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At This Hour

DOJ To Review Police Response To Uvalde School Shooting; Ukraine: "Shelling Along Front Line Does Not Stop" In Donetsk Region. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 30, 2022 - 11:00   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Outrage and mourning, a new video adds to the questions about the Uvalde police response to the school massacre as the community gathers for services to honor the victims.

Momentum swing in parts of Ukraine, Russia embracing a new strategy in the East hitting Ukrainian troops was strikes described as quote, maximum intensity.

And holiday headaches, gas prices hitting yet another record creeping higher with millions of Americans on the road.

And we begin this hour with a new video and new questions about the massacre in Uvalde, Texas. This video obtained by "ABC News" is from the scene of last Tuesday's shooting, and it appears to include dispatch audio informing officers on the scene that a child is calling 911 from inside a classroom in the school. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Advise we do have a child on the line. Child is advising he is in the room full of victims, full of victims at this moment.


BROWN: CNN has not been able to independently confirm that video. But the source of this video is unclear. And it's also not clear at what point in the incident that audio is heard. CNN has reached out to authorities. But we do know that Texas authorities what they said on Friday that there were at least eight 911 calls that day from at least two separate callers inside the school over a span of 50 minutes.

This all comes as the Justice Department announces it will investigate the police response to the shooting. And meantime, the community will hold its first services for two victims of the tragedy later today. We're going to have more on that in just a moment. But first, let's get straight to CNN's Paula Reid live in Washington for more on this investigation, and the new DOJ probe. So Paula, what more are you learning about the DOJ's involvement?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pam, that audio clip you just played, that is exactly the kind of evidence that the Justice Department is going to want to examine as it conducts this review. And to be clear, this is not a criminal investigation. The Justice Department has many different tools at its disposal. And here, what they're going to do is analyze the law enforcement response to this shooting and try to figure out what exactly went wrong and make recommendations for best practices for other law enforcement agencies going forward.

Now, this review was actually specifically requested by the city's mayor, not surprisingly, seeing how much scrutiny local law enforcement officials have been under for the response to this shooting, and also these conflicting timelines and conflicting accounts that we've gotten in the wake of this tragic event. At this point, the Justice Department is really the only entity that can come in and credibly sass out exactly what happened here.

Now, this review will be conducted by the Office of Community Oriented Policing. It has conducted similar reviews into how police responded to the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, as well as the Pulse Nightclub shooting.

Now, Pam, I reviewed both of those reports. And here's what I think we can expect from this investigation. Investigators are going to want to go to the scene. They're going to want to talk to any first responders. They're going to want to talk to people who witnessed what was going on, during this time, they're going to want to talk to victims. They're also likely to hold some group talks with members of the community to talk about the relationship between police and the community and then analyze everything they find and issue a final report.

But it's unlikely that this, again, not a criminal investigation, not even a civil rights investigation like they've conducted in Ferguson and Chicago. It's unlikely that this will fully satisfy those who are grieving in Texas and around the world.

BROWN: But hopefully there will be lessons learned that they will layout. Paula Reid, thank you so much.

And at the same time, the first two funerals for the 21 victims of the massacre in Uvalde take place today. There will be a visitation and rosary for 10-year-old Amerie Jo Garza. And services for 10-year-old Maite Rodriguez also take place this afternoon. CNN's Adrienne Broaddus is live in Uvalde with all the details. So what more can you tell us, Adrienne?

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're learning so much about the nine 10-year-old children who died on Tuesday. Specifically, I want to talk about the two who will have visitation and their rosary services today. Amerie Jo Garza, according to her dad died with a cell phone in her hand that she got about two weeks ago for her 10th birthday. She died trying to save her classmates by calling 911.

In the photo that's linked to her obituary. She's wearing this beautiful violet dress. But her family says their fun, sweet, sassy, and funny little diva hated wearing dresses. However she wore them. She loved meals from Chick-fil-A. And her favorite drink was a vanilla bean Frappuccino from Starbucks. It's almost like a milkshake. It doesn't have coffee. And she wasn't alone.

Her classmate Maite Rodriguez also had a favorite drink from Starbucks. Hers was the mango dragon. Her mom wrote on Facebook saying her little girl was competitive, especially in physical education. And she was ambitious. She wanted to become a marine biologist. And that's in part due to her love of animals and studying wildlife.


She was recently named on the AB honor roll and had a fascination for school and studying. Behind me, you see folks have gathered here at the memorial, which is in the heart of the city, just a few short blocks away from the school. We've seen people here almost every day before sunrise. When we show up in the morning, they are here kneeling, and when they approach one thing that's easy to see is the glow of the candles.

Also, many of those candles are scented, giving off a sweet smell that's perhaps healing for this community in deep sorrow. Pam?

BROWN: Adrienne Broaddus there in Uvalde, Texas. Thank you, Adrienne.

And President Biden meantime is vowing to take action on gun reform. But he admits there is only so much he can do. His comments coming one day after he and the First Lady met with the families of the victims in Uvalde. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is live at the White House with details. Jeremy what is the President vowing to do on gun reform?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, Pam. President Biden arrived in Uvalde, Texas yesterday hoping to comfort some of the families that are grieving the loss of their children in the wake of that mass shooting in Texas. But he left vowing to do something about it as he was confronted by that community with calls for action in the wake of that shooting. Today, President Biden reaffirming his desire to get something done on gun reform and expressing some very cautious optimism.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The pain is palpable, and I think a lot of it is unnecessary. So, you know, I'm going to continue to push and let's see how this works. I think things have gotten so bad that everybody is getting more rational about it at least that's my hope and prayer.


DIAMOND: Now, even as the President said there that he believes that people are going to get more rational about things, he hasn't yet talked to any Republicans engaged in negotiations since that shooting in Uvalde. But he did say that he thinks that there are some rational Republicans like Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, and Senator John Cornyn, two of whom he specifically mentioned, who he said think may be willing to get something done. Now, we know that Senator McConnell directed Senator Cornyn to engage in these bipartisan negotiations being led by Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat of Connecticut. And Murphy for his part who has been engaging in those negotiations, he seems to think that there is potentially some movement here at least more movement, more discussions with Republicans than there have been at any point since that Sandy Hook shooting nearly a decade ago. Pam?

BROWN: All right, Jeremy Diamond, thank you.

And joining me now CNN law enforcement analyst Jonathan Wackrow, he is a former secret service agent. Also with us CNN national security analyst, Juliette Kayyem, she is a former assistant secretary for the Department of Homeland Security. Good to see you both. Juliette, let's start with you. Start with that new dispatch audio obtained by "ABC News." And in it you can hear someone informing officers on scene that a child is calling 911 from inside the classroom were the victims were. What is your reaction to hearing that confirmation that the dispatch operator was relaying those calls on scene?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. And this is what the review is going to determine is at what stage did that call come in? What did the dispatcher do actually? And does that information get to the people on the ground? But it also I think, confirms why active shooter protocols are as they are. I mean, in other words 20 years ago, as we learned after Columbine, but certainly in all the mass shooting since, there's so much information, so much communication, so much room for error, that the only thing we do know is that by eliminating the threat quickly, you will save the most lives.

And I think in some ways all these information however horrifying simply confirms that the original sin while the gunmen is the original sin, but that the original mistake was in not activating active shooter protocols which would have stopped all the second guessing, stopped all the decision making, stopped all the, did they get the phone call? Did they get the information?

We know that these situations are very confusing. So it really does reconfirm that mistake in not treating this as an active shooter case in which you're just rapid response. You're not thinking. You eliminate the threat. All else can be solved after, right? I mean, everything else can be solved after.

BROWN: Yes, Jonathan, what's your take on this? What questions does it raise for you?


JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Pam, in modern policing active shooter protocols are a basic tenant. You know, this is what is taught, you know, in the academies, it's taught in in service training, it is constantly reinforced. Why? Because we know the successful outcome of a rapid response. The first priority of any responding officer is to stop the attack in the killing that's in progress. Aggressive action by officers is absolutely critical. Why? Because they need to move that gunfire. They need to shift it away from defenseless victims, children who are in a classroom to themselves. Why? Because they have the training, the tactics, and experience to address that threat.

Those defenseless children in those classrooms had nothing. They were relying on the police. They -- the law enforcement has a moral and ethical responsibility to go in at all costs, using any resources available to stop the killing in progress.

BROWN: And what strikes me, Juliette, and again, we're waiting for the full report to come out, of course, and there are I'm sure much more to learn about this. But it's not as though, you know, this was more than an hour that they had time to think about. OK, what can we do? You know, there's this gunman in this room, you know, even if you think maybe the gunman, the children were dead, you can't assume, right, that perhaps some of them are playing dead or perhaps some of them could get -- if they got immediate medical attention, they would survive.

And in it, this leaves us with this haunting question of had they gone in sooner could more kids have survived. On that note, tell us about DOJ and what it's going to be looking at in its review of the police response.

KAYYEM: Right. In the reporting that led to us is -- was absolutely accurate that the community Oriented Policing Office is the one that's doing it. It's essentially a training and grants office but has done these after action reviews, mostly in terrorism cases. So this is going to be unique. And as we say, in disaster management or crisis management, this is just your typical, very atypical and horrific after action review.

And what it does is, is it honestly, it lets the dead speak in a certain way. We will learn how each individual child died, how the teachers died, when, what was the impact of various bullets, at what stage, you know, we're going to transpose that against the phone calls, against physical evidence, against the testimony of eyewitnesses, and of course, the surviving children.

So it's going to provide a really, I think, you know, just horrifying in some ways, accounting, but we do it to learn lessons, of course, And or to reinstate the lessons we already knew, which was that there should be rapid response. But also, I think, for the family members, it's not enough to say your child died with 16 others. I think we do owe it to let -- to have each individual child sort of, you know, through this review, their story will be told.

And it's a very difficult process, very emotional, of course. And that's why it's not linked to a criminal investigation, because you, you want to be able to tell this narrative. In disaster management, we say, you know, the lessons are on the headstones. And I think that's what's going to happen. And it's going to be very, very difficult and emotional, but absolutely important. And I was really pleased that the mayor asked DOJ to come in. BROWN: And Jonathan, you told my colleague, Jim Acosta, that this could turn out to be one of the worst police failures in modern U.S. history. Could lives have been saved do you think if police have made different decisions that day? What needs to be done to ensure something like this never happens again?

WACKROW: Well, first of all, I'll reinforce that. Yes, I do believe that this is absolutely one of the worst police failures in modern U.S. history. And we have to take this incident, and we have to learn from it. The best lessons and improvements that we can make are only going to come from the after action in this, you know, critical review.

And it's, you know, looking at every single law enforcement entity that was involved, but also the entire public safety response, right, EMS, other first responders, how do they communicate with each other? We saw the untrained eye just watching the raw video will -- you will see some confusion. I mean that just as a catalyst for why we need this type of review because the incident command structure broke down. It broke down on many different levels.

The concentric circles out from the critical site broke down. You had parents who were grieving, coming very close to the critical incident site. All of that stuff needs to be reviewed, and we need to learn from it. We'd need to take this horrific incident and try to learn from it so we can prevent this from happening in the future and have a better response should it ever occur again.


BROWN: And the sad part is given the rate, it will likely happen again, right? I mean if you look at historically in the U.S. over the past several years, it will likely. But also let it -- let this not overshadow as you pointed out Juliette, the original sin of a troubled 18-year-old going to buy two AR-15s and go into that classroom and killing those kids, right?

All right, Juliette Kayyem and Jonathan Wackrow, thank you.

KAYYEM: Thank you.

BROWN: The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District has now created a memorial fund to help families of the victims at Robb Elementary. You can find more information about how to donate to the fund at

Well, sadly, there were several more mass shootings over the weekend, reminders of the crisis that our nation is facing over gun violence. In Oklahoma, one person was killed and seven others wounded in a shooting at an outdoor Memorial Day Festival. Authorities say the suspect has turned himself in.

And in Arizona, shooting at a house party left one person dead and five others injured. Residents in a Phoenix neighborhood report waking up to a barrage of gunfire. Six people were shot in downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee, leaving two of them with life threatening injuries. Police say it started after an altercation between two groups of people.

And then in Henderson, Nevada, a shooting at an interstate and broad daylight left seven people injured. Police say the suspect is still at large.

And coming up, Russia is making advances in parts of eastern Ukraine, an ominous development in the war as President Zelenskyy visits the frontlines of one key city, a live report from Ukraine up next.



BROWN: Turning now to the war in Ukraine, heavy shelling underway today in the southeast of the country as Russian forces continue their brutal attack on the Donbass region. Russia's Foreign Minister says liberating the area is Russia's top priority. CNN's Matthew Chance live in Kyiv. Matthew, what's the latest there?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a lot of fierce fighting, Pam, taking place in the eastern part of this country, particularly in the northeast around the city of Severodonetsk, which has become a real focal point for the fighting. Russian forces deploying large amounts of military equipment and force to try and take that town from Ukrainian forces.

They're holding on at the moment, but there is a slow but, you know, certain progression of Russian forces into that area. It's politically important for the Russians, because they will be able to say that once they capture Severodonetsk that they control the whole of the Luhansk region which is half of the Donbass in which you just said, you know, the Russian Foreign Minister said, you know, capturing the Donbass is a military priority for Russia.

There's fighting taking place elsewhere as well. To the south of the country, the Ukrainians have launched a counter offensive. So while that other fighting is taking place, Ukrainians are striking areas that the Russians have already captured, striking some quite bitter blows, it seems against Russian forces, killing more than 60 Russian soldiers, according to Ukrainian officials, and capturing some territory in destroying some military equipment as well.

And so there is a lot of fighting taking place in the east of Ukraine, but it is ebbing and flowing between the two sides between the Ukrainian and the Russian forces. Pam?

BROWN: All right, Matthew Chance live for us in Kyiv, thank you.

Joining me now is CNN military analyst retired Major General Dana Pittard. Hi there General. So what happens if Russia succeeds in taking control of the Donbass?

MAJ. GEN. DANA PITTARD (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Good morning, Pam, on this Memorial Day remembrance. If the Russian succeed in taking the Donbass region that'll be a huge blow to Ukraine. As Matthew Chance just mentioned, in war, momentum ebbs and flows. Certainly the Russians initially have momentum when they attacked in February, but quickly lost that their defeats around Kyiv and Kharkiv.

But now the Russians appear to have momentum. As they've learned lessons, they've concentrated their forces in fact. They've mastered forces on certain points. The Ukrainians cannot defend everywhere in the Donbass region. So the Russians look for weak points, they master forces and move through. The coordination the Russians have with their aircraft, their ground artillery or mechanized forces has improved greatly since the beginning of the conflict.

So the Russians now are moving into the Donbass region. They're trying to take the province of Luhansk. Severodonetsk is a key city in Luhansk. And right now, the Russians are hitting it from three different directions east, north, and south. But can the Russians take all the Donbass region? I still think that is doubtful.

BROWN: So tell us more about this key city, Severodonetsk. Why is that so important here in that Russia strategy?

PITTARD: Well, it's a key city because it's the last, you know, largest remaining city in Luhansk. It juts out, if you look at a map, to the east in Luhansk. The Russians are hitting it hard from the east, but they're trying two different pincer movements, one from the north and one from the south. If they're successful and taking Severodonetsk, it will be very difficult for the Ukrainians to hold on to the rest of Luhansk province.

BROWN: And then what do you think is it, say Russia is successful with taking over at least some of the Donbass region, what then do you think?


PITTARD: Well, I think what the Russians will tend to do is to claim, you know, victory, you know, quote unquote, victory. But it will be very difficult for them to hold on to the region. Now, they've certainly consolidate their gains from their attacks in 2014 in the -- in eastern Ukraine. But it'd be very, very difficult for them to hold the terrain that they're attempting to capture. They will need more forces than they deployed to take the terrain. And the Ukrainians are never going to yield and allow their terrain to be taken. They're just not going to stop. That's why they need more help.

BROWN: And you heard President Zelenskyy say this weekend, Ukraine will reclaim all Russian occupied territory. And we have seen just how strong their will is, right, to keep their homeland. Do you think that's realistic?

PITTARD: Well, it's understandable. I mean, if someone took Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia, and South Carolina, we'd be pretty upset. And we'd say this will not stand. And we will ensure that we take that territory back. So it's understandable what the Ukrainians desire is, and certainly their will.

Their ability to do it right now is more limited. They're going to need assistance. They're going to need the equipment they've asked for. And they're going to need the MLRS, multi launch rockets. They're going to need the MiG-29 aircraft. They're going to need more support from the West and NATO.

BROWN: But that's -- and we heard this week or last week, I should say, from the White House that it was considering sending these longer range rocket systems to Ukraine, systems that could potentially fire into Russia. And then this morning, President Biden told reporters, I won't send anything that can fire into Russia. So can Ukraine win the war without these kinds of weapons? What's your reaction to that?

PITTARD: I think it's doubtful that Ukraine can win without those weapons. And I think both United States and certainly NATO needs a stop the drip bullets and drops of equipment, give them what they need for the offensive capability, defensive capability also to take their terrain that has been lost to Russia and send a huge message to Russia that this will not stand.

BROWN: All right, General Pittard, thank you so much. And thank you for your service as we mark this Memorial Day.

PITTARD: Thank you.

BROWN: Coming up, millions of Americans are traveling this holiday weekend and whether it's by plane or by car, people are facing some serious trouble headaches, details in a live report up next.