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Gunman Escaped Mental Health Facility; Local Business Offers to Pay for Funerals; DOD Nominee on Assault Rifles; Trump Calls for Deal. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired November 7, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me.

We do have some breaking news here. This stunning red flag somehow overlooked in the story out of Texas here. The gunman who murdered 26 people inside that church in Texas escaped a New Mexico mental health facility. This was back in 2002. That's according to documents from the El Paso Police Department obtained by our CNN affiliate KVIA. A police report was written after Kelley went missing. Officers were told Kelley was a danger to himself and others. And quoting this report here, he had already been caught sneaking firearms into Holloman Air Force Base. This report also says the gunman made death threats on his military chain of command.

Also just into us, authorities in Texas say they are having a hard time accessing the gunman's cell phone.


CHRISTOPHER COMBS, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: The phone of the subject was turned over to us. We flew that on a DPS plane last night to Quantico. They're in the process of looking at the phone. Unfortunately at this point in time, we are unable to get into that phone. So it actually highlights an issue that you've all heard about before. With the advance of the technology in the phones and the encryptions, law enforcement, whether it's at the state, local or the federal level, is increasingly not able to get into these phones.


BALDWIN: Despite that, we are learning much more about the shooter's violent past, the minutes he took to unleash hundreds and hundreds of bullets into this small sanctuary, and the critical lapse that allowed him to buy guns. He posted an image of this rifle one week before this massacre inside the Southerland Springs church.

The Air Force admits it failed. It failed to inform civilian law enforcement about the shooter's 2012 domestic violence conviction. The gunman attacked his first wife and even cracked the skull of his stepson. In 2014, he had his puppy removed from his home because of an animal cruelty charge. And the pastor of the church that was targeted Sunday morning, who knew the killer, shared this with the sheriff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Is there anything that investigators are telling you as far as, you know, how this might have been some kind of a revenge issue with his family?

SHERIFF JOE TACKITT, WILSON COUNTY, TEXAS: It's a possibility. They've said that he was thinking that his mother-in-law was in the church probably and, you know, that's who he was targeting.

But, I mean, as you know, all the other lives that he took and all the people that he injured, I mean, it's senseless. You know, his mother- in-law was not even there that day.


BALDWIN: Let's go straight to the scene, to our national correspondent, Dianna Gallagher, in Southerland Springs.

And, Dianne, I man let's begin with -- with this information we're getting from the El Paso Police Department, that he suffered from mental disorders, had been sneaking -- caught sneaking firearms into this Air Force base. What more are we learning?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, Brooke, this is something that's just coming out of -- these documents were obtained by our affiliate KVIA. But this is something that hasn't been mentioned before by the Air Force, by law enforcement. As we've been trying to pull apart what has led up to this shooting here.

Now, it's no secret that he had a violent past. We knew about the assault charges. We knew about the conviction, that he spent a year in military prison because of the assault on his now ex-wife and then stepson. We know about the animal cruelty charges. But this does add another wrinkle to the situation here. At this point we have been told at least that there were not any known mental issues but -- mental health issues, but, that, of course, it was all still under investigation.

So now we're learning that in 2012, June of 2012, he escaped from this mental health facility in New Mexico and they found him at essentially a travel center, a bus stop of sorts, trying to leave. Now, this, again, just a couple months after those assault charges were weighed against him with his then wife and stepson. At the time they noted that he was facing a court martial in the military and that he had levied threats against his military superiors. Again, none of this is mentioned.

But the report did indicate at least that it had been entered into NCIS. So we're still sort of trying to figure out why this wasn't listed somewhere in the documentation when he was trying to obtain weapons, especially since, as you said, it -- the report states that he tried to get firearms onto an Air Force base in the past.

So this complicates the story even more, Brooke, as we're trying to figure out how this coincides, how this sort of mixes with that violent past. And, once again, why none of this was flagged into the civilian system, into the FBI database, to prevent him from getting those firearms.

BALDWIN: So as we're learning more and more about clearly his violent past, we now have learned from law enforcement there that they can't get into his phone because of encryption issues.

[14:05:12] GALLAGHER: Yes. This is a story that we have heard before, Brooke. If you remember with San Bernardino, a similar situation.


GALLAGHER: In fact, the FBI started off by saying, this is something that we dealt with before. We're going to work at this as hard as we can until we get into that phone.

He wouldn't tell us what kind of phone it was. And the FBI agent basically said it's because he didn't want criminals knowing what kind of phone to use. But he alluded to the fact that this was similar to other high profile cases in which encryption is preventing them from getting into that phone.

And we already know, Brooke, that his social media footprint is giving investigators a better look at his frame of mind at the time. They say that he seemed obsessed with mass shootings recently, obsessed with violence online recently. And also they're not giving a motive, but they have reiterated that he had this ongoing dispute with his family, with his in-laws. They said it again today, Brooke, they said that he couldn't let go this grudge. He couldn't let go of his issue with his in-laws at the time. Sources tell us that he sent a threatening text message to his mother-in-law, who attended this church but wasn't at the service that he chose to go into the morning of the shooting, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Twenty-six people as a result have been murdered, including as young as 17 months.

Dianne Gallagher, please stay on this and please ask all the right questions into his past.

Let me -- let me move off of that and just talk a little bit about this heroes reunion after so much heartache there in Sutherland Springs. These two strangers who police credit for stopping this mass murder reunited for the first time at a vigil. The first time they met, no time for names. One of them didn't even have shoes, as they perused this killer. The man on the right here is Stephen Willeford, is the former NRA instructor who confronted the killer and shot him twice. The man on the left here, this is Johnnie Langendorff, is the driver Willeford got to chase the gunman. Here now the men's stories in their own words.


STEPHEN WILLEFORD, CHASED GUNMAN: My house is down on the corner over there. Right past that sign.

Yes, I could hear the shots, pop, pop, pop. JOHNNIE LANGENDORFF, CHASED GUNMAN: I saw the shooter coming out about

where the cars were parked. And the other gentleman coming from across the street. He had no shoes on or nothing, but he was -- he was ready to act.

WILLEFORD: All I'm thinking is, I've to get there. I've got -- I've got to stop what's happening.

LANGENDORFF: Both had weapons drawn. And in a matter of half a second, there was an exchange of gunfire.

WILLEFORD: I was standing -- standing behind a pickup truck for cover.

This -- this car has a bullet hole in the window. He was shooting at me. And one in the house over here. I saw his side and that's what I shot for. I knew that that would be where that tactical gear did not cover.

LANGENDORFF: The shooter got in his vehicle and took off.

WILLEFORD: He shot twice more through the window.

And then a guy had watched this whole thing take place. I ran over.

LANGENDORFF: I opened my door and said, he just shot up the church and we've got to chase him. And I said, let's go, because that's what you do. You chase the bad guy.

WILLEFORD: I was scared like you can't even imagine I was scared.

LANGENDORFF: We didn't even stop at this intersection. We just buzzed right on through.

I crossed dispatch once we crossed the intersection over 87 from the church to let them know that we were northbound 539 in pursuit of the shooter's vehicle.

WILLEFORD: He was driving at a high rate of speed.

LANGENDORFF: Every time I looked down at the speedometer it was at 90 or 95.

WILLEFORD: And we were trying to pass cars and catch up.

LANGENDORFF: We thought he was going to come to a stop, but when he slowed down, he just took out a street sign.

WILLEFORD: It flipped over the truck.

LANGENDORFF: He sped up again and lost control of his vehicle, hitting the guardrail, and then from there went into the (INAUDIBLE) ditch.

WILLEFORD: And Johnnie stopped the truck on the road and I told him, I said, get down, get down.

LANGENDORFF: And he was telling them to get out, get out. And the shooter never got out. But we barricaded behind my truck until police showed up.

WILLEFORD: I'm -- I wasn't going to let him go anywhere.

LANGENDORFF: He was very much a hero. He acted -- he acted quicker than he could think as well.

WILLEFORD: But I knew something had to happen. (INAUDIBLE) I love those people there. And I love the people that are in there.

And every time I heard a shot, I knew that that probably represented a life. And the man driving the truck was -- was -- I found out later his name is Johnnie.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, "AC 360": Knowing what you know now, I mean would you do the same thing over again?

LANGENDORFF: I would do it 100 times over, sir.


BALDWIN: And the white beard you saw Stephen Willeford's white beard. He says he's been growing it for the Santa charity parade he does every year. It's an event he says he usually does with the people of the First Baptist Church.

And so many of the people of the church in Sutherland Springs are now facing a quite and sorrowful dilemma, how to pay for the burials of many in the small Texas town.

[14:10:10] And that is where my next guest is stepping in. He is Robert Dixon Tips, the owner of Mission Park Funeral Chapels and Cemeteries and he is offering to pay for the funerals for the victims of this tragedy.

Mr. Tips, thank you so much for joining me.


BALDWIN: The second I heard that so many of these good people would have a tough time affording this, I know -- I just knew the good people of Texas would jump in in any way they can. How exactly are you all helping?

TIPS: Brooke, we're a family business. It started basically at the turn of the century, 1907. And we've been helping families for, you know, over a century. We're in our second century of business. And there's just no way that Mission Park in San Antonio and the Texans that we serve and the families that we serve, that we're not going to sit identically by and watch this happen. This coward not -- didn't have a clue as to what was going on. And to walk into a church and to take innocent people from a church, from a church service on a Sunday, is just -- it's incredible to me. I mean it's just -- again, it's just such an act -- a cowardly act.

And we're going to be here to help these families through the most difficult time of their lives and help them with these services, whether they need caskets, whether they need services, whether they need grieve counseling, we're here to help.

BALDWIN: So all of what you just mentioned, you know, services, to flowers, to caskets. I mean -- I'm sure you are modest, but you're offering a lot.

TIPS: I am. That's exactly right. Because, you know what, it means a lot.

BALDWIN: It's my understanding that you have a personal connection to all of this. Can you share that with me?

TIPS: We have a dear friend of ours who was involved with -- was caught up with this and lost a loved one. And we're helping not only them, but we're going to help every family that we can possibly -- as much as we can possibly do. There's not everything in the world that we can do. However, if someone needs some assistance from us in the form of casket and they want to use some other -- another facility, I'm going to donate that right now. Just -- if they need services, they can use any one of our facilities. And there's going to be no financial burden to these families. We're going to get them through a very difficult time. Again through not only by what we can do, but with what so many other people are coming forth with.

The last gentleman that you just had on, what a hero. I mean those two gentlemen, fantastic that they actually, you know, were there and kept it from being worse. Again, this person is just nothing more than a coward and pitiful at best.

BALDWIN: Your generosity is extraordinary. You and your business. You all are one example. But can you just give me other examples of how this community is coming together in this time of need?

TIPS: Yes, ma'am. I think everybody's coming together in Texas. I mean -- I mean the outpouring from them, I mean that's the beauty of what we have down here in San Antonio. We're mom and pop shops. We are -- we are -- we have -- we have -- I have children myself. I'm a late bloomer. I've got five year (ph) old (ph) children. And it's just something that I just want to make sure that -- I mean all I have left is my reputation and my children and my family and my faith and my freedom. And I'm going to tell you what, we're going to do the best we can to help out, you know, these families in Sutherland Springs.

The amount of issues that they're going to be dealing with afterwards is going to be something that, when all the cameras leave and everybody goes away, that they're going to need help. And we're going to be here with grief counseling. If they want to come and visit with somebody, we're going to have somebody here to try to help them through this, because this is just absolutely horrendous.

BALDWIN: I appreciate you. I know this special community appreciates you too. Mr. Tips, thank you for your time and your generosity.

TIPS: Thank you, Brooke for your time. We appreciate you.

BALDWIN: Thank you, sir. Thank you.

TIPS: Yes, ma'am.

BALDWIN: Just in to us here at CNN, one of President Trump nominee for a spot in the Defense Department just said that it is quote/unquote insane that Americans can buy guns like the one used in that church shooting. We have more for you there. Stand by for that.

Also, is President Trump flipping the script on North Korea? After recently invoking talk of fire and fury and referring to the dictator as rocket man, President Trump now taking a noticeable shift in tone calling on North Korea to come to the table and make a deal to end the nuclear standoff.

All of this ahead of the president's major speech this evening in South Korea. We will look at what exactly the president is proposing.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


[14:19:17] BALDWIN: We are back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

The news coming out of Texas has prompted a strong rebuke from President Trump's nominee for the Department of Defense. President Trump, as you well know, staunch defender of the Second Amendment, but his nominee for assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, Dr. Dean Winslow, said, in speaking in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee today, his word, insane. That it's insane people can buy this kind of gun used in Sunday's church shooting.

So let's go to Jim Sciutto, CNN's chief national security correspondent.

And, you know, Dr. Winslow even acknowledges, you know, the quote, I may get in trouble with other members, you know, right, of the committee here by saying this, but still it's noteworthy the use of the word insane.

[14:20:02] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question. And let's keep in mind here, the Department of Defense, specifically the Air Force, is involved in this because --


SCIUTTO: The Texas shooter, as you know, and as you've talked a lot about on your air, Brooke, had -- was a veteran of the Air Force. He was discharged for bad conduct, for violence -- domestic violence against his wife, fracturing the skull of his son. So this answer came to a question from Senator Jeanne Shaheen who asked -- who asked him, the nominee, if it was acceptable that someone who was discharged under these conditions should be allowed to buy a weapon. And that's when he went further, in effect, kind of dodged on that question, but went further on the weapon itself. Let's have a listen.


DR. DEAN WINSLOW, NOMINEE, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR HEALTH AFFAIRS: But I'd also like to -- and I may get in trouble with other members of the committee -- just say, you know, how insane it is that in the United States of America a civilian can go out and buy a fully -- or a semi-automatic assault rifle like the AR-15, which apparently was the weapon that was used. I think that's an issue not as much for this committee but elsewhere.


SCIUTTO: And to be clear, Brooke, I should note that this nominee doesn't come from nowhere. He himself is a retired Air Force general. So he has some experience in the military himself.

And the other words in there besides the insane one, Brook, that drew my attention is his use of the phrase assault rifle, because, as you know, that is a -- somewhat of a politically charged phrase. There are some in the NRA or supporters who will say that that just doesn't exist as a thing. And, therefore, to categorize this weapon as something distinct from others, that there's a whole, you know, kind of sliding scale of weapons, et cetera. But even the term assault rifle is on that's politically charged.

I should also note this, that Senator John McCain, who was, of course, as well on the Senate Armed Services Committee, when he heard that answer, his response was to say to Dr. Winslow that this is out of your area of responsibility and expertise for him to comment on this.

BALDWIN: That's the senator's response. We'll see if the president responds from his perch in Seoul on Twitter.

Jim Sciutto, thank you very much.

SCIUTTO: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Standing -- speaking of Korea, standing just miles from a nuclear armed North Korea, President Trump has dropped his taunts of a rocket man and threats of fire and fury in favor of a more optimistic tone.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a nuclear submarine also positioned. We have many things happening that we hope, we hope, in fact, I'll go a step further, we hope to God we never have to use. With that being said, I really believe that it makes sense for North Korea to come to the table and to make a deal that's good for the people of North Korea and the people of the world. I do see certain movement, yes, but let's see what happens.


BALDWIN: In just a couple of hours, President Trump will deliver a major speech there from South Korea, laying out how he wants to contain the North Korea nuclear threat and pressing other nations like China and Russia to tighten the screws on Pyongyang.

So with me now, Bruce Klingner, former CIA deputy division chief for Korea. He has spoken with North Korean officials as recently as this past June.

So, Bruce, always a pleasure. Welcome back.


BALDWIN: What do you make of the change in tone from the president?

KLINGNER: It certainly is a change in tone, as you point out, from the fire and fury and threatening to destroy North Korea. But we've had a number of conflicting signals from senior officials in the administration. Some including the president's signaling the U.S. may do a preventive attack to prevent North Korea from completing an ICBM and also signaling to Secretary of State Tillerson not to bother with diplomacy. But also other times the president has said he'd be honored to meet with Kim Jong-un, that he'd be willing to meet, that there's potentially you could get him to negotiate away the nuclear weapons. So --

BALDWIN: Said it as recently as this weekend.

KLINGNER: Right. So, you know, we have had different signals, whether it's part of a strategy or sort of, you know, a bit of confusion within the administration over signaling, you know, we debate amongst ourselves.

BALDWIN: All right. So I'm hearing you many. And we talked about this, the mixed messages is one way to put it coming out of the administration on how to handle North Korea. Do you think, though, perhaps a reason why the tone change is because, I mean, listen, the president is out of the Washington bubble. He is standing in Korea, not too terribly far from the North.

KLINGNER: Right. There was a lot of concerns before the president arrived in Korea whether he would have very bombastic language, which could raise tension even further and perhaps even lead to a miscalculation by North Korea. So certainly our allies will welcome a more measured tone that it is perhaps signaling a willingness to have diplomacy but, of course, always having the U.S. willing to defend ourselves and our allies if North Korea does decide to attack.

[14:25:01] BALDWIN: We know -- and so tonight, in a couple of hours, it will be Wednesday morning Seoul time, he speaks to the Korean National Assembly. What we're learning here at CNN about the speech, he's specifically going to put pressure on China and Russia to do more to isolate North Korea. We know that he is planning on this pull aside with Putin, an ally of North Korea, in help in confronting them. What does he need to say, Bruce, tonight to bring China and Russia into the fold?

KLINGNER: Well, I hope he articulates sort of a clearer picture of what the administration's policy is on North Korea. In talking with officials, I think, you know, you detect a much more coherent, much more nuanced strategy than on gets just from hearing the public messaging. So I think if he articulates that, it would make much more sense to not only our allies but also to Russia and China.

Also, I think he needs to affirm that the U.S. support for our allies, we will defend them if North Korea does threaten to attack. But also just, you know, emphasize that the reason we are where we are is because of North Korea's repeated violations of U.N. resolutions and international laws, defiance of the international community. And that if China and Russia continue to hold back on pressuring, it's only going to encourage Pyongyang to go down the path toward the crisis that neither of those countries wants.

BALDWIN: I should point out, I was in Korea just a couple of weeks ago. I was talking to a number of members of the military who are stationed there, precariously close -- closely to the North. When I talked to a number of Americans, ex-pats, you know, teaching English, business people who choose to live there, I know one of the questions I posed to them was, who worries you more? Is it -- is it Kim Jong-un or is it actually President Trump? I'm going to leave you with the tease. But their answer was overwhelming. And that is coming up next hour from this piece from Seoul.

Bruce, thank you so very much.

KLINGNER: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Bruce Klingner for us.

More on our breaking news. The gunman in this church shooting in Texas had escaped a mental health facility after he assaulted his ex-wife and stepson. This as we are learning about even more red flags about his violent past.

Plus, extraordinary new details about the lengths Harvey Weinstein went to protect himself, including reporting that he had hired a team of elite spies to dig up dirt on his accusers, and also on journalists as well.

We'll be right back.