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President Biden Called Hero Veteran Who Took Down Mass Shooting; Suspect Expected To Face Murder, Hate Crime Charges; White House Kicks Off Six-Week COVID Booster Push. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired November 22, 2022 - 14:00   ET




BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone, I'm Bianna Golodryga. Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you.

The White House just confirmed that President Biden called one of the heroes of the attack on an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado. The president offered his thanks and support to veteran Richard Fierro. Now, he stopped the gunman who police say had just shot and killed five people inside Club Q, Saturday. He took down the shooter grabbing him by his military jacket, pummeling him with the gunman's own weapon.


RICHARD FIERRO, HELPED TO SUBDUE NIGHTCLUB MASS SHOOTER: I lost my kid's boyfriend. I tried. I tried to everybody in there. I still feel bad it is five people -- there's five people that didn't go home. And this guy -- this guy, I told him while I was hitting him I will kill you man because you tried to kill friends. My family was in there.

As soon as I got done with that guy and the cop came in, I went across the room and started first aid with my -- with my friend who was shot in the -- in the chest, in the legs, and the arms. And I told her. Joanne, stay with me. Look me in the eye, stay with me. And I moved her head so she wouldn't see her arm because it was shot. And chip was right there. Her husband was reaching for so I put her head in his hand so that they can be together. I didn't know that they're not going to make it. Is this guy -- (INAUDIBLE) this guy, man.

This whole thing was a lot. My daughter and wife should have never experienced combat in Colorado Springs. They got to live with this now to whatever. It's a lot for any human, man. This kid that was helping me, he was kicking another human in the head, and I told him to do it.


GOLODRYGA: Now, you heard Richard mention his daughter's boyfriend. Raymond Green Vance was just 22 years old. We're also learning about the other lives cut short. Kelly Loving was visiting Colorado Springs from her home in Denver. A close friend said Kelly had been a resource for other trans women. Family members say Ashley Paugh had a huge heart. They say her 11- year-old daughter Ryleigh was her entire world. And 28-year-old Daniel Aston was a bar supervisor at Club Q. Asked and worked with Derrick Rump, seen in the bowtie there in this photo who also tended a bar at Club Q. Their co-worker wept for his friends at a vigil last night.


JIMMY GOMEZ BEISH, CO-WORKER & FRIEND OF BARTENDERS KILLED IN MASS SHOOTING: Daniel had a big heart, you know. And Derrick had a big heart. And there are so many words that can describe them. Deep inside, I've lost two good friends. Being at that bar they became family and I'm going to miss them so much.


BLACKWELL: CNN's Nick Watt is in Colorado Springs. Nick, these stories are heartbreaking. You hear from Richard Fierro telling the story of how he took this man down and then what he did. You're learning more about what others experienced. Give us some details.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, we are also learning about the other two people who helped Rich Fierro in their heroic efforts to bring this gunman down and, as officials say, prevent more people from dying. We have heard that Rich Fierro had help from one other young man initially in bringing this gunman to the ground. Fierro told this young man who was at the suspect's head, get the AR away from him -- get the weapon away from him. This man was then hitting the suspect in the head.

We now know his name is information systems technician, Petty Officer Second class, Thomas James of the U.S. Navy. I'm going to say his name again. Thomas James. And we hear from the Navy that he is currently in a stable condition and "we remain hopeful he will make a full recovery." He is in the hospital.

Now, the third person, Rich Fierro said that this young man, Thomas James, was eventually injured and kind of drifted away. And a trans woman, we hear from one of the survivors, then in high heels started kicking this suspect in the head -- in the head, helping Fierro subdue the suspect. So, three heroes here -- three heroes.


In terms of the suspect, we learned that back in 2016, he -- 2015, he changed his name, and prior to that had been subjected to some online bullying. From the police in terms of investigation, they say we're not going to get any updates from them until Monday of next week. And "they say there are judicial proceedings underway outside of our control." In terms of the injured, we hear from Fort Carson here that three of their community were among the injured.

And you know, you mentioned those two bartenders, Daniel Aston and Derrick Rump. Now, just to give you an idea of just how small the LGBTQ community is in this city, one of Derrick Rump's friends was speaking to CNN this morning. And she said, you know, here, we don't really talk about the LGBTQ community. We talk about the Club Q community. That was their hub. That was their safe space. And she said that Daniel and Derrick were really the kind of glue that really held their community together. And now, of course, they're gone.

And you know, you mentioned this about Rich Fierro. His daughter's boyfriend, 22-year-old Raymond Vance, dead, you know. So, Rich Fierro, the hero, and also one of the victims suffering the loss of somebody so close to him, guys.

GOLODRYGA: Rich Fierro, a military-trained veteran and now we know another hero was served in the Navy, both veterans, both highly trained, and you can still see the emotion that Rich went through having gone through this here in the United States.

WATT: Yes.

BLACKWELL: Of course.

GOLODRYGA: He'd served overseas. He is never expecting this to happen here in his own home. Nick Watt, thank you.

Well, now to CNN's Brynn Gingras. Brynn, you've got new details on the shooting suspect who is now in the hospital awaiting charges. Nick mentioned there's evidence that the suspect was bullied as a young child. What more do we know?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's important to note here. Of course, we don't know exactly his motive, right? He's not speaking to investigators at this point. But we're getting a little bit of a clearer picture about his past maybe what pointed in this direction. And what our investigative team has uncovered is that, yes, he was the subject of pretty vile bullying back in 2015.

There was this site online that again, CNN investigative team found, much like a Wikipedia page. It had the picture of the suspect, Anderson Aldridge, and it had offensive slurs, mocking his weight, basically accusing him of pretty -- you know, engaging in illegal activity and mocked his grandmother and her fundraising efforts to help him go on a class trip to Japan. And just -- again, just pretty vile bullying for this person on this online site, it was updated several times in 2015. A year after that, in 2016, just before Anderson Aldridge turned 16 years old, he decided -- he asked the court to change his name. His name before that was Nicholas F. Brink. The court granted that and that is why his name now is Anderson Aldridge.

And then if we fast forward, even more, we learned some really jarring details back in 2021, so just a year ago about his engagement with law enforcement. We touched upon this just a little bit yesterday when he surrendered to authorities. We have some new video to show you of him inside this house where he is really just challenging authorities as they are responding to threats he was making against his mother. Take a listen.




GINGRAS: OK, so I don't think we're going to play that in full. But essentially, he was -- there was a bomb threat, the entire neighborhood had to be evacuated, and there were no charges that were actually filed in this particular case, guys. So, that speaks to why that didn't come up in a background check when he purchased the weapons used in the incident that we're now talking about. But certainly, this again paints a picture of what his past has looked like. Again, we don't know if this is what led to what he decided or allegedly decided to do just now.

BLACKWELL: All right. Brynn Gingras, thank you.

GOLODRYGA: Thank you, Brynn.

With us now is the chief of Colorado Springs police, Adrian Vasquez. Chief Vasquez, thank you so much for joining us. So, we know the suspect is in the hospital right now. He's currently facing five counts of first-degree murder and five counts of bias-motivated crime. When do you expect for him to be officially charged?

ADRIAN VASQUEZ, CHIEF, COLORADO SPRINGS POLICE: So, I think that he will probably be released relatively soon. At least we're hoping to do that. As soon as we can get him to our criminal justice center, the jail, I think then the DA office will take over. And my sense is that it should be shortly after that. I don't know that that would happen today but I know the DA's office is waiting on that release so that they can move forward with charging.

GOLODRYGA: What is the status of his medical condition now?

VASQUEZ: You know, right now, because of the HIPAA rules, we can't talk too much about his specific medical conditions but we do know that he is in good enough condition for that release. So, that's good news for us, for us to be able to get him out of the hospital and down to the jail.


GOLODRYGA: Have you spoken with him? Have officers spoken with him? Is he cooperating at all?

VASQUEZ: So, part of the investigation is that those interviews with him what I can say is that he certainly has the right not to speak with officers. And at this point in time, we haven't received information from him.

GOLODRYGA: We were told yesterday that he has an attorney. Have you spoken to his attorney, and is he refusing to cooperate now that he does have an attorney?

VASQUEZ: I have not been given information on any attorney that he has. I'm not aware that he has one at this point.

GOLODRYGA: What about the status of his mother? As of yesterday, his mother was not cooperating with authorities. Has that changed?

VASQUEZ: So, we have not had the opportunity to speak with his mother. And she has not offered to come forward and speak with us.

GOLODRYGA: Do you know where she is?

VASQUEZ: I don't.

GOLODRYGA: So, she could have left the city for all you know.

VASQUEZ: I'm not sure where she is. But I know that we have not been in contact with her after that initial attempt.


VASQUEZ: Well, she would need to come forward at this point. Certainly, we can continue trying to talk with her. And our investigators would do that. But at this point in time, she has exercised that right not to speak with us.

GOLODRYGA: Aside from the five counts of bias-motivated crime, is there anything specifically that leads you to that charge? It's pretty clear that he had entered this facility and this club. It's evident that there was a hate bias there. But there -- is there any evidence that you've come across this yet in your investigation that shows a direct link to that?

VASQUEZ: So, I'm not able to speak directly to those items that have been found in the investigation but I will say that this is going to be a long-term investigation. There is a lot of information to call through. But I know our investigators are writing search warrants and looking at any type of items such as computers and other technology as well as doing a lot of interviews that will help us nail down additional information on the motive for this crime.

GOLODRYGA: So, if you're not able to interview his mother, are there others in his immediate orbit who you have been able to interview?

VASQUEZ: We've done an extensive amount of interviews. I'm not able to say at this time just because of the investigation who those people are.

GOLODRYGA: Do they include other family members?

VASQUEZ: I'm not able to say at this time who they are.

GOLODRYGA: In terms of your investigation, as we heard from Brynn that we have now confirmation that he's changed his name at the age of 16. How does that impact your investigation and going through any of his social media posts in the past?

VASQUEZ: Well, I will say that our investigators are very adept at utilizing their investigative techniques. Additionally, we're partnering with the FBI. And they've been incredible partners, not only in scene processing but in calling through any social media. But I feel very comfortable in our investigators' ability to determine the areas to look at.

GOLODRYGA: Aside from the five who were tragically killed in this shooting, there were scores that were injured, dozens, are you expecting charges on that front as well?

VASQUEZ: Absolutely. So, the DA will look at all of the victims in his crime. Right now, we know that there were 17 individuals, additionally, that were shot. Every one of those will be victims. We have another person that was injured by some other manner, for example, that probably fell from fell or were injured when trying to leave.

But everybody that we can identify in that club will most likely be a victim. Even though they may not have been injured, they'll be a victim of things like menacing or other types of charges. So, I think through the investigation, the DA's office will determine the appropriate charges for the suspect on each of those victims. So I just --

GOLODRYGA: And finally -- and finally, Chief Vasquez, do you have any reason to believe in your investigation thus far that there were other accomplices or others who were aware that the perpetrator was going to go through with the shooting?

VASQUEZ: At this point in time, we don't have any information to indicate that, but as part of the investigation, of course, we're going to continue looking at anybody who may have helped the suspect in some manner, you know. But right now, we're not -- we're not seeing anything at this point in time.

GOLODRYGA: All right, Chief Adrian Vasquez, thank you so much for your time.

VASQUEZ: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Joining us now is Phil Weiser, the Attorney General of Colorado.


Sir, thanks for being with me. Let's start with these hate crime charges or as they're known in Colorado the bias-motivated crime charges. Are the facts that this attack happened at an LGBTQ club and the identities and orientations of the victims alone enough to claim that this is a bias-motivated crime?

PHIL WEISER, ATTORNEY GENERAL, COLORADO: That's an important legal question. And obviously, it's going to be the totality of all the facts and circumstances we can find. It is very clear that this was a safe haven. This was known as a club that LGBTQ members went to. It was well well-known.

The idea that this was somehow random and wasn't motivated by bias, it's hard to conceive that that's what's going on. Obviously, in a criminal trial, he will have the defense, he could argue that it was random, it was not bias-motivated, but there is in the legal term, what you might call a prima facie case, which is on the basic facts of this, it certainly seems to be an extremely likely scenario that is bias-motivated. And we're not quite sure why. That's part of the investigation.


WEISER: But more facts will emerge. And obviously, there may be additional reasons to believe it was bias-motivated.

BLACKWELL: Listen, in this conversation, you're the one with the law degree. But having covered what happened in Georgia, the McMichaels, who were convicted for killing Ahmaud Arbery, there was social media posting, there were -- there was cell phone video. In the Buffalo massacre, in Mother Emanuel, there were racist manifestos. The absence of another justification does not necessarily mean the presence of one. So, what do you have to have more than just the location and the victims to prove that he went there even in part, as the law says, to kill people who are part of the LGBTQ community?

WEISER: As the police chief just said, we're early on in the investigation, and the investigators are going to be thorough and are going to look for all evidence that is relevant and bears on this question. We know that this biased motivation is a state-of-mind requirement. The fact that this was a well-known LGBTQ club is critical. There are likely to be other facts that are going to get unearthed that are going to be relevant. That's part of this investigation.

It's important that we report hate crimes as such and we prosecute them as such. We've been working hard to better educate law enforcement on what it takes to investigate hate crimes so that we call this out and be prosecuted for what it is.

BLACKWELL: So, the max sentence for first-degree murder in Colorado, as I understand it, is life without the possibility of parole. Colorado abolished the death penalty a couple of years ago. So, is there some net enhanced penalty for a conviction on a bias-motivated crime?

WEISER: As you know, the first-degree murder charges here could lead to life without the possibility of parole, which there's no more that we can do in Colorado. That said, I believe it's important that we honor the victims. And what you heard from the police chief is important. Everyone who is in Club Q was a victim that night. The law provides the victims with the right to get closure, to get understanding, and to get justice.

By prosecuting this as a hate crime, we are honoring the victims who were victimized because of who they are. And that's something that Colorado is committed to protecting everyone's right to live as their best authentic self. So, even if there's not an additional sentence consequence, we believe from a message and from honoring the victims, it's important to go forward with hate crimes as well. BLACKWELL: Understood. Let me ask you about the red flag laws. You've been a strong proponent of getting the law passed. I just read your campaign materials that you campaign for re-election on having implemented the red flag law in Colorado. The Sheriff of El Paso County at the height of the discussion, the debate over them, opposed them. He said in 2019 "we're not going to pursue these on our own, speaking of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, meaning the sheriff's office is not going to run over and try to get a court order. We support the rule of law and if a judge issues an order of the court, then it is up to law enforcement to execute that order."

So, he says he will follow the law. Are there any concerns on your part that potentially an opportunity was missed if the sheriff said that to invoke to use the red flag law to protect people from this suspect?

WEISER: We're going to keep learning about this suspect and the prior history, what law enforcement knew what red flags if you will, were seen or not seen. This is a learning opportunity. Part of what I'm committed to is making sure that we educate and raise awareness both of law enforcement and the public about this important law.



WEISER: For those unfamiliar with the law, it is a powerful tool that enables law enforcement or family members to petition to have firearms removed from someone who's a significant risk to themselves or to others. We in Colorado need to use this tool the best we can. Our officers are responsible for educating law enforcement and the public about this tool. Whether this was a missed opportunity or not, it's too soon, difficult to say.

We do know, by the way, that when this law was first talked about, there was some resistance by some sheriffs and others. We worked on a report about the laws the first year. We've worked to get more comfort. So far, 20 of 32 sheriffs who said they wouldn't use the law have already used it.

BLACKWELL: And I -- yes, as you've said, this sheriff was not the only one. Thank you so much, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser.

GOLODRYGA: Well, the White House is launching a major push to convince you to get your COVID booster shot right away in an effort to prevent a holiday season surge.

BLACKWELL: And the travel industry is on a big hiring spree. Will it be enough to keep up with this week's holiday travel rush? That's ahead.



BLACKWELL: Only 11 percent of people have gotten their updated COVID booster. That's just a fraction of the people eligible. The White House is launching a campaign to change that.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: My message and my final message -- may be the final message I give you from this podium is that please for your own safety for that of your family, get your updated COVID-19 shot as soon as you're eligible to protect yourself, your family, and your community.


GOLODRYGA: CNN's Jeremy Diamond is live at the White House, and CNN medical correspondent, Dr. Tara Narula is with us now.

Jeremy, to you first, so walk us through the Biden administration's push to get more people boosted. Clearly hearing that warning from Dr. Fauci, which may be his last briefing, is it enough to get more Americans out there?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there's no question that the United States is lagging in its efforts to get Americans to get those updated bivalent booster shots. So, you will remember the administration purchased 171 million doses of that shot, only 35 million have been administered that amounts to about 13 percent of all U.S. adults having gotten that updated bivalent shot.

And so, today, the White House announcing it would -- Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House's COVID coordinator is calling a six-week sprint to try and get more Americans to get boosted ahead of the rest of the holiday seasons. It'll include a public education campaign with some paid advertising on digital and on TV around the world, cap $350 million to boost Community Health Center vaccination efforts, $125 million in grants to support vaccination efforts aimed at disabilities and elderly communities. And then also the CMS, the Center for Medicaid service -- Medicare Services is expected to send out a letter to nursing homes reminding them on their duty to educate their members of the -- of the benefits of COVID vaccination.

But the unmistakable message today from Dr. Fauci, from Dr. Jha, was that listen, these vaccines are effective, they have new data to show that these bivalent boosters are indeed effective and that they can prevent deaths. We're in a situation right now where Dr. Fauci and Dr. Jha said we could essentially have nearly every death that's happening from COVID be prevented by these vaccines. But in order for that to happen, more people, particularly those who are vulnerable, who are older in age, need to go ahead and get vaccinated. And that was the push from the White House today.

BLACKWELL: All right, Dr. Narula, let's talk about what's adding to some anxieties for parents, the shortage of medicines to treat some of these childhood illnesses. We're talking flu, ear infections, sore throats. I feel like we've been talking about shortages for months now. What's going on?

DR. TARA NARULA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: We have. We talked about it when it comes to feminine products, formula, and Adderall, last week, and here we are talking about it with respect to upper respiratory viruses. And so, the shortage is now are with Tamiflu, which is an antiviral drug that we give when someone has the flu. It's given to decrease the severity of symptoms, and the length of time that you're sick and prevent complications. We're also talking about some antibiotics -- common antibiotics like amoxicillin and augmentin that, as you mentioned, are used to treat ear infections, strep throat, and ammonia, very common in kids. And then the last class that we've seen is albuterol, which is used in inhalers for people who have asthma or reactive airway disease.

And we think that this is really primarily a problem with demand. We are seeing, as you know, RSV, COVID, flu all at the same time, and manufacturers when they were planning out how much they were going to make many, many months ago, we're not anticipating that we were going to see this triple storm of all of these viruses at the same time. So, it is forcing a lot of people to scramble and figure out how and where, and when they're going to get their medications. But hopefully, those supplies are -- there's really spot shortages, that should be -- it -- they should be able to up -- manufacture more so that in the coming months, we're able to meet the demand.

GOLODRYGA: In the coming months.

NARULA: Right.

GOLODRYGA: But what happens if children are sick in the coming weeks?

NARULA: So, I think the important thing to remember is this is not something you have to panic about. And most often you can find the drug if you look farther away than maybe your local pharmacy. Also, pharmacists can reformulate medications. Actually, the FDA sent a letter to pharmacists telling them how to take certain amoxicillin types and repurpose it into the liquid formulation because a lot of this is the liquid that's missing for the kids.

And then also there are other options. Amoxicillin is not the only antibiotic. We like to use very specific antibiotics but in a case like this, if you really needed it, we could use a broader spectrum antibiotic. And then finally, the point we're all trying to make is to test your kids because many times, antibiotics are given inappropriately. 30 percent of antibiotics that's been shown in recent studies are given inappropriately to kids.