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The Situation Room
6 Killed, Dozens Injured After Parade Shooting in Illinois; Police: Parade Shooting Suspect Considered "Armed & Dangerous"; Police Looking for Robert E. Crimo III in Connection with Shooting; The Fourth in America; Person of Interest Arrested in Illinois Parade Mass Shooting. Aired 7-7:45p ET
Aired July 04, 2022 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news. Police released a name and picture of the young man, 22 years old. They call a person of interest on the deadly July 4th parade mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois. The horrifying holiday attack leaving six wonderful people dead and dozens injured.
Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer and this is THE SITUATION ROOM special report.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: As we cover the breaking news from Illinois, CNN's coverage of the Fourth in America is delayed until later this hour. Let's go straight to Highland Park, Illinois, the Chicago suburb that's grief- stricken and terrorized right now as the mass shooting suspect is still, still on the loose.
CNN's Adrienne Broaddus is there for us.
Adrienne, police are looking for a 22-year-old man named Robert E. Crimo III. Tell us about what they know.
ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, investigators believe that 22-year-old who they think is responsible for the shooting that happened here in Highland Park is driving. He's in a vehicle, they say, with Illinois plates, described as a silver Hyundai. And the license plate, again, Illinois plate, DM80653.
Meanwhile, investigators had their teams out aggressively trying to apprehend this suspect. They say he's considered armed and dangerous. If you think you see this 22-year-old man, police say do not approach him. Instead, call 911. This, after that morning parade, the parade route turned into a crime scene. At least six people lost their lives. Five of them, along this parade route.
I spoke with a woman who was here and witnessed that heartache. Listen in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZOE PAWELCZAK, WITNESSED PARADE SHOOTING: I saw people shoot and pulled around me and a lot of people hiding. A man actually went at one point to find his son and he asked me to watch his kids.
So we were all hiding behind a dumpster together, and little kids, really little kids were like, what's going on? I'm like, it's just fireworks, you know, people get silly with fireworks. And I just stayed with them for about half an hour, while the guy was out looking for his other son.
They ended up hiding in a dumpster. His dad -- the dad ended up putting his children in the dumpster to hide and stay safe. And it was probably 30 of us just hiding in this little corner behind the dumpster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROADDUS: She describes there, a father finding safety for his child, or his children in a dumpster. Meanwhile, if you look behind me, you'll notice there are still lawn chairs along this stretch of the parade route. We're on central which is in the heart of downtown Highland Park, but again, at this hour, for those of you who have been watching and listening, the 22-year-old person of interest is still on the loose -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's show the picture once again if we have that picture of Robert E. Crimo III. This is the individual that is being described as a person of interest, the suspect, they believe, killed the six wonderful people earlier today, at the 4th of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois. They also consider him armed and dangerous so be very, very careful if you spot this individual.
As Adrienne said, call 911 or you can call the FBI directly. There's what you do, 1-800-CALLFBI. Or you can go to the website, www.fbi.gov/highlandpark.
If you spot this individual or you have information about Robert E. Crimo III, once again, share that information as quickly as possible. He's considered still to be armed and dangerous.
Let's get some more on all the breaking news, Adrianne, we'll get back to you.
Joining us, CNN senior law enforcement analyst and former deputy director Andrew McCabe, CNN counterterrorism analyst, former CIA counterterrorism official, Phil Mudd, and CNN law enforcement analyst, the former FBI supervisory special agent, Peter Licata.
Guys, thank you very much for joining us.
Andrew, how can officials use the information they have right now to actually locate, to track down the suspect? ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Wolf, that's
predominantly happening in two separate channels. What we're seeing, particularly with the release of the photograph, is an effort to employ the public's help locating Mr. Crimo or generating any information that they have about him, his associates, places that he hangs out, where his car might have been seen, that's sort of thing. So, that's the kind of crowdsourcing identification angle of it.
On the other side, covertly, bureau is interviewing associates, family members, maybe people worked with or went to school with, identifying places that he might go, and they're likely setting up surveillance on his locations. They're looking at his social media footprint. They're looking at every account he might have had, whether it's Instagram, you know, Snapchat, YouTube, Twitter, they're looking at his phone number and any records they can pull from that phone in terms of chat messages and phone calls to friends, all with the effort of trying to establish his network of associates -- those people who might assist him in trying to run from law enforcement or who might have information about where he might be.
So it's a two-sided investigation right now, half of it very public, the other half very covert and private.
BLITZER: And, Phil Mudd, I know you were detailed in the FBI at one point in your career. Take us behind the scenes right now of what this investigation is like. What information do authorities need most right now?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: They've got it and that is the identity. You take one piece of it that Andrew was talking about, that is, for example, the state police, taking any call of someone who identifies what we think is the car, let's go into the covert piece, the private piece, the secret piece that Andrew was talking about.
If you're looking at this analytically, as you talk to family members, a lot of data is cropping up. That is, for example, address of any apartment, name of any associate, name of any former girlfriend, ex- girlfriend, for example.
You're also looking at technical information. For example, phone data that might indicate whether he's use said a phone in the last 24 hours. That might tell you where he is now, did he talk to somebody about where he wants to go?
But that also indicates the next step of the investigation, that is was he talking to or texting people who might have been aware of this, or supporting this. There's a lot of data that the feds have now, now that they have identified him, indicating to them where he is or might be and whether there's a network around him, Wolf.
BLITZER: So, Peter Licata, we now have you this photo of the suspect that has just been released. How important will it be in enlisting the public's help? Because over the years, in covering these kinds of stories, I've often been told by law enforcement, including the FBI, that it's so important if you spot this individual, immediately call 911 or let the FBI know or local law enforcement, it is so, so critical.
PETER LICATA, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: It's absolutely 100 percent critical, Wolf. I mean, let's go back to just some recent incidents. The New York City subway attack in Brooklyn not that long ago, the perpetrator was -- his picture, or the alleged picture, CCTV was released to the New York city metropolitan area through the news networks and he was found wandering the streets of New York City, I believe it's in McDonald's, it was a private citizen called because they recognized him.
So, this is -- it's very key that law enforcement is imploring the help of the civilian sector in order to try to identify him, but the key thing is -- it can't be emphasized enough, he is armed and dangerous. No one should go out of their way in order to try to interdict him, just do what law enforcement has been saying, what you've been saying -- just call the numbers, call 911, call that 1-800 FBI number and identify where he is exactly, what directly he is potentially heading, and if there's anyone else associated with him in that vehicle.
BLITZER: Because these at this points from the public, Andrew McCabe, are so, so potentially important. But go a little more in-depth. What's most useful in a case like this, in getting information from the public who may have information about the suspect?
MCCABE: So, Wolf, it's, first of all, let's just level set. It is very, very hard to go on the run as a wanted subject in this country, in this day and age with the perfusion of video surveillance everywhere, and people who have access to news feeds and social media feeds in their hands.
You need a lot of money. You need a lot of support. There's no indication this guy has either of that. So they will find this individual.
The challenge is what is his next plan? They already know he attended one, you know, large public gathering for the purpose of slaughtering people. There are numerous other large public gatherings tonight in the greater Chicago land area. And, so there is really a race to find him before he presents a danger at one of those other locations.
So the more information they can get in front of the more public eyeballs, the better off we are. We need as many people as possible understanding what he looks like, what he drives, which is a silver colored Honda Fit automobile, knowing his name, understanding like he's got some very distinctive tattoos on his neck.
He is somebody who is going to have a hard time really blending in with the crowd so we need as many people aware of that and ready to make that call to 1-800-CALLFBI.
BLITZER: Yeah. It's so, so important, why we keep showing this picture. If anyone is spotting this individual, be very, very careful, he's armed and dangerous, according to local law enforcement on the scene, but also, it's really important that you share that information with the FBI and other local law enforcement. You either call 1-800- CALLFBI or go to www.fbi.gov/highlandpark.
The shooting, this mass murder occurred in Highland Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.
Andrew McCabe, Phil Mudd, Peter Licata, guys, stand by. We're going to get back to all of you.
Just ahead, new details coming in into THE SITUATION ROOM right now on this horrific mass shooting. This massive manhunt is under way. The Illinois governor saying, quote, this murder will be brought to justice.
We'll have the latest on the search for the shooter, that's next. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Once again, as we cover the breaking news from Illinois, CNN's coverage of the Fourth in America is delayed until later this hour, stand by for that.
In a critical new development, police have now identified 22-year-old Robert E. Crimo, C-R-I-M-O, Robert E. Crimo III, as a person of interest in the July 4th parade shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, a shooting that killed six wonderful people and injured dozens more.
Let's bring in CNN senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez.
Evan, federal investigators are on the case. They are -- they are working with local law enforcement. Tell us what's going on.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this hour, we expect that the FBI and the local authorities are going to be doing searches, now that we know, that they've already identified who they're looking for. They're going to try to talk to members of the family, trying to see if there's any electronics that could provide a clue of where he might be headed, where he planned to go after carrying out the shooting. And also if there's anything to explain what happened here today.
The FBI has obviously already put out this one location on their website for people to upload media, you know, pictures, video, anything from people who were at the parade today who may have a little bit of information that could help with the search, could help explain what happened there. You see the FBI website already there, FBI.gov/highlandpark, Wolf.
And we know the FBI along with Marshal Service, Homeland Security Department, the ATF, are here trying to help the local authorities and state police trying to find this shooter. One of the things the ATF is doing is trying to trace the firearm, long gun that appears was used from that rooftop shooting down at those victims on the parade route. The ATF is going to be able to determine when that firearm was purchased, whether it was purchased by this gunman or by someone else, and then try to figure out, you know, how it came into his possession.
Again, these are critical pieces of information for the investigators going forward. So, you know, the idea being that when this person is caught, if he is caught alive, that he can be brought to court and put on trial for these crimes.
At this stage, Wolf, we know the FBI is, again, going to be helping with the state police and the Highland Park Police to try to investigate this and, you know, the first thing would be to conduct searches in any locations that are associated with this shooter and that would be happening right now as we speak, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, important information indeed. Evan Perez, thank you very much, when you get more information will let us know, of course.
Tragedy has struck on what is supposed to be a day of celebration here in the United States. Now, six dead, dozens hurt after this gunman opens fire at a Fourth of July parade. The manhunt for the shooter is on going as we speak.
Illinois State Senator Julie Morrison was at the parade in Highland Park earlier today. She witnessed the horrors firsthand, joining us on the phone right now.
Senator, thank you so much for joining us.
First of all, how are you doing in the aftermath of what you saw?
JULIE MORRISON, ILLINOIS STATE SENATOR (via telephone): I still am in disbelief because this actually happened in Highland Park, in my community. I can't get over that.
BLITZER: Awful to think about it. Highland Park is a beautiful, beautiful little town right outside of Chicago. As I noted, I've been going there for -- ever since I was a little boy. I got close relatives who live there, and it's really a special place in my heart, I know in your heart as well.
So, Senator, tell us what you saw as this horrific shooting unfolded.
MORRISON: So I was in a convertible in the parade. My grandchildren, my adult grown kids, volunteers, my husband, they all were walking alongside the car, passing out candy to the kids on the curb and we heard gunshots.
I thought it was fireworks honestly. I had no idea that there would be a gun in downtown Highland Park. The next thing we saw were a couple women who came running back through the parade screaming, crying, saying there was a shooter and it still just didn't ring true with me.
Then, there was a wave of people, hundreds of people, moms carrying kids and dads and all people running, weaving between the cars, running back, away from the parade and then we knew it was real.
BLITZER: Was there any advance warning, and you're the senator that represents Highland Park, this district. Was there any indication at all that there could possibly be a danger at this annual parade, 4th of July parade, in Highland Park?
MORRISON: Absolutely not. This is something everyone looks forward to and with the pandemic we've had to skip some parades. This is a time when the kids and the families all come out and they see their neighbors and friends and the kids collect candy and there's floats and bands and politicians and it's just a really nice morning in downtown Highland Park. No expectation this could have happened.
BLITZER: Yeah, none at all. That's heartbreaking to even think about it.
Do you worry, Senator, that the community there is still potentially in danger as long as this suspect remains at large?
MORRISON: Absolutely. I will rest better tonight knowing that he has been apprehended and I know that law enforcement from around the state and the FBI and all of our local municipalities are all on the hunt for this guy. I am confident they're going to get him.
BLITZER: Yeah, me too. Tell us a little bit more about highland park, what should our viewers in the U.S. and around the world, for that matter, know about Highland Park.
MORRISON: Highland Park is a nice suburban community, got a walkable downtown. Everybody knows each other.
When people grow up in Highland Park and go away to college, a lot of times, they'll come back when it's time for them to raise their family. It's a very closely knit community. And I think that really strikes terror in everyone's heart today when innocent people were shot.
As a state senator, I know that gun violence is an epidemic, but today it got personal. My family was exposed and could have been shot as easily as anybody else. And when it gets like that, we absolutely have to draw a line in the sand and start taking action and quit saying, well, some other day, or some other bill.
I'm done with that. We have got to step up. We've normalized gun violence. Every week, there's a mass shooting. You cover them, they're covered everywhere.
This week, today, it's Highland Park. But I'm not going to rest until we take some kind of action and I believe the governor, who I spoke with a little bit ago is right there with me.
BLITZER: And as you correctly point out, according to the Gun Violence Archive and I'm looking at it now, so far, this year alone, 2022, so far this year, have been 309 mass shootings across the United States. 309 mass shootings across the United States. Something clearly has to be done. Senator Julie Morrison, thanks so much for joining us on this very,
very difficult day. Appreciate it very much.
MORRISON: Thank you, Wolf.
Coming up, how President Biden addressed this new mass shooting earlier today, less than two weeks after signing the first major piece of gun legislation in decades.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: As we cover the horrible breaking news out of Illinois right now, CNN's coverage of the 4th in America delayed until later this hour.
Right now, police urgently searching for 22-year-old Robert E. Crimo III. There's a picture, what they call a person of interest in this July 4th parade shooting that killed six wonderful people in Highland Park, Illinois and wounded several, dozens others, at least two dozen others.
Let's bring back our analysts right now.
Andrew McCabe, what do you make of the fact the gunman apparently chose a rooftop perch there this shooting. Does it tell you anything about the level of preparation that went into this mass murder?
MCCABE: It certainly does, Wolf. It indicates a high level of planning. This is something the individual thought out. He likely surveilled these locations and chose the one in which he could most easily gain access to the roof.
We've heard some reporting that the roof of the building involved had an unprotected ladder, an exterior ladder that gave access to the roof so likely the gunman found that out on earlier occasion, unlikely he just stumbled across it today.
You know, he took a sniper position, essentially from the roof, shooting down on the crowd. But let's not give him too much credit. It doesn't take expert sniper skills to fire indiscriminately into a large crowd. So it's clearly something this young man was thinking about. He probably came and checked it out ahead of time, did his planning, got up there and mounted his attack really in the most cowardly, removed way that he possibly could.
BLITZER: Yeah, you're absolutely right.
Phil Mudd, officials, at least they're saying now, they don't necessarily believe this was an act of terrorism. But is it too soon to rule out potential motives right now? PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I wouldn't rule it out
because you have to understand what the motive of the individual is. Look, if you want to find an act of terrorism, that's an attack against innocents, obviously, we had innocents here, for a political purpose.
Since we don't know the purpose of the individual, we don't know whether we can categorize it as terrorism or not but you the guarantee you the state and fed guys have some ideas already if they've talked to friends and families and I'm sure they have and if they look at things like social media postings to see what this individual is talking about. The obvious other piece is to talk to the subject himself to see what he says, assuming he's taken alive.
But right now, before we know motive, and we don't, to call it an act of terrorism or say it's not, you can't do that without understanding something about the mindset of the subject.
BLITZER: You're absolutely right. You've got to find out a lot more information.
How much danger, Peter Licata, is the general public in right now as long as this suspect, who law enforcement described as armed and dangerous remains at large.
LICATA: No less danger as they were when he was firing rounds into the crowd. He is a danger until he's caught. He has a weapon, at least one that we know about that he's used to slaughter people at a parade so he's armed and dangerous until he's neutralized or taken into custody.
BLITZER: Andrew McCabe, should communities in the Highland Park region in Illinois, around Chicago and elsewhere cancel their July 4th celebrations until this suspect is caught?
MCCABE: You know, Wolf, it's something that I think communities should really think long and hard about. Obviously, this individual took advantage of the large holiday gathering to unleash this wave of violence.
He is in a position now, if he can hold off being caught for just a few more hours, he'll then have the advantage of the cover of night to be able to go back out into the community if he seeks another large gathering to continue this violence. There's lots of options, he could find that.
You know, on the other hand, it is the 4th of July and people want to celebrate and no one wants to believe that we all should be hiding in the house because of the acts of one person. Nevertheless, if you are a local official who is responsible for the safety of a large crowd at fireworks gathering or something else tonight, you need to think long and hard, if this guy is still on the streets, you could end up being the next target.
BLITZER: Having covered these stories over the year, Phil, let me press you on one aspect that I worry about, copycats. Are you worried about so-called copycats right now?
MUDD: Two primary worries I have right now is what Andrew is talking about. The first is emotional light switch, the subject himself already made a decision he might not have even considered three days ago or a week ago, made a decision to murder people, I'm sure he was thinking about it but actually acted and now the chance he acts again is relatively high.
You raised a second thing I would be worried about, that somebody out there considering an act like this looks at it and says somebody who might be emotionally disturbed looks at this event and says, why am I a coward? If I am doing something like this, the person had the courage in their view to do this, why don't I have my own, weird sense of courage to do the same thing?
You got to worry about copycats, which is another reason to pay attention to what Andrew is saying. If you're in the region, be careful. It's not just the subject, it's other people who are motivated by the subject, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yeah, really, it bothers me a lot. Peter Licata, what do you think?
LICATA: They're all copy cats. He's a copy cat. He copied Uvalde. Uvalde shooter copied the person before him.
This is -- this is a chronic problem in the United States. They're all copycats. Next one will by copying him. So, this tide of gun violence in this way, this cowardly way, needs to stop. They're all copycats and they're all cowards in my opinion.
BLITZER: Absolutely right. Phil Mudd, what kind of time window are authorities working with right now? Obviously, they want to find this person as soon as possible, but what's your sense?
MUDD: Close. I mean, you have the two pieces we knew initially before the photo, that is, once we got the identification of the name. He can't go in an apartment. He can't use his phone. He can't email. He can't use credit card. He can't go to any place he's been to before.
As soon as that photo comes up, even if he chooses to use cash, he can't go to motel, he can't walk a street, he can't fill his car with gas. Wolf, I'm on Central Time, 6:30.
If he's not picked up by the time I go to sleep, I'll be surprised.
If I wake up and he's not picked up, I'll be shocked.
MUDD: He is really in trouble because he can't move digitally, and he can't move physically any place in the region or even around the country. BLITZER: So, bottom line, Peter Licata, it's really important that we
continue to do what we've been doing, showing this individual's picture. Let me put it up on the screen right now, there he is, Robert E. Crimo III, 22 years old and you see distinctive tattoos on his neck over there as well.
We show this picture, this could really help law enforcement potentially because maybe someone out there in the public could recognize, may have just spotted this individual at a gas station, restaurant, or some place, or the motel and will call the FBI, call local law enforcement. How important is that?
LICATA: One hundred percent important. As my colleagues have said, he can't do anything. His movements are getting more and more restricted.
As I like to say, his world is starting to close in on him. So the more tips that law enforcement is getting, I saw him at mile marker, you know, 22 on what interstate, or I saw him getting off is specific exit or at a gas station heading off in this direction. That just makes Crimo's world get smaller and smaller and that gives law enforcement a better opportunity to intercept him before he does any other act of violence.
BLITZER: Yeah, you're absolutely right.
Andrew McCabe, we got video of the actual shooting incident from earlier in the day at Highland Park, Illinois.
Let me play some of that for you and then we'll discuss.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
BLITZER: We heard Senator Tammy Duckworth in Illinois say a little while ago, she hasn't heard gunfire like that since she served in Iraq and was injured as we all know.
What's your reaction when you hear that high-powered, that gunfire that was going on. It wasn't what some people thought were going to be fireworks or something like that. These were deadly bullets.
MCCABE: That's no fireworks. That's hard to watch, just listening to it really takes me back to, you know, working as a firearms instructor in the FBI and a SWAT team member. That is the distinctive sound of someone shooting very rapidly with a rifle that is at least a semi- automatic firing weapon which means you can fire as many bullets as quickly as you can pull the trigger or potentially even a rifle that has been modified for fully automatic firing, those are much rarer in these sorts of circumstances.
But nevertheless, that is a high powered, unbelievably lethal, military weapon that is being let loose on a peaceful civilian population there to celebrate the 4th of July. I don't think it gets any worse than that. Every time we have one of these situations, we just kind of discuss what has happened with the gun violence in this country. It is out of control, and now we have one more horrific example of that. BLITZER: Yeah, it's, you know, hard to believe that these mass
shootings with these high powered weapons are going on in our country, all too often right now, and let me get Phil Mudd to weigh in on that as well.
Phil, go ahead.
MUDD: Boy, let me be blunt. This country, I guess, rightly so, was optimistic or at least positive in looking at a bipartisan legislation on gun reform in this country. A lot of it had to do with things like mental illness.
None of it, none of it had to do with the real issue which is when you compare us to Asia or Europe, those countries do not have automatic or semiautomatic weapons. We do.
None of that legislation touched why we have dead people in this country. So we can celebrate a bipartisan act to try to address things like mental illness and weapons, but celebrating too much when you don't take a single semiautomatic off the street, unless it's in the hands of a mentally ill person you can already identify, not a celebration for me, Wolf. We are way behind in this country.
And just look at the stats from Asia and Europe. People die in this country from semiautomatics. They don't in Europe. End of story.
BLITZER: Peter Licata, what's your reaction when you see that?
LICATA: I am shaking my head in disgust. I'm sitting here, Somalia, I've heard that everyday. Live half a mile from a firing range training Somali police force, to how to use weapons properly.
It's sickening. It brings me back to time as an FBI agent in Iraq, under fire. It's something no one should hear in this country. No one should hear it. No one should hear it ever, let alone at a parade. No one should hear it ever.
BLITZER: I'll echo what you're saying with Senator Tammy Duckworth said, she hasn't heard gunfire like that since she served in Iraq.
I haven't heard gunfire like that since I covered the war in Iraq. Just horrendous situation.
Guys, stand by. Don't go too far away.
Just ahead, there's new information coming in right now about the victims of today's mass shooting. We'll share with you when we come back.