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Shooting in California Leaves Seven Dead; The Debate Around Mental Health; Devastated Parents Push for Gun Control; Inside Obama's Trip to Afghanistan

Aired May 26, 2014 - 07:00   ET


RICHARD MARTINEZ, FATHER OF SANTA BARBARA SHOOTING VICTIM: He was articulate, determined, nice, and tough. If there's all these things in the media about the shooter and there's nothing about the victims, then it sends the wrong message. And the people need to understand that real people died here and they need to know, put faces and names and histories to the people who died to make it real for them.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The politicians after Sandy Hook swore they would do something.

MARTINEZ: We're all proud to be Americans. But what kind of message does it send to the world when we have such a -- such a rudderless bunch of idiots in government. I can't tell you how angry I am. It's just awful. And no parent should have to go through this. No parent, to have a kid die because in this kind of a situation. What has changed? Have we learned nothing? These things are going to continue until somebody does something.

So where the hell is the leadership? Where the hell are these people who elect to Congress and we spend so much money on. These people are getting rich sitting in Congress. And what do they do? They don't take care of our kids. My kid died because nobody responded to what occurred at Sandy Hood. Those parents lost little kids. It's bad enough that I lost 20 years, but I had 20 years with my son. That's all I had, but those people lost their children at six and seven years old. How do you think they feel? And who is trying to comfort them now, who is doing anything for them now? Who is standing up for those kids who died back then in an elementary school, and why wasn't something done? It's outrageous.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Powerful, powerful emotions there. Our thanks to Kyung Lah for that report.

Joining us now to discuss what went on Friday night and how it was like to be there is Daniel Rubio, the manager of Silver Greens restaurant, which is right next to the deli where the shooting took place. Daniel, thank you so much for being with us this morning. Why don't you tell me how this all unfolded before you and what it was like to be there during these horrific moments?

DANIEL RUBIO, MANAGER, SILVER GREENS RESTAURANT: Yes, sure, hi. Well, at the time, I was in the back office area of my work, and that's when we heard the gunshots. We didn't register them as gunshots. Not until one of my coworkers, she came up running and she started saying those were gunshots, those were gunshots. And so I went to the side of the restaurant where we have a lot of windows, and I saw a lot of officers with their guns pointing out just spreading from business to business it seems like and pointing their guns towards the deli.

And that's when I figured something bad happened. I didn't know what specifically yet and I started ushering customers away from the windows, away from the doors, because we have a lot of glass, and the last thing we want is for anybody to get hurt for anything that might happen.

And it was just a very tense moment, just trying to usher people away and people were coming in from all over the area to inside the restaurant to try to find shelter. We have a kitchen door that leads to the outside. We had a group of 10 or 15 students, pedestrians. We had a father with children trying to come inside, so we opened the door for them. And they were trying to find shelter within our vicinity.

And then I went outside to check what we can do, ask law enforcement what we can do, some sort of guidance. And I saw the firemen trying to resuscitate the victim of the shooting. And right there I figured it's not my place to be there. I need to go back. It was just a very tense situation because we had a lot of people who were scared. I was certainly scared. I was confused. My coworkers were confused and nervous. And we were just trying to keep the peace and the calm as much as possible more than anything for the sake of the kids that were inside the restaurant who were visibly shaken form what was going on.

BERMAN: Daniel, it's tough, tough thing to go through something like this, a violent moment like this, a moment filled with fear like this. Are you doing OK this morning?

RUBIO: Yes, thank you. Yes, I'm doing fine. It's been a difficult weekend for many of us who work or live in Isla Vista, especially for the victims' families and the injured. But I'm doing fine for now, thank you. It's a tough situation.

BERMAN: When did it sink in?

RUBIO: I guess the day after, the next morning. I left home shocked. I couldn't sleep. And I think not until the next day when I went to the vigil that it sunk in, the tragedy that really occurred and how students passed away or gunned down.

BERMAN: Students were killed.

RUBIO: That's when it hit me.

BERMAN: Students were killed there in front of you. That is a horrible, horrible thing. There's so many people in your community this morning asking questions and looking for answers, trying to wonder if something could have been done days ago, weeks ago, months ago. Have you had any time to think about that?

RUBIO: To some degree, I have thought about that, but it's one of those things where it happened. What can I do now? The most I can do is just try to be a better person and try to -- at the vigil they were talking about being loving to everybody, being there for everybody. We're not just students. We're a whole community of families and students alike. So if anything, maybe just being more loving, caring towards others, especially those who might be suffering, might help out to prevent further tragedies like the ones that happened this Friday.

BERMAN: Daniel Rubio, stay strong, my friend. The people there need you, your friends and coworkers need you. We do appreciate you being with us.

RUBIO: Thank you. Thank you.

BERMAN: Let's go to Christine now for some of the day's other headlines.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, John. Breaking overnight, three people are missing after an enormous mudslide hits western Colorado. It's four miles long, two miles wide, 250 feet deep many places. The area is considered so unstable this morning it's been blocked off. People aren't being allowed in. Emergency crews say they believe the whole ridge has been sliding for most of Sunday after heavy rains.

Moments ago President Obama returned to the U.S. after a surprise visit to Afghanistan. The president telling troops the U.S. has a sacred obligation to take care of wounded veterans. While he did not directly address the scandal at the VA, Obama thanked the troops for their presence as the U.S. prepares for withdrawal at the end of the year.

And today President Obama plans to lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery to mark Memorial Day. It's among many ceremonies honoring our nation's fallen heroes. In New York hundreds will join active duty service members to visit the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum. Michaela, John?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Christine, thank you so much.

Up next on NEW DAY, we are learning more about the killer in California from his hate-filled manifesto, disturbing text messages. The questions are, could action have been taken sooner? We're going to talk with an expert, coming up.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY. New information this morning about what led a 22-year-old to go on a deadly rampage, killing six people and injuring 13 others in Santa Barbara. We're learning more about his long hate-filled manifesto that he posted right before the shooting. The video and texts were so disturbing that his parents when they viewed it and saw it, they immediately set out to find him, sadly failing in their efforts.

Joining us is Dr. Michael Welner, one of the top forensic psychologists in the nation currently contributing to propose legislation that would make it easier for parents to get help for their mentally-ill children. We know that was an issue at play here. Good morning. First of all, give us an idea what help exists currently for parents of mentally ill kids? What kind of assistance can they get if they go and say something's not right, I need help?

DR. MICHAEL WELNER, CHAIRMAN OF THE FORENSIC PANEL: The big disconnect that we have about mass killing is that we continue to look at it as a crime of person who snaps and who is obviously deteriorating. What he has laid out for us and what he's written, and we have already seen had in other instances where people have an opportunity to talk about what they have done perhaps because they survived, in my experience of interview people who do this, is that folks don't snap. This is the end of a fuse that's lit a long time earlier.

And the significance of it is you have someone who is a social failure -- let's put mental illness aside -- who decides this is my moment where everyone on CNN is going to be talking about me. People are going to see me as relevant, so I'm going to package my close up. Here's someone who couldn't even pass a class and he puts together a 140-page manifesto. He wasn't working on that overnight. It's the idea that a person mobilizes so well to carry out a mass killing that he protects it and he keeps it together for law enforcement so they think nothing's wrong.

BERMAN: You said he couldn't pass a class, but he passed a screening by cops there. I guess what is so frustrating about this case and what differentiates it from perhaps some others that we've covered in the past is that there were a lot of steps. There were a lot of interventions from the parents, from therapists, from the police themselves when they visited the house. So then when you have all those, shall we say, right things that happened, how can something still go terribly wrong, and what can we do additionally then to stop it? How can we make this process even better?

WELNER: The disconnect is that we have to understand that the aspiring mass killer is doing everything he can to protect the secrecy of his plan. So he will pull it together so if you interview him, even as a seasoned law enforcement, even as a psychiatrist, and he had a bunch of therapists. We can't say, well, let's just get him help. He was getting help. He can pull it together to protect the plan. He wasn't giving this fantasy to his therapists. He was keeping it close to the vest. So if we appreciate that someone is invested in protecting his plan of destructiveness as a life choice and ambition, then at the first sign that a catastrophe is brewing, parents know. This is why the Murphy legislation is significant, because it gives parents additional say that if a commitment decision has to be made, a parent can say, I know my son. Something terrible is about to happen.

PEREIRA: Right now that's not what it is. Right now, if these parents, which sounds like they did, said something is not right. These videos are concerning to me. A wellness check was done by police and that's where the disconnect seems to be.

WELNER: Look, I know what it is to be a psychiatrist in an emergency room making a decision where somebody can be composed as you telling me nothing's wrong, people are just misunderstanding, people are overreacting -- I could have made the same call the police made. And yet parents know. People who have an opportunity to see someone and watch their decline -- and we have to have legislation that makes it easier for parents to have a direct say, because when someone gets discharged, where do they go back? Into the responsibility and the domain of the parents. And families know. Families know.

BERMAN: Just to be clear, you're talking about lowering the bar in some cases to get committed because that's the word we use here. I don't think I have a better word for that. Lowering the bar to get committed to a psychiatric institution or at least to get some kind of care. Lowering the bar and widening the bar to include parents?

WELNER: I don't think lowering the bar, I think it's just expanding insight. The idea of danger to self or others, the idea of imminent dangerousness, it's the idea of defining a notion as (inaudible). And it's appreciating that there are all kinds of aspects of what defines dangerousness. A person who is falling apart, who is homeless, who is rapidly deteriorating and at risk to themselves. That doesn't necessarily represent lowering a bar. It's appreciating the broader parameters of when a person is truly falling apart.

And, as Mr. Martinez said, it shouldn't have to happen that we lose so many lives because someone can pull it together because he has good social skills.

PEREIRA: Here's a good point, 22 years old. He's an adult. He was living away from home. His parents -- how much legal standing do people have if this is an adult who's refusing care? He apparently wasn't -- he didn't want to take his medication. You can't force someone into getting help.

WELNER: Well, people are committed into the hospitals all the time and you can't force someone to get help. And, Michaela, you're touching on something -- that the person who is invested in carrying out the mass killing doesn't want help. This is not what he's conveying to his therapist.

PEREIRA: Absolutely. This wasn't a cry for help.

WELNER: It's a life ambition. It's "I am a nobody," which is what he says. Girls aren't interested in me. I'm a social reject. This is going to make me larger than life. This is going to make me an alpha male.

This is the thinking. And you talked before about this hashtag and this misogyny. You may think it's crazy, but people see the attention we're giving him and they say, hey, I got a beef. I don't like these people or I don't like this country or I don't my boss. And everybody has made him relevant. And so for folks who, as I say, OK, can't pass a class, can't get his career together this is what I'm going to do. He mobilizes. He plans it. And he plans it like nothing before. And if we come to appreciate that these people draw an incentive from things that make them larger than life, then we come to recognize that, OK, fine, they're not necessarily going to accept help. They don't want help.

BERMAN: What's instructive, do you think, about this issue of the misogyny? Of his writings, of his clear frustration and I would say anger towards women?

WELNER: It could be women. It could be blacks. It could be minorities. There's a common thread of the mass killer of blaming everyone else and what he lays out is that it starts early. Parents, teach your children to accept personal responsibility. Teach resilience; teach creativity. If those three parts are a part of every child's upbringing in America, a child never gets to a place where they blame others. And then that graduates into being glad that they suffer and then throwing coffee on them because of a level of resentment and then fantasy of violence.

It starts with a posture of blaming others and then latching on to people that one feels are the source of one's lack of ability to advance. So we can -- by the time a person gets to a place where they're blaming others and identifying with destruction, then it's just a matter of keeping the community safe. And others saw him as scary and that's why he was losing friends even among other social rejects.

PEREIRA: Well, that's the other part of the conversation that does need to continue. We're not trying to glorify this man. We want to focus on the victims, the six that lost their lives, the thirteen that were injured. Want to give context to their lives and understand that, if we can, try to understand this tragedy and prevent it from happening again. Dr. Michael Welner, thank you for being here with us today. Passionate words from you. We appreciate it..

BERMAN: Next up for us on NEW DAY, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel makes his feelings about the V.A. scandal known. He says the controversy makes him sick to his stomach but where does he stand on asking his colleague, VA Secretary Shinseki, to resign? We'll have that and much, much more when we go Inside Politics.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY on Memorial Day. Let's get to Christine Romans, she's got our top stories.

ROMANS: Thanks guys. The 22-year-old who went on a deadly rampage in California blamed women for his rage. In a detailed manifesto, Elliot Rodger said he was bitter with envy and tried desperately to win the lottery. When he finally reached his breaking point, Rodger emailed the manifesto to several people. It led his parents to try to find him but Rodger had already started his deadly assault. He killed 6, wounded 13 people before apparently killing himself.

Billionaire candy tycoon Petro Poroshenko says European integration will be his first priority as Ukraine's next president. Country's election commission says Poroshenko is leading all candidates with 54 percent of the ballots counted in Sunday's vote, the updated count coming amid fresh violence in the east. Officials suspended flights at Donetsk airport after separatist gunmen stormed the terminal building overnight. Black smoke currently billowing from that airport.

Egyptians are heading to the polls today, the first round of a two-day presidential election. The clear frontrunner, retired Army Chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who stepped down in March to run. But with the Muslim Brotherhood party banned, critics are calling the election illegitimate. Results are expected at the end of June.

Crews gaining an upper hand in a pair of raging wildfires. A massive blaze in northern Arizona is now 25 percent contained. Officials say progress on that fire will be contingent on the weather. Meanwhile, folks in Alaska are being urged to evacuate. Crews say the fire there 20 percent contained. So they have a lot of work to do to completely put out those flames.

BERMAN: Early fire season.

ROMANS: I know, it's so early. And it's been so dry so you know that crews are taxed, budgets are taxed. It's not even June.

BERMAN: It's a long weekend for most people. A vacation day for many. But politics never takes a vacation. Let's go Inside Politics with John King. Hey, John.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST, "INSIDE POLITICS": John, Michaela, Christine, good morning to you. Inside Politics does not take a vacation. It begins on a sad note because of that shooting in California and the inevitable conversation about gun control that will follow.

With me this morning to share their reporting and their insights, Juana Summers of NPR, Alex Seitz-Wald of "National Journal". Let's begin there. While you guys were waiting, we heard the father, the father Richard Martinez, he lost his 20-year-old son Christopher. And he not only blames the shooter, he blames craven politicians and cowardly politicians and the NRA for this. And I want you to listen to Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut. Remember, it was in his state that Newtown happened. He tried to get expanded background checks. He tried to get some more money for mental health. Senator Blumenthal says in the wake of this rampage in California, it's time to try again.


RICHARD MARTINEZ, LOST SON IN CALIFORNIA SHOOTING: Where the hell is the leadership? Where the hell is these people we elect to Congress that we spend so much money on? These people are getting rich sitting in Congress and what they do? They don't take care of our kids. My kid died because nobody responded to what occurred at Sandy Hook. Those parents lost little kids. It's bad enough that I lost my 20- year-old, but I had 20 years with my son.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: That's Richard Martinez there; you can see the father's emotion. Now Senator Blumenthal said this, that if Congress can't do this, Congress will be complicit if we fail to act.

Alex, we have seen this in the past where in the days and weeks maybe after a tragedy like this, there's a lot of focus in Washington and a lot of lawmakers say let's try this time, let's try to break the log jam. In an election year, do you see any possibility they could come up with at least a modest bill that expanded just maybe mental health funding? Or just some way to try to get expanded background checks or some sort of a trigger for reviews for somebody who has psychological problems?

ALEX SEITZ-WALD, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": I wouldn't be optimistic on that, even something solely on mental health not focusing on guns, because of the larger context on guns, gun rights advocates like the NRA will probably put it in that context and it will just be really hard to keep those Democratic senators running in red states on board. We can see what they did after Sandy Hook where the Democratic establishment went all in and got nothing for it. I don't think they're eager to have another fight along those lines.

KING: You hear that, but you have this tragedy now. And you have Pete King who, again, he's a moderate Republican from Long Island so he's not from a guns rights state, but Pete King says his party needs to get the message. He says even though this issue may not be popular in particular congressional districts, if we want to be a national party, we ought to be looking closely at it. Could the Republicans actually drive this conversation? Or if Pete King comes to his leadership, are they going to say just be quiet and in a few weeks they hope this is forgotten politically?

JUANA SUMMERS, NPR: It's a really frustrating situation because I think no one wants to see, whether you're a Democrat or Republican, another situation happen like this again. I'm frankly not convinced there's enough political will in Washington, particularly this close to 2014 midterms, to make that happen. Even if you have someone like Pete King go to his leadership. I do think we'll see another conversation on gun control, on that funding for mental health that Alex mentioned, but I'm not sure that it actually is going to take place this year. I think that's something that will wait until after 2014 to be done, if done at all.

KING: Wait, wait, wait. If done at all.

Could the president help here if he came forward and said let's forget everything but mental health for now? We'll pick that one after the election. Could they get a narrow bill? Isn't there some impetus -- a lot of Democrats are running against Republicans. Mitch McConnell's opponent is running saying he's Snator Gridlock. Wouldn't there be some opening to just do one narrowly focused thing, to prove Washington can work?

SEITZ-WALD: I just don't think anyone would believe him. I mean, the people who would need to believe him wouldn't believe him. You know, gun rights advocates. We can see there was some precedent for this in Virginia when State Senator Creigh Deeds was attacked by his son. There was some emphasis around mental health and they stuck very narrowly to mental health and that worked, but I just don't see Obama being able to have enough credibility to deliver that message.

KING: That's tough for an election year. Let's move on to the president's secret trip over the weekend and the president deserves credit for this. It takes a long trip to go to Afghanistan. The president surprised us with a secret trip to visit the troops heading into this Memorial Day weekend. He was applauding the troops for their service also noting that, remember, back in 2008, Barack Obama campaigned to end the Iraq War and eventually wind down the war in Afghanistan. The president says that's about to happen. Listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For many of you this will be your last tour in Afghanistan.


OBAMA: And by the end of this year, the transition will be complete and Afghans will take full responsibility for their security and our combat mission will be over. America's war in Afghanistan will come to a responsible end.


KING: Again, props to the president for taking that trip to give morale to the troops there. He talks about the war in Afghanistan coming to a responsible end, Juana, but there's still some giant question marks. And because of the dysfunctional, I'm being polite, relationship with Hamid Karzai, the administration would like to leave a modest amount of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to continue the counterterrorism fight, but that is still up in the air.