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Nashville School Shooting; Netanyahu Delays Judicial Overhaul After Protests And Strikes; Powerful Storms, Tornadoes Blamed For At Least 27 Deaths. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired March 28, 2023 - 02:00   ET




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

Just ahead. Nashville Police have released security footage from Monday's deadly school shooting that left six people dead including three children.

Plus, new information about the officers who took down the killer.

We're live in Tel Aviv this hour where protests have stopped for now after Israel's Prime Minister halted his judicial reform plans, but the controversy is far from over.

Plus, CNN is on the ground in Mississippi where a string of deadly tornadoes has devastated the entire community.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center. This is CNN Newsroom with Rosemary Church.

CHURCH: And we begin this hour with the shocking video of what's become an all too familiar scene here in the United States. A school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee that's left three young children and three adults dead. Police have released video which they say shows a former student at the Covenant School arriving Monday morning in a Honda Fit. They have identified the shooter as 28-year-old Audrey Hale.

A few minutes later, you can see hail opening fire on a set of glass doors to gain access to the school. Police say hail had detailed maps showing entry points to the school. Not long after that, you see Hale walking through the building pointing what police described as an A.R.-style rifle. Police say they found writings and additional material in Hale's car and they believe a second attack was planned.

The shooting lasted about 14 minutes with Hale on the second floor of the school shooting at police cars as they arrived. In addition to the A.R.-style rifle, officers say they recovered an A.R.-style pistol and a handgun. Nashville Police Chief John Drake says investigators are not sure yet about Hale's motive but they're following up on a number of leads.


CHIEF JOHN DRAKE, METRO NASHVILLE POLICE: There's some belief that there was some resentment to having to go to that school. I don't have all the details to that just yet. And that's why this incident occurred.


CHURCH: Nashville police have identified the officers who shot and killed Hale as Michael Collazo and -- a nine-year veteran and Rex Engelbert, a four-year veteran.

Well, more now from CNN's Diane Gallagher.


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tragedy at another American School. Three children and three adult staff members shot and killed at the Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee, in what police are calling a targeted attack by a heavily armed 28-year- old former student.

DON AARON, DIRECTOR, NASHVILE POLICE DEPARTMENT MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE: The three nine-year-olds who were killed. Evelyn Dieckhaus, William Kinney, Hallie Scruggs. Three adults, Mike Hill, a custodian aged 61. Cynthia Peak, to my understanding of substitute teacher, age 61. And Katherine Koonce, age 60.


GALLAGHER: Police say the suspect was Audrey Hale. She's a Nashville area resident who they say is a former student of the private Christian school located at Covenant Presbyterian Church, which serves preschool through sixth grade. A car near the scene helped identify Hale and police say they are currently going over writings left behind by the shooter.

DRAKE: We've also determined there were maps drawn out of school in detail of surveillance, entry points, et cetera. We know and believe that entry was gained through shooting through one of the doors is how they actually got into the school.

GALLAGHER: Calls started coming in at 10:13 a.m.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The officers had engaged the shooter by 10:27 and she was deceased.

GALLAGHER: Metro Nashville Police say there is video from the school and the shooting happened on an upper level in a lobby area not a classroom. A teacher texting her daughter from inside the school.

AVERY MYRICK, DAUGHTER OF PRE-K TEACHER: She said she was hiding in the closet and that there was shooting all over and that they had potentially tried to get into a room. GALLAGHER: President Joe Biden weighing in on the 129th mass shooting of this year according to data from the gun violence archive.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to do more to stop gun violence. It's ripping our communities apart, ripping the soul of this nation. Ripped at the very soul of the nation. And we have to do more to protect our schools so they aren't turned into prisons.


CHURCH: Joining me now from Washington is Kris Brown. She is the president of Thank you so much for being with us to discuss yet another deadly school shooting in this country.


CHURCH: Now, this time, we're talking about three children and three adults are killed in a private Nashville Christian Elementary School. Police say it was a targeted shooting and that the 28-year-old suspect. a former student of that school, was carrying two A.R.-s1tyle weapons and a handgun before being shot and killed by police. What is your reaction to this latest school shooting?

BROWN: It's another example of what it's like to be a parent in America waking up to this kind of carnage. We can't live in a country where this is happening day in and day out. And I hope all of us can agree as parents, I'm a parent of a 19 and 21-year-old. We have to get to the solutions that can stop this kind of carnage.

CHURCH: And we'll look at some of those solutions. Because in reaction to the proliferation of assault-style weapons in this country, President Biden called again on Congress to pass his assault weapons ban, but how likely is it that this will happen even after yet another tragic school shooting that took the lives of children yet again?

BROWN: It's tough, you now, we have a senate that could potentially pass that kind of legislation. The House, under the leadership of someone like Kevin McCarthy. It's very unlikely. And that's why all of us across America today have to lift up our voices. What states are doing is really important. So, for those of you who live in states that could pass an assault weapons ban, that's really important.

Because we also have a supreme court that's really hostile to the states that have passed assault weapons ban. So, all of us have to join together, not just in Congress or in the courts, but even in our local communities. And there's so much that we can do to get our local communities just like they did in Illinois, in Highland Park to pass an assault weapons ban, you can do that too.

CHURCH: So, most mass shootings in America tend to share multiple factors, don't they? Easy access to guns, specifically assault-style weapons, mental illness, or some beef with the world. Now, we don't know the specifics of this latest mass shooting. But we do know this aspect attended this Christian school as a child and apparently resented being forced to do so, that's according to police.

What will it take do you think to stop gun violence like this in America? You've talked about what we can do at the local level. But what more in terms of gun controls? This easy access to guns because nobody is suggesting in this country because it would never work, that all guns should be taken away from people. That's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about controlling access to guns, so that people who perhaps are not completely stable, do not have access to them, which seems very fair and logical.

So, what are the possible solutions to that?

BROWN: The solutions are before us. And they have been for a long time is expanding the Brady background check system. It's ensuring that every state has an extreme risk protection law. It's ensuring that every state has a permitting system, and those are being rolled back. And it's making sure that across the country, we have a renewed assault weapons ban and the difference there is voters.

Every voter across this country, if you don't want this to happen anymore, vote, vote. Make sure that every time you vote, you focus on which candidates actually stand for gun violence prevention or they stand with the gun industry. And if they stand with the gun industry, what that means is that is profits over our lives. And it's just that simple. We've been doing this successfully and that's how we've changed so much of the law since 2018, since Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the advent of March for Our Lives and other organizations.


That's how we have made a difference. We have to continue that way. But it takes all of this. This isn't just on the kids. This is on adults. This is on their grandparents. This is on us. And we can make a difference. But we have to make it an absolute priority and then hold elected officials to account when they do not vote yes on bills to advance life saving measures. And that's expanding Brady background checks.

That's expanding permitting systems. That's giving states extreme risk protection laws. That's making sure we have an assault weapons ban. All of those things are equally important. Gun violence now is the number one killer of our children. We've got to stop it. And those are the ways to make it happen.

CHURCH: Powerful words and powerful advice. Kris Brown, thank you for joining us. Appreciate it.

BROWN: Thank you.

CHURCH: Turning now to Israel where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is delaying controversial plans to overhaul the judiciary in order to prevent a rift inside the country.

Tensions have been building over those plans and have led to widespread unrest. But on Monday, Netanyahu said he would pause votes on legislation in order to allow time for discussion and debate. Still, protesters against the reforms and some in favor were back on the streets. Israel's largest labor union announced its general strike would end immediately following Netanyahu's announcement.

The prime minister did make clear the pause is only temporary insisting an overhaul is needed. And CNN's Elizabeth Cohen is following developments for us. She joins us live from Tel Aviv. Good to see you, Elizabeth. So, what is the latest on Netanyahu's temporary pause to overhaul the judiciary and of course reaction to that move?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, the reaction to this pause while things are just moving so quickly, Rosemary. And the reaction has been, I think, a feeling of success on behalf of the protesters that they at least got this. It's not permanent. It's temporary as you said that it is something that they were a force that really got president -- got the Prime Minister to say we're going to put a pause on this.

And also, a feeling hopefully that at least over the next few weeks is the Passover holiday is here may be a bit of a return to normalcy because things really did get sort of up ended here. So, let's take a listen to President -- the Prime Minister, I'm sorry. Prime Minister Netanyahu, and what he said to sort of put this pause in context.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: I'm not ready to tear the country apart. I called time after time to speak and to debate in order to reach a solution. And I remember that we're not facing enemies.


COHEN: Now, many would take issue with the prime minister saying that he encouraged debate. Instead, they would say that he steamrolled these changes which would have allowed his party with a very slim majority in the Parliament to overturn Supreme Court decisions, which really would have taken out of balance, the checks and balances systems that are in place. Also, he was trying to push through changes that could potentially have protected him against his legal woes. Rosemary?

CHURCH: All right. Elizabeth Cohen joining us live from Tel Aviv. Many thanks for that. And joining us now from Jerusalem is Yaakov Katz, editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post and author of Shadows Strike Inside Israel's Secret Mission to Eliminate Syrian Nuclear Power. Appreciate you being with us.


CHURCH: So, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put this temporary pause on his judicial overhaul until after Passover to allow for debate, he says. So, what do you expect will likely happen after that?

KATZ: Well, the heads of the opposition primarily, Yair Lapid who served briefly as Prime Minister this past summer as well as Benny Gantz was the head of a party known as the National Unity Party both embrace to an extent with great suspicion, the Prime Minister's pause in the passing of the legislation, they said they're ready for a dialogue. The President of Israel has occurred.

So, he's basically invited all parties. He spoke with him already last night to come together and to start beginning negotiations to set up teams to talk about what will the Jews initial legislation look like if both sides can get some of what they're looking for. And I think that for the most part what we'll see is a bit of a downturn in the protests.


I don't think we'll see a complete end to the protests. People want to keep that at a low flame. In case it turns out that Netanyahu fooled everyone plans to move and steamroll ahead after the Passover holiday. And they want to be able to within very short notice, get those protests back up and running to be able to fight if needed.

CHURCH: Yes. Let's look at that because Netanyahu says he's aware of tensions, and he's listening to the people. But he also says these judicial reforms necessary. So, what might this mean in terms of the original plan? Could it be tweaked in some way to satisfy all parties in the course of this effort for negotiation, whatever that may look like?

KATZ: Look, Rosemary, it's possible to cut this or slice it a million different ways, right? One of the main issues is how do we appoint our Supreme Court justices. So, Netanyahu and his allies, they wanted basically the exclusive majority within this panel that selects the judges, that it would belong to the government, to the coalition. They could negotiate on that. They can say, OK, maybe we need to get some buy in from the opposition.

There's the question of an override bill that would be passed through Israel's parliament, the Knesset, that would give the legislator the ability to strike the -- to re-legislate laws that were struck down by the Supreme Court. They wanted to do it initially, with a simple majority, maybe they would be willing to increase that to not -- if not a supermajority but at least a higher number of members of Knesset that would be required to re-legislate those laws that the court has decided are illegal, let's say.

So, there's ways to -- there's room to negotiate. The question is, does Netanyahu and does his coalition really want to sincerely ease the anguish and the distress that so many Israelis have been feeling for the last 12 weeks. Three months, you've had hundreds of thousands of people, almost three percent of our population that would be like eight million Americans were taken to the streets weekly to protest what's happening.

Do they really want to engage with them? And that that's what remains to really be seen.

CHURCH: Yes, exactly. And, of course, Netanyahu apparently had to make a trade off with the far right in his government to secure this pause. What more are you learning about that?

KATZ: Well, you know, that really remains to be seen. He's basically given a far-right minister who's himself has been convicted of crimes in the past of incitement, who's now the National Security Minister in charge of the police in Israel to also now have something of a National Guard. People who are referring to -- referring to it almost as a private militia that would belong to this minister Itamar Ben- Gvir.

What exactly that means, what will be the powers and authority of this National Guard remains still to be seen. They're supposed to bring a decision to the cabinet that will be convening this coming Sunday, where then they'll start the legislative process to enact and form this National Guard. I think that everyone agrees that there is a need for a National Guard. If you remember Rosemary, we saw riots in cities across Israel back during one of the Gaza operations in 2021.

So, there's a need to restore order in certain places. We can hope that it will be done responsibly and not just for political reasons.

CHURCH: Yes. We'll be watching this very closely, as of course you will. I know. Yaakov Katz joining us live from Jerusalem. Many thanks.

To France now, demonstrators are continuing to protest the government's move to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. Many of them entered an airport in southwest France just a short while ago setting off smoke bombs. Blocking airports has been a tactic used by protesters nationwide. Authorities say around 13,000 police officers will be deployed across the country Tuesday. They also expect public transportation including air travel to be disrupted.

Where Southern American towns once stood, we now see shredded homes, toppled buildings and people mourning loved ones. Our report from storm ravaged Mississippi is next.



CHURCH: Lingering storms and possible floods are still threatening parts of the southern U.S. after it was walloped by a series of deadly storms and tornadoes. Small towns in Mississippi are coming to grips with the destruction and the loss of life with entire neighborhoods decimated. More than 20 people are confirmed dead including a two-year old girl. CNN's Isabel Rosales spoke to her relatives in hard hit Mississippi and others who lost loved ones.


JOANNA WINSTON, GREAT NIECE KILLED IN STORM: OK. You live in it, we're right here would have seen and that steps were right in front of the sidewalk right here.

ISABEL ROSALES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Devastation after violent storms ripped through the southeastern part of the U.S. over the weekend. Everything gone. You look around. I mean, we have nothing. Nothing.

ROSALES: JoAnn Winston lost her two-year-old great niece Aubrey (ph) when an EF-four tornado hit Mississippi late Friday night, impacting the towns of Amory, Rolling Fork and Silver City. Winston says she found Aubrey among the debris.

WINTSON: And I didn't see no house. No nothing. And I looked around I see the baby laying (INAUDIBLE) from her mom -- I mean, from her grandmom.

ROSALES: You saw them doing CPR on Aubrey?


ROSALES: That must have been horrible to see.

WINSTON: It was. It was. I had -- I walked away.

ROSALES: Aubrey's mother was in the hospital when the storm hit giving birth to a newborn just hours after losing her two-year-old daughter.

JESSICA DRAIN, EIGHT-YEAR-OLD SON HURT IN STORM AND NIECE KILLED: We don't mind the new girl. I'm glad you're not suffering. It could have been worse. My whole family was here.

ROSALES: Winston niece Jessica Drain also spoke to CNN. Drain says her eight-year-old son was in the same mobile home as two-year-old Aubrey with her parents. He is now in critical condition on a ventilator.

WINSTON: He has a severe brain injury. They had to go in and take parts of his skull out.

ROSALES: He's been through surgery.

WINSTON: Yes, he's been through surgery.

ROSALES: They say more?

WINSTON: They say he going to need about three or four more.

ROSALES: Other families also torn apart by the deadly storms. Ethan Herndon and his one-year-old daughter Riley were both killed when a tornado hit their mobile home. His wife and their two other children survived.


David Brown's parents were killed after their neighbor's 18-wheeler landed on the Rolling Fork home during the storm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Words can't express what I'm feeling. It's broken. I don't know.

But I know that they're in heaven right now. And I was told that they passed away and each other's arms. Jessica Drain and JoAnn Winston hoping their family and others can get help.

WINSTON: All I can -- I can say is for people just to pray for us. And let's pray that we get through this and start a new life, start over.


ROSALES: Caleb (ph) has seriously hurt he's in the ICU with a severe brain injury on a ventilator and he needs more surgery. So, as you can imagine, those medical bills will be adding up and that is why Jessica Drain started up a GoFundMe to raise money for her son. She is asking anyone who is able to consider donating. Isabel Rosellas, CNN, Silver City, Mississippi.

CHURCH: And for more information on how you can help the storm victims in Mississippi just go to

Still to come. The impact of Russia's decision to move nuclear weapons into Belarus is being felt throughout the region with potential consequences for the government in Minsk. We will have a report from Moscow.



CHURCH: Another round of Russian strikes as targeted more civilian areas far from the frontlines in Ukraine. In Kyiv, the city is mess two residential districts were hit Monday night. One building caught fire but early reports showed there were no casualties. In a separate attack, Ukrainian authorities say two people were killed and 32 were injured in Russian missile strikes in the eastern city of Sloviansk. Meanwhile, Western made tanks promise to Ukraine have started to arrive in the country, coming from the U.S., U.K., Germany and Portugal.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has met with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi. They surveyed the damage at the hydroelectric power plant in Zaporizhzhia on Monday. President Zelenskyy has accused Russia which controls the region's nuclear power plant of using it for nuclear blackmail. Grossi said he would be travelling to the plant to assess its safety and security. With Russia's military offensive in Ukraine seemingly at a stalemate the Kremlin is reaching into the old Soviet playbook by moving nuclear weapons into Belarus. But a Belarusian opposition leader is raising concerns saying the move aims to subjugate Belarus and violates its constitution. More now from CNN's Matthew Chance reporting from Moscow.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): The frontlines are brutal. Even Ukrainian towns with little strategic value, locking both sides into a bloody, stagnant standoff. One reason the Kremlin is again, upping the Ante. It was on state television, the President Putin dropped his nuclear bombshell. Tactical nuclear weapons will soon be deployed to neighboring Belarus, you're next. And for decades as Russia stationed these powerful battlefield weapons outside its own borders.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): The United States has done it for decades. They have placed their tactical nuclear weapons in their allied countries. And we had an agreement as allies do the same.

CHANCE (voiceover): These are the Iskander missile systems, capable of delivering a nuclear payload that Putin says are already deployed in Belarus. The silo for their nuclear warheads he says, we will ready by July, prompting alarm and objections from Europe. But praise on the streets of the Russian capital, where dissent from the Kremlin line is a risk. I think NATO is to blame for all of this, says Tatiana (PH). It is they who are marching towards us to our borders, she says. The West thinks it can have its own way and do anything with us, says Vladimir (PH). Now, it's time to demonstrate our capabilities to show we too, mean business.

Under airborne delivery systems too. These Russian war planes flying sorties over Ukraine, but the Kremlin says Russian technicians have also converted 10 Belarusian aircraft to carry tactical nuclear weapons as well. It would be devastating and unstoppable. Well, the U.S. officials say there's no reason to adjust America's nuclear posture, at least not yet.

JOHN KIRBY, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: We haven't -- in fact seen no indication that he has any intention to use nuclear weapons, period, inside Ukraine.

CHANCE (voiceover): But Putin has every intention of tightening his grip on Belarus, whose own autocratic leader is already propped up by the Kremlin strongman. To avoid nuclear proliferation, Putin says command and control of the tactical weapons will be kept with Moscow. Belarus already a reluctant military ally, will now host even more Russian troops on its soil. Matthew Chance, CNN Moscow.


CHURCH: Prosecutors investigating Donald Trump call a surprise witness what the former publisher of the National Enquirer, may have told a New York Grand Jury. Next on CNN Newsroom.



CHURCH: A New York Grand Jury has wrapped up another meeting without an indictment of former U.S. President Donald Trump. Prosecutors brought in a surprise witness to testify on Monday. The former publisher of the National Enquirer. CNN's Paula Reid has details.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: And David Pecker's appearance at court Monday shrouded in secrecy. He arrived here and departed in a car with tinted windows holding his head down, clearly trying not to be spotted by the world's media that had been assembled at court. But Pecker could potentially be a very valuable witness for prosecutors. Exactly one week ago, attorneys for the former president had requested that Robert Costello appear before the grand jury. And Costello's role was to attack the credibility of Michael Cohen and his version of how these hush money payments were arranged.


Now, over the past week or so prosecutors have been contemplating whether they needed to call another witness to rebut Costello's testimony. And button up their case before moving on to vote on a possible indictment. Pecker would be able to rebut that testimony because he was involved in putting together these hush money schemes were Stormy Daniels and at least one other woman to get them to keep quiet about their alleged affairs with the former president. Now, at this point, the next time we know the grand jury will meet will be on Wednesday. And we'll see what happens then is unclear if they will move to vote on a possible indictment of the former president, something that would be the first in U.S. history. Paula Reid CNN, New York.

CHURCH: I'm Rosemary Church for our international viewers, "WORLD SPORT" is next. And for those of you here in North America, I'll be back with more CNN NEWSROOM in just a moment.