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Shooter at Synagogue in Pittsburgh Surrenders to Police; Shooter at Synagogue Left Social Media Posts Indicative of Anti- Semitism; President Trump Comments Synagogue Shooting; President Trump May Cancel Campaign Rally in Wake of Synagogue Shooting. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired October 27, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: The Pittsburgh safety director says, and I'm quoting now, the scene is very bad inside. The president of the United States calling the deadly shooting terrible, and will address the shooting again later on today, he says, with a major statement. CNN's Nick Valencia is tracking the developments for us. So Nick, what more do you know?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We can say that this is still a live scene, but according to the public safety director there in Pittsburgh, there is at this time no active threat to the community. They are telling people in that residential area of Squirrel Hill to remain indoors, and for those who don't have business or don't belong in that neighborhood to stay away.
Fredricka, this is what we can tell you happened earlier this morning. According to the website, Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, they typically start their services for shabbat on Saturday, which is the busiest day of any synagogue, around 9:45. And it was here just shortly after 10:20 at CNN that we got our first reports of an active shooter. Initial reports brought to us by Shimon Prokupecz, our crime and justice reporter, indicated as many as 12 people shot, that included at least four dead. But a short time ago, last hour, from the public safety director, we heard at a press conference he would not confirm the number of those killed, only saying there were multiple casualties. Adding that this was a horrific crime scene, perhaps one of the worst that he has ever seen.
He did say there were six injuries. And of those injuries, included four police officers. He said three officers had nonlife-threatening injuries, three others were in critical condition. He called this a federal violation, this act, being investigated as a hate crime. The Feds now in charge of this investigation. That safety director went on to say that this shooting happened while a service was occurring.
And here is what we can tell you about the gunman. He has been identified as a 46-year-old white male. He has surrendered to police, we believe, after a likely exchange of gunfire with police officers. It is reported that those officers were injured, very likely in exchange of gunfire with the suspect. He was transported last hour, by authorities, to a local hospital. Of course, we expect that he is being interviewed. This alleged gunman, according to our reporting, again from Shimon Prokupecz, made anti-Semitic remarks as the shooting was going on. And we can digging into of course his history. He can tell you he has an extensive anti-Semitic profile. We are working to try to get more information about his past.
We have heard several officials come out and talk about this, including the president of the United States who spoke briefly before boarding Air Force One early this morning. The first lady has also offered her condolences on Twitter. The vice president addressing this matter, as well as the Pennsylvania governor who is now on the scene. ATF and FBI also responding.
The former president of the Tree of Life also gave an interview, saying in his estimation there could have been up wards of close to 100 people there at the time of this shooting, with three concurrent services happening at 9:45. The president calling this a terrible thing going on, in our country, a terrible thing of hate in our country.
WHITFIELD: -- interrupt you. We want to go straight to the vice president, Mike Pence right now.
MIKE PENCE, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: These courageous law enforcement officers, for their swift response in the midst of this.
PENCE: As Las Vegas knows all too well, what happened in Pittsburgh today was not just criminal. It was evil. An attack on innocent Americans and an assault on our freedom of religion. There is no place in America for violence or anti-Semitism, and this evil must end.
PENCE: I'm pleased to report to my fellow Americans that the president has directed the full resources of the federal government to support the investigation and the prosecution, and as the president said, anyone who does such a thing in a temple or a church, should pay the ultimate price.
PENCE: For now, we urge every American to pray. Pray for the members of the Tree of Life Synagogue, for the fallen, the injured, and their families. Psalm 34 reads that the lord is close to the brokenhearted. And let that be our prayer for them today. And let's also pray for the strength and wisdom to do everything in our power to bring these senseless acts of violence to an end, so help us God.
PENCE: Thank you for that. And thank you for coming out today. Thank you for coming out for a good -- [14:05:04] WHITFIELD: All right, Vice President Mike Pence there in
Las Vegas. Again, the scene there in Pittsburgh, a neighborhood there which is now just heartbroken. Police say there is no longer an active shooter scene. They do have the primary suspect, 46-year-old Robert Bowers, the alleged gunman, in custody. He is actually being treated for injuries at the hospital. But you heard the vice president there praising law enforcement who came out with an incredible show of force there, helping to further protect the community there from this act of terror.
Our Sarah Westwood is joining us right now. The president also had a message, as he was about to board Air Force One, saying this was a terrible thing, and now he realizes, he says, that this is far worse than initially thought. The president also just recently tweeted, while he has left, or after leaving the Washington area, correct?
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, President Trump, when speaking to reporters, was throwing out some suggestions of ways to prevent future tragedies like this from occurring in the future. Although he didn't get into the specifics of the shooting that took place in Pittsburgh, he said he had spoken to the governor of Pennsylvania, spoken to the mayor.
President Trump suggested that perhaps putting armed guards in places of worship, like churches and synagogues, could perhaps have stopped this particular shooting from happening. He said that perhaps the only casualty if an armed guard would have been present would have been the shooter himself. And we should note that authorities say four trained police officers were shot responding to this incident. But take a listen to what President Trump had to say at Andrews Air Force base earlier this afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a case where if they had an armed guard inside, they might have been able to stop him immediately. So this would be a case for, if there was an armed guard inside the temple, they would have been able to stop him, maybe there would have been nobody killed, except for him, frankly. So it's a very, very, very difficult situation. And when you look at it, you can look at it two ways. But again, if they had somebody to protect people.
Now, isn't it a shame that you even have to speak that way? Isn't it a shame that we even have to think of that inside of a temple or inside of a church? But certainly, these results might have been far better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WESTWOOD: Now, the president also said that he thought gun laws had little to do with this particular tragedy even though he acknowledged that details of the event are still coming in. He said that one way to respond to this tragedy would be to strengthen the death penalty, that is something we just heard the vice president say as well. But what President Trump did not touch on that Pence did is the
likelihood that anti-Semitism played a big role in this attack. President Trump mentioned hate in general, but he didn't have to confront questions about anti-Semitism. His daughter, a top adviser, Ivanka Trump, has already sent a tweet acknowledging that an anti- Semitic attitude might have been involved in this situation, and condemning anti-Semitism. Ivanka Trump is Jewish, so is her husband.
But Trump hasn't done that, and we expect a fuller statement from him when he lands in Indiana for a farmers' event. He has a campaign rally later tonight, Fred, and the White House hasn't yet indicated whether he will still be attending the rally.
WHITFIELD: OK, but the president did indicate before he boarded Air Force One that we have, and I'm quoting him, a major statement on all of this. All right, Sarah Westwood, thank you so much.
Let's talk further about this. With me right now, James Gagliano, retired FBI supervisory agent and CNN law enforcement analyst, Shimon Prokupecz, CNN crime and justice reporter, and on the phone with us, Salena Zito is back, a CNN contributor who also happens to live there in Pittsburgh. Thanks to all of you.
So Salena, can I go to you first, because earlier when we spoke, you said you live very close to that synagogue. Describe for me -- it looks like we have lost the signal with Salena. Shimon, let me talk to you, because law enforcement, they descended on this area in a very big way. They're being commended on so many levels. From the president, the vice president, and of course local public safety authorities.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, rightfully so. I think what we're going to hear is what the response was, and probably at that 4:00 press conference. And we're going to hear how had they not responded so quickly and moved so swiftly this could have been far worse because they intercepted, they stopped this guy. We're going to hear there was probably an exchange of gunfire between the shooter and police, maybe more than once.
I was listening to some of the scanner traffic, the police scanner traffic, and when you're listening to the police and how they moved through the building, and how they located him, and how he surrendered, it was really impressive to listen to.
[14:10:03] So we're going to hear some really heroic stories probably from the police once they start speaking, and that's why you are hearing from the vice president even, and then also the president commending their actions, because really, they went in. And James, you were talking about this earlier about what you do in these kind of active shooter situations, and it seems that's exactly what law enforcement here did.
JAMES GAGLIANO, RETIRED FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: Absolutely. And if we just look in the past year, it was only eight months ago that the Parkland shooting happened. And there we saw exactly what not to do, where a Broward County school resource officer remained in the parking lot while the shooter was methodically moving through school buildings.
WHITFIELD: Do not do what post-Columbine tragedies law enforcement usually do. They usually go toward the gunfire. In that case, didn't happen.
GAGLIANO: So 19 years ago this past April was the Columbine shooting you're referencing, the high school, where law enforcement was still operating under the methodology contain and negotiate. Put a perimeter, try to talk to the subject. Try to talk to him. Find out more. And don't go in unless you have a homogeneous unit.
Now we train together, federal law enforcement, state law enforcement, local law enforcement, they train together, and they realize that when they get on the scene, get one, two, three officers, and move to the sound of the guns. We saw that on full display during the "Capital Gazette" newsroom shooting where police entered almost momentarily and were able to take that down. That's clearly what looks like happened here. These officers went to the sound of the guns. And tragedy, but hopefully, they were able to prevent more injuries.
PROKUPECZ: And communicating with the shooter, on the scanner traffic, you can hear them describe him. At one point he was crawling, they were saying. The other thing, you bring up Parkland, so law enforcement officials, we've been talking about, my buddy and my colleague Evan Perez are saying that they described the inside of this scene similar to what they saw at Parkland. Just to describe to you how horrific, and we've heard just how horrific the scene is inside. And that's how they're describing it.
WHITFIELD: But law enforcement across the country, particularly at the ready, given, look at this week that we just had, with these package bombs being sent out, number 13, FBI Director Wray saying there could still be more. Even earlier in the week you had in Kentucky someone inspired by hate targeting African-Americans, killing two. So law enforcement particularly at the ready, given this kind of heightened sense, right, of discourse taking place, hate-inspired crimes. And then you had this. There was no hesitation on descending and enveloping the scene.
GAGLIANO: And we never know, and I'm not a psychologist, I don't pretend to be one, but we never know what triggers these individuals. What is it? What makes them snap? Why are there long periods of time sometimes between somebody doing something evil? Look at the bomber, Sayoc. In 2002 he made a terroristic threat, he was going to burn down the Florida utility company. It took 16 years to actually try to do something like that.
In this instance, I've got to add on to what Shimon was saying. I spent 25 years in the FBI and eight in the military. You never get used to scenes like. It doesn't matter. You learn how to compartmentalize, you learn how to numb yourself, but to see career professionals on there, to see them visibly moved, it must have been an awful scene.
WHITFIELD: You heard it in the voice, you saw it in the face of Wendell Hissrich. He's the Pittsburgh public safety director, and his voice was quivering. He clearly was holding back tears when he said it's a horrific crime scene, one that he has never seen.
PROKUPECZ: He said he has been to plane crashes, and this is much worse. And you hear this from law enforcement officers after these kinds of scenes who have to go in there and start to, in essence, pick up the piece, right? The investigators have to go in, and it's never a pretty sight.
WHITFIELD: So we have some new information on this 46-year-old Robert Bowers, the suspect here in this Pittsburgh shooting. A federal law enforcement official telling CNN that Robert Bowers' social media postings are a focus of their investigation into the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. And shortly before the shooting, Tree of Life Synagogue shooting suspect Bowers apparently posted on his Gab account that, and I'm quoting now, he, quote, "can't sit by and watch while people get slaughtered. Screw your optics. I'm going in."
Let's talk more now with my panel. So James, what does that tell you about -- you mentioned it earlier, immediately they will be looking at his digital footprint, whoever this suspect is, and this is information that is being shared with us right now.
GAGLIANO: We saw the alacrity with which law enforcement moved from we always want to keep all options open, we don't want to get hyper- focused, the alacrity, the speed that they moved in to say this is hate crime. Since it is a hate crime it now comes in under the federal umbrella and the FBI steps in as a lead investigative agency.
[14:15:00] That doesn't mean they're not working closely, collaborating with their state and local partners, but the social media is huge. We live in a society of impulse, we want to put our thoughts down immediately. Good people like us who exchange idea do it, so do evil people. So the FBI is going to go back with their law enforcement partners and they're going to try to piece this together.
Everything today in the 21st century, there is a footprint that every time you walk down a street in Manhattan, you are on camera. Every time you pass through an easy pass lane, every time you pass by a police car with a license plate scanner, every time you open up your computer, that digital footprint, especially since this individual seems to be somebody that used social media, is going to be exhaustibly searched through.
WHITFIELD: OK. And this helps build the case for federal authorities, right, because now you've got intent that is established by the way of this digital messaging.
PROKUPECZ: So this becomes evidence right, in the criminal prosecution now. And it also goes, this is something law enforcement folks over at the FBI, even local law enforcement is going to study, right? Were there missed signs here? Did something happen here? Did someone not report something? Did someone see something and not say something? Because this stuff, we keep hearing after this stuff happens that there is a social media presence. Where is his family? There's going to be so many questions. And obviously, this becomes part of the case. But it also becomes a part of what law enforcement, for intelligence purposes, for behavioral purposes, wants to study, to try and essentially prevent something like this happening.
WHITFIELD: Sadly, earlier, Sam Vinograd reminded that it has become nearly routine for synagogues across the country to be targeted, and to take various measures, sometimes you see the security, sometimes you don't see the security in which to protect themselves.
And joining me right now is Nathan Diament, executive director for public policy for the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. And so Nathan, give me your perspective on security measures, particularly in recent years, months, perhaps even weeks that many synagogues have had to take, but at the same time these are security measures that everyone doesn't necessarily see. Sometimes you do see.
NATHAN J. DIAMENT, UNION OF ORTHODOX JEWISH CONGRESS OF AMERICA: Yes, it is just, first of all, it is such a terribly sad day for us in the Jewish community. I happen to be here in Jerusalem on a trip, and I'm already hearing outpouring from people here in Israel of solidarity, in sorrow.
But this is something the Jewish community in the United States has feared, sadly, for many years, because we have seen synagogues attacked in Europe, in places like Paris, and elsewhere in Europe. And it's something that synagogues have feared for many years, and have taken many security measures over the years. I'm not familiar with this particular synagogue and what measures they would have taken. But it ranges from having police officers at the synagogue, particularly on Saturday mornings, or volunteers from the synagogue who are trained in security.
Our organization has invested a considerable amount of resources in training synagogues, and working with local law enforcement as well as FBI to train people, to spot potential strangers who are threatening. And so there is a lot that has been done. But sadly, it was not able to totally avert today's tragedy.
WHITFIELD: You're there in Jerusalem, and earlier Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had this to say, saying he was, I'm quoting now, heartbroken and appalled by the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. And he says I was heartbroken and appalled by the murderous attack on the synagogue in Pittsburgh today. The entire people of Israel grieve with the families of the dead. We stand together with the Jewish community of Pittsburgh. We stand together with the American people in the face of this horrendous anti- Semitic brutality, and we all pray for the speedy recovery of the wounded.
And the president of the United States also saying earlier that if, had some kind of protection been at the synagogue, there would be a very different situation. Is that something to ponder right now? What are your thoughts on the reaction coming from these two leaders, country leaders?
DIAMENT: Well, first of all, we certainly appreciate the president of the United States, the vice president, and the prime minister of Israel who have expressed solidarity. Again, there are specific things that can be done, and must be done. There have been federal resources allocated for the past number of years through the Department of Homeland Security to provide actually financial grants, to synagogues and churches and other nonprofit organizations, to make their buildings more secure. That is a program that we helped work with members of Congress to create, and worked to get money appropriated for each and every year.
It's also -- so that is a very important role that the federal government can play, because many synagogues and churches and other nonprofits don't have the financial resources to put proper security measures in place, or to get training.
[14:20:06] But on the nonfinancial side, there is a lot that local law enforcement does do. And I also want to join in expressing tremendous gratitude for the local police in Pittsburgh that responded so quickly, and sadly had members of their department harmed in this, and we pray for their speedy recovery. But there's a lot that local law enforcement across the country can do, because anti-Semitic threats have been surging more and more over the past number of years, and so the Jewish community is terribly worried. And we hope that if any good can come out of this terrible situation, it can be that more attention is paid and more partnerships are built, both to fight the hate, but also to prepare for tragic situations.
WHITFIELD: Thank you, Mr. Diament. I don't mean to interrupt you, but President Trump is speaking right now about this matter. Let's listen in.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The mayor of Pittsburgh, who is a terrific guy, and he is devastated. So we'll have a lot of information over the next hour. But a lot of people killed. A lot of people very badly wounded. And they say as a crime scene it is one of the worst that some professionals that have seen many, many crime scene, they say it is one of the worst that they've seen. So we will be back with you in a little while. I'm going to, in my remarks, open with a statement about what took place. Thank you all very much.
WHITFIELD: All right, the president again, now upon arrival there, promising a major statement, as it pertains to the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. Mr. Diament, are you still with me?
WHITFIELD: OK, there from Jerusalem. So apparently you made reference to the law enforcement which are being commended for their extraordinary work in descending on this active shooting and containing it and saving lives, and now questioning this suspect. But we're also learning that law enforcement is now discovering, by way of this suspect, 46-year-old Robert Bowers' Gab account, that he said, I'm quoting now, "can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in." This obviously speaking to his intent, a prelude, and to this shooting. What are your thoughts about this pronouncement, announcement, of this person's intent?
DIAMENT: I don't pretend to understand the mind of someone who would commit such a heinous act. I think sadly, we've seen from previous incidents, some of the school shootings, and some of the other incidents that have occurred over the past few years, that there seems to be a trail, an electronic trail that some of these -- that these criminals leave, where, sadly, we can look back and say, oh, if someone had seen that, someone had reported it, maybe some tragedy could have been averted.
I can't pretend to know what he was thinking. I'm sure the law enforcement officials will fully investigate that. I would hope, though, that if it's the case like these other situations, that we can come up with a better system for law enforcement to be able to spot and flag these people who are dangerous before they wreck the lives of individuals and their families.
WHITFIELD: Lots of progress has been made, but perhaps that's the next frontier as well. Nathan Diament, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.
We are going to take a short break for now. We'll be right back.
[14:28:01] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in New York. Back to our breaking news that we're following.
A mass shooting at a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, synagogue. We know there are multiple deaths, at least six people have injuries, including four police officers. The suspect is in custody, 46-year- old Roberts Bowers. The Pittsburgh safety director says the scene is very bad inside.
Moments ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue there in Pittsburgh. CNN international correspondent Oren Liebermann is live for us in Jerusalem. Tell us more about his thoughts.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, it was already a difficult weekend here in Israel and across the country, and that was because of a sharp escalation, we saw, between Israel and Gaza over the weekend, and specifically over the sabbath. That was already on the minds of Israeli leaders.
Just as the sabbath was ending, news of the shooting came to Israel. So it was coming out of a day of rest, coming out of what already a tense weekend that Israeli leaders suddenly had this to deal with, this horrific synagogue shooting. And that just moments after word of this shooting and the news of what had happened came to Israel and came to the prime minister's office here in Jerusalem, we got this statement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I was heartbroken and appalled by the murderous attack in the Pittsburgh synagogue today. The entire people of Israel grieve with the families of the dead. We stand together with the Jewish community of Pittsburgh, we stand together with the American people in the face of this horrendous anti- Semitic brutality. And we all pray for the speedy recovery of the wounded.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LIEBERMANN: And within moments of the sabbath ending here, we got many more statements like this from Israeli leaders, including the Israeli president Reuven Rivlin, many of the ministers here, many of the government leaders, and many of the Jewish community leaders here as well.
Even if this was thousands of miles away, happening in Pittsburg, a seven-hour time different here, it's still hits home no matter where something like this happens, when it happens, it hits home to the Jewish community here as well.
[14:30:07] The education minister who is also the minister of diaspora affairs immediately left to Pittsburgh to try to build a bridge, to help in any way possible between the Jewish community here as well as the Israel government and the Jewish community in Pittsburgh as well. The finance minister, another one of the most important ministers of the government here, saying this is one of the worst moments to deal with, an attack on a synagogue during the hours of prayer. We have seen sentiments like that from many others here, the thoughts and prayers going out from Jewish leaders here to the Jewish community in Pittsburgh. Fredricka?
WHITFIELD: Oren Liebermann, thank you so much for that. And of course we'll continue to follow the developments of the investigation under way. One suspect in custody, 46-year-old Robert Bowers. He is at a hospital being treated for injuries and also being questioned by police. We'll have much more after this.
[14:35:17] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. This just in. President Trump is considering canceling his rally, his scheduled rally tonight in Illinois following today's deadly shoot at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. CNN White House reporter Sarah Westwood joining me now. So Sarah, right now he is in Indiana at the Future Farmers of America, but it is the what's next. He had plans for his rally tonight. Still up in the air?
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Fred, and we don't know yesterday whether he will go on to Illinois after the stop in Indiana to hold a rally on behalf of some embattled House Republicans. The White House not yet indicating whether there is going to be an official change to his schedule, but like you mentioned, President Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One that they are considering canceling that rally in light of the shooting today and getting off the plane in Indiana.
The president again spoke to reporters, and for the first time acknowledged the fact that anti-Semitism very likely played a big role in this attack. He acknowledged that authorities are saying this is one of the worst crime scenes that they have ever seen, saying that he had spoken with the governor of Pennsylvania and the mayor of Pittsburgh and that he'd likely have a lot more information within the next hour.
He is heading to a big farmers event in Indiana where he has said he will address the shooting more fully. And then within the next couple of hours, we should know whether he will go on to a campaign rally, a decision that is likely to raise some eyebrows if he decides to continue with partisan politics in light of the tragedy, or whether he will return here to Washington and deal with the federal response on the federal side of the investigation. Fred?
WHITFIELD: All right, Sarah Westwood, thank you so much.
Quite the outpouring of sentiments from the vice president. The president, the president's daughter even. My panel back with me now. James Gagliano and Shimon Prokupecz and Salena Zito. I'm also joined by CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin. Good to see all of you.
So Shimon, in addition to the people I just mentioned, we are also hearing from the mayor of Pittsburgh, who says this is not normal. Mayor Jim Kenney saying Philly stands with Pittsburgh and all those affected by the horrific shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue. This is not normal. This is not who we are as a nation and we cannot accept continued violence as a way of life. We stand to help Pittsburgh in any way, that from the Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney. We also heard from Benjamin Netanyahu as well. So this is touching people in so many different ways and showing a real intolerance for acts of hate. And we know this is a federal, now, investigation, as an act of hate.
PROKUPECZ: As an act of hate, and the FBI has done these before. They know how to handle these kinds. We have seen that, we've seen these kinds of investigations take place. And just kind of what is going on at the scene right now is that there are FBI investigators, they are collecting evidence, and a lot of what we're not seeing is what is going on in the community from the FBI. That is that they're also assisting families. It is a very important part of what the FBI does in these kinds of situations, and really what law enforcement does.
And then the other thing is they're knocking on doors. They are going to people who know him, who know the shooter. They're going to his family, his friends, where he worked.
WHITFIELD: And right now is a great source of information on who Robert Bowers is, the 46-year-old really, his digital footprint, or are they also finding out from, firsthand account from anyone?
PROKUPECZ: Yes, they will be, for sure. And they're going to want to know, did anyone see anything? Was there something going on in this man's life that all of a sudden caused him to do this thing. That is going to be a key part of this investigation.
Very active on social media. There's things on social media that are going to offer all sorts of clues. We've seen some of that already, that goes to his hatred towards Jews, so that's obviously the motivation here. We know that is not very hard to figure out, so investigators here know all about that.
Now it is just a matter of building this criminal case, and of course, being sensitive. It is very sensitive given where this occurred, how this occurred, on the day it occurred. There are things going on inside that synagogue that we have yet to learn about. And we don't even know who was inside. Are there kids in there? Are there kids who were injured? Are there children who were shot? Families? So there is so much we don't know. But we know a lot about him already. When you look at his social media, and --
WHITFIELD: Where apparently he said on his Gab account that he, I'm quoting now, "can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics. I'm going in." This is a prelude before, apparently, he did go in. And now we know that he actually did enter the synagogue, and officials will only confirm right now six injured, four among them police officer, but we're still looking for clarity on the totality of casualties.
[14:40:07] GAGLIANO: And this is the painful part. Because hindsight is 2020, because you look at that, you look at that social media statement and you go, how could you have missed that? But then you look at in the course of many times where people say things when they're in the heat of the moment or say things, and it's up for interpretation. Very, very difficult.
There are two things that investigators are going to be using right now -- human intelligence and signal intelligence. Shimon just walked through the signal intelligence and how we're going to go to do that, which is the digital exhaustive footprint, everything we have in the 21st century, and the fact that he had an active social media presence.
The second part is human intelligence. And that means that once we grab this guy, once law enforcement got, anything that he says can be used against him, right. There might be the public safety exception where they can ask him questions, and if he utters something about the reason behind it, because I think it was discussed here earlier on the set, sometimes folks, they want to get their message out there and they want to be proud of the dastardly deed that they've just done.
WHITFIELD: Posting it.
GAGLIANO: Absolutely. So those things are going to be really important. I think those are going to help for the prosecution.
WHITFIELD: Michael Zeldin, we know this is a federal investigation. We heard that from the public safety director earlier who said this is a hate crime. FBI will be leading this investigation. When it comes down to prosecuting this as well. One can't help but look the at parallels as to how investigators went about the Charleston shooting. Nine African-Americans churchgoers were killed back in 2015. Dylann Roof convicted. Is much learned from that case in which to proceed on this hate-related case at a place of worship?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, exactly. The 1996 law that Clinton signed that made it a crime to interfere with people's exercise of religious freedom, and then the 2009 act that Obama signed enhancing the earlier act by Clinton, makes these cases much more simply prosecuted. You have to prove that the person engaged in using a force or the threat of force, directed at people who were exercising their religious rights. It seems to me pretty clear from what we know at this early stage of the investigation that that case should be easily made by the federal prosecutors working with state and local law enforcement, to supplement their evidence gathering processes.
But I wanted to add something, Fred, if I may, with respect to what we know or don't know about what was in the synagogue at that time. What we have heard is that there was a baby naming. So it's shabbat, it's Saturday. There was a baby naming, which is a wonderful family experience. So my expectation is that there were a lot of people in there, young kids and other family member, as you go through this wonderful experience of naming your child, and that the likelihood that the congregation was fuller than it might ordinarily be -- at 9:45 in the morning, congregants are sort of straggling in. It is not until the Torah service that the synagogues gets a little bit more full.
But with a baby naming, you might have a much more full congregation with a lot more family members, which is why when the officer when he gave that statement, this was a horrific crime scene, may be talking about lots of families with young kids there being slaughtered.
WHITFIELD: Yes, Michael, you said it is a horrific crime scene, one of the worst I've seen. That is coming from the public safety director. Josh Campbell, we're learning more about this suspect, 46- year-old Robert Bowers, you actually have a photograph of him now?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: That's right, Fredricka, we are getting a first look here at the suspected killer. This is the individual that law enforcement officers believe was responsible for the deadly shooting today. They're outside Pittsburgh at a synagogue. Obviously, we've been reporting that he has been taken into custody. There were initial reports that he was taken to the hospital. We're not quite sure if that is because he actually sustained injuries or if it was just for precautionary reasons.
But again, he is in law enforcement custody, and now we have the next phase of the investigation, which will be that interview. We don't know if he will be cooperating with officials or how that investigation will go, if he will lawyer up immediately. Again, a lot of questions remain, but obviously as we have been discussing all morning, that that may be an opportunity to glean a little bit of insight into what his thinking was, perhaps his motivation going into this. But a lot ahead for investigators as they try to piece together what took place today.
WHITFIELD: I wonder, James, if there is ever kind of a presumption that he might be a cooperative kind of witness, because if he has already sign posting that he's about to do something on social media, saying "can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered, screw your optics, I am going in," it almost sounds like an announcement of I want people to know what I'm doing, what my train of thought is. So might that already be I guess a characteristic of a rather cooperative witness immediately following something like this?
[14:45:03] GAGLIANO: Whatever perverse ideology he was adherent to, he did not elect to martyr himself in this instance. At the end, he decided, no, I'm going to go ahead and give myself up, knowing that law enforcement was going to take him into custody. So yes, sometimes that is the case where he wants to revel in. The news coverage is something that probably fortifies him, the horrible deed that he just did. I think law enforcement had an opportunity to probably talk to him right in the aftermath. There are some reports out now that he made some statements, again, which I think contributed to the fact that the FBI moved in pretty immediately to be the lead agency on this. And then obviously it was because this has got to be person to take down.
PROKUPECZ: From everything I can tell, he surrendered because the police, basically -- I think he was injured. There was an exchange of gunfire, it is not clear if he was injured and if he was shot. But it seems that they had basically confronted him, he was cornered, he really had nowhere to go. And so that is probably how the police took him into custody.
WHITFIELD: So then Josh, that is a key opportunity for investigators to ask him any and all things, right, before he has an attorney, before he gets to the hospital, before there is any even a moment for this suspect to react, to think about not answering questions.
CAMPBELL: Yes, exactly. And you know, there is a lot we don't know about this person and his mindset. We don't know if he is actually proud of what he did, if he is going to tell officers everything that was going through his mind as he planned this, as he executed it. We don't know if maybe he has a change of heart and decides not to cooperate. And lawyers, there is just a lot we don't know.
But this is a critical time for law enforcement, right after an incident when he is taken into custody, because at some point he has to be presented before a magistrate. Now we know that this is going federal, so he'll be presented before a federal magistrate. Again, this is that crucial time that investigators will glean information from him if he is indeed willing to cooperate.
WHITFIELD: As we all try to figure out this person, you all mentioned that investigators will be looking at the digital footprint. They will be talking to people who may have had contact with. Mark Hetfield just might be one of those people. He is the president and CEO of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. The suspect attacked this group online prior to the shooting. Do I have that right?
MARK HETFIELD, PRESIDENT AND CEO, HIAS (HEBREW IMMIGRANT AID SOCIETY): Yes.
WHITFIELD: To what extent, tell me.
HETFIELD: Well, apparently, he has been obsessed with HIAS, which is the name that we go by. We are the oldest refugee agency of the world, and we are the refugee agency of the American Jewish community.
WHITFIELD: I see. And so talk to me about what dialogue, what threats, in what way he made himself known to you.
HETFIELD: Well, to be honest with you, we were not aware of him, or of his activities, at least I was not, until today. But we recently completed -- last weekend was a refugee shabbat. We celebrated shabbat around the country by celebrating with Jewish congregations, this being a welcoming nation for refugees. We had over 300 synagogues in 33 states celebrating refugees with us. And apparently, he found this offensive and was pretty active on social media about this.
WHITFIELD: So then, Robert Bowers, who is the suspect, this 46-year- old, we have reported earlier that he posted on his Gab account that he professed this, saying, quote, "can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in." And then apparently in that same posting, Bowers wrote, "HIAS likes to bring in invaders that kill our people." So this is exactly what you're talking about in terms of the efforts that your group makes, and how he immediately already had a response to it in this manner.
HETFIELD: Right. I mean, HIAS, we're an organization that was started to welcome refugees who are fleeing the pogroms in Russia, and then we welcomed refugees that were fleeing Nazi Germany, and Nazi- occupied Europe. And today we say that we used to be an organization that welcomed refugees because they were Jewish. And today, we welcome refugees because we are Jewish. So we are a refugee agency. We are one of the nine partner agencies with the United States government. We settle in refugees in the United States, and we do resettle refugees in partnership with Jewish family and community services of Pittsburgh. So yes, we do welcome refugees. That is what we do. That is our mission.
WHITFIELD: So how much more troubled are you now about this suspect, the identity of this suspect, the act that he is connected to today at that Pittsburgh synagogue, and his documented point of view, or thoughts, about your organization?
[14:50:05] HETFIELD: Of course, I could not be any more troubled than I am right now. We are here to welcome refugees who are fleeing persecution and terror. We're here doing this as the Jewish community because we know what persecution and terror is, because we are a refugee people, and we are the organization of a refugee people. And for this to happen on the holiest day of the week in a sanctuary is beyond horrific. I can't describe the horror that this is causing us, and the sadness that we have for our friends in Pittsburgh and for our partners there, and for the congregation, and for the country.
WHITFIELD: This happening on shabbat. Now, how do you see what happened today, in any way, influencing you, your mission, your group, your commitment?
HETFIELD: It's demonstrated that our mission is more important than ever. There's a global refugee crisis right now, and refugees are having a harder and harder time getting sanctuary, getting safety, and finding refuge from hate. And we know that as a Jewish community we welcome refugees, and it is more important than ever to continue doing this. This makes us more resolute in the importance of this mission. WHITFIELD: Do you believe he is acting alone? Or do you believe he
has company in this professed sentiment? And does that bring additional worry to you or concerns about safety?
HETFIELD: Well, there's certainly a lot of hate out there. There's a lot of hate toward refugees, towards Jews, toward transgendered people, towards Latinos, toward the other. That really worries me. And so of course, we are worried this doesn't seem to be -- it is certainly not going away. So yes, we are concerned, but it's not going to stop us from carrying out our work of welcoming refugees.
WHITFIELD: Who do you turn to, and the climate that you just described, or what are you hoping or counting on in which to correct, address, this climate and these recent acts of hate?
HETFIELD: We have to turn to one another. We have to turn -- this has to be done on an individual level. We have to keep an eye open for hate. And when your crazy uncle says something hateful at Thanksgiving, you can't just let him get away with it anymore. Every time you see someone using hate speech, you have to stop them, you have to call them on it. That's everybody's job right now, and we have to do that across the board. That's the strategy, everybody has to be engaged in calling out hate.
WHITFIELD: Mark Hetfield, thank you so much for your thoughts. Of course, all of us are pained by everything that has taken place here, our hearts go out to all of the family members, all those impacted by what has transpired today. Appreciate it.
HETFIELD: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Back with my panel right now. James and Shimon, and I believe we still might have Salena with us? Salena Zito, are you with us still? It looks like we've lost Salena. I only mention it because she lives in that area and is intimately familiar with this community of Squirrel Hill.
So investigators have quite the task here. They have moved in, in a very big way, to try to return some safety to people there. Yet now another big job of investigating, having a better handle of who Robert Bowers is, what influenced him, Shimon, what's next. And yes, we know it is a federal investigation, it would be a hate crime that is being investigated, prosecuted, but there still seems to be a whole lot of empty holes here.
PROKUPECZ: There are. And what they're going to do is they're going to his family and his friends, that's what I was saying earlier, knock on some doors and really start interviewing people to figure out now that things are safe there and they feel somewhat comfortable that there is no threat.
They already know a lot. Just his words, as we've been reporting, there was anti-Semitic words and views were expressed during the shooting, so they have that. That's evidence. That's all you need really now to bring charges of a hate crime.
GAGLIANO: So let's make a clear distinction here, because we hear people talking about terrorism versus hate crimes.
[14:55:02] So we know terrorism is narrowly defined and the federal government is very careful before they label something terrorism, right. It is violence or intimidation or the threat of same in the pursuit of political or social goals.
WHITFIELD: Can't they be in the company of each other?
GAGLIANO: They can, but let me define a hate crime for you. It is a crime motivated by prejudice, prejudice against skin color, religion, sexual orientation, whatever, that includes violence. So they're narrow definitions. Yes, Fred, there's overlap. But on the legal end of it I'm sure the lawyers will look at this and find out where this fits in. I imagine this guy with a hate crime could still be facing the death penalty.
PROKUPECZ: But there is death penalty.
WHITFIELD: Thank you so much to all of you. I appreciate, Shimon and James, for being with me all of today. I really appreciate it.
And thank you so much for being with me at home. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We have so much more straight ahead. Alex Marquardt picks it up from here.