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Action Speaks Louder than Just Thoughts and Prayers; Nikolas Cruz Has Passion for Guns; Gun Laws and Mental Health Problem in U.S. Raise an Alarm; Florida Shooter a Loner Kid. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired February 15, 2018 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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[22:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN: Don Lemon picks up our coverage. CNN Tonight starts right now.
DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. Thanks for joining us.
Thoughts and prayers. You've heard a lot of people offering thoughts and prayers for the 17 people who lost their lived in a Florida high school yesterday.
Students and teachers shot to death by a 19-year-old who had been expelled. A 19-year-old who had absolutely no business having a gun. None whatsoever. We should all know better by now than to offer empty words about thoughts and prayers.
I don't want you to misunderstand me at all, heartfelt sympathy and prayers are very powerful, we all need them from time to time, but we need to turn those thoughts and prayers into action. We need to do it now.
We can't waste one more day waiting for another shooter somewhere to erupt in deadly violence and end the lives of more innocent Americans. Leaving families in almost unimaginable pain.
Now I want you to listen, this is to the mother of one of the students. Lori Alhadeff's 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa, was killed in her classroom. She is a mother in anguish, demanding action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LORI ALHADEFF, ALYSSA ALHADEFF'S MOTHER: The gunman, a crazy person, just walks right into the school, knocks down the window of my child's door and starts shooting. Shooting her. And killing her! President Trump, you say, what can you do? You can stop the guns from getting into these children's hands.
Put metal detectors at every entrance to the schools! What can you do? You can do a lot! This is not fair to our families that our children go to school and have to get killed! I just spent the last two hours putting the burial arrangement for my daughter's funeral who is 14. President Trump, please do something. Do something. Action! We need it now! These kids need safety now! (END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: It is -- it's almost impossible to listen to that without feeling her pain. Her rage is heartbreaking. Lori Alhadeff has every right to be angry. I'm angry. Most people are angry. People across this country are angry. They're frustrated.
She is so right to demand action at this point. If she can't, my goodness, who can? To demand that President Trump do something. This is what the president did today, he managed to talk about this senseless slaughter without even mentioning the word gun.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To every parent, teacher and child who is hurting so badly, we are here for you, whatever you need, whatever we can do to ease your pain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, Mr. President, Lori Alhadeff told you exactly what you can do. She was very loud and clear about it. Stop guns from getting into the wrong hands. Stop the slaughter of innocent Americans. Stop playing politics with our lives and the lives of people we love.
Because if you don't do something, this will happen again and again and again. The proof is in that, all you have to do is go back and watch the tape. Just do a Google search. You can see the same thing happens every single time.
And our lawmakers do nothing. There have already been eight school shootings this year. We're at February 15th, the Monday after Valentine's Day. Barely -- about a month into the year and there have been eight already this year. There were 48 last year.
What can you do, you ask, Mr. President, you can stand up to the powerful gun lobbies that spent over $30 million to support you for president. Remember how you campaigned that you were your own man, self-made, no one could buy or own you? You wouldn't be beholden to special interests. Remember when you said that? So, prove it. Do that. Do something.
I want to bring in now CNN's Drew Griffin. He's at the high school. Kyung Lah outside the Broward County jail where the confessed shooter is being held tonight and Gary Tuchman at North Broward Medical Center. Drew, I'm going to begin with you. Good evening to all of you, by the way. It's good as the evening as can be under the circumstances.
You have new reporting tonight about the police calls made to the alleged gunman's home. What can you tell us?
[22:05:00] DREW GRIFFIN, SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, CNN: Yes, the more we learn, the more re realize just a life what this kid, this shooter was living. We got records tonight from Broward County sheriff of all the times the police went to this family's home over the past several years and it is extensive, Don.
We have records that show 39 times police were called to this one particular home where the shooter lived with his family since 2010. The calls as delineated by the records are for things like mentally ill person, domestic disturbance, many 911 hang up calls, a child elderly abuse call. Some for missing person calls.
These are year after year, weekend after weekend, according to the neighbors, or the police interacting with this family, with this shooter's family. Of course we don't have the records behind this list so we don't know why all of these calls were being made, but obviously, this family had a lot of interaction for many, many years with the police department, Don.
LEMON: Drew, you're also finding out about other posts he's made on social media?
GRIFFIN: Yes, you know, we've been talking about these social media posts since his name became aware to us yesterday. We talked about the YouTube posts that were so damning and that raised the ire of at least one person who contacted the FBI, but tonight we have to show you an Instagram account by this shooter that he himself posted.
That's him. That's the hat he's wearing. You can read it. He also posted pictures of these guns. We don't know if one of these is the gun. He also had a picture of a box of ammunition, American eagle AR- 15 ammunition. It's basically .223 rounds, which we are led to believe are the type of rounds that were used in this shooting.
He also had a very ominous photo, Don, a photo taken from the viewpoint from a gun scope looking down from a second-story window. Again, just an ominous picture.
And, you know, from what we're learning from his friends, people who knew him, very, very much in line with this person's thinking. He was into guns. He was into posting things that looked like threats online. Now we also know that the police were called to this home dozens and dozens of times over the last many years.
LEMON: Drew Griffin in Parkland, Florida. Drew, thank you for your reporting. I want to turn now to another reporting covering this story and that's CNN's Kyung Lah. Kyung, you're getting disturbing new details about the accused gunman's life prior to this horrific event. What are you learning?
KYUNG LAH, SENIOR U.S. CORRESPONDENT, CNN: KYUNG LAH, SENIOR U.S. CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, Don, you just heard drew talking about the Cruz family home and all the calls that were made there by the sheriff's department.
But I want to show you this video because it's taken in October of 2017, it's also at the Cruz family home. It's taken by a neighbor. A neighbor who didn't want to be identified as they were sharing this video with CNN, but you can see it for yourself.
What we're looking at is the shooter. The shooter waving what appears to be a BB gun, an airsoft gun. And the neighbor described it as by seeing this this was being scary. Something they did see more than once. And that it appeared that this person the shooter was conducting target practice.
Now it was a BB gun, the neighbor was very clear, they never actually saw the shooter, the would-be shooter of this school shooting eventually, that they never saw a real gun or heard a real gun go off, but it was a BB gun, certainly a chilling image there.
LEMON: The shooter was briefly in court today, Kyung. What can you tell us about that appearance?
LAH: When you say brief, it was less than five minutes. He shuffled forward. We didn't hear his voice except for when he said yes, ma'am. he barely raised his eyes. And he is being represented by the public defender's office, and in that, that's where we did learn some details about this shooter.
That he is someone that his public defender described as having a lifelong history with mental illness, that this was a kid who didn't have a lot of breaks. And a kid who struggled through school. A kid who fell through every single crack. Here is what his public defender said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELISSA MCNEILL, PUBLIC DEFENDER: He's a broken human being. He's a broken child. And when your brain is not fully developed, you don't know how to deal with these things. When you have the lack of impulse control that a 19-year-old has, that affects the behavior that you exhibit. That's the child that I'm sitting across from.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAH: The public defender's office also cited what they say was the extreme trauma the shooter, his mother died in November of last year. He was essentially alone. Tonight he is on a suicide watch, Don.
[22:09:59] The public defender's office says he is expressing sadness about what happened. He does seem to be aware of what has occurred.
LEMON: Kyung, a lot of people are wondering tonight how an individual like this, who was posting so many alarming things on social media, could go unnoticed, but the FBI had been warned.
LAH: Yes. You're talking about an FBI tip from February of 2017. And this came from a YouTube blogger out of Mississippi. The Mississippi blogger was just simply putting up a video and then got an unusual comment, an unusual comment from someone who had the exact same name, Nikolas Cruz.
Unfortunately, the name wasn't exactly spelled the way that this shooter's name was spelled. Instead of a C it was a K and the comment said "I'm going to be a professional school shooter." And so what that Mississippi blogger did, he called the FBI. The FBI came out and spoke with him. Then it's a little muddy what exactly the FBI did from that point on.
The FBI telling the press in a news conference that they did a database search. But it's very unclear what happened. What we do know is the Mississippi blogger tells us that he never heard from the FBI after that initial September 2017 meeting. He heard from them after the shooting. Don?
LEMON: Kyung Lah is in Ft. Lauderdale, thank you, Kyung. I want to get to another reporter now, another one of CNN's finest, Gary Tuchman. Gary, good evening to you. You spoke to the grief stricken mother whose 14-year-old daughter was killed yesterday.
I just played some of the heartbreaking sound of what she said in the open just a little bit earlier. We all feel and we see the raw emotion of someone who is absolutely devastated. And it's so hard to watch, but on the other hand this is the price that people are paying over and over. Should we be shielded from that?
GARY TUCHMAN, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: No, it's important, Don. It's essential. This woman, Lori and her husband lost their 14-year- old daughter. They have three children -- they had three children, now they only have two. This was their oldest daughter.
And what she did by talking to us is she symbolized literally thousands and thousands of Americans who have lost their sons, their daughters, their husbands, their wives, their fathers, their mothers, their brothers and their sisters to gun violence in this country over the past decade. And that's why it's important.
What I should emphasize, Don, is in this situation, when someone says they don't want to talk, we never ask a second time.
TUCHMAN: And leave them alone. In this case, Lori came up to us. In other cases we'll ask once and I said if they don't want to talk, fine. But a lot of people want to talk. They want people to know about the love they had for their loved one and that's another reason why it's so important.
LEMON: You were also at a candle light vigil earlier tonight, Gary. The country seems fed up. Does something feel different about this time around or is it just another one added to a long list of sad stories that will be all in the headlines for a minute and then they will sadly fade away?
TUCHMAN: That's a great question, Don. I will tell you, I'm standing in front of a hospital right now. There are still seven people being treated in two different hospitals here. And I've stood in front of many hospitals in Las Vegas and Orlando and Sandy Hook and Virginia tech and San Bernardino.
Each and every time I feel this could be the time that things change. Once again, I'm feeling that also, but it hasn't changed in those previous times. I hope it changes this time, but I wouldn't bet a lot of money on it. LEMON: Gary, thank you. I appreciate it.
Carly Novell, a senior, survived the shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School by hiding in the closet with her classmates. She joins me now along with her mother Merri Novell. I appreciate you guys joining us. How are you doing tonight, Carly?
CARLY NOVELL, SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I'm doing OK. It's kind of hard right now. But I'm doing the best I can.
LEMON: We can only imagine. Talk to me about that. You say it's kind of hard. Tell our viewers what you mean.
NOVELL: Well, I mean, it's kind of hard because I don't really know how to feel. This isn't something that's normal and it shouldn't be normal. And so at first I was kind of in shock and it's been going on and off, like at some points I feel numb and other points I'm like feeling everything. So it's just a lot right now.
LEMON: Yes. Well, listen, I have to tell you, I -- when you said that, because I have recently lost someone I love and you don't know how to feel. You really don't know what to do. You are sort just of going through the motions, not really knowing, right? Most things you sort of know like, OK, I've got to do this now. I got to do this now. I should react this way or whatever. I can contain my emotions.
[22:14:56] But when something like this happens, when it's so sudden you just don't know. But you know, you have caught the attention of a lot of people in the wake of this shooting. What do you want everyone to know, Carly?
NOVELL: I just want people to stop, like, talking about it and then not doing anything. People keep, like, saying your thoughts and prayers and all of these things, but it doesn't make a difference if nothing ever changes. Like, this happens over and over again and people are dying, and, like, it seems like it doesn't matter because, like, what are thoughts and prayers going to do when people are already dead?
LEMON: That is very profound. But you know, Carly when people hear you say that they'll say, well, you're demeaning thoughts and prayers. And not at all. What you're saying is thoughts and prayers are important -- I don't want to put words in your mouth. But action is more important to prevent this from happening again. Am I correct or no?
NOVELL: Yes, and I think you can do both at the same time. You can talk about what needs to change and you can also be mourning the victims. Like, it doesn't have to be one or the other and it shouldn't be one or the other. We should be talking about all of this.
LEMON: You responded to a conservative pundit, is it Tomi Lahren, Tomi Lahren on Twitter?
NOVELL: Yes. LEMON: She tweeted this. She said, "Can the left let the families
grieve for even 24 hours before they push their anti-gun and anti-gun owner agenda? My goodness, this isn't about a gun, it's about another lunatic, hash tag Florida shooting."
And then you responded. You said, "I was hiding in a closet for two hours. It was about guns. You weren't there. You don't know how it felt. Guns give these disgusting people the ability to kill other human beings. This is about guns and this is about all the people who had their life abruptly ended because of guns." That was a very brave message. Why did you decide to even respond?
NOVELL: I don't know. I, like, had just woken up and I think I was just, like, really upset and I just needed to say something. Like, I think it's different when you hear it from someone who was there.
I hope it, like, impacted people more just because, like, it was so heartbreaking to, like, hear what was happening from people on the outside. And we didn't know what was going on, but, like, while we were in there, we were all still talking about gun control and how something needs to change.
Like, we were in a closet and we were still thinking about this. It matters all the time. Like, there is no, like, waiting period. It's happening at every period during this time because this is what needs to change.
LEMON: I read things like that and I often sometimes just ignore them. I want to respond and I just ignore them, but I think if anyone has a right to respond, it's you, Carly. Just think, like, the gall or the nerve of someone to respond like that and not just despite the ignorance, but why would she even write something like that? Do you know what I'm saying? Why would people go to social media for negativity instead of positivity?
NOVELL: Yes. I think -- I think that woman in general, she likes to kind of provoke people, and I guess she provoked me a little bit, but, like, I just had to say something.
NOVELL: And I think a lot of people now are spreading positivity. There are people in my messages, like, saying I inspired them and stuff, but it didn't feel like something that was inspiring. It's just something that happened to me. And it's happening to everyone.
LEMON: Well, you see, the worst comes out and you see what real opportunists -- who the real opportunists are when people do that. Obviously it was to promote her career or her Twitter or social media or whatever. She decided to say something controversial without thinking something stupid.
Merri, I want to bring you in. Sadly, by CNN's count, this is the eighth school shooting in America just this year. I know there is a number out there saying 18, but that number is not factually correct. Eight this year. There were 48 in 2017. Were you worried this might happen at your daughter's school? Does that ever cross your mind?
MERRI NOVELL, CARLY NOVELL'S MOTHER: I have always been wary that it would happen at schools, at our school, at any school across the country. My father had gone through a tragedy, the first mass murder in the country, and he was hiding in a closet and he sort of raised me with sort of having my eyes behind my head and looking around at my surroundings.
And I always had in the back of my head just praying that nothing would happen to our school and our community. And unfortunately it has. My heart goes out to all the victims and all the family members in our whole community that is suffering right now, but I think most importantly we have to look at the bigger picture.
[22:20:04] This keeps happening over and over again. It started all the way back in 1949. Nothing has really changed because the gun laws haven't changed.
M. NOVELL: And these people might be mentally ill, but they still have a gun in their hand and that's what's killing the people.
LEMON: That's the mode and the method. Just to be clear for our audience, your father passed away in 2009 - which is Carly's grandfather.
M. NOVELL: Yes.
LEMON: He had to hide from a mass shooter almost 70 years ago when his family was killed in 1949. You say, Merri, that you witnessed your father's pain years later and it even affected you as a child. And you would even practice hiding.
M. NOVELL: Yes. When I was younger, when I was a child, we often had on the yearly anniversary of the murders, the press would come by and at the time my father did not ever want to talk to any press. It wasn't until I was in middle school when they dropped all the indictments against Howard Unruh, that he decided to speak out about the situation.
And so I was actually scared of the press. I actually thought the press were the bad guys and I would practice hiding because I knew that they were coming. I would try and smash myself into a little ball. And then I would think about places I could hide.
Even recently, we were at the airport and something was happening at the airport and the police were running and scrambling at the Ft. Lauderdale airport after that shooting, and my first initial reaction was, where can I hide, where can I go? I saw a cabinet.
I was -- we were by baggage claim and my husband was going to get the bags and I -- and he was acting like it was a normal day and I was just watching all of the police officers running and I just -- that's where my head went, where can I go and hide? And we just recently -- I work for Broward County schools and I'm a
teacher for the elementary school in Coral Springs, one of them. We just had the active shooting training at our school. And I want to say that our BSO has done an amazing job in preparing the staff and keeping us prepared for these horrible situations.
We really shouldn't have to be prepared for these situations. We shouldn't have to hide in a closet. We shouldn't have to hide -- we -- our kids shouldn't be scared to go to school.
M. NOVELL: Anywhere in this country they should feel safe.
LEMON: Yes. Do you think that has -- because for a while there I'm sure that both of you were in shock. Do you think it's really settled in? Because I can see, especially Merri, that you're upset by this. Has it really sunk in yet?
M. NOVELL: I think we're kind of walking around in a state of shock.
C. NOVELL: Yes. It's like -- it's on and off. I really don't feel everything yet. I don't know if everyone does because it's so much that has happened and it's just kind of hard to comprehend that, like, this happened at my school, like, right over there. It's not, like, in another state, it's down the street from my house. It's where I was. I was here yesterday. It's hard to think about and I -- it hasn't set in.
M. NOVELL: I think the pain for the people that lost their lives is palpable. We're all feeling this grief. And I think if you go anywhere in our town, everybody's sort of walking around with the same sort of look in their eyes and in their faces. It's just tragic. It just needs to stop.
LEMON: So, Carly, I understand that you're headed to college next year and I understand you want to be a journalist, is that right?
C. NOVELL: Yes. Yes, I do.
LEMON: This will have a lasting impression on you throughout your life and career.
M. NOVELL: Yes. It's weird to think how this has been a life-changing experience for me, and, like, that yesterday going to school I didn't think anything would be any different. Like, it was Valentine's Day, like, I don't -- and then it was just the worst day ever, like, there is no other way to put it. And now, like, my whole life is different, this whole town is different. It's just crazy.
[22:25:03] LEMON: Well, you're both very brave. All I have to say to Carly -- both of you but especially Carly, there is no right or wrong way to react or act. And just take care of yourself and hold on to your family. Thank you so much. We are so sorry that this happened at your school.
C. NOVELL: Thank you so much.
M. NOVELL: Thank you.
LEMON: Thank you.
Seventeen people, students and their teachers, died in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School yesterday and we're learning more about them. And I'm going to pronounce -- say all their names. And forgive me if I don't pronounce them absolutely correctly here but we want to honor them.
Seventeen year-old Nicholas Dworet was planning to go to the University of Indianapolis in the fall, he was a star swimmer and recruited to the university swim team. His coach said that he had dedicated everything to succeeding and getting that scholarship.
Chris Hixon was the high school's athletic director. The school's superintendent said he gave his life for the students and, quote, "probably helped prevent this from being a worse tragedy." Aaron Feis was an assistant football coach at the school. He threw himself in front of students who were being shot. The school saying he was a very kind soul who died a hero.
We'll be right back.
[22:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Tonight, the 19-year-old ex-student who went on the shooting rampage of Florida high school has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. He is being held without bond following a brief court hearing he appeared by video from jail. There you see him right there in the center of your screen, of course in the orange jumpsuit.
Joining me now is Jim Lewis, an attorney for the family the shooter lived with. Mr. Lewis, thank you for joining us. You represent the family who took in Nikolas Cruz, took him in after his adoptive mother died. Are they just stunned by this?
JIM LEWIS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: They are. They can't believe what's happened. They can't believe that this young man was capable of this. They took him in off the street where he really had no other place to go after his own mother died.
He had befriended their son at the same high school about a year before, and when the -- Nikolas ran out of other really alternatives where he could stay, they opened their home to him, and this happened and they just can't believe it.
LEMON: The suspect was living with them since around Thanksgiving. Tell us about why -- why did they offer him a home?
JIM LEWIS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, he was a friend of their son. And he seemed like a, you know, he was described as a little quirky, but he was a quiet kid, but while he lived there, he was very respectful. He obeyed all the family's rules that they had. He's just a kid that needed a home and they had a place and they opened their home up to him, never dreaming that something like this would happen.
LEMON: So, Jim, walk us through what happened yesterday morning. I understand the father woke Nikolas up to take him to an adult educational place where he was studying, but he refused to go?
LEWIS: Well, he didn't want to get up and said something to the other son, something to the effect of, you know, it's Valentine's Day, I don't go to school on Valentine's Day. Nobody thought anything of it at the time, it was just an excuse that he didn't want to get up.
You know, looking back on it now, people were trying to read stuff into it, but, you know, the bottom line is that this family had no idea that this young man was capable of something like this. They didn't see any rage. They didn't see any anger.
They just saw a kid that had just lost his mother and needed some help and needed a place to stay. And they took him in and saw that he got a job at a dollar store. They enrolled him in the program so he could get his GED. And they didn't see any of the horrible things that now are being exposed to about this young man's past.
LEMON: OK. So let me just ask you about -- I want to ask you about the gun because you say the family knew he owned this gun, correct?
LEWIS: He brought all of his possessions into the house. They let him do it...
LEMON: And it was an AR-15, right?
LEWIS: It was.
LEMON: Let me get it out and then you can confirm. It was kept locked in a box in his bedroom, to which he had the key. Did it ever worry them that a 19-year-old who is maybe, you know, was depressed or whatever owned an AR-15 assault rifle?
LEWIS: Well, again, they didn't see him as majorly depressed. They saw him as anyone would be when they lose their mom under these circumstances, that he was sad about it. But they knew he had the weapon, but he never had it out the whole time that he was there. No indication that, you know, it's not like they went shooting or anything like this.
They didn't see anything that -- other than this was one of his possessions. And, you know, looking back at it, it's easy to Monday morning quarterback and say they should have done more. What were they supposed to do exactly? I mean, call the police? Kick him out on the street?
LEWIS: Tell him you have to get rid of that? I mean, what are the options that they really had, other than to basically tell the kid to leave. LEMON: I think people are trying to figure out what happened and not
necessarily to place blame anywhere, just this sort of get information as to what happened to figure out what led up to this and possibly could it have been prevented and can we prevent others.
But I mean, with that said, we know he had behavioral problems. I don't know if the parents did, you know, the adoptive parents. He had been expelled from this school, was posting on social media about guns, ammo, dead animal. They didn't know any of this?
LEWIS: Again, he only lived with them for about three months, and all of these things about being expelled at school happened back when he was living with his mom. And they knew that he had been expelled from school over some apparently minor fights.
There was some indication that the young man -- you know, he's a slight guy, about 130 pounds, that he was bullied and had some fight issues that caused him to be expelled from the school.
But, you know, kids, you give them another chance, right? You give them another chance. Go to another school. No one ever saw any violence. This kid never shot at anybody, never threatened anybody really before, and these folks were not aware of these media posts and things that we're seeing now.
[22:35:07] They're just not the kind of folks that go on. But he's not their son. He's 19 years old. They just opened their house for a place for the young man to live.
LEMON: They took him in when he needed help. I understand that. But do they know -- do you know why he was expelled from school? Because we're hearing it was possibly because of a weapon. And that's what -- that's just what people, a student who came on, and other students were saying, but...
LEWIS: I don't know what to believe. I don't have any source of that information. The only thing that I heard from the family is they believed it was a matter of some fights he would have gotten into as a result of being bullied or picked on.
LEMON: So the family's other son, Jim, is a current student at this school and he was there during the shooting. I understand that he was texting with the shooter earlier in the day. What did those texts say? What were they texting about?
LEWIS: No, he was texting with him right up until 2.18 was the last text. We shared with the sheriff's office last night the phone, opened up all the texts. They were very innocuous. They were conversations about, hey, what are you doing? What are you doing later? You know, what's going on? Nothing scary. Nothing ominous. Nothing that would lead you to believe that this among man Nik was about to do such a horrible thing.
LEMON: Has this family had a chance to speak with Nikolas since he was taken into custody?
LEWIS: No. Absolutely not. Again, they were called down to the sheriff's office last night. Which is, when they called me, when their son was brought down, because they thought he was being accused of something.
And they sat down and told everything that they knew to the police, and the police saw it for what it was and let the young man go home. Nik was there. Basically speaking to police. But other than knowing that he was in the next room over, there's been absolutely no contact with Nik, with this family.
LEMON: Have you...
LEWIS: They're horrified. They're grieving.
LEMON: Yes. They're horrified and grieving. Sorry to cut you off there. Have you had a chance to speak to him?
LEWIS: No problem. To Nik?
LEWIS: No. No. I spoke to his half-brother just briefly at the police station last night as well as the guardian that had watched him for a while.
LEMON: Did say the contained of things they were asking? I'm sure they spoke with the brother.
LEWIS: With the half-brother? He was actually waiting to be spoken to by the time that we were allowed to leave so I don't think he had actually been debriefed, but my understanding he was there to cooperate as well and did speak to them.
LEMON: Jim Lewis, thank you so much. We appreciate your time.
LEWIS: Yes, sir. Thank you for having me.
LEMON: When we come back, the shooter's attorney said that he feels remorseful and he is in shock. I'm going to ask a forensic psychologist, psychologist to break down everything we know about the shooter and what went wrong.
LEMON: Court documents show that a 19-year-old ex-student has confessed to being the gunman in the Florida high school massacre. And we're learning a lot more about him tonight.
I want to talk now with Xavier Amador, a forensic psychologist. Dr. Amador, thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it. You said that this was all hiding in plain sight, so what jumps out to you the most here and what are we learning? XAVIER AMADOR, FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST: I mean, what was hiding in
plain sight are both the warning signs of violence, the social media reports, the reports from fellow students at the school. The joking around that if anybody was going to be a school shooter, it was going to be him, and the warning signs of mental illness and mental health issues. The erratic behavior.
The fact that the school wouldn't even let him into the school building with a backpack. I mean, I have kids that go to high school. You have to have your backpack. He had to carry a plastic bag. Clearly, he had major problems.
Broward County sheriff is saying also hiding in plain sight, these are facts that are out there. And his mother, not the sheriff's mother, Nikolas Cruz's mother's sister is saying he had serious mental health problems. He was in mental health treatment for at least the last two years.
Lynda Cruz, his adopted mother who died last November 1st, was having a lot of difficulty with him, according to her sister, and he had not been to the clinic that he had been seen in, the mental health clinic, for at least a year.
Again, this one is according to the Broward County sheriff.
AMADOR: So there are just a lot of different things pointing to both propencity for violence, warning signs that he's going to be violent. He wants to be a professional school shooter.
LEMON: And again, that's according to the sheriff as well. He said his post was full of weapons.
AMADOR: That's according to the FBI as well.
LEMON: Yes. The Broward County sheriff and the FBI. A very disturbing picture of posts were full of weapons and a declaration he was going to be a professional school shooter. So what needs to change so a person like Cruz doesn't fall through the cracks again if you think it fell through the cracks.
AMADOR: I think he absolutely think he fell through the cracks. I mean, the warnings signs, and you know, I'm not trying to be cute with a turn of a phrase, they were not hiding, they were in plain sight.
AMADOR: It reminds me of the Jared Loughner case which I worked on. And where Jared Loughner had been expelled from Pima Community College, he had served with papers that he needed to be psychiatrically evaluated to come back.
The school, I don't know the details of what happened after he was expelled, but he was expelled in large part because of concerns about both violence and mental health issues. Was his mother when he was expelled given referrals? Was the police department called? Do they have crisis intervention team training?
There are lots of different ways there could have been intervention. The mother could have been referred to an assertive community treatment team to a mental health clinic. Maybe these things happen, maybe this will emerge, but somewhere along the line, both law enforcement and mental health. Te mental health system didn't engage this family and didn't engage with him. One other quick point.
AMADOR: We're hearing a lot about premeditation, premeditation, and usually people hear premeditation and they think evil or an ideological attack of some sort -- if nothing else, premeditation means there was time and there was time available to prevent this.
LEMON: I don't -- I always get in trouble when I say this. I don't like that term evil because I think it absolves people of responsibility. You just say, that person is evil and you go, well, that must be something, you know, supernatural or you think about some sort of possession...
AMADOR: We stop asking why.
You stop asking why and then you stop asking, you know, was it parenting? I'm not saying these parents. What happened in his childhood? Maybe he had some moment health issue that wasn't taken care of.
[22:45:00] That blanket term evil to me just of absolves everyone of responsibility and say, my gosh, this person was so evil. This was an evil. It may have been an evil act, but it doesn't necessarily mean the person was evil. I'm not saying that, you know, it's good what this person did, but we need to look behind that whole evil thing and figure out exactly...
AMADOR: And look at the psychology of this person. Again, the most important question we can ask is, could this have been prevented? And you asked me that question. I can tell you from my experience working on over 50 death penalty cases many of them involving multiple shootings like this. That there was plenty of warning signs. And we now have...
LEMON: Can I play this before we run out of time?
LEMON: Let me just play the public defender so he can respond to that. Play that, please.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELISSA MCNEILL, PUBLIC DEFENDER: He's a broken human being. He's a broken child. He's sad. He's mournful. He's remorseful. He is fully aware of what is going on, and he's just a broken human being.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMADOR: If he's truly remorseful then, you know, there is the ideological track to this kind of an act, this horrific mass murder, and then there is the mental illness track. And they can mix with each other a bit, but not always, they're usually pretty separate.
If he's remorseful, he's sounding very much to me, again, like this is somebody with untreated mental illness. Let me be clear as I often am.
AMADOR: Serious mental illness is not associated with increased violence. It's untreated mental illness. We have today for the first time ever a cabinet level position, a mental health czar, Dr. McCance- Katz is the assistant secretary of the mental health.
The budget that came out of Congress increased that mental health budget and in there is presence, school prevention, identification of mental illness, intervention with law enforcement, training law enforcement. I don't know what's going to happen with that budget. The president's budget that was just set out...
LEMON: Cuts a lot of money for mental health services.
AMADOR: Four hundred million from that same budget that Congress is trying to...
LEMON: He asks today what he could do. Well, he could...
AMADOR: Don't cut SAMHSA's budget.
LEMON: Thank you, Dr. Amador. I appreciate it.
A candle light vigil tonight in Parkland, Florida, to mourn the 17 people, students and teachers killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School yesterday. To the extent of which we have pictures, there they are.
And we're learning about some of them tonight. Fourteen-year-old, and you saw her mother at the beginning of the show. Alyssa Alhadeff was a soccer player. Her mother said, quote, Alyssa was a beautiful, smart, talented, awesome soccer player. You'll be greatly missed, Alyssa. I love you so much she said. You'll always, always, be in our hearts.
Scott Beigel was a geography teacher who was shot and killed as he tried to get students back into his classroom to hide from the gunman. His students say he saved their lives. He was also a counselor at Camp Star Light in Pennsylvania.
Joaquin Oliver was 17. He's a close family friend. A close family friend called him a very loving kid who would do anything for his friends and his family.
We'll be right back.
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LEMON: Growing demands for President Trump and the congressional leaders to do something, to take action and stop the rising tide of deadly gun violence. Tomorrow's front page of the conservative New York Post. Take a look. It's pleading, "Mr. President, please act. We need sensible gun control to help stop the slaughter."
Joining me now is Captain Mark Kelly. The co-founder of Americans for Responsible Solutions. His wife I should remember former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was severely wounded in the mass shooting. Also with me David Jolly, a former republican Congressman from Florida.
Thank you, gentlemen, so much for joining me this evening. David, I'm going to start with you because as you looked at the cover, you were on the show last night you said -- you said that people in Congress -- people in the Congress, meaning Senate and Congress they need to do something, republican colleagues need to do something, anything you see today, you think that changed their minds?
DAVID JOLLY, (R) FORMER UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: No. In fact I think the voice of the president kind of was -- was everything that this issue will be to him. He is going to suggest it's mental health and let this just kind of fade away like it's so often happens.
Look, mental health is an issue. It is one of the underlying issues in all of the shootings. But republicans typically use mental health as a way to distract from dealing with guns. And they don't actually ever offer a mental health solution. They've eventually just walk away from this issue.
You know, it's been a tough 24 hours. And Don, I was thinking -- I would like to share a little bit of kind of good news. An example of how we could find a way forward. And it was my experience in Congress. There was a gun control group that started targeting me.
On my office door I was one of those members who slept in my office on Capitol Hill. And every night I would come and there would be the nasty grams from one of the gun control groups. Saying Jolly is a bad guy basically.
I didn't whether they're targeting me. So I called them and they said we're targeting you because the NRA has helped you in the past and you haven't sponsored comprehensive background checks. And I said I support comprehensive background checks.
So we met. And at the end of the meeting I sponsored the bill. And it was part of what we talked about last night having both sides kind of drop this tribalism, this automatic reflexes where we go to one if it's mental health or if it's assault weapon's ban. And actually recognize that we can begin a conversation between the two sides that can make incremental progress.
LEMON: Yes. And where did that bill go you sponsored?
JOLLY: Well, listen, it was a democratic bill, right. I became the only republican to co-sponsor it. And as we talked about last night republican leadership is not going to move any gun control measure, however responsible it is.
I have heard from some of my former colleagues, republicans, offended by some of my comments last night saying they actually would support something. And I said, yes but the leadership won't.
JOLLY: The fix is in with republican leadership. They won't move a single thing.
LEMON: And we're going to do -- I want everyone to stay tuned and stay tuned if you can as well, David because we're going to talk about all the money the gun lobbyists have given to leadership coming up in just a couple of minutes.
But I need to get to Mark. And Mark, I want to bring you in here because Mark, you have experience with in sadly. And those who staunchly defend absolute gun rights say it's a mental health problem. That's the problem. Not guns. However, President Trump signed legislation that undid restrictions aimed to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. Why did that happen?
MARK KELLY, GABRIELLE GIFFORDS' HUSBAND: Well, I think it happened because of the gun lobby. I mean, the gun lobby supported his campaign. We think to the tune of about $30 million.
KELLY: And continues to do that with members of the House and the Senate and state races around the country. It was about a year ago that he signed that legislation that made it easier for people that do have some mental issues and also military members with some PTSD to obtain firearms.
[22:55:00] And it doesn't make a lot of sense. It is an issue in some of these shootings. I would agree with David that in some mass shootings you see a mental health component. But that's only part of this.
I mean, there are a lot of reasons why we have 15 to 25 times the death rate from gun violence than other countries like ours. It's not just one thing. It's not just mental illness. It's not just background checks. It's not just domestic violence legislation. It's a combination of a lot of different things. And the reason we can't fix it is what you are talking about and that's corporate money in politics.
LEMON: Your wife, Mark, as I mentioned, Gabby Giffords is shot 11 -- in 2011. Since then there have been 11 of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.
This is, look at this. It's unbelievable, it's up on the screen there. I want everyone to look at that. You respond to the president's reaction to the shooting today. And here's what you tweeted. You said, "True leaders do not cast blame. True leaders accept responsibility, acknowledge hard truth -- truths and do everything in their power to find solutions to our biggest problems.
The president failed to acknowledge our nation's gun violence crisis after the congressional baseball shooting. In Alexandra he failed to take action after hundreds were shot and 58 killed in a concert in Las Vegas. He failed to do anything when a gunman killed 26 people praying at a church in Sutherland Springs.
And thus, he has failed to address the fact that America has experienced 18 school shootings already this year."
As a matter of fact, it's eight -- 18 number of shootings in and around schools. One that actually happened in schools were eight this year. How can this problem be solved if the president refuses to acknowledge that guns play a large part?
KELLY: Well, at the national level it's really hard to solve it. I mean, for him to you know say it is the first step to agree to at least work towards some common sense legislation.
I mean, right now I would expect that if a bill not supported by the National Rifle Association somehow magically made to his desk that he wouldn't sign it. So acknowledging that there is an issue, and then being a leader and being able to push back against the politics on this issue.
But, you know, how bad this might sound, there is a lot of hope in the states we have helped pass 200 pieces of legislation in 45 different states. And we know that this legislation works. You know, Don, we know that in states that have stronger gun laws they have significantly less gun violence. Florida as an example has six times -- more than six times the death rate from gun violence than mass shootings. You know why those...
LEMON: Because Florida is awash in guns.
KELLY: Exactly. It's awash in guns and it has very weak gun laws. Massachusetts on the other hand, has our nation's strongest gun laws. And because of that they have a lot less people that die from are gunshot wounds. So we know it works. It would be great if we could pass strong federal
legislation. We are changing the politics on this issue. Let me give you an example. Concealed carry reciprocity. In 2012, very few republicans voted against it. Over 30 democrats voted for it.
Fast forward here to the vote in 2017. And those numbers have completely changed. We have more republicans voting against it and almost no democrats voted for it. So what that means is we are -- we are moving the politics in the right direction. We need to continue to do that.
And we need to elect members of Congress that will stand up to the gun lobby and do what they know are in the best interests of their constituents. It's pretty clear what that is. We just got to get the right people into office.
LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate it. Mark, please come back. David, please come back. I appreciate your perspective on this, both of you.
JOLLY: Got it.
LEMON: When we come back politicians offering their thoughts and prayers in the wake of the Florida high school shooting. Their words are kind but what about their voting records? And how much money are they taking from the gun lobby, from the NRA? We'll go behind the platitudes and take a hard look at the facts first.
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