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Desert Diplomacy; North Korea's Virtual War; New Info on Colorado Shooting Suspect

Aired March 22, 2013 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: the winter that won't go away. You are going to find out if you're in the path of an early spring snowstorm.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And desert diplomacy -- President Obama's parting gifts to his allies during the final leg of his Middle East trip.

BLITZER: And a virtual war, North Korea unleashing another provocative video and a clear threat to the United States.

I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Kate Bolduan.

BLITZER: And I'm Wolf Blitzer.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

All right, it may be spring, but parts of the United States can't escape winter wallop.

KEILAR: Can you believe it? The nation's heartland is bracing for another significant snow.

BLITZER: We're likely to feel it here on the East Coast in the next few days.


BLITZER: Meanwhile, President Obama is winding down his Middle East trip right now. He's trying to boost some of America's be most important allies in the region.

KEILAR: He personally encouraged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to give Turkey the apology that it's been wanting. This is a big step in easing tension between those countries.

And he promised new financial aid to the king of Jordan as he struggles with a flood of refugees from war-torn Syria.

Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is in the Jordanian capital of Amman.

Hi, Jess.


The deadly violence in Syria dominated the final press conference of this trip. President Obama and Jordan's King Abdullah stood united in a call for that country's leader Bashar al-Assad to stop the massacre. But neither of those two men offered a single new step to force Assad out.


YELLIN (voice-over): The final stop in the president's hopscotch around a region in tumult, a visit with Jordan's King Abdullah.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The thing I mainly remember when I came here is His Majesty was kind enough to personally drive me to the airport. I won't tell you how fast he was going. But Secret Service, I don't think, could keep up.

YELLIN: Close U.S. ally, Jordan's king is facing new strains, political pressure, as one of the only royals still standing after the Arab spring, and economic troubles made worse with more than 400,000 Syrian refugees fleeing to safety here.

So, President Obama jetted to Amman to show support. But he arrived late, delayed by a sandstorm earlier in the day.

OBAMA: I apologize for the delay, but we ended up having a dust storm

YELLIN: To the kingdom of Jordan, he announced an additional $200 million in U.S. aid. To the world, he promised an end to Assad's slaughter.

OBAMA: I'm confident that Assad will go. It's not a question of if; it's when.

YELLIN: But asked how that will happen, he struck a defensive note.

OBAMA: It's fair to say that the United States often finds itself in a situation where, if it goes in militarily, then it's criticized for going in militarily, and if it doesn't go in militarily, then people say, why aren't you doing something militarily?

YELLIN: Action proved easier in Israel, where the president scored a diplomatic coup, arranging a detente between the prime ministers of Israel and Turkey, former allies whose three-year standoff has had ripple effects across the region.

OBAMA: During my visit, it appeared that the timing was good for that conversation to take place. I discussed it with Prime Minister Netanyahu and both of us agreed that the moment was right. And, fortunately, they were able to begin the process of rebuilding normal relations between two very important countries of the region.

(END VIDEOTAPE) YELLIN: And back here in Jordan, the king of the nation, Abdullah, had previously offered Assad asylum in this country. But when asked today if he would renew that offer, he did not say it still stands -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Interesting, Jessica Yellin for us in Amman.

Now another political crisis in the Middle East. The Lebanese prime minister, Najib Mikati, and his government resigned today. His cabinet was torn by infighting over upcoming parliamentary elections and the future of a top security official. This comes during rising tensions in Lebanon linked to the civil war in neighboring Syria.

BLITZER: North Korea taking 150,000 Americans hostage, that's the latest threat coming from the rogue nation, as it rattles its sword at the United States and South Korea once again.

Our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence is joining us now.

What's going on with North Korea? What are they saying to you over there, Chris?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, basically there's well over 100,000 American men, women, even children living in South Korea. And the North seems to be signaling that if it comes down to a war, they are fair game.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): The North Korean troops charge over the border, as artillery blasts away. Rockets rain down on South Korea, as thousands of tanks invade. Pictures of U.S. military officials flash, and a North Korean narrator promises to take 150,000 Americans as hostages.

There are about 130,000 U.S. citizens living in South Korea, and nearly 30,000 U.S. troops stationed there. The message in this latest North Korean propaganda video is clear.

GEN. WALTER "SKIP" SHARP (RET.), FORMER U.S. FORCES-KOREA COMMANDER: They have a very, very large military, and we had better not think about doing anything to challenge that military.

LAWRENCE: Retired General Skip Sharp commanded U.S. Forces-Korea until 2011. He knows the adversary on the other side of the demilitarized zone.

SHARP: Just their pure mass -- they have the largest military force in the world that can rain Seoul. Their pure mass is very, very dangerous.

LAWRENCE: The general dealt with Kim Jong Il, but after the North showed some progress in its recent long-range rocket and nuclear tests, Sharp says the son, Kim Jong-un, is even more dangerous.

SHARP: He is in a place where he has more threatening assets that are being developed than his father did.

LAWRENCE: And South Korea is still trying to determine if the North recently used an entirely different offensive capability, a cyber-attack on South Korean banks and television stations that caused thousands of computers to crash.


LAWRENCE: Now, so far, the U.S. has taken a sort of go-slow approach with North Korea, trying to preserve stability on the peninsula. But General Sharp says it's now time to be more forceful, trying to push as much information and broadcasts into North Korea to encourage the North Korean people to take a harsher look at their own government, as well as trying to help South Korea develop the kind of stealthy jets that can get into North Korea and destroy some of those missiles before they take off -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's not forget, Chris, there are, what, nearly 30,000 American troops along the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. They would be very vulnerable. There are a million North Korean troops just to the north.

LAWRENCE: Prime target, Wolf. It's something that the U.S. military always takes into account when it looks at tension and rising tension in that part of the world.

BLITZER: It looks like tension is rising very, very rapidly. Chris Lawrence is over at the Pentagon.

KEILAR: Up next, new information about the prime suspect in the killing of Colorado's prison chief gunned down at his front door, his history of hate and anger.

Also, coming up, police say he pretended to be a pilot and he got all the way to the cockpit. Find out what gave him away.


KEILAR: Police are examining evidence from the car of their prime suspect in the cold-blooded killing of Colorado's prison chief.

Evan Ebel died yesterday after a shoot-out with police in Texas and a car crash. He's a white supremacist gang member and a former Colorado inmate who was out on parole.

CNN's Casey Wian has new information on the case and a possible link to a second killing.

What can you tell us, Casey?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, a lot of these cases, you hear from neighbors who knew someone who's gotten in trouble with the law in a big way and they express a lot of surprise, saying he was such a nice guy. That is not the case with Evan Ebel.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WIAN (voice-over): Evan Ebel grew up on this quiet street in Lakewood, Colorado, except neighbors say when he was around, it was anything but quiet.

VICKY BANKY, FORMER NEIGHBOR: He just seemed angry. He was an angry kid.

LAWRENCE: Vicky Banky lives across the street from the home where Ebel lived with his father and sister.

BANKY: Well, I could see him -- he would be running out on his -- on the front lawn to come out to a car with his friends. And he would have screaming-, obscenity-laced arguments with them sometimes. One time, I saw him take something to the back of his friend's car, he was so mad. He just struck me as angry and troubled.

WIAN (on camera): Neighbors vividly recall Ebel's wild streak. In addition to the violent encounters with his friends, one time he was seen jumping off the roof of his house here. Another time, he was overheard loudly talking about his cocaine use.

(voice-over): Ebel's criminal record dates back to his teenage years. There was a misdemeanor conviction for obstruction of a police officer, then at least five felony convictions for robbery, menacing and assault. In 2006, he was convicted of assaulting a Latino prison guard, but nothing like what he is suspect of now, the killing of Tom Clements, Colorado's corrections director, the killing of Nate Leon, a Domino's Pizza man and high-speed chase and shoot-out with police in Texas.

PAULA PRESLEY, EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: Certainly, he is the focus of our investigation at this point. We do have investigators in Texas. The moment that we heard about the high-speed pursuit and the shooting, we did have investigators pretty much on a plane en route to Texas.

WIAN: Ebel also had ties to the white supremacist 211 prison gang, according to Colorado's Anti-Defamation League. But neighbors say they saw no signs of racist leanings during his rants.


WIAN: Now, neighbors also expressed sympathy for Ebel's father, a well-respected Colorado attorney who had been raising his two children on his own.

Neighbors say his daughter died in an automobile accident back in 2006. And now his son has been killed in a barrage of bullets and under suspicion, Brianna.

KEILAR: A terrible story for multiple families.

Casey Wian for us in Denver, thanks, Casey.

BLITZER: Now to a deadly shooting at the Marine base at Quantico, Virginia, not far from here in Washington, D.C. One serviceman shot two of his colleagues last night, a man and a woman, before turning the gun on himself.

Authorities are trying to figure out if there was a romantic angle to the killings.

Brian Todd is over at Quantico, and he's joining us now with the latest.

What are you learning, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, investigators piecing together this crime right now. You know, Quantico is a crucial training base for Marine officers.

It was inside the officer training campus that the shootings occurred. Right now, investigators are trying to piece together how one of the training staffers apparently turned on two others.


TODD (voice-over): A visibly shaken Marine commander tries to absorb an apparent double murder and suicide at his base.

COL. DAVID MAXWELL, MARINE CORPS: As we take care of our Marines and their families that are dealing with this tragedy, I would also ask for the support of our neighbors, the community, and their thoughts and prayers as well for our Marines who have lost their comrades in arms.

TODD: It played out overnight Thursday into Friday morning on the campus of the Officer Candidates School at Quantico, a historic training and war strategy base for the Marines.

After a 911 call, military and civilian police found one Marine, a male, dead of a gunshot wound. The base and surrounding area were locked down.

LT. AGUSTIN SOLIVAN, MARINE CORPS: They pursued the shooter into a barracks that was confined to the Officer Candidates School campus.

TODD: That's where they found the bodies of a female Marine and the shooter, who officials say apparently killed himself. The names of the three have not yet been released. All three were staffers at the training facility, not students.

Lisa Windsor is a former JAG officer who has dealt with similar cases. I asked her about the information we got from military officials who say they're investigating every lead, including whether a relationship dispute led to the shootings.

COL. LISA WINDSOR (RET.), FORMER JAG OFFICER: It's definitely more likely than this was a random shooting, something like the Fort Hood shooter case. These sorts of disputes for whatever reason, crimes of passion happen definitely more often than random violence.

TODD: Windsor says investigators will investigate almost everyone the three Marines knew, looking for any personal problems or stressors between them. This comes the same week as the deaths of seven Marines in a training accident in Nevada.

At Mijin's Barber Shop outside Quantico, I caught former Marine Sergeant Renzo Torchiani as he was finishing up a haircut.

(on camera): It's a tough week.

RENZO TORCHIANI, RETIRED MARINE: Yes, it's a very tough week. It's very tough. When you lose Marines, it's -- or any servicemen, service man and woman, it's tough. To lose it on foreign soils, or lose it here, and to lose it at the hands of your own Marines, it's even harder.


TODD: Now, at one point, officials say the responding officers surrounded the building where the shooter and his apparent second victim were found. They tried to establish communication with him. Officials say they did not enter the building for about another two hours, and so far they have not explained the reason for that time interval -- Wolf, Brianna.

BLITZER: Any word, Brian, on the weapon used?

TODD: No word on the weapon yet, Wolf. The woman we interviewed, the former JAG officer, Lisa Windsor, said that will be a crucial part of this investigation, because she says these bases -- in her experience, these bases keep a very tight control over the weapons that are used on base.

So that's going to be a crucial part of this investigation. At least one of these officers, one of these Marines may have been a trainer. Not clear whether they were trainers or staffers. They may have had some access to the weapons. But that is going to be a crucial part of the investigation.

BLITZER: Certainly will be.

Brian Todd over at Quantico, thanks very much.

KEILAR: You have to hear this story, an emotional meeting between the father of the Newtown school shooter and the parents of one of the young victims. We will hear from one of the grieving dads.

KEILAR: Plus, wildlife rescuers going to incredible lengths to save endangered manatees from a new threat, we have that and more still ahead.



BLITZER: Still ahead: a very, very serious story we're watching, a police officer on the new arrest in the death of a 13-month-old boy. He was gunned down while his mother pushed him in a stroller.


SHERRY WEST, MOTHER: But what they did to my baby was terrible. What those -- that boy did to my baby -- I thought the gun was fake.



BLITZER: Happening now: arrested in the killing of a baby. A baby gunned down in a stroller. A police officer on the case joins us live.

KEILAR: From the cockpit to jail -- new details on a man who allegedly pretended to be a pilot on a jet getting ready for takeoff.

BLITZER: And we're jumping into the march madness. You are going to find out how my brackets compare to President Obama's.

KEILAR: I don't know. It may be good.

BLITZER: Not doing well.

KEILAR: No? Oh, no.


KEILAR: I'm Brianna Keilar in for Kate Bolduan.

BLITZER: And I'm Wolf Blitzer. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

New developments in the shooting death of a 13-month-old boy, gunned down in his stroller in a South Georgia town.

KEILAR: This is a very tough story, Wolf. Police say they have arrested two teenagers in connection with the case. We will get a live update from police in just a moment. But, first, this is an emotional description of the cold-blooded killing from the baby's mother.


WEST: But what they did to my baby was terrible. What those -- that boy did to my baby -- I thought the gun was fake. You know, I didn't -- I didn't think the gun was real.

QUESTION: Can you tell me, Sherry, exactly what happened?

WEST: I was walking home from the post office. And I thought, you know, I don't go out enough, so I should take a walk. And I was five minutes from my house, next to the blue house out this road here. I always walk Ellis (ph) Street.

And a boy approached me, and told me he wanted my money. And I told him I didn't have any money. And he said, give me your money or I'm going to kill you, and I'm going to shoot your baby and kill your baby. And I said, I don't have any money. And don't -- don't kill my baby.

And he tried to grab my purse. And I tried to tell him, I don't have any money. And then he shoved me, and he shot me in the ear. It grazed my head back here, and -- and then he shot me in the leg. And I didn't feel it. It got numb. I thought it was just a B.B. gun, because it was a small gun.

And -- and then all of a sudden he walked over and he shot my baby right in the face. And he must have died instantly, because I screamed for help and a neighbor to call the police. And he ran off. He got scared. But I screamed.

And I wheeled my baby really quick to a safe place. Inside the gate of the blue house on Ellis Street. And then, you know, I took him out of the harness, and I tried to perform CPR, but I saw his lungs inflating, but he was not breathing. And there was no pulse. And by the time the EMTs got there, the police, they tried to do CPR also. And they lost him.

They were very (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and I hope that they get the maximum sentence if they're caught. If they can commit an adult crime. I mean, even the police can't even go to training without being 21 years of age. So if they can use a gun like an adult, then they can be charged like an adult. I want to see lethal injection, or at least, you know, life in prison. You know. Because, I mean, this child did nothing to him. He was innocent and helpless.


KEILAR: Let's get more on this, honestly, unthinkable case with Todd Rhodes of the Brunswick, Georgia, Police Department. Tell us, Officer Rhodes, how did you make this arrest? What can you tell us about the suspects here?

OFFICER TODD RHODES, BRUNSWICK POLICE DEPARTMENT: Well, I can't really get into how we made the arrest. We're just excited and pleased to announced that we have made two arrests.

From the on -- start, our agency believed that there were two suspects that we were looking for. And earlier this afternoon, we were able to identify, locate and apprehend two suspects. And so we're pleased with that.

A very bad thing to happen. However, we are pleased that we are bringing these two individuals to justice. Mr. De'Marquis Elkins is a 17-year-old black male who was arrested. And his accomplice is a 14- year-old juvenile, who will remain nameless at this time, because here in Georgia, we have to protect the identity of the juveniles.

KEILAR: And Officer Rhodes, can you tell us...

RHODE: That's what we have so far.

KEILAR: ... have you been able to find a weapon? RHODES: Well, of course, this is still an open and ongoing investigation. And we don't have a weapon at this time. However, we are in the process of doing three search warrants in three different locations here in Brunswick. And so we are very confident that we will locate a weapon.

KEILAR: Have you -- have you been able to determine a motive beyond what it sounds like from the description here of the mother, that this was an attempted robbery?

RHODES: No. We are still investigating this. And so a clear motive has still not been determined. But as the investigation goes on, and we're sure that one will be established and we will bring that forthcoming to you all.

KEILAR: And I think officer, anyone looking at this story would probably think that this is one of the most unthinkable sort of crimes that they've ever seen, a defenseless baby. Have you ever worked a case that is really, honestly, just so awful?

RHODES: Well, I've been in law enforcement for 25 years. And I've seen quite a few things that I wouldn't want others to see. However, this is right up there with those things that I've experienced in the past.

But let me say this: in addition to what has happened, which is very horrific, I want to just, one, encourage our community here in Brunswick, Glynn County, and you the viewers, that Brunswick, the city of Brunswick and the county of Glynn, is a very safe community to live in. Now, much like other cities, we have our glitches, like other cities have theirs. And this so happens to happen at this time.

And so we're very grateful and thankful that we're able to arrest the two individuals involved in this act. But Brunswick, in and of itself, is a very safe place to live, work and play.

KEILAR: So this must be, I guess, increasingly shocking, then, for the folks who live there. But can you tell us, is there any direct connection, do you think, between these suspects, the 14- and the 17-year-old and the mother of this -- this baby that died?

RHODES: Well, I can't really divulge any additional information in regards to that, because with this still being an ongoing investigation, we wouldn't want anything to jeopardize our investigation.


RHODES: Or the case. Or the prosecution of these individuals.

KEILAR: But you're -- are you looking for anyone else? Is this it? Do you think these are the two suspects?

RHODES: We believe that these are the two suspects. And currently right now, we're not looking for anyone else. We believe that these are the two that committed this crime. KEILAR: Officer Rhodes, with the Brunswick Police Department there in Georgia, awful story. Thank you for joining us with more on this.

RHODES: Thank you. My pleasure. Take care.

BLITZER: It is a shocking, shocking story.

KEILAR: It's horrible.

BLITZER: Listen to that mother. You know, our hearts go out to her.

KEILAR: Defenseless 13- -- 13-month-old baby. Just no reason.

BLITZER: No reason at all.

KEILAR: No, no reason.

BLITZER: Other news we're following, a pilot imposter makes it all the way to the cockpit of an airplane. We have details of his amazing security breach.


BLITZER: Dozens of America's regional airports all across the United States will now start closing their air traffic control towers. One hundred forty-nine towers across the nation got the official word today that they're falling victim to those forced budget cuts. Some were on the chopping block. Some others were on the chopping blocks and they were spared.

CNN's Rene Marsh is joining us now from the airport in Frederick, Maryland. That's not far away from here in Washington, D.C.

What's going on over there, Rene?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I'll tell you this. Just last year, the federal government turned the lights on in this control tower, and in just about two weeks from now, they'll be turning the lights out. And mind you, they spent some $5.3 million on federal stimulus money. But yet, again, they were told here, the people were told here that they will be shutting this down.

Now, today the FAA announced that 149 towers like this will be shut down, because of those forced spending cuts, although 40 towers were spared. But let's take a closer look at what areas are really going to be hit the hardest.

Florida, we know 14 closures, places like Boca Raton and Hollywood. Texas, 13 closures. In California 11 closures. And one of the towers being shut down in California is at the Ramona Airport. We know that that airport is critical to aircraft fighting those wildfires. We also know that in 1995, two U.S. Forest Service planes collided mid-air. So earlier today, on "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper, San Diego County supervisor spoke to us, and she said she's afraid that sort of thing could very well happen again. Take a listen.


DIANNE JACOB, SAN DIEGO COUNTY SUPERVISOR (via phone): This is a foolish, foolish move by the FAA and the federal government. And it's a great example of how the feds can't get their budget act together. This is a public safety issue. This puts at risk the citizens.


MARSH: All right. Well, Wolf, we can also tell you that some roughly 1,000 air-traffic controllers got the news today that, come April 7, they will be without jobs. So we spoke to one. He said he simply does not know what's next for him -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's the result of those forced spending cuts. Rene, out in Frederick, Maryland. Thanks.

KEILAR: A scary airport security breach. A man accused of impersonating a pilot sits down in the cockpit of a plane preparing for takeoff. Now he's behind bars, and the FBI is joining the investigation.

Lisa Sylvester here. This is one of those stories that makes you go, how did this happen?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is truly one of those pretty wild stories here. But he was actually a ticketed passenger, so he didn't breach security. But let's just say that, when he didn't like his seat assignment, authorities say he tried to pass himself off as a pilot.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): In the movie "Catch Me if You Can" a smooth-talking Leonardo DiCaprio travels around the world posing as a pilot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been a while since I've done this. Which one is the jump seat again?

SYLVESTER: Philippe Jernnard thought he could pull something off similar, only to end up in handcuffs.

Jernnard, a retired winemaker, was traveling from France headed to West Palm Beach and was on a layover in Philadelphia. He was dressed in a white button-down shirt with an AirFrance logo over the pocket and carrying what looked like a black pilot's jacket with gold stripes on the shoulder.

Jernnard went to the gate and tried to get his seat upgraded from coach. But an agent said business class was already full and couldn't accommodate his request. That's when authorities say he boarded the plane and went straight to the cockpit, and sat behind the pilot in what's known as a jump seat.

But according to the Philadelphia police, the pilots became suspicious when Jernnard couldn't even figure out how to fasten the straps. When questioned, he didn't have any of the proper paperwork, and became argumentative.

MARK WEISS, RETIRED AIRPLANE PILOT: This has happened before.

SYLVESTER: Retired airplane pilot Mark Weiss explained how pilots of other carriers always have to show their credentials.

WEISS: In order to be able to have access to the cockpit, once the cockpit door, the hardened cockpit door is closed, the paperwork that you have to have would normally come from the ticket counter, or the gate, the specific -- company-specific paperwork, following federal guidelines.

SYLVESTER: Jernnard was carrying what AirFrance called a very bad fake I.D. He now faces charges of trespassing, impersonation, and lying to police. The FBI is also investigating.

Law-enforcement officials said investigators haven't found any links to terrorism. Still, passengers on the plane all had similar reactions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's pretty scary. And I fly every week. So that's actually pretty concerning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's nuts. Yes, there's no way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's crazy.

SYLVESTER: But authorities want to know, what was his motive? Was it just for the perks and having a better seat, or life imitating art?

(on camera): It seems a little reminiscent of that movie with Leonardo DiCaprio.

WEISS: "Catch Me if You Can"?


WEISS: I don't think it was quite that far. This guy certainly didn't look like Leonardo DiCaprio.


SYLVESTER: OK. Well, we are learning new details. After being confronted, he actually became very angry. He was escorted off the plane. At this point, though, it wasn't immediately apparent to airline officials that this was even a criminal situation. So they rebooked him on another flight.

But when security was alerted, they immediately contacted the Philly police. They arrested him at the gate where he was waiting for his next flight. And then it all came out that, yes, this guy definitely was a phony. They contacted AirFrance. They said, that's not our guy. That's not our pilot. So million-dollar bail now, and that's what he faces.

BLITZER: A million dollars. Let us know if there's any sinister motive? Was he trying to hijack the plane? What was going on?

SYLVESTER: Well, at this point they're saying that there does not appear to be a terrorism link. But you know how these investigations go. They want to check it out; they want to make sure, so -- but he's still in custody at this point.

KEILAR: Lisa Sylvester, thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, a desperate effort to save an endangered species from a new threat. We go out with wildlife rescuers fighting to reach Florida's manatees before it's too late.


KEILAR: Have you ever seen a manatee?

BLITZER: Probably.

KEILAR: Kind of those tubby things, like in Florida, in the channels there. They're cute.

BLITZER: Do you like them?

KEILAR: They're like so ugly, they're cute, I think.


KEILAR: This is unfortunate. A sudden die-off in the endangered -- in this endangered species. Dozens of these manatees are suffering grim deaths.

BLITZER: CNN's John Zarrella is in Florida with the desperate effort to save them.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, in 2010, 260 manatees died in southwest Florida, from all causes. That was the worst year ever. So far this year, less than three months in, nearly 200 manatees have died from one cause. It's called red tide.

(voice-over): For wildlife biologist Denise Boyd, this was one of the best days in a long time.

DENISE BOYD, WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST: There's two noses up behind us. Right at that corner.

ZARRELLA: Boyd was out with Florida wildlife officers on the Orange River near Ft. Myers, looking for sick or dead manatees, an endangered species. None so far. A hopeful sign after a brutal start to the year.

BOYD: The number of mortalities has exceeded anything I've seen in the past.

ZARRELLA: The lethal toxin from an algae bloom called red tide had settled in the worst possible place: the see grass beds off southwest Florida, were manatees feed during the winter, killing more than 180 since January. A lack of winter rain, scientists, say may have caused a more widespread bloom this year.

RON PERRY, WILDLIFE OFFICER: We started getting five or six in a day. And now there was a few days when you'd have ten calls for manatees.

ZARRELLA: They eat the toxic grass and breathe the toxic air on the surface, and by the time they move up into the river, their warm- water winter retreat, paralysis sets in and they drown.

(on camera): Wildlife officers say it's a good sign when they're approaching a manatee, and it's moving to get out of the way. Because when they're sick with the toxin in them, they usually just sit there.

(voice-over): But even when the creatures are in distress from the toxin, it's not too late. If they're found, they can be saved.

VIRGINIA EDMONDS, TAMPA'S LOWRY PARK ZOO: If we get them to fresh water, they'll get rid of the toxin and once it's out of their system, then they're feeling like a new manatee.

ZARRELLA: Virginia Edmonds is the animal care manager at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo.

The lucky ones, the dozen or so that have been rescued, are brought here. To keep them from drowning, their heads are held out of the water until the toxin clears their system.

EDMONDS: Having red tide toxin to the degree that some of these manatees do when they come in, they are -- they are comatose, in a way. And can't move -- move their heads or their bodies. And that's why we have to support their heads and help them get a breath.

ZARRELLA: It's estimated there are no more than 5,000 manatees left in Florida. For biologists, the most frustrating part of this episode has been not finding them in time to save more of them. The outbreak biologists may finally be nearing its end. But the toll has never been worse.

(on camera): Biologists say they don't know what causes red tide to be worse some years than others. But sadly, when it is, they know exactly what that means for the manatees -- Wolf.


BLITZER: John Zarrella with that report. John, thank you.

He was the first Newtown, Connecticut, parent to speak out after the massacre that really did shock the world. Robbie Parker's daughter, Emily, was among the victims at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. And now he's talking to our Piers Morgan about his emotional meeting with the father of the shooter, Adam Lanza.


PIERS MORGAN, CNN ANCHOR: When you walked into the room and there is the father of this young man who took your daughter's life, what goes through your mind?

ROBBIE PARKER, FATHER OF EMILY: One of the main reasons I wanted to speak to him was I wanted to just speak to him as a father, one father to another father. And I understand that, despite the circumstances, that he lost his son and that he needed to grieve that, as well, just as much as I needed to grieve my daughter. And so I wanted to express those condolences to him, and I felt like we were able to do that for each other.


BLITZER: What a heartbreaking story, indeed. You can see the full interview "PIERS MORGAN LIVE." It's later tonight, 9 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.

KEILAR: Up next, we'll be making a bit of a turn. Some scientific comparisons? Wolf's NCAA brackets put up against the president's picks. Let me tell you, it is not pretty.


KEILAR: Harvard rocked the NCAA tournament and everyone's brackets when they beat three-seeded New Mexico last night. That got us to thinking about those brackets and, Wolf, I confess I did not actually complete mine. Mostly because I didn't want to embarrass myself.

BLITZER: Well, I'm ready to embarrass myself. Tom Foreman is going to help me embarrass myself. I feel confident on my final four. But the first round, you know, stuff happens.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A little rough there. Let's take a look at this. Everybody is filling out brackets. Let's look at the other picks out there, Wolf.

Look, president, he says Indiana is going all the way. That's his pick. That's a pretty solid bet, maybe. Joe Montegna, he thinks Miami.

BLITZER: They're good, very good.

FOREMAN: Aisha Tyler, she says Louisville. This is my pick. I think they'll go all the way, as well.

And then Wale, he's a rapper. A rapper. You probably listen to him all the time. He's picking Kansas. But now.

BLITZER: It's really "wall-ay."

FOREMAN: "Wall-ay"?


FOREMAN: See, I got that part wrong. You're much hipper than I am.

BLITZER: I met him. He was at the NBA all-star game with me.

FOREMAN: That's good. Then he must have been guiding you through this, because this is Wolf's brackets. Wolf, I want you to explain a couple of these. Let's start some where you're strong. Over here, this area over here, south, you're doing pretty good. Right? Good picks. What happened here with BCU and Akron?

BLITZER: You know, my wife went to Akron for a year. So I had an emotional attachment.

FOREMAN: It was a very close game. 88-42.

Eight-eight to 42. A squeaker. You almost had it.

BLITZER: I like Akron.

FOREMAN: Down here, what did do you? You're OK. NC state. You kind of blew it on that one. Temple edged them out. UNLV-California, another one.

BLITZER: Stuff happens.

FOREMAN: But overall, kind of OK.

BLITZER: I got a lot of these right, right?

FOREMAN: Well, the blue ones.

BLITZER: Nobody is perfect.

FOREMAN: The blue is wrong. A little trouble here. Some of these, you get -- but then, oh, my gosh, Wolf. Look at this down here?

BLITZER: I really thought Pittsburgh would win.

FOREMAN: This is unbelievable down here. Look what happened here. Pittsburgh.

BLITZER: Gonzaga, I knew was going to win, even though Pittsburgh almost won.

FOREMAN: Yes. What happened with this whole Wisconsin thread here? Because this is disastrous.

BLITZER: Stuff happens.

FOREMAN: Why did you think Wisconsin was going to edge them?

BLITZER: I like Wisconsin, it's a nice state.

FOREMAN: I know it's a nice state.

BLITZER: I have an attachment to it.

FOREMAN: But you're, like, a big basketball fan. Have you ever been to a game?

FOREMAN: One or two.

FOREMAN: Yes, did you -- did you -- so what was it, were you filling this out while you were driving with like, your, BlackBerry?

BLITZER: All that's fine. But you know what? My final four, I'm very confident about the final four.

FOREMAN: Let's talk about your final four. You've got Louisville.

BLITZER: Yes. They're still in.

FOREMAN: All the pros are picking Louisville.

BLITZER: I have Ohio State.

FOREMAN: Ohio State, very strong.

BLITZER: They're still in, right?

I have Georgetown there.

FOREMAN: Georgetown.

BLITZER: I have Miami. They're still in, right?

FOREMAN: These are all real solid.

BLITZER: And I say Georgetown.

FOREMAN: And you say Georgetown. Why are you saying Georgetown?

BLITZER: I like all the Washington, D.C., teams. I'm a local guy.

FOREMAN: It's all coming down to this.

BLITZER: I think this is the year Georgetown will win six games in a row and be the champion.

FOREMAN: Really?

BLITZER: Yes, that's what I think.

FOREMAN: Well, I wish you the very best on that. BLITZER: How are you doing, by the way, Mr. Genius? Yes. Not so good.

Tom Foreman.

That's it for us. Thanks very much for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.