Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Parents and Painkillers; Reports of Shooting at Connecticut School

Aired December 14, 2012 - 10:30   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: We're waiting on word of the next round of fiscal cliff negotiations. The President and the House Speaker met for just under an hour at the White House late yesterday afternoon. Aides for both described the session as frank with lines of communications staying open.

More than 86,000 children in Kentucky are living without their parents. That is according to the 2010 census. And the reason why may shock you. Experts there say it's because of prescription drug overdoses. Every 19 minutes, someone dies that way here in the United States. And we're used to focusing on the person or who dies.

But looking deeper, what you find are hidden victims, the children.

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports now.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If this town could talk it would describe a simple, idyllic life, proud people. It would also whisper a sobering story, about an epidemic that is tearing apart family --

AVERY BRADSHAW, FATHER OVERDOSED ON OXYCONTIN: I lost my dad and my uncle to drug abuse.

GUPTA: After family.

HANNAH EATON, LOST UNCLE AND COUSIN TO DRUG ABUSE: I've lost both my uncle and my cousin after two years of prescription drug abuse.

GUPTA: After family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I lost both my mother and my grandmother to Oxycontin.

GUPTA: It is not uncommon to hear stories like this echoing down the hallways every day at this high school in Rock Castle County, Kentucky.

EATON: And you're constantly hearing of someone else dying because of abusing prescription drugs.

GUPTA: Sixteen year old Avery Bradshaw knows this story all too well.

BRADSHAW: My grandpa he just sat me down and told me that he was gone.

GUPTA: When Avery was just seven, his father overdosed on Oxycontin. He says his mother was in and out of his life.

BRADSHAW: The hardest part of growing up without a dad would be like not having that model family like that you always see.

GUPTA: He's lucky enough to live with his great grandparents. In this town, that model family is being redefined.

KAREN KELLY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, OPERATION UNITE: This is happening in Rockcastle County every week but it's happening in eastern Kentucky every day. It's leaving our communities in shreds and we're left behind to pick up the pieces from that.

GUPTA: Karen Kelly is the executive director of operation Unite, a community coalition devoted to preventing overdosed deaths in Kentucky. In fact Kentucky is the fourth most medicated state in the nation and it has the sixth highest rates of overdose deaths. In one county alone --

KELLY: Half of the kids have no parent in the home whatsoever. So now we're seeing many raised by great grandparents because we've lost an entire generation of young people and you know, the kids are really the ones paying the biggest price.

BRADSHAW: It's stressful for kids and it's really an emotional thing.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


LEMON: You can see more reporting from Dr. Gupta this weekend. "Sanjay Gupta MD" airs Saturday afternoon, 4:30 Eastern and Sunday morning at 7:30 Eastern.

You just saw Karen Kelly talking about this problem. She joins me now via Skype from Lexington, Kentucky. A reminder she says -- she is I should say the director of the Operation Unite, a non-profit focused on educating people about the dangers of drug abuse.

Karen, what's the biggest struggle in fighting prescription drug abuse?

KELLY: Well, that we create more addicts every day because of this problem and it's something that we've talked to a lot of parent who have lost children but we tend to leave the children out of -- out of focus and it's something that is just heart-wrenching because what do you do with these kids? How can they go to school and focus on math or reading when they don't have parents at home?

LEMON: How is this different, a different battle compared to heroin, meth, or alcohol?

KELLY: Well, because as I mentioned, we create new addicts every day and some -- many people get addicted through legitimate means, legitimate prescriptions because of a car accident or a back injury. And then the next thing you know they are struggling to keep their lives in control.

And it's just something -- legal drugs is really primarily our biggest problem in this country right now.

LEMON: Give us a solution, if you have a family member real quickly because we have to go on. We have some breaking news. But just a solution before you leave us.

KELLY: If you have medications in your home, lock them up and make sure that you check into other options before your doctor wants to prescribe you open opiates. Make sure you know what you're being prescribed.

LEMON: Karen Kelly, thank you very much. We wanted to spend more time with you but again, we do have some breaking news here on CNN. Thank you.

KELLY: Thank you.

LEMON: It is just coming across the wires here, a reading straight from the Connecticut state police responding to reports of a shooting, we are told, at Newton (SIC) Elementary School this morning. It's in the southwestern part of Connecticut. That's according to a police spokesman, Lieutenant Paul Vance. Again responding to reports of a shooting at Newtown Elementary School this morning.

And one of our -- there -- there is a map right there. Sandy Hook that you see but let me read more of what I'm getting here. According to one of our affiliates, again this isn't CNN reporting, this is our affiliate reporting the Connecticut State Police says they are responding to that shooting at Newton on Friday, Newtown. Excuse me, Newtown, Newtown -- Pardon me for that.

The shooting was reported at a school on Dickinson Drive -- Dickinson Drive. Again Newtown. I said Newton before but it's Newtown.

We don't know the extent of -- if there are any injuries but again we hear that they are deploying units. Police are responding; CNN is sending crews our affiliates are sending crews as well. They are en route to an elementary school in Newtown. The call came earlier this morning. not exactly sure of the time but we are working our sources and working our affiliates there in the area to try to figure out exactly what's going on.

As you know, law enforcement -- and we do here at CNN and all of the news organizations take it very seriously any time there are reports of a gun or shots fired at a school, elementary, junior high school, college or what have you. And that's what we are doing right now, checking on that for you. We're getting some information in. Our producers are gathering it for us.

And we'll be back with the very latest on the other side of this break. Don't go anywhere.


LEMON: The breaking news is coming to us out of Connecticut, the southwestern part of that state where police are reporting that they are responding to reports of a shooting at Newtown Elementary School early this morning. Again, in the southwestern part of the Connecticut. And that is according to a police spokesman Lieutenant Paul Vance. And we're hearing that the school is on Dickinson Drive and there are few other details available. Our affiliates are on the way to the scene as well as a CNN -- CNN crews, photographers, producers and our correspondents on the way to this.

Of course, we all cringe when we hear about reports of a shooting, especially at an elementary, especially any -- any organization, a business or a school but when you look at elementary school children, so young, and then there are reports of a shooting at a school, we have very few details on this.

This is just coming in across the wires and even the folks in Connecticut are scrambling to try to get their bearings around this to get their bearings and try to the scene to figure out exactly what's going on. Again, this is Newtown Elementary School. The reports came in, approximately, we are told about 30 minutes ago. It is Sandy Hook Elementary. Is that correct? Brian, my producer? Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown.

And again, in the southwestern part of the state. Very few details about Sandy Hook Elementary, exactly how big it is, how many students, what grades, if it's from first to nine or what have you. But again, and also our -- there are reports from our affiliates who are telling us where it is. And there are also other reports out there that this is -- again, this is not CNN's reporting. This is other published reports that I am looking on the wires, I'm quoting here, a Connecticut school district is on lockdown, some people are reporting, following the reports of a shooting at an elementary.

They are saying it's an unconfirmed report but we have a confirmed report that they are responding to the shooting there. The district has taken preventive measures by putting all schools on lockdown until they ensure the safety of all students. And again, that's according to another report from that is quoting the Newtown Public School District Secretary of Superintendent. The police also is sending units following reports of a shooting at a that school and all public and private schools in town are on lockdown.

And they said there is a message. And we can look for this if you guys are on the school's Web site. A message on the school district's Web site that all afternoon kindergarten is canceled today and there will be no midday bus runs. And there it is Sandy Hook Elementary School. You are looking at the school's Web site there. And as far -- afternoon kindergarten up on the top right of your screen, you can see it in the yellow part, afternoon kindergarten is canceled today, December 14th. There will be no midday bus runs.

So I'm not sure if that is because of this -- these reports of a shooting. But it is an indication that something is going on, that something is awry in this school district. Again, Sandy Hook Elementary School. You're looking at the school's Web site. Reports of a shooting at that Connecticut school which is located in the southwestern part of the state and we've confirmed that from police spokesman Lieutenant Paul Vance.

We have crews on the way to the scene. Our affiliates have crews on the way to the scene as well. And we also have a reporter in New York who is following this for us and we'll get that reporter to you as well on the other side of this break. Don't go away -- breaking news here on CNN.


LEMON: And the breaking news here on CNN is that Connecticut state police have responded to reports of a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. It is in the Newtown School District in the southwestern part of Connecticut.

First pictures coming in right now. Let's put them up. You see the police tape in front and you see also emergency people in the background there. A fire truck on your left. Fire and rescue. So it appears through these pictures -- another confirmation that something is going on at this elementary school in Newtown.

This picture, courtesy of our affiliate WCCT. And again, we have very few details about this shooting. It's just that there were reports for police to come out because of some sort of disturbance or shooting at the school. Obviously police investigators, fire department all rushing out to the school and finding what they found and we don't have the information of what they have found yet.

There are other reports published and otherwise that are saying that the school district is on lockdown. The school district is on lockdown right now. Newtown police spokesman is telling now, CNN has confirmation, our New York desk, that police at Sandy Hook Elementary School responded to that shooting and the school is now on lockdown and the kids are not being evacuated. The kids are not being evacuated from this school.

So, again, we are getting new information now coming in. These are the first pictures that are coming in from the school. We don't know if there are any injuries in this. We don't know the details behind the shooting, what type of gun if at all, a gun was found, who the suspect is, if it's a student or otherwise. We don't know the details.

But again, when we do get reports like this, we all cringe because it's the last thing you want to see happen at any business or any home and especially at an elementary school when we know the ages of the people who are involved. And we send our kids off to school every single day here in this country hoping that they will be in the best hands. And then sadly, from time to time, these terrible situations do crop up.

But again, we are learning now that this school is on lockdown. CNN has confirmed that they are not evacuating the students from the school. Emergency personnel are there. Others are still being rushed there. Our affiliates are on the way to the school as well as CNN crews and personnel on the way to the school as well.

Just to give you an idea, you've been seeing the map there. The only thing we know is that it is in the southwestern part of Connecticut. And if you guys -- I'm sort of here in a bubble by myself. If you can tell me exactly where, how close we are to any major city or town, to give our viewers an idea of exactly where this Sandy Hook Elementary School is. And if we can find out exactly how many students are there.

But again, here's the latest from the wires, from the CNN wires. And they are saying Connecticut state police and local authorities are responding to a shooting at the elementary school in southwestern Connecticut. The school is Sandy Hook Elementary School. It is on lockdown. They are not being evacuated. That's according to a Newtown -- I believe it's a Newtown police spokesman.

Our wires are saying Newton but it is Newtown. And so that is the very latest information. It appears, I would imagine, to be not very close to a city center because our affiliates are telling us it's going to take them a couple of minutes to get to the scene, maybe 30 minutes. And if it was pretty close to a major city there in Connecticut, it would not take that long to get out to this elementary school because as you know, the media is usually located in larger urban areas and larger business areas and this must be a smaller town in order for -- OK.

We're trying to get someone on the phone now, Lou Palumbo, who's a former New York police officer. Is Lou on the phone now or are we still working to get him? Say again? Almost there. OK. As we work -- let me know in my ear when we get Lou.

So, again, those are the reports that we have and this comes to us as we were obviously in the middle of other news about what's going to happen with the fiscal cliff and what have you. And then all of a sudden this disturbing news comes across the wires and we have to readjust to bring this to you.

Lou Palumbo. Lou, I know you very well. You have kids. I've met your wife and your kids. We send our kids off to school every day. This is the worst thing, the worst news that we can get.


LEMON: Yes. Lou, talk to me about this situation. I'm not sure if you're working your sources. But as I said -- I'm not sure if you can hear me -- you have kids. I said I've met your kids, I've met your wife. I know how much you love them. And all parents around the country, you send your kids off to school and then all of a sudden you get this news. This is the worst news that you can get.

PALUMBO: Yes. This is the greatest fear, Don, you can possibly have I mean. But if you just watch our culture, it seems like we're eroding away. You can't take your children to the movie theater. You can't take them shopping at (inaudible) and now we're worried about them going to school. Very interesting culture we have evolved into. LEMON: Yes. So we don't know -- you don't know any details about this. Do you know this particular school district in Connecticut? Do you know this area?

PALUMBO: I'm slightly familiar with it because at one time I did have a residence in Connecticut, as you probably are aware. I think the school district is borderline academic. The thing that is really interesting is this is a grammar school. It's an elementary school. We're not talking about a high school where the children have evolved a bit more where if you stimulate them negatively as they did in Columbine, you end up with this trench coat mafia who subsequently go out and carry out these heinous acts of killing people.

This is an elementary school. So I'm very curious to know what the impetus was for the shooting at the school. Is it in between teachers for example. Is it a workplace violence? I'm really interested to see what the dynamics is going to be here.

LEMON: yes. Whatever it is, it's disturbing. I was pointing out that it is an elementary school and when I was growing up, I don't know what the you know -- I'm reading here -- sorry Lou. I don't know exactly what the -- how they do it now, what the measures were, but mine was K-5 and that was elementary; and then 5-8 or 9 was junior high school and then high school was beyond that.

So when you think about that age -- those are kids who are anywhere from 4 to 5 years old to 12 or 13 years old. That's really young.

PALUMBO: That's the scary part, that they would be subjected to this in their environment of learning. You have to understand the ramifications of this and how that will translate to their ability to go into a learning environment and concentrate, feel secure. We're not even talking about the parents' state of mind.

The thing I suspect here, Don, is that this had little or nothing to do with the children per se based on the demographic, the age there. It probably has something to do with the teachers or maybe there was an outside influence or issue introduced into that school environment where a shooter, for example, may have gone in for a person they were looking for who just happened to be in that environment.

This is always going to be the fruition of the investigation. Right now what we're seeing, Don, is the police are responding, they are creating a perimeter, they are -- how would you say -- exercising containment, which means they are now going to prevent any outside -- further outside influence into the school.


LEMON: Hey Lou Palumbo -- Lou, hold that thought. Hold that thought and I'll get to you on the other side of the break. Viewers we're going to get back to Lou on the other side of this break. Stay with us for the breaking news here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: And the breaking news here on CNN, Connecticut state police responding to reports of a shooting at sandy hook elementary school in the Newtown School District in southwestern Connecticut this morning. There are pictures from the scene. There you see on the right of your screen there, you see the police tape and you see the emergency officials. Our reporting is that police responded earlier to this shooting and that the elementary school is on lockdown right now.

There are others that are reporting this is ABC reporting, again, that is on lockdown and that's according to the secretary and they say state police are sending units to Newtown following that shooting area. All private and public schools in the town are on lockdown. Again, that is according to ABC News, it's reporting that.

We're reporting that this one elementary school is on lockdown because of this but they are not evacuating any children out of this school. Don't know the extent of any injuries here and we don't know the details behind the shooting, who exactly did it and why.

Lou Palumbo, law enforcement official, familiar here at CNN, talk to me about this school district. You said you know it because you have a residence in Connecticut?

PALUMBO: Yes. I'm familiar with it, Don. There's nothing germane to the school district that should account for this type of incident. You know, as I mentioned earlier, we're talking about an elementary school here. Children that on maximum grades one through to eight or kindergarten through eight. It's not like we have the high school denominator where the taunting goes on and you can stimulate child with rejection or bullying into committing the shooting.

LEMON: Lou, you're right about that and we're going to have to get more information on the other side of this break when the "NEWSROOM" continues with Ashleigh Banfield.

Thank you for watching.