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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Prosecutors: Man Went To Obama's DC Neighborhood After Trump Posted What He Claimed Was The Address; Lab Tests Show Substance Found At White House Was Cocaine; Fight Over Abortion Amendment In Ohio; Former Trump Supporter Says She Was Brainwashed And Part Of A Cult; More Than 20 Mass Shootings Over The Long Holiday Weekend In The United States; Both Guns Found With The Philadelphia Mass Shooting Suspect Were Ghost Guns; Ukraine, Russia Issue Dueling Nuke Plant Warnings. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired July 05, 2023 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Remember, he used to be a comedian and a television star, and even as he has defined this moment and impacted the entire world with his leadership, and he really has when you think about it, he is still a person, just a person who can laugh and in this moment that we are seeing he was simply taking joy in being in the sunshine.

Thanks so much for joining us. AC 360 starts now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Tonight on 360: New details about the armed man arrested steps away from the Obamas' DC home. The weapons he had, who else he allegedly stalked, and the question, did he get the Obama's address from one of Trump's social media posts?

Also tonight, the latest in the grim string of holiday mass shootings, including Philadelphia's five dead in what prosecutors now say was a deliberate killing spree.

And the bag of cocaine in the White House, where it was found and what that could mean about who left it there.

Good evening.

We begin tonight with a picture the federal prosecutors are now painting of the man arrested last week with firearms and a man full of ammunition in the Washington neighborhood, home to many dignitaries, including former president and Mrs. Obama.

The details come from a court filing urging the suspect Taylor Taranto be kept in custody, and there are chilling alleged threats against House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Democratic congressman, Jamie Raskin.

Also that he allegedly live streamed a claim he had a detonator for explosives, as well as evidence he got the Obama's address from a social media post by former President Trump.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz is working the story, he joins us now with more. So walk us through the timeline of what exactly the former president

posted and when this guy showed up in the Obama's neighborhood and if it's connected at all?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE SENIOR REPORTER: Yes, well, Anderson, there wasn't a long time between the two events happening. So Donald Trump posts a newsletter that purportedly had the address of the Obamas in their neighborhood, where they live now in Washington, DC, and then Taylor Taranto, he re-posts that and he says, "Got them surrounded."

And then after that, he was already on the radar of federal officials. They were already tracking him because of some other things that he was doing and saying online, but then he starts live streaming himself in their neighborhood, in Washington, DC, and the Secret Service are there because they protect the residents around the Obamas. When they encounter him, he takes off on foot.

They chased him essentially into the woods, where they arrest him, and then they look in his van and that is where they find evidence that he had been living out of his van, they believe in Washington, DC for the last few months and quite a bit of weaponry as well, that was being kept in that van.

COOPER: Do you know how many weapons he had on him?

POLANTZ: Yes, actually, prosecutors say in their memo to the court asking to keep him held in detention that he had two guns in his vehicle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, also a machete. But they also say that he has 20 guns registered to his name, so they only found the two in his van.

This is a man from Washington State with a family there, but like I said, he had been in Washington DC, apparently living out of his van for the past couple of months.

COOPER: And he has -- I mean, he has done bizarre things before. He has been on the radar.

POLANTZ: Absolutely, and that is actually one of the things that is so important about this story in that this is the long arc of January 6th. This is a man that was on their radar because he was at the Capitol on January 6th. He carried a cane and was in a scuffle with police officers and that they had been tracking him.

And then he started live streaming some really unusual things. He went to an elementary school and was live streaming about January 6, because that entrance elementary school was near a Democratic lawmaker's home in Maryland, just outside of the District of Columbia.

And then he was live streaming himself trying to get access to the videos of January 6 that Speaker Kevin McCarthy had on Capitol Hill. And so he kept live streaming himself, and then finally said he had his van and he wanted to blow it up, self-detonate it outside of a federal building. That's when the Feds really started looking for him, and then the next day, he ends up in the Obama's neighborhood. COOPER: Katelyn Polantz, appreciate it. Thank you.

Joining us now, CNN chief law enforcement intelligence analyst, John Miller; also CNN political analyst and "New York Times" senior political correspondent, Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Wackrow, a former Secret Service agent who is now a CNN law enforcement analyst.

John Miller, I mean, it is extraordinary that prosecutors in a case involving physical violence against officials, perhaps even the former President Obama and his wife, are citing a posting by another former president, again, we don't know if Trump read what he posted. We don't know if this guy read it, but it's incredible.

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, it is a Trump re-post basically, an old article where, you know, the streets where the Obamas live in Washington, it was right after he left the White House is mentioned and then this individual posts that under his "I'm here," you know, "We've got them surrounded post."


So, the timing is too coincidental to be an accident, at least on the part of Taylor Taranto who seemed to follow that post, read that post, re-post it, and then go straight there.

The day before, on Wednesday, the 28th, he had a totally different target. He was focused on the National Institute for Standards and Technology, which fits into a lot of QAnon conspiracies. Right after that, he is literally on the street, where the Obamas live, where the Podestas live saying, you know, we've got them surrounded. I'm looking for the tunnels underneath, you know, that connect the houses, and you know, the entrance ways and so on.

COOPER: So he's a real QAnon?

MILLER: He is a conspiracy theorist, a stolen election theorist, a January 6th rioter. He was literally right there immediately after the woman was shot breaking through the window by the Capitol Police in the heart of the Capitol, and of course, all the other QAnon theories that he has posted about on his social media.

COOPER: Maggie, in terms of the former president. I mean, I feel like we've had this discussion probably a gazillion times, but does he read the stuff he retweets?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Sometimes, sometimes not. And, you know, he finds it in different ways. Often he looks at the replies to what people write to him. It has been harder to discern what some of his habits are using his own social media site, as opposed to what he did with Twitter when there were a lot of aides who were either helping him or working in the White House under him, but sometimes he does.

But he has been much more, you know, to use the word reckless, I think it's appropriate here. He has been much more reckless in terms of what he is willing to re-post or re-truth or whatever he calls it on his site, and he is constantly you know, re-posting content that had he done it on Twitter, it would have gotten a lot of different attention. And had he been doing it on Twitter before he was banned, it would have created all kinds of consternation at the pre-Elon Musk's company.

I mean, I think that as John said, it appears as if the timing is related to this gentleman's showing up at former President Obama's home. It is hard to ignore the fact that you know, a lot of people who are adherents of QAnon or who, you know, listen to Trump's verbal cues on other issues have looked at his social media feed over time and taken inspiration from it.

COOPER: Well, he also plays up to QAnon. I mean, there is no doubt about it. I mean, he --

HABERMAN: And more now than he ever did before. I mean, there were sort of winks and nods when he was in the White House. Now, it is just much more open in various ways, including at his rallies.

MILLER: I mean, I think if you look at that last tweet where, you know, he's got himself in silhouette and the words on his graphic as "The storm is coming, which is the QAnon slogan, that was the day he kind of went over from saying, well, I only vaguely understand them and they seemed nice people.

COOPER: I don't know who they are, but they say nice things about me.

MILLER: Right, to associating himself directly with the iconology of QAnon.

COOPER: Right.

Jonathan, the Secret Service, obviously, I mean, they have enough challenges trying to take care of everyone under its protection. It's again, just extraordinary for me that at least on some level, they now also have to worry about a former president posting information that could potentially endanger other officials and other former presidents.

JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes. I mean, Anderson, it is crazy that we're even talking about this, right? But we've actually discussed how threatening language and highlighting attributes of an individual by a prominent public official, such as the former president, is dangerous.

And, you know, as we were just discussing, those messages can be misinterpreted. They can be misinterpreted as a call to physical action or harm against an individual or people associated with them. Think about the issue with Paul Pelosi.

So these statements that are made, these postings, they go beyond social norms. They are actually -- you know, they have a consequence, and we know that these messages have a consequence, not just from the actions of January 6th, but in this case, as well, you have an individual who feels empowered to act and engage in some sort of conspiracy theory action, because he feels supported by online postings.

He thinks that you know, that he is being directed or inspired by either the former president or proxies. That is so dangerous, not only for the Secret Service in the protection of the former president, but for law enforcement broadly in protection of all the public officials.

COOPER: John, it does seem like in this case, they -- I mean, he got on their radar pretty quickly and they seem to kind of keep track of him.

MILLER: So I mean, he was on the FBI radar because of his January 6th things and in fact, one of the strangest parts about the saga here is he was posting in his own social media. You know, here I am, come and get me I'm a January 6th rioter. You know, look, mom, I'm an insurrectionists -- and baiting the FBI as they were developing that case.

Here you see a system that really worked because FBI Washington field office is detecting he is live streaming from Washington. The Capitol Police put out a Be On the Look Out for, and you know, they've got his picture and information on his vehicle.


The Secret Service Uniform Division actually spots him and brings agents into the area, and it all comes together before something happens.

Here is a guy who was talking about having a self-driving vehicle that he was going to load with explosives and crash into the NIST Building in Gaithersburg, Maryland before he kind of self-redirected to the Obamas.

Could he have done that? There was fuel in the vehicle, gasoline. There were rags and bottles. It's the kind of thing you'd make Molotov cocktails from. Was he building a large incendiary device for the back? He had a steering wheel lock, which you could have, you know, activated the accelerator and kept it on a straight path towards a building.

Farfetched, amateurish, but certainly when you put together what he was driving around with and what he was talking about doing, it's probably good that they stopped him when they did.

COOPER: And Maggie, just in terms of the former president, I mean, he spent the Fourth of July, it sounded like he was having a really happy Fourth of July. He spent it, you know, posting about the there was an "Eff Biden," and a picture of himself dressed up as George Washington, another depicting the burning of the White House.

There were these attacks on the special counsel today, which seems especially low. I mean, what is going on with him?

HABERMAN: I think, the version of, yes, you're seeing an angrier version of Trump, and I know people around him like to say, oh, he's not -- he's not angry about these indictments. He is angry about these indictments and you're seeing it play out.

But what I would argue, Anderson is, the version of him that you are seeing now that we've seen on the campaign trail is the version of him that we started seeing in 2020, in the lead up to his claims, his false claims about the November 2020 election.

He was planning on doing all kinds of things in his final year in office, seizing control of the federal bureaucracy, making changes to it, getting the White House that he wanted in terms of staffing, and this sort of anger and undercurrent of retribution.

A lot of this is very authentic him, but I think this is his most authentic version.

COOPER: Maggie Haberman, appreciate it. John Miller, as well, and Jonathan Wackrow as well, thanks so much.

Still to come tonight, another January 6 defendant who was also arrested, but this time a grandmother, she chose a different path. She talked to her Gary Tuchman about the former president she now calls a master manipulator after he tried to highlight her arrest.

Also cocaine at the White House and the first hints about who may have left it in the West Wing or at least where.

And later, a string of shark sightings, close calls and worse, and yes, it is a shark's dorsal fin just feet away from these swimmers. Are there actually more sharks near the shore than usual? We'll take a look at the numbers next.



COOPER: Lab testing today confirmed the substance that caused a brief evacuation of the White House on Sunday was in fact cocaine, but the question remains, who left it? A source tells CNN, it was found near ground floor entrance to the West Wing that visitors pass on staff-led tours.

Jeremy Diamond joins us now from the White House with the latest. So, what else do we know about this?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, tonight, a law enforcement official tells me that they are doing everything possible to try and identify the culprit who brought this baggie of cocaine into the White House. That includes DNA testing, fingerprint analysis. Secret Services going through visitor logs and security camera footage as well.

This all started, Anderson, when this baggie containing a white powdery substance was found at the White House on Sunday evening. It subsequently tested positive for cocaine, and one thing to know here is that where this was found is on the ground floor entrance to the West Wing. This is where visitors are typically brought in to the West Wing for

tours on the weekends. It's also an entrance frequently used by White House officials. I'm told that this dime-sized baggie of cocaine was actually found inside one of the cubbies where visitors are asked to put their cell phones before entering the West Wing. Those cubbies are also used by White House officials before they go into a SCIF where they can view classified information.

The Situation Room in fact, Anderson, is just around the corner. Now today, the White House press secretary, she repeatedly left the impression that this could have been a visitor talking about the fact that this was a heavily trafficked and traveled area of the White House, and also noting that this is where visitors come in and out.

One thing that we should note, she wouldn't rule out first of all, that this could still be a White House official. And secondly, we should note that people who come on these West Wing tours, they typically know someone in the administration, or they know someone who knows someone. So these tours are not easy to get for any member of the public.

COOPER: And I guess nobody knows how long it's actually been there, because I would think if those things are searched every day, then it would be pretty easy to just figure out how many people were actually using those cubbies on any given day.

DIAMOND: Yes, it is hard to know. I mean, this was -- you know, this White House is cleaned every day. There are Secret Service officers who are going by this, so you would think it would have been found the same day, but there is just no way of knowing at this point.

COOPER: Jeremy Diamond, appreciate it. Thanks.

Former Vice President Mike Pence called the incident a very serious matter and said the American people deserve answers. He made those comments in the middle of a series of stops in Iowa, that that's first in the nation caucus and its evangelical voters are obviously very important for Pence whose campaign is so far lagging in the polls.

Kyung Lah joins us now from Sioux City, Iowa with the latest. What kind of message has the former vice president been trying to spread there in Iowa?

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, especially with Trump looming so large in this state, and you have those evangelical voters that you're talking about, Anderson, all of this was very clear at this event that just wrapped up minutes ago here in Sioux City.

Inside this crowd that came and gathered to listen to Mike Pence, there was a man who was wearing a Trump 2024 cap, another woman, a voter who asked about his role on January 6, and he if he should have ceremoniously certified the vote that day, if he potentially changed history.

So what he did as vice president, his actions, everything he did in the administration certainly is how he is known to voters here in Iowa and he is trying to forge his own path.

The campaign says he will do that by meeting voters where they are, going to all 99 counties and talking to them one-on-one. So will it work? One voter here told us she was convinced; another voter said no, absolutely not. She was sticking with Trump.

So the question though is whether or not there are enough Republicans like this woman I want you to listen to, who says she admires what Pence did on January 6. Take a listen.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was in that precarious situation himself in the Capitol Building. So I appreciated that he stood his ground and with the constitution.

We need to pray for him that he can overcome some of the people right now who are polling ahead of him.


LAH: But very early, Anderson, it's still summer, so a lot of counties yet to hit -- Anderson.

COOPER: Obviously, evangelical Christians have always been an important base of support for Mike Pence. How is he doing with them this time around?

LAH: You know, I've spoken to on background to half a dozen evangelical pastors in the state of Iowa. Every event we've gone to, we've run into evangelical Christians and we talk about faith in regards to Mike Pence and his future in this caucus.

And what they will all tell you, uniformly is that they admire him for his faith. They believe it is authentic. When he quotes Scripture, they know he means it and they believe him.

So there is no question about that. The question is in this state where you have Pence, who is a Midwesterner, who is an evangelical, who has been in Congress and in the executive branch, he is somebody who should be doing very, very well.

The issue is, is that he's talking to Trump's Republican Party, and it is a matter of whether or not he can convince them that those credentials should win in Iowa -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, Kyung Lah, appreciate it. Thank you.

One of the key issues in the upcoming presidential race, abortion is already being decided on the state level.

The latest battleground, Ohio, in the fight over a constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights. Jeff Zeleny has more.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Box by box, a summer showdown over abortion in Ohio intensified today as supporters of abortion rights delivered hundreds of thousands of signatures demanding the issue be placed on the November ballot.

ZELENY (on camera): These boxes obviously contain signatures of real Ohioans.

DR. AZIZA WAHBY, OHIOANS UNITED FOR REPUBLICAN FREEDOM: It's overwhelming. I mean, it's just an absolutely stunning moment. I can't believe we're here.

ZELENY (voice over): For months Dr. Aziza Wahby has been part of an effort to gather support to have voters decide whether to enshrine abortion rights in the Ohio constitution after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe versus Wade and returned the debate back to the states.

WAHBY: I was never very political before all of this started last year, so this has made me pay more attention and I think it'll do the same for others.

ZELENY (voice over): A year after the landmark Dobbs decision, fallout has rippled from courtrooms to the campaign trail, energizing Democrats.


ZELENY (voice over): And alarming Republicans.

NIKKI HALEY (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't judge anyone for being pro-choice.

ZELENY (voice over): In Ohio, GOP lawmakers are going to great lengths to stop the abortion rights movement. It started last summer in Kansas, where an abortion measure drew historic turnout for an August election with a resounding 59 percent voting to protect abortion rights. Michigan voters followed suit last fall with 57 percent voting to change the state's constitution.

Those outcomes were so alarming to opponents of abortion rights in Ohio, they are taking the extraordinary step of trying to change the rules in place for more than a century on ballot issues.

It's called Issue 1, which seeks to raise the threshold to change Ohio's constitution from a simple majority of 50 percent to a supermajority of 60 percent.

KELLIE COPELAND, PRO-CHOICE OHIO: They're trying to sneak an election in August when people are on vacation, when they're getting ready for school, when you're not used to voting, and they are doing that on purpose because they know that their agenda is not the agenda of Ohioans.

ZELENY (voice over): The 700,000 signatures submitted today must still be verified by Ohio's Republican secretary of State, Frank LaRose. At a recent county GOP dinner, he made no apologies for using the August election to stop the abortion rights effort.

FRANK LAROSE, OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE: This is a hundred percent about keeping a radical pro-abortion amendment out of our constitution the left wants to jam it in there this coming November.

ZELENY (on camera): Why should this serious of an issue be decided in August?

EMMY NATOSI, PROTECT WOMEN OHIO: So there is no time like the present to protect Ohio's constitution.

ZELENY (voice over): Emmy Natosi (ph) of Protect Women Ohio, a coalition that opposes abortion rights, dismissed suggestions the August election was in any way undemocratic.

NATOSI: Ohioans should be reminded of the fact that this is allowing them to determine how their constitution is amended. You know, we've seen the other side saying one person one vote, this takes away the people's voice, not at all.


COOPER: And Jeff Zeleny joins us now. If Issue 1 succeeds in August, how confident are abortion rights supporters of reaching 60 percent in November?

ZELENY: Anderson, that 60 percent threshold is significantly high and it's a much bigger hurdle than a simple majority of 50 percent.

If you look at others states that have had a similar amendment. Neighboring Michigan for example, of course, a much bluer state had 57 percent of the vote. So the 60 percent threshold worries them.


That is why they are trying to defeat that August amendment. It is why the August special election is even happening. Republican legislative leaders believe that is the best way to stop this.

Now, interestingly, this is falling along party's partisan lines to a point, but two former Republican governors here in Ohio, Bob Taft and John Kasich have come out against this August special election. They said this simply is not the way to amend the state's constitution. It is too important for that for this issue and other issues going forward.

So one thing that's clear, for the next month here in this summer campaign, abortion front and center in Ohio -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny, appreciate it. Thank you.

Just ahead, a grandmother arrested for participating in January 6 is now speaking out about the former president's lies and Gary Tuchman has the story next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Earlier, we told you about the January 6 defendant arrested with weapons in President Obama's neighborhood, but now, another January 6 defendant, a grandmother and former Trump supporter who went to prison for her actions on January 6 who is now speaking out against the former president for what she calls his gaslighting. Gary Tuchman has more.



GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As she celebrates America's independence at a firework show here in Boise, Idaho, 70-year-old Pam Hemphill can't help but remember how she felt on July 4th of last year because she was getting ready to go to prison.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Even though you were unhappy and scared in prison, you feel you were guilty of what the crime was?


TUCHMAN (voice-over): The January 6 capitol insurrection, mother and grandmother Pam Hemphill who had been diagnosed with breast cancer was there. She had long enjoyed taking video of political events and told police at the Capitol she was a citizen journalist. But she also believed Former President Donald Trump's false claims that he won the election. And this is what she was telling people outside the Capitol as she shot her video.

HEMPHILL: Whose house does it belong to? It's my house. Come on in. You just come in. Come on in.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): She continued shooting video.

HEMPHILL: We are the people.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And Pam Hemphill ended up inside the Capitol building. She flew back to Idaho, still believing much of the dogma she had been taught that led to her coming to the capital.

HEMPHILL: The Democrats wanted this to be a communist country and that they were drinking baby's blood.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Did you believe that?

HEMPHILL: No. I thought that was kind of weird.

TUCHMAN (on camera): OK. But did you believe it was -- the Democrats wanted this to be a communist party?


TUCHMAN (voice-over): It wasn't until months later that Hemphill was arrested on multiple charges. After a plea bargain and pleading guilty to illegal entry to the Capitol, she was sentenced to two months in a federal prison in California.

HEMPHILL: I live with the fear every minute. You just live with it.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): when she got out of prison this past September, she did have questions about the far-right talking points about Trump, but still considered herself a Trump supporter. However, a few months ago, she had a revelation.

TUCHMAN (on camera): So, when you heard the former president say that he would consider pardoning some J6-ers, it changed your mind?

HEMPHILL: Absolutely, 100 percent.

TUCHMAN (on camera): And what did you then think of Donald Trump?

HEMPHILL: That's it. He is a master manipulator. He doesn't believe in anything. He just thinks he is smart enough to pull the wool over you. There's people like me waking up.

TUCHMAN (on camera): And do you feel the former president is responsible for that?

HEMPHILL: Absolutely. He is the king of that gaslighting. It's a cult. It's a cult.

TUCHMAN (on camera): And then this happened just about a week and a half ago. A right wing person wrote something that is inaccurate, but it is important to the story. I am going to read it.

American justice, 69-year-old grandmother with cancer given more prison time for walking inside U.S. Capitol than Hunter Biden for sharing classified documents with foreign regimes and multi-million dollar bribery schemes. And then Donald Trump shared it on his Truth Social with the comment, "Horrible." When you saw that or heard about it, what was the first thing that went through your mind?

HEMPHILL: I got up. I was very angry and I said, this is it. This is it.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): In fact, Hunter Biden recently agreed to plead guilty to two tax misdemeanors to resolve a felony gun charge in exchange for a recommendation of probation. What Pam Hemphill decided to do was call out the former president on social media, writing, "Please, Donald Trump, don't be using me for anything. I'm not a victim of January 6th. I pleaded guilty because I was guilty. Stop the spin."

And now, Pam Hemphill wants to go back to the U.S. Capitol but this time to testify under oath about January 6th. And she has already prepared what she wants to say if she is invited.

HEMPHILL: I'm not a victim of the government. The Justice Department was not weaponized against me. I was a participant. We broke the law.

TUCHMAN (Voice-over): And she talks about the Capitol Police in her speech.

HEMPHILL: In the crowd, I was pushed down. My head was trampled on. My shoulder pulled out. The Capitol Police saved my life that day. I want them to know how truly grateful I am to them and how deeply sorry I am for what happened and how they continue to be treated to this day.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Today, Pam Hemphill takes solace in her supporter friends on social media, her family and God.

TUCHMAN (on camera): What would you say to Donald Trump if you could talk to him face to face? Like you are talking to me right now.

HEMPHILL: Retire. Get honest. Because you know, when you meet your maker, you know, that's more important.


COOPER: Gary joins us now. What a journey she has been on. What's next for her?

TUCHMAN: So her sentence includes three years probation. So some of the conditions are she can't commit a crime, she can't own a gun, she can't leave the state without permission. Politically, she says she wants to remain a registered Republican. But if Donald Trump runs against Joe Biden next year in the general election, there's no way she would vote for Trump. She'd vote for Joe Biden. If it's a different Republican --





TUCHMAN: -- she will do her research and make a decision closer to the election. One final thing, Anderson, Pam Hemphill is still fighting breast cancer. And she says, right now, her life's goal is to "make things right." Anderson?

COOPER: We wish her the best with her health and her family. Gary Tuchman, thanks so much.

Next, a deadly series of mass shootings over the July 4th holiday, including what the man accused in the deadliest in Philadelphia told police about why he did it.


COOPER: A fourth victim was found dead in one of more than 20 mass shootings over the long holiday weekend. That fourth fatality was in Shreveport, Louisiana. Four dead, seven wounded there. Some others, Fort Worth, 11 shot, three killed. 30 shot and two killed at a block party in Baltimore on Sunday. Nine in Washington, D.C. And the deadliest is Philadelphia, five killed by an alleged gunman there who sources tell us told police he did it to clean up the neighborhood.

CNN's Danny Freeman has the rest of the story.


MARIE MERRITT, MOTHER OF THE VICTIM LASHYD MERRITT: It's like I feel him saying, why me? Why me? Why me? You know.

DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 20-year-old Lashyd Merritt was among those killed Monday night. Merritt's mother says he loved his family, his girlfriend and his job.

MERRITT: Some maniac walking around, just shooting, shooting, shooting. For what? You probably will never know why. You know? But he took my son. He took my baby.


FREEMAN (voice-over): The 40-year-old shooter appeared today in a Philadelphia courtroom. He is accused of opening fire on a street, hours before the 4th of July, the attack captured by this street- corner surveillance camera.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People were outside, people were eating water ices. Nobody is expecting to just come outside and somebody walking around shooting people.

FREEMAN (voice-over): Prosecutors say he randomly shot and killed five people Monday night and attempted to murder several others.


DANIELLE OUTLAW, COMMISSIONER, PHILADELPHIA POLICE: On what was supposed to be a beautiful summer evening, this armed and armored individual wreaked havoc, firing with a rifle at their victims seemingly at random.


FREEMAN (voice-over): This, as a law enforcement source tells CNN, the shooter's Facebook page could provide some answers about a motive. The most recent public post, the morning of the shooting, a man in tactical gear holding a gun. His other posts about gun rights, religion, freedom and Black Lives Matter. In May, he shared posts from pro-gun groups supporting Former President Trump and the Second Amendment. In June, there's a video posted of a speech by President Biden where he posts a reference that the president is attempting to "take our arms." Separate law enforcement sources told CNN the suspect told police he committed the shooting to, in some and substance, clean the neighborhood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't see the guy until the fire started coming out of the gun. We saw the sparks coming out of the gun. That's when I ran.

FREEMAN (voice-over): Police say the shooter indiscriminately sprayed Philadelphia's Kingsessing neighborhood about bullets, killing pedestrians and hitting a car with a mother and twin two-year-olds inside, one was shot in the leg.


LARRY KRASNER, PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY: This was random. This was someone who set out to kill strangers which, of course, has become way too common in the United States.


FREEMAN (voice-over): Police chased and ultimately arrested the shooter. He was wearing body armor and a ski mask, carrying a police scanner and holding an AR-15 style rifle and a handgun.


KRASNER: This is just a tragedy at the most profound deepest level. We are talking about completely innocent bystanders who did absolutely nothing to put themselves at risk.



COOPER: And Danny Freeman joins us now. You are learning about the weapons that this shooter allegedly used.

FREEMAN: That's right, Anderson. This is fascinating, something that we only learned late this afternoon. The suspect was arrested with two guns, an AR-15 style rifle and a handgun. Well, the Philadelphia Police Department, they revealed today that both of those guns, not just the handgun, both of those guns were privately-made ghost guns, meaning untraceable. And the police really emphasized that if this gunman had run away, gotten away and left the gun behind, they would not have been able to find him. Anderson, just another troubling chapter in an already troubling story here in Philadelphia.

COOPER: Danny Freeman, I appreciate it.

Up next, here from Russian prisoners of war held in Ukraine. And a warning from Ukraine's president about the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant, what he says was spotted on the rooftop of the facility that's in Russia's control and what the Kremlin is saying about it as well.



COOPER: An alarming claim from Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He warns that Russian troops have placed objects resembling explosives, in his words, on the roof of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant which is the largest in Europe, which Russian forces have controlled for nearly 16 months. Ukrainian military says any detonation is "not expected to damage the power units but may create a false impression of shelling by Ukraine." In response, the Kremlin claims to be taking precautionary measures to counter a threat to the plant, saying sabotage the Kyiv regime is "high" and it could have "catastrophic consequences." Meanwhile, the Ukraine's Defense Ministry says they are facing stiff resistance from Russian forces north of Bakhmut and making gains to the south of the embattled city. Tonight, we are getting more insight on the battle for Eastern Ukraine from CNN's Ben Wedeman who spoke with Russian prisoners of war. Here's his report.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): No longer on the front lines, Anton recounts how he ended up a prisoner of war. Back in Russia, he was behind bars for the third time for drugs.

ANTON, RUSSIAN PRISONER OF WAR (through translator): When they put me in prison, I heard they were recruiting.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Serve six months and they pardon you, he tells me. So he signed up with Storm-Z, a unit made up of convicts, attached to the Russian Defense Ministry. After only two weeks of basic training, he was shipped off to the front lines near Bakhmut. After days of intense shelling, no food and only rainwater to drink, he heard Ukrainian troops outside his foxhole. He assumed they would execute him.

ANTON (through translator): I thought that was the end, he recalls. I switched my rifle to single-shot mode and thought, I will shoot myself. But I couldn't.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): This video shot by shoulders of Ukraine's 3rd Assault Brigade shows the tense moments when Anton and comrade Slavo (ph) surrendered. The Ukrainian troops told them, "Unlike Russians, we don't kill prisoners."

We spoke to Anton, Slavo (ph) and another soldier in a makeshift jail in Eastern Ukraine, concealing their faces and not using their real names. The Third Assault Brigade granted us access to the POWs and two of their soldiers were in the room for the interviews. The POWs will soon be transferred to Ukrainian intelligence. They didn't appear to be under duress and agreed to share their stories.

Slavo (ph) also serving time for drugs said conditions in the trenches were grim.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, RUSSIAN PRISONER OF WAR (through translator): Food was scarce. We didn't have medical kits, he says. His commanders took all the painkillers to get high, he recalled. And as a result, issued non-sensical orders. Morale was terrible.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Sergei (ph) was wounded by a grenade before surrendering to Ukrainian troops. He was a contract solider, not a convict. He completed his six-month contract in Kherson and went home.

[20:50:00] But when he hesitated to sign another contract, a military prosecutor gave him a choice, "Prison or back to the front." He ended up outside Bakhmut. Under constant Ukrainian fire, discipline collapsed, the officers fled, all illusions were shattered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, RUSSIAN PRISONER OF WAR (through translator): It was very different from what I saw on TV, a parallel reality says Sergei (ph). I felt fear, pain, and disappointment in my commanders.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): A law passed last year in Russia imposed sentences of three years to ten years for soldiers who surrender voluntarily. If he returns home in a prisoner exchange, Anton may end up again back in a Russian prison.


COOPER: Ben, it's extraordinary they might get sent back to prison because they surrendered. How concerned are they that that's where they'll end up?

WEDEMAN: Well, actually, they're very worried, Anderson, and for instance, Anton, the one we started the piece with, he says -- he told us, he has read the works of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, ' The Gulag Archipelago.' He says he knows his country's history and he's worried about his fate.

Now, the other convict turned soldier, Slavo (ph), told us he's braced for the worst. He signed a six-month contract, but because he was captured, his time in captivity in Ukraine won't be counted, and therefore, in the unlikely event that he will be offered over in an exchange, and in fact, the Russians really don't even want these convicts back. They want real soldiers back. If he goes back in an exchange, he'll be sent right back to the front lines because he hasn't finished his contract.

So, my impression when we spoke to these men was that they were actually relieved, A, to be off the front line and, B, to be somewhere where at least they know that they're not going to be sent right back into what's commonly known as the meat grinder of Bakhmut, Anderson.

COOPER: Ben Wedeman, appreciate it. Thank you.

A world away from that, a different story entirely, a shark on the move at a Florida beach gets swimmers rushing to shore and safety. Plus, several suspected shark bitings in another state. The question is, are there more sharks than normal near the shores? Our Harry Enten has the data next.



COOPER: A scary Fourth of July holiday weekend for some beachgoers. A shark spotted in shallow waters of a crowded beach near Pensacola, Florida on Monday. Those in the water scrambled to get out, no one was hurt. On Long Island, New York, authorities are increasing their shark patrols after five people were bitten likely by sharks in 24 hours, including two 15-year-olds. All had non-life-threatening injuries, thankfully.

There are a lot of shark sightings in the summer, always. So the question is, is any of this unusual? Our Senior Data Reporter Harry Enten joins us.

So, I see these headlines, it gets people worried about sharks. But I feel like the sharks are always out there. Is this unusual?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: No, it's not. In fact, I looked into this and what we see is that the number of shark attacks to basically this same point in the year last year is equivalent pretty much to the number of shark attacks that we've had this year, both in the United States in the low 20s. There's a margin of error. These are verified attacks. Sometimes it's difficult. Sometimes people might confuse with dolphins.

COOPER: We're saying attacks, like we should point out sharks aren't trying to kill people.


COOPER: I always thought watching "Jaws" that shark -- that we are on their food chain. We are not on their food chain. They bite because they're curious and that's how they like sense things, but people bleed out because they are sharks and have sharp teeth.

ENTEN: Yeah, that's exactly right. I think Jaws in large part, that 1970s film has a big thing to do with the reason we're all so afraid of sharks.


ENTEN: And I know that myself, I'm scared of a lot of things and sharks are definitely one of them. I'm also scared of jelly fish in the water which are actually --

COOPER: Yeah, I do. I'm scared of jelly fish. What animals are Americans most afraid of?

ENTEN: Yeah. So, if we essentially look at some polling data which says, OK, who do you fear in the water, right? Or who do fear on land? What are we seeing?

COOPER: Who polls for this?

ENTEN: It turns out Ipsos polled for this.

COOPER: Ipsos factos.


ENTEN: Ipsos polls for a lot of things, as I would like to say, there's a number for everything, Anderson.

COOPER: I bet.

ENTEN: And what we see is that, in fact, snakes are at the top of the list.

COOPER: Oh, really?

ENTEN: We also see alligators at the top of the list.

COOPER: That's understandable.

ENTEN: Sharks are right there as well.

COOPER: Right.

ENTEN: Bees are way down, but my understanding, Anderson, is that you've in fact swam with some sharks?

COOPER: I have, I have, yes.

ENTEN: And do we--

COOPER: I've gone diving with great whites--


COOPER: --off Cape Town, did it for 60 minutes and for CNN without a cage. Yeah, and yeah, that was terrifying.

ENTEN: And you also--

COOPER: But it did change my perspective and made me less fearful of sharks. I mean, they were right around and you can see, they are -- we're not in a cage. Those are great whites. The water's chummed with blood and, you know, it was ludicrous, but it was fascinating.

ENTEN: And you also swam with some crocodiles.

COOPER: I did, I swam with Nile crocodiles, also for 60 minutes which is not to be recommended at all.


It's also incredibly dangerous. But, yeah, I was in these underwater caves with these Nile crocodiles.

ENTEN: Yeah, I mean--

And they kill like -- great whites kill maybe like six people a year on average, I think, and again, it's just by biting. People bleed out. Nile crocodiles actually kill people and eat them. They kill I think like 200 people a year along the bank in the Okavango Delta.

ENTEN: So you're more afraid of crocodiles?

COOPER: I am legitimate -- yeah, of course, people should be more afraid of crocodiles, absolutely. ENTEN: Yeah. You know, what I would--

COOPER: And I'm the idiot who went in the caves with them, without a cage or anything, and there was like -- and I'm like literally staring this thing face-to-face.

ENTEN: But you did it for science, that's what I like (ph). You're a scientist.


COOPER: Yes, I did it for science. What causes more fatalities?

ENTEN: Yeah, so, you know, this is the thing that we should point out. You know how many average people die per year from shark attacks?

COOPER: I'm guessing six. I think it is--

ENTEN: In the United States, it's just one.

COOPER: Oh, really?

ENTEN: One per year in the United States.

COOPER: Oh, OK. I was talking globally. But OK--

ENTEN: In the United States, it's just one. Look at that bees, hornets and wasps -- bees, hornets or wasps kill 62 people.

COOPER: Yeah, because people have allergic reactions.

ENTEN: Right, they have allergic reactions to them. So the fact is when you look at this data, you shouldn't be afraid of sharks. There are going to be all these scary stories, but sharks, they are OK by me (ph).

COOPER: And bees are nice. You shouldn't be afraid. I mean, you know, bees are good.


Harry Enten, thanks. News continues. "CNN Primetime" with Kaitlan Collins starts now.