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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Questions Growing About Police Response to Uvalde Massacre; 10- Year-Old Student at Robb Elementary Remembers His Lost Friends; Biden to Visit Uvalde, Texas Sunday to Console Grieving Families. Aired 5- 5:30a ET

Aired May 27, 2022 - 05:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. It is Friday, May 27th. I'm Laura Jarrett. Christine has the morning off.

And John Berman is on the ground in Uvalde, Texas, for us.

John, good morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, Laura.

We begin with mounting questions about the police response to the mass shooting at the Robb Elementary School behind me that ended in the deaths of 19 children and two adults. There are new details emerging about the basic facts of the case and some directly contradict the story that authorities first told.

This is the time line of the attack as we understand it now. Authorities now say at 11:28 a.m. Tuesday, the gunman crashed his truck and fired his rifle at two people across the street. At 11:40, 12 minutes later, the gun than fired toward the school building and then walked in through an unlocked door. He was not confronted by a school resource officer, which is directly contradictory to what officials had been telling us.


VICTOR ESCALANO, REGIONAL DIRECTOR, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: Not accurate. He walked in unobstructed initially. So from the grandmother's house to the bar ditch, to the school, in the school, he was not confronted by anybody. To clear the record on that.


BERMAN: At 11:44 a.m. officers arrived at the school, the shooter fired at them. They took cover and called for more backup. Authorities say officers did evacuate students and teachers from other parts of the school and at some point began negotiations with the gunman.

Meantime as the minutes tick by, family members who had gathered became increasingly upset that officers were not trying to go into the classroom where the suspect was apparently barricaded. Listen.


VICTOR LUNA, FATHER OF ROBB ELEMENTARY STUDENT: I told one of the officers myself if they didn't want to go in there, let me borrow a gun and vest and I'll go in there myself to handle it up. And they told me no.


BERMAN: Finally, after about an hour, a border patrol tactical team forced entry to the classroom and shot and killed the gunman. Again, so many new details there, it all lasting about an hour. The gunman was in the school for an hour, which is a new detail that only came to light yesterday, finally came to light yesterday. And the fact that he was not confronted in any way by a school resource officer outside the building, that also new.

I want to bring in CNN law enforcement analyst Charles Ramsey.

Thanks for being with us.

One of the things we learned from Columbine is that you are supposed to, you need to confront a school shooter quickly and directly. What is your take on this, Chief?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, there is no question about that. An hour is a very long period of time and they will have to really justify why it took so long before you finally confronted and of course killed so that they could resolve the situation. So there is a lot of unanswered questions and it is primarily because they have done a terrible job dealing with the press and getting information out.

I know how difficult that is. I've been in high profile cases before. You try to get as much information out as possible. And in those first few hours, you know, like high good friend the late John Timoney used to say, initial information is almost never completely accurate because as the investigation unfolds, you learn more and more.

But we're almost at 72 hours now and certainly the information coming out now should be accurate information. And things like whether or not the gunman was confronted before going into the school for an example, that is an important piece of information. I don't know how you miss that.

You know, they were inside the school, at least some officers were inside, why didn't they make dynamic entry. They say it was barricaded. Barricaded with what?

I mean, there are just so many unanswered questions that they will have to answer. And I don't know if they will be able to answer all of them.

BERMAN: Look, barricaded with what is one of the key unanswered questions at this point. We have not been told how the door was blocked, if it was in fact really blocked. We just don't know. We keep pressing on that.

And look, there may be a communications problem, there certainly has been a communications problem, but that may be separate from the question surrounding the actual law enforcement, the actions that were taken as we keep learning about those actions.

One of the things that is now being said is the officers felt like needed more force, that more lives would have been lost, officer lives, had they tried to go in sooner. What do you think of that?

RAMSEY: Well, again, you know, as far as equipment goes, clearly they had long guns. You could see that from the officers holding back crowd. They were armed with long guns.

Whether they had a ballistic shield or not, I don't know. I don't know what kind of training they have received in that department, whether it is the local department or the sheriff's office in terms of active shooter training.

You go in with what you have. Even if it is a handgun, if you've got a dynamic situation where you've got people being killed, you have to stop the threat, period.

And you are talking not only about just, you know, adults perhaps being in jeopardy, you are talking about small children. I heard someone say that they were at a tactical disadvantage. I think the kids were at more of a tactical disadvantage than the cops were.

So, you've got to be able to get in there, you have to be able to neutralize the threat which is another way of saying kill the suspect before he is able to kill anybody else.

I mean, I hate to be that harsh, but that that's just the reality. You have got to be able to take action as quickly as possible. But does it put your life at risk, yeah, but that is the nature of the business.

BERMAN: Yeah, chief, when you put it that way, that was a little chilling that the police may have been in a tactical disadvantage but no one was at a greater disadvantage than those children. The police did say that they were able to evacuate, they spent time and resources evacuating people from other parts of the building and were able to contain the shooter in one area. Would that be a reasonable strategy?

RAMSEY: Oh, yeah, that is absolutely what you have to do. You don't want anymore people being jeopardized. Bullets can travel through walls. So you minimize the number of people in direct jeopardy, absolutely. That is not the issue. The issue is the classroom itself where the gunman was actually inside with the children.

Whether or not the shooting -- and I also heard a term that kind of concerned me -- majority of the shooting was prior to the officers getting there. Well, that means not all the shooting had stopped. And so what was actually going on. Were the officers wearing body cameras, do we have radio traffic from the dispatch?

To be able to help fill in the gaps of the time line. Who was doing what, when? Those are the kinds of critical questions that I think need to be -- need to be answered. And I hate to make the cops the bad guys because the bad guy is the one that is dead, but we also have a responsibility I think to make sure that when these things happen, we debrief properly, if you ever have anything like this happen again, we learn from these things. That is how we learn from columbine, from Virginia tech, from parkland, from all these different events that take place unfortunately and we all know that there will be another one. So, you know, it is just an unfortunate reality.

BERMAN: I wish there weren't so many opportunities for learning. Charles Ramsey, as always, thank you for your insight here. Really helps us understand the framing here.

RAMSEY: Thank you.

BERMAN: So coping with unimaginable grief is a challenge for the people in this community. Not least for one 10-year-old student at Robb Elementary who knew most of the children and one of the teachers who were killed.

I want to bring in CNN's Adrienne Broaddus.

And, Adrienne, you spoke to a boy who was inside this building when it all happened.

ADRIENNE BRAODDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He was. You are talking about 10-year-old Jayden Perez, and he doesn't remember much about Tuesday, but he does recall the moment he heard what he described as loud gunfire. He said his teacher quickly locked the door and told him and his classmates to be quiet and hide. He said during the time when he waited, only one thing was running through his mind. He is thinking at 10 years old what is going to happen to us.

And we know that shooter, the 18-year-old, killed 19 of his classmates and two teachers. And this is something Jayden is still coming to terms with. Listen in.


JAYDEN PEREZ, ROBB ELEMENTARY STUDENT: Still sad about some of my friends that died.

BROADDUS: Who were your friends that died?

PEREZ: Jayce, Makenna, Tess, Annabell, basically almost all of them. Basically almost all of them.


BROADDUS: So you notice he paused as he was calling off the names of his friends, he did pivot a little later in the conversation and talked about one of his friends said that person was a great drawer and his memory is great Pokemon drawing.

[05:10:14] Meanwhile before Tuesday, he said he wanted to be an officer. Now he says he wants to be a surgeon when he grows up. This after what he witnessed inside of the school on Tuesday, but he said that there is one thing that he never wants to do again, and we're going to share more of our conversation with Jayden in the next hour.

BERMAN: When he was listing off the names of the people he knew who died, that was just heartbreaking. We'll have much more on this in a little bit. Thank you so much for your reporting.

We also, by the way, spoke to another girl who was inside the classroom where the teachers and most of the other students were killed. She saw it all happen. And we do have new details about what the shooter said and what he actually did while he was in that school.

Also ahead, new details on President Biden's visit to Uvalde including when he is coming and what he could say. Next, a father's been after losing his daughter. .


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Comforts me a little bit that she helped her friend in need.




BERMAN: New details are emerging about the two teachers an 19 students killed at the Robb Elementary School, students who loved Disney, TikTok, playing basketball.

CNN's Boris Sanchez has their stories.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As families plan their final good-byes --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Their hearts are broken. We are devastated.

SANCHEZ: CNN is learning more about the 21 victims lost in Tuesday's massacre.

Eliahna Ellie Garcia was in fourth grade, just 9 years old. Her grandparents telling "The L.A. Times" she loved the movie "Encanto", cheerleading and basketball. And she dreamed of becoming a teacher.

Ten-year-old Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez was also killed, her family telling affiliate KHOU the fourth grader shared a classroom with her cousin Jacklyn Casarez who was also murdered. Jackie's father says she touched a lot of people's lives and recently had her first communion.

JACINTO CASARES, FATHER OF JACKLYHN CAZARES: Just full of life. She would do anything for anybody. And to me she was a firecracker, man. It comforts me a little bit to think that she'd be the one to help her friend in need.

SANCHEZ: Another 10-year-old, Tess Marie Mata, the fourth-grader loved TikTok and Ariana Grande, her older sister Faith says that she was saving money to take the whole family to Disneyworld. She posted on Twitter, quote, my precious angel, you are loved so deeply. In my eyes, you are not but a survivor. I love you always and past forever baby sister. May your wings soar higher than you could ever dream.

Ten-year-old Nevaeh Alyssa Bravo, her family telling "The Washington Post", she could put a smile on all of their faces.

Ten-year-old Jailah Nicole Silguero, her mother telling Univision Jailah enjoyed dancing and making TikTok videos.

And Eliahana Cruz Torres, a 10-year-old who went by Elijah, her aunt Leandra Vera telling CNN, quote, our baby gained her wings.

DR. LILIAN LIAO, UVALDE SCHOOL SHOOTING VICTIMS SURGEON: It was a difficult day for all of America.

SANCHEZ: The medical experts working tirelessly to ensure the 21 lost won't become more, now grappling with the trauma of those they could not help.

LIAO: I think that is what hit us the most. Not of the parts that we did receive and we are honored to treat them, but the patients that we did not receive.

SANCHEZ: Victims lost in another horrific shooting at an American school.

ANGEL GARZA, FAMILY OF AMERIE JO GARZA: One little girl was just covered in blood head to toe, and I thought she was injured. I asked her what was wrong and she said that she is okay, she was hysterical saying that they killed her best friend, she is not breathing, she was trying to call cops. And I asked the little girl the name and she told me -- she said Amerie.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: That's how you learned.

SANCHEZ: Daughters, sons, mothers, wives, names and faces this community will never forget.

Amerie Jo Garza, Uziyah Garcia, Xavier Lopez, Jose Flores Jr., Lexi Rubio, and two teachers hailed as heroes dying as they shielded their students from danger, Eva Mireles, Irma Garcia.

GARZA: You look at this girl and she -- oh, my baby, she's my baby.


SANCHEZ (on camera): And we confirmed the news on Thursday that the husband of one of the teachers who perished on Tuesday suffered a medical emergency. Joe Garcia married to Irma Garcia for more than 25 years having to be rushed to the hospital and ultimately passing away. His family saying that they believe he died of a broken heart.

Boris Sanchez, CNN, Uvalde, Texas.


BERMAN: So sad, so much suffering here. A community, Laura, with a broken heart. And one thing to make clear today is or would have been the first day of summer vacation for all the kids in this school behind me, and now, these families planning these funerals.

JARRETT: Just shows you the blast radius that sort of continues to reverberate throughout the community and, of course, the larger country. But the fact that the husband has now passed away just shows you the level of trauma and pain.

President Biden and the first lady will visit Uvalde, Texas, on Sunday to meet with the families who lost loved ones.

CNN's Jasmine Wright joins me now from Washington, D.C.

Jasmine, the president has a tall order here. He is obviously the consoler in chief, he's done it too many times, but he is showing up with no plan on how to make sure it never happens again.

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN REPORTER: Yeah, that's right, Laura. But I think what he is bringing is really a message of support and that deep, deep well of empathy we now know from him. The president said on Wednesday that he was going really to -- with the first lady to show them that the first family has a real sense of the pain that some of these families are going through, and really to offer a little bit of comfort to this community that is suffering, trauma, shock and of course a lot of grief.

And like you said, we've just seen this really very recently from the president. It was less than two weeks ago that we saw him visit the last major mass shooting site in Buffalo. And of course the president there we saw him draw on that deep well of empathy and sorrow and loss that he had of course losing his son a few years ago as well as losing his baby daughter and first wife more years before then.

So I think that we're going to see that again from the president. But you're right, there is a lack of a plan. So I think we're going to see him on the emotional side trying to provide some support, but then we'll see him talk about the legislative side, really call on Congress again to make some sort of action. I think in the last few days we've seen him say that he is sick and tired of this continuous mass shootings and really calling on Congress to do something. Where is the backbone we've heard him say quite a few times, the backbone to stand up to the gun lobby.

So I think that is certainly a message that we could hear from the president on Sunday when he meets with community leaders, religious leaders and of course families of these victims -- Laura.

JARRETT: All right. Jasmine, thank you.

Coming up, the top Republican leader opening the door to a bipartisan solution on guns, that's next.



JARRETT: Now to other top stories this morning. The Biden administration is preparing to send more help to Ukraine, this time advanced long range rocket systems, this would be part of a larger package of military and security assistance that could be announced next week.

President Zelenskyy has been pleading in recent weeks for the multiple launch rocket system. The U.S.-made weapons system can fire rockets hundreds of miles and Ukraine believes it could be a game changer in the war with Russia.

The FDA says more baby formula should be on store shelves as soon as this weekend, this is some of the 60 tons of formula that arrived from Europe in the second shipment of "Operation Fly Formula". FDA commissioner Robert Califf testified to the Senate yesterday that the government should think about creating a strategic reserve of formula to prevent future shortages.


DR. ROBERT CALIFF, FDA COMMISSIONER: The big question that I think has to be addressed is do we create a stockpile as a backup in case something doesn't work in the future. I think that we're going to have to have a surplus. We are certainly planning on a surplus in a couple months, as I've already told you. The question is should we maintain that surplus as a government activity.


JARRETT: The FDA says half a million cans of specialty formula is on its way from Europe for babies who have milk or other allergies.

Well, a New York appeals court is ordering the former president and two of his adult children to sit for depositions. It is part of the state attorney general civil investigation of the Trump organization. In a four-page order, the court rejected the Trump's claims that they were being selectively prosecuted for their political leanings.

An attorney for Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka said they are considering the ruling. Meanwhile, an attorney for the former president predicts that he will appeal the decision and ask for a stay.

The key to preventing mass shootings in America may come from beyond its borders. We have that for you next.