Return to Transcripts main page


Student and Mother Talk about High School Massacre; President Remains Silent on Shooting; GOP Remains Silent; Mother Shares Story of Shooting. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired February 15, 2018 - 06:30   ET



[06:31:17] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Of course we're following breaking news here in Parkland, Florida. That's where I am live. Seventeen people were killed here yesterday. Fifteen others are still hospitalized. This was a massacre at Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School, that perhaps you can see in the distance behind me.

Police say this heavily armed 19-year-old opened fire with a semi- automatic weapon that is used in war zones. A student inside the school captured this video and audio of the gunfire when it started. Of course, we want to warn you, so much of this is deeply disturbing.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God. Oh, my God.


CAMEROTA: All right, joining me now are Kristi and Will Gilroy. Christi is an elementary school teacher here in the school district. Her son Will was inside Stoneham Douglas High School, that's his school, as those shots rang out.

Thank you both so much. I know it's been a very long night and day for you.

Will, you heard the gunshots. You were in class. But you didn't think they were really gunshots.


CAMEROTA: What did you and your classmates think?

W. GILROY: We thought they were firecrackers.

CAMEROTA: And then what happened?

W. GILROY: We -- half of our class was outside because we thought it was a fire evacuation. And this was supposed to be the second one of the day, which we thought was kind of weird. CAMEROTA: Oh, so you -- wait a minute, you had already had a drill?


CAMEROTA: You had had an active shooter drill?

W. GILROY: No, we had a fire drill already.

CAMEROTA: Oh, you had a fire drill.

W. GILROY: And then this is -- and supposedly another fire drill, which is what we thought.



CAMEROTA: The gunman, we understand, pulled the fire alarms.



CAMEROTA: Oh, I see. So first you heard that. But -- but you thought for a long time, while you were hearing this and while your teacher was getting you into the closet, that this was a drill.

W. GILROY: Yes. This was an active shooter drill that we were supposed to have and they were going to shoot blanks off. And so we thought that this is -- this was not real and this is just a joke. So our class was talking like, oh, this is nothing. We'll be out soon and back home.

CAMEROTA: Your teacher turned off the lights. She locked the door. She got you all into a closet and she locked the closet. You were all in there talking, still thinking that this was a joke, this was a drill. And then when did it dawn on you that what was really happening?

W. GILROY: We heard police sirens. And then a lot of us started texting our parents if they heard anything. And our teacher -- and a lot of them texting our friends. And we saw that some people were posting on social media that there's a shooter on campus. And that's how a lot of us knew.

And then I texted my mother, because I know she's down the street, if she knew anything. And she said she was on lockdown at her school. So --

CAMEROTA: Kristi, when you got that text, you were just a couple of miles away. You're an elementary school teacher. What was happening?

K. GILROY: Yes, our school had just dismissed. And he sent a text and he said, mom, is there a drill going on? And I hadn't heard anything yet. But then immediately our principal put on an announcement. You know, this lockdown, it's not a drill, and we all went in -- you know, did our procedures and locked ourselves in. And I texted back, not a lock -- you know, not a drill. Go follow directions.

CAMEROTA: But, I mean, this is happening at your son's school. What was -- were you tempted to race over there?

K. GILROY: You know, the thing is, you don't know where the gunman is. You don't know what he's doing. And we've all done these drills. So I know the teachers know what they're supposed to do. You know, he was safer staying put and following the directions.

CAMEROTA: Will, you're a freshman. This happened in the freshman part of the high school.


CAMEROTA: And have you lost friends?

W. GILROY: Yes. I have, actually.

CAMEROTA: How many?

W. GILROY: Three.

CAMEROTA: You've lost three friends.

W. GILROY: Uh-huh.

CAMEROTA: Three classmates that you have known for years. And, you know, none of the names have been released to the media and so --


CAMEROTA: Don't name them.


CAMEROTA: But how do you know that? How do you know that you've --

[06:35:00] W. GILROY: A lot of my friends have been contacting parents and like trying to figure out what's happening. A lot of us just heard from the parents that this has happened. So it's very scary. Just like of shocking to realize that we could have -- I -- we could have saw our classmates the day or the day before now and we're just -- we're not going to see them again.

CAMEROTA: And, I mean, Will, you're a freshman. How do you make sense of that?

W. GILROY: I don't -- I'm just going to have to try to bear with it. And I'm going to do my best to just tell all my friends that we've got to stay strong. And it's this -- I know that no one thought this would happen to our school. Like, and -- but we're going to have to do our best to just keep going on and never forget what happened to our friends and never forget them.

CAMEROTA: Kristi, how can a 14-year-old be asked to live that way?

K. GILROY: You know, it's just like he had, it's a safe community. We thought it was a safe community.

CAMEROTA: Your community was named the safest -- I mean it was something like the safest community in the country or in Florida. "Time" magazine featured it. This is a safe community, except on a day when a 19-year-old comes into school with an AR-15.

K. GILROY: You know, like my son said, we have to be there for each other. We have to, you know, stay strong, provide help and guidance. You know, I know our school is open today. I'm going in to work. I -- you know, I know my husband can stay home with my son. But we're a community. We're a family. We have to be there and say, you know, we're here for you. We care for you. We're going to take care of you.

CAMEROTA: But now there are 17 members of your family, your extended family, your community family, that are gone. What is it like when these calls are coming in from parents?

K. GILROY: It's surreal. You don't think it's going to happen. And every day you just, you know, I -- it's only been a couple hours and it's really -- I'm not even sure it's really sunk in completely yet.

CAMEROTA: Of course not. Everybody's in shock. This is a shocking life event. Everyone is in shock. And the idea that your lives can change. And you survived. And that your lives are forever changed by what happened for a few minutes in there. What's going to happen to this school community that you're a part of?

K. GILROY: You know, I am so thankful that my son and many of his friends are safe. And I am horrified and saddened for all of the families that are at loss here. I think the most we can do is come together and be there for each other and hope that -- you know it's terrible we had to have these drills, but I'm glad that, you know, people knew what to do and some people were so brave to help out our students and support them and take care of them.

CAMEROTA: Will, when you were in the closet and you figured out that it was real -- so at first you and your friends were joking around and then people got on their cell phones. And then what happened? What happened to that conversation inside when you figured out this is for real?

W. GILROY: Everyone was saying like rumors that they heard there was a sniper on campus. There's a shooter. That there's -- the freshman -- we heard -- when we heard the shots, we realized that that must have been where the shooter was. So we were a little nervous because we were right across from that building. And a lot of us were -- we were trying to keep each other calm because a lot of -- some girls were crying and boys too. So --

CAMEROTA: What were -- what were you saying to each other to keep each other calm?

W. GILROY: We were saying we're going to get out of this. Don't worry. Just don't -- don't make any -- too many sounds. Keep it calm. But the police are -- they're here and they're going to help us get out of this. CAMEROTA: What was your teacher doing?

W. GILROY: She was making sure everyone was quiet. And everyone was -- since there was 30 of us in a closet, we were getting really hot, because we had to stay in there for an hour. So she made sure everyone was -- like she had plates that she passed out so we can fan each other. And she had water to give to everyone, which is pretty lucky.

CAMEROTA: So 30 of you were trapped in a hot closet with obviously people panicking for an hour. What happened when the police showed up?

W. GILROY: When they came to our classroom, we weren't too sure because we couldn't see who came in. So even though we heard --

CAMEROTA: Because you were locked in the closet.


CAMEROTA: So you couldn't -- what did you hear them say?

W. GILROY: We heard, this is the police department. If anybody's here, you can come out. But we weren't too sure because even though we saw that the shooter was captured, we were still skeptical. So we waited a few minutes. And then we thought they left. We went out. And then they said, put your hands up. And they said, if you've got anything in your hands, just drop it. If you -- don't grab any of your bags. If you already have a bag, just bring it with you. And they made us put our hands up, walk out very -- in a very fast line to get to the street. And if you had a backpack on, you had to take it off because they -- they didn't know. They were just making sure. And they didn't know if there was anything else on the campus and --

CAMEROTA: When you say that in the closet you knew that the shooter had been captured, how did you know that?

W. GILROY: There is a -- we saw all over the country that this was on the news. Our friends from other states knew that. They were texting us saying, are you OK? There -- people were calling us, even though we didn't answer them because we couldn't be talking. And they -- we just -- we saw it. We just kept seeing news and we -- one of our friends had a computer on him. He brought his backpack and he was looking at this stuff and he saw that the shooter was captured and that -- it was -- they just with the news and all the social media we know. But if we didn't have that, I don't know what would happen really.

[06:40:11] CAMEROTA: But who surreal is it to be in a darkened closet with your friends and to be reading news from around the country about what's happening feet away from you?

W. GILROY: It -- it was crazy. It was unexpected. It was shocking that every kid who came to school today thinking -- on Valentine's Day thinking it was just going to be a normal, nice day, give candy to your friends or roses or anything, and then they realize that they're on the news and they -- they could lose their lives, or their friends could lose their lives, it's just -- it's just crazy.

CAMEROTA: Kristi --

K. GILROY: I think that's one of the things that struck me is, we were on lockdown too and isolated in our classrooms. It was when family was texting, I'm watching the news, are you guys OK? I'm watching the news. You know it's there. You know your child's there. I heard from him. You know, I knew he was fine. But when you hear it from outside, you know, it just made it more real and big, as big as it really was.

CAMEROTA: What are you going to do? How is your family going to get through this? I mean he's at such a tender age?

K. GILROY: You know, the school district has offered grief counseling. We're going to rely on our friends. We're going to, you know, stick together and spend time together. And if we need help and guidance, we're going to go and get it.

CAMEROTA: Are you going to feel safe going back to school? Are you going to feel safe going back to school?

W. GILROY: I'm going to feel safe. I still think with all the teachers, all the training, they're going to -- if this happens again, it think that the -- it's not going to be as -- there will still be maybe fatalities, but I think the police, they're going to keep -- they're going to -- they're going to do their best to stop any more future -- to any school. Even if you think it won't happen at your school, it can happen at your school. I mean all of us thought this would never happen at our school. Never in a million years. And this happened. So, I mean, I -- we're just going to go to -- hopefully have a good week and just next week, if we go to school, I'm -- it's just, I don't know, very shocking.

CAMEROTA: This is the new normal. This is his new normal, hoping that his teachers are well trained and the police show up fast.

K. GILROY: I just want to really thank all the staff there and his teacher, Lisa Webster. I can't, you know, I -- having gone through the shooter training myself, I so appreciate that they followed the directions. And it is a new normal. And it's -- no, I don't want that. I know when I was training at the elementary school, I thought, well, I'm so glad I learned this, but it's not going to happen here. And it can happen anywhere.

CAMEROTA: Kristi, Will, thank you both very much. I know that you've been up all night. Thank you very much for sharing your story.

Chris, I mean, you heard it, this is what kids around the country now have to deal with, shooter drills and then praying that it never happens in their school.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: I mean it's something that you wouldn't be able to make up if you wanted to create a destruction fiction for a society where a mother has to sit next to her child and you interview them and ask them all the right questions to help us understand what this is like for them. And she says, well, I've taken the active shooter course. And he has. And he's depending on the teachers, you know, and for them to do the right thing when this happens the next time. That's the best we can do? It really is just such a disgrace.

Alisyn, thanks for taking us down there so that we can be focused on the right thing this morning.

So, where are our leaders? Well, they're not on this show and I bet you you're not going to see many of them on TV today because they're hiding from the reality and they'll disguising it as sympathy and sensitivity. Wow, what an irony.

President Trump, he tweeted condolences to the families of school shootings and their victims, but he hasn't made any public comments about this senseless attack despite aides reportedly urging him to speak.

CNN's Abby Phillip is live at the White House.

After Las Vegas, when we had some low-hanging fruit there to deal with in the form of a bump stock, something that should never be available, he said, we'll be talking about gun laws soon. Not a word since.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Chris, nothing has happened since then. And this morning the sun is rising on Washington yet another day after a mass shooting. And with a lot of the country looking to the president to find out what to do, what kind of guidance or structure will there be after this. And the president hasn't really said a whole lot. It's been pretty quiet here at the White House, uncharacteristically quiet, frankly, Chris.

The president went to bed last night having sent that tweet and wakes up this morning with the possibility that he might say something. But we know, as you just mentioned, according to "The New York Times'" Maggie Haberman, that the president's aides encouraged him to say something yesterday, and he chose not to. Today we'll see if that changes.

As you mentioned, this is not the first time in the president's tenure that he has dealt with these horrific acts. And after the Las Vegas shooting, he did address the public. But often those comments are about offering condolences to the people who were lost, praise for first responders. But Washington has been unwilling and unable to do anything about the gun issue, even while a lot of Democrats say the time is now. I think we'll see the same cycle playing out again here today, Chris.

[06:45:14] CUOMO: Well, look, guns are obvious. But there are other components. You know, this mad man was getting mental health treatment. Well, did that, in any way, affect his ability to buy a gun? Were doctors able to talk to him about owning guns? He wasn't allowed on the campus with a backpack because he was seen as a threat, but that didn't seem to funnel down into any other sense of urgency.

There are a lot of components. We're not even into step one. What are we going to do to stop the school shootings? We're not even there yet. How sickening is that?

Abby, thank you very much for the reporting. Let's bring in CNN political analyst David Drucker and associate

editor for RealClearPolitics, A.B. Stoddard.

A.B., when I say that nobody wants to come on, I'm talking about from the GOP. You'll get Democrats to come on. They don't have the power to make any kind of change. They could do more to start the conversations. We'll ask them those question.

But it all starts in terms of tone from the top. The reports are the president was urged by aides to say more about the shoot, and he declined. Your read?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Well, I think the president's made it clear throughout these shootings that have taken place in his first year in office that he doesn't want to do anything beyond offer condolences, whether it's in a tweet or on camera. He's not, obviously, unlike President Obama, who would come out and address these situations because he wanted to talk about mitigating the threat, wanted to talk about making changes.

President Trump doesn't have any plans to address these issues. He does -- it's not on his agenda. He's not pushing his own party, members of his party in Congress, to make any changes and it's not a priority and so he's going to try to avoid talking about it.

In his tweet, I would note, he said, no one should have to feel unsafe or not feel safe in a school. I think members of both parties agree now, none of us are safe anywhere but in an airport. You're not safe at the grocery store. You're not safe in a movie theater in the dark. You're not safe at a hospital and you're not safe at church. And you're certainly not safe at school.

And so Republicans increasingly are -- now that people have pushed back in -- after these recent shootings saying that thoughts and prayers are not enough, Republicans are trying to find a way to avoid the subject because, as you said, even the bump stock legislation didn't go anywhere.

So I think -- I just think we're going to continue to have these same conversations. And I would also add that, Chris, single issue advocate voters on the issue of abortion, on the issue of gun rights, on the issue of refugee policy, they're ought there and they come to the polls. But it really is shown in polling that people don't vote on primarily the issue of gun control. And until and unless they do, I don't see things changing much.

CUOMO: Well, look, I mean, you have to be right, A.B., because otherwise there's some kind of mass insanity going on because we keep seeing the same things, the same outpourings of emotion, the same senseless killings, but nothing changes. And, David Drucker, the proof isn't just any kind of perfunctory analysis. If this were a terror attack, all right, what happens when one of those happens? They start taking a forensic look at how this was able to happen and what to do to stop it. The guy drove the truck onto the West Side Highway. How'd he get there? Barriers have to go up. How did he get into this country? How did he get the weapons? Who sold them to him? Right? All those different protocols. Not here. What makes this so frightening to Republicans?

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I think the difference here, Chris, and I think you bring up a good point here that is lost, I think, both in terms of the public and how the public looks at this and policymakers, that there are several components here, not just the gun issue, that need to be reviewed and could be reviewed that, in fact, may not be as politically sensitive as the gun issue is.

But one of the reasons why I think nothing ends up getting done is because the gun issue is so politically sensitive on the right and I think it's misunderstood. And I think for people that want to do something in terms of new gun legislation, I think they need to have a better understanding of where Republicans are on the gun issue and where it comes from.

The caricature is that the National Rifle Association, the NRA, is driving Republican policy on guns with campaign donations. And that's simply not the case. The NRA is a manifestation of committed voters who support the NRA because they are so committed to gun rights. And that's what gives the NRA so much strength. And I think if Democrats had a better understanding of that, they might be able to work with Republicans easier, or at least have a better conversation.

And I think that, you know, from -- from the Republican point of view, if they were able to understand that what many Democrats -- not all, but what many Democrats are trying to do is address incidents like this so that they don't happen again and it's not simply about as -- it's not simply about a gun grab or just we're taking away law abiding Citizens' rights to bear arms, then all of a sudden the nature of the conversation changes.

CUOMO: Right.

[06:50:12] DRUCKER: But that's where it always devolves into. And that's why we know this time, as in previous incidents, we don't expect anything new to happen in Washington.

CUOMO: Right, but Abby -- you know, A.B. -- Abby, A.B. -- A.B., the question that I think is the initial one, the premise where any action would have to begin, doesn't even have the word "gun" in it. You can't deal with this issue about dealing with the availability of guns. You just can't. Sorry. It's a fundamental aspect of every one of these.

But it's, what are we going to do to stop the school shootings? They don't even ask that question. And that goes all the way to the top. The president has the hashtag MAGA, right, make America great again. How can you not include this issue in part of that agenda? He's supposed to be a change agent, right? We are the scourge of the world when it comes to these. Nobody is worse than we are. How does that not make the MAGA agenda?

STODDARD: It -- look, one of the things that he did as a candidate, many people wrote off, was build a coalition on several very durable, very powerful, potent issues, immigration, trade, and Second Amendment rights. Talking about how Hillary Clinton, if she won, was going to, you know, take away all your guns. And he really engaged, you know, very, very committed voters --

CUOMO: Right.

STODDARD: Many of them single issue voters --

CUOMO: Right.

STODDARD: On this issue and built a very powerful coalition who continues to stand behind him. And that's -- that's -- like I said in the first answer, this -- any gun control, any limitations, any, you know, increased background checks are not on this president's agenda. He's not going to change his mind (ph).

CUOMO: I wonder what the number will be?

A.B. Stoddard, David Drucker, let's get back to Alisyn in Florida.

I wonder what the number will be? Teens, not enough. Fifties, not enough. Maybe if a thousand people were killed, maybe that would trigger some type of different perspective. But not today.


CAMEROTA: I don't know what the magic number is, Chris, but we're still going to have these conversations and we're going to talk to all of the people who are most impacted and maybe that will get somebody powerful's attention.

We do have some breaking news for everyone right now because the Broward County Sheriff's Office has booked this 19-year-old suspect who's accused of carrying out this massacre at the high school that you see behind me. So prosecutors are now charging him with 17 counts of premeditated murder. He went to this school knowing what he was about to do, the prosecutors are saying. The suspect will appear in court in the next hour. We will bring you all of the updates live here from Florida.

Joining us now, two very special people. We have Sheree Spalding. She spent hours after the massacre looking for her son, Justin, who is with us also. Justin is a ninth grader with special needs.

Thank you both so much for being here.

How many hours did you not know where Justin was?

SHEREE SPAULDING, SON SURVIVED SHOOTING: I found out around 2:30 from my daughter's elementary school.

CAMEROTA: That there was a lockdown?

SPAULDING: That there was a lockdown and that there was a shoot-out at Stoneman Douglas, my son's school. And I go, oh, my gosh, that's my son's school. So I was frantic. And I asked if I could leave.

I came here without getting any form of information. And, I mean, he's number (ph) but he doesn't have a telephone. So I'm watching these parents get in touch with their children and here I am frantic, scared, worried.

CAMEROTA: You couldn't get in touch with Justin.

SPAULDING: Couldn't get in touch with Justin.

CAMEROTA: Obviously he doesn't have a phone.


CAMEROTA: And you couldn't get in touch with his teachers?

SPAULDING: No teachers. No -- I couldn't get in touch with the school at all.

CAMEROTA: And so this went on for four hours?

SPAULDING: For four hours.

CAMEROTA: And what was it -- what were you enduring for those four hours where you didn't know Justin's fate?

SPAULDING: I just kept asking questions. I kept moving around. I kept going places. They kept stopping me and telling me I can't go here. Then finally they had words and said, hey, you know, you need to go to Marriott Hotel. And I'm like, yes, well, the special needs goes to the Marriott Hotel. You know, he's different. Where would he be? What -- you know, why is he there for so many hours? Why can't I go closer to him?

I mean I understand the situation. I understand the protocol. But, as a parent, as a special needs child, I -- I just -- it was hard.

CAMEROTA: I can imagine --

SPAULDING: It was hard.

CAMEROTA: How hard it was. And were you fearing the worst?

SPAULDING: I was fearing the worst, because I didn't get any information. I didn't get any news. I didn't get any phone calls.

CAMEROTA: And then there was so much traffic, as I understand it, while you were trying to drive here to try to find Justin yourself that you had to, at some point, just get out of your car. Did you walk the rest of the way?

SPAULDING: Yes, I walked the rest of the way. I walked one mile just to try to get any form of information, just to find out if he was safe or not. It was -- I don't know. I -- words just can't express what I was going through. And, you know, my heart goes out to the families. I didn't know anything that was going on. It was best that I didn't know. And when I got home to find out how many people that were affected --

CAMEROTA: How bad it was.

[06:55:18] So tell me about the moment that you saw Justin.

SPAULDING: The moment I saw Justin. Oh, my goodness.

CAMEROTA: Where you realized he was alive.

SPAULDING: So I went into the Marriott Hotel. And the first thing I go is, is my son OK? And they were like, what is your son's name. I said his -- my son is Justin. He's a special needs child. They go, do you have a picture of Justin? I said, I do. I showed the picture immediately. And he goes, yes, I saw him. And I just -- just fell like in relief. Like, yes, thank you, Lord. He's OK.

But, still, you know, I just wanted to see him. As soon as I see him, we both just, you know, had eye contact and we ran to each other and I hugged him and I kissed him and I thanked the Lord. And I'm just so happy that he's safe. I really am.

CAMEROTA: And I know Justin is nonverbal. How will you be able to -- do you know what he endured? Do you know what he saw? How will you be able to tell what he experienced at his school?

SPAULDING: I don't know. I have to wait until everything calms and then speak with his teachers. And, you know, find out like other ways for communication. What I can do. I think now I think I have to get a tracker for Justin so if I see movement then I would know that he's OK.

CAMEROTA: Justin seems sleepy. I know it's been a long night for you guys.

SPAULDING: Yes, he is.

CAMEROTA: I mean I'm sure that it was really an ordeal for him. And he just seems great, but he seems like he's going to need a long rest, as you will too.

SPAULDING: Yes. Yes. yes.

CAMEROTA: Sheree, thank you so much. We're so happy that you found Justin.

SPAULDING: Yes, thank you so much.

CAMEROTA: Thank you so much. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

SPALDING: I appreciate you having me here. Thank you.

CAMEROTA: So the suspect who's accused of carrying out this massacre. Well, this is the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook. Of course we all remember that. That suspect is expected in court shortly. We have all of the breaking details for you and we will talk with the mayor of this city, next.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news. CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Chris is in

New York this morning. I am in Parkland, Florida.

This, of course, is the scene of a massacre. This is a city that is now the cite of the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. since Sandy Hook, which we all remember, which was about five years ago in Newtown, Connecticut.