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Pittsburgh PD: Active Shooter Situation Near Synagogue. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired October 27, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:10] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in New York this Saturday. Thanks so much for being with me.
We have breaking news. Let's begin with what's happening in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with an active shooter near a synagogue in that city. Police are on the scene right now. You see the images that we're getting in.
CNN's Nick Valencia is tracking that story for us. So Nick -- what do we know about the circumstances here?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is obviously a breaking news story -- Fredricka, still a very fluid situation.
But the reports of an active shooter were first released, you know, here just after 10:20 this morning. And according to the Web site for the Tree of Life Synagogue which is in Pittsburgh in the historic Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, a very well-known historic Jewish neighborhood.
The service there started at 9:45. It is Saturday Shabbat services according to the Web site, of course, that is the busiest day in any synagogue. 9:45 is when this service evidently started. 10:20 -- just after that is when these reports of an active shooter just came to CNN here.
We did speak to sheriff's deputy Kevin Krause, (INAUDIBLE). This is what he had to say, saying "It's an active and fluent situation and I can't talk right now." But we do have a little bit more information from the Pittsburgh public safety, a verified Twitter account, confirming an active shooter. They're saying it is near this synagogue.
There are other unconfirmed reports right now. We're working to pin down here but still a very fluid situation as you look at those images from our affiliate KDKA in Pittsburgh -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: And then Nick -- when we say active shooter situation, what do we know that may have preceded it to, you know, get that label? Were there shots fired? Was it the sight of an alleged gunman or people with guns? What? VALENCIA: So far we've been unable to verify these reports but local
affiliates reporting that there were shots fired -- potentially there've been shots fired at police by whoever this alleged gunman is.
But again, still a very fluid situation for us here at CNN -- Fredricka, we're working to pin down that information and get some more corroborated information.
WHITFIELD: Ok. All right. Nick -- let me interrupt you. Let's go to this live briefing right now.
JASON LANDO, PITTSBURGH POLICE: A short time ago we were dispatched to active gunfire at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill. Right now, we have multiple casualties. We're working the situation.
It is imperative that the neighbors in the community surrounding the Tree of Life Synagogue stay in their houses and shelter in place. Do not come out of your home right now. It is not safe. We'll give you an update as soon as we get one.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is your name -- sir?
LANDO: Jason Lando, L-A-N-D-O.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to let public safety respond.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once we have stability, I'll make a comment. But right now, Chris is the point of contact. Please do not contact police officials. And as soon as there's more information, he will be bringing them back out and giving information to the public.
The key issue right now is stay in your home. Lock your door. Stay in your home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't answer any questions right now because it is ongoing. But this will be the staging area and we'll be back and forth providing information as soon as it's available.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is the address of Tree of Life?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not sure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me. Make a hole. Excuse me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're moving out of the way right now.
(END OF LIVE EVENT)
WHITFIELD: All right. Brief but blunt there. Multiple casualties, shelter in place. People who live in that Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh need to stay where they are, stay indoors. You heard the officers there say lock doors, stay in the home.
Multiple casualties near the Tree of Life Synagogue there in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh.
I'm going to bring in some experts for me right now -- retired FBI supervisory special agent James Gagliano and CNN national security analyst Samantha Vinograd.
All right. So let me hear from you first -- James. You know, you hear very short but powerful information coming from the investigators there, multiple casualties.
JAMES GAGLIANO, RETIRED FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: Absolutely. Just looking at the signs of distress and the way that the operators, the SWAT operators were moving there, you could tell this is a scene where a lot of chaos is happening. It still hasn't all been flushed out.
That's usually what happens here. They're trying to sort these things out. Initial reports are usually off. Keep in mind in this, we are teaching our police, our law enforcement post-Columbine which happened 19 years ago this April, they have to go to the sounds of the guns.
Most active shooter situations, Fred -- are resolved one way or the other within five to ten minutes. These folks are going to the sound of the guns and we pray for them all. And hopefully they're going into harm's way. They're doing good work and making sure there aren't casualties on this one.
WHITFIELD: All we know right now service likely in place, you know, Samantha -- at the synagogue there, and not long after it getting under way, reports of shots being fired. We don't know how many people might be responsible for those shots. But give us an idea of what the reflex is of these authorities who come on scene.
And like James said, they react post-Columbine, just go toward the gunfire, but what else?
[11:05:03] SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, certainly. We don't even if casualties are still within the synagogue. But just to paint a picture for you, this is the busiest time for any synagogue.
My father is at synagogue right now in Connecticut. Jews worship during these hours. And so we may have a situation where there's an active shooter that opened fire on hundreds of people. We don't know that yet.
We also don't know if he's still in the synagogue, whether there's a hostage situation and if there's even an ability to get medical care to any of the casualties that have been mentioned at this point.
This is a synagogue. It is in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Pittsburgh and it's a residential neighborhood. So even if the active shooter has left the building, there are civilians surrounding the area that also could be at risk. WHITFIELD: Art Roderick also with us. So you know, as a former U.S.
Marshal, give us an idea of how reinforcements try to react to this. Yes, they all go toward, you know, gunfire, what they hear. They're going to see possibly people running, fleeing from this area, you know, where they've heard the gunfire. But how else do they approach this, unclear whether the gunman or gunmen happens to still be in place?
ART RODERICK, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes. Fred -- you know, we've heard the term, unfortunately we are all too familiar with run, hide, fight. But also the fourth thing we want to get done is to get these witness statements and get an identification of the individual as soon as possible.
Now, you can see law enforcement in a very ready position around here, moving around. And I think what they're fearful of is that this individual is not in the synagogue and he gets out into the public.
Again as stated earlier, it is a residential neighborhood. The last thing they want is a hostage barricade situation at one of these residences. So they're telling the public to stay inside, stay in their homes, lock their doors and report any unusual activity in the neighborhood.
And that's exactly what's occurring right now. Law enforcement is very fearful that this individual could get out and get into somebody's house.
WHITFIELD: Ok. I also want to bring in Salena Zito. Salena -- usually we talk, you know, about politics, but you happen to know this area, Squirrel Hill, a neighborhood of Pittsburgh. What can you tell us about this residential area where the center point right now is the synagogue, the Tree of Life Synagogue?
SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, (via telephone): So, the Tree of Life Synagogue is located, as you said, in a residential neighborhood. It's, you know, filled with old houses and sidewalks and trees -- tree lines.
It is part of the city of Pittsburgh but it is located outside, you know, sort of in the outskirts of the main city part.
My kids have gone to a couple of bar mitzvahs there. I'm very familiar with it. It is not far from where I live. This is a conservative synagogue. And I'm en route right now to the scene.
There have been seven confirmed dead, although I did just hear from someone on scene who said that was eight, and that two SWAT officers had been shot, but I don't know their condition.
WHITFIELD: Ok. Well, we haven't confirmed that, but that gives us something in which to work off. We did see that SWAT team vehicle that did move into the area. And James -- if I could ask you quickly when you see so many different types of law enforcement -- reinforcements moving in, who takes the lead, you know, to make sure they coordinate particularly when it is still active?
GAGLIANO: To go back to Columbine example, we learned -- there are lessons learned from that where we cannot wait for a homogenous team, an intact SWAT team to show up. Whoever gets on scene, they've got to put together a hasty assault, and they've got to move to the sound of the guns and interdict the shooter and try to either force the person to give up or take that person out if necessary.
VINOGRAD: And I just want to add from personal experience many synagogues around the country have enhanced security over the past few years. At my local synagogue in Connecticut, there are security officers that are at the door on the high holy days and often on Shabbat services. So it's unclear --
WHITFIELD: What's the expected role on a case like that --
VINOGRAD: To try to identify a threat. They are armed but typically it's to see if there is any kind o threat approaching the synagogue. And in this case, we don't know what kind of weapon the perpetrator had.
But if there are this many casualties, James -- I don't know if you have any thoughts on what it could be. But it is likely that there was some kind of security protocol in place that unfortunately did not succeed in deterring the person.
WHITFIELD: Salena -- if you're still with me, since you know the area. You said you live not far from the Tree of Life Synagogue. Is this a particularly large synagogue, one in which, you know, security would be, you know, significant at this facility or perhaps even magnetometers when people are met at that synagogue?
[11:09:51] ZITO: Well, years ago -- and I honestly can't remember what year it was but I think it was in the 2000s; maybe it was like '99. There was an incident where there was -- I believe it was rabbi that was shot. And that did up the -- in the aftermath of that that did up the security around synagogues in the area. But I don't know that there was any kind of other sort of MAG (ph) or, you know, security guards at the synagogue that I can think that I can recall.
WHITFIELD: Ok. So again, according to our Nick Valencia's reporting, roughly at about, you know, 10:20 a.m. this became an active shooter scene, a service at this synagogue, the Tree of Life Synagogue there in Pittsburgh in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood typically begins at about 9:45.
We did hear from authorities -- we did hear from authorities that there have been multiple casualties, but again, we have no confirmation of exact numbers.
Police also telling people to shelter in place; it is not safe -- their words. Lock your doors, stay in your home.
And President Trump just tweeting moments ago saying, "Watching the events unfolding in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Law enforcement on the scene. People in Squirrel Hill area should remain sheltered. Looks like multiple fatalities, beware of active shooter. God bless all."
Again, we heard from the police. They're saying multiple casualties, but no clarity on deaths or the extent of those casualties.
Still with me now James Gagliano, and Samantha Vinograd, also Salena Zito was on the phone with us. She is from that area. And the Art Roderick also with us.
So Art -- what are your observations here? What's your calculus based on the observations and the kind of information that we're getting in, the images that we're seeing?
RODERICK: Yes. It looks like they've established an outer perimeter here because you see law enforcement kind of in a stand by mode on the outer perimeter where they've held press back.
I think a briefing -- we should hear a briefing here coming up pretty soon. So maybe hopefully they've established an inner perimeter and they have this individual cornered somewhere.
And we could very well be talking about a hostage barricade situation. But hopefully they'll enlighten us here when the public affairs officer comes back. But you still see individuals in SWAT gear warming up.
Earlier at the top of the hour here, I did see the Pittsburgh Mass Casualty Command post roll by this particular scene. So it moved inside the outer perimeter. That very possibly could be a good sign that they have this individual pinned down somewhere.
WHITFIELD: So James -- when you have a, you know, densely-populated area, a neighborhood -- the focal point being, you know, a potential shooting scenario in this synagogue. If this shooter or shooters have left the synagogue, are no longer in the immediate perimeter of the synagogue, there are lots of places to hide. That makes it very difficult when you've got a neighborhood situation like this. Explain the dynamics for law enforcement.
GAGLIANO: As a former FBI SWAT team leader, so I understand this just intrinsically the difficulties. Because as you are responding to a scene and were instructing people, potential victims to run, well you never know if the bad guys have secreted themselves in that mass of people that are running out. So you've got to do immediate sorting and discernment to try to determine good guy from bad.
Let's make some careful distinctions here. There are three things that SWAT team leaders are looking at when they're arriving on scene right now. Is this still an active shooter? Meaning is somebody gunning people down and we have to interdict them and bring them down?
Number two, is it a barricade situation with hostages? Or is it a barricade situation where it is just the shooter. Barricade situation with just the shooter, you're going to -- as Art Roderick just pointed out -- you're going to form a perimeter. You're going to do what we call contain and negotiate. There's no need to put more people into harm's way if there aren't potentially more victims to be harmed.
GAGLIANO: A barricaded subject with hostages raises the ante more. Will this person continue to kill people or are they holding on to them as some type of human currency to negotiate with the authorities?
And then thirdly, obviously the active shooter that we have to -- law enforcement officers they're brave individuals, the men and women that are swearing out to that mission -- they are to respond to the sound of the guns, go to the threat and take that threat out.
WHITFIELD: And then Sam -- you have all of that met with the urgency of trying to care for any who may be injured because this is also a critical time in which to tend to any potential injuries.
VINOGRAD: Exactly. And if there was an assault rifle used, we can imagine that there are people that are in urgent need of care. We don't know how many people are dead. We don't know how many people are wounded.
WHITFIELD: And authorities did say said multiple casualties but we don't know the degrees.
VINOGRAD: Right. So the ability to get medical care to them or to convince the assailant to let them out is at this point unclear.
[11:15:00] And let's again keep in mind, there are likely hundreds of people that were at that service this morning, so the range of people affected is quite broad. And we don't know if the authorities have established contact with the active shooter and are engaged in any way in hostage negotiations to try to address some of those challenges.
WHITFIELD: All right. Sam, James, Art, and Salena -- all stay with me.
Again, we're going to take a short break for now. But active shooter situation taking place in Pittsburgh -- all of this in and around the Tree of Life Synagogue. Police say there have been multiple casualties. They're urging people to stay and shelter in place.
We'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: Well, welcome back.
This breaking news situation: Pittsburgh, in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood there, you see so many police, law enforcement there descended on an area because of a reported active shooter situation -- the center piece being the Tree of Life Synagogue.
[11:19:56] Still unclear if it is one alleged gunman or multiple but police have already said that they have a perimeter that is in place. There are multiple casualties.
You see a variety of vehicles that have pulled up, emergency vehicles that have pulled up. They are also urging people to stay indoors, lock their doors, stay in their homes. This is a densely populated residential area and a synagogue had been under way just roughly about 30 minutes service, before reports of gunfire taking place. Still unclear whether that gunfire took place inside or outside of the facility.
Nick Valencia is keeping close tabs on information surrounding the shooting. Nick, what have you learned?
VALENCIA: Still a very chaotic and hectic situation. It is so terrifying to watch these images here on our screen -- Fredricka.
And as you mentioned, this is near the Tree of Life Synagogue in the very well-known historic Jewish neighborhood of Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh. Saturday is Shabbat, which is the busiest day of any synagogue. And services, according to the Tree of Life Web site, start at 9:45 a.m. Eastern there at the Tree of Life.
At CNN here, we first heard the reports of an active shooter just after 10:20 Eastern this morning. And it was just a short time ago that we got a very brief and very blunt impromptu briefing from law enforcement and local leadership there talking about an active gunfire, multiple casualties.
We are aware that local affiliates there are putting a number on those casualties. CNN has just yet to be able to pin those down and verify that. But it is still a live scene with officers holding a perimeter, perhaps even at this point if they can sweeping the structure.
Again, we still don't know, Fredricka -- whether or not this active shooting happened inside the synagogue, near the synagogue, or surrounding the synagogue. All of that is being worked out now but still very scary scenes here that we're looking at out of Pittsburgh -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right. Frightening indeed. Nick -- give us new information as you get it.
Still with me now law enforcement analyst Art Roderick, James Gagliano and Samantha Vinograd. Also political analyst but today someone who lives in the Pittsburgh area and very familiar with the territory, Salena Zito, giving us her perspective based on her working knowledge of the community there.
So James -- as you see, the vehicles continue to pull up, whether they be EMS trucks, you know, to perhaps tend to any injured. You're also seeing reinforcements of law enforcement, SWAT vehicles et cetera.
It is still considered an active shooter scene but still unclear whether the shooter/shooters inside or outside the synagogue. How do they approach this?
GAGLIANO: So obviously as Art pointed out earlier, a perimeter is critical. You can't have anybody getting out of this web. You've got to make sure you've got a tight perimeter. And then the perimeter gets just made smaller and smaller and smaller. You basically have an inner perimeter which is a concentric circle inside the outer perimeter.
You've also got to have areas set up that as potential victims, people fleeing the scene or coming out law enforcement then can do a hasty discernment. They try to glean who is that potential victim or somebody --
WHITFIELD: Ok. Let me ask you to hold on real quick. Let's listen to the reporter there at KDKA with her latest information -- KDKA.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning. Yes, we are hearing that people who work at KDKA have friends, who have family members who were inside the synagogue whenever this happened. One woman that we know had here two brothers that were inside the synagogue. We are working to talk to them and to get the very latest, from when this all happened, what went through their minds and what happened inside the synagogue.
Obviously we are still really early on. The number that Andy Sheehan (ph) has been giving you, that's the number right now. We are hearing reports that the number could be higher. And also we originally were told two officers shot. We are told that that number could continue to rise. We, of course, are still standing by.
We are waiting for an update from Pittsburgh as well as Mayor Bill Peduto. We were told to stand here at the intersection of Murray Avenue and Northumberland to wait for an update. We're told that Murray Avenue is their saving ground. That's where they yelled for all of the officers to go as soon as the first arriving officers receive fire from outside of the synagogue.
They were told to use their police vehicles, use whatever they could as a shield in order to get out of the way. We are standing right now behind a line of Pittsburgh police officers as well as state police officers and there are some officials that are a little further down.
Rich Fitzgerald, for instance, I see him there. They're talking to officers. So some of the leading officials in the city of Pittsburgh have now arrived here on Murray Avenue and they are getting briefed.
As Andy mentioned, that suspect is in custody. We are told he is a male, a white male. We were told originally he was a heavier-set white male wearing jeans, with a beard. They also said that they found some magazines in the hallway. They also found shell casings throughout the building as they began their search in order to find victims and find people that were barricaded inside.
[11:25:01] They also were looking at a possible package that was being evaluated on the first floor. We're not sure if they believe that that's at all related to the suspect or suspects. At this time, we do know that there is one suspect in custody, however we have not heard reports if there could possibly be more.
LANDO: -- inside the synagogue. We have three officers who have been shot. And at this time we have no more information because we are still clearing the building. We're trying to figure out if the situation is safe, if there are any more threats inside the building. That's all we have at this point.
But the shooter is in custody. We have multiple casualties and three officers shot. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you a step --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Mayor, could you add anything at all?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll be in touch.
MAYOR BILL PEDUTO, PITTSBURGH: Once the situation is stable --
PEDUTO: There's still a lot of information missing. We just got to wait and get -- we want to be sure when we have everything. So we'll be coming back to you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are fatalities, but we're not commenting yet on what there are.
LANDO: We'll be back to advise the media on a regular basis. But at this point that's all we have. Ok.
And we're still asking residents to stay inside their homes. It's not a safe situation yet.
(END OF LIVE EVENT)
WHITFIELD: All right. Still considered a dangerous situation -- you heard from officers there who are saying people still need to remain in home, even though a shooter is in custody. But still unclear if there is any more of a threat taking place there at the Tree of Life Synagogue there in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh.
You see the law enforcement presence there. They are clearing the building, according to the officers that you just heard there. They did however confirm that three officers have been shot but still unclear the number in totality of casualties. But very sobering information, there are fatalities -- at least one of the officers there said.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf just tweeting, "We are still learning details about the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, but it is a serious situation. Pennsylvania state police are assisting local first responders. Please stay away from the area and keep the congregants and law enforcement in your prayers."
With me still Art Roderick, James Gagliano, and Sam Vinograd.
All right. So very important to hear there are multiple casualties. There are fatalities. We do know that three officers have been shot.
But you heard the officers there who said the threat is not over -- James and why? They still have to sweep the area. They've got to make sure that if there are multiple gunmen, they may have left the synagogue locality?
GAGLIANO: Absolutely. And Fred -- I have to say this, I mean, you know, from 2000 to 2017, the FBI tracks these active shooter situations. And because this now looks to be a multiple casualty situation, we can now add this to that.
From 2000 to 2017, there have been 220 of them with casualties, meaning those dead or wounded in a range of 2,200 of them. That's a grim reality. That's also prepared law enforcement for this. Every police department, no matter how small the municipality is, now trains with the state partners and their federal partners in this.
I can tell you this. When you talk about officers being injured and down, most of them that are actually going in there were armed with their ballistic vests, right. Those bullet-proof vests don't stop every bullet. Their level 3, even level 4 they don't stop rifle rounds.
If you've got injured people here, that means they were hit in a place that they didn't have body armor or there might been a long gun involved in this. We don't know for sure but that would be indicia of that.
WHITFIELD: And Sam -- we heard the officials there saying a gunman in custody. Interrogation begins right away?
VINOGRAD: Yes. And we also shouldn't rule out the possibility that there may be other active gunmen in the facility itself or in the neighborhood.
We heard the authorities say that residents should remain sheltered in place, which really means they don't have information from the suspected shooter yet. They don't know if he was working alone. And they don't know what his motivations are.
We may jump to conclusions that this was an anti-Semitic attack. This could have been a congregant. This could have been someone with a personal vendetta -- any range of motivations.
And based on that, until they question him and really work out who else he is been in touch with, I think the threat level will remain very high.
WHITFIELD: Art Roderick -- I want to get to you in a moment.
But first, I've got Fred Rabner who is a member of this Tree of Life Synagogue.
So Fred -- you ordinarily would be at today's service. Today you were not. So tell me what you're thinking and feeling right now.
FRED RABNER, MEMBER, TREE OF LIFE SYNAGOGUE: You know, this is a pretty close-knit community. And this synagogue is a block from my house and a lot of members walk there on a Saturday.
I'm not a regular Saturday attender but my child was bar mitzvahed at this synagogue, and probably know hundreds and hundreds of people that have been attending that synagogue for years. Everyone is just gut- checking and calling all around the community to make sure that their loved ones and their family members are accounted for.
[11:29:57] But we all have been saying to each other over the last half hour that yes, you know, my son is accounted for. My daughter is accounted for. My friends -- close friends are accounted for. But the fact that undoubtedly all of us would know who those congregants are that have lost their lives in this tragedy is unmistakable. We will absolutely know who they are. This is a small community.
WHITFIELD: And Fred -- has there ever been a time recently or otherwise where you have felt security is a worry at the synagogue?
RABNER: Well, you know, there's a shooting at the synagogue previously where someone had an anti-Semitic swastika has been drawn in that synagogue in the past, I believe. And I think a rabbi was shot. And you know, there have been anti-Semitic efforts toward that synagogue in the past that I believe were several years ago.
So, you know, we're not unfamiliar with that. But it just -- it's hard to accept when it's literally looking out my window that close to home. And, you know, we all see it all over the news, but it is literally on our livings, it's in all of our neighborhoods.
So when we watch them across the country on the TV, I think we all can empathize and realize that in a moment could be ours and this is our turn and this is just another of many long line of shootings and tragedies that's just -- it's got to stop. We have to do something.
And I got to say, the officers are working so diligently. So see them flying up and down the street, (INAUDIBLE) on the corners. They have moved into action as swiftly as you can imagine.
WHITFIELD: You live in the neighborhood. You weren't at the service there at the Tree of Life Synagogue today. But tell me more about what you see when you look out the window.
RABNER: Well, you know, you open you door and you hear sirens everywhere. You know, you have the phones ringing off the hook because everyone is checking on who is where, and accounting for everyone.
I was actually exercising in a gym that's a block away from there about a half hour before that. It is right on the main thoroughfare. It's right on a major corner in the neighborhood where people are, you know, walking their dogs, jogging. There's parks right there.
Hopefully that's a sole gunman and they have him in custody. WHITFIELD: As you call around to your friends, you mentioned other
members who everyone feels like undoubtedly they know someone who was at service this morning. What are the expressed concerns that you're hearing from friends as you call around?
RABNER: You know, my neighbor, a Jewish woman -- her and husband walk to that synagogue every Saturday and I always at them as they walk by in the morning when I walk my dogs. You know, not a lot of people still keep the traditions. Every one use their car.
But I haven't been able to get a hold of her. We knocked on the door. And we're calling her phone. I'm sure she's over there somewhere. I'm hoping she's ok.
M1: And for the most part when you make contact with people at home, do they get the word that they need remain in a safe place in their home. And if so, what are their thoughts about that?
RABNER: Yes, everyone is just shaken up. Everyone is just, you know, tearful. You immediately can empathize with whoever the victims are and their families. We are going to know them. They are us and we're them and so just as shootings in other states, you weep for those -- those victims the same as they're your own.
Same thing here -- everyone is just shaken up and upset. It's awful. It's just awful.
WHITFIELD: Well Fred, our prayers are with you and everyone who are members of the Tree of Life Synagogue and everyone in the neighborhood. I know this is incredibly traumatizing and our prayers are with everyone.
Thank you so much for your time.
Art Roderick is also with still us. And Art -- when you, you know, hear from law enforcement there on your latest update that three officers were shot, they continue to try to clear the building, looking for any more potential threats even though a shooter is in custody. How do they determine whether they have exhausted all measures to know that the threat is over?
RODERICK: Well, I mean -- it seems they have somewhat control over the scene at this point in time but, you know, they have got to look for these suspicious packages. I think there was a report of a suspicious package in the synagogue, so they have to go through that.
They've got to locate this individual's vehicle and find out if there's anything in there that could pose a threat. But it seems like they have the scene under control to a certain degree.
Interviewing this particular individual, there is a public safety threat here. They've got to find out if he acted alone. Was there somebody else with him?
But I'll tell you, Fred -- in the recent past during my time at the Department of Homeland Security, one of the most requested training courses that we had was first responder to mass casualty events.
[11:35:04] And usually, unfortunately we're all too familiar -- as Jim had stated earlier -- regarding the amount of active shooters that we've had, these all tend to follow the same sort of outcome where we have the initial response of officers just ad hoc forming a unit to go in, to actively take that out.
And then within a short period of time, you have the SWAT team showing up to assume control. So you've got establishment of perimeters to go ahead and take care of the situation. And that is exactly what happened during this particular shooting event.
WHITFIELD: All right. Art -- thanks so much. Hold on for a moment. I want to take you now to some comments being made from Jeff Nickelstein (SIC). Let's listen.
JEFF FINKELSTEIN, CEO, JEWISH FEDERATION AT GREATER PITTSBURGH: -- Pittsburgh. We are the main fund-raising planning organization for the Jewish community. Part of our function actually is we employ a Jewish community security director who is actually on his way in. He is a 28-year veteran with the FBI. So we look at the issue of security throughout the Jewish community.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where were you this morning when you heard the news first?
FINKELSTEIN: I was in my house here in Squirrel Hill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you paint a picture of how -- when you heard that, what was going through your head at the moment?
FINKELSTEIN: You know, I was in Israel until yesterday and landed back in Pittsburgh late yesterday afternoon and a little jet-lagged. And when I heard that my -- just everything just total sadness, emotion, worry, and I ran over here as quickly as I could.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard that someone who, I believe oversaw the synagogue previously, that you guys have had discussions in the past about this kind of situation that the FBI has been consulted on this kind of thing. Is that the case?
FINKELSTEIN: Yes, that is correct. We have done lots of training on things like active shooters and we've looked at hardening facilities as much as possible.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Describe for me how many people would have been inside the synagogue on a Saturday morning and what types of people would have been in there, what they would have been doing?
FINKELSTEIN: I can't tell you exactly how many were in there, it depends if there was some type of bar mitzvah or other special event which would bring more people. I would guess at Tree of Life a typical Saturday morning would have at that time of morning maybe 50, 60 people -- a guess. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You talked to Mayor Bill Peduto -- what did he
pass along to you?
FINKELSTEIN: He just said we'll do everything he can; the city will do everything it can to help out. And I also heard from Keith Roth, just this morning, who is on his way here as well -- really appreciate all the help from our local politicians.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have security guards there during Saturday morning services? How big is security an issue for you guys?
FINKELSTEIN: I'm not a member of Tree of Life. I can't comment on their security practices. You have to talk to someone from the congregation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And officer -- we just heard from Chris Togneri that there's one, you know, he was in custody, the shooter is in custody. Hearing that and after what's been happening this morning, how does that make you feel?
FINKELSTEIN: Now I'm just sad. I'm really -- I don't know what to tell you. I just -- my heart goes out to all of these families.
This should not be happening, period. It should not be happening in a synagogue. It should not be happening in our neighborhood here in Squirrel Hill.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you describe the situation now at Wilkins and Shady? We're told it's not just one synagogue, right -- there are a couple of buildings there.
FINKELSTEIN: There's one building -- there are several congregations that share the same building.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell me a little bit if in that room, if people were trying to get out of that room, are there exits -- a number of exits available for that? What does it look like?
FINKELSTEIN: You know, I don't know which room they were in this morning -- I can't comment. I'm sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's next for you in your position? What do you have to do? Who do you have to call?
FINKELSTEIN: So we're already in touch. I have been in touch with my colleague, Brian Shriver, the CEO at the JCC and with our Jewish community security director Brad Orsini, and our community relations director. And we're going to figure out what we need to do as a community to pull together. And that will probably happen over the next 24 hours.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are many cities that are streaming Pittsburgh News live that are not familiar with Pittsburgh and they don't understand the Jewish community in Squirrel Hill. Can you paint the picture for people that are watching that don't know Squirrel Hill? FINKELSTEIN: Yes. So Pittsburgh is very unique as far as its Jewish
community goes. A little over 50 -- we just finished a community study and it shows that a little over 50 percent of the Jewish community of Greater Pittsburgh lives in and around this one neighborhood of Squirrel Hill. It is a high concentration of the Jewish community. It makes it very special actually.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And just for people who are joining us right now, could you just repeat who you are, sir and where you work?
FINKELSTEIN: Yes, I'm Jeff Finkelstein. I'm the president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
[11:40:05] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our other reporter Andy Sheehan said it's a conservative synagogue. Can you describe what that means?
FINKELSTEIN: A conservative synagogue is one that is traditional, yet open to change and adaptation to modernity -- I think it's the easiest way to say it. Sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you so much.
FINKELSTEIN: Guys -- thank you.
(END OF LIVE EVENT)
WHITFIELD: A very special place described by Jeff Finkelstein, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh which was terrorized today. Multiple fatalities are being reported. We don't have a number.
Police, as you heard just moments ago just said there are fatalities, there are multiple casualties. But three officers have been shot.
Also this comment coming from the Vice President Mike Pence, just tweeting, "Monitoring reports of shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Praying for the fallen, the injured, all the families impacted, and our courageous first responders. God bless them all."
All right. Moments ago we also heard from a woman whose daughter was at the scene of the shooting. And here is what she had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNIFER, DAUGHTER WAS AT SCENE OF SHOOTING: They heard the shots and they all, her mom and dad, the friends of her mom and dad and son, they all ran downstairs and barricaded themselves in the basement. But once I heard that they had captured him, I thought I've to come. I want to just go get her.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so your daughter is still somewhere across the street.
JENNIFER: Yes. they said there's police in the house and that -- you know, so for them they're safe. But they kept hearing gunfire and everything else.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my goodness. Wow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Well --
JENNIFER: I just want to get her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Incredibly frightening situation. And as far as we know, no one has been allowed out of the synagogue thus far. Authorities who did just take to the microphones moments ago said they're continuing to treat it as an active shooter scene even though one gunman -- one alleged gunman is in custody.
Back with me now -- Sam Vinograd, James Gagliano, Art Roderick -- all with me now.
So Sam -- listening to the people who are familiar with this synagogue, with this neighborhood, it is a significant centerpiece of this neighborhood, in the Squirrel Hills neighborhood there of Pittsburgh. Everyone really is impacted here.
VINOGRAD: Yes. And it's Saturday morning, Shabbat morning services are when Jews as a community come together. And I want to note as well there are often children in the building during these kinds of services. So we don't know if children were impacted. I cannot even begin to imagine how terrified they must be.
And there are some reports that are coming out that the suspect did make anti-Semitic reports. We haven't confirmed that yet. I want to note that according to the Anti-Defamation League, anti-Semitic attacks were 57 percent in 2017. There were 12 incidents in New York State alone in 2018 thus far.
And so we really maybe seeing a very large scale anti-Semitic attack at the heart of the Jewish community in Pittsburgh, and children may have been impacted -- men, women and children really coming together for this community worship service on this Saturday morning.
WHITFIELD: And CNN now able to confirm at least four dead, according to sources that are telling us. At least four dead now in this shooting taking place in this place of worship this morning -- just roughly 20 to 30 minutes after doors opened for people to be there to worship in Saturday service.
And so James -- we heard from Fred Rabner earlier. He usually -- he is a member of the synagogue, he is usually there, he wasn't today. And he expressed his concern for an elderly couple, neighbors of his, that he knows might likely be in service today. Service attracting people of all ages as Sam just said there.
So talk to me how law enforcement also is trying to, you know, tread very gingerly and carefully here knowing there are people who are injured -- unclear whether first responders to carry out medical care had been able to get inside at the same time.
You know, it is a threatening situation. So how do officers, you know, approach this? They're looking for more suspects, at the same time trying to tend to those who are most vulnerable.
GAGLIANO: And it is sequential and it's difficult because you're trying to help people out that are in need of aid, medical aid and assistance while you're trying to move to the threat.
And I have to say this. It is difficult. And again, as a former FBI SWAT team leader, when you're arriving on a scene like this, it is chaotic. You're trying to make assessments in real time. Is this a domestic dispute? Is this a hate crime? Is this an active shooter versus is this somebody that's taking hostages and wants to negotiate. And that's where the law enforcement paradigm has changed.
Back in the 70s, back in the 80s a lot of times in a situation like this, you would have to deal with a barricaded subject. They would take hostages and then law enforcement would set up a perimeter, and you did a contain-and-negotiate. The person that took the hostages wanted something in exchange and human capital was what they were going to negotiate with.
[11:45:03] That has changed. The paradigm now is that most of the time when these things happen, it's over in five or seven minutes. And the person on the other end either wants to martyr themselves or they wish to die by cop, or they want to go in for some hateful reason. Whatever that hateful ideology is, kill as many people as possible, and then meekly give up like a coward.
Those are the things that law enforcement has to sort through in real time. And I tell you, hats off to Pittsburgh police there, their response. We don't have the final numbers. I'm sure that the death toll will probably rise. It usually does in these situations, but incredible work.
As I watched them opening up the trunks in their cars and putting on their gear, I felt that palpable sense of they are going to the sound of the guns. Hats off to those law enforcement officers.
WHITFIELD: Yes. They have to send in a very big way.
Art Roderick -- the history of threats, how much, you know, do law enforcement need to know that before they arrive at a situation like this at the synagogue. When I talked with Fred Rabner earlier, his recollection was, you know, there had been some anti-Semitic, you know, behavior, you know, expressed at -- they're targeting that synagogue in the past.
Are they assessing that after the fact or are they equipping themselves with whatever kind of history there might be before they even get to the scene?
RODERICK: Yes. Law enforcement generally, these large law enforcement organizations have an intel unit and those intel units are pretty much staying up to speed with incidences that occur at churches or schools.
So I'm sure they were familiar going into this particular situation that there had been incidences there before. Now the -- what law enforcement learns from every one of these active shooter scenarios, these mass casualty events -- and as Jim said, there's been 220 since the year 2000 -- and what I find interesting is probably around that same time frame in the year 2000, I myself was also on the U.S. Marshal special operations group which is their version of a SWAT Team.
We started incorporating tactical paramedics into our units. And just over the past three or four, five years, the same thing is being done in first responder mass casualty event training where they're now training first responders to add first aid and tactical paramedic skills so that when they do respond to these events they are able to provide some sort of first aid immediately at the scene before EMS or ambulances arrive.
But their first mission is to go in and neutralize that threat. Their second mission is to start providing medical assistance to those victims that have been hurt or injured.
WHITFIELD: And then James -- how has an incident like this now provoked an increase in security at other synagogues, whether it be in the region or even across the country?
GAGLIANO: Yes. Great question-- Fred. We're actually hearing right now within the city itself here, in New York City, that New York City Police Department an abundance of caution have already dispatched units out to all the synagogues here just to kind of be on the outlook for this.
Because sometimes, we talk about this all the time, there could be coordinated attacks, maybe this is not a one off, or there could be people that are inspired by seeing senseless violence like this or hate directed at a particular race or ethnicity or religion.
So we've got to be on -- we've got to be on our utmost vigilance right now, not just regarding this. It seems like it was so long ago, the package bombs and that situation, see something, say something, and also in this realm. People need to have their heads on a swivel. Police officers are going to be out there in abundance today.
WHITFIELD: And sources telling our Shimon Prokupecz now that 12 in all shot and CNN has also confirmed now four dead -- Sam. So this is still considered an active shooter scene, even though authorities said earlier they have one gunman in custody.
What are they making sure of right now before they say it is an all clear, before the concentrated efforts are on tending to the injured?
VINOGRAD: Well, they have to canvass the building. And the tree of Life Synagogue, I have never been there, but it looks rather large. There are multiple rooms in any synagogue. It is unclear whether this suspect was acting by himself or with others. So now that he has reportedly left the building, they're likely looking to see whether there's anybody else in there that may pose a threat.
And simultaneously, to your point, they're interacting with law enforcement partners around the country to share information about what happened and to perhaps share advice on what to do with local synagogues. And I think we may see other synagogues not just in New York City but around the country take extra precautions just like after the bombs were mailed to the first set of targets, we know that law enforcement went to other potential sites just to share protocols and what to do. I think we'll see that repeated.
RODERICK: Unfortunately religious institutions, schools, malls -- These are classic soft targets. And sometimes the bad people, whoever they are, whatever ideology, hateful ideology they're driven by or consumed by or whether or not they have mental health issues, they're going to take the path of least resistance. And going to do something at the airport now is exponentially more difficult. But going to an undefended synagogue, not so much.
[11:50:04] WHITFIELD: And Art as we look at the images, most of the images we see of first responder vehicles are that of arrival. We haven't seen any images of EMS trucks that have departed with, you know, say the injured. Is that unusual? Is it likely that anyone being attended to will take place on the scene as opposed to transporting?
RODERICK: Yes. I think probably timing-wise this event occurred around I believe 10:20. We're an hour and a half into it now. you know, they might have been able to get those individuals out of the inner perimeter fairly quickly if they had this person.
If they had an inner perimeter setup where they had this individual boxed in, and made the arrest right away they probably got those individuals to hospitals as quick as they could. Stabilize them at the scene, get them in the ambulances and get them to the hospital as quick as they could.
So we might not have seen them leave already because I think we start at the top of the hour as I had mentioned before, the mass casualty command center had just shown up then at that particular point in time. So there was a lot going on for that 40 minutes before we saw the command post actually show up.
So I'm sure they probably immediately got those individuals to medical help as quick as they could.
WHITFIELD: And again, information according to our crime and justice correspondent Shimon Prokupecz his sources telling us 12 shot, four dead. And we heard from police authorities earlier saying three officers shot.
All right. Meantime a new tweet now coming in from the Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf saying this, "On my way to Pittsburgh, headed to the scene at Tree of Life Synagogue shooting. The suspect is in custody. We're providing local first responders with whatever help they need. And you see law enforcement emergency responders descending in a very big way in this predominantly residential community of Squirrel Hill. And this shooting taking place at the Tree of Life Synagogue -- still unclear, details of the shooting -- if it took place inside, if it was outside if it started outside moved its way inside. Bottom line sources telling us 12 shot, four confirmed dead, three officers among those who have been shot.
Of course we're going to continue to gather information as soon as we get more. We'll bring it to you. We're going to take a short break for now.
Live active shooter investigation situation there taking place in Pittsburgh.
Oh, sorry about that. Ok -- we're not going to go to break. I'm going to keep my guests here right now.
Art Roderick with me along with James Gagliano and Sam Vinograd.
So with the governor now on his way to see what's taking place, already commending law enforcement, which so many of us have already done because this is an incredible response.
For good reason of course, this taking place just this morning just after 10:00. People coming to the synagogue for service to begin around 9:45. This community has really been shaken up -- James.
GAGLIANO: Absolutely. And as Art was talking about, the different phases of these types of incidents -- the first thing is to stop whoever's trying to kill and hurt people. That's the first thing.
The second thing is immediately attend to the wounded. Get people to the hospital. You know, perform triage at the scene. Move them quickly there to try to save lives.
The third piece now for investigators is going to be collecting evidence. And again, that crime scene has now been trampled over by SWAT officers and people fleeing out but investigators are going to now come in, comb through everything. Whatever type of forensic evidence they can gather.
They're obviously going to be talking to the suspect and we talked about this in the bombing case. There's a public safety exception which means that if the suspect gave themselves up and police have him in custody, they don't have to mirandize him. They don't have to read him his rights. What they do is they ask him immediate questions.
Anybody else involved. Is anybody else in danger? You know, did you have any further plans? Are there any booby traps here? Things like that that could potentially hurt people. And then put together, they lock a solid case. In this country, if we have somebody in custody that perpetrated this, we're going to bring him to justice the right way in a court of law.
WHITFIELD: And that's providing you have a cooperative suspect. If you don't have a cooperative suspect and all those questions have been asked and, of course, Sam -- you know, law enforcement want to get as much as they can so they know whether to clear the scene or not. Then what?
VINOGRAD: We don't know the suspect's name yet. I'm sure that we will soon. But during this period, while all that's going on, this suspect may also have had a digital footprint. And just like we know that the bombing suspect had a rampantly violent Twitter feed. He had who was following him, who was corresponding with him.
WHITFIELD: We're talking about Cesar Sayoc who was responsible for the multiple --
VINOGRAD: -- 13 terrorist attacks.
WHITFIELD: Right. Bombs.
VINOGRAD: This suspect as well may have had a Twitter feed and other contacts on social media that could share clues about what he was motivated by, who he was in touch with and whether any other attacks were, in fact, planned. And that I think is a very important piece of evidence while all these other efforts are ongoing to try to stabilize the situation and really make sure that there are no other attacks.
[11:55:04] WHITFIELD: So Art -- are they trying to move out that, you know, that suspect in custody? Or do they want to keep that suspect on the scene until they are certain whether there -- he was working or he or she was working with anyone else.
RODERICK: Yes, they'll keep him on the scene until they can get this area safe. They want to know where his vehicle is. They want to check that vehicle out. I'm sure they have canine explosive dogs at the scene to go ahead and make sure that these suspicious packages that were reported earlier do not contain any explosives.
And I think the other thing, too, that we've got to remember, when we look at the Parkland active shooter, Parkland High School and we look at the Pulse Nightclub shooter -- both those individuals had gone online earlier and looked at other active shooter incidents and saw police response and adjusted how they attacked that particular shooting scene accordingly.
I mean we had the Pulse Nightclub shooter basically threaten that there was explosive devices knowing at that particular point in time that law enforcement wouldn't immediately come in.
It also sort of changed SWAT tactics at that particular time where generally in a SWAT situation when you show up, there's negotiation that occurs first. In the Pulse Nightclub shooting, what we saw is that was just a stall tactic to go ahead for this individual to kill more people.
So you're right, it's going to be interesting to look at his digital footprint when they get to that particular point in time to see exactly what he was searching, what he was looking at. Was he researching some of these past active shooters to see what type of techniques worked so that he could get a higher body count? Sad as that is.
WHITFIELD: Yes, very sad. You know, just moments we heard from Michael Eisenberg. He is the immediate past president of the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue and he spoke to reporters. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What would have been happening, you said around 9:45, right?
MICHAEL EISENBERG, FORMER PRESIDENT, TREE OF LIFE SYNAGOGUE: Around 9:45, there are three simultaneous congregations -- services that are being held in the main part of the building. Tree of Life is having a service that has about 40 people in it.
Just below that service area, there's a basement area where new light congregation would be having their Shabbat service. They would also be having -- have around 30 to 40 people. And just adjacent to Tree of Life's service area, congregation door Hadash is in the rabbi study room and they would have approximate 15 people in there.
Just -- all of these are just off to the main entrance to the building.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're hearing reports of people being found in an atrium and in a basement. So the atrium is just that entranceway area?
EISENBERG: There's a common atrium area where you could -- it's a central part of the building. It leads up to the services. But oftentimes there are people milling around in that area, either going to the ladies room, men's room or the coat room.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I'm a person that's walking past the corner of Wilkins and Shady at that time, can I walk in freely? Is there anyone that would greet me at the door or stop me?
EISENBERG: Not typically. On a day like today, the door is open. It's a religious service. You could walk in and out. Only on the high holidays is there a police presence at the entrance.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You mentioned to me when you were president there, again if you're just tuning in, you were the last president -- the immediate past president. How big of a concern was security for you?
EISENBERG: It was a major concern for me, for us, we were working with Homeland -- the Department of Homeland Security to evaluate exit routes. I just spoke to our maintenance person who was able to get out because the doors were easily opened from the inside to allow him to get out of the building.
But it was a major focus working with Brad Orsini at the Jewish Federation -- he's a securities expert -- what to do in an active shooter situation, active shooter training. We were working with the other synagogues on what to do if something horrific like this happened.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who else have you talked to that was inside at the time of the shooting and what have they told you so far?
EISENBERG: The main person -- the one person that I did speak to I know really well, Auggie, the maintenance person -- one of our maintenance people there. He's been there 25 years. He is usually a very cool and collected person. He was shaken. He saw one of our congregants down.
But he knew -- he was in the bathroom and he was able to get out of the building, again because these exit doors were working well. And I just can't tell you how thankful I am just to have been -- do that one piece of -- one task that Homeland Security told us to do.
[12:00:04] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because in the past you couldn't push through the exit doors.
EISENBERG: They weren't easily opened.