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CNN This Morning

New Video of Shooting that Left 3 Children, 3 Adults Dead; Biden: Gun Violence Ripping the Soul of this Nation; Trump Calls Hush- Money Probe 'New Way of Cheating in Elections'. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired March 28, 2023 - 06:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans. CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: It's hard to say "good morning" on a day like today.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I had -- I honestly had trouble sleeping last night, thinking about all those people who died and just what's behind it. And my honest thought was, how long is this going to be in the news? Because this would have been -- usually, we keep these things in the news. It would have been in the old days, right, when these things, we first started taking notice of them, one to two weeks.

And then sadly, unfortunately, we've gotten all too used to it, because it just happens so much. And we should saying --

COLLINS: And now we're seeing so much crossover, with people who have been at one mass shooting and now are on-site for another.


COLLINS: That's the situation here.


COLLINS: Good morning, everyone. Poppy is off today. We're going to get started with the five things to know for this Tuesday, March 28, as we are covering the shooting out of Nashville.

In Nashville and the nation, they're all morning after another deadly school shooting that has happened. Overnight, police have released new video of the shooter entering the school before killing three 9-year- olds and three adults.

LEMON: We have extensive reporting on that.

Also tensions easing in Israel after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu backed off of his push to overhaul the country's judicial system. He says he is delaying the legislation after mass protests.

Also today, new unrest in France over the increase in the retirement age. Protesters vowing mass demonstrations to shut the country down.

COLLINS: Also here in New York, a crucial witness in the Trump hush- money cases testified again. David Pecker, as you see here, is the former publisher of the "National Enquirer."

He appeared before the grand jury for a second time as those jurors are set to meet again tomorrow.

LEMON: Also today, a rare spectacle event in the stars. NASA says five planets will align, starting tonight. No binoculars needed; just look up.

CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

COLLINS: We're going to start this morning with the chilling new video that has been released from police overnight from inside the school where yesterday, three children and three staff members were murdered.

We want to warn you that this is disturbing. It's hard to watch. It is surveillance video that shows the shooter, who has now been identified as a 28-year-old former student, arriving at Covenant School here, which is a small private Christian school elementary school outside -- inside Nashville.

The shooter is heavily armed with a handgun and two assault-style weapons. The shooter blasted through the entryway glass doors and then climbed through before roaming the hallways, eventually taking six innocent lives.

The attack unfolded over about 14 minutes. The first call, we are told, about the shooting came in at 10:13 a.m. The shooter was dead by 10:27.

CNN has also obtained audio from the dispatch. And again, we want to warn you that it's disturbing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Says that they've got a legit active shooter at a school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All units be advised, we are under a mass casualty alert. Multiple victims down.


LEMON: And we are learning more about the attacker at this hour. This is what we know right now.

Twenty-eight-year-old Audrey Hale was described by police as a female to male transgender person. Hale previously attended the school and we are getting brand-new information this morning.

According to our affiliate, WTVF, the shooter reached out to a former middle-school teammate at about 9:57 a.m., just minutes before the first shots. And then that person says that Hale messaged her on Instagram that Hale planned to die by suicide and that she would see it on the news.

"One day this will make more sense. I've left behind more than enough evidence behind. But something bad is about to happen," the message stated. Now this person tells WTVF that she called police at 10:13 a.m. At that point, the shooting had already begun.

COLLINS: CNN's Amara Walker is covering all of this live from Nashville. M.J. Lee standing by at the White House.

First we want to go to you, Amara, as we are learning more about this, learning more now about these messages that the shooter allegedly sent to someone in the hours before this actually would happen. What more are you learning this morning?

AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is just adding to the evidence that this was an attack that was thoroughly thought-out and planned as police pointed to the maps of the school that the shooter had. And of course, those writings that were found in that Honda Fit, the shooter's car, that police are still going through.

I do also want to talk about the victims. You are getting new information, learning more about one of the younger victims, 9- year-old Hallie Scruggs.


According to "The New York Times," she was the daughter of a pastor here at Covenant Presbyterian Church. As you'd imagine, Kaitlan, there is such a deep sadness here in this community. You can feel it. You feel it in your heart.

So many questions as to why this happened, as police will be spending a second day processing this crime scene.


AVERY MYRICK, MOTHER TEACHES AT SCHOOL: I don't know how somebody could go through with doing something like that, and especially children, like, just -- it's disgusting. And I -- yes. I just -- I have no words this morning.

WALKER (voice-over): This morning, another community is in mourning after what police are calling a targeted attack by 28-year-old Audrey Hale, a former student who showed up on campus to execute a prewritten plan.

CHIEF JOHN DRAKE, NASHVILLE POLICE: It indicates that there was going to be shootings at multiple locations. And -- and the school was one of them. There was actually a map of the school, detailing surveillance, entry points, and how this was going to be carried out on this day.

WALKER (voice-over): Metro Nashville Police releasing more than two minutes of surveillance video showing the moment Hale arrived on campus.

In the video, Hale is seen driving through the parking lot of the Covenant School in a silver Honda Fit.

The security camera footage then cuts to video of Hale opening fire on glass double doors at an entrance of the school before climbing in. As the video continues, you see Hale start roaming the hallways.

Police say Hale had three weapons: an AR-style rifle, an AR-style pistol, and a handgun, along with significant ammunition. Police say they believe two of those weapons may have been obtained legally.

Officers say when they arrived on scene, Hale fired on them from a second-story window, one patrol car taking a bullet to the windshield.

Police say two officers confronted Hale on the second floor, and Hale was killed.

During the shooting, Avery Myrick was texting with her mother, a teacher at the school.

MYRICK: I texted her, and I said, just like what was going on? She said she was hiding in the closet and that there was shooting all over.

WALKER (voice-over): She later spoke to her mother by phone and learned she was safe.

This morning, we're learning more about the victims.

DON AARON, METRO NASHVILLE POLICE SPOKESMAN: The three 9-year-olds who were killed: Evelyn Dieckhaus, William Kinney, Hallie Scruggs.

WALKER (voice-over): Also killed, 60-year-old Katherine Koonce, who according to the school's website, was the head of the school. Police also identifying 61-year-old Mike Hill, a custodian; and 61-year-old Cynthia Peak, a substitute teacher.

Police continue to investigate a motive but say they have a theory.

DRAKE: There's some belief that there was some resentment to having to go to that school. Don't have all the details to that just yet. And -- and that's why this incident occurred.


WALKER: And I do want to point out the names of the two Metro Nashville Police officers who heroically shot and killed the shooter of -- on the second floor. -- that is where the shooter died -- of the school. Michael Collazo, a veteran of the police department for nine years, and Rex Engelbert, a veteran officer there for four years.

Look, they responded within 14 minutes of the call coming in. But sadly, that quick response wasn't enough to prevent those six deaths -- guys.

COLLINS: Yes, absolutely. It's just unbelievable to see what the timeline looks like, and just how quickly things can happen. Amara Walker, thank you. LEMON: We want to show you now live pictures right now of the White

House, where flags are being flown at half-staff to honor the Nashville victims.

The president addressing the nation in the hours following the attack.


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


LEMON: Straight now to M.J. Lee. You see her live there at the White House. M.J., hello to you. What else have we heard from the president after yet another national tragedy?

M.J. LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, this morning and until Friday evening at sunset, the flags here at the White House and all federal buildings will be flown at half-staff, the president saying this is to honor the victims of the senseless acts of violence in Nashville.

You know, yesterday, we saw the president have an experience that so many Americans have, and that is to learn of another mass shooting in this country, and this time at a school.

An administration official I was speaking with last night said that when the president was initially briefed about the shooting, and he was told that six people had died, and that among the victims were young children, that he had a quite visceral reaction.


We of course, saw that when we saw him delivering remarks at the White House yesterday afternoon, and he said that a shooting like yesterday's really is every American family's worst nightmare -- Don.

LEMON: I've got to ask you about the president, because he has repeatedly, M.J., called for an assault weapons ban. Yet, virtually no progress has been made.

Is there anything more that he can do it that he's planning to do you hearing anything from the administration?

LEE: Yes, you know, Don. I think for a lot of people, the short answer would be no, there's just nothing that he can do that. There isn't a path to get this done.

I think what the president would say is, actually, Washington has done this before. There was an assault weapons ban in place in this country until expired in 2004. He would certainly say Washington can and should do this again. As for sort of the impossible math on Capitol Hill for something like

this, we've heard the president saying this before that. That is what everyone said, too, after the Uvalde school shooting.

but then what we saw happen was Capitol Hill passing legislation, the first bipartisan gun safety bill to pass the country in several decades.

So I think he would certainly argue that if there is a political will, there is a path.

I heard you talking with Kaitlan earlier. We don't even know how long this shooting is going to be in the news this time, right? That's sort of where our head goes. So we don't know if there's going to be the political will after a shooting like yesterday's, Don.

LEMON: You're absolutely right. That's just candor. And the truth that you're speaking right there, M.J. and it is up to us to continue to put a focus on this to figure out what can be done. Whether it's gun legislation, mental health or whatever it is.

So thank you. We'll get back to M.J. Lee at the White House. We're awaiting more word from the White House.

As a matter of fact, we're going to speak with the White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre. She's going to join us on president Biden's plan of action.

For more now, though, I want to bring in CNN senior law enforcement analyst Andrew McCabe, as well as our CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem. Thank you both for being here this morning.

Andy, I want to start with you on this brand-new reporting that we're just getting in on what this message that a former teammate of the shooter received right before the shooting. I mean, this came in at about 9:57 local time, according to this former teammate.

And the shooter said, "One day this will make more sense." Quote, "I've left behind more than enough evidence, but something bad is about to happen."

The person who received that message said that they called the suicide prevention helpline; that they also called a non-emergency number, as well. What do you make of this message that we're learning about?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You know, I mean, initially, Kaitlan, it just impacts you as just yet another tragic layer on an unbelievably horrible situation.

It's not clear that -- that that message could -- could have resulted in interdicting the shooter before they got to the location they'd already targeted. The timing is very close.

But nevertheless, it is absolutely an indication if -- as if we needed another one -- that this person, like many other mass shooters, planned this activity out carefully, conducted some sort of surveillance activity, or at least the creation of maps that indicated surveillance points and entry points into the building obviously went through the process of acquiring weapons becoming proficient with them.

So these are things that happened. They don't happen overnight. Mass shootings aren't typically, you know, committed in a -- in a sudden rage. We've seen time and time again mass shooters. They make plans. They acquire weapons. They take a look at the place that they're intending to go, and they oftentimes leave statements or manifestos behind, as this person did.

So all of that period of planning and all of that period of thinking and talking and reaching out to other other individuals sometimes leaves clues for family members and friends and others to actually reach out and try to contact the authorities before these things happen.

That's one of the messages we have to get out to people today. If you have someone in your life who you're concerned about, please reach out to the authorities to make it known to them.

LEMON: Juliette, let's talk about the thing that everyone is talking about. Everyone is thinking, but they don't want to talk about, and that is the identity of the shooter.


LEMON: OK. And it's a member of the LGBTQ community. I think this is important to bring up. And you as a parent can talk about these issues.

So the police are identifying the shooter as a trans woman -- would actually be a trans man. So there's sort of a misidentification there, but this is all new.

I'm just wondering the identity of being a transgender person and also being identified as a woman. Does this pose any sort of difference or difficulty for the police? Because it's not typically a woman, regardless of how they're identifying.



LEMON: So there are a couple of things here that are different and that we are going to have to talk about and delve into.

KAYYEM: Right, so each of these cases is always going to have a particular difference, right whether it's someone is angry at their father or someone had something happen at the school.

And this is a unique case, and we have to be sensitive about it to the extent that Audrey Hale, identified as a woman. We do not see mass shooters who are female, especially in particular, school shooting murderers. Those -- that is that is -- that is -- this is actually, I think, the first time that I can remember. I know I was on air yesterday, stating the same.

And so that uniqueness is obviously going to go to only one part of this. right?

Each of these school shootings has motive and means. Motive goes to the particular person. What's their mental health situation? What happened at the school? Why did they choose that target? As Andrew was saying, what clues did they leave behind? What was their community scene.

And then the means, and then that's when you get the connectivity, right? That's when you start to see these are all starting to look the same, right?

I sort of think now, like, we don't own guns in this country. Guns own us at this stage. And this is where we have to now focus on an important part of an agenda, which includes mental health, protecting our kids, fortifying schools, but also the connectivity, which is a certain kind of gun.

You know, look, pronouns. Pronouns do not kill children, right? People with guns kill children, and it's going to be a distraction in our coverage and keep us from what we now know, which is each of these cases has a similarity more than any difference.

LEMON: And police are identifying the shooter as a trans person. Just so you know, right? Just so you know. And you're right. It shouldn't matter the pronoun, but it is something that is different. And people are discussing and I think we should discuss it also be sensitive about it. But it is an important part of the of the conversation.

COLLINS: Yes, talking about the profile of the shooter.


COLLINS: And Andy, as we look at this surveillance footage that we've gotten overnight that shows the shooter driving up to campus, obviously, one, we are told the shooter is a former student, so likely knew the campus well.

And then entering through a building -- a door that we are told was locked, shooting through it and then -- and then stepping inside of it.

You know, what you seem to see from this is that it shows that even a well-coordinated police response, like it appears that we have here, a locked door is not enough to stop something like this.

MCCABE: Yes, I think that's exactly right, Kaitlan. There's a number of indicators here to show that the police response was particularly good.

You know, it was very quick. They had a fairly large tactical team. Enter right away. Five-person team. Three people took the ground floor. Two people went to the top floor. They were integrated with fire department assets to be able to provide emergency medical assistance right away. They engaged the target and -- and eliminated it quickly.

But it doesn't matter how quickly police respond. They will always be behind the shooter. They're always reacting to what's already happened.

And we also know that. in mass shootings, the majority of casualties take place in the first minute or two. So it's a real contrast with what we saw in Uvalde. We spent a lot of time talking about the insufficient or incompetent police response in Uvalde. Here seems to be the exact opposite example.

But tragically, the same result. You have -- you know, you have six innocent victims who couldn't even be helped by this very rapid, very professional, well-coordinated response.

So I think to some degree. it puts -- it shows the myth behind this idea that, if we get more heavily armed and you know, more police and being more places quicker that we're going to stop this. Law enforcement alone cannot solve this problem.

LEMON: More to discuss. Thank you, Andrew.

Thank you, Juliette. We appreciate that. We're going to continue to follow this story throughout this program.

Need to tell you that the former "National Enquirer" publisher, David Pecker, testifying again the Trump hush-money probe. Where the case stands now.

COLLINS: Plus, after weeks of massive demonstrations that we saw, covering them closely here yesterday, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, says he will delay his judicial overhaul. But will that be enough for the protesters? We'll take you live to Jerusalem.



DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know whether it helps or hurts. I can tell you, in my opinion, it's a new way of cheating on elections. It's called election interference.

People are pleading with the prosecutor, Don't do it. Don't do it. It's wrong. Even Democrats. Even people that traditionally are not exactly my fans are saying, Don't do it. Because I didn't do anything wrong. I did nothing wrong.


COLLINS: That's former President Trump, in his own words, weighing in on FOX News, as he called the Manhattan district attorney's probe into hush-money payments, quote, "a new way of cheating in elections."

CNN's Paula Reid joins us now. She's been covering this story.

So we're hearing from Trump on this, as we have been also watching the movements of this grand jury. We do know they met yesterday. They did hear from a witness, someone they've actually already heard from before.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. David Pecker. He is a former head of the company that publishes "The National Enquirer."

We know that he met with investigators back in January, but he is really a key witness for prosecutors.

Let's go all the way back to October 2016. At that time, a representative for Stormy Daniels reached out to AMI, saying that she was willing to go public with her story of an alleged affair. Of course, the former president denies that affair.

Pecker takes that information to then-candidate's then-personal attorney, Michael Cohen, and they arranged for this $130,000 hush- money payment. And that's what the grand jury is looking at right now, that payment.

And it's interesting to hear the former president say that this, this investigation, is the new way of stealing elections, because the prosecutor's office is amplifying the argument that, yes, this may seem like a smaller crime on the spectrum of things that he is being investigated for, but they argue that this was done to impact the outcome of the 2016 election.

This is just a few weeks before the election. We have the "Access Hollywood" tape. We have Hillary's emails. They argue that this could have potentially made a difference, and that's one of the reasons that they believe this is righteous.

LEMON: So that's an interesting argument that he's making in the FOX News interviews. You call yourself a reformed attorney?

REID: Yes, recovering.

LEMON: Recovering attorney. Fans, people who aren't even fans of mine are saying don't do it.


Fans don't decide legal matters, right? It's up to the evidence and whoever's -- would possibly be on the grand jury and who the prosecutor is. That's who decides.

REID: Without a doubt. And many fans, non-fans, whomever, were criticizing the district attorney for not bringing this case. So right? He's in a tricky spot here.

But as Kaitlan mentioned, we know that they don't meet today. They are expected to meet tomorrow, but we don't know if they're going to hear evidence in the Trump investigation. We don't know if they're going to hear another witness. And we don't want to speculate, because unexpected things can happen. Pecker's appearance comes exactly one week after Robert Costello

appeared at the request of defense attorneys. And we know from our reporting that, following his appearance, attacking Michael Cohen's credibility, the prosecutors thought, We may need to bring someone in to rebut, which is a fancy way of saying cleanup, that testimony.

And David Pecker is the exact right person to try to do that, because only a few people really know how these hush-money payments were arranged.

What's not clear, though, is if he is the final witness.

COLLINS: Yes. The timing of a lot of this. I mean, it's obviously done in secret. And so I think everyone has been watching this since Trump said he was going to be arrested, which you know, we later learned he had no, like, inside indication of that, but --

LEMON: How long have you and I have been reporting? It's -- he's saying it's going to happen. I mean, I think you first reported he's saying it's going to happen on Tuesday, although there's no evidence; he hasn't been, you know, told.

And then they said, well, it could possibly happen Wednesday, and then it could possibly happen at the end of week. It pops. No one knows.

REID: No one knows when it happens.

COLLINS: It's been, like, a five-year investigation.

LEMON: Right.

REID: Exactly for conduct that was seven years old. So just --

COLLINS: We'll see what the culmination of it is.

Paula Reid, we know you will be tracking it. So thank you very much.

REID: Yes, I will.

COLLINS: We're also this morning still tracking the devastating news that is coming out of Nashville. We're learning new details by the moment after a shooter took the lives of six innocent people, three of them just nine years old, 9-year-old children.

Police are still searching to learn more about a motive as we are learning more weapons have now been found at the shooter's home.


SHAUNDELLE BROOKS, SON KILLED IN 2018 MASS SHOOTING: When you get that call that your child didn't make it or they were one of the victims of a mass shooting, it's the worst feeling ever. It's the most devastating, losing your child. It's devastating. No parent should have to go through this.