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EARLY START

Gunman Confesses to Shooting; Parkland Mayor on School Shooting; Olympians React to Florida Shooting; Olympic Games Update. Aired 04:30-05:00p ET

Aired February 16, 2018 - 04:30   ET

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


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[04:30:56] (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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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?

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. Along with Rene Marsh in New York, I'm Dave Briggs in Parkland, Florida. It is 30 minutes past the hour.

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've 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 what not to do, this morning the conservative Murdoch-owned "New York Post" out with this surprising cover, "Mr. President, please act on gun control," with an accompanying editorial.

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, Florida.

Good morning, Rosa.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave, good morning.

After his first court appearance, we learned from authorities that the suspect was placed on suicide watch. And from probable cause documents, we learned that he confessed to the crimes and later law enforcement giving us a timeline, the chain of events of this massacre.

Police pointing out that two minutes after his arrival at the school, he started discharging his weapon. Ten minutes later, authorities telling us that he set down the AR-15-style rifle and he started blending with the students. That's how he fled the scene according to authorities.

Now, they also say that he stopped by a Walmart, purchased a drink and a sandwich, and then he stopped by a McDonald's. About an hour later, a Coconut Creek Police Officer saw him in a residential area. He says that his training kicked in. He noticed that he fit the description that he heard of the suspect over the radio and that he apprehended him without any problems.

Now, records also show that police had been called to his house dozens of times for things like, quote, mentally ill person and domestic disturbance. Now, we're learning more now from the court appointed attorney. She is not revealing exactly what her conversations have been with the suspect, but she does say that he had battled with mental illness his entire life. And she says that 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.

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FLORES: And as police investigate, more signs of his obsession with weapons. A second Instagram account has surfaced showing him wearing a mask, numerous photographs of guns, a collection of guns and of rifles.

And, Dave, as police collect all of this evidence, their goal, of course, is to serve justice and for justice to be served. And, of course, they're going to be using this against him as they prepare for the 17 counts of premeditated murder that he's charged with.

[04:35:01] Dave.

BRIGGS: Indeed.

All right, Rosa, thank you.

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 a YouTube user with the same name as the gunman. The blogger reported an alarming comment on a video he posted. It said, quote, I'm going to be a professional school shooter.

Now, 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 local law enforcement was therefore not notified of the possible threat.

Let's discuss all of this with the mayor of Parkland, Florida, Christine Hunschofsky.

Thank you so much for being here. I know this has been an exhausting process and an emotional one for you.

How do you characterize the mentality of your town?

CHRISTINE HUNSCHOFSKY, MAYOR OF PARKLAND, FLORIDA: I think our town has been in shock for the last 24, 48 hours. And I think now we're starting to process through that shock. And a lot of this is really hitting home even more now.

BRIGGS: So it goes from shock to what -- what today? What's the feeling now?

HUNSCHOFSKY: Today the funerals begin and today we start looking -- or continue looking for what we can do for our community and what steps we need to take for our community to be able to heal and what resources we're going to need for that to be possible.

BRIGGS: Well, I know the whole country is wondering what they can do for you, how they can help. What do you need right now?

HUNSCHOFSKY: I think right now we need to figure out what we actually do need for people to come through this and what our community is going to need to heal. Parents were asking me yesterday when school is going to be opening. Our Broward County school system will be looking into that. I'm sure they'll be getting back to them. But we have a lot of questions right now about how we move forward.

BRIGGS: School is closed today.

HUNSCHOFSKY: Correct.

BRIGGS: You assume it reopens next week. Do parents want their kids to come back to school next week?

HUNSCHOFSKY: So the parents that I've spoken to, many are very apprehensive, completely understandably so, about sending their children back to school. This has been a very traumatic incident for all of us and especially those students who were inside when this happened.

And so -- BRIGGS: I live in Connecticut where Sandy Hook happened and that was one of the most difficult questions for local officials. Kids never want to go back to that school. They may not want to go back to this school. How do you handle that?

HUNSCHOFSKY: That's something, again, the Broward County schools will have to decide on. But I think we're going to have to talk to the community, talk to our school board members and see where -- what is possible and what everybody's comfort level is and how we can move forward with that.

BRIGGS: Is there anything now that you look back and you say, how can this maybe help the next city, state? Unfortunately there will be a next time. What do you think has been the biggest learning lesson, whether it's local law enforcement, the education system, or the government?

HUNSCHOFSKY: I think the active shooter training that happened at the school, I believe that that helped in this situation. I think law enforcement reacted very well. And I think everybody's going through what actions took place and making sure that that's all well documented so that we all hope this doesn't happen again.

BRIGGS: We hope. And the most difficult part of your job right now is speaking to those parents who -- excuse me -- who have lost their children. What are they telling you? What do you tell them?

HUNSCHOFSKY: All I can tell them is how sorry I am for them and that if there's anything we can help with -- anything we can do for them, we are all here for them. We had a vigil last night. The turnout was overwhelming. It was amazing. And I want them all to know that whatever they need, we're here for them. But they want action. They want to make sure that what they're going through right now never happens to anybody again.

BRIGGS: And, lastly, how resilient is this community?

HUNSCHOFSKY: We have an amazing community. We have had such an outpouring of support. People wanting to help, wanting to know what they can do. I've mentioned over and over again, this is a small city. This is a community. Wen Irma came through and people got their electricity back, the first thing they were reaching out to me, where do I go to help someone else.

BRIGGS: Yes.

HUNSCHOFSKY: We will get through this. It's going to be difficult. And we just want to do all we can to help.

BRIGGS: All of us here from around the country can feel the determination of your town.

Thank you, mayor. We appreciate you being here this morning very early with us.

HUNSCHOFSKY: Thank you. BRIGGS: 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.

[04:40:02] 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 Naval reservist who served his country in Iraq in 2007. His widow, Debra, describes him as an awesome husband, father and American.

Jaime Guttenberg, 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 as a shield to protect students from gunfire. A colleague says, quote, he died the same way he lived. He put himself second.

Joaquin Oliver was 17. A family friend described him as good hearted kid who loved his family and just being around other people.

Fourteen-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff, 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!

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BRIGGS: Hard to comprehend these parents' pain.

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, 14, described by his brother Miguel as a funny kid.

Cara Loughran, a 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, 14, a 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 who survived the massacre are sending a powerful, unfiltered message to Congress. They want something done about the 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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[04:45:06] BRIGGS: President Trump tries 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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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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[04:50:00] 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 come here to meet with the families and officials. He also says he'll meet with state governors and attorneys general later this month to discuss policies to make schools safer. Truth be told, we've 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's 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. For his part, Scott 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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BRIGGS: Considering Scott may run for Senate, that's a courageous stand. Today, both current Florida senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, will be in Parkland. Rubio said Thursday that gun restrictions would not have prevented this school shooting. Indeed that may be true. 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 earlier action drew an angry and emotional response from late night 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 it 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: Jimmy Kimmel has become as influential as arguably any Congressman on this political debate, no matter the issue.

Rene, we'll be back here shortly. But, for now, back to you in New York.

RENE MARSH, CNN ANCHOR: All right, I'll take it from here. Thanks, Dave. And the reaction to the Florida shooting stretches all the way to

Pyeongchang. What American Olympians are saying, that's coming up next.

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[04:57:04] MARSH: American figure skater Nathan Chen offers condolences to the victims' families in the deadly Florida school shooting before taking to the ice.

Coy Wire has more from Pyeongchang.

Coy, I mean, obviously, this tragedy stretching even there in South Korea.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Rene, less than 24 hours before that highly anticipated men's figure skating short program, the world's only undefeated skater this season, 18-year-old American Nathan Chen, was asked about the shooting.

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NATHAN CHEN, TEAM USA FIGURE SKATER: Truly, my heart -- hearts go out -- my heart goes out to them. It's devastating. It's terrible that things like this keep happening. But, you know, I can just give all of the families involved my condolences. And I hope that, you know, everything kind of starts going on an upward trend. But, I mean, yes, it's not great news to hear that before a competition.

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WIRE: Having fallen earlier in the team event, the pressure for Chen was high. Chen fell not once but twice. He is currently in 17th place. He is the defending U.S. champ.

Now the legendary 23-year-old from Japan, Yuzuru Hanyu, though, looked poised. The defending Olympic champ put up the second highest score ever recorded, falling just short of his own world record. His passionate fans threw truckloads of stuffed Winnie the Poohs, Hanyu's favorite, onto the ice when the score was announced. I was sitting among them. Some were praying, others were crying, but all celebrating the top scorer heading into the free skate, which is later tonight, East Coast time.

Now, in women's slalom, Team USA's Mikaela Shiffrin, the overwhelming favorite to defend her gold from 2014 finished fourth. It's her strongest event. She said she vomited before her first run. She said it was nervousness. She had expectations of four medals at these games. She already did capture gold in the giant slalom.

Let's give you an early start on your medal count. Norway at the top with 19. Germany with 15. Canada, 13. The Netherlands, 12. And the U.S. still sitting in fifth place with eight medals.

Rene, back to you.

MARSH: All right. The U.S. sitting in that fifth place. Hopefully we'll move up a little bit.

Thank you so much, live for us in South Korea, Coy Wire.

Now, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in Turkey trying mend relations and breaking protocol, meeting with the country's president without an American translator. Tillerson and President Erdogan met for more than three hours Thursday. The Turkish foreign prime minister did the translation. The State Department says that the secretary has met with Erdogan before and was OK with it. Tillerson is in Turkey to discuss tensions over the United States anti-ISIS alliance with the Kurdish militia in Syria. Moments ago, Turkey's foreign minister said the U.S. and Turkey agreed to start normalizing relations on the issue. Let's hope that that translation was accurate.

[05:00:03] Well, EARLY START continues right now.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump, please do something!