Return to Transcripts main page

CNN News Central

Armed Man Arrested At Church; Menendez In Court; Three Days Left To Cut Funding Deal; Baltimore Police Search For Murder Suspect. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired September 27, 2023 - 09:30   ET



JOHN STANFORD, INTERIM POLICE COMMISSIONER, PHILADELPHIA: And to see what our city went through in 2020 and to have, you know, some individuals try to recreate that same type of energy tonight is disgusting. And again, at the end of the day, we're going to press on until we're able to get those folks in custody because, again, it has no space in the city and there are too many people that worked hard in the business community, too many people throughout communities in this city that don't deserve that type of behavior.


DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now, Kate, as you said, about 15 to 20 people arrested at this point. We're still waiting for updated numbers from police. And they estimate there were close to 100 people at one point who were participating in this looting.

But, as you can see today, things much back to normal. Cars now driving up and down Walnut Street. We've been seeing people shopping, going to their workout classes. But, of course, stores like this Apple store still cleaning up after last night.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Yes, an absolute mess.

Danny, thank you very much.


SARA SIDNER, CNN HOST: A potential mass shooting at a church narrowly averted. Police say they found these chilling images on social media from the man they believe was about to carry out the plot. A gun pointed at a church spire on a computer screen and a Bible on fire. Authorities say they caught the suspect while he was in a church's vestibule, ready to strike as congregants had just sat down in the pews.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us now.

Brian, this is an incredible moment, the ability for these police to stop this from happening. We so rarely hear that. It is always a tragedy afterwards. What are police telling you on how they were able to do this?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Sara, this was an extraordinarily close call, as you say. This was just seconds away from happening according to the Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis.

Now, to take you quickly through the sequence of events. It starts early Sunday morning when a person in Maryland, in the state of Maryland, who either knew the suspect, Rui Jiang, or knew of him, noticed some very disturbing and threatening posts that he had made on Instagram. Well, this person calls the Anne Arundel County, Maryland, police department and reports it. The Anne Arundel County Police, having information that this man lives in Fairfax County, they contact the Fairfax County, Virginia, police immediately. the Fairfax County, Virginia, police go to his home, find that he is not there, find that his car is not there. They have information that he could be targeting this church, the Park Valley Church, which is in Hay Market, Virginia. That's a good hour away, west on Route 66, from where his home is. So, they contact -- the Fairfax County Police contact the Prince William County Police, who converged on the church immediately.

As they're converging on the church, that's when the church security, right about that moment, pretty much confronts this man in the vestibule, in the large lobby area of the church, and - and takes him into custody.

Now, yesterday, we caught up with the pastor of the Park Valley Church. He kind of took us through the steps of where this man moved inside the church. He went into the lobby. He then went into the sanctuary and took a seat on the top row of the sanctuary. He was told he couldn't sit there. He went back into the lobby and then was confronted by a church security person who was incidentally an off- duty Prince William Police officer. And that's when the Prince William County Police got there. It was literally seconds away from possibly happening, Sara.

And when we talked to Pastor Barry White of the Park Valley Church, here's what he had to say about their suspicions about this suspect as soon as he entered their building.


PASTOR BARRY WHITE, LEADER OF PARK VALLEY CHURCH: There was something about him that was concerning, you know? The black clothing, the sunglasses, the different - the -- that he was wearing inside on a rainy day. So, our safety team immediately thought that there was a problem.

They began to shadow him. He went into the auditorium, went into a door upstairs that he shouldn't have gone into, was confronted at that point by our safety team. They said, you know, you don't belong in this area -- because there's a big sign that says do not enter basically. He left that area, went down the stairs, came out into the lobby, was met by two of our safety personnel here.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TODD: And that's also the moment when the Prince William County Police converged on the scene. So, Sara, it was just extraordinary. Three law enforcement agencies in two states coordinating just beautifully. And if somebody had dropped the ball or mistimed something just a little bit, you could have had a mass shooting on your hands.

One other quick thing, Sara. The pastor said there were about 1,000 people inside the sanctuary when all this happened and about 300 children on the premises as well.

SIDNER: Chilling detailing. Thank you so much, Brian Todd, for that story.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: All right, moments ago, Senator Bob Menendez arrived for his first court appearance. We've got some new developments in his fight for political survivor.

An active manhunt. Police are searching for a suspect in the killing of a tech CEO. They say, quote, "this suspect will kill and he will rape."



SIDNER: Senator Bob Menendez and his wife are in a New York federal court for their arraignment. Both are charged in a bribery plot where prosecutors say they received stacks of cash, gold bars and a luxury car for favors. The New Jersey Democrat is facing a flood of calls now from fellow senators to resign as he insists he will be exonerated.

CNN's Kara Scannell is outside the courthouse in New York.

Kara, give us some sense of what you saw as he walked in and whether he said anything.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Sara, so Senator Menendez walked in hand in hand with his wife. There was a scrum of photographers around them. They didn't answer any questions, including calls about whether he was going to run for re-election. But they walked arm in arm, hand in hand, into the courthouse where he is -- they are both being processed because, as prosecutors say, they are not only husband and wife, but they are also alleged partners in this bribery scheme. And both Menendez, his wife, charged with receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of bribes, including from gold bars, cash, a Mercedes Benz convertible, and in exchange from the - in exchange for these bribes they allegedly did -- took steps to help three New Jersey businessmen and also to aid the government of Egypt.

So, two of the -- one of the businessmen has pleaded not guilty yesterday and he was released, one also has arrived today. We're waiting for the arrival of the last one. And then this hearing will take place, his arraignment, before a magistrate judge sometime later this morning. And then the senator will be asked to enter a plea in this case.


He has been defiant, saying he has done nothing wrong, that he expects to be exonerated from these charges, even saying that the cash that the FBI found at his home stuffed in envelopes in his jacket pockets was money that he had taken out of his personal savings account. He didn't give an explanation for the gold bars or the convertible, but he has been defiant and defying calls for his resignation.

You know, at this hearing, it will be this -- the traditional court hearing. He will be arraigned and will waive reading of the indictment and then he'll be released on some kind of bail. So, we'll be looking to see what the terms and conditions are of his release.

But, Sara, this isn't the first time he has gone through this. He went through this in 2015 when he was indicted then on a corruption scheme. That case eventually -- the jury couldn't reach a verdict, the judge threw out some of the counts and the prosecutors decided not to retry the case. But this is a serious case that prosecutors allege started just as that one had wrapped up. So, we expect this to get underway maybe in about an hour or so. It's still very fluid here of how long that will take. But we'll then see Senator Menendez and his wife leave and we'll wait to see if they have any statements as they're departing the courthouse later today.


SIDNER: Yes, you didn't see those kind of calls to resign either in that past case. This time you are seeing that. But, still, you have Menendez there saying he is going to be exonerated. And we have not heard anything from him about resignation.

Kara Scannell, thank you so much for all the details that you saw this morning.


BERMAN: All right, this morning, the Senate has a plan to stop the government from shutting down in just three days, but even if they manage to get it passed in the Senate, it still needs to clear the House, and that looks highly unlikely with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy still not able to control his caucus.

Let's get a status report on where exactly things stand. Lauren Hill -- Lauren Fox, I should, say up on Capitol Hill. A great singer also, Lauren, you are. But give us the latest.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is huddling with his members right now in their conference meeting. And the message so far has been that they need to work as a team. House Speaker McCarthy made clear that he does plan to bring up a short-term spending bill on Friday, whether the votes are there or not. But he is facing members of his right flank who say they will never get to yes on a short-term spending bill, which is raising the prospect of a government shutdown. Here's Senator Tom Cole, a veteran appropriator.


SEN. TOM COLE (R-OK): Obviously, we've got our challenges here as well and the two chambers are a long way apart. So, you know, again, I'm not at all confident we won't end up in a shutdown.


FOX: Meanwhile, the Senate is going to continue working on its own short-term spending bill that includes about $6 billion for Ukraine aid, $6 billion for disaster aid and would continue to fund the government at current levels through November 17th. But that bill also potentially could get slowed down in the Senate because you have people like Senator Rand Paul who are warning, because of that Ukraine aid that is included, he is going to slow walk this process. That means that senators could be going right up into the break.

Then, if they finally do pass it out of the Senate, which we expect they can, then it would go to the House of Representatives. And it will be up to House Speaker McCarthy whether or not he wants to try to change that bill, which he's suggested he does, that he wants to add border security to it, or if he puts it on the floor and potentially risks the end of his speakership, John.

BERMAN: Yes, doesn't seem like he has either the time nor the inclination at this moment to prevent a shutdown.

Lauren Fox, on Capitol Hill, great to see you. Keep us posted.


BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, the search is on for a man considered armed and dangerous in Baltimore, Maryland. The suspect is accused of killing a tech CEO. We have the very latest on this search, next.



SIDNER: The public is being warned a murder suspect who is armed and extremely dangerous is on the loose in Maryland. A manhunt is underway for the man accused in the brutal killing of a young tech CEO. Baltimore officials warn 32-year-old Jason Dean Billingsley is willing to do anything to cause harm. He's wanted on first-degree murder charges in the beating death of 26-year-old Pava LaPere. She was found dead at her apartment building on Monday. LaPere is remembered as a visionary force. This year she was named one of Forbes "30 Under 30" for social impact.

CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez is here with us.

This is an incredibly disturbing case. How did police make the connection between the suspect and the dead CEO?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Of course. You know, we're still trying to figure that out at this point.

What we do know is that they say that this is the person they are trying to get. They consider 32-year-old Jason Billingsley, who they say is still on the loose. They consider him extremely dangerous. And he is suspected of killing 26-year-old Pava LaPere. As you mentioned, a tech CEO just named to Forbes "30 under 30." She was a rising star known by many in this particular community.

And what we know about the circumstances there is she was initially reported missing Monday morning. Then hours later police found her body, dead from blunt force trauma, as we understand. And the suspect, Billingsley, does have a history here. He pled guilty to assault in 2009, 2011. In 2015 he pled guilty to a first degree sex offense and was sentenced to 30 years in prison but then was released in October of 2022. As officials told the "New York Times," he was released under mandatory supervision.

And officials, during the press conference, even seemed a little taken aback at how someone like this, with a history like this, could have been released at such an early point in a long sentence. And it's part of why the police are telling the community that this isn't just someone who is armed and dangerous, but someone who has the capacity to act.

Take a listen.


COMMISSIONER RICHARD WORLEY, BALTIMORE POLICE: Be aware of your surroundings at all times. This individual will kill and he will rape. He will do anything he can to cause harm. So please be aware of your surroundings.


JIMENEZ: And a few things to keep an eye on moving forward. One, police say, as part of their investigation, that the building security measures would have required someone to either let the suspect in or for them to potentially push in. So, they're likely - we're looking for answers there.

But also police say he's a suspect in at least another case, but they wouldn't elaborate further.

The mayor of Baltimore, Brandon Scott, said this CEO was someone he got to know over the years and said there was not some -- anyone she would hesitate to help.


There's a vigil tonight, of course, as the community now tries to process, not just what happened, but, of course, why.

SIDNER: Yes. And when you hear from police that he will do anything, he has every reason not to want to go back to prison.

Thank you so much, Omar Jimenez. Appreciate it.


BERMAN: All right, the new warning from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson. She says Donald Trump is the most grave threat we will face to our democracy in our lifetime. She says he won't have guardrails if he wins a new term.

And new details just in about Army Private Travis King, back in U.S. custody as of just a short time ago. Why did North Korea let him go after two months in custody?


BOLDUAN: Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson is now speaking out candidly about the final days of the Trump White House. A time she describes as every day was a hair on fire day. Her new book "Enough" details those days, including what she saw, heard and felt around the events of January 6th.

She sat down with CNN's Jake Tapper yesterday offering this warning about 2024.



CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE: I think that Donald Trump, in a second term, does not have any -- would not have guardrails. I think we saw that at the end of the first term with how things played out after he lost the election. He violated our Constitution in multiple ways. It is - it is completely fine to wage - or to file lawsuits in the country - or in the states.


HUTCHINSON: But what is not OK is when you threaten and assault the Constitution and our institutions of government. I would not put it past Donald Trump, Jake, to - to put those institutions of government in a worse position than they were in during the first term.


BOLDUAN: Hutchinson also writes extensively about her former boss, Trump's then Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who is charged alongside the former president for their attempts to allegedly try to overturn the election results in Georgia.


TAPPER: He's now facing criminal charges. He has pleaded not guilty. Let's show the mug shot of Mark Meadows.

When you see that photo, and that's -- that's -- I mean, in some ways I'm sure for people who -- who - who love Mark Meadows, or who loved him at one time, that's a tragic photo. For other people who don't like Mark Meadows, it's not, I'm sure. What goes through your mind when you look at that picture?

HUTCHINSON: I see someone that didn't have to be in this position. You know, I - I -- I see that picture and I - I feel sorry for him in some ways because he had a lot of opportunities to do the right thing and to come forward. You know, he's a man that has a family. And that's also another unfortunate impact of all of this is, when Donald - when you are in Donald Trump's circle and you have that loyalty to him, it impacts more -- your life in more ways than one can imagine. And, you know, I -- I hope that Mark's doing the right thing, if he hasn't already been doing the right thing as what I define the right thing.

TAPPER: You hope he's cooperating with the investigators.

HUTCHINSON: I hope that he would - I hope that he would cooperates and upholds the oath that he swore, because he knows a lot more than I know about what happened during the November 2020 through January 2021 period.


BOLDUAN: Meadows has been speaking out through his representation from - from this and not too happy with what they are seeing coming out in this book so far, Sara.

SIDNER: All right.

Democratic Senator Bob Menendez arrived to a chaotic scene outside federal court this morning. His first court appearance set to start any time now. We will take you there live.

And we're getting details, new ones this hour, on the U.S. Army private that North Korea just expelled. He is now in U.S. custody. Where Travis King is right now and how it all happened. That's ahead.