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Police Says, Gunman Not Confronted By Anybody Before Shooting; Victim's Father Says, We Wanted To Storm School To Get Our Babies Out; Texas Police Struggle To Explain Response To School Massacre; What U.S. Can Learn From Countries That Confronted Mass Shootings. Aired 6- 7p ET
Aired May 26, 2022 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer. He's right next door in a place I like to call THE SITUATION ROOM.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, police reveal the Texas school gunman was not confronted by anybody before he entered the building through an apparently unlocked door and remained inside for about an hour until he was killed. Authorities facing growing questions and criticism over their response to the massacre.
New video shows frantic parents being held back by police during the shooting pleading for action as they heard shots ring out. One victim's father says he and others wanted to storm the school to, quote, get our babies out.
Our correspondents are covering every angle of the story, including our CNN teams on the ground in Texas.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Tonight, there's growing evidence that it was all too easy for a gunman to walk into a Texas elementary school unobstructed without anyone initially trying to stop him.
CNN National Correspondent Jason Carroll is on the scene for us. Jason, police revealed alarming new details, as you well know, as they face very serious questions right now about their response to the massacre.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. And, as you know, a lot of details that authorities still have to clarify out here, especially after they gave out that bad information about who had initially responded to the shooting. All of this as parents out here in this community are still frustrated. They're still very, very angry, and looking for answers as to why it took more than an hour to take down the shooter. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
CARROLL (voice over): Tonight, CNN has obtained video showing frantic parents gathered beyond the police line while the shooter was inside their children's school.
VICTOR LUNA, FATHER OF ROBB ELEMENTARY FOURTH GRADE STUDENT: They were breaking the windows to get the kids out of the windows. So, at that point, I knew the shooter was still alive.
CARROLL: Some parents ready to go into the building held back by loved ones and police. Victor Luna was one of those parents. His son, who was in the fourth grade, survived.
LUNA: I told one of the officers myself, if they didn't want to go in there, let me borrow a gun and a vest and I will go in myself to handle it up. And they told me no.
CARROLL: Tonight, officials raising more questions about the gunman's actions after shooting his grandmother and crashing a truck in a ditch.
VICTOR ESCALON, REGIONAL DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY SOUTH TEXAS: He jumped out the passenger side of the truck. He walks around, he sees two witnesses at the funeral home across the street from where he wrecked. He engages and fires towards them.
CARROLL: We spoke to two witnesses at the funeral home who say they were nearly caught in the gunfire.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were in the car and then I got off to see what's going on. And then they just told us to get back in the car.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then a bullet went like, came through --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, the bullet is like hitting the dirt on the floor.
CARROLL: Chilling video shows the moment the gunman entered the elementary school through an unlocked backdoor, holding a rifle.
ESCALON: 11:40, he walks into the west side of Robb Elementary. Multiple rounds, numerous rounds are discharged in the school.
CARROLL: An official with the Texas Department of Public Safety revealing that there was no armed resource officer on site, contradicting previous information provided by the very same agency. The Uvalde School District had a safety plan in place, listing 21 measures for ensuring school safety, including a police force and physical security measures like fencing and a buzz-in door system.
ESCALON: The grandmother's house, to the bar ditch, to the school, into the school, he was not confronted by anybody, to clear the record on that. Four minutes later law enforcement are coming in to so solve this problem. CARROLL: Authorities also investigating how the gunman was able to barricade himself inside the classroom for up to an hour before law enforcement gained access to the room by force killing the shooter.
ESCALON: The majority of the gunfire was in the beginning. Approximately an hour later, U.S. Border Patrol, tactical teams arrived. They make entry. Shoot and kill the suspect.
CARROLL: Officials did not explain why more was not done in that crucial hour the shooter was in the school.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Could a tactical team have gone in before an hour had lapsed?
ESCALON: Could, there's a lot of possibilities.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: So we have been given a lot of bad information. So why don't you clear all of this up now and explain to us how it is that your officers who were in there for an hour, yes, rescuing people, but yet no one was able to get inside that room?
ESCALON: Shimon, we will circle back with you. We want to answer all your questions. We want to give you why. That's our job. So, give us time.
CARROLL (on camera): And, Wolf, those that we have spoken to, whether the two at the funeral home who experienced the gunfire during the shooting or Victor Luna who was you heard from our piece, was trying to get his fourth grade son out of this building when it all went down, these people were already angry before that press conference where they were trying to clear up some of that misinformation that had gone out there by -- at their own hand.
And so you can imagine how they are feeling now. This just compounds the grief, the anger, their frustration that many people on the ground here have already been experiencing. Wolf?
BLITZER: Jason Carroll reporting from just outside that elementary school, Jason, thank you very much.
As this investigation unfolds, victims' families are beginning to plan for the unimaginable, burying their children.
CNN's Boris Sanchez shares their stories.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As the families of those killed at Robb Elementary School plan their final goodbyes --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our hearts are broken. We are devastated. SANCHEZ: -- CNN is learning more, about the 21 victims lost in Tuesday's massacre. Eliana Ellie Garcia was in fourth grade, just nine years old. Her grandparents telling the L.A. Times she loved the movie Encanto, cheerleading and basketball. She dreamed of one day becoming a teacher.
Ten-year-old Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez was also killed. Her family telling affiliate KHOU the fourth grader shared a classroom with her cousin, Jacklyn Cazares, who was also murdered. Jacky's father says she touched a lot of people's lives and recently had her first communion.
JACINTO CAZARES, FATHER OF JACKLYN CAZARES: She's full of love and full of life and she would do anything for anybody. And to me she is a firecracker, man. She's comforts me a little bit to think that she would be the one to help her friend in need.
SANCHEZ: Another ten-year-old, Tess Marie Mata, the fourth grader loved TikTok and Ariana Grande. Her older sister, Faith, says she was saving money to take the whole family to Disney World. She posted on Twitter, quote my precious angel, you are loved so deeply. In my eyes, you are not a victim but a survivor. I love you always and past forever, baby sister. May your wings soar higher than you could dream.
Ten-year-old Nevaeh Elisa Bravo, her family telling The Washington Post, she could put a smile on all of their faces. They say they are devastated by her passing.
Ten-year-old Jailah Nicole Silguero, her mother telling Univision, Jailah enjoyed dancing and making TikTok videos.
And Eliahana Cruz Torres, a ten-year-old who went by Elijah (ph), her Aunt Leandra Vera (ph) telling CNN, quote, our baby gained her wings.
DR. LILLIAN LIAO, UVALDE SCHOOL SHOOTING VICTIM SURGEON: It was a difficult day for all of America.
SANCHEZ: The medical experts working tirelessly to ensure that the 21 lost won't become more now grappling with the trauma of those they could not help.
LIAO: I think that's what hit us the most, not of the patients that we did receive, but we are honored to treat them, but the patients that we did not receive.
SANCHEZ: Victims lost in another horrific shooting at an American school.
ANGEL GARZA, FAMILY OF AMERIE JO GARZA: There's one little girl, who was just covered in blood head to toe, like I thought she was injured. I asked her what was wrong and she says she is okay. She was hysterical of saying that they shot her best friend. They killed her best friend, and she is not breathing, and then she was trying to call the cops. And I asked the little girl the name and she told me, she told me -- she said Amerie.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: That's how you learned?
SANCHEZ: Daughters, sons, mothers, wives, names and faces this community will never forget, Amerie Jo Garza, Uziyah Garcia, Xavier Lopez, Jose Flores Jr., Lexi Rubio and two teachers hailed as heroes dying as they shielded their students from danger, Eva Mireles, Irma Garcia.
GARZA: You look at this girl and -- oh, my baby. She's my baby.
SANCHEZ (on camera): And, Wolf, in the last few minutes we confirmed the name of another victim, ten-year-old Makenna Lee Elrod.
Her family says that she was an athlete. She did gymnastics and played softball. They said, quote, she was a light to all who knew her.
And just a few hours ago, Wolf, we also confirmed the news, the tragic news that the husband of one of those teachers, Irma Garcia, actually suffered a medical emergency today. He had to be rushed to the hospital, Joe Garcia apparently dying just a few hours ago. His family says they believe he died of a broken heart. Wolf?
BLITZER: So sad, so heartbreaking. Those pictures of those kids, all those stories, Boris, thank you very much.
Let's discuss what's going on. A spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety is joining us right now, Lieutenant Chris Olivarez. Lieutenant, thank you so much for joining us.
As you well know, officers were on the scene within minutes of this gunman entering that elementary school but it was another hour or so before the gunman was neutralized. Can you walk us through what exactly law enforcement was doing for, what, 60 minutes or so while the shooter remained in that classroom killing those kids and teachers?
LT. CHRIS OLIVAREZ, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: Good evening, Wolf. So, of course, that's something we want to clarify. There're a lot of conflicting statements and reports that are being shared, also on social media. And that's why we want to provide factual information by corroborating that information through physical evidence.
We are still -- this is still early stages in the investigation. That's one thing we need to understand. We are trying to have a concrete timeline in place. Of course, you heard earlier today when we held our press conference we were able to provide some of that information.
But one thing I do want to stress though is that officers were in that building within minutes. They maintained their presence inside that school. We had multiple officers that responded on the scene within minutes. Two of those officers were shot. They took cover because you have to understand this is an active situation. You have an active shooter that is shooting towards law enforcement as well as the children, the students, the teachers that are inside that school. But those officers maintained cover. They did not flee from that school. They were inside that school while they were being shot at.
So that's one thing I need to stress and clarify to the viewers and to everyone else out there, that those officers were on scene. Also in addition to that, other officers arrived and they were able to evacuate other children as well and teachers.
We have to understand, too, there was multiple, numerous -- it was a full school. I mean, they were trying to evacuate as many people as possible because in an active shooter situation your focus is to stop the killing and preserve life.
At that point they had the suspect contained inside the classroom. If those officers weren't there, if they didn't maintain their presence, there is a good chance that gunman could have made it to other classrooms and commit more killings.
BLITZER: Was it a mistake, do you believe, Lieutenant, for the officers on the scene who were there, as you correctly point out, to wait for the second tactical team to arrive before fully pushing into that school and neutralizing the gunman?
OLIVAREZ: So, what we know, Wolf, is that there were multiple officers that arrived on scene. There was three officer that arrived, made entry at one of the entrances where the gunman actually made entrance to.
We had another four officers that made entry at the other entrance of the school. So, there were officers inside that school. As they were taking gunfire, they were calling no for reinforcements, backup, tactical teams, snipers, any additional personnel that could arrive to assist to not only -- with the situation, but also to assist in evacuating students and teachers.
At that time that's when a U.S. border patrol tactical officer arrived. Also with the (INAUDIBLE) county sheriff's deputy and two additional Uvalde police department officers were able to go into that classroom with a ballistic shield as cover. And of course, we know that one of those officers, an agent, actually, was shot, was grazed on the top of the head. But they were able to shoot and kill the suspect and preserve any other life.
We know that there were other injured children inside that classroom that they were able to save as well and get them to cover. At that point it became a recovery process, a rescue operation, trying to rescue the injured and also any other potential children or teachers that were inside those classrooms.
BLITZER: The current best practices, Lieutenant, call for officers to disable a shooter as quickly as possible regardless of how many officers are actually on site?
OLIVAREZ: Correct. The active shooter situation you want to stop the killing. You want to preserve life, but also one thing that -- of course, the American people need to understand that officers are making entry into this building.
They do not know where the gunman is. They are hearing gunshots. They are receiving gunshots. At that point if they proceeded any further not knowing where the suspect was at, they could have been shot, they could have been killed and at that point that gunman would have had an opportunity to kill other people inside that school.
So they were able to contain that gunman inside that classroom so that he was not able to go to any other portions of the school to commit any other killings.
BLITZER: Your colleague at the department of public safety, Lieutenant, said the majority of the gunfire was actually done at the beginning. Does the evidence suggest the first few minutes are when all of those victims in that classroom lost their lives?
OLIVAREZ: Well, that's what we are trying to corroborate right now, Wolf, by gathering evidence, by also reviewing surveillance videos. That's going to be key to this investigation, also speaking to witnesses.
And that's one thing I got to stress, too, the most is that, if there is anybody out there, any witnesses, neighbors, anybody that has information or has heard anything to contact the Texas department of public safety because we are the lead investigating agency with the Texas rangers division.
They are the ones that need to talk to these witnesses, to corroborate any information that's being put out there so it's factual and that we have physical evidence in place so we could provide accurate, concrete information.
BLITZER: We are told, Lieutenant, that the shooter actually got out of his vehicle and started shooting near the school before he actually entered the school. So was there any warning for the school to go into lockdown?
OLIVAREZ: Well, that's another thing, too, we are trying to establish by working with the school staff, working with the school police officers as well to see what protocols were in place, what procedures were in place prior to the gunshots going off.
Again, it's early stages in this investigation. There is going to be constant updates. It's constantly evolving. And that's one thing with a mass shooting as this magnitude and also we have multiple crime scenes as well.
So, again, trying to gather as much evidence as possible to provide that factual information and to have all those pieces in place, so we can put -- establish actually how this took place, what took place and what we could have done differently.
But of course, right now, our focus is to establish this information and gather as much evidence as possible so we can provide that information to everyone that's out there because we know, we understand that people want answers, they want to know why this occurred.
BLITZER: And so important to learn lessons that law enforcement can use down the road.
Authorities now say, Lieutenant, that the gunman wasn't -- was not confronted by anyone before he entered the elementary school after initial reports that a school resource officer had engaged the shooter. Where did that initial inaccurate report come from because you told CNN earlier today that your department spoke to that officer last night?
OLIVAREZ: Right. So that's information that we received early on in this investigation. That goes back to what I mentioned earlier by trying to corroborate all these information by getting factual statement from these witnesses.
The Texas rangers are now conducting interviews with the officers, trying to establish exactly what was a role and that will help us establish a more factual concrete timeline as far as from the time the shooter arrived at the school when he crashed to the time that he was killed and what happened in between those hours -- or within that hour.
So that's what we are trying to find out right now. We are conducting those investigations. We are now speaking to witnesses and those officers, obviously, are keys to these investigation.
BLITZER: Certainly. All right, Lieutenant Chris Olivarez, thank you so much for joining us.
OLIVAREZ: Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead, we have exclusive new reporting from CNN on bipartisan gun reform negotiations amid serious questions over whether anything will actually get done after years of congressional inaction.
BLITZER: The White House just announced President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will travel to Uvalde, Texas, this Sunday. Also, there's exclusive new CNN reporting tonight on bipartisan gun reform negotiations that are underway.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says he has directed Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn to reach out to top Democrats on a possible deal. Let's discuss with Democratic Congresswoman Joaquin Castro of Texas. Congressman, thanks for joining us. How much stock do you put into those words from the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell?
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): Well, I hope it's real. I hope it's more than just talk, that there will be some action. Republicans in the past have hardly ever come forward and said this is affirmatively what we want to do to improve the situation, to make it harder for people to get a gun and go kill and mow down a lot of people very quickly.
BLITZER: We've heard Republicans here in Washington and Congress as well as in Texas where you are, say their focused on mental health, not guns right now, despite this gunman having no documented mental health issues. So what does a compromise response actually look like?
CASTRO: Well, you're right. I think that oftentimes we get in this debate about whether it's only a mental health issue or only a gun issue, and the fact is we can work on all of those things. We can work on mental health issues. We can work on anti-bullying campaigns and fund that.
But, it also involves, if we're going to fix these things, making sure we limit the kind of guns that people can get and also who can get them. So that means red flag laws and things like universal background checks.
And, Wolf, I think that there have been so many attempts by Democrats to get legislation passed that I would say, okay, Republicans, why don't we start with things like red flag laws, which have overwhelming support of the American people.
Universal background checks, which have 90 percent support of the American people. Because if they can't agree to those things that are overwhelmingly popular and really not directly regulating guns, if they can't agree to that, then it's a ruse and they really not going to agree to anything
BLITZER: The Democratic Senator from West Virginia, Senator Joe Manchin, said the atmosphere in his words feels different now than after the sandy hook massacre. If Congress couldn't act after those first graders were killed, why would anything be different now?
CASTRO: Well, that's a fair question. And you do have a lot of Americans who feel defeated on this, who feel like nothing is going to change. But you know, in Congress I have to remain optimistic because I think if you are part of Congress and you give up, then you really shouldn't be there any longer.
I know you are calling on the FBI now to investigate the timeline of this attack at the elementary school and the police response. How concerned are you, Congressman, when you hear so many conflicting reports and so many unanswered questions?
CASTRO: Wolf, I have been disturbed by the press conferences that law enforcement has given and the conflicting public accounts that they have given, at least two, probably three conflicting accounts now, and I can't recall another situation like this, a shooting where you had so many conflicting reports so quickly.
And I understand that there is a kind of fog of war and a bit of chaos in a situation like this, but law enforcement now has had 48 hours to all come together, collect and gather accounts of what happened, and present that to the public, and it started the first day really where for the first two press conferences, they refused to take any questions, which was odd by itself.
But now for example, as you pointed out earlier, they first said that there was a law enforcement officer who immediately engaged in the shooter as he entered the school. They said that as early as this morning or as late as this morning, and then later today have said that's not true at all.
Well, I mean, Wolf, that's bizarre. I mean, that's bizarre. And so I have asked the FBI to maximize its authority, and jurisdictional authority and investigate this, because the American people, but most of all those families in Uvalde, deserve a clear and accurate account of what happened to their relatives.
BLITZER: They certainly do. Congressman Joaquin Castro, thanks so much for joining us.
BLITZER: Coming up, so what went on inside the Robb Elementary School for roughly an hour before an armed mass killer was finally stopped? We'll be right back.
BLITZER: We are following disturbing revelations about the police response to the Texas elementary school shooting. Authorities now confirming that the gunman was killed about a full hour after he entered the elementary school and that initially he wasn't confronted by anybody.
We're joined by my colleague Don Lemon who is reporting from Uvalde, Texas, for us tonight. Don, I understand you just spoke to a woman who actually witnessed the aftermath of this brutal massacre. What did she tell you?
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I did speak with her, Wolf. And good evening to you. I spoke with her actually just a couple of hours after it happened live on my show on CNN and then when I got here one of the first things I wanted to do is meet her to find out her story, and also to speak with the families as well.
Look, when you are sitting at home or you are sitting in a, you know, anchor desk in the studio you don't get the full perspective. When she said she lived nearby, I didn't realize how close. I mean, this is basically in her front yard. And she said that she was -- she is an Iraq War Vet, she heard the gunshots. That started to trigger her experience in Iraq as a veteran. And then she heard the helicopter overhead, which also brought back memories of what happened.
And then now, all of a sudden, Wolf, she has in her front and backyards, she basically has another war zone in her yard. And what she has been doing here, Wolf, is basically what many of the people have been doing. They have been getting out to meet their neighbors under the most extraordinary and horrific circumstances. We stood in her front yard, in her driveway for a moment, and as people were bringing in flowers and candles and balloons to put in this makeshift memorial right in front of the school here, just started talking to people and saying it's nice to meet you, sorry it's under these circumstances, are you from the community. And that's what she has been doing. She went to give blood the other day, she said. And yesterday and she said it was too early. And she was too late because there were so many people coming to help out. Beto O'Rourke, a lot of folks. And so that's what she has been doing.
But it's just been really horrific. Look, Wolf, 21 crosses there. And people who are coming in now at a school that looks like any school in America, could be my elementary school, your elementary school. And now we have this very terrible situation.
BLITZER: Yes, it's heartbreaking. 19 kids, two teachers gunned down, murdered. Awful. What is the mood like there on the ground tonight, Don? And how does it line up with what the nation is feeling righting now? I know you just got there recently.
LEMON: Yes. All as sadly, Wolf, as we know, we have covered too many of these. And we know, obviously, the mood is sadness. I think the shock is wearing off and right now people are, you know, it is sinking in, the tragedy of what happened
But besides wanting help, that they need, and they are happy that people are reaching out to them. But I think what the biggest concern is that they are concerned about the attention span of the American public, that they tune into these things on the news, help comes in immediately, all the cameras are here.
But we used to worry about when the cameras go away, Wolf, that the attention would go away. Now the folks here are concerned that even before the cameras go away that the attention span of the American public, that they would have, you know, mass shooting fatigue and that they even in the moment, while they are still grieving and it's very raw, that people will become disinterested in this story and they said that cannot happen because this happens far too often in America and something has to change. This one time should be din. That's what they are conveying to me.
BLITZER: We can only help. Don Lemon on the scene for us, thank you very much. And to our viewers, be sure to join Don later tonight for more live coverage from Texas. Don Lemon Tonight begins 10:00 P.M. eastern. Don, we will all be watching. Thanks once again.
LEMON: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Right now, I want to bring in our Senior Law Enforcement Analyst, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and former Philadelphia Police Commissioner and D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey. Andrew McCabe, let me start with you. After today's briefing from authorities it feels like there are more questions than answers right now. What questions do you have about that hour-long window before the gunman was actually neutralized?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes. Boy, Wolf, there were certainly a lot of questions and concerns left hanging after that press conference. I know that we were told that there was, in fact, no school resource officer that interacted with the subject as he was approaching the school.
That was contradictory to what we heard earlier in the day and for the last few days. Then a lot of things came up out of the blue. There was a reference that the three officers who entered the building shortly after the suspect did, I think at 11:44, and who tried to approach the classroom but were rappelled by hostile fire from the suspect and then who remained in that position according to the interview you did just earlier.
The question I have is did they actually hear shots continuing to take place in that room while they maintained a position of cover for what we now know was about an hour before tactical entry was made? That's a really impactful decision.
There may be reasons they had for not going into the room. That would be good to hear from the command staff. But that seems to be at the heart of how and why they made that decision. That's something I'm sure that many, many parents want to know the answer to as we -- and I hope they address that directly in the days forward.
The press conference also, they made reference to the fact that negotiations might have been going on. I am not sure that was just a misnomer or if they were actually making contact with the subject at that time. That's something we don't know either. But there is a lot of questions.
BLITZER: A lot of questions right now and we want answers. Everybody deserves answers, especially the families of those 19 kids and two teachers who were gunned down. You know, Chief Ramsey, the first law enforcement officials who were on the scene, we're told within a few minutes. So is there anything in your mind that would justify that extended standoff?
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I mean that's why we have to have answers. One hour is a very, very long period of time. We are talking about an active shooter here. We are not talking about a hostage barricade why no one is injured yet and negotiations are taking place. We are talking about an actual active shooter scenario.
Now, one thing I don't know, at least I haven't heard, is how much training Uvalde or the sheriff's office, the front line people, not SWAT, but the front line people have received in actual active shooter training. What kind of equipment do they have? In many jurisdictions, and you can see it when the officers that were holding the crowd back, they have long guns, obviously. But they were waiting on a ballistic shield, for example. Many jurisdictions, some of that equipment is in designated vehicles so it can get to the scene very, very quickly.
I don't know their level of training because to wait an hour, I mean, that is a very long period of time, and to say things like the majority of shooting took place when the officers first arrived, well that's not all of the shooting. And there was still some shots being fired.
So you know you have injuries. You know you have people bleeding. I mean you know, there are a lot of things that need to be covered that have not been covered yet.
BLITZER: Yes, it's hard breaking just to even think about it. Chief Ramsey, thanks so much. Andrew McCabe, thanks to you as well.
There's more news just ahead. I will speak with a Texas official who had the agonizing responsibility of identifying the victims of the elementary school massacre.
BLITZER: Tonight the Texas town mourning the loss of 21 wonderful people, including 19 children in an elementary school massacre is desperately searching for answers.
For more I want to bring in Lalo Diaz, as the Justice of the Peace for the Uvalde County. His job includes the duties of the coroner, meaning he had the horrific task of actually identifying the victims.
Lalo, thank you for joining us. I understand you knew the victim Irma Garcia who was a teacher and we have now learned that her husband, Joe Garcia, he died today. His family says of a broken heart. The scale of this loss, all of these losses, is almost incomprehensible. First of all, how are you and the community coping?
LALO DIAZ, JUSTICE OF THE PEACE PRECINT 4 FOR UVALDE COUNTY: It's tough. Like I said right now, we are just -- it's going to take some time for us to get through this, to get through this. Like I said, it's going to be a long process. Right now my focus has been throughout the day for us to ensure that the medical examiner released all the victims to the funeral homes and that has happened already.
So now the families can make arraignments with the funeral homes to see their loved ones.
BLITZER: What was it like, Lalo, to actually walk in and see these victims, have to identify them, these two teachers, these 19 little kids? What was that like?
DIAZ: It was tough. I mean, I'm super glad -- I'm glad that I had good support. I had Dr. Molina from the medical examiner come down to Uvalde and assist with this because, of course, she has more training in this aspect. But, you know, it's a scene like no other.
So, of course, when you walk in you want to ensure that we do the -- do everything proper in order to identify them correctly. Of course, you know, we were going to -- at that time we needed to bring in pictures, descriptions from the parents in order to match that up so that we could make proper ID. The rangers, the BPS, the chief of the Uvalde Independent School District, Mr. Arredondo, all assisted in this to ensure that we identified everybody correctly prior to sending them to the medical examiner office.
BLITZER: I know you say, Lalo, that the first responders had to move bodies to get to injured survivors. It's so horrific to think about what he went through. I understand one 11-year-old girl actually smeared blood on herself to pretend to be dead. How excruciating was the wait for the victims and the families, the video of these parents outside the school as we've all seen by now is so heartbreaking.
DIAZ: It's heartbreaking. Again, as far as the first responders, I know that they had a job to do. They did an excellent job of going in there, assessing the needs, of course. I understand they had to move some bodies in order to continue to work with the first responders to get people to get medical attention, to the hospitals and so forth. But this was as horrific scene.
Again, I don't know all the details as far as survivors and what they had to do in order to be disguised. I don't know anything about that. By the time I got to the scene, all the survivors were out and we were just dealing with the victims.
BLITZER: Lalo Diaz, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for all you are doing. We really appreciate it.
DIAZ: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: Coming up, so what can the United States learn from other countries that confronted deadly mass shootings? We'll take a closer look when we come back.
BLITZER: As the United States reels from yet another mass shooting, many are wondering why this seems to be a uniquely American problem.
CNN's Brian Todd is taking a closer look at how other countries have tackled the issue.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): April 1996, a gunman killed 35 people at a resort in the Australian state of Tasmania.
Twelve days later, Australia Prime Minister John Howard announced sweeping gun reforms, a national gun buyback program took a million guns out of circulation, a ban on rapid-fire rifles and shot guns, a 28-day waiting period to buy a gun and national registry for would-be gun owners.
How did those reforms work?
PROF. DANIEL WEBSTER, JOHNS HOPKINS CENTER FOR GUN VIOLNECE SOLUTIONS: Their rates of gun violence declined substantially, both with respect to homicides and with suicides and virtually eliminated fatal mass shootings.
TODD: Since Australia's gun control law went into effect in 1996, mass shootings have gone from nearly annual to almost never, with only one since that time. And John Howard later pointed out, his government was able to get that done even though he's a political conservative.
JOHN HOWARD, FORMER AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: There was a lot of resistance inside sections of my own political base that even the most cynical, skeptical person would acknowledge that we have made a big difference with that prohibition.
TODD: Hungerford, England, 1977, man used two semi automatic rifles and handgun to kill 16 people. The British government responded by banning semiautomatic and pump action weapons. Nine years later, after a gunman killed 16 children and their teacher in Dunblane, Scotland, Britain announced a law banning all handguns. Britain now has one of the lowest rates of gun-related deaths among developed countries.
In New Zealand, after massacres at two mosques that killed 50 people in 2019, the government was praised immediately banning semi automatic military style weapons and a gun buyback problem.
New Zealand, Australia, Britain, all countries that like the U.S. had a culture of gun ownership before those mass shootings but analysts say they don't see the changes made there happening in America.
SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The right to own a gun, Second Amendment is a huge part of American culture and I think that really affected the political dynamic and political will of getting anything done.
WEBSTER: It's the simple structure of our government in the United States that gives substantially undue power to low population, mostly rural states that are not too keen on gun control.
TODD (on camera): The analyst we spoke to believe the best the U.S. can do at this point is expand background checks, expand red flag laws and institute more oversight of gun dealers -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thank you very much. Excellent report.
We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Finally tonight, our thoughts are with the families of the shooting victims and everyone in pain after the senseless slaughter in Texas. These are some of the 19 children and two teachers whose lives were cut short on what they thought was just another school day, we expect to learn more of their names in the days ahead.
May they rest in peace and may their memories be a blessing.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.