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Airline Employee Steals Plane, Goes on Deadly Joy Ride; Rep. Chris Collins Suspends Re-election Campaign; Trump Calls for Calm Ahead of Charlottesville Riot Anniversary; New Mexico Sheriff Calls Men at Compound Muslim Extremists. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired August 11, 2018 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining me. I'm Ryan Nobles, in for Fredricka Whitfield.

We start with the breaking news out of Seattle. An empty commercial airplane stolen by an airline employee. That man taking the plane on an hour-long joy ride near Seattle, even attempting to do some stunts, all while armed military fighter jets followed behind him. Then, the 29-year-old ground services agent crashed the plane into the ground, killing himself.

We have the chilling audio of the man talking to air traffic controller. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED AIRLINE EMPLOYEE (voice-over): I got a lot of people who care about me. It's going to disappoint them to hear that I did this. I would like to apologize to each and every one of them. Just a broken guy. Got a few screws loose, I guess. Never really knew it until now.

Hey, you think if I land this successfully, they'll give me a job as a pilot?

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER (voice-over): You know, I think they will give you a job doing anything if you can pull this off.

UNIDENTIFIED AIRLINE EMPLOYEE: Yes, right. Hey, pilot guy, can this thing do a back flip, you think? You think I can try to do a barrel roll? And if that goes good, I'll just go nose down, and call it a night.

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: No, let's try to land that airplane safely and not hurt anybody on the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED AIRLINE EMPLOYEE: All right. Damn it, I don't know, man, I don't know. Come on. I don't want to. I was kind of hoping that was going to be it, you know.


NOBLES: Some witnesses say they thought there was an air show going on when they first saw the low-flying plane. I talked to Nick Junka (ph), former employee of Horizon Airlines. He

says he worked with the man who stole that plane. Listen to what he told me.


NICK JUNKA (ph), FORMER EMPLOYEE, HORIZON AIRLINES (voice-over): We're ground service agents, OK? These airlines do a great job at doing security clearances and background checks. We have access to these planes all day long. We secure them. This is the most outlandish thing. I worked with this guy. He was a good guy. It was a couple years ago or year and a half ago. I would have never dreamed of this individual doing this. Never. And --

NOBLES: Well, I guess that's part of what makes it so remarkable, right?


JUNKA (ph): We really got to start looking at mental illness. And something -- he even said it himself, he's broken.


JUNKA (ph): How he even got that plane off the ground is astonishing. Horizon has their security. All airlines have their security process. The airport has their processes. There's cameras. I mean, you are monitored the whole time when you're there. OK? So how this guy was able to even get the plane off the ground is astonishing. We're all going to be looking at this. It's a learning lesson. Thank god nobody was injured. Except for him.


NOBLES: CNN's aviation and government regulation correspondent, Rene Marsh, joins us now.

Excellent point that Nick made there. It is remarkable that the person that stole this airplane ended up being the only person who died in this crash. What are you learning about the investigation?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION & GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, he asked the crucial question that so many people are asking now, how. The FBI's asking that question. The NTSB's asking that question. The airport and the airline. All of them want to try to figure out how can we prevent this from happening again.

So we will start off by saying this is a criminal investigation. Although it involves an aircraft, the FBI's taking the lead here. We know that, you know, audio that you just heard there of him talking back and forth with air traffic control, that's going to be of interest to them because that is his last conversation before the plane went down. They're going to want to scrub his social media accounts as well because it remains unknown, even though the sheriff's department says this man was suicidal, was there one incident that triggered him to do what we saw him do there. The NTSB, we do know, just a short time ago, they gave a briefing.

They're on the ground there. They've been on the ground there since yesterday. The big issue is that island where the plane crashed. There's a lot of heavy brush. So he needs to be able to make his way to the wreckage. The plane basically in really bad shape. It's fragmented. The wings are off. The fuselage essentially upside down.

But the key for them is going to be getting the recorders. Because the recorders will have a piece of data potentially if he was talking to someone or even himself before he did what he did, that cockpit voice recorder would pick that up. And so that would be one more data point for investigators as they try to piece together this big picture and a time line of how he pulled this off.

NOBLES: I think, you know, I don't know if we made this point clear enough. This isn't as though he was taking off from some small municipal airport. You know the Seattle airport pretty well. It is incredibly busy. The idea he could get into the plane, get out on to the runway and take off. There are so many possible things that could have gone wrong with this situation.

[13:05:16] MARSH: You're right. I mean, this is a major airport. Such a busy airport, SeaTac. It was bright out. So he pulls this off, broad daylight. I would have to guess, he was ignoring instructions from the ground crew and air traffic control. Because any aircraft that makes it onto any active runway has to first get clearance from air traffic control. I took flight lessons and the first thing you do before you go onto a specific runway, you call air traffic control, is it clear for you to do this, and they give you the go ahead. Same thing for taking off, you need that clearance from air traffic control. I would have to guess they knew relatively quickly that something wasn't quite right with this aircraft.

But, yes, that is the outstanding questioning. How did he make it onto the active runway and take off and he wasn't authorized to do so? That will be something that the airline and the airports are really going to want to put their heads together to figure out how can we prevent this from happening again. But I will say, this is a tough one. This is someone who had the access. He is what you considered a trusted individual, a trusted airport worker.

NOBLES: He must have known something about how to fly a plane because he obviously knew the lingo, he knew where to go to get the plane off the ground. We don't know his identity yet but we're going to learn a lot more about what was going on here.

Rene Marsh, thank you for your reporting as always.

MARSH: Sure.

NOBLES: Thank you.

I want to bring in now Bryan Sichley. He was watching the sunset when he actually saw the plane crash. He's on the phone now to talk to us more about his experience.

Bryan, thank you for joining me.

Just describe the moment for us. You must have not really been completely clear as to what you were seeing when you saw this plane crash.

BRYAN SICHLEY, WITNESS (via telephone): Yes, that's correct. I was there witnessing the sunset and upon walking back to our vehicle, I looked to my left and the plane was passing over our head. He was just pulling back up after a barrel roll. And he was only -- not very -- he wasn't very high in the air. He was close to the ground. And he made a right bank south, full throttle. I can tell he was powering the plane to pull out of the barrel roll. I could hear the fighter jets. When I looked up, I was -- it was so surreal, I didn't know what was going on. At that point, I was able to notice it was a civilian aircraft, two prop. As I watched him, he headed south. The fighter jets were maneuvering him away from land. And he continues to circle around and do erratic flying above Stella Com and the island. And when I looked over, it just nose-dived and there was a large fireball. I didn't know what to think of that moment.

NOBLES: Did you initially think perhaps this was something planned, it was an air show? The fighter jets maybe might have made you think that was even more planned? Or did you know right away there was something wrong here?

SICHLEY: Well, I know that there's a local base, Lewis McChord, is nearby and the fighters were in the area so I thought maybe there was some kind of training going on or something like that. But I have flown on these small aircrafts like that before. And when he pulled up full throttle and banked very low to the ground, I knew at that point something was not right. So that's why I continued to watch, wondering, what is happening, what is going on around us.

NOBLES: Were you worried there was more than just the pilot on that plane? As you mentioned, you recognized it as being a commercial airliner. Were you fearful there were more people aboard that plane?

SICHLEY: Yes, that was one of the questions that the person I was with, Abby, I looked at her and I was wondering, is there people on that aircraft? That did come to mind, yes.

NOBLES: After experiencing this and seeing -- I don't want to use the word easy -- but seeing how this person was able to pull this off, what concerns does it raise for you? Do you think this blind spot needs to be taken care of at airlines across the country?

SICHLEY: At that very moment, I don't know if I was thinking that in my mind. I was thinking what is taking place right now. But as everything started to unfold, I started to think about, how could someone gain access definitely to an aircraft like that and be able to maneuver around to a highly populated area. I thought maybe it might have been hijacked or -- I really didn't know what to think. I was pretty uneasy at the moment. Wondering what was going on.

[13:10:04] NOBLES: And then when you saw the plane go down, how quickly do you see the plume of smoke? Did you know right away it was an unfortunate end in this situation?

SICHLEY: Yes, it was immediately. He did a couple small maneuvers erratically around the island. Turning up the sky. Then pointing down to the ocean. But at the very end, he nose-dived directly into the island. The fireball was very large into the sky.

NOBLES: Were you ever concerned at all for your own safety, perhaps that he was going to put this into a more populated area, perhaps where you were?

SICHLEY: Yes, when he did the barrel roll over the ocean right next to Chambers Bay, obviously -- I don't know if he was an experienced pilot or not, but unbelievably pulling it off. I don't know what was going on in this man's mind. He almost hit Chambers Bay and that's when he banked at full throttle and the jets were just flying around him, trying to get him away from the populated area. I thought he was going to hit right where all the people were in Chambers watching the sunset.

NOBLES: Incredible.

Bryan, thank you so much. We appreciate you sharing your story with us. We're glad you're safe. Thanks so much for being on.

SICHLEY: Absolutely. You're welcome.

NOBLES: Still ahead, New York Representative Chris Collins is suspending his re-election campaign after facing charges this week related to insider trading. What that means for the Republican Party and the balance of power in the House, next.

Plus, a state of emergency in effect in Virginia today. Law enforcement in Charlottesville taking no chances after last year's deadly protests. We are back in a moment.


[13:15:51] NOBLES: Breaking news on the future of indicted Congressman Chris Collins. The New York Republican announced he's suspending his campaign for re-election just days after he was charged with insider trading and is facing up to 150 years in prison if convicted.

CNN national correspondent, Athena jones, is following the latest developments.

Athena, what do we know?

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ryan. We know that as of this morning, Representative Collins has announced he is suspending his campaign for re-election. He will not be running. He will fill out the remainder of his term.

Here's part of the statement he put out. He said, "After extensive discussions with my family and friends over the last few days, I've decided it is in the best interest of the constituents of New York 27, the Republican Party, and President Trump's agenda for me to suspend my campaign for re-election to Congress."

As I mentioned, he is still going to fill out the remainder of his term. And this latest announcement comes just a few days after he insists, not only on his innocent, not only that he's not guilty, but that he was going to fight these charges, which he calls meritless. Now it's clear, under some pressure, he has decided to step aside -- Ryan?

NOBLES: And, Athena, we do have some reporting that officials there in New York will likely nominate Collins for a town clerkship. This is because New York has strict rules as it relates to removing someone from the ballot. This would allow him to vacate and have his name removed. How would he be replaced after that?

JONES: That's right. According to a GOP operative, it looks as though they're going to nominate him for this. According to the state board of elections, the party leaders in his district, New York 27, would meet to select a substitution. They would vote. The bottom line is the GOP in that area would be able to select someone to replace him. We already have heard from an executive at Erie County, the comptroller of Erie County, a Republican, who says he wants to run for the seat.

As you mentioned, New York 27 has been a reliably Republican district for the last several cycles. So it appears that they would be able to save this district if it remains reliably red. We also know that the Democrat running is trying to make hay out of this. He has been raising money in the days since Representative Collins indictment.

We've also now heard from Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic minority leader, and she said, "This insufficient and overdue announcement does little to drain the toxic cesspool of self-enrichment, special- interest deals, and corruption that has proliferated in Washington under GOP control."

So it looks as though even if they're able to replace Collins on the ballot with a strong GOP contender, the Democrats are going to try to paint Republicans as ethically challenged, in this case, legally challenged, and sort of paint the party with a broad picture and say it's time to get Democrats in -- Ryan?

NOBLES: Reliably red seat going all the way back to Jack Kemp. Republicans desperately want to hold on to this. But certainly in peril as of this point.

Athena Jones, thank you for your reporting.

Let's discuss the impact of Congressman Chris Collins suspending his re-election campaign.

Joining me now, CNN political analyst, Julian Zelizer.

Julian, obviously the Republicans are concerned about a possible blue wave this November. How might this decision by Collins to suspend his campaign impact Republicans' chances to hang on to the House? Is it just about this particular district? Or could there be ripple effects across the country?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's bigger than the district. Obviously the district has now shifted from solidly red to competitive and every seat matters. But this allows Democrats to build a campaign against political corruption. They will connect the dots between this candidate, this incumbent, between stories from the Trump administration, and do what the Democrats did in 2006 when they beat Republicans then, which is to create a story about the ethical problems of the incumbent party. So that's how this hurts at a national level.

NOBLES: And of course, President Trump won Collins' district by about 24 points back in 2016. He was, of course, the first member of Congress to endorse President Trump. Is it realistic for Democrats to think they can take this seat? Is it possible at this point?

[13:20:06] ZELIZER: It's difficult. So the flip side of the story is Democrats shouldn't be overly enthusiastic that they're about to pick up a seat. This is a solidly red area. Republicans are going to, you know, continue to paint the Democratic candidate as left of center, and that could be effective. But that said, it is competitive now. It's up for grabs. And we saw in Ohio that these districts are no longer solid in the age of Trump. So I don't think Republicans can take it for granted that this will just remain Republican if they can replace Collins quickly.

NOBLES: And at the very least, it creates another competitive district that draws away resources from other districts across the country where you need to raise money, right? It just makes that job of maintaining the majority in the House that much more difficult.

ZELIZER: That's exactly right. Parties don't have unlimited resources, either financial or human power. And so every time you open up a new hole in the wall, you have to stop it, you have to plug it. And that's what the Republicans are going to have to do with this district, which means you have to take resources away from another competitive race. And that's the kind of playing field the Democrats are hoping allows a blue wave to actually take place.

NOBLES: So Republicans are actively trying to get Chris Collins off the ballot, not an easy job in New York, but something they should be able to pull off. But we should keep in mind that, you know, Republicans often run -- or not just Republicans, but candidates run on more than one line in New York State. That's something you're allowed to do under election law there.

We're only three months away. What happens if they can't get him off the ballot? If he's still on there in some form or fashion and possibly wins? Do Republicans then have another problem to deal with after the fact?

ZELIZER: Sure. He becomes a poster boy of the Democrats of what the Republicans are all about, you know, you potentially have a convicted person in office. And so, again, that's a theme that Democrats are hitting away at. I think Republicans, as has become clear this weekend, really would like him gone. And they'd like the risk of a competitive seat, rather than having the baggage of Collins. And I think right now the party after last week's special elections does not feel that they could afford yet another story like this. But that said, he might still be on the ticket. And he might be the Republicans to keep for the short term.

NOBLES: Julian, it's not as though Republicans have the exclusive right to scandal, right?


NOBLES: There are certainly Democrats dealing with this. The best example being Robert Menendez, the Senator from New Jersey, who ended up beating that charge, and is also running for re-election.

I mean, is it difficult or could it be risky for Democrats to use corruption as a campaign tool? Because perhaps that could blow back on them to a certain degree? And with some of their candidates?

ZELIZER: Sure. That's always a risk. And especially when there's a lot of anger about Washington in general. That could, you know -- that anger can turn around against Democratic incumbents as well. But let's remember, Republicans are the party in power. So often voters will put more of the blame on the party in power with these kinds of stories. And of course, there's President Trump, who consumes a lot of the air waves, and these kinds of stories have also surrounded his administration. So I think there's a way in which Democrats probably could leverage this, even with a Menendez-type story, and keep the focus on the GOP.

NOBLES: What about President Trump in all this? Does he need to say something it? It's not as if Collins was some rank-and-file Republican member. This was his most early and vocal supporter. In many ways, opened up the floodgates, making it open for Republicans in Congress to back Donald Trump when it seemed as though they were doing everything they could to stay away from him. What role does the president play in all of this?

ZELIZER: Well, you know, the story could be a little bit like Manafort. Who did the president surround himself with? And what does that say about the kind of leader he is and the kind of judgment calls that he makes? So there's space for the president to say, if these allegations are true, if this is all true, this is not who we want on our party team. But I don't expect to hear that from the president. Rather, I expect the president to question the legitimacy of the charges, which is his status quo.

But you're right, this isn't simply a rank-and-file Republican in the world of President Trump. This was a very, very close ally and an important point of connection between the congressional Republicans and the president.

NOBLES: Someone who remained a trusted adviser because of that well into the beginning of the Trump administration.

All right, Julian Zelizer, thank you, as always, for your expertise. We appreciate it. ZELIZER: Thanks for having me.

[13:24:42] NOBLES: Charlottesville, Virginia, on edge today, one year after white nationalists clashed with counter protesters in deadly riots that stunned America. Today, the president is condemning racism and calling for calm. As the same, white supremacists plan to hold a rally next to the White House this weekend. We have a live report coming up.


[13:29:32] NOBLES: Charlottesville, Virginia, on edge today, one year after a white nationalist rally turned violent and deadly. Just moments ago, members of Antifa began marching. Last year, the anti- fascist group clashed and fought with white supremacists while they held a rally protesting the removal of a Confederate statue.

[13:30:00] This morning, the president is calling for calm. Tweeting, quote, "The riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division. We must come together as a nation. I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to all Americans."

The state of emergency is in effect in Virginia. Law enforcement in Charlottesville taking no chances after being criticized last year for being unprepared. In a show of force, police are already patrolling the streets on this anniversary.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung is in Charlottesville for us.

Kaylee, you've been there all morning. It seems like it's been quiet. What's the latest?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It has, Ryan. That demonstration you saw by the anti-fascist group, the first organized demonstration of any sort that we've seen from protesters of any ideology. A few minutes ago, that group left through this point. This is one of the two entry points allowing people inside the secure perimeter of downtown Charlottesville. It wasn't but 20 minutes before that group entered here, had their bags checked, like everyone else, to ensure no implements of riot are being brought in this perimeter. Then they made a short three-block walk to the intersection of Fourth and Water Streets in downtown Charlottesville. That's where Heather Heyer lost her life.

One woman in this group told me that was their goal today, to come here peacefully to honor Heather Heyer's memory.

The grief process for this community continues. Nobody expected it to be a short process.



HARTUNG (voice-over): Last summer, Charlottesville became a battleground.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN ANCHOR: Clashes have erupted between white supremacists and protesters.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Terror in Virginia. One person is dead.

HARTUNG: One year later, a new team of officials are vowing not to let history repeat itself.

RASHALL BRACKNEY, CHIEF, CHARLOTTESVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT: We have to own that we did not live up to our training, our oath, but we have the opportunity to recover and get it right.

HARTUNG: After a sharply critical report placed blame on the Charlottesville Police Department for its failure to contain the violence and protect the public.

AL THOMAS, FORMER CHIEF, CHARLOTTESVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT: This is not a law enforcement event. This is a public safety endeavor.

HARTUNG: Chief Al Thomas retired. RaShall Brackney took over two months ago.

BRACKNEY: I walked into this position. I did walk in in some ways with my eyes wide open but I didn't realize probably the extent and the breadth and width of what that responsibility would be, because I had not really had the opportunity to hear how hurt this community was and still hadn't healed.

HARTUNG: The first images of hate America saw in Charlottesville came from here. The night before the planned and permitted alt-right rally, white nationalists marched on to the University of Virginia campus with tiki torches. The visual was startling. But that wasn't the worst we'd see.

(on camera): The next morning, violence in this intersection as police looked on just outside the park where General Robert E. Lee's statue stands.


HARTUNG: So-called alt-right activists, chanting racist slogans, carrying guns and Confederate flags, clashed with anti-racist and anti-fascist protesters. Then, the day turned deadly.

(on camera): This street where James Fields Jr allegedly barreled his car into a group of counter protesters, it remains a memorial to Heather Heyer.

(voice-over): Heyer was killed in the attack, 35 others injured. The driver, a Nazi sympathizer, will be tried for murder and federal hate crimes.

There was anger and outrage in reaction not only to the violence but the hateful rhetoric on open display here.

TERRY MCAULIFFE, (D), FORMER VIRGINIA GOVERNOR: I have a message to all the white supremacists and Nazis that came into Charlottesville today. Our message is plain and simple. Go home. You are not wanted in this great commonwealth. Shame on you.

HARTUNG: Then --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Very fine people, on both sides.

HARTUNG: President Trump's refusal to condemn the racist attack and its immediate aftermath further inflamed the national conversation.

(on camera): When you think about the flashpoint that Charlottesville was in this country for the dialogue around race relations, where do you think we are one year later?

BRACKNEY: So I don't know if we, as a city or even as a nation, have had that real honest dialogue about equities, in terms of really moving the needle forward. I'm not sure that we've actually instituted policies, procedures or even support that could help move the conversation beyond the conversation.

HARTUNG: And so the conversation continues this weekend. As the second Unite the Right rally organizes in the nation's capital.

Here in Charlottesville, the focus will be on continued healing.

Chief Brackney says the city has an all-encompassing plan for whatever or whoever the weekend may bring.


HARTUNG: The police presence in downtown Charlottesville, a poignant reminder of what this city experience ad a year ago. So many people in this community, Ryan, making a point of coming out to the downtown mall today to support the businesses inside this secure perimeter and also to support each other as they all work to continue to heal.

[13:35:09] NOBLES: All right, Kaylee Hartung, live for us in Charlottesville. Kaylee, thank you for that report.

Still ahead, disturbing new information coming from the sheriff at that New Mexico compound where 11 emaciated children were rescued. We'll have new details next.

A quick programming note. Make sure you catch an all-new "THE 2000s."


DAVID AXELROD, CNN CONTRIBUTOR & CNN HOST, "THE AXE FILES": We were as far as 30 points behind in the national polls. And our view was if we didn't win the first primary in Iowa, there would be no chance to win the nomination. And so he spent more than 80 days there in 2007, meaning one on one and in small groups. BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Are any of these

people over 30?


HILLARY CLINTON, (D), FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE & FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm on my way to Mason City, Sioux City, and then to Council Bluff and then out and around.


OBAMA: How many people are going canvassing today?


OBAMA: It's a little brisk outside. It will be good for you. Walk quick. Talk fast.


CLINTON: It's time that we moved from sound bites to sound solutions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to continue to press, keep the energy up. There's a huge momentum.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tomorrow night, the future of the free world is riding on your shoulders.


BILL CLINTON: Don't feel any pressure.



NOBLES: An all-new "THE 2000s" airs tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. right here on CNN.


[13:41:05] NOBLES: We're learning new details about the compound in New Mexico where 11 emaciated children were rescued earlier this week. The sheriff now calling the members of that compound Muslim extremists.

CNN correspondent, Scott McLane, spoke to the sheriff in New Mexico. Scott joins us live.

Scott, what else are you learning?

SCOTT MCLANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Ryan. We got a lot of new information out of this interview. First, this compound was heavily armed, seven guns found in total. Five by the sheriff's office and two by the homeowner who later found them in the back of a box truck. The sheriff says there's no indication at this point any of the guns were purchased illegally.

We also learned the body of a young child that has yet to be identified was found amongst -- inside of a tunnel, buried under human waste. He said the first time the sheriff deputies went through that area, they actually missed it. He said, in fact, a police dog also missed it.

Also, Ryan, there's been a lot made in this story about the potential for religious extremists. Specifically, that some of these children were being trained for -- to carry out future school shootings. Well, that information initially was put in the criminal complaint, secondhand, from a foster parent. But the sheriff now says that the FBI has it from two of the children, a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old.

But at the time that the sheriff made that statement, calling these people extremists of the Muslim faith, well, he didn't know that. He just knew that they happened to be Muslim. And I pressed him on why that was relevant to put into his initial statement. Listen.


JERRY HOGREFE, SHERIFF, TAOS COUNTY SHERIFFS OFFICE: Everyone knows what an extremist is. Somebody who fits the profile of what was going on up there, armed, their beliefs, so forth. Of their Muslim belief, that's what they are. That's very obvious. You can look at their mug shots, their pictures, their dress, their attire. They fit that profile. That was not meant to be a derogatory statement towards any race or any religion. But they are extremists, and they are of the Muslim belief.


MCLANE: OK, just to be clear, Ryan, he said that there was no implication in that initial statement that these people were violent. But he decided to include it in his statement anyways.

There's also been a lot of controversy over whether or not deputies maybe could have gone into this compound earlier. The property owners actually alerted police earlier this year, earlier in the spring, around April, maybe May, that they've spotted this young missing boy, a 3-year-old named Abdul Ghani Wahhaj, and his father, a fugitive wanted in Georgia. They said they saw him in January and then against in February, and they took that information to law enforcement. The sheriff says that information never made it to his desk.

Also, Ryan, the sheriff's deputy showed up on that property and saw the conditions for himself, but the sheriff says he never saw any children so no action was taken. But the FBI had been surveilling that property and the FBI did see children. And when I tried to get some clarification on what seemed like a contradiction, the sheriff walked out of the interview -- Ryan?

NOBLES: I mean, Scott, it seems like many people are wondering how this could have gone unnoticed for so long. Is it because it's such a wide swath of area? Or, to your point, is it just negligence on the point of law enforcement in this area?

MCLANE: Well, that's certainly up for debate. I can tell you, Ryan, this is an extremely remote area. Everyone out there lives off the grid. Most of them have to haul in water because you can't dig a well deep enough. This is really scrubland in the middle of northern New Mexico, not far from the Colorado state line.

But, look, neighbors in that area, the property owners, say that they had gone to the police to report the sighting of this child and that nothing was done. And so from their perspective, they had reported this. There was no reason why law enforcement shouldn't have moved in.

The sheriff, though, says there were legal barriers that would have prevented him from going on the property, even though those people had no legal right to it, they were only squatting on it. He says the information was never portrayed to him that that missing child was there, and that the FBI never saw that child either, and that's why he says deputies never moved in.

[13:45:27] NOBLES: Still a lot to learn about this very tragic situation.

Scott McLane, live for us in New Mexico. Scott, thank you for that report.

Still ahead, investigators right now combing through wreckage in Washington State, trying to figure out how a man stole an empty passenger plane, taking it on a deadly joy ride.


[13:50:10] NOBLES: Let's get back now to breaking news out of Seattle where an airline employee stole a passenger jet, flew it out for an hour and even doing stunts, and talking with the control tower as he flew. As armed military fighter jets behind, the 29-yeawr-old ground service agent crashed the plane in a remote area south of the city, killing himself. The NTSB is preparing for recovery operations for the flight's recorders. Alaska Airlines will hold a news conference at the top of the hour. We're going to bring that to you live as it happens.

Meanwhile, Mary Schiavo is a CNN transportation analyst, a former inspection general at the Department of Transportation. She joins me to talk more about this.

Mary, not to put too fine of a point on this tragedy, but simply, how could this have happened?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN TRANSPORTATION ANALYST: You know, failures in security and access control is probably the foremost thing that comes to mind. Each airline has to develop its own security program. The federal regulations, both FAA regulations and TSA regulations, say the airline has to have a security program so unauthorized people cannot get access to the flight controls or flight deck, and to the aircraft and cannot perform unauthorized functions. First and foremost, it will be a failure of the airline security program. And each airline is different. They propose their own and then the government approves or accepts it. So they have to review their own program to see how they can improve it.

NOBLES: From what you've seen so far, do you think this is an isolated incident or did this man expose a critical security loophole in airport across the country?

SCHIAVO: Yes, he's drawn an attention to a security loophole across the country. Similar situations, not exactly like this, have happened before. People might remember the case, I think called the barefoot bandit. A young man who stole five planes across the country. By the way, an odd coincidence, he was prosecuted and sentenced in Seattle. And he stole planes, but they were private planes. And then there was a situation in, I think it was Botswana, where a pilot took a plane unauthorized and crashed it into the airline's other planes, leaving them with just one airplane. It's happened before but not had attention drawn to it in the United States.

NOBLES: Mary, I want to listen to a small portion of the conversation between the control tower and the man flying the plane. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED AIRLINE EMPLOYEE: I feel like one of my engines is going out or something.

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: OK, Rich, if you could, you just want to keep that plane right over the water, maybe keep the aircraft nice and low.


NOBLES: A lot of us are remarkably amazed by how calm the air traffic controller appears in this conversation. Are they trained for this exact situation? Because he seemed amazingly composed.

SCHIAVO: Yes, and certainly, some are better than others, but they have training. They've had talk down small planes where, for example, only one pilot and someone who's not a pilot then has to try to get the plane on the ground. They encourage, you know, the controllers to have this training so they can do that, to talk people down, and they have to be calm in situations like this. But a lot of times, it's not a situation like this. It's an emergency situation where the plane is in trouble and they have to talk people down and get them down. And so they're doing what they're trained to do, and this person sounded amazingly good at it.

NOBLES: Definitely.

Let's talk more about the groundworker now who's at the center of all of this and what protocols he'd have to go through in order to get the credentials necessary to get the point to have access to that airplane. Does he have to go through some mental health screening, criminal background checks? And is his level of access different than the flight crew itself, someone who is supposed to be in the cockpit?

SCHIAVO: Technically, his access is different, but it depends on literally how you carry out your operations. Yes, federal, again, federal law requires the airline to have a program to have a criminal background check, an employment history check, make sure there are no gaps in the employment history that can't be explained. You have to prove who you are, so you have to have identity and you go through a fingerprint check. But for non-pilots, for people working at the airport, there isn't a mental health check. Pilots jump that hurdle by having to have a medical. Mental check if you're a commercial pilot. And on there, they cover questions of mental stability and if you're taking any kind of depression drugs or mental drugs or things that might impair your judgment. So that is how you get those checks for the pilots. But once they do that and if that's what their program requires for security for the airline and the federal government has accepted their security program, that's what's required. So, no, they wouldn't have put him through psychological testing.

[13:55:18] NOBLES: Excellent information.

Mary Schiavo, thank you so much.

We'll remind you there is a press conference scheduled at the top of the hour from Alaska Airlines to address this particular topic. And we will bring it to you live when it happens.

We have much more on the breaking news ahead in the NEWSROOM. That's right after this quick break.


[14:00:05] NOBLES: Hello and thank you for joining me. I'm Ryan Nobles, in today for Fredricka Whitfield.

And we are covering the breaking news out of Seattle. An empty commercial airplane stolen by an air --