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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Motivated By "Hate;" Officials Give Update On Supermarket Massacre; Buffalo Officials Give Update On Supermarket Massacre; Key Primaries For Governor And Senate In Pennsylvania Tomorrow. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired May 16, 2022 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Maya Angelou once said hate has caused a lot of problems in the world but not solved one yet.
THE LEAD starts right now.
A supermarket massacre motivated by racism and other forms of hate, officials say. This hour, more victims identified, as we learn new details about another threat from the suspected killer months before Saturday's attack.
Plus, Ukraine's secret police on a special mission to weed out Russian spies. Spies among the Ukrainian military and civilian population.
And breaking now, new recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics for parents dealing with the baby formula shortage. We will bring that right to you.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. And we start today with our national lead. Any moment, we expect an update from Buffalo police after that racist massacre in Upstate New York. Ten innocent people killed by a racist domestic terrorist who targeted individuals in a grocery in a predominantly Black area of town on Saturday.
Local officials say it could have been worse. Police believe the shooter planned to continue his rampage after leaving the store with his sick goal of killing as many Black people as possible. The shooter was wearing tactical gear, armed with an AR-15 style semiautomatic rifle. Police say he had surveilled the area the day before.
This new video just in shows the moment the suspect was arrested. The Erie County sheriff called the attack a straight up racially motivated hate crime from somebody outside of our community, unquote. The alleged killer lived at home with his parents more than three hours away.
Today, investigators are parsing through a 180-page screed allegedly written by the killer. The author details how he had been radicalized by reading online message boards and was fixated on what's known as white replacement theory. That's this racist false idea that forces are conspiring to slowly and intentionally replace white people in the United States with minorities and immigrants. Elements of this racist false theory have been cited as motivating other mass murderers in recent years, ones who targeted minorities, from the Tree of Life synagogue massacre of Jews in Pittsburgh 2018, to the El Paso Walmart massacre of Latinos, and the mosque attacks on Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019.
CNN's Brian Todd starts off our coverage from Conklin, New York, where the suspected killer is from with more on what investigators are learned today about the meticulous planning behind this horrific attack.
SHERIFF JOHN GARCIA, ERIE COUNTY, NEW YORK: This was a straight-up hate crime, pure evil.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Police are learning about the meticulous planning that went into the massacre of ten people at a Buffalo store, and how it could have been worse.
JOSEPH GRAMAGLIA, BUFFALO POLICE COMMISSIONER: He had planned had he gotten out of here to continue his rampage and continue shooting people, even spoken about possibly going to another store.
TODD: The gunman killed several people in the parking lot, exchanged gunfire with a security guard and shot more people in the store before surrendering to police.
GRAMAGLIA: He was heavily armed. He had tactical gear. He had a tactical helmet on. He had a camera he was livestreaming while he was doing it.
TODD: CNN obtained a 180-page statement attributed to the suspect, which was posted online just before the attack. The document details how the shooter had been radicalized by online message boards, describing the great replacement theory which suggests the false belief that the white race is dying out.
LETITIA JAMES, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: The N-word, which unfortunately was carved into one of his weapons. Clearly, he was bent on hate. He was focused on replacement theory, this theory that white individuals will be replaced by immigrants and people of color and Jewish individuals.
TODD: The shooter allegedly wrote he had chosen the store based on the racial makeup of its zip code. And he had been serious about carrying out the attack since January.
He had been buying ammo, surplus military gear, and shooting irregularly and had mapped out the store intending to shoot all black people. The main gun, a Bushmaster XM-15, was bought from this gun store before he illegally modified it.
But according to "The New York Times," he had no problem purchasing the weapon, even after an incident at Susquehanna High School last June when he was a student there, on the honor roll, school documents show.
GARCIA: The gun dealer was able to sell the weapons to this individual because there was no red flags that came up.
TODD: A spokesperson for the school district tells CNN the suspect was interviewed by police after he made an ominous reference to murder-suicide in a school project, although there was no specific threat.
GARCIA: He stated facility, I'm not sure if it was a hospital or a mental health facility for a day in a half.
TODD: The gunman's neighbors we spoke didn't want to give their names. They're frustrated.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something got missed. You know, if he was flagged in high school, why didn't he get the mental health care he needed then? The system failed him that caused this tragedy to occur.
TODD: They say the shooter was quiet and seemed like a normal teenager.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They found out he was, I sure as hell hope he isn't from Conklin. And then it turned out he was. And then turns out he's on my street, so we were all totally shocked about this whole thing.
TODD (on camera): The suspect has pleaded not guilty to first degree murder. I spoke to the owner of a convenience store where the suspect worked until about three months ago who described him as a quiet employee. He didn't stand out much beyond that and the owner said to me, quote, I'm sure he'll pay a huge price for this, as he should -- Jake.
TAPPER: Brian Todd in Conklin, New York, for us, thanks so much.
Today, we're learning more about the ten people who senselessly lost their lives on Saturday. They ranged in age from 32 to 86. Among them was Aaron Salter. Mr. Salter was working as the supermarket security guard. He fired multiple shots at the suspect.
And as CNN's Jason Carroll reports, his actions saved the lives of multiple people inside the store when the rampage began.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He died while trying to save others. That's how those who knew Aaron Salter say he should be remembered.
MAYOR BYRON BROWN, BUFFALO, NEW YORK: He was a strong individual. He was a warm individual. A real caring person, cared about the community, someone who devoted a lot of his life to public safety, to keeping the community safe.
CARROLL: Buffalo's mayor, Myron Brown, knew Salter for years, back when Salter was a Buffalo police officer.
BROWN: I remember first meeting him through his parents, Aaron and Carol Salter, very warm people. They had a business in the community. And I saw him as a loving son, always trying to take care of his parents. Make sure his parents were okay.
That's the kind of person that he was. He had a caring spirit and a desire to take care of other people.
CARROLL: That desire helped Salter rise through the ranks in the police department. He eventually became a lieutenant. His love of community and law enforcement was one of the reasons he went to work as a security guard at the Tops supermarket after he retired from the force. Saturday, armed only with a handgun, he engaged the shooter.
GRAMAGLIA: He went down fighting. He came in. He went towards the gunfire. He went towards the fight. He shot the individual. But because of his armor plating vest, it had no effect on him.
CARROLL: Law enforcement officials say it is clear he saved many lives.
FRAGRANCE HARRIS STANFIELD, SHOOTING SURVIVOR: My daughter was crouched down in the front end for the entire shooting.
CARROLL: His actions gave Fragrance Harris Stanfield who works at the market with her daughter the time they needed to take cover.
STANFIELD: Everyone started running at that point. I grabbed my daughter and kept running and kept running until I got all the way to the back door.
CARROLL: Those who knew Salter say even though he retired from the force, he never stopped being a police officer.
BROWN: I think he would want to be remembered as someone who cared about his community, who cares about -- cared about his family, and someone that did his job and stood up when other people were in danger, trying to keep others safe.
SALTER (on camera): Salter was 55 years old. Even though he was not a police officer at the time of his death, due to his actions, there have been this movement up there in buffalo to have him buried with a formal service as if he was an active police officer. The mayor is behind that. Waiting to hear from the family to see what is best -- Jake.
TAPPER: Jason Carroll in New York, thanks so much.
Officials in Buffalo are starting a news conference about the latest information. Let's listen in. BROWN: Continue to move forward as a strong city of Buffalo, county
of Erie in western New York region. Late today, we have been made aware of many social media posts going around with possible threats. I want to be clear, Buffalo police and our partnering law enforcement agencies standing here are investigating these social media posts and will prosecute if necessary.
And I want to emphasize, arrests have already been made, and you'll be hearing more about those. I'm now going to turn things over to Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia.
GRAMAGLIA: Thank you, Mayor.
So as I said before, this is a very long investigation. It's going to continue to be a very lengthy investigation.
The scene is still being processed, search warrants have been obtained and executed and they will still be obtained. There's a lot of digital footprint, electronics that we'll have to go through. So that process is ongoing. Information has also come as a result of some of this investigation that the individual was here a few months ago, back in early March. So as I said, there's a lot of material to go through, so that we have confirmed now it appears that individual was here back in early March. At this point, like I said, going to be a lengthy investigation. Things will change. Information will change as we become aware of that. That's about all I have on the investigation at this point.
BROWN: We'll now hear from U.S. attorney for the western district, Trini Ross.
TRINI ROSS, U.S. ATTORNEY FOR WESTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: The federal investigation is continuing. We're working again jointly with our state and local law enforcement partners. Regarding the threats that have been going around on the internet, we have appointed contact person in my office to deal specifically with those threats. As we have several prosecutors dealing with the investigation of the crime that took place on Saturday.
So the U.S. attorney's office is actively engaged in this investigation. We will continue to be. And we'll continue to work with our law enforcement partners and district attorney's office, D.A. Flynn as necessary.
BROWN: We'll now hear from Erie County District Attorney John Flynn.
JOHN FLYNN, ERIE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: So I want to touch on a couple topics right here this afternoon. And I'll piggyback on what the mayor said at the end here. First of all, those of you who are local reporters know my M.O. and how I proceed with talking about investigations and matters during the course of the legal process. Some of you from out of town, let me explain how I work. Once an arraignment has happened, I pretty much shut down. Because the
legal proceeding has started, and I just do not talk during the course of the legal proceeding. In this matter right here, obviously, this is a very high-profile case. There's a lot of information out there.
I made an exception for today. So today, Monday being the first business day since Saturday, I have done a number of interviews today. I will continue to do some more interviews tonight. I'm here standing right now in front of you, but after today is over, I am done.
And after today is over, the next proceeding that will take place will be the felony hearing. And once the felony hearing is over on Thursday, the matter is going to go for lack of a better phrase, into grand jury posture. So once it goes into grand jury posture, the envelope of secrecy now is going to cover everything. And we're pretty much going to shut down all investigative, all prosecution information.
So that's kind of the game plan going forward. I can tell you right now that there has been a new development with regard to the prosecution. The -- as all of you know, on Saturday night at the arraignment, the defense attorney made a request for a forensic examination. That request was to the judge that two medical doctors look at my client and evaluate him to determine whether or not we can proceed. Less than 24 hours later, the defense attorney withdrew that request.
So, that forensic examination has now been withdrawn. I don't see the need to ask for it myself, so I'm not going to ask for it. The judge has the ability sua sponte, on his own for those who didn't take Latin, on his own to order the investigation, a forensic. He did not feel the need to do that, so the mental health forensic part of this has now become a moot point and is now off the table.
So we are proceeding now to Thursday's felony hearing. One of two things is going to happen at that felony hearing.
The defendant is going to waive the felony hearing or the felony hearing is going to happen on Thursday and then we'll go forward. Again, just kind of -- I'm trying to let everyone know in advance, once that felony hearing happens on Thursday, the quote/unquote grand jury investigation is going to begin, and I will not be able to talk more about anything having to do with this investigation until there has been an indictment on this matter.
Again, for those of you out of town, my M.O. is after an indictment, there will be an arraignment on the indictment. And I will do a press conference on the arraignment on the indictment. But then --
Once I do a briefing on the arraignment on the indictment, I again shut down again until trial. So just kind of want to let everyone from out of town how I operate. I have been operating that way for the past 5 1/2 years. I'm going to continue to operate that way even though this is a high-profile case. The second thing I want to say is that, you know, I understand that
there is a court of public opinion out there. I understand that there's the narrative out there that there is so much evidence, it's overwhelming. This guy is guilty, this guy did it, et cetera, et cetera. Et cetera, et cetera.
I understand that court of opinion. I understand emotions are high. I understand the rawness of this matter. However, I do not operate in the court of public opinion. I operate in a court of law.
And this defendant is innocent until proven guilty. Let me repeat that. He is innocent until proven guilty. He has only been charged right now with one charge. And that's it.
It is an accusation. It is an allegation. And that's all it is. As a prosecutor, I have three communities that I have to protect their rights. I have to protect the rights of the public, the victims, and the defendant.
And I have to insure that the defendant has a fair trial here in Buffalo, New York. That is my job, to insure a fair and impartial trial. And I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that that happens.
The last thing I want to talk about, and I want to piggyback what the mayor said, there's a lot of chatter out there. There is a law of threats out there that I'm hearing about, and that we're hearing about in law enforcement. One of those threats happened yesterday. 52-year- old man from buffalo yesterday allegedly, and again, allegedly, called up a pizzeria at 12:05 p.m. and made threatening comments to the employee referencing what happened at Tops. Forty-five minutes later, allegedly, that same individual called up a brewery in downtown Buffalo and made similar threatening comments again alluding to what happened at Tops.
The pizzeria and the brewery called BDD. As usual, bpd did a great job. Found out who this guy was, went and arrested him last night. We held him last night because it was a "D" felony and under the New York state bail laws we can hold someone overnight for a "D" felony which we did. We held him overnight, and we arraigned him this morning on a "D" felony making a terrorist threat, facing up to seven years in jail.
Now, what's ironic is this is a nonbailable qualifying offense.
And in this case here, the judge ordered a forensic on him as well. So he's being held pending a forensic, but once that forensic is over, he has to walk free.
That's something we also have to tweak in the bail laws right there. We can hold someone overnight and arrest them on a "D" felony and hold them on an appearance ticket. But after he gets arraigned, we can't hold him and get him on bail. We have to let him walk out the door, which is going to happen in the case once the forensic is over. But I go off on a tangent there, I'm sorry. Let me get back to the
threats here that's going on. This is what's going to happen if you make threats. You are going to get arrested. And then I am going to prosecute you.
So let this case send a message out there to any tough guy or anyone who wants to be cute out there and sending messages or threatening anyone or threatening to do anything or putting anything on social media. I will find you. And I will arrest you, and I will prosecute you.
And I don't mean to speak for Trini, but show will she.
So let this case send a message, again, this man is innocent until proven guilty as well. He has just been charged. It's an allegation. I'm not saying he did it, but I'm saying he's facing seven years in jail, and that's what anyone in the public is going to face if they want to threat, if they want to reference the awful tragedy at Tops.
BROWN: Thank you, Mr. District Attorney. I want to thank the media for bearing with us. This is a very active working firehouse, so there might be more in and outs with fire apparatus.
Now, I want to just thank again law enforcement that has worked in a collective and collaborative way. Yesterday, I heard from the director of the national FBI, Director Wray, pledging the resources of the FBI at the very highest level.
Steve Belongia, the special agent in charge of the FBI here in Buffalo, has been a tremendous partner, and we're going to hear from special agent in charge Belongia right now.
STEVE BELONGIA, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Thank you, Mayor. I just want to make a couple comments.
First, there have been questions in the community about when the processing of the Tops grocery store will be completed. The FBI laboratory at Quantico has provided advanced tools and advanced training teams that have been trained in special techniques that can be used to map the location, can be used to create digital models, can be used to create physical models as well as mapping the trajectory of bullets.
This process is painstaking. It takes time. And we will continue as quickly as possible to process that scene so it can be released back to this community, which relies on this grocery store so much.
But I will say, we have to take our time. We have to be methodical. That is what the victims of this horrible tragedy deserve. Also, to the mayor's point, besides the evidence response resources that the FBI has provided, the entire FBI buffalo office is dedicated to this investigation. Along with enormous resources from our state, federal, and local partners, including the ATF.
We have resources that have been provided by headquarters, including from our domestic terrorism unit, from our criminal investigative division, from our victims services division, who has sent approximately ten individuals up to help care for the needs of the victims in this horrible tragedy.
Along with that, our headquarters has sent up resources from our evidence -- our employee assistance program, rather, who is going to help. They are going to help tend to the needs of the first responders, not only at the FBI but also with our state and local partners, including the Buffalo PD, who had a lot of officers that were in on that horrible scene.
So we are putting all available resources on this investigation. All of us collectively, state, federal, and local, are working around the clock to get answers and get justice for the victims of this horrible crime.
Turn it over to Chief Garcia.
SHERIFF JOSE GARCIA, ERIE COUNTY, NEW YORK: Thank you, Steve.
The Erie County sheriff's office continues to provide all resources, all manpower to both the Buffalo Police Department and the FBI here. I'm so proud to work shoulder to shoulder with Commissioner Joseph Gramalia and Special Agent in Charge Steven Belongia, and also our prosecution, the Honorable John Flynn, and the D.A.'s office, Ms. Trini Ross and the U.S. attorney's office.
You can be confident that you have a great team in place and everything will be done properly. I am so proud of the community. I walked around today.
And this individual that came here and tried to divide the city of Buffalo and Erie County did not succeed. People are stronger. We're more united than ever. And kudos to all of our people.
Again, my condolences and that of the sheriff's office goes out to all the victims and their families. In regards to incarcerated individual 157103, he continues to be in our custody. He continues to be on suicide watch, which means he's in a cloth smock, which is ligature proof, with a blanket which is ligature proof. He's in a segregated unit, aside from the rest of the general population, and that's for his safety.
He continues to be offered both health, physical and mental health, so he will -- I will insure that he will continue to be safe from himself and from everyone else. Again, thank you to Mayor Brown and thank you to all of the law enforcement and working together. This is what makes buffalo special. Thank you.
BROWN: We will now hear from the majority leader of the New York state assembly, Crystal Peoples-Stokes.
CRYSTAL PEOPLE-STOKES, MAJORITY LEADER OF THE NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. This is a community that is without a doubt in a lot of pain. People are hurting.
But I want to commend law enforcement who are collectively working with the mayor and his team to do exactly what should happen, and that is to make sure that justice prevails.
I will remind you all, though, that as an African American, there are a lot of people in this community who are hurting because they know that justice for all is not specific enough. Sometimes people get left out of that justice. This can't happen this time. It can't happen this time.
I understand, just like the guy who called in the threats to the pizzeria and to the beer establishment, you're innocent until you're proven guilty. But this young man was walking around with a camera on his head. He showed the whole world what he was doing.
And I understand he has to go through a court. I get that. But a lot of the anger that people are having aside from the fact their loved ones have been murdered for going to the supermarket is that justice is not specific enough. This can't be another one of those cases.
I want to honor all the people calling my office offering support to this community, including the businesses that have called and offered to support the families with food, with hotels, with airlines to be able to get here to come to a funeral, including the people who are willing to help pay for the funeral. People have poured out their love to Buffalo, and that's what we're going to pour back. That's how we're going to heal.
People who want to bring us hate and expect us to assume that hate because that's what they have is not going to happen here. There will not be an outpouring of hate. There will be an outpouring of healing. We will all heal together, and we will insure this time, Mr. D.A., Mr. Law Enforcement, and Ms. Trini, that justice for all is specific enough and it means everybody gets justice in America. Thank you.
BROWN: We'll now hear from the Erie County executive, Mark Poloncarz.
MARK POLONCARZ, ERIE COUNTY EXECUTIVE: Thank you, Mr. Mayor, and on behalf of the people of Erie County, I want to commend the tremendous work of the entire team, starting of course with the city of Buffalo, with the Buffalo Police Department.
It truly has been a united effort to address this. Majority leader is correct, there's a lot of people in pain. There's a lot of people hurting. And truthfully, none more so than the family of those who were taken on Saturday.
The Erie County medical examiner's office is in the process of performing the autopsies. We have had calls as to when the deceased will be released to the families through the funeral directors. I have been advised by the Erie County medical examiner's office they expected to complete the autopsies by the end of day on Wednesday. As a family member, if you have questions, you should contact your
funeral director, and the director will make a direct contact then to the Erie County medical examiner's office. The Erie County Department of Mental Health has been coordinating mental health services for the community.
As most people know, we have a drop-in center at the Johnnie B. Wiley Center, just not too far away from here, 1,100 Jefferson. We started that yesterday, 9:00 to 9:00. It is open today 9:00 to 9:00. We had an increased usage of the Johnnie B. Wiley Center for both adults and we have specialized services for children. And therefore, we will be continuing the Johnnie B. Wiley Center drop-in mental health service counseling.
If you just want to talk to somebody, regardless at whether you were at the scene, you're a relative of a victim, or just someone who's in pain like, you know, we know so many in our community are, you can come down to the Johnnie B. Wiley Center and you will have a discussion with a trained counselor.
For those who are not able to go to the Johnnie B. Wiley Center, we also, of course, have our 24-hour crisis hotline through crisis services. You can call 716-834-3131 to talk to a trained individual anytime. It doesn't matter if it's afternoon or 3:00 in the morning. It is a 24-hour staffed phone number.
And I want to thank everyone in the local crisis intervention field and mental health counselors. They have all come together to offer their services so that the people of this community can heal as quickly as possible. And then of course, we know that the tops supermarket is closed.
It's an integral part of this community. Because of its closure, it's created a food desert in his neighborhood. So there are many partners who, of course, are working to insure that the community has access to fresh quality food.
And I want to thank Tops markets as well as Feed More of western New York for collaborating with the Erie County Department of Social Services and Department of Health. There's a food distribution center at the resource council of Western New York building at 347 East Ferry, which is literally a couple blocks away from the site.
There are stores, of course, neighborhood stores that exist, but many don't have fresh food and meats and vegetables. There's a refrigerated vehicle on site provided by tops markets and feed more is doing the same thing so individuals don't have to travel out of their immediate neighborhood to access fresh quality food.
The goal is to continue that through May 27th. We understand that there was a significant line of individuals there today, and that will continue. We may open up another site in the immediate area so that there is sufficient locations for the public to get to. If we do open that other site, we will announce it to the general public.
But once again, we're all working together to not only help this neighborhood that's in crisis and the individuals who unfortunately are dealing with serious mental health concerns as a result of this, but to heal as a community so that we are stronger.
This gentleman came here to hopefully divide our community. He did the complete opposite. We are united like we have never been before. Thank you.
MAYOR BYRON BROWN, BUFFALO, NEW YORK: This mass shooting event in Buffalo has brought together many elected officials at every level of government, elected representatives working to make sure the people of this community are taken care of in the aftermath of this horrible violence.
We're joined by Council President Darius Pridgen. We're going to hear from the council president.
DARIUS PRIDGEN, BUFFALO COMMON COUNCIL PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mayor.
Buffalo's known as the city of good neighbors. And that's why it took somebody to come from outside of Buffalo to come into this city of good neighbors. It wasn't somebody from inside.
But what happened, and if you walk these streets right now, people have arrived from not just western New York but from across the country, people have come into our churches, people have offered help. And people have stood up.
I want to be clear. It's not enough to send money if we don't stand up against racism. If we don't stand up against those who feel that white supremacy as a system is okay.
So I have been encouraging people who have called me all day long to say what can I do? Tell the truth. Tell the truth that this is not the only racist, not the only white supremacist believer in our country. And have the uncomfortable conversations at home. Have the uncomfortable conversations on your job.
Lose some friends who disagree with you. And when you say to someone, especially someone who has been through this tragedy, I'm checking on you. If you just say I'm checking on you, it's not enough.
After saying I'm checking on you, you might want to stand up and say, and what happened in Buffalo, New York, was horrible and horrific and should not be tolerated in any country, in any community.
Our community is stronger. I'm joined by common council members who are here. We're stronger, and we're going to get stronger. We may not be the same, but we're going to be okay.
Finally, and thank you, mayor, I'm most concerned and thank you, county executive, for the counselors. I had to send two teenagers to school today.
My wife said no. I said yes. I won. About 11:00, I lost. Because I called her and said you can go get them from school.
And when she picked up my youngest, he had already had a horrible day. Our community needs to take advantage of those mental health counselors and not only our community, but communities who are affected and hurting across this country to make sure we take care of us. Thank you, mayor, and thank you for your leadership and to all of our --
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: A city in pain. We have been listening to an update from various officials in Buffalo, New York, after that horrific racist rampage on Saturday at the grocery store, targeting because it's in a predominantly Black area. The officials announced that a suspect is in custody. He remains on suicide watch. He's isolated in jail.
Official as also detailing other threats over the last few days in Buffalo, including some on social media. A different individual who allegedly called two businesses and referenced Saturday's massacre who is now potentially facing jail time himself.
CNN's Brian Todd is in Conklin, New York, where the suspected shooter is from, several hours away from Buffalo.
And, Brian, what stood out to you when you heard the officials talking about the investigation?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, what stood out to me is the new information that we're getting that this suspect, Payton Gendron, visited Buffalo in early March. That is very significant. It speaks to the planning that he allegedly did for this attack.
Now, we need more details, of course, there are reports out there that he scoped out that particular store. But the officials didn't really allude to that. We do know that they did say earlier today that they believe he planned on leaving that store after his attack and going to other stores, possibly down the street.
So, of course, you put those two items together, that he visited Buffalo in early March. Did he visit that store and scope it out in some detail? It looks like given the visit in early March and the plan to go down the street, he might have at least scoped out that store and a couple others, Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Brian Todd, thanks so much.
In the wake of Saturday's attack, Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming went after the leaders of her own party, tweeting, quote: The House GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-Semitism. History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse. GOP leaders must renounce and reject these views and those who hold them, unquote.
So what exactly is Congresswoman Cheney talking about? Well, you can look at other things from her caucus that she has criticized, such as comments from members of her party that mesh rather seamlessly with the racist false white replacement theory. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BRIAN BABIN (R-TX): You know what the Democrats are up to here. They want open borders. This is exactly that strategy. They want to replace the American electorate.
REP. SCOTT PERRY (R-PA): For many Americans, what seems to be happening or what they believe right now is happening is what appears to them is we're replacing national-born American, native-born Americans to permanently transform the political landscape of this nation.
SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): This administration wants complete open borders, and you have to ask why.
Is it really they want to remake the demographics of America to insure that they stay in power forever? Is that what's happening here?
TAPPER: Not to mention, of course, this Facebook ad from Cheney's replacement in the Republican leadership, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik of New York. Or Congressman Paul Gosar and Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene who spoke at a white supremacist conference where that bigotry is pushed rather shamelessly.
Let's discuss all of this with former NAACP president, Cornell William Brooks, and Tim Wise, who's author of "Dispatches from the Race War".
Tim, how much do you think lawmakers and TV personalities who push white replacement theory or even something that echoes white replacement theory are to blame for this dangerous ideology spreading to the point that we see actions like this?
TIM WISE, WRITER ON RACISM AND RACE RELATIONS: Well, they're absolutely to blame. Listen, words have consequences, and these are not simple conservative positions on immigration. We have long had debates about what's the best immigration policy and what's the effect of immigration on wages and taxes. And that's fine.
But the difference here, it's categorical. Replacement theory is premised on two things that make violence inevitable when enough people hear it. Number one, it's conspiratorial. It's not simply, oh, those silly liberals, they just don't understand what they're doing. It's oh, no, those liberals/Jews/globalists/whomever are deliberately trying to hurt you, maybe even kill you. Tucker Carlson has said that on his show hundreds of times.
The second thing is it's posed as an existential threat. It's not just that they're evil people who are conspiring to, you know, maybe raise your taxes or something like that. They're literally trying to harm you if not eliminate you, genocide you, exterminate you.
Once you go down that road, once you accept that idea of evil pernicious intent on the part of your adversaries, all bets are off. You can't just have a debate anymore about immigration. It's now kill or be killed. They are responsible because that rhetoric is inherently irresponsible.
TAPPER: Cornell, the killer, the suspected killer, he wrote a screed in which he talked at length about his hideous ideology. He did not mention any particular congressman or any particular channel. He talked about being radicalized online.
Now, Congresswoman Cheney, she's calling on Republican leaders to publicly reject white supremacy, racism, anti-Semitism, as well as people who believe in it.
Explain why if this individual didn't cite any Republican politicians or Fox personalities, why you still think is important for them to be condemned if they are repeating, echoing, parroting the same kind of racist theory.
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, FORMER PRESIDENT, NAACP: Absolutely. So, Jake, let's be clear about this. The racial terrorists in Buffalo cites in his screed, his manifesto, as it were, other racial terrorists as examples, and the great replacement theory. The problem here is we have elected officials legitimating, authenticating, sanitizing, homogenizing great replacement theory, making it mainstream.
And so, whether you -- when have a racial terrorist citing other racial terrorists, and citing their thinking, their theory, their conspiratorial imaginings as elected officials, members of Congress are literally giving that license, giving that legitimacy, it is dangerous, right?
So in other words, if you go back to Senator Bilbo back in the 1940s, the senator from Mississippi, who articulated an early version of the great replacement theory, members of Congress then called that out, condemned it, because they understood how dangerous it was. And so, the point being here is, you can whitewash white supremacy, you can try to homogenize white supremacy, it doesn't make it any less dangerous.
In other words, words proceed bullets.
BROOKS: Let's be clear about that. Rhetoric precedes the taking of life. That's what we saw in Buffalo.
TAPPER: Tim, the shooter seems to have been radicalized quickly. If you believe his screed, he writes about starting to browse message boards in May 2020 because he was bored, and two years later, here we are.
WISE: Yeah. Well, it is incredibly disturbing how fast that happened, but listen, those message boards are filled with incredibly intense propaganda, and sadly, a lot of young people, you know, he said he saw a bunch of memes and that's what convinced him.
Well, memes are not evidence. Memes are not footnotes. Memes are not facts.
But unfortunately, we don't teach young kids in our schools critical thinking, media skills. We don't -- young people sometimes grow up thinking that if they see a meme or if they see something on social media, that it's true. We need desperately to be training our young people to discern truth from falsehood.
Going back to your last question, he didn't blame Tucker Carlson or any particular elected official. Let's be clear, the people on 4Chan and these image boards and places where he was radicalized, those folks are constantly flaking and adding and endorsing Tucker Carlson, talking about how wonderful those folks are. Paul Gosar, all of those folks, they amplify them. So it creates a feedback loop where the extremes online take, you know, encouragement from the mainstream and the mainstream feeds back on to that.
So that's why there's this -- it doesn't have to be the person X is responsible for action Y. But it is the doom loop that is created by the extreme and the mainstream together that causes these things and will continue to cause them until Republicans in this country and the larger conservative movement come out and condemn it.
If they had done that after Charlottesville, if they had done that after Dylann Roof, if they say we condemn not just the killer, not just the killing, but the theory that they said was behind it, we might not be here. And they refuse to do that.
TAPPER: Tim Wise and Cornell Brooks, thanks to both of you. Really appreciate.
From one candidate's unexpected to surge to another's health scare, the drama playing out in a primary election from the same commonwealth where voters helped secure the presidency for Joe Biden.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our politics lead, Pennsylvania voters are headed to the polls tomorrow to choose their party's nominees for a key Senate seat, but not without some last minute twists and turns.
As CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports, the Democrat leading the polls suffered a minor stroke and has been hospitalized since Friday in a highly competitive Republican races, seeing a surge from a candidate who now only pushes lies about the 2020 election, but has a history of anti- Muslim and anti-gay bigotry, though she now says she will not back the eventual nominee if she does not win.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRRESPONDENT (voice-over): A chaotic close to the Pennsylvania Senate primary. The leading Democratic candidate, John Fetterman, will spend Election Day in a hospital, recovering from a stroke he suffered late last week that his campaign did not reveal until Sunday in this video with his wife by his side.
GISELE BARRETO FETTERMAN, WIFE OF LT. GOV. FETTERMAN: We hit a little bump in the campaign trial.
LT. GOV. JOHN FETTERMAN (D), PENNSYLVANIA SENATE CANDIDATE: Yeah, it was on Friday. I just wasn't feeling very well, so I decided, you know, I need to get checked out.
BARRETO FETTERMAN: I made you get checked out.
LT. GOV. FETTERMAN: Yeah.
ZELENY: On the eve of the primary in one of the nation's most closely watched Senate races, far more drama and uncertainty on the Republican side where it's a three-way fight to the finish.
A late grassroots surge from Kathy Barnette is threatening to upend a vicious months-long battle between TV celebrity, Dr. Mehmet Oz, and David McCormick, a former hedge fund executive and Army veteran. All three are trying to win over undecided voters.
Donald Trump hangs heavy over the race, where his endorsement of Oz has outraged many hardcore members of MAGA movement, who are turning to Barnette. Her candidacy caught fire with a compelling personal story and repeated false claims the 2020 election was stolen.
KATHY BARNETTE (R), PENNSYLVANIA SENATE CANDIDATE: How are you going to take someone who can't even galvanize his own base, put them in a general, and think somehow he's electable? I don't think so.
ZELENY: In a radio interview today, Barnette would not commit to supporting the GOP nominee if she doesn't win.
Do you believe that's dangerous for the party given how important this seat is?
DAVID MCCORMICK (R), PENNSYLVANIA SENATE CANDIDATE: Well, listen, I think the stakes are so high, I think we as Republicans have to win this seat. So I believe I'm going to win this primary, but if I weren't to win, then I would support whoever the candidate was that was selected by the voters.
ZELENY: Republicans are not deciding whether to choose a candidate in Trump's mold, that's been settled, but rather, how Trumpian they hope their next senator will be.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Dr. Oz is a man who truly believes in make America great again.
ZELENY: Oz has struggled to close the sale with conservatives like Rick Hohenshilt.
RICH HOHENSHILT, PENNSYLVANIA VOTER: Donald Trump is not Jesus. He is capable of making a mistake. The stuff I've seen about Oz, he doesn't come across to me as a conservative.
ZELENY: Even President Trump's endorsement is not enough to sway you?
HOHENSHILT: No, it's not.
ZELENY: Democrats have long seen Pennsylvania as the best chance to pick up a seat to help hold their Senate majority. The retirement of Republican Senator Pat Toomey gives the party a rare opening. Fetterman, the state's lieutenant governor, has maintained the edge in a three-way contest with Conor Lamb and Malcolm Kenyatta, but it's an open question whether a stroke and being off the campaign trail will influence the race.
ZELENY (on camera): And Gisele Fetterman tells our colleague Jessica Dean that her husband is doing great but impatient to get out of the hospital. But, Jake, in one of the many twists and turns of this Pennsylvania primary, he will not be out of the hospital on Election Day. That could take up to a week.
So, all eyes on this race, but it is the Republican side of the ticket has many open questions with consequences for November -- Jake.
TAPPER: Absolutely. Jeff Zeleny in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, thanks so much.
Tune in tomorrow night for election night in America and primary races in five states. Special coverage starts at 7:00 Eastern here on CNN.
Coming up next, we've got some breaking news. Major new recommendations to help families dealing with the baby formula shortage.
Plus, an announcement from the FDA and one of the manufacturers of the recalled formula.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
This hour, bound at the wrists and ankles, shot in the face by Russians and buried with his brothers' corpses. How one Ukrainian was able to bring himself seemingly back from the dead.
Plus, the sitting Republican congressman who has Donald Trump's endorsement but is still facing seven Republican challengers in tomorrow's primary. We're talking to North Carolina voters about Madison Cawthorn, next.
But we start with breaking news in our national lead. The FDA and the maker of one of the recalled baby formulas, Abbott, have announced a deal to restart production, but it could still be another six to eight weeks before the formula is back on store shelves.
CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now live.