Return to Transcripts main page


Interview With Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL); Colorado Massacre. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 23, 2021 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: You were watching CNN on this Tuesday afternoon. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.

I want to begin with brand-new information we have about this deadly shooting at a Boulder, Colorado, grocery store. This happened yesterday. It is the seventh mass shooting in this country in just the past seven days; 10 lives are lost after a gunman opened fire inside this King Soopers grocery store, the youngest victim 20 years young, the oldest 65.

At least one was a supermarket employee, and another an 11-year veteran police officer.


MARIS HEROLD, BOULDER, COLORADO, POLICE CHIEF: I'm going to read the names of the deceased, Denny Strong, 20 years old.

Neven Stanisic, 23. Rikki Olds, 25. Tralona Bartkowiak, 49. Suzanne Fountain, 59. Teri Leiker, 51. Officer Eric Talley, 51. Kevin Mahoney, 61. Lynn Murray, 62. Jody Waters, 65.

Our hearts go out to all the victims killed during the senseless act of violence.


BALDWIN: Those are the victims.

As for the suspect, he is in custody. He is a 21-year-old man. And we are now learning that video captured -- here is -- just yesterday of a man being taken into custody is indeed the suspect. He was shot in the leg, was taken to the hospital. He was booked into the Boulder County Jail today, where he will be formally charged with 10 counts of first- degree murder.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov is live in Boulder for us.

And, Lucy, obviously, so many, so many questions. We just learned a lot of new information. Fill us in. What do you know?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Unfortunately, not much about the motive, Brooke, but we are getting a lot more details about the suspect, who authorities have identified as 21-year-old Ahmad Alissa.

We understand that he immigrated to this country from Syria in 2002, that he and his family have been living in the Arvada area since 2014.

Now, my colleague Blake Ellis actually spoke to the older brother of the suspected gunman, who said that he may have suffered from mental illness and that he was apparently bullied in high school for being Muslim. He says that this may have contributed to the suspect being antisocial.

The brother also told CNN that the suspect became increasingly paranoid, and around 2014 he felt that he was being followed and chased. And to that point, he apparently placed duct tape over the camera on his computer to block anyone that he believed might have been following him.

The brother also told us that the suspect was not overly political or religious. We know that they lived in the same house as roommates. The brother said that he did not know his brother had a gun, but some conflicting information there, because, according to the affidavit, officers interviewed another relative who knew the suspect.

And she said that Alissa had been seen playing with what looked like a -- quote -- "machine gun" in the house about two days before. The only other charge we know of for ultimate Ahmad Alissa was in 2017. He was found guilty of assault and sentenced to probation and community service at the time.

We are also getting more details about some of those items that were recovered at the supermarket, which included a green tactical vest, according to authorities,a rifle, a possible AR-15, a semiautomatic handgun and a pair of jeans and a dark-colored long-sleeve shirt.

There was a lot of blood around these items. And according to new court documents, we also understand that the suspect apparently stripped off his clothing before surrendering to authorities.

And while he refused to answer any questions, he did reportedly ask the authorities to speak to his mother. But that's about the suspect. We are getting so much tragic information about the victims again and the impact suffered by this community.

Take a listen to what the Boulder police chief had to say about how this affected her and the community.


HEROLD: I feel numb. And it's heartbreaking. It's heartbreaking to talk to victims, their families. It's tragic. This officer had seven children ages 5 to 18. I just had that officer's whole family in my office two weeks ago to

give him an award. And so it is personal. This is my community. I live here. And to have something like this happen so close to where you live, and to know the fear in the community, and to know that the officer sacrificed themselves, it's heartbreaking.



KAFANOV: And it is heartbreaking; 10 people walked into that store on Monday afternoon; 10 of them never came out.

We are grappling with the aftermath of yet another senseless mass shooting here in America -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Lucy Kafanov, thank you in Boulder.

You know, I have sat in this chair too many times covering mass shootings in places we all frequent, right, movie theaters, churches, and now a supermarket.

And there are a number of witnesses who are speaking out about what they saw, what they heard as they were doing something so mundane as buying groceries, a quick run, right, to the supermarket to buy food for their families.


SARAH MOONSHADOW, 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, where we don't have any more -- any other chance to get out of here.

RYAN BOROWSKI, WITNESS: What I saw was a terrified face running towards me. She was a woman shorter than myself. And the first two shots that happened, I saw her face and her running down the aisle towards me.

I turned and kept up with her. And we all ran down the aisle towards the back of the store together. The employees in the back of the house didn't know what was going on. So we told them that there was a shooter, and they told us where the exit was.

ANNA HAYNES, WITNESS: He on his way to the entrance had turned around and was shooting rapid fire at one particular target. I'm fairly sure it was a person. And then he turned around. He entered the building through the handicap entrance. And a few seconds later, I saw people running out of the building.

I heard screaming. I heard people leaving in their cars. And it just devolved into chaos within just a couple of minutes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I peeked in and a couple more shots go off. And I

saw another lady laying right there on the ground right inside the front doors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At first, I heard like a loud bang. So I kind of thought like a shelf fell over or something like that. But then, immediately, when I heard multiple gunshots, I knew that it was something more than that.

And so I just made sure I got out of there safely. And it was really, truly a horrifying experience.


BALDWIN: And while those details from all these witnesses will certainly help police piece together what unfolded yesterday, they're also just focusing broader on this suspect and trying to answer the question why.

CNN law enforcement analyst Charles Ramsey joins me now. He's a former Philadelphia police commissioner and the former chief of the Metropolitan Police in Washington, D.C.

So, Commissioner, thank you so much for jumping on with me.

And just first things first. Thinking back to that police chief in Boulder talking through how -- the word she used, tragic, right, when you are -- you have experienced shootings, right?

And so what is it like being a member of law enforcement, when you have to be the one to inform these families that their mother, their sister, their son has been killed?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it's the toughest thing you have to do as a police officer.

I have worked in homicide back in my days in Chicago P.D. I watched detectives as they made those notifications. You never get used to it. And, certainly, as a police commissioner, I have lost a lot of officers in the line of duty.

And speaking with those family members, dealing with the tragedy that results from that kind of loss of life, it's something you will never forget. I could hear the trauma in her voice.

BALDWIN: You could.

RAMSEY: And I can only hope that she takes care of herself, because I know what it's like. She's got to try to hold it together, because she's trying to get her whole department through this period of time. But she has to take care of herself as well.

BALDWIN: She was talking about how this is personal, this is her community. She lost one of our officers, Eric Talley. He was the first officer on the scene. He was a father of seven. I mean, Chief Ramsey, if you were leading this police department --

and we know officers are trained for this -- but what kind of decision is it, right, from an officer's perspective, to put your life on the line? Is it instinct?

And how does a police department deal with the loss of one of its own?

RAMSEY: It's instinct and it's training.

I mean, officers have to protect the lives of others. Sometimes, that means putting your own life at risk. And so what that officer did was truly heroic. It took a great deal of courage, but he did exactly what he was trained to do.


And others that have responded to the scene would have done the same thing. So, it's tough. But you can't just let innocent people get gunned down. You got to go after the person that's responsible.

But it is traumatic. It's traumatic for an entire agency. I lost eight police officers in the line of duty during my eight years in Philadelphia. It's tough. It is very tough. In fact, we had to get psychological counseling for the members of our department through University of Pennsylvania, because it does have an impact.

There's no question about that.

BALDWIN: We're getting a little bit more about the suspect. We know that he was shot in the leg. He has now been booked into the Boulder County jail. Obviously, police want to determine the motive.

The DA said the shooter, the suspected gunman, is talking. Can you just tell us how police are going about questioning him and what they're asking him?

RAMSEY: Well, if he's willing to speak -- of course, they have to provide him with his Miranda rights. Whether or not he's going to speak without an attorney present, I don't know.

But, certainly, if he's willing to speak, more than likely, it'll be recorded, video and audio. And they will try to get to the bottom of it. They will try to find out exactly why he did what he did.

If they're going to be combing through social media, if they got a computer or a laptop of any kind, a cell phone, they will be going through all that try to find out exactly what are the sites he was visiting, who was he communicating with? They will interview relatives. They will interview friends.

I mean, there's a lot of work that has to be done now, before they're even close to coming up with anything that resembles a motive. They're going to be careful. This guy is still alive. So there's going to be a trial.

Unlike many active shooters that wind up killing themselves or killed by police, they have got to prepare for trial. So they're going to be very, very careful with this.

BALDWIN: Just listening to our correspondent there, Lucy, she was relaying details that the suspect's brother told CNN that their family immigrated from Syria, that his brother, the suspect, may have been suffering from mental illness, that he said he was bullied in high school for being a Muslim.

As investigators look for a motive, how much do those details really matter?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, listen, the prosecutor will be prepared to deal with that. Obviously, that will probably be a defense.

I mean, I feel no empathy for this guy at all. So, forgive me for that. But I just absolutely don't.

BALDWIN: No, no forgiveness needed.

RAMSEY: There is no excuse.

Yes, there is no excuse to go and kill people. There are many people who suffer from mental illness. They don't do this kind of thing. I mean, that's just -- it's just totally unacceptable. So I don't go for it, not for a second.

But obviously, his family, people close to him, defense counsel, they will all try to put that sort of thing out there on the table. Hopefully, it doesn't work.

BALDWIN: Former Commissioner Charles Ramsey, thank you so, so much for your expertise and your perspective. Appreciate it.

As for the politics of all of this, Republicans are already pushing back against new gun control measures in the wake of the shooting in Boulder. Will anything be different this time?

We will talk about it with Congressman Ted Deutch, who represents Parkland, Florida, and has been fighting for tougher gun laws.

Plus, we are learning new details about the victims of this senseless rampage. We remember them ahead.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.



BALDWIN: We are back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

President Joe Biden reacting today to this mass shooting in Colorado, where 10 people have been killed. Speaking from the White House, the president called on Congress to pass several gun safety measures, including banning assault weapons and closing loopholes in the background check system.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States Senate -- I hope some are listening -- should immediately pass the two House- passed bills that close loopholes in the background check system.

These are bills that received votes of both Republicans and Democrats in the House. This is not and should not be a partisan issue. This is an American issue. It will save lives, American lives. And we have to act.

We should also ban assault weapons in the process.


BALDWIN: Let's go to our CNN chief White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins.

And, Kaitlan, just listening to the president, what can he do to get lawmakers to actually act?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it seems like he is certainly going to publicly pressure them to do so.

He said earlier when he was speaking just for about six minutes before leaving the White House for Ohio that he hoped these senators were listening to his comments, calling on them to pass those bills on background checks that have made it through the House, but, as we know do, face a really uphill battle in the Senate, whether or not what that would look like getting people on board, because, of course, this can't be passed through reconciliation, which you saw that with that coronavirus relief bill.

They would have to get 10 Republicans on board. And they are not anywhere close to that yet. If you watched that Senate Judiciary hearing this morning, you could see just how divided Republicans and Democrats are, despite what you heard from President Biden this morning.

And so what we do know that, in addition to what he's calling on Congress to do, he's also considering a range of executive actions. He said he would use the tools at his disposal to make these changes because he was saying he doesn't want to just see what he was saying the Senate should pass, those House bills.


He also wants a ban on assault weapons he was calling for. And so we're waiting to see what he's going to try to put forward when it comes to gun legislation. We do know he's working on these executive orders.

But the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, did tell reporters earlier they should not expect anything immediate to happen in the next 24 hours or so, though we may hear more from President Biden himself on this, of course, as the time goes on.


And I have got a congressman waiting in the wings who certainly led the charge on a lot of this on the House side. We will come back to him.

But, Kaitlan, because I have you, we just got word that Senator Tammy Duckworth is now threatening to block all of President Biden's nominees until she gets a more diverse commitment. What is this about?

COLLINS: Well, this all really came to a head last night when there was this conference call, basically, between the White House and Senate Democrats, where not just Senator Duckworth, but also Senator Mazie Hirono, were talking to the White House and confronting them over the fact that, in the president's Cabinet, there are no Asian Americans representing any of those positions.

We have talked about how diverse his Cabinet is and the figureheads in it. Of course, we know the vice president's heritage. We know Katherine Tai, just because -- who was just confirmed as the next trade representative. But those are not major Cabinet level positions.

And so they were pressuring the White House, saying they need to have some of that representation, given the national conversation we have been having around not just that shooting last week, but also, of course, the pandemic. And so now she is saying that she is going to vote no on all non-diversity nominees coming out of the White House until they commit to make that move.

We have asked the White House about this. They haven't gotten back to us yet. But we should note that last night, when they brought this up on the call, they brought it up to one of Biden's senior advisers, Jen O'Malley Dillon, who pointed to Harris and pointing to Katherine Tai, but, clearly, Brooke, they do not think that is sufficient.

BALDWIN: Kaitlan Collins, thank you very much at the White House.

Let's get back to what's happened in Boulder and really across the country.

With me now, Democratic Congressman of Florida Representative Ted Deutch. He is the chief whip of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, represents the district of Parkland, Florida, where, just a few short years ago, 17 people were murdered during that mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

So, Congressman Deutch, thank you, sir, for being with me.

REP. TED DEUTCH (D-FL): Yes, thanks, Brooke. Here we are again.

BALDWIN: Here we are again, another mass shooting in America.

I was just talking to you in commercial break. I will never forget standing next to you in Parkland the very next day, not a dry eye between either of us after we heard that mother shrieking after she'd learned she lost her daughter. And then not even 24 hours after this latest shooting, and people are calling for commonsense gun reforms, including expanded background checks, and this is how Republicans are responding. Listen.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): And every time there's a shooting, we play this ridiculous theater, where this committee gets together and proposes a bunch of laws that would do nothing to stop these murders.

Democrats proposed taking away guns from law-abiding citizens. But when you disarm law-abiding citizens, you make them more likely to be victims. If you want to stop these murders, go after the murderers.


BALDWIN: Congressman Deutch, you passed two bills in the House.


BALDWIN: They're not going anywhere in the Senate.

Just for everyone at home who's watching all this who feels that gun reform is hopeless, can you honestly tell them otherwise?

DEUTCH: I can. I can. And I'm going to tell you why.

First of all, Senator Cruz knows that what he's saying is absolutely false. Ridiculous theater is what we watched from him and what we see time and time again from my Republican colleagues and Republicans in the Senate who stand in the way of meaningful gun safety legislation.

There is no constitutional right for someone to avoid a background check, buy an AR-15 and shoot up a grocery store, or shoot up a school, or go into -- or to go shoot up a concert. There's no constitutional prohibition on Congress taking meaningful action to help save lives.

So I am -- no, I am not giving up. There is not just a call. There is a demand. There is outrage that what happened in Boulder is all too normal. We cannot accept it as normal, not today, not ever. Those shrieks that you talked about, Brooke, those shrieks are happening. They happen in at least 10 households in Boulder.


They are happening across Atlanta. They have happened in city after city, house after house all across this country. And tomorrow is the -- this week is the anniversary, three-year anniversary of the March For Our Lives.

Young people in our country will not allow people like Ted Cruz to call this theater, when it is their lives who are at -- that are at risk every single day, whether walking to school, in some places, whether in school and others, or when their parents are going to the grocery stores. BALDWIN: I -- OK, I just appreciate where you're coming from all of

this. And this has been so personal to you, given what happened in Parkland.

The other piece of this, though, is members of your own party, right? First of all, just big picture. You have a Democrat in the White House. Democrats control the House in the Senate. But a big reason the bills in the House cannot get through the Senate is because of the filibuster. And Democratic Senator Joe Manchin still opposes any changes to it.

So, what is your message to Senator Manchin right now?

DEUTCH: Well, I think we can all agree that the filibuster was never put into place to prevent Congress from acting to save the lives of our constituents, our neighbors, our friends. That's not its role. It's not -- so, when we talk about reform of the filibuster, Senator Manchin has indicated that he might be willing, I believe, might be willing to do what the president has also talked about, which is to go back to the talking filibuster, or whatever it is they call it.

But the idea is that Senator Cruz and others -- you want ridiculous theater, make them go to the Senate floor and talk on and on and on about why it's more important to protect the gun industry and the profits of the gun industry than it is to stand up for the victims, their families, and our neighbors to keep this country safe.

That's the kind of reform that I think would lead to meaningful change. And I hope that we all can come together and acknowledge that the filibuster shouldn't stop us from saving lives. And, right now, to simply say that to pass anything -- universal background checks that has the support of people, the vast majority of Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike, need 60 votes?

Well, let them go stand and tell the world why this is something that we shouldn't pass, because they're not going to succeed. They're going to fail, because this is what we need to do. We're hearing from our constituents now. People demand action.

And, Brooke, we can do it. But we need to come together and not talk about what happens the next time, but work right now, with the president leaning in right now to get something done.

BALDWIN: You mentioned the president. I just -- for people watching maybe who aren't as familiar with President Biden's past, right, then Senator Joe Biden, this is back in the '90s. He helped pass the Brady Bill, which mandated federal background checks for gun purchases.

In '94, he helped write the crime bill that included a 10-year assault weapons ban. And then, of course, fast forward to Sandy Hook. And as he was vice president, in the Obama administration, the president then tasked him with coming up with these legislative proposals.

In listening to President Biden today, Congressman Deutch, he talked about -- he talked so much on the campaign trail about bipartisanship. And I know a number of Republicans are retiring. On this question, what are the chances that on their way out the door, any of them would be willing to vote for a bipartisan bill?

And then how would you approach them?

DEUTCH: Well, it's just a matter of standing up for your community and the safety of your community.

It's not as if we have never come together in a moment of crisis to act in the best interest of our country. Our history is full of those examples. But, Brooke, this is that moment.


BALDWIN: But how do you get them? How do you get these Republicans who have thus far not agreed with you? If they're leaving Congress, how do you get them to change their minds?

DEUTCH: I don't -- look, ultimately, you have -- I think you have to appeal to people's conscience.

Everyone who does this job, everyone who has the privilege of serving the public ultimately has to do what they think is in the best interests of their community. And when they're done serving, no matter how long they have been here, they're going to take with them a legacy.

And why wouldn't you want your legacy to be that, in your last moments here, you finally stood above the noise of special interests and stood up for families who have lost loved ones and survivors of gun violence and people who witness everyday gun violence in their communities, and pass meaningful legislation?


BALDWIN: Congressman Deutch, will you be proactive in approaching them, using the tack you just described?

DEUTCH: Yes, 100 percent.

And -- but it's not just me. Brooke, it's not just me. It's the young people and the families.