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Larry King Live

Vice President Undergoes Angioplasty; School Shooting Leaves Two Dead, 13 Wounded in California

Aired March 5, 2001 - 9:00 p.m. ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: two big stories. Vice President Dick Cheney is back in the hospital. We'll have the latest on his condition.

But first, another deadly school shooting. How could it happen again? We'll have the details on the alleged gunman and his victims and we'll speak to doctors on the conditions of the survivors.

Do you ever get over losing a child? In Denver, Beth Nimmo, whose daughter Rachel was killed at Columbine. What sparks this kind of violence, and what, if anything, can stop it?

From Boston, author William Pollack. In Portland, Oregon, Reverend Robert Schuller. All those and lots more ahead on LARRY KING LIVE.

Before we get an update on the vice president's condition, we'll go right to Santee, California, where we have standing by Melissa Gern, a student who both -- who was -- attends that school, of course, and knows the suspect, in this matter. And Mayor Randy Voepel, the mayor of Santee California.

Melissa, how well do you know the suspect?

MELISSA GERN, SANTANA HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: I was really good friends with him. We have been -- we have known each other for a couple months now, since about October.

KING: What -- what year is he in in high school?

M. GERN: He's a freshman.

KING: As are you?

M. GERN: No, I'm a sophomore.

KING: Well, what -- obviously, you are shocked.

What can you tell us about him?

M. GERN: I always thought he was a really nice person. I was -- he always had a smile on his face. He was always really, really sweet to me. We talked on a regular basis, and I never thought that he would do anything like this.

KING: You -- he never mentioned anything about guns, or violence or hating anybody?

M. GERN: No.

KING: Where you were when this happened, Melissa?

M. GERN: I was in the small quad where the shooting occurred.

KING: What did you see?

M. GERN: I didn't see anything, actually. I was running. I heard the shots and I ran and when I turned around I saw one of the campus supervisors on the ground, but I didn't see anybody fall, or I didn't see the shooter.

KING: When did you find out who was doing the shooting?

M. GERN: Well, actually, my grandmother told me that -- that -- what his name was, and I figured out that it was one of my friends.

KING: Boy, what a thing that must be to feel. You -- shock the only word to describe it?

M. GERN: Yes.

KING: Mayor Voepel, a little bit about your town. Where is Santee?

MAYOR RANDY VOEPEL, SANTEE, CALIFORNIA: Larry, Santee is about 14 miles east of San Diego. We're a town of 58,000 souls, and it's an all-American town. I mean, this -- this town is what you would think of as solid America. It's a good town of good kids, like Melissa. We have one of the lowest crime rates in southern California. It's a good church-going town. I mean, this is America.

KING: Is it very mixed, ethnically?

VOEPEL: We are not that mixed ethically. It's roughly 82 percent, and then the other percentages of various other ethnicities.

KING: Any particular industry? .

VOEPEL: Industry -- we're mainly a bedroom community for the rest of San Diego, although we have some light industries, et cetera.

KING: Where were you, Mayor, when this happened?

VOEPEL: Strangely enough, I was not more than a half a mile from the school. I was pumping gas into my car getting ready to go to work, and it was right at 9:23, 9:24 in the morning. And I saw three officer cars, or deputy sheriff cars go right by me. Then right after that, about 10 or 12 more and I had that sickening feeling in my stomach that something was going terribly wrong.

KING: Are you a full-time mayor or do you -- do you work as well?

VOEPEL: For a city of our size, we're a part-time mayor. We have a regular day job.

I also want to tell you that we're grieving. Within our city, this is a tight-knit city. We all know each other. These are our children, and one of our children went terribly wrong, and caused grievous damage to 15 other people.

KING: Two dead, 13 injured. Do you know any of the families, Mayor?

VOEPEL: I personally don't know any of the families directly. But I must tell you that Governor Gray Davis's wife, Sharon Davis is an alumni and graduated from Santana High School. She will be down in her hometown Friday. We're going to be having services, and we're going to start healing. We're going to start grieving. She is one of us, and we're looking forward to having her here and help us out and help us deal with this.

KING: I didn't know that. Sharon Davis -- I know Sharon Davis very well. So she attended Santana High School?

VOEPEL: Yes, she did, sir.


VOEPEL: And she gave the commencement address. She gave the commencement address in 1985.

KING: I understand Sheriff William Kolender is standing by. Sheriff Kolender, are you there as well?


KING: OK. And you're a county sheriff for entire county of San Diego, right?

KOLENDER: Yes, I am. And we've met before. I talked to you about Heaven's Gate.

KING: That's right.

KOLENDER: Remember that.

KING: Heaven's Gate was in your bailiwick.

What do you make of this?

KOLENDER: We never thought it would happen. We thought it wouldn't happen here. But it did. And, like the mayor said, it's a travesty that everyone is grieving about. The people who live here, their families, those who were injured. My deputies, and all that have been working here, the teachers -- everybody is having a very difficult time right now. KING: There were indications, weren't there, Sheriff? I'm told we're not releasing the name of the boy because that's protected. But there were indications, although young Melissa says she had no inkling of it, that there was a problem, wasn't there?

KOLENDER: No, sir. Larry, the only -- all we hear is rumors. Right now we are in middle of an investigation that will take all night long. We are talking to every student, every teacher, everybody who had anything to do with this, his family, and everyone else, and right now we do not know the reason why. I wish I could tell you that. But we don't know.

KING: Oh, so anything we hear is pure speculation until the investigation is complete?

KOLENDER: That is correct.

KING: Where is the boy?

KOLENDER: He is in juvenile hall.

KING: Are his parents there?

KOLENDER: That, I don't know. I -- I know that the district attorney is going to try him as an adult.

KING: Why would you make that decision already? How old is he, 14?


KING: 15.

KOLENDER: And also...

KING: That decision is based -- without any psychiatric or anything. Why base that decision so quickly, to try as an adult before you know anything more than you know?

KOLENDER: Your going to have to talk to him. That's the district attorney's call, and in our state, if you're over 14, you commit a homicide, you can be tried as an adult. He committed two homicides. Plus, he injured another 13 people.

KING: Sheriff Kolender, of San Diego County. Sheriff, Mayor Voepel, I thank you very much. And Melissa Gern, student, thank you all. We'll be checking back with you for more.

We're going to take a break and when we come back, we'll have Major Garrett at the White House, Dr. P.K. Shah, director of cardiology at Cedars-Sinai, and presidential historian Richard Shenkman. And we'll spend a segment getting up to date on the condition of Vice President Cheney. And then the rest of the program will be devoted again to the tragedy today in Santee. We'll be right back.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to say how saddened we all are to know that two students lost their lives in southern California, others have been injured, in a disgraceful act of cowardice. When America teaches her children right from wrong and teaches values to respect life -- the values that respect life in our country, our country will be better off.



KING: Now to discuss the condition of Vice President Dick Cheney, joining us from the White House is Major Garrett, CNN White House correspondent. Here in Los Angeles, the famed Dr. P.K. Shah, director of cardiology at Cedars-Sinai, and in Seattle is the famed presidential historian Richard Shenkman.

On a personal note, Dick Cheney and I are quite close on these matters. I have the same disease. I have had bypass surgery. I've had a heart attack. I've also had the same thing, the stents and the replacements. And today he was hospitalized, complaining of chest discomfort. He had a repeat catheterization.

What's the White House latest saying, Major?

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest word here, Larry, at the White House is that the vice president is described in stable condition and a bit groggy, a bit groggy because he was sedated and was unconscious briefly during that procedure that you just outlined. And White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer has said there has been no determination made as to when Mr. Cheney will return to work. That's a decision that will be made probably tomorrow in consultation between Mr. Cheney and his doctors.

This all began about 3:30 this afternoon when Vice President Cheney left the White House for George Washington University Medical Center after experiencing four separate bouts of chest discomfort. The first was on Saturday after some exercise that he undertook on his own, per doctors orders at the vice president's residence.

The vice president thought that was flulike symptoms. He really dismissed it. But on Sunday, he felt another chest tightening, again dismissed it. And then today, here at the White House, he felt two additional episodes, thought it would be wise to consult with his doctors. He did so, went to the hospital, whereupon they did discover that there was a narrowing of the artery into which in November a stent had been placed. And they have addressed that situation. He will remain overnight at the hospital for observation. And again, as I said, described in stable condition -- Larry.

KING: We'll get back to Major. Dr. Shah, now, as we were told, he had a stent put in, in November. Right? I have a stent. What is a -- we have a stent here. You brought a stent with you. Let's show the stent and tell us what this is and what does it do. DR. P.K. SHAH, DIRECTOR OF CARDIOLOGY, CEDARS-SINAI: A stent is a small metal tube. It's like a mesh, like a slinky. And it's inserted through a catheter inside an artery that you are opening up. And then to prevent the collapse of that artery, you deploy the stent and it remains there permanently.

KING: We're seeing it magnified, right?

SHAH: And -- correct. And it prevents collapse of the artery, and helps keep the artery open.

KING: Now when the doctors say today -- they didn't say the stent collapsed. They said they had to do a balloon procedure again. But they didn't do -- they don't do another stent, do they?

SHAH: It depends. I think what they probably found was that tissue had grown inside the stent. And that occurs in about 20 to 30 percent of cases within about 6 to 9 months.

KING: That happened to me once.

SHAH: That's correct.

KING: But then they did it again, it was fine.

SHAH: Correct. And once that tissue grows in and narrows the stent, you can develop symptoms of angina again, as Vice President Cheney appeared to have developed.

KING: Now, they said there's a 40 percent chance of recurrence. It's a recurrence of what?

SHAH: Once tissue grows inside the stent to narrow it and then you have to open it up again with a balloon, the chance that tissue will regrow again is about 40 to 60 percent within the next 6 to 9 months.

KING: So he could -- there's a 40 to 60 percent -- that makes it 50-50 he could be in trouble again.

SHAH: Correct.

KING: Trouble that would lead to more surgery?

SHAH: Trouble that could lead to either another angioplasty, or possibly -- there is a new approach to treating this ingrowth of tissue in the stent. It's called Bracci (ph) therapy. It's basically delivering radiation directly inside the stent with a catheter device, and that radiation in some cases can actually prevent the regrowth of tissue inside the stent.

KING: Does he have a higher chance for another heart attack?

SHAH: I think most often when the stents tend to close up like this, they tend to do it more gradually rather than abruptly.

KING: Richard, do we have any history on vice presidential disability?

RICHARD SHENKMAN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, we've had seven vice presidents of the United States who died in office.

KING: Seven?

SHENKMAN: Seven of them. One of them, it was very critical. It was during the war of 1812. It was James Madison's vice president, and what happened was the year before Madison almost died. And the vice president would become president, but he never served out his term. So it could have been a really dicey situation.

KING: Is there anything constitutionally if a vice president is disabled?

SHENKMAN: No, what happens is the vice president really would resign, and the president could then nominate a replacement, and the Congress, by majority vote in both houses, would select a replacement, which has happened under Ford where you had Ford becoming vice president after Agnew resigned, and then Ford became president, Rockefeller then became vice president.

KING: Is there any worry, Major, at the White House about that possibly happening here, a resignation? I mean, we've seen two instances. We've had four heart attacks. Is anyone using that word?

GARRETT: Oh, absolutely not, Larry. And what the White House is trying to do, it's trying to put the best and most reassuring face on this situation, describing in great detail, to the degree that they detail this at all, that the vice president went there on his own speed. He was not taken there or conveyed there by an ambulance or anything, emphasizing this is not an emergency situation.

But there is an undercurrent here of the very seriousness of this. Mr. Cheney has a very large portfolio for the president. He's the point-man on Capitol Hill. He's leading up a recently created task force to deal with a potential energy crisis. He is a key player in this administration. And the health of Mr. Cheney and the health of the president's overall agenda may be more closely linked than anyone here at this White House would like to admit -- Larry.

KING: Dr. Shah, he's not your patient.

SHAH: Correct

KING: You know the job.

SHAH: Correct.

KING: Would you recommend, if he were your patient, that he consider not continuing?

SHAH: I think I would have to know a lot more about not only the anatomy of his arteries, but also the status of his heart function and whether he has a tendency to have any abnormalities of heart rhythm. A number of factors go into that decision-making. It would be rather premature for me to speculate without knowing the details.

KING: What part in his condition does stress play?

SHAH: I think stress clearly has a role in triggering episodes where you can have decreased flood flow to the heart. It does not seem to play a role in cause of tissue ingrowth inside a stent, which is really mechanical problem. But in triggering where the arteries can constrict and produce angina, stress is known to play a role in all those things.

KING: Richard, any thoughts on this? If we have the benefit of history and the like, do you think that based on what you hear the prognosis can be OK?

SHENKMAN: Well, I would say that one of the things we have to keep in mind -- and I hate to say this, because it sounds cynical -- but we usually don't get told the whole truth, sometimes (UNINTELLIGIBLE) lied by presidents and their staff when either the president or the vice president has a medical condition. We've had a history even in the last 10 years of presidential candidates either concealing information or lying about it: Paul Tsongas back in the '92 campaign, Bradley withholding information.

We have to wait and see and find out what these tests actually report, and what kind of condition Cheney is actually in. Ask the hard questions.

KING: Major, do you -- Major, do you accept the fact or do you wonder whether you're getting the whole story?

GARRETT: Well, the position we find ourselves in, Larry, is taking what the White House tells us at face value. And there is a little bit of history dealing with Mr. Cheney on this very important topic.

You recall in November, late November when he went. It was originally described as something that was somewhat precautionary, somewhat ordinary. And then we learned after some enzyme tests were done that in fact he had suffered a mild heart attack, which is much more severe a description of what happened than it was originally told to us when Mr. Cheney first went to the hospital.

I'm in no way referring that that's the situation now. But clearly, each and every day we try to find out as much as we can, because what the historian just pointed out is something we always have to deal with here. We not always get -- we don't always obtain the best facts the first go-around.

KING: And Dr. Shah, is the confidentiality of the patient paramount?

SHAH: Absolutely.

KING: So if you're the doctor and you're told something, you have -- you -- it's the patient's order?

SHAH: Absolutely. Without patient's permission you will not divulge any information.

KING: Thanks for bringing us the stent.

SHAH: Thank you.

KING: Major Garrett, Dr. P.K. Shah and Richard Shenkman, we thank you all. When we come back, the rest of the program will be devoted to the tragedy at Santee, California. Don't go away.


QUESTION: Are you in any way limiting his role on the road in case something like this might happen?

DR. JOHNATHAN REINER, VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY'S CARDIOLOGIST: No, not at all. You know, the vice president is fortunate enough to have a terrific, terrific medical staff very readily available to him. So no, I think I'm not limiting him at all.



KING: All right. We know and we're joined now by Paul Pfingst. He is the San Diego County district attorney. We've already been told by the sheriff that you intend to prosecute this 15-year-old male suspect as an adult.

Why, Paul?

PAUL PFINGST, SAN DIEGO DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Well, Larry, in California last year, the voters passed a proposition that we call proposition 21. And that proposition requires that any juvenile 15 years of age or 16 years of age who commits a murder like this or murders like this, with special circumstances -- that being multiple murders -- must go directly to adult court.

KING: So you had no -- you didn't have a situation where you can make a decision? This is it?

PFINGST: Sometimes the district attorney makes the decision in California. Sometimes the district attorney applies to a judge to make a decision. The voters said there are some crimes that are just so serious and that we're not even going to play around in juvenile court -- we're going to go straight to adult court -- and this case, obviously, is one of the most serious crimes that anybody can imagine. And it's going straight to adult court by mandate of the voters.

Our legislators didn't pass this. It was a direct vote of the voters in a statewide proposition.

KING: All right. Paul, what do you make of it? I mean, something's seriously wrong here, right?

PFINGST: There -- there is, Larry. I mean, you -- you -- I've been watching your show, and your viewers have seen people from time to time get on television and go, jeez, who would have thought it could have happened here. I'm one of those people.

I wouldn't have thought -- Santee is a rural/suburban community, a very low rate of crime, a very cohesive community. And this has been one of the places where we've been fortunate that it's been relatively untouched by crime over the years.

This has a big effect, not only in Santee but in rest of the county. I have two little girls. I drop them off at school, often in morning. This morning, a lot of parents in San Diego dropped their children off at school, and they went on about their day with the full expectation that when they came by school later in the day they'd pick up their kids. Tomorrow, a lot of -- a lot of parents in San Diego are going to be a little bit more anxious and give their kids a bigger hug and a longer kiss before they send them off to school.

There's been a security breach here.

KING: Paul, you will personally prosecute this case?

PFINGST: No. I have my chief deputy district attorney, Kristin Anton (ph), prosecuting the case. She's an experienced homicide prosecutor and the lead of all of our trial prosecutors. And she is out as we speak at the school going through a walk-through with investigators, trying to make sure that we have all the evidence. And she's doing the other things that we have to do in an investigation like this, search warrants and things of that sort.

KING: And does the boy have an attorney yet?

PFINGST: Last I checked, the suspect was at our Juvenile Hall, which is about 25 to 30 minutes away from here, and had not yet had an attorney. But that may have changed over the course of the last half hour. But I doubt it.

Probably, what will happen is that the arraignment on Wednesday in court -- it'll be an adult court -- an attorney will be assigned. But that -- sometimes the parents will retain an attorney. Very frequently there's obviously an assigned counsel. I expect that -- that will be the case here.

KING: Paul, thank you, and we'll be calling on you again in this. We appreciate it. Paul Pfingst, the San Diego district attorney.

PFINGST: You're welcome, Larry.

KING: When we come back, three doctors, all of whom are attending to those that survived, and we'll check on all of that condition and the like. Lots more to come. Don't go away.


KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE Dr. David Hoyt, chief of surgery at US -- UCSD Medical Center; Dr. Frank Kennedy, director of trauma at the Sharp Memorial Hospital; And Dr. Michael Sise, medical director for trauma at Mercy Hospital. Dr. Hoyt, let's start with you: All of these hospitals were treating victims here, victims and casualties.

DR. DAVID HOYT, CHIEF OF SURGERY, UCSD MEDICAL CENTER: Yes, we have an organized trauma system in San Diego, that has been in existence 17 years, and when an event like this occurs, patients are triaged to multiple hospitals in a controlled fashion so that no one hospital is overwhelmed.

I'm very proud of that system for what it's able to do in a circumstance like this. But it's a very sad day for us all.

KING: Dr. Kennedy, what can you tell us? How many were treated at Sharp Memorial?

DR. FRANK KENNEDY, DIRECTOR OF TRAUMA, SHARP MEMORIAL HOSPITAL: Well, Larry, we had six patients, one of which was injured in a motor vehicle accident as he fled the scene in a panic. He had no significant injuries. Two other patients had extremity wounds which were inconsequential, and they were discharged from the emergency room. Another patient has a wound to his side, which is being observed. Another patient has a wound to the chest, which has just been treated with a tube, and we're watching him closely. Another patient had a wound to the neck, which fortunately just barely missed his spinal cord, but has injured one of the arteries nearby. But that's not bleeding and he's stable at this time.

KING: No one died at your hospital, right?

KENNEDY: No, sir.

KING: Dr. Sise, what's the report on Mercy?

DR. MICHAEL SISE, MEDICAL DIRECTOR FOR TRAUMA, MERCY HOSPITAL: Larry, we have three injured who came to Mercy. There were two students and one security guard. Each of them had wounds that missed vital structures, although, you know, it's only a couple of degrees between, a couple degrees of the gunshot wound missing and creasing the skin, and hitting brain or the heart.

We had one youth who had a through and through gunshot wound of his lower lip. If that had only been a couple of inches back, it could have hit his carotid artery or injured his spinal cord. The other two also had superficial wounds.

You know, there really is no such thing as a simple flesh wound. A firearm injury is a very serious matter, and sometimes it's pure luck between a tangential wound that misses vital structures and one that kills someone.

KING: All right. I've got to take a quick break. We'll come right back with our doctors and get more of an update, and then we'll meet William Pollack and Beth Nimmo, and later pastors Tony Foglio and Robert Schuller. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Dr. David Hoyt, what's the story on the condition of people at UCSD Medical Center in San Diego?

HOYT: We got two young men both shot in the chest. One required a chest tube, which is a tube to drain blood out of the chest, but he is going to be fine. The other one had a tangential wound to the chest, they both were thought to be critically injured, at the time. And so were taking directly the operating room, but neither one of them actually required surgery. One of them will probably go home tomorrow -- hopefully, one in a couple days, so they were both very lucky.

KING: Not bad for chest wounds, considering. Now, Dr. Kennedy, I understand Sharp Memorial Hospital owns Grossmont Hospital, which had a fatality -- is that right?

KENNEDY: That is correct.

KING: What can you tell us about that?

KENNEDY: Well, the patient that died, was in cardiac arrest, at the scene, and had a gunshot wound to the head, was transferred to Grossmont Hospital which is the nearest hospital to the incident, but the patient expired there.

KING: How old?

KENNEDY: I believe he was 15.

KING: Was he ever conscious?

KENNEDY: No. He was in cardiac arrest when the paramedics arrived on scene, had CPR performed, but, expired at the hospital.

KING: Do any of you doctors know about the other fatality, where that occurred?

HOYT: At the scene, I believe, of the school.

KING: Right at the scene.

HOYT: Right at the scene.

KING: This job you fellows are in is never easy in emergency situations, and when you get something like this -- Dr. Sise, is it doubly difficult dealing with the age of these people?

SISE: It certainly is Larry, I mean all of us have children, I have a teenaged son, and, Frank and Dave have children, too, and, you know, these are not someone else's kids, these are our kids that are injured. We had recently been out at Santana High School for a drunk driving prevention program we did in conjunction with the school. I have been with those kids and with those teachers.

You know, the hardest thing for us, Larry, we wouldn't be here tonight talking to you if this kid -- this troubled kid -- hadn't had access to a firearm. I think we have to start asking the tough questions about firearms, what they mean. Firearms turn shouting matches into shooting matches -- if those two kids in Columbine had not had access to firearms they would be two weird kids still wandering around campus, instead of dead along with a lot of dead classmates.

So, for us in trauma we want to get out in the community and ask our fellow members of the community the tough questions. How do we prevent this from happening again?

KING: Dr. Hoyt, do you agree with that? His statement about guns?

HOYT: Yeah, I think that is part of it Larry. But I think the most important way to look at this is that it is preventable. It involves us taking a different look at the way we look at kids that are at risk, I'm sure when this is all said and done we will find that this kid had a lot of problems, there are probably opportunities to intervene; we have looked at that same problem in San Diego County, over 100 different kids with suicide and homicide, and virtually all of them had some chance to intervene.

So we've got to refocus -- we've got to learn how to intervene, we've got to create partnerships with the other services in the community. And really create this mentality of preventability.

KING: Well said. Thank you all very much; we will be calling on you again; we appreciate it, doctors David Hoyt, Frank Kennedy, and Michael Sise -- work often goes unrewarded.

When we come back, Beth Nimmo. Her daughter was killed in Columbine, and William Pollack, the author of "Real Boys' Voices" -- he's a professor at the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard. Not easy -- don't go away.


KAREN DEGISCHER, SANTANA HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL: As principal of Santana High School, you might realize that this is probably my worst nightmare. My heart goes out to the parents, and the families of those students that lost their lives today.



KING: We're back. Joining us: Beth Nimmo. Her daughter, Rachel Scott (ph) was killed in the Columbine massacre, and in Boston is Dr. William Pollack, author of "Real Boys' Voices" -- his Ph.D. is assistant clinical professor, department of psychiatry at Harvard.

Beth, what did you think today?

BETH NIMMO, MOTHER OF COLUMBINE VICTIM: Well, you know, when I heard the news, all the memories of April the 20th, 1999 just rushed over me, emotional energies, the heart racing fast, the sick feeling you have, and, I just sat there, and just, an amazement that we could be watching this again.

KING: How old was your daughter?

NIMMO: Rachel (ph) was 17 years old; she was a junior.

KING: Do you -- you never get over it, right? Never.

NIMMO: No. I don't think so. I think you can come to some kind of healing, as you redefine your life, without that person, but, closure is one of those fantasy words, that I think people attach something magical happening when that is not the case. But I do believe in healing; I do believe there will come a day when the pain of it will be eased.

KING: In your case, the killers are both gone.


KING: In this case, the suspect is alive.


KING: You have had a different kind of closure. Do you think they are going to learn more in this case than you learned?

NIMMO: Well, they are going to have an opportunity to find out the motives behind the shootings which, for Columbine so much of that is guesswork, trying to put together the pieces of puzzle. But I think the most important thing, I want to say, there is a lot of troubled kids, that maybe entertain these ideas no matter how bad their life is, or they think it is, what this young man did only compounded that to a degree he will never imagine, and, you know, he will live with the consequences the rest of his life. And possibly never be able to resolve the inner turmoil that drove him to this.

KING: Dr. Pollack, it is impossible to generalize; we don't know the boy, we don't know the situation; you wrote "Real Boys' Voices," you have written about why boys are very -- get more disturbed now than they have ever before. What's your first read on this?

WILLIAM POLLACK, PH.D, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL: Well, we can't know for sure Larry, but in addition to "Real Boys' Voices" and all the research I have done, I have had the opportunity to work with U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Education on the Safe School Initiative and they say, over 40 school shooters, and my first read is that this boy was disturbed, probably depressed for a long time before, was following the boy code, not talking about that kind of pain for a long time, because you are not supposed to do that if a real boy, right? You're not supposed to say, I'm in pain, I'm vulnerable.

But probably, and we heard someone say earlier that we don't know what happened before, and I can't know for sure, but in many cases, two or three days before, two or three hours before, boys will crack open, and all of a sudden there'll be an opening. They'll say I'm in pain. I want to hurt somebody, although joke about hurting somebody, and people will hear them, but they won't know what do about it.

The school won't have a climate in which kids feel safe enough to reach out, and we found in research when there's that kind of climate, you can stop the activity. Or adults won't know what to do. They'll say boys will be boys, and they let it happen, not because they're bad people, but because they're not sure what it all means.

And once they see that they can do something about it, once they see they can go to a trained professional who can assess the threat, then they can reach out, and, as you heard before, stop the tragedy before it happens, the tragedy to the boy himself and the tragedy to everyone around him.

KING: Apparently, there were early reports that this boy was occasionally bullied, but that he wasn't a loner. People knew him. One child is reported to have said that he threatened this and then said he was only kidding.


KING: What do you do as people around someone like this?

POLLACK: Well, the first thing you do is hopefully before the event happens, you have a culture in your society and in your school where it's safe to report it to someone, you know who to go to. But if you don't know who to go to, you go to someone who you trust and you say, whether it's a law enforcement person or it's a psychiatrist or a psychologist, I'm worried about this kid.

He needs help rather than punishment, and you do something right away. You take it seriously. The worst that can happen is that he has some pain inside and that's why he's, quote, joking. It's never a joke. He may not be serious about hurting someone, but he's serious he's in pain.

So, you always take it seriously and do something, and the next thing you do is you set up systems in schools where there is someone who can really assess a threat and understand who really poses a threat, and that's where our money and our dollars and our hearts should be going for safety.

KING: That's tricky, though, isn't it?

POLLACK: Well, you don't want profiles. You don't want to say, well, this boy is going to do this and this boy's going to do that. It only becomes tricky if you're punitive. If the approach is basically to help, the worst that can happen is you find out that the boy's got some other kind of pain, some pain at home, some depression, and you give him help.

The best that can happen is you stop a tragedy from occurring beforehand in that boy's life, and in the adults and kids all around him. It's absolutely possible to do, but we've not yet implemented it. We have to implement it in our schools.

KING: Any thoughts on trying him as an adult? POLLACK: Well, you know, my area isn't particularly jurisprudence. My only feeling about all of this is that we spend a little too much time thinking about how we're going to punish afterwards, and not enough dollars and time thinking about how we're going to help kids. He is a young kid who needed help beforehand, and I wouldn't blame anyone in this terrible time of tragedy, but if we had the right structures, we would stop these tragedies from happening, and we wouldn't be worrying about how we're going to try someone. We'd be thinking about how we're going to help someone before it happens.

KING: Beth, how do you feel about that aspect?

NIMMO: Well, I certainly wish the signals that had been given off by the two shooters of Columbine had been picked up on because there were many things that possibly people could have read differently. But I think the issues go back to a lot of what goes on in the home, that the society that we live in, the messages that we give out, that we embrace violence as part of our society. We're entertained by it.

Kids don't realize that real violence has real consequences, and they're long term and there's no reset buttons for any of this, and I think those values need to start in the home, and parents need to teach their children to value life and that every life is important, including the one is that troubled, the one that's having a hard time.

KING: But unfortunately, Bill, they go out of the house; right?

POLLACK: Right, I agree with that. Parents have to give that kind of message. I think they also have to give the message that if a kid is in trouble, they can come to their parents without being afraid. Yes, they go out of the house. They see media. They get messages from their peers.

They go to schools, and we have to provide environments there, which I call safety zones, or like the Secret Service/Department of Education study talked about, we have to be able to see what the signals are and teach those signals so that people won't be punitive and won't be going to prison and won't be shooting.

But, you know, all of these kids, 95 percent of them to 100 percent are boys. That's not a mistake. That's the message we give boys in our society. We have to change and turn those messages around.

These boys may be the tip of the iceberg, but the iceberg are all boys out there who need to know there is someone who they can talk to before the pain gets too bad, and before they withdraw, get depressed in their own way, isolate themselves, joke about violence, which are all signs that they're in pain, and may be hurting themselves, because you know, suicide is four times more likely in boys than girls, and suicide and homicide are both equally devastating.

KING: You always say it eloquently, and we look forward to another visit with. Doctor William Pollack of Harvard. Beth, we're going to ask you to stay and join us with Reverend Robert Schuller, the famed pastor of Garden Grove, California, and Reverend Tony Foglio. Reverend Foglio is the senior pastor at the Sunrise Church in Santee, California. We'll be right back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just see like thousands -- hundreds and hundreds of students just running and running, and I just thought you know was a joke, or a prank or something.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was a bunch shots fired. Everyone thought fireworks some, it's just some child playing a game, and then we saw a guy laying on the ground. And then, all of a sudden, you hear everyone screaming run and everyone is just hurling every which way.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were right across from where the shooting happened. We saw -- we saw the students sprawl when the shots were first fired. At that time, I ran out, took a few photos, and there was student on ground laying there after being shot.



KING: Joining us now on LARRY KING LIVE, frequent guest Reverend Robert Schuller, famed pastor from Crystal Cathedral, Garden Grove, California. Reverend Schuller is in Portland tonight. And in San Diego is Reverend Tony Folio. Reverend Folio is the senior pastor at the Sunrise Church in Santee and he has been involved, as pastor of the largest church there, and personally counseling parents and students today. Staying on with us is Beth Nimmo, whose daughter Rachel Scott was killed in Columbine. She's in Denver and in Santee is Melissa Gern, the young student who was with us earlier and on her right, your left, is her mother, Elizabeth.

Reverend Foglio, what can you tell us about what you've had to deal with today?

REV. TONY FOGLIO, PASTOR, SUNRISE CHURCH: Well, Mr. King, it's been an interesting day, to say the least. We got up this morning expecting a regular Monday and as you know, it's been everything but a regular Monday. We've counseled over 100 families today at the church and here at the school. It's been pretty devastating, but the community is really sticking together. People are praying for each other and loving one another. So, it's coming together the best it can.

KING: Reverend Schuller, is this the toughest time in the life of a pastor?

REV. ROBERT SCHULLER, PASTOR, CRYSTAL CATHEDRAL: I think so. It is very difficult. But I want to make a comment. Where is God when all of this is happening? People often ask that, and I like to answer, God is the first powerful presence on the scene of a tragedy.

All of the people are rushing to express their love and affection and I'm so grateful, Larry, for the invitation to be with you for a moment because it gives me a chance to address the thousands and thousands of people in that community who are part of my television audience. We pray for you, and just embrace the love of God that is all around you. It's happened to the church's pastor. It's happened with the teachers. God's love and care and comfort is very, very evident immediately on the scene.

KING: Beth Nimmo, did you accept that?

NIMMO: I certainly do. Rachel was very well-known at Columbine as a Christian and one who stood tall for her faith it's been that faith that we've celebrated since her death. Rather than think about and reminisce about the horrible events that took her life, we've celebrated her life by celebrating her life with the lord and how she wrote about him in her many journals and all the things that she left that left us a message of hope and faith that we can still continue to share.

KING: Melissa Gern, you knew the boy. You were with us earlier. You were on the scene, although you didn't see the shooting. Can you accept the fact that God is in your life and that that can help in this time?

M. GERN: Yes, I can. I'm thankful that God was with me it occurred and I feel really lucky that I wasn't one of the ones that got shot.

KING: Elizabeth, the mother, where were you when all this happened, Elizabeth, and were you worried that Melissa was involved.

ELIZABETH GERN, MELISSA'S MOTHER: I was at work and I was fortunate enough to hear about the shooting directly from my daughter. She called me at work and so I didn't have to go through the nightmare of a parent wondering if their child was OK. I knew she was all right.

KING: She knew the boy. Do you know the boy, the suspect?

E. GERN: I don't really know him, although I had been introduced to him at an open house a few months ago, and it was insignificant. I didn't think much about it one way or the other.

KING: We'll take a break and come back with more on the this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. By the way, Walter Cronkite, who was due to be with us tonight, will be with us in New York on Friday night. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Reverend Foglio, have you had to deal yet with any members of those who were either killed or wounded, any family members?

FOGLIO: No, Larry, I haven't personally, but some of our staff has.

KING: But that's coming, isn't it?

FOGLIO: Yes, sir, it's coming.

KING: What do you say?

FOGLIO: How can I help? How can I pray for you. God is still in control.

KING: Do you agree with what Reverend Schuller had to say, God is on the scene?

FOGLIO: First person on the scene, always. His grace is always sufficient, even in the greatest of tragedies. God always shows up.

KING: You never say to yourself, could he have prevented it?

FOGLIO: I think we all have questions at times, but that's where faith and trust has to come in.

KING: Reverend Schuller, isn't that the hardest part to make that leap of faith?

SCHULLER: Well, it's not easy to make the leap of faith, no. But I want to say something, Larry. I think it was the mayor who said we thought community was such a tight-knit, good community, church- going, et cetera, it's immune to this. I think one thing everybody should learn from this is there is no community in America that is immunized against the possibility of such a horrific tragedy.

A community is no longer protected by boundaries. Our kids can hear television, radio, cassettes. They can read books. They can listen to magazines and they no longer live in an isolated community. They're exposed to all the worst, which means every single living citizen and person in America should say what can I do to be a better person, and that means the kind of person that will encourage people, listen to people and build interesting relationships.

I think one of the dangerous things in our society that contributes to something like this is a breakdown in the commitment to relationships. We have to relate to people, lock eyes, hear their voices, touch them and that means gets back to the synagogue and the church and the faith.

KING: Reverend Foglio, when is the memorial service planned?

FOGLIO: The memorial service will be this Friday at 7:00 at Sunrise Church.

KING: 7:00 p.m.? FOGLIO: And I understand that -- 7:00 p.m, and I understand the governor's wife will be there, who is a graduate of Santana High School.

KING: Yes, she will be. We understand that she will be there. And you will handle that service.

FOGLIO: Myself and some of the other ministers in the community.

KING: Elizabeth Gern, does this give you pause about what Reverend Schuller had to say about all of this? Does it give you second thoughts about children and communities?

E. GERN: One of the reasons why I love Santee so much is because I always liked the low crime rate and the fact that I thought it was a good place raise kids. I think I still feel that way. I think I feel like this is just an aberration, but I'm kind of questioning everything right now and I think it will be a while before I have any answers.

KING: And you have to have extra comforts for Elizabeth tonight -- for Melissa?

E. GERN: Yes, I want to be here in any way that I can to help her get through this. However she needs to deal with it, I am going to try and help her.

KING: Thank you all very much: Elizabeth and her daughter, Melissa, and Reverend Schuller and Reverend Foglio. The memorial service is Friday, as they say, at 7:00, and Beth Nimmo and our earlier guests as well.

"CNN TONIGHT" is next. They will, of course, have more on this and we'll be back with, I'm sure, more about it tomorrow. Thanks very much for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Good night.



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