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"Multiple Patients" Reported At Scene Of Nashville School Shooting. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 27, 2023 - 12:30   ET




ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: And more from our breaking news out of Nashville, a shooting at a pre-K and elementary school this morning. Police say the shooter is dead. This happened at the Covenant School, a parochial school in Nashville. We're learning also that there are multiple patients and the scene is still an active one.

CNN's Amara Walker is getting updates on this breaking news story. Amara, what do we know this hour?

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Abby, that's the key here, right? This is still a developing story. It's an active scene. There was a tweet from the Nashville Fire Department that said that they have multiple patients. We don't know what that means. We don't know the number of patients. We don't know the age range of these patients.

Although judging from the type of school, this being a preschool through 6th grade, you know, I guess the patients could be as young as three to four years old, as old as 11 to 12 years old. We don't know the extent of the injuries of these, quote unquote, patients. We don't know if staff or any of the teachers may be patients at this point.

But look, this is obviously a huge nightmare and a terrifying scene for parents, including you and me, Abby. You and I are both parents. This is something that goes through our minds, you know, every day. The safety of our children when they're dropped off at school.

And now we're talking about another school shooting, this one in Nashville, Tennessee. This is a private Christian school called the Covenant School. You asked me last -- a few minutes ago the timing of the shooting. It looks like this happened later in the morning. Judging from the tweets from Nashville Fire Department, they tweeted this about an hour ago.

And keep in mind, Nashville is on Central Time, so it happened at least around 10:00 or so. But again, what we know is that there was an active shooter event. That is how the Nashville Fire Department, excuse me, the Nashville Police Department is characterizing this.

Police saying that the shooter is dead after the shooter engaged with police. We have no more information on the shooter, if this was a student or had any ties to the school. But again, you are looking at live pictures there on the scene in Nashville, Tennessee. And we're talking about an elementary school where little children, preschool aged children attend this school. Three, maybe four years old, Abby.

But this is what we know. Multiple patients being treated, according to Nashville Fire. And look, once we get more information, we'll get it to you. But right now, as you see, it is an active scene, Abby.

PHILLIP: And parents are being told where to go to reunify with their children. But this is, of course, a nightmare for all parents and a nightmare for this nation once again. Amara Walker, thank you for that.

Let's bring in now CNN Law Enforcement Analyst Chief Charles Ramsey, who's on the phone for us. Chief Ramsey, in this moment, they are describing this as an active scene, although the shooter is known to be, confirmed to be dead. What does that mean about what is happening at that school right now?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I mean, another unbelievable tragedy. Right now, they can't take anything for granted. The shooter is deceased. However, they still have to conduct a thorough search of the building to make sure they don't have any more individuals who are with the shooter or any more victims. So that has to continue.

The process now is identifying the shooter. Once they do that, if they haven't already, they'll be executing search warrants, they'll be looking at social media. They'll be trying to find as much out about this individual as possible.

You mentioned, Abby, that there's a reunification center set up for parents. This is a nightmare for anyone. I mean, I've got grandkids, so, you know, I feel the same way. Your heart kind of sinks whenever you hear something like this happen.


But the reality is, they've got a lot of moving parts right now trying to, you know, make sure they can reunify with parents, parents going to the hospital. So they have to be able to deal with that as well. And at the same time, the investigation is just getting underway.

They're still searching the location, and now they're trying to really identify the individual who's responsible and then executing warrants and so forth to find out as much as they can. It's just another one more tragedy that we have to deal with and talk about now.

PHILLIP: Absolutely. And let's bring in now former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who is with us. Andrew, this is, as we've been saying, quite a nightmare, but something that has become very familiar. Schools as targets. Elementary schools with the most defenseless of potential victims, children as young as three years old. What goes through your mind to hear that we are dealing with yet another active shooter situation at an elementary school in this country? ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, well, Abby, I mean, you phrased it perfectly. Something that we would have considered just to be an absolute an aberration 20, 30 years ago is now kind of an aspect of American life that all parents have to consider when they send their kids off to school every day.

This can happen really anywhere around the country. We've seen it all over the place in all kinds of different circumstances and schools and places of worship and hospitals, anything you can imagine. And this is just another chapter in that unfolding drama of gun violence in America.

I think right now my heart goes out to the folks who are responding to that scene. I understand how devastating that can be. But they are laser focused on trying to take care of the folks who have been -- certainly the folks who have been wounded, might be hurt, need medical attention, all those children that are going to need care and support, first and foremost, from their families, but from professionals as well today and in the days that follow.

And it is still very much an active crime scene. So they're trying to understand the full scope of the victims they have, ensure there are no more threats on the premises. Sounds like that's been resolved. But as the chief said, you have to do a really thorough search to be absolutely sure that there's nothing there that could cause anyone any harm. So it's a lot that they're dealing with right now.

PHILLIP: And we are also learning that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is now on the scene assisting in this investigation. What would their role be in this moment, at this point?

MCCABE: Well, they can -- you know, from a basic perspective, they can bring some additional investigative resources to the scene. That is always a help. You see that from the federal partners in any community where this happens.

Typically there's an FBI response as well. But with their specialized capability of running gun traces, ultimately, probably not their first priority right this minute, but ultimately, the locals will rely on the ATF to tell them about the firearm that was used. How did that end up in the hands of the person who has it? Where did it come from? Was it legally purchased?

All those questions that we have as observers and, you know, grievers, really, of these events to understand, as the days unfold more about this person who brought a weapon into the school today and unleashed this violence. Why did they do it? Where did they come from? What motivated them? Because that sort of information helps us better understand how this threat is playing out across the country.

There's so much more for us to learn about what is happening in this situation. More on this breaking news out of Nashville. Right now we know that there are multiple patients and a shooter is dead after a confrontation with police. This is happening at a Nashville pre-K and elementary school.

Stay with us. We'll have much more on this after the break.



PHILLIP: Right now, there is an active shooter scene in Nashville's Covenant School. Police say that the shooter is dead after a confrontation with police, but we are also now learning that there are multiple patients. These are the very early moments.

Not a lot of information here, but CNN's Amara Walker is standing by for us. We also have Chief Charles Ramsey and former FBI Deputy Director Andy McCabe, all standing by. Let's start with you, Amara. Again, we don't have a lot of concrete information about what is happening in this scene, but so far we do know that there have been multiple injuries reported by law enforcement over there.

WALKER: Yes, Abby, it's another tragic day in America, where our school children, elementary aged school children have been forever changed by what is being described as an active shooter event by Metro Nashville Police. We know this happened at the Covenant School, which is a private Christian school for pre-K through 6th graders.

So we're talking about children who are only four years old to may be about 12 years old. And you said that there are multiple patients, this is according to the Nashville Fire Department. They tweeted this about over an hour ago.


We don't know the extent of injuries and God forbid, we don't know if any have died. We just -- we don't know the exact number of patients that Nashville Fire Department are treating or had to take to the hospital. We don't know the ages of these children or perhaps staff or faculty at the school. All we know is that there are victims.

We do know, as you said, the shooter is dead, apparently after engaging with police. Perhaps there was some kind of shootout. But look, you know, there are so many questions that are going to be, you know, follow this, right? I mean, were the children targeted? Was this random? Who is a shooter? Does a shooter have ties to the school?

Right now, the most important thing is getting answers for the parents who are reliving a trauma that so many parents have gone through in this country. Another school shooting. Right now, law enforcement, Nashville police are saying the reunification area is going to be happening at the Woodmont Baptist Church. The location is 2100 Woodmont Boulevard. That is where parents can go right now to hopefully reunify with their children and get more information.

Abby, we don't have much more information than that right now.

PHILLIP: That's right.

WALKER: We're making calls. PHILLIP: And as you continue your reporting, we'll wait to learn more. But it can't be emphasized enough what you are saying, but this is not just a nightmare for those families in Nashville, but for this entire country. So many people watching right now saying, not again, not another elementary school.

WALKER: Right.

PHILLIP: But on that point, Chief Ramsey, I want to ask you about that because this is a parochial school, a private Christian school in a church. It's a very small school, only about 200 students, young kids, elementary school aged.

And when we've talked over the years about how schools and communities protect themselves against this unfortunate occurrence happening to them, how does that impact a school like this elementary school, Covenant School, that is not a public school? What protocols -- do they -- are they subject to the same kinds of protocols as say, a public school might be?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, every school is different, but certainly, I mean, it's just an unfortunate reality now where you have to have some level of security in place at all these schools, including apparently pre-K. I mean, this is just unbelievable what we're talking about here, and we're talking about it on a regular basis.

I mean, you know, I do some work with the United States Conference of Mayors, and there's a lot of discussion around what to do with active shooters, whether it's a school or wherever it might be. There's actually a playbook, for lack of a better word, that is used by mayors, by police chiefs and others on what to do when you're confronted with something like this.

I mean, think about that. That is absolutely insane that we have to even have this discussion and that people have to be prepared at the level, that they have to be prepared to deal with it, because it just continues to happen, and it will happen again. The only question is when and where.

It's particularly tragic, obviously, if you're talking about very young children, I mean, pre-K up to 6th grade. But even a small school, 200 students would need to have, you know, some kind of security. I mean, but even then, you know, is that enough to really stop what's going on right now.

It's just not an easy fix to -- for what we're seeing happen in our country, and it just doesn't seem to be the kind of action that needs to take place in order to at least take steps to try to minimize the opportunity for people to do this sort of thing.

PHILLIP: Yes. In recent years, this school has had between 195 and about 210 students. And what you're talking about there, the fact that this has become, it seems, more frequent in recent years, Andy McCabe, I wonder about the contagion effect here, if there is any in your mind. When we see a Sandy Hook happen, we see a Uvalde happen, and you have a shooter, whoever this person is picking a target, is there -- are we seeing a contagion effect where the targets that they are choosing are schools with the youngest kids?

MCCABE: That's a great question, Abby. It's one that's hard to answer because we don't have the data upon which to make a really hard conclusion about that. But the observations are undeniable, right? It's been over 10 years since Sandy Hook, almost a year since Uvalde, that's hard to believe.


Here in Virginia, we had a six year old, shot his teacher in a school, very young children in January. So, it does seem that on some level, the way that this has become so common, we've normalized the most horrific acts of violence that you could have even imagine 20, 30 years ago.

Now we just understand that, you know, schools are frequent targets of gun violence. Children are frequent targets at school of gun violence. And we're starting to leap to, well, how do we protect the schools? How do we better secure them? Those are all necessary conversations to have.

But like, to step back and say, like, why are we here? How come this keeps happening? It wasn't an aberration. We know from observing past experiences it will happen again. You and I will be on these airways, talking about a mass shooting at a school. Who knows, maybe later this week, maybe a month from now, who knows? But we'll be doing it again at some point.

It's impossible to perfectly train six and seven year olds how to handle themselves in the face of an armed attacker. I mean, so -- and do we want to turn our schools into completely hardened targets, like prisons, essentially? I don't think anybody wants any of that. But yet here we are facing potentially more children shot and killed at school during a normal school days.

Until we have the political will to address the underlying issues here, including the proliferation of guns, the availability of guns, we have to just be prepared to have these conversations again and again, I guess.

PHILLIP: You're looking at images right now of the scene outside of the Covenant School in Nashville where we are following an active shooter situation. The shooter in this situation is now dead after a confrontation with police, but they are describing this as an active scene.

And as you can see, a lot of activity on the ground there as parents are in this moment seeking to be reunified with their kids. There is an active investigation underway. And we are also learning just moments ago, the Nashville police have just tweeted that they will be providing an update in this case in about 15 to 20 minutes from now. We will bring that to you when it happens and as we learn more information about this.

I want to go back, though, to Charles Ramsey on what Andy McCabe was just talking about. It's impossible to not put this situation in the context of all the other cases that we've had of violence inside of schools. And I wonder, as you look at what has happened since the Uvalde tragedy, that massacre involving so many students, and the conversations that came after that, do you see anything that schools need to be doing in this moment? Maybe not to make themselves hard targets, but to protect their students when there's perhaps nothing else that they can do?

RAMSEY: Well? I mean, obviously, every school should take a look at their current security situation, you know, cameras, making sure doors are locked, all those kinds of things that need to happen. And I'm sure there'll be a lot of schools that will be reassessing their security.

But there's one thing I want to just mention because, you know, and that is the mental health aspect of all this. It's not just the families of the children that are directly involved in this sort of thing. I mean, think about it. When I was a kid coming up, we had fire drills. Now they have fire drills and active shooter drills.

I mean, it's absolutely crazy. And I remember -- and of course I'm a lot older than you are, but in the 50s and 60s, we had drills in case there was a nuclear war where you had to get on your desk and that sort of thing, as if that would have protected you. But I remember even then, you know, it was traumatic to think about something like that that possibly even happen.

Imagine what it's like now being a child. You go to school, which is supposed to be the safest place for you to go, and now you're having drills. If a person comes in with an AK-47 and starts to shoot, what are you supposed to do? And we're talking about very, very young children. And it's not just the ones that, again, are directly impacted, like at this particular school, and Uvalde and others.

It has an impact across the country with kids that are going to school. Whether it's a private school, public school, parochial, it doesn't matter. It can impact anywhere. And I think the long term mental health issues or implications of this is something we really, I don't think we're prepared to even deal with that.


PHILLIP: At this point, you're entirely right. There are multiple generations of kids, from elementary school on up, who are now, in some cases adults, who have grown up in this environment in which their schools are targets.

Andy McCabe, Chief Charles Ramsey, Amara Walker, thank you for all of that. And we have a lot more on this breaking news story straight ahead.

Alex Marquardt will pick up our coverage right after a quick break. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)