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CNN NEWSROOM

Colorado Prison Chief Killed; 911 Tape Reveals Shooting Averted; Police: Would Be Gunman Killed Himself; Obama In Israel This Morning; NYC Subway Worker Pulled From Mud; French Police Raid IMF Chief's Home; Carnival Delays Return Of "Triumph"; Police Chiefs For Gun Control; A Rainbow Colored Protest; Marines Expand Ban On Mortars

Aired March 20, 2013 - 10:00   ET

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


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: -- a checklist for a massacre.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via telephone): He just pulled a fire alarm and he's got a gun out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: The 911 call that saved lives at a Florida college.

And you know the Westborough Baptist Church, we'll talk to a man who has moved in across the street from the church and painted the rainbow flag on his house.

And would you pay $100 to meet Mr. or Mrs. Right? The new high-tech, high-priced matchmaker hot in Silicon Valley.

And hoop heaven is here. The NCAA tourney is underway. See if you can meet me in a bracket challenge. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

And good morning. Thank you so much for being with me. I'm Carol Costello. It is a busy Wednesday morning. The search is on for whoever shot and killed Colorado's prison chief. Tom Clements, the man in charge of all the Colorado prisons, was shot in the chest, at his house, outside of Colorado Springs last night.

There was a knock on the door, he answered the door, and then somebody shot him in the chest. Clements was rushed to a hospital where he later died. Right now, police do not have a suspect description even.

Clements was the executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections and he spent 30 years with the Missouri Department of Corrections before moving on to Colorado.

This morning, Colorado's governor has ordered all state flags to fly at half-staff today. Today is also a big day in Colorado where the governor is set to sign three gun bills into law. One limits magazine capacity to just 15 bullets. The other two deal with background checks and how to pay for them.

Lieutenant Jeff Kramer of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office -- actually, we're going to get to Lieutenant Jeff Kramer in just a moment, once we get him on the phone for sure.

And also, Governor Hickenlooper, the governor of Colorado, is expected to hold a news conference any minute now. When Governor Hickenlooper begins speaking, of course, we'll take you to Colorado live.

We're also learning more about a potential massacre averted. We've now got tape of the 911 call placed by the roommate of a University of Central Florida student who apparently amassed an arsenal in his dorm room.

It was just after midnight on Monday when this man walked in on his roommate and almost became James Oliver Martin's first victim.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: He just pulled a fire alarm and he's got a gun out.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: Where are you at?

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: I'm in the University of Central Florida of Orlando. The fire alarm went off. I opened the door to see what was going on, and he's there with some sort of like gun -- like large assault gun. I don't know if it's a real gun. I don't know what it is, but I just saw it and I slammed my door shut and locked it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Shortly after that call, police found the alleged gunman dead by his own hand, along with thousands of rounds of ammo, homemade bombs, and a checklist that called for a mass killing. Babahkani recalled the confrontation to CNN's Anderson Cooper.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARABO "BK" BABAHKANI, ROOMMATE OF UCF GUNMAN: He instantly just raised his rifle at me and before he could get it all the way up, I just slammed the door. I was not trying to -- I was not going to let him shoot me.

I just slammed the door, locked it, and moved away from the door, in case he fired at the door. I took some cover in my room, so he wouldn't like, be able to -- bullets wouldn't be able to penetrate anything and then I just called 911. And they pretty much handled it from there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Babahkani said his roommate was a loner and that he may have had money problems.

Overseas now, where this morning President Obama is in Israel and less than an hour from now, the president will hold a news conference along with the Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Earlier today, the two toured Israel's iron dome, the nation's air defense system, and right now security is a huge issue for both countries. First it was Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons, and now growing concern that Syria has unleashed chemical weapons on its own people.

Our chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin is in Jerusalem. Good morning, Jessica.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. You know, the president's arrival -- go ahead.

COSTELLO: No, no, no, I was just going to prompt you about Syria. Maybe we should start there.

YELLIN: Yes, so there are these new concerns about chemical weapons, possibly, in Syria, and, you know, the fact that this is now all rising to the surface, just as the president is arriving here in Israel certainly brings new urgency to the question of U.S. intervention in Syria.

But, you know, that all leads right back to the question for Israelis, Iranian involvement in the region, Iranian -- the Iranian nuclear program, which all, again, connects to Israel's own security.

So I'm constantly now being asked, will the question of Syria dominate talks here. Will that overtake all other issues? And quite simply, it just brings new urgency to the Syria question and the matter of U.S. possible involvement in Syria.

But it will not overtake Iran on the agenda, because the two are in Israeli's mind, interconnected, and for Israelis, nothing is more important than the question of Iran's nuclear program, and so now these two issues, both Syria and Iran, will dominate talks here, as the president heads into a day of talks and several days of important events here in Israel -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Jessica Yellin reporting live from Jerusalem this morning. Thanks.

In other news this morning, a New York City subway worker is safe this morning. That's after he got trapped 75 feet below the ground in a chest-deep mixture of mud and concrete. It happened at a construction site in a tunnel below Second and East 95th. It took 160 firefighters four hours to rescue this man. He emerged shortly after midnight.

French police have raided the home of IMF Chief Christine Lagarde, just last hour, as part of an investigation into claims that she abused power while she was still the French finance minister and help to secure a payment for a businessman's supporter of then President Nicolas Sarkozy. Lagarde denies any wrongdoing.

More problems for Carnival cruise lines. It is canceling another ten trips on the Triumph. That's the ship that had to be towed to shore last month after an engine fire. A Carnival spokesman says it won't return to service until June 3rd. Guests booked on the canceled cruises get a full refund, reimbursement for related travel costs, and 25 percent off of future cruises. The threat of another mass killing is the latest incident underscoring a plea from the nation's mayors. Now leaders for law enforcement are joining the call for tighter gun control laws.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I spent 35 years protecting families.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putting criminal behind bars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been shot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've known good friends killed in the line of duty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Criminals can get guns --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because we don't have background checks on all gun purchases.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hunt with guns.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a life member of the NRA.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And background checks won't change that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: This is the first person you saw in that ad, Chief Jim Johnson of Baltimore County, Maryland. He's also the chair of the national law enforcement partnership to prevent gun violence. Chief, welcome.

CHIEF JIM JOHNSON, LAW ENFORCEMENT PARTNERSHIP TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE: Good morning, Carol.

COSTELLO: Good morning. Thanks for being here. The Senate dropped the ban on assault weapons from its gun control bill because it could have killed the whole bill. What are your thoughts on that?

JOHNSON: Well, the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence is pressing forward. Tens of thousands of small town chiefs to major city chiefs, all across America, we know how to make our society a safer place.

Nearly 30,000 people killed each year by firearms violence. And certainly the assault weapons ban, which we strongly support, eliminating high-capacity magazine as to no more than ten, and a national background check will make our society a safer place.

COSTELLO: The liberal activist Michael Moore called Democrats, well, he called them weenies. He said they don't have the political courage to get such bill through the legislature. Do you agree?

JOHNSON: Well, certainly, I believe our elected officials, many have worked very hard to press forward an assault weapons ban, they have listened to the collective wisdom of police chiefs and other advocates, all across America, millions upon millions of moms and dads, who want meaning of change.

And I think they've worked hard to do it. Certainly, we believe, we've carried forward law enforcement, a very strong message, an assault weapons ban is need to make us safer, along with these national background checks and capacity on these magazines.

COSTELLO: But it does seem like the other side is winning at the moment because when you look at the polls, the majority of Americans are for banning assault weapons. There's a lot of support out there. Yet the Democrats will not bring a bill to the Senate floor, because it has no chance of passing, zero.

JOHNSON: We do know that 55 percent to 60 percent, no matter what poll you look at, favors a national background check -- I'm sorry -- ban on assault weapons.

COSTELLO: Why can't Senate Democrats get it done then?

JOHNSON: Well, certainly, I believe, we're all working as hard as we can to bring about this meaningful change. We've had ample time to sit in front of these elected officials and advise them why this is necessary, 90 percent of the American public wants a background check. Let's get this done.

COSTELLO: And a final question, and I'll just run this by you, Michael Moore, the liberal activist, you know, the filmmaker, he was on "PIERS MORGAN LIVE." He said, maybe an idea do push these gun control laws through Congress is to release the autopsy photos or the photos of these murdered children in Newtown. What do you think of that?

JOHNSON: I don't think the American public wants to see this. I don't think that's necessary to bring this issue forward. If that's what it takes, I think it's a pretty sad commentary on the issue.

You know, I've seen these photographs throughout my career, and frankly, they'll etch lasting impressions on your mind that will never, ever forget. The tragedy that occurred there must be addressed.

National background checks are needed, capacity on these magazines, and certainly bring back the assault weapons ban. The American society wants it, our public wants it and they will listen to us.

COSTELLO: Baltimore County Police Chief, Jim Johnson, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Just ahead in the NEWSROOM, a message of tolerance, a message of tolerance, where there had been one of hate. We'll introduce you to the man who painted the rainbow equality house across the street from the Westborough Church. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: More now on our top story. The head of Colorado's Corrections Department shot dead in his own home. Tom Clements was shot in the chest at his house outside of Colorado Springs, Colorado last night.

He was answering the door when he was shot. Clements was rushed to the hospital where he later died. Right now, police do not have any suspects. Lieutenant Jeff Kramer from the El Paso County Sheriff's Office joins me now on the phone. Welcome, Lieutenant.

LT. JEFF KRAMER, EL PASO COUNTY COLORADO SHERIFF'S OFFICE (via telephone): Thank you very much.

COSTELLO: How did the shooting go down?

KRAMER: Well, we're still trying to put some of those pieces together, of course. But after receiving the 911 call from the family member of Mr. Clements last night about 8:37, reporting a shooting, we, of course, responded and upon our arrival, did confirm that Mr. Clements was deceased on scene.

Our investigators have been very busy, from the onset of this investigation, continue to be busy throughout the night, and are still on scene this morning, processing the crime scene.

And surely at this point, taking advantage of the daylight that we now have gathered, to make sure that they're making all necessary observations and searches of the outside of the home as well.

COSTELLO: Yes, I wanted to talk a little bit about the manhunt that's surely going on right now. The neighborhood, is it safe now for residents the there?

KRAMER: Well, we don't have any reason to believe that the local residents here are facing any kind of imminent threat. However, because we don't have a suspect, we certainly can't describe the suspect's whereabouts.

We do want folks to at least remain vigilant, and if they make any observations that are suspicious or concerning in nature, to let our office know so we can respond to that matter as well.

COSTELLO: You mentioned that one of Mr. Clements' family members was home at the time. Did that family member see anything?

KRAMER: -- we've done a number of interviews through the night, and it is correct that one of the family members was home, but we're not describing at this point where that family member was inside the home at the time of the shooting and therefore the level of observation that may or may not have made of the actual event.

COSTELLO: I would imagine, because this man was head of the prison system in the State of Colorado, that there are many, many, many suspects that you might -- well, not suspects, I should say, but many people you'd have to investigate. KRAMER: Well, it certainly creates a dynamic in this investigation that we're very sensitive to, because of the role in which he served. We do recognize that there could be a number of people, for a number of different reasons.

That may want to target him for a crime such as this. However, we're also very cautious to make sure we remain open-minded to all of the other possibilities as well, so that we don't miss something along the way during the course of the investigation.

COSTELLO: Interviewed several people out of Colorado this morning. They all describe Mr. Clements as a kind man. Tell us about him.

KRAMER: Well, I didn't know him personally, but those are the same reports I'm hearing, and certainly, serving in the capacity that he did, obviously, in a position where he has a great level of influence over the Department of Corrections.

And of course, you know, our executives who serve in similar roles are certainly very valuable to the law enforcement community as a whole, and therefore to the public as a whole. So certainly, our thoughts and prayers as the sheriff's office with El Paso County certainly go out to those employees and friends and family members of Mr. Clements this morning.

COSTELLO: Thank you very much, Lieutenant Jeff Kramer, for joining us this morning.

And just another reminder, we're expecting the governor of Colorado to speak in just about 10 minutes. He's expected to hold a news conference right outside of Colorado Springs. When Governor Hickenlooper begins speaking, of course, we'll take that live.

The weather, the weather in Topeka, Kansas, called for some clouds, but today those in the Westborough Baptist Church is waking up to a rainbow. Just days before the Supreme Court takes up the issue of same sex marriage, the house is spreading a message of tolerance in front of the church, infamous for its hateful, anti-gay ideology.

Those rainbow colors you see on house across the street, they're a symbol of the pride and the diversity of the LBGT community. You see them often in gay pride parades. We're joined now by Aaron Jackson, the man behind the rainbow pride and one of the cofounders of the charity "Planting Peace." Welcome, Aaron.

AARON JACKSON, CO-FOUNDER, PLANTING PEACE: Thanks for having me.

COSTELLO: Thanks for being here. You do charity work. You were previously a CNN hero, but gay issue is kind of outside your wheelhouse. What inspired you to buy this house and then paint it?

JACKSON: I'm sorry, I think I lost you a little bit. Did you ask why did I buy the house and paint it?

COSTELLO: I did. JACKSON: OK. Well, you know, roughly, every year 4,000 kids, 4,000 LBGT kids kill themselves, roughly due to the message out there that they're less than. And I wanted to participate in help changing that message and I thought no better place to start than the Westborough Baptist Church.

COSTELLO: So you buy the house -- I think you went to a Google map and tried to look for a property near the Westborough Church? Is that how you came to buy the house?

COSTELLO: It was all kind of random. It wasn't done necessarily on purpose. I was checking out the Westborough Baptist Church through Google earth and I was walking down the street and I saw that the for- sale sign in front of the home of the Westborough Baptist Church.

And right away it hit me. I was like, I'm going to buy that house and paint it the pride flag. And roughly about six months later, I did. And then it took me about another six months to do it, to paint the home, due to weather. It was too cold. So I had to wait for it to warm up a little bit.

COSTELLO: Just a reminder for folks who are not familiar with the Westborough Church, these are the people who protested funerals and then hold up hateful signs, you know, condemning homosexuality in America and elsewhere. So, have you heard from the folks at the Westborough Church about your house?

JACKSON: Well, they sent out some pretty vile messages via Twitter and through some, you know, released some statements to the press. But Shirley Felts, one of the main spokespeople, she came and she was over at the house yesterday.

She didn't come into the house, but she was in our front yard, taking pictures, and she did say that she loved our colors, so we're very happy to hear that she's pleased with our color patterns.

COSTELLO: So what will the house be used for?

JACKSON: Well, we plan on creating anti-bullying programs that we would like to spread throughout the, you know, throughout our school systems across the country. And we're going to place volunteers in this home to help promote those programs.

The home will just basically be the artistic value of this home. The home will just literally be where volunteers will stay to work on furthering equality initiatives across the country.

COSTELLO: Aaron Jackson, thanks so much for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.

JACKSON: Thank you for having me.

COSTELLO: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COSTELLO: Now's your chance to "Talkback" on one of the big stories of the day. The question for you this morning, will the Newtown death photos force lawmakers to enact new gun laws?

Gun control Democrats are a frustrated bunch. Despite an ABC News/"Washington Post" poll showing a majority of Americans supporting an assault weapons ban, Democratic lawmakers just can't get it done. The Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, now says such a ban has zero chance of passing. Here's liberal activist Michael Moore on "PIERS MORGAN LIVE."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER, "BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE": This attitude of, well, we're not going to be able to -- we're not going to get -- this is why our side, we have these weenies on our side. Well, if we -- we can't get the votes.

You know, this is what I actually admire about Republicans. They've got the courage of their convictions. No matter how crazy their idea is, transvaginal probes, they will not step back. They will not --

PIERS MORGAN, HOST, CNN'S "PIERS MORGAN LIVE": Look at the NRA.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: The NRA's message does seem to be resonating. While a majority of Americans are in favor of an assault weapons ban, polls also show support for gun control measures is fading.

Moore also cites our fading memories of Newtown for the dip in gun control pressure. Moore suggests that our memories are fading. Moore says if they wish, he wants parents to release pictures of their children after they've been slaughtered by the gunmen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOORE: In my blog last week, I talked about a young man by the name of Emmett Till. In 1955, a young black kid who was murdered down south, simply because he was black and his mother insisted that there be an open coffin, because she wanted photographers, the news people to see what happened to this 14-year-old boy.

To see what racism and bigotry does. That galvanized the country back then and it was just three months later that Rosa Parks refused to get up out of her seat on that bus.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: No Newtown parent we know of has offered the public a picture of their murdered child. Talk back question for you, will the Newtown death photos force lawmakers to enact new gun laws? Facebook.com/carolcnn or tweet me @carolcnn.

And as I've been telling you, we are awaiting a press conference live from Colorado Springs. The governor of Colorado set to speak on the shooting of the state correctional official. You can see the podium set up. When Governor Hickenlooper is behind that podium, we'll bring it to you live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Good morning. Welcome to the NEWSROOM. I'm Carol Costello. This morning, the U.S. Marine Corps is banning the use of all 60-millimeter mortar rounds in its training exercises. The move comes after one of those rounds exploded inside a tube at the Hawthorne Army Depot in Western Nevada. Seven Marines were killed, eight others wounded.

Joseph Trevithick, is an ammunitions expert for globalsecurities.org. Welcome.

JOSEPH TREVITHICK, GLOBALSECURITY.ORG: Welcome. Thank you.

COSTELLO: First of all, just explain to us how this weapon works, how these mortars work.

TREVITHICK: The mortars are one of the simplest pieces of armament you would find in the military. It's basically just a metal tube and there's a firing pin at the bottom and that firing pin is either always on or it's activated by a manual trigger and you basically just drop a round down the tube and out it goes.

COSTELLO: And sometimes it expels the mortar shell automatically and other times you have to physically pull the trigger, so to speak.

TREVITHICK: Right.