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CNN NEWSROOM

Parents Testify To Congress On Vet's Suicide; Lebron Watch: Where Will King James Sign?

Aired July 10, 2014 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SGT. THOMAS GUILLAND, HARRIS COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: She was the only clue we had to the amount of information that we could gather on this suspect here.

CONSTABLE RON NICKMAN, HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS: She was able to provide the name of the person who shot them, where he was going next and quickly responding to that location, we caught him coming up to that residence, where other relatives of that family lived and we assume he meant to shoot them, as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Here's what else we have learned during much of the standoff, Haskell held a gun to his head while deputies surrounded him, their weapons drawn. He finally did surrender after three hours. So John Walsh, let me bring you in, host of CNN's new show "The Hunt." By the way, welcome to you and welcome to the CNN family, officially.

Let's begin talking about this horrendous story outside of Houston. These kids and this Houston shooting. Two boys, John, ages 13 and 4, two girls, ages 9 and 17, again, believed to be relatives, not his children. Other than the fact that this was horrible and gruesome, is there anything reading the details of this case that really jumps out at you?

JOHN WALSH, CNN HOST, CNN'S "THE HUNT WITH JOHN WALSH": Well, what jumps out to me is how sad it is. And, again, guns are involved. Again, we, the United States, the richest, most powerful first-world country, is the domestic violence capital, homicide capital of the world. I just don't know why we put up with it as a society and a culture. Why it's OK in America to just kill everybody that you don't want to deal with anymore in a domestic situation.

It's very, very sad and I think people around the rest of the world say America, I'm a gun owner, and I don't think we have time to get into the gun debate. But I'm a real proponent of background checks to people with guns. I'm not so sure this would have stopped this slaughter, but I think we have become anesthetized to the fact that we have had 22 mass murder situations in the last two years, 79 gun incidents at school.

Every day in some states, somewhere, there is a guy who decided he's mad and hurt, because his wife left him and he's going to go kill everybody, including his kids, and I'm doing one of those guys on the premier of "The Hunt."

BALDWIN: Let me, because you brought it up, speaking of -- you talk about slaughter and domestic violence. Take a look at this. Here's a clip.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think people are aware of how much domestic abuse exists in America, where the end result is a homicide. I just don't think women know that sometimes it escalates to the point where there's no going back. There's no going back. The last place you're going to is the morgue.

UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: 911, your emergency? Hello?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the evening of May 7th, 2013, our dispatchers received a 911 call from the miller residence. And the phone, there was no conversation, but they could hear what sounded like a person crying on the phone and then the dispatcher referred to hearing some loud bangs.

Our dispatchers knew there was something very wrong at the scene. Upon arrival, the officers found Mrs. Sandy Miller murdered by gunshots. But what made it even more tragic, we're seeing two young children dead.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: And that is just a snippet of this first episode and just shaking your head, again, people know your back story, your son abducted and murdered. You have made it your life's mission to seek out these bastards. This is the word you use. Let me ask you though this because in this first episode, you talk a lot about people snapping. What makes a person snap to do something like this?

WALSH: Well, I think the jury is still out and the psychologists are going to debate this forever. But this guy, Shane Miller, he's wanted for triple homicide by police. My question is, he had guns in his house. He is a convicted felon. He served time in a federal prison. He's got a rap sheet an arm long and when they started looking for him, when he went on the run, was probably California's -- Northern California, Shasta County's, biggest manhunt ever. They find a bunker where he has 45 assault weapons and over 100,000 rounds of ammunition.

Now I hunt and I have guns, but I have got to ask this question. How does a convicted felon in America get a hold of handguns that he kills and slaughters his wife and shoots his 5-year- old and 8-year-old daughters in the face and then he goes on the run? Thank God they found the bunker first. But how the hell does a guy like that get 45 assault weapons and 100,000 rounds of ammunition?

But as a country, we just won't look at that. We just keep hiding behind the second amendment and the NRA keeps saying, you know, everybody should have the right to own a gun. Absolutely. I should have that right. I hunt, I shoot quail. I've owned shotguns and handguns.

But a good psychological background check by people who give that permit, a couple days waiting period so you don't kill your ex- wife and everybody she knows and make it harder to get that gun and make it a privilege. The only guys who don't want to go for a background check are terrorists and fugitives.

So as a culture, we've got to stop this. But my main mission, I'm proud to be on CNN. It's going to be a very different show than "America's Most Wanted." We put a lot of guys in the show, a lot of missing children. We caught almost 1,300 guys. Recovered 61 missing children. Still can remain anonymous.

"The Hunt" is going to be a different show. We're going to look at a lot more from the victims' side. And I'm just praying and hoping people will tune in, Sunday night at 9:00 and I can get or we can get and the cops can get Shane Miller off the streets before he turns that gun on somebody else.

BALDWIN: I hope, and I pray with you that people will be watching and helping all these people and these victims and these families. Too much is too much. John Walsh, thank you. Just remind our viewers, watch "The Hunt" Sunday night, 9:00 Eastern here on CNN. Thank you, sir, and again welcome.

WALSH: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, we have told you the tragic story of the American soldier, Daniel Somers. He committed suicide after serving in Iraq and today his parents testified on Capitol Hill and told his emotional story of what happened with their son when he tried to get help at the VA. They are re-joining me today to talk about that testimony and what they're trying to accomplish here. Stay with me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Two parents today went public with their pain to reform a system that is as troubled and massive as the crisis at the border. I'm talking about the mistreatment of veterans in the VA system. The son of Howard and Gene Somers committed suicide in June of last year.

Daniel was an Army veteran who suffered from crippling depression and war-related psychosis, and what really made Daniel's death stand out is that his suicide letter went viral. And so just recently, the Somers read me some of Daniel's letter, some of his own words to me back in May.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of the things that everyone else takes for granted are nearly impossible for me. I cannot laugh or cry. I can barely leave the house. I derive no pleasure from any activity. Everything simply comes down to passing time until I can sleep again. Now, to sleep forever seems to be the most merciful thing.

BALDWIN: Forgive me. This is tough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: That was a tough one and I'll never forget it. I've stayed in touch with these patterns ever since. Here they were on Capitol Hill today testifying before this House Veteran Affairs Committee about how hard it was for Daniel to get help for his mental illnesses. So Howard and Jean Somers join me from Washington, D.C. It is wonderful having you both back.

JEAN SOMERS, MOTHER OF VETERAN WHO KILLED HIMSELF: Thank you, Brooke.

DR. HOWARD SOMERS, FATHER OF VETERAN WHO KILLED HIMSELF: Thank you very much.

BALDWIN: Let's just get to some of what you all said to these members of Congress today on the Hill. And Jean, I'm just going to begin with you. Because before we get to the specifics and everything you're trying to raise awareness and the change, this is when you're talking about how Daniel went for help and found that there were no beds for him. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEAN SOMERS: Probably the most -- if I don't make it through this, Howard will finish. Probably the most egregious event was when Daniel presented to their E.R. --

DR. HOWARD SOMERS: He went into the corner. He was -- he laid down on the floor. He was crying. There was no effort made to see if he could be admitted to another facility. He was told that you can stay here and when you feel better, you can drive yourself home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So this is part of Daniel's story. And I mean, can I just say, it's amazing how you two are able to step in for one another and help finish each other's sentences. You've been through this, obviously, as a unit. But Jean, it's been more than a year since you lost your son and this is still so incredibly raw for you.

JEAN SOMERS: Yes. I don't think I will ever, ever be able to tell that story from start to finish.

BALDWIN: In this hearing today, Howard, you talked about how Daniel had no one advocating for him. There are a lot of people working for the VA, who flat out do not care. This is what you told a congressman today. Tell me more.

HOWARD SOMERS: Well, what we had heard from Daniel was that there were contacts at the VA. The problem was they kept changing and you could never reach them by phone. And that's a persistent issue, at least in Phoenix, remember that Daniel started his contact with the VA in 2008. So things have changed. Different VAs have progressed at different rates.

They do have now what they call navigators who are people who are veterans who are -- whose job is basically to help veterans navigate through the VA system. As we heard today, it's very difficult for a veteran especially one with mental health issues, to go into a facility that's huge, that's laid out like a maze at times.

Where there are a lot of people, where there might not even be anybody at the information desk when you walk in the door. And when you get into an environment like this, basically, you're just going to turn around and leave, because for somebody who doesn't have any issues, it's difficult to negotiate. But for somebody who has significant mental health issues, it's absolutely impossible.

BALDWIN: Exponentially greater. And then another issue, Jean. You spoke of this conflict between Daniel's own privacy and a family's need to know their loved one was in this crisis. Was reeling. And you just didn't fully know.

JEAN SOMERS: Right. Our situation was, of course, complicated because Daniel was married. And as parents of a married service member, you are not kept in the loop. It's all in -- next of kin becomes the wife, which I totally understand. But in it a situation like this, where we understand that if a service member is having suicidal ideation, their actual chart is flagged in the system.

And once that happens, the way that we understand HIPPA to work, at this point, is that the mental health professional does have the option, if he feels that the service member is a threat to himself or others, they can proactively reach out and to get more information, to -- inform family. And we just don't feel like that is being done.

There's this fear of government being sued, I don't know. But there is this tremendous fear of HIPPA. It's constantly -- you run up against it, and everybody just goes like this. We can't do anything because of this.

BALDWIN: You know, we could go -- I honestly could spend two hours with you, to speak with you on all of the issues that have plagued the VA and how you have lived through this. Let me ask this to either of you. Sitting on Capitol Hill, face-to-face with these members of Congress, going through these issues line by line, how receptive were they? And I mean, just beyond -- not just raising awareness and waiving the flag but fixing this.

HOWARD SOMERS: Well, the impression I think we both got was this committee is incredibly receptive.

BALDWIN: Good.

HOWARD SOMERS: I was actually approached by one of the committee members after our part of the hearing was over. His frustration is that this is such an important committee, but it's such a small committee, and it's made up mostly of junior members. So this committee that has such an important role to play at this time might not have the --

JEAN SOMERS: Club. The club they need.

BALDWIN: Well, OK. HOWARD SOMERS: Just might not be able to come up with the influence that it needs in order to progress the way it needs to progress. And that was a frustration. I think we were told that nobody could remember committee members ever standing at the end of a hearing and giving panelists a standing ovation after a hearing was held. So --

BALDWIN: Did they do that for you today?

HOWARD SOMERS: Yes, we were told -- we had no idea that had happened. We thought -- we heard applause. I thought it was coming from the audience because it was completely filled. But we were told that it was the members of the committee. And these people did appear to be committed. This is a problem, of course, with many issues in Washington that we really have to see the action after the words. And, you know, we will make sure that there is follow up.

BALDWIN: We will make sure there is follow up. I will keep banging my fist if you will keep helping me bang my fist with you, for you, for so many people who -- who are willing to give the ultimate sacrifice for our country. And we should be treating them with the dignity, the respect and what they need back here at home. Howard and Jean Somers, thank you so much for coming back. Stay in touch with me and we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Once again, all eyes are on Miami Heat all-star, Lebron James. He is a free agent. He is about to sign a deal worth a lot of dough, but there is this one thing missing, an NBA team. Where will he go? Will he re-sign with the Miami Heat or will he take his power forward skills back to his hometown of Cleveland or, who knows? Maybe go somewhere else.

You remember this scene after his decision to leave Cleveland four years ago, all the fans burning that Cavs jersey? Well, one thing is for sure, those Lebron haters are singing a different tune right about now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's tough, man. I want to see him come back and get these champions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's coming home. He has to. We deserve this I've been the hugest Lebron fan. That's all I am. I don't care where he went. I want him to come back to Cleveland and show us he can earn us a title with the players we have right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come home, baby! Come home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It feels exactly the same as the 2010 decision, only reverse, where he's coming back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fact that it's taken this long, I think he's coming back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lebron, the king, he's home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: CNN sports commentator, Greg Anthony joining me now. We laugh because we think of what happened four years ago. Let me tell you this. Cleveland city councilman that I spoke to last hour was not necessarily burning his jersey four years ago, but he was not thrilled with Lebron's choice at that time and he is basically saying forgive and forget. No big deal, come on back. What do you think?

GREG ANTHONY, CNN SPORTS COMMENTATOR: Well, time heals all wounds, doesn't it, Brooke?

BALDWIN: That's a pretty big wound.

ANTHONY: It is, but it's healing rapidly if he were to make the decision to return to Cleveland. They have a lot of young talent and the tools in place to be able to pull off a monster sign and trade for, guy like Kevin Love, which would solidify potentially Lebron making that return.

There are a lot of nervous people down here in South Florida and also up in Cleveland, because -- listen, he is the big prize of this free agent market. Everybody is waiting to see where he goes before the dominos start to fall.

BALDWIN: We're waiting. Who knows when? It could be soon. He will hop a plane and head to Brazil for the finals this weekend. It could be before then or after then. We don't know. Here is my next question for you. I know free agents typically meet with, you know, the coach, the owner, GM of a team. Lebron, this is all according to our reporting, ESPN as well, that he has met with Miami. This guy has not met with Cleveland. Do we think that maybe he has in secret or should we be reading into the basketball tea leaves on that one?

ANTHONY: No. I don't know that he is personally going to. I think -- remember, he has representatives. He also has tremendous familiarity. The front office has changed. The coach has changed. The ownership hasn't. I think that's the one part of this that sometimes gets left out.

I think Lebron was fine with the backlash and the vitriol he received from the fans, but I'm not sure how he felt in terms of the animosity he got from the Cavs when he ultimately made that decision to go to Miami. I think that's an area of concern for Cleveland as well as Lebron. But I don't know that it's a big issue right now.

I think he wants to see what pieces ultimately they'll have in play. For him, bottom line, he wants to have a chance to win world championships and he's trying to determine if Cleveland is at that level right now and I think he knows that Pat Riley and the Miami Heat are going to do everything they can to keep him.

BALDWIN: To keep him. I have to put you on the spot because I can and you know a thing or two about basketball. One word, Greg Anthony, where does he go? ANTHONY: Miami.

BALDWIN: Boom. Greg Anthony. We'll see if you're right. Thank you, sir. Stand-in commentator here.

ANTHONY: All right, take care, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, what was it like to grow up in Barry Gordy's home when Motown was at its peak? We dug this out of the archives from two years ago because they're both related to Barry Gordy. Christmas parties and the like really influenced their music career.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: If you have you been watching CNN on Thursday nights, you know what's coming up tonight, "The Sixties" tonight it is the British invasion, the story behind Motown and the Beatles and the Stones, the era inspired so many bands including LMFAO. They talked to me a couple of years ago about what it's like growing up in Barry Gordy's house.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: You were, admittedly, in this inner circle of music. Did you meet any of these famous people? Did they give you advice? What piece of advice have you held on to?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Smoky is like Uncle Smoky.

BALDWIN: Uncle Smoky. What did uncle smoky tell you guys?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Christmas parties, you would see everybody there, Rick James, everybody. It was more of being able to be in the presence and see how they carried themselves, see how they interacted.

BALDWIN: Like watching them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. When you're a kid, you're a sponge, right? You absorb anything that's going on. If somebody says the cuss word, you're saying the cuss word the rest of the night.

BALDWIN: Osmosis, baby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For us, we kind of absorbed some of their charisma. We would say jokes, walk like them. That gave us the confidence to go back to school and have a different perspective and be the class clown and not be afraid to stand up on a desk and say some crazy stuff.

BALDWIN: Stuff, CNN. Who is that one person that you're thinking of in your head? Who is that one person you remember from the Christmas parties like I want to emulate this person?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I definitely remember Rick James, so cool. He would come in so cool, man and Michael Jackson, too.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: Watch "The Sixties" tonight. Thanks for watching me. I'm Brooke Baldwin. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.