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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Police: 17 Dead In Florida School Shooting, Suspect In Custody, Is Ex-Student Who had AR-15 And Multiple Magazines; Senator: Shooting Suspect Wearing Gas Mask, Had Smoke Grenades. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired February 14, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Our special live coverage of the deadly shooting in Florida continues right now with Jim Sciutto.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening I'm Jim Sciutto in for Erin Burnett. "OutFront" tonight breaking news, you might say heartbreaking news, a heartbreaking day in Florida and sadly in all too familiar one. 17 people are now confirmed dead. We know at least three people still in critical condition after police say that a shooter believed to be just 19 years old opened fire at his former high school.
Over and over again this year we have seen, heard, and reported on sad and harrowing scenes like this one. How many depends on how you define a school shooting. This is the fourth shooting in a middle or high school just this year in 2018. You see chaos, terrified students. Their hands on their heads running to safety, frightened parents rushing to the school waiting for word on their children, are they dead oral live.
And watching, as you see here, heavily armed SWAT teams, armored vehicles surrounding Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. According to students, it was about 2:30 in the afternoon, just 10 minutes before the end of the school day when the fire alarm went off and that they say is when the gunman began shooting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I heard screaming. I heard about five, six gunshots. We thought they were firecrackers because it sounded like them. We weren't sure what was used. And we heard the police yelling, we heard banging on the doors.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's in sane. It's unnecessary. It's -- there are no words to describe how I feel right now. I was shaking. I was panicking. It was all out panic at the school.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Panic. The school was quickly put on lockdown. This picture from a student huddled on the floor after hearing shot after shot. Police say the shots fired from both inside and outside the school. The victims, both students and adults. Many students hiding in their classrooms, in closets for more than an hour until authorities were able to track the gunman down.
Law enforcement sources tell CNN the man that you see here is the suspected shooter, handcuffed in police custody, his name, Nikolas Cruz. We are told that he was taken without incident at the high school.
President Trump tweeting shortly after, "My prayers and condolences to the families and the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school." It is the kind of official response we've heard after each of these deadly shootings.
Rosa Flores is "OutFront" near the high school in Parkland, Florida. Rosa, what are you learning just in the last hour about what authorities know about the shooter and the shooting tonight?
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, at this hour, Jim, we're learning that a bomb squad is scouring through the school. Now, we've learned that the school is a very big building. It's got portable buildings as well. So they are doing this as a precautionary measure.
Now, this is after four to five SWAT teams swept the entire building to make sure that the building was safe. The bomb squad now inside and we're told that once that happens, then the medical examiner will get access and law enforcement will begin to process the scene.
But we are knowing -- we are learning a few more details about the shooting from the sheriff from Broward County. He says that the shooting actually started outside the building, that the shooter moved inside leaving behind a deadly trail. We know that 17 people are dead, 12 people dead inside.
And as you mentioned earlier, the intense moments where students were trying to communicate with their parents and parents were trying to do the same and administrators and teachers were trying to keep calm and peace inside that building so that students could be safe. The dramatic moments, of course, were exchanged through text messages with parents. Parents didn't want to call students because they were afraid and they wanted to make sure that they could communicate with them in a safely manner.
Again, at this hour, investigators here telling us that this scene will be processed, it will take time, Jim, as you know. It's pain staking. And of course, extremely graphic and painful for those investigators that will have to go through that school room by room as the deadly trail from the suspect was left behind.
SCIUTTO: And for the parents, because certainly there are parents tonight who are getting word that their children did not survive. That was Rosa Flores live there at the scene of the shooting. The alleged gunman now identified by police as Nikolas Cruz. He's now in police custody.
Shimon Prokupecz is working his law enforcement sources. Shimon, what do we know about the suspect, because there were some words, there were warnings about him prior to the shooting. [19:05:02] SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, that's exactly right. There were warnings, certainly from students who have talked to reporters at the scene who have said that they warned, that they knew that this would happen. They all talked about that he liked guns, this shooter. So they -- he was well-known at least to the students.
And other thing here, we've actually learned a lot, Jim, when you think about it. In the press conference that the sheriff held, you know, a short time ago, we learned that the shooter here, Nikolas Cruz, had an extensive social media presence. The sheriff didn't really go into a lot of detail about that social media -- his social media preference, but we learned that there were things on his social media that concerned them and he sort of talked about that.
We also have learned obviously his age. We learned that he was expelled from the school about a year ago or so for disciplinary problems. We don't know exactly what those issues are. And obviously there are still a lot of things we don't know. But these little things that we do now know from the police, from the sheriff are going to be key in this investigation and it's going to play an important part.
And also giving us a kind of window into perhaps what was going on with this young man who seemingly by all accounts was known by two students at the school. So the question really now becomes is, what people knew, when did they know it, and why didn't they report it? Because it certainly seems when his name was thrown around that he was possibly the shooter. People were not surprised.
SCIUTTO: Shimon, we're also learning about the weapon and sadly the kind of weapon we see used so often in mass shootings like this.
PROKUPECZ: Yes, we are learning. And, you know, I want to be careful here because these AR-15, we're told it's an AR-15 style weapon that was used here. It's a large capacity. It can fire a lot of rounds. We know that this type of weapon has been used in other shootings. We've talked about this weapon. We've talked about how, you know, shooters can access this weapon and it's been used in several mass shootings.
The police, the ATF now are tracing the weapon. The serial numbers perhaps are on it that they can now trace to try and find out exactly how he came into contact with this weapon, whether it was purchased by him, whether someone purchased it for him and that's all going to factor into this investigation. But like I said, Jim, by all accounts it seems that students at the school were aware. This is a high school. That -- students there were very much aware that he was into guns.
SCIUTTO: Shimon, thanks very much. "OutFront" now, we're going to go to Masiel Baluja. She is one of the young students who experienced this shooting today, 17-year-old student at the high school. Masiel, first let me ask you, how are you doing tonight?
MASIEL BALUJA, STUDENT, PARKLAND, FLORIDA: I'm doing okay, still shaken up.
SCIUTTO: I'm sure you are. I can only imagine. Tell us if you can, and I know this is going to be difficult to the recount, but just tell us what you saw, what you experienced there as this happened this afternoon.
BALUJA: Well, it was a second fire alarm that went off today around like 2:22 and we were like suspicious because we already had a fire alarm drill going off, so we weren't sure if this was a real fire drill or not. And apparently I guess the shooter pulled the alarm so he could have kids going out on the hallway to shoot.
And I was on the top floor and then right behind, right below me on the first floor I heard shooting and I saw two guys running. I wasn't sure what it was and then I heard it again and that's when me and a group of people just ran downstairs. And I could tell people he was on my left side because that's where I heard the gunshots from and it was very loud.
And then I went to make a right and I just ran. And I had my book bag on my back, just in case I got shot in the back it would go through my book bag and my books. I ran to where there was students and teachers and --
SCIUTTO: Oh, Masiel.
BALUJA: -- and we went to west gate(ph) and then from there I knew it was a real shooting. I saw three helicopters and that's when everyone was just all mess with themselves and I jumped the fence and I just ran with my book bag on and everything.
And I was in front of west gate for about 20 minutes and then after that we got escorted to WalMart which is right next to the west gate middle school. And then there as I was walking literally a few feet from me I see cops fleeing (ph) and I see a kid in handcuffs, I guess that was one of the suspects.
So needless to say I was basically in danger two times in a row, different times and it was just very scary. And then my mom was across the street trying to get me, but the cops had us on the floor for about 20 minutes and my mom was just there waiting for me. And I was with a group of kids and I didn't know. I didn't know if any of them were shooters or not. So I felt very uncomfortable because anybody could be a shooter.
[19:10:04] SCIUTTO: Oh, god, of course you would. And listen, Masiel, I want tell you this is difficult and painful to recount again so if you want to stop at any time you just tell me, there is no need. I would ask, though, if you can, what was it like when you saw your mom?
BALUJA: Well, I was just -- well, another thing that happened is on my way out of west gate my phone had died so I couldn't really contact her. But I found a friend and I used her phone and I was contacting my mom back and forth with her. And I knew she was right across the street. And I saw her walking and I saw her there for about like five minutes as the cops were taking down my name and stuff.
And then after that she just came to me and she just hugged me and stuff. And it was just like I knew I was safe, but like I still didn't feel safe because there was a whole bunch of other kids around me, which easily could have been shooters. So I was just paranoid, but happy at the same time.
SCIUTTO: So how in God's name would you know? How are you doing? Are you okay to keep going? You just tell me.
BALUJA: Yes, I'm fine. I'm fine.
SCIUTTO: Did you -- as you were there, confusion, I imagine, because I know there lot of students were saying earlier in the day you had a fire drill, right?
SCIUTTO: And then the fire alarm goes off again. So like you said, you don't know if this is another fire drill. How did you figure that out? Were there folks there telling you what to do as this was happening?
BALUJA: OK. Basically about a month ago we had the faculty and like teachers, they had a paper about code red, code black, and stuff telling us if this (INAUDIBLE) happen, if this happen, this is what to do. So basically we went over a code red, which is gun on campus. We went over that about a month ago and there were rumors going around the school that there would be a fake shooting to see how the students would prepare for it 2and stuff like that. So when we first heard the two gunshots nobody did anything because we thought that that was a drill, you know.
BALUJA: And then I just saw people running and then I heard it again. And it got louder and louder and that's when I just ran downstairs. And I could tell he was like right around the corner because it was very loud and I just heard shooting and I just made to ran opposite.
SCIUTTO: I know it's going to be confusing in that situation to distinguish what it is, right? And not a lot of people have actually heard a gunshot. You must not have known for sure when you first heard those sounds.
BALUJA: Yes. The first time I heard it, I didn't really know what it was and I saw people running, but I was still like puzzled, like confused. And I heard four more shots and I was like, "OK, I don't care if this is fake or not, like I'm going. I'm leaving, you know."
SCIUTTO: You did the right thing. I'll tell you, you did the right thing.
SCIUTTO: I'm so glad you're safe. I'm sure your mom is as well. I imagine now you're reaching out to friends and classmates to see if everybody is safe.
BALUJA: Yes. There is still people right now texting me if I'm OK. I'm a new student at that school. I transferred at my senior year. And I had all my old school seeing if I was OK. And, you know, I'm texting all my friends from the school seeing if they're OK and so far everyone who I know is OK, except for one of my favorite security guards got shot. I'm not sure if he's living or not.
SCIUTTO: Oh, goodness. We're sorry to hear that. I just want to say we're thinking about you tonight. Please take care of yourself. I'm sure your mom is going to be hugging you tonight. But thanks so much for taking the time to tell the story.
BALUJA: Yes, thank you.
SCIUTTO: Just a harrowing account. "OutFront" now, we have a lot of folks who dealt with this kind of thing report. We got Chris Swecker, he's a former Assistant FBI Director for the Criminal Investigative Direction. We got Juliette Kayyem, she is the former Assistant Secretary for Department of Homeland Security. Also Josh Campbell, CNN Law Enforcement Analysis. He was with the FBI until very recently. Darrin Porcher, he's retired lieutenant with the New York Police Department. And Jonathan Wackrow, former Secret Service Agent for President Obama.
Darren, if I could begin with you. You were on the NYPD. You -- I imagine you dealt with shootings in this city before and you've also dealt with helping prepared schools for this kind of thing.
DARRIN PORCHER, FORMER NYPD LIEUTENANT: Well, shootings in the schools are more of an aberration than a norm in place like New York City. I perform my doctor studies at Fordham University and one of the points of focus was school violence, school safety. How can the schools ramp up the fortifications to protect themselves from these types of cases?
This kind of sense shows to my -- through my spine. It makes me think about Sandy Hook Columbine and even as a young lady mentioned would happen in rural Colorado when we had the shooting in the movie theater, because she perceived this is a drill, so to speak. And the same held true with the Batman shooting, those who came in there to watch a telecast of Batman.
But just going back to this particular story, what happens here with schools, schools are a place of peace and not a place of war. And so how do we properly fortify our schools, but at the same token not line the perimeter with tanks?
[19:15:05] One of the things we have to take into consideration, this was a person that had a known problem, a known history with that school. Therefore, this should have addressed a harbinger for violence or propensity for violence with this particular person.
Generally speaking, when I look at school security, it should be internal and external. Internal, you have people at the doors, inside the facility. External, just to make sure that the place is the way it should be.
Now, why a lockdown didn't occur to me is really surprising, because the shooting started externally. The people at the door should have immediately locked those doors and prevented him from coming in, because school doors traditionally are very thick. And this is somebody that was in possession of an AR-15 assault weapon.
An AR-15 is a civilian equivalent to the weapons of soldiers use in Iraq and Afghanistan. This was something that was on the streets. This was something that entered our school system. So what could they have put in play and that may think the key focus that I have here is they should have locked those doors down and prevented him from coming inside.
SCIUTTO: Well, Chris, if I could talk to you. You heard just from the poor girl we were just speaking to then that she had heard that one of the security guards was shot, perhaps that was in the initial exchange of fire, we don't know.
I do know that we've spoken to witnesses who said that teachers did lock the doors to rooms, hid kids in closets. I've often heard, you often hear that -- those rules about run, hide, fight, right, when you're in a situation like this.
But based on what we've heard and, again, we're just piecing together incomplete details at this point. But have you heard something that's worried you about preparations or prevention or reaction to a shooting like this?
CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER ASSISTANT FBI DIRECTOR, CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIVE DIVISION: Well, not enough information at this point, Jim. I mean, that school, like every school in the country, has a lockdown policy, and you know that's evolved over the years. It is run, hide, fight. I think we put not enough emphasis. I think we're afraid to talk about going on the offense in these situations, because when you get 17 casualties that's just a turkey shoot basically, it's just indiscriminate firing and -- at his leisure.
But what jumps out at me really, Jim, is the pointed statement that Sheriff Israel made about the early warning system. The people that are closest to this active shooter and we see this time and time again, they're flashing red, they're showing signs, they're posting. I've seen this person's posts on social media and that should have at least resulted in a restraining order by the school against this kid and there should have been some extra precautions just to keep him off the campus.
SCIUTTO: Yes, I want to --
SWECKER: This guy had no business having an AR-15.
SCIUTTO: I want to get to that. We just have coming in now, a reaction from Florida Senator Marco Rubio. He just tweeted the following, "Just finished update from fed authorities on Florida school shooting. It is clear attacked was designed and executed to maximize the loss of life." Josh Campbell, if I could go to you. You hear about that, for instance this account that he pulled the fire alarm to get people out into the hall ways coming out of exists. He carried a gun. The police say he had multiple magazines. This sounds like the shooter was prepared to kill as many as possible.
JOSH CAMPBELL, FORMER FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: Certainly he does. And it really speaks to the chaos of the situation. Let me start, Jim, by just commending you for the way you conducted the interview there with Masiel, you know, a witness, a victim. That type of interview was exactly the way that, you know, the FBI or law enforcement would treat someone to try to gather information, what happened. And you have to do it very delicately.
I think her story shows us two things. The first thing being chaos, in a situation like this where we heard earlier reports who've been covering this story now for quite a while, the initial reports were that there was a fire alarm that was going off so students thought, "Well, maybe we're supposed to exit." And then there was a lockdown order so they thought, "Maybe we're supposed to stay where we are." Just complete chaos.
And then the second thing, which is just as important, is that her story shows that, you know, the numbers that we're seeing, and I hope they don't continue to rise, the numbers of victims, that's just one number. There are also countless emotional victims out there that are also going to require support from law enforcement and the community. It just shows us how tragic the situations are.
SCIUTTO: We heard on the phone, the 17-year-old girl who's got to go to sleep tonight thinking about all that she witnessed today.
Juliette if I could go to you, because invariably after violent incidents like this, you do hear of some warning signs. In this case we hear of troubling disturbing. I think the sheriff said posts on social media. We understand that this student was disciplined from the school, possibly kicked out before. There were some warnings about him.
So you might say, "Well, then, why wasn't he stopped?" But I imagine there are a lot of kids, right, who might have warnings along those lines who don't go this far. I mean, how do you make judgments? You are with the Department of Homeland Security. How do you recommend that schools and institutions make judgments like this?
[19:20:02] JULIETTE KAYYEM, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Well, I think you -- I mean, what you have to do because there was more than just warnings in this case. I mean, at least what we're finding out so far, and I'm sure that we're going to find out more that this was a siren going off both publicly and then obviously probably within his family and the community.
So part of it is empowering community and family members to feel confident in speaking out about the potential of violence of this person. There is a lot of shame, concern, or maybe they've been ostracized from the family. It's the family's problem. I hate to admit that because if the family does not take care of it, does not understand what's going on and the propensity for violence, look at what happens. It extends past the family. We saw this in Columbine.
Columbine was a case of a man with a lot of issues with his mother. That's what it was. And so part of this is just people feeling empowered to say something is terribly wrong here.
And then on the school side, we're going to learn a lot and I'm absolutely losing it tonight, Jim. I mean, I'm so sick of this. I cannot tell you. And I have kids in high school, in the urban public high school. So the school had sufficient sort of knowledge and for whatever reason they didn't feel empowered. The law enforcement wasn't giving them enough resources.
So there was two sort of data points here, right? You sort of have the potential victims who, you know, sort of wanted the school to -- needed the school to pay more attention and then the family.
SCIUTTO: Yes. I'm with you. I'm a parent, but whether you're a parent or not, it's just difficult to hear. It's difficult to watch and again and again.
KAYYEM: Sick of it.
SCIUTTO: Jonathan, this weapon, the AR-15, it's, you know, as it was happening there was a first question that popped in my mind, "Is it going to be an AR-15 again? And we just run through the list of other shootings.
The church shooting in Texas last November, AR-15, the Las Vegas shooting in October, AR-15, that the deadliest shooting in U.S. history, the Orland Pulse Nightclub shooting, I was down there for that and, of course, Sandy Hook shooting, the deadliest school shooting. The list goes on. Does that weapon have any business being on U.S. streets?
JONATHAN WACKROW, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: It's a legal weapon in the United States right now, Jim. So if you had the ability to purchase the weapon and own it, that's one thing. I just want to jump back to Juliette point for one second, because her and I have been on this show and other shows time and time again and she, you know, knocked it out of the park there.
This is an individual -- this is a tragedy that literally could have been prevented. There were clear signs of leading indicators, of behavioral issues. The school, the parents, somebody should have interjected. Yet time and time again, after these, you know, mass shooting incidents, we sit here and we talk about this. So yes --
SCIUTTO: And then what now, because you couldn't put the kid in jail, I mean, troubling social media post, he kicked him out of school. I don't know what watch they had on. But what steps do you take?
WACKROW: That is just differing to problem. That just -- you're removing the problem from one environment and putting him in another environment. You need to identify what is the root cause. You know, what is giving this child, this 18-year-old kid, you know, the motivation to go into a school? I mean, think about the dynamics of this attack for one second. He was a student there so he knows the topography. He knows every angle in that school.
WACKROW: He knew. This is why this is so deadly that he had potentially years to think about, you know, retribution. It's -- this is tragedy. Yes, there is a gun issue.
KAYYEM: Who is paying for the gun?
WACKROW: There is a gun issue.
KAYYEM: Sorry. I'm saying, who is paying for the guns, right?
WACKROW: Well, that's -- you know, exactly. We can trace back to what the gun is, Juliette, but again, there's an indicator. Did this individual have the propensity to, you know, cause harm regardless of the weapon system?
SCIUTTO: Listen, these are all fair questions. We're going to keep talking about them. But "OutFront" now, we have the senior senator from Florida, Senator Bill Nelson joining us now. Senator Nelson, thanks for taking the time on what I know is difficult day and evening for your state.
SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: Jim, let me give you some new information. The shooter wore a gas mask and he had a smoke grenades. He went and set off the fire alarm so the kids would come pouring out of the classrooms into the hall. And there the carnage began.
SCIUTTO: So he -- do we know that he used any of those smoke grenades to create diversion, to make it more difficult to see him as he move through the hall ways?
NELSON: I was not specifically told that by the FBI, but I assume that's why he had the gas mask on.
SCIUTTO: Goodness. I mean that speaks to just enormous preparation, premeditation --
NELSON: Enormous preparation, that's correct. And with an AR-15, now, you know, how many more of these do we have to go through?
[19:25:08] NELSON: Earlier in the day I discussed this with Wolf. And this Pulse Nightclub 49, Las Vegas 59, Sandy Hook, go back as you said to Columbine. I mean, it goes on and on. When is enough, enough? And it's not going to change until the American people said, "We have enough." And, you know, as simple as common sense a measure we tried with Senator Feinstein's bill that said if you're on the terrorist watch list you can't buy a gun. We couldn't even get that passed.
SCIUTTO: Well, it's happening --
NELSON: The terrorist watch list.
SCIUTTO: It's happening at a time now whereas you well know that there is actually legislation moving through Congress to extend concealed carry, concealed carry reciprocity as it called. So some states have it, but then you could then carry that in states where that's outlawed. Is that the kind of measure that you believe is going to get through Congress even in the wake of a shooting like this?
NELSON: And they had a proposal in the floor of the legislature that doctors could not even report gunshot wounds. You know, fortunately, that was defeated. But this is the kind of thing that is going on. Now, obviously here there's got to be some mental health problem as well. And so when are we going to wake up and start addressing mental health?
SCIUTTO: You know, oftentimes in the wake of this, beyond the question about missed warning signs or warning signs not acted upon, is the question of what the school measures and security were. It sounds like we have an eyewitness who says there was a security guard. We've heard from school officials who said that this school, like many schools have limited number of entries so that they can watch folks coming in and coming out.
But as you describe -- I wonder, Senator, if you describe someone with multiple magazines, and AR-15, and gas mask, and smoke grenades, can schools credibly defend against that kind of thing?
NELSON: You can't make an armed camp in a school. There's got to be some open availability in a free society, but you can be reasonable in your approach to security. You know, it used to be those of us in elected public office, we never even concerned ourselves about security. Now, that's one of the first questions we have to talk about when we're going to an advertised public meeting. Is there a security there?
SCIUTTO: You know, I spoke to one of the survivors, a young 17-year- old just a few minutes ago, Masiel Baluja, and she was breaking up as you would, as I would even, but certainly as a 17-year-old describing this, I'm curious what resources is your state offering the families and the victims tonight, the many survivors who are affected by this as well?
NELSON: Well, all the resources of local government is going to come to bear. The whole event now is being led by the FBI. All local law enforcement are participating. The investigation will be led by the FBI. And in South Florida, I know specifically Broward County, they have an excellent working relationship with the FBI. So the families will be provided for, but when you just lost your 16-year-old or 17- year-old or maybe 14-year-old, all the comfort in the world ain't going to help very much.
SCIUTTO: No, no, I can't imagine. And I feel, of course, for the parents who got the worst news tonight. Senator Nelson, I wonder if I could ask you, the President has tweeted his condolences to the victims of the shooting. Have you had the opportunity to speak to Mr. Trump about this?
NELSON: No, I haven't.
SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, Senator, we wish you luck tonight. We know you got a busy night and days ahead of you and we wish you the best of luck.
NELSON: Thanks, Jim.
SCIUTTO: I want to just update our viewers now with the latest details on the breaking news, and this is the latest. 17 people now dead. We know at least three people still in critical condition. After police say that a suspected gunman opened fire at his former high school this in Parkland, Florida. The shooting taking place just minutes before school was left out. Students say that a fire alarm went off, later the gunshots began.
We're now learning that it was the shooter who set off that fire alarm to draw students out of classrooms to maximize the carnage. Police say the rampage took place both inside and outside the school beginning outside the school, in fact. The victims according to police, among them both students and adults. The alleged gunman, here's what we know. A 19-year-old former student. His name -- let me just check his name, Nikolas Cruz, 19 years old.
Senator Nelson just telling us the latest detail, as he entered the school, he was wearing a gas mask and had smoke grenades to perhaps create a greater diversion there. Again, maximize the carnage from this horrible shooting.
I want to go back now to our justice correspondent Shimon Prokupecz.
Shimon, I understand you have new information.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a couple of new details we are learning that we are being told the suspect, the shooter here, the alleged shooter, is cooperating with the police. He's talking with investigators.
And what they are learning, based on what he's -- the information he's providing, along with some of the witnesses accounts, is that he, the shooter, pulled the fire alarm, the alleged shooter pulled the fire alarm to draw out more victims. He was hoping for a higher victim count. So, that is why he pulled the fire alarm.
We have been talking about this for a couple of hours now that there was a fire alarm, some of the students had said they heard a fire alarm, that someone pulled the fire alarm. Well, we are now learning that the shooter, the alleged shooter pulled this in hopes of drawing out more victims for a higher victim count. We are also learning that some of the students there have told police that they may not remember him. Some saying they do remember him.
There are some questions about who knows him? Who doesn't know him? So police are working through that to try to figure out exactly when maybe he was motivated. When did this motivation to start this shooting to go on this shooting spree begin. So, now, you know, it's really seems that police are learning a lot through his own words through witnesses. And so, you know, the investigation here just keeps going, keeps continuing, as police continue to learn more about perhaps what happened here.
SCIUTTO: Shimon, thank you.
And as police learn more, let's call it what it is, this was a premeditated mass murder. It was not an accident. He came there with multiple magazines, with what amounts to an automatic weapon, with gas mask, with smoke grenades, set off the fire alarm looking to maximize casualties. Just shocking crime to witness.
I want to go live now to someone who witnessed it firsthand. It is Jim Gard. He is a math teacher at the high school where this deadly shooting took place.
Jim, thanks for joining us tonight's. Can you hear me OK? Jim Gard, you are hearing Jim Sciutto OK?
Looks like we are going to have to check that and call back so we can get his account.
But let me go with just our panel here, Darren, what you heard from Shimon about and from Senator Nelson, in fact, about the preparations for this attack.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The preparations were optimal importance. They should have had -- they went through a lockdown drill recently. And so, I believe SWAT team that was in close proximity, because they were doing a drill prior to this happening. I believe it was morning of. That's why you had the quick response.
SCIUTTO: I think it was fire drill in the morning, not a lockdown drill, to my knowledge. I think it was a fire drill earlier in the day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you did have special operations officers that were in the immediate area. That's why they were able to respond so quickly.
But one other things is you have to take into consideration is egregious of this. This happened at roughly 2:40 in the afternoon. This was close to dismissal. You know the pandemonium that exists when you have those people in the hallway, it makes it very difficult for responding law enforcement to come and eradicate that threat. And he understood this and that's why he conducted the assault at this particular time.
So, when we go back to preparation, all schools are required by law to have these lockdown drills and preparation. But the truth of the matter is how serious are you about fortifying your school. We have to take into consideration. Believe it or not, this is not a crime ridden neighborhood. This is more of an aberration in the norm. And oftentimes, we reflect on our preparation in what's happened in the past.
SCIUTTO: Fortifying schools, that's where we are today. Fortifying schools against attacks like this.
We now have Jim Gard back on the phone. He's the math teacher at the high school where the shooting took place.
Jim, can you hear me now?
JIM GARD, TEACHER (via telephone): I can hear you perfectly now.
SCIUTTO: Well, Jim, thank you for coming on. I know what you witnessed today is harrowing. I want to say, we're glad you are safe. Can you walk us through what you saw today?
GARD: Yes, at 2:20 or so I finished up reviewing for a test for my advanced algebra class that I have. And fire alarm went off. I thought was strange considering we just had a fire drill at 9:30 this morning. I told my students, I said, look, don't go anywhere.
[19:35:03] Let's see what happens. Maybe it's a false alarm, what- have-you.
And then we all wound up at the door, getting ready to go out. Maybe 30 seconds later, admin came on and said evacuate the building. So, we all evacuated. I always wait to go last and make sure all the kids are out of the class.
And as I'm about ready to leave, we hear all the popping sound, all of a sudden, you heard code red which means it's a lockdown active shooter. So, I said, hey, get back in the room. Six kids came back in. I closed the door behind me. And that's pretty much where we stood.
Once I put the lights out, everybody gets quiet, after about 10 minutes, we realized it was no longer a drill. And things were getting serious. At 2:40, we knew it was real serious.
SCIUTTO: So, how long were you holed up in the classroom then there fearing for your lives, I imagine?
GARD: Well, you know, the kids are great. Six kids I had were really good. We were extremely calm. Basically all I did was put out an email what kids I had, which kids are missing. We figured out where they all were through text messages so I knew all the kids I had in class were out of place and they were safe, which is a drill that we have gone through to make sure of that.
So, we were I guess correct that way. We were there I want to say 4:40 or so is when we heard the police coming down the hallway, banging on doors. And so, when they came up to my room and banged on the door, I told the kids, everyone, get back towards the closet, and I have my window covered up with paper, I said who are you? And it's the police. I said prove it. They showed me their badge and I opened the door.
I'm not going to open the door for anybody unless they have prove. And we all got out.
SCIUTTO: You did the right thing checking the ID. Were you able to lock the door to the room so felt that you could keep out if the shooter was on the other side?
GARD: Oh, yes, my door is always locked. That's standard operating procedure.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this, because I understand you knew the suspect last year. You knew of this student.
SCIUTTO: What did you know about? What did the school know about him?
GARD: I think I had Nick in the first semester of last year, like around 2016. So, he wasn't in my class for that long. I mean, I have information, but it's on my laptop in my classroom which, of course, I can't get in right now.
He was real quiet. Basic math class. He was quiet kid in class. I never had any problems with Nick. But it's just shocking. Incredible.
SCIUTTO: Was the school concerned? Were they concerned about him before? Some of the students said he had been disciplined.
GARD: Well, some of the girls in my class said that, I guess, he had some problems with other girls. But again, that's girls in class saying all that. As far as my class goes, I remember an email or two from admin, but I can't remember exactly what it said. Like I said if I was on my laptop I could probably go back and find it and know for sure. Of course, admin would know a whole lot better about that than I.
SCIUTTO: Listen, I know the judgments are very difficult to make with students, Jim. So thanks very much.
I just want to share some new details CNN is just learning. According to a law enforcement source, the suspect mixed in with crowd of students to try to get away initially. This was after the shooting. But that attempt did not end up working.
So, this shooter there attempting to get away with other people fleeing the scene of the crime. Again, it speaks to what we've talked about, Jonathan, the premeditated nature that perhaps this was part of his plan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. This was not a crime of opportunity. These are advanced tactics. You know, from weapon selection to the utilization of pyrotechnics, knowing the topography of the school, going in, and pulling the fire alarm, what he wanted to do there is created a fatal funnel.
Those kids came out of the classroom, doing the right thing on alarm, and walked right into the danger. This was absolutely premeditated.
So, how do you prevent that? Again, it is, we see a very well- coordinated, well-orchestrated attack, all the way to his escape, trying to blend in with the students to escape. This wasn't a suicide mission. He obviously wanted to live.
SCIUTTO: And that's an interesting point. I want to ask you, Chris, about that, because often in these shootings, they are really suicide murders, right, because often times it appears the plan of the shooter is to die by cop.
[19:40:02] You know, you'll hear sometimes here's a case he tried to get away. And he's captured alive. How unusual is that with shootings like this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I mean, we've had 25 school shootings since Columbine. And most of those instances shooter ended up dead either by the hands of the police or their own hand. So, the best that a school can do is take certain measures. There are certain things you have to have. You have to have a triage system, early warning system, a team that assesses threats and acts on them if there is a threat out there.
Every school should have a lockdown system and drill it well and they should have magnetic locks on their exterior doors so there is an instant lockdown. If you leave it to human error, and Murphy's law will rear their ugly head every time.
So, there are certain things that schools, every school should have in place. And I'm not second guessing what happened here. I'm just suggesting you can never be 100 percent safe. You can put as many things as you can in place and hope the system works when it happens.
SCIUTTO: Yes, someone shows up at a school with a weapon like that, howdy fend against it.
Josh, I want to ask you, so the suspect is in custody. That is a rarity now. And I understand from colleague Shimon Prokupecz that he's cooperating with authorities so far. I assume he's going to answer some questions. How much of a difference does that make here, as they piece everything together, how much more can they learn, what difference does it make to investigators?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it can make a huge difference. In some of these instances in the past where we've seen shooter either killed by law enforcement or took his or her own life, obviously that's a situation you won't be able to interview someone. You won't be able to gather the information, the motivation, what went into this. Everything we would want to learn not only about this instance but also know about, you know, maybe prevention of future instances. Just to piggy back on something that my Secret Service colleague
there, Jonathan, said earlier about sophistication of this plot. Details as we continue to learn, you know, they show a sinister level of sophistication that's difficult to comprehend. But to tie it to what we were talking about earlier, if I fundamentally believe with every new layer of sophistication, that's also another opportunity to interdict, to stop a plot from happening.
And what I mean by that is everything the shooter would do to gather supplies, to maybe get the target, gather a gun, it's going to be someone else may possibly see and be able to say. And last thing I'll say on that topic is we have to get to a point where folks that see something that is maybe a little bit off can pick up the phone and call police, can call the FBI. The reason the FBI conducts its investigations in secret is because you want to be able to gather as much information as you can, and potentially build a case, without incriminating someone who may be innocent.
So if you are out there and you have someone maybe a loved one maybe someone that you know and think there is something a little bit off, you can rest assured that simply picking up the phone to call the FBI is not necessarily going to ruin their life. It's something that will allow law enforcement to look into the situation. If there is nothing there, there is nothing there, no harm, no foul. If there something, you can potentially save multiple lives.
SCIUTTO: Juliet, we heard the sheriff say that immediately in his first comments. He said the old familiar phrase, if you see something, say something, which I think most of us associate with terrorism, right? But this is a real, this kind of shooting and gun violence is real and present danger in the U.S., is it not?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's certainly a greater danger just in terms of casualty rate than ISIS is at this stage. And we have to admit that to ourselves as a nation, that we are focused on, you know, look at these school shootings and look at who is dying. I want to pick up on these points my colleagues from the FBI and Secret Service.
So, first of all, what was sort of devastating about that teacher, I believe his name was Jim, Jim had some sense of Nikolas Cruz that he was a little off but had that sense from girls in the classroom. Meanwhile, the school knows that this kid is not right. So, why isn't the -- why isn't that information being shared with the frontline defenders of our kids who are essentially the teachers?
If you go to Nikolas and everything he did to do this heinous crime, there are so many data points that people had to have been aware of. And I'm focused on guns, every time after these mass shootings because we tend to dismiss it too soon. Who paid for this?
He's 19 years old. He's high school dropout. How is he getting this stuff? How is he getting the materials to do all this sort of stuff that he did today?
I want those questions answered. And I want people to learn from it, because as I said, we are sick of this. We are absolutely sick of this at this stage.
SCIUTTO: Darrin Porcher, are we learning? As these shootings happen are communities learning and federal authorities learning?
[19:45:00] DARRIN PORCHER, PACE UNIVERSITY: I think we are on a national state and municipal level. One of the things when we look at how you address these situations, one of two things that comes to my mind, we are going to evacuate or we're going to shelter in place. And that's the decision that the incident commander on the scene is going to make. In addition to that, as we look at how the officers entered the building, you have what we refer to -- we have a hot zone, we have a warm zone, and a cold zone.
The hot zone, the officers have I want to say body resistant armor, that's equivalent to the threat in play. They are right in the thick of things. Warm zone is distance outwards. But they still have propensity for getting shot.
The cold zone is that area where you have uniform personnel that are focused on pedestrian control, things of that effect. So, we're speaking from a place of conjecture, because from start to finish, I think this run an hour max, so we still don't have genuine schematic how effective the response was to the situation.
But going back to, are we learning from this? Absolutely. We look at Sandy Hook. We look at Columbine. We look at what happened in Kentucky recently.
Law enforcement is gaining, is extracting that amalgamation of resources from what happened and applying it moving forward.
SCIUTTO: You know, it's interesting, Jonathan, law enforcement is learning, but sounds like the attackers are learning too. Here's a guy who went in with a simple plan but a plan designed to defeat, you might say the shelter in place, right, because he pulled that fire alarm to get people out in the hallways?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly. What we are seeing there is no set pattern for these mass shootings. No -- who is a mass shooter? Here we have a 18-year-old. Las Vegas was somebody else. Pulse nightclub somebody else.
There is no -- that's the challenge for law enforcement is how do you pull together these strings? I think to your point we are learning, but we are learning about tactics. But as a society. are we learning?
We need to Juliette was saying this earlier, and I think this is her point, so I don't want to speak for her. But we need to create a culture of security awareness. We see all these data points that are out there. The problem is there a gap in this information. No one is synthesizing these data points together to actually then understand that we have a threat that walks among us.
SCIUTTO: Is that not clear though? We report them. We see the numbers. The numbers are clear. The school shootings happen with greater and greater frequency and
with it seems greater and greater lethality. There is a lot of information but it's what follows that you don't see much of.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jim, we are sitting here, again, for years I've been sitting at this exact desk having the same conversation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a society, we need to start doing more. We need to start doing more. Whether it's with the guns, with mental health care, getting pathways for people to get help. There's a lot of different things we need to start acting on. Yes, we learn, we learn tactics.
But unfortunately we forget very quickly. We are not focused on this because tomorrow, there's a tweet and everyone forgets this. We need to build foundational development for a culture of security awareness.
SCIUTTO: Sounds fair. You know, I want to go to the experts.
Chris Swecker, you were with the FBI, criminal division. What change would you like to see tomorrow to make something like this less likely?
CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Well, I mean, Jim, I'll answer that question, but I want to address your earlier question, are we learning, and maybe it is the same learning. You see tactics have changed. 2Columbine, there would have been 30 minute wait before any officer went in, they would have gotten their information together, gotten themselves together, and entered slowly and deliberately.
You don't see that anymore. You see dynamic entry and go straight to the threat. You see armed security officers. I'm in favor of these armed officers being outside the schools so they can deter would-be shooters.
You see different elements of school security coming into play. The teacher talking about shutting off his window, locking his door from the inside. The actual lockdown had been drilled in the past.
So, you see elements of good security coming into play each time, that doesn't mean you can prevent all the bad things from happening. I'll throw out one thing here, and I don't want to get into ha political discussion, but if you go into IACP Website, largest police organization in the world, they are focused on assault weapons and keeping them out of the hands of people like this young man.
And the ubiquitous AR-15 is out there every time we have one of these incidents. So, you know, I know it's not something that our legislature has been able to get to or pass legislation on, but frankly I would listen to the IACP. They are the professionals get people away from 19-year-old.
SCIUTTO: All you got to do is listen to these soldiers, or the former combat medics, and they say this is weapon of war. [19:50:04] They don't see how it can belong on the sheets.
Listen, we're going to have more chance to talk about this. So, stay with us.
OUTFRONT next, details still coming in about this deadly shooting. We're going to talk to a student who was inside the school. Her tale of survival will be next.
SCIUTTO: Breaking news, we are just getting new video from inside the school as that deadly shooting was underway. It was recorded by a student. I want to warn you, this is some of the most graphic, frightening video really I have seen of something like this. So, please take that warning and have a listen to what students experienced inside.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
SCIUTTO: That scene there played out in an American high school classroom today. Those are teenagers on the floor under their chairs and desks screaming as gun shots were fired, filmed by a student on their phone, I imagine. Just sickening.
I have the opportunity now to speak to one of the students who lived through this, survived this. She is Sarah Chadwick. She's a student in the eleventh grade at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
[19:55:01] Sarah, are you there? Can you hear me OK?
SARAH CHADWICK, STUDENT (via telephone): Yes, I can hear you.
SCIUTTO: Sarah, this is a tough thing to talk about. As you're going through it, you just tell me as much as you can and want to and stop whenever you want to. I'll just start by asking you what you saw and heard today.
CHADWICK: Well, I mean, I woke up this morning and never thought this is something that would happen, especially in Parkland, Florida. We're known to being one the safest cities in Florida.
CHADWICK: Basically what happened was I was in my last period which was fourth period. And that is in the portable area. And at around 2:30, we heard the fire alarm go off, which we thought was really strange because we already had a fire drill earlier that day, second period.
But we went along with it anyway like we were supposed to. And my whole class and all of the portable classes, and some classes next to the portable evacuated in the field. Somewhere around 200 of us and we were all standing there waiting for direction on what to do and all of a sudden, we see tons of cop cars go to the front of our school with the sirens on and paramedics and we see cop cars coming towards up and security guards on their golf carts coming towards us.
And that's when teachers and security guards and cops were telling us to run, to evacuate to the back of Walmart.
SCIUTTO: Did you hear the gun shots as that happened, they were happening?
CHADWICK: We didn't hear them that far away. But some friends were texting me as they were in classrooms where the gunshots were fired.
SCIUTTO: How soon did you figure out this was not a drill, that this was very real.
CHADWICK: As soon as we saw the cop cars, because during a drill fire, we don't have cops show up. So, it was sort of unreal.
2SCIUTTO: Do you have a sense of how quickly the cops were there from when the fire alarm went off, when the incident started? Do you have a sense of it?
CHADWICK: I would say around three minutes after the fire alarm went off, I saw and heard cop cars.
SCIUTTO: That is tremendously fast.
Listen, I have to imagine even though you weren't hearing the gunshots, you knew this was dangerous. As you were evacuating, were folks telling you what to do? Did you have a sense of you knew who to do to get to safety?
CHADWICK: We didn't know it was a school shooting. We thought it was a drill or somebody fired blanks which was the rumor that was going around at that time. So, a herd of us were running towards Walmart not knowing what was going on, honestly.
SCIUTTO: Sarah, I know you must be getting in touch with friends and family tonight, how everybody is safe. We wish you the best, OK? Take care of yourself and stay close with friends and family tonight.
CHADWICK: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: My guests are back with me tonight and we are going to show this video one more time. Just be aware, it is shocking but it gives you a sense of how serious and how harrowing a situation this was earlier today for these young students, have a listen.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
SCIUTTO: God help us. I don't know what to say.
PORCER: It must have felt like an eternity for those kids.
PORCHER: I'm just sitting here. I can tell you from an experience being an NYPD lieutenant, hearing bullets going over my head, three seconds feels like 30 minutes, and you heard these multiple, these rapid fire, that's what happened with these weapons, and we're taking about teenagers.
PORCHER: They must have been horrified. It sends chills down my spine just watching the video. And I'm sitting in a safe place. I can't imagine the level of fear these kids were enduring being in there for upwards of 30 minutes.
SCIUTTO: The only time I heard gunfire like that was in Iraq or Afghanistan in the midst of those --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. Think about the video. Again, builds the profile. This wasn't a spray and pray where he walked into the area and, you know, fired an entire magazine. This was a single trigger pull. This was methodical.
SCIUTTO: That means he is thinking about these shots.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is thinking about it. He is looking. He is trying to focus on shot placement.
SCIUTTO: It sounds like he is picking his targets.
Thanks so much for joining us tonight. It's a difficult night. It's a difficult story.
Our live coverage of this deadly shooting in Florida continues right now with my colleague Anderson Cooper.