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Father of Shooting Victim Interviewed; Forensic Psychiatrist Discusses Bill in Congress Regarding Mental Health; MH370 Families Still Disappointed Over Flight Data; House Republicans Seek Waiver to Michelle Obama's Nutrition Standards

Aired May 27, 2014 - 07:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: CNN's Sara Sidner talked with him and she's live from Santa Barbara this morning. Sara?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. Yes, we sat down with the father of Veronika Weiss, and he simply wanted to talk about his daughter so the world knew who she really was.


SIDNER: Bob Weiss had a special bond with his daughter Veronika. She was his first born child and he was a stay at home dad until she was 12.

BOB WEISS, FATHER OF VERONIKA WEISS: So I changed her diapers, took her to preschool, taught her how to throw a ball.

SIDNER: The two were the two were almost inseparable. Veronika headed off to university less than a year ago, and now her father is having to do something he cannot bear to do with her, bury her. Veronika Weiss is one of the six students whose lives were taken in a diabolical killing rampage just days ago. Bob and his wife and sons raced up to the university when they didn't get a phone call from his normally conscientious daughter. While waiting for word from officials, they tracked Veronika's cellphone. It was still on. It even began to move, but she wasn't answering.

How did you know? How were you sure that she was gone?

WEISS: We got on her iPhone and located it in the middle of the crime scene. And then we actually were looking at the phone while they were moving her body away from the -- probably to take her to the morgue.

SIDNER: They knew then that she was one of the girls who died here on the front lawn of the sorority.

WEISS: It's preposterous that a kid who is in that bad of shape could go to three different gun stores and buy an arsenal, but it happens all the time.

SIDNER: Weiss wishes Rodger had known the truth about who she actually killed. WEISS: She was kind. She was the person who would reach out to the kids who weren't the popular kids, some of the nerdy kids, some of the kids that were a little bit like this Rodger kid described himself as, as being a little bit of an outcast.

SIDNER: Now the Weisses and the other victims' families are left with memories to turn to remind them of who their children really were.

WEISS: The out pouring of support and love. I can say this, when somebody close to you dies, reach out to survivors, because even though it feels awkward and you don't have anything to say, every little word, every little sentence on Facebook, it all means something. It means that you're not alone.


SIDNER: You can hear the pain in his voice and he really is still in shock. He's still trying to understand what has happened and hasn't quite realized that he will never be able to have a conversation with a daughter he said loved her life ever again. Kate?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: I'll take it here, Sara. It's important for them all to know that they're not alone. The nation mourns with them. Thank you for that report, very moving.

Let's get a look at more of your headlines right now. New this morning, an American doctor has been killed after two gunmen opened fire in Pakistan. Medi Ali Kumar, a cardiologist from Ohio, was apparently visiting a graveyard with his wife and toddler when he was shot 10 times at close range. Officials say Kumar had traveled to the country last week to volunteer at a local heart clinic and to visit relatives.

A stunning claim from top Nigerian military official. He says he knows the location of more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by radical Islamists last month, but the official says using military force to rescue the girls would put them in too much danger. And despite an international effort to bring them home, he is refusing to reveal where the schoolgirls are. Meanwhile, the Pentagon has not confirmed this report.

Overnight heavy fighting continued between Ukrainian troops and pro- Russian separatists in one of the country's volatile eastern cities. There are reports that at least 40 people have been killed in the violence. Clashes began Monday when separatists stormed the airport at Donetsk. Ukrainian air and ground forces responded with air strikes. Ukraine's new president is vowing to bring back order to the country's east.

Memorial Day pledge from Vice President Biden vowing to restore America's sacred obligation to care for our veterans. The vice president spoke at a Memorial Day event saying the U.S. needs to get to the bottom of the growing scandal at the department of veterans affairs. CNN has been reporting on allegations of doctored wait times leading to the investigation of 26 VA facilities.

Four minutes after the hour. Chris, over to you.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you very much for that.

So what do we know about the situation in California? We know there were red flags all over this young man's life. Disturbing YouTube videos, bizarre behavior, the cops were even called at one point, six deputies to assess him. Despite all of it, six U.C. Santa Barbara students killed, others injured during Friday's rampage. When is enough is enough, and what is the fix for the system so this doesn't happen again? The questions are obvious. The answers are elusive.

Let's bring in Dr. Michael Welner, one of the top forensic psychiatrists in the country. He will be on Capitol Hill Thursday testifying about representative Tim Murphy's mental health bill. We've talked about this before. Doctor, to be honest, you've been mentoring me on this issue for over a decade now. We see these cases. Am I wrong in judging them as frighteningly familiar, someone who is mentally ill, people knew or didn't know, treatment, avoided treatment, got further isolated, ignored. Then when the system gets involved it's not enough, then this happens. Do we keep seeing it, and why?

DR. MICHAEL WELNER, CHAIRMAN OF THE FORENSIC PANEL: They are frighteningly familiar for a simple reason -- they're copycat crimes. There are plenty of people who are socially incompetent and rejected. There are plenty of people who are shy. There are plenty of people who can't get girls. There are plenty of people who are bad at sports. There are plenty of people who are short. They don't embark on a mass killing. And there are plenty of people who are bullied and they don't embark on mass killing. And this has been going on since the beginning of time.

And yet we've seen a proliferation of this in recent years, and we've got to recognize that a person who packages himself in a YouTube video and with a long missive, that's not how other people see him. That's how he wants to be seen in a way he thinks is powerful. He makes eye contact with the camera. Anybody who knew him says he never made eye contact. They say this is more than they've ever heard of him.

And for all the times we say, gee, if they only they got help. He was getting help. He was in therapy. And with that underscores which we've spoken about before is how when a person who is a failure taps into the idea of saying, hey, if I'm destructive on a large scale, the Holmes, the Lanzes, the others, whether they have a psychiatric illness or not, people will talk about me. They will want to know what it was that made me upset, they will give me legitimacy, everybody will want to know who I am. They package themselves, they prepare themselves, but that someone who is a false person. It's a made -- it's a made-up per persona that doesn't represent them. But it incentivizes the next person who is now watching the YouTube video. It's still up there. It's still up there. It's essentially pornography to inspire other people to copycat. Mass killing is a copycat crime.

CUOMO: That's an easy fix. Get rid of the YouTube videos. Get it down. Try not to emphasize the personality of these different killers. Try not to glorify them. That's a media responsibility. That can be done.


CUOMO: But there seems to be something more insidious in the process. You've got deputies show up, six of them. They don't know how to talk to someone like this. That's not what they trained to do. They didn't even search his room. They would have found an arsenal and his manifest in intent if they had. The system doesn't work. He's getting treatment. The family knows it, relatives know it, friends know it, all the things we want them to do. Nobody can put him away and judge him and assess him. The system doesn't allow it. How can we allow the system to continue that way?

WELNER: We have to appreciate that when people are in crisis, people can be in crisis without having killed yet. People can be in crisis without having suicided yet.

CUOMO: The mother calls the cops on him.

WELNER: That's right.

CUOMO: And says, look at these videos. He's not right. He's deranged.

WELNER: Well, we have a system in which families who may have financial responsibility for someone, who may have a custodial responsibility for someone who is a danger don't have the ability to say, look, we see our son. We appreciate that he pulled it together for you, that he was polite, that he was composed, that he has social skills, and he does it for his therapist. We see him falling apart. He needs to be in a protected environment. The system has got to change to enable people who are in crisis to receive treatment, to be placed in a safe environment so that they don't endanger themselves or others, and families know, families have to be involved.

CUOMO: If they're involved they usually know. So then Representative Tim Murphy works with minds like your own, fashions a bill, goes up there and gets 100 shots in it from different advocacy groups saying you are villainizing the mentally ill. This isn't going to help them. This is going to make it worse. And it gets confusing. I don't even understand it anymore, and I consider myself an advocate on the issue. So what's the fix?

WELNER: Why don't we talk about stigma? People say this stigmatizes the mentally ill. No. What stigmatizes the mentally ill is when we say that somebody makes a life choice that they're going to be destructive, says I did it because I has Asperger, or, I did it because I have schizophrenia.

I'll tell you what happens as a clinician. My patients who have schizophrenia come to me and they say I heard someone who had schizophrenia did this. Am I capable of this? And they start to question themselves even in their own fragility, and it's up to a doctor to assure them, no, no. But who is out there to ensure the employer, gee, if you have somebody who has Asperger, this isn't Asperger. This is a selfish life choice of someone who wants attention who may or may not have a psychiatric condition, and then stigma perpetuates because we let the illness run the situation and people who need help who have to have treatment mandated either through commitment or through assertive outpatient care --

CUOMO: How do you mandate treatment if someone doesn't want it?

WELNER: The law doesn't allow it, but the Murphy bill enables standards to be revised to gravely mentally ill so that people who deny illness, who don't have the insight to get treatment but who really represent a great risk to themselves and to these because their condition is deteriorating, that treatment can be provided for them, that commitment can be under those circumstances.

CUOMO: Beyond the 72 hour hold? Because right now the law, you probably know this, I hope you don't if you had to experience it, but you can only hold someone 72 hours involuntarily, and then they get a court date. And usually, you know, if they're sneaky in hiding their instability they get out. And that's very frustrating for so many people. Does the bill address it?

WELNER: Sure. The bill begins to address it. I think once it gets out of committee and people will talk about the 72 hour hold and parameters of commitment. But right now what we don't have is a situation where families can be involved in communicating with doctors when they see that a crisis is causing someone to fall down, to fall apart. And the commitment laws are so tight that law enforcement, whatever their training, whatever their training, and mental health professionals could see someone like that in an emergency room and say, you know something, even if I have a funny feeling about this person, I cannot commit the person and I can't hold them. The Murphy bill will absolutely address and change that, and it's essential for all of us who are saying we have to do something.

There are many areas we can fix. We can make fixes to gun laws. We can make fixes to the media, as you say. The mental health fix, the Murphy bill is a mental health fix because it involves family. It enhances communication between doctors and family at times of crisis. It deals with crisis in such a way that people who are in crisis and don't get it and don't want to get it because he was invested in being destructive, that we can protect the general public rather than let the illness or the condition or the selfish choice run the situation because sometimes people who are in crisis aren't psychotic, but they're about to do something catastrophic. We we've got to get away from the idea of equating crisis and mental health crisis with psychosis. The two are not interchangeable. It's about people who are willing to make desperate choices, in this case because they'll get attention, but sometimes it's about a person who may be about to kill their children.

CUOMO: So Thursday you go down to the Capitol. You make the testimony. And I know, I've heard your frustration in the past, as the story fades, so does the urgency to fix it. Not this time. Do your testimony. Let us know how it goes. Come back on the show on Friday and let's talk about where we stand.

WELNER: Thank you. But my testimony is not the only thing. The American people, if they are outraged, the families of the victims, if they are outraged, the people who need help whose parents and whose families cannot close that gap have to be involved and tell their congressmen, forget the parties. Forget the parties. You have solutions in front of you. Listen to the man whose son died and said we put you there to make solutions. Call your congressman now. Tell them, House Bill 3717, you must support it, you must tell your colleagues to support it and pass it now because the fixes are in front of us.

People have been working at this for a while. We don't want it to happen again. It will happen again if we don't make these kinds of choices, and it will get worse because copycats always try to outdo one another. And that's a terrible lesson to learn.

CUOMO: Harsh but true. Dr. Welner, thank you very much. We will stay on it with you. I promise you that. Kate?

BOLDUAN: All right, coming up next on NEW DAY, the satellite data used in the search for flight 370 has finally been released. But is there information missing? So what is missing? We're going to talk with Sara Bajc, her partner was on the flight and she was really one of the people leading the charge to get this information released. We'll get her take.

Also ahead, Michelle Obama is taking on Congress over school lunch. That and more on inside politics.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back. Overnight the Malaysian government finally released data linked to missing flight 370, but after months of pleading coming from the families of the flight's passengers is it enough? Joining us now, Sara Bajc, she is one of the people who is leading the effort, calling for the release of this data. Her partner Philip Wood was an American passenger on that flight. Sara, it's great to see you. Thanks so much for taking the time.


BOLDUAN: Of course. The data is released. What is your initial reaction? Are you satisfied?

BAJC: My initial reaction is that we're a little disappointed yet again. That the Malaysian government has chosen to manipulate information before it's been released. You know, I'd like to do a little reset on this conversation. It isn't about data this and data that. It's about transparency and third-party validation of analysis that drives where we look for the plane, right? The entire focus of the family initiative is to find the airplane. And that should be the focus of the entire world, because every time somebody gets on an airplane they should be very worried that it could go missing again. So, you know, what they asked for more than eight weeks ago is that the raw information, so all of the information that was used to determine where the airplane went, was released for third-party review. We also asked for the data from that exact same airplane, so the same flight but from the days prior, so that you could have some validation of, you know, its exact timings and locations and ping data from that exact same flight to create some modeling. But they didn't release that either. So the game is just continuing. I don't understand. It's almost intentional that they don't want to find the plane. So they keep playing games with us hoping that we're going to get tired and go away. It's just making people more and more angry.

BOLDUAN: The data that was released really requires, even if it was modified, you believe manipulated, it requires expert knowledge in understanding what they're trying to give you. What are you going to do with the data to better understand what they've offered?

BAJC: Well, within a few minutes of receiving it, it was pushed out to a dozen people who were experts in the industry. It was not marked as confidential. It was an open document that could be sent out and clearly they published it publicly as well. Some of those people worked together and some of them are independent analysis groups in different countries around the world. But they had all been prepared with mathematical models that they had been using with guesses at information. So now they have real information to go through.

Of that 47 pages there's really only about 18 data sets that are relevant to conducting analysis. That's information we didn't have before. So the question now is just whether or not running this set of -- this 18 data points through the mathematical models that have been created by other people will arrive at the same or a different result.

When we first asked for this data ten weeks ago it was meant to be helpful, right? We didn't expect it to turn into a circus of back and forth. We thought that the Malaysian government wanted to cooperate in finding the airplane. So as a family group we reached out to the community and asked for help and people were volunteering help, to do peer review of something that we thought was a pretty factual thing.

BOLDUAN: So now the data is going to experts. They will bring back what they have. Do you believe in your heart that it's going to lead you to a different conclusion than what Inmarsat and those who have analyzed it to this point, where they've ended up?

BAJC: I do believe it will lead us to a different point because the point that has been looked at so far is clearly wrong. We've looked at it and there's nothing there. Whether that's 100 kilometer shift in one direction or it's completely the opposite arc, it's northern arc instead of the southern arc, I have no idea. Honestly, the numbers on that page make no sense to me at all. But the analysis that is given to me by the experts that we've given it to does make sense and they are all going to do their very best to try to validate or refute the findings of Inmarsat.

BOLDUAN: And Sara, at this point, the search area where they are right now, that search area -- that search effort is going to be ending. They will be picking back up the search when they have new specialized -- other specialized equipment to use and also after they map the ocean floor in this very wide area that they want to cover. What do you do until then?

BAJC: I think until they have determined with fair certainty that the plane went down in a particular part of the ocean, I think they should put the ocean searching on hold. I mean, honestly, as much as I want to find that plane, I don't believe we should be wasting the resources of Australia and the other countries that are involved hunting someplace that we have no idea if it's correct, right?

I mean, they've already done a lot of searching in that area and there's been nothing that's come up. Including to this day, zero wreckage, none, nothing floating in the ocean anywhere in that zone. Not on beaches. Not in fishing nets. That is a highly suspicious gap right there. So we really need to rethink things and reserve those resources until we have a little more certainty that we're looking in the right spot.

BOLDUAN: That is quite a statement coming from you who, along with all the other family members of flight 370, want nothing more than finally some evidence one way or the other of where Philip and the other passengers are. Sara, thank you very much for your time. We will speak with you soon. Chris?

CUOMO: All right, Kate. Complaints that Malaysia didn't release enough information and now complaints that the White House released too much. Coming up on NEW DAY, how did the government accidentally blow the cover of a top CIA agent? Now what can they do? We'll tell you on inside politics.


CUOMO: There is a lot of intrigue going on, especially with this CIA slip. So lets get to "Inside Politics" on NEW DAY with Mr. John King. I hope your memorial day was memory filled.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: I was here yesterday. I missed you guys, but I'm glad you are back in the saddle on Tuesday.

There's a lot to talk about. With me this morning to share their reporting and insights Margaret Talev of Bloomberg News, Jonathan Martin of "The New York Times." Let's start in a way we have never started on our morning segment of "Inside Politics" with Michelle Obama. She will be out today doing an event on healthy school lunches. Most of you are probably saying so what, she talks about that a lot. But she has a fight right now with Congress. House Republican's are trying to undermine the nutrition standards she helped to get passed a few years back. They want, Margaret, to allow a waiver. If a school district out there thinks this is too costly or to burdensome they can opt out. It's not often that she directly, and publicly, pushes policy. What are we watching for?

MARGARET TALEV, BLOOMBERG NEWS CORRESPONDENT: On two levels. Number one we're watching to find out who prevails in this. But number two, of course we're watching to find out how publicly she will put herself out there and take on Congress. The minute you start putting waivers into legislation, it's the undermining of the bill and the slippery slope. This has been the narrative with Obamacare now for months. Now they're going after something, maybe the only thing, that's really near and dear to her.

KING: Does this have to be a fight? You get from some of the critics, Jonathan, this is big brother, why is Washington telling kids what they can and cannot eat. Her argument is, look at the obesity statistics, look at type ii diabetes statistics. We need to do what we can. You know, 97,000 public schools in this country, this is a way to directly impact health.