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Florida Shooting Victims Remembered by Thousands; Trump Focuses on Mental Health Over Guns After Massacre. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired February 16, 2018 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would be hard put for another case that was flashing more signs than this young man right here.
[05:59:22] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was obsessed with guns.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems like the dots should have been connected here.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To every parent, we are here for you, whatever we can do to ease your pain.
LORI ALHADEFF, ALYSSA ALHADEFF'S MOTHER: 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?
REP. 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.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're children. You guys, like, are 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.
FRED GUTTENBERG, JAIME GUTTENBERG'S FATHER: What is unfathomable is Jaime took a bullet and is dead. I don't know what I do next.
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 16. John Berman is in New York. Chris is off today. And I'm here again in Parkland, Florida. This, of course, the latest American city in mourning after gun violence took so many young lives here.
Thousands of people gathered last night at a candlelight vigil to remember the 17 students and teachers who were killed on Wednesday behind me at the structure that you can see there in the darkness. That's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
We do now know their identities and so much more about them. So we want to give you just even a little glimpse into their lives and everything that was lost.
Among those killed, 14-year-old Alaina Petty. She volunteered to clean up after Hurricane Irma hit this state in September. She was part of the Helping Hands program at her church.
We also know Nicholas Dworet. He was a star swimmer at this school. He was a 17-year-old senior. He would have attended the University of Indianapolis in the fall.
Football coach Aaron Feis. Perhaps you heard us talking about him yesterday. He is being remembered as a hero. He was killed while he shielded his students from the hail of bullets of this gunman.
Throughout the morning we will share their stories. We will pay tribute to them. We want you to know all about them, because some of them are so remarkable.
Coming up, I will speak with the mother of a 14-year-old victim -- she was just a freshman -- Alyssa Alhadeff. She made -- the mom made this heartbreaking plea to President Trump about what she wants him to do, the action that she wants him to take. This morning that mom will have to bury her daughter.
So John, we spoke to this mom. Wait until you hear her words. We spoke to her just after she had come from the morgue, where she had identified her daughter and seeing her daughter's injuries. This is what 17 families are dealing with here. It is searing pain. And today we're going to talk to some of them.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Her words are chilling, her words are haunting, her words are inspiring, as are the words of all the kids down there. The question is, will they be heard? So many of the students who survived this attack on their parents, they're turning their grief into anger and calls to action. They're calling on the president and Congress to do something. But so far lawmakers have essentially abdicated. No real debate at all after each of these mass shootings. President Trump won't even say the word "gun" in his address to the nation.
All of this as investigators reveal how the confessed killer carried out this massacre.
Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Rosa Flores, live in Parkland, Florida this morning -- Rosa.
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, good morning.
The mood here in Parkland, somber. This is a small town where everybody knows everybody else. And as the first victim is being laid to rest, this community asks for prayers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want you to know that you're not alone in your grief. We're all grieving with you. The entire country is grieving with you. FLORES (voice-over): A sea of candlelight flooding an outdoor park as
thousands gather to remember the 17 lives lost in Wednesday's massacre.
GUTTENBERG: I sent her to school yesterday. She was supposed to be safe. My job is to protect my children. Don't tell me there's no such thing as gun violence. It happened in Parkland!
FLORES: Parents holding their children close as students and friends reunited. But in the wake of the tragedy, many are turning their grief into calls to action.
ISABELLE ROBINSON, STUDENT WHO SURVIVED MASSACRE: This shouldn't be a fight between two different parties. This should be a coming together where we all realize that something is wrong.
CARLY NOVELL, STUDENT WHO SURVIVED MASSACRE: This happens over and over again. And people are dying. And it, like -- it seems like it doesn't matter. Because, like, what are thoughts and prayers going to do when people are already dead?
FLORES: As this community looks to move forward, authorities are digging deeper into the killer's past. New documents obtained by CNN show that police visited the killer's family home 39 times since 2010, for calls including domestic disturbance and mentally ill person.
BRODY SPENO, SHOOTER'S FORMER NEIGHBOR: The police were here almost every other week. Like, that's kind of how we knew he moved because, like, police stopped showing up there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really?
SPENO: Yes. He was always -- like always getting in trouble. He was, like, an evil kid.
FLORES: Investigators are piecing together a disturbing portrait of the killer's fascination with guns. A former neighbor took this video, shot a few months ago, showing the killer in his backyard brandishing a gun.
Authorities also discovering these disturbing images on a second Instagram account, showing the killer wearing a mask and a "Make America Great Again" hat. In one picture, an arsenal of firearms are displayed on his bed. Another taken through the scope of a gun.
The killer also espoused extremist views and violent desires online, writing on a video from Antifa, the controversial protest group, quote, "F Antifa. I'm going to kill them in the future."
But it was this post that prompted a Mississippi YouTube user to alert the FBI. Quote, "I'm going to be a professional school shooter."
BEN BENNIGHT, CONTACTED FBI ABOUT SHOOTER'S POST: I found that post disturbing enough that I thought somebody needed to know about it.
FLORES: The FBI says they followed up on the lead but did not have enough information to confirm the user's identity.
In his first court appearance Thursday, the killer was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. Police say he has since confessed to carrying out the attack and is now on suicide watch. His public defender telling the press that the killer has suffered from mental illness for years.
MELISA MCNEILL, SHOOTER'S PUBLIC DEFENDER: He's sad. He's mournful. He's remorseful. He is fully aware at what is going on. And he's just a broken human being.
FLORES: And as the investigation continues, we are learning more from police about the timeline of events, how this gunman carried out this attack. We learned that he arrived to this campus on an Uber. Two minutes later he started firing his weapons. Ten minutes after that, he sat down with the AR-15-style rifle and started blending in with students. That's how he was able to escape the scene. He stopped at a few stores, bought a sandwich and a drink.
And then later a police officer was patrolling a residential area, and he said that he recognized the description of the suspect. He says his training kicked in, and that's when the suspect was arrested.
And Alisyn, you can see the flashing lights behind me. This is still an active scene -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Yes. Rosa, thank you very much for all of that reporting.
Now, we want to tell you about a very special family, a grieving family. Fourteen-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff will be buried this morning. Her mother, Lori, made an emotional appeal to President Trump. Maybe you've already heard this. This was during an interview on HLN yesterday. Let me play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
L. ALHADEFF: I just spent the last two hours putting together the arrangements for my daughter's funeral who's 14. President Trump, please do something. Do something. Action! We need it now. These kids need safety now!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: OK. So I spoke with Lori after that and her husband, Ilan, Alyssa's father. Last night there was this beautiful village of Alyssa's soccer team. They gathered for this very special, personal smaller vigil. And her teammates were all wearing their red uniforms. Even kids who weren't on her team came in her honor. So parents, of course, they were being comforted by all her teammates. And here's what her parents told us about her and about what they want now.
CAMEROTA: We were here. We saw the vigil for Alyssa. She obviously has tons and tons of friends. Can you just tell us about your daughter?
L. ALHADEFF: Yes. Alyssa is a very loving, passionate, kind person. She's athletic. Plays soccer since she was 3 years old. And now she's dead at age 14 from a shooter at a school.
CAMEROTA: I mean, as you've said, it wasn't supposed to go this way. She was a good student. She loved soccer. She was supposed to have a long and bright future. How can you ever get your head around what happened?
L. ALHADEFF: I just saw my daughter cold as can be, shot in the heart, shot in the head, shot in the hand, dead, cold as can be. She's gone. I don't think I can wrap my head around that or no other person in the world could either.
CAMEROTA: I know that you say that you're fighting for all of these kids, all of her friends. Everybody's kids. Even who has a 14-year- old girl who now goes to school who should never have this happen to them. What do you feel you're fighting for?
L. 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. It is our job as parents. We have to recognize that, if something is wrong with our own child, if they are ill, OK, you need to get them help. If you have guns in the House and their child has access to these guns, that needs to stop.
[06:10:14] CAMEROTA: What could have changed this?
L. ALHADEFF: There needs to be levels of security. We need to get these semiautomatic weapons off the -- off the streets where these kids are able to buy them.
ILAN ALHADEFF, ALYSSA ALHADEFF'S FATHER: Off the streets and on the Internet. Because they can buy on the Internet.
L. ALHADEFF: And when -- when the FBI gets a tip that we have a YouTuber that is mentally ill, well, do something about it. Don't just sit there and watch.
CAMEROTA: What do you want to say to the politicians in Florida for what you want to see change?
I. ALHADEFF: Stop fighting amongst yourselves. Get stuff done.
CAMEROTA: And Lori, what do you want to say to President Trump?
L. ALHADEFF: President Trump, Barron goes to school. Let's protect Barron. And let's also protect all these other kids here in Parkland in Florida and everywhere else in the United States of America. Because we earned it just like how you earned the right to protect Barron. You need to help us now. We need security now for all these children that have to go to school. We need action. Action. Action.
I. ALHADEFF: When does it stop? These are our kids. How do we get some controls? Who's in charge? I'll tell you, it starts at the top. It always starts at the top. We need some reform. We need it now for our kids. For every one of these kids here today for this vigil.
CAMEROTA: What do you do next? What happens next? How do you harness all of this anger?
L. ALHADEFF: Listen, my Alyssa is gone. But right now, I'm fighting for the other children that still have to go to school.
CAMEROTA: What do you want to say, Lori, to politicians who say now is no time to talk about this?
L. ALHADEFF: What I would say to you...
I. ALHADEFF: Get out of office.
L. ALHADEFF: One. And, two, what if that was your child that was shot three times in the heart and the head and the hand? Think about it and then speak.
CAMEROTA: Is now the time to talk about this?
I. ALHADEFF: It is the time to talk about it 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've got to do something different that hasn't been done before. We need some radical change.
CAMEROTA: What do you want to say to Alyssa's friends who are struggling?
L. ALHADEFF: You know, to Alyssa's friends, grieve for Alyssa. Find your passion, achieve your goals. Do it for Alyssa. When you think you can't do something, think, "No, I can. Alyssa would want me to." And be great. Achieve all that you can do. And please keep Alyssa in your heart and YOUR mind always.
CAMEROTA: So, John, obviously, that's their message to Alyssa's friends and to all of us, after a tragedy like this. Live life to the fullest. But you can hear them on there. Everybody obviously processes grief very differently. But that family has raw emotions, and they are willing to show it, because they are so enraged at what happened to Alyssa. And, you know, obviously, they want to stop -- they want to keep it from happening again to anybody else's child, including as you heard there, her say there to President Trump.
One last thing. She came up to me afterwards and said, "I forgot something really important. I want the death penalty for that gunman. I want people to know that. I want the death penalty. He doesn't deserve to live." So I promised her that I would share that message with everyone.
She, as you know, is just a bundle of raw emotion there, and she has really struck a chord and gotten people's attention. BERMAN: One of the enduring images of that piece, and that was a remarkable interview. It was remarkable to hear from that mother, but one of the things that you see there is the friends of Alyssa comforting the mother. It is the children trying to guide the adults here. These kids, these high school kids are trying to show the country a way, a way to talk about this, a way to address it, a way not to avoid it.
And I just hope, I hope that people listen to those kids so we do not have to hear more from the mothers of children who die in things like this. That was -- shot in the head, shot in the hand, shot in the heart. I can't imagine.
[06:15:05] CAMEROTA: And, John, we have two more of those students and kids who are trying to get people's attention and grab us all by the shoulders.
So let's bring in now David Hogg. He's a senior here at the school behind me. And Nick Joseph, he's a junior who lost one of his close friends.
Guys, thank you very, very much for being here.
David, we wanted to have you back, because your interview yesterday got a lot of attention with us because you made this personal appeal. You just looked at the camera, and you said to everybody listening, "We're children. You're adults. Figure this out. Children are dying."
Did you hear from any leaders? Did you hear from anybody in power after that yesterday?
DAVID HOGG, STUDENT WHO SURVIVED SHOOTING: As far as I know, from what I've heard, I haven't heard anything specific from leaders. But I was busy doing interviews all day yesterday. But I'm glad that people are starting to notice that this is something that we need to fix. And when politicians say now is not the time, I want to ask them, when is? How many more children need to die? Think about that.
CAMEROTA: And what about when people say -- politicians say, "You know, this isn't connected to guns. This is connected to" -- fill in the blank. Mental illness or -- I don't know what else they say. But you know, you heard -- I don't know. Let me play this. Senator Marco Rubio said this yesterday, where he was not blaming guns. Perhaps you have heard this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUBIO: Someone's decided, "I'm going to commit this crime." They'll find a way to get the gun to do it. That doesn't mean you shouldn't have a law that makes it harder. It just means understand, to be honest, it isn't going to stop this from happening. You can still pass the law, per se, but you're still going to have these horrible attacks.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CAMEROTA: What do you say to that? Gun laws wouldn't stop this, he's saying.
HOGG: I absolutely disagree. What I say to both parties and state legislatures across America and in Congress an at the executive level, is that I say we implement whatever programs we can. It doesn't matter. We are not taking steps to prevent the deaths of thousands of children every year.
And as a result of that, more are going to continue dying unless we take action. And honestly, any step, if we want better mental health care, let's do that. But if we also want gun control, let's do that. You are the politicians. You guys can compromise. Get some stuff done and save some lives.
CAMEROTA: Look, we have examples of other countries that have done more and have passed national gun control laws. And guess what? Gun violence went down.
CAMEROTA: Nick, I want to bring you in, because you lost your friend Joaquin.
NICK JOSEPH, SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: Yes.
CAMEROTA: And I feel like I know Joaquin now, because I went to this vigil at the school yesterday wherever it was and one of the fields yesterday at 2, and there were 700 kids there. And I happened to be in a little pocket of Joaquin's friends. And everybody was coming up and hugging each other and supporting each other and crying. Can you tell us what was so special about Joaquin?
JOSEPH: Joaquin was just someone who was very loving. He was a really good, loyal friend. Like, any time you wanted to talk, he was there for you. Any time you needed a smile on your face, he was there for you. Every time he walked into a room, he always had a smile on his face. And he was just someone I really loved and cared about. And it's just sad to see that he's gone now.
CAMEROTA: Were you all on a team together?
JOSEPH: No, I played basketball with some of Joaquin's friends, and that's how I met him. And for these past two years since I was a freshman and now, we've just been extremely close.
CAMEROTA: That's what I've heard. Was he -- was he a football player or a wrestler or a basketball player or did just all the athletes love Joaquin? Because I kept seeing all of you...
JOSEPH: The athletes just loved Joaquin. Everybody at Douglas loved Joaquin.
CAMEROTA: That's what I heard. Everybody said he was really charismatic.
CAMEROTA: Was he a friend to everybody?
JOSEPH: Everybody who knew him could vouch to say that he's a caring person, and they personally loved him. And I personally loved him.
CAMEROTA: And what happened when you heard that he was one of the victims?
JOSEPH: Well, I was in bed. And some of our friends were at the Marriott with his family and their families waiting to go hear what happened. And I got a Texas from one of our friends that he was gone. And it was -- it was so surreal. I couldn't even cry, because like, it just didn't feel -- like, I didn't want to believe it happened. Like, it's just...
CAMEROTA: I understand. And that's what we kept seeing. You know, your school, your high school just seems very special. It was -- it's so diverse. I mean, we watched kids of all different races, different socioeconomic groups. Everybody was there yesterday together. What do you -- how is everybody doing? What's happening today among all of you kids?
HOGG: We're all still in shock. And we realize that it is important to mourn, and we respect that. But we 've done that every -- for every single shooting, and nothing has changed. And we're really -- we're calling on the country to take action. We're really trying to prevent another atrocity like this from happening again. Because if we don't start working towards that goal now, there will be another one.
CAMEROTA: I know that you were saying that thoughts and prayers only go so far. They're cold comfort at some point after this. And what do you want President Trump to know? What do you want him to do?
HOGG: What I want President Trump to do and what I want Congress to do is that you guys are in control of both the House and the Senate. You guys have the ability to pass as much legislation as you want. Get together, get some stuff done. Don't repeal gun laws like you guys have already done this year.
[06:20:16] And keep working towards saving thousands of children's lives. If it's through mental health care, do that. And if you want to work with Democrats to get a little bit more stricter gun safety laws, do that, as well. You guys are politicians. Make a compromise. And who knows? Maybe you'll save some lives.
CAMEROTA: I mean, it's not just one thing. They can do it all, actually. It's what you're saying.
CAMEROTA: You know, President Trump made some statements about this yesterday; he spoke about it. But he didn't mention guns.
HOGG: I think it's ironic. Because when he was on the news and during his campaign, he pointed out how the current administration, Obama administration wouldn't say that it was radical Islamic terrorism.
But he's not pointing out that this is a gun-related issue. If it was -- if guns did not exist, 17 people would be alive; and 17 families would still have their children.
CAMEROTA: And so you see it the same way that you have to call it out.
HOGG: You have to point it out, using the same way, using the same rhetoric. We have to point out exactly what's going on so that we can confront this issue. Thoughts and prayers are great, but they only two so far. What we need from Congress, from state legislators and from the American citizen, is action. We need to hold our public leaders accountable to what they're doing.
Midterms are coming up. Look up what each of your congressman are doing. See what they're doing, and hold them accountable. Because this is unacceptable. Our children are dying. And with that, so is on our future.
CAMEROTA: David Hogg, Nick Joseph, thank you both so much. We really appreciate you coming in and sharing all of your personal stories and what you want for the future. Thank you.
President Trump addressed the attack, as you know, but he did not mention the word "gun." So why are Republican lawmakers so unwilling to talk about guns? They say now is not the time. When is the time? We'll take a closer look at all that, next.
[06:25:45] BERMAN: Not a single word about guns in President Trump's address to the nation. Later this morning, the president will be briefed on the massacre before heading to Florida, where he will spend the weekend just miles from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The front page of Rupert Murdoch's own "New York Post" echoing the sentiment of millions of Americans, urging the president to "Please Act."
CNN's Abby Phillip live in Washington with the very latest this morning. Abby, what are the plans from the White House today?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.
Well, as Parkland wakes up to another tragedy, they're asking what now? And they're looking to folks in Washington, including President Trump, for guidance on that. Now, President Trump did speak to the nation yesterday from the White House; but he offered very little in the way of details and more in the way of comfort and guidance to a community in grief. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: 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.
We are committed to working with state and local leaders to help secure our schools and tackle the difficult issue of mental health.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: But one word the president did not mention at all in that address is guns. The one commonality of all of these tragedies that have shaken this nation over the last year and more. And the White House is not talking about it either.
We know, however, that despite the talk of mental health, the president has signed into law legislation that rolled back an Obama- era regulation that required the Social Security administration to provide information about people with mental health issues into the national background check system.
Now, there is an issue of gun violence in schools and the issue of mental health. It will be a test of whether President Trump is willing to do more, willing to go further and willing to revisit some of those decisions that were controversial at the time.
So far, however, there has been no talk of anything concrete really coming out of this White House.
On the other hand, the president is headed to Florida today where he will go to Mar-a-Lago to husband Florida resort. He also plans to stop by the scene at Parkland at some point. He's canceled another trip to Orlando that was a intended to be a rally. And the timing of the Parkland visit is not yet set -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Abby, thank you for that reporting, because obviously, rolling back those protections is not what people here are calling for today.
So the massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School that you see behind me, this is just the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. since Sandy Hook more than five years ago when, of course, we all remember that a killer opened fire there and took 26 incredibly young lives, including 20 little kids.
Six-year-old Dylan Hockley was one of those children. And Dylan's mom, Nicole Hockley, joins us now. She is one of the founders of the national nonprofit Sandy Hook Promise.
Nicole, thanks so much for being here. I'm sorry that you have to be here.
NICOLE HOCKLEY, CO-FOUNDER, SANDY HOOK PROMISE: I'm sorry, as well.
CAMEROTA: I mean, everyone thought after Sandy Hook that was the final straw. We, our national psyche, our national heart could never handle another school shooting. That one, we thought, was the final straw and things, of course, would happen because that was too big -- that was too much pain for all of us. But of course, there have been so many more school shootings since
then. What happens in your House when you hear the news of something like this this week?
HOCKLEY: This absolutely takes me back to the day Dylan was killed. And even being here with you now, I'm being triggered in so many -- in so many ways. And my hearts are just here with the community and knowing -- or having a semblance of knowing the journey that they're about to embark on and the heartbreak that is part of that.
CAMEROTA: When you hear politicians say, "No more gun laws would do anything. If a bad guy wants to kill lots of people, that's what he'll do. Nothing can stop him," as Marco Rubio seemed to suggest.
HOCKLEY: I would -- to be honest, I kind of want politicians to stop talking and focus on why are we here? What do we need to do in this community to look after the people right now and open our hearts and with compassion and kindness for them? And what can we do, you know, not talking just about guns, not talking just about mental health or illness.