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Gunman Killed 26, Hurt 20 in Texas Church Massacre; Trump Calls Texas Shooting as Mental Health Problem, Not Guns; Manafort, Gates Fight For More Freedoms While On Bail. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired November 6, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:27] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning, everyone. I'm John -- all right. Good morning, everyone. John Berman here in Sutherland Springs, Texas. This is the site of the deadliest mass shooting in the United States in the last 35 days.
Poppy Harlow is with me in New York.
Twenty-six people were killed here, 20 others hurt. The victims range from 5 years old to 72 years old. At least eight members of one family were killed. The 14-year-old daughter of the church's pastor, a pregnant mother.
Horrific, heartbreaking, inexplicable. The question this community is asking, this country is asking this morning, frankly, the question it needs to ask, was this preventable?
The killer is an Air Force veteran who spent a year in military confinement for domestic violence. He was released from the military on a bad conduct discharge. He is dead this morning, either shot by himself or by a citizen who undoubtedly saved lives by chasing him to the next county.
The sheriff now says the shooter's in-laws attended this church, but they were not at yesterday's service. They did come after they heard what happened.
President Trump is in Asia, where today he attributed the Texas killings to a mental health problem at the highest level.
So many questions this morning. We are live in Tokyo in just a moment. First, here with me in Sutherland Springs, Ed Lavandera who's been here overnight with the very latest.
Ed, what have you learned?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you mentioned, there's so many questions raised about what was the motive here? What made this killer drive from the town that he lived in, New Braunfels, Texas, which is 40 miles away? Why would he drive all this distance to pick this small church in this small town?
And as we've learned from the sheriff that his in-laws attended this small Baptist church. The sheriff did say that that family was not in attendance during the ceremony. So perhaps this is one of the first indications as to what exactly the motive is here. Is it some sort of domestic issue within the family that brought him here? But obviously the question still remains, why would he continue this rampage for so many other innocent people inside this church as well?
That's the question that the sheriff says investigators still don't have a full picture of what the motive is here.
BERMAN: Talk to me about the weapon. What do we know about the weapon or now perhaps weapons that were used?
LAVANDERA: Right. So we were told by the sheriff that there was -- and we talked about this, the assault-style rifle that he engaged in the attack, at first shooting at the church building from the outside. One witness told me that he had witnessed the gunman walk along the side, shooting through the windows. Essentially that the bullets would have been flying through the pews of the church and then went inside to carry out the rampage.
And then the sheriff says that when he emerged from the church building, he dropped that assault-style rifle on the ground and that's when he was engaged by the civilian who had approached the scene and started firing at that gunman.
They sped off and apparently the sheriff says that this gunman also had his own second weapon, which was a handgun. No specific information on what kind of handgun. But it sounds like that might have been a weapon that he later, several miles down the road, then turned on himself. So the question really is, we don't know if he died because of his own self-inflicted gunshot wounds or a wound inflicted by the civilian. But it sounds like there was -- both of those happened.
BERMAN: Right. It looks like it may in fact be both right now.
Ed, you've been here since last night. Again this community, you know, 26 people dead in a community of 600 when everyone's here. I mean, that's a significant percentage of this community that's dead this morning. This place is reeling. Talk to me about what you've heard.
LAVANDERA: Well, there's not anybody in this town who doesn't have some sort of direct connection either to someone who was killed or wounded in all of this. So the impact of that is -- I don't think you can overstate. We were here last night, just before midnight, and we witnessed -- the church is just over here, over our shoulders. We're actually on the backside of the church.
There was a family that we saw walking across the street completely distraught. And we asked them, you know, what was going on. They said they hadn't heard from their daughter. This was almost 12 hours after the shooting they had no information about their daughter.
BERMAN: Ed Lavandera, thanks so much. We're going to throw you back to reporting right now.
One thing I do want to point out with this church behind me the goal of this church, the First Baptist Church, which last week had a sermon which said, "Happiness is the Lord." The goal is to let people in. Its doors are open to everybody. Not to keep people out, which is why this killer could just walk in and inflict the damage he did.
Joining me now, CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes and Charles Ramsey.
Tom, I want to start with you with the newest piece of information that we have, that the gunman's in-laws were members of this church.
[09:05:05] They weren't in the building at the time of the shooting, they came afterwards, but that appears to be a very important connection, doesn't it?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, John, it does appear at this point to be important. But we still don't know for sure. You know, obviously, you would expect that he would have had their home address and could have, if he just wanted to massacre them, gone to their home and not involve the entire congregation of that church. So it's a fact that we just -- we may not know in the long run why he went to that church in particular and killed so many people that had nothing to do with his wife or his family or in-laws or anyone else.
BERMAN: We do know that the killer himself comes from New Braunfels, which is about a 45-minute drive from here. Other than the in-laws, we don't believe he did, in fact, attend this church.
Charles, to you, we did get one piece of other information from the governor this morning, who said that this killer tried to get a permit for a weapon here in Texas but was denied. Still, he was able to buy this assault weapon, this Ruger rifle from a gun store in San Antonio with apparently out any problem. How can both those things be true?
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, you've got systems that don't speak to one another, apparently. I don't know Texans that well, but he was denied a permit to carry, which is different obviously than buying an assault weapon. But there should be a way, if you were denied for one, you should be denied for the other. I mean, to me, that's just common sense. I don't understand it, either. But that's something they have to look at. And they've got to really fix.
BERMAN: Indeed, it's something they have to look at. Also they need to look at why this man received the discharge, the bad conduct discharge for domestic abuse. Why that in and of itself did not raise the alarm bells that perhaps it should.
Tom Fuentes, you know, there is this search for a motive. And as you say, some answers may never be found. But the reason that they are looking and investigating this morning, is they want to make sure there's no more danger still out there. So tell me what you think authorities are doing right now?
FUENTES: Well, I think from the very beginning, once they identified him, they would try to look at any social media, phone calls he made, e-mails he exchanged, to see was he involved with other people? Was he a member of a specific organization, a hate group? You know, were other individuals encouraging him through social media to commit this terrible act?
So that's mainly what they want to establish, is that he specifically was not involved with other people, at least in a short circle of people, who might want to do a copy cat type thing or might still be out there and commit another act just lake this one. So that's very important. That's probably one of the most important aspects of the investigation in the early stages, as -- are there any other threats out there?
BERMAN: Charles Ramsey, one thing we do know is that this could perhaps have been even worse. 26 people were killed, but maybe this man would have killed more had it not been for the actions of one and then two bystanders. One who took out his own rifle and began shooting and then chased this man to a nearby county. Some of the research, some of the law enforcement thinking on this has changed over the last few years.
You suggest, law enforcement suggests maybe now mass shooters need to be confronted. You can't just hide in place. It takes someone like this to prevent more killing. What's your thought on that, Charles?
RAMSEY: Well, you know, it's like with an active shooter, they -- we teach now, you know, run, hide, and fight. It's the three things that you do. I mean, the actions of the individual in Texas that took action against the shooter, thank God he had a gun. Thank God he was able to do something. But having said that, it doesn't mean that we've got to take some steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them.
Criminals, people who are suffering from some form of mental illness that make them a danger. People with long criminal histories, assault. I mean, for him to do a year in jail for assaulting his wife and child, that had to be a pretty serious assault. So, I mean, why are we going through this constantly? It's not going to fix itself. We'll be back here again with another mass shooting, because we're not taking the steps to actually try to correct the problem or at least make it more difficult for people to get their hands on these guns.
BERMAN: And look, there's no such thing as only 26 people were killed. That is a horrific number. One person killed is a horrific number, even if it still could have been worse.
Tom Fuentes, Charles Ramsey, thanks so much for being with us.
You know, Poppy, it's interesting, I'm standing in front of the only traffic light in Sutherland Springs. Locals here will tell you this is a one-traffic light town and it's a blinking light. And people here say now there is a tragic irony in the fact they'll be known for their one blinking light and the one mass shooting that this town has now suffered -- Poppy.
[09:10:03] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: John, I'm so glad you're there. And thank you for bringing us all of these firsthand accounts that you're going to have all morning long. We'll get back to you in just a moment.
Meantime, President Trump and the first lady are offering their condolences to the victims and the families. This is now, as John just went through, one of the five deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history. Three of those five have happened in this country in just the last 17 months. The deadliest was only a month ago in Las Vegas.
Overseas in Japan, the president called this shooting the result of a deranged individual with mental health problems. He added, quote, "This isn't a guns situation."
Let's go to our senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny. He's traveling with the president. The president made very clear his thoughts on this this morning.
What else did he say, Jeff?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: He did, indeed, Poppy. Good morning. The president was at a news conference with the Japanese prime minister, of course, talking about his trip hear in Asia, but it is the issue at home. Another shooting on his watch that he was asked about if he -- if this was a moment for any type of gun control discussion. This is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that mental health is the problem here. This was a very -- based on preliminary reports, very deranged individual. A lot of problems over a long period of time.
We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries. But this isn't a guns situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: So it is true that this is not one problem with only one cause here, Poppy. I mean, mental health obviously is an issue in most of these types of shootings. We're still learning more, of course, about the shooter in Texas. But if you talk about mental health, you also should talk about the funding for mental health programs. Talk about things to that effect here. So the reality here is this is something that this president does not want to talk about the gun laws here. He said it's not the time to do it. A similar thing, he said, only five weeks ago, after that Las Vegas shooting, Poppy.
HARLOW: The fact that he talked about changing immigration laws in this country within hours of the terror attack we saw here in New York City less than a week ago.
Jeff, before you go, I mean, look at the president as a civilian, as a candidate, and a civilian Trump, this is someone who did support some gun control measures, no? ZELENY: He certainly did, Poppy, when he was, you know, just a
private citizen, a businessman, if you will, when he was thinking about running for president before. He did support many gun control measures. In fact, he said the NRA has too much of a hold over the Republican Party, over politicians. But, you know, this is something he campaigned very aggressively on. He got the endorsement from the NRA. So he -- you know, he definitely flipped positions here.
But the one difference in this equation of all of these gun debates is this president. He has not been at the center of this before. So it's an open question if he would decide to involve himself. But as of now, Poppy, he wants to talk about anything except gun laws -- Poppy.
HARLOW: Jeff Zeleny, traveling with the president live in Tokyo. Thank you very much.
We are continuing to follow the developments of the mass shooting at this Texas church in a very close-knit, tiny community. Also, former President Trump's campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his aide, Rick Gates, will be in court in moments. We will take you there live. And the president reaffirms his tough stance on North Korea, saying the era of strategic patience is over, but we've heard that before from this administration. Is anything different this time?
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. John Berman back in Sutherland Springs, Texas and we do have some breaking news here. The pastor of this church, Greg Pomeroy, and his wife, Sherri Pomeroy, they were not here for the service yesterday during the shooting, but their daughter was. And now we're learning much more about 14-year-old Belle Pomeroy.
Alison Kosik joins me now with that and some more of the 26 victims -- Alison.
ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, you know, Annabelle's mother, Sherri, released a statement to CNN. It is just heart wrenching. I'm going to read it in its entirety. "We lost more than Belle yesterday, and the one thing that gives me a sliver of encouragement was the fact that belle was surrounded by her church family that she loved so fiercely and vice versa.
Our church was not comprised of members or parishioners. We were a very close family. We ate together, we laughed together, we cried together, and we worshiped together. Now most of our church family is gone, our building is probably beyond repair, and a few of us that are left behind lost tragically yesterday. As senseless as this tragedy was, our sweet Belle would not have been able to deal with losing so much family."
It is just devastating to hear those words and just to make your heart break even more, we're learning more about those who were killed in this massacre, at least eight of those killed, eight of the 26 who were killed, were from one family. They include a woman who was five months pregnant.
Her three children gunned down, her brother-in-law, his young child, and three additional members of that one family, they were injured, one shot in the head. Also among the dead, the visiting pastor. And we got some information from a witness who helped out a young child who ran out of the church. She was among the family of the eight who were killed, but she survived. The woman, John, said that the little girl was covered in blood -- John.
BERMAN: Most of our church family is gone. That from the wife of the pastor here. So many families in this town in mourning. The entire town in mourning. Everyone here knows someone who was inside that building. Alison, thanks so much to you.
Joining me now is Nannette Kilbey-Smith. She is the editor of "The Wilson County News," a local newspaper that covers Sutherland Springs. Annette, thank you so much for being with us. You've been on this since the very beginning of the shooting. Just tell me about this community.
NANNETTE KILBEY-SMITH, EDITOR, "THE WILSON COUNTY NEWS" (via telephone): It's kind of hard to actually follow Sherri's words that were just read. It is a very tight-knit, small community. Just everything revolves around the community events, church on Sunday, school, everyone knows everyone. The wider community, as well, and everyone here, it's not just Sutherland springs that is impacted. We all know -- were friends and neighbors and families with everyone affected here. It's --
BERMAN: This is in some ways the center -- the church here, the church behind me, the First Baptist Church, in some ways, I've been told by folks here, the center of this community. As you say, everyone knows somebody inside. How are you doing this morning? Are you shaken? I know you have some friends of friends that were inside there.
KILBEY-SMITH: Yes. I'm still trying to actually cope with the losses. It's not been an easy 24 hours, but we're going to actually do what we do, which is serve our communities, be as compassionate and sympathetic as possible and help.
BERMAN: What do you think people here need? Do the people of this community want answers about why this man, this killer walked into the building and opened fire?
KILBEY-SMITH: Yes, absolutely, everyone would like answers. We'll wait patiently for those. What everyone really needs now and what we are deeply thankful for are the prayers and the support in that way of communities around the world that we've already been hearing from.
There will be some very real needs in the aftermath. We do know that there will be funeral costs to address and, obviously, you know, repairs to the church and to the fabric of the community. So, when we know those, obviously, they'll be communicated. I know there are benefits and fundraisers being arranged as we speak, and as soon as we know things that we can communicate, we will, and invite the help of the wider community.
BERMAN: Well, I know the people of this community are counting on you, Nannette, counting on your paper to bring them news and bring them together. Thank you so much for being with us. We hope that you continue to get everything that you need to help this town heal -- Poppy.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: John, thank you so much.
Ahead for us, they are under house arrest, but President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort and campaign aide, Rick Gates, want the freedom to move around. They are heading to court, see if they can win some of that freedom. We'll take you there live, next.
HARLOW: Welcome back. President Trump's former campaign chairman wants to use his condo at Trump Tower as collateral for a bit of freedom as he awaits trial. Paul Manafort and his co-defendant, former Trump campaign aide, Rick Gates, arrived in court just moments ago.
Our Jessica Schneider is outside of the courthouse in Washington with more. So, this is -- I mean, they're trying to bargain here. They're trying to use their assets to get some freedom so they can move around a few places?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Poppy. Paul Manafort's lawyers expected to press the judge to release Paul Manafort from the conditions of house arrest. He's been under it since last Monday when that indictment was unsealed.
The lawyers for Paul Manafort are saying that they will put up as collateral his properties. They include properties at Trump Tower in New York City, as well as his property in Palm Beach. They also say, look, he surrendered his three passports, he cannot apply for another one. That should be sufficient.
But prosecutors are pushing back here. They're expected to argue that Paul Manafort and Rick Gates still flight risks because of their enormous wealth, the exact number is still being debated in those court papers.
So right now, they are up in the courtroom. This is the third appearance for both of these men since last Monday and they have been, under those conditions of house arrest, for the past week. They've been wearing GPS monitoring.
So today, they will once again hear from the lawyers, trying to get those bail terms modified, get them out of house arrest. And in addition, they're looking to schedule that trial date. Right now, it looks like it may not be until May 2018, Poppy. Pushing this case well into next summer. Of course, keeping Russia in the spotlight, as we head into the midterm congressional races -- Poppy.
HARLOW: Absolutely. Jessica Schneider outside the courthouse, thank you so much.
Also, I'm sure you've seen it by now, kremlin cash funneled into Facebook and Twitter. A member of the Trump administration with financial ties to a firm linked to Vladimir Putin's family. It is becoming, really, the beginning of what is coming out of these so- called paradise papers.
They were revealed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. They pored over 13 million-plus documents covering over 70 years. All of this leaked by a law firm based until Bermuda.
Joining me now, our CNN Money correspondent, Cristina Alesci, who follows the intersection of money and politics. This could not be more in the heart of your beat. Let's dive into this. Everyone is seeing the headlines, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross this morning tied to this. Why?
CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, these documents make a very important link between one of Wilbur Ross' companies, a shipping company called Navigator and Russian elites. Look, we knew about Wilbur Ross' investment in this shipping company called Navigator.
What we didn't know is that one of the biggest customers of this company are elite Russians, one of whom is Putin's son-in-law. So, this is a very direct link and at the end of the day, against the backdrop of all of these investigations and questions into the administration's link financial or otherwise to Russia --