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Police: Credit Card, Keys to Rented U-Haul Van Found at Shooting Scene; At Least 29 Injured in Subway Attack, Including 10 Shot; Zelenskyy Proposes Prisoner Swap to Russia. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired April 13, 2022 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning to viewers in the United States and all around the world. It is Wednesday, April 13. I'm John Berman in Brooklyn, New York. Brianna Keilar is in Lviv in Western Ukraine.
There is a manhunt under way at this moment for a gunman who terrorized rush-hour commuters at a train station behind me just yesterday morning. He fired 33 shots, hitting at least 10 people. He injured 29. Five of the victims, children on their way to school.
This was mayhem. People rushing from the train, some of them wounded. The floor of the platform covered in blood. Many of the victims gasping for air, because smoke canisters were used by the gunman, two of them.
Police have not named a suspect yet. They are, however, looking for 62-year-old Frank James, who they say is a person of interest. Investigators believe he rented this U-Haul van, which was found a few miles from the scene. The keys to the U-Haul were discovered at the scene. Police are investigating whether James has any connection to the shooting.
We know he has recorded dozens of hours of videos, ranting about New York City Mayor Eric Adams, homeless people in the subway system, also gun violence.
Mayor Adams praised the MTA, passengers and first responders for acting so quickly to save lives. He says a quiet Tuesday morning commute on the "N" train turned into a war zone. Authorities now offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of a suspect. We're going to have more on this in just a moment. BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And here in Ukraine, President Volodymyr
Zelenskyy is thanking President Biden for calling Russia's actions in his country a genocide. The worst, though, may still be coming ahead.
New satellite images showing Russian forces deploying in Eastern Ukraine in preparation of a large-scale assault. And then take a look at this new video of what appears to be explosions from cluster munitions in a civilian area in the Kharkiv region.
At least four explosions seconds apart. The use of cluster munitions against civilian targets in Ukraine may amount to war crimes, according to the U.N.
The Ukrainian military also reports a five-hour battle overnight with Russian forces in the central Zaporizhzhia region. All as President Zelenskyy is offering the Kremlin a prisoner swap proposal, offering to turn over detained pro-Russian Ukrainian politician and oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk in exchange for captured Ukrainian prisoners of war.
BERMAN: I want to begin with the latest on the manhunt here in Brooklyn and around New York City for whoever was responsible for opening fire on the subway right behind me. Let's begin with Jason Carroll here in Brooklyn.
Jason, give us the latest.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, without question, the bulk of this investigation is focused on exactly where Frank James is and anyone out there who may know where he is.
Meanwhile, investigators have found a number of key items here that they say are linked directly to the shooter.
CARROLL (voice-over): A chaotic scene in Brooklyn on a Manhattan-bound N train.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As soon as the doors opened, I saw that the smoke just come in, and then everybody just rushing off the train, some people stumbling, leaking blood on the floor. Just probably the scariest thing I witnessed.
CARROLL: Subway riders rushed from the smoke-filled train after police say a shooter deployed two smoke cannisters and fired 33 shots. Now, investigators are trying to track down 62-year-old Frank James, who they have not named as a suspect.
CHIEF JAMES ESSIG, NYPD CHIEF OF DETECTIVES: We are endeavoring to locate him to determine his connection to the subway shooting, if any.
CARROLL: The New York City Police Department is calling James a person of interest. Investigators believe he rented a U-Haul truck in Philadelphia. It was found parked in Brooklyn.
Police say the shooter was wearing an orange and green construction vest, grey hoodie, and neon green construction hat and was seated in the second car in the rear corner.
ESSIG: Witnesses state the male opened up two smoke grenades, tossed them on the subway floor, brandishes a Glock .9 millimeter handgun. He then fired that weapon at least 33 times, striking 10 people.
CARROLL: Investigators say some of the items recovered shows the shooter's intent on committing violence.
MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK CITY: This was a senseless act of violence that was inflicted on our passengers in our subway system, and details are still unfolding. And we're going to release the details as they come forward.
CARROLL: Evidence recovered at the scene by police includes 15 bullets, two detonated smoke grenades, two non-detonated smoke grenades, a hatchet, gasoline, and a U-Haul key.
Police say the U-Haul appears to have been rented by Frank James, who has addresses in Wisconsin and Philadelphia.
Investigators are also looking at social media posts linked to James, which reportedly include complaints about New York, homelessness, and the city's mayor, Eric Adams.
COMMISSIONER KEECHANT SEWELL, NEW YORK CITY POLICE: We're not calling them threats. He made some concerning posts, or someone made some concerning posts. We cannot attribute it to that individual yet. That's under investigation. But again, in an abundance of caution, we're going to tighten their security detail.
CARROLL: The mass shooting shaking New Yorkers, already reeling from an increase in violent crime throughout the city.
GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY) In my heart, this is a terrorizing action to put fear in the hearts of New Yorkers. But they don't know who they're messing it. They do not know that we will not bow down to an individual with a depraved heart who tries to strike terror in our hearts. It wasn't successful.
New Yorkers are back at it. They're back on the subways. They're back in our restaurants. They're back being normal once again.
CARROLL: And investigators say that Frank James may have also posted YouTube videos where he talked about violence and mass shootings, including one that he may have posted on Monday, where he talked about killing people -- John.
BERMAN: All right. Jason Carroll here in Brooklyn. Jason, thank you so much.
I want to get the latest on the victims here. Let's go to Alexandra Field, who is outside NYU Langone Hospital. Twenty-one people who were injured were admitted there.
Alexandra, what's the latest?
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there were nearly 30 people who rushed to various Brooklyn hospitals, but the majority taken here. Amazingly, we are learning that none have what are considered to be life-threatening injuries.
But the horror of the morning truly brought into focus when you consider who was aboard that train. Five children among those who were injured. They were riding the train to school, according to the governor. They range in age from 12 to 18. They were in that car when 33 shots rang out and when the train filled with smoke.
Ten people were injured by bullets: 7 male, according to police; 3 female. Other injuries were caused by smoke inhalation, the panic that ensued, and the rush to safety.
We heard from one passenger, a 27-year-old man who was hospitalized. He said he was sitting next to the shooter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOURANI BENKADA, NYC SUBWAY SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I'm not paying attention. I'm not really paying attention to that. I just walk in, I sit down. And the guy next to me, I got a glimpse of his face. And all you see like, are smoke, black smoke bomb going off and then people bum rushing to the back.
This pregnant woman was in front of me. I was trying to help her. I don'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 then the bum rush continued. I got pushed, and that's when I got shot in the back of my knee.
This makes me not want to ride a train ever in my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FIELD: Hourani Benkada says being shot in the knee was the worst pain of his life.
The people who were inside that subway car estimate there were about 40 to 50 passengers. They said that when the gunfire finally stopped, passengers rushed to triage one another, using coats and jackets as makeshift tourniquets -- John.
BERMAN: All right. Alexandra Field for us at the hospital. Alexandra, thank you so much.
I want to bring in Konrad Aderer. He witnessed the aftermath of the shooting inside the subway station.
Konrad, thank you so much for being with us. I understand you were walking into the station with your children. Tell me what happened.
KONRAD ADERER, WITNESS: No, I wasn't actually with my children. I had -- I had just dropped them off at school at the next station coming off 25th Street. But you know, I was -- they were not with me. I was -- I was then heading towards -- to work to Manhattan. But, yes, I saw --
BERMAN: Tell me what you saw.
ADERER: Yes. I was partway down. I was like on what you would call the mezzanine level, I think, just where the station booth is. And I was pausing partway down the stairs, because I was texting my wife. I was thinking about this text. There was something we were trying to figure out.
And then I saw a young man come to the station booth. And his legs were bloody. His pants were partly down. So I guess he was managing whatever wound he had. And -- and he was -- you know, he was very distraught. He was -- you know, he was lucid, but he was of course very distraught.
And he was just telling the station agent that there was -- you know, there was many people injured. There was people bleeding around the platform. And that is what I remember for sure he said. I thought maybe he said something about a shooting. I wasn't so sure right after that. But that -- that's what I saw. He had come up from the station.
Now, something I have learned since then is that this apparently happened towards the front of the train. And the thing about 36th Street is that it's -- there's only one exit from the tracks. It's a little unusual. Because there's no stairways until the very back of the train.
So apparently, he came all the way -- for the whole length of the platform and then came out there. So with his wounded leg or legs and everything. So that was -- that kind of explains, you know, what he did in order to warn people. Because he was, as far as I know, the first person who emerged from this -- from the track after that train pulled in and the people had been attacked.
BERMAN: What did you think when you saw this --
BERMAN: -- which is an unusual sight, right, in the morning? You know, what did you think --
ADERER: Yes, so this was -- you know --
BERMAN: -- was going through your head when you saw him?
ADERER: Well, it was -- it's very hard to -- it's really a bolt from the blue. Because everything, of course, was pretty normal up to then. People were just going in the subway. And so none of the ripples of this had happened yet. It was just, like, a person completely -- person completely in a different reality coming into this normal scene. You know, this -- this is just a regular rush-hour commute, you know. And at that point, there was no one who was reacting to this. It was just -- it was just him who was giving this news. It was just this very first moment.
And then, yes, I was just really alarmed. I was just -- I couldn't understand every detail about what he was talking about. I didn't know whether it was a shooting, whether it was some kind of accident or what it was. I just knew that he was telling -- saying a lot of people were injured. And he was very -- his -- you know, his voice was telling you, you know, there's really great danger, and -- and I'm warning everybody. So -- yes. That's -- that's what he said. I didn't --
BERMAN: Let me ask you this, Konrad. Yes, it's just -- you know, you take the subway every day, no doubt, and you ride it with your children. And this morning, as we all wake up, whoever did this is on the loose. And there's a hunt for whoever did this at this point. Just, you know, how do you feel about that?
ADERER: Well, you know, I have to take my kids again to school this morning. It's -- you know, to know that this can happen. I mean, out here, you know, in Brooklyn, you feel like, even though there's -- it's a packed neighborhood. There's, you know, a lot of people. There's a lot of activity around rush hour, you know. You don't really think of yourself -- you think of yourself in a different place than Manhattan. You know, you feel you're kind of remote from things that you typically read about that you have to worry about, commuting, you know. Like attacks on people and things like that.
And that -- you just -- And so it's -- yes, it just makes everything different. Every decision you make just doing your normal -- living a normal life different. But you know --
BERMAN: I'm glad you're doing OK this morning.
ADERER: We're still going to go. Yes.
BERMAN: You've got to live your life. Be safe, you and your family. We appreciate you being with us this morning, appreciate sharing what you saw here, Konrad. Thank you so much. Be well.
ADERER: Take care. Thank you.
BERMAN: All right. We'll be back here -- we'll be back here to Brooklyn with much more on the manhunt in just a moment -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Ukrainian President Zelenskyy is making a proposal for a prisoner swap with Russia, and a friend of Vladimir Putin is on the table.
Plus, we're getting some new video of cluster munitions in Kharkiv, Ukraine. The latest apparent attack in a civilian area by Russian forces.
This is CNN special coverage, live in Ukraine and Brooklyn.
KEILAR: Ukraine is bracing for a major Russian offensive in the East. And President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is making an offer to Vladimir Putin for a prisoner swap. He's proposing to turn over detained Putin ally, pro-Russian Ukrainian politician, Viktor Medvedchuk, in exchange for captured Ukrainian prisoners of war.
CNN's Ed Lavandera is joining us live from Odessa. Ed, has the Kremlin responded in this trade offer? And tell us about this man.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Viktor Medvedchuk is someone who is an oligarch, a pro-Russian politician here in Ukraine and was believed to be -- Medvedchuk would have been the person that Vladimir Putin would have put in charge of a puppet government here in Ukraine, had Russian forces been able to take over the country in those initial days.
President Zelenskyy here in Ukraine says that Medvedchuk was -- was detained and arrested late last night in an operation by the security service here in Ukraine.
And it's interesting. He was actually detained before the invasion, the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He was under house arrest. But after the invasion, he disappeared. So it has taken about a month and a half for Ukrainian forces to find this oligarch and pro-Putin ally.
And now Zelenskyy is saying and offering to the Russian government that we will trade Medvedchuk for, in the words of President Zelenskyy, "your guy for our boys and girls who are now in Russian captivity."
So we're waiting for a response, what Putin is going to respond to that. There have been swaps of prisoners over the last few weeks. So we'll see how this plays out.
BERMAN: And cluster bombs seems undeniably being used in Kharkiv. We're seeing video of this. What can you tell us?
LAVANDERA: Well, this is the first time we've actually seen video evidence of this. There have been accusations for several weeks now that these kinds of explosions and bombs were being used in various parts of Ukraine.
And as you can see, the way these work, there's an initial explosion. And then that fires off other little bombs that fall in the area around it.
It's chaotic. It is designed to inflict the maximum amount of pain on -- on civilian populations. The United Nations has been investigating this. They said so far they've had about two dozen incidents and reports, credible reports of this kind of ammunition being used on the ground here in Ukraine. But this is really the first glimpse that we've been able to see of this kind of weaponry being used on the ground here in Ukraine -- Brianna.
KEILAR: It's horrific. You can see just how confused and scared all of the drivers in those cars are there.
Ed, thank you so much for that report for us from Odessa. We do appreciate it.
All of this is coming as Vladimir Putin claims that talks with Ukraine just hit a dead end and some new evidence showing that his forces are amassing in the East.
Plus, back in the U.S., that manhunt intensifying after the subway attack in New York City. We are live on the ground, next.
BERMAN: I'm John Berman, live in Brooklyn. Intense manhunt under way for the gunman who opened fire inside a subway car. It happened right behind me.
Police are looking for this man, Frank James. They are calling him a person of interest. If you have any information, call 1-800-577-TIPS.
They're looking for him, because they found identification for him and a U-Haul key at the location of the shooting.
Joining me now is the former director of intelligence analysis for the New York Police Department, Mitch Silber; and CNN law enforcement analyst Jonathan Wackrow. He's a former Secret Service agent.
Mitch, I just want to start with you on this manhunt. As I watch these streets get more crowded, as I watch more people go into the subway station behind me, how much of a risk is it that there's a guy out there on the loose who opened fire on a subway?
MITCH SILBER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF INTELLIGENCE ANALYSIS, NYPD: It's a real risk, John. I mean, this is the thing. We've got students going to school. We've got commuters coming in. And essentially, you've got this man on the run, who at this point we don't have a lot of information on.
So I think at this point, you know, commuters are wary about getting on the subway. And NYPD is doing their best effort and FBI to try and find this individual.
BERMAN: And Jonathan, what are they doing right now?
JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: So listen, right now, we know the name of the person of interest. So investigators are going through. They're looking at all the digital evidence that we have on this individual. We know that there's been social media postings that have actually
telegraphed some potential violent tendencies of this person. They're going through, they're doing a link analysis of everybody in his known network. Detectives are making outreach to all of them.
Listen, the reality is, we're just shy of 24 hours from this incident. We have an unmitigated threat that's out there in the environment right now. This is priority No. 1 for the NYPD is to find this individual and take them into custody.
BERMAN: Mitch, what do you think the biggest clues are right now?
SILBER: Look, I think the fact that the -- we've got this information about the U-Haul. In many terrorism-type investigations, having the vehicle and the person who rented that vehicle is connected to it, has been key.
Times Square, 2010, Faizal Shahzad. We had the vehicle that was there that led us right to the individual. 1993, World Trade Center. The U-Haul underneath the World Trade Center, the VIN number, brought us back to the rental location, brought us back to the person who went to get their deposit.
So if it is Frank James who was the individual who carried out the attack, this information is critical. However, if it's not, if he rented the vehicle, and it's some secondary individual who carried out the attack, we've got a lot more work to do.
BERMAN: How far, given that this happened 24 hours ago, given that it's been 12 hours or so since the name and picture were released, you know, how far could a person of interest like this go?
WACKROW: Listen, you know, he's mobile. We know that he was able to get away from this site in the moment of confusion yesterday. There is the potential for an individual to get far way.
You look at the environment. New York City is a great place to hide in plain sight. But they also have -- this individual has the NYPD after him. Right? And this is closing in very fast. I would predict that this person will be in custody by the end of today, because we know that this is priority No. 1.
BERMAN: The videos. Social media postings connected to this person of interest, Frank James. He talks about homelessness. There's some racially-charged statements on this. He talks about potential violence. I mean, how much of a clue or how can investigators use this?
SILBER: It's critical information. And intelligence analysts at NYPD, at the FBI are poring over this information. They're trying to identify if the individual who posted this information appears other places on the Internet.
I mean, at this point, you've got different mediums. You could be in Facebook. You could be in YouTube. You could be in, you know, other locations on the Internet. Or is there connectivity under other names? Are there other identities? And does that give away what his plans were before this attack and what his plans were after the attack?
Because if you look at this, he came into this very well-prepared. Multiple clips, fireworks, gas mask, grenades.