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Fighter Killed During Water Rescue in Oklahoma; Cleveland Arrests; Interview with Rep. Marcia Fudge; Upsetting the GOP Field. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired May 24, 2015 - 07:00   ET


[07:00:10] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: It's breaking news this morning. Look at what people in Texas and Oklahoma are dealing with. One person has already died amid this dangerous flooding. Neighborhoods are evacuated and dozens of people need to be rescued and there is more on the way.

JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: And we have got demonstrations, arrests, protesters upset over the acquittal of a Cleveland police officer and they are taking to the streets.


LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: It's not the answer. It's about trying to find a solution, for good or for bad.


JOHNS: There is Cleveland's hometown hero LeBron James calling for calm. Will there be a repeat tonight?

PAUL: Plus, Ben Carson making a strong push with some Republican voters it seems. The retired neurosurgeon upsetting the GOP's field in the South and giving a major boost for his run to the White House.

It's all ahead on your NEW DAY.

All right. It is 7:00 here in the East. We are so grateful for your company as always. I'm Christi Paul.

JOHNS: And I'm Joe Johns, in for Victor Blackwell.

We're going to begin now with breaking news this morning, out of Oklahoma, where record breaking rain has already claimed a life.

PAUL: We're talking about a firefighter in Claremore, Oklahoma, was killed while trying to rescue people trapped by rising water. Take a look at some of these new pictures that are just in from Tulsa, Oklahoma, overnight there. That car immersed in high water on a Tulsa street and we're hearing that cars are stalling. They are floating down the road.

I want to show you this incredible video too. This is coming up here from Beggs, Oklahoma. The ground is so saturated, drains are overwhelmed. Oklahoma to the panhandle of Texas, in fact. This downpour is toppling power lines and forcing evacuations.

And CNN's Elena Machado is in Wichita Falls, Texas. They had a rough night there.

Apparently, Elena, we understand you're facing a rough day today. Help us understand what it's like there right now.

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Christi, even before the overnight rains, we saw roads like this one were already blocked off because of high water and residents here were already on alert.


MACHADO (voice-over): Relentless rain pounding parts of the Plains, causing severe flash flooding in Oklahoma. In Wichita Falls, Texas, truckloads of sand continued arriving on Saturday as volunteers worked around the clock to fill up the bags.

All in an effort to help residents in low lying areas who are scrambling to prepare for what could turn out to be a record flood.

City leaders on alert.

GLENN BARHAM, MAYOR, WICHITA FALLS, TEXAS: So, we will just have to wait and see how this progresses.

TOM BECKER, WICHITA FALLS, TEXAS RESIDENT: The water line would be about from the edge there, maybe about 12 inches down. That's about as max as it usually gets.

MACHADO: Tom Becker and his wife Carrie are among the hundreds of people in Wichita Falls who have been forced to leave their homes.

CARRIE BECKER, WICHITA FALLS, TEXAS RESIDENT: It's just overwhelming. You don't know what to do or where to go or how bad it's going to be.

MACHADO: The water slowly creeping up in their backyard. They have packed up their valuables and they had to get creative with how to protect what they are leaving behind.

C. BECKER: The first night, we tried to get everything two to three feet. The last two days we kept coming back and going higher and higher and higher. We have stuff way up high now.

MACHADO: There is no doubt this is an inconvenience the Beckers they say, but they welcome the water. The city has been under a drought for the past five years. Their prayers for rain answered.

T. BECKER: When we don't have water, that's a big deal. So, we're blessed. We're blessed people. It's hard to look at this and say you are blessed. But we're blessed.

MACHADO (on camera): You were praying for rain, right?

T. BECKER: Absolutely. I stopped. I stopped about two days ago.


MACHADO: Now, this area had major flooding in 2007 when the river reached 24 feet. The latest information from the National Weather Service is suggesting some hope. We are being told that now the Wichita River is expected to crest at 21.5 feet later tonight. So, that's some good news. We might be avoiding some major, major flooding in this area after all -- Joe and Christi.

PAUL: We would hope so.

All right. Alina Machado, thank you so much.

That I think is probably the worst of it, is not knowing how bad it's going to get.

JOHNS: And you have to prepare --

PAUL: That is enough and you see it coming. Let's raise it a little more. You just hope it makes it.

You know, we did talk to Kim Jackson this morning. She's an anchor for KTUL in Tulsa and she talked to us about this firefighter who died, and maybe due to the floods, too.

JOHNS: So, listen up to this.


KIM JACKSON, KTUL-TV ANCHOR (via telephone): There was a situation where there's duplex and people were needing to be rescued so he was one of dozen 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.

[07:05:00] JOHNS: And give us some sense of the area where all of this water is causing problems. You've got Claremore, Tulsa, Suffolk. Does it go as far as out as Oklahoma City? Just some idea of the size of this problem.

JACKSON: Absolutely. It goes even west of Oklahoma City. You know, 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 started. He hydroplaned and crossed the center line. And, you know, 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's happening from just roads being closed to accidents.

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: So, what does it look like there right now? Is the water still flowing? Is it raining?

JACKSON: It is. And the water is still flowing. It's still raining. It's still drizzling at this point here in Tulsa. That isn't to say what's 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.

And so, it's not going to stop. Today, we are expecting more rain.


JOHNS: Let's bring in CNN meteorologist Ivan Cabrera.

So, you know, she makes a good point. Just six inches of water could cause you huge problems and a lot of people don't realize that.

IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. A couple of feet could just get your car buoyant and away you go. So, very dangerous stuff when we talk about it. And a lot of this has been happening overnight, right, when it's dark and people can't really gauge what is in front of them as far as how much flooding has occurred and it has been a lot.

I want to show you some of the hydrographs here, at least one that has caught my eye. This is just amazing stuff here. This 4:00 p.m. and the river is at four feet. We went from 4:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m., climbing, climbing, climbing, past the record of 33.3 feet and last observed, we are at 40 feet. We are expected to crest at 41 feet.

So, 35 feet of water volume here in the river and that is St. Marcos River, by the way. That passes right over I-35, which is along St. Marcos, which is why we have closed parts of the I-35 corridor here north of San Antonio. So, that's what we have flash flood warnings. The heaviest of the rain I must say is east of it here.

But even if we don't get a drop of additional rainfall it will take a while for the rivers to come down. And we are going to get a lot more drops of rainfall and torrential rain in the forecast over the next 24 hours.

Here, the flash flood watches and warnings, we have them all over from Texas to Oklahoma and into Kansas, whereas I've been showing you some areas picking up six times their normal may rainfall. That is incredible. And more of this moisture is just going to get pumped into the north.

Out ahead of it, some of the individual cells that develop this afternoon, the potential is still there. The main threat is flooding but I do think that some areas could be talking about some large hail and also some damaging winds. That will be more for eastern Texas heading into Arkansas and into portions of Missouri with some damaging winds. So, we'll watch for that. And then again, this continues because the pattern that we are in, we are basically stuck in.

Reverse of what we had during the winter, when we had a big low in the east and big high in the west, that has now swapped and now we are talking about this rainfall that is not stopping any time soon.

JOHNS: That's incredible. Six times their normal main rainfall.

CABRERA: Eighteen inches.


CABRERA: And still raining.

JOHNS: Huge. Thanks so much for that, Ivan.

PAUL: Thanks, Ivan.

You know, the other thing we are watching today is Cleveland. The mayor has spoken. Now, NBA's LeBron James is talking about the protests and the arrests overnight. We'll tell you what is happening there and take you there live.

JOHNS: Plus, ISIS is on the move. This terror group is making inroads in Iraq. Allied forces are looking to stop their advance. And we will tell you why the U.S. is watching closely.


PAUL: Well, all eyes are on Cleveland this morning following the protests over the acquittal of Police Officer Michael Brelo in the shooting deaths of two unarmed people.

Demonstrators facing off there against police that were in riot gear as you see. Authorities say there were multiple arrests. Some restaurants boarded up their windows, closed early after some scuffles broke out. We know at least one patron was injured.

Well, CNN's Erin McLaughlin is in Cleveland right now.

And here's the thing -- you've got the NBA playoffs there tonight, Erin, that are there in Cleveland and now, we are hearing from LeBron James. Not about basketball but about all of this, yes?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Christi. He is urging fans to stay calm and to focus on the game.

Meanwhile, today at around 9:00, we are expecting a press conference from the police chief, as well as Cleveland's mayor. There are fears of violence, but, right now here in Cleveland, things, seem quiet as this community comes to terms with this tragedy and the verdict.


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.

TODD HAYES, RESTAURANT PATRON: 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 voluntary manslaughter and felonious assault.

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

MCLAUGHLIN: Brelo was accused of firing bullets that killed Timothy Russell and Malissa 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 of 137 rounds at the car, no one else was charged.

[07:15:03] The case started after the car driven by Russell backfired. A noise officers mistakenly thought was caused by gunshots.

O'DONNELL: Because he caused serious physical harm to the victims in a constitutionally reasonable efforts 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 court system.

RENE ROBINSON, COUSIN KILLED IN POLICE SHOOTING: Help my baby cousin! I tell you right now. We have no justice!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know that those officers were upset. Adrenaline was flowing. By the time they reached up, caught up to Tim and Malissa 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. (END VIDEOTAPE)

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

PAUL: All right. Erin McLaughlin, thank you so much.

JOHNS: We want to talk now a little bit more about the response to the verdict with Ohio Congresswoman Marcia Fudge. She joins us on the phone.

Also with us, Cedric Alexander, he's with the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and also recently appointed by President Obama to a newly created task force on community policy.

Congresswoman Fudge, let me start with you.

Now, we sort of have this convergence in the city of Cleveland, between this bench trial and also the NBA playoffs. As we approach that third game in Cleveland tonight, what is the message that you are sending to your constituents in Ohio?

REP. MARCIA FUDGE (D), OHIO (via telephone): I think the message needs to be the same as it was yesterday. I'm very, very proud of our city. I'm proud of our police and law enforcement and the people of Cleveland. There was no rioting. There was no looting.

And I want there to be the same kind of mindset today, that they would go to the game. If they choose to protest, do it in the manner they did yesterday, peacefully and productively.

I think it's important also for people around the country to understand the context of what we are dealing with. There are a lot of things going on in the country but a lot of things going on here. The Justice Department has basically said that our police department has a pattern and practice of excessive force, and so, we're working through issues. But I'm proud of how they have handled it.

JOHNS: Cedric, now, you believe that police academies around the country have to start teaching differently as a result of all these cases from New York to Baltimore to Ferguson, even Cleveland where we haven't seen a lot that was not peaceful. What kind of training do you think we are going to have to see in police academies around the country?

CEDRIC ALEXANDER, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, first of all, Joe, let me say this -- I think across the country in terms of how we train police officers, we are going to have to look more certainly -- we know how to tactically train them in order to shoot and do all those things. That's a part of their job, quite frankly. But I think the piece that we have to put emphasis on today is how to help police officers build those relationships in communities that are so much important.

So, going into academy, yes, you learn all of the things you need to be able to do to protect yourself and to be able to protect the public, but a great part of that job when it comes to public safety is being able to bridge those relationships and more emphasis needs to be placed in that area.

We also need to be able to place more emphasis on mental health training because what we are seeing out there is a number of more people who are challenged with mental health conditions, whether it's chemical dependency, depression or whatever it may happen to be, and how do we better engage those populations and deescalate situations as well, too, Joe.

JOHNS: Now, Congresswoman Fudge, I have to ask you, looking to this statement you put out here, you talked about the need for sweeping changes. What changes do you think have to happen as, for one thing, DOJ walks into this, and the community of Cleveland starts to heal?

ALEXANDER: Look, there are a couple of things that have to happen and I'm really happy you have someone there from some law enforcement.

[07:20:03] We do have to do a better job at training but we really have to go back to things like community policing. If there had been a mini-station near Cudell rec center, that police officer probably would have known Tamir Rice and know he would not be brandishing a gun.

If people know the police, know the situations that we put ourselves in and we put police in, I think the response would be very, very different. We have to find a way to build some real confidence in our relationship with law enforcement and it begins with training, of course. But it also begins with the interaction with our communities and there needs to be more positive interaction with our community so people feel comfortable with the police.

JOHNS: Thank you so much for that, Congresswoman Marcia Fudge.

And, Cedric Alexander, thanks for coming in.

ALEXANDER: Thank you for having me.

PAUL: Well, this Memorial Day nearly 10 miles of ocean, nine miles of California coastline is now covered in oil. And the cleanup is turning into major response. Look at these pictures. We are getting an inside look at the control center here next.


[07:25:00] PAUL: Twenty-four minutes past the hour right now.

You know, nearly nine miles of California coastline, including two Santa Barbara state beaches, are closed today on the holiday weekend, no less.

JOHNS: It's incredible. So, think what about it means. No campers, no picnickers, no beach-goers allowed as the officials are racing to clean up an oil spill that threatens beaches and the local wildlife.

PAUL: I thought those are heartbreaking features.

Stephanie Elam got a firsthand look inside the command center for cleanup operations.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We never like to see any oil in California's coastline.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From high above, emergency crews survey the coastline north of Santa Barbara, tracking an oil slick that is clearly visible in the water. All of the data collected up here is analyzed here, the unified command center.

Together, seven agencies are coordinating the response to the leakage of more than 100,000 gallons of crude oil into the ocean and onto the coast.

MICHELLE ROGOW, FEDERAL ON-SCENE COORDINATOR, EPA: The federal, state, and local partners really work to determine what resources are need and how quickly they can get here in order to make sure that we have the right people, right equipment, and the right know-how to get -- to address this oil spill.

JUDD MUSKAT, SR. ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENTIST, DEPT. OF FISH & WILDLIFE: It's very thin, like a layer of paint.

ELAM: The ocean surface is tested to determine how pervasive the oil is. On this map, the yellow area show where there is nothing but a sheen on the water, slightly thicker in the red areas. But this environmental expert says it's all non-recoverable and will naturally evaporate.

MUSKAT: The issue is now along the coastline where the oil is stranded on the beaches.

ELAM: But the efforts in the ocean continue. This map represents where potentially impacted marine life has been spotted.

MICHAEL ZICCARI, DIRECTOR, OILED WILDLIFE CARE NETWORK: What they have are trained experts looking down to see exactly what animals are in what areas and how many are there so we can directly our efforts to determine where we need to send teams out to try to catch animals that might be oiled.

ELAM: As hard as this team works, the response to the spill is facing tough criticism.

OWEN BAILEY, ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE CENTER: Why did it take such a long time before the coastal and offshore emergency operations began in earnest?

ELAM: Of specific concern -- how much oil was allowed to seep into the Pacific Ocean on the first day of the pipeline rupture.

CAPT. CHARLENE DOWNEY, U.S. COAST GUARD: It has to be a calculated response and we really have to be smart about how we, you know, respond and we do make every effort to respond as quickly as possible, and as safely as possible.

ELAM: That response from the air, at sea level, and inside this command center, where the stakes are high to save one of California's treasures.

Stephanie Elam, CNN, Santa Barbara County, California.


JOHNS: Really just hard breaking.

ISIS is 60 miles from Baghdad and they are to extend their reach in Iraq, but Iraqi forces are not just going to give up. They are launching a counteroffensive. We'll have something on that coming up next.