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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Looking For Answers; GOP Attempts To Contain Alleged Herschel Walker Abortion Scandal; Independent Senate Candidate Evan McMullin Hopes To Defeat Trump-Backed Incumbent, Mike Lee In Deep-Red Utah; Sanibel Residents Return To An Unrecognizable Island A Week After Hurricane Ian's Devastation; Retreating Russians Leave Bodies of Comrades And Destruction In Areas Recaptured By Ukraine; Florida Man Charged With Using Toddler Son As A Human Shield During Intense Police Confrontation. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired October 05, 2022 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Hundreds of tourists stranded. It's because 72 COVID cases were reported in the area. I mean, this is amazing. This is happening now. This isn't footage from a year ago or two years ago.

And in some neighborhoods right now, people are still no longer allowed to leave their homes. These sorts of lockdowns are going on constantly in China. They have people that are still panicking.

This was the scene just last week in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, where you can see people scrambling to get out of their homes just before the city went into lockdown.

Thanks so much for joining us. Anderson starts now.



We begin with CNN exclusive reporting from Uvalde. Texas.

It is hard to imagine it won't be yet another blow to the families of the 19 children and two teachers murdered at Robb Elementary School in May. That's because the story that we're about to tell you fits into what has been a depressing pattern since then of officials stonewalling, bureaucratic finger pointing, misleading or outright false statements and seemingly unfathomable revelations such as the one that CNN's Shimon Prokupecz brings us tonight.

It has been like this from the start.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): As horrible as what happened, it could have been worse. The reason it was not worse, is because law enforcement officials did what they do. They showed amazing courage by running toward gunfire for the singular purpose of trying to save lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: So that was the Texas Governor. That turned out to be false.

What he said was false. He later said he had been misled. So did this.


STEVEN MCCRAW, DIRECTOR, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: When the shooting began, we had Uvalde Police officers arrive on scene along with the Consolidated Independent School District officers, immediately breached, because as we know, an officer has every second to life.

Law enforcement was there. They did engage immediately.


COOPER: Again, not true as the body and security cameras clearly showed, no one immediately breached the classroom. No one immediately engaged the shooter. The shooter was in the school for 77 minutes before the classroom was finally breached and he was killed.

During that time, there were dozens of police coming and going, hundreds outside the school and not one of them did what officers around the country are now routinely trained to do in these situations and have been trained for years in these situations to do.

Another misleading statement repeatedly made by Texas officials was that the shooter was somehow barricaded inside the classroom. He wasn't. In fact, the classroom door may not even have been locked, but according to a report from the Texas State House Investigative Committee, no one even tried opening the door and when we tried getting answers, when Shimon Prokupecz, our reporter tried to get answers, here is what he got instead.


SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: You guys have said that he was barricaded? Can you explain to us how he was barricaded and why you guys did not breach that door?

VICTOR ESCALON, REGIONAL DIRECTOR, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: I have taken all your questions into consideration. We will be doing updates. We will be doing --

PROKUPECZ: No, but you're here now and you should be able to answer that question now, sir.

ESCALON: What is your name?

PROKUPECZ: Shimon Prokupecz, sir.

ESCALON: Shimon, I hear you. Shimon, we will circle back with you. We want to answer all your questions.


COOPER: So Shimon got a similar run around from the man who was in charge during the massacre, then School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo, the same police chief who shortly afterward promised to share information with the families, but never did.


PROKUPECZ: Director McCraw saying that you were responsible for the decision.


PROKUPECZ: To go into that room. How do you explain yourself to the parents?

ARREDONDO: We are going to be respectful to the family.

PROKUPECZ: I understand that, but you have an opportunity to explain yourself to the parents.

ARREDONDO: Oh, and sure, and we are going to -- and just so you know, we are going to do that eventually, obviously, and whenever this is done, and when the families quit grieving, then we will do that obviously.


COOPER: Yes, "When the families quit grieving," he said. Then, Chief Arredondo who would later tell "The Texas Tribune" he never considered himself to be in charge on the day of the shootings and never instructed anyone not to try to breach the building.

About two weeks later, the Texas Department of Public Safety put out a timeline rebutting that, and on it, on and on it has gone with 21 families looking for nothing more, nothing less than simple truth and transparency about what happened but getting precious little of either.

And now, there is new reporting tonight from CNN, Shimon Prokupecz who is here with us, so what have you learned?

PROKUPECZ: Well, Anderson, what can just truly be described as another gut punch to these families. What we've learned tonight is that one of the newly hired school police officers in Uvalde for the School District there is a former DPS Department of Public Safety State Trooper who was one of the first officers on scene at the shooting and who the Department of Public Safety has been investigating for her actions on the day of the shooting.


PROKUPECZ (voice over): In a community reeling from one of the worst school shootings in history, still begging for answers and accountability, CNN has learned that one of the Texas State Troopers under investigation for her actions at Robb Elementary has a new job as the newly hired school police officer at Uvalde Elementary, trusted with protecting some of the same students who survived the massacre. [20:05:12]

Parents of children who were killed at Robb were the first to notice the officer, Crimson Elizondo on campus, recognizing her from body camera footage of the shooting.

Elizondo, a four-year veteran of the Texas Department of Public Safety was one of the first law enforcement officers on scene on May 24th. She resigned from the DPS over the summer and was hired by the Uvalde School District soon after.

I actually have some questions for you now.

On the playground outside her new post, Elizondo can be seen here in the dark blue uniform.

Officer Elizondo, I'm doing a story about you and your time at DPS. I'd like to ask you some questions, if possible.

Before Elizondo resigned from DPS, her actions and the actions of six other DPS officers at the scene of the shooting were referred for further investigation.

In a redacted internal memo to the organization's director obtained by CNN, DPS cited: "Actions which may be inconsistent with training and department requirements" as the reason for the referral.

Despite early efforts by State officials to blame the local police department in Uvalde for the failed response, a timeline from body camera footage shows Elizondo arrived on scene just two minutes after the shooting began.

The new information now indicates she was amongst several DPS officers on scene who potentially could have taken action to stop the gunman.

Footage shows her without a tactical bulletproof vest or long rifle, out of step with active shooter training. She spends most of the 77 minutes before the classroom was breached outside the school.

According to sources familiar with the investigation, Elizondo told investigators that without her gear, she was not comfortable joining the others inside.

Out of nearly 400 law enforcement officers who responded to the shooting, 91 were from the Texas Department of Public Safety. Seven of those officers were referred for further investigation for their conduct that day.

Crimson Elizondo is one of them. The other six still work for DPS while the investigation into their actions continues.

It is unclear if the Uvalde School District was aware of the investigation at the time of Elizondo's hiring.

The District has not responded to e-mails, calls, or direct questions from CNN. Sir, do you know this officer who you have recently hired? Are you

aware that she's under investigation for her actions on the day of the shooting?

Do you think she's fit to serve here considering that her actions are under investigation?

Mr. Miller, you don't want to respond to that?

Elizondo's hiring raises further questions about the Department of Public Safety and the lack of transparency around the investigation and the conduct of its troopers.

DPS did not comment for this story.

Well, I think this is important.

Speaking to CNN in September, DPS Director Steven McCraw promised he'll resign if his agency was shown to have culpability for the botched response.

MCCRAW: Hey, I'll be the first resign, okay. I will gladly resign and offer my resignation to the Governor, okay. If I think there is any culpability on with the part of Public Safety. Period. Okay?

But we are going to hold our officers accountable. No one gets a pass. But every officer is going to be held accountable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You all right, Crimson.

CRIMSON ELIZONDO, OFFICER: Yes, I mean, it's good as you can be.

PROKUPECZ (voice over): CNN also learning that Elizondo was recorded on video after delivering medical care to survivors. Reflecting on the horrors of what she saw inside.

An officer asked if her children attend Rob Elementary. Elizondo's response.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your kid is in there?

ELIZONDO: Yes, my son's in daycare. He is not old enough.


ELIZONDO: Yes, I know. If my son had been in there, I would not have been outside. I promise you that."


COOPER: Shimon joins me now. She said, "If my son had been in there, I would not have been outside," as a police officer.

PROKUPECZ: That's right. As a police officer, and she says, "I promise you that."

COOPER: I know you talked to -- had a call with victims' families. How did they react particularly with what she said there at the end?

PROKUPECZ: Certainly anything before we did any of this story, I thought it was important to talk to the victims' families and so I had a round of calls with several of them.

They were shocked. It was shocking to them to think that the School District would hire someone like this.


They certainly were concerned about it. They had all kinds of questions that I simply cannot answer because they are not getting the answers from the School District, from the Texas Department of Public Safety, from the local police and everything right now is sort of locked down. They cannot get any information.

They have been asking the school about some of these officers, some of these new officers that have been hired to patrol the school, the school campus, and they've not been able to get any answers.

COOPER: Is she still employed by the school?

PROKUPECZ: It's unclear. So, when we were there, we saw her, she was there. I have been asking family members if they've seen her at the school campus. In the last two days, they have not seen her on campus.

I have reached out to the school several times, several e-mails to the school. I've reached out to the Superintendent for the School District to ask if she was still employed at the school, if they were aware of her time at DPS and they have not responded --

COOPER: So we don't even know if they knew she was under investigation.

PROKUPECZ: We don't know if they knew that she was under investigation. What we do know is that she resigned and what happened after that is unclear.

Does she have a duty -- does she have a duty to tell the School District that this was going on? Certainly, the fact that she was under investigation by the DPS for her actions that day in the same School District and where some of these families, some of the victims' families are now attending the school where she is at, where she is patrolling, so certainly family members are very, very concerned of all of this.

COOPER: You also, I mean, we saw new video that you had in the story from that day. What more have you learned about her actions there?

PROKUPECZ: Well, certainly, from talking to sources, they were very concerned in seeing this video that we've obtained, but also some of the information that they have learned about our actions that day, like not having her tactical bulletproof vest, not bringing her long rifle with her.

Also, she seemed to be very confused about what was going on that day, finding it almost difficult to believe that there was an active shooter, because in one way a source described that she claimed she couldn't hear anything. She didn't hear kids yelling, she didn't hear gunshots.

So it sort of went against any training that she had received. She was expecting that she would go in and she would hear all kinds of things. And she was -- for her, what was so remarkable was how quiet it was and that is why she sort of was doubting that there was this active shooter that something was going on.

But again, this all goes against her training and what they are trained to do, that is, put on the tactical vest, get the long rifle in get inside that hallway. And she even said, according to some sources we spoke to that she was concerned about going inside because she didn't have her gear.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, the first officers on the scene form up, whoever is there, and move in with what they have to stop the shooter.

PROKUPECZ: And the other thing here, Anderson, I think that is significant, you know, so much focus has been on the local police, the Uvalde Police Department and the school police. Clearly, there is lack of training there. But she was there within minutes. She had the training. She had the tools to go in into that hallway and it is just really unclear why she didn't do it, whether it was fear or some other reasons.

But certainly her actions that day troubled investigators at the Department of Public Safety.

COOPER: Transparency would be good. Shimon Prokupecz, thank you.

Joining us now from Uvalde is Brett Cross. He is the legal guardian of Uziah Garcia, who was 10 years old when he was murdered.

Brett, I appreciate you being with us. I'm sorry for your loss.

You heard Shimon's reporting. I'm wondering what your reaction is to the fact that this officer was hired by Uvalde Elementary School.

BRETT CROSS, LEGAL GUARDIAN TO UZIAH GARCIA: I'm absolutely appalled. I even asked the school board beforehand, when they said that we were getting more officers if they were hiring, or there were going to be officers that were there on May 24th that we're going to be patrolling and being around here, and they told me no.

So, I am disgusted. And honestly, I am pissed off at the remarks that she had to say, if her kids were in there, she would have -- she wouldn't have stayed outside. So, the rest of our kids didn't matter.

COOPER: It's been months. And you know, I think a lot of reporters were concerned when there were stonewalling from the get go, there was misdirection. They were using words like, oh, it was breached early on, when the room wasn't breached.

There are still so many unanswered questions and there is still this lack of transparency and accountability from authorities. I know you've been protesting or I understand you've been protesting holding vigil outside of Uvalde School District offices for I think a week now. Can you just explain what you would like to see happen?

CROSS: Yes, I would -- my demand -- I've been out here for 192 hours, eight days, and my ask is simple. It is to suspend and any officers that were there until an investigation is completed and I've just gotten nothing, but the run around.


So, I mean, I told them I wasn't leaving and I'm not going to.

COOPER: So, they haven't given you any answers.

CROSS: No, sir. I had a meeting today, which they offered to pull the officers off campus. But if you can do that, why can't you suspend them until the investigation is done? It's a lot of the runaround.

COOPER: You're out there, you're standing up for Uziah and all the others. What do you want people to know about Uziah. What was he like?

CROSS: Just amazing, so much love. He wanted to help people. And it's -- you know, he got let down by the profession that he wanted to be. He wanted to be a cop so that he could -- he could help people and that got taken from him and it is just awful.

COOPER: He wanted to be a police officer.

CROSS: Yes, sir.

COOPER: Brett, I appreciate you talking to us. And I appreciate the time you gave us and we'll continue to follow this. Thank you.

CROSS: Thank you.

COOPER: And again, I'm so sorry for your loss, Brett Cross.

Coming up next, abortion rights opponent, Herschel Walker's latest denial that he paid for a woman's abortion, that and how backers of his Georgia Senate campaign are dealing with the allegations.

Also what the people of Sanibel Island saw today in Florida as they got their first chance to return since Hurricane Ian hit, that and the death toll still climbing tonight.



COOPER: Embattled Georgia Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker is doubling down once again denying a report in "The Daily Beast" that claims he paid for an abortion for his then girlfriend in 2009. As you know, one of his own sons has already called him a liar.

Meantime, his campaign and the Republican Party are in overdrive trying to limit the damage of this latest controversy. It is a hotly contested midterm race that could decide control the Senate.

Joining us is CNN political reporter, Eva McKend and CNN political commentator, Van Jones, a former senior adviser to President Obama.

Eva, Walker addressed this again today. What did he have to say?

EVAN MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, Anderson, he said he doesn't know the identity of the woman at the center of "The Daily Beast" story that has rocked the campaign. He also suggests the signature in the get well card included in the report is not from him.

Take a listen to how he spoke about this on FOX News.


BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS CHANNEL HOST: Have you figured out who it is?

HERSCHEL WALKER (R), GEORGIA SENATE CANDIDATE: Not at all, and that's what I hope everyone can see. It is sort of like everyone is anonymous or everyone is leaking and they want you to confess to something you have no clue about, but it just shows how desperate they are right now.

They see me as a big threat.

KILMEADE: Is that you?

WALKER: That's why I said I was stunned. It looked like my signature -- first of all, I never just put an "H" on anything. I never have and as I said, you know how many things I have signed, but I have never signed anything with just as "H." and I said, that's why I said, whoever is doing this is you know it's not true. It's a lie.


MCKEND: Perhaps more damaging than the report itself for the allegations leveled by his son Christian Walker. The former NFL star didn't weigh in on the damning accusations his son made, only telling FOX he loved his son unconditionally.

Meanwhile, Walker is up with this new ad where he says he is saved by grace, aiming to put a softer edge on the many negative stories that have dogged his campaign.

COOPER: And Eva, what are Republicans saying about all of this?

MCKEND: Well, Republicans in Georgia, Governor Kemp, for instance, are taking a more muted and measured response to all of this. Well, Republicans here in Washington have been rather forceful in their defense of Walker.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, for instance, likening this scandal to the one involving Justice Brett Kavanaugh and that is perhaps in part why Georgia Democrats have been so silent because this is quickly becoming a unifying issue for Republicans. COOPER: Van, Brett Kavanaugh didn't have a son who had come out and

attacked his father. Herschel Walker's son, Christian Walker, who is conservative, has publicly denounced his father in a video he posted. I just want to play part of that.


CHRISTIAN WALKER, HERSCHEL WALKER'S SON: ... that lie after lie after lie. The abortion part dropped yesterday. It's literally his handwriting in the card. They say they have receipts, whatever. He gets on Twitter, he lies about it.

Okay, I'm done. Done. Everything has been a lie.

Don't lie on my mom. Don't lie on me. Don't lie on the lives you've destroyed and act like you're some moral family man. You all should care about that, conservatives.


COOPER: I mean, it seems unlikely this will hurt Walker, Van, with the Republican base or I don't know. Do you think it would? What about moderate swing voters in the suburbs?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think stuff like this is depressing for turnout or can be, but we also saw with Donald Trump, you know, there is a tape that came out. Everybody thought it was the end of the campaign. He went on to win. So, I don't think this is the end for Herschel Walker, necessarily. But I will say, there is something very troubling here.

These attacks now are not coming from Chuck Schumer. They're not coming from the Democratic Party. They're not coming from Nancy Pelosi. These are attacks coming from inside his own family. And it is really heartbreaking to hear this young man, Christian Walker, who by the way, is a hardcore conservative. This is not like Ronald Reagan's son, who was liberal and they would sometimes get into it.

This guy -- Christian Walker is to the right of Herschel Walker probably on several issues. But listen to the heartbreak of this young man. This is not about the sexual ethics. I don't care if somebody had an abortion, didn't have an abortion. I don't care if they had sex with somebody.

This is about the ethics of just being honest and telling the truth. If you did this and you had the abortion, whatever it is, tell the truth, and you have a young man who was willing to go on social media, and say, you are not telling the truth about my family, you're not telling the truth about my mother, you're not telling the truth about me.

Well, listen, if you don't tell the truth about your own family, and if you can't be trusted to deal with your own family, I don't know why people in Georgia would want to trust this guy to be in the Senate. And also the last thing I'll say is simply this. It would be very, very strange with if you took all the names off and said to Georgia conservatives, you can vote for a preacher or a philanderer and they all say we want to vote for the philanderer.

But that is what is happening, you've got a preacher running against a philanderer and it looks like Georgia conservatives are going to stick with the philanderer.

COOPER: Eva, there is reporting that the Walker campaign knew about this allegation months ago. Do we know more about that?

MCKEND: Well, Anderson that's coming from POLITICO. POLITICO reporting the Walker team downplayed the potential disruption this would cause, kind of hoped it would all not come to light, but it has.

We are still trying to figure out though ourselves who knew what and when.

COOPER: Eva McKend, appreciate it. Van Jones, as well.

Now, to another closely watched Senate race. This one is in deep red Utah where Mike Lee, the incumbent Republican, backed by the former President is facing an independent challenge from Evan McMullin.

Democrats didn't even field a candidate. McMullin is hoping to appeal to voters in both parties. Here is CNN's Jeff Zeleny.


EVAN MCMULLIN (I), UTAH SENATE CANDIDATE: We have to be willing to stand up to the broken politics of division and extremism.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): He is no longer a Republican and he has never been a Democrat. But Evan McMullin is asking voters from both parties to join his insurgent campaign to win a Senate seat as an Independent from Utah.

MCMULLIN: Our democracy is at great risk right now. And we will decide as a nation over the next two cycles, this cycle and the next, whether we still are a democracy or whether we're going to head down a road towards authoritarianism.

ZELENY (voice over): In one of America's most conservative states, McMullin is going against the grain to challenge two-term Republican Senator Mike Lee.

SEN. MIKE LEE (R-UT): God bless you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator from Utah --

ZELENY (voice over): And to take on the entrenched two-party system in Washington. It has become one of the most unique Senate races of the fall after Democrats here decided to stand down and not feel the candidate.

Ben McAdams is a former Democratic Congressman and Mayor of Salt Lake County who is supporting McMullin.

BEN MCADAMS, FORMER DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSMAN AND MAYOR OF SALT LAKE COUNTY: We've been calling on Republicans for many years to put their partisanship aside and do what's right for the country and I think this was a time for Utah Democrats to do the same.

ZELENY (voice over): As he introduces himself to voters, McMullin talks about his service as an undercover CIA officer.

MCMULLIN: My experience in the agency shaped the way I look at our country.

ZELENY (voice over): And why he left the Republican Party in protest of Donald Trump, even mounting an independent presidential campaign in 2016 that Lee's allies are now using against McMullin.

ANNOUNCER: The foolish vanity campaign for President.

LEE: Nothing in the Constitution. --

ZELENY (voice over): Lee who was first elected during the Tea Party wave of 2010 cast himself as a fighter.


ZELENY (voice over): But his close ties to Trump and helping craft a legal strategy to overturn the 2020 election still infuriates voters like Andrew Mayfield.

ANDREW MAYFIELD, UTAH VOTER: Peaceful transfer of power and free and fair elections are the bedrock of a functional representative government, and I believe in this, and I would expect at a minimum that he act like an adult, and he show good faith in the principles he committed to uphold.

ZELENY (voice over): Not all Republicans are looking for a new senator and Mia Love, a former Republican Member of Congress who is backing Lee question whether voters know enough about McMullin.

MIA LOVE, FORMER US REPRESENTATIVE: He is an unknown to the State of Utah. He just seems like a person who pops up and really wants to get himself to Washington somehow.

ZELENY (voice over): The question is how many moderate Republicans are willing to join a new coalition McMullin is seeking to build.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is the math. He needs almost all the Democrats. He needs most of the unaffiliated Independents, and a chunk of the moderates.

ZELENY (voice over): McMullin says he understands the challenge, but urges voters to see that his allegiance is to Utah, not a political party.

MCMULLIN: I'm not running to be a bootlicker for the leader of any party or the -- or a President of any party. I will work with anybody to get things done for our State and our country, but at the same time, it's my job to hold them accountable.


COOPER: Jeff Zeleny joins us now from Capitol Hill.

Are all Senate Republicans backing Senator Lee's reelection? And how could a loss in Utah impact the balance of power?

ZELENY: Well, Anderson, all of them but one are endorsing Senator Lee, but that one is a very important one, that is fellow Utah Senator Mitt Romney who is staying officially neutral in this race.

He said, "Both of them are very good friends of mine so I'm not endorsing," but I can tell you, as I spoke to voters in Utah they are taking that non endorsement at least some of them are as a tacit permission slip to support McMullin.

This is a very interesting race, certainly one of the most unique in the country.


So, this is a very interesting race, certainly one of the most unique in the country. But as for the balance of power, just 34 days before the midterm elections, and certainly every race matters, if Republicans are going to win back control of the Senate. They need all 50 senators to vote for the majority leader McMullen says he will not caucus with either sides that could leave them one short depending on how everything else plays out. That's why the math of this is so interesting, but he does pledge to be an independent senator who said he'll vote for Utah. Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, appreciate it. Thanks.

Coming up next, returning with residents of hurricane damage Sanibel Island, and what they saw on their first day back.


COOPER: Just in tonight, the death toll from Hurricane Ian climbing again is now at least 125 people who were killed. It's expected to continue rising in the coming days. President Biden was in southwest Florida today touring the destruction standing side by side with the state's governor Ron DeSantis. The president saying, he was in quote, complete lockstep unquote, with the governor on rebuilding. Today was also the first time since the storm that people were allowed back onto Sanibel Island.

Randi Kaye made the trip with some of them and joins us now from just down the coast in Naples. So, what was it like for residents who got there?


RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it was a really emotional journey for them. Their tears started on the boat on the way to Sanibel Island. We went with this couple who had bought their home there just a couple of years ago. They called it their dream home. They evacuated for the hurricane, they thought that would just be for a few days. Well, today was the first time they went back to the island and saw the damage of their home and at times this journey was really overwhelming for them. Here's a look.


KAYE (voice-over): It's 7:00 a.m. and Julie Emig and Vicki Pascaly are on a boat for Sanibel Island. This will be the first time seeing their home up close since Hurricane II and swept through here and they have no idea what to expect.

(on-camera): How do you feel about coming here today?

VICKI PASKALY, SANIBEL ISLAND RESIDENT: Very apprehensive. I almost don't want to know. I'm afraid of what we're going to see.

JULIE EMIG, SANIBEL ISLAND RESIDENT: This time, it's not going to be the same. Our island has been changed.

KAYE (voice-over): We made our way from the mainland across the Gulf of Mexico because the one road in was destroyed.

(on-camera): You see where the causeway used to be. What did you think?

PASKALY: Troubling. troubling to know that Mother Nature is that powerful.

KAYE (voice-over): With the island cut off Julie and Vicki had to hire a private boat to take them to Sanibel. Captain Brandon Lawson was at the wheel for the hour-long journey.

BRANDON LAWSON: Looks like there's an opening right here.

KAYE (voice-over): As we edged closer to Sanibel now just a couple of miles out. The destruction left in Ian's path became clear.

PASKALY: It's just gone, our beach is gone.

KAYE (voice-over): Once off the boat. It's around a mile on foot to their home. What they see is overwhelming.

PASKALY: We live down this way. It's beautiful street. It's been forever changed. Oh my god, their house is gone.

EMIG: Total devastation, totally changed. It's just heartbreaking to see this.


KAYE (voice-over): They're closer to their house now but still unsure what they'll find until they make the turn around the bend.

PASKALY: I think I see the back of our house.

KAYE (voice-over): Remarkably, their house is still standing. (on-camera): There's all kinds of stuff that doesn't even belong to them in their backyard. We found these, these are somebody else's camera negatives, certainly not theirs. And then also in the backyard, this bag of birthday cards for someone's 60s birthday, certainly not their name on it and not their collection of cards. And look at this. This is what's left of a door from a women's restroom from a clubhouse at a resort that is blocks and blocks away from here.

PASKALY: How do you ever start with this?

KAYE (voice-over): With the power out, it took about an hour to get the hurricane shutters opened manually.

EMIG: Upstairs is we're good to hear dry.

KAYE (voice-over): But on their lower-level hurricane Ian had left his mark. In the garage. The floors were slick with mud and sludge and the smell was unbearable.

EMIG: We were wondering how high the water got? Well, this tells us the story. Right here, this tells us the story. So --

PASKALY: Little over five.

EMIG: -- about six feet of water in here.

KAYE (voice-over): And their mini cooper which they left behind when they evacuated full of water and mold all of this just beginning to sink in.

PASKALY: I know.

KAYE (voice-over): And in their lower-level apartment the force of the water destroyed the kitchen, the island flipped on its side and the refrigerator yanked out of the wall and left to rest on top of the kitchen counter.

PASKALY: This was our dream home, Sanibel provided it to us for two years. It was wonderful.

KAYE (on-camera): Until Ian took it away?

PASKALY: Until Ian took it away.


COOPER: Wow. Do they plan on rebuilding?

KAYE: They do Anderson, they definitely plan to rebuild. But as you heard her say they just don't know where to start. They have hurricane insurance. They have flood insurance. But at Sanibel Island, the flood insurance doesn't cover the lower level. So, all that mud and muck and mold that's on them. They're going to have to figure out how to pay for that. And then the question is, what does everybody else on that island do, there is so much destruction much worse than what we saw at their home these quaint seaside cottages that are so popular, it's a real tourist destination those are gone, but we saw other resorts that had the cottages that were just caved in, mattresses on the street, we saw refrigerators in the trees. So it's going to be some time before Sanibel does recover, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. So much lost there. Randi Kay, appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up next, new details on the assassination of Darya Dugina, the daughter of a prominent Russian political figure, pro-Putin figure. And the latest on the ground in southern Ukraine as Russian forces abandoned positions pushed out by Ukrainian troops.



COOPER: It's been more than six weeks since Darya Dugina, the daughter of a prominent pro-Putin Russian political figure was assassinated in a car bombing near Moscow. Today we have new details from the U.S. intelligence community suggesting who may be behind it. Sources telling CNN that U.S. intelligence believes the bombing was authorized by elements within the Ukrainian government. They say it's still unclear who exactly the U.S. believes signed off on the assassination or President Zelenskyy was aware of the plot. It does, however, backup some Russian findings claiming the bombing was pre planned.

Meanwhile, Putin today signed measures into law illegally annexing four Ukrainian regions and appointed quote, acting heads, unquote over those territories. Despite this, Ukraine continues making gains in their counter offensive with President Zelenskyy today confirming they've taken back more settlements in the south of the country.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is in southern Ukraine where Russian forces seem to be fleeing in a rush. One warning some of the images you're about to see in his report is are quite graphic.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): We don't leave our own behind, a Russian war slogan you hear less these days, especially along the road south by the Dnipro River, where the Russians seem to be collapsing since the weekend on yet a third front.

(on-camera): The pace of Ukraine's advance you can feel on the road here and it's hour by hour, they move forwards this road lined with Russian bodies, abandoned Russian positions is clear people left here in a hurry.

(voice-over): In just the last three days, they've swept along the west bank of the river through Russian positions, the shallow shabby foxholes of an army with almost nothing at hand. Even what little they had was abandoned, especially this tank. A model that first came into service 60 years ago when Vladimir Putin was nine.


Here, the village of Mykolaivka right on the river is getting cell phone service for the first time in six months, and aid. Shell slammed into here 90 minutes ago from the Russians still across the water. It's the price of their freedom.


WALSH (voice-over): The Russians would check on us she says tried to make us vote in the referendum. But we didn't. Still, we survived. We old people always have food supplies.

Outside the village are more of the short-lived occupation. Left in the tree line with a sleeping mat and shells.

In nearby Lyubimovka, there was heavy fighting Saturday and then Sunday the Russians just vanished. Gratitude for aid and liberation going spare to almost anyone.


WALSH (voice-over): Smiles at it is over and shock of how fast. It was very scary. We were afraid, she says hiding. They were bombing, robbing, we survived. They ran, the rain came and they ran. Signs all around of how their unwanted guests just did not know what to do when they got here, or have food or beds. So, they filled that gap with cruelty. Andrei had a generator and would charge locals phones. So, the Russians decided he was Ukrainian informer and beaten.


WALSH (voice-over): They brought me from here and they put a hood on my head and taped it up, he says. Then we walked a few steps up and down. They beat him so badly. His arms turned blue from defending his head. Still there months later.

Stalemate had torn these huge expanses up for months. Now it's broken, as has the fear of the Kremlin's army here. Bereft, abandoned, filthy and vanishing down the road.


COOPER: Nick Paton Walsh joins me now from southern Ukraine. Nick, the Russian appointed deputy leader in Kherson region is describing what the Russian military is doing right now is regrouping. Is that accurate? And is there any sense or any way to tell if the Russians are in fact, you know, falling back forming a new defensive line preparing for new offensive or simply retreating?

WALSH: Well definitely falling back, certainly. I mean, the word regrouping was also used in September to describe their maneuvers around Kharkiv when they fled another word. So, we aren't exactly clear how extensive the route on the western bank of the Dnipro has been. Today, was certainly very bad yesterday by the Russian Minister of Defense own admission, about a quarter to a third of a territory was given up by Russia. But they're in a very precarious position because for a number of months now the resupply, routes across bridges have been attacked by Ukraine. We know the supply of troops there has been significantly hampered. And so, there's a possibility at some point in the weeks ahead with that they may consider continuing to be on that side of the river is no longer tenable, Anderson.

COOPER: Nick Paton Walsh, thank you so much.

Well still ahead, a Florida man behind bars tonight accused of using his son, a toddler as a human shield during a confrontation with police. Details next.



COOPER: In Florida, a man was charged with using his nearly two-year- old son as a human shield while trying to evade arrest. "360s" Gary Tuchman has the details of how it all happened. We want to warn you what you're about to see is a ton of violence. So, viewer discretion is advised.


UNDENTIFIED MALE: Show me (INAUDIBLE) dude! Put the baby down! Put the kid down!

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The man holding this 23-month-old toddler is the child's father Brandon Leohner, who is now under arrest after allegedly kidnapping the little boy from his girlfriend, the child's mother and using the toddler as a human shield. A charging affidavit from the Flagler County Florida sheriff's office stating he had a firearm as he drove away from the home they shared and ended up at a high-speed chase that led to this fast-food restaurant in Palm Coast Florida, about 12 miles south of their home. The toddler identified only as BL was not hurt. But a warning that what you're about to see is violent and disturbing.

UNDENTIFIED MALE: Put the kid down! Put the kid down!


TUCHMAN (voice-over): The deputy fires his taser.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): The child was rescued.




TUCHMAN (voice-over): But Brandon Leohner is not stopping and the crying little boy calls for his father.

(CROSSTALK) TUCHMAN (voice-over): A crazy scene ensues with deputies and the barking canine still attempting to apprehend the suspect.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): In the affidavit, a sheriff's deputy says the suspect later told him he decided to grab his child and leave his house when a neighbor quote, looked at him weird, which gave him weird vibes.




TUCHMAN (voice-over): The affidavit declares that the suspect continued to resist despite being given quote, loud, precise and lawful commands, and he was again tased. The handcuffs finally go on after the canine got involved.

Brandon Leohner was treated for his dog bites. He has been charged with four felonies, including kidnapping a minor.

Gary Tuchman, CNN Atlanta.


COOPER: CNN has reached out to the Flagler County Public Defender's office but has not heard back. Some of the things that police have to deal with.

We'll be right back.


COOPER: Before we go, quick personal note. Today I learned the podcast I started recently All There Is which is about loss and grief has been downloaded 1.3 million times which is really stunning because grief is not something we talk about very much and it's so isolating. So, I wanted to thank you for listening to the podcast and hope it continues to be helpful. I hope it makes you feel less alone in your grief. You can point your cell phone at the QR code on your TV screen right now for a link to it. You can also find it on Apple podcasts wherever you listen to podcasts.

Fourth episode is just out today. It's very personal, at times very funny conversation with Molly Shannon, whose mom and baby sister and cousin were killed in car crash when she was just four years old, her dad was driving. That unspeakable loss changed Molly forever and we talked about the sometimes unusual ripple effects of early loss that we like many of you probably still feel today. I hope it speaks to your grief.


The news continues. Want to hand over Kasie Hunt in "CNN TONIGHT." Kasie?