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Virgin Galactic Spaceship Explodes; FBI Most Wanted Suspect Charged with Murder; Nurse Claims Victory over Maine Quarantine Rules; Nurse Claims Victory Over Maine Quarantine Rules; Battle Over Ebola Becomes Key Election Issue; Cities on High Alert After New Ax Attack on Cop

Aired October 31, 2014 - 19:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news. A Virgin Galactic spaceship explodes in midair during a test flight. One pilot is dead. It is the second American spacecraft to blow up in less than a week. What happened?

Plus one of the FBI's most wanted suspects, Eric Frein, charged with murder in the shooting of Pennsylvania State Trooper. How did he evade a thousand offers looking for him and survive for 48 days on the run.

And a Maine judge says nurse Kaci Hickox is now free to leave her home. This as Oregon officials isolate yet another possible Ebola victim.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Brianna Keilar in front for Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT today, breaking news. Explosion in space. Virgin CEO Richard Branson's experimental rocket plane on track to take the first space tours in the outer space early next year exploded in midair during a test flight over the Mojave Desert today.

The $500 million spaceship seen here just before the explosion experienced a catastrophic failure shortly after separating from its carrier plane. That was at about 10:12 a.m. Pacific Time. One pilot died, the second pilot is injured. Large pieces of the wreckage can be seen scattered across the desert with the loss of the pilot. Of course it was an especially tough day for mission officials.


STUART WITT, MOJAVE AIR AND SPACE PORT CEO: We are humans and it hurts.


KEILAR: This is the second American spacecraft to explode in flight this week. Tuesday a NASA Antares rocket blew up just seconds after takeoff from its Wallops Island, Virginia, launch pad.

SpaceShipTwo was Richard Branson's signature enterprise considered by many to be the future not only of space flight but of commercial air travel. And it was scheduled to take tourists into outer space starting sometime next year. In fact more than 700 customers have already paid as much as a quarter million dollars for a ride.

CNN's Paul Vercammen is OUTFRONT tonight in the Mojave Desert for us.

And Paul, you really got to the edge of this debris field today after this explosion. Tell us more about what you're hearing about it.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, one area of prime focus, a new fuel mixture. Officials here confirming that they used a mixture for the first time in the air today that they had only tested on engines on the ground.

People we talked to here as well said they did not see any massive blast. Effectively SpaceShipTwo sort of separates from the rocket and then it becomes a glider. And out at the debris field we can tell you that they say there's at least five separate debris fields and on the edge some officers on the ground told us that the pilot who was deceased was still in his seat inside the spaceship and then down the road further they found the surviving pilot and he had successfully deployed his parachute.

He has been taken to a nearby hospital, Antelope Valley, where they say he had suffered from moderate to major injuries -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Paul, you spoke to the chief executive of Mojave Air and Space Port there, Stuart Witt, after this press conference today. We understand that he was very emotional off camera. What did he say about this tragic event?

VERCAMMEN: Well, it was just so somber, Brianna. Because usually we come out here and it is Richard Branson holding court, a joyful thing talking about SpaceShipTwo, and today after Stuart Witt said that these were his heroes, these pilots, and that they were very experienced, then he swallowed extremely hard, he said, you know, we would all march up to the mouth of hell with each other and we'd be very happy about it.

And again just a really sad and somber mood inside here today where they're trying to figure out what happened to SpaceShipTwo.

KEILAR: Yes. A tough day for them personally.

Paul Vercammen for us in the Mojave Desert, thank you.

And Virgin Galactic is considered by many to really be the best hope in private space exploration. In fact prior to today's tragedy, they were hoping to start flights within months.

Dan Simon is OUTFRONT with this story.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For $250,000 a ride, this is the vehicle designed to take well-heeled passengers to space. The Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo is described as a suborbital vehicle

where ticket holders would get a brief experience of weightlessness and a glorious view of the earth. It began operating in 2005 and within three years Virgin Galactic had more than $31 million in deposits from enthusiastic space tourists.

(On camera): What are your ambitions for Virgin Galactic? What would you like to see happen to it in the next few years?

RICHARD BRANSON, VIRGIN CEO: I love to dream and we've got plenty of ambitions for Virgin Galactic. Our initial ambitions are to create more astronauts in a year than NASA created astronauts in 60 years. So -- you know, so that's going to be tremendously exciting to do and I think that will start in about a year's time.

SIMON: That timeline turned out to be overly ambitious. I interviewed Virgin founder Richard Branson in 2011 as SpaceShipTwo travelled to San Francisco. It was the first time a spacecraft had landed at a commercial airport. And Branson was beaming.

BRANSON: Fasten your seatbelts is a good idea because you're going to go from naught to 2,500 miles an hour in eight seconds and once in space you unbuckle, you look back at earth through these wonderful big windows that we've got in the space ship. You float around and you have the ride of a lifetime and you become an astronaut.

SIMON: SpaceShipTwo is designed to work like this. First, it's carried underneath a mothership, the White Knight Two, both evolved from earlier prototypes. Then once it reaches an altitude of about 50,000 feet it's released with the spacecraft then firing its built-in rocket traveling $62 miles above the earth.

On its Web site Virgin Rockets says safety is its North Star and is engrained in the culture of our space line operation. Something Branson has stressed repeatedly in interviews.

BRANSON: I'm not going to take my son into space until I'm absolutely sure that we've got everything right, and the team won't let me go into space until they're absolutely we're got everything right.

SIMON (on camera): The project, Branson says, includes 300 of the best rocket scientists in the world. In the days leading up to the flight, company officials were saying that if the test flights were successful, space tourism could begin as early as next year. With this mishap, obviously there are major questions now about the future of the project.

Dan Simon, CNN, San Francisco.


KEILAR: OUTFRONT tonight, former astronaut and retired Navy captain, Mark Kelly. We also have CNN aviation analyst Miles O'Brien and CNN aviation correspondent Richard Quest.

Thank you, gentlemen, for being with me tonight. And Miles, really there is a lot that we don't know here. I mean,

what all could have gone wrong?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Any number of things, Brianna. You know, I was looking at some of the footage and it appears that the nitrous oxide tank, which is the oxidizer for the fuel is intact in that rocket. So that would send you away from a theory that would lead you to think there was some sort of explosion. It's quite possible there was some sort of other in-flight breakup of some kind.

Who knows? You can't put the blinders on at this stage. I've talked to some people who are on the scene there and no one reported seeing the flash of an explosion. So of course it was at very high altitude and I was talking to somebody on the ground. So there is a lot that's open here and we shouldn't presuppose anything.

KEILAR: So, Captain Kelly, I mean, one of the things that I know Virgin Galactic is perhaps looking out, we just heard Paul Vercammen report this, is that they switched fuel mixtures. They only tested that new fuel mixture on the ground and there is a question of whether that could have contributed to that.

Do you think, though, that if perhaps there was not an explosion, that that is something that could have happened here, contributed to this?

CAPT. MARK KELLY, U.S. NAVY (RET.): Well, I mean it certainly possibly could. I mean, you just don't know. And one of the things you typically don't want to do in an accident investigation is to have some, you know, presupposed idea of what caused the accident. You know, you want to collect the data, you want to look at the evidence, you want to let the evidence lead you to determine what happened.

I didn't hear any indication that there was actually an explosion. You know, Miles mentioned that nobody saw an explosion from the ground. And, you know, at those speeds and we don't even know how fast it was going when it came apart, but obviously they had some sort of catastrophic failure that could come from an explosion or just, you know, a structural failure in the vehicle as well is a possibility.

KEILAR: And this is of course a very sad day personally for the space community, having lost one of their friends. It's also very sad in that there is this question mark about this immediate future of space travel.

We heard Richard, Erin Burnett interviewing Sir Richard Branson just a month ago about this project. Here's what -- here's what he told her.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: The SpaceShipTwo that you're getting ready to go on yourself, I know, is that still on track for next year?

BRANSON: It's hopefully on track for this year. So the test flight into space will be before the end of this year.

BURNETT: OK. BRANSON: And myself and my son will start the program in the spring

-- early spring of next year. The rockets are now fully working. It has taken longer than we thought but we're finally there.


KEILAR: Richard, this was a huge draw, you already had 700 tickets sold, they cost more than a quarter of a million dollars each. We're talking about celebrities like Justin Bieber, Leonardo DiCaprio, but you would imagine that all of these gets delayed and certainly this will deter a lot of people from wanting to go up initially now that the risks are so apparent.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: I think some will probably decide to have a second think about it or thought about it. And others will say, no, we're still going to go with it because it is the future and we want to be part of that experience. There is little doubt -- there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this will delay. Obviously there's going to be the most thorough investigation and that's not going to happen in two or three days or even weeks or probably even months.

You're talking about a full-scale inquiry into what happened with a long, detailed report and dependent upon that will have to be the recriminations and the changes that take place. Were there too many commercial pressures, was this a failure of the science, was it a failure of the engineering, was it a failure -- an organizational failure in the way they handled what they were doing.

So, yes, there's no question it will be delayed but there will be many people that will still be prepared to pay that sort of money because when it does finally take passengers -- here is the point, Brianna, when it does finally take passengers it will be as safe as it can be.

KEILAR: Yes. It's a dream of so many people. And I believe we have some new pictures that are just coming in that show, I believe, the moment of explosion. So we've been asking Miles and Mark, we've been asking, was there an explosion. You're looking at this picture here, it appears perhaps that there was indeed -- as you read this or as you look at this, what do you read from it -- Miles?

O'BRIEN: Well, I don't see a picture of an explosion. If you imagine all the fuel that is on board there, if it did in fact detonate -- imagine what we saw, for example, with Challenger. That was an explosion. This is not what I see there. I see some fire there, but that could very well be the rocket plume before the rocket have burned out.

I see pieces which of course tell you it's broken up.


O'BRIEN: So, again, you know, I don't want to put the blinders on here but what I see there are signs of some sort of in-flight breakup. So we just don't know. I mean, yes, they spent a long time with one type of engine, almost 10 years if you go back to the X. KEILAR: Yes.

O'BRIEN: The XPRIZE days and switch fuel late in the game. And there was -- there was some modifications to the engine, the actual physical plumbing of the engine in order to do that. Now did that in some way undermine the structural integrity of the craft? That's another thing to consider. But again we shouldn't come to conclusions right this moment.

KEILAR: Mark, what are you seeing there?

KELLY: I'm not seeing anything. I don't have a monitor. I'm just looking into your camera.

KEILAR: All right.

KELLY: So I don't --

KEILAR: All right

KELLY: I don't have the opportunity to look at it so I can't help you there.

KEILAR: All right. Sorry about that. We certainly would want to get your perspective on this.

Miles, you make an excellent point. We'll get your feedback on this a little later, Mark. Really appreciate it.

Mark, Mikes, Richard, thanks to all of you.

And OUTFRONT next, one of the FBI's most wanted men, Eric Frein, captured and charged with murder after almost seven weeks on the run.

How did he evade the massive police manhunt for so long?

Plus a Maine judge rules in favor of nurse Kaci Hickox. Will the ruling -- will this rubbing be a blueprint for Ebola quarantines across the country?

KEILAR: And another ax attack on unsuspecting policeman. This time in the nation's capital. How can they protect themselves from future attacks?


KEILAR: Tonight one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives who has been on the run for seven weeks in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains now behind bars charged with murder. And prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty after he allegedly shot and killed one officer and injured a second.

Frein arrived at court this morning under heavy police guard as onlookers shouted him down.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is OUTFRONT tonight in Milford, Pennsylvania. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You killed that trooper.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Forty-eight days after a Pennsylvania state trooper was fatally shot in cold blood, an extraordinary moment.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eric, what happened to your face -- Eric?

MARQUEZ: Frein taken into court, charged with first-degree murder, bound in the handcuffs of the officer he's accused of killing.

FRANK NOONAN, PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE COMMISSIONER: We just thought that if we had an opportunity, that would be a very fitting tribute to Corporal Dickson and a message to all the law enforcement but especially the Pennsylvania State Police. The word brotherhood and -- that we would never rest until this fugitive was apprehended.

MARQUEZ: In his booking photo, a fresh cut on his nose and a swollen left cheek, injuries police say were not suffered during his arrest.

Joe Fagan was the first person in line for court today.

(On camera): Why?

JOE FAGAN, MILFORD, PENNSYLVANIA RESIDENT: I wanted to see the face of evil.

MARQUEZ: Why is that so important? Why is that such a drive for you?

FAGAN: Because in our community, we're a local bedroom community and to have someone kill a state trooper and attempt to kill a second one and then be running around in the woods was kind of unsettling.

MARQUEZ: After nearly seven weeks of fear and some criticism at the length of the investigation, officials are enjoying redemption.

SEAN RABADI, ATF SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Having a guy out there, an alleged cop killer with a rifle scope, booby-trapped explosives. It's very difficult to just run in there after somebody. They had to methodically clear all these areas.

MARTIN PANE, U.S. MARSHAL, MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA: All parties here that that were part of this investigation knew that we were pushing him and that ultimately sooner or later, we'd come across him.

MARQUEZ: A U.S. Marshal's team found Frein at an abandoned airport about 40 miles away from where Corporal Brian Dixon was killed. Investigators say he had a mission to kill, that Frein ambushed two state police officers outside of the police barracks then fled into the Pennsylvania Mountains, prompting an intense manhunt. Thousands of people searched these woods.

According to the criminal complaint, among the items searchers found were two bombs, a rifle and a box of ammunition of same caliber used to kill Officer Dixon and wound Trooper Alex Douglas.

RAYMOND TONKIN, PIKE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: The families in this matter of Corporal Brian Dixon and Trooper Alex Douglas, and the Pennsylvania State Police, have suffered an unimaginable loss of unspeakable proportions. They will never be the same but today we find some comfort as a community that we are taking these next steps towards justice.


MARQUEZ: Now authorities say they have an extraordinarily strong case against Mr. Frein. Everything from the ammunition and the casings they found in other areas to the rifle that they found in his hideout in that hangar. Searches back to 2012 about escaping a manhunt and caches in the woods, the bombs that they found out there, and most importantly his own writings detailing what he did -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Miguel Marquez, thank you.

And I want to bring in Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan right now.

Commissioner, thanks for being with us. And tell us a little bit about now that you have Eric Frein, looking back on this search that took hundreds and hundreds of officers, how was he able to evade them for all of that time, for nearly seven weeks?

FRANK NOONAN, PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE COMMISSIONER: Well, you have to understand that he's been planning something like this for several yea years, in this particular wooded area that goes for several hundred acres and it's very rugged terrain. And he's planted caches of food. He's planned what he was going to take with him and also he's been practicing by doing these re-enactments in which he would play the part of a Vietnam soldier trying to evade being captured.

And we've talked to the people that were participating with him in these things and they were never able to catch him. No one was ever able to find Eric Frein in the woods.

KEILAR: Tell us about the -- I guess, not just the condition he was in, but tell us about his demeanor when he was taken into custody by officers.

NOONAN: He was complaint. He was tired. And basically he did everything that they told him to do. And offered no resistance whatsoever.

KEILAR: His face appears to be bloodied here. What happened there?

NOONAN: I'm not sure. Apparently he had some injuries, after all he's been in the woods for an extended period of time. But how he got those injuries, I don't know. But it happened before he was taken into custody.

KEILAR: It happened before he was taken into custody. He was --


KEILAR: -- found near this abandoned airport, a hangar an abandoned airport. Do you have reason to believe that he might have been using that as his base the entire time?

NOONAN: I don't believe he was using that as his base the entire time. I think he -- one of the ideas of our search and the pattern we were doing was to try to keep him on the move. So I think he eventually ended up there. It was a place he was familiar with. And -- but I don't think he was -- he certainly wasn't there the whole time because we found signs of him in other parts of the wooded area.

KEILAR: The -- his guns were actually found, is this correct, inside of the hangar? He was not armed when he was discovered?

NOONAN: That's correct, yes. The --

KEILAR: Did that surprise you?

NOONAN: The handgun and -- well, no, actually. The -- as you may have known, if you followed this case, he had a real affinity for the Serbian Army and in particular Serbian snipers. And so we studied their tactics. And the tactics are to do surveillance without carrying your rifle with you. Now why he didn't take his handgun I don't know, but on several sightings when we saw him in the woods, or we believe we saw him in the woods, he did not have the rifle with him. And it's cumbersome and it's hard to hide when you have that rifle with you.

KEILAR: And certainly this is a search that has been a long time coming, seven weeks. We certainly appreciate you being on the program to talk about it, Commissioner.

NOONAN: Thank you very much. It's a great day for law enforcement and the people of Pike and Monroe County.

KEILAR: OUTFRONT next, the nurse at the center of the Ebola quarantine battle claims a major victory tonight, this as Oregon deals with another possible case of Ebola.

And the dramatic image of another ax attack. The police man injured as the attacker got away. How can police stop these attacks from happening again?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KEILAR: Breaking news, Kaci Hickox is speaking out after a judge in Maine rejects the state's call for a mandatory home quarantine for the nurse who recently returned from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone.


KACI HICKOX, NURSE WHO FOUGHT MANDATORY EBOLA QUARANTINE: If I develop symptoms I would do the right thing. I would, you know, immediately isolate myself. I would contact the health department. I would ensure that I was transported safely to a facility that could test me. And you know I would get that test. And if it tested positive, that would be terrible, but I know what to do if the symptoms start.


KEILAR: Hickox is now free to go to stores, restaurants, movie theaters, but she isn't totally in the clear.

Alexandra Field is OUTFRONT from Fort Kent, Maine.


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kaci Hickox, the nurse who took on the policies of two governors claims a major victory.

HICKOX: I am humbled today by the judge's decision.

FIELD: Put in an isolation tent in Newark University Hospital in New Jersey then sent to Maine where she was told to quarantine at home, she's become the flash point in a fiery debate over how to handle the threat of Ebola.

Now, a judge has ordered almost all restrictions on Hickox lifted. She'll still undergo direct active health monitoring, which means a daily visit from a CDC health official. She'll have to coordinate travel with health officials, and immediately notify them if she developed symptoms.

GOV. PAUL LEPAGE (R), MAINE: I think he took a risk which I would not have taken.

FIELD: Maine's governor, Paul LePage, called the ruling unfortunate, but added the state will abide by the law. In his order, the judge addressed concerns about the spread of the Ebola virus, saying, quote, "That fear is rational or not, it is present and it is real." He added, Kaci Hickox should guide herself accordingly.

NORMAN SIEGEL, LAWYER FOR KACI HICKOX: She can go to the pizza play place and get a slice of pizza. She can go to the movie theater tonight. She can go to the public square and dance and celebrate.

FIELD: A previous order barred Hickox from going to work, going to restaurants, getting within three feet of people, among other restrictions. KACI HICKOX, NURSE: I've never taken a walk with this many people


FIELD: She's successfully fought for freedom but she hasn't quite decided what she'll do with it yet.

HICKOX: I'm taking things minute by minute. I completely understand that. And I am sensitive. This is one of the reasons I'm saying this battle isn't over. We still need to continue this discussion. We still need to continue educating ourselves and I don't want to make anyone uncomfortable.


FIELD: You heard Kaci Hickox say she's going to take things minute by minute. Tonight, she tells us she plans to just stay home, stay inside and make dinner and watch a movie.

At the same time, everyone's focus is returning to another woman who recently returned from the hot zone. We're now learning that a woman in Portland, Oregon, who was being monitored for any symptoms. She developed a fever and following protocol. She's taken to a hospital and put into isolation where further testing can be done -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, we should know soon and we'll be following that as well.

Alexander Field for us in Maine, thank you.

And OUTFRONT tonight, CNN legal analyst Paul Callan, along with Dr. Ivan Walks. He is the former chief health officer for the District of Columbia.

Thanks to both of you for being with us.

And, Paul, you've got this lawyer for Kaci Hickox telling CNN today, we won. That's what he said.

Do you see this as a complete victor?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, the lawyers always like to say that they won. But in reading the judge's decision, I think he got half of the loaf of bread, because although the judge said he wasn't going to impose a quarantine in the sense she would have to stay in her home, the judge did say that she would remain under court order to continue to be monitored to see whether she develops a fever or other symptoms of Ebola.

So, she's still under the jurisdiction of Maine, she's still being followed pursuant to the law. So, I would say the judge gave a little bit to both sides.

KEILAR: Yes, and even Kaci Hickox did call it a compromise. So, maybe that's a tipoff to where they ended.

Dr. Walks, when you look at this as a test case for the country, we're seeing this perhaps -- this could apply to other places, the states here, they have the right to create their own public health policies. But should they and should the state courts have this rule, do you think?

DR. IVAN WALKS, FORMER CHIEF HEALTH OFFICER, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: As a former state health officer, I can say absolutely. States should have the right to do that.

But this is a victory today for public health. It's a victory today for all of those workers who want to go and fight Ebola where it is in West Africa and want to come home carefully. This is -- this is really very clear for me, a big victory. And here is why -- if you're not sick, you won't give anybody Ebola. If you are sick, you want to get treatment right away.

So, what the judge basically said is, we know you want to test yourself regularly, we know you want to follow the protocols, we're just going to write that down and make sure it's clear that you are going to follow those and someone is going to make you make sure so the accountable isn't just with you, the accountability is also with the state to support the science.

This kind of clarity is really a good thing for the American public. So many stories and so much abundance of caution kind of language, let's follow the science. If you're not sick, you can't give it to people. If you get sick, you want to get treated right away.


WALKS: We've seen in the last several weeks, if you get treated right away, boy, your outcome is really pretty good.

KEILAR: That is certainly the case we've seen.

Paul, when you look at this and states do, this falls under their purview. But are we seeing this piecemeal? This overseeing of what folks are returning from the affected areas, what they need to undergo. Is this really something that the states should be dealing with?

CALLAN: You know, I think that it is, because look at the town that we're talking about here for this town in Maine on the Canadian border, a town of 4,000 people and a very rural area. The kind of threat that Kaci Hickox might pose to her neighbors is minimal because she practically has no neighbors.

Now, if this were New York City and she were riding in the subway and sneezing or touching a railing that somebody else would touch, there might be a need for more intensive quarantine.

And what disturbs me about her behavior is not that in her individual case, I trust her, she's a nurse and she's humanitarian, she would monitor herself. But if this epidemic spreads, you are not talking about the Kaci Hickox of the world, you are talking about ordinary people who maybe say, I don't care, I don't want to stay confined to my house or the hospital. Those are the people you need quarantines for in the heavily populated areas.


CALLAN: So, I think that you can't say we should throw out the concept of quarantine. It may be necessary in the future.

KEILAR: That is really a good point.

And very quickly before we go, Dr. Walks, I want to ask you about a new development. In Canada today, the nation has suspended issuing visas to foreign nationals from Ebola-affects countries. Do you think this is the right move?

WALKS: I don't. I don't think so. I think that we have to allow people to be honest with us.

I don't want anyone going to a different country, trying to come in, taking Tylenol to hide their fever. We know that you can't give it if you're not sick. And if you get sick, you want help right away because that's how you save your life.

And I think the focus has to be in West Africa and in allowing people to be very honest because what we really want to know who is sick and who is at risk.

KEILAR: Yes, you don't want them to find another way in, for instance. You want them to be very forthcoming so that you can monitor this.

Dr. Walks, Paul, thanks so much to both of you.

WALKS: Thank you.

KEILAR: And OUTFRONT next, just days before Election Day, CNN polls shows several key Senate races are too close to call. Who will control the Senate?

Plus, a second ax attack on a policeman. Tonight, D.C. and New York are on high alert for the suspect still on the loose.


KEILAR: Tonight, we are down to the wire, just four days to go until Election Day and control of the Senate hangs in the balance. While Republicans are expected to hold on to the House, they need to pick up six seats in the Senate to take control. And our new polling tonight shows it's going to be a very close fight in two of the key states Republicans need to win.

Iowa, this is an open seat. Democrat Tom Harkin is retiring and now, Republican Joni Ernst has two-point advantage over Democrat Bruce Braley.

And then the reverse situation in North Carolina. Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan holding a two-point advantage over Republican Thom Tillis. John King for us at the magic wall.

And so, we're looking here, John, at Iowa and North Carolina. These are two of the 10 states that are really too close to call just four days before the election and both are within the margin of error.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And, Bri, that's what makes it so fascinating, going into this wild last weekend. Those races -- look, yes, the Republicans leading in Iowa and the Democrat in North Carolina, but just barely. We really don't know what's going to happen in those states. They are close.

So, let's look at the map and see how they factor in. Here's where we start -- 55 Democrats and 45 Republicans. The 55 Ds includes two independents who caucus with the Democrats. That's the state of play on election morning.

But what's going to play out through the night, 36 races in all across the country. The gold ones are the ones we are watching most closely. We know the Republicans are going to win in Texas. We're pretty much the Democrats are going to win in New Mexico.

So, let's focus on the ones that are in play, and let me start with this. The Republicans need a net gain of six. They think this is step one. Republicans are very confident, Democrats don't push back too hard that the Republicans will pick up Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia. And that will get you to 45-45.

And then, you've got these left -- 10 states left. And this where all of these races, all of these races are in is single-digits. So, let me give you one step here. I'm going to focus now on the blues.

And in Iowa is one of them. Remember, we just told you, Republican Joni Ernst is leading in our poll. And Democrats have to out-hassle on the ground.

I want to give you a scenario. Democrats are hoping this is what happens. Democrats hope to win Colorado as well, but I'm giving that one to the Republicans because they show Cory Gardner breaking away. If the Democrats can hold Iowa and hold New Hampshire, no guarantees, remember the Republican is leading in Iowa. But Democrats need to figure out how to out-hussle in, if they can do that, Bri, now, we're at 47-46.

And look what's left, mostly red states. You still have to say advantage Republicans, but there are some whacky wild cards. And here's one -- more and more, you're hearing when you look at the red states, Kansas, Kentucky and Georgia, now held by Republicans, Democrats are now increasingly confident that the independent Greg Orman is going to win in Kansas. Republicans are trying frantically to save the seat, but a lot of Republicans privately, Bri, are telling me they think the Democrats might be right.

KEILAR: And this could be a very long election.

John King at the magic wall, thank you so much. And one big campaign issue in so many races this year is actually


Dana Bash is OUTFRONT.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Republican Scott Brown is relentlessly making Ebola a issue in his Senate race.

SCOTT BROWN (R), NH SENATE CANDIDATE: As I speak to the citizens of New Hampshire, there is a rational fear that this and other these types of diseases will come into our country.

BASH: His strategy is succeeding, down double digits just a few months ago, he is now in the hunt against incumbent Democrat, Jeanne Shaheen, jumping on from the headlines crisis, ISIS, immigration and now Ebola.

(on camera): People look at it and say, you know, Scott Brown is fear mongering in order to win a Senate seat again.

BROWN: What I hear is that people are deeply concerned --

BASH: Brown is hardly alone in seizing on the Ebola crisis. In dramatic, too close to call Senate races from coast to coast, there are ten of them going into Election Day, Republicans see Ebola as exhibit A in a narrative they were already pushing, government incompetence with President Obama at the helm.

Republican Joni Ernst in Iowa.

JONI ERNST (R), IOWA SENATE CANDIDATE: I think we are being reactive as a federal government. I think that our president really should have taken the lead on these issues.

BASH: Her Democratic opponent is a sitting House member, who bends over backwards to be part of the solution.

REP. BRUCE BRALEY (D), IOWA SENATE CANDIDATE: I went back to Washington for the Ebola oversight hearing and I sat there and I asked tough questions at the head of the Centers for Disease Control, and the National Institutes of Health, FDA, Custom and Border Patrol agents.

BASH: In fact, despite the GOP Ebola strategy, a majority of Americans, 54 percent, believe the federal government is doing a good job in dealing with the Ebola crisis, according to a CNN/ORC poll out this week. And a whopping 71 percent say they are very or somewhat confident in the government's abilities to prevent a nationwide epidemic.

But Republicans are still convinced the Ebola crisis feeds into a broader concern about Washington.

AD NARRATOR: Do you trust President Obama and the Washington politicians?

BASH: Georgia Republican David Perdue's closing act in his tight race.

DAVID PERDUE (R), GEORGIA SENATE CANDIDATE: If you are as frustrated as I am in the dysfunction in Washington and think we can do better, then I really appreciate your trust.

BASH: Voters are so disgusted with Washington, the ultimate weapon is trashing both parties. It helped independent Greg Orman, tie up his race in ruby red Kansas against a Republican.

GREG ORMAN (I), KANSAS SENATE CANDIDATE: Both Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid had been far too partisan for far too long.

BASH: But many voters are so turned off it's hard for any candidate to break through.

In South Dakota, Democrat Rick Weiland, got creative, turning to song.


BASH: Dana Bash, CNN, reporting from battleground states across the county.


KEILAR: That's some campaigning.

And OUTFRONT next, another ax-wielding man attacks a policeman, this time in Washington, D.C. Now, there are new rules to protect cops on the street. Will they work?

Plus, we'll have the latest on the spacecraft that exploded over the Mohave Desert this morning, also, we'll take you inside of the plant where the next Virgin spaceship is being built.


KEILAR: Police in New York and D.C. are on high alert after an ax attack on a Washington police officer. That suspect is still on the loose tonight. And this is the second ax attack on a police officer in as many weeks. You can see that axe there coming right out of the officer's window. Officials say that the suspect smashed that blade into the patrol car early this morning.

And this is an ax attack that comes just days after a man used a hatchet to attack a group of New York police officers standing in broad daylight.

Rene Marsh is OUTFRONT in Washington with more.


RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A large axe lodged inches from a D.C. police officer's head as he sat in the driver's seat. It was another attack on a uniformed officer, this time happening in a residential neighborhood in a D.C. neighborhood.

CHIEF CATHY LANIER, WASHINGTON, DC POLICE: He was ambushed. He didn't see the person coming, and he was ambushed by the ax. He was able to get out of the car and actually chase and tackle the suspect.

MARSH: The ax missed the officer but he dislocated his shoulder in the scuffle with the person still on the run.

It's the second attack on an officer in a matter of days. Just last week in New York City, an ax-wielding man was caught on camera charging towards police officers, striking one in the arm, the other in the head before being shot and killed. The bloody weapon left behind. NYPD called it an act of terrorism.

MATT HORACE, FORMER ATF AGENT: It certainly is alarming. It's hard to say at this point whether it's a trend. Obviously, there's been two incidents, and two incidents is too many in any situation where we're having people take the liberty to attack police officers.

MARSH: This comes at a time when radical jihadists have threatened attacks against uniformed officers in the West. A man in Canada with jihadist connections shot and killed a guard at Canada's National War Memorial, before opening fire in the parliament just two days after a Canadian soldier was run over and killed by a man police say had been radicalized.

This week, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson ordered increased security at more than 9,500 federal buildings across the U.S.

HORACE: But any time you have these things happen, it makes it very easy to -- for the environment to produce copycats. And hopefully the one today was a random act and the police will have this person in custody relatively soon.

MARSH: Police in the nation's capital don't have a motive for this morning's ax attack, but at this point, nothing has been ruled out.


MARSH: Well, the question remains was this latest attack a copycat incident or is there a terror incident? We still do not know.

But what we do know these attacks have prompted immediate increase in security for officers in New York City. Officers have been told they must travel in pairs. There is a buddy system there. And in D.C., the police chief says she's been sending messages two to three times a day reminding officers, Brianna, to stay on high alert.

KEILAR: And officers everywhere must be concerned that this could be a trend.

Rene Marsh, thank you so much.

OUTFRONT next, recently, or I should say instead, more on our top story. That explosion of a Virgin Galactic spaceship over the Mohave Desert today. And then, we will take you inside the very secretive Virgin plant where the next spaceship is being built. We'll have that next.


KEILAR: Breaking news: one pilot is dead, another injured after a Virgin Galactic spaceship exploded during mid-air during a test flight over the Mohave Desert today in California. This dramatic picture coming just moments ago.

A photographer on the ground capturing the aircraft disintegrating in the air, you can see some fire there. It is a devastating setback for the company and also for its founder, Sir Richard Branson. SpaceShipTwo cost nearly half a billion dollars to develop.

Earlier this year, our Rachel Crane was given unprecedented access to Virgin's manufacturing facility in the Mohave Desert. Take a look.


RACHEL CRANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Located just 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles, this secretive facility is home to Virgin's spaceship manufacturing arm called the Spaceship Company. It's here they create and assemble Virgin Galactic's fleet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, we're in the (INAUDIBLE) here. And now, our main fabrication facility of Spaceship Company. We're working on the fuselage for our spaceship that's in assembly right now. Our technicians are lining up the schemes which were made up of carbon fiber to build that part of the vehicle.

CRANE: Virgin's Mohave facility is divided into two parts: one, a clean area where composites for the skin of the ships are made, and the other called FAITH, short for Final Assembly Integration Test Hanger, where the ships are assembled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Big vehicles are what we call bonded composite assembled vehicles. So, you are not going to find many bolts or rivets assembling our vehicle together. We actually bond a lot of the composite.

CRANE: The current line of craft are part of the SpaceShipTwo series. These ships are carrying 250,000 feet into the air by their mother, White Knight, and then separate, blasting off at nearly 100 miles an hour, reaching between 50 and 62 miles above earth.

The journey into space even sub-orbital is difficult at best. Originally, Virgin hoped to be flying people to the edge of space by 2007. But that year, the company suffered a setback when a prototype rocket exploded, killing three workers.

Since then, that timeline has changed with their latest goal to send up commercial passengers by mid-2015. But with this incident, even that date could be in question.

Rachel Crane, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KEILAR: Thanks for watching. "AC360" starts right now.