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CNN This Morning

John Cooper is Interviewed about the Nashville School Shooting; Brandon Johnson is Interviewed about his Run for Chicago Mayor; Five Planets Align in the Night Sky. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired March 28, 2023 - 08:30   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Shooter firing through entry way doors before roaming the halls and eventually killing six people. The shooter was then killed by police fourteen minutes after the first 911 call had been placed.

The mayor of Nashville, John Cooper, joins us now.

And good morning, Mayor.

As I said, I'm so sorry that you are joining us in these circumstances and under this, and we want to talk about the victims in a moment. But first I would like to start with what we know about this investigation. And have you learned anything else from authorities this morning about the motive here?

MAYOR JOHN COOPER, NASHVILLE, TN: Well, none about motive. I expect the police will have a lot of information today with the release of body camera footage and then probably a discussion about this manifesto. They found a lot of documents. This was clearly planned. There was a lot of ammunition. There were guns. It speaks to the heroism of the first responders that were able to deal with somebody who was prepared for a police response and yet it was dealt with within only 14 minutes, in running to gunfire, and under a lot of gunfire. And in Nashville, this is our worst day, but it could have been worse without this great response. So, we're very grateful for that.

COLLINS: Yes, and we're showing those two officers who heroically responded to this. They are now on the screen.

So, you do expect that officials will release more body cam footage today, or body camera footage today, and you do expect them to tell more about the documents they found that this shooter had?

COOPER: I do. I mean we have a good policy here of being very transparent and as quickly as they can. All this is going to be released to the public.

COLLINS: What do you think we're going to learn from that?

COOPER: Well I think -- I think the public is going to go back to understand -- or questioning why we have so few restrictions on guns, particularly assault level type guns, that guns and gunfire are the number one cause of death with children, and we really can't tolerate that anymore. And the fact that you have Nashville joints now a long list of where there are school shootings, where our kids are targeted.

And you've got to be careful about the mental health and access to guns issue in America. Now, in Tennessee, we've been rolling back gun laws and making them -- guns almost ubiquitous. But it makes guns first of mind when people are thinking about doing terrible things and we've got to -- we've got to make that clearly more difficult. We owe it to the parents. Everybody that's attending every vigil in Nashville feels that there needs to be a public response to this kind of tragedy and to say, enough is enough, and when are we going to learn?

And we're a grieving city right now. And guns can be Second Amendment for sure, but they can also be a little bit of a cult. And let's -- let's not -- let's -- let's keep them out of the hands of people who should not be having them. Particularly assault guns.

COLLINS: Do you think there will be any changes -

COOPER: Well, I -

COLLINS: Well, President Biden is calling on - a ban on that.

COOPER: Right.

COLLINS: What do you - what do you think will happen in Washington? Any action?

COOPER: Well, I think it -- more likely from the federal then from this state level. Cities are relatively not that effective in doing this. I think hopefully in the state we'll reverse the tide, as opposed to a 10 year tide of reducing regulation -- common sense regulation on guns to go back where we were just 10 or 15 years ago, which was not an anti-gun place to be, it was just common sense regulations.

So, I hope the federal government will end -- will take this back up because I think the nation is demanding a discussion on it.

COLLINS: Yes. Right now it seems unlikely Washington will do that. We'll see if that changes.

But on this investigation when it comes to the shooter, back to this, we heard from a former teammate of the shooters who got a message from the shooter moments before this shooting happened. Do you know if authorities have heard from anyone else who says they also had contact with this person?

COOPER: Well, no, I don't. But I will say the manifesto that they found, the documents, that this was very planned. And numerous sites were investigated. And as the chief was saying in his press conference yesterday, there was a lot of planning going on here. So, the response, the effective response by first responders is all the more impressive. I do think it will take some time for people to really under -- begin

to understand what could be the motives here. And right now all we have are the footage. I think in time, the manifesto. And our praise for the 14 minute response -



COOPER: That has ended up saving, I feel like, a lot of lives here in Nashville.

COLLINS: And, Mayor, do you know what those other sites were that the shooter was scoping out?

COOPER: Well, I think the police will talk about them later today from that standpoint. And then for your viewers to know, this is a private school. They had their own precautions on these kind of events. And it seems to me that they really will probably be congratulated on how good they were. That the -- responding very appropriately in a hyper difficult situation. But it is a private school. We do not have metro police officers there or SROs, but you see the footage of somebody literally shooting their way into the building. And that's -- that's hard to prevent from happening. It's hard to harden a facility enough to prevent that from happening.

COLLINS: Yes, it's terrifying to see. I was saying earlier, my mom is a school teacher. She's right by a door that looks similar to that one.

Before we let you go, have you been able to have a chance to speak with any of the victims' families yet, any of the survivors of this shooting?

COOPER: I haven't. The whole (ph) of Nashville is praying for them. Again, thousands of people in our vigils. And the post-traumatic stress for those families and for the city is pretty significant. And I'm grateful for all the counselors doing all of their valued work right now.

COLLINS: Yes. There's going to be a lot of counseling going ahead.

Mayor John Cooper, I know you're very busy right now. We're very grateful for your time this morning. So, thank you for joining us.

COOPER: Thank you.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: And we have other news to tell you about this morning.

It is a runoff race that is underscoring the divide among Democrats on crime. We're sitting down with the candidates vying to be Chicago's mayor. First up, Brandon Johnson. He joins us live. That's next.




PAUL VALLAS (D), CHICAGO MAYORAL CANDIDATE: How do you expect the city to grow and prosper, particularly its poorest communities, when - when you're talking about defunding the police and - and the type of defunding that will impact the poorest communities.

BRANDON JOHNSON (D), CHICAGO MAYORAL CANDIDATE: I'm not going to defund the police. And you -- you know that. You know that. I have passed multibillion dollar budgets over and over again. Not going to do that.


LEMON: So, we are just one week away from the largest big city race to test voters' views on crime and policing. In the runoff race for Chicago mayor, Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas, both Democrats, have starkly different strategies on crime, the top issue for voters. So Valles is more moderate, a former public school chief backed by the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police. He has focused his campaign on a pro-police, tough on crime message. Johnson is a progressive Cook County commissioner, endorsed by the Chicago Teachers Union, has focused his campaign on the message of crime and addressing the root causes there.

So, Brandon Johnson joins us.

And we have to note that his opponent, Paul Vallas, is going to join us tomorrow for an interview.

Good morning, sir. How you doing?

BRANDON JOHNSON (D), CHICAGO MAYORAL CANDIDATE: Hey, good morning. I'm doing well. Thanks for having me.

LEMON: I'm glad we have you here. So, thank you very much for this.

Listen, I'd be remiss, since you're a former schoolteacher, I have to ask you, a career as a public school teacher, you spent a while doing that. What is your reaction to the shooting in Nashville?

JOHNSON: Yes, of course my heart is with the people of Nashville. I mean, this has been, you know, an epidemic for too long in our -- in our country. And we have to do everything in our power to keep our communities safe, particularly our school communities.

As you've indicated, I've served as a public school teacher here in Chicago. And so my heart goes out to all of our - our public employees in general who are on the front lines, holding it down for the people of America. And so, again, my thoughts and prayers are with the people and the families in Nashville and, again, committed to doing everything in my power and my authority as the next mayor of the city of Chicago to keep people safe.

LEMON: So, with that in mind, public safety is a major issue for voters in this election. Violence in the city spiked in 2020 and 2021, although shootings and murders have decreased since then. Other crimes including theft, carjacking, robberies, burglaries increased last year. So then what is your strategy, sir?

JOHNSON: Yes, it's a serious problem for - for people all over the city of Chicago. It's something that my wife and I wake up to every single day. We're raising three children right here on the west side of Chicago, in Austin, a beautiful community. But, Don, it is one of the more violent neighborhoods in the entire city. Over the last four years, just in Austin alone, almost 400 homicides. That's more homicides just in my neighborhood than in many of the neighborhoods combined throughout the city of Chicago. And so, you know, I'm -- this is top of mind.

Listen, our approach is comprehensive. We have to get at the immediate crisis. And we have to solve violent crimes in the city of Chicago. We have an abysmal clearance rate. When crime does take place, we're not solving it. Five percent of the carjackings in the city of Chicago have gone -- 95 percent have gone unsolved. And so that's why immediately I'm going to train and promote 200 more detectives so that we are actually solving violent crime in the city of Chicago.

Two, we have to implement the laws that are -- that are already on the books. We have red flag laws that we are not implementing. And that's going to cost us money. And so I'm prepared to invest in that. People who have guns that should not have them. We don't manufacture any guns in the city of Chicago, but yet somehow they flow through our streets.

The third thing, of course, we have to make sure that we are implementing the consent decree that's going to cost me $50 million. And there are dynamics within their consent decree that are pretty straightforward. Making sure that we're providing mental health services for our law enforcement, making sure that we are providing the research to come up with the reforms that are needed to hold people accountable. But we also have to do what works, which is, we have to prevent violent crime from happening. And that's why I'm committed to doubling the amount of young people that we hire in the city of Chicago because there's a direct correlation between youth employment and violence reduction. We can do that right away.


LEMON: Well, let - let -- let me jump in here because, listen, I know Chicago very well. I was a local reporter there for a while and then I covered it on the national level, especially when you talk about that gun pipeline, right, that supply so many guns coming into Chicago, and then the issue that you have with neighborhoods that see the most crime in that city.

So, policing is a big issue there. Your opponent, Paul Vallas, has criticized you as supporting the defund the police, right? Mayor Lori Lightfoot, during the election, ran this highlighting your comments, comments that you made just back in 2020.

Watch this.


ON SCREEN TEXT: Brandon Johnson on defunding the police.

JOHNSON: We're talking about a whole bunch of stuff, but in particular, like, our effort and our move to redirect and defund the amount of money that is spent in policing.

I don't look at it as a slogan. It's an actual real political goal.

ON SCREEN TEXT: What would this mean if Brandon Johnson was mayor?


LEMON: It's not just a slogan, it's a real political goal. You said you're going to hire more than 200 detectives and other things as well. But how do you respond in that because you're saying directly that defund the police, it's not just a slogan, it is goal for you - goal for you?

JOHNSON: Well, here's what I'm committed to doing. I'm not going to defund the police. What I was referring to is, if you remember, Don, when Trayvon Martin was murdered, President Obama said that if he were to have a son, he would look like Trayvon. What I'm speaking to is to the Mike Browns, the Laquan McDonalds, where over and over again you've had people who are prepared and willing to work within the structure of the system in which, unfortunately, has been quite brutal to black and brown people. And so even with body cams, it still continues to happen.

So, speaking to the real frustration that exists all over the city -- all over the city of Chicago, but, quite frankly, around the country, that when you work tirelessly to come up with -- with reforms to stop the brutalization of unarmed black men, unarmed brown women, right, this happens too often. This is speaking to that frustration. But what I've said repeatedly is that I'm not going to defund the police.

And I recognize, you know, that there have been people on the right in particular said that President Biden was going to defund the police. People say that Governor J.B. Pritzker was going to defund the police. Look, it's a lie. I'm not going to defund the police. This is about smart policing. And someone who was waking up in the neighborhood every single day -

LEMON: But these are - these are Democrats - these are your fellow Democrats who are saying that about you. And if you have -- if you said that, listen, I understand that you're giving it context, and we live in a society now where people aren't real big on context.

But do you -- do you feel that you're going to have the support of the men and women in blue and the people there who are concerned about crime if you have said in your past, even with context here and nuance, that you're going to defund the police, that that was a goal for you?

JOHNSON: So, I'm not going to defund the police. And, yes, I'm going to have the support of the people on the front line because, look, 21 funders for my opponent come right from the Trump camp. And so, I get it, that there are Democrats who behave as Republicans. And this is not a moderate. This is someone who has ruined economies all over the country. Here's someone, when he was in charge of the budget in Chicago, there were over 900 people being murdered every single year in the city of Chicago. Even the Chicago Police Department, the former chief of staff, indicated that my opponent's plan is just -- it's - it's naive and its misleading.


JOHNSON: And so what I've said repeatedly is that I'm going to invest to make sure that we are implementing the consent decree.


JOHNSON: That we are training and promoting 200 more detectives and that we're providing mental health services for law enforcement who are serving on the front line and do not have the type of support that they need.

LEMON: I'm - I'm - I'm up against a time crunch here, Brandon Johnson.

Listen, I really appreciate you joining us and taking the tough questions. Thank you. Good luck to your campaign. Whatever way it goes, we hope that you'll come back here on CNN THIS MORNING to discuss.

Sir, appreciate it. Thank you.

JOHNSON: I will. Thank you so much. No, I appreciate you.

LEMON: Thank you very much.

So tomorrow on CNN THIS MORNING, we're going to speak to Brandon Johnson's opponent, Paul Vallas. Make sure you tune in for that.

COLLINS: Yes, it will be good to see what he says in response.

LEMON: What he has to say.

COLLINS: Also, the planets are set to put on quite the show tonight. You will not need any fancy technology, like those telescopes, to see it. We'll tell you more right after this.



COLLINS: Tonight five planets -

LEMON: Sir Elton. Sir Elton.

COLLINS: Elton John will not be a part of it.

Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Uranus are all going to align right after sunset and be visible to the naked eye. No telescope required.

Joining us now to talk about the planets aligning is the professor of astrophysics at the University of Rochester, Adam Frank.

Adam, I mean, I love the Smithsonian described this as a parade in the western sky. What are we going to see? How cool is this going to be?

ADAM FRANK, ASTROPHYSICS PROFESSOR: Well, basically you're going to be able to see the architecture of the solar system. You're going to see the fact that all the planets all orbit around the sun in a giant pancake. And so that line up that you're going to see on the western sky, right after sunset, is the fact that all the planets right now are in a position on that pancake that they're all going to basically line up. So you'll have Mercury, Jupiter, and then Venus. Uranus is going to be a little hard to see without binoculars and then Mars as well. So, you know, you're going to really see where we live.

LEMON: Yes. It's - and, listen, you know, there's an old saying that, my goodness, the planets were aligned and it means something big and great and good. What does this mean? I know it doesn't happen very often. How often does it happen? And what is this -- what is the enormity of this, sir?

FRANK: The enormity is like coolness, basically. Like, you know, from a cosmic perspective, these things aren't really that rare. Getting some of the planet -- because they are all the planets are -- we all orbit in one giant frisbee. So, it's not uncommon to get the planet -- some of the planet's to align.


This one because you're getting so many of them aligning, it's a little bit more rare.

But it's more just to see where we are. I mean it's - you know, what's amazing is we've lost the night sky. There's - the sky is so bright now with lights that we don't get to see the planets. But our ancestors, even 200 years ago, they noticed that the planets were moving around against the fixed stars, and it freaked them out. It was a show. And so for us to be able to be reminded that we live in a solar system, that we live in -- on a rock that's hurling with a bunch of other rocks around this giant flaming ball is a really powerful reminder of just how profoundly beautiful and mysterious the world is.

COLLINS: Well, Adam, given that, quickly, what is the easiest way to see it tonight? What, you just walk outside or is there like a certain place you should go? What is the easiest way to see it when this happens?

FRANK: You want to go someplace right after sunset, where you get a good view of the western sky, because Venus and Mercury are going to be pretty close to the horizon, and they're going to pretty close. I'm sorry, Jupiter and Mercury. Venus will be higher in the sky, so you'll be able to see it for longer. Then eventually Mars and the moon, you'll be able to see those as well. But you want to clear view of the western sky. If you have binoculars, then you'll probably also be able to make out Uranus as well.

LEMON: And some place where there's not a lot of light pollution.


LEMON: Someplace that's, you know, where it gets dark and you don't have -

FRANK: The better - yes, the darker the skies, the better the show.

COLLINS: All right.

LEMON: Adam Frank.

COLLINS: Thank you so much, Adam.

LEMON: Thank you.

FRANK: My pleasure. The stars were aligned for this interview.

COLLINS: I love it. What's the significance of that? He said, basically just because it's cool.

LEMON: The planets (INAUDIBLE). Yes, because it's cool.

Thank you for joining us, everyone.

So, CNN "NEWSROOM" starts right after this quick break. Have a great day.