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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Texas Town Unites in Grief Over 21 Deaths in School Massacre; Uvalde Elementary School Shooting Victims Identified; Calls Grow For U.S. Gun Reform After Texas Elementary School Attack. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired May 26, 2022 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. It is Thursday, May 26th. I'm Christine Romans.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Laura Jarrett. And John Berman is on the ground in Uvalde, Texas, for us.

John, good morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So last night here in Uvalde, hundreds of people gathered at the county fair arena for a vigil to remember the victims of the school shooting at the Robb Elementary School behind me.


BERMAN: Again, you can see Senator Ted Cruz there at the memorial. You can hear the emotion in that room and, obviously, right there you can see family members weeping.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we come tonight, we come with broken hearts. We come in disbelief and we come with pain and anguish.


BERMAN: The pain here in Uvalde being felt all over the country, 21 people killed in this attack, 19 of them young children, 17 others injured and it comes ten days after the mass shooting in Buffalo.

CNN's Adrienne Broaddus has been on the ground here for more than 24 hours reporting this story.

Adrienne, this has been so emotional, each as we learn more information about what took place here.

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly, John, when words escape us, sometimes music soothes, almost like we saw yesterday at the vigil when that violin just filled the silence as those parents and members of the community wept. You talked about this, two additional funerals were held yesterday for the Buffalo shooting victim itself on the same day we learned about the deceased, the 19 children here in this town of Texas. One of the fathers telling us, he does not want his sons and daughters remembered as numbers.

So we're not going to do that. We're going to tell you a little bit more about the deceased. I want to start speaking about a 10-year-old who we learned about Nevaeh Bravo. She was identified by her family. When you spell her name backward, it reveals the word heaven. Nevaeh's cousin tells "The Washington Post" that she put a smile on everyone's face.

We heard from a man who said he heard gunshots and ran to see what was happening. When he saw to someone pointing to the school, his daughter, great granddaughter was inside. Her named was Lexi Rubio. She died in the shooting. He described her as a wonderful little girl who was full of life and energy.

We also had a very clear message for members of this community. Listen in.


JULIAN MORENO, GREAT-GRANDFATHER OF LEXI RUBIO: To our community, we know a lot of people are experiencing anger, opening wish, heart brokenness. For us to remain faithful and understanding that we do not understand the reasons and we do understand that we have a God that we can trust in and hopefully each family will find comfort through his presence.


BROADDUS: And despite his pain, you can see and feel and hear the sense of peace, perhaps a type of peace that some people may not understand. He is clearly leaning on his faith.

We have been here in town, John's, few days. If you drive around the surrounding neighborhoods, there is something that stands out. On many of the homes here, the exterior decor contains across. In the night, those crosses are illuminated. Not only do you see crosses on the houses of the people here, which is a part of the fabric of this community, we also now see crosses behind you at the school.

BERMAN: No question about that.


Look, every store you walk in, every home, every gas station, there are people remembering, mourning along side the families of the victims here.

Adrienne Broaddus, thank you.

As Adrienne said, you can see behind me right now. Overnight, these crosses were placed here, one cross for every victim. There is a memorial now building here at the Robb Elementary School. And we now do know the names of the victims in this massacre as the

families mourn and are sharing details about the loved ones lost in the attack and how they will be remembered.

CNN's Boris Sanchez has more.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twenty-one lives brutally cut short, 21 families now shattered by an act of violence all too common in the United States. Nineteen children now gone, just days before the start of summer break. None yet out of 4th grade.

Like 10-year-old Uziyah Garcia, whose uncle calls him a great kid and full of life. He loved video games and anything with wheels. Uziyah's grandfather, Manny Renfro, calling his grandson the sweetest little boy he's ever known. Renfro telling affiliate KSAT he played football with Uziyah, that he was fast, could catch well and remembered all the routes they practiced.

And Amerie Jo Garza, just ten-years-old, her father angel telling CNN, he finally learned his daughter's fate from a classmate covered in blood.

ANGEL GARZA, FATHER OF AMERIE JO GARZA: She was hysterical saying that they shot her best friend, that they killed her best friend. She's not breathing when she was trying to call the cops. The little girl, the name and she told me, Amerie, I knew it was my little girl.

SANCHEZ: Xavier Lopez also 10 was excited to start middle school. His mom told "The Washington Post" he was recognized in an honor roll ceremony only hours before the unthinkable. She said shed never forget his smile. Quote, he was funny, never serious.

Jose Flores, Jr., also just 10. His father Jose Sr. telling CNN, his son was an amazing kid and a loving big brother to his younger siblings. Always full of energy. He loved baseball and video games.

Alexandria Aniyah Rubio, Lexi as she was called, had just received an award for the honor roll the morning of the shooting. Lexi's parents described her as kind and sweet, with a big future ahead. They told CNN she loved basketball and wanted to go to law school.

Her mother Kimberly Mata-Rubio posted this to Facebook. Quote: My beautiful, smart Alexandria, received the good citizen award. We told her we loved her and would pick her up after school. We had no idea this would be good-bye.

And fourth grade teacher Eva Mireles, an educator for 17 years, her profile on the school district's website describes her love of running, and hiking and spending time with her family, a family that includes a college graduate daughter, Adalynn, posting a gut wrenching tribute to her mother on Twitter, describing her mom as her best friend and twin, calling her a hero, detailing how she tried to save the lives of her students by jumping in front of them. AMBER YBARRA, RELATIVE OF EVA MIRELES: She was a vivacious soul. She

spread laughter and joy everywhere she went. She was a loving and caring mom, relative, teacher, to her students.

SANCHEZ: The second adult, another teacher, Irma Garcia was finishing her 23rd year of teaching. Her school biography says she and her husband Joe were married for 24 years and had four kids together. She loved to barbecue and listen to music.

LALO DIAZ, IRMA GARCIA'S CLASSMATE: The teacher Irma Garcia was someone that was a year below me in school. I've known her probably 30 years, 25 years.

SANCHEZ: At least 17 others were wounded. University Hospital in San Antonio is still caring for four victims, three children and one 66- year-old woman. The shooter's grandmother listed in serious condition. Officials say the gunman shot her in the face before he ran into school and began his shooting rampage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is in the news somewhere, big town, big community, small town like Uvalde.


SANCHEZ (on camera): CNN has also confirmed the identities of four additional victims killed in Tuesday's shooting. One of them, Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez was 10-years-old. She was a 3rd grader. And her father says that she was actually at the school with her cousin who was apparently also killed in Tuesday's shooting.

Another victim is Eliana "Ellie" Garcia, she was just 9.


Her family says that she loved basketball and cheerleading and dreamed of one day becoming a teacher.

Another victim, Tess Marie Amato, was 10-years-old. Her family says that she loves Arianna Grande and they're saving up money to fulfill of dream of one day taking her family to Disneyworld.

Yet another victim, Eliahana Elijah Cruz Torres was 10 years old. Her family telling CNN, quote, our baby earned her wings.

Back to you.

BERMAN: These names, these faces, these stories, these lives on everyone's mind in Uvalde this morning. It is a small town. It's ha ready to meet anybody that doesn't have a connection with the victim here.

Coming up, the gunman was at the school for an hour before police took him down. What took so long?

And later, the moment Beto O'Rourke crashed a news conference to confront the Texas governor. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BETO O'ROURKE, TEXAS GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: The time to stop the next shooting is right now and you are doing nothing.




BERMAN: Welcome back. I'm John Berman in Uvalde, Texas.

We have new details this morning on how long the killer was inside the 4th grade classroom here at the Robb Elementary School.

This is what a Texas congressman tells CNN.


REP. TONY GONZALES (R-TX): All of it, I understand, lasted about an hour. This is where there is a 30-minute lull. They were barricaded in. The rest of the students in the school are now leaving. They're trying to get people out to safety.

This assailant is barricaded in. It's moments later, minutes later when they breach it and ultimately a border patrol agent is the one that neutralizes this assailant.


BERMAN: I want to bring in retired LAPD police sergeant Cheryl Dorsey. She's the author of "The Confidence Chronicle: The Greatest Crime Story Never Told".

Sergeant Dorsey, thank you for being with us.

That length of time, one hour, which, frankly, can feel like an eternity, how do you explain that gap?

CHERYL DORSEY, RETIRED LAPD POLICE SERGEANT: It's hard to imagine what must have been going on in the mind of the teacher and those students who were trapped in that room with the suspect. How he was able to number one be on campus for that long and then be sequestered in a classroom with the students is almost unfathomable. But I am told this is a very small police department and perhaps they didn't have the resources and obviously were relying on other agencies to come and respond in this system in this tactical operation.

BERMAN: Yeah, what we have been told by officials here is that at that first moment when he first went into that classroom and barricaded himself in, there was a sense they did have the fire power to go in and get him. There is frustration in the community about whether more aggressive action should have been taken sooner, even when there were fewer people here. DORSEY: Well, listen, it's easy to point fingers and blame the police

officers for not doing more. But let's look at where I think this problem begins, that's in the home. This person for his 18th birthday was able to go and purchase two AR-15 style rifles. He kept them somewhere, presumably in the home of his parents. He ultimately used it to shoot his grandmother in the face.

What kind of domestic discord was going on in that family. What did his parents know about his proclivity towards violence, about the way he conducted and comported himself. He's reportedly to be a high school dropout. So, that sounds like someone who's incorrigible and probably didn't listen to authority to begin with. I think there were many red flags at home that were ignored.

BERMAN: And not just at home it does seem, because there were these text messages or Facebook messages that have been reported where he did suggest he was going to do something. This does require the recipient of these messages to say something. What is the lesson to all of us here?

DORSEY: Well, I've heard that some of these people who were reading these text messages were in another country. This is not the first time I've seen reports where someone was live streaming real time behavior that was going to end up in a fatal interaction with their own family members.

So, listen, social media has a rule to play, but oftentimes, people use pseudonyms and monikers, aliases on these websites. They don't know -- you don't know who they are, you don't know where they are, so I don't want to hold those who were reading these messages accountable for not doing more and preventing this atrocity from occurring.

BERMAN: So, Sergeant Dorsey, Georgia Governor Abbott said there was no diagnosed, no mental health history here. No specific criminal history has been identified yet.

Yet, as an 18-year-old, right around his birthday, he was able to buy these AR-15 style weapons. Do more layers need to be put into this process?

DORSEY: I think so. This governor gives us prayers and thoughts each and every time there is something like this that occurs without any real substantive change.

And so, why don't we add a layer of, if a family member reports something that doesn't amount to criminal behavior but would give the person reason to be questioned a little closer, maybe delayed in the processing of an application, that would be a good place to start, Governor, if you have an appetite to do something, anything, to stop these deaths occurring on our school campuses.

BERMAN: All right. Sergeant Dorsey, retired LAPD sergeant, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

DORSEY: Thank you.

BERMAN: Ahead for us, the gun safety bill headed for a vote in Congress, any reason to think it will pass?



JARRETT: The horrific Texas school shooting prompting a new round of calls for gun reform here in the U.S. There's a gun safety bill headed for a vote in the House. A bill on background checks appears stalled in the Senate.

CNN's Daniella Diaz is live on Capitol Hill with more on this.

Daniella, good morning. So do any of these bills have any traction right now?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN REPORTER: Laura, there are two bills that pass the House. One would close a so-called Charleston loophole, which means that some people could buy a weapons -- firearms without a processed background check. The second you are referencing, of course, it would expand background checks in this country. Both of these bills stalled in the Senate this year.

Now, the problem here is, of course, that Democrats, even if every single Democratic senator wants to pass gun safety legislation, they do not have Republican support. Now, remember, there is the filibuster, Laura, they may receive 60 votes in the Senate to advance any bill in the Senate. Even if every 50 Democratic senators, support legislation, they need ten Republicans, and right now, that doesn't appear to be the case.

So, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer actually took to the floor yesterday and said that even though they proceeded to move, that Charleston loophole legislation, put it on the legislative calendar in the Senate. It is unlikely they will have a vote soon because there is not that vote needed to pass that legislation, Laura, so he is waiting to see if any Democratic senators can work with Republicans to try to get 60 votes in the Senate to pass any sort of bill.

Now, meanwhile, there is a separate bill taken up for a vote in the house. It's this red flag bill that would allow people to flag someone is unable or -- should not be owning a firearm. That will be taken up by the house the first week of June. So, the House is proceeding with legislation. Even if it passes the House, it might not be able to pass the senate. It all happenings on whether Republicans could get behind legislation on gun safety reform.

JARRETT: It all comes back to that 60-vote threshold time and again. Daniella, thank you for your report.

ROMANS: All right. Whenever there is a school shooting in America, that is often, the movement for gun laws gathers momentum. Then that movement stalls.

Brian Todd has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Another slaughter of children inside a school, another instance where a shaken president pleads for an end to inaction.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When in God's name we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?

TODD: But if there's any new movement in Washington after the Uvalde, Texas, mass shooting, any movement to ban or cut back the sales of assault weapons, any movement to strengthen background checks, it could join a heartbreaking list of past attempts following horrific school shootings that failed.

BILL CLINTON, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: We must do more to keep guns out of the hands of children.

TODD: That was President Bill Clinton three days after the massacre at Columbine high school in Colorado in April, 1999, when two students killed 12 fellow students and a teacher. Federal legislation was proposed to close loopholes for background checks at gun shows. It failed in Congress.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: For president after president since Bill Clinton, there are tragedies, there is a call to action, there are efforts at legislation, and that legislation falls short.

TODD: The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012, when 20 children were gunned down along with six adults, was a moment so horrifying that Democrats and Republicans said something had to be done.

BARACK OBAMA, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: This time, the words need to lead to action.

TODD: Many believed tighter gun laws had a real chance of passing. They didn't pass. Not a proposed assault weapons ban, not a bipartisan measure for expanded background checks. President Barack Obama was still upset years later.

BARACK: Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad.

TODD: Four years ago, after a gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, then-President Donald Trump went against the NRA and called for sweeping gun legislation.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We want to be very powerful, very strong on background checks and especially as it pertains to the mentally ill.

TODD: That movement lasted about a day at the federal level.

The father of a Parkland victim following the Texas shooting on Tuesday remained pessimistic and angry.

FRED GUTTENBERG, LOST DAUGHTER IN PARKLAND SHOOTING: It is so infuriating because all of these instances, we know the next one is going to happen because we haven't done anything to fix it.

TODD: One analyst says there's plenty of blame to go around. And not just among politicians who point fingers at the other side of the aisle.

TALEV: The public has not demonstrated a will to put this issue above everything else at the ballot box. Are they willing to prioritize that above voting on inflation or their pocketbook?


TODD (on camera): And now, after this school's shooting, a similar conundrum in Congress.