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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Authorities Investigate Potential Terrorist Incident in New York City; Officials: Truck Plows Bike Riders in NYC, Up to 6 Dead. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired October 31, 2017 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:00:10]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Breaking news out of New York City. The NYPD confirms they're responding to reports of shots fired in Lower Manhattan. It's a chaotic scene not far from the World Trade Center right now, with a smashed pickup trick, mangled bicycles, what appears to be victims on a bike path along the West Side Highway.

Police say one person is in custody. This is a developing news situation. It's breaking right now. We're trying to get all the details as we get them.

Let's get right to CNN's Jason Carroll in New York.

Jason, what more can you tell us about the incident?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, apparently, Jake, this started about 20 or so minutes ago.

That's when we first started getting reports in from the NYPD that there were shots fired in that downtown area that you mentioned there, the area around Chambers Street and the West Side Highway, a very busy bike path, very busy running path not far from the Freedom Tower, as well as the World Trade Center Memorial down there.

Apparently, what we're hearing is that there were shots fired. There is some video there of a truck that has appeared to have crashed near the scene. You can see one of the injured people there on the video being taken away.

We received reports from the NYPD that one person is in custody, with no others outstanding at this point. Also received a report from the NYPD that there were multiple people injured, but, at this point, Jake, it's unclear about the extent of their injuries, what condition they're in at this point, but you just saw that video not too long ago of a man being sort of carted away.

Once again, one person in custody. No others outstanding. Reports of multiple people injured. Still trying to get confirmation about how all of this started. What was the motivation for this? Down there at the scene, there is a school down there, a high school down there, a college down there. And once again, you can just see it right there, a very busy, what's normally busy bike path and running path that's at that scene as well.

The mayor has been notified about what's going on down there at the scene, and at this point just trying to verify and get some more information for you.

TAPPER: All right. We have been bringing you live images from WABC, a CNN affiliate.

Jason, are there any indications as of now -- again, this is breaking news right now. We're just getting information in. But are there any indications of how many people might be injured?

CARROLL: Good question, Jake. What we have been told, multiple people injured at this point. Once again, multiple people injured, but once again unclear in terms of the extent of their injuries, how they were injured.

The reason I why say that is because, once again, the initial reports that came in from the NYPD were reports of shots fired down there at the scene. But it's unclear if those people were injured -- how they were injured, for example, injured by gunfire, injured by perhaps a vehicle. Again, at this point, NYPD working to confirm that.

TAPPER: All right, Jason Carroll, continue to work your sources. We will come back to you.

But right now, I want to go to CNN's Alison Kosik. She's in New York City. She joins me now by phone.

Alison, tell us what you're seeing.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I am standing, Jake, at the corner of West Street and Warren Street in downtown Manhattan.

We are pretty close to the 9/11 Memorial, even closer to the New York Stock Exchange, where I do a lot of reports from. I am looking at crime tape surrounding a huge radius of the area. I'm seeing at least a half-a-dozen ambulances,at least a dozen fire trucks as well.

Just the street is really cordoned off. It's hard to see exactly what the crime scene looks like -- Jake.

TAPPER: Alison, have you gotten -- I don't know if other people are getting the same tone that I'm getting in my ear right now.

But, Alison, are you -- are you...

KOSIK: I'm here.

TAPPER: Are you getting any witness accounts of what's going on?

KOSIK: So far, the people who I have talked, they said they haven't seen anything or they didn't see anything. I am working my way around the area, though.

I got to a different vantage point from before when I talked with Brooke. The shooting happened just down the street from at least one elementary school. Each corner of the street was crowded with people, just bystanders watching what has happened. You look at the time of day, you know, today is Halloween.

A lot of people getting off early from work to take their kids trick or treating. It may be more crowded than it usually is. I also saw a lot of young faces on either corner simply because it was time for school to get out, so a lot of people just looking and curious about what happened.

Overhead, we still have helicopters flying overhead as well.

TAPPER: Alison, tell us what kind of neighborhood you're in right now. Is this a largely commercial part of the city? Is this a residential? Is it a mix?

KOSIK: It's definitely a mix.

As you know, much of Manhattan is, but this is definitely a mix. A lot of apartment buildings, a lot of restaurants around here. And in that particular street where the crime scene is cordoned off, I saw at least two schools on that one street -- Jake.

[16:05:13]

TAPPER: And we have heard conflicting accounts from different witnesses about what might have happened. One account had the driver driving some sort of pickup truck perhaps into a bike path, hitting people on bicycles. We have seen some scenes.

But, again, this is preliminary information from and there is conflicting information. What's your understanding of what might have happened?

KOSIK: I haven't been able to confirm any of that, Jake. I don't want to certainly say any of those details before I confirm them. Like I said, there is a lot of fear and a lot of...

TAPPER: How many police are there? You said about a half-dozen ambulances. Go ahead.

KOSIK: Yes, dozens of New York police. We have got crime tape surrounding a giant radius of downtown Manhattan right now. It's truly amazing.

And I'm being pushed away.

TAPPER: All right. Alison Kosik, we will come back to you. Let us know when you have new information.

We are getting some new information in. And, again, I would remind you this is a breaking news situation, so there are preliminary reports, and as always we caution you sometimes authorities share information and it's not accurate.

We will bring you the best information that we get the moment we get it.

Right now, New York Police Department sources are telling us that there are fatalities after a truck drove the wrong way down the West Side Highway bike path for self blocks, striking several people.

We have CNN's Brynn Gingras on the phone for us also in New York City.

Brynn, what are you learning?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake, I have some information confirmed by the NYPD sources who are on the scene, telling me that this truck, like you just mentioned, started going the wrong way on a West Side bike path. That's a major bike path here in New York City that runs along the Hudson River here, and continued going for several blocks before stopping at West and Chambers, which isn't far from the 9/11 Memorial here in the city.

I'm told from my sources that that person then exited the vehicle with what looked like to be a gun and then was immediately shot by police there on the scene. That suspect then was taken into custody, is somewhat injured, not sure the extent of the injuries, but now being taken to the hospital, so certainly still alive.

Now, there are fatalities in this incident, I have confirmed, through authorities there on the scene. The extent of those fatalities is unclear at this point, but they are from people that were on that bike path either running or biking. They did not happen after that person exited the vehicle.

This person -- at this point, rather, we have also confirmed that as part of this investigation, which you have already mentioned to your viewers is fluid, authorities are looking into if this is a terrorism- related incident, obviously too early to tell, but it certainly has some of those factors that we all think about, with this truck going the wrong way, then exiting with, again, what appeared to be a gun.

Not sure if it's a real gun or a fake gun, but certainly that is now part of the investigation. Big news here, though, is that there are a number of fatalities there on the scene on the West Side Highway here in New York City, Jake.

TAPPER: And if you're just joining us, you're looking at live images from CNN affiliate WCBS from Manhattan, where there has been an incident with an individual driving a truck, it looks like a white pickup truck, the wrong way on a bike path near the West Side Highway.

Brynn Gingras just reported that, according to the NYPD, there are fatalities.

But, Brynn, just to reiterate, the driver was shot, but he is alive?

GINGRAS: Yes. That's what I'm hearing, is alive, is in police custody and is being transported right now to the hospital. So I'm not clear on the extent of that person's injuries, but I do

know that, again, the fatalities did come from this person actually driving on the West Side Highway bike path and not from any gun. I also know, Jake, that no cops are injured in this incident either, so it does seem like the only shots that were fired were at the suspect.

TAPPER: And we're told that the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, and the governor of the state of New York, Andrew Cuomo, have both been briefed and are both heading towards the scene of this incident.

Brynn, you said that police are looking at this potentially as a terrorist incident. We don't know obviously what it is. It could be any number of things.

But we also know, having covered this now for the last several years, especially in Europe, that one way the terrorists have been told they can wreak havoc and kill people, they no longer have to try to use guns or knives. They no longer have to try to come up with elaborate schemes.

[16:10:02]

They can just get a car or a truck and drive it into a crowd. That unfortunately is the new normal and that, one presumes, would be one of the things that NYPD will be looking into.

GINGRAS: Absolutely.

And that's exactly what investigators know, of course, is what we have also been seeing. They know sort of the markers of what could be potential terrorism incidents. And so since they're hearing about this truck, which appears to be a rental truck, that went down this bike path, an area that, of course, people are running, they're biking, they're active at this time of day in New York City, all of these types of things adding up obviously do raise some red flags.

And investigators, immediately, that is one of the questions they're going to try to answer, is this terrorism-related? That's really just a confirmation that that is something they're looking into, but no confirmation yet that this was actually a terrorism incident, Jake.

TAPPER: You're looking at live images right now from WCBS, a CNN affiliate in Manhattan, where NYPD officers tell CNN that somebody driving a white truck, it appears to be some sort of rental van, rental truck, drove the truck the wrong way on a bike path right next to the West Side Highway.

There are fatalities. The NYPD is telling CNN the driver then got out of the truck and has been apprehended. He may have had a gun. He is in police custody right now. He is, we are told, alive. Again, I would caution all viewers, all listeners, this is a breaking news situation. We just learned of this about a half-an-hour ago.

A lot of times in incidents like this,a lot of the information the authorities have that they share with us turns out not to be completely accurate. They are doing the best they can and we are sharing with you what we are getting from law enforcement and other authorities.

I want to bring in CNN law enforcement analyst James Gagliano, who is on the phone. He's a retired FBI supervisory special agent.

First of all, James, thanks for joining us.

Tell us about this area of Manhattan.

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: So, Jake, I come at this two ways.

One, I spent about 20 years of my 25-year FBI career stationed down in Lower Manhattan office at 26 Federal Plaza. The streets that we're talking about here, so we're talking about West Street and Chambers, are right outside the office, and that's the route where people in Lower Manhattan generally head out when they're going to head north on the West Side Highway, which was my commute home.

At this time of year with the weather still nice, there is going to be a heavy pedestrian population. They are going to be out on foot. We know that the city has done a great job of expanding the biking lanes, so a lot of the major thoroughfares, especially on the avenues, have these bike paths on it.

And to your point earlier, we want to be careful about what we say this was with the limited information we have. But from the FBI perspective, from the law enforcement perspective, we always assume the worst. We assume that it's a terrorist act and then we work backwards.

Right now, as the police are trying to get more information than what they had, it looks like it was just one suspect or one subject. That person is in custody. The first thing police the put out, which is responsible, is that they're not apparently looking for anyone else.

That obviously quells people being disconcerted about whether or not there is somebody else on the move. The fact that there was a weapon involved and the fact that a lot of the bystanders there did exactly what we teach them in these situations, which is run if you can, hide, fight and then tell.

And a lot of these folks scattered and then they came back and they're sharing information with the New York City Police Department. And, Jake, I can tell you, having worked with them for two decades, finest police department in the world. There's 35,000 of them. And, unfortunately, as you pointed out, this is the new normal.

When you can't attack hardened targets, if that's what this is, you go after softer targets. And that's what this appears at the outset to be.

TAPPER: Right, although very early, as you cautioned, as I said earlier.

GAGLIANO: Yes.

TAPPER: We heard Alison Kosik, who was not right on the scene,but close enough, and she was getting pushed back by police. Obviously, they are trying to secure the crime scene. What does law enforcement do now? What are they going to be doing in these beginning stages?

GAGLIANO: Sure.

Well, initially, the first thing you want to do is you want to prevent any more injuries, death, destruction, destruction of property. And it appears the police responded very quickly and were able to put the gunman down very quickly. So that's number one.

Then, number two, you want to build out in concentric circles basically the crime scene area. You don't want anything trampled. You don't want to lose or miss any evidence or the harvesting of that evidence that might be critical to a prosecution down the road, as well as determining whether or not this was a conspiracy, or, as we pointed out and there was conjecture before, just one single person or a road rage incident.

All of those things are critical, and you can only do that by collecting the evidence, which is going to be human intelligence, talking to people that were on scene and saw it, as well as harvesting the video footage from the cameras.

[16:15:10] We know that Manhattan is one of the most heavily photographed areas in the world. There are cameras almost on every street corner and then basically collecting all of that information and trying to piece together this puzzle.

TAPPER: James, stay with us.

I want to bring in CNN's Shimon Prokupecz right now.

You have some breaking news, Shimon. What is it?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, that's right, Jake.

We're hearing -- well, I'm hearing from two senior law enforcement officials who are on the scene there in Manhattan. They're telling me that they've been told and there is a briefing that's ongoing now that up to six people are now dead. This is, again, very preliminary as they're still working through all of the injuries.

Now, my understanding, Jake, from what I'm being told is that this vehicle drove from Houston Street in Lower Manhattan to Chambers Street. Now, for anyone who knows Manhattan, that's probably up to 20 blocks if not longer along this bike path. So, clearly, that is leading investigators to believe that this was a deliberate act.

The person it seems, the driver who is now I'm told in custody, seems like he got on the bike path at Houston Street and drove downtown towards Chambers street, striking bicyclists, other pedestrians who were on that path, which is investigators now believe there are perhaps as many as six dead.

TAPPER: What a horrific thing.

Just if you're joining us right now, you're looking at pictures from WCBS, a CNN affiliate in Manhattan. There is -- there has been a horrible incident.

We just heard from Shimon Prokupecz who said that two law enforcement officials on the scene are getting information right now and everybody needs to understand and Shimon cautioned, I cautioned, Gagliano cautioned, all of this information is preliminary. All of this information is the law enforcement officials telling us what they're hearing right now and it could change.

But we are being told -- Shimon is being told that up to six people have been killed in this incident, where somebody was driving a van or a truck of some sort on a bike path, just taking down cyclists and runners and pedestrians in Manhattan.

CNN law enforcement analyst Art Roderick joins me now. Art, formerly with the U.S. Marshals Service.

Art, when you hear a vehicle was going on a bike path killing cyclists and pedestrians, what goes through your mind?

ART RODERICK, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, especially based on Shimon's report that it travelled, you know, 20 blocks down that road, that is obviously a deliberate act. And I know it's still early on and in early stages. But law enforcement's going to respond to incidents like this as if it was a terrorist event and work backwards from there.

So, they came out fairly early and said that they believe that this individual acted alone, but, you know, in other parts of the city, other parts of that area, there are also other law enforcement calls going on. Law enforcement is responding to those also, but also checking those off the list and making sure they're not particularly associated with this event here on this bike path. But you can see there was a huge law enforcement response which you're going to get in this area.

NYPD probably the most experienced in the world at doing this. You heard them take down this individual very quickly, so now it's just a matter of sorting this out and making sure that this individual acted by himself.

TAPPER: And obviously this is the nightmare for anyone in law enforcement, no matter what you do, no matter what NYPD or the FBI or anyone else tries to do to make cities safe. At the end of the day, there are always going to be soft targets and people are always going to have access to cars or trucks, and for that reason this is the kind of attack, and we don't know exactly what this was yet except a horrific incident, but this is the kind of attack that we've seen theoretically in New York.

But more importantly, we have seen in action in Europe where individuals seeking to do harm have -- have not had to worry about complicated schemes involving bombs or airplanes. They've just gotten their hands on trucks and driven them into crowds -- Art.

RODERICK: Yes, no, you're exactly right, Jake. Again, we go back. We look at the terrorist attacks that we've seen over the past two or three years and we know that al Qaeda and other terrorist groups have put out a call to use whatever you can, whether it's a bicycle, a vehicle, a bus, a truck, whatever, and try to take out as many people as you can.

And, again, I know this is early on, but when you have a relentless truck it looks like from a rental company that drives that many blocks down a bike trail and we have so far initial reports that six people have been killed, obviously it sounds like this is fairly -- this individual did this purposefully. Now, we just have to figure out exactly what the motive is.

[16:20:03] TAPPER: I want to bring back CNN's Brynn Gingras who is still on the phone with us in New York City.

Brynn, you have some new reporting. What is it?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): We just, you know, learned about the suspect. We've been talking about what his condition might be.

As we said earlier, the suspect upon exiting the vehicle, I'm told by sources he was shot and brought to the hospital. I've been told now by sources that he was shot in the leg and brought to the hospital in police custody. So, we do know obviously not a serious injury, which hopefully will help investigators, you know, in the future figure out exactly what happened here.

Also, I want to stress preliminarily reporting from my colleague Shimon Prokupecz. He's in D.C., talked to two law enforcement sources. Again, very preliminarily, as many as six people were killed in this incident. I'm hearing from my sources that that number was up there as well. So, we are talking about multiple injuries here on the West Side Highway, Jake.

TAPPER: If you're just joining us, you're looking at live pictures from New York City where there has been a horrific incident in Manhattan. Where it appears somebody rented a truck of some sort and drove that truck for several blocks on a bike path just mowing down cyclists and pedestrians and runners.

Shimon Prokupecz is here with me and said two law enforcement sources told him recently that according to the latest information they had, six people had been killed. Six innocent people.

PROKUPECZ: That's what they had. That was preliminarily info. They were basing that off of some of the emergency medical service teams that were on the scene. This person told me -- one of the people told me he was in a briefing so we couldn't really talk for long. Then I spoke to a second official, a more senior person, who said he was hearing up to six dead. Again, you know, we're still trying to definitively confirm, but this

is what law enforcement is hearing. And what struck me was when this source told me where the vehicle, where this pickup truck appeared to have gone on to the bike path and how far down it went. That is quite a stretch for anyone who knows New York City, to go from Houston Street almost to Chambers Street.

TAPPER: Houston Street for those who don't know Manhattan, it is in the southern part of Manhattan. It runs roughly east to west. And you're saying it went all the way on the bike path from Houston all the way to Chambers.

PROCUPECZ: Yes, that's what witnesses are telling police. And so, along that path, there were various injured people and so that's what's leading officials to believe that this was a deliberate -- a deliberate act right now.

TAPPER: If we can get the picture of the truck back on the screen, it appears to be a Home Depot truck, unless I'm reading that incorrectly. And there it is. There is a side view of that truck.

We don't know exactly what caused the crash, but apparently, the driver came out of that truck and we're told, according to witnesses, fired shots and then he was shot by police in the leg. He is alive, the shooter, the driver of this vehicle.

I want to bring back CNN law enforcement analyst James Gagliano. He's a retired FBI supervisory agent.

What more can you tell us about now that we have more information?

GAGLIANO: So, Jake, we know that the FBI's joint terrorism task force is on scene now and the way these things typically happen, obviously, we assume the worst, right? We assume it's terrorism until proven otherwise. The NYPD will handle this as an assault or as a vehicular homicide case, but the FBI will work in concert with them, and that's all due to a presidential decision directive 39 from back in 1995 that basically gives counterterrorism matters the authority over them to the FBI.

I have to say, in New York City, as you pointed out earlier how this paradigm is shifting, it's so difficult with the hardened targets we have and the great job that the NYPD does, as well as the FBI. They've got 1,200 agents that work in New York City. It's very difficult to do something on the scale of a World Trade Center attack or an attack on a hardened target.

This really is the new paradigm we're seeing, where folks are looking at these vehicles and in these places that we have that don't have concrete bollards established that basically can separate vehicular from pedestrian traffic, it just makes these places enticing targets, and I fear that that's probably what this is going to turn out to be now, a soft target attacked by somebody with a vehicle and armed with a handgun.

TAPPER: Shimon, you have some new reporting. PROKUPECZ: Some more details here that I'm getting. So, I'm told

this happened just after 3:00. And as we've been saying, this pickup truck with appears to be from Home Depot, according to information that I have now, hopped on into the -- on to the curb, into the bike path and then drove south on the West Street bike path where it appears at this point that the driver struck several people, hitting them from behind.

[16:25:08] He then keeps driving and at some point hits a school bus where you'll see this is how this vehicle gets damaged, which you can see in video now. What I'm told is as he was driving, he eventually perhaps tried to get away and struck a school bus. And at some point, police encountered him and shot him. And so, now, he's at Bellevue Hospital.

Police know who he is. They have a description of him. I'm not going to share that at the moment, but they know who he is. He is alive at the moment. And basically looks like, you know, they're going to try to talk to him.

I'm going to stop right there in terms of all of the information, but that is what we can report at this moment.

TAPPER: We are expecting a briefing from NYPD at any moment.

We're told that Mayor De Blasio is in Lower Manhattan approaching if not at the scene of this horrific incident where up to six people have been killed by a truck driving on a bike path in what appears to be a deliberate attempt to take life by an individual in such -- in the white truck that you see right now.

And, James Gagliano, formerly of the FBI, one thing that I know from reporting on some of these police incidents is that if that suspect, if the person driving that truck was shot in the leg, he got lucky because cops are not trained -- it's not like in TV or movies where they try to, like, shoot you in the leg. They are trying to disarm you, they go for the body mass, the torso.

If they hit him in the leg and disarm him, he got lucky he didn't get hit somewhere more lethal.

GAGLIANO: Absolutely, Jake. And I think that's a common misnomer and a misperception that you hear a lot about cops being trained to shoot to wound or to shoot warning shots or shoot weapons out of people's hands. And that's just not the case. You are trained to shoot center mass.

Obviously, in some of these incidents of recent where people are armed with body armor on, then you have to follow up to another part of the body afterwards, something that is not covered by the body armor. But in this instance, I have no doubt that the NYPD folks that did confront him, the brave officers, they were aiming center mass. Very difficult if he's getting in or out of the car or if he was moving, it's very difficult to hit somebody in that situation. We're just lucky that he's in custody. The good news in this, if there is any good news to be gleaned from

this, is they now have the intelligence they're going to be able to harvest from talking to this individual and if he was DOA, that would not be the case.

TAPPER: And, Art Roderick, let me bring you back now that we have new information with this truck plowing into bike riders and joggers and pedestrians in New York City on this bike path on the west side. Your thoughts about where the law enforcement investigation will go from here?

RODERICK: I mean, it's obviously moving very quick and information is coming out rapid pace at this particular point. If you remember what we just went through at the horrific event in Las Vegas, it was -- it took a long time for information to come out. With this individual being alive and the NYPD and the JTTF, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, debriefing him now at this point, this should move very rapidly. They should come up with a motive and find out if he acted by himself, what was his reason for doing this.

But, I mean, it has a lot of hallmarks of what we've seen in the past, both here in the U.S. and overseas as far as some type of terrorist attack goes. Obviously, that has not been confirmed yet, but they are moving very quickly on this investigation and with the individual being alive, they should have intelligence coming in very, very quick.

TAPPER: And, James, I'm told that there is a Halloween parade every year in Greenwich Village. How close is that to this area?

GAGLIANO: It's merely blocks away, Jake. The area down there, I mean, post-9/11, the NYPD kind of reconfigured and reconstructed they're area down there which is known as Tribeca. And for folks that are not New Yorkers, that stands for the Triangle below Canal Street. So, Canal Street runs west to east, and then you've got the triangle in Lower Manhattan. And that's essential where this happened, a few blocks south of Canal Street.

And, Jake, you know the area well. I worked down there for 20 years. At this time of year, it's heavily congested. Obviously being Halloween night, there are a lot -- you mentioned the parade that is going to be in Greenwich. There's a number of parades and, obviously, parents out trick or treating with their kids. It couldn't have been a worse time for the good guys.

TAPPER: Yes, no, if you're just joining us, there has been a horrific incident in Lower Manhattan where an individual got behind the wheel of a white truck. It appears a rental truck of some sort and drove on a bike path parallel to west side highway, drove for several blocks. Apparently, according to witnesses and according to law enforcement, mowing down cyclists and pedestrians and runners.

Shimon Prokupecz, you tell us that your law enforcement sources are telling you that at least six people --