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At This Hour

Texas School Massacre Claims 19 Children, Two Teachers; Senate Democrats Move to Clear Way for Votes on Background Checks; Interview with Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX) on Gun Control Legislation. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired May 25, 2022 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman live in Uvalde, Texas. We do begin with breaking news here at the site, where 19 children and two teachers were murdered at the Robb Elementary School right behind me.

We learned a short time ago all of the victims were inside one 4th grade classroom, where the gunman had barricaded himself. The children were no more than 10 years old.

Authorities say the killer also shot his own grandmother at her home before carrying out this massacre. This is now the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. in nearly a decade.

Officials have identified the 18-year-old shooter. He was killed by law enforcement here at the school. We want to begin our coverage with CNN's Shimon Prokupecz, here with me.

Shimon, we learned a whole lot of new information just a short time ago about this investigation and this timeline. Give us the latest.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Yes, so we learned that police were called after the grandmother of the gunman was shot, that he shot her and then police were called. This is according to the lieutenant with DPS, that spoke to us this morning.

And then they engaged the suspect here, the shooter. And then went inside. He went inside and, as you said, he barricaded himself in one room, making it very difficult for law enforcement to get inside.

And then they had to call in for reinforcement, for a tactical team that took some time. They got here but it took some time for them to get inside the room. They were facing gunfire from the gunman; they were exchanging gunfire from the gunman.

Some of them took rounds. So there was a lot going on. And it's significant right now, because we don't have a very clear timeline on when exactly police engaged and where exactly they engaged them and what happened after that.

But what's very clear at this point is that this gunman was inside this classroom with these children and the adults for quite some time.

BERMAN: Which is horrifying when you think about it. Again, all of the deceased in one classroom, all of the severely wounded in one classroom, this 4th grade classroom, where he had somehow barricaded himself.

And we also learned, Shimon, that there was an encounter with law enforcement prior to him going into that room. Once he was in the room, there for some time and then the tactical team, another team came in and was able, somehow, to get inside the room a separate way.

PROKUPECZ: Yes, they got in somehow. That's not entirely clear also. They were finally able to get inside and neutralize, kill the gunman. And then they also tell us that there were people that were breaking windows, the police tell us, to rescue some of these kids.

This was really contained to this one area of the school. So that allowed for many of the other students, who were outside of these rooms, to get out. So there are some questions about that.

But the police saying that they did everything they could to try to save lives. They called in reinforcement, they called additional officers in. The Border Patrol, interestingly enough, was key, was instrumental here with their tactical team to get inside the room.

But obviously, there are some questions that we still want answered. And we're hoping that happens this afternoon at the press conference because it's not even entirely clear, John, how police got here so quickly.

Yes, his grandmother's house, where he lived actually, is walking distance from here. I did the walk earlier this morning. But it's not clear how all of that transpired. There's a 9-1-1 call, police say.

How did they find him here?

What happens in the moments before that?

And then this ditch, he crashes into this ditch. And when we spoke to the lieutenant here this morning, he wasn't entirely sure that this was the intended target.

BERMAN: Much more on this, hopefully, coming up. We do expect to hear from the governor and law enforcement in 1-1.5 hours from now. Shimon Prokupecz, terrific reporting. Thank you so much.

So with that, each hour, we are learning more about the victims of this massacre. CNN has learned names of two of the children as well as one of the 4th grade teachers who was among the dead. CNN's Rosa Flores, live at the hospital, a hospital that was treating survivors.

Rosa, why don't you tell us what we are learning about the victims.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, the school district said yesterday that hearts are broken. I can tell you that that is what we're feeling here today in Uvalde, Texas. I'm at one of the hospitals that treated some of the survivors. We're

told that all of the individuals who were transported to this hospital have either been transferred someplace else, so they have been dispatched from the hospital.


FLORES: But as you said, we are learning more about the victims. Now we've learned the names of four children, four 10-year-old children, and also, the teacher, the teacher that was in that classroom. Now that authorities have said that all of the victims are from that one classroom.

Here's what we know about this teacher. Her name is Eva Mireles, she was a 4th grade teacher and, according to the school website, she had been an educator for 17 years.

Her aunt telling CNN affiliate KSAT that they have never imagined something like this happening in Uvalde, Texas, and they were asking for prayers, not just for this community but also for this state and for this country.

Next is a 10-year old, Uziyah Garcia. His aunt confirming his name to CNN and his family saying that he was just a great kid that loved everything on wheels, that he loved video games. His grandfather telling KSAT, which is a CNN affiliate in San Antonio, that he was just the sweetest little boy.

Ten-year-old Amarie jo Garza. Her father identified her on Facebook and took to Facebook, saying this, quote, "Thank you, everyone, for the prayers and help trying to find my baby. She's been found. My little love is now flying high in the angels above. Please don't take a second for granted. Hug your family. Tell them you love them. I love you, Amarie jo. Watch over your baby brother for me."

And then there's 10-year-old Xavier Lopez. His mom, Felicia Martinez, telling "The Washington Post" that just hours before this tragedy, she was at the school. Xavier Lopez was receiving an honor roll. So his mother was there and his mother telling "The Washington Post" that she hugged her son, told him that she was proud of him, that she loved him.

This mother not knowing that this was the last moment that she was going to have with her son alive, telling "The Post," quote, "He was funny, never serious and his smile, that smile, I will never forget. It would always cheer anyone up. He really couldn't wait to go to middle school."

His mother going on to say that he was counting the days, the days to enter middle school.

And then 10-year-old Jose Flores Jr., his family saying that he loved baseball and video games, that he was full of energy, that he enjoyed playing and that he was a great big brother.

John, tough for all of these families. Of course, we don't know the names of all of the victims here. But as you know, first, family has to be notified; then the public gets to know the names and then, later, the stories of these victims -- John.

BERMAN: The faces, just looking at the faces, Rosa, as you are reading those statements from the families -- and you did a terrific job. I can't make it through them when I try to read them, because we all see our own kids in the faces of these children. It could be anyone, these smiles.

I do understand that, at this point, Rosa, the bodies have all now been removed from the classroom behind me. Everybody has been identified. And the families have been notified. It had to just be an excruciating wait, though, for so many of these families. It took a long time for so many of them to learn the fate of their children.

FLORES: You know, and it's a very difficult process for these families. And, John, you and I have covered so many of these shootings around the country. And they usually end up taking the families to a location, a private place, where they're able to notify the families, let them know.

But there's always that very painful window, where these families are learning and waiting to learn if their child is dead or alive. We've all talked to those parents. And it's just this excruciating wait.

Well, now we've learned that authorities have identified all these children, all of the adults, to their family members. And now, it's the beginning of this, just, grieving process for these families, for this entire community, for this state, for this country.

As we continue to cover these stories, the school officials yesterday saying that hearts are broken, that this is unspeakable violence and there really just are no words to describe just how heavy hearts are here in Uvalde, Texas -- John.

BERMAN: Tomorrow was supposed to be the last day of school here, so now these parents are having to go from planning summer vacation to planning funerals. It's just unimaginable.


BERMAN: Rosa Flores, thank you so much for that report.

So CNN has just learned that the White House is making plans for the president to come here to Texas. Last night, the president called on the country to turn the pain of this tragedy into action. In a primetime address, President Biden pleaded with lawmakers to, quote, "have a backbone" to pass gun reform. CNN's John Harwood, live at the White House, John, with these new White House discussions for the president to come here.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John, we'll await the details for exactly when the president decides to make that trip. It will repeat the trip he made just days ago to Buffalo for the other of the two mass shootings that bracketed his trip to Asia, to both Japan and South Korea. The president alluded to Buffalo last night. He also alluded to the

larger string of shootings that have bracketed his years as vice president and president; most notably, Newtown. He repeated as well the argument for an assault weapons ban, which is something he helped to pass as a senator in 1994, only to see it expire a decade later.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The idea that an 18- year-old kid can walk into a gun store and buy two assault weapons is just wrong.

What in God's name do you need an assault weapon for except to kill someone?

They aren't running through the forest with Kevlar vests on, for God's sake.


HARWOOD: Now the -- a much different Republican Party provided significant cooperation to pass that assault weapons ban in 1994. That is simply not there now. It is always possible that the Republicans will decide it's in their interest to cooperate.

And it was striking last night when Brendan Buck, a former top aide to two Republican House speakers, tweeted that there's a very good chance the Congress will pass a background check bill. We'll wait and see.

But there's no sign of that tangible cooperation so far. And that's why, in his remarks last night, President Biden expressed outrage as well as empathy for the victims of their -- and their families, who he will see in person in just a few days.

BERMAN: All right, we'll await details on that, John Harwood, thank you so much for your reporting.

Joining me now, CNN law enforcement analyst, Jonathan Wackrow, he's a former Secret Service agent, CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem. She's a former assistant secretary for the Department of Homeland Security.

And CNN's senior political correspondent and host of "INSIDE POLITICS" Sunday, Abby Phillip.

Jonathan, I want to start with you and some of the latest news we have. The fact that all of the deceased, all of those seriously wounded, were just in one classroom. It's basically the only place this shooter got to.

What does that tell you about what took place here?

JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, listen, what we do know is that the shooter entered into the school. We don't have clear line of sight what his intent was.

Was his intent to go directly to that classroom?

Or was he spooked?

Did he think that law enforcement was coming right behind him and he barricaded himself?

And there's a lot of possibilities around intent here. The challenge, though, is that the shooter is dead, so we can't interview him and find out exactly what his motivation was.

What we do know, though, is that he barricaded himself inside that room. That room became a box of terror for those children and everyone there. And that trauma will live with them and this community forever.

The law enforcement did react very quickly to try to stop and prevent this from happening. However, time will tell. But I think that you're going to find out that they were in a position of disadvantage to try to make a dynamic entry without the proper back-up from a tactical team.

So this is a very tragic situation. I know law enforcement, their response was immediate. But again, we now know what the tragic outcome was.

BERMAN: Juliette, we know a little bit more about the weapons, too. We know the shooter bought two AR-15 style weapons on separate days right around May 20th. And we also know he bought an enormous amount of ammunition, more than 300-plus rounds.

We were told this morning he had several magazines on him, several high capacity magazines. We don't know exactly how many.

What does that type of weaponry tell you?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I mean, this was a hunt. He was out for the kill. And I kind of want to say happy birthday, because, in Texas, when you turn 18, you are now allowed to do this. And that's exactly what he did.

So we probably won't find any illegalities in the gun law process. So then it makes you wonder, why aren't we, instead of getting into debates about the Second Amendment, I mean, it would seem, as just a regulatory, rational thing, someone who's buying that many quantities so quickly, in a short period of time, that is a red flag.


KAYYEM: Now we accept a lot of states have these red flag laws. These are ones that allow families and others to come forward to say, look, I'm a little bit nervous about this person. And they actually do prove useful.

One solution, so that we can just try to get some movement, besides universal background checks, which will -- which, also, the data is clear, is successful, would also be these timeframes that are happening so fast that, you know, we can talk about police posturing or arming more people in schools, which is, you know, not that successful in the end, as we've seen.

But the ability to kill that quickly is really the key factor that we need to look on. These are children. There's no defense. I mean, once he's in the room, it's over. And as we saw. And we just have to be brutally clear about that.

I mean, it's not a shooting, this was a -- this was a hunt, a massacre, all the words that we need to use to remind people, this is not a policy debate. This is about what it means to send our kids to school safely.

BERMAN: And Abby, I was going to say, the political discussion for you -- but, somehow, when you call it a political discussion, it makes it sound pejorative. I don't mean politics, Left, Right; I don't mean like an episode of "Crossfire."

I mean a policy discussion about how the United States is going to address the issue of gun violence, of mass shootings, particularly in schools. Maybe not how, maybe if the United States will address this. And it's hard to get a sense this morning that this issue is being fast-tracked in Congress.

What do you see?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, John, the point of politics is supposed to be to make improvements in people's lives. And that is one area where, on this debate, there is nothing happening. There is no movement.

The two sides could not be further apart. And you do get the sense that something is really broken in our politics in this country.

This morning, I think the question is, where do we go from here?

And our colleagues on Capitol Hill are hearing from lawmakers, from Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer. He seems to indicate that this is not the moment for one of these almost like a show vote, a vote is -- that you know is going to fail, that is designed to show where everybody stands on this issue.

I think everybody knows where everyone stands on this issue.

The question is, where is there a point of compromise?

And I do think that, for lawmakers on the Hill, especially those who care about doing something, the question is, can they build enough support to do any one thing that can save a life?

And I think that that is something that is going to be difficult for folks on the Left and on the Right to come to terms with. But that is the question at hand here, because, since the last time there was a horrible shooting of this magnitude at an elementary school, there has been nothing done.

And as long as that continues, it seems clear that more people are going to die. BERMAN: Sobering. Abby Phillip, Juliette Kayyem, Jonathan Wackrow

thank you all for being with us.

So what will Congress do after this horrific school massacre?

We're going to speak with a Democratic lawmaker from Texas next. CNN's special live coverage continues, stay with us.






BIDEN: Why are we willing to live with this carnage?

Why do we keep letting this happen?

Where in God's name is our backbone, to the courage to deal with and stand up to the lobbies?

It's time to turn this pain into action.




Why do you spend all this time running for the United States Senate?

Why do you go through all the hassle of getting this job, of putting yourself in a position of authority, if your answer is this slaughter increases as our kids run for their lives, we do nothing?


BOLDUAN: President Joe Biden and Senator Chris Murphy there, practically begging Congress to do something with regard to gun safety. Their pleas coming hours after the 19 children and two teachers were murdered in that Texas elementary school.

Senator Murphy came to Congress representing the community in Connecticut, where, nearly a decade ago, 26 children and teachers were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School. That is still the deadliest school shooting in American history.

Yesterday's massacre in Uvalde, Texas, is now the second deadliest. In the nine years, five months and 12 days since Sandy Hook, Congress has not passed a single substantial piece of legislation related to guns. CNN's Manu Raju is live on Capitol Hill with more. Manu, what is your sense today?


But it's a familiar reaction we hear after many mass shootings that have happened over this past year and in the years before, in which the two sides are now or near getting to a place where they could come together and pass legislation to deal with the growing gun violence epidemic that we are seeing across this country.

Republicans are making clear that they plan to oppose legislation that the Democrats plan to move forward in the Senate, to expand background checks. There's also separate Democratic calls to ban semiautomatic rifles like AR-15s.

That has no support among Republicans here. And, of course, getting any legislation through Capitol Hill requires the support of 60 senators to break a filibuster.

Earlier, I caught up with senator Marco Rubio, Florida Republican whose state witnessed that Parkland massacre, a high school just a few years -- just four years ago. And I asked him whether or not he would support expanding background checks. He made clear he is not on board with that approach.



RAJU: Why not just expand the background checks for more commercial sales, even if it doesn't prevent every tragedy, it could --


RAJU: -- some?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): No, every commercial sale requires a background check.


RAJU: -- gun shows and the internet.

RUBIO: There hasn't been a single of these mass shootings that have been purchased at a gun show at the -- on the internet. So if people want to do that we can have that debate but don't link it to these horrible events because they would have nothing to do with it.

RAJU: (INAUDIBLE) AR-15s, why are these semiautomatic rifles necessary?


RUBIO: No, no. If people want to talk about banning specific guns, they should propose that. But it wouldn't prevent these shootings. (END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: And instead, Rubio says he plans to put forth separate legislation to deal with improving school safety. It's unclear whether or not that will get Democratic support.

The Democratic leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, promised to move forward on these House passed bills that would expand background checks on commercial sales and private transfers. He has been saying that they would move forward on this for the past year. They plan to move -- they're signaling they plan to move very quickly on this.

But even if they were to do so, getting the support of 50, let alone 60 senators, is impossible. Kate.

BOLDUAN: Manu, thank you.

Joining me now for more on this, Democratic congressman Colin Allred, Democrat of Texas.

Thank you for being here, congressman. I see from your statement you put out after this murder that you feel very much the same way that senator Chris Murphy does and how he spoke to this from the Senate floor.

REP. COLIN ALLRED (D-TX): Yes. Well, thanks for having me on, Kate. As I'm sure you did, my wife and I hugged our two boys a little bit closer last night as parents across the country, I think, imagined how they would feel if this happened at their child's school.

As a parent, this is your worst nightmare, getting a call that your precious baby, who you sent off to school, has been murdered.

And as a Texan, I'm heartbroken. But as a lawmaker, I feel like it's incumbent upon me and my colleagues to not just grieve but to act, to do something. Marco Rubio is wrong with what he just said, that there's nothing we can do.

I refuse to accept that there's nothing I can do to protect my kids in their schools or worshipers in their places of worship or shoppers when they're going to the grocery store.

We don't have to live like this and the truth is, really, we're the only major country, developed country that does live like this. And it's because of policy choices and because we haven't had the political courage to act.

BOLDUAN: Courage has a lot to do with this, for sure. I want to read to you what Will Hurd said after these murders. Hurd is the former Republican congressman from Texas, he represented Uvalde during his time in Congress. He sent this message out last night.

He wrote, "I cannot begin to comprehend the immense grief their families are experiencing this -- pardon my language -- but this shit has got to stop," he wrote. "We have failed again. There is no singular cause or fix to this

problem but let's also not pretend that there is nothing to be done. If the GOP is going to actually be the pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, pro-law enforcement party, then it is on us to put forth the best ideas on preventing mass murders.

"Thoughts and prayers are not enough. What we really need is solutions."

Hurd speaks for a lot of people, including Republicans, though clearly not many elected Republicans, congressman.

Do you think this happening in Texas, that there is a -- there is a chance of changing the views now of elected Texas Republicans?

ALLRED: Yes, I want to thank Will Hurd for that statement. I think it takes bravery for him to put that out. But from what I've seen from our statewide elected Republicans just in the hours after the shooting yesterday, I don't see a lot of willingness to act.

And, you know, the truth is, we have to have a democratic, small D democratic response to this. If folks are not willing to put in place policies that will keep our communities safe, then they shouldn't be in positions of leadership. And they shouldn't be creating these laws.

We have an 18-year old here who could not buy a beer, who could walk into a gun store and buy two assault rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. The shooter in Sandy Hook was 20 years old. You know, maybe we could at least agree that we should raise the age for purchasing these weapons.

But -- and all of these solutions that we're talking about, none of them would stop every single shooting. And they always raise that as an excuse for why we shouldn't act, that it wouldn't stop every single one.

But if we can save any lives, if we can do anything that would help, let's start doing that. Let's break that ice. I know I have some Republican colleagues of goodwill, who love their families, who are good people. I know that they -- their heart breaks as well about this. I hope that they can join us in trying to find some solutions.

BOLDUAN: Do you (INAUDIBLE) out to those Republicans today?

I often find that in my years of covering Congress, a lot of members of Congress, they talk about in statements and in public interviews that they're -- they want their friends across the aisle to join them from the Left and the Right.

And then I find they actually, their offices, and they never actually talk to each other.

Do you commit to actually reaching out to these Republicans, to trying to have that conversation?

ALLRED: Absolutely.