Return to Transcripts main page


Weather Hampers Manhunt; Water Park Explosion; Flag Flight Reaches New Heights. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired June 28, 2015 - 07:00   ET


[07:00:07] VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking new details about the capture of escaped inmate Richard Matt moments before he was killed. And weather conditions, they're taking a turn for the worse. Even a flood watch could make it even harder to hunt down escaped killer David Sweat.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: It is horrifying video from an explosion at a water park. People were on fire running to get away. More than 500 are hurt, many in critical condition. We have a live report from Taiwan for you coming up.

BLACKWELL: Plus, two activists arrested in South Carolina for removing the Confederate flag from a pole on the grounds of the state capital. How should their cases be treated? We're hearing a lot about that this morning, as a nonviolent protest or as a district criminal act?

Good morning. It is always good to be with you on a Sunday. I'm Victor Blackwell.

PAUL: And I'm Christi Paul. So glad to have your company.

We want to begin with you in northern New York with breaking new details about the death of Richard Matt. "The Buffalo News" is reporting that matt may have been drunk when he was shot. And that his body reeked of alcohol. We're going to have more on that in just a moment.

We're also getting a look at one of the cabins. Take a look at this. This was a temporary hide-out for one of the escapees, authorities have learned. As you can see, I mean, it's pretty isolated remote area.

Today, searchers focused here, a 22 square mile area near the town of Malone. There's where we find Polo Sandoval this morning.

So, Polo, let's start with Richard Matt. What are these new details that are being reported?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, at this point, some of those local media reports are what people are waking up to this morning. "Buffalo News" now citing an unnamed law enforcement source familiar with the investigation who is telling that newspaper that Matt was not only sick but possibly even intoxicated at the time that he faced off with federal agents on Friday.

I can tell you that this morning, we are digging for details on his autopsy that could potentially confirm some of this information that's being reported by the "Buffalo News". An unnamed law enforcement source telling them that information though.

So, that will be crucial in telling them what life was like for Richard Matt in the moment leading up to that confrontation with federal agents and even immediately after his escape from the prison in Dannemora.

In the meantime, the main headline here, Christi and Paul, I could o tell you is the weather. What a difference an hour makes alone. We've gone from a sporadic drizzle to occasional showers and now, a downright downpour.

Now, officials here are going to be working through that. The estimated 1,200 law enforcement officers now expected to hold back because of the weather, in fact, they work through the weather, immediately following that jailbreak in and around the Dannemora, which is where that prison is, only about 25 miles from where we are here.

So, now, the search focusing on the Malone, New York, area was they continue to search for David sweat. At this point, they have no solid evidence that seems to suggest he is still in the region.

But they also don't have any information to suggest that he left the region. So, again, this morning as the manhunt continues with the weather, the main question is, is David Sweat still here and was he in and around the region when Richard Matt was gunned down nearly 48 hours ago, guys.

PAUL: All righty. Polo Sandoval, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

And, Ivan Cabrera, let's talk about that weather because that was nifty.

IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Unbelievable, did you see the downpour? Fifty-seven degrees too. That's the other thing here, which I'll show you the forecast. We've already had our sunrise at 5:13. Eight-forty-seven will be sunset. The good thing is that have about 15 and a half hours of daylight this time of year.

But let's get into the radar and show you what's going to be happening over the next several hours. Another band of very heavy rainfall, you see some yellows beginnings to pop up here. We're talking about Malone which is right across extreme northern New York, right at the border with Canada. We're going to continue to see those heavy rains. In fact, flood watches in effect as a result of that.

This area has been hit with very heavy rain as of late. So, it is not going to take much to flood here. Look at our computer model forecast. You see some of the yellows indicating some heavy rainfall. This is Sunday 8:00 a.m., we'll push this forward a little bit more. You see another batch of heavy rain moving in around 2:00 p.m. and that continues throughout this evening once again with tropical downpours here.

But what's not tropical are the temperatures. Take a look at this. Upper 50s is where we're going to stay here. We're going to have some higher gusts this afternoon making it feel colder. If he has not had shelter, this exposure to 50s and very cold rain is going to take a toll and hopefully it has and will over the next several hours -- guys.

PAUL: Yes, to slow him down.

CABRERA: Yes, absolutely.

BLACKWELL: Ivan, thank you so much.

Let's focus on the new breaking details about Richard Matt. We've got with us, Harry Houck, CNN law enforcement analyst, retired New York City police detective, along with former NYPD police commissioner Bernard Kerik.

[07:05:05] Harry, let me start with you. The report from the Buffalo News citing an unnamed law enforcement source is that Richard Matt was drunk. What do you make of that?

HARRY HOUCK, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: All right. Well, you know, the fact that he was drunk, we know there was a bottle that was found at one of the cabins that he was drinking, and apparently he took a couple with him. And if he was drunk, that's why he made that stupid move of firing shots at that vehicle that's gone by.

So, we can pretty much assume also that Sweat was probably drunk around the same time and that Sweat is also sick. Right now, I'd be trying to focus some of that search on cabins in the area now because he has to be looking for some type of shelter to keep out of this rain and the cold weather.

Right now, I don't even know why this guy isn't hypothermic by now. We might actually find him laying down unconscious or even dead as a result of this weather.

BLACKWELL: Bernie, your expectation is that we'll find more cab wins that these two have broken into over the next several weeks?

BERNIE KERIK, FORMER NYPD POLICE COMMISSIONER: Yes, I think we will. Look, you know, the other thing that's going to have an impact here, the psyche the Sweat -- you know, you have sleep deprivation, hypothermia, lack of food and water is going to have an impact on him. And as Harry said, we may find him unconscious somewhere.

The fact of the matter is, he's got to find shelter, he's got to get food, he's got to get water, and that's going to be difficult, especially now because everybody that owns property up in that area, they're all going back in there to check their properties, to look at those cabins and see if anything's been burglarized, see if anything's been removed.

So, that's what's taking place. The searchers, if he's up there, they'll find him.

BLACKWELL: Harry, we spoke with survivalist a moment ago who suggested the rain not only hampers the search but damages some of the evidence that might be available out in this terrain. We heard from a survivalist's perspective. But from law enforcement, what's your concern, aside from making it more difficult to search. But what's there now that might not be here after the rain?

HOUCK: Well, you know, certainly, there's tracks. And certainly it can affect the dogs in trying to track Sweat down. Those are probably the two biggest concerns. If he leaves clothing or other types of things around when he's walking and dropping things, we're going to find those. But those will be my two main concerns.

You know, in fact, he is probably so sick right now from drinking bad water or eating bad food, he's probably not even moving that much. There's a good chance he might be hiding in some brush somewhere or he climbed a tree and is just sitting there.

I can't see him lasting too much longer unless he makes it to a cabin somewhere.

And, Bernie, the expectation has been that this would rap fairly soon. But the truth is that this can go on for weeks or months. And in some cases, escapees are never found.

KERIK: You know what, Victor, normally, in a circumstance like this, you usually get these guys within 48 to 75 hours. If it goes beyond 72 hours, there's no telling.

The bottom line is, I don't think this guy has the capability to go underground and disappear for life. I think they'll find him. The key is now, is he still in that region? Did he get into Canada? Has he enabled himself to get out of the region, out of the immediate search area? Time will tell.

BLACKWELL: We're also getting our first pictures of inside and outside of this cabin where DNA was found. Let's put those pictures, the video, guys, if we have it of that cabin, where a clothing -- soiled clothing was found and that's how they were able to determine that he was likely sick from bad food or bad water.

How many of these cabins -- you expect they're going through all the cabins Harry in that area now or are they waiting for reports from owners?

HOUCK: Well, I think they have to go to the cabins and sit on them and see if he shows up. I know that's apparently there's 300 cabins in the area, last report I heard. So, if you need two officers in each cabin to be able to stake it out, you're talking over 600 officers when you only have 1,100 out in the field. So it might be kind of impossible.

You know, the fact is also that we don't know when Sweat split up from Matt. Apparently now reports are that they don't believe that he may have been in the area with Matt, and that the footprint that was found might not have been Sweat's footprint. They might have split up some time earlier and he might not even be in the search area now.

BLACKWELL: Wow. Yes, after the Friday night events, most people expected by Saturday morning that this would be over but it continues.

Harry Houck, Bernard Kerik, thank you both.

[07:10:02] KERIK: Thank you.

HOUCK: You're welcome.

PAUL: This is a frightening scene at a water park. We're talking about an explosion and a fireball, hundreds of people running through flames just to try to survive. What investigators think might have caused the blast.

Plus, two arrests after activists remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina capital. Here's the question some people are asking, should this be treated as criminal or just a nonviolent protest?

Also, a new investigation for an unusually high baby death rate. It stems from the CNN investigation. And now, the changes that could happen because of it. We'll walk you through it in a moment.



PAUL: It is so hard to watch, isn't it? Those are people running through flames to get away. Police say a flammable powder blew up over a stage and spread furiously.

And listen to this: 519 people are suffering injuries this morning because of this horrific explosion at a Taiwan water park yesterday.

Our Kathy Novak is in Taipei, Taiwan.

So, Kathy, first of all, do we have any gauge of how some of these people are doing and how hospitals are coping with mass injuries like this?

KATHY NOVAK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christie, you saw the video right there. So graphic in showing these people just running through flames. You can just imagine the kind of burns they have, the kind of smoke inhalation that they are suffering.

More than 180 people out of the more than 500 who are injured are in intensive care unit.

[07:15:02] We're told there aren't enough specialist burn units to look after everyone who needs that specialized care. So, authorities are overwhelmed. They're trying to move people into the right hospitals. There are 39 in this area looking after people to make sure they're in the right place and getting the care they so desperately need.

This is a water park. So, we scenes after that horrible explosion of people dragged out on inflatable tubes and being given first aid right here. Now, what we have a situation where officials here are calling for the public to please stay away unless absolutely necessary because we need to focus on the people who were hurt right here, Christi.

PAUL: What about the police investigation? What more have they learned about this flammable powder?

NOVAK: We know that the organizer of this event had been brought in by the prosecutor for questioning, also the people in charge of setting up the stage and the special effects. What I was told by one of the fire officials here is that in small quantities this powder should not be dangerous. But what they think happened here is because there were such large quantities of this powder that were shot into the air by the organizers to create this special effect, it mixed with the air and may have caused the explosion. They're looking into maybe was it faulty wiring, what is it the lighting, was it simply people smoking? All those questions still being asked, and this water park will remain closed until the investigation is concluded -- Christi.

PAUL: OK, my goodness. Kathy Novak, we appreciate the update. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. Let's now look at the latest developments in Friday's three deadly terror attacks. There's a lot we're learning this morning. In Kuwait, officials say the suicide bomber who attacked a mosque was a Saudi citizen. And they arrested the man they say drove him to the mosque.

The attack during Friday prayers killed at least 27 people, injured more than 200. ISIS has claimed some responsibility for that. Now, to Tunisia, thousands of people tourists now are leaving the seaside of town of Sousse after a gunman attacked a beach report filled with Europeans on vacation, at least 38 people were killed here, nearly 40 wounded. Tunisian citizens are demanding better security and U.S. officials say ISIS might have inspired the gunman.

Now, to France, a memorial service has been held for the man whose severed head was found after an attack on a factory. The suspect has been on a terror watch list since 2006. His wife and sister are also in custody.

All right. Here stateside, the Confederate flag debate is reaching new heights. Coming up, how should prosecutors deal with the two activists busted for taking down that flag at the South Carolina statehouse? Was this primarily a criminal act? Was this just a nonviolent protest?

Plus, rain and possible flooding in northern New York could hamper the search efforts for an escaped killer. In fact, they're expected to. What methods police officers could be using to track fugitive David Sweat.

And more breaking news, details into Richard Matt's condition moments before he died.



[07:21:38] BRITTANY "BREE" NEWSOME, REMOVED FLAG FROM S.C. STATE HOUSE: We have to bury hate. It's been too long. We can't be warring with each other all the time. It's not right.

REPORTER: Why not wait for the vote to take it down?

NEWSOME: What is there to vote on? There's doing the right thing and there's doing the wrong thing.


BLACKWELL: Brittany Newsome, known as "Bree", some consider her to be a hero. Others are criminal. It really depends on what you think about the activists tearing down the Confederate flag there in the state capital in South Carolina. She's 30 years old, out of jail now on bail.

But #freebree is still trending on social media this morning. And she's now front and center of the controversy that is sweeping across the country.

HLN legal analyst Joey Jackson joins us now in studio -- good to have you back.

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: Good to see you, Victor.

BLACKWELL: And Patrisse Cullors is on the phone with us. She's the cofounder of Black Lives Matter, #BlackLivesMatter, a group that has been an avid supporter of Bree, a group that had been an avid supporter of Bree.

I want to come first to you, because there are people I've spoken with in the state legislature, current and former, who agree that the Confederate flag should come down. They disagree in the matter in which it came down by climbing up and taking it down.

You say to them what?

Do we have Patrisse on the phone?

PATRISSE CULLORS, CO-FOUNDER, #BLACKLIVESMATTER (via telephone): Yes. I did not hear you. One more time?

BLACKWELL: One more time, for people in the state legislature who say the flag should come down, yes, but it needs to go through the legislative process, not the way it was taken down yesterday, what do you say to those critics?

CULLORS: What I say to those critics is essentially Bree is a hero in many of your eyes. That flag should have been taken down years ago. And honestly as state legislators and local government has procrastinated.

So, the taking down of the flag was courageous. It was bold. It was a creative action. It's those sorts of actions that allow for an opportunity for hopefully the flag to be taken down immediately. Although we saw them bring the flag back up within the hour that Bree took it down, which is pretty startling given how much that flag brings up, how much hate it brings up for so many people, especially black people.

BLACKWELL: Joey, what did they face?

JACKSON: Well, listen, it's a misdemeanor is the reality. And that means in this particular jurisdiction, Victor, it's punishable by up to three years in jail, as well as a $5,000 fine. That, of course, is the maximum.

But the real issue was whether or not the prosecutor will go that route. And whatever a prosecutor examines, whether to prosecute a case into what extent, they look at a few things. One is the intent of a person. What was the intent? Was it any malicious or evil intent? Or was it driven by something else?

The other, Victor, of course, is the interest to be served. And what is the interest? Obviously you want to defer criminality. You don't want anyone else to engage in any other types of disobedience like this because we're a government of laws. But at the same time, what was her overriding public policy and should it come anyway?

So, I think the prosecutor will certainly temper the prosecution with balancing all of these factors in terms of looking at this as an act of civil disobedience.

BLACKWELL: And we're hearing from the NAACP, we've got part of the statement.

[07:25:01] "The NAACP calls on state prosecutors to consider the moral inspiration behind the civil disobedience of this young practitioner of democracy", they call her. "Prosecutors should treat Newsome with the same large hearted measure of justice that inspired her actions."

Any generally accepted precedent that there's an impact of statements like this?

JACKSON: You know, interesting enough. But look at the whole founding of the country. Look at the Boston Tea Party. Look at Susan B. Anthony and voting rights. Look at Rosa Parks. I mean, you could take this throughout history.

And if you look at history, history is really a whole combination of a country that's founded upon civil disobedience. And that's something I think the prosecutor in this case will really look to. And you have, of course, competing thoughts. We do have to be a society of laws. You can't have people acting in ways based on just what they want to act based around moral grounds or religious upon.

At the same time, there's something to be said about someone who speaks out against acts of oppression. So, I think that's what the prosecutor will do here.

BLACKWELL: Patrisse, back to you. We know that the legislature will get back together and reconvene sometime after the 4th of July holiday to discuss the flag. Do you expect there will be other attempts to take down the flag in the same manner in which Miss Newsome did?

CULLORS: I hope so. I think what we witnessed Bree do was an act of civil disobedience such as Rosa Parks taking up a seat in the front of the bus.

She opened up the door for a dialogue that's been happening for decades. But she's pushing that dialogue forward. And so I think many of us, you know, are saying hopefully this will lead to acts of civil disobedience that are not dangerous for anybody -- except for Bree. She was the only one that was in real danger. Taking down that flag was I think an absolute inspiration for many of us who are in the Black Lives Matter movement. We stand in solidarity with her and we hope that they drop the charges against her. And we hope that folks are able to see this as an important opportunity to permanently take down that flag.

BLACKWELL: All right. Patrisse Cullors, very quickly, Joey.

JACKSON: And just in terms of permanently taking it down, to Patrisse's point, two-thirds of the legislature in both houses, provided they get that, and the two-third approved, it's taken down permanently.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Patrice Cullors, #blacklivesmatter, Joey Jackson, HLN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney -- good to have you both.

JACKSON: Thank you, Victor.


PAUL: There are breaking details this morning surfacing in the capture of one of those escaped killers in northern New York. What we're learning this morning about Richard Matt and his condition right before he was shot and killed by police.

Also, the Supreme Court's historical same-sex marriage ruling not being followed in some places. We're learning. We need a couple who attempted to marry after 14 years together, but they were turned away.