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California Wild Fire Rages Out Of Control; Boat With Migrants Capsize Off Libya; Attorney Releases Bates Training Records. Aired 6- 6:30a ET

Aired April 19, 2015 - 06:00   ET





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Life and property are our priorities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm actually quite -- quite scared right now for my family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an example of what the drought has done to these fuel conditions.


JOE JOHNS, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: Wicked wildfires threatening hundreds of homes in Southern California. This morning, mandatory evacuations with the extreme drought fueling the flames.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: The lawyer for a reserve deputy who mistakenly shot an unarmed man releases the deputy's training records. Could this be critical in Robert Bates criminal case?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was screaming as he was yelling shoot me, shoot me.


JOHNS: We have compelling video of a police officer keeping his cool while confronting a double murder suspect and refusing to use deadly force as the man charged.

PAUL: We are also following this story very closely. A boat believed to be carrying as many as 650 people plus has capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya. We will bring you a report in just a couple of moments.

But first, we do have to begin with breaking news out of California. Take a look at these pictures we are getting in. It is an early, brutal start to the wildfire season.

Right now, more than 300 firefighters are racing to contain a wildfire that is out of control, but you can see those pictures there. We are so grateful to have your company as always this morning. I'm Christi Paul.

JOHNS: I'm Joe Johns in for Victor Blackwell. So much news going on both here on the west coast as well as the Mediterranean Sea.

PAUL: Absolutely.

JOHNS: The fires broke out at around 6:00 p.m. last night near Corona, California, about an hour outside of Los Angeles, and it has already forced evacuations of 300 families.

PAUL: The fire is only about 15 percent contained this hour, but the area we know has already been hit so hard by the state's year-long drought at this point so you can imagine how uneasy residents are.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm actually quite scared right now for my family and don't know what to do. If I need to get back and start planning evacuations or what.


PAUL: All right, we want to talk here with Captain Mike Mueller of the Riverside County Fire Department. Captain, thank you for being with us. First of all, what do you know about the conditions there right now and how this fire might have started?

CAPTAIN MIKE MOHLER, RIVERSIDE COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT (via telephone): Right now, we are on the fire lines. We are actually seeing the fire lay down just a little bit. We have lost the wind which is in firefighters' favor. Right now, the cause is under investigation, but we are actively looking at what exactly started this.

PAUL: So I know that this area has not been touched by fire in so long, that there is a lot of vegetation there. How tough a fight is this for you in terms of the terrain that you're dealing with?

MOHLER: It's very difficult. This area has hasn't burned in decades. This is in a proto dam basin. If we weren't in a drought this would normally be full of water. So it's difficult terrain and difficult access for firefighters and difficult vegetation so it's making for a difficult firefight.

PAUL: We understand that there are areas that have been evacuated where there are homes and homes being built. So are there structures that are wood frames that I would think would just be tinder for these flames?

MOHLER: There are. There are some new construction areas within the fire area. Right now, fortunately, no structures have been damaged or destroyed but definitely life and property right now are our top concerns. PAUL: So when you talk about this drought, how does that affect the way you fight this fire? I mean, do you have enough resources?

MOHLER: We do. We do have enough resources. We have firefighters throughout Southern California on scene and more responding as we speak. We are just hoping that Mother Nature stays on our side and we will see in the morning when the sun comes up, we will have more aircraft on it and hopefully again the wind stays in our favor.

PAUL: But real quickly, everybody has gotten out and there haven't been any injuries?

MOHLER: That is correct. We are happy to report that there have been no injuries reported and again no structures damaged or destroyed.

PAUL: OK, well, yes, we see the pictures there of those 300 plus firefighters, who are responding, as well as we understand two water dropping helicopters and two air tankers, best of luck to you. We are thinking about all of you there. Do stay safe, and thank you, Captain Mike Mueller. We appreciate it.

MOHLER: Thank you very much.

JOHNS: Ivan Cabrera is here now. Ivan, just looking at those pictures, the situation out there seems like a confluence of all the worst possible factors.

IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: They do incredible work out there, no question about it. You talked about the fire season. The fire season now basically runs through the entire year because we don't have a rainy season that is the problem here. We have very dry tinder here.

[06:05:10] So 15 percent contained that is what we are talking about here, 300 acres have been affected. I think the issue as we head through today is going to be the winds. The winds are going to be gusty.

We are talking anywhere from 20 to 25-mile-an-hour wind -- this afternoon and we are talking again about low relative humidity and that is going to be an issue as we head through later on.

Temperatures are going to be that bad. I think that is going to be on our side here. Now we would love to have some here, but that's not going to happen. We are talking about dry conditions as we head through the next several days.

That has been the case, of course, throughout the year, that's been the problem here. When you have a drought that makes things worse and makes firefighting a whole lot more difficult here and that's what we have to contend with.

The winds, again, I think, guys, today are going to be the issue, 20 to 25-mile-per-hour winds, they tend to go down at night, but then we got the heating of the day and we mix things up a little bit and that's when get into the gusty winds. So hopefully that 15 percent containment will continue to go up.

PAUL: Ivan, thank you so much. Just to remind you that we are going to obviously continue to follow this story all morning long and before you any developments that happens.

JOHNS: Absolutely. We also have some breaking news off the coast of Libya. A boat carrying what could be as many as 700 migrants has capsized in the Mediterranean Sea. A joint rescue operation is now under way.

Officials say 28 people have been rescued, but 23 bodies have also been recovered. Barbie Nadeau, Rome bureau chief for the "Daily Beast" joins us now on the phone. Barbie, what else do you know about this accident?

BARBIE NADEAU, ROME BUREAU CHIEF, "THE DAILY BEAST" (via telephone): Well, we know that the distress call for this ship came in last night about 11:30 local time. The ship was in trouble. A merchant vessel was involved in the rescue operation immediately.

When the migrant saw the safe merchant vessel coming to rescue them, they all apparently rushed to one side of the ship, the ship that they were on and capsized sending, you know, as many as 700 people into the water.

The waters are very, very cold this time of the year and the seas are very rough. It's quite a stormy time in the Mediterranean, which obviously people's chance of survival is only a couple of hours. It was dark.

The Italian Coast Guard got involved and Maltese Navy as well, trying to find people, but they are reporting just hundreds of bodies in the water right now.

This of course comes on the back of a week when 11,000 people came from coast of Italy last week in a seven-day period alone and this really isn't even the boat season yet. People are coming and coming and trying to get to Europe by way of Italy.

JOHNS: Right. So another migrant ship capsized just a few days ago. What do we know about the situation? These are people coming from conflict zones. They pay to get on these boats and then bad things can happen.

NADEAU: That's absolutely right. These are mostly sub-Saharan- African people who have been traveling for weeks, maybe months before they even get to the Libyan port in order to take advantage of the human traffickers that just run a business charging $7,000, $8,000, $9,000 a head for people to make this dangerous journey across.

Then of course, once they get to Italy, they go into migrant camps for a little while, but most of them just heads all up into Europe. The migrant camps are not the community. They are quite free. There are also land traffickers that take people up.

It is a question of human traffickers (inaudible) a need these desperate people who you just cannot stop them from trying to make it to a safer place.

NADEAU: Right. I just want to update here. We are being told 49 people have now been rescued. Those are the latest numbers. So, Barbie, why do people take this terrible risk? They have to know the grave danger of getting on to one of these little boats and trying to make it away from, say, Libya. Why do they do this?

NADEAU: It's a desperate situation. So many people I've talked to when they have landed in Italy or in the migrant camps have said that it's worth the risk. They are fleeing a situation that they don't feel they have a future and feel their lives are in danger.

There were women from Nigeria who made it to Sicily last week who said that they were trying to escape Boko Haram. They were worried for their children and for daughters. They have their own story of desperation and come on the boats and take the risk.

The risk to them is worth it, even though life here obviously, is very, very difficult for them. There is very little work. They are treated, living in in humane conditions until they get on their feet. A lot of people try to join family and French speaking Africans people who come up and try to get to France, try to get to Germany and try to get into the U.K.

But they are met as well with a lot of opposition. People just don't have jobs. Unemployment is high. It's a terrible situation. But as they say, it's better than what they are coming from.

NADEAU: All right, we are going to continue to cover this because a terrible situation. Thanks so much for updating us, Barbie Nadaeu.

[06:10:05] Much has been said about the training records of that volunteer deputy who says he mistakenly shot an unarmed man. Now his lawyer says take a look for yourself and you'll be the judge. Are those forged or not? That story is coming up.

PAUL: Plus customs agents make a record breaking drug bust in the Caribbean. What they found in the cargo hold might blow your mind.




JOHNS: New information this morning on a deadly shooting that was reported by a police body camera. Reserve Deputy Robert Bates says he pulled out his gun instead of his taser and killed Eric Harris.

CNN reported the story first last Sunday. Since then, a lot of attention and focus has been on the training he received and now CNN has obtained new documents suggesting Bates had proper training to be in the field.

The records, which were released by Bates' lawyer includes his training hours, even reviews from other officers. CNN's Polo Sandoval has been reading through the documents. Polo, these records certainly could be critical in this case. Has CNN been able to independently authenticate them?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joe, not at this point. Really, that is going to be key because as you mentioned there, we continue to pour through these documents. They do suggest that Robert Bates training was actually up-to-date, at least, they certify some of that training, particularly the one with the taser.

But still so many questions still remain and we should mention these documents were headed over to CNN by Robert Bates' attorney, Mr. Woods.

[06:15:05] Now they do show that the reserve deputy did, in fact, have at least one taser training class over a six and a half year period as you mentioned there.

Bates confusion between his taser versus his gun is one of the big issues here, the story. The response from bates and his legal team is coming after "The Tulsa World" cited five sources that claimed Bates lacked appropriate training and that any document suggesting that Bates was in fact qualified were falsified.

The publication is standing by the reporting. Tulsa County Sheriff's Office continues to deny that allegation. We did take a closer look at these records though. They do show that Bates took 34 training classes within a 48-hour period in late 2013.

Now we asked Bates' attorney, Scott Wood, for an explanation. He said he could have been trying to cram in those classes for certification before the end of 2013.

But at the same time as we mentioned there, we have not been able to confirm the authenticity of those documents and we also do know that we are in the process of requesting some of these records from the Tulsa County's Sheriff's Office.

But at this point, John, they do say that they are unable to provide them as they are part of an ongoing investigation. I also did reach out to CLET, which is the Council of Law Enforcement Education and Training, which basically oversees the training of some of their state officers.

And at this point, they said they cannot provide those documents. Either Bates would have to sign off on it or a court order would have to be required -- Joe.

NADEAU: That's missing documents. There are some missing documents here that we don't know where they are?

SANDOVAL: Joe, that's one of the other big questions here, too. In fact, Bates' attorney was the very first one to admit that there are some records still missing. He did not go as far as to say exactly what they would show.

However that is also going to be a major issue to see really the entire document packet. At this point, we only have 60 some pages, again but his attorney the first to admit there are still a few more pages that should be included here.

NADEAU: Very interesting story. Thanks so much for that, Polo Sandoval. The new documents come as Eric Harris family and friends say their final goodbyes. They gathered yesterday afternoon for a viewing ceremony in Tulsa. Harris' son is questioning the legitimacy of the training record.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know what they did is wrong, but they wouldn't be trying to hide everything, so just to admit what they did is wrong and we will get justice for him.


NADEAU: Now let's bring in CNN contributor and former FBI analyst, Tom Fuentes into the discussion. Tom, a lot of questions about Bates' training, what do you take away from these documents? What is useful for the investigation?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Joe, I think what is useful is what was the training specifically? What type of training was it? He has described during his TV interviews that he carried his firearm on his right hip, which if you're right-handed, most police officers would.

But that he had a tactical vest on and the taser was in the center of his chest up in here on his vest. What that means is that he would be drawing the taser with the same right hand that he would be drawing the firearm and it would be much easier to distinguish.

How much training with draw, fire, reholster, the firearm, draw, use the taser and it's one and done usually until you reset it. Most police departments training now, the taser would be completely on the other side. You would draw it with your weak hand or left hand in this case.

Hand it over to the right hand so it's a couple of extra actions of making it clear to you, you are using the taser, not your firearm. That is one aspect of training. We don't know. They may train all of their officers the same way, you know, maybe no extensive training on distinguishing one from the other.

NADEAU: You know, there are reports his records could have been falsified that Bates was given preferential treatment. "Tulsa World" published an article saying the supervisors were actually directed to sign off on his training and if they didn't, they were reassigned. How likely is it that something like that can actually be proven?

FUENTES: I don't know. I would think it could be proven by the statements taken from the other officers, especially locate the ones that may not be with the department anymore and interview them and get, you know, especially for another law enforcement agency doing an investigation to get a signed, sworn statement from them that that is what occurred and they saw that happen.

Again, each one of these little aspects to this is part of the story, but not the entire story. Having been a firearms inspector and police instructor and FBI instructor, you need hundreds and hundreds of hours and police officers get that.

Reserve officers just don't. Under Oklahoma law, they are required to get about half of what a full-time police officer would get. They would never have the same level of training as a full-time police officer. They shouldn't be at high risk dangerous arrests like this. It just should be avoided.

[06:20:06] JOHNS: Tom Fuentes, thanks for that. Please standby and we want your thoughts on a story coming up later in our hour.

PAUL: A police officer, keeping his cool, in a harrowing situation. Take a look at this video. An officer refusing to shoot even as a double murder suspect is charging him. We will take a closer look at this video and hear why the officer chose not to fire.

Plus, Pete Rose is back in baseball sort of.



JOHNS: It's 23 minutes after the hour. Here's a look at some of the other stories developing at this hour.

French customs officers seize more than two tons of cocaine from a sailboat. One Venezuelan and two Spanish nationals were arrested in the raid off the coast of Martinique in the Caribbean. The value of the cocaine seized is estimated at more than $105 million.

PAUL: A charter bus taking the University of Connecticut students to Boston caught fire on a ramp on the Massachusetts turnpike. Thankfully no one was injured, but some of the students are blaming the driver for not stopping when the bus started having mechanical issues. The cause is under investigation.

JOHNS: In Idaho, firefights rescued who parrots from a burning home. They say they heard voices inside saying, help and fire, but once the flames were contained they found out it was actually the parrots talking. The birds were given oxygen. They are expected to be all right. No one was found inside the house.

[06:25:07] PAUL: Fox has hired former Major League Baseball player, Pete Rose, as a guest analyst. Baseball's all-time hits leader was slapped with a lifetime ban, remember, from the sport after a betting controversy back in 1989. The network's move comes at a time that Rose has officially requested to have that ban lifted. I wonder why?

JOHNS: Yes, really. Twenty years after the nation's deadliest domestic terror attack, the Oklahoma City bombing, the city's scars remain. Coming up next, we will take you there live where loved ones will gather to remember the victims.

And dramatic body cam video shows how an officer's split-second decision not to use deadly force on a murder suspect charging at him. You'll see it play out as the officer describes his thought process.



PAUL: Mortgage rates are down just a bit. Have a look at today's numbers.


JOHNS: And we do have breaking news stories we are following for you this morning, first, in Southern California where residents are waking up to a massive --