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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Code Blue at Cleveland School
Aired October 10, 2007 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We begin, though, with a grim picture now developing in Cleveland of an apparently very troubled teenager, Asa Coon, who showed up at school dressed in black with a pistol in each hand. Authorities say he took his own life but not before taking aim and hitting teachers as well as students, wounding four.
Tonight we're going to be looking at school violence in depth. Every time these incidents occur, the same questions get asked. So we went and talked to one former school shooter who is now in prison about what he did and why. We'll have that conversation ahead.
But first, the latest on the attack today and the chilling words that every student learns to dread, "code blue." Those words rang out today in a Cleveland school as a shooter stalked the halls.
SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shortly after 1:00 in the afternoon, SuccessTech Academy was under a code blue alert. The school was under attack from a 14-year-old student. Witnesses say Asa Coon was dressed in black with a gun in each hand when he opened fire, wounding two adults and two students. One of the victims says he was hit in the elbow as he was walking to class.
DARNELL RODGERS, SHOOTING VICTIM: It look took me like a couple of minutes to realize that I was actually shot. When I felt like my arm burning or whatever, that's when I realized that I had got shot.
ROESGEN: But as it is with most shootings, the story did not begin with the gunfire. There were warning signs. Coon had past troubles with the law. The police say he had pleaded guilty last year to domestic violence. And, earlier this week, he was suspended for school for fighting with another student.
Coon apparently talked to one of his friends about his plans to attack the school.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said, if he would shoot up the school, he would let me and some other dude he knew go and all that. But I didn't think he actually meant that. I thought he was just kidding around.
ROESGEN: Cleveland television station WOIO reports that police were at Coon's home Tuesday to arrest his brother, who is on probation for carrying a gun. Shortly after Coon opened fire today, police rushed to the school, getting there at about 15 minutes past 1:00.
Inside, students were still hiding in closets and under desks, many afraid they could be hit next. Parents describe the chaos.
DEBBIE, PARENT: All the kids were upset. They were screaming and yelling because they didn't know what was going on, but they did hear the shots, and they did not know what had happened. All they know is that someone was in the school with a gun.
ROESGEN: Officers surrounded the building, guns drawn, prepared to confront the shooter. But there was no battle. Coon had taken his own life, shooting himself once in the head, apparently after watching the police close in from a classroom window.
MICHAEL MCGRATH, CLEVELAND POLICE CHIEF: That very possibly could be; he could see the police officers showing up, and, at that point, he -- he took his own life.
ROESGEN: The police later found a box of ammunition and three knives near Coon's body.
COOPER: Susan Roesgen joins us live now from the scene now.
Susan, how did he get the guns inside the school? Were there metal detectors?
ROESGEN: Well, you know, Anderson, we found out tonight that this school system has roving metal detectors. Administrators just sort of move these metal detectors around to whichever school they think might need one that particular day or that particular week. And at this school today, there were no metal detectors.
But what the police told us tonight that they do have, Anderson, is videotape taken inside the school by security cameras that they say will show exactly where Asa Coon got into the school and where he moved around, what his path was when he was blasting away.
COOPER: Susan, there's also a remarkable interview I read with one student, Rasheem Smith, 15 years old, who was apparently in the bathroom with Asa Coon as he was removing his slacks. I guess he showed up in one get-up and then went into a bathroom in the school, changed into a Marilyn Manson T-shirt and black pants. But this student actually saw him loading a gun in the bathroom and left the bathroom and didn't tell anybody.
ROESGEN: You know, I read that same blog, Anderson. And we have not been able to confirm it with the police. But apparently that student said that he just didn't feel like telling anybody because he was afraid that he would be shot. Then he said, he went on to the school lunch room, was eating lunch and heard what sounded like a shot but thought maybe it was just a book dropping.
So not quite sure why this student didn't alert someone. But, again, that hasn't yet been confirmed by the Cleveland Police. COOPER: Do we know, too, the full background? And I know reporters are swarming all over this. We are going to talk to one reporter who has been in Asa Coon's neighborhood as well as we are going to talk to the police in just a moment. But do we know much about -- I mean, there were apparently a history of threats in the last several days. Do we know sort of the timeline on that?
ROESGEN: You know, no, we don't know exactly, Anderson. But we do know there was this domestic violence incident and then he was suspended because of a fight on Monday. He was not supposed to be in class today or tomorrow, according to the mayor here in Cleveland.
So apparently this was a troubled kid. What he was doing in class and why somebody didn't say, hey, you're not supposed to be here, what are you doing here, why no one stopped him, we don't know the answer to that yet either.
COOPER: All right. Susan, appreciate your reporting, thanks.
As we mentioned, reporters have been working all day to flesh out the picture of Asa Coon's home life. It does not seem like a very pretty picture, what we have learned this far. In a moment we are going to speak to Matt Stevens of CNN affiliate WOIO in Cleveland. He was in the shooter's neighborhood today as well as at his house.
First, though, a bit of reaction from neighbors.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was a good person. He never -- I don't know why he did what he did. I couldn't tell you. Pushed too far, that's all I can think of. You get pushed and pushed and pushed and sometimes you go over the edge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joel, why did he do this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. I ain't justifying nothing. I ain't saying he did the right thing. But I'm saying he got pushed for a long time and asked the people to help, help, help, help and nobody helped.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who did he ask for help?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know, I'm sitting here, I ain't saying it, I'm just saying I know him as a person.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about the guns, Joe, do you know where he got the guns?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, that's what I just said to him, I would like to know where the hell them guns come from, because that boy should never had access to any.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, what we are hearing from police is there were actually guns in the home that the police saw days before this incident. We are going to talk to the police about that in just a moment. Matt Stevens is with us now, reporter who has been canvassing the neighborhood.
Matt, what do we know about the shooter tonight that we didn't know a couple hours ago?
MATT STEVENS, WOIO REPORTER: Well, Anderson, we have been told by police sources that he ran with a gang called the Denison (ph) Boys. Cleveland has a gang culture, not the kind of culture that you would find in a Los Angeles or a New York or even Chicago. But it's definitely there. And we understand that this has been some bone of contention between this family and law enforcement for some time.
He also has an older brother, an 18-year-old brother, who has been in and out of jail. And neighbors tell us that he has been known to carry guns. In fact, two nights ago, there was an incident where two teenage girls who had been having a feud with the boy's older sister, 15-year-old sister, for some two years now, saw her on her porch. She yelled something at them. This is a couple of nights ago.
The older brother came out and actually fired a shot at them. They called the police. The police came to that scene and arrested the older brother. But we have been told that no search warrant was obtained to go into the house to try to get the guns. And so there's going to be some questions that have to be answered by the Cleveland Police Department this week as to why they didn't pursue a search warrant to try to get into that house and maybe -- maybe if they had, the questions will be asked, this kid would not have anything to go to school with today.
COOPER: And we were just putting up a picture of Asa's older brother Steven (ph), which is the only picture that we have of him. He recently just got out of jail, as you mentioned. At this point do we know much about Asa's criminal record? Because I understand he did some time in a juvenile facility.
STEVENS: Yes. I think as Susan mentioned earlier, he had a history of run-ins with authorities but he had only gone to court for one thing, and that was a domestic violence incident, I believe, involving his mother we have been told by sources. And so he had been in and out of court. He had been on probation. He had been on home monitoring. But in the most recent times, he had not been on any kind of monitoring or any kind of probation.
But there certainly was a history. And of course, as we said, he was definitely, according to police sources, running with this gang, the Denison Boys, and in fact we have been told by sources that he and his older brother were the targets of a drive-by shooting about a week ago. And they were still investigating that when this happened.
COOPER: We heard from two neighbors just before we talked to you who talked about him being pushed too far. I'm not sure how reliable those neighbors are. But any sense of what he was being pushed about, if that in fact, is true? And did that have anything to do with what happened in the school today? STEVENS: Well, those friends of the family who talked to us, you know, intimated he was having some trouble at school. And perhaps because of his appearance, I understand that he was short and a little heavy, that he was being ridiculed at school for various reasons.
Whether that is -- that could possibly be true, and so -- and have nothing to do with the rest of his life. We just don't know at this point whether anything that was going on outside of school had anything to do with what happened today. We still have got to put those pieces together.
COOPER: Yes. That's always the case. Matt Stevens, CNN affiliate WOIO, Matt, I appreciate it, in Cleveland. Thanks so much.
Just a short time ago, Cleveland's police chief spoke to the media about some of what they are working with. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF MICHAEL MCGRATH, CLEVELAND POLICE DEPT.: We have the tapes -- camera tapes from the building. We will review them. But until we review them, I can't give you a specific answer on that. We don't know how long he was in that particular building. We did search his locker. And there was nothing in his locker pertaining to this incident.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Joining me is Cleveland police spokesman Thomas Stacho.
Appreciate you being with us. At the press conference today, the police chief said that he believed Coon was targeting specific teachers in the building, that this was really not a random shooting. Do we know more about this, why he was targeting the people he did?
THOMAS STACHO, CLEVELAND POLICE DEPT.: We don't know for sure. That's part of our investigation. What we know is what we have been told by some of the witnesses, some of the parties that were inside the building as the shooting occurred. The information that they told us is that he made some comments about specific teachers before he shot one, and inquired about another one, who he did not find.
So it's based on that information. Of course, it's very early in our investigation. So we won't know all of the answers for quite some time but we are working towards that.
COOPER: And I know there are things you can't say that you might know, so I don't want to put you too much on the spot. But there's a report out there that there was a sophomore, Rasheem Smith, 15 years old, who saw Asa Coon in the bathroom, changing and loading a gun, left the bathroom, didn't tell anybody. Can you confirm that?
STACHO: I can't confirm that. I have been told that by some of the local media here, some of the national media that's on scene. I don't know that. I know that some of the facts that were given to me at least from the media are incorrect. Some of the information that he said or that has been attributed to him was incorrect.
So I don't know that that's true. Certainly if it is, we would like to have that information. And we are looking to interview any party with any information about this shooting.
COOPER: As we just heard from affiliate reporter Matt Stevens, Cleveland Police were at Asa Coon's residence on Monday investigating an incident where Coon's brother allegedly shot at some girls. Police reportedly saw weapons at the house, did not have a warrant and could not remove them.
A, do you know more about that incident, what kind of weapons they saw, and were any of those weapons involved in today's shooting?
STACHO: You know, I don't have any information about that at all. I know that Matt Stevens said that we arrested him two nights ago. I went through our records just before I came out here. And I don't show any record of him being arrested. Now that doesn't the mean it didn't happen. But I couldn't find anything to support that.
STACHO: But it is something we will look into. We know there has been a long history of criminality involving that household, and certainly we are curious, we are interested in finding out where those guns came from. We are working with the local ATF to determine where those guns came from.
COOPER: You say a long history of criminality involving the household. Is that involving just Asa and his brother or parents as well?
STACHO: Primarily Asa's brother. A little bit on Asa's part, but primarily Asa's brother, a long history of arrests and run-ins with the law.
COOPER: And Asa was arrested last year for what was called a domestic violence incident. Can you tell us anything more about that?
STACHO: I don't have the specifics on it. I know it was in January of 2006. He's under court supervision as a result. I talked to the spokesperson from juvenile court. He was being monitored. I don't know if he was at the time of the shooting or if he has been taken off that monitoring.
COOPER: There was an incident, an altercation the other day between Asa and another student. Both were suspended from the school. Do you know the details of that?
STACHO: Apparently some altercation outside the school. It was broken up by some security here for the Cleveland Municipal School District. Both the parties were suspended. It's believed that some part of the discipline led to the shooting today. And maybe the teachers had some hand in giving some information related to that discipline. Though it's very preliminary.
COOPER: Mr. Stacho, Thomas Stacho, Cleveland Police spokesman, I appreciate you telling us what you can. Thank you very much.
STACHO: Thank you.
COOPER: Just moments ago we got our first portion of the 911 tapes from this incident. Let's listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
STUDENT: Yes, it's a student with the gun at SuccessTech Academy.
911: Was he threatening somebody with it?
STUDENT: He shot the it.
911: He shot the gun?
911: How many shots did he fire?
STUDENT: How many shots did he fire? Two or three.
911: Did you see him?
STUDENT: He's like 5'5". White.
911: White male, about 5'5"?
911: Do you know his name?
STUDENT: His name is Asa. Asa Coon.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
COOPER: That is the first of the tapes we get. We anticipate several more. There are also tapes from inside the school. It 's unlikely we will be seeing those anytime soon. Not that we probably would even want to at this point. Shortly after the shooting, one parent said that SuccessTech is the last place -- that's the name of the school, is the last place that anyone would have expected to see this kind of violence.
The school in fact has been a shining star for the city of Cleveland. Here's the "Raw Data" on it. SuccessTech gives young people living in poverty a chance to learn business skills. Its teachers are teamed up with local business owners. In the past five years that the school has been open, class enrollment has risen from 79 students to 240 and academy's graduation rate is 94 percent, which is far above the school district's rate of just 55 percent.
We have a lot more on this ahead and the motivations of this school shooter and others. This young man, Evan Ramsey (ph), was 16 when he shot a student and his principal to death in '97. What was going through his mind as he rode the school bus with a gun? We will talk to him in prison tonight.
Also these stories.
Six went to sea. Only two returned, telling a story of piracy and murder. Now a different story is emerging about them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do think of him as a violent man. And he's capable of anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The clues, the alleged crime, solving a mystery that could land two survivors on death row.
Later, a stirring plea for a "Planet in Peril." REM sounds the call, and you'll hear it first only on "360."
COOPER: Well, four wounded by gunfire at a high school in Cleveland before the shooter, a student there, killed himself. We may never fully know why he did what he did today. The same can be said for Dylan Klebold and all the other shooters who have ultimately turned the guns on themselves.
In the case of Evan Ramsey, however, the answers come from the killer himself. Ten years ago 16-year-old Evan entered his high school in Bethel, Alaska. He pulled out a 12-gauge shotgun and he murdered a student and the principal. Today he's serving a prison sentence of 198 years at the Florence Corrections Facility in Arizona where I met with him face to face.
COOPER: Let's just start from the day. How long in advance -- when did you start planning it? How long in advance of the shooting did you actually seriously start planning it?
EVAN RAMSEY, CONVICTED SCHOOL SHOOTER: About two weeks.
COOPER: What was the initial thought? I mean, when you first thought of it, what was the idea?
RAMSEY: I told myself I have to do something to get everybody to leave me alone. The first thing -- that thought that came to mind, and I took it and ran with it.
COOPER: To leave you alone because they had been picking on you?
COOPER: How were they picking on you?
RAMSEY: I have gotten beat up. I have been spit on, and I have been called names. I have had things thrown at me.
COOPER: When you walked into the school in the morning with that gun, did you have a list in your head of who you wanted to get, who you wanted to kill?
RAMSEY: There was a list of people that I wanted to shoot at. Keep in mind that I didn't understand how life worked at the time. I didn't know that, when you shoot somebody, they don't just get back up.
COOPER: What do you mean?
RAMSEY: I did not understand that if I -- like using myself in using an example, if I pull out a gun and shoot you, there's a good chance that you're not getting back up. You're going to bleed to death and die either right there or on the way to the hospital. And that part of reality didn't click, for whatever reason.
COOPER: I don't know. I think it's just probably hard for some people to believe that you didn't know, you know, dead is dead.
RAMSEY: I -- I based a lot of my knowledge solely on video games. You shoot a guy in "Doom," and he gets back up. You have got to shoot the things in "Doom" eight or nine times before it dies. And I went with that concept on -- from the video game and added it to life.
COOPER: What did it feel like to pull the trigger?
RAMSEY: I'm going to get what I want. These people -- I'm going to scare these people away. Nobody is going to pick on me. There won't be any more verbal or physical abuse from anybody.
COOPER: So, it felt like relief?
RAMSEY: Yes. There was great relief.
COOPER: What do you want people to know?
RAMSEY: What kids are going through, it's not that bad. I saw my treatment as so bad. If I would have had somebody to sit down with and say, it's not that bad, you don't have to react this way, there's other means, that it might help somebody. It can always be worse, and it's always going to get better.
COOPER: Well, Evan Ramsey had his reasons, apparently, however deranged they might have been. So do others. There may be no single set of motivations, but there's a kind of profile or collection of characteristics perhaps to work with. Joining me now to talk about that is Jack Levin, a professor of sociology and criminology at Northeastern University in Boston.
Professor, thanks for being with us again.
You know, we are hearing a lot of details in reports about the shooter's background and demeanor. He had a juvenile record. He ran with that ran with a gang. He had a domestic violence arrest. He was teased. Were there missed signals in this case in Cleveland?
JACK LEVIN, PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY AND CRIMINOLOGY, NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY: Well, you know, there are always missed signals. The problem is that they only become clear after the fact. Hindsight is 20/20. And, after somebody shoots a number of people, everybody all of a sudden is a psychologist and recognizes all the warning signs.
Now, the problem is that these warning signs beforehand apply to so many youngsters. Many of these shooters hate school, or they like Marilyn Manson, or they blacken -- they use gothic clothing. They are rebellious.
The best predictor we have is previous violence. And, in this case, Asa definitely had that in his background. But my point is this. We ought to be intervening early in the life of a child because he's troubled, not because he's troublesome. The problem is, we always wait until a youngster has murderous intentions, and then it's too late.
We should get involved in bullying long before somebody decides he's going to take a gun and shoot a lot of kids. And we should do it because it's the right thing to do, and, in the process, we may actually prevent some murders.
COOPER: Well, as we saw in the Virginia Tech case and in a lot of cases, unless somebody is deemed an imminent threat, you know, to themselves or to others, often, even their family can't intervene to try to get them some sort of counseling.
I want to play you something that one student said about the shooter today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLEN FERGUSON, EYEWITNESS: We always knew that he was, like, a little off. We used to think, like, man, maybe he is going to come one day and shoot up this school. Maybe he going to come one day, he going to shoot this school up.
But we never knew it was really going to happen. We were just thinking, like, if it did happen, it would be him. But we never thought it was going to happen, until it happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: You know, it sort of gets to the point which -- and I can't get a confirmation on whether or not -- we have not been able to independently confirm it. Police couldn't confirm it.
Would -- but there's this quote from a student who was interviewed who said that he was in a bathroom, saw the guy loading up the gun, and left, and didn't tell anybody, went and had some lunch, didn't tell any teachers.
COOPER: Do people not take these things seriously, even after all that we have seen?
LEVIN: I don't think it's that. You know, there's a culture of silence. And we have seen it in almost every one of these school shootings in the suburbs. Now we see it in the inner city. We see youngsters who hear threats in the hallway, do nothing about it.
And I will tell you why. Because it's not cool, because you just don't snitch on a peer. Even if you think there will be a murder, you simply do not rat.
COOPER: Well, that's something we have...
LEVIN: And that's...
COOPER: ... we have -- I mean, with the whole stop-snitching movement, which is, you know, slammed down kids' throats in rap videos and stuff, and marketed by these big corporations...
LEVIN: That's right.
COOPER: ... is something we have been covering a lot. And it just -- it's infuriating. You think that played a role in this?
LEVIN: I do. And, you know, if you look at why there are fewer school shootings in the suburbs now than there used to be in the 1990s, you will see that we kind of broke the culture of silence there. But we have not done the same thing in the inner city, not yet.
COOPER: We have got several 911 tapes that are coming in that we will get to as soon as we're done. What else should -- what are the questions that police should be asking or that we should be asking to find out more about -- I mean, what do you expect to hear in the next couple days about this young man? Is there a pattern?
LEVIN: Well, there is. You know, in almost every one of these school shootings, the motive is revenge. These are youngsters who feel as though they are victims of injustice, like Evan Ramsey did. They have been bullied. They have been teased and ridiculed. They didn't fit in well at school.
COOPER: But do you buy it when an Evan Ramsey, you know, when he said to me, well, I didn't know people wouldn't get up after I shot them; I played these video games, and that's what happens in video games?
Did you do you buy that? I mean, that seemed...
LEVIN: Well, a lot of these youngsters externalize responsibility and they blame everybody but themselves. But he -- I think he made a very good point, Anderson. I think a lot of teenagers really don't think of consequences, whether it's getting lung cancer 30 years from now or spending the next 30 years behind bars.
And that has because the adolescent brain is quite different qualitatively from an adult brain. And that's why we have a juvenile justice system. We recognize that. I think it's true that there are a lot of teenagers who don't understand the effect that their behavior has on others.
COOPER: Well -- and we are still finding out more about this young man's family life, which seems, clearly, not to have been a great situation, certainly with his brother.
Professor Levin, appreciate your expertise tonight. Thank you very much. It's always good to hear from you.
LEVIN: Thank you.
COOPER: We continue to receive 911 tapes on the Cleveland shootings, as I said, as the situation developed and emergency services sprang into action. We have just received another one.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a shooting at SuccessTech Academy. And my son is trapped in one of the back rooms.
911: OK, ma'am. We have cars on the way over there, OK? Your son is trapped in a room, you said?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... back room.
911: OK. I'm sorry. Calm down, OK?
Where is he calling you from?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's calling me from his classroom on a cell phone that only has 15 minutes on it.
911: Ma'am, does anybody know who is doing the shooting there?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. He's in the back, but they just shot somebody in his room. And he doesn't want me to come up there, because he doesn't know where the shooter actually is.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So... 911: OK. We have cars en route there. That's SuccessTech at 1440 Lakeside?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
COOPER: Four people shot, the gunman ultimately killing himself.
After the break, we are going to speak with a student at Asa Coon's school.
MOTHER OF MICHAEL BROWN: There's a shooting at Success Tech academy and my son is trapped in one of the back rooms.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 911 RESPONDER: OK, Ma'am. We have cars on the way over there, OK? Your son is trapped in a room you said?
MOTHER OF MICHAEL BROWN: Yes. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 911 RESPONDER: OK, I'm sorry. Calm down, OK. Where is he calling you from?
MOTHER OF MICHAEL BROWN: He's calling me from his classroom on a cell phone that only has 15 minutes on it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 911 RESPONDER: OK. Ma'am, does anybody know who is doing the shooting there?
MOTHER OF MICHAEL BROWN: No, he's in the back but they just shot somebody in his room and he doesn't want me to come up there because he doesn't know where the shooter actually is.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 911 RESPONDER: OK. OK, we have cars en route there. That's Success Tech at 1440 lakeside?
MOTHER OF MICHAEL BROWN: Yes.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: The voice on the 911 tape was the mother of a student named Michael Brown. Michael was at school today when Asa Coon opened fire. He joins me now on the phone. Thank you for being with us. You were in a classroom on the third floor. When did you first - when did you notice something was going wrong?
MICHAEL BROWN, STUDENT, SUCCESS TECH (on the phone): I found out something was going wrong when they said that someone was shooting.
COOPER: There was an announcement made -- the principal made an announcement, code blue. Did you hear that?
BROWN (on the phone): Yes, I heard that, but I didn't know what code blue was.
COOPER: And so when they said somebody was shooting, did you take it seriously at first?
BROWN (on the phone): Yes, because then when someone said shooting last time, they told us it was code red. So no one else took it seriously. I always take shootings quite seriously.
COOPER: So when you realized that this was real, what happened? I understand a bunch of students tried to get into a closet in a classroom?
BROWN (on the phone): Yes, but the closet was locked. So we got on the floor, and I got up underneath the desk.
COOPER: Did you call your mom?
BROWN (on the phone): Yes. I hid myself with the briefcase and then I called my mother. And I told her I loved her and that someone was shooting.
COOPER: And how long was it - what happened next? I mean, at any point did Asa come up onto your floor, or did he not make it that far?
BROWN (on the phone): Well, he never came up to our floor. In fact, no one took it seriously but me. Everyone was laughing still.
COOPER: People didn't take it seriously. They thought it was - did they not think it was real, or they just thought it was funny?
BROWN (on the phone): They thought it was funny. They didn't actually believe it was going on. They were playing with their cellphones and laughing and talking.
COOPER: Now, you did not know Asa, is that correct?
BROWN (on the phone): No. I never - I saw his picture on the news. That's about it.
COOPER: But you didn't know him personally. As you look back on this now, I mean -
BROWN (on the phone): I saw him in the hallway.
COOPER: You saw him in the hallway. There were reports he had been teased and stuff like that. Do you know anything about that?
BROWN (on the phone): No. He was not in my classes.
COOPER: OK. Michael, I'm glad you're doing okay. And I can't imagine what you went through today. But I'm glad things worked out for you.
BROWN (on the phone): Thank you very much.
COOPER: All right, Michael. Take care. Of course, we are going to keep monitoring developments out of Cleveland and bring them to you as they come in. Well, to move on to some of the other stories making news tonight, starting with some rough and tumble politics. Former presidents usually go easy on sitting presidents at least in public. Usually, but not always. Some tough words there from Jimmy Carter. "Raw Politics" tonight from CNN's Tom Foreman.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Former President Jimmy Carter is opening up raw feelings with words about the war, torture and "Raw Politics."
(voice over): The former president has bitterly opposed the conflict in Iraq, but now, he says, President Bush's White House undeniably allows prisoners to be tortured.
JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That our country for the first time in my lifetime has abandoned basic principles of human rights.
FOREMAN (voice over): The White House says he is flat-out wrong. But Carter went after candidates in both parties, too, so expect more feathers to fly.
Supporters of Al Gore bought a full-page ad in the New York fish wrapper(ph) begging him to run. Gore's answer - unchanged.
GORE: I don't really have plans to run for office again. I have no plans to run.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
FOREMAN (voice over): High fight. Barack Obama and John Edwards say Hillary Clinton is deceiving voters about her initial support for the war and has no clear timetable for ending it. Maybe, but in the last debate - neither did they.
A rare public policy statement from the First Lady. Laura Bush says Myanmar's military junta should step down following protest and violence. And we might add because no one really knows for sure what a junta is.
And speaking of international intrigue - even though Roberto Madrozo lost the presidential race in Mexico last year, he just won the Berlin marathon for his age group. But hold on. Race officials say he cheated. He got a ride.
(on camera): An electronic tracking chip shows that he covered nine miles in just 21 minutes. That's muy loco rapido, enough to give you raw feet along with your "Raw Politics."
COOPER: Cheated. Why would he do that?
Up next - new information about a mystery at sea. Such a bizarre story. Tonight new charges and new information about what police say happened on board the "Joe Cool." Also ahead on "360" World Premiere, see REM's new video. Hear why Michael Stipe wanted to add his voice to the project "Planet in Peril."
COOPER: On that fishing boat the "Joe Cool" set out from Miami last month on a charter trip. It was carrying six people but only two made it back to shore. Tonight, both of those men are facing murder charges. We have been following the story since it broke. And it began when the coast guard found the "Joe Cool" adrift and empty. Then came a dramatic rescue at sea and sensational story of a pirate attack, a story prosecutors soon unraveled. Here's CNN's David Mattingly.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Suspicious from the start, federal prosecutors now say the story that pirates boarded this fishing boat and murdered its Miami crew is a lie.
ALEX ACOSTA, U.S. ATTORNEY: We are here today to announce the filing of criminal complaints against Kirby Archer and Guillermo Zarabozo for murder in the first degree of the captain of "Joe Cool," of the captain's wife and of the two crewmen of the "Joe Cool" fishing vessel.
MATTINGLY (voice over): Archer and Zarabozo were rescued from a life raft last month claiming pirates spared them after killing captain Jake Branam, his wife, Kelly, and crewmates, Scott Gamble and Samuel Kerry.
(on camera): Prosecutors say evidence collected on board the abandoned vessel contradicts accounts by the two suspects, who claim the victims were shot outside on deck with two different handguns. The federal complaint reveals only one shell casing was found outside. Three others were inside the cabin and all four were from the same handgun.
(voice over): Archer and Zarabozo also allegedly gave conflicting statements about how they met, how they chartered the "Joe Cool," and how three pirates murdered the crew.
ACOSTA: Zarabozo, for example, stated that Archer was below deck in the cabin when the hijackers shot the captain's wife, above deck on the fly bridge.
Archer, by contrast, states that he was standing next to the wife on the fly bridge when she was shot.
MATTINGLY (voice over): The complaint confirms human blood was found above and below deck. Investigators also found a handcuff key on the bow of the "Joe Cool." A secondhand cuff key was found in the luggage belonging to Archer, and an empty handcuff case was found in Zaraboso's bedroom.
ACOSTA: In truth, we are unlikely to find the bodies of these four individuals who were murdered in the high seas and whose bodies were thrown into the ocean.
MATTINGLY (voice over): And one former prosecutor says that leaves U.S. Attorneys with only circumstantial evidence and a tougher case to prosecute.
GUY LEWIS, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: There truly is no direct evidence. There's no eyewitness. There's no tapes. There's no insider. There's no confession as far as we know.
MATTINGLY (voice over): Attorneys for the two men have not commented on the case and did not respond to our calls. The uncle of the slain captain says the murder charges are not a surprise to the family, and little comfort to the two children who lost both their father and their mother. David Mattingly, CNN, Atlanta.
COOPER: A little comfort indeed.
Up next - a 360 exclusive. We're premiering a new song by REM; it's called "Until The Day Is Done," never been heard before. We'll also be talking with Michael Stipe about the song and our interview about our "Planet in Peril," next.
COOPER: Time now for REM, the worldwide debut of a powerful new song that won't actually be released until next spring. So why tonight and why 360? Well, REM is lending us the song for the soundtrack for the upcoming "Planet in Peril" project. We worked with them in the past and knew about their deep interest in many of the issues that the documentary explores. So we reached out to them. They generously agreed to help. The name of the song is "Until the Day Is Done," and when we first heard it - well, listen for yourselves.
COOPER: The actual thickness of the ice sheet in Greenland has been diminishing.
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm standing in the middle of what used to be Lake Chad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a lot of animals right here that range the gamut of critical status.
We are hearing that people are getting cancer from drinking water.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are destroying nature's natural regulator.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The success of one species is often dependent upon the other.
GUPTA: Sixteen of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are here in China.
COOPER: We are on a trail now, the kind of trail that a poacher would use.
GUPTA: I thought no one has ever been here before. We're the first people that (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
COOPER: No one has ever been here, really?
GUPTA: Yes, we are the first to ever work here.
COOPER: The final damage to the rain forest. From the air, you really get a sense of how much of the rain forest has already been destroyed.
GUPTA: We are looking at endangered turtles being sold in a Chinese marketplace?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly.
JEFF CORWIN, BIOLOGIST: There is literally one species that holds the cards. It's our species, human beings, that controls the future for just about every life form on our planet.
COOPER: "Until the Day Is Done" is an incredible song. You can imagine how excited we were to use it in our "Planet in Peril" documentary. We feel very fortunate that REM wanted to collaborate on the project. Joining me now from Athens, Georgia is REM's Michael Stipe. Michael, thanks so much for being with us. Why did you want to be involved in this "Planet in Peril" project?
MICHAEL STIPE, LEAD SINGER REM BAND: As far as I can tell now in 2007, CNN being involved in this, and your being involved in it, in my lifetime, this is probably the fourth time that concern or interest in the environment has really reached the peak that it's at right now. I'm hoping that this one will stick. I feel personally like we're kind of almost at the point of crisis.
But I - I saw - I heard about the program. I saw what you guys were doing and I thought the fact that it was going to go out nationally and internationally was a great thing. So we are thrilled to be involved.
COOPER: You and the band have really been exploring environmental issues through your music for years now. Do you feel like there has been a change in the public's awareness of this issue?
STIPE: I have to say, you know, starting at the age of 7, collecting coke bottles to buy my first GI Joe and then when I was in seventh grade, Anderson, I had a year-long - one of my seven classes in seventh grade was called "Environmental Science" in the '70s. And I only hope the media can focus on it long enough.
I mean, I think we've reached a point where we are if not at crisis, near crisis. And I hope not only will the public focus on it through television shows like this, but we can also kind of hold the hand to policy makers, hold the flame a little bit to actually get something done.
COOPER: It's interesting because a lot of people want to know what they can do. There is an argument that some people make or put too much emphasis on little solutions, things like changing light bulbs or driving electric cars. The argument goes, those little things won't really help. And dollars should be put and effort should be put into research for major change or to, you know, voting for change. Where do you see the importance being in terms of putting emphasis?
STIPE: One way is through your voting and the other way is we are a consumer society. So you make choices about companies that you want to support and companies you don't want to support based on their concern, their real concern about the environment.
COOPER: Michael, it's always good to talk to you. I appreciate you being on.
STIPE: Thank you. I really champion - and congratulations on the show. The footage that you guys shot in Greenland is unbelievable. Thanks.
COOPER: You can watch the rest of my interview with Michael Stipe and entire video of REM's new song on our website. Go to CNN.com/planetinperil. Don't forget, the Planet in Peril documentary airs October 23rd and 24th at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. For two hours each night, we are going to take you on a pretty amazing and pretty sobering journey.
Ahead on the program, some of the other headlines making news tonight, including seconds of terror. Part of a hotel actually crumbled. Details of that next.
Erica Hill joins us with the 360 news and business bulletin. Erica?
ERICA HILL, CNN REPORTER: Anderson, an Australian security has released new details about yesterday's deadly shooting at an Iraqi checkpoint. One of the company's security teams opened fire on a car, killing two women. Today the company said the team feared a suicide bomb attack when the car failed to stop despite signals to do so. The incident follows last month's deadly fire fight involving Blackwater employees.
Remarkably nobody was injured when an atrium collapsed in a Maryland hotel. It happened at the Embassy Suites Hotel, understandably causing an evacuation. No word yet on the cause.
And as strikes go, this one lightning fast. More than 32,000 United Auto workers members walked off their jobs at Chrysler this morning as planned. But then about six hours later the union and Chrysler agreed on a tentative four-year contract. Last month, the strike by GM workers lasted two days.
And finally, dream on, and on. The Boeing company announced a six-month delay for delivery of its new 787 Dreamliner. The planes were supposed to be ready starting in May. But now the ETA, more like late November or December of 2008. Boeing blames the delay on continued challenges completing assembly. Yes. If you translate that, I think it means in English, it's taking longer than we thought to put your planes together.
COOPER: That is plane-speak, I think.
HILL: Yes, indeed. >
COOPER: Up next, actor and activist Kevin Bacon helps women and millions of others fighting a deadly disease. Why she is his hero when 360 continues.
COOPER: Some people hero-worship celebrities. But as we continue our CNN "Heroes" series, we'd like to introduce you to the people that they think deserve to be called a hero. We've asked some very familiar faces to share the spotlight. Tonight award-winning actor Kevin Bacon tells us how one woman is fighting a disease with courage and determination.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN BACON, ACTOR: Everything we do as actors is about being seen and about, you know, our bodies. And here's this woman, triathlete, kids, you know, completely out of the blue. She was diagnosed with MS. I'm Kevin Bacon, and my hero is Robin Maxwell because she's not lying down without a fight.
ROBIN MAXWELL, MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS SUFFERER: I was training for a marathon. And so all of a sudden my feet were totally numb. I discovered that it was MS. I looked back at the beginning, and I just think of the incredible darkness, and then very quickly, this opportunity for fund-raising came up, this contest on SixDegrees.org.
BACON: SixDegrees.org was started to make it easy for people to donate to your cause. When we first launched the site, the six people who had the most donations, I matched $10,000 each to the charity that they were supporting.
MAXWELL: That very first day, I raised, like, $850. So I thought, this could actually work.
BACON: You know, she's got that kind of energy, and she's got that kind of fight. I think that's why she won.
MAXWELL: It made me feel like, wow, this is possible for me to do this. And this is possible for me to do a lot more.
I feel very obligated to work on behalf of all people who can't always physically do a lot of the things that I can do. I had to picture myself as somebody in good health. So I put the words "perfect health" on a few items of clothing. And people would ask me, where did you get that?
We've got these short sleeve t-shirts.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think I like this one.
I just continually look for other opportunities to raise money.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How much?
MAXWELL: That's $20 for that one.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I write you a check?
MAXWELL: All right. That's awesome. OK.
Fund-raising and activism has brought in so much joy. I can be a part of what's going to make this situation better, not just for me, but for so many people.
BACON: She's someone that as has a lot of drive and a lot of strength. She's a beautiful warrior.
COOPER: And check out how sixgrees.org works. Just go to CNN.com/Heroes. For our international viewers, CNN Today is next. Here in America, Larry King is coming up, and I'll see you tomorrow night. Thanks for watching.
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