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8 Dead as Tornadoes Rip Through Dallas Area; 55-Year-Old Mother Shot By Police; Europe On High Alert After Attack Warnings. Aired 7- 7:30a ET

Aired December 27, 2015 - 07:00   ET


ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Whoever said this is making stuff up.

[07:00:02] Now, the NFL did not begin testing for HGH until last year. So far, guys, no players have ever tested positive for HGH.


All righty. Andy Scholes, thank you so much.

SCHOLES: You're welcome.

PAUL: We appreciate it.

And thank you so much for starting your morning with us here.

ERROL BARNETT, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. Next hour of your NEW DAY starts now.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very big. Oh, it's massive! Oh my gosh, it's so big!


PAUL: Did you see that? Deadly tornadoes tearing through the Dallas area, killing at least eight people, destroying buildings. We're going to talk to the storm chasers who shot these riveting images.

BARNETT: Also, there's been another shooting in Chicago by police. This time, a woman was accidentally shot and killed when officers responded to a domestic disturbance call.

PAUL: You're seeing here the sounds and the images of ground fighting in Ramadi. ISIS losing ground overnight as Iraqi military forces gain the upper hand, at least for now.

NEW DAY starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

PAUL: You know, we are always so grateful for your company. We want to make sure you know that. I'm Christi Paul.

BARNETT: And I'm Errol Barnett, in this weekend for Victor Blackwell.

And there are a number of breaking stories we've been tracking this morning.

PAUL: Yes, so glad to have you with us this morning, Errol.

BARNETT: Thank you.

PAUL: First of all, let's talk about what's going on in Texas. The Dallas area slammed by tornadoes last night. As we said, at least eight people have died.

Look at some of this video here. Search and rescue operations we understand beginning at day break trying to make sure everyone is all right. But when you see that flash of light, that is when you get a really good idea of what they were dealing with, of what this tornado looked like.

The storm hit under the cover of night, which makes it especially dangerous obviously for drivers. They can't see anything until it's up on top of them.

It wasn't just tornadoes either. Hail rained down on drivers. You can hear it hitting the car and the windshield in some places. We're going to continue to play this for you.

And we're talking to one of the storm chasers who filmed all of this video we showed you in a few minutes.

First, we want to bring in our Sara Sidner, tracking storms from New York.

Sara, what have you learned?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Basically, you know, it's about 6:00 a.m. So they are behind Eastern Standard Time, so it's dark, and rescue operations have halted really while it's dark. It's very dangerous for the rescuers to go in and try to find people in rubble and try to deal with this when they, too, can't see exactly what's coming at them.

Devastating storms, not just in Texas but across the country. We have seen Alabama getting hit with tornadoes, Mississippi getting hit as well. This has been a really rough holiday for a lot of folks.


SIDNER (voice-over): A deadly night in north Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I see. It's crossing the highway right there. I can see it. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, there it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it's very big. Oh, it's massive.

SIDNER: Fierce storms and tornado swept through the Dallas area. This video captured the tornado as it moved through the city of Rowlett.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There it is. Whoa, that is big, big, big.

SIDNER: At least five deaths were reported in Garland, Texas, after a tornado hit Interstate 30.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I actually looked at the twist. I was looking at it.

REPORTER: OK, describe it for me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was just a dark funnel and it was just a big roar. It was really scary. It scared me. I mean, I don't scare that easy but I was scared.

SIDNER: Several homes were destroyed. Lawns littered with debris and cars tossed.

REPORTER: Your daughter's car is in the kitchen here? The back of the kitchen?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Amy husband's car was in the driveway. It's out into alley.

SIDNER: When the storm hit, Lafayette Griffin huddled with his family under a mattress and prayed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was terrifying. I was terrified. They were terrified. You know? They didn't know if they were going to make it.

SIDNER: The storms are all a part of a severe weather system that devastated the south this holiday weekend, with deaths in Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi.

Residents assess the damage in Glenn Heights. This man lost his home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a grace of God that I'm alive. I'm really grateful. My wife works not that hard from here. If I didn't call her, she would be here right now and my kids would be here too. A lot of faith.

SIDNER: In Sunny Vale, Texas, the front facade was ripped off of this house but Larry Allen is just grateful he and his family weren't home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Someone calls us, we think your house got a direct hit. Are you all home because we're in your house looking for you?

So, our neighbors came in our house, people around to see if we were in the house and we weren't. So, you know, we waited for the weather to calm down and drove over. And when we came up, our family, our friends, our church were all in the house, cleaning stuff up.

[07:05:03] You know, it's amazing how people in this community just take charge.


SIDNER: Some great communities there and neighbors checking on neighbors. Right now, it's still dark.

I want to talk a little bit about I-30 and what may have happened there. I-30 runs through Garland, Rowlett, through Dallas, and all the way a straight shot to Ft. Worth. It would be a very common interstate to use, to get people from, you know, visiting family straight to wherever they are going within Texas.

And so, very -- you can see the traffic there, a very popular roadway and really devastating this tornado ended up hitting right there as people start going home because of the holidays and sort of getting stuck in traffic there. Really scary images.

I want to talk a little bit about the video that you're seeing of the tornadoes. Some of that you'll see flashes, some of them is actually transformers being blown up.

You also see lightning flashes every now and then. That is basically the only way that you get a good vision of this tornado. Otherwise, you're probably hearing it, but when you're in your car, a lot harder to hear so you may not have even known that it was right on top of you -- Christi.

PAUL: Wow. I didn't realize transformers were blowing too.

Sara Sidner, thank you very much.

And listen, we want to talk about the incredible scenes that were gathered by Scott Peake. He's a stormchaser with Base Hunters and he's on the phone with us now from Plano, Texas.

So, Scott, first of all, glad that you're OK. Have you ever, in your career, seen anything like what you saw yesterday?

SCOTT PEAKE, STORMCHASER (via telephone): Not quite like this. Definitely not in December, in a highly populated area. It was not something you usually see.

PAUL: Can you help us understand what it felt like to drive through what you drove through?

PEAKE: Well, I have to say it was a very heartbreaking watching the tornado go through residential neighborhoods and seeing all of the destruction as we were going east on Interstate 30 while we were following the tornado.

PAUL: So, a lot of people watch this and they think why do you continue to drive towards this thing? Do you not feel -- are you not in fear at some point?

PEAKE: Well, part of our chasing includes getting as much footage as we can, and also to report it to the National Weather Service. Any damage we see, we try to report that in to the weather service and help track the tornado so the weather service has a better idea of where the tornado is going.

PAUL: OK. So what exactly -- help me through exactly what you saw? You saw the devastation. Was it hailing on you? Were you having a hard time seeing the thing? When you first saw this thing, what did you think?

PEAKE: I thought, well, oh, my gosh, here we go. It's going to be a major tornado. And when we were driving right behind the tornado, we had a piece of insulation and shingles falling from the sky, and along with seeing multiple power flashes as the tornado was going through right across interstate 30 and along Lake Hubbard.

PAUL: Well, like I said in the beginning here, we are just grateful you're OK.

PEAKE: Thank you.

PAUL: Thank you so much for sharing these pictures with us. Are you working again today?

PEAKE: We are going to leave here in about an hour and they are about to issue another tornado watch for eastern part of Texas momentarily. So, we're going to be heading out shortly here and chasing again.

PAUL: All right. Well, safety to you, Scott, and thanks again for sharing with us some of this video, because it is certainly something to see. We appreciate it.

PEAKE: Thank you so much.

PAUL: Sure. Take good care.

BARNETT: And there's a lot of young guys and girls like Scott out to gather data, but the fact of the matter is they have risking their lives to do it. It's dangerous out there. The threat of severe weather is far from over and this is with the holiday weekend nearing a close, still potential nightmare for travelers.

Our meteorologist Allison Chinchar joins us from the severe weather center tracking all of this.

And, Allison, any update what the stormchaser told us about an upcoming tornado warning for east Texas?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's a tornado watch. And, yes, we do expect there to be several issued today, a little bit farther east of where we had the storm yesterday, because that's where the system is moving.

Here you can see the low pressure. This red shaded area is where we expect our severe weather today. Now, rain in general will stretch from Texas all the way out towards New England.

We had that warm humid air coming up from the Gulf and that cold dry air coming down from Canada. And it's this center area. This is where we have the greatest threat for severe weather today.

Now, orange area you see here, that is our enhanced threat for isolated tornadoes and also damaging winds.

[07:10:01] But you'll have severe weather anywhere from San Antonio up to Paducah, down into New Orleans today. That's where our target area is going to be, and it's a huge differences. Look at the warm out ahead of the front, 74 in Shreveport right now, 75 in Lake Charles, but it's 32 in Abilene, 33 degrees right now in Wichita Falls.

That's how strong this storm is. We have flood watches out ahead of this system, likely to get some tornado watches out ahead of this system as we go through the morning. Then we have all of our winter watches and warning, including blizzard warnings for parts of Texas and Oklahoma where we can expect up to 15 to 20 inches of snow, that is once the system moves through.

So, Texas dealing with the tornadoes and severe weather on the front end and then they will be dealing with the snow and even some ice on the back end. So, Christi, Errol, it's got a little bit of some going through for Texas the next couple of days and then that system pushes into the northeast Monday and Tuesday.

BARNETT: Yes, we got a few viewers watching in East Texas right now, so if you're listening to Allison, you'll want to hunker down. Severe weather expected there the next few hours.

Allison, we'll continue to check in with you throughout the morning. Thanks a lot.

CHINCHAR: Thank you.

PAUL: Ahead, another controversial shooting by the Chicago Police Department and this time, they have already expressed condolences for accidentally killing a 55-year-old woman.

BARNETT: Plus, there are new terror threats in Europe this morning. Vienna police warn of a possible attack involving explosives or guns and this is to happen during the holiday season.

PAUL: Donald Trump versus the Clintons. What is behind Trump's sexism accusation against Bill Clinton coming as the former president prepares to campaign for his wife.


PAUL: Fourteen minutes past the hour.

And a Chicago woman is shot to death by police. They call it a tragic accident. Family members call it recklessness and say it could have easily been prevented.


PAUL (voice-over): Police say 55-year-old Betty Jones was caught in the cross-fire.

It happened when Chicago police answered a 911 call early Saturday morning. The father of a 19-year-old college student said his son was threatening him with a baseball bat. His family says Quintonio LeGrier had a history of mental illness.

[07:15:04] JANET COOKSEY, LEGRIER'S MOTHER: He was having meltdown situation sometimes, he would get loud but not violent. I was just with my son on Christmas. I mean, I talked to him. I told him that he had to control his temper, but he wasn't violent.

PAUL: LeGrier's father asked Betty Jones, their downstairs neighbor and mother of five, to open the door for police. When she did, witnesses say LeGrier came charging down the stairs with a bat. Police opened fire and both people were killed.

COOKSEY: An innocent lady got shot as well because the police just was trigger happy. I went to the hospital. My son has seven -- seven bullet wounds in him.

PAUL: Chicago police apologized for Jones' death, saying in a statement, quote, "Upon arrival, officers were confronted by a combative subject resulting in the discharge of the officer's weapon which fatally wounded two individuals. The 55-year-old female victim was accidentally struck and tragically killed. The department extends its deepest condolences to the victim's family and friends."


PAUL: I want to let you know the family is going to be holding a press conference today at 11:00 a.m. Central Time and CNN will be there.

Let's talk about this with Joey Jackson, CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney, as well as Tom Fuentes, CNN law enforcement analyst.

And, Tom, I want to start with you, because last hour, you talked about how the Christmas holiday can bring more tension to situations like this to domestic situations. How important is what was said and conveyed in the 911 call to this situation in general?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it's very important, you know, when a call comes in like that, you have this call coming from the father. And as you heard in the piece, the mother had talked to the son a couple of days ago on Christmas and tried to tell him to control his temper and now, the father is unable to, and the father is being threatened by LeGrier with a baseball bat and calls the police.

So, the police go knowing that this is a difficult situation and upon arrival, if he charges them with a baseball bat, that pretty well confirms what they had said, and if the father can't calm him down and the mother can't calm him down, there is really not much the police are going to be able to do verbally with a mentally ill person who is already charged up and threatening people with a bat.

PAUL: All right. Joey, Chicago Congressman Bobby Rush a taser should have been used, some other de-escalation device, as opposed to immediately going to your gun. Tom, you had last hour, they don't always work necessarily. But how plausible do you think that is going to be the main focus of this?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, Christi, good morning to you. Good morning to you, Tom.

It's certainly going to be a major focus because it's going to be what you look at. You know, certainly, police have a very difficult job and they need to go home to their families at the end of the day.

However, whenever you look and assess a police situation, you look at a number of things. One, you look at the immediacy of the threat and would that threat represent such a danger to your life, the life of others, your partner, anyone around you, that you have to use that force.

Number two, Christi, the proportionality of the force used. Do you need to shoot someone coming with you at the baseball with you, or towards you with a baseball bat, or is there some less lethal way to contain the situation?

And, of course, number three, is it reasonable?

So, yes, we understand officers are in danger every day. We respect the work that they do. We are proud of the work that they do. However, should lethal force be the first alternative as opposed to the last alternative and did the officer act responsibly in this situation to preserve a life rather than take one, and then, of course, kill someone by accident.

And so, all of that needs to be evaluated, Christi.

PAUL: Tom, he brings up a good point. Does it matter what the weapon is? Whether it's a knife, whether it's a bat, whether it's a car? I mean, how -- does it differ? Do you have a protocol?

FUENTES: It only in terms of the proximity required to have that weapon injure you. So, obviously, a baseball bat, you have to be, you know, within two or three feet within someone to harm them with a bat. But if the individual, when you go into somebody's home like that, at the their request, at the father's request, and if, in fact, LeGrier was charging the police a baseball bat, they're going to have a tenth of a second to try to neutralize him and just in some says it's not enough time.

But Joey is absolutely right. You know, they're going to look at this and see if there was an alternative looking at the situation, and when they do the crime scene, how far was LeGrier from the police officer, how far was -- you know, where was the woman Betty Jones that was accidentally tragically shot.

[07:20:03] All that will come into play during the investigation. I think the problem here is going to be politically, people on the

outside from the comfort of their offices just automatically criticize the police and say they should have done something differently.

PAUL: Well, and, Joey, the police came out quickly acknowledging this and apologizing for it, calling it an accident. What does that do then for any possible civil action for her family, for Betty Jones' family?

JACKSON: Christi, we will see civil action, there is no question about it. And to be clear, sometimes police act and when they act it could be criminal as we have seen so many times. And other times, it's civil, it's a tragic accident. And civil, of course, means the awarding of some money.

But, you know, you got to have -- and there has to be some type of use of force continuum and I know, you know, that's easy to say in the comfort of your desk and the comfort of your home, and police are encountering very treacherous and dangerous circumstances, but that's where training comes into play and it's so important to do.

As a former prosecutor, you do a ride-along to appreciate what the police go through. You go through something like the fun house where people pop up and you shoot, do you not shoot?

You know, look, it's a tough job and you don't want to put yourself in their situation, but you have to explore. Is there a way to deescalate? If it's a baseball bat, are you going to die? Could you use something else? Could you preserve a life as opposed to taking one?

So, I think we'll certainly see a civil case. Whether there's a criminal case here will depend upon, you know, what the independent review agency has to say about it.

PAUL: And, Tom, real quickly, what do you have to say to the mother there who says she believes police were trigger happy?

FUENTES: Well, again, you know, the mother herself said he had mental problems and difficulty controlling his temper and she warned him about that and the father called the police and was actually being threatened -- threatened to the extent he felt his life was in danger and he needed to call the police and couldn't handle LeGrier by himself.

So, I think that, to me, what she said indicates what the problem was for the police dealing with him.


FUENTES: You know, everybody thinks that you can deescalate a mentally ill person -- I've handled many of these situations. And sometimes the fact that they are mentally ill makes it impossible to actually reason with them, deescalate a person when you only have a tenth of a second.

PAUL: OK, Joey, last word, only a second.

JACKSON: But do you need to kill them? That's the issue. Do you need to kill them? That's the point.

PAUL: Tom Fuentes and Joey Jackson, so appreciate your insight there. Gentlemen, thank you.

JACKSON: Thank you, Christi.

FUENTES: Thank you.

PAUL: Errol?

BARNETT: Christi -- when we come back to NEW DAY, we will get you to California. It's 4:22 in the morning there right now. That brush fire we have been telling you about, it appears that authorities are starting to get a handle on it but before it burned 1,200 acres. As many as 600 firefighters are working tirelessly to stump this thing out completely. We got some amazing close up video to show as well.

Also, Europe under threat at this hour. This time, authorities have new information on what they believe could be planned attacks to be carried out during the holidays. We'll have more on that for you after this.


[07:26:01] PAUL: Can you imagine driving through this? The high winds there fueling this massive wildfire in southern California. What you're looking at is a vantage point of this family driving past that fire last night.

You saw the sparks and the embers hitting their windshield. Fortunately, firefighters have stopped the fire from spreading. It's now at 60 percent containment. More than 1,200 acres burned though. Fire officials say the wildfire was caused by downed power lines.

BARNETT: Fire is also doing damage in Australia. Residents returning to their homes today assessing what happened after a brush fire south of Melbourne destroyed more than a hundred homes on Christmas Day. Nearly one in three homes in one town have just been obliterated. You see what's left. Firefighters say the immediate fire threat to towns is over but they warn the situation is still potentially dangerous, as they are still many hot spots.

And new this morning: police across Europe are on high alert and have ramped up security measures. Vienna police say they have received a warning from a friendly intelligence service that key cities could be attacked between Christmas and New Year's Eve.

Let's bring in David Tafuri now, former Obama campaign foreign policy adviser.

David, thanks for being with us again this morning.

You know, there is always heightened nervousness ahead of New Year's Eve when it comes to safe places to celebrate. How do you determine if this threat in Europe is unique, if it's dangerous or more like a hoax, considering the time of year?

DAVID TAFURI, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: It's very difficult to determine. You know, I haven't seen the intelligence reports. They don't have a lot of specificity. They basically say there will be attacks between Christmas and New Year's and they will use guns or explosives which most of these terrorist attacks do use.

So, it's difficult to decide how to prepare for these terrorist attacks. But we have to assume that ISIS intends to do more attacks, especially in Europe. I just got back from Iraq last week. The forces on the ground tell me that European forces are participating more in the battle against ISIS, especially the French forces, and you have to assume that ISIS is aware of that and they want to retaliate where they can retaliate.

In Europe, they probably do still have more cells and they probably do intend to do attacks, so we have to be vigilant. The French police have made clear many more police forces are on the ground and they are recruiting more police forces. I assume the other countries that are potentially impacted by this are doing the same, like Austria.

But without any more specificity, it's hard for a person to decide how to, you know, engage or not engage as a result of this warning. We just have to be aware that during this week and next week, and for the foreseeable future there could be attacks, especially in Europe.

BARNETT: So, we are sharing this information and with the Paris attacks, so happening so recently. Of course, we understand why people get nervous. But these warnings are vague. I mean, should we really be hyperventilating about this? Because at the end of the day, aren't terrorists trying to limit the freedoms that all of us enjoy in the West?

So, the threat is vague. What can security officials even do? What measures can they even take?

TAFURI: There is really not a lot they can do, other than putting more police on the ground and in places where they think attacks might happen. That especially means in places where people congregate.

And I think that's certainly what the European police forces are doing. But other than that and other than being vigilant about the surveillance they do, there's not a lot we can do. And we have to assume that ISIS does intend to attack where it can attack, that means especially in Europe in order to retaliate for the greater participation by the European countries in the fight against ISIS and in the coalition, but also in the U.S., of course, too.

I think we will see over the next few months whether ISIS has that capability. I assume that they do and they will attempt to activate it.

BARNETT: And just to play devil's advocate here, I mean, considering what happened in the wake of the Paris attacks, you got all these European nations sharing more intelligence, you know, looking through terror watch list names and connecting dots where they perhaps wouldn't have before, considering that, ISIS knows that.