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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Deadly Lessons: 24 Hours in Chicago
Aired June 2, 2007 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening from the south side of Chicago. A tough neighborhood with strong people reeling from a killing spree that cannot be ignored.
I want to show you a picture that explains why we're here -- several pictures, actually. These are eight young people, eight out of at least 28 public Chicago public school kids killed so far this school year. Killed, we should point out, mainly by other kids.
Some came from broken homes, others had solid families behind them.
One dead child is too many; 28 is an outrage.
Things have gotten so bad here and elsewhere in America that these kids' deaths don't even make headlines anymore.
Their names should be known, their lives should be honored, their deaths should be remembered.
Tonight we'll try to understand what is happening to kids here in Chicago and urban communities across the country. There are no easy answers, the problems are too important to ignore.
The latest victim was killed here in Chicago. Desiree Smith, the third student from her school killed this academic year.
Something is happening in Chicago and nationwide.
Tonight on this special edition of 360, we're trying to get some answers. Finding out why kids are dying and what's being done to stop it. These are kids who had lives and they had families and names. One of them was Blair Holt.
Here's CNN's David Mattingly.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Midnight, May 10, Blair Holt stayed up late on a school night, possibly to work on his next rap song.
MATTINGLY: These are the words and beat of a streetwise kid from the rough-and-tumble South side of Chicago. Just 16, he had already seen a lifetime of violent death. ANNETTE NANCE-HOLT, MOTHER: It had been quite a few kids lately who had been killed by gunfire, at least three that have been killed by gunfire in the neighborhood. And he knew them, because Blair grew up from a baby in that neighborhood. They knew him.
MATTINGLY: But knowing them was one thing. Becoming one of them, a gang-banger, was a line Blair never dared to cross. His police officer father and firefighter mother made sure of that.
A. HOLT: Well, I always told Blair, you know, be careful who is around you. Always watch your surroundings, because you can have somebody who is in a gang who is around you, you know, and they could -- they never seem to hit who they was aiming for, anyway, I mean.
And Blair would be like: I know, ma. I know, ma.
MATTINGLY: And it was a message his parents say they reinforced every day. College was going to be Blair's way out. And, at 7:00 a.m., just like every other morning, his mother says she took him on a 15-minute drive to school, dropping him off with these words of encouragement.
A. HOLT: Whatever do you today, do good. When you go to school, do good.
MATTINGLY: They were instructions that Blair took to heart. He made good grades and found a talent for rap, adopting the stage name Bizzy B.
He walked through the metal detectors at the school entrance almost 45 minutes early. This was his time, time to socialize, time to make plans.
(on camera): One of Blair's favorite things to do before class was to meet up with his friends and go over the lyrics he had written the night before. Sometimes, they would talk about the future, about going into the music business. His parents say Blair set a very lofty goal for himself. He wanted to be a star.
A. HOLT: When I'm famous, I'm going to buy you a brand new 745, because I know you love that car. He told me that. He said, don't worry. Don't worry. I'm going to buy you a brand-new one.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): But Blair's parents did worry. They became increasingly troubled, as violence made headlines, and the death toll among Chicago's school-age children continued to rise.
(on camera): As you are seeing these terrible things happen to other families, did you ever think that it would come into your own lives?
RONALD HOLT, FATHER: No.
A. HOLT: No.
R. HOLT: Not -- and you couldn't have told me, convinced me, in a million years, that we would be experiencing this, and going through this, no way, no how.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Throughout the Thursday classes, students talked about final exams. The end of the school year was at hand. Soon, Blair would be a senior.
And when the 3:00 bell sounded at the end of the day, there was no reason to believe that anything was standing in the way of Blair Holt realizing all of his dreams.
He then boarded a city bus bound for his grandparents' store, where he worked every afternoon.
(on camera): This is the beginning of what was supposed to be a 40-minute ride, 40 minutes that always made his mom nervous, because it was one of the few times that Blair was on the go without his parents' supervision.
A. HOLT: Yes, I would call my mother and go, is Blair there yet?
I said, as soon as he walks through that door, call me.
R. HOLT: Yes, that -- that day, he didn't have -- I think his cell phone wasn't working. And I would always call his cell phone...
A. HOLT: Right.
R. HOLT: ... after school. I says, Blair, call me to let me know that you made it to the store.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): When Blair took a seat with fellow students, he might have been thinking about new lyrics he had put to paper, his hardest-hitting yet, a dark and angry rap about gangs and young lives that ended too soon.
He even wondered if his own life might end violently at the hands of street thugs, saying, "They won't stop until my mother is grieving."
A. HOLT: He was just talking about how life is. And, I mean, that's what a lot of young black males feel, what life is like for them. It's like no hope. And, I mean, he had hope, but he was writing how he feels.
MATTINGLY: 3:20 on a Thursday afternoon, early in May, Blair Holt was almost halfway through the 40-minute bus ride from his school to his grandparents' store.
The bus made a regular stop, but this time the passenger who boarded was, according to police, a gang member looking to settle a score. He allegedly pulled a .40 caliber semiautomatic handgun and fired wildly, missing his intended victim, but hitting innocent bystanders. If it all weren't so horrifyingly real, Blair Holt might have found a way to work it into a new rap song, but all he had time for were a few simple words.
R. HOLT: He said, tell my mother and father that I love them. And he said -- she said that he threw up the peace sign.
A. HOLT: He knew he wouldn't come home to me, but he still got me a message because I felt that I didn't have any closure with him.
MATTINGLY: In all, five students were shot and a community was stunned. Blair was hit worst of all. Shot in the chest, there was a lot of internal bleeding. Blair Holt died that night at 9:03.
(On camera): The young man who dreamed of becoming a rap star had become shooting victim number 20 in a deadly Chicago school year. But soon everyone would hear of something remarkable that happened at the scene of this crime, something that would transform Blair Holt into much more than just a sad statistic.
Because of what you two do, the two of you know what it means to put your life on the line. You do that as a matter of duty.
R. HOLT: Yes.
A. HOLT: Without thinking.
R. HOLT: Yes.
MATTINGLY: But what your son did, that was different, wasn't it?
A. HOLT: Oh, my God.
R. HOLT: T hat was different. That was different, and that was extremely, of course, personal. And...
A. HOLT: My hero. My hero.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): When the bullets started flying, this 16-year-old, his dad a policeman and his mom a firefighter, grabbed a classmate and pulled her out of the line of fire, saving her life.
TIARA REED, SHOOTING VICTIM: I remember him pulling me and throwing me on the seat. And I remember getting shot in the leg. And then everything, it just went -- I felt the pain, and then that was it.
MATTINGLY: Thanks to Blair, Tiara Reed lived to tell her story.
But Blair had no time to protect himself. He was the only one on the bus to die. And his parents decided it was time to take a stand.
R. HOLT: Not having my son, not -- not having my son, because it hurts. And I'm going to be strong for him. I'm going to be strong for him, no matter what, no matter what, because that's what he wants. And that's what he's going to get. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Blair, we walking for you. Blair, we walking for you.
MATTINGLY: Students and parents at Blair's high school protested, demanding safe passage to and from school.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Put the guns down!
MATTINGLY: Then, another protest, this one at a neighborhood gun shop. The fame Blair Holt dreamed about in life came to him that violent day he died in Chicago. He became a symbol for a community tired of the killing.
(on camera): Your son was number 20. If we had been paying this much attention to child number one...
R. HOLT: Yes.
A. HOLT: Right, we would be...
MATTINGLY: ... would we be talking today?
A. HOLT: No.
R. HOLT: Probably not.
A. HOLT: No, because, like I said, so many people take for granted...
R. HOLT: Yes.
A. HOLT: ... what's happening in the black community. And it's not always gang-related. It's -- it's really not. A lot of people who are getting killed are innocent.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Blair's anger about the violence lives on in his music.
"When I'm gone," he said, "I don't want to be forgotten. Every time I turn around, bodies is dropping." They're the lyrics he wrote, but never had a chance to record. And some now wonder, was he right when he predicted an end to the killing by saying, "They won't stop until my mother is grieving?"
A. HOLT: No matter who you are, what color you are, or what demographics you come from, we got to wake up. We got to wake up, because it's my child today. It might be yours tomorrow.
MATTINGLY: David Mattingly, CNN, Chicago.
(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: And we're joined by Ronald Holt. He's the father of Blair. He's also a Chicago policeman assigned to the organized crime unit. He joins me now, along with CNN Contributor Roland Martin.
Mr. Holt, I'm so sorry for your loss.
R. HOLT: Thank you.
COOPER: How are you, and how is your wife doing?
R. HOLT: Under the circumstances, there's a -- we're holding up. There's a lot of sadness, a lot of sorrow.
His mom, Annette, she's -- she's holding it together the -- under the circumstances. You have to understand, she -- she lost her only child. We lost our only child. And that sadness and sorrow has -- has resonated throughout our family structure, friends that were close to him, schoolmates, everything, everyone.
COOPER: And, I mean, your son did everything right. Your son was a great student. He was going to school.
R. HOLT: Yes.
COOPER: He was -- 45 minutes, he went to school early.
R. HOLT: Yes.
COOPER: You -- his wife -- you know, your wife took him to school.
R. HOLT: Yes, that's correct.
COOPER: What's happening here?
R. HOLT: Well, what you see is, you have 28 killings, 28 murders within the last school year, 21 within a -- over the span of just beginning this year.
That's like two -- two murders of teenagers a week. And that is a total of just 28 too many. You have what you call a situation in the environment at the home level, where parents, you wonder how they're raising their children.
You wonder, are they doing a good job with these type -- with children who find themselves out on the streets in gangs, carrying guns, things of that nature? And that is a concern in our communities. So, that has to be addressed. And it has to be addressed as soon as possible, because...
COOPER: And it's -- I mean, it's kids who are just getting caught in the crossfire.
R. HOLT: Yes.
COOPER: I mean, your son wasn't involved with that. R. HOLT: No, he was on his way home -- I'm sorry -- he was on his way to grandparents' store, like he normally did just about every day.
And he was on the bus with some other schoolmates. And then this other person got on the bus and shot him.
COOPER: Roland, you live here. What's going on? How do you explain it?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Whether it's Chicago, whether it's Houston, whether it's Oakland, there's a generation of folks who do not value life.
And they choose to be involved in a crime. And there are a number of factors. You could talk about poverty. You could talk about economics. You could talk about education.
But what I prefer to focus on is the fact that the individuals who allegedly killed Blair, they have parents. And, at some point, you have to understand what your kids are doing. At some point, they have to understand it's about life.
I hear people talk about, well, you know, in terms of what whites have done over the years, and slavery. The fact of the matter is, I never had anybody white make me pull a trigger, never had me kill somebody who was African-American.
And, so, at some point, we have to have some responsibility. And we also have to deal with the fact that you have too many sperm donors in the black community. You have individuals who are not a father.
This is a father. This is a daddy. There are some people who have impregnated women and they left them. So, you have a generation of boys who flat-out don't understand what it means to be disciplined, who don't understand what it means to grow up to be a boy and to become a man. That is a fundamental issue that we have to confront.
COOPER: I mean, how does one go about confronting that? What -- you know, there's talking about it, and, then, what -- what can you actually do about it?
MARTIN: It's -- look, the concept is, what are you prepared to do? And that is, what can you do in your space?
And, so, in terms of what Mr. Holt is doing, and what his wife is doing, but what our churches and community groups are doing, it's a matter of saying, OK, how do we begin to pick up trash, how to begin to talk to him -- talk to them, how do we begin to have nonviolent sort of classes and seminars within school to deal with anger management, because you have kids who are going to school angry, upset, and who, the moment they walk into the door, they -- they have gone through so much just to get there, they begin to internalize that, and then begins to project on the rest of the students. COOPER: You talked about wanting to stay strong for your son.
R. HOLT: Yes. Yes. Yes.
Actually, this is -- I -- we get through the day. I get through it. You know, Blair had such a strength, that, when we lost them, I kind of -- his strength had kind of transferred to me as well.
And, you know, I just kind of advocate that, like Roland said here, you have to identify at-risk families, and you have to really identify them as quick as possible, because you need to find out what's going on inside of those homes, before that problem comes out on to the street, and someone else meets their fate, like -- like my son did.
And then you had four other people who were shot on that bus as well. I feel for those families just as well. Then you have got the -- the offenders who are now in jail. Their lives are ruined. They are going to be in jail for the rest of their lives.
So, it is a catastrophic effect for an entire community.
MARTIN: That's right.
R. HOLT: An entire community is affected by this one instance.
MARTIN: That's right.
R. HOLT: You not only, of course, have my son's life that was lost. Again, four other students were shot. They're psychologically damaged.
COOPER: It ripples out.
R. HOLT: It ripples out. So, then you have to...
MARTIN: Now people are more scared, more fearful.
R. HOLT: Exactly. You know, they're -- they're -- and we have to do what I say. We have to create a safe passage for them.
That means you're going to have to have organizations like the churches. You're going to have to have block clubs.
MARTIN: That's right.
R. HOLT: You're going to have to have these schools, the police department create a collective partnership to solve this problem.
MARTIN: ... take back the neighborhood.
R. HOLT: Yes. Yes.
(CROSSTALK) MARTIN: ... got to take them back.
R. HOLT: Exactly.
MARTIN: ... have to take them back.
R. HOLT: You're going to have to have more men, more responsible men who are going to come out into the community...
MARTIN: That's right.
R. HOLT: ... and become more responsible, and step to the forefront, and start mentoring these kids again.
And we're going to have to create programs that are going to help these at-risk families...
MARTIN: That's right.
R. HOLT: ... where these single parents know...
R. HOLT: ... that they have -- that they have a child that may be a problem and may be a threat to the community.
And we need organizations that can address that before that happens.
COOPER: I know you're -- you're proud of Blair and what he did.
R. HOLT: Oh, yes, yes.
COOPER: And he would be proud of you for what you plan to do...
R. HOLT: Well, I'm more proud of Blair, because, in his death, he exemplified courage, bravery. He did everything right.
And he was absolutely -- I say he was martyred, in such a humble sense. I would say that our little boy was -- was pretty much like the Martin Luther King of -- of that situation. And we're proud of him. And we miss him. And we love him, so -- and we love him very much. And we miss him.
COOPER: Straight ahead, four students with plenty to say about the killings in this community.
Also, these stories.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) COOPER (voice-over): A mother hit hard.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were bodies that were found along that fence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right there, that fence there and right up in here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here?
COOPER: Her neighborhood changes. She tries to cope, but she leaves to find a better life. So why does she keep on coming back.
And kids killing kids, armed to the teeth.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are 70,000 plus illegal weapons in this room, including more than 11,000 that were confiscated in the calendar year 2006 alone.
COOPER: A story about guns, but also courage. Keeping them honest with people trying to save Chicago's future. "Deadly Lessons: 24 hours in Chicago."
COOPER (on camera): For young people and for the family members who love them, those numbers are alarming. So why is it happening? I spoke with four students. All had something to say about the killings and their community. All of them grew up here on the south side.
Delano Taylor, Jamal Boyd, Corron Dotson and Shatara Burgin.
COOPER: How many know someone who has been shot?
All of you.
How about someone who has been robbed?
How many of you have been in a gang?
What was the appeal of being in a gang for you?
SHATARA BURGIN, CHICAGO STUDENT: Sometimes it got a lot to do, like what's going on in your household, like you want to -- want to feel like the extra family like. Sometimes you don't always feel like your family understand, but like your peers would.
COOPER: So the gang -- the gang becomes like a family?
BURGIN: Right. Like the extended family, like someone you can always be around.
COOPER: What do you think it is that's -- why have 28 kids been killed this year? DELANO TAYLOR, CHICAGO STUDENT: Money.
What is it about respect?
TAYLOR: And pride.
COOPER: In that desire for respect, that need to show respect, does that lead to violence?
CORRON DOTSON, CHICAGO STUDENT: Yes. Everybody always got to feel like they got to prove something, prove they tougher than this person. You could be the toughest person in the world, there's going to always be somebody to say, well I'm tougher than you or I'm stronger than you or I deserve more respect. Just all for, like you said, pride or you know, got that mentality. So when you got somebody that got that mentality and two people got it, it's going to cause violence, and it's going to cause conflict.
COOPER: When you walk down the street, are you scared?
JAMAL BOYD, CHICAGO STUDENT: I ain't going to say scared, but you know, I'm just more aware of my surroundings all the time. So, you know, I'm not trying to be a victim again.
COOPER: You just got robbed?
BOYD: Yes. Sunday night.
COOPER: Sunday night you got...
COOPER: How easy is it to get guns?
TAYLOR: Real easy.
COOPER: If any of you wanted to gun, you think you could?
BURGIN: I wouldn't know.
BOYD: Like I say, money talks. Is money. You know what I'm saying. (CROSSTALK)
TAYLOR: I can get a gun.
BOYD: Money is everything basically. It ain't everything, but it's mostly everything.
BURGIN: You don't even have to be a older person to get a gun or get drugs because they don't care. They sell it to young people, they sell it anybody. Just like you said, if you have money -- if you're 10 years old and you got money for a gun, somebody will sell to you.
COOPER: So who's fault is -- is what's happening? I mean, if 28 kids get killed, whose fault is it?
BURGIN: It's all gang-related, to me.
COOPER: All gang related?
BOYD: I think there's going to be good and going to be evil. I think it is life.
COOPER: So it's just the way it is.
BURGIN: Just the way it is. Their life.
COOPER: Head of the school system, Artie Duncan, said that the rest of the country hasn't really paid attention to the 28 deaths here in Chicago. That if the kids who died were white and were in some rich suburb, there would be headlines in all of the papers and on the TV shows and people would be up in arms saying what's go on? What's going on? But the fact that, you know, it's kids, black kids in the inner city, people aren't paying attention.
DOTSON: You hear more about a lot of things in the newspaper more about white people than you hear about black people or Chinese people, you know, like different cultures.
It's just like, it's like we're not there -- it's like sometimes we're invisible. Like you don't hear about it. You -- like you need to be warned about oh yes, it's 28 kids just died of this you know?
COOPER: Do you feel that sometimes like you're invisible?
DOTSON: Sometimes. Yes.
BURGIN: If you never would have told us there were 28 kids...
DOTSON: I wouldn't have known.
BURGIN: ... I wouldn't have known that 28 kids got murdered.
COOPER: Is there a problem in the black community in terms of violence? Is there an acceptance of violence? Do people think this is the norm?
BURGIN: Well, you look at a black movie, what do you see? You see drug dealers and you see gang bangers. So how else -- how else can everybody around you in different cultures get idea of you if this is the kind of movie that you make or if this is what they see? You hear what I'm saying? Like if -- if that's all they see us doing in our movies, when we make a movie, why can't we make a regular kind of movie like most of the rap stars.
COOPER: So the message is from movies and from rappers is reinforcing this negativity.
BURGIN: That's right. That's kind of how they portray us. You know what I'm saying? Because we don't always live up to our full potential, you know what I mean?
COOPER: Is it hard to maintain that sense of dignity, that sense of respect?
BURGIN: No, not for me. Because I have my own respect and my own dignity, whether anybody likes it or not.
COOPER: You have a baby, right?
BURGIN: I have a son. He's 7 months.
COOPER: Seven months?
COOPER: Do you want to raise him here in Chicago?
BURGIN: No sir, not at all. I feel like by the time -- by the time he get ready to go to school, I don't feel like I want him to be in the city. Not even in the city of Chicago. I feel like I can be somewhere much better. We can have a better environment and better surrounding, you know? I don't want him to be in Chicago.
COOPER: Just ahead on this special of 360, we'll introduce you to a mother who is raising five girls here in Chicago. She went to enormous lengths to keep them safe, but discovered even that was not enough.
Coming up the difficult decision she made and what it's meant for her family when "Deadly Lessons: 24 Hours in Chicago" continues.
COOPER: Welcome back to "Deadly Lessons: 24 Hours in Chicago." As we've been telling you, at least 28 Chicago public school kids have been murdered this school year.
Think about that for a moment. If 28 white suburban kids were killed in a school year, wouldn't you have heard of it by now? Wouldn't it make national headlines?
The head of the Chicago public schools thinks it would. We'll talk to him in a moment.
Even in Chicago's toughest neighborhoods, parents do what they can to protect their kids. Many escort them to school. That's what one mom did until the day she decided enough was enough.
Here's CNN's Keith Oppenheim.
KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's mid- afternoon, about 3 o'clock, when Towanda Pore begins an exhausting routine. It wasn't always this way.
Early in the spring, she didn't drive. Instead, she walked, a kind of crossing guard, escorting her five daughters five blocks from school to home, a moving shield.
TOWANDA PORE, PARENT: A lot of stuff don't happen if a parent were there.
OPPENHEIM (on camera): If you're the watch dog.
T. PORE: If you're the watch dog.
OPPENHEIM (voice-over): Towanda and her husband, Steven, have seen a lot of change here in Austin, a neighborhood on Chicago's west side.
T. PORE: Everybody was friendly.
OPPENHEIM: There was a great school nearby, the Spencer Matthews Science Academy.
T. PORE: Hi.
OPPENHEIM: Towanda volunteered there regularly, deeply committed to her girls' education and their safety. But that routine came apart last summer.
(on camera): There were bodies that were found along that fence?
T. PORE: Right there. That fence there, and right over here.
T. PORE: Yes.
OPPENHEIM: OK. (voice-over): In the lot right across the street from Towanda's home, two young men were shot and killed in two separate gang-related incidents. But it didn't stop there. Steadily, the Austin neighborhood got more and more violent.
Daughter Tamirah said last year, a boy in her high school, shot and killed.
TAMIRAH PORE, STUDENT: It was devastating. You see him one day, and next day you hear he's just gone.
OPPENHEIM: And then last November a 14-year-old student at their school, the Spencer Academy, was killed in a drive-by shooting.
CAROLYN PALMER, PRINCIPAL, SPENCER ACADEMY: Now tell me...
OPPENHEIM: Carolyn Palmer, Spencer Academy's principal, told me security officers and staff can only protect a tight perimeter.
PALMER: We try to keep whatever happens within our boundaries, something that we can control. But we cannot control within a block away.
OPPENHEIM: For Towanda Pore, the shootings were all closing in on her children. It was terrifying to let the girls out of her sight.
(on camera): What was it like for you to see that reaction on their faces that there had been shootings right across the street?
TOWANDA PORE: I was scared. I -- you know, I knew that I had to do something to get away.
OPPENHEIM (voice-over): So earlier this spring, Towanda and her husband bought a house in a place they could afford. It took them 60 miles away to Kankakee, Illinois.
And that brings us back to Towanda's exhausting routine. She believes in the Spencer Academy and decided not to disrupt her girls' classes. So she now leaves home just after 6 a.m., drives her five girls an hour and a half to school, back and forth every day.
TOWANDA PORE: Yes, it was hard to leave, because my kids, they -- they didn't want to go at all.
OPPENHEIM: Next year her kids will go to school in Kankakee, near their new home.
Towanda knows other parents in Austin disagree with her, believing there's still a community here worth fighting for. But who else, she asks, can really protect her kids?
(on camera): Do the deaths of Chicago public school kids, did that add to your wanting to move?
TOWANDA PORE: Yes. It's like, you know, I wanted to take my kids somewhere where they won't have to worry about that. OPPENHEIM: Keith Oppenheim, CNN, Chicago.
COOPER: In a moment, the man in charge of Chicago schools. That and more as our special report continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER (voice-over): And kids killing kids, armed to the teeth.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are 70,000 plus illegal weapons in this room, including more than 11,000 that were confiscated in the calendar year of 2006 alone.
COOPER: A story about guns, but also courage. We're keeping them honest with the people trying to save Chicago's future.
Plus, he's seen and done it all on Chicago's hardest streets. Then he did hard time and turned his life around.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't care about life then. Now I love life.
COOPER: How and why he left the streets behind. 360's "Deadly Lessons: 24 Hours in Chicago."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER (on camera): Chicago's high school seniors are going to be graduating in the coming weeks and it should be a time of joy, but for some families it's only going to bring pain. More than two dozen school kids have been shot, stabbed or strangled to death this school year. Not on school property, but on the way to school or on the way home or even in their homes.
Some believe the violence would make national headlines if the victims were from a white suburb.
Arne Duncan oversees the entire system and had this to say, quote, "these are inner city kids from Chicago and people see their lives as less valuable."
I spoke to Arne earlier.
COOPER: What is going on here? You and I were talking before. You said it's insanity.
ARNE DUNCAN, HEAD OF CHICAGO SCHOOLS: For me it's a definition of insanity. There's so much to be proud of here. You know, best year ever academically. Violence is down 21 percent this year in the schools. There's so much that's going right. But the fact our children have to live in such fear to me is absolutely crazy. I think as a society, we value our right to bear arms more than we value our children. And it makes so sense whatsoever.
COOPER: It does seem that, you know, after a while you start to think of this as normal. It's happened so much. And then you've got to stop yourself and say, you know what? This is not normal. Twenty- eight deaths is not normal. What's happening, not only in Chicago but around the country.
DUNCAN: It's crazy. You interviewed Blair Holt's dad just a few moments ago. Someone came up to say, oh, I am so sorry about that. Unfortunately, Blair was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I said that is absolutely wrong. He was in the right place at the right time. It was 3 o'clock in the afternoon. He was going home from school on the bus. How can he not be safe there?
COOPER: How do you go about changing this? I mean, obviously, you can't. You're head of the schools. But what do you think?
DUNCAN: Well, I think, again, just the availability of guns is absolutely crazy here. The mayor has worked so hard on this. But why should people have assault weapons. We had a young girl killed last year, AK-47 bullet, goes in the window, 7:30 in the morning, in her living room. She falls dead.
We have to get the guns off the streets. We have to put people behind bars who have guns and shouldn't have them. It should be an automatic felony.
And why should people have the right to buy 100 guns at a time? Just some very common sense things to reduce the number of guns and take them out of the people's hands who should not have them.
COOPER: It's obviously a very contentious issue. You know, some -- a lot of the kids, though -- not the majority, but some of these kids are not getting shot. They're getting strangled and they're getting stabbed. Is there -- is there a culture of violence that's the problem?
DUNCAN: Overwhelming majority are kids who have been shot dead. And again, this is a national issue, whether it's, you know, Chicago, whether it's Columbine, whether it's Virginia Tech.
What's the common denominator to this massive tragedy? It's guns. People should not have guns.
And Anderson, this doesn't happen in other countries. I spent four years in Australia. Doesn't happen in Australia. Doesn't happen in Japan. Doesn't happen in England. Why? Because they value their children more than we do here in America.
COOPER: You think that's true? You think America doesn't value its kids? DUNCAN: I'm absolutely convinced our priorities are 100 percent out of whack. Somehow, this is an acceptable level of loss. And I'm trying to say it's absolutely unacceptable.
COOPER: Do you think that the fact that it is happening to African-Americans affects the way people see it, that other people who see it in the paper, oh, a young black kid has been killed, and they immediately write it off?
DUNCAN: I do. And it's a tough to say. We've lost 21 students in 40 weeks who have been shot dead here in Chicago. That's a child every two weeks. That's a staggering number.
And just think, Anderson. If that happened in one of Chicago's wealthiest suburbs, and God forbid it ever did. But if there's a child being shot dead every two weeks in Hinsdale or Natka (ph) or Barrington, do you think the status quo would remain? There's no way it would. All hell would break loose.
COOPER: And yet it still continues here. Twenty-eight deaths so far. Arne Duncan, appreciate your being with us. Thanks for all of your hard work.
COOPER: Just ahead on 360, one man's mission to keep Chicago's kids off the mean streets and safe. How he is turning young lives around.
Plus, more voices from Chicago on the violence that's destroying so many young lives. Who and what is to blame and what's it going to take to stop the killing? When "Deadly Lessons: 24 Hours in Chicago" continues.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Randi Kaye. We'll get back to "Deadly Lessons: 24 Hours in Chicago" in just a minute.
But first, a look at the headlines. We're learning more tonight about the TB patient who touched off an international health scare. Andrew speaker says he has proof on tape that U.S. health officials never ordered him not to travel. Just hours ago, CNN obtained a letter in which health officials now say they quote, "strongly recommended" that Speaker postpone his trip.
Only the first day of the hurricane season and we are already keeping a sharp eye on some nasty weather. Tropical Storm Barry is in the Gulf of Mexico, heading for Florida. Heavy winds and rains are expected to hit the sunshine state in the next 24 to 36 hours, but there is little chance it will grow into a hurricane.
A top Cuban official tells CNN his boss is practically fully recovered. Fidel Castro has been in rehab since major intestinal surgery last August. Since then, Castro's brother Raul has been handling the day-to-day affairs of government. And former Republican Senator Fred Thompson made his first formal move today toward a run for the White House. The "Law and Order" star filed the paperwork in his home state of Tennessee to create a fundraising committee. If Thompson does decide to run for president, he will now be able to seek money to test the waters for a White House bid.
Those are the headlines. "Deadly Lessons: 24 hours in Chicago" continues in a moment.
COOPER: According to the Brady campaign, nearly 2,000 children and teenagers were murdered by guns in the U.S. in 2004.
Here in Chicago, gangs and gun violence are surging in some neighborhoods, as we've been telling you. Many of the victims are kids.
But guns on the streets may be just part of the problem behind the bloodshed.
CNN's Gary Tuchman is keeping them honest.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's 8 p.m.
PHILLIP HAMPTON, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY RELATIONS, CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Watch it all the way in your glove.
TUCHMAN: Sunset baseball practice and a coach who wants his kids to stay alive. Phillip Hampton, who is also the director of community relations for Chicago's public schools, believes sports help keep kids out of trouble and blames a lack of morals and adult guidance for contributing to youth violence.
HAMPTON: We all need to look at ourselves and see, am I doing what's best? Am I providing the kind of level of support that our children need?
TUCHMAN: But support doesn't come with guarantees. Seventeen- year-old Christopher Pineda was murdered in March, his body found in a canal. There was no known motive or suspects. He lived with a doting mother and siblings and was to graduate high school next week.
INGRID PINEDA, VICTIM'S SISTER: You know, you just want to see him come home again. So you still can't believe he's not with you.
TUCHMAN: We asked Chicagoans to reflect on what's causing all this.
The violent video game and music culture gets mentioned often. So does the continuing demolition of Chicago housing projects, which displaces poor families. And the head of the police gang intelligence unit will tell you easy access to weapons is a problem that doesn't go away.
COMMANDER NICHOLAS ROTI, CHICAGO POLICE: The guns are a tool used by gangs to further their agenda.
TUCHMAN: Reverend Jesse Jackson led a protest outside a suburban Chicago gun shop that's been named a defendant in gun suits filed by the city.
John Riggio is the store's manager.
JOHN RIGGIO, GUN STORE MANAGER: Well, I've never actually seen a firearm shoot by itself.
REV. JESSE JACKSON, ACTIVIST: People should be able to buy guns to hunt, guns on reservations, done in restrictive conditions. But you don't hunt deer and rabbit with AK-47s.
TUCHMAN: Chicago police have a warehouse where they confiscate almost as many guns annually as much larger New York City.
(on camera): There are 70,000 plus illegal weapons in this room, including more than 11,000 that were confiscated in the calendar year 2006 alone.
One of them is this one. This is called a Mack 90 Sporter. It's an automatic rifle with a 30 round magazine. It's considered an assault weapon by Chicago police who don't exactly see much of a need for it in this city.
(voice-over): But it's not just guns that are used. And that's why this police commander feels there is a different common denominator.
ROTI: I would say there's now a general lack for respect of authority that is more than it used to be.
TUCHMAN: Will the trend improve in this city? The people who love these children can only hope so.
Gary Tuchman, CNN, Chicago.
COOPER: If the trend is to improve, there must be a plan to bring down the levels of violence.
I recently sat down with the mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley.
COOPER: How do you go about changing this? I mean 28 public high school students killed in this school year alone. It's -- is there something you can do about it?
MAYOR RICHARD DALEY, CHICAGO: Well, there's 30,000 people killed a year in the United States. Does it alarm anyone? I guess it doesn't. Eighty a day. America lives with violence on a daily basis unfortunately. And that's why I firmly believe there has to be more gun control.
COOPER: It goes beyond just guns. A number of these kids were killed -- Desiree Smith was strangled. A number of these kids have been strangled. So it's not just guns. It seems like there is a growing culture of violence, especially among young people.
Do you attribute it to -- do you attribute it to society at large? Do you attribute it to movies? To you attribute it to TV? So much violence -- people see so much violence in society, nothing really shocks them anymore. That's the thing I'm frightened about. And I think people should be shocked. People should be marching. People should be looking under the beds, in the closets, of anybody in a home who has a gun and take the gun and say we don't want this gun in this home.
COOPER: So you know, we talked to a bunch of kids who live on the south side, who say, you know, they're afraid to walk on the street, afraid to go to school.
DALEY: They should have their families -- get their families out. Get their fathers and mothers. You have community policing. You get the principals, get the teachers. Let them walk -- let them walk their kids to school.
COOPER: And that's your message to -- to those kids?
DALEY: No, the message to society. Everybody has a responsibility. Parents have to stand up to those that want to take their children away from their home and from their church.
Chicago police has community policing. Our crime rate is going down. Our murder rate is going down. But one murder is one too many. It's unacceptable. And that's what you have to do. It just can't be the police. It can't be somebody else's problem. It's everybody's problem. You do it block by block in the city. That's the only way you can basically rebuild your city is community policing, saying I live here, this is my block, drug dealers and gang bangers don't belong here.
COOPER: So to stop the 29th or 30th child from dying this year, it's not necessarily something law enforcement can do, it's something that communities have to do?
DALEY: Both of them have to do it. Law enforcement and community together have to do it. It isn't one person doing it, it's all together.
COOPER: Thank you very much.
DALEY: Thank you.
(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Still ahead on 360, in a city where too many kids are dying, a much needed refuge, a place that's turning young lives around and the remarkable man who is making a big difference. Next, on 360.
COOPER: We're on Chicago's south side. It's easy to see the heartache here. It's tougher sometimes to find the hope. But you can, even if it means traveling a rough road to get there.
COOPER (voice-over): It's 10 p.m. Kids are hanging out on the streets here. In fact, you can find them at all hours.
Listen to their stories. What's perhaps most disturbing is how they're so matter of fact, so hardened.
LEWIS MEYERS, 19 YEARS OLD: Last summer I caught a robbery case, aggravated battery case, got locked up in Cook County Jail.
JULIAN DAGGETT, 19 YEARS OLD: All you thinking about is meeting women, riding on rims, jewelry, smoking weed, drinking liquor, getting money. That's all you think about. You don't care about life.
COOPER: Death, witnessing it or fearing it is a way of life here.
DAGGETT: My best friend got shot. As soon as I walked in the store, some guy rode up on a bike, shot him two times in the head. That's it.
COOPER: It's as if violence, either being a violent offender or being a victim of violence or both has overwhelmed how these kids think and act.
DEXTER VOISIN, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO: The kids are really symptom bearers of a larger social problem.
COOPER: Here at the University of Chicago, Associate Professor Dexter Voisin recently surveyed 600 Chicago public high school students. Listen to what he learned.
One in four kids said they were victims of a robbery or mugging. Half -- that's right, half -- witnessed a gang-related death.
VOISIN: Violence was linked to multiple youth problems, psychological distress, low school achievement, gang involvement, and risky sexual behaviors.
COOPER: 19-year-old Julian Daggett says he turned to gangs five years ago. He was 14. His single mom worked and he wanted support. He fell in with a violent gang.
DAGGETT: She got tired of people coming to our house looking for me, wanting to kill me. And she just put me out. My lowest point was sleeping in the hallway.
COOPER: Soon he was busted on drug charges, spent a year in jail and he reverted back from a tough guy to a needy child.
DAGGETT: Tough as superman in the streets. But in jail, I was like a little baby. I wanted Mama then.
COOPER: Though Julian rarely attended school, by chance one day he met Harold Davis.
HAROLD DAVIS, AMER-I-CAN ENTERPRIES II: When I saw him and talked to him, I saw some leadership qualities in him.
COOPER: Davis grew up in the projects. He's now a contractor whose company fixes run down school auditoriums, and he hires at-risk kids.
A company van picks this group up after school to take them to work.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a lot of gang bangers at our house...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come around our neighborhood. So we just -- he just picked us up so we could be safe.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It ain't very safe walking around.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Especially not down 51st.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Getting a job is helping us a lot, you know, keeping us out of trouble.
COOPER: Of the 100 students he's hired, Davis says most are in gangs or affiliated with them. Many have criminal or drug backgrounds. Some are already parents. And all come from broken homes.
DAVIS: What we try to do, along with restoring the seats, we try to restore the mindset to thinking right.
COOPER: They earn $10 an hour to start and can get a scholarship to a local trade school.
DAGGETT: They put the stain on it already, but it was too light, so I'm making it a little bit darker.
COOPER: Julian's been employed by Davis for two years. And Davis says since he started hiring at-risk kids three years ago, he's lost only one kid back to the streets.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're instilling a work ethnic, you're instilling social and personal responsibility, and they're providing income. COOPER: As for Julian Daggett, he says, like many other kids trying to survive the streets, he just needed someone to show him the way.
DAGGETT: I didn't care about life then. Now I love life.
COOPER (on camera): A lesson learned before it was too late. But unlike Julian, there are 28 young men and women from Chicago who no longer have the opportunity to embrace life.
These are portraits and pictures of lives that have been taken this year. There are only eight here. Remember, 20 other public school students were murdered since the school year began.
Their families continue to search for justice and for answers. We all should -- we should remember their names and their stories and remember their deaths and their lives.
I'm Anderson Cooper. Thanks for watching.
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