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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
French Shooting Suspect in Standoff With Police
Aired March 21, 2012 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: In Washington today, the FBI, DEA and NYPD testifying on the rising threat to America's homeland.
And a town shocked to learn a man serving on their council is a convicted murderer. Our own Miguel Marquez sits down with him.
And the person behind the killing spree in France in a violent standoff with police. Let's go OUT FRONT.
Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUT FRONT tonight.
We have breaking news from France. After a standoff lasting nearly 24 hours, Reuters is now reporting French police have begun an assault on the apartment where a self-described al Qaeda militant accused of killing seven people is holed up.
Just moments ago, three loud blasts were heard at the site of the stand-off. The suspect apparently confessing to the killings of three French paratroopers, a Jewish rabbi and three Jewish children over the past ten days.
Dan Rivers is live in the city Toulouse.
And Dan, I guess you could hear those shots. What's the very latest you're able to figure out is happening?
DAN RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean we heard these three loud explosions about 20 minutes ago. And there were - there were definite kind of flashes in the sky giving us the impression it was possibly some of the flash bangs that they were throwing in. But there's been nothing since then, so we're slightly kind of perplexed as to what is actually going on now.
Reuters are reporting that the deputy mayor of Toulouse has said that the operation to go, it has begun but there's very little in activity here in this street on the ground but there is a huge perimeter around this apartment block where he is holed up. And it's possible there's something going on, on the other side where we can't see at the moment.
This is the view we can see down here. We believe that just opposite at the end of this road toward the left as you look at the screen is where this apartment block is and that's where we heard these explosions coming from. But nothing since then, nothing in the way of increased police activity on the ground. And it's been getting on for 20 hours, 21 hours since this began. And one would assume that they would want to get this over with tonight. That they, you know, one would guess they would want to go in when he is the most exhausted and the least alert and try to finish this off.
They have made it very clear that they want to take him alive and bring him to justice. And he is completely surrounded by hundreds of armed specialists, French police officers. And I don't think there's any chance of him getting out. It's just a question of whether he surrenders or whether there is a shootout. There's already within one gun battle with him and the police, injuring two officers. Now they're hoping they can take him out alive.
BURNETT: And Dan, I'm curious, what your sense of whether they want him dead or alive or what your sense is as you get ready answer the question, I want to play for our viewers. We do have some amateur video that has just come in. This is video that is supposedly of the alleged suspect who, as you can see here, obviously this is before now. But this is a video of the man that is suspected, Mohammed Mehra, of killing the seven people.
We're seeing him drag racing a car it looks like with friends, doing some car racing in a dirt area. You can see him obviously, a young man as we now know of Algerian origin.
Dan, what's your sense though, of what this dead or alive question and how hard French police want to take him alive?
RIVERS: They absolutely want to take him alive. I think that is essential. The last thing they want to do is to enable his followers or those that subscribe to his brand of extremism to say that he has been martyred in the process of this sort of terrorist spree. I think they're desperate to put him on trial to find out what motivated him, who he was working with, if there are others out there. There's a whole treasure trove of intelligence that they could get from him that I'm sure they are desperate to get.
The last thing they want to do is to have him be killed, and that's why they have waited for so long until it appears now that they look like they're going to try to go in and take him out alive.
BURNETT: All right. Dan Rivers, thank you very much. Dan was reporting from Toulouse. I want everyone to know, of course, Dan is going to come back as we get more. It's a rapidly developing situation. It's possible there could be resolution.
As you heard Dan say, three shots heard about 20 minutes ago, so it's unclear exactly what the situation is. I do want to let you know that Mohammed Mehra though, the suspect, made a phone call today from that apartment where he's been holed up. So, police haven't able to talk to him. No one had talked to him but he called one person.
That person's name is Eva Colondo. She's a French journalist. She talked to him for about 11 minutes and 19 seconds. And she's going to be our guest later on this hour to talk about exactly what he said to her, what his tone was, whether he was sorry, whether he admitted to this. She will be our guest coming up in just a few moments.
Of course, Dan will be back if we get more information on the situation, right now the stand-off at the Mohammed Mehra's apartment complex in Toulouse.
Our other top story tonight is stopping a threat to the homeland. And given what happened in France, this is of rising importance to the United States.
Today, five counterterrorism experts from the FBI, the NYPD, the DEA and the treasury department testified before the house homeland security committee today. France's horrific attack on soldiers and Jewish children is a big part of the reason for the focus here. But also there was the recent targeting of Israeli diplomats in India, Georgia and Thailand.
All that is top of mind. Preventing a terror attack like a lone wolf clock long fear by Leon Panetta is now on OUT FRONT priority for American officials as well. The New York Police Department's director of Intelligence testified about Iranian agent conducting surveillance on New York City since 2003 and he gave a couple more examples about a particular threat today.
One, in September 2008, during the U.N. general assembly. Members of Iranians of the Iranian delegation were seen photographing grand central railroad tracks. He also cited September, 2010, again during the U.N. general assembly, four employees of the Iran broadcasting company interviewed after photographing and videotaping the water line and structure area of the Wall Street heliport landing pad.
Now, it's very important to know, that none of these individuals were charged with committing a crime and this could have been completely innocent. But the Obama administration has been vigilant, charging two men, a naturalized U.S. citizen holding Iranian and U.S. passports and a member of Iran's revolutionary guard with plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. in a busy Washington D.C. restaurant last fall.
Officials say the plot was blocked by officials and it was the first time in more than 30 years that a foreign power has been accused of plotting a political assassination in the United States capital. The incidents raise important questions and so does this chilling warning from Mitchell Silber, the NYPD's director of intelligence analysis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITCHELL SILBER, DIRECTOR OF INTELLIGENCE, NYPD: As the pressure on Iran continues to mount, or if war breaks out, Iran may choose to strike the United States for the reasons already mentioned, New York City may present the ideal target.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And Matthew Levitt also testified at the hearing today. He is a former deputy assistant secretary for intelligence at the treasury department and a former FBI counterterrorism analyst. I spoke to him just a few moments ago and I asked him about the likelihood after tax in the U.S.
MATTHEW LEVITT, FORMER FBI COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: It could be. There certainly already is a shadow war going on between Iran and the west, Israel, the United States, both. Some of the attacks abroad we understand were targeting U.S. interests as well in one of the Thailand attacks and one of the (INAUDIBLE) attacks. In the event that there's a strike in Iran and possibly even if just Iran believes that that's imminent, there could be attacks in the homeland. It's not a given but it's definitely possible.
BURNETT: And I want to ask you about those. But you just mentioned the word shadow war. In your testimony you said clearly America and its allies are already involved in a shadow war with Iran. It is no longer clear that Iran seize carrying out an attack in the United States as crossing some sort of red line. How so?
LEVITT: Well, not only has there been tit for tat attacks, whether it's viruses targeting Iran's centrifuges or people assassinating Iranian scientists, but now we had the plot at the end of last year where Iranian agents tried to target the Saudi ambassador to Washington, here in Washington D.C. at lunchtime at a prominent restaurant where we know from the intercepts that they were aware that this would kill innocents, including U.S. senators who frequent that restaurant, and that didn't bother them at all.
So, the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, testified in January. That it appears that at least some Iranian leaders now see an attack in the U.S. in the homeland as no longer crossing some type of red line and that's obviously of concern to law enforcement here.
BURNETT: And certainly we're talking about the president, President Obama's administration, of course, has filed charges in that case against the naturalized American citizen, Iranian born, of who they say with the Iranian government's support and backing was coordinating that attack. Is that case in particular relevant to Iran's thinking right now?
LEVITT: I think it demonstrates where Iranian leaders are in terms of their willingness to carry out these types of attacks. By our indicting one of the individuals or even treasuries designating several more for their roles in these attacks, I don't think that pushes Iran to want to do this anymore. It clearly is interested in carrying out these types of attacks. The question is whether Iran itself or potentially one of its proxies like Hezbollah might carry out an attack in the homeland especially in the event of an attack on Iran's nuclear program.
BURNETT: And I want to talk about Hezbollah, obviously a big topic today in the hearing, the primary proxy for Iran but also, today, the DEA -- a DEA official talking about 70 used car dealerships that they think may be involved with Hezbollah and financing of terrorists. What -- how big of a threat is Hezbollah in the United States?
LEVITT: Well, Hezbollah has a significant presence here, both in terms of people who are sympathetic and supporters and even trained operatives, some who have military experience, training in Lebanon or in Iran. So they have people here who could carry out attacks if they wanted to but primarily they see the U.S. as a cash cow where they raise money in particular to use items. There are other ways is Hezbollah could carry out attacks here. Sometimes they send in operatives from abroad that could leverage their relationships with criminal elements which are extensive here in North America, so there's lots of ways this could play out.
BURNETT: How many cells, how many Hezbollah operatives? I mean, you referred to George Tenet back in 2002, the former CIA director, saying Hezbollah was a direct threat to the U.S. homeland, so has it grown? Is it bigger? And if so, how much?
LEVITT: Several congressmen asked me that question this morning, I demurred them. I'm going to demurred now. We don't know the exact number, but we know it's enough. We know there are enough people here that have military training and many more who are supporters and could be called upon or in some cases could be forced by extortion to do things they don't want to do. A lot of people here have families back in Lebanon. If Hezbollah approached them and said do this or else your family could suffer, that could leverage a whole other layer of Hezbollah support.
BURNETT: All right. Matt, thank you very much. Appreciate your time.
LEVITT: It's a pleasure. Any time.
BURNETT: All right. Phil Mudd joins us now, former deputy director of counterterrorism for the CIA and Thomas Sanderson, deputy director at CSIS.
Let me start with you, Phil. Is this threat any greater than it was when George Tenet talked about it ten years ago, or is it just now everyone is talking about Iran and Hezbollah, so it's just more rhetoric than anything else?
PHIL MUDD, FORMER CIA DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF COUNTERTERRORISM: Well first, I think you have to differentiate between Iran and Hezbollah, two very different organizations. Not the same partnership that we might have seen in the early '80s when Hezbollah was bombing embassies and killing marines.
We focus on Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Remember, they own Lebanese politics now in a way they didn't 30 years ago. And I think their mind set about how they might respond to a so-called Iranian order might have changed. So, in that sense, Hezbollah is a different adversary than they were when George Tenet spoke. The second and final thing I would say is Iran is different as well. What we've seen in the past year is that attempt on the ambassador, the Saudi ambassador in Washington and also attempts across the world in places like Thailand and usher by John.
So, they're showing capability is one thing. The real difference is they're showing the intent to go after people in ways they weren't five, ten years ago.
BURNETT: Thomas, would you agree with that, that they are showing the intent? And if so, what would be the potential risks or types of attacks that they might try in the United States?
THOMAS SANDERSON, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, CSIS: Well, I agree with Phil. There's certainly -- the intent is there and the capability is up for the Iranians. And I do agree that the Iranians view Hezbollah in a way differently than they have in the past so that forces the Iranians to increase their capabilities and their ability to reach into the United States or to hit U.S. interests in other parts of the world. So I think it is something we need to pay closer attention to, but to make a distinction between these two groups.
BURNETT: I'm curious, though. I mean, of course Iran denies all of this and it does seem -- there's so much rhetoric out there right now that, you know, is it possible, Phil, that they're really not involved with any of these things? That they are - you know, people are saying they're involved with, whether in Georgia or India or Thailand or the Saudi ambassador?
MUDD: No. I'm a skeptical analyst, but I wouldn't buy that in a heartbeat. First of all, Iran has a history of assassination operations going back to the post revolutionary period in the '80s. They were assassinating people in Europe. And this was pretty brazen. In European countries that they were trying to build partnerships with.
Now, we have operations against the Iranians, for example, the stops that operation against their nuclear facilities. You have assassinations of Iranian scientists in Tehran and then the same techniques sort of magnetized bombs used tried -- to try to kill Israeli diplomats in places like India and you want to tell me that's not Iran? I don't buy it.
BURNETT: All right, gentlemen, thank you very much. We appreciate your perspective tonight.
And drawing conclusions about the blunder by Mitt Romney's adviser. Will he be able to shake it off? Our own Miguel Marquez interviews a city counselor that murdered his wife. An amazing story of war and redemption.
And the latest developments in the Trayvon Martin killing. Was the death inevitable under Florida law?
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BURNETT: All right, a day after winning the Illinois primary, Mitt Romney picked up a big endorsement from Florida governor, Jeb Bush. But he's also facing some embarrassment for a remark his top adviser made here on CNN.
Eric Fehrnstrom was talking about looking forward to the fall but he used - well, it turned out to be an unfortunate choice of words to describe the campaign strategy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC FERHNSTROM, MITT ROMNEY SENIOR CAMPAIGN ADVISOR: Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It's almost like an etch-a-sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Well, his opponents, of course, seized on that moment saying it proves Mitt Romney has no core convictions. You know, you think this and then shake it and you go over here and you get the point.
John Avlon is here. We have pictures today of Newt Gingrich carrying around an etch-a-sketch, Rick Santorum in a car looking at an etch-a-sketch. So they were quick to seize upon this. Why is this getting so much pickup?
JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: This gets a lot of pickup because it goes to the heart of political communications. This resonates because it deepens an existing negative narrative about Mitt Romney. Namely, that's the opposite of the conviction politician and that's line his competitors have been trying to make over and over again. And it was compounded by the sin of vivid language and a visual metaphor.
Immediately, "etch-a-sketch" that gives everybody something to literally hold on to. And as a result, that gaffe ended up stepping on what was objectively a good day for the Romney campaign. Big win in Illinois, big endorsement from Jeb Bush.
BURNETT: Right. Although I wonder how much of it is us, our world. We love talking about it, must the world like talking - come on, whatever. But I don't know. I don't know.
All right. There's something else you've been really looking at which is fund-raising and John has been covering this second by second but also very passionate about it. Romney, obviously, had a big month but you talked about how he spent everything he earned. So, what does that mean? That says more than the etch-a-sketch.
AVLON: Well, it does. And look. In politics, you follow the money, you know. A math and matters enormously. Right now, if you look at the money raised last month, Mitt Romney is spending more money than he's taking in.
AVLON: Basically, Romney, the management consultant, would not be too happy with Romney the presidential campaign. But he's - but on the other hand, spending more than all of his opponents like a 29-1 measure in TV ads in Illinois, has served his campaign very, very well. So Mitt Romney's spending more than he takes in but in a very strong position.
BURNETT: And what about Santorum and Gingrich's latest numbers? What sent out to you?
AVLON: So, Newt has got a real problem. Right now his debt exceeds cash on hand. It indicates just how expensive it is going to be for him to continue this campaign.
Santorum, on the other hand, is actually racing more than he's taking in -- than he's spending. That's a good sign. Exempt you see how far he's lagging Mitt Romney. I mean, you know how one of the fund-raising measures, he's selling those kinds of snazzy sweater vests.
AVLON: $100 a pop. We did a little sweater vest math for folks at home. Right now he trails Mitt Romney $4.7 million. He's going to have to sell 47,000 sweater vests to close that gap. That's a real problem.
BURNETT: That's more than he can probably prosper for someone wants to store in his Wyoming retreat.
All right. Thanks so much to John Avlon. Always makes it - make sense to it.
All right. Well now, a story that shocked the town of pacific, Washington. Many in this small community have known 64-year-old Gary Hulsey for more than two decades. He's a father, and a grandfather. He has been a member of the city council since 2007. What most people don't know is that Gary Hulsey is also a convicted murder. When this story first broke a few weeks ago, local media pounced.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARY HULSEY, VIETNAM VETERAN: I killed without a second thought.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: A stunning revelation rocking a small town.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was shocked to hear about it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: His dark past uncovered only after being elected twice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So we decided to dig a little deeper, and our Miguel Marquez sat down with Gary Hulsey and quickly discovered there is a lot more to this man than his personal story.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gary Hulsey, a Vietnam vet, has been to hell and back.
You had about as intense an experience a young man, a teenager, can have.
MARQUEZ: You had to kill a man with your bare hands?
HULSEY: At one point, yes.
MARQUEZ: Hulsey was 17-years-old when he joined the marines. A kid. Three tours and more than three years later he came home battered, bruised but determined to leave the past behind. He finished college, started his own contracting business, but Vietnam wasn't done with him.
How much did you drink?
HULSEY: I'd go through a fifth of whiskey a day.
MARQUEZ: And why did you drink so much?
HULSEY: So I could pass out at night without having to have nightmares.
MARQUEZ: Eight years after Hulsey returned from Vietnam, just three weeks after getting married, he was drinking heavily on the night of October 24th, 1978. He did the unthinkable.
HULSEY: I passed out around, the last I remember, about 10:00. When I woke up, she was in bed next to me and the knife I kept under my pillow. The knife never jams. I kept a combat knife under my pillow and it was stuck in her chest so I called the authorities.
MARQUEZ: What did you tell them?
HULSEY: I said I just think I just killed my wife, I don't know.
MARQUEZ: He pleaded insanity and served nine years for second degree murder. Hulsey's experience is extreme but familiar. More than a million veterans have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, nearly 20 percent of returning service members may suffer posttraumatic stress disorder, PTSD, as much as 25 percent depression.
One study indicated 27 percent of returning Iraq vets had used alcohol. Another showed prescription and illegal drug addiction as high as 35 percent among some soldiers.
When Gary Hulsey killed his wife in 1978, PTSD wasn't even an official clinical diagnosis. In fact he didn't even seek treatment for PTSD until 1994. One of the most difficult problems, diagnosing PTSD. The vets themselves have to recognize the symptoms and be willing to ask for help. One way the military is trying to reach vets, video games that present real-life dilemmas where doctors can identify problems based on their score.
Another way is with programs developed for your mobile phone, the T-2 center at Ft. Lewis McCord has developed mood trackers that service members can punch in, a range of emotions and feelings in real time. Everything from depression to feelings of tiredness or hopelessness. Over time the data helps define the possibility of stress-related problems.
Tools that didn't exist in Gary Hulsey's day.
HULSEY: War is hell. Hell is defined as being separated from God. God doesn't walk around a war zone.
MARQUEZ: Despite the hell, Hulsey has turned his life around. In 2007 he became an elected official, a city councilman in pacific, Washington. When the local press heard --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: A killer on the city council.
MARQUEZ: Hulsey was forced to confront his past again, as his murder conviction became widely known. Married 25 years now, he credits his wife, Lois, for helping him understand something he never thought he would.
HULSEY: I came home from Vietnam, I knew fear, I knew anger. I didn't know how to deal with love or joy or happiness. I knew guilt. And guilt and fear would turn into anger. I was familiar. Now, I know joy, I know love.
BURNETT: It gives me goose bumps just to hear your report, Miguel.
I have to ask you. Obviously, He talks about being married to his wife, Lois, now for 25 years. What does she think about his past?
MARQUEZ: Well, they have a very -- they have two rules, very hard and fast rules in their household. One, no alcohol in the house at all. She completely trusts him. But he does say that if he starts thrashing about at night in bed, she has to go to another room to sleep.
BURNETT: Wow, and what's his advice for people returning from PTSD, for young men now coming back?
MARQUEZ: It almost sounds too simple. His point is, seek help. Talk to other people. The biggest thing that he didn't do before that when he did do it made a world of difference to him was to go to VFW, the veterans of foreign wars, and also the VA. He said there is tons of help there available. He works with vets now, a lot of those returning vets, and he loves talking to them. He says go seek help, that's the simplest thing that you can do.
BURNETT: An amazing story. Thanks very much to Miguel Marquez.
Well, the man responsible for a French killing spree made a phone call today. The woman he called is next OUT FRONT.
And President Obama tries to sell America on his new energy plan, but just how bright is his idea?
BURNETT: We start the second half of our show with stories we care about, where we focus on our reporting, do the work and find the out front five.
At first, counterterrorism experts from the FBI, NYPD, DEA and Treasury department testify before the House homeland security today about the ties between Iran and Hezbollah and their threat to the U.S.
The New York Police department's director of intelligence testified, saying that there had been agents conducting surveillance on New York City since 2003 and as recently as 2010.
Matthew Levitt, former deputy secretary for intelligence at Treasury, tells OUTFRONT the U.S. and its allies are already involved in a, quote, "shadow war" with Iran. As for Hezbollah, Levitt says the group has a significant presence in this country, but he says they really see the U.S. as a cash cow where they raise money for efforts often elsewhere.
Number two, officials in Tennessee say they foiled an attempted prison break of a death row inmate. Authorities say Donald Kuhut (ph) and Justin Heflin plotted to break Christa Pike out of the Tennessee prison for women. A spokesman told OUTFRONT the Heflin, a corrections officer at the prison, had direct contact with Pike and had been planning the prison break for months. That's until authorities learned of it.
Pike was sentenced to death for killing a teenager in 1995 and later convicted of trying to kill a corrections officer.
Number three, "Kony 2012" filmmaker Jason Russell will remain in a hospital for weeks following a public meltdown. In a statement sent to OUTFRONT, Danica Russell says Jason suffered reactive psychosis, I apologize, brought on by mental, emotional and physical shock and she added, as I quote, "Jason will get better. He has a long way to go but we are confident that he will make a full recovery."
Video showed Russell naked, pacing along a San Diego intersection screaming and banging his hands on the pavement.
Number four, February existing home sales fell by 1 percent to about 4.59 million units. The rounding always matters with these numbers. Economists tell OUTFRONT that despite the fall, the housing market is still improving at a gradual pace. Home prices are falling, which helps more people -- helps affordability and mortgage rates are still at historic lows. They have been jumping, though, lately.
According to the site Trulia, rates are so low it's cheaper to buy a home than rent. In 98 of the top 100 markets in the U.S., San Francisco and Honolulu, you better keep renting.
Well, it's been 230 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating, what are we doing to get it back?
We want to return right now to a breaking news story that we've been following. The dramatic situation between the French police and a self-described al Qaeda militant.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
BURNETT: That is what we heard earlier tonight. Mohammed Merah is accused of killing seven people in a 10-day shooting spree in the city of Toulouse.
Dan Rivers joins us now live from Toulouse, France.
And, Dan, what is the latest now?
DAN RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're being told now by the interior ministry that the operation has not begun. They said that those three explosions that we heard about an hour ago now were merely to pressure Merah to engage with the negotiators, to re-engage with them after he had made it clear that he wasn't going to come out, that he wasn't interested in ending this in a peaceable way.
They lit up the sky here, giving us the impression they were flash bangs that they had thrown towards the building where he's holed up. The building was down at the end of the street here. There's been a bit more activity in the last five or ten minutes or so, a lot more police coming and going. We're not sure if that is simply a sort of shift change or that is a sign that things are beginning to develop here.
But, anyway, the message from the interior ministry is that the operation has not yet begun. It was merely to put pressure on Merah to try and engage in negotiators.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Dan Rivers, thank you very much -- monitoring that for us as the night continues in Toulouse, France.
And just two hours before police even arrived at his home, the suspect made a phone call to a French newsroom and asked for the editor by name. That editor, Ebba Kalondo, joins us now.
And , Ebba, thanks very much for taking the time. And I know it's a very late night for you as well.
What was the first thing he said to you?
EBBA KALONDO, SENIOR NEWS EDITOR, FRANCE 24: He said he wanted to take -- he wanted to claim responsibility for all the attacks in Montauban and in Toulouse. Those were the first things he said, and that he was part of a group that was allied to al Qaeda operating in France. Those were the first things he said.
BURNETT: And then I know he told you he wanted to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children, protest the French military's involvement in Afghanistan. Did you believe him, that he really was the shooter?
KALONDO: No. No, not at all. I thought it was a 16-year-old who stole his father's telephone at 1:00 in the morning. He had the most -- he had a very juvenile voice and extremely impeccable French.
I thought it was a prank call really. And we have so many of them at our network. There's so many people from all parts of the world who get upset with current affairs stories, that I just thought it was just another one of such calls.
But then there was the extreme focus and the structure of his arguments, and he was -- he told me, "Listen, I want to tell you something that only the perpetrator of these attacks would know or the police. And if you don't believe me, ask the police."
And then he enumerated certain facts about the bullet casings at each attack, how many shots were fired, how many bullet casings he took from the scenes and what he left behind -- so very, very specific information -- and reiterated that it was only the beginning and that more was to come.
That's when we then started this very weird conversation. I asked him, "Well, why did you choose now to act?" And he said quite almost sincerely, he said, "Well, before we didn't have enough money nor did we have the weapons that we needed. So the material and the financial sources," he said, "were only made available or came together two weeks ago and then apparently the plan went into overdrive until it came into fruition."
He seemed to be very aware that a massive manhunt was under way for him. He said he wasn't scared and that neither capture nor death scared him at all. He said, "If I was caught, I would go to prison with my head held high. And should I die, I will die with a smile on my face." That's what he said.
And he sounded like a 16-year-old boy. But it's just the chilling quality of his words.
BURNETT: That is. I mean, I know obviously no remorse and obviously proud.
I know that he didn't seem to want to get off the phone. And I was told you talked to him about 11 minutes 19 seconds. How did the conversation end? And did he ever say why he picked you? Why you personally?
KALONDO: I don't know. I don't know. I don't know.
In fact, I'd rather not think about it, if I can. It's been -- it's been a very weird 24 hours and moved from a sense of -- I don't know whether this person is credible, although he was saying very rational-sounding things. Only when he was being interrogated by the anti-terror squad did I slowly start to realize, oh, gee, I think it might be the same guy.
And so, it's been a day of sort of dawning realization that not only was the suspect that's now holed up in this building, the young chap that I spoke to last night, but that he was absolutely serious. Absolutely serious.
BURNETT: Ebba, thank you very much for sharing your tale.
It's pretty amazing, just by hearing her, you can imagine the shock that she went through talking to him.
Well, a woman has been held by Somali pirates for about six months and we have a development to report for you tonight.
And the latest in the Trayvon Martin case. A country mesmerized and a Florida law may have contributed to his death.
BURNETT: We do this at the same time every night. Our "Outer Circle," where we reach out to our sources around the world.
And tonight, we go to Kenya where British hostage Judith Tebbutt was released by Somali pirates after months in captivity. Tebbutt was abducted by pirates last September while vacationing with her husband at a popular Kenyan beach resort. Her husband was shot and killed in that raid.
Our David McKenzie is in Nairobi tonight and I asked him a moment ago about the details (AUDIO GAP).
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, Judith Tebbutt was kept in captivity for harrowing seven months in Somalia. She said that her captors moved her from place to place to avoid being captured by any military force. One tragic detail, she didn't even know at first that her husband, David Tebbutt, had been killed in the initial attack last September. She said that it was her son, Ollie, who secured her release and details are emerging that there might have been a ransom paid to make sure she got to her freedom.
Now, policy experts say that the continued payment of ransom, though helping people like Judith go free, are in fact just fueling this issue of kidnapping and piracy off the coast and in the inland of Somalia. They say that ultimately the solution is to help govern those ungoverned spaces to stop the scourge of piracy -- Erin.
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BURNETT: All right. Well, thanks very much to David McKenzie. Well, thousands of people rallying right now in New York City for the Florida teen killed by a neighborhood watchman. Trayvon Martin was allegedly shot dead by George Zimmerman as he was walking home unarmed from a convenience store nearly a month ago. Now, no charges were ever filed.
Zimmerman said he acted in self defense and had a right to pull the trigger under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law.
But others say the watch volunteer was racial profiling. And tonight, there is growing debate over whether Zimmerman used a racial slur in his call to 911.
Trayvon's parents are calling for Zimmerman's arrest. They spoke just moments ago at the rally in Union Square.
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TRACY MARTIN, SLAIN TEEN'S FATHER: Trayvon was your typical teenager. Trayvon being the typical teenager being -- Trayvon was not, and I repeat, was not a bad person. George Zimmerman took Trayvon's life for nothing.
MARTIN: George Zimmerman took Trayvon's life, profiling him. My son did not deserve to die.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Ben Jealous is head of the NAACP. He's OUTFRONT tonight along with Paul Callan, attorney.
And thanks to both of you.
Ben, I wanted to start with you. I know that there was a town hall today. There was a lot of acrimony at that town hall. Video shows some very heated moments.
What are community members telling you right now?
BEN JEALOUS, NAACP PRESIDENT: Folks are saying, look, we want to see this man locked up and brought to justice. We want to make sure that this department is actually looked into from the bottom to the top, both in this case and this sort of general pattern that we see here. And we want to see this chief gone, because he has simply lost the faith of his community.
Just moments ago, we received a report that the county commission had voted 3-2 no faith -- excuse me -- the city commission, no faith in this chief and that just reflects what I heard all last night and all today as we talked to people here in Sanford.
BURNETT: And, Ben, I'm curious because the Department of Justice agreed to take on this case to investigate if it was racially motivated. And I'm just wondering from your point of view, is it possible that evidence could come out that could change your mind and make you think that this was not an explicitly racist act?
JEALOUS: No one has any idea if George Zimmerman is a racist. I'm not here to say that.
JEALOUS: Our concern, the pattern that we see is in this community -- going back to at least as far as 2005, some people say longer than they have been on this earth -- there is a pattern of this department not treating cases involving young black men as victims as seriously as they should. Simply young black men's lives, black men's lives, are just not valued as much. And that when people have some connection to this department, whether they're a volunteer on the weekend as a reserve officer or they have a family member on the force or they're a neighborhood watchman, that they get sort of wide latitude and special dispensation even when they've killed a young black man.
BURNETT: Paul, you know, this "Stand Your Ground" law, you're allowed to use deadly force if you're in a place that you feel reasonably threatened with serious harm. Everybody perceives threat differently.
So, if you're a racist and you perceive threat where there is not threat from a teenage black boy, in this instance, that's not legally justified, right, under this law?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: No, it's not. You don't get the benefit of self defense if you perceive -- if because of racism, that's why you are in fear.
CALLAN: The law says you have to act as a reasonable person would act. And the reasonable person under law is not a racist.
So this is an objective standard. Was he in fear of serious bodily harm when he fired the deadly weapons? That's the self defense test.
Ben, do you think, though, that the "Stand Your Ground" law has allowed people that are racist to act with deadly force because they wrongly perceive people as threats who are not threats?
JEALOUS: You know, what this law has clearly done has empowered cops to really make their own judgments about who's a killer and who's not a killer in ways that are simply not acceptable and hard to really wrap your mind around. When you read the law, what the law says is that if somebody stalks you, if somebody attacks you, if somebody puts a gun at you, that you have the right to use equal and opposite force.
Well, that would seem to suggest that this law is saying that Trayvon Martin could have used deadly force against George Zimmerman. This law does not give you permission to go hunting for little boys. And that's what Mr. Zimmerman did.
BURNETT: All right. Final word quickly, Paul.
CALLAN: Yes. Florida's self defense law is the same as the law in every other state. If you reasonably perceive that you're going to be killed, you can use deadly physical force. The "Stand Your Ground" thing is outside of the house instead of inside the house. Inside the house, you don't even have to be in fear of death. You can shoot somebody that comes into your house.
This really is a self defense case -- is self against there or not there? And that's what it's going to come down to. Was Zimmerman in reasonable fear? And only the facts will tell in the end what the truth is there.
BURNETT: It does seem amazing that there was no custody and no investigation.
CALLAN: No custody, no investigation. In most places, he would have been arrested. Yes.
BURNETT: A lot more of this to come and the big rally going on in New York.
Thanks very much to both of you, Paul and Ben.
And now, let's check in with Anderson.
Anderson, what do you have on tap?
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "A.C. 360": Yes. We're obviously also following the Trayvon Martin story. Breaking news tonight: officials in Sanford, Florida, have just passed a vote of no confidence in the police chief there as protests, as you indicated, spreading, including one in New York City. More people are asking did the police do enough to investigate the death. We'll look into that tonight.
Is justice really being served? We'll lay out the facts as we know them right now. You're also going to hear from Trayvon Martin's parents. I interviewed them both today.
And we're going to look closely at the law that's keeping the shooter out of jail, the "Stand Your Ground" law. We're going to talk to one of the bill's co-sponsors who says that if the shooter pursued Trayvon Martin, the law does not protect him.
Also, was a racial slur by the shooter said on that 911 tape? We took the calls into our most sophisticated audio booth. We're going to let you listen uncensored to what the shooter said and you can decide if it was in fact a racial slur. If it was a racial slur, that is -- legally, that makes a huge difference in terms of the federal government's involvement and what they could possibly charge that shooter.
We have those stories and the police standoff with the suspected serial killer in France. And the "Ridiculist" all the top of the hour, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to you, Anderson.
And the energy debate continues to heat up. But do the president's numbers add up? And Twitter hitting a milestone today. We'll be back.
BURNETT: So, President Obama was in Nevada today, touting his energy plan and touring the country's largest solar energy generator. The Copper Mountain Solar 1 facility has nearly a million solar panels that generate power for 17,000 homes. It was financed in part with $40 million worth of federal tax credits.
Now, the president says it's part of his plan to diversify the country's energy portfolio and promote alternative energy sources like solar, which brings us to tonight's number: 15.
According to an analyst at Pacific Crest Securities, that's how many years a customer has to commit to solar energy to break even. Electricity prices are tied to coal and natural gas, not oil. So, even though oil prices are high, natural gas is still incredibly low. So, you have to sweat it out for almost a couple decades before you see returns.
But even if you're willing to put in the time, solar energy will not work everywhere. A state has to have the perfect combination of good sun and high electricity prices for solar to be feasible. Right now, Pacific Crest says there are only three states -- California, Florida, and Hawaii with the right mix. Yes, you know, they're pretty sunny. Then Hawaii has hydro. So, why even bother?
But we would need electricity prices to go up, up, up for solar to be a true alternative. It could happen though. And that's why people are investing in it now. Is it worth it? Find out how close your state is to solar parity your own state is at our blog, CNN.com/OutFront.
Next, Twitter with another milestone.
BURNETT: So it's Twitter's sixth birthday today and its growth has been pretty amazing. During its relatively short life, just, you know, passing toddlerhood and kindergarten, the social media site has attracted more than 140 million active users. Every single day, 300 million tweets are posted -- most of them mundane, but some very important.
It took the site more than three years to reach a billion tweets and now, they hit that mark every three days.
But it's not just about the tweets. It's about the tweeters. Seems like lot of people are on Twitter. Lady Gaga, of course, is number one, with 21 million followers, Bieber second, Katie Perry, Rihanna and Shakira rounding out the top five.
And politicians are on there, too. President Obama is eighth with 13 million followers. The Republicans have significantly less. Newt Gingrich, 1.5 million; Mitt Romney, 380,000; Ron Paul, 260,000. You think would all the young followers and young devotees he'd be up there but Newt is number one. Rick Santorum, only 170,000.
I joined a year ago, actually not even a year ago. My first tweet was on June 23rd. I tweeted out, "This is my first tweet. Why now? Because we want the best team on earth for our new show on CNN. E-mail us with resumes."
A lot of you did. We do have the best team. And thanks for following.
Anderson Cooper starts now.