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New Video of Shooting That Left Three Children, Three Adults Dead; Former National Enquirer Publisher Testifies Before Grand Jury. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired March 28, 2023 - 07:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're under a mass casualty alert, multiple victims down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three children and three adults, staff members, shot and killed at the Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a manifesto. We have a map drawn out of how this was all going to take place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to step up and we have to stop this. You know, thoughts and prayers don't do anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Massive protests in labor strikes across Israel for the country's embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to delay a controversial package of judicial reforms.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He hasn't said who's going to replace the defense minister, but he has said that anyone that takes that position needs to be loyal to him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a need to restore order in certain places. We can hope that it will be done responsibly and not just for political reasons.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): A key player in the Trump hush money probe just met with the Manhattan grand jury investigating the former president.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: David Pecker's appearance at court Monday shrouded in secrecy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He can corroborate a lot of what Michael Cohen said, and it also could be a very strong response to Costello.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: People are pleading with the prosecutor, don't do it, don't do it, because I didn't do anything wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In France, demonstrators continuing to protest the government's move to raise the retirement age.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Many of them entered an airport in Southwest France just a short while ago setting off smoke bombs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Authorities say around 13,000 police officers will be deployed across the country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of European countries, people are feeling the pinch economically.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gywneth Paltrow's accuser took the stand in that skate collision trial.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got hit in my back so hard, never been hit that hard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After describing a very different version of events saying he plowed into her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I said, you skied directly into my f'ing back and he said, oh, sorry, sorry. I'm sorry.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: And here we go again, sad to say, covering the shooting. It's heartbreaking.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hard to believe but also not, which is what's really --

LEMON: Right on. I was just thinking about what started sort of this, you know, whole thing of us covering shootings. It was really Columbine. Remember, it was April 20th 1999. It seems like forever ago and then not so long ago. And then I cannot believe it has been ten years since Newtown. And here we are. Nothing is happened. Nothing seems to change except we keep getting more shootings and more students and innocent people just continue to die, children.

So, we are tracking, obviously, what we saw what happened overnight, these developments in the Nashville school shooting. There is new video, new dispatch sound, new information about the minutes leading up to the murders of three children and three staff members inside their school. What you're about to see is disturbing. It is surveillance video that shows the shooter identified as a 28-year-old former student arriving at Covenant School, which is a small private Christian elementary school.

The shooter had a handgun in two assault style weapons blasting through the entryway glass doors. That was at 10:10 A.M., and then climbing through -- that was just one minute later, okay? The shooter roamed the hallways, eventually taking six innocent lives. The first 911 call came in at 10:13. And 14 minutes later, the shooter was dead, also getting brand new information about the moments before the shooting from our affiliate, WTFV, a former middle school teammate says that the shooter reached out to her on Instagram minutes before the rampage. The shooter wrote about a plan to die by suicide and said the classmate would see it on the news.

Part of the message here, okay, and I quote, one day, this will make more sense. I've left behind more than enough evidence behind, but something bad is about to happen, end quote. The teammate says that she called police at 10:13 A.M. At that point, the shooting had already begun . The teammate will join us live in just minutes here on CNN This Morning.

COLLINS: And as we're learning more about what happened before this first, most importantly today, we want to remember the victims. Because they include the head of the school, a substitute teacher, a custodian and three nine-year-old children, including Hallie Scruggs. You can see her here. This is a picture from 2019 with her dad, Chad Scruggs. He's now the lead pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church.

Another victim, another nine-year-old victim, was Evelyn Dieckhaus. The Tennessean reports that her sister, who was fifth grader, cried at last night's vigil, saying, quote, I don't want to be an only child.

CNN's Amara Walker and Carlos Suarez are both live in Nashville camera.

Amara, we're going to start with you as you're covering the investigation parts of this story and what more we are learning about what happened before this shooting. We've now got this chilling new video showing the shooter arriving at the campus, which we now know the shooter knew very well, and then what goes from there? What do you see?

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this video was chilling. So, this is the Honda Fit that police say the shooter, Audrey Hale, was driving in the video. You see this car rolling up to the parking lot of Covenant School here, which is also housed inside the Covenant Presbyterian Church.


What you see in the moments after are extremely disturbing, knowing that there are little children inside the school and, of course, about 40 to 50 staff members, about 200 students on any given day. This is the shooter shooting down those glass doors of the side entrance of the school. Then you see the shooter kick through that glass, climb in.

The shooter is wearing a red hat, a white shirt, camouflage pants, holding up that AR-style rifle, roaming the hallways, opening doors, looking around, and at one point, you see Hale pointing the rifle in a direction and then walks off. That will happen if you seconds after she walks -- the shooter walks back into this hallway.

Look, the investigation's focus right now, obviously, is the motive. You know, why did the shooter go on this deadly rampage that claimed six lives? Metro Nashville Police say that they do have a theory as to why this person did such a horrific thing. They're not revealing details of this theory. They did describe Audrey Hale as a 28-year-old female who identifies as transgender and they did say that writings were found, apparently, during a search of Hale's home aware the shooter live with the parents, and also additional writing material found inside that Honda Fit.

That should give some clues perhaps to the motive. Perhaps there are some grievances written down in there. But, of course, when this first happened, our main questions were, what is the shooter's connection to the school, if any. We know now, according to national police, that Hale attended the school at some time and apparently knew the campus but still had a map that detailed the entry points of the campus as well.

So, this was calculated, it was thoroughly planned. You saw the pictures of those weapons, three weapons that Audrey Hale was carrying, the AR-style rifle, an AR-style handgun and one handgun and policing that at least two of those weapons were legally purchased. But, again a lot of questions about the motive and also, I'm sure, questions about whether or not this could have been prevented knowing that there were calls made to police on Monday morning prior just minutes before this deadly rampage occurred.

LEMON: So, that's the shooter. Let's talk about the victims, Carlos, three children, three school staffers killed. What are you learning more about these victims?

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don and Kaitlan, good morning. It's been an incredibly difficult day for this community out here. We were out here last night as the folks who started to show up here to leave behind some teddy bears and flowers to remember the nine -- to remember the three nine-year-olds that were killed in the shooting.

And as you mentioned coming out to us this morning, we are learning that one of the nine-year-olds that died was the daughter of Chad Scruggs. He is the lead pastor here at the Covenant Presbyterian Church, that according to his former church. You're taking a look at a photo of young Hallie along with her father there, just an incredibly difficult photo to take a look at.

As for the other victims in this shooting, we are talking about Evelyn Dieckhaus, nine years old, Hallie Scruggs, again, nine, William Kinney, nine. The three school staff members that were killed here have been identified as 61-year-old Cynthia Peak, she was a beloved as substitute teacher here, 60 year-old Katherine Koonce, she was the head of school here and 61-year-old Mike Hill, who was a custodian at the school.

It appears, according to authorities, that the shooter here targeted these victims at random. We believe, at least according to some of the surveillance video, we have seen that it appears that the shooter may have encountered some of these folks as the shooter walked up and down the hallways at this school. Guys?

COLLINS: Just immensely heartbreaking and our thoughts are with all of their families and everyone in that community. Amara and Carlos, thank you for being there. LEMON: Thank you very much for that. We're going to turn now to this new information that we have this morning of what happened in the moments before the mass shooting at that Nashville school. The former middle school classmate of the shooter says that Hale reached out to her 9:57 am just minutes before entering that school. Averianna Patton says that Hale messaged her on Instagram and Hale planned to die by suicide and that she would see it on the news, a message stated, one day, this will make more sense, I've left behind more than enough evidence behind, but something bad is about to happen.


And Averianna Patton joins us now. Averianna, thank you so much for joining us this morning, we really appreciate. I know it's tough. I know it's tough.

AVERIANNA PATTON, AUDREY HALE'S FORMER TEAMMATE: Yes. It's -- you know, I'm not -- I'm still trying to process it all. I'm still trying to just -- I'm -- just pray for my city.

LEMON: How did you know her? Listen, let me ask you this before, because there's this whole idea about how he or she identified, and police have been saying one thing we have not confirmed since. Did you know her well?

PATTON: I knew her well, when we were kids, when we were younger. I didn't know the adult Audrey. I still addressed her as Audrey. I never (INAUDIBLE) anything else but Audrey.

LEMON: Okay. And then so you address her as Audrey. Do you know if she identified or he identified as something else?

PATTON: I'm starting to see that on social media. I don't know that side of her. I'm just saying, I don't -- I resonated with Audrey, that's all I knew, but as I'm watching, and I'm learning more and more.

LEMON: Thank you very just for clarification. And, look, there's information still coming in, yet to be confirmed, and so I just wanted to ask you about that since you had a relationship at one point.

So, walk us through what happened then. You saw -- you receive these messages on Instagram from Hale. What happened?

PATTON: So I was at home . I received the Instagram DM. And when I initially saw it, I'm like -- you know, I'm still working. I'm still like not really, you know, understanding what's happening right now? And so I had screenshot the message to my dad and I was like, this don't seem right, should I say something? And he immediately responded, yes. And so I called him and I was like, you know, who do I call, like what do I do? And then he was like start with the suicide prevention lines.

So, I called them, and they basically was like, was asking me was I the person that needed the assistance, and I was like, no, but I got the Instagram. You know, maybe you guys can reach out, and it was just basically like, no, like the person has to call, and then told me to call the deputy, like the local deputy.

So, I Googled that number and I called them. And then they answered and basically was like called 862-8600. I got them on the line, and I was on hold for maybe like seven minutes and I finally got somebody on the phone. And I told her -- you know, I was trying to tell her what was going on, and they were like, okay, we'll send somebody over to you. Nobody ever came.

And then maybe I want to say maybe like an hour and a half later, I received another phone call and they were saying, okay, we're going to send somebody. And I was like, oh, I thought you guys were sending somebody initially.

So, I end up having to leave my home and they called me at 3:29 and it was like, hey, we're here, you know, they're trying -- we're trying to, you know, get the messages, try to ping the location or whatever they could do.

And so when I called -- I mean, when they called me, I wasn't at home, and I was like, hey, you know, I'll be there in about ten minutes. By the time I got home, the officer had left and I called back and they said that they had closed out and they would have to reopen one. And I was just like, well, I mean, I don't know. You know, I was just trying to see if you can help.

LEMON: And all of this had transpired, you know, the shooting at the time that you were trying to get that help? Why you, Averianna? If you said that you didn't have a relationship with, as you identify her as her, for a while, why you? Why would she send a message to you?

PATTON: You know, I am an influencer here in Nashville. I've worked in radio, I do news. She was most recently at my TV show. I mean, to give you a direct answer, I'm asking God the same question.

LEMON: Yes. But she was in a she's a former classmate, right? Did she reach out to other classmates -- and, again, identifying her as she because that's how you identified with her. Did she reach out to other classmates?

PATTON: I'm not sure if she reached out to other people prior. When I received it, I actually sent it to my dad and I sent it to another teammate of mine as well, like, look, like what's going on?


And so, yes, I just -- I don't know. I'm trying to -- I guess I could share the timeline with you guys as far as like how that came out.

So, at 9:57, I received the message from her. And at 10:08, I sent the screenshot to my dad and he instructed me to call the suicide prevention help line. And then at 10:13, I called the Nashville Davidson County Sheriff's Office. And then at 10:14, I called the Nashville's non-emergency line. And then at 3:29 is when they said that they were -- they had came to my home to speak with me.

LEMON: When you found out what happened, Averianna, what did you think?

PATTON: I just couldn't believe it, like the fact, you know, that I did -- I tried to reach out, not even knowing that it was her. I didn't -- I just -- I don't know. I don't know. I don't know where she was, you know, what she was dealing with. I just -- I don't know.

LEMON: And you haven't been able to speak to anyone who knew a family member or anything, right?

PATTON: No, I haven't spoken to anyone of her family.

LEMON: The whole world is watching Nashville today and watching the reaction to what's going on. What do you say?

PATTON: Just keep praying for us and, you know -- I'm -- you know, I just want a solution, a better way -- some better protocol to, you know, to avoid this in the future. You know, I just want to see if it's something that we can do as a community, as a city, to avoid this, you know, in the future. But just please just keep praying for us, because that's (INAUDIBLE) each other.

LEMON: Are you okay?

PATTON: I feel like I'm numb right now. You know, I'm just like, wow. You know, my heart goes out to the families who were involved in this in this tragedy. You know, I wouldn't even know. You know, my nephew was in at Hillsborough down the street. So, it's just like, you know -- just keep praying.

LEMON: Well, listen, you're very strong person to do this, and you did what you could. And so we appreciate you joining us and we're all thinking about you. Thank you so much. You take care of yourself, okay?

PATTON: Thank you.

LEMON: Averianna Patton, a former teammate in classmate of the shooter. She says she's numb.

COLLINS: And she absolutely did what she could, though. I think that's important to note here.

LEMON: But we got to do something about this. We can't just keep talking about it, not doing anything and then, you know, politicians going back and forth about, but what something has to be done, and it's got to stop being politicized when it comes to guns.

Of course, guns are an issue. Of course, guns are an issue. Mental health is an issue. Obviously, someone would not do something like this if they did not have a mental health issue. But guess what? They wouldn't do something like this if they didn't have access to guns as well.

So, we've got to be realistic about it and we have to stop politicizing it because more young people, more people, in general, will die. And, especially, it's so tragic when you have the young people. But these are the victims that we need to talk about, Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, William Kinney, Cynthia Peaks, Katherine Koonce, Mike Hill, that entire community victimized and we have to do something about it.

We'll be right back.




MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: I was involved in several of these catch and kill episodes. These catching kill scenarios existed between David Pecker and Mr. Trump long before I started working for him in 2007.


COLLINS: That was Michael Cohen testifying on Capitol Hill back in 2019. Now, with a potential indictment of his former client, former boss, former President Trump looming, David Pecker, who was one of the key players in this entire Stormy Daniels hush money case, testified for 90 minutes before the Manhattan grand jury on Monday. That is according to a source familiar with the proceeding.

Pecker is the former publisher, of course, of The National Enquirer. He's a longtime Trump ally who helped broker the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels. Back in 2018, Pecker's company, American Media Inc, admitted that it did participate in what Cohen was referring to there, these catch and kill schemes to suppress damaging stories about Trump.

Pecker has been granted immunity in the federal investigation in return for his grand jury testimony. He has now testified twice.

Joining us now to talk about this is former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and former deputy attorney general for New York, Danya Perry, who previously represented Michael Cohen. All of those qualifications, of course, make you the perfect person to weigh in on this.

You think it's significant that David Pecker went and testified for a second time yesterday. What do you think the significance of that is?

DANYA PERRY, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: I do. He had been one of the first witnesses in this grand jury back in January, no doubt provided substantive testimony about the machinations between himself and Cohen, members of the campaign team.

So, why did they bring him back is obviously the question on everyone's mind. And my assumption based on years of experience is that it was as a rebuttal witness following Cohen's testimony, Robert Costello, a former attorney for Cohen, testified.

[07:25:12] COLLINS: Do you think it's a rebuttal to Bob Costello?

PERRY: That's what I'm assuming.

What's interesting there is that the grand jury -- the prosecutors who were presented before the grand jury had Michael Cohen ready and available outside the grand jury to rebut Bob Costello but decided not to, but there must have been some questions asked by the grand jurors that these prosecutors decided best to answer them before they seek an indictment. And so they brought Mr. Pecker back in.

LEMON: How important do you think is testimony is?

PERRY: I think it's pretty critical. He was one of the few guys in the room when this all happened, and he can testify that, in fact, and already has in a way through his immunity agreement, the non- prosecution agreement, that Mr. Trump knew what this was for, and the purpose was for a workaround on the campaign finance laws that this these catch and kill programs and these hush money payments were made with the expressed purpose of influencing the campaign. So, that's certainly key testimony. In this case, that would bump this matter up from a misdemeanor to a felony.

COLLINS: And so what we're seeing here with -- and I should note Trump was on Fox News last night, he did an interview with Sean Hannity, he was talking about Bob Costello, saying that he didn't know him but essentially estimating, in his view, which he doesn't know what Bob Costello said exactly either, is that Costello's testimony was devastating to what Michael Cohen has said, essentially pitting these people against each other.

We all know Michael Cohen is a questionable witness when it comes to his credibility but you believe all of this signals when we put all this together that this is coming to an end, that this probe is coming to an end.

PERRY: I think this was almost certainly the last nail in the coffin, when the prosecution provides an opportunity for the defendant to provide a defense witness, that's usually the end of it. They have the opportunity, they being the prosecutors, are able to call a rebuttal witness and that's really it. There's nothing more that needs to happen. So, I do think the prosecutors will put this to a vote.

You know, it's anyone's guess when. The grand jury is meeting tomorrow, it could be tomorrow, because there's really nothing more to do. So, as long as they have a quorum of 16 grand jurors tomorrow, they can and I believe likely will put that to a vote. The only caveat to that is, of course, the unusual logistics that are involved in indicting and arraigning, arresting a former president and the security issues that go with that, in large part of Trump's own doing.

So, I think, as soon as they can arrange whether arrest or it seems self surrender, I think that this indictment will come down.

LEMON: You say, final nail in the coffin, it sounds ominous. What do you mean by that? PERRY: These prosecutors would not be running through all these paces, calling in a rebuttal witness, if they didn't have some confidence in their case and if they were not going to put it to a vote. And a New York grand jury is composed of 23 ordinary citizens. Only 16 of them are necessary for a quorum, in other words, in order to vote, and only 12 of them must vote to indict, to return a true bill.

So, that's not a very high standard. And here, it's pretty one-sided. This is by law. It's pretty one-sided presentation, generally, where the prosecutor puts on their best case. I think in this case, they put in a defense witness at the defendants or the targets request. And so they -- you know, it's a little more nuanced than usual, but everyone is familiar with the expression that, you know, prosecutors could indict a handstand sandwich, that's not too far from the truth. It's quite simple, you know, to get a true bill. And so I think all signs point to that.

If a prosecutor has some premonition, some sense whether from juries, the jurors' questions or because the case didn't come in right, they don't have to put it to a vote. They can actually try and put in more evidence. So, that is why, you know, there are a bunch of baked in reasons why it's quite an easy matter to have a true bill returned.

COLLINS: Yes. The question is actually securing a conviction, so we will follow that closely. Danya, thank you for your insight on such an important thing.

LEMON: I learned a lot. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

COLLINS: Up next, we're going to take you back to Nashville, where our coverage is focused this morning. It is a scene of yet another deadly mass shooting in America, a school shooting at that. We're going to talk to a council member about how her community is coping.