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EARLY START

Gunman Confesses In Florida High School Shooting; Remembering The Victims; Trump Has Empathy But No Answers. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired February 16, 2018 - 05:30   ET

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


[05:30:03] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LORI ALHADEFF, DAUGHTER ALYSSA ALHADEFF KILLED IN FLORIDA SCHOOL MASSACRE: President Trump, please do something.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RENE MARSH, CNN ANCHOR: 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?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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 hope for action to stop the bloodshed?

Welcome back, everyone, to EARLY START. Along with Rene Marsh in New York, I'm Dave Briggs here in Parkland, Florida. It is 5:30 local time.

We begin with the latest on the Florida high school shooting as families hold vigil and begin the process of saying goodbye 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 offer 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, also accompanied by an 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. Good morning, Rosa.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave.

This suspect faces 17 counts of premeditated murder. And this morning, from probable cause documents, we've learned that he has confessed to the crimes.

And from police, we are learning how he made this massacre in the campus that you see behind me. According to police, they say that he took an Uber to this campus and about two minutes later he started firing his AR-15-style rifle. Ten minutes later he set that rifle down and started blending in with students. That's how he fled the scene.

He stopped by a few stores. About an hour later a police officer that was patrolling a residential area noticed that the was walking down the street. He remembered the description of the suspect. He says his training kicked in and he was apprehended without an issue.

Now, we're also learning from police reports that the police was called to his home 39 times since 2010 for things like domestic disturbance and a mentally ill person.

Now, from the court-appointed attorney we've learned that she has had conversations with the suspect. She's not revealing what those conversations are but she is saying that he is mournful -- take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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: A second Instagram account reveals more photographs of guns -- his obsession with firearms. His profile picture shows him with a mask and also, photographs of a bed with firearms.

And then also, another video has surfaced showing him in his backyard, almost practicing target practice. And a neighbor saying that they saw him act very weird in that backyard.

So, Dave, all of this, of course -- law enforcement taking a look and then collecting all the evidence as they prepare for this trial -- 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 threat from a YouTube user with the same name as the gunman. It said, "I'm going to be a professional school shooter."

The vlogger reported it. The FBI says a field officer did a Web search and an internal database review but the FBI says it could not identify the commenter. Local law enforcement, therefore, was not notified of a possible threat.

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

Good morning to you, sir.

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST, FORMER POLICE CHIEF, WASHINGTON, D.C., FORMER POLICE COMMISSIONER, PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA: Good morning.

BRIGGS: So, let's talk about that development that is a surprise to so many people across the country that say wait, this guy identified himself with his own name as his username. Also, almost wanting people to find out who he was.

[05:35:00] How could they not identify where this person lived and notify local law enforcement?

RAMSEY: Well, that's all going to be part of the debrief afterwards to find out exactly how much they knew. Could they have possibly traced this back to an I.P. address which would have led them to the individual? I mean, he gave a name but he's not the only person with that name, so just much work really went into it?

That's something they'll have to look at to see whether or not more could have been done. And remember, all this is in hindsight now so we to take all that into account as well, but it is a legitimate question.

BRIGGS: All right.

From the feds to the local law enforcement, dozens of police visits to the Cruz household. Of course, a lot of attention on these social media posts, disturbing Instagram images --

RAMSEY: Right.

BRIGGS: -- guns and knives. Two different Instagram accounts showing those disturbing images. Mental health treatment.

When you take all of this together, the whole picture, should law enforcement do something different? Was there something they missed collectively that other states and cities can learn?

RAMSEY: Well, you have to balance privacy and security. I mean --

BRIGGS: Sure.

RAMSEY: -- we have multiple locations where we go constantly -- calls for service.

You have people -- and you'd be surprised at the number of people who have photographs of themselves with weapons, with jewelry, with money. These are drug dealers that do this sort of thing as well as just ordinary people. They like to take pictures of themselves posing like this.

It doesn't mean it's going to lead to a school shooting or any kind of shooting at all. So, again, that balance has to be there.

But if the warning signs are there and if the information that you get is such that this person poses an immediate threat, that's a different ballgame. Then you can start to take some action.

BRIGGS: You're right about that, though. One of the biggest Instagram stars is famous for showing off his weapons. He was at the Las Vegas concert shooting, ironically.

So, let's talk about what can be done. And, Gov. Rick Scott taking, I think, a courageous stand --

RAMSEY: Yes.

BRIGGS: -- at least for now, saying everything is on the table.

What should be discussed if we narrow this search? What should be done right now that might prevent one of these?

RAMSEY: Well, people need action, people need leadership right now, and not just a lot of empty words that -- it's good to say now in the heat of the moment but then, it kind of fades away.

You need to bring the right people to the table. You need to talk -- to have the mental health professionals, have law enforcement --

BRIGGS: Yes.

RAMSEY: -- have constitutional scholars, have the NRA, have gun advocacy groups. I mean, all these kinds of people need to be heard so we can take a comprehensive look at this and come up with a strategy that's really going to start to fill the voids and the gaps.

BRIGGS: You said something important there -- when it fades away because the conversation will move, we will leave, the country will stop talking about this.

RAMSEY: Yes.

BRIGGS: How do we keep the conversation alive?

RAMSEY: Well, part of it -- I mean, the media can help keep it alive but people have to stay engaged and not let this fall off the plate now, you know. We have short attention spans as a country.

BRIGGS: Sure.

RAMSEY: We tend to deal with the crisis of the moment or the story --

BRIGGS: Yes.

RAMSEY: -- of the moment and we really don't think back and reflect on some of the poor things that are wrong in this country that need to be fixed.

There's going to be another school shooting or mass shooting incident.

BRIGGS: Sadly, there will.

RAMSEY: It is unfortunate, but it's reality until we start doing something about it, that at least lessens the likelihood of these things happening again.

BRIGGS: All right, Charles Ramsey, really appreciate your insight. Thank you for being here this morning.

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

Sixteen-year-old Carmen Schentrup was a semifinalist for 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, the school athletic director, was a Naval reservist who served in Iraq in 2007. His widow, Deborah, 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRED GUTTENBERG, LOST HIS DAUGHTER JAIME 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've 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Your heart goes out to all these parents.

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.

[05:40:00] 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 describes him as a 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 the gun violence crisis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALHADEFF: 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 is 14.

President Trump, please do something.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Lori will join my colleague Alisyn Camerota in "NEW DAY" after this program.

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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELSEY FRIEND, SURVIVOR OF FLORIDA HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING: He still will 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: Heroes often watered down in this country -- not in this case.

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

Martin Duque Anguiana, 14, described by his brother Miguel as a funny kid. Carol 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's 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 far too soon at just 17 years old.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:48:02] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARSH: Well, 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 come -- go to Parkland, Florida to meet with families and officials.

He will meet with state governors and attorneys general later this month to discuss making schools safer.

I want to bring in CNN political commentator Errol Louis. Good morning.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, POLITICAL ANCHOR, "SPECTRUM NEWS": Good morning.

MARSH: I want to stick with the topic of the president. I guess the first question for you -- consoler-in-chief -- this role. He spoke out yesterday speaking to the nation on this issue.

How's he doing in this role of consoler-in-chief?

LOUIS: Well, it's difficult to sort of be the consoler-in-chief if you're not going to tie action to it. It was very difficult for President Obama and he actually was trying to push for legislation. It's even harder to try and console people and also sort of subtly convey that nothing is going to change.

The president -- that statement you just played is much better than what he first said which was along the lines of essentially blaming the community that according to some of the tweets that he put out, sort of knew that this person was in danger but didn't alert authorities.

As more facts have come out it turns out they did alert authorities. In fact, there's some questions being asked of the FBI why, if they knew that this child was considered a danger by local people, they didn't take action in advance.

So, the president, I think, is going to sort of try and console but also try and move on because this is a very uncomfortable place for him and for the Republican Party.

[05:50:05] MARSH: I know, and to that point, I want to talk about politics and where we go from here because this is like a terrible nightmare of deja vu here because it's -- you know, it happens, we talk about, Congress does nothing.

But I want to kind of flip it a bit because when you look at the state of Florida you don't need a permit or a license to buy a gun, you don't have to register your firearm, and you can buy as many guns as you want at one time.

The question is we've been leaning so much on Congress and people in Washington. Should we be leaning a little bit harder on some of these state governments to do something about this?

LOUIS: Absolutely, Rene. I mean, the day after this massacre, in Tallahassee there was -- there was a state lawmaker who tried to slip a pro-gun provision into an agriculture bill. There's all of this activity that's going on in the state houses kind of out of sight, out of mind and that's really where a lot of this fight has to take place.

It's not just a matter of getting a law passed in Congress although the numbers suggest that that would be a great thing to try and sort of take away some of these weapons of mass destruction.

But it's a fight that's got to happen in every culture, in every state house across the nation that you've got to sort of push back against a concerted, well-funded effort to put guns absolutely everywhere. To strip away every common-sense protection that the polls suggest, even in the most pro-gun states, everybody sort of wants.

I mean, like what you're describing. I mean, does anybody think that 18- and 19-year-olds should be able to buy large-capacity magazines --

MARSH: Right.

LOUIS: -- and high-powered rifles? It's a discussion that doesn't even happen because people get

mesmerized by this notion that it's constitutionally protected under the Second Amendment, therefore we can do nothing. That is simply not true. We have the right -- we have the obligation, frankly, to put in common sense restrictions just as we would on cars, trucks or any other sort of device that can cause great harm.

MARSH: So, in the little bit of time that we have left I want to talk about the big fail that happened on Capitol Hill -- that is, immigration.

There was this bipartisan plan. It would have paired pathway to citizenship for nearly two million Dreamers and also would have been $25 billion for security at the border. That failed. Also, the White House-backed plan which was more conservative. That failed.

What does this mean for the Dreamers? Where does this leave them?

LOUIS: You know, it's -- one of these perversities of the situation is that the four bills that all failed, each of them had a pathway to citizenship for the nearly two million Dreamers -- 1.8 million people who were brought here as children. All of them had that and everything else fell apart.

The real issue right now, Rene, is not these folks who were brought here and are undocumented, it's legal immigration. That's where the Republicans and Democrats can't get to 60 votes and White House won't bless any of their different efforts to try and do so. That's really the problem -- the visa lottery, the family reunification policies.

MARSH: Right.

LOUIS: That's what the fight is going to be over going forward.

MARSH: And when you talk to lawmakers and you ask them what's next, they say they don't know, so that's where that is there.

Errol Louis, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

And coming up, reaction to the Florida shooting stretching all the way to the NBA All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:56:45] MARSH: Well, the NBA has reached its All-Star break and our own Andy Scholes is in Los Angeles for the big game.

Andy, many members of the league, they are actually speaking out in light of what happened in Florida -- speaking out on gun violence.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. Good morning, Rene.

You know, whether it be player or coaches, the NBA has always had a strong voice when it comes to social issues. And last night, I spoke with Charles Barkley about the Florida shooting and he says he thinks no one should be allowed to own a semi- automatic weapon. And I asked Charles why he thinks nothing ever changes after one school shooting after another.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLES BARKLEY, NBA HALL OF FAMER: Well, because number one, the politicians -- the Democrats and Republicans are both full of crap. Let's get that out of the way.

But, you know, what bothers me the most is if I wanted to go and buy a Mercedes -- let's say, hypothetically, I was poor and I walked into a Mercedes dealership and I said I just want to get this on credit. They would do a comprehensive background check on me.

The notion that we don't do that for somebody that are getting guns in that capacity is ridiculous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: And, Barkley also telling me that he thought it was absolutely unbelievable, Rene, that the shooter had so many things on social media and all of that just went unnoticed and unflagged in terms of stopping what could have -- or what happened.

MARSH: Charles Barkley never at a loss for words.

Thank you so much, Andy Scholes, live for us this morning in Los Angeles.

Now, American Olympians also offering their condolences to the families of the Florida victims.

Coy Wire has more from PyeongChang.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Rene, the athletes here and all of us at CNN can feel the pain, seeing the images and hearing the voices of those hurting back in the states.

Team USA silver medalist luger Chris Mazdzer told me he just saw the news last night here in PyeongChang. He texted me this -- that message to share showing support to those affected.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MAZDZER, SILVER MEDALIST LUGER: I just want to send my thoughts and prayers, my wishes to anyone who's affected by this terrible Parkland massacre. We're all thinking about you over here in South Korea and just know that we are one big Team USA.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIRE: We have more Olympians speaking out here. We will bring those to you as the morning goes on, Rene.

MARSH: All right.

Well, thanks for joining us. For Dave Briggs in Florida, I'm Rene Marsh. "NEW DAY" starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'd be hard put to find another case that was flashing more signs than this young man right here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was obsessed with guns.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems like the dots should have been connected here.

TRUMP: To every parent, we are here for you -- whatever we can do to ease your pain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump, you need to help us now. We need security now for all these children.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If now is not the right time, when is the right time?

PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It's one of those moments where we just need to step back and count our blessings.

DAVID HOGG, SURVIVED FLORIDA SCHOOL SHOOTING: We're children. You guys are, like, the adults. You can say yes, we're going to do all these things, thoughts and prayers. What we need more than that is action.

GUTTENBERG: What is unfathomable is Jaime took a bullet and is dead. I don't know what I do next.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Friday, February 16th.

John Berman is in New York, Chris is off today, and I'm here again --