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Parents Tried to Find Son Before Rampage; Rampage Victims Identified; President Obama Marks Memorial Day; Pope Travels to Holy Land

Aired May 26, 2014 - 05:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Disturbing, new details in a killing spree. Police reveal they came so close to stopping a rampage that left six people and the gunman dead. Now CNN is learning his parents were trying to stop it, too. We're finding out more about the victims this morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, he still supports his fellow secretary. Chuck Hagel telling CNN it's not time to force the V.A. secretary, Eric Shinseki, from his job. But Hagel says he is angry about allegations that veterans may have died while waiting for care.

ROMANS: As the nation pauses to mark Memorial Day, the new reality for troops in Afghanistan. Thousands may remain there for years to come, despite the U.S. withdrawal. We'll tell you what the president said during his trip to Bagram.

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

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Thirty minutes after the hour this morning. Thanks for being with us. Happy Memorial Day, everyone.

This morning we're learning more about the desperate moments just after police say 22-year-old Elliot Rodger began his killing spree, stabbing three people to death at his apartment and then opening fire near the campus of UC Santa Barbara, leaving three more dead and more than a dozen wounded before finally turning the gun on himself.

A family friend tells CNN Rodger's parents received his 137-page manifesto by e-mail just as he was driving the streets with a gun. They saw his disturbing YouTube video and then tried in vain to find him. It was too late. Police now believe Rodger had been working on his plan for months.

An officer had visited him just weeks ago after a relative became concerned about his mental health, but police, they visited, then they left, because they said that Elliot Rodger seemed to be doing OK.

In his manifesto, Rodger writes, "If police had searched his room, they would have found his guns and his whole plan, it would have been all over."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SHERIFF BILL BROWN, SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: Mr. Rodger was, although deeply disturbed, he was able to put on a front, as it were, and convince them, and obviously, convince a lot of other people that he didn't have problems that were so severe that it would require some fairly extreme intervention by mental health professionals.


ROMANS: We're now learning more about the victims. Among them, Chen Yuan Hong and Weihan Wang and George Chen. Hong and Chen were Rodger's roommates. It's unclear if Wang was another roommate or was just visiting the room.

Veronika Weiss was a tri-Delta Sorority member and water polo athlete. People who knew her say she was always smiling. Katie Cooper was with her when she was gunned down, also a tri-Delta member. She was studying art history and archaeology.

And choking back tears, Christopher Martinez's father called him a really great kid. His former roommate said Martinez would drop whatever he was doing to help others.

Classes at UC Santa Barbara are canceled through tomorrow when the university will hold a memorial service.

And the town, the university, the whole -- I mean, the whole, everyone's just totally broken up by this.

BERMAN: They're rallying around each other. You know, no community wants to be defined by something like this. However, it's certainly a time to remember what happened.


BERMAN: Thirty-two minutes after the hour.

Breaking overnight, three people are missing this morning in western Colorado, not far from the Utah border, after a four-mile-long landslide there. Authorities say the slide is two miles wide and more than 250 feet deep, and it's not clear just what is now buried under this landslide. Showing limited cell phone service in that area and it likely won't be until daylight when police can get a better sense of what actually happened there.

ROMANS: He says it makes him sick. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaking out about the scandal at the VA and telling CNN's Jake Tapper, whatever's happening in there needs to be fixed. But despite calls for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign or be fired, Hagel says he doesn't support that step yet.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST, THE LEAD: Are you appalled when you see these stories?

CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It makes me sick to my stomach, because it is a clear responsibility we have as a country, as a people, to take care of these men and women and their families who sacrificed so much. I know systems are imperfect. I mean, I get that. But when you've got what we do know -- and you're right, we do need to get the facts. Let's see exactly what happened, why it happened, how it happened. Then we've got to fix it. Then we have to fix it.


ROMANS: House Veteran Affairs Committee chair Jeff Miller also among those not yet calling for Shinseki to be fired. He told Candy Crowley on "STATE OF THE UNION" it's a culture problem, not necessarily an issue with top leadership.


REP. JEFF MILLER (R), CHAIR, VETERANS AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: This is much larger than the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.


MILLER: Well, you've got an entrenched bureaucracy that exists out there that is not held accountable, that is shooting for goals, goals that are not helping the veteran. The person that's supposed to be served is not the bureaucrat, it's the veteran.


ROMANS: Shinseki this week is expected to bring President Obama the preliminary results of a VA investigation into the allegations that some facilities used these secret lists to keep wait times off the books, sometimes with deadly results.

You can see Jake's entire interview with Chuck Hagel this afternoon on "THE LEAD," 4:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN.

BERMAN: It is Memorial Day, such an important day to remember and honor those who have served. And President Obama, along with the VA secretary, are set to mark the holiday at Arlington National Cemetery. The president will lay a wreath to the Tomb of the Unknowns and deliver a speech on the importance of this day.

He spent part of the weekend seeing our fighting men and women firsthand. The president was in Afghanistan on an unannounced trip, talking up an ongoing relationship that could keep troops on the ground there for years.

Here's White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the president didn't mention the VA hospital scandal by name, but he did seem to touch on it when he emphasized to troops Americans' sacred obligation, as he put it, to take care of wounded warriors.

And also, the president mentioned that this is really a pivotal time for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan as well as foreign policy. He did mention that he hopes for a bilateral security agreement, and both of the presidential candidates in Afghanistan who are involved in a runoff election right now have mentioned that they are amenable to it, something that would keep a limited U.S. presence in Afghanistan. And as the president put it, would preserve the gains made there by U.S. troops.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everybody knows Afghanistan's still a very dangerous place. Insurgents still launch cowardly attacks against innocent civilians. But just look at the progress that you've made possible. Afghans reclaiming their communities and more girls returning to school, dramatic improvements in public health and life expectancy and literacy. That's your legacy.


KOSINSKI: Back to you.

ROMANS: All right, Michelle Kosinski for us at the White House.

This morning, Pope Francis is in Jerusalem wrapping up an eventful visit to the holy land and meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. That's happening a day after the pontiff said the words the Israeli government didn't want to hear, calling the Palestinian territories the state of Palestine. But he also called on Israel and the Palestinians to meet with him personally -- to meet personally at the Vatican, at his Vatican apartment for a peace summit.

Vatican correspondent Delia Gallagher live in Jerusalem.

Delia, what is the Pope up to right now?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Christine, the Pope is currently meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres. He has just called him a wise and good man. This is a morning for meetings with Jewish leaders and Israeli leaders.

Earlier, he was at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, where he met with six survivors of the holocaust. He spent some time with them. He kissed their hands and listened to some very moving testimony about those -- some letters and diaries of holocaust victims.

Earlier, he was also at the Wailing Wall, another very important place for the Jewish people. He spent some time in prayer there, left a handwritten note at the wall. He met with chief rabbis of Jerusalem and he condemned anti-Semitism.

So his message this morning very much to the Jewish people and to the Israeli leaders. As you said, he will shortly be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

ROMANS: And injecting himself right there into the peace process, the Middle East peace process. The significance of that? GALLAGHER: Well, it was a surprise, the invitation to come to the Vatican for a day of prayer, the Pope called it. So he's not labeling it a peace initiative as such or a political initiative, that is. It certainly would be a peaceful initiative, a day of prayer where the two parties could at least be in the same room. They're not currently speaking, so that was the Pope's way to extend his hand to both parties in this very difficult, conflicted region.

ROMANS: All right. Delia Gallagher for us this morning in Jerusalem. Thank you, Delia.

BERMAN: Thirty-eight minutes after the hour. In Alaska this morning, fire crews desperately trying to slow down a fast-growing blaze on the Kenai Peninsula. It has now burned through more 218 square miles, fueled in part by dry brush and high winds. More than 1,000 structures had to be evacuated. So far there are no reports of damage or injuries from this blaze, but you can see smoke there, the fire. It can be seen as far north as Anchorage, some 60 miles away.

ROMANS: More success in Arizona, where a huge fire near Sedona is now 25 percent contained. The slide fire has burned through more than 14,000 acres. It grew in part because crews set their own fires to try to dry -- to use a dry up the tinder before the main blaze could. Authorities plan today to lift a pre-evacuation order for more than 3,000 residents nearby.

BERMAN: What will the weather hold today for this Memorial Day?

Jennifer Gray has that.

Good morning, Jennifer.

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning to you, guys. We are going to see a little bit of rain in Texas. That's going to be the trouble spot as we go through Memorial Day. We could see the possibility of severe weather. We're talking about damaging winds, large hail, and even the possibility of an isolated tornado.

That's going to stretch from Del Rio, San Angelo all the way up to Abilene. Lubbock, you're also included in that. A lot of rain is headed your way. We've already had a lot, and we could see an additional two to four inches of rain, isolated amounts up to five inches. And so we're talking about a lot of rain right around San Angelo and even on the outskirts of midland.

Let's talk about some good news because the northeast, after the winter we've had, you deserve a good holiday weekend. Temperatures are going to be in the 80s across most of the northeast. A lot of folks will be heading to the beaches. 88 in Washington, D.C. That is mighty toasty.

We're going to see temperatures starting out at 70 in New York. And as we go through the afternoon, temperatures will be right around 84 degrees and then dropping off later this evening. The place to be, though, guys, Denver. Temperatures right around 70 degrees and sunshine. BERMAN: They've had awful weather there for a while.


They had, like, the hail, golf ball, tennis ball, you know, baseball- sized hail for days and days.

GRAY: Yes.

BERMAN: So, Denver finally gets a break. That's nice to see.

Jennifer Gray, thank you very much.

ROMANS: Thanks, Jennifer.

Let's get an EARLY START now on your money. Stock markets in this country, they're closed today for the holiday. But Asian markets are higher overnight, thanks in part to a big rally on Wall Street. The S&P finished the week at a record high -- look at that, 1900.

BERMAN: Look at that.

ROMANS: The Dow and Nasdaq were up, too. Even GM's stock was up.


ROMANS: Just a fraction, but it was up, despite announcing its 30th recall so far this year. This time to fix faulty airbags on about 500 pick-up trucks and SUVs. Thirty recalls. On "YOUR MONEY, this weekend I sat down with William Holstein, Bill Holstein, author of "Why GM Matters," an expert on GM. I asked if consumers will turn their back on GM. He says no.


WILLIAM HOLSTEIN, AUTHOR, "WHY GM MATTERS": People don't know that Chevrolet is a General Motors product. The vast majority of people don't know that Buick and Cadillac and GMC are GM products, so there's very interesting bifurcation between the image that General Motors has and the image that its brands have.


ROMANS: Isn't that interesting? Traffic to dealers is actually up. Drivers are bringing their cars in to have the repairs made. If dealers can harness the traffic, turn it into new sales, even a fraction of that, GM revenue might actually rise.

BERMAN: That was an outstanding use of the word bifurcation.

ROMANS: Bifurcation, I know. But isn't that interesting? I mean, people say wow, GM has got a lot of problems, but I'm going to buy a Chevy.


BERMAN: Yes -- no. That's a great point.

ROMANS: Anyway, all right, 41 minutes after the hour. Gunmen taking control again in Ukraine, this morning storming an airport, shutting it down just after the nation voted for a new president. We're live with the very latest on that next.


ROMANS: In Ukraine this morning, there are new calls for unity and new violence. After a nationwide election that's given the country a new president, a candy tycoon, a billionaire, but very few people voted for him or anyone else in the east of the country. Turnout they're almost non-existent in the east after armed men shut down polling stations. Now the airport in Donetsk is closed after militants stormed the terminal.

Senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh is live for us this morning in Donetsk.

How are the armed men playing into the situation in the east?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The big question, really, Christine, is who controls these men. Washington say perhaps they're proxies for Moscow, but there's a sign, a feeling sometimes on the ground that they're all on to themselves. That's certainly the case this morning at Donetsk airport, a key part of the infrastructure here that the pro-Kiev governor, his aides said was never going to fall in separatist hands.

Well, at 3:00 this morning, these armed men burst in. At 7:00, flights were suspended, we're told by an airport spokesperson. That's still the same situation now and concerns, too, because separatists have declared what they would call martial law here. That's not really changed daily life on the ground, but as part of their rhetoric, suggest they will push Ukrainian troops out of this area.

But at the same time, this is where it gets complicated. Petro Poroshenko, the president elected in Ukraine, has made very positive noises about talking directly to Moscow, he wants to go there in early June to meet Vladimir Putin, we presume. He also says he can amnesty separatists here as long as they're not guilty of severe crimes and says, too, that he simply can't negotiate with terrorists. That's what he refers to the pro-Russian separatists militants here running around with their guns.

A complex situation because systematically we have a big window here for some sort of resolution, but on the ground, people are moving towards tension. That's the fear. Where do we go in the days ahead and who's really controlling these gunmen -- Christine.

ROMANS: And you talk about this president-elect, you know, he's a billionaire, he's a chocolate tycoon, he's someone who's already been speaking about cleaning up corruption in the country, strengthening the court system. You know, he'd like the country to look attractive to investors and to the outside world, but really his first order of business are these separatists. WALSH: Absolutely. Nothing can really move forward in this country until they've decided what happens to Donetsk and Luhansk and the separatists' self-declared new governments that have put themselves in power here through an illegitimate really referendum. That has to be resolved. Can it be done politically? Another interesting comments he made, too. The Ukrainian army have to, quote, "be reborn.

They simply don't have the force on the ground we've seen to confront this well-equipped, well-trained separatist militants. That's the big question, too. And I get a feeling from listening to him thinks, he thinks time is on his side. Let the separatists fail to bring in government here, let them falter and see, perhaps, local people just get quite angry at what's happening here. Maybe that will play into Kiev's long-term prospects in this region -- Christine.

ROMANS: Nick Paton Walsh -- thanks, Nic.

Let's take a look now at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." Michaela Pereira joins us on this Memorial Day edition.

Good morning, sunshine.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY: Good morning to you, my dear. So what a pleasure for us to be here. John Berman is going to be joining me in a second. We're going to be looking at this terrible situation on going in Santa Barbara, this terrible tragedy.

learning more now about the victims and this young man, the gunman. Details from his disturbing manifesto about why he felt compelled to and set out to kill. We're actually going to speak with one of the shooter's friends. We're going to speak to the deli owner where one of the victims died.

We're also going to talk to several psychologists about what causes a person to do this and also what can be done to prevent this kind of thing in the future.

Also, first on CNN, our Jake Tapper went one-on-one with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel about the scandal that is rocking the Veterans Affairs Department. Does he think enough is being done to help our veterans? Jake is going to join us this morning with a preview of this conversation, an important one. So many people are looking for answers today. So we've got a -- we've got a busy morning.

ROMANS: A busy morning. All right. Thank you so much, Michaela. We'll talk to you in a couple of minutes.

A desperate search for a killer this morning. Police trying to find a man who opened fire in a Jewish museum. Details on that next.


ROMANS: Welcome back. Fifty-two minutes past the hour. A two-day presidential election getting under way in Egypt. Retired Army Chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi who helped overthrow President Mohamed Morsi, he is the heavy favorite. El-Sissi is facing off against a leftist who came in third behind Morsi in 2012. The election has come under some criticism after the Muslim Brotherhood party was banned, banned from these elections. Results are expected by the end of June.

Police in Belgium hoping this surveillance video might help them find a killer who they say went on a shooting rampage inside a Jewish museum in Brussels. Three people were killed and as the gunman opened fire with an AK-47. Security has been tightened at Jewish sites across the country. The victims have been identified as two Israeli tourists and a French citizen.

Happening today, track star Oscar Pistorius reporting to a psychiatric hospital in Pretoria for an assessment. His mental health is now key to his murder trial. The judge decided earlier this month that his actions may have been affected by an anxiety disorder when he shot and killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. He'll spend seven hours today at the hospital for up to 30 days.

We got a quick check of your money next.

And coming to CNN, a new series from executive producers Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman, "THE SIXTIES." It's the decade that changed the world, the space race, the Cold War, free love, civil rights and more. The 1960s reshaped Americans' lives in ways that still affect us today. Be sure to watch or set your DVR for the premiere, Thursday night, Thursday night, 9:00 Eastern and Pacific here on CNN.


ROMANS: All right, let's get an EARLY START on your money this week. Stock markets in the U.S. are closed today for Memorial Day, but overnight, Asian shares were higher, in part because of the good news from Friday in the U.S. The S&P 500 set a new record, topping 1900 for the very first time.

Big story this morning, complying with Obamacare's rules just got a little tougher for some companies. The law makes larger firms responsible for offering health care to their employees, and some companies thought it would be just cheaper and easier to just give their workers cash to go buy their own plans on those health care exchanges.

Think again. The IRS has now ruled that's an illegal workaround. A lot of big companies are doing this. And any company that does it could be fined up to $100 a day.

"NEW DAY" starts right now.


RICHARD MARTINEZ, FATHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM: These things are going to continue until somebody does something.


PEREIRA: Breaking overnight, all six of the Santa Barbara shooter's victims identified, all six college students. We hear the powerful words of a father who lost his son, telling CNN why he's not just sad but so very angry.

BERMAN: Frantic search. New details on the killer's parents and their desperate attempt to get to him before he did the unthinkable. This as we learn more about his troubled past.

PEREIRA: The peacemaker. Pope Francis in the Middle East this morning, throwing himself into the middle of the peace process. Can he do what others could not?

Your NEW DAY starts right now.

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

PEREIRA: Good morning and welcome to NEW DAY. It is Monday, May 26th, it is Memorial Day, 6:00 in the East. Chris and Kate are off today. John Berman is here.

BERMAN: Hello.

PEREIRA: We're so glad you're here with us.

We begin with devastating details e emerging this morning about the gunman behind the deadly rampage in Santa Barbara, California. In his own words, Elliot Rodger spelled out the source of his rage in a 137- page long manifesto. Women. He says troubles with girls sent his life into a tailspin that ended with Friday's stabbings and shootings. Six college students were killed, 13 other people injured before Rodgertook his own life.