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Morning news brief

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

At a Texas shopping mall over the weekend, a gunman killed eight people before a police officer killed him.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And here is some perspective on that shooting. It was not the worst mass shooting in years in the United States, nor was it even the worst mass shooting this year. Rather, it is the second worst mass shooting so far this year, coming behind a shooting in Monterey Park, Calif. Police say the victims in Texas ranged from 5 years old to 61 years old.

MARTIN: KERA's Katherine Hobbs is with us now from Dallas with the latest on what happened and how people are responding. Katherine, good morning.

KATHERINE HOBBS, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: First, can you - what can you tell us about the person who did this?

HOBBS: So police have identified the shooter as 33-year-old Mauricio Garcia. And while the investigation is ongoing, authorities have already searched Garcia's motel room and a nearby Dallas home with connections to him. Details about his motive haven't been confirmed yet. But President Biden spoke yesterday and said that Garcia used an AR-15-style assault weapon and wore tactical gear to the mall that day. He also said that children were among those killed. And the AP is reporting that police are looking into Garcia's ideology as a possible motive.

MARTIN: I understand that several vigils took place last night across north Texas. You went to one at the site of the shooting at the mall. Would you just tell us what you saw?

HOBBS: So a small group of protesters were demanding action from elected officials. Shawnda Atkins sat with her daughters. And she held a sign that read, have y'all changed your mind on gun laws yet? Atkins says she arrived at the mall the day of the shooting just moments before Garcia opened fire, and she fled in a panic.

SHAWNDA ATKINS: I always come to Allen Outlet. It's always felt so safe to me. But when you look at the gun problem that we have as a whole here in America, it's time that we take a stance.

HOBBS: And Atkins said she was really shocked by the senseless violence. And there were no counterprotesters in attendance at the scene last night. Also in attendance was community leader Cheryl Jackson. She runs Minnie's Food Pantry in Allen, Texas. And she led the mourners in prayer and in a verse of "Amazing Grace" while candles were being placed around the crosses. The group chanted enough is enough while lighting their votives. And as the group ended up dispersing at the end, many stayed behind to sit quietly amidst the glow of the candlelight.

MARTIN: You know, you could really hear the emotion in her voice. What about some of the other people that you had a chance to speak with? How has this affected them?

HOBBS: I spoke with several people at the vigil. And many of them there don't have a personal connection to the victims or their families. One woman I talked with, Catherine Reid, was kneeling in the grass. And she prayed for several minutes and said that when her community is hurting, she is hurting, and that even in the face of anger, she's always going to pray for her community. Across the lawn from her, there were a group of teenagers who sat huddled together and crying. They told me that they were terrified to go to school, that they never knew if they were safe. And they were embracing each other and were reassuring each other as best they could that they were all OK. But one girl broke away from the group and whispered to me that she doesn't believe her friends. And she doesn't ever really know if she can be sure that she is safe.

MARTIN: And before we let you go, what are the elected officials saying?

HOBBS: I was at a press conference last night. And we heard from a handful of - or two nights ago, sorry, and heard from a handful of officials. Allen chief of police and the other officials said that they are continuing to ask for prayer. And they didn't provide any details that we didn't already know. No one spoke about policy or legislation at the press conference either.

MARTIN: That is KERA's Katherine Hobbs reporting. Katherine, thank you so much.

HOBBS: Thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: In Brownsville, Texas, a driver crashed into a group of people at a bus stop - the vehicle killed at least eight people - which was near a migrant shelter.

INSKEEP: The driver's motive is uncertain, but it is a tense moment. The pandemic restrictions known as Title 42 are set to end this week. The regulations have made it easier for the United States to deport people who crossed the border seeking asylum. Now people will have a better chance. And video from the border shows many migrants near that border waiting for the opportunity.

MARTIN: NPR's Joel Rose is with us now with more. Good morning, Joel.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Hi.

MARTIN: So first of all, what has law enforcement said about the driver and about what happened in Brownsville?

ROSE: Surveillance video shows an SUV crashing into a crowd at a bus stop in front of a shelter for migrants and the homeless in Brownsville on Sunday morning. Police have confirmed at least some of the deceased are migrants. They say the driver was immediately taken into custody and taken to a hospital, where he was being treated for injuries. The police have ordered tests to see if the driver was intoxicated. They have not publicly identified him so far.

MARTIN: Have the authorities said anything about whether this was an intentional act?

ROSE: The driver has only been charged with reckless driving, but more charges may be coming. Lieutenant Martin Sandoval of the Brownsville Police Department said that the incident is, quote, "looking more and more like an intentional act," unquote.

MARTIN: So as we said, this incident comes at what seems to already be a tense moment at the U.S.-Mexico border. You've been reporting there. You've been talking to people on both sides. What are they telling you?

ROSE: Nearly everyone expects a big jump in migration, at least in the short run, as these pandemic restrictions lift. Title 42 has blocked migrants from seeking asylum for several years now. So you have tens of thousands of desperate migrants all up and down the border in border cities and in migrant camps. And, you know, they're waiting for a chance to seek asylum in the U.S. No one is quite sure how they're going to react on Thursday when these restrictions lift. But already, we are seeing some of them cross the border in pretty large numbers, straining the resources of immigration authorities and also of the local humanitarian groups and municipalities near the border.

MARTIN: So is the Biden administration ready for this?

ROSE: A lot of its critics say no, especially Republicans and immigration hard-liners. They say the administration's policies have led to record numbers of migrant apprehensions in recent years. They're urging the Biden administration to change course and extend Title 42. And it is not just Republicans who are concerned. Here's Kyrsten Sinema, the senator from Arizona - the former Democrat, now independent - speaking on CBS' "Face The Nation" yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FACE THE NATION")

KYRSTEN SINEMA: The Biden administration had two years to prepare for this and did not do so. And our state is going to bear the brunt. And migrants will be in crisis. It will be a humanitarian crisis because we are not prepared.

MARTIN: And how does the administration respond to these critics?

ROSE: Well, the White House disputes that. The administration says it has moved a lot of resources to the border, including 1,500 active-duty troops who will be helping to support the Border Patrol. It's also moved a lot of money to border communities and humanitarian groups that may have to shelter and care for migrants. Here is Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in Texas on Friday, where he was overseeing preparations. Here's part of what he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS: The border is not open. It has not been open. And it will not be open subsequent to May 11.

ROSE: Mayorkas says the administration plans to begin enforcing tough new restrictions on asylum this week that will make it much harder for migrants to get asylum if they cross the border illegally. Mayorkas is urging migrants to use new legal pathways to apply from their own countries and not to make the dangerous journey to the U.S.-Mexico border.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Joel Rose. Joel, thank you.

ROSE: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: Writer E. Jean Carroll says that former President Donald Trump sexually assaulted her in the changing room of an upscale Manhattan department store about 28 years ago.

INSKEEP: And for the past week, her lawyers have been presenting evidence of the alleged rape and defamation to a jury. Today, both sides have the chance to make their closing arguments in the civil case.

MARTIN: NPR's Ilya Marritz has been watching. And he's with us now to tell us more. Good morning.

ILYA MARRITZ, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: Before we get into the closing arguments, can you just remind us of what are the key elements of the case?

MARRITZ: Well, there's a lot that this case does not have. There is no video evidence, no DNA, no direct witnesses besides E. Jean Carroll herself, the plaintiff. So her lawyers have tried to bolster her account with other kinds of witnesses and evidence. They've presented two friends of Carroll's, who each said she told them about the assault right after it happened. The jury also heard from two other women who also testified, saying they were assaulted by Trump as well. And Carroll's team has showed excerpts from a video deposition of Trump. If you remember, after Carroll's allegation first broke a few years ago, Trump dismissed it, saying, quote, "she's not my type." Listen closely to what Trump says when he's shown a party photo of himself with E. Jean Carroll and is asked to identify her. He doesn't know who she is.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: I don't even know who the woman - let's see. I don't know who - it's Marla.

ROBERTA KAPLAN: You're saying Marla's in this photo?

TRUMP: That's Marla, yeah. That's my wife.

KAPLAN: Which woman are you pointing to?

TRUMP: Here.

ALINA HABBA: No, that's Carroll.

TRUMP: Oh, is that - oh, OK.

KAPLAN: The person you just pointed to is E. Jean Carroll.

TRUMP: Oh, I see. Who is that? Who is this?

MARRITZ: So we just heard him mistake his accuser for his second wife, Marla Maples. Perhaps that calls into question his statement that he didn't find Carroll attractive.

MARTIN: So using Trump's words against him. But Trump's team tried to do the same thing with E. Jean Carroll. Tell us about that.

MARRITZ: That's right. In cross-examination, Trump's lawyer pointed out inconsistencies in things Carroll has said over the years about the alleged rape and the effect it had on her. They also pointed out Carroll can't recall what year it happened. But what was really striking was their portrayal of Carroll as a shady character. Trump lawyer Joseph Tacopina said Carroll was motivated by money and publicity. He told jurors they cannot let her profit from her abuse of this process and warned that she would try to deceive them.

MARTIN: So Donald Trump did not attend the trial, but he commented on it all through the week. How did the judge respond to that?

MARRITZ: It played really badly with the judge. Right at the start of the trial, Judge Lewis Kaplan warned both teams that their clients and witnesses should not talk in the media and should particularly avoid words that are likely to incite violence or civil unrest. Trump flouted these instructions again and again. He posted to social media. He talked to reporters on camera. His lawyers basically said, hey, what can we do? He's Donald Trump. Over the weekend, Carroll's attorneys complained to the Trump saying - complained to the judge, excuse me, saying Trump had not taken down two social media posts despite his lawyer's pledge that he would. The danger here is that the jury could see some of this stuff and be influenced by it. So far, though, there have been no consequences.

MARTIN: So what can we expect for the rest of the day?

MARRITZ: Closing arguments will take up most of today. Then the judge will give the jury its instructions. They will begin to deliberate. Let's just remember, it's a civil not a criminal trial. The standard of evidence for the assault allegation is preponderance of evidence, which is a lot less than the standard for a criminal case - beyond a reasonable doubt. And the potential damages here, if Trump is found liable, could run well into the millions of dollars.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Ilya Marritz. Ilya, thank you so much.

MARRITZ: You're very welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF KYPP GRUBB'S "COKE AND CIGS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Michel Martin
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
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