Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Police Say Six Officers Shot In Philadelphia; Trump Briefed On Philly Police Shooting; President Trump's Blame Game; Multiple Officers Shot in Center City, Philadelphia. Interview with Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) on the Philadelphia Shooting. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired August 14, 2019 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[18:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: -- breaking news standoff. Police are facing off with at least one gunman in Philadelphia right now. We are told multiple police officers has been shot, standby for new details.
Nosedive. Stock prices tumble as a reliable warning single over recession flashes for the first time in a decade. Is the Trump economy going south? Blame game. As the president was watching the markets fall, he was trying to pin the problem on his handpicked Federal Reserve chairman. Tonight, we're told Mr. Trump is frustrated as he may be losing his economic argument for re-election.
And courting Moscow Mitch. As the house speaker embraces a nickname for the Senate Republican leader, a nickname the president hates, a new report shows how Mitch McConnell helped boost a Russian backed project in his home state.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in "The Situation Room."
We're following breaking news on a very dangerous confrontation between police and at least one shooter in Philadelphia. It's unfolding right now. Police now say five officers have been shot. There are reports that at least six or seven shots rang out just a little while ago.
Also breaking, a major stock sell-off. The DOW closing down 800 points tonight after a new warning signals that has been accurate in predicting recessions. It's another jolt of anxiety for investors already shaken by the U.S. trade war with China.
Tonight President Trump is trying to shirk any blame in a series of new tweets. He's claiming the fault lies the Federal Reserve chairman he appointed. This hour, I'll talk with Democratic Congresswoman Val Demings. She's on the Judiciary Committee. She is a former Orlando police chief. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First let's go to our senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez and our crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz. Evan, first of all, what are you learning about the stand-off in Philadelphia?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is still a very much a dangerous stand-off that is happening just north of Center City, Philadelphia. Here's what we know at this time. Five officers have been shot. We don't know their conditions. It appears to be nonlife threatening injuries.
But just in the last few minutes, Wolf, we saw just from some of the video that we're seeing from the scene, we saw that it appears that at least one or multiple suspects are firing from inside this house. Dozens of police cars, officers have converged on this rock, again just north of Center City Philadelphia, near Temple University Hospital.
This began, Wolf, according to police as a police call as a result of narcotics activity. And then it appears that police were opened fire on by one or more suspects who are still inside this house. Again, just a few minutes ago, we heard and we can see that shots were being fired just from video that we were able to see from the scene.
Again, right now we're showing you a wider shot in order to protect the lives of these police officers who are at the scene. They're hiding behind shields, they are hiding behind cars. They're trying to hide behind anything that could protect them obviously from the shooters that were very much still firing at these police officers.
We can tell you that right now, that the scene is still very much active. We can see that the police officers are trying to figure out how to approach this house. We have armored cars. And again, people -- police officers crouch behind cars trying to figure out exactly how to get control of this situation which is still very much a dangerous active shooting scene, according to police, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let me get Shimon, because he's working his sources as well. Shimon, what are you hearing?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, this appears that at this point, these officers were ambushed. This is a some kind of an ambush type situation. The officers responded. They were fired upon and the firing has just continued.
Even now, police warning in a tweet just moments ago that the suspect is still firing. Telling people to stay out of the area. And you can see officers. In video that we're not showing because we don't want to reveal the tactical positions of officers. But you can see the officers still hiding behind cars. Hiding behind armored vehicles, trying to take cover. Trying to figure out as Evan said there, how to get to the suspect in a situation like this.
Officers are going to have to figure out how to go in and get to this shooter, to try and stop him, but at this point it seems that officers are just taking cover. Trying to figure out, they're trying to come up with a plan to get inside this home. We are seeing a lot of SWAT officers on scene. The ATF is there, as well with their SWAT team.
So, you're seeing a different agencies starting to work together to come up with a plan. There are several officers that were injured. There is video of one officer that it appears that he was shot in his arm. [18:05:06] And you can see officers rushing that injured officer out
into a police car and driving him to a hospital. At least six officers have been injured. Five of them shot. So still very much developing. Officers still taking cover. Still being fired on and now the big thing is how will they go and stop the shooter? There was concern Wolf, that there may have been more than one shooter, but that is unclear.
At this point right now, police saying that there are still being fired upon, there are still gunshots and they're urging people to stay out of the area. And you can see this is a massive, massive response by the Philadelphia police department and other agencies there in Philadelphia.
And one witness I have to say was listening to the local news there that they said, that they heard about 100 gunshots. So that is still ongoing, folks certainly hiding in their homes trying to stay out of harm's way. And the police urging people to stay away. Stay inside as the gunman continues to shoot at the police officers. Wolf?
BLITZER: And you know, Evan, as you know, out affiliate in Philadelphia, KBI-KYW says the Mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenney, the Philadelphia police commissioner, Richard Ross, they're heading to Temple University. The Temple University hospital right now, just a little while ago. Temple University tweeted this. Lockdown is in effect for health sciences center campus. Seek shelter. Secure doors. Be silent. Be still. Police are responding. And if it's -- it's been going on now, I understand for at least an hour. Is that right?
PEREZ: That's right Wolf, and now we -- the latest information is that there were six officers now that have been shot. Again, this is still a very much a dangerous active situation for the police officers that began clearly as a local police incidents. And obviously they were -- you know, we don't know whether they were there to serve a search warrant, they were there to try to do a drug buy. But it appears this situation basically went out of control, spiraled out of control very, very quickly.
And now we have six police officers who had been shot. At this point, it appears these are nonlife threatening injuries. Police are wearing a lot of armor. People know the officers there that we can see are unprotected, but obviously you can tell, given the depth, and the breadth of the situation, now you have the federal agencies that are responding to the scene.
The FBI, the ATF, are all trying to see what they can do to help this situation. You can't have someone inside a home, in a residential neighborhood, firing on police officers for again, for, you know, over an hour because just a few minutes ago we heard, we can see that there were shots being fired apparently from inside this house.
We don't know whether it is just one suspect or whether there were multiple suspects. The police still have not been able to determine that. Because they have not been able to get close enough inside this house to be able to get to the suspect or multiple suspects. Again, right now, we know there are six officers who have been shot as
part of this police response in this area north of Center City, Philadelphia. Wolf.
BLITZER: You know, let me go back to Shimon, the concern is there may be a police officer or more may be holed up in that house, right?
PROKUPECZ: Yes, there were officers Wolf, inside that house at one point and they were communicating with the officers, dispatchers were the officers, or supervisors there on scene trying to figure out a way how to get them out. It's unclear if they did, though some of those officers were injured. They were the ones that we saw being carried out. Help into police cars after they were shot in the arm.
But the concern obviously right now, this is a big danger for police officers there. They have blocked off the streets so the residents are staying in their homes, some have fled to location, but the concern obviously right now is that more police officers could be injured, more police officers could be shot as they do not have this situation under control.
It's not even entirely clear Wolf that they know where the gunman is in his house. He was moving around. At one point they thought he was in the back, at one point they thought he was on the second floor. So, you heard a lot of that, so it wasn't even clear that officers knew exactly where he was in his home.
But what they do know is that he is continuing to fire at them. He is continuing to shoot. And so what they've done is they've moved in these heavily armed vehicles, vehicles that can take gunfire, that if when the suspect fires at the officers, he'll be hitting these -- essentially they are steel vehicles. And the bullets can't penetrate.
And so we've seen some of those arrive on scene. Officers are inside of those vehicles. Some are taking cover behind those vehicles. And then you're also seeing a lot of officers in the neighborhood fanned out, making sure to keep people out. A lot of them are standing around as they are allowing the heavily -- the officers, the SWAT team officers, to deal with this situation. Because that is how dangerous this is as the shooter continues to fire at the officers.
[18:10:09] And really, this has been going on for now over an hour, Wolf, that this shooting, with the shoot-out, it has continued. And we're still just now even getting reports of officers being shot and officers being injured. So still a very dangerous situation. Still very much ongoing as police are still trying to get inside this house to get to the shooter, Wolf.
BLITZER: And either you or Evan remind me, Shimon, you were reporting that at least so far, they've heard 100 gunshots? Is that right?
PROKUPECZ: Well, witnesses at the scene told our local affiliate that they heard about 100 gunshots. At this point it is probably much higher, but as of about 20 minutes ago, witnesses were telling the local affiliate that they heard about a 100 gunshots. So, whoever is doing this, was prepared. Perhaps was anticipating
that the police were going to be arriving because it doesn't appear that on initial -- initially that there were heavily armed officers on the scene. The SWAT team was not on the scene. At least from initial indications and reports. So this could have been police on patrol responding to a 911 call of some kind of a disturbance. Perhaps a narcotics call. This could had been a buy and bust type situation where officers, undercover officers may have been conducting some kind of an operation.
But it is unclear to us right now whether if this was a search warrant. If this was a search warrant situation, then you would have seen heavily armed officers on scene, almost immediately and it is rare that officers do search warrants at such an early hour, but it does happen.
So there's a whole host of things that could have -- what could have been going on here, but the main thing is that you're seeing that there are a lot of everyday officers. These are officers in regular patrol cars that are responding to 911 calls that patrol the neighborhood. This appears to be the officers that had been injured, who have responded to the scene. They're not heavily armed necessarily as they go into these buildings. They do have bullet- proof vests.
So that perhaps -- some of them, that could have saved their lives. We're seeing a lot of arm injuries. We are hearing a lot about officers who have been injured in the arm. So whatever this could be, it appears that at least right now, that the officers were ambushed. And that whoever is doing this was prepared for this and has a lot of fire power and a lot of bullets, because we keep hearing that this man or the shooter is continuing to fire at police, Wolf.
BLITZER: Very scary, very disturbing developments Shimon and Evan, I want both of you to standby. I know you are working your sources, we will get back to you.
I want to bring in Democratic Congresswoman Val Demings of Florida. She served on the Judiciary and Intelligence Committee, she also served as the chief of police in Orlando. Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us. You served in the Orlando police department for nearly three decades. So what is your reaction to these initial preliminary details we're getting out of this Philadelphia shooting?
REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): Well, Wolf, you know all of our focus is on Philadelphia and the men and women of the Philadelphia police department. I know Chief Rawls (ph) personally. We went through the FBI national executive institute together. And while we are not exactly sure, I've heard a lot of different stories of how this call came about. I'm not sure if this was not an ambush call that was specifically set up for this very purpose.
If this gun fight, if you will, has been going on over an hour, there is no doubt that the shooter was well prepared. He knew multiple officers would respond. And he, as I've already heard earlier, he is heavily armed and ready for the long haul. BLITZER: yes, if it's going out for more than an hour now,
Congresswoman, and if you look at the images, and once again, we're not showing very close up images out of the concern that the shooter or shooters may have access to televisions, could be benefit for that and further endanger police officers. What are your major concerns right now?
DEMINGS: Really the officers, you know, you don't hear very often of six police officers being shot. And what I always try to help the community understand as we debate, have this debate about gun violence, and how we reduce gun violence. If a person is bad enough to shoot, have a shoot-out with a police officer, or an entire department of police officers, then think about, they certainly would not hesitate to have a shoot-out or shoot or take the life of our family members in any place in America.
And so, the first concern is to really make sure that the officers are able to stop this threat against themselves. But what we also don't know, are there any innocent people. Are there any hostages that are in this house? I know the officers and detectives will be going out, knocking on doors, ringing door bells to try to get as much intelligence as they can about who lives in the house.
[18:15:07] If any of the neighbors saw anyone unusual, going in and coming from the house either today or the last few days. They'll going to gather as much intelligence as they can. As they make every effort, calling on other state and local officials to stop the threat.
BLITZER: If you were there, if you were the police chief in Philadelphia right now, what would be your biggest concern?
DEMINGS: The safety of our police officers. Because we respond to protect others. Protect the life, protect the well-being of others. And if police officers are under fire and put in danger, it certainly impedes their ability to do their job.
But what I do know about the men and women in blue, is that they will not stop. They will not retreat. They are going to stay on that scene. They will bring the armored vehicles and specialized teams like SWAT that they need. I'm sure they're moving crisis negotiators in as well to try to make contact with the person, the shooter, and others, but they will not stop until they are able to stop this threat and restore the safety of this community.
BLITZER: We saw the mass shooting in El Paso and Dayton, now what's going on in Philadelphia, you're a former police chief in Orlando and you're following this conversation that we're all having about gun control in America. What's missing from the conversation that is going on right now?
DEMINGS: What's missing from the conversation is that every poll shows you that the overwhelming majority of the American people are in favor of background checks. For example. And so the question is, why is the Senate refusing to move legislation that we passed in the house months ago? The other part of this conversation, I doubt very seriously, that if this shooter in Philadelphia was armed simply with a handgun that this gun battle would be going on well beyond an hour.
I think we can assume that he is also heavily armed with high capacity rifles or weapons and also has high capacity magazines. So, while we look at passing legislation that requires that every gun sale, every person involved in a gun sale has to go through a background check, we really need to have a serious discussion about getting these weapons of war, and dog gone it, today is a clear indication of that as the men and women of blue are under fire in Philadelphia. We need to get these high capacity weapons and magazines off of our streets.
BLITZER: And eyewitnesses say they've already heard more than 100 gunshots that have been fired and presumably, a lot more. Congresswoman Val Demings, thanks so much for joining us.
DEMINGS: Thank you.
BLITZER: I want to go back to Evan Perez. He is getting some new information including some new video that we're seeing of this ongoing standoff. What are you hearing?
PEREZ: That's right, Wolf. Right now, we have this new video, again this is from earlier at the scene just around the block from where the police say that this suspect was shooting at these officers. You can see these officers in shorts, some of them in shorts running around the corner trying to take cover.
It appears that they were running from gunshots that were coming from the house that the police have now surrounded. Just a few minutes ago heard still that the gunshots were coming from this home. It appears that the police have not been able to get any closer. Have not been able to get to the suspect who is still firing at them. The police tell us that six police officers have been shot at this point, it appears that these are nonlife threatening injuries. But it is still very much a dangerous situation for these officers.
The video again, we show it is from earlier at the scene there. We're not showing you some of the more recent videos, some of the current video that we have of the scene, because we don't want to make sure -- we want to make sure that no police officers' lives are in danger from showing exactly where their position. The suspect or suspects, who is inside this house is still very much armed.
As you said, Wolf, there were over 100 shots reported by some witnesses earlier and that really tells you that whoever is inside this house, had an arsenal perhaps ready for just this moment. We don't know whether or not they were waiting for the police to come or perhaps arrive drug dealer. We don't know.
At this point, police tell us that this began as a call about narcotics activity. And so it appears that that is the reason why the officers who went there perhaps were not as protected as one would expect in other scenes, but it appears that that is the reason why some of these officers were injured or were shot earlier in this incident.
But it is still a very much active -- very dangerous situation there in this area north of Center City, Philadelphia, near Temple University Hospital. Police are still trying to figure out how to get control of this situation, Wolf.
[18:20:13] BLITZER: And I want to go back to Shimon. As you heard from the Congresswoman Val Demings, a former police chief in Orlando. Since it's been going on for an hour, this may have been orchestrated by the shooter or shooters.
PROKUPECZ: Well, perhaps though, Wolf. That is always a concern that this was an ambush. That this person knew, that the police were going to be responding, set this up, was prepared, anticipating that the police would be coming to the home, to the house and was prepared. And it certainly seems based on some of these video that a lot of officers were surprised by the number of gun shots by the fire power coming from this house.
You're seeing officers running there in shorts. That re running from the scene injured. There's one officer is holding on to his hand. Running into a police car. Presumably being driven to the hospital. We saw another officer in uniform as well that was shot in the arm. And you're seeing a lot of this. You are seeing a lot of video of police officers running from the scene. Running away, trying to take cover. In this instance, I believe that there was an officer that was injured and that officer ran from the scene.
So we were seeing early video of all of that. We're also hearing from local news reports that some of the reporters, reporters that were on scene initially, they themselves were running from the scene trying to take cover after responding and trying to report on what was going on. And that the gunshots had continued.
So still a very dangerous situation there, Wolf. It's not yet entirely clear why the police were responding to this home, to this location. It's either that they were trying to serve a warrant or there was a 911 call that they were responding to. But certainly a lot of extra officers were on the scene within moments and they continue to respond. Other Philadelphia police officers are being called in.
They called in the SWAT team, the ATF is there. And now the big thing obviously is how do the officers get inside to get to the shooter to stop him? That is the big thing now. And so you're seeing a lot of SWAT team right now. The SWAT team is gathering around the location, coming up with a plan. We're not seeing any of that video live right now for obvious reasons, but there is a plan. The police officers are gathered outside this location. Anticipating that they are going to have to go in and take this person down.
So that is the big thing. That officers are concentrating on now and obviously trying to make sure that no other officers get injured. And we're seeing a lot of officers that are not part of the SWAT team here. They've pulled back. They've pushed back where they can take cover. Some blocks away in some cases, to make sure they don't get injured. But for the police, still a very dangerous situation that is not under control, Wolf. BLITZER: And Evan, I just want to point out to our viewers, this is
video that we got earlier. And it represents, we're told, no threat ongoing threat right now. That's why we're showing to it to our viewers. But you can see the drama unfolding. And so many police officers have gathered at this scene. And what we're showing our viewers is only, Evan, the tip of the iceberg.
PEREZ: Massive police presence, I mean, one of the things that we can see, I'm sure the suspect, you can look out the window, all you can see that there are officers again hiding behind, wearing tactical gear, hiding behind ballistic shields, hiding behind SWAT vehicles, armored cars, just trying to take cover.
And again, just, you know, just a few minutes ago at the top of the hour, we could see from some of the video, we could see that there were shots still coming from inside that home. So this is still very much an active situation for the police.
At this point, we're told that six police officers have been shot. They are all now at area, hospitals with nonlife threatening injuries. There's other officers who were injured also from the scene not from gunshots, but they're also receiving treatment. This is obviously something that is the worst nightmare for these police officers. You can see, Wolf, as Shimon pointe out, just a block or so away. You can still see officers arriving at the scene.
Some of them appear to be undercover officers. They're not wearing the tactical gear. The people wearing tactical gear are much closer to the scene. They're ones presumably who are going to be charged with coming up with a plan to take try to take back this situation. Take control of the situation, perhaps take-down this suspect or suspects who is firing at the police.
But this point, again, they still don't even know whether it's one person or there are multiple persons who are responsible for this. This began as we mentioned earlier, some kind of a narcotics call. The police were responding to, it is not clear exactly what the details of that are. So it appears that is the reason why.
[18:25:05] Perhaps police officers were not -- did not respond with the full force of, say, we have a SWAT team or so on. It's very quickly though, those other officers arrive at the scene and that is the situation now that we have. A standoff with a very dangerous armed gunman or multiple suspects inside this house, this area just north of Center City, Philadelphia and the police still trying to take control of a very dangerous situation.
BLITZER: All right, standby. I want to bring in Charles Ramsey, he the former Philadelphia police commissioner, former police chief here on Washington D.C. He is a CNN law enforcement analyst. This is a very disturbing development as we police officers -- six police officers, Chief Ramsey, have been shot. We've just been told a minute ago that the suspect or suspects are still firing at police officers. This is still very much an active and ongoing situation. You know this area around Temple University. The hospital over there very well. Tell us what you're hearing and what we should anticipate. CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I have spoken to
some people. That is verified, there are six officers shot. Three on Einstein Hospital, three are on Temple, there are other two officers that were responding to the scene that were injured in auto accidents and I'm told there is a sergeant that may have been assaulted near the scene as well who was so struck in the head. Not by gun fire, but by an individual.
Anyway, it is my understanding, there may be a couple officers that are trapped inside the building itself with prisoners. The shooter is still very active. Apparently they don't know if there is one or two. This person could be moving around within the house. I was told they think it could be two that are actually firing at officers.
SWAT is on the scene now. They brought in the bear cat and the heavy equipment for added protection and they're developing a plan. One of the issues they had early on. And I'm really, really glad to hear the way CNN is guarding against showing locations of the officers. Because that was a problem early on with some of the local news choppers that were there. That were actually giving away the tactical locations. So that is all cleared out now.
So now, it's just a question of making a plan and it looks like they are going to have to wind up, maybe making a forced entry if these guys don't surrender. Because remember, you still got a couple police officers that are inside.
BLITZER: Well, are those police officers, as far as you know, Chief Ramsey, are they hostages? Or are they just hiding out inside?
RAMSEY: No, no. I did not hear the term hostage being used at all. In the different section of the house, I don't know all the circumstances there, but they aren't injured, at least that's my understanding as of now. So they're just kind of staying put for now until they are able to safely get out of there.
BLITZER: You were the Philadelphia police commissioner, so tell us who is involve in trying to stop this, you say there's a SWAT team or SWAT teams are already there.
RAMSEY: Yes. Apparently some officers from the narcotics strike force are part of this. Whether or not they were executing a warrant or responding to a call, I'm not quite certain. So I don't want to say. But that is what they do. And I heard Shimon mentioned that they were officers in shorts, well those are the bicycle officers. And many of the strike force officers are on bicycles quite frequently. R
But right now you have a little bit of everybody there. The FBI is probably responding. ATF, I know ATF is there. My son is an ATF agent in the Philadelphia field office and he is on the scene and I spoke to him. He is fine. So there is going to be overwhelming response. But you can almost have too many people there. So they got to start clearing out that area.
And so, we can, you know, keep people back away from the scene. You have avenues that are open so can get ambulances in and out and other police equipment in and out easily. So, right now there is someone who is taking care of that as well. So you have a lot of moving parts and of course, you got the two hospitals where people are gathering to make sure those officers are OK.
BLITZER: Well, give us some perspective on how extraordinary this is in Philadelphia. You were the police commissioner there. You were obviously the police chief here in Washington D.C. as well, give us some perspective on the nature of this attack.
RAMSEY: Well, it is extraordinary. I mean, I consider this to be a mass shooting. Unfortunately we have not any died, but I mean, six cops shot. I mean, in my definition of mass shooting that would probably fit right in there. There's been violence directed to our police, I was police commissioner there for eight years. I have eight police officers killed in the line of duty, all in separate incidents. Five shot to death. Three in auto related crashes responding to scenes.
So, it just -- it's terrible and this department has gone through an awful lot. Thank God, none are life threatening as of now. According to what I've heard from people there at the scene, but it's just very unfortunate.
But it's just -- it's very unfortunate. I mean, this is -- we're going crazy in this country with all these shootings, you know, whether you're talking about a Walmart or an entertainment zone, and now, you know, open season on cops, I mean, you know, something has got to happen.
BLITZER: Stand by, Chief Ramsey, because I know you're going to be working your sources as well.
I want to go to Jim Acosta, our Chief White House Correspondent. He's with the President in New Jersey right now. What are you hearing, Jim? Give us an update from your perspective.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, just a brief update from the White House. The White House spokesman has just told the travel pool here, which is the reporters were monitoring the president's movements here in New Jersey, that the president has been briefed on the situation in Philadelphia, on the shooting in Philadelphia. They are monitoring the situation at the White House. That's a pretty standard protocol for a significant incident like this one that is unfolding in Philadelphia.
But, of course, as we were talking about a few moments ago, the president and the White House monitoring this situation in Philadelphia, as the administration is trying to grapple with what to do about this issue of gun control. The president has been asked in the last couple of days about this. He has expressed an interest in tightening the nation's background checks. That has not happened despite numerous mass shootings over the last several years in this country. But there are people inside the White House, inside the Republican Party, who are concerned that the president is making these kinds of statements. And so it is unclear what's going to happen when Congress comes back into town in a couple of weeks, and when the president gets back to Washington, whether or not they can somehow come to some sort of compromise to get gun control, some sort of gun safety law through the Congress that the president would sign. We've seen this movie before, Wolf. There is momentum after these mass shootings and then the momentum goes away.
But in the meantime, when it comes to the situation in Philadelphia, the White House says the president has been briefed on it. They're looking at the situation. And, of course, they'll let us know if they hear more about this. Obviously, we should be standing by in case the president Tweets about this and we'll let you know if that happens, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to get back to you. You'll update us when you get some more information.
Anthony Ferrante is with us, our CNN Law Enforcement Analyst, former FBI Special Agent.
You heard Chief Ramsey say the FBI, the ATF, presumably, here on this scene as well.
ANTHONY FERRANTE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, Wolf, it's expected. I mean, what we've seen unravel here is unfortunately becoming all too common, right? These are just law enforcement officers conducting law enforcement activities. We don't know if they were executing a search warrant, doing a knock and talk or just walking down the street. But, clearly, something happened and this scene unraveled very quickly and very dangerously, six officers shot. That is definitely a serious matter.
And now, law enforcement is surging, coming to the scene. They're setting up a safety perimeter. They're evacuating citizens far away from the scene as possible. And they want to try to get a handle of this, take control of the scene by setting up the perimeter, establishing a command post. They're going to get all resources they need. They're on site from city, state federal, crisis negotiators, SWAT team operators, hostage negotiators, whatever it's going to take to try to de-escalate this situation is going to be critical right now.
BLITZER: What does it say to you, Anthony? This has been going on now, and it's still ongoing. We heard that shots were just fired a little while ago for, what, at least an hour and a half.
FERRANTE: Well, as we know, the shooter has an advantage right now. He's in a building. He's able to take cover. Law enforcement is not able to exactly pinpoint him. I'm quite confident there are snipers sitting on rooftops right now trying to get a glimpse of the shooter to try to assess the situation from an elevated view, right? This is the way these situations unravel. And, unfortunately for law enforcement, they never really know what they're walking up on to, and that's what makes their jobs more difficult.
BLITZER: And if there is a police officer or more, a couple police officers in that house right now, that further complicates the situation.
FERRANTE: Absolutely. Because if that is the case, then, absolutely, that definitely elevates this to a very serious matter and that will really be passed off to the hands of the crisis hostage negotiators.
BLITZER: You know, Sabrina, it comes at a time when there is a significant debate right now here in Washington about some gun control legislation. The president says he wants background checks. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, not so fast, he refuses to bring the Senate back from the August until mid-September recess.
What are you hearing right now? Because, presumably, this development in Philadelphia, after El Paso and Dayton, is going to intensify this kind of pressure.
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It absolutely will. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said when Congress returns from its August recess, he anticipates there will be a debate over some form of stricter gun laws.
He has said that he expects background checks and the so-called red flag bills will be part of that conversation.
But the reality is that there is no indication that the two sides are any closer to some kind of agreement to actually expand background checks or put any new laws on the books, especially when you have fairly intense opposition from the NRA. And the president himself, despite saying he wants to see strong background checks, has been in daily consultation with the NRA and has not spelled out what exactly he wants to see.
And so absent the president really putting his political capital behind, a real push for some kind of gun control legislation, I don't think you're going to see any meaningful action on Capitol Hill.
BLITZER: You know, David Swerdlick, the Senate is in recess now, at least until mid-September. The enormous pressure on Mitch McConnell to bring the Senate back into action to start deliberating on some of these kinds of legislations, he says, it's not happening.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. And I think up until now, coming out of Dayton and the El Paso shootings, it seemed pretty clear that Republicans in the Senate, including Majority Leader McConnell, were waiting to let the recess play out so that the issue would sort of fade from view. I don't know yet if this incident that we're seeing right now unfold is going to put more pressure on him to bring the Congress back. I do think if it turns out that we find out that that the weapons used in this incident were purchased legally, then you will hear more comments from Democrats saying, look, this is another example of our gun laws not being sufficient. If they were purchased illegally, I'm not sure how that will change the debate. But this is definitely ratcheting up the tension around the gun issue.
BLITZER: Let me get Bianna into this, and Ron Brownstein as well. Bianna, first to you, what do you think of an incident like this in Philadelphia coming after El Paso and Dayton? It is going to put enough pressure on members of the Senate to come back and deal with this?
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think Mitch McConnell is focusing on what the president ends up doing. Remember, this is a president who says that he stands with the police officers, that blue lives matter. When he was in Ohio, Sherrod Brown was talking about how he had a conversation with the president when the president asked, what can we do or what can we help you with. And he said, let's try to save and protect our police officers as well.
And here is an example when it comes to the gun prices in this country. The first responders are really first in the line of duty here and in the line of fire as well.
So Mitch McConnell focusing on the president, the president seems to be dragging his heels this issue differently than he does, say, the trade war and even immigration. And so if anything is going to be done, I firmly believe that it would take a Republican president to do it. And it's coming at a time when the NRA finds itself more vulnerable that it has been in many years, given an internal scandal that is going on within the organization.
That having been said, Congress isn't coming back. These headlines keep happening every single day, whether it's police officers, whether it's people at a nightclub, whether it's people at a Walmart. So until this issue is handled in a priority-type manner, we're going to see it, unfortunately, in this country.
BLITZER: It's all preliminary information, as you know, Ron Brownstein. Six police officers have been shot, we're told, maybe not life-threatening situations. They've been taken to two hospitals in Philadelphia. Initial indications are that this may have been part of some sort of drug bust or something along those lines. It is obviously though a very, very disturbing development.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I mean, I'm sure one word that we haven't talked about yet that is being discussed -- I mean, that they're using in the city hall of Philadelphia is MOVE. Do you remember MOVE bombing in 1985, when there was a standoff with a kind of a fringe group in Philadelphia that ultimately led to the police dropping an incendiary device and just an enormous firestorm there, literally, and then afterwards kind of in criticism.
On the gun issue, Wolf, I think guns along with climate and immigration are the three issues that most show how the geographic and demographic divergence in American politics prevents majority opinion from being executed. I mean, there is no question that there is now an overwhelming majority in support of universal background checks. We're seeing 90 percent numbers in polling, which is beyond what you see on almost any other issue.
And even the assault weapon ban that was allowed to lapse under Bush in 2004 is up to 60 percent or more support, 67 percent in a poll out today from another network.
Republicans, by and large, in the Senate and the House are represent constituencies, where they are largely insulated from that majority opinion. I mean, you have a lot of those Senate Republicans are from rural states without urban centers where these issues are most pointed and where there is a strong gun culture that makes them feel very comfortable opposing ideas that have majority support overall.
If you go back to 2013 when the Senate last voted on these universal background checks and you assign half of each state's population to each senator, the senators voting for the background checks represented 195 million people. The senators voting against it represented 12o million people. I mean, you can't get more decisive than that in the democracy and yet the 120 million supported by the filibuster carried the day. And I'm not sure those basic dynamics have changed very much eight years later.
BLITZER: I want to go back to Shimon. He's getting new information as well.
Shimon, I understand we've seen some police cars move back a bit. What are you hearing?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Right. So some of the cars that have been moving back, obviously, there's a lot of concern that with the continued gunfire, they want to move vehicles as far back as possible. They want to move people as far back as possible. It's because the police do not have the situation under control. The gunman is still shooting, still very active. It could be an opportunity where he runs outside of the building and maybe there is concern that he starts firing as he's running out of the building.
So because police don't have the entire situation under control, they need to move vehicles further back. They also need to make more room. There could be other SWAT team members coming in, other heavily armed- type steel vehicles. These are vehicles that could take gunfire, these vehicles that where police can go inside and take cover if they needed to.
So we could be seeing more of that responding. Obviously, we're not showing live pictures so we don't know exactly what's going on outside there.
But as we see police move back, it's for precautionary reasons and really could indicate that they just wanted to be more cautious because they don't have the scene under control.
The other thing I want to talk about is what Chief Ramsey was saying earlier about some of the officers that were inside the house. There was concern for some of these officers. They were communicating with officers outside of the home and they seem to be okay. And it appears that they're stuck. They're trapped inside this home because of the continued gunfire. There may also be people that have been placed under arrest by these officers that are still inside this home as well.
But the main point here, obviously, Wolf, is that you have a number of officers that have been injured in a very serious situation that is still clearly not under control there by the police. They keep saying in Tweets that they don't have the situation under control. They're telling people to stay away.
So we could be here for quite more time as police try to figure out, do they go inside, do they set it up a situation where they just go in and they try to get him or do they wait this out a little bit and see if the gun fire doesn't continue. Could there be indications that the shooter is dead, perhaps he took his own life, perhaps something else may have happened? So they could be at a point where they're going to wait this out.
And as long as no civilians are in danger and it's just the officers that are in danger, it could be that the officers wait this out a little bit and then just go in and try and figure out if the shooter is alive and then they go in and get him, and we'll how that unfolds.
But right now, I think they're just very concerned about everyone's safety and they are trying to figure out what the plan is in terms of trying to go get the shooter.
BLITZER: I want to bring back Chief Ramsey, who's our CNN law enforcement analyst, the former police commissioner in Philadelphia, the D.C. police chief as well.
Our affiliate in Philadelphia, Chief Ramsey, KYW, says that active gunfire is still ongoing right now. What does that say to you an hour and a half into this?
RAMSEY: Well, I mean, one, he's heavily armed, obviously. This is something that is very troubling. He apparently -- either this was planned. I heard someone used the term, ambush. I don't know if that was it or if they were there for another reason. I have no idea.
But, clearly, he was well armed with a lot of ammunition to still be firing after all this time. It is very much an active scene which is why people are being moved back so far. I'm sure they've evacuated homes in the area to keep people as safe as possible. And they're developing a tactical plan. I mean, whether or not they go in or whether they wait this guy out to try to get an advantage, if they do have to make entry, certainly, all those things are being discussed.
But right now, the main thing is making sure no one else gets hurt, no one else gets injured. They do have all their heavy equipment on the scene. If they need more, they can always get more.
But right now, that's where we're at. I mean, this is unusual. You don't usually see these things go on this long.
BLITZER: Is it your understanding based on previous experience that the beat cops are being pulled back to make room for the SWAT teams, the FBI, the ATF, the others who were coming who are much more heavily armed and fully protected with body armor?
RAMSEY: Well, that would be part of it. But what the beat cops would be doing primarily is making sure the crowd stays back, make sure the media stays back, everybody out of harm's way.
They don't have the protective gear they would need depending on the kind of weapon this guy is firing.
CHARLES RAMSEY, FORMER PHILADELPHIA POLICE COMMISSIONER: -- make sure the media stays back.
[18:45:02] Everybody stays out of harm's way. They don't have the kind of protective gear they would need depending on the kind of weapon this guy is firing, if he's gotten an assault rifle, or something like that. You know, you have to have a higher level vest in order to be really protected.
But what you don't want is a lot of people sitting around because you're just a target. And so, what the uniformed cops would do, the beat cops, is they would be keeping the people back. They're protecting -- they're setting up a perimeter, keeping everything within that perimeter clear so that the SWAT teams can do what they do.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're told by Temple University, which is in the area, and you know this area well. You were the police commissioner for eight years in Philadelphia, Chief Ramsey. Shots were fired around the 1,500 block of Erie Avenue, at the Health Sciences Center Campus of Temple University.
Tell us about this area.
RAMSEY: Well, it is an area that does have some issues in terms of crime, drugs being one of them. It's better than it was but not as good as it ought to be. Temple is very nearby and you do have some students that move off campus. And so, within a block you may have two or three houses that actually have students living there because it's a little cheaper obviously than staying in a dorm.
So, it's mixed in that regard. But there are some challenges in that particular area of North Philadelphia.
BLITZER: We're told that it's been going on at least an hour and a half. At least six police officers have been shot.
At what point, would they start, if -- you know, if they want to, the police, to try to negotiate with the shooter or shooters, to get some sort of bullhorns in there to try to talk to these -- to this individual or individuals who may be responsible for the shootings.
RAMSEY: Well, I'm sure they've already started the process of trying to reach this person and do some sort of negotiations to get him to come out and surrender peacefully. We don't want to have to hurt him, but if they have to go in there, if he's still armed, they'll do what they have to do in order to render the situation safe. But I'm sure that negotiators have been reaching out.
Now, whether or not they've been able to make contact -- I don't know. They haven't resorted to bullhorns or anything like that. But I'm sure they're reaching out, trying to get this person out any way they can. And see what they can do about getting him to put down the gun.
BLITZER: Yes, that would be significant.
Let me bring in Anthony Ferrante, our CNN law enforcement analyst, former FBI special agent.
The FBI presumably is already deeply involved in this. At what point would they start to try to negotiate, try to talk to the shooter or shooters?
ANTHONY FERRANTE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, Wolf, sadly, the FBI, and federal and state law enforcement, they practiced this many, many times. They have plans.
Right now, they're getting together. There is a command post. They're making decisions in how to approach this. They're collecting plans for the house.
The shooter has the advantage because he knows the house, where to hide, where not to hide, where walls exist. And so, the FBI is trying to get the latest blue prints. And it is common to evacuating the area, to set it up the safe zone because you don't know what's going to happen, what other weapons the shooter may have.
And, earlier, Chief Ramsey talked about a SWAT team, and you asked, will they send in a SWAT team? Absolutely.
You have to understand, the SWAT team trains every single day. And when that SWAT team executes, it's just going to be a matter of minutes. They're going to say very few words to each other, and they're going to execute and clear that house and render it safe in a matter of minutes, ideally, right?
But that is something they need to plan for and they need to get together. Of course, they're going to need clearance from leadership. But, first, they need to take control of the scene. Establish the
perimeter. Yes, they want to make contact. Of course, law enforcement wants to de-escalate the situation without any more injuries, especially deaths.
But that's really up to the shooter or shooters. They need to make a decision. Do they want to walk out in handcuffs or not?
BLITZER: Everybody, you know, David Swerdlick, who's watching right now, I'm sure they're making phone calls if they have friends or family in Philadelphia. Are you OK? Make sure everyone is all right.
And there's a deep concern for police - your brother-in-law is a police officer.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: My brother in law is a law enforcement officer. It is good news that so far, at least, that we're hearing that the officers who have been shot are not facing a life-threatening situation.
I'm obviously not an expert in this but, you know, when I've talked to my brother-in-law about these situations, and he was also in the military at one point. He described two things. One was that every situation, you're trying to de-escalate the situation. And then the other thing, and I heard Chief Ramsey talking about this, and Shimon, and Anthony, is that law enforcement is trying to be patient. Time is hopefully on their side.
And he's been in a few situations where he's diffused life-threatening situations and he said the key is not to rush, is to proceed cautiously and carefully, and be patient. And then act when it is time to act.
[18:50:03] BLITZER: At what point, Chief Ramsey, does the police commissioner in Philadelphia, or the mayor in Philadelphia or others come out and brief reporters, brief the media on what's going on?
RAMSEY: I would imagine that's going to happen within a relatively short period of time, probably from the hospital, more than likely. Once they gather all the facts and have something to really tell you.
But it's really an ongoing situation. So they're not going to say anything at all about the police activities at the scene. Probably simply give you a rundown as to the time that the shots were first fired, how many officers have been injured, those kinds of things like that. But they're not going to want to give away anything in terms of what they're doing at the scene. I mean, bad guys watch TV too. So, you know, they're going to be cautious about that.
But I would imagine they'll be doing something within a relatively reasonable period of time. I won't say short period of time. Because I know how chaotic it gets especially when you have something like this going on.
BLITZER: And the other factor that we have to consider, Chief Ramsey, is it's approaching 7:00 p.m. on the East Coast. It's not long before it's dark over there. The sun sets. How does that impact all of this if this situation is still ongoing?
RAMSEY: Well, darkness can help. I mean less visibility for the shooter that's for sure.
But, again, you know, they'll be patient. They'll wait as long as they can. If they believe this individual is about to try to attack the officers that are trapped inside, that changes the game. So, right now, the way things are, at least as I understand it to be, they'll wait and come up with a good tactical plan.
And, again, they'll try to take this guy alive if they can. I mean, that's -- we don't know if it's guy or guys. We don't know how many people are in there right now. But they'll do everything they can to keep it from, you know, becoming one where they have to resort to deadly force.
But they also won't hesitate to do it if lives are being threatened. I mean, this guy is clearly a danger to the people in this area and to the police.
BLITZER: Evan Perez is getting some new information for us.
What are you learning, Evan?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, right now, police at the scene told an affiliate that it appears the shooter or shooters had a rifle. And you know judging from some of the video we could see at the scene, the rapidity of some of the shots, it does appear that perhaps it's a semiautomatic -- again, that's something we can guess from looking at some of the video we saw of some of the gunshots we saw just about -- in the past hour or so. Police even in the last half hour or last 20 minutes have been saying that the suspect appears to still be shooting from inside the house.
It's not clear, Wolf, that they've pinned down exactly where the suspect is. And again that's one of the reasons as Anthony was pointing out, you know, the suspect has all of the advantages. He knows -- he or she knows or the suspects know exactly where to hide in this house, where it's safe to shoot from inside this house.
And so the reason why one of the things the police are still trying to grapple with is exactly how to approach in-house. The SWAT team is trying to figure out a plan of how to get in there. As Chief Ramsey pointed out, there is -- it appears at least one or maybe more police officers who are inside the house, perhaps they were part of the team that went there as part of in narcotics call. That information is still we're trying to get more information from the police as to exactly how that unfolded.
But, of course, that makes things even more complicated for the SWAT team. They want to make sure that anybody that they -- any shots fired obviously when they try to enter the house, that those police officers if they are still inside the home that those people are kept safe.
So, right now, we still know that there is six police officers who were shot. Again, we still are trying to figure out the -- police trying to figure out exactly where the suspect is how they can try to approach the house to try to resolve this situation. I mean, it may well be given the fact this has been going on now for about an hour and a half, it may be this suspect or suspects knows that this is how they're going to end it. They are going to try to make sure they're taking out as many cops as possible and they're going to die inside this house.
And so, that makes them even more dangerous from the point of view of the -- somebody who does not want to resolve the situation peacefully, given obviously how long this has been going on. So, that all enters into the mind of the SWAT officers who are going to try to go inside this house and try to fix this situation, try to end the situation, which is still very much a dangerous standoff with the police there.
BLITZER: Active gunfire according to our affiliate KYW still ongoing.
Anthony Ferrante, we heard first about this incident shortly after 5:00 p.m. on the East Coast. It's now approaching 7:00 p.m. It's almost two hours that this has been going on. That's a long time for an incident like this to continue.
What does that say to you?
FERRANTE: Well, I mean, it is a long time, two hours, right?
[18:55:03] But as Evan was saying, we should expect this to continue, right? Because now is the time to set up that safety perimeter zone and for law enforcement leadership to come together with the tools they have available to them and really assess the situation and understand what they need to do.
Remember, in two -- it's been two hours. But we also have six injured police officers. . That's a lot of injuries in a short period of time, right? And we're also saying thank goodness it's just non-life threatening injuries. We all know those called have been life or death injuries just by a matter of inches or feet there.
BLITZER: You know, Bianna, Philadelphia, let's remember is one of the largest cities in the United States. You can only imagine what the folks there are going through right now.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: One of the largest cities indeed, especially as we come upon nighttime in one of the largest cities in the country. You would imagine that the police force there and rightly so is stretched thin, focusing on this situation that's unraveling. You've got a city the size of Philadelphia that no doubt will need police resources in other parts of the city throughout the night as any major city in this country does.
And also, you know, you can't help but think about the parallel to the police shooting in Dallas in 2016 where unfortunately five officers lost their lives. And you're reminded that the officers go out there every single day knowing they are putting their lives at risk for these types of situations, wanting to make sure that the general public is safe and putting themselves in harm's way, keeping the neighborhood and area in the city as safe as possible.
Obviously, they're trying to wait this out, hoping the shooter comes out and nobody else will be injured. But the longer this goes on the more stress it puts on the city the size of Philadelphia, no doubt.
BLITZER: And, Ron Brownstein, you spent time looking at the polls. If the polls overwhelmingly show the American public wants stricter gun control, a lot more background checks dealing with assault type weapons, why doesn't that happen?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It doesn't happen largely because as I said before, Republicans are to a substantial degree insulated from that public opinion. They represent the constituencies where that opinion is least held. Although in many -- certainly in the case of the background checks, everybody, gun owners are at 90 percent, Republican at 90 percent.
But generally speaking, you now have a Republican Party that -- especially under Trump has been exiled from the large metros areas, it's largely dependent on small town rural and exurban area where there's more of a gun culture, where the NRA is more powerful, and the Senate heavily dependent on rural, preponderantly white states with strong cultures and they feel comfortable opposing that public opinion, whereas the Democratic Party which is now a suburban/urban party is more unified on gun control than they've ever been.
Ben, 77 House Democrats as you recall voted against the assault weapon ban in 1994. Only two of them voted against the universal background checks this time and I suspect virtually every Democrat in the Senate would vote as well for it. But the spatial and demographic kind of divergence in American politics has left Republicans feeling they can stand up against the majority opinion which is more urban based.
We will see how that plays out in states like Colorado, Arizona and Pennsylvania. And Maine, rather in 2020 if this comes to a vote in the Senate, the universal background checks.
BLITZER: Let me bring chief -- yes, hold on one second. Chief Ramsey, you know, you were the police commissioner in Philadelphia, the D.C. police chief. Tell us how police chiefs all around the country feel about more strict gun control.
RAMSEY: Well, you know, police chiefs like everybody else, you know, you have different opinions about this. But certainly want to see something in place to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. You want to make sure that responsible gun owners are able to have weapons but then properly secure 'em, keep them out of the hands of people that shouldn't have them.
Now, you know, Congress -- I have no faith in them doing anything quite frankly. But I think the vast majority of law enforcement as well as the public in general want some reasonable form of gun control.
BLITZER: All right.
RAMSEY: Background checks and other things.
BLITZER: Is the president, Sabrina -- you cover the White House, is he going to get involved and do something or is he going to back off?
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he's been making private calls to lawmakers on Capitol Hill but he still has not really used the bully pulpit at his disposal to make the case to the American people and make a stronger push for stricter gun laws. Look, we are relieved that there don't appear to be life-threatening injuries in this particular shooting.
But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out data in December showing that in 2017, there were nearly 40,000 firearm- related deaths in the United States. That was the highest since at least 1968 in any given year. It was the third consecutive year that gun deaths rose -- the rate of gun deaths in this country, and most of the American public does not buy that nothing can be done.
BLITZER: Well, let's hope it ends and ends quickly, and no more injuries, no more people shot in the process.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.