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L.A. Clippers: A New Beginning; Deadly Storms Move East; Mystery Flight 370: New Clue?

Aired April 30, 2014 - 05:00   ET


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

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, death toll rising from the series of killer storms moving through the Southeast. This morning, millions waking up to torrential downpours, terrible flooding and damaging winds. Indra Petersons tracking the very latest for us.

ROMANS: A new mystery in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, a private company claiming it may have found the vanished jetliner thousands of miles from where investigators have been looking. Is it possible crews have been searching in the wrong place? We're live with the very latest on that.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman. Great to see you today. It is Wednesday, April 30th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And we do begin with a team leaving it on the court overnight. Overnight, while you were sleeping, the Los Angeles Clippers, they won game five of the playoff series against the Golden State Warriors. What a win it was, so important coming just hours after the NBA's unprecedented decision to ban the team's owner for life.

The league telling Donald Sterling that he can't have anything to do with the Clippers anymore, no games, no practices, no nothing. He must pay $2.5 million as a fine for the racist comments that he made. Now, the league is preparing to do more. They're preparing to force sterling to sell.

But as for the players and fans, honestly, this decision could not have come soon enough.

CNN's Stephanie Elam, she was at the game in the middle of the drama at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 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 riot. None of that happened. A small demonstration before the game.

Instead, fans showed up in full force, wearing their Clippers jerseys, 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 said 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. And I kept thinking, they didn't do anything, you know, yet, they have to respond.

And so, Adam responded. I thought that was the sigh of relief that we need. 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 that they would be by their side as this playoff series continues.

John and Christine, back to you.


ROMANS: All right. That game, that win is just a few hours ago. It's still very fresh.

Let's bring in the "Bleacher Report's" Andy Scholes.

Andy, what was the reaction around the league to Adam Silver's announcement?

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Yes, the decision to ban sterling was met with a thunderous applause around the league. It was a no- brainer. The vice president of the NBA Players Association, Roger Mason Jr., indicated that all of the players, they were ready to boycott last night's games -- all of the games -- if they were not satisfied with Sterling's punishment. "The San Jose Mercury News" reported that the Warriors had actually planned to walk off the court after tip off if Silver did not drop the hammer on Sterling.

But, of course, none of that was necessary. Everyone was very happy with Silver's decision.

LeBron James tweeted, "Commissioner Silver, thank you for protecting our beautiful and powerful league. Great leader. #Biggerthanbasketball."

Magic Johnson, who's really been at the center of this controversy from the beginning, tweeted, "Former and current NBA players are very happy and satisfied with Commissioner Silver's ruling," adding, "Now, let's hope that the other 29 owners do the right thing."

Now, one of those owners, Mark Cuban, he weighed in after the decision was announced, tweeting, "I agree 100 percent with Commissioner Silver's findings and the actions taken against Donald Sterling."

Now, the ball is now in the owners' court. A 3/4 vote from the owners will be required to force Sterling to sell the team. Commissioner Silver said, guys, he expects to get the support he needs to make that happen.

BERMAN: Yes. But they do have to take that vote. It does need the three quarters. He says he did not poll the owners yet. But sentiment does seem to be tipping that way.

Andy, do you have a sense of how big a relief it was for the Clippers players last night?

SCHOLES: You know, just watching it, it looked like a weight of the world was lifted off their shoulders. You know, game four of this whole controversy, clearly a distraction for them on the court, but not last night. You know, the fans were fully behind him.

And the Clippers, they came out on fire. It looked like they had extra skip in their step. You see Blake Griffin just throwing one down earlier in the game, really got the crowd going.

And, you know, the game was close in the fourth quarter, guys. But the Clippers were able to pull out the win and just really cap off a very emotional day for the whole team, coaches, players, everyone, even all the fans. They now lead the series, 3-2 as it shifts back to Oakland for game six. And it looks like they really got the momentum back in this series.

ROMANS: You know, even when the sponsors said they were going to suspend their relationship with the team, they were saying they're still going to sponsor the players. And they're advertising was for the players because they wanted to really differentiate between the brand that is Sterling and the brand that is the Clippers. Really interesting they don't have to do it now.

Thanks, Andy.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: It's going to be another really dangerous day weather-wise for a big part of the country. You got heavy rain possible, with flooding expected from the South, all the way to the Northeast. And with more wind, we could see a lot of problems for a lot of people today.

BERMAN: Yes, terrible flooding in some people. North Carolina in the crosshairs with tornado warnings up in the big part of that state, after at least on twister touchdown in Steadman, that's east of Fayetteville. Homes and trees torn up by winds, heavy, heavy rain nearby left roads and cars under water. Flash flooding forcing police to rescue some drivers from their vehicles trapped in that water.

ROMANS: The death toll in six states stands at 35 over the last two days, 15 of those fatalities in Arkansas, where today, families are still picking through the rubble from the tornadoes and reflecting on how they managed to survive when their homes were leveled.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were five seconds after I come here. The walls did this. We watched the whole thing just all around us the whole time.


BERMAN: Tennessee, this morning, pledging to rebuild after a powerful EF-3 tornado cause third-degree damage you are looking at, two deaths southwest of Nashville. Authorities say the tornado was two miles wide. It destroyed an elementary school, a big part of Lincoln County does not have power right now.


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


ROMANS: That from Mobile Alabama, where rain caused this huge sinkhole. Flooding also pushed a shed into a nearby street. You see it there, that a day after at least three people killed by a tornado in the northern part of the state.

BERMAN: I want you to look at these pictures coming in from Pensacola, where roads, parking lots just covered in water. Looking like lakes and rivers. People inundated there. At least one person drown.

Police are telling residents this morning, stay home, if you can. Whatever you do, stay off the roads. We're hearing from a number of people from Pensacola who just say the rain has been falling relentlessly now for nearly a day.

Indra Petersons is here with more on that.

Good morning, Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Incredible, yes. Good morning.

We are talking about 11 inches around Mobile and Pensacola. You can see the flooding in the region.

Take a look at the last six hours here on the radar. We are talking rainfall rates as heavy as five inches an hour. That would be bad enough in one hour. But now, let's drop you to the last 24 hours, you can see the wind coming off the ocean. Right around the gulf, we get the warm, humid air. It trains the thunderstorms for periods after periods.

We're talking about now, 24 hours of heavy rain. Some places have again already seen 11 inches. Over eight inches expected. And this rain is not really just in the Southeast. It's extending all the way even into the Northeast today. Heavy rain already falling, looking for totals anywhere from two to five inches. That's one side.

We are still talking about the threat of severe weather, 36 million people today south of D.C., all the way down through Florida are still looking for these heavy thunderstorms, potentially for severe thunderstorms. That will be the concern.

Another thing we're looking at, strong winds we're already feeling out there this morning, gusting anywhere from 30 to 40-mile-per-hour. That's going to be in play as we go throughout the day as the cold front slowly progresses to the east. You can see that. We are still talking showers for another day or so.

Good news, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We are talking about it clearing by the weekend. We got a long ways to go before that.

Very cool in the Northeast. Notice behind the warm front, the temperatures are warming. Tomorrow, seeing a huge jump into the Northeast and temperatures cool behind it, and eventually, it kind of cools to right around normal as we go through the weekend.

But, unbelievable, you're talking about 11 inches of rain in Pensacola around Mobile. Really devastating.

BERMAN: Five inches an hour?



ROMANS: I've got to say, yesterday morning, 24 hours ago, you were saying there's going to be a lot of rain in the Southeast.

PETERSONS: Even more than we thought.

ROMANS: All right, Indra. Thanks, Indra.

Now to the possible new lead in the search for Flight 370. And the claim this morning by a private company that it has located something in the Bay of Bengal, something it says looks like a plane. But those images of an area that is thousands of miles from the current official search zone and they are far away from the track authorities say the plane took before it plunged into the ocean.

Miguel Marquez live in Perth, Australia, this morning.

Miguel, why are authorities so skeptical of this plane?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For two reasons: one, not only is it far away from where they are searching. It's even far away from the northern track that they initially thought that the plane may have taken, about 1,000 miles from there.

The other reason is the way this company is treating the information about its claims. Look, it claims to have captured. We've actually -- Anna Coren, our colleague, has just spoken to the company. We have a little more clarity on what the company is claiming.

They say that they received the images that found these different elements in the water, in these concentrations that made it look like a plane. And these images were then analyzed by them. They won't say who that third party was who provided the images. They won't say what their analysis was or what the technology is.

This is the problem people in this field have. They say it is technically and physically impossible to detect these sorts of elements -- titanium, aluminum and copper -- under the water. The company is saying that they believe this plane is between 800 and 1,000 meters down. That is extraordinarily deep. Experts in this field say you can't do it under a little bit of water, much less that much water.

The company also saying that they're not willing to allow investigators or other experts to view their technology, but rather, they are saying this is where we believe it is. You Malaysia, you Australia, you go find it for yourself.

I think it puts investigators in a very difficult position. The Malaysians say they want to take it seriously. They want to look into it. The Australians saying that, you know, we believe we are on the right track here in the southern Indian Ocean.

Everything, the Inmarsat data and the pings lead us to this location here and they will continue searching in the southern Indian Ocean -- Christine.

ROMANS: Certainly an interesting wrinkle at the very least.

Miguel Marquez live for us this morning in Perth, Australia.

BERMAN: Breaking overnight, an inmate execution in Oklahoma goes terribly wrong. A prisoner left gasping for air. What happened and what authorities are going to do about it now.

ROMANS: Plus, a terrifying shooting near Atlanta. A FedEx employee reportedly dressed like Rambo opens fire. Six people shot, several still in the hospital this morning. What we are learned new about this overnight.


ROMANS: Breaking the morning, the state of Oklahoma reviewing its execution procedures after a botched lethal injection let an inmate to die of a heart attack 40 minutes after being given an experimental drug cocktail that was supposed to kill him. The inmate Clayton Lockett was still conscious and he was talking.


ROBERT PATTON, DIRECTOR, OKLAHOMA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS: 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 effect, so the doctor observed the line and determined the line had blown. COURTNEY FRANCISCO, REPORTER, KFOR: Back before they closed the curtain, he said, "Man". Yes, he had full body upper movement. He was able to lift his head and his shoulders from the gurney. He was struggling to talk, but those are the words he got out, "Man, I'm not" and "something is wrong."


ROMANS: Oklahoma called off a second execution for at least two weeks as they try to figure out what happened.

BERMAN: This morning, four people still in the hospital, 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 a 19-year-old Geddy Kramer. Witnesses say he had ammunition draped across his chest, looked like he was ready for combat.


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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A couple loud pops. I thought it was noises. Didn't think anything of it. Somebody was running through saying, he's got a gun, he's got a gun, run. That's when we ran.


BERMAN: Police say Kramer also had at least one Molotov cocktail with him. He did not use it.

Investigators are pursuing a possible motive. They have not disclosed what they found.

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

BERMAN: Chilling new details this morning in the stabbing death of a Connecticut high school student. Police say 16-year-old Christopher Plaskon calmly confessed to stabbing 16-year-old Maren Sanchez in the school hallway just minutes after the killing. Students returned to school Tuesday say Sanchez refused to go to prom with Plaskon. He's being charged as an adult with murder.

ROMANS: To Tennessee now where pregnant women who use narcotics could soon face assault charges. Governor Bill Haslam signed the controversial new law allowing misdemeanor charges to be filed against any woman whose illegal drug use causes harm to her unborn child.

Critics called on Haslam to veto the bill. They say women with addiction issues need treatment, not jail time.

BERMAN: Wisconsin this morning planning to appeal after a federal judge threw out the state's requirement that 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 that it must seek judicial approval on any changes to the law. At least one state lawmaker called the ruling politically motivated.

ROMANS: All right. Global markets this morning in a bit of a holding pattern. Investigators waiting for information on the health of the U.S. economy. A lot of new information coming out today. European stocks just up slightly. Futures in the U.S. point to a lower open on Wall Street.

In just about three hours, we'll get the first read on how much the U.S. economy grew in the first part of the year. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect 1.2 percent growth last quarter. Much less than the 2.6 percent growth rate of the end of last year.

Investors also watching to see the Fed and what will come out of a two-day policy meeting that ends today. Most people think the fed will slow the stimulus measures and keep on that path. The sign the Central Bank thinks the economy is improving.

BERMAN: Way to wait, an hour and 18 minutes for financial news this morning. You were getting the shakes.

ROMANS: I know. That's right. It's going to be a big day today. You are going to get a better indication of how well the economy is doing. Get some housing news yesterday.

So, really kind of shaping up to see what the spring looks like.

BERMAN: All right. Some news that you may not want to hear. The 2016 Summer Olympics, they will happen in Rio de Janeiro. That's the good news. The bad news, the vice president of the International Olympic Committee says there's no plan B. He calls it the worst preparations he has ever seen, since the planning there is critically behind schedule, with construction yet to begin on some venues. Water quality is a huge concern.

In an unprecedented move, the committee is appointing a task force to help local officials get things moving.

You know, Rio has got the World Cup. It's got the Summer Olympics, coming up. Usually, that's a wonderful thing, the country is all happy. But this has been a mess.

ROMANS: A mess. The worst preparation he's ever seen. That --

BERMAN: That's not good. That's setting the bar awfully low.

ROMANS: All right. Crisis in Ukraine escalating this morning. Pro- Russian protesters taking over government buildings, firing their guns at police. We are live on the ground with the very latest there, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Happening this morning in Ukraine: militants taking control of government buildings, seizing a provincial capitol, firing on police, as sanctions against Russia are doing nothing to stem the violence there.

Our Nick Paton Walsh is live near Slaviansk in Ukraine this morning.

Nick, it really does seem the crisis there is escalating this morning.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly. Just this morning, a town that has been unrest in the past, the police station was sort of holding out, well, that has now apparently being seized. The self-declared chairman of the opposition here, the Donetsk People's Republic saying, we will move against the people, if police are not on our side.

And also yesterday, he was saying, Luhansk, to the east of where I'm standing, important to understand the geography here. It's quite set for a region to the one where most of the unrest is happening. Luhansk's capital, a lot of key buildings overtaken, coordinated, well-organized, well-resourced, region administration, the TV station, apparently fighting near the police station, too. That is very much in the hands of protesters.

And it's important because it's between where I am and the Russian border. So, a sort of linked up geography of all this heading towards Russian territory. Many wondering quite what comes next. Reports that we can't confirm with our own eyes, but I've spoken to one of the militants at a checkpoint here near Slaviansk. He says that Ukrainian armor personnel carriers were moving towards them last night.

No signs of injuries at this point, but a very tense moment on the ground here. Despite Ukrainian president saying that the security forces in the east aren't being loyal enough, we are seeing signs of building up presence here -- John.

BERMAN: Nick Paton Walsh in Ukraine this morning -- you wonder how long the tension can last before it ignites into a dangerous, dangerous situation.

ROMANS: All right. We now know more about an Italian court's reasons for convicting Amanda Knox again for the murder of her roommate. In a 300-plus page decision, the appeals court there says there is evidence Meredith Kercher was killed by more than one assailant and that she and Knox fought over money the night she died.

Now, Knox had an earlier conviction overturned in 2011. She was found guilty again back in January. She is in the U.S. planning an appeal and she insists she is innocent.

All right. Their owner has been banned for life. But this morning, the L.A. Clippers, they are riding high. They win an important playoff game hours after Donald Sterling was told he is not wanted in the NBA. Breaking down what comes next, after the break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)