It's back to school this morning for students at a Decatur, Georgia elementary school that was the scene of gunfire on Tuesday.
New details have emerged about the suspected shooter, 20-year-old Michael Brandon Hill. According to prosecutors, Hill entered the Ronald McNair Discovery Learning Academy with an AK-47 type assault rifle and almost 500-rounds of ammunition.
Police also say he'd been previously convicted for making "terroristic threats."
But it’s the dramatic 911 call from the school clerk who convinced Hill to surrender that’s grabbing attention over the gunman.
“Alone in the office of an elementary school, book keeper Antoinette Tuff is face to face with a man armed with an assault rifle and close to 500 rounds of ammunition,” reports
CNN's Martin Savidge.
“It isn't just her life on the line, but the lives of hundreds of students and staff, as well as dozens of police officers now outside.”
Tuff is now being hailed as a hero for her holding her composure with the armed-Hill, all while she’s on the phone with a 911 dispatcher.
“To connect with the suspect she pours out her own personal story, of a marriage that suddenly ended and her own thoughts of suicide,” Savidge says.
"We all go through something in life....No, you don't want that. You going to be okay. I thought the same thing, you know, I tried to commit suicide after my husband left me But look at me now I'm still working and everything is okay,” Tuff says during the call.
Her sense of fearlessness and honesty moves even the police dispatcher.
"Maam, you're doing a great job,” the dispatcher tells her over the phone.
The police barge in moments later, after Tuff convinces the gunman to put down his weapon and lay down himself.
Only then does Tuff show her fear, saying “Let me tell you something baby, nothing so scary in my life!...Oh Jesus!"
This morning Vice President Biden will meet with members of the House Of Representatives as part of the task force he's heading up on reducing gun violence. The task force is expected to make its recommendations Tuesday.
Meanwhile, today marks one month since the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. A group of Newtown residents called "Sandy Hook Promise" will mark the anniversary by holding a news conference today. They plan to unveil a national grass-roots initiative to reduce gun violence.
The group will be joined by families of victims and survivors of other shootings. Among them is Stephen Barton, a survivor of last summer's Aurora movie theater shooting. He was shot in the face, neck and chest before escaping. Stephen now works as an outreach and policy associate for Mayors Against Illegal Guns. He also grew up about ten minutes from Newtown. And Lori Haas will also be there. Her daughter Emily was shot twice during the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting. Luckily she survived. Lori is now the Virginia organizer for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.
As “Early Start” looks back at the Sandy Hook tragedy, we speak to Stephen and Lori, who are working to enact change moving forward. Both of them join us live from Newtown, Connecticut.
People all over the country continue to grieve for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. In the wake of the tragedy, many have asked how they can offer the slightest bit of help to those affected. The United Way of Western Connecticut has created an answer by setting up a fund to provide support services for those Newtown residents affected by the tragedy. This morning, “Early Start” reports that the Sandy Hook School Support Fund has so far raised $3 million. Will Rodgers is a selectman in Newtown, CT and Kim Morgan is the CEO of the United Way of Western Connecticut. They are leading the efforts to raise money for the fund and come to the studio to talk about it today.
Morgan says their original intent for starting the fund was to “be a guardian” and lead people to a legitimate place for donations. “Our intent is then to hand over the funds to the community and really have them decide.” Currently, it’s an “undesignated fund.” “We’re trying to be as broad as possible, in terms of contemplated uses,” Rodgers explains. “People are very quick to react, and we really want to take the time to think about this thoughtfully, and ensure that we’re matching the resources to the established need,” Morgan adds. “Some of the needs may be around mental health issues. We just don’t know at this point." But control and input from the local community will help to decide where the funds will ultimately go.
While the fund has so far raised $3 million dollars, Morgan explains that donations range from $10 to $100 thousand and have come from all over the world. “It is logistically very daunting,” Rodgers says. Donations include toys and food, and while he says they appreciate everything, they aren’t really interested in receiving perishables right now. “We’re trying to encourage people to contact the particular entity they’re donating to make sure that their donation that they have in mind is needed,” Rodgers adds. “Goods require human effort to move and distribute, and we are pretty swamped right now."
A group of mothers who were inspired by the devastating shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School are now banding together to push for stronger gun laws. Prompted to take action in the wake of the tragedy, they began the group, Women Against Assault Rifles, or "Waar". Their goal is to have as much as an affect on gun legislation in America as the group "Madd", or Mothers Against Drunk Driving, has had on drunk driving laws. Zoraida Sambolin met up with a group of these motivated mothers yesterday.
Sambolin says what all the mothers “agree on is a federal ban on assault rifles.” Erin Combs doesn’t want the Newtown tragedy to become the new normal and believes it’s the group’s responsibility to protect not only their own children, but all children. “It’s power in numbers and emotion,” Erin Combs says. “The formula for me that I see in my brain is very clear. Less gun availability equals less gun violence.”
Medha Thomas realizes that their fight is a long one and tough one. “This is not a one-month fix. This is not a one-year fix. This is a decade-long fix,” Thomas says. The challenge is to keep the conversation going in Washington for decisive action to occur. “To find out more about WAAR, you can check out their website,” Sambolin says. http://www.waar.org/.
In light of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, people all over the country are concerned about the safety of our children at school. Many are asking whether schools should be more fortified to prevent such events in the future. Since the tragedy, there's even been a surge in demand for little-known products that can literally bullet-proof children. From backpack inserts to bullet-resistant toddler pants, parents are going to extremes to keep their kids from becoming statistics. CNN’s Miguel Marquez has that part of the story.
“It is a disturbing sign of the times,” Marquez says. Amendment II makes military grade, bullet resistant inserts for children’s backpacks. “COO Rich Brand says in the last week, sales have jumped 500 percent and they're still climbing,” Marquez reports. “Desperate parents seeking ways to protect their kids in the most extreme situations.”
Amendment II is not alone in the industry. “In Boston, Bullet Blocker promises ‘your peace of mind is our business,’” Marquez says. “In Austin, Texas, BulletProofMe.com says sales are up 50%. New customers: schools and daycare facilities.”
In 2008, Japan had 11 gun-related murders while the United States had 12 thousand. Perhaps other countries can offer America ideas for more effective gun control policies. CNN’s Kyung Lah, who has reported extensively on Japan as CNN"s Tokyo Correspondent, looks into it this morning.
In Lah’s five years of living and reporting in Japan, she says she never covered a shooting because there wasn’t one. “In Japan, there are almost no guns. The average person just can’t get one,” she says. “It’s the safest place I’ve ever lived.”
Living in the U.S. has been strikingly different for Lah. The Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre is the third mass shooting she's covered in just six months. “But these mass shootings, which are now a part of our American narrative, follow a familiar pattern: The shock, national outrage, memorials, funerals, then the conversation fades.”
Newtown, Connecticut continues to mourn today. Four more funerals will be held as Sandy Hook Elementary School teacher Vicki Soto, and slain students Daniel Barden, Caroline Previdi and Charlotte Bacon are laid to rest. Funerals for six-year-olds Jessica Rekos and James Mattioli were held yesterday, when all Newtown students except those from Sandy Hook returned to school. Sandy Hook kids will resume classes in a neighboring town after the winter break. CNN’s Sandra Endo tells us more.
Children returning to classes Tuesday carried with them the painful reminder of the tragedy at Sandy Hook. “At schools, teachers and students spent time to reflect,” Endo says. “For students at Sandy Hook Elementary, the next time they'll return to class will be in the new year. Newtown's superintendent says teachers and students need more time to deal with the trauma and get used to a new space in a neighboring town.”
Many parents believe, however, that returning to the routine of school is essential to overcoming the tragedy for everyone. “You want to be brave and get back into things as normal as possible,” mother-of-three Melanie Drohan says. “We realize that we have to go on, but it’s…hard to think about what happened.”
The tragedy in Newtown has sparked a heated national discussion about guns and gun violence. According to the centers for disease control, over 100,000 people were shot or killed with a firearm last year. Democratic Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee is a Senior Member of the House Homeland Security and Judiciary Committees. She is working on a new bill calling for an immediate ban on all assault weapons among other gun control measures that she says can prevent more horrific mass murders. She joins “Early Start” live from Houston this morning regarding the gun control debate and the Newtown School Shooting.
“The whole nation mourns,” Rep. Jackson Lee says, “and I think this is a significant moment in history, bar none, that surpasses any of the other horrific tragedies that we’ve faced and the call is for action.” Rep. Lee says she hopes to collabborate with members of Congress to create legislation dealing with a ban on assault weapons as well as closing the gun show loop hole.
Rep. Jackson Lee also stresses the need to start a national dialogue on gun legislation along both sides of the aisle and with both houses together. "We've got to stop this divide between, 'you want to take my guns,'" she says. "This is a national dialogue not about the Second Amendment," Rep. Jackson Lee says. "But it is a dialogue about saving lives, and that's what this gun regulation legislation would be, not gun control."
Authorities are currently investigating what could have caused the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School to occur. They are digging deeper into the gun and computer use of the 20-year-old man responsible for the massacre. The gunman in the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting killed himself before anyone could get the reasons that compelled him to kill more than two dozen people. David Owens has been a crime reporter for the Hartford Courant for the past 18 years. He helped cover this story from the beginning. Owens joins us live from Hartford, Connecticut this morning with the latest on the investigation and the reaction from the community.
Although state police say they have obtained helpful evidence that “they believe will help lead them to an answer as to why this happened,” they are suggesting that concrete information will not be released for some time. Owens says an investigation into a previous shooting in Connecticut took a year before there were answers. “I think it could be months, certainly weeks,” Owens says about this shooting. “The state police are not in a rush to get this done. They’ll take as long as it takes.”
Owens, who is familiar with the Newtown community, shares how much the tragedy has impacted people. "The whole state is mourning," Owens says. "And the more I talk to people about it, the more I find that people are linked somehow to this tragedy." Owens himself knows someone personally affected. A colleague of his told him Friday morning that his step-daughter, Lauren Rousseau, was a substitute teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary. He'd asked Owens to be on the lookout for her when he was outside the school. "And of course, we found out later that she was one of the teachers who died."
Newtown, Connecticut is a town in mourning in the aftermath of the tragic shooting that took the lives of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Many questions are being asked in the wake of the devastation, especially why the shooter did what he did. A body of research on previous mass murders may provide clues as to what the killers share in their minds. CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is exploring that story.
“A close look at ten of the most analyzed mass murder cases in history provides some remarkable insight,” Dr. Gupta says. "According to this research published in the journal, Aggression and Violent Behavior, doctors typically start by placing killers into three categories: traumatized, psychotic, psychopathic."
In each case studied, "the killers showed signs of psychotic behavior, severe delusions and paranoia," Dr. Gupta says. "Looking back, none of them had snapped. They had all left clues, pieced together after it was too light. Hindsight.”
"Early Start with John Berman and Christine Romans" airs weekdays from 5-6am ET on CNN. Check in regularly for news, show updates and a little bit of fun.