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At This Hour

Buffalo Shooter Planned Racist Massacre, Joe and Jill Biden Pay Respects to Victims; Voters Head to Polls in Five States. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired May 17, 2022 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Here's what we're watching at this hour.

President Biden confronting racism in Buffalo, paying respects to the victims of the supermarket shooting today. The president's message now to another grieving community.

Decision day: voters head to the polls in five states. Why so many are watching the Pennsylvania primary so closely now.

And fact or fiction: for the first time in decades, lawmakers are holding a public hearing on UFOs and the threat to national security.

Thank you all so much for being here. President Biden and the first lady are in Buffalo right now, paying respects to the 10 people killed in the racist mass shooting at the Tops supermarket. This hour they are meeting in private with the families of the victims, first responders as well as meeting with community leaders.

The president will also be speaking publicly this afternoon, where he's expected to call out the racism that he vowed to fight when he was candidate, the racism we've seen that is pervasive, that is motivating this shooting in Buffalo.

There are also new details coming out about the investigation and how long the suspected shooter was planning this attack. We're talking months. CNN has learned the suspect was considering attacking a church and an elementary school before deciding to target the market.

And there's new video that is capturing the moment that the suspected shooter, can you see him right there in the camo, camo pants, the moment he was taken into custody. Let's get to CNN's Victor Blackwell, live in Buffalo for us.

Victor, what are you learning so far about the president's visit?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Kate, we know right now he is with the families of those victims, as you said, law enforcement, first responders as well. And this community is angry and in pain. And he's here to console

those in pain and thanks those who responded on Saturday. Just a few minutes ago, he was here at the site, his first visit as president to the site of a mass shooting, to lay flowers. He was here with other elected officials, the first lady as well.

And then we're expecting remarks from the president today, in which he will condemn the shooting as "terrorism motivated by a hateful and perverse ideology that tears at the soul of our nation."

Now he will call on Congress, we're expecting, to take legislative action to bar those with mental illness from acquiring weapons. We also note today earlier that the national security adviser to the NSC suggested that there could be some executive action but there were no specificities there.

But today this is about this community. It's a path that presidents have walked through, many cities, big and small, across this country, as there have been a spate of mass shootings for decades stretching on. Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes, Victor, thank you so much.

So let's go to the investigation now where we are learning that the suspected gunman had been planning this attack for months. Police say that he visited the grocery store multiple times and also was considering attacking a school and a church and posting about it all on a gaming platform, gaming website, a platform flagged by the NYPD in a new bulletin Monday.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz has more on this and joins us now.

Shimon, what more are you learning about the suspect's plans?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Right, so we've learned that now police have discovered new information that they believe indicates that he was here back in March, at least three visits to the Tops supermarket.

Of course, all of this coming, police say, from the words of the alleged shooter. These are online postings that they are combing through, that they continue to find. I'm told that there are several social media accounts. So it could mean that we have not seen everything and they are still working through some of the social media accounts.

Certainly troubling to investigators is the idea that he was radicalized. And his radicalization started months ago, perhaps even as long as a year ago or even more. In particular, radicalized by the 2019 Christchurch shooting, of course, in New Zealand.

What they are finding is that there's a lot of similarities between that mass shooting and this mass shooting. And so they are saying that they believe now that that is -- that they are viewing that material, viewing video from that shooting, reading about that shooting, that that radicalized the alleged shooter. So they are continuing to work through that. The other big questions,

obviously, are federal charges and when that is going to be filed.


PROKUPECZ: We expect that to happen in the coming days, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes. So much to go through now, Shimon. More details to learn. Thank you so much for being there. Really appreciate it.

Joining me now is Rasheed Wyatt, a member of the Buffalo City Council and he just met with President Biden as President Biden is meeting with members of the community there.

Councilman, thank you for being -- for being here with me. I want to first start with what we were just hearing from my colleague, Shimon Prokupecz, about the investigation, the fact that the suspected gunman was in Buffalo not only the day before but was at the supermarket months ago to case it out.

What is your reaction to that?

RASHEED WYATT, MEMBER, BUFFALO CITY COUNCIL: That's very troubling, Kate. And I think that, again, this community is hurting and we have our government and our elected officials and FBI and everyone else here to protect us.

But we weren't protected on that day. As I look and hear about the families and how they have been affected and hearing about the children that lost a grandmother, an uncle, a cousin, it really grieves my heart.

And, again, the people who are here to protect us on that day did not protect us with the information that they had to make sure that we were safe.

BOLDUAN: I mean, have you this documented, posted in April on a social media platform. And then -- called discord -- and then have you that hate-filled rant posted later on 4chan. The fact that this was out there for months, we're hearing these details, you know, that he's been possibly radicalized for months, maybe even a year, as Shimon says.

Do you see these as missed warning signs, councilman?

WYATT: I do and I think that, again, we have to do a better job in protecting our citizens. And this was an opportunity to ensure that happened. And, again, we have families who are bereaved, we have 10 families who have been deeply affected by this tragedy. And we missed this opportunity.

You know, we have to look at this and really understand that, when we missed our calls, we missed those signals, people's lives are impacted and that's what happened here in Buffalo.

And so I'm saddened to hear it. The more information I hear, the more sad I began to feel, is that we could have done a better job, we could have averted this and this individual could have been apprehended before he devastated our community and these families.

BOLDUAN: Devastated and we're showing pictures -- we're scrolling through the pictures of the 10 victims from this shooting. And it's so frustrating and sad to see their faces and to talk about, what you're just saying, what was missed in the days and months ahead.

WYATT: And, Kate, yes, and it's really frustrating. It's frustrating for me as an a elected official. That's my responsibility, to try to make sure that my community is safe. But in this case they weren't. And I wasn't able to do what I needed to do because it seems that there were layers that missed these cues that this individual was radicalized.

He had this plan set up for three, four months. And this is the fallout of it. We, as Blacks, African Americans in this country, want to be protected. We want to be loved and we want to care. We are a caring people.

But it seems that many times, when I go back, during the civil rights movement, when I think about Medgar Evers and Emmett Till, we continue to see these things, where we're not protected. I think about what happened to Martin Luther King.

These are still things in our minds that we understand and recognize.

If we're loved and cared for, if we're citizens and equal to every other citizen in our country, why aren't we treated the same way?

We still have racism in our country. We have racism still in Buffalo. Don't get it twisted. We still have racism here.

But what are we going to do as a community?

I believe this individual thought he was tearing us apart but he's really brought us together. And I'm looking forward to the days and opportunities for us to get stronger, to put forth a plan working with our governor, who's doing a great job in dealing with gun violence in our community and trying to get guns off the street.

But we call on our congressmen and our Congress people in New York state are doing a great job but the senators are preventing legislation that protect African Americans. We did some quick turnaround when it came to Asians. But when it comes to African Americans, they have been put on a back burner.

So we want Congress to hear us loudly and not allow another event like this to happen, for us to take action. In 10 days this will blow over and people won't think about it. But we don't want people to forget about it. We want them to remember this day and those families who will be affected forever, forever.

BOLDUAN: And that's --

(CROSSTALK) WYATT: Words, words, words; we need action.

BOLDUAN: It's not just in making sure these lives are remembered. It's not just on you. It's not just on the community. It's on all of us to not turn away from another mass shooting.


BOLDUAN: As I said, you just met with -- you were able to meet with the president and the first lady. They are there. They are meeting with some of the families of the victims we know.

What can you tell us about it?

What did the president say?


WYATT: Well, the president hasn't come up yet. He hasn't come out to speak yet. But it was nice to see these families here just to hear a consoling word, comfort from the President of the United States.

But we have to do more after that, because after the funerals and those things, these families have to live and go on without the patriarchs and matriarchs of their families. We really have to do more to really protect our citizens, especially African Americans.

We feel like we've been put to the side. And, you know, with the Voting Rights Act and all those things in Congress, in which they put us to the side and don't think that our voices matter, if we believe Black Lives Matter, then we need to be taken up on action on this legislation to make certain that our citizens and especially African Americans, who have gone through such a tough time, they are in our nation's history, are addressed and made to feel whole and like they are citizens of this country as well as everyone else.

BOLDUAN: Councilman, thank you for coming on. Thank you very much for your time.

Let's turn now to California where the man that police say opened fire inside an Orange County church, he's going to appear in court. Authorities say that this was apparently a politically motivated hate crime and hate attack against the Taiwanese community. CNN's Stephanie Elam is tracking all of this and joins us now.

Stephanie, what are you hearing about this court appearance today?

What is going to happen?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are expecting to have this happen at some point today, Kate. We're not exactly sure when. But we do know right now that this shooter, the assailant in this case, is facing six felony charges, one of murder and five of attempted murder.

We're also getting a better idea of exactly what happened in that luncheon when the shooter opened fire inside of this church. In fact, Michael Tsai was there and he spoke to our affiliate KCAL/CBS about what happened and how it really was the entire congregation's effort to stop this man. Listen to him.


MICHAEL TSAI, SHOOTING WITNESS: As the shooting stopped, I saw the pastor coming from that side. So I just ran out to put him down together. The other member tie him up with belt and then Ms. Chan bring the cable.


ELAM: It's really phenomenal. Kate, you've got to keep in mind that these are senior citizens mostly, who were there in attendance, who rallied together to bring this man down.

We also heard that his gun jammed and that's part of the reason why it wasn't a worse situation. And then also so many people hailing Dr. John Chang (ph) as a hero because of the fact that he charged the shooter and was able to distract him enough for the pastor to then throw the chair at him, all of them working together to make this happen.

We've learned more, too, about the shooter, the fact that he was born in Mainland China but grew up in Taiwan and became a U.S. citizen many, many years ago. Kate.

BOLDUAN: Stephanie, thank you for that.

I'm going to go now to Texas, where there are new developments there as well. Dallas police announcing that they have arrested a suspect linked to the shooting at a Korean owned hair salon, injuring three people. And there are questions now about possible links to other incidents. CNN's Alexandra Field joins me with more on this.

What are you picking up?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Along with the arrest, we're now hearing from the FBI Dallas division, that they are opening a federal investigation into hate crimes connected to that shooting at the hair salon.

This happening while Dallas police say that they have taken someone into custody connected to that shooting. It happened at a Korean-owned hair salon. It was a week ago. Police say that a gunman entered the salon, started shouting -- started shooting, left three women injured and then took off in a red minivan.

That red minivan may be the link to two other cases, where police say that a suspect fired on Asian-owned businesses in the Dallas area. Both of those other businesses actually in Dallas' Korea Town. They now believe that the shooting at the hair salon was fueled by hate.

They believe that, because of the van, it may be linked to those other two shootings. The mayor of Dallas saying that, if this was, in fact, a hate crime, it is chilling. It is deeply disturbing. They have stepped up patrols in Asian communities. And we should be hearing more about the arrest later this afternoon.

BOLDUAN: OK. Alex, we'll be leaning on that. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Coming up still for us, voters heading to the polls in several states today. The key races to watch in today's big primaries. That's next.





BOLDUAN: It is Election Day in several states across America today. Polls are open in Kentucky, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Idaho and Oregon in the biggest day of the midterm elections so far. Much of the focus will be on the hotly contested races in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Let's go there. CNN's Kristen Holmes is live in Pittsburgh for us.

Kristen, what are you hearing from voters?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, we're actually in front of a polling station here in Pittsburgh, where we just watched David McCormick, who is one of the front-runners in that Republican Senate primary, cast his ballot.

And what we're hearing from voters is a lot of uncertainty, because that race in particular is essentially a three-way tie. You have McCormick. He is a former hedge fund CEO. You have Trump-endorsed celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz.

And you have late-surging ultra conservative political novice Kathy Barnette. All of them making their final pitches across Pennsylvania yesterday and Oz had a little bit of extra help from former president Donald Trump, who called in to his final rally to tout the candidate.


HOLMES: He also recorded a robocall, bashing Barnette. Again, as we've talked about the last couple of days, Barnette has seen this late surge in the polls, which has thrown several people, including those two other front-runners, off in that race.

Now the other race I want to talk about here on the Republican side is that governor's race because Trump endorsed election denier Doug Mastriano, who is currently the front-runner.

So this test of Barnette and Mastriano is real becoming a test on just how far right conservatives will go, particularly when it comes to whether or not these candidates can actually compete in a general election.

And I will tell you, I've talked to strategists across the country, who are ripping their hair out over this. They believe and these Republican strategists believe, they believe that this is actually going to impact them in the general and could cost them the seats.

So a lot of races here. And just really fast, we also have the Democratic primary for Senate. John Fetterman is still in the hospital. The lieutenant governor suffered from a stroke late last week. There's a question there. He's been leading by a huge margin but hasn't been on the trail since Friday.

So a little bit of a wrinkle as to whether or not that impacts that comfortable lead that he had had. A lot of drama here in Pennsylvania, Kate.

BOLDUAN: A lot of drama. Thanks for laying it out, Kristen. Appreciate it. For more on this, joining me is CNN political director David Chalian.

Let's focus in on Pennsylvania and then we can broaden out to other states, because it's the biggest day of the midterms so far today. This Republican Senate primary, it's been one to watch for quite some time.

I mean, it was seen early on, as an interesting look at kind of the power of Donald Trump within the party in terms of his endorsement. And then this late surge with Kathy Barnette, as Kristen is talking about. It's made that kind of question even more interesting.

What are you watching on that?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, it's almost like, has Trump given birth to this MAGA movement that he no longer is in full control of?

I think that's one question tonight. We're clearly watching the Trump scorecard because this is how the former president, as he wants to maintain this position of power inside the Republican Party, this is what he'll use to go to voters with and say, hey, you know, buy back candidates and they get the actual victory at the end of the day.

You guys are going to continue to follow me here. That's key for him to continue to make that argument, both the voters and Republican- elected officials. So we'll watch to see if he can get Mehmet Oz across the finish line.

But as you note, Kate, Kathy Barnette is trying to out-Trump Trump in this race and we do we look for the question to be answered tonight.

Is sort of the movement even bigger than the former president himself right now?

We'll see if she's able to galvanize a winning coalition here among those MAGA supporters, even though Donald Trump, as Kristen noted, is sending out robocalls, trying to diminish her candidacy. He put out a statement saying he doesn't think she can win in the fall.

BOLDUAN: And in the strangest of strange campaign wild cards, both of the leading Democratic candidates in Pennsylvania, John Fetterman running for Senate and Josh Shapiro running for governor, both of them are on the sidelines tonight. Fetterman recovering from a stroke and Shapiro just announced that he has COVID.

CHALIAN: Yes such a strange set of circumstances. Fetterman says he's expected to make a full recovery but he still is in the hospital recovering from that stroke. It occurred at the end of last week. And his campaign was totally opaque about it over the weekend. They did not announce it until Sunday.

What had happened, they had just kept cancelling events. And then finally they had some transparency and acknowledged to the voters of Pennsylvania what had occurred with Fetterman. And, again, he's expected to make a full recovery.

He put out a picture last night, surrounded by his family, but will not be at his own campaign headquarters, potential victory party tonight as the election results come in. Josh Shapiro, the attorney general, who is clearly poised to become the Democratic nominee for governor, as you said, announced that he had COVID this morning and he tested positive.

He said he has mild symptoms and is isolating at home. So he, too, won't be able to partake in a celebration.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk thematically as we look at races across the rest of the country as well. You see it in Pennsylvania, too. But kind of, I don't know, the battle for the soul of each party, moderate versus progressive Democrats, mainstream versus more fringe Republicans, including, you know, election deniers.

It seems to be happening in a lot of different states right now.

CHALIAN: Kate, this is what makes primaries so interesting, right, it is voters inside that party, who are determining what kind of candidate they want to put forth as the standard bearer in the general election.

And so those intraparty dynamics get sort of worked out. You're right. There are some Democratic contests, one in Oregon in the House race. Kurt Schrader, the incumbent sort of mainstream establishment Democrat, is facing a progressive challenger.


CHALIAN: Joe Biden felt he needed to get involved here. It's his first endorsement, he went with Schrader to back the incumbent. And we'll see how that works out tonight. We see a similar dynamic, progressive versus moderate in Western Pennsylvania in the 12th congressional district. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren in for the progressive.

Is that what Democrats are going to put forward in a battleground state like Pennsylvania?

This is clearly a safer Democratic district. I would also note on the Republican side as you said, there's a real question here, so if folks like Doug Mastriano as Kristen mentioned and Kathy Barnette, two election deniers, totally do not believe in the legitimacy of Joe Biden's election, despite no evidence that there's any widespread fraud in the election, if they end up as the nominees both for Senate and governor on the Republican side in Pennsylvania tonight, in the two marquee contests, what does that say about the Republican Party?

And does it hurt their chances come November in a critical battleground state like Pennsylvania?

BOLDUAN: We'll be getting some of those answers tonight. Great to see you, David.


CHALIAN: Happy primary day.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. You as well, my friend. Be sure to watch election results as they come in. CNN's special live coverage of "ELECTION NIGHT IN AMERICA" starts tonight at 7:00 pm Eastern.

Coming up for us still, the last holdout in Mariupol is ending. Ukrainians evacuating the steel plant we've talked so much about, as Russians take control. Details in a live report next.