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Source: Closer to 30 Killed at School; Connecticut Governor to Speak at 3:30PM ET; Witness: Principal and Psychologist Killed

Aired December 14, 2012 - 14:30   ET


MEREDITH ARTLEY, MANAGING EDITOR, CNN.COM (via telephone): And she said that she cowered under the table during that moment, and called 911 as did the other people in the room.

She said she never saw the shooter. That she was, you know she was under the table, that the shooting happened in the hallway and to hear her describe it, she said there must have been 100 rounds. And I asked her to clarify that, I said, really, truly, 100 rounds, she said at least.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When the vice principal came crawling back, what happened at that point? What did she say? How did the vice principal manage to move or escape? Did she describe what was the situation as he was crawling back?

ARTLEY: She described -- she said that -- she said there was confusion there was yelling and understandably, she said there was yelling in the hallway, and she couldn't -- she couldn't tell for a while if it was the police or the shooter it. When I talked to her, she was still inside the school, the school was on lockdown she didn't know if the shooter was dead yet or still there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did the vice principal look like? When she saw him return?

ARTLEY: I didn't -- I didn't hear her describe that. She said, you know, she said, listen, this is a nice town, this is a nice school, these are the kind of things that don't happen there. She noted this was not some high powered meeting.

It was, you know, about my -- about one of my children who was in second grade there. And she -- she was tearful, she's, you know, just understandably panicked, and she said they marched.

At some point, I don't have the length of time, but she said at some point after the shooting they marched us out in the hallway, right past the two bodies, laying in the hallway in a pool of blood.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When she talked about the two bodies, is that of the principal and the school psychologist when she said those two had not returned? Are those the two individuals that she --

ARTLEY: That's right. That's right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And did she say or describe in any way what their conditions looked like when she passed in the hallway?

ARTLEY: No, she did not. She did not. She -- we had a short conversation, she is understandably emotional. Those are pretty much the gist of -- that's the gist of our conversation.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: That conversation, Meredith Artley, the managing editor of had. We're standing by, we're now told about an hour or so from now the governor of Connecticut, Daniel Malloy, will be making a statement, and answering reporters' questions.

We'll, of course, have live coverage of that. We're also getting more information on what has happened, just to update our viewers who may just be tuning in now at the bottom of the hour.

CNN now has been told by law enforcement authorities close to 30 people have been killed, killed in this mass shooting incident in Connecticut at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. That's not far away from Danbury, 60 miles outside of New York City.

Of those 30, nearly 30 killed, we're told 18 to 20 of them are children. In fact, we don't know how many people have been injured. We're getting more information coming in from eyewitnesses and law enforcement authorities.

But right now want to bring in Ronald Stevens, the executive director of the National School Safety Center, who deals with school safety all over the country, puts out protocols, what should be done. When you heard about this, Ronald, what did you think?

RONALD STEVENS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SCHOOL SAFETY CENTER: This was truly tragic that someone would attack the most innocent of all children, particularly with these youngsters being in Grades K through 4. A lot of the violence we deal with is with those at the high school level, but truly a tragic and difficult situation for everyone in Connecticut.

BLITZER: So what do we do about this kind of -- your job is to make sure our schools, whether little elementary schools, like this one, or middle schools, or high schools, they are safe for parents to drop off their kids, not have to worry about these kinds of incidents. What do you do in the aftermath of this horrific mass murder?

STEVENS: Well, in the aftermath we need to go back and take a look at what did unfold. When you have shooters who are committed to come on to a campus with high powered semiautomatic weapons, there is not a whole lot that can be done when this staff is unarmed and when they attack children who are so young.

And oftentimes our elementary schools are the last of the schools to ever get an arms school resource officer or someone like that. This is a tragic reminder of how vulnerable our children continue to be. And, you know, there are just limitations on what the school can do. They need to have good safe, school plans in place, adequate supervision, but when you have someone who is deranged and comes on the campus like this, it is truly tragic.

BLITZER: This is a small school, a kindergarten through fourth grade, less than 600 students attend this Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Ronald, hold on for a moment. John King is getting more information for us. What are you learning, John?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I want to pass on some information. This is from a second federal law enforcement source I spoke to in Washington, D.C., they are getting information from FBI officials on the scene, other federal and state authorities on the scene.

This source is now saying that 27 is the new, but still preliminary number. They are working off now. They believe 27 killed in this school shooting. They call that number new but preliminary, but there could be additional information.

Wolf, as you know, in a breaking news tragedy like this, often the numbers change as the day goes on and more information becomes available. But of the 27 this source, which is the number they are looking at right now, this source said at least 18, at least 18 of the dead are children at the school today.

This source going on to say that information from the scene is the shooter you've been talking about with other reporters was born in 1988. Believe he's 24 years old. Again that is information from the scene. It could change, but the federal official I talked to said they believe that is reliable information.

And that the shooter who is dead at the scene is, quote, "not a stranger to the school," not a stranger to the school, this official said. He also said the shootings, quote, "happened relatively quickly" and in the same concentrated area of the school.

He was not running the halls, meaning not running the halls firing the weapon. So the source, again, I want to reiterate say happened relatively quickly and in the same concentrated area of the school, and, again, this source saying 27 is the number now operating on.

You just mentioned. We're going to hear from the governor shortly, he's asked state police at the scene and others at the scene not to release the firm number until he can speak to all of the families involved, but we're getting at roughly consistent in that area.

This source saying 27 is the number they believe. A federal official, a second source I spoke to earlier said he was hearing 26 or 27 and certainly said they are convinced from the reports they're getting from the scene that the number of dead, Wolf, closer to 30 than to 20.

BLITZER: Any word at all on injuries? We know local hospitals have received injured students and others.

KING: I was told by one of the first source earlier that several people were wounded and taken to local hospitals because they were so focused on trying to get the number of fatalities and trying to deal with making sure that they had doubled, triple checked that school.

Both for evidence and to make sure there were no other bodies, no other people hiding, that in my conversations with the sources, that was their urgent concern. The source I did speak to earlier, this is a little more than an hour ago. The first source said that several people were wounded, did not have any information on the severity of those injuries.

BLITZER: We're awaiting word from the governor of Connecticut, Dannel Malloy, also awaiting word from the president of the United States, both, we're told, will be making statements soon. We'll get more information from both the president and the governor.

John, stand by. I know you're working your sources, getting more information as well. Brooke Baldwin is joining us from the CNN Center right now. Brooke, what a horrific, horrific moment.

You know, at the beginning, I'm sure like you, when we first heard word of what was going on, we thought, you know, another incident, but then the horrific numbers start coming in.

And you think of these little kids, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade in a small elementary school like this, and you say, how could this happen?

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Exactly. My heart is heavy today and I think many people around CNN, around the nation, around the world, are feeling for these parents, the parents, of course, of the survivors.

But I'm thinking particularly of these parents who are sitting in this firehouse, near this school, wondering if one of their children is one of those who is no longer with us.

As we continue to watch these pictures and pray and think about this community, this sleepy New England community here in Connecticut, I want to bring in Victor Blackwell, who has been sort of combing through some of the day, as this has been a very fluid story. We have been hearing from little ones, adults, parents, police, it is horrific.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And it is a national tragedy. But as you look at the children, and their parents, you realize this is also a very personal tragedy. A small town, a relatively small school, and these children were just going to school on a normal day. Their parents got a robocall, an automated call there had been a shooting.

BALDWIN: At a school.

BLACKWELL: At a school. And then you imagine the feelings, the rush to the school. So we put together from these parents, from the children, from law enforcement this horrific morning in Newtown.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I was getting in my car, I heard sirens going off continuously, car after car after car, some of them were flying up past my house and coming back around again and going to the school. This house is three houses away from the school.

LT. PAUL VANCE, CONNECTICUT STATE POLICE: Just after 9:30 this morning Newtown police received a 911 call for an emergency at the elementary school. Newtown PD upon obtaining information as to the status of the situation contacted the Connecticut state police and requested assistance from state police and surrounding local police departments.

ALEXIS, STUDENT: We saw a police officer and we heard them on the roof and in our building.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you hear any gunshots or anything like that?

ALEXIS: Well, police officers, like, they were kind of, because they're police officers, like, right out the door, like trying to find the guy.

ALEXIS' FATHER: It was shocking. I got the call at work this morning and I can't believe a small town like this would ever have anything like this happen. And to be in an elementary school, it's unheard of.

ALEXIS' MOTHER: Doesn't even seem real. It just does not seem like it is even possible. It is like you read it in the paper, see it in the news and you think, my God, that poor family and then you have something happen so close to home, it's, like, I think I'm still in shock.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can tell you that first of all, obviously, our hearts and prayers go out to the victims of this terrible incident, very tragic. Our police are currently working closely with the Newtown Police Department. We have mutual aid agreements in place. Along with the state police that have taken a lead in this investigation.

VANCE: The scene is secure. The state police major crimes squad and Newtown Police Department, Danbury State Attorney and many agencies are working together to answer all the questions surrounding exactly what happened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was everybody crying, scared, wanting their parents to come get them?

ALEXIS: Yes. They were and then some people were even, like, they kind of felt they got a stomach ache.


BLACKWELL: A stomach ache. That just puts into context, we're not talking Aurora. This is not Fort Hood. This is not Virginia Tech. This is K through 4, 5 through 9, maybe, and you imagine that without being maudlin that though that mother of Alexis, she said her heart was in a million pieces, when she heard about the shooting. And even up to this moment of all this happening, she doesn't -- she said it doesn't seem real there are still all the parents who will go home today, and possibly, because it is the holiday season, already have the house decorated for the holidays.

BALDWIN: The gifts for the kids.

BLACKWELL: The gifts for the kids not coming home. If that number holds, 27 from John King's sources, that would make this the second deadliest mass shooting and would have been the second deadliest just with the 18 children who were killed today.

BALDWIN: It is horrendous. I was -- I covered the -- a couple of itty-bitty kids killed in the Amish shooting, but there is no comparison. There is absolutely no comparison as you point out. We're talking kids as young as kindergartners.

Wolf Blitzer, I know you have a daughter, I can't begin to imagine. My heart is bleeding for these families right now.

BLITZER: Yes, it's so sad. Everyone around the country, dare I say around the world, our hearts are so filled with sadness right now. And it is only going to get worse as we get more details and just imagine, Brooke, once we start seeing the pictures of these dead little kids.

It is going to be an awful, awful scene for people in Connecticut all over the world that we will all have to endure and learn some painful lessons from what has just happened.

We just got this comment from a young kid who was there on the scene, witnessed what was going on, and said this.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: There was, like, police officers, like, down on the roof and there was also in the hallways.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What were they telling you guys?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: They didn't really tell us anything. Just keep in the classroom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They removed you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They moved them to the firehouse. That's where all the parents and everybody came.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were all the kids brave like you were?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Some of them were, like, a little scared, but we had to go through it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did you know they were scared?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Everybody was, like, crying and stuff. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Ronald Stevens is still with us, the executive director of the National School Safety Center. Ronald, we know there are some schools in urban areas, but elsewhere, that have metal detectors at the doorways. Are we going to be seeing more of this now? Should we see more of this now?

STEVENS: It's possible we might see more. But even with metal detectors, things happen so quickly, you can think of the situation at Red Lake, Minnesota, where they had officers and metal detectors at the door and yet the shooter still came in.

It is one of those tragedies that is just simply unfathomable, and I don't know of any school in America that would be prepared to handle an assault-like incident that we have been hearing about this morning.

BLITZER: So does that mean we just throw up our hands and say there is nothing we can do?

STEVENS: I don't think it means that. When we start looking into this matter and doing the investigation, I think we're going to find, I will predict we'll find that there were a number of warning signs, in advance.

Most of the shootings like this reflect that there generally are more than one -- is more than one person involved, and that there were some signals perhaps along the way.

But once again, we have such incredible freedom in this country, and yet that comes with enormous responsibility and to even fathom this kind of tragedy visited upon young children of this nature is stunning.

BLITZER: It looks like now based on the latest information we're getting, John King reporting 27 dead, 18 or so of them children in this mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

We just got this reaction in from a father and a son, who were on the scene, the father obviously was rushing there and panicked. Watch this. We don't have it yet, but we're going to get it ready for our viewers.

More reaction coming in, Ronald Stevens still with us, the executive director of the National School Safety Center. Ronald, is there any advice you want to give to parents who are watching right now because kids are in school all over the country.

STEVENS: Well, I would just encourage parents to tell their children that they love them, spend some time with them, try to offer some form of comfort, and just realize how precious they are.

I know from my own perspective this morning, I saw three of my grandchildren between the same ages, 5 to 9 or 10, in school go away. It is a parent's and administrator's worst nightmare. The administrators say they never thought it would happen here, who experienced this. And parents just don't think it could happen in their communities. But this is a vivid reminder of where our society is today.

BLITZER: We're now told the president will be in the White House in the west wing, he'll go into the press briefing room at 3:15, less than a half an hour from now, 3:15 p.m. Eastern and deliver a statement on this mass killing in Connecticut.

Listen to this clip. We just got it in, a father and son at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was terrifying. I'm still terrified. I think I'm in shock about it all. I still don't know everything that happened. I know there were some people missing. They have been taken to the hospital. I don't know if everyone has been accounted for.

It is terrifying. You know, the -- you rush over here, and you can't get to where you need to go and you have to park down here and walk. I'm glad my son is OK. He seems to be handling it actually pretty good right now. I know my son's teachers have been okay as well. But I've heard other teachers are not OK.


BLITZER: Once again, the preliminary reports coming in right now, 27 dead, that number potentially could change, 18 to 20, we're told, children. Others, teachers and others at the small Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Once again, the president of the United States will be speaking on this issue at 3:15 p.m. Eastern from the White House press briefing room. We'll have live coverage of that.

We're also awaiting remarks from the governor of Connecticut, Dannel Malloy. Much more coming up. We're following the breaking news, a horrific, horrific story, one of the largest mass killings in a school in the United States, in U.S. history, the story is unfolding right now.


BALDWIN: You are looking at images that we are now multiple hours into this horrific, horrific crime that has happened in this small sleepy New England town of Newtown, Connecticut.

At this elementary school, the call came in to 911 around 9:30 this morning, a gunman walked into this school. The latest number we have, and, again, these are loose numbers, these are preliminary numbers, because let me stress this, police, law enforcement, they want to get the information to the victims' families first, the numbers could change. We're hearing closer to 30 killed at the school, as far as children, little children, kindergarten through fourth grade, somewhere between 18 and 20 children. There is a firehouse, a makeshift shelter for a lot of these families who some of whom have their children, some of whom do not.

We were hearing from John King, from some of his federal law enforcement sources, that the shooter, this -- in his 20s, Ryan Lanza, let me quote this federal law enforcement officer, saying Ryan Lanza not a stranger to the school, saying that the shootings, quote, "happened relatively quickly and in the same concentrated area of the school."

He was not running in the halls. We're getting new information. We also know that the president of the United States has spoken with the head of the FBI. He has spoken with the governor of Connecticut. He may be speaking shortly.

Want to take you to our chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin standing by. Jessica, do we have any idea if and when the president will speak?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Hi, Brooke, yes. President Obama is going to speak at 3:15 p.m. Eastern Time. That's about 25 minutes from now. He will come to the press briefing room in the White House and address cameras.

And, you know, this is one of the times when the president is really able to really touch a chord. You know he spoke very movingly after the shootings around Gabby Giffords, the attack on Gabby Giffords and so many people on her staff, when he said at that time, remember, it is part of our nature to demand explanation.

He said at that time, bad things happen. We have to guard against simple explanations in the aftermath. Already today, the White House Press Secretary Jay Carney made clear that this is not a time to talk about political and policy responses.

But think about the families and how they are reacting, how they feel in the aftermath and I expect that's what the president will address, both the federal response, federal help, the law enforcement, and how the nation will come together to help those families heal -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Jessica Yellin, we'll wait and watch for the president to speak there from the White House briefing room in just about 25 minutes from now. And, Wolf Blitzer, back to you, but something else that Jay Carney said earlier today, vis-a-vis the president, the president has two young daughters, he's sympathetic to these parents who, I'm sure, are just absolutely reeling right now.

BLITZER: Yes. He says those two young daughters of his, Sasha and Malia, to school every day like millions of other parents do every day, they don't expect what has happened in Connecticut to unfold.

It is a shocking, shocking story that we're watching. Once again, 3:15, 20 minutes or so from now, 3:15 p.m. Eastern, the president will be in the briefing room, making a statement to the nation.

Joining us now on the phone is Rabbi Praver, a rabbi in the area in Connecticut. You're at the firehouse where parents have been brought. Is that right? Tell us what is going on there.

RABBI SHAUL PRAVER, AT FIRE STATION WITH EVACUATED CHILDREN (via telephone): OK, we're all gathered here at the firehouse. First, we were speaking with the teachers to find out the students who were absent, not absent.

And there is another room where there are parents whose children were taken to the hospital after the shooting. And they're waiting for the governor to return to provide further information about their condition.

BLITZER: Has the governor been inside that firehouse with you speaking to parents?

PRAVER: Yes. The governor was with us and is coming back at 3:00.

BLITZER: These are parents who may have lost their children, who may have been killed in this incident. Is that what you're --

PRAVER: Yes, that's what I'm saying. Their children were taken to a hospital, and there is a certain amount of children taken to the hospitals and a certain amount parents.

And some of them already, I think, might, well, I don't think they know conclusively, but many of them suspect, you know, that their children were victims, but we're just holding out hope that the injured will, you know, be OK.

BLITZER: Rabbi Praver, please stand by for a moment. Mary Snow is outside the suspect's home, we're told, Ryan Lanza. Mary, tell us what you're learning.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, Wolf, it is an active crime scene and there is more than a dozen law enforcement vehicles here. We're being kept back from the home. It is cordoned off.

We did see an ambulance leave this scene about 15 minutes ago and neighbors have been told to -- that they can't go back into their homes. One neighbor I spoke with said that around 11:00, police came and told her to evacuate right away.

She said she was back an hour later, where police escorted her to her home, but she was told again to leave and there is no indication of when these residents are going to be allowed back into their home.

In terms of what people are saying about the Lanzas, I only found one neighbor so far who knows of the family. She did not want to be named, but the only thing she would tell me is that there were two brothers, and she described them as troubled, but didn't want to go any further than that. But that is the scene. And it is a beautiful New England town, very quiet road. The houses are set apart from one another. And right now there is yellow police tape, but it is blocking anyone from going through.

And the law enforcement vehicles and police are standing guard preventing anybody from getting any further to the house.

BLITZER: Newtown, Connecticut, is a population of under 2,000 people. It is located in Fairfield County about 45 miles southwest of Hartford, about 80 miles northeast of New York City.

Mary, we'll get back to you. The suspect -- the suspected gunman, Ryan Lanza, in his 20s, he died at the scene. We don't know the circumstances. We'll be getting more information on that.

Joining us now, Steve Hardy, former police detective, who worked, unfortunately, these kinds of homicides over the years. Walk us through what police are going through right now, Steve.

STEVE HARDY, FORMER POLICE DETECTIVE: Well, first of all, Wolf, they certainly already have tended to the wounded, get the injured out of there, secure that area, locate as many witnesses as possible. That school is going to be closed down for probably a lengthy period of time, while they conduct their investigation.

They're going to put the pieces together, in chronological order, see how this happened, was he killed in self-inflicted gunshot or did the teachers and the principal fight back, disarming and possibly killing him?

BLITZER: Now they will go ahead and try to figure out why this happened, why a gunman in his 20s, went into this particular school, with weapons, and started killing kids.

HARDY: Yes, unfortunately this is the platform that people like this are seeking out, educational institutions, soft targets, if you want to commit a crime like this. Unfortunately, we don't have in place right now the mechanism to protect our young and our loved ones.

BLITZER: What should we be doing, Steve, as someone who used to work in law enforcement, what should we be doing?

HARDY: Matter of fact, Wolf, back at Virginia Tech, I re-created Virginia Tech and how to take that back. We have to educate the teachers. We all -- all of our institutions have plans for something like this, however when it happens, it is beyond comprehension.

We have to train our teachers to be able to direct the children, especially at this age, direct them and tell them what to do because they can't act on their own. They are defenseless against something like this.

It is the adults that have to pick up this process. Our education system, law enforcement, and it has got to go beyond the Education Department to the president's office because the institutions and just imagine what is being planted in people's heads and why they're doing this.

BLITZER: Steve Hardy, stand by. We're going to continue this conversation.