Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: February 14, 2018 Guest: Melissa Falkowsji, Christine Hunschofsky, Lori Haas, Elizabeth Esty
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to all of you at home for joining us this hour. Our ongoing coverage of the school shooting today in South Florida continues this hour.
We are right now awaiting a live press conference from the Florida governor. Now, we`re going to bring you that as soon as it starts. We do expect that the governor will have some new information for us about this mass shooting today and about the investigation into exactly what happened.
While we are awaiting that live event, though, I do want to let you know that CNN and NBC News have just broken some totally unrelated, important news out of Washington just in the past hour. CNN first to report that as of at least November, it is more than 100 White House officials who have been working at the White House despite not being able to obtain security clearances.
More than 100 officials operating without full security clearances, including the president`s daughter, Ivanka Trump, as well as her husband Jared Kushner. And even White House counsel Don McGahn, operating without a full security clearance.
So, that news is breaking tonight, in light of the ongoing scandal surrounding the White House staff secretary who left last week. We`ll have continuing coverage of that breaking news tonight.
But now, we`re going to go live to Parkland, Florida. We`re expecting to hear from the Florida governor in just a moment.
SCOTT ISRAEL, BROWARD COUNTY SHERIFF: -- another horrific day, a detestable day. Absolutely sick to my stomach, to see children who go to school armed with backpacks and pencils, lose their lives.
This nation, we need to see something and say something. If we see different behavior, aberrant behavior, we need to report it to local authorities. Since we`ve last briefed, we`ve identified 12 victims within this school.
We will not be releasing the names of any victims until every family and every parent is notified accordingly. As soon as that`s been done, of course, we will release a list.
I want to thank you for allowing -- for getting the information to the folks we need. I`m going to bring up Mr. Runcie. Mr. Runcie is going to speak a little bit about some of the issues that the school board is incurring as superintendent, some of the decisions he`s made. Then you`ll hear from Governor Scott. We`ll take any questions. And then we`ll probably give you your next briefing tomorrow. Thank you.
ROBERT RUNCIE, FLORIDA SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT: This evening, our district is in a tremendous state of grief, sorrow. We`re heartbroken over this unspeakable tragedy that has occurred here in Parkland, Florida. Words cannot express the sorrow that we feel. The victims, the victims and their families, our thoughts and prayers go out to them.
No parent should ever have to send their kids to school and have them not return. That should not happen in Parkland. It shouldn`t happen anywhere in this country. And this -- we`ve got to find a way for this to stop.
As a district, we will continue to work with law enforcement. We are focusing on providing all of the support that our students, our families, and employees need to cope with this devastating tragedy. It`s going to take us some time to go through this, to heal, to figure out how to move on.
Some updates on Marjory Stoneman Douglas. As for activities in school will be closed for the remainder of this week. All activities will be canceled as well.
We are going to provide grief counselors. They will be available to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students and families at the Pines Trails Park Recreation Center and Amphitheater located at 10555 Trails End, Parkland, Florida, beginning at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. Again, that`s grief counselors for parents and families at Pines Trails Park Recreation Center in Parkland.
We will also have grief counselors available for staff members at the Parkland Library at 6620 North University Drive in Parkland. Again, for the staff members, we will have grief counselors available at the Parkland Library at 6620 North University.
The grief counselors will also be available at West Glades Middle School which is right adjacent to this high school as well. And what I can tell you about today`s shooter, today`s shooter was a former Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school student and was currently enrolled in Broward County Public Schools.
Because of federal laws around FERPA and student privacy, I can`t provide you any additional information about the student at this time. Again, we are tremendously heartbroken, saddened. Our prayers, thoughts go out to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas families and the victims.
We`re going to pull through this together as a community. This has been a day we`ve seen the worst in humanity. Tomorrow is going to bring out the best in humanity as we come together to move forward from this unspeakable tragedy.
I would like to thank Sheriff Israel and all the law enforcement agencies. It`s been unbelievable, the courage, the support. Almost every municipality in Broward County has been here, they`ve been coordinated, they`ve been working nonstop. The governor, his office, the state, everyone has just been outstanding in terms of their support and their efforts. It`s been heartwarming to see that.
So, as a community, as a state, I`m sure we`ll be able to recover from this.
Governor Scott, thank you.
GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Thank you.
So as soon as you hear something like this is happening, the first thing, you start thinking about the families. You think about your own family. As a grandparent, and a parent, the first thing you think about is, you know, God, I hope this never happens to my family.
Then you think about -- you`re furious, how could this ever happen in this country, how could this happen in this state? This is a state that is focused on keeping all of our children safe. You come to the conclusion this is just absolutely pure evil.
This state does not tolerate violence. We have law enforcement that will always show up to defend our safety. As soon as this happened, I started having updates from Sheriff Israel. I`ve talked to President Trump, the secretary of homeland security, Kirstjen Nielsen, Superintendent Runcie, the commissioner of law enforcement for the department of law enforcement, Rick Swearingen.
I know everybody has worked tirelessly to keep everything safe and have a thorough investigation. My prayers are with everybody impacted. I can`t imagine what families who are sitting there wondering if they`ve lost a family member, they don`t know yet. Those who do know they`ve lost a family member, I just can`t imagine how their lives have been changed.
Like all of us, we`ll be praying for each of those, everybody in the hospital, I pray for their full recovery. All the individuals that unfortunately had to go through this experience, I know that there`s going to be grief counselors, and I`m sure it`s going to be very, very difficult as they think about what happened and replay in their mind what happened. I just can`t imagine going through that.
After this press conference, I`m going to be going to the hospital to do everything I can with those families. I`m going to continue to let local law enforcement, the school district, everybody involved know, whatever state resources are necessary, we will provide whatever resources are need to do whatever we can, whether it`s to help in the investigation or to help any family member that`s impacted.
Again, I just -- this is just pure evil. I will be staying here in Broward County and do everything I can to be helpful.
ISRAEL: Basically minutes after this event happened, I got a call from our attorney general, Pam Bondi. Hours later, she`s here. She sadly, when I was speaking to her privately, she knows all too well about these tragedies. She was in Orlando in the aftermath of the Pulse Nightclub, and she`s here to help families of those who lost loved ones.
So, I`m going to bring her up here to talk about some things the attorney general will do for our families.
PAM BONDI, FLORIDA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Thank you, Sheriff. Sheriff, I cannot thank you, the governor, the FBI, how you`ve handled this. You`ve been incredible. Superintendent, FDLE, all of the agencies working together.
It`s a horrible tragedy and sadly we`ve been through this before. I was out in Nevada for the mass shooting. In fact one of the victims called me on the way here from the Nevada shooting and said, I can`t believe this is happening again. She still has PTSD, and she was a survivor.
The office, my office functions in a way, this is what we`re going to be doing. I have five advocates headed in right now. I will have at least 10 more tomorrow, driving in from all over the state. We will pay for the funeral expenses of these poor victims and do everything we can to help the families.
The state of Florida, we will pay for counseling for the surviving victims. We will pay for students who need counseling. We will have the forms. It`s paperwork, a page that must be filled out. We bring it to the victims` families so they can get it done right now, don`t have to worry about the expenses. We will take care of it.
GoFundMe reached out to me already tonight. They`ve been pulling off anyone, if you think you`re going to scam people during this tragedy, you`re not. GoFundMe, they`re monitoring every site that`s popping up. And no money will be disbursed under GoFundMe until they know it`s legitimate. So, if you are donating to a crowdfunding site, GoFundMe is making sure that those funds will go to true victims and their families.
We`ve also reached out to the funeral homes, the directors in Florida, who have been great partners through Pulse. We will not let funeral homes gouge us. The funeral home industry, they`re sending down people tomorrow to help with the cost of the burial expenses for these victims. Sadly, we`ve all become a club that we never wanted to be a part of.
Partnering with the FBI, and now this is our third time dealing with such a mass tragedy. But we will continue to work together as a team, as a family, and love and take care of all of these victims and their family members. That`s why we`re all here.
Governor, thank you for everything you`ve done and always do for our state.
SCOTT: Yes, one thing the attorney general`s office does is they bring in victims` advocates. She and her team will go through and help each family that is impacted. So, the best way to reach out to the attorney general`s office.
BONDI: We`ll find our victims, that`s right.
ISRAEL: In conclusion, this beautiful town of Parkland, where I`ve lived up until a year ago, I`ve lived here with my family and raised our kids here for 10 years, we lost a football coach from Stoneman Douglas High School tonight. My triplets graduated from this very school. We had -- I won`t be releasing the name, but we had a deputy sheriff whose son was shot tonight, shot in the arm. He`s at one of the local area hospitals.
I`m being told he`s being treated with non-life-threatening injuries, thank God. If you are on a Website and you know something, you`ve seen something, you see a person with rifles and weaponry and you see something that`s not right, you owe it to your family, you owe it to your community, and you owe it to law enforcement to make this a safer nation by calling up someone tonight. Call up the FBI, call up the Broward Sheriff`s Office. Call up someone tonight and let them know that you have information that something`s not right. You can prevent a major tragedy like this devastation that happened in Parkland tonight.
REPORTER: Sheriff, Phil Keating, FOX News, can you provide more insight, the 17 fatalities, ages, how many students, how many teachers, whether all of the parents have been in fact notified at this point, if in fact they do have a deceased son or daughter and also motive?
ISRAEL: No. I`ll repeat what I said earlier. 12 of the victims have been identified. Their parents are in the process of being notified. We`re looking to ID some of these children, they had no ID, they left their backpacks, they had no cells that we could trace back.
So, we`re in the process of identifying these children and adults. So their families can be notified. So I can`t elaborate any more than that.
REPORTER: Governor, have you identified all students? Is there anyone still missing?
ISRAEL: We have only identified 12 of the 17 that have lost their lives.
REPORTER: Do you know of anyone missing?
ISRAEL: No, everybody`s accounted for, but we`re identifying the victims. We don`t know the names of the victims.
REPORTER: But you`ve accounted for all the students?
REPORTER: Governor Scott, a question for you. Today, it`s Parkland, with Columbine and everything in between, we are all at society, politicians like you included, implicit when critics (INAUDIBLE) in this country, we`re a nation of Washington where people like you are very pro-gun, (INAUDIBLE) when do you take a stand or are you willing to take one now because this happened in the backyard of your own state, mental health, (INAUDIBLE) and on gun control? What is your response?
SCOTT: You know, my heart goes out to everybody impacted today. All of us can internalize this, if it would happen to their family. You know, all of us want to live and have everybody live in a safe community. And there`s a time to continue to have these conversations about how through law enforcement, how through mental illness funding we make sure people are safe. We`ll continue to do that.
REPORTER: Governor, what business does a 19-year-old have in having an AR- 15? Specifically, just your thoughts.
SCOTT: We`re finding all the facts. You know, there`s a thorough investigation going on. The sheriff`s department will release exactly what happened, how they got a gun, things like that, we`ll learn those things and then we can determine the future, you know, how we continue to make this place safe.
REPORTER: What was your conversation with the president, armed guards in the schools to prevent this type of tragedy, do you agree that we should have armed guards in the school system?
SCOTT: You want to answer it?
ISRAEL: If a person -- I`ve said this over and over and over again, if a person is predisposed to commit such a horrific event like go into a school and shoot people, if a person is going to drive a truck into a crowded area, if a person is committed to committing great carnage, there`s not anybody or not a lot law enforcement can do about it or any entity can do about it.
The only things we can do are train very hard. We have to train rigorously and we do. We have to be able to mitigate. We have to be able to respond quickly so we can lessen the loss of lives. Certainly more money should go to mental health.
I`ve said this time and time again. You know, if we tear a knee up, we go to an orthopedic surgeon. If we have mental health issues, we need to be treated. But while people who are the victim of mental health illnesses in this country are being treated, in the opinion of this sheriff, they should not be able to buy, surround themselves, purchase, or carry a handgun. Those two things don`t mix.
So thank you for coming out here. I think we`ve answered all the appropriate questions. And tomorrow, we`ll update you again.
And again, the most important thing is, we need to pray tonight for these families. We need to pray for the victims. We need to pray for our communities. And we need to report anything we see that is different, that doesn`t make sense, that`s an aberration, that can help us prevent these mass tragedies.
Thank you all, appreciate it.
MADDOW: That`s the latest law enforcement briefing just breaking up right now in Broward County, Florida. That last speaker there is the Broward County sheriff. In terms of news that was just explained there, the sheriff announced earlier today that there were 17 people killed in this mass shooting today in south Florida.
Tonight announcing no additional fatalities and announcing, after questioning by the press, that they do not believe there`s anybody including any students who are unaccounted for. So, again, the death toll stands at 17. The sheriff announced that of the 17 people killed, he said 12 of the deceased have been identified. They`re not yet announcing any names as notifications of families continue.
We heard from the superintendent of schools in Broward County, who announced that the shooter, the alleged shooter in this case, is, and there had been some reporting about this earlier in the day, the shooter is a former student of the school that was attacked today. But the superintendent also said that he is a current Broward County school district student as well.
So, he didn`t elaborate, he said he wouldn`t give us any further details because of privacy rules. But that I believe is new details for us tonight in terms of the affiliation, the school district affiliation of the alleged shooter in this case. Governor Rick Scott spoke tonight. He did not provide any new information or news. He said twice that this was an event of pure evil.
Pam Bondi, Florida attorney general, said the state will pay for funeral expenses and counseling for survivors and victims. The sheriff then did say, although he had said that there wouldn`t be any confirmation at this event this evening, at this briefing we just saw about the victims, he did say that a football coach is among the casualties from this event tonight and that a sheriff`s deputy`s son is among those wounded, he described that as a student, a male student being shot in the arm, who is expected to survive.
Once it was opened up to questions, obviously, as you heard there, multiple questions about guns, about why this particular alleged shooter had access to this type of gun, and gun policy more broadly. Strikingly, as is often the case in situations like this, we saw both the sheriff and the governor in particular turn those questions immediately away from talking about guns to instead talk about mental illness. They`ve made no public statements about alleged mental illness for the gunman in this case, for the shooter in this case. But obviously, they`re much more comfortable talking about the issue of mental illness than they are talking about the tool he used to kill all these people today in south Florida.
And that, like so many other things about these mass shootings, has become something you can see coming in advance. It`s a hallmark of this. There are always these hard questions about how this tool was put in the hands of this person and why anybody in civilian life should have access to this kind of power. And the answer is mental health, which never, by the way, actually results in anything being done in mental health either. But it`s a disservice to the issue of both mental health and the cause of these crimes that that elision is allowed.
Today, Douglas High in South Florida, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida, this was the highest at tool school shooting we`ve had since Virginia Tech in 2007, and then Newtown Connecticut in 2012. As I mentioned, the latest reporting is 17 confirmed dead, at least 14 injured. Although the injury numbers, we`re not sure if those are still in flux.
In my lifetime, and likely in yours, it used to be that Columbine was the worst school massacre we could possibly imagine. Columbine was such an enormous loss of life. It was a crime that felt like it just cracked open the country and changed us fundamentally. Columbine, those murderers killed 12 fellow students and a teacher. Today, it`s at least 17 dead.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has about 3,000 students, it`s big, a college-sized campus. It`s one of the largest schools in Broward County, Florida, 30 minutes outside Ft. Lauderdale, 45 minutes outside Miami. There had today been a fire drill earlier in the day at the school. It now appears the shooter may have set off the fire alarm again as part of the start of his attack.
Melissa Falkowsji is a journalism teacher at the school we`re going to speaking with in just a minute. She described for reporters today how she and her students filed out of the building during what seemed to be a second fire drill only to do an about-face when security started yelling code red, code red, which means there`s an active shooter on campus. So, she and her 19 students turned around, came back inside, and hid in a closet until SWAT teams arrived to tell them it was safe to come out.
The school has an agreed-upon code for a situation like this because they have actively prepared as a school for this eventuality. Students and teachers, they do drills, to practice how to lock down, how to barricade safely inside in the event of somebody with a gun attacking that school.
But even with that preparation, even with those protocols not only in place but regularly practiced, the death toll today is still astonishing. We do have access to some videos that were taken by the students while the shooter was still active, still moving through the hallways. I warn you, even as short clips, they`re difficult to watch.
I`ll give you a second if you want to turn down the sound or not see this. But now we`re going to go ahead and show them.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: It is honestly hard to -- obviously it`s hard to watch that video. In terms of patterns, in terms of what kind of event this is, you know, it`s hard to keep track. We alone in the world as a country are plagued by this problem as a multiple times per week occurrence.
But we think this latest assault is at least the 18th school shooting in this country this year, just since the start of 2018. We`re not even halfway into February.
This sort of massacre happens enough, now, that we`re used to there being a few standard patterns for these kinds of American mass murders. One departure from those standard, typical patterns is that in this case the alleged shooter survived. That`s unusual for these kinds of cases.
In this case, he`s 19 years old. He`s a former student from the school. He was reportedly expelled from the school that he shot up today. The superintendent of Broward County schools said today that he was still a student of Broward County schools, even though he had been expelled from this one. The alleged shooter in this case was taken into custody about an hour after the attack. He was apparently taken into custody about three- quarters of a mile down the road from the school`s campus.
That means in the midst of the chaos caused by his attack, at least for a while, he was able to escape the scene. In addition to the dozen victims killed inside the school, we believe that several of the victims were shot outside the school. We expect eventually law enforcement will give us a more detailed timeline of how exactly the attack unfolded.
But for now, we believe this was a lone attacker with a lone gun, with a single gun. And without me even saying it, you already know what I`m going to say that gun is. A semi-automatic assault style rifle of a type that is commonly described as an AR-15.
When it comes to gun massacres in our country, in our time, the AR-15 is hands down the mass murder weapon of choice in this era, in our country.
Joining us now is Melissa Falkowsji. She is a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, whose story today I just in part described.
Ms. Falkowsji, thank you very much for being here today. I`m so sorry for what you`ve been through today.
MELISSA FALKOWSJI, TEACHER AT MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: Thank you.
MADDOW: Can you describe what happened? I know you were teaching class at the time of the shooting. I know it was towards the end of the school day.
Can you just walk through what happened for you and your students?
FALKOWSJI: The day was, you know, winding down. We had about ten minutes left. And in the last period of the day I teach newspapers, I was working with the kids who were making the school newspaper.
The fire alarm went off for the second time today. And so, you know, we followed the protocol, which was to evacuate. So, you know, I grabbed my emergency folder and we started to file out the door.
And then, you know, we made it to the stairwell and one of the security people that`s posted in my building said, no, go back, it`s a code red. So, you know, I immediately called to the kids, the other teachers who were there called to the kids to turn around and come back. And so, you know, I went back to my room, I unlocked the door, I let the kids in.
Most of the students who were in my class at the time managed to make it back to me. Some of them ended up in another classroom because it was closer. The teachers in the hallway were opening the doors and yelling to all the kids in the hallway to get inside, get to the nearest door, to take cover. And so, after about a minute or a minute and a half, we all closed up our doors and, you know, and followed the procedures that we had been taught, which was to disappear, basically, is what they taught us, to move out of sight and to be silent and quiet.
And after -- initially I thought it was just a drill, because we had been told, we would have an active shooter drill this semester, that it would be unannounced. But then as we started to get texts and more information, I realized it was in fact actually really happening to us, which was so hard to comprehend. So, then, I made the decision to move the kids into the closet.
MADDOW: And what -- how many kids were in your class? How big was the closet? How long did you end up staying in there?
FALKOWSJI: I had 19 kids with me in the closet. It`s a small closet. We were standing two by two, you know, in the closet. It was tight. And we were in there for about 30 or 35 minutes.
You know, we were getting texts and information that they were still looking for the shooter. I told the kids we would stay put until we either heard an announcement or the SWAT team came to get us.
MADDOW: And what eventually happened? How did you know when it was safe to come out?
FALKOWSJI: We heard noises and movement outside the door. And so, you know, we got really quiet, and we just waited. We heard someone enter the door.
We heard noises in the classroom. And we just sort of waited there. Then someone called out, you know, this is the police, is there anyone in here. And we had been trained that if someone entered with a key, then that would be somebody who was OK to be there. So we sort of slowly opened up the closet door and peeked out and said, we`re in here.
And they had us file out one at a time with our hands up so they could check us. And then they started moving through the hallway and checking all the classrooms.
MADDOW: You`re describing so calmly your realization that this wasn`t a drill and your decision-making about how to keep your kids safe and how to come out of the hiding place and everything. How were you able to stay calm in that moment? What was the fear let them, the upset level among your 19 students?
FALKOWSJI: My kids were really -- the kids were really scared. You know, some of them were crying. Some of them held it together really well.
You know, on a personal level, it was really hard for me. My mom called me, you know, in the middle of all this, and I had to hang up with her because I was starting to get, you know, upset and I need to be there for the kids and tell them it was going to be OK and it doesn`t help if I`m crying too.
So, I kept telling them they were okay and everything was going to be OKJ, and that helped, I guess, for them to get through it.
MADDOW: So, you guys had your phones with you, you and presumably the students as well. You described receiving text messages as part of how you knew this wasn`t a drill, that this was a real life situation.
What kind of information were you guys getting while you were locked in that closet together in those tight quarters? Were you able to follow anything that seemed like real information to you in terms of what kind of risk you were at or how the situation might be unfolding?
FALKOWSJI: I have a colleague and a close friend who works in the building where the shooting occurred. And, you know, her and a few of us have, you know, kind of a group chat that we talk in sometimes. She told us that there was a shooter, and so that`s how I knew that it was -- you know, it was real. And then we were getting information from kids who were out there in the building.
And so, you know, we tried to, you know, not listen to what is rumor, what isn`t, but at the very least we knew that it was real and that it was happening and we heard the sirens and the helicopters. And so we knew that something was actually happening.
MADDOW: It sounds to me like one of the things that ended up being a lifesaver today that may have been a mitigating factor in not being even potentially even a worse death toll was the training that you had at school in terms of how to communicate the seriousness of the situation, knowing what to try to do in terms of keeping safe. Do you feel like that training that you`ve gone through, those drills, the sort of emergency protocols that you have at your school, that they were the right kind of training, now that you`ve been through this in real life?
FALKOWSJI: Yes, I definitely think so. We`ve made a lot of changes to safety protocols this year, as led by one of our assistant principals. I think that is what helped us be so prepared.
I don`t think we could have been more prepared than we were today. I mean, we had -- we talked to every single class period that sat in front of us about what to do in this situation, in a bomb threat, in a fire drill. We went over every safety -- and every single teacher did that with every single, you know, class that they had until the kids were tired of hearing about it.
But they knew what -- I mean, they knew what to do, we knew what to do. And even still, even with that, we still have 17, you know, casualties, 17 people that aren`t going to return to their families. And to me, that`s totally unacceptable.
And from my personal viewpoint, it`s time for Congress, government, somebody to do something. It`s time to talk about what the problem is and try to fix it.
MADDOW: It`s been not very many hours since this happened. Can I ask you how you`re doing?
FALKOWSJI: I`m not really sure how I`m doing. I think I`m still in shock. I don`t think I`ve really processed what happened.
I had to go home and explain to my 7-year-old son who goes to elementary school a block away from the high school where I work, you know, about what happened today. And so, I think I`m definitely shaken. I`m definitely -- still feel, you know, very stressed. But I don`t really know where I`ll be tomorrow or the next day or where the kids are going to be. I know it`s going to be a long time before we return to any sort of sense of normalcy.
MADDOW: Melissa Falkowsji, teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. She`s teaching journalism today when this all happened. I will tell you that somewhere down the road, when it seems like all the right time, you and your 19 students are very welcome to come do a tour of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW and our news meeting in the afternoon and come sit in on the show.
And journalism teachers are heroes even on normal days. Thank you for your work and thanks for being with us.
FALKOWSJI: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Joining us is the mayor of Parkland, Florida, who is Mayor Christine Hunschofsky, who has just been through an incredible day herself in terms of trying to cope with this tragedy.
This is Broward County, Florida. Again, this is outside of Ft. Lauderdale, outside of Miami. This is the -- the school where this happened is a 3,000-student school, it`s a very large school.
We just heard a real vote of confidence today in the school itself from that teacher there who went through this today in terms of the training they went through. There`s no training that can get you ready for something like what happened today.
Madam Mayor, thank you very much for joining us. I really appreciate you being with us today.
MAYOR CHRISTINE HUNSCHOFSKY, PARKLAND, FLORIDA: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Can you tell us, first of all, right now, if there`s anything you can give us in terms of an update in the investigation here? We did just have a law enforcement briefing confirming the horrific death toll of 17 dead. We`ve had some anecdotal reporting about some characteristics of the victims. We know that the alleged shooter in this case is in custody.
Can you give us any further update on the investigation and the status of that right now?
HUNSCHOFSKY: I don`t have any additional updates on the investigation. You just heard from Broward Sheriff Israel, they`ve identified 12 of the victims, and they`re notifying their families. In Parkland, we`re a very small community, a very close-knit community, a very family-oriented community. And unfortunately several parents are getting those phone calls right now, that they`ve lost their children.
MADDOW: In terms of the resources that have been brought to bear, in terms of coping here, as you mentioned, this is -- Parkland is not a large community. You are a heavily populated part of the state. We`ve seen all the top officials in the state and the county sheriff intensively involved over the course of the day.
Do you in Parkland feel like you have the resources you need in terms of how to manage this crisis tonight and into tomorrow and in the days ahead?
HUNSCHOFSKY: While Parkland is very small, we`ve been very fortunate to have all different agencies coming together to support us through this. They have set up grief counseling for tomorrow at various locations throughout the city. And we will all be working together to make sure the students and the families and our community gets the support they need.
MADDOW: Do you know if there are any ongoing questions about missing persons or if there are families tonight who haven`t been contacted? We were told by the sheriff that of the 17 deceased persons from this incident today, there have been 12 identifications made. That, of course, raises the question about the additional five people who haven`t, according to the sheriff, been identified.
Are there families tonight who don`t yet know that their loved one is gone?
HUNSCHOFSKY: Yes, according to the sheriff, that`s the situation we`re in right now.
MADDOW: OK. Mayor Christine Hunschofsky from Parkland, Florida -- again, I`m so sorry for what your city went through today. Thank you for helping us understand.
HUNSCHOFSKY: Thank you very much. Thank you.
MADDOW: Again, as we continue to cover the aftermath of this school shooting, we had a law enforcement briefing at the top of the hour from the governor and attorney general.
The attorney general announced the state will be paying for funeral expenses for everybody who was killed in this incident today. Right now, with the death toll standing at 17 and the sheriff saying that there are no students who are unaccounted for, that would make this the third worst school shooting in U.S. history after Virginia Tech in 2007, and Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.
We`ve got a little tape here that I want to show you, which is some of the students who were caught up in this today, speaking earlier today about what they went through. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`ve run. I called my mom immediately. I told her there`s a shooter, there`s a shooter, there`s shooter. She started like -- she went crazy.
I ran to my classroom. I saw my teacher. He saw me. He didn`t let me in. I was like kind of really mad about that. I banged on the door, like let me in, let me in, let me in.
Me and my friend didn`t know where to go. We finally saw a classroom and he let us in. And I ran immediately in the closet and I just started hysterical crying.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We thought it was blanks, because we thought it was just a drill. So, we`re inside, and he gets a notification that we have to go hide. So, we all hide. They barricade the back doors. So, we`re all sitting in there, I`m calling my mom, telling her that, you know, I`m OK, and we`re safe in the room.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m a happy dad.
REPORTER: Why are you so happy right now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I have my son with me. I just thank you, Jesus.
REPORTER: You`re worried?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I was very worried.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Some of the incredible stories that we saw unfolding over the course of the day today at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. I will say it is unusual in this case that -- and it`s remarkable that I can tell you what is usual in this case, but the shooter in this case survived and has been taken into custody. We`re told by law enforcement that he`s 19 years old. He had previously attended this school.
But we believe he had been expelled. The superintendent of Broward County Schools said that he is still a student of Broward County Schools. We don`t know any other details about what other schools he might be affiliated with or any of those other circumstances.
We believe he acted alone. We believe it was one young man with one gun, with multiple magazines of ammunition for that gun. As usual, the gun in this case was an AR-15 semi-automatic style assault rifle. Semi-automatic means that it`s not a machine gun, it`s not the hold the trigger down and it fires automatically, although you can buy accessories for assault weapons that make them fire that way.
Semi-automatic rifles fire instead where you get one bullet for every time you pull the trigger, and that can be an incredibly, incredibly efficient way of unleashing a lot of firepower in a short amount of time.
We don`t yet have a lot of detail in terms of the timeline here from law enforcement about exactly how the event unfolded. We`re told people were killed outside the school as well as at least a dozen of the 17 people killed -- being killed inside the school. We don`t know yet how the shooter made his way through the school buildings. We don`t know how much ammunition was used, how many ammunition magazines he employed.
But we`re starting to figure out -- we`re trying to piece these things together as best we can through reporting. One of the unanswered questions here is how exactly he was found. We`re told that the shooter in this case was not apprehended in the midst of the attack. It was after the attack ended and he was about three-quarters of a mile away from the school when he was arrested.
We are told he had minor injuries when he was arrested. He was taken to a hospital but those injuries are not expected to be life-threatening. We have so many mass shootings and even mass school shootings in this country that we are used to a usual pattern of how these things unfold. There are departures from that usual pattern tonight, particularly when it comes to there being a surviving shooter.
Joining us from outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, somebody who has been covering the story all day long, talking to survivors and witnesses, NBC News correspondent Tammy Leitner.
Tammy, thanks for being with us. I know it`s been an incredibly long day and long night already.
TAMMY LEITNER, NBC NEWS REPORTER: Yes, Rachel, after speaking with students and parents and teachers for the last six hours, we`re beginning to understand what these students went through during that small period of time when the shooter was roaming their campus. And how some of them were able to escape and how some of them were forced to barricade themselves inside the school.
There was one 14-year-old student who was texting with his mother from the school office. And he was with three other students. And he texted his mother and said, there`s a shooter, I don`t know what to do. She told him, barricade yourself in. And for the next hour, she stayed on the phone, sending him text messages, telling him to hide, to go into a corner, to stay safe.
There was another student that we talked to, 17-year-old Hector Navarro. When those gunshots rang out, he didn`t think it was safe to be anywhere inside that school. So, him and dozens of other students, they made their way to the back of the school. They ran with several other teachers and they were able to wedge themselves behind the school and a chain link fence. There`s actually a canal back there, and run from the school. So, they were able to get away by distancing themselves.
So, Rachel, everybody had kind of a different story of how they were able to survive, each of these survivors, their own story. A lot of these students were in constant contact with their parents, texting them, telling them they were OK but that they were afraid. We spoke with a lot of these parents over the hours after the shooting. They came here to the school. We`re about a block away.
A lot of them came here looking for their students, not knowing that they weren`t here, that they were taken to another location, that they were still talking to police hours and hours and hours after this happened. It was about four hours after the shooting, parents were showing up, some parents hadn`t yet gotten to hug their child, gotten to talk to them yet, gotten to see them. It`s a very long process. As you can imagine, you know from covering a lot of these shootings, this process will go on for days and weeks, the parents, students, and teachers, talking and continuing to heal and piece together why this student did this -- Rachel.
MADDOW: Tammy, on that timeline and I think you`re putting your finger on that in just thinking about the terror that this community and this school went through today. We don`t yet have a strong timeline from law enforcement in terms of how the attack unfolded and how long it took. But the ending of the attack, the time when students and teachers and people who were terrorized by this incident or may have been hurt in this incident, the time at which they knew it was over is a very gray area.
As far as we understand it, the perpetrator of the attack, the alleged shooter here, was able to leave the scene in the midst of all this chaos and was apprehended not on the school grounds but almost a mile away. That must have created incredible ambiguity and must have lengthened the amount of time before anybody had any clarity that this was over.
LEITNER: It did, and part of the reason we don`t have clarity on the timeline is because students and teachers are told that in these lockdown scenarios, in these active shooter scenarios, you`re supposed to go to a corner of the classroom, a corner of the school, and you`re supposed to take cover and you`re supposed to stay there until police come to get you or at least until they I have notify you that it`s safe.
So, obviously, the shooter had left the school and yet the students and teachers were waiting to be told it was okay to leave. That`s one of the things that will come out in the coming days.
MADDOW: NBC News correspondent Tammy Leitner -- Tammy, thank you. I know it`s been a tough day of reporting. Thank you for being with us.
I want to bring into the conversation now somebody who has been through this in a terrible way. Lori Haas is someone whose daughter was shot twice during the shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007. She survived. Thirty-two people were killed in that Virginia Tech shooting. Since then, Ms. Haas, Lori Haas has advocated for gun safety, for gun violence prevention. She`s now the Virginia state director at the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.
And days like this are hard for the country, they`re certainly hard for the survivors. They are a particular kind of hard for family members who have been through this sort of thing so traumatically before.
Ms. Haas, thank you for being with us tonight. I really appreciate you taking the time to be here.
LORI HAAS, COALITION TO STOP GUN VIOLENCE: Thank you for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Obviously, there have been a lot of mass shootings and even mass school shootings since the one your daughter survived in 2007. I can`t imagine, though, how -- what kind of renewed trauma it must be for you and your family every time there`s another horrific incident like this.
HAAS: It is renewed trauma. It`s renewed trauma for many, many, many families, dozens if not hundreds, and now thousands of families who have been traumatized today, last week, the week before, the week before. You know, we see this over and over and over again. And yet, we have no action by those who are elected to keep us safe.
You know, Congress continues to do nothing. And it`s very frustrating and frankly makes me quite angry.
MADDOW: What do you think that -- what do you think -- if you could wave a magic wand and do anything in 2018, in American politics, to try to constructively address this purely American problem that we`ve got, what would be your top priorities?
HAAS: My top priority is to change those seats in Congress that have elected officials who are the not doing anything about this issue. You know, in Virginia in 2017, we changed seats. Those people who refused to do anything about gun violence, lost in the elections in 2017 in Virginia, in a big way.
It was the number two issue coming out of the polls. You know, I`m sure I will get criticized for, quote/unquote, politicizing a tragedy. You know, but it`s too late. We should have politicized this after Columbine. We should have politicized this after Virginia Tech.
This is the ten-year anniversary of the Northern Illinois University shooting. You know, what in the world are we waiting for? You know, 20 children, 6-year-olds. It`s time to make changes. If our elected officials will not do what it takes to reduce gun violence in this country, and there`s no one single magic wand, we have a lot of policies that need to be looked at.
You know, assault weapons ban, identifying people who are at risk of violence, you know, looking at access to weaponry and looking at where we carry and who carries. You know, there`s not a single magic wand that`s going to solve this. But we need to start something.
In my opinion, I think we change our elected leaders who are not doing their job to keep American citizens, schoolchildren, people who go to church, you know, people walking down the street. We need to make changes in this country. I hope it happens in a big way in 2018. And I`m going to work on it.
MADDOW: Lori, let me also just ask you at a personal level, obviously, you`ve seen today, even just over the course of this hour while waiting to come on with us, talking to people who were witnesses today, people who survived this. It appears what law enforcement is telling us, there were a number of people who were injured who are likely to survive this. You obviously went through that in your family with your own daughter`s experience at Virginia Tech.
Is there anything about your experience that you feel like you wish you had known early on? Is there anything about the trauma of what you and your family went through that you feel like you could impart to these people who are experiencing this trauma anew tonight, for the first time, in terms of how to copy, how to -- how to move forward?
HAAS: Everybody is different, everybody chooses their own path. And healing looks different for many, many families, you know? And my heart pours out to those families whose loved ones were killed. They weren`t lost. They were killed by someone who shouldn`t have had a gun.
I have a great deal of sympathy for those families. And their grief journey is unimaginable and undescribable. For those parents whose children were shot and injured, you know, their journey is about worry, their journey is about stress and how to help their children heal and how to get through the post traumatic stress disorder they`re going to suffer.
I would say that frankly, and sadly, there are many of us out there for them, there are many of us who are available to talk to other parents. We`ve been through this, you know, there were 32 students killed at Virginia Tech, 17 shot and injured, and many, many, many more injured emotionally, you know, who were exposed to the trauma.
So, there`s resources available from those who have been through this. And it`s a long, hard journey, but there are a lot of people out there who want to help and support them.
MADDOW: Lori Haas, whose daughter was a survivor of the Virginia tech massacre. Thank you for being with us. I appreciate your time. Thank you.
HAAS: You`re welcome, thank you.
MADDOW: To underscore what Lori Haas just said there. When you are a large country like we are that has mass shootings, mass school shootings, mass church shootings, mass shootings of all kinds of the pace that we do, and you have them for as long as we`ve had them, at the increasing pace at which we`ve had them, one of the things you get as a country, as a side effect of that is a large and by the week growing community of people who have lived through these tragedies firsthand. People who have family members who have been victims, people who themselves have been victims and survived, people who have been in the school, or the church or the nightclub, or the concert or whenever it was and felt the bullets go by them.
We are an incredibly large country but we have a large and growing subset of our fellow citizens who are life-long witnesses. In many cases, they`re life-long traumatized or hurt by these things but life-long witnesses. And I think ultimately, those will be the people who keep us honest in terms of whether we do ever, ever, want to do anything concrete to stop this from happening in our country. Those people will the ones who keep us honest and there`ll be more of them every week.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Turn on your television right now you`re going to see scenes of children running for their lives. What looks to be the 19th school shooting in this country, and we have not even hit March. This happens nowhere else, other than the United States of America, this epidemic of mass slaughter, the scourge of school shooting after school shooting. It only happens here not because of coincidence, not because of bad luck, but as a consequence of our inaction.
We are responsible. For a level of mass atrocity that happens in this country with zero parallel anywhere else. As a parent, it scares me to death that this body doesn`t take seriously the safety of my children. And it seems like a lot of parents in south Florida are going to be asking that same question later today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Chris Murphy is a senator from the state of Connecticut. When he was in the House, he used to represent the district that included Newtown, Connecticut. That district is now represented by Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty. Her district includes Newtown. She was elected to that seat one month before the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, which killed 26 people, including 20 young students.
Congresswoman Esty joins us live now.
Congresswoman, thank you for joining us on this difficult night.
REP. ELIZABETH ESTY (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, Rachel, it`s great to be with you. But I wish it were not for yet again another tragic shooting that didn`t need to happen in America.
MADDOW: When shootings like this happen, this is one of the worst ever after Virginia Tech and after Newtown, this is the school shooting where more people were killed than any other school shooting, other than those two. You know that people are going to turn to you across the country for help and trying to understand it and trying to think constructively about why it happened, about what can be done, about how to move forward. You know the country is going to turn to you on nights like this. I wonder if that itself makes you angry?
ESTY: It does. Today is Valentine`s Day. Today is a day when we celebrate love. We celebrate the people we care about and we make a point to tell them how much we care for them.
And I think about those parents. I think about children whose bodies have not yet been identified. And you are there are Valentine`s in some of those backpacks that got abandoned in the terror and fright. Valentine`s that will never be opened by children who will never come home. And that`s wrong and we`re a better country than that.
MADDOW: What do you want Congress to do that Congress isn`t doing?
ESTY: To use its head and its heart. You know, gun owners are parents, too. And gun owners need to stand up and use their voices and to demand that members of Congress, regardless of their party affiliation, do the right thing here.
You listened to Melissa, what a brave teacher she is. And she saved lives today. She was prepared. She learned.
We taught her good data about how to save lives, right? If our teachers can learn it and our superintendents, and our law enforcements officials do what to do when the unimaginable happens, why can`t members of Congress look at the very convincing information out of states like mine, like Connecticut with tough gun laws where we do save lives by smart sensible gun laws that keep the guns out of the hands of dangerous people.
It is not rocket science, we can do this. We need the political backbone and the will of my colleagues.
MADDOW: Looking at Parkland today, do you feel there are lessons from how Newtown has made through these past five years that could help that community?
ESTY: Lean on your friends, ask for help. Support the first responders. Some of the people who have the hardest time, truthfully, will be the parents, teachers, but especially teachers in the school and first responders.
It`s our duty as a parent to check our children. It`s instinct. It`s human nature. But it is the duty of a teacher to protect his or her students.
And it`s the duty of law enforcement to protect us all. And those adults who could not save those children`s lives from an evil young man with a gun who should never have had one, they will be questioning the rest of their lives what could they have done. And that is something no one should not have to live with.
MADDOW: Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut, whose district includes Newtown, thank you for joining us on a difficult night under difficult circumstances. Appreciate it.
ESTY: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END