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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Multiple Tornadoes Sweep through the Midwest

Aired February 29, 2012 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ERIN BURNETT, HOST: Breaking news tonight. At least nine people are dead after multiple tornadoes have swept through the Midwest today and one of the hardest hit towns, Harrisburg, Illinois. The mayor of that city joins us live and we talk to those who have lost loved ones in the devastation across the Midwest today.

We also have new developments tonight in the Ohio school shooting. We have just learned some important information about the alleged shooter, T.J. Lane's past. We have that for you.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

I'm Erin Burnett and OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news in the Midwest. Death and destruction, warnings of even more severe weather tonight, a series of tornadoes ripped through five states starting very, very early this morning leaving a path of devastation in their wake. And here is what we know at this moment.

At least nine people so far confirmed dead, 100 are injured. More than 300 homes have been damaged or destroyed today. The twisters touched down in Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. Harrisburg, Illinois was one of the hardest hit after the tornado hit the town of about 9,000 people just before 5:0 a.m. this morning. Mayor Eric Gregg says despite the loss of life and property, his town will endure and he is OUTFRONT tonight. Those images, Mayor Gregg, are stunning and disturbing. Can you tell me when you found out about this? What you heard this morning when you woke up to this.

MAYOR ERIC GREGG, HARRISBURG, ILLINOIS: Well, actually this morning as the alarm was going off, sirens were going off about 10 to 5:00, I woke up, got my family up. I went outside and just was trying to assess where the tornado was coming at. You know, we had heard that it was imminent and it was just a very eerie feeling. The -- actually the wind calmed where I live at in the northern part of the city, got very quiet and even during the sirens and you could hear the roar and it was just -- it was a very eerie moment for me and my family.

Immediately, the radio started going off saying the tornado was on the ground. You know just wreaking havoc on the southern part of our community and my son and I actually got in our -- got in my vehicle and came out here and we were on the -- we were here on the site within about 20 minutes of the tornado coming through and it was just absolute devastation and this has just truly been a horrific day in Harrisburg, Illinois. You know the outpouring of support from our governor, from agencies both federal, state and local, has just been tremendous. Local communities have stepped up to help us today and you know, that's just something that I am so gracious and thankful for, is that everyone that has come to the rescue of Harrisburg, Illinois today and that speaks volumes about who we are as Americans and who we are as hard working people in the Midwest.

BURNETT: And as you were driving through this morning, I'm sure what was going through your head was how many people might have died or how many people were injured. Obviously, of course people did die. Have you accounted for everyone? Do you know exactly how many people Harrisburg has lost?

GREGG: Well we lost six of our citizens today. We actually lost two women and four men and we're just, it's a miracle that we didn't lose many, many more, but it's heartbreaking that we've lost the six that we did lose. And you know this was an F4 tornado with 170-mile winds, so it was just devastating and certainly, a horrific day in the history of Harrisburg, Illinois. This is the worst event that we have ever had in this community.

BURNETT: And it seems like when you were saying what happened was a mayor you went out, you didn't stay home. You immediately went to the scene even as you heard the alarms.

GREGG: Well, you know, I like to think that I'm -- I represent a people that we're all alike. We don't run away from trouble. We run to it and see what we can do to help and that's what's happened here today. We -- it's been all hands on deck. And I cannot begin to thank all the people, all the city workers that have been at this and will be at this for days to come, all of the emergency personnel and all the communities that have pitched in, all the neighboring communities. The neighboring community Rocky James (ph), the mayor there he immediately sent his staff, his people to the city. They were here within the hour.

So we actually assembled an army to try to deal with this you know devastating event here in Harrisburg today and you know we're getting our hands around it. We're going to make sure that everyone is safe and those that have been displaced we're going to make sure they have a place to stay tonight. They're going to be taken care of. They're going to have food. They're going to have water. They're going to have whatever they need.

This is a community and this is an area that takes care of their own and we're definitely going to rise to the occasion. We will rebuild this and we will be back. I mean this is -- you get knocked down, we're the kind of -- we believe in getting back up and fighting hard to come back and that's exactly what we're going to do. We just -- our hearts are broken for those that we lost and those that are injured and we just ask that everyone prays, keeps us in their thoughts and prayers not only today but in the days ahead.

BURNETT: And Mayor Gregg, let me ask you about that warning system because I know some people may be surprised that there are warning systems and skeptical of perhaps whether they work or whether they give false alarms. Do you think that the warning system worked? Do you think that it saved lives in Harrisburg? GREGG: Oh, most definitely. It's a -- it definitely saves lives. I know that the warning system was going off here several minutes before the tornado actually hit. I talked to eyewitnesses out here in the area where it came through and they said that they did hear -- you know they heard the sirens going off. They heard the tornado coming and they did have time to take shelter with their loved ones, so you know the warning system saved many, many lives, but it's just very fortunate that during the time of the morning that this tornado came through that you know people aren't talking on their cell phones, they're not watching television, they're not listening to the radio, and therefore the communication system that we're so accustomed to you know during our daily lives during the daylight hours didn't play into this at night and it's very heartbreaking that we lost loved ones that we probably would not have lost if this would have been at a different time of the day.

BURNETT: All right, well Mayor Gregg, thank you very much, the best of luck and I know, sir, you're a mayor. You're also a marketing executive. You are putting a lot aside to do this. So thank you very much for coming on.

Well the tornado that ripped through Illinois was an EF4, you heard the mayor refer to that, and that's the second strongest tornado on the scale as you can see, and you can see the speed range, 166 to 200 miles an hour. This one, as you heard the mayor refer to, clocked in at 170 miles an hour and the path of destruction can be seen from Kansas to Kentucky. Now, this man you'll see was in his trailer home in Greenville, Kentucky when the tornado hit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVEN VAUGHT: And I got up and took two steps off the couch and then me and the two dogs I have and the trailer started rolling down the hill and you can see what's left. And after I rolled five times, I mean I can remember everything about it, I was -- once it hit the ground on the fifth time, everything just -- I saw daylight and I was sitting up against the stove down there just leaned up with my back against it like I was sitting in a chair. Joy to be here yes because I don't know how, I don't know how I'm here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)

VAUGHT: No doubt. The good lord just didn't call me is all I know. It wasn't my time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Well residents in Harrisburg, Illinois, as we were telling you, six of them died. Four men and two women and many are still in the process of digging out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's unbelievable. I can't believe the measure of damage it did to this building. It's like there was just no structure and it just took it completely out. I mean as you can tell it's total devastation. I've not ever seen anything like it. All the way down through this whole area -- I'm just glad that it happened at night and no one was at work. This would be horrible for people to have been in this building when that happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: The tornado that came through Harrisburg was as wide as two football fields and it leveled a strip mall and tore the walls off a hospital in addition to destroying hundreds of homes. Sandy Webster is the Red Cross coordinator in southern Illinois. She's helping the displaced and the injured, is with us tonight. Appreciate your taking the time and given what we have just heard and seen with the hospital there, do you have the ability to take care of people that need help?

SANDY WEBSTER, RED CROSS COORDINATOR, S. ILLINOIS: Absolutely. We geared up as soon as we got the call this morning at 6:30. We opened our shelter at 7:00 and it is open there for people to come to safety tonight and stay there. They can also get food there. And our crisis counselors are there as well as a nurse.

BURNETT: Sandy, how did you mobilize so quickly? I think many people will watch this and say the alarms go off at 5:00 a.m. and here we are 14 hours later and you've got food and medical care and shelter and it is incredible how quickly that could have happened.

WEBSTER: Well, we had Red Cross volunteers on the ground that live here in this community just right outside in Galacier (ph) and so they were the first two ladies that opened up the shelter. So that helps and they're all trained. Our shelters are pre-designed (ph) so we already know kind of depending on when the -- where the disaster is what shelters we will use and so we can just call them and say I need your shelter. They'll be there in an hour. So a lot of it is preparedness and preplanning. The same thing with our trailers that have the cots and the blankets in it and it was all ready to go once we got the call.

BURNETT: Harrisburg, of course, is a city, a small city of 9,000 people. How many people do you have in shelters tonight?

WEBSTER: Right now we had 12 that was registered. Today people wanted especially after a tornado, they want to try to salvage as much they can. You know those precious photo albums that you can't replace and those types of things and so tonight, later on, they will start coming in, which is about the way that it happens in a tornado like this. So, at midnight, we take another count to see how many ends up there after 8:00.

BURNETT: All right. Well thank you very much. We appreciate it.

WEBSTER: You're quite welcome.

BURNETT: You hear about the devastation in Harrisburg. But this went through five states and the tornado season itself usually begins in March. This particular storm system that we're seeing today is wreaking havoc as it continues to make its way across the country towards the East Coast. There are people now who are at risk of being affected or currently feeling these storms. CNN meteorologist Chad Myers is here with the latest. So Chad, how unusual is this is so -- I mean, it's a few days before March and how strong?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Typically, you will get storms in February, but maybe not EF4 tornadoes with those storms. March is the battleground, Erin. It's when winter finally has to move away. Summer has to move up. And when that warm and that cold bump into each other, that's spring saying come on we want to push you back and try to push that cold air back up into Canada. That's when the clash happens and that clash causes storms, causing tornadoes.

And from Philadelphia all the way down to D.C., we're seeing showers a little bit of thunder, but not severe, tornadic weather. Now we do have a couple of red boxes here all the way from Western Virginia all the way down to Mississippi. Inside those red boxes that's where the tornadoes may happen tonight. Let me tell you this. I'm not going to scare anybody with this, but last night wasn't all that unusual.

It really wasn't a very unusual night for 10, 15 tornadoes on the ground and for a March day, night, that's not that much. I want you to figure out here. Here's the town of Harrisburg, 9,000 people about a mile and a half wide, about a mile and a half tall. Now let me zoom you out and show you what would have happened had this tornado been one-half a mile left or right. There are miles and miles of farmland, both ways, 50 miles both sides of this town, there is just farmland.

OK, farmsteads may have been hit, but not cities. The deal with last night, Erin, is that towns got in the way of the tornadoes that are typically not in the middle of towns. So Branson got in the way and Harrisburg got in the way. An EF4 that runs through a big farm field knocks over some irrigation wells, knocks over a couple of things, cows run away. That's it. That's what we hear about. But we don't have weather like this and we don't have a night like this with coverage on CNN with I would say once out of every 20 times this would happen, it happens tonight when a town literally gets in the way -- Erin.

BURNETT: Wow, amazing perspective. Well thank you very much, Chad. We appreciate it. You're referring to Branson, Missouri. The mayor of Branson is going to be with us in just a couple of moments. We have more of our breaking news coverage of the tornadoes today that have struck the Midwest, medical centers, churches damaged, but open. We're going to talk to the people helping their communities through the crisis. As I said, we're going to Branson, another community that has been devastated -- the mayor with us live.

Also, the teen in Ohio accused of a school shooting. We have new information tonight about what was in his juvenile background. We're going to share that with you and talk to the relatives of one of the victims --

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: The Weather Service sent out a storm warning alert in the Harrisburg, Illinois area as early as 4:30 a.m. this morning and the tornadoes touched down less than 30 minutes later. Now most people in the area were sound asleep including Caleb Cattivera. He received a call from the alarm company that monitors the store where he works shortly after the tornado leveled the town's strip mall. So at first, he thought the alarm company was calling about a break-in, but well the store is now gone. Caleb is OUTFRONT tonight and Caleb, thank you very much for taking the time. Tell me what happened this morning.

CALEB CATTIVERA, HARRISBURG RESIDENT: This morning, I was sitting on the couch with my girlfriend and our newborn and got the phone call from the alarm company and they said that there had been -- reported like a break-in of sorts. So I you know just rushed to town and I had heard the thunder and everything didn't think it was that serious. The alarms haven't sounded in El Dorado (ph) yet. I waited until the tornado warning had passed and then I drove to Harrisburg as fast as I could. I could see lightning in the background. When I pulled into town there were cops, there were ambulances flying by me. I really didn't know what to think and when I pulled in here to Walmart, I saw Walmart standing, but when I looked over to the right at our complex, I saw that it was completely gone and I was just at a loss for words.

BURNETT: What went through your head when you saw that and I'm sure one of your thoughts was that it could have happened when you were there.

CATTIVERA: It definitely could have happened during the daytime. I don't want to say that I'm thankful that it happened when it did because a lot of people were not informed or not warned that it was coming. More breathtaking than seeing the complex itself was seeing the devastation back behind the store that was behind Walmart. I know a lot of people that live back there and it's just a sad sight to see. You always see it on TV and you always think that it's never going to happen to your town until it does and it's just -- it's a gut check is what it is. It's unbelievable.

BURNETT: Are friends that you knew in that area, your relatives in the town, is everyone accounted for and OK now or --

CATTIVERA: As far as I am aware, everyone that I have -- that I knew back there, I have heard from or heard that they are OK, so I'm definitely thanking God for that tonight.

BURNETT: All right. Well thank you very much, Caleb. We appreciate your taking the time and glad that you're safe and sound and be back home with his little baby tonight. Well Branson, Missouri was one of the first towns hit this morning just before 1:00 a.m. a twister ripped through the downtown area, causing tens of millions of dollars. This is a country music resort town if you're not familiar with it. It's in Southwest Missouri and more than 30 people in Branson were injured.

On the phone right now Branson Mayor Reanne Presley and Mayor Presley thank you very much for taking the time to be with us. Tell me what happened to you this morning and when you found out and whether the warning system worked in Branson?

MAYOR REANNE PRESLEY, BRANSON (via phone): Well fortunately, it did work in Branson. As you may know, we are fairly close to Joplin, Missouri and I think our residents have certainly been watching and paying more attention than we might have in years past and so we had watched the storms develop in the late afternoon and our sirens went off at an appropriate time before the storm actually hit and so I believe that saved many lives and kept people safe.

BURNETT: Now I know your city relies on tourism. I've seen numbers of $2 billion a year coming into your economy. Obviously that central area appears to be incredibly damaged. What does this do to Branson coming into what I would imagine spring-summer is tourist season?

PRESLEY: Well we are a few weeks away from the start of our spring season. Fortunately, while some of the images are quite disturbing and we have had some theaters and some hotels damaged, the vast majority of our attractions such as Silver Dollar City and Sight and Sound Theater (ph) and Titanic are open for business and are undamaged or only slightly damaged. So we have been very blessed.

BURNETT: Certainly a city synonymous with tornadoes now Missouri not Branson but Joplin, but obviously a fellow town in Missouri. Did anyone from Joplin reach out to you today?

PRESLEY: They did. If fact I heard just this afternoon that 10 officers, police officers were coming over to help us this evening, kind of make certain that our areas were secure in a kind of paying it forward. Our fire departments were some of the very first responders on the scene at Joplin the night they were hit. Of course, they had such a loss of life and it was such a tragedy for our state and we've been fortunate while we have about 30 people who have had mild to moderate injuries, our tornado was not as severe and certainly not as severe as even Mayor Gregg's in Harrisburg.

BURNETT: All right, well Mayor Presley thank you so much for coming OUTFRONT tonight. Well we have more of our breaking news coverage of the deadly storms across the Midwest today. We are joined by someone who lost a loved one in the EF tornado in Harrisburg, Illinois. And the United States today made a deal with North Korea, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Tornadoes moving across five states in the Midwest today, we can tell you right now tornadoes are touching down in Tennessee. We have a death in DeKalb County, Tennessee. That now brings -- 10 people have died in the outbreak of tornadoes today across the Midwest. As we have been reporting in Harrisburg, Illinois, the hardest hit town where you just heard from the mayor, six people died today, four men and two women with the 170-mile an hour storm touching down as those storms continue to move eastward tonight.

At least 10 are dead after the series of tornadoes ripped through it's five states now, Tennessee of course the sixth, touching down in Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and now Tennessee. Harrisburg, Illinois, as I mentioned though the hardest hit at least so far. Harrisburg is a community of about 9,000 people and was struck by a 170-mile EF4 on the tornado category ranking at 5:00 a.m. this morning. Don Lemon is now in Harrisburg and Don, what are you seeing?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: It's unbelievable when you drive through because as you know and as people have seen, in these kinds of areas and when these kinds of events happen, you won't see any damage for miles and miles and miles, and then all of a sudden you'll drive up on damage. I didn't see much on my drive in here from St. Louis, Erin, but it was very windy.

I know that you've been doing some live shots here, but they've been pretty static (ph). I want to get you as close as I can to this. As you can -- I have been told that this Hibbet Sports (ph) right here that you see. It's about -- this is about a year old. It's a new complex. This huge building, the entire thing is just destroyed.

You can see the giant pillars that stand in front of this building and some of it that held it up. And check this out. To get this big cement thing over the winds have to be going just ferociously here. I'm going to show you around just so you can see and bear with me. It's going to get a little dark and you may get a little light as well. These -- look at all the reporters and people here lined up really from all over the country.

And as we go back here towards the satellites, keep going left here, you can go past this light. That is a giant, one of those super Walmarts, Erin that you see in small towns. That is closed. Don't know what the extent of the damage is there. But that -- imagine if it had been during the middle of the day when people were in this giant shopping center when that tornado rolled through here, but again, I'm told this is a retail town and a medical town and driving through here, it's really an oasis in the middle of nowhere.

For miles and miles and miles it's just farmland or just flat land all the way through and then you get into these towns. You see a red light and then all of a sudden you'll see these retail shopping centers and you'll see fast food joints and what have you. And that's what we have here. The nearest town is I guess, what, a couple of miles away from here, about five miles away and they say it's a town of about three or 400 people.

So this town is the biggest town in this area. But look at how, Erin, how it just completely demolished this area and when the sun comes up tomorrow, I'm sure they're going to find more damage as well what they haven't found already today.

BURNETT: It's amazing. Don, one thing you were talking about, I'm just curious, talk a little bit more about just the feeling you had when you were driving in from St. Louis. About how things look completely normal and then all of a sudden you hit it. I mean I know people have been talking about how --

LEMON: Yes.

BURNETT: -- you know kind of the width of when the storm plowed through is only about two football fields wide, so is it literally like you see that damage and then on the line, thing are normal?

LEMON: Yes, listen, you know something had happened. I fly all the time. You know when you're going through a storm system.

BURNETT: Yes.

LEMON: Turbulence today, really bad, we hit rough air. Then I got to St. Louis, very windy, rocky landing and then all the way through as I'm driving on the Interstate, you can see the 18-wheelers going back and forth. And luckily, I didn't get an SUV because the SUVs were swerving back and forth, too. Red lights, everything was pretty normal except for the wind and then when I got here, I said, where is it?

And then I noticed it was complete darkness because the red lights were out. The street lights were out and I looked in the shopping center and I saw the Walmart and all of the satellite trucks and you can see the damage. I would say the damage that I saw just when the -- as the sun was going down, it was a couple of football fields wide and -- but just in one area, so I would imagine it came through here and then just sort of went specifically through certain areas, but if you were a block or two over, you may not know anything had even happened. But boy when you get here you can certainly see it and when you know, you know this big sports center that's here, where people come, when you no longer see that and you're from this town, you know that something really terrible has happened.

BURNETT: All right. Don Lemon, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Don Lemon, of course, reporting live from Harrisburg. It makes me think of Caleb when he worked in that strip mall and drove up today and just the shock that he felt when he saw his store was gone.

All right. Well, it's time now for the OUTFRONT 5 -- some of the other stories we are covering on this night amidst the breaking tornado news.

First, helicopter gunships today fired on civilians in Homs, Syria. Opposition activists told us the helicopters had flown over the city for days, but this is the first time that they have fired at people. Shelling also targeted civilians in Homs. An opposition group reported at least 11 were killed with 12 killed in other parts of Syria.

The latest estimates from the United Nations put the death toll over the past year at 7,500.

Number two, North Korea agreeing to halt its nuclear activities and allow inspections. Now, the country will stop nuclear tests, long range missile launches and enrichment activities. In exchange, the United States will send 240,000 tons in food aid to North Korea. Gordon Chang wrote a book about North Korean's nuclear ambitions and he told OUTFRONT that North Korea has hidden facilities that are likely enriching uranium still that are not covered in this deal. Chang added that the North Koreans have for decades run joint nuclear programs with the Iranians.

Number three: A federal judge has rejected a mandate requiring graphic images and text on cigarette packages. The judge ruled late this afternoon that the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act violates free speech. Packs would have contained strong warnings along with images of a corpse and as you see there, smoke infected lungs.

Number four: the economy in this country, faster growing than expected in the last three months of last year. The Commerce Department came out with the second estimate, it takes a few times to get it right. And they say that economic growth is 3 percent in the end of last year. They had originally thought 2.8.

And economists say the biggest driver of the upgrade was the revisions to household income and savings. Americans earning more than expected.

Well, it has been 209 days since America lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke giving his take on employment today on Capitol Hill, telling the House Financial Services Committee that he sees slow growth ahead for the job market, calling it far from normal.

Well, you just heard Don Lemon reporting live from Harrisburg, Illinois. But looking at some of the images coming out of the Midwest today, it is amazing that the death toll is not higher. The devastation in Harrisburg alone stretches the length of four football fields, and as of right now, the death toll in the Midwest stands at 10.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn spoke to John King just a few moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. PAT QUINN (D), ILLINOIS: Anytime you have a traumatic event like this, 175 mile-an-hour winds coming through your house and your stores, you know, it's traumatic. People have to kind of get back on their feet, say prayers that they recover and just sort of hold each other.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: One person saying prayers tonight is Lucas Gurley. He lost one of his close friends, Jaylene Farrell (ph), when the tornado hit her apartment complex in downtown Harrisburg.

Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us tonight.

Horrible that your friend is among those who lost their lives today. How did you learn about Jaylene's death?

LUCAS GURLEY, FRIEND OF TORNADO VICTIM: What was that?

BURNETT: How did you learn about her death?

GURLEY: Oh, I was over at a friend's house and started receiving calls about 8:00 this morning, woke up, had plenty of missed texts, all kind of missed calls and just been reaching out, trying to get ahold of friends and family ever since.

BURNETT: We're looking at pictures of what you're seeing around you in Harrisburg, but also, a picture of your friend, Jaylene.

What can you tell us about her?

GURLEY: She was always the smartest person. You know, always top of the class, perfect grades. She was always a great friend. Always meets you with a big smile, just easy to talk to, great to get along with. We lost a little contact after high school, but every time I see here, it's just, you know, a big hug, smile, it's like we never missed out on a second.

BURNETT: And what went through your head when you heard? You must have been shocked. It's one of those things, I can imagine, that you always see pictures of on TV and you think happens to other people, but not you and not someone you know.

GURLEY: Right. You know, it's just, it's been a whole day full of shock, really. You don't want to believe it and even when you do, it's just -- it's still hard to wrap your mind around. My thoughts and prayers are with her friends and family and I just wish everybody the best.

BURNETT: All right. Ours are with you, Lucas, and everyone else in Harrisburg. Thank you.

Well, more breaking news coverage of the deadly tornados. The pastor of a church hit hard by today's storms joins us.

And new information just coming out tonight about the teen accused of the deadly school shooting in Ohio this week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: More on our breaking news tonight. Death and destruction in the Midwest after tornados ripped through five states. Now, we just reported one more storm related death in DeKalb County, Tennessee, which brings the death total to 10.

Harrisburg, Illinois, as we have been reporting, was the hardest hit town. Today, six reported deaths.

Aaron Smith is the associate pastor of the First Baptist Church in Harrisburg and he joins us tonight.

Pastor Smith, thank you very much for being with us tonight. And I know that you and your wife have a young son. Your wife is pregnant. You have a baby coming in just a few weeks.

What went through your mind as a husband, as a father this morning?

PASTOR AARON SMITH, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH: Well, we had the good fortune of staying with my in-laws last night in another town, kind of added some concerned with the storm. But certainly when we got to town, just shocked with everything that had happened.

BURNETT: And I know that you lost a member of your congregation. We were just talking to a friend of hers. Lucas -- Jaylene Farrell died today. What can you tell us about her and where she was when the tornado came through?

SMITH: I tell you what? I know that she was just a little ways from here, but what's glorious is not where she was this morning, it's where she is now.

And we are -- one of the most encouraging stories that I can even give you from this whole thing is talking with her family. They want a song at her funeral that talks about praising God even through storms like this. And it just shows the incredible power of not general faith in something, but specific faith in Jesus Christ. It's been amazing to watch her family as they have suffered through this.

BURNETT: And how is the church itself and the rest of your congregation? Is everyone, everyone else alive and uninjured as far as you know?

SMITH: As far as we know, I mean, a lot of relatives injured, some relatives that passed away in the storm, but that's part of what we do as the body of Christ is bond together and mourn together and celebrate together. And certainly, today is a day of mourning for our church.

BURNETT: All right. Pastor Smith, thank you so much.

SMITH: Thanks.

BURNETT: Now, let's check in with Anderson Cooper with a look at what's coming up ahead on "A.C. 360."

I know, Anderson, you'll be talking about the storms as well.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "A.C. 360": Yes, we're following the breaking news. The storm system that spawned killer tornados across Kentucky and Missouri, now moving east as you've been mentioning Erin. Still very intense, very dangerous.

We've just learned in fact about another death that's been reported in Tennessee. We are tracking this storm very closely. We'll have live reports throughout the hour, starting in about to 20 minutes.

Also ahead, the history of violence in the life of alleged Ohio school shooter T.J. Lane. His juvenile record was released today. We're going to tell you what violent act he was booked for just two years ago.

We're also going to talk to the mom of one of his victims who wants her son's name and her son's memory and her son's life honored and remembered. And we're going to do that tonight.

Those stories, also, the siege on the city of Homs, Syria, that has the opposition fearing an all-out ground invasion may be next. We'll also tell you about an ambush that killed a lot of people who try to get wounded out.

That's all ahead at the top of the hour, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Anderson, thank you. See you in a few minutes.

And as Anderson mentioned, there are new developments in the deadly school shooting in Chardon, Ohio. We have just obtained the juvenile court records for 17-year-old shooting suspect T.J. Lane.

Now, the new documents show that he has had trouble with the law in the past. Now, Lane has confessed to opening fire in the Chardon High School cafeteria on Monday. Three students died. Two were injured.

Our Martin Savidge has the new court records.

And, Martin, what did you learn about T.J. Lane?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, ever since we heard about the shooting rampage, we wanted to find out, was there a juvenile record. Not only that's blocked, but CNN fought in court and today won access to the record.

What it basically shows us, is it a strong criminal past? Well, make your own judgment. In 2009, he was picked up on an assault charge for essentially assaulting another juvenile, holding him in a head lock and punched him in the face. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and that was disorderly conduct. And he also has a traffic violation.

So, that's what the juvenile records so far. We've asked for more records. We're still waiting to get the court answer on that.

BURNETT: And so, there are more records that you're still actively trying to get your hands on tonight?

SAVIDGE: Juvenile records, but then we've also gotten access to records involving his parents. Keep in mind that when he had his first court appearance on Tuesday, neither his mother or father were there. That seemed to be very poignant.

And many people in this community say it's also very telling. The family historically, when you look at those police records, when you look at the court documents, both mom and dad had a violent pass. They've had run-ins with the law, have run-ins with each other. Tom Lane, that's his father, had an extremely violent altercation with a woman. He was charged with attempted murder. That was eventually pleaded down. But he's been in and out of jail, treated for depression, and also attempted to commit suicide at one point.

So, violence unfortunately seems to have been within the T.J. Lane household.

BURNETT: Oh, that's tragic.

Thank you very much, Martin.

Joining us next is the family of one of the victim's of the Ohio school shooting.

And more from today's tornados. There are some unsung heroes of disasters like this. That's tonight's essay.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Well just before the break, we reported that T.J. Lane, the 17-year-old accused of shooting five Chardon high school students, three fatally, had been charged in 2009 with assault. Newly obtained court documents by CNN's Martin Savidge say he put another male in a choke hold and punched him in the face.

Now, Lane confessed to opening fire on students in the high school cafeteria on Monday in Ohio. One of the victims was Daniel Parmertor, 16-year-old, loved to ski, and worked at the local bowling alley.

His two grandfathers, Domenick Iammarino and Bob Parmertor are with me tonight.

And, gentlemen, thank you very much for coming out and talking to us at this terrible time for your family and your community.

Dominic, I don't know if you just heard when we were talking about --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

BURNETT: Well, thank you, both.

Domenick, I wanted to start with you about these reports, he had put someone else in a choke hold, confessed to a lesser charge. When you hear this about his past, what do you think?

DOMENICK IAMMARINO, SHOOTING VICTIM'S GRANDFATHER: Well, actually, I never heard that until this moment. We had heard he's had problems in his life and we all know some people have had problems in their life.

But on the other hand, what occurred is just uncalled for. I mean, it's disgusting and that's my feeling. I mean, we've all had some things happen in our lives that haven't been good, but we have to deal with them and maybe he just wasn't able to.

BURNETT: And, Bob, we also found out in these reports about T.J.'s parents. Again, just to highlight, his mother and father were not there, of course, when he confessed. They've had a violent past with each other. Run-ins with the law. His father had apparently attempted to commit suicide.

Does that impact how you feel or who you blame for what happened to your grandson?

BOB PARMERTOR, SHOOTING VICTIM'S GRANDFATHER: No, I think there's a lot of kids that go through things like that. That doesn't give them the right to kill other people. There's five families including ours, that have been affected by this.

No one has the right to shoot other people because they've had a rough life.

BURNETT: They certainly don't. And, Domenick, tell me a little bit about your grandson. We heard he worked at a bowling alley. What was he like?

IAMMARINO: Danny was -- I'll use the term, he was just like an angel. And you may think, well, that's your grandson you're talking about. Well, I have other grandchildren, other family members that I wouldn't say that about, but Danny was that. He just was the most lovable kid.

Everybody -- you know, there were over a hundred people at the house the other night, and everyone was so positive about Danny. Even before this tragedy, that was still Danny. Everybody loved Danny. Danny had that smile. He made other people smile and to me that's Danny.

BURNETT: It's a beautiful thing.

Domenick, I want to play for the viewers Danny's parents obviously, your children, what they had to say about the last moments of their son's life. They were there before he died.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT PARMERTOR, PARENT OF OHIO SCHOOL SHOOTING VICTIM: They wouldn't let us see him but we insisted.

DINA PARMERTOR, PARENT OF OHIO SCHOOL SHOOTING VICTIM: Yes.

R. PARMERTOR: We weren't going to be denied not seeing our son.

D. PARMERTOR: Yes.

R. PARMERTOR: So, five minutes later, they let us go see him. He was looking up (ph). (INAUDIBLE)

D. PARMERTOR: He was just laying there. Just laying there. R. PARMERTOR: We're telling him, fight, Dan, fight. You can do it, buddy. Come on, man. Do it for us. You can fight. And we're holding --

D. PARMERTOR: Don't give up.

R. PARMERTOR: We're holding him and we told him we love him so we got to say we loved him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Domenick, I know that has to be incredibly terrible to hear. How is your family going to get through this?

IAMMARINO: It's obviously incredibly terrible to hear. For Bob and I, it's terrible incredible, but we know it's worse for our kids, his son, my daughter, absolutely worse. It affects us, but to be honest it can't affect us as bad as it'll affect them for the rest of their lives.

BURNETT: I want to ask each of you what you think is the right punishment -- I know this is a hard question. But what do you think is the right punishment for T.J.?

IAMMARINO: You know, we're not court people, obviously. But we have our feelings, and we have heard he will be -- more than likely be tried as an adult, which he should be, he's 17, almost 18 years old. And, you know, we're not going to say -- I don't think Bob would like to say either what we feel punishment is or should be because I heard Bob on another interview today, and our children say right now our focus is on --

PARMERTOR: Danny, Danny.

IAMMARINO: -- the feelings of our family and Danny who is gone obviously. That's our feelings.

Not about him. I mean, you know, that will take care of itself. We feel --

PARMERTOR: Yes, I do. I feel that I have my feelings, which I will keep to myself. I will let everything work out in the court of law.

BURNETT: Well, thank you both very much for coming on and talking about Danny with us.

Well, OUTFRONT next, we've been showing you the communities devastated by the tornadoes today. But the people helping them recover and odds at which they do that, that's tonight's essay.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: So, it was difficult today. Tornadoes swept through the Midwest destroying property and killing 10 people. One of the areas hit the hardest was Harrisburg, Illinois. Tonight, neighborhoods there in ruins, hundreds injured and six are dead.

We spoke to the Mayor Eric Gregg tonight. He's been on the job for less than a year, and I don't know if you knew this, but he's supposed to be a part-time mayor. He took the job on in addition to a marketing job. But it has become a full time job.

He told us today that even before this disaster, this is the toughest job he's ever had. But he's continued to do it. He's promised to rebuild.

And when I spoke with him, I was actually reminded of Mike Woolston, the mayor of Joplin, Missouri. In May 2011, one of the most powerful tornadoes ever recorded destroyed one-third of Joplin and killed 161 people. And yet when I spoke to mayor Woolston, he was thankful things hadn't been worse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR MIKE WOOLSTON, JOPLIN, MISSOURI: I think we were terribly fortunate even though you talk about the destruction and loss of life that we did have, we could very easily in my mind have had a thousand, 2,000 deaths if the storm had veered a bit further south and hit our second hospital, our high school class, public school class was just graduating. If they had had their event at the high school rather than the university, the high school was totally demolished and that could have easily been 1,000, 1,500 folks there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Well, it's easy to criticize our elected officials and we all know we do it all the time lately. But we forget that some of them, particularly at the local level, are doing these jobs for no other reason than they want to make a difference. Many of them make very little or absolutely no salary at all.

The mayor of Joplin had another job, too. So they work multiple jobs and they still don't run away from trouble. As Mayor Gregg told us tonight, they run to it, and they see how they can help.

It's unfortunate that it takes these awful tragedies like these for us to think about this and tell these people how much we appreciate them. But the mayors of the small towns and cities across this country are often working for free, simply because they care deeply about their communities. That's a pretty amazing thing and we just wanted to take the opportunity tonight to say, thank you.

"Anderson Cooper 360" starts now.