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7 Killed, 1 Critically Hurt, Suspect Arrested in Half Moon Bay; Officials Share New Details from Monterey Park Investigation; FBI Search Deepens Political Fallout for Biden; Western Allies Push Germany to Send Leopard Tanks to Ukraine. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 24, 2023 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Right now on EARLY START, at least seven people killed in California's second mass shooting in three days.

Plus, tanks, or nothing. Ukraine waits as two of its biggest backers back at sending battle tanks to help beat the Russians.

And secret deals exposed. A former FBI agent, arrested and accused of schemes with an ex-spy, and a sanctioned oligarch.

All right. Good morning. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Christine Romans.

We begin this morning with seven people killed and one critically injured in California's second mass shooting in just three days. This one in the northern coastal community of half moon bay.

This exclusive, on the ground footage shows the arrest of the suspect, identified both by police as 67-year-old Chunli Zhao. He was taken into custody, late yesterday afternoon, two hours after the shootings at two separate locations.

CNN's Camila Bernal has more.


CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL REPORTER: This is one shooter, going to two different locations, killing a total of seven people and leaving at least one in critical condition. According to authorities, this happened at around 2:22 pm on Monday, local time over here in California. And the shooter went to the first location, shooting at least five people, killing four of them, leaving one in critical condition.

Then he goes to a second location, about a mile apart, and that's where he killed three others. Now, we've been told by sources, this was a mushroom farm. Authorities are describing this as a nursery. But in general, this was an agricultural area. And we know they were not able to arrest him until about 4:30 p.m. local time.

That's when a law enforcement officer spotted the suspect, spotted his car at the sheriff's substation. He decided to make an arrest. This was a plainclothes lot enforcement officer and took that suspect into custody.

Now, we know he is cooperating with authorities, he was being interviewed on Monday night by members of the district attorney's office, we also know that authorities found a semiautomatic handgun in his car.

Now, in terms of motive, authorities have not said what this motive was. They do not know why this man did this. But they are working to find out. He's a 67-year-old man, but they believe he was an employee of this nursery. They believe the people he killed were also employees at this nursery. But again, they do not know why he did this.

Camila Bernal, CNN, Los Angeles.


ROMANS: All right. In southern California, officials are sharing new details from their investigation into the mass shooting at a Monterey Park ballroom that left now 11 people dead.

Authorities have identified for the victims, names of the rest are held until their families have been notified. What enforcement also describing some of the items found in their search of the gunmen's home, after his death by suicide.

More now from CNN's Nick Watt in Monterey Park.


DISPTACH: Additional units requested, multiple victims, gunshot wounds.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Around 10:20 p.m., Saturday night, the gunman arrived. Apparently, shot his first victim in the parking lot, then went inside the Star Ballroom and Dance Studio. By 10:26 p.m., police had arrived.

CHIEF SCOTT WIESE, MONTEREY PARK POLICE: It was chaos. There were wounded people. There were people trying to flee out of the doors.

WATT: Did the gunman know people inside?

SHERIFF ROBERT LUNA, LOS ANGELES COUNTY: We are hearing they were possible relationships there. But I am not going to confirm that yet.

WATT: Around 10:40 pm, the gunman pulled up, armed with the same semi-automatic pistol at another dance hall, in here by Alhambra, but fled after an employee confronted him, fought with him. He disappeared. Police, hunting him through the night.

Ten-twenty a.m., Sunday, 30 miles away in Torrance, a van scene leaving the crime scene was spotted by local police. There was a standoff.

One p.m., the suspect was found dead inside the van, apparently a self inflicted gunshot.

LUNA: We don't have a motive yet. We want to know as much as all of you.


WATT: In his van, we are told, the suspect left behind clothes he wore at the shooting, and a weapon. At the scene, 42 shell casings, and a large capacity magazine. And in his trailer home, eight or so miles away in Hemet, investigators found electronics, a rifle, lots of ammunition and --

LUNA: Items that lead us to believe the suspect was manufacturing homemade firearms suppressors.

WATT: Hemet PD says he came by twice, a couple of weeks ago or so, alleging past fraud, theft and poisoning allegations involving his family in the Los Angeles area, 10 or 20 years ago. He stated he would return the station with documentation regarding these allegations, but never returned.

Apparently, the suspect taught dance over here, informally at one point.

MAYOR HENRY LO, MONTEREY PARK, CALIFORNIA: Was it an issue of being disgruntled, or an issue of domestic violence? We don't know unfortunately.

WATT: He met his now ex-wife at this very dance hall. They divorced in 2006. She told CNN, he could be quick to anger, if for example, he missed a step on the dance floor.


WATT (on camera): Now, in terms of heroes in this story, there is Brandon Tsay, who worked at the other dance hall in Alhambra. He confronted the shooter, managed to get that weapon off of him and officials say he saved many lives. And here, the police chief says the first three officers on the scene over here were three young female officers, all in their first year on the job, and none of them hesitated to run into this dance hall to do whatever they could.

Nick Watt, CNN, Monterey Park, California.


ROMANS: CNN's Anderson Cooper spoke to the man that Nick just mentioned, who wrestled the weapon out of the shooters hand of a second dance hall. Brandon Tsay says he leapt into action moments after the shooter ended with the gun pointed at him. He says there was a moment where the attacker was distracted, preparing the weapon to fire.


BRANDON TSAY, DISARMED GUNMAN AT SECOND DANCE STUDIO: I'm not going to lie, I did freeze up when I saw him with the gun. I had many thoughts were I would think, I'm going to die, this is it. This is the end for me.

But then, something happened. Something came over me. I just had this rush of adrenaline. And then, in this sort of situation, I was able to come to the conclusion that I needed to do something, I needed to grab the gun, save myself and the people inside.


ROMANS: Terrifying.

So, Tsay says he and the gunman struggled over that weapon for about 40 seconds, though it felt like an eternity, until he wrestled the gun away. He says he shouted at the shooter to leave. He threatened to shoot him, and finally, the gunman ran off.

All right. The FBI search of President Biden's Delaware home is discovering more classified materials as the White House struggling with a widening political crisis. The president's lawyers making the case that their cooperation with a special counsel's investigation, it sets them apart from the documents candles leaning over the former president, Donald Trump.

CNN's Phil Mattingly has more.


MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We do not have different rules for Democrats or Republicans.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over: Tonight, Attorney General Merrick Garland pledging impartiality.

GARLAND: We apply the facts and the law in each case in a neutral, nonpartisan manner. That is what we always do, and that is what we do in matters that you're referring to.

MATTINGLY: As two investigations, one of a current president, one of a former president grip a divided country.

After another weekend of new discoveries and new questions --

REPORTER: Mr. President, did you know those documents were there, sir?

MATTINGLY: President Biden again ignoring those questions as he arrived at the White House Monday, facing the reality of a rapidly escalating investigation into his handling of classified documents.

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): The fact is the FBI conducted this search, not his attorneys. That really ratchets the investigation up.

MATTINGLY: After the FBI spent more than 13 hours searching his Wilmington home, discovering even more items with classified markings.

REP. TOM EMMER (R), MAJORITY WHIP: At worst, this is sloppy.

This is an oversight flouting of the law by someone who has been in government for 50 years. And it gets worse because it could be a severe, severe problem with our national security.

MATTINGLY: The search coming with coordination and the approval of Biden's legal team.

IAN SAMS, SPOKESMAN, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL'S OFFICE: The president and his lawyers offered up access, unprecedented access, I should add, to every single room of the president's personal home to ensure that any documents that need to be properly in possession of the government are taken and are in proper possession of the government.

MATTINGLY: As Biden's lawyers continue to pledge full cooperation and Democratic allies grow increasingly uncomfortable.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): It's unbelievable how this could happen. It's totally irresponsible, and who is at fault?

MATTINGLY: Even as they press the sharp differences between Biden's developing case.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): It is outrageous that either occurred.

MATTINGLY: In the investigation into Donald Trump, which has been defined by a deliberate effort not to cooperate.

DURBIN: But the reaction by the former president and the current president could not be in sharper contrast.

MATTINGLY: All as House Republicans ramp up their own investigations into Biden's actions. House Oversight Committee James Comer asking the Secret Service for details, quote, regarding who had access to the home since serving as vice president as the White House and its first response to a House GOP request pledged to respond to legitimate requests, even as it noted, quote, the critical need to protect the integrity and independence of law enforcement investigations.

Those challenges now confronting a White House in transition with powerful White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain set to step down in the coming weeks, and set to be replaced by Jeff Zients, Biden's former COVID-19 response chief and a veteran of top positions across two administrations, a move designed to elevate and sharpen the administration's focus on its agenda, priorities outside the ongoing investigation.


MATTINGLY (on camera): Now, White House officials view that role for a Zients, whenever it's announced, and definitely it is separate and different from what his predecessor had, as essential in this moment in part because of the posture they have had related to the investigation up to this point. Zients or very much not be involved in any way. And that is intentional, that is something which is designed to help the trains run on time, as one official told me, make sure the White House is focused on the day-to-day operations of the West Wing, allowing the lawyers to handle the investigation which has no clear timeline, and you still filled with uncertainty.

It is the former that the president is most interested in, according to his officials. It is the former that will help drive what happens in the next couple of months, the minds of those officials, who still very much believe, when you talk to them that one, this investigation will end up with an outcome which is favorable to the president, and to, an investigation that vast majority of the American public does not really care about.

We will see if either of those end up being true. For the purpose of Zients, it's to keep the White House operating as an investigation, completely apart in that operation continues.

Phil Mattingly, CNN, the White House.


ROMANS: All right, to the war in Ukraine now. Western allies ramping up pressure on Germany to allow the delivery of German made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. Poland plans to send its Leopard battle tanks to Kyiv if a small coalition of countries agrees to do the same. Germany's defense minister says they will soon be decisions on the tanks, insisting Berlin will not stop Poland from sending its Leopards to Ukraine if I asked.

Let's bring in Frederik Pleitgen, live from Kyiv this morning.

Good morning, Fred.

What is the Kremlin saying about the West sending these tanks to Kyiv?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiced- over): Well, the Kremlin is threatening the, one of the things we heard in the past, the spokesman for the Kremlin Dmitry Peskov said it will be the Ukrainians who would suffer if these western battle tanks, specifically the leopard 2 battle tanks were to be delivered to the Ukrainians.

That something we heard from the Kremlin, obviously in the past as well, you will recall when the U.S. first started giving HIMARS, multiple locker launching systems to the Ukrainians and the Kremlin that point in time also said they would start hitting Ukrainian decision-making centers as they put it, if Ukraine got longer range weapons.

Of course, we know that never really happened. It's unclear how much the Kremlin or the Russians could escalate if these western battle tanks to appear. But it is certainly something that is a concern here on the ground, and of course especially among the Germans, who have you just noted, have still not made a decision.

You are absolutely right. This morning, the German defense minister came out and said it is hidden had not been made yet, but believes a decision will be made soon by the Germans, on whether or not they will send their own lab or two made battle tanks or allow other nations to do so. He was saying at a press conference, with General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg, and Stoltenberg also said that he's very confident that certain will be made soon. All sides seem to be working towards making this happen.

The other new piece of information we literally got a couple of seconds before we went to air, Christine is that the Polish defense minister, he came out a couple of minutes ago and said, the polls have now filed an official request with the Germans for the main battle tanks to be given to Ukraine. Of course, Germany is the country which makes those tanks, they have to allow other countries on those tanks to give those tanks to Ukraine if those countries want to do that. That is essentially what all of this is about.

The Germans are still saying they want a broad coalition on this, they also want to get the U.S. involved as well. It's very important for them they say, to have a broader alliance and all of this -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Fred Pleitgen for us in Kyiv this morning, thanks, Fred.

All right. Next, the former high-level FBI official, just arrested for his alleged ties to a Russian oligarch.

Plus, the deadly shooting at an education center in Iowa. Two students killed.

And an endangered bird, found dead at the Dallas zoo. Why police are calling it suspicious.



ROMANS: All right. Charles McGonigal, the former head of counterintelligence for the FBI's New York field office, charged in two separate indictments on Monday for allegedly working for sanctioned Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

And Charles McGonigal, a 22 year veteran at the bureau, until his retirement in 2018 faces conspiracy and money laundering charges.


SETH DUCHARME, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: He has entered a plea of not guilty, the government said they will turn over the next few weeks, to review it. As you all know, Charlie has had a long, distinguished career with the FBI.


ROMANS: All right. Let's bring in Robert Sanders, national security associate professor at the University of New Haven. So nice to see you this morning.

Professor, this sounds like something out of a spy novel, this is not just a former FBI agent, but a high-ranking former official, who in his job at the FBI, probed whether Russia meddled in the 2016 election, and is now accused of working for the man who was sanctioned for doing just that.


This is a serious, serious case here.

ROBERT SANDERS, NATIONAL SECURITY ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF NEW HAVEN: It is. And it is very unusual, for an individual this high up, even a retiree, in the department to be caught in this web, and sanctioned. So, your description of it as something right out of a novel is apt.

ROMANS: McGonigal already had retired when he worked, or allegedly worked with Deripaska. What violations could McGonigal have made against, I guess post government employment restrictions, how concerning is this, do you think?

SANDERS: Well, it's very concerning. This was an area that emerged earlier this year, through another media source's review of the DOD, an individual who worked for the DOD, and went to work in private industry, as contractors, how they were paid, what they were doing.

What the concern right now is that maybe this is migrating from the DOD sector, to the IC, or intelligence community or law enforcement community. That gravely, potentially gravely changes our ability to defend ourselves against individuals who we give technology, that we need, or interfere with our financial activities and support Russia against them in the fight against Ukraine.

ROMANS: We have this statement from the attorney for the Southern District of New York. Quote, his office will continue to prosecute those who violate U.S. sanctions, enacted in response to Russian belligerence in Ukraine in order to line their own pockets.

What kind of message do you think he is sending their?

SANDERS: Well, sending a very clear message. Now, this message started to be sent when Russia invaded Crimea in 2014. And the United States has used the Office of Foreign Assets Control, and the Expert Controls Reform Act, and the National Emergency Powers Act, which is a criminal sanctioning act, that the U.S. chose to stop these individuals.

In fact, in April of this past year, an individual was sentenced to 62 months for violations of these acts.

ROMANS: What does this case tell you I guess, about the Russian influence orbit, and efforts in its influence and disinformation campaign in U.S. politics, honestly, and the U.S. honestly infrastructure -- political infrastructure? SANDERS: Well, this takes us right back to what Attorney General

appointee Mullen was doing when he first looked at Russian influence in our elections. We go all the way back to 2016, we can now look at 2014 and think, wow, Russian activity around Crimea, and our actions to try to stop that are still ongoing. They need to still be ongoing.

And things orbiting around the former President Trump, they tend to be problematic as they relate to Russia, Russians, in their activities and influences with the United States politically, financially, technology-wise and others.

ROMANS: Professor Robert Sanders, so as to see you walking through that this morning. Thank y8ou very much. We will continue to follow the story.

SANDERS: Glad to be with you.

ROMANS: All right. Quick hits across America now. Two students at an at-risk educational program have died. The program's founder was seriously injured after a shooting in Des Moines, Iowa, Monday. Police say the shooting was sparked by a gang dispute, and has several suspects in custody.

Police are investigating the death of an endangered lappet-faced vulture at the Dallas zoo, that's suspicious. Just one week ago, a clouded leopard escaped when its fencing was cut.

Arizona Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego announcing his bid for U.S. Senate in 2024, setting up a potential clash with Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who recently switched from Democrats to independent. Failed candidate for governor, Kari Lake, might be considering a run for the same seat.

Next, an explosive prison interview with Ghislaine Maxwell, what Jeffrey Epstein's former assistant is saying about his notorious photo, with Prince Andrew.

Plus, Russian troops tightening the noose on a critical Ukrainian city in the Donbas.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Russian forces are gaining ground. They are on the high ground behind me. They are advancing from the north, they are advancing from the south.




ROMANS: Russia has sent tens of thousands of new troops to Ukraine's frontlines over the last few months, according to a senior U.S. military official. Meantime, Moscow's deadly Wagner private military group, known for its deadly tactics and refusal to retreat has begun to encircle Bakhmut in the Donbas.

CNN's Ben Wedeman has more.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): Eli Worth-Jones is a long way from his hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada. A medic, he is delivering supplies to residents, just a few hundred yards from Russian lines in Bakhmut. He does it, because he can.

ELI WORTH-JONES, FRONT LINE MEDIC: I am young, I am trained for this. It's what I do for a living. There are people who need it here. I'm happy to be here, staying with people who are being stepped on.

WEDEMAN: Eli's with a group called Front Line Medics. You can't get much more front line than this.

Fellow medic, Kurt Eriksen from Norway explains how this works.

KURT ERIKSEN, FRONT LINE MEDICS: We have to be patient, but we don't know what is wrong with them. So, we have no idea before we see them, and then we do the assessment.