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California Wildfire Jumps Highway, Destroys Cars; Shooting Investigation Focuses On Mideast Trip; Shooting Investigated As "Domestic Terrorism"; Investigators Dig into Shooter's Past; Navy Petty Officer Died This Morning; Obama Speaks Out on Deal in Weekly Address; 2016 Presidential Politics; Questions over Woman's Death in Texas Jail. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired July 18, 2015 - 08:00   ET



[08:01:00] VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this morning, the wildfires spreading in California. Jumping the interstate forcing drivers to abandon their cars, hundreds run into the mountains to escape the flames.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Also breaking this morning, new details about the gunman who killed four Marines in Tennessee. Investigators now zeroing in on a trip he took to the Middle East. We are taking you live to Jordan in a search for the motive.

BLACKWELL: And nearly the entire GOP field in Iowa this morning. You know that's a lot of people. But with Donald Trump leading the polls, what can presidential hopefuls do to win over support?

PAUL: Always good to have you with us. Good morning. I'm Christie Paul.

BLACKWELL: Good to start a Saturday with you, I'm Victor Blackwell.

PAUL: We want to begin, of course, with breaking news here happening in the last hour. Parts of California's freeway are reopening, but boy, not before some video that just took a lot of people's breath away. Look at what was coming in here.

This is actually just into the newsroom, the ground that is so intense, intensely covered with fire. That fight happening right now in San Bernardino County as so many officials and firefighters are trying to put this out.

At last check, officials say some 3,500 acres smoldering, only 5 percent contained at this hour. We are also following new information about the firefight itself.

San Bernardino's "Sun" newspaper saying drones or unmanned aircraft in the area hindered firefighting efforts yesterday. Here was the scene yesterday, people running from their cars in San Bernardino as that massive wildfire spread and took over cars.

Cars were on fire. A boat was lost. There were explosions. You could hear them, people were saying. And these are some of the images of the charred skeletons of those vehicles that lined the roads.

Dozens of them were set ablaze and apparently several structures were as well. But here's a good news, no serious injuries being reported. Paul Vercammen is in San Bernardino County this morning.

So Paul, I want to ask you about evacuations. Of those people out of their vehicles and they were running, where did they go? They were in the middle of a highway.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They basically went right down this freeway that is now moving behind me. That's where they went. This is such a unique situation. What happened was the firefighters stopped the vehicles because they were fighting the fire.

And that's what made them vulnerable to catching fire. All of us who have covered fires in the west have had moments where we have driven down roads with flames on both sides of us. But because the vehicles were stopped, it made them sitting ducks.

And then these flames hopscotched from vehicle to vehicle, 20 in all, a boat, we also had a tractor-trailer and a car carrier, all of them catching ablaze.

Now as you pointed out, Christi, the good news, no serious injuries. We heard about minor injuries to a firefighter, but this was only one component of the story.

This fire here on the 15 Freeway, the blaze moved toward the mountain here in California and there were evacuations, about 300 of them. This is the statistic that the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department really has not nailed that exactly because a lot of people stood to fight.

Imagine what a harrowing day for someone who is used to driving this freeway and then next thing learning your home is threatened? We talked to one homeowner about what it was like to deal with all of this.


GREG MARTIN, HOMEOWNER: It's been quite a hectic day. Trying to get up the pass, I mean, phone calls come in to tell me about the fire. And it's been rather hectic, but I guess ordered chaos, if you can believe that.


VERCAMMEN: As we have been talking about, four structures burned so far, a number that will probably go up. They say that's a mix of houses and so-called out buildings like a shed or barn or something like that -- Victor, Christi. PAUL: Real quickly, Paul, have you heard anything about this report that drones are unmanned aircraft have anything to do with delaying firefighter's response?

[08:05:07] VERCAMMEN: What I understand is I talked directly to the U.S. Forest Service. They were asking people to stop flying their hobby drones. This is starting to become a huge issue.

It did not ground any helicopters, but the fear was that it would and it was extremely important to get a lot of water on the fire. I'm sure we'll hear this time and time again.

Because what firefighters are telling us in California is they cannot risk a drone making contact with a helicopter because that will cause them to lose firefighter lives. So the warning is out there.

They are just telling people, if you see a blaze, don't fly your drone in hopes of getting pictures. You could hinder firefighting efforts. Reportedly yesterday it did not stop anybody from getting choppers in the air, but it's a major, major concern.

PAUL: Wow, all right, Paul Vercammen, we appreciate the update this morning. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Our other top story, mourning four Marines in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Hundreds gathered at an interfaith memorial last night paying tribute to those fallen servicemen. Officials and pastors called for healing and love in their community.

Meanwhile, electronics including a computer and a cell phone belonging to Muhammad Abdulazeez are headed to the FBI's lab in Quantico, Virginia. Investigators are trying to find any possible clues that could reveal a motive in this shooting.

And for now the hunt is focused on Abdulazeez's trips overseas. A friend of Abdulazeez tells CNN that he was, quote, "Something happened over there." And that Abdulazeez wasn't the same when he came back to the U.S.

Sara Ganim is following the investigation for us in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Sara, good morning.

SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Victor. Motive is the big question this morning. I want to tell you that we know that investigators are interviewing people here on the ground, especially people in Nashville, which is about two hours away from here in Chattanooga where they searched his parents' home.

Nationals talked to people where this man worked, whether he might have had a second residence there, gun ranges also being talked to by the FBI. Was he practicing anywhere? There's no trace of anything on social media, which is a place that the FBI often looks.

Now one of the reasons I bring up Nashville too is because he had taken off work and then traveled the two hours to Chattanooga, was here for a visit, and that's when the shooting happened.


GANIM (voice-over): Cell phone video captures the intense gun battle between Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez and Chattanooga police. Officials say the 24-year-old engineering graduate had a handgun and two long guns, including an AK-47 style rifle when police killed him on Thursday. He was also wearing a vest to carry extra ammunition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of the weapons were purchased legally and some of them may not have been. We will examine that.

[06:10:09] GANIM: Authorities this morning are trying to figure out why Abdulazeez went on the killing spree that left four Marines dead and three others wounded. Was it a lone wolf attack or terrorism?

BILL KILLAN, U.S. ATTORNEY FOR EASTER DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE: We will continue to investigate it as an act of terrorism until the proof shows us otherwise. We will let the facts and the evidence lead us where it may.

GANIM: Though officials say there is nothing to connect the attacker to ISIS, a longtime friend said Abdulazeez changed after spending time in Kuwait and Jordan. "Something happened over there. He never came close to me like he was before he went overseas."

The friend goes on to say "I'm sure he had something that happened to him overseas." New details are emerging about Abdulazeez's family and employment background.

In 2013, he worked as an engineer at a nuclear power plant in Ohio, but was dismissed after ten days. His current employer, a wire and cable manufacturing company in Franklin, Tennessee, said he called in sick Monday and Tuesday and was scheduled to be off Wednesday and Thursday, the day of the massacre.

Meanwhile, his father was the subject of a post-9/11 FBI probe into donations he made to overseas charities, but the elder Abdulazeez was never charged with any crime.

And in 2009, Abdulazeez's mother filed for divorce accusing her husband of being physically abusive to her and her children. The case was dismissed.


GANIM: The family contact is always important, Victor, upbringing has a lot to do with a person, and you know, a little bit of context in that divorce case where those allegations of abuse were alleged.

[08:10:04] The father of the shooter agreed to go to counseling and then that divorce was essentially dismissed and the family is still together at this point -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right, Sara Ganim for us in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Sara, thank you so much. You know, in the discussion of this shooter, Abdulazeez, we

know that he was not on any U.S. terror database. Now we head to Amman, Jordan, where CNN international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh is following that part of the story. Nick, what have you learned about the travels there to the Middle East?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We know for sure that U.S. officials are looking at a number of visits he made using his U.S. passport. Remember, he was a naturalized citizen, born in Kuwait, with Palestinian heritage and then moved to the United States.

We know that he was last here in 2014 for a number of months. It is reported about as many as seven by the "Wall Street Journal." That's key as they try to precisely establish who he visited when he was here.

We know that he met with his uncle, but of course, it is not a hotbed of radicalism by any stretch of the imagination. Jordan is a very heavily policed country where ISIS in fact are deeply unpopular after the recent burning alive of a Jordanian pilot.

There are some small pockets of radicalization here. Did he meet them? Did he simply come here as a tourist to see his extended family in Jordan, or as perhaps investigators maybe looking at very closely, particularly given the fact that he seems to be in possession of a Jordanian travel document.

Not uncommon for families of Palestinian heritage here to have that kind of paperwork to enable them to travel. He appears to be in possession of that, could have been enabled him to pass travel elsewhere in the Middle East.

There have been media reports suggesting maybe Yemen, that is the hotbed of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula where many people have been trained in the past who have gone on to attack the west or did he perhaps less commonly travel north into Syria?

That's a pretty uncommon route for Jihadists in this area or east towards Iraq where, of course, ISIS have a strong presence, even back in 2014 when he was here.

So many questions to be asked specifically as they try to establish where he was in Jordan or many longer term observers are thinking, if there was a moment of radicalization, a key pivotal visit or conversation he had here, Jordan isn't the kind of place you would expect that to have occurred.

So we are looking to see perhaps where else he could have been or particularly, who regularly he may have met here inside Jordan -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right, Nick Paton Walsh for us there in Amman. Nick, thank you so much.

PAUL: Who is the gunman who opened fire on a military recruiting station in Tennessee? As we talk more about the possible motive and whether it was ISIS inspired. We have a terrorism expert who is weighing in on that, next.

Plus, the GOP taking on the field in Iowa today with Donald Trump, he's ahead in many of the polls. Coming up, the strategy a lot of people are using to remain relevant.

And later, family members demanding answers after a woman dies in her jail cell. What happened to Sandra Bland? Jailers call it suicide. Her relatives will not believe it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Each one of us feels like we lost a part of ourself and it's hard and it's going to be hard for a very long time.


PAUL: New details on the investigation and why the FBI is involved now.



PAUL: Big question this morning, how does a seemingly well liked, smart, charismatic young man become a cold-blooded killer? The FBI says Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez's attack against two military centers is being treated as terrorist investigation.

And the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee says he has no doubt it was inspired by ISIS.


REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAUL (R), HOMELAND SECURITY CHAIRMAN: There are too many of the warning signs. The targets are identical to the targets called by ISIS to attack. In my experience, to my judgment, this was an ISIS-inspired attack.


WHITFIELD: So what triggered Abdulazeez's actions here? Let's talk about this with Sajjan Gohel, the director of International Security for the Asia-Pacific Foundation, and an expert on terrorism.

Mr. Gohel, thank you so much for being with us. We appreciate it. We have just heard from him. He says he is convinced it was ISIS related. Are you convinced?

SAJAN M. GOHEL, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY DIRECTOR, ASIA PACIFIC FOUNDATION: Yes, I would agree that the attack was inspired by ISIS. We have to understand that terrorism has moved on from the days of al Qaeda. It is not people going over there to get a green light to train and then attack. Now it is through ideological guidance, weapons proficient

strategies and they are basically groomed online to carry out acts of terrorism. That's the ISIS motive and strategy that it cuts out the travel.

PAUL: Now we'll get to the travel in a minute because travel was an element in this particular situation. We know that he went to Jordan, but when you mentioned online, the fact is -- and I think this is perplexing to a lot of people. He has no social media footprint. No account on Twitter, on Facebook, unless perhaps there was something encrypted. What do you suspect?

GOHEL: It is possible that some of his activity was encrypted. It is very easy to buy software to hide and mask your activity. But equally he doesn't necessarily need to have a Twitter account but could be following people.

Other web sites are heavily used by ISIS where people can literally write in, ask questions to ISIS fighters, they reply and give them guidance and give them indoctrination. It is a very simple tool. And it doesn't really leave much of a footprint.

So often the internet is the starting point, but now these individuals are also very clever in covering that activity.

PAUL: But don't people, as we have seen in many of the attacks in the past, they leak something. They want you to know why they did what they did, and that is a missing component so far in this case. What do you make of that?

GOHEL: It is interesting that at the moment there hasn't been a specific bit of information to understand the direct motivation. But I think the authorities over time may find something. You did mention earlier about the fact that he had traveled abroad.

[08:20:04] Now, it's possible that he had gone for family purposes or for other reasons. I don't think his intention initially was to get radicalized, but when he was there, it is possible he came into contact with individuals that gave him the starting point for the indoctrination process to guide him to web sites where ISIS literature is there.

And then when he goes back, he further pursues it. It doesn't necessarily require travel abroad, but often when people do, they do come back different. They change.

PAUL: Yes, and that is the focus of the investigation. His friend who lives in Tennessee said something happened when he was over there. He never became close to me like he was before. He went overseas. What that something was, we'll just have to wait to see what the investigation reveals. But Sajan Gohel, thank you so much for your time and for your insight. We appreciate it.

GOHEL: Pleasure.

BLACKWELL: Mystery at a Texas jail. How did a woman arrested over a minor traffic violation end up dead three days later? Was it suicide as officials say or is there foul play here? There's a growing call for answers.

And in Eastern Iraq a deadly blast killed at least 86 people, wounded 116 others. We'll have more coming up.


PAUL: It's 24 minutes past the hour. And seven people who worked at the maximum security prison that held Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman has been charged in connection with his escape now.

This as Mexican officials revealed that on the night of Guzman escape. It took 18 minutes for guards to arrive at his cell after they lost sight of him on this surveillance video that you're looking at here.

[08:25:12] Investigators are now trying to determine if the response time contributed to his escape.

BLACKWELL: In Eastern Iraq, a deadly blast killed at least 86 people and wounded 116 others. Officials say a car bomb exploded at a busy market where hundreds of people were shopping. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack in this predominantly Shiite town at about 21 miles north of Baghdad. The attack comes as people in the town were getting ready to celebrate a festival at the mark of the end of Ramadan.

PAUL: And officials say Boston marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been moved into the super max, yes, the nation's most secure federal prison. Tsarnaev was being held in USP Florence, a separate prison in Colorado. A federal jury sentenced Tsarnaev to death in May for his involvement in the 2013 attack. And we'll be right back. Stay close.


PAUL: We have some breaking news as we have this just into CNN. We have just learned that a male Navy petty officer who was wounded in the attack in Chattanooga has just died.

BLACKWELL: Yes. He died just after 2:00 a.m. this morning. And that brings tragically the number of dead in this tragedy that happened over the last several days to five. Four U.S. Marines, one sailor killed in this attack.

[08:30:00] PAUL: As investigators try to find a motive, they are also looking into the past of this shooter here, Mohammad Abdulazeez. They are trying to determine how a seemingly popular young man described and characterized as charismatic, as smart, as popular could turn into a killer.

CNN investigative correspondent Drew Griffin has more.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez grew up in this middle class neighborhood in Chattanooga. He had four sisters, he was the only son. His parents Youssuf and Rasmia are Palestinians from Jordan who moved to the U.S. and became American citizens.

But there was turmoil inside the family home. In 2009 Mohammad's mother filed for divorce claiming in court documents her husband abused her and the children and even threatened to take a second wife in their, quote, "native state of Palestine". The suit was dropped and the parents signed an agreement that the husband agrees to not inflict any personal injury, harm or insult upon the wife or upon any of the children of their marriage.

Abdulazeez went on to college, graduated with an electrical engineering degree in 2012. According to a resume, he posted online he worked at several internships. It was during this time he was also traveling to the Middle East. Jordanian officials confirm Mohammad Abdulazeez had an extended visit in 2014. And a close friend tells CNN Abdulazeez came back a changed man.

He distanced himself, the friend said. And though they have known each other since they were five years old, he says "He never became close to me like he was before he went overseas."

At a news conference Friday, the FBI confirmed it was looking into Abdulazeez's overseas travels, his possible connections. But so far says there is no one else involved.

ED REINHOLD, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: We have no indication that he was inspired by or directed by anyone other than himself.

GRIFFIN: In the past three months Abdulazeez took a new job and moved to the Nashville area. His most recent photo, from a mug shot taken in April when he was arrested for DUI. Almir Dizdarevic saw Abdulazeez just last month.

ALMIR DIZDAREVIC, ABDULAZEEZ MIXED MARTIAL ARTS COACH: I said how are you doing? I haven't seen you in a while. How's everything? Are you doing all right? Smiling, laughing, talking to me -- no problems. And another guy, I just talked to him on the phone about the case, he said he saw him a day ago at a local store and he said absolutely nothing. He was shaking hands, saying, how you doing? Everything was fine.

GRIFFIN: Friends confirmed to CNN Abdulazeez had returned to Chattanooga this week to visit his family and prayed with them during this final week of Ramadan. One told us he was here at this mosque just this past weekend.

Today, on one of the most festive days in the Muslim year, the mosque is closed. A sign on its door states "The families of the victims are in our thoughts and prayers."


GRIFFIN: And Victor and Christi, we want to point out that Muslim community president is reaching out to the FBI to the investigators cooperating in any way that the Muslim community can to try to solve this puzzle. But right now at this moment there's no clear indication why Mohammad Abdulazeez did this. Victor, Christi -- back to you.

PAUL: All right. Drew -- thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: All right. Let's go now back to Chattanooga to our Sara Ganim who is there. Of course, breaking news tragically the death toll increasing after Thursday's attack -- Sara.

GANIM: Hey, good morning, Victor. Yes, the navy just confirming a sailor who had been wounded in the shooting has now died. This would be the fifth person who was injured and now has passed away after being shot earlier in the week. Even though the navy has not confirmed the man, we did know the name of the wounded soldier. His name -- Randall Smith and his grandmother telling CNN earlier in the week that he had tried to warn everyone around him as the shooting began but didn't get away fast enough. He had been shot three times, once in the liver, once in the colon and once in the stomach.

At the time that we talked to her, she said that they were, the family was ecstatic that he made it through that first night and they were praying hard for a recovery. Unfortunately, he did pass away today -- the navy confirming that.

Just to -- you know, to give you a little bit of the human side of this, Victor, the memorial behind me, you can see, is very active -- a lot of people from this community coming to pay tribute, to pay their respects.

Also, behind the memorial, still a very active scene. The FBI walking, doing a foot search through the parking lot of the recruitment center where shots were fired before the now five people were shot and killed. It's still a very active scene here; still a lot of people coming to this area to pay their respects.

And now this horrible news that yet another person has passed away -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Sara Ganim, I was there just yesterday, and there aren't people who just go up to lay flags and flowers. Some just kneel and pray, some cry, some sing, some come just to show their children.

PAUL: Yes. And that's powerful.

BLACKWELL: I always wonder, what is that conversation when you bring a six-year-old? I mean what do you tell them?

[08:35:03] PAUL: That's a good question.

BLACKWELL: Yes. It's a difficult question a lot of parents are having to answer.

PAUL: Because we can't answer it for ourselves.


PAUL: So how do we answer it for kids? Yes, all right.

Well, thank you so much -- Sara, for the latest news again -- that (INAUDIBLE) this morning.

Also new this morning President Obama is speaking out on the Iran deal in his weekly address here and making his case for why he believes the accord will indeed work. Take a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I welcome all scrutiny. Fear no questions. As commander in chief, I make no apology for keeping this country safe and secure through the hard work of diplomacy over the easy rush to war.


PAUL: Let's bring in CNN's national correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty. So first of all, what else did he say in his weekly address?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christi -- this is really the president trying to take his critics head on here. His entire address was aimed at debunking all the fierce criticism they have received over the deal. And there's been plenty of criticism both on Capitol Hill and abroad.

The President says there will be many, what he called, dishonest arguments about the deal and he did predict that this will get overheated in the weeks ahead. But the President says he's ready for that.


OBAMA: Does this this deal resolve all of the threats Iran poses to its neighbors in the world? No. Does it do more than anyone has done before to make sure Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon? Yes. And that was our top priority from the start. That's why it's in everyone's best interest to make sure this deal holds.


SERFATY: The White House has launched an all-out lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill but they also know they need to store up support for the deal abroad.

On Sunday they're dispatching Secretary of Defense Ash Carter to the region including a stop in Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he is one of the most outspoken critics of this deal. They know they have a lot of reassuring to do -- Christi.

PAUL: Well, we know, as you said a lot of people are questioning, Republicans slamming that the President is owning the decision, but what is he doing maybe to try to sell it to Republicans?

SERFATY: Well, they have had a series of public and behind closed doors briefings on Capitol Hill with many senators and members of the House who are disgruntled about the details of this deal. Now a lot of people are looking to next week on Monday. That's when the administration has decided to send the nuclear deal to the United Nations Security Council to have their formal stamp, their formal approval on this deal.

That would pave the way for eventually sanctions to begin to start being lifted. And a lot of Senators and House members on Capitol Hill, they question that moving forward with that from the part of the administration. They don't want to see the U.N. Security Council get this deal before they have the ability to approve it.

Here's what Senator Corker had to say.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I look at that as an affront to the American people. I look at that as an affront to the Congress and the House of representatives.


SERFATY: And the sales pitch does continue this week. On Wednesday Secretary of State Kerry and Energy Secretary Moniz, they will both be on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. They will brief all of the members of the House and we expect a similar briefing Christi to happen this week in the Senate.

PAUL: All right. Sunlen Serfaty -- we appreciate it. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. The Iowa caucuses are more than six months away but almost all of the Republican candidates for president are going to be in the state this weekend for a pretty important event. Why? What's the event? And who is skipping it? In a moment.


BLACKWELL: In about an hour or so every Republican presidential candidate except for Jeb Bush will be at the Annual Family Leadership Summit meeting in Ames, Iowa. Now let's look at the latest Fox News poll that has billionaire businessman Donald Trump leading by three points. Even his rival Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner joked about the popularity of Trump's hair last night.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have heard a lot recently from the new Republican frontrunner -- Donald Trump -- finally, a candidate whose hair gets more attention than mine.


BLACKWELL: Pretty well placed.

CNN politics executive editor Mark Preston is in Iowa for us this morning. Mark, I understand you attended that big Democratic event last night. First time all five candidates on the Democratic side with the same event. Did any one fare better than another?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, I have to tell you what -- it was very interesting last night, Victor, to see all five candidates on stage. Hillary Clinton, who's the presumptive nominee -- a lot of people think that she's going to win it -- had to be on stage with the likes of Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley.

You know, I'm going to tell you what -- there was a definite play to the left. They were playing to their base. Hillary Clinton, many people think was a little bit, skewing a little bit to the middle too much -- Victor.

Last night she talked about issues that were very important to liberals, which is very important in the state of Iowa.

BLACKWELL: So Bernie Sanders called for, quote, "a political revolution". We know that the numbers are good in New Hampshire. We have seen the -- how close that race is. How were voters in Iowa taking to that message?

PRESTON: You know, in fact, the Clinton campaign, if you talk to some of her advisors, they are concerned that Bernie Sanders could potentially win Iowa. Iowa is a populist state. If you go back to 2007, it was Barack Obama who was very much talking a liberal message. He was able to defeat Hillary Clinton here in the state in the 2007 or 2008 caucuses. So Bernie Sanders last night really drove home that populist message.

And many people think, Victor, that just in the past few months Hillary Clinton has had to move to the left because Bernie Sanders has been pushing her that way in the support that he's receiving from the liberal base.

BLACKWELL: Let's go to Arkansas where Donald Trump, again, slammed his Republican contenders. Not contenders -- competitors. Let's watch.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We don't like Donald Trump's tone. Tone? No wonder they're dying. No wonder you look at Jeb, he's dying in the polls. He doesn't like my tone.


BLACKWELL: Does this work in Arkansas? Does it work in South Carolina and across the south?

PRESTON: You know, Victor, it's working now certainly in the summer of 2015. The question is, is it going to work in January, February and March of 2016? Donald Trump's skyrocketing to the top of the polls -- certainly playing to a specific base right now -- a base that is frustrated with a Democratic rule of the White House now for two terms.

[084510] But I've got to tell you, I'm not sure that tone is necessarily going to work. Today he'll have some tough critics here at this event where we're going to see ten Republicans speak to social conservatives. Donald Trump is going to have to try to sell his social conservative message in just a few hours -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Mark Preston there for us in Iowa. Thank you -- Mark.

PRESTON: Thank you.

PAUL: Well, mystery at a Texas jail. How did a woman arrested over a minor traffic violation end up dead three days later? Was it suicide as police say? Was there foul play? There is a growing call for some answers here.


BLACKWELL: Of course, the update now on breaking news just in to CNN. Moments ago, we learned that a male navy petty officer who was wounded in the Tennessee shootings died just after 2:00 a.m. this morning. This brings the total of people killed to four U.S. Marines and one sailor in this tragic incident.

PAUL: Well, what happened to Sandra Bland? That's the question her family and friends are asking right now.

Let me give you the backstory here. Bland was arrested after a routine traffic stop just outside Houston last Friday. Well, three days later she was found dead in her jail cell.

[08:50:03] Investigators say Bland committed suicide. Her family does not believe it. And, of course, they have a lot of questions here.

And so do a lot of people on social media. The news of her death has gone viral. And CNN's Ryan Young is taking a closer look at exactly what happened -- Ryan.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christi and Victor, Sandra Bland was moving from Chicago to Texas to start a new job and to start a new life. Then she was pulled over by police and everyone wants to know what happened to her after she was taken to jail.


YOUNG: A traffic stop for an improper lane change leads to a tense struggle between Sandra Bland and a Texas trooper.

SANDRA BLAND: You just slammed my head into the ground. Do you not even care about that? I cannot even hear. You slammed my (EXPLETIVE DELETED) into the ground.

YOUNG: 28-year-old Bland was arrested and taken to jail for assaulting a public servant. Three days later she was found dead in her cell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The female jailer that had been on duty at the time ran into the kitchen, went back to ask her to see if she will need to go outside for recreation. And that's when the jailer found her, of course, immediately hit the intercom.

YOUNG: Texas sheriff officials say Bland took her own life. But there's a growing concern by her family and friends that something about her death doesn't add up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is unimaginable and difficult for us to wrap our minds around the Sandy that we knew, for this to be characteristic of her.

YOUNG: A video from Sandra Bland's Facebook page shows the young woman discussing her mental state a few months back.

BLAND: I'm suffering from something that some of you all may be dealing with right now. It's a little bit of depression as well as PTSD.

ELTHON MATHIS, WALLER COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: She may have been suffering from some sort of mental illness. And that self-diagnosis is certainly something that we are going to look at and consider with a motive for suicide.

YOUNG: But for family members, the thought that Sandra Bland would commit suicide is something they are not willing to accept.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Based on the Sandy I knew, that's unfathomable to me.


YOUNG: Her family from Chicago has flown to Texas and they want to talk to investigators. Investigators now say they plan to talk to the family to give them the information they need so everyone can come to a conclusion about what happened to Sandra Bland -- Victor and Christi.

PAUL: All right. Ryan -- thank you so much.

Let's talk to attorney Walter Madison. He is representing the father of Tamir Rice in Cleveland -- you remember that story.

But when you look at this one, then, Walter, I'm just curious, what should Bland's family do first?

WALTER MADISON, ATTORNEY FOR TAMIR RICE'S FAMILY: The family, it's very important that they get all of the information and insist on transparency early. It is just unfair and unreasonable for the state of Texas, in this county, in particular, with its history of racial inequities to hold on to that information. Transparency really settles the nerves early.

And the family, that's very important, if there will ever be any trust in the integrity of this investigation.

PAUL: Are you surprised she was still in jail three days later?

MADISON: Well, that's the part that makes all of this so surreal and outrageous. This is a simple traffic stop. And we do know, there's limited information available, but we do know that the officer, the trooper here was reprimanded for violating procedure. And there's reference to courtesy.

PAUL: He was reprimanded in this case for violating procedure?

MADISON: Yes. That's what has been reported, that there's been a reprimand for violation of procedure in initiating the traffic stop and as reference to courtesy. And all officers will extend a courtesy, perhaps a warning, tell a person to, you know, observe traffic laws a little better. So we just don't have the room.

And in this county, there's a 50-person jail. It's a small jail. There's only two cells per women. So obviously we are not interested in housing, they are not interested in housing every traffic infraction that they should encounter. For this woman to end up in jail in the first place where any of this could happen is outrageous.

PAUL: And part of what is in question, too, is the arrest itself. Let's take a look at some cell phone video again that was reported. And let's listen hear to what was said.


BLAND: I can't even feel my (EXPLETIVE DELETED) arms. (INAUDIBLE)

You just slammed my head into the ground. Do you not even care about that? I can't even hear. He slammed my (EXPLETIVE DELETED) head into the ground.


[08:55:03] Thank you. Thank you.


PAUL: All right. What do you -- what is your first thought. What stands out here when you watch that -- Walter?

MADISON: What jumps right out at me is that officers have a caretaking duty and function. And it is clear that she's pleading for assistance. She's indicating there that she's injured, she can't hear. Her head's been slammed on the ground. And I believe in the video at one point there were at least a couple of officers. And then there was a bystander from a nearby barbershop who had an eyewitness account of what happened.

You know, Christi, it is also -- you know, I'm just thunderstruck by the history of Waller County where there's still segregation in where people are buried.

PAUL: Ok, yes. Go ahead.

MADISON: And how they wouldn't want to really get out in front of this as quickly as possible. That history -- PAUL: I know, it's so disturbing. Listen, Walter, I'm sorry to have

to cut this short. We're running out of time here, but thank you so much for joining us.

MADISON: You're welcome.

PAUL: We appreciate your voice in this. We'll be talking to you again about this certainly.

MADISON: Thank you.

PAUL: Absolutely.

And just to let you hear the statement here -- we do need to read the statement from Waller County Sheriff's office. It says, "Any loss of life is a tragic incident and while the investigation is being conducted by outside agencies, the Waller County Sheriff's Office will continue to observe the daily operations of the jail to always look for improvements and/or preventions of these incidents."

We'll be right back.


BLACKWELL: That's it for us this morning. We'll continue to follow the breaking news, that fifth person, the navy petty officer who died this morning from the wounds he received in the Tennessee shootings.

PAUL: Yes, we're going to see you back here at 10:00 Eastern for an hour of NEWSROOM.

Don't go anywhere. "SMERCONISH" continues our live coverage right now.