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Two Fathers Talk Gun Violence; Living with a Child with Mental Illness.

Aired December 11, 2013 - 23:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: It is 11:00 in the east. Do you know where your news is? Good evening, everyone. I'm Don Lemon. This is THE 11TH HOUR, what you'll be talking about tomorrow.

For almost a year now, people have been talking a lot about two things, about guns and about mental illness. So far it's pretty much just talk. But tonight, almost a year after Newtown, we've got some unconventional wisdom from two fathers. One, a pastor, who says no one cares about urban kids who are victims of gun violence. The other, a Newtown father, who says he's right. The unusual way they're coming together.

Also Dr. Sanjay Gupta shows you what life is like for a family with a 14-year-old son who has severe mental illness.

And the man who says the NRA is wrong, more guns will not protect our kids.

The death of a child is always a tragedy. And I can't even imagine the heartbreak and anger you feel if your child were gunned down. But are the killings of urban children and young people overshadowed by mass shootings like those in Newtown?

Poppy Harlow has one positive thing to come out of the tragedy, two fathers coming together.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's an unlikely friendship born of tragedies.

(on camera): When did this friendship start?

SAM SAYLOR, PASTOR & LOST SON TO GUN VIOLENCE: I think it started way before we even knew it. I think that god had a divine plan that he would bring our forces together and respond to something great.

HARLOW (voice-over): Two fathers determined to stop gun violence.

MONTE FRANK, NEWTOWN ACTION ALLIANCE & LOST SON TO GUN VIOLENCE: I want to see an America that goes back to the America of our childhood, where kids could open up the door and go out and play in the street and have a certain innocence to them.

SAYLOR: It's about the soul and fabric of our country. HARLOW: Monte Frank lives in Newtown, which embodies loss and heart break after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school. Pastor Sam Saylor's tragedy was just 50 miles away, where his son was murdered.

SAYLOR: He deserved a better chance. And to be gunned down in broad daylight, he deserved a better chance.

HARLOW (on camera): It was here in Hartford, Connecticut, where Pastor Saylor's son Shane was shot and killed last year. He was just 20 years old. His death received no widespread media attention, no outpouring of support from across the country. His homicide was one of thousands of gun murders that happen every year in America.

SAYLOR: This is where he collapsed at right here.

HARLOW: Right here.

SAYLOR: Yeah. And they took him from here to the hospital where he died.

FRANK: Living here, we're removed from what's happening in the inner cities. And I should have been thinking more about it, but I didn't. I didn't listen until Newtown. And that's a regret that I have. And I feel very guilty about that.

October 20th, the day Sam's son died, I wasn't aware of that. I was oblivious to it.

HARLOW (voice-over): Oblivious to agony like this.

SAYLOR: You don't know the pain that I go through. You don't know the sufferings that I have. No one needs to feel this pain again.

HARLOW: A father's despair echoed in the sound of gun fire in cities across America.

SAYLOR: I became the symbol of a lot of frustration of urban parents who said, look, no one's talking to me. No one's crying for me.

HARLOW: No one, he says, crying for his son as a nation wept for Newtown. His pain erupted at this rally against gun violence in Hartford.

SAYLOR: I'm sick and tired of hearing about Newtown. Newtown this, Newtown that. I don't want to hear about Newtown. I want you to know about Shane, the beauty of Shane.

HARLOW (on camera): What did you think, Monte, when you heard that?

FRANK: I was scheduled to speak next.


FRANK: So there were 20 people who were on the program. And fate had it, I'm the next speaker. And I'm listening to Sam, who I had never met before, talking about how he hates Newtown.

HARLOW (voice-over): But then Monte Frank heard this.

SAYLOR: Newtown! Newtown! Newtown! Is our town!

We are all Newtown. We deserve to live. We just can't succumb to this violence like this.

FRANK: My reaction to that was, it's not about Newtown that we're all in to together that --

We're all Newtown. We're all Hartford. We're all Bridgeport. We're all New Haven.

HARLOW: Do you feel like this, Monte? There have been deaths that have happened from gun shots are not being treated equally?

FRANK: I don't think they are and they should be. And that's part of our journey, to come to a place where America pays just as much attention to the loss of a child in an urban environment as they do in Newtown and other suburban communities.

HARLOW (voice-over): Together, Saylor and Frank lobby Congress for tougher federal gun laws. At home, they fight in their own way.

Monte Frank rides with Team 26 in honor of the lives lost that December day.

SAYLOR: It's your calling to inherit a blessing.

HARLOW: Pastor Saylor preaches.

SAYLOR: My faith was hit hard. But also, it wasn't lost. And because of my faith, I've been able to make

FRANK: We're now on the same path. We're part of the same journey.

HARLOW (on camera): This a lifelong friendship, do you think?

FRANK: I hope so.

SAYLOR: I, as well. It's going to take that kind of journey.


LEMON: Poppy Harlow is here with us now.

Poppy, fascinating report. I wonder what made the pastor, Pastor Saylor, put his anger aside and want to work with the folks in Newtown?

HARLOW: How did he turn the corner? That was my big question. He said there was a meeting after the shooting in Newtown a few months later. He ended up just by chance sitting next to a father who had lost a child at Sandy Hook Elementary. He sat and watched that father cry. He told me, "I watched the tears stream down his face. I realized at that moment that we were brothers in this together, that we're from totally different walks of life and communities but that brought us together. And we weren't so different." And that really resonated with me. And that's why he's doing what he's doing now.

LEMON: Isn't it amazing, life -- how interesting life is?


LEMON: You never know who's going to be your partner, ally, friend? You just never know.

Can we talk about this new CNN poll?


LEMON: It's out and it shows a year after Sandy Hook, support for gun control is fading. 49 percent of Americans say they support stricter gun control laws. That's down six points from last January, which is right after the shooting with 50 percent. And 50 percent are opposed.

HARLOW: Right. So that's what we're seeing. I asked Sam Saylor and Monte Frank about that. They both said they are both hopeful. They are both fighting for stricter, stronger federal gun laws. But they also, Don, point out they say we're not against Second Amendment rights. "We're not against guns. We're against gun violence." They're in D.C., together right now, today, and then tomorrow, for this vigil at the national cathedral for victims of gun violence.

LEMON: Do they think they can make a difference?

HARLOW: They think that they -- they do.


LEMON: They're fighting an uphill battle.

HARLOW: They do. They see the numbers. They do. Monte says there is a grassroots movement that is gaining support and they think they will see a change. He wants to see universal background checks and stronger federal tracking bills. They believe they are going to make that change.

LEMON: Poppy Harlow, thanks so much.


LEMON: Again, it's a fascinating report. And we'll see if they do make some change.

In the days after Newtown, we heard a lot of talk about how everything would change. Well, everything didn't. There have been at least 11,400 gun-related deaths since then.

And in "Mother Jones" magazine, Mark Follman writes about 194 children who have died in gun violence. And he joins me right now. You know, Mark, since the Sandy Hook tragedy, you have been covering this issue of gun violence and children. What have you found out over the last year?

MARK FOLLMAN, SENIOR EDITOR, MOTHER JONES MAGAZINE: Well, with this investigation, we found a pretty stark picture of kids and firearms. After the terrible attack in Newtown last year, we heard the NRA and other gun advocates testify in Congress that the way to protect children is to arm more adults in schools and in their own homes, et cetera. But the cases that we studied, these 194 cases, show that that's just plain wrong. That, in fact, most of these kids are dying in their own homes. That's the most dangerous place for them where they're getting their hands on firearms. They are left unsecured in many cases. There are a number of homicides where parents are killing their own children. Lots of cases -- there were I believe 72 cases out of the 194 where the kids themselves are pulling the trigger. We're talking about young kids here, Don. Talking about ages 12 and under. The average age of 6. 2 and 3 and 4-year-olds getting their hands on guns and pulling the trigger.

LEMON: Who are these children? When kind of families, what kind of backgrounds, what kind of communities do they come from?

FOLLMAN: It's broadly distributed. This is truly a national problem. These cases took place in 43 states. They're in inner cities. They're in tiny rural towns. They're in the south. They're in the west, the Midwest. In terms of the backgrounds, you do see a number of working class families in these cases. But one thing that is also interesting about this study, is that we used local and national news reports, primarily local reports, to gather the data in these cases. And often these incidents are just a blip on the radar, so there isn't much detail available at all. And we also know that the count that we did, which, 194, really understates the problem because a number of these cases never appear in the news media at all.

LEMON: Yeah. Listen, after the Sandy Hook shooting, the Obama administration and the Vice President Joe Biden's push -- they pushed to restrict assault weapons. They didn't get much support with that. So my question is, if this is happening in kids own homes and happening in certain communities, what do we do here? Do we need to have more responsible gun owners? Because it is obvious that guns are not going away in America.

FOLLMAN: Well, that's certainly true. There's almost 300 million of them. We do know what the risks are when people have firearms in their own homes, especially unsecured ones. And the majority of the cases where this happens are handguns where these children are being killed.

LEMON: All right.

Thank you very much, Mark. We appreciate you.

The other side of this tragic equation is mental health. And when we come right back, our Dr. Sanjay Gupta visits a family struggling with their 14-year-old's severe mental illness. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: I'm Don Lemon. This is THE 11TH HOUR.

We all remember what happened almost a year ago in Newtown, Adam Lanza's murderous rampage. Unfortunately, tragedies like that are just about the only time we talk seriously about mental illness.

But tonight, our Dr. Sanjay Gupta visits a San Antonio family living with mental illness every day. And as he finds out, there are no easy answers.


STEPHANIE ESCAMILLA, MOTHER OF DANIEL: When people meet my son, they don't see the mental illness.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): I want to tell you a story about the love between a mother and her son.

ESCAMILLA: They don't see the 20 hospitalizations. They don't see if he hallucinates. He strives to be a normal kid. But he has something that holds him back from doing that.

GUPTA: To protect his privacy, we're not going to show you his face or use his real name. For the next few minutes, he'll be known as Daniel.

DANIEL: I don't know my own strength. When I hit the bag I think of the voices.

GUPTA: At age 10, Daniel was diagnosed with bipolar illness. Even with medication he hallucinates and hears voices.

ESCAMILLA: It would get very heated, because he would yell at me. And when he would yell at me I would get really offended because he was being disrespectful to me.

DANIEL: I'm trying to, Mom. I'm trying to help you and help me, too.

ESCAMILLA: I don't tell you when to hear voices.

DANIEL: I can't handle it anymore.

ESCAMILLA: Not once thinking that, well, he's hearing voices. He's trying to talk over those voices. And with talking over those voices he has to yell.

GUPTA: We wanted to get to know Daniel and understand what life is like for a teenager with mental illness.

There's laughter.

(LAUGHTER) GUPTA: Fights about homework.

DANIEL: That's all I got.

GUPTA: Daniel's in the eighth grade. But also, this.

ESCAMILLA: Is there any way that I could just show up there and just wait in the waiting area? I don't want to be driving around like that.

DANIEL: I was hearing voices and, all of a sudden, I had the urge to cut. So I started cutting my arm.

GUPTA: He was cutting himself again. It ended with a trip to the hospital. Daniel stayed for a week.

If Stephanie seems to take it up an in stride, it's only because she's seen worse, even worse than what you're about to see.


DANIEL: Go away. Please go away.

GUPTA (on camera): What is that like to record your son?

ESCAMILLA: It was horrible. His eyes on the video. He's got these huge pupil eyes and he's just crying. And you see the fear in his eyes. It breaks my heart.

DANIEL: Make them go away.

GUPTA (voice-over): Last year, after a family fight, there were pills. Too many of them. Daniel tried to take his life. He was just 13 years old.

DANIEL: I wanted to die is bad because I was tired of my life. I'm sorry I had to put you through that. I'm sorry I made a poor mistake. And I really, really want you to know that I will never do that again.

ESCAMILLA: It's really hard to -- for me to --

DANIEL: Believe that?

ESCAMILLA: No. It's not so much that I don't believe that. It's just it's a trauma that no parent needs to go through. And it's really hard to say, OK, I believe you. Because he doesn't understand that -- that for weeks after that, and it still happens, that I worry every day.

But there's one thing that I remember the most it's him begging the nurses to let him die. That's one of my biggest fears.

Are you OK?

It's scary, because one of these days, he's going to get old enough to where I can't protect him. GUPTA: Despite some high-profile cases, the facts are people with mental illness are more likely to hurt themselves than anyone else. They are more likely to be victims of crime rather than perpetrators.

ESCAMILLA: Every few weeks, I help law enforcement understand what it's like to live with a family member who has a mental illness.

DANIEL: Go away. Go away! Go away!

GUPTA: When he was hospitalized, he would call me and he would tell me, if you don't come tomorrow, I know you're dead. They're telling me they're going to kill you. And it's things like that. Nobody knows how that feels.

When I think about Newtown and several other shootings that occurred, this would help put in perspective how to approach a mentally ill person.

Telling my story helps me with acceptance.

I see myself being the person he comes to all the time. And I've accepted that.

GUPTA (on camera): Your mom, again, she's such a strong woman. And she loves you so much. I asked her, I said, people say that one person's love can make all the difference. Can your mom's love make all the difference for you?

DANIEL: Mm-hmm.

GUPTA: You think she can help shepherd you and get you through this?


GUPTA (voice-over): As a dad myself, it is jarring to hear, but also somehow affirming. After all they've been through, most of all Daniel wishes he could one day be just like the mother who loves him so much.

ESCAMILLA: I just want him -- ultimately I want him to be happy. I really do want him to be happy. And I just -- I need him to know that. When he's in the dark place, I'm always here.

GUPTA (on camera): You're always there?

ESCAMILLA: Mm-hmm. Always.


LEMON: Dr. Gupta joins us now.

Sanjay, you spent time with Daniel and his mother. And you saw what they go through. What is his prognosis for the future? Will he ever be self-sufficient?

GUPTA: Well, you get a little bit of a sense there, Don. First of all, for Stephanie, his mother, every day she comes home, she doesn't know if he has attempted to take his life that day. Just imagine the psychological toll that takes on her and the whole family. And also this idea that he may be with her for well into adulthood. He may never leave the home. Those things are things that see lives with.

But having said that, yeah, he does seem to have stabilized over the last couple of years. He takes medications. But he is 14 years old. He's in the eighth grade at a regular public school in his area. And he appears to be doing well. He's getting "B"s and "C"s and is expected to progress through school. So it's by no means easy.

Keep in mind, Don, and we talk about this issue a lot. He was able to get some help. His mother is helping train people to deal with people who have mental illness. So they represent a little bit more of a success story. But still so hard even with that to get what you need.

LEMON: And Sanjay, it's hard to believe it's been a year, you and I standing there in Newtown covering this story.

GUPTA: Yeah.

LEMON: On the verge of tears the entire time. I'm wondering what someone like Stephanie -- Stephanie is a mom, right? Daniel's mom. When she heard about Newtown, Adam Lanza, what was her first thought? What went through her head?

GUPTA: I asked her that, Don, as you might imagine. I remember so well, as do you. She mourned a lot for those families. But she also -- her mind immediately flew to Adam Lanza's family as well, and Adam Lanza's mother in particular. When we started following Daniel and started learning about his story, part of this was, who are these children, who are these kids who may be on the brink of some sort of significant problem. And that's where her mind went as well. Look, Adam Lanza's family, did he have mental illness? And if he did was he able to get the treatment that he need? It wasn't to take away the mourning of so many lives lost, but it was that area that she thinks about all the time. And again, how do we keep -- if our child is at risk, how do we keep them from going in that direction?

LEMON: Sanjay, last night on the eve of the Newtown anniversary, Vice President Joe Biden announced the White House's pledge, $100 million toward mental health services. How big is that? $100 million sound like a lot of money but is it really? Is this a big step?

ESCAMILLA: Probably, at the federal level, probably not a lot of money. And keep in mind, the original push was about curbing violence overall, this is one part of that push. Five million of it's coming from the Department of Health and Human Services, the executive branch. It's to help set up more resources, to help hire more health care professionals. $50 million is coming from USDA, United States Department of Agriculture, interestingly, because they wanted to focus on rural areas in particular, and set up tele-medicine so that people who do not have access to hospitals could still get tele-medicine via technology to get some support. But it's a small amount. We talk about parity, Don, in this country.

LEMON: Yeah. GUPTA: Meaning, putting things on par with one another and putting physical health and mental health on par. That is obviously a very important step. But unless you have the resources, unless you have the doctors that can see you, mental health professionals, beds that are available if someone needs an inpatient hospitalization, parity doesn't take on as much meaning. I think that's, in part, what the vice president's trying to address. There's also a lot more money towards research in the mental illness in the future as well.

LEMON: We hear about people being turned away because there are no beds and they go out and do violent acts. There was a state congressman that happened to very recently. You mentioned that Daniel -- you said that most people who have mental issues, that they usually harm themselves. But can Daniel possibly turn violent against other people as he grows older?

GUPTA: He certainly could. The point that we are making in the piece is that people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence rather than perpetrators. When they are violent, that violence is often turned inward, in terms of mutilation, hurting themselves or even suicide. And that was sort of the point. But he could become more violent. Right now, instead of striking out at his brother or family members, he strikes out at inanimate objects, that punching bag, things within the house. Again, that's how he sort of deals with it.

LEMON: Sanjay, thank you very much.

GUPTA: You got it, Don. Anytime. thank you.

We'll be right back.


LEMON: Monday on THE 11TH HOUR, a case of cyber bullying, or is it? 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick threw herself off a three-story silo after months of harassment. But is this small-town tragedy a warning sign? Is cyber bullying really to blame for Rebecca's death? And do you know what your own kids are doing? That's Monday on "THE 11TH HOUR."

That's it for us tonight. Follow me on Twitter with my new handle. It's @donlemon. @donlemon. No longer @donlemonCNN.

Brooke Baldwin and "In Case You Missed It" starts right now.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Welcome to our new program. It's called "ICYMI." And our mission here is to comb through every single story CNN has been covering all day all over the world to bring you the very best moments of what we do. They happen just a few times each and every day, in powerful interviews, dramatic video. They're the reason we do what we do.

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