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Erin Burnett Outfront

Police: Waiting To Storm Classroom Was "The Wrong Decision, Period"; Father Of Victim Speaks Out After Police Admit Major Failure; NRA Holds Convention In The Face Of 2nd Deadliest School Shooting; Texas Governor Doubles Down On Mental Health, Dismisses Gun Control; CNN Tracks Alleged War Crimes Committed By Russia's 64th Brigade. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired May 27, 2022 - 19:00   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, a haunting admission. Texas law enforcement officials acknowledge it was the, quote, wrong decision to wait more than an hour to take out the gunman. A parent of one of the young victims joins me with his response.

Plus, protests outside the NRA convention taking place in Texas tonight, former President Trump and Ted Cruz among those rallying the crowd for broader guns rights, former NRA member says that's exactly why he quit.

And an exclusive report from Ukraine on a Russian commander wanted for crimes against humanity. CNN is at the scene of one of his alleged war crimes.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, I'm Erica Hill, in for Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, it was the wrong decision. That admission from the Texas department of public safety who said today, the officers on the scene made major mistakes in their response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School, waiting more than an hour to enter the classroom where 18-year-old gunman was holed up with children and two teachers, some who had already been murdered, others injures, others playing dead. Some desperately calling 911 for help.


SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Why was this decision made not to go in and rescue these children?

COL. STEVEN MCCRAW, DIRECTOR, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: Again, you know, the on-scene commander considered a barricaded subject and there was time and children at risk.

Of course, it was not the right decision. It was the wrong decision, period.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HILL: We now know there were 19 officers waiting in the hallway just feet from the classroom. They stood by as these young students made repeated calls to 911 asking for help.


MCCRAW: She identified herself, whispered she's in room 112. At 12:10 p.m. she called back, adviser, multiple dead. Approximately 12:43 p.m., she asked 911 to please send police now.


HILL: On one call, the girl said she could actually hear police outside the door yet it took 78 minutes for police to finally confront the gunman. Today, Texas Governor Abbott claimed he was essentially lied to about that initial police response.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: I was misled. I am I am livid about what happened.


HILL: Of course, that's a far cry from what we initially heard from Abbott just a day after the shooting when he praised the response noting it saved lives. All of these as new photos from the scene reveal the harrowing escape from Robb Elementary. Children, jumping from windows, running for their lives. On their faces, you can see the fear.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is OUTFRONT tonight live in Uvalde, Texas.

Ed, what is the latest there tonight?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Erica. Well, it is really stunning to grasp the magnitude of just how fundamentally the details of what happened at this school has changed from one day to the next and this is something that is incredibly painful, frustrating and demoralizing for the residents of this city.


ABBOTT: I was misled. I am livid about what happened.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Explosive reaction from the Texas governor to new information about law enforcement's response on the day of the Uvalde shootings.

ABBOTT: The information they was given turned out, in part, to be inaccurate. I'm absolutely livid about that. And it is imperative that the leaders of the investigations about exactly what happened get down to the very seconds of exactly what happened with 100 percent accuracy.

LAVANDERA: Governor's press conference coming after the Texas department of public safety said police were wrong in waiting to go in and eliminate an active shooter after he started killing students and teachers.

MCCRAW: It was a wrong decision, there is no excuse for that. Texas embraces active shooter training, active shooter certification. Every officer lines up, stacks up, goes and finds where the rounds are being fired at and keeps shooting until the suspect is dead. Period.

LAVANDERA: The decision to back down from an active shooter was, according to officials, made by the school district's chief of police.

MCCRAW: The incident commander at the time was believed, you know, that in fact was a barricaded subject, that we had time, no kids were at risk.

LAVANDERA: The admission comes after he laid out the timeline that day, 11:27 a.m., the teacher he said had propped open a door to go outside and grab a cell phone.


Then the gunman fired shots at two people near the school grounds.

MCCRAW: There's multiple shots fired at the school at 11:32; 11:33, the suspect begins shooting in the room 111 or 112. At 11:35, three police officers entered the same door as the suspect entered.

LAVANDERA: Gun fire continued while as many as 19 agents were still in the hallway but didn't go in the classroom until a janitor brought the keys. Second grader Edward Silva was in his classroom when the shooting started.

EDWARD SILVA, SECOND GRADER: At first they sounded like something like was popping. Like kind of like fireworks.

LAVANDERA: Just after 12:00, the 911 calls began from a child inside the classroom, where shots were fired.

MCCRAW: She identified herself and whispered she's in room 112. At 12:10, she called back, adviser, multiple dead. 12:13 p.m. again, she called on the phone, 12:16 p.m. called back, eight to nine students alive. 12:21 p.m. you could hear over the 911 call three shots fired. 12:36 p.m., 911 call lasted 21 seconds, initial caller called back, student, child called back, told to stay on the line and be very quiet she told 911 he shot the door. Approximately 12:43 p.m. and 12:47 p.m. she asked 911 to please send the police now.

LAVANDERA: Eleven-year-old Miah Cerrillo was inside the class with the gunman, her aunt said she had to save herself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Miah got some blood, put on herself and she pretended she was dead.

LAVANDERA: By the time the tactical team breached the classroom and killed the shooter, he had been in the room for more than an hour.


LAVANDERA (on camera): And, Erica, presumably when the governor was briefed about what happened on Wednesday, this was about 24 hours after the incident. He was briefed by federal, state and local agencies. It's really hard to understand how this kind of crucial information could have still been bumbled 24 hours after the incident. These aren't minor details. These are the crucial details of what happened.

CNN has also made attempts to reach out to the police chief of the school district here. We have not been successful in doing so and after the governor's briefing today, had a chance to ask the superintendant of the school and the mayor here in Uvalde if they would call for the resignation of the school police chief and the city police chief. Both men refused to answer the question -- Erica.

HILL: Yeah, certainly not the end of this. Ed, appreciate the reporting as always. Thank you.

OUTFRONT tonight, Alfred Garza who lost his daughter, 10-year-old Amerie Jo Garza.

Mr. Garza, I'm so sorry for your loss and that we're meeting under these circumstances. I'm sure this week has been unimaginable for you. When you learned the details today, for more than an hour, there were 19 officers outside that classroom while children were calling 911, pleading for help -- what was your reaction?

ALFRED GARZA, FATHER OF AMERIE JO GARZA: I mean, I'm in just disbelief. You know, whenever all this stuff happened, I was actually showed up at the school and I was trying to be one of those calm parents while others were panicking and trying to take action, I was trying to just be, you know, just calm-headed and let the officers do their job like they asked us to, you know, they're telling us they're devising a plan, they're strategizing, they're going to get in there.

But even I knew at the scene they were just taking too long. I knew if I were just to be combative and just trying to fight them, then I would just be delaying what I wanted which the end result was to get my daughter out of the school so like every other citizen in town, we were thinking hey, the police are going to do their job and get them out and, you know, after today, you know, hearing this information it's like well I guess I was wrong. So, yeah.

HILL: So guess you're wrong, meaning they weren't doing their job.

GARZA: That's what it sounds like. I mean, you know, there was some information about the procedures and things that were going on that day and apparently they took too long, right? So I mean, I'm not -- I'm not a genius but it doesn't take, you know, a genius to figure out that it just took too long to get in there and, you know, having gotten there sooner, had someone taken immediate action, we might have more of those children here today including my daughter.

HILL: Yeah, which is a tough thing to even have to think about. You know the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety said the response was, quote, the wrong decision, said there was no excuse as you heard. Who do you think needs to be held accountable here?


GARZA: I mean, that's a tough -- that's a tough question to answer. I mean, like I told somebody earlier, no matter who is held responsible, it's not going to bring my daughter back, right? My daughter, she's gone and we're trying to lay her to rest and for her to be at peace but somehow, some way, someone needs to answer for, you know, what was done.

You know, when somebody out here does something wrong, you know, they have to pay for it so what is the law got to pay, what, whoever was responsible, how are they going to, you know, try to make it right? What are, you know, I'm already, I'm at loss for words you know what I mean?

I don't really know what to say but somebody has to be held accountable. Somebody was wrong. There's consequences to action when stuff like that happens. Who was supposed to -- who was supposed to pay? I have no idea.

Who was supposed to fall on that? I have no idea. I can't even answer that question. It's just, somebody was wrong and they took too long.

HILL: Governor Abbott said earlier today that he was livid, that he had the wrong information in the beginning. He said he wants to know exactly what happened. He wants a second by second account. Do you believe you will get the full story eventually?

GARZA: It's tough to say, you know, there's bits and pieces of information coming out from different people because different people were at different sections of the school and, I mean --

HILL: I think we lost -- we may have just lost Mr. Garza's shot. But, again, oh, he's back -- Mr. Garza, are you back with us? Can you hear me? I don't know if we have his audio.

Mr. Garza, we're going to try to get your audio back, give us one second. But if you're just joining us, stay with us, we're speaking with Alfred Garza whose 10-year-old daughter Amerie Jo was killed in that school massacre at Robb Elementary in Texas, just reacting to what he's learned today in terms of the timeline, and he's joining us.

Mr. Garza, thanks for bearing with us through those technical issues. You know, before we let you go, it is so important, right, that we all know who these young victims are. That we all know who your daughter Amerie Jo was, what brings her joy, what brought you joy. I can't imagine what it's like for you in this moment. I wonder, though, as you're dealing with this probably hour by hour, are there moments that you think of, I know you just celebrated Amerie's birthday -- are there moments you think of that do bring some joy to you as you remember your daughter?

GARZA: I mean, yes, you know, like you said I have my moments, I can be joking around one second then as soon as I see a picture of her it hits me like a ton of bricks. But yes, I do have joy in remembering who she was and the relationship me and my daughter had, you know, we had a special relationship and her mom would tell me she was just like me and, you know, I feel like she had a very strong character and personality and, you know, she was a lot of great things and had a lot of great qualities about her.

You know, she was just the perfect daughter to me. So it brings me joy to know that I got an opportunity to have such a great daughter and I try to be the best father I could be and, you know, I do have great joy knowing that I got to know her and had the opportunity to be her father and that she was a good kid, and, you know, she was an overall good person.

HILL: I sincerely hope those moments can continue to sustain you. Alfred Garza, thank you so much for sharing some of that with us tonight.

GARZA: Thank you, ma'am. Yes, ma'am.

HILL: OUTFRONT next, I'll speak to a witness who was there when the gunman crashed his car and started firing as he walked toward the school, you'll hear his chilling account next.

Plus, gun owners and protesters converged in Houston for the NRA's annual convention. A former NRA member tells me why he left the organization.

And Texas Governor Greg Abbott doubling down, insisting the focus should still be on mental health on in the wake of this latest massacre. So why does his state rank last in the country when it comes to access to mental healthcare?



HILL: Tonight, FBI does not believe anyone helped the gunman in the Uvalde shooting massacre, nor that he was motivated by a specific ideology. That's according to Texas Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro, who also says officials now analyzing the gunman's digital footprint to help build a timeline, this as we continue to learn more horrifying details of what happened from witnesses at the scene.

OUTFRONT now, Juan Carranza. He saw the gunman exchange gun fire with police before he entered the school.

Juan, you were there, you saw the gunman crash his car into that ditch. You called 911 immediately. What happened after that?

JUAN CARRANZA, WITNESSED GUNMAN EXCHANGE FIRE WITH OFFICERS: Well, when he -- when I called 91 within, the gunman was already going to the school with a gun, with a gun, toward the school. And I said before, before that, when he crashed into the ditch.

There was two persons from the funeral home across the school, going to see if he needed any help and the shooter, he was shooting back at the people trying to help him from the funeral home and they went to the funeral home running and, they didn't get shot, they were okay.

But the gunman crossed the fence on the site where the back of the school is. He crossed the fence. He got a handbag and the big rifle. After he crossed the fence, walking straight into the school.

After that, when -- and I couldn't see them, the two police cops when it came from Geraldine and block -- from Grove Street, they blocked through Geraldine and they exchanged fires, the police shooting at the gunman and the gunman was shooting at them.


So they were protecting themselves, police were protecting themselves, right there on the fence, on the side I was watching everything. They were just protecting themselves and whenever that has happened, I couldn't see nothing in the back where the gunman was because he was in the back part and there was a blind spot for me I couldn't see from where he was but he shot some fires but I don't know where, if it's to the school or what but that wasn't to the cop, that was to the school. That was after --

HILL: So they exchanged gunfire and as you say, you saw him grab the gun, grab the bag, run toward the school and then you heard more fire. When this was all happening, I imagine so quickly, as he's running toward the school, in that moment, did you think the children and the teachers and the staff inside were going to be his target?

CARRANZA: Wherever he was going with the gun, the gun to the school, I thought he was going to kill students, some kids inside. I thought he was up to no good.

I was just so scared that he was going to go into the school and kill the kids, you know? It all happened so, so like, I didn't know too much was going on in my situation. Like I didn't know what to think. I was just hoping he wasn't going into the school.

HILL: Juan Carranza, appreciate you taking the time to join us tonight. Thank you.

CARRANZA: Thank you.

HILL: OUTFRONT now, former acting Baltimore police commissioner, Anthony Barksdale, and Kenneth Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services and former Cleveland school security director.

It's good to have both of you with us tonight.

So, Commissioner Barksdale, you just heard from Juan. You know, his worst fears essentially were confirmed, saying that it didn't look good. I was just going back to what we learned, 19 officers waiting in the hall for an hour because they believed there were no more children at risk, yet we know during that time, there were multiple 911 calls from kids inside the classroom. One of those calls, 12:16 p.m., child said there were eight to nine students alive. More calls after that, police finally breached the door at 12:50 p.m. Do you believe it's possible more children could have survive.

ANTHONY BAKSDALE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I believe it's absolutely possible. We have to keep in mind this individual, this suspect using a high-powered assault rifle and these are little, little children. Those rounds would do significant damage to a grown man, a grown woman, and this is being used on little children. So it is possible that one of the children, some of the children could have been injured.

And I'm trying to be respectful here, because the parents are going through enough. Maybe one of the children was struck by gunfire and was alive but due to the delay, that child doesn't stand a chance. So it's quite possible that some of those kids could still be alive if they had done their jobs.

HILL: And it is -- it's terrible to think about.

Kenneth, Colonel McCraw, who gave that briefing today, said several times they didn't go in because they didn't believe children were at risk. How could you say that no more children are at risk when they're locked in a room with a gunman?

BARKSDALE: You've got an active shooter. You go, you press until that active shooter is taken out of the threat equation. I'm talking you're killing this guy.

For those kids, you have to be willing to die for them, to kill him. And I know this doesn't sound pretty or civilized but this is the job that you take when you take that oath to protect and serve. Those kids were let down by law enforcement.

There -- it's just clear, now, all the hymning and hawing about what happened and did they do this or do that, those kids needed those officers to enter that room, put rounds into that killer and take him out. And that didn't happen.


And you've got one of those little babies trying to call for help and they're not making entry? Significant failure. Somebody has to be accountable for all of this. So, yeah, this is failure. I'm sorry. It's complete failure.

And the more and more we go over this, it's getting worse. The facts that we're learning, it's getting worse. So, yeah, I'm sorry, some of the kids could have still been here.

HILL: Kenneth, when you look at this, at what we know, the fact that those 19 officers as we understand, the police chief still in charge, still unclear whether he was on scene, that question wasn't answered, does it surprise you that not one of them decided they needed to go in, Kenneth?

KENNETH TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL SCHOOL SAFETY AND SECURITY SERVICES: Erica, we've talked many times in the past, including when we were at Sandy Hook together, after that tragedy, and we know that while the facts of every case vary, the common thread analyzing these after the fact is that they involve questions and allegations of failures of human factors.

We started in this, certainly, when suspect bailed out of the car, fired shots and headed to the school, I think we could all agree the school was, itself, at risk. The door that was open on the side is quite concerning. The door was confirmed to be propped open today.

And we could put all the hardware and technology and equipment around the buildings, target hardening, locks on doors, cameras, single points of entry, but until we train staff to be situationally aware, make good cognitive decisions, look for patterns that are broken, and in context be aware of what's going on, we're never going to have any effectiveness with those equipment.

And the entry itself, I think that, you know, officers are judged legally and based on the knowledge that they had at the time of this incident, I think there are growing questions here as to what knowledge did they have, what intelligence were they given, and what were they basing these decisions on?

In Columbine, we learned as you will recall from then, that we pivoted from a perimeter and wait for response to the first officer going in as the commissioner said, the question here is why did that not occur and the messages, mixed messages coming out so far in the press conferences have caused insult to injury in this case. It's not helpful.

HILL: Yeah, Kenneth Trump, Anthony Barksdale, really appreciate both joining us tonight. Thank you.

TRUMP: Thanks, Erica.

HILL: OUTFRONT next, large protest outside the NRA's national convention while inside, President Trump calls to arm more Americans.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: The existence of evil is one of the very best reasons to arm law-abiding citizens.


HILL: Plus, every time there is a mass shooting in Texas, the governor blames mental health, not guns. Is he putting his money where his mouth is?



HILL: New tonight, former President Trump wrapping up his speech moments ago with the NRA convention in Houston where a large group of protesters gathered outside the convention center where that event is taking place. Inside the hall, prayers offered for the 19 children and two teachers

who were gunned down inside their classroom in Uvalde.

But beyond arming more people with guns, solutions to stop the next shooting seem in short supply.

Ryan Young is OUTFRONT at the NRA convention.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former President Donald Trump rallying with the National Rifle Association as it holds annual meeting just days after 21 people including 19 children were massacred in a school shooting in Uvalde.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: The existence in evil in our world is not a reason to disarm law-abiding citizens who know how to use their weapon and can protect a lot of people. The existence of evil is one of the very best reasons to arm law-abiding citizens.

YOUNG: Instead of new gun laws, the former president calling for more focus on mental health and school security.

TRUMP: What we need now is a top-to-bottom security overhaul at schools all across our country.

YOUNG: Those arguments echoed by others who address the NRA's annual convention in Houston, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): We must not react to evil and tragedy by abandoning the constitution or infringing on the rights of our law- abiding citizens.

YOUNG: The NRA has condemned the Uvalde shooting but decided to press ahead with its gathering, though several musical performers and elected officials canceled appearances in the wake of the shooting.

PROTESTERS: NRA! Go away! NRA! Go away!

YOUNG: Across the street, a crowd of protesters gathered outside the convention site.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm looking at you, NRA, today. I don't want any more of my peers to die in a school!

YOUNG: Outraged over the gun group's influence and high profile Republican speakers the group attracted.

PROTESTERS: Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you!

YOUNG: Former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke, the state's Democratic nominee for governor, joined those outside the venue calling for action.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), TEXAS GUBERNATORIAL NOMINEE: The time for us to stop Uvalde was right after Sandy Hook. If you have done anything good, it is the fact that you have brought us here together and we are committing ourselves to act.

YOUNG: Texas Governor Greg Abbott initially scheduled to appear in person but sent a video message instead.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: There are thousands of laws on the books across the country that limit the owning or using of firearms, laws that have not stopped madmen from carrying out evil acts on innocent people in peaceful communities.



YOUNG (on camera): Yeah, the passion here is something you can feel. Earlier today, Erica, there was at least a thousand people here who were rallying and at some point, they were surrounding people, screaming their points and saying we need to protect kids and not guns and you can feel that emotion coming on the streets, even at this point, when you leave that convention center, you're being shouted at by these protesters.

HILL: A lot of passion there, that is for sure. Ryan Young, appreciate it. Thank you.

I want to bring in now, Dr. Sterling Haring, a former NRA member who treated victims at Kentucky school shooting in 2018.

Dr. Herring, it's good to have you with us tonight.

So, you grew up around guns. I want to point out you are still a gun owner today. You're no longer a member of the NRA. Why?

DR. STERLING HARING, FORMER NRA MEMBER: You know, that's a complicated question. I certainly grew up around guns. I grew up with family members who are members of the NRA and myself, at a time, and part of that is because I went to med school and kind of got too busy.

But as I grew up and learned, I studied public health at Johns Hopkins. And as I did so, I learned that there are policies that make a lot of sense and NRA actively opposes those policies. Certainly, having seen the effects of gun violence firsthand, that kind of solidified my stance.

HILL: Uh-huh. So, you mentioned those policies and what you saw firsthand. Are you surprised at all based on your experience, that the NRA went ahead with this convention?

HARING: Unfortunately, no. I think this decision was despicable. It's tasteless, it's cruel, it's inappropriate, it's despicable. Unfortunately, it's exactly what I expected, and I think it's what, you know, millions of Americans expected.

Unfortunately, the NRA has made a name for itself not as a representative of gun owners or representative of any Americans but as an organization that is a shell company, essentially, a shell organization for gun manufacturers. They have exactly one role, one goal, and that is to sell guns. So if they have an opportunity to do so, they're going to take it and for them, for us, Uvalde is yet another wider example of why we need evidence-based policies and it's a tragedy.

And for them, it's a marketing opportunity. The NRA and politicians that have chosen to speak at this event have proven yet again that their interest lies more with guns and dollars than it is with our sons and daughters.

HILL: You talk about the need for evidence-base the moves, essentially, paraphrasing what you said there obviously but we heard from Governor Greg Abbott who was supposed to be there in person, instead sent that have you had I won't message which we just heard a little bit of and in it, said laws limiting the owning or using of firearms haven't prevented mad men from carrying out these evil acts.

When you talk about this evidence that you're seeing, maybe you saw in the ER or seeing in terms of gun violence, is there evidence that you see, that you believe could in fact lead to less gun violence?

HARING: Absolutely. There's a mountain of evidence out there. Unfortunately, Governor Abbott's comments are wrong on more than one level. First off, saying, you know, there's a tendency to refer to murderers in these cases as madmen and that kind of alludes to this idea and supports this frequently false idea that mass shooters are, that this is a mental health issue.

And we know from, there's ample evidence that fewer than 30 percent of mass shooting perpetrators have any diagnosable mental health issue at all.

So, do we feed to pursue improved mental health in this country? We absolutely do. Just like we should put on our seat belt. Will that prevent mass shootings? No.

Further, I think having seen -- also kind of having gone through the COVID crisis, being in the hospital for that, what I saw in dealing with COVID is countries, communities, turning to science, turning to public health and saying what should we be doing, is there evidence, what should we be doing to stop the disease from ravaging our communities, killing our family members, what do we need to be doing.

I would love to see the country, the communities, the state governments do the same thing for this trend, for this epidemic of firearm deaths. Unfortunately, as you know, the gun violence trend has been such that now it is the number one injury-related cause of death among young people in the United States.

HILL: Yeah.

HARING: There are mountains of evidence for policies that can prevent these things. Things like background checks, things like red flag law, like ghost guns and any politician who is not willing to back these things, in my view is complicit in these mass murders.

HILL: Dr. Sterling Haring, appreciate your perspective tonight. [19:40:01]

Thank you.

HARING: Thank you.

HILL: OUTFRONT next, Texas Governor Greg Abbott calling the school massacre a mental health issue as you just heard. Did he shift money, though, away from his state's healthcare budget to border security?

Plus, a CNN exclusive investigation as Russians accused of war crimes including raping and torturing innocent civilians.


HILL: Tonight, amid growing calls from both sides of the aisle for gun control after the Uvalde shooting massacre in Texas, Republican Governor Greg Abbott says the focus should be on mental health.


ABBOTT: Anyone who suggests, well, maybe we should focus on background checks as opposed to mental health I suggest to you is mistaken. Anybody who thinks we can't do more to address mental healthcare? They're wrong.


HILL: Can more be done in this country? Absolutely.

His remarks also come as his state, Texas, is currently ranked the worst in the nation when it comes to access to mental healthcare.

Nick Watt is OUTFRONT.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Governor Greg Abbott isn't talking at all about gun control. But he does talk a lot about mental health.

ABBOTT: Anybody who shoots somebody else has a mental health challenge. Period.

WATT: This is press conference the day after those 21 murders in Uvalde.

ABBOTT: We, as a government, need to find a way to target that mental health challenge and do something about it.

WATT: Nearly five years ago, after 26 were slaughtered in a Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, he told CNN this.

ABBOTT: One of the challenges we have to deal with is not just evil but mental health challenges.

WATT: Today, nearly five years later, mental health, America America's 2022 access to care rankings puts Texas dead last.

Governor Abbott clearly has other priorities. Just a month ago, he diverted nearly half a billion dollars of mostly COVID relief surplus funds to what he calls the disaster at the southern border, while taking a political pop at President Biden's open border policies and he said this: Texans' safety and security is our top priority and we will continue fighting to keep our communities safe.

But, undocumented immigrants have substantially lower crime rates than native born citizens states a recent academic study of Texas, the most aggressive immigrant removal programs not delivered on their crime reduction promises and are unlikely to do so in the future. To be fair, operation lone-star does also target illegal drugs seeping into Texas but in the mean time, at least 388 people have been killed in mass shootings in Texas on Governor Abbott's watch while he has rolled back gun restrictions.


WATT (on camera): And just briefly back to the half billion dollars diverted down to the border, it was taken from a bunch of different department and see they were then reimbursed, largely, with surplus COVID relief funding -- unclear why that delicate dance was entirely necessary.

Anyway, he took more than $200 million from HHS, which led some people to wonder hang on, is he taking money away from mental health? Now his office tells me that is, quote, completely inaccurate. The department tells me they're fully funded. The budgets have risen modestly in the past couple of years.

His spokesperson says Governor Abbott works hard to increase access and funding but don't forget, in that leaked table of access to mental health, Texas, dead last -- Erica.

HILL: Nick watt, appreciate it.

Thank you. OUTFRONT next, a CNN exclusive. We'll take you to the scene where Russian commanders accused of committing horrific crimes against humanity.

Plus, former President Obama's heartwarming reunion with a boy from this iconic photo.



HILL: Tonight, exclusive investigation into Russia's now infamous 64th Motor Rifle Brigade, one of the Russian brigades stationed in Bucha into northern Kyiv. Eleven men from the 64th brigade now named suspects in war crimes investigations.

Melissa Bell is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Russian tanks entering the village of Lypivka in late February, now in charge here of life and of death.

Six weeks later, now back in control of the village, Ukrainian authorities begin counting the dead.

I can't look says, one mother. It was only after the tanks had withdrawn that Ukrainian prosecutors were able to start piecing together what had happened. They now suspect these men of crimes in violation of the rules and customs of war.

RUSLAN KRAVCHENKO, REGIONAL PROSECUTOR, BUCHA (through translator): On this street, nine soldiers of the 64th brigade imprisoned unarmed civilians, detained and tortured them 10 days, inflicting bodily harm and carried out mock executions.

BELL: We wanted to see for ourselves where some of the alleged crimes might have been committed. Going door to door with pictures of the soldiers we meet Andre who recognizes one of them.

Is it locked?

He leads us down to a cellar where he says Russian soldiers tried to kill a group of men and women who had been hiding. They used grenades and rifles, he says, but the civilians managed to survive by heading further into the darkness. This is the scene of just one of the alleged crimes of the men of the 64th brigade. It is littered with cigarettes and bullet casings.

Back in Lypivka, we show Mykola, a local resident, a picture of Commander Vasel Levinyenko (ph). He recognizes him immediately and invites us into what's left of his home.

He and his family hid in the woods, he said, while his home was destroyed by the Russian artillery that killed his neighbor. When he tried to come back, he says the commander seemed surprised. He said, what are you doing here? You should have been burnt alive. Mykola still doesn't know why he decided to let him live.

IRYNA VENEDIKTOVA, UKRAINE PROSECUTOR GENERAL: Raping of people, torturing these people, for what? Because they want to scare civilians. Scare our citizens of towns, religious leaders.

BELL: After withdrawing from the Bucha area, the brigade's men were promoted by Moscow.


The Kremlin denies any involvement in the mass killings.

The 64th brigade was created after the Georgian war according to Ukrainian intelligence. The soldiers of this brigade, he says, were noted for their robberies and rapes, but instead of bringing order to the brigade, the Russian command armed, he explained with modern weapons and sent it into Ukraine. Beyond working out exactly what the Russian soldiers who occupy this

area north of Kyiv might have been responsible for, the big question for Ukrainian prosecutors now is where they are.


BELL (on camera): Until they can figure that out exactly, of course, Erica, they continue to gather evidence, not only for the own prosecutions they hope to bring according to Ukrainian law, but evidence they intend to pass on when they think it will be appropriate to the International Criminal Court, itself, carrying out its own investigation.

In the meantime, there's that's news that they could be back or some of them back in Ukraine and fighting in the east is of particular concern. If they get pushed back, what will they leave behind?

HILL: Yeah, yeah, it's an important question and a disturbing one at that.

Melissa Bell, appreciate it. Thank you.

OUTFRONT next, former President Obama reunites with the young boy from this memorable photo.


HILL: It's one of the most iconic photos of President Obama's time in office, and today, an update from the former president about this young man. Jacob was just five years old when his dad, a marine, brought him to the White House in 2009.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: You know, kind of standing there looking at me for a second and then says, is your hair like mine? I go, well, want to check and see? I lean down, say go ahead, touch it, well, what do you think? He says, yeah, I think that's pretty much what I got.


HILL: What else he's got? 13 years later, is perhaps a good reason to catch up. Jacob's now graduated from high school, so it seems like a good time for catch-up with the former president. Take a look.



OBAMA: Is that Jacob?

PHILADELPHIA: Yeah, it is.

OBAMA: It's Barack Obama, man, do you remember me?

PHILADELPHIA: Yeah. I remember you telling me your hair was going to be gray next time.

OBAMA: And I was not lying.


HILL: Well, up next, Jacob is heading to the University of Memphis where he plans to study political science. Something a little more uplifting to end your week.

"AC360" starts right now.