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School Shooting Rampage, India Blast, Marines Propose Leaving Iraq to Lead Forces in Afghanistan, Noose on Campus
Aired October 11, 2007 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. You're with CNN, you're informed. I'm Tony Harris.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi everybody. I'm Heidi Collins. Developments keep coming into the CNN NEWSROOM on Thursday, the 11th of October. Here's what's on the run down.
City leaders at the mike this hour in Cleveland. We expect new information about the high school shooting rampage.
HARRIS: Police search for the person who left a noose at Columbia University. This hour, a Columbia professor with strong opinions on racism.
COLLINS: Cough and cold medicines for babies pulled off the market. Find out which remedies are going bye-bye, in the NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: Well, public schools are closed this morning in Cleveland, Ohio, a day after a 14-year-old student opened fire. He is the lone fatality. Today questions about what set him off.
CNN's Susan Roesgen is in Cleveland, and, Susan good to see you. Before we get to the question of why this happened, maybe you can give us a bet of an update on, you know, the people who were injured. How are they doing?
SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure, Tony. I think that's the good news in this very terrible story, that the four people who were shot were only wounded. They were not killed.
One student has been released. One teacher has been released. But the teacher who was most seriously wounded, shot in the chest, he is now in fair condition in the hospital, and we've learned, Tony, that he's a former military person who lost three fingers in combat. Again, this was the man who was most seriously wounded, shot in the chest, in fair condition today after surgery last night.
One other student remains in the hospital as well. A 15-year-old who was shot in the side, but the hospital public affairs folks say that he's in good condition.
So, again, Tony, two people who were shot and wounded have been released from the hospital, and one teacher and one student remain.
Again, the motive, as we talk about, I think we're just sort of piecing together a little more about who Asa Coon was. I did speak to a person who worked at the front desk here at the school, Charles Blackwell, the head of the parent/teacher organization. He says that he talked to Asa a couple of times, but that he was very quiet, kept to himself. He was picked on because he was a Goth. He wore dark clothing. He stood out in the crowd here of really pretty high achievers at the school, a school with a good success rate. And he was a student who was troubled. I think until we get some more information from the police, which we expect in about half an hour here, Tony, the thing that really brings us into the action at the school is the 911 tapes, the phone calls from frantic students and from some of the parents who received calls to the 911 system. Here is one of those calls.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
911: Cleveland police, may I help you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a student with a gun at Success Tech Academy.
911: OK. Where's the student at?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's in a building.
911: OK. Do you know where at in the building?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I ran out the school.
911: Was he threatening somebody with it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He shot it.
911: He shot the gun?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
911: How many shots did he fire?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many shots did he fire, two or three?
911: Can you tell me what he looked like? Did you see him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's like 5'5", white ...
911: White male about 5'5"? Do you know what he was wearing or anything?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did Asa have on? I really didn't see it. I think he had on a white shirt, school dress code.
911: Do you know his name?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His name is Asa, Asa Coon
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROESGEN: Now, in addition to those 911 calls, we have a little bit of videotape. It's grainy, it's difficult to make out what's happening here, but this is videotape that was taken from a security camera in the parking lot of a television station that just happens to be across the street from the school. What you can probably barely make out here is the actual fight that led to 14-year-old Asa Coon's suspension on Monday. He had a fight with a couple of students in the parking lot of the school, and again this is security camera video taken from the television station across the street. That fight, Tony, on Monday led to Asa Coon's suspension. He should not have been in school at all yesterday.
There has been quite a lot of talk here this morning about why weren't there metal detectors. I think another question to ask school administrators is didn't anybody see this kid walk in? He shouldn't have been in school at all. Shouldn't someone have stopped him and said you're not supposed to be here, go home.
HARRIS: CNN's Susan Roesgen for us this morning in Cleveland. Susan, appreciate it. Thank you.
COLLINS: A closer look now at the 14-year-old gunman. Police say Asa Coon was arrested for hitting his mother when he was 12. Police had been to his home before for incidents that involved weapons. Students say Coon was troubled.
PROF. JACK LEVIN, NORTHEASTERN UNIV., CRIMINOLOGY: There are always missed signals. The problem is that they only become clear after the fact. Hindsight is 20/20, and after somebody shoots a number of people, everybody all of a sudden is a psychologist and recognizes all the warning signs. Now, the problem is that these warning signs beforehand apply to so many youngsters. Many of these shooters hate school or they like Marilyn Manson or they black -- they use Gothic clothing. They're rebellious.
The best predictor we have is previous violence, and in this case Asa definitely had that in his background, but my point is this, we ought to be intervening early in the life of a child because he's troubled, not because he's troublesome.
COLLINS: Coon was under suspension for fighting, as we just mentioned. He and a classmate reportedly argued over the existence of God. Reports also say Coon made threats against the school and his classmates.
LEVIN: There's a culture of silence, and we've seen it in almost every one of these school shootings in the suburbs. Now we see it in the inner city. We see youngsters who hear threats in the hallway, do nothing about it, and I'll tell you why. Because it's not cool. Because you just don't snitch on a peer. Even if you think there will be a murder, you simply do not rat.
HARRIS: Boy, the school where the shootings happened seems an unlikely place for violence. Success Tech is a magnet school with an enrollment of 200 students. Its curriculum focuses heavily on technology. The school attracts high achieving students who must apply for admission. Now according to "The Plain Dealer," the newspaper in Cleveland, Success Tech has a 94 percent graduation rate and receives funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The paper says it was named one of Ohio's schools of promise just last week.
It is not a traditional school building that we're talking about here. The school is located in downtown Cleveland in a converted office building.
And as Susan mentioned just a couple moments ago, we are expecting to learn more about the school shooting later this morning. In fact, Cleveland officials have scheduled a news conference this hour, 11:30 a.m. eastern time. We will cover it for you right here in the NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: We are also following breaking news this hour out of India, an explosion at one of India's most revered Islamic shrines. That word from our sister station, CNN IBN. The blast happened in India's northern state of Rajasthan. It occurred during Iftar. That's the breaking the fast after Ramadan. There are reports of multiple injuries. This story, of course, still developing. Stay with CNN for more details. We will get them out to you just as soon as they become available.
HARRIS: Deadly attack on the main U.S. military base near Baghdad. Officials reporting today two coalition soldiers dead, 40 people wounded. Strikes such as this, an overnight rocket and mortar attack, we could tell you in Camp Victory are not unusual, but rarely are casualties so high. Camp Victory, really just a sprawling base near Baghdad's airport, the headquarters for U.S. forces in Iraq. It offers troops a reprieve from harsh war conditions. Its stone palaces once belonged to Saddam Hussein. Now coalition forces can swim, play tennis, chow down on fast food, and enjoy an array of modern conveniences. The base is five miles in circumference with the capacity to sleep 1,500 troops.
COLLINS: New war proposal. The head of the Marine Corps wants his troops out of Iraq and into Afghanistan. Live now to CNN senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre.
Jamie, as we get more information about this story, is this what we often here about a contingency plan for the military?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Put this down as some out of the box thinking. The box in this case being Iraq. The Marine Corps commandant General James Conway has floated the idea of what if as U.S. troops are being drawn down in Iraq, what if the marines took over operations in Afghanistan and the army basically took over in Iraq?
Now, part of this is driven by the difference in deployment schedules between marines and the army. The marines serve for about seven months on the ground, the army from 12 to 15 months. That's one of the reasons why you see that the Marine Corps basically operates in their own separate area in Iraq, mostly Anbar province, about 25,000 marines there. So, again, the thinking is what if, as they move forward, what if they consolidated the marine operations in Afghanistan? But to give you an idea of how early this thinking is, secretary of defense Robert Gates traveling in London said he hasn't even seen a preliminary proposal for this.
ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I have seen no plan, no one has come to me with any proposals about it. My understanding is that it's at this point extremely preliminary thinking on the part of perhaps some staff people in the Marine Corps, but I don't think at this point it has any stature.
MCINTYRE: You know when they talk about ideas at the Pentagon, Heidi, they go through this process. Basically they have thinking, then they have a concept. The concept becomes a plan, and that proposal and that proposal becomes a plan and then they talk about it. This is in the very early thinking stages.
What could sink this, by the way, if it creates a negative impression, such as the marines are deserting Iraq or the marines can't work with the army. If that's the way it's perceived, that will kill it right there. What the Marine Corps is thinking about is as things are changing, maybe we should do things in a slightly different way and what will the advantages be. Very early thinking on this.
COLLINS: OK. Completely understood. Jamie, thanks so much.
HARRIS: A symbol of hatred on an elite college campus. How do you explain this? We'll talk to a professor of social studies and education at Columbia's teacher's college.
COLLINS: Also, as quick as a sneeze, certain cold and cough medicines pull a disappearing act. Will your favorite stuff be pulled off the market today? We'll tell you.
HARRIS: And the picket signs come down. Chrysler workers are building cars this is morning after I guess we'll call it a quickie strike, 5.5, 6 hours. What's in the new deal?
You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: Shocked but not surprised. That's what some at Columbia University are saying about a noose placed on their campus. Teachers College professor Margaret Smith Crocco says racism is an epidemic in our society. She joins us in New York.
Professor, good to talk to you.
MARGARET SMITH CROCCO, PROFESSOR: Good morning, Tony.
HARRIS: I know you've been asking questions about this and trying to figure out, you get an incident like this and you're like what is going on? Why here? Why is it happening and why are we seeing more and more incidents like this around the country? But let's deal with your campus. And you're asking the question, how are you explaining this? What do you make of this?
CROCCO: I think fundamentally it's an example of the racism that I believe is an epidemic in American society, and even a place like Teachers College, which espouses a set of values that calls us to better behavior, higher ideals, still we're not immune from the forces which I think have been present in this country since its inception. So it's a very sad day for those of us at Teachers College. We feel heartbroken for Professor Constantine, yet I think we all understand that we need to redouble our efforts to fight this kind of symbol I remember and hatred.
HARRIS: What does, very broad, but I need help with this so I'm going to give it to you. This is what you do. You're a thinker. What is racism today? I understand racism in the '60s and '70s, but it is certainly not as overt as it was in those decades. So what is it today?
CROCCO: I think today we have got racism of a wide variety of sorts. I think we still have the racism that we've had historically in this country, which is a personal, individual sense of disparagement of those who are different from us. But I think we also have structural and institutional racism that pervades institutions and the society at large in which certain judgments are made about individuals, people are not given the opportunities that they should have because they are essentially discriminated against because of their race.
You know, at Teachers College over the last year, we've been working very hard on a crick yum that was funded by the Rockefeller foundation that accompanies Spike Lee's movie, "When The Levees Broke" that dealt with the racism that was manifest around hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.
Just a month ago we raised the questions on a large forum, what kind of country are we? What kind of country do we want to be? And we've been doing soul searching about these issues over the last years. That's why this incident was so, so shocking.
HARRIS: You know, I've also heard recently from a couple folks who I have posed this question to that perhaps competition is at the heart of modern-day racism. Blacks and Hispanics gradually becoming more employable, making financial inroads, and perhaps whites see this as an encroachment and don't like it, and then you take incidents like this on your campus, and it is a way to provoke blacks and other minorities into being the "angry black population."
CROCCO: No, I think you are onto something there. I think there's a view that we exist in a society that is all about a kind of a zero sum game in which anything that you get is something that I don't get, and as a consequence, we are pitted against one another, and I think I would have to admit that that's probably especially true at elite institutions such as Columbia University. I think that is something that sets the stage, that provides a certain climate in which differences really become about who gets ahead and who gets left behind. HARRIS: You know, I also heard folks say recently, you know, it's racism, it is what it is, it's been along for so long, what are you ultimately going to do about it? You can't brain wash it out of folks. You can't diversity class it out of folks. But you also, it seems to me, need to talk about it. So how do you bring those two sides together, the folks who say it is what it is, you got to gel deal with, it and the other folks who are saying we have to move forward.
CROCCO: I think you begin with talk, and you don't end with talk, but you begin with talk. I think one of the points of -- if there could be any type of anything positive that comes from this incident here this week, it is that it has surfaced a set of concerns on the part of our African American students and faculty about all of what one called yesterday the micro-aggressions that occur in our institution. That we need to attend to these. We need to be aware of that, but we need to go beyond talk. We have to consider actions that are going to create a safer environment for our students of color, our faculty of color, our professional staff of color. We have to do something that really shows our commitment to making change, and while I understand your point about how difficult that is, I would hope we wouldn't become defeatist and give up the enterprise because there's a lot of work to be done.
HARRIS: Professor Crocco, great to talk with you. Thanks for your time this morning.
CROCCO: Thank you, Tony.
HARRIS: Sure thing.
COLLINS: This is an important topic so we are going to get to spend a little more time on it. Ahead, protesting intolerance, a hateful symbol on campus. Columbia University students rally. We're going to talk with a student organizer coming up in just a few minutes.
HARRIS: And Fredricka Whitfield is following breaking news out of south Florida this morning in THE NEWSROOM.
Fred, good to see you. What are you working on?
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good to see you as well. Almost deja vu all over again involving other Brinks or armored truck this time in south Florida where law enforcement officials are on the lookout for three men who apparently approached an armed truck, a Brinks truck, and the guards at the Eastern Financial Florida Credit Union building in Hialeah, Florida, in south Florida in the Dade county area, and apparently they were able to take off with some money. They did not injure the Brinks guards. That's the good news. But the all-out search is on now for those suspects.
It is believed this they got away in a four-door sedan, a gray colored one and that vehicle was found a couple blocks away, but now a perimeter is being set up. You're looking at new video we're getting in of their ongoing search. Not too far from the location where this Brinks truck was held up there in the Hialeah area so. We're going to continue to follow this story. Clearly, you know, everyone in that area in terms of traffic, et cetera, are being asked to remain in a stand still. You can see on the right-hand side of the screen the gray sedan that they got away in, but maybe not far because they're not that far away from the Brinks truck location.
HARRIS: OK. Fred, appreciate it. Give us a bit of a heads up if you get more information on this.
WHITFIELD: Will do.
HARRIS: Appreciate it. Thanks, Fred.
COLLINS: Students at Columbia University, what do they think about a noose hung on the door of an African American professor at their school? You see the picture there.
In depth now with Teachers College graduate student Ricco Wright. He is joining us from New York.
Ricco, back up for just a moment. Tell me what you thought personally when you got the news about what happened at Teachers College.
RICCO WRIGHT, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY STUDENT: Well, at first, you know, I had heard about this incident approximately at 3:30 while I was in class, and I was a bit shocked and hurt, but immediately I started to think, you know, we need to do something about this as quickly as we can because I could imagine like so many people were sort of worried about their safety. So again initially I was just sort of hurt and surprised at this incident.
COLLINS: Did people tell you they were worried about their safety?
WRIGHT: Yes. In fact, one student in particular told me that she was very scared and that, you know, the mere fact that we all got together and rallied sort of brought some security to her. So there were many students who were concerned.
COLLINS: I know that you helped organize the protest. We are seeing some pictures of that. Tell us a little bit about how that went. How many people and maybe what the thoughts were that were exchanged.
WRIGHT: There were about 150 students who actually met in the TC dining hall. We were just sort of airing out our feelings. We wanted to see where everybody was in terms of the incident. We wanted to talk about race and at that point that's when we decided to have the protest the following day, which was yesterday. And this meeting was very successful actually because, you know, the incident happened that morning, and by 4:00 p.m. that day we had already set up the rally, and we were really ready to talk about this. COLLINS: I was just noticing one of the signs. It said something I thought was pretty interesting. It said a black thing, crossed out. White thing, crossed out. Asian thing, crossed out. And then it said people thing. What's the racial climate like at Teachers College and Columbia as a whole?
WRIGHT: Well, it's an interesting question. As people of color we would like to see more people of color there, as students, as faculty, as tenured faculty. So when you ask that type of question, I mean of course, the numbers are scarce, but, you know, there could be more of these individuals of whom I just mentioned.
COLLINS: Have you heard much from Professor Constantine? Obviously the woman whose classroom door it was where this noose was hung.
WRIGHT: We only heard from her at the protest yesterday where she gave her speech, and that was the only sign of her that we had seen. In fact, we were actually happy to see her because no one had, you know, any knowledge of how she was. We knew nothing of her whereabouts, so when she came to speak, it was quite a surprise to all of us.
COLLINS: What did she say that really stuck with you?
WRIGHT: That she would not be silenced. I thought that was very powerful, very powerful.
COLLINS: Not be silenced in particular about what?
WRIGHT: Well, that I'm not sure. Perhaps with her research, she's in psychology and education, and she writes about racism and this is her field. She's well-respected in her field. I think she was making a point that she's going to continue to do what's right for our justice and our equality.
COLLINS: You are a very nice person. I can tell just by talking to you. Is your campus racist?
WRIGHT: No, it's not. It's a great campus, but it can be improved upon. There are many things we can do better as a campus, as students. Our faculty and administration can also do more things to sort of implement a better climate on campus. It's not a racist campus, per se, no.
COLLINS: OK. Ricco Wright we certainly appreciate talking to you today. Thank you.
WRIGHT: Thanks for having me, Heidi.
HARRIS: OK. If you've got a baby or toddler with a runny nose, here's some information you need to know. Your grocery store or pharmacy pulling cough and cold medicines off the market. Everything from Dimetapp to Triaminic. A consumer group lists 14 popular medicines on its website says the medicine is OK when used correctly. But notes patterns of misuse leading to overdoses in infants. The voluntary withdrawal doesn't affect medicines intended for children age 2 and over. Now for a complete list of the medicines voluntarily recalled. check out this website. There you go, www.otcsafety.org.
HARRIS: Welcome back, everyone. Bottom of the hour. I'm Tony Harris.
COLLINS: Hi everybody. I'm Heidi Collins. Mystery in Cleveland. The 14-year-old shooter is dead. His motives still unknown. Fellow students say he was troubled and combative. Asa Coon's neighbors though remember him with some sympathy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A good person. I don't know why he did what he did. Couldn't tell you. Pushed too far. That's all I could think of. You get pushed and pushed and pushed and sometimes you go over the edge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did he do this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. I ain't justifying nothing. I ain't saying he did the right thing, but I'm saying he got pushed for a long time and asking people to help, help, help, help and nobody helped.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: CNN's Susan Roesgen has been following this story for the last couple days for us. She joins us now live from Cleveland.
Susan, this press conference getting ready to begin. What do you think we're going to hear?
SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we hope to hear more specifics. More specific information about what Asa Coon was doing, where he entered the school. Perhaps more of a motive, though. I think that's probably going to come later.
What we're all waiting to hear is what federal agents have been tracing today, and that is where did those guns come from. It's one thing to have an angry or troubled student. It's another thing to have an angry, troubled student with two guns. Only 14 years old, Heidi.
So federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms are tracing at least the origin of those guns. Also the police here last night said that they had interviewed Asa Coon's mother and, in their words, she was being cooperative. So certainly she should be able to shed some light on, you know, where his head was at yesterday.
COLLINS: Do we have any idea, Susan, at this point, and again it might not be a fair question because we are waiting to learn more coming up shortly here at 11:30 Eastern Time, but about that relationship between Asa and his family? ROESGEN: Well, I think that was a troubled relationship as well. On the record confirmed what we have is that he was found guilty of a domestic violence incident of some sort apparently against his mother. It was a single-parent household. His mother, his older brother, who had been in trouble with the law before, an older sister. His father lives in another state. This may have been a child on the wrong side of town, wrong side of the tracks. This is sort of what we're getting from witnesses, from staff members here at the school. So I think this may have all played a part in this student's makeup and in his motivation.
COLLINS: All right. CNN's Susan Roesgen reporting live for us from Cleveland this morning.
And as we mentioned, just want to remind everybody that we are expecting to learn even more about the school shooting a little bit later this morning. Cleveland officials have scheduled a news conference for 11:30 Eastern. That's just right about now. So we're showing you the live picture there. We will bring it to you just as soon as it happens right here on CNN.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Reports, deadlines, e-mailed meetings. Look, don't let your job stress you to death. CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen will join us with new findings this morning.
COLLINS: Want to quickly, once again, show you these live pictures. We have been waiting for a little while now, about five minutes or so, for a news conference coming out of Cleveland, Ohio, regarding the shooting that happened. Four people were wounded and the shooter himself, 14-year-old Asa Coon, killed himself up on the fourth floor of that building.
We are waiting to hear from several officials in the area, including the police chief, Cleveland's mayor, and Success Tech's CEO, Eugene Sanders. Also the Cleveland public safety director is expected to speak as well. We will watch that shot for you and bring it to you just as soon as anything happens.
HARRIS: While we wait for that news conference to get underway, we can sneak in a quick check of the nation's weather right now. Bonnie Schneider standing by in our severe weather center.
Bonnie, good morning.
SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange where investors are buying even if consumers weren't. I'll have September's retail wrap next. You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS: Business news now. A slew of retailers are warning of weaker profits. We don't need this. Susan Lisovicz is at the New York Stock Exchange with that and how reaction is coming in from the street, from investors.
And, Susan, look, I'm all worried out. You can't tell me now that I have to start worrying about the retail sector, too.
(STOCK MARKET REPORT)
COLLINS: Short strike and now back to work. A walkout at Chrysler lasted just six hours. The company and the United Auto Workers union reached a tentative four-year deal. The contract reportedly addresses the major sticking point of retiree health care. It still has to be approved. The tentative agreement comes as workers ratified their new contract with GM. That deal was reached two weeks ago following a two-day strike. The UAW now moves on to Ford. Those negotiations could prove a little trickier, though. Ford lost $12.6 billion last year. It may want deeper concessions than GM and Chrysler.
HARRIS: And, once again, we are standing by. We understand we are righted inside the two minute window for the start of this news conference where we expect -- well, we need to at this point. We need to get more information. So many questions about yesterday's shooting. The 14-year-old young man at the center of it killed himself. We are expecting to hear from a number of officials there in Cleveland, the police chief, Michael McGrath, perhaps certainly the mayor, the CEO of Cleveland schools, Dr. Eugene Sanders, and perhaps a couple of other officials as well.
COLLINS: Yes, and I think one of the things, Tony, that we're going to be hoping to hear more about, not sure if it will be in this press conference or not, but I know we're going to follow it here, is this idea of this petition that apparently the student/parent organization put together asking for more security. There had been some changes in security. Originally there were two people onboard to watch over the students at Success Tech and then that was reduced down to one. Apparently there has been a petition that was written, presented at the school board. But according to the people you spoke with, including the mayor and the CEO of the school, they said they haven't seen it.
HARRIS: You know, I think that's interesting because what you ultimately want to know is if that petition really did -- well, let's listen in to the news conference.
MARTIN FLASK, DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC SAFETY, CLEVELAND, OHIO: I'm Marty Flask, director of public safety for the city of Cleveland.
This morning in a few minutes I'm going to introduce Maureen Harper (ph), the director of communications for the city of Cleveland, Commissioner Edward Eckart of EMS will give us a medical status, an update on the medical condition of those individuals who were injured yesterday at the school, and finally Chief McGrath, chief of police for the city of Cleveland. We'll have the opportunity to answer any specific questions and give you an update on the status of this investigation.
First of all, I'd like to express our appreciation, our collective appreciation to the continued support from the Cleveland municipal school district, their staff and their teachers, who have been very involved in this investigation and certainly have been very helpful. The chief of police and his staff are continuing what we expect to be a very lengthy investigation. We've been into this investigation now certainly a little bit less than 24 hours, so we have a lot of work left that needs to be done.
This tragic incident yesterday demands a full and thorough investigation. The chief of police, the mayor, the school district, and myself and all of us in this government and this community are committed to uncovering the facts, the truth about what really took place. But we also know at the same time that anytime there's a void in information, that void will be filled by rumors and innuendo. So we're here today, as we did yesterday, yesterday evening, to share with you the factual side of what we've been able to learn thus far.
MAUREEN HARPER, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS, CLEVELAND, OHIO: Good afternoon.
On behalf of Mayor Jackson, what I would like to let you know today is the step that Mayor Jackson and Dr. Sanders are taking in light of this tragedy.
Mayor Jackson and Dr. Sanders have been in constant communication. Dr. Sanders has told the mayor that as of 12:00 p.m. tomorrow he will present Mayor Jackson with a plan that will address both safety and security, along with the human relations side of moving forward after this tragedy.
The safety and security side will address things like what type of devices are used to protect our students in the school, metal detectors, that sort of thing, along with what other security measures need to be put in place, securing entrance to the schools. On the human relations side, they will present a plan surrounding how we interact with our students and our teachers in our district, how we help identify potential problems and spot the red flags and how we handle those red flags when they do come up.
Again, that information will be presented to Mayor Jackson by Dr. Sanders tomorrow by 12:00 noon. After that time, after Mayor Jackson has been fully briefed, both Dr. Sanders and Mayor Jackson will present that plan to you and to our community.
EDWARD ECKART, COMMISSIONER OF EMS, CLEVELAND, OHIO: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
I just wanted to give a brief update this afternoon on the medical condition from the patients that were transported from the incident yesterday. I'm very pleased to be able to announce that the male that ended up in surgery yesterday afternoon at Metro Health Medical Center is doing very well. He's out on a regular post-surgical floor where he's being monitored and he continues to recover and his prognosis is very good.
The other male that was -- that sustained a gunshot wound that was transported to Metro Health was treated and released late yesterday evening from the hospital. He will follow up as an outpatient and his prognosis is also very good.
The male -- 17-year-old male that sustained a gunshot wound to the elbow was treated and released yesterday evening also from Metro Health. He will follow up in the orthopedic clinic early next week for some minor rehabilitation and continue treatment with a good or excellent prognosis.
The 15-year-old male and the 15-year-old female that were transported to Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital were admitted overnight last night for further observation. Both conditions were upgraded from stable to good and are expected to be released later today with good prognosis.
Just the last thing that I wanted to mention is, in our review of what took place yesterday, I just want to acknowledge the safety and security staff from the CMSD. In one of the cases, it appears that the quick reaction of one of the security guards probably saved Mr. Grassie life and the action that was taken place by the security guard in stopping the bleeding and stabilizing him as quickly as was done. And so I just want to let you all know publicly that, from our perspective, the CMSD and all of the staff over at the school handled the situation very, very well and, at least in this case, it probably saved somebody's life.
So at this point I will turn it over to Chief McGrath for further comments.
CHIEF MICHAEL MCGRATH, CLEVELAND POLICE: Good morning, everyone.
As of now, the Cleveland division of police, in conjunction with the county coroner's office, is conducting a very lengthy investigation. We have interviewed several witnesses, but we have many more to interview.
What I'd like to do is touch on are a few things that were presented to me yesterday that I didn't have answers to. So I'd like to -- some things I can clear up and there will be other things I will not be able to clear up.
The first thing, there was a question posed yesterday relative to a bomb threat at the school on Friday. We have no record of a bomb threat being called in at the school Friday.
Another question that was posed was the number of incidents that took place at that particular school over the course of the last year. And since October 2006 to present, there were 15 incidents at the school that we have recorded in our system. The only one that involved a weapon was a bb gun, which was confiscated. Most of the complaints were assaults that were taken at other districts and other locations and some silent 911 calls.
Another question that was posed was, how many times we responded to the shooter's residence. Since 2006, we've responded to that residence five times. And it concerned domestic violence calls, an assault call, a property crime call, hit skip accident. And we did respond to that home yesterday when we were looking for the parents of that young man.
I'd like to reiterate, when the body was recovered in the school, recovered either on the body or next to the body were two firearms. Both firearms were revolvers, a 22 caliber and a 38 revolver. Two boxes of ammunition, one box was for 38, the other one was for 22 caliber. And three tactical folding knives. This is the property that was recovered with the body in the school.
Also recovered in the school in a fourth floor bathroom was a duffel bag and some clothes. There was no weapons or contraband recovered in the bathroom.
Also yesterday during the course of searching the building, the S.W.A.T. unit did locate two teachers and 12 students that were still locked in the library, which was a very good move on the part of the teachers at that particular location. And we are now currently reviewing the tape that they have from that school.
What we know right now, and this is very preliminary, and I have to stress it's very preliminary because we've only interviewed a small number of witnesses, but we do understand that the suspect entered the school. After entering the school, he went to a bathroom on the fourth floor. It was in that bathroom that he changed clothes and probably, I can't be specific, removed whatever he had from the duffel bag and placed it on his person. After exiting the bathroom, he encountered a student. After encountering that student, he did go to a specific classroom and encounter a teacher. And as a result, shot that teacher.
He exited that room and looked for another teacher. And somewhere during the course of those events, he fired some more rounds at another teacher who was trying to assist children exiting the floor. What we know now is that all the shooting took place on the fourth floor of the school. The one teacher who was shot in the back made it to the third floor and that's where he was treated.
With that information, I'll open it up to any questions and answers you may have for me. But I tried to answer some of the questions that were posed yesterday evening. But let me stress, this is all preliminary. This will be a lengthy investigation because of the numerous students and teachers and witnesses at the school.
QUESTION: Chief, (INAUDIBLE). Was one of those people involved in the fight? One of the victims that was shot yesterday?
MCGRATH: At this time we do not know. But preliminarily we don't think so. But we have to review that tape and we've put in a request to review that tape.
QUESTION: Chief, is it too early to know any history about the guns?
MCGRATH: Yes, sir, it is. These were older weapons, so therefore it's going to take ATF a little longer to track down the source.
QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) blogged? Because the student blogged -- say he didn't start that fight on Monday (INAUDIBLE) but he also didn't start the fight (INAUDIBLE).
MCGRATH: I did not read his blog. And the detectives are currently interviewing the witnesses, et cetera, including the other gentleman that was involved in that particular incident. But until they complete their investigation, I won't have an answer to this question.
QUESTION: Do you know if the security guard was a security guard that's normally there or was it somebody new?
MCGRATH: I'd have to defer that question to the board of education. As far as -- I know there was an armed security guard at the entrance to the building during the day of the incident.
QUESTION: Have you been able to learn anything through interviews with family members, specifically his older brother, about those guns?
MCGRATH: No, but we will be talking to the older brother and the mother relative to those weapons.
QUESTION: How involved will the Cleveland police be (INAUDIBLE) CEO Sanders (INAUDIBLE) planned (INAUDIBLE).
MCGRATH: Let me say this. We will be partners with the board of education relative to their security plan. We've been partners with them for the last three years, very, very intently. So we will be partners and we will assist them with whatever they need in presenting their plan.
QUESTION: What do you mean about securing that building? Is it a different type (INAUDIBLE) downtown (INAUDIBLE). Can you speak to some of the security challenges in your expertise of that building?
MCGRATH: Well, let me say this. Each building within the school district, each school building has its own challenges and they're all different. And this particular building, like you said, because it's not in a neighborhood per say, there are different challenges. But our number one concerns are the students and how they go to and from school and that in itself a is a challenge downtown.
HARRIS: OK. There you have it. Cleveland Police Chief McGrath taking questions now from reporters. A couple of big takeaways from this news conference today. We ended up getting a lot of information. We talked to Mayor Frank Jackson and the CEO of Cleveland schools, Dr. Eugene Sanders, earlier in the NEWSROOM. And, you know, often what we did was we push forward. We want to find out what's going to come of this. How do you move forward? What are the initial steps? And we've learned in this news conference that by noon tomorrow there will be a plan from the CEO of Cleveland schools to the mayor. A plan that will present an enhanced notion, an enhanced plan for safety and security for Cleveland schools, in addition to improved community relations and a new intervention plan to identify troubled students and to get them some help as soon as possible.
COLLINS: Yes, pointing out some of those red flags.
We did not hear what we were hoping to hear about that possible petition that may exist where some of the parents, the people had gotten together. The student/parent organization put a petition together and apparently presented it to the school board about the security system that was in place. They wanted more security. We heard from officials that said, you know, we never really saw a petition. So interesting on that. We also learned there were some heroics that went on. We usually seem to hear that in situations like this. One of the security guards actually really performing some great EMS and possibly saving Mr. Grassie's life, one of the . . .
HARRIS: Absolutely. And maybe the best news out of all of this, that everyone injured yesterday is on the mend.
COLLINS: Yes, very, very good news. It could have been worse, as we said before.
HARRIS: Yes, absolutely.
COLLINS: That's all we have for now. We will be back tomorrow. CNN continues just one hour from now.
HARRIS: "YOUR WORLD TODAY" is next with news happening across the globe and here at home.
I'm Tony Harris.
COLLINS: And I'm Heidi Collins. We'll see you, everybody.
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