tv PBS News Weekend PBS May 28, 2022 5:30pm-6:00pm PDT
♪ geoff: good evening. i'm geoff bennett. tonight on "pbs news weekend"... the latest on the uvalde school shooting, and law enforcement's stunning string of failures in responding to the massacre. then... will the horrific shootings in uvalde and buffalo push congress to take action on gucontrol measures? and... a mother who lost her daughter in the 2012 aurora, colorado movie theater shooting shares her message to the parents of the children murdered in texas.. be patient with one another. understand that this is a grief that goes beyond -- surpasses all understanding. geoff: those stories and the day's helines on tonight's "pbs news weekend." ♪
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this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. geoff: it is good to be with you. we begin tonight with the elementary school massacre in uvalde, texas, where 19 children and 2 teachers were killed by an 18-year-old gunman tuesday. the devastated families continue to demand answers, after officials admit they did not act quickly enough. >> with a bit of hindsight, of course it was not the right decision, it was the wrong decision, period. there is no excuse for that. i wasn't there, but from what we know, we believe there should have been an entry as soon as you can. when there is an active shooter the rules change. geoff: on friday, texas officials provided an updated
timeline of the shooting, which revealed students and teachers started calling 911 more than an hour before law enforcement breached the classroom to take down the gunman. joining me now to talk about the police response in uvalde is brian higgins. he's a professor of disaster management at john jay college of criminal justice, and a former swat team commander and police chief in bergen county, new jersey. thank you for joining us. brian: thank you for having me. geoff: we learned yesterday that before u.s. border agents, federal agents, entered the classroom and killed the gunman, a group of 19 law enforcement officers stood in a hallway outside the classroom and took no action. they effectively waited. the commander on the scene -- uvalde school district police chief -- decided it was no longer an active shooter situation, despite the gunman being inside tharoom, kids still being alive and calling 911, and sounds of sporadic gunfire.
what is your reaction when you hear that? brian: the definition of an active shooter situation is when someone is actively engaged in shooting victims. that's what we have here. even if it wasn't an active shooter situation and we have purely a hostage and barricaded situatio there are still tactics that are employed. if you had a barricaded subject who had hostages, and those hostages are injured or in immediate danger, that is when you step up your timeline to enter the target. geoff: tres rtinbynews that thol agents who were initially told by local police to wait and not enter the school, that they decided after about 30 minutes to ignore that initial guidance and find the shooter. again, more than an hour had passed since the gunman had arrived at the school. how does that strike you? that the federal agents ultimately ignored word from
local law enforcement? brian: as we've seen in the last several days, more information comes out every time there is a press briefing. there are two elements in these things that stick out. one, they seem to correct information from the previous press briefing, and then they add more information. i think we need a very in-depth investigation. on the surface, what that is telling me is the decision to stand down was obviously wrong and other officers on the scene took it upon themselves to act anyway. you have not just officers of a lower rank, but a completely different agency who still decided to d what they felt was best for those victims. geoff: based on what you know about situations like this, would local police have had the training and tactical gear to take down a gunman with two assault rifles?
whatou, afo r dos youth think? brian: we will have to wait for the investigation, but even if they were outgunned and did not have the best equipment at the time, the fact of the matter is, we expect our law enforcement to be that -- all the terms we give them, the thin blue line, the last line of defense. they are there t protect us, and if need be, they need to put themselves at risk tsave children. children at the ages of two to fourth grade, i believe that is your responsibility. geoff: a question about that. it strikes me that prosecutors, if it gets to that point, they have to make a decision about whether uvalde school district police chief, pete arredondo's decision and the officers' inaction constituted a tragic mistake or criminal negligence. what does accountability look like to you? brian: i think the investigation
will reveal a lot of that. what we have to see is what did that individual know? if you knew there were victims and their, if he hed gunshots -- and again, this has not been confirmed by law enforcement or anybody in authority yet -- but if that individual knew there were victims severely injured, if you did hear shots still being fired, as law enforcement officer, he either knew or should have known that his actions were directly contribute in -- contributing to injuries there. geoff: i want to ask you about the quality of information we are getting from texas officials. they have changed their statements about the shooting at least 12 times. at the wednesday press conference, the director of the texas department of public safety said a brave resource officer engaged with the gunman. three days later, that same public information officer said
the resource officer wasn't even on school grounds at the time. there are still questions about the police response. to what do you attribute that? of course there is a fog of war element that comes into play. give us a sense, from where you sit, what accounts for the lack of quality information coming from texas officials. brian: when we train incidents like this, and they are all crisis incidents, and in a situation like this we are talking about an active shooter, is not just the training we think about where we give officers guns and a plan in they practice. there is a full-scale element to this where an agency should practice the initial 911 call, several different iterations of the scenario leading up to the shooting, as the shooting unfolds, and elements like this, where we have a barricaded and maybe a hostage situation. then there is after the
shooting, where we practice or should practice public information and how that is done. the current environment we are in where social media plays in, what happens is people put information out and if you don't do anything, there is a vacuum. officials really face a difficult position of waiting until they have enough information, while combatingt ih investigation will see. if you look at what officers prepare for, any official, it's almost an investigation. what information do you have? have you vetted that information and proven it is correct? geoff: brian higgins, thank you again for your time and insight. brian: thank you. geoff: and now to today's headlines... russia's military continues its advance in eastern ukraine this weekend, in a move that may soon force ukrainian troops to cede strategically important territory.
correspondent ali rogin has our report. [gunfire] ali: in ukraine's eastern donbas region, russian forces are taking control, one town at a time. ukrainian forces fight back at close range. soldier: we can see the enemy from here. ali: it's part of russia's new campaign focusing on the two easternmost regions. on saturday, they said they took the city of lyman in donetsk. and fierce fighting continues in sever-donetsk, the last ukrainian-held city in luhansk. [banging on door] in a nearby village, ukrainian soldiers urged elderly residents to leave before the russians arrived. katarina: i don't want anyone to go through this. it's terrifying. oh my god, it's just terrifying. ali: but ukrainian president volodymyr zelenskyy said those cities will not remain in russian hands. pres. zelenskyy: if the
occupiers think that lyman and sievierodonetsk will be theirs, they are wrong. the donbas will be ukrainian because it's us, it's our sence. ali: meanwhile, the pos in besieged mariupol are reopening der the russian naval flag. the russian military said it demined the waters around the city. but as the russians regroup in the east, families reunite in the northern city of kharkiv, recaptured by ukraine. >> i'm happy. i'm happy. ali: a precious moment of joy in a country that remains in so much pain. for "pbs news weekend," i'm ali rogin. geoff: in today's other news... a church charity event in nigeria ended tragically, after a stampede left at least 30 people dead, according to police. we want to warn viewers -- the following images are graphic. cell phone video captured a chaotic scene with bodies lying on the ground. witnesses sachildren are among the dead. the stampede happened after a locked gate was broken open.
the incident is under investigation. torrential rains and flooding continue to pound southern china. muddy landslides, collapsed buildings, and washed away roads. at least 15 people are dead, including three children, according to chinese state media. intense rain is expected to continue through the weekend. and here at home, vice president kamala harris paid her respects to the buffalo shooting victims today. she and the second gentleman laid flowers at the memorial outside the tops supermarket. and, harris joined mourners to honor 86-year-old ruth whitfield. she was the oldest of the 10 victims of the gunman's racist attack, and the final person laid to rest. still to come on "pbs news weekend"... we take a look at the gun safety legislation being considered in congress, where it stands, and whether it has a chance of passing after decades-long stalemate. and... my colleague amna nawaz talks to
the mother of an aurora movie theater shooting victim about how she is helping other families grieve in the wake of another mass shooting. ♪ >> this is "pbs news weekend" from weta studios in washington, home of the "pbs newshour," weeknights on pbs. geoff: 17,556 people have been killed by guns in america so far this year, and there have been 216 mass shootings -- including buffalo and uvalde. that's according to the nonprofit gun violence archive. following these tragedies come calls for new gun safety laws. but washington has a long history of failed attempts at such legislation. nearly 25 years ago, in what was at the time the deadliest school shooting in u.s. history, 15 people died and two dozen were injured at columbine high school. pres. clinton: the heart and soul of america is on the line. geoff: lawmakers introduced "the
youth gun crime enforcement act of 1999" only three weeks after the shooting. the goal was to put in place a mandatory waiting period, background checks, and more gun restrictions for people under the age of 18. that bill failed, along with federal legislation to close the so-called gun show loophole, which allows unlicensed dealers to sell guns without background checks. less than five years later, the federal ban on semi-automatic weapons like ar-15's expired. both chambers of congress and the white house at the time were controlled by republicans, and lawmakers never bought the up for renewal. in 2012, the country was shaken by the massacre in newtown. a gunman at sandy hook elementary killed 26 people. 20 of them were just 6 and 7-year-olds. congressional democrats drafte bills to expand background checks. and talks stretched on for months, but no deal. three years later, in charleston, south carona, a white gunman shot and killed nine black people attending a
church bible study. democrats proposed closing the so-called "charleston loophole," which allows dealers to complete gun sales if a criminal background check takes lger than three business days. but republicans controlled both chambers of congress at the in 2016, a gunman killed 49 people at the pulse nightclub in orlando. eight days after the shooting on measures to block people on the federal terrorism watchlist from buying guns and to close loopholes in background check laws. and the following year, in october 2017, 60 people were killed by a lone gunman shooting from the 32nd floor of a high rise in las vegas, becoming the deadliest mass shooting in america. the shooter used what's called a bump stock, which allows a semi-automatic rifle to fire hundreds of rounds per minute. after a bipartisan effort to ban the devices stalled in congress, then-president trump eventually banned them through executive action.
then on valentine's day in 2018, a former student went into marjory stoneman douglas high school in florida and killed 17 people, 14 of them students. senator marco rubio introduced a red flag bill that would let law enforcement restrict gun access for people considered unstable who could be a threat to others or themselves. rubio's bill was reintroduced twice in the senate, but never got a vote on the floor. and now as the country witnesses the second deadliest school shooting in american history, and with polls showing the overwhelming majority of americans supporting some restrictions on firearms, the question is, is it going to be different this time? to help answer that question, we have with us national political reporter heidi priscila, who has for yearcovered the gun reform debate on capitol hill and across the country. it's great to have you with us. heidi: thank you, geoff. geoff: and one of the things that's different about this current moment is that the senate republican leader, mitch mcconnell,his past week said that he encouraged texas senator john cornyn to work with democrats on hashing out some
compromise bill. what are we to make of that? heidi: and that is the reason why you see senator joe manchin, who is a battle hardened veran of these debates, say that he is optimistic. mcconnell is definity feeling the pressure, as he always does in the aftermath of these gun massacres. and the true test of this is what happens over the next few days, whether that continues, whether the prsure continues and he feels it politically or whether it dissipates. because in the end, this is going to be a political calculation by mitch mcconnell about whether it hurts or helps his flock in order to pass this legislation. at the same time, it's important to set expectations here because what we are talking about here is whether there will be very, very modest reforms in answer to what is really the deadliest school massacre in ten years. geoff: to your point, and this is sort of based on my own reporting too, democrats and republicans, it's still early, but they're not talking about an assault weapons ban.
they're talking about potentially red flag laws and increasing background checks. heidi: so those are the two modest reforms that could come of this. we saw the gun background check legislation implode in spectacular fashion after newtown and it really hasn't gone anywhere since then. look at that. those are small things that are closing the so-called gun show loophole, which is that you can get guns without background checks at some gun shows as well as over the internet. that's number one. number two are these red flag laws that already exist in about 19 states. that is simply allowing states, giving states some grant money to help them to bring in and apprehend individuals who might pose a threat to themselves or to other people. it would allow family members or law enforcement to get court orge tdee t o aguthfrwansy asm accounts for a lot in politics. you talked about the passage of time. the senate is on a pre-scheduled ten day break. they're not back in town until june 6. i mean, that could really undo a tential deal like this. heidi: and that's why it is very
instructive to see what the ecosystem around this does. because, and you and i discussed this previously, geoff, that what we've seen in the ten years since newtown is that there's this whole new advocacy network like moms demand action, sandy hook promise, the parkland kids, they claim to have even more financial backing and more powerful than the nra, which, let's face it, is facing some very serious problems right now financially in terms of corruption. and so does that pressure remain? there will be marches on june 11. or does the media ecosphere that all of these members, these ten republicans who thr'eyng ' toio ne pressure dissipates on them because, again, that's what we're talking about. ten republicans. geoff: you mentioned the nra. that organization is nowhere near the powerhouse that it once was. it's not even the powerhouse that some democrats claim that it is. and yet you have so many republicans who still echo nra talking points. what accounts for that? what accounts for their pull on
the republican party? heidi: well, some of it is overstated when you look at the financial impact because the nra spreads its money so thinly across so many members that you really can't make the argument this is about finances, rather more about culture, culture in this country. if you look at where some of the biggest divides are, it's not red and blue. it's not different socioeconomics. it is actually gun owning households and non-gun owning households. and so a lot of it is just the cultural, but it's also this misplaced notion that it is political suicide to do anything on guns, which is really a myth that's been propagated since the clinn era when the assault weapons ban expired. and they were just too afraid to to do anything about it because they had lost the midterm elections. geoff: heidi, thanks so much for putting this all into context for us. heidi: thanks for having me. geoff: in 2012, sandy phillips daughter was killed in oral,
colorado. last night, amna nawaz spoke with phillips near uvalde's town square. amna: what do you tell people when you arrive here? what do people right now need to hear? sandy: if it's early on, i always let them know that i've been walking in their shoes for ten years and that i know that they don't want to take another breath, that ty wish they were dead instead of their chil because i felt that way. i also share with them that if we had had a handgun in the house that night, i probably wouldn't be here because i was so distraught i didn't want to live. and the next day when i woke up, it was like, "oh god, i'm still here and i don't want to be here." and then i tell them, we've been here now for ten years and you will find joy again. it's not the same joy you thought you'd have, and it's always different, but you will find joy again and you'll alws have an empty chair at your table. n yes from now.at you're feelinh
it won't be the same. it changes, it morphs, but it's always there. it's a part of who you are now. it's part of who your family is now. it's part of who your community is now. so it's something that you don't get over. and they will lose friends in the process because somewhere along the line, someone well-meaning will say, you need to get over this and move on. it's impossible. how does one get over the loss of a child? that is your future. and when you lose that future, it's very easy to lose hope. so we let them know that there's an army of other survivors for them around the country and that there are resources for them. we recommend trauma therapy immediately, the sooner the better, because we see, we've seen the results of people who who do get that help early on. amna: sandy, it was ten years
ago you lost your daughter. sandy: yeah. amna: which means the kids who died here were born the year she died? sandy: yes. amna: what is that? how do you process that? sandy: i don't. i'm still processing it. it's it's kind of in a loop for me right now. amna: this is number 20, this is the 20th mass shooting you've responded to. do you feel you'll ever grow numb? sandy: no. i haven't grown numb. i wish i could. you know, all those years ago, i had somebody say, you know, someday it'll be very easy to tell your story. amna: has it gotten easier? sandy: no, and i said the day that it becomes easy for me to tell my story about jei is a day i need to leave this and not ever be in it again. because that means i become numb. and once you become numb, how can you be a caring individual taking care of survivors? you can't . then you're just a robot and doing the things that you think you should do instead of really ouowing the compassion that they
going? sandy: jessi. jessi was a very caring young lady from the time she was old enough to toddle through nursery school. she was the 1 -- her teachers would always say she's the one that goes over to comfort the kid that's crying or goes over and welcomes the new kid. and she was always that way through her entire life. when she moved to colorado and somebody would call her and say, you know, i have a friend that's moving to colorado.he you know, right before she was killed, there had been horrible wildfires outside of denver. and she was like, you know, mom, these people are going to have clothing given to them. they're going to get furniture. the red cross will give them blankets, you know, all that kind of stuff. but who's going to replace their sports equipment and give the dad a football to throw with his son and give hockey sticks to, you know, some kid that plays
hockey? she was a big hockey fan and she was actually wanting to be a journalist in sports and was doing that when she was killed. so when she was killed, another charity stepped up and they're still doing the sports drive every year in her honor. so seeing that happen was just a really beautiful thing. but at's why we do what we do is to honor jessi in the way that she would want us to honor her. amna: you're here to talk with people and meet with as many people as you can. if you could speak to everyone in this town right now, what would you say? what's your message to them? sandy: be kind to one another. be patient with one another. understand that this is a grief that goes beyond all -- surpasses all understanding. and the people that you once knew are no longer those people. so don't try to fix it. just listen. be kind. you're holding hands and you're holding broken hearts.
geoff: our thanks to him in a vase and sandy phillips. that is pbs news weekend for tonight. thanks for spending part of your saturday with us. >> major funding for "pbs news weekend" has been provided by -- ♪ and with the ongoing support of these individuals and institutions -- ♪ this pgram was made possible by the corporation for publi broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy.]
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