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CNN NEWSROOM

Eight People Killed in San Jose Mass Shooting. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired May 26, 2021 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:00:00]

RAUL PERALEZ, SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA, CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: And I can understand how so many families are feeling right now, friends, loved ones, individuals.

When an incident like this happens, and when it happens here close to home, that affects us so much more deeply, because of the individuals that we know, we love and work with, our friends and loved ones. It's just extremely tragic. And our thoughts and prayers, my thoughts and prayers are with everybody at the moment.

Thank you.

RUSSELL DAVIS, SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA, DEPUTY SHERIFF: Last, but not least, we're going to have Mayor Sam Liccardo with the city of San Jose speak.

SAM LICCARDO, MAYOR OF SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA: Thank you.

This is a very dark moment for our city and for our community. But we have already seen how people are pulling together in this very, very tough time.

As Supervisor Chavez reminded us, these are and were essential workers. These VTA employees helped us get through this horrific pandemic. They were showing up every day to operate light rail and buses to ensure people could still continue to go about their lives amid all the challenges of the pandemic. And they were taking risks with their own lives in doing so.

Certainly, our San Jose police officers and sheriff's deputies responded immediately. Obviously, we will learn more through this investigation about what exactly happened and how. But I can't help but think that they may well have saved more harm from happening.

And, of course, we have got a crew of counselors already hard at work supporting families and loved ones who are struggling with such awful trauma in this moment.

We're going to pull together. We're going to continue to work together and support our families of loved ones who have lost so much through this tragedy. We're going to continue to provide more information as this investigation unfolds.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Does anyone have any information about how many people were wounded in this?

DAVIS: So, we're going to wrap everything up.

Again, this is still fluid and ongoing. We're trying to get as -- information we can for all of you. So, at 1:30, we are going to reconvene, and then we will give you an update from there, 1;30 at this location.

QUESTION: On the number of wounded at 1:30?

DAVIS: Update just on the whole investigation, if we have anything. At 1:30, we're going to meet up here.

Thank you all.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) explosive devices at the suspect's home?

DAVIS: We're doing an investigation. We're trying to determine what we have.

We will see you all at 1:30.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Welcome to the NEWSROOM, everyone.

You have been listening to the public officials there in San Jose, California, talk about the mass shooting. Obviously, their details are scant. But we do now know, Victor, that eight people were killed and also the gunman.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Yes, eight people killed, and the gunman as well.

We know that the gunman, according to a spokesperson there for the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office, was a VTA employee. And we expect to get more soon.

This is near downtown, just at the center of downtown directly across the street from the sheriff's office. Santa Clara County's deputy just confirmed a few details, although, throughout the afternoon, we weren't getting much.

So let's go to Dan Simon, who is there at the scene.

Dan, you have been speaking to employees who were in that building. Again, we know this was a VTA employee. What are they telling you about what happened there?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Victor.

First of all, let me explain where I am. We are at a county office building. This is directly across the street from the sheriff's office and near the scene itself. This is the reunification center that has been set up by authorities, so loved ones can meet up with VTA employees who frantically fled the scene.

I can tell you that I did speak to some of those workers who talked about hearing the gunshots or they heard that there was a shooting, and they quickly bolted away from wherever they were and whatever they were doing.

I can also tell you that many family members have shown up here trying to learn what they can about their loved ones. As you can imagine, they are quite anxious, trying to hear from their loved ones and piece together what happened.

What we know from authorities, who just told us a short time ago, we do now know that nine people have been killed. That includes the gunman. We don't know that the circumstances in terms of how the gunman lost his life. But this is a person who worked at the VTA rail yard, shooting at his fellow employees.

We don't know the circumstances in terms of what may have led up to this. But I can also tell you, Victor, that this encompasses more scenes than just what happened at the rail yard, that there was a house fire in San Jose shortly before the shooting took place.

And we understand that investigators are looking at that house fire as it relates to the shooter. How it wraps up in terms of ultimately what happened, we're still waiting to hear that.

[14:05:04]

But I want you to listen now to Deputy Sheriff Russell Davis, who also said that the crews are -- while they're still continuing to process the scene, they have found explosives. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVIS: But we received information that there are explosive devices that are located inside the building.

That being said, we activated our bomb squad, which is currently out on scene, and trying to determine -- pretty much, we're trying to clear out every room and every crevice of that building to ensure that the public safety is rest assured if we open up that building later on in the near future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIMON: We are also told that these VTA employees apparently work a 24-hour shift, this happening at the beginning of a shift or at the beginning of the day, when they apparently were huddled together.

They may have had some meeting going on, according to a fellow employee. It would not be uncommon at the beginning of a day to learn what their assignments might be or to talk about the upcoming day. And that is apparently when these shots rang out, again, nine people dead, including the shooter -- Victor, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Dan, one of the things that they just revealed is that the shooter is male. The shooter, as you say, was killed on the scene. They didn't -- they said they didn't know if he died by his own gunshot or from police officers.

What do we know about that part of the investigation?

SIMON: Yes, that's exactly right.

We do not know the circumstances surrounding the shooter's death. Did he take his own life, or perhaps was he killed by law enforcement officers? We do know that, within minutes, law enforcement officers did arrive on the scene.

Keep in mind, you do have the sheriff's office that is directly across the street from where the shooting took place. So, they were able to respond quickly.

Alisyn, we're also learning that the FBI is involved with the investigation. They are providing assistance to local law enforcement agencies. They are providing equipment and resources in terms of processing the scene and also helping the victims, providing victims resource support, as no doubt they're going to need it in the coming days -- Alisyn, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Yes, absolutely.

Dan Simon for us there.

Dan, thank you.

Let's go now to CNN's Stephanie Elam.

Stephanie, you know Santa Clara County, also about this facility. Tell us about this area and about the people who work there, what they're learning about potentially their loved ones and their colleagues.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Victor. I grew up in Santa Clara County. And this is not far from the southern end of the airport there, Mineta San Jose International Airport.

So, it's right down on the southern end there. It's right by the 101 and 880, where they intersect. So, it's an industrial park there. But it's also not necessarily what I would say out in the middle of nowhere.

But what we can tell you is that these people are now trying to get reunited with their loved ones. And as we have seen through the number of times that we have covered these events, so much chaos happens. People lose their cell phone. They're running to get out.

We also know from the sheriff, Laurie Smith, saying that, while shots were still being fired, because of the proximity of the sheriff's department, they were still -- they were already entering the building to get in there and to extricate people who may have been injured or just to get them to safety if they had not been.

Also worth noting that the sheriff also pointed out the fact that their bomb-sniffing dogs alerted on something, and that is what they're using X-ray and their technology to go after those.

And it's also another point that's coming out to what you just heard Dan talking about this house fire, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, talking to our affiliate KGO, just saying that they do believe that there's something that has to do with this house and that nobody was inside of that house that they're now investigating, so this other part of that investigation.

All of this happening while, again, the most important thing, people want to know where their loved ones are. And for the president of the Valley Transportation Authority, if you take a listen to him, he's very emotional. And just listen to what he has to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN HENDRICKS, PRESIDENT, SANTA CLARA VALLEY TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY: So, horrible tragedies happened today. And our thoughts and love goes out to the VTA family, the organization, and what they have had to go through.

I could not be more proud of the VTA organization. As I drove here, I saw VTA buses out on the road. As I said, this is just a horrible tragedy.

There's...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ELAM: And the part that I keep coming back to, Alisyn and Victor, is the fact that these are the people that kept the world moving in Silicon Valley all throughout the pandemic.

They have been working, keeping these light rail trains on the tracks and moving. And they have made it basically through the pandemic. And now eight of these people have senselessly lost their lives. I can't lose sight of that.

I keep thinking about all that they were doing all this time to keep people who needed to get to work get to work. All of that now, for these families and for these eight people, it's -- their -- their lives are over. And it just is upsetting and senseless, when you look at what has happened here, and as we still see that there's a constant threat, because they're still investigating.

[14:10:06]

That's part of the reason why it's taking so long for this information to come out -- Alisyn, Victor.

BLACKWELL: I mean, these were the essential workers that we lauded for so many months, because they kept us all moving. And now, as you said, eight of them have lost their lives.

Stephanie Elam, thank you so much.

Let's bring in now CNN national security analyst Asha Rangappa and CNN law enforcement analyst Charles Ramsey.

Commissioner, let me start with you.

The details that are coming in throughout this -- their morning, our afternoon, that this was an employee. There are reports of explosives. There was a house fire that could be related. The degree of coordination, if you're starting this investigation, that you see potentially?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, there would have to be a high level of coordination, obviously, if there's a fire involved and explosives. Now ATF has got a major role, along with the FBI and the sheriff's department, so all hands on deck.

They will bring in whoever they need to bring in, in order to be able to process the scenes, really get to the bottom of why the individual did what he did. But, unfortunately, again, you got have eight families now that just woke up today and had no idea that it would be the last time they ever saw their loved one. And for what?

And this is not going to be the last one. I mean, we keep saying over and over again. These things are not going to stop. They really aren't. We have got to take a real hard look at what's going on in our country in terms of gun violence.

CAMEROTA: Oh, absolutely. Commissioner.

I mean, Asha, we have this conversation, obviously, way too often. And the fact that we survived this pandemic, some of us, not all of us, of course, and this is what we do when we finally can go back to work and are free to move around, and this spate of mass shootings that we have seen.

And we just were talking to Stephanie Elam -- I'm sure you heard it -- about how these were the essential workers. These were the people who thought they were out of the woods now. And they were back at work. I mean, they had been at work, our bus drivers driving us around.

And this is how they're repaid, with a mass shooting when they're at work at 6:34 in the morning.

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, Alisyn.

I think what the pattern shows us is that these are -- these are happening everywhere. We have seen it at supermarkets. We have seen it at spas. We have seen it in -- now in public transportation. I mean, this isn't some kind of -- only against the government or something like that.

And I think that that does require us to take a good look at it, because it's affecting the day-to-day life of normal people. I do think that it's significant here that this individual worked at the facility where this took place.

That could be a lead for a possible motive. And it's also relevant, Alisyn, because California last year expanded its red flag laws to allow employers and co-workers to initiate action if they saw questionable behavior.

So, it remains to be seen whether anyone at his workplace saw some signs, potentially a grievance or something like that, that might have signaled a potential for violence or this kind of activity.

BLACKWELL: Chief, we're more than four hours out from the first calls about the multiple shots fired. And one thing we heard from the sheriff's office in this latest news conference stood out to me is that it's undetermined whether this shooter's death was the result of a shot from his gun or one of the deputies' gun.

What does that suggest to you, that they're not -- they're -- it's not that they're not telling us, is that they have not determined that. What do you glean from that answer?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, it tells me some of the first responders may have actually fired at the suspect. They're just not sure whether or not their bullets took effect, or whether or not this individual ended his own life.

It's not unusual for them to take their own life, as you well know. But it tells me that perhaps there were shots fired by the police at the suspect. The fact that they found explosive devices, I mean, this guy was planning on doing a lot more damage than he wound up doing, if he had explosive devices, in addition to the number of people he was able to shoot and kill.

So, the fast response on the part of the sheriff's department probably ended this a lot sooner than the individual had anticipated.

BLACKWELL: Chief, does the posture there suggest that they believe that there are these explosives, because what we heard from the spokesperson was that there were reports of explosives.

I didn't hear confirmation that they actually found those explosives.

RAMSEY: Yes.

BLACKWELL: But, with as many offices they have standing around there, would it suggest that they have found them or they believe that they're -- they're actually there?

[14:15:01]

RAMSEY: Well, if they -- if you got -- if you have active explosives there, then you would have people moving back a little bit further.

It sounded to me like a dog alerted to a potential explosive device. And maybe that's what they're going on. I don't know. There's still not a lot of information that's out there. But if it, in fact, did have some explosive devices, pipe bombs or what have you, that would just show, again, he was intent on causing a lot more harm than he ultimately did.

But that remains to be seen. There's still a lot of questions that need to be answered. You have got this issue around a fire. Was that his home that was set on fire? Is this someone else who works there that he had a beef with?

I mean, we just don't know the answers to any of that. But I'm sure, right now, they're executing search warrants. They're digging through social media. They're interviewing co-workers. They're doing everything they can to try to find out what was going on with this guy.

CAMEROTA: OK, Commissioner, Asha, thank you. Stay with us, if you would. We have many more questions for you.

And our breaking news coverage continues, another mass shooting, this one in San Jose. The sheriff says at least eight people were killed and wants to warn us it's still a very fluid situation. We have the latest from the scene for you.

BLACKWELL: Plus, the president's response to this, another mass shooting, as Alisyn said.

We're live at the White House. Stay with us.

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[14:20:44]

BLACKWELL: All right, we're continuing to -- following the breaking news out of San Jose, California.

At least eight people and a shooter are dead after he started shooting at a transit yard, a rail yard there in downtown.

CAMEROTA: CNN chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins joins us now.

Kaitlan, what's the White House saying?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, they seem to be waiting for details, just like the rest of us. They say that they have been watching these press conferences happening with these local officials. They're monitoring the situation.

But they did not say whether or not President Biden himself has actually been briefed. Typically, of course, when a shooting like this does happen, the president is often briefed by his homeland security adviser or other officials on what they know, just the latest.

But, often, that's not much more than what's revealed publicly when it comes to how many people are dead, of course, questions about the motive, as this investigation is just now getting under way.

But what they are pointing to, while they say they're still waiting for the details to come in, are President Biden's past comments, saying that there is an epidemic of gun violence here in the United States, saying that it's not just the shootings like these that get headlines because of how many people were killed; it's the everyday gun violence in the United States that troubles President Biden. But, of course, what that all points back to and reminds you of is how

President Biden has called for and instituted these executive orders when it comes to gun control. He has not actually encouraged or gotten Congress to get any kind of gun legislation passed. He has certainly called on them to do so time and time again. He did so again during that congressional dress just a few weeks ago.

But we know that what's been happening on Capitol Hill, a House-passed background checks bill faces a really steep uphill battle in the Senate, basically no chance of that actually getting passed. And so the White House has kind of been in this situation where, unfortunately, time and time again, when there have been these mass shootings, they are often left to pointing to what Biden has called on Congress to do, without Congress actually having done that.

And so it kind of ends up in this circular motion time and time again.

BLACKWELL: All right, Kaitlan Collins for us there at the White House.

Kaitlan, thank you.

CAMEROTA: Listen to this exercise, Victor.

In the commercial break, I was trying to figure out what number mass shooting this is just since Friday. And there have been so many that I ran out of time before I could add them all up.

So, according to the National Gun Archives, it's the 15th since Friday, not this year, just since Friday. And so far this year, at least 7,500 people in the U.S. have died from gun violence. That's a 23 percent increase over the same period in 2020.

BLACKWELL: All right, let's bring back now CNN national security analyst Asha Rangappa and CNN law enforcement analyst former Commissioner Charles Ramsey.

That is amazing that there have been 15 since Friday.

Asha, first to you. Listen, I always remember that it was then Vice President Joe Biden who went to the Hill after Sandy Hook to try to get something done. And if you can't get something done on gun law changes after 6-year-olds are killed, what changes this?

RANGAPPA: Well, Victor, I think that, at some point, we need to follow the money.

Somebody has a payoff from these mass shootings. And what we know is that gun sales go up every time one of these things happen. The gun industry not only makes money from mass shootings. They are protected. It's the only industry that basically has blanket tort immunity because of Congress shielding it.

And so, when we take that and the combination of the patchwork of state gun laws, some that require more background checks, some that require fewer, some that require stolen firearms to be reported, some that don't, I mean, basically you just have a Swiss cheese approach to gun regulation, and one where Congress refuses to take any action to mitigate what is effectively a major national security threat coming from inside the house.

(CROSSTALK)

CAMEROTA: Thank you for all that, Asha.

But you know what, Chief? I mean, you obviously have been on the front lines of gun violence, as a police officer and commissioner. California is an interesting case study, because California has the strongest gun laws in the country.

[14:25:04]

They have universal background checks. They have a mandatory 10-day waiting period for sales. They don't allow straw purchasers. As Asha said in the last -- the last segment, they have expanded red flag laws.

And so, if California can't figure this one out, what do you think the answer is, as someone who has been on the streets as a police officer?

RAMSEY: Well, first of all, you can circumvent that very easily. You go to a neighboring state that doesn't have strict gun laws, and buy them online in some cases. People are able to do that.

I mean, we just -- we have so many guns that are in our society right now, that -- and I don't know how you really get a handle on this, because we have got elected officials that aren't going to do anything, other than another round of thoughts and prayers.

If we could pray our way out of this, we would have done it a long time ago, with the number of shootings we have had and the amount of thoughts and prayers that they be -- that they're constantly trying to send up, I guess.

But, anyway, I agree with Victor. If -- after Sandy Hook, I lost all faith that our elected officials would really do anything meaningful, because if you kill a bunch of babies, and you don't do anything, what do you think this is going to do? Absolutely nothing.

And the next time we have this conversation will be at the next mass shooting. But these shootings occur every single day. The only time we pay attention, when it's a mass shooting, but people are dying one, two, three at a time in cities across America and they have been for a while.

And I'm telling you, this year is going to be a record year in many cities because of gun violence, and nothing will change.

BLACKWELL: Asha, let's go back to this specific investigation.

We heard -- or someone tried to get an answer about the security at this facility. They wouldn't answer those questions. But we have talked a lot in this -- when we have been in this posture of mass shootings about hard targets vs. soft targets, malls and grocery stores. This was an employee who -- we're still waiting for details -- likely had access to the building.

How do you protect one co-worker from another? I mean, what do you do in a situation like this, irrespective of legislation?

RANGAPPA: Well, I think that employers and co-workers -- I mean, we have talked about this before in terms of lone wolf shootings, where family members have to have their eye out for signs.

And I think it's similar. It's very frustrating, Victor, because when you don't have -- and we're not really sure what the background is here. But if you have kind of an organized type of setting, where people are planning something, law enforcement has more opportunity to intervene, because there is a greater likelihood that the planning, the conspiracy part of it is going to come on their radar.

When people act alone, it's really -- you're relying on people who are closest to that individual to be able to see signs that they may be planning something or mentally unstable or something like that.

I mean, that's why you have some of these red flag laws. But, of course, you need people to use them. And, of course, that's dependent on somebody making clear that this is something that they are thinking about doing outwardly.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

Asha Rangappa, Charles Ramsey, thank you very much for trying to help us understand where we are yet again today.

BLACKWELL: And, of course, more -- as more comes in on the breaking news, we will bring that to you.

Up next: the investigation into the former president and the Trump Organization, what we have learned about the grand jury set to consider potential criminal charges.

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