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Gunman Kills Four People At Ohio Nightclub

Aired December 9, 2004 - 07:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Players and fans, 10 in all charged with assault in the basket brawl. Now how much of it will stick?
In Ohio, last night...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He came on stage and just started shooting people. I mean, we -- every -- a lot of people thought it was, you know, just a hoax.


O'BRIEN: A gunman rushes the stage in a crowded nightclub, shooting members of a heavy metal band.

A life-saving mission goes wrong in the icy waters off Alaska. Now trying to rescue the rescuers.

And will Scott Peterson live or die after his mother's dramatic testimony? Now the final arguments on this AMERICAN MORNING.

ANNOUNCER: From the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, this is AMERICAN MORNING with Soledad O'Brien and Bill Hemmer.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning everybody. 07:00 here in New York City. Good to have you along with us.

Good morning to you, as well.

O'BRIEN: Good morning.

HEMMER: We are watching this NBA fight and what was shaking down yesterday -- in Detroit last month, now headed for the courts.

Oakland County prosecutor, David Gorcyca laying out his case for charging fans and players with assault and battery. We had chance to speak to him a few moments ago -- Soledad did -- about what he expects to happen now.

We'll have that for you in a few moments. Interesting stuff again today.

O'BRIEN: Yes, charges flying I think is fair to say.

Also this morning, you know, there's nothing like blowing things up to keep a family together. A little later this morning, we're going to meet a member of the Loizeaux family. They're known the world over for demolishing buildings and bridges. Now they're TV stars, too.

We're going to talk about that and their passion for destruction.

HEMMER: Also, Jack Cafferty, good morning. Blowing things up on a daily basis round here.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, occasionally -- some explosions bigger than others.

Freedom of the press under assault by the courts, a couple of high profile journalists are being threatened with jail time for saying, no thank you, to a grand jury subpoena. We'll take a look.

O'BRIEN: Jack, thanks.

HEMMER: All right, Jack.

O'BRIEN: Let's get right to Heidi with the headlines this morning. Good morning.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you guys, and good morning, everyone.

Now in the news.

The landmark 9/11 intelligence bill on its way now to President Bush's desk. The Senate easily passed the measure late yesterday. The bill is described as the biggest overhaul of the U.S. intelligence network since the CIA was set up more than half a century ago.

In California, closing arguments set to begin in just a few hours in the penalty phase of Scott Peterson's murder trial. Jurors could begin deliberating as early as today on whether to sentence Peterson to death or life in prison for the deaths of his wife, Laci, and their unborn son.

Yesterday, Peterson's mother asked the jury to spare her son's life.

Entertainer Dick Clark is recovering from a mild stroke. The 75- year-old American Bandstand icon was hospitalized Monday in Los Angeles. Clark says he expects he'll get better in time to drop in at New York's Times Square to host his 33rd New Year's "Rockin' Eve Show."

It may be a small hint of what the future holds in store for the artist Usher. The 26-year-old singer celebrating this morning after sweeping the billboard music awards last night.

He picked up 11 trophies in total, including a win for artist of the year and R & B-hip hop album of the year. Usher performed during last night's show, as you see here. He is also nominated for eight Grammys. Other billboard winners, though, include Kanye West, Alicia Keys and Stevie Wonder, who got the century award for creative achievement. So, good for all of them.

Soledad, back to you.

O'BRIEN: He's got some tough competition ahead.

COLLINS: That's for sure.

O'BRIEN: We'll see. All right, Heidi, thanks.

Twelve people are facing charges in that ugly basket brawl in Detroit. The fight broke out when Indiana Pacers player, Ron Artest, was hit with a cup of liquid. He charged into the stands and fists, drinks and even a chair flew.

Players, Ron Artest, David Harrison, Stephen Jackson, Anthony Johnson all charged with one count of assault and battery. Jermaine O'Neal got two counts. And five fans are also charged with assault and battery, as well.

One fan also received a more serious charge of felony assault for throwing a chair. Two more fans are accused of walking on to the court.

Misdemeanor assault carries a maximum penalty of 93 days in jail or a $500 fine. The felony charge could mean up to four years jail. The prosecutor, though, doesn't expect any first time offenders to end up in jail.

David Gorcyca is the prosecutor who's bringing those charges. He spoke to us from Pontiac, Michigan about what the players and the fans now face.


DAVID GORCYCA, OAKLAND COUNTY PROSECUTOR: These are 93-day misdemeanors in the state of Michigan.

John Green is on probation currently for drunk driving, third offense. He could face -- that's a five-year felony -- he could face the tail of that or upwards of four additional years as well as 93 days for each count of assault and battery.

Mr. Brian Jackson, who threw the chair, also has three, prior felony convictions. He's charged with a four year felony. Because of those prior felony convictions, he could be subjected to not jail time but state prison time.

O'BRIEN: Is that something that you would pursue, that you would like to actually see them, because of their prior records, get even more time?

GORCYCA: I think Mr. Green probably should be held accountable for his actions. I think his throwing of the cup precipitated this whole incident. I think he should be held accountable.

Without that cup having been thrown, I doubt there's any plan -- excuse me -- fan-player interaction and confrontation. I also think that Mr. Bryant throwing the chair could have caused some very serious injury.

We're lucky that no one suffered any broken bones or even received stitches. But those two individuals probably were the most culpable.

I'm not justifying any player reaction, either, but those two should be held accountable.

O'BRIEN: As you well know, John Green made the talk show rounds where he talked about what happened. He never actually admitted, from what I can find, that he threw the cup.

Did he admit it to your office that he was actually the guy responsible?

GORCYCA: No. And I have seen some of those -- video footage of his conversing with some other shows. He has yet to admit it, but the video speaks for itself.

The video that I aired yesterday clearly shows him standing up and underhandedly throwing the cup and striking Artest in the chest and neck area. If he doesn't do that, I don't think we're here today talking about any of this.

O'BRIEN: Ron Artest -- also there is videotape showing him punching a fan. Really just clocking the guy, who walked out on to the court. And he didn't get a charge for that. I was surprised by that. Why not?

GORCYCA: Yes, well we tried to exercise some discretion here and looked at each scenario, whether or not they were acting in self- defense or defense of others.

If you see the individuals there coming on to the court, one guy, Shackelford comes on. He's already got his fist clenched. He's trespassing on to the court. And he's coming at him in a menacing fashion and then some words are exchanged.

In my opinion, Ron Artest, in that isolated scenario was acting in self-defense and, therefore, I did not charge him. However, Johnson and, I believe, Jackson who came in afterwards and struck those two individuals, they were not acting in self-defense. And they used unreasonable force, so they were charged.

So, I was trying to be very judicious when we were reviewing every incident to determine whether a state law was violated.

O'BRIEN: You charged a fan, too, who poured what appeared to be beer on some of the players as they were walking out. Some people say that's not assault. Is it? GORCYCA: Well, typically lay people will envision an assault and battery as someone striking someone with a fist, however, defined in the state of Michigan any offensive touching.

In one case, also, spitting at someone in the face would constitute a battery. So in my opinion, it's very analogous to taking the cup of beer or water and throwing it at the face.

So I analogized the case law to the cup throwing and the beer throwing incident to a battery, since it's an offensive touching.

O'BRIEN: You -- I think...

GORCYCA: And I should say...


GORCYCA: ... if -- the dove tail on that, if you look at all of the fighting and the melee that occurred, every time a cup is thrown, no matter what liquid substance it was, the whole situation escalated and more fan and player reaction ensued as a result of that.

If you look at Paulson when he whitewashed Artest, you had O'Neal and Jackson come around, he got struck. What occurred in the player tunnel when beer was being thrown.

Then Harrison comes in and strikes, I believe his name is Ackerman. You know, if that doesn't happen, I don't think we have a lot of these other scenarios where other assaults ensue.

O'BRIEN: Could you have brought all these charges if you didn't have all this great videotape of this fight?

GORCYCA: It would have been very, very difficult to piecemeal this together by witness accounts because it was utter pandemonium and chaos. And to go back and interview people and piecemeal this and have them be able to identify who struck who would have been virtually impossible.


O'BRIEN: Gorcyca, the Oakland County prosecutor, talking with us a little bit earlier this morning.

Coming up on our next half hour and throughout our broadcast this morning, we'll talk with some of the fans who are charged and their lawyers -- Bill?

HEMMER: All right, Soledad.

From Ohio now, at least five are dead after a man opened fire at a nightclub last night. Police say the gunman was targeting the band playing, Damageplan, playing in Columbus at the time.

He climbed onto the stage, fired point blank at a guitarist, Dimebag Darrell Abbott. Abbott helped found the '90s metal band, Pantera.

The shooter also turned on the crowd before he was then shot dead by a police officer. Here's one eyewitness there in Columbus, now.


CALVIN BOTA, SHOOTING EYEWITNESS: Somebody came -- I don't know where they came from, out of the audience or whatnot. But they come onto stage, and then basically he shot the guitarist at first.

He fired a couple other shots. And then he hid behind stage a little bit.

And then everybody started scattering, you know, there was mayhem everywhere.


HEMMER: The club is the Alrosa Villa nightclub in Columbus. And Sergeant Brent Mull in the Columbus police department my guest now, in Columbus.

And sergeant, thank you for your time. I know it's been a very busy night for you.

The number we have, at least five dead. Is that number holding, at this point?

SGT. BRENT MULL, COLUMBUS POLICE DEPARTMENT: That's correct. Four were victims of the suspect and then our officer, thankfully, was able to get in there in time before he was able to kill anybody else. So, he was the fifth. The suspect was the fifth.

HEMMER: How did that suspect get a gun in that nightclub, sergeant?

MULL: I don't know what their security procedures are. We don't work inside establishments that serve alcohol. However, we will work out in the parking lots at times.

And we've actually worked at this establishment in the parking lots. But tonight we didn't have any officer here. They didn't hire any of our special duty officers.

HEMMER: Witnesses say they saw a man with a hooded sweatshirt walk up to the stage with two club employees. What does that indicate to you, if that's the case, sir?

MULL: Well, we're going to let the investigation show what happened in there. It would be premature for me to go ahead and talk about that right now.

But what we do know is that there was a shooter on stage when the officer arrived. He came through the back of the facility and engaged the suspect at that point.

From what I understand, the suspect was actively shooting when the officer was forced to take him out.

HEMMER: Is it your understanding, sergeant that the gunman knew the employees or possibly knew the bouncer at the club?

MULL: No, I have no indication of that whatsoever.

HEMMER: What are you hearing about the gunman going straight for the guitarist? Do you know if he knew members of the band or what his motivation was?

MULL: Well, I can tell you that, that it appears that he did target the band and that he may have had some kind of relationship with the members in the band at one time. But at this point, we're still confirming most of that ourselves.

Again, remember, we had over 250 people in that facility that we had to interview. And they're also victims. So we wanted to take care of them and make sure that we've got their statement. So that took some time.

So, this is still early on, actually in our investigation. And it's still a fluid investigation.

HEMMER: Also, sergeant, do you know if this gunman, was he saying anything at the time? Did you get any reports on that?

MULL: No, from what I understand, the band went on 10:15. By 10:18 our first call came in to our radio room that we had a shooter. So I would assume that we couldn't -- that you couldn't hear any, anything verbal from the suspect.

HEMMER: It's also my understanding an officer was nearby who responded, fired one shot. How nearby was he at that point?

MULL: His response time was less than two minutes, I believe. And I think they were thankful that he did what he did and how he did it, or we'd have probably numerous more deaths.

HEMMER: Good luck to you, sergeant. Brent Mull with the Columbus...

MULL: Thank you.

HEMMER: ... police department there in Columbus, Ohio -- Soledad?

O'BRIEN: A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter on a rescue mission crashed last night, and the disabled freighter it was evacuating split in two. The crash off of Alaska's Aleutian Islands capped a two day effort to try to save that cargo ship.

Four people were pulled from the icy Bering Sea by a second chopper. Six others, though, are still missing. The freighter was loaded with 500,000 gallons of fuel and could obviously pose a big risk to wildlife there.

HEMMER: About 13 minutes, now, past the hour. A check of the weather. Rob Marciano is in for Chad Myers.

It's nice in the Northeast, Rob. Can you keep this thing going for us a little while longer?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: A little while -- a little while longer, buddy. You got it. But come later on tonight and tomorrow, it will be a different story.


MARCIANO: That's the latest from here. Rain heading your way later on tonight.

HEMMER: Well, we can wait for that. Thank you, Rob.

O'BRIEN: Yes, we can.

MARCIANO: See you guys.

HEMMER: In a moment here, an explosive family business. Meet the head of a demolition dynasty and find out how it all started with a chimney.

We'll get to that.

O'BRIEN: Also, tough questions for the secretary of defense. U.S. troops having to sift through garbage for scraps of armor to try to protect themselves.

Just how is the Pentagon responding today?

HEMMER: Also today, more on Jackie Peterson's plea for her son, Scott's, life. The jury's reaction may have signaled whether or not that was well received.

We'll talk about it with Dean Johnson after this on AMERICAN MORNING.


HEMMER: Seventeen past the hour now.

The Scott Peterson jury expected to begin deliberating today after closing arguments in the trial's penalty phase. Yesterday Peterson's mother pleaded with jurors to spare her son's life.

Former San Mateo County prosecutor, Dean Johnson, now live in Redwood City, California, back with us here.

And Dean, thanks for your time, again. And good morning to you.


HEMMER: This is part of what Jackie said, yesterday.

"If you were to take Scott away from us, we would lose a whole family."

She continued a bit later, "He is an exceptional young man, and he's my son. I know he's not perfect, but he is genuinely a loving, caring, nurturing, kind, gentle person."

Was her testimony successful, Dean?

JOHNSON: I don't think so. In fact, it read more like just more of the same. We have heard from the Peterson family over and over again about Scott Peterson, the perfect little boy, the perfect son, the rescuer of dogs, the person who helps the elderly.

Jackie Peterson did turn to this jury and say, please consider that in your decision. But, unfortunately, there were many, many dry eyes in the house.

We saw one juror briefly wipe her eyes, but the other jurors were stone faced.

HEMMER: What was Scott's reaction during this, Dean?

JOHNSON: Scott has been reacting essentially the same all the way through. Occasionally when a poignant memory is mentioned on the stand, he will dab his eyes. But he generally sits there rather impassive, looking sad, as you might expect, but not very emotional.

HEMMER: You alluded to this in your first answer. You gave our producers, last night, an indication that you felt there was a sense of lack of completion when Mark Geragos finished. Explain that to us, this morning.

JOHNSON: Well, you know, after Sharon Rocha's emotional testimony, we expected something similar from Jackie Peterson, begging this jury to spare her son's life.

She turned and she did say in so many words, please spare my son's life, and that was the end. And everyone in the courtroom sort of turned to their neighbor and said, is that it?

And I think the reason for that is that we have a huge hole in the defense case. There really is no explanation of what Scott became after he married Laci, after he moved to Modesto. And we know he became something very different from what the Petersons are telling us about.

HEMMER: So your answer goes back to your point throughout this entire trial that the evidence was weak to defend Scott Peterson?

JOHNSON: That's correct. And there's a huge hole.

You know, the Peterson strategy has been deny, deny, deny, mislead and blame somebody else. At some point, they were even blaming the jury.

But this jury knows that they're not going to take the blame. The losses that Jackie Peterson, Lee Peterson and all of the other people talk about are Scott's fault, and they're going to hold him responsible for them.

HEMMER: Answer the impossible now. Do you believe the jurors have already made up their mind about Scott Peterson?

JOHNSON: You know, we lawyers always like to pretend that we can read jurors' body language. If I were reading these -- this -- jury's body language, I would say that they have made up their mind, and it's not going to be good news for the defense.

But it's very, very hard to tell. You know, this is a difficult case. At times we've seen the jurors lean forward and sort of soften their attitude. This jury now faces a difficult decision.

It's going to come down to closing arguments, and the jurors will have to decide whether they are going to imprison Dr. Jekyll or execute Mr. Hyde.

HEMMER: Dean Johnson, thanks for your time again...

JOHNSON: Thank you, Bill.

HEMMER: ... early there in California -- Soledad?

O'BRIEN: A panel headed by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wants new standards to ensure the privacy of jurors and improve jury service. Among those recommendations, prospective jurors would be told how their person information would be used. And they wouldn't have to answer questions that a judge says are irrelevant.

Courts would not be allowed to release addresses or photos of the jurors. Jurors would be allowed to take notes during the trial and discuss the case. And they would be provided with alternates, written instructions and child care reimbursement.

The proposal is now going to the American Bar Association for review.

Still to come this morning, Martha Stewart might be happy about her new gig when she's out of prison, but are investors as optimistic?

Andy is "Minding Your Business" just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: Martha Stewart's stock rallies on word of her new TV show. And stocks rebounded overall.

Andy Serwer "Minding Your Business" this morning.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Good morning, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Some good news.

SERWER: Yes, exactly. We had a snap-back rally yesterday after Tuesday's triple digit drop.

The Dow was up about 53 points yesterday. You can see here. And the NASDAQ, and the S&P -- wow. Good times are back.

The dollar rallied. That's what sent stocks northward.

Martha Stewart, you know, it's always uncharted waters with Martha Stewart. Yesterday, her company announced a new daytime television program that would start this fall with Martha, starring Martha.

Of course, Martha wasn't there because she's in prison. And, you know, how many times has a convicted felon get to roll out her own television show? I can't think of any other time.

The reality TV show not yet on the table. Of course, this is all Mark Burnett the reality TV show impresario is behind it and so is Susan Lyne, who is the former ABC television head. She is now head of Martha Stewart Omnimedia.

The stock rallied big-time yesterday, up 7 percent. Investors, of course, looking forward to the end of her sentence, which is only three months away. And the stock is up 150 percent this year. It's doubled over the past three months.

Truly an amazing story. I just love it.

O'BRIEN: Nothing like a little prison time to have a good rebound. She's going to come back and reinvent herself.

HEMMER: She's going to be bigger than she ever was before.

SERWER: I'll think so.

HEMMER: All the people who never paid attention to her products before will be now be drifting toward her, as well.

SERWER: Just spell my name right.

HEMMER: Correct.

O'BRIEN: Absolutely.

HEMMER: Thank you, Andy.

SERWER: You're welcome.

CAFFERTY: Maybe she could do an episode on the things she learned how to do while she was in prison.

SERWER: Peeling potatoes, perhaps?

HEMMER: Thanksgiving dinner.

CAFFERTY: That would be one.

SERWER: Yes, that would be -- yes.

CAFFERTY: That would be one. SERWER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: What do you want?

SERWER: We want you, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Aren't you supposed to be in Japan?

HEMMER: Yes, I was supposed to.



CAFFERTY: It's not like you've got a dysfunction or something.

HEMMER: Flight leaves in four and a half hours, by the way.

CAFFERTY: Don't be late.

HEMMER: Counting down.

CAFFERTY: The question is this, should reporters be forced to reveal sources to a grand jury?

A court of appeals trying to force two high profile journalists Judith Miller of the "Times" and Matthew Cooper of "Time" magazine to testify about confidential sources in conjunction with the leaking of a high-profile CIA operative's name to the news media.

They could be jailed for up to 18 months for refusing to comply with that grand jury subpoena. Courts have long ruled that the press is protected from revealing sources in public criminal investigations, but grand jury testimony is supposed to be kept secret.

And the court could, in fact, rule against the press in this case. The question is this, should journalists be compelled to reveal sources to a grand jury?


O'BRIEN: Of course, grand jury testimony leaked probably, what, 80 percent of the time?


O'BRIEN: 90 percent of the time?

SERWER: Right.

O'BRIEN: 99 percent of the time?

CAFFERTY: That's why we put the word supposed to be kept secret in there, because most of the time it's not. It gets out if it's of any overwhelming interest to the public.

O'BRIEN: All right, Jack, thanks.

Still to come this morning, the charges are in for that brutal NBA brawl. We're going to talk to lawyers for the man prosecutors say is the most responsible for that mess.

Plus the art and science of blowing things up. Meet the head of a demolition dynasty a little bit later on AMERICAN MORNING.



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