Return to Transcripts main page

New Day

Manhunt Underway for Person of Interest in Subway Attack; Biden Calls Russia's Atrocities in Ukraine a Genocide; Zelenskyy Proposes Prisoner Trade After Putin Ally's Capture. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired April 13, 2022 - 07:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Ten people were hit, 20 were injured, five of the victims' children, heading to school.

At the moment, people -- or at that time, people were rushing from the train, some of them wounded, the floor of the platform covered in blood, a lot of the victims gasping for air because of smoke canisters used.

Police have not yet named a suspect. But, again, as I noted, there is a manhunt this morning. There is a person of interest, police have named, 62-year-old Frank James. Police are asking the public to call 1-800-577-TIPS if they have any information. Investigators believe he rented the 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. We will speak to Mayor Adams next hour. Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Here in Ukraine, President Zelenskyy is thanking President Biden for calling Russia's action in this country genocide, and the worst may still be yet to come. New satellite images show Russian forces deploying in Eastern Ukraine in preparation for a large-scale assault.

And then look at this new video of what appears to be explosions from cluster munitions in a civilian area in Kharkiv. You see an explosion of a building there on the left and then you see the scattered explosions that come in the moments afterwards, at least four blasts seconds apart here. 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.

BERMAN: All right. I want to begin with the latest on the manhunt. I'm joined here by Jason Carroll in Brooklyn.

And, Jason, people getting into the subway, people going about their lives, at the same time, there's a very active manhunt in the city.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, the N train back up and running. But, as you say, this investigation very much at this point focused on finding that person of interest, Frank James. As you know, many items found here at the scene. Some of those linked to Frank James, including keys to that rental u-haul, that u-haul found just a few miles from where we are now at another N stop subway station, rented in Philadelphia. This person has addresses in both Philadelphia, also in Wisconsin. So, police and investigators focus on that.

But as you mentioned also, really focused on some of the social media as well, right? Because in his social media post he talked about violence, mass shootings, and then on one YouTube post that was posted on Monday, just a day before the shooting, he talked about wanting to kill people. So, you can see why investigators, police want to talk to him, want to talk to anyone who may know him or may know where he is.

BERMAN: And they are putting out this public plea. They released put out a photo of Frank James, information about him. They're saying, if you have information about him, call the tips line.

To be clear, they are calling him a person of interest, not a suspect.

CARROLL: That's right. And that's interesting, right, because I know a lot of viewers out there are probably wondering what's going on with that. Well, investigators are being very cautious, they're being very careful. They are looking for direct evidence at this point. So, when they do make the announcement, they want to make sure that they have all their ducks lined up.

BERMAN: And also, look, we know that 33 shots were fired. We also know that the suspect or whoever did do the shooting had a whole lot of weapons with him at that time.

CARROLL: Yes, a whole lot of weapons. And when you look some of the -- what else was found here, I mean, there's a whole list of things, two undetonated smoke grenades, two smoke grenades that were detonated, they found gasoline as well. They found a number of items that were directly linked to the shooter. So, investigators do have a lot in their arsenal. But, again, they want to talk to this man, Frank James.

BERMAN: Yes, and they can trace back the identity, maybe the gun. The gun, they say, not purchased illegally, right?

CARROLL: That's right. That's correct.

BERMAN: So, in theory, they can trace that gun. And I'm sure by this point they know who bought it.

CARROLL: Yes. I mean, look, they have got a lot of information they're withholding and for obvious reasons. Again, I mean, I know for a lot of viewers out there, they're wondering why aren't we just calling this person a suspect. We are following the police lead. BERMAN: Absolutely. And there are reasons for that. Right now, Frank James, a person of interest. Police want to talk to him, which is why they put the photo out there.

Jason Carroll, thank you very much for that.

So, this morning victims are being treated in three nearby hospitals. Officials say none of them, this is miraculous, none of the victims suffered life-threatening injuries.

CNN's Alexandra Field is live at NYU Langone Hospital, where some of the survivors are. Alexandra?


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, John. 21 were taken to this hospital, eight to other local area hospitals. Absolutely extraordinary, as you say, that all are expected to survive. But the scars of this day will stay with them and with this city for so long to come. We're learning now that there were five children who were injured aboard that train car. They range from 12 to 18 years old, according to the governor who has spent some time visiting with victims in the hospital. We know, of course, from police that 33 shots were fired on that train.

Ten people were actually struck by bullets, seven of them male, three female. We heard from one man how says he was shot in the knee. He was in what he describes the worst pain of his life. But he quickly rushed to help a pregnant woman. He was deeply concerned that she could get hurt in the scramble to safety.

The people who were riding the train say that it filled very quickly with smoke, that that was disorienting, that they couldn't see, but many of them could hear people crying for help. One person aboard the train says that he finally saw the blood stains on the floor, and that's when he was able to put together through the shock what was actually happening.

At first, some passengers thought perhaps these were fireworks going off, then they realized the full scale, the horror of what was happening. Once the gunfire finally stopped, passengers say they rushed to try to help one another, trying to triage each other. Some passengers and people who were on the platform taking off their coats and jackets to make makeshift tourniquets to help some of the injured before emergency responders arrived. John?

BERMAN: Yes, it was a terrifying scene. Alexandra Field, thank you very much.

Joining me now is Alexa Aviles. She is the New York City councilwoman representing Sunset Park, where we are right now. Councilwoman, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

I know it's been a long night here. And I see people getting in the subway behind me walking on these streets. Any information on the status of the manhunt for whoever did this? ALEXA AVILES, NYC COUNCIL MEMBER REPRESENTING SUNSET PARK: Sadly, we just know that this person is still at large. We're waiting. So, you know, I think, as you can see, New Yorkers need to go to work, they need to bring their children to school, life moves on. We're all very much unsettled and nervous, but we have to kind of continue to have our city run.

BERMAN: Are you surprised to see the crowds out here, people walking right back in the subway one day after a shooting there?

AVILES: We are a working class community. This community worked every day during the pandemic, supporting fellow New Yorkers every day. So, no, it doesn't surprise me.

BERMAN: Tell me more about this community. Who lives here?

AVILES: Yes. We are a community, again, a working class immigrant community. We are health care providers, we are delivery workers, we are educators and teachers, people who have to work every single day and depend on the subway.

BERMAN: An attack on the subway here is an attack on the heart and soul of the city.

AVILES: Absolutely, without question.

BERMAN: How safe right now are the subways here?

AVILES: You know how safe they are right now, no one can answer. Probably the safest they've ever been because there's probably no down there, not very few people. I think that's a really difficult question to answer. I think we are rebounding from a very challenging time, where we lost over 60,000 New Yorkers. We have the highest unemployment. We have the highest food insecurity, people losing jobs and homes. We are in a very critical state of trauma.

BERMAN: Do you feel like the crime situation in this city is getting worse? Which direction do you think it's heading in?

AVILES: I think the crime situation is clearly increasing. We can't deny that. That is not only in New York City. That is happening nationwide. And I think we really need to take a hard look at that.

BERMAN: And I just want you to -- if you have any message for the country, who obviously have been watching what's happening here in the last 24 hours, what message do you want send the rest of the country?

AVILES: I think, really, it is that, you know, we have to get at the root causes of violence. We need to really look at evidence-based practices that really get at the situation. We need to prevent this situation, not just respond to it. And this has happened over and over again across the country, in big cities, in suburbs and in rural areas. The common denominator is guns, it's public health. It's really (INAUDIBLE) to protect all our families. We deserve better. We can do better.

BERMAN: Councilwoman, thank you so much for being with us. We're thinking about your community here, stay safe.

Ahead next hour, we are going to speak to Mayor Adams, Eric Adams, here of New York. He will give us the very latest on the investigation. Brianna?

KEILAR: Now, here in Ukraine, Russian forces are amassing in the eastern part of the country, the Ukrainian military bracing for a large-scale attack.


This is video that we are now seeing. This is new video that's showing explosions from cluster munitions. You see that there very clearly. This is happening in a civilian area in the Kharkiv region.

I want to go live now to Kyiv and bring in CNN's Frederik Pleitgen. Fred, what is the latest?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Brianna. Well, here in Kyiv, the situation continues to actually ease up. You can see behind that that I'm standing in Central Kyiv right now, we don't have to wear a flak vest anymore. You have the main checkpoint here on the Maidan Square, of course, right in the city center, and actually a lot of traffic. One of the things we have seen about the resilience here in this country, because a lot of people are coming back to the Ukrainian capital already.

At the same time, as you pointed out, you have that offensive that seems to be shaping up from the Russians in the east to that country. And, of course, especially that video with those apparent cluster munitions, that's certainly something that is extremely troubling to see how that street, which appears to be on the outskirts of the city Kharkiv, of course, very much in the east of the country, and those several little explosions that take place as that small car is trying to drive off.

And cluster munitions are one of those things that have been a huge problem here in this war. I was actually on the ground with some folks from explosive ordnance disposal here around the Kyiv area. And they say they find them very frequently. And with those munitions, they have several small charges and that they often don't explode on impact and then become extremely dangerous to civilians afterwards.

So, that's certainly one of the weapons that the Ukrainians are extremely concerned about, but, of course, also very concerned about the fact that the Russians keep massing troops in the east of country. We have seen some of those convoys going through the Donbas area.

And, certainly, Ukrainians think that that offensive large scale is happening soon, at the same time, we're hearing from Mariupol that the Russians continuing to also press that -- the encirclement, the siege of that place. Apparently, some of the defenders in Mariupol, some of the Ukrainian defenders, they've managed to consolidate their positions. They're holding out. But, of course, for them, the situation is extremely difficult, Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, dire in Mariupol. Fred, thank you so much for that. We do appreciate it.

Joining us now is Sergii Leshchenko. He is a key aide to Ukrainian President Zelenskyy. I wanted to ask you something about Viktor Medvedchuk, who is a key -- maybe the key Putin ally here in Ukraine, who was captured. Have you received any response to a proposal from the president who said, I want to trade your guy in Ukraine for our boys and girls in Russian captivity?

SERGII LESHCHENKO, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT ZELENSKYY'S CHIEF OF STAFF: Not so far. As for today, we have only few comments from Russian side about Medvedchuk. And they were controversial in the beginning. A spokesperson of Putin said that it could be fake. And today, former President Medvedev said that Medvedchuk should not be tortured. But if it's a fake -- he cannot tortured, in reality. He is not going to be tortured. He was caught by Ukrainian secret service but not because of the military crimes but because he is under investigation on corruption, and he is under investigation on the energy sector and coal supply at the beginning of the war. He was the (INAUDIBLE) but he disappeared. And he was in some hidden place, we don't know where, but he was found.

What is important, because Medvedchuk was the leading person in the infrastructure to prepare Russian invasion in Ukraine and create narratives in information sphere. He was a medium of that. He was a member of parliament. He was a leader of a political group in parliament, one of the biggest. This political group was providing in the Ukrainian landscape very strong Russian narratives based on fake, disinformation.

For instance, he was one of the key speakers of this biological and chemical weapons and laboratories in Ukraine. He started to spin this false information about two or three years ago when he was even a member of parliament. So, he is a Russian proxy. He is not a Ukrainian politician. From my understanding, he is a Russian politician, integrated and working as an agent undercover in Ukrainian politics. And what is also important is he's under American sanctions so far.

KEILAR: Sergii, how did you -- how was he captured?

LESHCHENKO: Well, this is information very sensitive. They're going to be provided as much as possible by Ukrainian secret service. But they're going to do this, I believe, soon because this is wartime in Ukraine. We cannot share all information around but, of course, some information are going to be provided.

It's important that he was trying to leave Ukraine. His wife left Ukraine a few days before the invasion happened. So, I believe that Putin is his relative because Mr. Medvedchuk is a relative of Putin.


His wife, Medvedchuk's wife, left Ukraine a few days before the invasion has started and she left Ukraine to Belarus. I believe she was prepared. Putin called them saying that it's time to run because I'm going to destroy your country, and she left Ukraine. And he was looking for a way to leave Ukraine but he's a very famous person in Ukraine. He was in politics. He's an oligarch since the middle of '90s. So, like 25 years ago, he started to be a member of parliament. That is why it was not easy for him to leave Ukraine.

KEILAR: No, he had been on house arrest and he was able to escape from that. We know that's when he was found, as he was on the lam for that.

I do want to ask you, Vladimir Putin says the talks are at a dead end. The lead Ukrainian negotiator, or one of them says, no, they're ongoing. What's the disconnect here?

LESHCHENKO: Yes. This is really -- the negotiation process is ongoing but the level of working group, working group have regular meetings to discuss some points for an agreement, which I believe is going to be more or less fine because we have to stop this war.

But what is important is that Ukraine is not going to give up. Ukraine is not going to pardon any crimes, any (INAUDIBLE) for Russia.

So, I don't know when this negotiation is going to be finished, but it's important that it's like (INAUDIBLE). On one side, Russia is continuing attack of Ukraine and they are destroying our cities and killing our citizens. And on the other side, part of negotiators continue this work with the Ukrainian counterpart. And this is the working group so far.

I don't know when it's going to be finished. But, frankly speaking, it's very difficult because they really want us to give up, using negotiation as a legal way to fix this capitulation.

KEILAR: Okay. Sergii, I want to ask you. The German president, Frank- Walter Steinmeier, had made an overture to visit Kyiv along with Polish President Duda. He said that was rejected by Ukrainian officials, by President Zelenskyy. I think there are many reasons for why that might happen and a lot of speculation about it, but can you tell us why, from your perspective, that was rejected?

LESHCHENKO: Well, first of all, our president never rejected it. I don't know the source of this information from German media. And what is important is that Ukraine is looking forward to the trip of German chancellor who was invited by the Ukrainian president, and who is really able to help Ukraine in these circumstances by providing weapons, because he is the leader of executive power in Germany. A chancellor is a person who is responsible for such issues.

Of course, we respect all German politicians and it's important to have them at the proper moment. As I understood from my conversation with different diplomats, it was kind of a tricky story. Frankly, it's not clear how it was trying to arrange this, because there are four presidents arriving to Ukraine by train today, and as I understood, there was an attempt to have one more on the board.

I'm not involved in the negotiation process, how it has to be done, but it is important that we are really looking for German support and the counterpart for this negotiation with the German chancellor. And the German president is also a respected person in the world, but I believe we can have a separate trip for him if it can be like a trip for some specific purpose to help Mariupol, to help Ukrainians to survive in this war. I cannot comment because it is very sensitive diplomatic level, just opinion.

But, of course, the German president is an influential person in European politics but at the same very controversial in the sense of working with Mr. Schroder, who used to be the chancellor of Germany and the proxy of Russia influence because he is working for a Russian state corporation and a friend of Putin. And in this sense, we have to separate, I think, the current situation with the past and talk to German leadership or German president, first of all, in a sense how his humanitarian mission, how his diplomatic mission can help Ukraine to stop this war, to stop blockade of Mariupol, to stop the shelling of Ukrainian peaceful citizens and stop the genocide, which is really going on.

And I'm thankful for your president to recognize genocide. Thank you.

KEILAR: And so we've heard from Ukrainian officials. They do appreciate that. Sergii Leshchenko, thank you so much. We hope to talk to you again very soon in the future.

There is some new evidence that shows Russian forces are amassing in Eastern Ukraine as Vladimir Putin says he's not stopping this war. Berman?

BERMAN: All right. Here in Brooklyn, this intense manhunt underway for the person who attacked a New York City subway, it happened right behind me at a station, shooting ten people, hurting many more.


New clues this morning of what investigators are zeroing in on.

This is CNN special coverage. We are live in Brooklyn, live in Ukraine. Stay with us.


BERMAN: All right. I'm John Berman live in Brooklyn. This morning, there is a manhunt under way for the person who opened fire on a subway station, the crowded subway station right behind me yesterday, firing 33 times. 29 people injured, including five students, ten people shot.

Joining me now, Jillian Snider, she's a retired NYPD officer, Peter Licata, former supervisory special agent for the FBI and former lead bomb tech for the FBI in New York City.


Jillian, I just want to start with you. Whoever did this, whoever fired a gun 33 times on the subway here is still on the loose this morning. So, what is being done to keep people safe?

JILLIAN SNIDER, RETIRED NYPD OFFICER: So, right now, the NYPD has launched a massive manhunt in collaboration with the feds and they're trying to ascertain the location of this individual. They are doing social media checks. They are talking to anyone that may have known the suspect or person of interest. He doesn't have any ties right now or that are known to New York City. So, they are actually reaching out to external agencies to try and find where he is from, who knows him, who many know where he is.

BERMAN: Frank James is the person who has been listed as a person of interest here. Keys to a u-haul that he was believed to have rented were found at the scene. Person of interest, what's being done to find him?

PETER LICATA, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: What's being done to find him is, right now, they are combing his social media, they're interviewing potential friends and family. What they want to do is they want to corroborate any information that they had, any leanings that he might have told his friends and family anything about his actions. And they're also looking to eliminate any collaborators, facilitators, both monetarily and materialistically that may have helped him get to New York City with that u-haul van.

The biggest thing that law enforcement is trying to do right now, not only just piece together his route through CCTV but it's to take him from that person of interest into a suspect. They are going to do that via forensics and those interviews that they are doing currently with friends and family or any of his associates that may come out and say, I know who Frank James is.

BERMAN: It was last night around, what, 7:00 when they released the picture and the name, Frank James, as a person of interest. So, 12- plus hours at this point, how hard will it be for him to hide if he is trying to hide?

LICATA: In New York City, you're hiding in plain sight. But your world is starting to get smaller and smaller. My experience as a former FBI agent, on the JTTF, Faisal Shahzad, the attempted Times Square bomber of 2010, it took us about 96 to fully identify and locate him. Ahmad Rahimi, the Chelsea Bomber, 2016, he was identified and arrested within 72 hours. So, again, Mr. James' world is starting to get smaller and smaller by the hour.

BERMAN: And, again, Frank James listed as a person of interest at this point, not a suspect. We are using those terms because that's what the police are using for very specific reasons.

We are being told that this Frank James person that there are a series of social media videos he posted. He talks about Eric Adams. He talked about homeless people. He talked about perhaps committing acts of violence. So, how can that be used as an investigatory tool at this point?

SNIDER: So, that could go to establish some sort of motive, if they are able to move him from a person of interest to a suspect. To my knowledge, those social media posts have been pulled down from the internet. And law enforcement is now looking into them, seeing when they were posted, I.P. addresses of where they may have been posted from, seeing if there's likes from possible co-conspirators or friends.

And, honestly, it's going to aid in understanding the psychological behavior, maybe the motivation behind these acts.

BERMAN: 62-year-old man, again, person of interest, not a suspect, but not always the age of a type of person you think in something like this.

SNIDER: No. I was actually quite surprised when I saw a 62-year-old gentleman as this person of interest in this thing, because that's just -- behaviorally and criminologically, that's not really what we are looking for.

BERMAN: What do you think?

LICATA: I agree. It's out of the norm. So, we'll see what his motives are. They have got two of the three. They have motive, opportunity and means. They have already established the opportunity and the means of him or this individual committing this act. The whole thing now is motive. You can't eliminate terrorism, you never can until it's all said and done. But right now, it is why did he do it and what was his methodology behind doing this.

BERMAN: Yes. And, look, we have gun. There is a gun, again, tied to the suspect, not necessarily Frank James. But we were told yesterday the gun wasn't purchased illegally. I mean, it's going to have a trove of information on that.

LICATA: Correct. So, the federal government, through the ATF and the FBI they're looking at trying to trace that weapon trying to figure out where it was purchased, when it was purchased and by whom. It doesn't that James or whoever the individual is actually purchased it. It could be stolen at the time.

So, those are all the things that they're going to be looking for as far as the weapon that was used to commit this crime.

BERMAN: Look, New York City is a big place, easy place to hide. But the flipside of that is 9 million sets of eyes out there looking this morning. And the police and the FBI, everyone asking for help in locating him. Thank you so much for helping us out this morning.

We are going to hear from someone who was on the subway when this happened, someone who was shot in the leg during these terrifying moments. Brianna?

KEILAR: New video this morning showing what appears to be cluster munition explosions in Kharkiv, this as Russian forces are pushing further into Eastern Ukraine.