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CNN Reports Three Shootings in California; Police: Gang-Related Fatal Shooting in Iowa; Republicans Seek Answers After More Biden Documents Found; More Oath Keepers Found Guilty of Seditious Conspiracy; Another Mass Shooting in California With Seven Dead and One Injured; Poland to Send German-made Tanks to Ukraine; Brutality of the Wagner Mercenaries in Ukraine; COVID Demonstrators Being Detained in China. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired January 24, 2023 - 03:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church.

And we begin in the U.S. state of California, the site of at least three deadly mass shootings in as many days, last week in Monterey Park, on Monday in Oakland, and the coastal city of Half Moon Bay.

Police in San Mateo County say the suspected Half Moon Bay attacked two different locations, one of which is a mushroom farm. The farm's owners say the event has left them shaken and they don't know the suspected shooter.

Police took 67-year-old Chunli Zhao into custody and they say they found a handgun in his vehicle close by. Now, they are trying to figure out a motive. Here was the San Mateo County sheriff speaking on Monday.


CHRISTINA CORPUS, SHERIFF, SAN MATEO COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: At 4:40 p.m., Zhao was located in his vehicle, in the parking lot of the sheriff's substation here in Half Moon Bay by a sheriff's deputy. Zhao was taken into custody without incident and a semiautomatic handgun was located in his vehicle. Zhao is believed to have acted alone and there is no further threat to this community.


CHURCH: Joining me now is August Howell, a writer at the "Half Moon Bay Review." Thank you so much for talking with us.

No problem. Thank you.

CHURCH: So, three mass shootings in as many days in the state of California. A shocking statistic. And you've been covering Monday's mass shooting at Half Moon Bay where the suspect is now in custody after killing at least seven people. What more are you learning about the shooting?

AUGUST HOWELL, WRITER, HALF MOON BAY REVIEW: Well, Rosemary, we're not learning a ton of new information at the moment. The investigation is still ongoing. So, the sheriff's office will release that information when made available. But, like you said, it is just such a shocking sequence of events. The stuff you -- I mean, (INAUDIBLE) headlines for its annual pumpkin festival and for this to be front page news for us is just devastating. It is just such a tragedy for all of the families.

CHURCH: Yeah, absolutely, I understand that. And officials are not saying much about a motive in this mass shooting, which is always difficult. I mean, the whole reason why we need to get to the heart of what the motive is so we can understand these mass shootings that keep happening over and over again in this country. What are they saying so far about a possible motive?

HOWELL: Yes. So, it is believed that Zhao was possibly an employee at one of the nurseries that the incident happened and some of the victims were also employees there. Again, details are few and far between there, but it's believed that is the case.

And another weird thing about this is that the shooter was arrested at the sheriff's substation in Half Moon Bay. He was in his car. They arrested him there. A deputy had somehow identified the vehicle that he was in. And, yeah, it is not confirmed if he was going to turn himself in. It looks that way but, again, I don't want to speculate. It has not been confirmed yet.

CHURCH: Absolutely. So, what impact has this mass shooting had on the people of Half Moon Bay? We know that Governor Newsom has been critical of the lack of action taken on gun reform. Do people in Half Moon Bay feel the same way about that?

HOWELL: Yeah, I would say so. The stuff I have been hearing is that there is just a lot of, like, I guess you would call it shock and outrage, really. Again, I guess it is not something, to my knowledge, that has ever really happened here, certainly on this scale. And yeah, there's definitely been calls for reform and there has been for some time around this area. But yeah, this has certainly got a lot of attention and a lot of eyeballs.

CHURCH: Yeah. Well, the rest of the United States and people watching now across the globe are thinking of Half Moon Bay, all of the people in that area. It is just shocking.


CHURCH: August Howell, thank you so much for talking with us.

HOWELL: Thank you for your time.

CHURCH: Well, more now on that shooting in Oakland, California. Police say one person was killed and several were wounded Monday night when gunfire broke out between several people. The victims were taken to nearby hospitals before authorities arrived at the scene.


KIM ARMSTEAD, OAKLAND POLICE DEPARTMENT: Upon arrival, they located shooting scene, they located casings, but no victims. Shortly thereafter, our communications division received notification of multiple gunshot wound victims who self-transported to local hospitals in the area.


CHURCH: Police say those who were wounded are in stable condition. They've not yet released details on the person who was killed.

Meantime, in Southern California, the death toll has risen to 11 in the mass shooting that rocked the city of Monterey Park over the weekend. We're also hearing from a man who is being hailed a hero for confronting and disarming the gunman after he showed up at a second dance studio on Saturday night.

CNN has obtained this exclusive footage showing Brandon Tsay approaching the suspect after he entered the studio in Alhambra with a weapon. It also captures a struggle between the two that begins in the doorway and then continues just outside the room. Tsay says he sprang into action after realizing there was an imminent threat.


BRANDON TSAY, CONFRONTED AND DISARMED GUNMAN: I'm not going to lie. I did freeze up when I saw him with the gun. I had many thoughts where I would think I'm going to do die, this is it, this is the end for me. But then, something happened. You know, something came over me. I just had this rush of thought and adrenaline in this situation, and I was able to come to conclusion that I needed to do something, I needed to grab the gun, I needed to save myself and the people inside.


CHURCH: Extraordinary details there. Police are revealing new details of the investigation into the Monterey Park shooting. The Los Angeles County sheriff says 42 shell casings and a large-capacity magazine were found at the dance studio where the shooting took place.

And at the gunman's home, investigators found a rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. They also discovered items that are leading them to believe he was building homemade firearms suppressers. Still, police do not know what motivated the gunman to open fire Saturday night.


SCOTT WIESE, CHIEF, MONTEREY PARK POLICE DEPARTMENT: I think we all want to find out why. We all want answers to questions that we may never have answers to. That's kind of the enigma of this. I know that my individual officers would like to know why. I know the families want to know why. The why is a big part of this. The problem is we may never know the why, and we have to work past that.


CHURCH: CNN's Nick Watt is tracking developments and has more now from Monterey Park.


UNKNOWN (VOICE-OVER): Additional units requested. Multiple victims. Gunshot wounds

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Around 10:20 p.m., Saturday night, the gunman arrived, apparently shot his first victim in the parking lot, then went inside the Star Ballroom and Dance Studio. By 10:26 p.m., police had arrived.

WIESE: It was chaos. There were wounded people. There were people trying to flee out all the doors.

WATT (voice-over): Did the gunman know people inside?

ROBERT LUNA, SHERIFF, LOS ANGELES COUNTY: We're hearing that there were possible relationships there, but I'm not going to confirm that yet.

WATT (voice-over): Around 10:40 p.m., the gunman pulled up arm with the same semiautomatic pistol at another dance hall in nearby Alhambra but fled after an employee confronted him, fought with him. He disappeared. Police hunting him through the night.

At 10:20 a.m., Sunday, 30 miles away in Torrance, a van seen leaving the crime scene was spotted by local police. There was found a standoff. At 1:00 p.m., the suspect was found dead inside the van. Apparently, a self- inflicted gunshot.

LUNA: We do not have a motive yet. We want to know as much as all of you.

WATT (voice-over): In his van, we're told the suspect left behind clothes he wore for the shooting and a weapon. At the scene, 42 shell casings and a large-capacity magazine. And in his trailer home, 80 or so miles away, in Hemet, investigators found electronics, a rifle, lots of ammunition and --

LUNA: Items that lead us to believe the suspect was manufacturing homemade firearm suppressers.

WATT (voice-over): Hemet P.D. says he came by twice a couple of weeks ago or so alleging past fraud, theft, and poisoning allegations involving his family in the Los Angeles area 10 to 20 years ago.


WATT (voice-over): He stated he would return to the station with documentation regarding his allegations but never returned. Apparently, the suspect taught dance here informally at one point.

UNKNOWN: Was it an issue of being disgruntled or issue of domestic violence? We don't know, unfortunately.

WATT (voice-over): He met his now ex-wife at this very dance hall. They divorced in 2006. She told CNN he could be quick to anger if, for example, he missed a step on the dance floor.

(On camera): Now, in terms of heroes in this story, there is Brandon Tsay who works at the other dance hall in Alhambra. He confronted the shooter, managed to get that weapon off him, and officials say saved many lives.

And here, well, the police chief says that the first three officers on the scene here were three young female officers, all in their first year on the job, and none of them hesitated to run in to this dance hall to do whatever they could.

Nick Watt, CNN, Monterey Park, California


CHURCH: California Governor Gavin Newsom was at a hospital meeting with victims of the Monterey Park shooting when he was pulled away to be briefed on the Half Moon Bay shooting. Newsom says we have to remember not only those who were killed but also the wounded whose lives are completely changed, and he urged lawmakers to stop talking and start acting.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): It's a disgrace, what they say, what these people say every single night. There's xenophobia, they're racial priming, what they have done to perpetuate crime and violence in this country, by scapegoating, and by doing not a damn thing about gun safety, not a damn thing for decades.

It's not the right time, not the right time, not the right time. Rinse, repeat. Not the right time. Rinse, repeat. Sandy Hook, not the right time. Rinse, repeat. Uvalde. Remember Uvalde? Remember? Rinse, repeat.

You don't remember the Borderline here, 13 people. That was a few years ago. Look that one up. Rinse, repeat. Not a damn thing they do. And we know it. And we allow them to get away with that.


CHURCH: The mass shootings in California bring the number to 39 in the U.S. in just the first three weeks of this year. That puts the country on pace for more than 600 incidents by the end of this year. And that is close to what we've seen over the past three years.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, the U.S. had 647 mass shootings last year, 690 in 2021, and we have to go all the way back to 2014 to see a total less than 300. You can listen to CNN senior law enforcement analyst Charles Ramsey on that.


CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: My fear is that people are getting desensitized to this. I mean, you know, it's just one right after the other. I mean, we're talking about this because these are mass shootings, so it tends to get the attention of media and so forth, but this kind of crime takes place on streets across city, across the country every single day. And, you know, a lot of times, it's not even reported on, certainly not nationally, just locally.

So, gun violence is something that we become too accustomed to and too accepting, and it's just got to stop. But it is not going to stop, unfortunately. We just don't know when, where the next is going to happen, but it will happen.


CHURCH: Still to come, details on yet another deadly shooting in the U.S., this time in Iowa, in what authorities believe was a gang- related dispute.




CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. More on our top story this hour. Another mass shooting has rocked the United States. At least seven people are dead in Half Moon Bay, California after a gunman opened fire in two different locations Monday. Police took a 67-year-old man into custody and say a semiautomatic handgun was found in his vehicle. They believe he acted alone.

Do stay with CNN throughout the morning for all the latest on this developing story.

Earlier, CNN heard from California Democratic Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, whose district includes Half Moon Bay, and she described just how devastating Monday shootings are for that community.


REP. ANNA ESHOO (D-CA) (voice-over): Half Moon Bay is a beautiful, small, tightly-knit community on the coast side, the beautiful California coast side. It's about community of about 11,000 people. It's the home of the pumpkin festival, of the big maverick, the big waves, and it's a destination point for so many people to enjoy. It has always been a happy place. It's also over the last century or more been an agricultural community as well.

And today, you know, this is yet another tragedy that has taken place in California. Seven human beings had their lives taken, one critically injured, air lifted to Stanford Medical Center, and I think, really, a traumatized community. When you hear this news, you can barely breathe.


CHURCH: And Eshoo asked for prayers for the families affected by the shootings.

And yet another deadly shooting, this one in the midwestern U.S.


CHURCH: Police in Iowa say an 18-year-old has been arrested and charged for an apparent gang-related shooting at an educational nonprofit organization on Monday. Two students were killed and the program's founder, a hip-hop artist known as Will Keeps, was seriously injured. Police believe this stemmed from an ongoing gang dispute. Two other people are also in custody as the investigation continues.

The chairman of the U.S. House Oversight Committee has sent a letter to the Secret Service. He is asking for visitor logs from U.S. President Joe Biden's home after more classified documents were found there. In the letter, James Comer claims there has been a lack of transparency from the White House.

CNN's Manu Raju has our report.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: House Republicans are pressing and demanding answers after the latest revelation that more documents were found. The FBI searched Joe Biden's home in Wilmington and found some documents even from his time as United States senator.

James Comer, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, sending a letter to the Secret Service asking for visitor logs, people who came to Joe Biden's house who may have had access to the documents, as well as other communications involving that as well.

This comes on the heels of Comer himself asking for records from the National Archives, from the White House, about some of the communications that occurred here. The House Judiciary Committee is trying to understand the efforts that went behind, naming the special counsel in this case.

The questions, will they get the information they're asking for? At the moment, it seems that they will be unsuccessful in at least some of those efforts, including the Justice Department indicating last week that it would not provide information that could undercut an ongoing law enforcement investigation. It is still uncertain whether the White House will provide the information that James Comer wants.

And one in particular, getting those Secret Service logs seems unlikely. Secret Service says that they do not keep that kind of information. Also, Secret Service did not actively monitor Joe Biden's house from 2017, middle of 2017 until about 2020, when he became the presumptive Democratic nominee. So, there is no information there that Republicans want.

But there are other communications that they are seeking, including from the White House, which is indicating that it will talk in good faith with Comer about trying to get some of the information that he's seeking on these matters.

The question, though, is, if it does not -- ultimately, if Republicans don't ultimately get what they want, what do they do next? Some are threatening subpoenas. Will the White House comply with the subpoena requests or will we see what we saw in the Trump years when Democrats who battled with the Trump administration went to court trying to get information? Sometimes, successful. Sometimes, leading to lengthy, protracted court fights.

That is still a possibility here as the new House republican majority takes power and presses ahead with its oversight request.

Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.


CHURCH: In Washington, D.C., a jury has found more members of the far-right militia group Oath Keepers guilty of crimes related to the January 6th insurrection. The convictions are a big win for federal prosecutors who pushed for the rare charge of seditious conspiracy.

CNN's Whitney Wild reports.


WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: All four men convicted of seditious conspiracy. This is so notable because in this first trial, this first 10-week trial of the Oath Keepers that occurred in the fall, only two members out of five were convicted on seditious conspiracy.

This chart is very hard to prove. It's very rare that it has even charged at all and rare that it resulted in convictions. So, this case represents a huge win for the Justice Department.

More specifically about this case, this involved three members of the Oath Keepers, one person who is associated with the far-right militia. Those four men are Roberto Minuta, Joseph Hackett, David Moerschel, and Edward Vallejo. They are accused of plotting to stop the certification of Joe Biden's 2020 electoral college victory. The DOJ said that conspiracy culminated in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Again, this charge is rare, it is severe, and it represents basically a slam dunk for the Justice Department knowing that they were able to secure this conviction against all four defendants in this case.

In the previous case, they were able to secure seditious conspiracy convictions against Stewart Rhodes, who was basically the leader of the Oath Keepers, the head of the entire organization, and another man named Kelly Meggs.

In both cases, key evidence came from the defendants' own words that were sometimes caught on video. Other times, they had put these words in text messages to groups and emails to open letters. In this latest case, a prosecutor said that one defendant is saying, millions will die, get your effing soul ready. That was the language and actual piece of video that prosecutors used in the closing arguments in this case.

Minuta, Hackett, Moerschel, and Vallejo face additional charges and will be convicted on some of those charges, including obstruction of an official proceeding.


WILD: All four men now face the possibility of decades in prison.

Whitney Wild, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: A winter storm has left thousands of customers in the northeastern U.S. without power. This as the region braces for a second storm. You're looking at snowplows being deployed to clear the roads of snow in Holden, Massachusetts. The bay states seeing major snowfall along with New Hampshire and Maine. Since Sunday, more than a foot of snow has fallen across a stretch of land from central New York to the main Canada border.

Still to come, remembering the victims of Saturday's deadly mass shooting in Southern California. More on that and the latest on the investigation.




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Returning to our top story now. A pair of deadly shootings in Half Moon Bay, California. At least seven people were killed and one person critically injured in shootings that took place at separate locations in the coastal community. One at a mushroom farm, the other taking place near a trucking facility.

Police say the suspect was taken into custody just a few hours after the shooting. He's been identified as 67-year-old Chunli Zhao. Authorities believe he acted alone and so far, the motive is not known.

Well, the violence comes just days after the state was shaken by a mass shooting to the south in Monterey Park that killed at least 11 people. The investigation into that massacre continues but police do not know what motivated the gunman to open fire. The Los Angeles County sheriff says 42 shell casings and a large

capacity magazine were found at the dance studio where the shooting took place. And at the gunman's home, investigators found a rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

Meantime, we are beginning to learn the names of the victims from Saturday's mass shooting in Monterey Park. So far, authorities have released the identities of four of the 11 people killed. All those who lost their lives were over the age of 50. CNN's Brian Todd has more.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The L.A. County sheriff says law enforcement is still in the process of identifying all the victims in Monterey Park. In the meantime, he gave an indication of the general demographics of those who were inside the Star Ballroom Dance Studio that night.

ROBERT LUNA, LOS ANGELES COUNTY: They are not in their 20s or 30s. They seem to be, probably I would say, in their 50s, 60s, and maybe some even beyond there.

TODD (voice-over): CNN has confirmed that Mymy Nhan and Lilan Li, both women in their 60s were among the deceased victims. Mymy Nhan's family in a statement saying she loved going to that studio in Monterey Park and quote, "If you knew her, you knew her warm smile and kindness was contagious."

Other victims, now identified as Xiujuan Yu, 57 years old and Valentino Alvaro, 68 years old. Other victims included two other women in their 60s, one other man in his 60s, three men in their 70s and one person just reported as deceased who had been treated at a hospital, a female in her 70s.

UNKNOWN: I felt it was very important to show our community support. Our elders have been going through a hell of a time in these last couple of years.

TODD (voice-over): The U.S. congresswoman who represents this district had been to this dance hall in the past and describes its patrons.

REP. JUDY CHU (D-CA): If you went in there, you would see usually older Americans, Asian-Americans, dancing, really enjoying themselves. And, you know, some are such excellent dancers are really into it, love to go every day. That's what I saw when I went there.

TODD (voice-over): The shooter himself had been a regular presence at the studio, meeting his ex-wife there according to three people who knew him who spoke to CNN. The ex-wife said he'd even given informal dance lessons there. The local congresswoman says this is the kind of community where she never imagined such a thing happening.

CHU: This is a tight-knit community and it has been very peaceful all these years. So, that's why it is even more shattering to have this happen. TODD (on camera): One dance instructor at the Star Ballroom Dance

Studio told CNN the facility was a popular spot not only for classes and private lessons, but also for parties, some of which he said would have as many as about 300 people in attendance. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: Still to come, a Russian mercenary force is raising alarm in Ukraine. How the Wagner Group is overwhelming some Ukrainian fighters with its unconventional tactics. Back with that in just a moment.



CHURCH: Welcome back everyone. Recapping our top story at this hour. The coastal community of Half Moon Bay, California has been ravaged by mass shootings. Officials say at least seven people were killed and one person was critically wounded when a gunman opened fire at two locations. Authorities have detained a 67-year-old suspect who they believe acted alone.

This comes just two days after another mass shooting in southern California left at least 11 people dead.

A senior U.S. military official says Russia has sent tens of thousands of reinforcements to the frontlines in Ukraine over the past few months ahead of a planned spring offensive. But the source says the troops are ill-equipped, ill-trained and have made little difference in the fight.

Meanwhile, Ukraine could be getting some help on the battlefield as Poland's foreign minister says Warsaw will send German-made Leopard tanks whether or not other countries join them.


Protesters gathered outside the European Council in Brussels on Monday demanding that allies send the tanks. Ukraine's foreign minister says a deal is in the final stage although he didn't specify what countries are involved. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the need is dire.


VOLODYMYR ZLENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translation): This is no time for bargaining. This is the time for survival. We need to survive.


CHURCH: So, let's go live now to London and to CNN's Salma Abdelaziz. Good morning to you, Salma. So, Ukraine is getting these mixed signals from western allies on Leopard 2 battle tanks being sent to the war- torn nation. What is the latest on this? SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, a lot of pressure being

piled on Germany by its partners and allies who want to see Germany give the greenlight, give the approval to send these Leopard 2 tanks seen as very practical, seen as very easy to use, right straight to that battlefield, right straight to the battleground in Ukraine.

So far, Germany reluctant to do so, but Poland, of course, one of the partners, and here's the important thing to remember, Rosemary, is Germany's decision does not just impact Germany. There is some 2,000 of these tanks spread across 13 different European countries and they are not allowed to deploy those tanks to Ukraine unless Germany gives pre authorization -- authorization, rather.

So, Poland in that context made a statement saying, its former minister saying that the country was willing to send those tanks, those German-made tanks even without that authorization if there was a small coalition willing to do the same. Germany responded by saying they're absolutely not blocking the export of these tanks and E.U.'s foreign policy chief had to comment as well on this. Take a listen to what he said.


JOSEPH BORRELL, EUROPEAN UNION FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF (through translation): During the council today, we discussed all of that. And of course, what the foreign affairs ministers had already said before. German ministers said that Germany is not blocking other countries from doing this. Other countries, which wish to export their Leopard tanks can do so. So, Germany is not blocking exports of Leopard tanks.


ABDELAZIZ: So, right now in Berlin, Germany's foreign minister is meeting with NATO's chief, Jens Stoltenberg. Of course, we are expecting that there potentially could be a statement on this in the coming days. Absolutely the pressure on the ground is ramping up. Ukrainian troops saying they need those weapons. Yesterday, their concern that Russia is preparing for a spring offensive and these Leopard tanks, they absolutely could make that difference on the ground for those troops, Rosemary. very.

CHURCH: All right, Salma Abdelaziz, joining us live from London. Many thanks.

Well, CNN has obtained a Ukrainian military document that outlines the unique threat posed by the Russian mercenary group, Wagner. It vividly describes the brutality of the private military force and explains how effective its methods have been in eastern Ukraine. CNN's Fred Pleitgen has more on this and a warning, his report contains graphic images and language.



FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): As Russia's invasion of Ukraine falters, there is one group that is having some success on the battlefield. The brutally affective Wagner Private Military Company, led by Putin allies, Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Wagner, why are we effective and where does this effectiveness come from you ask. First, we have been fighting for many years. Probably, we are the most experienced army in the world today. And, Ukraine's leadership is alarmed by Wagner success. CNN has exclusively obtained a military document outlining Kyiv's assessment of the group.

"There are also purely military reasons for Wagner's effectiveness" the document says. "As the command structure and tactics currently employed are the only ones that are effective for the poorly trained mobilized troops that make up the majority of Russian ground forces."

Ukraine's military filmed this video showing Wagner's assault tactics using waves of fighters trying to overwhelm and encircle a Ukrainian position. "The tasks are set to be as primitive as possible. To achieve the goal, many assault groups are deployed and attacks can be carried out for a long period of time without regard to losses" the document says.

The first waves are often convicts, essentially used as cannon fodder. "The deaths of thousands of Wagner soldiers do not matter to Russian society," the military document asserts and "Unauthorized withdrawal of a team or without being wounded is punishable by execution on the spot."

Prigozhin makes no secret of the fact that losses don't matter to him. He recently visited a building where the bodies of the fallen were kept. Their contracts have ended, they are going home, he said.


But Prigozhin also claims to respect the Ukrainians defending against his mercenaries saying they're fighting with valor.

You need to be more careful to send them off in a dignified manner, he said, while recently overseeing an exchange of bodies between Wagner and the Ukrainian army. Internally, though, it's a brutal regime. A pro-Wagner social media channel recently posted a video of mercenaries using a sledgehammer to kill a former comrade who allegedly defected and criticize the group.

The word is out on the battlefield too. Ukrainian intelligence intercepted this call, which CNN cannot independently verify of a Russian soldier talking to a friend about Wagner.

UNKNOWN (translated text): One rushed to the Ukrainians, The Wagnerites caught him and cut his balls off.

UNKNOWN (translated text): They sledgehammered one's head off. I saw the video.

UNKNOWN (translated text): Well, this one got his balls cut off. That's not a video, just like that. PLEITGEN (voice-over): Still, Wagner's morale seems high, the Ukrainians say. And the fighters are often better equipped than Russia's regular forces, thanks to what the Ukrainians claim is U.S. made technology.

"In contrast to the Russian armed forces, Wagner's main means of communication are American made radio relay stations and Motorola walkie talkie's," the Ukrainian document says.

(On camera): CNN did reach out to Motorola for a statement and they had said that shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, that they stopped all their sales to both Russia and to Belarus and closed their operations there.

Meanwhile, those documents from the Ukrainian military, there is a lot of fascinating things in there. For example, the Ukrainians say that despite the infighting that you see between the Russian defense ministry and Wagner, specifically of Yevgeny Prigozhin, that apparently the Russian military is now recommending some of those brutal assault tactics from Wagner for Russian regular forces as well. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Kyiv.


CHURCH: China is still cracking down on people for protesting COVID rules. Coming, up details on a chilling wave of arrests and a video left by a woman who feared she was going to be rounded up.



CHURCH: China looks dramatically different since abandoning its rigid zero COVID measures last month after public protest. But some residents say they are still paying the price for being a part of those rallies. CNN's Selina Wang spoke with a woman who says her friends seemingly vanished, leaving a chilling video behind detailing what may have happened.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you are seeing this video, that means I've already been taken by the police. These are the chilling words of a young woman in China who took part in this demonstration in Beijing on November 27th. It was one of dozens of anti-zero-COVID protests that erupted in cities across China.

(On camera): They are chanting that they don't want COVID tests. They want freedom.

(Voice-over): Police lined the streets but the mood was calm and peaceful. Many were there to mourn the lives lost in China's Urumqi City where a deadly fire broke out in a locked down building. This 26- year-old woman and editor at a publishing house said that is why she and her friends took to the streets. She said they followed the rules and didn't have any conflict with the

police. Soon after filming this, she was arrested. She knew her time was nearing. CNN has learned from sources that weeks after the protests, police started rounding up her friends one by one. Most of them also young female professionals.

We tracked down and interviewed one of her friends who's been tirelessly searching for her. We're not revealing her name or any of the sources we spoken to because of concerns of retribution from the Chinese state. Authorities want to intimidate ordinary people she said. They want to turn people into a motionless machines. We can't even gather together to grieve.

Police swiftly cracked down on the protesters. In some cities, violently pushing and dragging the demonstrators. But the Beijing protesters peacefully dispersed. Afterwards, police blanketed protest sites. In some places, authorities checked cellphones for virtual private networks and tracked down participants with cellphone data.

Soon after, China dropped its zero COVID policy and opened up. In his New Year's Eve address, Chinese Leader Xi Jinping said that it was, quote, "Only natural for different people to have different concerns or hold different views on the same issue." But behind the scenes, their loved ones say the retribution continues.

She is paying a heavy price. We were born into this land. So naturally, we would want to make China better. But now I feel there is nothing that we can do, she says, breaking down into tears. Authorities have made no official comment about the detentions and will likely never know how many people have been detained in connection with the protests, if its dozens, hundreds or more.

As people across China are celebrating the Lunar New Year with their newfound freedom, the young woman says that the mothers of her and her friends want to know why their daughters were taken from them. In her final words in the video message, she made this call for help. Don't let us be taken away or convicted arbitrarily. Don't let us disappear from this world unjustly.


(On camera): CNN has asked Beijing authorities for comment on the young woman you saw there along with the other detentions, but we have not heard back. We learned she's one of eight people who have been quietly detained after the protests. People who know these women tell us they were confused as to why they were taken, describing them as young female professionals working in publishing, journalism and education, saying they are socially minded but not dissident or organizers.

Experts say the police may have been suspicious of young, politically aware women. Chinese authorities have a well-documented history of targeting feminists and at least one of the women detained was questioned during her interrogation about whether she had any involvement in feminist groups. Selina Wang, CNN, Beijing.


CHURCH: And thanks for spending part of your day with us. I'm Rosemary Church. We will have more on the deadly mass shooting in Half Moon Bay, California just ahead as "CNN Newsroom" continues with Max Foster and Bianca Nobilo.