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Colorado Massacres Suspect Makes First Court Appearance; Boulder Shooter Held Without Bail, Mental Health Evaluation Ordered; More Than 50 Million Americans at Risk of Severe Weather; Biden Doubles Nationwide Vaccine Goal to 200 Million Before May; Tech Executives Waffle on Responsibility for Capitol Riots. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 25, 2021 - 15:30   ET




BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Let's get you straight to Colorado where the suspect in that Boulder supermarket shooting this week made his first court appearance today. Here he was. He faces ten counts of first- degree murder after ten people were shot and killed at a King Soopers grocery store earlier this week.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is live in Boulder for us. And so Shimon, first court appearance. What did you learn?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and actually, Brooke, we're learning that a second officer nearly died in this incident that the alleged shooter here.


The D.A. revealing that he fired at another officer and that officer was able to get out of the way, so they've added an additional charge of attempted murder to the ten first-degree murder charges. That's because of this officer who miraculously was able to get out of the way and avoided being killed, of course, one of those officers died, Officer Eric Talley.

And what we also learned was that when the suspect was placed under arrest, they actually used Officer Tally's handcuffs to place him under arrest. The Boulder police saying it was a small gesture, but they did it because they are hoping to start some of the healing, and they did that to try and send a message certainly in support of the officer who was killed.

Also Brooke, what we learned is some indications here from the defense team that they are probably going to head towards the direction of an insanity defense. They told the judge that they need some time because they need to review records and information of an unspecified mental illness concerning the defendant, and that they want some time to review those documents.

We also learned that the police are still processing the crime scene and that they're going to need some more time to get all their information together and to process the crime scene. And that the D.A. is saying that it could take almost a year, up to a year until this case goes to trial, so there's a lot that is still going on.

Of course, the big question is the motive. That is still under investigation. Investigators looking at what connection he had to the grocery store. And then also the fact that there were no wounded survivors in the shooting. Very rare in mass shootings, that is something that investigators are trying to determine whether or not the gunman went in there with the intent on killing everyone he shot -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Simon, thank you. In Boulder, Colorado, on that just horrendous, horrendous event.

Right now a large part of this country, more than 50 million people is at risk of severe weather and for some parts of Alabama this is deadly serious. We are getting reports of major damage. Let's get straight to meteorologist, Tom Seder. And Tom, what happened, how bad is it?

TOM SEDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Now this is pretty bad, Brooke, in fact, this is just the beginning. We are seeing these super cell thunderstorms drop numerous tornadoes. In fact some towns just were hit eight days ago.

What you are looking at here is extremely rare. Notice the color of pink, Brooke, this is what we call a high risk, that's a level 5 out of 5. We may have these issued from the storm prediction center once or twice a year. This is the second time in eight days, and for the month of March the last time we had one before this month was nine years ago, so the outbreak is occurring now.

But just like eight days ago we are seeing tornado watches that are being issued with what is called a PDS, particularly dangerous situation, they do not issue these lightly. This is extremely dangerous situation where just like last week we had injuries, we had super cells that dropped these long-track tornadoes, where instead of these little spin ups lasting a couple minutes, they can last for hours.

Now in areas of pink are the warnings we're seeing right now, already moving into South Carolina, areas of northeast Georgia, a little warming north of Atlanta. We had some hail earlier in Georgia. But really, I want to point out this one in Birmingham and you can see already back in areas of east central Mississippi.

I want to get in closer because this thunderstorm here, this super cell actually produced a tornado down in Moundville, that is south of Tuscaloosa. That same town was hit by numerous tornados -- tornado warnings just eight days ago with injuries. Then it made its way up, south of Birmingham, just 15 miles where we have damage reports in Helena. Then it made its way over toward Eagle Point. This is where I think we are going to see significant damage already in social media, a southeastern suburb with numerous homes that are damaged there.

Moved over highway 280, reports of accidents on the highway and it's still creating damage as it makes its way up towards the northeast. So again, Birmingham, just 15 miles -- think of the population there. What happened eight days ago, Brooke, is a lot of these smaller tornadoes didn't hit the bigger populated regions. But right now we're still watching St. Clair County. It was Shelby County, it was Talladega County, but again this has been producing numerous tornadoes.

Now Birmingham is not out of it and neither is many other cities because the cold front still has to move through. Notice back to around Jackson, Mississippi moving towards Starkville, again that's the cold front and this has a second wave, if you will.

Just like eight days ago, Brooke, when we had numerous waves move through, this one's going to be moving through and this is at 7:00 p.m. Central daylight time. The watch is still in affect then.

So it makes its way up even toward Chattanooga where we've had some flash flooding. I mean Nashville is still into this for the next few hours as well.

So in numerous states it's a high risk, really for areas of Mississippi and Alabama, to this stretch up towards Tennessee. We're going to be watching this area closely, but this is extremely rare and for a good reason, because we are seeing it unfold right now. I know we're going to see some terrible pictures coming out --


BALDWIN: We just while you were talking, we were just looking at pictures, Helena, Alabama, I mean, you know, trees down. What really struck me, and we'll see this again, Tom, is you know those giant metal railroad crossings --


BALDWIN: -- look at that, somebody's home. The metal railroad crossing was knocked down. Just speaking to, you know, the wind, the power of these storms.

SEDER: Well, one of our meteorologists, Derek Van Dam is on his way to Eagle Point. And I think those pictures are much worse as far as what we're seeing online.

Cannot stress enough, Brooke, anyone in these states in the southeastern U.S., please make sure your emergency alerts are sets on your cell phone. Go under settings and go all the way to the bottom and you will be able to see if they are turned on or not, because this is a life-threatening situation.

I know we had a number of issues -- we had 65 tornadoes eight days ago when we went through this, and the atmosphere is more volatile now. So we can see stronger ones and long-track, long duration tornadoes that are going to take us unfortunately into the darkness of night. And that's when it gets really frightening.

BALDWIN: Thanks. Heed those warnings, folks if you are in those parts of Alabama. Tom Seder, thank you, so, so much. We'll keep close tabs on that and go to for all the latest weather updates as well.

I want to pivot to COVID. Some good news today for pregnant women and new parents, some COVID vaccines are not only effective for mom they can also protect a baby. New research, next.



BALDWIN: A short time ago, President Biden doubled his administration's target pace for vaccinations nationwide, he is now aiming to get 200 million doses out before May. Nick Watt reports.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will by my 100th day in office have administered 200 million shots in peoples' arms.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): So before the end of April his original aim was 100 million in 100 days, he did it in 58.

BIDEN (voice over): I know it's ambitious, twice our original goal, but no other country in the world has even come close.

WATT (voice over): Today, Georgia joined five other states and lowered the eligibility age to 16.

ERIC NICKENS JR., PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, DEKALB COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH: It may take a little time, but we will take care you can get your shot in the arm.

WATT (voice over): And researchers now say the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines appear to work incredibly effectively in pregnant and breastfeeding women, and they pass antibodies to their babies. All good news because --

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY: We know that catching COVID during pregnancy is really unsafe.

WATT (voice over): As vaccinations rise across the country, the death rate falls, but --

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: We're still seeing about 1,000 deaths a day, way too many.

WATT (voice over): 1,454 lives lost in America yesterday. In an entire year, South Korea lost 1,589.

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Most of America is already speeding to normalcy.

WATT (voice over): More than 1 million people pass through American airports every day in the past two weeks, United will soon add more flights to its schedule.

WEN: At this point we need to look at what are those things that have to occur, such as schools and make them as safe as possible.

WATT (voice over): Michigan just reported 65 new outbreaks in schools as case rates climb across the state.

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): A mask, social distancing, hand washing. Vaccinations. These are the tools that will help us be successful.

WATT (voice over): And testing. A new report into how schools should spend the $10 billion they have been given concludes, baseline test everyone at the outset then pool test kids every single week, staff, twice a week.


WATT (on camera): And researchers have just started testing the Pfizer vaccine in the 5 to 11-year-old age group. Meantime up at college level, Rutgers University now says that any student planning to attend in the fall must be vaccinated first -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Right, that's when real normalcy kicks in, it's when our little kids and young people can get this thing. Nick Watt, thank you. Dr. Saju Matthew joins me now from Atlanta. And Dr. Mathew, I want to just begin with you on what we heard from the president a bit ago about, you know, they have blown past the first goal, new goal, 200 million vaccinations by May. What would it mean to hit that mark and is it enough?

DR. SAJU MATHEW, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Hi, Brooke, listen, anytime we can share something exciting about the pandemic, let's do it.

I think just like President Biden said the fact that we surpassed the goal of 100 million shots in 100 days in of itself is an incredible, incredible feat. And the fact that we could double that 200 million is -- are moving fast enough. Brooke, we will never be able to move fast enough. We have to vaccinate over 300 million people in America.

But listen, the pace at which we are going, I am really happy, I'm impressed, over 2.5 million shots a day is the rolling seven-day average, and we already vaccinated over 70 percent of people 65 and older, that's huge. That's our vulnerable community. So, so far, so good.

BALDWIN: Listen, I am in on the enthusiasm, but the CDC still reminds us we are well above where we need to be in terms of transmission. Do you think, doc, that we are at risk of opening the door to another surge?

MATHEW: There's always that risk, Brooke. I think if you ask me like you are today, if you ask me in two weeks or asked a doctor a month ago about this pandemic, is there always a risk of a surge, the correct answer is yes.


And the reason for that right now especially is I worry about the plateauing, Brooke. I don't like the fact that we are not going down. I wake up every morning and I look at the stats and we are hovering around 50,000, and that means about 1,000 people are dying a day.

Anytime we plateau, and the cases don't go down, there is a risk of a surge. But I want to be optimistic and say that because a good number of people have immunity already from getting COVID and we're vaccinating people quickly I think that this time we're not going to see the hospitalizations and the deaths.

BALDWIN: Let's talk about masks, Dr. Matthew. You know, we're over a year into this thing. You would think that people would understand that masks help protect us against the spread of COVID. But Senator Ted Cruz did this. Roll it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you put the mask on for us?

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Yes, when I'm talking to the TV camera, I'm not going to wear a mask. And all of us have been immunized. So ---

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would make us feel better.

CRUZ: You're welcome to step away if you like. The whole point of a vaccine, CDC guidance is what we're following.


BALDWIN: Dr. Matthew, would you like to remind the Texas Senator what the CDC guidelines actually state?

MATHEWS: Brooke, I wish I had the chance to talk to Senator Cruz directly. This is what I would tell him respectfully. Listen, yes, you are vaccinated, sir, but the problem is the people around you, the reporters, if they are not vaccinated, there's still a risk that the vaccinated person, Senator Cruz, can transmit the infection to the people that he's talking with less than two to three feet away.

And let's also not forget that, yes, vaccinated people decrease their risk of infection. They might even decrease the risk of transmitting the virus, but with these variants looming, Brooke, we know that even in vaccinated people, it may not work as well.

So, the correct answer, if you look at CDC, is even if you are vaccinated, you should still wear a mask in public and when you're around people that are not vaccinated.

BALDWIN: Dr. Saju Mathew, thank you very much. Good to have you on, as always.

MATHEW: Thanks, Brooke. BALDWIN: Social media CEOs are under fire on Capitol Hill. Tough

questions about the role of Facebook, Twitter and Google in the January 6th insurrection. Their responses, next.



BALDWIN: Today, some of big tech's top executives are taking questions from Capitol Hill on the spread of misinformation on all of their platforms. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg distanced his company from one of the most obvious consequences of that kind of content, the Capitol insurrection.

Brian Fung has been watching along there in Washington. And Brian, what has stood out to you?

BRIAN FUNG, CNN TECH REPORTER: Well, Brooke, as you said, the insurrection was a big focus of this hearing. The companies really had a hard time talking about what their role was and whether or not they feel some sense of responsibility for what happened on January 6th.

Twitter was the only company that came out and say, yes, we bear some responsibility for spreading misinformation that contributed to the violence. While Facebook and Google had a much harder time coming out saying that. You know, you had Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg essentially deflecting blame on to President Trump. Let's have a listen at what he said.


MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: We did our part to secure the integrity of the election. And then on January 6th President Trump gave a speech rejecting the results and calling on people to fight. I believe that the division we see today is primarily the result of a political and media environment that drives Americans apart. And we need to reckon with that if we're going to make progress.


FUNG (on camera): And of course, Zuckerberg, even as he was saying that much of what's going on in America today is the result of media and politics being inherently divisive, he, himself, did not acknowledge Facebook's own role in that ecosystem.

And you know this just sort of reflects the big divide here between what the executives were saying and, you know, the anger and outrage that the lawmakers were directing at them.

It really ran both ways, Brooke, with, you know, the executives, some executives, including, you know, Jack Dorsey from Twitter, live tweeting from the hearing criticisms of the lawmakers who were not engaging with his own policy proposals here.

So, you know, the executives were having trouble containing their frustration with lawmakers. Lawmakers clearly very upset at the executives and the platforms for their conduct. Overall, a very, very tense hearing -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Going both ways, Brian Fung, thank you so much.

Just to end for us here, perhaps best known for her one-liners is Lucille Bluth on "Arrested Development." Jessica Walter has died at the age of 80. According to a statement released by her daughter the award-winning actress passed away in her sleep at her home in New York City. Her career which spanned TV and film for over six decades garnered her an Emmy Award for her role in the police drama, "Amy Prentiss" and multiple Golden Globe and Screen Actress Guild nominations.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me. Let's go to Washington. THE LEAD with Jake Tapper starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.