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Interview With Florida Senator Bill Nelson; Florida High School Shooting; Broward County School Shooting Incident. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired February 14, 2018 - 16:00   ET



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

We're beginning today with a tragedy, breaking news out of Florida, where a school shooter is still at large, according to authorities, this afternoon, after injuring high school students in a -- quote -- "mass casualty attack" at a Parkland, Florida, high school.

That's in Broward County, Florida. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is its name.

Scenes of panic outside the school this afternoon, now sadly familiar, high schoolers running from campus, walking out with their hands in the air. Police officers with guns drawn.

President Trump has been briefed on the situation. He has spoken to Florida Governor Rick Scott. The president also just tweeted moments ago: "My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school" -- unquote.

Let's go now to the mayor of Parkland, Florida, Christine Hunschofsky, who is on the scene.

Madam Mayor, thanks for joining us.

What can you tell us? Do you have any idea how many people were wounded, how many people may have been killed?


I have heard personally received any firsthand information on that. They have set up a perimeter here, and we are obeying the perimeter, so that the police and EMS first-responders are able to do their job without being hindered.

TAPPER: So, right now, local news accounts in your area, in Florida say 20 people have been injured. And "The Miami Herald" heard from a fire chief saying that there was one fatality.

You haven't heard specifically anything about those numbers?

HUNSCHOFSKY: I have not received any firsthand information on those numbers. TAPPER: What do you know about the status of the shooter? Law

enforcement said the individual is still at large. Is that still the case?

HUNSCHOFSKY: I am not certain of that. We keep hearing rumors out here, but I have had nothing confirmed.

Again, the police are very busy right now still in the school securing everything and letting students out as their area is secure. And that's where their focus has been and should be.

TAPPER: The school has about 3,000 students. Do you have any idea how many of those students remain in the school waiting to be evacuated?


But I do know quite a few have already been released.

TAPPER: There were images from a local TV affiliate of a man, it appeared a young man, perhaps even a student, in a maroon T-shirt looking as though he was being arrested, or at least detained. Do you know anything about that?

HUNSCHOFSKY: I have heard that rumor as well, but I have not heard that firsthand from anyone officially here.

TAPPER: OK. Yes, it wasn't a rumor. We saw the images. We just don't who that person is of it was definitely the suspect.

What's your message for any parents who are watching right now? We have spoken to a number of them. Many of them are frantic. Their loved ones, their children are still inside the school. They're worried about their safety. What can you tell them?

HUNSCHOFSKY: I'm telling them that, first of all, we're thinking of everybody here. This is a very tragic situation for everybody involved. They need to abide by the perimeter that has been set up by the police and the first-responders.

They are working hard to do what they can to make this situation safe again. And the parents have been in touch with their -- thank goodness for cell phones and texts these days. They have been in touch with their students. They need to tell them to remain inside until the police come and to not open for anybody except the police.

TAPPER: But as far as you know, it is still an active shooter situation and the individual may still be at large?

HUNSCHOFSKY: Right, may. We have not received any firsthand confirmation one way or another, and the perimeter has still been set up. And everybody is still back from the school at this point still.

TAPPER: Madam Mayor, have you spoken to any of the teachers or any of the students who were in the school when this happened?


TAPPER: Can you give us a rough idea of their description of what happened?

HUNSCHOFSKY: I don't want to be giving secondhand information.

They were very sad. They were very upset. And I would prefer not to discuss secondhand information. They were very scared, though.

TAPPER: What can you tell...

HUNSCHOFSKY: And almost in shock when they came out speaking.

TAPPER: I'm sorry? Say that again.

HUNSCHOFSKY: And they were almost in shock, some of that, when they came out and were talking.

TAPPER: No. Of course, understandably.

We have been told by some of the parents that this is a school that, like many schools across the country, regularly engages in preparation and training for a day such as this. Is that right?

HUNSCHOFSKY: Yes, that's correct.

Our school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, is part of the Broward County School System, and they do this training regularly at all the schools in Broward County. And it is unfortunate in our day and age that that has to be done.



Obviously, you can't confirm the reports that we have heard of at least 20 injured and "The Miami Herald" reporting that a fire chief has said there's one fatality, if not more, obviously, a horrible day in Broward County.

What kind of security, can you tell us, does this school have?

HUNSCHOFSKY: The school has a single point of entry security, and there is always a school resource officer, so a police officer at the school.


What are you hearing from parents? Is it mainly people just worried about finding their students, finding their loved ones?

HUNSCHOFSKY: They're just worried about finding their students. If their student has been hurt, they're worried about where to find them, which hospital they have been brought to. Apparently, the students who have been injured have been brought to various hospitals in the area. And they just want to see their children. And as any parent can understand, they just want to hug them and make sure that they're OK.

TAPPER: All right, Parkland Mayor Florida Christine Hunschofsky, thank you so much your time. We appreciate it. I know it's a horrible day for you. We appreciate you talking to us about what you could. Thank you so much.


TAPPER: Let's talk with my panel right now about what exactly law enforcement is doing and going through.

Josh Campbell, let me start with you.

We have seen images of some young man being escorted into a police vehicle. We don't know what that means. We don't know that it is the shooter. We don't know anything, other than there was some young man detained and local TV got a shot of it.

As far as Broward County is concerned, right now, this remains an active shooter situation. Tell me -- there's, by the way, the image I'm referring to. You can see the person. He looks -- possibly a young man wearing a maroon shirt and he looks as though he is being detained, if not arrested.

In an active shooter situation, even if they believe that that person is a suspect, and we have no information that they do, they would be making sure that there wasn't -- there aren't two or three or four suspects.


And you look at these videos. We saw moments ago officers doing a high-risk search on the individual. Again, we don't know what his status is or why he's in custody. But in these types of situations, you can bet that police officers, before they send out the all-clear, which is going to bring the adrenaline down a little bit, they are going to ensure that there is no threat.

What we have been seeing on some of our television screens as students stream out is an attempted orderly evacuation, while what we can't see behind the scenes are police officers going room by room attempting to find out what exactly they're dealing with. And as you mentioned, is it one person? Is it multiple? That is something that they are going to want to wrap their minds around and have some kind of proof before that all-clear goes out.

TAPPER: Tom Fuentes, explain to those at home who are frustrated along with the parents, who are frustrated with the fact that their kids, some of them are still in that school and being told they cannot leave yet.

That is presumably being done for their own safety. The police officers, et cetera, want to make sure it's safe before they leave. TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: If you have a school with 3,000 students, you don't want all 3,000 running around like insects all around the perimeter, inside the perimeter, heading for home, getting into vehicles, driving around.

So they're trying to contain the situation until they can figure out themselves what they have. You're right. If they don't know, do they have one shooter? Multiple shooters? One shooter maybe had come out and run away and they're looking for him out in the neighborhoods? Or if they have an identity where that person might live?

There still could be other accomplices inside the school. And a school that large, there are hundreds of places to hide, not just classrooms, closets, the heating plant areas, the maintenance facility parts of those schools.

So it would be a very difficult job to go cubby hole by cubby hole in that building and clear it, both for the possible shooters, or people involved in the shooting, and the students that would go into hiding.

That's one of the tenets that they say, run, hide, fight. The hide part could be anywhere in that school, anywhere in the neighborhood. So they have to track down everybody. And that's a very difficult, lengthy, meticulous process.

TAPPER: Very frustrating for those parents, but it's being done in the name of safety for their children.

I want to bring in Florida Senator Bill Nelson.

And, Senator, I'm sorry to be talking to you at such a grim and grave time, but apparently you have some new information about injuries or fatalities at the school? What can you tell us?

SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: Jake, it is a bad day.

I talked to the school superintendent. He believes there are a number of fatalities. I can't tell you any more than that. I heard one source say many, but I don't think you can take it until it is verified, but a number of fatalities.


This is a bad day for Florida and for the country. And you can imagine the grief of parents right now not knowing, as well as the students not knowing.

As you are visually showing, there seems to be one in custody. Earlier this afternoon, they think they know who the shooter is, and I don't know if that was the same person that was put into the police car.

TAPPER: All right. So, you're saying that the police, law enforcement thinks they have an idea who the individual is who was the shooter. You can't see this right now, but we're looking at images right now

from moments ago, WPLG, in which it looks like a young man, a white man -- a young white man in a maroon shirt is being put into a police car.

You're saying you don't know that it is the same person that police suspect to be the shooter. Do police believe there was only one shooter, sir?

NELSON: When I was told about 30 minutes ago that they suspected a shooter, and they suspected that they knew his identity.

I want you to know that, on behalf of the people of Florida, that certainly our thoughts and, for those who pray, are praying for these families and these student victims.

TAPPER: The individual in question, the shooter, if indeed there is only one, is it believed that he is a student?

NELSON: I'm not at liberty to tell you that.

TAPPER: You said that there were many fatalities. Unfortunately, in this day and age, many could mean dozens.

NELSON: Jake, how I described it was a number of fatalities.


NELSON: I said another source said many. I don't know the number.

TAPPER: We have heard from local reporters on the ground talking to emergency workers up to 20 injuries, up to 20 wounded.

And a fire chief told "The Miami Herald" one fatality, at the very least. You're saying that, according to the school superintendent, it is more than one fatality. Do you have any rough idea of how many, or, no, not at all?

NELSON: No, I do not.

But if the information came by seeing a number of injuries, and with what you just reported, that could be the interpolation of more than one.

TAPPER: There are a number of parents who are crying right now. They're worried about their children in that school. Some of them have kids that they have been able to reach who are in the school and not able to leave yet as they go door to door trying to clear different segments.

What are you hearing from people back home?

NELSON: Well, the whole place is in grief and shock.

But the FBI is there. They are directing all of the efforts. And then they will direct the investigation after the shooter is in custody. And...

TAPPER: So, Senator, I want to interrupt for one second just to give some breaking news from the Broward sheriff.


TAPPER: The Broward sheriff is saying that the shooter is now in custody.

Here's the tweet from them.


TAPPER: "Shooter is now in custody. Scene is still active. #Stonemanshooting."

That's the name of the high school. I assume that they're saying it is still active because they're just making sure there are not any other shooters.

NELSON: That's correct.

It's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. And, of course, they are treating it as an active shooter situation until they make sure there wasn't anybody else involved.

TAPPER: You know, I'm old enough to remember when images of 12- and 14-year-olds walking out of a school with their hands in the air because there's an active shooter situation didn't happen and show up on my TV every week or two.

What do you say to the parents out there who are frustrated and who say, Senator Nelson, we thank you for your thoughts and prayers, but we actually need more than thoughts and prayers? This is a crisis in this country.

NELSON: Of course.

And we ought to say, enough is enough. The question is, once you get into the investigation, how did the shooter obtain the weapon? Was it a high-caliber weapon? Was it obtained lawfully?

And, if so, that ought to have people to start thinking about such things as background checks on the purchase of a gun, and the question of an assault rifle, if, in fact, this is. And I don't know those details.

But you said, what would I say to those parents? Other than sharing in their grief, that's what I would say.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And look, I'm sure there will be lots of time in the future to talk about that. Well, right now we are all just worried and heart broken about what's going on in Broward County.

NELSON: Absolutely. TAPPER: Senator, thank you so much for joining us. If you get more information, please let us know, call back in. We would love to have you back.

I'm going to go right now to a student from the high school, Ryan Gott. Ryan we're glad you're OK. You've been texting with friends inside the school. I don't want to you name the alleged suspect, if you have heard the name, I would request that you not share that name.


TAPPER: OK. What are your friends telling you?

GOTT: They pretty much just said that someone pulled the fire alarm. A lot of them evacuated. And a lot are still in the school. And I heard that one of my teachers got shot.

TAPPER: You heard --

GOTT: I heard the shooting was all in the freshman building, which is the one building that is not connected to the rest of the campus. We have three storeys.

TAPPER: I'm told your brother's at the middle school. He's OK?

GOTT: My mom got a text from him. He said that he's fine. But yes, I think everyone at the middle school is OK. It is just the one building that is not connected to the rest is where people got shot and died. I don't know who it is yet. I don't know who, you know, who was the shooter but -- I mean, that's all I know.

I know a lot of people, you know, couldn't call me. They just tried to text me and they couldn't text me. You know, you know, rapidly because they had to have their phones away.

TAPPER: Ryan, how old are you?

GOTT: I'm 15.

TAPPER: You're 15 years old.

GOTT: Yes.

TAPPER: Your friends, share with us if you would, what they're going through. What their texts to you. You don't have to quote the texts or name your friends.

GOTT: I mean, yes, they're just happy they're alive right now. And I mean, I'm glad they're -- you know, OK too. But, I mean, they're freaking out. They don't really know what's going on at all. They just know there's a shooter in the building.

TAPPER: And you heard that one of your teachers was killed?

GOTT: Just shot. That's all I heard. I heard he was shot and he was telling people to run. TAPPER: Without naming your teacher, what did this teacher teach?

GOTT: Ge taught geography.

TAPPER: A geography teacher. And he was telling people to run.

GOTT: Yes. And he was in the building not connected to the others, the three storeys.

TAPPER: And did any of your friends see him shot? Or they heard he was shot?

GOTT: I'm hearing, you know, people are saying that someone saw him shot. They're like, I've heard other rumors that a kid by him got shot but he picked him up and he was covered in blood. So -- and I've heard on the news that one teacher died so I'm not sure if it was him or not.

TAPPER: How are you doing? What is it like to be a 15-year-old having this happened at your school?

GOTT: It is just scary. Because, I mean, I wasn't even there and I just thank God that, you know, I wasn't there at the time. But I'm still worried for all my friends, you know?

TAPPER: I do. What -- you guys, your classmates, your school, you engage in preparation for days like this, emergency training?

GOTT: Yes. Actually, a few weeks ago, we had a big meeting and all the teachers were talking about, you know, what if this happened and, you know, we went through a bunch of drills. And every kind of, you know, bad situation. And we talked it over in every class. So, I mean, I don't know how much more prepared we could have been.

TAPPER: Ryan, thank you so much. God bless you. We're all thinking about you and your classmates.

GOTT: Thank you so much.

TAPPER: We're going to go right now to the Broward County School Superintendent. Let's listen in.


ROBERT RUNCIE, SUPERINTENDENT, BROWARD COUNTY, PUBLIC SCHOOLS: I believe there's an administrator or teacher that is involved. There maybe more. I can't confirm if that's one of the fatalities at the moment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Superintendent, this is a day, I'm sure, every superintendent fears to happen here in Broward.

RUNCIE: It's a day that you pray every day. I get up that we will never have to see. It is in front of us and I ask the community for their prayers, your support, for these children and their families. It's -- we're going to do whatever we can to come together as a community to pull through this and we will.

[16:20:00] And, again, we're doing everything we possibly can. The students are being evacuated and released at the moment. So we're working through that process right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you aware of any indication, any warning, any hint about the student could have been planning there?

RUNCIE: We received no warning, no indication. But, again, there's going to be a thorough investigation. Typically, you see in these situations that they're potentially could have been signs out. I would be speculating at this point if there were, but we don't have -- we didn't have any warnings. There weren't any phone calls or threats that we know of that were made.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Superintendent, there are so many parents that are afraid, afraid to send their kids to school. What would you tell them out there?

RUNCIE: What I would say is we cannot live in a world that's built on fear. We have to do what we can to make sure that we provide the greatest safety measures we can for our kids.

But, what I'll tell you is that mental health issues in this country are growing and they're a big challenge. And it's something that's going to need to, certainly, be addressed within our school systems as well as in the broader society to ensure that these kinds of tragedies don't continue. We've got to be able to recognize individuals that are in distress, that have challenges and be able to find ways to support them.

But our schools, we do what we can to make sure they're as safe as they possibly can be for our children. And again, this is a day that we prayed would never be here at Broward County. But we're dealing with it and we'll deal with it as a community. We'll pull through it.

And, you know, my prayers and heartfelt sorrow goes out to the families and this entire community.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those comments about mental health and stress, are they speculation on your part? Or do you have some idea of who is responsible? And, you know --

RUNCIE: Well, all I would say is that --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- other than the obvious.

RUNCIE: Other than the obvious is correct. No, I don't -- No insane person that's -- well, it's going to go and commit such an atrocity. So I would say that it is something we have to deal with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it is not based on your knowledge --

EUNCIE: It's not based on my knowledge of anything regarding the individual who committed this. But I know it is a challenge and it is something that we've been certainly trying to deal with throughout Broward County and throughout this nation. But, you know, we're going to have to step up our effort on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With someone in custody, so, the rest of the students, hundreds of them are being evacuated right now, right?

RUNCIE: That's correct.


RUNCIE: Yes. They're clearing buildings out. They're doing it in an orderly manner to make sure that's safe. So, again, there's an enormous presence of law enforcement here and they're assisting in the evacuation process as we speak.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what place right next door and the middle school, are the students still inside? Or have they been lock down?

RUNCIE: They are probably going through an evacuation process as well. We have students we know that are coming from some of our middle schools like Nova where they typically may get dropped off here. We have them being dropped off at another school site. And we know (INAUDIBLE) our parents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On a typical afternoon, what police presence or security presence is on?

RUNCIE: Every high school in this county has a police presence at the high school. So there were officers on the school site at all times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know for certain how many who are there?

RUNCIE: There are typically are at least two cars of law enforcement individuals on our campuses on daily basis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Resource officers, are they called?

RUNCIE: They're called school resource officers. That is correct.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Superintendent, was the shooter just contain to that one building, do you know if go to another building?

RUNCIE: I don't know the path or exactly how the shootings occurred.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where were you when you got that phone call and your heart had to have dropped?

RUNCIE: So today has been a day of enormous mountains and valleys. I was leaving Monarch High School where we were giving the Teacher of the Year keys to a brand new Toyota Camry that was -- that she won from being the Teacher of the Year in Broward County. We were celebrating our teachers, our schools. And got in the car and as I'm driving back to the office, I start seeing communication and I hear from staff that we may have a tragedy. And that's -- So I literally have come from giving the Teacher of the Year a car and celebrating our teachers and our district to where I am right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that the worst school shooting in Broward County ever?

[16:25:05] RUNCIE: That's what it appears to be.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am so sorry. Thank you so much for updating us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was Superintendent Robert Runcie.

TAPPER: I want to bring in CNN's Sara Ganim. We were just listening to Robert Runcie. He's the Broward County School Superintendent.

Sara Ganim, you're from nearby. You know the area and you've spoken to two students.

SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. Both of them actually telling me they were just about 10 minutes from living for the day and a fire alarm went off inside of the building, they thought it was a drill as you would if you were a student in high school and they filed out as they practiced.

But one student, who is 18 years old, said she immediately knew something was wrong. That she heard six gunshots as they were filing out. Students began to run back toward the school. She ran back into a classroom that was not on the ground floor. And when I spoke to her that was where she was, still barricaded in that classroom and other student, a 16-year-old boy who made it further, out on to the campus. This is a very large school, just to paint a little bit of a picture. But he was in a different building much further away, made out to his assigned position in the event of a fire drill but realized that his teachers were acting frantic.

And then police began to show up in a bullet-proof vests and long guns. And students began to run. And he actually climbed over a fence, ran through a field. This school is adjacent to a very large shopping complex, includes a Walmart. He said a lot of the students ran into the Walmart, began calling home. And he was able to reach a place outside the police perimeter where his mom was able to pick him up.

But both students are saying that it was the fire alarm that really began this incident just about 10 minutes before school ended.

Another thing I want to note Jake is, this school, it's Florida, you know, good weather all the time. This isn't something that a lot of people think about. But most of the hall ways inside of the school are outside. So the only safe place where you barricade yourself is actually inside a classroom.

TAPPER: Oh, it's an interesting observation. I want to note that the Broward County sheriff has updated the situation. They have written in a tweet, "So far, we have at least 14 victims." I would just note that they're not -- the Broward Sheriff has not noting or delineating between fatalities and people who are wounded, but 14 victims.

And then they go on say, "Victims have been and continue to be transported to Broward Health Medical Center and Broward Health North Hospital." If you're a parent right now and you're watching, the Broward Sheriff Twitter account also has the address for the staging area where you can go to meet your student, your child if you are still looking to figure out how to do so.

I want to talk right now and bring in Charles Ramsey, he's former Police Commissioner of Philadelphia. Also he is a former Police Chief here in Washington D.C.

Chief Ramsey after a shooting like this, other than clearing the building, what are police doing?

CHARLES RAMSEY, FORMER PHILADELPHIA POLICE COMMISIONER: Well, it's a crime scene. And so, I'm sure that they're going to search every inch of that building and make sure one, they don't have anyone else suppose as a threat. And also, if they have any children or teachers barricaded in a room in one of the rooms or what have you. So, they got to do that.

But then you got a crime scene that got to be able to secure and begin processing. I'm told that the FBI is there, Broward County's crime scene, investigative unit. They'll probably work together in order to get that done.

The other thing that's good is happening right now. You just saw it was the Broward County Sheriff that's giving information out so that parents know where to go the reunite with their children. If one of the children was one of the victims, where to go, what hospital they've been taken to. So all those things are going on at the same time.

TAPPER: And you heard the school superintendent being asked whether the shooter who presumably is a student based on the questions that were being asked, whether there -- if there had been any warning signs or indications that the student had any troubles, any indication that something like this would ever happen. And the superintendent said that he did not know of any, but, obviously, there would be an investigation to see if signals, any signs had been missed.

RAMSEY: Yes, all of that will happen after the fact people will start to take a look and see where they are assigned, was there something they could have done, had he sent out any messages or tweets or anything like that to make people aware that he was about to do something.

But right now what you're faced with is a tragedy. No matter how you look at it. Another incident where we've had people, children who are in school, one of the places that should be the safest place for them to be that turns out to be the worst place run to event on this particular day.

And I don't know if anything is going to happen. I doubt it. I have no faith in our Congress or elected officials to do anything. If Sandy Hook did not cause to us really rethink how we deal with guns, guns in the hands of people that should not have them, then this certainly won't either. It's a shame, but it won't.

[16:30:12] TAPPER: All right. Chief Ramsey, stay right there. I want to bring in a student at the school right now.