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Robert Bowers Opened Fire on Worshippers at a Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Killing 11 and Wounding 6; The Anti-Defamation League Believes the Assault on Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh Constitutes the Deadliest Attack on Jewish Community in U.S. History. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired October 27, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST OF THE SITUATION ROOM, CNN: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We're following breaking news this hour.
11 people dead, 6 others wounded, when a gunman opened fire on worshippers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. The FBI agent in charge calling it the most horrific crime scene he'd ever seen. The gunman identified by police as 46-year-old Robert Bowers.
[00:00:00] Police say he was not known to law enforcement before today's shooting. He was arrested, alive but wounded and shot multiple times by officers who took him down.
Authorities say they expect to file criminal charges shortly, possibly even later tonight. President Trump calls the gunman a sick person and says he wants the death penalty. Source tell CNN the made anti-Jewish comments during the rampage at the synagogue. His social media accounts are littered with anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant views.
The massacre is being investigated as a hate crime. The Anti- Defamation League says they believe this is the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States. The Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf telling the Jewish community the suspect's views are unacceptable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM WOLF, GOVERNOR, (D) PENNSYLVANIA: Anti-Semitism has absolutely no place in our commonwealth. Any attack on one community of faith in Pennsylvania is an attack against every community of faith in Pennsylvania. And I want the Jewish community across the commonwealth and across the country to know that we stand in support of you as we, together, mourn this senseless act of violence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CNN's Victor Blackwell is joining us live, he's in Pittsburgh, on the scene right now. So Victor, first of all, tell us what you're learning. What's it like right now?
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CO-HOST, CNN NEW DAY WEEKEND: Wolf, we are about nine hours on since this massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue. And every hour, we're getting a fuller picture of the attack that happened this morning and a clearer picture of the man who investigators say killed 11 people and wounded 6 others.
First, let me tell you that local, state and federal authorities are here. The FBI is leading this investigation and it has the footprint that one would expect from a mass killing of this size. The Attorney General said today that there will be hate crime charges filed as part of this.
And investigators will not have to look far for that evidence. We start the timeline at 9:49 this morning, just minutes before the first 911 calls came in and a social media post according to law enforcement sources to CNN, this man 46-year-old Robert Bowers posted online, a reference to a Jewish support group and then blamed members for bringing in who he called invaders, who he said were killing his people and then wrote, "Screw your optics, I'm going in".
It was five minutes later then at 9:54 that the first 911 calls came in about the shooting. A minute later, authorities say that police were on their way. But by then, they believe that Bowers had already killed 11 people who lost their lives here today, and was on his way out.
They say that when that first Pittsburgh police officer was trying to go in, he was wounded and then another officer and then two SWAT officers. We're told that they are in stable condition. Then we were told that this all lasted for about 20 minutes until Bowers himself was shot several times.
Right now, they believe that the officers fired those shots. Still waiting for 100% confirmation on that. He was taken into custody. He's described as being in fair condition as well.
Now, what do we know about the weapons? Investigators say that he had an assault rifle, also three handguns, no confirmation yet if all four of those weapons were used. But we're told that charges could come as early as tonight, that from the U.S. attorney for the western district of Pennsylvania.
They do believe, at this moment, that he acted alone. The investigation obviously continuing here in Pittsburgh. Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: And we're also told, Victor, correct me if I'm wrong, the suspect did have an active license to carry a firearm, right?
BLACKWELL: Yes, and still questions how he got those weapons and again how those weapons, all of them, how many of them were used in this shooting. But again, that will come, we're told, as the investigation continues, an update from authorities as soon as the morning.
BLITZER: All right Victor, thank you very much. Victor Blackwell is on the scene for us. The man who opened fire in that synagogue today during religious services killed 11 people and wounded at least six others. Two of those individuals are now listed still in very critical
condition. Let's go to CNN's Jessica Dean. She's at the vigil, that's in the same neighborhood as the Tree of Life synagogue. So, Jessica, tell us what you're hearing from the community tonight.
JESSICA DEAN, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well good evening to you Wolf. We are here in the Squirrel Hill community in Pittsburgh. It was just an outpouring of support tonight, hate ricocheting through here, being met with just a solid stand of love from this community.
This church behind me, the Presbyterian Church, full to capacity of people who wanted to be here for the vigil tonight. There were overflow crowds coming out here onto the streets singing of songs, a lot of hugging. Listen, when tragedy strikes, people want to be with people and they want to show love to one another, and that is certainly what we're seeing here in Squirrel Hill tonight.
[00:05:00] I talked with several people off-camera about what this neighborhood's like and they said, listen you grow up here, you never -- a lot of people don't really leave. Our kids grow up together. We know these -- you know we know each other and we just never in a million years thought that this would be happening here in our neighborhood.
And I want to bring in a member of this community. This is Allison Sennott, she was at tonight's vigil. You grew up here in Squirrel Hill, Allison. What made you come out in the rain, on a day that has broken so many hearts, why are you here with your community?
ALLISON SENNOTT, PITTSBURGH RESIDENT: Well, I grew up here. This is my church behind us. It's just horrible, it's just a horrible day, and just to see the people that I grew up with, that I know, that know people -- just you had to come out and support them.
DEAN: And as I said, so many people just looked at me when I was talking to them and said like we just can't - well it's almost surreal to so many of us. Did you ever see any sort of behavior like this around your community, did this surprise you?
SENNOTT: It doesn't -- I mean I think in the U.S., we've become so used to mass shootings, which is just horrible. But in this community, no. There's no violence. It's not on the news regularly, it's not -- there aren't people dying. It's a place where you walk as kids and a lot of different communities here. There are Christians and Jews and all variety of Jews, from the very Orthodox walking around, and there hasn't been an issue. And it just makes it really, really terrible.
DEAN: Of course it does, of course it does. What do you want people watching to know about the people here and how you're going to move forward from this day?
SENNOTT: I think you should know that it's a very supportive community. But like I said everyone knows somebody and everyone's willing to lend a hand and it's a good place.
DEAN: And you didn't know anyone personally affected, but you still -- clearly it's impacted you deeply.
SENNOTT: Yes, it was right down the street from my house. It's horrible, it's just really, really horrible.
DEAN: Yes. Well we're sending you all the love. Thank you for being with us. You all take care. As I said, just such a tight-knit community here. A large Jewish population here, but a very diverse population, and a lot of people here saying that really that's what this is all about, is all different people coming together in this community, Wolf.
So, as you can tell, just from talking with Allison and others like her tonight, this community's heart is broken.
BLITZER: It certainly is. Please pass along our love as well. Jessica Dean on the scene for us. You know what, I want to just listen in for a moment, they're singing at this vigil right now, let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(CROWD SINGING HEBREW SONG)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, they're singing a classical Hebrew song (inaudible). It's a very well-known Hebrew song at this vigil. Religious leaders throughout the community, community members, they've all gotten together to remember those who were murdered today.
Let's bring in our next guest, Bill Peduto, is the Mayor of a Pittsburgh. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us. I feel awful that we're meeting under these circumstances. But first of all, how are you dealing, how are you coping with all of this?
BILL PEDUTO, MAYOR OF PITTSBURGH: Well, there's a lot of support, Wolf, and it's all throughout this community. The Jewish community in Pittsburgh has had a historical role as leaders going back all the way to the mid-18th century, and it's a community that's well connected throughout Pittsburgh and southwestern Pennsylvania.
So, as the last person was saying, we all know somebody that's involved personally and we're leaning on one another right now through compassion and love.
BLITZER: Have you been in touch, Mayor, with some of the family members of those who were killed and injured.
PEDUTO: I have. We set up two centers for the family members and those that had questions. I took some time to go and just to talk to them, and I just have to tell you this whole day's been heartbreaking, but there's nothing even close to that part of this day.
[00:10:00] BLITZER: And we're told, all 11 who were murdered were adults, no children, even though there were children there at the service, at the synagogue this morning, all adults. Can you -- I know they haven't released the names, they haven't released the ages, anything along those lines. But can you share with us any thoughts about these 11?
PEDUTO: Yes, people that I know. Yes, it's the information we'll be sharing with the public tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. Really strong insistence by the FBI that we identify everybody with 100% accuracy before giving out any information for the family's sake.
BLITZER: Was there a history of anti-Semitism in your community, as far as you know? I know there's always some anti-Semitism among fringe elements out there, but was there heightened concern in recent days, weeks, months?
PEDUTO: No, there's anti-Semitism throughout this world, there's anti- Semitism throughout this nation. And I think that there have been some people that were building off of it, almost like fuel, and there was no warning sign that we had that we would be experiencing any type of act against our Jewish community or any community.
It was just another Saturday in October in Pittsburgh, and it ended up in one of the worst days in our city's history.
BLITZER: Yes, it's so said. I know there are several synagogues in Pittsburgh, Jewish community centers, Jewish schools. I assume you're tightening security at those locations.
PEDUTO: Of course. We are -- we're also tightening security at our mosques and Islamic centers and any other group that has been targeted out in recent weeks or months that would feel insecure or would need additional security.
There are federal officials on their way to Pittsburgh. The FBI is sending a lot of different agents here. They'll be working with our local law enforcement, the county and the state through Governor Wolf, who provided officers and troopers to be here in Pittsburgh to help.
Our neighboring communities, when we had to send every ambulance in our city out here not knowing what to expect, they voluntarily sent their ambulances to cover city neighborhoods.
And in fact, 14 of our medics who weren't even supposed to come to work today showed up so they could fill seven additional ambulances. You know, in Pittsburgh, there's a lot of discussion about how we're a sports town or that we have his team mentality.
When it comes to tragedies like today, we show what that black and gold really means. It's the effort to support one another, and that's why we'll get by. We're stronger than hate.
BLITZER: Well, we're with you Mayor. Thank you so much for all that you're doing. God bless everyone over there. Our deepest, deepest condolences and may those who died rest in peace. Thank you so much for joining us.
PEDUTO: Thank you Wolf.
BLITZER: We have some chilling audio that we want to share with you right now. It's a radio chatter between the first responders and police dispatchers, as SWAT teams desperately search for the shooter inside the Tree of Life synagogue.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Patrol at the front door, we got to evacuate some of these hostages.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Received, request for patrol at the front door evacuating hostages.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a spent magazine, looks like a high powered AK, middle hallway off the 1-4 corner. I have a description.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead, send it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tall white male, short hair, light blue shirt, jeans. Again, that's tall white male, short hair, light blue shirt, jeans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got one alive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're evacuating one right now, still alive. We have at least four down in the atrium DOA at this time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was there earlier intel that he may be in the basement?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had a report of at least one victim in the basement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have additional four victims -- four victims in the back of the atrium of the front hall, total 8 down, 1 rescued at this time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your status in the basement?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are probably at the bottom of the stairwell cleared to the left, working room to the right. We have rifle cases in here with blood.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BLITZER: Very chilling indeed. Art Roderick is here as a CNN law enforcement analyst. Also with us Josh Campbell, former Supervisory Special Agent with the FBI.
Art, this killer, he posted a lot of hate speech online just five minutes in fact before he actually went into the synagogue, referring to HIAS, which is a Jewish refugee advocacy group.
[00:15:00] He wrote, HIAS likes to bring in invaders that kill our people. I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in.
How valuable to investigators, law enforcement, the FBI are all of these social media posts. ART RODERICK, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: They're very valuable because they'll establish the charges that are going to come forthcoming regarding the hate crime. So what you have here is it seems to me, based on that type of social media posting that he was actually outside of the synagogue at the time, because it's very contemporaneous with him going in and starting shooting.
So he actually posted that probably from his cell phone, right before he went in, and started slaughtering those poor people in the synagogue.
BLITZER: Shows motivation.
RODERICK: Shows motivation.
BLITZER: And it specifically shows hate.
RODERICK: Exactly, yes.
BLITZER: Yes, I think that's what they're going to be working on. Josh, I want you to listen to something that President Trump said earlier today, shortly after the shooting.
(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, and maybe there would have been nobody killed except for him, frankly. So, it's a very, very, very difficult situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So what do you think, would an armed person inside the synagogue have made a difference in this instance? This guy comes in with three pistols, plus an automatic rifle.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I'll answer that in two parts, Wolf. First of all, it's important to understand that those comments that were made by the President were made just after the event started. We were covering at the moment we first got word and he was quickly out there speculating about what was going on, presumably without having any information about what had actually happened.
He did get a briefing, we heard, but again it was so early on that the details were still coming out and yet he was speculating. So, I think that a lot of us have been commenting on that, that you know coming out so quickly and trying to speculate and bring politics into it just doesn't seem very helpful.
I will say this, Wolf, this is a day when the entire country is grieving for the Jewish community here in the United States. When he talks about an armed guard inside a synagogue, we don't know what the dynamic was as far as the security posture.
But one thing I do know, Wolf, is when I go to my church, a Protestant church, I often pass synagogues on the way. Or when I'm out on a Saturday, I pass synagogues in my neighborhood, and there is always a large presence of security outside.
And it says two things, Wolf. First it says that, I'll say this that there is a religion in the United States that is continually under threat, the Jewish community. And those of us who don't see this every day have to really appreciate what it's like to go to a place where you're exercising your faith, where you're going to worship, but you have to pass someone with a weapon on the way in.
It's that constant reminder that these threats are out there. So again, we don't know what the security posture was inside and outside. Neither does the President right now. But I think it's far too soon to start weighing in and the old argument, well a good guy with a gun would have stopped a bad guy with a gun.
So many in my former business in law enforcement have constantly said that that is not a Panacea, because law enforcement officers are highly trained, they go through training where they fire thousands and thousands of rounds in order to get to a certain level of expertise.
We shouldn't require the general public to do that, just to go about their business and to go about worshipping their faith. So, I think our focus right now should be on gathering the facts and I would urge our leaders to do the same.
BLITZER: Yes, well said. Josh Campbell, Art Roderick, I want both of you to stick around. We're going to have a lot more special coverage right after this.
[00:20:00] A vigil has been underway now for the victims of the school at the Tree of Life in Pittsburgh, 11 people were murdered, 6 were wounded, including four police officers. I want to bring in now Congressman Mike Doyle. He represents the district where the Tree of Life synagogue is located.
Congressman, our hearts go out to you, to all -- everyone in your community. How are they dealing with this, how are they reacting?
REP. MIKE DOYLE (D), PENNSYLVANIA'S 14TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT: Well it's been a tough day in Pittsburgh, Wolf. But this is a very strong vibrant community here in Squirrel Hill. A lot of us are just shocked and numbed by this, but the vigil we just had this evening, that was led by a bunch of students from one of the local high schools here in the area, was very emotional, but very inspiring.
This is a community that's strong and we're here for each other and we're going to get through this. But it's just one of those things you don't think is going to happen where you live. But unfortunately this kind of mass shooting and these hate crimes are happening all too often all across our country.
BLITZER: What can you share with us about the investigation?
DOYLE: Well we had a briefing with the FBI at 4 o'clock this afternoon. There's still a lot of investigating to go. There's a very active crime scene that's been cordoned off, and the FBI and all of their forensic experts will be scouring that site tonight and all through the next day, so they get everything that they need.
We know that the shooter was clearly an anti-Semite, a disturbed person. This guy brought in an AR-15 and a Glock and two other handguns to the synagogue and ruthlessly murdered 11 people, as they were in a house of worship and then encountered the police officers who fired at him and he managed to wound two police officers and two SWAT members, before they wounded him and cornered him up on the third floor of the synagogue and eventually got him to surrender.
And he is being charged I believe this evening by the U.S. attorney's office here in Pittsburgh on multiple counts, and the investigation continues as we speak.
BLITZER: And is the assumption that he was acting alone?
[00:25:00] DOYLE: Yes, they think he was acting alone and they don't think there's any further threats to the community at this time, although precautions are being taken. There's a lot of services tomorrow taking place in Pittsburgh and they'll be vigils and the city of Pittsburgh in Allegheny County and the State Police are all making preparations to make sure that those areas are secure.
BLITZER: I can only imagine how awful a guy comes in with an assault rifle and three pistols, goes to where men and women are praying their early morning Sabbath service, and I assume most of the men and women were wearing prayer shawls, and he just randomly starts opening fire, killing these people and injuring others.
What's your message, Congressman, to those members of your community who are hurting and are mourning?
DOYLE: Well, like I said, our hearts are broken for the Jewish community here in Pittsburgh. But when they are attacked, they attack us all. Pittsburgh is a very strong and united community and we're all here together to support one another and certainly to support our friends in the Jewish community here in Pittsburgh.
And we'll get past this, but it just makes you wonder what has to happen in this country before we start to have some common sense about guns. I just don't understand why any civilian needs a military weapon. Those weapons are designed to do one thing, kill a lot of people quickly.
When you hear about mass shootings in the United States and you don't hear it so much in other countries, it's because there's just too much access to these kinds of military-style weapons that are designed to do one thing, kill lots of people quickly, and I think they have no place in civilian hands.
And my hope is that people across America start to understand that that's part of the problem, it's not all of the problem, but it's a big part of the problem. And hopefully are communicating that to the people who represent them so that we can finally get some common sense gun safety laws in this country. And then we just got to tone the temperature down in this country too. People from the very top to those of us in everyday life need to look in the mirror and ask themselves what are they doing to unite the country, not divide the country. We've got to start thinking about that every day too.
BLITZER: Congressman Doyle, well said. Thanks so much for joining us, and please pass along our love to everybody in Pittsburgh right now.
DOYLE: Thanks Wolf, appreciate it.
BLITZER: We have a lot more on the breaking news right after this.
[00:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: 11 people murdered, several others wounded today in a sudden and senseless mass killing in a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh. These are the people of that city, Squirrel Hill neighborhood, not far from the synagogue and where very many of Pittsburgh's Jewish families live.
They are holding a vigil right now, people of all faiths, they're holding hands, they've got candles. They're showing their resolve, they're sharing their grief on this terrible tragic day.
CNN's Jean Casarez is in Pittsburgh for us. She's over one of the hospitals where at least some of the wounded are being treated. Jean, the Mayor of Pittsburgh just told us a few minutes ago that they will release the names of those 11 who were killed tomorrow. What do we know in the meantime?
JEAN CASAREZ, NEWS CORRESPONDENT, CNN: That's right, in the meantime, we know that there are six surviving victims. We are right outside the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. This is a Level I trauma center, there is another Level I trauma center in this city, with the University of Pittsburgh Systems, and these are where the victims are.
Here's the update that we have at this point. There are two that are in critical condition. First of all, a 70 year old male, he had multiple gunshot injuries to his torso, involving major organs.
Now at the press conference several hours ago, they said that this man was in his second surgery of the day. I just spoke with the Vice President in charge of communications for the hospital systems. He has no update as to whether that surgery has concluded or what the status is. He is in critical condition.
The other is the 55-year-old officer in critical condition at this point, multiple gunshots to his extremities. Additionally, a 61-year- old female victim currently in the hospital at this point at the Level 1 trauma center.
Also we know that one of the police officers has actually been released. We do not know exactly what police officer, but one has been released, and the 27-year-old police officer is right here at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Mercy where we are and he is currently in the hospital with soft tissue injuries. Wolf?
Jean Casarez, thank you very much for that update. President Trump was quick to strongly condemn this horrific attack, telling a rally of young farmers, and I'm quoting the President now, "It's a terrible thing, what's going on with hate in our country." He says he will visit Pittsburgh soon to show his support.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: With one unified voice, we condemn the historic evil of anti- Semitism and every other form of evil. And unfortunately, evil comes in many forms and we come together as one American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President also praised the courage of the first responders. He called for the death penalty for crimes like this one. He chose not to cancel a political rally this evening in Illinois, saying he would not let people that are evil change our lives. That's a quote.
Boris Sanchez is joining us now from the rally with more on the President's response. What else has he been saying, Boris?
BORIS SANCHEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Hey there Wolf, yes President Trump acknowledged that he considered canceling tonight's event in Southern Illinois, President calling it an obligation earlier today as one of more than a dozen campaigns that the President has made in October campaigning for Republican candidates across the country.
And when he started by talking to his supporters, he told them that they could not make evil people important and then said that the assault today in Pittsburgh was an assault on humanity that struck at the heart of all Americans.
[00:35:00] Further, for the second time this week, the President called on Americans to come together in the face of domestic terror. Though before he took the stage here, he did point out to reporters that the shooter in today's attack is not a true supporter. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: This was no supporter for me. This was somebody that actually was -- he was no supporter of mine, and his anti-Semitic tweets, people have seen them, very anti-Semitic man and what he -- his thought process is sick. And I said it before and I'll say it again, we have to bring back the death penalty for people like this. People that do this, you have to bring back the death penalty. This is the worst form of terror.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How does that affect your feelings about your responsibility to set a tone?
TRUMP: Again, tone is very important. We want to win and we're going to win. (END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Hey there Wolf, and a quick note about tone. The President actually told supporters here that he would tone it down. They responded with boos, and he continued with some of his common refrains, attacks on Democrats, et cetera.
And lastly, the question about where this may move forward politically from here, President Trump was specifically asked, as he departed to the White House today, about the potential passing of gun control legislation to prevent an attack like this from happening again in the future.
He dismissed that idea. Instead he said that perhaps the synagogue should have had armed guards and that today's assault may have turned out differently, if that was the case. Wolf?
BLITZER: Yes, you're right. This shooter clearly was no supporter of the President. We looked at his anti-Semitic social media posts. One of them says Trump is surrounded by many, there's a derogatory word for Jews. Trump is a globalist, not a nationalist. There is no MAGA, Make America Great Again, as long as there is a -- and then another derogatory word for Jews -- Jew infestation.
So he clearly did not like the President of the United States. All right, Boris, thank you very much. Our special coverage continues right after this.
[00:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: The community of Pittsburgh morning at a vigil tonight for the victims of the deadly mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue. This morning on the same day, as the Saturday morning Shabbat -- Sabbath services were beginning, a man opened fire killing 11 people, wounding six including four police officers.
At the time of the shooting, there were three different congregations holding their services inside the synagogue. The suspected gunman is 46-year-old Robert Bowers. Bowers had an extensive anti-Semitic digital footprint and he made anti-Jewish comments during the shooting.
CNN's Miguel Marquez is outside the suspected gunman's house in Allegheny County over there near - in Pittsburgh. Miguel, so what can -- what more can you tell us about this suspected killer?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes, so we're just south of Pittsburgh. This is an area that police have blocked off for several hours today. The bomb squad just left. Local and federal officials are in a small apartment where he either lived part time or full time.
There are other locations around this area where he also seemed to have connections to. It's all coming rather clear that, in the last 20 days or so, 17 days ago, he posted about the caravan and his concerns about the caravan that was heading up from Mexico. He had apparently seen a video from HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid
Society. Among other things, they settle refugees of all types, of all nationalities, of all religions in different cities in the U.S.
They do have a presence here in Pittsburgh. He posted that video, and when -- shortly before entering that synagogue, posted HIAS is a Jewish refugee advocacy group that - and mentioned a national refugee Shabbat that was happening last weekend in an area close to where this synagogue was.
One of the thing he posted in that same post was, can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in. So, this is somebody who clearly, police are not taking any chances. They had a bomb squad in there. They're going through his apartment now, and we expect to hear more about what they're finding in there and about his life very soon, hopefully either tonight or early tomorrow. Wolf?
BLITZER: And we'll see if he's formally charged today as well, as the authorities suggested, that would probably be the case. All right Miguel, we are going to come back to you once you get more information. Thank you so much.
Joining us now, the former FBI counterterrorism agent, Tim Clemente, and retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent, James Gagliano. Tim, take us behind the scenes a little bit right now. What are investigators doing?
TIM CLEMENTE, FORMER FBI COUNTERTERRORISM AGENT: The first thing we have to try and figure out is, did he act alone? It's one of the most important things. We have him in custody. He's not going to harm anybody else hopefully.
So, are there other people that were conspirators with him that planned this attack, helped him get the weapons, the ammunition, pick the target, any of that. So, going through his social media, going through all his personal belongings in his car and his home will tell us a lot of that. Hopefully he's got a digital product there we can access, a phone, computer, or something else, that can give us a broader depth into his digital history.
BLITZER: James, this - the anti-Semitic post that were all over the place that he was posting or railing against Jews, that's a significant element as well in this investigation.
JAMES GAGLIANO, RETIRED FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT AND CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Absolutely, Wolf. And there's a clear distinction here between what a hate crime is and charging someone with terrorism. Terrorism can actually be charged at the state level. A hate crime is exclusively under federal purview.
Now, it's a crime motivated by prejudice. What type of prejudice? It could be racial, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation or in this case clearly religious, and it typically involves violence. Look, I have a feeling that right now, with the amount of information that was able to be gleaned, to Tim's point, off of that social media imprint. [00:45:00] And the fact this guy made statements there, as well as we are hearing that there were statements made during heinous act, I believe investigators are going to have enough to not only charge him with this, but send away for a long time and he could possibly face the death penalty for this.
BLITZER: Yes, I'm sure. I suspect he almost certainly will. Tim, this suspect also posted a lot of pictures of his guns. He did have an active license to carry a firearm. All of us are a lot smarter with hindsight, but should that have been some sort of warning?
CLEMENTE: Well, what I always say after these circumstances is none of these people exist in a vacuum. There are people that knew him, there's people who sold him guns, sold him ammunition. Were they aware of this personality, this persona being - beyond just an extremist, hate filled in his heart and his head.
This man had nothing but hate and animos towards everyone apparently but himself. And so, someone knew that. Does he have family and friends that were nearby that were aware of this boiling-over hatred?
I mean, clearly, the social media posts that he did right before he started the attack was meant for an audience. Who was the audience for that?
BLITZER: You heard, James, the FBI agent in charge say that he was not known to law enforcement. I suspect that means that he had no criminal background.
GAGLIANO: That's quite possible, Wolf. We know, again, he was active on social media and important distinction, I listened to the Special Agent in Charge from Pittsburgh today during the press conference, and he described the weapons as three pistols and an assault rifle.
Now, some people argue it's a distinction without a difference. But an assault rifle is illegal. That is generally an automatic weapon, whereas an assault weapon can be semiautomatic.
So, tomorrow as more details begin to come out, we are going to find some things out, whether or not the weapons used were legally purchased. We know he did have purchased legal weapons in the past, but we don't know if they were attached to this actual crime itself.
BLITZER: All right, James Gagliano, Tim Clemente, guys thank you very much. Now let's take another very quick break and we'll be right back.
[00:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: The Anti-Defamation League believes today's assault on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh constitutes the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history. It issued a statement saying, and I'm quoting now, "We are actively engaged with law enforcement to support their investigation and call on authorities to investigate this as a hate crime. It is simply unconscionable for Jews to be targeted during worship on a Sabbath morning, and unthinkable that it would happen in the United States of America in this day and age." Jeff Finkelstein is the President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh: Jeff is joining us right now. Jeff, first of all, how is your community doing?
JEFF FINKELSTEIN, CEO, JEWISH FEDERATION OF GREATER PITTSBURGH: Thanks, Wolf. The community is reeling. I was -- I came a few blocks away from the synagogue this morning when I was informed that there was potentially a shooting there, and was there for several hours.
We've been in our Jewish Community Center most of the afternoon, through the evening. Lots of families who are concerned because their loved ones were in the synagogue at the time.
BLITZER: The ADL says anti-Semitic incidents here in the U.S. have been on the rise. Has there been fear that something like this could actually happen in your community, in Pittsburgh?
FINKELSTEIN: I don't think there's been fear of an anti-Semitic incident, we try to stay vigilant at all times, trying to train all of our agencies, synagogues, institutions on all the right practices to make sure that everyone stays safe yet secure - safe and secure, sorry.
BLITZER: So, what are you going to do now? I assume you're going to intensify security at Jewish centers, Jewish community centers, Jewish schools, synagogues throughout Pittsburgh, throughout the area.
FINKELSTEIN: You know, we have a Jewish Community Security Director that we brought on board almost two years ago. And while he's very busy today with everything that's happening, that's what he'll be looking at in the days to come, what we might need to do or beef up.
BLITZER: President Trump says he will be visiting Pittsburgh soon. What can he say to reassure the Jewish community?
FINKELSTEIN: Yes, I have actually heard the rumors about President Trump coming. I haven't watched any news all day. I think it's just important that the federal government be with us to help with what they do now. There are security grants that come through, where the Jewish community is able to secure money to harden facilities. I think those are really important things that they can do.
BLITZER: The President also suggested today that the tragedy could have been averted or at least reduced if there had been armed guards at the synagogue this morning. What's your reaction to that?
FINKELSTEIN: I don't have a reaction to that right now and I don't want to make comments on guns or not guns. I know I'm going to sound probably like a politician right now, but right now my head is with all these families that are sitting at the JCC right now trying to find out news about their families.
BLITZER: Did you know any of those who were murdered?
FINKELSTEIN: Well, we don't know yet who officially may be deceased. I know some of the families that are in there right now waiting to hear news.
BLITZER: Well, our hearts go out to you, Jeff, our hearts go out to your entire community in Pittsburgh. Please pass along our love and our deepest, deepest condolences.
FINKELSTEIN: Thank you. We appreciate it.
BLITZER: We'll be right back.
[00:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Before we go, I want to take a moment to reflect on this very, very difficult week in our country, especially these last 72 hours. On Wednesday, police say a white supremacist gunman entered a grocery store in Kentucky, leaving two African Americans dead, the victims seemingly chosen at random.
On Friday, a right-wing extremist, with racist anti-Semitic views was apprehended in Florida after a nationwide manhunt. Law enforcement officials accuse him of mailing pipe bombs to people across the country, including two former Presidents of the United States, the current President had singled out for criticism the various people who were attacked.
And today an anti-Semite opened fire in a peaceful place of worship in Pittsburgh, killing 11 worshippers in a synagogue. We mourn these tragedies together. A very, very sad time here in the United States of America. I'm Wolf Blitzer. Brooke Baldwin picks up our special coverage right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.
BROOKE BALDWIN, HOST, CNN NEWSROOM: Wolf, thank you so much. Hello, everyone, I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. I want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world.
11 people dead, six people wounded in what one FBI agent calls the most horrific crime he has ever seen, a gunman opening fire on peaceful worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh this morning. The suspect identified by police, this man, 46-year-old Robert Bowers.