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Oregon Shooting Investigation; Massive Flooding Hits South Carolina; Calls for Sheriff to Resign Over "Truther" Videos; Former Sandy Hook Teacher Responds to Oregon Shooting. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired October 5, 2015 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news: A dam in Columbia, South Carolina has just been breached by this horrific flood.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The national lead: The skies will soon clear, but that's little comfort for people in South Carolina right now, at least nine lives already claimed in this natural disaster, as first-responders and regular citizens attempt dramatic rescues of their neighbors.

"You're the lucky one," those words from the Oregon gunman after he chose one young man to live after shooting the others. Why did that one student survive? In a CNN exclusive, the survivor's mother explains what happened inside that classroom.

And the politics lead. He wouldn't even watch. Donald Trump says he would tune out the race for the Republican nomination if he weren't in it. But, unfortunately for his rivals, he's not going anywhere.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We have some breaking news in our national lead today. Columbia, South Carolina, now ordering mandatory evacuations after a dam breach.

CNN's Boris Sanchez,joins me now live from Manning, South Carolina.

Boris, tell us what you know.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, we're still working to learn more about that dam breach. What we know so far is that there are mandatory evacuations in that area.

Shawn Washington, a spokesperson for the city of Columbia, confirmed the breach within the past hour. To give you an idea, they're still working to figure out the severity of the situation. It's unclear exactly the extent of the damage. We can tell you that Columbia is about 52 miles west of where we are now in Manning, South Carolina.

And you can see all around me the situation is already dire here. So, if that dam breach has any effect on the situation here, it could be catastrophic. This is Highway 301. And it stretches all the way down to Florida. What you're looking at, at least a mile, at least a mile of flooding all the way down this road, dozens of cars submerged all around me, as well as businesses on both sides that have been flooded.

I'm not sure if you can see it right now, but there are people walking through this water, also kayaking through this water, ignoring the advice of Governor Nikki Haley, who has asked all the residents of South Carolina to stay inside. And even though the rain has stopped, as you mentioned, Jake, normal is still very, very far away.


SANCHEZ (voice-over): Water starting to recede in parts of South Carolina even as the rain continues to come down. Officials caution that the danger is not over yet, Governor Nikki Haley warning residents.

GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This is dangerous. This is very real.

SANCHEZ: Crews across the state have been working around the clock, rescuing people from their homes and cars as floodwaters rise.

In Georgetown County, the fire chief tells CNN one man was found clinging to a tree after his truck was swept away by an overflowing river.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A witness saw a truck go around the barricade and when a little bit down the road and the water pushed him right in the ditch, into the river. I hope it sends a strong message. This guy could have lost his life.

SANCHEZ: The call to stay off the roads echoed by officials across the state.

HALEY: This is not the time to take pictures. We have got enough media out there that you can look at to see the pictures and see the views of what's happening in South Carolina.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just don't be stupid. I mean, that's the thing. Keep saying, you know, don't try to drive through flooded areas. You don't know how deep they will be.

SANCHEZ (on camera): Crews are not only having to get to residents' cars that have become submerged by the floodwaters, but also, if you take a look behind me, that's a National Guard vehicle that came down as this bridge went out. Underneath it is actually a car, just another sign of how powerful these floodwaters can be.

(voice-over): According to the governor, about 550 roadways and bridges are closed, some completely washed out. In Clarendon County, dozens of streets are impassable.

In Georgetown along the coast, business owners rush to pump water out, even with the threat of high tide looming. Thousands of residents in pockets of the state are also dealing with power outages and contaminated water due to sewage overflow, this as the rain continues coming down.


SANCHEZ: And you can see in the distance, Jake, people walking around in this water, extremely dangerous. Not a good idea to do this. We have heard people tell us that there are water moccasins in this water. I'm looking at it now. It's got this translucent film like look, like gasoline or some other substance is in it.

Also, things have floated around underneath, so you're not sure exactly what you're stepping on. Very, very dangerous area to be in. Aside from that, things still not anywhere close to normal here, this town, Manning, still without power. The whole town is blacked out. No indication as to when exactly the power might come back on; 26,000 families are without power tonight in South Carolina, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Boris Sanchez, thank you so much.


Joining me now on the phone, Thom Berry. He's with South Carolina's Emergency Management Division. thanks for joining me.

Mr. Berry, thanks for joining me.

We know that there are evacuations near the Overcreek Dam. What can you tell us about this breach?

THOM BERRY, SOUTH CAROLINA EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT DIVISION: What we have is a system of smaller lakes as part of the Gills Creek Watershed in the Arcadia Lakes area of Richland County.

And what happens is one lake feeds into another, feeds into another, feeds into another. So, we know that there have been dam failures at Kerry's (ph) Lake Dam and the Upper Rocky Creek Dam.

Now, lower than that in Rockford Lakes and Forest Lake, they're being overtopped. And we are concerned about breaching for those dams as well. So, there's continual flooding that is going on as was mentioned in the report and was mentioned in the governor. We're not out of this by any stretch of the imagination.

TAPPER: So there's been more than one breach, or you're just steeling yourselves for more than one?

BERRY: These are breaches taken place over the last 24 hours or so, some took place yesterday, some are taking place as we speak. So, it is a dynamic situation that is literally changing by the hour.

TAPPER: Nine people so far reported dead because of these storms. Has anyone been hurt from this breach?

BERRY: These are areas that so far people have gotten away from because of the overtopping of the breach that occurred yesterday. So, many of the residents in that area, and it is a fairly populated area, have gotten away either through voluntary evacuations or just wanting to get away and not even wanting to be in the area.

And as was mentioned in the earlier report, we're seeing another problem, that people are moving barricades and driving on through past where they should turn around. And as was mentioned in the earlier report, this is something that can be catastrophic for the individual.

But they think, well, I don't see any problem ahead of me, so I'll just move the barricade and I will keep going. That is a disaster waiting to happen.

TAPPER: How many dams have been breached, just to be precise here, three?

BERRY: We are looking at any number. We know that at least eight, possibly nine have failed. We have several others that are in the process of being overtopped.

Now, whether that results in a breach and a failure remains to be seen.

TAPPER: There are obviously active rescues going on all the time in South Carolina. I know you don't want people driving in the storm. You want people staying at home if they can. But what if they can't? What do you want them to do?

BERRY: What we want people to do is continue to monitor the reporting that is going on and to stay alert and stay informed. If you don't have to be out, don't be out in this stuff.

As was mentioned in the earlier report, you're walking through these floodwaters, and there have been sewage overflows. So, just think to yourself, would I want to walk through a septic tank? And that's really in some cases exactly what it may be.

And so we're just telling people, if you don't have to be out in this, don't be. Stay home.

TAPPER: All right. Thom Berry, thank you and best of luck to you, sir.

We have listed resources to help victims and relief efforts of this historic flooding. To find that, you can go to,, to help the victims of these floods.

The shooter allowed him to live to pass along a message to police, but the 18-year-old who survived that horrific shooting at the Oregon community college had to watch the gunman as he methodically killed others in his class -- his story next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Continuing our national lead now, we are learning more about the horrific massacre at Umpqua Community College that left nine innocent people dead. Officials as of now say they are unsure of the killer's motive. He had no apparent ties to or sympathies with any specific terrorist cause.

But survivors are sharing their harrowing stories about the man who showed no mercy. We know that he ordered his victims to the ground, according to witnesses, and then he shot them, even if they complied with his orders. He asked them about their religion, but at least one witness now says that he fired at them, no matter what the answer.

The shooter wore body armor. Six guns were found at the school, seven more at his home, according to the ATF. One woman survived by playing dead. She told CNN that the gunman didn't seem anxious, but rather seemed -- quote -- "happy about it." The gunman picked one teenager to survive so he could deliver a message to police.

CNN's Dan Simon talked with that young man's mother.


SUMMER SMITH, MOTHER OF VICTIM: He's different. He will never feel the same. He will never feel complete security again.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You could see it in his eyes, in his body language, that this young man had seen something truly horrific. It is church Sunday morning.

SMITH: He doesn't know how to deal with it right now. I don't even think he can register what happened yet. It's just too much.

SIMON: He is 18-year-old Matthew. His mom asked that we not use his last name, which is different than hers.

SMITH: He's not ready to speak about it himself, but how he is still alive is a question that may haunt him forever.

(on camera): There were people being shot around him. And then at a certain point, the shooter singles out him.

SMITH: Yes. Yes.

SIMON: Is that correct? What did the shooter do?

SMITH: The shooter asked him to give the police a -- something, and that if he did, he would live, and that when the shooter gave him what he was told to give to police, he was then sent to sit in the back of the room facing the room and to watch what was going on.

[16:15:08] SIMON (voice-over): In the classroom, three people including his teacher Lawrence Levine had just been shot. The shooter had asked victims whether they were Christian, firing regardless of the answer. Then he pauses and turns to Matthew.

(on camera): He doesn't know what's coming next. And all of a sudden he says, you --

SMITH: You with the glasses, I believe. I believe he said you with the glasses stand up.

SIMON: And he just stood up?

SMITH: He stood up and he said at that time he felt that was it.

SIMON (voice-over): For whatever reason, Matthew's who the shooter has called "The Lucky One", and wants him to deliver an envelope to police. Inside, a computer flash drive which law enforcement sources say contained the shooter's writings.

SMITH: Matthew said that he froze. He didn't make a single move. He was afraid to look away. That if he made anything -- did anything to make the shooter notice him that he would be shot. So he just sat there.

SIMON (on camera): He's sitting there watching the shooter execute people?


SIMON (voice-over): The man sitting next to her is Pastor Randy Scroggins, here to provide comfort. His daughter Lacey also survived the shooting. He delivers an emotional heart pounding sermon.

PASTOR RANDY SCROGGINS: We have shown up to say violence will not have the last word in Roseburg! God will have the last word!

SIMON: But even in this house of worship it appears there's nothing at this moment that can ease Matthew's pain. He certainly doesn't feel like the lucky one.

SMITH: No words for it. He was just -- he lived. For that, he feels guilty.


SIMON: Yes, there is a huge amount of survivor's guilt here, Jake. I can tell you that Matthew will not be returning to the college, least not for this semester. His mother says this is a teenager known for his comedic personality, for making people laugh, his outgoing personality. That part of him, at least for the foreseeable future, is gone -- Jake.

TAPPER: Horrible story. Dan Simon for us in Roseburg, Oregon. Thank you so much.

Also today, calls for the sheriff in that town of Roseburg, Oregon, and Douglas County to resign because of a crackpot video he posted on his Facebook page two years ago suggesting that the Sandy Hook shooting that left 20 first graders dead was a conspiracy cooked up by the government. He denies he posted it.

We'll ask one Newtown teacher who saved her students' lives by hiding them at Sandy Hook to respond to that video next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [16:22:06] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Let's stick with our national lead, the school shooting in Oregon.

Years before Douglas County, Oregon Sheriff John Hanlin found himself investigating that school shooting in his own community, he apparently shared a video on his Facebook page. One of those offensive videos based on ludicrous conspiracy theories. This one about Sandy Hook shooting that included 20 small children dead.

The post has since been removed from his Facebook page. When CNN asked him about it, Hanlin said he did not post the video but did not provide any further explanation.

Let's go now to CNN's Kyung Lah.

Does it seem likely that someone else would have posted this on his Facebook page?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, anything is possible, but most of us know what's on our personal Facebook pages. And this does appear to be his real Facebook page. That's why there are now these calls, Jake, that he step down.


JOHN HANLIN, DOUGLAS COUNTY SHERIFF: Good afternoon, everybody. My name is John Hanlin.

LAH (voice-over): Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin is the face of the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College, calling for compassion for his community.

HANLIN: These families are currently living through the nightmare in the most personal way possible.

LAH: But he did not express that same sympathy for the 20 first graders and their teachers killed at Sandy Hook. On his Facebook page in 2013, he apparently posted a link to this video produced by conspiracy theorists. The viral video calls the victims actors, ludicrously claiming that Sandy Hook is a hoax, cooked by the government to take guns.

On his Facebook page this comment about the video, "This makes me wonder who we can trust anymore."

The sheriff denied to CNN that he posted the video.

(on camera): You didn't post it?

HANLIN: No. No. I know what you're referring to, but no. That's not a conspiracy theory belief that I have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this point, I'm not buying a word that's coming out of his mouth.

LAH: The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is demanding the sheriff step down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This guy who has just about zero credibility, and we know has extremist points of view is now charged with leading an investigation into this terrible tragedy that's happened in his county and is supposed to come to an unbiased point of view.

LAH: The campaign also points to this letter posted on the department's Facebook page that the sheriff sent to Vice President Biden after Sandy Hook saying gun control does not prevent school shootings. The sheriff writes, "Any federal restriction on the Second Amendment shall not be enforced by me or by my deputies," even pledging to stop any federal agents from doing so in his county.

Sheriff Hanlin has a history of opposing gun control, speaking here at a public hearing on a proposed bill requiring background checks on private gun sales.

HANLIN: This law is not going to protect citizens of Oregon in that it is going to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

[16:25:01] It will not do that.


LAH: The bill was signed into law this last May. The sheriff has not responded to repeated calls by CNN today -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kyung Lah, thank you so much.

Joining me now, Kaitlin Roig-DeBeli. She was a teacher in Newtown, Connecticut, when that gunman blazed through Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. Kaitlin saved her first grade class from the carnage. She has since written a book describing that dark, dark day and her life since. It's called, "Choosing Hope: Moving Forward From Life's Darkest Hours".

Kaitlin, thanks so much for joining us and thank you so much for what you did that day.

KAITLIN ROIG-DEBELI, FORMER SANDY HOOK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER: Thank you for having me. I'm so grateful to be here.

TAPPER: What did you first thing when you heard about what happened in Oregon just days before your book was about to come out?

ROIG-DEBELI: Unfortunately, the pain is so near and dear. My heart goes out to their community, to the victims, to their families. It's just heartbreaking. I'm so sorry.

TAPPER: I -- Sandy Hook has been mentioned in -- obviously a lot in recent days. You lived through that horror. And I have to ask you about these crackpot, nonsense stories out there. I hate to even bring them up, they're so offensive, especially to someone like you who lived through it. But what's your reaction when you hear, there are public officials even out there who have entertained and shared this nonsense. What impact does it have on people like you, survivors?

ROIG-DEBELI: They are so offensive, especially to those who lost and were lost. What I have learned is to not give it any attention or a voice. You know, you can't argue with someone who has such a -- you know, unrealistic, awful thought.

TAPPER: In Newtown --

ROIG-DEBELI: Not to give it any credit.

TAPPER: In Newtown, you hid your 15 first graders inside a tiny bathroom to save them from the gunman. You wrote about your will to save those children, very movingly. You wrote, quote, "With the inescapable sounds of carnage happening all around us, my little ones are feeling desperate." At that time you tell a child, quote, "We're going to be OK. I promise." I never make promises I can't keep especially not to children, but this is a matter of life and death.

Kaitlin, over the weekend, there were politicians arguing that if teachers had had guns at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, more people may not have died.

What's your take on this argument that arming teachers could be a way to save lives?

ROIG-DEBELI: You know, first and foremost my expertise is as an educator. So, my background is ensuring and making sure children are successful. And I am so incredibly grateful that gun control and gun sense are being discussed on the platform that they are in our country because they are such crucial issues. But the expertise that I can speak of is making sure that kids are successful.

TAPPER: You're no longer teaching. You founded the organization called classes for classes. You try to instruct children about tolerance and teach that there's no room for hate. How open to your ideas are you finding educators?

ROIG-DEBELI: Well, first I'm a teacher through and through. I will be a teacher always. That is at the core of everything that I do, and certainly now with a nonprofit organization Classes For Classes that's what I get to do every single day.

And the response has been amazing. It has been amazing. We are a tool to actively engage classrooms, kids in learning to care about one another, in learning to be empathetic and compassionate and to learn that in life, we're all connected and the way this is to work is to reach out and make sure others have what they need.

And that's exactly what our website is a platform for. It lets kids really shine in all of the amazing things they're doing in correlation with their project.

TAPPER: Kaitlin Roig-DeBeli, thank you so much for joining me. Best of luck with the book and with your new mission.

ROIG-DEBELI: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me. TAPPER: In our world lead today, it's being called a war crime on one

side, a tragic accident on the other. How was a Doctors Without Borders hospital struck by U.S. forces after the organization says it gave the Pentagon their exact location weeks ago? That story next.