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Zelenskyy Inspects Damage from Russian Military Strikes; Three U.S. Volunteers Missing in Ukraine; Russia Accused of War Crimes in Kharkiv; Export Blockade Takes Toll on Ukrainian Farmers; Londoners Protest Cost of Living; Back-to-Back Heat Waves in U.S.; Firearms Buyback Program in Miami; Juneteenth, Freedom for All. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired June 19, 2022 - 03:00   ET




ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Anna Coren, coming to you live from Hong Kong.

Ahead this hour, Ukraine's president visits the front line of the war, vowing to reclaim territory and stop Russian gains. We're live in Kyiv with details.

The country has endless fields ready to plow. But leftover mines, high fuel prices and a Russian blockade risk turning a bountiful harvest into a global food disaster.

In just a few hours, polls will open in Colombia for a presidential runoff. We'll look at who the candidates are and what issues are on voters' minds.


COREN: We're tracking developments in Ukraine, where the area around the capital, Kyiv, was rattled by a series of explosions a short time ago. Military officials say air defenses worked on enemy targets and that, so far, there have been no fires or casualties reported. Officials are also urging people to stay in shelters.

The blasts happened a day after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy went to Odessa, Mykolaiv and visited residential areas hammered by Russian artillery and missiles. He says Ukraine will not yield any territory in the region.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We will not give away the south to anyone. We will return everything that's ours and the sea will be Ukrainian and safe.


COREN: Meanwhile, thick smoke rose over the separatist-held city of Donetsk on Saturday after images appearing to show incoming artillery. The mayor says civilians were hurt and several city blocks were damaged. CNN's Salma Abdelaziz is standing by in Kyiv with more developments in Ukraine.

Before we get to the president's trip, tell us about these latest attacks on Kyiv.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. These are very rare. We often do hear air raid sirens here. But the last time there was an attempted Russian missile strike on the capital was June 9th.

In the early hours of this morning, we heard air raid sirens go off. One of our producers here heard the sound of explosions. We later heard from officials that the air defense systems had been deployed and intercepted Russian missiles.

There are no casualties, no damage. So it's unclear what the target was. Again a reminder of Russian forces that they are still capable of hitting or targeting the capital, although again, those strikes are quite rare.

It comes a day after President Zelenskyy himself was on the front lines in this country. It's part of a continuation of his strategy to be an ever-present leader, to provide that constant morale boost to troops and residents that live along these front line areas.

His first stop was Mykolaiv. That's a major flashpoint city early on in the conflict. Army barracks in Mykolaiv were struck by Russian warplanes, killing and injuring dozens of Ukrainian soldiers. This is an area that is consistently shelled, struck by Russian forces.

We saw President Zelenskyy touring that damage alongside the regional governor. He wanted to give that boost, that support. Just reading a quote of what he said while he was there.

"Special attention was paid to threats from land and sea. We do not stop working for victory."

And the sea part of this is important because his next stop was Odessa. That's a major port city, again. It's through that city that Ukraine hopes to be able to export grain. But they say that Russian warships are essentially blockading the Black Sea, forcing them -- making them unable to export their goods.

So this is another important issue for President Zelenskyy, one he's been trying to find a resolution to. The update from officials there is that there's nine civilian ships in those waters that are currently being blockaded by Russian forces.

This is of high concern, not just Ukraine, of course, but to the larger market. Ukraine being one of the world's largest grain exporters, providing that breadbasket for Africa, for the Middle East. This is an international issue that has yet to find a solution.

COREN: Salma Abdelaziz, thank you. Still no word about the fate of three U.S. military volunteers missing in Ukraine. Two of the men disappeared near Kharkiv last week before this picture of them was posted on Telegram.

Two separate videos later appeared on pro-Russian social media and news outlets that appear to show the two Americans in captivity. We are not showing the footage because they are clearly under duress. The State Department cannot confirm they've been captured by Russia.


COREN: And the Kremlin says it has no idea what happened to them. The third American, a former Marine, has been missing since April.

A first round of strikes near Kharkiv has some residents worried about the return of mass shelling. Ukrainian officials say Russian strikes damaged a tram (ph) depot and set fire to an apartment building on Friday night. Officials say no one was hurt.

Ukraine's second-largest city has suffered heavy bombardment since the very start of Russia's war. Now Amnesty International is accusing Russia of committing war crimes during an offensive to take Kharkiv.

The organization says it documented 28 indiscriminate strikes between late February and late April, including a cluster bomb strike in a parking lot, as people lined up to get humanitarian aid, and an attack on a cemetery that killed a man, as he stood by his father's grave.

In its report Amnesty says the attacks documented were explicit violations of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit attacks on nonmilitary targets, as well as the intentional targeting of civilians.


COREN: Joining me now is Maria Avdeeva, a security expert and resident of Kharkiv.

Maria, great to have you with us. The Amnesty International report accuses Russia of indiscriminate attacks on your home city of Kharkiv using internationally banned cluster munitions and scatterable land mines. Firstly, tell us about the human toll and impact that it has had on Kharkiv.

MARIA AVDEEVA, SECURITY EXPERT AND KHARKIV RESIDENT: That was what Russia was doing constantly since the beginning of the war, since 24th of February. There was not a single day when Russian troops were not shelling the city.

And according to the latest data, 841 civilians were killed in Kharkiv; among them, 46 children. And every day we have new cases because, since Ukrainian troops pushed Russia to the border, now the Russian troops are trying to get more and advance more and again closer to the city.

And these attacks again continue and every new day brings us new and new attacks, with cluster munitions and all kinds of other weapons Russia has been using to attack Ukraine.

COREN: Residential neighborhoods have been shelled; I believe 600 residential buildings destroyed in Kharkiv alone. Russia is targeting infrastructure across Ukraine. Tell us about the extent of the damage and the impact that it is having.

AVDEEVA: Yes, the numbers now grew significantly from the number that Amnesty International is providing.

According to the latest data, the government officials in Kharkiv tell us it's about now 3,000 residential buildings that were severely damaged or destroyed since the beginning of the war and including 100 schools and about 90 kindergartens.

And that means that Russia is deliberately targeting not only residential areas but also critical infrastructure and also all the objects that allow the city to function normally. And that means that it will not be -- the city will not be able to return to the normal life soon because people just don't have their homes where to return.

The schools will not return back to normal. And today, just about half an hour ago, news came in that a large fuel depot was attacked at Dnipro region, which is a nearby region. And Ukraine now already has a very large problem with fuel supply.

And that means that again there will be a huge deficit and the cars, the people will not be able to use their cars. And this problem will increase in the upcoming days.

COREN: Maria, the report from Amnesty International accuses Russia of war crimes in its attempts to capture Kharkiv.

Realistically what will this amount to?

AVDEEVA: Kharkiv was all the time number one target for Russia because it's the second largest city of Ukraine. And it is very close to the Russian border, only 40 kilometers away.

So even if the Russian troops are pushed back to the territory of Russia, they will be able to shelter there. And they were doing so. They have deployed their Iskander rockets and also smirch (ph) rockets.


AVDEEVA: The range allows them to shelter the city even in the territory of Russia. So until the war is over or there is some kind of cease-fire and Kharkiv will continue to be under attack. And it's very dangerous to be in this city.

That's what government officials tell civilians, just stay home, don't go to the streets because, when on the streets, people are all the time exposed to the attacks and the casualties (ph) among civilians show us that because people might get killed just because they are on the streets, doing their normal daily life.

And then the epic (ph) comes and they are not aware that it will happen.

COREN: Yes, we have seen that time and time again. Leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Romania were in Kyiv this week, showing support for Ukraine. I understand you met with German chancellor Scholz.

What was your message to him and the others?

And how do you feel about the West's commitment to Ukraine thus far?

AVDEEVA: It was an exclusive opportunity and generally this visit was very great, it had a great symbolic message to all Ukrainians because we see that the unity and support of our allies for Ukraine.

But what we need most now in Ukraine is weapons, is everyone telling me this, that we need weapons right now because Russia is now launching a new offensive in Donbas, trying to get as much territory of Ukraine as possible.

And it means they're targeting civilian and civilian population. And we need -- we don't have time to wait. With the support and all the help that is coming but we need weapons and anti-aircraft systems right now, this moment.

Because this will allow to defend Ukrainian cities and to defend Ukrainian civilians from new and new attacks because Russia every day launches new missiles from the territory of Plesetsk (ph), from the territory of Russia onto Ukraine.

And some of them hit the targets, like it happened today in Dnipro region. Some of them will be shot down by the anti-aircraft systems. But anyway, we need these weapons to stop this offensive or at least to stop some kind of aggression.

And it will allow Ukrainian troops to push Russians further into the territory of Russia and further from Ukrainian territory.

COREN: Maria Avdeeva, we certainly appreciate your time, speaking to us and offering us this very personal insight into what is happening in your country. Many thanks for joining us.

AVDEEVA: Thank you.


COREN: We've been telling you about the looming food crisis caused by Russia's blockade of Ukrainian ports. About 22 million tons of grain is (sic) now stranded in Ukraine, which means, according to U.N. estimates, some 49 million people worldwide may not be able to put food on the table.

As Michael Holmes reports, the blockade is also taking a toll on Ukrainian farmers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A farm in Ukraine stretches to the horizon. In years past, it would yield shipments of grain to be exported to the rest of Europe, Africa and China.

Before the war, Ukraine was the fourth largest exporter of grain in the world. But now the crops growing here may be difficult to transport anywhere because of Russia's blockade of the country's Black Sea ports.

The owner of this farm near Mykolaiv says she still has silos full of last year's harvest but can't sell it because buyers can't ship it.

NADIA IVANOVA, FARMER (through translator): I think that we'll have big losses. First of all, it's the loss of crop capacity. Secondly, it's a loss of money because there's nowhere to export, no sale of grain. And so it will really affect everything in the future.

HOLMES (voice-over): Tank obstacles line the farmland here, the front lines just 20 kilometers away. But there are signs everywhere of earlier battles: a processing plant destroyed by Russian troops, a bombed-out tractor shed.

SERGUII TCHERNYCHOV, FARM WORKER (through translator): We repaired the grain hopper. It was totally blown up. We already welded it, did major repairs, as it should be. Now we're fixing other things, like the glass that was broken.

HOLMES (voice-over): Nearby, another farmer says his wheat and sunflower fields are ready to plow. But his workers are afraid to drive their tractors in fields which could be near combat operations or contain leftover Russian munitions.

And finding enough fuel to run the equipment is another problem. Prices are sky-high and many farmers must wait weeks for diesel deliveries. Ukraine's deputy head of agriculture says it all adds up to a dismal forecast for the season and says the country's grain harvest will likely drop from 86 million tons last year --


HOLMES (voice-over): -- to around 48.5 million tons this year, impacting all of the countries which rely on Ukrainian exports at a time when global food prices are rising and there is dwindling supply.

ZELENSKYY (through translator): If due to Russian blockades, we are unable to export our food, which is so sorely missing in global markets, the world will face an acute and severe food crisis and famine, famine in many countries of Asia and Africa.

HOLMES (voice-over): Ukraine is looking to other routes to export its goods through Romania and Poland. And there are plans to build temporary silos on the border to store new crops.

But with so much grain sitting in the fields or in warehouses, many farmers fear there are few good outcomes. Storage terminals have been targeted and destroyed in the fighting. Crops left in the ground are at risk of fire. The war turning into waste what could have been a bountiful harvest -- Michael Holmes, CNN.


COREN: In the coming hours, Colombians will choose a new president. Just ahead we'll look at the candidates and what's at stake in this historical election.





COREN: The stage is set for the presidential runoff election in Colombia between the leftist former guerilla, Gustavo Petro, and the populist self-proclaimed king of TikTok, Rodolfo Hernandez.

Some of the key issues dominating the election are the economy, income inequality, corruption and a rapidly degrading security situation, made worse by criminal drug gangs.

Petro is promising sweeping social and economic reforms, while Hernandez has campaigned on anti-corruption rhetoric and calls to shrink government.

Financial security is the top issue on the minds of many Colombian voters. It's especially important to those made poorer by high inflation. Stefano Pozzebon has more.


STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): Niober Siagama and his extended family, living in two rooms in a cheap hotel in Bogota; at nighttime, 12 people squeezing into two bunk beds and on the floor, sleeping wherever there is some space.

It wasn't always like this. Last year, this group of indigenous people lived in a house in another part of town. But in January, rent became too pricy. They had to leave. Now they must pay for their rooms every night to have a roof over their heads. And money is very tight.

"Everything got more expensive," says Siagama, who told us he sometimes skips his meal to let his two children eat a little more.

NIOBER SIAGAMA, BOGOTA RESIDENT (through translator): I know I can make it. I have faith in myself and I know with my work I can get through this. But sometimes the system plays against you.

POZZEBON (voice-over): Their situation is not unique. Millions of Colombians are increasingly struggling to make ends meet and food insecurity is on the rise. According to the World Food Programme, Colombia's food prices have increased the most across Latin America since the start of the year, in part as a consequence of the war in Ukraine.

YURITH SUAREZ BUTCHER, BOGOTA RESIDENT (through translator): I'd say it started about five or six months ago that prices have really gone up.

POZZEBON (voice-over): It sounds like a paradox after 10 years of solid economic growth. But three out of five Colombians, responding to a late April poll, said young people will be worse off than their parents. But things are set to change.

POZZEBON: After decades of the same economic recipe, Colombians have voted for change. Two of these raptors (ph) have progressed to the second round of the presidential election on Sunday, each with his own plan to fix the country's economy.

But even within change, throughout different trends, and which one of the two will come up on top?

POZZEBON (voice-over): Left-wing candidate Gustavo Petro, is at his third attempt to win the presidency, laying out his proposal in an interview with CNN. He sets his eyes on household income.

GUSTAVO PETRO, COLOMBIA PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): There is a gap between how much the salaries grew -- little -- and how much food prices grew -- a lot. And that has caused rising levels of hunger. And that's where you have the crisis.

POZZEBON (voice-over): Petro plans a radical rethinking of Colombia's economy, doing away with exporting fossil fuels and focusing on food production supported by public spending. That will include renegotiating a free trade agreement with the United States.

His opponent, Rodolfo Hernandez, instead is in favor of free enterprise and lower taxes on basic goods to help everydays (sic) Colombians. Running on a campaign against corruption, he pledges to lead a government of austerity.

RODOLFO HERNANDEZ, COLOMBIA PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): I'm going to rule by example. Let's start there, taking away all the

privileges of the politicians that have no justification and are no good to the common people.

POZZEBON (voice-over): The two candidates are neck-and-neck. And Siagama is still undecided. He hopes, however, that whoever prevails will be able to open a new chapter for Colombia.

"What we have now is unbearable," he says -- Stefano Pozzebon, CNN, Bogota.


COREN: Britain is about to be hit by its biggest nationwide rail strike in decades as workers fight for a new pay deal. It comes as thousands protest the rising cost of living. ITN's Neil Connery has details. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NEIL CONNERY, ITN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Britain's biggest rail strike for more than three decades will bring huge disruption to millions of passengers this week. Around half the network will be closed, only a fifth of services running.

Rail unions have now confirmed the strikes are going ahead, after talks over pay, jobs and conditions failed to break the deadlock.

MICK LYNCH, RMT UNION: We need a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies, we need to negotiate change rather than have it imposed on us. And we need a pay rise. Our people, like every British worker, is suffering from the cost of living crisis. We need a decent pay deal.


CONNERY (voice-over): As concerns over the cost of living crisis grow, thousands of protesters joined this TUC march in London. With the Bank of England predicting inflation will hit 11 percent later this year, demonstrators, including teachers, spoke of their anger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Students are hungry in the morning. They are coming to school. They're tired, they're hungry. They can't concentrate in class. And it's becoming ever-decreasing (ph) circles.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The price of food is going up, price of fuel going up. And if you're a young person, it makes it hard to even think, what does the future look like for us?

Can't really afford much at the moment.

CONNERY (voice-over): The TUC says its research suggests that workers' real-terms pay has dropped significantly.

FRANCES O'GRADY, TRADES UNION CONGRESS: Ever since the financial crash, people losing out to the tune of 20,000 pounds in total because pay hasn't kept pace with inflation. This year of all years, when we've got nurses and care workers visiting food banks, we need to make sure that ordinary people have enough money to live on.

CONNERY (voice-over): The government says it's put in place 37 billion pounds' worth of measures to help with the cost of living crisis.

BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: Twelve hundred pounds for 8 million of the most vulnerable households, 400 pounds for everybody to help with the cost of living, that money's coming through.

CONNERY (voice-over): But with rail strikes getting underway this week, the pressures of the cost of living crisis are mounting up with some wondering if a summer of discontent could be on the cards -- Neil Connery, ITV News.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COREN: I'm Anna Coren. If you're joining from North America, more CNN NEWSROOM in just a moment. For international viewers, "INSIDE AFRICA" is next.





COREN: Welcome back. I'm Anna Coren in Hong Kong. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM.

A dangerous heat wave is crossing over parts of Europe. In France, more than 200 monthly high temperature records were broken on Saturday. Several southwestern cities even saw all-time highs. CNN's Alison Chinchar reports on heat waves around the world.


ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): A scorching summer comes early in Western Europe. Unprecedented heat swelters (sic) nearly one-third of the U.S. population. Brutally high temperatures turn lethal in India.

Around the globe, record-breaking heat and other extreme weather events are affecting millions, as the impacts of the climate crisis intensify worldwide. Unusual scenes in southern England, where shores were packed Friday as a heat wave in Western Europe brings unseasonably hot temperatures to the U.K.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thirty degrees today, 15 (ph) degrees next week. This year it's mad the way things are going.

CHINCHAR (voice-over): In France, where only about 5 percent of homes have air conditioners, people took refuge in the shade and outdoor parks to try to escape the heat. Two-thirds of the country is under orange or red heat wave alerts.

In Spain, they saw the highest temperatures for this time of year in four decades. Some parts of the country so hot, wildfires have burned more than 20,000 hectares of land. The flames fueled by the high heat and windy conditions.

In parts of India, doctors are warning vulnerable people, like senior citizens, not to leave the house without taking precautions against the sun. Hospitals there have registered an increase in dehydration cases. The risk of other heat related illnesses has increased, too.

It comes as Northeast India sees deadly flooding and extreme weather combinations also being seen in the U.S. In a matter of hours last Monday, roads at one of America's most visited national parks were inundated, amid torrential downpours and rapid snowmelt in Yellowstone National Park. Millions in the U.S. suffer heat and humidity that put more than 125

million in the Southwest under advisories earlier in the week. It's a confluence of climate events scientists say has an obvious cause.

DANIEL SWAIN, UCLA CLIMATE SCIENTIST: Obviously, in the long run, the only solution is to bring carbon emissions to close to zero and eventually halt global warming and, thereby, halt the increase in extreme heat events.

CHINCHAR (voice-over): Experts warning hotter temperatures and extreme weather may soon become more common and severe in an increasingly warming world -- Allison Chinchar, CNN.




COREN: A firefighter in Philadelphia was killed yesterday following the collapse of a building a little after the flames were extinguished. Lt. Sean Williamson was a 27-year veteran of the department. Four other firefighters and a city employee were pulled alive from the rubble and are recovering.

It's unclear what caused the fire. All flags in Philadelphia will be flown at half-staff for 30 days in Williamson's honor.


COREN: Hearings resume Tuesday in the investigation of the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. It will be the fourth of seven expected hearings and will focus on Donald Trump's attempts to coerce several state officials to throw out their 2020 election results after he lost. CNN's Marshall Cohen previews what's ahead.


MARSHALL COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The January 6th committee continues its work next week with a major hearing set for Tuesday. This is the fourth public hearing and it will focus on former president Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election in two specific states that he lost, Georgia and Arizona.

The panel will feature testimony from two senior Georgia officials, secretary of state Brad Raffensperger and one of his top deputies, Gabe Sterling. They are both conservative Republicans who supported Trump in 2020.

But they refused to do his bidding after the election, when he pressured them to interfere with the vote counting. In a critical phone call, just a few days before January 6th, former president Trump desperately tried to get Raffensperger to mess with the vote tallies and overturn Joe Biden's victory. Take a listen to that shocking call.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: So look, all I want to do is this. I just want to find, uh, 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state.


COHEN: The committee will also hear from Rusty Bowers. He's currently the speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives. He's a Republican and he also supported Donald Trump in 2020.

Just like the other witnesses who are testifying, Bowers was on the receiving end of a pressure campaign by Trump and Trump's attorney at the time, Rudy Giuliani. They wanted him to toss aside Biden's victory in Arizona and appoint Republican electors instead.

But Bowers publicly rejected those efforts and he publicly rejected Trump's baseless claims of massive voter fraud. Also earlier this year, he even blocked a bill that some Republicans were pushing in Arizona that would have allowed the Republican legislature there to overturn elections in future.

So look, the Democratic-run select committee has tried to drive home the point that January 6th was about so much more than what happened at the Capitol. They say it was a months-long effort to overturn the will of the people and, in the view of the committee, they say it was an attempted coup -- Marshall Cohen, CNN, Washington.


COHEN: A week ago, gun safety legislation seemed a done deal in Congress. Now it's not so certain. We'll explain what's holding up a final bill, as senators race against the clock before their summer recess.

And new information on the confusion at the scene of the deadly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. We'll have the latest just ahead.





COREN: U.S. senators return to Washington on Tuesday to try and hammer out a bipartisan bill on gun control following a wave of horrific mass shootings. But with major disagreements still unresolved, time is extremely tight if they want to get a floor vote by the end of the week. CNN's Daniella Diaz has our report.


DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The bipartisan group of senators have been working around the clock to finalize the text, the details for this gun safety legislation. Remember, they actually finished a framework over a week ago.

Now they're writing the legislation. But they have two sticking points that these Republicans and Democrats cannot agree on, the first being the so-called boyfriend loophole.

It's a disagreement between these groups over people who are prohibited from owning or purchasing guns because of a domestic violence conviction. Currently that ban does not apply to some people who are dating, dating partners; it only applies to spouses, couples who share a child or people who live together.

So that is what they're trying to figure out, is what defines a boyfriend. Another sticking point that they have is funding for incentivizing states to implement red flag laws. Some Republicans would rather use that funding to create, quote, "crisis intervention programs."

So there's a disagreement between the two groups, Republicans and Democrats, in these bipartisan negotiations, as they try to finalize the text.

What happens next?

Well, they're using the momentum that they have right now to finalize this bill so that they can put it to a vote, as they're hoping they can do by this week before the Senate goes on a two-week summer recess.

The problem being these sticking points have not been resolved. And even though the Senate is going on this recess, they're still planning to continue working when they come back from their home states this next week and to negotiate in person to try to finalize these details.

But it remains to be seen whether they will be able to do that -- Daniella Diaz, CNN, Washington.


COREN: The city of Miami is not waiting to see what Congress does on gun control. A voluntary gun buy-back program got underway Saturday, with dozens of rifles, shotguns and handguns turned in, no questions asked.

One man even surrendered a homemade pistol. The city will pay up to $150 for military-style weapons. Miami has partnered with the U.S. State Department to export any suitable firearms to the Ukrainian military.


COREN: The Texas house committee investigating the deadly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, says city police will voluntarily testify on Monday. But there's no word yet on whether the embattled school police chief, Pete Arredondo, will appear; 19 children and two teachers were killed.

CNN's Rosa Flores is in Texas with new details on the chaos that ensued once the attack began.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are learning more from a neighboring county sheriff about the law enforcement response, the communications on the scene and also the command structure or lack thereof.

According to the Zavala County sheriff, Eusevio Salinas, he says he arrived on scene after 12:00 pm on that day. According to the Texas DPS official timeline, that is more than 30 minutes after the shooter entered the school and started shooting into a classroom but before the shooter was shot and killed at 12:50 pm.

Now Salinas says that he arrived on scene on the southeast side of campus. Texas DPS says the shooter entered the school and started shooting on the west side of campus. Salinas said that, when he arrived, police had already set up a perimeter at the school, that it was chaotic. He had his portable radio with him.

And he said that he could hear radio traffic from Texas DPS but he could not hear radio traffic from Uvalde P.D. nor from the Uvalde school district police officers.

I asked him, "Who was in charge of the scene at the time?"

He said that he never heard anyone say that they were in charge of the scene.

Texas DPS identified school police chief Pete Arredondo as the incident commander, something he refuted in an interview with "The Texas Tribune," saying that he didn't identify himself as that.

Now back to Salinas, he says that, shortly after he arrived, an off- duty Border Patrol officer was asking for help evacuating students. So he helped evacuate between four and five classrooms.

He says that he heard, after that, that the shooter was down. So he got closer to the area where the shooting actually happened. He says that he entered the building for moments.

He said that he remembers seeing the hallway being foggy and hazy, it being very loud in there, a lot of people on the ground being treated, being given medical attention. He said that he left shortly thereafter because another officer asked for help clearing other classrooms. So he went to go do that.

Now I asked, why did officers not go into the scene, into the school, to stop the shooter sooner?

And this sheriff says that, from where he was, he did not hear any gunshots being fired.

Now if you're like me, you're probably wondering, how is it possible to be on the scene of the shooting and not hear gunshots? I also talked to a woman who lives across the street from the school but away from where the shooting happened. She also says that, on that day, she was there all day and she did not hear gunshots.

But again, the account by this neighboring law enforcement officer shines light on the law enforcement response on that day, the communications and also the command structure or lack thereof -- Rosa Flores, CNN, Houston.


COREN: Americans are celebrating the country's newest national holiday. Coming up, we'll take a look at the festivities and history of Juneteenth.





COREN: The White House says President Biden is doing fine after falling off his bike near his home in Delaware yesterday.


COREN (voice-over): Ooh. Mr. Biden says his foot got caught on the pedal. And the Secret Service quickly helped the 79-year old get back onto his feet. A girl in the crowd later asked the president what it's like to run the country.



BIDEN: -- it's like any other job. Some parts are easy, some parts are hard.

COREN (voice-over): The White House says the president did not need medical attention.


COREN: Cities around the U.S. are holding parades and festivities all weekend long in honor of Juneteenth. The holiday officially takes place on Sunday as the name is a blend of June and 19th.

It commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. at the end of the Civil War. CNN's Fredricka Whitfield has more now on its history and the long road for its national recognition.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Juneteenth is a celebration that marks the end of slavery in the United States. Also known as Emancipation Day, many consider it to be the country's second Independence Day.

It was on June 19, 1865, that Union soldiers, led by this man, General Gordon Granger, arrived in Galveston, Texas, with orders to inform residents that the Civil War had ended and to tell enslaved African Americans they were finally free.

The message came more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation. His order was difficult to enforce. So many slaves didn't see freedom until the end of the war.

Many African Americans have marked the anniversary for years. But it was a woman from Texas named Opal Lee, who started a movement to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.

Known as the grandmother of Juneteenth, the 95-year old campaigned on the issue for decades. She even held a 2.5-mile march each year to commemorate the 2.5 years it took for slaves in Texas to learn they were free.


OPAL LEE, GRANDMOTHER OF JUNETEENTH: Please, please continue the kinds of things that you know we need to become one people here. It's not a white thing, it's not a Black thing.


LEE: It's an American thing.


WHITFIELD (voice-over): In 1980, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth a state holiday. By 2019, 47 states and the District of Columbia followed suit. Last year, President Joe Biden signed a law making Juneteenth a federal holiday, a dream come true for Lee and for so many others.


BIDEN: By making Juneteenth a federal holiday, all Americans can feel the power of this day and learn from our history and celebrate progress and grapple with the distance we've come but the distance we have to travel to.


WHITFIELD (voice-over): A historical marker can be seen today in Galveston, Texas, at the site where General Granger and his troops set up their headquarters, announcing the end of slavery.


WHITFIELD (voice-over): Today, Americans recognize Juneteenth with parties and gatherings and the day is marked as a celebration of African American freedom and achievement.


LEE: I'd scream it from the housetops, that unity is freedom. People have been taught to hate. And if people have been taught to hate, they can be taught to love.

WHITFIELD (voice-over): Fredericka Whitfield, CNN.


COREN: What a great message.

Viewers in Europe, Latin America and North America can see special coverage marking Juneteenth. The musical event "Juneteenth: A Global Celebration for Freedom" begins Sunday night at 8:00 pm Eastern. Join Don Lemon for special coverage before the concert at 7:00 pm Eastern, only on CNN.

Thanks so much for your company. I'm Anna Coren live from Hong Kong. We'll have more news for you at the top of the hour. Kim Brunhuber picks up after the break. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. Please stay with us.