Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

Police Face Questions On Massacre Response Delays, Discrepancies; President Biden, First Lady To Travel To Texas On Sunday; Protests Begin As NRA Holds Convention In Texas Despite Massacre. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 27, 2022 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. We are hearing now excruciating accounts directly from the children who survived the mass murder in Uvalde, Texas. The brave students are sharing harrowing accounts of what unfolded inside their classrooms were 12 of their classmates, sorry, 19 of their classmates and two teachers were murdered. One of those survivors, an 11-year-old girl, she is now talking to CNN laying out the horrific lengths that she had to go to, to try and protect herself in the middle of all of this, rubbing her friend's blood on herself to play dead. We're going to bring you her account, her story and why she feels strongly about speaking out right now. We're going to bring that to you very soon.

On the investigation, police have still not provided adequate answers about their response to the massacre or even a clear timeline really, of what happened, why did it take an hour to kill the gunman? Still chief among the questions out there and why is the police department now backtracking on some of their basic findings? Officials are going to be holding a briefing in Texas in the next hour. Let's begin though at this hour with CNN's Rosa Flores. She's live in Uvalde. Rosa, what are you hearing from some of these children who managed to survive?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, we are hearing about those intense moments when the shooter was inside the classroom. Those intense moments when these children were trying to do everything that they could to survive. They describe the gunfire. At first, they thought it was fireworks. You mentioned a little girl who covered herself in blood and play dead, to try to survive, to make sure that she could do what she could do at that point in time to survive this terrible tragedy. But here they are children describing what they lived through, in their own words. Take a listen.


JAYDEN PEREZ, 10-YEAR-OLD SHOOTING SURVIVOR: It was very terrifying. Because I never thought that was going to happen. Five of us hiding there and then the rest under a table, but that didn't stop one of my friends getting hurt.

AURALEIGHA SANTOS, 10-YEAR-OLD SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I got really scared and I didn't know who was her or them. And then we started looking around on Facebook. And then I realized that all the people I knew were dead now.

EDWARD TIMOTHY SILVA, 2ND GRADE SHOOTING SURVIVOR: So we just ran out of the room whenever the cops told us to run. I have the fear of guns now because I'm scared someone might shoot me.


FLORES: And then there's a story of Miah Cerrillo. She's an 11-year- old girl who felt very compelled to speak out to share her story. She says that on this ill-fated day they were watching a movie inside the classroom with her teachers Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia and that somehow they got notified that there was a shooter inside this school.

And that the teacher rapidly went to lock the door but that the shooter was outside and fired a shot through the window of that door to gain access. Now the details that this little girl remembers are incredible. She said that the shooter looked at the teacher in the eye, said good night and then started firing gunshots. She remembers this vividly, gunshots flying through this classroom flying by her some of the fragments of those bullets hitting her head, hitting her shoulders.

And then she says at one point, the shooter walks through the adjacent classroom. And she starts hearing children screaming. She starts hearing more gunshots and then silence filled the air. At that point, this little girl says that she saw blood around her. These are from her friends that had just been murdered. She put her hands on the blood and then covered herself in blood and play dead.

Now process that with me for just a moment because this is an 11-year- old girl inside a classroom filled with her murdered friends, claimed dead to survive. And Kate she said that she wanted to share this story. And as you might imagine, it's very difficult for an adult to share a story like this more so for a child that's only 11 years old. She said that she wanted to share this story because she doesn't want more children to go through what she went through. Kate?

BOLDUAN: That is unbelievable strength in the face of all of this that she is strong enough to want to speak out with such clarity and why she wants to speak out. We're going to have more of that exclusive conversation with CNN producer Nora Neus that Rosa is just talking about right there. We're going to have much more coming up shortly. Rosa, thank you so much.


We're going to turn now to the investigation, where police are going to be facing reporters once again in the next hour and this of course is as questions are mounting over their response and the discrepancies that seem to continue to pop up in the timeline of the attack. Officials now say that the 18-year-old killer was not confronted by any law enforcement before he was able to enter the elementary school.

The gunman was outside the school with his weapons for about 12 minutes before entering. That is the current timeline laid out by Texas law enforcement. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is live in Uvalde with much more on this. Many more questions to be asked, we'll see if there is more clarity to come when officials take to the microphone once again. Shimon, I mean, do you have any -- is there any clue in what detail they could be providing in this next press conference?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: No, there isn't, Kate. But if it's anything like yesterday, where they came to the podium and refused to take questions, it's just going to be a problem for them. They can't come here and just decide that they're going to take five questions, which is essentially what they did yesterday. Different today, we're going to be hearing from the director of the Department of Public Safety.

Look, this is the largest law enforcement agency in the state of Texas. They are by all accounts running this operation here. So they have a lot of information. So hopefully we will get more information on exactly what happened here in critical is the 12-minute gap in the beginning when this happens at 11:28 when this all first unravels.

And then of course it's that hour, that one hour, where from 11:44 a.m. to 12:44 a.m., the gunman is inside this classroom. What are the police doing? And that was the key question yesterday to authorities that I had. And take a listen to that exchange with the regional director from DPS.


PROKUPECZ: Can you explain to us how he was barricaded and why you guys cannot breach that door?

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

PROKUPECZ: You should be able to answer that question now, sir.

ESCALON: What is your name?

PROKUPECZ: Shimon Prokupecz from CNN.

ESCALON: Shimon, I hear you.

PROKUPECZ: Because we've been given a lot of bad information, so why don't you clear all of this up now and explain to us how it is that your officers who were in there for an hour, yes, rescuing people, but yet no one was able to get inside that room.

ESCALON: Shimon, we will circle back with you.


PROKUPECZ: And the man who's going to take the podium here in just an hour is one of those officials who gave us bad information the other day. And a press conference with the governor, he said that there was a resource school officer on scene that turned out not to be the case. Hopefully we'll get an explanation from him on that. And obviously that one hour, what was going on inside the school. BOLDUAN: Absolutely. It's great to have you there, Shimon, thank you so much.

More questions, let's ask some, joining me right now CNN's senior law enforcement analyst Charles Ramsey. He was a former police commissioner, of course, of Philadelphia. Also with us is Tim Gallagher. He's a former Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office. It's good to have you both here. Chief, what would be the first thing that they should provide at this point, when they come to the microphone?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: They're going to have to provide a good timeline and accurate timeline, a complete timeline. They've done a terrible job in terms of providing information thus far. In the first hour or two things, you know, you have a lot of chaos, you don't have a lot of answers, that's understandable. But we're what, 72 hours or so away from the event. They should have answers to those questions now. They've got to fill in that void.

I mean, you've got one hour where police were apparently inside the building, yet they weren't making entry in order to neutralize the suspect, you know, was a school resource officer there? If they weren't there, should they have been there? And if not, why not? I mean, there are just a ton of questions that they need to be able to answer and they can't keep dodging it because it only gets worse for them.

BOLDUAN: Tim, what's your big question?

TIM GALLAGHER, MANAGING DIRECTOR, KROLL CYBER: Well, yes, absolutely. You want to establish a timeline that's thoroughly rooted in an evidence that can be baseline, whether that's text messages video, and let's, you know, let's get this out there. The initial timeline, just like the Chief said, you know, this is a fog of war component to it. You know, folks will be giving their recollection when they're being traumatized. But now they need to dig down, get a timeline that's in place and look at during that hour, what was being done, you know, there was containment, there was evacuation. You know, there were solid steps that would be taken at that point. And just get it all out there in the open.

BOLDUAN: There are a couple elements and I want to play some sound from just in the last 24 hours to show this kind of contrast and confusion if I can, because, Chief, at the press conference, the briefer yesterday offered inconsistent statements about how close the officers got to the gunman, the first responding officers really. First, the way that he said it was the officers were inside making entry and took cover after coming under fire, then saying that they didn't make entry initially because of the gunfire. And then I want to play for you what another official said to Wolf Blitzer about this last night.


[11:10:21] LT. CHRIS OLIVAREZ, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: If they proceeded any further not knowing where the suspect was at, they could have been shot, they could have been killed. And at that point, that gunman would have the opportunity to kill other people inside that school. So they were able to contain that gunman inside that classroom, so that he was unable to go to any other portions of the school to commit any other killings.


BOLDUAN: Chief, what do you think of that?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, in one breath, he's saying that he didn't know where he was. And in the next breath, you know, they had him contained. Well, you can't contain him if you don't know where he's at. So that's the kind of stuff that really just -- it ruins their credibility as an organization. So when they do provide information, you don't quite know whether or not that's the actual information, it's based on fact, or is that going to change with the next press conference.

So they've got to really get their act together. Granted, it's a small jurisdiction, maybe they aren't accustomed to having, you know, these large press conferences and so forth. But if they are uncomfortable, they don't know how to do it, and get somebody else in there to can. Get the FBI information people and get somebody in there that knows how to handle a major event like this and get the information that needs to get out, and get it out.

BOLDUAN: And just sticking to the facts, no one wants anything more than actual facts and what is established? And that's the thing. Yes, it's not about, you know, handling the crush of the media. It's just -- it's literally just what are the facts that you have that are, as you said, Tim, rooted in things that can be proven intangible evidence and data and pieces of data that you have collected?

Another thing that stuck out to me yesterday, when we talk about what is being said, is it -- and what is -- is it rooted in fact or something else? Let me play this for you, Tim, this stuck out to me.


ESCALON: According to the information I have, he went in at 11:40. He walks and I'm going to approximate, 20 feet, 30 feet, he makes a right. And he walks into the hallway, he makes a right, walks another 20 feet. He turns left into a school room, into a classroom that has doors open in the middle.


BOLDUAN: So we have that level of detail that he's presenting about the gunman's movements in the school, but would not say how the gunman apparently barricaded his word, barricaded himself in the classroom. How do you swear that Tim?

GALLAGHER: Well, the investigation is going to play, it's going to play out there. There's going to have to be videotape probably from within in the building, that it get pulled out. And, you know, you're looking at the barricade situation. That's, you know, that's a key element here, right? Was this shoot -- was the gunman still shooting, right? Was he still firing at that point?

Because that changes the calculus, if it's a barricade situation, you're probably looking to get a tactical team in there, establish a communication and try and negotiate with the individual while you're buying yourself some time to put a plan together. You have to hit it so that, you know, that he's right in the crosshairs when you get in there and there's no chance of further hurting innocent civilians at that point.

BOLDUAN: Yes, I'm also wondering, as I was seeing those images of people pulling children out of other classrooms through the windows, we've seen pictures of that video of that and images of that. It hasn't at least been said that I've seen publicly if these classrooms had those types of windows to the outdoors as well, if that's another way that officers could have approached if they were looking at a barricade situation where they could not breach that door within that hour time period, again, so many questions.

Gentlemen, thank you so much. That press conference will be starting at the top of the hour, we will be bringing that to you live, you can be sure of that.

Also, this, guys, President Biden and the First Lady they will be visiting Uvalde this weekend, The White House says that they're going to be meeting with some of the families of the victims while they're there. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is live at the White House for us. Jeremy, what are you learning? What more are you learning about the President's visit?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, when President Biden delivered his first remarks on this shooting, he had said that he had prayed when he became president that he would not have to do this again. And yet, this Sunday, President Biden is expected to meet with the families of victims of the latest mass shooting in America, the second time this month that he has had to do that after he visited families of victims of that Buffalo shooting just a week and a half ago.

President Biden is expected to meet with the families of those victims. He will also meet with community members, religious leaders, and others. And we expect President Biden to do what he said he would do the other day, which is to bring some little comfort that he can to those families who are grieving. We know that President Biden of course, has a powerful way of speaking about loss and about grief because of his own personal experiences with grief and loss.


But then the question turns to, what will he do about these shootings and how can he galvanize the action that he says is so desperately needed. And we know that President Biden has said recently that he believes that he, there is quote, not much that more that he can do from an executive action front. Some gun reform groups disagree with that. They believe that there is more that he can do.

But certainly the White House has said that they believe the ball is now in Congress's court for Congress act. We've seen some small signs of potential action there but expect the President to continue to encourage those steps, expanding universal background checks, restricting access to these assault weapons, and so much more. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Jeremy, thank you.

Coming up for us, just days after this massacre, the NRA is holding its annual convention in Texas, but one top Republican has announced, he will not be there. Details and a live report, next.



BOLDUAN: So protesters are beginning to gather at this hour outside the National Rifle Association's annual convention, which begins this afternoon in Houston. And this convention which gathers tens of thousands together really traditionally is happening, very obviously, just a few hundred miles from Uvalde, Texas. CNN's Camila Bernal is live outside the convention with more on this. Camila, what are you seeing there so far? What's happening?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kate, good morning. So look, there are a lot of people who wanted this convention to be canceled or even postponed. But as you can see here, it is already underway. I'm going to step out of the way and show you sort of the convention center, although there's a lot of traffic at the moment.

But people have been going in. I spoke to a member of the NRA, who told me look, what happened at the shooting was horrible. But I'm excited to be here. Now, directly across the street from the convention center, I want to take you to the protests, as you mentioned, it's just getting started and people are starting to arrive. But they're carrying crosses with pictures of the victims, with pictures of the children that were killed in Uvalde.

And so we are expecting more people gathered here later on this afternoon and among them, Beto O'Rourke, the gubernatorial candidate here in Texas, and so more people and more groups are expected to come later on this afternoon. And they told me, look, it's not only about showing our frustration, but it's also about getting people registered to vote.

Security will be handled differently outside than inside. Inside, it will be Secret Service, because we are expecting former President Donald Trump and no guns will be allowed at that event. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Camila, thank you very much for that.

Joining me right now for more on this is the Mayor of Houston. Mayor Sylvester Turner. It's good to see you, Mayor, thank you for being here. So Camila is laying out kind of what is expected outside the convention, of course. But what do you think is going to happen with this conference and the protests that are expected? Are you concerned?

MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER (D), HOUSTON: Well, you know, you're always concerned when you have a large gathering of people. But it's my hope that those who are protesting the NRA and in Houston will do so peacefully. They have every right to express their view. And quite frankly, you know, I agree with him, that something needs to be done with guns, we certainly don't need assault weapons. We don't need 18 year olds to be able to buy assault weapons. So I agree with them.

But it's my hope that while this convention is being held here, that it will be peaceful, that the delegates will be able to attend that conference, and that those who have contrary views will be able to do it. And everybody will be able to express themselves.

BOLDUAN: And you've made clear over the last couple of days that legally you, the city, you cannot cancel this contract, you could not cancel this convention. It was going to move forward if they chose to move forward with it, which they have. We do know though, that each person can decide whether or not to attend, right? Governor Abbott, he's canceled his in person appearance now at the convention. He's going to be in Uvalde instead. He's going to be sending in a recorded message to the convention to the conference. What do you make of that?

TURNER: Well, number one, I do think it would be disrespectful for any elected official to attend the NRA, when a few days ago, they were extending their prayers and condolences to these families. And then to immediately in the same week to go to a conference that is promoting guns, I think would be disrespectful and quite frankly shameful.

In addition, well, Senator Cornyn, for example, indicated several -- a couple of days ago that he was not going to attend. And then as of this morning, I am told that not only the governor but the lieutenant governor, the Speaker of the Texas House will also not be attending.

BOLDUAN: Really?

TURNER: Right. That the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives will not be attending, the Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick will not be attending. And you mentioned the governor. And I certainly hope that other elected officials will not be attending. And look, the NRA certainly could have postponed their convention. They could have delayed it.

They could have waited until the families had an opportunity to bury their loved ones just showing respect for them. They chose not to. So convention, and the city just didn't have the right to cancel a conference or convention because we disagree with the substance of it.

But having said that, delegates could choose not to come and certainly elected officials should not attend, and everyone should be very sensitive. And that's Kate, and that's what I've said to the people who are protesting the NRA being in Houston. Let's express your view in such a way that doesn't bring added pain and anxiety and stress to the family members. But you can certainly, you have every right to express your view and say that something needs to take place, something needs to be done to ban assault weapons, to not allow the 18-year-olds for example in the state of Texas, to purchase an assault weapon, but you have to be 21 to purchase cigarettes. That doesn't make any sense.


BOLDUAN: Well, let me ask you on that. Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn, you mentioned him, he has been tasked by Mitch McConnell to take the lead in talking to Democrats in the Senate to try to look for common ground on some gun measures. "The Houston Chronicle" today pointed out that in the past 10 years, Cornyn has received more campaign donations from the NRA than any other top Texas lawmaker or top elected official in Texas. That's not to say people can't change their minds, of course, but do you trust him to be a lead negotiator in this effort?

TURNER: Well, I've worked with Senator Cornyn, as mayor of this city for a number of years. I worked with him when I was in the Texas legislature. The very fact that he and some other Republicans are sitting down with some Democrats does provide a glimmer of hope. But at the end of the day, is whether or not results can take place. I would like to believe that Senator Cornyn, as well as others recognize that you just can't sit idly by and see families literally destroyed, 19 children are dead, two adults dead, that there's a massacre occurring in this country almost every single day.

And it is an American problem. It's not a global problem. It's an American problem. And guns are at the root of it. So I'm going to remain optimistic. But it will be the people in this country that force AES resolution, not necessarily the elected officials, but the people. And these are, in what I might add, these are not Democratic children and these are not Republican children. These are our children, and in Uvalde's case, our babies.

So it's not a Democratic child or Republican child. And if we don't do something soon, like yesterday, then we will be losing more of our children.

BOLDUAN: Well, that's -- I mean, that's the saddest, almost most certain fact is, is there's when they say thoughts and prayers now and we can tell -- there will be time to talk about it later for solutions. That's not the case. The time has to be now because the data shows the next mass shooting is literally around the corner. Mayor, good luck with the convention today and the protests, thank you so much for being here.

TURNER: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Coming up for us, we're going to talk about some of the victims while also an 11-year-old girl, she talks to CNN about the horrors that she survived inside Robb Elementary, what she did, what she had to do to make it out alive and why she says she wants to share her story, that's next.