Return to Transcripts main page


Shooting at Olympic Superstar's Home; Face to Face with A Fugitive; Hiding in Plain Sight; "Cruise from Hell" Due in Alabama Today; Bloomberg Targets Plastic Foam Packaging; U.S. Airways-American Super Merger; Minimum Wage Reality Check

Aired February 14, 2013 - 06:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this morning. A deadly shooting involving international sports icon Oscar Pistorius and his model girlfriend.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hiding in plain sight. New details on fugitive accused killer Christopher Dorner's last days, including one couple's harrowing hostage ordeal.

BERMAN: And a desperation below deck, you know, above, too. Arguments over food break out as a crippled cruise ship slowly limps towards shore.

SAMBOLIN: Come over to your TV. Take a look at this. Taking a dive. A boxer's in trouble for hitting the mat after the video clearly shows his opponent swung and missed. Crazy.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. Happy you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is Thursday, February 14th. Happy Valentine's Day.

SAMBOLIN: Happy Valentine's Day to you.

BERMAN: It is 6:00 a.m. in the East.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BERMAN: We have lots of brand new information this hour on our breaking news story this morning. A shooting at an Olympic hero's home. We're talking about the blade runner, track superstar Oscar Pistorius. He is at a police station in South Africa right now after his model girlfriend was shot and killed at his home.

Police are saying a 26-year-old man has been arrested. They're not confirming that it is Pistorius, although very important to note that Pistorius is 26. We're also finding out about previous incidents at his home.

Nkepile Mabuse is on the phone outside his home in Pretoria in South Africa. A police presser just wrapped up there. What's the latest right now on the investigation? NKEPILE MABUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, John, on the whereabouts of Oscar Pistorius, we were outside the police station where he was taken this morning and he left there in a convoy of police cars.

He actually had a hoodie on and he actually bowed down in the car so that people couldn't get shots of him. He was taken away from that police station and we understand that he was taken to a medical facility not very far from there where a full examination is being done, blood tests and a physical examination.

So there's a lot of mystery. There's very little information that we know about this incident, especially when it comes to Oscar Pistorius because the police refuse to confirm that the 26-year-old that they arrested is Oscar Pistorius.

At this point in time, they are saying that the incident happened at Oscar Pistorius' home, but they say that the 26-year-old that they arrested, is name will only be revealed when he appears in court and we understand that he will appear in an hour's time -- John.

BERMAN: One of the other interesting things we have heard from this police press conference is that there are previous allegations of a domestic nature at the Pistorius home. Do we know anything more about this?

MABUSE: Very, very disturbing. And again the police are very cagey about details. They say that they have witnesses actually to this incident. When I asked the police officer, are these people who saw what happened or people that heard. They say, look, people heard yelling and shouting and of course, the gunshots and there had been previous cases of a domestic violence nature that have been reported from Oscar Pistorius' home.

I mean, over the years there have been rumors and there have been reports about fighting over girlfriends and possible abuse of some girlfriends, you know, things that really never went to court and there was never any conviction, et cetera. So it will be very interesting to hear exactly what more details the police will release to the court because they will have to release details if they don't want the suspect to be let go or granted bail.

We are hoping that more details will emerge when we go to court in less than an hour's time. But very, very disturbing reports essentially because Oscar is a hero here in South Africa. People admire him greatly for the achievements that he's been able to make and he's always flying proudly the South Africa flag so people here are very devastated.

But as you can imagine, South Africa has high levels of crime so immediately people thought, look, Oscar Pistorius could have mistook the victim for an intruder, it wouldn't be the first time somebody has shot a loved one because they thought that there was an intruder or a burglar because this happens all the time in South Africa in the communities.

So many, many questions to be answered and we're hoping to answer those questions after the court appearance -- John.

BERMAN: Nkepile Mabuse in Pretoria this morning. So many questions still surrounding the death of the girlfriend of Oscar Pistorius, international sports icon. We are awaiting more details, expecting them within the next hour. We will bring them to you as soon as we get them.

SAMBOLIN: Absolutely shocking.

BERMAN: Terrible.

SAMBOLIN: Absolutely.

It's 4 minutes past the hour, so very close encounter with a fugitive killer. New information this morning about the manhunt for Christopher Dorner, the rogue ex-cop who apparently died in a burning cabin in Big Bear after a nine-day reign of terror.

So it turns out Dorner may have been hiding in plain sight in a nearby resort condo for days, just a few steps from a police command post that was set up to catch him. The condo belonged to Jim and Karen Reynolds.

They say it was them, not their housekeepers who were taken hostage and tied up. Listen to the couple describe what it was like when they walked into the unit and first saw Dorner.


JIM REYNOLDS, TAKEN HOSTAGE BY DORNER: When he jumped out and hollered stay calm, Karen screamed, turns around started running. He ran after her. He caught her about the door.


J. REYNOLDS: And brought her back.

K. REYNOLDS: He had his gun drawn the whole time.

J. REYNOLDS: He had the gun drawn.

MALE REPORTER: Did you know it was him?


J. REYNOLDS: Yes, as soon as I saw him.

K. REYNOLDS: He talked to us, trying to calm us down and saying very frequently he would not kill us.

J. REYNOLDS: He had some plastic ties and made us put our hands behind our back and tied our hands and made us get up and walk into the back bedroom. First, he had us lay on the bed and cross our feet. Then he changed his mind and had me lay on the floor and he bound my feet with the plastic ties. He did her, had her lay down, did the same thing. MALE REPORTER: Did you think he was going to kill you then?

J. REYNOLDS: When he had me laying on the ground, yes, I really did. I thought he's changed his mind, he was just trying to calm us down, get us in here and he's going to do it.


SAMBOLIN: Remarkable that she can smile through that. A lot of lingering questions about the policeman hunt for Dorner. Why it took so long for authorities to track him down and how well they really secured the area where he was hiding and whether the cabin he apparently died in was intentionally set on fire as well.

Nick Valencia live from Big Bear Lake this morning. Nick, you are right outside the compound post that was used by the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department. So give us the sense of how close Dorner was supposedly hiding.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very close, unsettling close. It was eerily close. I can't exaggerate -- or emphasize it enough. If you take a look at it, Zoraida, it's less than 100 yards away from where we're standing. It's not that first cabin there in the front, but rather the one right behind there.

I took a walk back up there. Dorner knew exactly what he was doing. That cabin kisses the woods right behind the condo complex there and it's all the more unsettling when you consider the manpower and resources used by officers throughout Southern California.

At one point, there was more than 125 officers looking for Christopher Dorner. They couldn't find him and he was right under their nose.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, almost like he was watching them. Deputies had been searching that area for days. Have officials given any explanation as to how they missed him or why?

VALENCIA: Well, Zoraida, you talked about those lingering questions. I think the most blatant lingering question is how they could have missed him, considering the resources used. Yesterday when the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department was questioned by the media, they were very cagey and sort of dodged the questions. Take a listen what they had to say.


DEPUTY CHIEF STEVE KOVENSKY, SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: I can tell you that the cabin in question had not been rented out since February 6th. As I said, there was an extensive search in that area of the cabins.


VALENCIA: An extensive search, but still we're wondering how they could have missed him.

SAMBOLIN: Really crazy. Nick Valencia, I'm sure we'll find out more. Thank you so much. Live in California for us.

At 7:15 Eastern on "STARTING POINT," we have a CNN exclusive. Arianna Williams is going to join us live. She is the former girlfriend of Christopher Dorner.

BERMAN: So the so-called Carnival cruise from hell is finally expected to arrive at an Alabama port later today and that moment can't come too soon for the 4,000 plus people on board who have been stuck with those hideous conditions since Sunday when an engine fire left the cruise adrift in the Gulf of Mexico.

I think everyone is all too familiar with the details, overflowing toilets, soaked carpets, the dwindling food supply, have passengers are just desperate to reach land. But how much longer now will they have to suffer?

They are at the mercy of a few different factors, one of them being weather. So Indra Petersons is at the CNN Weather Center in Atlanta with a look at the current conditions in the Gulf of Mexico.

Our David Mattingly is live at Mobile, Alabama, where family members are anxiously awaiting their loved ones arrival. We're going to start with David in Mobile right now. So David, the question is, how far away is the "Triumph" right now?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, by miles, probably less than 50 miles away from Mobile right now, but think about this. This cruise ship was supposed to get to Galveston, Texas, last Sunday. They're going to be arriving here in Mobile five days overdue, 500 miles off course.

After enduring the conditions you're talking about, we're going to see passengers very anxious to get off of that ship. This facility here was constructed just to handle cruise ships so they're expecting to process them of that boat pretty quickly.

But it's going to be a very slow trip from where they are right now to get to where they need to be here behind me later today. That's going to take probably 12 hours. They're not expected to get here until late this afternoon.

BERMAN: And those conditions, they must just be unbearable. Any late word on how passengers are faring right now?

MATTINGLY: Well, yesterday there was a big flurry of activity, helicopters delivering new provisions to the ship, also delivering a generator to generate more power on board that ship. Cruise officials told us on Tuesday they were able to re-establish electricity in some limited fashion to parts of the ship.

They were able to restore the plumbing in some parts of that ship. That was early in the week. That was a couple of days ago. Now with these new supplies, this new generator, the conditions we are expecting will probably be even more improved by the time the customers arrive here.

BERMAN: So this cruise started in Texas. So how is Carnival handling the logistics of getting everyone home?

MATTINGLY: Well, once they get here, this is when things will start moving pretty quickly for these customers, these 3,100 people who paid to be on this ship. They are going to have a couple of options. Once they get off the ship, there will be buses waiting.

They can go to a hotel room where they can finally get a hot shower for the first time in days, a hot meal, maybe even sleep there for a while and then they're going to have charter flights available to them to take them back to Texas where this cruise began so then they can go home.

Or they have the option to just take that bus all the way back to Galveston if they park their car there so they can take their car and then drive straight home. You can imagine there might be some people anxious to do that, some people equally anxious to get to that hot shower. So we're going to hear from a lot of people as they're getting off that boat today.

BERMAN: People who will no doubt be so happy just to be on land. David Mattingly in Mobile, Alabama, thanks very much.

SAMBOLIN: All right, so let's go to Indra Petersons with a look at the weather in the Gulf of Mexico. Indra, could there be anything that would hold that ship back? They were talking about the winds and there's a channel that they have to travel through as well.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, absolutely. Yesterday there was concern for some of those strong winds. Better news today. As we mentioned, currently the "Triumph" is about 50 miles south of Mobile, Alabama, but this is the canal they have to get to. It's very narrow and about 30 miles long.

Yesterday they had a good 20-mile-per-hour wind so the concern was, of course, it could shift easily from right to left as it had to go through that narrow channel. The good news is today, they're not fighting those winds. They're going to add extra two additional tug boats to help protect them.

But that's what they were dealing with yesterday with a cold front so 25-mile-per-hour winds and heavy rain, you can actually see they are now behind that so that's the good news. That concern is no longer there.

In fact they're going to be having fair conditions out there. The sun should actually come out and the winds, the most important factor, should be calm. About 10, 15 miles in the morning, but you can tell by 8:00 a.m. 6 miles per hour and today at 4:00 p.m. pretty much calm conditions. So that's the good news there.

SAMBOLIN: We cannot wait to see that boat dock. Indra Petersons, thank you very much.

You're going to want to stick around for this. Coming up later this hour, we'll be talking to Brent Nutt. His wife and sister-in-law are on board that nightmare cruise. He'll tell us exactly how they're describing this horrific ordeal. That is at 6:30 Eastern.

BERMAN: I think you're getting some Valentine's texts while we're on TV here.

SAMBOLIN: Did you hear that? I apologize for that, folks.

BERMAN: All right, it's 12 minutes after the hour right now. So first it was posting calories in restaurants, then a soda ban.

SAMBOLIN: Now a new target for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Fifteen minutes past the hour.

We are following breaking news this morning. It is a shocking story involving the blade runner, Olympic and Paralympic track superstar Oscar Pistorius. He is at the police station in south Africa right now after his model girlfriend was shot and killed inside his home.

Police are saying a 26-year-old man has been arrested. They are not confirming that it is Pistorius, although it is important to note that Pistorius is 26 years old. We are also finding out about previous incidents at his home of a domestic nature.

Pistorius, who is a double amputee, reached the 400-meter semifinals in the London Games last year. He races with carbon blades because of a birth defect.

BERMAN: To New York now where first it was calorie counts on menus, then trans fats, then mega soft drinks. Now, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is out to ban Styrofoam food packaging in stores. It's actually not Styrofoam technically, it's plastic foam. He's looking to ban that in stores and food restaurants.

Bloomberg will unveil the plan today in his final State of the City speech.

SAMBOLIN: And, boy, did you feel that breeze? Look at this. A boxer has suspended for allegedly taking a dive 13 seconds into a fight against former NFL defensive end Ray Edwards. Look at this, the phantom upper cut misses his much smaller opponent Nick "Turbo Tax" Capes by about a foot. But he sells it, literally knocking himself off his own feet.

Reports say "Turbo Tax" --

BERMAN: That is insane, I'm sorry. It is nowhere near him.

SAMBOLIN: I know. But it looked right. So, if you're far away.

BERMAN: Two miles away.

SAMBOLIN: "Turbo Tax" was a last-minute replacement for a couple of no-show boxers. North Dakota's fight governing body is reviewing that right there. It won't take long to jump into a conclusion dare, I say, right?

BERMAN: Not a tough one to review.

Everyone waking up to a huge business story, a massive deal in the airline industry. U.S. Airways and bankrupt American Airlines have agreed to a merger.

SAMBOLIN: But what does it mean for you, the flier? Christine Romans has details in "Road Warriors".

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Because it's all about us in the end, isn't it?

The goal is a more efficient, more profitable airline, but that's going to take some time. Airline mergers generally take a few years, so for now get ready for some logistical headaches. One analyst we talked to says the bigger the merger, the more problems there are.

First, combining the computer systems isn't easy. So, there could be some reservation problems initially. We can look at one of the most recent mergers for a clue. United and Continental -- in January, 2012, the first month the government combined data of those carriers, it showed customer complaints shot up 198 percent. Most of the complaints are about flight problems, cancellations, delays and reservations and ticketing problems.

These two airlines also have to combine their frequent flier programs. They're going to have to woo back business travelers that American lost with all of those canceled flights this fall because of a pilot sickout. Here's travel expert Mark Murphy on some of the benefits of the deal.


MARK MURPHY, TRAVEL EXPERT: This merger will provide the traveler with better connections. I think you're going to be in nine major hubs between the two carriers now with the merger. So you're going to be able to get where you want to go more efficiently and effectively.


ROMANS: All right. So those nine major hubs are all over the country giving people a lot of access.

Look at where they are. Not a lot of overlap. Really the only overlap in Chicago and Phoenix. Because of that and because the economy is still weak, many travel experts are telling us that ticket prices probably won't go up.

Now, we should also point out that sources close to the boards have told us that the boards have agreed there's a lot of work to do here. An announcement today likely and then we'll wait to se what the bankruptcy judge says and what federal regulators say about this big, big deal.

BERMAN: Usually changes need to be made before it's finalized but they manage to push it through.

ROMANS: That's right. Absolutely.

SAMBOLIN: John pointed out perhaps they could double our miles. So --

ROMANS: No details on your frequent flier plan but I will find out as soon as this deal is official.

SAMBOLIN: We appreciate that. Thank you.

All right. Nineteen minutes past the hour. Coming up, lots of folks watching the news of that Carnival cruise ship limping back to port today. Christine Romans is coming back to tell us what you need to know if you are holding tickets for a cruise.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Twenty-three minutes past the hour.

We are minding your business this morning. A new report from Fidelity says 401(k) balances hit a record high last quarter. How about that? One big reason why: stocks have had a pretty good year.

But, today, Wall Street is taking a break. Futures are lower.

BERMAN: Yes, and one stock on the move is Carnival. After the engine fire on the Triumph, the cruise line is warning investors it will take a financial hit. Yes.

Christine Romans here.

ROMANS: It will take a financial hit. Carnival says this disaster is going to hurt its bottom line. The shares tumbled 4 percent yesterday in response. I'm going to show you the last three days and you can see that the public relations nightmare for Carnival is something investors have been feeling.

One analyst said that all of this coverage is going to build up attention for Carnival. Cruise loyalists and investors probably long term probably won't be deterred. That's right. It's just going to keep putting cruising, I guess -- or cruises on the front page.

But Carnival says this will cut into its profits in the first half of the year by about $70 million.


ROMANS: The issue is voyage disruptions, repair costs. They're going to have to fix this boat and it's going to mean there's going to be some canceled cruises in the meantime. Three thousand passengers, though, the money they care about is what they're going to get back -- full refund of this cruise, a 15 to 25 percent discount on a future cruise if they're brave and $500 in cash. Of course, Carnival paying for all the expenses here in the meantime as they have to get them home. They're not home, by the way. Three thousand people are still being tugged very slowly to Mobile.

This is interesting because it was even a bigger disaster last year. Remember the Costa Concordia? Thirty-two people died when that ran aground. So, in one year, Carnival has had two very terrible public relations blows. It will be 8 to 10 cents off of its earnings.

BERMAN: Yes, not a good year for that business.

Let's talk about a little different kind of business. One of the biggest news impacts of the president's State of the Union speech was the minimum wage, calling on raising it to $9. How does that compare to the rest of the world?

ROMANS: A lot of people who support this are pointing out that -- look, the rest of the world already have a higher minimum wage. Let's look at some of them. Australia, for example, has a much higher minimum wage than the U.S. does.

You go around to some of our other competitors. France, for example, has a $12 an hour minimum wage. Japan has an $8 dollar minimum wage. The U.S. is at $7.25.

We put Beijing in there because in China it's not national minimum wage, but it's regional. In China, in Beijing, $2.24 an hour.

The question here is, though, a lot of small business owners are saying we have to implement Obamacare, the president's health care plan. We are trying to help low income workers that way. We don't have enough demand. This is going to hurt small business.

I want you to listen to one owner we talked to yesterday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, it's horrible the way it's going to affect everybody. I mean, I'm going to have to lay people off out of my own company. I'm sure every local business owner is probably going to have to do the same thing also.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not going to be able to have employees. I just won't.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody wants to make more money, but at the same time the small businesses are suffering.


ROMANS: So, you can see small business owners were very upset about this. The business community in general saying this is a bad idea. We have 100 years of economic studies and no real clear indication that this is something that grows the economy.

It's just the right thing to do, look at us with the rest of the world. I predict a big fight over the minimum wage coming up. SAMBOLIN: I predict you are correct. Thank you, Christine.

BERMAN: You were just talking about the business side of this cruise ship nightmare in the Gulf of Mexico. There's also a very human side.


BERMAN: Just ahead, passengers on that Carnival cruise ship back in port soon we hope, and many families will be there waiting for him. We're going to speak with a man whose wife is on board and what she is telling him about the conditions onboard.