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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Gunman Killed in Firefight with Police; Three Marines Killed at Quantico by Gunman; Former French President Accused of Fraud; March Madness Continues

Aired March 22, 2013 - 07:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Christine Romans this morning. Soledad has the day off. Our STARTING POINT, breaking news at the Quantico Marine base in Virginia. Three Marines there are dead. Officials trying to piece together what happened. We're live on the scene and we're expecting a briefing from Quantico any moment.

BERMAN: Then a suspect in a police chase and shoot-out in Texas may be connected to the murder of Colorado's prison chief. We will have the developing details in moments.

ROMANS: Plus, how did this man apparently get on a plane and impersonate a pilot? You have got to hear this one.

BERMAN: And how is your bracket doing? We've got one huge upset in round one of march madness. It is a very important story. It is Friday, March 22nd. STARTING POINT begins right now.

We do begin with breaking news out of the Quantico Marine base in Virginia. Three people shot dead there, one of them believed to be the gunman. He apparently committed suicide after a standoff with police. All of the dead believed to be Marines.

The news conference is set to begin in moments. Right now you're looking at live pictures of where it's going to take place in Virginia. What we do know is that the gunman shot one male Marine before taking a woman into another area of the base and holding himself up there. He eventually shot her, and himself. We are monitoring a news conference and will bring you more information the second we get it.

ROMANS: The other big story we're watching, major new developments in the murder of Colorado's prison chief. Police in Colorado taking a, quote, "strong look" at whether a suspect shot dead by police in Texas is the same man wanted in the killing of Tom Clements in Colorado. The suspect was gunned down after a wild chase in a car similar to the one seen leaving the home where Clements was shot dead. He was shot dead after he answered his front door.

CNN's Ed Lavandera live for us in Decatur, Texas. Bring us up to speed on this investigation and the latest.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hundreds of miles away from where Tom Clements was gunned down just a few days ago, a high-speed chase, a firefight, and now Colorado investigators are here in Texas trying to connect the dots.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: This is how a high-speed chase across north Texas ended, a black Cadillac with two different Colorado license plates smashed by an 18-wheeler. But the crash didn't stop the driver from getting out of the car and firing away at law enforcement officers. He was shot and killed in the firefight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wasn't planning on being taken alive. I mean, that's obvious that he was trying to hurt somebody and he was trying to hurt the police.

LAVANDERA: The chase started when a sheriff's deputy tried to pull the Cadillac over on a remote stretch of Texas highway. Deputy James Boyd was shot twice in the chest. But he was wearing a bulletproof vest, and is expected to survive. That triggered a long high-speed chase.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He came by me, I was say going about 100 miles an hour. He had his left arm out the window and he was just shooting. He shot four times when he passed by my car parked in the median of the highway.

LAVANDERA: "The Denver Post" quoting federal and state officials reports the suspect is 28-year-old Evan Spencer Ebel, a parolee from the Denver area. "The Post" says Ebel is the focus of the investigation into the murder of tom Clements, the director of Colorado's prison system. In a press release Thursday night El Paso county investigators in Colorado did not deny the accuracy of the report but instead criticized the leak of the name by law enforcement sources.

SHERIFF DAVID WALKER, WISE COUNTY, TEXAS: I know there's a lot of rumors going around and people wanting to know if this is connected to the Colorado shooting of the director of the prison system. We don't know that it is or it's not.

LAVANDERA: And in another strange twist, Denver police investigators also say there's a strong connection between the driver of the Cadillac in Texas, and the murder of a 27-year-old pizza delivery driver last Sunday afternoon. Nathan Leon's body was found in a remote area outside of Denver. His family has struggled to figure out why anyone would want to kill a young father of three girls, who was delivering pizzas to earn extra money to support his family.

ERIC MURPHY, VICTIM'S STEP BROTHER: Since Sunday we've just been a total wreck and just when you think you've cried your tears and you can't cry anymore, it's all you do.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: Shortly after that shoot-out here on the streets of Decatur, Texas, ended, those murder investigators from the two different murder cases in Colorado scrambled, and have made their way down here to Texas to meet with investigators. We're told by local law enforcement official here in Texas that there is evidence inside that black Cadillac that those investigators will be very interested to look at.

ROMANS: All right, Ed Lavandera, thanks, Ed.

BERMAN: Joining us now from Colorado Springs is county commissioner Bill Long. He worked with prison chief Tom Clements. Commissioner, if I could start with some reports out of Denver media. What they're reporting is that the gunman in the Texas car chase was a white supremacist and a Colorado parolee. Did Clements ever mention white supremacists in the prison to you? Is this something that he ever discussed?

BILL LONG, BENT COUNTY COMMISSIONER: No. We did not have that conversation.

BERMAN: Does it sound like this is a possibility to you?

LONG: Absolutely. The folks that Tom Clements worked with over many, many years, many of them were very dangerous folks.

BERMAN: Based on the outpouring of emotion from Colorado, we've been hearing from officials all over Colorado, tom Clements seems like a remarkable man. When did you last speak to him?

LONG: I spoke to Tom a couple times on Tuesday. I saw Tom at the state capitol early Tuesday morning as he was coming out as a cabinet member. And then Tuesday afternoon as I was waiting for a meeting, I was in the capitol cafeteria, and Tom came up to me in Tom's kind of usual way, began a conversation, telling me how much he admired me and appreciated my work on a project he and I had been working on together. And that story isn't about Bill Long. That's about Tom Clements. Tom was the guy that made folks feel that he really appreciated them. And he really did. He was a very, very genuine and compassionate individual.

ROMANS: And certainly was a long career, and as you said, a lot of people over the course of his career, who could -- who could potentially want to see him dead. I mean, do you think that it has to do with his job, the likelihood that it is his job that is the source of this?

LONG: You know, on my part it would be purely speculation that you would have to believe there's a -- it's very, very likely that it's related to his job, unfortunately.

ROMANS: Did he ever talk about feeling any kind of danger?

LONG: No. He did not. You know, I don't think Tom was the type of fellow that would have that conversation, or with someone like myself. He may have had that conversation with internal folks, but, I believe tom was very comfortable in his job. He was ultimate professional. So, no, he never did have that conversation at all, with me, anyway. ROMANS: He was shot as he opened his own front door. You think there needs to be a hard look at security for people like Tom Clements who have spent more than 30 years, you know, running prison systems where there are clearly parolees, criminals, convicts, who may really bear ill will for people who work like this.

LONG: You know, that's a good question. It's difficult to answer. At our courthouse we now have court security, and I live in a very, very small community. And while we do make an effort to protect folks, I think that it's next to impossible to provide 24/7 coverage on folks who may be in danger. The Marine case this morning, Sandy Hook a few months ago, I mean, I don't know how you protect everyone in the matter that we apparently need to look at.

BERMAN: Bill Long, thanks again for joining us. We are sorry for the loss of your colleague Tom Clements.

Next hour we're going to get more information from El Paso county undersheriff Paula Pressley. She will have the latest on the investigation and what connection there may be between the suspect in Texas, and the victim.

ROMANS: We're following new developments this morning in the battle over gun control. The National Rifle Association filing a lawsuit against New York State's new gun law. The NRA's New York affiliate claims this law was pushed through without committee hearings or public input. Safe Act strengthens the state's existing assault weapons ban by creating a statewide gun registry, uniform licensing standard, and also a seven-bullet limit in ammunition magazines.

BERMAN: Vice President Joe Biden not throwing in the towel on the prospect of federal gun limits. Joined by Newtown families and New York City Michael Bloomberg yesterday he vowed to revive the battle to ban assault weapons. He had a message for lawmakers, including Senate Democrats who dropped the assault weapons portion of a gun regulation package. He says, think about Newtown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: This is a false choice being presented to the American people by those who are taking on our position here. Look, folks, we have a responsibility to act. A lot of the voices have to be for those beautiful babies. A lot of those voices have to be for those silenced voices.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced a gun Bill yesterday that does include expanded background checks. The Senate will debate it after a two-week recess. Coming up in 20 minutes we're going to speak with Stephen Barton, a survivor of the Aurora movie theater shooting. He's working with the Newtown families as part of his work with Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

ROMANS: Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy under formal investigation this morning for breach of trust charges. Sarkozy is accused of taking advantage of France's richest woman to help illegally fund his 2007 presidential campaign. Thierry Arnaud joins us from Paris this morning. What's the latest?

THIERRY ARNAUD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a bit of a political -- that took us by surprise in Paris. It was about 10:00 p.m. local, and it was announced the former president was being put under investigation.

What that means is that the three charges he was facing yesterday found sufficient converging and serious clues to choose to go ahead with this formal investigation. The charges, as you've described them, are extremely serious. He's accused of having taken advantage of an ailing old lady and basically grabbing cash from her to finance his 2007 presidential campaign.

What that means is, if the legal process was to go all the way, is that he could be sentenced to three years in jail and a very hefty fine to the tune of about half a billion dollars. Half a million dollars, I mean, of course.

So what's happening this morning is the president is clearly very upset. He denies that he did anything wrong whatsoever and is now at his home with his advisers trying to figure out what his next move is going to be.

ROMANS: All right, Thierry Arnaud, thank you very much.

BERMAN: I want to get back to breaking news this morning, the three Marines who were killed at the Quantico Marine base this morning. Shannon Travis is live right now where a news conference just wrapped up. As we say the details have been coming in by the minute. Any details about the shooter or a possible motive, Shannon?

SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We pressed the spokesman about the motive. They wouldn't answer that at all. They say, John, that this investigation is obviously ongoing. We did get some new details about what actually happened. The identities are going to be withheld from all three Marines because they're saying that they want to notify the families first. We'll get those details at least at a minimum 24 hours from now.

Also, we have been reporting earlier that the shooter essentially barricaded himself into a room as police were trying to surround the area that he was in. The spokesman here, the commander, Colonel David Maxwell is saying that they basically went and surrounded the areas that he was in but that essentially wasn't barricaded inside there.

Again, we've been reporting all along that this started about 11:00 last night, closer to 10:30, and it didn't actually wrap up until about 2:30, where they actually stormed inside of this room where the shooter was at, with this woman who is also a victim, one of the victims, and the shooter himself had apparently shot himself.

So that's basically what we've just heard. Again, we won't hear anything about motive as of yet, because the investigation is ongoing, John. And the identities are being withheld for at least 24 hours. John?

BERMAN: Shannon Travis in Quantico, Virginia, where there are three Marines dead today, including the shooter. Thanks, Shannon.

ROMANS: All right, new this morning, a French national is behind bars in Philadelphia after police say he bluffed his way into the cockpit of a plane by dressing up as a pilot. Investigators say 61-year-old Philippe Gernaud was wearing a shirt with an air France logo when the crew of the jet found him in the cockpit. Police were called when he allegedly became argumentative when asked for credentials. Passengers were somewhat shaken when they heard about this bizarre incident.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Even more bizarre, the suspect had a ticket for the flight. No word yet on how he got into the cockpit, or why.

BERMAN: What a first day for March Madness, the NCAA tournament right now, the first full day had a huge upset -- 14th seed Harvard knocking off third seed New Mexico. The Ivy League champs, they were undersized but it didn't matter. The Crimson hitting three pointers all night capturing their first tournament victory ever in just their third appearance at the big dance, the final score, 68-62. You know, nice to see some success, finally for some Harvard kids.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: And a big scare for top-seeded Gonzaga, the Bulldogs holding off southern 64-58 to avoid becoming the first one seed in history to lose to a 16 seed. Other teams advancing yesterday, Louisville, Michigan State, Michigan, St. Louis, Marquette, Syracuse, Oregon, Memphis, Wichita, Arizona, Butler, California, Colorado State, and Virginia Commonwealth.

ROMANS: So I did my bracket like I would pick stocks, right? I went and did a little bit of research, talked to a producer about the strengths of each team and not knowing really anything about basketball or the teams I picked mine like I would pick a stock portfolio.

BERMAN: And that is why you are in second place and I am in second to last place in the CNN anchor pool. But I'm positioning myself for a late-inning comeback.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: It's going to be a long few weeks.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, President Obama paying his respects at the grave of a revered Israeli leader at least behind a poignant connection to America's own past. We have details in a live report. BERMAN: Then Tina Faye's new film "Admission" opening this weekend. But hear what two of her costars told me about working with this comedy genius. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Good Friday morning, welcome back, "Minding your Business," stocks set for a slightly lower open. Investors are nervous about pushing any higher here, especially as the proposed bailout for Cyprus is nearing a deadline.

Protesters hit the treats last night in Cyprus. Lawmakers there have to come up with a plan to raise money by Monday, or else the European central bank will stop providing Cyprus with emergency cash. So concerns, again, about stability in Europe.

Google's Eric Schmidt making a rare visit to Myanmar. He's pushing for a free and open Internet in a country that's just now emerging from decades of military rule. Internet access in Myanmar very rare. Only a small amount of people there -- small number of people there have cell phones. The trip comes just two months after he made a controversial journey to North Korea.

Good news, good news: fewer Americans have debt. That's right; 69 percent of people are in debt or have debt. That's compared to 74 percent in 2000. A big reason why: people are laying off the credit cards.

But for those who do have debt, they have a lot more of it, $70,000 on average compared to $52,000 back in 2000. Bearing the brunt of it: seniors. People over 65 saw their debt load double. Seniors are less likely to own their own homes outright, and these days are also more likely to have unsecured debt. That includes things like student loans and medical bills.

Some surprising news about debt ahead on STARTING POINT. We're going to continue with who's got debt, why they have debt and how to get over it. We're going to do that story, too.

BERMAN: Also ahead a 13-month-old baby targeted for murder. We're following this disturbing story out of Georgia this morning. We'll tell you all about it. You're watching STARTING POINT.

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back. President Obama wrapping up a historic visit to Israel and the West Bank before moving on to Jordan, the final leg of his Middle East trip. Right now the president is heading to Bethlehem, visiting the Church of the Nativity with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

BERMAN: Earlier this morning Mr. Obama paid a visit to the grave of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, where he left a memento from American history. Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is traveling with the president. She joins us now from Amman in Jordan this morning.

Jess, quite a morning so far.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It really has been, John.

And good morning, Christine.

The president now planning to cap off the first leg of his trip by visiting one of the holiest sites in Christianity, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which commemorates, of course, the birthplace of Jesus.

Now that stop, a holy Christian site, inside the Palestinian West Bank, less than five miles from Jerusalem, it's a reminder of how many overlapping claims the world's religions have to that tiny swath of land, and a symbolically rich way for a Christian U.S. president to wrap up a trip that has focused on sealing bonds with the Jewish state, a trip that the White House and American and Israeli officials at this point seem quite pleased with, John.

Jess, you are in Amman, Jordan, where the president will be meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah. King Abdullah is a very close ally of the U.S., but he is under a tremendous amount of pressure, both internally and externally.

So what's on the agenda for the meetings there?

YELLIN: Well, the president lands here in three hours. He's going to have a meeting with King Abdullah, then speak briefly to the press, only one question on each side and then the two men will have a dinner.

Now as you point out, Jordan is a close U.S. ally. The country has a peace treaty with Israel. But it's also home to close to 2 million Palestinians. So it would be an important player in any peace negotiations. So that would come up and be on -- up for discussion.

But there are other more immediate issues for them right now. Syria: Jordan has taken in more than 400,000 Syrian refugees since the conflict began.

So, John, clearly an enormous interest here in ending the crisis and preventing the use of chemical weapons. So that's a topic.

And King Abdullah, he is among the few royals still standing after the Arab spring. But under enormous political pressure here, I'll just say, made worse when, in an interview with a U.S. magazine, he described his country's tribal leaders as dinosaurs. That's hasn't gone over so well here.

So for domestic optics, you can't be too cozy with an American leader. He does need the president's support. So this one will be a careful balancing act for both sides, John.

ROMANS: Can I ask you, Jess, real quickly, what did -- what was the American memento that the president left at the grave of Yitzhak Rabin?

YELLIN: Well, when the president was there, he left stones from Martin Luther King Jr.'s statue, the statue in Washington, D.C., a hugely meaningful gesture from the first -- America's first black president, to leave some marker from America's civil rights leader, who was assassinated trying to fight for civil rights, in honor of the Israeli leader, Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated trying to fight for peace.

So it's both a symbolic way of the president saying I deeply understand the Israeli struggle, and I also deeply believe that it's worth sacrifice and hard work to continue to fight for peace. Quite a way to end his trip.

BERMAN: Quite a way, indeed. Jessica Yellin, live this morning from (inaudible) following the president, thanks for being with us.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, the NRA turning its sights on a new New York gun control law. Is this measure unconstitutional? We're going to get a reaction from Aurora shooting survivor Stephen Barton.

ROMANS: And a 15-year-old girl is trapped when burglars enter her home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, bring the bucket over here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, don't talk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bring it over here.

ROMANS (voice-over): How she survived in her own words, next. You're watching STARTING POINT.

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ROMNEY: All right, breaking news. We're getting new details on a shooting at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia, leaving three dead. All three are Marines.