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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Battery In Bomb Debris Possibly Identified; Risking Their Lives To Help Others; Texas Explosion News Conference; FBI News Conference At 5PM ET

Aired April 18, 2013 - 16:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Jake Tapper in Boston awaiting an FBI press conference on the terrorist bombings in just about half an hour. This just in to CNN, we're also hearing about a new potential lead in the case, the investigation into the attacks here. It involves a battery found in the blast debris.

Let me bring in CNN crime and justice correspondent, Joe Johns. Joe, what are your sources telling you?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, a top executive with Tenergy Corporation out of California confirms to CNN that his company has been contacted by federal authorities. A mangled Tenergy battery was found at the location of the marathon bombing.

Now that battery we're told is what this executive described on the phone to us as a nickel metal high dry sub C-size battery. This is the type of battery that is typically used in remote control hobby cars and the executive of course telling us in his view it is appalling that this battery would have been used in this way when especially it is intended for toys.

So this is a possible lead in the investigation. We've been working under the assumption there is a triggering device for these bombs of course and possibly that the triggering device could have been say a cell phone. It could have been some other way of triggering it.

Now the question is whether it was a remote control. We've reached out to federal authorities. They haven't said anything to us at all about this, but we do know, of course, that remote controls were used for IEDs from time to time. Jake, back to you.

TAPPER: All right, Joe Johns, thank you so much. They thought they'd be taping sprained ankles and treating runners with heat exhaustion, but instead they ended up doing triage in what felt like a war zone.

Dr. Pierre Rouzier and Dr. Frank Brennan, two heroes of the Boston bombings join me now from San Diego. First, Dr. Rouzier, take me through what you did after the bombs went off. DR. PIERRE ROUSIER, TREATED VICTIMS IMMEDIATELY AFTER BOSTON BOMBINGS: Well, I was at Tent A, which is the major medical tent. What my role is for that tent is to be the triage person making decisions as distressed runners either wobble up to us or if they're brought in by wheelchair, is to decide do they need to go to the critical care part of the tent?

Do they need to go to the general medical part of the tent or just sit in a wheelchair for a few minutes? And at about 2:50 p.m., there is a loud noise, which sounded like a cannon.

I thought initially it was somebody's friend had finished the race and they shot a cannon off to just applaud their friend, but then it was way too loud for that and then smoke was billowing above and there were people screaming and running and about, you know, within seconds later another blast went off and that is when you knew there was a bomb.

TAPPER: Go ahead. I'm sorry.

ROUZIER: So at that point, I was out front with one of my colleagues, Dr. Chad Beatty who actually completed our fellowship last year and I am very close to Chad. We looked at each other and we had to think, OK. Where will we be most valuable? We had no idea what was happening at the scene.

We knew there was a lot of doctors and a lot of medical personnel in our tent. We were triaging the race, the ill runners up front with a couple E.R. nurses. Here is my cell phone number. I'll run down there. Call me back if you need me. I texted my wife and kids and said there is a bomb at the finish line. I'm going down. Pray. Pray for everyone.

Not knowing what would happen if I would, you know, see them again. And Chad and I went running down to the scene. We got to the scene. It was horrific. It was an area that was probably, 20 feet by 40 feet or so, maybe a little bigger or smaller and there were just bodies lying on the ground.

There was blood everywhere. The thing that sticks out in your mind, the most for me, is all the bones. The poor young man whose legs have been blown off, whose, you know, foot and shoe we practically tripped over running through the group of people.

And everybody was attended to, which was amazing. We were there not that long after it happened, and watching the video later you watched the first responders run across the street, tear down the barriers, and jump right in and start helping.

TAPPER: Truly incredible. Dr. Brennan, I want to go to you for a second. You were in Iraq in 2003. What was going through your head when you heard the explosions and how similar was it to your time in Iraq?

DR. FRANK BRENNAN, TREATED VICTIMS IMMEDIATELY AFTER BOSTON BOMBINGS: Well, certainly explosions we heard quite a few in Iraq and Baghdad. It was quite distinctive in sound. First of all, you don't really know for sure if it is a gas line, truck backing into something.

But certainly after the second explosion, you know, I knew this was not your typical car backing into a trash can or something like this. It was a loud noise. They were both loud noises. They shook --

TAPPER: I have to cut away. We're going to a live press conference in West Texas where they're talking about the explosion in that plant yesterday.

GREG ABBOTT, TEXAS ATTORNEY GENERAL: -- these are tough Texans and these people affected by the blast are up to dealing with the challenge. It may be a challenge today. It may be a challenge tomorrow. In the coming months and years, these Texans will piece their lives back together knowing that they have unparalleled support from their state, from their fellow community, from their fellow Texans.

The second thing is the incredible praise that must be given to the first responders across this entire community. In Texas, our first responders don't run from harm. They run toward helping out. That is exactly what happened here.

In the face of the most incredible danger first responders ran in to try to save the lives of someone else. These first responders literally lost their lives helping others. First responders include firemen, policemen, law enforcement officers of all kind, health care providers, and of course, the entire community.

The support we got in responding to this challenge is as big as Texas itself. The third thing that we want to convey and that is that the state of Texas and the entire community will provide whatever resources are needed to ensure that these challenges will be met.

Lives in this community will be put back together. Then the last thing I'll mention is an unfortunate follow on to incidents like this that arise. It seems sometimes when tragedies like this arise, they are followed by price gouging.

The governor has declared this a disaster and so my office has declared a warning with regard to price gouging and we've activated the price gouging statute in Texas. If anyone tries to profiteer off this tragedy by hiking up prices for basic needs and necessities they will be facing the wrong end of a lawsuit from the Texas attorney general.

At this time, I want to pass the microphone over to the officer from the Texas Department of Public Safety with the last comment that the Texas Department of Public Safety is going to be providing me a flyover here as soon as the press conference is over giving me the opportunity to survey the damage with the ability to report back in more detail about my observations later on.

At this time, I'd like to turn things over to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

SGT. JASON REYES, TEXAS STATE TROOPERS: Jason Reyes with the Texas Department of Public Safety. Ladies and gentlemen, we want to thank you for your patience first and foremost. We know this has been a long day. Our last briefing was at 10:00 this morning. We want to update on the information that is going on as of now.

We are still in the search and rescue phase looking for individuals, OK, officials from the state, county, local level are tirelessly working to try and locate individuals. For security reasons, ladies and gentlemen, the ATF has requested that no persons, nobody entered any of these affected areas.

It is really important. I'd also like to report that as of 2:00 p.m. this afternoon, a community assistance building has been opened. This is the old library. This is for individuals of the city of West. A post office has been opened as well and is going to be running for the needs of those families of West.

For any information, it has come to our attention that people are wanting to donate items. We are not needing any perishable items at this time, but if you want to make monetary donations, we would encourage you to contact the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and a fund has been set up for the victims of West as well.

At this time if you have any questions we'll entertain any of those questions. At this time we can confirm that we do have fatalities. The exact number is not -- we have confirmed tallies at this time. We don't have the exact amount. I do not confirm the mayor's statements.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Attorney General Abbott, can you speak to the potential as time goes on here that there could be some level of criminal negligence and your office keeping open that option?

ABBOTT: I think issues involving that, it is premature to consider any issues like this. Our focus is trying to help the families affected by this. Get them back to as close to normalcy as we can. Help out in the search-and-rescue component and we'll have to lead to another day issues such as this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible).

REYES: This is a tireless -- these gentlemen are working tirelessly, extremely hard trying to do the search and rescue. They are dealing with the circumstances -- the sheriff can elaborate a little more what we're dealing with.

MATT CAWTHON, CHIEF DEPUTY SHERIFF, MCLENNAN COUNTY: Thank you. My name is Matt Cawthon. I am the chief deputy sheriff for the McLennan County Sheriff's Department. What I can tell you about the area of where the incident occurred is that it is highly populated. It is a neighborhood. It is devastated.

It is still a very volatile situation. Our office is working very closely with Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and the state fire marshal's office to determine the exact cause of this explosion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is this a very volatile situation?

CAWTHON: Because of the ammonium nitrate that was found at the scene. This is a fertilizer company and as it is it has that type of component in it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How dangerous is it right now if you're in the general facility potentially?

CAWTHON: We have the Texas -- the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the EPA going in now to determine just how dangerous it is for our first responders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are they wearing any type of facemask?

CAWTHON: I have no knowledge of what equipment they have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible)

CAWTHON: I don't know about anhydrous ammonia. I've been told about ammonia nitrate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was it all exploded or burnt up in the process or does some of it remain?

CAWTHON: That question I have no knowledge of that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible) firefighters?

CAWTHON: We do not know the cause of the fire. That is what the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and the state fire marshal's office is working tirelessly to try to find out. I'll pass this back to the attorney general.

ABBOTT: A couple more questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of their friends, volunteer firefighters are deceased -- can you confirm --

REYES: Once again we can't confirm we have fatalities. At this time, we can't confirm the number of fatalities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell us about the extent of the damage?

REYES: As the chief deputy said this is a populated area with damage to residential homes and properties.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just to clarify, earlier we were being told it was five to 15. Now you do not want to say that?

REYES: Sir, I can confirm we have fatalities, but I can't give you the exact amount.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the previous statement we should not use them correct?

REYES: Again, we do not have a tally.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you speak with respect to the firefighters we were told three to five were missing this morning. Do those numbers hold?

REYES: Out of respect for the firefighters I think it is best we continue our search and rescue efforts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When will the affected areas be --

REYES: I'm sorry. Again, we're taking this on a day by day, hour by hour basis right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there a hazmat team --

REYES: We are not going to expedite anything. We're going to be sure we do it right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the fire completely out?

REYES: I do not have knowledge of that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should residents be concerned for their health? This was a fertilizer plant, contamination of water supply, anything?

REYES: We are taking every safety precaution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should they be concerned for their health?

REYES: After our state agencies, our resources are being utilized. I'll take one more question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you looking into any zoning laws or anything in terms of this community and the county having a populated area next to what seems to be a volatile point.

REYES: Ma'am, I am not familiar with the zoning ordinances.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is anyone looking into that?

REYES: We'll leave that to the city.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is anybody from the city available to answer those questions?

REYES: We are working on setting another date for another press conference. Thank you for your time. We'll get back to you. Last name Reyes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When will we next hear from you.

REYES: We will be making a 6:00 or so -- you can expect another briefing from us. TAPPER: Authorities releasing more information on that blast in West Texas where a chemical plant caught fire and turned into a giant bomb. A blast and ball of fire so strong it shook the ground with the strength of a small earthquake and blew out doors and windows several miles away.

The scope of the damage, it's hard to get your head around, but Tom Foreman is in the virtual studio with a look at how widespread it is.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jake. The simple truth is we've been analyzing the shock wave that went out from this explosion and it really is absolutely astonishing here in Central Texas.

Let me bring in the map and tell you what I'm talking about. We'll zoom into Central Texas. I want to watch as we start this right in the middle in realtime. You see that growing right there, 12 seconds.

That's how long we think it took for this shock wave to travel from that plant 25 miles away to Waco. How did it do it so fast? This was a supersonic blast wave traveling between 4,000 and 6,700 miles an hour.

In Waco what do they get out of this? Basically all they got was sort of a rattling of the windows, a sense something big had happened. Some people said it must have been like Oklahoma City.

n some ways they are very right. Not any real damage there. Just a shock they could feel that far away. You move in closer on this map and you take it down to a mile away or less where you talk about the downtown of this area then you start talking about real damage as that shock wave hit.

Shock waves lose energy the further they go. Even a mile away there is less happening. They have a lot of broken glass. Not so much structural damage. Once you get in a half mile and you're talking about a few blocks you have profound damage. This is the plant.

That is where you start seeing the damage to these houses where they were simply torn apart, wrenched apart and set on fire as gas mains and things were broken. How did that happen? Because the shock wave hit them and pushed everything one way and the moment it passed the vacuum behind it ripped it all back the other way.

That is happening 4,000, 6,000 miles an hour, a huge, huge impact. That is why we're seeing so much damage and when you analyzed the material that was inside this plant, indeed it could have been anywhere from five to ten times as strong as the blast in Oklahoma City -- Jake.

TAPPER: Tom Foreman in the virtual studio. Thank you. We're just minutes away from the start of that FBI news conference. We'll bring it to you live and have more on the investigation coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: You're looking at a live picture of a press conference we expect from the FBI at 5:00 p.m. Eastern, 2:00 p.m. Pacific. You're looking at live pictures right now of the press conference. We expect an announcement from the FBI into the investigation as to what exactly happened at the terrorist attacks in Boston on Monday just a few blocks from me.

Speaking of which, there is a thought that has haunted many of us since that night. If it can happen right here in Boston, it can happen anywhere in the U.S. But law enforcement officials are already trying to learn lessons from this attack just days ago to help better secure public events nationwide.

CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes and CNN national security analyst Fran Townsend are live in Washington, D.C. Tom, let's start with you. What are some of the things investigators will look for in Boston to help thwart future attacks?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think, primarily, the one thing that could be altered in the future if they want to would be the race course itself. You might have a situation where maybe it ends inside a stadium.

So maybe the last half mile or quarter mile would be in a secure, hardened area people have to be checked before they go into, assuming that the likely place for an attack is going to be somewhere near the finish line.

Even then, we're talking about 26.2 miles. How do you secure that whole thing? Maybe you can secure the 0.2 part of it. What about the first 26? They're going to be looking at that. That doesn't mean there are any easy solutions to future events like this one.

TAPPER: Fran, we have a few major events coming up in the next few months, big ones like the Kentucky Derby, Indy 500. We're going to have a Red Sox game here in Boston tomorrow night. How can we expect security for the future events whether tomorrow night or in the coming weeks and months to be different than what we're already used to in the new post 9/11 normal?

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, a couple things, Jake. One, public officials in cities throughout the country are reminding people about the see it say it programs. They want people to be aware of their surroundings and to report to officials, unintended packages, and suspicious behavior.

You'll also see more of the visible presence whether that means dogs, package checks, that sort of thing. You know, in cities, major urban areas like New York, you already see an increased presence at subway systems. You know, in open public areas where large amounts of people gather. You're going to see for a period of time more presence and more skittishness if you will about suspicious packages for sure. TAPPER: Tom, of course, added security means more money. It costs money to have added security. It's a time of austerity where people are talking about greater spending cuts. Explain the complications for the FBI and others in law enforcement when it comes to this demand for more security especially after what happened here at the Boston marathon on Monday?

FUENTES: It's an important political consideration because the resources are finite whether talking about federal agencies, state police, local, city police, county, sheriff's offices, all of the authorities have limited resources and maybe in the last couple years and in the years to come now, may have fewer yet resources.

You could say OK, they need to dedicate more resources to major events like this. Well, it's a trade-off. Then what do they cut out? What programs or what safety, neighborhood watch or other programs they have get reduced to make up for it so we can do that? I don't think people realize the amount of planning.

I've been involved in these. I was involved in two Indianapolis 500s for example. The Olympics in Atlanta, '96. It's days, months, maybe up to a year of planning where agency heads and key components have to get together on a regular basis and discuss every aspect of it.

The crowd control, the spectators, how many people will be in your city and on the streets and walking on the streets and out at night, much less the event itself. So there is a lot of planning.

And every time all the commanders and all the tactical leaders and all of the other people get together, that's something else that they're not doing while they're having those meetings and planning sessions.

TAPPER: Fran, the reality is there is only so much the government can do, law enforcement can do. What can we as individuals do in this new normal to help make society safer in this era where terrorists will strike at any moment?

TOWNSEND: Jake, the most important thing is this partnership between the public and law enforcement. I mean, as you pointed out to Tom, there's only, you know, only so many law enforcement officers. The public is a force multiplier for them.

You take that and law enforcement will look, one of the most effective things they can do with limited resources is use what they call random anti-terror measures that you surge to a particular place. It's unpredictable.

And it's unpredictable and effective against your enemies because they don't know to expect you there. Programs like this exist in New York and Los Angeles. I think you'll see an increased use of them because they're the most cost effective way.

Added to it you'll have a plea to the American public to please work with law enforcement and provide them information so that they can target their limited resources.

TAPPER: And, Tom, how do we put security concerns into perspective for the public so they don't freak out every time they leave the house and they don't complain to flight attendants every time they see somebody who looks a little bit different or maybe is watching an episode of "Homeland" on their iPad?

FUENTES: Well, I think for the most part they don't freak out, but it's true. Even programs like see it and say it, what you're looking at is people are going to be suspicious of other people that don't look like they do. That means that you have many different ethnic groups.

We have so much diversity in the country. Then you have people on the street that are all carrying backpacks and you have this whether it's a university campus or whether it's people commuting to work or if they're going to be out all day, at a spectator event where they bring food or clothing, jackets, other issues.

So, you know, that is what makes it difficult here, that you have so many people that don't look like we do. You have to worry about that.

TAPPER: All right, Tom Fuentes and Fran Townsend, thank you so much. We're wrapping up our show THE LEAD here in Boston. I'm Jake Tapper. An FBI press conference is just moments away.

I leave you with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." But before I do, I just want to make it very clear to all the Boston Red Sox fans out there. Yes, we are all Red Sox fans this week even if normally we're not. Wolf Blitzer, take it away.