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Donald Sterling Loses But Clippers Wins; Death Toll Rising From Killer Storms; New Mystery in Search for Flight 370; Violence Continues in Ukraine

Aired April 30, 2014 - 04:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Overnight, we are one. Donald Sterling loses, but the Clippers win. After the owner is banned for life for his racist rants, his team stands tall, stands proud. This morning, the new beginning and time for a new owner.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, death toll rising from a series of killer storms moving through the southeast this morning. Millions wake up to torrential downpours, flooding, damaging winds. Indra Petersons tracking the very latest for us.

BERMAN: And the new mystery in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The private company that may have found signs of the vanished jetliner thousands of miles from where investigators AHD been looking. Is it possible the crews have been searching in the wrong place all along? We are live with the latest.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START, great to see you today. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans, it's Wednesday, April 30, it's 4:00 a.m. in the East. Let's begin with a team leaving it all on the court. The LA Clippers winning Game 5 of their playoff series against the Golden State Warriors just hours of the NBA's unprecedented decision to banish that team's owner, banish him for life. The league telling Donald Sterling he can't have anything to do with the Clippers anymore; he has to pay a $2.5 million fine for the racist comments he made.

Now the league is preparing to force Sterling to sell. As for the players and fans, this decision couldn't have come soon enough. CNN's Stephanie Elam was at the game for us, she was at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPODNET: John and Christine, the Los Angeles Police Department was out in full force before the game because they were afraid there could be a rally that got out of control or a riot. None of that happened. A small demonstration before that game. Instead, fans showed up in full force wearing their Clippers jersey, wearing their support for the team, while also denouncing Donald Sterling. But happy to hear that he's got this lifetime ban.

Before the game, Coach Doc Rivers spoke and he says that now his team can focus on basketball.

DOC RIVERS, LA CLIPPERS COACH: I felt the pressure on my players, you know? Everyone was waiting for them to give a response. I kept thinking, they didn't do anything, you know? Yet, they have to respond. And so Adam responded. And I thought that was the sigh of relief that we needed. Is this over? No, it's not over. But it's the start of a healing process that we need.

ELAM: Back here inside, the crowd was electric and the fans here to support the team showing them they would be by their side as this playoff series continues. John and Christine, back to you.


BERMAN: Our thanks to Stephanie Elam for that on the floor last night at the Staples Center. What a night it was, with he Clippers winning. Really, the game just ended three hours ago right now. Very exciting.

ROMANS: Thanks, Stephanie.

BERMAN: All right, turning to other news, it is very dangerous out there right now in a huge part of the country. Heavy rain, possible flooding from the south all the way to the northeast. And with more wind, we could see a lot more problems for so many people.

ROMANS: Wow, look at that map. North Carolina in the cross hairs with warnings up in a big part of that state after at least one tornado touched down in Stedman, that's east of Fayetteville. Homes, trees, torn up by the winds. And a heavy rain nearby left cars and roads under water. A flash flooding forcing police some to rescue some drivers from their vehicles.

BERMAN: The death toll in six other states now stands at 35 over the last two days; 15 of the deaths in Arkansas where today's families are sifting through the rubble from the tornadoes and talking about how they survived when their homes were leveled.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was five seconds after I caught her (inaudible) that the walls do this. We watched the whole thing. It was all around us. We were praying the whole time.


ROMANS: Tennessee this morning is pledging to rebuild after a powerful EF-3 tornado caused this damage and two deaths southwest of Nashville. Authorities say that tornado was two miles wide. It destroyed, destroyed an elementary school. A big part of Lincoln County still does not have power now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I heard a loud boom and we went to the window. And it was just shooting up like a geyser.


BERMAN: And for Mobile, Alabama, where rain caused a huge sinkhole. Flooding also pushed a shed into the street nearby. That a day after at least three people were killed by a tornado in the northern part of the state.

ROMANS: Take a look at these pictures from Pensacola where roads and parking lots look like lakes and Rivers. 21 inches, more than 21 inches of rain fell in just 23 hours. There's been one weather related drowning. Police telling residents, stay home, if you can. Stay home and definitely stay off the roads.

BERMAN: Flash flooding.

ROMANS: Indra Petersons is here with more on what you need to know today. And this flooding risk is still going to be a problem today.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Incredibly high. And of course we still have it all from the same system. First let's talk about the fact that we have severe weather. We have that same system producing severe weather for us from south of D.C. all the way down through Florida. The main thing people are focusing on is the flooding. Again, looking at the system, we have that frontal boundary, again, right into the south, this is training.

You were just talking about these pictures. Look at this. Heavy amounts of flooding. Let's show you why this is going on. Look here. All the energy over the last 24 hours, we continually seeing all this moisture hold (ph) off the Gulf. The system is not making its way forward fast enough. So, with that, we are still talking heavy rainfall day after day here.

And what are we looking at here? Now look at the radar for the last three hours. We're talking about rainfall rates as high as five inches an hour. This is unbelievable. The flooding potential is high. And it's not going to be isolated to the southeast today; we're already looking at rain making its way into the northeast. This is the story as we go through the next several days here. Heavy amounts of rain are possible.

We talked about rain from anywhere two to five inches, but of course we really see the training in some isolated areas and especially in those heavier thunderstorms, we could be talking about locally as much as eight inches of rain. Of course you already saw the flooding concerns even in Pensacola, also up towards Mobile. That is a concern as well.

Wind is the other side of this. We have the system making its way through, 30 to 45-mile-per-hour winds towards the afternoon today. Really kind of steady as we go throughout the day. The other side of this, here's the frontal boundary. It is taking its time. Yes, we have a severe weather risk. Yes, we have a flooding risk even into the northeast all the way down into the southeast. But by the weekend, this guy finally makes its way offshore. Things will be improving. And with that temperatures, there're going to be nice tomorrow. Again, once you get the warm front out of here, you notice the jump here, you'll see the temperatures go up. More rain tomorrow behind it for the weekend. Things should be right around average. So at least for the weekend, finally, a blessing. But wow, a tough day to get through again today.

ROMANS: I'll say. All right, Indra, thanks. Indra Petersons.

BERMAN: We're going to shift now the possible new lead in the search for Flight 370 and the claims this morning by a private company that it has located something in the Bay of Bengal, something that it says its technology says could be connected to a plane. But the images they have are in an area thousands of miles from the current search zone, far away from the track that authorities say the plane took before it plunged into the ocean.

Our Miguel Marquez is live in Perth, Australia, this morning. And, Miguel, I get the sense that authorities there are very skeptical of this plane.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You get the right sense there, John. The Australian authorities are skeptical. They are not considering it. The Malaysian authorities say they will look into it. They want to give everybody and everything a fair as possible, a hearing.

This is a company called GeoResonance. The way they captured the images, they say, are by satellite and plane. And they clued on or keyed on to different spectral analysis of different elements in the water, they say. Things like titanium, aluminum, copper. And they show what appears to be a plane in the water.

The problem? This sort of technology, says every expert that we've talked to, doesn't exist. You can't do that sort of spectral analysis below the surface of the water and certainly not 1,000 meters down. The other issue that is, particularly the Australians have, is not only is it not in the southern arc that the Inmarsat data showed, it's nowhere near the northern arc of the Inmarsat data as well.

CNN has talked to this company and we have our fellow correspondent, Anna Coren will probably be up a little later so we will have much more from this. But it is a very interesting and intriguing situation that everybody wants to know a heck of a lot more about.

BERMAN: That's right. The message, though, be skeptical, be cautious. Our Miguel Marquez in Perth, Australia. And as Miguel points, these are photos, as we know them, exactly. The spectral analysis, images, that they're taking a look at on the ocean bottom.

ROMANS: OK, breaking overnight, an inmate execution in Oklahoma goes terribly wrong. That prisoner gasping for air, shaking, writing in pain. What happened and what authorities are doing about it now.

BERMAN: Plus, a terrifying shooting near Atlanta. A FedEx employee dressed like Rambo opens fire. Six people shot. Several still in the hospital this morning. We'll tell you what we've learned about this overnight. That's coming up next.


BERMAN; This morning, the state of Oklahoma is reviewing its execution procedures after a botched lethal injection attempt led an inmate to die of a heart attack 40 minutes after he was given the drug cocktail that was supposed to kill him.

The inmate, Clayton Lockett, was still conscious and talking.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We began pushing the second and third drugs in the protocol. There was some concern at that time that the drugs were not having the effects, so the doctor observed the line and determined that the line had blown.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right before they closed the curtain, he said, "Man."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, he had full body upper movement. He was able to lift his head and shoulders from the gurney.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was struggling to talk but those were the words we got out, "Man, I'm not and something's wrong."


BERMAN: They pulled the curtain during the execution when it was clear something was going terribly wrong. Oklahoma has called off another execution that was scheduled. That's been postponed for at least two weeks as they try to figure out what happened and whether to use the drug combination they were using again, although "The New York Times" is reporting it was the method of administration, not the drug itself that was the problem.

ROMANS: All right, four people are still in the hospital this morning, one in critical condition, after a FedEx employee opened fire at a package sorting center near Atlanta before turning the gun on himself. Police have identified the shooter as 19-year-old Getty Kramer. Witnesses say he had a shotgun and ammunition draped across his chest and looked like he was ready for combat.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I saw him standing there and the knife on the ground. He had dropped the knife. He had bullets strapped across his chest. I mean, he looked like he was heading into war. As soon as I saw him, I ran the other way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And a couple loud pops but I just thought it was some noises, didn't think anything of it. And then somebody ran through saying he's got a gun, he's got a gun, run. And that's when we ran.


ROMANS: Police say Kramer also had at least one Molotov cocktail with him. He didn't use that. Investigators are pursing a possible motive but they have not disclosed it yet.

BERMAN: Prosecutors in Colorado say the trial of accused movie theater shooter James Holmes should not be moved to a different venue, filing a court document in response to a defense motion calling for the trial to take place far from the theater where 12 were killed. The defense says intense pre-trial publicity could bias the jury. But prosecutors say it's too early to make that call. They want the judge to hold off a decision until jury selection slated to start this October.

ROMANS: Chilling details in the stabbing death of a Connecticut high school student. Police 16-year-old Christopher Plaskon calmly confessed to stabbing 16-year-old Maren Sanchez in the school hallway. He confessed to that just minutes after the killing, police say. Students who returned to the school for the first time on Tuesday say Sanchez had refused to go with him to the prom. He's being charged as an adult with murder.

BERMAN: Stories say she was a wonderful young woman.

In Tennessee, pregnant women who use narcotics could soon face assault charges. Governor Bil Haslam has signed the controversial new law allowing misdemeanor charges to be filed against any woman whose illegal drug causes harm to her unborn child. Critics called on Haslam to veto the bill saying women with addiction issues need treatment, not jail time.

ROMANS: Wisconsin this morning is planning its appeal after a federal judge threw out the state's requirement voters show a photo ID at the polls. The judge ruling the requirement puts an unfair burden on minorities and the poor and telling the state it must seek judicial approval on changes to the law. At least one state lawmaker calling the ruling politically motivated.

BERMAN: A big victory for the Obama administration in the Supreme Court. The justices ruling 6-2 that the EPA can regulate smog from coal plants that drifts across state borders. The majority in the court agreeing that the EPA needs leeway to confront what Ruth Bader Ginsburg called the complex challenge of interstate pollution. Opponents say the rules will drive up costs and for some coal plants to shut down.

ROMANS: Louisiana Congressman Vance McAllister not quite ready to leave Washington. House majority leader Eric Cantor has told the so- called kissing congressman to resign. But for now McAllister is sticking to his plan to finish out his term and not run for re- election. This, after a video surfaced of the married congressman in a lengthy lip lock with a married female aide, a woman who is not his wife. McAllister, a father of five, has apologized.

BERMAN: So the 2016 summer Olympics will happen in Rio de Janeiro. The vice president of the International Olympic Committee there's no Plan B. This despite the worst preparations he has ever seen. Wow. Planning there critically behind schedule with construction yet to begin in some venues, including what's said to be the second most important venue. Water quality a huge concern. Untreated sewage in a lot of the water-based sports. In an unprecedented move, the committee is appointing a task force to help local officials to get things moving. Just two years to go.

Crisis in Ukraine. It is escalating this morning. Pro-Russian protesters taking over government buildings, firing their guns at police. We are live on the ground with these breaking developments. Next.


ROMANS: Welcome back. 21 minutes past the hour. In Ukraine this morning, militants taking control of more government buildings, seizing a provincial capital, firing on police as sanctions against Russia seem to be doing nothing to stem the violence.

Nick Paton Walsh live for us this morning in Ukraine. Nick, it seems the crisis there, escalating now.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDNET: Absolutely. The momentum still clearly behind pro-Russian militants here. Luhansk, the city they took main buildings in yesterday, is key because it's the capital of the neighboring region of Donetsk where all the trouble's been focused for the past few weeks. The regional administration, a police building, apparently a shootout there. A TV station, too, that taken over as well.

Beforehand, that city had been reasonably quiet, just the security service building occupied by armed men, but a real coordinated move to take over all of it yesterday.

This morning, I've just spoken to the self-declared chairman of the Donetsk People's Republic. That's their leader of the protesters, basically. And he confirms they have moved in against the police station in another town called Horlivka, not far from where I'm standing, saying that they will move against any enemies of the people. That how's he refers to the police still holding out in that particular town.

Interestingly, too, he laughed off recent European sanctions against him saying, look, I don't have any money in the European Union or in the United States. I don't want to go there. So I'm not worried by anything they can throw at me, effectively.

Things moving fast on the ground here. A sense of the timetable, I think distance from diplomacy and politics happening in foreign capitals. I think there's a plan here that's being pursued regardless of external pressure. Christine?

ROMANS: A plan being pursued here regardless of external pressure. Nick, thanks for that.

BERMAN: 22 minutes after the hour, a wave of attacks in Syria leaving more than 50 people dead in Damascus and Homs. That's after bombs, mortars, and rockets fell on government controlled areas. This just a day after Bashar al-Assad announced his plans to run for re-election. International monitors plan to send a team to the country to look at evidence that his forces may have used chlorine gas against his own people.

ROMANS: It's election day in Iraq and some 22 million people expected to head to the polls today to choose a new parliament. First time since U.S. troops withdrew three years ago. Security forces on duty at the country's 50,000 polling stations. Already, there are reports of violence and deaths across the country. Days after dozens were killed in pre-voting attacks.

BERMAN: So now we know more about reasons for convicting Amanda Knox again for the murder of her roommate. In a 300-plus page decision, the appeals court says there is evidence Meredith Kercher was killed by more than one assailant and that she and Knox fought over money the night before she died. Now, Knox had an earlier conviction overturned in 2011 but was found guilty again back in January. She is in the United States planning appeal again. Amanda Knox continues to insist that she is innocent.

ROMANS: All right, their owner banned for life, but this morning the L.A. Clippers are riding high. They won an important playoff game just hours after Donald Sterling was told to get out of the NBA. We're going to break what comes next after the break.


ROMANS: An arena packed with emotions. The Los Angeles Clippers playing late into the night after an historic play from NBA leaders themselves banning the team's owner for life for making racist remarks. This morning, what's next for the team and when could a new owner be in place? We're breaking that all down for you.

BERMAN: Death toll rising as severe storms barrel through the southeast. It's happening right now. People waking up this morning to their neighborhoods destroyed, left under water. And, folks, this is not over yet. Indra Petersons is tracking what you need to know this morning.

ROMANS: New questions this morning in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. New questions after an Australian company claims it's conducted its own search. It may have found the jet thousands of miles from where investigators are looking today. We're live with the very latest.

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

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. 28 minutes past the hour. Great to see you this morning. And this morning, Los Angeles Clippers say they are moving on. And they are doing it in a big, convincing, winning way. Winning Game 5 off of their playoff series. This just hours after their owner was forced out over his racist comments.


ADAM SILVER, NBA COMMISSIONER: Effective immediately, I am banning Mr. Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers organization or the NBA.


BERMAN: You can tell he knew the weight of his words. The NBA commissioner telling Donald Sterling he must pay the league $2.5 million. He can't have anything to do with the team, he can't show up at the games anymore, the practices, anything. This, as the league moves to force Sterling to sell the team that he bought way back in 1981. Players, fans and the coach, they're all calling this the right move.


DOC RIVERS, LA CLIPPERS COACH: These last three or four days have been very difficult for everybody involved. No matter what the race is, it's been difficult. I felt the pressure on my players, you know. Everyone was waiting for them to give a response. You know, I kept thinking, they didn't do anything, you know? Yet, they have to respond. And so, Adam responded.