tv This Is Life With Lisa Ling CNN October 9, 2021 9:00pm-10:00pm PDT
las vegas. every year, millions flock here. trying to fulfill a dream and win big. this is the las vegas the world knows, the casinos, the hotels and the clubs, but step off the strip and you'll find another world that couldn't be more different. a world where lost people hide in plain sight. this is crazy. in the middle of the desert. oh, my gosh. in boarded up buildings. wow, look at this place. even underground. it is pitch black in here. it's a world that can be dark, unpredictable and sometimes very dangerous. oh, someone's just coming out. >> could be a drug deal. could be anything. >> wait!
it's always been a mecca for individuals to make a new beginning. >> scott grew up here and has seen the city's population explode. as a vegas native, you've see it through big ups and downs, huh? >> plenty. i remember driving through las vegas. even as a young boy, there was next to nothing out there. desert on either side of the road. now it's house after house after house. >> americans keep snapping up real estate at a record pace. >> fortune magazine is calling it the real estate gold rush. >> vegas went through what much of the country did in the early 2000s. the housing boom. you could buy a house for 130, and by the time you closed, it could have been worth 200 or more. >> you make pretty good money during that time? >> we all did. >> then it all went bust. >> the bank-owned signs are all
over town. >> look at the valley behind me. it is ground zero for the real estate crisis. >> a year later, foreclosure rates are off the charts, and nearly 14,000 houses are vacant. and scott's properties have become prime real estate for more than just buyers. illegal occupants called squatters have infiltrated nearly every neighborhood in las vegas. how big of a problem are squatters for you? >> huge. in the last few months, i have had to deal with squatters on a weekly basis. >> have you ever felt threatened? >> you could be showing a property, looks great from the outside. shows vacant in our multiple listing service and you walk in and there's somebody in the property. it happens all the time. >> scott is taking me to one of the properties he represents. a multiunit apartment that's been vacant for two years. it's boarded up, but illegal occupants have come and gone and trashed the place.
>> squatters are not home owners, they don't have pride in home ownership. they just tear apart houses. stealing copper. stealing appliance left and right. therefore, the neighborhood values around that squatter property go down. >> squatters usually crash in vacant properties at night, so it's unlikely we'll encounter anyone. but scott doesn't take any chances. so that's the fourplex in front of us. and scott has gone to detect whether people are inside or not. so we're just waiting for him now. as scott does a lap around the complex, two men approach the downstairs apartment but suddenly stop. there are guys about to go inside. and scott walked past them, and they did not go inside and walked around. but they definitely looked like they were trying to go into that building. >> where did the guys come from
and where did they go? >> well, they just went around -- oh, someone's just coming out from the building right now. >> they're there. so they're going to come back. >> what would you normally do in this situation? >> we'd have a conversation. but with three guys, it's a little different. so the right thing to do is call the police. that somebody's trespassing. >> as night falls, we wait for the police to arrive. >> every time i come out here, neighbors tell me, people are moving in and out and using it for drug sales. they're sick and tired of the crime. >> before the cops arrive, the squatters are back. there's a light on inside. is there electricity at all? >> no, none whatsoever. the power is shut off to the building.
it's something they've got rigged up inside. it could be a drug deal. it could be anything. anything. >> oh, oh, oh. suddenly, activity seems to pick up. >> he's going to the left unit. somebody on your right. white shirt. >> same guy? someone's coming out again. where's he looking? >> what's he got? something? >> the man in the striped shirt leaves the apartment clutching something in his waistband. i'm telling you, if he looks over here, he's going to see someone sitting here. scott, licensed to carry, pulls out his handgun. he's coming right over here. looking right at us.
then two more men make their way out of the apartment. two guys are coming downstairs. >> that's just too many eyes on us. >> yeah. >> we've overstayed our welcome. >> it's a cop. >> it's a cop. >> just about we're about to leave, the police finally arrive. >> we saw a total of five individuals in both units at any one time. >> okay and how many came out approximately? >> we saw three, i think, go out. but we don't know how many were in there previously. >> okay, males, females? >> all male. >> give us a few minute, okay? >> thanks. >> there they go. [ knocking ] >> police! come out with your hands up! >> he went in.
no one in there? >> i have a feeling we scared everybody away. >> you're unlawfully occupying this residence. come out, come out, come out! >> someone's in there. >> come out. >> hands up. >> oh, my god. there's a kid. (vo) unconventional thinking means we see things differently, so you can focus on what matters most. that's how we've become the leader in 5g. #1 in customer satisfaction.
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police! >> it's nearly midnight on a saturday. >> you're unlawfully occupying this residence. >> police have responded to a report of squatters in an apartment complex. >> answer the door! >> earlier, scott and i watched men come and go from the upper units. it seemed like possible drug deals were taking place here. now four hours later, the cops are finally clearing the property. >> answer the door. >> come out, come out, come out! >> someone's in there. >> hands up. >> oh, my god. there's a kid. two kids. a woman and two young children emerge from the apartment.
after seeing men going in and out of that place, i was not expecting to see the cops bring out two little kids. i was not expecting that. the cops escort the family to the squad car to continue their interview. so those kids were living in there, no electricity. was there running water in there? >> not that i know of. absolute cesspool. >> so the mother and two kids were just put in the squad car. none of them had any shoes on. after the family has been removed, scott and i are cleared to check out the apartment for ourselves. so there's no furniture in here. no electricity, obviously.
like where do the kids even sleep? oh, my god. just clothes strewn everywhere. a few little toys. so child protective services took the kids away from their mom tonight. and after walking around in that apartment, it was filthy with no running water and no power. i think the best decision was made. but it was so, so sad. there are situations like this all over vegas. but in one part of the valley, the cops are taking a hands on, targeted approach. there are nearly 14,000 vacant homes throughout las vegas. and squatters have become such a big problem that the north las vegas police department has
started a task force to combat it. we're spending some time with some of the officers today, and because squatters are often armed, we have to wear these. officer scott vaughn leads the department's squatter enforcement effort. how many calls are you responding to a week with regard to squatters? >> it's daily. >> daily? >> if you looked at a map, it would look like somebody hit it with a shotgun, because it's everywhere. >> so wealthy neighborhoods. >> yes. >> middle income neighborhoods. >> everywhere. >> the squatter task force starts the day with a list of properties. first up, a house owned by a woman who lives out of state. on her last visit, she encountered squatters who threatened her. >> the owner's kind of stayed away from it for awhile, due to the fact she's had squatters and she's afraid of them. they've had guns in the past.
this is the house. >> the owner has given the officers permission to clear and secure the property. >> so my truck was broke into here. then obviously -- >> so this neighbor just approached the property and i'm overhearing that he said he had a truck that got broken into. and he's seen people exiting this property late at night. >> the house has always been empty. there was an oriental lady that would pull up. and she had a little -- >> las vegas police department. >> i think the trailer's back there. >> if you're inside, step out!
>> clear. clear. clear. clear. >> good to go. >> no one's inside? >> nobody inside. >> does it look like people have been in recently? >> yeah. >> yeah? >> take you in. >> inside we find a cluttered kitchen with signs of recent use. in all likelihood, the owner probably didn't leave it this way. >> no. a lot of times when we're going through it and looking through the drawers we'll find ziploc baggies, scales, might find a gun or two. just depends. every squatter's different. some take care of them, some of them don't. >> i see a message someone has written to you. [ bleep ] north town cops. that probably wasn't written by the owner. >> i hope not. >> there's a bed right next to the window. is that there for a reason? >> absolutely. you're going to hear when people
come and go, the cops are showing up. but one of the things we like to do is we like to let everybody know we've been here, and we like to be able to see what's going on. so when we come back, if the window shades are back up, we know somebody's in here. >> each room reveals more evidence of illegal residents and their activities. bunch of marijuana pipes. >> paraphernalia, having a drug habit is a bad thing. we'll get rid of that for the homeowner, we'll let them know. we'll secure that. >> i see some foil there, which probably, narcotics. >> and then you got the nazi white power that's been written on the cabinet. somebody who's ignorant. >> what happens to this house now? >> we're going to make sure the windows are secured, the doors are secured. if there's a point of entry, we'll seal it as best we can.
then the boardup crew will be here tomorrow. we'll talk to the neighbors and let them know, hey, we've been out, if you see somebody in the house, call 911. because somebody's not supposed to be in here. that puts people on point, oh, my god, you know, and they actually took care of it and they'll watch, hopefully. >> so this is one of thousands of homes in vegas like this, huh? >> another one secured. >> while the cops got a tip on this house, the next one they uncovered on their own, and this is a case where squatters are trying to game the system. >> i have a lease, bro. >> here's the thing. the lease you have is fictitious. wipes. wipes. wipes. why the waste? garnier micellar cleansing water
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even though squatting is a criminal act, it's not a simple matter of evicting and arresting. there are fake leases, fake landlords and innocent people getting scammed. so it's not a matter of people just breaking into homes and squatting in them. it's a pretty organized process, it sounds like. >> it's become one. because of the amount of the foreclosed properties, you have another element out there started setting up shop, coming up with fictitious leases. a lot of the squatters want you
to believe they're supposed to be there. some of them will go to the furthest extreme to relandscape a front yard. knock on the doors of the neighbor and go, i'm your new neighbor, i just bought the house. here's some cookies. >> we're heading to a house that scott's team has been investigating for weeks. here's how the case got on their radar. >> north las vegas code enforcement, how may i help you? >> two weeks ago, the task force received a call in a utility company. someone had tried to turn on the water with a fake lease. but property records showed that the house was a foreclosure and should be vacant. to top it off, individuals on the fake lease have been caught squatting before. >> hey, man. got another one that we need to take a look at. >> i'll see you there. >> that's how we ended up in this middle class neighborhood at 9:45 on a wednesday. >> we still play devil's advocate. i want to hear their story, hear their side.
see if they are a victim of someone who absconded the system and took their money. and if they can't provide reasonable enough evidence to show that they're supposed to be on the property, they're going to jail. >> which house is it? >> the very last one on the left. >> where should we stay? >> i'd stay at the edge of the driveway, back here. [ knocking ] >> hi, i'm with the north las vegas police department. this is officer levitt. you're probably wondering why we're here. okay. can you tell me how you got here? has anybody told you that the lease that you have is fictitious? >> well, they told us that the person that we got it from is not the real owner. we need to get ahold of the bank. >> we're here on behalf of the bank. so if you could get your husband and -- >> i don't want my kids to run out.
>> no, no, that's okay. how many kids do you have? >> i guess all the people who are inside are about to come out. >> here's the thing. the house that you're in is owned by a bank. they have not leased it out. >> i got a lease, bro. >> i'm just cutting this short. it's pretty hot out here. i've got it all on record, okay? the lease agreement that you have is fictitious. >> i did not know nothing about this. >> you guys have no water, okay. and the city of north las vegas, you have to have all your utilities to be able to stay on a property. you're going to have to vacate right now in lieu of being arrested for house breaking. >> so apparently the couple inside has kids. the bank has said that they are not going to press charges, and so the people inside will not be arrested. they're just going to have to find another place to stay. i watch as the couple exits the house. and then my heart breaks. there are four young children
and the family dog. i just realized, it's wednesday before noon. and all these kids are obviously not in school. but this is kind of a glimpse into the homeless situation in las vegas. i can't help but wonder where these kids are going to sleep tonight. then officer vaughn offers the family some help. >> you come across a point where you're stuck, call. i'm not here to judge. i'm giving you the information on where you need to go so you can get some more help. >> we have no place to stay. >> we have no place to stay. we're on the [ bleep ] street. >> in the end, the family refuses the offer to connect with services. something that clearly frustrates officer vaughn. >> they have no water. they have children. we provided them all the information for those kids to have a roof over their head today.
and food in their belly and a clean bath and a great bill of health. it's on them at this point, and they walked away from it. so right now we secure the home, we'll turn the possession back over to the bank and we'll go to our next one. >> had the family taken officer vaughn up on his offer, they may have been assigned to guys like lou and andrew. >> let's load this stuff up. >> two caseworkers for one of the city's biggest social service providers, help of southern nevada. almost daily, lou and andrew head out into hidden worlds and offer help to those living on the fringes. so the vegas that you're going to show us is not quite the vegas that we're used to seeing, right? >> no, this is not the one that's on the commercials and the tv ads.
las vegas sells a dream, but a lot of times that dream doesn't come true. >> over 6,000 people are living on the edge. many within eye shot of billion dollar clubs and casinos. >> all of us have made bad choices and everybody has a story. you can judge a society by how they treat the least of their people. what are you going to do? what are you going to do to help somebody else? >> why is this so personal for you? >> i was homeless at one point in my life due to my drug addiction. i know what it's like in you're out there and nobody acknowledges you. nobody validates you. you become invisible. i see myself in each one of these people. >> i ended up in prison, addicted to heroin. i was released, i decided i'd give my life to this and try to
change these people's lives. >> where would you say most of vegas's homeless reside? >> a lot of homeless individuals who live in the street, in alley ways, and then because las vegas is located in the desert, there are a lot of vacant lots, and there's a lot of encampments in those areas. see, right there is a desert encampment. oh, look at that. >> how do they even get couches out here? >> ingenuity. just pull straight up. let's go. >> so how many people live in desert-like conditions like this? >> oh, god, there could be hundreds, maybe thousands, if you were to count everybody throughout las vegas. everywhere where there's this type of greenery, there is most likely going to be a homeless encampment. >> so wild, because you cannot see this from the highway. >> it's crazy. you have people living in beautiful houses, and across the
street, you have people living in abject poverty. >> hey, bro! >> hey, how's it going? >> this is 35-year-old ray and 43-year-old scotty. >> so, the last time i saw you, you were hanging at the park. >> yeah. >> are you interested in doing a housing assessment? >> i need a job. >> so, help of southern nevada has a job readiness program. dude, they'll help you do your resume, they'll give you job search clothes. >> i filled out over 72 applications, in four months, they never got looked at. >> ray has lived in vegas for most of his life and tells us he used to be a bartender but is now unemployed. so, are you actively looking for work now? >> yeah. >> when was the last time you had a job interview? >> i think it was about a year ago. >> in his 20s, ray was in a gang, but it's a life he refuses
to go back to despite being homeless. >> if i was still a gang member, i would have a place to stay, clothes on my back, i wouldn't have no worries, but at the same time, i'd have the threat of being shot, going to prison. i'd rather take my chances with the coyotes or raccoons than other gang members trying to kill me. >> ray's campmate scotty moved from minneapolis to vegas less than a year ago. >> my brother had cancer. i came out here to be with him, and he died two months ago, a little over two months. >> i'm sorry. >> it's like -- you just come to realize how fragile life is, you know? people are here one second, gone the next, you know? just like that. it's over. i'm just healing. i'm taking some time out to sort some things out in my head. i just feel like a lost sheep, you know? >> what do you want people to know about guys like you who are living out here like this? >> we all bleed the same. we all make mistakes, we're all human.
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see that right there? >> desert encampments around las vegas hold pockets of lost souls. many of them on drugs and potentially violent. but the first woman lou and andrew take me to meet isn't dangerous at all. >> hello! coming in! help of southern nevada. >> hey, nice to see you again. >> hi! >> she's just been lost. oh, my gosh. hidden within these bushes is 48-year-old tina. this is quite a -- >> thank you. >> quite a little place you have here. >> thank you. >> do you live here by yourself? >> yes. >> well, not exactly. tina shares her home with 13 cats. oh, look at those kitties. >> it wasn't intentional, but, you know, couldn't get them to
stop having babies. >> oh, my gosh. wow. have you been homeless before? >> no, i've been without a home. and i still haven't been homeless. it doesn't make any sense, but it was unexpected and, you know, things just balled out of control. >> three years ago, tina lost her apartment. and without a home, she can't get a job. >> i like work but nobody wants to give you a job without an address. >> not too long ago, tina was a jack-of-all-trades. she worked as a legal secretary, a dishwasher, a limo driver and a karaoke host. she even performed as patsy cline as a casino show. >> do you panhandle? >> no. i'm not lazy. oh, god, i'm not lazy. you don't build this stuff if you're lazy. you don't. all the things here i've gotten out of dumpsters, everything here. it's always free. not always in the prettiest spots, but you'd be surprised at
what excellent things are thrown out. >> i imagine it's not that easy to stay clean and present yourself. >> one of those people that you would never know the way i dress, if i walk out here, if i go somewhere, i'm clean and coifed. because i don't like to look -- i don't want to look homeless. >> can i ask you if you have any substance abuse issues? >> i'm a big girl. i like to drink and stuff, but nothing's ever controlled my life to the point where i can't function. i mean, it's -- i'm worried about getting my life back on track. >> how about family? >> no family. and i'm better off without a boyfriend. >> you sleep there? >> no, i sleep in the tent. want to come see? >> can i see? >> come on.
it's a little messy at this point, because this is where i've been working. but there's my tent and there's my bed. >> i see you writing, what are you writing? >> a song, actually, i'm a musician, if someone will pay me. >> tina's dream is to be a singer. but now the chances of that coming true seem unlikely, unless she digs herself out of homelessness. >> this is not something i would have done willingly, i would not have gone happily and gleefully into this lifestyle. >> if the guys from help could find you more permit innocent house, is that something that would interest you? >> yes, it's unfortunate that i have more parameters because of these guys, and they're my light really, they're all i have that i actually can count on in unconditional love. >> leaving this home that she built by hand means tina must give up most of her beloved companions, and right now she's not willing to do that for a different life.
andrew and lou can only do so much. and they tell me moving people into permanent housing can be surprisingly difficult. >> i'll talk to you later, okay? >> meanwhile, not too far away lives another outsider. a man who clings to his own makeshift home in a place of utter darkness, beneath the ground. it is pitch black in here. get ready - our most popular battery is even more powerful.
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we're with lou and andrew, two guys who were once part of vegas's underbelly. today, they're taking us into a secret world that most don't know exist. >> this is the tunnels. right side people, left side bathroom. >> while thousands of tourists come to vegas to party, underneath the strip and surrounding areas are miles of underground tunnels designed to protect the city from flash floods. >> watch your head. it's kind of small in here. >> it's estimated that hundreds of lost souls live down here, trying to escape the elements.
>> this looks like the remnants of somebody's encampment right here. >> this is your typical tunnel homeless encampment. >> oh, wow. it's unbelievable people are living in here. while the tunnels provide a refuge, i learn that taking shelter here comes with real danger. >> these are storm drains. when it rains pretty hard out here, these things will fill all the way to the stop in a matter of minutes. >> what happens to people living down here? >> if they don't get out in time, it can be fatal. >> why would people want to live in here? >> well, one of the big factors here in vegas, it's really hard to escape the sun unless you come down to somewhere like here where you get the cool air from the tunnels, and they take that risk just so they can stay kind of cool. >> we head deeper into the tunnel. and navigate its obstacles and
finally approach a place that someone calls home. is this your client here? >> yes, this is jazz. hey, jazz. >> we meet 48-year-old jazz. >> hi. >> nice to meet you. a tunnel dweller that help of southern nevada has been trying to assist for years. what are you listening to? >> ah -- ciara. >> you listen to ciara down here? >> yeah. >> how did you end up down in the tunnels. >> circumstances, losing my job. when i first found this place, i ended up on the streets, needed a place to crash and ended up down here. >> to get by, jazz tells me he scores slot machines on the strip, collecting credits left behind by tourists. is this everything you own in here? >> this is it. this is my world, yeah. >> wow, look at this place. >> everything has its purpose. i got to go up and get water when we need it. >> so you take this jug up?
>> that or these gallon jugs. the only thing we're lacking is probably running water and electricity. >> you keep it really clean in here. >> well, yeah, it's home, you know? i mean, i'm not an animal, but it's still home. i try to, you know, sweep it out and take out the trash, just like a normal person does. >> looking around, i start to understand how living here away from the harsh realities of life can be an escape. >> a lot of people look at me like a homeless, a bum or whatever. but i'm not. i mean, i'm just like them, you know, except i'm living down here. >> for the last eight years, jazz shared this place with his girlfriend sharon, but just a few months ago, tragedy struck when a flash flood hit the valley. >> i never seen anything like it. i knew the signs, but this was different. that water came too fast. it was up to my chest, and she was only 5'2". so i know it hit her.
and when it hit her, it took her down. i said to myself, now we're in trouble. we're in trouble. >> jazz tells me that sharon ended up getting stuck in one of the tunnel grates. >> she was on her back, her legs were like this. i sahe said, my leg's stuck. i said, look, if i have to break your leg to get you out of here, i'm going to do it. when i got ready to pull on her leg, i felt on my shoulder and this shopping cart came and went on her like a lid. i couldn't get that thing off her, man. everything was pretty much slow motion after that, you know. >> i'm so sorry. >> it's all right. >> why did you come back here after that happened? >> i ain't got nowhere else to go. where am i going to go? it's all i know right now.
>> jazz has not been ready to leave the life and home he and sharon built together or deal with his long-term addiction to methamphetamine. >> i never really thought about quitting. i don't know if i can. you know, i should have gotten us out of here sooner, but how am i going to deal with the world straight, you know? it's been a lifestyle for me for so long. do i like living down here, no. i'm lost. i know that right now. i'm lost would sharon. >> for years andrew has been working to get jazz out of the tunnels and into stable housing. >> you can do it, though, man. you've already been through a lot already. >> andrew is talking to jazz right now about what options are available to him. he says he's been working with him for a long time, but he's been really resistant to getting help, but now with the death of his girlfriend, he may be more
open to it than he's ever been before. there's an apartment waiting for him if he's willing to take this step. >> we'll come pick you up, start your new life, man. >> so tomorrow it is, huh? >> yeah. >> i'm scared. i'm scared of change, you know? >> yeah. >> can i do it? that's my greatest fear. can i do it?
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the next day we head back to the tunnels to see if jazz is finally ready to leave the darkness and start a new life. >> i hate to say this, but i'm completely hopeful that he really is ready, but i kind of think maybe he may not be there. >> i'm going to be optimistic today and say that jazz is going to be ready to accept housing. it's go time. >> andrew and lou know all too well clients say they're ready but don't always follow through. >> jazz, you here? >> hey, jazz, it's andrew. are you home? oh, man.
this is not good. >> does it look like he's packed up at all? >> all his toothbrushes and everything are still out. the only thing i see is that bag. man, that's a shame. >> did he know what time you were coming? >> yeah, he knew. i was very specific. this is the sadder side to what we do. and sometimes people are just not ready. >> so what happens now? >> just got to keep trying. >> suddenly, we hear voices at the end of the tunnel. is that jazz out there? >> get your gear. you can come back and get the rest, my man. it's all good. >> it turns out to be jazz.
he tells us that he'd been trying to reach andrew on a pay phone. so jazz, yesterday when we left, you said you were really thinking about it. had you made up your mind to go? >> no, i was sitting here today, and it was like, i thought about -- i got some pieces that are still missing. i'm going to give this program a shot and see what happens. >> andrew and lou seem to really believe in you and seem to be really ready to help you when you need it. >> i've seen them help a lot of people out. you know, a lot of cats that i didn't think would make it. been running my whole life, it's time to stop. i'll give it a shot. what can happen? >> let's go.
>> i have to admit, i was not expecting jazz to be ready to leave the place where he's been living for the last eight years. the help guys say they've been trying for so long with him and he's resisted every time, but he was ready today. and i hope he's successful. i hope that this man is able to find peace. while jazz finally makes his way out of the tunnels and to possible recovery, tina hasn't abandoned her dream. on my last day in vegas, i stop in to say good-bye. tina. >> hey! >> hey, how are you? >> what's going on? i didn't see you. >> what are you doing? >> i was going through some of my music that i write. >> can you sing us something? >> yeah, sure. it's called "just say no." ♪ they tell you that this is all you'll ever be yeah ♪ ♪ and they try to keep a girl from being free ♪ ♪ just say no girl ♪ ♪ and you can tell them so ♪
♪ but don't they know girl that you can just say no ♪ ♪ at times it seems that you can never do enough ♪ >> i've been to vegas many, many times, but this experience was definitely unlike any i've ever had here. i saw a lot of things that really hurt my heart. a lot of really tragic things. but i'm actually leaving here feeling pretty hopeful because i got to spend time with such incredible people who really believe in this place and want to help those lost souls who call las vegas home. ♪ don't they know girl ♪ ♪ that you can just say no ♪
hardly a day goes by without hearing news of killings. >> two huge explosions happened at the boston marathon -- >> now with the latest on the golden state killer -- >> terrorized california for decades. >> 17 people killed in a mass shooting at a florida high school. >> we immediately want to know who did it. but behind every violent offender, there are family members who must live with their loved one's crimes. tonight we're meeting two children of notorious killers. >> your father was responsible for so much carnage. >> i spent so much of my life wondering why he chose the path he did. >> what's it like to be the