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Three Mass Shootings in Three Days in California; Illinois Appeals Judge's Restraining Order on Assault Weapons Ban; Today, Hearing on Release of Georgia Grand Jury Report on Trump. Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired January 24, 2023 - 10:00   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour in the CNN Newsroom. I'm Erica Hill.


A spate of news in the last 24 hours that is only normal in this country, that's after California was rocked by three mass shootings in three days. Here is what we know. On Saturday, 11 people were killed in Monterey Park. Overnight, at least one person was killed, seven others injured in Oakland, and that happened just hours after a gunman opened fire killing at least seven people at two separate locations, this shooting, the third one in Half Moon Bay.

This regularity is something we see more and more. You hear the headlines from us. It is hard to communicate and I'm sure it is hard for you to hear.

HILL: We have some video that we want to share with you, too, of part of what happened in Half Moon Bay yesterday afternoon, the sheriff's video here. So, this is the arrest of the 67-year-old suspect in those two shootings in Half Moon Bay. They say a handgun was found in his vehicle. As for a motive, well, still no word at this hour.

But all of this unfolding as we have also learned that an 11th person has died after initially surviving that mass shooting at the dance hall in Monterey Park on Saturday. Investigators say the gunman in that shooting had stockpiles of ammunition at his home. We're going to bring you a little bit more on what else they're staying in just a moment.

SCIUTTO: Stockpiles, he also made his own silencers.

We begin this hour with the latest on the mass shooting in Half Moon Bay, California, the third of three in the last few days.

HILL: CNN Correspondent Veronica Miracle on the scene there and she's going to bring us up to speed now with the latest on that investigation.

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim and Erica, this mass shooting took place at two separate locations, and it all unfolded in a period of a couple of hours. The first call came in just before 2:30. Sheriff's deputies received a call of a shooting with multiple victims. And when they arrived to that scene, they found four bodies and a fifth person who was still critically injured. Then a short distance away, they found another three bodies, all seven of those victims killed by gunshot injuries.

Then about two hours after that initial 911 call came in, the suspect was discovered by a deputy. He was sitting in his car apparently at a police substation, and that is when 67-year-old Chunli Zhao was taken into custody relatively without incident.

There is still no clear motive at this time. They don't know why this happened. But they do believe that Zhao worked at one of the locations where this took place, where those shootings took place. They also believe that he acted alone and that there is no current threat to the community. Here is what the vice mayor had to say.


VICE MAYOR JOAQUIN JIMENEZ, HALF MOON BAY, CALIFORNIA: This is something that we get to watch on the news, never think that it is going to come and hit home. Today, we are on the news.


MIRACLE: There are many disturbing similarities between this shooting here in Half Moon Bay and the mass shooting that took place in Monterey Park just south of us in Southern California, only a couple of days ago. Both of the suspects in both of these mass shootings are older Asian men and both of them accused of going after other Asian individuals during a very -- what is supposed to be a joyful celebratory time for many Asian communities just after Lunar New Year. Obviously very devastating for this community and many communities across the state and the country. Jim, Erica?

SCIUTTO: Veronica Miracle, thanks so much.

HILL: Joining us now on the phone is San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus. Sheriff, I appreciate you taking the time to join us this morning. I have to say, I was struck by something you said just in the aftermath of the shooting, noting that there were children who witnessed some of this. You called that unbearable. Do we know how those children are doing this morning and is there any indication that they were a target? I would hope not.

SHERIFF CHRISTINA CORPUS, SAN MATEO COUNTY, CALIFORNIA (voice over): Yes. As far as we understand, this suspect had individuals that he targeted. What we've learned is that this turned into a workplace violence incident. And he had an opportunity, we do believe, to hurt other people, but he had targeted individuals that he went after and pursued.

And the children, you know, the county of San Mateo has been great. They were able to put these families up in hotels and we had grief counselors on scene last night. And we're hoping that they got some rest and we'll be revisiting them this morning. SCIUTTO (voice over): Sheriff Corpus, this is Jim Sciutto. Have you learned more about the weapon involved here and how it was obtained?

CORPUS (voice over): From what we understand, he had legal possession of a semiautomatic weapon.


It was registered to him. So, this was not an incident where the gun was -- that he had illegal possession of the gun. He had no gun registered to him.

HILL (voice over): So, the gun was legally registered? You mention he believe he was targeting specific individuals. Is this suspected gunman, is this somebody who is known to authorities or was he ever a concern at his place of employment?

CORPUS (voice over): Not at this time. We -- here in San Mateo County, he wasn't a red flag for us, nothing to put him on our radar. And he was known to the individuals at his workplace because he was employed there.

SCIUTTO (voice over): Sheriff Corpus, was the suspect known to law enforcement prior?

CORPUS (voice over): Not in San Mateo County here. We're still learning more about this individual. But, you know, there was nothing that would have kind of elevated or raised us to have any concern with him at this time prior to this incident.

HILL (voice over): So, the alleged gunman here in Half Moon Bay as well as the Monterey Park shooter over the weekend, they're both older men. And in this country, while we're accustomed to mass shooters, this is certainly not the profile of a shooter that many people are used to seeing. From a security and a safety perspective, does this change anything for you?

CORPUS (voice over): You know, it really opens our eyes that, you know, stressors of the world get to people. And sometimes people, you know, end up snapping. And I think we have to really look at, you know, mental wellness for everyone in our society. We don't have at least here in California we're limited to mental health facilities. There is still a stigma with asking for help and this is, I think, one of these issues where someone, you know, snapped, unfortunately, and people -- innocent people were killed. And I think that at least here in San Mateo County, this is something that at least we're going to be working at and it is a tragedy. And as I said, you know, we see this too often in our country.

SCIUTTO (voice over): Yes.

CORPUS (voice over): But when it hits home, it -- the knife cuts deeper and our communities are suffering.

SCIUTTO (voice over): This person certainly appears to have snapped, as we see in so many cases. They snapped and had a gun, which allowed them to kill so many people so quickly. California has strict gun laws. Is there some change that you would like to see to help make something like this less likely in the future?

CORPUS (voice over): I think we have to work, look at it from a larger perspective and look at how we as a society can come together and look at not only the gun laws but, again, our mental wellness and mental illness. It is far too tragic.

In this instance, he had the gun legally registered to him. So, safeguarding, having, I think, stricter laws on, you know, doing more security checks on these individuals that the guns are registered to, I think, is a starting point. Obviously, the laws have changed quite a bit.

And, you know, I think this is really going to open up more discussion around this and we just have to look at it from a multi-prong approach. Because it is not just the guns, it is also the individuals that had access to guns and those individuals that are suffering from mental illness or mental stressors.

HILL (voice over): Sheriff Christina Corpus, I appreciate you joining us this morning. Thank you.

CORPUS (voice over): Thank you for having me.

SCIUTTO (on camera): Well, an update on the shooting in Monterey Park, California, the first of three in those violent few days, an 11th person has died overnight after being shot on the weekend, that dance studio during a Lunar New Year celebration.

HILL: My Nhan, Lilan Li, Valentino Alvero and Xiujuan Yu are among the 11 killed as investigators work to identify the remaining seven victims. We also understand they're looking for any connection to the gunman.

CNN's Kyung Lah is live in Monterey Park. Kyung, what more do we know this morning about the investigation and what they're learning about potential connections?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim and Erica, they are getting certainly a sense here, the officials are, about exactly how much weaponry and ammunition was involved.


They completed a search of the gunman's home. And according to authorities, they did recover an additional rifle, hundreds of rounds of ammunition as well as equipment to build home-made firearm suppressors, if you will. That is what authorities are telling us.

And they also say here at the dance studio where the shooting took place, they did recover 42 bullet casings. They did also come up with a large capacity magazine and did recover an additional handgun in the suspect's van. So, that is the weaponry that we're talking about. So, there is a larger scope of how much was involved. You mentioned that there are now a total of 11 victims. The identification, the sad notification of these families is still continuing. There are at least three people in the hospital still. And so all of this, Jim and Erica, still continuing in Monterey Park.

HILL: Kyung, I appreciate the new details and the reporting there. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, as we witness and report these latest horrific of mass shootings, these in California, a legal battle is playing out over the new ban on semiautomatic weapons in the state of Illinois. The state attorney general is now asking an appellate court to step in after a judge granted a temporary restraining order, barring the enforcement of the state's new gun control law.

The law was passed in the wake of yet another mass shooting, this was on July 4th in Highland Park. It caps the sale of high capacity ammunition magazines. We saw those used in Monterey Park shooting. Bans switches that allow semiautomatic firearms fire rounds automatically, also extends the ability, of course, to prevent dangerous individuals from possessing a gun through firearm restraining orders.

Joining me now to discuss, Illinois State Representative Bob Morgan, he represents Highland Park, sadly a witness to that July 4th mass shooting and supported that legislation. State Rep Morgan, nice to have you on this morning.

STATE REP. BOB MORGAN (D-IL): It is good to see you again, Jim.

SCIUTTO: So, in the wake of this, we saw three shootings in three days in California, which, like Illinois, has some strict gun laws. What is your response to the claim, well, hey, they passed the laws, it didn't make a difference there, what data, if I could ask more pointedly, backed up Illinois' decision to pass the legislation it did in the wake of Highland Park, in terms of what state laws do, if anything, to reduce gun violence?

MORGAN: Well, and it is unfortunately good to be with you and also bitter sweet to be with you. It was about six months ago, I think you and I spoke the day after the shooting in Highland Park. And so to see what Illinois has done where we took our pain and turned it into purpose and passed really meaningful, as you mentioned, broad-based legislation to reduce gun violence. The data suggests that when we have a national assault weapon ban, mass shootings went down. There were fewer of them. We know the high-capacity magazines result in more bystander violence. We know the red flag laws work.

So, there are a number of elements of this legislation that will reduce gun violence in Illinois. But it's horrific. When I wake up and I read the news about another mass shooting like what just happened in California multiple times now in the last few days. It crushes us, those of us who have been through this.

SCIUTTO: I mean, as you say, when we talked then, there was no question there would be another mass shooting, sadly. The only question was which community or communities, right, would face the next one. And here we see it in a span of just a few days.

A consistent feature of many shootings is that oftentimes even if a state law would have banned a certain weapon, the gunman could get it from outside of state or under more restrictive state laws they could still get a gun. Tell us specifically why you believe a state law, even if your preference is national legislation, but a state law like the one you passed in Illinois will make a difference.

MORGAN: Like you said, a national law is always going to be preferable when you deal with interstate commerce and things like firearms. But what we did in this legislation is not just ban the sale of semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity magazines, we also really put into place into state law a core function of the Illinois State Police to go after gun trafficking. One of the things that data and researchers showed is that over 40 percent of gun crimes in Illinois come from guns that originate in other states, Indiana, Missouri and other states like that. So, we're really going to work closer with ATF and DOJ and also our Illinois State Police to make sure that we're combating some of these illegal gun trafficking, which is directly connected to our (INAUDIBLE).

SCIUTTO: I'd tell you, I heard the same from New York cops. They talk about guns coming in from outside the state. You do have sheriffs in your state, Illinois, who are vowing to defy the assault weapons ban and not enforce it. Can these sheriffs effectively derail the law?

MORGAN: No. And these are elected officials and they're political grandstanding and posturing.


This law doesn't really require the sheriff's of these counties to do anything other than follow the law. So, we have a year of implementation here and these sheriffs are taking a template statement and they're saying, we have one job to do, which is to enforce the law and we're not going to do it. It is too much for us. So, I'm pretty embarrassed on their behalf because I think they're all acknowledging they can't do their jobs and their voters are going to have something to say about that.

SCIUTTO: Well, State Rep Bob Morgan, I'm sorry that we're speaking again under the circumstances of another act of gun violence but thanks so much for joining us this morning.

MORGAN: Thanks for having me and best to everybody who is experiencing this gun violence in California.


HILL: Still to come this hour, a Georgia judge is hearing arguments on whether to publicly release the special grand jury report detailing former President Trump's efforts to interfere in the 2020 election in that state.

Plus, the CEO of Ticketmaster's parent company testifying before a Senate committee this morning on the heels of the Taylor Swift concert ticket debacle, new questions this morning about the company's lack of competition.

SCIUTTO: And later, some schools are now banning a powerful new technology that can speak and write frighteningly well, including essays for students. What it could all mean, coming up.



HILL: Well, just over an hour from now, a Georgia judge is set to hear arguments on whether to publicly release the final report of the special grand jury that investigated former President Trump and his allies' efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

SCIUTTO: As a reminder, this is the investigation that began after then-President Trump made his infamous phone call to the Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, asking him to find the 11,780 votes he needed to win to overturn Joe Biden's win in the state of Georgia.

Joining us now to discuss, former Federal and State Prosecutor Elie Honig. Elie, good to have you on.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Hey, Jim, good to see you.

SCIUTTO: So, as a former prosecutor, let's say you were involved in this case, would you want the special grand jury's findings to be made public? Would that be an advantage or a disadvantage? How would it affect the next steps in this investigation?

HONIG: Absolutely not, Jim. As a prosecutor, I would not want any of the grand jury's findings made public for a couple of primary reasons. First of all, this is an ongoing investigation. You're not going to open up your books to the public to your potential targets, your subjects. You could jeopardize, you could reveal your cooperators, your informants and witnesses, you could put people in danger, you could jeopardize your investigative tactics, what documents have you looked at, do you have wiretaps, all of that could be out there.

Second of all, as a prosecutor, you have an obligation to the people you're investigating. You can't just go out there putting out negative information about people who aren't even charged yet, never mind convicted. So, from a prosecutorial point of view, I would not want this out. Now, this is a special grand jury. The rules are a little different in Georgia. But, tactically, no way do I want this out there.

HILL: So, in full disclosure here, there is a group of media organizations, CNN among them, that is pushing for the full release because transparency. If you are the judge, though, in this case, how are you weighing all of those factors in your decision?

HONIG: So, those are really the primary consideration. On the one hand, of course, there is a group of media organizations, including us at CNN, that want to see this. I want to see this, as a member of the public, as a media. The judge has to weigh that and that take into consideration.

The judge also has to see where is the D.A. going to land. We don't know. The D.A. has not formally taken a position just yet on what she wants to happen here. And also the judge has to weigh are there any individuals here, whether it is Donald Trump or anyone else who may be mentioned in this report who perhaps there could be recommendations against. Have they weighed in? Thus far, Trump's team has said publicly they're not taking a position as of this point. So, the judge has to weigh that need for transparency against the need to protect individuals and the investigation.

SCIUTTO: Okay. I'm going to ask you a question I get all the on this time on this and the other investigations, but let's focus on this one. A judge is about to make a decision on this. This is just a special grand jury, it is not a grand jury that might indict. That is a whole separate step. Where do we stand in this investigation? What is the most likely timeline for a final decision on whether to indict and not to indict?

HONIG: The thing that's really important to understand is this ball is in the D.A.'s court. Whatever the special grand jury report may say or not, whether it recommends indictment of Donald Trump or recommends against it, ultimately, it is the D.A.'s decision whether she wants to next take the case to a regular grand jury, which does have the power to indict.

My sense is this is moving quickly. It moved very slowly. The D.A. essentially did nothing for a year and changed. This grand jury has only been sitting since last May. But we've seen a slew of subpoenas to Rudy Giuliani, to Mark Meadows, to other powerful players, and the D.A. has to understand that time is very, very short here. Arguably, it has already taken too long. We're rounding into the sort of heart of 2024 campaign. This task is only going to get more complicated politically as we get closer and as more time passes.

HILL: Elie Honig, I always appreciate it, my friend. Thank you.

HONIG: Thank you, Erica. Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: All right. New this morning, three members of Oath Keepers and a fourth person associated with that far-right militia group have now been convicted of seditious conspiracy for their role in the January 6 Capitol insurrection.

HILL: Now, the convictions are another win for the Justice Department, which brought that rare charge of against members of the far-right militia early last year. A sentencing date has not yet been set. All four defendants will be placed on house arrest while they await that sentencing.


SCIUTTO: A Senate hearing happening right now sparked by that Ticketmaster meltdown that left legions of Taylor Swift fans, I might be one of them, heartbroken. What lawmakers say a lack of competition in the ticket industry is a real problem. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


SCIUTTO: Right now on Capitol Hill, the CEO of Live Nation is testifying about the meltdown that happened when Taylor Swift's upcoming tour went on sale on the Ticketmaster site.