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Suspect Identified in New Mexico; Roland Gutierrez is Interviewed about Uvalde; Backlash over Amnesty International Report. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired August 10, 2022 - 09:30   ET





So, this morning, a New Mexico man is behind bars, suspected in connection with the fatal shootings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: Authorities in Albuquerque are saying that hundreds of tips helped the police there identify 51-year-old Muhammad Syed. You can see him right there. So far he's been charged with the killings of two victims and police say he's the primary suspect in the other two.

CNN's senior national correspondent Ed Lavandera is in Albuquerque this morning.

Ed, we spoke - sorry, you spoke, CNN spoke, with the suspect's daughter. What are we learning from her?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was a surreal moment yesterday morning. Just hours before the police announced the arrest of 51-year-old Muhammad Syed, we were inside his home speaking with family. We could see the evidence that just hours before that, police had been inside the home executing a search warrant.


We later learned that police had actually been tracking Muhammad Syed for some time and that they actually - and the family had told us that he had left just an hour before investigators arrived to execute the search warrant at their home. And he had left to drive to Texas. And that's where police caught him, about an hour east of here in the city of Santa Rosa, New Mexico.

But instigators say right now they are still trying to piece together what the motives are behind this attack. As you mentioned, they believed that 51-year-old Muhammad Syed is connected to all of the murders, but right now he's only being charged with two out of the four. They say that they have shell casing evidence that suggests -- that connects him to those two murders so far. Investigators say they recovered numerous firearms inside the home and in his car as well but right now they're still trying to piece together the motive.


DEP. COMMANDER KYLE HARTSOCK, ALBUQUERQUE POLICE: The motives are still being explored fully to understand what they are.

Even though he's arrested today, we're going to continue to investigate and work with our prosecutors to understand what the motives were, and that's important in every violent crime investigation.


LAVANDERA: When we were inside the home, the daughter told us that the father was planning on moving the family to Texas because of these attacks. The family told us they do not believe their father is responsible for these murders. And in court documents that have also been filed, Muhammad Syed told investigators that he was not involved with the murders as well.

Poppy and Alex.

HARLOW: Ed Lavandera, just remarkable reporting and the fact that you guys had that access hours before he was taken into custody. Thank you very much for the update.

Still ahead, Uvalde residents in Texas say they cannot look police officers in the face when they pass them at the store. How officials are responding to their calls for accountability as these families get ready to send their children back to school.



MARQUARDT: Last night in Uvalde, Texas, emotions ran high at yet another city council meeting. Residents there have been desperately pleading for accountability in the wake of the failures in the police response to the deadly elementary school shooting there.

Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The one thing I'm tired of is people like you coming from outside telling us what (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't care what you're tired of.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please, please, do what you can internally. Looking at them as employees. Following the rules of how you fire a law enforcement officer. And I'm not even saying you need to fire all of them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, whenever I see a police officer, I don't know if he was the one -- one of the ones in the hallway. So, I look away. I don't even want to look at them in the face.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All you have to do is Google Texas police officer terminations. You will exactly - you will find the very first thing that pops up that tells you how you can terminate police officers. We're following that to a tee.


HARLOW: And that was just a clip of how emotional the meeting was last night. And external investigation into the Uvalde Police Department is ongoing after surveillance footage from inside of Robb Elementary School showed law enforcement waiting for more than an hour to confront the gunman as those children and teachers were murdered.

We're joined now by Texas State Senator Roland Gutierrez, of course represents this district.

I mean, I can't imagine - you - we -- you cannot imagine, unless you are one of those residents or one of those parents, but you have these kids going back to school on September 6th, and there is clearly significant fear among parents.

Listen to just one of them.


ADAM MARTINEZ, PARENT: I told my son that we're going to have extra cops there, you know. And he said, but who cares about the cops? They're not going to do anything anyway. They're not going to go in anyway. That's - that's the children speaking to you all.


HARLOW: What do you - what do you say to those children? What do you say to that parent?

ROLAND GUTIERREZ (D), TEXAS STATE SENATE: Yes, Poppy, no doubt that there are some real functional problems in Uvalde right now. I know the mayor is absolutely trying to bring about some change and he's made a complete 180 degree turn on a lot of the issues that have happened and he's demanding accountability. I think part of it is he's being hamstrung a little bit by his lawyers and a little bit by the process.

And you can say the same for the school district as well. A lot of the school board members seem to be frozen in a lot of ways because of those other administrators, bureaucrats behind them, the lawyers, if you will, and the process.

But there is one person that can make a change right now and can have accountability in Texas, and that's Greg Abbott. He could call us back for a special session so that parents can feel secure that an 18-year- old won't have access to militarized weaponry. He has refused to do that even after fie mass shootings. He can directly - he could go out and fire his DPS director if he so chose because clearly the Department of Public Safety was there at two minutes and 28 seconds and they have a tremendous responsibility to bear as well. So, there's a lot of constraints out there for sure. A lot of frustration. But there is one person that can do something and simply refuses, and that's Greg Abbott.


MARQUARDT: Senator, those are some of the institutional things that can be done. What do you say to the parents, those parents who we just heard from who were at that school board meeting on Monday night. Their kids, as Poppy just mentioned, going back to school in less than a month. So, can we honestly look at them and say, your kids will be safe when they go back in September?

GUTIERREZ: No, Alex, that's been my concern. Looking at the parents of Uvalde, looking at the parents throughout the state of Texas, really, they have -- ever since this happened, ever since Santa Fe, parents have been asking themselves these questions over and over again and yet we do nothing in the legislature. We try, but we're in the minority as Democrats, as you know, in Texas. We have tried -- we spent, in 2019, $100 million for school hardening.

Last summer, the governor called a special session to have $4 billion in his trumped up border policy, which has failed. Which is, by the way, the same policy that failed these children. Ninety-one of those police officers were all from Operation Lone Star. And that's not my testimony, that is the testimony of Steve McCraw in cross examination. And so you have Greg Abbott's own task force that failed these children.

Let's be real clear, we have a lot of work to do, to answer your question, Alex. And we can't do any of it in Texas until we're back in session, in a special session, because the regular session doesn't begin until next January. And this governor refuses to do his part. We, as a legislature, can do a lot of things, but we need to be in the building in order to do that.

MARQUARDT: It is clear that a lot more needs to be done to restore the faith of so many in that community.

Texas State Senator Roland Gutierrez, thank you so much for your time this morning.

GUTIERREZ: Thank you so much.

MARQUARDT: And coming up next, a firestorm over a report that says Ukrainian soldiers are using civilian buildings, like schools and hospitals, as bases, which this report says makes those places targets for Russian strikes.



HARLOW: Well, Russia's war against Ukraine must end with the liberation of Crimea. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivering that message and vowing to never give up the peninsula that was annexed by Russia eight years ago after a series of explosions at a Russian air base there killed one and injured at least 13. That's according to the Crimean health ministry.

MARQUARDT: And as Ukraine does fight for its very existence, it's also coming under fire for some of its tactics, namely in a new report from Amnesty International, which has accused Ukrainian troops of endangering civilians by taking up positions in civilian buildings and areas.

Now, there was a furious backlash of this report which accused Amnesty of helping fuel Russian propaganda. Now, in this report, we do take a closer look at the allegations and the fury that followed.


MARQUARDT (voice over): This is a boarding school for visually impaired children in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. Its windows blown out and two huge craters outside from Russian missile strikes. We visited in early July, just a few hours after the attack, and saw, at the entrance to the school, Ukrainian soldiers moving out, carrying boxes into a truck. The school, in a residential neighborhood, wasn't house any students at the time. The soldiers told us they'd been staying there. But after the strike, they decided to leave.

Now a firestorm has erupted after Amnesty International reported on the Ukrainian forces' use of civilian buildings, like schools and hospitals, as bases. The report says that has made those buildings targets for the Russians and endangers the Ukrainian population.

The head of Amnesty International said in the report, being in a defensive position does not exempt the Ukrainian military from respecting international humanitarian law.

The backlash was immediate. President Zelenskyy and other top officials slammed the report. Zelenskyy, on Friday, said it shifts the responsibility from the aggressor to the victim. He called it immoral selectivity, that Amnesty's Russia.

The next day we spoke with Amnesty International.

DONATELLA ROVERA, SENIOR CRISIS ADVISER, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: We understand military necessity and we understand that, you know, military, especially in the case of the Ukrainian military, they are in a defensive position, they have to make difficult decisions, but there are measures that they can and must take.

MARQUARDT: As anger grew, they apologized, saying, while we fully stand by our findings, we regret the pain caused. Nothing we documented Ukrainian forces doing in any way justifies Russian violations.

Russian state TV has gloated, pointing to the report as evidence Ukraine is violating international law. Amnesty International initially rejected the Ukrainian criticism that their report was feeding Russian propaganda. ROVERA: It really takes away from the focus, which should be, what can

be done to increase the protection of civilians. That's really what this is about and what it should be about.

MARQUARDT: Amnesty has repeatedly criticized Russia for its conduct in Ukraine. Last month another report from Human Rights Watch said both sides are unnecessarily endangering civilians and however unjustified and brutal Russia's war is, they say, Ukraine needs to do better.

BELKIS WILLE SENIOR RESEARCHER, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Just because the other side that you're fighting against is breaking the rules doesn't mean that you should break the rules.


And, in fact, if you do, you're going to kill more civilians. And that's exactly why these rules are in place to begin with.


HARLOW: Alex, I mean remarkable reporting. And to see it firsthand, you just -- you've spent, you know, months on the ground in Ukraine covering this war.

To be clear, though, I mean Russia, the aggressor here, has done far more, not just in the invasion of Ukraine, but Russian troops are credibly accused of war crimes.

MARQUARDT: Yes, I mean, what Amnesty said, we actually saw ourselves, and so we did want to do this report.

But you're absolutely right, the U.S. has accused Russia of carrying out war crimes. The International Criminal Court is investigating Russian war crimes. And Amnesty themselves, they have put out a number of reports on the horrors that Russia is committing in Ukraine. But in this case, in this report, Amnesty's essentially telling Ukraine to try harder to not endanger and potentially kill their own civilians. Ukraine is angry because the focus is on them and specifically them in this report.

And, Poppy, to show you how sensitive an issue this is and what a firestorm it is, after this report came out, the local head of amnesty in Ukraine, she promptly resigned.


MARQUARDT: She said that it didn't take -- this report didn't take into account the local context, meaning all the horrors that Russia is committing in Ukraine.

HARLOW: Wow, it shows the incredibly sensitive nature of all of it.

Alex, great reporting. Thank you very much for bringing that to us.

Still ahead, former President Donald Trump sitting down today for questioning. He's being deposed in New York by the New York Attorney General's Office, just days after the FBI's search in Mar-a-Lago. The two not connected but it just shows how much scrutiny legally he is under right now. We'll look at the long list of investigations facing the former president.