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Boy Dies in Fire; Record Snowfall in Northeast; Terrorists May be Inside; Movie Theater Widow Speaks

Aired January 22, 2014 - 14:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. See you at 5:00 p.m. Eastern in "The Situation Room." NEWSROOM continues right now with Brooke Baldwin.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you. We'll see you in a couple of hours.

Great to be with you here on this Wednesday. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

And we will get to that massive snowstorm in the northeast in just a moment. But first, I wanted to begin today with the story about a young boy who should make each of us proud. He showed courage and bravery well beyond his years. His name, Tyler Doohan. He was eight years old. And today he is no longer with us. Because early in the morning, when it was still dark outside, Tyler saw a fire inside the mobile home in which he was staying and rescued six relatives from the flames, including two young children. But then he realized someone else was still inside. Tyler lost his life saving his grandpa. This is Tyler's mom.


CRYSTAL VROOMAN, HERO BOY'S MOTHER: All I keep thinking about is how he couldn't breathe and how scared he was.


BALDWIN: Jean Casarez is following this story for us today. She joins me now live.

And just to think of the emotions, Jean, this family is going through today and Tyler, he saved several people early this morning.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He did. You know there were nine people in that single wide trailer and he had wanted to spend the night because there was no school on Monday and he wanted to see his grandpa. The fire erupted in the middle of the night. And I spoke with the fire chief today. They do not yet have an official cause of the blaze. It is under investigation. Tyler's mother has said it was a blanket that caught on fire. I did confirm there was at least one space heater.

But when it was known that there was a fire, everyone starts to rush out. And just as you said, Tyler said, wait a minute, my grandpa is still in there. And so Tyler went back into the trailer home. He went to the back where the bed was. And the fire chief tells me that the remains were burned beyond recognition, but they could tell that this little boy was trying to lift up his grandfather to carry him out.


CASAREZ: Now we do know that the cause of death also is not being ruled at this point. They are still doing testing. It is part of an immense investigation, but today there's one thing that is known, Tyler Doohan was a hero and his mother spoke on that earlier today.


VROOMAN: They were laying in the bed together trying to get to the window.

I was just so grateful that he went with people that he loved. He didn't go alone. They didn't cross over alone. And (INAUDIBLE) was with his best friends. That makes me really proud. It really does, but I just want him back.


CASAREZ: And I am also told by the fire chief, Chris Ebmeyer, that in regard to the uncle, that the fire was so intense that the mobile home just crushed around him, burned around him. Within one minute, fire officials, Brooke, were at the scene. They were that close to this mobile home area. And it was totally engulfed in fire.

Now, what fire officials say is there were no smoke detectors at all in the trailer. And it was so small, if there had been just one, that it would have probably been heard by everyone.

BALDWIN: Just to think of this eight-year-old with the wherewithal and the courage to keep going back and forth, back and forth. And then you have this mother. I mean they need money to bury this child.

CASAREZ: Another thing the fire chief told me is that this is a family with limited means and that it's very difficult to bury all these people. And so, locally, they have established a fund. And I know right before I went on air, almost $12,000 has been collected in that fund.

BALDWIN: Oh, wow.

CASAREZ: And, obviously, the rally of support is there. But this is a young man. And, remember, a young grandpa and uncle. These were not older people either. Their ages have not been established officially, but too many people lost their lives.

BALDWIN: Of course our thoughts with the family this afternoon, but how about that, eight years young. Jean Casarez, thank you very much.

Let's talk weather. The northeast still digging out after getting buried under blankets of snow. A winter blast eased right on in late Tuesday, turning highways into ice rinks and dropping temperatures to bitterly low levels. Thousands of flights continue to be canceled, leaving many airline passengers just stuck.

New Yorkers woke up to the sounds of snowplows clearing their streets. And, you know, some areas outside Boston, you raked in more than a foot of snow. The Massachusetts governor, Deval Patrick, had to delay his state of the state address because of what you're looking at here. CNN, of course, has you covered on all the latest storm conditions. Our entire team working this story of meteorologists here. Chad Myers is live for us in New England, Indra Petersons on the ground for us in Boston, and Jennifer Gray is totaling these snowfalls.

So, Chad Myers, I see you're nice and bundled. I saw you up late last night. You're back on with us today. How much snow where you are in Plymouth?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, Brooke, I would say we have eight inches probably on the ground, but there's absolutely no way to actually tell. I can see concrete over there and I'm going to go run into this snow bank and I'm not kidding you, if I got all the way down to the ground, there would be three and a half feet here.

BALDWIN: Look how deep you are.

MYERS: It's partly because the snowplows plowed some of it, but then the drifts came through and the drifts have just closed every road again. Every time they try to plow, they move and they move the snow and then the wind blows it right back.

But there's some good news. There's something on the horizon. I want to show you. This is breaking news right now. There's something blue down there. Way low.

BALDWIN: Blue skies.

MYERS: And that is blue sky. We are going to have sunshine in the next hour, I think, and so that's going to make a big difference. When the sun comes out, I believe the winds are going to die down, that means the storm is pulling away. The winds are also pulling away. And this blowing and drifting these roads shut, one time after another, will finally come to an end.


BALDWIN: My goodness. Chad Myers, thank you so much for being in the thick of it for us there in Massachusetts.

Indra Petersons in Boston.

And, Indra, how cold is it where you are?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Brooke, talk about an unbelievable system here. I mean just a few days ago we just had an Alberta clipper. Something we always see in the wintertime. Moisture- starved, just bring several inches of snow from the upper Midwest as it kind of makes its way across. And since it's so cold and moisture- starved, it usually drops several inches. This time, though, what a different picture. I mean this system went all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, developed a low and dumped heavy amounts of snow. So the difference, obviously it's the ocean. You get all that moisture off the ocean as that low developed and you start talking about heavy snow right along the coastline.

Now, typically this system goes west to east and you see more snow inland and less snow at the coastal sections. Not this time. We saw record amounts snow. In New York City, almost a foot of snow. A good 11 inches out towards Central Park. Philly, 13 inches. New Jersey, 15 inches of snow. So that's what we've been talking about. Even at the Cape, just south of me, they saw about a good 16 inches of snow with snow drifts. Keep in mind, you have that wind kind of blowing and piling that snow up in certain places. So snow drifts as high as three feet.

And it doesn't stop there. Yes, the system is pretty much over with, making its way out to sea, but it is so cold out here that this snow is staying for some time. We still have winds out there. It can pick this stuff up, kind of blow it around and that's going to be the picture here for the next several days.

As you guessed it, another clipper is making its way through the upper Midwest today, so it's only going to be reinforcing the cold air that is already here. So the picture you see around me, it's not going anywhere, Brooke.

BALDWIN: So here we go again is what I'm hearing, Indra. Thank you very much.

So let's bring in Jennifer Gray.

Just talking a little bit about, you know, Indra mentioned, this is already headed out basically to sea.


BALDWIN: So are people in the clear for now?

GRAY: Yes, this system has pretty much pushed out. But Indra said, those cold temperatures are going to stay and some areas could stay below freezing until the end of the month. So it's going to be cold for quite a while.

The main system had pushed out. The only small little snow showers we're getting right there on the Cape, a lot of that is really ocean effect snow, not really an associate of the main system.

But we did break records yesterday. Look at all these records broken. In Philly, more than 13 inches of snow. Central Park, 11 inches. Wilmington, Delaware, about 10 inches, and so on.

So we are going to get that next clipper system that's going to push on through in the Midwest right now. Bitterly cold temperatures. This is all going to push to the east and to the northeast as we go through the Friday, Saturday time frame. And so very cold temperatures all across the Midwest, the great lakes, the northeast. Look at these temperatures, Thursday morning, 18 below zero, 15 below in Minneapolis and in Chicago at only two degrees.

So for today we have a blizzard warning in effect for much of the northern plains. And then we also have those winter weather advisories. Look at these three-day temperatures. Burlington, seven on Thursday, 12 on Friday.


GRAY: Look at that, zero on Thursday. So very, very cold, Brooke, and that's going to stay.

BALDWIN: OK, Jennifer Gray, thank you. We will revisit the weather with another round of reporters at the top of next hour. Thank you.

Let's skip over to the White House here because the president is set to announce this new initiative to tackle sexual assault, rape in America, specifically on college campuses. Take a listen.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A cause that matters to all of us that's preventing the outrage of the crime of sexual violence in America. I especially want to thank the members of my cabinet who are here today. We've got Secretaries Chuck Hagel, Kathleen Sebelius, and Arne Duncan, as well Attorney General Holder. And their presence here today and the presence of so many leaders from across my administration is a testament to how important we consider this issue and how committed we are across the entire federal government to meeting this challenge.

And that, of course, includes our outstanding vice president. Few people have brought more passion to this fight over the decades than Joe Biden. Back when a lot of people believed that domestic abuse was a private family matter and women in danger often had nobody to turn to, Joe was out there saying this is unacceptable, this has to change. And thanks to Joe and so many others, this nation enshrined its commitment in the Violence Against Women Act.

Police officers and prosecutors got special training on domestic violence. More shelters opened across the country. A national hotline was created. And, as Joe mentioned, a cultural shift began to occur. Americans came to see how serious this problem was and how we all needed to do more to address it. And that's resulted in more hope and more safety and a new chance at life for countless women. So Joe was on the frontlines on this. And you can tell his passion is unabated. And so we are very grateful for everything that you've done on this work.


OBAMA: Thank you, Joe. Appreciate it.

(INAUDIBLE) that conviction and that passion brings us all here today because this is not an abstract problem that goes on in other families or other communities. Even now, it's not always talked about enough. It can still go on in the shadows. But it affects every one of us. It's about all of us. Our moms, our wives, our sisters, our daughters, our sons. Sexual assault is an affront on our basic decency and humanity.

And for survivors, the awful pain can take years, even decades to heal. Sometimes it lasts a lifetime. And wherever it occurs, whether it's in our neighborhoods or on our college campuses, our military bases or our tribal lands, it has to matter to all of us because when a young girl or a young boy starts to question their self-worth after being assaulted, and maybe starts withdrawing, we're all deprived of their full potential. When a young women drops out of school after being attacked, that's not just a loss for her, that's a loss for our country. We've all got a stake in that young woman's success.

When a mother struggles to hold down a job after a traumatic assault, or is assaulted in order to keep a job, that matters to all of us because strong families are a foundation of a strong country. And if that woman doesn't feel like she has recourse when she's subject to abuse, and we're not there supporting her, shame on us.

BALDWIN: Protecting young women and young men from sexual assaults and rapes specifically as the president's mentioning on our college campuses. This is an issue, as he mentioned, that is near and dear to the heart of the vice president, who began work on this some years ago. He's gotten help from the secretary of education, Arne Duncan, who is there in the room at the White House.

And just one statistic I read today I just wanted to share with you. This is from this report out today from the White House council on women and girls. One in five young women on our college campuses are sexually assault. And that needs to change.

Coming up, time is running out for folks in Russia to track down possible female bombers near the Olympics. I'll speak live with the author of "The World's Most Dangerous Places" about how they're hunting for terrorist who want to bomb the games.

Plus, she and her husband were on a date inside a movie theater when he was shot to death. And, today, one week after his death, she's telling her story.


NICHOLE OULSON, WIDOW OF CHAD OULSON: And just to think that in the blink of an eye my whole world just got shattered into a million pieces and now I'm -


BALDWIN: Let me take you to Russia now because sixteen days out from the winter games, President Obama has called Vladimir Putin himself saying we will help you, as CNN learns the U.S. Olympic Committee has been e-mailed a terrorist threat. All of this happening as the hunt continues for these so-called black widows. These are female terrorists seeking to avenge the deaths of their husbands in many cases. And if you or you know someone heading to Sochi to get to go to the games, just a little background here on exactly how deadly these black widows really are.

First, let me take you back. So, let's begin here in 2002. At least 12 black widows attacked a Moscow theater. The capital's deadliest attack there. And 170 people were killed. Fast forward here to 2004. Black widow bombers hit a school in the Russian city of Bezlon (ph) and 300 people were killed, half of them children.

Six years later, 2010, black widow suicide bombers attacked not just one but two Moscow metro stations killing 40 people there. And most recently here, in 2012, an attack on five policemen in Dagestan, also carried out by a black widow.

The concern right now that these black widows are ready to strike key Olympic sites. This is the greater Sochi area. And let me just walk through this. So this is the ring of steel that we keep talking about, Russia's intensely monitored security perimeter. But when you start to zoom in, wait for it and you'll see, this is - this is the cluster. This is Sochi, the Olympic village sites. Right along the coast here, and this is where the athletes will be housed. And when you push further north, you see the mountains - mountains up here. A lot of the skiing events are being held up there. All of these sites, these are soft targets. Russian authorities believe that these black widows may have already breached that ring of steel perimeter and are embedded inside that ring of steel.

Joining me now, Robert Young Pelton, author of "The World's Most Dangerous Places."

Robert, welcome back.


BALDWIN: Let's begin first with just historic context. We know that there has been fighting in this part of the world for some two decades, but when we saw recently, Robert, this video of these two terrorists, they're young men, this -- is this a younger crop of bad guys? I mean what exactly are they fighting for today?

PELTON: Well, I was with the Chechnyan rebels in 1999 when Russia attacked Chechnya and one of the things they told me was that we do this every 50 years. Since we first began, we get attacked by Russia. Sometimes we win. Sometimes we lose. But it's always up to the next generation.

These young men probably had their parents or relatives killed in the last war between 1994 and 1999. The current dispute - the current concern about Sochi goes back 150 years because it was the main deprecation (ph) port when they simply took the entire population out of the Caucasus regions and shipped them to Turkey. So they go way back.

BALDWIN: So there is history some century and a half specifically tied to Sochi.

PELTON: Correct. BALDWIN: And as you mentioned, you have been to this region. You know the terrain. Where and how do these terrorists hide? And I'm asking because I'm wondering just how difficult it is to actually track them down.

PELTON: Well, first of all, they don't hide. The one thing you need to know about Chechnyan terrorists, if you want to call them that, they're extremely audacious. You remember they drove all the way to --

BALDWIN: And we lost him. Robert Pelton. Can we work to get him back, guys? We'll work to get him back.

Let me move along because I know this is a huge story and we need to understand the geography and the history of the region.

Coming up next, we're getting some breaking news out of Israel. We are told security forces have disrupted an al Qaeda terror cell. We'll have that.

Also, a widow's grief after her husband was gunned down in a theater for texting on his cell phone. Now the wife is speaking out. Hear what she has to say, next.


BALDWIN: All right, breaking now on CNN. We are getting word of a terror plot against the U.S. embassy in Israel. Israeli security forces arrested an al Qaeda terror cell from east Jerusalem. They had planned several attacks, including one against this embassy. We are told the suspects communicated through Skype and FaceBook. We'll take you live to a reporter in Jerusalem on the breaking story coming up in just a moment.

Meantime, you know this story, this young couple went to the movies. It was a rare date with their nearly two-year-old daughter back at home with the babysitter. Nicole Oulson never imaged it would be the last time she spent some moments with her husband, Chad. An ex-police officer allegedly shot and killed Chad Oulson in an argument over texting in a Florida movie theater. Nicole sobbed as she described her loss.


NICOLE OULSON, WIDOW OF CHAD OULSON: And just to think that in the blink of an eye my whole world just got shattered into a million pieces and now I'm left trying to pick them up and put them all back together. And it's so hard and it's so unbearable.


BALDWIN: And now she has to raise that little girl, Alexis (ph), alone. Martin Savidge is working this for us today.

I remember when it broke on this show, the sheriff called in and said, we believe someone was shot and killed because he was texting. And I just couldn't - I almost didn't want to believe him at first. And now you have this woman, she was hit with the bullet.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Yes, I think the whole country's been dumbfounded by this.

BALDWIN: Dumbfounded. Perfect word.

SAVIDGE: Because we know texting. We know movies. And just a horrible crime with this couple. She was wounded in the hand. Her ring finger. The bullet passed right through her hand, went into the chest of her husband and, of course, he was killed.

She's recovering from that wound and may face further surgery, but it was clear by listening to her today, the wounds emotionally are far deeper. Listen.



OULSON: It's just unimaginable, you know. Me and my husband didn't get out for date night very often, much less a whole day to spend together. So I was just so excited and looking forward to spending the day with the love of my life at a place of entertainment. You know, it was family entertainment. And just to think, that in the blink of an eye my whole world just got shattered into a million pieces and now I'm left trying to pick them up and put them all back together. And it's so hard and it's so unbearable. But I want to thank you all for your thoughts and your prayers.


BALDWIN: Wow. And then you have the man who people have, you know, named as the shooter. This man, Curtis Reeves.


BALDWIN: Former police officer in the community for years and years.

SAVIDGE: Exactly.

BALDWIN: I remember his first appearance in court, so many people showed up just to support him. His attorneys are saying self-defense.

SAVIDGE: They are and, in fact, that is probably the defense is going to bring forward, although some people say, look, the only thing thrown was a bag of popcorn.


SAVIDGE: The attorneys that are representing - well, not representing Oulson, per say, in court, but representing his wife, are saying, look, you know, they find that to be absolutely preposterous. They know that attorneys have to put up some kind of defense, they just find that it's remarkable they could claim that popcorn in any way threatened them (ph).

BALDWIN: Yes. Let's take a listen to what they said.


T.J. GRIMALDI, ATTORNEY FOR NICOLE OULSON: Obviously it was something as traumatic, as unexpected as this, you know, some references are left out of our memory I think on purpose just as a - human nature. But she does have an unfortunately very clear recollection of exactly what happened.

I will say, from a personal standpoint, it's sad, in my opinion, we've gotten to this level that we can't go to a movie theater and feel safe.


SAVIDGE: It should be pointed out, of course, that she's going to be called as a witness. I'm talking about Nicole and the reference he was making was that how vividly she remembers it. Why wouldn't she? She was there. She heard the argument. Knows the shot was fired and watched her husband die.

BALDWIN: A movie theater, it was a grocery store and a school all last week (ph).

SAVIDGE: Yes, I have a hard time putting my mind around it too.

BALDWIN: I agree.

Martin Savidge, thank you very much.

Now coming up, some colleges across America helping students pay their loans after graduation and the graduate doesn't pay the cash back. Could this change tuition forever?

Plus, a young African-American boy executed for the deaths of two white girls. An all-white jury convicted him in 10 minutes. But now, decades later, a judge may reopen that case. We'll tell you why, next. You're watching CNN.