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CNN NEWSROOM

LAPD Reports it will take Days to Identify Body; "They Deserve a Simple Vote"; "Gross" Cruise Ship Due in Alabama Tomorrow

Aired February 13, 2013 - 09:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Happening now, in the NEWSROOM.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey you! come here!

(GUNFIRE)

COSTELLO: Breaking overnight, a new twist in the manhunt for Christopher Dorner.

CINDY BACHMAN, SAN BERNARDINO SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: The reports earlier that a body was found inside were unconfirmed.

COSTELLO: The accused cop killer barricading himself in this cabin set ablaze. This morning, charred remains of a body have been found inside.

From the shoot-out in California to the state of our union.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote.

COSTELLO: A plea from the president for Congress to vote on tougher gun laws.

Also, Watergate: Marco Rubio and the bottle.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Nothing has frustrated me more than false choices like the one the president --

COSTELLO: Did that really just happen? And Beyonce's new film, "Life is But A Dream".

BEYONCE: People see celebrities and they have money and fame, but I'm a human being. I cry. I get scared and I get nervous, just like everyone else.

COSTELLO: We are on the red carpet for the L.A. premiere. Find out why Oprah says this is a game-changer.

OPRAH, TV MOGUL: This "Life is But A Dream" is so fiercely empowering.

COSTELLO: NEWSROOM starts now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)

COSTELLO (on-camera): Good morning, thank you so much for being with me. I'm Carol Costello. We begin in Southern California where an accused killer ex-cop is believed dead, his reign of terror over.

Police say it will take days to confirm that a body found inside this cabin is actually Christopher Dorner, the former Los Angeles cop who had vowed deadly vengeance for his firing. This is video from outside the cabin from CBS. He was spotted yesterday near Big Bear Lake. He crashed a stolen car and then carjacked another vehicle from a camp ranger who happened to be on the scene.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK HELTEBRAKE, CARJACKED BY CHRISTOPHER DORNER: He came up to me with his gun pointed at me and I stopped my truck, put it in park, raised my hands, and he said, "I don't want to hurt you. Just get out and start walking up the road and take your dog." Which is what I did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: That triggered a short chase to the cabin where he opened fire on deputies as they converged. Listen to the ferocious shoot-out captured on a reporter's cell phone.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

(GUNFIRE)

(END AUDIO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Once Dorner was cornered, police say the expert marksman claimed his final victim, killing one deputy and wounding another. That follows the trail of victims from last week. Dorner is accused of killing Riverside police officer Michael Crain just minutes earlier. He had allegedly killing Keith Lawrence and his fiancee, Monica Quan. She was the daughter of an LAPD officer who Dorner blamed for his firing.

We are covering all angles of this fascinating and perplexing story. CNN's Paul Vercammen is in Big Bear, where it all unfolded. Casey Wian is at the Los Angeles Police Department, where investigators are filling in the blanks. And lending his law enforcement expertise, former FBI assistant director Tom Fuentes.

But Paul, let's begin with you. Take us through what happened last night.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely high drama high in the mountains. Let's give you a sense of what happened on this very chaotic and eventful day here in the Big Bear area.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are shots fired, four, five shots fired.

VERCAMMEN (voice-over): What happened in the mountains around Big Bear, fast moving and often confusing. First, two maids are reportedly tied up, their Nissan stolen. Law enforcement on the lookout.

LT. PATRICK FOY, CALIF. DEPT. OF FISH AND WILDLIFE: They were driving down Highway 32 and they were approaching two buses. They passed the two buses and they noticed, tucked in behind the bus, was the suspect vehicle.

VERCAMMEN: The pursuit was on. Within moments, he crashes and carjacks a pick-up truck, the suspect a man who looks like a man like Christopher Dorner.

FOY: The warden who was in front realized - noticed a white truck coming down, driving erratically at a pretty high rate of speed. He took a close look at the driver and recognized him as the suspect.

VERCAMMEN: The suspect rolls down the window and opens fire. A shoot- out ensues. He takes off and barricades himself inside a cabin. Police converge by land and air, then another shoot-out captured on a reporter's cell phone.

(GUNFIRE)

VERCAMMEN: Radio calls from the officers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Returning fire.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Returning fire.

VERCAMMEN: And then --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have an officer down, officer down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Copy, officer down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Medic ships (ph) in the air, medic ships in the air. (INAUDIBLE) officer down.

VERCAMMEN: One deputy is killed, another wounded and expected to survive. It's not over yet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Copy, one-two corner (INAUDIBLE).

VERCAMMEN: The cabin goes up in flames.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 61Lincoln (ph). We have ammo explosions.

VERCAMMEN: The question is Christopher Dorner inside that cabin? Over the next few hours, confirmations, denials and dueling news conferences.

COMMANDER ANDREW SMTIH, LOS ANGELES POLICE: Any reports of a body being found are not true.

CINDY BACHMAN, SAN BERNARDINO SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: We believe that the person that barricaded himself inside the cabin and engaged in gunfire with our deputies and other law enforcement officers is still inside there.

VERCAMMEN: Finally, close to midnight Pacific Time, the San Bernardnio sheriff's office confirms charred remains have indeed been found inside the burned out cabin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VERCAMMEN (on-camera): And now back here live, one more little interesting bit about Dorner, apparently he was using two school buses to try to use as cover or hide behind as he went to escape down the mountain. Back to you now, Carol.

COSTELLO: So frightening. Paul Vercammen, thanks so much.

Now we want to focus on the investigation and where it goes from here. CNN's Casey Wian is at the Los Angeles Police Department. He's joined by former FBI assistant director Tom Fuentes.

Tom, I want to begin with you. Last night, our Los Angeles affiliate, KCAL, aired what appeared to be live scanner traffic or sound of a police officer, a police officer's open mike. I want you to listen to this recording and tell us what you hear and weigh in on the other side.

Let's listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It sounds like police officials were trying to move Carter out of the area and to a safer area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Burn it down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Burn that god (EXPLETIVE DLETED) down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Burn that (EXPLETIVIE DELETED) house down. Burn it down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get going right now. (EXPLETIVE DELETED), burn that (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

(END AUDIO CLIP)

COSTELLO: OK, so it sounds, when you first hear it, that police officers meant to set that cabin on fire and burn it down. What did it sound like to you, Tom?

TOM FUENTES, FMR. FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Good morning, Carol. I couldn't quite understand exactly what was being said in all of that, whether that was being said after it was already on fire and he was already inside it or, you know, a police officer would not be issuing an order, that would not be a command, to say burn it down or burn him down or let him burn inside.

I think maybe once the fire was started, and given the fact that he had been shooting and already killed an officer just minutes before and now was shooting them in the heat of battle, somebody may have just lost their emotions and said that, so I don't know. I'd like to hear the whole context and exactly the timing of the fire, the timing and exact wording of what was said.

COSTELLO: Well, kind of take us through how they managed to get -- or tried to get -- the man believed to be Dorner out of that cabin. From what I understand, and believe me, none of this is confirmed, I'm just guessing along with everyone else, police had first threw a flash pot, you know, at the cabin to distract Dorner, and that would not have set a fire, right?

FUENTES: Well, various devices, the flash bangs and certain types of what are called tear gas grenades, can see start a fire. They do involve smoke, they involve somewhat of an incendiary device, and if the cabin is, you know, hit in the right location, it could start a fire. It wouldn't be done on purpose and the use of any of those devices would not be used until they're absolutely certain there was no hostages inside and they only have Dorner, and they only have already made requests for him to surrender, which obviously he had no intention of doing.

COSTELLO: The other thing I read and, these are just reports, that the SWAT team moved in and then broke out the cabin windows, and then they pumped in some sort of gas to try to get this man out of the cabin.

FUENTES: Yes, you know, we'll have to see for sure if they used all of those techniques. Pumping in gas is a little bit of a difficult thing. Normally from a distance, you would inject tear gas by firing it in there. A small canister, almost looks like a gigantic bullet, would be fired through a window, it would go into the building and then start releasing what is commonly called tear gas.

Now, tear gas is actually a misnomer. It's not a gas. It's little particles that irritate the body, irritate mucous membranes and things like that. In order to get the particles airborne, the device becomes a smoke grenade, which requires a fire to create the smoke, and then that smoke carries the particle. So it's not gas, it's actually a solid material that goes into the air and irritates the body.

COSTELLO: So then somehow this cabin burst into flames and maybe Casey Wian, you can enlighten us on this. The fire department was not called in. So there was never any attempt to put out the fire at all. Why was that?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, I don't have any information on that. We know it was clear they allowed that structure to burn down. The focus of the investigation here at LAPD headquarters is two-fold: one, to try to determine if Dorner had any accomplices. There have been concerns about potential accomplices since last week. A document filed by the U.S. Marshal Service an arrest warrant mentioned the possibility of accomplices. The LAPD saying they will leave no stone unturned in trying to find someone, anyone who may have helped, and there's a lot of questions about how he was able to survive in the Big Bear area for six days.

Also, the identification of the remains found in that burnt out cabin is a priority. Sheriff's department of San Bernardnio County says they're going to have to conduct forensic testing on that, those charred remains. We don't know what kind of shape they're in but it could be everything from DNA to X-Rays to dental records, Carol.

COSTELLO: And just to button this al up, and I want to go back to Tom for the question, this question, I would assume firefighters were not allowed to get close to fight that fire because police feared for their lives if the man inside that cabin would start firing.

FUENTES: That's correct, Carol. Normally, as a matter of policy, SWAT teams when they deploy, the fire department deploys with them and then stays a safe distance away, because of the fact if they use flash bangs or the so-called tear gas canisters, they may create the fire or the subjects themselves may create a fire.

But in this case, he was believed to have a .50 caliber gun which had already disabled the engine block of one police car and killed many people. So that particular weapon, that bullet would go through a fire truck like a hot knife through butter, so they're not going to let a fire truck anywhere near that location based on the possibility that he could still be there, he could still return fire and kill firemen.

Now, members of the fire department deal with danger every day. They have to deal with toxic fumes and possible gas canisters in a location that might explode and kill them, but it is not in their mission statement to go into a place and get shot at and potentially killed that way. So that's the police's job. They would not let fire trucks anywhere near the location until it was absolutely safe and they determined there was no possibility of fire department personnel being shot at.

Now, having said that, by the time they believed it was safe enough, pretty much the place was engulfed in flames and they would not, I think, at that point, necessarily want the fire department destroying the crime scene and putting water on a location that it's too late to save anyway.

COSTELLO: Tom Fuentes, Casey Wian, Paul Vercammen, thanks so much. So many unanswered questions. Hopefully some of those questions answered throughout the day.

It was one of the most emotional and energized moments in President Obama's State of the Union address. He pleaded for a vote on new gun control proposals. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek and Tucson and Blacksburg and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence, they deserve a simple vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: A standing ovation with more than two dozen family members of victims of gun violence in the crowd. One of those family members joins us now from Capitol Hill.

Sarah Cadogan is a mother from Plainfield, New Jersey. Her 17-year- old son, Spencer, was shot and killed in 2010. With her is Democratic Congressman Rush Holt, who invited her as his guest to the State of the Union.

Welcome to you both. Thank you so much for being with us this morning.

REP. RUSH HOLT (D), NEW JERSEY: Thank you, Carol.

SARAH CADOGAN, CEO & FOUNDER, YOUNG MEN OF RESILIENCE: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Sarah, I want to start with you. How did you feel after hearing that particular part of the president's speech when he mentioned the victims of gun violence?

CADOGAN: I was very pleased. I thought it was just wonderful to be in attendance at the occasion where we're actually considering doing something about gun control here in America.

COSTELLO: And Congressman, do you feel that something will get done? Because a lot of people are saying, you know, we're spending a lot of time talking about this issue, but nothing will really matter.

HOLT: Well, that certainly was a dramatic moment and the president was speaking over an unusually loud, cheering Congress. There was, you know, as he said, do this for the parents of that little girl from Chicago, do this for Gabby Giffords, vote for, you know, have a vote, do these things. It was a very dramatic moment.

I thought, overall in this piece, in his speech, because of the new, I would say assertive, approach of the president toward Congress, we are going to see legislative action on gun violence protection, on immigration, on minimum wage, on early childhood education. I think this Congress is probably going to move more, legislatively, than we have in the last two years, because of the president's new assertion.

COSTELLO: Yes, the president wants an up or down on some kind of gun control legislation on the floor of the Congress.

HOLT: That's right.

COSTELLO: But I'd like you, Sarah, to listen to what the NRA President David Keene said -- what David Keene said, rather, when he was asked if the NRA could support such a vote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID KEENE, NRA PRESIDENT: We can't control the Congress. The one thing that's sort of upsets me a little bit the president is trying to use emotion to force things through before they've been rationally debated, argued and examined, and that's a mistake because that's the way you get the bad policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: So, Sarah, what he's saying is there were so many families, victims of gun violence there, and it's pure emotion, not logical thinking, that may be driving the president's push for gun control.

SARAH CADOGAN, CEO & FOUNDER OF YOUNG MEN OF RESILIENCE: I disagree with that. The president's push for gun control, in my opinion, is based upon a lot of facts and statistics. How many more countless lives will we have to lose in America because of the lack of gun control legislation? I think it is high time if we can save one life or a million lives within our plans to do so, if he has the power to do so now is the time to do it.

COSTELLO: Congressman Rush Holt and Sarah Cadogan, thanks so much for being with us this morning. We appreciate it.

HOLT: Thank you.

CADOGAN: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Sewage running down the walls, carpets soaked in urine. It's been four days since the cruise liner Triumph lost power and conditions are beyond disgusting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARY PORET, DAUGHTER ON CARNVIAL TRIUMPH CRUISE SHIP: He said that the conditions have gotten so bad that they're asking them to use the restroom in bags and they were eating onion sandwiches, and that was Monday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: We'll a live report from Mobile, Alabama, where the disabled cruise liner is expected to finally arrive tomorrow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Twenty minutes past the hour.

Now to the cruise from hell. New pictures coming in to CNN of the men and women and children trapped on the Carnival cruise ship Triumph. You can see many of them standing at the railing on the upper deck.

CNN has heard from passengers on board who say it's simply too hot in the rooms below, that's why they're standing on deck, combined with reports of sewage running down the walls and urine-soaked carpets.

The open air is the likely best place to be but for some of the parents of those trapped on the ship, the situation is nothing short of heartbreaking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PORET: She called me hysterical screaming and crying and she was scared not only for what was happening onboard, but she's afraid she'd never to get to see her mama again. And for me to be at work, to hear that from my 12-year-old daughter, I was devastated and there was nothing I could do. The last when we say good-bye, it was very hard. I didn't know if I'd ever see her or talk to her again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: David Mattingly is covering the story from Mobile, Alabama, where the disabled cruise ship is expected to dock -- finally dock tomorrow afternoon. And Paul Callan is in New York watching out for the legal fallout.

Welcome to you both.

But, let's start with you, David. What's the status of that cruise ship right now?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We checked with the tugboat company, one of the tugs pushing this ship into shore, and they tell us about 160 miles out right now, creeping along still, about five to seven miles per hour. That far out, the people on deck still cannot see any land. The view has not changed for them.

So they are still just creeping along, just languishing out there, waiting, until they get here to this port here in Mobile. This place is going to look like paradise to them when they finally get here tomorrow.

There are going to be hotel rooms waiting for them. They're going to be able to get here. They're going to be able to get right away to hot showers, hot meals, and a nice, warm, dry bed with none of that horrible smell that they've been living with.

The plumbing here is already ready to go working, a sheer luxury compared to what they've been living with for the past few days -- Carol.

COSTELLO: And David, this isn't the first time Carnival Triumph has had issues. Tell us what's happened before with this ship.

MATTINGLY: Well, just in the last couple of weeks, they had a problem with the alternator there with the ship. They repaired the alternator and yesterday, Carnival officials were saying that that alternator would have no connection to the fire that happened in the engine room and left the ship without any power.

But we do know that they have had similar problems on another ship, this happened back in 2010, the Carnival Splendor ship in the Pacific Ocean, they had a fire in their engine room, lost power, had to be towed into shore, supplies delivered to the people stuck on the ship, a very similar situation there.

Now, when this ship gets to port here, it will be greeted by investigators from the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board. They're going to be going onboard to launch a probe into why this fire happened, to get to the bottom of it, to see if there is some sort of systemic problem that might be causing this.

COSTELLO: Fascinating. So on that note, let's bring in Paul Callan for the legal side of this story.

So -- I mean, is it possible that criminal charges could be filed against someone connected to Carnival cruise lines?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: I don't see criminal charges, Carol. These cases against cruise lines are very, very difficult. This ship is actually registered in the Bahamas and ultimately, the Bahamian maritime investigating agency will get jurisdiction over it.

I also looked at the Carnival ticket this morning and you know they've got a big disclaimer in it that says you can't sue for emotional distress, pain and suffering, or psychological injuries. And here the passengers probably aren't going to have a lot of physical injuries, it's really anguish they're suing for.

So, I think in the end tough sledding here in the lawsuit department.

COSTELLO: So what's written on that ticket, it's like, you're out of luck.

CALLAN: Well, U.S. lawyers would be scrambling to sue Carnival and ironically there were press reports this very ship the Triumph was delayed in port in Galveston because of that suit filed against the Costa Concordia, the one that went aground off Italy and there are $460 million worth of lawsuits in that case. They were threatening to seize the ship, the people who were suing in that case as security in the Italian lawsuit.

So, Carnival, boy, had some real lawsuit troubles lately.

COSTELLO: Yes, you're not kidding. Paul Callan, David Mattingly -- many thanks to both of you.

CALLAN: Always nice to be with you, Carol.

COSTELLO: Thank you.

Christopher Dorner, self-proclaimed revenge killer advocated gun control. Ironic, isn't it? Does his case teach us anything about guns? That's our talk back question today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COSTELLO: Now is your chance to talk back on one of the big stories of the day. The question for you this morning, does the Dorner case teach us anything about guns?

Christopher Dorner, self-justified killer and gun control advocate, ironic, yes?

Police believe Dorner had up to 30 guns while a fugitive. Yet in his Facebook manifesto, Dorner wrote, quote, "In the end, I hope you will realize that the small arms I utilize should not be accessed with the ease that I obtained them. Whether by executive order or through a bipartisan Congress an assault weapons ban needs to be reinstituted, period.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

COSTELLO: This comes from a man who hours before his apparent death sparked a gun battle that killed one deputy and wounded another.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have an officer down, officer down.

UNIDENTFIED FEMALE: Copy, officer down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Medic ship (ph) is in the air, medic in the air. Officer down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Copy, another officer down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: While the cabin burned, President Obama pleaded for stricter gun control bills to be brought to the floor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Gabby Giffords deserves a vote.

(APPLAUSE)

The families of Newtown deserve a vote.

(APPLAUSE)

The families of Aurora deserve a vote.

(APPLAUSE)

The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence, they deserve a simple vote.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)