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The Situation Room

Capitol Hill Gunfire; Interview With Texas Congressman Michael McCaul

Aired October 03, 2013 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And two powerful Republican senators caught on an open microphone, the conversation about the government shutdown they probably didn't want all of us to hear.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

We begin this hour with a terrifying confrontation from the doorstep of President Obama over at the White House to the entrance of the United States Capitol.

New video captures the car chase, the gunshots and the raw fear in a city already on edge after only two weeks after that D.C. Navy Yard slaughter, and in the midst of the government shutdown.

We're standing by for a news conference by D.C. police and other federal authorities on this breaking story. There you see the microphone up on Capitol Hill. We will have live coverage as soon as they come there to start briefing us and answering our questions.

Right now, I want you to watch and listen to the way the car chase unfolded, that video shot by Alhurra, the Arabic-language station funded by the U.S. government. That's why you were hearing Arabic.

Here's the news conference. It is about to begin.

ED DONOVAN, SECRET SERVICE: My name is Ed Donovan. I'm from the United States Secret Service.

I want to about the incident today. At about 14:12 hours today, a black Infiniti sedan struck temporary security fencing and one of our uniformed division officers at an outer perimeter checkpoint of the White House at 15th and E Street Northwest.

The vehicle then fled east on Pennsylvania Avenue. There were multiple crime scenes as a result of the vehicle fleeing. There were multiple shots fired at several different locations. This case is under investigation by the Metropolitan Police Department, with assistance from the U.S. Capitol Police, Secret Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

That's all I have, but I will take a few questions. QUESTION: Sir, is there any way this could have been an accident, whether or not she didn't know where she was going?

DONOVAN: This incident is under investigation, but at this point an unauthorized vehicle attempted to gain access at a very outer perimeter checkpoint. I want to stress that. This was an outer perimeter checkpoint of the White House.

Beyond that checkpoint, there are multiple other checkpoints that someone would have to go through, but there is -- this unauthorized vehicle approached the checkpoint. Our officers acted appropriately. The vehicle then fled and in fleeing struck one of our officers as it departed that initial scene.

QUESTION: What is the ethnicity of the deceased?

DONOVAN: I don't think that's being released at this point.


DONOVAN: That's also under investigation, but uniformed division officers and Capitol Police officers.

QUESTION: Where were the shots fired? Were there shots fired at the White House?

DONOVAN: As I said, there were no shots -- no shots fired at the White House. These other locations is where shots were fired. And, again, it's all under investigation.


DONOVAN: I will let the chief of the Capitol Police talk about that. I will turn it over...


QUESTION: Can you I.D. yourself again?

DONOVAN: Ed Donovan from Secret Service.


KIM DINE, CAPITOL POLICE CHIEF: Good evening. Kim Dine, chief of the United States Capitol Police.

You have already heard the preliminary information, regarding what happened at the White House. Subsequent to that, our officers attempted to make a stop at Garfield Circle. The vehicle eluded them and continued on up behind us at First and Constitution Avenue. It appears our officer in an attempt to pursue the vehicle struck a barricade.

Ultimately, the vehicle stopped at Second and Maryland Northeast, where we were able to capture the suspect.

QUESTION: Do you have the status of the officer that (OFF-MIKE)

DINE: I personally spoke with the officer, and he is doing well. He's a 23-year veteran of the United States Capitol Police, and he's doing very well. Thank you for asking.

QUESTION: Is he at the hospital? Or how seriously injured is he?

DINE: He was at the hospital when I spoke with him, but he's going to be fine.


DINE: I don't have his specific injuries.

QUESTION: How was he injured?

DINE: His vehicle apparently struck the barricade behind us. It appears all around the Capitol the security worked exceptionally well.

We did have a very brief lockdown of the Capitol. And we were able to kind of lock things down and clear the event extremely quickly, keeping everybody safe, notifying everybody of what was going on.

And we actually cleared the scene rather quickly. As you know, we had a briefing probably within the hour of what was going on. We obviously are investigating the incident, we, I mean multiple law enforcement agencies, and this appears to be an isolated singular matter with, at this point, no nexus to terrorism. Thank you.


DINE: Pardon me?

QUESTION: How can you rule out terrorism?

DINE: From the facts and circumstances that we have thus far, it appears that there's no relationship.


QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Somali descent?

DINE: Are you asking me or telling me?


DINE: We're actually not talking about the suspect at this time.


DINE: We are not releasing any information on the suspect.


QUESTION: Can you talk about the child in the car and where the child is now?

DINE: My understanding is there was a 1-year-old child in the car. I believe actually one of our officers initially rescued the child and took the child to initial medical care in the vicinity here, and then the child was taken to the hospital.

QUESTION: Was it a boy or girl?


DINE: Pardon me?

QUESTION: The barricades (OFF-MIKE)

DINE: We're obviously still investigating that.

Let me turn it over to Chief Lanier from the Metropolitan Police Department.

QUESTION: Boy or girl? What kind of ethnicity?

DINE: I do not have that information right now.


CATHY LANIER, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA POLICE CHIEF: Let me try and answer a couple questions real quick.

I will tell you up front there are certain questions we're not going to answer. We're not going to answer any questions about the suspect at this point. All the information that we're giving you is preliminary. There is some video that has been released.

I would caution you that that video only captures the incident, a small part of this incident. There were things that were not captured on the video before and after, obviously.

As of right now, we do know that there were shots fired in at least two locations during this pursuit. The pursuit was from 15th and E down to the 100 block of Maryland Avenue. The pursuit went several blocks, involved both the United States Secret Service and United States Capitol Police.

Right now, the suspect in the vehicle, we do know was struck by gunfire, and at this point has been pronounced. The suspect has been pronounced at this point. The child is approximately a year-old, and is in good condition, and in protective custody.

Right now, it is all very preliminary. We don't know which officers fired, how many rounds were fired. I will say that both at the White House and at the Capitol, the security perimeters worked. They did exactly what they were supposed to do. They stopped a suspect from breaching the security perimeters both in a vehicle -- in a vehicle at both locations.

I would say that both of the United States Secret Service and Capitol Police officers, from what I have seen so far in this investigation, acted here heroically in trying to stop this suspect from entering the security perimeters at both locations.

We have two officers that are injured, one from Capitol and one from Secret Service. Fortunately, both of them will be OK, but two officers injured just doing their jobs. So, I will take a few question, but I'm not going to answer any questions about the investigation as it pertains to evidence or pertains the suspect at this point.


LANIER: The suspect, the last gunfire was in the 100 block of Maryland Avenue, and the suspect was pronounced at some time later.

QUESTION: Chief, do you think that this could have been an accident or do you think it was intentional?

LANIER: All information we have right now is this does not appear in any way to be an accident. This was a lengthy pursuit. There were multiple vehicles that were rammed, there were officers that were struck and two security perimeters that were attempted to be breached. It does not appear in any way this is an accident.


LANIER: We don't know that yet.

I'm sorry?

QUESTION: Why aren't you releasing more information...


LANIER: We're not going to release any information about the suspect or anybody else. First of all, we would make next of kin notification before we released that information.

QUESTION: Was she armed?

LANIER: We are not going to comment on any information regarding evidence at this point.

QUESTION: Can you take us through the path from the White House that person traveled to get to Maryland Avenue? Where was the car going? Where were the different places the shots were fired?

LANIER: I can tell you that there were two places where shots were fired that we're aware of at this point. This is still preliminary.

The pursuit started at 15th and E Street, came down Pennsylvania Avenue, at some point entered Garfield Circle. There were shots fired after the suspect vehicle rammed into a Secret Service vehicle, and then the vehicle then continued on First Street to Constitution Avenue, up Constitution, around the barriers, and then onto 100 block of Maryland Avenue, where the vehicle crashed and additional shots were fired there.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) ... around the barriers?

LANIER: We're not sure yet where exactly. There was contact made with the barriers we know by at least one vehicle. We don't know if there were other vehicles, but we know the barriers did go up. We know that at least one vehicle struck the barriers. We really don't know that yet until we finish the reconstruction.


LANIER: Right now, the preliminary information is that both agencies had officers that fired.

OK, two more questions and then we're done.


LANIER: The Metropolitan Police Department will be investigating this case. We are getting support from FBI, Capitol Police and Secret Service.

QUESTION: Any verbal exchange with the suspect?

LANIER: I can't comment on that at this point.

I will take one more question.


LANIER: The crash was at 100 block of Maryland Avenue. And at that point, this is very close to the security booth, the security officers from the Capitol, there was another round of gunfire at that point. So, that's where the pursuit terminated.


LANIER: It's all -- all we're giving you right now is the facts we know of what has happened. I'm not ruling anything out at this point. I can tell you that I'm pretty confident this is not an accident.

All right. Thank you.

DINE: Well, what I said was it does not appear to be, and I just want to reiterate the heroic work of the United States Capitol Police officers at multiple locations, in addition to rescuing the child out of the vehicle.

At this location and at Second and Maryland Northeast, our officers kept the perimeter secure, and responded quickly and heroically, and locked the scenes down.

Thank you very much.

BLITZER: There he is, Kim Dine. He's the Capitol Police, Kim Dine, the chief of the Capitol Police, saying he doesn't believe there was any nexus to terrorism, believes it was, in his words, an isolated singular matter, but Cathy Lanier, the police chief for the Greater Washington Metropolitan Police Department says she's not ruling anything out right now.

They're not releasing the name of the woman, the driver. Cathy Lanier, the D.C. police chief, saying that this woman, the driver, was pronounced dead following the shooting up on Capitol Hill.

There's lots to assess, lots to digest right now. We will have complete coverage. Stand by.

Also, they saw the car chase, they heard the gunfire. They felt the fear. We are going to hear from more witnesses to this dangerous confrontation that occurred right here in the heart of the nation's capital. That's coming up.


BLITZER: What a day here in Washington. The Secret Service says a woman tried to drive her car through security barriers outside the White House, couldn't do it, then injured a police officers, a Secret Service officer, then drove up to Capitol Hill, where the chase continued, resulting in her being shot to death by police.

Let's bring in the Republican Congressman from Texas Representative Michael McCaul. He's chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for coming in.

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R), TEXAS: Thanks for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: You just heard the briefing we got from the Secret Service and then we got from the Capitol Police, we got from the D.C. Metropolitan Police.

I know you have been briefed by the Homeland Security Department. What else can you share with us?

MCCAUL: Well, we know that this is a 34-year-old African- American woman from Connecticut, possibly with some mental health issues, that she tried to storm the barricade at the White House entrance near Treasury, in the process actually ran into a Secret Service agent.

And then we had the high-speed chase that ended up here on Capitol Hill, which unfortunately very tragically resulted in her being shot and killed. As you know, she has an 18-month-old daughter.

But I will say that the job that the Capitol Police did here today was heroic. And they are to be commended for protecting not only the members of Congress and staffers, but the American public as well who were out here visiting.

BLITZER: So the child in the car was in fact her daughter, right?

MCCAUL: Yes. That's my understanding. The daughter is now in child protective service custody, to determine what to do with her. Again, a very tragic incident.

I think it's important to note also that in my conversations with both Homeland Security and the FBI is that this is not -- they don't have any ties or nexus to terrorism. That's always my biggest concern when I see an incident like this happen on Capitol Hill. That's the first question I have.

It hasn't been ruled out completely. The FBI is digging into the background of this individual to see what, if anything is there, but I think right now it looks like they don't have any evidence that would tie this to an act of terrorism.

BLITZER: A 34-year-old resident of Connecticut. Was she American? We know she's dead now. Was she American? Was she an immigrant? Do we know where she was from?

MCCAUL: That's what we don't know at this point.

And I know one of the questions at the press conference was, is she of Somali descent? And that obviously would raise some issues as it relates to terrorism. I don't have that information right now.

I talked to the sergeant at arms about this as well. That's something that the FBI literally right now is scrubbing into to find out what her background is.

BLITZER: Have you been told her name?

MCCAUL: I have not. I have not.

BLITZER: All right. And so when they say it looks like an isolated, singular matter, that's according to the U.S. Capitol Police chief, no nexus to terrorism has been identified, you're saying you can't completely rule that out, but that certainly would appear to be preliminary on the basis of what you say she -- she had a history of mental illness? Do we know that for sure?

MCCAUL: Well, I got that from multiple sources, that they think she may have had some mental health issues.

Obviously, the way she responded at the gates and near the White House, and then turning around and hitting Secret Service, you know, and the fact is that, from what I understand, she didn't have any weapons in the car as well. So we don't know the motivation yet. That's what we're digging into and as well as her background, but I think it does appear at this point in time to be more of an isolated event that probably doesn't have a nexus to terrorism.

BLITZER: Mike McCaul is the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Mr. Chairman, Thanks for coming in. MCCAUL: Thanks, Wolf. Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: Much more on the breaking news coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We are going to hear from an eyewitness. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Joining me now, Patty Bills. She was an eyewitness to the incident up on Capitol Hill today.

Patty, so, what happened?

PATTY BILLS, EYEWITNESS: Pretty frightening.

I work right there at Faith in Action, which is on Second Street that can comes to the corner of Maryland. And at first I heard a lot of the sirens. I heard a lot of commotion you could hear from the police cars, which took me to the second floor, which is a very good view, wide-open windows. I looked out.

And that's where I saw the vehicle speeding down, the black car that hit it appeared to be the police officers, trash can standing there, and a police car, which turned the car sideways. There's a little window booth where the policemen stand and the security guards that guard us every day on the corner.

And at the time, she was -- the car was surrounded by police and a lot of armed men. And that's where the gunfire began.

BLITZER: Did you see the child in the car too?

BILLS: That's when I saw them trying to pull someone from the car and realized when they actually pulled someone from the car it was a child.

And it takes you back a little bit at that moment. And as soon as the car was pulled from the car is when the gunfire really let loose.

BLITZER: And you heard the gunshots?

BILLS: I heard the gunshots. I saw the policemen shooting. It appeared someone got out, and it looked like a rush of people running. At that particular time, you didn't know if there was more suspects involved.

BLITZER: You must have been scared out of your mind.

BILLS: Very frightened.

BLITZER: What did you do?

BILLS: At first, when you go to the window, you go and just wondering what is happening, because when you hear the police cars and the sirens, you, as an interested person, want to look.

But then when the gunfire started, I stepped back from the window, but then out of curiosity you wanted to peer around just to see. And then it became very involved, lot of gunfire, a lot of police, a lot of security.

And at that particular time, I went back downstairs and came right out the door to ask the police what was going on and what could we do to be safer?

BLITZER: How are you doing now?

BILLS: I'm better now, was very emotional earlier. It's a very tough and frightening thing when you have that many gunfire happening around you and bullets flies and just the commotion. We have had a lot go on in D.C. lately.

BLITZER: We certainly have. I'm glad you're OK. Patty, thanks very much for coming in.

BILLS: You're welcome.

BLITZER: That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.

"CROSSFIRE starts right now."