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Firefighter Killed During Water Rescue in Oklahoma; Cleveland Arrests; Could Julian Castro be Hillary's #2? Aired 8:8:30a ET

Aired May 24, 2015 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: He's calling for peace as protesters hit the streets in the wake of a police officer's acquittal in the deaths of two unarmed people. The mayor and police chief scheduled to hold a news conference next hour.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: We want to wish you all a good morning at 8:00 on a Sunday. I am Christi Paul.

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

PAUL: So good to have you here as always.

JOHNS: It's good to be here.

PAUL: And he's always here when there's breaking news, because this morning, we need to talk about some of those dangerous flood conditions.

JOHNS: Right.

PAUL: These floods that are threatening parts of Oklahoma, Texas, now, Kansas, we're learning.

JOHNS: Record-breaking floods claimed the life of a firefighter in Claire Moore, Oklahoma, was killed, trying to rescue people trapped in high rising flood water. Across parts of Oklahoma and Texas, people are being told to evacuate to safer ground, this as major roadways are closing due to dangerous amounts of water accumulating on the roads.

PAUL: So, let's bring in CNN's Alina Machado to start here. She's in Wichita Falls, Texas.

So, what are you seeing there, Alina?

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christi and Joe.

Yes, you know, even before we sought overnight rains that we got here, roads like this one were already flooded out, already shut down, and residents here have been on edge.


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: This area, the last time it had major flooding was in 2007 when the Wichita River reached 24 feet. The latest information we have from the National Weather Service is now suggesting the Wichita River will actually crest later today at about 21.5 feet, and that it will stay above flood stage through Wednesday, but it's good news because these people here were expecting floodwaters to be much higher than they are.

I want to show you something really quick. This is a good sign. You can see the water seems to be starting to go down at least where we are right now -- Christi and Joe.

PAUL: Oh, we certainly hope that is the case. Alina Machado, thank you so much.

JOHNS: Now, Christi, joining us on the phone, Robert Copeland, he lives in north Texas, in the town of Antelope, which is just outside of Wichita Falls, in fact where Alina is.

Robert, you've sent us some pictures. You have taken of the west fork of the Trinity River.

Give us an idea of what you are seeing.

ROBERT COPELAND, ANTELOPE, TEXAS (via telephone): Joe, like you say, it's been a long time since we have seen this much water in this area. Lake (INAUDIBLE) fed by the Wichita River and the Trinity River runs on to Fort Worth, has not seen that much water in a long time. It's way out-of-bounds, all on both sides of the highway.

You can see in the pictures I took, it got crazy there for a few days. Water across the roads in several places. A lot of detours going around. So, it has been kind of crazy, but I am not complaining. I am a farmer, so I will take it.

JOHNS: Have you been seeing a lot of evacuations where you are?

COPELAND: They have evacuated people in Wichita Falls, and as far as I know that's the only town that has been hit really bad. They evacuated anybody half a mile from the river yesterday evening from what I have heard.

JOHNS: So, give us a sense of past floods that you've seen in that area.

[08:05:02] How does this compare?

COPELAND: Like, I think it was '07 or '08 the last time we had this much rain, we got 20 inches over a period of a month.

And I have a good sized lake on my farm, which is about five acres when it's full, and it went over the spillway then. Last summer it was completely dry, and then now I am back at about 80 percent, and I sent urgent photos as well. With all the bad things that come along with it, there are so many farmers in this area, and you are not going to see a lot of complaints.

JOHNS: Right, a real mixed blessing there. For farmers, this is in fact pretty good news, it looks like. Thanks so much for that, Robert Copeland, and stay safe.

COPELAND: You bet.

JOHNS: Now, let's bring in CNN meteorologist, Ivan Cabrera.

Ivan, how much are we talking about? And are we expecting this to continue?

IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Some areas as we talked about, picking up 20 inches in '07, and 18 inches so far in some areas, picking up half a foot, some areas a little bit less. But the problem is we are not done, we are still talking about more rainfall that is going to be ongoing.

What I am showing you here are the flood reports continuing from Brownsville and Austin, Dallas, and you see this pocket into Oklahoma and parts of Kansas as well.

I want to zoom in closer and show you what has been happening in parts of Austin, and some counties here. You see the San Marcos River, I highlight it for you here. This is the issue here, the St. Marcos River running through Hays County, and some officials calling the flooding catastrophic, high water rescues underway at this hour and evacuations underway, because again, we're not going down with the rainfall. It is still going to be pouring over the next several hours. And I think even still heading into tomorrow, we have additional heavy rainfall.

Also in Houston, we did have a tornado warning just to the west of Houston, and that has been allowed to expire. It was radar indicated, and what we have now for the metroplex here is a essentially a severe thunderstorm warning, and heavy winds and heavy rainfall moving through Houston, and it looks like the tornadic threat has expired. So, certainly, good news, but that could spin up again as it pushes towards the east, and, boy, will it? Look at that, moving all the way up into parts of Missouri, with heavy rainfall.

A break later this afternoon, and then redevelopment, that's the issue here. We have been stuck in this pattern and we have more to come, an additional four to six inches in the next 24 to 48 hours, and then the severe weather threat continues today, a little further to the east, and Monday more heavy rain and severe weather for the areas hardest hit. It's going to be a while before we are done with the situation as the pattern does not look to break anytime soon -- guys.

PAUL: All righty. Ivan, thank you so much for the heads up. We appreciate it, as do the folks out there.

Listen, we are waiting for a news conference with the mayor and police chief in Cleveland, this morning. In just less than an hour at this point, they're going to be addressing protests following the acquittal of a police officer in the deaths of unarmed people. We're going to bring that to you live when it happens.

JOHNS: Plus, we'll be talking to the sister of one of the people killed in the case. Michelle Russell talks about her brother, Timothy, coming up next.


[08:12:11] JOHNS: OK. We're going to hear from Cleveland's mayor and police chief in about 50 minutes. They will hold a news conference tonight at 9:00 Eastern. CNN is going to bring that to you live.

This comes after protests that lasted late into the night in what police are calling multiple arrests. Demonstrators filling the streets chanting "no justice, no peace" after a judge acquitted after Brelo in the shooting deaths of an unarmed couple.

CNN's Erin McLaughlin joins us now.

Erin, LeBron James is calling for calm ahead of the playoffs tonight, and can we talk about the mood and a little about of what people are saying?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Joe. LeBron James, the Cavaliers' star calling for fans to stay calm and to remain focused on that game. The playoff game is scheduled for later in the day. There are real fears of violence going forward.

Take a look at what he had to say about the importance of sports being able to heal the city.


LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: I think the sports in general, no matter what city is it, if something is going through something that is dramatic and traumatizing, I think sports is one of the biggest healers in helping the city out.


MCLAUGHLIN: Well, this morning things seem calm here in Cleveland, and yesterday we saw small protests that continued into the evening, and at least 12 people arrested in the protest. Three people were charged after throwing some sort of object at a restaurant, and also hearing from the victim's families, and they are urging nonviolence, urging they are expressing outrage in the court's decision, at the police. We heard from the sister of Timothy Russell, one of the victims as well as Malissa Williams, saying there is no justice for them -- Joe.

JOHNS: Erin McLaughlin, thanks so much for that. We will be checking back with you.

Now, joining us to discuss this a little more is the sister of Timothy Russell.

Michelle, will you describe your brother for us, for those of us who obviously never got a chance to meet him and have not been able to learn much about him?

MICHELLE RUSSELL, SISTER (via tephone): You know, my brother was actually a God-fearing man. He loved the Lord. He loved people.

He was very sweet-hearted and generous, my brother was not the type of person that the media -- I am sorry, I'm not going to state media, but the police department has tried to paint him out to be, and they are trying to make him out to be that he was nothing but a common criminal and that is not true.

You know, when the verdict came out, I was very, very upset. You know, we had a chance to speak with the media and I appreciate you all having me on today.

[08:15:02] JOHNS: Now, after all that has happened there in Cleveland, if you had one chance to talk to Officer Brelo or give him a message, what would you say?

RUSSELL: I would hope that Officer Brelo would know the Lord personally, like my brother did. I hope if he had malice or intent to harm, that he would ask God to forgive him, because that is the kind of people that we are. We are Christians. We love the Lord, we tried to express that in media outlet that we've spoken with.

It's what has gotten us through this horrible time. You know, we have depended on our faith in the Lord and God has held us up. He's given us strength.

JOHNS: Five other officers, in fact, are still charged with dereliction of duty as a result of this case. Will you be watching that closely? Or was this the most important thing to you?

RUSSELL: Yes, I will be watching. I've been watching -- I have been involved in this case from the beginning until. I mean, I have come to all the investigative information, I've read all the depositions and I went through the DIC report. I have combed through this information.

That's what has been so upsetting to me because when the verdict came out, I was just totally shocked about the fact that nothing was done. I had expected that Officer Brelo would not be charged for manslaughter, but I thought that something would, you know, take place. There was this testimony, and the evidence showed there was a support that coercion existed and the truth was not being told by the officers, yet nothing was done. Nothing was done about that.

I mean, there was text messages and texts by police officers that supported a contradiction in the story being told. This blue wall of violence is definitely an issue, and, you know, the police version of what happened on that night, November 29th, 2012, it's not the truth, and it's not exactly -- they are not telling the truth, and I think that's what we need to focus on, and the focus should have been on that, and yet the judge only talked about bullet trajectory. They only focused on certain things in the case, and they didn't present or talk about all the evidence that should have been looked at about how, you know, there was cover-up.

I really believe there was a cover-up and I do not believe that the chase happened the way the police officers are stating. I think they know what to say in order of getting off from being charged with any type of crime. They know that they have to say that they felt their lives were in danger, and they did a good job doing that and presenting a false story about what really happened that night. And that is where I think my family -- we're going to continue to fight for justice and continue to speak out and continue to try and relay to people who my brother really was, because the person that they tried to portray is not -- it is not in character with who he was.

JOHNS: Michelle Russell, thank you so much for come into NEW DAY this morning.

RUSSELL: Thank you so much.

JOHNS: Christi?

PAUL: Most people would agree that Hillary Clinton, they believe, is the Democratic frontrunner for the president in 2016, but who is going to be number two? Some say this Texan could be her VP choice.


[08:22:33] JOHNS: We have news this morning out of Iraq with ISIS getting closer to Baghdad.

Jim Acosta is hosting "STATE OF THE UNION" this morning.

Jim, so, what is the administration saying about the gains ISIS has made in Iraq?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joe, as you heard the president say last week when he was doing the interview with "The Atlantic" magazine, he insists the U.S. is not losing the fight against ISIS, but there are a lot of people that disagree with that assessment, including Arizona senator, John McCain.

We're going to have a couple Iraq war veterans who are currently law makers up on Capitol Hill, Adam Kinzinger and Tulsi Gabbard, are going to weigh in on that.

And, Joe, I think a and an alarming interview that Barbara Starr did with ash carter, and he says the Iraqis don't have the will to fight, which I thought was a surprising statement, and we will hear about that as well.

And also secretary of housing and urban development, Julian Castro, is joining us this morning. He is going to give us his assessment on what is needed to turn around some of the cities that have been experiencing some of the urban unrest in recent weeks and months like the situation in Baltimore and hopefully not the situation in Cleveland, and we will get his take on what is happening in Cleveland as well, and Arlington National Cemetery, it has a rich history. We'll look at that as well.

JOHNS: Julian Castro, a lot of people talking about him as a running mate with Hillary Clinton. I am sure you're going to get into that?

ACOSTA: I think we'll get into that as well, Joe. You know, I think what Secretary Castro has said and I expect him to say again this morning, is that he is focused on his work at HUD, but, you know, we're going to try to get him to engage in 2016, and the mess with Hillary Clinton's e-mails and we have a political panel that will weigh in on that, so lots of 2016 talk as well as this Memorial Day weekend, Joe.

JOHNS: Yes, you are pretty good at getting people off message. I have seen you in the briefing room.

ACOSTA: We'll try.

JOHNS: Thanks so much for that, Jim Acosta. "STATE OF THE UNION" starts at the top of the hour, 9:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

We'll be right back.


PAUL: We're going to give a look at some of the other stories developing right now.

JOHNS: Federal prosecutors are reportedly closing in on criminal charges against General Motors. This comes after a faulty ignition switch was linked to more than 100 deaths. The Manhattan U.S. attorney has reportedly determined that GM likely broke the law by making misstatements about the ignition statements for a decade. Officials say a fine for GM could exceed $1 billion.

PAUL: Iran released this video showing war games near a nuclear site in the central part o the country. Now, the Iranian army launched a series of missiles over nuclear facility. According to Iranian authorities, the missiles down mock enemy drones flying over the nuclear reactor and sir rounding facility.

JOHNS: And it's not uncommon for a baseball manager to be thrown out of a game, and it's uncommon before the first pitch is thrown, that's what happened to Cincinnati Reds manager, price. Price was reportedly still upset over the strike zone from Friday night's game. It's the second time this season he has been ejected.

PAUL: They're apparently not fans.

JOHNS: No, I would --

PAUL: I guess not.

JOHNS: I don't think.

PAUL: All right. We are so grateful you start our morning with.

JOHNS: "INSIDE POLITICS" right now with Jim Acosta.

PAUL: And thank you.

JOHNS: You bet.

PAUL: For stepping in.