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Maryland Deadly Mall Shooting; Blizzard Warning for Parts of the Midwest; Obama to Lay Out Plans for "Year of Action"

Aired January 26, 2014 - 07:00   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning, everybody. It is Sunday and I know that, you know, might be one of those days where you're trying to crawl out of bed because maybe you had a good time last night, we hope so for you. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell here. Slow start, it's a start nonetheless, 7:00 on the East Coast.

PAUL: You're full of one-liners today. Very nice.

BLACKWELL: I've got a few (INAUDIBLE).


PAUL: And you know we have to start talking about the mall shooting. This deadly mall shooting. It was in suburban Baltimore, in case there's some reason you missed it. But we've learned a lot this morning.

BLACKWELL: Yes, it's in the town of Columbia, and we've learned that police will hold a news conference that's coming up two and a half hours from now, at 9:30 Eastern. And at that point, we could learn what led a man to start shooting inside a crowded shopping mall that killed two skate shop employees and then himself. These are the two victims here.

CNN's Erin McPike is live outside the mall in Columbia, Maryland.

Erin, good morning. What have we learned?

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor, good morning to you. Well, there are also five people injured here yesterday. They were all treated at a local hospital and then released. Also overnight, police identified the shooter, but they're not yet releasing his name to the public.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sitting there, food was knocked over. Everyone just started running, kids were running. You just ran and you just run to the nearest place you could find.

MCPIKE (voice-over): Chaos at Columbia mall in Maryland as a gunman opens fire killing two workers inside a second story sports apparel shop called Zumiez, then killing himself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought I heard something fall. It sounded like bricks. All of a sudden I saw people fall, three people that were shot fall. So, everybody ducked to the ground. I heard more than 10 shots.

MCPIKE: Police identify the employees Brianna Benlolo and Tyler Johnson. Police say the gunman was carrying a large amount of ammunition and apparent makeshift explosives. A robot was used to examine the crime scene and the mall is still closed this morning. The motive at this point is unclear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do not know yet what caused the shooting incident. So, any attribution this being domestic related or something else is purely speculation.

MCPIKE: CNN affiliate WJZ talked to one man who came face-to- face with the gunman. Twenty-seven-year-old Chris did not want to be identified.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He shot her and then, you know, 10, 15, maybe not even 10 seconds later, I heard the second gunshot. I basically just like scrambled out of the store on my hands and knees right by the male employee who was down on the ground, still alive.

MCPIKE: Chris says he's haunted by the fact that he was the last person to talk to Tyler Johnson before he died.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He asked me if it was still bad outside. I told him it really wasn't snowing yet, but it's going to be cold all week. And he told me, yes, he's from Mt. Airy. I was the last person he talked to before he died.


MCPIKE: Now, we're also learning more about what the shooter had on him. He apparently had a bag with two crude devices that were an attempt at making explosives used with fireworks. We hope to get more on that at the press briefing today at 9:30 -- Christie and Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Erin McPike there in Columbia, Maryland, for us -- thank you.

PAUL: We've got to bring in our HLN law enforcement analyst Mike Brooks to talk about this because, Mike, I know you were listening to the press conference yesterday. There was something they said that really stuck with you. Talk about that.

MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Ken Ulman from Howard County he talked about -- he said, even though as we speak they're still searching and clearing that mall, they were pretty sure that this was -- he was almost sure that this was the only gunman that was involved in this. And I'm saying to myself, OK, why does he think that?

Number one, probably, from looking at video surveillance inside that mall. And, secondly, because it was on the second floor of this mall at one store where you had all the victims. And, you know, that said to me -- well, you know what, could this possibly be domestic and a targeted killing that this guy did.

BLACKWELL: You know, we are still waiting for this news conference coming up at 9:30 Eastern. But a federal official briefed on the situation told CNN that the indicators here showed that it was a domestic dispute.

What do you see here that would indicate that this was domestic?

BROOKS: Well, the one witness we saw in the package just a minute ago. He apparently came, shot her in a matter of seconds later shot the other guy. So, that says to me he came into that mall on a mission and most likely to shoot this woman. Otherwise, if he was just a mass shooter, he would have come in on the first floor and shooting people right there -- shooting people in the food court, where you have a large gathering of people. But he went all the way up to that store on this one store.

PAUL: So, this begs the question I think and let's just hypothetically say that it was domestic. We don't know -- we'll find out later today. But if it were domestic, you know, at what point, if you know somebody who is depressed and know somebody who is unstable, what is the one thing that would clue you into this person might also be dangerous to other people.

BROOKS: Well, that's the whole thing. You know, you had -- when you try to determine if someone is a danger to themselves or others, when you can -- that's one of the things, when you do a civil commitment of someone. You know, me, as a law enforcement officer, I can articulate something that if somebody said to me and I thought that they were a danger to themselves or others, we can put them on a three-day hold at a mental health facility.

But, you know, a lot of times, Christi, when something like this happens and people closest to the people involved, they might not recognize signs that someone is going through something like this. And as I was talking about the precipitating event last hour, that usually something happens, something -- you know, was there a conversation and that's between these two that set this guy off that he got a shot shotgun, all this ammunition and went down to the mall in Columbia and went down to the store and shot this woman (ph).

PAUL: So, not one thing we can look at and say, this might not be a good thing?

BROOKS: No, unless someone comes out and says, I'm going to go down there and I'm going to kill her today. Some people might not recognize, no, you don't. The signs are usually there, but a lot of people don't recognize the signs.

BLACKWELL: Yes, we're going to continue this conversation because one element I think we need to talk about is the response. I mean, police were there within two minutes, the mall cops. And everyone who was involved at this scene and I guess just getting, unfortunately, because law enforcement has to, getting better at this because it's happening so often.

PAUL: Yes, and we're going to talk about that because you're joining us here in the next hour, as well. So, that has to be a big topic of conversation.

BROOKS: And the employees' training, also.

PAUL: Thank you, Mike. Thanks so much.

BROOKS: Absolutely. Good to be with you.

BLACKWELL: Federal health officials want to know what is making hundreds of people aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship sick. Well, today, a CDC health officer and an epidemiologist will board the Explorer of the Seas. They're going to look around to find out if they can find the cause.

The ship is now docked in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It left New Jersey Cape Liberty on Tuesday, skipped a stop in Haiti, and then went straight to San Juan, Puerto Rico to be sanitized before heading to the Virgin Islands.

PAUL: If you're living in the Midwest, you're probably thinking I would go to a sick cruise ship right now in the Caribbean.

BLACKWELL: Yes, the Virgin Islands sounds good compared to what you're dealing with. I mean, there's a blizzard warning in effect for at least four states, including Minnesota, also Iowa. And if you need a little motivation getting out of bed this morning, look at this.

I mean, if you just got a treadmill, you're trying to do a couple crunches. They are running in snow here in Chicago bundled up, they braved the arctic temperatures to run a half marathon. This happened yesterday.

PAUL: Good heavens.

BLACKWELL: So, how much colder is it going to get?

PAUL: Let them inspire you if they're on the treadmill this morning because good for you for getting up and getting on it.

BLACKWELL: That's true, that's true.

PAUL: Regardless, of the way.

But, Karen Maginnis, you know, help us out here. Will any of us be able to go run outside?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is brutally cold, especially across the Midwest, that that very cold air is going to be diving towards the South. It's not going to be double digit below zero like the Midwest. But we've got blizzard warnings in effect across the Dakotas, into Minnesota, that's why you see the orange, because the wind is going to be the problem, not so much the snow. You're looking at it between two, four, maybe on the outside as much as six inches of snowfall.

But the wind is going to be blustery, coming out of the northwest between 30 and 50 miles an hour. Maybe some gusts as high as 60 miles an hour.

In New York, take a look at this -- next couple of days, going to be fairly cold, but the bottom really drops out as we go into Tuesday. New York City, a high temperature of just 18 degrees. Minneapolis, you stay barely in the teens Monday and Tuesday below zero. Not below freezing, below freezing, minus eight, minus four.

Nashville, only going to be in the teens for high temperatures coming up for Tuesday. But you talked about the Caribbean, you don't have to go to the Caribbean for things to be warm. All you have to do is go to Los Angeles where temperatures will be in the low to mid-70s the next several days.

For Atlanta, we're watching not just the cold temperatures arriving, but we'll watch the development of a storm system that could possibly bring snowfall to the coastal Carolinas and be some ice in Georgia. We'll want to talk about the Super Bowl. It looks like right now cold, flurries and windy. Now, that will be some football game going on there.

Back to you guys.

BLACKWELL: All right, Karen, thanks. At least it won't be the feet of snow that could cancel it or postpone it.

Thanks, Karen.


BLACKWELL: Still to come, two days after a judge said that she should be removed from breathing machines, a brain dead woman in Texas is still on them.

PAUL: Her family is now still waiting to see what the next step is going to be.


PAUL: So, have you shopped at Michaels lately because, if so, you may need to know the craft chain may be the latest victims of hackers. Yes, the company has not confirmed the security breach, we want to point out, but it does say that it's learned of possible fraudulent activity on some of its customers' payment cards, wants to make sure that you are alerted.

More excruciating waiting today for this grieving family in Texas. It's been two days since the judge, you know, ordered a brain dead pregnant woman removed from breathing machines. And that's what the family wanted to hear, but this morning, Marlise Munoz is still on ventilators.

BLACKWELL: (INAUDIBLE) for the hospital and her family agreed that Munoz is brain dead and her fetus is not viable. But the hospital could still appeal under a state law that forbids removing life-sustaining treatment from a pregnant patient.

PAUL: Nick Valencia got inside the hospital in Fort Worth right now.

Good morning, Nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christi and Victor.

At this point, it is wait-and-see for the family of Marlise Munoz, after a judge ruled on Friday that the hospital here behind me has until 5:00 p.m. on Monday to decide whether or not they will abide by the judge's decision to take Marlise Munoz off a ventilator, or if they will appeal. The hospital has maintained all along that they were simply abiding by state law and they did nothing wrong in their interpretation of the law.

An SMU professor who co-wrote the law says that the hospital got it all wrong.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't see how we can use a provision of the law that talks about treating or not treating a patient, in a case where we really don't have a patient. And that's not a question of philosophical speculation. Dead is dead in Texas and in all 50 states.


VALENCIA: And it was a very emotional day in court for the family, having to relive the very graphic details that emerged from court testimony. An attorney for the Munoz family addressed the media after leaving the courthouse.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This was a sad situation all the way around. We are relieved that Erick Munoz can now move forward with the process of burying his wife.


VALENCIA: Erick Munoz, the husband of Marlise Munoz, has not been talking to the media since very early on in this case. We're waiting to hear comment from him. But at this point what he said is that the hospital is essentially, in his words, conducting a science experiment on his wife and he doesn't understand why they refuse to remove her from the ventilator -- Victor, Christi.

PAUL: All right. Nick Valencia for us in Fort Worth -- thank you, Nick.

BLACKWELL: Still to come on NEW DAY, a bruising, let's call them, couple of months, declining approval numbers. Now, the president is hoping to win back some support as he prepares to address the nation and lay out his priorities for 2014.

Justin Bieber dominated the headlines this past week after his arrest, but was all the media coverage necessary?


PAUL: Oh, isn't it beautiful? Look at that sunrise at the capital.

Good morning. Are you waking up in D.C. today? Partly cloudy skies for you. Beautiful pink on the horizon as the sun comes up, 34 degrees little bit later. That's what you're going to warm up to.

But we're so glad that you're starting your NEW DAY with us here at CNN.

BLACKWELL: Over at the White House, President Obama likely going to spend the day writing notes in the margin, tweaking, kind of reworking parts of what could be his biggest speech of the year, his sixth State of the Union Address.

PAUL: That actually happens on Tuesday, and we're already getting some details about it, and White House senior adviser says the president is going to push for a year of action on jobs, on the economy, and it's a chance for the president to reboot his second term here really.

We want to get more on that from CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser.

Hey, Paul.



It's traditionally the biggest speech a president gives each year.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have cleared away the rubble of crisis and we can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is stronger.

STEINHAUSER: And as President Obama gets ready to give a primetime address in front of Congress and the nation, when it comes to his poll numbers, there's not so much to brag about.

OBAMA: That I will faithfully execute --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The office of president of the United States.

STEINHAUSER: At his second inaugural a year ago, soon after his reelection victory, Mr. Obama's approval rating stood mostly in the low to mid-50s. But after NSA and IRS controversies and the deeply flawed rollout of the health care law, the president's numbers tumbled.

According to a new CNN poll of polls which averages the most recent national surveys, Mr. Obama's approval rating stands at 43 percent, with 50 percent giving his performance a thumbs down.

The president's approval rating has slightly rebounded from late last year when it was at or near all-time lows in many surveys. He said last year that he doesn't obsess over polls.

OBAMA: I mean, if I was interested in polling, I wouldn't run for president.

STEINHAUSER: So, how does Mr. Obama compare to his most immediate two-term predecessors in the White House as they started the sixth year of their presidencies? George W. Bush's numbers were also under water. But Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan's numbers were sitting pretty.

Why do we spend so much time talking about these numbers? Because the approval rating remains one of the best indicators of a president standing with the public and clout right here in Washington -- Christi, Victor.


BLACKWELL: All right, Paul Steinhauser, thank you very much.

And CNN will bring you President Obama's State of the Union Address live. So, tune in Tuesday. Coverage starts at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, for full commentary, analysis and the president's speech right here on CNN.

PAUL: So, think about it. Less than two weeks from the Winter Olympics at this point and we're hearing a warning. And there's always concern about security, but we never heard a warning I don't think like this before. American athletes being told: do not wear your uniforms outside of Sochi because of those security concerns.

BLACKWELL: You don't want to look too American outside the ring of steel.

Now, the focus of this year's game has shifted from the international competitions to an all-out manhunt for possible terrorist suspects.

CNN senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES", Brian Stelter, joins us now from Washington.

Brian, you know, I'm wondering in recent history I think about the Berlin Games, of course, but in recent history when has the security trumped the games, the sport, the competition?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: This is probably the most pronounced situation at least in the post-9/11 era when it comes to the Olympics. You know, our minds go to Munich, our minds go to Atlanta. But if you think back to the Summer Olympics in Beijing in 2008, that was all about the weather and about the smog. In 2012 in London, there were questions about traffic.

In Sochi, though, it does seem like a lot of the questions are about security and about the threat of terrorism. We won't know anything, of course, until the games happen. But I think one of the other big news themes of these games that we haven't seen in the past is about gay rights, about the notion of anti-gay laws in Russia and whether we will see protests against that in the games. I think those are the two different news stories that are causing this Winter Olympics to get more attention, not for the sports, but there the news elements.

PAUL: Yes, because usually, we hear more hype around the Summer Olympics, as well.

STELTER: Right, right.

PAUL: I mean, is the coverage that is being ramped up is going to help or hurt the situation do you think?

STELTER: I think there will probably be more attention on the games because of those two different news elements that are there. I think there's also, of course, a long history between the United States and Russia, a long antagonistic history for many decades. Although things have warmed up recently and then cooled again recently, I think that's part of the backdrop for this.

Notice, for example, that NBC, which is broadcasting the games, hired David Remnick, the editor of "New Yorker" to come to Sochi to be an analyst for them, because he had written about Russia for so many years, he was going to be an outside expert. I think NBC knows they had to be prepared to cover all sorts of potential news stories in Russia while they're there for the games.

BLACKWELL: Hey, Brian, let's switch to another big topic this week and I want to illustrate some of the concern and the coverage by showing you a clip from MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell, was in the mid --

STELTER: Oh, boy.

BLACKWELL: Yes, in the middle of this interview with a member of Congress when this happened. Let's watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think at this point, we should seriously consider not, not continuing --

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Let me interrupt you. Congresswoman, let me interrupt you just for a moment. We've got some breaking news out of Miami. Stand by, if you will.

Right now in Miami, Justin Bieber has been arrested on a number of charges. The judge is reading the charges, including resisting across and driving under the influence.


BLACKWELL: Oh, Brian --

PAUL: Look at Brian's face.

BLACKWELL: Cover your face here. MSNBC was not the only network to cover Bieber big. We covered it big, too.

But when you're interrupting a member of Congress to go to Justin Bieber in court, there's been a lot of criticism of the coverage. Is it fair?

STELTER: I asked Andrea Mitchell about this last night. I got a hold of her because I want to play that clip on "RELIABLE SOURCES" this morning. You know, her reaction, I was kind of amused by it. She said it was obviously awkward and unplanned. She said it was the bad luck of the draw, something that happens in cable news.

And she's right. You know, good on her for at least trying to cover important international news before getting interrupted by Justin Bieber's arraignment, right?

BLACKWELL: Yes, that's true. I guess, some people were interrupting Miley Cyrus to talk about Justin Bieber.

STELTER: And the thing about the news environment these days is, even if cable news focuses on something like Justin Bieber, every other story you're curious about is on the Internet. So, it gives freedom to cable news to cover stories people are actually talking about and buzzing about. You know, that's not a complete rationale, but I think that's part of the logic for news producers. And channels like Al Jazeera that are very public that they don't want to mention Bieber at all. So, at least there's options for people who aren't interested.

BLACKWELL: All right. Brian Stelter, thank you so much.

PAUL: Thanks, Brian.

BLACKWELL: And be sure to watch "RELIABLE SOURCES", 11:00 a.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

PAUL: OK. So, up next, this military mom has been away from her family for eight months. Oh, wait until you see this homecoming. She's finally home.


BLACKWELL: Baseball fans hoping to get their hands on a piece of history will soon have their chance. Babe Ruth's long lost pocket watch will be going up for auction next month.

PAUL: It is a beauty there, isn't it? The watches from the 1923 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Giants. Yankees went at a time to win it, at the time when players were awarded pocket watches rather than, you know, the championship rings that we see now. So, the watches expected to sell for at least $750,000.


PAUL: All right, here's some good stuff for you the part of the show where we like to feature good news out there, because it is alive and well.

BLACKWELL: We always want to bring you some good news and here it is, Lieutenant Colonel had been away from her family for eight months while she was deployed to Kuwait.

PAUL: Love this. She wanted her homecoming to be memorable, obviously. So, get this -- she snuck up on her son Derrick at the free-throw line at his middle school basketball team.

BLACKWELL: Now, the penalty had been planned in advance to set up this special moment. I want you to check out what happens when Derrick takes his second shot.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's all right.



PAUL: I love it. Look at him.

His mom said she was worried he might cry in the gym in front of his friends and the girls.

BLACKWELL: It's all right, too. They were probably all crying, too.

PAUL: Look at him.

BLACKWELL: That's an amazing celebration.

PAUL: You know what, I never, ever get tired of seeing these.

BLACKWELL: And, you know, when they plan these celebrations and these surprises, you want them to be that impactful. You want the tears.

PAUL: Keep them coming because we want to keep showing them. And welcome home to her and thank you for your service.

So, we're going to see you back here at the top of the hour, 8:00 Eastern for NEW DAY SUNDAY.

BLACKWELL: But right now, keep it here for "SANJAY GUPTA, M.D."