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Eleven Dead In Mass Shooting At Pittsburgh Synagogue; Trump Calls For Death Penalty Against Pittsburgh Gunman. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired October 27, 2018 - 20:00   ET



[20:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: The suspect identified by police, this man, 46-year-old Robert Bowers. His social media accounts littered with anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant views. He was arrested alive but wounded, shot multiple times by the officers who took him down. A source tells CNN that the gunman made anti-Jewish comments during his rampage. I want to play you the chilling 911 dispatch audio from the first responders to the synagogue.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please be advised suspect is injured, lying at three yards, (INAUDIBLE) continue to crawl at this time. Shadow one, suspect is talking about all these Jews need to die. We are still communicating with him. Be advised, he got jacket, red shirt at this time. We don't know if he changed clothes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The suspect keeps talking about killing Jews. He doesn't want any of them to live.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, right. I already relayed that. I'm on the other side of the stairs. Copy that.


BALDWIN: President Trump calls the gunman a quote "sick person." And he is calling for the death penalty. Those who live in this community are certainly now in mourning and in disbelief that this could have possibly happened on the streets they walk every day.


ALLISON SENNOTT, PITTSBURGH RESIDENT: In this community no. There's no -- there's no violence. It's not on the news regularly. There aren't people dying. It's a place where you walk as kids. And there is 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.


BALDWIN: We start tonight there in Pittsburgh. CNN's Victor Blackwell is live for us. And of course, Victor, we are going to have conversations about this

community and those lives lost and those who have been injured. But let me begin with you on the investigation. What are you learning from law enforcement tonight?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR, WEEKEND NEW DAY: Brooke, they are saying it was 20 minutes from start to finish, from the moment they say that this 46-year-old man, Robert Bowers, walked into the Tree of Life Synagogue until he was shot and then taken down, it was 20 minutes, that they say, that it took for him to kill 11, wound six, and create what you referenced, what the FBI agent called the most horrific scene he's witnessed in his years with the bureau.

Now, the FBI is leading this investigation supported by both state and local law enforcement. But when you go all the way to the top, the department of justice, the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, says hate crime charges will be filed in this case. And the evidence takes us to the start of the timeline today, 9:49 a.m., where law enforcement officials tell CNN that Bowers posted on social media a reference to a Jewish refugee advocacy group and blamed the members for bringing what he called invaders who he said were killing his people. And he also wrote quote "screw your optics, I'm going in."

At five minutes later, at 9:54 a.m., the first calls came in from the Tree of Life Synagogue about the shooting. A minute later, authorities say the first Pittsburgh police officers were on their way. But by that time, they believe that Bowers had already killed the 11 who lost their lives.

We know that at that time that officer was wounded. Another officer was wounded, also two SWAT members were wounded. And then as I said, in 20 minutes this was done, when Bowers himself was shot several times and he is now in custody. It's not clear if he is speaking with investigators.

A couple of other points here. The weapons that were recovered. Investigators say they recovered an assault weapon, also three handguns. Not clear if all four were used in this shooting. They do believe he acted alone. And investigators say that he was not known to local authorities. But I can tell you this, they are getting to know Robert Bowers now, pulling every thread of his social fabric, online, friends, family, co-workers, the hard evidence of his home, his car as well. But of course the investigation, the tangible investigation happening right now inside that synagogue, the Tree of Life, where, again, 11 people lost their lives this morning -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Victor Blackwell, thank you so much.

Just staying in this community this evening, let's go straight to Jean Casarez who is also in Pittsburgh at the hospital where at least some of the wounded are being treated.

And Jean, we know we heard from the mayor of Pittsburgh just a couple of minutes ago here on CNN saying that they will release the names of those victims tomorrow morning. In the meantime, what do you know about them and of course those who survived? JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as far as the survivors, there

are six victims at this point. We are right outside one of the level one trauma centers, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. And there are two of the six surviving victims at this hour are in critical condition.

The first is a 70-year-old male victim. He was shot multiple times in his torso involving major organs. Now during the press conference several hours ago they said that this 70-year-old man was in his second surgery. There is no update at this point. I spoke with the public information office of the vice President of communications who said there is no update at this point to see if that surgery is over or what the status is.

The other in critical condition at this hour is a 55-year-old officer. He also sustained multiple gunshot wounds to his extremities.

There is also a female victim, a 61-year-old female victim that is coping right now with multiple gunshot wounds.

There is also another officer right here at this level one trauma center, a 27-year-old police officer.

And there is one officer, and this is good news, who has been released tonight from one of the trauma centers. He has been released. The other five victims remain here at the level I trauma center in Pittsburgh.

[20:06:16] BALDWIN: Jean, thank you.

Obviously we will stay in close contact with you as you get updates there from that trauma center.

Meantime, members of the community, they have been gathering tonight at a church, at a Presbyterian church in the very same neighborhood as this Tree of Life Synagogue. I want you to listen when the crowd began to sing a well-known classical Hebrew song.


BALDWIN: Jessica Dean is there for us at that vigil in Pittsburgh.

Jessica, tell me, the thoughts, the devastation from this community tonight.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good evening to you, Brooke.

We are here in Squirrel Hill. That vigil just wrapping up. It went on for a while. It was in the church and then as you saw, it spilled out into the streets. People just turning out here because they saw hate in their community today and they made very sure that it was going to be met and risen above with love. They wanted to bring out love. They wanted to be together here tonight.

I talked to a lot of people about what kind of neighborhood this is. And they said this is a diverse neighborhood. This is a neighborhood where a lot of people grow up. They don't leave. They know each other's kids. Their kids go to school together. So to say that they are shocked tonight, to say that they are shell shocked is an understatement.

But make no mistake, they were very deliberate in that they came together tonight both to grieve but also to say we are standing up here in love. We are making sure that we are meeting hate with love, extra love. And so just an incredible community outpouring tonight.

I want to bring in Subu Subramanian who attended the vigil tonight.

Subu, you are an immigrant. You came here to work. And you have lived here for almost a decade. What brought you out to the vigil tonight?

SUBU SUBRAMANIAN, ATTENDED VIGIL: Well, I really wanted to show my support for the community. I think Pittsburgh has given me a lot of opportunities. I have lived here like you said, like as mentioned, almost a decade. I like Squirrel Hill a lot even though I don't live here. One of my favorite bars is here, a movie theater that I really love is here.

And so, this is a really nice community where. You know, people are really friendly. And I just was really shocked when this happened. All of this happened because, from what I hear, the congregation was actually helping HIAS, which helps refugees. And this madman just came out and said no, that's wrong, and try to come out and killed people on this day of joy. When I think they (INAUDIBLE) ceremony.

DEAN: Yes. Well, they haven't confirmed all of that yet, but yes, they were certainly at a place of worship. There's no question about that. And what was the feeling like here tonight amongst all these people, do you think?

SUBRAMANIAN: I think -- I honestly didn't talk to anybody, but I think people are very much united. And I think they really wanted to come out. I saw a diverse crowd of people, you know, and I think we just wanted to come out and show our support for the community. And like you said, you know, this one man's action will not define us.

DEAN: All right. Well, Subu, thanks for being with us tonight.

And I think that his words, Brooke, really echo what so many people said to me tonight, which is one man's actions certainly do not define this community. And as I said, they have been out here singing songs, hugging, holding hands, making sure to comfort one another in a time of deep, deep grief.

[20:10:19] BALDWIN: You mentioned HIAS. We will be talking about the President and CEO of HIAS in just a couple of few minutes.

Jessica Dean for me, thank you very much.

And of course, while this investigation continues into this alleged killer's motivation, this man posted a number of anti-Semitic statements on social media. Chuck Diamond was a rabbi at the Tree of Life Synagogue until last year. He joins us live.

And Rabbi Diamond, my sincerest condolences to you. And I know you have been out there all day long. You live in this community. You were the rabbi for this synagogue for seven years. How did you first hear about this?

RABBI CHUCK DIAMOND, FORMER TREE OF LIFE SYNAGOGUE RABBI: Well, Brooke, thank you. I was at home. And I got a call from somebody a few minutes after, I think while it was still happening. And somebody said did you hear what happened at the Tree. And then I started getting texts and emails. And I decided that I could be at some help, maybe to get outside. I live a couple of blocks from the synagogue. And I just wanted to get out and comfort people as best I could.

BALDWIN: And it's my understanding, rabbi diamond, when the shooting started, it was during Shabbat services. But do you was there a brims (ph) taking place as well?

DIAMOND: You know, I heard that story, but I have not confirmed it. So I'm not sure. There was a brims (ph) at another synagogue, and I suspect maybe it was mixed up. I really don't know for sure.


DIAMOND: The shooting --.

BALDWIN: Go ahead, sir. Go ahead.

DIAMOND: The shooting took place at about I think a quarter to 9:00, is when services start. And there are three congregations who share the space. It's a beautiful building. And so, at the beginning of services, there aren't a lot of people there, I have to say. And that was I guess fortunate for the people who come later. But I knew exactly who would be there. The regulars who always come, who you can depend on. And unfortunately, some of them didn't make it out alive.

BALDWIN: I wanted to ask you about that. And of course, I don't want to get ahead of law enforcement. I know that they will be identifying the victims. We have heard, tomorrow morning.


BALDWIN: But you know, you know, some of those lives lost.


BALDWIN: And what can you share?

DIAMOND: Well, I think they are good people.


DIAMOND: There was one elderly woman in her 90s who would come with a smile on her face every single week, no matter what the weather. I believe her daughter was shot but is doing OK. There was another man who just -- the synagogue was his home since he was a kid. And the synagogue took care of him. And he was always there to greet people when they came in. When I would go to services when I was a rabbi, he was always there to greet me. And they are just good people in all three congregations. And unfortunately, you know, it's just such a tragedy, as you know, Brooke.

BALDWIN: You know, for people, Rabbi Diamond, who have actually never set foot in a synagogue. I mean, this is - it is a house of worship. It is a sanctuary. It is a safe space. For people who have never heard the mourners' Caddish, for example.


DIAMOND: Can you just -- it's a Jewish prayer that marks the death of a loved one. Can you just, in your own words, how egregious this attack was?

DIAMOND: Well, sanctuary says it all. This is a sanctuary. We have sanctuaries that we want to feel safe in, not only synagogues and churches but our schools as well. And we don't feel safe there. When I was the rabbi, I thought a great responsibility for the congregation. And I have to say, I always thought in recent times in the back of my mind, something like is happening. And it is just a terrible state to live in. You guys have to cover this too many times.

BALDWIN: Agreed. Agreed. And this is your community.

DIAMOND: I also want to say --.

BALDWIN: Please, go ahead.

DIAMOND: I just want to say also that the first responders and the people, the law enforcement, just so brave and do such a good job.

BALDWIN: Extraordinary.

DIAMOND: And I also, I tell you. The news people I have talked to have just been comforting. You also do a good job. So I just wanted to state that because of the times we live in today. We appreciate it.

BALDWIN: I appreciate you. I appreciate you. And just last, it was your community, your literal community, your Jewish community, was attacked because of your beliefs. What do you want to communicate to your community tonight?

[20:15:04] DIAMOND: Well, first of all, Pittsburgh is a wonderful city. And the Jewish community is great. I believe all parts of the Jewish community get along together. And I feel that we were all attacked. I spoke to rabbis from other movements within Judaism. And we feel like we are personally violated. And I believe the people of Pittsburgh feel personally violated too. This isn't necessarily about just being Jewish, although clearly, it seems to be an anti-Semitic act. But it is against the humanity and what is good in humanity. And I think that I'm tired of throwing up my hands when things like this happen and saying what can we do. I think we need to take some sort of action. I hope our leaders are leaders and take action. There is a lot involved in this issue. I think for the short term, we have to provide comfort for those in the community. And we have to watch each other's back and we have to be there for each other.

BALDWIN: It is sad that this is America in 2018.

Rabbi Chuck Diamond, thank you so much.

DIAMOND: Yes. Hard to believe.

BALDWIN: Hard to believe indeed.

DIAMOND: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Two more voices I want to bring in, Josh Campbell, former supervisory special age with the FBI, and CNN law enforcement and Shimon Prokupecz, CNN justice reporter back with us today. Here we are again.

Yesterday was a guy arrested over, you know, these pipe bombs, these IEDs and now what the ADL is now saying what they believe is the deadliest worst attack on Jews in this country. That said, we have some audio that I want to play from when police were on the scene and learning about what happened.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have got a guy barricaded, actively shooting at SWAT officers. Operator shot! I have got one operator shot at this time. Third floor, contained in one room. One operator down.


BALDWIN: Tell me more about what happened.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Yes. So I was actually listening to that at home once we got word that the shooting had happened. And really, it was chilling, honestly. You know, just to hear the officers describing what the scene was like. You really get a good picture of what they were dealing with. It's so rare that we get an inside look on what officers encounter in a situation like this. And we did in this case. And it was really, you know, it was hard to listen to. And they were encountering dead bodies, victims. They were trying to help people who had been injured.

And in the middle of all that, they are looking for the shooter. They know what kind of weapon he has. They are seeing magazines. And so, they are searching through that building, trying to find him.

So that was, you know, chilling, and certainly it was hard to listen to. And then even now, going back and listening to it, also such bravery from these officers, you know.

BALDWIN: Yes. PROKUPECZ: And that's what we keep hearing all day. And you know,

that rabbi, to hear him what he said, it was nice, and it is really moving. And you know, and again, it's such a difficult time for this community and for the law enforcement officers there.

BALDWIN: You know, we cover tragedies like these. We have been on the ground. I have interviewed EMS, fire, police, and their parents. And they run in when everyone runs away. And it just bears repeating what they do each and every time we listen to this. And we are going to have more of a conversation on the other side of the break, but just to you quickly, Josh, on 20 minutes he was inside. I had read that as he was trying to leave the Synagogue, that was when a member of the law enforcement found him. He was shot. What more do you know?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, I mean, obviously we are gleaning a lot from what the officers were actually going through based on these recordings. And what's interesting is that for us, that's a snapshot in time. As we go back and listen to what happened.

For these officers, they were living in real time, you know, going into this facility, not knowing how big the threat was, where the person was. So we are getting some of those reflection based on some of the new audio that we are hearing. And you know, it just shows you the mentality we were talking about, the heroes, the bravery. They are going through this facility. And as we can tell, I mean, put yourself in the situation, they are coming across victims but they can't stop and help the victims. They have to continue on to take out the threat.


CAMPBELL: I have to tell you that was textbook, listening to their communication, calling out. Again, it is about, OK, this is what I'm seeing, so back up knows what to expect. But they are moving to the sound of where this person was. Thankfully, they were able to take him into custody.

What is interesting that unlike some of the cases that we have seen, the shooter is alive. So if they are able to interview him, if they are able to glean information that could potentially help build that case, get into his mindset. We know that he suffered gunshot wounds himself and was taken to the hospital. We don't know what condition he is in being able to communicate law enforcement. But we will stay tuned for that because if he does --.

BALDWIN: He is in fair condition. So we are wondering if he is able to talk and cooperate with law enforcement, because you know they want to talk to him.

Stick around, I have more for you all on the investigation and of course his use of social media. Stay with me.

You are watching special CNN live coverage here from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. We will be right back.


[20:24:23] BALDWIN: You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Attorney general Jeff Sessions says the department of justice will file hate crimes and other charges against this Pittsburgh suspect. Those charges could lead to the death penalty.

Josh Campbell and Shimon Prokupecz are back with me. And really wanted to hone in with this social media site, and I have to admit. I had never heard of it until today.

Have you guys,

PROKUPECZ: Never heard of it.

BALDWIN: apparently a site not monitored for anti-Semitic or other threats, a favorite site among hate groups, I presume as a result of that. Tell me about some of his posts.

PROKUPECZ: Yes. Certainly, it bills itself as this Web site that kind of doesn't monitor hate speech. Let's people kind of have their freedom to say -- look, I mean, there's a lot that we have learned about some of the things he has said on there, certainly there's, you know, some pro Trump stuff. There is a lot of anti-Jewish sentiment on there.

You know, he posted minutes before he went on his attack today, saying that he was sort of like a go. He was ready to go.

[20:25:19] BALDWIN: It was go time.

PROKUPECZ: It was go time.


PROKUPECZ: So, you know, it's not something that many of us have ever really heard of before. But you know, look at the type of speech that you see on there. Certainly if he was to do this on twitter or maybe Facebook, someone would have been able to see it and would have been able to take it down. I don't know if law enforcement monitors that. That's something that would be certainly interesting.

BALDWIN: But apparently he had no history with law enforcement. There's all kind of you know what out there on social media. It is like how can they possibly monitor every single one of these people?

The other issue is, we are talking in the commercial break, about how, you know, this is a religion that is under constant attack in this country, you know. There's already security for the high holidays, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur (ph). And the notion of having an armed guard or some sort of security at every mosque, every church, every synagogue, isn't realistic.

CAMPBELL: No, it's not. And it shows you the challenge for law enforcement. It shows the challenge for some of these groups. I mean, if you look at the Jewish faith and, you know, to an extent the Muslim faith as well, I mean, they have seen a number of threats and attacks over the years.


CAMPBELL: I can tell you, unfortunately, and this is, again, indicative of a problem, the relationship between the Jewish community and law enforcement is very, very good, and that's an unfortunate thing, because there are so many threats, that they have to be closely fused together. It really shows, you know, the level of the threat.

I can remember in 2017, there were these bombing threats, hundreds of bombing threats, about a hundred, to synagogues around the country which really sent the Jewish community into fear. I can remember being at the FBI headquarters when we actually had leaders from the Jewish community come in and you are meeting with law enforcement just trying to reassure them that look, we are on the case. We are working. We are working with threats. We need to share information. Again, it shows kind of the larger picture.

And then to the point that you say, you know, as you go across to synagogues, I can tell you about my neighborhood, there are synagogues to my neighborhood. And you know, on Saturdays, they have armed guards that are posted outside. It's a very unfortunate thing to know that people can't even go to practice their religion, exercise their faith without having to walk past people with guns. That's a reality that they face. Unfortunately, incidents today, these tragedies show you there are people out there deranged people that just want to kill.

BALDWIN: Yes. This is part of the conversation we are going to continue to have.

Josh and Shimon, thank you guys both so very much.

Up next, the President's response to today's shooting in Pittsburgh and what he wants to see happen to the suspect.


[20:30:02] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Right now, President Trump is on his way back to Washington, D.C. after a full day of events. The president condemned this deadly mass shooting at this Pittsburgh synagogue, the Tree of Life synagogue that left 11 people dead, calling the attack terrible and an assault on humanity.


PRESIDENT TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This was an anti- Semitic act. You wouldn't think this would be possible in this day and age. But we just don't seem to learn from the past.

Those seeking their destruction, we will seek their destruction. When you have crimes like this, whether it's this one or another one on another group, we have to bring back the death penalty. They have to pay the ultimate price. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Boris Sanchez is in Illinois for us tonight where the president was. And, Boris, what was the president's overarching message?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Brooke. The president told supporters that all Americans would have to unite to fight the scourge of anti-Semitism. As you heard in one portion there, today, the president actually expressed disbelief that this kind of anti- Semitic attack could take place in 2018.

The president at one point told supporters that he was considering canceling today's rally in southern Illinois. Earlier before he got here he called it an obligation. As you know, the president has been crisscrossing the country in support of Republican candidates, more than a dozen stops in October alone.

Ultimately, he told supporters here that, quote, we can't make evil people important. He felt that he had to move forward and he compared attending this rally to the New York Stock Exchange opening after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the president making the incorrect claim that the stock exchange opened the day after September 11. It opened several days later.

Nevertheless, the president called for all Americans to unite for the second time this week in the face of domestic terror, ultimately saying that this is an attack on our humanity.

He did point out shortly before he took the stage here that the shooter was not a Trump supporter and he also talked about tone, saying that if the media were not as dishonest as he claims that we are, that he would soften his tone, Brooke.

BALDWIN: True that according to this man's rant online, not a Trump supporter. And was actually didn't like the fact that the president surrounded himself with so many Jewish people.

Boris Sanchez, thank you.

Coming up next, the shooter attacked a group called HIAS in his anti- Semitic remarks. So we will hear the truth from that group, next.


[20:35:02] BALDWIN: Welcome back to the BREAKING NEWS special coverage here of just this atrocity, this tragedy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This was the scene earlier this evening, this emotional candlelight vigil just a few blocks from the tree of Life synagogue where 11 people were killed today as a gunman opened fire.

The shooting, which being classified as a hate crime by police, happened during Shabbat services. In addition to those killed, six people including four police officers were wounded.

I want to bring in Mark Hetfield, he is the president and CEO of HIAS. It stands for the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. It's a global Jewish nonprofit that protects refugees. So, Mark, thank you so much for being with me.

And I just want to read this again because this is so -- you put out this statement after the shooting saying this loss is our loss. Can you try to put into words what that sense of loss feels like?

[20:40:02] MARK HETFIELD, PRESIDENT AND CEO, HIAS: It's really hard to put that into words. I mean, we are so devastated here in HIAS. And just can only imagine what our partners in Pittsburgh are going through, what the congregation is going through, what the families are going through. But we are the refugee organization of the American Jewish community. We've worked in Pittsburgh for many, many decades, resettling Jews and now resettling other refugees in partnership with the Jewish family and community services of Pittsburgh. And we're just devastated.

BALDWIN: Devastation, you mentioned essentially what you do, but if no one has ever heard of HIAS, what is the most significant piece of your work?

HETFIELD: We were established in the 19th century to welcome Jews who were fleeing persecution from Russia, from Eastern Europe. And we've made a transformation since that time from being an organization that welcomed the refugees because they were Jewish to being an organization that welcomes refugees because we are Jewish.

And so we work in partnership with the American Jewish community and with the United States government welcoming refugees to the United States, setting them up in their new homes, helping them get acclimated in new communities.

We do this across the country. We do it in Pittsburgh. We do it in partnership with hundreds of synagogues around the country as well. And we also work overseas, helping keep refugees safe where they are.

BALDWIN: This is your work, this is also the work that this madman decided to target. He targeted your organization online, describing HIAS' overall efforts as, quote, "sugarcoated evil." And then his final post he said, "He believed HIAS has "brought in invaders who are killing his people." Your reaction to that.

HETFIELD: Well, what we do is we bring -- we help the United States government bring in refugees in partnership with the American Jewish community. We know what it's like to be a refugee people. And so this is what we do.

Refugees are people who are fleeing terror. They're not people who bring terror. And because the American Jewish community owes its very existence to those times when America opened its doors to refugees, we feel the obligation now to continue that and to welcome others who are refugees today.

BALDWIN: Let me ask you this about one of the things President Trump said earlier today, he suggested now that places of worship should now have armed guards. And my question to you is, how is that even realistic, putting armed guards in our synagogues and in our churches and in our mosques here in America?

HETFIELD: Yes, I think that's a misdiagnosis of the problem. I think regardless of the practicality or the image that that projects. The problem here is hate. The problem is there is a growing space in this country for hate speech. And hate speech always turns into hate actions. And that's what we are seeing again and again this week.

And that's where our focus needs to be is in fighting hate. We can't stand by as individuals or as organizations or as governments when people spew hatred against Jews, against refugees, against Latinos, against any group that some might see as the other.

BALDWIN: Why do you think it's growing? Last question.

HETFIELD: It's growing around the world. And there's a rise in nativism. There's a real fear of the other. And I think we've been too nice in allowing people to get away with hateful statements. We can't anymore.

And I have to say that today, when there was -- during President Trump's remarks, he repeatedly invoked anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism was the motivation for this killing. But this killer equated Jews with welcoming refugees. This is about fighting all hate, fighting hate against refugees, against Jews, against anybody who is seen as being the other.

BALDWIN: Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of HIAS. Thank you, sir, so much.

HETFIELD: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Today's deadly mass shooting capping off a week an incredibly difficult week filled with tragic incidents, many fueled by hate.

So coming up next, we'll talk to a director at the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism to try to understand why this is happening.


[20:45:18] BALDWIN: Welcome back to our BREAKING NEWS coverage here. I'm Brooke Baldwin covering this mass shooting at a synagogue, the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

And it goes without saying the last 72 hours have been traumatizing for America. You look back to just this past Wednesday, police say a white supremacist gunman walked into a grocery store in Kentucky, killed two African-Americans. The victims seemingly chosen at random. You have what happened Friday, a right-wing extremist was apprehended in Florida after this nationwide manhunt.

Law enforcement officials accuse him of mailing those 13 pipe bombs to people across the country, mostly high-profile politicians including two former presidents. Those recipients all people President Trump had singled out for criticizing him. [20:50:05] And now today this man who spewed anti-Semitic views online opened fire in a sanctuary, in a synagogue, killing 11 worshippers. A painful week by any measure.

With me now, Brian Levin. He's the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. And, Brian, I mean, sitting through this week, it's been filled with attacks on people because of their skin color, because of their religious beliefs, because of their political views. How do you interpret what is going on in America?

BRIAN LEVIN, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF HATE AND EXTREMISM: We have a rise of white nationalism. We have an increasingly diverse country where white Christians are now in the minority. And we have people perceiving race relations to be at a quarter-century low. On top of that, extremism has fragmented, but it has entered the mainstream.

BALDWIN: It's certainly been in the mainstream. Do you feel like -- I mean, what I just -- the three things I just mentioned just from this past week seem incredibly striking to me. Are they striking to you? And what is causing these to grow?

LEVIN: We have a variety of factors. First, post-Charlottesville, these groups which were very well-organized and actually organizing across group lines imploded. And their leadership imploded. So what we have now are leaner, meaner, smaller groups and an escalation with respect to violence and weaponry.

One more thing, this fragmentation has caused these loose cannons, these loose cherries who were previously somewhat controlled by these groups to act on their own. Loners who are under the radar like this fellow are among the biggest we see today.

One last thing. Far right-wing extremism is the most ascendant in a rising tide of a diverse threat matrix.

BALDWIN: What do we do about it?

LEVIN: First, tone down the rhetoric. One thing our research has shown is that sometimes, but not always, divisive rhetoric by political leaders actually correlates to increases in hate crime. Moreover, we have seen extremists -- and we haven't seen this before -- become supportive of mainstream politics and mainstream politicians. Those who are in that orbit have to disassociate themselves from these hate groups and these ideologies root and branch.

BALDWIN: How do you dial down the rhetoric when so much of it is coming from the top?

LEVIN: That's a problem. And giving example, we saw that after the Muslim ban proposal, five days after the San Bernardino terrorist attacks, hate crimes spiked against Muslims above and beyond the spike that we saw from the terror attacks. Same things with the Syrian refugees. But when President Bush spoke of tolerance, six days after 9/11, hate crimes dropped against Muslims by two-thirds the next day. We have to now promote the idea that we're an inclusive society, and that certain things like a free press and freedom of religion are central themes of our American creed.

BALDWIN: That's the message I want you to leave the world with tonight, Brian Levin, thank you so much. I appreciate you and your expertise and your message.

And before we go to break, just a reminder, from one of the nation's most beloved entertainers about what in the end must come out of such a tough day, actor Tom Hanks sent this message out on social media writing, quote, "Again, to me, this photo is the spirit of Pittsburgh with a broken heart today for those in Squirrel Hill. And he signs it, Hanks. The photo shows a sign saying, "Love thy neighbor, no exceptions."

Hanks is actually making a film in the city of Pittsburgh, so that explains perhaps part of the sentiment tonight.

Special coverage continues right after this.



BALDWIN: You are watching CNN special coverage here of this tragedy in Pittsburgh. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We are covering the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history. This is according to the Anti-Defamation League or the ADL. Eleven people murdered, six wounded, including four police officers, during a time of prayer and celebration inside a place of worship. The Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

But as the nation has seen before, when the worst in humanity erupts, the best of humanity shines through. A swarm of supporters just descending upon the Squirrel Hill neighborhood tonight, singing Hebrew songs of worship in solidarity.


BALDWIN: Hours earlier, just before 10:00 in the morning on the East Coast, the sounds were so heartbreakingly different. As police say the gunman walked into this synagogue, Shabbat services, everyone allowed in. He opened fire.

And moments before he walked in, he posted online that he couldn't sit by and, quote, "watch my people get slaughtered." Then this came over the 911 dispatch.

[21:00:01] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please be advices suspect's crawling in Ginger. Three yards. Squad stalking to him. Tell them to continue to drawl this time.