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Family Mourns Loved Ones Killed in Attack; Warriors Coach On gun Control; Election Day Across the U.S.; Democratic Party Turmoil; Remembering the Texas Church Victims. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired November 7, 2017 - 08:30   ET



[08:31:33] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We're learning more about the 26 people who were killed at that First Baptist Church in Southerland Springs, Texas.

Richard Rodriguez and his wife Theresa attended services there every Sunday. Both lost their lives when the gunman opened fire.

Joining us now is Richard's daughter, Regina Rodriguez, and his sister, Evangelina Santos.

Ladies, we're so sorry that you're going through this and your family is going through this. And we know that you wanted to come on today to talk about your dad and your brother. So, Evangelina, let me start with you. Tell us about Richard.

EVANGELINA SANTOS, SISTER OF VICTIM, RICHARD RODRIGUEZ: Well, what could I tell you? He was my best brother. He was so sweet, so kind. I loved him so much. I'm going to miss him a lot.


SANTOS: He's always making us laugh. He was always that kind of character. He was really -- always making us laugh. So he's going to be missed so much. And it's sad what happened to him.

CAMEROTA: Yes, of course.

And, Regina, this is your dad that we're talking about. And I know that you would bring your kids to church with your dad on Sundays. And why weren't you there this past Sunday?

REGINA RODRIGUEZ, DAUGHTER OF VICTIM, RICHARD RODRIGUEZ: I don't -- I don't normally attend his church. I've been invited a couple times. But my dad and Theresa would pick up my kids for the weekend and they would spend time with them. And they will go to church with him on Sundays. And it breaks my heart because when people were coming out on the TV, my kids are sitting back here and saying, we know them, we know them. And they were there.


RODRIGUEZ: And I just couldn't imagine if my kids were there.

CAMEROTA: Yes, of course.

RODRIGUEZ: How I would be.

CAMEROTA: And what you have told your kids --

SANTOS: My phone.

CAMEROTA: Yes, you guys can get it. I know that you have so many people calling you and so many loved ones and neighbors to talk about your dad.

SANTOS: Sorry.

CAMEROTA: No, of course, I understand what your house has been like for the past, you know, 48 hours.

But, Regina, you have five little kids, right? What have you told them about what happened to their grandpa?

RODRIGUEZ: The oldest ones, they are the ones that are taking it hard. My -- my Julian (ph) -- my -- especially my Justin (ph), he really looked up to my dad. And the memories that I have is, um, my dad was country, so my -- my son will put on his country pants and his boots and he -- he didn't remember him going around and asking me, where's high hat, mom? Where's my hat? And my dad loved wearing caps. And he would always put his glasses sitting on top of his hat. And he would always be standing around the house with a hat, his glasses and his backpack, and he was so excited. You know, he was just waiting for my dad to pull up when he would come on the weekends.

CAMEROTA: I know he likes to dress like his grandpa because he loved him so much and he was so excited to see him. And tell us about what your youngest -- you have a six-year-old. What has your six-year-old been saying about this?

RODRIGUEZ: He just keeps on telling me he wants to go to grandpa's house. Can I call grandpa? And I just tell him where he's at now we can't call. That he's in heaven.

[08:35:04] CAMEROTA: It's so -- it's so heartbreaking. I mean just the amount of loss from that experience.

Evangelina, what happened when you got the word about what happened that day at your brother's church?

SANTOS: I had just came home from my church, and then we turned the TV on it and the first thing on the news. And I didn't know that was my brother's church until my niece called me. She couldn't even talk. She goes, that your -- that's my dad's church. I go, no, (INAUDIBLE), that can't be true. No. And that's when we were waiting and hoping that he wasn't in there, that he missed that day. But, no, he was there.

CAMEROTA: My God. There's just so much pain. I mean so much pain in just, you know, what this one, you know, madman did. And, Regina, how do you -- what do you tell your kids? How do you make

sense of this for them?

RODRIGUEZ: I just explain to them. All my kids say he's in heaven. I don't know what else to do. Everybody tells me I need to be strong because I have children. And I'm trying, but I don't feel strong. I don't feel strong.

CAMEROTA: Ys. Listen, you don't have to be strong right now.

RODRIGUEZ: I miss (ph) my dad.

CAMEROTA: You shouldn't have to be strong and endure this kind of pain.

And, Evangelina, what are you -- what's your message? What are you -- what's the solution here? What do you want people to know?

SANTOS: Well, I want everybody to know not to sell guns to nobody. I don't know why they passed that law. Anybody could carry a gun now. Even crazy people. Tell the president that, no more guns.

CAMEROTA: Regina, what's your message?

RODRIGUEZ: They -- they said that he had a lot of red flags to prevent him from buying a gun. He had assaults. He was taken away from the military. So when he went, why wasn't there something on his record showing that he wasn't capable of holding -- he shouldn't have access to a gun? How are people like this getting ahold of them?


RODRIGUEZ: Is there a way?


Regina, we're going to put up a picture of your dad. And so just tell us your last thoughts on what you want us to know about him.

RODRIGUEZ: I'm going to miss him every day, every minute, every second. My heart is breaking. You are the last person I had, and now he's gone.

CAMEROTA: Regina and Evangelina, we're so sorry. We feel your pain. We're praying for your family.

SANTOS: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: We're so sorry.

RODRIGUEZ: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: And we appreciate you coming on and sharing your family with us.

We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:42:36] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The coach of the Golden State Warriors, Steve Kerr, says gun control should be thought of as a public health issue, not a political one.

Andy Scholes has more in the "Bleacher Report."

Obviously this isn't about sports for Steve Kerr.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Chris, and it hits close to home for him because Steve Kerr lost his father to gun violence more than 30 years ago. So, obviously, and this is something that he feels the need to talk about.

And Kerr said it's time for politicians to put the politics of gun control aside.


STEVE KERR, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS COACH: They have to put peoples' safety and health over the interests of the gun lobby and the gun industry. For whatever reason, we're paralyzed and we -- we're unable to do anything to protect our citizens. And it's -- it's disgusting and it's a shame.


SCHOLES: All right, for the first time since 1986 a quarterback not named Rodgers or Favre starting for the Packers on Monday night football. The Packers continuing to struggle without Aaron Rodgers. Matthew Stafford, though, not struggling. He found Marvin Jones Jr. for two scores in this game. And after the first one, the Lions with the rock-em, sock-em robot touchdown celebration. They would win this game by a final of 30-17.

And, Alisyn, that's one the things the NFL got right the last few years was bringing back the team touchdown celebrations. They've been lots of fun.

CAMEROTA: OK. That they are. Andy, thank you very much.

OK, so Democrats are responding after a tell-all memoire claims the party is in disarray. How are Democrats moving forward on this Election Day? DNC Chair Tom Perez is going to join us next.


[018:48:14] CAMEROTA: It is Election Day again in America. Democrats are hoping for a big win in New Jersey and Virginia's governor races. Right now Republicans make up a historically large majority of U.S. governors. Nearly 70 percent.

So joining us now is the chair of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez.

Tom, great to have you here in studio.


CAMEROTA: So our politicos says that Virginia's the one to watch. This is the Democrat's Waterloo. This will gauge how galvanized Democrats are feeling this year. What do you think?

PEREZ: Well, we've got two big races, New Jersey and Virginia. And I'd much rather be Phil Murphy and Ralph Northam than their Republican counterparts because right now we've got two great candidates that are leading with their values, they're talking about the things that people care about.

People want to make sure they have health care. People want to make sure they have access to a good job. People want leaders who unite.

Ralph Northam has been a healer in his entire career. And Ed Gillespie and Donald Trump, you see the dark ads they've been running. They're trying to divide. It's the Trump tactic of division. And there's been just record levels of energy in Virginia.

CAMEROTA: So then why are these races so close?

PEREZ: Well, Virginia's a purple state. And, I mean, you look at Mark Warner's race in 2014, that was a close shave. Terry McAuliffe won by narrow margins and --

CAMEROTA: Yes, but this is a different era. I mean you're saying that Democrats should have the wind in their sails right now and this is an era, obviously. This is a referendum on President Trump for Democrats, right?

PEREZ: Well, I -- no, I think if you talk to people in Virginia, it is -- what they want to see is, who's going to fight for my health care. Who's going to fight for quality education. Who's going to continue the progress of Terry McAuliffe, 3.7 percent unemployment? And they see in Ralph Northam, they see in Justin Fairfax, they see in Mark Herring, the attorney general candidates, people who are uniters. People who want to make sure that everybody in the commonwealth has an opportunity to succeed. And that's exactly what we need in this country. We have enough dividers.

[08:50:07] CAMEROTA: But then why aren't they running away with it? I mean if it's that easy for Democrats this year, why aren't these runaway races?

PEREZ: Oh, well, again, Virginia, Mark Warner won, I think, by less than 1 percent in 2014 and --

CAMEROTA: Right, but that was a different time. I mean don't you think that 2017 the rules have changed?

PEREZ: Well, you know what, we'll find out later today. And I -- again, we've got to get people out to vote. We've knocked on over a million doors, twice as many as what Terry McAuliffe did, and he did a great job four years ago. The energy out there in northern Virginia, across the entire commonwealth, is infectious. Same thing with Phil Murphy. We have two lieutenant governor candidates that are poised to make history in both those states. And I'm -- I'm just -- I'm very, very excited.

I put 700 miles on my car over the weekend in Virginia. And everywhere I go, people are focused on the future. They know what they have to do. And I feel optimistic. But they've got to get out and vote.

CAMEROTA: Yes, well, listen, I hear that. I hear your optimism. You're quite bullish about this. But there -- as you know, there are lots of voices that say that the Democratic Party at the moment seems adrift, it seems as though it's in disarray somehow, there's in-fighting. You know about all of the stuff with Donna Brazile and Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. So how do you rate what the Democratic Party is today?

PEREZ: Well, I -- you know, Alisyn, Virginia's a great example. When a guy names Tom Perriello, a wonderful former member of Congress, got in the race, the media wrote the entire -- the exact wrong story. They wrote -- they wrote, oh, it's going to be another Bernie/Hillary proxy battle. Well, what happened in the Democratic primary in Virginia was two great candidates ran a spirited campaign talking about the issues. It resulted in record turnout on the Democratic side. When Tom Perriello wasn't successful, he immediately pivoted and came together and that unity has been evident ever since. Meanwhile, on the Republican side, Ed Gillespie won by one point, and his opponent said, I don't believe in unity. And so Virginia is, I think, a perfect example of Democrats coming together.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I want to end on -- I know you just watched that segment that we just had with the victims of the church massacre in Texas and how heartbroken they are. They lost their dad. I mean so many people lost people.

What is the answer here? Because gun control advocates obviously are not getting that much traction. I mean this is such an echo chamber issue, where people stay on their sides. So what can people on your side, who want more gun control, do?

PEREZ: We have to keep fighting. I mean my heart bleeds for the Rodriguez familiar and all the other families. I was out in Las Vegas a few weeks -- two weeks ago, and that was tragic as well.

And, regrettably, here's what we know. It's going to happen again. I don't know where. I don't know when. But we will get the same thoughts and prayers response from the Republicans and no action. The only action Donald Trump has taken on guns this year is to make it easier for people with mental health issues to get access to a gun by relaxing an Obama era regulation.

We have to keep fighting. We can never give up on this. And we have to eliminate this false choice notion that if you do background checks, that it's going to be the end of the world as we know it and the slippery slope to anarchy. I completely respect the Second Amendment freedoms that people have, but Second Amendment freedoms and common sense gun safety can co-exists.

CAMEROTA: Tom Perez, great to talk to you. Thanks so much for being here.

PEREZ: A pleasure.

CAMEROTA: Next, we remember the 26 lives lost in Texas. Stay with us.


[08:51:51] CUOMO: Twenty-six people murdered inside a Texas church by a deranged killer. CNN's Randi Kaye tells us about them.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In an instant, about 4 percent of the residents of Sutherland Springs, Texas, were taken. The youngest victim, about a year and a half old. The oldest killed, 77.

Among the dead, Annebelle Pomeroy. The 14-year-old was the daughter of the church's pastor, who often spoke about her at church. One, sharing this story about them riding his motorcycle together.

PASTOR FRANK POMEROY, FATHER OF CHURCH SHOOTING VICTIM: Annebelle's been wanting to ride with me and go with me here and there. And the bike was (INAUDIBLE) 34 degrees this morning, and she was a trooper. She did not complain. She just sat back there behind me and rode.

KAYE: The pastor and his wife were out of town Sunday, but Annabelle went to church anyway without them.

SHERRI POMEROY, MOTHER OF CHURCH SHOOTING VICTIM: 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.

KAYE: At just 16, Haley Krueger had big plans for her life before it was cut short. Her mother told CNN, Haley was a vibrant 16-year-old that loved life, adding, she was also looking forward to her future as a nurse in the NICU. She loved babies and always wanted to help.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, HALEY KRUEGER'S MOTHER: She was amazing. And we're going to miss her.

KAYE: The church's visiting pastor, Brian Holcombe, was also killed. So was his wife, Carla Holcombe. In all, they lost eight members of their family. Three generations wiped out that terrible morning. The Holcombes lived on a nearby farm in Floresville, Texas, with several of their children. Their son, Danny, died Sunday, and so did his daughter, Noah. She was the youngest victim at just 17 months old.

The couple's son John was also shot and remains in the hospital. His wife, Crystal Holcombe, was killed. She was two months pregnant. Three of her five children were also killed. The other two were shot and are at the hospital with John, their stepfather.

Also among the victims, Tara McNulty, a close family friend of the Holcombes, and the gunman's own grandmother-in-law, Lula White. She was his wife's grandmother and friends say she volunteered frequently at the church. Her niece, Amy Bacas (ph), wrote this on her FaceBook page shortly after White's death. I have no doubt where she is right now. She is in heaven laying her crowns and jewels at the feet of Jesus and celebrating. I love and will miss you.

So many lives taken by a man who likely knew most everyone in the church community where he opened fire.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


CUOMO: It's good to remember who was lost, especially in the context of such a small town, Alisyn, maybe, 500, 600 people in the whole place.

CAMEROTA: Chris, the loss is just unimaginable. I mean every single one of those lives taken.

[09:00:01] Listen, we're better than this. There has got to be an answer. And so you and I will keep asking lawmakers for solutions.

I'll see you back in New York soon.

And it's time now for CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow and John Berman.