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Grieving For The Youngest Victims; Trying To Say Goodbye; Newtown Mourns; Investigation Into Newtown Massacre; Preventing Future Shootings

Aired December 17, 2012 - 06:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. We're coming to you live this morning from Newtown, Connecticut. I'm Soledad O'Brien.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman. This is a special edition of EARLY START.

O'BRIEN: Today, it's still dark out, of course, but it is going to be a very raw and cold and pretty miserable morning, not just, of course, because of the weather this will be the day that the very first funerals are held in the aftermath of Friday's massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Here is the latest that we know. President Obama was here last night, trying to bring some comfort to really what is impossible to comfort. Trying to assure those who lost loved ones they are not alone.

Promising to use all of his powers as president of the United States to try to stop these kinds of tragedies and today Newtown will begin to bury its dead. They are going to start with two 6-year-old boys. Funerals today for Jack Pinto, a big New York Giants football fan and Noah Posner, he was littlest of all of the victims.

BERMAN: We are also remembering the fallen. All morning you'll be getting know a little bit about the victims like Ana Marquez Greene, a little girl who loved to sing and she loved to write love letters to her parents.

And of course, we're also going to bring you the latest in the suspected shooter. How police say he made his way into that school, we are going to try to piece together why he may have been targeting Sandy Hook to begin with.

And we have an exclusive, heart wrenching moving interview with the family of Principal Dawn Hochsprung. What her daughters would like you to know about their mother and the final moments that she was alive.

O'BRIEN: There are no questions at all that there will be lots of tears and lots of pain in Newtown today. Sandra Endo is outside a church in a community that is absolutely grief stricken. Of course, today, Sandra, is the day that the process of saying goodbye begins. SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Soledad. Today, the first of many funerals to come in the days ahead and last night, President Obama came here to speak to residents to offer comfort, but also he vowed to do more.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the coming weeks, I'll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this.


ENDO: The president also met with victims' family members at a vigil last night and spoke about the spirit of this town in the face of such tragedy.


OBAMA: As a community, you have inspired us, Newtown in the face of indescribable violence, in the face of unconscionable evil. You have looked out for each other. You've cared for one another, and you have loved one another. This is how Newtown will be remembered and with time and God's grace, that love will see you through.


ENDO: Now this afternoon, 6-year-old Noah Pozner will be laid to rest. He just celebrated his 6th year birthday last month and he is survived by his twin sister. Also being buried today is 6-year-old Jack Pinto who was a huge sports fan.

His idol is New York Giants Victor Cruz. And Cruz over the weekend played a game paying tribute to Pinto on his glove writing, today's game is for you, Jack. -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Quick question about school's return. We know Connecticut kids will go back overall across the state today, but for these kids in this school, which is still a crime scene, obviously not going to head back to that school. When do they go back to school and where do they go back to school?

ENDO: All Newtown schools actually, Soledad, will be closed today as staff talks with experts to figure out a way to best deal with the tragedy for their students. Tomorrow, all classes will resume except for Sandy Hook Elementary.

They will be accommodated by a neighboring school in a neighboring town as soon as they can work out the details but again, residents and community members trying to get a sense of normalcy back for these students who have suffered so much.

O'BRIEN: Sandra Endo for us this morning, thank you for the update, Sandra. Appreciate it -- John. BERMAN: And of course, here in Connecticut, our focus as much as we can is on the victims, but this is a crime scene and investigators in the pain staying process of piecing together what happened here.

It's an around the clock investigation by Connecticut State Police, and as they gather evidence, police have positively identified Adam Lanza as the gunman who opened fire at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

They also confirm that he did kill himself. What we don't know yet? Why? Why did he target the school? Why did he target those innocent children inside? Alison Kosik has the latest on this investigation. She is outside the suspect's home. Good morning, Alison.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. And it may be a while before we know that motive. At this moment though, we are getting a closer look at where Adam Lanza lived with his mother, Nancy, who he also shot and killed before he went to Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The house is -- it's a big house, sitting on top of the hill to my left. All the lights are on. A couple of police cars are in the driveway. We're also learning new details of how this gunman blasted his way into the elementary school, how many weapons he on him, and how much ammunition he was carrying.

The gunman, Adam Lanza, fired dozens of bullets, using a semi automatic rifle on his victims, using a pistol to kill himself.


LT. PAUL VANCE, CONNECTICUT STATE POLICE: The weapon that was utilized most of the time during this horrific crime, was identified a Bushmaster AR-15 assault weapon. It had high-capacity magazines. In addition to that, the subject had in his possession a Glock 10- millimeter, a Sig Sauer 9-millimeter, all weapons have multiple magazines and additional ammunition.

KOSIK (voice-over): A fourth weapon, a shotgun was found in the car parked outside the school. As authorities continue to focus their effort on the school crime scene, we're learning more about the shooter's activities in the days, weeks and months leading up to the second worst mass school shooting in U.S. history.

The ATF confirmed to CNN that Lanza visited a gun range. We do not know where or when. An ATF spokeswoman also tells CNN his mother Nancy Lanza visited a shooting range multiple times. Her son also killed her. As for motive, authorities are searching for answers.

VANCE: We're pleased with the work that's been done so far. I'm hoping that helps answer that question. We're pleased with the progress that we're making. This is a very long, tedious process.


KOSIK: And federal agents continue chasing many leads including visiting as many as 30 gun ranges in the area as well as hundreds of gun shops, of gun dealers in the surrounding area, at least four counties. What they are really looking for, John, they are trying to figure out what this gunman was up to in the days, weeks, months, leading up to the massacre on Friday -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Alison Kosik, outside the Lanza home, one of the crime scenes, one of the sites that investigators are still looking into here in Connecticut. Thanks, Alison.

O'BRIEN: The school massacre has reignited the gun control debate in America. President Obama, we heard him last night, insisting early on, in fact, that there was more meaningful action that needed to be taken to prevent future tragedies. Opponents of gun control say Americans have the right to bear arms, but supporters of stricter gun laws question anybody's right to own automatic weapons.


GOV. DAN MALLOY (D), CONNECTICUT: These are assault weapons. You don't hunt deer with these things and I think that's the question that a lot of people have to resolve in their own minds. Where should this line get drawn?

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: A free people should be an armed people. It ensures against the tyranny of the government if they know the biggest army is the American people.


O'BRIEN: A number of gun control measures have been introduced in Congress, but not one single measure has made it to the floor for a vote. And Dianne Feinstein said yesterday she will introduce a bill that will ban assault weapons.

Coming up at 6:40, we'll talk more about gun control and whether Congress will take up the issue and there will be any type of change. We'll talk to Mary Bono Mack of California and her husband Connie Mack. We'll talk about mental health as well as a real passion for Congresswoman Mack.

BERMAN: We just finished a presidential campaign. It was 18 months long, and gun control hardly came up at all.

O'BRIEN: Right, almost never.

BERMAN: So that issue now very, very much back on the table. Today, first day that kids return to school across the country since the Connecticut massacre. Schools are expected to review security plans to satisfy anxious students, parents and teachers.

I was receiving updates from my kids' school all week. Departments are expected to increase school patrols, and many districts will be offering additional counseling services to students today.

O'BRIEN: You know they are going to need it certainly in the wake of this. Now "Saturday Night Live," which normally known to take kind of a funny and satiric look in the news, had a much more subdued approach this weekend in the wake of this.

The New York City Children's chorus opened the show and they were singing "Silent Night." It was really beautiful.

BERMAN: Bravo, "Saturday Night Live," a beautiful, moving tribute. A question a lot of people have been asking, I've been asking. How to talk to your children about the Newtown school tragedy. We'll discuss that, coming up next.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone, to a special edition of EARLY START. As Newtown and the entire nation grieves this morning. We are examining how the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School maybe could have been prevented.

O'BRIEN: Dr. Irwin Redlener is the of Columbia University's National Center for Disaster Preparedness, also president and cofounder of the Children's Health Fund. You are you often brought in after disasters, spent a lot of time at Katrina, BP oil spill, Hurricane Sandy as well. In this particular case at this particular school, they did absolutely everything right.

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, PRESIDENT AND CO-FOUNDER, CHILDREN'S HEALTH FUND: This is an amazingly prepared faculty and administration of this school, and we were very impressed. I was expecting to see, you know, chaos, disorganization, so forth.

What we saw instead was heroism, and a really defined plan of action that either came because people knew what they were doing and figured it out on the spot, but a lot of this was practice beforehand, which is really critical.

And I think the teachers deserve a tremendous amount of credit as obviously does the administration and the students for that matter.

BERMAN: They had trained. I mean, they had trained in these exercises for these types of events.

REDLENER: Yes. This is the kind of thing we would hope to see in every school in the country that the schools are prepared for all kinds of emergencies. This particular thing, it's so powerfully dangerous, and it's very important that people are keeping their heads, they're following a plan, they know what to do. And they're keeping things under as much control as possible under the worst possible circumstances.

O'BRIEN: They created the lockdown scenario after Columbine, I remember very clearly. And part of that was because you had teenage shooters and teenagers in the schools and there was this idea, if you had instead of chaos of everyone in the hallways, people couldn't figured who was a suspect and who was a student who needed help. Very chaotic.

But I wonder if schools need to go further in some capacity. Because a lot of those children, you'd hear the parents describe it as if they were in lockdown in a classroom and they were stuck there. How can you make a school physically safer?

REDLENER: Well, first of all, there are number of things you can control access into the school. That's sort of step number one. And this school actually did a really pretty good job. They had all sorts of procedures for getting into the school.

This is a shooter, as we know, forced himself into the school under a very violent situation. I don't think there was much more they could have done about it. And I think we're going to be now seeing a lot of discussion, controversy, on whether we need to do more about that. You know, whether anybody needs to be armed in the school which I certainly would oppose personally.

But on the other hand, there are many schools, for example, in Virginia, in Fairfax County, high schools and junior high schools who have police officers, public safety officer who are there, where there is a physical presence, as a reassuring presence that may or may not be a good idea.

But there are a lot of things now I think are going to be explored. Don't forget. We're really in unchartered territory now. Now, we're in absolutely no-man's land in terms of understanding what needs to be done. This is an elementary school situation.

We're seeing one example in the past, 2006, where the school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was invaded, and a lot of children were massacred there and nothing much happened. Now, with this event, I think we're going to see some action, but there's going to have to be a lot of discussion about what we're going to do next in terms of protecting children.

And don't forget, this is a very, very rare occurrence.

O'BRIEN: Let me play a little of what President Obama said in the vigil. He -- I thought it was a beautiful, very emotional vigil last night.


O'BRIEN: Let's play a little of what the president said.


OBAMA: In the coming weeks, I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this.


O'BRIEN: He basically said we have to engage everybody in finding a solution to this, and he mentioned mental health as well. There is this intersection between access to guns, which the killer obviously relied on heavily in this case, and also we know descriptions of him being disturbed. Anybody who commits a mass murder, that's fair to say, and some other information coming up about his childhood as well. What is -- what should the focus be on mental health? Which people don't discuss very much until there is some kind of tragedy like this?

REDLENER: First of all, there are millions and millions of people that have all sorts of mental health issues from anxiety and stress to much more serious disorders. There is the whole spectrum, autism spectrum and so forth, there's many, many issues, all of us know people, we have issues.

O'BRIEN: No correlation between autism --

REDLENER: That's what I was going to say. No correlation between autism or the autism spectrum with this kind of violent behavior.

So, all I'm saying, we have a great mix of al kinds of issues we have to deal with in society and a lot of guns, and when you have somebody that gets to that tipping point, for whatever reasons, and there are -- these kinds of weapons available, we have a toxic stew now of potential problems. Identifying those who become shooters, though, is virtually impossible. I mean, there's a lot of warning signs that people need to get mental health -- mental health assistance and professional help, but in terms of picking up individuals become violent shooters like this, it's very, very challenging.

O'BRIEN: Dr. Irwin Redlener, thanks of having you with us this morning. We appreciate your time.

REDLENER: Glad to see you.

BERMAN: Gone -- gone much too soon obviously. The victims of the horrible, horrible shooting, but not forgotten.

When we come back, we're going to take a closer look at the victims who lost their lives here in Newtown, Connecticut.

Stay with us.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. We're in a gray, rainy Newtown, Connecticut, this morning. Gray in so many ways.

This morning, a grieving community prepares for the first of more than two dozen funerals. Today, they're going to bury two 6-year-old boys, Jack Pinto, a big New York Giants football fans, and Noah Pozner, who was the youngest of the victims who were slaughtered at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

O'BRIEN: It's going to be a brutal day for this community.

Meanwhile, police are still trying to put together the pieces of what exactly what happened. They still have an ongoing investigation, lots of questions, because very little information is known about the shooter and why he might be targeting the Sandy Hook Elementary School and why this community would be a focus of his rage.

O'BRIEN: Really, still so many questions, and the investigation does continue.

But there's a lot of other news in the world this morning. And for a look at some of the other top stories, we're going to go to Christine Romans in New York. Hey, Christine.


Killed in the line of duty. Two Kansas City police officers shot while reporting to a suspicious car at a grocery store. They died last night at Topeka Hospital, a third officer on the scene not hit. The suspected shooter, 22-year-old David Tiscareno is on the run. He is considered armed and extremely dangerous.

Later today, the State Department is expected to get the results of an independent review board investigation of the terror attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. Congress will receive the report Wednesday and will be briefed by members of the board. And hearings and testimony in the House and Senate begin on Thursday.

Senator John Kerry is expected to be President Obama's pick to be the next secretary of state. According to a Democratic source, a formal announcement could come next week. In his current role as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry has already traveled the world to soothe over -- smooth strained relations, rather, including traveling to Pakistan after the death of Osama bin Laden.

And U.S. stock futures are mixed this morning, all eyes on Washington to see if lawmakers can strike a deal to avoid $7 trillion in tax increases and spending cuts over the next decade.

After a victory for Japan's pro-stimulus liberal Democratic Party there, the Nikkei 225 Index is Japan trading higher. Despite economic upbeat data on the global recovery Friday, U.S. markets ended last week lower.

Could Washington actually be making strides in the fiscal cliff negotiations? Yesterday, a source familiar with the talks told CNN House, Speaker John Boehner has offered to extend the debt limit for a year as part of the deficit reduction deal.

The debt ceiling, the amount the government can borrow legally, currently stands at $16.4 trillion. Raising it further requires an act of Congress, which is something Republicans strongly oppose since gaining the House in 2010. That news came just a day after a source said Boehner had proposed higher tax rates on Americans with annual incomes over $1 million.

Of course, Soledad, that's much higher than the president would like to raise taxes on people making $250,000 and more -- Soledad and John.

O'BRIEN: Yes, still a bit of a gap of what they've been proposing and what the president has said that he wanted.

BERMAN: You know, a lot of people say the tragedy here may make a deal happen more quickly. No one wants to be seen as petty or playing petty politics after something like this. It just doesn't fit.

O'BRIEN: Throughout the morning, we're going to tell you a little bit more about the victims of the Newtown school shooting, each fallen child, every adult who perished.

Zoraida Sambolin has a look at that for us this morning.


We're remembering Dylan Hockley this morning. He's just 6 years old. His family moved to Newtown from England two years ago. His mom described the area as a wonderful place to live with incredible neighbors and wonderful schools.

Then there is 6-year-old Madeline Hsu. Little Maddy, a neighbor whose son shared rides to school with Maddy remembers her as a sweet and wonderful girl.

We're remembering Catherine Violet Hubbard, also 6 years old. Catherine loves animals, and instead of flowers, her family is requesting donations to be made to the Newtown animal shelter.

Seven-year-old Chase Kowalski loved outdoor sports. He just won his first mini-triathlon. A neighbor says he was always outside and he was always riding his bike.

And 6-year-old Jesse Lewis. He was learning how to ride a horse. His family had five of them, two miniatures, three dogs and a flock of chickens. His mother said he loved to tell stories and lived life brave, and he lived life true.

Coming up, much more live from Newtown, Connecticut, where the nation looked to President Obama for comfort last night and where detectives continue to look for answers today.