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Inside Politics

19 Children, 2 Teachers Killed in Texas Elementary School Shooting; TX State Senator: Gunman bought 2 Rifles soon after 18th Birthday; All Victims in Same 4th Grade Classroom, 19 Children, 2 Teachers; Parkland School Shooting Survivor David Hogg Speaks to CNN; Senate Dems Take Steps to Revive Background Check Bills. Aired 12- 12:30p ET

Aired May 25, 2022 - 12:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello everybody. Welcome to "Inside Politics". I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing the very sober day with us. One and only one question across America today, why? Why did grief and horror land forever on Uvalde, Texas?

Why did an 18-year-old turn a gun on his grandmother before murdering massacring children inside an elementary school? This is Rob Elementary. It is now the latest site of an American massacre of children. A gunman killed 19 grade schoolers and two teachers just two days before the summer break all that death inside one classroom.

Officials telling CNN this morning the gunman entered the room, locked the door behind him and opened fire. Other victims are in the hospital right now fighting for their lives. Authorities say the gunman attended nearby High School and people who worked with him describe a taciturn teen with a temper.

He bought weapons for his 18th birthday. You see them there posting images of AR-15 style rifles on a social media account just days before this horrific shooting. We know from the authorities he acted alone. Families last night huddled inside a town civic center get this to give DNA swabs to help authorities match bodies to their parents.

All the victims have now been identified families notified forced to hear the life changing words your child is not coming home. 10 years after Sandy Hook parents and grandparents are still asking why this happens. And now why in Uvalde?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is in the news somewhere else but not here. But it is happening - you think is big town big community small town like Uvalde


KING: CNN covering the story with our reporters across the community. Let's begin with our CNN Crime and Justice Reporter Shimon Prokupecz right there on the scene. Shimon, we are getting some new details about how this played out.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: We are. Authorities saying that they now believe that the shooting all took place in one classroom with an adjoining classroom but all of the victims who were shot and injured all occurring in one classroom after the gunman barricaded him in this classroom.

Authorities' law enforcement that was on scene was unable to penetrate this door to try and stop him and they had to wait for reinforcement. And so that took some time. And John we're also learning of new information, Instagram posts that authorities are reviewing law enforcement is reviewing where as you showed the gunman posted photos of the guns that he bought.

He then tagged someone randomly, a woman who he tagged. She doesn't know him he doesn't know her saying that "This apparently happened hours before the shooting" John, she writes, he wrote to her I got a little secret. And she then responds what your guns got to do with me.

And then he says be grateful I tagged you. He also says to her I'm about to he doesn't explain what he's about to. But then he says I got a little secret. She says she doesn't know him. She was concerned certainly about it. But she didn't know him so certainly for law enforcement this is something that they are reviewing.

It obviously shows that there was some intent here that there was some planning exactly what he was planning is still unclear.

KING: So Shimon walk through what we do know about the guns. Obviously there were the guns posted in the social media account. What do we know about the weapons the arsenal used at the scene?

PROKUPECZ: So authorities believe that the weapons were purchased as soon as he turned 18 legally allowing him to purchase these weapons and there was nothing stopping him. And so he bought them. And they believe you know he has a job so he had some money. They also believe that he bought ammunition, a substantial number of bullets, some of it they found here at the scene. So there's nothing to indicate that those were purchased illegally, John.

KING: And what about the new details as you have to identify the victims you have to notify the families. There's so much horrific work to do at the crime scene. What do we know about that?


PROKUPECZ: Right, so the FBI is here again, right? We just saw them last week in Buffalo. I was in Buffalo, the FBI Evidence Response Team, at every mass shooting; they are the ones that are there assisting local law enforcement and collecting evidence from the crime scene.

They're back out here again, with the Texas Rangers and the ATF, and DPS here. It's a lot, you know, you can just imagine how horrific it must be inside that room where all these children were killed, injured, and those two adults?

So they're out here processing the crime scene also out here today, we've been seeing a steady stream of neighbors, people from this community coming out here, laying flowers, someone just brought balloons. John, this is going to be really tough for this community.

They are it's a small community, majority, Hispanic, economically disadvantaged. When you think about in the school, it was over 500 students here 90 percent of them are Hispanic. So there are going to be some tough challenges ahead of here for this community. And that's certainly not lost on anyone, John.

KING: Shimon, we know more than we did yesterday. But there are some things we don't know. We know that the assault took place, for example, inside one classroom. We know that when the tactical teams responded, it took them some time to break into that classroom. But what don't we know?

PROKUPECZ: Well, what we don't know is if he was definitively targeting this school, there is a crash. Police say they get a call of following the shooting of his grandmother. And they get some information. They're out here. Somehow they make contact with him. It's not entirely clear.

They engage him outside the school. But he crashes; he crashes in his car into this ditch, comes out of the car and then goes into the school. How he got into the school is still unclear?

And really, John, it's not entirely clear that this was his intended target. Is this something that occurred because of opportunity, and he just was at a point where he saw a target that he can attack, he crashes the car, and then he runs into school. So that's also not entirely clear whether or not this was the intended target.

KING: Shimon Prokupecz on the ground for us come back as we learn new details. Obviously the investigation continuing right behind this Shimon, thank you very much. You've already of course, in comprehensively drowning in sorrow this morning too many families today, packing one less lunch bag.

Amerie Jo Garza was 10. Her father conforming on Facebook this morning, she was among the kids killed by the gunman. My little love, he said is now flying with the angels. Javier Lopez also ten, his mother describes him as funny with a smile that could cheer anyone up. He couldn't wait to go to middle school. As a chance he will now never get.

Uziyah Garcia 10, 10 look at that smile his uncle says he loved anything with wheels. He was fast too took the football and ran route after route over spring break. His grandfather told a CNN affiliate. Jose Flores Jr., also 10. His dad says he loved baseball loved video games and playing into the night. Eva Morales taught the fourth grade. She was an adventurer who had been an educator meaning she had been a hero for 17 years. She was 44 leaves behind her husband and her daughter. CNN's Rosa Flores live for us at Uvalde Memorial Hospital. Rosa, the victims there a community struggling and many still has questions, whether they're children, whether others will survive their injuries?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, John, I just talked to one woman who tells me that she knows four of the victims, two are family members two our acquaintances. As you've said, this is a very small community. Everybody knows everybody else.

This woman described the feeling in this community as so many mixed emotions. She said that there is anger. There's also this overwhelming grief and sadness. She says that she couldn't stop crying all night long because she explained the agonizing weight that a lot of these family members have been experiencing in the aftermath in the immediate aftermath of this tragedy. She says that everybody was coming together trying to figure out if their loved ones were alive, or if they were dead?

And then of course now we know that hour later, these family members learned that some of them for them their children had been killed. Their children had been murdered 19 of them in the same classroom and two adults, that teacher that you just mentioned, and another adult.

She says that today they're trying to figure out how to move on this woman was pregnant. She was here at the hospital that you see behind me. And she said that she has a four year old daughter who's expected to then start school next year in this is very elementary school and she says that she's grappling with that decision as a parent.


FLORES: She doesn't want her four year old daughter to eventually enter this classroom. She told me Rosa, I would be willing to drive my daughter anywhere, but to have her enter that school. Now we know from multiple hospital agencies that more than 20 people were transported to hospitals, not just here in Uvalde, Texas, but also were transported to San Antonio.

The hospital that you see behind me, we've learned that all of the patients have been transferred or dispatched out of the hospital. But we are learning from university hospital in San Antonio that there are so four individuals there, a 66 year old woman who is in serious condition, a 10 year old girl is in serious condition, a nine year old girl who's in good condition, and a 10 year old, who's also in good condition.

And John, there are two other individuals still fighting for their lives at this hour, who are also in serious condition. Hearts are heavy here in Uvalde, Texas in a mix of emotions, John, as people grapple with this tragedy, and are both angry at what happened and just destroyed because of the tragedy here John.

KING: Rosa Flores for us live on the ground, thank you, Rosa. I know it's incredibly difficult work. We appreciate you - and try to share the stories of this community. Let's get some important insights now on the investigation and the big questions from the Former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis and Former CIA Counterterrorism Official, Phil Mudd.

Commissioner Davis, let me start with you based on what you heard at the top of the program, what you've been able to see and learn about what authorities do know, if you were leading this investigation, and you had your top people in the room right now? What are the three questions you would be saying I need these answers, and I need them now.

ED DAVIS, FORMER BOSTON POLICE COMMISSIONER: Well, first John is motive. We want to know what drove this man to do what he did. I suspect there are going to be mental health issues. But I would want to have definite evidence of that. Has he been counseled before? Has he been sent to psychiatrists have people flagged problems that he's had

The second thing would be to do a full run with the ATF on the on the weapons that he bought and the ammunition. And it appears as though he just bought them recently. Anybody who walks into a gun store and says I need a gun right now should not get a gun right now that just should be a rule. There's no reason why we can't have common sense laws and regulations around this.

And then the third thing would be the impact on the community after having lived through the Boston Marathon. This is a devastating assault on not just the horrible damage that was done to these victims who were butchered in their classroom, but on the school system, and on the town and on everybody that lives in that area.

So there has to be support for them. And I would having - be having my people look to see what could be done to support the victims in this terrible, terrible case.

KING: Phil, we have this conversation about mass shootings and specifically about mass shootings at schools way too many times. But a lot has been done since Columbine. But obviously, you can't do everything this week. And we will talk throughout the program about whether as Mr. Davis just said whether an 18 year old should be walking in and immediately buy two assault rifles?

But knowing what we know about the scene right now. Is this something with the laws as they now stand? Do you see some red flag that should have been caught beforehand? Or is this he bought the guns legally he had issues he ended up at that school for whatever reason, and there was not enough security any goes?

PHILIP MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: Well, I hope the conversation unless we see something pretty profound in the coming days about his mental state. I hope the conversation doesn't go in that direction because it will divert us from the true conversation this country needs to have about gun access.

I tell you some of the questions you would have going to where you're going John is I still need to see more on what his social media history is and including a timeline to that social media history change. And I want to see the interviews that is what her friends saying the public reporting unfriend so far suggests that he was isolated and bullied.

That's not enough reason to take a weapon from somebody. So let's close with a potential phone call. Somebody calls in and says I saw a guy on Instagram who posted photos of weapons. And it's a guy who said some weird things about kids in the past.

If you're at the local FBI office or local police department, what are you going to do? Please don't tell me that you're going to deploy every time somebody post photos and maybe they're bullied and a little bit isolated. You can't respond to this just by saying it's a mental health issue and that we should take his guns away. I don't think that's the answer in this case.

KING: Phil Mudd and Commissioner Davis we'll continue the conversation in the days ahead as we learn more details about the investigation and about what is behind this young man who did the unthinkable in Uvalde, Texas.


KING: Our next guest was going to help us understand he understands the tragedy of school gun violence all too well David Hogg you might remember a survivor of the Parkland School shooting and four years ago, after his classmates were killed David Hogg posed this challenge.


DAVID HOGG, FORMER STUDENT AT MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: You guys like are the adults. You need to take some action and play a role. Work together, come over your politics and get something done.



KING: There is no school in Uvalde, Texas today. The final days of the academic year canceled after the massacre of 19 children and two teachers at Rob Elementary School. Stunned survivors are processing their horror and their mourning lost friends a shock to the grieving community are trying now to understand the unthinkable.


KING: David Hogg has firsthand experience of all this, he was just 17 years old back in 2018 when a gunman killed 17 people at his school in Parkland, Florida. David's life was forever changed. He quickly became a vocal advocate for gun reform, and is the Co-Founder of the "March for our lives" and David Hogg is with us now.

David, thank you for your time! I hope you don't mind me doing this. I'm not trying to recreate trauma. But so few people can understand what is it like the morning after? What is Uvalde, Texas going through right now?

HOGG: You know I can only speak from Parklands experience, but the unfathomable. I think you could say for any community, whether it's Buffalo, this community Parkland, or communities that experience gun violence on a daily basis, because reality is we have we have mass shootings every day in this country in the form of individual shootings that rarely make it on the news, right?

They're really, they're in shock. And many of them are likely watching their TVs right now, seeing CNN in shock that their community, the places they visit, every day, you know, are on TV, because of this horrible thing that many of them probably not never going to happen there.

KING: You have had a crash course, in political action. A crash course in trying to get things done with mixed results. I was struck by what you said four years ago. Yes, we're the kids; you're supposed to be the adults getting the room and figure this out. I'm paraphrasing a bit. But that's what you were trying to say.

There has been some success in the State of Florida, for example, where partly was they raised the age. They raise the age to purchase a gun from 18 to 21. If that had been the law in Texas, we might not be having this conversation today. What do you see as the gains, if you will, and your big questions and frustrations in your four years at this?

HOGG: Like, you know, John, we said we were going to go out and change the world in the conversation we did and we continue to. You know, in 2018, when I said that, I said you were the kids, you're the adults, and you need to essentially do something.

And the adults turned back - turn back at us and said, well, you're going to be able to vote soon. So you should and we did. We voted at one of the highest rates ever in American history in 2018, in a non- presidential midterm, and voted out more NRA backed cultures and politicians than ever before in American history.

We turned gun violence prevention into a winning issue. Then in 2020, we played a critical role, amongst other factors, obviously, in turning out the highest youth voter turnout in American history, which saw the election of the most pro-gun - President in American history, a pro-gun Reform Senate and a pro-gun Reform House.

Yet despite that, we've not seen a single - seen a single piece of gun violence prevention legislation passed in Congress that's unacceptable. Where we have seen his action at the state level, we've seen over 50 gun laws passed.

And in Florida, of all states, a deeply Republican legislature that's entirely controlled by Republicans, we raised the age to 21 and we passed red flag laws that would have been able to stop the shooting in Parkland, and likely would have been able to help in a number of other situations around the country should those laws have been in place?

And because of that, I've even used it for people that have sent threats to my own mother. We used the law that we created in the wake of Parkland to disarm somebody who's threatened to kill my mom. And it was through a due process and court ordered these laws work. And what I want to do. And the action that I want to see John, and I'm sorry to go on here is look, we know as Americans what we don't agree on we see it on CNN, we see it on Fox, we see it on all these outlets constantly. We see it on social media, everywhere.

We need to vote, that's not what's going to stop these kids were getting killed, period. What's going to stop these kids from getting killed is figuring out what we as Americans, not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans can do to create a more perfect union, where our children are not in danger in their schools and communities?

And our grandmas are not in danger, their supermarkets and any other place on a daily basis. And the way that we do that is we need to focus on what we can agree on. I'm trying to get in touch with Republican Senators right now to talk to them about how we can pass universal background checks, something that many Republican Governors, including my father, who's a Former Republican, and as a current gun owner, support.

And figure out how we can actually pass that because we understand, look, we're not going to get everything that we want. I'm not crazy, right? I understand that. What we do need those action, not debate.

KING: So help me, David, how do you break through as you make a very key point, like let's stop fighting about what we can't agree on? And do two or three things, at least start with things where there is consensus.

How do you break through? And I want to ask it in the personal context, when you have a tragedy like this as you had in your community, you know, some young person who was going to be a future governor who was going to be a future NBA or NFL all-star who was going to, you know, create some technology that changed the world was taken from us.

In this case, a teenager at the time in this case we're talking about my youngest son is 10 years old. So when I read these names, I just get choked up. These are kids that they don't - they can't even process what a gun is? How do you break through with the adults who refuse to have adult conversations with the idea that every time this happens heroes are snuffed away?


HOGG: Look at your kids. Look at your kids and to those adults, I would say know that kids like that are getting taken - stunned from their families and their parents every day in this country. And oftentimes, they don't make it on the news, right?

I think about communities, especially like Buffalo, where, although, of course, it's important to protect our young people. And they are - they are very valuable, you know, a lot of elders were killed in Buffalo, and they were huge parts of the community that are not talked about as well.

We need to - we need to realize that look, if our government if we as Americans can't lead by example, not even our politicians, but as Americans, you know, we can't lead by example, focus on what we can agree on.

To save our own children, you know, we need to do some serious critical evaluation of why that is, because with our children, we're not just losing our children here, we're losing our future, John, as you say, you know, we're losing the next adventure, we're losing the next incredible Supreme Court Justice, we're losing the next president, the next governor.

Whoever it might be somebody that is going to help other people, and with them dies the future of our country, if we can't protect that, I don't know what we can do. And that's why I'm here. You know, I'm not here to debate this or with Republicans.

I get attacked a lot of the time I get ODMs, calling you names, you know, a lot. And one thing I often say to them is, you know, does this make you happy, right, because I'm not here to just I know that we don't agree, I'm not trying to convince you of anything.

What I do want to convince you of and what I do know that we agree on is that kid kids shouldn't have to be identified by their DNA because their bodies have been so destroyed by an AR-15 in their school. Nobody, no gun owner, no responsible gun owner thinks that that should be the case.

And I know that right, because people like my father know that even people in the gun industry at times have known that. Previously, they wouldn't sell certain types of weapons a lot of the time because they knew the danger that it could cause to society. But they continue to do that, right?

This is not about attacking gun owners or even NRA members. It's about attacking the people like the gun industry, the gun lobby specifically, and the NRA Board, not even NRA members to address the fact that look like we have been brought here for a reason.

And the only thing that we're going to get out of it is figuring out what we can do together, even if small to address this.

KING: David Hogg, grateful for your time, keep in touch as you continue those conversations trying to get the adults to be adults.

HOGG: Thank you. If Mitt Romney is watching this please reach out to me. We got to work on this.

KING: I hope he's watching David, keep us posted this conversation. Next we'll continue that conversation. Will Washington just shrug again flags in our Nation's Capitol flying at half-staff today? That's an appropriate but it's an easy response to tragedy.

And already many lawmakers are saying new gun safety steps are too hard or too political. To that one Democratic - one Democratic Senator asked colleagues this question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Why do you spend all this time running for the United States Senate? Why do you go through all the hassle of getting this job or putting yourself in a position of authority? If your answer is that as this slaughter increases as our kids run for their lives, we do nothing.