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At This Hour

Texas School Shooting; Closing Day of Davos; U.S. President Calls for Common Sense Gun Reform; Interview with Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) on Upcoming NRA Convention. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 26, 2022 - 11:00   ET




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

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I am John Berman, live in Uvalde, Texas, this morning. In my hands, I am holding today's copy of the "Uvalde Leader-News." It's the Thursday, May 26th, edition. But you can see on the front page, it is remembering what happened here Tuesday.

It just says, "May 24th, 2022." And the whole front page is just black. The back page of the paper, to hold up for you, it says, "City's Soul Crushed," which I think perfectly describes the feeling here in Uvalde this morning.

Behind me is the Robb Elementary School. There have been flowers and balloons laid at the sign there. And then overnight, a series of crosses put out, one for each of the 21 victims, the 19 children and the two teachers, that were killed here.

This small community of 15,000 people is coming together, united in grief for what happened here. About 1,000 people attended a vigil for the victims last night. A solo violinist closed with a rendition of "Amazing Grace," the music punctuated by the anguish of those who were there.




BERMAN: Almost everyone at that vigil, it feels like everyone in this town has some connection to the victims, including 10-year-old Tess Marie Mata, who loved TikTok, dances, Ariana Grande and the Houston Astros.

Ten-year-old Lexi Rubio, who just made the honor roll and received a good citizen award. We are also learning new details today about how the massacre unfolded. But there really are new questions about how the timeline and how long it took for law enforcement to step in and stop the carnage.

We want to begin our coverage with CNN's Adrienne Broaddus. She joins me now with more on the victims.

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, you put it beautifully. You talked about the crosses that are on the lawn at the elementary school, 21 crosses, bearing the name of the 19 children who were killed and the two teachers.

I want to focus in on the teachers and begin by speaking about Irma Garcia. She was a beloved educator and so many folks will tell you, to teach is to touch a life forever. Even in her final moments, she was serving and protecting her students, using her body to shield them from the person, that 18-year old, with the gun, firing shots.

According to her profile on the district website, it said she had been an educator here for 23 years, nearly two decades. Think about all the lives she touched, the children who came through her classroom; maybe she had siblings, younger siblings, that said, hey, I had Ms. Garcia, she was great. This is what you need to look out for.

And also for the last five years, she was co-teaching with Eva Mireles, who we learned about earlier in the week, 17 years here as an educator. She was also married to a member of law enforcement and had a college-age daughter who wrote a beautiful tribute about her mother.

And she described, that daughter, saying she will miss her mom's voice. She just longs to hear her voice again, something we take for granted. I don't know about you but I save voicemails from my parents so I can hear them.

And this young woman wants to hear her mom's voice and wants to see her on the couch with what she describes as her three furry friends.

And also, the students. We learned about another 10-year old whose name spelled backward spells heaven, Nevaeh Bravo, whose family said she loved to smile.

BERMAN: Just incredible stories. When you talk about the teachers here who, over the course of their career, they touched hundreds and hundreds of lives. At the end, they died trying to save dozens of lives. Adrienne Broaddus, thank you so much for being with us.


BERMAN: There are this morning, growing questions about the massacre and how police here responded to it. The killer, we are told, barricaded himself inside the 4th grade classroom. He was in there for nearly an hour, 40 minutes to an hour.

One victim's father told "The Washington Post," he was so desperate to stop the carnage that he wanted to storm the school. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz joins me now with much more on the investigation.

What more do we know?

Or maybe I should ask you, what don't we know this morning?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: There are still critical questions, questions that need to be asked, answers that we need as to the response here.

And each day, we learn that there is new information, which indicates that the police were delayed here. This gunman was allowed to remain in the school for up to an hour. I am seeing reports, it could be more than that.

He was firing his weapon with these children inside this classroom. Police took some time to get these tactical teams here and to storm the classroom, to get inside the classroom.

There is also the lieutenant you spoke to this morning. He said there may have been a locking mechanism on the door that may have prevented police from getting inside that classroom faster. So there are a lot of questions.

The timeline, when did the first officers respond, when did the tactical teams go in?

Who was in charge?

Who was making decisions while there were gunshots being fired inside this school?

Who was making the decisions about when officers should go in?

So all of that still remains unanswered. As you are saying, we are hearing from parents, who were coming here with reports of gunshots, of gunfire. They were coming here to check on their kids.

And as they are standing here, they are hearing these gunshots. They are begging the police to let them go inside because they are seeing all these officers standing outside.

They are telling them, why aren't you going in?

Why aren't you going in?

The parents are saying, we want to go in ourselves. There was one father, who spoke to "The Washington Post." He talks about it, saying that, "We were saying, 'Let's go, let's go.' telling them, 'Let's go,'" and saying that they wanted to go in. Here is what he says.

There were five or six fathers, hearing the gunshots. The police were telling us to move back. We didn't care about us. We wanted to storm the building. We were saying, let's go. This is how worried we were and we wanted to get our babies out.

Terrifying moments for these parents. So these are the questions now that police need to answer. One of the things, John, that, as a reporter and certainly for these families, is we are not getting clear answers. Everything is so murky.

One day we hear, OK, well, there were no gunshots, no exchange of gunfire outside of the school. Well, maybe there were, we are not sure, we are still trying now to figure that out. So I think the police need to finish whatever they need to do and need

to come out and give concise answers on all of these questions we have.

BERMAN: There are answers, there are answers. This is something that should be known and, at some point, will be known.

Shimon Prokupecz, thank you so much for asking these questions, thank you for your reporting.

Joining me now is CNN counterterrorism analyst, Phil Mudd. He's a former FBI senior intelligence adviser.

Also with us is Cheryl Dorsey. She's a retired sergeant with the Los Angeles Police Department.

Phil, let's start with you. There's a lot here that's unclear. There's a lot that we don't know. One thing we do know is that there was a period of time, whether it be 30, 40, 50, 60 minutes, a period of time when law enforcement was here, was on the scene, but was not going in to try to stop this shooter.

How do you explain that?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Well, first of all, what I want to see is what you've been talking about, to make sure we understand that timeline and what the media is reporting about an air gap is actually what we saw in fact.

There are a lot of facts law enforcement can access. Those facts are going to be contradictory, which is why I am judging that we haven't seen a full report yet. That is one person says one thing, one person says another thing. The radio dispatches say a third thing.

How do you fit together so that, when police talk to the media, there is one story that doesn't change every 12 hours?

The second question, to your point about air gaps, I want to know, we are talking about the gap in entry. I want to know about whether there was a gap in policy, procedure and training and what the police did.

For example, if there is a way that they have been trained to enter a closed building, this is a classic, how do you clear a room?

A classic police exercise, was there a difference between what they are trained to do? Remember, we saw that at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the high school shooting years ago.

Was there a gap between what they were trained to do and what they did?

So I can understand the delay in timing. I'm not sure there was a mistake, though.

[11:10:00] BERMAN: Sergeant Dorsey, you and I have already had a chance to talk about this today. But one of the things we do know is that there are different agencies at play. There is the school resource officer; there is the local police and, ultimately, there is Customs and Border Patrol.

It was their tactical unit that did go in when it was time or when they finally decided to go in.

But what questions do you have about the timing here?

CHERYL DORSEY, RETIRED LAPD SERGEANT: We assume that all training is standardized and everyone operates the same. And we know now that this isn't true. I hope that whatever after action report comes from this incident, everyone will have an opportunity to try to get their agencies on the same page so that they can respond uniformly and in a timely manner.

But what I am more worried about, the timeline that troubles me is, since the beginning of 2012, with the Sandy Hook shooting, Republicans specifically, Governor Abbott have been unable to have an appetite to really pass substantive gun reform legislation.

The GOP stalls and then blocks until we have another tragedy. So, finally, we need to do something to raise the age of those who possess these weapons and stop them in instances where we can from even purchasing.

BERMAN: Phil Mudd, your business is terrorism. To an extent, this is an act of terrorism here, a moment of terror. One of the things that has been learned over the years, you have had to deal with in your line of work, is how do you confront a terrorist, a killer, in that moment?

In school shootings, one of the things that has been determined is you have got to run toward the bullets if you are in law enforcement. You have to take that person on right away. It may not be worth waiting there.

Why is that?

How has that lesson been learned?

MUDD: If you go back to Marjory Stoneman Douglas and what we've been talking about in terms of training, that is the fundamental of what we expect from an officer, whether that's fire department, police department, that's what we saw at 9/11.

Firemen go in and lose their lives in the Twin Towers because they are trained to, as you say, go toward the bullets. Now there is a technical piece here that I would like to add. That is perimeter security. And that is one of the conversations about the school.

One of the things you learn about terrorism and about individuals who are motivated to commit an act of violence like this is, if they are confronted at the perimeter, their emotional state is such that they may begin firing there because they are afraid that they may not get their chance.

So the further out you can push them -- and this gets into the question of locked doors, fences, et cetera, metal detection in schools, the further out you can push them, the less likely you will get an incident inside the building because they are going to be so energized, they are going to act as soon as they confront somebody.

BERMAN: Sergeant Dorsey, that is one of the pieces of information we did learn this morning. The door that the shooter went in, we were told it was unlocked. That door was unlocked.

So what should we be thinking about in terms of keeping schools, the physical plant, secure?

DORSEY: I know that no one wants to have a school site look like a prison. But I think it's time that we are inconvenienced. I think we should err on the side of caution. And we should put up obstacles so that not anyone and everyone can easily enter a campus.

More importantly, enter a classroom and then barricade themselves inside with vulnerable teachers and students, who are unable to defend themselves.

BERMAN: Yes, it does raise so many questions. Again, we are hoping and pushing for some answers. Sergeant Cheryl Dorsey, Phil Mudd, thank you so much for being with us today.

DORSEY: Thank you.

BERMAN: We want to go now to Capitol Hill, where the calls for Congress to take action on gun safety are growing louder. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is delaying a vote on background checks in hope of a compromise with Republicans.

CNN's Lauren Fox live on Capitol Hill, covering the latest developments on this.

Lauren, any kind of movement this morning?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Democrats are making it clear and Chuck Schumer on the floor moments ago, saying that he is not going to bring this background check bill to the floor immediately.

Instead, he wants to have these negotiations. But he warned, this should not be viewed by Republicans as a continuation or long-term debate. Basically, what he wants is Republicans and Democrats to have these conversations as soon as possible.

And he warned that, if there is not agreement, he is not going to waste time on not bringing something to the floor, saying, he will bring background check bills to the floor of the Senate if no agreement is reached in the next couple of weeks.

Now how long that timeline is really going to be, I think that remains to be seen. But this morning, you had Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying they are engaging in a real way with Republicans for maybe the first time in a very long time that they can remember -- John.


BERMAN: All right, Lauren Fox keep our --


SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL), DEMOCRATIC WHIP; CHAIR, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: -- sense of hope, a new sense of urgency on some of these issues.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there a chance?

DURBIN: I don't know. But if you don't have a sense of optimism you shouldn't be in this business.


FOX: That was Dick Durbin, the Democratic whip, making it clear here that he is having these conversations. And if you don't have hope, he says, why are you in this business at all? -- John.

BERMAN: Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill, keep us posted on these discussions. They do appear at this moment at least to be ongoing.

So coming up, the NRA will hold its annual convention here in Texas tomorrow. That is in spite of the fact that 19 students and two teachers were murdered at this school behind me. We have details on a live report next.





BOLDUAN: Nineteen children, two teachers murdered at Robb Elementary School in Texas. That has left that community absolutely reeling and understandably so. The country is also now once again working through why this happened again and how the next mass shooting can be stopped.

At the very same time, the National Rifle Association is planning on holding its annual convention in Houston, Texas. That starts tomorrow. CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is tracking all of this for us.

The mayor there doesn't want the NRA to come and hold this convention.

So what is going to happen?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The NRA defiantly is still pushing forward with this event as scheduled. It will start tomorrow. And as you noted, we have heard from Democrats, who are saying they should be canceling it, noting the close proximity, the close time that this event is to the shooting in Uvalde.

The mayor of Houston, as you noted, is under pressure locally, saying, legally, there is nothing he can do to cancel the city's contract with the NRA, despite the incredible pressure amid this tragedy he is facing.

He says the greater question here is for those Republicans, the high- profile Republicans, who are coming to this event in Houston tomorrow. Many of them are speaking at this event.

The question for them is, why are they still speaking in the wake of this tragedy?

Tomorrow, we will hear from former president Donald Trump. He will be headlining the conference. He said, even after the shooting, he has really doubled down on what he believes is the importance of speaking at this NRA event.

He said now is not the time that Americans need politics. Also scheduled to attend and likely speak is senator Ted Cruz and Texas governor Greg Abbott. So notably, this event is only happening 300 miles away from this shooting.

BOLDUAN: Thank you for that.

Joining now for more on this tragedy is congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, she is a Texas Democrat.

Thank you for being here. First, on what Sunlen was just reporting out, your district includes the NRA convention. The mayor says the city legally cannot cancel the convention.

Having it or not having it, is it going to make a difference?

REP. SYLVIA GARCIA (D-TX): Well, I think it's a sign of respect. And I think it's just horrible, in my view, that the NRA continues to have plans to have their convention here beginning tomorrow. I think it's shameful.

And I think it's even more shameful for some of these elected officials to side with the NRA and their interests, rather than the interests of the grieving families and the children that have died in Uvalde.

That Uvalde paper is absolutely correct, our soul is crushed. Our hearts are aching and our minds are questioning, why are they still having an NRA convention here at a time when Texas is going through such a difficult time, particularly in Uvalde?

So I just agree with the mayor that this should be canceled. But I also know that, legally, I don't know if they can cancel any contracts. But I just think it's a shameful and it's shameful for any politician to attend this conference.

BOLDUAN: Let's see what happens and what is said from the stage, I guess. On the investigation in Uvalde, I do want to ask you, we know from the

police that the gunman was in the school for up to an hour. The members of the community are starting to question the police response to this shooting. And they are speaking out publicly.

One father telling "The Washington Post" this.

"There were five or six of us fathers hearing the gunshots. And police officers were telling us to move back."

He told "The Washington Post," "We didn't care about us, we wanted to storm the building. We were saying, let's go because that is how worried we were. And we wanted to get our babies out."

Do you have questions here?

GARCIA: Well, I think all of us do have some questions. Obviously, the parents are the ones that -- I just cannot imagine what they were going through, being right there and not being able to do something. But we are going to have to take a big breath and wait for the investigation, wait for the FBI review to look at it from top to bottom and leave no stone unturned.

And hold people are accountable for anything that they maybe should have done and didn't do. But I think, for me, I need to focus on our next steps in Congress, to make sure that this doesn't ever happen again. We need to look at everything. Everything should be on the table. I know our --


BOLDUAN: I do want to ask you about that. I know that the House is passing measures that the Senate -- that are before the Senate.


BOLDUAN: But just on policy and regulation and what is before Congress, Congress man Texas Republican senator John Cornyn actually said that he is going to be meeting with Senator Chris Murphy today.

Murphy is a Democrat who has been one of the leaders in trying to get something moving on gun regulation in the Senate. Here is what Cornyn actually said to CNN today, quote, "This hopefully will provide a new, greater sense of urgency."

Do you see hope here?

GARCIA: Well, I see hope. And that is certainly one good sign is Senator Cornyn's meeting with Senator Murphy, who is a leader on gun control in the Senate. I would hope that senator Cruz also follows suit.

But for us in Congress, we must continue to act. We must look at the red flag law and look at the Hate Act. We must look at more background checks. We need to look at a ban on assault weapons. We need to look at laws to make sure that parents and people who have guns store their guns.

And we've got to look at the whole thing. Everything should be on the table. This is a time to act, as the president said. We have to act. People are tired and they want action. They are tired of the prayers and the tweets and the political pandering to the NRA. It is time to act and we need to do that quickly. That is the timeline that I am focused on.

BOLDUAN: Really quickly, it should not be forgotten that the school, this community is overwhelmingly Latino. You are a very prominent Latino leader.

How do you reflect on that?

GARCIA: Well, it's heartbreaking. And all those who may be viewing in Spanish -- [speaking Spanish].

Simply, I said that we will not forget what's happened. We will continue to fight for gun reform. And we will continue to keep those children, those little babies who are angels now, watching over us. They are watching over us.

I tell the Senate, if there ever was a time to bust the filibuster, to make sure that we can get something done, I will give them 19 reasons. And that is those 19 little babies that were killed just this week. There could be no other time that better to do that.

BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, thank you for coming on today.

Coming up for us, the small town of Uvalde is grieving, trying to come together and offer any element of hope and comfort to the families of the victims and survivors of this massacre. We will talk to a local pastor, joining that effort. That is next.