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21-Year-Old Charged With 10 Counts Of First Degree Murder; Kamala Harris: I Actually Thought Sandy Hook Would Have Been What Moved Congress; Another American City Mourns Lives Lost To Gun Violence; HHS Report: Year Fighting COVID Leaves Hospitals In Shambles; Remembering The Victims Of Boulder Supermarket Shooting. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired March 24, 2021 - 12:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Top of the hour, I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for being here. Two days after 10 people were gunned down inside a Colorado grocery store; investigators are trying to piece together exactly what led to the country's latest mass shooting. The 21 year old suspect who faces 10 counts of first degree murder is scheduled to make his first court appearance tomorrow.

His motive still unknown but the suspect's brother says that he suffered from mental illness and had become increasingly paranoid though we must note every time simply suffering from mental illness does not make you violent.

We also know that the suspect had purchased an assault weapon. Just six days before the attack, something Boulders Mayor says should not have been allowed to happen.


MAYOR SAM WEAVER, BOULDER, COLORADO: We can never know on an incident by incident basis what laws would have been effective or not. But I can say this wouldn't have hurt and probably would have helped. Making these weapons less available to people, particularly people who may have mental health problems is an important step we need to take.


BOLDUAN: And while the investigation still has a long way to go, the community of Boulder is mourning the loss of 10 lives stolen in an instant. A memorial for the victims is growing outside King Soopers grocery store there. We know the victims names and we are just beginning to learn more about their spectacular lives.

Let's start with the very latest on the investigation. CNN's Dan Simon is joining me now from Boulder once again. Dan, what more are you learning?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well hi, Kate. I can tell you that police are back on site continuing to process the scene we know that the initial investigation is going to take several days. And I can tell you that the mobile crime lab is here and officers are inside continuing to examine all of the evidence.

I can also tell you that according to court documents, the suspect brought two weapons to the scene; two semi automatic weapons also had a tactical vest. When he thought he was cornered or when he started to surrender to police, he dropped those weapons on the ground, dropped the vest took off all of his clothing except his shorts.

And then when police officers tried to question him, he wouldn't answer anything except to say that he wanted to speak to his mother. Meantime, we're getting additional information regarding his mental state.

According to his brother, he had a history of mental illness or he showed signs of mental illness was a bit paranoid, thought people were watching him thought people were following him.

There was an also an incident back in high school in 2017, when he pummeled a student according to witnesses that happened in the classroom and it happened for no reason. I want you to listen now at - somebody who has known the suspect since the fifth grade.


DAMIEN CRUZ, FRIEND OF BOULDER SHOOTING SUSPECT AHMAD AL ALIWI ALISSA: People chose not to mess with him because of his temper. People chose not to really talk to him because of all how he acted and things like that. So yes, he was very alone, I'd say but when he was with you, he was approachable.


SIMON: OK, you mentioned that just because you have mental illness that doesn't make you violent. Of course, that is entirely true. But you take the fact that this person that did seem to have some mental problems did seem to have some temporary issues that needed to be addressed. I combined that with the fact that he had easy access to weapons and then you have the recipe for disaster. Kate, back to you.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Dan, thank you very much for your current reporting on the ground. So while so much is still unknown about the shooting, one thing that is certain is there are 10 people who had their futures stolen from them.

They are men and women as young as 20 years old. The oldest was 65 years old. 10 people who should still be here today. Here's how some are being remembered.


DEBBIE BRINLEY, KEVIN MAHONEY'S NEIGHBOR: Kevin was incredible. He was an incredible father, an incredible spouse and incredible neighbor. He was just a wonderful, wonderful man who didn't deserve this at all. MAGGIE MONTOYA, RIKKI OLD'S COWORKER: Just a phenomenal, phenomenal

lady and just a heartbreaking - were the same age and just feeling so young and knowing that she's just - she's gone too early.

DAVID, TRALONA BARTKOWIAK'S COUSIN: She was the backbone of this family. She's the backbone of that company. She helped raise me. She was always there for me. And I was just really sad that she's gone. It's unbelievable.


BOLDUAN: That last man that you heard from right there was Tralona Bartkowiak's Cousin. She went by Lonna. She was 49 years old. She was the owner of a shop in town called --. Joining me right now is a friend of Lonna's, Matisse Molina. Matisse thank you for being here. How are you doing?



BOLDUAN: I'm doing OK, thank you. We see the picture of Lonna and we heard from one of her family members and I just wanted to get a sense from you. Does it feel, I don't know differently, is it setting in differently as 24 hours has now passed since we found out that Lonna was among those killed?

MOLINA: You know there's a lot going on in people's minds right now. You know yesterday was oh, my gosh, I cannot believe this just happened. And you know, not being able to breathe and feeling sick. And now my mind I think is in great denial. Like no, this is not happening. This can't be true.

Like, I'm going to see her tomorrow. So it's definitely a roller coaster of emotions to say the least.

BOLDUAN: Tell me about your friendship with Lonna, you worked at the store. What kind of person was she?

MOLINA: Honestly, she's the most amazing person I've ever met in my life. She was so kind and loving and accepting. For example, she would tell people who came into her store and admitted that they were going to steal; she would give them stuff for free anyways.

She would always give me food for when I was going home to make sure I was eating OK. And I could talk to her about any problems that I had. And she was so welcome to everybody that not only came into her store, but also came into her life. And we need a lot more people like that.

BOLDUAN: What an amazing human being. What did she like to do? What drove her what? What got Lonna out of the bed - out of bed in the morning?

MOLINA: Definitely her shop and she loved people. She would be on trying to sell stuff in her store. She wanted to get to know people as who they were like, why they were in town what their interests are. And she would rather make friends than self.

Or so she's just there - there really aren't any words that can describe her to who she really was because she was so amazing.

BOLDUAN: We hear that she was also has just gotten engaged. And she has four siblings and her brother says that they are all extremely close knit. And she even you know own the store with her sister which is just making me think that they are just so many people now having to deal with losing her. How do you describe this loss Matisse?

MOLINA: It's so heavy; she has touched so many lives. I can't even tell you. She's brought people from very dark places up to their highest points. She's helped me as a person grow tremendously.

And you know, I think we all really need to honor that and live a lot more like her and just give and give and give because she never wanted to receive any thing she only wanted to give happiness.

BOLDUAN: We need a lot more of that these days. Matisse, thank you very much. And if we could just honor her if we could put Lonna's picture back up Lonna Bartkowiak she was 49 years old. Matisse thanks you very much.

Still ahead for us, as we honor the lives of those victims, all ten of them. The Biden administration is now making a very big push for gun reform for congress to act. Vice President Harris lamenting today how even past tragedies haven't moved the needle.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT, UNITED STATE OF AMERICA: I actually thought that Sandy Hook would have been the thing that moved congress. How - 26 and seven year old babies were slaughtered. And they did not act and they did not act it is time for congress to act.


BOLDUAN: Sandy Hook is really the marker for most people of when they lost faith that any change, any reform was going to happen. My next guest knows this too well. She's lived this every day since December 14, 2012. She understands the pain of Boulder.

Nicole Hockley lost her six year old son Dylan in the Sandy Hook shootings. She's now the Managing Director of Sandy Hook promise. She's here with me now. Thank you for being here, Nicole.

I'm really struck by I guess first, just your thoughts on what we just heard from just a friend of one of the victims. She's denying it. She says the loss is so heavy, she says.

NICOLE HOCKLEY, MANAGING DIRECTOR, SANDY HOOK PROMISE: There are losses is still heavy. And I am listening to her words as she describes her friend, a woman who's basically the same age as me as well in thinking about my own son Dylan, the shock that they're in right now. The shock will eventually pay fade away the pain never does. [12:10:00]

HOCKLEY: And you know, hold on to the memories and the love that they were and that they still have. But the pain is, is forever and I doing think people can really appreciate that until you're in that situation.

BOLDUAN: I'm just - I'm just like overwhelmed by how I can feel you feeling pain again.

HOCKLEY: It's - I mean, you hear that survivors of mass shootings. You know, every time another one happens that brings us trauma just kind of rushing back.

BOLDUAN: And I was going to ask you if what you experienced, but I couldn't see it on your face, Nicole.

HOCKLEY: It's - it does, it does bring me back. Because I have a semblance of understanding of what that loss feels like for the people, the families, the mothers and fathers, the kids and the community and also to know what's still to come for them. And that is - that overwhelms me sometimes.

And that's you know, you talked about what - what gives Lonna purpose, and what got her out of bed every day. This is what gets me out of bed every day to find ways to stop this pain from happening to other families and communities.

Because we know we can stop it. And there's so many people that there are the vast majority of people still want to stop this. And I blame congress for ignoring this crisis for the last eight years and failing to take action. That is - that is just unimaginable that they continue to not do the right thing.

BOLDUAN: And since Dylan, since Dylan was killed, I mean you made it your mission to make change to get expanded, background checks passed. It did not happen when Barack Obama was President and Joe Biden was Vice President.

You've talked about - we've talked about your mission and what you've come up against. Do you think Nicole, do you think Joe Biden as President can get it done now?

HOCKLEY: I believe President Biden absolutely has the will and the empathy to make this happen. It really relies on the senate right now. The house is ready. We know that the senate stalled eight years ago and failed us then.

We have if this has to be a bipartisan issue though you have to have both sides want this because this isn't a partisan issue. This is a - this is a people partisan issue. This is about what is going to protect people and save lives across the country every single day, not just the mass shootings.

And the senate needs to listen to the polls after polls. I mean back in 2013, background checks were still supported by the vast majority of people including gun owners. This year the numbers are even higher.

So what will it take for the senate to say hey, I've been voted into position to protect my constituents. My constituents want this. So ignore the lobbyists that are telling you to vote a different way and vote to save people's lives. Universal background checks are not a partisan vote. It is the right thing to vote for and senate needs to move forward on this.

BOLDUAN: Nicole, thank you for coming in. Thank you for your heart. It's you wear it beautifully. Thank you so much for being here.

HOCKLEY: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: Very soon we are going to be hearing from the family of freaky olds you see that they're setting up there in Lafayette, Colorado right now. She is the 25 year old store manager who was killed in Monday supermarket shooting.

Her family is going to be sitting there. They're going to be addressing the media shortly to talk about the life and their loss. And we're going to bring that to live when they enter the room when this begins - it will begin shortly.

The very same time we continue to track the latest on the Coronavirus pandemic. American hospitals are in shambles after a year of fighting COVID. That disturbing headline is coming from a new report by the Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services.

The report lays out how the pandemic has left medical staff burned out demoralized and frustrated. We also have heard warnings today from President Biden's COVID response team about people letting down their guard despite only 13.7 percent of Americans being fully vaccinated.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: What concerns me is the footage of what's happening in spring breakers and people who are not continuing to implement prevention strategies. While we get fully scaled up, we're at 13 percent. We need to be much higher than that.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIR. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We do have a lot of challenges in front of us with regard to the high level of daily infections yesterday being 54,974. When you are at that level, I don't think you can declare victory and say you've turned the corner.


BOLDUAN: Let me bring in CNN's Kristen Holmes for the very latest on this. Christian, you've been reading through this report by the Inspector General at HHS. Tell us more of the details.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Kate, the details are incredibly disturbing. HHS surveyed more than 300 hospitals to see what a year of treating Coronavirus look like the toll that it took.

And the results were alarming. So I want to go through some of the findings there. Starting with what you noted which that staff was struggling from burnout trauma and in some cases PTSD.

And what really stood out to me here was administrators talking about these frontline workers being so overcome dealing with all of this death either death among co workers or being the last people who their patients saw before they passed from Coronavirus because family wasn't allowed and the stress that this took.


HOLMES: And a lot of this leading to higher than normal staff turnover and even staff shortages, some of which is actually impacting patient care. This study also talked about rural hospitals. In some of these cases, the hospitals being the only way that patients can get care for miles and miles.

They're struggling to stay afloat. As well as a concern over the higher hospitalizations because of decreased routine care meaning screenings for serious diseases like cancer or diabetes or cardiac issues.

So what this report makes very clear is that one, the country needs to figure out how to help these frontline workers and to better prepare itself for the next global health crisis. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yes, the fallout from this, the ripple effects are going to be long. Thank you so much, Kristen. A new study is also revealing some of the persistent damage that the Coronavirus may inflict.

Findings from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute published in the journal Nature Medicine says that a third of patients hospitalized for COVID experienced multiple physical symptoms long after they're recovered.

These symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, extend well beyond obviously, the respiratory symptom system. Here with me now is the Lead Author of that study and Medical Oncologist Dr. Kartik Sehgal, thank you for being here.

Appreciate your time. The problem is still a mystery right long COVID - still a mystery in so many respects. You obviously wanted to get to some answers with your research. What do you think is most important that you found?

DR. KARTIK SEHGAL, MEDICAL ONCOLOGIST, DANA-FARBER CANCER INSTITUTE: I think, Kate, thank you so much for having me on the show. As you mentioned, we found that at least one in three patients hospitalized for COVID-19 did have these persistent symptoms up to a few months after the resolution of their acute symptoms. So it's extremely important to harness the data which is out there as millions of people have been infected with this virus. So it's important to have a nationwide and in fact a global effort to try to understand the magnitude of the problem.

Because right now we are also still struggling with how do we define non COVID. It is a heterogeneous disease that can have multiple presentations that's extremely important to bring together all the data that is already out there.

BOLDUAN: Did you find kind of shows the scope of the problem, but we still haven't even defined the long COVID means? Did you find - I don't - any trend or commonality in who suffered from long COVID? Because you know, one lingering question is whose most likely to suffer from this if they do you know, whose most at risk for non-COVID if they do get sick?

DR. SEHGAL: That's the million dollar question. And we're still trying to answer that. But we did see a trend in terms of patients who require intensive care unit who require oxygen supplementation during their stay in the hospital. They do seem to be at risk for non-COVID.

But recent studies have also shown that patient in fact, who did not need hospital admissions may also suffer from these maybe not the prevalence are lower compared to patients who are hospitalized.

Some of the other research shows that patients with some existing respiratory diseases such as asthma may also be at higher risk. But again we still need to answer a lot more questions. And hopefully we can do that and quickly so that we can help our patients.

BOLDUAN: You know, NIH is also putting a billion dollars to studying this as well. I want to play for you what the Director, Dr. Francis Collins told me last week.


DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: Sometimes the inability to basically get back to normal life experiences because of this exhaustion, which sounds a lot like chronic fatigue syndrome and maybe there's an overlap here as well.

Is this the immune system that got fired up by COVID-19 and hasn't been able to get back to normal? Is it because of the blood clotting issues that we know COVID-19 can cause?


BOLDUAN: Those are just some of the big questions that Dr. Collins has. What is the biggest lingering what's the biggest lingering question that you have still?

DR. SEHGAL: Actually to echo Dr. Collins, he kind of put it very nicely. I think we have to address whether this is caused by abnormal activation of the body's own immune response. Or could there actually be some amount of virus still lurking behind

or hiding behind may not be the live virus, but may be some genetic imprint which is left behind which causes the immune response to be kind of persistent at a low level.

So answering those questions may actually then be helpful for us to try to test relevant treatment strategies in addition to just the supportive care to help these patients.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Well doctor, thank you for your work. Thank you for coming on.

DR. SEHGAL: Thank you so much.

BOLDUAN: Still ahead for us any moment now we are going - we're expecting to hear from another family impacted by Monday shooting the family of Rikki Olds the 25 year old manager of the King Soopers. You see her picture right there with her uncle. They're going to be speaking very soon. We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: All right, we're standing by right now for press conference in Lafayette, Colorado. The family of Rikki Olds, the 25 year old store manager of the King Soopers grocery store. She was killed in the store.

The family is coming out to speak and they were just kind of getting a little bit of a heads up from the person that's working with them.