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Three Fires Destroy Thousands of Structures, Force Evacuations; California Gunman Made Disturbing Facebook Post. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired November 9, 2018 - 10:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, this may seem like a familiar headline, too. Three out of control wildfires raging in California this morning. The campfire burning in Butte County up north that has forced nearly 40,000 residents to evacuate. Some captured their narrow and harrowing escape on social media as they fled.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Then in the south, right down the road from the thousand oaks shooting, you have this going on right now. You're looking at images of the Woolsey fire. The blaze has already scorched some 10,000 acres, forced thousands of people to evacuate.

First, let's go to our correspondent Nick Valencia who joins us in Paradise, California. We see some of the flames right behind you. Any sense of containment right now?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So far, Poppy, zero percent containment at last check. This fire just exploded over the course of last 24 hours. And just a day ago, here in Paradise, California, this entire town was just engulfed in flames. And many of the scenes around town is what you see behind me here. This used to be a retail store, a pawnshop just right next to a used car dealership.

And it just spread just so fast. And part of that reason was because it was fueled by strong winds. There's also dry air, low humidity. You couple that, if you know anything about what the weather has been like in California over the course of the last couple months, it's just been extremely dry. Usually by the end of October is when the rain comes to California. That signals the end of fire season. But here we are talking about not just one but multiple fires throughout the state of California.

The good news in all of this though is that the wind has slowed down. We talked to Cal fire earlier this morning. They feel as though that they're going to be able to contain this at the edges and try to work their way back from there. We did check in as well with law enforcement to see if there's any fatalities so far. No reports of anyone dying as a result of this fire. Several people have been injured, and they had to evacuate a hospital as well.

But just look behind me, guys. It's just so eerie. There's so much smoke in the air. It feels like we're in a different world now, just looking all around us. And that fire behind me still smoldering. Jim?

SCIUTTO: That's someone's home. Imagine it happening to your own. Nick Valencia, thanks very much. We have CNN Scott McLean. He is in Oak Park where the Woolsey fire has forced thousands to abandon their homes. We were noting, Scott, that this is very close to the location of the shooting in Thousand Oaks as well. You just feel tragedy circling that area in these last few hours and days.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, someone described it to me, Jim, as a one-two punch for this area. First, you have the shooting and now you have many of those people who are affected by that shooting now having to worry about their homes. And this fire moved quickly. Keep in mind, this only started yesterday afternoon, and it's already at last count 8,000 acres. In fact, overnight, in a 90-minute period, it doubled. That means that it was expanding at the size of a football field every two seconds, perhaps why is because in California, much of it has gotten less than 5 percent of its normal rainfall over the past month.

And it's not necessarily the flames that some of these neighborhoods have to worry about. It's the embers that are in the air. And this house seems to be a victim of that. Because well, this is burned out.

[10:35:00] It started late last night, we're told by the neighbors, and then this house is completely untouched next door. Now, we spoke to this gentleman not long ago. And he said that the fire department was here last night trying to put water on his house. Obviously trying to put this out as well. He was also out with his own hose trying to hose down his property to try to keep it safe. When I spoke to him, you know, his house is OK, but he seemed like he was near tears. He said he was just exhausted, overwhelmed, grateful, all of the emotions all wrapped up into one.

And Poppy, I got to tell you, these wind gusts, you can still feel them. They are every once in a while they're really whip up. They're not expected to die down until tomorrow morning.

HARLOW: Right.

MCLEAN: Not great news.

HARLOW: That makes it even tougher, right, for the firefighters because it's pushing the flames even further. Scott, thank you very much for being there and the reporting. Jim.

SCIUTTO: Still to come in our broadcast, a look at a disturbing Facebook post from the California gunman, made just before he went on his rampage that left 12 people, many of them young people, dead.


[10:40:35] SCIUTTO: This morning, we're learning more about the California gunman, including a chilling Facebook message that he posted right before he murdered 12 people. Many of them young people. And new frightening video from inside the bar as those shots rang out. We warn you, the video is disturbing. Seems like we have heard sounds like that so often before. Many of the survivors waited for breaks in the gunfire like you heard there to make their escape. CNN's Nick Watt joins us now from Thousand Oaks. What more are we learning today about the shooter and his background?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, we just heard from the county sheriff's department. They say it's going to be a few days before they're ready to release any more information about the searches that have been conducted on the shooter's vehicle and on his home where he lived with his mother and also here at the club where this tragic shooting happened.

Now, you mentioned that Facebook post. I'm going to read it to you now. He posted this, we believe, shortly before he went on this shooting spree. And this is what he wrote. "I hope people call me insane. Wouldn't that just be a big ball of irony? Yeah. I'm insane, but the only thing you people do after these shootings is 'hopes and prayers.' Or 'keep you in my thoughts.' Every time. And wonder why these keep happening."

Now, we know he was armed with a .45 caliber Glock, which was legally purchased, but he had an illegal magazine in there that allowed him to fire more bullets inside that club and create more carnage.

Now, as for motive, we still do not know. There has been talk about PTSD. He served in Afghanistan. But listen. We do not know that that is what led to this in any way whatsoever. We're still waiting for that motive. Jim?

SCIUTTO: And we should note that the vast majority of people with PTSD do not outbreak in violence. In fact, often more at risk of putting themselves and their own lives at risk than others. Just wanted to note that in the conversation. Nick Watt, thanks very much.

HARLOW: So, this week, just think about it, 12 people murdered in California trying to simply enjoy the night out, have fun, listen to their favorite country music. This massacre comes less than two weeks after 11 worshipers were gunned down in a Pittsburgh synagogue. What will stop this? Well, listen to this. Just moments ago, we heard from a grieving mother of a young man killed in the California mass shooting.


SUSAN ORFANOS, MOTHER OF VICTIM IN CALIFORNIA BAR SHOOTING: My son was in Las Vegas with a lot of his friends, and he came home. He didn't come home last night. And I don't want prayers. I don't want thoughts. I want gun control. And I hope to God nobody else sends me any more prayers. I want gun control. No more guns.


HARLOW: You know what, there are lawmakers in both parties who have been pushing legislation to try to curb the violence. Actually, getting it passed, signed into law, that's another story. Joining me is Republican Pennsylvania State Representative Todd Stephens. He's a former federal firearms prosecutor. He is a prime sponsor of HB 2227. It is legislation in Pennsylvania that would allow family members and law enforcement to ask a judge to temporarily take someone's gun away from them if they are believed to be a risk to themselves or others. Thank you for being here.

TODD STEPHENS, PENNSYLVANIA STATE HOUSE: Thanks so much for having me.

HARLOW: We know that mental health was likely a factor here. We know that mental health experts went to the gunman's home in California and cleared him under the 5150 Law. Do you think that your legislation, if it were to exist, for example, on a federal level, could have curbed this? Could have stopped this?

STEPHENS: Well, I think certainly, unfortunately, it also requires people to act. California does have a law like the one that I'm proposing here for Pennsylvania. But you know, obviously, they need to do more training, more education, and make sure that law enforcement and the public are aware that these tools exist. And that's what it is. It's a tool in the toolbox. And there are many tools in the toolbox, but we need to ensure that we got all the tools necessary to deal with situations like this, and extreme risk protection orders you know are just one of those tools.

HARLOW: You're a Republican. And you went to the NRA with this legislation. And you asked for their input.

[10:45:01] And you changed about 20 different things that the NRA wanted changed in your legislation. You put forth a new version, and here's what the NRA sent out in an e-mail to all of their members. Quote, this is what they say it would do. "A hearing would be held, firearms would be seized, and constitutional rights suspended with little to no due process." They said this legislation does nothing to improve public safety. Is that factual?

STEPHENS: No. It's just absolutely not true. You know, right now, all across the country, people can be involuntarily committed. Right here in Pennsylvania, you can be involuntarily committed. You will never see a judge. You don't get a lawyer. You don't get even a hearing. You don't get to confront any witnesses or offer any testimony. My bill would in fact give you all of those due process and constitutional protections.

You know, on the back end of an involuntary commitment, you can be removed from your home and held against your will for up to five days away from your family, away from your job, with none of those due process protections, and you lose your gun rights for the rest of your life. Under my bill, you get all that due process, and then in the end, a judge could just temporarily relieve you of your guns for up to a year.

HARLOW: But you have said your bill is all but dead, right, Representative? I mean, that it's not going anywhere. Have the last two weeks changed that?

STEPHENS: No, not at all. Unfortunately. We only have one session day left next week, so I was able to get the bill out of the House Judiciary Committee in June, which was a good first step. A good step in the right direction. I can tell you, I was just re-elected and I'll be reintroducing that bill. It will be the first bill that's reintroduced in January, and I'll be making it a top priority again to push that legislation, because it's been shown --

HARLOW: Oh. I think we lost Representative Todd Stephens there. Oh, he's back. I'm sorry. We lost you for a moment. Before you go, let me ask you this because you said you're going to reintroduce this. You just heard that grieving mother who lost her son in this massacre. Her son who survived the Las Vegas shooting. And she echoed what the gunman posted just before this massacre. The gunman wrote, quote, "The only thing you people do after these shootings is hopes and prayers." Is he right?

STEPHENS: No, we're going to get this done. We're going to get this across the finish line. We're going to save lives in Pennsylvania just like they're doing now in 13 other states. 13 other states have extreme risk protection order laws and Pennsylvania is going to join those ranks this next session. And I think, frankly, the rest of the country needs to take a good hard look at these laws and implement them because they have been shown to save lives in states already, and we all need to take a harder look at what we can do to reduce gun violence across the country.

HARLOW: That is for sure. Pennsylvania State Representative Todd Stephens, I appreciate you being here and letting people know about this. Thank you.

STEPHENS: Thanks for having me.

HARLOW: Still ahead, down to the wire. Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema takes a razor thin lead in the race for Senate in Arizona.


[10:52:29] HARLOW: All right. A new leader this morning in the Arizona Senate race. Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema now leading by a narrow margin, Republican Martha McSally. Less than 1 percent is the lead there.

SCIUTTO: This would be a Democratic pickup. Sinema pulled ahead after nearly 127,000 votes were counted in one of the state's most populated areas. Right now, the two are separated by fewer than 10,000 votes. 83 percent of the total counts voted so far.

Back with us now, CNN national political reporter Maeve Reston. And Maeve, we should note, first, this is not a recount. This is still the count. They're still going through votes. But 83 percent, I mean, we're a couple -- two days since Tuesday. Why is it taking so long in Arizona?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, I mean, this is -- the reason why Sinema pulled into the lead, a slight, narrow lead yesterday, was because a lot of those votes from Maricopa County came in, right? So that gave a much more Democratic tilt to the ballots that we have currently counted. I mean, this is just a situation where because of the way that the early vote comes in, and because of the number of early vote ballots that are cast, you just have a huge number of votes that are still out there being counted, and it may take some time. This is actually not a situation that is specific to Arizona.

In California, for example, we still have many House races where we don't know what the outcome will be because those ballots could be postmarked you know up until Tuesday. So, this counting will go on for quite some time. There is a possibility, of course, that McSally could move back into the lead, but this is so close and tells you so much about how Arizona really is the future in terms of the way that demographics are moving and will tell us a lot about whether or not Republicans are able to hold on to that seat of retiring Senator Jeff Flake.

HARLOW: Maeve, is there anything we need to know about, I don't know, what's unique in Arizona as it you know compares to Florida? I don't know, if it were to come to a recount or automatic triggers?

RESTON: Well, I mean, definitely, Arizona does not have the same level of baggage that we're talking about in Broward County or Palm Beach County. But you know, so far, this is just as far as we know, just a straightforward vote counting that is going on that's taking longer because there are so many ballots outstanding in Arizona. But we don't know of any specific voter irregularities yet.

[10:55:04] And overall, this could really change the balance of how big Donald Trump's victory was on Tuesday night, and that's why he's trying to change the narrative as we saw this morning.


HARLOW: Maeve Reston, thank you for being with us on all of the news this morning. Hope you get a little rest this weekend. Jim, my friend, I'll see you back here on Monday. To you all, have a great weekend. We have a lot of news ahead, right?

SCIUTTO: Still to come, the president distancing himself from his acting attorney general Matt Whitaker, just one of the many headlines we're following from the Trump administration today. Please stay with us.