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Arapahoe Teacher Praised; Brain Injury in Baseball?; Storm Stretched 1,000 Miles; Christie's Bridgegate Headache

Aired December 16, 2013 - 08:00   ET


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Seventeen-year-old Claire Davis' family released a statement overnight saying that she is actually in a coma, remaining in critical condition at a local hospital.

Meanwhile, investigators have been looking into the details around this shooting all weekend looking at surveillance tape, and they say it's very clear that this rampage could have been a lot worse.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The school is going on lockdown, I'm not sure why.

WIAN (voice-over): Dispatch recordings, as police rush toward Arapahoe High School following reports of gunfire.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: Be advised at this time we do have one student down and they have found shotgun shells.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was terrifying because we heard gunshots.

WIAN: Eighteen-year-old Karl Pierson entered the school, investigators say, bent on revenge.

GRAYSON ROBINSON, ARAPAHOE COUNTY SHERIFF: Everyone that saw him realized that he was armed with a shotgun. The individual also had a bandolera of multiple rounds of shotgun ammunition strapped across his body, and he was also armed with a machete.

WIAN: Pierson's target his debate coach, Tracy Murphy.

KARL PIERSON, ARAPAHOE GUNMAN: I'm Karl Pierson, a freshman out of Arapahoe High School in Littleton.

WIAN: Murphy suspended Pierson from the team in September.

ROBINSON: He was looking for one person in specific.

WIAN: Before he could reach his intended target Pierson encountered 17-year-old senior Claire Davis, shooting her apparently at random point blank in the head.

ROBINSON: She was an innocent victim of an evil act of violence.

WIAN: Now she remains in critical condition at a local hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This in no way defines us.

WIAN: At a vigil students lit candles, sang their fight song.

And prayed for their friend.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know how much she loves all of you guys and I know how much this would mean to her.

WIAN: The sheriff now praising the school's quick deployment of its Active Shooter Protocol and the fast action of an on-campus deputy who was closing in on Pierson when he fatally shot himself. The whole ordeal over in 80 seconds.

Authorities also hailing Coach Murphy as a hero for attempting to lure Pierson away from the school during his rampage.

ROBINSON: It is my very strong opinion that this individual would not have come to the school armed with a shotgun and multiple rounds of ammunition had he not intended to use those rounds of ammunition to injure multiple people.

WIAN: The sheriff is now vowing never to speak the shooter's name again.

ROBINSON: In my opinion deserves no notoriety and certainly no celebrity.


WIAN: Now Arapahoe High School will remain closed today and tomorrow completely. Teachers and students will begin coming back to retrieve their possessions later on this week. No word yet on when classes will actually resume. It's clear it's going to talk a long time for this community and this high school to recover from yet another tragic shooting -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Casey, strong message there from the head of that school saying no reason to mention this person except to understand what went wrong and celebrate those who kept it from becoming even worse.

All right. Different story for you now. Baseball, now under the microscope for a certain kind of head injury after a medical exam found damage in the brain of Brian Freel. Freel killed himself after a career known for highlight real catches and crashing into walls. The damage was consistent with traumatic brain injury related to concussions that we usually see in football players.

Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has more on this from the CNN center in Atlanta. Elizabeth, how do we square these findings and how do we make this connection?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, you make the connection because even though you don't think of baseball as being a high collision sport like, say, football or ice hockey, as long as there are any collisions, no athlete is immune. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COHEN (voice-over): Ryan Freel played baseball without fear, diving after balls and crashing into walls. In his eight-year Major League Baseball career, Freel estimated that he'd suffered ten concussions but his family says the real number may be even higher.

After Freel took his own life last year his family gave permission for a team of researchers at Boston University to examine his brain for signs of CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a form of brain damage found in football players like Mike Webster, Dave Duerson, Junior Seau, and dozens of others.

On Sunday Freel's family announced that Ryan did suffer from CTE, making him the first Major League Baseball player to receive that diagnosis, and possibly explaining the years of depression and erratic behavior leading up to his death.

ROBERT STERN, CTE EXPERT: Important cases like Ryan Freel make a difference because it is showing us that you don't need to have the kind of hits that we see in football or in hockey or in other real collision sports. You just need a lot of brain trauma it seems.

COHEN: And another high-profile suicide, one year ago this month, Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend before driving to the team's practice facility and turning the gun on himself.

Now the Belcher family tells the "Kansas City Star" that they, too, suspect CTE and on Friday Belcher's body was exhumed so his brain could be examined. CTE can only be diagnosed after death by analyzing brain tissue. But experts say examining the brain one year after internment may or may not work.

STERN: Our brains are really important to us that we can't keep hitting them the way that we have been, so that doesn't mean stop playing these great sports. It means trying to reduce the amount of head trauma from an early age all through every level of play.


COHEN: Now Major League Baseball did release a statement. They said that they met personally with Freel's family and expressed to them our feelings about Ryan and discussed, "MLB's continued efforts to provide a safe environment for players," and they pledged to remain proactive on concussions and head injuries.

Chris, Kate, Michaela, back to you.

BOLDUAN: Of course we wonder what that does mean on the playing field. We'll see.

Thanks so much, Elizabeth.

All right. So as you well know, Christmas is right around the corner. So have you gotten all of your shopping done over the weekend? If you live in the northeast the weather made it just that much more of a challenge to pull off with just nine shopping days left until the holiday. Retailers are hoping for a late push to make up for what Mother Nature took away.

Let's get straight to Alexander Field in Massachusetts for us this morning where many are still digging out from the storm.

Good morning, Alexandra.


Digging out actually takes some muscle this morning because it's more than snow, there's ice out here, too. Salt and sand trucks are out treating the road for trouble spots and already there's more snow in tomorrow's forecast.


FIELD (voice-over): An arctic chill is blasting the northeast, this on the heels of the thousand-mile storm that socked states from Kansas to Maine, where temperatures have been stuck below freezing. Icy conditions outside of Boston sent a car careening off the road. In Missouri, one person was killed when a car slipped off an interstate.

The weekend-long storm started in the Midwest, blanketing Chicago, then burying parts of Pennsylvania in 10 inches of snow.

LARS WILSON, PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA, RESIDENT: They've got plenty of salt; the back roads are starting to stick a little bit. It looks like it's coming down pretty good now, though.

FIELD: It left its biggest mark in Maine where more than 16 inches fell but the consequences of this storm may have a wider impact. In the middle of the holiday shipping season, FedEx says winter weather and high winds have caused major disruptions at the company's Memphis, Tennessee, hub. That could delay shipments across the country.

And a week before Christmas the mix of snow, sleet and ice was fierce enough to stop most shoppers during one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year.

HITHA PRABHAKAR, CHIEF RESEARCH OFFICER, AITCHPE RETAIL ADVISORY: When the last storm hit retailers saw a 15 percent drop in store traffic and almost half a billion dollars of lost revenue because no one was going into the stores and shopping.

FIELD: After this weekend's storm, holiday shoppers were back on snow-covered roads trying to make up for lost time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Christmas shopping, yes, definitely, and I figured they're always really good about plowing out this parking lot.

FIELD: The parking lot at this Massachusetts mall was packed when the snow finally stopped falling, and although more snow is expected Tuesday, retailers are hoping shoppers won't be deterred.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think people can still function, drive slow, be careful.


FIELD: And while the stores will worry about more snow it can turn out to be a good thing for buyers. Consumer analysts say that we should expect to see stores dropping their prices even order in the coming days in order to make up for some of those weather related losses so it's good news for procrastinators -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. That's Alexandra.

So here on NEW DAY we attack Washington when they deserve it and we praise when do, like now. The House approved with overwhelming support a bipartisan budget deal in order to avoid a government shutdown. Next up the Senate and there is some noise but it seems the work of the people is about to get done.

Senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta joins us to explain.

Don't harsh, don't harsh on it, Jim. How's -- how are we looking down there? Give us a little nod toward the optimistic.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's a season of miracles, right, Chris? That's right. Well, Senate majority leader Harry Reid, he did file for a cloture vote on Sunday to sort of get the process going, to get these votes started on this budget deal as soon as tomorrow so that is an encouraging sign.

As we all heard last week, the House of Representatives did pass this budget deal by a wide margin. That is not expected to be the case in the Senate and in fact the number one Democrat in the Senate Dick Durbin said on one of the Sunday talk shows yesterday that they still need a handful of Republican votes to push this thing over the edge but some of those GOP votes are starting to come in.

Senator John McCain said on CNN "STATE OF THE UNION" that he will vote for this budget agreement. And one thing that the members of Congress want to do this week, they want to make sure that they get this passed in time by Friday, get it to the president's desk because he's expected to go on this two-week vacation to Hawaii that he goes on every year with his family so they definitely want to get this out of the way and move on to that, but another reason for the urgency, Republicans want to avoid a repeat of the government shutdown that they had last fall. They want to keep the focus on -- on Obamacare, heading into next year's midterm elections -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: All right. Jim Acosta reporting for us, thank you so much.

Let's take a look at our headlines that are making news at this hour.

The head of the NSA task force that's looking into the fallout of the Edward Snowden leak says amnesty may be on the table. Rich Ledgett tells "60 Minutes" the information Snowden took is a road map of what we know and what we don't know. And if amnesty is offered they'd need assurances that all the data he took can be secured. Secretary of State John Kerry says the U.S. has not abandoned Robert Levinson who's been held in Iran for nearly seven years. A retired FBI agent Levinson went missing back in 2007. Officials long denied a CIA connection but it was reported last week that he was there on a rogue assignment. Senator John McCain says it may be time to reassess -- it may be time to reassess the oversight of intelligence agencies.

A scary car-jacking at a high-end New Jersey shopping mall has left a man dead, he was shot as he and of his wife got into their Range Rover at the Short Hills Mall. His wife was not injured. Police say two men confronted them, opened fire and then stole their vehicle. Police are now looking for the shooters and that stolen car.

Senator John McCain telling anti-government protesters in the Ukraine the U.S. supports their cause. Protesters want the country to forge closer ties with Europe. McCain for his part has been critical of Ukrainian official's use of force against campaigners adding that the U.S. could take action and consider individual financial sanctions against Ukrainian authorities who are found responsible for violence against demonstrators.

Santa-con visited New York City this weekend. You might have seen it happen. It's where people dress up like St. Nick but act more like sinners, lots of boozing, partying and some cases some fighting.

Yes, it's Santa-on-Santa crime. The NYPD says no arrests were made. New Yorkers have long complained about Santa-con being too rowdy and wasted Santas getting sick in the street.

Anecdotally, we went out for dinner on Saturday with some friends. We encountered many of the Santas from Santa-con. In fact, we were crossing and you know the blizzard was sort of happening around. It's not really but blizzard but the snow. And we were crossing an intersection and there was discarded Santa clothing, and I kept wondering --

BOLDUAN: How did that happen?

PEREIRA: How did they come to part with their Santa clothing?


CUOMO: Now you know.

BOLDUAN: I saw -- now you know. I saw Santas. I saw trees. I saw elves.

PEREIRA: Being treated for hypothermia?

BOLDUAN: I saw reindeers, they're all over the place.

PEREIRA: They were everywhere.

BOLDUAN: They were everywhere, yes.

PEREIRA: It was a mess. CUOMO: Put a drunk fool in the Santa suit, you know what you still have?

BOLDUAN: A drunk fool.

PEREIRA: A drunk fool in the Santa Suit.

CUOMO: There it is.




CUOMO: Because of this or football?

PETERSONS: Something goes wrong, you can't identify anyone. Halloween, I understand the costumes. We know who's who.

PEREIRA: He's the one in the Santa costume.

PETERSONS: If something goes wrong, I won't go out as Santa Claus. Yes, Grinch. I know. I know. But think about it, right?

All right.


Now on that note lovely --


We're talking about snow today, not really a big system here, maybe three to five inches around Erie, some leftover lake-effect snow here and also just a hint kind of left over in Ohio Valley from a short way. You can actually see on the radar not really a lot going on. Today that transition day between two systems. There is one we just talked about and notice kind of back here another system starting to develop.

So this is what we're going to be watching especially overnight tonight in through tomorrow for the Ohio Valley and making its way into the mid-Atlantic and northeast tomorrow.

The big thing is where does this low form? It's kind of forms off the coastline here and depending on where it forms is really going to change how much snow we get and of course where that snow actually goes.

We'll have to continue to monitor it, kind of the general thing is yes, overnight tonight in through tomorrow, kicking out of here by Wednesday.

So that's kind of the big picture there. As far as how much we're expecting right now at least with the current models in the positioning of the low, one to three inches New York City, one to three inches for Boston, kind of way back off the lake between the two systems around Erie, Florida eight inches is possible with this.

Otherwise, we know it's cold, there you go. There's some jet stream, in case you didn't know, still here, still talking about this cold pattern. It is here to stay for several more days.

New York City talking about 28 degrees. That is your high when you should be in the 40s. Buffalo, talk about 17 today, yes, that does not feel good, even D.C. 35 when you should be feeling like 46 degrees.

You have my page now with Santa-con process to get it? No.


PEREIRA: She's afraid of snowmen, Santas and other things.


BOLDUAN: And being a --

PEREIRA: Yes, I'm seeing it, too.

CUOMO: Is it intelligent, yes? It's almost cynical? Yes, it is. It is.

PETERSONS: But I'm with you either way.

CUOMO: You can't live everything in fear, Indra. You know, if you're afraid of Santa the list just goes on from there.

PETERSONS: On and on and on. I know.


CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, they are calling it Bridgegate. Did New Jersey governor Chris Christie OK the closing of lanes on the George Washington bridge as political payback? That is the question, we have the story.

BOLDUAN: Also ahead the Montana woman who now admits to killing her new husband caught lying to cops about the incident. We have the tapes from her interrogation coming up.

CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. A little political intrigue for you or not. You decide.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is trying to quiet questions over whether politics was behind closed lanes on the George Washington Bridge. Democratic lawmakers say Christie appointees closed the lanes to punish Fort Lee, New Jersey's mayor, for refusing to endorse Christie. But Christie denies any connection, saying the lanes were closed for a traffic study. OK?

Kate Zernike is a reporter with the "New York Times." She's been covering this story. She joins us now.

First, did I say your name even close to correct?



ZERNIKE: Very impressive.

CUOMO: That is more important than anything now.


CUOMO: You deserve our respect for taking on this issue. What do you see in this situation?

ZERNIKE: Well, I see a governor who -- I see certainly a culture around the governor that is really aggressive, really hard charging saying, we're going to win this election no matter what. He was going to win the election. He was going to win the election probably in a landslide but he really wanted Democratic mayors to come along with him so he could run for president and say, look, I got all this bipartisan support. No other governor across the country, no other Republican candidate is going to be able to do this.

So he was leaning on these mayors to do this. I think there was probably sort of a feeling in the campaign that if mayors were not going along we could put pressure on them. And I don't know if the governor explicitly said to them close lanes on GW Bridge but he might have made it clear that he wouldn't have minded if the Port Authority leaned on the mayor of Fort Lee a little bit.

BOLDUAN: And you take this on in your most recent piece on this, beyond just the region on this one specific issue of the bridge -- on the lane closures. Why does this matter? What -- you talk about it, speaking to potential vulnerabilities if he would take on a presidential run.

ZERNIKE: Well, remember that Chris Christie sort of burst on the national consciousness right after he'd gone to office because he was taking -- the YouTube video taking on a teacher and taking on the teachers union. He was sort of known for being a bully, so a lot of people I think like that. But you can only push that up to a certain point.

So I think the vulnerability of Christie is, does he take the bullying too far? You know, do people see sort of this New Jersey thug running for president and think, we don't want that hand on the red button.

BOLDUAN: You follow him closely. What do you think?

ZERNIKE: Do I think what? Whether he's a bully?

BOLDUAN: I mean, do you think he takes it too far? Do you think he's moderated a little bit as -- as he's kind of considered more seriously a run for president? ZERNIKE: I think he tries to moderate. I think he was trying to moderate it on Friday when he did this press conference, but I think in some ways he can't help himself. I mean, he's a real -- he's a fighter and so it's harder.

PEREIRA: It's interesting because in -- he says, "We're going to turn the page on this."


PEREIRA: Sort of trying to force getting over it, but do you think it's going to go away or do you think this is going to turn into something more substantive?

ZERNIKE: Look, I think there are still going to be -- there are still seven subpoenas out from the New Jersey state legislature to Port Authority and Christie officials for their e-mails so I think we're going to see continued hearings on this. And, look, it's just a great story for reporters so I think we're going to all try to keep it alive as long as we can.

CUOMO: Right. Which is why politicians hate reporters.


CUOMO: It's easy to subpoenas out. It's fairly low threshold. Let me advocate for the governor for a second. Do we have any proof linking it to him in any significant way right now? I believe the suggestion to the answer is no.


CUOMO: We cannot link it to him.


CUOMO: OK. The idea that he is a bully is a little bit of a spin, right? Because I think many people who like him say no, no, no, he's not a bully. He fights against you people in the media and those who are unraveling agendas for their own need and he won't take it and that's why we love him. Different from being a bully, no?

ZERNIKE: Right. And when I -- you know, I said in my piece on Saturday, there aren't many states in the United States where pollsters ask, do you think your governor is a bully? I mean, that doesn't happen in Connecticut, right?

BOLDUAN: That's right.

ZERNIKE: But -- so what people say in response to those polls is no, we actually -- you know, a lot of people do think he's a bully but the majority says we think he's a fighter, not a bully. So I think that's one issue. But, you know, remember, there is nothing strictly linking -- directly tying him to these lane closures.

I think the two people who ordered this and who ordered it to be done secretly, and they didn't want it talked about in the media, those people are very close political advisers of the governor. They -- you know, they worked on his campaigns, they've been friends for a long time, so I think there's -- you know, it's not unreasonable to suggest that this was within the Christie world.

PEREIRA: Is there evidence that there was actually a traffic study going on?


PEREIRA: I mean, is it something that they've been looking at, I mean, just to get down to brass tacks?

ZERNIKE: Well, two things. One, you can do the traffic study without closing the lanes because they have counters out there. They have EZ Pass lanes where they count the number of cars that are coming through on these lane. What Port Authority, the executive director of the Port Authority has said is that there was no traffic study report produced of this. So maybe they can say there was a traffic study but they -- there was nothing -- nothing ever showed up so -- with the answers.

CUOMO: If we want to telescope into what this would mean if he takes a step onto the next stage, I would argue he's already on that stage, but let's say there's a step involved. What is the insight as a journalist into how he deals with these questions?

Because we see a whole range of how politicians either kind of step up or fall back. What do you see in him?

ZERNIKE: I think -- you know, I think again on Friday in the press conference when he announced the second resignation he was really at pains to be, I'm not a bully, I'm friendly, I'm going to lavish my explanations, I'm going to be really nice to reporters, so I think that's what he's going to try to do a little more. You know, as you said, moderate his tone a little bit.

BOLDUAN: It might a good lesson.


CUOMO: Look, it's a good study what politics is about. You can't get him for this thing but there's an allegation, there's a suggestion, enough people are talking about it to justify the continuation of the story, may be unfair, frustrates people but it's the nature of the game. How you deal with it.


CUOMO: Is what decides the duration. And you've got to give the governor one thing.

BOLDUAN: Gives you character, too, right?

CUOMO: He does not back away. He may put a smile on, sometimes a frown, but he's not backing down. And that rhymes so it's a great slogan.


BOLDUAN: Thanks, Kate. Thanks for coming in.

ZERNIKE: Thank you.

CUOMO: Great to have you here.

And what do you think? You're hearing the discussion, weigh in, please. Tweet us with the hash tag "newday".

BOLDUAN: We're going to take a break. Coming up next on NEW DAY she was caught lying on camera to police. We're going to show you what this Montana bride told cops after she pushed her husband off a cliff and how she changed her story.

CUOMO: Also the final sounds of an elite fire fighting squad, the Hot Shots. We have the last radio communication with these Yarnell firefighters and what it could mean, what could be learned for future safety.


ANNOUNCER: You're watching NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira.

CUOMO: Screwing the TV brain in there a bit. Here we go. Welcome back to NEW DAY. It's Monday, December 13th.

Coming up in the show, the elite fire fighters known as the Hot Shots. You remember they were killed over the summer in Arizona. They were like soldiers fighting a merciless enemy calling for an air strike that never came.

You're going to hear their final radio transmissions and as people there try to learn how to better communicate in those situations and hopefully save people the next time.

BOLDUAN: Also ahead on NEW DAY, Rob Reiner is joining us. Directed some of our favorite flicks, I won't even list them off, there are so many, but he is back in front of the camera this time in a new Martin Scorcese movie. We're going to ask about that.

And maybe we'll try to break some news about a new "Spinal Tap" movie, possibly? Rob, maybe? Thirty years later. Isn't it time to get the band back together? We'll talk about that.

PEREIRA: And no cameos from Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira.

Time now for the "Five Things" that you need to know for your NEW DAY.

At number one, new questions over brain injuries in sports. A baseball player for the first time has been diagnosed with CTE after committing suicide. The head of the NSA task force looking into the Edward Snowden leaks saying the revelations could put the U.S. at risk but Rick Ledgett told "60 Minutes" offering Snowden amnesty is worth having a conversation about.

The 17-year-old victim in Friday's school shooting in Colorado is in a coma and remains in critical condition. Claire Davis was shot after a classmate opened fire at Arapahoe High School in that state.

The Senate could be a tough sell for a bipartisan budget deal that easily passed in the House. Democrats are warning they do not have the votes yet.

And how about this, at number five, "Family Guy" fans rejoice. Brian the dog is back, resurrected in last night's episode, through a twist of fate involving a time machine.

How they killed off Stewy's time machine, too? He was initially killed off a few weeks back. These are the things that matter at NEW DAY


We always update you with those five things to know so be sure to go to for the very latest.

CUOMO: I knew he'd be coming back. I said it when we first report it.


BOLDUAN: Roll the tape.

CUOMO: All right.

BOLDUAN: We don't have the tape but we're going to re-rack the tape.

CUOMO: It was you. It was you. It was you. (INAUDIBLE) correcting the record. I know it's the 16th, my kid's birthday is six days away. It was in the prompter and I read it. Leave it alone.

BOLDUAN: I'll just go and let it go.

CUOMO: Save yourselves.