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NASA Analyzes Video from Target Assault

Aired July 15, 2003 - 19:07   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, police -- in our other top story tonight, police continue their search for a man accused of assaulting an 11-year-old girl in a Target department store in West Virginia.
You've all seen the video by now. They're now also trying to determine whether that event is linked to a similar suspicious incident at a Kentucky Wal-Mart store which happened the day before.

Now there's also word today of a possible -- and I say possible -- third incident that may or may not be linked.

Mike Brooks is investigating right now for us. He joins us live from Atlanta.

Mike, what's the latest?

MIKE BROOKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, earlier this morning the South Charleston, West Virginia, police got a call from the police department in Clayborn, Texas. It's a small town just southwest of Dallas, Ft. Worth.

I talked to them this evening. I talked with the South Charleston police just a little while ago and they've now received pictures from the Texas case. So they're looking at those to see if there's any link between their case in West Virginia, the case in Ashland, Kentucky, and possibly this case in Texas, which occurred in February.

Now, there's also progress tonight, Anderson, on the video. As we talked about before, the police have sent the video to NASA to have them enhance the video. So they said they are having great success at this. They're going over the video frame by frame. They started about 8:30 this morning, they're going over it frame by frame.

And police tell CNN that they called them back and said that this man, as he went through the store, touched different places. So police were going back out tonight to take a look at some of the places that he touched to see if they can gain other possible fingerprint evidence -- Anderson.

COOPER: Now, is this common for NASA to be brought in on something like this? I mean, I was aware they have a lot of high technology stuff, but I didn't realize they often got involved in these kind of things?

BROOKS: Well, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the FBI lab, usually are the ones that assist in this. But they said that the FBI and NASA were helping. But apparently, NASA has the technology to go frame by frame to look exactly at some of the places he touched, as well as to enhance the facial recognition of this person by the video.

The video we're seeing here was the video we've seen over the last couple days of him actually stalking the 11-year-old girl in the Target store in South Charleston, West Virginia.

So they're very optimistic that this enhancement that NASA is doing will enable them and will help them in solving this case.

COOPER: Mike, and are you given any word from investigators about whether -- you know, we heard yesterday, 24 hours ago, they were getting hundreds of tips being called in. You know, that video of that person, whether or not he's involved in this unknown, but that video that's been on TV for 24 hours now, I find it remarkable someone hasn't called in and clearly identified the person.

BROOKS: Well, they say that they're looking at a number of different suspects. That they're calling them suspects. But they don't any really firm person that they're looking at yet.

They're receiving hundreds and hundreds of tips now. They're going over each one of these tips. They're going to develop leads from this. And hopefully, if they get better video, people will be able to recognize this person more readily and that's what they're hoping for.

COOPER: All right. Mike Brooks following the investigation closely for us. Thanks, Mike.

The incidents in the Target and the Wal-Mart store and possibly this one in Texas have police and parents understandably concerned. Now we talked about this particular investigation but we wanted to broaden out a little bit more and talk about sexual predators who prey on kids. It's information you and your children need to know.

Psychologist Leigh Baker joins me now from Denver, Colorado. Dr. Baker is the author of "Protecting Your Children from Sexual Predators."

Dr. Baker, thanks for being with us.

I want to talk about -- There are many different kinds of child molesters. I've worked with some doing stories. And I find they're all basically, I mean in my experience the most manipulative people I've ever met. Is that a common trait?

LEIGH BAKER, PSYCHOLOGIST/AUTHOR: Well, manipulative in the sense that these people, men and women alike, are very savvy. And they understand the nature of sexual abuse and that it takes stages to attract a child, identify a child, to approach a child.

COOPER: And they all use different MOs. I mean, some will snatch and grab. Others are groomers. What are some of the various tactics that they use? BAKER: Actually most of them, though, do survey children. They will watch children at a playground or they will watch children in a store before they actually attack.

And they will identify the children that are the most vulnerable. And these are the children that are alone, without companionship, that perhaps are curious. They may watch them if they're obedient to authority, if they're meek, if they're submissive. So they are very crafty in understanding which children will be the most susceptible.

COOPER: And Doctor, as you're speaking we're seeing this video of this person who allegedly did this to this girl in this Target store. And it's a video which allegedly purports to show exactly what you're talking about, scoping out. And as you said, they often use positions of authority.

BAKER: That's right.

COOPER: To get to these kids?

BAKER: One of the important things to remember is that we give children very mixed messages. We tell them to not go with strangers and yet we teach them to go to policemen when they're hurt or they're in trouble or to listen to their teachers, to obey clergy. And therefore, children get very, very confused.

So it is very important for children to understand all the different situations that may occur and that parents practice these different situations. Because as we said, these predators are chameleon-like and they will don perhaps policemen uniforms or security uniforms, security guard uniforms to attract these children.

COOPER: As this case, I mean, shows all to well, they're not really afraid of danger? I mean, perhaps -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- but is the danger part of the attraction for some of these people?

BAKER: Some of them are. Those, the ones you see that expose themselves in public, that go into public places and molest children in public places, these are particular individuals who are seeking the thrill and excitement of -- and the danger element of the offense and there are other predators who are not like that. This is certainly an aspect of some of the predators.

COOPER: And I guess the clear message tonight to parents is, not only watch your kids as always, but if -- tell them if a police officer or someone says that they're a police officer comes up to you, still go and find the parent. And any good police officer is going to ask to get the parent anyway.

BAKER: Or you can also -- yes. Teach the child to say, "Well, I'd like to call my mother first" or "Could you call my parent first." And to have a backup, not to blatantly trust authority because again, predators will assume an authority position in order to get close to a child. It's important that parents practice as many different situations and role play with children as much as possible... COOPER: It is...

BAKER: ... the different situations they can get into.

COOPER: ... a horrific thing to even think about. But Doctor Baker, appreciate you coming in and adding your expertise. Thank you.


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