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Hate-Fueled Shooting Rampage at Buffalo Supermarket Leaves Ten Dead; Shooter's Alleged Manifesto Shows Meticulous Planning Behind Attack; Today, Finland's Parliament Votes on Joining NATO. Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired May 16, 2022 - 10:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A good Monday morning. I am Jim Sciutto.

This morning, yet one more community in this country grieving in the wake of a mass shooting, ten people were killed in Buffalo on Saturday. Evidence now showing that they were targeted for one reason, the color of their skin. A friend of one of the victims joined me just moments ago.


MOTHER EVA DOYLE, FRIEND OF BUFFALO SHOOTING VICTIM KATHERINE MASSEY: Where did he all got that hate from? Who taught him to hate like that.

People that were killed on Saturday were decent, law abiding people, just doing what normal people do on a Saturday.


SCIUTTO: And this is already being investigated as a hate crime.

Of the 13 people shot in this attack, 11 of the victims were black, and we are learning more about them, including the security guard who gave his life, and there he is, trying to save others.


ULYSEES WINGO, PASTOR, ANTIOCH BAPTIST CHURCH: Had he not been there, more lives would have been lost. And the community knows Mr. Salter. I've had several times encounters with him in my time as a council member and in my time shopping at this very Tops. He was beloved by the community. He was a great person, a wonderful personality. And anyone that knows him will tell you nothing different.


SCIUTTO: That security guard one of the victims. There is the suspect identified as an 18-year-old white man. He allegedly chose and targeted this particular supermarket because it was in a majority black ZIP Code and within driving distance of where he lived. CNN has learned about a 180-page manifesto attributed to the suspect posted online before the attack. It reveals a meticulous, chilling level of planning and also just deep hatred.

Tomorrow, President Biden will travel Buffalo to meet with families of victims.

CNN's Victor Blackwell is there. Victor, what else have you learned about potential red flags here, because we find so often with these shootings, it is not the first that authorities heard, certainly from this particular shooter?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Jim. There was this generalized threat as it was described in June of 2021 at his high school in Conklin about three and a half hours from here, Susquehanna High School. We learned just in the last hour from the Erie County sheriff, the suspect is in his custody at county jail, that that was a high school project on murder suicides and that there were deputies who went to his home after that report was submitted to the high school.

And we've also learned from Buffalo police commissioner that they have now video of this suspect at at least one store the day before the shooting. There was this reconnaissance mission, authorities say, here in Buffalo the day before the shooting. They're now looking for other stores and potential video. They're going to look at these stores based on their license plate tracking system where they're saying that they have spotted this car through that system throughout Buffalo the day before the shooting.

Also, they're poring through the 180-page manifesto in which the commissioner also says that the shooter suggested that if he survives this, he would then go onto other locations to continue to kill. The sheriff tells me about the suicide watch that the suspect is under right now and some of the details of his confinement. Listen.


SHERIFF JOHN GARCIA, ERIE COUNTY, NEW YORK: When he was taken into custody, he had his AR-15 under his chin, suicidal. So, we have him on suicide watch, which means we have Erie County sheriff's jail deputy watching him at all times. We also have video cameras in his cell and he is in a unit with no commingling with other incarcerated individuals.


BLACKWELL: Jim, we also know that there was a forensic mental health evaluation over the weekend of the suspect. He has met with his legal team, that happened yesterday, but no request according to the sheriff from family to see the suspect.

SCIUTTO: Well, another detail there he mentioned, it was an AR-15, that this allows a shooter to fire a big number of bullets in a short period of time and its high velocity, they tend to be deadlier.

[10:05:05] So, it allowed in a very short period of time ten people to be killed.

What more do we know about the lives that were lost here?

BLACKWELL: Yes, we're getting more details. The youngest victim to be killed, Roberta Drury, she is being remembered by her family as someone who spent time caring for her brother who is living with leukemia, also working at the family's restaurant. Of course, he mentioned Aaron Salter, that security guard who is a retired lieutenant with the Buffalo police. A man named Roscoe when I first got here on the scene Sunday came up and just said he wanted to tell someone that Salter was a standup guy.

Also, we've learned the oldest victim, Ruth Whitfield, the mother of the former fire commissioner here, who was on her way to visit her husband in a nursing home, stopped to buy groceries. She didn't make it out alive. Also Andre Mackneil, he was killed. He was here buying cupcakes for his three-year-old son's birthday party on Saturday. He also was killed.

Three others injured, who were taken to hospitals. We know at least one of them, Zaire Goodman, 20 years old, was shot through the neck. The bullet exited through his back, he has been released from the hospital, still getting more stories about those who were shot here Saturday, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Going to get cupcakes for his son's birthday. Victor Blackwell, good to have you there, thank you.

So, let's speak now to Reverend Corey Gibson. He's a pastor in the community at the Calvary Baptist Church, it's good to have you on.

I've talked to folks like you so many times. I can't count the number of times. I have spoken to pastors in communities where they've suffered losses like this. I just wonder what you say to people when they lose so many people they knew and loved.

REV. COREY GIBSON, PASTOR, CALVARY BAPTIST CHURCH: Well, at this particular point, again, we just are telling our people that it is all right to feel whatever emotion it is that you have right now but to certainly be responsible and to certainly deal with those emotions as they come.

SCIUTTO: Yes, a lot of them.

It is, as you know, being investigated as a racially motivated crime. You have a manifesto that stated quite specifically what appeared to be the motive here. And it's part of an increase, frankly, in hate- fueled attacks. The FBI has denoted white supremacist acts as the greatest terror threat in this country. What do you want to see done about it?

GIBSON: Well, certainly, as even, I'm a part of a community of faith, we want to pray, but we want something done as it relates to policy. We have to see not only the guns taken off the streets but certainly we need to see something done whereby individuals are proven responsible before they are able to carry.

SCIUTTO: The trouble is you have got a gun issue here, AR-15, allows you to kill a lot of people very quickly, fire a lot of bullets quickly and he also had high capacity magazines, no reason for that except to fire more bullets, right, in a short span of time. The fact is gun legislation is going nowhere, right, for years after multiple attacks like this. And, frankly, the kind of hate behind this has become more mainstream. You hear it from sitting lawmakers. You hear it media figures. What's going to change that, right? And I wonder if folks in your community have hope that politics can fix this today.

GIBSON: Well, again while we have hope that lawmakers will certainly see to it that a change does take place, there is anger because individuals are still looking for answers how many more lives have to be taken before something is done, how many more families have to grieve loss of a loved one, how many more individuals have to be buried before we realize that this is a problem.

And it is not just something that, again, is affecting just persons again who live in communities -- it is affecting, I should say, persons who are living in communities, such as the one we live in.

SCIUTTO: Well, Reverend Corey Gibson, I know you have got a lot of hard work to do, right, talking to people now through this. I wish you the best of luck doing that. And I do appreciate you joining us today.

GIBSON: Thank you so very kindly for having us.

SCIUTTO: The Buffalo massacre follows several deadly attacks motivated by racist hate in recent years. In 2012, six killed in a shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, 2015, nine people killed at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, 2018, 11 people killed at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, 2019, one person killed in a synagogue shooting in Poway, California, later that year, 22 people killed in a rampage targeting Latinos at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. I was there for that shooting.

Joining me now to discuss is Brian Levin. He's a former police officer who now serves as the director for the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at the University of California, San Bernardino. It's good to have you on, Brian.

I just wonder when you look at -- the numbers speak for themselves. The FBI has identified this for some time as the number one terror threat in this country, number one. Why? Why is it happening? Why? What's feeding this?

BRIAN LEVIN, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF HATE AND EXTREMISM: Well, first of all, I'm glad the FBI came around. We have been warning Congress for years about this. And since 2018, white supremacists, far-right extremists have been the predominant number one fatal threat in the United States. We've said it again and again, even as it is a diversifying threat matrix.

There are several things. First of all, we saw most recently, if I could move to the most recent attack after the string of attacks that you mentioned, by the way, there was another soul that passed from El Paso the following year, so it ended up being 23. What we look at Cal State San Bernardino is trends. And not all trends go in lockstep, but what we saw starting about a decade ago were these manifesto killers.

And what we have found is that social media, various data (ph), has been a fertile, toxic, waste dump for this kind of stuff. But what was lacking was the breadth and high re-transmitter. And that's what we ended up having. So, we had a perfect storm of contributing factors.

Fast forward into 2020, social justice protests during June, and you covered them during June, what we found was when we went into the FBI data before going into our own data, June 2020 was the worst month for anti-black hate crimes. And 2020 itself, we saw the end of a decades- long decline in the proportion of African-Americans as hate crime victims. They've always been the number one target, but it was falling. That trajectory changed markedly in 2020 and -- yes.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. One thing that has changed during that time period is that what used to be fringe positions in the Republican Party and the right wing, among them replacement theory, this idea that was mentioned in the manifesto, that people of color, immigrants, are going to replace white people in this country, is that that now has mouthpieces among city lawmakers, among prominent media figures on the right. What would you say to those people who repeat that kind of rhetoric?

LEVIN: And thank you for this opportunity, Jim, thank you so much, as well for your bravery in reporting from Ukraine. I want to tell them what the research shows, what 35 years of experience shows, okay? We saw the worst month for hate crime last decade, November 2016, the worst day, the day after election. We saw numerous crimes where politicians' names were uttered.

Let's look at another thing. December 2015, during the candidacy of Donald Trump, hate crimes jumped after the San Bernardino terror attack, which affected our community. They jumped another 23 percent after the Muslim ban proposal was unleashed on television and online. And we are seeing the fact that these kinds of derisive stereotypes have a downstream effect in hate crimes on the street and we see it all the time.

Bear with me real quick. 2016, we saw an increase in hate invective, guess where, on 4chan, and hate crimes dovetail. And then saw a homicidal mass plot from the day after election. We see this time and time again. October 2018, we saw it. We have tons of data. I will put it up on Twitter @proflevin for the nerds out there.

But the bottom line is words have consequences and also for Fox News channel, in particular, by the way, who I appeared on for years, they banned me when I pointed out that Tucker Carlson used race baiting deceptive data on his show and I haven't been on, and good riddance. But I would also say that we have to hold these entities, whether it is broadcast institutions or politicians, to a higher level.

The bottom line is you are right. We have more QAnon politicians out there, we have politicians that are spreading Islamophobia, We have it in police departments, we have an Oath Keeper sheriff one county from me right now who's in the Oath Keepers years ago, and then gave them full-throated defense.


So, what we need to do is create communal institutions where people can get facts, and we did that in California. We have a state of hate commission. And we're going to highlight facts for public policy and journalists.

SCIUTTO: Well, as you know, words do matter. Brian Levin, thanks so much, we appreciate you joining.

LEVIN: Jim, thank you for this opportunity.

SCIUTTO: Coming up, we're going to speak more about the conspiracy theories that this gunman allegedly fed on, how the Republican Party, media, the internet fueling this conversation and some of the hate.

Plus, Russia's new warning as Sweden and Finland move toward membership in the NATO alliance. We're going to be live in Stockholm and in Ukraine, coming up.



SCIUTTO: Today, Finland is on the cusp of joining NATO, while Sweden on the verge as well, as following suit. The final vote from Finland's parliament on joining the alliance expected soon as the country's president travels to Stockholm today for a joint press conference with his Swedish counterpart. They're trying to do this together. This as Sweden's parliament begins its own debate on joining NATO.

While all of this is happening, Russia is warning that allowing the two countries to become members would be, in its view, a grave mistake with far reaching consequences.

Back in Ukraine, Russia's attacks continue with yet another missile strike against port city of Odessa. Ukrainian officials say the missile hit tourism infrastructure, not a military target.

In the east, a Ukrainian unit says it has the reached the Russian border north of Kharkiv. This video released by the unit showing a small group claiming territory along the border there, carrying a blue and yellow stick.

Let's bring in CNN's Nina Dos Santos, she's in Stockholm, Sweden, CNN's Melissa Bell live in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

Nina, first to you, what are you hearing there about the Turkish president's comments expressing -- well, trying to maybe hit the brakes on Sweden and Finland joining NATO, but comments over the weekend that seem to indicate Turkey will not stand in the way?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDITOR: Yes, that's right. Recep Tayyip Erdogan began to voice concerns at the end of last week about in particular Sweden's joining of NATO because he says that Sweden had given asylum to a number of groups, like Kurdish separatists that his government deems as terrorist organizations. But it appears as though immediately he appears to have been talked down from that position a bit after the secretary of state of the United States, Antony Blinken, also Annalena Baerbock, the German foreign minister, immediately spoke out in support of Sweden's joining of NATO and also Finland as well.

So, diplomats are confident that they will be able to assuage Turkey's fears. Remember, it is important because Turkey is a big and powerful member of NATO, but also you have to have all 30 members of this alliance to agree to allow these countries to join.

We have got a diplomatic bunch of diplomats who are heading from Stockholm to Ankara to talk to the government over there as we speak this week. And then also we've got the Swedish defense minister set to head to Washington, D.C., to meet with his counterpart, Lloyd Austin, over the course of this week.

Meanwhile, here in Stockholm, there's going to be feverish announcements over the next couple of days, very highly choreographed, as you pointed out, Jim, to try and show that strength in numbers. We're expecting the Finnish president to arrive here for a two-day state visit tomorrow. That is when probably Sweden and Finland will probably sign on the dotted line that application to NATO that then their ambassadors will then take to Brussels to the headquarters of NATO. And that will have to then be debated by all of these different countries and parliaments.

They recognized here today that it could take up to a year. And during that time, these nations will be vulnerable, but we've had many expressions of support, even this afternoon, from other NATO and E.U. members, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes, they're doing this hand in hand, certainly deliberate. They didn't want either country to act independently to help blunt any Russian retaliation.

Melissa there in Ukraine, I don't think we can underestimate the importance of Ukraine's push back around Kharkiv, having forced Russian troops from the capital, Kyiv. To do so again around the second largest city, this is no small thing.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. In a city, remember, that's taken such a hit over the course of the last few weeks with that siege that lasted more than two months. What we have seen over the course of last week or so, Jim, is this steady counteroffensive that has really made huge progress, not only in securing the safety around Kharkiv, but pushing towards the east, taking new villages there.

And now with that video that you mentioned, highly symbolic, those soldiers arriving at that border with Russia and that message to their president, Mr. President, we made it, it is an extremely strong symbol to those Ukrainian fighters. And yet, Jim, the reason that that counteroffensive has been so successful is partly also because Russian forces have really been concentrating firepower, their manpower around Donetsk and Luhansk, where the fighting remains, we understand, extremely fierce.

Now, the Ukrainian side says that specifically towards along that long stretch of river in Luhansk that they have been fighting along and that the Russians are trying to cross, there have been heavy losses and the fighting continues to be very fierce, with huge fears for towns like Severodonetsk, where 15,000 civilians are believed to remain in cellars fleeing -- rather hiding from that shelling, Jim.


SCIUTTO: And in all those cities, civilians remain very much a target of Russian forces. Nina Dos Santos in Sweden, Melissa Bell in Ukraine, thanks so much to you both.

Back in here the U.S., voters head to the polls tomorrow in several states. We are watching two key races in Pennsylvania and North Carolina particularly closely. Why are they so important? We're going to discuss, coming up.