Return to Transcripts main page

Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

DOJ to Review Police Response to Uvalde School Massacre; First Funeral Services Begin Today in Uvalde; Hospital in San Antonio Treats Mass Shooting Victims for Second Time in 5 Years. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired May 30, 2022 - 05:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. It is Monday, May 30th. It's 5:00 a.m. here in New York. Thanks so much for getting an EARLY START with me this Memorial Day, I'm Laura Jarrett, Christine has the day off. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. We begin this morning with the U.S. Justice Department now conducting a review of the police response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Texas.

The big question still, why did 19 police officers stand in the hallway in that school for almost an hour, choosing not to break into the classroom and take down the gunman? Children had been calling 9-1- 1 from inside that classroom, begging for help.


REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): I'm glad that the Justice Department is listening and they're going to do a review of the law enforcement response. Like I said, I think everybody was shocked that it took an hour for law enforcement to go in there and finally take out the shooter.


JARRETT: Let's bring in Anthony Barksdale; he's a CNN law enforcement analyst and the former acting Baltimore police commissioner. Mister, so nice to have you this morning. I know you have been following this from the very beginning.

I want to start with what DOJ said here over the weekend, quote, "the goal of the review is to provide an independent account of law enforcement actions and responses that day and to identify lessons learned and best practices to help first responders prepare and to respond to active shooter events." We've seen these types of reviews before in Pulse, in San Bernardino. Where do they ultimately lead, though?

ANTHONY BARKSDALE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, they're going back and they're looking at the incident from beginning to end. But ultimately, we've learned our lessons at Columbine. We've learned that you don't have time to waste, that you've got to get in there. So, with this investigation, I really don't know what will be gained.

I feel that this is more of an effort to play hot potato with failure in-store. We know that there are answers that the public, these poor parents, everyone deserves right now. So the federal government, glad they're involved, but that should not stop them from answering the questions that they're being presented.

JARRETT: Well, and now there are more questions this morning because curiously, "The New York Times" is reporting that the officers were actually trained to respond to an active shooter-type situation two months ago. How does that change the scope of things in your mind?

BARKSDALE: Well, I would -- if the DOJ is looking at this, it's the training -- is the training they went through sufficient? You can't just have a table top training for active shooter. You've got to put the officers, put the teams into positions where they're actually doing real scenarios where they're hearing gunfire, where they're having to stack up together, having to practice entry of a room, maybe taking some ammunition -- this is where you take a fake gun that shoots, you know, plastic ammunition, and you shoot at the officers.

So this could be good in some ways, but we've already learned it. These kids -- look, we've learned the lessons. This is a complete failure. So the DOJ's investigation, good. But we know that this was a complete failure.

JARRETT: When all this is --

BARKSDALE: Without the investigation.

JARRETT: Right. And when all this is said and done, it's not going to bring back those children for these parents that are grieving. And I wonder, you know, what does -- what does accountability really look like in a case like this?

BARKSDALE: Well, when you run an incident command system, command control, an organization of resources coming to the incident, and you say I am the incident commander, you're accountable. You're making the decisions. You're making the calls. But God bless the team that said, this is the wrong call. So why did one team know this is a bad call, we've got to go in, let that incident commander try to come for us later?

That's what I'm really thinking about accountability. Whoever was at the top must be accountable. And now, let me say this quickly. When you have an incident commander, that's one. But in order -- that's one person to be held accountable. But if other jurisdictions responded, it then becomes a unified command. So was this chief alone in making those decisions?

Because I'm going to tell you this. If I sent Baltimore city police officers to Baltimore County for an incident, I'm going myself.


Not to -- not to disturb the incident commander, but I want it then to be a unified command effort because I've got an investment in my officers. I am also responsible for their actions inside of that incident. So we need to learn numerous things. Right now, we're all focused on this chief. I just want to be sure that others weren't involved in this horrible decision-making.

JARRETT: Yes, we know obviously more than one unit was there on the ground because I think it's border patrol that actually took him out at the end of the day. So, more to come on this obviously. We're sort of just peeling back an onion, and each day --


JARRETT: It's hard because we get shifting explanations and sometimes contradictory accounts. But we appreciate your expertise and analysis here this morning. Thank you so much, appreciate it, sir.

BARKSDALE: Thank you. Bye.

JARRETT: So, the first of many funeral services in Uvalde will take place later today. There will be a visitation and rosary for 10-year- old Amerie Jo Garza. It will take weeks to bury all the school- shooting victims. The president and the first lady spent part of Sunday in Uvalde, visiting the families and offering support. At one point, people shouted that the president do something about guns as he returned to the motorcade.




JARRETT: It's hard to hear there, but the president is saying, we will, in response to do something as he ducked into his car. CNN spoke with two family members of victims about their closed-door meeting with the president and the first lady. Take a listen.


JOSE CAZARES, UNCLE OF UVALDE SHOOTING VICTIM: He's an amazing man. I'm being because I'm proud of this because of my family, you know, we serve our country, you know, and that's what we do for -- not just for our family, but for everybody, you know. And he acknowledged that and pretty --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was very compassionate.

CAZARES: Very compassionate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very compassionate man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about him so comforting?

CAZARES: Just -- he didn't --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He cared. CAZARES: He cared. I mean --


CAZARES: Yes, it didn't -- it wasn't fake. You can't --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, you could sense it --

CAZARES: You could tell he wasn't there for a photo op. He wasn't there for none of that. He was there for the people who were actually, you know, the victims, the families.

VINCENT SALAZAR, FATHER OF UVALDE SHOOTING VICTIM: It was really just all about my daughter, you know what I mean? That's what we talked about. And you know, like I said, they were very gracious, they showed compassion, and that's all we were here for, you know what I'm saying? He listened to everything and we listened to him. He shed some tears, we shed some tears.


JARRETT: They also described the president as comforting. A GoFundMe campaign for one of the children -- of the teachers, I should say, killed in the Uvalde school shooting has raised more than $2.5 million so far. Hearts and wallets opened nationwide for beloved teacher Irma Garcia. Her husband of 23 years, Joe, died of a heart attack two days later. The Garcias were high school sweethearts. They leave behind four children.

Up next, CNN goes inside the trauma hospital that helped save some of the first victims of this school shooting. Plus, Ukraine's President Zelenskyy goes to the front lines where his troops are battling Russia. And President Biden about to mark Memorial Day in the United States with a solemn tribute.



JARRETT: A doctor at a San Antonio Hospital in Texas says she is experiencing the worst kind of deja vu after going through two mass shootings in less than five years. Several victims of last week's Uvalde shooting were taken to the trauma unit there the same location where victims of the Sutherland Springs Church shooting were sent back in 2017. CNN's Lucy Kafanov has more on this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get the glide scope in there, please.

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At San Antonio's University Health Hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of us would be in a level one if one came in. Anesthesia's on their way, blood bank is on their way.

KAFANOV: Doctors and nurses prepare to receive the most-critically wounded. It's one of the busiest trauma centers in the nation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have your blade?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I got a 21 and a 15, yes --


KAFANOV: And CNN got an exclusive access inside as Pediatric Trauma Medical Center Director Dr. Lillian Liao and her team demonstrated preparations for a mass casualty event.

LILLIAN LIAO, DIRECTOR, PEDIATRIC TRAUMA MEDICAL CENTER: Anesthesia is here. Go ahead and get up there with Kelly so we can back her up in case it becomes a difficult airway.

KAFANOV: Today, it's a drill.

LIAO: This is one of the teams that we formed. And the day of the mass casualty event, we formed multiple teams such as this.

KAFANOV: But it wasn't a drill on Tuesday when a teenage gunman burst inside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, murdering 19 children and 2 teachers, injuring at least 17 others, officials say.

LIAO: It's devastating, you know. I think, the same thing that every other person in this country is thinking, you know, how horrible their last moments were, right? And what that scene looks like.

KAFANOV: The trauma unit prepare to receive dozens of Uvalde's wounded.

COLLEEN DAVIS, TRAUMA PATIENT CARE COORDINATOR: Here's the blood, the blood has been checked.

KAFANOV: Nurse Colleen Davis recalls the agonizing wait for patients and a grim realization.

DAVIS: After a while, you start realizing more aren't coming, and you start realizing why? And then the weight of that just kind of sets in, and it stays with you for the rest of the day and all the days after.


KAFANOV (on camera): Four of the victims were brought right here to University Hospital. Three little girls, and the shooter's grandmother. But the doctors and nurses working here, it unfortunately wasn't their first mass shooting.

(voice-over): Less than five years ago, a gunman slaughtered 26 people at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs just 34 miles southeast of downtown San Antonio. Dr. Liao was on duty.

LIAO: None of us anticipated that we would be involved in yet another mass casualty event. It's not something we imagined.

KAFANOV: Trauma nurse Kristell Flores was working alongside Dr. Liao in 2017 as patients wounded in the church massacre began to flood in. She can't believe it's happened again.

KRISTELL FLORES, TRAUMA NURSE: I immediately got like this horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach, and deja vu, basically, because it was even in the same location where we got notified from Sutherland Springs.

KAFANOV: Flores is haunted by the lives her team couldn't save.

FLORES: Just keep replaying things in my brain, and thinking like -- what if they would have gotten here like 30 minutes after the first notification, probably would have saved a lot of people. But it's just very -- just 'what ifs', 'what ifs', 'what ifs', and it just doesn't change the outcome.

KAFANOV: Like many of her trauma center colleagues, Flores is also a parent.

FLORES: He just turned six, he's in kindergarten, and today is his last day of school. And I have a one-year-old. It's just hard, and it's just -- how do you tell them?

KAFANOV: Dr. Liao says she copes by focusing on the good, her team, her family and her little ones.

LIAO: That's what you want to amplify at a time like this, is amplify like being grateful and the kindness that the world shows rather than focusing on the negative because that can really put you in a wrong place moving forward.

KAFANOV: She breaks down when talking about the invisible scars the surviving children will carry.

LIAO: You know, I kind of thought back to when I was 10 years old -- and so when I was 10 years old, my family immigrated to this country, and my biggest challenge was learning to speak English, and you just can't imagine what these children are going through, and it's really unfair. It's really unfair.

KAFANOV: Lucy Kafanov, CNN, San Antonio, Texas.


JARRETT: Really unfair indeed. Lucy, thank you for that terrific reporting. Sadly, more gun violence over the weekend. This time six people were shot after an altercation between two groups in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Saturday night. Most of the victims were teenagers, or in their early 20s. Police believe most of the people who were shot were unintended targets and the incident was not gang- related.

In Taft, Oklahoma, one person died and 7 others were injured in another mass shooting on Sunday at the local Memorial Day festival.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody screaming, kids running around. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then actually, one guy was lying over there on

the floor. Then there's another lady over here, not knowing the whole time she's shot in the head. This is where they shot, and the bullet went straight through here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I would have had my head up here, you see the height --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would have gotten me.


JARRETT: The suspect, a 26-year-old has turned himself in. And another, a shooting on a Nevada interstate left seven people injured Sunday afternoon, two critically we're told, police say someone opened fire on north-bound vehicles on interstate 11 in Henderson about 15 miles southeast of Las Vegas. The shooter in that case is still on the loose.

Still ahead for you, the need for new recruits in Ukraine has Vladimir Putin changing the rules for enlisting. We'll tell you more about that next. Plus, airlines cancelling flights on the first big travel weekend of the Summer season. Is this a sign of things to come?



JARRETT: Welcome back. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visiting his troops on the front lines in Kharkiv on Sunday. CNN's Melissa Bell joins us live this morning. Melissa, I imagine this was a welcome visit from the troops, and he was trying to encourage a little bit of good spirit where he could. What's he saying about the visit?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was his first visit outside of the Kyiv region. I think that's significant in giving you an idea, Laura, of how pleased Ukrainians are with this counter offensive that has allowed them to take back not just Kharkiv, but a bunch of territory to the east of there. But I think, there is also, of course, what's happening now in Severodonetsk, and the Ukrainian president spoke to that while he was in Kharkiv yesterday.

That is clearly the focus of a lot of what we've been seeing over the course of the last couple of weeks. And what we're hearing now, Laura, is that, that town appears to be falling. It sounds like communications have been cut. Bear in mind, there are 15,000 civilians believed to be inside that city. It's been at the heart of fierce fighting on that front line between Russian forces and Ukrainian forces for much last couple of weeks until yesterday Ukrainian forces saying that it had not fallen.


The latest news, though, doesn't look good for the Ukrainian side. And I think you really only need to look at a map of that region of Ukraine, that is right now controlled by Russian forces to have an idea I think of where things stand, and of how things are likely to unfold over the course of the day.

It isn't simply that the line has been inching forward as much as it could to the north there. It is also that, that border has been hardening over the course of the last few days with Ukrainians who are inside cities like Kherson and Mariupol finding it very difficult to get out, they have to go through filtration systems.

Any Ukrainians who want to go in can, but it is essentially a one-way ticket. We have no access to that part of Russian-held territory, it's very difficult for the free press to function there. But we have been hearing from Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister who has been speaking to French television, explaining what his plans were. Moscow is giving an insight into what may be being planned.

One of the big questions we have been asking these last few days is whether Moscow's plan is simply to annex these territories. Sergey Lavrov telling French television there was no need for annexation. It was going to be about the will of the people. And I think that's why it is very important that over the course of the next couple of days in terms of the context, what's happening here, you look at that map of those territories controlled by Russian forces today, and those territories that are still in Ukrainian hands, Laura.

JARRETT: Got really important context. Melissa Bell, thank you for that, appreciate it. Meantime, Vladimir Putin's army is about to get older. The Russian president just signed a law lifting the age limit, meaning, no one now is too old to join Russia's depleted ranks. CNN's Nada Bashir joins us. Nada, this is so interesting. Is Russia really at the point where they need grandpa at the front lines?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well, look, Laura, that isn't off the table right now because that upper age limit has been scrapped. That law was approved by the Russian parliament on Wednesday, and quickly approved into force, signed into law by President Putin over the weekend. Now, previously under Russian law, Russian citizens were able to enlist between the ages of 18 and 40, and foreign nationals were also able to join the Russian armed forces if they were aged between the age of 18 and 30.

Now, that upper age limit has been scrapped. And according to the Russian government, the focus here for them is on recruiting more specialists, more experts. And their focus in particular on the operation of high-precision weapons which would typically take years of experience to operate.

And they've also noted a focus on recruiting more medics, more engineers and communication specialists. But that, of course, is the message we're hearing from the Kremlin. We have to note, of course, that this is happening and comes amid significant Russian troop losses as the Russian armed forces attempt to double down on its bombardment of eastern Ukraine.

The Russian government has acknowledged over a thousand troop losses, but western officials, intelligence and security experts pegging this far higher than that. And we've heard from the Ukrainian armed forces saying that not only has Russia suffered losses in manpower, but also in equipment in Ukraine. And of course, we did hear in the first few stages and first few phases of this invasion of significant command challenges being faced by the armed forces of Russia.

We've seen senior military commanders and generals killed during this war. So clearly, we're seeing now an effort by President Putin to really double down on strengthening the Russian armed forces as this invasion drags on. Laura?

JARRETT: All right, Nada Bashir, thank you for that report. Well, after months of devastation from a relentless Russian onslaught, residents of one Ukrainian city are doing the impossible. They're putting the pieces back together. Rebuilding, reconnecting and reopening their businesses now. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux has more.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A rare missile attack in Ukraine's western city of Lviv. In April, three Russian missiles hit military infrastructure, a fourth hit this family-owned car repair shop nearby. Bozhena Paternak is helping her family put the business back together.

BOZHENA PATERNAK, HELPS RUN FAMILY BUSINESS (through translator): This building isn't reparable.

MALVEAUX: This crater where the missile hit was the office where four employees were killed.

PATERNAK: Three of them worked here for around ten years. One was my age. He was supposed to celebrate his 27th birthday soon.

MALVEAUX: Along with grief and sadness, the employees felt the urgency to reopen, to help support the loved ones of those who died.

PATERNAK: Guys just put on their uniforms, came to work to clear the rubble.

MALVEAUX: Volunteers pitched in to make the repairs go faster.

OLEKSIY ANATASIEV, VOLUNTEER (through translator): I need to help from our heart because we are all brothers.

MALVEAUX (on camera): You're saying it touches your heart.

ANATASIEV: Yes, it comes from our heart.


(voice-over): Just a month after the strike, the Auto Chance(ph) is back in business.

PATERNAK: We need to stand up and move on no matter how much pain and suffering. [05:30:00]