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Church Massacre Victims Remembered; Search for Escaped Killers Zeroes in on Friendship, New York. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired June 21, 2015 - 06:30   ET


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: And sometimes when you deal with people who have titles, pastor, state senator, it's difficult to get past those titles, but we were talking during the break, the most important, husband, father, there is two young girls.


Tell us about the husband and father.

BARRY KNIGHTON, FRIEND OF REVEREND CLEMENTA PINCKNEY: He was an awesome husband. He's an awesome father. He was the type of person where he really looked out for his family. He really covered his family. He was there for his family. And my heart just grieves today because of such a loss that they're facing, even thinking that today being Father's Day, those two beautiful girls, you know, are not going to be with that, are going to be without their father. And then his wonderful wife, I say my big sister, that's going to be without her husband today. But he was awesome. And he was a role model for me. Not just a mentor, but a role model as far as what a husband should be, how they should treat their wife and even how a father should be there for his children. So definitely.

BLACKWELL: How does the message and the work live on? Because we've seen the mourning here at the church here in Charleston. And over the week we've talked a lot about how it's spread across the country, where we're now seeing the ramifications worldwide. How does this message, this work live on not just here in Charleston but broader, in a broader sense?

KNIGHTON: That message lives through us. Even thinking about Martin Luther King and just what happened to him, but even several years later how we're still talking about it, we're still coming together. So that baton has been passed to us. I think about myself just being his mentee, just having the opportunity to be his page, and just continuing with that message of community empowerment, social justice, social change, spiritual empowerment. So it lives through us. And I know his heart would want to be, you know what, I'm not here, but I'm passing you the baton. This is a race. And we're going to run this race with patience. We're going to run this race to impact lives. I'm passing the baton to you. I want you to carry this. There's so many people, children, families that need you. And so I want you to keep going, run this race, and take my legacy and let's do what we have to do to make things happen.

BLACKWELL: Well, Barry Knighton, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

KNIGHTON: Thank you so much for having me.

BLACKWELL: And these are the conversations we want to have throughout the day. We have to learn about what was written in this manifesto. But this show, this morning, this day will not be taken over by Dylann Roof. We're going to talk about the people who lost their lives, the work they did, and the effort in this community to heal and continue that work. Thanks for watching NEW DAY. The next half hour starts now.

Another story we are following this morning, the manhunt for two escaped murderers is heating up on the New York-Pennsylvania border. Police helicopters, heavy armed officers swarming a small town. Friendship, New York, where they hope at least this new credible sighting, as it's described, will lead them to Richard Matt and David Sweat, the killer fugitives who escaped from prison more than two weeks ago. We'll have a team of reporters on that story and we'll have more in just a couple of minutes.

Here in Charleston in about two hours, children, first the children will go into Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church for Sunday school. That starts at 8:30 Eastern. Then an hour later, at 9:30 am, the church will open its doors to the sanctuary for Sunday services. For the first time this morning, we saw lights on at the start of the day in the sanctuary. And these will be the first services here since the gunman Dylann Roof took the lives of nine people as they all sat at Bible study in the basement of this church together. As the sight of the shootings becomes a house of worship again, investigators are combing through this ranting, racist website that lists confessed shooter Dylann Roof as its owner, and it displays pictures of him burning the American flag, holding the confederate flag, wearing a shirt with the numbers 88, and you know, for people who follow this strain of American society, they know that that is a code for heil Hitler, H being the eighth letter of the alphabet. And holding the same type of gun we see pictures here used in the church massacre, reportedly.

It also includes a 2,000 word manifesto. We're going to read part of it. We're not going to go into too much detail. But we have to learn as much as we can. Here is what he writes. "I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to whites in the country."

So I want to bring in HLN legal analysis and criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson, because there is a legal case that's going on here. We saw the bond hearing just a couple of days ago. Let me read to you, Joey, as I say good morning to you, another portion of this manifesto. "We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the Internet. Well, someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world. And I guess that has to be me."


I've said it this morning, and I'll say it again, the use of the phrase real world when you're dealing with this type of delusion is striking. Joey, how is this manifesto going to be part of this case?

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: It's compelling, Victor. And good morning to you. So glad you're there. With that community as they attempt to rebuild from this devastating impact that he had on them. But from a legal perspective, let's talk about it this way. In the event that the state prosecutes this as a murder, multiple murder case, and seeks the death penalty, certainly this manifesto is highly relevant to the issue of state of mind, to the issue of motive, to the issue of what he was attempting to do, what he succeeded in doing, and why he did it.

In the event, Victor, that the federal government proceeds as a hate crime, then of course this is your window into where that hate was coming from, what the hate was all about, and proof positive that it was predicated upon hate.

Now, going to the issue of whether it should be considered terrorism, of course we've seen the FBI director say, well, he doesn't see any political statement. I don't know what more political statement you have than the burning of an American flag, the standing on the flag, the damaging of that flag, and the holding up of the confederate flag. So no matter which way the case proceeds, as it relates to terrorism, as it relates to hatred, or as it relates to multiple murders to give you a sense of why he did it, that's your proof right there.

BLACKWELL: So Joey, let's talk more about the hate crime charges that could follow. He's facing nine counts of murder, nine murder charges. What's the value then of this hate crime addition from the federal government if he's facing at the very least the rest of his life in prison if he's convicted of the charges to which he's confessed?

JACKSON: Sure, Victor, and presumably, potentially the death penalty. The fact is that from a practical legal perspective, in the event that he is held accountable in state court and he gets the death penalty or he gets life in jail, then of course justice is served. I think the federal government though does have an interest in proceeding to find out whether it was predicated upon hate, which appears to be obvious. But obviously in this country, we have due process. You're allowed to go to court. You're allowed to state your case. But from what we know now, it does certainly appear to be predicated upon that. The federal government has an interest not only in investigating him solely but in seeing what, if any connection there was to any other group. We don't know that there was, but the federal government certainly needs to look at that. Why? Because not only do you want accountability for this, but you want to ensure that there's nothing up and coming that can't be prevented. And so in the event that there are others out there, if he was following or with any other group, you certainly want to stop that.

So there certainly is value in the federal government to continue to look into this and continue to know where this came from and how deeply it runs and does it extend to anyone else.

BLACKWELL: HLN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson, always good to have your input. We'll talk more throughout the morning. JACKSON: A pleasure, Victor. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Let's turn now to one of the victims of this attack, Cynthia Hurd. She's remembered for her love of books, among many things, including her family. A library that will be renamed in her honor. That's where she worked. She was a woman of faith whose second home was Mother Emanuel.

Let's bring in now Cynthia Hurd's brother, Malcolm Graham, also a former state senator, North Carolina?


BLACKWELL: North Carolina state senator. Your sister would have celebrated her 55th birthday today. What are your feeling?

GRAHAM: I feel joy.


GRAHAM: I feel joy that she's with the Lord today. She is not a victim of this senseless crime. She got her victory on Wednesday night. And tonight she celebrates her birthday with the Lord. She's seeing family members, my mother and my father and our grandparents. She's at peace. And so I take solitude that when she lost her life last Wednesday, she lost it in the church. And today she celebrates.

BLACKWELL: Malcolm, how did you get to joy? Because I'm pretty certain, and correct me if I'm wrong, that's not the first reaction when you hear what happened inside this basement. How did you get there?

GRAHAM: I get to joy because I'm celebrating her life. I'm not going to give any energy to the perpetrator of the crime. I don't have any time for that. My energy is for my sister and for my family celebrating 54 years of living, 54 years of being a big sister, an aunt, a cousin, 54 years of living a life dedicated to the Lord, 54 years of public service, of being -- of working with children for over 31 years.


So I can either dwell on him, which I don't, or dwell on her. So today on her birthday as we open the church on her birthday, I celebrate her life and I celebrate her victory.

BLACKWELL: For some, there is the question, the nagging question of why. We have discovered this manifesto that reportedly this shooter wrote. Have you read it? Will you read it?

GRAHAM: At some point, I probably will. If my sister was hit by a car, I probably could find some forgiveness in my heart. This was premeditated, this was calculated, this was intentional. And so reading the manifesto is probably something I won't do, to be honest with you, but I believe he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and the public should have his way with you. BLACKWELL: We heard from family members at the bond hearing that they

were forgiving. You said that if your sister had been hit by a car, you would find some forgiveness. What's your view of forgiveness of this issue here?

GRAHAM: Every family has to speak from within their heart. I'm not there yet.

BLACKWELL: You're not there.

GRAHAM: I'm nowhere near there yet. And so I believe because this was an intentional, calculated act, and there has to be some consequences for that. So maybe within time will heal that wound and a sense of forgiveness will come over me. Right now I'm nowhere near that. And other families will speak for themselves. But for my sister and my convictions, I'm still heartbroken and I'm still angry and I'm still frustrated.

BLACKWELL: Will you be going to attend the service here today?

GRAHAM: I'm going to try my best.

BLACKWELL: Try my best. I wonder, how are you preparing yourself to go back into this building?

GRAHAM: We have to. This is our family church. My mother sung in the choir. My sisters Cynthia and Jackie and myself, we said our Easter speeches there. So this is our second home. So I cannot allow the perpetrator to be a gate keeper from me going back home. And so our family will celebrate her life. We will try to attend the church service and be a part of it as much as we can. And we just, you know, will not allow what happened last Wednesday to prevent us from walking through those doors once again.

BLACKWELL: Malcolm Graham, I thank you for spending some time with us on what I know is a difficult morning. Although you say you have found joy. I know it's going to be difficult to walk back through those doors, even with the deep connection your family has with Mother Emanuel. Thank you for spending some time with me.

GRAHAM: Thank you for having me today.

BLACKWELL: Certainly. And that's what we're going to do throughout this morning, is have conversations about the process to try to get to healing. We've heard from some families who say they are now forgiving. Some families are having difficulty getting there, understandably. The shootings here in Charleston have renewed calls for a political movement as well to remove the confederate flag from the grounds of the state capital in Columbia. I want you to watch a part of a rally here this weekend.


CROWD: Take it down. Take it down.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLACKWELL: They're chanting take it down. The count here up to 1500 people marched on the state capital. Blistering heat. The actual temperatures somewhere around 98 degrees this weekend on Saturday and Sunday. The feel-like temperature is above 100. They had a message, take down that confederate flag. And many say it's an outdated symbol that widens an already racially divided country in many ways.

We'll have more on the confederate flag debate throughout this morning. We're also covering breaking news out of New York. Police swarming to that southwestern New York town near the Pennsylvania border after receiving three possible sightings. They're being described as credible sightings of the prison escapees. Are they catching or are they getting close to catching these fugitives? We'll take a closer look at the search.



BLACKWELL: At 8:30 Eastern this morning, the doors of Mother Emanuel, Emanuel AME church will open to children who are coming to this church for Sunday school. And then at 9:30 Eastern the doors of the sanctuary will open for the first time since that attack of nine people who were killed in the basement of this church. Today is a day of healing. We're told that in many way, this will be a normal service, a worship service with an emphasis on trying to help this community heal. People struggling to go back into that sanctuary, but as our last guest told us, Alison, they have to go home, home to Mother Emanuel. We'll be here for that. Alison, back to you in Atlanta.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: We'll continue to check in with your, Victor.

This manhunt was considered to be very intense, and then the trail went cold until now, and now officials call it a credible lead in this manhunt for two escaped prisoners. It's lead cops to a small town in southwestern New York. It's where police are hoping they are going to catch Richard Matt and David Sweat.


These are the two fugitives who were serving time for murder who escaped from prison more than two weeks ago. Let's go to CNN's Cristina Alesci. She's in Allegheny County, which is the so-called hot spot in this search. Cristina, how confident are officials at this point that they could be in your area?

CHRISTINE ALESCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Police released a press release last night saying they had a possible -- they are investigating a possible sighting of two men who may fit the description. So they're hedging their language a bit. But we witnessed heavy police presence here today just as the sun was coming up. About two dozen vehicles left this command center, where I am, to resume the search. Presumably last night they had dialed it back a bit. There were heavy rains. It was very dark. We don't have any update. There hasn't been any kind of leads that have come out of this investigation so far.

But remember, there are other searches in other places in New York. This one stands out because of the level of specificity that officials have given around the search area. They say they're looking close to a railroad track, where there may have been actually tracks there were left for police to investigate. And also authorities are saying that they've got canine units out, they're activating aviation units. They're got special operations here. So it does seem to be a big operation. Before leading up into this, all we got was very vague details about the other searches. In fact, all we had was the escalation of these men in terms of adding them onto the 15 most wanted list, and that there was a $50,000 reward. Other than that, until last night, we really didn't have many details, Alison.

KOSIK: All right, we will continue to check in all morning with you for the latest details on this.

Joining us now for more, Lenny DePaul, former commander of the U.S. Marshals Service regional fugitive task force for New York and New Jersey, and CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes. Lenny, let's begin with you. What do you think of all the attention around Friendship, New York. Do you think this tip could be legit?

LENNY DEPAUL, FORMER COMMANDER, U.S. MARSHALS SERVICE: We're hoping it's legit. I know they deployed other assets there, and rightfully so. Any tips or leads that come in, they're going to investigate it to the fullest. We just keep our fingers crossed. However, we have cast a pretty wide net. So we're not -- the public needs to be aware of that. Just because we think it's a possibility -- and it's an unconfirmed sighting. It's not confirmed. But they'll certainly take a hard look and search and see what they can come up with.

KOSIK: Tom, how common is it to get three sightings like this over a week's time that are within miles of each other?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think what happens sometimes, Alison, is that once you get one sighting in a particular area, it alerts the public in that area to be extra vigilant. And then anything they see suspicious, they call in as a possible sighting. These are things that are happening all over. People see people in their backyards or walking down streets or along railroad tracks, hikers, hunters, you name it. But when there's been a sighting, or a believed sighting in an area, then everything becomes heightened. The level of alertness on the public become heightened and more calls come in.

KOSIK: Lenny, how exactly is this search happening in the area? Are they knocking on doors? Are they looking behind trees? How do you start to really go through an area like this?

DEPAUL: A little bit of everything. Absolutely. The terrain apparently is very wooded from what I'm hearing up there in Friendship. They'll have aviation support. I'm sure through the night, there was thermal imaging deployed as well as infrared and whatnot to see what they can pick up on. But again, Alison, it's my gut feeling, these guys are, you know, they're walking down Main Street and just their faces have been plastered all over the place, they're heavily tattooed. I just don't, you know, and again, I hope I'm wrong. I hope they're contained in this perimeter that is set up in Friendship and this thing goes down without incident. But you know, we certainly -- it's a 360 world out there, so you can't have tunnel vision.

KOSIK: You really think they're walking down Main Street?

DEPAUL: I don't think they are. That's my gut feeling is they wouldn't be standing at the corner walk/don't walk, saying, here I am, guys. They had an elaborate plan of escape. Again, I think Joyce Mitchell was their red herring. I think she was their plan B, and I think someone else would pick them up. But again, that's my opinion, Alison.

KOSIK: Tom, what do you think? Do you think these guys are still together? All these sightings are of them together. Do you think they in reality still are?

FUENTES: I think, Alison, it's, you know, we're all guessing as to whether they are or not. For my opinion, I think they might still be together, because they're still in an escape or survival mode. If they're still in the woods running around trying to evade capture, or sighting by helicopters or dogs, they may still be together to help each other out.


If they've arrived somewhere far away and feel relatively comfortable, then they may be ready to split up. But don't forget, they've worked side by side for well over a year planning this thing. They're each other's best friend. If it's possible for people like this to have a real friend, it's as close as it gets, I'll put it that way. As long as they need each other, they'll stay together. When they don't, they won't.

KOSIK: Tom Fuentes, Lenny DePaul, thanks so much for your analysis.

And a manhunt is underway in New Orleans for an escaped prisoner who police say shot and killed an officer. He's armed and dangerous. Details after the break.


BLACKWELL: Back open today, the site of the horrific shooting just days ago. Now Emanuel AME Church can be a house of worship again as the community gathers across this city for a day of prayer. As everyone tries to move forward and heal, we're learning shocking new details from the man who has confessed to these killings. A website which includes a manifesto. What was going on in his mind leading up to this massacre.

KOSIK: And new developments in New York, another possible sighting of the two escaped convicts. Could search teams be closing in on the missing killers?

Good morning, everyone. I'm Alison Kosik, I'm in for Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell in Charleston, South Carolina. It's good to have you with us this morning. I'm outside Mother Emanuel, as it's called, the oldest black church not just in South Carolina but across the South, and in just about an hour and a half