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Six People Killed In Nashville School Shooting; Nashville Authorities Press Conference On The School Shootings; Nashville School Shooter Identified; Police Identify 3 Kids, 3 Adults Killed In Nashville School Shooting; Israel's Judicial Overhaul Delayed After Mass Protests And Strikes. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 27, 2023 - 17:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, Nashville police say they have identified the woman who opened fire at a private Christian elementary school. We're awaiting an official update on the shooting that killed three children and three adults.

Also tonight, a key player in the Stormy Daniels hush money saga meets with the New York grand jury. What did former "National Inquirer" publisher David Pecker say as a potential indictment of Donald Trump looms.

And after mass protests, a crippling nationwide strike and warnings of civil war, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delays the judicial overall plan that's dividing his country.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's get right to the Nashville school shooting and what we know about the woman who pulled the trigger that, according to police. CNN national correspondent Dianne Gallagher is working the story for us. She's on the scene. Diane as we await an update momentarily from police, what do we know at this hour?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we just got notification from police on the identities of the six people who were killed this morning in the Covenant school in Nashville, Tennessee. I want to read their names to you, Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, William Kinney, all of them just nine years old. Cynthia Peak 61, Katherine Koonce, age 60 and Mike Hill age 61.

According to police, all six of them were killed by a 28-year-old woman who they say may have been a former student. They say they received calls at 10:13 a.m. about the shooting. And according to police, that woman was armed with at least two assault rifles as well as a handgun. They say that she entered through a side door they believe and got to the upper level of the school, which is inside Covenant Presbyterian Church there in Nashville. About 200 kids attend this school. It is preschool through sixth grade

that they serve. According to police. The shooting happened in what they described as a lobby area. Now, they're still trying to determine exactly what happened here and, of course, why that 28-year-old woman targeted this school.

They do believe that she may have been a former student. They say there is video at the school and that they are going over that. The police chief also said that the doors were locked, so they're trying to determine how she was able to force her way into that school. Now, again, some of the video we're seeing is unfortunately very familiar to us. Tragically very familiar to us, of small children holding each other's hands being guided out of the school to safety.

The police noted -- saying that they, unfortunately, have experience with mass shootings in Nashville and we're able to use that to quickly respond, saying that the shooter was taken -- was killed by two officers on that upper level at around 10:27 a.m. so we're talking less than 15 minutes after they received the initial call about this shooting.

They continue to investigate. We were told, Wolf, the daughter of a teacher in that school, said that she got a text from her mother who was inside at that time that her mother was locked inside her classroom with her students that she just wanted to tell her family that she loved them that she could hear shooting all over the place, according to the daughter, and that she thought someone had tried to get in her classroom.

Again, Wolf, they're still trying to put all of this together. But in what is the 129th mass shooting in this country just this year, they are still trying to determine why someone would have targeted this school and again, exactly what happened.

BLITZER: And why someone would shoot and kill three 9-year-old kids in this school and three adults as well. All right, we'll watch this. We'll wait for the news conference to begin. Local authorities expected to update us momentarily. We'll have live coverage of that coming up.

In the meantime, let's get some more on all of these developments. Our experts on law enforcement and gun violence are with us. Chief Ramsey, let me start with you. While we await more information on this truly horrific shooting, hard to believe here in the United States of America, this is going on way, way too often. What stands out to you at least so far?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, part of the problem, Wolf is there's no longer hard to believe. I mean, it happened so frequently that, you know it's not a shock.


It's not a surprise like it should be. And I fear that people are starting to kind of normalize this, they're coming to accept it, and it certainly is unacceptable. So, I mean, this is just one more tragedy that has taken place. I mean, three 9-year-old kids murdered. I mean, what could they possibly have done to deserve that? Absolutely nothing.

The police response was just like the training dictates you. You get there as quick as you can, you make entry, and you neutralize the suspect. That's exactly what they did. But the problem is that when the 911 call was made, the shootings already started and so you're talking about weapons like assault weapons where large numbers of people could be killed very, very quickly within seconds, and so the loss of life. It's just fortunate that it's only six as opposed to what it could have been.

BLITZER: Yeah, three 9-year-old kids and three 60-year-old adults shot and murdered for no reason at all. Steve Gutowski, you're an expert on gun policy. It's an incredibly rare, correct me if I'm wrong, for a woman to perpetrate a mass shooting like this. What do you make of these unique details of this case at least thus far?

STEPHEN GUTOWSKI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yeah, that's exactly right. According to the gun -- the Violence Project, which looks at shootings where four or more people were killed in public. Only four shooters since 1966 have been female in those circumstances. This is an incredibly rare situation to have someone like this target the school. Now, we're hearing she has a connection to the school. That's more common to hear in these sorts of situations.

But the fact that she -- that this was a woman is something that will probably be an important part of how police follow this investigation and determine why someone would carry out an attack like this, which is -- it's probably not going to get any sort of satisfactory answer, but I think that's where they'll start.

BLITZER: Yeah. I suspect you're right. Chief Ramsey, police say they engaged the shooter immediately, stopped her within 14 minutes. How much worse could this have been?

RAMSEY: It could have been a lot worse. I mean, she's armed with two assault weapons and a handgun. She had ammunition. Why she didn't break into a classroom, perhaps she didn't have time to do that. But she came there with a clear intent to kill. And again, it would have been a lot worse had she been given more time. So, all that's going to be part of the investigation.

Right now, I'm sure they're executing search warrants. They are going through social media. They're interviewing people who knew her. They're doing all the things that you would normally do in an investigation to try to get, you know to a motive or an understanding as to why. But this would have been a lot worse.

Fortunately, the police response was swift. They were able to neutralize her very, very quickly, which is what you're trained to do. And as a result, I think they did save lives. Unfortunately, we lost six.

BLITZER: Yeah. Sadly, indeed. And Chief Ramsey, walk us through how investigators will now try to determine an actual motive. RAMSEY: Well, you know, sometimes you never find the motive. So, I

think it's important you mentioned that. But one of the things that one, there was a vehicle there apparently that they're searching. There may have been something in the vehicle. Her residence, they'll search that. But more importantly, they'll go on social media because usually that's where in today's world, that's where you tend to find information that would indicate the why. If she was, in fact a former student, does she have some kind of grudge? Some kind of beef with someone who works there.

I mean, she's 28-years-old, so, she would have attended 15, 20 years ago. So, I doubt if that's a connection, but maybe somebody who works there, something that drove her there in order to be able to commit a crime or the crime that she committed. Were these folks targeted?

You know, when you look at the video, they'll be looking to say, one, how she made entry because the door was supposedly locked. But then did she go directly to a particular place? In other words, it looked like she was on a mission. She knew exactly where she's going. Did she pass anybody up that she did not injure? I mean, we don't know the answer to any of that. But that's all part of the investigation.

BLITZER: And Steve, the swift police response that we saw today stands in stark contrast to what we saw last year when a gunman killed 21 people including 19 children in Uvalde, Texas. How do these situations compare in your view?

GUTOWSKI: Yeah, I think that's exactly right and important point. Because the lack of immediate action from the responders in Uvalde waiting for upwards of an hour after they first made contact with that shooter, I think directly -- clearly did directly lead to more deaths.

And in this situation, you had police respond as they're trained to do, which is to immediately go to the source of the gunfire and engage the suspect and stop them because frankly, lives are at stake. And I think that very clearly the police officers who did engage properly in this situation saved a lot of lives.


I mean, three guns carried on the shooter's body with them implies that they were certainly probably trying to carry out a much larger attack than what they were able to accomplish even though in that short period of time they were still able to inflict a horrendous toll.

BLITZER: Yeah, indeed. Our guy Steve, Chief Ramsey, everybody standby. We're waiting for a news conference, local authorities. The police, among others, are going to be briefing us on their latest information. We'll have live coverage of that. That's coming up we're told momentarily.

And we'll have a lot more on our top story. President Biden weighs in on the Nashville school shooting. Demands action from Congress. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Any moment we expect an update from officials in Nashville, Tennessee about today's horrific school shooting. You're looking at live pictures coming in. We're waiting for them to begin. The briefing will have live coverage of course. Police just identified the six people gunned down at a private Christian elementary school, that's three adults and three 9-year-old kids.


CNN's chief White House correspondent Phil Mattingly is joining us right now. Phil, the president spoke out about this shooting just a little while ago.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Wolf, and it was a message that is tragically familiar, even as it was laced with urgency. Urgency that is certainly weighed down by a sense, at least here in Washington, of hopelessness on an issue that has vexed and confronted president after president after president. President Biden himself dealing with this several times over the course of his two plus years in office. And still, the president, talking about the toll this takes on a community, sending his prayers and condolences to the families and also urging action. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We have to do more to stop gun violence. It's ripping our communities apart, ripping the soul of this nation. Ripping at the very soul of the nation. And we have to do more to protect our school so they aren't turned into prisons. You know, the shooter in this situation reportedly had two assault weapons and a pistol. So, I call on Congress again to pass my assault weapons ban. It's about time that we begin to make some more progress.


MATTINGLY: And Wolf, that's the first time the president has called on congress to act on an assault weapons ban --

BLITZER: Phil, hold on a second. They're beginning the news conference in Nashville. I want to listen in.


DON AARON, SPOKESPERSON, NASHVILLE POLICE: -- Chief Swann and District Attorney Funk. At this time, Mayor John Cooper.

JOHN COOPER, MAYOR OF NASHVILLE: Well. Thank you, Don. Laura and I want to express our grief and our cities grief on this unexpected day, this worst day. But let us love each other and support each other and hug each other, and pray for each other, and pray for our families. But also, let us praise our first responders, 14 minutes. Fourteen minutes. I believe under fire, running to gunfire.

And then I want to thank the seamless response for federal and state authorities from our police and fire department. So, this morning I was in Boston to see my own son's sporting event, and now I am overwhelmed at the thought of the loss of these families. Of the future, lost by these children and their families. And the leading cause of kid's death now is guns and gunfire. And that is unacceptable.

But I want to thank the fast response of our officers. Guns are quick. They don't give you much time. So, even in a remarkably fast response, there was not enough time. And those guns stole precious lives from us today in Nashville. And in this dark hour, let us support each other. Let us go and hug our children a little bit closer tonight. And thank you all for being here and I want ask Chief Drake to come and give us an update.

JOHN DRAKE, METROPOLITAN NASHVILLE POLICE: Thank you, Mayor Cooper. Again, thank you all for being here. Just an update from today's press conference, we've identified the shooter as Audrey Hale, 28-year-old female that lived in the natural area. We have investigations ongoing now at the residence on Brightwood Avenue and we have made contact with the father that lived at that residence and are putting together more information.

We have also determined there were maps drawn of the school in detail of surveillance, entry points, et cetera. We know and believe that entry was gained through shooting through one of the doors, is how they actually get into the school. I want to take the time to at least say, and I won't say the victim's names. I'll let Don say that, but out of the six victims, three adults, three of those were children.

Two of them were age nine, one was eight about to be nine. All the families have been contacted. The victim's families have been contacted as well. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family. When we send our kids to school or to any place of safety, we expect them to live, learn, have fun and come back from that days' experience.


We don't anticipate things like this. And I want to say thank you to our partners, to Chief Swann, to Glenn Funk, to our mayor for his support, to our federal partners. But also, I want to say thank you to our first responders who got there and immediately went in and addressed the threat of someone that had multiple rounds of ammunition prepared for a confrontation with law enforcement, prepared to do more harm that was actually done and we were able to stop the threat, and unfortunately, six victims.

So, my thoughts and prayers again but the praise go to the men and women. As I've said before, we will not wait. I was hoping this day would never, ever come here in the city, but we would never wait to make entry and to go in and to stop a threat especially when it deals with our children. So, thank you.

AARON: I'm going to go over the victim's names with you now. The three 9-year-olds who were killed, Evelyn Dieckhaus, William Kinney, Hallie Scruggs. The three adults, Mike Hill, a custodian age 61, Cynthia Peak, to my understanding, a substitute teacher age 61, and Katherine Koonce, age 60. As Chief Drake said, we have identified the active shooter as Audrey Elizabeth Hale, age 28. We'll take just a few questions if you have any.

UNKNOWN: Don, do you believe the shooter was a former student at the school?

AARON: Yes, we do. Chief, do you want to address that?

DRAKE: Yes. From our investigations tell us that she was a former student at the school. I don't know what grade she's attended or grades, but we do firmly believe she was a student there.

UNKNOWN: Did she identify as transgender?

DRAKE: She does. I identify as transgender, yes.

UNKNOWN: Is there any reason to believe the shooter first went to the church before going to the school?

DRAKE: I can't give you that information. Should we know that the minute the calls came in, we responded, to the church. So, to the school.

UNKNOWN: To the school.

DRAKE: Yeah.

UNKNOWN: Do you have, like two officers that went in when they first got there (inaudible)?

DRAKE: So, it was five officers and immediately went in and addressed. We have video that we're going to release but you can see in the video, you can hear gunfire are going on as they're in the school. They addressed the threat and take that threat down.

UNKNOWN: And chief, what do we know about her weapon?

DRAKE: So, we know there were two AR-style weapons, one a rifle. In other words, an AR-style pistol and the other was a handgun. We believe two of those may have been obtained legally locally here.

UNKNOWN: Can you confirm that one of the adult victims happen (inaudible) the school?

DRAKE: What's what?

UNKNOWN: Was head of the school?

DRAKE: There was some -- I don't know her exact capacity within the school, but it was higher up in the echelon.

UNKNOWN: And were any of the children, victims (inaudible)?

DRAKE: Unsure. I believe one may have been, but I can't confirm that.

UNKONWN: Is the shooter have any criminal (inaudible) history at all? DRAKE: No history at all.

UNKNOWN: No motive at this point, anything discovered in the apartment or house?

DRAKE: No, we have a manifesto. We have some writings that were going over that pertain to this day, the actual incident. We have a map drawn out of how this was all going to take place. There's right now a theory of that we may be able to talk about later, but it's not confirmed and so we'll put that out as soon as we can.

UNKNOWN: Is she (inaudible)?

DRAKE: I'm sorry, I'm not someone's mic. Rather, (inaudible) say that again, sir?

UNKNOWN: Is there a reason to believe that how she identifies is -- has any motive or (inaudible)?

DRAKE: We can give you that at a later time. There is some theory to that. We're investigating all the leads, and once we know exactly, we will let you know.

UNKNOWN: (Inaudible) is a targeted attack?

DRAKE: It was.


UNKNOWN: Do you know about a history of mental illness, man or woman?

DRAKE: Don't know any history of mental illness at this time, but we are looking at that as an investigation is ongoing and I'm sorry.


UNKNOWN: Does she identify as a transgender man or woman?

DRAKE: Woman.

UNKOWN: Was this the only school that was targeted?

DRAKE: It was the only school that was targeted. There was another location that was mentioned, but because of a threat assessment by the suspect, too much security, they decided not to and that area was here in Nashville so we're continuing with that investigation as well. Right now, we believe it's a lone assailant. And we don't anticipate any further damage at this time, but we are still investigating.

UNKNOWN: (Inaudible) address she lives there with her parents?

DRAKE: Yes, yes.

UNKNOWN: Okay. Thank you.

AARON: So, the scene is going to be processed throughout the night, probably into tomorrow. There is an extensive scene. As you know, she entered the building, which is one structure. The church and the school are in one building. She entered on the lower floor. There were shots fired on the lower floor before she went to the upper level, and it was on the upper level, where she was confronted by police and killed.

So, understand the scene processing will take place over at least two days, today and tomorrow. And we'll have more details for you including the release of video perhaps tonight. But if not tonight, certainly tomorrow. Thank you.


BLITZER: All right. So, there we just learned a lot from the Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief John Drake and from the mayor, I want to get some reaction, some analysis from our experts. Chief Ramsey, you heard all these new details about the shooter, about how she managed to get in to those -- through those doors. Walk us through what you learned.

RAMSEY: Well, this was well planned. I mean, the fact that there were maps, surveillance that had taken place. One of the questions I had early on was how she actually made entry into the building. Apparently, a shot through the door, which I don't know for certain, but it leads me to believe that perhaps half the door is glass. One of those halves solid, half glass was able to then gain entry.

This is something that they're going to continue to dissect and to really go into. They don't have a motive yet, but apparently, they're on track to find one through some of the writings that they found as they've gone through the home or the vehicle that she was driving at the time. So, they apparently have gotten a lot of information. Now, they're in the process of trying to confirm a lot of that before they release it publicly, but I do believe they have an awful lot of information and we'll be able to conclude exactly what took place at some point.

BLITZER: How significant do you think, Chief Ramsey, the video that they're going to be releasing either tonight or tomorrow will be to understand how this all unfolded?

RAMSEY: Well, certainly it will add to understanding what actually took place. I don't know if that's camera from inside the school. Are we talking about body worn cameras and so forth? But it definitely would show the police response. It may show the actual shooter during that, so we'll wait and see once we get the video, but it's probably video accommodation from inside the school, as well as body worn camera video.

BLITZER: Let me bring Steve back into this conversation. You're an expert on guns. We did learn from the police chief that there were two AR-style weapons, a rifle and a pistol as well as separately a handgun and that two of these three weapons were purchased legally and locally. What do you make of that?

GUTOWSKI: Yeah. Well, the big takeaway to me from that part was that they implied their third gun perhaps was not purchased legally. I don't know exactly what that would mean. It sounds like the shooter didn't have a criminal background from what the police chief said there. So, I'm not sure how that would play into this, but, you know, it seems like the implication was two of these were bought legally and one was maybe not, or maybe it wasn't bought locally.

I was a little bit unclear in what they were saying there, but that could be perhaps another area of interest in addition to, you know, how they got into the building and their potential motivation behind the shooting as well.


BLITZER: And Dianne, you're there on the scene for us doing excellent reporting. Authorities did give a little bit more detail on the victims of this truly horrific attack, children, a substitute teacher, a custodian. How's the community dealing with all of this tonight?

GALLAGHER: You know, Wolf, I am holding place right now while one of our team members can get to that scene at this moment. But I can tell you that this is absolutely heartbreaking. We're talking about babies here, children, according to the police.

And I do want to read those victims' names one more time, if we can. Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, William Kinney, these are small children. According to the police, two nine year olds and one eight year old who was about to turn nine years old.

They said Cynthia Peak, a 61 year old substitute teacher, was also killed. Mike Hill, a 61 year old custodian, was killed. And then Catherine Koonce, who was also age 60, the police did not give what her profession was. But Wolf, this is a small school, we're talking about roughly 200 students, between 40 and 50 staff members in total.

And so this is a very tiny, little close knit school. Now, look police said they do believe that the shooter at some point was a student here, although they are not sure at what grade level, when they actually attended this school. The school is located within a church. It is a small, private Christian school.

Police have noted that there was no school resource officer here saying this is a small, private Christian school inside of a church. But we heard the chief mention that the shooter had basically had these writings that they have looked into and they said that there was at least one point where they thought the shooter was going to target another location, but did some investigating on that location, looked at it and determined there was too much security there and opted not to.

Now, again, they talked about maps, they talked about surveillance that was done on by the shooter. So this is something that, as Chief Ramsey said, seemingly was quite planned out. Police hinting at the fact and teasing almost at the fact that they have theories as to what may have motivated this shooter.

Saying as well, they've spoken with the shooter's father, they've been out to a home associated with the shooter, but says that they will not be able to divulge any of that until later on, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, they're going to be divulging a lot more clearly in the coming hours and days. Chief Ramsey, we did learn from the police chief there in Nashville that she had multiple rounds of ammunition. So this potentially, God forbid, could have been a whole lot worse, right?

RAMSEY: There's no question it could have been a lot worse. And police response was very quick and they were able to neutralize the suspect. If anyone has a doubt whether or not that saves lives. Again, we talked about it earlier, think about Uvalde where officers did not take immediate action and literally were standing in a hallway as children were being slaughtered in that particular school.

So that's why the training is what it is. You don't wait, you go in. We learned that lesson from Columbine years ago. You don't wait for SWAT. You know, you go in and you take out the person who's responsible. You go toward the gunfire and you deal with it. I know it's risky, but that's what you're getting paid to do. That's what policing is all about.

BLITZER: And we are told that the police have interviewed the shooter's father. The shooter identified by police as Audrey Elizabeth Hale, 28 years old.

RAMSEY: Yes, well, I'm sure they got a lot of information from that interview as well. And they also mentioned that there was a manifesto of some kind, some writings that probably is going to lead them to a lot of information. They're tracing the guns right now, but they've already determined two of them were bought legally.

Which, by the way, you know, when you hear elected officials, they use as an excuse that, you know, criminals don't follow the law. Well, look at some of the mass shootings that we've had. These are people who legally purchase guns that don't have a criminal history. And so to try to paint a picture, this is just about criminals. It's not just about criminals.

It's about mental health. It's about access to firearms. It's about having assault weapons that people can gain access to that are absolutely devastating and can kill large numbers of people in a very short period of time and they do not belong in civilian society.

BLITZER: We did learn from the police chief, John Drake, that they also found maps drawn of the school, although they don't believe there were other individuals, at least as of now, involved in this mass murder, this mass shooting.

RAMSEY: Everybody, stand by. We're getting more information. We'll continue our special coverage right here in THE SITUATION ROOM right after a quick break.


[17:39:27] BLITZER: We're continuing to follow the breaking news on this horrible, horrible mass murder, this shooting at a school in Nashville, Tennessee. Tennessee State Representative Bob Freeman is joining us right now. State Representative, thank you so much for joining us. It's so heartbreaking. We heard the names of these three kids, all nine years old, who were shot and killed. Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, William Kinney.

We heard the names of these adults who were shot and killed. Cynthia Peak, a substitute teacher, 61 years old. Catherine Koonce, 60 years old and a custodian at the school. Mike Hill, 61 years old. What goes through your mind, State Representative, when you hear the mass murder of these 60 year olds and these nine year olds at this school?


BOB FREEMAN (D), TENNESSEE STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Wolf, thank you for covering the story today, and I'm sorry you're having to do it. It's unbearable. I received phone calls about 10:30 this morning from friends and constituents and friends of friends who got my number in a sheer panic trying to figure out if their child was one of the injured child.

At that early time, we didn't know how many children and who had been injured. And, you know, a parent's mind goes to the worst place. I'm the father of three. I've got a 10 year old. I've got a child right in that range. And this is going to be something that impacts everybody in Nashville. You know, we're a big, small town, and these three kids will have played on field team with somebody that will have gone to church. And this is going to hurt for a while.

BLITZER: It's going to hurt for a long, long time. And our hearts go out to the families and the friends of these six victims who were brutally murdered today for apparently no reason at all. How disturbing is the information, State Representative, that the police apparently found, including a manifesto at this woman's home and various surveillance maps as described by the police of the school?

FREEMAN: It's extremely disturbing. And, you know, I'm just thankful that the police responded as quickly as they did or it could have been significantly worse. But, you know, it's -- we live in an odd time today where there's so much information out there that's public that, you know, it's just scary how easily some of this information can be received.

BLITZER: And we also were told that there were three weapons that she had when she broke into one of the doors and shot the door to get in and managed to get into the school an AR style rifle, an AR style pistol, and a handgun, and that two of those three weapons were obtained legally. Something's got to be done about the availability of weapons, right?

FREEMAN: Without a doubt. I mean, you know, we're -- we have these conversations every time something like this happens. And, you know, I said earlier that we should do something about this and we should have red flag laws and we should have, you know, restrictions on making sure that the right people have access to handguns and firearms.

And instead of people calling my office to say, good idea, I've received five -- you know, 50, 60 calls today, 100 calls today. Emails chastising me, saying it's my right, calling me a coward, threatening me in a day like today. Even in this environment, the special interest groups have such a stranglehold that it's going to be difficult for us to do anything until we really get serious about it.

BLITZER: Let me get back. You were praising the police for their quick response to what happened after this person shot through the door of the school, got into the school, the police, very quickly, within 15 minutes or so, managed to confront her and shoot her. Very impressive response, right?

FREEMAN: I think so. And, you know, sadly, we live in a time when all the kids in that school also had been taught and told what to do with an active shooter. And so they all know what to do. They all knew where to go. The teachers knew what to do and where to go. And it was -- I'm proud of our Metro Police Department today, knowing that they charged Ford towards a dangerous situation to save the lives of the rest of those kids.

BLITZER: Yes, it could have been so, so much worse, as we keep hearing. Bob Freeman --


BLITZER: -- State Representative in Tennessee, thank you so much for joining us. We'll stay in close touch with you. We'll continue our breaking news coverage right after a quick break.



BLITZER: We're following, of course, the breaking news of the deadly Nashville school shooting. Standby, we'll have more on that coming up, but there's other important news we're following as well, including right now another major story.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is responding to a truly historic crisis in his country by delaying a judicial overall plan that sparked widespread unrest throughout the country. CNN Hadas Gold is joining us live from Jerusalem right now. These nationwide protests, Hadas, brought Israel to a standstill today. What is the situation like right now, tonight?

HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's calmer now, but Israel has never experienced what the last 24 hours have been like in its history. It started with a major firing of the defense minister, then massive protests, and then the biggest general strike in Israeli history.


GOLD (voice-over): A political crisis, and now a potential security crisis on the streets of Israel, as the country was brought to a standstill by the largest general strike in Israeli history, sparked by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plan to weaken the Supreme Court and his firing of the country's defense minister for speaking out against the overhaul.

Fiery protest erupted Sunday and grew Monday, with demonstrators descending on Jerusalem from all over Israel. Chanting for democracy as they gathered in mass in front of the country's Supreme Court and outside Israel's parliament, the Knesset nearby.


(on-camera): These changes to the judiciary in Israel will be the most significant since the country's founding in 1948. And at their core, they would give the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, and therefore whatever parties and politicians are in power, more control over the judiciary from how and who the judges are, who are to be selected, to even the ability to overturn through Supreme Court positions.

Now, critics of these reform fear that would destroy the independence of the Israeli judiciary. They would hurt minority rights, and it would also hurt human rights in Israel, from everything from freedom of speech and expression to freedom of religion.

(voice-over): On Monday, flights were halted and Israel ports stopped work alongside universities, embassies abroad, malls and even McDonald's. The leader of Israel's largest union, demanded the historic general strike to stop what he called this judicial revolution, this craziness. It seemed to have had the intended effect.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL (through translator): Out of the desire to prevent a rift in the nation, I decided to suspend the second and third reading of the law in this session of the Knesset to give time to try and reach a broad agreement.

GOLD (voice-over): For Netanyahu, this may be more than just a political setback. Critics say the overhaul will help Netanyahu in his ongoing corruption trial, a charge he denies. In a Saturday evening interview with British journalist Piers Morgan, Netanyahu denied he was pushing for autocratic rule.

NETANYAHU: To try to paint me as some Third World autocrat is ridiculous. I believe in the balance. I'm a classic Democrat with a small deal. I don't want to get into trouble with my American friends, but I'm a classic believer in the balance between the three branches of government. That's what ensures democracy. It's been thrown off balance in Israel. We have to bring it back.

GOLD (voice-over): Before his speech to the nation on Monday, he acknowledged the precarious situation the country is in, as some right wing groups began calling for counter protests. Tweeting, "I call on all the demonstrators in Jerusalem on the right and the left to behave responsibly and not to act violently. We are brotherly people."

With the country in chaos, there are fears now that this divisiveness could still lead to bloodshed. (END VIDEOTAPE)

GOLD: And while the general strike was lifted once the suspension was announced, that was also praised by the U.S. State Department. Opposition leaders have been a bit more circumspect, taking more of a wait and see approach, whether there will actually be proper negotiations on a compromise reform that they want to be mediated by the Israeli president. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Hadas, stay with us. I also want to bring in Israeli journalist Barak Ravid, who's covering all this very closely. Barak, Prime Minister Netanyahu may be backing down for now, but without real debate. Could this crisis spiral even further?

BARAK RAVID, DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT, WALLA NEWS: Hi, Wolf. Well, I think that this is definitely not the end of this crisis. I think we're still pretty much at the beginning, because even though Netanyahu announced the suspension of the plan and the opposition said that it's ready for a dialogue, the gaps are pretty big.

And I think that it is not an unlikely scenario that several weeks will pass. They will have several rounds of negotiation, reach a deadlock, and then we'll see a rerun of everything we've seen in the last few weeks.

BLITZER: As you know, Israelis have been out there protesting on the streets of Israel for months now. How did it get to this point, Barak? How concerned are Israelis about an authoritarian lurch that potentially is out there?

RAVID: I think that obviously on Sunday night, when Netanyahu decided to fire the Minister of Defense, Yoav Galant, just because he did his job and warned that this judicial overhaul is a clear and immediate threat to Israel's national security, I think this is when the penny dropped not only for the, you know, usual suspects, people that did not vote for Netanyahu.

I think the penny then dropped for a lot of Likud vote. And I think that then you saw a spontaneous rage erupt around the country which led to, again, hundreds of thousands of people in the streets. And I think that in a way, we know today that three months after this whole thing started for Netanyahu, politically this was like hitting the self-destruct button.

You saw the polls tonight in three different Israeli television channels. All of them showed that Netanyahu is at above 65 percent unfavorability. He never had those lowest numbers.

BLITZER: Hadas, some are vowing to continue protesting on the streets of Israel. Where do you think things go from here?

GOLD: Well, I definitely think the protests will continue because the protesters now we've seen them both for this reform coming out tonight, as well as the protesters who have been out for 12 weeks now against the reform. They have a lot of energy, they have a lot of organization behind them and a lot of them. [17:55:09]

And a lot of them, I think, do not believe Netanyahu at his word when he says he's going to suspend the legislation. They're going to also want to see whether there will be real negotiations over a possible compromise.

BLITZER: Hadas Gold and Barak Ravid, guys, thank you very much. We'll stay on top of this story for sure.

RAVID: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, we just got a slew of new information from Nashville police about today's tragic shooting at an elementary school. We're breaking down the latest details for you. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Nashville police say they will release video from the deadly elementary school shooting as they reveal the identities of the female shooter and her six victims including three children.