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Tornado Near St. Louis; Twister Tears Through Arkansas Towns; Massive Auto Recall; Hostage Standoff; North Korea Missile Threat; Gun Control Legislation On Capitol Hill; "The Day The Justice System Failed Us"; Hakkens Due In Court

Aired April 11, 2013 - 06:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Tornado fury. New this morning, twisters touch down in at least two states, leaving a path of wrecked homes behind.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: S.W.A.T. team rescue. Police storm a home, guns blazing to save a group of firefighters held hostage.

BERMAN: Dangerous defects. New overnight. Four different automakers recalling millions of cars because something meant to protect passengers could hurt them instead.

SAMBOLIN: Out gunned but definitely not outdone. Take a look as a store owner takes a bullet fighting off a gunman with a baseball bat. This is really incredible video. We're going to show you so much more of this. The guy keeps oncoming back.

BERMAN: It goes on and on and on and on.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Good morning to you. Welcome to EARLY START. So happy you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. Great to see you. It's Thursday, April 11th, 6:00 a.m. in the East.

Up first, thousands of people right there without power after fierce tornadoes touched down in at least two states.

This is what we know so far. The first one hit around 8:00 p.m. in Hazelwood, Missouri. That's just outside of St. Louis. We saw debris in the streets, trees toppled over, at least 24 homes suffering major damage. Missouri's governor has declared a state of emergency, 42,000 people in St. Louis are still without power.

SAMBOLIN: In Arkansas, a twister tore a path 30 miles wide through Van Buren County. That's about 75 miles north of Little Rock. At least 33 homes, a church, and a business were damaged there. These are incredible pictures coming in. Three people were injured. Luckily no deaths have been reported in the mostly rural area, but nerves are definitely rattled there.

BERMAN: Major storm still rumbling through much of the southeastern U.S. right now. So let's bring in Samantha Mohr. Samantha, who is seeing the worse of this, this morning.

SAMANTHA MOHR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, we've had a lot of lightning across South Eastern Texas, Zoraida and John. Check out what's happening here in Corpus. We have winds gusting up to 38 miles per hour from some of the thunderstorms there in the Corpus Christi area.

We have heavy rain in Jasper, Texas. Here in North Western Mississippi we have flood warnings. They've had two to three inches of rain in just the past three hours. Remember, it's very hard to see how deep that water is when it's dark. So be careful out there.

Then the wintry weather wrapping around across much of Minnesota and Wisconsin so the twin cities seeing that snow, freezing rain mix, could end up seeing 3 inches to 5 inches of snow in the twin cities today. All that cold air is pushing to the east.

We have a chance for a severe, once again, across the Deep South. Interestingly enough, you may think, we haven't had as many tornadoes it seems this season. You would be right. Based on the past six years of data, here is the average.

We should average around 325 annually and so far we've only had 163. Largely because of the very cool season we have had here, John and Zoraida. But just because we're off to a slow start doesn't mean it's going to stay slow. Things could pick up in any minute.

I think today could be one of those days. That means you need to dust off the weather radios and recharge the batteries. Make sure they're ready to go especially overnight.

SAMBOLIN: This is one of those moments where you don't want to play catch-up. Samantha Mohr live for us, thank you.

New this morning, four Japanese automakers all involved in a massive recall that is affecting 3.4 million vehicles, the problem is a malfunctioning inflator that could deploy the airbag. It could even cause a fire.

Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and Mazda all impacted by the recall since they all purchased their airbag systems from the same manufacturer in Japan. Twenty six models are impacted. Half of them involving Toyota and popular Corolla Matrix and Camry models so get that checked out.

BERMAN: We're following new developments this morning in a hostage drama in suburban Atlanta down that ended with a gunman dead in a shootout with police. Police say the suspect who was having financial issues placed a fake emergency call and when firefighters showed up, he demanded they turn his utilities back on. That's when the situation got ugly.

CNN's Martin Savidge is live in Suwannee with more. Good morning, Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Yes, the house behind us here is where that ordeal all played out. It went on, that drama, for about four hours, but it ended in seconds. And when it was done, the gunman was dead, firefighters were freed, and a police officer wounded.


SAVIDGE (voice-over): We know that firefighters routinely run toward danger, but not this.

CPL. EDWIN RITTEN, GWINNET COUNTY, GEORGIA POLICE: When they made entry into the home, they were taken hostage by him.

SAVIDGE: It began around 3:40 Wednesday afternoon. Firefighters near Atlanta were called to what they thought was a man having a heart attack. This is radio traffic from one of the five firefighters taken hostage.

UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER: We are in a situation where we have a -- an armed person.

SAVIDGE: The gunman began making demands.

UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER: And he is requesting certain -- certain utilities to be turned back on at his house and he is armed and we are in the room with him.

RITTER: He's going through some financial issues and the power is turned off along with the cable and cell phone.

SAVIDGE: About 30 minutes into the ordeal, one of the five hostages was released. Then around 7:30 p.m., police moved in, a loud bang then volleys of gunfire.

RITTER: It got to a point where we believed that their lives were in immediate danger and our SWAT team made the decision to go in there and neutralize the situation.

SAVIDGE: Neighbors who knew the man didn't expect anything like this.

JAKE MAJOR, NEIGHBOR: He was really nice. Maybe a little bit too nice. I don't know. He seemed like a normal guy.

SAVIDGE: The gunman was killed, one police officer was injured, and the firefighters suffered only minor injuries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're just relieved for us our firefighters are going to go home safe to their families.


SAVIDGE: John, listening to those radio transmissions you can really sense and feel the anxiety in that firefighter's voice as he reports they're all being held hostage. And probably as result of this, you can bet that many first responders.

Not just here in Georgia, but probably across the country are going to be reviewing their practices to see if there is, well, some new programs that have to be instituted as a result of what happened here -- John. BERMAN: That's a good point, Martin. You know, you don't want these first responders nervous when they're rushing to your house to help you. I hate that kind of thing. Martin Savidge for us in Georgia. Many thanks, Martin.

SAMBOLIN: It's 6 minutes past the hour. New this hour, we have another warning from North Korean television. Jim Clancy is live with the latest developments. He is in Seoul this morning. What are these new developments?

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just coming in right now, I was just watching North Korean TV before I stepped into the studio to talk with you a little bit now. This was the announcer coming along in fierce tones saying the media is talking about brinksmanship and a propaganda strategy.

You know, the South Koreans called it a headline strategy where the North Koreans every day have something else that grabs the headlines. Let us say one thing. You will live to regret this in the end. War is just a matter of time, it goes on to say.

There's no sense in regretting because no one will live to regret. Chilling rhetoric, but take note. This is coming -- according to the announcer -- from the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Peninsula.

Now this is a way for Kim Jong-Un or the leadership in North Korea to send a message out there, but it's not directly attributed to them. They would say, well, that's not directly from us, this is the feelings of this committee.

This is their sentiment. So they distance themselves from it. What does it look like? More propaganda, more of that headline strategy -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Well, yes, it does sound like more propaganda. But what we discussing all of these missiles that supposedly they're getting ready to launch there's one in particular that perhaps has a longer range that hasn't been tested in the past. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

CLANCY: We don't know about the Musudan publicly. We know that it was adapted from a Russian submarine missile to be launched underwater. The North Koreans got it. They hired the Russians. They worked it over. They added some length to it. So it's believed to have a range of about 4,000 kilometers.

And it's believed to have a payload around one ton, but nobody really knows. That's why this test could be so important. It has not been publicly tested. That's why there's so much military hardware, monitoring hardware, radar out there trying to read everything they can off this launch that is highly expected in the coming hours or days -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: How far are we talking about when we talk about the missile ranges here, do you know? CLANCY: It's 4,000 kilometers, 2,500 miles is the general consensus from the experts. Now, that goes all of the way to Japan, to Guam, and, of course, to Korean Peninsula, which is well within range of a lot of the missiles of North Korea. So it's a worrisome development. If they find out it goes further than that the concerns are elevated. That's why they want to watch very closely -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right, Jim Clancy live for us in Seoul. Thank you very much.

BERMAN: New this morning, the Senate may take action on gun control legislation. Procedural vote is expected later this morning to determine whether or not to open debate on a gun bill.

This comes as two senators, Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, announced that bipartisan deal to expand background checks to include buyers at gun shows and guns on the internet. But the sister of one of the Newtown shooting victims says much more needs to be done.


CARLEE SOTO, SISTER OF SANDY HOOK VICTIM VICKI SOTO: That's not enough. It's really not. You know, these kids were brutally murdered. My sister was brutally murdered. It's just not enough what they said about the background checks.


BERMAN: Although he has pushed for tighter gun control measures in the Manchin-Toomey proposal, President Obama called the compromise a significant step.

SAMBOLIN: New this morning, a heartfelt letter from George Zimmerman's mother written to the American public on the one-year anniversary of her son's arrest for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

Gladys Zimmerman writes, quote, "April 11th, 2012, will be forever remembered by the Zimmerman family as the day that justice system failed us as Americans. An innocent man was arrested for a crime he did not commit solely to placate the masses.

It is astounding that despite the vast amount of information and evidence now available that supports George's self-defense claim the majority of the media avoids its publication." That will be met with some controversy.

Back in the United States and headed to court. Does the parents accused of abducting their kids and sailing them to Cuba face prison time?

BERMAN: Plus, a state emergency in Missouri right now. We will take you to one of the hardest hit areas in the state where tornado levelled homes. Car is crushed. EARLY START back right after the break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. It is 13 minutes past the hour. The parents who were accused of abducting their two young sons and sailing to Cuba face a judge in a Florida courtroom this morning. Josh and Sharyn Hakken face a long list of charges including kidnapping, auto theft and child neglect. The boys are now back with their grandparents.

CNN's Victor Blackwell has been covering this story from the beginning. He's live outside the courthouse in Tampa. Victor, what can those parents expect today?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they will be staying inside the jail where they are and they have been the first 24 hours since they've been arrested. They will not physically be in the courtroom. They're going to speak with the judge via closed-circuit television.

Since they've been arrested they've been isolated from the general population and we're told that that's customary for two suspects in such a high-profile case.


BLACKWELL (voice-over): Florida jail facing state charges of kidnapping and child neglect after a week on the run. Their 2-and 4- yeaar-old sons Chase and Cole are back living with their legal guardians, their grandparents, Robert and Patricia Hauser, grateful to the authorities who ended their week long nightmare.

ROBERT HAUSER, GRANDFATHER: And really the thousands of other people who have said the prayers and went out to try to help find the grandchildren. We are very appreciative of that.

BLACKWELL: The day after the Hakkens lost their parental rights in connection with the father's arrest and erratic behavior in 2012 deputies say Joshua Hakken broke in the Hauser's home in Tampa. Patricia Hauser called for help.

UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: 911, what is your emergency?

HAUSER: I can't think. My son-in-law just kidnapped my two grandchildren. They've been in my state custody.

BLACKWELL: Investigators learned Joshua had purchased this boat, the Salty, and they were headed south.

DAVE COUVERTIER, FBI SPECIAL AGENT, TAMPA BAY: The State Department received information that they were actually in Cuba.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Patrick Oppmann in Havana searched the marina popular with Americans. And sure enough, found their boat and the Hakken family.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I see a boy playing on top deck. And then a man with a large beard really kind of hunky guy comes out. I say, hey, are you Josh? And he says, yes, who are you? And I say I'm from CNN.

He gets very angry, goes in the boat.

COUVERTIER: We set up a team that consisted of local, state and federal agents, that actually departed the Tampa area and went to Cuba, and actually met with the authorities there.

BLACKWELL: The family was taken into custody. The boys and their parents separated on the flight back to Florida.

Expedient and rare cooperation on extradition between two countries with an inconsistent history.

PATRICK VENTRELL, ACTING DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON, U.S. STATE DEPT: We do appreciate the Cuban authorities' cooperation to resolve this situation quickly.

BLACKWELL: The boys now settling into a familiar home. Their parents, at least for now, confined to a new one.


BLACKWELL: Zoraida, there was a federal charge of flight to avoid prosecution associated with this case but that's been dropped in the interest of streamlining the process.

SAMBOLIN: I was reading online that these two could actually face life in prison because of Florida laws? Could you explain that to us?

BLACKWELL: Yes. And it's specifically the kidnapping charges. They've been charged each with two counts. Of course, one for each boy. The kidnapping charge alone, if they're convicted, could send them to prison for life.

But again, they are charged with the burglary with battery and child neglect and false imprisonment. A long list, it goes on and on. Not including charges in Louisiana. Joshua Hakken is charged with going to a foster home with a gun trying to take the kids in July of 2012.

SAMBOLIN: And, you know, what everybody is worried about are these two little boys. We haven't really seen them. We've seen their pictures constantly. But I understand we perhaps could see them today. What do you know about that?

BLACKWELL: We're supposed to -- we're expecting at least to see them at about 11:00 Eastern today. The Hausers, the grandparents, are hosting a news conference on their front lawn -- the front lawn of the home where they were snatched more than a week ago. We're told the boys will be there, but likely will not speak.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Victor Blackwell reporting live for us. Thank you for that. Appreciate it.

BERMAN: Seventeen minutes after the hour right now. Let's bring you up to date. Wild weather in the nation's midsection spawning tornadoes, knocking out power to tens of thousands of people in Missouri and Arkansas. A state of emergency is now in effect in Missouri. Arkansas a twister shredded a path 30 miles wide through three downs in Van Buren County that's about 75 miles north of Little Rock.

Nearly three dozen homes were damaged. Several vehicles overturned on the highway. At least three people there were hurt.

Justin Lewis from our affiliate KATV is live for us this morning in Botkinburg, Arkansas. Justin, what do things look like right now? Bad behind you, huh?

JUSTIN LEWIS, KATV: That's exactly right, John. I'll get out of the way. This is actually what stands of the sanctuary of that Botkinburg Four Square Church here just north of Clinton, Arkansas, in Highway 65. The county judge tells me at least six homes completely demolished through severe weather that came through yesterday afternoon. Many people displaced. And people are out here in droves yesterday helping clean up to try to get this area sort of back to normal.

Four people were injured. All those transported to the hospital yesterday. Now, I've been told this morning three of those have been released. One remains in the hospital with nonlife threatening injuries.

The American Red Cross was on the ground yesterday trying to, you know, help people pick up the pieces. They will be back this morning trying to help look at things and serve people who have been displaced.

So, we are live in Van Buren County. John, I'll send it back to you.

BERMAN: Thanks, Justin Lewis, in Botkinburg, Arkansas. Again, that church behind you simply destroyed.

SAMBOLIN: You know, surprising there weren't more injuries.

BERMAN: They're lucky. There are people in there earlier. They had left so luckily no one was hurt inside.

SAMBOLIN: Nineteen minutes past the hour. Amazing video to show you. This is just incredible. A pair of Chicago shopkeepers refused to back down when two men tried to rob their store at gun point. Look at that -- at one point, they're holding someone, too. It happened earlier this week.

This is a souvenir shop. The robbers pulled out a gun. They demanded cash. That's when 62-year-old store owner Louis Quizhpe, he's the one behind the counter there, grabbed the bat and look at him. He started swinging.

One of the suspects started firing. It hit his accomplice in the leg. He actually limped out of the store. Quizhpe also hit in the leg by gunfire but he keeps on swinging. Look at this guy. He keeps oncoming. The robber keeps oncoming back for more. But the gunman, he's not giving up. So look at that. He gets hit over the head with a baseball bat.

Quizhpe's brother-in-law sprung into action as well, throwing a chair and a fire extinguisher at that guy. Quizhpe is recovering at home this morning. Police are still searching for those suspects.

BERMAN: You know, I got to say. I don't know what the right thing to do is there. I don't know if you should take that baseball bat and start swinging but that guy --

SAMBOLIN: It worked for him. But this man was armed and dangerous. This could have ended --

BERMAN: But Mr. Quizhpe, brave and with a big swing. That's for sure.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, defending his property.

BERMAN: Twenty minutes after the hour right now. And more proof we have come a long way since the depths of the recession. The new numbers that have us asking, is the foreclosure crisis over? Man, that would be nice. We'll tell you, coming up.


BERMAN: We are minding your business this morning. Stocks are looking to climb higher into record territory after the Dow and S&P 500, they shattered another record yesterday.

SAMBOLIN: And, Christine Romans, the Dow 15,000 is right around the corner.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: A couple of good days and you could see the Dow 15,000. I mean, you think of where we'd come from in this market. Futures up higher again this morning.

We could see another record day today. We'll be watching Hewlett- Packard shares, though. That could weigh down the Dow.

HP shares set to drop at the open because we learned that PC sales plummeted in the first three months of the year. At HP, that meant almost 24 percent drop in PC shipments from a year ago. Taiwan-based Acer saw a 31 percent decline. Overall, it was a 13.9 percent drop, the biggest ever, the biggest ever, says tech market research firm IDC.

They're blaming tablets for disrupting the PC market. Also, Microsoft Windows 8, it says it's getting a weak reception from customers, says IDC. As a result, consumers are choosing tablets over new PCs with Windows 8.

All right. Neither rain nor snow nor Saturday will stop the Postal Service. The Post Office saying, never mind, on eliminating Saturday delivery because it's not allowed. It needs Congress to approve the move or give the Postal Authority the authority to make own decisions about its delivery schedule. Neither of those have happened yet.

So, you've got mail on Saturday for the foreseeable future.

BERMAN: Congress makes it hard for the post office to do things. It's really a problem.

Meanwhile, what's the one thing we need to know about our money?

ROMANS: The number of monthly foreclosures is just about where it was before the recession. Banks repossessed 44,000 homes last month, which is close to pre-crisis levels.


ROMANS: That average. Look at how much they've come down. Way better than the record, 100,000 repossessions we saw back in September 2010.

We've still got a lot of people who are behind but fewer than before and repossessions slowing down.

SAMBOLIN: A hundred thousand.

ROMANS: I know. It was ugly. September 2010 was a very ugly month for repos.

BERMAN: All right. Christine, thanks so much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: So, after all the talk, finally, we're going to get some action in Congress on gun control. It will happen today. More on the vote, which is just hours away, coming up.