Return to Transcripts main page
ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Police Closing in on Prison Escapees; Sources: Convicted Killer's DNA Found in Cabin; Source: Escape Tools Possibly Smuggled in Frozen Meat; New Images: South Carolina Gunman at Sites Linked to Slavery; Charleston Killer Posted Racist Manifesto, Pictures. Aired 7- 8:00p ET
Aired June 22, 2015 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:07] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, breaking news in the New York manhunt for two convicted killers, a major breakthrough tonight. Police chasing their most credible lead yet. The killers leaving a trail. Are police closing in?
Plus, an incredible twist of fate. The woman who was supposed to be in that bible study at the Emanuel AME Church, why did she leave just moments before the gunman walked in? Her story is OUTFRONT tonight.
And South Carolina's governor finally calling for the removal of the confederate flag. But that doesn't mean that flag is going anywhere. Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news. The desperate manhunt for two convicted killers is closing in. Officers saying they've confirmed their most credible lead yet. Hundreds of officers now focusing on just one specific area about 20 miles from the Clinton County prison. And that's where the two convicts staged that escape more than two weeks ago, and authorities are telling CNN tonight that DNA, actual DNA from these two men, Richard Matt and David Sweat, was found inside a cabin in a town called Owls Head, New York. It's a very remote town, there's only a few hundred people that live there.
And in addition to this crucial evidence, police say someone spotted a man running out of that same Owls Head cabin over the weekend. So now you have heavily armed officers fanned out across the Adirondack Mountains. They're focusing on this area. The authorities the compiling a list of hotel guests who have been there. They're trying to see, is there any strange name on there? Anyone who might have known the two men, who might have helped them?
And also breaking on this story tonight, disturbing new details about how Richard Matt and David Sweat got the tools to break out of jail. It's a plot that included using frozen food. And we'll going to have more on that in just a moment.
I want to begin though with Alexandra Field OUTFRONT live in Owls Head, the center of the search right now, as police hope they're closing in. Alex, this is obviously very intense at this hour. They're trying to play every minute of daylight. Do they really believe they're closing in?
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are saying that this is absolutely without a doubt the biggest break that they have had in a very complicated case. A case in which there was fear that the trail had gone cold, as recently as just a week ago. And tonight, Erin, authorities are putting their money where their mouth is, so to speak. We have just learned from New York state police that they have devoted 1,000 law enforcement officers to the search here in Franklin County. That's as many officers as we've seen involved in any part of this search, if not more. Tonight, they are focused on those deep woods in Franklin County, and they are closely watching a cabin there.
That's where investigators retrieved a number of items. They tell us, a law enforcement source tells me that some of those items prove to have had matches for DNA consistent with both of the suspects on the run, both Richard Matt and David Sweat. This is the most credible lead they have had thus far. Investigators were only brought to this cabin in the woods because of the help of a witness, Erin. It was this witness who spotted someone running in the woods, not far from that cabin. But Erin, that sighting came on Saturday afternoon. So at this point, police are hoping that those suspects haven't had time to get very far.
BURNETT: And what more do you know about this cabin they're believed to have been staying in, as recently as Saturday afternoon?
FIELD: Well, the sheriff here in Franklin County is telling me that there are just a couple hundred homes in the search area here. That the population actually increases tenfold during the summer seasons. These are seasonal cabins that may have been empty, that may have been why the fugitives felt that this was a good place to hunker down. They don't know what period of time the fugitives were inside that cabin, just that they were there. Of course, the DNA evidence wouldn't date them, wouldn't give investigators an idea of how many hours or even how many days they could have possibly spent there.
But the sheriff is saying this, "The terrain is very difficult to search here." We're talking about a heavily wooded forested area, but the sheriff does say that if you take a look at a distance between Dannemora and the area they're searching now, more than 20 miles, there would be ways for a less than expert woodsman to traverse the path. There are old railroad beds there, there are power lines that could be followed, and this is a recreation area, Erin, which means that there are snowmobile and ATV trails throughout these woods.
BURNETT: That's a really good point. All right. Alex, thank you very much.
So, obviously, the best lead they've had, I mean, actual DNA. The question is, are they still right in that area. The discovery of the DNA quickly shifted the focus of the search from the Pennsylvania border, where there was a credible sighting this weekend, right back to that heavily wooded mountainous area outside the prison.
Jason Carroll is OUTFRONT with the new details on that DNA.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Searchers calling it one of their strongest leads yet. Tests now being run on materials found inside a cabin located in a wooded area, a little more than 20 miles west of the Clinton County Correctional Facility. Sources tell CNN, the DNA matches that of escaped cons Richard Matt and David Sweat. State police are still cautious about the findings.
MAJOR CHARLES GUESS, NEW YORK STATE POLICE: We have recovered specific items from that cabin. We have forwarded them to the appropriate laboratories and reached conclusive determinations, but we are not prepared to release that evidence at this time.
[19:05:11] CARROLL: Search teams descended on the area, road blocks set up, alerts put out warning residents to be vigilant. And on Saturday, nearly 300 miles away, word of another possible sighting of fugitives near the New York/Pennsylvania border in the town of friendship.
GUESS: We conducted a thorough search that has now ended. We have declared that area clear.
CARROLL: Also becoming more clear, how the men gathered materials to make their escape.
(on camera): A source familiar with the investigation tells me investigators are looking at whether tools or other contraband was hidden inside frozen hamburger meat, passed on to Matt, just about a week before the escape. That meat did not pass through a metal detector, which is a violation of prison policy.
(voice-over): Officials are also looking into whether Joyce Mitchell, the prison employee, now facing charges for her alleged role in the escape, may have convinced a guard to pass Matt the frozen meat. Several guards now under investigation, including Gene Palmer. He worked on the so-called honor block, where Matt and Sweat were housed. His attorney says, Palmer did not know of any escape plans.
ANDREW BROCKWAY, ATTORNEY FOR GENE PALMER: Hindsight is 20/20. Right now he sees things that have happened throughout the past year to two years that have opened up his eyes. He's a very proud individual. He thinks that he has information that will be helpful.
CARROLL: Palmer knew both inmates for several years. He accepted several paintings and drawings Matt made for him. Investigators questioned Palmer for nearly 14 hours Saturday.
BROCKWAY: Gene was extremely truthful and forthcoming. He wants these two individuals to be caught and anything that he can do to help law enforcement do their job, he's willing to cooperate.
CARROLL: Again, Gene Palmer's attorney tells me that his client has cooperated with authorities. And Erin, I asked a little bit more about this relationship that he had with these two inmates over this extended period of time. He said he would use these inmates over a period of time to provide him with the information, using them as a source, if you will, to provide him with information about other people in the prison who were about to cause trouble. Having no idea that they would end up causing the type of trouble we're seeing now -- Erin.
BURNETT: Jason, thank you very much. I want to go straight now to the Clinton County Sheriff David Favro, he's been in the search area all day. Sheriff, good to talk to you again. What have you found?
SHERIFF DAVID FAVRO, CLINTON COUNTY NEW YORK: Well, we haven't reached their objective yet obviously there would be a big announcement about that. But it's incredibly rugged terrain that is just miles west northwest of what we have been searching. There are a terrific amount of resources that are focused in that area. And I think most importantly, over 18 days, there's a renewed enthusiasm and significant motivation and excitement of everybody that's on the ground searching. Getting tips --
BURNETT: Sorry, go ahead, sir.
FAVRO: Getting tips from people is a wonderful thing and we certainly encourage that. We certainly need that information, so if you do come with up something that points you in a definite direction like this, very, very motivational.
BURNETT: And you're talking about definite direction. I mean, this is the DNA around this cabin in Owls Head. I mean, what items did you find where you found this DNA that made you so sure that these men had been in there?
FAVRO: I don't have the direction information of all the items that were recovered, that were taken from that cabin that was done by investigators of the state police, and as a major guest stated earlier, was immediately transported to the appropriate laboratory for analysis, for a multitude of testings, to try and give more answers to help with the internal part of the investigation.
BURNETT: All right. We do know, of course, as you say, there were items with their DNA found on them. A question to you, though, in terms of the sighting. Right. There was a sighting of one person running from this cabin on Saturday. Saturday afternoon. Do you think these men are still together or do you think, I mean, was the DNA from both men that were found or not?
FAVRO: I don't have any direct knowledge on the results of that as of yet, so I really couldn't say what has to be the speculation. They'd probably stand a better chance being together, given the rugged terrain and everything that they're up against. But we have no confirmation, obviously, one way or another, whether they're together or whether they've separated. We don't have any reason to believe, other than the fact that they're together.
BURNETT: Sheriff, you now have DNA, as you say, you have an enthused group of hunters, at this point, looking for these men. Do you think you're closing in?
FAVRO: It certainly feels that way. The level of excitement, the level of enthusiasm everybody that was up there, all the resources. There are more resources than we've seen in this smaller area, than we've seen throughout the course of the investigation.
BURNETT: All right, Sheriff Favro, good to talk to you, again, sir and I appreciate your time.
FAVRO: Thank you.
[19:10:07] BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, I want to bring in Joe LoTempio, a reporter at the Plattsburgh Press Republican. He has new details about the story tonight that you've been breaking. Joe, you just heard the sheriff say, it feels like they're closing in. They've got that enthusiasm. I know that you have some reporting on this very issue. What are your sources telling you about how close they really are?
JOE LOTEMPIO, PLATTSBURGH PRESS REPUBLICAN REPORTER: Well, I think we're going to find out one way or another in the next 24 to 48 hours. As I'm told, they're setting up a hard perimeter around the search area and a big push will come in the next day or two, to flush these guys out, or at least encircle them and draw in on them.
BURNETT: And you also had a chance to speak to the man who saw people inside that cabin. Right? The cabin where they have the DNA, and someone saw someone running. I mean, what did your source actually see?
LOTEMPIO: The sources I talked to spoke with the gentleman that went to the hunting camp, and I was told that on approaching to comp, he was alerted to something, noticed something on the porch that kind of looked like a duffel bag. And noticed individuals inside the cabin, and he -- I'm told he yelled a command to come out, and two people ran out the back, which I'm told was actually the front, because the only way to approach the cabin is from the rear. And he was not able to confirm it was the inmates, but he definitely saw two people exiting the cabin.
BURNETT: So, he saw people two exiting. And in terms of his DNA, we're trying to understand what sort of items there were. Do you have any sense of where they found the DNA, from the two men?
LOTEMPIO: The items that were mentioned to me were a jug of water and a jar of peanut butter, that were sitting on one of the tables inside the camp.
BURNETT: So water. Interesting. Okay. All right. Well, Joe, I appreciate it.
BURNETT: Thank you very much. And you heard Joe saying is 24 to 48 hours from his sources and the DNA found on jugs of water. OUTFRONT next, more of our breaking news. Police suspect the
escaped prisoners are listening to their communications. And we'll going to tell you exactly how they know that, next.
Plus, more breaking news with new images of the Charleston Church killer, just before he opened fire. We have new information on him tonight.
And President Obama uses the n-word. Is it okay for the president of the United States to use that word? No matter what his race.
[19:15:54] BURNETT: Breaking news in the New York manhunt, the best lead yet. And police may close in. Tonight, police narrowing in on one particular area, 20 miles away from the Clinton Correctional Facility. We're also getting more information about another prison employee now under investigation. I'll show you this, a new photo into CNN of prison guard Gene Palmer. He was questioned for 14 hours in connection with the killer's escape. Palmer had gotten a gift, a piece of art, from convict Richard Matt. Remember, he gave art to Joyce Mitchell as well. Officials are now trying to determine whether Palmer played any role in the escape plan.
Also new tonight, investigators looking into whether tools used by the killers were hidden inside a frozen chunk of hamburger meat. That meat, given to Richard Matt, one week before the escape.
Deborah Feyerick is OUTFRONT. And Deb, now a law enforcement source is telling you there's concern the killers, you know, there's that DNA in the cottage, right? That maybe they actually are able to monitor the radio communications of police making the job of finding them a lot harder.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And that's a really big concern to all the law enforcement that's out there. And you have to keep in mind, there are a thousand people now that are searching that entire area. And we're told that investigators are worried that they are listening. Because that's an area, Erin, where cell phone service is horrible. And so a lot of these cabins have scanners inside. So that people can communicate with those on the outside. If these two individuals now have access to a scanner, that could effectively really change how this search is carried out.
BURNETT: I mean, that's pretty incredible, when you think about it. And as you explain, right, because they don't have cell phone service, so they could go into a cottage, and there it is, the scanner is sitting right there. Now, this other development, Deb, is that they were on this honor cell, right? So they're allowed to maybe cook their own food. Which may sound strange to some people, but in that process, Richard Matt may have received a frozen chunk of hamburger meat that had tools in it. What kind of tools could possibly have been smuggled in a block of frozen meat?
FEYERICK: Well, it's really interesting. And that is one of the things investigators are looking at, is whether in fact that prison guard who's now on unpaid lead, actually was sort of an unwitting pawn, given that piece of meat by Joyce Mitchell and then it just didn't go through the metal detector. But it could be things like, you know, small bolt cutters or cutting shears or even a jab saw which is used in construction and it's about six inches. And all of those are things that could have been in. Or Erin, it could have been something as simple for example as a contraband cell phone or even cash.
And the one thing that I do want to say as well is that, you know, investigators, you're talking about those tools, but you're also talking about investigators now looking at that hunting cabin to determine if anything was taken. Because if they took, for example, hunting knives or even worst-case scenario, some sort of a firearm that was kept in that cabin, that means that law enforcement is going to have to be even more careful. So, not only do you have the alleged tools that were smuggled in, you also have potentially new weapons that these two men might be carrying.
BURNETT: All right. Deborah Feyerick, thank you very much.
And OUTFRONT now, Anthony Gangi, a former corrections officer, who spent a lot of time working inside prisons. And Bill Stanton, a former NYPD officer.
Okay. Good to have both of you with us. Anthony, let me start with you. Tools smuggled to a prison in hamburger meat or if Deb said, it could have been cell phones, it could have been cash. We understand, you know, that sources are saying it probably was tools. Does that surprise you?
ANTHONY GANGI, FORMER CORRECTIONS OFFICER: Yes. Because there's major security measures for anything that comes inside the facility.
GANGI: Once it gets inside and it goes through a serious of checks, it could go through multiple hands before it makes it to that honor block. So, I mean, there's a bunch of hands that it could have made it through before it actually got through that security unit.
BURNETT: So, that's the question to you. I mean, what's the chain, right? The hamburger meat leaves the kitchen or it leaves the freezer, right? Which actually opens up a whole another. I mean, how many people, at the least, would have touched that food?
BILL STANTON, FORMER NYPD OFFICER: There's the perceived chain and then there's the actual chain, as we've seen with the TSA, as we're hearing that the prison guards really were supposed to do bed checks, but maybe they didn't. Were supposed to be in the prison tower, but maybe he wasn't. You know, things get mundane. Things get overlooked and now this will be revamped.
GANGI: Yes. I would like to say, you know, obviously this doesn't reflect corrections as a whole.
[19:20:03] GANGI: It's a very honorable profession. I have to say that. But in regards, sometimes routine which may become complacent, then that becomes routine. Because the person there, the right way by policy procedure, may have left it to somebody else and now does it their own way and the person being trained by that individual --
BURNETT: Does it the wrong way.
GANGI: -- does it the wrong way.
BURNETT: I mean, the question is, would guards knowingly turn another blind eye, right? Either knowing there's something in there, or, maybe even not knowing, but, you know, wink, wink, nod, nod, don't put this through the metal detector.
GANGI: Well, you know, what? First off, I always like to say correctional officers, it's no sign of disrespect, we're called correctional officers. I know sometimes it's a mistake, but we're correctional officers. You know, what? Sometimes, we kind of know the person that's bringing in the stuff, you know? And sometimes we can get to a point where we know Joe Schmo and then we may allow Joe Schmo to kind of, you know --
BURNETT: Right. So it could have been someone that they knew so well --
GANGI: What you've got to do --
BURNETT: Right. So you don't think that person's ever going to pull a fast one on you and that's the person who did.
GANGI: That's why training is paramount. Because when officers start to become complacent and they start to take that moment for granted, then training awakened them that Joe Schmo, that guy you know, that could have been a game he was playing just to get through security measures.
STANTON: And someone could be, let's say, someone could have been bought off, could have been bribed. I mean, this is right off "The orange is the new black." How things get in -- listen, there are a majority, like cops, there are bad apples in every -- and all you need is one.
BURNETT: -- serve time in jail because he did get bought off. It does happen --
STANTON: And that's evident, as we've seen with the lady and the seamstress shop, sharp. So, not to address it is a mistake.
BURNETT: So, Bill, I mean, the question is, if it comes in frozen meat. I mean, how many people do you think were involved? And obviously they've charged Joyce Mitchell, they're questioning this other guard who had received art from one of the others.
STANTON: Well, this is going to be interesting to see. My question is, why? These aren't master criminals that have, like, some secret buried treasure somewhere. So, what's going on? It's either sex. It's either the promise of money. Or bribery. One of those three that would compel these folks to aid and abet these people.
GANGI: Or once personal information is discovered on an individual, it could be an overt threat, you know, saying that this has to get done or we will threaten to do this to your family or loved one. I mean, it's not always such a covert method. It could be overt, the point is, if you don't do this, this is what's going to happen.
STANTON: I think it's just bribery. Like, listen, you've done this and I'm going to tell.
BURNETT: How, you know, convicted killers like this, I mean, everyone who has been on your side of this has told me, it's constant. These inmates are nonstop trying to game the system, find out who's weak and move in on them. How do they try to turn a guard?
GANGI: Well, prison -- correctional officer, sorry, I apologize. The correctional officer. Basically, the game is very subtle. The inmates are a lot smarter than people give them credit for them. So, when an inmate catches an officer or catches a civilian, like manipulates them, people think, oh my God! The civilian or the officer, they've got to be stupid. That's not the case. The game is very subtle like the picture. You said, one of the officers received a drawing from one of the inmates. Well, that's a start. That takes that officer out of that prescribed rule of --
STANTON: He's working. He's working.
GANGI: Now I owe you something. Right, I agree. Hundred percent.
GANGI: It introduces a slow and subtle technique, where the drawing becomes leverage and they progressively move forward to the point is, what have I done?
STANTON: You could have engaged them, like, oh, you hunt, do you have a cabin?
Time is on the side of the inmate, and they have nothing but time. And to your point, all they're doing is to gain Intel. So it could be a combination of the two.
GANGI: You're dealing with people who want to have a control of who they are and their way. They want to control policies, procedures. So, they'll do whatever they can to manipulate the system. But the manipulation is subtle. If it's overt, we stand, whoa, what did you just ask for? But it's subtle to the point where there is leverage given, to the point where the officer has to think, man, if I don't do this, what can happen.
STANTON: I'm surprised they're both alive. I'm surprised one didn't take out the other by now.
BURNETT: Well, we will see. We don't know. You might be right about that.
All right. Thanks very much. Anthony Gangi, thank you, I appreciate it.
And OUTFRONT next, breaking news in the investigation into the Charleston church massacre. New information about the shooter tonight.
And one incredible story of fate. How one woman got out of the church just before the gunman walked in? She's my guest, next.
And as calls grow to remove the confederate flag from South Carolina capitol, some major companies that make big money in South Carolina have been completely and utterly silent. Why? We will follow the money.
[19:28:20] BURNETT: Breaking news in the Charleston church massacre. Tonight, shocking new images of the gunman who confessed to slaughtering nine black people at an historic church. It's all part of a racist manifesto that gives a glimpse into the mind of this killer.
Martin Savidge begins our coverage OUTFRONT. And Martin, I know you're learning a lot more tonight about the hate, the hate that motivated this massacre.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We really are, yes. I should explain the music that you hear in the background here is that Emanuel AME church continues to attract people from all over. And worship of all kinds. So what you're listening to is basically a hymn that's got a very rock beat to it. But you're right, what we've learned from Dylann Roof is the fact that he's been planning this attack for months. That the inspiration for his hatred goes back years, and that over the weeks leading up to the attack, he's been on kind of a weird journey of both history and hate.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): From a manifesto, arrest records, and his own photographs, we can track Dylann Roof's mind-set and movement toward murder. According to the manifesto posted on the website Roof owned, his racist awakening comes with the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012. The unarmed Florida teen shot and killed by George Zimmerman, who many accused of racial profiling. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is he uttering that word? Other than,
that's how he feels.
SAVIDGE: At the same time, Roof and Martin are the same age, 17. According to the manifesto, he began researching the case online. More importantly, this prompted me to type in the words "Black on White" crimes into Google. And "I have never been the same since that day." That search leading Roof to the website of the Council of Conservative Citizens. A white supremacist group according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Three years later, Roof begins to act on his hate. February 9th, he registers his white supremacist website. February 28th, Roof is arrested at a local mall near Columbia. The incident reports says, police are called when he asks, quote, "Out of the ordinary questions, such as the number of employees and when they come and go." He's taken into custody for having suboxone, a controlled substance that requires a prescription.
By the middle of March, we begin to see Roof on a twisted pilgrimage, posing on Sullivan's island, south of Charleston, once the largest slave port in North America, and where the Confederacy fired the first shots of the civil war.
Later that month, he's in Elmwood Cemetery in Columbia, which has a large section dedicated to Confederate soldiers.
April 3rd, Roof's 21st birthday, using gift money, he obtained a .45 caliber handgun.
Roof's photos are a tour of historical sites linked to slavery and the Confederacy. Here dressed in black standing at Boone Hall, one of America's oldest working plantations. The year before at the same spot, posing with two slave mannequins.
April 17th, we see the gun Dylann's thought to have purchased. A Glock 41, now equipped with a laser targeting tool.
Three days later, here he is with the same weapon, pointing directly at the camera. Shortly after that, he's back in Charleston at another plantation in front of a faded wooden sign reading "Sacred Burial Grounds for Our African-American Ancestors".
The next day, he's in Columbia, at the museum and library of Confederate history.
Days later, Roof poses at sunset on the beach. It seems innocent enough until you look at his feet and see the number 1488. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, that number is a common white supremacist code.
Over the following weeks, friends say Roof drinks heavily and takes pills, while spilling increasingly threatening talk.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't believe him when he was saying he wanted to do something crazy and wanted a race war.
SAVIDGE: Roof concludes his manifesto saying, "I chose Charleston because it is the most historic city in my state and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to whites in the country."
The last photo of roof before his killing spree is June 17th, taken not by the 21-year-old, but by a security camera at the side entrance of Emanuel AME Church.
SAVIDGE: Tonight, Dylann Roof remains under a suicide watch in the Charleston County jail, separated from the general population. His journey of hate has come to an end. His long journey of legal problems is only just beginning -- Erin.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Martin Savidge, thanks.
Breaking news: President Obama will deliver the eulogy for the pastor killed at a bible study in Charleston. The president and first lady will attend the funeral on Friday. All nine innocent victims are being laid to rest this week.
Reverend Brenda Nelson, a member of AME Emanuel, was nearly a victim, too. But in an incredible twist of fate, she left the church just moments before the shooting.
Reverend Nelson is OUTFRONT tonight.
And, Reverend, I appreciate your coming on the program. I know this is just an incomprehensible situation that you are in. You were at that church, just before the shooter arrived. You left at 7:35. You do usually stay for the bible study, right?
REV. BRENDA NELSON, EMANUEL AME CHURCH MEMBER: Yes.
BURNETT: I mean, why is it that -- on this Wednesday, you happened to leave.
NELSON: Well, you know, first of all, our bible studies are usually earlier. We have bible studies at 6:00 p.m., but on that Wednesday, it was delayed until 7:30, and I left because I had an emergency at home. My air-conditioning unit during the day had just shut down and I need to go home to take care of that and hopefully get hold in time to have a technician come and see about my unit.
So, you know, even though we see it as an emergency, we saw it as an inconvenience, I think that we now know, by our faith, in our faith, through our faith, for whatever reason, it was God's Divine Intervention.
BURNETT: It seems that way. I mean, the killer arrived not long after you left. I mean, Reverend, you could so easily have been in that room. I mean, you should have been in that room, and ordinarily, you would have been, right?
BURNETT: You were so close. NELSON: Right. Exactly. And I think that's why there was such
major confusion, probably ten or more hours after the event, when there were so many in the community, across our community, that had already gotten information that I was one of the fatalities.
That was even reported early by one of the television stations, that I was a fatality. And so later on, on Thursday, the school district actually issued a press release, a statement to the press, letting them know that they had spoken to me, I was well, I was safe, and asking them to please correct any erroneous information that was being provided to the community.
[19:35:03] So, you know, during that time, I was overwhelmed by calls, et cetera, family members from away had gotten the word that I was a fatality. So, of course, they were in extreme shock. They were upset, they were grieving, they were mourning. And not knowing that I was at home safe.
BURNETT: Reverend, are you afraid that something like this could happen again?
NELSON: I know -- Erin, I think it's almost like 9/11, where you probably will never feel the same again, when 9/11 occurred, the way we traveled by air, our travel, changed. We were never able to go back to the old days.
I think that it just gives you another level of awareness. And it's something that we'll move forward. But I think for me personally, though, it gives me another level of faith, even while I talk about the struggle with this, because it lets me know that regardless of what I see or what I think or what happens, that God is truly in control. And, again, that's the voice of a minister because I recognize --
BURNETT: So, it strengthened your faith?
NELSON: -- that without -- yes, it strengthens my faith.
Someone made a joke to me the other day, they were at my house, and they said, you do something referencing a key, and I said, all that God has seen me through this past Wednesday, I have no fear. I'm at another level. You know, in terms of knowing that a step he allows, it won't happen.
But we still are human, so we have the spirituality, we have the faith, but then we know that we have the humanity as well.
BURNETT: Well, thank you so much for sharing them with us. Thank you, Reverend.
NELSON: Thank you.
BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, South Carolina's governor caving to pressure, caving for the removal of the Confederate flag. But will it actually happen?
Plus, President Obama uses the N-word and it is not for the first time.
[19:40:44] BURNETT: Breaking news: South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley finally calling for the state to remove the Confederate flag.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: My hope is that by removing a symbol that divides us, we can move forward as a state in harmony and we can honor the nine blessed souls who are now in heaven.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Calls to remove the flag grew louder after pictures emerged of Dylann Roof posing with it in multiple pictures. And tonight, even Walmart is announcing it's removing Confederate flag merchandise from its stores. We can forgive you if you didn't even know they were doing that in the first place, but that's how widespread this can be.
Now, among those calling for the flag's removal, Republicans Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, who actually removed it from Florida.
But not every presidential hopeful is willing to take this issue on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Everyone's being baited with this question, as if somehow that has anything to do whatsoever with running for president. And my position is, it most certainly does not.
RICK SANTORUM (R), U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I take the position that the federal government really has no role in determining what the states are going to do.
REPORTER: You're a candidate for president. Do you not have a position on this at all?
SANTORUM: I'm not a South Carolinian. This is a decision that needs to be made here in South Carolina.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And there's another powerful voice that's been silent, the voice of money. South Carolina's home to major businesses, Boeing, BMW, companies whose silence have been deafening, have been as they opened up plants and poured money in.
Ana Cabrera is OUTFRONT.
HALEY: It's time to move the flag from the capitol grounds. (APPLAUSE)
ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Governor Nikki Haley, under pressure after the Charleston church massacre, has called for the Confederate flag to come down. This after years of defending the flag, and quite a change considering what she said last year.
HALEY: I spend a lot of my days on the phones with CEOs, and recruiting jobs to this state. I can honestly say I have not had one conversation with a single CEO about the Confederate flag.
CABRERA: Still, corporate America has remained largely quiet on this divisive issue -- Boeing, BMW, Google, and Volvo, all with major business in South Carolina. Combined, they invest billions, bring in millions, and employee thousands in the state, lured by friendly labor laws and huge tax incentives.
Yet, silence from most of them on the Confederate flag, prior to Haley's announcement.
(on camera): Late today, we did hear from Michelin, which has more than 9,000 employees in the state, operating ten different manufacturing facilities. They want the flag to come down and are calling on lawmakers to do the right thing.
VAUGHN GRANGER, LOCAL BUSINESS OWNER: My opinion is, business is business. So stay focused on our business. That's all.
CABRERA (voice-over): Business owner Vaughn Granger, who's had a retail store near the capitol for over 40 years believes it's not appropriate to offer an opinion on the issue.
(on camera): When it comes to controversial issues, does it make more sense as a business owner not to say something, because you don't want to alienate potential customers?
GRANGER: We have black customers, we have white customers, we have religious, financial, lawyers, doctors. I would never want to ever offend them, any one of those group of customers.
CABRERA: Now, Michelin statement's actually came before Governor Haley's announcement. Then, after her press conference today, we heard from Boeing and BMW, both coming out and saying they support the governor and her call for action.
But ultimately, it's on lawmakers to decide this issue. And it will require two-thirds majority to agree for the flag to come down. There's expected to be a debate on this issue in the capitol in the next coming weeks, and there does seem to be momentum for the flag to come down, but we'll have to wait and see, Erin.
BURNETT: It will be an interesting vote. They certainly haven't had the votes before, to your point.
Ana, thank you so much, live from the capitol.
And OUTFRONT next, President Obama says the United States is not cured of racism. So, is he helping by using the n-word?
And on a much lighter note tonight, a very unexpected -- yes, see that? -- stowaway.
[19:48:52] BURNETT: President Obama speaking candidly about race in the wake of the Charleston church massacre, and it's one word, the N-word, that's getting all the talk.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public. That's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It's not just a matter of overt discrimination. We have -- societies don't overnight completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: Joining me OUTFRONT, CNN political commentator, Van Jones, who worked for President Obama in the White House, and our political commentator, Marc Lamont hill, joining us on Skype.
All right. Thanks to both of you.
Marc, were you surprised to hear the president do that? He said it conversationally. He just dropped it right in there?
MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, nothing that the president does is without thought the and calculation and he knew that we would be talking about it today. But I think he also understood that there is nothing wrong with saying it.
You know, when I woke up this morning, my inbox was filled with "President Obama uses the N-word". I was expecting a scandal. I thought he got on tape or, you know, schism, or wild out of character that I didn't anticipate.
[19:50:02] When I saw it was just this, I said, oh, this is no big deal. The bigger deal was that he said that racism is something that you can't get rid of 300 years after slavery. That means the president was saying 150 years from now, racism is still going to be an intractable feature of American life. I mean, that's far more of important and powerful headline.
BURNETT: Van, yes, there are some people, though, who feel that he shouldn't have used it, that it's a word that has such negative connotations. It doesn't matter that he is African-American and that he can use the word if he wants, that he should not have done it, and it advances the narrative.
What do you say to those people? VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think -- first of
all, I was just in Charleston yesterday. When you think of that, and what you think of is actually happening and not the symbols of racism or syllables that talk about racism, just raises them, but the actual substance of racial violence in the country, to me that that's much more important.
Look, I think the president, you know, he didn't use the term, he pronounced the word. Using the term would be, hey, my n-words, how you doing, or n-word please, or like that's what I thought the controversy was. Once, I realized he had just pronounced the term, certainly, it's much more common for people not the pronounce it, and just say n-word.
But I just don't think that it should rise to the level of international incident, and the point he was trying to make is much more salient in that we have a long way to go, and just getting that word pronounced, which ever syllables you want to use to pronounce the word and getting it out of the public vernacular is not a huge victory.
BURNETT: So, you know, I want to play for both of you and for our viewers, this conversation that Oprah had with the rapper Jay-Z about the n-word. This was a few years. Jay-Z says it's fine to use it. Oprah passionately disagrees. Let me just play a clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPRAH WINFREY, CELEBRITY TV HOST: You know, I have been known for not being a fan of rap music because of the misogynist lyrics, and because of the use of the N-word. You obviously feed differently.
JAY-Z, RAPPER: Little bit.
WINFREY: Little, and tell everybody why.
JAY-Z: What we had discussed is more of words, people give words power.
JAY-Z: And for our generation, what we did was we took the word and we took the power out of that word.
JAY-Z: And we turned a word that was very ugly and hurtful into a term of endearment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And, Marc, what do you make of that word, because gay was a word that you couldn't use, and now, now, it's a word that everybody uses. And he is saying by using it, he is taking away the evil. HILL: Well, I think that language is very complex, and words are
very powerful, and long lasting and so, the N-word itself has a long history and it cannot be erased or eliminated, because we decided to use it differently.
At the same time, it does mean different things and different contexts. I happen to believe that the N-word is OK for black people to use. Do I use it at work? No. Do I use it on TV? I think only once.
But I don't have a problem as such with black people making use of the term and using it differently than white people. And I think part of the problem here is that we're unwilling to say, hey, there something that hey, it is different for white people than black people, and black people can do and white people can't. And so I am more inclined to agree with Jay-Z on that point.
BURNETT: Right. Well, I mean, obviously, I mean, the bottom line with the word like this, though, is that it will never a word that anyone can use, unless you're African-American, right?
JONES: Well, I think that's true. I mean, part of the thing that I think is just so remarkable is yesterday in Charleston, you had black people and black people literally kind at the ground zero for this horrible, not just a racial word, but the worst kind of racial terrorism and violence. And right around that ground zero, nobody was using the n-word, but they were talking about love, they were talking about hope, they were talking about how they could all come together.
And I hope that this is not going to take us away from that too much.
BURNETT: All right. Van and Marc, thanks. Good to talk to both of you.
And next, when curiosity almost killed the cat, but you know what? Here is the thing. It is lucky that cats have a lot of lives, right? Jeanne Moos with an he incredible story, next.
[19:58:18] BURNETT: Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the story of an instructor and passenger flying in the ultra light airplane when suddenly the cat is out of the bag or at least out of the wing.
And not that anyone noticed at first that the two were flying over French Guiana in South America when pilot Romain Jantot did a double-take.
There is a moment when your eyes go up.
ROMAIN JANTOT, PILOT INSTRUCTOR: That whoops moment. MOOS: As in whoops, how did I miss the cat asleep or hiding in
the fabric of the wing when doing the pre-flight check?
She was already the flight schools' mascot, now, fur blowing in the wind, she earned her wings.
Is she meowing?
JANTOT: The most powerful meow I ever heard.
MOOS: She may have been a no-name cat before. But now, they're thinking of calling her stowaway.
Not since cats parachuted.
MOOS: In a Swedish insurance ad has an airborne feline that's such a hit online. Those were fakes, special effects.
This was the real thing.
The pilot immediately headed back to the airport, this was no "Twilight Zone" episode when William Shatner saw a monster on the wing, got out his gun, got sucked out and shot it.
The goal here was to not freak out the cat. Commenters wondered why the lady didn't reach out to the cat and get a hold of it.
Once they touched down, the answer was obvious, they didn't want the cat to do what she did when the pilot reached for her on the ground.
But up there, high above earth, Stowaway must have thought that she had crossed into --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The twilight zone.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BURNETT: What a lucky and smart kitty.
Anderson starts now.