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Multiple Gunshots Fired Near Capitol Building

Aired October 03, 2013 - 15:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Is that what you're hearing, that somebody tried to get through a barrier from 15th Street to get closer to the White House?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's what we're hearing from a Secret Service official right now.

And just to paint the picture because we can't show you this picture right now, but at 15th and Pennsylvania, back in the old days, you used to be able to drive through here, Wolf, as you know, and I know because I grew up in this area. But now, because of heightened security needs around the White House, at 15th and Pennsylvania Avenue, there is a series of security barriers that prevent cars from driving onto Pennsylvania Avenue.

Those barriers can be raised and lowered by a Secret Service officer who is inside of a booth at 15th and Pennsylvania for traffic that needs to get through. When you saw those cars and motorcycles coming through earlier, that's what they can do. They can raise and lower those barriers.

This individual, according to a Secret Service official, tried to ram through that area, it sounds like, to try to get down here. That's how all of this got started, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, I remember when they closed off that traffic, that vehicular traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue outside the White House in 1995, right after the Oklahoma City truck bombing. That's when they shut down traffic.

People can walk outside there, but they can't drive outside there.

Jake Tapper is standing by.

Jake, you're getting some more information as well?


Of course, all the normal caveats apply. This is early information. As we know, sometimes early information is not correct. Lots of fast- moving parts in this, but that said, a government source tells me that a car was chased from the White House to Capitol Hill.

There on Capitol Hill, near the Hart Building, fire was exchanged. Gunfire was exchanged. One officer was injured at the Capitol, but it's unclear right now the extent of the officer's injuries. That injured officer was medevaced from the scene. So that's what we have right now from one government source.

The chase started, apparently, according to this source, at the White House, went to Capitol Hill, gunfire was exchanged at the Hart Senate Office building, an officer was injured. That officer was medevaced -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Now we're hearing from multiple sources that the lockdown apparently has been lifted on the House side and the Senate side and that people are beginning slowly but surely to come back to life as normal, but we don't know the circumstances, and Jake makes an excellent point. These early reports very often turn out to be not necessarily 100 percent precise.

But, once again, Jake, let me let you reiterate, it's now the top of the hour, what we have been watching now for the last half-hour or so at least. Gunshots were heard outside the Senate, Hart Senate Office Building. There are reports of at least one injury, but go ahead, Jake, and reiterate what you just told our viewers.

TAPPER: Well, as I said just a few minutes ago, this is a very fast- moving story. And a lot of the information that we get in times like this, even from government sources, official sources, police sources, turns out not to be correct.

But that said, the story that we're getting from sources and what I got specifically just from one government source a few minutes ago is that there was a chase that started at the White House. That car chase proceeded from the White House to Capitol Hill, which I guess is about two miles away. And then outside the Senate Hart Office Building, gunfire was exchanged, an officer was wounded.

It's unclear right now the extent of that officer's injuries. He was medevaced away from the scene. And that is what we know right now from this event that began just a few minutes ago with the sound of gunfire, many shots, multiple shots outside the Senate Hart Office Building -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a disturbing situation. Apparently, the lockdown has been lifted.

Just a few moments ago, we did get some eyewitness accounts of what people up on Capitol Hill saw. Watch this.


QUESTION: ... feel like it was coming from?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty damn close. (INAUDIBLE) felt -- and we were right there a block away from it. And so I knew that this had to have been something, not even at the Capitol Building. It had to have been something around the Senate side.

QUESTION: Out on the street?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, definitely out on the street, because it wasn't muffled. It was echoing through the neighborhood. QUESTION: Did it sound like there may have been a gun battle going on, somebody returning fire, two different guns?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When it first happening, and all of a sudden you start hearing the boom, boom, boom, boom, like, that's immediately what I was thinking, like there's something is going on, obviously (AUDIO GAP) type of thing where we live and work here and we do a service, and you hope that things like this don't happen where people (INAUDIBLE) or whatever it is, with actions like this today. It's just -- it's a very sad reflection on times right now.

QUESTION: Justin, last name again please?


QUESTION: Thank you.


BLITZER: All right, so there you heard one eyewitness account.

Brian Todd is up on Capitol Hill. You're on the phone, Brian. Where are you? What are you seeing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'm actually back at my condo in Northwest D.C. I was just on Capitol Hill about to cross the street to go to the Capitol.


BLITZER: Hold on. Hold on a second. Hold on a second.


BLITZER: I think we got mixed communications there. Hold on one second. Hold on one second. Hold on one second. We're trying to reconnect with Brian Todd because, obviously, he's up on Capitol Hill.

Athena Jones, are you there as well? Can you hear me? Athena Jones is -- I think she's reporting what we're hearing. A lockdown has been lifted. The all-clear is being shown, at least in the Russell Senate Office Building. That's where Athena Jones was.

The internal message coming in, at least in the Russell Senate Office Building there's an all-clear. Lockdown has been lifted. Dana Bash earlier telling us the lockdown has been lifted in the Senate's side of Capitol Hill, where she was. That's all encouraging news right there.

But there's still so much that we don't know about what's going on right now. It's obviously a work in progress. We do know that shots were fired, maybe a dozen, according to John Bodnar, one of our CNN photojournalists who heard at least a dozen gunshots outside the Hart Senate Office Building. That's one of three Senate buildings on the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol, but you could hear it on the House side as well, according to Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who was just on the phone with us. She said her staff heard those gunshots all the way across Capitol Hill. If you have visited Washington, if you have been to Capitol Hill, it's a pretty large area, the U.S. Capitol Building in the middle.

There's the House side, the Senate side, and then separate from that are the office buildings, the House office buildings and then the Senate office buildings. These shots were fired on the Senate side near the Hart Senate Office Building.

Mike Brooks is joining us, one of our CNN law enforcement analysts.

Where are you, Mike, and what are you hearing?

MIKE BROOKS, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Mike -- Wolf, I'm in the newsroom here in studio seven in Atlanta.

And, you know, we're looking at this -- at this scene right here. You know, that's right near 1st and Maryland avenue, Constitution Avenue, Northeast, Wolf. And if I could show you, if we can get this to work here, you see the vehicle here right in front of the kiosk. See, here is this vehicle?

And also, Wolf, if you look at the evidence markers, it looks like these, as a former investigator, are possibly where it looks like maybe shell casings were, because this looks like the scene. And moments ago, we saw someone, I saw someone taken away by ambulance from the scene. We saw some U.S. Capitol officers there with rubber gloves on dealing with this car. So definitely this looks like the main crime scene at the end of this chase that we were seeing.

BLITZER: All right, Mike, stand by for a moment because Ione Molinares of CNN en Espanol is up on Capitol Hill as well.

Ione, where are you? What are you seeing?

IONE MOLINARES, CNN EN ESPANOL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we were exactly here, getting ready for another live shot when exactly we heard about four, we're debating here if it was between four or five shots, coming this direction exactly, heading to the National Mall on to the east.

And basically -- to the west, I'm sorry. And basically, in a matter of seconds, we just heard and saw a lot of activity, police activity, and different agencies moving people away. A lot of them were coming out from the exactly the front of the building, the Capitol Hill this way, and they were moving rapidly this way.

In a matter of seconds, most of this area was closed, and the police were pushing us to go to the House side, to the Cannon Building. They said you need to be safe. We don't know what's going on. Intense activity, also, of cars, police activity going the other way towards the Library of Congress. And we talked to several people that were being pushed, some of them were still shaken. One of them told us he saw a police officer, a police car chasing a black car. And the black car had some holes on it. And he doesn't know exactly who started shooting, but the person who was right next to him said she is almost sure she just saw the police trying to stop the vehicle of some sort.

They were going around a small little plaza in front of the Capitol right here. That's basically what we saw and we heard from some of the witnesses. And it's sort of consistent because they're coming from the entrance and basically they said it was a pursuit and, of course, a lot of activity going that way.

So that's basically what we heard here in the middle of this. I can tell you it was a matter of seconds before the security and the police activity was really intense and pushing everybody away, trying to secure the perimeter, if you will.

BLITZER: Ione Molinares from CNN Espanol, thank you very much.

We have gotten an official statement now from U.S. Capitol Police. I will read it to our viewers: "The United States Capitol police have stabilized the incident. Occupants may exit their shelter in place location. Additional updates will follow."

We anticipate a news conference from U.S. Capitol Police coming up fairly soon. It's now just 11 minutes after 3:00 here on the East Coast. But, clearly, this is a situation that has caused a lot of nerves to be rattled over the past 45 minutes or so since about a dozen shots, we're told, were fired outside the Hart Senate Office Building.

I think we have reconnected with Brian Todd, one of our CNN correspondents.

Brian, are you there?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I am, Wolf. Can you hear me OK?

BLITZER: Yes, now, tell us where you are and what you're seeing and hearing.

TODD: Well, right now, we're at the corner of C Street Northeast and Delaware Avenue Northeast near the Capitol. Many of the streets around here are still blocked off, Wolf, but we just spoke to a congressman who heard the shots fired, Congressman Juan Vargas of California.

He heard the shots fired. He was walking outside of his office on Capitol Hill. He heard what he described as a pop-pop, and he said he walked a few feet further. Then he saw a police officer running toward him and confronted him and asked him if he was a member of Congress. He said, yes, and the officer ordered him to shelter in place.

There's one account we have gotten here from Senator Juan Vargas saying he was fairly close to whatever was going on. He thought he heard what he thought was the backfire of a car and didn't really think much of it, he said, until he saw a lot of the police activity.

We can tell you, again, some of the streets here still blocked off. Still a huge police presence obviously down here on Capitol Hill, and we're waiting for more word from the Capitol Hill Police. As you mentioned, the news conference should be coming up soon.

BLITZER: Do we know where the news conference is? Do you have a clue where the news conference is going to take place? Have microphones been set up already, Brian?

TODD: We have heard a couple different locations, Wolf. I don't want to give anything that could be misleading here, so we're going to find out more about that in a few minutes.

BLITZER: All right, good. Stand by, Brian Todd up on Capitol Hill with the latest from there.

Jim Acosta, our senior White House correspondent, are you there?

ACOSTA: I'm here. Yes, I hear you, Wolf.

BLITZER: I know you're getting some more information about the president right now. What are you learning?

ACOSTA: That's right. That's right. White House official telling the press here at the White House that the president was briefed on the reports of gunfire on Capitol Hill this afternoon. Quoting this official here, "While White House staff are in touch with law enforcement officials and monitoring the incident, questions about the security posture at the White House complex should be directed to the U.S. Secret Service."

A very basic statement to basically say that the president has been informed of this incident and it does not appear at this point by any stretch, Wolf, that the president was in danger at any time. This incident, as we were saying earlier, appears to have gotten started down Pennsylvania Avenue at 15th and Pennsylvania Avenue, sort of in front of the U.S. Treasury Department. That's about a block from the front North Lawn of the White House and then moved from the White House -- from the Treasury Department up to the Capitol from there.

But at least at this point, we can tell you the president has been briefed on this, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, I'm sure he has been. Stand by for a moment.

Deb Feyerick is joining us. She's getting more information as well.

What are you learning, Deb?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're being briefed by an intelligence source. This is what we can tell you right now.

Apparently, a woman who was near the White House, she was driving a car, a black car, which actually you can make out in the frame that's on the right-hand side of your screen, a black car, just in front of the green sign. That was the car the woman was driving. She was near the White House.

We're being told that words were exchanged between her and police. When she tried to move away, she hit a police car. The air bag in that car was deployed, and a chase began. The woman was driving very, very quickly. She was running through lights, we're being told by an intelligence source. She was making her way towards the Capitol.

At that point, the intelligence source is saying that use of force was authorized. It is not clear whether the car came to a stop or whether the shooting simply began, but shots were fired. The driver of the car, we're now being told, a female, was indeed hit. There was a child in that car. The child was removed from the scene.

We're told that police did not know that there was a child inside that car when the use of force was authorized and when those shots were fired. Unclear why she got out of -- was driving so quickly, why she was racing away after hitting this police car, but the pursuit began, and at some point when the use of force was authorized, shortly thereafter, those shots rang out.

We're told the suspect, a woman, was hit. Right now, we're trying to confirm the condition, but there was a child in the car, the child removed from the scene -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we did see some video just a little while ago of a police officer carrying a child. We don't know if that's the child who was in that black car that we see near the top of the screen over there from these live pictures we're showing our viewers up on Capitol Hill.


FEYERICK: Wolf, we are being told that it does appear that the child that was being carried and we should probably shield her face, but we are being told that that was the child who was in the car.

BLITZER: Yes, we just showed our viewers that picture of the police carrying a young child. We will get some more information on that.

Let me just recap what's going on. We want to welcome our viewers, not only here in the United States, but around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer here in Washington.

For nearly an hour now, we have been watching a dramatic scene unfold up on Capitol Hill, where gunshots were heard outside the Hart Senate Office Building up on Capitol Hill. That's one of three Senate Office Buildings, the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol, one of our photojournalists reporting that at least a dozen gunshots were heard. We are hearing that at least one injury, a police officer involved.

And we're hearing also that this incident apparently started close to the White House, 15th and Pennsylvania. That's right outside the White House, where this black vehicle with a woman driver was making some suspicious driving maneuvers near the White House, and then she was ordered to stop by police, but she began driving apparently towards Capitol Hill.

And this incident was ended outside the Hart Senate Office Building when police used force, apparently, to stop this black vehicle from continuing any longer. That's all we know. We have no idea about any potential motive or anything that might have been involved in this incident other than gunshots were clearly heard.

There was at least one injured police officer on the ground, obviously, taken to a hospital even as we speak right now. But that's what we know right now. We have no idea what if anything was involved leading up to this incident, but it did start near the White House. We're told by Jim Acosta, our White House correspondent, the president has been fully briefed on what's going on.

We're awaiting a news conference. We expect to be briefed fairly soon by U.S. Capitol police. We're told that the all-clear has been given now up on Capitol Hill. Police had earlier warned everyone to remain inside their offices in the House side and the Senate side. No one was allowed to go in or out, but to get inside their offices.

But now the lockdown has been lifted and there is an all-clear as far as we know right now. This is an official statement I must say from the U.S. Capitol police. The all-clear has been given. The lockdown has been lifted. So that is encouraging.

Evan Perez is joining us right now on the phone. He's our justice reporter.

What are you learning, Evan?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the situation appears to be resolved, according to federal law enforcement officials.

Whatever the chase was, which was the original call that the FBI got, and for which they dispatched their Capitol response team to the scene, was that there were shots fired near the Capitol, near Garfield Circle side. The scene that we're showing has a car there that's been pulled over. As you see, there's a kiosk which is manned 24 hours a day by Capitol Police.

This kiosk, I live right around the corner from there, it's on Capitol Hill, it's on Maryland Avenue. hacross from there is the Supreme Court and the Hart Senate building and all the Senate buildings are sort of behind where the cameras are. And that's where the scene ended.

Whatever the initial reports, the fears were that caused the lockdown, that there were possibly other shooters or perhaps other suspects, that has been resolved. They don't fear that anymore, as Athena Jones and Dana Bash have reported. They have lifted the lockdown at the Capitol Building and so people are able to go back to normal.

As you can see, there's a storm of cops now on the scene, and the FBI is now at the scene helping to lead what we now expect to be whatever the investigation. It's not clear what happened to the suspect, whether the suspect is injured or how it was resolved, but whatever fear there was that there were additional people, they have now resolved that.

BLITZER: It looks like they have resolved it, not only the all-clear, the lockdown being lifted. I'm getting indications also from sources on the House side that the House will formally reconvene at 3:30, in about 10 minutes or so, 3:30 p.m. Eastern.

They have a lot of business to do in the House and the Senate. They went into recess immediately after this lockdown was announced about an hour or so ago. But now there's an all-clear and people will slowly but surely get back to business as usual. But then they're going to have to investigate exactly what happened when this black vehicle went from near the White House, 15th and Pennsylvania -- that's right outside the White House -- and drove towards Capitol Hill, eventually stopped outside the Hart Senate Office Building.

You're looking at these pictures coming in just a little while ago. On the left part of the screen, you can see the scurrying, the activity. That's outside the Hart Senate Office Building. On the right part of the your screen, you're looking at live pictures.

You can make out -- underneath that green sign where it says 95, you can make out a black car. That apparently is the vehicle that caused what was going on.

We have an eyewitness who is joining us on the phone, Brian Johnson (ph).

Brian, where are you now? Where were you? What did you see?


I am safe now. I'm back in my condo, but we literally just drove past Hart. I'm a lobbyist by day and have friends in town. Took the day off. Drove past Hart, turned left to get in front of the Capitol, stopped and got out of the car. When we got out of the car, we saw -- looked behind us and saw three police cars rushing by very fast.

Then we heard shots. It was several shots, sounded like anywhere from six, seven, eight shots, rapid succession. I looked at my friend. I said those are gunshots. We jumped behind my car and then, instantly, there were police everywhere after we heard the shots. We heard one loud crash after we heard the shots and then it ended. We waited for about 10 minutes and there was no other activity.

BLITZER: And that was that. We don't know the extent of injuries. We don't know about this woman who was driving this black car from the White House -- near the White House towards Capitol Hill. There was a child inside. We did see video of police carrying a young child away from the scene. These are all sketchy pieces of information coming in.

We're anticipating a news conference from the U.S. Capitol Police momentarily, we're told, fairly soon, and we will get the latest information from them. But the all-clear has been given. The lockdown has been lifted. And I'm told that the U.S. House of Representatives will go back into session at the bottom of the hour, in a few minutes from now.

That's an encouraging sign, but you can see only a little while ago, there was real concern up on Capitol Hill, as gunshots were fired, something you don't hear or see every day here in the nation's capital.

Brian, anything else you want to share with our viewers before I let you go?

JOHNSON: No, that's it. Thanks.

BLITZER: All right, Brian Johnson, an eyewitness.

We're getting some more video, some more eyewitness accounts. I think we can hear what they're saying. Let's listen in.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were about six police cars chasing it. It came up onto the sidewalk. They cornered it, it backed up. It looked like it had either run into another police car or it backed towards police. And they opened fire on it. I heard between seven and 10 shots fired.

However, the car continued on. Police chased it. A few seconds later, there was what sounded like an explosion, but it may have been another accident. I couldn't tell. There were police running everywhere. They came out with assault rifles. We were actually in the middle of a government shutdown protest.

And it was very scary. They ran us all up to the top of the steps, and then they ran us back down. It was scary.

QUESTION: So can you say who did the shooting? Was it more the police?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't actually see -- I saw the police pull their guns out. I couldn't tell. I was a bit of a ways away. It most certainly was the police because the guy was driving. Or I don't want to say it was a guy, but the driver continued on. And it had to be the police doing the shooting.

QUESTION: So the guy that came in the car didn't shoot first then, it seems?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't say who fired first, but the volley of shots was all consistent with somebody -- with firing a weapon that they would fire a weapon in rapid succession.

QUESTION: Did you see how many people were in the car or what type of car it was?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I couldn't see how many people. It was a black, late-model car. And I don't know what model. I was actually trying to get out, you know, of the way of potential gunfire. It was scary. I'm just glad nobody up in our area was shot.

QUESTION: Thank you.


BLITZER: All right, so there you have another eyewitness telling us what happened with that black vehicle. That black vehicle, you can see part of it there on the right part of your screen. Those are live pictures coming in from outside the Hart Senate Office Building up on Capitol Hill.

Left part of your screen, you see the video that we're feeding in. This is raw video coming in. So, some of it is a little shaky, but you totally will understand what's going on. There has been an all- clear that's been lifted. The lockdown has -- there's released the all-clear. The lockdown has been lifted.

But a little while ago, extremely tense situation on the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol, but they could hear gunshots all the way over on the House side as well.

One House member, Congresswoman Grace Meng, is joining us from New York right now.

Where are you, Congresswoman? What did you see? What did you hear? What do you know?


REP. GRACE MENG (D), NEW YORK: ... and was on the chamber House floor when everything happened.

BLITZER: And what was -- just tell us how you reacted, what you saw. What were authorities telling you? Give us a little flavor of what was going on.

MENG: Well, we had just finished voting, and were about to line up to make floor speeches.

And they suddenly closed down the proceedings and told us to stay inside. A few members who had just walked out of the chambers were ushered back in by the Capitol Police, and were just told to stay inside and away from windows.

BLITZER: You're serving as a first-term member of the House of Representatives. You represent a part of Queens in the borough, one of the boroughs of New York. Did you ever think that this would be happening as a member of the United States Congress, this kind of activity?

MENG: Well, it's obviously been a very stressful time for everyone here in Washington, D.C., and this is the last thing that the country needed, but I'm so thankful to the Capitol Police, who really made everything run so smoothly. And our prayers are with the one or more that may have been injured.

BLITZER: So when you were asked to be in shelter, did they take you into a room, a secure room? Where did they take you?

MENG: I'm sorry?

BLITZER: I said, when they took you into a sheltered room, did they take you inside some place in the U.S. Capitol? Where were you brought?

MENG: No, they basically told us to stay inside the floor of the chamber. We weren't allowed to leave, and our staff was told to stay inside as well.

BLITZER: So you were on the floor of the House of Representatives when they said shelter in place. Your shelter in placed was the floor of the House, is that right?

MENG: Correct. And there were instant messages from the Capitol Police via text message, e-mails, and on all the TV screens in the Capitol. So, they really did their best to let everyone know what was going on.

BLITZER: Are you OK, Congresswoman?

MENG: I'm very fine, thank you so much.

BLITZER: OK, good. Well, thank you very much. And good luck to you. Good luck to everybody up on Capitol Hill right now.

The congresswoman joining us, freshman Congresswoman Grace Meng of New York. Hope -- fortunately, she's OK. Everyone seems to be OK, although there have been injuries, there have been casualties as a result of what's going on. Capitol Police say an officer injured in the incident was hurt in the crash. They're working two accident locations, we're told, right now, one, if you're familiar with Capitol Hill, at the corner of 1st and Constitution Avenue Northwest.

That's where the U.S. Capitol Police -- a Capitol Police officer has been injured in the crash, has been transported to a local hospital. We're not getting at least for now any further information. Second incident at 2nd and Maryland Avenue Northeast, where a non-U.S. Capitol Police vehicle was being processed. We're not exactly sure what's going on up there, but we do know that if you look on the right part of your screen, those live pictures coming in from the Senate side, from the Hart Senate Office Building, you see a black vehicle there.

That's the vehicle, apparently, that was seen outside the White House, at the corner of 15th and Pennsylvania, trying apparently to get through a barricade into a pedestrian area on Pennsylvania Avenue. No unauthorized vehicles are allowed there, and police stopped it. And then the vehicle turned towards Capitol Hill and went all the way up to the Senate side, where police were authorized to use force to stop that vehicle. The vehicle was stopped. Gunshots were heard. That vehicle is now there. We don't know the state of the driver. It was a woman, we're told by multiple sources. We do know that a child was inside that vehicle, and you can see police carrying a young child away from the scene. We assume that was the child in the vehicle.

There, you see it right there. So this is a real tenuous situation. The good news is that the all-clear has been given. The lockdown has been lifted. And we're standing by to get more information from the U.S. Capitol Police, who will have a news conference.

We also know the FBI was brought into the situation. The Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police were brought in. I assume the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, ATF, was brought in as well.

It's a scary situation, especially coming only a couple weeks, a few weeks after another awful, horrible incident that occurred at the Navy Yard -- that's not very far away, by the way, from Capitol Hill -- in which a dozen people were shot and killed. Many more were injured in that incident. That's only about two miles away from Capitol Hill.