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tv   The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  April 9, 2021 3:00pm-4:00pm PDT

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welcome to our viewers here in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer in "the situation room" with our coverage of the derek chauvin murder trial. we heard from one of the most highly-anticipated witnessed today, the medical examiner who actually conducted george floyd's autopsy. he stood by his ruling that floyd's death was a homicide, testifying that the force used by chauvin and other police officers was more than floyd's body could take. he told jurors that heart disease and drug use were not the direct causes of floyd's death, but he believes they did, repeat did play a role. in earlier testimony, a forensic pathologist explicitly ruled out
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health and drug issues as causes of floyd's death, echoing other experts who said police actions were to blame. republican congressman matt gaetz is about to make his first public appearance in days as he faces federal sex trafficking investigations. the house oaethics committee is opening its own investigation of gaetz and the allegations gins h against him. first we go to omar jimenez. >> reporter: today was all about arguably the most important part of the trial and that's george floyd's cause of death. specifically, today centered on what an autopsy shows versus what it doesn't, what playing a role in a death means versus what caused it. both prosecutors and the defense tried to fill in those crucial gaps with the much-awaited
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witnesses that took the stand. in one of the most highly-anticipated moments of the trial -- >> you conducted the autopsy on mr. george floyd? >> i did. >> reporter: dr. andrew baker took the stand. >> you didn't see any damage to the heart muscle? >> that is correct. >> did you notice anything resembling a pill or pill fragments in the stomach? >> i did not. >> reporter: he listed the manner of death as homicide. but specifically cardio pulmonary arrest from restraint and neck compression. no mention of asphyxia and no physical findings to support it either. >> in my opinion, the law enforcement subdue and restraint and the neck pressure was more than mr. floyd could take by virtue of those heart conditions. >> reporter: in june 2020 he even told investigators of george floyd, if he were found dead alone and no other apparent
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causes, this could be acceptable to call an od or overdose. but he added at the time, i'm not saying this killed him. >> have you certified deaths as an overdose where the level of fentanyl was similar to the level of fentanyl in mr. floyd? >> yes. >> does methamphetamine further constrict the vessels and vent tri ventricals and arteries? >> reporter: earlier today dr. lindsey thomas took the stand. >> did you rule out drug overdose as a cause of death? >> yes. in this case, i believe the primary mechanism of death is asphyxia or low oxygen. there's no evidence to suggest he would have died that night except for the interactions with
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law enforcement. >> reporter: dr. thomas even pointing to the autopsy itself, saying ordinarily that would be all she needed. not this time. >> in this case the autopsy itself didn't tell me the cause and manner of death, and it really required getting all of this other additional information, specifically the video evidence of the terminal events, to conclude the cause of death. >> reporter: a cause of death the jurors are now left to wrestle with. >> so in your opinion, both the heart disease as well as the history of hypertension and the drugs that were in his system played a role in mr. floyd's death? >> in my opinion, yes. >> reporter: the prosecutors pressed the doctor further. >> those other contributing conditions are not conditions that you consider direct causes, is that true? >> they are not direct causes of mr. floyd's death. >> reporter: what really matters now is how the jurors interpreted that exchange on
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that ever-important topic of george floyd's cause of death. now, throughout that testimony when we were talking about the autopsy, jurors were looking through very graphic images from the autopsy, but they flipped through them nonetheless, many of them taking notes. so we'll see how much they refer back to them, of course, as we get into next week, which we are expected to pick back up with testimony from a medical doctor. last thing of note from inside the courtroom, today was the first time in over a month someone was actually seated in the seat reserved for a family representative from derek cha chauvin, a woman of east asian descent. >> stand by. i want to get some immediate reaction to today's testimony from one of the lead lawyers for george floyd's family, chris stewart. thanks for joining us. this testimony from the medical examiner today, of course it was highly anticipated. what do you make of hezbis
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explanations? >> he stuck to his guns. at the end of the day, he still had the same reasoning he had in his report. he was killed because george floyd was held down with a knee on his neck and his back. >> at the same time, chris, do you wish dr. baker had been as clear as some of the other witnesses in saying the officers' actions and the knee on floyd's neck, for example, that that specifically caused his death? >> no. that's the beauty of it. you know, he's not an expert. he's not a paid expert. he's not hired. he's a regular person just like all of us doing his job. he didn't side with anybody. nobody got a big movement out of him. he stuck to his guns, told the truth and support what had he found in june. >> in june he said it was a homicide. the medical examiner said the officers' actions were more than mr. floyd could take, but he also said floyd's heart disease, the hypertension, the drug use also played a role in the death. do you think that potentially
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could bolster the defense arguments? >> no. i think it hurts them. i mean, we're sorry they didn't kill a perfectly healthy person, because that's what it sounds like the defense's argument is. you know, if you have a condition, they'll just blame that. think about the gregory tounds case, tasered to death 14 times while handcuffed. their defense was he was overweight. it's the same defense in all these cases. they're going to blame any kind of health issue. if you have asthma, they're going to playblame that. we knew it was coming and it's a regular defense that's always used. >> a forensic pathologist testified earlier in the day saying there's no evidence to suggest he, george floyd, would have died that night except for the interactions with law enforcement. how emotional is it to hear that? because i know you're in constant touch with the family. >> right now i think everybody
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is numb to everything that's going on. you know, it still hurts daily, but we've heard it all. we already know the truth, that george floyd was murdered that day, just like the rest of the world. it's just that we have to go through the process to get justice. it's like watching nonfiction when the prosecution is going and fiction when the defense is going, because they're giving so many hypotheticals, so many what ifs. >> let me get your sense after two weeks of testimony. we heard george floyd's cousin say she believes they'll get a conviction, but it's not necessarily a foregone conclusion. you need a unanimous decision among all the jurors, right? >> that's the scary part. all they need is one person. we have faith, have faith in god, have faith in this jury. we think the prosecution is doing a phenomenal job. hopefully someone didn't come in there with preconceived notions
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or ideas and that they'll truly see justice and listen to the evidence and not hypotheticals that are made up by defense counsel or by the many notes that chauvin is taking. >> chris stewart, thanks as usual for joining us. >> any time. >> let's bring in cnn's omar jimenez. he's covering the trial in minneapolis along with cnn political commentator the attorney bakari sellers and cnn legal analyst paul callen. do you think they got a clear picture from this testimony? >> a clear picture? i'm not sure the picture was clear. the testimony was necessary. the testimony was complicated and complex and the testimony went to what the heart of this issue and this case is, which is the cause of death. it was complicated testimony, no doubt about it. but i think at the end of the day what chris stewart said is
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correct, that people should be able to come from that testimony believing that the cause of death was the knee to the neck. you see the arguments laid out by the prosecution. dr. thomas, the forensic pathologist earlier in the day. their experts have been a-plus experts, followed by the medical examiner. the thing that stuck out to me the most is that the strongest witnesses for the prosecution had been everyday americans that go to work and work in county and state and local government. the medical examiners, the law enforcement officers, the emts, people that these jurors can relate to. so that's going to be something that i think adds value and weight. and while the medical examiner's testimony was cosomewhat complicated, i think it's going to weigh favorably in the favor of the prosecution. >> eight minneapolis police department officers testified
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very strongly. the medical examiner also said that heart disease and drug use did play a role. but the prosecution doesn't need to prove that chauvin's actions were the only cause of death, just what they call a substantial causal factor. >> that's what the law is. at the end of the case, the judge will charge the jury that if the actions of the police officers were a substantial causal factor, then he's responsible, chauvin is responsible. it doesn't have to be the primary cause. i think a lot of people are mixing this up. they're saying, well, there were other primary causes. no. as long as this was just one of the many substantial causes of his death, they win. that is if the jurors follow the law. remember, there was one big piece of evidence, i thought, that was elicited through the medical examiner today. that had to do with fentanyl, which everybody knows is an extremely dangerous killer drug. and the medical examiner said that he has seen deaths in cases
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with as little as 3 nanograms of fentanyl in the bloodstream. in the case of mr. floyd, he had .11 in his bloodstream. of course, that's going to be used by the defense to say it was the fentanyl that was the substantial causative factor and not anything the police did. >> once the defense starts calling their witnesses, their expert witnesses, we'll probably hear more of that as well. omar, the details of the autopsy had to be handled very, very delicately in court today. how did that go in court? how did the jurors seem to react? >> reporter: when they saw them, i mean, these were extremely graphic images, images that the judge before he showed them said, we're going to do this old school and not broadcast the images out. when you're looking at some of the descriptions of these exhibits, these were lacerations, cuts that were going longways down an entire
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arm of george floyd as muscles were literally pulled off to the side and you saw bone underneath. so you can see why they didn't quite want all these images to be put out there. but the jurors flipped through them. remember, there was a george floyd family representative also inside the courtroom. he lingered on the first image, as we understand from reports inside the courtroom, but then also continued to flip through them. the chauvin family representative also did something similar. even though it seemed there might have been a shock factor for how graphic these images were, it did seem everyone realized the weight of that moment and the importance of actually getting through some of these images as it relates to this case. >> bakari, how important is the additional context, like these photos of the autopsy for the jurors? >> it makes it real. i mean, you've seen the videos. because george floyd died so
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viciously in what i believe to be a murder, many times that is something that is decently far removed because you just see the videos. but with those pictures in hand, they are gruesome. they bring it to reality and you're able to somewhat contextualize and visualize things that may not have been in the indivvideo. let me go back to something that chris stewart said. i think it's important for everybody to notice. you don't get the benefit of having in cases like this a victim that's 100% healthy. you see the defense continue to talk about his heart disease, et cetera. you have to take george floyd as he came. because he had those illnesses, whatever they may have been be, including addiction and some drugs in his system, still you get to the fact that but for the knee in his neck, george floyd would still be alive. so you don't get the benefit of
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having just 100% healthy marathon runner. you have to deal with the victim as they are and as they come before you when you're talking about causation. >> final thought, paul? >> this has been a trial of contradictions. i've been watching how polite these lawyers are to each other as both present a very compelling case, mostly the prosecution with the compelling case. it's kind of like minnesota nice as opposed to the knock down slug fests i've seen in courts around the country in murder cases. they're trying a very good case. this jury is hearing a detailed explanation of the medicine. they have video of the facts. it's going to be one of the most well-presented murder cases i think i've ever seen. >> guys, thank you very, very much. just ahead, the house ethics committee is formally opening a misconduct investigation of republican congressman matt gaetz of florida.
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less than an hour from now congressman matt gaetz speaks to a republican group in florida as the house ethics committee is launching an investigation of house ethics allegations against him. paula reed has the latest on those allegations, including an alleged sex trafficker, money and young women. >> reporter: tonight, florida congressman matt gaetz about to make his first public appearance in days as new details into the scandal emerge. the congressman, set to speak at an event organized by a conservative women's group, while at the same time beefing up his legal team, adding two new york attorneys, including one who representated the trump organization. now "the daily beast" offering new insight into the trail of
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money. venmo records show how in may of 2018 gaetz paid friend and then seminole county tax collector joel greenberg $900. greenberg then transferred the same amount to young women, according to the report. >> when joel greenberg paid them to these girls, it said school and tuition. >> reporter: cnn has not confirmed the details of allegations in this story. at this point there is no indication the payments were related to any illegal activity. >> it really is an honor to be here today. >> reporter: gaetz's friend greenberg has been indicted on 33 federal charges including sex trafficking of a minor. greenberg is likely to enter a plea deal in his case, raising the possibility he could cooperate with federal investigators and put pressure on the congressman. >> i'm sure matt gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today.
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>> reporter: gaetz has continued to deny any wrongdoing, writing on monday, i have never ever paid for sex and, second, i as an adult man have not slept with a 17-year-old. in a sign the gaetz investigation may expand beyond sex trafficking, the "new york times" is reporting prosecutors were told gaetz discussed arranging a sham candidate in a florida state senate race last year with a florida lobbyist to help his friend win the seat. republican congressman adam kinsinger, the first gop member of congress openly calling for gaetz to step down, tweeting late thursday, "matt gaetz needs to resign." so far gaetz is standing firm, even though news today gaetz's legislative director has resigned his post, the second staffer to leave the congressional office. on the home front, an attack billboard went up in gaetz's
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congressional district, paid for by a liberal group. tonight the house ethics committee announced it has launched an investigation into congressman gaetz for a laundry list of violations, including accepting bribes and misusing campaign funds. in a statement gaetz's office called the allegations blatantly false. >> let's talk about gaetz and more including the state of the republican party. we're joined by cnn commentator and former ohio governor john kasich. and ron brownstein. he has written a new book "rock me on the water." it's a brand new "new york times" best seller, by the way, must read. ron, how do you expect
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congressman gaetz, first of all, will try to navigate this escalating scandal? >> well, thank you for the kind words about the book. look, i think when a house ethics investigation is the least of your problems, you got problems. and i think the way he's going to respond to it, most likely, is by basically playing a victim card and arguing he's being targeted because he is a staunch conservative and trump supporter. he has treated congress from the beginning as if it was a sound stage on fox. he's viewed it more as kind of a stage for performance than really affecting legislative debate. so i doubt that his mode of operation will be any different under this kind of personal pressure than the way he's treated it from the beginning. >> governor kasich, congressman adam kinsinger of illinois
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tweeting "matt gaetz needs to resign." why do you think more republicans aren't joining kinsinger in speaking out? >> i don't know. i've been around politics for a very long time and i've seen so many scandals. my approach is always let it play out, have it fully investigated, let the chips come down where they may. maybe that's what they're doing. i can't answer that. if you ask me about it, my sense is fully investigate. you've got the ethics committee, the fbi, all these people investigating him. get that whole thing done. like i say, over many years i've seen many scandals, both sides of the aisle. let it all play out and justice will be done. >> the investigations are continuing, as we know. ron, anyone who wondered if the republican party would cease to be the party of trump after he left the white house doesn't need to look any further than
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florida. loyalists and donors are making their allegiance known. they're going to be over at mar-a-lago, trump's resort over there big time. >> this is the reality that republicans face. it's not clear that donald trump will personally run for president again in 2024, but there is no question he remains the dominant figure in the party. if you look at the polling since the election, roughly three quarters or 80% of republicans view him as a positive force in the party. they don't blame him for january 6th. to me, that makes the critical question for the gop over these next few years, what do the one-fifth to one-fourth to maybe one-third of republicans who are uneasy about trump's influence and trump's direction, what do they do? do they accept a subordinate role in a party where trump is clearly the dominant force and republicans are not excluding
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extremists like marjorie taylor green? >> what do you think, governor? >> the party needs a positive vision. trump, they lost the house, the senate, the white house. i don't know what else they need to see. the fact is that gathering seems to be that the usual suspects, we see nothing different and we don't see hope, we don't see optimism, we don't see a game plan to improve the lives of the american people. and that's a missed opportunity. >> be sure, once again, to read ron's brand new book "rock me on the water, 1974, the year los angeles transformed movies, music, television and politics." it's a great, great read. meanwhile, coming up, a new request by fpfizer to get its covid-19 vaccine in the arms of younger americans.
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tonight, pfizer is seeking expanded authorization for its covid-19 vaccine as new infections are surging across so much of the united states. cnn's lucy kafanov has details in our pandemic report. >> reporter: pfizer is pushing to get shots into the arms of kids, now asking the fda to expand the emergency-use authorization for teenagers 12-15 years old, some of the same ages where covid-19 cases are on the rise. >> cases and emergency room visits are up. we are seeing these increases in younger adults, most of whom have not yet been vaccinated. >> reporter: it's all part of the race to outpace the spread of new variants.
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according to the cdc, more than 1 in 4 american adults, over 66 million people, are now fully vaccinated, while 112 million have received at least one dose. >> our current seven-day average is now 3 million vaccinations per day, up from 2.9 million last week. >> reporter: but the virus is also showing signs of speeding up. nearly 80,000 new cases reported yesterday, one of the highest numbers in the last two months, and 1,000 deaths. hospitalizations also edging past 42,000 for the first time in a month, the numbers going up in illinois, minnesota, wisconsin and michigan, among others. >> michigan and the midwest today and tomorrow or next week it could be the northeast or the south or another part of our country. >> reporter: another worry, scattered reports of covid-19 infecting those who have been vaccinated. diane, a minnesota nurse practitioner, who's been fully vaccinated since january, now stuck in mexico after testing
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positive for covid-19. one of 222 so-called vaccine breakthrough cases identified last week by the minnesota department of health. >> my case is definitely an o ou outlier. >> reporter: the nation's top infectious disease expert says he's not surprised. >> that number of individuals who were breakthrough infections is not at all incompatible with a 90% vaccine efficacy. >> reporter: vaccine hesitancy remains a concern, more than 1 in 5 adults say they definitely won't get the shot. meanwhile the rollout of the johnson & johnson vaccine is facing hurdles. states are bracing for a drop of
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doses. also today, vaccine advisors to the federal government tell cnn they don't foresees a s s s a astrazeneca's vaccine. several european countries halted its use temporarily. the cdc says it is aware of four states that are reporting adverse reactions to the j&j vaccine. these tend to be mild, things like feeling faint or sweating. georgia today paused j&j vaccinations at one location, colorado did too on wednesday, but the state has investigated the issue and says there's no cause for concern. >> let's discuss with our chief medical correspondent dr. sanjay gupta. nearly 80,000 cases of coronavirus reported yesterday, a thousand americans were reported to have died from the
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virus yesterday. it's pretty sad right now what's going on. what do you see happening? >> there's a situation obviously where you have these variants that are more transmissible that have become the dominant strain. i show you what's going on many michigan, for example, where you're getting 70-80% of the new infections from these variants. it's really taken over. the one on the left is last week in december and the one on the right is last week of march. the green in there in the middle is people aged 40-69. so there's a larger percentage of people who are younger in the hospital, whereas older population that is the most vulnerable shrunk because they've largely been vaccinated. that picture tells a story, wolf. it tells you more young people are becoming infected, but also that's who really needs to be vaccinated. in places like michigan,
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minnesota and other places, that's the goal right now. >> you have a truly fascinating new documentary that will air here on cnn tomorrow night entitled "the truth about vaccines." let's watch a little clip. >> when the anti-vaccine movement started as a fringe element, there was a strategic decision by the federal agencies and the scientific societies not to talk about it. the thinking was it will just give it oxygen. >> but then, what was once fringe, went mainstream. the internet and social media put the anti-vaccine movement on steroids. >> the federal agencies, the scientific societies, the academic societies all kind of stuck to their guns on the old strategy of don't give it oxygen. that had a disastrous effect because it left a vacuum that allowed this anti-vaccine lobby
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to really flourish. >> a lobby that has become well constructed, well planned and highly effective. >> they'll target specific ethnic groups where they think they can make headway. >> tonight there's alarming news about the worst outbreak of measles in minnesota. >> so they did this with the somali immigrant community. they held town hall meetings, teleconferences, convinced the somali immigrant community that vaccines cause autism. they responded by not vaccinating their kids. >> the result, 21 kids hospitalized for measles. >> tell us what we're going to learn in this new documentary tomorrow night, sanjay.
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>> where did the anti-vaccine movement originate? it's a very well-organized movement. but also we started filming this before this pandemic because of concerns about vaccine hesitancy that obviously predate this pandemic. why do a group of orthodox jews in brooklyn, why did they become more susceptible to measles, a somali community in minnesota. >> really looking forward to seeing it tomorrow night. be sure to join sanjay for his brand new special report "the truth about vaccines." it airs right here on cnn tomorrow night 9:00 p.m. eastern. just ahead, prince philip, queen elizabeth's husband of more than 70 years, died today at the age of 99. is ♪ you've got the looks ♪ ♪ let's make lots of money ♪
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tonight, president biden is remembering prince philip as a heck of a guy who never slowed down, the husband of queen elizabeth died this morning at the age of 99. cnn's max foster reports on prince philip's life and royal legacy. >> reporter: it was with great sadness that a short time ago i received word from buckingham palace that his royal highness the duke of edinburgh passed at
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the age of 99. it was the announcement that many had dreaded and hoped would never come. tributes pouring in from all over the globe for the duke of edinburgh, the longest serving consort in u.k. history, dutifully by the queen's side for more than 70 years, credited for helping steer the monarchy into a lasting institution of prominence in u.k. society. a descendant of queen victoria, philip was born into danish and greek royalty. already a decorated naval world war ii veteran when he married. >> he fought so bravely on the allied side and saved many, many men from german bombs on the ships. he was a brave and determined
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man in the navy. i think that was when he completely excelled. it was difficult for him to give that up. >> reporter: philip solidifying a royal love story for the ages, taking a back seat, publicly at least, to his wife, the queen. >> the number one job from the word go has been to, quote, support the queen. everything he does is in support of the queen. it's just been one of the great royal romances, i think, of history. >> reporter: his devotion and duty on display, whilest in private a commanding presence as patriarch of the royal family. and while always at the queen's side, finding his own stride, a renowned environmentalist long before it was publicly fashionable. he served as head of the wwf and was president of some 800 other charities, attending some 22,000 events on his own before his
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official retirement in 2017 at the age of 96. with news of his passing on friday, mourners arrived at buckingham palace and windsor castle to pay their respects to the beloved royal consort. >> this morning i was in tears. >> reporter: while the pandemic will prevent a large scale public ceremony to remember prince philip in the days to come, the legacy he leaves is everlasting. >> her majesty said that our country owed her husband a greater debt than he would ever claim or we should ever know. >> reporter: we're expecting details tomorrow, wolf, on the funeral. the queen has to sign off whatever happens. prince philip didn't want a lot of fuss and he's not going to get a lot of fuss, simply because of all the restrictions around the pandemic, but it could happen in the next week or so. >> may he rest in peace and may his memory be a blessing.
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coming up, investigators are searching for answers after a former nfl player kills five at the home of a rural south carolina doctor.
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tonight president biden announced the new gun restrictions in the united states in recent weeks. we are getting details of the deadly shootings in south carolina and texas. cnn's brian todd is tracking all of this for us. >> how many shots did you hear? >> about 20. >> reporter: from 911 calls and police accounts, at the south
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carolina home of dr. repobert leslie. former nfl player brought two guns and killing one of them and forced his way into the house and killed dr. leslie and his wife and two of their grandchildren, ages five and nine. >> we have four down. >> reporter: something adams left at the leslie home led investigators believe he was the gunman. they tracked adam about a quarter mile away where he was barricaded. after a standoff lasting hours, police found adam dead from a self-inflicted gun wounds. what police are not discussing is a motive. >> there is nothing about this makes sense to any of us. >> reporter: adam's father had been a patient of leslie and spoke about his son's demise to
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a local tv station. >> he was a good kid. i think the football messed him up. >> reporter: police in bryant, texas don't have a motive for a shooting there. they do say the suspect in yesterday's shooting identified as larry bollin, an employee at the company. he was later taken into custody. a state trooper was shot and wounded while pursuing him. from march of last year to this year, there was only one public mass shooting to the u.s. according to the database compiled. in the span of six days two public mass shootings in atlanta and colorado. >> is the whining down of the
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pandemic making mass shooting more? >> reporter: the texas shootings came after biden announced executive actions on gun control. kits that people can buy to build untraceable guns at home. >> anyone from a criminal or terrorists can buy this kit. >> reporter: biden's executive action have limited impact. analyst says he got an uphill to climb to get tough on guns. >> it is going to be difficult to put forward major assault weapons banned in the united states. president biden wants to ban high-capacity magazines. there is little appetite among republicans or democrats in congress to enact stricter gun laws. wolf. >> brian, thank you, we'll have
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. i am wolf blitzer in "the situation room," you can tweet the show and follow us on instagram and facebook. erin burnett with "out front" starts now. >> plus, matt gaetz about to give his first public speech since we learned whether the justice department is looking into whether he had a sexual relationship with minors. the governor where the covid cases are surging, pleading for more vaccines. the administration is saying no. let's go "out front." tonight george


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