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Mass Shooting At Buffalo Supermarket; White House Marks One Million COVID Deaths In The U.S.; One-On-One With Dr. Deborah Birx. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired May 14, 2022 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington.
We are following breaking news on a mass shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York. A suspect is said to be in custody, but police say multiple people were shot at a Tops Market there. No word yet confirming the number of casualties, but they could be very high.
But listen to this witness who gives a harrowing account of how the shooting unfolded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRADY LEWIS, WITNESS TO SHOOTING: From what I saw just looked the store and I stopped here and I started to drink my juice. And I heard a gun shot -- that I knew was a gun shot and not a fire cracker. I looked up and I seen smoke. Then I seen a guy in a full army suit just shooting shots at people.
And I seen a security guard run in the store then I seen the guy go in, army style, bent over, just shooting at people. I heard him shooting at people and I saw three people laying down. I didn't have a phone on me so I was just screaming for somebody to call the police and he came out. He put the gun to his head. To his chin. Then he dropped it and took off his bulletproof vest then got on his hands and knees and put his hands behind his back and then they arrested him.
That's a shame because there was a lot of people in there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just like seeing all of that, like, what was your mind --
LEWIS: I still don't even believe it happened, actually that a person would go into a supermarket full of people. I have an aunt in there. I know some other women in there. One woman just had a baby. So hopefully they're ok.
But it's a shame and something has to happen because this is ridiculous. This is just ridiculous.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm hearing like it was like a white guy. LEWIS: It was a white guy, and he was fully prepared, ready to go.
Yes. Yes. Yes, it is a white guy in full army suit, prepared and ready.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What else did you see? How long did it take for police?
LEWIS: It took the police about two minutes. Minute and 30 seconds, actually. That was pretty much it. Took them about two minutes. They got here and they stood and watched him. I thought they were going to shoot him, but they didn't shoot him.
But yes, like I said, he got on the ground and surrendered himself. I heard from people over there that he had other rifles in his car. But I don't really know.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many shots did you hear?
LEWIS: I heard at first and saw seven or eight. Gun smoke shots. You know, when he went inside, I heard at least 20 or so shots but I couldn't really tell because I was yelling and screaming myself for somebody to call the police.
So he went in there to shoot. Ready to shoot and ready. I don't know what the problem was but it was horrible actually. It was really horrible. I'm still kind of shooken up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know, I bet. (INAUDIBLE)
LEWIS: the gun shots was kind of loud. I really didn't hear no screams. But the gunshots were
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I heard like (INAUDIBLE) to come outside.
LEWIS: Yes, he shot outside first. The security guard ran inside. That's what I'm looking like what's going on. I'm thinking it's a play, actually, because I don't believe that stuff happens for real and then I seen him go down and I'd seen him do this. I'm like, well, that's for real.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: And we're expecting a police press conference at any moment. We'll bring that to you live as it happens. In the mean time, we're also hearing from a local union representative whose workers were inside that grocery store. Let's listen to that.
MARK MANNA, UNITED FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS: Well, obviously, you know, these essential workers, you know, come to work every day and just want to serve the community. And you know, get a paycheck.
And they have to put up with this craziness and it's horrible and our thoughts from our president, Frank De Riso, you know, we wanted me to make sure that the workers know that we're behind them and we support them and we're going to do whatever we can to make sure they get through this safely. Make sure that we enhance whatever protection the workers need here.
It's a dark day for grocery store workers and it needs to change. You know, when you work for a grocery store in Buffalo and you've been around a while, you know everybody. It's a small universe of people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mark, what are you hearing about what happened inside?
MANNA: I hear that somebody came in heavily armed. Just walked in and started shooting. I spoke to one of the workers on my way here and she said that, you know, her family members are calling her and her co- workers and it was just like something out of a war movie.
Just non-stop shooting. People running, screaming. The person was in tactical gear, a lot of guns, a lot of some kind of armor or something. So it looks like -- I'm not going to speculate -- but it seemed like somebody came here on a mission.
And again, you know, the big picture is that these poor workers who come here every day to punch a clock and just put money in their pockets, it's terrible.
And as their union representatives, we're going to make sure that we do everything we can for them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mark, my thoughts and my sympathies are with you and the community. Please send my condolences.
Congressman Brian Higgins just arriving to the scene here. Congressman thank you for speaking with us live here on Channel 7.
First of all, what are you hearing here?
REP. BRIAN HIGGINS (D-NY): Well, I think what everybody else has heard thus far and that is that there's one shooter and he is in custody and eight people have been killed.
This is a terrible tragedy. And I'm going in to find out how much I can do to be helpful as it relates to this situation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are hearing from the folks who represent the union right now that this shooter who was in custody, as we should reiterate, was dressed in tactical gear and from what he said, I'm using his words, was on a mission. What goes through your mind when you hear that?
HIGGINS: Well, nothing good. I mean This is a community that is obviously affected by this as evidenced by all the people that are here. And we need to know good information so that we can report to the local community about any potential additional threats in this situation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressman, I would be remiss if I didn't bring this up and I certainly don't want to connect dots here by any means. The city of Buffalo has a gun problem --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Our thanks to our affiliate WKBW there. Excellent report from that local reporter on the scene speaking with the congressman there; also with a union representative for the supermarket workers.
It's just a terrible situation unfolding. We're staying on top of this.
With me now, former Philadelphia police commissioner and senior law enforcement analyst for CNN Charles Ramsey. Also with me former DHS assistant secretary and CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem.
I have to say to both of you at the beginning, my father worked in grocery stores for many, many decades and this is just heartbreaking to me to think that grocery store workers would be fired upon in this way and people going to supermarkets, we know how these are just focal points of our communities.
And Juliette, I want to get your reaction to these accounts that we're hearing from these eyewitnesses. It sounds like this was some sort of individual who went in there premeditated, dressed in tactical gear as that union representative was saying. Somebody else was saying -- other eyewitness are saying military garb and just unloaded inside this store.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Right. And so -- and he's alive. We don't know if he's cooperating.
Let's just put this sort of where are we in terms of Buffalo and the supermarket is not a well-known supermarket chain. Tops Friendly markets though is based in Amherst, New York. It is well-known in the New York, Vermont areas. And so these are not just well established, they are community markers.
They are known in the community and so the community surrounding it works there, they support it, they manage it. As we saw the union guy. And it's a Saturday afternoon on a pretty beautiful weekend.
So one has to imagine that lots of families were there. Lots of mothers and fathers getting ready or filling up for the weekend.
Someone comes in, he's been described as white, dressed in military garb with at least one semiautomatic or rifle. I don't know if we've confirmed that, but at least eyewitness report. And killed eight people relatively quickly and relatively easily. So this does sound as you said like a mission.
This is not, he does not have a goal. He is not asking for anything. He doesn't take hostages. He doesn't want a ransom. He wants to kill.
And so the number one thing right now is motive. What brought him to this neighborhood with this population in military garb.
ACOSTA: And Chief Ramsey, you know, we want to underline, we are hearing reports about multiple casualties, a fairly high number of casualties. We are allowing law enforcement to put that information together before we put it out there to the public.
ACOSTA: Obviously in these situations, as you know, details can change so we want to be careful. But as far as what you can gather, what do you think the -- how is this investigation shaping up in your mind do you think?
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I mean there's a lot of things going on right now. Obviously you have a lot of witnesses that need to be interviewed. You've got crime scenes that need to be protected just based on what the one witness said, you've got an indoor and an outdoor scene that has to be protected.
You've got to set up some kind of reunification center for those people who weren't injured but were there with family. Everyone's in a state of panic right now.
And as far as casualties go, until we actually hear from the Buffalo Police Department, again, you're wise to be cautious in terms of giving out numbers and things of that nature because right now, we just don't know. But if there are casualties, you obviously have to identify those individuals. You have to notify next of kin. There are a lot of steps that have to be taken if that in fact is true.
As far as the shooter goes, it does sound premeditated. I mean that's not how you come to a grocery store to shop, you know, with tactical gear and so forth. And it looks -- it sounds like an assault weapon of some kind could possibly have been used just based on a witness and what he has stated.
So there are a lot of things that have to happen right now -- search warrants, trying to find out -- I don't know if this guy's cooperating, is he not cooperating? What the motive was?
But right now, I think the main thing is making sure your scene is secure. You identify witnesses. You start getting statements. You start trying to notify next of kin. Those people who were there that need to be reunified with family. That needs to happen.
So I mean there are a lot of things going on simultaneously and they're trying to get as much information as possible before they give that first presser because again, you want to be accurate.
You know, this isn't social media. You've got to know what you're talking about when you get in front of the camera and provide actual information.
ACOSTA: And there's a lot of stuff flying around social media right now. We're not going to get into that. And as that information gets in and is confirmed by authorities, we'll obviously bring that to you.
But you know, Juliette, we were just talking about this a few moments ago. My goodness, a grocery store full of people on a Saturday afternoon. No hope for any kind of meaningful security in a situation like this.
If somebody is coming in heavily armed in that fashion, obviously you know, somebody who's dressed that way is bent on destruction.
KAYYEM: Yes. And quick destruction. I mean the eyewitness reports have the police being called immediately and there within a minute and a half to two minutes.
This is the challenge of where we are right now that the weaponry that's out there can kill so quickly. You can have the most sophisticated police department. The strongest response system in the world and you're just not getting there fast enough.
We don't know the casualty rate yet, but I do -- I do want to repeat. I'm having flash backs because I think Chief Ramsey and I have been on talking about this issue a dozen times but the number one issue right now of course is also family unification as Chief Ramsey said because it's a Saturday and because families shop together or parents go away for an hour to get groceries, the most important thing that in any active shooter case, you have to separate those who are running there to find out where their family members are and those who are running there who are going to learn the worst possible news of their lives.
And so the police do not want to get ahead of this because you don't want someone finding out by the news or rumor or social media and so we can wait. Because people deserve that respect and the families deserve that respect. As they get the family unification and family notification in line.
Because they have a suspect, the law enforcement side of this, unless he has others working with him, we just don't know that yet. The law enforcement part of this is now in the sort of legal phase in terms of courts and proceedings and the right to counsel and so that will go on in -- on a separate lane right now.
ACOSTA: All right. Chief Ramsey, Juliette Kayyem, thank you both very much. Stand by. We've got a press conference coming from the Buffalo police department. We expect that happening in the coming minutes. Stand by for that and we'll bring that to you as soon as it happens. Stay with us.
ACOSTA: This week the White House marked 1 million coronavirus deaths in the U.S. The once unthinkable figure now serving as a brutal reminder that the danger is not over. And based on the view of former Trump coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, hundreds of thousands of those people should not have died.
Here's what she told CNN over a year ago about COVID deaths in the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. DEBORAH BIRX, FORMER TRUMP CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: But there were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge. All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now Dr. Birx is saying who exactly shoulders some of the blame for the staggering body count. She names names in her new tell all, "Silent Invasion: the Untold Story of the Trump Administration COVID- 19 and Preventing the Next Pandemic before it's tool Late".
And Dr. Birx joins me now. Dr. Birx, you described butting heads with Trump's COVID adviser, Dr. Scott Atlas, who became something of a rival of yours.
I remember from covering those days a days at the White House, he was extremely resistant to mitigation measures and was getting through to Trump and influenced the way he handled all of this.
ACOSTA: And you write in your book, "His opinions which flew in the face of hard scientific evidence took hold and influenced the president of the United States and others in the administration and ultimately cost us thousands more lives and added greatly to the unfolding tragedy."
And here we are, a year and a half into the Biden administration, I have to ask you, does it seem like that Scott Atlas won? COVID is everywhere. Restrictions are gone. The vaccines and boosters did not reach the levels that the experts wanted and we're just letting it rip in this country now.
DR. BIRX: Well, we have all the tools and common the sense tools to stop it. The fact that since this January 1st 175,000 Americans have died just in the last four and a half months, that's five times any annual flu death.
So we need to take this five times more seriously than we take flu and we need to lay out to the American people the common sense things they can do in a surge.
And I'm a little bit disappointed that people have been talking about a fall and winter surge. I'm worried about the summer and the summer surge that could start within the next three to four weeks across the south.
ACOSTA: I know. It's spreading rapidly. But getting back to Dr. Atlas, because you sidestepped -- you don't sidestep it in the book.
DR. BIRX: No.
ACOSTA: He -- and I remember this all too well. He was able to influence the president. You were pushed out at the time. Did that have an effect and did that result on, you know, in having people lose their lives and did it result with thousands of people, tens of thousands of people losing their lives?
DR. BIRX: I think what it did is because what I was saying was completely the opposite of what he was saying, it allowed people who aren't grounded in the science and the data to say it doesn't matter. No one's right because they can't agree. So if two doctors can't agree, I don't have to listen to any of them.
You know, it's always good to have a dialogue, but let's have a dialogue that's based on data and information and really go through the data together and go through it with the American people.
ACOSTA: I have to ask, do you feel responsible in any way? You point the fingers at others. Do you feel responsible? You could have gone rogue. You could have gone public. I was there with you in the briefing room that day when Trump was talking about injecting people with disinfectants.
You could have gone up to the podium and said don't do this. Or you could have gone on television the next day and say, I quit. This guy is not dealing with reality. Why didn't you do any of those things?
DR. BIRX: I think you have to ask yourself every day are you making progress. And I know you're focused on President Trump, but I had a group of individuals starting with the vice president all the way through senior advisers including the communication team that were helping me every day. Helping me get to local media. Helping me get to governors. Helping me get to mayors. And on the ground, changing how we responded to this pandemic.
So yes, I wasn't able to --
ACOSTA: You had to do that to some extent because you were pushed out of the mix.
DR. BIRX: But you don't give up. And as long as you're making progress -- I think that's what I had to ask myself every day. Would that one moment that would make me look good, help the pandemic or hurt the pandemic in the long run. And in my judgment, it would have hurt the pandemic in the long run because we were able to make progress behind the scenes.
ACOSTA: Let's watch that infamous moment again. I know you've talked about it before. I want to talk about it again. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it's ultraviolet or just very powerful light. And I think you said that hasn't been checked but you're going to test it.
And then I said supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way. And I think you said you're going to test that, too. Sounds interesting. Right. and then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute -- in a minute. And is there a way we can do something like that. By injection inside or almost a cleaning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now you talk about this moment in your book. I have to ask, what was going through your head there when you were listening to this and I know you're saying I got out on the road and talked to people and I was trying to do as much I could with all of these other experts.
But at the end of the day if you hear something that bonkers coming from the president of the United States, how at that moment could you have any faith in him whatsoever? Because I mean I talked to Trump advisers, people who were close to the then president at the time who thought it was bananas for him to talk about injecting yourself with disinfectant and so on. What was going through your mind and didn't you think, what's wrong with this guy?
DR. BIRX: So he's in this conversation with this other man -- Another scientist. His back is turned to me. And they're in this dialogue.
I'm trying to figure out how something that we asked a DHS scientist to study, sun light versus disinfectant so we could get children out on playgrounds because I was worried about the mental health of the youngest children that had been inside.
DR. BIRX: That's what we had asked the scientists to study. Somehow, between task force and that scientific evidence that sun light creates oxidation and works as well as disinfectant, that scientist went into the Oval Office while I'm waiting down at the press briefing. So I'm trying to figure out how did something that was looking at surfaces turn into something that people, that he's talking about as a therapeutic? And the DHS scientist is not disagreeing with him.
Frankly, I was so taken aback in that moment. Obviously at the end of it, I said, not a treatment, contacted the CDC, FDA and got them to post that and within seconds of leaving the press briefing, made sure that the senior advisers knew they needed to get to the president and tell him that this was absolutely, as you say bonkers.
And of course, by the next day, he said it's a joke. Now we all know in that moment of those two --
ACOSTA: He was not joking.
DR. BIRX: Those two men believed it. But I think equally, that scientist was encouraging him.
ACOSTA: Yes, I remember because I was on the air that day and I remember being on with Wolf Blitzer after he said that and saying in a live shot, you know, dear American people, do not do what the president of the United States just said. But I have to come back to this question because to me, it puzzles me to this day. How could anybody in their right mind working with the president at that time think that he was dealing with reality? If you were to go up to any person on the street and somebody was rambling about injecting themselves with disinfectant, you would question what is going on in their heads.
And here he's going to be the president for months and months and months dealing with pandemic. That's why I come back to this question and I don't mean to go off on you, I don't understand why you or some of the others in the administration didn't get out in front of the camera and say he's not dealing with reality anymore. He's lost it. This is bonkers. Who would say this? You know what I mean?
DR. BIRX: Yes, I know what you mean but he was the elected president of the United States. And I, of course, worked for the vice president. I did make people very clearly aware that that was bonkers, but more importantly, I made sure that what you just talked about with Scott Atlas stayed between the president and Scott Atlas and didn't implemented across the country.
Now, as you describe, many people as they go into the midterms are doing pandemic response by polling. And we all know what happens when you do pandemic response by polling rather than by science and data.
And so we're in almost not a exactly same situation, but a very concerning situation entering a summer surge and a fall surge when people want to act like the virus is gone. And it is not.
ACOSTA: And in the waning days of the Trump administration, you got into a heated exchange with Vice President Pence at the time and you say your long-time colleague Dr. Fauci, CDC director Redfield sat by silently and you write Tony had encouraged me to take on the vice president, but while I was being yelled at, he didn't intervene.
I had a very hard time reconciling myself with what I felt was a lack of a lack of support from Tony Fauci and Bob Redfield. In that moment, I still respected them both, but I continue to puzzle over their lack of engagement in that moment.
Were you able to clear the air with Dr. Fauci? I know because I've spoken with Dr. Fauci. He would speak very fondly about you. Talk about you as being a protege and so on. I thought that was surprising what you talked about.
DR. BIRX: You know, I think if you talk to the people in the White House, the communication team and the people who were in the task force, the people who are in the Oval Office. They'll tell you that -- and this is one of the reasons I stayed. The only person that pushed back on the president when he would say these things was me. That was my job. I was brought into the White House and I --
ACOSTA: Dr. Fauci would push back on things publicly.
DR. BIRX: Yes.
ACOSTA: I remember that was -- that part -- Dr. Fauci --
DR. BIRX: But it was important that the, you know, the president of the United States and the vice president that we have a federal response that matches the degree of the problem and so being able to move tests. Being able to work with the governors. And I think the real question I think for you, Jim, is ask the governors if I was helpful because you know, that's where it mattered the most.
So, yes, I had to change what I did, but I worked pandemics around the globe for decades. I'm used to presidents that may not agree with me.
ACOSTA: And play politics.
DR. BIRX: And play politics, but I still have to get the policies changed to help LGBTs in Uganda or Tanzania.
ACOSTA: And I understand it. Let me ask you this. If Trump gets back into office and back in the White House, he's out there acting as if he's running for president. Who knows, he may be bluffing. And another public health emergency comes along, would you have any confidence in him in handling that public health emergency given what you know in terms of what happened with COVID?
BIRX: Well, that's why I want to be very clear in the book. Because it's bigger than the president and it's bigger than the Oval Office and it goes to his senior advisers, also.
So you have to remember, when you elect a president, you elect the people who come in with him.
ACOSTA: But would --
BIRX: So that would be -- I would be very clear that that would be a detriment to this country to have that happen and have another outbreak with President Trump in the Oval Office.
I think there are extraordinary candidates across the country on both sides of the aisle. I work with both Democrats and Republicans equally. That's how I've been able to get my work done for 40 years.
ACOSTA: But you would not have faith in Donald Trump if he were to be president again?
BIRX: That's why I think it's important in the book to understand that he was saying this and we were doing that.
And I think when you need to have clear communication to the public, you can't have that. I mean, yes, we were doing the right thing.
(CROSSTALK) BIRX: But you also need a president saying the right thing.
ACOSTA: Because here's -- the other thing is, you know, Mark Esper, the former defense secretary, has a book out. John Bolton has a book. Everybody waits until they write the book it seems to warn the public.
BIRX: Well --
BIRX: Well, no, because I was out the whole time warning the public.
ACOSTA: But warning the public about the nuttiness that the president was exhibiting behind the scenes on whatever issue it is.
If it's the defense secretary and the president talking about shooting protestors in the legs and John Bolton talking about the president not being, you know, strong with Putin.
And other adversaries and here we are talking to you. You're a former administration official. When you had the chance to speak out, you didn't.
BIRX: As a civil servant, all of us -
ACOSTA: But you understand what I'm saying. I mean --
BIRX: I do understand what you're saying. But I think that wasn't true though. I think there are probably 200 YouTube clips of local press that I did all over this country where I was
ACOSTA: I remember.
BIRX: -- very clear to the American public. The major networks and cable didn't cover those.
But if you look at any one of those, I am giving very clear guidance to the American people. Contradicting the president. And I made it clear to the vice president.
When I go out, I say the opposite of what the president is saying. And Vice President Pence looked me in the eye and said do what you need to do. That's what I did. And that's all I could see that I could do.
Yes, one flash of brilliance of going out would have helped. Probably only my reputation. Would have been worse for the pandemic.
ACOSTA: All right.
Dr. Deborah Birx, we appreciate you coming in.
I think maybe you and I have a little disagreement about that. But I have been reading your book and there are a lot of great insights.
BIRX: Read the last chapter because it says stuff we're still getting wrong today!
ACOSTA: Yes. And we should read it and take heart because this pandemic, it is still causing a lot of problems for Americans across the country. People are getting sick and dying.
Dr. Birx, thank you for your time.
She's the author of the book, "Silent Invasion, The Untold Story of the Trump Administration, COVID-19, and Preventing the Next Pandemic Before It's Too Late."
And a quick programming note. Dr. Fauci will join us tomorrow afternoon at 4:00. Be sure to tune in for that.
Coming up, a New York congressman confirming there are fatalities in the mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket. We expect police to update the police any moment now. We're standing by live for that. And we'll talk to you in a few moments with the latest out of Buffalo. Stay with us.
ACOSTA: Back now to our breaking news. A federal law enforcement source now confirming at least eight people have died in that mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket. We expect police to update the public any moment now.
And while we wait for that, former police commissioner from Philadelphia and senior law enforcement analyst for CNN, Charles Ramsey, is back with us.
And also with me is the former DHS assistant secretary and CNN national security analyst, Juliette Kayyem.
Guys, thanks so much for being with us and hanging with us.
Chief Ramsey, eight dead. At least eight dead at this point. You know, it just sounds like people didn't even have a chance.
RAMSEY: Well, they didn't have a chance. I mean, if you're in a store and you're shopping, the last thing you think you're going to be doing is dodging bullets later on.
If he came inside and he actually had an assault weapon or any weapon and just started shooting, you know, a crowded store, it's almost like you can't miss. And that's the shame of it.
I don't know if people really understand just how devastating these weapons are. The kinds of wounds that are inflicted upon people that are struck. I mean, it is absolutely incredible. And so you know, listen, if that number is accurate, even if it's just
one, it's tragic. There's a family whose life has been forever changed because of this guy and what he chose to do.
So, yes. It's -- it's just unbelievable but in another sense, it is very believable.
And it's not going to stop here, Jim. We both know we'll be having this same conversation again. It's just a question of what city and under what circumstances. It is not going to change.
ACOSTA: And our affiliate, WKBW, who's been doing great work covering this today, just spoke with a grandmother who received a call from her granddaughter about this at the store. We'll listen in a moment.
But first, I understand Shimon Prokupecz is on the line available to speak with us about the latest news coming out of Buffalo.
Shimon, what can you tell us?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): So, Jim, tragically, at least, at least officials are saying eight have been killed. It's going to be a really rough night for folks in Buffalo.
That number could rise. So last count, that's what officials were receiving about eight were killed.
We're also learning that the police and law enforcement have found written documents, a manifesto, that could be linked to the alleged shooter. So that is something they're reviewing. Those documents that were posted online.
And the FBI is certainly going to assist the local authority there as well. Federal officials who are all helping at the moment.
The suspect, we're told, is in custody. So that changes things for investigators because now they have to potentially prosecute this person. So things are slowly coming out.
But the big news here now is that at least eight have been killed. People going through the grocery store, shopping for the day, for the weekend, and tragically killed.
And so now the local authority there, federal authorities here, trying to sort out exactly what was the motivation here.
The attorney general, we're told by a colleague, he's been briefed.
And certainly given the circumstances of this shooting and some other information as it comes to light, there could be face federal charges.
But right now, the FBI we're told is assisting with the local authorities. The Buffalo police are leading the case. Obviously, the tragedy here is that eight people are dead and authorities are telling us that number could rise.
ACOSTA: And, Shimon, do we know anything about the suspect at this point? There's a lot of stuff swirling around.
Obviously, the eyewitnesses on the scene are talking about the suspect being dressed in some sort of military attire and possibly wearing body armor, but we're waiting for authorities to confirm some of that.
What do you know?
PROKUPECZ: Yes. And there's also -- there's video out there as well. That's something the authorities are reviewing, along with the documents, this manifesto.
You know, sort of the information they have is that this individual, alleged shooter is 18 years old. So remarkably young. And so they say he is in custody. So they'll have a lot to work with here.
And certainly motivation. If these documents are connected to this individual, that they clearly spell out motivation here. And that can certainly raise a lot of concerns for investigators, federal investigators to local investigators.
And then the question of why today, obviously, and other questions about how the weapons were obtained. And all of that is something the authorities are going to have to figure out.
He is in custody. There's a lot of information out there that authorities are trying to review and confirm and trying to see how it links up to what happened here today.
ACOSTA: And our Evan Perez, Shimon, is reporting that the attorney general, Merrick Garland, has been briefed on this situation in Buffalo. That's according to a Justice Department spokesman.
Shimon, how do you suppose this federal investigation is going to advance from here? Because obviously, there's going to be a federal investigation involved.
PROKUPECZ: Right. So the motivation and whether or not the motivation rises to the level of a federal crime. That's going to be the key for the FBI here and for the Department of Justice.
So whether this was some kind of terrorist attack Obviously, you know, in this day and age, this is a terrorist attack. The question now becomes, was it some kind of a hate crime based on the documents that the federal investigators are now reviewing along with the local police.
Whether or not this rises to some kind of a federal crime. That's where the Department of Justice and the FBI, certainly, where they would come in and bring any potential charges, federal charges, against this individual. ACOSTA: All right, Shimon. I know you've had a busy day. You were
covering the protests, now you're covering this. I'll let you get back to work.
We'll get back to Chief Ramsey and Juliette Kayyem.
Juliette, a couple of things to pick up on from what Shimon was talking about.
We're now in the neighborhood of talking about a purported manifesto again. As you know, with these types of mass shootings, that sometimes happens.
Happened with the Walmart mass shooting in El Paso, the Tree of Life. These manifestos emerge and they paint a very dark picture of what is going through the minds of these types of mass shooters.
What is standing out to you at this point in the investigation?
KAYYEM: Yes. Right. And we'll be careful here. There's -- we're confirming there's searches for a manifesto. We don't know the motivation yet.
We know from our own reporting the Department of Justice has been briefed in case there's a federal nexus, which would include some sort of hate motivation or terrorism motivation.
And so that is why the FBI and DOJ would be leaning in now because the suspect is alive. We have his name and know where he lives. And the manifesto will disclose something.
A manifesto will show intent and it will also show sanity or not. And so that's going to be important for both the defense and the prosecution.
Is this a perfectly sane person who has -- who is doing something that we would view as insane, of course, or not? And so that is why the manifesto is going to be relevant.
I want to just give why is this relevant to our discussion right now.
So this particular market is well-known in the New York/Vermont chain, New York/Vermont areas. And this particular site is in a 71 percent African-American community. And it is a community market.
So this is why we saw the union people coming forward. The people who live in the community work in this chain, the tops chain.
And so you have now a white defendant or a white assailant and a 71 percent black community. Why did he choose this market? That's a safe question to ask. We're not speculating. It's the first question anyone is going to ask at this stage.
Why this market? Why this day? Why this community? And hopefully we can get answers.
The delay -- I should also say, the delay in the press conference is always not great because we have to assume that they're still trying to identify -- Chief Ramsey was saying earlier, these are weapons not meant to harm. They are meant to destroy. You and the body and everything.
So that is probably what this delay is about is they've got to get identification to make sure they have the numbers right. They cannot get this wrong. They just can't. Not for the families.
ACOSTA: Chief Ramsey, your thoughts on this purported manifesto
RAMSEY: Well, I mean, it is going to provide an awful lot of information. But right now, we don't know what's in it.
Obviously you know, it looks at least from what we see now, something that was premeditated.
I think Juliette is right. You can look at the footage and see this is a largely African-American neighborhood. Probably the store was probably mostly filled with African-Americans. He's a young white guy.
Now, I wouldn't draw any conclusions about that. We don't know if this guy formally worked there and had some kind of beef as a result of that. We don't know if he's part of some kind of extremist group. We just don't know.
When you look at what you have right now, that's a logical question to ask. And you have to find out exactly what the motive is.
But now that you have a living suspect, they have to really be really careful because, eventually, there will be a trial.
And so search warrants, making sure you're crossing every "T^" and dotting every "I." Making sure you get all the witness statements processed that scene very carefully. All the kinds of things.
And ATF is deeply involved because they've got to trace weapons and all that sort of thing.
So there are a lot of things that have to go on. Because, eventually, this will wind up as a prosecution of some kind I would imagine. So they're going to be very, very careful.
Whether we know this guy's name at the press conference remains to be seen. It depends on if they've got locations they still need to secure or things they need to do. We'll find out whether or not if they'll release the name.
So there's still a lot of things that we may or may not hear with this press conference once it takes place.
ACOSTA: And our affiliate, WKBW, just spoke with a grandmother who received a call from her granddaughter who was in the store at the time of the shooting. Let's listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED WKBW REPORTER: But when you consider the fact this hit so close to home, what's your thought now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. I really, my mind ain't functioning.
She called me at 2:54. But I don't know. I'm just thanking god that she's OK and praying for the other people that wasn't OK.
UNIDENTIFIED WKBW REPORTER: Walk me through those moments. The phone rings. You answer the phone. It's your daughter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My granddaughter.
UNIDENTIFIED WKBW REPORTER: You're granddaughter on the phone --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'M thinking somebody -- thought somebody might have been up here --
UNIDENTIFIED WKBW REPORTER: So she's calling you for help?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, scared. Hysterical, scared.
UNIDENTIFIED WKBW REPORTER: How old is she?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nineteen.
UNIDENTIFIED WKBW REPORTER: And you answer the phone. And what do you hear?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just her crying, saying they shooting. And I asked her was she OK and told her I was coming up here. She told me not to come but I came anyway. But by then, she was already outside with the police.
UNIDENTIFIED WKBW REPORTER: When you hear that she was OK, tell me about that gratitude.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't even explain it how grateful I am to god that she's OK. She could have been one of the other people.
UNIDENTIFIED WKBW REPORTER: Tell me about -- they've taken her downtown. And for those of you who are watching, downtown is where Buffalo police headquarters is.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED WKBW REPORTER: Tell me why they were taking her downtown.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They took a busload of people downtown to be questioned.
UNIDENTIFIED WKBW REPORTER: Because of what she saw?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. She didn't see anything. What she heard.
UNIDENTIFIED WKBW REPORTER: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED WKBW REPORTER: Tensions are high here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: All right, let's go to the press conference in Buffalo. There's the mayor of Buffalo talking about the mass shooting at the supermarket.
MAYOR BYRON BROWN (D-BUFFALO, NY): And we are hurting. And we are seething right now as a community. The depth of pain that families are feeling and that all of us are feeling right now cannot even be explained.
Some of us had the opportunity to provide comfort to some of the families. But needless to say, there's no comfort at this time.
We are pleased that a shooter is in custody. The person responsible for the tragic events of today is in custody. You will get more details in a moment.
I want to thank all of the law enforcement agencies at the federal, state, county and city level. All of the agencies that have responded.
Buffalo is known as the city of good neighbors nationally and internationally. This is a community where people love each other.
The shooter was not from this community. In fact, the shooter traveled hours from outside this community to perpetrate this crime on the people of Buffalo.
A day when people were enjoying the sunshine, enjoying family, enjoying friends, all manner of happy activities.
People in a supermarket shopping and bullets raining down on them. People's lives being snuffed out in an instant for no reason.
I have to say that this particular Tops Supermarket is near and dear to my heart. It's one that I worked years ago to help bring to this community. It's one that I patronize from time to time. My family patronizes from time to time.
And some of the victims of this shooter's attack are people that all of us standing up here know. This is day of great pain for our community.
I want to just recognize some of those that are with us today before you turn things over to our police commissioner, Joseph Gramaglia, to give you more detail.
I want to recognize county executive, Mark Polencarz (ph), Erie County executive, Congressman Bryan Higgins, council president, Buffalo city council president, Darius Pridgen, Erie County legislature chairwoman, April Baskin (ph), Erie County legislator, Howard Johnson.
I want to recognize Governor Kathy Hochel and thank her for her calls. The Governor's staff is with us. And the governor is flying back into town and will be here some time after 7:00.
I want to recognize Attorney General Leticia James, who has also called. And we have also received calls from the White House.
Again, this is day of great sadness for all of us in the city of Buffalo.
To provide more detail, I want to turn to Buffalo police commissioner, Joseph Gramaglia.
JOSEPH GRAMAGLIA, COMMISSIONER, BUFFALO POLICE DEPARTMENT: Thank you, Mayor.
At approximately 2:30 today, an individual, who the mayor stated is not from this area and is from hours away, drove to Buffalo and went to the Tops Market.
He exited his vehicle. He was very heavily armed. He had tactical gear. He had a tactical helmet on. He had a camera that he was live streaming what he was doing.
The individual exited his car and engaged four individuals. He shot four people in the parking lot. Three of those were deceased. One individual at this time is surviving the injury.
The individual went inside. As I said, he's an 18-year-old white male. Walked into the store and began engaging customers inside the store.
One of the individuals inside the store is the security guard, a beloved security guard, who was a retired Buffalo police officer, a hero in our eyes. Engaged the suspect, fired multiple shots, struck the suspect.
But because he had heavily armored plating on, that bullet had no round. The suspect engaged our retired officer and he was shot and deceased at the scene.
He continued to work his way through the store. Ultimately, he worked his way back towards the front of the store.
Buffalo police immediately responded and engage the suspect in this vestibule of the store. And at this point, the suspect put the gun to his own neck.
Buffalo police personnel, two patrol officers talked to suspect into dropping the gun. He dropped the gun, took off some of his tactical gear, surrendered at that point. And he was led outside, put inside a police care, and transported to Buffalo police headquarters.
A total of 13 people shot today. Ten deceased at the scene and three sustained non-life-threatening injuries. It appears to be non-life- threatening injuries at that point.
Four in total were store employees. One was the security guard that worked at the location for a very long time. And many officers are on scene here new him quite well. The rest of the victims are customers of the store.
As the mayor said, this tragic incident by someone who is not a part of our community, does not live here.
We'll let some of the other agencies get into information that's been posted online. And I will turn this over to our Erie County sheriff, John Carcia.
I would like to thank all of the agencies. We have a very close working relationship with every level of government and law enforcement.
And everybody was calling and responding. We had a command post set up. Everybody is asking, what we can do and how to pitch in? The individuals from several hours away, New York State Police and FBI are investigating that part of the crime as well.
I will turn this over to Eric County sheriff, John Garcia.
JOHN GARCIA, SHERIFF, ERIE COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: Thank you, Commissioner Gramaglia.
As your sheriff, and on behalf of the men and women of the Eric County Sheriff's Office, our condolences to the victims and their families.
From a law enforcement standpoint, the Erie County Sheriff's Office responded, boots-on-the-ground deputies, investigators, our helicopter in the air, SWAT team on standby.
As Commissioner Gramaglia said, we are working together every single day to keep the community safe.
This was pure evil. It was a straight up, racially motivated hate crime from somebody outside of our community, outside of the city of good neighbors, as the mayor said, coming into our community and trying to inflict that evil upon us.
I urge everyone to stay calm. And we are there to protect the citizens of Erie County and Buffalo. We'll be out there along with the city of Buffalo Police Department patrolling.
Again, my condolences to the family.
The person was a pure evil.
STEPHEN BELONGIA, AGENT IN CHARGE, FBI BUFFALO, NEW YORK, FIELD OFFICE: I'm Stephen Belongia. I'm the special agent in charge of the FBI's Buffalo field office.
We stand here today confronted with fear, anger, shock, confusion, fear and compassion. We feel motivated to help and relieve the anguish of those killed and injured today and their families and friends.
These victims did not deserve this. They were doing what we do every day, going to the grocery store or simply doing our jobs.
The FBI is working this case jointly with our partners, with the Buffalo P.D. and our other federal, state and local partners.