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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Quantico Marine Base Shooting; Suspect Killed by Police; Obama Heading To Jordan

Aired March 22, 2013 - 08:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Christine Romans. Soledad has the day off.

Our STARTING POINT this morning: breaking news at the Quantico Marine base in Virginia. Three marines there are dead. Officials are trying to piece together what happens. We're live on the scene with the latest.

BERMAN: Brand new details on the ambush murder of Colorado's prison chief. You know, we may be closer to knowing who killed Tom Clements and why. We'll have the developing details in just moments.

ROMANS: Are you eating too much salt? An eye-popping study shows we may need to cut back from sodium, or else.

BERMAN: Then, the late-night wars heating up. Our own Jake Tapper talking to Jimmy Kimmel about the rumors that Leno may be getting the boot.

It is Friday, March 22nd. And STARTING POINT begins right now.

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BERMAN: We have a great team here today.

Lizza Ryan, the Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker".

And we have CNN contributor Chris John Farley, senior editorial director of digital features at "The Wall Street Journal" and editor of their "Speak Easy" blog.

No one at Harvard winning last night, but thank you guys for joining us.

CHRIS JOHN FARLEY, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: I'm glad they won. Yes, I'm still glad they won.

ROMANS: All right. The big upset.

Meanwhile, we've got the breaking news right to follow this morning. A U.S. marine opening fire on fellow marines at the Quantico military base in Virginia. Three people are dead, among them the shooter, a staff member at the base officer candidate school.

Shannon Travis live from Quantico, Virginia, this morning.

Shannon, get us up to speed.

SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Hey there, Christine.

We just got a statement, and I want to start with this from the Pentagon. Pentagon Press Secretary George Little referring to the defense secretary, Chuck Hagel. I'm just going to read this off to you.

Quote, "Earlier this morning, the secretary was saddened to learn of the shootings at Marine Corps Base Quantico. This tragedy as well as the tragedy in Nevada earlier this week took the lives of Marines who volunteered to serve their nation. His heart and prayers are with them and their families. He believes that the legendary strength of the United States Marine Corps will ensure they are forever remembered."

Obviously, we're talking about those three Marines that you mentioned who's lives were cut short last night.

Let's bring up to speed of a press conference just a short while ago. All three of them were Marines. Two of them were men, one was a woman. We're being told that identities will be withheld right now, Christine, at least 24 hours, pending family notification.

We pressed the spokesman here at the base about motive. What possibly happened? That's also unclear, pending the investigation.

Also, another question, did these three know each other? We know that they all three were staff members at this officer candidate school. This is where the shootings actually happened. So, did they know each other?

Officials are not telling us anything about that. We can assume that they did. But, again, we know that the shooter, first shot the first male, then went over to a nearby barracks, but not too far from where the first shooting happened and then shot himself and the woman that we're talking about.

Again, those are the details that we have so far. We're standing by for more developments -- Christine.

ROMANS: And, clearly, now, the investigation focusing on motive and what relationship, if any, between those three. Thanks so much.

BERMAN: We have a developing story. New details that may help solve the murder of Colorado's prison chief. Colorado police are in Texas this morning, at the scene of a police shoot-out that left a possible suspect in Tom Clements' dead.

CNN correspondent Ed Lavandera is live in Decatur, Texas.

Good morning, Ed. ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.

Well, now, investigators from Colorado have come here to the town of Decatur, Texas, looking into not one, but two murders and the possible connection to a deadly shoot-out that happened here yesterday on the streets of Decatur, Texas, a high-speed chase that ended in a violent fire fight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA (voice-over): This is how a high-speed chase across Texas ended -- a black Cadillac with two 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.

CHIEF REX HOSKINS, DECATUR, TEXAS POLICE: He wasn't planning on being taken alive. I mean, that's obvious, that he was trying to hurt somebody and he's 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 bullet-proof vest and is expected to survive. That triggered a long high-speed chase.

HOSKINS: When he came by me, I would say he was I must probably running 100 miles an hour, just 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 reporting that 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 the Colorado's prison system.

In a press release Thursday night, El Paso County investigators in Colorado did not deny the accuracy of the reports but instead criticized the leak of Evan Ebel's 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. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since Sunday, we have just been a total wreck. Just when you think you have cried your tears and you can't cry anymore, that's all you do.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: And just hours after that high-speed chase came to an end here in Texas and that suspect had died, investigators from those two different murder cases on Colorado scrambled to get on airplanes to fly down here. We're told by a local law enforcement official here in Texas that there is evidence inside that black Cadillac that those investigators will be very interested in looking at -- John.

BERMAN: Al right. Ed Lavandera in Decatur, Texas, thanks.

ROMANS: All right. Joining us now from Colorado Springs, Colorado, Paula Presley, the undersecretary of El Paso County, where Clements was killed.

Thanks for joining us this morning.

I mean, now, the developments from late yesterday in Texas. Do you believe that the gunman in the Texas is connected to those two shootings in Colorado?

PAULA PRESLEY, UNDERSHERIFF, EL PASO COUNTY: Certainly, he is the focused for 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 had investigators pretty much on a plane in route to Texas.

ROMANS: So this man whom you are calling the focus of your investigation, you believe the suspect's name is Evan Ebel, that's what the media is reporting in Colorado. There are also Denver media reports that this man was somehow involved in a white supremacist gang inside prison.

Do you have any information on this?

PRESLEY: We have received information that he is a parolee and, yes, that he was identified as a gang member in the prison system. Again, you know, that is information that we're receiving from Department of Corrections.

ROMANS: Do we know what interaction he may have had, if any, with Tom Clements? Or if he was working on behalf of someone else? If this was a hit, a grudge? Do we have any idea why?

PRESLEY: That's obviously information and questions that we are going to have to answer here in the future. At this point, what we are trying to do is take a look at the evidence, go where the evidence leads us. That's why we have investigators in Texas.

There is evidence in that vehicle that will be of interest to us, as well as comparing that evidence to evidence we have here at the scene of the murder of Tom Clements. ROMANS: All right. Paula Presley, undersheriff of El Paso County, best of luck to you guys in your investigation -- thanks.

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

BERMAN: Hillary Clinton, rested and ready for one of her first public appearances since she left the State Department. She will speak next month at the Women in the World Summit here in New York. She's attended every year since it began three years ago.

More speeches, of course, could be in the pipeline. Clinton has signed up with an agency that handles the speaking circuit and pays handsomely, I might add.

ROMANS: Yes, I'd say so. And then that gives her, what, another 30 days before the next speech and everyone starts asking her if she is running for president again, right?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Exactly. How much is she getting? I heard like around $200,000 a pop.

ROMANS: That's per speech?

LIZZA: Yes.

ROMASN: That's not bad. What does her husband get, do you?

BERMAN: More --

LIZZA: He gets a lot more. Ex-presidents get a lot more. I remember, it is close to a million, right?

BERMAN: Good job if you can get it, being an ex-president.

ROMANS: Yes. All right. You may want to play Powerball this weekend. Saturday's Powerball jackpot jumped to a whopping $320 million after no one picked the winning numbers in Wednesday's drawing. The prize could go higher, as people with $2 and a dream line up to buy tickets in 42 states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

You know what my advice always when we have lottery tickets? Are you funding your 401(k)? If you're not, ten don't buy lottery tickets.

BERMAN: Wah, wah, wah!

ROMANS: Boring!

FARLEY: That's great. I think I can follow that.

ROMANS: There you go.

BERMAN: All right. Ahead on STARTING POINT, after an historic visit to Israel and the Palestine territories, President Obama, about to head to Jordan on the final leg of his Middle East trip. We're going to be live in Amman, coming up.

You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone.

President Obama wrapping an historic trip to Israel and the West Bank before moving this morning to the final before moving on this morning to the final stop of his Middle East visit, which is Jordan. The president is in Bethlehem right now. Earlier, he visited the Church of the Nativity with Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas.

ROMANS: Earlier this morning, he paid a visit to a grave of murdered former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, where he left a rock from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, he left on Rabin gravesite.

Chief national correspondent John King traveling with the president. He joins us live from Amman, Jordan, this morning.

Good morning, John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine and John. And that part of the president's tribute to the Israeli and the Jewish heritage in Israel. It's a Jewish tradition to bring Iraq to the gravesite (ph) and the president bringing the stones from the Martin Luther King Memorial back in D.C., paying tribute not only to the historical connection between the two nations but trying to make the connection with Dr. King was for nonviolent changes.

The president tries to push to restart the peace process in the United States. Here's a little bit of a footnote of the trip to Bethlehem, you just mentioned. It not only gives him a chance to talk to talk to President Abbas again, he's been back and forth between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas. It's not a negotiating session, it's a symbolic visit to the church of the nativity, but they get to talk a little bit.

And the Palestinians will be happy with an odd twist in the president's schedule and that is because of a dust storm. He had to motorcade. The president planned to use a helicopter to travel to the Church of Nativity, but he had to use the motorcade which means, John and Christine, he had to drive by that concrete barrier, go through some of the security measures that the Israelis say are necessary to protect their settlers in the west bank and the Palestinians despise.

BERMAN: You know, interesting that it points out the diplomatic sensitivities in the region. And John, he's going from one diplomatic sensitive area to another where are you in Amman, Jordan. The country of Jordan facing a whole series of issues. What do you think the president wants to get out of his meetings with King Abdullah there? KING: A couple of key issues. Number one, this is the long-standing U.S. relationship and alliance between Jordan and the United States. So, he wants to thank King Abdullah. He wants to ask king Abdullah what he can do to help to encourage political reforms here. But look, he wants to talk to him, of course, about compare notes about the Middle East peace conversations he had in Israel with prime minister (INAUDIBLE)

BERMAN: We just lost John King, obviously. He was in Amman. President Obama on his way a little bit later -- King Abdullah of Jordan. One of the top issues they will be discussing is, no doubt, the conflict in Syria where there is just, you know, reports of chaos everyday. The U.S. now saying they see no evidence that chemical weapons were used. Still, the situation not getting any better.

LIZZA: Yes. It's been a disagreement between the Israelis and the Americans now. The Israelis were saying this like it was a fact. Some of the reports that CNN has, from the interviews that Jessica Yellin has, the Israelis were saying, sure, we understand that chemical weapons were used.

The U.S. is saying no. No proof of that. A major issue because Obama has basically said in his word, it's a game changer if Assad uses chemical weapons. And so, the U.S. wants to be very careful that they have accurate information on that -- pressure to act militarily if they do.

ROMANS: People are still dying every day. Chemical weapons or no, it still is a crisis situation --

LIZZA: Well, yes, that's what we get into this debate about what kind of munitions they used. We have this -- we treat chemical weapons differently than other munitions. People in Syria who are being killed probably might not see such a difference. And people think that we (ph) should intervene no matter what.

ROMANS: All right. We'll continue to follow this as the president continues this trip ahead on STARTING POINT.

Are you ready for some Blackberry? It's a long awaited launch to the Blackberry 10.

BERMAN: And have you noted that the winter weather is sticking around like for a really long time? Well, Punxsutawney Phil could be in some serious trouble for his early spring prediction. We're going to talk to a lawyer who is suing the groundhog. Yes, a lawyer, who passed the bar. That's on STARTING POINT. Back in a moment.

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ROMANS: Welcome back. I'm Christine Romans, watching your money this Friday morning.

Dow futures are up about 40 points. They were lower for much of the morning, so they've turned around here. It came after the Cyprus government said they're in, quote, "hard negotiations" with the European Union, IMF, and the European Central Bank about that country's $13 billion bailout. Cyprus faces a Monday deadline or its emergency funding will stop.

It's a big day for Blackberry. Research in Motion's new Blackberry Z10 goes on sale to the public today. After months of delays, expectations are high. Two hundred bucks for the new device is going head-to-head with Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy S3. Blackberry has a lot of ground to make up. Android and Apple's IOS operating systems make up 70 and 20 percent of Smartphone sales. Blackberry (inaudible) with just about three percent.

So, really, the future -- I don't think it's too strong to say. The future of the company rides on what people think about what the Z10 -- Blackberry device.

BERMAN: A lot of fingers crossed, typing finger crossed.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: It's a choice of lot of corporations, you know? They've already got -- they've got thousands of employees who already have this device.

LIZZA: I gave it up a few years ago. The only thing that -- the galaxy, that's the only thing that would get me to switch from the iPhone.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: So, I don't want to interrupt the discussion right now.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: But there is a major trending story this morning, the star of Groundhog Day. We're not talking about Bill Murray here. Punxsutawney Phil being sued by a prosecutor. Sued, because of his prognostication. The legal term is misrepresentation of an early spring.

So, joining us now by telephone, I believe tongue firmly and cheek is Michael Gmoser, the prosecutor in Butler County, Ohio. You are suing Punxsutawney Phil. Please explain to me the legal justification of this lawsuit, sir.

VOICE OF MICHAEL GMOSER, PROSECUTOR, BUTLER COUNTY, OHIO: This is an indictment. It is a criminal charge against Punxsutawney Phil. We're just sick and tired of winter here and Old Phil let us down.

BERMAN: Do you have a sense of motive in this? I mean, what possible justification could he have for misrepresenting the weather, sir?

GMOSER: Well, I think, in Pennsylvania, they just want to laugh at us. So, we're trying to have the last laugh. You know, there's an old saying that prosecutors can indict a cheeseburger if they want to. Well, we're changing all that. We can indict a groundhog.

BERMAN: You're starting earlier on the food chain, I supposed.

GMOSER: Absolutely. And when you consider this indictment, we think that it's groundbreaking litigation.

ROMANS: I think you're probably right. And I want to know, what have you heard from the defense team for Phil? What are they saying at this point? How are they going to try to counter these charges?

GMOSER: Well, I think their defense, as I understand it, is going to be that he doesn't know his rear end from a hole in the ground. So, I think they're going to be pleading ignorance. I think that --

BERMAN: I do have to ask, though. You're actually asking for the death penalty here. You are saying that the result should be this poor groundhog is killed. You know, isn't that a little harsh?

GMOSER: Well, you know, the response has been very positive here in Butler County. I mean, most people around here want a piece of Phil. I'm getting recipes. I mean, people are firing up their grills. They're really sick and tired of winter and they want to take it out on Punxsutawney Phil.

ROMANS: Oh, you'll be hearing from the people for ethical treatment of animals and the humane society soon, sir.

GMOSER: I will get letters, I have no doubt.

ROMANS: Mr. Gmoser, let me ask you this. What about the dangerous precedent this could set for weather forecasters and stock pickers all over the world?

GMOSER: I think it's wonderful.

(LAUGHTER)

GMOSER: I think it's about time for a change. And, in fact, instead of Punxsutawney Phil, how about a new -- perhaps a female? How about Punxsutawney Phyllis? You know, I'm looking for some significant changes in the way this whole approach is taken.

BERMAN: You know, Sheryl Sandberg will be getting in touch with you on the gender, no doubt, of Punxsutawney Phil. County prosecutor Michael Gmoser, thank you so much for joining us. You're a county prosecutor now. I have no doubt within a year or two, this man will be a senator from Ohio --

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: This is clearly a brilliant first step on the road to a bright political career.

GMOSER: Well, it's a case with real legs, I think, you know, with four legs, it's got traction.

ROMANS: Oh, man.

BERMAN: All right. Thank you so much for joining us.

ROMANS: -- stand-up circuit. This man is funny. Thank you so much, sir.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: Ahead on STARTING POINT, let it put down the salt, a new study shows that you are probably eating too much of it and it's going to kill you. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is next.

BERMAN: And humor swirling that Jimmy Fallon will take over "The Tonight Show" from Jay Leno. So, what does late night rival, Jimmy Kimmel, have to say about that?

ROMANS: How about the prosecutor in Butler County?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": So, I mean, it makes perfect sense. And Jimmy Fallon is doing a great job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: You know, he doesn't hold back his feelings about Jay Leno either. We're going to have Jake Tapper's interview with the late night funny man next. You are watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT.

From toddlers in the U.S. to adults around the world, many of us are eating too much salt and it's killing us. A just-released study found more than two million people died worldwide in 2010 from heart disease caused by eating too much sodium. Chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta has a breakdown of where you're likely to find these high-salt foods in the grocery store.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: When it comes to sodium, we simply eat too much on average about four grams per day as an adult, and we really need about half that, about two grams per day. There's a study that came out that said if you get down to two grams per day, we could potentially save about 150,000 lives a year.