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Ten Killed in Mass Shooting at Colorado Grocery Store; First officer Who Responded to Mass Shooting in Boulder was Killed; Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing on Gun Violence. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired March 23, 2021 - 10:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: So far, just one of the victims has been identified. That is 51-year-old Police Officer Eric Talley. You see him there. He was the first to respond to the scene. He was a father of seven children, the youngest of his children just 7 years old. And he was reportedly looking to change jobs because he didn't want his family to worry about his safety.

Well, this marks the seventh mass shooting in America in seven days and the second mass shooting with multiple deaths in just a week. This is America once again, mass shooting after mass shooting.

Dan Simon joins us again this hour in Boulder at the scene. Dan, we're going to hear from police in just a few minutes. Have you heard anything more from witnesses there?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have not as of now, Poppy. I can tell you though that police a little while ago removed the crime scene tape behind me. you can see some of the cars moving near the shopping center. But the grocery store, of course, will remain closed for the foreseeable future as well as some of the adjacent businesses to it.

Obviously, a lot of questions heading into that news conference, which is scheduled to begin in just about 30 minutes. Namely, officers operating any sort of operating motive as to why the shooter went into that grocery store and started opening fire. Will they disclose the identity of the suspect? And will they name the victims who perished in that shooting?

Of course, we know that the officer died, but the nine additional others who were inside the grocery store died. Of course, when all -- when the gunfire erupted, you have all the people in the store dashing for the exit, some people going towards the back of the store and literally jumping off loading docks to safety.

I want you to listen now to a mother who talked about her harrowing ordeal as she escaped with her son. Take a look.


SARAH MOONSHADOW, SHOOTING WITNESS: I just looked at my son and I told him in between shots, by the fourth shot, I started counting. And I told him we have three seconds. Stay low and don't look and just move fast. And he almost hesitated. And I just told him, we don't have another option. We don't have any more -- any other chance to get out of here.


SIMON: As you mentioned, Poppy, just the initial investigation into this shooting is going to take several days. Of course, they have to process the scene. They have to continue to interview all of these witnesses, take a look at some of the surveillance video that might exist and try gather as much information as they can about the suspect and hopefully we're going to learn more information in just a short while when Boulder authorities have that news conference at 10:30 Eastern Time. Poppy?

HARLOW: Okay. Dan Simon, thank you very much.

Joining me now is Mason Alexander. He works at a tattoo parlor across the street from the supermarket where this all happened. Mason, thank you for being here, and I'm so, so sorry for all of you.

MASON ALEXANDER, WAS ACROSS THE STREET DURING MASS SHOOTING IN COLORADO: Hi, Poppy. Yes, it's -- I mean, you can't really describe it, anything less than tragic, incredibly sad, incredibly scary. And I apologize, I'm still a little bit shaken up from everything that happened only, you know, less than 24 hours ago, but thanks for having me on here.

HARLOW: Don't apologize, Mason. I wonder -- I have been getting a lot of feedback from people saying don't call this a shock. This is not shocking that this happened in America. And they're right, it's not shocking. It has come to be expected in a way, sadly, right? We had a year of COVID and people are actually staying inside and we didn't as many of these mass shootings. But here we are now once again. I wonder how you think about that having been right across the street.

ALEXANDER: I mean, I would still go to say that it is shocking. Like, we have become a bit desensitized to the shootings in America. But for it to happen right outside of your front door, you know, 500 feet from where you perform your everyday activities, you know, it is -- you know, it is shocking. It is scary. It is something that I wouldn't wish anybody to have to go through, you know, to be not an individual that has been a part of something like that, it -- you know, I'm at a loss for words.

HARLOW: Right, how do you put it into words? Because we read these headlines all the time but we never expect to live through them or to bear witness to them. What was it like those moments for you? What did it feel like?

ALEXANDER: Well, at first, I didn't really know what was going on. I was in the middle of working, doing a tattoo. And then we heard what sounded like gun shots. And so we kind of stopped what we were doing to kind of go and investigate what was going on.

[10:05:01] And then within, you know, about a minute, you know, squad cars were coming in and more police officers were coming in. And so after that started happening, I kind of realized that something pretty intense was going down.

So it all happened really fast. You know, it was a blur. We didn't know exactly what was happening. Like we figured there was some sort of like armed situation going on. But until, you know, more officers kind of came, it is hard to kind of understand what was happening until we kind of got more information about it.

HARLOW: You barricaded yourself, right, and your customers inside?

ALEXANDER: We did, yes. We just locked the door. There is a bystander right outside. He asked if he could come in. We said, absolutely. So we took him in, made sure he was feeling all right and safe. And we kind of just waited it out to kind of see what would happen next.

HARLOW: What do you want people to do about this, Mason? I mean there are people in power in your state, in Congress, in the White House who can do things about guns in America. If they're watching this morning, what do you say to them?

ALEXANDER: It's a hard situation to deal with. I'm not -- you know, I'm not an elected official. I'm not a politician. But I am an American. And living in America right now is incredibly difficult. You know, me sitting here from a place of privilege as well, you know, it's difficult to know what to do.

We have -- we live in a divided country. A lot of people, you know, disagree on a lot of things, so it makes it hard to make progress. I just wish that we can kind of look at what is really important and that is definitely the lives of everybody. We want to make sure that lives of people are protected and, you know, we don't have these senseless acts of violence.

So it's really heartbreaking, Poppy. To hear about it on the news, you know, in another part of the country is one thing, and to them experience it in your community and you have fellow community members have their lives taken from them, it's -- it's indescribable.

I mean, something needs to be done. I don't know exactly what that is but we need to come together as people and protect each other, love each other and make sure that we all feel safe and protected. How that's going to happen, I don't know. But I definitely feel it's a future that we should work towards.

HARLOW: Well, you deserve it. It's a future all of us deserve. Mason Alexander, again, I'm so sorry and I'm thankful for you for being here with us today.

ALEXANDER: Thank you. I just want to say that I'm, you know, I'm incredibly thankful for me to be here living and I just am completely heartbroken for all of the people that lost their lives and for all the families that lost loved ones. It's incredibly difficult to talk about. I just -- I wish, you know, nothing but the best, you know, moving forward. And I hope that, you know, they find love and comfort within this difficult time.

HARLOW: I'm sure those words and that sentiment means a lot to them, Mason. Thank you again.

ALEXANDER: Thank you.

HARLOW: Courage and heroism, those are the words from Vice President Kamala Harris just moments ago about the police officer who lost his life running into danger, trying to protect others in Boulder, Colorado.

Stephanie Elam joins us now. Stephanie, good morning. He lost his life alongside nine others who we don't know much about. We don't know their names yet. He's the only one we know of, the only name that's been released. And we know that Officer Talley was a husband and father of seven children that are all waking up this morning without their dad.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Truly. And, Poppy, you think about the special kind of human being you have to be to run towards danger when everyone else is just trying to cover themselves and be safe. And so he was the first officer, Eric Talley was the first officer on the scene within just minutes of the first 911 calls going in in Boulder just after 2:30, I believe, local time there. And he ran in and was shot and was killed.

We know that his children age from 7 to 20.


We know that he joined the police department there in Boulder in 2010 at the age of 40. In fact, listen to the police chief talk a little bit about him.


CHIEF MARIS HERODL, BOULDER, COLORADO POLICE DEPARTMENT: We know of ten fatalities at the scene including one of our Boulder P.D. officers by the name of Eric Talley. He's been on the Boulder Police Department since 2010. He served in numerous roles supporting the Boulder Police Department and the community of Boulder.


ELAM: And other members of the community there talking about what a great officer he was. The Boulder district attorney also saying that he will be remembered as one of the outstanding officers, that's a quote. He put it there as well. And also, officer Talley's father, Homer Talley talking to our affiliate, KUSA, about his son saying that it didn't surprise him at all that he was one of the first people on the scene there, also that he loved his family more than anything. He had a great sense of humor and that he was a prankster.

He also said that he was working on becoming a drone operator because he thought that that would be a safer profession. But nevertheless, despite all these things that he was thinking, he ran toward the danger, ran in there to try to save some lives and try to help out and just a decision that altered everything. But he did all he could to try to be there.

HARLOW: Yes. Stephanie Elam, thank you very much for helping us all remember and honor him this morning.

Again, as we said, we're going to hear more from police in Colorado in just a few minutes. They will hold a press briefing this morning. You'll see that live right here, of course.

Also, a pair of potentially troubling headlines on the vaccine front. AstraZeneca does stand by their trial results this morning but this is after an independent board yesterday said they have some concerns that outdated data may have been used. What's happening here? We'll explain.



HARLOW: We are staying on top of all of the developments in the tragic mass shooting out of Boulder, Colorado. Soon, investigators in just a few minutes will hold a press conference on the shooting that happened at the King Soopers Grocery Store. And while we wait for that update, we are hearing some of the tense moments before the suspect was taken into custody. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 136, we're in a gunfight, hold the radio. 136, we have multiple shots being fired at us. I copy, we're taking multiple rounds.

We're taking rifle fire, as soon as we, patrol, entered the building, If we can get the rolling shield up here ASAP, that would be perfect.

Start pushing slow, but be advised we do not know where he is. He's armed with a rifle, our officers shot back and returned fire. We do not know where he is in the store.


HARLOW: Let me bring Daniel Oates. He was the police chief in Aurora, Colorado in July of 2012 when James Holmes walked into that movie theater and opened fire. 12 people were killed, 70 injured in that mass shooting. Look how many we've seen in America and in Colorado since then. Thank you very much for being with me. I appreciate it this morning. And I'm sorry it's on this news.


HARLOW: Could we begin with what you believe investigators and police would be doing right now? I mean, we're minutes away from this press conference. We still haven't gotten the names of any of the victims except for police Officer Talley. You've been in situations like this preparing. What are these moments like? What do you think we'll hear?

OATES: Well, I'm sure the chief and her team and the prosecutor and the U.S. attorney have all met for quite a while now and they're preparing their statements. And they've got a couple goals with this press conference. One of them is to reassure the public that the crisis, the immediate crisis and threat is over. They're going to be asking the public for assistance with any information they may have about the suspect.

I think they'll likely release the name of the suspect and information about him. They have to be careful though. They want to make sure that they've secured his residence for a search before the name is made public and possibly contact any immediate family members. But they're going to be asking for assistance from the community at this point.

They also will be providing more details. I suspect that we'll probably at a point where there may be information about the deceased. One of the things they're going to prepare for is the questions they'll get from the media and what they can and cannot release. You know, it's very, very important to the detectives to have to make a case against this shooter that they not damage the investigation with releasing information prematurely.

So, for instance, I know -- I know there is a lot of questions about motive. If they have any information about motive, really, that's for the trial because justice is the most important thing right now.

HARLOW: Yes, and you make such an important point. There will be a trial because this person was apprehended alive, and so that changes, right, what they can release publicly.

I remember Aurora like it was yesterday. I remember being on a different story and being called to race to your state to cover the shooting at the movie theater. And I remember being, you know, camped outside of that movie theater for the better of a week covering it and the tragedy and all of the aftermath of all the victims and their families. And that was on 2012.


And you went on CBS after that and you said, unfortunately, the way America is today, this could have happened to any parent anywhere in the country. And then you said, this is something as a nation we have to deal with.

I mean, Chief, that was in 2012. That was almost a decade ago. And yet here we are today. I wonder what you think about that now.

OATES: Well, let's put this way. One of the questions that I guarantee you the chief is going to be asked at this press conference is about gun control policy. And I remember being asked a similar question in 2012 at my first press conference. And why is it we turn to law enforcement leaders who work for elected officials in a crisis and ask them about gun control policy? Why aren't we demanding more of the folks who actually set gun control policy in this country to our elected leaders? All the same issues are going to come up, red flag laws, background checks, waiting periods, all of these things.

Now, could some of those laws have had an impact on this case? Maybe, maybe not. But as a nation, we've got to come to grips with the easily accessible firearms in this country, including weapons of war. I understand this was a rifle, an A.R., incredibly destructive weapon, ten times more powerful, the energy released into the human body of a handgun and yet freely accessible in our society.

It's curious, it's interesting, we have ten deceased in this incident and no wounded. What does it say about the power of that weapon?

HARLOW: What does it say to you?

OATES: It says it's a weapon of -- to me, it's says it's a weapon of war and I think most police chiefs in this country would agree it doesn't belong on the streets of America, or if it's going to be available, accessible to Americans, that there should somebody sort of reasonable control as to who has access to those weapons.

HARLOW: Why is this happening time and time and time again in Colorado?

OATES: I don't have an easy answer to that. And it's one of the things Coloradans continue to wrestle with. I think it's been noted on earlier shows that Boulder itself actually tried to regulate assault weapons in the city through local regulation and ran against the home rule laws of the state in a recent decision by district court judge. So even at the local community when there was an effort to do something about this, we see at least for now the interim results. I understand that the decision may be appealed.

HARLOW: That's right. Two weeks ago, the judge made that call, now will head, I believe, to the state supreme court.

Former Police Chief of Aurora, Colorado, and, of course, of Miami Beach, as well, Daniel Oates, thank you very much, and I'm so, so sorry to see this in your state again.

OATES: Thank you.

HARLOW: As the entire community mourns Boulder, as the nation mourns what happened in Boulder, on Capitol Hill, the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding the first of a series of hearings to discuss steps to reduce gun violence in America. Democrats have promised a Senate vote on expanding background checks. It comes on the heels of both the mass shootings in Boulder and in Atlanta, Georgia, just in the last week.

Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. Good morning, Manu.

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy thinks it's different this time. He thinks you can get this through the Senate. And he says it's so much different than 2013. Is it though?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm not sure it is. In fact, it seems very unlikely that they're going to be able to pass something to the magnitude that the democrats are pushing, which is to expand background checks on commercial sales, on private sales. That was something that was passed already by the Democratic-controlled House.

But the rules are different in the U.S. Senate. To advance legislation, you need 60 senators to overcome any Republican filibuster, which almost certainly would happen on a bill like this, and that means that 50 Democratic senators will need ten Republicans to break ranks to move ahead. There are just not ten Republicans at the moment who would join ranks with Democrats on this issue.

Even though Chuck Schumer, majority leader of the Senate, just he said on the Senate floor that he would try and that this Senate would address the issue of gun violence, but how exactly that is addressed remains to be seen.

One senator, a Wyoming freshman, Cynthia Lummis, I just asked her whether or not her opposition to expanding background checks has changed in any way. She said that her views is that expanding background checks would be, quote, an erosion, chip away of Second Amendment rights. And that is a view shared by many Republicans in the Senate.

So even though the Democrats plan to push ahead, even though the point of this massacre after another and saying that something needs to be done now, the math simply is not there. And then it will lead to a discussion within the Senate Democratic Caucus about whether or not to change the rules of the Senate to allow such legislation to pass with just Democratic votes. That is not -- there is not enough support within the Democratic caucus to do just that.

So despite the horrific tragedy that we're seeing here, the chances of getting something through to Joe Biden's desk seem incredibly unlikely at the moment, which will only put pressure on Joe Biden and the White House to do something administratively. But will that go far enough, another question. Poppy?

HARLOW: Wow. And you just heard what the former police chief of Aurora said. Stop asking us, the police officers, about this. It's up to the elected officials to do something about it. Thank you, Manu.

AstraZeneca this morning is standing by its U.S. trial results after an independent board has questions and concerns that some of the data in their COVID-19 vaccine study may be outdated. Up next, why this is so unprecedented?