It's 3 in the afternoon. Who drives in a bike lane? I thought it was terrorists or...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The middle of the bike lane? Did it look like he had been on the bike lane for...?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From what I saw, yes, you know, it looked like he was -- you know, it looks like he started out there. He was going really fast. And the way the two gentlemen were, you know, you could tell he was going fast. And they didn't know what hit them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you so sure of that?
[17:15:12] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who drives -- who drives in a bike lane at 3 in the afternoon? I mean, there was no traffic on West Street. The cars -- all the cars were flying. It took two minutes for that light to change. So all of those cars had enough time to fly by. So if there was road rage, somebody has more than road rage to do something like that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: An eyewitness. Once again, we're standing by for the news conference. The NYPD, the FBI, we assume the mayor of New York all will be briefing us momentarily.
But I quickly want to go to our terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank. He's joining us from London right now.
Paul, sources say the authorities are considering this as a possible act of terror. Could this fit into the pattern of vehicle attacks, terror vehicle attacks that we've seen elsewhere, especially in Europe?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, Wolf, if this is a terrorist attack in New York City, it would be the first fatal terrorist attack against New York City since 9/11, something that the NYPD has been preparing for every day.
Since then, they've been very concerned about vehicle attacks, given that M.O. has been used so much here in Europe, in the United Kingdom a couple of times. Also in Nice, France, Berlin and also even in the United States. We saw that vehicle attack at Ohio State University some time back.
It's very, very hard to protect against, because all you need is a driver's license and access to some kind of vehicle. And as we saw in Nice, where 86 people were killed, it can be very, very deadly, indeed.
And so ISIS have been constantly encouraging their supporters in the west, in the United States to launch these kinds of attacks, because they've been so effective. They got so much media attention for the group.
And certainly, the details that we're hearing so far have all the hallmarks of a terrorist attack, but we're still getting details in; and we still have to wait from -- for authorities to confirm this was, indeed, terrorism. But certainly sounding a lot like it at this point. No claim of responsibility yet from any terrorist group. It's early
stages for that, Wolf. And, of course, just a few weeks ago, ISIS made an absolutely absurd claim for that attack in Las Vegas. So whatever they say in the hours ahead, we need to treat with a lot of skepticism.
BLITZER: We certainly do. So we'll see what -- normally, if this were an ISIS-related or al Qaeda-related terror attack, how long would it take for them to claim responsibility? What's the -- what's the history on that, Paul?
CRUICKSHANK: Anything from fairly quickly, a few hours, to the following day to slightly longer. It really does vary. But this would be a very high-profile attack and so you might expect something to come up quite sooner.
Obviously, it's getting on for them late at night now in the Middle East. So we'll see whether they do respond. You have to think, given that naked opportunism with that absurd claim over the Las Vegas attack, that they'll jump all over this very, very quickly. That doesn't mean they had any link to this whatsoever, however. That's for the investigation to uncover, if this, indeed, was an act of terrorism.
BLITZER: Yes. We don't know if it is. But the fact that the FBI is now in charge of this investigation seems to suggest that it potentially is. Stand by, Paul.
Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, neighboring Connecticut to New York City, is joining us right now.
Very disturbing development that we're watching unfold in New York, Senator. You're a former attorney general in Connecticut. Does this look like an act of terrorism to you, now that the FBI has taken charge, working together with NYPD?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Certainly, Wolf, it has all the indicia of an act of terrorism. We've been very fortunate in avoiding this kind of fatal attack on our country after 9/11, due to the intelligence and surveillance and very hardened defenses that we have.
But here's the other side of it: that ISIS has been on the run and on the defensive in Iraq and the Middle East, and certainly, it has boasted about metastasizing, in effect, this cancer of attacks on democracies all around the world. So its attempting to reach America, the greatest democracy in the world, would not be surprising.
BLITZER: Because the fact that they're losing in Iraq, they're losing their so-called caliphate in Syria, they may try to take up more terrorist incidents in Europe and the United States?
BLUMENTHAL: There is intelligence. As a member of the Armed Service Committee, I can tell you that we have been more and more on alert that ISIS is moving into Africa where we had four deaths recently of American servicemen and women. And even into this country and, of course, Europe, which is more vulnerable.
But it simply teaches us the lesson that we need to harden our defenses even more and combat this threat of terrorism.
[17:20:12] BLITZER: Senator, Shimon Prokupecz, our correspondent, is getting some more information right now, working his sources. What else are you learning, Shimon?
PROKUPECZ: Yes, that's right, Wolf. So we've learned that the driver, police, the FBI and the NYPD have now run checks on him. I'm told that he is not from New York. They will not confirm at this point where he is from.
But you can be assured that wherever it is that he is from, law enforcement in that area is now out there probably close to his home, if not sitting outside his home at this point.
And so this is now stretching into a much larger investigation outside of New York, likely with the FBI now fanning out across other parts of the country to try and build a profile of who the driver was.
Also, Wolf, you know, the police here responded fairly quickly. The Home Depot, this pickup truck came to a stop right, you know, steps from the World Trade Center, essentially. Chambers Street is really at the center -- sort of at the kind of area where the World Trade Center...
BLITZER: All right. Hold on a second, Shimon. Because we see the news conference in New York is about to begin. We see the mayor there. We see the governor there. The FBI and the NYPD. Let's listen in.
[17:21:30] COMMISSIONER JAMES P. O'NEILL, NEW YORK POLICE: Good afternoon, everybody. Steve (ph), we good?
STAFF: Yes, sir.
O'NEILL: All right. Just keep in mind, this incident occurred a little more than two hours ago, so all the information that we're giving you right now is preliminary and subject to change.
After I speak, you're going to hear from Governor Cuomo and Mayor De Blasio. Bill Sweeney from -- the assistant director in charge of the New York FBI office, is standing up here with me, too. Have members of my executive staff, we have Cy Vance and members of the state police.
First, I just want to say that, today, there was a loss of innocent life in lower Manhattan. The dead and injured were just going about their days, heading home from work or from school, or enjoying the afternoon sun on bicycles. This is a tragedy of the greatest magnitude for many people, for many families here in New York City and beyond, today.
I want to commend the response of our NYPD officer that was on post near the location, who stopped the carnage moments after it began; also, work of the -- the work of the first responders, including the fire department and EMS personnel surely helped save additional lives.
As I said, I'll give more of a chronology in a couple minutes. But right now, I'd like to introduce Mayor De Blasio.
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK: Thank you, Commissioner.
It's a very painful day in our city. Horrible tragedy on the West Side. Let me be clear that, based on the information we have at this moment, this was an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror, aimed at innocent civilians, aimed at people going about their lives who had no idea of what was about to hit them.
We, at this moment, based on the information we have -- we know of eight innocent people who have lost their lives, and over a dozen more injured.
We know that this action was intended to break our spirit. But we also know New Yorkers are strong, New Yorkers are resilient and our spirit will never be moved by an act of violence and an act meant to intimidate us.
We have been tested before, as a city, very near the site of today's tragedy. And New Yorkers did not give in, in the face of these kinds of actions. We'll respond as we always do. We will be undeterred.
And I want to thank everyone at the NYPD, all our first responders, for their extraordinary efforts in the midst of this tragedy, starting with the officer who stopped this tragedy from continuing, all of the first responders who came to the aid of those who were injured.
An investigation is underway to get all the facts, and what we'll tell you today, of course, will be preliminary. But we know we will get down to the bottom of what happened.
I want to ask all New Yorkers and all Americans to keep the families of those lost in your thoughts and prayers. They will need our support. And I want to ask all New Yorkers to be vigilant. We know it's Halloween night. And we know, in the days ahead, people will be uneasy.
We ask all New Yorkers to live by the idea, if you see something, say something. Tell an officer immediately if you see anything unusual, anything that worries you. Be vigilant, and know that there will be extensive additional employments of NYPD officers this evening and throughout the days ahead.
We will also keep you posted as this investigation continues and as the NYPD gains more information. Governor Cuomo?
GOV. ANDREW M. CUOMO, D-N.Y.: Thank you. First, our thoughts and prayers are with those New Yorkers who we lost today. It reminds us all how precious life is. They left the house this morning, they were enjoying the beautiful West Side of Manhattan on a beautiful fall day and they're not going to be returning home. And that shock and that pain is going to be very real, and our thoughts and our prayers are with all of them. Our first responders did an extraordinary job. The NYPD, the FDNY,
the FBI, the New York State Police, EMS, they -- we have the finest security on the globe. And to see them in action today proved that once again. The new terrorist tactic, which they've called for publicly, are these lone wolves who commit an act of terror. This is all very preliminarily.
It's only been a couple of hours, but at this point there is no evidence to suggest a wider plot or a wider scheme but the actions of one individual who meant to cause pain and harm and probably death and the resulting terror. And that was the purpose. We will be vigilant. More police everywhere. You'll see them in the airports. You'll see them in the tunnels. It's not because there is any evidence of any ongoing threat or any additional threat, it is just out of vigilance and out of -- out of caution.
And the truth is New York is an international symbol of freedom and democracy. That's what we are and we are proud of it. That also makes us a target for those people who oppose those concepts. And we've lived with this before. We felt the pain before. We feel the pain today. But we go forward together and we go forward stronger than ever.
We're not going to let them win. And if we change our lives, we contort ourselves to them, then they win and we lose. We'll go about our business. Again, there is no ongoing threat. There is no evidence of that at this time. So there is no reason to have any undue anxiety. You will see more security forces, but that's only because it's an abundance of caution and not a signal of anything else. And there will be continued investigation and justice will be done. But, again, to those we lost, they are in our thoughts and our prayers.
To the first responders, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the job you do. You put your life on the line every day and you do it better than anyone else. And to New Yorkers, be New Yorkers and live your life and don't let them change us or deter us in any manner, shape or form. Thank you.
O'NEILL: Thanks, Governor Cuomo. Thank you, Mr. Mayor.
As I said, I'm going to go through the chronology here. I know when I'm done you're going to have a lot of questions, but we're not going to go too deep into it. It's only two hours. After I get done with the chronology, my colleague is going to talk about the injuries. At 3:05 p.m. a male driving a rented Home Depot pickup truck entered the West Side highway bicycle path began at Houston Street, began driving southbound, striking a number of pedestrians and bicyclists along the street.
At Chambers Street, the truck collided with a school bus, injuring two adults and two children. After the collision, the driver of the truck, a 29-year-old male exited the vehicle brandishing two handguns . A uniformed police officer assigned to the first precinct confronted the subject and shot him in the abdomen. The subject bad wounded and transported to a local hospital. A paint ball gun and a pellet were recovered at the scene.
The subject's identity is not being released at this time, pending further investigation. At this point, there are 8 fatalities reported in connection with this incident. In addition, several people have been injured, and Commission Nigro from our Fire Department will discuss that. Dan?
NIGRO: Thank you, Jim. As Police Commissioner said, 6 of the people died. They were pronounced at the scene between House and Street and Chambers Street. They were all males. Two others were transported in traumatic arrest, and were pronounced at the hospital. We also transported 11 people all with serious, but at this moment, not life threatening injuries. The injuries are what you may expect, as a truck went at high speed down that bicycle path, and struck bicyclists and pedestrians.
There may be more injuries as people self-evacuated, and we will determine that later as we do our survey. But that's the patient count, and the deaths as we know it now.
O'NEILL: All right, at this point, we're going to take some questions. Myles? Hold on, hold on. Myles?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) terrorist acts or these kind of things where a rented truck -- this is something that you guys do in the field all the time, talk to these truck companies. Have you guys talked to Home Depot recently about this kind of -- being vigilant about this?
O'NEILL: Hey, John, you want to talk about the program a little bit?
MILLER: Sure. So as you know, through the shield program, we do a very wide outreach. We have just under 20,000 members in the private sector. After ISIS (inaudible) Magazine came out with the issue, just about two years ago, around this time of year, suggesting car attacks. You'll recall one of the targets they suggested was the Thanksgiving Day Parade. We went and did extensive outreach to the truck rental business. We visited over 148 truck rental locations in this area. The obvious ones, U-Haul, Ryder, Home Depot, et cetera, and talked about suspicious indicators, ways to come forward. After attacks on the German Christmas market, after Nice, we repeated those visits two more times, either by making telephonic contact, e-mail, or going back to the same places.
So, the industry has had a high-level of awareness on this matter from the NYPD.
QUESTION: John is there a -- or Commissioner, is there any indication that this (inaudible) perhaps, radicalized terror in America, or is there any (inaudible)?
O'NEILL: Again, it's way too early to discuss that. I mean, this just happened two hours ago, and that's, of course, part of our investigation.
QUESTION: (inaudible) police activity on the scene (inaudible)?
O'NEILL: Initially we thought it might've been but it turned out not to be. Yeah.
QUESTION: He had a residence in New York, or any (inaudible)?
O'NEILL: This is all part of the investigation.
QUESTION: (inaudible) we heard some reports of schools that were on the block down, is there anything going on because of police activity that people in that area should be aware of beyond?
O'NEILL: This incident is over. It did end right by Stuyvesant High School, so we had to make sure that all the kids were taken care of. And we held them in place for a while, and it was important that we do that. But this incident is over. David? OK, hold on, hold on. David?
QUESTION: Do you have -- (inaudible) can you provide the age of the suspect and then the victims, and then was there indications earlier that maybe he'd have (inaudible)?
O'NEILL: He's a 29 year old male, and I'm not going to talk about the truck right now. Right there?
QUESTION: Can you confirm that the suspect said, "Allah al Akbar" or anything to that effect? And if so, is that the only indication that this may be an act of terrorism, or what else is it that...
O'NEILL: Yeah. He did make a statement when he exited the vehicle, and if you just look at the m.o. of the attack, that's consistent with what's been going on. So that, along with the statement, has enabled us to label this a terrorist event. Yeah. No, not right now.
QUESTION: Do you have his nationality, and was there any intelligence leading up to this that there was something in the works?
O'NEILL: Again, two hours old, and we'll update you as we go along. Lenny?
QUESTION: Who's in charge of the investigation?
O'NEILL: It's being conducted jointly with the NYPD and the FBI.
O'NEILL: From Florida? Yeah, I'm not going to go into that. Yes? John?
O'NEILL: John, not right now. No. Yes?
O'NEILL: After the Times Square incident I talked about this. Any incident that happens in New York, or happens in the country, or happens around the world, we have to learn from that. So of course we're going to take a look at that. Yes? QUESTION: (inaudible) any changes in the Halloween parade?
O'NEILL: Yeah, he's in the hospital. I'm not going to tell you what hospital, and I'm going to let Chief Gomez talk about what we're doing for the Halloween parade tonight. Carlos?
CHIEF CARLOS GOMEZ, NEW YORK POLICE: All right, in less than 90 minutes that parade will kick off. We will proceed with the parade, and certainly we've added more resources, more police officers, heavy weapons teams, blocker vehicles on the street leading to the route, as well as more sand trucks. And there's also heavy weapons teams being deployed throughout the city at key iconic locations.
O'NEILL: Well that's -- this is why we do investigations. You know, initially, I'm sure whoever put that out wasn't sure what the event was, and now, two hours into it, this is the determination that we made. Yes, in the first row. Yeah?
O'NEILL: Too early in the investigation to know that. Rocco?
QUESTION: Did the video (inaudible) anything that (inaudible)?
O'NEILL: I haven't looked at the video yet, and we're retrieving as much video as possible. What we do know is he entered the bike path at Houston street, and exited the bike path at Chambers street, when he collided with the school bus. And I -- there are no intersections on the West side of the bike path between Houston and Chambers. Hold on, one second. In the back there?
QUESTION: The two children (inaudible) on the bus, how are they?
O'NEILL: Dan, do you have that?
NIGRO: They're among the injured that are serious but not life- threatening.
O'NEILL: All right, they're among the injured that are serious but not life-threatening. Yes?
QUESTION: Were they the only two children on the bus at the time (inaudible)?
O'NEILL: We're not going to talk about where the Home Depot was rented from just yet. And, Bob, do we know how many people were on the bus? There were two adults and two children on the school bus. In the back? Lisa (ph)?
QUESTION: (inaudible) came into the city?
O'NEILL: Don't know, that's part of the investigation. Yes.
QUESTION: (inaudible)? O'NEILL: No, we don't have that yet.
(UNKNOWN): All right guys, listen. As we said, there's a lot of information to be gotten, we wanted to give you a preliminary, we're getting into a little less detail at this point, (inaudible) later, we'll give you another briefing as more information comes available. But I'm going to -- at this point, ask you to wait until further information has come in.
DE BLASIO: Look, I'll just close us off here by saying, look, again, NYPD is investigating this with our Federal partners, with our State partners, there's going to be a very, very thorough investigation. But the most important thing, as Governor Cuomo said, as Commissioner O'neill said, people should go about their business knowing the NYPD is out in force with our partner agencies tonight and throughout the week. Very important additional measures are being taken for people's safety. The bottom line is, we are going to go about our business in the city, we're not going to be deterred. And we'll get you updates later on in the evening. Thanks, everyone.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. And thanks Governor.
BLITZER: All right. So there you have the latest information coming in from the mayor, the governor, the FBI assistant director, the NYPD commissioner and others.
Eight people dead. Confirmed dead in this act of terror described by Mayor de Blasio as a particularly cowardly act of terror. More than a dozen people injured. They're in hospitals right now.
This was an act intended, the mayor said, to break our spirit. The governor, Governor Cuomo, said this looks like a lone wolf. No evidence of a wider plot. The police and the FBI will be vigilant, though. They're taking all sorts of steps to make sure that this isn't going to be copycatted or something else in the course of this evening.
The FBI director also saying the suspect in this case, a 29-year-old. Once he went about 20 blocks up this bike path, ramming over people who were on bikes or walking or jogging, he emerged from that rental truck with two handguns. They were later determined to be a paint ball gun and a pellet gun. A police officer shot him in the abdomen. He's in a local hospital right now.
Let's get reaction from our experts and our guests. And Senator Blumenthal, you're still listening. You were listening very closely to what we heard. A very disturbing development. They did confirm that the driver, the killer in this particular case, did shout "Allahu Akbar" as he emerged from the truck, heard by multiple witnesses, "God is great" in Arabic.
BLUMENTHAL: And another indication, clearly, of terrorist motive and the inspiration coming from ISIS for a lone wolf or, as we call them, homegrown terrorists. But all of the facts need to be determined before we leap to any conclusions or draw any conclusions about what happened here.
[18:40:06] I thought very movingly, Governor Cuomo made the point that we're New Yorkers; we have to go on being New Yorkers. And that's true of America, too.
We're Americans. We're the strongest, greatest country in the history of the world because we are an open, free society; and therefore, we're susceptible to these kinds of attacks. But if you see something, say something. We need to be on guard, watchful, aware and wary, and I think hardening our defenses. We're going to probably take a look at this incident in the Congress to see what lessons can be drawn.
BLITZER: What we did learn, Jim Sciutto, was that the 29-year-old suspect was not from New York, but they wouldn't say where this individual was from, whether he was from another part of the United States or came in from overseas.
SCIUTTO: That's right. What they're clearly doing now is taking the I.D. and running it against lists to see if he was a known character before, someone they knew who had leanings this way or has a criminal record, et cetera, and certainly running it against international terrorist watch lists, as well.
I can say this, because I've spoken to the National Counterterrorism Center, which is the intelligence agency that swings into action when you have events like this. And I'm told that the NCTC is now working with its counterterror partners to determine nexus to terrorism.
Of course, you had the mayor there call it an act of terror, and that's based on "Allahu Akbar," but also based on the very fact that someone took a vehicle and drove it up a city street and killed a number of people in cold blood.
But what the NCTC is doing now to see if there are any ties to international terrorism, was there communication with international terror groups, et cetera.
I can add this. Because I am told that there was no specific intelligence about this specific area being a target or this kind of attack targeting this area. We do know that, in general -- we've spoken about this and you heard New York City officials there mention this, as well, that ISIS and other groups have talked about using vehicles as a weapon against soft targets writ large in general terms. But I'm told by the National Counterterrorism Center that there was no specific intelligence -- there was no specific intelligence warning of this kind of attack at this particular target.
BLITZER: You wanted to make one point. I know you've got to run back to the hill, Senator, but go ahead.
BLUMENTHAL: You know, what doesn't quite square with all of this is the paint ball gun and pellet gun. And perhaps there was a fortunate aspect of this, that he wasn't -- didn't have an assault weapon or something that would have literally killed tens or hundreds of people at that point, but the use of the truck, certainly, is the M.O. that's been used more and more by both homegrown and foreign terrorists.
BLITZER: Yes. All right. Senator, I know you've got to run. We're going to have you back on another day.
There's a lot of other news we're going to be covering, as well. But we're following the breaking news in New York City right now. Senator Blumenthal, thanks very much for joining us.
I want to quickly go to our White House correspondent Sara Murray. We're beginning to get reaction from the president, Sara?
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. We did hear from Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary. She informed reporters that the president has been briefed on the situation in New York. He was briefed by chief of staff John Kelly.
The president then took to Twitter to say this: "In NYC, looks like another attack by a very sick and deranged person. Law enforcement is following this closely. Not in the USA." Of course, this while this is unfolding on the streets in the United States of America.
And in New York City right now is the first lady, Melania Trump. She was there today for meetings. She also took to Twitter to say her heart is breaking for New York City, to send out her thoughts and prayers and sympathies for those families who are affected.
Now, while all of these events were unfolding, while this was initially happening, the White House did call a lid, which would suggest that we are not going to see the president in front of cameras. We will not see him make a statement. In big breaking news events in the past, Wolf, as you know at the White House, the lid has been lifted. So obviously, we will be here to see if there's anything more the president plans on adding this evening.
BLITZER: We certainly will. He's from New York City, as we all know, as well. I wouldn't be surprised to hear more from the president on this act of terror in New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City saying this was an act of terror, a particularly cowardly act of terror.
Sara, stand by.
Paul Cruickshank is our terror analyst. Paul, it's interesting that when this suspect emerged from that rental truck, he emerged with two guns described by the FBI as a paint ball gun and a pellet gun. You've got some background information on this, the use of these kinds of guns, if you will, fake guns.
CRUICKSHANK: That's right, Wolf. And that would be consistent with the desire to die, to be killed by law enforcement, to get martyrdom. That's what jihadis absolutely crave. They want to go to paradise.
We saw that with an attack here in London just a few months ago on London Bridge, where the perpetrators were wearing fake suicide vests. The reason they did that is because they wanted to draw gunfire. They wanted to die, go to paradise in their vision. Well, in this case, this attacker has not had that wish granted. They
are -- would appear very much alive and will now be interrogated, one would imagine, fairly soon about all of this, Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, we were told he was shot in the abdomen. Earlier, we told you shot in the leg, but in the abdomen. And he's in a local New York City hospital. Very interesting about the paint ball gun and the pellet gun.
Phil Mudd, you listened very closely to this news conference as well of the FBI, the NYPD. What was your reaction?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I thought that was exactly what any American official should be saying in the wake of an event like this.
There are two messages, Wolf. One message is that of grief and being with the family. And the second message is simple, a message I thought we saw brilliantly after the Boston attacks years ago, and that is: this country will never change as a result of what these people do.
I thought the Police Commissioner and the police department was dead- on in saying people will go to the parade tonight. I was on the one train north tonight to Columbus Circle in Manhattan. There are kids and parents with Halloween costumes. They'll be out tonight.
I will run tomorrow morning on that route that he's talking about where the incident took place, assume it's open.
I thought if you wanted a snapshot of what public service officials in government, federal and state, should say, that was the snapshot that we should see.
BLITZER: Yes. The Governor of New York, Governor Cuomo, said we are not going to let them win. But the authorities, the NYPD and the FBI, they're all saying there will be a very, very visible police presence throughout New York City tonight out of an abundance of caution, Phil. And you would support that, right?
MUDD: You've got to do that for a couple of reasons. One, if you look at the ISIS presence across the United States -- I'm not talking about physical presence. I'm talking about digital presence, things like Twitter follows. In every major country in this country, there are particularly youth and young men who are -- and young women who are following ISIS and interested in the ISIS ideology.
They will see that tonight. You can't afford to assume that one of them, even if they hadn't planned anything earlier, might not look at this and say, I want to do the same thing. You got to worry about copy caters in this circumstantial, Wolf.
BLITZER: You certainly do. And I know you're a consultant with the NYPD, as well. Stand by. Shimon Prokupecz is getting more information as well.
Shimon, what else are you learning?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, right. That's right, Wolf.
So what we've learned so far is -- we're trying to confirm the identity of the suspect, of the driver of this pickup truck, but we're told -- I am told by a senior law enforcement official that he's -- they do not believe he's from new York. That's as far as this official would go in terms of giving me any idea of who this person may be.
But, you know, I'm told that the FBI and law enforcement is now out in the area where he is from and really just trying to paint a picture of who he is, what his background is. We have different names for him, so that's part of the problem that I'm having at the moment.
And I just want to be sure, so we're waiting on -- before we go ahead and report his name. But the police have his name obviously. He's in the hospital.
We don't know if they've talked to him yet, but they have learned a lot about him, his -- where he's from and where -- obviously, where he lives. And a lot of background information it seems, just from sources that I'm talking to. They seem to have a pretty good idea about who he is.
BLITZER: This was a rental truck from Home Depot, I take it, in the New York City area. Do we know, Shimon, if the individual who rented the truck is the same individual who was driving down this bike path?
PROKUPECZ: No, we don't know. We haven't been told that. Home Depot, earlier, our Jason Carroll was reporting, did confirm that it was one of their trucks. But beyond that, they would not tell us where it was rented or even who was driving it. But the police have not shared that with me.
BLITZER: Yes. I'm sure the police already know who rented that truck --
PROKUPECZ: Oh, yes.
BLITZER: -- if, in fact, that truck was rented by the same person who is the suspect in this mass murder. Eight innocent lost lives. Eight innocent people who were killed and more than a dozen injured. They're in critical and serious condition, we're told now by the Mayor and the Governor and the NYPD Police Commissioner and the FBI Assistant Director.
Jim Sciutto is getting more information as well. The identity of this individual, this suspect, we'll know fairly soon.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, clearly the authorities know it, and they are now running it through all the lists that they have, both domestic and international, right?
Is this someone known to local authorities, U.S. authorities? Is it someone known to international authorities? Because, of course, as I said earlier, the National Counterterrorism Center, among other things, is looking, is there any nexus to international terrorism?
They'll be running that through very quickly. They have these databases ready. And the fact is they will know a fair amount of information on that fairly quickly. When they will share it with us is another question, but they will know a fair amount of information on that very quickly.
Then the questions become -- was this person in contact with any international terrorist group? Because these are the follow-on questions. Was it a true lone wolf who read some literature on a website, decided to attack? Was it someone who was recruited by someone online? Many attacks we've covered in the past were in that category.
[17:50:09] Then you get to other circumstances where, could it have been someone that had some training or some tie to an overseas terrorist group? You kind of work your concentric circles out from there. So they start with the I.D. and they go from there. We don't have any hard answers to those questions yet.
BLITZER: This is just a difficult, difficult attack to prevent --
BLITZER: -- because people are driving cars all over the place. And for example, if somebody wants to drive on to a bike path, you're not going to have NYPD, you know, vehicles protecting every intersection.
SCIUTTO: Where have we seen this just in the last year? We saw it in Nice, France during the Bastille Day celebrations, another holiday. We saw it in Barcelona, in a highly trafficked tourism area just a few weeks ago. And now, you see it here in New York City.
You can talk about putting up concrete bollards, right, to protect roadways, et cetera. But at the end of the day, we live in an open society, and that fact is that soft targets are impossible to protect everywhere. You can't do it. And so like they always say, you know, the terrorists only have to get it right.
Even if the counterterror professionals, the New York Police Department -- there is no police department in the country that has more resources, more experience, more people devoted, more cameras around the city, et cetera, designed to prevent attacks like this and see them before they come. But the fact is, all those resources, the bad guys only have to get it right once out of a hundred or out of a thousand.
BLITZER: Yes. And let me go back to Phil Mudd. The NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill, you know, he pointed out -- and others pointed out -- at this news conference that there will be a lot of kid out there.
It's Halloween. They're going to be going around. And the police are going to be very, very visible on this night. They're doing this, they say, out of an abundance of caution.
MUDD: Yes, but there is another clue here that I find fascinating, Wolf, and that is the information the police chief revealed. He didn't reveal a name but he said -- he confirmed that the individual, he thinks, was not from New York. And he gave an age. That is 29.
That suggests to me a couple of things. Number one, that the police have identified this person, and they can, very quickly, identify things like where he came from, what apartments he rented, who his friends and family are.
But if he is saying that the parades should go on tonight, I suspect that the police are already starting to realize that this individual is a lone wolf, and there isn't a broader conspiracy.
Obviously, if you were going in the other direction and you suspected that there are others out there, you might be far more cautious about the parade this evening.
BLITZER: We don't know if this individual is an American. We know he is not from New York City, but we don't know if he's an American or a foreign national, Phil.
If the individual, the suspect, is a foreign national, then all of a sudden, this becomes an international investigation.
MUDD: That's right. And if you look at what we've seen just in the past half hour, Wolf, you can see why the FBI is involved. It's not just a question of whether this is a terrorist incident. It's a question of the complexity and the number of jurisdictions they're dealing with here.
That is, the person's from out of this city. That means the FBI is going to be fanning out across different cities, different locations, where the New York Police might not have a presence.
You've got to look already at mountains of data. Not whether this person has a social media presence, but things like what phone numbers he's used, whether he's traveled internationally. That requires a lot of capability that both the police here in New York can bring to bear, but also the FBI when this investigation moves out of New York City.
BLITZER: Is it possible, Phil -- and you're an expert in this area. Since ISIS has been losing a lot of ground in Iraq, in Mosul, in Syria, in Raqqa -- the so-called capital of their caliphate -- they've been threatening to take their acts of terror outside of Iraq and Syria and the region and take those acts of terror overseas to Europe and the United States.
We don't know if this is ISIS related. But, certainly, based on what we just heard from the NYPD, the FBI, the Mayor, the Governor, and the others, it looks like they're seriously --
MUDD: Yes, so the --
BLITZER: They're seriously worried about that. MUDD: That's right. If you look at a couple characteristics we're
seeing here, you can look at this as either what we would call potentially an ISIS inspired event or ISIS directed, that is controlled by the ISIS organization.
If we determine that, in fact, he was inspired by ISIS, I want to bet a paycheck, Wolf, that there is not extensive international connection. We don't know that. But then, instead, what you see, increasingly, is a wave of people who are sympathetic to ISIS and who take it on their own to conduct attacks that are fairly simple.
You rent a truck here and you get a couple of fake weapons. That is not very difficult to do. That smells like an inspired individual, not a directed individual.
BLITZER: Yes. And even if ISIS were to claim responsibility for this, sometimes, they claim responsibility for something they have nothing to do with. They claimed responsibility for Las Vegas. As all of us remember as well, they had nothing to do with Las Vegas.
Everyone, stand by. We have a lot more. We're following the breaking news out of New York City. An act of terror, that's the way it was described by the Mayor of New York. Eight people dead, more than a dozen injured.
[17:55:01] Our special coverage continues right after this quick break.
BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're following breaking news of a deadly terror attack in New York City. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world.
[17:59:51] The Mayor of New York declaring just a little while ago that this was indeed an act of terrorism. Eight people confirmed dead. About a dozen injured, many of them very seriously injured, after a pickup truck mowed down bike riders and pedestrians on a bike path in lower Manhattan.