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At This Hour

71-Year-Old Suspect In Custody After 2 Killed At Alabama Church; Lawmaker: Uvalde Police Dept. May Not Cooperate With TX House Probe; Dangerous Heat Eases In The Midwest, Builds In The Plains. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired June 17, 2022 - 11:30   ET



JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: We're exposed to sensitive items, they have access -- had access to different types of programs. Specifically, as you get higher up in rank, like the former Marine who served for 20 years, I mean, you routinely are swimming in or immersed in these kinds of sensitive programs. So the Russians know all that. The concern I have is that they now can be exploited for that information puts them at great personal risk and harm -- potential harm. I'm not certain of the level of that exposure, but I can guarantee you the Russians are going to try to extract that information. That is what we should anticipate as the next steps.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: General, President Biden was just asked about these Americans by CNN's MJ Lee as he's departing Washington for Rehoboth Beach. He said that he does not know exactly where they are, but he's been briefed on the matter. And he said, "Americans should not be going to Ukraine." I actually spoke to John Kirby about this yesterday, he had a similar message. Listen to this.


JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: Stay away from Ukraine. It is an active war zone. And if you're in Ukraine as an American, please leave immediately. There are other ways, more effective ways, safer ways to support the Ukrainian people and through financial contributions to organizations like the Red Cross, for instance. But this is not the time to be going to Ukraine and taking up arms.


SANCHEZ: At this point, what is the U.S. government's responsibility to these Americans?

MARKS: Well, you know, Boris, there really are two sides to that message. Number one is, as John Kirby described, and obviously, the president emphasized this as well, look, don't go to Ukraine. Look, the State Department's obligation is to alert -- to inform America -- those American citizens on what the risks are abroad. And this is a combat zone, so absolutely spot on, avoid going to Ukraine. I understand best intentions, folks want to help, but this is not where America needs to have a presence in an informal way. Look, these are not representatives of the United States government.

But the other side of that message is, however, the United States has an obligation to do everything within its power to make sure and ensure the safety of its citizens abroad, irrespective of dumb decisions, or Ill-informed decisions. So the rest of the message is, look, you shouldn't be there but we're going to do everything in our power.

Now, the limits of American power will be met -- be made manifest. We've had challenges like this in the past. And those communications have to be very clear with those nations. Look, we want to extract our citizens from this war zone. Let's try to keep it at that level where their involvement, irrespective of the intentions, we want to try to bring these American citizens home. Going forward, this is a very dicey situation because it really goes to what is the Russian narrative in terms of U.S. participation, in terms of this fight against Ukraine -- their fight against Ukraine?

SANCHEZ: That's an important point. We got to leave the conversation there. Major General Spider Marks, always appreciate the time, sir.

MARKS: Thank you, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Of course. Coming up, just as there are mounting concerns that talks to reform gun laws are collapsing, a church in Alabama is the latest site of a deadly shooting. Police just gave an update. We'll take you to the scene in just minutes. Stay with us.



SANCHEZ: At this hour. Despite the appearance of momentum, there are serious doubts that a gun reform bill will head to the Senate floor next week. What's standing in the way of Senators meeting their self- imposed deadline, disagreement over language on closing what's known as the boyfriend loophole, and allocating money to states with so- called Red Flag Laws. The leader Republican negotiator, Texas Senator John Cornyn, tweeted this "indecision and delay jeopardize the likelihood of a bill because you can't write what's undecided and without a bill, there's nothing to vote on." Before he later added, "we are still talking and the clock is ticking."

As the debate on Capitol Hill goes on, so does the epidemic of gun violence. In Alabama, two people are dead and another injured after a gunman opened fire at a church. CNN's Nadia Romero is live from the scene of Vestavia Hills, a suburb of Birmingham with the very latest. Nadia, bring us up to speed. What did you hear from the police?

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Boris, we are right outside of St. Luke's Episcopalian Church, which is a sister church to St. Stephen's where this incident happened last night because there was a prayer vigil here, which really speaks to how this has already impacted so many people in the community. We just got an update from police holding a press conference releasing the names of the two victims. So this happens at St. Stephen's Episcopalian Church just yesterday. This was the scene of two people being killed, one person transported to the hospital. 84-year-old Walter Rainey and 75-year-old Sarah Yeager died during that shooting and another woman is now in the hospital.

The suspect's name has not been released. And we asked the police why and they say that's because he's still being held at the police department. They have yet to have that search warrant for his home and they haven't transferred him -- transported him to the local county jail.


ROMERO: So at this point, they have not released his name but we should learn the name of the suspect sometime later today is the police department's estimate. And so this is something that happened in a suburb of Birmingham, and an area that a lot of people weren't expecting to see yet another shooting. And we spoke with U.S. former senator Doug Jones. He was a former senator for the state of Alabama, and he lives just down the street from the church. And he talks about why this was so shocking for him to learn about this last night. Take a listen.


DOUG JONES, FORMER ALABAMA DEMOCRATIC SENATOR: This area has car burglaries and home burglaries, those kinds of things, but not the kind of violence that we've seen at this church last night. And I think it is -- it's probably shaking the community. I hope it shakes them into some action.


ROMERO: And, Boris, what we're hearing from people at this church, at St. Stephen's, people in the neighborhood, everyone is saying that they hope that because a place of worship has turned into yet another crime scene that this will mean action, that lawmakers will do something so that we can stop seeing these crime scenes at churches, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Nadia Romero, thanks so much for the details. We want to update you now on the investigation into the massacre in Uvalde, Texas. 20 of the 21 people killed at Robb Elementary School have now been laid to rest. 10-year-old Uziyah Garcia will be the last victim buried. His funeral is set to take place in his hometown of San Angelo Texas. Families already grieving are also coping with lingering questions about exactly what happened. Finding answers may be even tougher than initially expected. A state lawmaker says it's not clear if the Uvalde police department is going to cooperate with an investigation by state lawmakers.

So let's discuss with Texas State Senator Roland Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde. Roland, great as always to have you on to get your perspective on these things. The chair of the committee looking into the shooting has said it's "a question mark about whether the Uvalde Police Department is going to speak to the committee voluntarily." He just gave an update to reporters in which he said the committee is continuing to have a dialogue with members of the police department. Should they be compelled to give their testimony?

ROLAND GUTIERREZ, REPUBLICAN STATE REPRESENTATIVE, TEXAS: Well, Boris, there's a whole lot of problems with all of this. Quite honestly, we've all been told over the last several days that we can't say anything because the district attorney is investigating. Yet, last night, the local ABC affiliate made a report that she said that she's not investigating. And so therefore all of the open records requests that you have asked for that I've asked for, they should be granted because there is no criminal investigation at this time.

That same committee that you're talking about shouldn't be able to speak freely with you because there is no District Attorney investigation at this time, according to her yet statements yesterday, which flies in conflict with what she said in the newspaper on Sunday. The whole thing is it fiasco now, it really is a cover-up now. And I hate to say that. But we deserve better as Texans and certainly, those Uvalde parents deserve better.

SANCHEZ: I just want to let our viewers know that CNN is reaching out to the DA there. We're working to get clarity from her on the disconnect that you just alluded to. Are you confident this committee is going to be able to get the truth?

GUTIERREZ: You know, listen, as long as these committee hearings are clustered in close sessions, I have real concerns about the entire process altogether. We're going to be continuing to fight to get this information and if that means going to the courthouse, we'll do it in that fashion. I talked to 11 families two days ago in a -- in a closed-door session and they are very angry. And they want this information. They want to know which police failed them, how, why, and what communication errors were had.

It's clear to me that it's not just the Uvalde PD or the ISD, but it's also the troopers, it's also the Sheriff's Department. Why wasn't there a coordination of effort that said, this is what happens in an emergency? Why didn't DPS have joint training sessions? Why didn't the superior force in the community which the other day said that you know that I was lying about how many troopers were in the hallway? And by the end of Tuesday, they had to argue that there indeed were 12 people in and out of that hallway as I suggested.

SANCHEZ: Yes, I was --

GUTIERREZ: People deserve the truth here and always got his innuendo.

SANCHEZ: I was going to ask you about that, Roland, because it seems like this is the kind of information that should be readily available.


SANCHEZ: It's been weeks since this took place and you're still trying to get an account of not only how many officers were near the classroom, what they were doing when the shooter was inside, but also where was the organization? Who was ultimately responsible? I'm wondering if you've gotten any indication as to that, as to accountability at the very top. GUTIERREZ: No. And now, Boris, you're asking for the first time the real questions now. Who knew? What did McCraw know during those 48 minutes when he was sitting in Austin? What did Abbott know during those 48 minutes when he was at a fundraiser in Arlington, Texas? What did -- what was being communicated to those people? And what actions were they directing? Is that indeed what they're trying to hide? Because it has become abundantly clear to me now that there is something very important that they're not telling us.

And, you know, all I've asked for is, which law enforcement or personnel were on the ground, specifically in that hallway and around the building? What efforts did they take or didn't take? And just to lay out those 48 minutes in particular. And I have been stonewalled for the last 23 days. And as of June 2, everything stopped by way of communication with Steve McCraw.

SANCHEZ: We know you're going to keep pressing for answers. We're going to do our part on our end, and we'll stay in communication. And we hope you'll come back and share what you find with us. State Senator Roland Gutierrez, thank you so much.

GUTIERREZ: Thank you, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Of course. Hey, there's an easy way that you can help the victims of mass shooting tragedies and their families. You can get more information by going to We're back after a quick break.



SANCHEZ: Millions of Americans are getting a break today, a much- needed break from record-breaking heats but don't get too comfortable that relief is only expected to last a couple of days. Let's go to the CNN Weather Center and CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers. Chad, are there more record-breaking days ahead?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Oh, I guarantee it. Without 100 percent chance and weathermen never give you 100 percent chance. The heat indexes today are OK. Cool air in the northeast, even much below air all through the weekend. And New England, New York all the way down to DC is going to be beautiful, but then we move you into Tuesday and I would say over 100 reporting stations will have highs over 100 degrees and 130 of them will actually break the records. Chicago warming up, the East Coast warming up, and it could get to 106 degrees in Atlanta next Thursday. That's what the computer models are saying right now. That's the official forecast. But it's possible that would break the all-time record high in Atlanta ever. Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yikes. Chad Myers in the CNN Weather Center, thank you so much. Let's get some advice now on weathering this heat. CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen is with us. She's the former health commissioner for the city of Baltimore. Dr. Wen, always great to have you on. You dealt with serious heat in Baltimore. What concerns you most about the intense heat and what do people know -- have to know to protect themselves?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, people should know, Boris, that extreme heat kills hundreds of Americans every year. Hyperthermia or high body temperature can cause heatstroke, which is very dangerous, very quickly people can progress to confusion, high pulse rate, organ damage, and even death. The people who are at the highest risk are people at extremes of age and so babies, young kids, and also the elderly. And in addition, people who are medically frail, people who have trouble regulating their body temperatures. They should be on the lookout as well.

SANCHEZ: Doctor, I wanted to ask you about one apparent risk group that surprised me, this caught my eye. New York City just released a report that found the death rate among black New Yorkers because of extreme heat was more than twice as high as it was among Hispanic and white New Yorkers. Help us understand that disparity. What's going on behind these numbers?

WEN: They are profound racial disparities in health. And when it comes to hyperthermia, heat stroke, this is reflected as well. And in this case, it can be attributed primarily to social factors. People who are low income, which includes many black and brown and other minorities, they have more trouble accessing, for example, air-conditioned spaces, they may live in homes that don't have air conditioning, maybe even in schools, or maybe the senior centers around them are not as accessible. And these individuals are therefore more susceptible to heat-related illness.

And in addition, we also know that individuals who are day laborers who may not have the privilege of going indoors are at higher risk as well. And so this is one of the reasons why community resources like cooling centers are so important. And I would also urge people to check on their neighbors. If you know that there's someone around you who may be struggling, who may be elderly as an example, or with chronic medical illnesses, make sure to check on them. Make sure you know what the community resources are to offer those around you too.

SANCHEZ: Doctor Wen, you've already outlined the extreme risk. The climate crisis is not going away anytime soon. Do you think we're going to start seeing heat advisories and heat warnings the way that we see urgency behind hurricane warnings for example?

WEN: We already are seeing heat advisories and heat warnings. When I was the health commissioner of Baltimore, we would issue these code red alerts for people to stay indoors.


WEN: And we are already seeing a lot of that. And so I would say for individuals if you know that there is high temperature in your area and especially if you're in these very vulnerable groups, try to stay indoors in air-conditioned spaces as much as you can. Do not leave your pets or children inside cars which can warm up really quickly. Again, check on other people around you, drink lots of fluids, try to avoid alcohol because that could blunt your body's response to high temperatures, and in general, just be on the lookout for things like weak pulse, confusion, nausea, vomiting, and otherwise not feeling well.

SANCHEZ: Oh, good tips. Dr. Leana Wen, as always, I appreciate your expertise. Hey, thank you so much for joining me today. Stay with CNN. INSIDE POLITICS with John King starts after a break.