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Uvalde Council Denies Leave of Absence for School Police Chief; John Muns (D-Plano, TX) Discusses 13 Texas Mayors Calling for Universal Background Checks, Red Flag Laws; Afghan Officials: At Least 1,000 Dead, 1,500 Injured in Earthquake; Yellowstone Partially Reopens After Epic Flooding. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired June 22, 2022 - 13:30   ET





ERNEST W. "CHIP" KING III, UVALDE CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: I make a motion we do not grant the leave of absence for Councilman Arredondo.



ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: That was the Uvalde city council meeting last night. Members voted unanimously to deny councilman and school police chief, Pete Arredondo, a leave of absence from future meetings, meaning he can be removed if he misses three consecutive gatherings.

Now the vote comes after a damning hearing on the police response to the shooting at Robb Elementary School, where much of the blame was pointed at Arredondo.

During the hearing, Texas' top cop laid out the most thorough timeline, revealing just three minutes after the gunman entered Robb Elementary, there were enough armed officers inside the school to distract and neutralize him and yet they waited and waited for Arredondo to give the order.

The investigation also revealed that Arredondo waited for a key to unlock the classroom door, despite the door being unlocked.

The total time they were trapped with the gunman waiting to be rescued is one hour, 14 minutes, eight seconds.

A lifetime for Angel Garza. He lost his daughter in this massacre and was stopped from going inside.


ANGEL GARZA, DAUGHTER AMERIE JO GARZA DIED IN UVALDE SCHOOL SHOOTING: I don't get how you can hear these kids crying and asking for help. But you're scared to enter because your commander doesn't want you to go in.

The parents were probably lying, just thinking where the parents were. We were right outside. We were trying to get in. I was put in the handcuffs.

But the ones who told me to trust them, didn't save my daughter.


CABRERA: Again, this timeline and this focus on the chief's actions comes from the Texas Department of Public Safety.

And that's where Uvalde's mayor is now pointing the finger. The mayor is accusing the department of lying in an attempt to distance its own troopers and Rangers from their part in the failed response to the shooting.

The mayor says he and other school officials have been completely kept in the dark about the investigation and what it has uncovered.

The massacre in Uvalde has been a catalyst for action across the state. Now 13 Texas mayors have signed a letter urging Republican Governor Greg Abbott to call a special session on gun reform and mental health.

The Plano mayor, John Muns, is among those 13 asking state lawmakers to fight the right solutions for Texas.

Thank you so much for joining us, Mayor.

MAYOR JOHN MUNS (D-TX), PLANO: Thank you for having me.

CABRERA: I want to get your reaction to what's happening in Uvalde, the continued lack of detailed information about the shooting ask the lack of trust among those officials who is are all involved in the investigation.

MUNS: Obviously, the consortium of the big city mayors, the 13 of us, obviously, we've been concerned about the tragedies that have occurred in Texas over the last few years.

Uvalde was the point where we really decided we needed to come up with some solutions to recommend to Governor Abbott.

What's happening there's tough to watch. The investigation continues.

But it reminds us all that we can never take safety and security for granted. We always have to improve in our communities to make sure we do all the right things to keep our community safe.

CABRERA: I think about that poor father who we heard from who is grieving tremendously. The loss of his daughter, who is so young. Just fourth grade.

[13:35:52] And yet, the officials are squabbling and pointing fingers. The Uvalde mayor now saying he's ready to throw people under the bus. And he's calling into question the information coming from the Department of Public Safety officials.

MUNS: I can't speak for the mayor of Uvalde, but I know that it's important for me to represent my community, my police, my fire, my first responders.

CABRERA: Let's move on to this letter from you and a dozen other mayors that represent the majority of people who live in Texas per population. Demanding action on gun reforms after Uvalde.

You are asking for universal background checks for gun purchases. You want to increase the age to purchase assault-style weapons to 21. Right now, people who are 18 in Texas can buy those.

You want Red Flag laws. You were asking for an increase in mental health support, additional training for school safety officers.

Why do you see these items bye-bye being the best solution?

MUNS: Because, obviously, our coalition is bipartisan. We really believe these are commonsense solutions to present to the governor. And we think these can actually be accomplished.

And so we're really hopeful that the fact that like you said, these mayors make up a large part of the population here in Texas. And let them know that this is a bipartisan request.

We really want them to consider doing these in a special session because I can't imagine a higher priority than what we're locking at today.

And so this is really important not only to my community, but to all the communities of Texas.

CABRERA: You point out it's bipartisan. That is significant. It's also significant that what you're asking for goes much further than what we're seeing at the federal level right now. We were discussing this deal that took a long time to get to.

And yet, you're in a state that ranks number one in gun ownership. The governor said new gun regulations are not the answer. He's responded to previous shootings by loosening restrictions.

What makes you think this is going to go anywhere?

MUNS: Hopefully, just the outpouring of support, I think the support for this legislation. And certainly, all of our mayors are getting support for coming up with solutions.

We cannot continue to allow Santa Fe and El Paso and Uvalde and others to experience this tragedy. And the solutions we have had in the past obviously don't work. I was on the school board in Plano when Columbine happened. And yet,

here we are two and a half decades later. And we've got to come up with real solutions that work.

CABRERA: You're right, it's not working, what's happening. Texas is the state with the most gun-related deaths, according to the CDC.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, Texas has had nearly 250 mass shootings since 2014, with more than half happening in just the last three years.

Plus, more kids have been killed by guns so far halfway through this year than of the last two years. There seems to be a bad trend here.

What is your message to the governor today?

MUNS: My message is to make this a priority. I think we're trying our hardest to make this a significant request.

And we need the funding to be able to do these things. Especially the mental health. It's talked about a lot. But without that funding, most of these communities can't afford to do this themselves.

So it's going to be really incumbent upon the state to not only agree to these things, but to also help fund them.

CABRERA: You're asking for some gun reform, including some restrictions when it comes to 18 versus 21-year-olds' access to the assault-style weapons.

And I should note you yourself are a gun owner.

Mayor John Muns, thank you very much for the conversation and offering up some potential solutions.

MUNS: Thank you, Ana.


CABRERA: Straight ahead, a disaster in Afghanistan. An earthquake hits in the middle of the night, leveling homes and towns and leaving thousands of people dead or injured. How the Taliban are appealing for help.


CABRERA: Russian forces are targeting key cities in Ukraine's east with missile strikes and even kamikaze-style drone attacks.

In the Luhansk region, Ukrainian forces are said to be holding on to last city they control there. And in the south, there's heavy fighting along the borders Kherson and Mykolaiv regions.


And U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland spent a few hours in Ukraine yesterday. He announced a new team to prosecute war crimes.

We go now to a desperate search for survivors in Afghanistan after the deadliest earthquake there in decades. Afghan officials say more than 1,000 people have been killed and at least that many are injured.

The 5.9 magnitude quake struck overnight near the Pakistani border as most people were sleeping.

CNN's Scott McLean is following this for us.

Scott, what are we learning about the rescue efforts?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, unfortunately, we're learning that these efforts are very badly under resourced at this stage. And likely will be in the days to come.

It is difficult to overstate the remoteness of this area. We're talking about a mountainous area south of Kabul. It's built on a traditional fault line and lacks some basic infrastructure.

So the reality is that a lot of the searching here is being done by hand in the absence of any heavy equipment. In that case, they didn't find survivors. They only managed to pull out a body they wrapped in a shroud.

We're also seeing other videos of bodies that are piling up on the streets. Remarkably, we're also hearing about some people who have been pulled out alive.

This is an area where a lot of homes were built in precarious positions on sides of mountains. Others are built in river valleys, which makes them prone to landslides.

UNICEF says, because of heavy rains and a lot of mud in the area, some areas are simply un-assessable right now. They cannot get to these areas.

The government says that some villages have been wiped out. One particular area they say the houses, 70 percent of them, have completely been levelled. This is what we know about at this stage.

Foreign aid groups are already on the ground. The reason they are there is because Afghanistan, as we know, has been in dire straits long before this earthquake came along.

Not only have they been dealing with natural disaster, flooding, droughts, but they also have this economic crisis, which means that one U.N. estimate in March put it at 95 percent of households that don't have enough to eat.

The Taliban says they are going to be handing money to people injured and the families of those killed. But that's pretty bold considering this is a government that's extremely strapped for cash and can't afford to feed its own people -- Ana?

CABRERA: Those images are really heartbreaking. Thank you, Scott McLean, for your reporting.

It's one big step forward for Yellowstone National Park. Tourist cans finally get back in a week after flooding forced thousands of people to flee. We'll take you live to Yellowstone, straight ahead.



CABRERA: Parts of Yellowstone are back open today after massive flooding forced the national park to close a week and a half ago. But good luck trying to get in. This is the line today.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov made it through.

Lucy, you're in the park. How much of it is accessible?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, roughly half of the park is accessible. But like you said, good luck getting in.

We are actually in front of Old Faithful, the iconic tourist attraction.

It is the first day that tourists are able to access it since the park closed due to that catastrophic flooding last week which wiped out roads, destroyed bridges, shut down the park entirely until 8:00 a.m. This morning.

Three of Yellowstone's five entrances are now open, but with severe restrictions.

Let's go through those. Visitors can access the park through the southern loop. The northern loop is still closed.

And park managers are basically using a license plate odd/even system. So if you have odd numbers on your license plate, you can enter on odd days. Even numbered license plates can enter on even days.

And park officials are still assessing the full scale of the damage. It's going to cost an estimated up to $1 billion to repair the park fully.

Of course, some attractions are available right now. But park managers also say that it's a difficult repair process because they don't know if more catastrophic flooding can happen in the future. This is unfortunately, Ana, the new normal.

Again, visitors are finally able to re-enter the park. But there's so much unpredictability with the weather, with climate change, that managers are really going sort of slowly with the repair process because they don't know what's in store -- Ana?

CABRERA: OK. Well, good to see people can at least see Old Faithful again.

Lucy Kafanov, thank you for that update.

"CNN Heroes" honors everyday people changing the world. This Saturday we'll look at some not-so-everyday people really making a difference.



DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you think of your work as heroic?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have gotten a front row seat to what heroism is.

When I was walking back over the border after the trip during the invasion into Poland, and almost every car that was lined up and almost every adult person -- was a woman with one or multiple children who had no interest in leaving their husbands, who both by choice and by mandate had to stay in the country from 189 to 60.

You know, what's a hero? If your eyes are open, if your heart's open, boy, it's not hard to find it.



CABRERA: "CNN HEROES SALUTES" premieres Saturday night at 10:00 Eastern here on CNN.

That does it for us today. Thank you so much for spending part of your day with us. I'll see you tomorrow, same time, same place. Until then, you can always find me on Twitter, @AnaCabrera.

The news continues right after this.