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Jesse Rizo is Interviewed about Uvalde Indictments; Trump is Campaigning in Virginia; Oklahoma Schools Retire Bible Teaching; Foreign Media Mocks Biden. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired June 28, 2024 - 09:30   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: For the horrifically slow police response to that tragedy. Nineteen children and two teachers were killed that day two years ago.

Now, Pete Arredondo, the police chief who led the botched response, is indicted on ten counts of child endangerment and criminal negligence according to an official at the county jail. Another officer working under him is charged as well.

It took 77 minutes, as a reminder, before police finally moved in to stop the killing.

Joining us right now is Jesse Rizo. He is the uncle of one of the children killed that day. Little Jackie Cazares. He also was recently elected to the Uvalde School Board.

Jesse, thanks for being here.

These charges -- charges is something that you have been calling for in every conversation we have had over the last two years. What's your reaction to this?

JESSE RIZO, UNCLE OF UVALDE VICTIM JACKIE CASARES: Pleasantly surprised. You know, I -- you know, when -- you lose -- you start to lose faith in the system. And a day like yesterday, you know, when you hear the news that someone's finally been indicted, try to be held accountable and prosecuted hopefully, it, you know, you're -- you're -- you're taken back by it. It takes a moment to process that information.

But we're happy to hear that the D.A. and the grand jury was able to see enough details to charge them to go forward with this.

BOLDUAN: There's some reporting that the DA met with some of the families to talk through this, explaining the indictment and the charges. Have you heard about this? Was your brother there?

RIZO: We -- yes, ma'am. I was not -- I was not there. I was not present, but I heard about it. It happened the day before yesterday. And they did go over some information and everybody was told not to say anything until the news broke yesterday. So, we -- some of us were aware of it, yes, ma'am. BOLDUAN: Have you heard -- and in during those conversations, have you heard the district attorney saying that these -- that the indictments end with these two?

RIZO: That's the perception that I received. I'm hoping that that's not the case. You know, it's -- it's -- I'd -- I'd -- I would rather her come out and actually issue a public statement, you know, a news conference, and explain to people in detail what her intentions are and kind of give us a breakdown.

A lot of us are not exposed to the daily legalities of all these things. So, we get a little confused with the -- the technical things that go on.

But, you know, there's a lot of questions that need to be answered as well. So, I'm hoping that she will eventually come out and issue some kind of formal statement to the public.

BOLDUAN: How's your -- yes. How is your brother feeling this morning?

RIZO: They were happy. You know, we're all happy that at least two officers were indicted. We're hoping -- we were hoping for a lot more. And we're hoping that -- that something does come in the future, but we're not holding our breath on that. But we are surprised and we are happy that Mr. Arredondo and Adrian Gonzales were indicted.

BOLDUAN: If these two are the only two who face criminal charges over what happened to your niece and all of those other children and those two teachers, is that -- does that equal accountability -- the accountability that we've talked about so much over the last two years?

RIZO: Absolutely not. I mean it -- it's -- it's the beginning of something, right, but in order to bring closure, you -- you would want all the officers that didn't do their job that day, that failed to respond appropriately, you would want them to be held accountable in an equal way.

Offices that come to mind is, for example, the assistant chief, Mr. Bodigas (ph), who takes the phone call, acknowledges the fact that there's children in there that are dying, that are being shot at, and he simply does nothing. He walks away from the situation. That's an individual that I'm perplexed about, that I cannot understand why he wasn't indicted.

So, it's something, you know, with the two individuals that were indicted, but it's not enough.

BOLDUAN: You mentioned you were surprised that this happened. What do you make of the timing? Do you have any understanding of why -- why now the district attorney is finally been comfortable to make this move?

RIZO: I think, you know, it was a big task. It's a whole lot of moving parts. You know, you have different departments. You have VPS (ph). The rangers. All the types of departments. There was a lot of data to go through. There's a lot of information that you've got to -- and you have to get it right. So, I respect that process.

It is a long time, though. It's -- I call it agony. You know, for two years you think about the situation. You wonder if anything's going to happen. It kind of -- it kind of -- it's quiet for a period of time. And I don't like the fact that -- that it takes place late in the day, basically at closing time. People are going home at that time, 5:00. Don't like the fact that it took place at that time, you know. But I look at -- I try to look at the bigger picture. And the most important thing is that he isn't -- that he was indicted, you know. It's hard to swallow the pill where Mr. Arredondo and the other officers just basically allowed this situation to take place for such a long period of time and yet two-and-a-half years later we finally get that indictment.


So, it's -- it's -- it's tough to understand that part, but at least we got something though.

BOLDUAN: You've talked about the very long road to trying to mend the community after what happened, and the aftermath and mess that was totally mishandled. Do you think these actions, this works toward that, toward mending the community?

RIZO: I think it does. I think that the -- that the most important people that are going to mend that community is going to meet Mr. Arredondo for himself and Adrian Gonzales because they can either take the road of where they accept responsibility and they accept the consequences that are handed to them, or they can deny, and deny and deny. And they choose that alternate path where you deny. All you're doing is tearing up the town, you're tearing up the families. You're ripping everybody's hard apart.

So, it is going to be up to them. You know, they have to accept the fact that they failed on it. They -- and whatever consequences they're faced with, they must accept them. And whether it's prison time, you know, three years, ten years, whatever it is, you got -- you have to -- you just have to allow their processes to take place.

It is going to -- it is going to take a lot of time because there are people, obviously, that still support Mr. Arredondo and the other officers and you can't get past the point of, they're such nice people. They were such nice guys. And we don't take that from anybody. But it's hard to make those type of individuals understand the magnitude of the failure on May 24th. That's the challenging aspect of it.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Well, as we say thank you and goodbye once again, Jesse, let us put up once again that sweet picture to remember your niece, Jackie Cazares and all of the other children who were killed on that day and their two teachers who were in their with them.

Jessie, thank you so much.

We'll be right back.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would have to say, after watching the debate and wondering how Biden handed himself in answering the questions, that reassured me of my -- his uninsurance to be able to lead our country. I'm concerned he was hesitant, very not cognitive. He seemed like his data, he was missing his numbers. So, very concerning. That's somebody I don't think that needs to lead our country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm looking for somebody that I trust to be able to uphold policies that will protect me and are more concerned for the general well-being of everybody in the United States, which I got more from Biden, considering he did a lot more talking about policies, what he's done, and what he plans to do. Whereas on the other side, from Trump, all I really heard was, I've done this and it was the best ever, but I never heard what it was, or I heard that Biden was the worst ever, but I never heard why.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that his mental acuity is a lot better than Biden's. Biden seems to be very tired. Actually, I'm tired of both of them because they just keep going back and forth, back and forth. We just need to get some younger people in there that have clean records that -- and start over.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, that was voters last night just after the historic debate, just down the hall where we are in Atlanta at CNN. It'll be important to hear from voters today and this morning after it sunk in a little bit to see how they feel about everything that happened on that stage. As for Donald Trump, he is in Virginia today. He'll hold a rally there.

Let's go right to Alayna Treene, covering the Trump campaign.

Alayna, what are you hearing?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you're right, Donald Trump is actually in this club behind me. He's starting his day here in Virginia. Later he will travel a couple hours where he's holding a rally in Chesapeake.

And, look, when I talk to Donald Trump's team, they said you can very much anticipate that the former president will be taking a victory lap at that speech later today. They are feeling very good about his debate performance last night.

And there's a few things, John, I want to point out. One is that they were very happy with the way that Donald Trump held himself last night. They had urged him and advised him heading into Thursday to be more reserved, to come off more presidential, to not wade into too many personal attacks. We did, of course, see him at some points attack the former -- or, excuse me, attack President Joe Biden, as well as his son. But for the most part, Donald Trump stayed pretty composed. He didn't go rogue. I know that was a concern of some Trump allies, that maybe he would veer off into some of his rants and personal attacks. But for the most part, he's stayed on message.

The other thing I want to point out is that they pay very close attention to the Democratic reaction last night following the debate. They relished, they told me, the critiques of Joe Biden, particularly from people within his own party and going on social media, on television. They've been sharing those posts as well today.

The third thing I want to point out is optics. So, going into Thursday as well, Donald Trump's team, as much as they wanted him to stay on message and be good on the substance, they, if anything, actually prioritized the optics the way that he appeared. And they think that he did very well on that front.

I do want to play for you just what we heard from Trump's son shortly after the debate in the spin room. Eric Trump said this. Take a listen.


ERIC TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S SON: Well, I spoke to him about 30 seconds after he got off the stage, and probably the first phone call he -- he took. And he was elated.

My father's going to go out there and he's going to keep going to Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, and Arizona, and Florida, and North Carolina, and all the swing states.


And we, as a family, are going to work tirelessly. He does not need to be doing this. He's getting shot at every single day by every single person. He wants to see this country great. He wants to save this country. He wants to see our nation succeed. He wants to fix this union. And he wants respect for America again. And I'm proud of him.


TREENE: Now, John, that response from Eric Trump is very similar to what other Republicans are telling me. And I do also just want to quickly make clear that even though Donald Trump's team had declared before the debate even ended that he had won it, remember, he lied repeatedly during the debate. He lied about his role in January 6th. He lied about the -- about immigration, economy, the national debt, a number of things that our team has been fact-checking. But the impression that many voters got, and we've seen from our initial polling on that, is that by and large they agree that they think Donald Trump won.

And so I think to your point about needing to stay tuned to see how Americans over the next week feel and how this resonated with them will be a very important footnote in the larger debate of looking forward to November.


BERMAN: Alayna Treene in Virginia, thanks so much.

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, new this morning, Oklahoma's education chief is now requiring all public schools to teach the Bible, including the Ten Commandments. A move immediately condemned by group saying it clearly violates the separation between church and state. This, of course, comes just a week, you'll remember this, after Louisiana enacted a law requiring the Ten Commandments be displayed in all classrooms. Of course, this goes further.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is joining us now. The state superintendent said that, look, the Bible is, quote, "a necessary historical document to teach." We heard a similar argument in Louisiana for posting the commandments. What kind of reaction are you hearing?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this has really kind of sparked off intense debate once again in Oklahoma, but it's part of a broader movement that we're seen in states across the country of right-wing conservative, especially religious conservatives, trying to indoctrinate more Christian issues into the classroom.

Ryan Walters is the superintendent of Oklahoma Schools, and he has made a name for himself in recent years of pushing back against what he sees as liberal indoctrination of students in public classrooms. So, he issued this edict yesterday saying that the Bible and Ten Commandments is expected to be incorporated in all classrooms in Oklahoma starting next school year, that all teachers must teach from the Bible, that the foundational documents used for the Constitution and the birth of the country, that these are necessary, historical documents for students to understand western civilization.

As you might imagine, there's been a great deal of pushback on the superintendent. The Americans United for Separation of Church and State says that Ryan Walters is abusing his power, that this edict is unconstitutional, and that he is trampling religious freedoms in the country.

Other critics, non-Christian critics, are coming out against what Walters has said as well.


ADAM SOLTANI, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CAIR OKLAHOMA: It is definitely treading on very thin ice when it comes to the idea of religious freedom and the establishment clause of the Constitution.

RABBI VERED HARRIS, TEMPLE B'NAI Israel IN OKLAHOMA CITY: This underlying assumption of the First Amendment has allowed me, as a Jewish person, to grow up in this country without fear that my governmental institutions are going to oppress me.


LAVANDERA: And, Sara, what Ryan Walters' edict did that -- yesterday about teaching the Bible and Ten Commandments in school, what it really doesn't lay out is exactly specifically how the Bible and the Ten Commandments would be incorporated, specifically into each different kind of class and subject matter across schools in the state.

But despite all of that, there's just still been a great deal of pushback on what the superintendent is pushing for now.


SIDNER: All right, Ed Lavandera, thank you so much, live there for us from Dallas.

We'll be right back.



BERMAN: (INAUDIBLE) for President Biden are tough in the U.S. this morning, and it's not any better oversees. The British tabloid, "The Sun," they wrote "Joe-matosed." I think we can put that up on the screen. And there was another, "Biden Bombs." Not much different in France, Italy, and Greece either.

CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is with us now.

So, Nic, what are you hearing over there?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC: It is. It's -- it's a sense of, you know, not forgetting, of course, that Europeans here less of President Biden than perhaps Americans do, and that way is more shocked by what they actually heard and the way the president comported himself. So, these headlines, I mean across the board, rare that you get all the newspapers to line up this way, not just this in the U.K., but top to bottom of Europe and Greece there suggesting, "is it time for President Biden to go -- to step aside? Of course, that's the question Democrats are asking themselves too.

But in Russia they absolutely lampooned the debate, picking up on President Biden's walk up and down the steps of the stage and saying that it was a success that he didn't fall over, comparing the show saying it was a -- or comparing the debate rather to a show that they said was for pensioners. Of course that overlooks the fact that President Putin is of pensionable age.

So, in Russia they were lampooning it.


We heard from the Kremlin spokesman saying that Putin didn't stay up late to watch it, but you can bet that he has certainly got a beat on it when he got up later in the day. The Kremlin saying they're not going to comment because they don't comment on internal affairs. But from what they will have heard from Donald Trump, this will be good news for Putin, bad news for Zelenskyy, bad news for the European Union, bad news NATO. Tough talk that Russia -- that rather China is going to hear out of this. But Putin, yes, he's probably smiling.

BERMAN: Yes, and, look, you make a good point, a lot on the line here for Ukraine, for NATO, for so many of these nations.

Nic Robertson, great to see you this morning. Thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Nic.

And thank you, all of you, for joining us today. This is CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Jim Acosta up next.