Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Gunman on the Loose after Church Massacre; Texas Can Reject Confederate Flag Plate. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired June 18, 2015 - 10:30   ET


[10:29:40] REVEREND CRAIG ROBINSON, BETHEL AME CHURCH: Well, it's a tragedy, and it is something that's so unfathomable that it's understandable you can't formulate a question. and when you think about the many instances, even within this last year, of violence against black bodies and black institutions, it's heart wrenching and it's truly unthinkable.


I'm getting more information in, which is why I'm not so totally attentive and I apologize for that. The new information is the name of the suspect. Charleston police have now identified him as Dylann Roof of Lexington, South Carolina.

I want to bring back in Matthew and Jonathan to help us parse this out. I guess you were right, Matthew. They knew the make of the car, they ran a license plate, and perhaps that's how they got the name but as far as we know he's still on the run.

MATTHEW HORACE, FORMER ATF AGENT: Sure, sure. Well, now you will see the investigation go into a whole different spin. First, we identify, then we hunt, and then we capture. He will be in cuffs at some point very soon.

COSTELLO: I guess it's no surprise he's a native South Carolinian, Jonathan?

JONATHAN GILLIAM: Right, right. And, you know, that typical because of the small area that they're at, you know. Charleston is a small town -- it's a small city, but he's going to go back to what he knows. We're not talking about prisoners that escaped like up in New York that are on the run.

This guy, he's definitely on the run but most likely he's going to go back eventually to his home, to somebody that he knows. He's going to reach out to somebody, and people are going to be able to identify where he's at. I do predict that's going to happen.

COSTELLO: All right. Let's go to Charleston right now to Nick Valencia. He's been following this breaking news. Tell us what you know -- Nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: New updates here just in to CNN with the following information from the city of Charleston Police Department. We can now positively identify the gunman as Dylann Roof of Lexington, Kentucky (SIC) with a birth date of April 3rd, 1994.

We had mentioned that that vehicle, suspect showed up in a dark four- door sedan. We're now getting a broader description, a more specific description I should say of that car he was in. Saying that he was driving a black Hyundai with a vehicle tag LGF-330 and control room if you can -- if you have not already -- pull up that suspect's image.

Police are encouraging the public if you know anything about this suspect, Dylann Roof just named by the city of Charleston Police Department, if you know anything, seen anything, the smallest tip will help according to the local place and the FBI involved as well as regional authorities.

What we can tell you is that this shooting happened at about 9:05. The first calls coming into the police department of nine people dead. Among those killed we can positively identify State Senator Clementa Pinckney who also coincidentally Carol, happens to be the pastor at this church.

Police actively searching for this suspect just named. New information just into CNN -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Nick Valencia continue to gather information. I sure appreciate it. I appreciate that. Thank you so much.

Back to you, Jonathan. Well, obviously this guy didn't hide his face, so he couldn't be surprised that police were able to identify him so quickly.

GILLIAM: Right. I'm telling you, that hair gave it away. Now we're seeing real pictures of this individual. His haircut and his car, as soon as they were able to identify this, he really stands out.

And I just want to say one thing. Somebody from Twitter -- I do work social media quite a bit. Somebody just wrote on there that I was blaming the church participants for the massacre. That is absolutely not true.

This is an insane individual who is bent on destruction but the point I'm trying to make and the reason I'm trying to make this clear is people need to be aware that we live in a world now where these things happen. Be aware. Just be aware of your surroundings so that you can at least get a head start on somebody like this and run and know that this is a potential that this can happen.

COSTELLO: Matthew, do you think he's very far away? I mean, sometimes these kinds of people kill themselves, right? Sometimes they flee to where they know, and sometimes they actually have a plan.

HORACE: Well, in law enforcement, we look at best practices and we look at what's happened in the past that bring us here. The overwhelming majority of active shooter indents, the suspects have killed themselves, engaged police, or they were on the run for a very short period of time and in most cases they didn't try to hide their identity. That's a part of their control and that's a part of the sickness. And I think that's exactly what you see here. Listen, most churches are going to have CCTV cameras and security cameras up because they're just like everywhere else. And our churches and our schools are our most vulnerable mentally.

COSTELLO: Do I still have the Reverend with me? Because I'd like to ask you about that. I'm sorry, do we still have the Reverend?


COSTELLO: Reverend, I just want to get your reaction to our conversation. What do you think?

ROBINSON: I'm still just dumbfounded. It's just -- I'm at a loss for words which is a rare thing. Just thinking about the people in prayer, thinking about the type of hatred that has to go through someone's mind.

[10:35:09] And I hope it's clear that he wants to be known, he wants this to be seen. And that's a different level of cruelty and meanness that this world really needs to be healed from. I'm just in prayer with all of the people in South Carolina, the AMEs in the Seventh Episcopal District. And I'm praying that he is found quickly and that justice is brought swiftly. Yes.

COSTELLO: I hope you're right, sir. Jason Johnson, are you still with me?

JASON JOHNSON, HIRAM COLLEGE: Yes, I'm still here -- Carol.

COSTELLO: I just wanted to ask you a question about Reverend Pinckney. He became a Reverend when he was 18 years old. He became a state senator when he was 23. He was only 40 years old when he died. It's just an unbelievable tragedy.

Johnson: I mean, I met Clem, it was '97, and the Supreme Court had just redrawn districts in the low country of South Carolina. So he was first -- he was forced to run for re-election right after he had won. And a friend of mine asked me to come down there and I ran his campaign, and I have to say this, this may not be popular but it's the truth.

Now is the time for us to talk about politics when this tragedy is happening. People want to say -- yes, it hurts personally but this is the time we need to talk about mental health. It is the time we need to talk about guns. He wasn't just a man of god, he was also a man of commitment to his state and to his government. And I think if we separate those issues, we don't realize how tragic and how serious the action was by this young man.

COSTELLO: Well you know, north Charleston where Walter Scott was shot in the back by that police officer and the police officer was later indicted for murder -- right? The community, both black and white, they drew together. That was one place in this country that did it right.

JOHNSON: yes, yes. I completely agree. And people will rally around this situation. There is a sickness, sickness not just in this young man but in a country that could produce someone that can pray with people for an hour and then open fire. That is something that makes us reflect on what kind of messages we are sending to young people, what kind of responsibility we're placing and how we portray race in this country, and I don't think that can be separate.

I think Charleston will band together, but the idea is to stop this from happening again and to root out the attitude that leads to this kind of behavior.

COSTELLO: All right. Thank you, Jason.

I want to take you now to the floor of the South Carolina senate where just moments ago lawmakers there were standing in prayer after the death of Senator Pinckney.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- to the reality of all of the tragic events of last night at Emanuel AME. Our hearts go out to all of the members of that church family, to all in Charleston, to all of the women and men and children in South Carolina who are impacted in such a real way by this tragic act of violence.

We have come here though this morning to honor one, as I mentioned in my earlier prayer, who is such a fond -- has been such a -- I can't even get the tense right -- a fond presence here in the chamber in our committee rooms, in the hallways, and in the offices. I will miss that booming voice coming from one of the gentlest men I have ever known in my life.

Join me as, again, we bow in a humble prayer asking the Lord to bless us. We reflect, Lord, upon what the psalmist declares in the 130th psalm, that out of the depths I cry to you, o, Lord. Lord, hear my voice. And how deeply in the depths we feel ourselves to be this morning, oh God. The very shocking and unsettling and almost unspeakable tragedy has devastated us all.

For one of our own has been killed along with others in that faith community on the coast, and our hearts go out not only to Senator Pinckney's family, to the community he served, and to our grieving state, but to all around this country who are also trying to process what has happened again.

Hold us all tightly, lord, in your loving arms during these hours and days while we strive to make sense of that which at the core is absolutely senseless, o, Lord. Bestow hope and mercy, keep us focused on honoring you as the senator himself unfailingly did.

[10:40:12] Be with all of those in Charleston who have lost loved ones and bless this body, all of the senators and the staff, guiding them, o, Lord, leading all of us through these challenging times in which we live. In your comforting and loving name do we pray, all of this yet again, dear Lord. Amen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, I would ask that the members take their desk and that the clerk play a video.


[10:45:21] COSTELLO: New information on that terrible shooting at a South Carolina church. We now know the suspect's name. He's 21 years old. His name is Dylann Roof. He's from Lexington, South Carolina. Police are still looking for him at this hour.

A source also told us before Roof opened fire inside that church, he told his intended victims, "I want to shoot black people". Now, nine people are dead -- six women, three men.

All right. I want to bring in writer and cultural critic Michaela Angela Davis. Thanks so much for being with me. You know, we always try to make sense of these things but this one just --

MICHAELA ANGELA DAVIS, WRITER AND CULTURAL CRITIC: But, Carol, really, unfortunately, we've seen this historically. This isn't something that we cannot fathom. You know, if people who follow American history can fathom it. We don't like to, but there is a trajectory of historic, domestic terrorism. He's a terrorist, taking photos, putting himself up with the Rhodesian flag which to South Africans is the same as, you know, the confederate flag to us. It triggers --

COSTELLO: and you can see those pictures of him that are on Twitter right now. CNN has not confirmed that but he does apparently have these patches of these flags.

DAVIS: Yes. And it's not a selfie. It is a portrait that was on Facebook that clearly show some symbolism that also signifies that he's connected with supremist ideology.

COSTELLO: So he goes into this church. People are praying.

DAVIS: He prays with them.

COSTELLO: He prays with them. He's there for an hour, and then he stands up and says "I want to shoot black people"? It's just --

DAVIS: you know, unfortunately, this helps to legitimize when people are saying -- this is a civil rights moment. We are being under attack. We have not healed as a country. We have not resolved our brutal history. This is it. This is what this looks like. This is what real hate crimes are. This is what real terrorism is.

This is what our parents -- I talked to my mother this morning, she was speechless. They listen to (INAUDIBLE). This is it. This is the life. This is the life that many Americans, black and white, live. It's terrorism. And he is a terrorist. And this is a massacre.

COSTELLO: So police are still looking for him now. They came out, the mayor of Charleston also came out and expressed his disgust for this individual and said they were going to hunt him down and, you know, charge him with the most serious offenses and do everything they can. Are the authorities handling this properly? DAVIS: You know, the optics are very different. You know, this

terrorist killed more people than the Boston bombing, right? We know what those streets looked like. We knew what the streets of Ferguson looked like with tanks and people in riot gear. And so this is not lost to, you know, folks that are following this, the difference and the optics.

I don't want to see tanks on anybody's streets but are we clear that it's on lockdown? Are we clear that our children are being protected? Are we clear that there's a terrorist on the loose?

This kind of languaging and framing of what is happening here can look different than how, say, again Boston, which we all know was terrorist and a massacre was framed. So there's a lot of optics, a lot of history, there's a lot of triggers, particularly this church and particularly this leader.

Was it an assassination? Because it seems very strategic, very calculated, very clear goals from this terrorist.

COSTELLO: But we don't know that right now because --

Davis: I said it appears.

COSTELLO: Right it appears. This Reverend traveled two hours to get to this church to hold this bible study -- right. So the gunman would have had to know that if he had it planned.

DAVIS: That's why I'm saying it seems like there's a lot of things in place. There was something planned at that church very significant this week. I don't know whether he got that detailed into the history of the church and what they were planning to kind of celebrate, you know, the history of that church. I don't know if he knew all those details, but people are making those connections clearly.

COSTELLO: Well, that this church was where this happened.

DAVIS: Right.

COSTELLO: There had to be a reason, right? Because this church has historical significance -- right. It was founded by a former slave.

DAVIS: That's right.

COSTELLO: It was burned to the slave when that former slave tried to --

DAVIS: Revolt.

COSTELLO: Revolt. Right -- against the slave owners.

DAVIS: That's right.

[10:50:01] COSTELLO: And it was burned to the ground. But it was rebuilt. Actually the parishioners for a time held services underground so they could stay safe so the church wouldn't be burned again over their heads.

DAVIS: You know, I think Marc Lamont Hill said earlier that this is a moral marker, this church. It's very symbolic but that's what they were going to commemorate was the founder who was leading a revolt against slavery. So it's also a site of resistance.

So, again, I don't know whether he had that much scholarship around the history of this church, but this is what all this symbolizes. It symbolizes resistance, resilience, our history, and the upside of this is perhaps this generation won't bury what really happened here, right? Because until we really come to terms with it, it won't stop. We just see it now.

You know, I was talking to my mother and she's like, this hasn't stopped. It's just now we have another kind of president. We have -- people are not doing this with impunity, which was what they were used to in the south, right? People would disappear all the time.

COSTELLO: I want to put up that Facebook page that you were referencing earlier.

DAVIS: Great.

COSTELLO: This is from the Berkeley County authorities. This is the suspect, Dylann Roof, 21 years old. And you were talking about those flags he has on his jacket. Tell us about them.

DAVIS: So the flag that he's having now particularly for our South African viewers, that flag represents a time in apartheid South Africa. So this is a very intentional portrait. You know what I mean. Again, it's not a selfie. It's not something that he just threw together. I think this was letting people know -- he was setting himself up to be this --

COSTELLO: Whatever.

DAVIS: Whatever, you know. Because there is all that glory that goes along with people that plan these kind of acts.

COSTELLO: Well, the fact that supposedly he allowed one woman to live so she could say what happened inside that church is just --

DAVIS: It gets more and more gruesome. It gets more and more gruesome. And there's some -- again, this hasn't been confirmed, but a five-year-old boy played dead? And, you know, and an investigator was talking in the green room I said earlier about the scene was very gruesome and that there was a moment when people's cell phones started to go off so it makes it very real that there are families, there are communities that are in --


DAVIS: Agony.

COSTELLO: Michaela Angela Davis, thank you so much for stopping by. I appreciate it. And this just also into CNN. We now the license plate number of the black Hyundai that Dylann Roof may be driving at this moment. You can see it there. The tag number is LGF as in Frank, 330. If you see anything, 1-800-call-FBI is the number to call. I'll be right back.


COSTELLO: Breaking news to tell you about out of Washington.

The U.S. Supreme Court has just ruled that the state of Texas can, indeed, reject a license plate design with a confederate battle flag on it. The Texas motor vehicle board rejected the design but then the Sons of Confederate Veterans sued saying the motor vehicle board was violating free speech rights when they refused it. Nine other states have specialty license plates featuring the flag but Texas refused calling it offensive and Texas wins.

Turning now to the prison break in upstate New York: two killers still on the loose, a civilian employee is behind bars and her husband is in shock. That's according to the attorney for Lyle Mitchell, the man married to that prison worker charged with helping the two killers escape.

Investigators say Joyce Mitchell had a sexual relationship with the men and husband Lyle was allegedly the target of a murder plot once they were free.

Jason Carroll has more for you.


CAPT. ROBERT LAFONTANA, NEW YORK STATE POLICE: We are going to pursue every lead, and we are going to locate these individuals.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This morning the search area in upstate New York expands and shifts following more than 1,400 leads. Officials hoping these age progression mug shots help capture fugitives Richard Matt and David Sweat.

LAFONTANA: We are concentrating or efforts not only in this vicinity but throughout the nation and beyond.

CARROLL: According to law enforcement officials before Matt broke out of prison, he made a painting of Joyce Mitchell's children the female prison employee accused of helping the inmates escape. She then gave it to her husband Lyle as a wedding anniversary present only months ago all the while officials say Joyce Mitchell was having a sexual relationship with the 49-year-old Richard Matt dating back as far as 2013.

Investigators also subpoenaed Mitchell's cell phone records. Clinton County district attorney Andrew Wylie says she used it to speak with Matt's daughter at least once.

ANDREW WYLIE, CLINTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: one of the items that she was discussing, at least she advised us, the purpose of that was to discuss paintings that Matt wanted to do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know anything about the escape plans.

CARROLL: A source close to the investigation says Joyce's husband, Lyle Mitchell, had no knowledge of the affair. Officials say there is also no evidence Lyle knew about the prisoners' escape plan before it happened.

And it was only after Matt and Sweat broke out that Joyce Mitchell warned her husband the men also had been plotting to kill him. She's pleaded not guilty to charges relating to the escape.


CARROLL: And Mitchell allegedly told investigators that on June 6th, that's when she initially had planned to pick up those inmates. Then they were going to then drive to her home, Carol, and that's where the murder of her husband was to take place.

[11:00:02] But I spoke to Joyce Mitchell's attorney. He said, yes, she knew about the murder plot; yes, she warned her husband about the plot, but he says there is no way that she was involved in the planning of that murder plot -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Jason Carroll reporting live. Thanks so much.

And thank you for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello. "AT THIS HOUR" with Berman and Bolduan starts now.