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Shooting at Houston Airport; Long-Missing Woman Turns Herself in to Police; California Wildfire Details; Voters Confront Sen. Ayotte over Gun Bill Vote

Aired May 2, 2013 - 15:30   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Back to our breaking news here on CNN. In case you're just joining us, these are live pictures in Houston, Texas.

You see a tremendous police presence and it looks to me like an ambulance there, all because just about a half hour ago, according to Houston police, there was a shooting in that prescreening area of the airport, right around the ticketing counters there at the Houston airport.

According to this public information officer with Houston police, the injury is appears to be life threatening.

And we talked to someone who just went through the screening area, her name was Fontella Colliers, she hopped on the phone with me, said she heard two pops, said it sounded like gunfire.

Now everyone at this massive, massive, incredibly busy airport is staying put. The airport is on lockdown as folks try to figure out what happened there at the that ticketing counter just about a half hour ago.

As soon as we get more information, we will pass that on to you here on CNN.

I want to move on, though, to this Pennsylvania woman who turned herself into authorities, not after a crime, but after an offense some would consider even worse. She up and left her family, abandoned them, including two children.

Eleven years after she went missing, Brenda Heist showed up at the sheriff's office in Key Largo, Florida. This is last Friday, and we'll show you this picture here.

You can see this is Heist on the left -- this is back in 2002 -- and on the right, this is Heist today at the age of 54. Her daughter was eight, her son was 12 when Heist chose to walk away.

Her disappearance launched a swarm of local and state and federal investigators trying to figure out what happened, where did she go, interviewing all kinds of people, and ended with a declaration of her death in 2010.

And just in the last hour, I talked to this Pennsylvania detective working this case since day one, told me about a conversation with this woman.

Oh -- lot of wind here in Boston. I'm just going to hold it.

And this all had to do with a pending -- we're OK. Had to do with a pending divorce issue and financial troubles as far as why she up and left. Take a listen.


DETECTIVE SERGEANT JOHN SCHOFIELD, LITITZ BOROUGH POLICE DEPARTMENT (via telephone): She just left on a split second whim and decided to just leave and turn her back on her family and on her life and pursue a life with these homeless people to hitchhike down to Florida.


BALDWIN: So, on the phone with me now is Lee Heist, this is Brenda's ex-husband, who at one point in time, sir, I know you were considered a suspect in her disappearance.

Lee, you gave us this beautiful picture with your current wife and your kids. With Brenda, you all are grinning from ear-to-ear, but I have to ask, now knowing about the fact that she just up and left, are you furious?

LEE HEIST, EX-HUSBAND (via telephone): As more and more information seems to be coming to light, I am -- I'm very upset with what I'm hearing, especially for the sake of my children.

I just had my daughter home just a little while ago from college, and we talked about it and she is beside herself.

Me, I'm an adult. I'm trying to work through it just on my own. That's my current wife, my son, my daughter, and myself.

BALDWIN: Wow, and so we reported a couple of years ago, for all intents and purposes, you could never find her.

Did you ultimately just believe she was dead?

HEIST (via telephone): Personally, and I think many people, we felt that perhaps she had been carjacked because of where the car was found.

We never knew for sure, but I really did think that she had died, and unfortunately, probably not a very pleasant way.

This was a terrific shock to us.

BALDWIN: How, Lee, did you hear that, in fact, she's fine and turned herself into police in Florida? Had a whole life?

HEIST (via telephone): Detective Schofield from the police department, who has worked beyond any expectations all 11 years on this case, never let it go, he contacted me about 8:30, 9:00 on Friday evening to say he needed to talk to me, and wanted to speak to myself and my daughter.

We met him at a restaurant. He drove all the way in from out in Lancaster County to talk to us in person, and we expected, as we drove to the meeting, my daughter and I expected we were going to hear they recovered her body.

But instead we were told that she was, in fact, alive. So, at that point it was good news, bad news. Good news that she was, in fact, alive, an opportunity for some closure with the children. Bad news is, here we go again.

So, that was pretty much it.

BALDWIN: Lee, if she were to reach out to you, wanted to talk to you, A, would you talk to her, and, B, what would the first question be that you would ask?

HEIST (via telephone): Well, honestly, I don't think after all of this that there -- anything good would come of a conversation. I don't think it would be beneficial to her, and certainly not to me.

But to my kids, absolutely, and I would do whatever is necessary to make sure that if she wants, and if the kids want, and it would be their decision.

I would certainly make arrangements for them to meet with their mother, absolutely.

BALDWIN: You know, we talked to that sergeant that you talk about, Schofield last hour and he reiterated she doesn't face any charges, up and walking away from your life is not against the law.

She may reach out to your children and you're saying that if she wants to, she can, but you have nothing to say to her.

Lee Heist, what an ordeal, thank you so much for jumping on the phone and giving your perspective. I appreciate it so much.

HEIST (via telephone): Thank you, ma'am.

BALDWIN: Well, it is a revived push for gun control, and for some of the people involved, this is personal.

Family members of gun violence victims are taking some senators head- on, confronting them about their no vote on recent gun legislation.

Will it change any votes, and is this even a fair tactic to begin with? We're going to discuss that next.


BALDWIN: You know, we started this hour taking you to California, specifically, this is the Springs Fire that's been raging near Camarillo.

We've seen the smoke and tremendous flames as it's now burning down two different sides of this hill.

I want to go back to Paul Vercammen in one of these neighborhoods, talking to folks, many of whom are trying to leave.

Paul, tell me what you're seeing.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Well, right now, Brooke, you can see behind me so far, so good in this neighborhood. You can see just the top of flames about a four-foot wall in the canyon behind me.

Rest assured, there's a whole wall of flame back through there and they are getting after it with fire drops.

But here's what's very concerning. Let's go back around this way, Gabe. You can see this massive plume of smoke, and an indicator that fuel or brush or something is burning is that that smoke is very dark.

I just got off the phone with Ventura County fire. They now have upped the acreage in this fire -- this is official -- to 6,500 acres.

They started with 200 firefighters on this fire. They believe that's going to swell to 500.

They say there has been some structures damaged, some homes, but they did not characterize that as any homes burned down, more so, a scorching, and we alluded to earlier, several or more R.V.s parked in a storage area burned down on the hill on the other side here.

So far, so good right here in this neighborhood. A bit of irony as you look at the wind kick up here, they call this neighborhood Dos Dientos, "Two Winds" in Spanish. And the winds have everything to do with why this fire exploded to 6,500 acres already.


BALDWIN: Paul Vercammen, 6,500 acres there in California. Paul, thank you very much. Stand by.

I want to talk about the fact that CNN has now learned that Mayors Against Illegal Guns out today, taking out ads against Kelly Ayotte that accuse the Senate Republican of, quote, "giving criminals a pass."

Ayotte who is from New Hampshire, helped defeat a proposal aimed as subjecting more gun sales to background checks. And as you may have seen, she was confronted at a town hall meeting just this past Tuesday by the daughter of one of the victims of the murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Now, this wasn't just happenstance. Mayors Against Illegal Guns is sending Sandy Hook families to other town hall meetings, asking those lawmakers who voted no to flat-out defend themselves.

And I want to talk about this today. Chris Plante is host of "The Chris Plante Radio Show." He is a conservative.

Keli Goff is a political analyst. She leans left.

So welcome to both of you here.

KELI GOFF, POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't, but I'll pretend I do.

BALDWIN: Keli, is this fair what Mayors Against Illegal Guns is doing, sending Sandy Hook families directly to these town hall meetings?

GOFF: Well, I think that's is as fair as the NRA pouring millions of dollars into ads trying to support them and sending people to support them at the town halls, because that's actually why you've had some shouting matches happen.

You know, what I will say is that I think what happened in my hometown of Houston today in terms of gun violence is a tragedy.

I think that senators voted against a proposal for background checks that 90 percent of Americans support is a tragedy.

But I think this vote is going to turn out to be a tragedy for Kelly Ayotte. She's someone who's a rising star not just in Republican politics, but in American politics. She is sort of the anti-Sarah Palin in that she's telegenic, but also substantive.

But she's also been sort of the anti-Ted Cruz in that she's not polarizing. And I really think she could have found herself on a ticket in 2016 and really could have had a real shot there, and I think this vote's going to end up being an albatross around her neck, particularly when you have victims like Erica Lafferty who lost her mother in Newton going and sort of making sure that no one forgets that she had this vote.

BALDWIN: Chris, I want to get to you, I promise, but I want to say this.

Senator Joe Manchin, West Virginia, you know, he is now out. He is talking about reviving his background check proposal.

So, with that in mind, let's listen to the bill's co-sponsors, Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. He was interviewed just yesterday in Pennsylvania.


SENATOR PAT TOOMEY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I really thought this was a sensible area that we ought to be able to reach a consensus.

I think in the end we didn't because our politics have become so polarized and there are people on my side who didn't want to be perceived to be helping something that the president wants to accomplish, simply because it's the president who wants to accomplish it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: So, Toomey, I have to say this, Toomey said later he wasn't referring to specific Republican senators, rather to their constituents.

Still, Chris, how about that?

CHRIS PLANTE, "THE CHRIS PLANTE SHOW": Well, how about there's so much to respond to?

The NRA, first of all, is not sending people out to town hall meetings to harass anybody. The left is doing that. Mayor Bloomberg, the millionaire from New York, is orchestrating efforts to get people out. He's paying for people to get out. He's funding the effort.

Secondly, if I'm not mistaken, six Democrats in the Senate also voted against this legislation, including the Senate Democrat leader, Harry Reid, who's a big NRA guy and supporter of the Second Amendment.

This is about creating boogeymen, or in this case a boogeywoman. This is about the fact that the Democrats are running in the mid-term elections to win the House of Representatives and they want to create bad guys where they can create bad guys.

This piece of legislation, which was not supported by Harry Reid, at least he didn't vote for it, and one of six Democrats in the senate that didn't vote for it, this legislation wouldn't make anyone safer, but it makes for a great political issue.

If this young woman whose mother was tragically killed at Sandy Hook wants to become a tool used by the left and the Democrat Party like Cindy Sheehan to show up at all of Kelly Ayotte's functions, she's welcome to do this.


PLANTE: The reality is this is about politics.

BALDWIN: Go ahead, Keli.

GOFF: First of all, I'm just going to take a step back. I think you lose the argument the moment you start insulting victims of gun violence and I'm just not going to do that. And I'm not going to get into that back and forth over Erica Lafferty.

PLANTE: Listen, she's jumped into the arena of politics here.

GOFF: You know what? I'm not going to engage on that because I think it's inappropriate.

What I will say is that 90 percent of Americans supported this background check thing, which means it's not Democrat, it's not Republican, it's something that an overwhelming majority of Americans wanted.

If you want to label it as Democrat, so you can sleep better at night, go for it, but that's not the case. PLANTE: Listen, Senator Ayotte supports background checks. Wayne LaPierre of the NRA supports background checks. I support background checks.

GOFF: Because it's a moderate issue.

PLANTE: Well, and it's been in effect. We've had background checks since the Brady Bill in 1994.

GOFF: But not effective if you can go online or go on eBay and get a gun.

BALDWIN: All right, let me jump back in.

PLANTE: Well, eBay didn't exist at the time of the Brady Bill.

GOFF: So we need to update the law, that's the point.

BALDWIN: Hang on, hang on, hang on. Hang on!

As we heard from Senator Manchin, there is talk -- my goodness! There is talk again of maybe reintroducing this kind of bill.

Again, Chris, I'm hearing you. You support background checks.

Guys, I have to leave it here because we are getting some more news out of Houston, Keli, as you mentioned.

Keli and Chris, thank you so much.

Again, back to this Houston story, Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport, we are now getting word here, specifically that there was an armed man trying to get through the security checkpoint.

And that's the new nugget that we have. More on that after this quick break. Breaking news.


BALDWIN: Welcome back to CNN. Got an update on the breaking story we've been covering.

There was a shooting, according to police, in the ticketing area of the Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport. We talked to a passenger who is actually just through the security area and she told me on the phone she heard the two pops. We know the airport has been on lockdown.

Ed Lavandera has been making phone calls. What more do you know?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're still trying to make sense of the chaotic situation at the Houston Intercontinental Airport on the north side of the city there.

I am told by a law enforcement source that the shooting took place after law enforcement officials tried to take a man into custody who apparently, according to the law enforcement source, was trying to get a gun through the security checkpoint.

As authorities descended on him and tried to take him into custody, that person, according to this law enforcement source, then turned the gun on himself and killed himself. We are told by the medical examiner in Houston that this person has died.

They continue to work the chaotic situation trying to make sense of what has been going on there and how all of this unfolded in the airport.

The FAA, according to the officials, there is a ground stop in place for the united express airline there in Terminal B, so it will be some time as officials continue to investigate and go through that scene to make sense of it all before -- sometime before things get back to normal, Brooke.

BALDWIN: All right. Ed Lavandera with the update.

We now know this man has died after the shooting in Houston just a little while ago. Thank you, Ed.

We will be right back.


BALDWIN: Welcome back. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Now time for some of the best videos of the day, some new little segments called "Hit Play."


BALDWIN: Invasion of the scary fish in Central Park.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Snake heads now are illegal, you know, just like the piranhas.

BALDWIN: Environmental crews on edge as snake-like fish invade one lake in the middle of Gotham. They breathe air and, worse, live on land up to four days.

Flooded in Florida, a landslide in this family's yard sends nearly three feet of mud into their home.

Firefighters help dig them out and the family is moving out as the house gets cleaned up.

This woman in the back of a cop car? Yeah, she's a principal of an elementary school in Michigan.

She apparently had a few too many at lunch and apparently began swerving her way back to class.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She has been going way over the line in other lanes. She turned into the Deerfield Elementary School.

BALDWIN: She was slapped in cuffs under the town's, quote, "super drunk" ordinance. She's now serving on leave.

In Florida, a woman watches her elderly mom being robbed right on her iPad. Two guys, fake roof contractors, stole her jewelry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am so gullible. I just think, oh, well if he wants to come in and talk about something, I will. But I'm not going to do it anymore.

BALDWIN: The thieves? Still on the run.

And, finally, you're looking at a giant explosion on the sun. These massive solar flares aren't dangerous, but sometimes do cause radio blackouts here on earth.

And the top videos of the day in today's "Hit Play."


BALDWIN: Before I give it to Jake Tapper, a bit of nostalgia. Take a look at what happened on this day in history, live on our air. We're calling it "CNN Classic."


WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, "THE SITUATION ROOM": It's now 12:30 a.m. on the East Coast here in the United States. Want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

We heard a little while ago the president of the United States telling all of us that Osama bin Laden has been killed.

People are celebrating outside the White House. They're all over the United States, indeed, all over the world.