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Sheriff: Armed Deputy at School Never Went In; Trump Stands by Proposal to Arm Teachers; Governors Taking Action on Gun Control. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired February 23, 2018 - 07:00   ET



WAYNE LAPIERRE, HEAD OF THE NRA: The elites don't care, not one wit, about America's schoolchildren.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He doesn't want to talk about the blood that has spilled all over his hands because of the lax policies that he's pushing.

RAJ SHAH, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We don't expect to agree with the NRA on every issue.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Chris is off. John Berman joins me. We have a big two hours ahead. Thanks for being here.

A major development in the investigation of the Florida high school massacre. Broward County sheriff says he's, quote, "devastated and sick to his stomach" after learning the only armed deputy at the school failed to act by never going into the building to stop the gunman.

This comes after the FBI's stunning admission last night that it failed to investigate a very specific threat about the killer. We're also learning police had repeated warnings about this gunman for years. His family, his guardians, a counselor, even strangers who saw his posts online tried to alert authorities that he was violent and he was a threat, and that he was a potential school shooter.

BERMAN: Yes, failure after failure after failure nearly every step of the way. Will the president address this when he speaks to some of his staunchest supporters at a conservative conference that is just hours from now?

President Trump has proposed giving bonuses to teachers who carry guns. The NRA likes that, but it doesn't like the president's plan to raise the age level to buy a gun. Does the president have the courage to fight them?

You know, it's interesting. We just heard from Matt Schlapp, a key conservative, said he doesn't know where the president stands for what he intends to do here. The NRA focusing most of its political power on the FBI and, yes, the media.

Let's begin our coverage with Rosa Flores live in Parkland, Florida. Rosa, with these new developments, these infuriating revelations about just how much was known and how much was not done right up until the very end.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, which probably leaves parents thinking what if? Because the trail of evidence, John, is clear. The warning signs that this killer had violent tendencies were there, and they were there for years. And then of course, we learned a week ago that a tip to the FBI was not investigated.

And now this morning we've learned from the sheriff that he is sick to his stomach, because the one resource officer that was there at the school when the shots rang out, who had a weapon, stayed outside and didn't go inside that building.


SCOTT ISRAEL, SHERIFF OF BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: What I saw was a deputy arrive, and he never went in.

FLORES (voice-over): The only armed police officer stationed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School resigned amid revelations that he waited outside as the massacre unfolded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What should he have done?

ISRAEL: Went in. Addressed the killer. Killed the killer.

FLORES: Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel telling reporters that surveillance video shows the deputy, Scott Peterson, taking a position outside the building for four minutes as gunshots rang out but failed in his duty to stop the attacker.

ISRAEL: Devastated. Sick to my stomach. There are no words. I mean, these families lost their children.

FLORES: Peterson retired Thursday after being suspended without pay.

SCOT PETERSON, RETIRED SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICER: I'm Scot Peterson. I've been a police officer for 30 years.

FLORES: Peterson, seen here speaking at a school board meeting in Broward County in 2015. Records show he was recently nominated twice for deputy of the year. Two other deputies now on restricted duty. They're being investigated for how they handled tips warning about the killer.

Authorities announcing that they have received 23 calls involving the killer and his family starting in 2008 when the killer was just nine years old.

The most serious warnings began two years ago when an anonymous caller alerted police that the killer threatened to shoot up the school on Instagram and posted pictures of himself with a gun. "The Miami Herald" reports that seven months later, a peer counselor reported that the killer "possibly ingested gasoline, wanted to buy a gun and attempted to commit suicide by cutting himself."

Days later, an investigator for Florida's Department of Children and Families determined that he was low-risk.

Later that month, the family that initially took the killer in after his mother's death called police to report a fight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nine-one-one emergency. How can I help you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. There was a fight in my house with a kid and my son.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Punching him and that's when he left the house, but I need someone here because I'm afraid he comes back and he has a lot of weapons.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What kind of weapons, ma'am?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let me ask my son. What kind of weapon did he get? That he's going to get?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A Remington. It's not the first time he's pointed a gun at somebody's head.

[07:05:05] FLORES: The family also revealing this disturbing detail.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He'd also dig in the backyard, because he knew he was not allowed to bring it here and we found that he did buy himself a box (ph). And he was going to bury the gun there.

FLORES: The next day, a tipster from Massachusetts called the sheriff's office to report that the killer was collecting guns and knives, telling them he "will kill himself one day and believes he could be a school shooter in the making."


FLORES: If you look behind me, you see that there's a growing memorial, but we're not at the school. That's because staff and teachers will be returning to school today. And orientation is scheduled for Sunday. And students are expected to return on Wednesday -- John.

BERMAN: Yes. Rosa Flores in Parkland. I've spoken to so many students and teachers who say they're not ready. They're just not ready to go back just yet. We'll have to see how that plays out.

The president with new chances to make clear where he stands on this gun issue. Will he battle the NRA? Today he holds a short press conference with the Australian prime minister. This comes after an address to the conservative CPAC conference.

CNN's Abby Phillip live at the White House with what we can expect. Abby?


President Trump appears to be determined to answering this question of what to do about these school shootings his own way. He's calling it an offensive posture versus a defensive posture. And the centerpiece of his proposal appears to be a controversial one: arming teachers inside of their schools. After an early morning tweet storm yesterday, he expounded on it in a meeting. Take a listen at what he had to say.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think a concealed permit for having teachers and letting people know there are people in the building with a gun, you won't have -- in my opinion you won't have these shootings. Because these people are cowards. They're not going to walk into a school if 20 percent of the teachers have guns. The people that do carry, we give them a bonus. We give them a little bit of a bonus.


PHILLIP: Well, there are a lot of people on both sides of the aisle and including teachers and parents who say that's just not a great idea. And the White House has not detailed anything about how it would be paid for or how all of this would work.

But on the other hand, the president has also been talking about another issue on his mind, which is these active shooter drills. That's something that students and teachers about what to do if there is a shooter in their school. He says that it can be scary to young children. And he's not exactly sure that they are a good idea.

The White House later had to walk that back. A deputy press secretary, Raj Shah, from the podium yesterday said the president was talking about the branding of those drills, not exactly about the idea.

As he goes over to Maryland later today to talk to the Conservative Political Action Conference, it will be a big question about how far is he willing to go on the issue of guns before that audience? They got so much red meat yesterday from Wayne LaPierre. It will be interesting to see whether the president goes that far when he is in front of that group today, John and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Yes, it will, Abby. Thank you very much for previewing all of that for us.

Joining us now to discuss it, we have CNN political analyst David Gregory and CNN law enforcement analyst James Gagliano.

So James, let's start with all the developments.

The relentless red flags about this gunman that were missed. I think it just bears us repeating, putting it up on the screen again for people, because there are dates about where there could have been some intervention.

So there were anonymous calls that this kid was going to shoot up a school. There was a peer counselor that reported that this kid was suicidal. His mother said he wrote a racial slur on his bookbag. There were YouTube comments that he posted that he wanted to become a professional school shooter. His cousin asked police to take his weapons after his mother died. There were threats that he was going to go get his gun and show back up during a fight and shoot somebody. There was a caller to the call center of the FBI that he could be a school shooter in the making.

But listen, Dave -- I mean, James, what -- where could he have been actually locked up? I mean, when you look through all of these -- and we all say, like, something has to change -- if your mother says you write a racial, you know, slur on your bookbag, you're not getting locked up. If you say, "I'm going to come back here with my gun," you're not getting locked up.

Like where in this litany, this laundry list could something actually have happened to, like, incarcerate him?

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Alisyn, you never come to me to sugarcoat things, and I'm surely not going to do it here. This, again, is a colossal collapse of the system. And the system is involved. Fallible human beings and processes and protocols, computer systems that were supposed to be interconnected, and they weren't.

Listen, I think we need to go to the root of this, which is the national instant criminal background check system. And many states still. to this point, do not report all of these mental health issues or conditions for some of these folks that never should get their hands on a weapon.

CAMEROTA: It's crazy.

GAGLIANO: It is insane.

That's one piece. And we're not looking at this in a vacuum. I'm sitting here right now with a sense of revulsion every time I hear this story play out about this deputy, who's entitled to due process. I know the sheriff down there in Broward County is doing a deep dive now of what happened. But that was another colossal collapse in the system.

You know the line from "The Godfather": "This is the business that we have chosen." And those of us in this profession, we don't view this as a job. We accept additional risks when we put that uniform on, when we pin that badge on, and we strap on that sidearm. To know that there was somebody mere feet or yards away from the slaughter of children, I can tell you I have not recovered from that news yesterday, and I don't know when I will.

BERMAN: Yes, and again, it bears repeating. We don't know what would have happened, had he tried. But the protocol on that was the best thinking on this. And we've had too many instances to study. Is that confronting the killer is the best way.


BERMAN: To stop them in process right now. So again, David Gregory, if you look at that, I mean, that was the end. That was the last chance to keep this from happening or mitigate the circumstance.

GREGORY: Why have an officer there if you're not going to confront a shooter. That's the whole point.

And you know, what's disturbing about the president, frankly, popping off with his psychological read on what these sociopaths are going to do when they come into a school is just not helpful; to have the president of the United States talking about, "These guys are cowards. I'm telling you, if you had a guy there" -- when there was an officer there who failed to confront the shooter.

And again, you know, you don't know what motivates. But in so many cases these sociopaths may be mentally ill, may be a combination. The notion that they're going to see a sheriff's deputy or think that there's armed teachers and that's going to dissuade them, come on. But let's attack this a little bit more rigorously.

But I want to come back to Alisyn's question, because I think it's the right one. It's what I was trying to think about, because what's wrong with -- it's very easy to put up a list of all of these missed signs. But if you're the parent of this child, and you're going through all these difficulties, you can't -- he's not going to be incarcerated because of some of these tips or because of writing a slur on a backpack. You're not going to be committed to a mental hospital.

BERMAN: But does that have been to the standard? Does incarceration and commitment have to be the standard, is the question.


GREGORY: Here's my point. No, I'm not is saying that has to be the standard. But I think we have to realize that, from a law enforcement perspective, you can have these bit pieces. Doesn't mean you act on it.

I think the question, John, I think you're right, the question is how do we get to a place where there are enough flags for a person that is not a criminal record but that there's enough flags, because there's enough professionals who have been able to speak to each other, that at the point at which someone goes in and wants to buy a firearm, that there's some way to flag this individual.

And I don't think it's -- look, it's a legal gun purchase that he made. I don't know that the gun seller can be in the business of putting all of these pieces together. Other people have to do that. And I think that's -- that's the challenge here.

CAMEROTA: James, I want to talk about arming teachers. And I want to try to do this in as dispassionately a way as possible. Because obviously, you know, the gun conversation raises passions pretty quickly.

But for the teachers who want this, OK, so we've heard from the teachers, some teachers at Parkland, some teachers at Newtown who say, "I could never do this. This isn't why I got into the business. I just want to educate kids."

But for the teachers who want this, and there are already schools in Texas where staffers are armed. Unfortunately, we don't have a lot of data about whether this actually works.

I mean, let's just talk about what's effective. Do you think this would be an effective way to cut down on school shootings?

GAGLIANO: I'm going to show you the complete opposite ends of the spectrum here. And we'll let the -- we'll let the viewers choose.

On one end is this: trained law enforcement professionals, which I was for 25 years, on a beautiful, clear day, with no one shooting back at shooting at paper on a range, generally hit their targets between 80, 85 percent of the time. That's under perfect conditions with no rounds incoming.

Now, when you -- when you add stress to this mix, and there have been studies showing law enforcement officers, generally hit their target 18 percent of time when they're in an adversarial confrontation with a bad guy. That's one round out of five discharged.

So if we think that arming teachers, having them go through safety course and giving them some time on the range is going to change that, it's not.

Now, the opposite end of the continuum is this. I'm an adjunct assistant professor at St. John's University. I'm a retired law enforcement professional, and I'm a former SWAT team leader. When I go to St. John's, it's a gun-free campus. I'm not allowed to carry a weapon to have the privilege of the concealed carry permit that I have as a retired law enforcement officer.

GAGLIANO: So if I had been in Parkland, Texas, that day I would have been unarmed and vulnerable as any of the students there.

We need to look at this. We need to look at the insanity of arming teachers. But if you have teachers that were prior law enforcement or prior military, would it not be a bad deterrent to say, in certain cases, we'll make an exception?

BERMAN: There are really three questions. No. 1 -- No. 1, David, would teachers ever want to do this? No. 2, will it work? And No. 3 is, you know, is the discussion now going to shift exclusively to arming teachers instead of them focusing on all the other things which might also help at least a little? GREGORY: Right. And I think that would be a mistake if it just goes

to that. I mean, you know, look, the emotional part of my reaction, I talk to my 15-year-old son, who said I think that would be really unsettling to students to know that a teacher is armed.

The parent part of says, "Look, if it came to it, if my kid was at Parkland and it came to it, would I want a teacher to be armed and would take our chances?" You know, I might want to consider that.

But I think the other thing to add to this, and I wonder what James's take is. If you have -- just like if we're evaluating terror threats, if you have a threat matrix, right, for a school and you have an individual who actually has a tie to the school, who was expelled from the school and you have information as law enforcement to say, "Well, there's been a specific threat against the school," can you on a case- by-case basis harden that target and say, "Look, we have a guy out here who we're worried about. There may be a legitimate threat against the school. We're going to surveil. We're going to harden this particular school."

Does it make sense to think about it that way? And could Parkland have thought about it that way, working more closely with the sheriff's office?

GAGLIANO: That's a great question, David. And I think it goes, again, to resources. We're talking funding mechanisms, and we're talking personnel resources. We have 335 million people in this country. And I think there's, like, 1.2 million sworn law enforcement officers.

So when you look at it like this, the amount of threats that get called into the FBI and the amount of threats that get called into the Broward County Sheriff's Department or local police departments, it is mind-numbing.

Now, again, this is one that, in hindsight, we go, "How could all of these red flags have been missed?"

But it's a difficult issue. And again, it speaks to resources. Are we going to commit ourselves to making sure that schools are safe? And listen, once we harden every school in the United States, the bad guys will find another unhardened, soft target where people are gathered, where more than one or two people are gathered, to focus their ire on and make their attack.

CAMEROTA: Maybe we could slow it down, James.

BERMAN: On that point, maybe. What's wrong with making it harder to walk into a school?

CAMEROTA: Maybe that's where we are.

James, David, thank you both very much.

We should let you know that ahead on NEW DAY, we'll be speaking with the NRA spokeswoman, Dana Loesch, about all of this, about gun violence, what their suggestions are. That's coming up in our next hour.

BERMAN: All right. Up next, taking action. States coming together to fight gun violence. They're not waiting for the federal government. These states taking matters into their own hands. Three governors join us next.


[07:21:55] BERMAN: Four Democratic governors from the northeast not waiting for the president or Congress to come up with a solution for gun violence. They're forming a coalition on gun control. The goal: to create a multistate task force that will trace and intercept illegal guns in the region.

Three of those governors -- Connecticut's Dan Malloy, Rhode Island's Gina Raimondo and New Jersey's Phil Murphy -- joining me right now. New York also on board, but apparently, we can't get a Cuomo on this show.

Governor Raimondo, I want to start with you here and what you are all doing. I guess the question is, you know, more coordination is great. Conversations are great. Streamlining is great. But would any of what you're talking about right now have stopped this horrible massacre in Florida?

GOV. GINA RAIMONDO (D), RHODE ISLAND: I think it would have helped, I do. You know, what we are saying as governors, is we're not waiting for Congress and the federal government to take action.

What -- having said that, there's no substitute for that. And we are, like the kids who we've seen this week, we as governors are demanding action from the federal government, and we need them to take action.

But in the meantime, we've decided to take a regional approach, sharing information about guns across our state lines, sharing a database, and for the first time that I know of, having a regional research center which studies gun violence and the impact on public health.

So what we're saying here at the end of the day, is it's time to take action. That's what governors do. We take action all the time. You know, we see our children telling us enough is enough. And I want to be able -- when my daughter says to me, "Mom, what are you doing about it?" I want to be able to say, "We're taking action that is going to make your schools and our community safer." And that's what this is about.

BERMAN: I think that's what we all want, to be able to look our kids in the face and say we're doing everything we can.

Governor Murphy, sharing information is one thing. But taking action is another. Information, it turns out, not the problem in Florida. There was, you know, too much information on this, repeated warnings that this young man could be a school shooter. So how do you turn that information, even if you have it, into action? GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, we think that the more

coordinated we can be the better we can be. And this is not just laterally across states. This is deepening the engagement.

You know, New Jersey, for instance, has strong gun laws. We think they should be stronger. We're in the process of doing just that.

But as Governor Raimondo said, in the absence of federal action, we have a reality in our state where over 80 percent of the gun crimes are committed with guns that come in from outside of New Jersey. So the notion of forming a coalition with other like-minded states. And by the way, you mentioned the four states. We're hoping this list grows and that that relationship can be deepened, the coordination can be better, not just within our states but across our state lines.

It's not that we're going to stop trying and pounding a way to get federal action. We must get that. But this is, at a minimum, a smart first step, we think.

BERMAN: Governor Malloy, I came to you last, because you have the most experience here, sadly. You were governor during the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

[07:25:06] When you hear some of what is being discussed right now -- the president is now discussing arming teachers, giving bonuses to teachers who carry concealed weapons. Do you think that might help?

GOV. DAN MALLOY (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, I think we're going to have to do that with waiters and bus boys in restaurants, and I think we're going to have to arm the priests and ministers and the rabbis in churches. And you know, I think at movie theaters, we're going to have to bring back ushers who will be armed.

I mean, this idea that we're going to be safer because we have more arms doesn't work very well in Syria. It doesn't work very well in Iraq, and probably won't work very well here.

What we really need to do is have some sane laws in this country. And what we really need to do is limit access to these weapons of mass destruction.

I know it's hard because of our culture here. But we are the most violent society, at least amongst the industrialized nations. Shouldn't we do something about that?

I've got an idea for you. Why don't we build a memorial on the Washington green to every child who's been killed in a school? And why don't we just add names week after week, month after month, year after year? And we shouldn't -- we shouldn't just go back to Sandy Hook. We should go back to when this all started. We are a very violent society, and we need to change.

BERMAN: Governor, I can hear the frustration in your voice. I really can. And again, you've seen it firsthand.

But Governor Malloy, President Trump says he's not suggesting every teacher should have a weapon, arming every person in the school. Would a school benefit from two, three, four maybe trained, armed people? Is that worthy of discussion?

MALLOY: So let me go back to a question you asked another governor this morning. You said, well, that might not have prevented this particular killing in Florida. Nothing we do will prevent killings in schools, including arming teachers, who, by the way, didn't sign up for that.

BERMAN: They sure didn't.

MALLOY: There may be some number of people who want to do it. But they didn't sign up to be security guards. That's a whole different profession. We could do things -- we could stop selling these guns.

I mean, why -- if we outlawed these types of weapons in the 1930s in the United States, why are we selling them today? Why does that make any sense in this world?

You can't buy that weapon -- you didn't ask me what we could have done to prevent it from happening. You can't buy those weapons in Connecticut anymore.

And since we passed our better gun legislation following Sandy Hook, we've had the largest drop in violent crime of any state in the nation by a third. Having good laws does change behaviors.

Having the discussion that we need to have as a nation about making our children safer -- and let me say this. You know, we have children, we have grandchildren. Do you really want to send them to a school that you don't know who's armed? Do you really want to be a police officer, by the way, who responds to a school shooting or a problem at a school and not know who the gunman is, because now there's people with guns all over the place? It doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

But it is right from the NRA playbook. This -- you know, what the NRA says is we shouldn't have fewer guns, we should have more guns. How has that worked for us as a society? We lose 33,000 people a year to gun violence.

BERMAN: Governor Malloy, Governor Murphy, Governor Raimondo, I think one thing is clear. You know, based on history, you can't necessarily wait for the federal government to take any action or address this head on. I'm glad that states are looking at this and taking it into their own hands. Thanks very much for being with us.

RAIMONDO: Thank you.

MURPHY: You, too.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: So CNN is reporting that national security advisor General H.R. McMaster could be on his way out. Why the former head of the CIA says we owe the general a debt of gratitude for what he's done there, next.