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Protests in Cleveland; More Dangerous Weather for Oklahoma and Texas; Dangerous Job of White Helmets in Syria. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired May 24, 2015 - 06:00   ET



LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: Violence is not the answer. It's all about trying to find a solution.


JOE JOHNS, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: The eyes of the world on Cleveland tonight for a huge basketball game and even Lebron James is urging calm. New overnight protests and arrest in Cleveland after a police officer is found not guilty in the shooting deaths of two unarmed people.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, a firefighter dies during a water rescue. This is during flash flooding in Oklahoma and evacuations are under way as more heavy rain and severe storms are expected to just pelt the region.

JOHNS: In Iraq, security forces continue their counterattack against ISIS near Ramadi, the goal to push the terror group away from a key military base and Baghdad.

PAUL: I want to wish you a good morning and thank you so much for spending some time with us this morning.

JOHNS: I'm Joe Johns. I'm in for Victor Blackwell and you're Christi Paul.

PAUL: I am. Thank you. I miss that part of it. It's a little early for all of us here, I guess! It's always so good to have with us, Joe.

Listen, let's talk about Cleveland's mayor because he is urging the people of the city to show the world that peaceful demonstrations and dialogue is, indeed the way forward.

Protesters you see them here walking through the streets overnight after a judge yesterday acquitted police officer, Michael Brelo in the shooting death of Timothy Russell and Melissa Williams.

Now, while a lot of the demonstrators were peaceful, there were some scuffles. A CNN crew on the ground saw at least 15 people being taken into custody. CNN's Erin McLaughlin is in Cleveland this morning.

Here's the thing, Erin, the NBA playoffs continued there tonight with Lebron James, himself calling for calm in the city. What is the mood like there right now?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, it does seem calm and quiet here on the streets of Cleveland as this community comes to terms with the tragedy and the verdict. The city's mayor says that this is a defining moment for Cleveland.


MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Protests in downtown Cleveland following the acquittal of a police officer in a 2012 shooting death of two unarmed people. Police in riot gear pushed back protesters arresting at least a dozen. Three people were charged after an object was thrown into a restaurant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The man picked the sign up off the sidewalk and just threw it straight at me.

MCLAUGHLIN: Protesters took to the streets immediately after a judge acquitted Officer Michael Brelo on charges of involuntary manslaughter and felonious assault.

JUDGE JOHN P. O'DONNELL, CUYAHOGA COUNTY: I therefore find the defendant not guilty of counts 1 and 2 as indicted.

MCLAUGHLIN: Brelo was accused of firing bullets that killed Timothy Russell and Melissa Williams after a 22-mile police chase. Authorities said Brelo stood on the hood of the car and fired 15 shots into the windshield, though about a dozen officers fired a total 137 rounds at the car, no one else was charged. The case started after the car driven by Russell backfired. A noise officer mistakenly thought was caused by gunshots.

O'DONNELL: Because he caused a serious physical harm to the victims in a constitutionally reasonable effort to end an objectively reasonable perception, that he and the others present were threatened by Russell and Williams with eminent serious bodily harm.

MCLAUGHLIN: Relatives of the victims had harsh words for the police and the court system.

RENE ROBINSON, COUSIN KILLED IN POLICE SHOOTING: Help my cousin. We have no justice!

MICHELLE RUSSELL, BROTHER KILLED IN POLICE SHOOTING: I know that those officers were upset. Adrenaline was flowing. By the time they reached up, caught up to Tim and Melissa in that parking lot, they simply let them have it.

MCLAUGHLIN: The verdict comes on the heels of several high profile national cases involving police, Ferguson, New York, Baltimore and another case in Cleveland. The death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice ruled a homicide after he was shot by police while holding an air gun. But as the city prepares for tonight's NBA playoffs, hometown

basketball star, Lebron James, is urging his Cleveland Cavalier fans to stay calm and focus on the game.

JAMES: You just feel a certain way about rooting for a team that you love, and it can get your mind off some of the hardships that may be going on throughout your life or in that particular time of period. It just does that.


MCLAUGHLIN: The Department of Justice has said it will review evidence and testimony from the Brelo trial and determine what, if any, additional steps are necessary -- Christi.

[06:05:11] PAUL: All right, so one of the big questions I think a lot of people are wondering this morning is what happens to Officer Michael Brelo now? Do we have any insight into that -- Erin?

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we know that he currently is on unpaid suspension pending an internal police department investigation, but we have yet to hear from Brelo following the verdict.

PAUL: And I know you mentioned the protests over the death of 12- year-old Tamir Rice, that of course, is still, of course, ongoing. Protesters were demanding action in that case. Wondering where that case stands. We had heard yesterday that the officer who shot Tamir Rice had not even been interviewed yet and that has been how many months, six?

MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, six months, there was a small protest at a separate part of Cleveland yesterday marking the six months from his death. It was separate to -- that protest rather was organized before the Brelo verdict was to be announced. We know it's still being investigated, but as you say, Christi, still no charges filed in that case.

PAUL: All right, Erin McLaughlin, thank you so much for the update. We appreciate it.

JOHNS: I want to get some insight now on this case from Walter Madison, who is plugged into the Cleveland attorney and actually the attorney of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old who was fatally shot by police after being spotted with that pellet gun.

And also joining us is HLN legal analyst, Joey Jackson, and CNN law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes. Walter, let's begin with you. We do anticipate a decision soon in the Tamir Rice case. How does the judge's verdict in this case in Cleveland yesterday affect your thinking about what is going to happen with the Tamir Rice case?

WALTER MADISON, CLEVELAND ATTORNEY: It's discouraging. You heard the county prosecutor argue to the judge the training, the behavior of this officer are the reasons why they felt he should have been convict of a crime.

What we have on video, a complete deviation from training protocol and anything reasonable to drive upon a suspect that they believe to have had a gun.

Listening to their own words and if we have yet to have an arrest and yet for them to conclude this investigation after six long months, then I don't believe there's much hope.

JOHNS: Now, this case that was decided yesterday, in fact, there are five other police supervisors who have been charged with dereliction of duty. There is a chance for more legal exposure involving the Cleveland police and the case yesterday.

MADISON: But those are low level charges. Those are nowhere as significant as what Mr. Brelo was facing. So there may be charges, but I don't think that is going get much attention or be of any consequence.

JOHNS: OK, so now Tom Fuentes, you're a former beat cop, who's been in high-speed chases. Can you just sort of take us into the mind of Officer Brelo? He says he feared for his life, but a lot of people wonder if you fear for on your life, why do you jump on top of a car and start firing at close range?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, in this situation, Joe, if you're in fear of not just of your own, but your fellow officers' lives, you know, he may -- by the way, training would tell you that if you shoot at the windshield of a car, the bullet will ricochet, most likely, upward if you're at street level.

If you're at a higher plain, so, in other words, the windshield tilts across like this. If you're shooting directly into it from the street, the bullet might ricochet away or sideways.

If you get up above it like on the hood of the car, then at a 90-degree angle, your shots might penetrate and then go through the windshield and that might be what he was thinking in terms of getting up on top of the hood.

But, you know, what the judge is basically saying is that given the high-speed chase, given that a couple of police officers cars were rammed during the pursuit, that the officer had a reasonable belief that it wasn't over and that that car -- you know, when they say unarmed, frankly, they were armed.

They were armed with a car and when you have 4,000 pounds of steel facing you and forcing you to drive over a hundred miles an hour and 23 miles I believe it was, that itself endangers the public and endangers the officers.

I think at that point, you know, this is what the judge is basically ruling is that it was not unreasonable for Brelo and the other officers -- well, I'll take that back, he hasn't ruled on the other officers.

But in Brelo's case since he is the only one on trial that he had a reason to shoot, it was reasonable for him to be in fear.

[06:10:01] JOHNS: Thanks, Tom. Now, joey, the Justice Department has announced it's going to review Officer Brelo's case and said in part this review is going to be separate from the 2014 investigation, which found that Cleveland police had engaged in a pattern of excessive force and violated civil rights of people for years. So what do you think this investigation is going to try to do as it relates to Officer Brelo?

JOEY JACKSON, HLN ANALYST: Sure, Joe, good morning. Just moving back before moving forward it's important for everyone to understand, particularly the viewers, that the judge in this case was acting as the finder of fact and concluder of law.

The judge had to make factual determinations. They could have been ruled differently if it were a different judge or a different jury. This particular judge decided to discredit some expert testimony and there is a lot within the opinion, although it's well- reasoned.

What I've learned certainly is that about the law certainly is that you can reach whatever conclusion that you deem to be most appropriate so this is what the judge deemed to be most appropriate, but we should understand that certainly a different judge could have been a different outcome and a jury could have been a different outcome.

In any event moving forward from that with regard, Joe, to the federal investigation, yes, the pattern and practice investigation and the conclusions of that investigation that encompassed the Cleveland Police Department and, of course, those findings are very disturbing in terms of them tasing people who had already been handcuffed.

And shooting bullets unnecessarily, you know, beating and abusing people who didn't need to be, that is separate and apart from the inquiry that will be focused on Brelo. Did Brelo, himself, it will be isolated to his conduct.

Did he violate the civil rights of these two victims, the two dissidents here and of course, the standard is very high. You have to establish in the event that they move forward in the prosecution were not there yet.

They simply are undertaking a review of all of the factual information, the transcripts, but Joe, in the event that they decide to move forward, you have to establish that it was an intentional, willful deprivation of a civil right.

What right, the right not to have excessive force used against you. And you have to establish that the person, the participant, the actor, in this case, Brelo, acted with ill will, with spite and with malice.

If they establish that you will see a civil rights prosecution moving forward in the event they feel the transcript and record does not establish that there should be no such prosecution -- Joe.

JOHNS: All right, Joey Jacks, Walter Madison, and Tom Fuentes, thanks to all three of you. JACKSON: Thank you.

FUENTES: You're welcome.

PAUL: Now for days, ISIS fighters have been making major advances in Iraq. And now security forces have launched a counterattack against the terror group, but can they keep ISIS away from that key base, the one that is housing some U.S. military advisers?

Plus, breaking news this morning, flash flooding has already killed a firefighter. High water and new rainfall forcing evacuations and now, on top of it all, a tornado threat. We have a live report straight ahead.


PAUL: Breaking this morning out of Oklahoma, take a look at some of the latest video we are getting in from Tulsa here of the flooding there in that area.

In fact, I was reading on some of the local media sites that cars are stranded, that some of them are just floating down the road because they have gotten 5-1/2 inches of rain the last 24 hours.

And now on top of this, a firefighter has been killed. He was trying to rescue people who were trapped by that rising water. That happened just outside Tulsa.

JOHNS: Right, this morning, people in several areas are actually being urged to evacuate to safer ground. Let's bring in CNN meteorologist, Ivan Cabrera. Ivan, conditions could actually worsen today?

IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: They are going to worsen because we are adding water to a saturated round of rivers that are overflowing their banks in a lot of areas here. Some areas have picked up over a foot of rainfall, in fact, a foot and a half in some areas over the last month.

There you see the torrential downpours. If you're watching us from Texas and you are going to drive on I-35 taking you anywhere from Austin heading up towards San Antonio, be very careful.

In fact, on I-35, there are some areas here of the highway that are completely blocked off because of major flooding. When we talk about major flooding on an interstate highway, you know you have a problem here and that is going to continue.

There you see Austin with very heavy rainfall as it continues to move up towards the north. We are in trouble here because of all rainfall we have already had. Take a look at this.

Over the last seven days, some areas picking up upwards of 6 to 10 inches of rainfall. We have an additional 3 to 6 inches potentially falling today over the same area. So we are just going to exacerbate the situation here.

Look at Oklahoma City, 18 inches this month. You normally get 3 inches in the entire month of May and we are not done with May and we are not with the rain, it will continue the next several hours because the pattern is stuck.

This area of low pressure towards the west and it is pumping all of this tropical moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. Sometimes you get these tropical depressions or storms stall over an area, well, this time it's not a tropical depression or a storm.

It is just moisture coming in from the south with the southerly flow that is continuing and it's relentless and it will continue for today so we will watch that very closely.

Look at these pockets of 6 to 10 inches of rainfall. We will have to see that and then the threat of tornadoes continues for today. I think the big threat is the flooding that continues here but we can't rule out a tornado threat.

I wanted to show you a graph here real quick before I let you go. The hydrograph of a river, the Blanco River in Texas, we were doing OK, and then, all of a sudden, in 24 hours, we went from no stage as far as flooding, to record stage.

They have never seen this kind of flooding. We are now at record 41.5 feet is what we are talking about here and that just occurred in 24 hours going from nothing to 41 feet! That is amazing stuff!

And that is why we have had so many people getting in trouble, obviously, the firefighter there that lost his life trying to save someone.

JOHNS: That's an incredible amount of rain there. Wow. Thanks, Ivan.

We have a completely different problem out on the west coast. Beautiful Southern California beaches could be empty on Memorial Day. That's because of an oil spill that has contaminated nearly nine miles of coastline. An update on the cleanup coming up.

They are called white helmets. A medical and rescue team responding to the injured during serious civil war. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is going to introduce us to these heroes on a story you'll see right here on CNN.


PAUL: All right, I want to bring in Kim Jackson right now as we talk about all of this flooding in Oklahoma. She is an anchor for KTUL in Tulsa. Kim, thank you so much for getting up with us so early this morning. Can you, first of all, tell us more about what you know regarding this firefighter who died?

KIM JACKSON, KTUL-TV ANCHOR (via telephone): All right. We can tell you that there was a situation where there was a duplex and people were needing to be rescued so he was one of dozens of emergency workers that showed up to help, and he was, you know, swept into, you know, a storm drain and very unfortunate, as he was one of the people there to help everyone.

JOHNS: Give us some sense of the area where all of this water is causing problems. You've got Claremore, Tulsa, and does it go as far as out as Oklahoma City, some idea of the size of this problem.

JACKSON: Absolutely. It goes even west of Oklahoma City. I can't begin to name all of the communities that are just seeing so much rain that has left us in these conditions where everyone is just in a state of shock basically.

We even had -- here in Tulsa, we had a teenager who was driving his truck when the rain first starred. He hydroplaned and crossed the center line and this morning his family is grieving because he was killed in that accident.

So every minute, we are getting phone calls here at the station from something that is happening from just roads being closed to accidents.

[06:25:03] Last night from 9:00 until 11:00, our emergency responders responded to about 55 different incidents and some of those were rescues of people stalled in their cars because we are telling our viewers with just 6 inches of water is enough to knock an adult over, you know, and possibly be swept away.

A foot of water is enough to jeopardize them in their car. So with situations like that, you had cars on main roads. I'm talking roads that the malls are on so people are out. It's Saturday night. No one really expected it so it was quite a scene in many parts of our town.

PAUL: What does it look like there right now? Is the water still flowing? Is it raining?

JACKSON: It is. The water is still flowing. It's still drizzling at this point here in Tulsa. That isn't to say what is happening somewhere else close by, but we do have a gentle rain that is falling.

But any rain right now is still too much because our grounds are simply saturated from days and days of water that we received, you know, beforehand. So it's not going to stop. Today, we are expecting more rain.

JOHNS: It's pretty clear that these are conditions that have just never been seen before in Oklahoma. So it's not as if people really could have prepared for a flood season, entirely unexpected?

JACKSON: Not quite because in 1984, we had a historical flood here. After that happened, Tulsa really took a proactive approach and spent tens of millions of dollars, billions I'm told, to build flood plains and to prepare for this and so it's quite amazing to see take all in action right now, because all of the mechanisms, the drains. You know, there is just water flowing, flowing, flowing, and

going where -- going the right way and looking back so many years ago, 14 people died.

Looking at where we are now, although it's a tragic situation here, it could have been worse and we heard that more than once overnight here, that it could have been worse, it could have been worse. So we have done things to prevent this from getting worse.

JOHNS: Wow. Well, thanks so much for that, KTUL Anchor Kim Jackson. We appreciate everything you do. Stay safe out there.

JACKSON: Thank you all so much.

PAUL: Thank you, Kim. Yes, take good care you and the crew there.

We want to tell you about some protesters, who are outraged in Cleveland and, overnight, they made it known. This was all regarding the acquittal of a police officer in the shooting deaths of two unarmed people.

Ahead we are talking to a young demonstrator, who met with the Obama administration about how to improve community and public relations.

Also we have a CNN exclusive for you, Dr. Sanjay Gupta taking us to the front lines of the civil war in Syria. To introduce us to some real heroes of the battle, you need some inspiration this morning, we have got it for you in this.


PAUL: Staying on top of our breaking news this morning about the dangerous flooding conditions across Oklahoma and the panhandle of Texas. Where one person has already died. A firefighter was killed early this morning while trying to rescue people trapped by high water in Claremore, Oklahoma. We know that heavy rain and flooding had closed roads - and downed power lines. They forced evacuations in several Oklahoma and Texas communities and cars are even being swept away. So we are going to bring you a live report straight ahead.

BLACKWELL: And our other developing story overnight. A night of protests and what police are saying were multiple arrests.



CROWD: No peace!


CROWD: No peace!


CROWD: No peace!


BLACKWELL: Demonstrators filling the street chanting "No justice, no peace" after a judge acquitted police officer Michael Brelo in the shooting deaths of two unarmed people, Timothy Russell and Melissa Williams died in a hail of gunfire following a high speed police chase in November 2012. Authorities said Brelo climbed on the car's hood and fired 15 shots through the windshield. Overnight. So, downtown Cleveland restaurants closed after at least one diner was injured when some sort of an object went through its window during protests.

But you can see there, there is also a show of support for police in Cleveland this morning.

PAUL: So, I want to bring in Malaya Davis. She is an organizer with the Ohio Student Association. This is an advocacy group that was invited to meet with President Obama last December to discuss community policing. And following this verdict, Malaya, thank you so much for being with us. Wondering, I know that you all have so many conversations about what to do. What are some of the solutions that you all have come up with in regard to trying to bring together community and police?

MALAYA DAVIS, ORGANIZER, THE OHIO STUDENT ASSOCIATION: So, really what we have been talking about for the past maybe, like, nine months, we worked closely with the justice for John Crawford (INAUDIBLE) and we've been saying that we want a fundamental shift in the relationship of power between law enforcement and the community. We are not really sure what that would look like, but we know that that shift needs to happen.

PAUL: I know that your group, the Ohio Students Association, protested outside the prosecutors' house, Timothy McGinty. What message were you trying to send to him, first of all, and did you hear back from him?

DAVIS: We haven't heard back from him yet, but yesterday marked exactly six months after Tamir Rice was killed. And we aren't any much closer to justice than we were on November 23rd.


DAVIS: And going downtown to his office and his workplace for the past six months hasn't been working, so we decided to take it to his house just to show him the urgency in moving swiftly in this case to bring justice to Tamir and his family.

PAUL: Malaya, do you feel like you're being heard by anybody there in Cleveland?

DAVIS: For the past six months, honestly, no. But yesterday, I feel like we were heard. Absolutely yes. I don't think Cleveland has ever had an action that will be taken to an elected official's house or neighborhood so that really, you know, opened up a lot of ears and eyes to what we were saying and what we were demanding. PAUL: So, even if he didn't come out and give you a statement or a reaction, obviously, you are getting somewhere else. Malaya, thank you so much. It's always good to have you know, young voices in this. You bring fresh perspective and we so appreciate it.

DAVIS: Thank you.

PAUL: Of course. Take good care. Joe?

DAVIS: You too.

PAUL: Christi, a firefighter killed in making a water rescue in Oklahoma. Several inches of rain causing evacuations there, but Texas and Oklahoma are still not out of the woods. A new round of severe weather is on the way. Plus, hundreds of thousands have been killed during Syria's civil war in just the last few years, but there are some real heroes. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is going to introduce us to the White Helmets coming up next.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Alistair has a special talent. One which has led musical superstar Lang Lang to pick him out as one to watch.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was his idea, because I wanted him to learn violin, because I played violin, but he said he wants to do the piano, he wants to do the piano.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like it very much and I think it's part of me, and it makes me imagine sometimes during the day, even when I'm not by the piano.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Alistair's public performances began before he could easily reach the piano stool. His composure at the keyboard made a lasting impression on both the audience and on a noted fellow pianist.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw this little baby who is sitting on the pianos and he had a hair almost like Chopin's. That kind of hair. I said, hey, what is her name? My name is Alistair. Very nice accent. And then I said, why are you here? I like to play piano and my parent put me into this event. And I said, oh, that's cool. So, play something for me. He play for me. He was very young at the time. A few years back. He is still very young today. And I said, wow, this is a cute boy and he has a potential, you know?


BLACKWELL: You can check out the full show at


BLACKWELL: OK, nearly five years of civil war has left Syria as one of the most dangerous places to live. As many as 300,000 people have been killed.

PAUL: And that situation, of course, means that there are survivors under the constant threat of attacks, but amid that tragedy, you know what? There is some heroism. The white helmets who serve as first responders and CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta has this exclusive look for us.


SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're watching an extraordinary rescue in Aleppo, Syria. For 12 hours these men have been digging and drilling. And they're about to save a life of a two-week-old baby. The baby saviors, known only by the iconic protective gear they wear on their heads, in an area of the world bursting with too many men in black hats, they are the cavalry. The White Helmets.

JAMES LE MESURIER, FOUNDER, MAYDAY RESCUE: They have all chosen, they have all chosen to risk their lives to save others. And that makes every single one of them a hero.

GUPTA: James Le Mesurier is the architect of the organization.

JAMES LE MESURIER, FOUNDER, MAYDAY RESCUE: In Syria, there is no 911 system. There is nobody that you can call. You can't pick up a phone and call a fire service. You can't call a local police department. They don't exist.

GUPTA: So, this group of ordinary Syrian men and a few women have organized themselves to fill that void. Zuhera Manzi (ph) was once a blacksmith. Ibrahim Azopi, a barber. Amad Rahal, a detective. He was supposed to get married next week, but for the time being, they have left their previous jobs. Their previous lives. And now volunteer to run toward when everyone else is running from.


GUPTA: We are traveling along the border between Turkey and Syria. We're with the White Helmets. They've just gotten a call. We want to see exactly what they do.

This is all part of an intense training to become even better. Even faster. All of a sudden this area filled with smoke. There is concern that there may be another bomb or another attack coming so they've asked for all the lights to be turned off. They don't want to be a target, themselves, but you can see just how challenging that makes their job.

The concern is that. The White Helmets tells us this video is of a barrel bomb being hurdled from a chopper by the Syrian government.

As you see, they can be wildly inaccurate. As you hear, they are incredibly vicious.

A barrel bomb dropping on your house is like a 7.6 order of magnitude earthquake 50 times a day.

These bombs are so malignant, full of explosives, rebar, wire, nails. [06:45:03]

GUPTA: Anything else that can brutally maim and kill. But now the White Helmets are concerned about a newer enemy. Chlorine gas. They were able to save these children, but believe chlorine gas led to the death of a family of six. And it gets even worse.

LE MESURIER: Helicopters normally carry two barrel bombs. And they drop the first barrel bomb, which then explodes, and the pilot then remains in the sky circling where the explosion took place waiting for a crowd to gather and waiting for rescuers to come to the scene. When a crowd gathers, they release the second bomb. And that is a double tap.

GUPTA (voice over): 84 White Helmets have now been killed. Mostly by double taps. It is why Syria is one of the most dangerous places in the world and why being a White Helmet might be the most dangerous job in the world. And yet they go on. 2,600 have saved the lives of 18,000.

(on camera): How long more does it go on do you think?

LE MESURIER: One day at a time.

GUPTA (voice over): Just for "The White Helmets," another day is another chance to save a life.



GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, southern Turkey.


PAUL: Gosh. It takes your breath away, doesn't it? Lieutenant General Mark Hertling is with us here. General, thank you so much. We watch and we hear that there is no 911 system in a climate that is so volatile. I'm wondering when we talk about Syria, we know how witnessing certain events and people helping other people can change our mindset here where we are, but in a country that is as volatile as that is, what do you think the impact is, other than the 18,000 that they have saved?

LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING: It's huge, Christi. This - this organization has become somewhat iconic in all of the realm of the nongovernmental organizations, the NGOs. They have as their value system, humanity, solidarity and impartiality. That means they don't care which side the injured are on, they are going to try and they are very best to take care of them. And I've worked with NGOs in combat before and they usually link up with combatting forces to do the best they can but in Syria, there is really no one to link up with and there is no - as Sanjay said, there is no cell phone towers, there is no 911, there is no telephone system. So, these individuals really march to the sounds of the guns, if you will, to try and save lives. It's really quite a heroic organization of both men and they have quite a few women here, too, in this group, which do magnificent things.

PAUL: How long do you think they can sustain?

HERTLING: Well, you never underestimate the values of people who are trying to help others. They will continue on as best they can. They are funded through private donations. They have their own website and they will do the best they can, as long as they are suffering. That's what drives them. So they will continue on as long as they are allowed to do so, but in this particular environment, what concerns me about any kind of organization like this, they are always subject to not only the regime, but also some of the terrorist activity that may not like to see this kind of humanitarian action.

PAUL: So what - give us a sense of how you feel about Syria and what can be done there in general? I mean, we are not just watching, you know, the beautiful blessings of this group and what they are doing, but as we talked about, ISIS is taking over a big part of Syria.

HERTLING: Well, I think ISIS truthfully, has been ignored by both sides in Syria. The regime is fighting Fatah and al-Nusra. That's their number one enemy right now and ISIS has been somewhat of a side show. And in fact, ISIS's action in Palmira the other day was more to generate something where people would see them back in the news. Both sides, both the insurgents and the government, the regime, has been ignoring ISIS to a small degree. But they are growing in significance. This is a three-sided war. There is no regime to protect the innocents. That's why organizations like the White Helmets can do such good. This will continue on until you get a government in place that actually cares for its people and provides security.


PAUL: All right. Retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, always appreciate your insight. Thank you, sir.

HERTLING: Yes, thank you, Christi.

BLACKWELL: More on a breaking news story this morning, flash flooding across the plains. A firefighter killed during a water rescue in heavy rains, high winds, even tornadoes are still possible. A look at what is in store next.


PAUL: 53 minutes past the hour. Take a look at some of the latest pictures we are getting in from Oklahoma where we are following these breaking news that a firefighter died while trying to rescue people trapped by the rising water. It was near Tulsa.

BLACKWELL: And this morning people in several areas have been urged to evacuate to safer ground. So, let's bring in CNN meteorologist Ivan Cabrera.

Ivan, it sounds like conditions actually could worsen today. IVAN CABRERA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: They are going to continue to be bad, and they are going to continue to be dangerous, and if you're under a flash flood warning, that's what we tell people, don't get out there, don't get yourself in trouble. And then the first responders don't have to get themselves into trouble trying to help you. Here is what is going on. The rainfall, incredible rains that we have picked up upwards of six to as much as 18 inches of rainfall inches this month. As we zoom in a little bit closer I want to focus in on what we have going on here along I-35. A serious situation here as you make your way to the north along I-35 from San Antonio. There is St. Marcus. To the north and west. The Blanco River kind of snakes a little bit further to your south, going in this direction here and it is flooded record stage.


CABRERA: We showed you that last hour. That continues here and that is why we have parts of 35 that are closed and the rain continues up to the north. We are not done. It will continue to rain for today. We have pockets of very heavy rainfall that are going to fall three to as much as six additional inches of rainfall and you can imagine, a drop of water is going to do damage right now. Three to six inches is going to be -- continue to be historic here and some areas have not seen this kind of flooding. There you see the flood watches in the deeper green than you see the flash flood warnings highlighted in red here.

That is - talk about flash flood warning. That is a lot of rain coming down in a very short amount of time. The drainage system can't handle it and you get rivers rising dramatically here.

Here is what we have, this is the stage we have set up here. 18 inches. That means Oklahoma City has seen six times their normal monthly rainfall rate here as far as May. So six times. That is incredible. Some areas picking up twice their monthly average and that continues for today. Very heavy rainfall. You see the rain kind of pushing towards the north and then out ahead of it, still the potential for some severe thunderstorms with tornadic development as well today. But I think the main threat will continue to be the heavy rain and the flooding. Guys?

BLACKWELL: Wow. Thanks so much for that, Ivan Cabrera. We are going to have a report at the top of next hour coming out of Texas.

PAUL: Definitely. Also, we are going to be taking you to Cleveland as well. Demonstrators are upset over the acquittal of a police officer charged with the shooting deaths of two unarmed people. Well, it's also a big day there with NBA finals and LeBron James has something to say about this too. The latest for you next hour.