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EARLY START

High School Stabbing Rampage; Search Narrows for Flight 370; Oscar Pistorius Murder Trial; Unrest in Eastern Ukraine

Aired April 10, 2014 - 05:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A high school hallway covered in blood, a student arrested, accused of stabbing 20 of his classmates.

A simply terrifying attack, heroic rescues. We are covering the very latest on that school stabbing live this morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The search intensifies this morning for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. New clues leading investigators to one specific area. They believe it is where the jet -- the vanished jetliner could be found.

We're live with what's happening right now.

ROMANS: And happening right now, emotional, dramatic testimony from Oscar Pistorius, defending for his life. Can he convince a judge he didn't mean to kill her, Reeva Steenkamp, his girlfriend?

We're live with what he's saying this morning.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. It's 32 minutes after the hour right now. Good to see you this morning.

Authorities in Pennsylvania have charged a 16-year-old boy as an adult in a stabbing spree at his high school near Pittsburgh. Alex Hribal, he's in custody this morning. Twenty students and a security officer at Franklin Regional Senior High were stabbed or slashed in this attack, four of them in critical condition this morning. And police still do not know why this student went on this alleged rampage.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is live in Murrysville, Pennsylvania.

Good morning, Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: -- happened at a worse time for the school. It was about 7:00 a.m., just after when students were gathering. They were at their lockers, they were catching up, getting ready to start their day, when what seemed to start as a regular scuffle or a fight in the hallway turned into literally a melee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ZACKERY AMSLER, FRANKLIN REGIONAL STUDENT: The fire alarm went off. I was walking over towards the exit, and there was blood all over the floor. I thought maybe someone had a nosebleed or something. And someone yelled she got stabbed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought it was a normal fire drill. Then I saw people running and screaming and crying. So I thought, somehow, something has to be wrong. Then I saw people holding each other's hands and I saw other people getting cut, just blood everywhere. It was very traumatizing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't see any blood and I didn't see the weapon either, but everyone just started screaming run, and then you heard someone yell, he has a knife.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ: And now the knives that this 16-year-old had were said to be eight to 10-inch kitchen knives. This is a three-inch knife, so eight to 10 inches would be much longer. And according to witnesses we spoke to, they saw him going through the school stabbing people, not holding it like this, but instead holding it like this in some cases and stabbing into the lower part of the body, essentially, and that is where one person, according to attorneys, was literally eviscerated.

Friends that we also talk to here and people who know him here at the school says that he was quiet, he was unassuming, he always sat at the back of the room. One person describing him as creepy -- John.

BERMAN: And again, Miguel, as you point out, it happened during such a vulnerable time in the morning, just after 7:00, when people are arriving. A little bit disorganized.

Miguel Marquez, great to see you this morning. Appreciate it.

ROMANS: So we're learning a little bit more about this 16-year-old suspect, Alex Hribal. Classmates are describing him as shy, as Miguel just reported, someone who kept to himself. It's not clear if he was targeting anyone in this alleged rampage. FBI agents went to his home. They searched his computer. We heard from the teenager's attorney and we heard from his father.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My prayers go out to everyone who was injured today. I hope they recover as soon as possible.

PATRICK THOMASSEY, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR ALEX HRIBAL: Scared. He's a young kid. I mean, he's 16, looks like he's 12. I mean, he's a very young kid, and he's never been in trouble, so this is all new to him. I'm not sure he knows what he did, quite frankly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: There are some tales of heroism emerging from this story at the Franklin Regional High School. The stabbing rampage ended when the student suspect was tackled by assistant principal Sam King, who has been described as a great guy and a beloved member of the Murrysville community.

And King was not the only hero. There were many, including a student who talked to CNN about helping classmates who had been stabbed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRACEY EVANS, STUDENT: I was crying the whole entire time. I was just trying to keep people alive, I was trying to keep the one kid alive that I was applying pressure to. I was telling them to keep talking to me, keep awake, that he needs to stay awake, that there are going -- that the EMTs are going to be here soon and you're going to be fine and everything. I did that the same to my best friend.

And, like, when we got to the hospital, my best friend kept asking where I was when he was in the emergency room. And then they went to take me up to see some social workers, and they said to me, you know, what you did was an amazing act of bravery, and you're a true hero. You saved that kid's life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The Pennsylvania high school will remain closed for several days. Investigators need to comb through the crime scene. The "Wall Street Journal" reports the school with 1200 students has had some safety issues. Seventeen incidents were reported during the last school year. Most involved fighting or drugs. None dealt with assaults on students or weapons. The country's education chief says keeping schools safe must be our top priority.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARNE DUNCAN, EDUCATION SECRETARY: They're generally the safest places in communities. And until we as a nation are really willing to take on the larger issue of violence in our broader communities, schools will continue to have some challenges.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Stay tuned throughout the morning for continuing coverage on that story.

BERMAN: And you're going to speak with secretary of education, Arne Duncan, later today about this later today and some other key issues.

All right, about 37 minutes after the hour. They are back out this morning searching for those elusive pings that may be coming from Flight 370's black boxes in the bottom of the Indian Ocean. After the two latest signals were detected, the search area was narrowed, shrinking by some 7,000 square miles.

CNN's Erin McLaughlin live in Perth, Australia.

And Erin, I understand some new resources heading to that now narrowed region.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. New resources in the form of the HMS Echo, the British vessel. I spoke to the spokesperson from the Ministry of Defense there in the UK this morning. She told me that it is en route to join the Australian vessel, the Ocean Shield, to offer its support. She said it's been deployed because they have discounted those detections made earlier over the weekend by the Chinese vessel.

She also says that at the moment, the Ocean Shield is obviously the most promising lead. Now the HMS Echo, interestingly enough, is equipped with sensitive audio detection equipment, but it also has technology capable of mapping the ocean floor. So the question being, does its arrival perhaps signal a new stage in this search?

Well, authorities in Australia simply aren't saying. As far as we know, the Ocean Shield is still out there carrying out that very sensitive audio detection work -- John.

BERMAN: Erin McLaughlin live for us in Perth, where the search continues in this now narrowed area with these new resources. They do feel like they're moving in.

Thanks, Erin.

ROMANS: And they are really closely watching the weather conditions again today in the search zone. That has been so key for researchers, both in the air and on the ocean.

Indra Petersons has a look at that. Hi, Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Good morning. Once again, we're talking about good news on all fronts. I mean, take a look at where we're talking about the search area. You can easily see in the last 48 hours we haven't seen much, and even going forward in time, barely some light scattered showers expected in the region. All those systems, again, remaining farther down to the south.

Yes, there can some light rain here and there, but generally speaking, the visibility's going to be good, the wave heights are going to be good, because the winds are also generally kind of in that calm zone. The main thing everyone's been kind of talking about here over the last several days is the incredible depth that they've heard this last ping, potentially as deep as over 13,000 feet.

And a lot of people keep bringing up the talk about silt. How much silt is down there? Well, I wanted to take a closer look, and they're talking about some places seeing silt as deep as about 100 feet. But notice, once you start talking about some of these green areas, you're talking about even into yellow, places that potentially have even over 1,000 feet of silt.

ROMANS: Wow.

PETERSONS: Some of these areas in the green, you could see even go -- or yellow go up even over 3,000 feet of silt. So that's going to be a huge concern, even under the ocean as well.

ROMANS: Wow. Visibility and also trying to find stuff. BERMAN: Yes. Making things complicated even if they get down there and start searching.

ROMANS: Thanks, Indra.

BERMAN: All right, Indra, thank you so much.

All right, happening right now, happening this morning, prosecutors just ripping into Oscar Pistorius. The Olympic athlete back on the witness stand now. He's trying to convince a judge he did not mean to kill his girlfriend. The prosecutor asks him really withering questions. We'll tell you if he's landed any blows right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to EARLY START.

More drama in the court. Oscar Pistorius back on the witness stand in South Africa, second day now of grueling cross examination at his murder trial. The blade runner charged with killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. He says this was an accident. The prosecutor pressing Pistorius about an incident in which a gun discharged accidentally at a restaurant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GERRIE NEL, PROSECUTOR: So we have you in possession of the gun. A shot went off, but you didn't discharge the gun?

OSCAR PISTORIUS, DEFENDANT: That's correct, my lady.

NEL: Who discharged it?

PISTORIUS: The firearm undischarged, my lady. There was a -- I tried to make sure that the firearm was safe, and as a round came out of the breach, I realized that Mr. Frisco had passed me a firearm with one -- what's called one up with a round in the chamber. And at that point of me turning to ask him why he had done that, the firearm went off.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: CNN legal analyst Kelly Phelps is live for us in Pretoria, South Africa. It seems to me like this prosecutor is trying to paint a picture of Oscar Pistorius as a guy who picked on his girlfriend, who was hot headed, who messed around, was aggressive with guns, and got angry at her, had some kind of fight and was -- just reacted, shot her, killed her, it was murder. That's what they're trying to paint here.

KELLY PHELPS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that's clearly the narrative that they're trying to paint, but one must distinguish between the narrative that they're trying to paint and the evidence that they tend on record and how the judge is committed to engage with that evidence. So all of this evidence that pertains to that narrative is character evidence. And in South Africa, character evidence only has limited persuasive value in terms of the extent to which a judge can rely on that particular evidence in order to reach a determination with respect to the charge in question.

So yes, this evidence pertaining to this firearms incident is directly relevant to the one gun charge, but it is only tangentially relevant to the murder charge, and the judge will be constrained by those rules.

ROMANS: Has Oscar Pistorius been consistent in his responses? I mean, that was such an important point here, that back to his bail statements throughout the whole course of the last year that he be consistent in his version of events. Is the prosecution successful in knocking him off of his story, off guard?

PHELPS: It's definitely too early to tell that. It's certain that that is the strategy that they're employing, and we've started to see them laying the seeds of that strategy. So you know, disputing very fine details about, for example, yesterday the number of fans or the particular manner in which he worded certain sentences in one of the statements versus another statement or versus his testimony in court.

Now, in isolation, the judge will permit some variance over time, because that just accounts for the fact that human memory is never perfect. When it becomes problematic is if the state -- for Oscar Pistorius, that is, is if the state manages to establish a track record of inconsistency that then will lead the judge to infer that he is, in fact, lying, rather than simply adding additional detail to already the story that he had put forward.

ROMANS: Really fascinating stuff. Now I know you need to get back to watching this unfold. Thank you so much, Kelly Phelps, for talking to us this morning from Pretoria.

BERMAN: Forty-seven minutes after the hour right now. And happening right now, an ultimatum from Ukraine. Forty-eight hours, they say, to pro-Russian protesters, threatening force if these protesters don't stand down.

Could this lead to conflict? Could this lead to Russian troops becoming involved? We're live next.

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ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome back to EARLY START.

The clock ticking on a standoff with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Authorities declaring it will end in 48 hours, one way or the other, either through negotiations or by the use of force.

Meantime, Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart searching for ways to resolve this crisis. High-level talks, which include Ukraine, are scheduled next week.

CNN's Diana Magnay live in Moscow for us.

Tell me a little bit about this deadline, if the Ukrainian Interior minister who said one way or another, we're going to have these pro- Russian separatists out, we're going to resolve this crisis in just 48 hours, setting a pretty clear deadline here.

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christine, and he said this a little over 24 hours ago. So we don't have much time before this 48 hours is up. And right now, although there is no violence, no force in these various cities in the south and east of Ukraine, where government buildings have been taken over by separatists, pro-Russian separatists, nor does there appear to be any kind of resolution for now. And all the while, you have these troops still amassed on the Russian/Ukrainian border.

Now Russia has said consistently that they have nothing to worry about, that they're not in any kind of extra state of military preparedness, but the west says that they want them sent back to their bases.

You mentioned these multilateral talks that are scheduled now for next week. These are not yet set in stone, and there is no clear date. Russia says that it wants to see a very clear agenda before it will sit down at the table with the U.S., the EU and Ukraine to try and negotiate some kind of settlement, and it's clear that what Russia is looking for within Ukraine now is a sort of federalized system, whereby each of the regions, regions which are very linguistically, ethnically, culturally diverse, has a very real degree of autonomy, which would also allow each of those regions, and especially in the south and east, to form their own ties with Russia.

That is certainly the diplomatic, the political part that Russia is trying pursue for now, but of course, this threat of a possible military intervention seems very real with the presence of those troops on the border -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, and talks including Ukraine scheduled for next week.

Diana Magnay, thank you for that, Diana.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Fifty-seven minutes past the hour. Welcome back.

Intelligence officials will brief members of Congress today on what the FBI knew ahead of last year's Boston marathon bombing. An inspector general's report found that Russia gave the FBI intelligence about suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev but withheld some information. It was only after the attack that Russia provided additional details including a phone call where Tsarnaev discussed Islamic jihad.

Officials say the additional intelligence would likely have led the FBI to look more closely at Tsarnaev.

After paying tribute to Fort Hood shooting victims at a memorial service, President Obama will be in Austin, Texas, today for a civil rights summit at the LBJ Library, and he'll be in good company. Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, both George Bush and his father will also attend.

Speaking of Bush 41, he surprised the Obamas by greeting them when they arrived at the airport in Houston on Wednesday. Said George H.W. Bush, quote, "When the president comes to your hometown, you show up and welcome him."

Stocks around the world right now mixed. Asia closed higher, Europe just turned slightly lower. All of this after a rally on Wall Street yesterday. The Dow now back within spitting distance of its record, about 140 points away from a record high for the Dow.

Meanwhile, new data out this morning reveals the wealth gap in this country is playing out in college savings. Only 34 percent of low- income families, families making less than $35,000 a year, only 34 percent of them are saving for college. Compare that to families making more than $100,000. Three out of four families save, and they're saving more money. The amount they're saving is staggeringly different as well.

Low-income families have less than $4,000 set aside. Wealthier families averaging more than $27,000 right now in college savings.

"NEW DAY" starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZACKERY AMSLER, FRANKLIN REGIONAL STUDENT: The fire alarm went off and there was blood all over the floor. Someone yelled she got stabbed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: New details this morning. Why did a 16- year-old snap, rampaging through his school with knives in both hands, stabbing everyone he could?

We talk live to those who know him and to those who survived.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now the search for Flight 370, now the narrowest it's ever been. Searchers desperately trying to find more pings before the batteries die.

We're live with the latest.

CUOMO: Breaking this morning, is the blade runner's story holding up? His emotions are on edge telling the judge he never had a chance to tell his girlfriend he loved her. But the prosecution isn't buying it, and we'll tell you why.

Your NEW DAY starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira.