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EARLY START

Gunman Confesses to Shooting; Identifying Potential Shooters; Florida's Governor Open to Gun Regulations. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired February 16, 2018 - 04:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[04:00:12] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump, please do something.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Grieving families are demanding action after the Florida school massacre. We've learned the gunman's home was a frequent destination for local police. But did the FBI miss a chance to track him down?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To every parent, teacher and child, we are here for you, whatever you need.

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DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump offered comfort to families, but no mention of guns. Is there any hope of action to stop the bloodshed?

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to EARLY START. Along with Rene Marsh in New York, I'm Dave Briggs. It is Friday, February 16th. It's 4:00 a.m. here in Parkland, Florida.

We begin with the latest on the Florida high school shooting as families hold vigil and begin the process of saying good-bye to their children. Charging documents in the case show 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz has confessed to being the gunman. We have learned the FBI was warned about Cruz by someone who saw a threatening post online. That post one of many that offered disturbing glimpses into his mental state.

All 17 victims have now been identified by the Broward sheriff. And as lawmakers fumble with what to do or not to do, this morning the conservative Murdoch-owned "New York Post" out with this surprising cover, "Mr. President, please act on gun control."

Seven people remain in the hospital. Four in critical condition.

For the latest on what we've learned about the gunman's actions before and after the attack, we turn to CNN's Rosa Flores, live here in Parkland.

Good morning, Rosa.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave.

As you mentioned, from law enforcement and court records, we are learning more about the timeline, about the chain of events. And like you mentioned, Nikolas Cruz, according to this document, confessed to the crimes. Within two minutes of his arrival to the high school, he was discharging his weapon. Ten minutes later, he put that rifle down, started blending with the students who were fleeing the scene. And he fled the scene.

He stopped by Walmart. He stopped by McDonald's as well. And more than an hour later, a police officer from the Coconut Creek Police Department identified him, saw him in a residential area, noticed that he fit the description he heard over the radio and apprehended him.

Now, from records, we are also learning that police were called to his home dozens of times. About 39 times for things like, quote, mentally ill person, and, domestic disturbance. His court-appointed attorney says he fell through the cracks.

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MELISA MCNEILL, SCHOOL SHOOTING SUSPECT'S ATTORNEY: 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)

FLORES: And as the days go by, more signs of his obsession with weapons. A second Instagram account reveals a profile picture of him with a mask. More photographs of rifles. A collection of weapons. And then also a new video has surfaced that shows him almost target practicing outside his house. And neighbors coming forward saying that they indeed saw him just act weird outside his house.

But, Dave, all of these are clues that law enforcement will use against him in this case because, as you know, he's being charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

Dave.

BRIGGS: Rosa, thanks.

Questions this morning about whether the FBI missed an opportunity to stop the Parkland massacre. A video blogger says he warned the bureau about an apparent school shooting threat from the YouTube user with the same name as the gunman. Now, the blogger reported an alarming comment on a video he posted. It said, quote, I'm going to be a professional school shooter.

The FBI says a field officer did a web search and an internal database review but the blogger did not know the commenter and the FBI says it could not identify him. The bureau says no connection to south Florida was found and therefore local law enforcement was not notified of the possible threat.

Let's discuss all of this with CNN law enforcement analyst Charles Ramsey, former police chief of Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.

Good morning to you, sir.

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Good morning.

BRIGGS: Let's start with that story and the revelations that the FBI was tipped off about this disturbing comment. To the lay person we say, how in the world could you not track down a person who identified himself almost wanting people to know who he was? How could they not find out more and tip off local authorities?

[04:05:09] RAMSEY: Well, he notified himself by name. That doesn't mean that you can trace it back to exactly who he is and where he lives. And apparently that's the issue.

Now, that's going to have to be reviewed to find out if more could have been done to actually track it down to an IP address or something. But all of that's going to happen in the aftermath of what took place a couple days ago.

BRIGGS: A little help from Google presumably and you have the exact identification of this user, yes?

RAMSEY: Well, you know, again, we have to take a strong look at this. You would think that's the case. But we have to really take time to kind of see exactly what they knew, how much information they had available to them, what steps could they have taken. It's just one of those unfortunate things that as we start looking at things in hindsight, there's always going to be some missed opportunities out there.

BRIGGS: Well, and that's what we have to do. There was a lot learned from Columbine and there has been a lot learned from the 25 deadly school shootings since.

RAMSEY: Right.

BRIGGS: So let's talk about the local law enforcement.

We showed these disturbing Instagram posts. Two different accounts. Dozens of trips to the Cruz household. Was anything missed locally, do you believe? Could they have paid more attention?

RAMSEY: Well, again, you know, we're looking at things in hindsight. You know --

BRIGGS: Sure. But for next time. There will be a next time.

RAMSEY: Well, but for next time, you're going to get locations where you get multiple calls for service for a variety of things. It doesn't mean it's going to lead to a school shooting massacre or anything like that.

BRIGGS: No.

RAMSEY: I mean so actually you have to look at these cases. But if you find an individual who's engaging in violent behavior, that kind of troubling behavior, you do want to pay some pretty close attention to him. But, again, how do you know it's going to turn out that way. You have to balance privacy and security. I mean we do have a Constitution here and we have to be very careful as police when we start investigating these cases to make sure we don't infringe upon anybody's rights. But at the same time, take these matters very, very seriously. If we can intervene at all, then that ought to be done.

BRIGGS: Let's turn to the national conversation, which is, of course, about gun control. Governor Rick Scott surprising the country saying to Wolf Blitzer, everything's on the table. Is there anything, though, that we know of in our country that may have stopped or prevented this massacre?

RAMSEY: Well, again, that we don't know. But, you know, politicians tend to always say that everything's on the table. People don't need words, they need action. So we'll see what happens here.

But this isn't going to be an easy fix no matter what. It's not just a legislative matter in terms of Congress or anything like that. We need to bring the right people in to the table, find out exactly all those things that need to be addressed and knit together a comprehensive strategy in order to minimize the opportunity for something like this to happen again.

BRIGGS: It won't be an easy fight for the governor. If he wants to run for Senate, as we've heard, to take on the NRA, but that would be a courageous stance.

Chuck, thank you.

RAMSEY: Thank you.

BRIGGS: We'll talk to you again in about 20 minutes.

All of the victims from the mass shooting have now been identified. Among those killed, a geography teacher, an athletic director, a football coach and 14 teenagers with their entire lives ahead of them.

Sixteen-year-old Carmen Schentrup was a semifinalist for a 2018 National Merit Scholarship.

Nicholas Dworet, a 17-year-old senior, was headed to the University of Indianapolis in the fall on a diving scholarship.

Forty-nine-year-old Christopher Hixon, a school athletic director, was a Navy reservist who served his country in Iraq in 2007. His widow, Debra, describes him as an awesome husband, father and American.

Jaime Guttenberg was a 14-year-old dancer. Her father, Fred, holding back tears and anger at a vigil last night.

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FRED GUTTENBERG, LOST HIS DAUGHTER JAMIE IN SCHOOL SHOOTING: I sent her to school yesterday. She was supposed to be safe. My job is to protect my children. And I sent my kid to school in the morning. Sometimes things get so crazy. She runs out, behind, and she's like, I got to go, dad, bye. And I don't always get to say, I love you. I don't remember if I said that to Jaime yesterday morning.

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BRIGGS: Fourteen-year-old Alaina Petty loved to serve her community. She was a member of her school's ROTC and also volunteered to help rebuild lives after Hurricane Irma.

Aaron Feis is an American hero. The 37-year-old assistant football coach was killed when he used his own body to shield students from gunfire. A colleague says, quote, he died the same way he lived. He put himself second.

[04:10:12] Joaquin Oliver was 17. A family friend describes him as good hearted kid who loved his family and just being around other people.

Fourteen-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff was a Parkland travel soccer star. Her mother, Lori, holding nothing back, demanding action on gun violence.

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LORI ALHADEFF, LOST HER DAUGHTER ALYSSA IN SCHOOL SHOOTING: 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 to our families that our children go to school and have to get killed!

I just spent the last two hours putting the burial arrangements for my daughter's funeral who's 14. President Trump, please do something!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: A passionate mom.

Luke Hoyer was 15. He loved basketball and mac and cheese. His cousin remembers him as an amazing individual who was always happy, always smiling.

Thirty-five-year-old geography teacher Scott Beigel died trying to usher students back into his classroom when the shooting began.

Kelsey Friend, one of Beigel's students, tells CNN he saved her life.

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KELSEY FRIEND, SURVIVOR OF FLORIDA HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING: He still will be -- forever be my hero. I will never forget the actions that he took for me and for fellow students in the classroom. And if his family is watching this, please know that your son or your brother was an amazing person and I am alive today because of him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: There are seven other victims. We don't know as much about them, but we do know their names.

Martin Duque Anguiano was 14, described by his brother Miguel as a funny kid.

Cara Loughran, the 14-year-old dancer. Her dance studio calls her a beautiful soul.

Eighteen-year-old Meadow Pollack, who was preparing to attend Lynn University in Boca Raton.

Gina Montalto, a 14-year-old member of the school state champion marching band.

Alexander Schachter, 14, whose older brother survived the shooting.

Peter Wang, 15, also a member of the school's ROTC program.

And Helena Ramsay, described by a relative as deeply loved and loved others even more so, gone at 17.

Some of the students -- apologies -- who survived the massacre are sending a powerful, unfiltered message to Congress. They want something done about gun violence in America and they have little patience for politics.

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EMMA GONZALEZ, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: People in the government need to understand that we are not to be bought by the NRA. Like, they're not supposed to be listening to the NRA about our protection. They're supposed to be listening to the people who are getting hurt about our protection. And we're the ones who deserve to be kept safe because we were literally shot at.

ISABELLE ROBINSON, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: 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 and that's why people die.

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BRIGGS: President Trump trying to console a nation in mourning, but the idea that it's too soon to talk about guns remains a prevailing theme.

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[04:18:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to speak now directly to America's children, especially those who feel lost, alone, confused or even scared. I want you to know that you are never alone and you never will be. You have people who care about you, who love you and who will do anything at all to protect you.

Answer hate with love. Answer cruelty with kindness.

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BRIGGS: President Trump addressing the Florida school shooting with plenty of empathy, but not a single mention of guns. The president says he is planning to go to Parkland, Florida, to meet with families and officials. He also says he will meet with state governors and attorneys general later this month to discuss policies to make schools safer. Truth be told, we have heard it before.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we'll be talking about gun laws as time goes by.

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BRIGGS: That was after the Las Vegas concert shooting in October. It is fair to say, guns have not been a big part of the national conversation since then. The president also stressing the need to address mental health issues. And Florida Governor Rick Scott agrees. Scott, for his part, signaled he's open to tighter gun laws.

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GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Everything's on the table, all right? I'm going to look at every way that we can make sure our kids are safe.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, "WOLF": Even if the National Rifle Association goes after you?

SCOTT: Wolf, I'm going to go -- I -- look, I love my kids, my grandkids. I know every family in this state is in the same position. We love our children. I'm going to do whatever I can do to keep these kids safe. I'm going to -- every -- I'm going to talk about every issue to keep these kids safe.

It's a lot of things. It's looking at, you know, who should have guns. Should individuals with mental illness have guns? Should -- what can we do to create more safety in our schools? What can we do to make it easier for our children and make them feel comfortable to report things? It's not one things. It's all these things put together.

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[04:20:15] BRIGGS: Today, both Florida senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, will be in Parkland. Rubio said Thursday, gun restrictions would not have prevented this school shooting. It is worth noting that Rubio, according to "The New York Times," received $3.3 million from the National Rifle Association as of October 2017.

The school shooting and the lack of action earlier drew an angry and emotional response from comedian Jimmy Kimmel.

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JIMMY KIMMEL, LATE NIGHT TALK SHOW HOST: Don't you dare let anyway say it's too soon to be talking about it, because you said after Vegas. You said it after Sandy Hook. You say that after every one of these, eight now, fatal school shootings we had in this country this year.

Children are being murdered. You literally have done nothing. Actually, you've done worse than nothing. You like to say this is a mental health issue. But one of your very first acts as president, Mr. Trump, was to actually roll back the regulations that were designed to keep firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill. You did that.

I agree, this is a mental illness issue because if you don't think we need to do something about it, you are obviously mentally ill. And -- if one illegal immigrant causes a car accident, we've got to build a wall to keep the rest of them out. Why are you looking for solutions to that problem and not this one? Every reasonable American, Republican or Democrat, knows that something has to be done. Something. And we're not doing anything.

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BRIGGS: It is indeed a sign of the times that Jimmy Kimmel, no matter the political issue, is as influential as any senator we hear speak about these issues.

Rene, back to you in New York.

RENE MARSH, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. And it's not just Jimmy Kimmel. Obviously, everyone asking the question, what will lawmakers do?

And coming up, the future for dreamers and the president's border wall is uncertain after the Senate failed to advance plans for immigration policy. That's all coming up next.

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[04:26:40] MARSH: Well, former Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates is finalizing a plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Sources tell CNN Gates is poised to cooperate in the Russia investigation. This could be another building block in a potential case against President Trump or members of his team.

CNN has also learned former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon was questioned by the special counsel's investigators over two days this week, but Bannon is not cooperating with the House Intelligence Committee's investigation. He says the White House instructed him to invoke executive privilege and refuse to answer key questions involving the Russia probe. Lawmakers are now considering holding him in contempt.

Well, an immigration deal and the fate of the nation's dreamers still very much up in the air this morning. Senators failed to advance a bipartisan bill that would offer a pathway to citizenship for nearly 2 million undocumented immigrants, as well as $25 billion in border security and other measures. A competing, more conservative White House backed plan also failed. John Cornyn, the number two Republican in the Senate, says he doesn't think the issue of immigration will be raised again soon. The Trump administration says that the next plan to consider all of this is a conservative proposal that is in the House.

Now, Florida's school shooting is another reminder of the high rate of gun violence in the United States compared to the rest of the world. Families and survivors of the latest attack are now asking, will lawmakers do something? We're live in Florida, next.

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