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The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper

CNN's The Whole Story: Surviving Uvalde: Inside a School Shooting. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired May 21, 2023 - 20:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Welcome to "The Whole Story". I'm Anderson Cooper on May 24, 2022. A gunman walked into Rob Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas and killed 19 children and two teachers before he was finally killed by Police 77 minutes later.

It's one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history. And what makes it even harder to understand is that 376 law enforcement personnel responded to the scene, but it took them more than an hour before they actually moved to breach the classroom and confront the shooter.

They waited while children inside lay injured and dying. Over the past year, CNN Shimon Prokupecz and his team have been digging for answers and through sources they've obtained the entire investigative case file which includes thousands of documents, hundreds of hours of footage and multiple audio recordings.

If all the city officials haven't seen all this evidence, neither have the families of the victims until now. In this next hour, we're going to show you a new video from the aftermath and it's tough to watch and sometimes shocking. The only images or sound from children are those who survived that day and the only sound of gunfire you'll hear is between police and the shooter.

Now we've shown the footage you're about to see to all the parents of the surviving children who are in the video and they've given us approval to show all of it. They told Shimon they want people to understand what this kind of violence does to kids and hope the reality of this video will lead to some change.

They also hope police responding to future shootings will learn from this Surviving Uvalde: Inside a School Shooting.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where's the suspect? He's dead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nothing could prepare you for what they brought out --

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Rolling. What is your reaction sir? Let's talk about today the response families are asking for transparency. Do you think you did that day where adequate people are saying that you are interfering in their investigation?


PROKUPECZ (voice over): A year after the shooting. Families who lost everything still don't fully know what happened. And the children who survived that day will never be the same.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are -- like, you know, it's this was the worst day of our lives. But I don't see days it's just the beginning of the worst part of our lives.


It doesn't get better. It's just been longer since we've seen her. Nothing feels right I really just miss her.

PROKUPECZ (voice over): The cover, what's that door? Lexi Rubio was in room 111 where no students survived. She was 10 years old.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Felix wasn't working on days so he dropped me off at the newspaper. I started hearing on the scanner there at work about a shooting on a street or residential street whether it -- street. It's blurry from there.

PROKUPECZ (voice over): Where's she at?


PROKUPECZ (voice over): Felix wasn't on duty, but he heard something was happening at the school and rushed to the scene. He got there almost an hour after the gunman. The scene was already chaos. There was nothing he could have done to save her.

PROKUPECZ (on camera): What is your understanding of what went wrong that day?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My understanding is the first group of officers that come in. They were shot up, they retreat and they never go back in. They let children die in that classroom.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I can't even explain to you what they've taken from me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's in the class.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's more than just life's you know, maybe Lexi's gone immediately. But that's what they've taken from me those answers had they engaged immediately and my child is deceased that I know in my heart that she wasn't scared very long but because they waited so long now.

I'll never know I don't know if it was fast I don't know if it took 30, 40 minutes and that's hard to say with. And realize that's almost certainly resulting in some fatalities on their part but it should have been them and not kids. Were good oh that is pretty without she'd like these things are cute.

Sunflowers kind of demand your attention I think that sounds like Lexi.

PROKUPECZ (on camera): Have you been able to get any kind of answers from the DEA or any other law enforcement officials explain any of this to you?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a victim inside. We need to go in there.

RUBIO: Lexi's in that classroom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, keep your temper. Hold on.

RUBIO: Ok. You've got to keep your temper. I don't know where she's at. I just want to see my baby. I don't know. I have no idea. Did you see a St. Mary's sweater? That's all I'm asking you. I have no idea, St. Mary's sweater.

PROKUPECZ (voice over): He's taken away on orders from his boss the Chief Sheriff's Deputy without knowing if his daughter survived.

RUBIO: My baby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bro, I know. We'll find out in a bit.

RUBIO: I just want to see my baby.


RUBIO: I want to see her -- . That's it. When we tell her, you're going to find out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Listen, they're going to find out for us, ok?

PROKUPECZ (on camera): We watched you Felix and I really feel like your world has been completely turned upside down as a result -- . You know just how are you doing?

RUBIO: Not the same person that it was.


I wish I could still be that dead, every day I go to the cemetery. I go out there and talk to Lexi. Now he tells her keep looking after us and one day you'll see me coming up to you I'll meet her there at the gate.

PROKUPECZ (voice over): 376 officers and law enforcement officials from 23 different agencies responded to Robb Elementary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- Is anybody inside of the building at this time -- ? PROKUPECZ (voice over): So far only 1 Uvalde city Police Official has been held accountable. Lieutenant Mariano Pargas, the Acting Chief that day, he was forced to resign after a CNN report showed he knew there was a 911 call from a child and one of the classrooms begging for help. And still he failed to take action.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Child is advising he is in a room full of victims, full of victims at this moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Full of victims. Child called 911, sir. The room is full of victims.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The room is full of victims.

PARGAS: Victims.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Child 911 calls.

PROKUPECZ (on camera): We want to talk to you about --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's Pete Arredondo he was the Chief of the Uvalde School District Police Department at the time.

PROKUPECZ (on camera): Do you have an opportunity to -- the parents --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And just so you know, we're going to do that eventually, obviously.

PROKUPECZ (voice over): He was labeled the incident commander by top Texas officials and was fired by the school board in August.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to get them out before we go in, you know? We already have victims in there. I don't to have any more. You know what I'm saying?

PROKUPECZ (voice over): The four remaining school officers who worked for Pete Arredondo were eventually suspended after damning reports back in October from CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We as a community, you need to know what every one of our officers did that day.

PROKUPECZ (on camera): And you still don't know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We still don't know that.

PROKUPECZ (on camera): A year later. -- don't know that.

PROKUPECZ (voice over): Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin says he's been unable to make any further personnel changes within the City Police Department, because his investigators are being prevented from viewing any materials from the case file.

PROKUPECZ (on camera): So at 11:39, he knew that this was an active shooting.

PROKUPECZ (voice over): With resources obtained the entire case file, hundreds of hours of video evidence, radio transmissions, 911 calls and crucial recordings, from interviews with law enforcement officers EMTs and school employees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of the information we get I'm sad to say, I'm glad it's coming out. But it's from people like yourself or another agency. We got more from that than we did anything.

PROKUPECZ (on camera): Journalists?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, true ridiculous in it. It's pretty sad. Part of me wants to say, are we going to uncover something you don't want us to see? Are we going to uncover some radio transmissions you don't want us to hear? Is our investigator going to uncover that? I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As far as we know, he's the only one that's in the room. But now that with this information coming in with these kids, supposedly there's kids in there too.

PROKUPECZ (voice over): If we can find mistakes that we made, perhaps we can keep it from happening in some other community.


PROKUPECZ (on camera): Do you think you'll ever see what you want done what you think needs to be done to protect your kids who were so mean and poor living in this community?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we're going to make sure of it.

PROKUPECZ (on camera): I don't know how you're going to go about that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm in any way possible. I mean, I'm never going to let this town forget if they don't fire these first few officers. I will never let them forget that I will be at every city council meeting I will be just the biggest pain. You won't get rid of us.

PROKUPECZ (on camera): When you're finished with your report. Do you would if people have to be fired?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It'll be fired. If we made mistakes, we have to be big boys and own up too, we have to take our lumps. But not just us, every agency was there has to step up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are we waiting for boards that are what's going on the -- coming in 30 minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- responsibility and take your lumps like everybody else. Well quit trying to deflect it somewhere else because we're all going to be accountable that day.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody, hold the channel.

PROKUPECZ (voice over): While attention has been focused on five school Police officers and 25 local cops. There were 91, state officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety and 149 U.S. Border Patrol agents on scene that day.

ROLAND GUTIERREZ, TEXAS STATE SENATOR FOR UVALDE: I don't think that there is even a question. Not even a question that the actions of the Department of Public Safety and other law enforcement agencies, they're led to further loss of life.

PROKUPECZ (on camera): It's a pretty strong accusation.

GUTIERREZ: What happened that day was gross negligence. Nobody's called for one single head of an agency to quit, resolve, -- . The big badass cops failed. Texas Rangers guys were the white hats, they fail. In those failures are destined to happen again.

PROKUPECZ (on camera): I have sensed in watching you and coming to understand you almost a year later that you do feel some blame. And I've wondered why that is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I'm her mom. I feel like every mom gets that. It's my job to protect her. It's something I was tasked with when I still carried her. It's my job. And I didn't see this one coming in it. And I know that doesn't make sense to everyone that like of course, she didn't see this coming, nobody did.

But it doesn't make it right. She's little she's a baby. She doesn't know better. So it's not even just that day. There's just so many steps along the way where you think had I'd done just this one thing differently. I still have my child. And this didn't happen to us.

PROKUPECZ (voice over): Lexi's classroom shared a door with another room 112 where the gunman also entered. Inside that room are remarkable stories of survival and resilience.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you with offices, or are you barricaded somewhere?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's the classroom number?

TORRES: One oh -- one oh twelve.


TORRES: 112, yes ma'am.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's your name, ma'am? TORRES: Khloie Torres. Please help me. There' a lot of dead bodies. Please help.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stay on the line, OK?

TORRES: I don't want to die.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 3-20 go ahead with that child's information. Relay it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Child is advising he is in a room full of victims, full of victims at this moment.

TORRES: Send help. Some of my teachers are still alive, but they're shot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're taking too long.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well Khloie, I understand we're here to talk about what happened at school that day.

TORRES: Then he said good night, and he started shooting everybody. Like free on like, he was like this. I stood up to look for Band-Aids, because my friend had a big cut right here. Like where you could see her flesh almost.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Which friend was that?

TORRES: Kendall.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kendall, OK. And so you had stood up to see if you could find a Band-Aid?

TORRES: But I didn't find any Band-Aids. I remember telling everybody that we're going to get through this and just don't make a sound. Just be as quiet as a mouse.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They need to be quiet. Tell them to hush.

TORRES: I'm trying! They're not listening.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Khloie said that to put the smear blot on you to make it look like you were shot.

PROKUPECZ (on camera): So Khloie told the other kid's superblock.


PROKUPECZ (on camera): Is it like put her body in the blood?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, she put her body in it, because she didn't want the shooter to come in and see that she was still alive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You need to tell them that they need to be quiet. TORRES: I am! I know how to handle these situations. My dad taught me when I was a little girl.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's amazing how she thinks like that. But it's also sad that she had to do that at 10 years old. She had to think that way. You know, it's sad that that all the survivors in there had to witness that and do that. Her dad being a Marine helped a lot. You know, because we used to sit on a couch and watch movies and he would he would just tell her like what to do in those types of situations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't know if he has anyone in the room with him, do we? He does 8 or 9 children.

TORRES: How far are y'all away?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're inside of the building, ok? You need to stay quiet, ok?

TORRES: They're inside the building we just need to stay quiet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Knowing the police didn't do anything, it's just crazy. It doesn't make any sense.

PROKUPECZ (on camera): That she ever asked you why the police took so long.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She does. She's like mom, why did it take police so long to come in here? I don't even know what to say to her. She don't, trust any police now.

PROKUPECZ (on camera): Can you go get a -- .

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They let everybody in those conjoined rooms down. Families have changed forever because they were too weak to go in the room but my 10 year old sitting across the door was offering to open it and they still didn't want to go in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Khloie's mother asked us to show her body cam video of the moment police breached the classroom and pulled Khloie out a lot. The video has not been released to the public. We are not showing any footage from inside her classroom.

PROKUPECZ (on camera): Why do you feel it's important for you to see this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My daughter sat through it for 77 minutes. Just as a mom I feel like I should like I want to see everything that hurt my baby.


PROKUPECZ (on camera): OK there'll be a few minutes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I used to be a trustee -- PROKUPECZ (on camera): No that was her that was clear. Did you see her? Did you recognize her?

PROKUPECZ (voice over): She also wanted to watch a video of her daughter and other children placed on a school bus and taken to the hospital. The video is disturbing Khloie wasn't physically hurt during the attack and remember the blood you're about to see is not hers.

PROKUPECZ (on camera): I'm going to stop let me know OK. OK, do you want me to stop you OK you want me to stop?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- your mom or your dad OK


PROKUPECZ (on camera): So all right do you want to stop?


PROKUPECZ (on camera): It's OK, it gives you some idea which is incredibly brave that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know who you're trying everybody --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- just go through all that you know see you there certain covered in blood. I wish I could switch places with her and you know, go through it and for her so she didn't have to but now we just have to learn to live with it. And then deal with it one day at a time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's definitely stressed her out PTSD, like all that she has all that. You know, she can't walk into a restaurant or any kind of building without counting every exit of the door.

PROKUPECZ (on camera): She counts exits.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. If we go to McDonald's, she sits closest to the door that she can.

PROKUPECZ (on camera): And do you think it's because she's trying to figure out if this happens again? How am I going to get out of here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I know for sure that's what it is.

PROKUPECZ (on camera): She's told you that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's told me that. She says something happens. I got to make sure I'm in a place where I can either get out or hide or duck down because the police are going to take a long time to get here.



(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PROKUPECZ: The timeline and just different things that we were hearing from sources things are not adding up and then when you go back and you look at this video still doesn't make any sense as to why they were waiting for so long. And then you see these kids come out of the room it's just the look on their face. What are you going to do it all the kids where are they going to be?

KASSANDRA CHAVEZ, MOTHER OF AJ MARTINEZ: Well, we're going to have the dad's take them.


CHAVEZ: Take them to the Wal-Mart.

PROKUPECZ: OK fine. Just understand how brutal some of this is.

CHAVEZ: Are they're ready for -- I think we need this to clear our minds a little bit like we have to see it like. We really do. This will help us get by I think.

PROKUPECZ: OK. We're going to run all this by our folks. I just as I talked to you about it like I'm shaking about it because I know what's on there and how horrible it is? But I understand what you guys need and I totally get it. But it's a lot of them and I don't know who wants to see the video and who doesn't. And I don't know how we're going to do this right now because it's just it's a lot.


I don't know if all of you want to watch this video or not. And I don't know where folks there, I want to watch it. -- Cassandra those, I don't know how the rest of you feel. But -- I do.

PROKUPECZ: You do or you don't? You do, OK. We don't normally do stuff like this, so that's why part of it so like in this process of course like we kind of need to explain to you guys why we're doing it, why you want to do it and then kind of like why we agreed to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the reason we want to watch it is because when -- explained it to us we want to put you know, the story together, see what when she tells us things like where it is, how it happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Me, I just want to see the big picture of it exactly what she went through, where she was at you know, I just that's --

OLIVARES: And how they went through.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I want to see that's my thing how they suffered and why they suffered so long. You know what I mean? The truth is going to finally come out one day, but what can you do you just got to wait patiently until the truth come up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we've only been called once or twice the A's office at the beginning. And now we haven't been told anything. PROKUPECZ: The answers that you want, you're not getting from authorities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're not going to hear from nobody.


PROKUPECZ: What's inside your mind?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not, but I need to see it. I mean, my son crying out for help and they think he were shot, I'm happy he's here. I mean, I'm upset because of what he had to go through for 77 minutes. So his friends being carried out like ragdolls like they exist more. Sad because that's all the memories he has.

PROKUPECZ: What about for you do you think? Does that answer any questions?

OLIVARES: Yes, it does, knowing that my daughter was passing out.

PROKUPECZ: Do you think it will help you with trying to heal?

OLIVARES: Heal, yes, it will.

PROKUPECZ: We were not sure you know what to do also whether to show it to you guys because it's just never been done before. You know for us we kind of feel like the authorities should be the ones doing this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And they're not, but thank you for doing that. I mean, gave her answers, gave me closure, you know, all of us closer basically.

PROKUPECZ: I hope this helped in some way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You do, thank you.





AJ MARTINEZ: Pop, pop, pop, like the shooting. And what it's called, he came in our door and shot the window. Like the one window that's like this. And then he reached his arm in and unlocked the door. And then he started shooting. And then he said, "Are you all ready to die?"

PROKUPECZ: And how's your leg?

MARTINEZ: Oh, I was -- bad news.

PROKUPECZ: Not bad news. What did the doctor say?

MARTINEZ: Never my life will ever be the same again. I am going to be disabled.

CHAVEZ: He got shot from the top of his thigh and exited out to the back. So that left a big o ball. What you can see when he walked and he walks with a limp and so it's really hard and he can't run because then he'll fall.

MARTINEZ: I try to remember what my old self look like -- like.

PROKUPECZ: What would you say some of the differences are between what you were to what you are now?

MARTINEZ: Well, right now, I've been shot. But my old -- did it, I played football a lot, I could learn and I can't -- .

PROKUPECZ: Do you ever think about your friends from class that day?


PROKUPECZ: What do you think about?

MARTINEZ: Well, one thing, I miss them.

PROKUPECZ: How will you do?

CANIZALES: Miss my friends.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean there's a lot of differences in between him since that day like certain things trigger him. This lady looked at him with the evil eyes. And he had an anxiety attack. And he was like mommy reminded me back to the way that gunman was looking at me, with his evil eyes.

PROKUPECZ: And in the headphones you were alive. Why?

CANIZALES: So you can help me so, I saw anything like a virus or something that I change. I can just put my headphones sir, so I won't have to hear it.

PROKUPECZ: What about for you? What are some of the things that you've been doing this year?

MARTINEZ: Well, I've been -- back to my old self.

PROKUPECZ: What was that like your old self?

MARTINEZ: Well, I' was happy.

PROKUPECZ: Do you feel that you're getting back to that way?




[20:50:00] (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So when the hearing starts, the chairman will then call witnesses and those of you who registered to testify will be called in the order that you've registered.

KIMBERLY RUBIO, LEXI RUBIO'S MOTHER: My name is Kimberly Rubio; I am the mother of Lexi Rubio, the victim of the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. This is my husband Felix, Lexis's father. I arrived here today at 8 a.m.


And as we waited more than 13 hours, I'm reminded of May 24, 2022, when we waited hours to be told our daughter would never come home. I expressed confusion then, and I'm perplexed now. Did you think we would go home?


PROKUPECZ: You would think with this kind of failure that we would be at a point where there would be some kind of accountability. How do you explain that, that there's nothing?

ROLAND GUTIERREZ, TEXAS STATE SENATOR FOR UVALDE: I was told by one leader here in the state of Texas on the other side of the aisle. There's a reason we don't look at the videos of pretty sick and pretty sad. And they don't want to acknowledge failure.

PROKUPECZ: What's been the toughest for you?

DON MCLAUGHLIN, UVALDE MAYOR: To see these families and not have answers. That's the toughest, we can start healing and get closure to we get answers there.

PROKUPECZ: Does she see that her ability to do great things in these difficult kind of situations? Does that give her any kind of strength?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Honestly, right now, she doesn't look at it that way, like we see that in her you know, in all of them that went through that. But in her head, she's she should have done more in her head. She is kind of like a survivor's guilt thing right now.

PROKUPECZ: When you say survivor's guilt, does she ever question why she survived? And like --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, she does. She says that she should have died in the room too. Definitely I am proud of her and believe that she is she's a strong girl. I'm just trying to convince her of it.


RUBIO: Lexi deserved to have been here and forged her own path and made a difference in this world the way that she wanted to. And that was taken from her. So I just feel like it's my job as her mom to make sure she can still do that. And she can. She's more than just a victim. And if there's change that comes as a result of this, while I like to think that she had a part in that.

GUTIERREZ: These same mass shootings occur everywhere now. You always see the body cam the next day now, we went straight in, and we didn't delay.

PROKUPECZ: It's because of this that they say that right?

GUTIERREZ: It's because of this. What they do and how they speak has changed because of what happened in Uvalde, Texas.

RUBIO: I don't expect us to be the same people that we were before this happened. We lost our daughter, we lost ourselves. We're just trying to pick up the pieces and do what we can with it.

PROKUPECZ: Do you worry about that? Your pain will always probably exist some ways?

RUBIO: Yes. It's hard to think of a life where you're never happy again. Or you just want it all to be over. It's not normal, I guess. You should look forward to life. And I think we're just ready to kind of reach the finish line. It's what kind of life is it here?

PROKUPECZ: When you say the finish line, what do you mean?

RUBIO: I mean I want to see her kid, want to be with her kid. Sounds horrible to wait, just we're just waiting.

PROKUPECZ: The finish line was sounds like death.

RUBIO: Yes, I think that's what everybody wants to just be with their kids get. I think that's normal.