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Pope Francis Inaugurated; Seven Marines Killed in Explosion in Nevada; Suicide Ends College Murder Plot; Winter Storm Hits New England; Ten Years Ago Today U.S. Invaded Iraq; 53 Killed in Iraq Violence; PTSD Victim's Suffering Detailed; White House Egg Roll May Survive Cuts

Aired March 19, 2013 - 13:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Bells in Buenos Aires, Argentina, rang in unison for 10 minutes today in honor of a native son. Of course, we are talking about the new pope, Pope Francis. The 76 year old was inaugurated in a ceremony with 10s of thousands packed into St. Peter's square. Vice President Joe Biden met the pope as part of the U.S. delegation.

Colorado is the state that had two of the deadliest mass killings in U.S. history is expected to now have new gun laws. The governor plans to sign three bills tomorrow. One will ban ammunition magazines from more than 15 rounds, another requires universal background checks and gun buyers are going to have to pay for those background checks.

This is CNN NEWSROOM, and I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

We are following the developing story in Nevada now. This is where a military training exercise actually ended in tragedy. Marine Corps says that seven marines were killed in an explosion. It happened overnight at the Hawthorne Army Depot in western Nevada. That's about 140 miles southeast of Reno. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, says there was a huge explosion.


SEN. HARRY REID (D), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: We don't know exactly what happened but it was a violent explosion, we know that. My thoughts are with those who are injured and, of course, the families of those who have lost loved ones.


MALVEAUX: I want to bring in our Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr. Barbara, tell us, first of all, what do we know about how this even happened?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, the military is saying these seven Marines were killed when a 60 millimeter mortar shell already in the tube in the weapon essentially exploded. Seven Marines killed, a number injured and medevac'd (ph) to hospital, likely with serious trauma injuries because in this training situation, they would have been standing quite close to the mortar and to the weapon when it exploded. Now. a major investigation, of course, underway trying to determine what exactly happened and trying to see how they go forward from here. But seven military families, Suzanne, getting the worst possible news today.

MALVEAUX: Oh, that is such a -- such a shame. Thank you, Barbara. We appreciate that.

A plan now to commit mass murder on a college campus. Well, police in Orlando, Florida, they say that they are trying to find out more about what this guy intended here. We're talking about this 30-year-old former student at the University of Central Florida who killed himself yesterday as police moved in. They were responding to a fire alarm and a 911 call. What they found, however, was shocking. Ed Lavandera has the details.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When the fire alarm sounded inside the dormitory tower on the University of Central Florida campus, all of the students scrambled to get out, all except James Seevakumaran.

RICHARD BEARY, POLICE CHIEF, UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA: They found the subject dead from a single gunshot wound to the head.

LAVANDERA: The 30-year-old former student killed himself. But what investigators say they discovered next were the workings of a sinister and deadly plan to commit mass murder, four homemade bombs in a backpack, multiple firearms and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

BEARY: It could have been a very bad day for everybody here. All things considered, I think that we were very blessed here at University of Central Florida.

LAVANDERA: Investigators say they don't know what made him turn his gun on himself instead. Police believe he pulled the fire alarm himself to lure unsuspecting students out into the open of the dorm hallways. He pointed the gun at one of his roommates, but police say that student barricaded himself in the bathroom and called 911. The suspect then killed himself. Students in the dorm were left shaken.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It started off as a fire alarm and nobody said that something else was going on with a bomb and the shooting so we were left in the dark.

I just never thought this was going to happen so it's really horrible that someone had to die.

LAVANDERA: Investigators also say they found writings laying out a time line of what Seevakumaran planned to do, a plan, investigators say, designed to, quote, "give them hell." We don't know who he planned to target but investigators say he was acting as a lone wolf.

BEARY: He did not have a lot of friends. One of those people that really and truly flies under the radar and had some anger issues. He was just truly one of those that are out there and he made up his mind and set a timeline and put a plan into place. (END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Ed's joining us from Orlando. Ed, I have a couple of questions for you. First of all, do we know if he was specifically targeting anyone? And, secondly, what was this guy doing on campus?

LAVANDERA (live): Well, so far, authorities are saying that no one specific person was targeted. There was that reference in there to giving them hell but authorities say they do not know who "they" were talking about. Authorities here on the campus have scheduled a press conference for later this afternoon so perhaps if they have more details, they will shed light on that.

What is interesting was that the student had been registered on campus for the last couple of years through the end of the fall semester that ended in December. But as far as we know, university officials say he was not registered at the school for the spring semester and that university officials were actually in the process of trying to get him out of the dorm where he was still living. And that dorm right behind me, Suzanne, is now back open and students we've seen coming and going throughout the day.

MALVEAUX: Do we -- do we understand that -- you said that he was a registered -- he seems that he's rather old to be actually in a -- in a campus dorm.

LAVANDERA: Yes, a 30-year-old student. He was registered in the College of Business Administration. He had been taking, from 2010 through the end of 2012. So, he wasn't technically registered in this -- for the spring semester. It's unclear if he was planning to come back or if he had finished. But the university officials did say that they were in the process of trying to get him removed since he wasn't registered out of the -- out of this dorm. Officials here have described him as a loner and someone who had been displaying anti- social behavior. How all of that played together isn't exactly clear, at this point, but you would imagine that that might have played some sort of role in why they are trying to remove student --


LAVANDERA: -- from the dormitory.

MALVEAUX: Sure. A lot of -- still a lot of unanswered questions. Ed, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

So, the calendar says spring just a day away. We can hardly wait. But when you take a look at the video, you might beg to differ here. So, this is what we're watching. This is North Dakota. This was just yesterday. Accidents littering the interstate. The scene very similar in Minnesota as well, blowing snow, decreasing visibility there, ice coating the roads. Didn't even stop there. Overnight, the roads in New York turned into a slippery mess. And it's not over yet.

Alison Kosik, she is in Concord, New Hampshire. Alison, it's nice to see you out there, outdoors, change of pace there. A foot and a half of snow, really? ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I know. You know, it certainly doesn't feel like today is the last day of winter. You know, people I've talked with said, spring? Spring is tomorrow? It doesn't look that way. But, you know, if snow had to fall, it doesn't hurt it's so pretty. Look how picturesque that is. It's like a postcard, isn't it? And I'll tell you what, the snow actually -- the kind of snow that's falling is good snow. It's good snow for building snowmen. It's good for skiing, so the ski resorts are certainly enjoying it. But, of course, a lot of people are already sick of this. It's, you know, the end of March. Spring is tomorrow and they just sort of want to put the snow behind them. It doesn't look like that's happening today though -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And what about last year? It was kind of a different story, yes? Different picture?

KOSIK: Yes. That -- you know, today is March 19th and March 19th last year, would you believe it was 81 degrees? 81 degrees.


KOSIK: And look at -- look at what it is today. You know, it has been an -- actually, a rough winter here for those here in New Hampshire. An average of 72 inches of snow have fallen for the winter season, compare that to an average of 55 inches that fell last year. So, it really has been a rough winter season just because a lot of the storms, they've been strong storms, and they've kind of hit one after the other just in March. So, yes, they are hoping for spring. They are hoping for some sort of heat wave at some point -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Alison, we are showing our viewers, there is a split screen from last year and you see these kids with their popsicles and everything and people hanging out like -- you know, like they're on the beach. Pretty amazing when you think of the comparison just from a year ago. Try to stay warm, Alison, all right?

KOSIK: I will. I will.

MALVEAUX: OK. All right. Thanks, Alison.

Here is what we're working on for the hour. Ten years ago today, the U.S. invaded Iraq. You'll remember that. Almost 4,500 Americans lost their lives in the second Iraq War. Many more still nursing their wounds.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My driver, he ran over an IED, and I lost one of my eyes and the left side of my skull was fractured.


MALVEAUX: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he's taking a look at one man's struggle to recover.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MALVEAUX: 11 years after a gruesome murder, Pakistan has arrested now a suspect in connection with the killing of journalist Daniel Pearl. A senior Pakistani official says, Qari Abdul Hayee is suspected of helping to arrange the kidnapping. Pearl, he was a reporter for the "Wall Street Journal." He was kidnapped and later beheaded in Pakistan while researching about a story about militants. Several others have been convicted for their roles in that murder.

It is a bloody day across Iraq as the nation marks the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. At least 53 people died in a series of car and roadside bombings and shootings. The anniversary of the start of the Iraq War is almost always accompanied by a spike in deadly violence. Well, Americans will be calculating the cost of the Iraq War for generations. From the moment combat operations began exactly 10 years ago today, almost 4,500 Americans lost their lives. The human toll for Iraqis, much, much higher. More than 134,000 died, many of them civilians.

And the burden on U.S. taxpayers as well. This war cost a lot, a whopping $800 billion. About 32,000 U.S. troops were wounded in the Iraq War. D'Angelo Vaughn, an Army combat engineer, he was just one of them. He suffered a severe head injury from the roadside blast. And Vaughn's path to recovery, it has been slow and difficult. A rehabilitation program in Atlanta has helped him try to regain his independence and connect again with his family. Dr. Sanjay Gupta has the story.


ANTWAIN D'ANGELO VAUGHN, VETERAN, IRAQ WAR: I had a feeling that I would be injured when I went to Iraq the second time.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Army Combat Engineer Sergeant D'Angelo Vaughn was injured in an IED explosion in Iraq in 2005.

VAUGHN: We were riding through a mission to blow up some IEDs. My driver, he ran over an IED, and I lost one of my eyes and the left side of my skull was fractured and they had to take out a piece of my brain because it got infected.

GUPTA (on camera): And this is the part that they had to take out from -- because of the injury and to take some pressure off of your brain?

VAUGHN: Yes, sir.

GUPTA (voice-over): Unlike the physical wounds of war, traumatic brain injuries, they're often invisible to the eye, and it's not uncommon for vets, like Vaughn, to suffer in silence.

(on camera): What was recovery like then? You have these operations. You're seven months in the hospital.

VAUGHAN: Lots of pain, torture it seemed like, light would cause me to have migraines. I was having seizures. GUPTA: That whole chapter's very hard on you.

VAUGHN: yes.

GUPTA: And on your wife.

VAUGHN Caused me and my first wife to get a divorce. Luckily I have tremendous parents.

GUPTA: Now Deangelo's happily remarried.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wash the pan out.

GUPTA: Communication was a major challenge for him and his wife Kenyatta (ph). And his five girls.

KENYATTA VAUGHAN, WIFE OF DEANGELO VAUGHN: I can tell something would be bothering him sometimes but he wouldn't know how to express himself.

VAUGHN: I just didn't feel like I could offer anything to society.

GUPTA: Last year, Deangelo found the Share Clinic. It's a comprehensive rehab program in Atlanta. Focusing on helping vets recovery from traumatic brain injuries.

DR. ANDREA DENNISON, SHARE PROGRAM PHYSICIAN: People will have headaches. They'll have trouble with concentration and attention, insight, judgment, planning, You'll also see difficulty with emotion control.

GUPTA: How do you describe this program?

DENNISON: The one stop shop for everything. Treating all of the different symptoms in a cohesive way.

GUPTA: For Vaughn, regaining independence a key living in the Share- provided housing.

VAUGHN: That's independence right there.

GUPTA: He also surprised himself by discovering a new hobby. What does this do for you physically and mentally?

VAUGHN: It gives you patience.

GUPTA: What are you looking for?

DENNISON: I'm looking how we're paying attention to the left side in particular.

GUPTA: Vaughn completed the inpatient program, it took him 81 days. Now he's living at home with his family. He meets with his life coach weekly.

JACKIE BRETTENSTEIN, SHARE LIFE COACH: Instead of 5:00 to 6:00, but the correct time.

So, it could be appointments, it could be a daily routine, things they want to accomplish, volunteer time, how they're structuring time.

VAUGHN: I'm going rock climbing in Utah.

GUPTA: Do you have goals now for the future?

VAUGHN: To become a personal trainer. To be the best father that I can be to my five children. And to be the best husband I can be to my wife.

GUPTA: How would you rate your quality of life?

VAUGHN: Scale out of 1 to 10, 10.

GUPTA: Fantastic. Would you go back to Iraq?

VAUGHN: If my country needed me I would go back.


MALVEAUX: Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us now. An amazing story of success there. How often does this happen? Are there a lot of people dealing with these struggles?

GUPTA: There are. You know you think about war's past and amputations were the signature injuries of wars in Vietnam and Korea. This time head injuries, no question about it. About one in five returning veterans, a lot returning now have some form of head injury. So 20 percent. Another 18 percent also have significant post-traumatic stress disorder or depression. The thing that's interesting about the program, is that as doctors we know how to take care of the acute problems. But even long term, rehab's important but it doesn't work unless there's housing associated with it unless people are getting counseling with regard to just get finances back in order. In this case, he needed legal counseling. They all interplay with each other and that's what the program is all about.

MALVEAUX: Why is it so many cases are undiagnosed? Is it something that people are afraid to come forward with or some of the signs are hidden.

GUPTA: I think some of the stigma's still there. There's no question about that. As much as we have talked about those over last 12 years, it's still there. There's no particular brain scan or blood test that can tell you for sure there's an impact on the brain from these explosions. It's not often one explosion. We know when one explosion occurs there an injury. Multiple explosions that are small enough someone doesn't get knock out or feel anything, they can be additive over time, that makes it hard to diagnose.

MALVEAUX: You were in Iraq. You saw a lot of first firsthand up close. You were even in a situation you were able to save lives as well. GUPTA: Yes. It's a remarkable anniversary because there were people out there when you think about in the middle of these dusty desert tents who have these significant wounds, as a neurosurgeon I was able to help out because I was the only neurosurgeon there. That has been going on for 10, 12 years now. The brain injuries, we're seeing the long-term impact.

MALVEAUX: Never forget it, when you were there and you were -- literally you were saving lives.

GUPTA: I dream about it still sometimes being out there.


GUPTA: Some of the people did well. And as you saw with Deangelo, I think he's going to have a real go at things here.

MALVEAUX: Sanjay, thank you. Excellent work. I'm sure there are many Iraqis thanking you as well.

GUPTA: Thank you. Appreciate that.

MALVEAUX: Don't forget to tune into Sanjay Gupta M.D. this weekend. Saturday at 4:30 p.m. eastern, Sunday 7:30 in the morning here on CNN.

And will the White House end the cherished Easter Egg Roll this year because of a possible government shutdown? We'll have to get to the bottom of that story next.


MALVEAUX: The calendar says March 19th but it's still St. Patrick's day in Washington. President Obama meeting with the Irish prime minister Enda Kenny at the White House, this was earlier today. And this hour, they're attending a House Speaker John Boehner's annual friend of Ireland's luncheon. Tonight the president leaves on his first visit to Israel since taking office. The trip includes stops in the West Bank town of Ramallah and the country of Jordan.

Budget battles heating up today on Capitol Hill. Both the House and Senate likely to vote on the budget proposal. But once again, not surprising, the parties split over taxes, spending cuts, and the deficit. House Republicans and Democrats from the House are now trying to make their case.


REP. JOE CROWLEY, DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS VICE CHAIRMAN: The Republican budget, the same baby with a new diaper. Eventually this diaper will have be changed once again. Reality is, this budget is very little difference between this budget and the Ryan Republican budgets of the past.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R) MINORITY WHIP: You want more tax and spend or you want a future that balances. The question is always why, one or the other. If you go with the Democrats' tax and spend, you get the same economy that you've had right now. You're going to lose more of your paycheck which every person working today has.


MALVEAUX: All right. So another thing happening at the White House here. The Easter Egg Roll might be spared from this government gridlock. All this started when ticket holders to the annual event were told it could be canceled if lawmakers cannot agree on a plan to prevent the government from shutting down. This year's Easter Egg Roll set for April 1st. It does look like now it's going forward as planned. Brianna Keilar, she's joining us with the very latest.

Brianna, you and I both know it's a fun event. A lot of people look forward to taking their kids, getting tickets. It would be a sad loss especially D.C. kids, folks in the area. How did this happen?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I don't know if people would have worried so much that the Easter Egg Roll, which is a fun day of games and of course the Easter Egg Roll is part of it for the kids I don't know that people would have worried it was going to be canceled except that the White House earlier this month had said it was going to cancel tours of the White House through the end of September to save money amid the forced spending cuts that kicked in.

What happened was, a notice went out to members of Congress, some of whom go to the Easter Egg Roll and it said to them that because of funding uncertainties surrounding the executive office of the president and other federal agencies, you know, it's possible that this event is subject to cancellation and said if it's canceled it's not going to be rescheduled.

It turns out that actually this sort of maybe canceled thing wasn't related to the forced spending cuts it was related to whether there might be a partial government shutdown which could occur if Congress were to fail to extend funding authorization into the end of March here. But have no fear, it appears Easter's still sacred. Listen to what Jay Carney said today at the briefing.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I want to be clear, because it looks like there's progress being made and nobody expects a government shutdown, we have every expectation that the Easter Egg Roll will proceed as planned. I hope that settles the matter.


KEILAR: So that is the good news. I will tell you, following tours being canceled, Suzanne, you know that Republicans were pretty upset about that because they felt like the White House is just trying to gin up negative reaction to these forced spending cuts. They haven't really jumped on the possibility that the Easter Egg Roll is going to be canceled. So Republicans, as well, who some of whom will be at this event, seem to be confident that it's going to go forward as well.

MALVEAUX: Okay. Both sides using it, I think. Brianna, thank you. Right now a funeral being held for a 6-month-old who was shot and killed on the south side of Chicago. We'll talk to the family's pastor about what is being done to put an end to the violence there.