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At This Hour

Search for Motive in Nashville School Shooting; Trump Hush Money Grand Jury Hears from Former Publisher. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 28, 2023 - 11:00   ET




JESSICA DEAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hi, everyone. AT THIS HOUR in Nashville, another community left reeling mourning, six victims of a school shooting and left pleading for something to be done to stop these tragedies from happening.

The Speaker of the House calling on the White House to negotiate over the debt ceiling as the deadline for when the U.S. runs out of money inches closer.

And tragedy on the border. At least 39 are killed in a fire at a migrant center in Mexico. This is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR.


DEAN: Thanks so much for being here with us this morning. I'm Jessica Dean in for Kate Bolduan and we begin in Nashville, the latest city where the unthinkable -- if it can even be called that anymore -- has happened.

Residents are grief stricken this hour following yesterday's mass shooting at an elementary school. And new video released overnight shows the shooter arriving at Covenant School Monday morning, shooting that glass door and then walking the halls before killing three children and three adults.

It took 14 minutes from the first 9-1-1 call for police to arrive at the school and kill the shooter, who has now been identified as Audrey Hale. Police say Hale was armed with a handgun and two assault style weapons. An exact motive has not been identified yet.

But police say Hale's time as a student at that same school may have played a role.

In the wake of the shooting President Biden, renewing his call for an assault weapons ban. And a top White House official told "CNN THIS MORNING" now is the time for Congress to act.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We can't do this alone. The president can't do this alone. That's how government works. Congress needs to take legislative action.

That's what the president said at the State of the Union and that's what the president said yesterday.


DEAN: At this point, no indications that there will be any movement on Capitol Hill over this. Let's get straight to Amara Walker, who is live outside the school in Nashville.

Amara, that is a community such in grief right now.

What more are you learning?

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jessica, I do want to say off the top that Metro Nashville police have just released bodycam footage, police bodycam footage of the officers responding, going inside the school and the moments where they shoot the suspect dead.

We are looking at it. Our team is taking a look at it right now and we will turn that around and show it to you as soon as it is ready.

But you were talking about this community. And you are right. Jessica, this is a community that is shattered beyond words. I mean, think about it. Six families spending their first night without their loved ones or having, for the first time, their children's room empty.

I do want to focus on the victims for a moment: 9 year old Hallie Scruggs, we learned today that she is a daughter of the lead pastor here at Covenant Presbyterian Church; 9 year old Evelyn Dieckhaus, she reportedly has an older sister.

And she was quoted by "The Tennessean," quote, "I don't want to be an only child." She said this as she was crying, according to this report at a prayer vigil last night.

Also killed 9 year old William Kenney; 61 year old Cynthia Peak, who was a substitute teacher; 60 year old Katherine Koonce, who was the head of the school and Mike Hill, who was the custodian of the school.

And as I said, the investigation continues here. Police are on scene, processing this school, a crime scene for the second day in a row.

Besides the bodycam video that we hopefully we'll be seeing shortly, we know that investigators are poring over the writings that they found from the shooter, Audrey Hale, much of the material found in her car.

I spoke with the mayor of Nashville, John Cooper, moments ago. And he said that these writings will reveal just how much planning, all the details that went into charting out this attack.

All of this on top of the surveillance video that was also released last night, super chilling to see Audrey Hale walk in with that AR style assault rifle, walk in. I do want to also talk about the responding officers.

We heard from John Drake, the chief of police here in Nashville. He spoke with NBC. And this is what he said about how his officers are coping.


CHIEF JOHN DRAKE, METRO NASHVILLE POLICE: I've been in this profession for 35 years and I've trained for these type of situations, just as the officers have.

And when the call went out, I immediately canceled everything I had going for the day, went out to the scene. And it really was just a few minutes from having to go into the school myself. I saw kids coming out, holding hand in hand.


BLAKE: I saw officers coming out, bleeding. I saw just raw emotion. I had officers tell me they weren't sure if they could do this anymore after carrying kids out of the building. It was just a tough, tough scene.


WALKER: All right, joining me -- and I think that was an interview with CBS, actually. Joining me now is the vice mayor of Nashville, Jim Shulman.

Just listening to the chief there say that his officers had to carry out these bodies -- or the children, excuse me -- and see these bodies and they're not sure if they want to keep doing this.

I mean, what do you say to that?

VICE MAYOR JIM SHULMAN, NASHVILLE: So I was in the church yesterday with the families and where the kids were brought and ran into a number of police officers who were there. And some were emotionally spent. They were -- they had to take a moment. They were sitting down and they were sobbing.

But we're not -- nobody's used to any of this stuff. I mean as much -- as much as this happens in this country, I mean, it has not happened here. And now it has happened here and we've had to go through the same emotions and the same, same disturbing impacts that other cities have.

And we're feeling it today.

WALKER: You know, I think there was one picture that -- I think it was the cover of "The New York Times." There is -- there is this child, a little girl, with her face pressed against school bus.

I mean, she looked terrified.

What was the scene? What did you see when you saw -- and what did you feel when you saw these busloads of little people, arriving, looking for their parents for their safety?

SHULMAN: Well, so the kids were tremendous. They were -- they were patient and they were staying on the bus. We were trying to figure out the right ways to do this. We're letting the police lead, you know, making sure that the kids got off the bus safely.

Most of the kids seemed good. I mean, I think the teachers did an amazing job of protecting these children and keeping them safe and keeping them calm on the bus.

But you know, in the back of our minds, just like this is this is a horrible, horrible situation. And you've got these young children that we're trying to make sure they get in safely, keep them calm and then also keep their parents calm.

WALKER: Lives changed forever, right?

SHULMAN: The city has changed forever.


SHULMAN: Yesterday was unreal for this city. Just like everybody else, we watch these things happen across the country. And you -- and you watch parents running around and tearful and terror stricken. And you -- and you see it on television and then, yesterday, you were watching it; we are watching it live.

We're watching these parents, running across the street, running to the parking lots, trying to get into the church, trying to figure out what was going on with their kids. It's horrible. It is simply horrible. And we have to find a way to stop this.

WALKER: I want to get to the investigation but, quickly, I mean, what is the protocol?

The parents show up and they give their name to the police officer and they look on a list?

SHULMAN: So there was a protocol. There was -- the police, I thought, did an excellent job again of trying to handle this. The kids got in safely. They went to the basement of the church. The parents came to the top.

And then there was a protocol about making sure that -- they had to wait for certain notifications and certain things like that. And then they were calling the parents three at a time and then four at a time and they would be reunited with their kids, making sure that the -- you know, everybody was in the right place.

Everybody was rightly connected and there was also counselors onsite in case anybody needed help. So there was a protocol that was being used.

WALKER: What have you heard about where the investigation stands?

As I understand it, investigators, Nashville police are looking at all these writings that were found.

What are you hearing about, you know, potential motive and what was written about?

Because Mayor Cooper told me there was a lot about the planning and the mapping and even checking out the average response time of the Nashville police department.

SHULMAN: Yes, I think the mayor has probably seen more than I have at this point. This investigation is going to go on for a while and we're going to take a look. Again, the police were so busy yesterday, trying to deal just with the parents and the kids and following up with the crime scene. We will start reviewing this.

But I also think that it's important to note that the city is going to go through a grieving period. Today, for the next week, for a while, this city, as great a city as it is, we're just -- we're not used to stuff like this.

WALKER: And we shouldn't get used to it. Look, the responding officers, heroes. I mean, what they did in the face of a terrifying situation and shooting, the shooter dead, it is commendable. It was a 14 minute response time.


WALKER: And I'm talking just in general, the police department, because we keep hearing, look, it could have been worse.

Sure, it absolutely could have been worse if it were even more delayed, like we saw in Uvalde.

But could it have been better?

SHULMAN: Well, again we go back and look at all the tapes and everything else. What I have seen is that, when the police got the call, they went directly to the site. They went into the building. There was a key. They went into the building.

And they immediately went and looked for the -- for the shooter. And so there was no hesitating. There was nothing like that. And I've talked to some of the officers about it. They went through that door and they were -- they were looking for the shooter and they engaged as soon as they found the shooter.

So there was no waiting. No hesitancy. I think our police department did an excellent job.

WALKER: Vice mayor Jim Shulman of Nashville, really appreciate you joining us and I'm so sorry that we have to talk on such a tragic occasion.

SHULMAN: A bad, bad day for this city, very, very bad. WALKER: I know. Thank you for your time.

All right. Well, as you were mentioning off the top, we do have the bodycam footage released from the Nashville police. This is from the two officers, who shot the shooter dead. And we do want to warn you, it is extremely disturbing. It can be really tough to watch. So if you want to turn away, you can turn away now.

But here is a portion of that bodycam footage.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right, right, right.



WALKER: All right, what you don't see is, when they get upstairs, the officers -- and I'm going to name them because they truly are heroes -- Rex Angleton (ph) and Michael Collier (ph). They are the ones who shoot the shooter dead on the second floor with their rifles.

I want to talk to CNN law enforcement analyst Jonathan Wackrow, who is joining me now. He is a former Secret Service agent under President Obama.

I don't know if you got a chance to see the entire -- those -- both those videos. I did. My heart was pounding out of my chest.

What is your legal assessment of what you -- your -- of what you saw?

Excuse me.

JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, first of all, what we saw in these -- the body worn camera videos that are being released, I had an opportunity to look at the extended version as well.

What the viewers are seeing is law enforcement at its finest. You know, not knowing what the circumstances really were upon arrival. Officers remain calm and collected, not raising anxiety but making the entry as necessary to go search for the suspect.

Now think about this operating environment. There are alarms. Now they heard the sound of shooting. They apply their training tactics and experience to go to the sound of gunfire and neutralize that threat.

We know that the speed of officers responding to a shooter is essential for the preservation of life. And these officers did a remarkable job. As we start to analyze this video and break it down more, you're going to hear that they were very strategic in the tactics that they applied upon entry, upon confirmation that there was a shooter.

The split tactics that they used to search the first floor and the second floor, the constant communication between those officers, again, they were going through a very dynamic environment.

They saw individuals that would have been injured, you know, potentially, killed by this suspect. So this was law enforcement at its finest. And I really commend these officers for their professionalism and in bringing a quick resolution to a horrific situation.

WALKER: What we didn't show was the beginning, when the officers arrived. There really was no hesitation and, you know, you can't help but compare the situation to Uvalde, where 21 people were killed, Jon.

You said this was police work at its finest. I do want to ask you about the response time, not when they arrived but, you know, between getting the call and getting to the school here behind me, 14 minutes.

Yes, we've heard a lot of commendation for the quick response. But listen, you know, if you're a parent like me or you and you know your child is inside a school, for 14 minutes for help to come, is that really a quick response?

WACKROW: You know, listen, I don't know what the average response times are to that specific location, what other calls for service the law enforcement had at that moment. What I do know is what I saw and what I witnessed from the first responding officers. I mean, they did what they were supposed to do any time --


WACKROW: -- that there's an active shooter call, regardless of the law enforcement entity that is a priority one call. They're getting to that scene. And it's mobilizing a bunch of other additional assets, fire, EMS, starting the incident command structure.

So there is a process that this community has gone through to train for moments like this. But your point is very well taken; 14 minutes from call to initial resolution -- to the final resolution is a long time.

And as a -- as a parent and knowing the loss of life they had, it is heartbreaking. But here, law enforcement, first responders, everybody along the entire chain of command around public safety did what was necessary, even afterwards; the family reunification, the tactics that were deployed by, you know, first responders and EMS to take care of the victims, even in a hot zone that the building wasn't cleared.

A lot of things were done right and, unfortunately, communities across America are practicing this every single day.


Because this was the 129th mass shooting this year. We have to be prepared. It's not a question of if; it is a question of when these communities are going to be impacted. And, you know, I think Nashville did a really good job at it, at addressing this horrible situation.

WALKER: That brings me to my next question regarding security because I'm sure a lot of parents out there, including myself, are calling their respective children's schools and asking, well, you know what is the protocol?

What is the security?

Do you have a school resource officer on campus?

Because, as we learned here at the Covenant Christian School, I guess, because it's housed inside of a church, there was no security. There were no armed guards.

Is that standard?

And my second question to you regarding security is, when you look at this bodycam video, you see that the officers have to make entry using a key a couple of times. And I would imagine there could have been more layers for security.

But back to the first question, I mean, no school resource officer here onsite?

WACKROW: Listen, there are thousands and thousands of both public and private schools across the United States that do not have an onsite school resource officer.

But that's not the overall solution, right, you have to apply a layered approach to security and safety in our schools. You know, what we saw here is -- we actually saw video released, where the shooter went to a door, shot through that door and made easy entry.


Because the threat took the path of least resistance. The time for responding officers, even if it was a school officer onsite, you know, it still may have been a long time. We can't rely on just one control measure. We have to apply a layered approach.

And we have to have, you know, three things. We have to prepare and train for these tragic events, which Nashville has done. We have to be able to understand, how do we respond to them in the moment.

And more importantly right now, how do we recover from it?

WALKER: How do we recover from it?

That is the million dollar question. Jonathan Wackrow, appreciate your analysis and expertise in all this. Thank you very much.

And Jessica, I do want to mention, you know, we also learned this morning about Audrey Hale, that the shooter sending a message, a direct message to an old friend from middle school, basically warning just minutes before that she was going to do something bad. This woman, Averianna Patton, spoke with ""CNN THIS MORNING"" and said

that she had called the authorities, several different authorities right at the time when the first call came in around 10:13.

But it wasn't until 3:30 that an officer showed up at her home. So of course, there's going to be a lot of questions about could anything more have been done to prevent this or even minimize the number of people dead -- Jessica.

DEAN: To catch those red flags, our hearts ache with that community. Amara Walker, live in Nashville for us this morning. Thank you so much.

A key witness testifies as a New York grand jury investigates former president Donald Trump's alleged role in a hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels. Details on that next.





DEAN: The Manhattan grand jury investigating former president Donald Trump is set to meet again tomorrow. And this comes after they adjourned Monday, following new testimony from former "National Inquirer" publisher David Pecker over Trump's alleged hush money payment to Stormy Daniels.

CNN's Paula Reid is following all of these developments, has been for weeks.

Paula how does Pecker factor in here?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, this could be a critical witness for the prosecution. Way back in October 2016, Pecker was the head of the company that published the "National Enquirer."

And a short time before the 2016 election, a representative for Stormy Daniels reached out and said she was ready to go public with her story about an alleged affair with then candidate Trump, an affair which he has consistently denied.

Pecker flagged this for then candidate's then personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who then arranged a hush money payment of $130,000 that is now at the center of the Manhattan DA's investigation.

And it's notable that Pecker's appearance came exactly one week after the appearance of attorney Robert Costello. He appeared at the request of Trump's legal team. So this is sort of an unexpected development in this investigation, because usually the grand jury -- that's pretty much all the decisions are made there by prosecutors.


REID: But this was a defense witness who went and attacked Michael Cohen's credibility and also undermined his story about exactly how this hush money payment came about.

So we learned from our reporting that prosecutors have been debating over the past week whether they needed to bring in another witness, to kind of button up their case, before moving on to a vote on a possible indictment. And Pecker is exactly the person who could do that.

DEAN: And we shall see.

The big question, will they or won't they indict?

Paula Dean, thanks so much for that reporting, we appreciate it.

Next, more of our ongoing coverage of the deadly mass shooting at a Nashville school. Up next we're going to speak with one woman who knew one of the victims well. What she wants us all to know about her friend and how her community will heal from this tragedy.