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Officials: All Victims Inside Same Classroom, 19 Children & 2 Teachers; Texas Attacked is Second-Deadliest K-12 School Shooting in U.S. History; 19 Children Killed at School Just 2 Days Before Summer Break; Biden to Nation: "Where in God's Name is Our Backbone?"; Officials: Gunman Wore Body Armor, Crashed Car Before Entering; Biden Calls for Gun Reform: "I'm Sick and Tired Of" Mass Shootings; Aired 8- 8:30a ET
Aired May 25, 2022 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LT. CHRIS OLIVAREZ, SPOKESMAN, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: And so the initial incident was a domestic disturbance involving the shooter with his grandmother in which the shooter actually shot his own grandmother. From that point he fled the scene in a vehicle. There were reports that the vehicle crashed nearby the school, and that they saw an individual armed with a weapon going inside the school.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Who is they?
OLIVAREZ: Local law enforcement. They received a call, they received a call the vehicle crashed. There was an individual with a long rifle making his way into the school. And that's when local law enforcement responded on scene.
BERMAN: Local law enforcement engaged with him before he entered the school?
OLIVAREZ: Right. So we had local law enforcement from Uvalde police department, one of the school police officers as well as state troopers that arrived on scene. They were the initial officers on scene. They heard the gunfire. They were met with gunfire as they encountered this gunman who was able to shoot two police officers, nonlife threatening injuries, they are stable, they are out of the hospital. But at that point they were at a disadvantage because the gunman was able to make entry into a classroom, barricade himself inside that classroom. And then that's when just -- he just started shooting children and the teachers that we talked about, two teachers that were killed inside that classroom.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Is it a 911 call, or what is the call?
OLIVAREZ: So they received the call --
PROKUPECZ: Was it a 911 call?
OLIVAREZ: Right, so it was a call that was called into the police department regarding a crashed vehicle.
PROKUPECZ: A 911 call, or someone actually called --
OLIVAREZ: No, a 911 call. So they received that call. That was the initial call. That's when law enforcement responded to the scene.
PROKUPECZ: Was there a chase? Were they chasing him?
OLIVAREZ: No. There were reports of that. That's not confirmed. There was no chase involved whatsoever. The initial call, as I mentioned, was that the vehicle crashed near the school, and that there was an individual armed with a weapon going inside the school. But there was no chase at all whatsoever with law enforcement.
BERMAN: Is it your belief that he was driving to the school, that the school was a target?
OLIVAREZ: We're trying to determine that. That why we're working with FBI right now to look back and see if there were any indicators, any red flags, looking at social media. What we know about the shooter is that he is a resident of Uvalde, he attended one of the local high schools, lived with his grandparents, was unemployed, no friends, no girlfriend that we can identify right now at this time, no criminal history, no gang affiliation as well. So a lot of unanswered questions that we're trying to make a determination exactly what triggered this, what caused this 18-year-old to commit such a heinous act, this mass shooting here in this small tightknit community here in Uvalde, Texas.
PROKUPECZ: The ditch, he crashes into this ditch.
PROKUPECZ: And that's right here.
OLIVAREZ: Right. That's by the school.
PROKUPECZ: Did that seem to happen by accident or was that, like, him stopping? It just seems it was very abrupt and sudden when that occurs.
OLIVAREZ: Right. Right. It is a very erratic situation, trying to determine exactly what caused him to crash because we do know he crashed into a fence, he ended up crashing into a ditch, in which the vehicle was left behind and then he ran inside the school. So we're trying to determine exactly what caused that erratic behavior as far as to crash that vehicle.
BERMAN: Back to the timeline. So interacts with the police, shoots two of the police, nonfatal injuries, goes into the school, barricades himself in a classroom, you say.
BERMAN: What more details can you give me about that moment inside, which I presume is the first classroom he went into? OLIVAREZ: Right. So, of course, the initial group of officers that
were on scene, at that point they were at a point of disadvantage because the shooter was able to barricade himself inside that classroom. There was not sufficient manpower at that time. And their primary focus was to preserve any further loss of life. So they started breaking windows around the school, and trying to rescue, evacuate children and teachers while that was going on.
At that point, we had a specialized tactical team arrive comprised of federal officers, local police officers as well. They made forcible entry into the classroom. One of those officers was met with gunfire, he was shot, nonlife threatening injury. At that point they were able to shoot and kill the shooter.
BERMAN: All the injuries and fatalities took place in one classroom?
OLIVAREZ: That's correct.
BERMAN: So it was one classroom that the shooter barricaded himself in, and that's where all the deceased, wounded are?
OLIVAREZ: Right. So it was a classroom setting, he was able to make entry into that classroom, barricaded himself by locking the door, and just started shooting children and the two teachers that were inside that classroom. It just goes to show you the complete evil from this shooter.
BERMAN: That is horrifying.
OLIVAREZ: It is.
BERMAN: How long was he in that classroom?
OLIVAREZ: So, again, we're trying to determine all those timelines from the time the initial event took place, from when he actually shot the grandmother, from the point that he made it to the school, and also how long was he in that school. So we're trying to talk to witnesses, anybody that was involved or in that school at the time that was present, also looking for surveillance camera, talking to neighbors, trying to put all the pieces together to have a sufficient timeline with accurate information.
PROKUPECZ: The tactical vest or -- it wasn't exactly a bulletproof vest, right?
PROKUPECZ: It was a plate or something. It wasn't -- can you talk about that?
OLIVAREZ: Right. So initially there was reports, and obviously I had mentioned as well that there was some type of ballistic armor. But reports that I got today, updated reports, is that it was a tactical vest carrier with no ballistic panels. So typically, those type of carriers are used by tactical teams, S.W.A.T. teams, where they can place magazines, extra ammunition inside those carriers and be able to move in a tactical formation, right?
So as of right now, we do not know -- there's no ballistic panels that were inside that carrier. But again, it goes to show you again what were the intent behind that to have that type of armory, right, as far as the tactical vest and also the rifle that was used.
PROKUPECZ: How much ammunition did he have on him?
OLIVAREZ: Again, still trying to put all those pieces together. He had multiple, numerous ammunition with him. And again, trying to determine exactly, working with ATF, how he was able to obtain this weapon, when it was purchased, also the ammo as well. So we're trying to put that timeline together.
PROKUPECZ: High capacity magazines? How many --
OLIVAREZ: We have not confirmed that yet. But he was in possession of multiple magazines or multiple numerous rounds of ammunition.
BERMAN: And two rifles?
OLIVAREZ: As of right now, we confirmed one rifle that he was in possession of when he went into the school, also working with ATF to try to determine exactly what type of rifle and the capacity.
PROKUPECZ: Was there a rifle in the car?
OLIVAREZ: We heard reports of that. That has not been confirmed yet. Of course, as I'm receiving updates, I'll continue to provide you guys with updates. But as of right now, the information that I can confirm that he was in possession of one rifle.
PROKUPECZ: The tactical team that came, where do they come from and how long did it take for them to make entry?
OLIVAREZ: It was a local team. Some of those were actually off duty Border Patrol agents as well. It's a comprised team of federal agents, local law enforcement, they all responded to the scene. They were able to make forcible entry. As for as timeline, the response, I do not have that information right now, but they --
PROKUPECZ: Because it seems --
OLIVAREZ: -- they reacted in a moment's notice.
PROKUPECZ: Right, because it just seems he was in there for so long in that classroom, and that the officers who were initially on scene couldn't do anything.
OLIVAREZ: Well, you've also got to take into account, too, when you have someone with this intent to just kill anybody, have no regard for human life, and also with the rifle, he can kill numerous people in a matter of seconds. So those officers were able to respond at a moment's notice, and there could have been further loss of life if those initial officers weren't on scene to break those windows and rescue any other children and teachers that were inside that classroom.
BERMAN: How did ultimately law enforcement get inside that classroom?
OLIVAREZ: So there is a doorway that leads to a main hallway which leads to other classrooms. At this point, those initial officers weren't able to make entry because they were at a point of disadvantage with the shooter. So they went around the school, breaking windows, rescuing children and teachers from those windows, bringing them out of those windows. They were able to set a perimeter until that tactical team arrived, and they were able to make entry through the classroom.
BERMAN: Through the door or through the windows?
OLIVAREZ: They went into the actual same way that the actual shooter was able to make entry too. But they were able to make forcible entry. They had sufficient manpower to make sufficient entry into that classroom.
BERMAN: And were there still students in the classroom?
OLIVAREZ: Yes, so those are some of the injured children that we do know of right now. We don't have an exact number of those children, but of course, 19 children were deceased from that classroom as well as two teachers.
PROKUPECZ: Do you think he was targeting the school? It just seems, again, it just seems so sudden.
OLIVAREZ: It does. It does. It kind of -- kind of puts in perspective, too, exactly what were the motives, what was the intent behind this, right? How can somebody in a small, tightknit community have those evil intentions to go into a classroom and just kill children, having no regard for human life. So again, we're trying to determine those motives, working with FBI and looking at social media to see if there was any red flags prior to the shooting.
BERMAN: Have there been? Any that you've seen at this point?
OLIVAREZ: As of right now at this point, we have not. But they are working closely with that. And of course, I'm sure if there is something posted, that was posted online, they will have that information, we'll have that piece of evidence.
PROKUPECZ: CBP officers, how instrumental were they in some of --
OLIVAREZ: Everybody was very instrumental. Our federal partners, Border Patrol, CBP, local law enforcement, our state troopers, all working together, and just without a moment's notice going into the classroom, putting their lives on the line between the shooter and children, also preventing the loss of life. If they weren't there at that time to react to that moment's notice, no telling how many more children would have been killed, teachers would have been killed. BERMAN: Lieutenant, you mentioned the grandmother, he shot his
grandmother first. And she at this point, we believe, is still alive, yes?
BERMAN: What about the grandfather?
OLIVAREZ: Well, that's -- we're trying to locate the grandfather as well. That's another key point as far as this investigation, also, to determine exactly what was the history behind their grandson. Any prior history, any indicators that would have set off any red flags. So we're trying to identify the grandfather. Also, we're hoping, we're praying that the grandmother does pull through because obviously she is a key witness in this scene as well to also provide those indications as well.
PROKUPECZ: What about his mother? He's from North Dakota, there has been information. Have you been able to touch base, talk to his mother?
OLIVAREZ: Right. So I know our investigators are still trying to reach out to the family, the initial family, and also to find out exactly why he was living with his grandparents. So all those questions, we're trying to provide those information as much as possible.
BERMAN: Can you tell me more about the makeup of the classroom? This is obviously one classroom, a fourth grade classroom. Typically how many students would be in that classroom, what type of students are they?
OLIVAREZ: Of course, it's going to vary, right. So multiple schools -- a typical classroom setting, they're small. It's a small classroom. You can have anywhere from 25 to 30 students in there. Plus there were two teachers in there, right.
So we don't have exact number of how many students were in that classroom, but it could vary, right, as I mentioned right now from 25 to 30, could be more. But we do know that there was a -- it was a classroom setting, a typical classroom setting where you have mass groups of children inside that classroom all together, with nowhere to go.
PROKUPECZ: What do you want people to know about this community?
OLIVAREZ: Well, it is a very tightknit community, as I mention, a very small community. And just the fact that this can happen anywhere. We saw what took place in Buffalo, and also now that this is happening here in a small community here in Texas, so just goes to show you as a father myself, just this can happen anytime as a parent, not knowing what can actually take place, not so much in the school setting, but anywhere where there's mass gathering.
PROKUPECZ: Some parents asked, how did he get inside the school?
OLIVAREZ: Good question. And that's something that we're trying to also determine as well as far as what type of security measures were in the school, working with the school officials as well, surveillance cameras, police officers, trying to determine exactly what were the policies and procedures in place, having some type of security presence here. So again, everything is still active, we're trying to put all those pieces together.
BERMAN: Lieutenant Chris Olivarez, I do appreciate you being with us.
OLIVAREZ: Thank you.
BERMAN: You answered a lot of questions. I know there's still a lot more information we're trying to get. We look forward to speaking to you again soon.
OLIVAREZ: Thank you.
BERMAN: You're welcome.
OLIVAREZ: Thank you.
BERMAN: So Shimon, a lot there, to be sure, and again, we are learning more about this investigation, and we are learning more about the identities of those who were killed. Some of the news, though, at this point, all the victims have been identified, all those who were deceased and wounded were in one classroom. And --
PROKUPECZ: That's new, right? Because we didn't initially receive that information that he was going from classroom to classroom.
BERMAN: Stayed in one classroom the whole time, where he was ultimately confronted and killed.
Next, I'm going to be joined by someone who lives two houses down from the school here in Uvalde, what she witnessed and the video she captured outside the school. This is CNN special live coverage. More after this.
BERMAN: Welcome back, I'm John Berman in Uvalde, Texas outside the Robb Elementary School where 19 children and two teachers were killed in a mass shooting. We just learned that all of the victims were inside the same fourth-grade classroom.
The gunman ran his car into a ditch here, he shot at police, ran into the building, barricaded him inside a fourth-grade classroom. All the victims were in that one classroom. Joining me now is Kim Hammond, she lives two houses down from the school here.
And usually hears the kids when they're outside playing. Kim, thank you so much for being with us. Your house just two doors down, what did you hear yesterday?
KIM HAMMOND, UVALDE RESIDENT WHO SHOT VIDEO OF POLICE RESPONSE: I heard what sounded like lumber falling out the back -- the back of a pickup or something, you know, just pop, pop, pop or pop, pop. It didn't register at first as gunfire but my mind was saying that sounded like live fire.
And I just kind of dismissed it, you know, thinking maybe somebody was target practicing and they shouldn't be in the city limits or whatever reasoning. Then my living room started to shake and it was a helicopter, it was literally right over my house just above the tree and I thought this is not good.
We've had folks that have bailed out and ran here, the human trafficking is really bad right here, and they've bailed out and hidden in back yards here. So I kind of thought that's what it was and because Border Patrol has a huge presence here.
And I came back through the house and I could see all this commotion out in the front of the house so I went out to investigate what's going on, I see Border Patrol first, and then right out here there were uniformed officers in tactical gear with their technical weapons running back and forth. They ran towards the school then they came back.
And at the same time there was a bunch of parents running towards the school and they just -- it just converged all of a sudden. And so I thought, well, something really bad has happened at the school oh my gosh.
You know, I'm just like, oh, God, please don't be the school. So I got on Facebook just to see what was going on to the Uvalde Police Department Facebook page and it said, you know, large police presence at the Robb Elementary School.
BERMAN: It was still going on, I mean, it was still active.
HAMMOND: It was -- it has just -- it had just -- yes, it was just kicking.
BERMAN: There -- I hadn't heard the parents -- there were parents running toward the building as it's still going on?
HAMMOND: Yes, there was parents running towards the building before all this was up. There was law enforcement vehicles down this way, they were behind the house, they were coming from this way and they were in front of the house. And so, in between the vehicles were parents just jumping out of their cars and running towards the school.
BERMAN: They must have been desperate.
HAMMOND: They panicked because they had gotten a message from the school.
BERMAN: Yes. HAMMOND: Before, you know, it was just, you know, that chaotic moment before anybody knew what was going on. A few minutes later the police department did update their Facebook page that this is an active shooter situation. And then I started getting texts are you okay because, you know, my friends know that I live right here.
BERMAN: You're a Desert Storm veteran, right?
BERMAN: So you know what gunfire sounds like.
HAMMOND: I do. I do.
BERMAN: And at first -- it's interesting to me, at first when you heard it, it didn't process, is that because in a way you couldn't imagine it being gunfire here at the school?
HAMMOND: Yes, you know, it's just, nah, that can't be. Not here. You know, my mind -- don't -- I just wanted to dismiss it. You know, it's just, not here. But my mind didn't -- wouldn't even go there. You know, I just figured, well, maybe somebody ran and, you know, they're having a shootout so I'll just stay in the house, you know, and lock the doors. So.
BERMAN: It's hard --
BERMAN: -- and you live right near a school. Living near a school can be a lovely thing, you used --
HAMMOND: Well, you would think with paying the higher -- a little higher taxes, you know you should be safer.
BERMAN: But you see the kids coming and going, normally --
HAMMOND: Yes, actually, right now we should have three buses that are parked right out here unloading kids.
BERMAN: So right now would be drop off?
HAMMOND: Yes, about 7:00, I guess, I don't even know what time it is but, yes.
BERMAN: And during the day you'd hear them playing outside?
HAMMOND: Yes, yes, they -- it was -- it was really comical to me; it was just part of my day. And I just loved it, you know, right before or right after lunch they get let loose for PE and they would count, they 10, 9, you know these loud boisterous voices, you know. And I just loved it, it was very endearing.
BERMAN: What's it going to be like to hear that next year for you? HAMMOND: I'll be -- I'll be happy to hear to tell you the truth, I'll welcome it. You know, these kids they need to be sheltered from this as much as they can be because I watch the school buses -- one of the school buses leave, and when it got to right here on the corner they were hollering, hey there's so and so.
So I think law enforcement had come and given like a little what does a cop do day or something. Because there was one little guy in the window just gleefully screaming out this officers name.
BERMAN: I want to see more of that.
HAMMOND: I -- yes, it's so that the staff -- the --
HAMMOND: -- everybody involved really kept the kids calm and, yes, that's my take on it. So.
BERMAN: Kim Hammond, I appreciate you being with us this morning. Glad you're OK. Sorry you had to go through this yesterday. We know how much you care about this community and care about this school.
HAMMOND: Very much so. Very much so.
BERMAN: Thanks for being here.
HAMMOND: Thank you, John.
BERMAN: CNN was on board Air Force One the moment that President Biden learned about this shooting. Our reporter's account and the president's impassioned speech once he landed. This is CNN's special live coverage from Uvalde, Texas.
BERMAN: All right, I'm John Berman, live in Uvalde, Texas. We've learned brand new details just moments ago about the mass shooting here at the Robb Elementary School. We know 19 children, all of them fourth graders, and two teachers were killed. They were all in one classroom.
That is something we just learned, all 21 victims, 19 children and two teachers were in one fourth grade classroom. Police say the gunman shot his grandmother first, she's in critical condition before driving a car to the school, driving into a ditch at the school. He was wearing some sort of body armor, he got out of the car shot at -- with police who were on the scene injuring two of them.
But then was able to run inside the building, he ran inside a classroom, barricaded himself inside one fourth grade classroom, which is where all the victims were. Nineteen children killed, two teachers, several others injured. They were all in that one room. Ultimately a tactical force was able to get in and break down the door, they shot and killed the gunman.
Now the shooter has been identified, he attended the local high school. As I said, he was killed by law enforcement at the scene. A photo of two AR-15 style weapons were on his Instagram account just days before the shooting. His TikTok profile had this line on it, it said, "Kids be scared."
An emotional President Biden addressed the nation calling on the country to turn its collective pain into political action, listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good evening, I had hoped when I became president I would not have to do this. Again, beautiful, innocent second, third, fourth graders and how many scores of little children who witness what happened, see their friends die as if they're in a battlefield for God sake.
To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped away. As a nation, we have to ask when in God's name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God's name will we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done? I am sick and tired of it. We have to act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: One other bit of new information I do want to report. We were told by officials here that all the victims have now been identified. And the families of the children have been told. Also the deceased all removed now from the Robb Elementary School behind me. Want to go to CNN's MJ Lee at the White House.
She was on board Air Force One with the president when he learned of the shooting. What was the timeline there on board, MJ?
MJ LEE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes, John, all of this just unfolded as the president was on Air Force One traveling back from Asia from his five-day trip to South Korea and Japan. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre came back to the press cabin to inform us that the president had been briefed on the shooting.
And that we can expect him to make a speech -- make a speech to the nation as soon as he got back to the White House. Now, we know that the president basically spent the rest of the flight being briefed by various advisors about what was going on, on the ground.
We also know that he made a phone call to Texas Governor Greg Abbott and informed him basically that he will do anything he can to help. That anything that Texas needed, and that his community needed that he would do anything to offer that aid. We also know that this is where he started drafting that speech that we heard from him last night.
You played some of that a few minute ago, and this was a speech where you could see that he was visibly emotional and frustrated at the fact that he was once again in the position of calling for action. And the other thing that he said during this speech that stood out to me was that he said on this flight back from Asia it occurred to him, it struck him that this kind of thing, this kind of mass shooting just doesn't happen in other countries.