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Teens Accused of School Shooting Threats; Sandy Hook Promise Releases PSA; Biden Leads in New Polls. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired September 18, 2019 - 08:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Police arresting teenagers in Oklahoma and California this week, all accused of making school shooting threats. Tipsters alerted police after spotting social media posts.

CNN's Omar Jimenez joins us live to explain.

Thank goodness that people alerted the police. What happened?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alisyn, these cases all separate, popping up in multiple states across the country, California, Oklahoma.

Now, in Oklahoma, 18-year-old Alexis Wilson was arrested for making terrorist threats against her former high school. According to the county sheriff's office arrest report, Wilson had recently purchased an AK-47, showed co-workers videos of herself with the weapon and, according to the arrest report, allegedly told a co-worker she was going to shoot 400 people for fun and that there were so many people at her old school in McAlester High School that she would like to do it.

Now, police say she told them she was just trying to teach her co- worker not to be afraid of firearms. When police got to her home, they found the newly purchased AK-47 and a 12-gauge shotgun in her bedroom. Bond was set at $250,000 during a court hearing Monday. She's due in court again next week. Her attorney hasn't responded to CNN's calls.

But, in Palm Springs, California, three 14-year-old students were arrested after making violent social media threats against their school, Desert Hot Springs High. The post was actually first reported by a staff member from the school district. The district then immediately reported it to police who say they recovered a revolver, a semi-automatic handgun and a replica AR-15. The three students there are in custody, being held as juveniles, all of them charged with making terrorist threats.

And in Fresno, California, a 16-year-old student was also arrested for making threats on social media against his Fresno High School. The difference here is officers didn't recover any weapons, but the school district there says they take all threats like this seriously and they're investigated right away when reported. The Fresno School District also says they've rolled out a series of PSAs trying to educate their community about the seriousness of social media threats, especially when they're threats of mass violence.

John. Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. I mean this stuff is contagious.

BERMAN: Look, I mean the good news is that it's being caught before something potentially happens. The bad news, obviously, it's still going on.

CAMEROTA: So there's this powerful new video just released this morning. It's a PSA. And it is to try to prevent school shootings. So we will show it to you, next.

BERMAN: First, how a woman with a rare genetic syndrome became an entrepreneur. That's in today's "Turning Points."


CYNTHIA EISENBEIS, JESSICA'S MOTHER: Jessica was having trouble finding a job. Or if she'd find something, it would be great until they didn't necessarily want to work with her challenges.

JESSICA EISENBEIS, OWNER, YADI'S YUMMIES: After I graduate, I just want a job.

C. EISENBEIS: She has Rubinstein Taybi Syndrome, and that is a genetic syndrome characterized by short stature. They have really wide thumbs and big toes. Often times they have learning disabilities.

Jessica had been out of work for a while and was just really getting depressed. We started making dog treats for our dogs, and they liked them a lot. So we decided to take it further. And Jessica opened her store, Yadi's Yummys, in September of 2018.

They hand make their treats. It's all natural, human grade.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, baby. Welcome to Yadi's Yummies (ph).

C. EISENBEIS: Jessica, from the beginning, wanted to hire other people with disabilities because she wanted a place where people could go and be respected and enjoy their work and be valued.

J. EISENBEIS: I like to work here. I like to get some respect. I am the boss.




CAMEROTA: Kids around the country are back to school. Congress is back in session. And, still, no movement on stopping gun violence. Sandy Hook Promise is a non-profit that was founded in the aftermath

of the massacre there that was almost seven years ago. The group just released a powerful new public service announcement that we want to show you. Some viewers could find this video disturbing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These new sneakers were just what I needed for the new year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This jacket is a real must-have.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like my own phone to stay in touch with my mom.

ON SCREEN TEXT: It's back to school time and you know what that means, school shootings are preventable when you know the signs.



CAMEROTA: CNN has given free air time on this network to air this public service announcement.

Joining us now is Nicole Hockley, she's the managing director of Sandy Hook Promise and the mother of Dylan Hockley, who was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012.

Nicole, wow, that's an intense video.

NICOLE HOCKLEY, MANAGING DIRECTOR, SANDY HOOK PROMISE: Thank you. It's meant to be an intense video.

CAMEROTA: I mean we didn't even play the beginning, which starts with, look at these folders, my back to school folders, and it starts with -- it tricks you because at the beginning you think that it's a back- to-school commercial about going to get your back-to-school supplies, and then it transitions into what is, frankly, the new normal for our students.

HOCKLEY: Yes. And that's just -- that is the whole point of the PSA, that this is what our kids are experiencing now in school.

I mean last year was one of the worst years for school shootings on record with over 94 happening. This is not -- we're so much better than this. And what we want to teach people is, parents need to get engaged in this issue. They need to understand that this is what our kids are experiencing and yet there are actions we can take to prevent it.

CAMEROTA: And so just tell me, before we move on to that, what was the thought process was behind that? What were the meetings that you all had about why you wanted to create a public service announcement that looked just like that, with that intensity?

HOCKLEY: Sure. Well every year we launch a new PSA that teaches people that school shootings and gun violence is preventable when you know the signs. We wanted to focus on this back-to-school period this time so that -- because parents still think of back-to-school as this rosy time where you're getting your staplers, your shoes, your folders and binders. Whereas, actually, it's back to a time of violence for a lot of kids because, you know, my 15-year-old son, he's in tenth grade now, last week all he did every single day was practice active shooter drills, evacuation drills.

This is not right. We're practicing our kids for what to do in the case of danger, not necessarily teaching them how to prevent it from happening.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, I mean the idea that your son has to endure this again. I can only imagine what it's like for your family when something like that -- I mean we just reported on a couple of school shootings being thwarted or the threats of school shootings being thwarted.

And what is it like for your family when your son has to go through an active shooter drill?

HOCKLEY: He is more prepared for it now because he understands the reasons why they happen and he also understands the reality of what can happen if you don't understand what to do.

However, even he, when watching this PSA, was like, you know, mommy, you got it right because people need to understand how horrific this is and they need to make a difference.

CAMEROTA: So you said that this -- you wanted this so that parents are engaged. What does that mean? What do you want everyone who sees this PSA to do?

HOCKLEY: I want people to follow the very end line there, which is learn how. Our website has a downloadable brochure that talks about the signs and signals that people display preceding an act of violence or self-harm. Have a conversation with your kids. Bring our no-cost trainings to your schools so that the kids can have a deeper education on what they need to look for and how they need to act. We're empowering kids with these tools so that they can look after themselves, their peers, and keep their communities and schools safer.

CAMEROTA: After the recently highly publicized spate of mass shootings in Dayton, in El Paso, in Gilroy, California, there was this talk among politicians, and among the public, well, maybe this time will be different. Do you feel like this time is different?

HOCKLEY: I think each time, sadly, we are moving closer to the time that it's going to be different. A lot has changed since Sandy Hook. Again with Parkland the other year accelerating the movement. The recent back-to-back shootings are so heartbreaking. The conversation continues to happen. More people are getting involved. Legislation is available in Congress right now that can start to chip away at these acts of violence. Prevention plus legislation, that's the cure to this. CAMEROTA: But are you optimistic? I mean, yes, there's legislation

prepared in Congress, but it has stalled in the Senate. Mitch McConnell hasn't raised it.

HOCKLEY: It's stalled and I think he needs to be held account and just let this have a vote. You know, it's already passed in the House, universal background checks. The Senate wants to vote on it. We also have a lot of states looking at extreme risk protection orders. These are legislations that work very well when you know the signs of what to look for that you can then help enforce that behavior by taking care of people in crisis. This isn't controversial legislation. This is safety, responsible legislation that people want across America and Congress needs to respond.

CAMEROTA: So many people feel that this has become an intractable problem that we all just sort of live with, I guess, and that just feel like sitting ducks when you send your kids off to school every day.


CAMEROTA: And how do you stay optimistic?

HOCKLEY: I always have hope because I absolutely know that we can prevent this. I know through the programs that we do that we have already averted so many school shooting threats and suicide threats. And the more people know this, the more they're able to deliver those tools themselves and take action to prevent these. So I know -- I know we can stem this tide, we just need to keep chipping away at what's on the plate, but ensuring that people know that this isn't about taking away anything.


This is about keeping our kids safe. And that's something that we can all agree on.

CAMEROTA: Your son Dylan, as we mentioned, was six years old in his classroom with other six-year-olds. I'll never forget that day seven years ago. We have -- I mean he's a beautiful child. We have all of these beautiful pictures of him.

The anniversary, of course, comes up every year. And I think about it every year. I'm sure your family does. How do you stay strong through this?

HOCKLEY: Because I have a job to do. I have to honor the son that died, and I have to protect the son that survived.

CAMEROTA: I understand. I mean it's really -- you know that was -- that moment of Newtown was such a loss and such a shock to the system for all of us. And we thought, of course, that things would change after that. And the idea that you think that things have changed along the margins and that that gives you hope, I guess gives the rest of us hope.

HOCKLEY: Absolutely. There's always hope. This is something that we can take action on, so, please, don't ever give up. I won't.

CAMEROTA: I mean, I know one last thing you say that one thing that has happened since then is that the conversation about guns has come out of the closet. We talk about this now. This used to be a conversation that people -- I don't know why -- but just somehow didn't want to talk about. It was too politically heated. And now, you know, there used to be a time when after a school shooting people would say, too soon, too soon to talk about legislation. I don't hear that anymore.

HOCKLEY: No. No, people are actively having this conversation. Candidates are campaigning on it. This is no longer the third real, this is present, today, it needs to be dealt with now.

CAMEROTA: Nicole Hockley, thank you very much for sharing all of this with us and for the new PSA. Great to see you.

HOCKLEY: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: We'll be right back.



BERMAN: All right, a brand-new national poll this morning with signs that the Democratic race could be turning into something of a two- person contest. The poll from NBC News and "The Wall Street Journal" shows former Vice President Joe Biden at the top of the pack with 31 percent. Senator Elizabeth Warren up at 25 percent. Both Biden and Warren up since the last poll. Bernie Sanders down at 14 percent. And then all the others below that.

Joining us now, CNN politics report and editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza.

Chris, what do you see in this poll, sir?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes, look, John, I think you've got it exactly right, Bernie Sanders is closer in terms of overall vote to Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg than he is to Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden. He's 11 behind Elizabeth Warren now in that poll and only seven in front of Pete Buttigieg.

So I think what you're seeing now is a two-person race, which, honestly, we've seen a fair amount of data that suggests it's moving in that direction. We've not necessarily seen it be as clear as this now.

But I think one important thing to note, Joe Biden moved up five points from this last NBC poll. Elizabeth Warren moved up six. So don't sell Biden short. Biden's performances is, I think in the debates, have been very up and down, but he continues to either maintain or even slightly build on his support, which is notable.

CAMEROTA: OK, Chris, let's do a lightning round of your grades. CILLIZZA: OK, I'm ready.



CAMEROTA: Who gets an A?

CILLIZZA: OK. Elizabeth Warren. I know this sounds like a broken record. We've done this last month and I think I've given Elizabeth Warren an A every time. Huge crowd in Washington Square Park, 20,000 people. Whatever Donald Trump says, it's still hard to get 20,000 people anywhere, including in New York City. And this polling, she is now, you know, a -- not co-frontrunner, but there's a top tier that has two candidates, and she's one of them. That's an A.

BERMAN: Run down the rest of your grades for us, Chris.

CILLIZZA: OK. So Andrew Yang, B. And I'll tell you why. I didn't get to this in our little conversation about the poll, but Andrew Yang doubled his support. He's now at 4 percent. He's above people like Beto O'Rourke. He's ahead of Michael Bennet, who was on the show earlier, and you noted, John.

I just think -- I don't think he's great in the debates, but I think he has sort of an outsider, zany appeal. He ran up the "Rocky" steps last night during a rally in Philadelphia. He's having fun. Don't underestimate him.

Joe Biden, B minus. As I said, he is still holding steady, so I don't think you can downgrade him all that much, but I do think there are warning signs. I think you're starting to see Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Tim Ryan, all starting to raise questions about his competence. That will be an issue.

OK, next, Bernie Sanders, C. Status quo. Fourteen percent. He's right where he was in the poll NBC conducted earlier. I -- he has to find a way to build his coalition larger. Also they got rid of their New Hampshire state director. That's never a great sign given that we're in the fall and the vote will be in February.

Last, but not least, Kamala Harris, D. She lost a ton of -- a ton of support from the NBC poll. I'll note, people -- CNN's poll, which was out earlier, had the same thing, her dropping way down. She has lost the beat. She's struggling to find where she fits in this race.


CILLIZZA: Is she the attack dog against Biden? Is she the Kumbaya, we all need to come together? I don't know the answer, but she's trying a bunch of different things. Right now, at least, they're not working.

BERMAN: It is interesting because you look at the numbers and just by looking at the numbers alone you see it as largely the support for Harris that is splitting and going other places.

CILLIZZA: Yes, that's right.

BERMAN: We saved time at the end here because former President Jimmy Carter gave a very interesting interview. And I want to play the sound because it has to do with the idea of age and how old or not old presidents should be. Listen.


JIMMY CARTER, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I hope there's no age limit.

If I were just 80 years old, if I was 15 years younger, I don't believe I could undertake the duties that I experienced when I was president. But one thing you had to be very flexible with your mind.


BERMAN: All right, so he doesn't think that he could have done the job at 80 years old.


BERMAN: There are candidates who will be 80 years old if they win the presidency --


BERMAN: Chris, namely --


CILLIZZA: Yes, well, Bernie sanders will be 78 if -- on Inauguration Day 2021. And Joe Biden will be 77 years old. But either one would be the oldest first term elected president. Donald Trump was the oldest when he was elected at 71, I believe. So, yes, I mean, look. I think, particularly as it relates to Biden, John, we are on the verge of a conversation about, can he do what the job requires?

The first hour of last week's debate, he looked strong. I thought it was his best hour of a debate. The second hour, whether it was his answer on race, whether it was his answer on immigration, it was very shaky. He is lucky that Julian Castro attacked him in the first hour and came off badly.

And he is very lucky that the second hour tends, in these debates, to be a little more lightly watched than the first hour. But there are questions and they are moving more -- the people carrying them are moving more toward the center of the stage, meaning people with actual real support. So it goes from Tim Ryan to Julian Castro to Cory Booker. Does it go to Elizabeth Warren at some point?

CAMEROTA: Well, she's virtually same, isn't she in her 70s?

BERMAN: Seventy.

CILLIZZA: Seventy. CAMEROTA: OK, 70. But, I mean, what Jimmy Carter was saying is that you have to have flexibility of mind to be president and there are some 30-year-olds who are not that flexible in terms of their position --

CILLIZZA: By the way, I would argue -- you could argue that Donald Trump's flexibility of mind, he's sort of -- he's very rigid when it comes to the way in which he approaches issues. So Jimmy Carter has a different conception of the presidency.

And, also, by the way, I don't know if when he's talking about flexibility of mind he means health of mind.


CILLIZZA: He just means, you know, you've got to be able to think about a lot of things at once.

CAMEROTA: That's right.

BERMAN: We're all 29, so we have time to think about this.

CAMEROTA: I know I am.

BERMAN: Chris, thank you very much.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right, CNN has new reporting on the divisions within the Democratic Party. Stick around for that. That's next.

BERMAN: New divisions in the --