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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Police Believe Dorner is Dead; GOP Responds to State of the Union; Cruise Ship Still Gross; Finally Moving; Interview with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; Remembering Hadiya Pendleton

Aired February 13, 2013 - 08:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: More on the Dorner manhunt this morning. Developing overnight: after a firefight and an inferno, a lethal manhunt could be over and as charred human remains have now been found in a burned out cabin where the former cop Christopher Dorner's ten- day killing spree appears to have come to a fiery end. It could be weeks, though, before there is a positive ID made. But law enforcement officials seem confident that Dorner was, in fact, killed inside that cabin where he had barricaded himself.

We start with Casey Wian. He's live this morning at Los Angeles police headquarters. Let's talk first about the investigation. Where does it stand right now, Casey??

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Soledad, as you mentioned, that active manhunt appears to be over. There's no longer a heavy police presence here at the LAPD police headquarters, the kind of heavy presence we've seen for several days now. But the investigation continues.

The first order of business, trying to determine if those charred remains in that burnt out cabin south of Big Bear are those of Christopher Dorner. San Bernardino County sheriff officials say they need to conduct forensic testing to determine the identity of those remains. We don't know what kind of shape those remains are in so it could take some time.

Another part of this investigation that is ongoing, Dorner was apparently up in the Big Bear area for about six days. Could he have done that without any help? LAPD officials want to know.

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COMMANDER ANDREW SMITH, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT: Anybody who has assisted him, assisted him in hiding from the police department, assisted him in avoiding capture or assisted him in any way is criminally culpable, and I can assure you that the Los Angeles Police Department and the district attorney's office will leave no stone unturned to find out if, in fact, someone was assisting this man in his terrible crimes and his eluding capture.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WIAN: We're expecting a briefing from the LAPD in about two and a half hours from now. We'll see if they have any more details about this investigation, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Casey Wian for us this morning. Thank you, Casey.

In just a few moments, we're going to be talking with mayor of Los Angeles. Antonio Villaraigosa will be our guest straight ahead. John?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: President Obama hits the road today to try to drum up support for his proposals that he spelled out in the State of the Union address last night. He said Congress and the White House must work together to create jobs and try to grow the economy.

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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Most of us agree that a plan to reduce the deficit must be part of our agenda. And let's be clear, deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan. A growing economy that creates good, middle class jobs, that must be the north star that guides our efforts.

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BERMAN: Florida senator Marco Rubio delivered the official Republican response, taking issue with the president's economic plan.

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SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: And the idea that more taxes and more government spending is the best way to help hard-working middle class taxpayers? That's an old idea that's failed every time it's been tried. More government isn't going to help you get ahead. It's going to hold you back. More government isn't going to create more opportunities. It's going to limit them. And more government isn't going to inspire new ideas, new businesses, and new private sector jobs. It's going to create uncertainty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: And in yet another response to the president, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul spoke for the Tea Party and criticized both parties for what he called excessive spending.

Now in what may have been the most emotional part of the speech, the president invoked the names of gun victims in the audience as he called on Congress to pass tougher gun laws. The NRA quickly responded, posting a Web video highlighting what it claims is the threat to law-abiding gun owners.

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AD NARRATOR: The Obama administration believes that a gun ban will not work without mandatory gun confiscation, and universal background checks will not work without requiring national gun registration. Still think President Obama's proposals sound reasonable?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Now, in about 20 minutes we'll talk with Cleopatra Pendleton and Nathaniel Pendleton. They are the parents of shooting victim Hadiya Pendleton. They sat next to the First Lady during the State of the Union last night.

O'BRIEN: So you've heard some of these details from that Carnival cruise ship that's being slowly pulled back to the United States from the Gulf of Mexico where it sort of broke down. We've heard about the food running out. We heard about the toilets overflowing.

Here is a passenger describing just how really disgustingly bad it has become.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Raw sewage in the hallway. You have to cover your face, it's disgusting.

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O'BRIEN: Yes, sounds disgusting. Victor Blackwell is live for us in Mobile, Alabama. As I mentioned, that's the direction the ship is headed. They're expected to arrive tomorrow.

There must be a number of relatives and friends and family members who kind of camped out where you are hoping to be the first to see their other relatives get off that ship, right?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are and we saw the first two before sunrise. They're mothers from Lufkin, Texas. They came here to greet their young daughters. Their names are Kim and Mary. Those are the parents. Kim has a 10-year-old daughter, Mary has a 12- year-old daughter. They're here waiting for two of those more than 3,000 passengers on board this ship scheduled to arrive tomorrow in the afternoon.

And once they get here, they'll have some options, the people who don't have family members waiting: They can either get on planes tomorrow and head off to Houston or they can get on buses and head to either Galveston or Houston. There are also hotel rooms, 1,500 here in Mobile and New Orleans.

But let's talk more about these two parents, Kim and Mary. Kim received a phone call from her young daughter, her 10-year-old. Here's her description of that call on Monday.

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KIM MCKERREGHAN, MOM OF A 10-YEAR-OLD DUAGHTER: And 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 on Monday, you know, and I haven't heard anything since. I've just been following the news feed and that they were going to be here in Mobile, Alabama, and so I was going to be here a day early, and not two minutes later, when that boat arrived.

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BLACKWELL And Mary says when she spoke with her daughter, she was hysterical. Mary was at work and said it was just heart-breaking that she could not do anything to help her daughter. But they're here, they have antibiotics with them for when their daughters get off this boat, they'll be able to take them and hopefully won't have any health concerns.

We know this deembarkation (sic) process should take about two and a half hours. We're expecting to see that boat come in early tomorrow and from the Mobile Bay pass all the way up to the port, that should take about six hours for that ship to come in.

O'BRIEN: Wow, quite a while. Victor, got to ask you a quick question. These little girls are not by themselves, right? I mean, one's 12 and one's 10, but are they with a school group? Are they with other friends? How are they on the ship without their moms?

BLACKWELL: They're with their dads. The dads are there. These women, their ex-husbands have the kids and they're together. They're friends from the same town and they're vacationing with their dads' families.

O'BRIEN: Got it. Well, thanks, Victor. Appreciate it. We should mention that Ashleigh Banfield is going to be talking to both of those moms that Victor was referencing for us. That's going to happen at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

BERMAN: After a shoot out with alleged cop killer Christopher Dorner that ended in an inferno, are residents safe? We're going to get reactions from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. That's coming up next.

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BERMAN: This morning, we have learned that human remains have been found in the cabin where Christopher Dorner was allegedly cornered by police, but it may be weeks before we get an official ID on his body.

Joining us right now to talk about this is Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. He has been following this case intimately over the last ten days. Mayor, I know this has been dominating your life. Thank you for joining us.

MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA (D), LOS ANGELES: It has dominated by life but not the way it has the people who have been targeted by Christopher Dorner. As you probably know, although we found these remains, at this point we've not identified him, so those people will still have protective detail until we're absolutely sure that it is him.

BERMAN: When do you think that will be, sir? Do you have any details on this and is there a sense of relief among the police community in Los Angeles that this may be over? VILLARAIGOSA: The answer is I don't know when it will be. It could be hours, days, maybe even weeks. So I'm not the right person to ask that. But I can tell you that there is a sigh of relief among the vast majority of these officers. I got to talk to many of the people who were targeted, I called them, and I can tell you, almost to the person, they weren't worried about themselves. Remember, he targeted innocent people, their families, children. This was a terrorizing experience for these officers and these people because they weren't the only targets; their families were targets.

O'BRIEN: It must be just a huge relief not just for the officers but also for the people in the area who were very, very concerned. I know you had the biggest reward ever offered, $1 million. Does that look like that money will go to someone? Was there a particular tip that ended up being helpful at the end of the day?

VILLARAIGOSA: I'm not sure yet. It may be that the people that were tied up who called the police that led to them finding the person that we believe is Christopher Dorner may get a reward. Again, we still have to identify this body. We think -- almost everybody believes it is him, but at this point we're not absolutely sure. So it may be that they'll qualify for this $1 million reward.

When the chief asked me to spearhead raising the money, it wasn't hard to do. Angelinos and people from Irvine and Riverside and all across the region came together to say let's find this person as quickly as possible.

BERMAN: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, thank you for joining us. And you can hear in your voice how trying this has really been for the entire community out there, so thanks.

O'BRIEN: Absolutely, and for law enforcement too. Thank you, sir. Nice to see you as always.

Well, the president says that Hadiya Pendleton, a teenager gunned down in Chicago, and her parents, too, deserve a vote on gun control legislation. Is that enough for victims of gun violence?

BERMAN: Hadiya's parents, Cleopatra and Nathaniel Pendleton, were there during the State of the Union address. They will join us live coming up next.

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OBAMA: Just three weeks ago she was here in Washington with her classmates performing for her country at my inauguration.

And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house. Hadiya's parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: An emotional moment last night as the President implored Congress to vote on gun reform calling out the names of gun violence victims, including 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton. She was shot and killed in Chicago allegedly by gang members on a playground.

O'BRIEN: You heard the President talk about Hadiya's parents Nate and Cleo Pendleton. They were the guests of First Lady Michelle Obama and they're with us this morning.

What was is like to hear him talk about your daughter that way? It must just rip your heart out, honestly.

CLEOPATRA PENDLETON, MOTHER OF HADIYA PENDLETON: Yes, it does, because it's all so fresh. You know, I mean it's an honor that he would be speaking of my child. It's unfortunate, the circumstances to talk about her in, so.

O'BRIEN: How are you guys holding up? I mean, you're going through something that I think absolutely no parent could imagine surviving, honestly.

NATHANIEL PENDLETON, FATHER OF HADIYA PENDLETON: Day by day.

O'BRIEN: Yes.

N. PENDLETON: Day by day.

C. PENDLETON: Hour by hour. Yes.

O'BRIEN: Does it help at all to be focused on the gun control issue? Do you feel like you're doing something?

C. PENDLETON: Yes, and I feel like talking about her and getting the word out and becoming more involved with, you know, the issue is empowering, so to speak. It helps.

O'BRIEN: You know that it's very unlikely that they will -- they will pass a legislation that would ban assault weapons. People talk about it, but the reality is most people think that would not happen. How do you feel about getting into this debate? I mean, do you think that that's critical? Would you be fine with what other people think might pass, would be a registry, a national registry?

N. PENDLETON: The only thing that I could possibly say is I know we need assault weapons because we have a -- we have an army, but how are they getting on our streets? That's what I would like to know, how some kind of a way these are being leaked. Why can't we just be it -- that we stop them from being sold in, you know, regular stores? You know?

BERMAN: It doesn't seem like an assault weapons ban will get passed through Congress. You know President Obama last night said he'd like to see at least a vote on this. Is a vote enough for you?

C. PENDLETON: It's a start. Something's better than nothing, I would say. You know, we need, they need to do something, something needs to happen. It's their issue, it's been an issue for me, you know, this issue is extremely fresh because --

O'BRIEN: Yes, I can't imagine.

C. PENDLETON: Right, you know, so before my daughter's death, of course, when I was hearing talk of guns, I would think of it in terms of my family, which are hunters, you know, so I'm going to ban guns, so no one bans guns, they're hunters. And so I believe that there's a right to bear arms, but as far as the putting weapons on the street that could hinder the performance of police officers and, you know, various -- how do I say that --

O'BRIEN: Law enforcement officials trying to protect people.

C. PENDLETON: Law enforcement officials -- I mean, those types of weapons should not be readily available to anyone.

O'BRIEN: Tell us about your daughter. When we see pictures and her uniform and just smiling, I mean, she looks like an amazing, amazing little girl.

N. PENDLETON: Never sad.

O'BRIEN: She was never sad.

N. PENDLETON: Even if -- even if she was, you couldn't tell. You couldn't tell. She had a great way of hiding it. Bubbly, always smiling.

O'BRIEN: I read that she had a number of girlfriends who each thought that they were her best friend.

C. PENDLETON: And she thought they were best friends, too, she was -- she very supportive, very -- she would listen, very non-judgmental, so funny, you know. Just quirky. And when I say quirky, it's really in the context of just the -- the -- the small things that meant so much that she would kind of forget or just a real goofball, excuse my tears.

BERMAN: The First Lady came to the funeral. She obviously invited to you sit in that box last night. What has that meant to you and your family?

C. PENDLETON: Well, for me, personally, it meant everything because -- it meant the world, it was quite an honor. But it was also an honor in the name of Hadiya, because she very much wanted to perform for the President and First Lady, you know, and so I felt like at her funeral, the First Lady and the President there, you know, it was like her ability to perform for it, because all her friends spoke about her, the administrators and things of that nature that knew and loved her. So it was like a performance for Hadiya and then being there yesterday was this even greater things and spoke volumes to just her life and how she lived.

O'BRIEN: Well, Cleo and Nate, thank you for coming in to talk with us about her. Our hearts are breaking for you and I hope that they're able to figure out in Chicago and elsewhere what to do about gun violence and how to solve the problem. It's just -- it's devastating. We appreciate you talking with us.

C. PENDLETON: Thank you for having us.

N. PENDLETON: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: We've to take a short break. We're back in just a moment.

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O'BRIEN: Coming up tomorrow on STARTING POINT, Banana Joe, the best in show at Westminster. We've been talking about Banana Joe all morning.

BERMAN: I've been bashing this dog and now he's going to be on set with us.

O'BRIEN: No, no he looks so cute, there he is. Well, he's going to be joining us, and then we'll tell you a wonderful Valentine's Day tale, a couple married 82 years. Get the secret of their success.

BERMAN: Wow good for them. Meanwhile, "CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now.