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Morning news brief


Democratic Representative Justin Jones was sworn back in at the Tennessee Capitol last night, just days after being expelled by Republican members.


The Nashville Metro Council unanimously voted to reinstate Jones, at least temporarily.


JOHN COOPER: Voters in District 52 elected Justin Jones to be their voice at the statehouse, and that voice was taken away this past week. So let's give them their voice back, and I'd call on this body to vote unanimously right now to do just that. Thank you.


MARTIN: Jones and another young African American lawmaker, Justin J. Pearson, were removed from the Tennessee House for leading gun reform protests on the chamber floor. That was just a few days after the shooting at a private school in Nashville.

FADEL: WPLN's Cynthia Abrams was in the room with the council for that decisive vote and is with us now. Good morning, Cynthia.


FADEL: So describe that vote for us. You were there. How did it play out?

ABRAMS: Yeah. So it was very quick. You know, the first course of action was suspending a council rule that could have delayed the vote to reinstate Jones by four weeks. But the council unanimously decided to eliminate that waiting period in Jones' case, and that allowed them to move on to the reinstatement vote, which was, like you said earlier, also unanimous. Here's how one council member, Brandon Taylor, described it.

BRANDON TAYLOR: We work together in a partnership in this city to make sure that we listen to the real people and fight for the real people.

ABRAMS: So the crowd immediately erupted into cheers and followed Justin Jones, who was present in the chamber, out. And only moments later, he was sworn back in on the steps of the Tennessee State Capitol.

FADEL: OK, so quick - he didn't even miss a day of lawmaking, right?

ABRAMS: Right, yeah. He was back on the floor, right in time for yesterday's House floor session. He walked in, arm-in-arm, alongside Gloria Johnson of Knoxville, a Democrat who is white, who escaped expulsion by just one vote. And Jones, when he was back in the House, said he intended to file gun control legislation with the remaining weeks left in session. And this is where the suspension of that four-week waiting period rule was really imperative because we are nearing the end of session, and there is a chance that, if he was reinstated, but had to wait the month, the session could have adjourned before he returned.

FADEL: OK. So now Jones wasn't the only one expelled last week. There was also fellow House member, now-former Representative Justin J. Pearson. What's happening with him?

ABRAMS: Yeah. So if there's a vacancy, Tennessee law says that it's up to the county councils to fill that vacancy. And just like the Metro Council voted on Jones, the Shelby County Commission, which is home to Memphis, where Justin J. Pearson is from, is set to vote on his seat on Wednesday.

FADEL: And so what happens next for them? I mean, Jones has been reinstated. Pearson may be reinstated. But this is temporary, right?

ABRAMS: Correct. So under state law, both Jones and Pearson - if he ends up being reseated - will both have to face a special election because they have been reseated on an interim basis. But both Jones and Pearson say they plan to run.

FADEL: And how have Republicans responded to Jones being back in his House seat after they expelled him?

ABRAMS: Speaking with my colleague who was at the Capitol yesterday, it seems the reception was pretty smooth. Republicans still have a supermajority, but the eyes of the country are on Tennessee moving forward. So it'll be interesting to see how Republicans respond to Jones' gun legislation.

FADEL: WPLN's Cynthia Abrams in Nashville, thank you so much.

ABRAMS: Thank you.


FADEL: Another mass shooting in this country - this time at a bank in Louisville.

MARTIN: A gunman that authorities believe was or had been a bank employee opened fire on colleagues before police arrived and killed him. Nine people were taken to the hospital. Six people are dead, including the gunman. Several people remain hospitalized.

FADEL: We have Justin Hicks of Louisville Public Media with us to get the latest on this mass shooting. What do we know about what happened?

JUSTIN HICKS, BYLINE: It was just before 9 o'clock yesterday, as most people were getting to work, when a 25-year-old Connor Sturgeon entered Old National Bank. He was an employee there, and, luckily, the bank hadn't opened to customers yet. But he came in armed with a rifle and opened fire, livestreaming the entire thing on the internet. Police say they got a call about a shooter - arrived on the scene in just three minutes. And when they showed up, there was almost immediately a firefight, in which the gunman was killed and two officers were shot - one of them in the head. That officer, 26-year-old Nickolas Wilt, had just gotten out of the police academy about two weeks ago. And he was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he had brain surgery. Two other officers who were also injured.

FADEL: Wow. So when they were able to clear the scene, what did they find?

HICKS: Yeah. So as police got into that crime scene, they found a really grim scene. Four victims were killed by the shooters - all employees of Old National Bank. Their names are Tommy Elliott, Jim Tutt, Joshua Barrick and Juliana Farmer. They all ranged in their age, from 60s to 40. And in addition to those deceased, six other workers were taken to the hospital for a variety of injuries. One of them was the bank's executive administrative officer, Deana Eckert. She passed away last night, raising the death toll to five victims.

Now, Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel is the interim chief for Louisville Metro Police Department, and she credited those officers who showed up and acted immediately.


JACQUELYN GWINN-VILLAROEL: For my LMPD officers who took it upon themselves and not wait to assess everything, but just went in to stop the threat so that more lives would not be lost, thank you.

HICKS: And in addition to being appreciative to those that responded, the police chief said these shootings just need to stop.


GWINN-VILLAROEL: This should not continue to happen. Evil should not try to prevail and take over our city. And we let it happen.

FADEL: So many people must be grieving right now. How are people dealing with this across Louisville?

HICKS: Yeah, I mean, so, you know, as we know, this happens all over the country. But it's like you always hear - people are just stunned that it came to this city, right? Louisville is a city, but it's still the kind of place where people know each other from high school or church or whatever. And so, I mean, so many of the victims are not just names here. They are people that people know.

And so to answer that more directly, though, there were several vigils last night across the city and even more planned in the coming days. For instance, last night, Cherie Vaughn was at a vigil. She used the sound system at a local church, and she talked to folks about the importance of everyone finding ways to pitch in during the healing process.


CHERIE VAUGHN: We shouldn't be sleeping easy because somebody's family doesn't have a loved one tonight. And it's not my family today, but it's somebody else's. And so my heart goes out to those families that lost loved ones.

FADEL: I think the most heartbreaking thing about what you're describing is just how familiar it is in this country now. It's the 146th mass shooting just this year. What should we expect next in the investigation?

HICKS: Yeah, we'll get the common questions about the shooter's motives and the weapons that were used. But, you know, the officials say they want to just focus on the people who were killed, the people still hospitalized and everyone who's traumatized, whether they're at the bank or not.

FADEL: Justin Hicks of Louisville Public Media. Thank you, Justin.

HICKS: Yeah, you're welcome.


FADEL: President Biden is off to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland today.

MARTIN: It's a trip that is part diplomacy, part homecoming for this country's second Irish Catholic president.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: And as we Irish say, that's no malarkey. That's a fact.

FADEL: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith will be traveling with the president. Good morning, Tam.


FADEL: So why is President Biden making this trip now?

KEITH: Well, he's there to mark the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. The U.S. had a pivotal role in negotiating that peace agreement, and it brought an end to decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland known as The Troubles. But these are precarious times in Northern Ireland. The U.K.'s move to withdraw from the European Union created a political disruption that isn't fully resolved. I spoke with Brendan O'Leary, a political science professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and he told me Biden's message on his first stop in Belfast will likely focus more on the economic opportunities that can come with the ongoing peace and stability.

BRENDAN O'LEARY: America is not trying to interfere in the management of the power-sharing arrangements within Northern Ireland, but it is very clearly giving a signal that, if those work well, then there will be encouragement from the United States for foreign and direct investment.

KEITH: Though, at the moment, the power-sharing government that was created by the Good Friday Agreement is not currently functioning.

FADEL: So how is Biden going to get his message across?

KEITH: In Belfast, he's expected to meet with the U.K. prime minister and will deliver economic remarks at Ulster University. And then later in the week, there will be meetings with political leaders in the Republic of Ireland and a banquet dinner. But let us be clear about this - this is primarily a Joe-Biden-connecting-with-his-family-roots tour. His family came to the U.S. in the mid-1800s, but the ties to his Irish Catholic heritage are still quite strong, as he described at the Friends of Ireland caucus lunch last month.


BIDEN: I stand here today, like most of you, as a descendant of the Blewitts of County Mayo and the Finnegans of County Louth.

KEITH: So stand by for lots of President Biden surrounded by Blewitts and Finnegans in picturesque Irish towns. Then, on Friday night, the trip will culminate with a speech outside of St. Muredach's Cathedral in County Mayo. And, according to the White House, President Biden's great-great-great-grandfather, Edward Blewitt, sold 27,000 bricks that helped build that cathedral and then used the money to bring his family on a ship to America. So President Biden is going to tie his family's immigrant story to the American experience.

FADEL: How did his roots shape his political identity - Biden's political identity?

KEITH: It's hard to know who Biden quotes more - his proudly Irish American mother, Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden, or the great poets Seamus Heaney and W.B. Yeats.


BIDEN: They always used to kid me because I - always quoting Irish poets on the floor of the Senate. They think I did it because I'm Irish. That's not the reason. I did it because they're the best poets in the world.

KEITH: That is a joke he usually delivers right before quoting more Irish poetry. O'Leary told me he considers Biden to be even more overtly Irish than John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

O'LEARY: Indeed, I'd say he's much more visibly an ordinary Joe and average Irish American than was his predecessor, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

KEITH: To be more overtly Irish than JFK - though Kennedy had the very Irish name, the working-class Joe identity is important for Biden politically. And, you know, Kennedy's election was this breakthrough. But now, being Irish Catholic is no longer taboo, and that frees Biden to lean in to his Irishness.

FADEL: NPR's Tamara Keith - she'll be traveling with the president. Thank you, Tam.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.