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Inside Politics

TX School Shooter Massacres 19 Children, 2 Teachers; TX Official: Shooter Was Inside School For 40 To 60 Minutes; CNN: Killer Texted Girl About Plan To Attach Elementary School; Police Face Questions Over Response To School Shooting; Doctor Treating School Shooting Survivors: "It's Difficult"; Community Mourns 21 Lives Lost In Uvalde; Today: Sen. Cornyn (R-TX) Meeting With Sen. Murphy (D-CT); Senate Grapples With Gun Deal In The Wake Of Mass Shootings. Aired 12- 12:30p ET

Aired May 26, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, everybody. Welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you. Thank you for sharing this difficult news day with us. We start in Uvalde, Texas, where there is still no explanation, no explanation on why the shooter who murdered 19 children and two teachers was inside Robb Elementary School as long as 60 minutes, as long as 60 minutes before law enforcement took him out.

This emotional new simply awful video. What you're hearing there are screams from parents outside Robb Elementary. Parents who know their children are inside. Parents pleading and pleading and pleading with police to do something, to get in there before their children were killed.

This morning, we also have new video of the gunman. You see it here cell phone footage, showing the moment he sprinted inside the school. We learned this morning, the shooter entered the school unimpeded, there was no lock on the door.

And this hour, there was a massive and ongoing CSI undertaking. Investigators combing through mountains of evidence, including security footage from inside the school. We also learned there was an exchange of gunfire as the murderer made his way from his car to that door and then into Robb Elementary, that left two cops wounded.

Today, would have been the last day of the school year, instead of making plans for vacations camps and cookouts, these families right there you see them are making funeral arrangements. The grief is immeasurable. Listen here to Angel Garza and how he learned his little girl was gone.


ANGEL GARZA, FATHER OF UVALDE VICTIM: She was just trying to do the right thing. She's just trying to call the cops. She was so scared of just strangers and things like this. Like she would lock the door when I would step out to put gas in the car like she - this is literally like her worst fear. And she was just trying to help everyone.

One little girl was just covered in blood, head to toe like I thought she was injured. I asked her what was wrong. And she said, she's OK. She was hysterical saying that they shot her best friend, and they killed her best friend. She's not breathing and then she was trying to call the cops, and that's the little girl, the name and she told me, she said Emory.


KING: Its just unthinkable, the pain there, unthinkable the pain. Let's get straight to the scene and start with CNN's Shimon Prokupecz who is there. Shimon, more questions today?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Certainly, more questions because everything remains so murky. All this happening, John, as we're starting to get footage from that day of just the pain and the gut wrenching sobs and screams from the family members who were coming here to the scene to find out what was going on with their children.

After getting word that there was a shooting at the school and wanting to go inside the school. You know, parents saying, asking the police to go inside to try and save their kids. And of course, all of this is happening as questions, keep being asked about the police response.

This morning, we heard from the police that there was this unlocked door that the gunman was able to just simply walk into the school. Unimpeded is how the lieutenant with the police here described it. That he walked in, he walked down the hallway, there was an exchange of gunfire with police. But the schoolteachers, it seems just didn't have enough time to lock those doors.

And what the lieutenant says, is that when the gunman got inside that classroom, they're looking at whether or not there's some kind of security mechanism at the school here with these doors that he then locked, which then prevented the police, the responding police from those tactical teams that we heard about from getting inside, which as you said, allow the gunman to remain in that classroom for possibly as long as an hour.

KING: Shimon, we just showed the video of the parents pleading and pleading and pleading again, screaming at the police officers, please do more, please go inside. What have the authority said about the reasons for the delay, for this long period of time?

PROKUPECZ: So, they really have not explained it. They haven't really given us a timeline. You know, in these situations, usually with sadly, sadly, we've covered so many of these. In the initial stages, the police will give you a timeline. You know, we received this a 911 call at this time.

We were first on scene around this time. We call for backup around this time. And then the tactical teams responded at this time. And it took x amount of time for the tactical teams to get inside. We haven't received any of that. All we know is that the police called for help that the border patrol were the ones that responded in along with some of the local officials, that they suited up, that they put the tactical team together. And then they went in and at some points were able to neutralize the gunman. But other than that, we really don't have any kind of explanation.

They have said that some of the officers were taking gunfire. You know, the first two officers inside the building took gunfire, so with scenes that they had to retreat, they were injured. This morning, the lieutenant said that the two officers were shot, non-life-threatening injuries but it appears that at some point they may have retreated.


And we're seeing in that video that at some point, there was a massive police response because you see the officers, there the sheriff's deputies there with the heavily armed weapons at the scene, dealing with these parents who are crying and sobbing and screaming, wanting to get inside and save their children. So, the response happens. The question is, why does it take so long?

KING: And one other piece of this disturbing puzzle, Shimon, our CNN team is detailed some of these texts that just literally, just moments before this massacre, the shooter was texting, essentially telling somebody, a girl, a woman, he met online what he was about to do.

PROKUPECZ: Yes. And she apparently lives in Germany. They met online and he's texting her 30 minutes. He starts texting her before the shooting. So that's around 11:30 local time. He sends her a message saying that he's in some kind of a fight, it appears with his grandmother that he's going to shoot her, then he says he shoots her.

And then around 11:15, around 15 minutes before the shooting here at the school. He says, I'm going to go shoot up an elementary school right now. And then sadly, we know what happens. So those are some of the first indications that this involves some planning. Certainly, investigators are trying to figure out more on that.

But also, interestingly, John, they've not really been able to find a big social media presence to sort of try and figure out what he was consuming, what he was doing, did something trigger him, was there something online, was he studying something, that sort of radicalized them? There's none of that.

So, all they're really left with is trying to build out his life and the days and weeks before this to see if anything there trigged because they do not - they are not, John, even sure why he was targeting this school.

KING: Shimon Prokupecz is live at the scene. Shimon, appreciate the important reporting. Let's get some important insights now from the former deputy director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe. Andy, so I want to be fair to the police, but we are now two days removed from this. And we do not have a lot of the details of the timeline, specific times how many officers were in the scene at this moment. How many then arrived after that when the decision was made to go into the school? When you see the video of these parents pleading and pleading, and you do see, as Shimon noted, a fairly significant police presence outside the school at that moment. What are your questions? And do you believe by now, we should have more tick tock, more transparency?

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR, FBI: I do John. And that video that you referenced is a perfect example. We see that video. And because we haven't been given the framework of a timeline in which to contextualize that video. We look at it and we think well what happened, there was this gap in time when that shooter was locked in the, you know, in the classroom with the victims.

And here we see all kinds of heavily armed sheriff's deputies and other law enforcement people in the parking lot, holding back like was this all happening at the same time. We don't know because they haven't really given us any details about how these events played out. And look, this is a horrific incident to have to respond to run this investigation, to handle this crime scene. This is a small police department. They've probably never done this before. They have their hands full.

But one of your most important responsibilities in responding to a crisis event is to be as transparent as you can be from the beginning. The facts, whatever they are, good or bad, fortunate or unfortunate, do not change over time. You need to get out in front of them and let people know what's going on to the best way you can.

KING: This is one of the parents on the scene, told the Washington Post, Javier Cazares. They were five or six of us, fathers, hearing gunshots and police were telling us to move back. We didn't care about us. We wanted to storm the building. We were saying, let's go because that is how worried we were. We wanted to get our babies out.

And the department of Texas public safety spokesman says, you know, the police were telling those parents, you can't go in there and it's too dangerous to let unarmed people go into the school. We've had this conversation too many times, whether the police department is large or small.

How have the protocols changed over the years because there have been so many school shootings? What is the procedure if you know, there's an active shooter inside the school, whether there's one officer there or 10 officers there or a SWAT team there, what are they supposed to do?

MCCABE: Well, the protocols following events like Columbine and the Virginia Tech shooter in 2007, the protocols have been refined over time to direct officers that the responding officers, whether they're patrolmen, or tactical, tactically trained folks are supposed to - if there's gunshots going on, they're supposed to get in front of that gunman and try to neutralize or kill them. So that is kind of the standard active shooter training to police agencies across the country, which is one of the reasons why we have so many questions about the timeline here. Now, I should say, it is also very standard procedure to not allow unarmed civilians into a crisis location because you don't want to send additional potential hostages into a violent attack and that makes perfect sense. I'm sure it was incredibly frustrating for those parents and terrifying, but I understand why they wouldn't want them to go in.


The bigger question is, who went in from the law enforcement side? How much time went by before the tactical unit was able to get in? And what were those other officers doing during that gap in time?

KING: And I appreciate, A, your experience walking us through this, and B, the point about a small police department and it could take some time here. So, we do want to be fair, but again, there's some questions, Andy, that could be answered pretty quickly. Chris Olivares, who's the lieutenant from the Texas Department of Public Safety.

This morning, he has confirmed there was a school resource officer at the scene that that resource officer had a weapon. Just this morning, he said it was still unclear whether or not that officer had fired his weapon. That's a yes or no question. And that's a question if you have a firearm, that's a question that can be answered in seconds, even without the test that could answer it in minutes and hours, right?

MCCABE: Absolutely. Also, standard protocol, any officers who respond to an event where shots are fired, their weapons are confiscated by the incident command as soon as that's established. One of the reasons is to determine how many rounds are left in each one of those guns to start to get a picture of who fired how many shots, and of course, you could talk to those officers to find out where that happened. So, those sorts of facts are verifiable. They are collectible. And my guess is that's probably been done. I hope that's been done already. But if not, that's something I need to get on pretty quickly.

KING: Andrew McCabe, appreciate the insights. Thank you. Up next for us. Parents who were planning for the end of the school year, are now planning funerals. If all these pains is palpable. Listen here, a pediatric surgeon who treated some of the wounded says, she and her colleagues quickly realized the horror.


DR. LILLIAN LIAO, PEDIATRIC TRAUMA MEDICAL DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY HEALTH: We realized that when we're dealing with high velocity firearm injuries, we may not get a whole lot of patients and I think that's what hit us the most, not of the patients that we did receive. I mean, we are honored to treat them but the patients that we did not receive. I think that that is the most challenging aspect of our job right now.





KING: You can see the pain. You can see the pain there the Uvalde community mourning, the 21 lives lost, grief visible, hundreds of faces at a vigil last night. Remember the young lives taken too quickly. Like, Uziyah Garcia, who loved anything with wheels and video games. His grandfather said, he could catch a ball so good.

And Tess Marie Mata, she was saving money, so her whole family could go to Disney World. She loved TikTok, Ariana Grande, the Houston Astros. Last hour, Pastor Doug Swimmer spoke with CNN, about the prayers he shared with the families of the victims.


DOUG SWIMMER, PASTOR, THE POTTER'S HOUSE CHURCH OF UVALDE: And I said who needs prayer? And an outcry says, we all need prayer. And about 60 to 70 people just corralled around me, I lifted my voice. And I prayed as loud as I could through that hospital for these families, for these moms, for the dads, for these families that will never see their children again.


KING: CNN's Adrienne Broaddus is live for us in Uvalde. Listening to a community just outpour its grief and pain, Adrienne.

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We saw that visual last night, John, tears falling, some tears falling so fast, people couldn't quickly wipe them away. Behind me, I want to focus on the lawn of Robb Elementary School. There's a growing memorial. This lawn now contains 21 crosses, and there has been a flow of people stopping by, holding their own individual moments of silence throughout the day.

But each cross on the lawn behind me, contains the name of a person that 18-year-old shot and killed. There are 19-process for the children and two others for the adult female teachers who taught here at the elementary school. And last night at that vigil, you saw the pain on the faces. There were times where some people were holding pictures of the folks they love close to their heart.

Earlier in the day, we spoke with the medical director at the hospital where some of the surviving victims are being treated and cared for, including the shooters, 66-year-old grandmother. The medical director spoke to us broadly. But she said they're dealing with what they call destructive wounds. That means there were large portions of tissue missing and a significant loss of blood. John?

KING: Adrienne Broaddus on the ground for us with important reporting to show respect and as these families in this town go through such pain. Adrienne, thank you so much. Next for us. The Uvalde massacre is stirring the gun safety debate here in Washington in the Congress. There are calls to bring back the assault weapons ban or to raise the age to buy certain guns, but those proposals simply do not have enough support. And talks right now center on perhaps strengthening background checks and red flag laws.



KING: Lawmakers who say the Uvalde massacre again proves the need for stricter gun laws, simply face impossible math in Congress. But there are new conversations about more modest steps, like strengthening background checks and so-called red flag laws. One meeting to watch today, the gun reform advocate, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy is meeting with Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn.



SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): This is not an invite to negotiate indefinitely. Make no mistake about it. If these negotiations do not bear fruit in a short period of time, the Senate will vote on gun legislation, gun safety legislation.


KING: CNN's Lauren Fox is live for us up on Capitol Hill. Leader Schumer there are saying, I'll give this time. Lauren let's come at it this way. What is possible? What might happen?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what lawmakers aren't talking about is an assault weapons ban, things to actually limit gun ownership in this country. Instead, they are talking about red flag laws, those laws that would block people from being able to access a gun in a moment of crisis that their family or others think that they may be a danger to themselves or to others.

They're also looking at background check measures, potentially expanding those and closing loopholes that exist in the system. And they're looking at trying to help people access mental healthcare. Those are much narrower measures than what you've heard in the past. But you expect today that Cornyn and Murphy are going to sit down and have some conversations. Here is what Cornyn told me earlier about what is possible and what might not be.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): There's a whole list of things that we can consider, but I think particularly mental health, access to mental health treatment is as high on that list.

FOX: Do you think that if you can't buy a beer in the state of Texas, you shouldn't be able to buy an AR-15 in the state of Texas?

CORNYN: Well, the problem with this is there were multiple points of failure. And including, it looks like maybe the lessons that we learned after Columbine, where the police waited outside until the shooters came out.


FOX: And you see there, John, when you ask a direct question about limiting gun ownership in this country, trying to bar people from buying guns at the age of 18 in the state of Texas, Cornyn really pivoted, they're not answering my question directly.

KING: Lauren Fox, up on Capitol Hill. Lauren, thanks so much. As I know you've closely tracked this debate as it goes forward. Let's have a conversation now. With me to share the reporting and their insights, Seung Min Kim, The Washington Post, Laura Barron-Lopez with POLITICO, and Catherine Lucey of The Wall Street Journal.

To the point there, I just want to put up these headlines. This is what happens. Sadly, after every one of these incidences you see from liberal leaning publications, Republicans don't care about kids, just imaginary children, a child can't be a good guy with a gun. And from the right, Biden blames the gun lobby when the real enemy is culture, don't surrender to do something ism on guns up.

Within hours, this is everyone goes off into their corners, as opposed to whatever your views at home, whatever your views about guns, about mental health, but why not get in a room, sit around a table and let's talk about this. Let's see what is possible. Why can't that happen?

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, there's sort of trying right now. And I think that conversation between Chris Murphy and John Cornyn is going to be a really critical one later today, and in the days going forward. Because Democrats in the Senate obviously need Republican partners considering the math there.

And John Cornyn for being a kind of a conservative stalwart that he is, he has been a partner to Democrats in the past, whenever these tragic shootings have come up, it was, I mean, I know that gets forgotten about a lot.

But I believe it was about five years ago, Cornyn and Murphy and other senators partnered together to create a law that actually incentivize more reporting to the national background check system, which was I mean, all things considered something at the time, and it happened after a mass shooting. But again, the math is difficult for Democrats here.

But what I think was really crucial is that Chuck Schumer is also giving negotiators space. We saw after the abortion, the leaked abortion ruling that he was going to go out there and say, we're going to put people, we're going to put Republicans on the record. He's not doing that here, because he wants the actual time for these negotiations to take root.

KING: And do we believe? Do you believe, you're right? You're right, that they are having conversations, and for some people at home who want an assault weapons ban, or who want the age raised, you're not going to get that, not from the Congress anyway, maybe some states will move on this. The question is, you know, is what are the possibilities? Or will they talk for a few days and say whatever by we still can't agree, like they do just about every time?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, will it pass this prologue, then we should not really expect much to happen because these conversations tend to break down. They have in the past repeatedly, even when people thought after Sandy Hook that Congress was going to be able to do this. They fell short again.

And at that time, Biden was vice president and was a part of those negotiations. This time around, we're seeing Biden as president, take more of a step back. And he's not really engaging heavily in the conversations that are happening right now on the Hill. He wants to give those lawmakers like Murphy and Cornyn space.

And, you know, I've been hearing from gun advocates who - gun control advocates who are saying that they want the president, at the same time Congress is looking at their options. They want the president to move forward with more executive actions. But right now, there's no indication from the White House that Biden is going to do that, as Congress is trying to figure out a way forward.

KING: We do know the president is planning to go to Uvalde, and whenever it makes sense, he's trying to obviously let the pain subsided a bit, figure out from a law enforcement perspective. When is it safe to bring the president's entourage and all of that without distracting from the investigation?