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Police Praise Heroes Who Disarmed Gunman; FBI Finds More Classified Docs in Voluntary Search of Biden's Home; Biden's Next Chief of Staff is Known as 'Master Implementer'. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired January 23, 2023 - 06:00   ET


ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: To get any more snow today. But here's the interesting thing, Christine. You actually have some Southern cities that have picked up more snow than New York, including Atlanta, Nashville, and Memphis.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR/CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Whoa. Wow. That's crazy. All right, nice to see you, Allison Chinchar. Thank you so much.

And thanks for joining me. I'm Christine Romans. CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.


SHERIFF ROBERT LUNA, LOS ANGELES COUNTY: The look in the eyes of the homicide investigators and all of their staff, you could just tell they were going to get this guy.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I am live this morning in Monterey Park, California, the scene of America's deadliest mass shooting since Uvalde. Poppy and Kaitlan are in New York.

Police say that the gunman is dead after a massive manhunt and SWAT team standoff. What we're learning now about the shooter and his connection to the dance studio where 10 people were killed.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, the FBI has searched President Biden's private home over the weekend, finding more classified documents inside. Could additional searches be on the way?

And --




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: That is Graceland bidding a final farewell to Elvis's daughter, Lisa Marie Presley.

LEMON: We'll get to all of those stories in just a moment. We're going to begin with the mass shooting here in Southern California.

The massacre striking terror into the Asian-American community, as it celebrated the Lunar New Year.

Now, investigators saying that the gunman shot and killed himself in this cargo van that you're looking at right now when police finally caught up to him, hours after the rampage.

The sheriff has identified the shooter as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran.

This all began Saturday night. The sheriff says Tran opened fire at a ballroom dance studio here in Monterey Park, killing 10 people and wounding 10 others.

And we're told that he then went to another dance hall in a nearby city, Alhambra, where some quick-thinking bystanders jumped into action and took away his gun, but he managed to escape in his van.

The sheriff says the gunman was a -- the gun, I should say, was a semiautomatic pistol, which he believes is illegal here in California.

Investigators are still piecing together the motive, but CNN is learning that the suspect was a regular patron at the dance studio of the attack, and that's where he met his ex-wife.

Kyung Lah joins me live here on the scene, as we stand in front of this. Kyung, this is a very disturbing story. No rhyme or reason. Three different locations.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very difficult to understand, especially for this community. Because this was the first new year -- Lunar New Year celebration, the festival for the city, the very first one since COVID. A chance for this community to reconnect, to reengage after all of this anti-Asian racism, only to have one of their own commit this heinous crime.


REP. JUDY CHU (D-CA): What I want to do here is to say to the community, feel safe. You are no longer in danger.

LAH (voice-over): The Monterey Park shooting suspect is dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, following a police standoff Sunday. Law enforcement tracked a white cargo van that fit the description of a vehicle of interest from the shooting.

For hours, SWAT officers tried to get the occupant of the vehicle to surrender, until what officers believe was a gunshot heard from inside the vehicle.

LUNA: Homicide detectives are working around the clock, gathering additional information, and working on determining the motive behind this extremely tragic event. LAH (voice-over): Law enforcement sources tell CNN the suspect may

have sought medical treatment shortly before the standoff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is unbelievable. This is terrible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To see this happen in this place is shattering.

LAH (voice-over): The 72-year-old alleged shooter opened fire at a dance studio where the city's large Asian-American community was celebrating the Lunar New Year Saturday night.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Additional units requested. Multiple victims, gunshot wounds.

LAH (voice-over): The gunman then left the scene and targeted another neighboring dance studio with a semiautomatic weapon, before it was wrestled from him.

LUNA: The suspect went to the Alhambra location after he conducted the shooting, and he was disarmed by two community members, who I consider to be heroes, because they saved lives.

LAH (voice-over): The alleged shooter is Asian-American and believed to have acted alone. He was a regular patron of the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, even meeting his ex-wife there, according to three people who knew him.

MAYOR HENRY LO, MONTEREY PARK, CALIFORNIA: I have confidence that we will -- we will get over this crisis, because we must. And we've been -- we will only do so if we do it together as a community.


LAH (voice-over): Ten people were pronounced dead at the scene, making this mass shooting the deadliest since the Uvalde Elementary School shooting last May.

The sheriff described many of the victims as likely being in their 50s, 60s or older.

This tragedy marks the 33rd mass shooting so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

LUNA: Gun violence needs to stop.

And I hope that this tragedy doesn't just go on a long list of many others that we don't even talk about until the next one comes up.


LAH: We are getting a stunning eyewitness view from that second dance studio, the one in Alhambra, just near this Monterey Park location.

Brandon Tsay tells "The New York Times" -- and he's the one who wrestled the gun away from this gunman. He tells "The New York Times," quote, "He was looking at me and looking around, not hiding that he was trying to do harm. His eyes were menacing -- from his body language, his facial expression, his eyes, he was looking for people."

And that gun, Don, is what eventually got police tracking -- you know, finding this -- unraveling this entire case.

LEMON: It's interesting, because they said that the gun is what got them unraveling, as you said, the entire case. But they're saying that the gun was illegal here in California.

But I wonder if it was modified and how they were able to identify him through the gun, if it was an illegal gun. But those are details that we'll find out as the investigation continues.

I want you to stand by, Kyung, with your reporting. I want to bring in now retired LAPD sergeant, Cheryl Dorsey.

Thank you, Sergeant, for joining us. We really appreciate it this morning.

Your assessment? We've been saying -- We're going to talk about the law enforcement response to this. But make sense of that -- this. Is there any way to make sense of the three different locations? Was there anger? Was there hate? What is going on here, because he is an Asian-American.

CHERYL DORSEY, RETIRED LAPD SERGEANT: Well, you know what? My gut tells me is that he had beef with that particular community. I mean, we understand all the victims were basically his contemporaries, people who were in their 50s, 60s, and 70s.

And so before I knew, factually, that he actually was a frequent visitor at this particular dance hall, that he had a familial relationship, his ex-wife, having met her there, I knew that there was something personal about those two locations.

He went to Monterey Park first, did what he did there, and then tried to duplicate that in Alhambra, but for those heroic people who took the gun away from him, prevented another tragedy from occurring there.

And so we'll have to find out the why, because that's the thing that everybody wants to know, is why he acted out the way that he did.

LEMON: Let's talk about this weapon, because it is a semiautomatic pistol. It is believed that they were able to identify, figure out who he was, through the pistol. But then the sheriff, L.A. County Sheriff Richard Luna, saying that it was illegal here in California. Can you help us put that together?

DORSEY: It doesn't really make sense to me, right? If it's an illegal gun, then that would make me think that he possessed it illegally, he was able to obtain it illegally. Therefore, there wouldn't be a record, right? He wouldn't be a real registered owner that we would be able to track, as we would if the gun had been purchased legally at a gun store and the like.

So I'm very curious as to how they were able to reconcile the two. LEMON: Everything is very close together. If you look at where the

police station or city hall is. You look at here, where we're standing in front of the Star Dance Studio here in Monterey Park. It's very small. Police were here within three minutes. What do you think of their response?

DORSEY: Well, obviously, you know, L.A. County Sheriff's is a large agency, much like LAPD. And you know, we train for these kinds of situations. The officers did exactly what it is that they're trained and taught to do. And we saw saw something very similar when the SWAT officers engaged the suspect in Torrance.

And so thankfully, not more occurred. The officers were able to quickly ascertain what they needed in terms of identifying the vehicle that the person was in, getting pictures, and putting that out there, so that everyone within Southern Los Angeles could be on the lookout for this van and the suspect.

LEMON: Yes, they were able to apprehend him in less than 24 hours. It is -- it's interesting to me, as well, that the L.A. County sheriff, at least the Lunar Park [SIC], I should say, police chief, talked about these were young officers who had been on the job for maybe training and seven months or so total, in total.

DORSEY: You know, what a lot of people don't know about the L.A. County Sheriffs is that most of them start off in the jails. Right? You start off working as a detention officer. You're in the jail. And then after so many years, you kind of get your stripes, if you will, and you come out into the streets and you work patrol.

So it's not uncommon to encounter an officer, a deputy who really doesn't have a lot of street experience. But yet, these officers were clearly well-trained and relied on that training and knew exactly what to do in this instance. They didn't hesitate for a moment and saved lives, no doubt.

LEMON: One of the words he used yesterday was that they had not been prepared for the carnage that they saw, and that was extensive.


DORSEY: How can you? I mean, even a veteran officer probably would have been shaken to their core to see the kind of death and destruction that went on in that town -- in that dance hall.

And so the fact that these officers were young on the job certainly doesn't speak to their inexperience, you know. They knew what to do. They were well-trained, and they acted on that.

LEMON: It just speaks to the trauma that the community is feeling here. The victims of that trauma, and police are part. They're victimized, as well, by this.

Kyung, you're part of the Asian-American community here. And if you don't mind a personal story, because you're familiar with the community. Your mother, even, was preparing to -- to go to some of these Lunar New Year celebrations.

LAH: We were here this weekend, on Saturday, the day before the shooting. So my mother lives about 5, 10 minutes away from Monterey Park.

We -- these are the restaurants. My grocery store is here. The Costco has Asian-American items all over the place.

Here in Monterey Park, it is as if the entire Asian diaspora is connected and moving together. You can eat, in one block, a Chinese meal, Korean meal, a Japanese meal, you can shop, and everyone is insulated.

And I'm guilty of this, too. When you are here among your own people, you let down your guard.

So were there signs? Did people see something? Did they even know what they were?

And we already talk about looking for the signs of a mass shooter in our elementary schools.

LEMON: Right.

LAH: So did anyone see anything? And did they know how to communicate it to the police? And we were just chatting about, if you don't know how to talk to the police, if they don't speak your same language, talk to your kids so that they can communicate for you.

LEMON: All the city leaders here are saying -- including the L.A. County sheriff, saying that people should feel safe, because the person who committed this is no longer with us. But there's definitely no longer a sense of celebration that had just, you know, been in place here over the weekend.

Kyung, thank you.

Sergeant, thank you. We appreciate it.

Poppy and Kaitlan, we're standing right here in front of -- of where this happened. And there's a makeshift memorial that you can see people have been coming by and paying their respects. But a traumatized community here. Everyone trying to figure out why. No answers.

HARLOW: And Don, another bloodstained weekend in America.

In Atlanta, a 13-year-old boy was shot and killed on the city's West Side. That city has seen quite a spike in deadly shootings involving children under the age of 16. There is no information on a suspect or suspects that has been released.

The mayor says domestic disputes involving guns are also on the rise in Atlanta.

And also in North Shreveport, Louisiana, eight people were injured, including three children under the age of 10 in a drive-by shooting. This happened just yesterday afternoon. Two of the victims' injuries are critical.

Witnesses say multiple suspects fired at least 40 times into a home, and a motive for that shooting is still unknown.

COLLINS: On top of all that, 12 people were hurt in a mass shooting early Sunday at a nightclub in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Police say they believe the incident was a targeted attack.

Witnesses say that a fight broke out between two groups, and several people pulled out guns and began shooting. The chief of police there told CNN that it could have actually been much worse.


CHIEF MURPHY J. PAUL JR., BATON ROUGE POLICE: There were Baton Rouge Police officers outside in the parking lot, who immediately responded to the shooting incident. Those police officers immediately responded to the threat. And we believe their immediate response prevented further injuries.


COLLINS: Right now police do not have a motive for the shooting. No suspects are in custody.

HARLOW: Ahead, the FBI is still searching President -- did search, as you know, Friday, President Biden's private home and found more classified documents. What we're learning about that latest batch, ahead.

COLLINS: Also, the White House's new strategy, targeting Republicans they see as vulnerable.




This morning, the investigation into President Biden's handling of classified documents has certainly escalated after the FBI discovered another batch of documents marked classified at the president's home on Friday.

This is the fourth time that classified documents have been found at a private address of Biden's since November.

Paula Reid joins us now with more.

I mean, this was a really significant development. Yes, there was complete cooperation by the Biden team and the lawyers, but the FBI was in the current president's private home, and they found classified documents, more of them.



REID: The FBI searching the home of a sitting president for nearly 13 hours. And the president's attorneys say that during this search, six additional items were uncovered. It was unclear exactly what they mean by items. Does that mean pages, documents, boxes?

We're hear from our reporting that investigators are still combing through everything that they took. We also know the president's attorneys received a receipt, an accounting of everything that was taken.

Now, previously, this house had been searched by the president's personal attorneys. And they are emphasizing their cooperation in this matter as a way to differentiate this case from the ongoing investigation into former President Trump.

But look, even while the White House is trying to downplay this, this discovery, once again, raises questions about why there was classified material from Biden's time as vice president, possibly even from his time in the Senate, in his house, and how secure has it been while it's been sitting there?

HARLOW: And just to be clear, because the Senate part is unique and different, because he was chair, for part of his time, of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Do we know what time period the documents were found that were from his time as senator, or we don't know?

REID: No. What's interesting is the way the statement is designed, it's unclear if that was classified information or if that was additional supporting information that was scooped up.

But Poppy, it was really interesting is we are seeing a difference in the approach here, right? Because they have faced a lot of questions about why it took them so long to search these houses, why they were letting personal attorneys do it, and why they weren't more transparent.

But here, in their statement, while not everything was crystal-clear in that statement, they did say they wanted to move this search along as expeditiously as possible, likely mindful of the upcoming campaign season.


The FBI did the search, and they released a statement within 24 hours. It was late on a Saturday, but they did release a statement within 24 hours.


REID: But the nature of this case has also changed. This is now a full-blown criminal investigation to be overseen by special counsel Robert Hur. Poppy, he's not on the job yet, but we're told he is expected to onboard soon. HARLOW: Just remarkable, two back-to-back presidents, two criminal

probes, those two special counsels. Paula, thank you. They'll certainly keep you busy. We appreciate it.


COLLINS: Yes, and that context there is so important for this next story, which this morning, as President Biden is entering this critical new phase of his presidency, he's got a new challenge on the horizon in a Republican-controlled House of Representatives and that expected 2024 campaign launch that Paula mentioned there.

President Biden's long-time choice chief of staff, Ron Klain, is stepping down from his role and will be replaced with the administration's former coronavirus response coordinator, Jeff Zients.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is live in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where President Biden is this Monday morning.

Arlette, this is a pretty big changing of the guard, maybe one of the most significant staffing changes that we've seen in the Biden administration. And it's also coming at a really critical time for the president.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, Kaitlan. It really is.

You know, Jeff Zients may not be a common household name, but pretty soon, he will be one most of the powerful figures in Washington, as he is set to replace Ron Klain as chief of staff over at the White House.

Zients led the coronavirus response for the White House until last spring. And he also was recently brought in to try to help identify senior staff to fill -- come into the White House, should there be some turnover.

But so far we really have seen very little turnover within this administration.

Now, President Biden landed on Zients for this job, in part because it became clear, sources say, that White House chief of staff Ron Klain favored him as his replacement.

And also, this comes at a very critical period when it comes to what the president is trying to accomplish in the coming years.

One thing that much of the next two years will focus on will be implementing some of the laws that President Biden got passed up on Capitol Hill.

And when you talk to people at the White House, talk to sources, Zients is known as a man who can get some things done. If you think of the large vaccination campaign that happened with the coronavirus. Back in 2013, he was brought in to fix the launch after some website woes. But certainly, this is a very critical juncture for President Biden as

he's facing that special counsel investigation and also expected battles with the Republicans on Capitol Hill.

COLLINS: Yes. It's always a difficult job but especially so now. Arlette, thank you so much for that report.

Ahead, we're going to continue our coverage of the mass shooting in Monterey Park. Don is on the ground. We'll tell you what we're learning about the gunman, the evidence that's been found by the police, and now, as they are searching, what was his motive?



LEMON: Live now, there's a makeshift memorial in front of the Star Dance Studio here in Monterey Park, California, this morning, the scene of America's latest mass shooting, sadly.

Investigators are searching the home of the gunman, who slaughtered ten people at the dance hall here in Southern California, left ten others injured.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff says that the gunman shot and killed himself inside his van hours when police finally tracked him down, hours after the mass shooting.

CNN is learning that 72-year-old suspect Huu Can Tran used to be a regular at the same dance hall, and it was where he met his ex-wife.

Now, she tells CNN that her ex-husband was quick to anger and would become upset if she made a mistake when they danced, because he thought it made him look bad.

There's lots to discuss with our very own -- very own Josh Campbell, a law enforcement expert.

Josh, good morning to you. Let's talk about the timeline here, because it's so interesting. We have three different scenes. We do have police managing to get the suspect within less than 24 hours. But certainly, he made -- made his way around the community here, causing carnage.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: He did. And this was quite a distance that he covered.

So this starts Saturday evening, 10:22 p.m., a 911 call comes in of shots fired here in this dance studio. Police arrived. This was a scene of chaos, people coming out screaming, authorities trying to identify where the shooter was.

They knew soon after that he wasn't on location. He actually traveled to the city of Alhambra, which is not far from here, to another dance studio.

And it was the -- according to police, the brave people inside that location that were able to disarm him.

He then flees. The gun is left behind, and authorities are able to gather intelligence from that gun. They know who they're looking for now. And it wasn't until yesterday, on Sunday that authorities pushed -- you know, pushed out this information across the Los Angeles area. They were looking for a white cargo van.

And I can tell you, I was a law enforcement here in L.A. These agencies are fused together, regularly sharing information. And it was an officer in the city of Torrance, which is about 30 miles from where we're standi, sees the vehicle, tries to execute a traffic stop.

Officers hear one shot fired. They seek cover. They back up. And then we see that standoff. You know, we saw the video of the Bearcats coming in, the tactical vehicles. They hem in this van.

And eventually, the on-scene commander makes the decision that we're going to get in a stack. They had their ballistic shields. They go in. They breach the passenger window. They find him dead.

LEMON: Slumped over the wheel. But here's the interesting part. Because a couple of interesting things here. They weren't exactly sure. We're told at the press conference last night that there were different plates on the van, and so they weren't sure it was him. So this was a traffic stop, and they were trying to make sure it was him, because they had -- obviously, they were looking for a white cargo van.

CAMPBELL: That's right. And, you know, officers obviously will -- they will react based on what a suspect does. So if they're trying to execute a traffic stop and this person tries to flee, even if they don't know this is the suspect from the shooting, they're still going to try to obviously take that person into custody.

The more they started to glean, obviously, they had the van. They have a person who is not communicating with them. They're starting to realize what they're doing.

A law enforcement source told me yesterday that this was believed to be related to this incident, so they knew very quickly that this was likely the person they were dealing with.

LEMON: Let's talk quickly about.