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Four Marines Killed at 2 U.S. Military Installations; James Holmes Found Guilty of Colorado Theater Shootings; Obama Calls on Congress to Reform Criminal Justice System; Plane Crash Victims Speaks Out; Tornadoes Hit Illinois. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired July 16, 2015 - 01:00   ET




[01:00:09] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chattanooga is a great city with a broken heart tonight.


GEORGE HOWELL, CNN HOST: Thirty minutes, two shootings, four marines dead. New details on a mass killing in the state of Tennessee and the investigation in to the gunman.

From CNN world headquarters here in Atlanta, this is CNN breaking news.

We are following the breaking news out of Tennessee. We welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world.

You are watching CNN NEWSROOM.

The mayor of Chattanooga calls this situation a nightmare. Shootings at two U.S. military installations in the city are now being investigated as possible acts of terror. Four marines killed, at least three other people wounded after a gunman opened fire with an ak-47 style weapon targeting a military recruitment office and Navy reserve center, all within 30 minutes' time.

Police killed that suspect, 24-year-old Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez. He was born in Kuwait and had Jordanian citizenship. He was a naturalized U.S. citizen and had recently travelled to the Middle East, but he was not in any of the U.S. databases of suspected terrorists.


ED REINGOLD, FBI: We are checking every possible place that he could resign or could have resided, visited, where he shopped, where he went to school, who his friends were, if he worked out at a gym, every possible lead. So we have information that he's been in various locations and we will check each and every one of those.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOWELL: A yearbook entry from his high school reads quote "my name cause is national security alerts. What is yours do?"

CNN's Gary Tuchman went to the neighborhood where it is believed Abdulazeez spent most of his childhood and has this report.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We can tell you this is the house where he spent most of his life. We know that he graduate from college, the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga County in 2012 where he majored in electrical engineering.

It is not clear if he had a job. He had a couple of internships after he went to school, it is not clear if he had a job. We also know he was a high school wrestler. He was a MMA, a mixed martial arts fighter. We are told by his high school wrestling coach that he was a very good person. That he would pray occasionally, ask time off from wrestling to conduct Muslim prayers. But that he was shocked. He says he was he was a great guy.

So everyone is quite stunned in this neighborhood. We talked to a gentleman, one of his neighbors two doors away, said that as far as he knew, he's known him since he was a little kid, that he was a normal person. Listen to what he said.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't see anything wrong with him.

TUCHMAN: What kind of family does he have?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're good people. I never found any kind of conflict with them.

TUCHMAN: That same neighbor, Dean McDaniel told us that he has three children and that Abdulazeez had an older and younger sister. His sisters used to baby-sit for his children and Abdulazeez, the gunman, would be in the house occasionally and had good conversations and thought he was a good kid. And like all the neighbors here just couldn't believe the news when they heard about the little boy who used to live in that house is now a killer.


HOWELL: That is Gary Tuchman reporting there. Witnesses say there were so many bullets fired, they lost count. A source telling us Abdulazeez was carrying 30-round clips that helped him to keep police at bay for some time.

CNN's Victor Blackwell has more on how that attack played out.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the aftermath of 24-year-old gunman Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez's rampage. He targeted U.S. military personnel at two with locations. This is being investigated as an act of terrorism. BILL KILLIAN, U.S. ATTORNEY: This is a sad day for the United States.

These service members served their country with pride and they have been the victims of these shootings.

BLACKWELL: Shortly before 11:00 a.m., Abdulazeez drove up to a military recruitment center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, pulled out a high powered rifle and opened fire according to witnesses.

GINA MULE, WITNESS: I seen the guy in the car, silver mustang, and he had a high-powered rifle. It wasn't simultaneously but it was pow, pow, pow. And he was firing shots over here right next door to us and to the air force, Navy and marine office. I mean, I can't -- I don't even know how many shots he fired but it was a lot.

BLACKWELL: The suspect then headed to a nearby naval reserve center about seven miles away. There, Abdulazeez opened fire killing four marines and wounding three others, including a policeman and military serviceman. He was engaged by authorities and he is now deceased, ending a 30 minute long incident.

CHIEF FRED FLETCHER, CHATTANOOGA, TENNESSEE POLICE DEPARTMENT: What we do know is this somebody brutally and brazenly attacked members of our armed services.

[01:05:03] BLACKWELL: Tonight, authorities are doing a thorough forensic examination of the suspect's car hoping to find any evidence or clues it might hold. It is believed that he acted alone. FBI and ATF are actively investigating and declared it a federal crime scene. A former recruit is devastated to see the aftermath.

MATTHEW SPURGEON, FORMER RECRUIT: That door with bullet holes all over it was the door that I walked through in 2009 to join the military and it hurts me.


BLACKWELL: And you know, one of the things that both the media and investigators are hoping to find in situations like this is video, possibly surveillance video. Well, we learned from the property manager at the Lee highway, the location where that recruitment center is, that there is one surveillance camera that points at the parking lot right next to the recruitment center. And we're told that the FBI has been in contact to try to get that video. That is if video was recorded, no confirmation that it was. Back to you.

HOWELL: CNN's Victor Blackwell reporting there.

And CNN is not naming any of the victims at this point. Important to point that out, until their families are notified.

U.S. President Barack Obama relayed his condolences to the families. He promised a thorough, prompt investigation.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My main message right now is obviously the deepest sympathies of the American people to the four marines that have been killed. It is a heartbreaking circumstance for these individuals who served our country with great valor to be -- to be killed in this fashion.


HOWELL: The U.S. homeland security secretary says authorities are heightening security at certain federals facilities because of this. Military recruiting centers in New York have also increase their security. Chattanooga police who are responsible for taking down the shooter say they are helping out as much as they can in the investigation.


FLETCHER: The Chattanooga police department is working with all of the local, state and federal agencies to ensure that every single resource is put where it is needed or we feel like it is needed. We are identifying spots. We are meeting on an hourly basis to make sure any identified areas that might feel vulnerable are addressed in an appropriate manner. I can assure you that all agencies, federal, state and local are working together with a common goal of keeping everybody in this community, across this city, across the state and across this country safe.


HOWELL: To talk more about what happened today, let's bring in our military analyst Rick Francona joining us live via Skype from California.

Rick, good to have you with us. It's important here to point out that, look, there are no ties at this point to ISIS according to investigators. No reason to believe that he may have been inspired by a group like that. But look, there's a narrative that is playing out here again that we have seen before. Someone that friends remember as well-adjusted citizen, then all of a sudden for some reason snapping. How troubling is that trend to officials?

RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: This just highlights the difficulty we have in detecting and stopping these lone wolf attacks. You know, we have talked about this before. The seemingly well- adjusted young men somehow become inspired or radicalized and conduct these acts, totally out of the blue.

Sometimes you can go back and find a telltale warning sign, but it wouldn't have come up on anybody's radar. Some of the writings he posted, really, if they are attributed to him are not that inflammatory. So I think it just highlights the difficulty we have -- homeland security, FBI and the military.

The problem is, you know, this is not unheard of. And there was a warning that went out in May to all of these military installations to raise their alert level. So I was kind of surprised that the marine reserve center didn't have more security there. HOWELL: Rick, when we talk about security at sites like that -- and

we are talking about soft targets in general, you know, can anything more be done to secure these soft targets?

FRANCONA: Yes. I think we are going to have to change our attitude. You know, there is a 1992 ruling by the defense department that there would be no weapons in many of these facilities unless you are actually training on those weapons.

When you are overseas, the first thing you do in any operation is you send security. I think we need to do that in these training bases. And now, someone's going to have to be armed. Anytime you have a gathering of military personnel, they are a target so they have to be secured.

The recruiting offices pose a whole different set of problems because you want them open to the public. It is almost going to be impossible to safeguard those. So maybe the Pentagon needs to consider arming some of the recruiters. I know that's a big step, but we can't continue to have things like what happened today.

[01:10:05] HOWELL: Rick, so we are talking about an ak-47 style weapon. It's pretty heavy weaponry, fair to say. So where does the investigation go with that? Number one, how did he get it? Number two, did anyone see him training with it?

FRANCONA: Well, those are the questions that are going to come out. What we have heard from the neighbors, you know, he's in to martial arts that sort of thing, but I have not heard of anything about the use of firearms. Of course, he was overseas. We don't know what experiences he had while he was overseas. Maybe he had some training there.

How did he get the weapon? Actually weapons like that aren't that hard to find. The question I have is was it a fully automatic or semiautomatic weapon. From what I hear it was probably a commercially version of the AK or M-16 that has a semi -- semiautomatic capability.

HOWELL: We know you will keep a close eye on this and we'll stay in touch with you, you know, just to kind of try to make some sense of something that seems senseless.

Our military analyst Rick Francona, thank you so much for your insight and time there.

FRANCONA: Pleasure.

HOWELL: Four families, as you know, are without their loved ones right now. Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr explains how the military will help them get through this unbearable time.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. Marine Corps continuing to reach out to all of the family members of the fallen. And indeed they are the fallen because this procedure for assisting families is the same procedure as if these marines fell on the battle field of Afghanistan or Iraq.

They are going to have family liaisons with them, marines with them to help them through the next many hours and days of everything that they will be going through in the time ahead to grieve for their loved ones.

You know, the marines are a small family. There are only tens of thousands of them and a lot of them know each other. So this is felt very deeply across the force.


HOWELL: Barbara Starr reporting there.

The mayor of Chattanooga says hearts are breaking across the community for the families of these victims. He's also praising the heroism of the first responders at the scene where that suspect was taken down. Listen.


MAYOR ANDY BERKE, CHATTANOOGA, TENNESSEE: Well, think about this afternoon is I came back to the police service center with Chief Fletcher and walked up to see a woman who was at the scene telling the chief about the heroic deeds that one of her fellow officers did to help her and to save another one of our officers.

I'm going to think of another officer who was at the scene who engaged the criminal, telling us about how the training that he had received helped to make sure that the actions didn't have greater effect. And I'm going to think about another officer who is truly my friend who as I hugged him and said good job shook just a little bit. This is the reality of what happened in our city today, and the tremendous work of our law enforcement officers.


HOWELL: Very difficult reality indeed.

A former classmate of the suspected shooter described him as a happy kid. Ahead, some insight in to the man accused of gunning down and killing four U.S. marines.

Plus, a verdict is reached in the trial of a gunman who opened fire inside of a crowded movie theater in the United States.


[01:17:38] HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM.

We continue to follow breaking news out of Tennessee. If you are just joining us, here is an update to this top story that we are following out of Chattanooga. That this is where a lone gunman launched an assault on two military facilities.

Four American marines were killed and three other wounded. The shooter was shot and killed by local police there. The gunman is identified as 24-year-old Mohammad Abdulazeez. Law enforcement officials tell CNN he was born in Kuwait and had Jordanian citizenship, but was a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Friends say he visited the Middle East several years ago, but officials say his name has never appeared on any terror watch list and they found nothing to tie him to an a international terrorist organization.

We have heard from a lot of people who knew the gunman, including a former classmate who told our Amara Walker that she would have never expected him to do something like that.


KAGAN WAGNER, FORMER CLASSMATE OF ABDULAZEEZ: He always, always had a smile on his face. He just -- he never seemed like the type of kid who would do something this heinous.

AMA WALKER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: It is incredible. Popular, witty, all-American kid as all the people who knew and described him to be which doesn't fit the profile of a mass killer.

Let me ask you about the yearbook photo that we have from 2008 of Mohammad Abdulazeez and there's a quote next to it, next to his photo. And it says quote "my name causes national security alerts. What does yours do?" And apparently to give this some context, this is a quote (INAUDIBLE), that's who he says where the quote came from and (INAUDIBLE) is somebody who blogs about struggles as a first generation American Muslim. I'm assuming Abdulazeez chose this quote to go with his photo. Do you know why he chose that?

WAGNER: More of a joke than anything else. As people have said before, you know, he was a devout Muslim but he wasn't radicalized, he wasn't anything. It's just that it kind of goes along with being a southern kid. You know, growing in the south and having a name like Mohammad Abdulazeez is obviously would get some attention. He's never gotten any negative attention as far as I knew. But I think more than anything he was making a joke. It was funny at the time and now it is a little more morbidly ironic than anything else.

[01:20:07] WALKER: And Kagan, can you elaborate on that just a little bit? You say he got attention about his, you know, growing up there in the south. I mean, did he ever talk about what it was like being Muslim in the south in the United States? Did he talk to you about any struggles he may have had?

WAGNER: Not really. Like I was saying, just the name -- he always fit in well. He never got any negative attention, but being, you know, Muslim in the south is kind of difficult. But he never had that sort of issue. If anything he was more making light of it. He was more like, yes, I'm this, but it's not all I am sort of thing, if that makes any sense.


HOWELL: No word on motive yet, but the FBI is investigating.

CNN's Brian Todd reports. It's very clear that the two military centers had very little security.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are learning new details now about the two centers that were targeted in this attack. The first place hit is a military recruiting center in a strip mall shared by all four branches of the U.S. military. That store front was riddled with bullets. You can see the images here, but no one was killed there.

Now, on the second facility attacked, that was about seven miles away from the first place, this is what is known as an operational support center run by the U.S. Navy. It provides training and readiness support for the Navy and marine mostly for reservists. All four marines killed were at that facility.

Now, on the security of this place, a Navy official we spoke to says these facilities typically have gates and barriers. And it is clear from these images this place had a fence. From the gunman's car, from images of the gunman's car, we can see it appears the gunman might have possibly breached that fence with his car.

This Navy official could not tell us if the security cameras, if there are security cameras at this facility. The official is also not sure if this place had armed security personnel at the time of the attack. But he did say quote "you cannot just walk in to these places." He said these buildings are usually marked with signage.

Now, on the other place as far as the security details of this other place, this military recruiting center, not nearly as secure. A spokesman for the U.S. army recruiting command says these are often store front facilities. Sometimes they are in malls. He says there are no barriers, no gates. He says according to U.S. army policy, weapons are not prohibited on those premises. And you can see there is a sign that says no weapons are allowed.

Now, a conservative group, which supports military members, this group is called Move America Forward. This group has been calling for more security at these recruiting centers for many years. And here's what the army recruiting spokesman Brain Lepley had to say about that.

BRAIN LEPLEY, U.S. ARMY RECRUITING COMMAND: Army recruiting center is the army in the community. If young men and women want to come and talk to us we need a nice, open area for them to come and do that. We need a welcome area. You know, barricades, barriers and built like a fortress is not really an inviting atmosphere.

TODD: Brian Lepley doe says that following this incident there will be an after-action review on security at recruiting centers and we are going to see if the policy changes.

Now, there is a history of attacks at recruiting centers just like this one. In 2009, a man names (INAUDIBLE) opened fire outside of a military recruiting center in Little Rock, Arkansas. That killed one soldier and wounded another. He pleaded guilty and is serving a life sentence.

In 2008, a bomb was placed in front of a U.S. armed forces recruiting station in Times Square in the heart of Manhattan. No one was injured when that bomb went off. That case was not solved. There was surveillance video of the bomber riding a bicycle approaching the recruiting center.

Just to give you an idea of how open these places are. Also, in 2010, there was a series of drive-by shooting, often in the middle of the night at military recruiting centers near Washington, D.C. No one was hurt in those incidents. A Marine Corps reservist was arrested for that and sentenced to 25 years in prison. This is giving you some kind of idea of how open and accessible these recruiting centers are.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


HOWELL: We will continue to follow the latest out of Tennessee later in the newscast.

But other news we are following this day out of the state of Colorado. A jury there has found James Holmes guilty of multiple counts of murder after he opened fire inside of a crowded movie theater killing 12 people. Survivors of the 2012 attack and families of the victims were inside the courtroom when that verdict was read.

CNN's Ana Cabrera reports.


ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The jury of nine women and three men deliberated for about twelve-and-a-half hours before returning a guilty verdict. Guilty on all 165 charges, including first-degree murder as well attempted murder charges. The jury did not buy the defense's claims that James Holmes was insane at the time he opened fire inside the of packed movie theater almost three years ago, killing 12 and injuring 70 others.

Now, the jury sat through eleven-and-a-half weeks of testimony. They heard from more than 250 witnesses, including dozens of victims. College professors, as well as mental health experts. They also considered thousands of pieces of evidence before returning this verdict. It was a moment that victims' loved ones and survivors have been waiting for years.

[01:25:36] TOM SULLIVAN, FATHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM, ALEX SULLIVAN: As soon as you heard the first, you know, guilty, we knew the dominos were all, you know, going to fall. It is just what we needed to hear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are very happy this animal, this monster, will never see the light of day.

CABRERA: Now because Holmes was found guilty, they will move to a sentencing phase which we're told could take another month. The prosecution has indicated it will push for the death penalty. Ana Cabrera, CNN, Centennial, Colorado.


HOWELL: A U.S. military recruiting office was meant to be an open and inviting place in one Tennessee community. But that lack of security may have helped the gunman open fire. Our expert weighs in.


[01:29:38] HOWELL: We are following the breaking news here on CNN. Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell.

The tragedy in Tennessee, four marines and a suspect are dead after a shooting rampage at two U.S. military sites. At least three other people were wounded in this attack. A terrorism task force is investigating the shooting. And authorities are looking into every avenue to try to determine a motive.

U.S. President Barack Obama reacted earlier to this attack. Listen.


OBAMA: Although the families are still in the process of being contacted, I want them to know that I speak for the American people in expressing our deepest condolences, and knowing that they have their -- they have our full support as they try to overcome the grief that's involved here.


HOWELL: Authorities named 24-year-old Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez as the gunman. You see him here. They have not yet identified the victims.

Joining us now, CNN law enforcement analyst, Harry Houck, in New York.

Harry, thank you for with being with us.

So this happened in Chattanooga at a military recruiting station, also at a Navy depot. These are soft targets. What can be done to protect these soft targets?

HARRY HOUCK, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, the military has to take a real good look at this right now and what they will probably do from here on is have some kind of guard, some type of military police, have somebody armed at this location in the event that something like this happened that they could protect themselves and fire back.

HOWELL: At this point, we don't know a lot about this suspect, except to say we know that he was a devout Muslim. We know that he got a degree, an education here in the United States, an engineering degree. How will investigators determine, you know, within that time line, what led to this point to essentially make him snap? HOUCK: Right. They have executed search warrants in his house. They

have his telephone records. They have his internet records. If he is going to any of these jihadi sites on the internet we will find out about them. They will talk to his friends, regular telephone calls will be checked out and if it wasn't the internet that radicalized him maybe somebody who lives around where he is that might have radicalized him also.

HOWELL: It is important to point out, however, we don't know whether Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez might have been inspired by a group of is. We do know there is a campaign certainly on the internet to reach out to young men and women and try to radicalize them. We are waiting to find out what the investigation reveals here, but, you know when it comes to an event like this, the training, the planning that went in it to, do you think there was a great deal of that?

HOUCK: Of course. There had to be. Last day of Ramadan, there were military installations. He had to find the installations, buy a weapon, probably had to track the shooting because the shooting I saw that he did at the recruiting center was pretty good. He actually hit his target and didn't hit anything else outside of that recruiting center than that that building itself.

HOWELL: The simple fact this happened, do you suspect over the next several days we'll see these military outposts like the recruiting center, like the depot, will we see more security around there? We know we are seeing it in New York already.

HOUCK: Exactly. The police commissioner ordered the recruiting stations to be protected. We are seeing that. You will probably see that all over the country and also the military taking steps to protect the bases also.

HOWELL: Harry Houck, thank you so much for your time and insight on what happened.

HOUCK: Thank you.

HOWELL: U.S. President Barack Obama made history when he walked in to a federal prison on Thursday. We'll explain why. And bring details of his push for prison reform.

You are watching CNN NEWSROOM.


[01:36:54] HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. We continue to follow the breaking news of this shooting at two U.S. military facilities that's left four Marines dead. The gunman, now identified as 24-year-old Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, was killed by police. Officials tell us that he was a naturalized U.S. citizen. He was born in Kuwait and had Jordanian citizenship. A friend said he visited the Middle East several years ago but officials haven't found anything to tie him to an international terrorist organization but the investigation continues. President Obama is calling on U.S. legislatures to reform America's

criminal justice system. His comments came as he met with inmates and law enforcement officers at a federal prison in Oklahoma on Thursday. Mr. Obama is making prison reform one of his top domestic priorities before his time in office ends.


OBAMA: We have to be able to distinguish between with dangerous individuals, who need to be incapacitated and incarcerated, versus young people who are in an environment in which they are adapting, but if given different opportunities, a different vision of life, could be thriving the way we are.


HOWELL: The U.S. president making history there. The first sitting president to visit a federal prison.

The issue of reforming the system is getting rare bipartisan support.


# (voice-over): The United States has 5 percent of the world's population but 25 percent of the prisoners. Why? That's a question President Obama is trying to figure out. More importantly, a statistic he's trying to fix.

OBAMA: Every year we spend $80 billion to keep folks incarcerated. $80 billion. Just to put that in perspective for $80 billion we could have preschool for every kid in America.


HOWELL: But it's a multi-faceted problem. 2013 statistics show 2.2 million people serving time in U.S. prisons and jails. That's one in 10 adults behind bars, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Many are behind bars for various crimes but nearly half of the inmates in federal prison are serving time for drug offenses. Many put behind bars under harsher sentencing laws of the 1980s and '90s.

And according to the ACLU, more than 2500 people are serving life sentences for non-violent drug crimes. Racial disparity and arrests in sentencing is also a hot topic.

OBAMA: Research shows people of color are more likely to be stopped, frisked, questioned, charged, detained. African-Americans are more likely to be arrested. They are more likely to be sentenced to more time for the same crime.

HOWELL: African-Americans and Hispanics make up approximately 25 percent of the U.S. population and nearly 60 percent of the overall prison population.

The statistics are alarming. But President Obama and his conservative rivals do agree on one thing, justice needs to be restored to the criminal justice system.


[01:40:17] HOWELL: So people are asking the question, how can the system be improved?

Earlier, I spoke to Jeremy Haile to weigh in. He represents a non- profit organization that promotes reform in prison sentencing policies. Here's what he had to say about some of these eye-opening statistics.


JEREMY HAILE, REFORM ADVOCATE, THE SENTENCING PROJECT: Over the last four years, we've seen a real exPLOsion in America in incarceration. This also raises issues of race. One in every three young black men in America can expect to spend a year in prison. People sentenced for federal drug offenses last year, 60 percent were people of color, even though whites, blacks, Latinos all use and sell drugs at roughly the same rates and these problems weren't caused by changes in crime rates, they were caused by choices we make, policies, sentencing laws that put more people in prison and keep them there for longer periods of time.

HOWELL: You talk about those policies. We are even hearing from the former U.S. President Bill Clinton who admitted that, I guess, the law that he set forth was a mistake. Now we are seeing, as you mentioned, the U.S. president visiting a prison in Oklahoma. What do you think needs to be happen moving forward, given the problem that exists today?

HAILE: Well, the main driver of our prison populations has been harsher drug laws, which were enacted in the '80s and through the '90s, as well as the crime bill that president Clinton signed. But the mandatory minimum take discretion away from judges and can result in 20, 30-year prison sentences for people who may have just sold a very small amount of drugs. So reforming those mandatory minimum penalties would be a great place to start.

HOWELL: Statistics show that African-Americans and Hispanics make up about 60 percent of the prison population. When these men and women get out of prison, you know, the chances, the effort s for them to find work is difficult. What needs to be done there?

HAILE: That's exactly right. In fact, when people leave prison, we actually punish them for being punished. We excluded them from jobs and housing. We take away food assistance. In some states we take away their right to vote, sometimes for life. So these policies are not only unfair to people who have served their time but they are also counter productive to helping people succeed when they are given a second chance.

HOWELL: Is there a political climate at this point in the United States, from your vantage point, given what you do, is there a political effort or climate to change the laws that exist? We know the president is actually in line with his conservative rivals on this very topic.

HAILE: That's exactly right. Three years ago, the term "mass incarceration" was controversial in this country. Now you have Republicans and Democrats using that term as a statement of fact. So there's a growing recognition across the board that we've gone too far with our sentencing laws. Our prison populations are too big. The racial disparities are too shameful. There's bipartisan momentum growing that we need to act.

Jeremy Haile, thank you so much for your insights.

HAILE: Thank you so much.


HOWELL: Switching now to an incredible story of survival to share with you. 16-year-old Autumn Veatch was flying with her grandparents in a small private plane when they crashed into the side of a mountain in Washington State on Saturday. The teenager was the only one to make it out alive.

Now for the first time, she is speaking out to our Sara Sidner.


SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Once you are down on the ground, the plane had crashed. It was on fire. What did you do then and what did you see around you?

AUTUMN VEATCH, PLANE CRASH SURVIVOR: I got out of the fire -- that's how my face got burned and hair burning and stuff. My immediate response was to go and try to help them out because they were alive. They were live. They were both screaming and I was -- there was no way I could get to grandma because she was on the far side and there's nothing I could do but I assumed if I got grandpa out first maybe she would come out. I was trying to pull him out and just couldn't do it. There was a lot of fire and I'm a small person. That's what happened to my hand. I was trying to pull them out but there was a point where it was like, oh, this is not happening.


[11:45:05] HOWELL: Autumn eventually found a creek and followed it down the mountain. After two days, she came upon a highway and flagged down a passing motorist for help. One described her survival as miraculous.

Friends and family are fearing the worst for a Japanese journalist believed to be missing in Syria. The journalist has not been seen or heard from in three weeks now. A close friend tells CNN he planned to report from the war-torn country and is likely in the hands of ISIS militants. Japanese officials say they have no information on his whereabouts. He was friends with Kenji Goto. He was killed earlier this year.

ISIS is claiming responsibility for an attack on an Egyptian Navy ship off the coast of Sinai. You can see smoke rising from the distance there in this video that was filmed from Gaza. Egypt confirms one of the vessels was attacked, saying the crew exchanged shots with, quote, "terrorist elements on shore." ISIS released much more dramatic video and says militants fired a guided missile at the boat causing it to explode. Egypt said it suffered no casualties.

One year after Malaysia Airlines flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, people across the world are gathered to remember the victims. Earlier, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott led a memorial service. A plaque with the victims' names was unveiled in the parliament house gardens there. In the coming hours, victims' families will be holding their own commemoration in Amsterdam. All 298 people on that flight, mostly Dutch citizens, were killed in this disaster. Here's a quick look at the time line of that flight. The jet took off from Amsterdam on Thursday, July 17th, at 6:15 p.m. Local time headed to Kuala Lumpur. They received word from traffic controllers they lost contact with the plane. At 11:30 that evening, Moscow's Interfax News Agency reported that MH17 had been shot down over eastern Ukraine. None of them people survived. Pictures were seen worldwide the following day. Pro Russian rebels and Ukrainian forces denied shooting down that plane.

Despite a cease fire, Ukraine has been mired in violence for the last year and a half, especially in eastern part of the country where the plane was found.

The Ukrainian president tells our Christiane Amanpour terrorists shot down the plane and need to be held accountable.


PETRO POROSHENKO, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: After the investigation, shouldn't the second stage, responsibility. Responsibility of the terrorists for killing, killing innocent victims in the Malaysian plane.


HOWELL: Japan tries to weather the storm. A powerful deadly typhoon lashes parts of the country and now heavy rain could cause even more problems.

You are watching CNN NEWSROOM.


[01:52:13] HOWELL: We are following breaking news here on CNN NEWSROOM. Authorities are working to find a motive after a gunman opened fire on two military sites killing four Marines in Tennessee. Authorities identified the suspect as 24-year-old Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez. They say he was armed with an A.K.-47 style rifle and several other weapons. Three other people were also wounded in this attack. A sailor went in to surgery, we understand he is -- this person is in serious condition.

Powerful typhoon that hit Japan has left at least two people dead and has now been downgraded to a tropical storm. Authorities have advised nearly 100,000 people to find a safe place to stay at this point. What was once Typhoon Nangka has been bringing massive amounts of rainfall to some areas. Landslides and flooding are the primary concern for thousands in parts of western Japan.

Let's bring in our meteorologist, Derek Van Dam.

It's a bad situation.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yeah. At one point, it was raining 100 millimeters per hour in the southern prefectures in Japan. They have had rainfall totals in excess of 700 millimeters just from this storm. Mudslides, flooding still a concern going forward.

Not only are we tracking typhoons in the Pacific, we are tracking severe weather in the United States. We have footage out of Illinois. This is Cameron and Monmouth, Illinois, where a multiple vortex wedge tornado struck late thursday evening. Amazing footing coming out of that area. More multiple vortices with this particular tornado. There were first responders going door to door to make sure no one was injured and the Illinois Police Department actually indicating that no significant injuries were, in fact, reported. But they were not allowing people in and out of this town for a number of hours because, obviously, there's plenty of damage and because it's night time. People can't see and it's dangerous to enter in to a tornado stricken area. Now, if we go in to my computer graphics, you can see the line of thunderstorms that moved through across the upper Midwest from Iowa in to Illinois. There were seven reports of tornados, several different storm damages reported across the area. I want to focus north and west of Peoria region. This is radar image at the moment the tornado truck. This is Monmouth. We start to suck in the air around the vortices of the tornado. It tracked further east toward the Cameron area. You can see little tornado indicated on our map here. That was multiple vortices tornado. Friday, the start of the week, from Sioux Falls to the southwestern sections of Minnesota, Chicago, not included.

We also have foul weather at the British Open at the moment and that's been impacting play. A few moment moments ago, we teed on off on Friday morning. Heavy band of rain moving through. Some wind associated with it. Once the rain passes through, the wind is really going to pick up. I only bring this up because I looked on the official rules, at least from the PGA, the Professional Golfing Association, and they state if wind pushes your ball closer to the hole you have to play from that particular section. If the ball goes in the hole because of wind gust, that's just good luck on your part.

By the way, George, we are I'm assuming golfers at some stage.

[11:55:49] HOWELL: Not the best.


VAN DAM: But if the ball because of wind goes in too hard or out of bounds, that's tough luck.

HOWELL: Wow. Better to play in the morning or evening?

VAN DAM: It depends, obviously. I'd say better to play in rain versus strong winds. That's what they are dealing with at Saint Andrews.

HOWELL: Derek, thank you.

VAN DAM: Thanks.

HOWELL: And thank you for joining us this hour on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Thank you for watching.

My colleague, Natalie Allen, is on deck next with another hour of news from around the world.

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