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News Conference On Texas Church Massacre; Gunman Died of Self- Inflicted Gunshot To The Head; Texas Gunman's Record: Assaulted Wife, Broke Stepson's Skull; Survivor's Son: Gunman Walked Up And Down Aisle Shooting. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired November 6, 2017 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: --- just started. Let's listen.

FREEMAN MARTIN, REGIONAL DIRECTOR, TEXAS DEPARTMENT PUBLIC SAFETY: Keep all the families in this community in your thoughts and prayers. They're very much welcome and very much need during these troubling times.

The Texas Rangers, DPS personnel, the FBI, ATF, and Wilson County Sheriff's Office, and several other agencies continue to work continuously over the last few days. You know, I'd like to mention something about the Unified Command. There are many, many agencies involved in this investigation.

And if we are unified into one team with one mission, and in my opinion, this investigation right here is what right looks like. Every agency has their own expertise, and we're using that expertise to do a very, very thorough investigation.

As far as the investigation, we collected a substantial amount of evidence to be -- to piece together what happened here. Bodies have been removed and transported to the Medical Examiner's Office for autopsy.

The substantial amount of evidence, physical evidence has been collected including hundreds of shell casings, more than 15 magazines. Thirty round capacity magazines have been recovered. The suspect's vehicle has been processed with the suspect's body inside.

Multiple interviews have been conducted in numerous cities and other states. Victims have been identified and next of kin have been notified. What is used to be done from this point, we need to finalize the list, identifying the deceased victims and complete the notifications to next of kin. We plan to have that done and released the victim's names as soon as possible.

Tonight we hope to finish the evidence collection process. And we will begin forensic mapping and trajectory analysis tomorrow. What I can tell you today the autopsy was performed on the shooter. And if you notice I used shooter instead of the suspect's name, we do not want to glorify him and what he's done. But the autopsy was conducted this morning. And what I can tell you is he sustained three gunshot wounds. Two gunshot wounds were from the armed citizen. One of those was in the leg and the other one was in the torso. And he had a third gunshot wound which the medical examiner described as being consistent with being self-inflicted.

There's no change regarding the victims. We still have four victims in serious condition, 10 in critical condition. And the number of deceased has not changed.

Texas DPS Victim Services continue working with the victims and their families through this horrible tragedy.

And with that, you know, I'd like to thank you all for coming. We'll entertain any question. I believe the FBI special agent in charge has some brief comments. Chris Combs.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where was the third wound?

COMBS: Good afternoon. So I just want to commend the commander from DPS for not mentioning the shooter's name. Certainly, we don't want to glorify what has happened there as there are couple of campaigns out there one is called "Don't Name Them". And we don't talk about the shooter, we don't see his name out there in the press, so it doesn't encourage other people to do horrific acts like this.

I can tell you that the scene in there is horrific, it's not even a word to describe it. I certainly want to commend the first responders who went in there from FIRE, EMS and the Police Department and the FBI and the DPS Ranger, several teams that are in there now taking care of this. I think that's an important part we should all always remember.

I know there's a lot of questions about the FBI NICS system and how did the person get the weapons. I can tell you that for the four purchases that he made, the NICS system did their required checks and there was no prohibited information that in the system that we checked that say that he could not have purchase that firearm. There are three checks that are conducted, one is NCIC, one is a criminal history check, and another one is (INAUDIBLE) and the NICS system itself.

So in all three of those databases there was not information that we would say was prohibitive for that man to get the firearm. Thank you very much.

MARTIN: The question was, the third gunshot wound was to the head. The wound that was self-inflicted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that a failure of the U.S. military or not (INAUDIBLE).

COMBS: So obviously, everybody's taking a look at what happened there. I believe the Air Force released a statement about 30 minutes ago, so we're working with them to try to figure out what happened there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The shooter's grandmother, was she involved?

MARTIN: I'm sorry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, was the shooter's grandmother involved or one of the victims?

MARTIN: She was not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was he released from the army?

MARTIN: I'm sorry I can't hear you.


[19:05:02] MARTIN: We know he was released from the army and we have to refer to Air Force on that. It was the Air Force.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where was the self-inflicted gunshot wound?

MARTIN: To the head.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There have been unconfirmed reports that the suspect may have taken a hostage in the car (INAUDIBLE). Any truth to that?

MARTIN: That is not confirmed. That is not true.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was mentioned today that the shooter may have attended the same church?

MARTIN: I'm not aware of the shooter attending this church. He had family members that have been to this -- the spouse attended this church.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The grandmother was not involved?

MARTIN: Oh, the grandmother-in-law? We're not aware of that at this time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, earlier you said the suspect called his father. Can you expand on that conversation a little bit and tell us if the family has been cooperative?

MARTIN: They have been cooperative, and I really can't expand on that, because of that cooperation and communications. And out of respect for them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Director, one of the victims was reportedly pregnant. Will that change the murder count charge?

MARTIN: That number was included. One of the victims was pregnant.


MARTIN: I'm sorry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was this intended to be a revenge shooting? The account that (INAUDIBLE).

MARTIN: I can't comment further on that. We know there was conflict between the families and whether that was revenge or not would be speculation on my part.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you say that the --

MARTIN: We're not aware if -- we're unaware if she's one of the victims or not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't say no for sure?

MARTIN: I can't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you speak to the messages that the shooter sent to his mother-in-law?

MARTIN: I can't. Those -- the phones are being explored at this time, and I don't have that information.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said the crime was not racial, not religious- motivated. If we say right now that he came to kill the mother-in-law?

MARTIN: There are many ways that he could have taken care of the mother-in-law without coming with 125 loaded magazines and an assault rifle to a church. I think he came here with a purpose and a mission. And I have -- yes, that's my --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many magazines -- (OFF-MIC)

MARTIN: I'm sorry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many magazines? Did you say 15 earlier?

MARTIN: There were 15 magazines collected here at the crime scene.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many were empty?

MARTIN: All of them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for coming out, ladies and gentlemen with a lot of questions. We will have a briefing for you tomorrow. Continue to follow us on Twitter and also through the e-mail as well. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What time do you think (INAUDIBLE)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll announce that through e-mail and Twitter as well. ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: All right, that was the press conference there from the scene of the Texas church massacre where 26 people ranging in age from 17 months to 77 years were killed. Horrific act.

And we've learned some very crucial information there in that press conference. Sara Sidner is OutFront, she is near the shooter's home in New Braunfels, Texas.

And Sara, we did just learned a lot there including the 15 magazines, and they're not even sure if his grandmother in law is part of this domestic dispute that seemed to be going on was -- has survived or not. So many questions still at this hour.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's true, and I thought it was interesting to note, Erin, that there were 15 magazines and then the law enforcement officer was asked, well, were there any bullets left in those magazines, he said no. So, literally he used 15 magazines worth of bullets on those people in the church. These innocents just being slaughtered there with no way to know what was coming.

There were other details that law enforcement also shared earlier that he was wearing all black that he had on a ballistic vest. And that he was wearing some sort of a mask to cover his face that had a white skull on the front of it as well. Clearly, he came there to do battle with someone and he took out so many people, injured so many more.

We also, Erin, heard from them, talking about some of the details of maybe what was in the phones because apparently there were text messages that were sent. Law enforcement said, look, there were some text messages sent to his wife's family members, his mother-in-law that were threatening. So they say, look, we think this was about some sort of domestic dispute. We know there were problems between him and his wife's family.

But one of the officers has said, look, this is not about religion, this is not about politics. This is about a domestic issue as it appears. But now we hear another sort of backtracking a little from that saying, look, he could have taken out a family member in any way he pleased. He definitely came to this church with a plan. Not sure exactly what that means at this hour.

[19:10:09] There's also -- the investigation is still ongoing, they're still collecting evidence. As you might imagine with so many people killed and injured inside of that church, Erin?

BURNETT: All right, Sara Sidner, thank you very much. It's so important what you just said, he definitely came with a plan.

I think the words used there by Freeman Martin with the Texas Department of Public Safety was, there was a lot of ways he could have, quote, taken care of his mother-in-law. Obviously, not well put, but the point is, he chose to go to a church and slaughter innocent people. That's 450 rounds that he fired in that church from what they just told us.

And a big part of this is going to those background checks as you heart the FBI right there say, everything checked, there was nothing in the background checks and the criminal history check that would have indicated that this shooter could not have had a gun. Well, the thing is, there is something in that background check but it wasn't entered in the system.

The Air Force tonight investigating how it failed to enter the shooter's domestic violence conviction and assault conviction. He served time in a military prison. He assaulted his stepson, damaging his skull. There were issues with the loaded firearm. That was not in the system check.

National Security Reporter Ryan Browne is OutFront at the Pentagon. And Ryan, obviously something went horribly wrong on that front?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, that's right, Erin. The Air Force is saying today in a statement that initial indications showed that the information pertaining to the shooter's assault conviction in a military court was not appropriately entered into the National Criminal Information Center database, that would have prevented him -- had that been entered, that would have prevented the shooter from ever purchasing a firearm.

The military has received guidance that they must enter such domestic violence convictions into this database, that's military policy. So the Air Forcer directing its inspector general to launch a review to see exactly what happened here. How this was missed by the base where -- the base where the shooter was tried, Holloman Air Force Base.

In addition, the Department of Defense launching its own review into policy to see exactly what went wrong here and how this person who should have never been allowed to purchase a firearm under the Air Force and military regulations was able to do so.

BURNETT: He was able to do so and four times over at least. A least as far as we're aware right now. I mean, Ryan, what is though this charge. Right, this charge that he ended up with a military court martial, he ended up serving a year in military prison. What were the charges? What did he do, and I believe admit to doing?

BROWNE: Well, that's right. So he was charged with violations of the uniform code of military justice, and the two charges, he plead guilty to involved assault against his then wife and assault against their stepson. An assault that was deemed so violent that it resulted in -- what the military said could have been grievous bodily harm or potential death. And -- but, there were other charges that he did not plead guilty to that were dropped including threatening his then wife with an armed firearm on several occasions.

So, again, very serious questions being raised by all of this. Erin?

BURNETT: All right, Ryan, thank you very much. And I want to go straight now on the heels of this breaking news and the press conference where we've just learned so much information, o Phil Mudd, former CIA counter terror official, Casey Jordan, criminologist and behavioral analyst, and Art Roderick, former U.S. Marshall. Art, let me start with you. What we learned there in that press conference, several things. One of them, 15 magazines, all of them with 30 rounds, right. You can have it with just all of them (INAUDIBLE) for the 30 rounds. That's 450 rounds that were shot.

ART RODERICK, FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR INVESTIGATIONS, U.S. MARSHALLS: You know, that's a lot of rounds because generally when you qualify with that type of firearm in the military or in law enforcement, you're shooting about a hundred rounds. This is almost 4 1/2 times that amount. And I can't even imagine -- you know, you can squeeze that trigger, hold that trigger back, it's semiautomatic, you have to keep squeezing it. It takes a while to empty a 30-round clip.

And do that and just keep reloading, the amount of time that took, it just had to be absolutely devastating to those people in that small area. It's just the sound that weapon going off to is completely deafening in that area like this.

BURNETT: And Casey, what we're hearing from the press conference again is they're now saying they're unsure whether his grandmother-in- law, who was in that church survived or not. Now, we know there was a serious domestic grievance that he perceived, they're not sure whether she is alive or dead.

As they pointed out, he had other ways he could have dealt with his family. He went to a church and he killed 26 people including infants, young children. And he shot 450 rounds, and as these people are screaming, he continues to shoot.

How does someone do that? This is close range. We're going to talk -- he was walking up and down the aisles shooting again and again and again at people on the ground to make sure they were dead.

[19:15:00] CASEY JORDAN, CRIMINOLOGIST: He won't say the word revenge, but that's the only word that could possibly describe why this is going on. And the wife's family is the missing link that will fill in the gaps of what exactly has been going on. What that conflict is about.

I think it wouldn't be a far stretch to assume that perhaps this family was encouraging this wife to leave him, or protecting her from his assaults. Or something that would certainly -- he chose the word trigger, but he had already held a loaded gun on his first wife. And now you have something going on, some beef that his wife's mother that he's making at the very morning sent threatening texts. That you're right, the church was not an accident. Everyone has agreed he was a complete atheist and didn't believe in God and was very vocal about that.

So I think the message was almost not just I'm going to get you, but your God cannot protect you.

BURNETT: I mean, so much that -- this is the thing here, the church was not an accident. As they say, he definitely came with a plan. He was dressed for this. He had 15 magazines, each equipped with 30 rounds. He was able to kill all these innocent people. He did have a plan, and it wasn't just about his family in that moment. Because it is possible that every single person here killed was not his family.

PHIL MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: Yes, I think he did have a plan. And the remarkable piece for me, Erin, is contrasting this with Las Vegas. We're a month plus out of Vegas and in the digital age, we're learning that within a day of this event you're going to start to see in the case of text messages maybe the beginnings of an outline of a motive.

I'm going to wage though over the coming days after interviews with family members, reviews of e-mails and further text messages, we will have a much more three dimensional picture not only of what was happening in the days before, but what was happening in the months before, and how his brain was changing as his family engaged with him.

Again, going back to Las Vegas, the reason so many people like me believe that you'll be able to find motive so quickly after an even like this, is in the digital age, you can you read all this stuff. The Vegas thing is an outlier because we're still looking at that one saying, we don't have that picture yet, and in this case, 24 hours out, we do.

BURNETT: Art, the other thing that we know here is that a huge error was made, OK? And we don't know whether this is going to be the error that actually, really this is how it could have happened. Maybe he could have end up getting a gun or stealing it or buying it illegally. Who knows?

But the reality of it is, is that he had a conviction that would have prevented him from buying a gun. And it was not entered into the civilian system. So they did the check and it wasn't there.

RODERICKL: And it's not only that but it's on several levels, because if you look at the actual form that you have to fill out, there's a felony conviction part of it in any court it says, in any court. There's also a domestic violence issues. So on those two fronts, there is no way this individual should have been able to purchase a firearm.

There's also a mental health question on that particular form. Now the mental health question you really can't check. That form is really made just to get your basic information to run the checks in the National Criminal Information Center, and because of the human error of Air Force OSI, the Office of Special Investigations did not enter this, this slipped through the cracks.

BURNETT: So Phil, you know, we also now know, right, from those who in the gas station across the street, right, and even someone in the church who we're going to speak with her son because, you know, ge had a mask on. He also had we understand a ballistic vest with a plate on the front. Do you think though that he intended to survive this?

MUDD: I don't. I'm looking at this saying, he went in there with a mission. He felt he was validated. When I see a vest and I see a mask, that suggests to me that he was conducting a mission, a military mission that he thought was appropriate. But once he crossed that bridge where he was -- decided to kill what he must have known would be dozens of people. You're talking about an emotional bubble I think that is so hard to get to.

That an individual like him, once he gets that bubble doesn't think he's coming back. I don't think he went in there in the right frame of mind, and I think once the killings happened, the writing was on the wall, he was going to go.

BURNETT: And Casey, one thing we do know is that he had been denied a permit for a concealed carry.

JORDAN: Right.

BURNETT: And that's done on a more local level. There are people who knew him, maybe. I mean, we're not a hundred percent sure but it is possible those who were familiar with the situation would deny that right.

JORDAN: Right.

BURNETT: But again, on the national system, when you go into a gun store, that's not who's making this decision.

JORDAN: Right. And the key as everyone keeps on, well, he bought them legally. No, he bought them illegally, he just didn't get caught because the roadblocks were not in place, they were not entered into the system. And if there's one message that comes out of this, we need to find out how many of those disconnects still exist between the military system and the registry, the federal laws so we can pinpoint them and get them into the system where there's no reason this won't happen again.

BURNETT: All right, thanks very much to all of you.

And next, the harrowing account of a survivor shot multiple times. She is alive, and she lived to tell about what she witnessed in that church as the gunman went on his deadly rampage. You will hear that story.

Plus, investigators combing through social media for clues. His long simmering obsession with a family dispute and with mass killings.

[19:20:01] And President Trump sounding off on Twitter moments ago, backing a massive and unprecedented surge in Saudi Arabia.


BURNETT: Breaking news, officials tonight saying the gunman who opened fire at a church in Texas killing 26 people came with a, quote, purpose and a mission. Unloading 15 magazines that he had on him on innocent men, women and children and infants. Each of those magazines outfitted with the maximum rounds, 30 rounds a piece, 450 unleashed on those innocent people. And we are learning chilling new details about what happened inside the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. The son of a survivor telling OutFront that the gunman walked up and down the aisles shooting.

In a moment, I'm going to speak to the survivor's son but first, Ed Lavandera is OutFront, he is at University Hospital in San Antonio. And Ed, we have just heard the update, you've got people right now in critical care. People fighting to survive this. What are doctors telling you about the injuries of those who are still in hospital tonight?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're about 30 hours after the shooting incident, 20 people in all were wounded, about 14 of those people remain hospitalized. And we just heard from investigators that say that 10 of those people are still in critical condition. They are being treated at two main hospitals in the San Antonio area. They're been transported here, six of them at the hospital you see here behind me where there are two children and one adult in critical condition.

[19:25:15] These people have suffered lower leg injuries we're told, abdomen wounds and that sort of thing. Incredibly serious conditions, a number of people already having to go through secondary surgeries as well, go through secondary surgeries as well.

So, they are in that fight for their lives here tonight. And that continues almost 30 hours after the shootings. Erin?

BURNETT: All right, Ed, thank you.

And tonight, we're hearing about another survivor. Farida Brown (ph) shot in the leg, she is recovering tonight. And her son David Brown is OutFront, and David, I know it's a blessing that your mother is recovering. She's going to be OK. How is she doing tonight?

DAVID BROWN, MOTHER WAS AT TEXAS CHURCH WHEN SHOOTING OCCURRED: She's doing much better. She is mentally drained still. She woke up this morning in better spirits than she was yesterday. The realization of what happened is setting in now. And -- so it's going to be a trying period for him -- for her.

BURNETT: I mean, what she saw is something that none of us can imagine. She's at church, at the 11:00 a.m. service. What did she tell you about exactly what happened in that church yesterday morning?

BROWN: She was at church just like any other Sunday. Out of nowhere shots started coming through the windows, when those broke out, shots were flying. Then the shooter came in through the front doors, and the Sunday schoolteacher sitting next to her yelled "get on the floor", she got on the floor. A lady sitting to her left also got on the floor. The Sunday schoolteacher left and she doesn't know what happened to him.

The shooter came into the church and started shooting everyone, and people were running out of the church. And she thinks he was shooting them as they were leaving. She doesn't know how many people were actually able to get away. She does know that after people stopped running out of the church, he started walking around the church going up and down the aisle shooting everyone that was laying on the ground. And she said he walked up and down the aisles quite a few times and made his way around the church.

And eventually ended up where she was which is on the very back pew and started shooting the lady next to her multiple times. And she was pretty certain she was next and her life was about to end. Then somebody with a gun showed up at the front of the church, caught the shooter's attention and he left and that was the end of the ordeal.

BURNETT: I mean, that --

BROWN: She stayed on the ground the whole time. Never saw him, just saw his shoes to his boots as he walked around the church and got a glimpse of him being completely dressed in black.

BURNETT: And it certainly seems she was next. I mean, I think your -- from how you describe it. But that was a local resident, one of them was Johnny Langendorff who came in and confronted the gunman. That's what caused him to leave as he was about to shoot your mother again.

Gosh, I mean, what does she think about that?

BROWN: She said she would actually have taken 15 more shots to the legs if it would have saved lives. She's more heart broken about all the lives that were taken and the helpless defenseless church members that just laid there and met their end. She feels more bad about the victims, the victim's families than herself. She knows how fortunate she was that she lived through this.

And the wounds that she's taken, they'll heal. But the lives of all the people that have been taken are endless.

BURNETT: Well, David, our thoughts are with you and your mother. And I know she is so glad to have you there with her in this time of incredible tragedy. Thank you so much for being with us.

BROWN: No problem. Thank you.

BURNETT: And, David, wanted me to mention that if you want to help the church and the victims, you can do that. You can make a donation on the church's Website, and you can see it there, their website,

And I want to go now to our Shimon Prokupecz. He has more of the breaking details here and what we're learning about the shooter's social media presence, what was out there before this even happened, the clues investigators are now scouring his accounts.

And, Shimon, what are you learning?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: That's right, Erin. So, you know, the investigators have really spent the night, the day since this happened, going through the shooter's social media accounts. And they found indications that he was upset, you know, researching mass shootings, expressed comments about mass shootings. And all of this was found on his social media. The officials will not tell us specifically what was mentioned.

But as you can imagine, there have been so many of these now. It would be hard to believe, you know, some of the more recent ones that you probably mentioned. So, that is factoring into some theories here for investigators, that this was more than just about some family dispute and that his fascination with guns and mass shootings is what ultimately probably led to the shooting.

BURNETT: All right, Shimon. Thank you very much.

And now, Democratic senator from Delaware, Chris Coons, who sits on both Senate Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees.

Senator Coons, thank you for being with me. I'm sorry that we are here to discuss this horrific thing that has just happened.

We just heard our Shimon Prokupecz reporting that, you know, when they say he definitely came with a plan. They're now seeing an obsession with mass shootings on social media. And that that more than any family grievance could end up being what was behind this. Do you think that the bread crumbs are all here when you look at social media past?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, Erin, I think it's too early to come to any conclusions about exactly what this particular shooter's motive was. But I think as has been the case tragically so often, we see a pattern in elected officials saying we need to send our thoughts and prayers to the families, to the victims, but then not proposing any action.

I think it's important that as we all try to come to grips with this latest horrific mass shooting, one of the most brutal shootings in a house of worship in America's history, that we also look straight at the fact that Congress should not be paralyzed and unable to act in the face of yet another event.

It seems clear that there was a breakdown in the background check system that the Air Force didn't forward to federal officials, the fact that this shooter was convicted of a domestic violence incident -- one that led to his being imprisoned for a year.

Our president has said that this is a mental health issue. Yet, in February of this year, he repealed a step taken by the previous administration to prevent 70,000 Americans with history of mental health problems from being able to access weapons.

After the Las Vegas shooting, Senator Feinstein introduced a bill which I co-sponsored, dozens of senators have cosponsored, but it hasn't moved to ban so-called bump stocks or trigger cranks the tools that the shooter in Las Vegas used.

Erin, I think it is important for us to try to honor the tragedy here, the lost here, by finding a way to come together as a country and address the very real mental health, public safety and gun safety issues that our Congress and our federal government has failed to address so far.

BURNETT: So, Senator, let me just play for you, because, you know, you talk about the president, talking about this being a mental health problem and he did. And I just wanted to play a little more of what he said, because it's important -- one thing that he said that you didn't mention that I want you to hear. And here he is.


TRUMP: This isn't a guns situation. I mean, we could go into it, but it's a little soon to go into it. This is a mental health problem at the highest level.


BURNETT: So, Senator, you heard the first words out of his mouth, this isn't a gun situation. And you referenced something that could be crucial here. The U.S. Air Force tonight is admitting they did not enter this information, right, domestic assault, loaded firearm, assaulting his young stepson so horrifically that he caused damage to his skull. He served a year in military prison for this.

This was not entered in, right? So, if it was entered in, the way it was supposed to be, he wouldn't have been allowed to buy these guns. So, do you think it's possible this is actually not about needing new laws in this case?

[19:35:00] This is about executing the laws on the books -- that's what failed?

COONS: Erin, I think we need to do a better job of funding mental health and of funding our national background checks system. There are a number of holes or flaws or weaknesses in our background check system after the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. A bipartisan bill attempted to address some of the flaws in the current NCIS or background check system. There have been other proposals put forward.

This particular incident, once we fully understand it, may point to another weakness where the UCMJ, or the military criminal justice system here, there was a breakdown in conveying the information from the Air Force to civilian authorities. I also get the impression that in Texas, you don't have to have a permit to purchase and carry a long gun, the sort of rifle that this particular shooter was using. He was denied a concealed carry permit for a handgun, as my understanding, from news report.

BURNETT: That's right.

COONS: So, to your question, Erin, I do think we need to do more to enforce the laws that we have on the books. But I also think there are loopholes and weaknesses in how the current laws work that may require further legislation from Congress. BURNETT: Senator, before you go, the president made those comments in

the midst of his Asia trip. It is a long one and he says he wants to meet with the Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit in Vietnam later this week.

Do you think he should? Do you support that meeting?

COONS: Well, the last time President Trump met with Putin, it was on the sides of a major conference. He did so without anyone else from the U.S. government, without using a U.S. translator. I don't think he should follow that pattern. I think he should have his aides with him.

But I do think, he should sit down with Vladimir Putin, to make it clear to him directly that if he interferes in our next election the way he interfered in our last election, he will face serious consequences.

And I do think it's important for President Trump to call on Vladimir Putin, to work with Xi Jinping of China, and the United States and the rest of our allies, to bring North Korea to account for its reckless, aggressive actions with its missile program and its nuclear weapons program. Without help from China and Russia, we don't stand a chance of a peaceful resolution of this confrontation with North Korea.

So, I'm one Democrat who will say I think he should try to engage with Vladimir Putin, but do it in a responsible and measured way.

BURNETT: All right. Senator Coons, I appreciate your time. Thank you, sir.

COONS: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, President Trump moments ago throwing his support behind the massive purge in Saudi Arabia. He says the king and the crown prince there who is trying to solidify power and take over says he knows exactly what he's doing.

And more questions than answers tonight in the brutal beating of Senator Rand Paul. A neighbor allegedly attacking him and breaking his ribs. What happened?


[19:41:18] BURNETT: New tonight: a massive purge of princes and one of the world's best known billionaires all arrested by a man who would be king. A man emboldened by President Trump. Eleven princes and nearly 40 current or former officials detained, reportedly being held at the lavish Ritz-Carlton in Saudi Arabia, in Riyadh.

The mass arrest on the heels of what Saudi Arabia says was a missile attack from Iranian-backed rebels.

Now, President Trump has been a big fan of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Muhammad bin Salman, calling him a huge success during his visit earlier this year to Saudi Arabia. And the crown prince now has ties to Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor, who actually took an unannounced trip to Saudi Arabia just days before this mass purge, and was reportedly up until 4:00 a.m., hanging out with the crown prince.

Trump goes right now way back with the top target of this crackdown, the billionaire investor, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. He helped Trump out in the 1990s when he had financial issues. During the election, though, Prince Alwaleed not a fan of the president, even calling him a disgrace during the presidential primary season.

Becky Anderson is OUTFRONT tonight. She is in Riyadh.

And, Becky, I mean, this is pretty incredible what we're seeing. You know, some backers of the crown prince, the man who would or will soon be king, have said, give him time, this is the right thing to do, he's getting rid of corruption. Look, he's letting women drive.

And then on the other hand, a former U.S. senior intelligence official told me over night, MBS, Muhammad bin Salman, is over his skis. I suspect he'll be out of power in the next few months.

What do you make of what's next here?

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, those are interesting thoughts. Look, it was a move that rocked this city, an unprecedented sweep, Erin, of members of the royal family, government officials, high profile businessmen, as you pointed out. But authorities insist here is intended to root out the corrupt and put an end to what people here call the era of elite indulgence.

When asked about the sort of charges we are talking about, one official, Saudi source, told me, the new anti-corruption commission was set up to investigate things as wide-ranging as money laundering, bribery, embezzlement and extortion. And the same source also denied reports that those detained were opponents of the young crown prince who, of course, heads up this anti-corruption commission.

And in an exclusive interview earlier today, this is how the foreign minister to Mohammed bin Salman's critics, who say this is less about graft and more about a power play by a young prince, a young crown prince turning the screws on those who oppose him. Have a listen.


FOREIGN MINISTER ADEL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI ARABIA: I say nonsense. Saudi Arabia has a zero policy when it comes to supporting terrorism and extremism. Saudi Arabia has a zero policy when it comes to corruption and waste and mismanagement.


ANDERSON: And, look, Erin, the attorney general released a statement earlier, saying all those suspected will have full access to legal resources, and the trial, he says, will be held in a timely and open manner for all concerned. And, ominously, the statement went on to say, this is not the end, but merely the starts of a vital process to root out corruption where it exists -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you so much, Becky Anderson, in Riyadh tonight. Thanks.

I mean, the story is stunning, right? This is America's biggest ally in the Middle East, no more important country.

OUTFRONT now, former CIA operative and intelligence and security analyst for us, Bob Baer.

I mean, Bob, this is incredible.

[19:45:01] Just again, the former senior U.S. intelligence official told me the crown prince is over his ski tips, and believes he'll be out of power if not worse off within the next few months. That was a quote from that person.

Do you think that's possible?

BOB BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: I agree with that, Erin. This crown prince, 32-years-old, is way over his head. This country has been run by consensus in the royal family and the merchant class. And now, these arbitrary arrests, I mean, people that I have never -- I thought were untouchable at one time are being put in jail.

The rumors are running rife in Saudi Arabia, and the fact that Muhammad bin Salman is executing princes. I'm not even sure it's true. But the fact that the Saudis are even listening to these rumors tells me that this country is on the precipice.

You know, we cannot let Saudi Arabia be destabilized. That is our reserved tank for oil. This will affect our economy if something happens here. And we're also talking about Muhammad bin Salman is threatening Iran. The resignation of the Lebanese prime minister apparently was driven under his orders. The Iranians are worried about a war at this time.

He's moving on two many fronts in a very conservative country and I do see how this can end well for Saudi Arabia.

BURENTT: I mean, you know, you described it as being in the precipice. The president of the United States, though, just moments ago, I don't know if you heard this, Bobby, just tweeted.

His tweet: I have great confidence in King Salman, who is I guess technically still the king. Obviously, it seems the crown prince is running everything right now. And the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, he continued, they know exactly what they're doing. Some of those, they're harshly treating have been, quote, milking their country for years. That is a full throated endorsement.

He sent Jared Kushner over there on a quiet visit, what was it, last week. And apparently, he and the crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman, were hanging out until 4:00 in the morning by some reports. This is a full-throated endorsement of what just happened by President Trump. BAER: Erin, with all due respect, President Trump knows nothing about

Saudi Arabia. It's probably one of the most convoluted, complicated countries in the world, and the politics are pretty much opaque to us. And siding with the prince who's making a power grab like this means that if things go badly, we will be blamed, President Trump and the United States, and we will pay a price there.

I just cannot tell you how dire the situation if Saudi Arabia goes in the wrong way. And, you know, if the crown prince is assassinated or something like this, we're going to be involved. The last thing we want is to be involved in a dispute between princes in that country. We will lose.

BURNETT: Bob Baer, thank you very much.

A sobering reality check on a crucial story.

And next, the mystery surrounding the beating of Senator Rand Paul. His ribs broken by a neighbor. New details about the dispute.

Plus, honoring the victims of a Texas church shooting. So many of them were children, including the pastor's 14-year-old daughter.


[19:51:31] BURNETT: Tonight, we're learning more about the motive behind an attack on Senator Rand Paul at his Kentucky home. Paul was allegedly tackled from behind by his name neighbor, Rene Boucher. Boucher's attorney says the incident stemmed from a, quote, trivial matter between neighbors. The senator, though, in this trivial matter has ended up with five broken ribs and a bruised lung as a result.

Drew Griffin is OUTFRONT.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The attack came out of nowhere. Senator Rand Paul reportedly on his riding mower trimming his lawn when he was assaulted. The result: five broken ribs and lung bruises.

According to the arrest warrant, Paul told police his neighbor came on to his property and tackled him from behind, forcing him to the ground and causing pain. He had trouble breathing.

And the defendant admitted going on to Paul's property and tackled him. The senator didn't find out until later about the broken ribs.

JEREMY HODGES, KENTUCKY STATE POLICE: It is an open investigation, which means more charges can stem from this, with it being a serious, a more serious physical injury.

GRIFFIN: The defendant is Paul's next door neighbor, retired anesthesiologist Rene Boucher, who is now on bail. The two share a property line in an upscale gated community in Bowling Green, Kentucky. And that might be part of what led to the assault. A neighbor tells CNN the two have been quibbling on and off for years about lawn waste, leaves and grass clippings being on blown on each other party's property. The neighborhood did not witness the attack.

One person who used to work with Boucher tells CNN they were surprised to hear the news about Boucher, that nothing in his past indicated he would do something like this. Several news organizations initially speculated politics might be the motive, since Boucher, a Democrat, reportedly filled his Facebook page with anti-Trump postings. It has since been deleted.

But his attorney insisted to CNN affiliate WBKO that politics had nothing to do with this.

MATTHEW BAKER, ATTORNEY FOR RENE BOUCHER: It was absolutely not planned out beforehand. You know, I've seen a couple of media spots that would tend to suggest that it was politically motivated. That is absolutely and unequivocally untrue. It's just a very, very hugely regrettable incident that would not happen again in a million years.

GRIFFIN: In a statement to CNN, Boucher's attorney, Matthew Baker, added it was a regrettable dispute between two neighbors over a matter that most people would regard as trivial.

We sincerely hope that Senator Paul is doing well and that these two gentlemen can get back to being neighbors as quickly as possible.

Boucher, a retired anesthesiologist, invented something called the thermo vest in the mid-2000s to help people with back pain. The business Website is now defunct.


GRIFFIN: Erin, although the investigations are still continuing and yes, the FBI says it's looking into this matter, looking into the politics, of possible politics of the situation, it does appear at this hour, in this town, that all of this, serious injuries and all, had to do with leaves and grass clippings -- Erin.

BURNETT: Unbelievable. All right. Thank you very much, Drew Griffin.

And next, many of the victims of the Texas shooting were young children, infants.

[19:55:03] And this little girl, 16-year-old Galey Krueger, who loved life.


BURNETT: We're learning more tonight about the 26 people killed in Texas. Many of them were children.

Annabelle Pomeroy was the pastor's daughter. She was 14-years-old. Her parents were out of town yesterday.

Her mother spoke today of her loss.


SHERRI POMEROY, MOTHER OF ANNABELLE POMEROY: We loss more than Belle yesterday, and one thing that gives me a sliver of encouragement is the fact that Belle was surrounded yesterday by her church family that she loves fiercely and vice versa.


BURNETT: Haley Krueger was 16 years old. Her mother talked about her daughter as a vibrant lover of life. She had hoped to become a nurse.

And then there's the Holcombe family. Three generations gone in an instant during a day at church. These are pictures provided to us of the family. Not everyone in this picture was killed, but eight members were killed. Bryan and Carol Holcombe were the parents of Danny, the in-laws to Chrystal who was pregnant. Danny's daughter Noah was the youngest victim of the slaughter, a baby. She was 17 months old. Three of Crystal's other children were also murdered yesterday.

These families are in our thoughts and prayers, it's incomprehensible loss for any of us to understand and incomprehensible act. They are in our thoughts and prayers tonight.

Anderson starts now.