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Interview With Chen Guangcheng; Suspect Arrested in Etan Patz Murder Case

Aired May 24, 2012 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.

And we begin tonight breaking news. Nearly 33 years to the day since 6-year-old Etan Patz disappeared in New York City, a man has been arrested for his murder.

Just a short time ago, New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly announced the arrest of Pedro Hernandez, a 51-year-old man who worked as a stock clerk at a store in Manhattan back in 1979 when Etan disappeared. Now, Commissioner Kelly said Hernandez has confessed to choking Etan in basement of that store and that after being questioned last night, Hernandez took police officers to the scene of the alleged crime and described what happened.


RAYMOND KELLY, NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: Hernandez described to the detectives how he lured young Etan from the school bus stop at West Broadway and Prince Street with the promise of a soda.

He then led him into the basement of the bodega, choked him there and disposed of the body by putting it into a plastic bag and placing it into the trash.


COOPER: Well, earlier today, a law enforcement source said that Hernandez was interviewed briefly years ago in connection with the case and that his claims are being treated with skepticism, but, tonight, Pedro Hernandez under arrest for the murder of 6-year-old Etan Patz 33 years ago.

CNN's Susan Candiotti has been following this story. She joins us now live, along with CNN senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin, and former New York City police officer Lou Palumbo, director of the Elite Group, a private security firm.

So, Susan, what other details are the police giving about this guy, Pedro Hernandez, and how this alleged murder took place?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Anderson, this case just -- it continues to be a really stunner. What we're hearing about this man is that, as you indicated, he worked as a store clerk in this bodega and that he lured the little boy, he says, with a promise of offering him a soda drink. And he brought him to the basement and then strangled him and then put him in a trash bag, and then brought this trash bag out about a block-and-a- half away from that store.

And apparently then, in the ensuing years, as you indicated, I have a law enforcement source telling me that he was briefly interviewed by the FBI. Yet police are now saying that he was not interviewed at all at that time.

However, the question is, what is happening now? Because we just got a statement from the FBI. And, Anderson, this is very interesting. Despite the fact that police are saying that he is going to be charged by the district attorney's office tomorrow with second- degree murder, the FBI is saying this case isn't over.

In their statement, they say: "The investigation into the disappearance remains active and ongoing. We remain determined to solve this case."

Does that mean that they don't buy this confession, or that it's simply because he hasn't been formally charged yet that it's still open?

COOPER: Right.

Lou, what do you make of this? Because if it's true that Hernandez did this and left him in a garbage bag out on the street, this was a huge case in New York City at the time. I would have thought they would have searched -- if it was only a block-and-a-half or even the garbage routes, they would have checked to see if garbage had been picked up.

LOU PALUMBO, FORMER NEW YORK POLICE OFFICER: That story is a little problematic for a number of reasons, one, because of the fact that we do canvass areas, number one.

And, number two, by the time the second day of that decomposed body was sitting somewhere, even if it was in the back of a garbage truck, the wreak of smell -- I have walked up on -- the expression we use, you call them dead ones. It's overwhelming. You can't miss it.

I have a little bit of a problem with that. As far as the FBI and their position, you know, I'm a little concerned as to how much pressure the police department is yielding to in trying to resolve this case, number one. And, number two, have they taken into account the emotional state of this individual? Have they had an opportunity to polygraph him? What is it that suddenly gave them such footing that they have charged him with murder in the second degree?

COOPER: Jeff, what do you make of this?


First of all, just we both grew up in the city. This case was -- transfixed the city. It is every parent's nightmare.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: And it's just -- it's hopeful to think that it's resolved, but the question of how he was treated 33 years ago. Was he interviewed? If he wasn't, why not? He was right in the area.

And a bodega, a little store, would be an obvious place that a little kid might be interested in. So the question of whether he was interviewed and what his status was...

COOPER: And there's conflicting reports about that, because there have been some published reports saying that his family had actually contacted authorities 33 years ago, based on comments that he made, and that it was his family who once again contacted authorities this time.

TOOBIN: That's right.

And the question is, what made them believe him this time? Another thought that I think popped into a lot of heads, certainly mine, today, was that lunatic who confessed to the JonBenet Ramsey case a couple of years ago. And everybody took him very seriously, until his story fell apart. Is this another crazy person who, as sometimes happens, is attracted...


COOPER: People do this. People do...

PALUMBO: Absolutely.

People come out of woodwork. It's a combination of not having a life or having some type of high level of dysfunction, where they want to obtain some form of notoriety, regardless of how bizarre they might do it. That's why you really need to vet these people. And just taking this guy on a statement of this nature, I would really want to do some type of psychiatric profile on him to determine if he's even capable of having...


COOPER: Because there's no physical evidence.

TOOBIN: Well, Kelly confirmed that. The police commissioner confirmed at the news conference that they have nothing, except for this confession.

Now, that may be enough. It may be an accurate confession. He may have disclosed some fact that only the killer would know, but if it's just sort of a generic confession, you got to be pretty skeptical.

COOPER: Susan, this is obviously happening in the wake of this story made headlines about a month or so ago, when there was renewed interest, they cordoned off the whole block, they reexamined a basement in the building where the Patz family lived.

Did that attention that the story got a few weeks ago, did that have anything to do with Hernandez being refocused on?

CANDIOTTI: You know, that did have something to do with it.

According to Commissioner Kelly and other sources that I spoke with, that publicity prompted a tipster, and that person is not being described as a relative, who reached out to police and said that, this is someone that you need to talk with because this person has told me that he did something bad, and actually confessed to the crime.

And that's what prompted police to go out and interview him again, and they tracked him down in New Jersey, Anderson.

PALUMBO: Are they suggesting that he confessed to this crime to the individual who was the tipster?

TOOBIN: Yes, that's what Kelly said.

PALUMBO: And the other part of this dynamic is, what if he decides to turn around and recant his story and he hinges it on the fact that he's not emotionally stable?

COOPER: Because there is -- if his story is true and this poor little boy was put into a bag, left out on the street, and picked up by garbage collectors and taken to a dump, there's no way of tracking that.

TOOBIN: Nothing. At this point, you couldn't track down a garbage collection from 33 years ago.

That's why they were digging up the basement, because they thought, if he was buried in the basement, then you could check -- you could find DNA evidence in the basement. But if he's taken away, at this point, it would be...


TOOBIN: ... impossible.

PALUMBO: Anderson, though, this whole concept that he discarded him like on a curb in a plastic bag, we understand, the sanitation men, you know, what the demographic is, but, believe me, if they picked up a child's body, they would know what they were handling.

COOPER: Right.

Also, given -- you cannot underestimate how big a story this was in New York City 33 years ago. I remember this as a kid. This was everywhere.

TOOBIN: Everywhere.

COOPER: Everybody was interviewed on that entire area.


TOOBIN: And it went on for months and months and months.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: He was, as has often been said, the first child put on a milk carton. And that now has become standard.

But that was the degree of attention. His father was and is a professional photographer. So there were all these beautiful, beautiful photographs of Etan that were everywhere. It was before the Internet, of course, but you could not be unaware of this case if you lived in this part of the country.


PALUMBO: The other dynamic with this case is that children being taken off the streets of New York, this is an anomaly. This happens in California. This happens in Florida. It doesn't happen in New York.

So, with that thought in mind...

COOPER: Because there's so many people watching, so many people around. People see this.

PALUMBO: Absolutely.

And we weren't even into the camera systems we have today, like Argus and all the storefront cameras everywhere has. The notion that a child would be taken off the street in an area as densely populated and congested as we are is really tough to take in. It's not like California, where they snatch these kids, or Florida.

COOPER: So, Susan, tomorrow, what happens?

CANDIOTTI: Well, tomorrow, it's expected that this man will make an appearance, his very first appearance in court, and may be formally charged by the district attorney's office, because it's really up to the prosecutors in this case to file the formal charges.

That would likely prompt a grand jury to get involved as investigators continue to work through this case to see whether it winds up with an indictment. I mean, remember what happened -- what has happened in other high-profile cases such as Dominique Strauss- Kahn, where he was initially arrested and then eventually prosecutors backed away from the case.

Some people are saying that this is a very solid case, some sources I spoke with. And yet I have others who are saying that they are approaching this with a high degree of skepticism.

COOPER: Right.

PALUMBO: The other thing Jeffrey pointed out earlier in the discussion, that I understand that this man has been Mirandized. The other question is, has he lawyered up through this whole process? Because that is clearly going to have some impact on admissibility of statements and so on and so forth.

COOPER: Right.

PALUMBO: So this is far from out of the woods as far as I can see.

COOPER: Susan Candiotti, appreciate the reporting. Jeff Toobin, Lou Palumbo, thank you very much.

Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper, tweeting tonight.

The Massachusetts Senate took a step today toward outlawing, well, a treatment for special needs students, kids with autism, teenagers with severe development disorders, violent outbursts. A center that we have been focusing on that uses electric shocks against these young people, it's the only place in the country we know of that do -- do this.

And to many people, to some people who are opposed to the center, it looks like torture.




COOPER: This teenage was shocked 31 times over seven hours. The school that shocked him has dodged repeated efforts to shut it down.

"Keeping Them Honest" tonight -- the latest ahead.


COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest" report about a school for autistic students and others with behavior problems.

It's called the Judge Rotenberg Center in Massachusetts. As far as we can tell, it is the only place in the country that routinely uses electric shocks to control its students, many of whom are severely mentally handicapped and autistic. Some can't even talk.

They come to the school from more than half-a-dozen states, the cost to taxpayers from those states, almost a quarter--million dollars per student per year.

Now, I want to show you a video that the school tried hard to keep secret for years. It's disturbing to watch, there's no doubt about it. But we do think it's important to just see a little bit of it. It shows a student being shocked 31 times over the course of seven hours.




COOPER: His name is Andre McCollins. And while being shocked, he was at one point strapped down.

Now, Andre's mother said he was punished for not taking his coat off when asked. And that's how the shocks began. She said she was catatonic afterwards. These are pictures taken in the hospital of him afterwards. You can see where he was burned from some of the shocks.

Now, some of the students at the Judge Rotenberg Center do in fact have histories of hurting themselves and others. Their families say the skin shocks are the only treatment that's helped their kids from doing that, from hurting themselves or hurting other people.

In 2006, inspectors for the New York State Education Department reported that the school was using skin shocks on students -- quote -- "for behaviors that are not aggressive, health dangerous, or destructive, such as nagging, swearing and failing to maintain a neat appearance."

Now, the report also said the skin shocks raised health and safety concerns. About half the school students wear these electrodes, like these, that are attached to transmitters they carry in backpacks or fanny packs.

And when they misbehave, the school staff delivers shocks by remote control. Now, the school has long claimed this device, which it calls a GED, is FDA-approved. It isn't. As recently as two days ago, the school use the word approved on its Web site.

We called the FDA. They told us they cleared an earlier version of the device back in 1994, but they have never actually approved it. And in 2010, inspectors found the school was using an even more powerful version of that device, a new version of that device. As a result, the FDA said it told the school the device was no longer cleared under its earlier ruling.

Now the Judge Rotenberg Center has removed that FDA-approved claim now its Web site. They told us that after they saw our report two days ago, they realized it was an inaccurate claim.

OK. The last year, Massachusetts adopted regulations banning the use of skin shocks and other so-called aversive therapies, but they carved out an exception for students who were enrolled at the Judge Rotenberg Center before September of 2011.

Well, today, the state Senate took the first step in turning those regulations into law and extending the ban to all students. The bill passed in the Senate. It hasn't passed in the House.

Joining me tonight is the bill's sponsor, Senator Brian A. Joyce, and Dr. Louis Kraus, a professor of child and adolescent psychology at Rush University Medical Center, who serves on the board of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Senator Joyce, a lot of people, when they hear about this center, just don't understand why, in 2012, a school in the United States is allowed to electrically shock disabled students, when prisoners aren't able to be shocked who are murderers who are unruly? What do you say? How do you explain this?

BRIAN A. JOYCE, MASSACHUSETTS STATE SENATOR: I can't understand it either, Anderson.

It's 2012. We're a progressive state, and this would not be allowed to the most heinous of criminals. If Osama bin Laden had been caught alive, under international law, we could not apply the same torture to him that we're now applying to innocent and disabled children in Canton, Massachusetts. It's an absolute disgrace.

COOPER: Dr. Kraus, I have talked to parents who are against this center, but I have talked to parents who say, look, this has saved my child's life. They were rejected from all other places. My child was banging their head against the floor, was going to wind up dead, and this has allowed my child to live.

To them, what do you say?

DR. LOUIS KRAUS, RUSH UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Every parent that has an autistic spectrum child looks for a magic way to try to help them. They will find somebody and they will believe in them, whether there's any scientific basis behind it or not.

I find it very difficult to believe that these kids can't be helped in other programs. I work in a residential program that takes care of high-functioning autistic children. I work in a day school that has lower-functioning autistic children. I have spent most of my professional career with a huge variety of autistic kids.

The concept of using aversive therapy in these poor kids that have essentially no voice is simply barbaric. These types of adverse types of treatment approaches, they were used before medications existed, before a lot of other treatments existed, before occupational therapy worked with these types of kids.

At this point in time, with all that we have available to us to help these children, this is just simply wrong.

COOPER: The center says, Doctor, that, well, look, this is better -- shocking these kids is better than doping them up on psychotropic medication, where they gain weight, they're at health risk long-term.

KRAUS: You know, they can use any justification that they want.

First of all, it's not just medication. When you work with these children, it's working with intensive speech and language services, occupational therapy, behavioralists working out positive behavioral plans, educational, working on activities of daily living, trying to find ways for these children to be able to express themselves. It's one of the most frustrating things for them, when they are anxious or upset about something, not being able to express yourself.

Imagine having that happen, and then instead of somebody trying to help you, they shock you. The concept simply doesn't make any sense to me. We use medications. Any type of medication has a potential side effect, but these are medications that are FDA-approved with very specific purposes in helping kids. Some of them do have weight gain as a potential side effect, but not all of them.

COOPER: And, Senator...


COOPER: Yes, go ahead.

JOYCE: If I could add, the doctor is exactly correct. This is based largely on a discredited pseudoscience from 70 or 80 years ago. It was used to -- and I say this in quotes here -- to cure homosexuality in the 1930s, to deaden hogs prior to slaughter.

It is truly a barbaric practice that has not been peer-reviewed by any scientific or medical entity or individual with credibility. It's simply just a barbaric, outdated practice that hasn't changed since the center opened as the Behavioral Research Institute in 1971.

Your initial question was a good one. How this practice can continue in the United States in 2012 simply defies logic. We have now passed the ban in the Massachusetts State Senate. My hope and prayer is that folks will contact the Massachusetts House of Representatives and ask them to join us in this ban.

COOPER: And, Doctor, I have asked the school this multiple times, but if this works so well, why are they the only ones who use this? I mean, it doesn't seem like anybody else has adopted this technique.

KRAUS: Yes, there are no other programs that I'm aware of that use this.

I think if you took 1,000 people off the street, everybody would look and say, this simply is barbaric; how can you do this?

What I can tell you is that when you look at really good programs that work with autistic kids, when you have kids that are behaviorally disruptive, when they might hit somebody, hit a teacher, the first reaction teachers give, even in my own program at Easter Seals in Chicago, are usually, why didn't I pick up the anxiety? What was it that set the child off? What can we do sensory wise to potentially help the child so that they will get less anxious, be less behaviorally disruptive? What coping strategies can we teach the child?

The reason most autistic children have behavioral outbursts are because of some level of anxiety, something as they perceive it... (CROSSTALK)

COOPER: So, does the shocking make the anxiety worse, in your opinion?

KRAUS: Well, exactly.

The concept that the base problem is anxiety, and then they shock them makes no intuitive sense in the end. If anything, how can this not cause some type of traumatic reaction?


COOPER: The other thing...


COOPER: ... is they have multiple electrodes on them and they don't know where the shock -- what part of the body they're going to get shocked on at any one time, which seems to only add to the anxiety.

KRAUS: That just sounds absolutely frightening, frightening to me.

COOPER: Senator.

JOYCE: It's truly a house of horrors. It's just incomprehensible. I'm delighted that you're giving it some well- deserved attention.

COOPER: Senator Brian A. Joyce, I appreciate you being on.

Dr. Louis Kraus, thank you very much as well.

KRAUS: Thank you. Pleasure.

COOPER: Well, up next, Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng's first in-depth interview since his daring escape from house arrest and his departure from China -- what he told me today about his detention and his future here in America.


COOPER: The blind Chinese activist who escaped from illegal detention in his own home, it plays out like a movie script. We will talk to him tonight. He slipped past his guards, escaped into the night. Now he's in the U.S. and talking to us about his ordeal -- next on 360.


COOPER: For the first time since arriving in this country, Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng is speaking out and doing it on 360.

You will recall, Mr. Chen, who is blind, made a daring escape from house arrest -- he calls it illegal detention -- in his village. This is how authorities reacted when actor Christian Bale tried to visit Mr. Chen last year accompanied by CNN's Stan Grant.


CHRISTIAN BALE, ACTOR: Why can I not go visit this man?

STAN GRANT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hollywood actor Christian Bale is used to action, but this is no movie set.

BALE: We've been stopped.

GRANT: Plainclothes Chinese security, who would not identify themselves, determined to stop him and our crew contacting a detained human rights activist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch it, Christian. Watch it.

GRANT (on camera): We're trying to get out of here. Once again, we've been stopped. We've been stopped right here.

And, as you can see, they're pushing Christian here. We're just trying to leave peacefully.


COOPER: Before we play you my interview with Mr. Chen, I just want to explain what you're going to see in the bottom of your screen there.

You're looking at Chinese state TV, where our program is broadcast live in CNN International. We're showing it to you because, in the past, when we have reported on Mr. Chen, the Chinese government has cut off our live transmission. They have censored us.

So as you watch this interview, you can also watch to see if China will censor or broadcast yet again. There's a slight delay, so that's where they're watching the Christian Bale part. There we are again.

Now, Mr. Chen arrived in New York this weekend. He's here with his wife and children, but he's very worried about his relatives left behind. One of his brothers, Chen Guangfu, also managed to slip out of the heavily guarded village, we understand.

As we said, the Chinese government is very sensitive about all this. And, again, as you watch this interview, watch that little box at the bottom of the screen to see if the Chinese government decides to censor, so that their people don't hear what Mr. Chen is going to say.

Here's the interview I gave -- I had with Mr. Chen Guangcheng earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) COOPER (voice-over): On the night of April 22, a blind activist in China makes a daring escape. Chen Guangcheng, a self-taught lawyer and advocate for the poor, had been a prisoner in his own home for more than 18 months. During that time, he and his wife were periodically and savagely beaten by their Chinese guards.

In his first television interview, Chen says he needed to find a way out.

(on camera): You were under house arrest. What was that like?

CHEN GUANGCHENG, CHINESE DISSIDENT (through translator): I want to correct one thing here. When we talk about my situation, in the future, let's not use the word house arrest, but instead let's use the term illegal detention.

It's hard for me to describe what it was like during that time. But let's just say that my suffering was beyond imagination.

COOPER: Did you feel like there was an end to it? Did it feel like it was just going to go on and on?

CHEN (through translator): I didn't see much hope.

COOPER (voice-over): Chen is known as the barefoot lawyer in China, a well-known activist who became a target after he filed a class-action lawsuit in 2005 on behalf of poor women who say they were subjected to forced abortions and sterilizations as part of China's one-child policy.

Soon after filing the lawsuit, Chen was arrested and jailed for more than four years.

(on camera): You filed a class-action suit on behalf of these women. Did you know that the state would -- would arrest you? Did you know that you would get in trouble?

CHEN (through translator): It would be dishonest of me to say I've never thought of it. I didn't imagine they would disregard the law so blatantly.

COOPER: Why did you begin to speak out?

CHEN (through translator): It was very natural for me. I feel it's in people's nature to want to stop evil and embrace the good. So there is really nothing special there. It was just how I reacted naturally.

COOPER You say it's natural to want to speak out against evil, but many people remain silent.

CHEN (through translator): I only feel it's a natural reaction from my heart. My nature wouldn't allow me to sit idly by and disregard what was going on. I think everybody should act that way.

COOPER (voice-over): After his release, he was detained in his home. Activists, friends and journalists tried to visit him over the years, only to be violently repelled by the guards who were always outside. Actor Christian bale was with a CNN crew in 2011 when he tried to go to Chen's house to talk with him.

CHRISTIAN BALE, ACTOR: Why can I not go visit this man? Why can I not go visit -- tell me why I cannot go to visit him? He's a free man.

COOPER: After months of planning, Chen scaled the wall around his house, slipped past his guards, and wandered through the countryside for more than 20 hours, falling down some 200 times, he says, injuring his foot. Finally, he was able to call a friend for help.

CHEN (through translator): After evading danger and obstacles I was able to get out of Dongshigu village. And then I called my good friend, Gong Ishan (ph) in Beijing. He quickly led a team to find me and drove me to Beijing. While in Beijing, he found me a safe place to stay temporarily, but then we started to worry about my safety because of my experience in 2005.

COOPER: Worried for his safety, Chen's friends helped him seek refuge in the U.S. embassy.

CHEN (through translator): When a group of people come together and accomplish something, they often fight for credit. But in my case, all those people who went to Shandong to pick me, up when the news broke they were fighting for risk and not credit. They were all trying to claim responsibility to make others safer. I think this shows me hope in the growth of civil society in China.

COOPER: After negotiations between the U.S. and China, Chen was finally allowed to leave Beijing, flying to America on a one-year student visa.

(on camera) I understand that on Sunday, you spent some time out in the sun. You know, it was the first time you had been able to sit out in the sun for a long time.

CHEN (through translator): I hadn't been able to feel nature for a long time. On that day, I had some time to soak in the sun and feel the breeze. I had missed out for too long.

COOPER (voice-over): Chen has not sought asylum. Though he's enjoying his temporary freedom, he worries for his friends and family back home.

(on camera) Your nephew has been charged with intentional homicide for -- for defending himself against the people who broke into -- into his house as they were searching for you. What do you think is going to happen to him? Are they trying to punish you through him?

CHEN (through translator): You can already see what's happened to him. It's clear they want to convict him. COOPER: Your mother is also still in China. There's reports your brother actually escaped illegal detention back in his home village. Do you worry about them, as well?

CHEN (through translator): Of course. I'm very worried. You can see their retribution against my family since my escape has continued and been intensified.

COOPER: Do you regret speaking out? I mean, given all you've been through -- arrested for four years, illegally detained in your home, you and your wife -- do you regret speaking out?

CHEN (through translator): No, I have no regrets. But I also want to thank all of the friends who helped me, including my family members and supporters. I'm very concerned about the safety of some of them.

COOPER (voice-over): Chen, his wife and two children have only been in the U.S. for less than a week. Whether he'll ever be able to return to China is unclear. He vows he will continue to speak out.

CHEN (through translator): I don't feel much pressure. It's just a matter of time. I've only been here for a short time. If the pressure in Shandong couldn't silence me, I don't think any other pressure would be able to silence me.


COOPER: Interesting to see we were not censored this time in China.

We're following a lot more tonight. Isha joins us with a "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a U.N. panel says the violence in Syria has become increasingly militarized with killings and torture by government security forces and anti-government fighters. However, it says that regime forces are to blame for most of the serious human rights violations.

Syria will be front and center tomorrow night at 8 and 10 Eastern. We'll be bringing you a special report, "Arab Spring: Revolution Interrupted."

Back home, guilty verdict in a planned massacre of troops from Ft. Hood, Texas. A federal grand jury convicting a Naser Jason Abdo of wanting to blow up G.I.'s at a restaurant near the post. Abdo, a Muslim soldier who went AWOL from Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, was arrested last July. Prosecutors say when authorities caught him, he was already in the process of building a bomb. He now faces up to life in prison when sentenced this summer.

Hurricane warnings now up along the west coast of Mexico. Forecasters no longer expecting Hurricane Bud, a Category 2 storm, to stay offshore. Instead they're predicting landfall sometime late tomorrow after possibly strengthening in the overnight and early morning hours.

Separately, the weather service is watching an area of low pressure off Florida's Atlantic coast. Meantime, NOAA is forecasting a near normal hurricane season this fall: nine to 15 named storms. Of those, it expects four to eight to develop into hurricanes and one to three major hurricanes.

Moving next to Australia's Bondi Beach, a hungry Great White Shark is caught on camera stealing a smaller shark, caught by fishermen as they were reeling it in. This close encounter reportedly happened last year but was only recently posted online -- Anderson.

COOPER: Isha, thanks.

New signs tonight of where the presidential race now stands in three crucial states and nationwide. We'll tell you where it does stand, who's got reason to cheer, who's got reason for concern. John King runs the numbers next.


COOPER: Ahead on 360, the Trayvon Martin case: new video of George Zimmerman and the stinging accusation me leveled against the police in another case. We'll be right back.


COOPER: I want to talk about "Raw Politics" tonight. A fresh look at three states President Obama won last time. He probably needs to win at least two out of the three to stay in office. New polling today out of Virginia, Florida and Ohio. The results from NBC and Marist College giving President Obama a 4-point edge in Virginia, with a 3-point margin or error.

Same narrow lead in Florida, the president up four points by 48 to 44. Two points below the 50 percent that incumbents obviously like to see.

Now, in Ohio it's a six-point edge for President Obama, but that's half his 12-point advantage back in March in the same poll.

And though his job approval numbers are on the plus side in all three states it's only by a few percentage points. Additionally -- and it's a big concern for any incumbent -- a majority in all three of these battlegrounds telling pollsters they still believe that things in the country are on the wrong track.

We'll talk more on where the race is playing out. Let's check in with chief national correspondent John King at the Magic Wall.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, a handful of new state polls tell us just how close this race is in terms of the Electoral College fight. And you'd have to say, at least at the moment, slight advantage for President Obama.

Let's take a look at what with we're talking about. One of these new polls in battleground Wisconsin. Again, that's a very close race, but you have to say slight advantage for the president, who's up in the Wisconsin public radio poll.

Another one in the state -- always battleground state of Ohio. Mitt Romney needs to win Ohio to win the White House. No question about that right now, President Obama with a slight lead there in battleground Ohio. That fight will continue.

Let's zoom to the east now and a state the president turned from red to blue four years ago, Virginia. It's a toss-up right now. This poll right here, that's within the margin of error, but you have to say perhaps a slight advantage for President Obama.

And let's drop down now to the state of Florida. You get a mixed picture here. A poll we received just yesterday, a Quinnipiac poll, had Governor Romney with a slight lead. Look at these new numbers today, the president leading in the NBC/Maris poll. So let's call Florida a toss-up.

Why do we look at these? Well, they factor big into the race to 270. And let's look. Here's where I put the race right now. The president has 217. Those are the blue states. Solid Obama or leaning Obama. Mitt Romney has about 206. Those are the red states, solid Republican or leaning Republican. The yellow, those are the battlegrounds. And where are the states that we just went through?

Let's say that Wisconsin poll is right, that Ohio poll is right, and that Virginia poll is right. Look at that. Puts the president within striking distance.

So then you have Florida toss-up. New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Colorado, Nevada. A lot of people say this one actually should lean blue. If that were the case, the president would cross the line. Let's just leave it a toss-up for now.

What it shows you is this is a very tight race, about 160 days left. It's going to come down to, Anderson, to these six or eight states. Wow.

COOPER: John, thanks very much.

Joining us tonight as well, is Bill Burton, the senior strategist for the pro-Obama super PAC, Priorities USA; also former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer.

So Bill, obviously, all poll numbers out there are just a snapshot in time. There's going to be plenty of movement between now and November. But Romney has closed the gap significantly in Florida, Ohio, Virginia since March. Back then the president led all three by between, I think, 8 and 17 points. How concerned are you about the numbers?

BILL BURTON, SENIOR STRATEGIST, PRIORITIES USA: I would say very concerned. I mean, you know, we're on what you call the "poller coaster" right now. These polls are going to go up and down. But I think, for the most part, they're going to be very, very tight.

Republicans have consolidated behind Romney pretty quickly. And I think that what you're seeing is the makings of a very close race. And so, you know, I look at these polls and I think, yes, it's going to be a very close race, and it's going to come down to a very tough fight on the economy.

COOPER: Ari, that being said, the president does seem to have had the majority in most of these battleground states.

ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER BUSH WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes. And kudos to Bill. That's a very frank acknowledgment. He's a good analyst, and I think he's reading it exactly right.

Anderson, at this stage of the campaign, you don't focus on today's polls. You try to look ahead to the long-term trend. The long-term trend is we're locked in on a close race.

Incumbents typically have the advantage. It would be very rare for a challenger to be defeating an incumbent leading in the polls at this early stage.

What you look at, as the challenger, is that the incumbent, President Obama, is below 50. That's a point of vulnerability. When you look at from Mitt Romney is can he increasingly close the gap, move his numbers from low 40s up?

The other thing you look at are the polls of registered voters or likely voters. And at this stage they're all of registered voters, which puts a slight bias in the polling towards the Democrats. Once they switch to likely voters, it's going to give a boost to Mitt Romney's numbers, in all history, in all likelihood.

COOPER: Bill, a majority of voters in these states still think things are on the wrong track, according to today's polls. How much of an issue is this? I mean, is it any use to the president if things are getting better, if they're not getting better fast enough to change that number?

BURTON: I think it's an issue. I think that the environment in which this race is happening is going to matter a lot to the outcome.

COOPER: The economy, whether it gets better or not, you mean?

BURTON: Right, exactly. On the economy, on the jobs numbers, on economic growth. All of those things are -- on gas prices. Like, those things will have an impact on the outcome of this race.

But I think that ultimately, people are going to go into the voting booth not just voting on how they feel about this moment, but what's the difference between the visions of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama and who's best to lead our country right now?

I don't think, regardless of the situation, people are going to go into the voting booth and say "thank you" to any elected official. I think they say, "What's next?" And so that's the big question that I think voters are asking. You know, what's the real difference between the president and Governor Romney?

COOPER: Ari, can President Obama avoid this being a referendum on his term? Can he make it, as many Democrats say they would like to make it, a choice between -- you know, picking between these two guys?

FLEISCHER: You can't avoid it, but that's what good campaigning comes down to. We have to see who puts together the better campaign, Governor Romney or President Obama.

If you're the president you want to make it all about Mitt Romney. I think that's why they're going so hard after Bain. They want to discredit Governor Romney before he gets any momentum underneath him.

If you're Governor Romney, you want to make it a referendum about how bad the economy is. It's a "throw the bums out" type of election. We saw that election in 1980 with Jimmy Carter. We saw it largely in 1990 and then 2006 and 2008 with my old boss, George Bush, and the Republicans. Saw it again in 2010 against President Obama. That's what you look for.

Anders, the other thing, I think, people should look for that's outside the campaigns, there are six more unemployment reports between now and November coming out in the first Friday of each month. And there are two GDP reports about growth and the economy. Those are the biggest external factors that are going to drive this election.

COOPER: Bill, you're someone who's going to be looking to put ads on the air in some of these swing states. Where do you think you need to put your money? I mean, what's the tightest race right now where ads could be effective?

BURTON: Well, I would say two things. First, just a real quick point on what Ari just said. It's interesting to have Ari Fleischer on because his former boss, President Bush, ran a race in 2004 that was very much about, you know, who the challenger was and how important it was to define Senator Kerry and make that what the race was all about. On the map overall...

COOPER: And did a pretty good job of that.

BURTON; I mean, they won. You can't deny -- you can't deny that they made some good decisions. I was on Senator Kerry's campaign. He was an awesome guy, but it was a tough race to lose.

On the map, I would say that, you know, the map is big, but it's getting a little bit smaller. I think you look at the states that President Obama won that Senator Kerry didn't win in 2004, and that's where you start with those nine states. Then you add in, you know, watch Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan as states that could get competitive.

Right now we're up in Colorado -- Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and Virginia. We think that those are very close states. We think there are other states that are very close, as well. Iowa, New Hampshire obviously are going to be tough battlegrounds. But I think, you know, it's early, and people are just starting to engage. And so, as people get more information about the race, we're going to see where those swing voters go in some of those states and see if those states really do stay competitive.

COOPER: Bill Burton, I appreciate you being on.

Ari Fleischer, as well. Thanks.

BURTON: Thank you.

COOPER: Well, there's new video in the Trayvon Martin case and new word tonight of a confrontation that Zimmerman had last year with police. Why he accused the police chief of a cover-up in the beating of an African-American homeless man. That's next.


COOPER: Busy night tonight. A lot happening. Isha is back with the "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha.

SESAY: Anderson, new video tonight in the Trayvon Martin case. It shows George Zimmerman at police headquarters in Sanford, Florida, three days after the killing.

Also today, we learned that back in January of 2011, Zimmerman spoke out at a hearing and accused the police chief at the time of engaging in a cover-up in the case of a black homeless man who was beaten by an officer's son.

The public is getting its first blow-by-blow account of Robert Champion's death. He's the Florida A&M drum major who died after enduring a brutal hazing. Page after page of witness interviews released today detail Champion's beating done, witnesses say, by band mates with their fists, drumsticks and percussion mallets.

On the home front, mortgage interest rates have hit a record low, to 3.78 percent on a 30-year loan.

And Anderson, Heinz may be able to change its ketchup tune from "Anticipation" to "Slipping and Sliding Away." An MIT engineer has come up -- come up with, and the FDA has approved, a slippery nontoxic coating called LiquiGlide. Here it is on the company Web site. Take a look at it. It makes ketchup and other slow foods just slide out of the bottle.

COOPER: It's so cool. I can't believe that it hasn't been invented up until now.

SESAY: Kind of look unappetizing, if you ask me.

COOPER: Well, yes. But those -- the guys who invented it are probably going to make a gazillion dollars.

SESAY: And you and I will still be here ten years from now.

COOPER: With our old ketchup, hitting our bottles.

SESAY: With our old ketchup, hitting on the bottle.

COOPER: Yes. I think it's cool.

Time for "The Shot." As you know, we are a little obsessed with animals falling asleep on this program. We've had a sleeping baby bear, I believe, on this program.


COOPER: Which I love. Oh.


COOPER: Who can forget the snoring dormouse?

That's what my cameraman, Neil Halls worth, sounds like when we're on trips together on overseas assignments.

SESAY: Nice. He'll appreciate that.

COOPER: Yes. We all have to sleep in one room, and -- that's how he snores.

Tonight, we bring you the chick falling asleep on the cat. We had to speed up the video a bit, because it took 45 seconds for the chick to actually fall asleep, and we just don't have the time.


COOPER: The cat doesn't -- doesn't seem to care that a potentially tasty meal is falling asleep right on him. Pretty cool.

SESAY: The cat -- cat's a vegetarian, I guess.

COOPER: Maybe so. Maybe so.

SESAY: Maybe so.

COOPER: I don't know what the point of the video is. I just think it's cute.

Anyway, coming up, why computers will never replace copy editors. It a typo worthy of the RidicuList, next.


COOPER: Time now for "The RidicuList." And tonight we are adding a Texas-sized typo that's a true reminder that spelling does count.

At the University of Texas at Austin, there was a lovely program that was distributed for the commencement ceremony for one of the graduate schools. That's the program right there, entitled "Unlimited Possibilities." Just one problem. Take a closer look at the bottom of the program -- read carefully -- it says "Lyndon B. Johnson School of Pubic [SIC] Affairs."

So the school has issued a "pubic" apology. But I guess no one there is a big fan of "pubic" speaking, because they did it on Twitter.

Quote, "Our deepest apologies to our 2012 graduates for the egregious typo in our commencement program. We are working to distribute new programs."

Listen, everyone makes mistakes. At least they didn't also forget the "L" in the LBJ School.

See, the problem is a computer spell -- the problem is a computer spell check isn't going to catch a mistake like "pubic" versus "public." It actually happens all the time.

Back in March, a media advisory went out for the Rick Santorum campaign, announcing his "pubic" schedule. And a billboard in Indiana implored all who saw it to check out the 15 best things about our "pubic" schools.

So I guess if you study hard in "pubic" school, you can one day get your graduate degree at the School of "Pubic" Affairs. And then, before you know it, you're in charge of a presidential candidate's "pubic" schedule, all because somebody forget the letter "L."

It is the best proof there is that all it takes is one letter to change the world, or the word, as the case may be.

OK, that's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.