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Shark Attack Kills Man Swimming Off Maui; Oklahoma Hit by Deadly Floods, Tornadoes; Feds Fear Prison Escape if "El Chapo" Gets Outdoor Exercise; Army's Tweet Prompts Heartbreaking Stories, Cries for Help; Israel Strikes Syrian Army After Jet Fired Upon. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired May 27, 2019 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: For the first time in four years a shark has killed a swimmer in Hawaii. It happened Saturday at a popular beach on the island of Maui near resorts packed with tourists for the holiday weekend. The victim a 65-year-old man identified as Tom Smiley, a husband and father and grandfather. He was there visiting from California. Had gone for a swim and the shark suddenly mauled him. He was just 60 yards from the shore. That's how close in he was. First responders got him out of the water. They gave him CPR, but they couldn't save him. And people there on the beach horrified sat there and saw it all unfold.


ALLISON KELLER, WITNESS: They pulled the man up. He looked unconscious when they transferred him to the other gurney. And we could see that they were trying to do CPR on him. But as we got closer, I saw some blood on his stomach, and then I got looking a little bit more, and his wrist, it looked like the skin on his wrist was just torn off. Then I got looking closer and his entire left leg from his knee down was just missing.


BALDWIN: The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources says this was the sixth shark attack this year. That is double the number from last year.

From Wyoming to Ohio 25 million people right now are at risk for possible tornadoes, torrential storms and catastrophic flooding and that includes Oklahoma. Its governor warning his state isn't out of the woods just yet after tornadoes and flooding killed half a dozen people there. CNN's Omar Jimenez is in El Reno, Oklahoma where a catastrophic tornado hit Saturday night. And Omar, I see the debris behind you. What's the situation there for folks today?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Brooke, the governor paid a visit today for the first time getting a tour of the damage from the Mayor Matt White here in El Reno. And this is what they saw.

This used to be a hotel here in El Reno, Oklahoma. It was one of two major places in this town that got really decimated when this tornado came through. It's classified as an EF35. Being the most severe. It was on the ground for two miles and only four minutes. And you see how much destruction it left behind in just a matter of minutes on that front.

We've been speaking to people, some who actually lived through to tell the tale. They haven't been able to get back in just yet. But when this tornado came through, they tell us tales of having to climb out of the rubble as it collapsed in on them and just, again, those few minutes. And let's remember this didn't just come in a vacuum. The mayor telling me earlier this week they were dealing with flooding, 46 water rescues in just this town alone. And then days later we're on the scene of a deadly tornado.

BALDWIN: I mean, you see the perspective when you see the shots from the helicopters. Right, those aerial shots. Just how wide and how massive the flooding is that these people are still having to endure. Omar Jimenez, in El Reno, Omar, thank you very much.

He is one of the most infamous criminals in the world. Hear why officials in the United States fear El Chapo may be trying to pull a fast one and escape from prison again.

Plus officials had called off the search but after 17 days a missing hiker shows up alive. Hear how she says she survived.


BALDWIN: Federal prosecutors fear infamous drug Lord, Joaquin El Chapo Guzman could be trying to escape from prison again. El Chapo is sitting in solitary confinement in Manhattan right now. Found guilty this year of leading one of the most violent drug cartels in the world. His lawyers say their client isn't get enough sunlight or fresh air or time outside. So they're requesting the following. They want two hours of outdoor exercise every week. Commissary access that he he's allowed to buy six bottles of water a week and ear plugs saying that he can't sleep through the prison noise.

But prosecutors are pushing back because the only outdoor area at the present is the rooftop with wire mesh. And given Guzman's two successful escapes from high security prisons, including the construction of a ventilated tunnel. Prosecutors want the request denied.

Cameron Lindsay is a retired warden with the Federal Bureau of Prisons and is very familiar with this facility in New York where El Chapo is in custody. Cameron, thank you for being with me on this holiday Monday.


BALDWIN: And I just want to dive in. When you hear outdoor exercise and commissary access and bottles of water, does anything about that raise red flags for you?

LINDSAY: Well as a former correctional administrator it certainly makes my antenna go up.


LINDSAY: Well, I'm not a long-term fan of -- I'm not a fan of long- term solitary confinement, I should say. However, I have to side with the government on this particular issue. I think that they're doing the right thing. I mean, as you said, Brooke, this individual was ahead of a billion-dollar drug cartel. He's a known killer. He's facing at least a life sentence if not multiple life sentences.

[15:40:00] I'm sure he's going to be scored by the Federal Bureau of Prisons as a high security, maximum custody inmate. Which will certainly make him appropriate for placement once he's designated to the Bureau Prison of Supermax, the ADX.

But all of these things that you just mentioned do make my antenna go up because as you mentioned, this individual has escaped from two maximum security facilities in the past. A lot of people would say well, that was with a lot of help, and from my perspective therein lies the problem. Because this individual has the fiscal resources to manipulate and buy people off. And while most folks might think that a helicopter escape attempt might never happen, and it's --

BALDWIN: Which was tried once upon a time. Correct?

LINDSAY: Absolutely. They're rare. They are rare. However, I can cite at least four federal prisons including the MCC in New York where there has been an attempted helicopter escape attempt. We've seen it in other state facilities as well. And I believe it was late last year when we saw an escape of a high security inmate in France that was effective by a helicopter. So it is not outside the realm of possibilities.

BALDWIN: Cameron, help us understand how one could pull off -- when you're in the MCC and you're this inmate and you're barely seeing the light of day. And you would be given maybe a little bit of outside time which would allow you to interact with other people and you have a lot of money back in the ether. How would you facilitate a helicopter to the facility?

LINDSAY: Well, if I could spend two hours on the roof, that would be a good start. I mean, really, it is. And from my perspective, it's the worst place for him. Especially two hours. Yes, inmates that are in lockdown status such as Guzman they're locked down 23 hours a day. They have one hour of recreation time. If I were the warden of that facility, I certainly would not put this type of individual on the roof. You just cannot take any chances with an individual like this. And I know his defense team has made a lot of noise about eighth amendment violations, cruel and unusual issues, but -- and I happen to disagree with that. Although I've been critical of the bureau of prisons before. I certainly think they're doing the right thing here.

BALDWIN: So you think -- do you think it's the individual in his power, not that this facility is particularly vulnerable? Or is it?

LINDSAY: This facility is not particularly vulnerable. I don't know of any escapes they've ever had there. I think they do a very good job at that facility of keeping inmates safeguarded from the public, and that is their mission, after all. So I don't see the facility as vulnerable, but by the same token it makes perfect sense for the government to take zero chances with an inmate of this level, if you know what I mean.

BALDWIN: I do know what you mean. Cameron Lindsey, thank you very much.

LINDSAY: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

We are getting some him that that breaking news. Israel striking the Syrian army after it says a jet was fired upon. We will take you there live next. Give you a little more context. Also as the nation pauses to honor America's fallen heroes on this Memorial Day, the U.S. Army sends out a tweet asking people what serving means to them, but the response is heart breaking.


BALDWIN: Just ahead of Memorial Day weekend the U.S. Army asked it Twitter followers how serving in the military has impacted their lives. In the majority of the responses were heartbreaking. Here's an example.

One man writes. The combat cocktail of PTSD, severe depression, anxiety, isolation, suicide attempts, never ending rage. How did serving impact me? Ask my family.

Here's another tweet. I spend sleepless nights wrecked with guilt because none of the horror and suffering I've seen even matters. End quote.

And while some responses were positive sharing stories of lifelong friendships, and travel and skill building, the U.S. Army later recognized the value of all responses. This is what they put out.

To everyone who responded to this thread, thank you for sharing your story. Your stories are real, they matter, and they may help others in similar situations. The Army is committed to the health, safety, and wellbeing of our soldiers.

And with me now on this Memorial Day, I have retired Lieutenant Colonel Jason Dempsey, is an Army veteran and cofounder of Millie. A company that helps veteran families with relocation and moving. And so, thank you, of course, for your service and for being with me. And I know you prefer Jason. So Jason it is. Jason, this whole U.S. Army thread some people say it kind of backfired. But doesn't it get to the heart of what we honor today? The sacrifice of --

JASON DEMPSEY, U.S. ARMY VETERAN: Certainly. I would say the -- it certainly wasn't a conversation at the Army was probably hoping to prompt when they put this up. But I think it's an exceptionally valuable conversation. I think that response you just read, the second response from the Army was very appropriate, very heartfelt, and very correct.

[15:50:00] In that they recognize that there's a lot of people suffering out there, a lot of veterans who struggle. And probably it indicates that there are a lot of folks who feel like in the current environment, they're just not heard. And unfortunately, that's a lot of where our conversation is today.

BALDWIN: I want to come back to that, but if I may, ask you the question that the Army poses. You know, how would you have answered? How has service impacted you?

DEMPSEY: It's been everything, quite frankly. It's your whole life. And it would be -- I would not want to summarize it in 280 characters or 240 characters. It's meant a lot to me in terms of my professional growth, my development, my education. I loved nearly every minute of it, but I say that knowing that the Army is a human and flawed place. My father served. My sister served. We're very much a military family, but that doesn't mean we love the institution uncritically. It actually means that I have a deep and abiding respect for the people who serve and I see it as my duty to bring up and to criticize the military where appropriate. Because it's our obligation to make it better.

BALDWIN: To your point about the issues that this threat has brought up, I want to ask about suicide. Because for years the VA has reported that the number of veteran suicides has been stagnant, an average of 20 veteran suicides a day. And in the past several months we've seen incidents of veterans committing suicides at VA facilities. What do you know about current efforts to get these veterans the help they need?

DEMPSEY: I know it's long and it's ongoing and it's not a simple solution. I know that we've been at it for at least 18 years. And I will say at the start of these wars, we had a very dysfunctional attitude towards mental health. We had kind of that old-school, you shouldn't complain, you shouldn't, you know, we should treat these as discipline problems a lot of times, when people are really struggling. And I look back now at some of the situations we saw at the height of the two wars in 2007, 2008, and it's staggering that we thought a lot of that was normal.

But it was an institution coming to grips with how do you deal with mental health. And what I would say about the effort overall is, is that mental health is an American issue, it's not just a military issue. A lot of our mental health problems, a lot of the trauma relates to things not directly related to combat or military service. And so the military knows it's in a very unique place and has to work especially hard, given what happens to soldiers in combat, but all of this as Americans need to work together to figure out how we better deal with the mental health crisis that's gripping us.

BALDWIN: Totally. I just sat down with a bunch of Columbine survivors talking mental health, Parkland survivors talking mental health, right? It's important to talk about it and get it out there and do something about it for all of us. Jason Dempsey, I appreciate your voice in all of this and thank you so much. DEMPSEY: Thank you. Happy Memorial Day.

BALDWIN: Thank you. Same to you.

We are following breaking news on Mount Everest, where we have just learned that a second American has died after reaching the much- overcrowded summit. We have details on why this has been such a deadly hiking season.


BALDWIN: Breaking news. Israel has just conducted an air strike inside Syria. The Israeli defense force says it struck an anti- aircraft system hours after that system fired at an Israeli jet. CNN's Oren Liebermann is with me live from Jerusalem. Oren, what do you know?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, this is all unfolding in the last 90 minutes or so. Israel says it struck what it called an anti-aircraft system, essentially, an anti-aircraft gun. After earlier in the day, that [16:00:00] same anti-aircraft system fired at an Israeli jet the military says was conducting a routine exercise in northern Israel. Israel then targeted that anti-aircraft gun after it launched a shell at the Israeli aircraft. The shell itself remained in Syria. It didn't cross over into Israel. The military says it sees any aggression against its aircraft as very severe and will respond accordingly.

Meanwhile, the Syrian state-run SANA news agency says one Syrian soldier was killed and another injured in that Israeli strike. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement a short time after this events unfolded, and said, our policy is clear, we're not ready to stand for any aggression against us and we will respond with strength and firmness.

Brooke, to the question of, will this lead to an escalation between Israel and Syria? Something we've become all too familiar with, well it's worth pointing out the border between Israel and Syria has been quiet essentially for months now and it seems it's in both country's interests and in the Russian's interests, when they moderate between Israel and Syria to keep a lid on this and to keep a lid on this quickly.

BALDWIN: We will stay in close contact with you as the story will develop today. Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem. Oren, thank you very much.

And thank you for being with me on this Memorial Day Monday. I'm Brooke Baldwin. "THE LEAD" starts right now.