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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Gunman At Large After Ten Passengers Shot in New York Subway; German President Says Kyiv Rejected His Offer to Visit Ukraine; UK PM Johnson Fined for Illegal Parties During Lockdown. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired April 13, 2022 - 05:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. It is Wednesday, April 13th. I'm Christine Romans in New York. Laura Jarrett is off this morning.

Brianna Keilar is in Lviv, Ukraine.

But we begin here in New York where it was an ordinary morning commute that turns suddenly into a war zone.

You can see passengers rushing the door in a panic after a gunman set off a smoke grenade in a crowded subway car and started shooting randomly. Police say he fired 33 times, striking 10 people.


HOURARI BENKADA, NYC SUBWAY SHOOTING SURVIVOR: HOURARI BENKADA, NYC SUBWAY SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I didn't know there were shots at first. I just thought it was a black smoke bomb. She said I'm pregnant with a baby. I hugged her, and that's when the bum rush continued and I got pushed and that's when I got shot at the back of my knee.

ARMEN HAYRAPETYAN, NYC SUBWAY SHOOTING WITNESS: His leg was all covered with blood. I asked him. Is this your blood? Are you bleeding? He didn't say anything then I realized the floor entirely was covered with blood. Then I got it that somebody is shooting.


ROMANS: Dozens of people were treated at nearby hospitals for gun shot wounds and other injuries. Fortunately, fortunately, none of them apparently life threatening. This morning, a manhunt under way for this man, 62-year-old Frank

James who police are calling only a person of interest. He rented this U-Haul van in Philadelphia. Police say a key to that very van was found among the belongings the shooter left behind.

CNN's Jason Carroll is live on the scene in Brooklyn.

And, Jason, it has been a chaotic 20 hours or so. Tell us what the latest is.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's fair to say at this point that police are still actively looking for that man, as you say, identified as a person of interest, Frank James, 62 years old. Investigators say some of the items found items here at the scene are connected to James, including those keys to that U-Haul rental van. That U-Haul van rented in Philadelphia, James has links to addresses in Philadelphia and Wisconsin.

Just a quick recap, though, of some more details of what happened out here yesterday. Police say it was during the morning rush hour that the shooter boarded the N Train, bound for Manhattan. The shooter wearing an orange and green construction vest, a gray hoodie and a neon green construction hat, he sat near the second car, in the rear of that car, and opened fire.


CHIEF JAMES ESSIG, NYPD DETECTIVE BUREAU: Witnesses say the male opened up two smoke grenades. Tossed them on the subway floor, brandishes a Glock .9 millimeter hand gun. He then fired that weapon at least 33 times, striking ten people.


CARROLL: In addition to that, investigators have recovered a number of items here at the scene, including 15 bullets, two detonated smoke grenades, two non-detonated smoke grenades, a hatchet, gasoline and, of course, the keys to that U-Haul van.

As for James, though, police are very interested in his social media posts or posts linked to James, where he apparently talked about several things, including homelessness, New York City and New York City's Mayor Eric Adams.

ROMANS: Yeah, I've been sifting through some of those social media posts myself just trying to make sense of who this person of interest is and what he was talking about. In some cases, there's not really a thread to draw through some of those. Just more like meanderings really.

Jason Carroll, so nice to see you on the scene for us. Thank you so much.

All right. Joining me now is Juliette Kayyem, CNN national security analyst and former deputy secretary for the Department of Homeland Security. Juliette, there's a person of interest, no one identified as a

suspect. NYPD being very careful not calling this man a suspect. They say there's no ongoing threat or terrorism. So, what does that tell you about the status of this investigation?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So, I will admit I thought that press conference was slightly confusing yesterday. But let me tell you what the NYPD is doing.


So, it may be that there's a disconnect between some of the evidence that they have in particular pictures and what James looks like. So, they're not 100 percent sure that James is the person. He may just be a friend or helping out whoever the shooter was.

The second reason, there's no benefit to them of calling James a suspect now. If it turns out that there's one else, right, think about what this would mean in court. The defense attorney would say they were after this James guy, now they're after my guy. They don't know what they're doing.

So they're being very careful with their language right now until they can put a case together or come out to the public and, in fact, find James and say, this is our guy. The pictures aligned with what we know about James. Tact that they are already searching his social media and have concern about the ramblings and threats means that they're pretty focused on James and finding him.

And what's remarkable is at that he got away, you know, that they can't find him yet.

ROMANS: That's my question. How do you think they were able to escape? I mean, is there something here about subway security that we need to zero in on?

KAYYEM: I think that's right. In the midst of it, you don't really know, and there's going to be after-action reports to determine what in fact happened in those moments, the moment we call boom, the moment when everything is happening.

I will say I'm very familiar with training and exercises for mass transit. They are inherently vulnerable. There's to the much can you do. You need these systems to run. But when there is an attack or incident, generally, what will happen is to trains will be allowed into the subway station.

So what I -- what we, what people paid to need to look at is what was happening in terms of transit as this horribleness is going on in this one train, and did his escape become easier because of that. There was smoke, so it's hard to know.

But that's -- those are the questions that I would ask at this stage because of the need to shut down transit. I will say what is also remarkable and these are the good news things is the extent to which the subway system was able to essentially pivot around this disaster and get back up and running. That's a sign of a society that can rebound, that can take these unfortunate hits and whether it's a big thing or what we don't know now that the NYPD is very clear about is the motivation of why someone would do this, NYPD is clear that they are not investigating this as terrorism.

ROMANS: The CEO of the MTA says there are almost 10,000 cameras in that transit system. About 600 of them are on the Brooklyn section where the shooting took place. How do you begin sorting through that mountain of evidence?

KAYYEM: No, this is where -- what we're not seeing is going on. So, right now already, almost immediately, you're going to have people reviewing his entry, where did he get on, what's going on, on the train's before and after, and then, of course, what's going on on that train, and if that leads to any other suspects? Because hat you don't know, is there any other activity going on?

That review will be done through basically just a bunch of people sitting down, looking at it, and then that data will be aligned with what else we know, James or anyone else was doing at the time. So this is going to be very human-power, manpower intensive, to put the case together because that's basically what, what, what New York wants now.

I know this was a tragedy and sort of seen, you know, larger than life, but ultimately, this is just going to be a case in a criminal court, and they have to bring enough evidence to prosecute whoever they get.

ROMANS: Juliette, you're a self-described safety mom, and so am I. If there were children on that subway, who were going to school, this is the way it works in New York. There are kids who, especially middle schoolers and high schoolers who are going to school.

What is your advice for people riding the subway in New York City today? Well, it's still -- look, more people go through the New York transit system that they do on domestic airlines every day. This is a system that will be inherently vulnerable, because you need it to move, you cannot have the same kind of security you have on airplanes, but ones in which the combination of surveillance and guards or police, plus, the response capacity is minimizing that vulnerability.

I don't talk about safe, I don't talk about safe, I talk about safer, right? How to you minimize the risk? For kids and others, you know, I believe this personally. You want to be able to have access to them in terms of phones and other needs that you want as a parent in the time of an emergency. And you talk to your kids honestly about it.



KAYYEM: I have found with three kids they are older and wiser than I want them to be. And most kids can handle it, especially if you are calm about it. That's the important thing, that the adults play the adults.

ROMANS: Never heard, to always know where the exit is. That's what I always say.

KAYYEM: Exactly.

ROMANS: Juliette Kayyem, so nice to see you. Thank you very much.

KAYYEM: Thank you, bye.

ROMANS: All right. Germany's president snubbed by Ukraine when he offered to visit. Why he's welcomed there.

Plus, Boris Johnson under fire again amid the party-gate scandal. A live report ahead.

And he had one of the most recognizable voices in Hollywood.

Actor and comedian Gilbert Gottfried has died. One of his long-time friends will join us live.



KEILAR: Germany's president says his offer to visit Ukraine has been rejected. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he proposed making the trip with Baltic leaders to send a strong signal of common European solidarity with Ukraine, but it was not wanted in Kyiv.

CNN's Nic Robertson live for us in Brussels with more on this.

That is a strong message being sent in Nick. Tell us what it is.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yeah, it is a very strong message being sent to the president of a country that for example has been the first nation in the recent days to take fly out wounded civilians from Ukraine to Germany for treatment and over the past month has been treating Ukrainian soldiers in German healthcare facilities.

So it is, it is a little surprising. He would have traveled today, Steinmeier would have traveled with the president of Poland and Lithuania and Latvia and Estonia to Kyiv. Steinmeier is a former foreign minister in Germany, and there's a perception that while he was foreign minister, he sort of improved Germany's ties to Russia.

We know at the very sort of outset in the beginning of the war, there was a huge amount of pressure and really dissatisfaction in Kyiv with response of the German government that it didn't want to give the military support that other nations like the United States, other European -- and other European nations were giving, that they would only send the military support of helmets.

That position has changed and indeed recently, Germany essentially signed off on tanks, T-72 tanks being provided by the Czech Republic to go to Ukraine, because originally, these were once tanks that we used in what was then the East Germany. So in much the same way the United States signs off on munitions and military equipment that has been made in the United States, other nations supplied to Ukraine. So, it is a surprise.

Perhaps Nord Stream 2 and the fury over that gas pipeline from Russia also played into that. But that's been shut down now. Perhaps we'll learn more in the coming days further, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Nic, thank you so much. Nick Robertson live for us in Brussels, Belgium.

Coming up, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing calls to resign after being fined in the party-gate scandal. How he's responding, next.



ROMANS: Johnson becoming the first-ever sitting prime minister to be found guilty of breaking the law. Johnson has been fined for attending a party in 2020 at Downing Street, violating coronavirus restrictions. He has apologized and says he has paid in full.

CNN's Max Foster live in London with more.

So what happens next? He's paid for this behavior. Is there any chance he would have to step down or suffer any kinds of consequences -- other consequences?

MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think in previous generations if you were caught out like this, you perhaps would have resigned. It's all defined, Christine, by the ministerial code. Has he broken the ministerial code?

He's accepted the police investigation and the fine, as you say. Then it becomes a question whether or not that should be pursued as a break in the ministerial code and whether he should resign as a result of that?

The reality is, the code defines the person who decides these things as the prime minister. So, you're really asking him to investigate himself and to tell himself to resign. He's clearly said he's not going to do that.

And things are very different now. I think if this happened a few months, the height of party gate, and the scandal around that, then it would be more pressure on him to go.

But even the MPs that were pushing for him to go at the time are now saying perhaps it isn't appropriate at a time of war. Do we want to lose a leader in the fight, the NATO sort of arguments against Ukraine at least, even though UK isn't at war with Russia. They are deeply involved. It wouldn't be the right time to go.

So, I think he does escape it for now. The question is, will there be more penalties to come. There may be more pressure to come. We don't know whether or not they apply to the prime minister.

So, there may be more pressure to come, Christine. For now, he's gotten away with it.

ROMANS: Max, just out of curiosity, how much was that fine?.

FOSTER: Normally, these fines are about, you know, $80, around that figure. It could potentially have gone more if it had been taken to court. For the moment, it's probably less than $100.

ROMANS: Oh, all right. Max Foster, thank you very much.

The manhunt for a gunman who opened fire on a New York City subway train turning a rush hour commute into complete chaos. The NYPD now asking for the public's health. And President Biden for the first time publicly accusing Russia's Vladimir Putin of committing genocide in Ukraine.


ROMANS: We are tracking the news out of Brooklyn where a gunman shot and wounded ten people in a New York City subway car after sending off a smoke grenade. Tuesday morning during rush hour, in the terror and chaos, panicked passengers clamored over each other to escape after the door is open on the platform. The platform was soon covered with blood.

Police are looking for this man, 62-year-old Frank James. They are calling him a person of interest rather than a suspect at this time. He was tied to the attack through this set of keys found to this U- Haul. The keys were found amid belongings the shooter left behind.

I want to bring in CNN law enforcement analyst, Peter Licata, former supervisory special agent for the FBI live on the scene there in Brooklyn.

Thanks for joining us bright and early this morning.

The NYPD, sir, has named him -- this man -- a person of interest, not a suspect.