Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

New Details Emerging on the Florida School Massacre; Remembering the Victims; Student Survivor Demands Lawmakers "Take Action Now"; Initial Investigation Shows Florida Shooter Fired Nearly 150 Shots. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired February 16, 2018 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:00:06] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the Florida school massacre. I'm Anderson Cooper in Parkland.

Alyssa Alhadeff, 14 years old. Hers is the first funeral that's going to be taking place today. It is the first of 17 funerals that will be taking place here. A grim reminder of the horror that occurred here just two days ago.

I want to go to our Rosa Flores who's standing by because with each passing hour, we're learning more about the shooter who did this, how he was able to get a weapon and what may have led him to walk into the doors of that school -- Rosa.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we are getting a minute-by- minute account from police about how this transpired. According to police, he arrived in an Uber at about 2:19 p.m. about two minutes later he was already firing that weapon. Forward about eight minutes, so 10 minutes into his day on this campus, he set down his AR-15 style rifle and he started blending in with students who were trying to escape.

That's how he was able to leave the campus. He stopped by two stores, he grabbed a sandwich, he grabbed a drink. And then a police officer from the Coconut Creek Police Department saw him because that police officer says that he remembered the description that went over his radio. He saw him in a residential area. He says his training kicked in and that's how the suspect was apprehended without incident.

Now we're learning a lot more about him from police records that show that the police was called to his home 39 times since 2010 for things like domestic disturbance and mentally ill person. We're also learning about a second Instagram account that shows pictures of him with a mask, menacing photos of an arsenal of weapons, and we're also seeing a new video being revealed taken by a neighbor who says that he appeared to be practicing -- target practice outside his house.

And if you look behind me, you will see that there are still flashing lights, Anderson. This is still a very active scene. Investigators here still sifting through the evidence. But as you know, this work is extremely important because as family members ask for justice to be served, it's this work that's going on behind us that will make sure that that happens -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Still a lot to learn. Rosa Flores, appreciate that.

Darrin Porcher is standing by for us. He's a retired lieutenant from the NYPD. Also here on site is James Gagliano, formerly with the FBI.

James, when -- you know, when you see now what we're starting to learn about the person who did this, where is the investigation now? What are the priorities for law enforcement?

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Sure. And, Anderson, in the 21st century, we have -- every one of us has a digital footprint. And that's what the investigators are doing. They're going back, they're checking records, they're going back and they're checking E- ZPass, where he traveled, anything he might have put on social media. We call that digital exhaust. And they're going through that exhaustively.

The second piece is the human component, the human element, which means shoe leather, going out and actually knocking on doors, interviewing people and talking about what they knew about him. As we're starting to see more details unfold here, it's starting to paint a much better, much clearer picture of exactly who this guy was.

COOPER: And Darrin, just in terms of what law enforcement can learn after an incident like this. I mean, I know that the FBI looks at every active shooter situation to see, just as they look at every terror attack and even the NYPD looks at every terror attack around the world to see what new methods are being used, I assume law enforcement around the country is going to be looking at what happened here to see if there's any lessons that can be learned in terms of the police reaction.

DARRIN PORCHER, RETIRED NYPD LIEUTENANT: Absolutely. Law enforcement's vision on this is going to be clear and concise. What they're going to look to do is extract, not just what happened here, but take a look at what happened in Newtown, what happened in Kentucky just recently. And they're going to grasp that amalgamation of different experiences and they're going to use that moving forward.

It's an arduous task to investigate these types of mass shootings. However, law enforcement is fit for the challenge and we're getting better and better as we progress.

COOPER: It's one of the things, and, James, you and I have talked about before, is how much has been learned since Columbine. And it's -- I mean, it's a sickening thing that there have been so many incidences to learn from, but just in terms of law enforcement responding it's been a complete sea change since Columbine.

GAGLIANO: Absolutely. In walking around and talking to some of the grieving parents and some of the parents of students that were in other schools locally, they were so impressed with the police response. The police did an amazing job. Post-Columbine which happened in April of 1999, we've learned lots of lessons. [09:05:06] The problem, Anderson, as you and I discuss all the time,

is the strategic level. And it's an uncomfortable conversation because it involves politics. And as soon as you put the words gun and control in the same sentence, people end up retreating to their separate corners.

The planet is 4.5 billion years old. Civilization has been around for thousands of years. We've only been a country for 241 years, and we hang on to this relic from 1791 and say that what the founding fathers intended should still apply today. We have to look at this. No laws from what we can tell right now were violated by the purchase of this weapon by a 19-year-old kid who was able to use an assault weapon and terrorize this school.

COOPER: Darrin, one of the things that has changed so much in the police response since Columbine is that it's no longer -- you know, the first officers set up a perimeter around the school, wait for the SWAT team. It's the first officers who arrive, whoever they are, even if it's a traffic cop, even if it's a bicycle cop, they get together, they go in to get the shooter. And I think what a lot of people don't realize is that police departments around the country, and I know for a fact the NYPD, every officer is now being trained and has been trained now in how to respond to an active shooter.

PORCHER: Absolutely. When we go back to Columbine, as my esteemed colleague just mentioned, it was a different -- it was a different philosophy. It was more or less a wait-and-see, bring in greater resources. But now we're focusing on immediately confronting the threat and taking that person or neutralizing the threat as quickly as possible.

And oftentimes, as you mentioned earlier, the patrol officer, it's that patrol cop that's the first person on the scene. It's not the FBI. It's not the ATF. So it's important that we employ the necessary professional development for that patrol officer who is the first line of defense on the scene at these types of instances.

One of the things, when we look at how these zones are set up, traditionally you'll have a hot zone, a warm zone and a cold zone. In the hot zone, this is where the thick of things are occurring. You have officers that are wearing a bullet-resistant armor, so to speak, that's capable of -- I shouldn't say suppressing, but stopping the threat.

And then the warm zone is a little further away. Then you -- the same holds true. You have officers that are retrofitted with this type of body armor. And the cold zone is where you have officers that are conducting things such as pedestrian traffic, things to that effect. So we're constantly learning and it's an ever so evolving process in law enforcement. But once again, this is making us better and more able to protect the citizens of the United States of America.

COOPER: James, I mean, the other thing that is so interesting to me is just how quickly these incidents take place. I mean, we're talking about a matter of minutes when most of the fatalities take place. We don't know at this point how long exactly the shooter was inside the school for, but it seems a pretty limited amount of time. Because he went into the stairwell, took the rifle -- the gun out of the case that he brought it in, went to a few classrooms and then left the rifle and left the school.

GAGLIANO: The one piece of this which is going to be a boon of information intelligence for law enforcement is the fact that this young man didn't kill himself or conduct suicide by cop. What we're learning as these things start to continue to happen over the course of the last 19 years since Columbine, in most of these instances, to your point, they take place in between three to nine minutes. And generally speaking the person ends up dying either in a shootout with police or taking their own lives.

There's limited use of crisis negotiation. In the old days, you had hostage negotiators, and that was a central piece of this because there were demands. Terrorists wanted the release of their colleagues in a jail or somebody wanted money and a plane and wanted to go to Aruba. In these days that doesn't happen. There's not that negotiation where you're trading certain things to the hostage takers for hostages to be released.

People are looking to kill as many people as possible which, again, Anderson, brings us right back to the debate about these assault weapons. Having an assault weapon in an unhinged person's hands like this 19-year-old gives us 17 victims.

COOPER: Yes. Jim Gagliano, appreciate it. Darrin Porcher, appreciate it as well.

Coming up in this next hours, I mean, incredibly the funeral will be held for 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff. Remembered as a soccer standout, she was a freshman, described as beautiful, she was smart, she was talented. Her parents now have a message for the nation and our president. They spoke with our Alisyn Camerota.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LORI ALHADEFF, DAUGHTER KILLED IN MASSACRE: My child is dead. I can't help her. But I can help all those other kids at Stoneman Douglas High School and all the other kids in America and around the world. We have to protect our children, we have to fight for them.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And Lori, what do you want to say to President Trump?

L. ALHADEFF: President Trump, Barron goes to school. Let's protect Barron, and let's not -- let's also protect all these other kids here in Parkland, in Florida, and everyone everywhere else in the United States of America.

[09:10:07] Because we earned it just like how you earned the right to protect Barron. You need to help us now. We need security now for all these children that have to go to school. We need action. Action. Action.

ILAN ALHADEFF, DAUGHTER KILLED IN MASSACRE: When does this stop? These are our kids. How do we get some controls? Who is in charge? I'll tell you it starts at the top.

L. ALHADEFF: What if that was your child that was shot three times, in the heart, in the head, in the hand. Think about it and then speak.

CAMEROTA: Is now the time to talk about this and fixing this?

I. ALHADEFF: It is the time to talk about it now and tomorrow and the next day and the next day after that and every day after until all of this is resolved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Alyssa and 16 others of course lost.

Dianne Gallagher is in nearby Deerfield Beach with more on those whose lives were taken.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson. And of course there are those who were injured as well. And so I just want to give a quick update on that. We have seven who remain in the hospital, one in critical condition here at Broward North.

But as we talk about those who were killed in that shooting, we want to remember Martin Duque Anguiano, he was just 14 years old, a freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Nicholas Dworet, he was on his way to college. He was a senior and he was a standout swimmer. He was a recruit at Indianapolis University and planned to swim there in just a few months, in the fall.

And then there's Peter Wang, a 15-year-old freshman who his friends remember as hilarious in life and in the moments before his death a hero.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELSEY FRIEND, SHOOTING SURVIVOR AND FRIEND OF PETER WANG: Peter was very funny. I used to joke around with him and call him Peter Griffin and he'd laugh with me. He was one of my closest friends and he'd always -- he was very kind. He died a gentleman, holding the door for other students. And knowing he's gone is going to haunt me forever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GALLAGHER: A freshman, Anderson, who his last actions in life were making sure that other people got out OK.

There are just so many stories of heroism amongst those 17 that we are hearing in the hours and days after the shooting.

COOPER: Yes. Dianne, appreciate that, thanks very much.

Survivors of the massacre are speaking to lawmakers. They're saying act now. I'm going to talk to one student next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:17:01] COOPER: This shooting like so many others is provoking anger, frustration from many obviously around the country. What has been so striking here in Parkland is the response from some of the students, the survivors who are now speaking out in hopes of change.

Cameron Kasky is one of those survivors speaking out. Here is part of what he wrote to CNN. He said, "We can't ignore the issues of gun control that this tragedy raises. And so, I'm asking -- no, demanding we take action now. Why? Because at the end of the day the students at my school felt one shared experience, that our politicians that abandoned us by failing to keep assault weapons out of our school.

And I'm joined by Cameron Kasky right now. Thanks so much for being with us.

CAMERON KASKY, STUDENT WHO SURVIVED SCHOOL MASSACRE: Thank you for having me.

COOPER: You think you see this as a catalyst for change. I mean, I've never been to a school after a shooting like this where I've met so many students who are talking about issues of guns in this time when so many politicians are saying now is not the time to talk about the it.

KASKY: Everybody has done an amazing job responding to this. The Stoneman Douglas community, the Parkland community, everybody was in equal amount of supportive and grieving and inspired. We're going to use this to try to make something better out of it.

COOPER: Do you really think change is possible in terms of the kind of change you want?

KASKY: Everything I've heard where we can't do anything, and this is just out of our hands, it's inevitable, I think that's a facade that the GOP is putting up. I think that's what they want us to think.

I think that after every shooting the NRA sends a memo saying send your thoughts and prayers, say let's not talk about it now, say this happens. This is the only country where this kind of thing happens.

I've been hearing things from people, they don't have gun drills the way we do. We had to prepare extensively at Stoneman Douglas, and that shocked people. This is something that can be stopped and will be stopped.

COOPER: I talked to the football coach yesterday who was saying that this school in its 28 years, this school was the most prepared than any school he had ever taught in. They had repeated drills. Any school that could have been ready for something like this, there was a single point of entry, there was an armed guard, and yet it happened.

KASKY: The faculty at Stoneman Douglas is amazing. Our security guards are all dedicated. Aaron Feis died protecting us. All of them knew exactly what they were doing. We've been through this a million times. We've talked about it a million times. We've had good discussions about this. We thought we would be the last people to have to deal with this. If we didn't have the faculty we did, this could have been a lot worse.

COOPER: You know, obviously there are a lot of politicians who are focusing on mental health and saying something needs to be done about that, greater focus on mental health.

KASKY: I think mental health is important. I think that it's being used as a way to get out of discussing gun control. I think there's a very clear connection between the two. I'm not trying to take everybody's guns away. It was a 19-year-old who legally bought an AR- 15 which is a weapon of war.

If he had been through the least bit of screening, somebody would have said this person does not need a weapon like that. I think there need to be a lot more regulations put on guns and it needs to be a lot harder to get them.

COOPER: So, you know, you're a junior right now. Obviously, you're thinking about college, what you want to do afterward.

[09:20:07] Has this changed your thought about what you want to do with your life?

KASKY: Absolutely. I've always been inspired -- I think I've always been passionate and had a drive. This is something completely new. This feels like a calling. This doesn't feel like a hobby. I'm trying to spread as much awareness about this as I can. I hope to continue doing that as long as it takes.

COOPER: You have a brother who has special needs. You wanted to say and compliment the police officers. You went in to take care of your brother, make sure he was OK. You were in the room when the officers came in.

KASKY: BSO and the SWAT team, everybody handled it better than I could have possibly wished or expected. When the SWAT team broke the window and came in, they were pointing assault rifles at us, saying put your hands up.

The teacher in the room, just so you know, there are special needs in here who might not be able to do that. That was very scary, but they handled it in such an amazing way. They took good care of us. All the special needs students, including my brother were able to get there as seamlessly as possible. All things considered.

COOPER: You set up a Facebook page as well you want people to know about.

KASKY: Yes. It's called "Never Again MSD." It's a central place for people in Broward and all over the world who are sending their support because we've gotten amazing support from everybody. A lot of people feel the same way we do. A lot of people want to show everybody in the polls that we're not having this anymore.

COOPER: Were you at the vigil last night?

KASKY: I was at the vigil yesterday. It was painful to see how many people were touched by this. It's good to know everybody is inspired. There's a section of society that will shrug this off and sends their thoughts and prayers, but we'll march for hours and they have to bake a rainbow wedding cake, you know what I mean, it's --

COOPER: Do you worry that this will become, you know, a week from now when the media moves on, this will become another in a long line of tragedies?

KASKY: That was the thought I had, but I'm not worried because I've never seen this reaction before. Everybody is sending support. Everybody believes what we're doing. We're done believing that this is inevitable. This can be stopped. This needs to be stopped.

COOPER: So, for those who are saying, you know, thoughts and prayers and this is not the time to talk about guns.

KASKY: This is the time to talk about guns. Thoughts and prayers are appreciated and everybody who is thinking about us and sending support, we do hear you and we appreciate you and we thank you. But there's much more that can be done, much more that needs to be done and much more that people like Marco Rubio and Rick Scott are not doing.

It's scary to think that these are the people who are making our laws when our community just took 17 bullets to the heart. It feels like the only people who don't care are the people making the laws.

COOPER: Cameron, appreciate your time. I'm so sorry for what you've been through.

KASKY: Thank you for having me.

COOPER: I wish you the best. Cameron Kasky. We're going to get reaction next from a Republican member of Congress on what Cameron has said and what he's seen down here. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:27:45]

COOPER: Just in the last few minutes, we've been seeing some school buses heading toward the school. It's teachers who are now for the first time this morning being allowed to go back to the school basically just to pick up their cars. Obviously, it's been a crime scene and has been locked down. This is the first time they're able to at least get their vehicles and take them home.

We also have news just in. An initial investigation shows that the Florida shooter fired nearly 150 shots from his rifle. That's according to a law enforcement source. The sources also say the shooter bought at least three other guns in the last year.

Joining me now is Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, Charlie Dent. Congressman, thanks so much for being with us. I'm sorry it's under these circumstances.

We just had a young student on from the school, Cameron, who is saying he wants this to be a catalyst for some kind of change, particularly on gun laws. You co-sponsored legislation on bump stocks in the wake of Las Vegas that seemed like there was a lot of momentum for and it didn't go anywhere. A, how frustrating is that for you and what would you like to see changed?

REPRESENTATIVE CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, Anderson, look, it is very frustrating for me that we haven't moved some pieces of legislation. After Sandy Hook came the Toomey-Manchin bill that enhanced background checks. I thought that was entirely reasonable to enhance background checks for private sales of firearms. That went nowhere.

After this -- after Las Vegas, of course, we all learned about the bump stocks. Frankly, I didn't know what a bump stock was before Las Vegas, but I do now. So, Carlos Curbelo of South Florida, that area, actually introduced legislation that would ban the bump stock. We should do that.

You know, Susan Collins introduced legislation on the no-fly list, that we would make sure nobody who is on the no-fly list should ever be able to receive a firearm. That went nowhere. We should go after the low hanging fruit.

Some of these bills I believe we can pass. Unfortunately, it seems that in Congress being able to pass a bipartisan incrementable changes on controversial issue has become increasingly difficult.

See what happened yesterday on the Dreamer bill, 90 percent issue or 80 percent issue and we can't come to a consensus on it. It's very unfortunate. It's sad and the country is noticing.

COOPER: You know, the sides on gun control, the issues and the sides are so polarized and people are speaking passed each other and vilifying one another, which is obviously, you know, there's -- most people who own guns --