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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Newtown Parent Offers Support for Grieving Texas Families; 19 Children, 2 Adults Killed in Shooting at Texas Elementary School; School Shootings Have Surged Since Columbine in 1999; Steve Kerr Speaks About Texas School Shooting. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired May 25, 2022 - 04:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Was one of those children killed. She helped create a foundation dedicated to preventing gun violence.


NICOLE HOCKLEY, MOTHER OF SANDY HOOK SCHOOL SHOOTING VICTIM: I'm there for any one of them as is any member of my organization and lots of other people that would be willing to be there for them and help whatever way they need.

But generally speaking, it all comes down acknowledging that everyone's journey through this is very individual and unique and to respect that, and the choices that people make in that there's no way you can really fathom the dark path that's ahead of you but you will find the way through it back into hope and life, and at one point even joy.

So embrace those that are there to support you and love you, allow them to support and love you. And honor what you lost by allowing that love to show in whatever you choose to.


ROMANS: It's sadly a growing club in this country of people and communities who've suffered from this national trauma and they're reaching out to the grieving families in Texas with advice and support.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: One of the things she talked about so powerfully last night was the trauma, of course, to her and her family and the community. The trauma to the siblings who are watching this, who are watching their parents grieve, who are just living with this every day and what they have to go through is something we don't talk enough about.

Next, we're going to get a report from the ground near the shooting scene in Texas. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROMANS: Welcome back. 19 small children, two adults killed in a mass shooting at a small-town Texas elementary school. The gunman, an 18- year-old who was killed at the scene by law enforcement officers.

Joining us now, CNN's Adrienne Broaddus. She is on the ground for us in Uvalde, Texas.


Bring us up to speed on the investigation and the latest here.

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, good morning to you. Here we are saying words we've likely spoken before. No parent should have to bury their child. But that is the case in this small- town community, this community of Uvalde is dealing with a storm quite literally and physically.

To paint the picture of what's happening here at this hour, it's been thundering, lightning and storming throughout the night into the morning. And parents in this community are facing their own storm. As you mentioned, at least 19 children deceased and two adults.

We've learned a little bit more about the shooter involved in this case. He was an 18-year-old who attended the high school here in this town. Investigators say they believe he shot his grandmother first before showing up at Robb Elementary School. He crashed his vehicle into a ditch, that's when members of law enforcement tried to stop him before he was able to take off, walk away and enter the school.

Earlier in the day we heard from the state's governor, Governor Abbott. Listen to what he had to say.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: When parents drop their kids off at school, they have every expectation to know that they're going to be able to pick their child up when that school day ends. And there are families who are in mourning right now and the state of Texas is in mourning with them for the reality that these parents are not going to be able to pick up their children.


BROADDUS: And our colleague Nicole Chavez was on scene earlier today as parents waited patiently to be reunited with their children, some of them not knowing the status of their children. Nicole telling us some of the parents she spoke with were swabbed for DNA as members of law enforcement and those handling those efforts to reconnect their parents were trying to identify children and the parents.

Meanwhile the FBI and the ATF are assisting local authorities with this investigation and it's important to underscore that Customs and Border Protection, the largest law enforcement agency in this area, dispatched more than 20 agents to the shooting. They were here to help.

We will be here throughout the day and bring you the latest updates as we get them -- Christine.

ROMANS: Adrianne Broaddus, thank you so much for us there at the scene for us this morning.

All right, let's bring in Jillian Snider, a retired police officer and policy director for the R Street Institutes Criminal Justice and Civil Liberties Team. She's also an adjunct lecturer at New York's John Jay College.

Thanks for getting up so early with us on this such a terrible story. So you heard our report there from Adrienne, the FBI working with local law enforcement on the investigation. What does that look like from the local side of things?

JILLIAN SNIDER, POLICY DIRECTOR, CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND CIVIL LIBERTIES TEAM, R STREET INSTITUTE: So honestly the local agencies will have to collaborate in this kind of situation. When you have a mass casualty to this extent, you will always bring in the ATF, the FBI, any other federal agencies to help aid the local law enforcement investigation.

JARRETT: Jillian, you know, you hear law enforcement talk about what a horrific, horrific scene it was at Sandy Hook and just sort of the unimaginable -- just what that looks like and I think that we can all sort of imagine. But these are weapons of war, these are weapons that destroy bodies. And these are little bodies that we're talking about, babies that do not have I.D. on them and these officers are now forced to sort of process a scene like that. How in the world do you train to look at something like that?

SNIDER: There is no training for this. As someone who did retire from law enforcement and had to unfortunately see situations similar to this, there is absolutely no way that you can be prepared to see this, to just absorb this, to process it, and unfortunately like law enforcement officers do this every single day and then also have to bear the burden of talking to the families of the victims which for the victims is horrific, and for the law enforcement who have to deliver that message is even -- is horrible.

ROMANS: I can't imagine. What is your, I mean, I guess what is your view on you carry -- police officers carry a weapon, right, to protect the public, to serve the public. What is your view that on the other side of an interaction you have somebody else who could have a weapon just like yours or even more powerful?

SNIDER: These weapons in particular were way more powerful than most law enforcement officers carry on them regularly.


So we understand that. Again, it's jurisdictional. In Texas it differs from where I worked in New York City. We don't traditionally see weapons of this caliber. But police officers do go out there every single day knowing that individuals that they may encounter -- individuals that may be doing bad things may have weapons that are more powerful than the ones we carry. ROMANS: Yes, it's a really unique situation in the United States where

you have more weapons than people in the U.S. and quite frankly anybody around the corner law enforcement is dealing with could be armed to the teeth.

SNIDER: Yes. I mean, and we're hoping that that's not the case and it is not honestly where I worked in New York City. We didn't have it to that extent. But, again, you have to just be prepared always.

JARRETT: Jillian Snider, thank you so much for your expertise and analysis. Really great to have you.

SNIDER: Thank you so much.

JARRETT: An emotional President Biden addressed the nation in primetime from the White House Roosevelt Room about an hour after arriving back from that five-day trip to Asia. While he was on Air Force One, the president ordered the White House flag to be flown at half-staff in memory of the victims. And in his address to the nation, he demanded action.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am sick and tired of it. We have to act. And don't tell me we can't have an impact on this carnage. I spent my career as a senator and vice president working to pass commonsense gun laws. We can't -- it won't prevent every tragedy, but we know they work and have positive impact. When we passed the assault weapons ban, mass shootings went down. When the law expired, mass shootings tripled.

The idea that an 18-year-old kid can walk into a gun store and buy two assault weapons, it is just wrong. What in God's name do you need an assault weapon for except to kill someone? Deer aren't running through the forest with Kevlar vests on, for God's sake. It's just sick.

And the gun manufacturers have spent two decades aggressively marketing assault weapons which make them the most and largest profit.

For God's sake, we have to have courage to stand up to the industry.

Here's what else I know. Most Americans support commonsense laws, commonsense gun laws. I just got off of a trip from Asia meeting with Asian leaders. And I learned of this while I was on the aircraft. What struck me on that 17-hour flight, what struck me was these kinds of mass shootings rarely happen anywhere else in the world. Why? They have mental health problems. They have domestic disputes in other countries.

They have people who are lost. But these kinds of mass shootings never happen with the kind of frequency that happen in America. Why? Why are we willing to live with this carnage? Why do we keep letting this happen? Where in God's name is our backbone to have the courage to deal with it and stand up to the lobbyists.

Time to turn this pain into action. For every parent, for every citizen of this country, we have to make it clear to every elected official in this country it's time to act. It's time for those who obstruct or delay or block the commonsense gun laws. We need to let you know that we will not forget. We can do so much more. We have to do more.

Our prayer tonight is for those parents lying in bed and trying to figure out, will I be able to sleep again? What do I say to my other children? What happens tomorrow?

May God bless the loss of innocent life on this sad day.


ROMANS: Still to come, an emotional Warriors coach Steve Kerr asking the question on everyone's mind.


STEVE KERR, HEAD COACH, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: When are we going to do something?




ROMANS: Welcome back. Mass shootings, an almost daily occurrence in the U.S., and the rampage in Texas yesterday ranks as one of the deadliest elementary school attacks in American history.

CNN's Tom Foreman has more.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Even with the number of fatalities unsettled, this has already been recorded as one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history, and that is saying something because we've had a lot of them.

Look at this list. These are the deadliest ones that have occurred in the past 25 years. And it's worth noting they are all within that period of time. Such shootings of this magnitude were virtually unheard of before that time. Columbine High School down there in 1999, many law enforcement people say that has been an inspiration and a pattern for many shootings that have followed afterward, and the numbers just keep mounting and mounting year after year.

These are just the big shootings in terms of fatalities. There are many more smaller shootings where one person, three people, five people end up being shot out there. In fact a group called Every Town for Gun Safety that has been tracking this says between 2013 and 2019, there were 549 incidents of gunfire on school grounds, not counting suicides or self-inflicted wounds like that, 129 deaths and 270 people wounded.


And if you're thinking these are just happening more often on, for example, college campuses, where kids might be more mobile, have a little more money, be able to go get guns, that is not the case. This same group says the majority of these shootings are happening in kindergarten through 12th grade schools. And this new shooting, this one that has happened now, very sadly fits directly into the pattern.


JARRETT: Our thanks to Tom for breaking all that down.

Well, basketball was not top of mind when Steve Kerr, coach of the Golden State Warriors, met with the media before his team's playoff game in Dallas last night. Instead Kerr, who has long been outspoken about gun violence, made an emotional plea for lawmakers to act.


KERR: I'm not going to talk about basketball. Nothing's happened with our team in the last six hours. We're going to start the same way tonight. Any basketball questions don't matter. Since we left shootaround, 14 children were killed 400 miles from here. And a teacher. And in the last 10 days we've had elderly black people killed in a supermarket in Buffalo. We've had Asian churchgoers killed in Southern California. And now we have children murdered at school.

When are we going to do something? I'm tired, I'm so tired of getting up here and offering condolences to the devastated families that are out there. I'm so tired of -- sorry, I'm tired of the moments of silence. Enough. There is 50 senators right now who refuse to vote on HR-8 which is a background check rule that the House passed a couple of years ago. It's been sitting there for two years.

And there is a reason they won't vote on it, to hold on to power. So I ask you, Mitch McConnell, I ask all of you senators who refuse to do anything about the violence in school shootings and supermarket shootings, I ask you, are you going to put your own desire for power ahead of the lives of our children and our elderly and our churchgoers? Because that is what it looks like.

It's what we do every week. So I'm fed up, I've had enough. We're going to play the game tonight. But I want every person here, every person listening to this, to think about your own child or grandchild or mother or father or sister, brother. How would you feel if this happened to you today? We can't get numb to this. We can't sit here and just read about it, and go, well, let's have a moment of silence.

Yes, go, Dubs. You know? Come on, Mavs, let's go. That's what we're going to do. We're going to go play a basketball game. And 50 senators in Washington are going to hold us hostage. Do you realize that 90 percent of Americans, regardless of political party, want background check, universal background check? 90 percent of us. We are being held hostage by 50 senators in Washington who refuse to even put to a vote despite what we the American people want.

They won't vote on it because they want to hold on to their own power. It's pathetic. I've had enough.


JARRETT: You heard him say there, how would you feel if it happened to you? Well, it did happen to him. He is no stranger to the tragedy of gun violence himself. His father, a college professor, was shot and killed in a terrorist attack in Beirut back in 1984. And you heard him say there, you know, background checks. Just background checks alone.

Universally popular amongst the general public despite the stalemate in Washington on just simple fixes. Like, you know, increasing the waiting period from three to 10 days. It doesn't mean you're not going to get your gun. It just means you might have to wait seven extra days.

ROMANS: Interesting that you've been looking into all the legislation that just sits there gathering dust in Washington. And I wonder how out of step is Washington to the public polling on some of these things.

JARRETT: Well, on the background checks especially, that's where you see the divide. When it comes to actually banning long guns or assault style rifles, when it comes to actually banning those types of guns, that is where you see more division. But on the background checks, people are universally in favor of it and Washington has universally sat on it.

ROMANS: All right. 54 minutes past the hour. Just ahead, Texas native Matthew McConaughey on the school massacre that just happened in his hometown.



JARRETT: Uvalde, Texas, is where actor Matthew McConaughey was born and spent his early years. Here's part of his Instagram post. Quote, "We have tragically proven that we are failing to be responsible for the rights and freedoms and the rights our freedoms grant us. The true call to action now is for every American to take a longer and deeper look in the mirror and ask ourselves, what is it we truly value?"

ROMANS: "We cannot exhale, once again make excuses and accept these tragic realities as the status quo. As Americans, Texans, mothers and fathers, it's time we re-evaluate and renegotiate our wants from our and needs."

JARRETT: "We have to rearrange our values and find a common ground above the devastating American reality that has tragically become our children's issue. This is an epidemic we can control and whichever side of the aisle we may stand on, we all know we can do better, we must do better."

ROMANS: I didn't realize that he was from that actual little town.

JARRETT: I know. And so small. Yes. ROMANS: Just about, what, 80 miles west of San Antonio.


ROMANS: All right. 48 minutes -- 58 minutes past the hour. Thanks for joining us this morning. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: And I'm Laura Jarrett. "NEW DAY" starts right now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. It is Wednesday, May 25. I'm John Berman live in Uvalde, Texas, this morning. Brianna Keilar is in New York.

And there was just carnage here in this elementary school behind me, the Robb Elementary School. Second and fourth graders targeted and slaughtered by an 18-year-old gunman. This morning we are hearing calls from around the country to do something. This small Texas community is shattered.

This is what we know at this hour. 19 children and two adults are dead. Police say the gunman shot his grandmother who is in critical condition before going.