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North Korea Watches Trump; China's Role with North Korea; Russia's Role with North Korea; Shooter In Texas Denied Gun; Three Generations Gone; 26 Killed At Baptist Church. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired November 6, 2017 - 13:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.

We begin with breaking news. Police say the massacre at a small Texas church may have resulted from family problems. They say Devin Patrick Kelley, the gunman who killed 26 people and wounded 20 others, was involved in a dispute with his mother-in-law.


FREEMAN MARTIN, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY, TEXAS: But we can tell you that there was a domestic situation going on within this family. The suspect's mother-in-law attended this church. We know that he had made threatened -- she had received threatening texts from him.


BLITZER: Authorities say they recovered three weapons. So, one at the scene, two from Kelley's vehicle.

But the Texas governor says this state had denied Kelley a license to carry a gun. Let's go to our Correspondent Brian Todd. He's on the scene for us in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Brian, you got the latest on the investigation. What more do we know about this domestic trouble involving the gunman's mother-in-law and what have we learned about how he got his weapons?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, officials said that the gunman had expressed anger toward his mother-in-law. That there was a domestic situation involved in this -- in this entire thing.

As you have just mentioned, officials telling us that he had sent threatening texts to his mother-in-law. And one law enforcement official, a source with knowledge of this investigation, telling CNN that the mother-in-law received a threatening text from him the morning of the shooting.

So, that's what we can tell you about the situation with the mother- in-law. That there was tension there, at least with his in-laws. Officials telling us that his in-laws did attend this church, the First Baptist Church, on occasion, but that they were not there at the time of the shooting.

Officials saying that they arrived on scene after the shooting. The sheriff of this county told us also that the wife of the shooter, possibly an estranged wife, also may have attended this church. So, he did have some kind of a connection to this church, at least through his in-laws, Wolf.

Now, as for how he purchased the weapons. Officials said he had at least three weapons that he -- that he had purchased. Well, four that he had purchased. Three that he had with him here at the scene. Two were hand guns found in his car. And, of course, that AR-556 assault rifle.

So, he purchased two of those weapons in Colorado, officials say. And he purchased two of them in Texas. They believe he purchased the AR- 556 assault rifle in the San Antonio area last year.

There was a big question as to whether he, legally, had the ability to purchase that since he had been discharged from the Air Force, a bad conduct discharge for assaulting his spouse and child, and had been incarcerated for about 12 months because of that.

He then got out and remarried in 2014. Officials still trying to piece together, Wolf, how he was able to purchase a weapon when they say, legally he probably should not have been able to purchase that -- at least that kind of a weapon with the record that he had.

One other riveting piece of information coming from that news conference, Wolf. Officials saying that as he sped away from the scene, Devin Patrick Kelley called his own father and said that he had been shot and that he didn't think he was going to make it.

They say that, shortly after that, they believe he took his own life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. They say he may have done that.

It's not quite clear, Wolf, whether he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound or whether he died from a wound that he got when he exchanged gunfire with a samaritan who arrived on the scene and exchanged gunfire with him just outside this church -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. With the record that he had, it's hard to believe, Ryan, that this shooter actually worked as a security guard for a water park for a short period of time over the summer. A, how did he get that job with that record. He spent a year in a military prison for beating up his wife and a young kid. And how did that end?

TODD: Well, it ended, Wolf, with him being terminated from that job after about five and a half months, I believe, on the job. And they said that they don't, really, state the reason why he was terminated from it.

But they did say he was an unarmed security guard at the Schlitterbahn Waterpark in New Braunfels, Texas, about 30 miles or so away from here. That's his hometown.

So, how he got the job, not quite clear. We're still piecing that together. But he was an unarmed security guard. He had tried to get a license to carry a firearm. And, according to Governor Greg Abbott, he was denied a license.

They are trying to piece together how he came upon the ability to get this AR-556 assault rifle that he, apparently, bought last year near San Antonio.

BLITZER: Yes, lots of questions being raised, understandably so. Brian Todd, thanks very, very much.

The youngest victim of the Texas church massacre was just 17 months old. The oldest 77. And one of those killed was the pastor's 14- year-old daughter. His wife spoke out through her grief.


[13:05:03] SHERRI POMEROY: We don't want to overshadow the other lives lost yesterday. We lost more than Belle yesterday. And one thing that gives me a sliver of encouragement is the fact that Belle was surrounded yesterday by her church family that she loved fiercely.

Our building is probably beyond repair. And the 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 yesterday.


BLITZER: Our Correspondent Diane Gallagher is joining us now with more on the truly devastating losses in this very small, close-knit community.

Diane, the sheriff says nearly every member of the congregation was affected at least in some way, including the pastor and his wife. How are they coping with this tragedy?

DIANE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as you heard there, just, sort of, trying to come together and support one another.

I want to talk a bit about 14-year-old Annabelle Pomeroy because her family did come up. They spoke. They said they don't want her to overshadow it. But this is a little girl who, by all accounts, was so dedicated to her faith. And such a beautiful soul.

I want to you listen to some video that we have of her. Because this church did tend to videotape. They broadcast their services. From back in July, signing within what she had to say and what she thought about forgiveness.


ANNABELLE POMEROY: If you believe in him, you can get out of your cage. You cannot be -- you can forgive people. You can stay with your friends. You can. Even though Satan has a target with -- for you, you still believe in him and that you still -- you can still believe in him and have faith with him. (END VIDEO CLIP)

GALLAGHER: And those words from that young little girl, seemingly holding people together leaning on their faith there. Wolf, another just purely tragic moment in this shooting. A family -- eight members of that family, including a pregnant woman killed in this.

I want to go through because we have spoken to a family member who has helped us identify them. Bryan and Karla Holcombe. Bryan was the substitute pastor at that time during the shooting. Their son, Danny Holcombe. Danny's daughter, Noah Holcomb, who was just 17 months old. Crystal Holcombe who was the wife of their other son, Bryan and Karla's other son, she was two months pregnant and then three of Crystal's five children. The other two and her husband all in the hospital.

The ripple effect of this shooting, just on that one family, beyond even just the 26 there, showing that, really, Wolf, this shooting has wiped out a generation of that family right now. Something that this community, it's so small, it's just a few hundred people, is going to have to cope. Not just in the coming weeks but, really, forever.

BLITZER: Such a sad, sad story. All right, Diane, thanks very, very much.

I want to get some perspective from our Law Enforcement Analyst Charles Ramsey. He's the former Washington D.C. police chief, former Philadelphia police commissioner as well.

Chief, thanks so much for coming in. Authorities say this killer, this gunman, actually sent his mother-in-law a very threatening message the morning of the massacre. But the family did not contact authorities. That's not unusual but it's very significant.

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it is significant. We don't know the nature of the threats, if they were physical or whatever. But I think it's also important to remember that this woman has been dealing with this guy for a long time now.

And I'm not sure it's not the first time that he's done something like that, in terms of threats. I mean, obviously, he assaulted his wife and child to a point where he did a year in jail. So, he's had issues for a long time.

Of course, when we look at it in retrospect, we all -- you know, why didn't you call the police? But at the time, how could you possibly know he was going to go and shoot the people that he shot in a church.

BLITZER: I know you're not an expert on gun laws in Texas or Oklahoma or Colorado, any of the states out there. But it's -- you know, it's a fact that when he served in the U.S. Air Force, he was court- martialed for bad conduct.

RAMSEY: Right.

BLITZER: Beating up his wife and a little kid. Spent a year in military brig, in a prison.

And then, he was dishonorably discharged for bad conduct. Are you supposed to be able to go out and buy -- he bought four weapons after that over four years. Is that normal? Is that OK?

RAMSEY: No, it's not OK. But, I mean, gun laws vary, number one, from state to state. Common sense would tell you that this guy ought to be, you know, denied a gun. In fact, my understanding is he was denied one permit to carry.

BLITZER: To carry a concealed weapon.

RAMSEY: A concealed carry. But he was able to purchase an assault weapon. So, it just makes no sense. There are too many loopholes.

And we need to have a serious discussion about how to fix it and actually take action this time which, quite frankly, I'm not optimistic that's not going to happen.

[13:10:05] BLITZER: And he recently had a job as a security guard --

RAMSEY: Right.

BLITZER: -- at a water park? How does that happen --

RAMSEY: Well, --

BLITZER: -- given that record.

RAMSEY: -- they ran a background check, apparently that didn't show up. I mean, these are military records. And whether or not they had access to that particular file, I really don't know the answer to that. But, again, probably his behavior is what led to his dismissal with that job.

So, again, this guy has had a troubled history and no one picked up on it. But then, again, you know, how do you know he's going to come in and murder that many people in a church on a Sunday.

BLITZER: But based on what you know, if you do have a bad military record, isn't that made available, in terms of purchasing guns or getting security background checks and stuff like that? And dealing with the public and the public security?

RAMSEY: You would think so. But I don't know if that's something that's standard where you, really, can get into the files. I'm not certain if that's the case. You certainly can look at your own state files and find out whether or not a person has been arrested, for a felony or misdemeanor or what have you.

But whether or not you can actually get the military background like that, I'm not really certain.

BLITZER: So, they're going to do a complete review, a complete investigation, local authorities in Texas, state authorities, federal authorities, the FBI is involved, the ATF. They're going to do the complete review.

If you were part of that review, what lessons would you learn to try to make sure that this doesn't happen again?

RAMSEY: Well, first of all, with the current laws we have in this country, you can't make certain that it won't happen again. We'll be back here again, talking about another mass shooting. The only thing that's going to change is the location of where it occurs.

I mean, how many times do we have to do this before we realize we have a problem and really look for some kind of a national solution without infringing upon people's second amendment rights? I'm not anti-gun. But we've got to do something. We can't keep going through this over and over again.

So, we can examine it. There'll be some people that'll talk about it for a brief period of time. And then, it'll go right back to the way it is right now.

BLITZER: Chief Ramsey, thanks, as usual, for coming in.

RAMSEY: Thank you.

BLITZER: Despite two of the five deadliest shootings in modern U.S. history taking place in the past month alone, the president says the problem here is mental health, not guns. A Democratic senator is standing by. He'll join us live to respond.

Plus, the Russian lawyer at the center of the infamous Trump Tower meeting just made a very significant claim about what Donald Trump Jr. said during that meeting. We have new details.

And what happened to Rand Paul, a sitting U.S. senator assaulted inside his own home. And now, we're learning his injuries are far more serious than previously thought.


[13:16:35] BLITZER: President Trump set to arrive in South Korea later today as he continues his tour of Asia. Before his arrival, he delivered yet another warning to North Korea.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The era of strategic patience is over. Some people said that my rhetoric is very strong. But look what's happened with very weak rhetoric over the last 25 years. Look where we are right now.


BLITZER: The president wrapped up the Japanese leg of his tour with one of his closest allies in the region, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The two had formal dinners. They played golf together. Something Abe has described as golf diplomacy with Trump. They also spent much of their time discussing the North Korean threat and the Japanese leader said he's in agreement with President Trump on North Korea. Japan said it's even planning to buy new missile defense equipment from the United States.

CNN's Will Ripley is in North Korea for us right now, where he says the country is keeping a very close eye on the Trump visit.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I just arrived here in Pyongyang and met with local government officials here who say they're watching very closely what President Trump does and they're listening to what he says during his Asia trip.

He's in Japan right now, soon heading to South Korea, a very sensitive spot for the North Koreans, as the U.S. president will be standing and speaking just miles from where I am here in the North Korean capital.

And the North Korean officials I met with warned the U.S. president not to do anything, in their words, crazy, because they say North Korea is prepared to respond powerfully. And they even have said something they've reiterated in the past, that they believe the United States, through its rhetoric and by putting air craft carriers off the Korean peninsula and conducting naval exercises as we speak, they believe the United States is pushing the situation in this region to the brink of an all-out war.

But it's actually been more than seven weeks since North Korea has conducted a live military test, like a nuclear explosion or a missile launch. And, in fact, the lead story in the local newspapers here, Kim Jong-un visiting a cosmetics factory. And we've seen a number of images in these recent weeks of the North Korean leader conducting these field inspections.

It might seem strange considering everything else that's happening for North Korean media to be focusing on things like a cosmetics factory, but in many ways images like this are actually pretty reassuring for North Koreans because it reminds them that their leader is still fulfilling a promise that he made to grow this country's economy despite sanctions, despite pressure to stop the nuclear program.

But he did give a speech last month saying that this country will need to conduct more tests to round off the nuclear force. They think they're very close, Wolf, to developing an intercontinental ballistic missile that could deliver a nuclear warhead to anywhere in the mainland U.S.


BLITZER: All right, Will, thanks very much.

Will Ripley on a 17th visit to North Korea right now.

With us right now is Laura Rosenberger. She's a former member of the Six Party Talks delegation on North Korea under President Obama, also served at the State Department in the National Security Council, served in the Bush administration as well. Laura, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: So what do you think about this new strategy that the president has now discussed. No more strategic patience. It's going to be full force ahead, if you will. There's going to be a change in U.S. tone and a change in U.S. policy towards North Korea.

ROSENBERGER: You know, Wolf, what we need is a really comprehensive strategy that brings together all of the tools of American power. That's pressure through sanctions. That's increased defense -- defense capabilities to make sure that we can defend against any North Korean threats and deter any action from them. And it means providing a diplomatic off-ramp. Pressure is not an end in and of itself. It has to lead to somewhere. And the goal remains denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

[13:20:18] What I don't see is the actual bringing together of all those tools in a comprehensive strategy. I've seen a lot of, you know, the president's talking about tough words. I think that's fine if it's matched up with an actual -- with the actual elements of a strategy. And that's what I think is lacking. We've seen him contradict Secretary Tillerson on the question of direct talks. That, I think, undercuts anything that we would be trying to actually do.

BLITZER: But there has been at least a modest improvement in China's involvement. China's playing a more assertive role. They have a lot of pressure. They have a lot of ability to affect North Korea's policies.

ROSENBERGER: China absolutely plays an important role here. I think it's important, though, that we bear in mind China's interests with North Korea are never going to be the same as the United States interests with North Korea. So we have to, you know, keep in mind that they're never going to be able to do everything we want them to do.

That being said, there's no question they need to do more. We've seen, in the past, times when China has stepped up. Unfortunately, those efforts are often are short lived and get walked back. I think what's going to be key here is, are we actually seeing a strategic reorientation of China's approach, or are these short-term, tactical moves designed to get U.S. pressure off their backs. And I worry that it could be the latter.

BLITZER: Later in the week the president is going to be meeting with the Russian President Putin. As far as North Korea is concerned, how significant could that meeting be? Because Russia has relations clearly with North Korea as well.

ROSENBERGER: They do. And, in fact, as relations between China and North Korea have gone south in the past couple of years, Russia has stepped into the breech and tried to fill a little bit of both the political relationship space and the economic relationship space.

So I think there is a role that Russia could play here. I'm personally skeptical about how much the Russians are actually going to be able to do. We've seen a lack of willingness on the Russian part to play a constructively role. I think they've been playing a very problematic role when it comes to North Korea. And my concern is that given some of the president's other proclivities towards Russia, I worry that President Putin may be able to sell something to President Trump that sounds really good but actually isn't furthering the U.S. interests.

BLITZER: Very quickly. During this U.S. presidential visit to Asia, do you think the North Korean's will launch another missile or have a nuclear test?

ROSENBERGER: I think it's very possible. I think there's, you know, no way of knowing for sure. Kim Jong-un certainly loves to try to turn the attention back to himself. I think anything that he could do that would try to demonstrate space between the United States and our ally in Seoul or our ally in Tokyo would be a goal of anything they would do. And so I think if there is such an action, it's incredibly important that we demonstrate a completely unified approach with our allies.

BLITZER: Laura Rosenberger, thanks very much for coming in.

ROSENBERGER: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Much more on the breaking news coming in to CNN out of Texas, where we're now learning the gunman sent threats to his mother-in-law, including a text message on the morning of the massacre. Plus, we have new details on what the shooter was wearing when he walked into that church.

And what happened to Senator Rand Paul? A sitting United States senator assaulted inside his own home. And now we're learning his injuries are far more serious than previously thought.


[13:27:32] BLITZER: We continue to follow breaking news out of Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Twenty-six people killed when a gunman walked into a rural Baptist church and started shooting. That makes this shooting the fifth deadliest in modern U.S. history.

Let's get some perspective. CNN's Tom Foreman is standing by.

Tom, give us some perspective on this.


These numbers are really very sobering if you look at what has happened in terms of these big, mass shootings in our country.

Of course Las Vegas, back here in October, 58. The Pulse Nightclub, 49. That was 2016. Virginia Tech, 2007, 32 killed. December 2012, 27 at Sandy Hook. And then the First Baptist Church, which jut has arrived here, 26 killed. So take a look at this, in the past 36 days, a little bit over a

month, we've had the shooting in Las Vegas and the shooting at Sutherland Springs.

Now, I want to notice something, though, about these numbers, though, a I want to show you a different statistic. Because if you look at this and say, how is this all happen in this way, look at the overall number of mass shootings in this country in the past 310 days, 307 mass shootings. People will say, well, how can that be if those other numbers are spread out over a period of years. It has everything to do with how you're counting them.

Shootings like Sutherland Springs, Las Vegas, all of us agree those are mass shootings because they are big, they involve somebody who's basically a stranger to the victims, who simply indiscriminately shoots a lot of people. They're not robbing a store and they shoot people. This is just that.

Gun Violence Archive, which is the group behind this particular metric, is simply saying, any time four people are shot in the same place in the same incident, not fatalities, merely shot, that counts as a mass shooting. So you could have two drug gangs shooting at each other. That could be a mass shooting. You could have somebody who killed four members of their family and then killed themselves, that would also be a mass shooting under this metric.

More importantly, though, and I think this is really worth bearing in mind in this conversation, when you look at this increase in the number year to year to year, if you go by Gun Violence Archives metrics here, more importantly is the new number out of the CDC late last week which said that 2015, 2016, after 15 years of gun violence in this country either going down or being basically flat, 2015, 2016, their latest numbers show it is ticking upward. Broad base. That's really something that is maybe for lawmakers a more worrisome number than these individual, horrific events. As bad as they are, they may not tell us a whole lot about gun violence overall. That basic number that we're getting from the CDC, the latest update, that does tell us something, and that is that it is increasing.

[13:30:11] Wolf.

BLITZER: Very -- very, very significant.