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CNN NEWSROOM

Law Enforcement Under Siege; Community Honors Slain D.A. & Wife; Warrants Issued for White Supremacists; Sheriff Shot Dead in West Virginia; North Korea Could Launch Missile; Ex-Player Stands By Rice

Aired April 4, 2013 - 14:00   ET

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


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Happening right now in the NEWSROOM -- thank you very much, Suzanne -- a public memorial getting under way for a murdered district attorney and his wife. Government offices in the area closed to honor the couple while police look for new leads in their death.

And first on CNN, North Korea moves a missile to its coast. Today we're learning just how far that missile could travel and how powerful it may be.

And get this, airlines considering tinier toilets. Have you heard that? Can't even fit in the ones now. One major carrier is on board and the idea could soon be taking off with others.

The NEWSROOM starts right now.

Hello, everyone, I'm Don Lemon. Welcome. Brooke is off today.

Across the country, there is growing cause for concern right now for the safety of those who protect us, not the military, but the law. From Colorado to West Virginia, worried law enforcement officials are asking, who's next?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON (voice-over): A state prison chief, who'd cracked the whip against white supremacist prison gangs. A Texas prosecutor. His boss, a tough-talking district attorney who targeted gangs, as well. A hard- nosed sheriff known for targeting drug thugs. Four law enforcement officials, three states. What do they have in common? All are dead.

Tom Clements, the prison chief, was killed last month at his home in Monument, Colorado. His now grieving widow was in the house, too.

LISA CLEMENTS, WIDOW OF SLAIN PRISONS CHIEF: Last Tuesday night, Tom and I were watching TV and our doorbell rang. And my life was forever changed.

LEMON: Two days later, this high-speed chase in Texas ended with the death of Tom Clements' suspected killer, 28-year-old Evan Ebel, a Colorado parolee, known to have been a member of the white supremacist prison gang the 211 Crew. But why was Ebel driving to Texas? That question focused renewed attention on the killing of this man, Kaufman County Prosecutor Mark Hasse, shot dead near his office on the last day of January.

Still reeling from Hasse's murder, Kaufman County woke up Sunday morning to a nightmare. The shocking murders of Hasse's boss, Mike McLelland, and his wife Cynthia. Their bodies were found riddled with bullets at their home.

They're being memorialized today as prosecutors in neighboring counties remain under armed protection.

And now this, in West Virginia. Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum shot dead in his cruiser only yesterday. This man has been arrested.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: So here's the question, is it open season on law enforcement officials, or is the sudden spade of killings coincidental? This hour we're staking out the three states in question here. CNN's Susan Candiotti is in Mingo County, West Virginia. Jim Spellman is in Denver, Colorado. And we're going to start, though, with CNN's George Howell. He is in Kaufman County, Texas.

So, George, what's the latest where you are?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, and the way you set it up there, no doubt that what's happening is causing a great deal of concern around the country. When you get into communities like this, you know, there's a great deal of fear and worry with residents. And we just had the governor of the state, Rick Perry, here at the courthouse just about an hour ago. He was here to, you know, offer his concern about what's happening, also to show confidence in the multiagency team that he has looking into these murders.

And we learned several things during this news conference, Don. First of all, the reward money, it's going up to $200,000. The governor's office is raising -- adding an extra $100,000 to what was already there. His hope is that will bring more tips into the case.

And we also now know that billboards will go up around the state. These billboards, we saw a mock-up inside the building, it shows Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia. Also it shows Mark Hasse. And again, the hope is that people will see this, Don, and pass on new tips to the case.

And for the first time in this news conference, we saw and heard from Brandi Fernandez. She is the new interim district attorney who is stepping into Mike McLelland's position. Given the mood out here, given the concern that prosecutors are worried about being targeted, I asked her what it's like to take on that role.

LEMON: Right.

HOWELL: Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRANDI FERNANDEZ, INTERIM KAUFMAN COUNTY D.A.: It's certainly -- it's always been a concern on our minds, even before then. It certainly puts a kink in your life. But I think it's necessary so that we can still show up and get this job done. I think it's just a necessary inconvenience, but I'm still going to show up and they're still going to show up with me, and we're going to get this job done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Brandi Fernandez also talking about the fact, Don, that she will have round the clock, 24-hour security. Many prosecutors are doing that given what's happening here in this state and certainly around the country.

LEMON: All right, George Howell, stand by, because we want to go to Colorado right now, where two white supremacists, both considered armed and dangerous, are being sought by authorities today. CNN's Jim Spellman live for us now in Denver.

Jim, my question to you, how are all of these men -- how they're connected to the killings of Tom Clements, the slain prison chief? Are they?

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, let me give you a little brand new information, Don. In addition to the two men that police have a BOLO out on, a "be on the look-out" (INAUDIBLE) two other 211 gang members have been brought in by police this week. One Monday, one just late last night. The one brought in Monday. Police have executed search warrants on this person. Both of these people, in fact all four, the two with the be on the look-out alert, and the two that police have brought in, all were known to have associated with Ebel in the days before the shooting of Tom Clements and the pizza driver, Nate Leon, and all four of them are 211 gang members.

Don, I think it says a lot --

LEMON: Yes.

SPELLMAN: That two weeks after this car crash incident, shootout with police in Texas, that this is still an incredibly active investigation. Authorities here, like in Texas, are on edge for their own personal safety and for the safety of their coworkers. They're taking this very personal, Don. They want to be sure that what you described, open season on law enforcement agents, they want to know -- people to know that that is not the case and they are vigorously going after anybody who may have been associated with a possible conspiracy against these public officials.

LEMON: So, Jim, with the new information you have, do you have any names for us? Do you know who they are?

SPELLMAN: We don't have any names, but we do know that they were 211 gang members.

LEMON: OK. SPELLMAN: But people -- investigators here are not only concerned for their own safety, but they're concerned for the safety of the people that they are speaking with and that are helping them. If somebody would gun down the head of a prison system or a district attorney or a sheriff, there's no reason they wouldn't gun down a potential witness in this case. So people are being very cagey here about exactly who they're speaking with, Don.

LEMON: All right, Jim, I asked George Howell to stand by. I'm going to ask you to stand by, as well. We're going to continue on with this. But we want to go to the latest now on the killing of a law enforcement official. The one that occurred in Mingo County, West Virginia. In this case, there is a suspect in custody. With the latest on that is CNN's Susan Candiotti.

Susan, what do you know?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Don.

Well, first of all, let's remember the sheriff here. Sheriff Eugene Crum here in Mingo County, who just a little more than 24 hours ago was sitting in his marked car eating lunch just a couple of blocks away from the courthouse where I'm standing here when someone approached the car, pointed a gun inside the window, and shot him at point-blank range. He took two shots to the head and died.

Now, the suspect, as you indicated, is in custody. He is currently hospitalized after police caught up with him and shot him after they said he drew a gun on him. We do know this. We know that after he was arrested, he said something to investigators. They're not revealing what it was that he said, but it could possibly help us understand what motive might have been in play here. We also do know this. He is currently on a ventilator. Authorities have not been able to speak with him again because of that.

Also, I just spoke with the mother of this suspect, who, of course, is hospitalized. The mother tells me very tearfully, in her words, "I just don't understand what happened." She said that her son has suffered from mental illness for quite some time and was even institutionalized for about a week a few years ago and is currently under psychiatric care. She said, "I don't know what drugs he's taking or whether he's even taking those drugs." But she did say that she's very concerned about him and feels very, very terrible, she said, passing her condolences on to the family of Sheriff Crum.

So, we don't know what the motive is here. We don't know whether mental illness is -- it seems to be at play here. But we don't know what prompted the suspect in this case, Tennis Maynard, age 37, to shoot and kill Sheriff Crum, who was well-known for his efforts in this community to fight pill mills. He was only sworn into office in January, and everyone here loved him.

LEMON: Yes.

CANDIOTTI: There's a vigil for him tonight, Don.

LEMON: A very tough stance on drugs he took.

Susan Candiotti, thank you very much.

And as you can see, CNN has team coverage on this story. We're in three different states. What is going on with law enforcement officials being gunned down? Thank you, guys. Stand by. We'll get back to all of you. Our thanks to Susan Candiotti, George Howell, and Jim Spellman.

A new gun law in Connecticut is being called the toughest gun control measure in the nation. Governor Dannel Malloy signed the law today. It bans some weapons and the sale or purchase of high capacity magazines. The law also requires background checks for all gun purchases. Connecticut becomes the third state to pass tough -- such tough measures since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December.

Tough talks. North Korea accusing the U.S. of trying to start a nuclear war and promises to strike. Ahead, what the U.S. is doing to try and stop these threats.

And, you've seen the video. Rutgers basketball coach verbally and physically abusing his players. Now he's been fired. But could this just be the start? Some faculty members want the school's president to quit. We're going to have the latest on the fallout straight ahead.

Then, FaceBook makes a big announcement. We'll tell you what it is coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: OK, so first on CNN right now, we are learning that the U.S. has gained access to some disturbing information about North Korea's possible next move, as North Korea warns that the moment of explosion is near. A U.S. official says the North could be planning to launch a ballistic missile in just days -- just weeks or days. Now adding to the concern, North Korea has been spotted repositioning a missile. This missile's believed to be a Musudan missile and is used -- if it's used properly, has a range of 2,500 miles. But it's important to mention this type of missile has never been tested by North Korea. The U.S. is already on the defensive, deploying ballistic missile defenses to the U.S. territory of Guam. Let's go to CNN's Chris Lawrence now. He's at the Pentagon.

So, Chris, what more are we learning about this missile, and what is the Pentagon saying about this threat?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the concern, Don, basically is that if they did this test off the east coast, that it could go over Japan, which would be very threatening to the U.S. ally in Japan. And you would wonder, you know, what sort of response could be meted out after that. But this missile, they have seen indications over the last few days that the North has been moving missile components, a missile launch system to that east coast in preparation for a potential test launch. The concern with this missile, of course, if it works, it has the range to hit U.S. forces in South Korea, in Japan, possibly Guam.

But the main focus right now is the fact that this only ratchets up this rhetoric that has been going on for the past week. And what we've seen today is an attempt by the U.S. government to sort of tamp this down a bit.

LEMON: So, many experts believe, Chris, that North Korea really has no intention of starting a war. But if it did, either by intent or by accident, what can you tell us about the U.S. playbook of possible actions here?

LAWRENCE: That's right. They developed this so-called playbook, which is basically a range of options. If North Korea does A, this is something that we can do, B, in response, such as flying those B-2 bombers from Missouri over the Korean peninsula. But I think what you're seeing now is sort of a potential miscalculation. That perhaps some of what was intended to sort of make South Korea feel secure and also send a message to the North may have ratcheted things up unintentionally on the U.S. side. And now we're getting word from the State Department, they may be trying to pull back somewhat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: So, the moves that we have been making are designed to ensure and to reassure the American people and our allies that we can defend the United States, that we will, and that we can defend our allies. So, from that perspective, it was the ratcheting up of tensions on the (INAUDIBLE) case side that caused us to need to shore up our own defense posture. We have done that. But we have also been saying, all the way through, that this does not need to get hotter. That it can -- we can change course here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE: So, basically, a defense official tells CNN that the U.S. basically accused North Korea of ramping things up, but the U.S. may have been guilty of doing the same on our end. I think what you're seeing from Victoria Nuland is a signal that when John Kerry journeys to the region very soon, that he's going to be taking sort of a diplomatic message and to try to pour some water on this fire, so to speak.

LEMON: All right, Chris Lawrence, thank you very much.

And as tensions mount on the Korean peninsula, Wolf Blitzer takes you inside the conflict, the threats and what's at stake on a special edition of "The Situation Room." It's tonight at 6:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

By now you have seen the video of the Rutgers basketball coach caught throwing balls and cursing at his players. Since the video went public, he has been fired, but now some faculty members want the school's president to step down. We're going to have the latest on the fallout straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: OK, the Rutgers coach situation. This is a different take. You want to look at this. The coach -- the basketball coach is gone now, but the scandal is still lingering. A short time ago we learned Rutgers University will pay ex-coach Mike Rice $100,000 bonus for longevity, quote, "longevity," as required by his contract. Rice got fired for hitting and berating players. Some say dumping Rice is not enough. Some faculty members are reportedly calling for Rutgers President Robert Barchi to step down. OK, but ex-Rutgers players, Tyree Graham, well, he is standing by Rice and even defending his behavior. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TYREE GRAHAM, FORMER RUTGERS BASKETBALL PLAYER: Rutgers made a decision where they suspended him earlier this year for, you know, three games and also took, you know, $50,000 for him. So, I felt like Rutgers gave him his punishment. But when the media got a hold of the video, you know, they changed up and now Rutgers fired him. And I really feel like that's wrong because he served his punishment. So, actually, he served, you know, two thing -- two offense -- two penalties for one offense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK. So, let's face it, aggressive coaches, that's nothing new. Perhaps most famously, former Indiana Coach Bobby Knight. Remember this video of Knight putting his hands on a player's throat? He was eventually hired to be the head coach of Texas Tech.

And more recently, in football, Texas Tech fired Mike Leach after he was accused of sending an injured player to a storage shed as punishment. Leach has strongly denied mistreating players. He now coaches at Washington State University. So, there are lives for these coaches beyond being fired.

Some say bullying behavior is just part of being a successful coach. Is that so? Let's bring in now the founding editor of "ESPN" the magazine, Roxanne Jones in New York.

So, Roxanne, I've been reading your piece. I read your piece. It's very controversial. You wrote it for cnn.com. You're saying that firing Rice will not accomplish anything. Why are you saying that?

ROXANNE JONES, FOUNDING EDITOR, "ESPN" THE MAGAZINE: Well, I'm saying it because it's true, Don, it is true. You just showed video of Bobby Knight and Leach. And my point is, if we think that he is the only bully in sports, that this is the only coach who uses this technique, and if we fire him and we cause a lot of trouble and fire everyone else, it will go away, we're wrong. It's not true. It will not change things. And to a certain degree, I don't have a huge problem with his behavior. I just don't. That's why.

LEMON: OK. What do you mean you don't have a huge problem with his behavior?

JONES: Well, look, sports is different. I know that from my own experience as an athlete. I know that from working in sports for almost the last 20 years and being at -- within sports from little league up. And you don't talk pretty in sports. People swear. People hit each other. People get bounced around. You get hit in the head with the ball. And so sports is not a pretty playground. It is not. And I know -- and I know --

LEMON: But, Roxanne --

JONES: Nope, I'm sorry. I'm just -- it's my opinion and that's (INAUDIBLE) be.

LEMON: No, no, no, that's OK. That's OK. Listen, I respect your opinion.

JONES: Yes. Yes. Good.

LEMON: I have to challenge you a little bit, though, because people see this as bullying.

JONES: Right.

LEMON: And they are going to say, listen, you don't have to abuse people in order to be strong. Yes, there's no crying in baseball, as they say. We all get it. We've all had aggressive coaches. And using -- yes, that's it. But don't you think this is beyond what an aggressive coach should be? Especially calling someone names, homophobic names? I mean, come on.

JONES: Right. Right. Well, first of all, I'm a strong advocate in the LGBT community and I have been for a long time, so I don't condone homophobia. I don't see this as that. I see it as, I've been to the gay games as well and I've heard the same words bantered around when all the players are gay. And so I think for us to say knee jerk, he's homophobic or whatever, if someone calls a woman a "b," we don't say they're a chauvinists. Now, I could have that opinion, but I don't think it's true.

I think in sports, you get call names. Part of sports, any sport, is trash talk.

LEMON: Yes.

JONES: And so although he was outrageous in his behavior and I think he needed to be suspended for a season and go through anger management when this first came out, no, I don't think that we need to scrub sports clean of all cursing and all name calling and all bullying.

LEMON: I think most people would agree with you.

JONES: Bullying in the classroom is -- you know, bullying in the classroom is very different than what happens on a playground in sports.

LEMON: Yes, listen, I think most people will agree with you. And we're talking about in the sense of a cat, in sports, when people say don't be a pussy, they mean don't be like that. JONES: Right. Right.

LEMON: You're talking about names like that. But when you're calling people names beyond that, I mean that's -- you know, we all get it. We all get what sports is.

JONES: Right.

LEMON: When you're hitting people with basketballs, though, and you're kicking them and, I mean, Roxanne.

JONES: He needed an anger management course. I'm not defending that.

LEMON: OK. OK.

JONES: But I am saying it's not pretty language. I've heard it before. I don't think that -- you know, sports is all about adrenaline. Part of sports is being a brute. It's -- I mean we -- that's what we love about it as fans. And if we're playing it, you can't control your emotions when you are playing sports or when you're coaching, for that matter, I mean there's a lot on the line.

LEMON: And sports are -- it's aggressive. I mean it's physical and it's aggressive.

JONES: It's very aggressive.

LEMON: Here's what I found interesting, though, about your article, among many things.

JONES: Yes.

LEMON: It was a good -- it's a very good read.

JONES: Thank you.

LEMON: And again, as I said, I respect your opinion.

JONES: Thank you.

LEMON: Not -- we don't all have to have group think and think the same way.

JONES: (INAUDIBLE).

LEMON: You say your own son had a positive experience with a bullying coach. Really?

JONES: Yes. I don't think my words were "positive experience." And he did have an AAU coach -- the team traveled to Baltimore and Philly and other places -- who was out of control. I think because he was a poor coach and so all he did was scream and curse and bully the kids. Bully is kind of a new word now, but, you know, we can describe his behavior. And so when I first saw him, you know, being in sports, I thought, OK, let me keep an eye on this guy.

LEMON: Yes.

JONES: But the -- he was so over the top that I wanted to watch him, but my son -- they lost every game, so obviously his technique wasn't working. And but, you know, my son really didn't walk away from that a broken kid. One, because his parents were there watching very closely. And, secondly, it wasn't language or behavior that he hadn't seen play out in, what, what should we name first, a video game, on the street, in his family.

LEMON: I get what you're saying. Listen, and here is --

JONES: You know, it was real.

LEMON: I want to read, just as you were talking here, because I --

JONES: OK.

LEMON: Right before you came on I said we're going to have a different take on this.

JONES: Yes.

LEMON: Someone said, Beth said, on social media, "I asked my son. He said the slurs bothered him. The rest, he said, he has had it all happen. Said, that's what sports is about. He says knowing someone else says. I totally agree with this Roxanne. I love this woman. I want to see more of her." Someone said, "is this lady on CNN serious?" And then someone else said, "firing the Rutgers coach is not the answer. This has gone on for decades." You have a lot of people who agree with you, Roxanne. I just want to tell you that.

JONES: Thank you very much, Don.

LEMON: Good to have you on.

JONES: All right.

LEMON: Enjoyed your piece on cnn.com. Thanks. Hope to see you again, Roxanne.

JONES: I hope so too.

LEMON: All right.

JONES: All right. Bye-bye.

LEMON: You know, it could be the end of permanent alimony in Florida. Lawmakers, they're considering a bill that would consider lifting the life sentences of spouses that divorce. But is this a smart move?

Plus, tinier toilets in airplanes. Aren't they tiny enough? Say it ain't so. One airline shrinking its bathrooms to add more seats and other airlines could soon follow.

And let me know what you think. Make sure you tweet me and my panel as they weigh in. That's coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)