Return to Transcripts main page
CNN This Morning
Memphis Releases Video Of Deadly Police Beating; Five Former Memphis Police Officer Involved In Arrest Charged With Second-Degree Murder And Kidnapping; Protest Break Out After Video Of Nichols Arrest Released. Aired 7-8a ET
Aired January 28, 2023 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and welcome to CNN THIS MORNING WEEKEND. I'm Boris Sanchez live in Memphis, Tennessee, a city that's still processing the horror caught on camera. The horrific beating of Tyre Nichols at the hands of police.
AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, Boris. I'm Amara Walker here in Atlanta. A video of that encounter from start to finish was released by the city of Memphis last night, giving the public its first glimpse into what happened on that night.
SANCHEZ: Now, the four clips are each taken from different perspectives, but they all show a deadly encounter between Tyre Nichols, and Memphis police officers earlier this month.
WALKER: The images are graphic, they're disturbing and heartbreaking, but they are critical to understanding the gravity of what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TYRE NICHOLS, VICTIM OF POLICE BEATING: I didn't do anything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turn your ass down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. All right. All right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get on the fucking ground.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALKER: We see and hear a lot. What we do not see is Nichols being pulled over from what was alleged to be reckless driving, but the first clip is from an officer arriving at the scene of this traffic stop. Nichols is a yanked from the car, he's forced to the pavement as you see him there. It's not known why officers appear so agitated or riled up as a police chief said of Memphis at this point, but the situation escalates rapidly. Nichols managed to run away but was soon surrounded. This is where he ended up. This is a second location. This police surveillance video from a pole cam shows Nichols being punched and kicked at least nine times in less than four minutes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICHOLS: Mom! Mom!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch out. Watch out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: This is what was happening on the ground as recorded by another police body cam. You see that Nichols struggles to get on his feet as he was struck with the baton. Officers continue to try to pull him to the ground, punching him in the face repeatedly before he falls back to his knees. And you heard him there, multiple times crying out for his mother. After several minutes, the officers leave Nichols slumped over and badly injured, at no time do any of them appear to render aid.
In fact, it would be a significant amount of time before an ambulance finally arrives, with apparently nothing done for him in the meantime. Five of those reporting officers had been fired. They're now facing second-degree murder, kidnapping, and other charges. And the follow up continues this morning following the release of the video two deputies with the Shelby County Sheriff's Office are on leave pending an investigation related to their involvement in the incident.
WALKER: And I do want to mention as you said, you hear him calling out for his mom. Of course, it's just heartbreaking to hear him call out for his mom three times, but it's also significant because he was just about 100 yards from his home when all of this happened. In cities across the U.S. -- New York to Atlanta, San Francisco, and Dallas. You can see their demonstrators were out and about on the streets voicing their frustration and anger with police killings that seem to continually happen in our society. Officials in some cities prepared for the worst, worried the protests could get out of hand, but things remain largely calm and peaceful. Most people, apparently, heeding those calls directly from Tyre Nichols' family to march peacefully.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROWVAUGH WELLS, TYRE NICHOLS' MOTHER: I just want to ask to pray for my family. This whole community -- and I want to say to the five police officers dead murdered my son: you all disgraced your own families for doing this. But you know what, I'm going to pray for you and your families, because at the end of the day, this did happen, this just (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALKER: Nichols' stepfather who watched the horrific video said that there's a few things that stood out to him. He said he was appalled by the lack of compassion shown to Tyre Nichols after the brutal beating at the hands of those officers. He describes how they either ignored him or hurled obscenities at him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RODNEY WELLS, TYRE NICHOLS' STEPFATHER: And officer walked over to him and said, "sit back up -- " M.F., you know, and while he's handcuffed, so he had a popping back up, and he slumped over again, and they popping back off again, but no one was rendering aid. I saw some fire department people come out there and they just walked around. Nobody showed him any aid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Medical experts say that Nichols probably died of internal injuries from blunt force trauma. Now, at this point, we don't know the specific cause of death for Tyre. According to the preliminary results of an autopsy that was commissioned by attorneys for his family, he did suffer extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating.
WALKER: Now, medical experts tell CNN he probably died from internal injuries from blunt force trauma. CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, tells us more about the possible injuries, Nichols may have suffered.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is just horrific to watch even as a trauma neurosurgeon myself. I've never seen anything quite like that. You don't -- you often see patients who are brought into the hospital, but you don't see that, that sort of just horrific beating that he took over those several minutes. When you, when you look at this sort of thing, there's obviously so many different injuries that he could have sustained at the time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA (voiceover): I think one of the areas that people probably paid a lot attention to was just all these blows he took to his head and to his face. He was restrained at one point, taking fists to the face and he was being kicked in the face when he was on the ground. What can happen sometimes is that the brain is the one organ in the body, that when it's starting to swell, it really has no place to go because it's encased by the skull. Every other organ in the body can swell a little bit more easily.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA: Brain swelling can start to take place and one can start to lapse in and out of consciousness as seemed to be happening with, with, with Mr. Nichols. I watched the videos alongside medical examiner's from around the country, and that was the area that they really pointed to was these, these blows to the head. But it's also worth noting that he's a pretty skinny guy from we understand. And there were kicks to the body, to the torso, to the chest, as well. And any of those organs may have actually sustained damage and started bleeding as well, could have been suffering from internal bleeding at the time that all this was happening. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA (voiceover): And that brings us to the to the next point, which I think is critically important. When you look at sort of the timeline of what was happening there. It was around 8:33 or so 8:34 when you see this last kick that he sustained, and then he was handcuffed and dragged over to the car. And then it's eight minutes later before we see EMS even arrive, but it's not until around 9:02. So, 20 minutes after that, 21 minutes after that almost half an hour in total before you see a gurney arrive.
So, you have a critically ill man who's lying on the sidewalk, sustained all these injuries, hard to say, the extent of the injuries or even how serious they are at that point. Obviously, they are serious, but what exactly is the most serious is difficult to ascertain. And it's a full half an hour before he's really assessed. You hear at various times that it's going to take a while for the ambulance to get there. And that's, that's obviously very problematic. He needed to be in a hospital whether or not it would have made a difference ultimately, that's hard to say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA: And we'll get more information, you know, probably over the coming few days as to exactly what caused his death. We don't have a firm cause of death yet from the County Medical Examiner. But watching that video, looking at that timeline, you can get really get a sense of what happened to him and what happened to him in the days that followed.
SANCHEZ: Our thanks to Sanjay Gupta for his expertise. Now that the video of Tyre Nichols' beating has been made public. Where do things go from here? Let's invite CNN Law Enforcement Analyst, Jonathan Wackrow, into the conversation. He's a former Secret Service Agent. Jonathan, always great to have you, appreciate you getting up early for us. First of all, what was your reaction to seeing what we saw on video?
JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, good morning. It's hard to say but the nation had a front row seat last night to a killing. I mean we watched at the edge of our seat the absolute abject failure by these police officers. And the consequence of that failure, obviously, is this tragic loss of life. And more broadly, it further undermines police legitimacy in communities across the country. This is not a Memphis issue. This is a national issue. So, there's a lot of consequences to what we witnessed last night. And the police action that, that I saw in those videos was horrific. It is the worst that I had ever seen or heard from my professional experience in law enforcement, and now as a law enforcement consultant, I had never seen anything like this before.
SANCHEZ: So far, officials have told us that they haven't been able to substantiate the claim that Nichols was driving recklessly. Supposedly, this was a traffic stop, right? But given what you see in that video, is there anything in the footage that tells you why he was almost immediately ripped out of the car? And did you see anything that you think would have led the officers to believe he was a threat?
WACKROW: No, I mean, in the use of force that was applied to Mr. Nichols from the initial contact right, from that initial moment that we saw the video, ripping them out of the car, the lack of clear and concise, lawful commands. You had officers yelling and screaming in profanity. There was a misapplied use of force right from the very beginning. It was really a combination of poor policing tactics, that rapidly trans, you know, transcended into just reckless, unjustified physical assault. I don't know a police academy in the United States or around the world that has as part of their policing tactics, kicking somebody in the head, restraining their arms, punching him in the head. I mean, that is absolutely an assault that we witnessed, and it was gut-wrenching.
SANCHEZ: So, there have been escalating concerns about crime here in Memphis. In fact, FBI data shows it is one of the most violent metro areas in the country, there were nearly 650 murders here in the last two years. And that's part of the reason that these so-called Scorpion teams exist. All five officers were members of that team, there are many like them across the country, these specialized units. Is it time to reevaluate that approach in places like Memphis?
WACKROW: Well, well, Boris, around the country, we're seeing a rise in violent crime. So, these squads, the Scorpion Squad, Anti-Crime Squad, you can put any naming convention on there that you want, the intent of these specialized units is to reduce violent crime, specifically gun violence. And what they do is it actually gives police commanders greater ability and flexibility to put officers into hotspot areas where violent crime is rising. But the but these organizations, these units need to have very strict controls -- they need supervision. And that's one thing we did not see in this video at all, was a level of command. We saw reckless officers unmitigated without a command structure dictating what they should be doing.
Now, let me just go back to the, these units, there needs to be a balance between reasonable outputs by these, these, these groups, and those reasonable outputs are arrest, right? You want to take your violent criminals off the ground, but more importantly, there needs to be a positive community outcome. You know, when you have policing action, right? I can't just go into a neighborhood, arrest everybody violently and think that that makes the community be safer. There has to be this balance, and that's the struggle that Chief Davis has, but it's a struggle that law enforcement commanders across the country have every single day -- is that balance between, you know, positive community outputs, or outcomes with policing outputs.
SANCHEZ: So, after the initial failure that we saw from the Memphis Police Department in dealing with Tyre Nichols' traffic stop. We sort of saw a, a reversal, the police chief here, C.J. Davis, the way people have described her handling of the situation including Tyre Nichols family attorney, Ben Crump, he described it as a blueprint for how police departments should handle these sorts of incidents in the future. Immediately, the police -- the, the officers were fired. They were soon after charge and then the videos were made public and an effort for transparency. Do you agree that this is a blueprint for the way that these officer-involved killings should be handled in the future?
WACKROW: Well, hopefully, we don't have these in the future, Boris, right? Hopefully, we take this moment and not sit here again in a few months or a few years and have a tragic incident like that. But yes, Chief Davis, you've got up front, her compassion, transparency and holding officers accountable, are critical. And actually, we saw the benefit of that. Last night, we saw mass protests around the country, but they were peaceful, right? It wasn't leading into civil unrest, why? Because there was a measured tone coming from police commanders of empathy and compassion for this loss of life, and a commitment to do better.
And the Memphis Police Department has done -- it has taken steps in the past, but they admitted, the Chief Davis admitted that accountability needs to transcend throughout the entire department. And I would expect very quickly you're going to see a cultural diagnostic of that department to better understand how these officers and potentially others that we don't know, were able to act with such impunity in there on the street with, with, with this, with this suspect, and others. So, we have to get better; and that was the theme of Chief Davis yesterday in her interview with Don Lemon.
SANCHEZ: I'm with you. I hope that this turns into an inflection point as the mother of Tyre Nichols said that he was on an assignment from God and that this hopefully changes the relationship between law enforcement and these communities. Jonathan Wackrow, thank you so much for the time.
WACKROW: Thanks, Boris.
WALKER: Well, Boris and Jonathan, just touched on this, and as they mentioned, the police chief in Memphis is being hailed for her quick response and transparency when it came to Nichols' death. Coming up, we're going to speak to one former police chief who knows what it's like to have to deal with something just like this. She's going to join us next.
Plus, there are calls for disbanding of the Scorpion unit that some of these officers belong to. You're going to get an inside look at that unit, that specialized unit, and their purpose.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF CERELYN "C.J." DAVIS, MEMPHIS POLICE: I was, I was outraged. I was -- it was incomprehensible to me. It was unconscionable, and I felt that I needed to do something and do something quickly. I don't think I've witnessed anything of that nature in my entire career.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.
LEMON: That bad?
DAVIS: It was that bad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALKER: "It was that bad." And protesters took to the streets across several U.S. cities after authorities released that video from start to finish of the police beating of Tyre Nichols. From coast-to-coast, people marched to condemn the police violence and to demand justice for Tyre Nichols. Most of the protests were peaceful. However, a few of us were reported along with minor clashes with police. Here with me now to discuss this further is Erika Shields, she is the former Police Chief for the City of Atlanta and for Louisville, Kentucky. Welcome to you this morning. Thank you so much for joining me.
You know, I have to say, it felt like so many of us were bracing for what we were about to watch especially after hearing so many accounts of how people were reacting when they first saw the videos. Firstly, I'm curious to hear what your reaction was, and how you felt when you saw the video of the beating of Tyre Nichols. What stood out to you?
ERIKA SHIELDS, FORMER POLICE CHIEF OF ATLANTA: Good morning, I -- you know, I think, like others, I had a huge amount of angst because I've worked with Chief Davis and I came up through the department and Atlanta together. So, to see her, and see how she was processing, it gave me an indication of just how bad this was going to be. I was, I was disgusted, disgusted and appalled. And I just -- it was really, it was one of those moments that's pretty, it's just largely indescribable.
WALKER: The Memphis police chief, as you mentioned, Chief Davis said that, as part of this investigation, they will be taking a deeper dive into the backgrounds of these officers if they had any previous arrests. If there's previous video cameras, footage of other incidents that may have occurred, you believe that this is probably not the first time that some of these officers were involved in abuse?
SHIELDS: Yes, I mean, unfortunately, these types of -- not with these outcomes as being as tragic as this, but this these types of behaviors are not unique to Memphis. And this typically what you'll find is that there are other acts that clearly are violating at a minimum policy and or law. And so, I think that, that it is something that we will start to see other things surface, but it also goes to one of the things that I know Chief Davis does as other chiefs do around the country is constantly impress upon supervisory staff to use the body worn cameras as a tool, as a, as a behavior modifier, a training tool. And there's this tendency in law enforcement to go to the body worn camera in response to an incident, when the reality of it is you have to be auditing the performance of your employees on a regular basis so that you can get ahead of the behaviors that are not consistent with the law. WALKER: And to your point about body cams -- I mean, I think a lot of
people were asking this question. I mean, these officers are very aware that there are body cams on them, right? That we live in an age where things are also recorded by third parties. And for them to still behave in this way, to even, even the obscenities that were hurled at this man who, you know, was restrained and was calm, at least at the beginning, during the so, you know, "traffic stop." Talk to me about -- do you think that this, this specialized unit that some of these cops are a part of to help curb violent crime in Memphis, the, the scorpion unit. Do you think that this aggressive behavior that we saw may have had something to do with their training? Was it a mindset? I mean, how do you, how do we begin to understand this aggressiveness that we saw off-the-bat?
SHIELDS: When you see officers conducting themselves like this, and to your point, they know they're recorded, it goes to their level of comfort with their brazenness. They, they just they have no regard for the law or policy, it's about them. I think you have to be very careful to just take a paintbrush and say that these units are bad, because quite honestly, many units of this sort operate effectively and within the law and are critical to helping curb crime.
To me, this is not a training issue, per se. Because they beat a man to death. There's nothing in their training. There's nothing in their training that in any way said this was how you should conduct yourself. So, to dissect their performance based on tactics, to me, it's just they went out the window when they jumped out of the car, and they chose to operate as a game. Because really, that's what it was, it was getting into it.
WALKER: Right. Yes, a lot of people describing it as, as, as what you would see in a gang film, right? I mean, a bunch of thugs almost. Go ahead, finish your thought.
SHIELDS: Well, no, but I was going to say is I do think, though, that to the extent that you, I think that clearly this group of individuals had came out, they were just asked for on charge, and they were ready just with somebody. And so, that to me, says, OK, what is the temperament if nothing else, of the team? What is their supervisor doing? How engaged their supervisor, is their supervisor ever going on straight with them?
Not that they should have, have to have been there to tell them to stop killing somebody. But to what, to what level is the supervisory staff involved? Well, she touched on that, Chief Davis in saying that they did not -- one of the struggles she had, because she's not been there long, she's trying to drive change is that they don't, they don't have enough supervisors. And span of control is essential in units like this, because things can go wrong so quickly.
WALKER: Yes. So, I guess my next question is, I mean, moving forward, what can be done? I've heard, you know, from, from a police or law enforcement experts, you know, one of the solutions can be, you know, putting higher level officers, you know, in the front lines, but of course, that's a resource and recruitment issue as well. But sometimes in these cases, you know, we hear advocates also calling for more diversity and policing, right? But in this case, we have a female black police chief, who by the way, is, is being hailed for her transparency and her quick response. But also, we have five black officers. Is this more about police culture, more than, you know, making sure that we have a diverse police force?
SHIELDS: I think, you know, it is interesting, because one of the things that I've often spoken about, and I think sometimes falls on deaf ears is it -- the culture issue of policing is far more overwhelming than the impact of the diversity and the lack thereof in some agencies. And by that, I mean, you can have an agency as diverse as Memphis' and still have this. What I would say is, you -- the culture of this unit, if nothing else, has to be called into question.
And obviously, it was not designed with any sort of outcome in mind. But somewhere along the way, this unit has deviated from what the initial assignment was, and they've gone in the wrong direction. Because this, I saw I met what I envisioned to me when I say how did this happen? You have a group of guys, they're probably high performers. They bring in a lot of stats, and you're seeing crime go down in the city. And oh, by the way, the city's facing horrible, violent crime.
And so, their supervisor is happy, they come in, and they say, hey, sorry, you know, we took care of you tonight, this is what we got. But that sergeant is not really drilling down and seeing the quality of the arrest, how they made these arrests. This is how, this is how these things have happened in the past 20 years because we really became data-driven. And Chief Davis is not about numbers, she's been down this road, she knows that, she knows how this stuff goes wrong. But again, if the supervisory staff is not attuned to that, and they're not engaged enough, I do think this is where you could get an outcome like this.
WALKER: Just fascinating to get your take on everything, Erika Shields, really appreciate your time. Thank you very much for joining us.
SHIELDS: Thank you.
WALKER: All right. Coming up, as we just mentioned, the Memphis Police Scorpion Unit is under increasing scrutiny. We're going to take a look at this specialized unit that's at the center of Nichols' death. That's next.
SANCHEZ: Back here live in Memphis, Tennessee.
We've been discussing this morning about how some of the police officers facing second degree murder charges related to the killing of Tyre Nichols, where members of the city's so-called SCORPION Unit.
That unit has now been inactivated in the wake of Nichols' death, as the city conducts a review of all its specialized units.
But an attorney for the Nichols' family says the city should immediately disband the group.
CNN's Brian Todd takes a closer look inside this controversial unit.
ANTONIO ROMANUCCI, ATTORNEY FOR TYRE NICHOLS' FAMILY: -- asking Chief Davis to disband the Scorpion Unit, effective immediately.
The intent of the SCORPION Unit has now been corrupted.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): SCORPION, standing for, Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace In Our Neighborhoods is a specialized unit of the Memphis Police, created by the current chief, Cerelyn C.J. Davis in the fall of 2021, with a promo video, accompanying its launch.
Chief Davis told our Don Lemon, they needed a unit to address a surge of violent crimes in Memphis.
CERELYN J. DAVIS, CHIEF, MEMPHIS POLICE DEPARTMENT: This is one of three teams whose primary responsibility is to reduce gun violence, to be visible in communities, and to also impact the rise in the crime.
DAVIS: Basically out of -- out of an outcry from the community. We had record numbers in 2021, 346 homicides.
TODD: Chief Davis says the SCORPION Unit, at least, initially had great success.
DAVIS: Last year was the first year in a long time that we have reductions.
TODD: The Mayor's Office also touted SCORPION's early success. Saying, that between its inception in the fall of 2021 through January of 2022, the unit made 566 arrests, seized more than 250 weapons, 270 vehicles, and over $100,000 in cash.
But in its brief lifetime, there's already a history of tension between SCORPION officers and the community. Attorneys for Tyre Nichols family say the unit goes around in unmarked cars and is sometimes unnecessarily aggressive.
Family attorney Ben Crump relayed one account that a local man had also described to media outlets of his encounter with SCORPION.
BEN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR TYRE NICHOL'S FAMILY: There's a brother who said four or five days before this happened to Tyre that same SCORPION unit confronted him while he was in his car going to get pizza. And he said that they used all kind of profanity against him, they threw him on the ground, talking about where the drugs and where the weapons?
TODD: And Crump, said the officers pointed a gun at the man's head.
CNN has reached out to the Memphis Police for response to that account. We haven't heard back.
One law enforcement veteran described issues that often crump up with specialized units in city police departments.
DARRIN PORCHER, FORMER LIEUTENANT, NEW YORK POLICE DISTRICT: Generally speaking, we have an enforcement driven unit. These units have a greater propensity to rack up complaints against them based on excessive force. But the terminal piece in this is overall supervision.
So, I believe that we had a failure in supervision and there was no appropriate oversight to ensure that these officers were doing what they were supposed to do.
SANCHEZ: Our thanks to Brian Todd for that report.
Still to come in the next hour. As community leaders continue to appeal for peaceful protests, we're going to hear from the president of the Memphis NAACP on where the city goes from here.
Stay with us. CNN THIS MORNING is back in just a few moments.
AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's take a look now at some of the other stories we are following for you this morning.
Former Vice President Mike Pence saying he's responsible after classified documents were discovered in his Indiana home this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And while I was not aware that those classified documents were in our personal residence, let me be clear. Those classified documents should not have been in my personal residence. Mistakes were made and I take full responsibility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALKER: Classified documents have been found at the homes of President Biden, former President Trump, and now, Vice President Pence. And the FBI and DOJ are investigating.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits Egypt, Israel, and the West Bank this weekend as deadly Israeli-Palestinian violence escalates. Police say at least seven people were killed Friday near a Jerusalem synagogue, and they say the gunman was killed after a shootout with police. And earlier this week, Israeli forces killed nine Palestinians in a West Bank refugee camp.
And this is a remarkable story. No life-threatening injuries after a massive 85 car pileup on a Wisconsin Interstate. It happened in the middle of a winter snowstorm, with snow, and ice, and whiteout conditions on Friday afternoon.
Wisconsin State Patrol reports 21 people were taken to area hospitals. The highway was shut down for nearly eight hours before he was able to reopen.
Well, the Virginia school district, where a 6-year-old allegedly shot his teacher has fired its superintendent, and the vice principal of the school has resigned. Richneck vice principal, Ebony Parker resigned Wednesday, hours before the Newport News school board voted to oust Superintendent George Parker. Now, those moves come in the aftermath of the shooting earlier this month, when police say the first grader brought a gun to school and shot teacher Abby Zwerner.
The district has faced widespread criticism as well as allegations from Zwerner's attorney that school officials failed to act after several teachers and employees warn them that the child had a gun.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DIANE TOSCANO, ATTORNEY FOR ABBY ZWERNER: When a fourth employee who heard about the danger ask the administrator for permission to search the boy, he was denied. Tragically, almost an hour later, violence struck Richneck Elementary School.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALKER: The attorney announced she intends to file a lawsuit against the district on Zwerner's behalf. Since the shootings, Zwerner has been recovering from her injuries and the school has been closed. Students are scheduled to go back to class on Monday.
Now, lawmakers at the state level have been making moves to strengthen gun safety laws and improve school security. One proposed bill would require gun owners with children in the home to lock up their weapons and ammunition in separate areas. In separate locations. And amendment to a budget bill would set aside funds to change the layout of Richneck Elementary.
My next guest is involved in both of those legislative efforts. Monty Mason is a Virginia State senator. Richneck Elementary is in his district.
Senator, thank you so much for joining me this morning. So, first off, tell me about these bills and why you think it would make students safer?
SEN. MONTY MASON (D-VA): Well, the budget amend of $1.5 million is not a way that we typically do it with over $4 billion for the Capitol and maintenance needs across Virginia. But this school is designed in the 70s, and late 60s, with an open floor plan in some areas. And so, we thought that the budget proposal would show the people at Richneck that we are addressing their anxieties and concerns in the short term to try to give them a close classroom environment, and least some of the areas that do not have it today. The gun legislation is just another step of a common sense measure that shows how to take care of and safely store your gun.
I grew up in a home with gun ownership for hunting, for sporting clays, for protection. And this is a best practice in the home I grew up with. Making sure that it's in a locked compartment or area that cannot be accessed by someone under 18. But here is the key. Because it's a best practice, it's not going to be onerous for gun owners. But at the same time, it has a noticed provision.
So, in this case, this gun seems to have been bought legally. But what we were missing was in the store. A notice that says, please make sure that if you have children under 18 in your home, that you properly lock and store your guns for their safety and yours.
WALKER: You know, but, you know, the argument is also that, you know, the front line of safety or the staff members, right? The adults in the room and you know, as we know, the allegations are that there were -- there were warnings, and you had the school administrators failing to act on the warnings that this child had a gun.
They searched his backpack, but they didn't find the gun that was hidden in there. What about using funding to train teachers or staff to be better at detecting students and helping prevent shootings? I mean, nothing's really foolproof, right?
MASON: Absolutely. And that investigation is still ongoing as to how it was handled. And I think you're right. We have to have ironclad processes and procedures in place at school districts that make sure everyone is trained, and trained properly. So, that, if in fact, some report, or something like this begins to take place in your school, everyone knows how to properly handle it.
And I think every school district needs to address that. You have to be careful when you start to mandate, things like that from Richmond, you want to give your school boards in your localities the opportunity to make sure that their folks and their systems are trained.
What we have been asked to do just this week, the Hampton Roads Planning District came to us. And as a part of their legislative package, they ask us to promote conflict resolution and mediation skills throughout the course of the matriculation of the student.
Would that have helped a sixth grader? We don't know whether they would have understood that. But you can start even before that, to let students know that they're going to be conflicts, they're going to be disagreements, but that you can handle them courteously, and without violence.
You know, I'm a member of the legislature. We agree and disagree hundreds of times a day.
MASON: 99 percent of it, courteously. We need to help our children understand how to work through these issues.
WALKER: Senator, you are also -- you were mentioning this to your chief co-patron of the -- a bill that would require gun owners with children in the home to lock up their weapons and ammunition in separate locations. The family of the 6-year-old says he suffers from an acute disability.
Is the assembly proposing any legislation around mental health support, either in schools or in homes, and supporting parents?
MASON: It is a great question. I'm privileged to serve on the Behavioral Health Commission in Virginia, which is a full time established commission of legislature. We have been reviewing and working on the mental health crisis that we're seeing, and particularly, among children. We know that there are a lot of stress and pressures that came through COVID, and we had issues before.
We've just opened a hospital in Norfolk that's going to be a game changer for us. But we are trying to figure out the ways that we can get the treatments we need to students that they needed, to adults, and across the full spectrum. You know, on Wednesday, Richneck Elementary began transitioning students and parents and staff back into the school at their own pace, through Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, in anticipation of Monday, getting back to school.
One critical focus then will be counselling, support, and people available at all times during specific hours for scheduled or even after hours as people need help and need discussion.
WALKER: They will need a lot of support as they transition back into the classroom. We will be thinking of them and Virginia State Senator Monty Mason, appreciate your time. Thank you.
MASON: Thank you for having me, ma'am.
WALKER: Sure thing.
All right, just ahead. A new winter storm expected to bring some of the coldest air since Christmas. Allison Chinchar with your forecast is next.
WALKER: More than 15 million people are under dangerous winter alerts from Idaho to Michigan this morning.
That arctic air is causing icy conditions and traffic chaos, forcing temperatures to plummet across the northern and central plains this week.
Just looking at this picture from Wisconsin, it looks freezing cold. Let's go to meteorologist Allison Chinchar in the Weather Center. That cold air is bringing sub-zero temperatures.
How cold are we talking?
ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Pretty cold. I was going to say, if you think it's cold now, just give it a few more days once a lot of that much colder air really settles into place.
And you can't have snow without cold air. We've got a lot of areas that are going to be dealing with snow. And yes, even unfortunately, some locations of ice.
We are focused mainly from Idaho all the way over to Michigan. That's where the bulk of the winter weather advisories are located.
This is a very fast moving potent low pressure systems that are going to ride along the front. But even though they are fast, they're very intense.
So, they still will have the potential to drop four to six, even as much as eight inches of snow in some of those low lying areas. And you could be measuring it in addition in excess of a foot, when we talk about areas of the intermountain west,
Though a lot of these low pressure systems will ride right there along that front along the northern tier of the U.S. So, a couple of different waves there.
On the southern side rain will be the main focus where those temperatures just aren't quite cold enough yet, and very heavy rain.
Ice is going to be a concern across Illinois and areas of Missouri, where it could end up accumulating up to a quarter of an inch. Then, we get the really big cold air that filters back in. And yes, we are talking, Amara, wind chills of minus 20 to minus 40 degrees.
WALKER: Yes, that's cold. I know how that feels, though. But, yes, I mean, I feel like once you get past, you know, zero degrees, it's -- it to me, it's all bone chilling bad.
WALKER: Allison Chinchar, thank you very much.
All right. Ahead next hour, we are live in Memphis as a city and the nation reacts to the videos showing the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols by Memphis police officers.
Growing questions about the timeline and what happened leading up to the incident. That is next.