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FBI Focuses on Brothers' Inner Circle; May Day Protesters Clash with Police; Intense Wildfire

Aired May 2, 2013 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Startling allegations of a cover-up in the wake of the Boston marathon bombings. Three college pals now accused of hiding evidence from a dorm room.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: And happening right now: it is a wall of flames. Three thousand acres wide, creeping ever closer to homes and lives.


BERMAN: Fighting in the streets while you were sleeping. Cops in a violent clash with angry protesters. Pretty dramatic video there.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Nice to have you with us.

It is Thursday, May 2nd, 5:00 a.m. in the east. So, let's get started here.

First, investigators in the Boston marathon bombing taking a very close look at the inner circle of the Tsarnaev brothers. Sources tell CNN, Tamerlan Tsarnaev's widow spoke to him after the FBI police released his photo as a Boston terror suspect.

And three of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's friends were arrested yesterday, two of them charged with conspiring to destroy or discard Dzhokhar's laptop and a backpack containing fireworks, the third for allegedly making false statements to federal investigators.

Pamela Brown is in Boston to break down all of these latest developments. These guys are in a world of trouble this morning.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Zoraida. After the arrests of these three suspects that were friends of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the big question looms, will there be any more arrests?

We're told by sources that the investigation continues to focus on Tamerlan Tsarnaev's widow, Katherine Russell, as new information comes to light that offers more questions than answers.


BROWN (voice-over): Two CNN sources familiar with the investigation say Katherine Russell, the widow of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, spoke with her husband the night the FBI released video of him in connection with the Boston bombings.

Authorities questioning Russell trying to determine the nature of that call. What was said and why didn't she notify authorities? This has three friends and classmates of Tamerlan's brother Dzhokhar are now under arrest. Two seen here with the younger Tsarnaev on a trip to New York's Times Square, are accused of obstructing justice. The third man accused of lying to authorities.

According to the criminal complaints when federal authorities released video of the bombing suspects, the three men saw it on CNN and immediately thought one of the suspects looked like their friend Dzhokhar.

Dias Kadyrbayev texted Tsarnaev that he looked like the person on TV. Tsarnaev texted back, "LOL".

The accused three allegedly met at Tsarnaev's dorm room where they received another text from him. "I'm about to leave. If you need something in my room, take it."

According to authorities, Azamat Tazhayakov never thought he'd see his friend alive again. In the dorm, the three find fireworks in a backpack, with the black powder emptied out, Vaseline and a laptop. Authorities allege the three took the evidence out of the dorm room to protect Tsarnaev.

The complaints also say the men then took the items back to an apartment in New Bedford, wrapped it in a garbage bag and put it in a dumpster, along with some of their own trash. The bag with the fireworks is later recovered by investigators after a two-day search at a local landfill, unclear whether the laptop has been recovered.

This CNN exclusive video shows two of the men being taken into custody at the time on immigration violations. The third man, Robel Phillipos, is a U.S. citizen. At court hearings on Wednesday, the three agreed to waive bail.

Their lawyers say they did nothing wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is just as shocked and horrified by the violence in Boston that took place, as the rest of the community is. And he did not know that this individual was involved in a bombing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My client Azamat Tazhayakov feels horrible and was shocked to hear that someone that he knew at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth was involved with the Boston marathon bombing. He has cooperated fully with the authorities and looks forward to the truth coming out.


BROWN: So, all three of the suspects' attorneys denying allegations, saying they were actually helping investigators. We learned yesterday that they waived bail and will remain in voluntary detention.

SAMBOLIN: Pamela, you mentioned Vaseline. Why did they dispose of the Vaseline? Why would they have thought that had anything to do with bomb-making materials?

BROWN: That's a good question, Zoraida. We learned that in the criminal complaint that a month before the marathon bombing, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev allegedly told two of his friends that he knew how to make a bomb. So in the criminal complaint, it says one of the friends he told that to saw the Vaseline and thought that Dzhokhar did make the bomb that exploded in the Boston marathon.

We learned from bomb experts that that Vaseline may have been used to grease the pressure cooker lid to prevent sparks that would possible detonate the bomb. Sometimes, Vaseline can be used to make a bomb. In this case, experts are telling us that wasn't the case. They were just trying to grease the lid.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Pamela Brown live in Boston for us -- thank you very much.

BERMAN: As you said, though, Zoraida, these three young men in a world of trouble right now.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, yes.

BERMAN: All right. Five minutes after the hour.

It was a wild scene in downtown Seattle where a May Day protest turned violent last night.


BERMAN: Look at that. Police say demonstrators tossed rocks, bottles, metal pipes, fireworks, even a skate board at officers who used pepper spray to try to disperse the crowd.

SAMBOLIN: And Christine Romans is here with more details.

Good morning.


You know, the police is telling us -- Seattle police say the demonstrators who marched through downtown Seattle last night did not have a permit. It followed an earlier May Day demonstration in the city that was peaceful.

For safety reasons, police officers gave the unauthorized demonstrators an escort as they headed downtown. But when this crowd turned violent and officers went in to make arrests, things were really heated.


CAPT. CHRIS FOWLER, SEATTLE POLICE DEPARTMENT: The crowd surged around several officers on foot. Those officers felt safety was in danger. So they deployed what we call a blast ball. That created distance. We were able to then coordinate a response to the crowd.


ROMANS: The police used flash bang grenades and pepper spray to disperse this crowd. Eight officers were hurt. Seventeen people were arrested. These May Day protests happen all over the world.

It's a national holiday. It is also known as International Workers' Day. Hundreds of thousands of people who take to the streets each year to celebrate this labor movement and demanding a better working conditions.

Mostly it is peaceful. In Seattle, though, I turned ugly.

BERMAN: Clearly. A moment of extreme tension. The pictures are pretty dramatic.

All right. Christine Romans, thanks so much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: And happening right now -- crews are trying to get a handle on a fast spreading wildfire in Riverside County in southern California. It's near the town of Banning. Take a look at the map there.

At least one home has been destroyed. And hundreds of others are threatened now. The fire has grown to nearly 3,000 acres.

At this hour, it is fanned by strong winds as well.

CNN's Kyung Lah is live this morning in Banning, California, with more details.

What's going on, Kyung?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zoraida, this is that home that you were just referring to. And you can see the intensity of fire.

I'm going to step out of the way so you can take a better look at Joe Kiernan's (ph) childhood home. This is where he was living. He says he escaped this fire and you can see it melted the entire roof. Everything inside is completely gutted.

He was able to escape because he was outside fleeing by car. He says that it was suddenly like the house was engulfed. Here's what he told us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank God I wasn't in the house when it happened. Thank God I was able to get my dog out and my mom was watching over me. And so, were the neighbors that are around. I have good support.

Tonight, probably go over to my neighbor's for an evening of -- and collapse a little bit and cry a whole lot. But right now, I'm not going to.


LAH: You can see he is pretty calm. That is actually shock. He said he is simply stunned this happened.

The other unusual thing, Zoraida, this house completely burned down, the one next to it, I can actually see it, was actually saved -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Wow. So they got some really bad weather there. I hear it's really hot. And strong winds are a problem as well. So, potential for more fires in that area?

LAH: You are absolutely right. Until about 5:00 p.m. local time here in California, we're under what is called a red flag warning.

It's already pretty windy out here. You can see my hair is moving around. It's expected to pick up in the next couple of hours. This red flag warning, low, low humidity, very high winds. There is a lot of hot, dry fuel out here.

Here's what firefighters told us.


JULIE HUTCHINSON, BATTALLION FIRE CHIEF: It could. It could be a very hot, long summer with a lot of potential for fires if they get started and if we continue to have the hot dry weather which we're heading into the months right now in the Western United States and especially in California. It's only going to get hotter and drier as you go through the summer.


LAH: And, Zoraida, this promises to be one of the driest seasons on record -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Kyung Lah, live in Banning, California -- thank you.

BERMAN: Elsewhere, we have some other wild unpredictable history- making weather to tell you about this morning. Take a look at this. What does this look like to you?

One thing it does not look like, May. It does not look like May at all. But it is May and that is Denver -- really looking like the middle of winter right there.

ROMANS: One extreme to the other, right, John, (INAUDIBLE) with Kyung Lah?


BERMAN: The storm is now set its sights on Minneapolis. It is not done yet. The Twin Cities bracing for what could be the first May snow in 22 years.

Jennifer Delgado is tracking this all for us this morning.

Good morning, Jennifer.


You know, some parts picked up 28 inches of snowfall yesterday across parts of Wyoming as well as into Colorado. And we still have warnings and advisories in place. You can see those still in parts of Colorado, as well as for areas moving up towards the Upper Midwest.

Look at Iowa, as well as into Minnesota and Wisconsin, we're expecting six to 12 inches of snowfall. I want to point out to you from Minneapolis, you're going to be on that very close line to see some of that snowfall coming through here.

Now, right now, on the radar, the heaviest, it's certainly coming down in Iowa. You can see that rain on the warm sector and the showers and thunderstorms continue to pop-up on a wide view. The snow right now is going from areas like Kansas up to Minnesota and into Wisconsin.

So, yes, we're talking about snow. We're talking about fire. And now we're talking about a flooding threat for parts of Louisiana as well as Mississippi. As we go through Saturday and that also includes areas like Florida, we could see another four to six inches of rainfall.

Right now, we have flood warnings in place across parts of Louisiana, as well as into Mississippi and into that Florida panhandle. And we'll continue to see those as we go through the day.

On a wider view, that frontal system is coming through with the snow to the North. Of course, it's bringing in that cooler air.

And for areas like Los Angeles, they're going to get very close to that 100-degree mark. And this means that's why we have that fire danger out West, the combination with the dry conditions and with those winds up to 40 to 50 miles per hour.

SAMBOLIN: Those poor folks. It's always tough to see everybody losing their homes, having to evacuate. We'll keep on checking in with you, Jennifer Delgado, live for us in the CNN weather center.

And new this morning, an investigation under way after two planes collided at Newark International Airport. So, take a look at the damage to the top left tail of a United Express jet. Look closely there. It was clipped by the wing of a Scandinavian Airlines jet. Both planes were taxiing for departure last night.

Imagine that? Oh, my goodness.

The passengers aboard the united express flight say they clearly felt the impact. Both planes returned to their gates. No one was hurt.


Other news, the legal battle over Plan B getting a little more complicated this morning. The Justice Department is appealing a judge's ruling to force the FDA to make the morning-after pill available over the counter with no age restrictions. They say the New York judge overstepped his bounds when he made that decision.

Before that appeal, the FDA itself relaxed rules concerning the emergency contraceptive, allowing females as young as 15 to buy Plan B without a prescription or parental consent. The officials say that decision was based on scientific data. It had nothing to do with the court order.

SAMBOLIN: So much to talk about there, isn't there?

All right. Up next on EARLY START, a missing mother of two from Pennsylvania found in Florida 11 years after she vanished without a trace. This bizarre story is coming up.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone.

President Obama begins what could be a crucial trip today. Mexico is the first stop on a three-day trip that includes a visit to Costa Rica as well. Trade, immigration and war on drugs are all expected to top the agenda's first face-to-face meeting with Mexico's new leader.

Here is CNN's Dan Lothian.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In an unusually close relationship, the U.S. and Mexico have aggressively fought drug cartels, sharing intelligence and cross-border training.

But there is uncertainty as President Obama heads south to a new political landscape. His old partner, Felipe Calderon, who launched a major crackdown, has been replaced by new president, Enrique Pena Nieto, who appears to be limiting the U.S. role in his country.

JOSE CARDENAS, FORMER STATE DEPT. SENIOR ADVISER: We've seen some signals in recent days that the New Mexican government wants to tone down, wants to scale back on the integrated cooperation. And that's no doubt very, very concerning to U.S. law enforcement agencies.

LOTHIAN: The Mexican government announced it is tightening the flow of intelligence and still evaluating whether a U.S.-backed program to use polygraph testing to root out corrupt Mexican security officials will continue.

President Obama says he's keeping an open mind.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not going to yet judge how this will alter the relationship between the United States and Mexico until I hear directly from them, to see what exactly are they trying to accomplish.

LOTHIAN: A recent Pew Research poll shows Mexicans overwhelmingly welcome U.S. involvement in fighting the drug war. Seventy-four percent support assistance in training their police and military, 55 percent approve giving them money and weapons.

But President Pena Nieto's institutional revolutionary party has historically been suspicious of outside influence and fiercely protects its sovereignty.

CARDENAS: Ultimately, the president is going to be accountable to the Mexican people as to how that -- how his policies will quell or suppress the violence brought about by the cartels.

LOTHIAN: The Obama administration is downplaying the shift in security cooperation.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Our relationship with Mexico is broader than that. We have deep economic, cultural and familial ties with Mexico.

LOTHIAN: Dan Lothian, CNN, the White House.


SAMBOLIN: It is 18 minutes past the hour. Let's get you up-to-date.

Three friends of surviving Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are now suspects themselves. Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov are charged with trying to discard evidence. The third suspect, Robel Phillipos, is charged with making false statements. Sources also tell CNN Tamerlan Tsarnaev's widow spoke to him after the FBI released his photo and identify him as the Boston terror suspect.

BERMAN: The FBI releasing photos of three men who may have information on the deadly attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi last fall. Now, they're not considered suspects but the FBI wants to find and speak to them because they were on the ground of the mission when it was attacked.

Four Americans were killed in that attack, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Of course, he was then the ambassador to Libya.

SAMBOLIN: And 11 years, 11 years, after disappearing without a trace, a 53-year-old mother of two from Pennsylvania has been found living as a homeless person in Key Largo, Florida. Can you believe it?

Brenda Heitz disappeared on February 8th, 2002. She was last seen dropping her two children off at school. Police say Heitz was worried about financial issues and impending divorce when she left her family behind.


DET. JOHN SCOFIELD, LITITZ, PA POLICE: I was shocked. Our department was shocked. Because I will tell you I was convinced something horrible happened to her years ago. She said she thought of her family and her children every day and her parents. However, she never acted on that and never made any phone calls, not one. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: That is one of those wow moments. We're sitting here dumbfounded by this story. Detectives also say Heitz spent years in Florida sleeping under bridges and tents and eating food thrown out at fast food restaurants before finally turning herself in last Friday.

BERMAN: Amazing.

All right. Nineteen minutes after the hour right now.

Coming up, a major retailer apologizing to customers. JCPenney's new effort pleading with customers: please, come back. We're sorry.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. Minding your business this morning.

It has been a record setting week on Wall Street. But all good things must pass.

The Dow fell nearly 140 points yesterday partly due to disappointing jobs numbers.

SAMBOLIN: Stock futures looking up to day. But not enough to make up for that selloff.

And JCPenney has also been on a wild ride lately. Its CEO is out and now it is pleading with customers for them to come back.

Christine, it's a bit of an unusual plea. Actually --

ROMANS: It is.

SAMBOLIN: You kind --

BERMAN: Please, come back, please.

ROMASN: They lost millions, tens of millions of dollars in sales and this was a spectacular flameout for this company.

I mean, remember, JCPenney, its new CEO was trying to remake night something sort of cool and hip and its long time customers said, we don't like it. They made too many changes too quickly. And now they got rid of the old CEO, brought back the older CEO, and they're airing these commercials acknowledging that they made too many changes and they are sorry.

Quote, "Some changes you like, some you didn't. But what matters was mistakes is that we learn. Then it asks the customers this --


AD NARRATOR: Come back to JCPenney. We heard you. Now, we'd love to see you.


ROMANS: The former CEO Ron Johnson overhauled pricing, got rid of some brands, sales plunged, Wall Street bailed. JCPenney shares tumbled 50 percent over a year.

We heard apologies like this before from like BP CEO Tony Hayward, remember after the oil spell. Netflix after it raised its prizes. Ultimately, though, the changes that JCPenney makes now are the most important thing. Will people come back?

SAMBOLIN: Yes, I wonder if they'll go try again and --

BERMAN: I feel like I tried that with girlfriends in high school.

SAMBOLIN: Did it work?

BERMAN: Please, come back. That's what it sounded like to me.

There is actually some serious stuff out here in addition to this, Christine. You know, some new numbers about feeding your family.

ROMANS: So, the USDA crunches these numbers. About $21 a day for a family of four they say. On a weekly basis, the thrifty plan costs $146 a week.

The more generous plan, $289 a week. Why does that USDA care about how much it costs to feed a family? They use these numbers as a guideline for nutrition assistance, SNAP, food stamps.

So, some ways to make the low cost plan to work, according to USDA. Don't buy precut, prewashed or instant food. No, canned or frozen veggies can be cheaper than fresh. Cooked meals like stew and casserole. Most importantly, you've got to plan out your meals.

But why the USDA is involved in this is because we have I think 47 million, 48 million people in the country who are getting food assistance from the government, a record number of people are being helped to pay that $107 a week by the government. So the USDA keeps close look at that, how much it costs.

BERMAN: Families forced to make some tough decision there, too.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you.

Twenty-six minutes past the hour.

Coming up, stunning new developments in the Boston marathon bombing investigation. Why three friends of the surviving suspect are now considered suspects as well.


SAMBOLIN: What does the widow know? Investigators revealing that the wife of Boston bombing suspect talked to her husband while he was on the run.