Return to Transcripts main page

CNN This Morning

Mother, Baby Killed Execution-Style in Suspected Cartel Attack; Police Say, Failed GOP Organized Shootings at Homes of Democrats; Survivors Found at Site Russian Attack, 25 Still Missing. Aired 7- 7:30a ET

Aired January 17, 2023 - 07:00   ET


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Who her latest song is about.


I love the Miley Cyrus song. I will stand up for that one.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: If it was guys doing this --


COLLINS: What? Guy do that all the time.

HARLOW: Guys do what? Do we have time?

LEMON: If this was guys doing this, you would be saying, oh, my God, I cannot believe that he's singing about his ex-girlfriend. And she's also calling out the woman. She's like traded whatever for a Casio. Like that's not very -- look, I love Miley, a little humble brag at one of those pictures from the Oscar party of sitting right next to her. Tim and I were sitting right next to her.

HARLOW: Of course you were.

LEMON: And Liam. Is it Liam, right? But I'm just saying, look, maybe there's a reason there's a double standard but I just don't it's right to ever call out your ex in a song, like own it and move on.

HARLOW: Really? You can't sing about heartbreaks?

LEMON: It's fine but still, it's a double standard.

HARLOW: Ahead on CNN This Morning --

COLLINS: CNN This Morning continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- an attack on democracy, whoever that elected official is, Democrat or Republican. And we will hold people responsible for criminal conduct and make sure we do justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: Good morning, everyone. This is a really, really terrible story. We're so glad that you could join us on this Tuesday morning. This is about a failed Republican candidate in New Mexico has been arrested for allegedly hiring people to shoot at the homes of local Democratic officials. We're going to speak to a commissioner who was targeted in moments.

HARLOW: An early morning massacre in California, a mother and her infant among six killed in what officials say may have been a drug cartel-style execution.

COLLINS: Also this morning, we have gotten some dramatic new video taken by a passenger who was on the plane moments before it crashed in Nepal.

Plus --




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow. This is the child with the loaded weapon --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pulling the trigger right there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pulling the trigger.



HARLOW: Can you believe that? That is a toddler caught on camera waving around a loaded gun. His father is in custody this morning.

LEMON: That is a very disturbing story. We'll get to that.

But, first, a 17-year-old mom and her six-month-old baby were among six people who were killed early Monday morning at a Central California home. The mother and child were both shot in the head. Police tell CNN the killings appear to be linked to a drug cartel.

Let me get straight to CNN's Josh Campbell live in Los Angeles for CNN This Morning. Josh, hello to you. What are you learning about this attack?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, Don. And I'll warn viewers that what I'm about to describe is graphic and disturbing. I'll walk you through the timeline. Police say that in the early morning hour yesterday, at around 3:00, they received a 911 call of an active shooter in this residence in Tulare County, which is about three hours north of Los Angeles.

Now, they dispatched deputies, it takes them several minutes to get there. This is a remote area. And as they're on their way to this crime scene, the dispatcher is getting other 911 calls saying we're hearing shot after shot after shot. When authorities finally arrived they don't find a suspect but find a gruesome crime scene. Authorities say that there were least six people who were killed, including two people killed outside the residence, one who is in the doorway as well as you mentioned a 17-year-old mother and her six-year-old shot in the head. Efforts are underway at this hour by police to try to find those who were responsible, Don.

LEMON: Have police identified a suspect, Josh?

CAMPBELL: Well, I spoke last night with an official from the sheriff's office who says that they're describing this as a cartel- style execution. What does that mean? We know that in the United States, street gangs often engage in violence. But that descriptor, a cartel-like execution, suggests an intensified level brutality and sophistication.

We know that Mexican drug cartels, for example, have engaged in egregious violence against their perceived enemies, going so far as to deploy hit squads. The Sheriff spoke yesterday about who they think they're looking for. Take a listen.


SHERIFF MIKE BOUDREAUX, TULARE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: We believe we have at least two suspects at this point. We also believe that this was not a random act of violence. We believe that this was a targeted family. We believe that there are associations involved in this scene.


CAMPBELL: So, at least two suspects, the sheriff says, that they're looking for, and it's just important to note that they're still trying to piece all of this together, looking at shell casings, canvassing for witnesses, if they heard anything around that area.

Interestingly, Don, one week ago, that residence itself was the subject of a search warrant in a narcotics case. So, police are looking to determine if all of this is connected.

LEMON: All right. Josh Campbell, thank you.

HARLOW: Now to New Mexico with more on this failed former Republican state house candidate, Solomon Pena, he was angry that he lost his election last fall.


He claimed the vote was, quote, rigged. And now, this morning, he's in police custody in connection to orchestrating four shootings at homes of Democrats.

This happened in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Police say that Pena was the mastermind and allegedly conspired and paid four others to carry out these shootings into lawmakers' homes. To note, no one, thankfully, was injured. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEPUTY COMMANDER KYLE HARTSOCK, ALBUQUERQUE POLICE: The evidence that we have is not only firearms but it's also from cell phone and electronic records, surveillance video and multiple witnesses inside and outside of this conspiracy that have helped us weave together what occurred.

On the last shooting, we now have evidence to Pena himself went on this shooting and actually pulled the trigger on at least one of the firearms that was used.


HARLOW: The last shooting they're talking about took place at State Senator Linda Lopez's home. The gun Pena was using malfunctioned. Authorities say another shooter at the scene shot a dozen rounds.

Pena, an election denier, visited three of the targets unannounced in November after he lost his election for the state house. Later that month, he tweeted in support of former President Trump declaring that he, quote, never conceded his race even though he lost in a landslide, 48 points behind his opponent.

Just minutes from now, we are going to be joined by one of the county commissioners whose home was targeted. Commissioner Adriann Barboa will join CNN This Morning.

LEMON: And, Poppy, CNN has obtained harrowing new video from inside the plane purportedly showing the final moments before it crashed in Nepal on Sunday. The video is edited so nobody can be identified and we are not showing the moment of the crash, but here it is.

So, that video taken inside the cabin by a passenger who was streaming live at the time just before the flight went down in a fiery scene en route to a tourist hub in the Himalayas killing 70 people onboard.

I want to get now Vedika Sud live in New Delhi, India, for CNN This Morning. Good morning to you. So, tell us about that footage. What's in this footage?

VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER: Good morning, Don. It's not very often that you get to see footage shot by passenger just moments before a crash. This is one rare such footage. Now, what we do know is it was reportedly recorded by an Indian passenger who was on his way to Pokhara along with friends, but it's very important that our audience also gets to know that CNN has corroborated this video using flight manifest details, going on to the website of this airline, as well as geolocation.

However, it's interesting how a representative of the Civil Aviation Authority in Nepal has said that this does not seem to be a video from inside aircraft, but when pressed, he has no information, no technical evidence to support his claim, Don. But this could be extremely important in terms of evidence during the investigations, according to aviation experts, Don. LEMON: Vedika Sud in New Delhi this morning, Vedika, thank you so much.

COLLINS: Also this morning, a frantic search is under way at an apartment complex in Dnipro, Ukraine, as it has grown more frantic. Search teams now say they don't expect to find any more survivors at the scene of the strike that has killed so far at least 44 people, including 4 children.

Rescuers have already pulled several out since the weekend's attack, but almost all of the wreckage has now been dismantled, yet still 25 residents are missing.

The first lady of Ukraine has slammed the Russians for one of the worst attacks on civilians since the war began in a speech that she just delivered at the World Economic Forum in Davos.


OLENA ZELENSKA, UKRAINIAN FIRST LADY: These were people, ordinary people at home on a Saturday and that's enough reason for Russia to kill. There is nothing off limits for Russia. As we speak, in our city of Dnipro, people are still working, working, and sorting through the debris of a residential area, a house that was destroyed by an anti- ship missile. This missile was built to destroy aircraft carriers. It was used against civilian infrastructure.


COLLINS: Ukrainian officials say that a Russian Kh-22 missile was used in that strike. It has designated to take out aircraft carriers typically.

So, joining us now to talk about this is a retired U.S. Army Major Mike Lyons. I mean, this is a weapon that is notoriously inaccurate. It is designed to hit large spaces. And what do you make of the idea that here it is targeting this apartment complex where all of these people were living?

MAJ. MIKE LYONS (RET.), U.S. ARMY: So, Kaitlan, it's a weapon from the old cord war. It's designed, like I said, to hit those naval aircraft carriers because it attacks from a high altitude. And the problem Ukraine has with it is they can't detect it. There are no early warning systems right now. But that doesn't matter to Russia. Russia is using it as a weapon of terror. All they have to do is put it close to any of these built-up areas knowing it will hit something, in this case, unfortunately, hit that apartment building.

COLLINS: Yes. And so when you say, delivered at a high altitude is the sense of how does this kind of thing hit.


Because I was reading about this and they were saying that's why it can cause so much damage because of the way that it strikes. LYONS: Yes. Let show you on a map here. What happens is backfire bombers come from Russia here and come into the Black Sea. And what happens is -- it's about a 400-mile range and at about 30,000 feet, at a very high altitude, it releases its missile and then it comes down in this direction here, and then so any of these cities here along that coastline are threatened by this kind of weapon system because any of the early warning systems that Ukraine has can't pick it up from that level of altitude.

COLLINS: Is the sense that they were even actually aiming for this apartment complex or were they just aiming for Dnipro area generally?

LYONS: They were just hitting that main built-up area using it as a weapon of terror. This is old technology, but, again, they don't have -- it flies at supersonic speed. Ukraine doesn't have anything from an early warning detection perspective.

COLLINS: Which raises questions at what they do have. I know the United States is obviously sending that one Patriot missile defense system, but it seems like that is just really a drop in the bucket. They would need much more than just that one system to combat this.

LYONS: That's right. They need five or six. If you had a patriot battery in any of these areas here, it would protect all along the coastline into Odessa, make sure any that of these early warning systems that are coming from 400 miles or so away would at least would have a chance. Right now, one Patriot battery likely just protects Kyiv and that's it. But any of these other built-up areas are going to be unfortunately exposed to this kind of terror weapon.

COLLINS: So, this is clearly a case that they do need more?

LYONS: I think that's what the Ukraine Defense Minister was saying when they said, we don't have the capability to do it. Because with that standoff, the Russians have the capability to fire this as a standoff distance that they can't defend it.

COLLINS: Yes. Major Mike Lyons, thank you for that. It's really good perspective, really important too.

LEMON: All right. This morning, police in Texas launching a criminal investigation after a clouded leopard escaped from its zoo enclosure. Officials say the fence the four-year-old leopard named Nova escaped from was intentionally cut. The Dallas Zoo was forced to shut down Friday as workers searched for Nova. They did not consider her a threat to humans. They eventually located her near the original habitat and they were all -- they were able to safely secure her. She is being evaluated but does not appear to be injured. So, officials also found a similar cut in a monkey enclosure. No monkeys are on the loose.

HARLOW: Well, this morning, chilling video shows a toddler in Indiana waving around and pulling the trigger of a loaded handgun. This actually happened on live television. Body camera footage shows police speaking with neighbors after they discovered the little boy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I opened the door he went to flip it up. I shut the door, told everyone to get away from the door, like he has a gun.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I met a toddler with a diaper is walking around with a handgun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It took out that long to get to him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it takes that long for the dispatch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no. Talking about the (BLEEP) parents upstairs!


HARLOW: Jean Casarez has been following this story and joins us now. How, how, how?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is amazing, all caught on police bodycam. So, I just want to take you through it. This is Beach Grove, Indiana. And what happened is that the officers were called to an apartment complex because of a toddler with a gun. And so they get there and one of the neighbors is standing right there and she begins to tell them, I saw this toddler, he was waving around a gun, a real gun. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So my son opened the door and there's a little boy upstairs that's standing there with a firearm.

And I looked out the peep hole and he was standing there.


CASAREZ: She went on to say that she looked through the peephole and there he was hands behind his back and he points the gun and says look what I've got. That's what she said. So, officers go to the apartment. You're going to watch them going into the apartment right now, and they said to the father, we believe your toddler had a gun. That's what they're saying. We've got to search. And they searched high and low in that apartment to see if they could find any gun. And you watch that. And they didn't find anything. Father said there is no gun here.

He did say, you know, relative of mine comes and he leaves gun every now and then, but he said, my son is quick. I can't catch him all the time. So, officers have to leave. They don't have a gun. And so they come back, tell the neighbor, we couldn't find the gun. One of the officers stays back and she summons them to her iPhone, and lo and behold, she has got ring video from a neighbor that shows the toddler in the entranceway of the apartment complex with a gun waving it around, pulling the trigger. And so --

HARLOW: While they're looking for it? CASAREZ: Well, they go back to the apartment now. There is a gun. And they go in the apartment, they search high and low, they find the gun. And from my observation of that video, they find it in a desk -- carefully placed in a desk.


The officer immediately unloads it. There were 15 rounds in that gun, but none of them were chambered. And because of that, as the toddler in diapers basically was pulling the trigger, it didn't go off. Father arrested, charged with neglect at this point. These are arresting charges. Remember, he said there's no gun. So, his state of mind, maybe he didn't know about the gun. However, the way it was placed where it was, could the toddler have put it back? That's going to be a pivotal question, and prosecutors can add more charges to this.

HARLOW: Jean Casarez, thank you.

Can you imagine?

LEMON: Boy, oh, boy.

COLLINS: Up next, we're going to be joined by a county commissioner on the other top story we're talking about this morning in New Mexico. She was inside her home when was shot at. Now, police say an election denier and former Republican candidate who lost his election is responsible. We're going to get reaction from her. That's next.



COLLINS: This morning, a former Republican candidate in New Mexico is under arrest and facing charges in connection with a series of shootings targeting the homes of local Democratic elected officials. Solomon Pena is an election-denying Trump supporting Republican who did not concede his state house race even though he lost in a landslide in November. And police say that he paid other people to carry out four shootings but also taking part in the last one himself.


MAYOR TIM KELLER (D-Albuquerque, NM): This type of radicalism is a threat to our nation and it has made its way to our doorstep, right here in Albuquerque, New Mexico. But I know here we are going to push back and we will not allow this to cross the thresholds.

Fundamentally, at the end of the day, this was an a right-ring radical, election denier who was arrested today and someone who did the worst imaginable thing you can do when you have a political disagreement, which is turn that to violence. That should never be the case.


COLLINS: The attacks on two state legislators and two county commissioners began in December after Pena showed up to their homes to protest his November election loss. The first shooting happened December 4th at the Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa's home. She's joining us now. Good morning and thank you for being here. I can't even imagine what you're feeling as you're seeing the developments of what happened here. But I guess my first question is just, do you believe that this was motivated by the fact that he was upset over losing his election?

ADRIANN BARBOA (D) BERNALILLO COUNTY COMMISSIONER: Yes. I believe, you know, from when it happened, I'm still shocked, you know. When it happened, I knew that that's what we see most pressing, was people being aggressive around denying the elections. So, I feel like, yes, I feel like it was due to really larger people thinking that, you know, that this is possible, that this is okay, our elected officials, putting violence when we're in a position like this.

COLLINS: And he actually showed up at your house after he lost his election. When was that and what did he say to you?

BARBOA: Yes. He came to my house after the election, and he is an election denier. He weaponized those dangerous thoughts to threaten me and others causing serious trauma. Yes, he was saying that the elections were fake, really speaking erratically. I didn't feel threatened at the time but I did feel like he was erratic.

COLLINS: Do you feel safe now? Do you feel safer now that he's been arrested?

BARBOA: I feel grateful that he's not out there to attack or target any other or anyone else. You know, I am still shocked. You know, in New Mexico we have actual access to our elected officials. And so I'm relieved to hear that people won't be targeted in this way by him any longer.

COLLINS: I want to show to our viewers what you said in a statement after he was arrested. You said, Solomon Pena is an election denier. He weaponized those dangerous thoughts to threaten me and others causing serious trauma. When politicians at the highest levels of our government continue to make threats and violence a regular part of the public discourse, it has real impacts on our democracy and our lives. What does all of this say to you about political extremism in the United States?

BARBOA: You know, when politicians at our highest level of government continue to make threats and violence a regular part of public discourse, it has real impacts on our democracy and our real lives. I was -- a shot came through my home right where I just hours before had been playing with my granddaughter.

COLLINS: And you were saying that your daughter doesn't feel safe bringing your granddaughter over since that?

BARBOA: Yes. It's been painful to be a brand new grandma and my daughter does such a great job bringing her over and for the last month-and-a-half hasn't, because of this, right? COLLINS: Commissioner, we're sorry that you had to go through this and it is even something that we're having a conversation about. But we're really glad that you came on to share your experience with us. Commissioner Adriann Barboa, thank you.

BARBOA: Thank you. Too many of us experience this. We must change it.

COLLINS: Thank you so much.

LEMON: She's right, unacceptable, unacceptable.

The U.S. is just days away from hitting its debt limit. So, what are lawmakers doing about it? Senator Chris Coons is going to join us live from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

HARLOW: And a surreal rescue at sea passengers on a cruise ship saving migrants who were stranded on a boat. Wait until you see it.



LEMON: Welcome back, everyone, could CNN This Morning. Sober curious bars? What is driving Millennials and Gen-Z to alcohol-free hot spots? We'll discuss that straight ahead.

We're going to get reaction to the internet's wild interpretations of the new MLK Jr. statue in Boston. The sculpture will joins us live.

Plus, why schools in Virginia are withholding awards from students.

COLLINS: Also this morning, China says it's in talks with the U.S. ahead of Secretary of State Antony Blinken's highly anticipated visit to the country next month. Blinken is reportedly set to meet with the Chinese foreign minister February 5th and 6th. It comes as the U.S. and China continue to butt heads over issues, including trading, Taiwan, Beijing's human rights record. Chinese officials say they are working with the United States on Blinken's itinerary and they hope the countries can resume a healthy and stable course of development.

HARLOW: Only two days until the United States is expected to hit its debt limit. That is bad, but the Treasury Department can move money around to keep us from defaulting on our debt, at least for now, but those so-called extraordinary measures, they only last a few months.


After that, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has a dire warning, defaulting would cause irreparable harm to the United States.