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Victims' Parents, Classmates Demand Action On Killings; CNN: Killer Fired Almost 150 Rifle Shots; Grief-Stricken Mom: President Trump: Please Do Something; Survivors Demand Congress Take Action To Stop Gun Violence. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired February 16, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in for Kate Bolduan. Shock, grief and growing sense of anger in Ft. Lauderdale, just a short drive from Parkland, Florida, the epicenter of the nation's latest mass shooting.
The first of 17 victims is being buried today. Alyssa Alhadeff was just 14 years old when the gunman walked into her high school and opened fire. Police say the gunman has confessed. Alyssa's mom delivered an impassioned plea to President Trump for gun control. It is a call for action now embraced by the students, teenagers who lost friends, classmates, and mentors.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID HOGG, FLORIDA SCHOOL MASSACRE SURVIVOR: I'm glad that people are starting to notice that this is something that we need to face. And when politicians say now is not the time, I want to ask them, when is? How many more children need to die?
ALEXIS MICHAEL, FLORIDA SCHOOL MASSACRE SURVIVOR: Things need to change. Nothing is going to be different if we don't change anything.
ISABELLA ROBINSON, FLORIDA SCHOOL MASSACRE SURVIVOR: I would like to say that this shouldn't be a fight between two different parties. This should be a coming together where we all realize that something is wrong and even if we disagree on the way to fix it, we all just need to talk about it and stop being angry and stop slandering other people because that doesn't help anyone. That's why people die because we just can't get along.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: And the heart broken community of Parkland also grappling with another cruel reality that there were warning signs of a future killer lurking in their midst. Could this massacre have been prevented?
CNN's Rosa Flores in Parkland with the latest on what we have learned about the gunman -- Rosa.
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, we have learned disturbing details. First of all, that 150 shots were fired, and this happened within minutes because we're also getting the minute by minute detail from the police. Let me take you through this.
According to the police, they say that this individual arrived at about 2:19 p.m., within two and a half minutes he starts firing those gunshots. About 6 to 7 minutes later, he stops firing gunshots. He sets the AR-15 2style rifle down and he starts fleeing the scene, blending in with students.
That's how he was able to get away from the school. He stops by a subway and buys a sandwich and a drink and after that, he stops by a McDonald's and is there for a few minutes. And then he decides to walk to a residential area and that's where a police officer from Coconut Creek Police Department got wind of him.
He saw the suspect walking by, and this officer says that his training kicked in. He identified the suspect based on the description that was coming through his radio and he was able to apprehend him without incident.
Now, police are still scouring through a lot of the evidence and they're also learning and as we are learning as well about his digital footprint and police are very disturbed by what they're finding.
There is a second Instagram account that shows his face masked, also images, photographs of an arsenal of weapons, and also of the suspect with knives. There is also another video that has surfaced that shows this gunman and this was taken by a neighbor, doing target practice outside of his house.
And then from police reports, we have also learned that the police was called to his home 39 times since 2010. The description of those visits are a little vague saying that, quote/unquote, "a mentally ill person was involved or a domestic disturbance."
Again, we don't have a lot of those details, but, again, this is -- these are some of the clues that authorities are also looking into, and, Fred, I want to leave you with this picture because I want you to take a look behind me.
This is the first time that we have seen people walking around the parking lot here at the school, as you take a close look. And what looks like is happening is people are, for the first time, able to get their vehicles from this scene because until now it had been an active scene.
But take a look, we're seeing individuals and we don't know exactly who they are, but perhaps staff or administrators driving off from this active scene -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, Rosa Flores, thank you so much. Keep us posted there from Parkland.
All right. Let's bring in CNN law enforcement analyst, James Gagliano, a retired supervisory special agent at the FBI. All right. So, we have learned a lot about this shooter. Unleashing nearly 150 shots from his AR-15. That this happened in a span of six to seven minutes. [11:05:06] And that he knew at the end of school about the pattern of students there, given he had already been there and had been expelled. What does this tell you about his calculations when you add all of this up?
JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Sure, Fred. And I think that the shooter meets kind of some of the standard active shooter profiles and there is a part of him that we're still trying to dig into and get some answers to.
Keep in mind, it has been just under 48 hours since this shooting happened. So, police are going back now and exhaustively trying to piece together some more pieces of this puzzle to try to give us some more clarity in this.
Now, it is every law enforcement professional's nightmare that there might have been a couple of dots that needed to be connected that weren't. I'm going to hold off because we're going to wait until we get some official reports in regards to what was actually done with the social media profile that has been presented that said he had made some statements that were worthy of law enforcement interests.
Now, in this country, we have First Amendment protections and online you have people, especially in the video, the violent video game kind of culture that we live in that say some crazy things. That say things about the president or make statements hastily or impulsively. And that's all got to be sorted out.
And generally, what happens is the FBI dispatches people to do what we call a knock and talk, which you would hope would happen in this instance, to basically make an assessment. But again, investigators are fallible human beings and sometimes those judgments have to be done when people say crazy things, and that happens every day, thousands and thousands upon times online, sorting through it and figuring out which ones are going to be the real threat.
WHITFIELD: Sure, James. But in this culture and this day and age, we're all -- there is this, you know, overriding edict, if you see something, you say something. We know someone saw something, saw that dangerous language on YouTube, I want to be a professional, you know, killer at a school.
That is enough to precipitate some real interest with a name that can also be attached with already established as we heard from Rosa's reporting 39 visits to his home. Why wouldn't there be some sort of local tracking or wellness checks as you put it, the knock and visit, of this individual, when already there has been an established pattern of some trouble or problems?
GAGLIANO: Fred, I think, you know, as I've heard said a number of times over the past couple of days, we can't look at any of these things in a vacuum. I'm not suggesting you are, but when you piece all these pieces together, we have to take -- we have to take a serious look at the Second Amendment. I am a retired law enforcement professional, I'm a gun owner, I'm a hunter. We have to take a look at this. WHITFIELD: When you see some real holes in the -- in the area of how someone can acquire weaponry, at what age, what are the circumstances, but it doesn't necessarily mean jeopardizing the Second Amendment. People can still have their guns, but you're saying that there ought to be some more proposed restrictions?
GAGLIANO: Absolutely. And, you know, unfortunately, we're on the continuum where we want the right to privacy. We want civil liberties and we have protections. HIPAA and FIRPA are two of those things that protects us if you seek mental health consultations.
The problem is you had a 19-year-old kid here that was able to buy an assault weapon. People will argue about the definition of an assault weapon. I have seen people up close and personal that have been shot by that weapon, a 223 round.
Those type of weapons, they have collapsible stocks, they could have pistol grips, they could have detachable magazines in the 20 to 30 round range, shrouded barrels, flash suppressors. They are not. I will argue this --
WHITFIELD: But it is a civilian version of a military-style weapon, yes?
GAGLIANO: Fred, absolutely. When I heard Senator Nelson right before I went on describe the scene as carnage, that is a term we use for the death and destruction laid in the wake of war.
WHITFIELD: Yes. All right. James Gagliano, thank you so much. We're going to have to leave it right there.
All right. This morning, the first funeral for a victim of Wednesday's killing rampage, Alyssa Alhadeff was just 14 years old. Yesterday her grief-stricken mother unleashed some of her anger and heart break and delivered a blistering rebuke aimed directly at the president of the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LORI ALHADEFF, DAUGHTER ALYSSA KILLED IN MASSACRE: 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.
This is not fair. Our family, our children go to school, and they have to get killed! I just spent the last two hours putting the burial arrangements for my daughter's funeral, who is 14! President Trump, please do something!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[11:10:10] WHITFIELD: CNN's Gary Tuchman is outside Alyssa's funeral. Powerful words, the heartache is felt by everyone -- Gary.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, it's so heart breaking. Inside this funeral chapel behind me, the people who meant the most to Alyssa, her mom and dad, her two younger brothers, other relatives, friends from summer camp and friends from high school, the survivors of the shooting.
The service is just ending as we speak, people are just leaving. What happened inside is this. Alyssa was mourned, but her life was also celebrated. As people were walking in, I was asking them to describe Alyssa, and it was the same adjectives that kept coming out, smart, friendly, athletic, caring.
This 14-year-old was destined for great things and she had wonderful parents, parents we met last night for first time, Lori and Ilan, obviously devastated, grief stricken, in shock.
It takes some time sometimes to realize. It may days or weeks before you realize what's in front of you. They know they lost their daughter. I don't know yet if they know how devastating it would be in the days and weeks to have come.
They have so much support from this community and from this country, and they're already thinking about other children. You'll hear that in this interview they did this morning on CNN's "NEW DAY."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 2 LORI ALHADEFF: My child is dead. I can't help her. But I can help all those other kids at Stoneman Douglas High School and all the other kids in America and around the world. We have to protect our children. We have to fight for them.
ILAN ALHADEFF, DAUGHTER ALYSSA KILLED IN MASSACRE: It is the time to talk about now and tomorrow and the next day and the next day after that and every day after until all of this is resolved. We cannot continue in a civil society like this. We got to do something different than has been done before. We need some radical change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCHMAN: Just a couple of weeks ago, this family was -- this family, this very festive happy time, one of her younger brothers celebrated his Bar Mitzvah. Now this -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: Tragic. All right, Gary Tuchman, thank you so much.
All right. It was just last year that Parkland, Florida, was named the safest city in Florida. That title and the relative innocence it projects was erased in that explosion of bullets on Wednesday.
Our next guest is Mark Bogen, the vice mayor of Broward County. And Mr. Vice Mayor, our hearts go out to all of you. So how is the community holding up there in your view?
VICE MAYOR MARK BOGEN, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: You know, we have a devastated community from this horrific event and they're in mourning. They're in just mourning. We have funerals as you just mentioned earlier. We have funerals going on today, and in the future, and it is going to take a long time to get over this.
WHITFIELD: It is impressive. These young people are extremely -- it is impressive that these young people are extremely outspoken, while they are also, you know, coupled with this grief. People have talked about warning signs as well about this young man. What do you think was missed?
BOGEN: Well, you know, what I think is that the elected officials of this state, the governor and many state legislators, are focusing on the individual. When the focus should really be on the laws that allowed this individual to obtain an assault weapon as a teenager.
OK, so right now this is not about guns, this is not about the Second Amendment, this is about two words really, about assault weapons and what the laws allow teenagers to obtain. That's really the problem, I believe, it is a problem here in our society.
WHITFIELD: And that may be a long-term approach if there is going to be anything done. What do you want done most immediately, if anything?
BOGEN: Well, I mean, look, if you just look at the statistics, the last five out of the six mass deadliest shootings in the past six years has been with an assault weapon. You look at the past year how many school shootings there has been.
You just keep going on about how assault weapons are playing a major role in the mass deadliest shootings here in this country, we need to have laws that do not allow teenagers to buy assault weapons. It is that simple.
I have many friends who belong to the NRA. I have many friends who have concealed weapons permits, guns, but they are all telling me the same thing, and that we need to do something about assault weapons and that's something that can be done tomorrow, with the governor and our state legislature.
But instead, you have elected officials coming here, the governor was here, our president of the state senate was here, and what they're doing, they're expressing grief and their support for the families, but they go back, and they support laws and enact laws that allow this to happen. And that's the tragedy as well.
[11:15:05] WHITFIELD: So, your feeling is they can take care of that immediately, not long-term. President Trump just tweeted not long ago, I'm quoting now, "I will be leaving for Florida today to meet with some of the bravest people on earth. But people whose lives have been totally shattered and I'm also working with Congress on many fronts."
Are you looking forward to the president's visit and what do you expect he will be met with when he arrives, if he arrives there?
BOGEN: Well, I can speak only as a Broward County commissioner and vice mayor, I speak for myself and him coming here to me is absurd. Him being -- coming here is absolutely absurd and he's a hypocrite. How can you come here and talk about how horrible it is when you support these laws? And what is most interesting, what I just learned, is one year ago this month, the president reversed a rule banning mentally ill people from purchasing a gun.
So, President Trump now based on his actions, allows mentally ill people to purchase guns when over a year ago they could not. So, this is a man who supports -- supports teenagers and other people to do buy assault weapons and to have these types of weapons and then comes down here and wants to act as though this is horrible, this shouldn't happen, but goes back to Washington and supports it. It is hypocrisy, it is absolute hypocrisy.
WHITFIELD: Vice Mayor Mark Bogen, thank you so much for your time.
BOGEN: Thank you, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right. This is a devastating time for the people there. We want to take a moment to remember the lives, tragically lost, Peter Wang, 15 years old, Gina Montalto, 15, Carmen Schentrup, 16 years old, Alaina Petty, 14 years old, Joaquin Oliver, 17 years old, Jaime Guttenberg, 14 years old, Nicholas Dworet, 17, Martin Duque, 14 years old, Alyssa Alhadeff, 14 years old, Luke Hoyer, 15 years old.
Helena Ramsey, 17 years old, Alexander Schachter, 14 years old, Kara Loughran, 14 years old, Meadow Pollack, 18 years old, Christopher Hixon, he was the school's athletic director, 49 years old.
Aaron Feis, he was an assistant football coach, he was killed when he threw himself in front of students to protect them from oncoming bullets. He was 37 years old. Scott Beigel, he was a geography teacher and was killed as he tried to usher students back into his classroom when the shooting broke out. He was 35 years old.
WHITFIELD: Children who survive the massacre at their high school have a message for the adults who run the country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELSEY FRIEND, SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I just want them to know that something actually does need to happen. Like, after Sandy Hook, after all the other shootings and having it happen at my own school, something needs to be done or it is going to continue. I lost two of my closest people to me because of guns and no one is doing anything about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Students and parents are demanding that Congress move past political differences to enact stricter gun control laws. I'm joined by Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California, a long-time advocate for gun safety measures.
Congresswoman, good to see you. You tweeted that Congressional Republicans need to, quoting you now, "start putting children's lives ahead of the NRA." Is this the moment where politics are put aside for action?
REPRESENTATIVE BARBARA LEE (D), CALIFORNIA: We're past that moment, Fredricka. First, let me just say my heart, like the hearts of everyone in this country, is broken. We're grieving. Our country is in the state of mourning, and we're going to continue to pray for the victims and the families and the Parkland community.
And those of us who are public policymakers need to take action. We need to move forward, and the time is now. We know that 80 percent of the public supports common sense gun control and gun safety measures.
For example, background checks, I know last year we had over 190 co- sponsors on that legislation. If Speaker Ryan would bring up some of these bills, I know they could get passed. Yes, the NRA really has a lot of control.
And we need to put the lives of our children and of the 30,000 of the Americans and people in our country who have been lost to gun violence, we need to put them first, not the NRA.
WHITFIELD: And perhaps in a bipartisan way, what exactly would tackling this issue mean? Would it mean in terms of age restrictions, access to certain guns, the banning of certain weapons, what is most realistic and within grasp in your view?
LEE: Well, in my view, I think that -- and we know for a fact that background checks, legislation for background checks, has bipartisan support. The assault weapons ban, I'm sure we can build support for that.
[11:25:14] We had an assault weapons ban until several years ago. We need to have -- to close loopholes in terms of gun show sales for ammunition and firearms. There are many measures that we need to move forward on, but I have to tell you, enough is enough.
This is -- this epidemic of gun violence is being normalized now in the United States. We're the most developed country in the world, yet we have more deaths to gun violence than any country.
And I have to tell you, Fredricka, this is a wake-up call again, and President Trump needs to, you know, come forward and say that he supports gun safety measures, and send a signal to his people in Congress starting with Speaker Ryan that the NRA should not control the agenda that is destroying so many lives of our children throughout the United States.
WHITFIELD: Congresswoman, the White House is pointing out that the suspect did pass a background check before obtaining his weapon. Here's what Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said just moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: In this instance, you know, this individual did obtain the weapon through a legal background check. You know, we don't know all the circumstances surrounding it, but obviously, he shouldn't have had that weapon and shouldn't have been able to do the kinds of things that he did.
You know, with that being said, there is a whole host of issues surrounding this matter from mental health to school safety, and a range of other things that we'll be looking at.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Are those comments a potential starting point in all of this?
LEE: First, let me just say, if they're for real, when you look at their budget, they cut mental health programs up over a billion dollars, cut school safety programs 36 percent. I'm a psychiatric social worker by profession, certainly I understand mental health issues.
But this issue has to do with access to guns, access to assault weapons, access to weapons of war that are killing people in our country. So, the White House needs to stop it, they need to come forward and look at this in a way that makes sense that will help stop this carnage that is taking place throughout the country. And they need to really, again, let speaker rhino that the NRA should not be controlling the agenda that is killing so many people in America.
WHITFIELD: Congresswoman Barbara Lee, thanks so much for your time. Appreciate it.
LEE: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Coming up, two major developments in the Russia investigation. Former Trump Campaign Adviser Rick Gates finalizing a plea deal with Special Counsel Bob Mueller. And President Trump's Former Chief Strategist Steve Bannon spending about 20 hours answering Mueller's questions. Stay with us.