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Shooter Fires 33 Shots in New York City Subway Station, Hitting 10 People; Search Underway in New York City for Person of Interest in Subway Shooting; New York City Mayor Eric Adams Interviewed on Search for New York City Subway Shooter; Subway Attack Survivor Joins New Day on Horrors Inside Train. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired April 13, 2022 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Investigators believe James 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 do know he recorded dozens of hours of videos ranting about New York City Mayor Eric Adams, homeless people in the subway system, gun violence. Mayor Adams will join us in just moments. Brianna?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Here in Ukraine, President Zelenskyy thanking President Biden for calling Russia's actions in this country genocide. And the worst may still be ahead. There is new satellite imagery that shows Russian forces deploying in eastern Ukraine in preparation for a large-scale assault.
And this just in, a CNN team in northeastern Kharkiv reporting witnessing intense shelling in a residential district. A local Ukrainian official says Russia appears to be stepping up attacks in a new phase of military operations.
And then take a look at this, this is new video that we're just getting in of what appears to be explosions from a cluster bomb also in Kharkiv. You see that car backing up, keep an eye on that, you see the explosion right behind it, and then others scattered around it to follow, even more after this.
Just this morning, President Zelenskyy also accused Russia of using phosphorous bombs to terrorize civilians.
First, though, let's got back to John Berman. He's outside that Brooklyn train station. Berman?
BERMAN: That's right, there is this manhunt underway, a citywide search for whoever opened fire on the subway, the station right behind me. Joining me now director -- 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 the manhunt right now, because to state the obvious, whoever fired a gun 33 times in the subway behind me is still on the loose this morning. So someone who would walk into a subway with a hatchet, with a gun, with all the magazines, all that ammunition, with gasoline, what threat does he pose to people in this city right now?
MITCH SILBER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF INTELLIGENCE ANALYSIS, NEW YORK POLICE: This individual premeditated this attack. And with all of the equipment and gear that he brought, it suggests that it wasn't just for a one-off event. So the fact that he planned ahead, he made this sort of mysterious disappearance, and is now on the run is a serious threat. And if you think about a few years back, the Boston Marathon attack, you had a manhunt going on and the city shut down for a few days. New York hasn't done that. That's not the way New York operates. But this is a serious threat as people are on the subway this morning, students going to school, people commuting to work. So this is very serious right now.
BERMAN: People remember from the Boston Marathon bombing, that ended in a shootout, a deadly shootout. So, Jonathan, talk to me about the manhunt itself. How is law enforcement trying to close in on the suspect, remembering that there is a person of interest in this case, Frank James?
JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: So, listen, for the last 24 hours NYPD detectives along with federal counterparts have been looking at this person of interest and actually looking at everything about them, their digital footprint, their friends, their family. Every point of connectivity, they're starting to research and to see is there anyone else supporting this individual. He has been on the run, but that can't sustain. It can't sustain without someone else helping him, so that's what investigators are keying in on right now.
But I want to talk about this action, this shooting on the subway. Behavior is a continuum. And it is not normal for somebody just to wake up one day, get on a subway with a bag full of explosives and a gun and start shooting at people. I think what we're going to see through this investigation is that there were red flags behaviorally with this individual in the past because, again, it is just not normal. And it's that concept of seeing some, say something. When you see people making threatening statements, whether it's online or in person, those things have to be raised so we don't get these types of events. I really strongly feel that the event that happened yesterday could have been avoided if we were able to really look at these signals in advance, and then address the problem before we get to this point.
BERMAN: Jonathan, Mitch, stand by for a moment, if you will, because joining us now is the Mayor of New York City, Eric Adams.
Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us. Can you bring us up to speed on the latest in this manhunt this morning?
MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D-New York City, NY): Yes, I could. But I also want to lean into what I believe Jonathan just stated and why it is so important. We are watching signs around us of those who are leaning toward violent actions, and we are ignoring them. I cannot play on a song on a social media channel that belongs to
someone else without them identifying that. Why aren't we identifying these dangerous threats? Why aren't we being more proactive instead of waiting for this to happen?
And there is some responsibility I think our social media industries and companies must lean into while we're watching these postings and these threats every day, and no one is giving an early warning sign to law enforcement.
Now, talking about where we are now, I was briefed this morning by our team. We're still following up on leads. I want to thank the public for the calls that are coming in.
We're going to catch this person, and we're going to bring him to justice and hold him responsible for this horrific act on innocent people that are utilizing our subway system.
BERMAN: Now, you mentioned that you think there may have been clues that were missed here. And I want to be very careful with the language I choose. There is a person of interest. That person of interest is named Frank James, 62-years old. Law enforcement put out a picture. They want information -- if anyone has it, please call the number -- the TIPS number that they provided.
We've also learned overnight that this person of interest appears to have posted videos where he used violent language. What more can you tell us about the videos and what clues you think they provide?
ADAMS: Well, we're dealing with a duality right now that we have to be very sensitive about. Not only must we apprehend the person of interest, but we also have to -- we must prosecute him.
And in the eagerness to give as much information as possible to the public, you can jeopardize the long-term case. And nothing would be more detrimental to taking the dangerous person off the street if we release information that the police department is aware that could prejudice a case.
And so there is a lot of discipline that we're showing right now. All of the information will come out over time, but we're sensitive about what we release right now.
We have a person of interest's name, his face, where he resides, some of his actions, and some of the weapons he carried. But we are methodically releasing only the information that will never endanger the outcome of this case, but -- because he must be prosecuted.
BERMAN: Look, I get that. But you mentioned videos and social media companies paying closer attention to things that are posted. Were there things posted by this person of interest that, to you, should have set off red flags?
ADAMS: I believe so. And that will come out during the investigation. Or even just look at not only this case. We have cases of looking at some of the violent drill music where you hear people state they're going to shoot someone. That should be a warning sign.
And you look at how we're using social media right now to put threats out there, carry out dangerous actions. And there are clear correlations between what is being posted and what is being carried out in our streets in this case and in many other cases.
BERMAN: Mr. Mayor, this person on video posted messages about you. How threatened do you feel this morning?
ADAMS: Part of the job is receiving threats. I get threats from time to time, not only in the role as the mayor, as a state senator, as the borough president, even as a police officer.
I have a great deal of confidence in the law enforcement officers that are around me. They have the job to do, and I have a job to do to continue to lead this city. They're going to take the appropriate actions.
BERMAN: So, whoever opened fire on the subway station behind me, 33 shots fired, 10 people hit, whoever did that is still on the loose this morning. So what threat does that person pose to the people of your city?
ADAMS: Anytime you have an armed person who has intent to hurt innocent people, that is a threat. And that is why we are going to catch him, we're going to arrest him, if he -- he's a person of interest now, and we're going to prosecute whoever is responsible for this crime.
Yes, it is a threat. And we're telling New Yorkers we want you to be vigilant. If you see him, notify your authorities. But be extremely vigilant as you move around your day today. We want this person apprehended.
BERMAN: Do you have any reason to believe that whatever plans there may have been -- and obviously, it does appear there were plans just based on the arsenal that was discovered there -- any reason to believe that the plans included more than just the attack on the subway?
ADAMS: There is no information we have available at this time that would indicate that. There is nothing that is part of the preliminary investigation that determined that there is something else. We would definitely notify the public if we were aware of that.
BERMAN: There is a discrepancy, again, we're dealing with very specific language here, person of interest, Frank James, who I believe listed on his driver's license is, what, like, 6'2", where we were told yesterday that law enforcement looking for someone who may have been a suspect who was much shorter than that, 5'5". How do you explain the discrepancy in height?
[08:10:05] ADAMS: This is something that is known in law enforcement circles that, oftentimes, when people are going through a crisis, their description can be different from what they actually had witnessed in front of them, and so it is known to have discrepancy of that magnitude. It has happened oftentimes during an investigation, someone will give you a description, and it's not the correct description. And that's expected.
But it's about piecing together all the pieces of the evidence to zero-in on a potential -- particular (ph) suspect.
BERMAN: So whoever did this, again, walked on to a subway, with a gun, with a lot of ammunition, with fireworks, with a hatchet, with gasoline. How does someone get on to a New York City subway with all of that? And how do you stop that?
ADAMS: Well, remember, the vastness of our system, our system is extremely vast, one of the most vast subway systems on the globe. There are so many stations you can enter to actually enter the system.
And the police department, they do an amazing job with periodic bag checks, but we want to enhance our level of security. And that's why I'm talking about examining some of the technology out there, not the technology of detecting devices when you walk through the airports, but there are newer versions that are used at ballparks and other places that you can actually detect if someone is carrying a gun.
I sent my deputy mayor of public safety to investigate and look into some of these new technologies. And we're going to see pilot projects to continue to enhance the safety on our subway system.
But it is extremely challenging to identify every person that enters the subway system because of the vastness of our system. But we must be there to identify them before they carry out a dangerous act.
BERMAN: Are you talking about metal detectors to get into the subway?
ADAMS: It's not as simple as a metal detector. It is more complicated and it's more modern than that. These devices, you do not even know they're there. And they're away, where you don't have to stop your flow. It's not like what you see at an airport where a person stops and empties their pockets. No, there are new technologies out there, and I'm going to examine all of them to keep New Yorkers safe, particularly underground in our subway system.
BERMAN: Mr. Mayor, what direction is this city headed in terms of public safety as you sit here this morning, the morning after a mass shooting? Is it really getting better?
ADAMS: We are going to get better. This is going to be a safe city. And we've been here before. In 1984, when I started my policing career, this was a city that was filled with violence. Our subway systems were unsafe. But we had the right energy and spirit to turn that around, and we want to do it again.
But let's be clear, we're dealing with historical inequalities, historical abandonments and failures. And as I stated, there are many rivers that will continue to feed the sea of violence if we don't dam each river.
We have an over-proliferation of guns in our city and in our country. New York Police Department took 1,800 guns off the street in the three-and-a-half months that I have been the mayor. We need to think about that for a moment, why they continue to flow into our city. All across America, big cities are dealing with this level of violence.
And so that's why the president was right to put in place -- or attempt to appoint a new head of the ATF, a nominee for the ATF. We need to stop the flow of guns, including ghost guns. That's a real crisis we're facing.
If we want to solve this problem, it's about all of us getting on board, not those who are living in alternate reality of what is taking place in reality on our streets every day.
BERMAN: Mayor Eric Adams, I appreciate you being with us this morning. Thank you for your time. I know you're positive for COVID, so we wish you a speedy recovery on that as well. Thank you so much.
ADAMS: Thank you very much.
BERMAN: Back with me, Jonathan Wackrow and Mitch. Gentlemen, I don't know if you could hear the mayor just then, but one of the things he did say was that there is no specific reporting that he can tell us about that there was anything more planned than the attack on the subway. He basically said they have no reason to believe that whoever did this had more in store. How does that strike you?
SILBER: I think it is just a conclusion that we can't really jump to make. As we talked about, he brought this arsenal with him, an arsenal that suggested that he was planning on committing significant violence. So the fact that he made that preparation, preparation for his escape, preparation with more ammunition, preparation with more grenades, suggests there may be more.
Now, we don't know at this point. One of things that has to be run down, and the fact he left his bag there, with his materiel, may be a significant disadvantage for him going forward, thankfully. But we just don't know at this point.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So the mayor, Jonathan --
JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yeah.
BERMAN: -- still being careful the definition of person of interest, and suspect. Frank James is a person of interest, not a suspect. But the mayor blurring the lines a little bit, making clear he wants law enforcement to apprehend, was the word he used, this person of interest, Frank James.
WACKROW: Listen, I think right now in the city of New York, Frank James is the number one most wanted person, right? Because that's the point that we know, that is the known entity. From there we have to talk to that individual. The investigators have to get to that person, there is a discrepancy, some of the facts, the height, the weight.
You know, we have to -- we have to adjudicate that very rapidly to find out, you know, who was the actual perpetrator of this crime. And is this -- to Mitch's point, is this something -- part of something larger. We have to mitigate this threat as fast as humanly possible.
BERMAN: All right. Jonathan Wackrow and Mitch Silber, thank you so much for being here this morning. Really appreciate it.
We're going to be joined next by a woman on the train during the attack and used her jacket as a tourniquet for a fellow passenger who was shot. This, again, as the manhunt is under way this morning. You heard Mayor Adams say whoever did this, whoever opened fire on the subway is still a threat to New Yorkers this morning.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Here in Ukraine, there is some brand-new video we're seeing just in to CNN appearing to show a cluster bomb exploded in Kharkiv. And Ukraine is now accusing Russia of using phosphorous bombs.
We're live in Ukraine and Brooklyn. This is CNN's special coverage.
BERMAN: I'm John Berman live in Brooklyn this morning.
A manhunt under way for the person who set off a gas canister, smoke canister, and then started shooting on a crowded subway here in New York.
Claire Tunkel was in the subway car when the shooting took place and suffered from smoke inhalation. She joins me now.
Claire, thank you for being with us.
I know you went to the hospital with smoke inhalation. Just -- how are you doing this morning?
CLAIRE TUNKEL, BROOKLYN SUBWAY SHOOTING WITNESS: I'm doing all right. Thank you.
BERMAN: I'm so glad to hear that. I know what you went through must have been terrifying. Just walk us through those moments. You were on the subway, what happened?
TUNKEL: Yeah. I got on the subway, and was looking for a place to sit down. And saw this gentleman over at the end of the train, and, you know, there was some stuff in the seats and so I didn't sit there, some liquid, and was on the train and on my way and as the doors closed, and the train took off, I heard something drop on the floor and it was the smoke just started coming out. And at that point I got up and walked to the other end of the train where I started to run quickly, actually.
That's when it just kind of escalated and the train filled up with smoke and you could not see anything. And that's when the -- what I thought was fireworks at the beginning started going off. And then learned shortly after, you know, when we got to the station that -- that, you know, self several people had been hit and that was, you know, it was when I, you know, assessed the situation, saw there was a guy that needed some help and was able to give him some assistance.
It was -- yeah, it was surreal and long and short all in the same time. Yeah.
BERMAN: Yeah, I know so intense, brief, intense, feels like an eternity, but ironically over so fast. You say you gave someone help. You wrapped a jacket around someone who was bleeding, correct?
TUNKEL: Yeah, there was several people on the subway platform, and I was looking, you know, for something, I took off my jacket because that was the closest thing to wrap around his leg. Pulled out a grocery bag, shopping bag and tried to tear that apart to help another person. Just -- I don't know at that moment I felt like if there was something I could do to help, that is what it was.
BERMAN: It is really amazing that you were able to do that, given what you went through. So, you said when you walked on to the subway, you saw somebody and then things in the seat, did you get a look, do you think, at the person who did this?
TUNKEL: I mean, yeah, I think that as New Yorkers when you get on the train, like, you're -- I don't know, my mode of getting on the train, I look at people in the eye and I assess, you know, are they okay, should I get close to them, are they crazy, and honestly when I locked eyes with this individual, and did not get a sense that there was anything wrong with them, you know, there was -- he said there was urine in the seat, don't sit there.
And so I took that as, you know, as almost a courtesy, so, yeah, I did see him, and in all honesty, with masks and hats and things like that, I -- there is only so much you can identify about a person. I did have that brief interaction with him.
BERMAN: And to be clear, I want to be careful about how I phrase this, law enforcement has released a picture of someone they have identified as a person of interest, Frank James. The person you saw, does it resemble the photo they released?
TUNKEL: Yeah. It is -- you know what, it is hard to tell. It was an African-American man that was heavy set. And, you know, I think that as far as his height, you know, I think that the 6'2" definitely does -- it is something that I noticed, but in all honesty, I couldn't say, like, yes, that is the person because of masks and hats and just typical getting on the subway, what you do.
BERMAN: I get it. It happens so fast. I did speak to someone who was also on that car when the shooting took place and he described it to me as the loudest sounds he had ever heard. What did it sound like to you and did you have any sense of why the shooting stopped?
TUNKEL: Yeah, honestly, I haven't really been around guns very much. I don't really know what they sound like. At first, I thought that must be fireworks, whatever -- like something, you know, I thought they were -- there was something in their bag that they needed for work, like a construction and so I thought it was fireworks at first. And then it just kept going and going and it did stop at one point, the train stopped at one point in between the stations.
And then it started up again and at that point when I heard people saying, you know, like, I'm hurt, there is so much blood, hearing things like that, that's when my mind changed to, like, this is not fireworks.
BERMAN: I got to let you go. I asked you how you were doing from the smoke inhalation. I should have asked you how you're doing this morning in general. I mean, you were through a pretty traumatic event.
TUNKEL: Yeah. Thanks for asking. The smoke inhalation, so far everything seems okay. Thankfully.
I have two small children that, you know, they go to school nearby and they had a lockdown yesterday. So explaining this to them was probably the hardest part of all of this. And, you know, not wanting to put fear into them, and wanting to stay strong.
So I think that I'm aware of the effects that this will have on me, and I will say that there is lots of resources that have been offered from, you know, from the hospital in support of me, you know, getting through this, and I'm really grateful for. But I'm just taking it moment to moment, honestly.
BERMAN: Well, listen, Claire Tunkel, you obviously are strong, not only did you survive, but your first instinct was to help people who were in need. Thank you for that. Thank you for joining us this morning. We wish you the best.
TUNKEL: Yes, thank you so much.
BERMAN: All right, we have new details about the person of interest sought by law enforcement in this attack, including disturbing videos in which he discusses mass shootings. We have the latest on the investigation coming up.
KEILAR: Pro-Russian oligarch and close Putin ally seen here in handcuffs and wearing military fatigues captured by Ukrainian forces. President Zelenskyy is now proposing a prisoner swap. We'll have the latest on the ground here in Ukraine, next.