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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

President Bush's Popularity Crumbling; Sago Mine Reopens; Carlie Brucia's Killer Sentenced to Death; Interview With Carlie Brucia's Grandmother; Sago Mine Reopens; A Man Opens Fire in a Californial Denny's

Aired March 15, 2006 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It is safe to say, this is not the kind of week that President Bush dreamed of three years ago, when U.S. troops were preparing to invade Iraq. The war was supposed to be quick and easy. Remember that? Instead, three years later, it is still being fought. And Mr. Bush's popularity is crumbling.
All the angles tonight, including this grim number: 33 percent, the lowest approval rating ever for Mr. Bush -- it comes from a new poll by the Pew Research Center. And we will tell you more about it ahead.

Another number to note: 700 -- that's about how many extra U.S. troops the military is sending to Iraq from Kuwait to help deal with the escalating violence. It's the first time extra troops have been sent in since December's parliamentary election.

And one more number: 2,312 -- that's the number of our brave American service members killed in the war so far. As we talk about politics and poll numbers tonight, let's remember, real American lives are at stake.

We begin the president's falling popularity and what some friends of this White House hope to do about it.

Here's CNN's Dana Bash.


DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They are at work before dawn and there late into the night. And weekends -- what weekends? Andy Card sets the pace. He has been the president's right-hand man for 1,880 takes, White House days.


BASH: Bradley Patterson worked for three presidents and wrote a book on the White House staff.

PATTERSON: And you're always pushed and challenged and squeezed by this sense of deadlines. It is a stressful place. So, it tends to be wearing. And -- and people sometimes burn out.

BASH: Yet, many of this president's inner circle were there on day one and are blamed now, at least in part, for a series of stumbles, from the Katrina response to not knowing their own administration had OKed an Arab company taking control of U.S. ports. Two presidents brought David Gergen in as part of big shakeups.

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: The time-test method of try trying to fix things is to bring in an outsider.

BASH: Mr. Bush has heard, and ignored, this talk before. But, this time, it's friends and confidants urging him to bring in one or two seasoned hands to help with frayed congressional relations and other political troubleshooting.

Thanks, but no thanks, is the White House line. Senior officials tell CNN, they -- and, more importantly, the president himself -- don't think changing personnel will solve their problems.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is part of the inside-Washington babble that goes on in this town. It's part of the parlor game.

BASH: David Gergen says outsiders can help, but only if the boss truly wants change.

GERGEN: He almost is resolute in saying, because you're saying it so loudly, I'm not going to do it. It makes no sense to bring a graybeard in, unless the president really wants that individual by his side.

BASH: Loyalty has always been a Bush trademark. And this team has been through a lot, two grueling campaigns, 9/11, two wars and more.

The president's father was known for loyalty, too. Ironically, it was a young George W. Bush who pushed to have John Sununu fired as White House chief of staff. He later built his teams based on the lessons he took from his father's struggles.

GERGEN: There is a view: Let's bull it out. Let's go -- you know, keep going straight down this course. And, one day, people will look back and say, we're Harry Truman. Even though we may go out of office with low approval ratings, they will come back and say, well, because he was resolute, because he was stubborn, he hung in there. It worked out. That's a big, big gamble.


COOPER: Dana, does anyone really think the president's political challenges are something that one or two grizzled veterans can fix?

BASH: No, they don't.

They think, the people pushing this thing, it would be good for a first step. But I talked to one Republican strategist, Anderson, who said anyone who thinks that just some change in the senior staff could really change the poll numbers that you described at the beginning of the show is kidding themselves. But the bottom line here is, the person who matters most in this equation, namely the president, simply, it appears, doesn't want this to happen. Senior officials say that he feels that they just need some more time to get over some very real missteps, and just to keep talking about the things, Anderson, that Americans are most concerned about, namely Iraq. We're going to keep hearing the president talking about that.

COOPER: Dana Bash, thanks.

Joining us now from Boston is David Gergen. You just heard him in Dana's piece. And, as she reported, he has been part of two White House shakeups. He has also been an adviser to four presidents. He's now a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

David, good to have you on.


COOPER: You know, every politician I have ever heard says they don't pay attention to polls. Is that a lie?


DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Every politician who says that is lying.

COOPER: OK, just -- just to get that out of the way.

Now, the Pew poll also showed -- beside this 33 percent rating, the Pew poll showed that Bush's support among Republicans is down from 89 percent in January 2005 to 73 percent now. Seventy-three percent is still a -- a strong Republican support, isn't it?

GERGEN: It is, indeed.

And I think that's the one thing holding the president up. I -- I -- if I were in the White House, I would be more concerned about the independent, who have dropped some 20 points over the last 18 months.

Those are the people who have really been critical to -- for the president to -- to -- to expand him beyond his base, to get him up over 50 percent. And, with their sharp declines in the last 18 months or so, that's -- the -- the Democrats have always been low. So, when the independents start fleeing, that's when you really have trouble governing, because they're the swing vote in so many different states, and why so many Republican candidates are worried about 2006, even 2008, unless the president does rebuild his political fortunes.

COOPER: And -- and do you -- I mean, you said it in Dana's piece -- do you -- do you really think that this president is already kind of thinking about, all right, well, it -- it's fine if I leave office with low poll numbers; history will prove that I'm -- I'm a Harry Truman?

GERGEN: One is struck, Anderson, by the fact that, over the last few months, as this pressure has come from the outside to shake up his staff, change his policies, which are just as important as changing personnel, how much resistance there has been and how many times one hears from the White House now, remember Harry Truman; he went out there; he was in the low 20s when he -- in -- in his popularity. He couldn't even run for president again back in 1952, but, today, we -- he's up in the pantheon of great heroes.

So, they're banking on that. But I have to tell you, that's a big gamble, not just for the president, but for the country. It's -- it -- what he -- he's not able to govern right now and make the tough decisions. We talked about this last night. Whether it's on Iraq or Iran, he's going to have a hard time bringing the country with him.

COOPER: It does seem, also, like part of the problem is a growing lack of -- of credibility. I mean, this administration makes statements about Iraq that seem to directly contradict facts on the ground. The president says Iran is making IEDs. Rumsfeld says, Iranian Revolutionary Guard are there. Then, General Pace comes out and says he has no proof of a direct Iranian connection.

GERGEN: This backing-and-forthing is -- is causing a credibility gap.

But, you know, the -- again, going back to the Pew poll that just came out today, it is extremely disturbing, from the White House point of view, that he -- there has been such an erosion in the number of people who think of -- think of George W. Bush as honest.

That was always his strong card. Whatever else you thought about his policies, he was a straight shooter. And to now see people thinking, he has misled us, misled us into war, he's misleading us on other issues, that is very, very tough to rebuild. That's what snapped with Ronald Reagan over Iran-Contra. And that's why he shook up his White House in such a substantial way, and really changed directions, and rebuilt.

It took a while. But, when you lose your credibility, when you lose a sense that people think you're honest, that goes right to the heart of what leadership is about. And that is, if people don't think they're honest -- you're honest, then, they're not going to -- it's very hard to persuade them to follow you.

COOPER: There have been plenty of Democrats, though, who have not thought this president is honest from -- from, you know, ever since the WMD...

GERGEN: That's right.

COOPER: ... debate.

COOPER: But -- but -- but I'm talking -- I assume you're talking about independents. You're talking about people who previously did think he was honest.

GERGEN: Right. Yes, talking about the overall national average, which, just as the independents have been walking way from him in their approval ratings, they have been walking away in thinking, in terms of whether they think he has been straightforward with them.

I think that the secrecy of the administration is coming back to haunt them, the sense that they have hidden the ball too many times. One isn't quite sure what to believe. And, by the way, people are not sure what to believe from the press, either.

The press doesn't fare very well in these kinds of polls either. So, they're -- we're in a situation today, unfortunately, Anderson, when we have big, tough problems facing the country, and the public, increasingly, doesn't know what to believe or whom to believe.

And that leaves us adrift as a country and facing these very tough issues in Iraq, Iran, and well beyond.

COOPER: I found it fascinating in Dana's piece -- and -- and I had not remembered this -- that it -- it was this president who, when he was, you know, counseling his dad, when his dad was president, to fire -- he was counseling him to fire John Sununu. And, yet, this president seems very loathe to fire people and slow to accept -- accept change.

How have -- have staff turnovers in past administrations worked? I mean, is it usually the president saying, you know what, folks, you have got to go, or is it a chief of staff culling the herd?

GERGEN: Well, there's always somebody.

You know, Richard Nixon used to quote a British prime minister of the fact that either -- either the prime minister or someone close to him has to be a good butcher. Someone has to make those tough calls. And presidents are sometimes reluctant to do that.

Eisenhower was reluctant. Reagan -- Reagan was reluctant. And, in Eisenhower'S case, he had Richard Nixon do it sometimes. In Reagan's case, Nancy Reagan was the one who give the thumbs-up or thumbs-down. If you got the thumbs-down from Nancy Reagan, as Don Regan did, her -- his chief of staff, were gone shortly thereafter.

COOPER: Fascinating.

David Gergen, thanks.


COOPER: Always good to talk to you.

GERGEN: Thank you.

COOPER: Supporters of the president will say that all this focus on low poll numbers is just liberals' wishful thinking.

So, here's some perspective. We wanted to see how the president's current poll numbers compare to other presidents' low numbers, and how their past may speak to this president's future.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I got ample capital, and I'm using it to spread freedom and to protect the American people.


COOPER (voice-over): But the president may have spread himself too thin. You heard the numbers. Here's the price.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: These numbers are very bad for President Bush. It means he could be, prematurely, a lame duck. We are already seeing signs of that. When your numbers go down like this, it means you lose clout. Your own party doesn't do what you want.

COOPER: If history is any indication, a political sea change may be ahead for the nation. Back in 1952, Harry Truman had the lowest approval rating ever for a president, just 22 percent. And the voters weren't ready for another Democrat in the White House. America liked Ike.

SCHNEIDER: What happened? He decided he didn't run -- want to run for reelection. And he didn't. Communism, Korea, corruption, all of those issues did him in.

COOPER: During the Watergate scandal, support for Nixon dropped to 24 percent. We know what happened to him.


RICHARD NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I shall resign the presidency, effective at noon tomorrow.


COOPER: Double-digit inflation, coupled with the energy crisis, brought Jimmy Carter down to a 28 percent approval rating in June of 1979.

The man who succeeded him, one of the most popular presidents of all time, actually hit bottom in 1983. That's when only 35 percent of Americans approved of Ronald Reagan's performance. Reagan turned it around. And how he did it may be the one shining light for the Republicans.

SCHNEIDER: The economy came roaring back for Ronald Reagan. By 1984, it was morning in America. And he got handsomely reelected.

COOPER: And, remember, the first President Bush had the highest approval rating of all time. But, by 1992, it fell to just 29 percent, giving the Democrats the White House for the next eight years.


COOPER: Well, weeks like this past one in Iraq haven't been helping President Bush. This was the scene in Ramadi, where fighting between U.S. troops and insurgents has been fierce over the past two days.

Ramadi, of course, is a stronghold for Sunni insurgents, just one of many hot spots in Iraq. Now, this war, as we have heard so many times, has no front lines, which brings us to the terrible toll it is taking on those who aren't fighting for any side.

Many of them are too young to even really understand the war. And we want to warn you, some of the video you're about to see is hard to watch, painfully hard, but it is a reality.

Here's CNN's Arwa Damon.


ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are the hardest images to see, children caught in the middle of the daily complexities of war in Iraq.

It started out as a straightforward mission, to rout out foreign fighters. But military success came at a terrible human price. U.S. forces, acting on intelligence, raided a farmhouse north of Balad, looking for a suspected insurgent linked to al Qaeda in Iraq. After coming under fire, they captured their intended target.

But, in a battlefield with no clear front lines, it's the unintended consequences that are the most devastating. Innocence paid the price this day, crushed under the rubble of the full force of this military operation.

Iraqi police say four women and five children, one a 6-month-old baby, were killed, families forever changed in an instant, troops left haunted by the images of their mission on a day, for them, that began as any other -- the cost of war not always paid by combatants.

(on camera): In Iraq, as so often is the case, civilians pay the ultimate price of this war. The casualties in Balad will now be added to an ever-growing list of civilians killed here. The events in a remote farmhouse northeast of the capital are a vivid reminder of the realities faced by all.

And, as anarchy and confusion continue, the line between combatant and civilian becomes even more unclear.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Baghdad.


COOPER: A dramatic day in a Florida courtroom -- coming up, the little -- the little girl whose kidnapping was caught on tape. Her killer begged for his life. Today, the man who murdered Carlie Brucia learned his fate. And we will ask Carlie's grandmother if her -- his fate is enough.

Also, a quiet town, until today -- why did a man open fire at the local Denny's, and then shoot himself? -- new details from the crime scene.

And the Sago Mine reopens. What's different now? Is it really safe? And what do the miners have to say about it? We're "Keeping Them Honest."

From West Virginia, New York, and around the world, you're watching 360.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I only listen two shot -- shooting?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's it. And somebody say, what happened? And the other people say, run, run. That's it.


COOPER: It was the sort of scene you expect to see on the late news, not in front of your eyes, in a town that hasn't had a murder in 13 years.

The town is Pismo Beach, California, the place, a Denny's restaurant, the killer, a lone gunman.

Our correspondent tonight, CNN's Dan Simon, joins us with the latest -- Dan.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, this appears to be one of those bizarre and senseless acts of violence.

Police tell us that, at around noontime today, a gunman walked into this Denny's casually, calmly, and just started shooting at people. He killed two customers and wounded another two. Then, he turned the gun on himself.

Police say there's no apparent motive for the shooting. He has been identified as 60-year-old Lawrence Woods. He has been described as a transient, somebody who is living in his car. And authorities tell us he does have a criminal record, but they would not elaborate.

Now, the entire incident was captured on surveillance video. Police say that video is very graphic. And, once again, it shows Mr. Woods very casually just shooting indiscriminately at customers.

Among the deceased, two elderly people, one 65, the other 73, two people trying to have a nice lunch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE CORTEZ, PISMO BEACH, CALIFORNIA, POLICE CHIEF: And, right now, it just looks like a -- like a random act of violence. We thought that the videotape may shed some light on why he picked this Denny's, why he picked those people. It doesn't. It just appears that he walked through and calmly started shooting in every direction.


SIMON: And, obviously, there was pandemonium in the restaurant.

Authorities tell us that, once those shots started, all the customers basically hit the exits. And, because of that, many lives were probably saved.

Now, for its part, Denny's put out a statement. It says -- quote -- "We are shocked and saddened by this tragic incident. This appears to be a random act of violence. We are cooperating with the police." It goes on to say: "Our primary concern at the moment is the welfare of the victims, their families, and our employees. We will continue to support them in every way we can."

Now, Anderson, we also told you about those two other people who were wounded here. Police tell us that they're doing just fine. They were actually released from the hospital. They're a married couple. And, thank goodness, they're doing OK tonight -- back to you.

COOPER: Dan Simon, thanks very much.

Sentencing today for a man who killed little Carlie Brucia -- the abduction, of course, was all caught on tape. We will have that in a moment.

First to Erica Hill with some of the other stories we are following tonight -- Erica.


U.S. and Canadian authorities have broken up an international child pornography network -- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales saying the images transmitted online by this group are -- quote -- "the worst imaginable forms of child pornography."

One case involved the abuse of a child less than 18 months old -- 27 people from nine states, Canada, Australia, and Great Britain, have been charged so far. All but one have been arrested.

Meantime, in Culver City, California, a teacher killed and seven students injured when a car steered onto a sidewalk -- police say the driver of the car was in an apparent argument with the passenger, and the passenger may have grabbed the wheel, causing the vehicle to steer out of control.

In Louisville, Kentucky, a middle school teacher is fired after allegedly biting a student. Listen to this one. Caroline Kolb has pleaded not guilty to charges of fourth-degree aggravated assault. The student's mother says the teacher bit her son in January, after he disobeyed her order to spit out some candy.

And a familiar face winning the world's premier dogsled race. Today, veteran musher Jeff King finished first in the 1,100-mile Iditarod. It is his fourth win. And it puts him in an elite group of competitors. King needs just one more victory to tie the record for wins.

I love the Iditarod.

COOPER: I know. We should check it out some year.

HILL: All right.

COOPER: We will go up together.

HILL: We will go next year.

COOPER: All right.


COOPER: It's a date.

Employees have returned to the Sago Mine two-and-a-half months after 12 men were killed there. The question is, there -- well, there are still a lot of questions, frankly, about what caused the tragedy. The investigation is not complete, and, already, there are complaints over how it's being handled. Tonight, we're "Keeping Them Honest."

Plus, the killer of Carlie Brucia learns his fate. Today was sentencing day for the child killer. Was his life spared, or will he die for murdering the 11-year-old? And we will talk to Carlie's grandmother ahead -- when 360 continues.


COOPER: Tonight, justice for Carlie -- the man who kidnapped and murdered the 11-year-old girl learns his fate. Hear what Carlie's grandmother thinks about it -- 360 next.



JUDGE ANDREW OWENS, 12TH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT COURT OF FLORIDA: It is further ordered that the defendant be transported to the Department of Corrections to be held on death row, until this sentence can be executed, as provided by law.

Mr. Smith, you are notified that this sentence is subject to automatic review by the Supreme Court.

May God have mercy on your soul. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The killer learned his fate today. He begged for his life. He cried for forgiveness, but there will be no mercy for the man who murdered 11-year-old Carlie Brucia.

Today, as you heard, a Florida judge said Joseph Smith could have stopped himself from strangling the girl, but he chose not to. And, for that, as you just heard, the sentence is death.

CNN's John Zarrella was there.



JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Joseph Smith stood motionless, expressionless, as Judge Andrew Owens sentenced him to die.

OWENS: Joseph Smith, based upon your actions, you have forfeited your right to live freely among us in society, and, pursuant to the laws of Florida, have forfeited your right to live.

Accordingly, it is hereby ordered and adjudged that, for the murder of Carlie Jane Brucia, you are hereby sentenced to death.

ZARRELLA: Smith nodded only slightly. Outside the courtroom, Carlie's stepfather said his closure will come when Smith dies.

STEVE KANSLER, STEP-FATHER OF CARLIE BRUCIA: I have wanted the death penalty from the beginning, because I want to watch him die.

QUESTION: Do you plan on being there (OFF-MIKE)

KANSLER: Front row and center.

ZARRELLA: Two years ago, on February 1, Smith kidnapped the 11- year-old girl as she walked home from a sleepover at a friend's house. Four days later, her body was found on the grounds of a church. Carlie Brucia's abduction was captured on a surveillance camera at a car wash.

The grainy 10 seconds of video led to Smith's arrest and was pivotal evidence at his trial last November. Upon his conviction, the jury recommended, 10-2, that Smith die. During this sentencing hearing, the judge laid out, in oftentimes painful detail, the ordeal the little girl suffered before she died.

OWENS: Carlie's death was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel. Her death was conscienceless and pitiless, and, undoubtedly, unnecessarily torturous.

ZARRELLA: Throughout the proceeding, as Judge Owens detailed how Joseph Smith strangled Carlie Brucia, Smith's mother wept. OWENS: He held Carlie's life in his hands, not for eight to 10 seconds, but for minutes. And, as each moment passed, he made a conscious choice to slowly and methodically deprive her body of the blood and air necessary to sustain life.

ZARRELLA: Police and prosecutors who lived with the case for 25 months said, this was the only outcome there could have been.

DEBRA JOHNES RIVA, FLORIDA ASSISTANT STATE ATTORNEY: Joseph Smith will not be in this community anymore.

ZARRELLA: Smith's attorney said the automatic appeal to the Florida Supreme Court will be filed immediately.

(on camera): Carlie's mother, Susan Schorpen, was not in court. Schorpen is in jail, awaiting trial on drug and prostitution charges. Her natural father was not here either. It was simply too painful for him, his sister said.


CARLIE BRUCIA, MURDER VICTIM: Hi. We're going camping today.


ZARRELLA (voice-over): For the Brucia family, Smith's death sentence does not bring peace.

LAURIE BRUCIA, AUNT OF CARLIE BRUCIA: And I have to say that I don't think you're ever happy. Happy would be having Carlie right beside me, and giving her a hug and a kiss, and watching her grow up, and celebrating her 13th birthday tomorrow, which will never happen.

ZARRELLA: The sheriff who led the investigation put it this way. "Carlie," he said, "is probably watching over us, trying to bring us all a little peace."

John Zarrella, CNN, Sarasota, Florida.


COOPER: Well, Andrea Brucia, who has waited a long time for this day to come, came in and spoke with me today. She is Carlie's grandmother. But what may surprise you is that she did not want Joseph Smith sentenced to death. Life imprisonment would have been just fine for her.

Andrea Brucia joined me earlier.


COOPER: You didn't really want him to get -- to get the death penalty.


COOPER: You -- life in prison was -- was satisfactory for you.

A. BRUCIA: Life in prison was satisfactory.

I have a lot of questions about the death penalty, especially in a capital case like this, because it goes immediately into the appeals process, which could go on for decades.

COOPER: I was watching her on television today and wondering, were -- were you watching it on television?

A. BRUCIA: Most of it, yes.

COOPER: I -- I can't imagine what that would be like.

A. BRUCIA: Well, the hardest part is listening to Judge Owens redescribe everything that happened to Carlie. We sat through the trial in November. It was hard enough at that time. And -- but then to hear it over and over again, we have -- we have heard it too many times.

COOPER: Do you -- when -- when you were there, I know you didn't even look at him.


COOPER: I guess you saw him on TV. Was that -- that must have been difficult.

A. BRUCIA: Well, I -- I mean, I saw glimpses of him in the jury room.

COOPER: Right.

A. BRUCIA: But I certainly never wanted to make eye contact with him.

COOPER: Because? Why? Just too painful?

A. BRUCIA: It's way too painful. This is the man who took my granddaughter's life. I don't want to look at him.

COOPER: I guess watching that videotape, too, is -- is too painful.

A. BRUCIA: The first time I saw it, and really maybe the first 10 times I saw it, I -- I would just scream at the television, just scream, "Run away, do something," because, really, Carlie was such a spunky girl.

And I -- I just -- I couldn't believe what happened. I -- I don't know what he said to her, but I would have to believe that he verbally threatened her in some way.

COOPER: And it was so quick. I mean...

A. BRUCIA: It was so quick. I mean, the tape runs 10 seconds, and she was gone.

COOPER: You have memorized it. I mean, you must have...


COOPER: You have seen it...

A. BRUCIA: I -- without a doubt, I have seen that tape 100 times, at least.

COOPER: You're hoping to change laws. You're hoping that -- because, in your case, you were not aware, nor -- and -- and your -- your son was not aware of -- of the difficulties that Carlie's mom was having with the law.

A. BRUCIA: Exactly, Anderson.

When -- after Carlie was murdered, a lot of facts started coming out about what was going on in Carlie's home. There were drug arrests. There were police calls to her house on several occasions. And we were unaware of it.

And Joe, of course, being her dad, should have been advised of this by someone. I've been working with our assemblyman, David McDonough (ph) on a law that would make sure that the non-custodial parent is notified of any police activity on the custodial parent's part.

COOPER: I always hate on a day like this when so much attention is put on -- on a monster and not on the victim. So what do you want people to know about Carlie?

BRUCIA: One special memory I have of her was out in Montach (ph). And Joe and my husband had built a beautiful bonfire. And Carlie was doing cartwheels along the beach, and then we started toasting marshmallows. And her face was just covered with marshmallow.

She was just precious. It's just a really special memory I have of her.

COOPER: Sometimes -- I lost a brother to suicide, and sometimes I find it hard to think about the way he lived his life as opposed to way he lost his life. Do you think about the way -- I mean, are you able to hold on to those memories of how Carlie lived her life?

BRUCIA: She was such a special, special little girl. And we really enjoyed the time that we had with her. And from now on we'll think of that. We'll always have her in our heart.

We want to forget about Joseph Smith and forget about today. And we don't want to waste any more time on him, but we want to keep Carlie with us forever.


COOPER: Well, coming up, the Sago Mine. It has reopened, but the question is, how safe is it really? Or any other mine, for that matter.

Tonight, we're keeping them honest. A look at what has and hasn't been done to protect miners since that tragedy two-and-a-half months ago.

And a familiar site on the streets of Los Angeles. A car chase today. We'll look at why these televised pursuits remain so popular in California.

All that and more ahead on 360.



SARA HAMNER, DAUGHTER OF DECEASED SAGO MINER: "I just want you and Sara to know I love you both and always have. Be strong, and I hope no one else has to show you this note. I'm in no pain but don't know how long the air will last. Tell everyone I'm thinking of them, especially Billy (ph), Marian (ph), Will (ph), Bill (ph) and Peg (ph). I love you all -- Junior Hamner, 1-02-06."


COOPER: Those were the final words of George Junior Hamner read by his daughter. They were written as Hamner and 11 other miners succumbed to the poisonous gases inside West Virginia's Sago Mine more than two months ago.

Today, for the first time since that tragedy, the mine reopened. And most miners have been anxious toe get back. Some just for the work, others to see the spot where their friends and co-workers died and come to terms with what happened there.

Meanwhile, there are still many questions as to what caused the accident.

We begin tonight with CNN's Joe Johns.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): An awful way to start the new year. An explosion at the time of an intense lightning storm leaves 13 miners trapped.

Then, after a 40-hour vigil, a night of terrible confusion. The families of the trapped miners hear of a garbled message, a miracle underground, they're alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They just came out of the mine and said, "We've got 12 alive." It's good news.

JOHNS: Church bells ring, ambulances come, but only one miner, Randal McCloy, is taken to the emergency room.

Hours later, the terrible truth. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's only one -- there's only one that made it out alive. And I think the name was Randal Ware (sic). The governor is in there and this big in charge CEO of the mine is apologizing.

JOHNS: It was a lesson for everyone of the severe consequences of jumping to premature conclusions.

The mine reopened today. Back to business.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything looks real good.

JOHNS: And in the local newspaper, a headline that seemed to explain what caused the disaster based on so-called initial findings from International Coal Group, the company that operates the mine. Remember, the state and federal investigations are not yet complete. Still, ICG said, "The explosion was ignited by lightning and fueled by methane that naturally accumulated in an abandoned area of the mine that had been recently sealed."

Closure? Not quite. The man leading the state investigation into the disaster says the company may have jumped the gun.

DAVITT MCATEER, LEAD STATE INVESTIGATOR: The fact that that happened, that we had an erroneous report during the attempted rescue and recovery, and for another report now to come out to be premature, to be -- to lack thoroughness, to lack completeness, and to be used as a conclusion is just terribly ironic and terribly unfortunate.

JOHNS: McAteer says while it's possible lightning caused the explosion, he has no grounds to make that conclusion because his accident reconstruction team hasn't gotten that far. The families aren't necessarily buying into the company's initial findings either.

Peggy Cohen's father, Fred Ware, died in the mine. She and families of other Sago Miners got briefings from ICG officials Tuesday.

PEGGY COHEN, DAUGHTER OF DECEASED MINER: I'm kind of disappointed and still kind of in disbelief that -- I just don't want to believe the lightning theory. I think there's more to it.

JOHNS: And why would ICG publicly announce the cause is lightning when investigators haven't gotten that far?

TONY OPPEGARD, FORMER MSHA OFFICIAL: Frankly, as a P.R. move, it's a wise thing for them to do, to sort of hit the first strike. But, you know, the fact is that ICG has been saying since the day of the explosion that it was caused by lightning. I think they had a predetermined theory and they're going to make the facts fit that theory.

JOHNS: We asked to speak to an ICG official today, but the company declined. ICG said it conducted an independent investigation with a team of consultants and said it released the initial findings so that families and Sago miners could get prompt information on what they've learned. Peggy Cohen said she appreciates the speed but she still wants the facts.

COHEN: We just want answers. We want the truth.

JOHNS: Joe Johns, CNN, Sago, West Virginia.


COOPER: All right. So miners are going back to Sago, but we want to know, has safety really improved in the country's mines? The government says a lot has been changed, others disagree.

Who can you believe? Tonight we're keeping them honest.

Plus, a promising young Marine dies during a water training exercise. Could his death have been prevented? We'll take a look at that when 360 continues.


COOPER: Nearly all 145 employees at the Sago Mine went back to work there today, putting aside any concerns they may have about safety. We hear that many of them feel they'll now be working in the safest mine in West Virginia.

Sago might be safer now -- might -- it remains to be seen, really. But since the tragedy, how much have conditions improved in that or other mines around the country? That's what we wanted to look at tonight. It really all depends on who you ask.

Keeping them honest for us tonight is CNN's Tom Foreman.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Ask the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, MSHA, what has changed since Sago and it will say plenty. Ask the miners union and it will say something else.

CECIL ROBERTS, UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA: We have said to coal miners in this country, well, if you get trapped, you're just going to die.

FOREMAN: First consider MSHA's position. Since Sago, MSHA has issued emergency requirements for twice as much oxygen in every mine for anyone who might be trapped, a two-hour supply; more emergency training; explosions must now be reported within 15 minutes so rescues can start more quickly; and rope lifelines must be installed to be followed to safety even through heavy smoke. In addition, MSHA is researching better technology for communicating with, locating and rescuing trapped miners.

Mining companies, which have made huge strides in safety in recent decades are all for it. KRAIG NAASZ, NATIONAL MINING ASSOCIATION: There is technology, but the challenge that we have is adapting the technology that exists to the unique conditions in underground coal mines so that they're reliable.

FOREMAN: But critics, including union leaders, say many safety needs could be met right now with no more study. They say extensive oxygen supplies should be placed within all underground mines. After all, MSHA's own records show in hundreds of mines even a two-hour supply is not nearly enough for survival.

The union wants improved communication systems installed immediately. It wants rescue teams on duty at every mine all the time, not hours away like they were at Sago. Most of all, the union says it wants the coal companies to not wait for more research, more government guidance, more accidents.

ROBERTS: If a company can't afford a canister of oxygen to allow their coal miners to survive, that coal company shouldn't be operating in the United States of America.

FOREMAN (on camera): And since Sago, nothing has been done that changes your mind about that?

ROBERTS: At this point in time, no.

FOREMAN (voice over): On Capitol Hill, there is talk of urgency, especially from those who represent coal country.

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: We could have more deaths in the mines any day. It is a critical piece of our infrastructure that we dare not continue to ignore.

FOREMAN: What is not at all clear yet is what action will follow that talk and what the legacy of Sago will be.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Well, we'll keep watching. And we're keeping them honest.

So, don't you hate it when you're at the movies and somebody whips out a cell phone and starts yammering away? Well, now movie theater owners have a high-tech plan. You can call it the ultimate weapon against the ring tone.

We'll have the details ahead.

And for families of anorexics, fear without end. What happens when this devastating, harrowing illness persists but their health insurance does not?

We're keeping them honest on that tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: A deadly shooting shatters a small town. That story is coming up.

But first, Erica Hill from HEADLINE NEWS has some of the business stories we're following tonight.


COOPER: Coming up later on 360, why car chases keep going and going and going, and why we can't stop watching and why they will never stop being televised in California on local news.

But first, a look at someone not on the run but on the rise with an unlikely idea, I should say, bike riding in the great indoors.


RAY PETRO, OWNER, RAY'S INDOOR MOUNTAIN BIKE PARK: My name is Ray Petro and I started Ray's Indoor Mountain Bike Park in Cleveland, Ohio. And it's the world's only indoor mountain biking venue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice over): Housed in an old converted warehouse, Petro opened his park in 2004, attracting biking enthusiasts from beginners to experts.

HANS REY, MOUNTAIN BIKER: You ask me why I come here from southern California. We have great weather there, but we don't have a skills area like this.

PETRO: I was out of shape and I was like, I got to do something. So I bought a mountain bike. And the smell of the trees, getting my heart racing, it just became this addiction.

When fall came and the trails got all muddy, I got really bummed out. And that was when the whole idea started.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The remodeling contractor cashed in his life savings and turned his dream into a reality.

PETRO: I wasn't afraid of being broke. Something just said I had to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Petro's risky venture paid off. He built it and they came.

PETRO: Since the beginning of the season in October, we've probably seen about 5,000 visitors. We have almost doubled our sales over our first season so far this year.


COOPER: Well, we want to thank our international viewers for watching.

Ahead on 360, in Florida, the killer of young Carlie Brucia learns his fate in court. And a widow speaks for the first time. The wife of the Marine who drowned during a training exercise talked to CNN about her life now and the state of the investigation into her husband's death.

360 continues.


COOPER: Good evening again.

He went in with both guns blazing. And that's not a figure of speech. He came out a corpse, but not before causing a bloodbath.

That's the what. The question now is, why?


ANNOUNCER: Restaurant rampage in California as a gunman opens fire at a Denny's and leaves three dead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The subject just came into the restaurant and started shooting.

ANNOUNCER: 360's live on the scene of the deadly shooting.

A Marine with dreams of being a drill sergeant drowns in a training exercise. Was it an accident or something else? Tonight his widow speaks out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you believe that the Marines killed your husband?


ANNOUNCER: And, her senseless abduction caught on tape and her (INAUDIBLE) began. Today, justice for Carlie Brucia as her killer receives his sentence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: May god have mercy on your soul.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, in an exclusive interview, Carlie Brucia's grandmother speaks out.


ANNOUNCER: From across the U.S. and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.

Live from the CNN studios in New York, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: And good evening again.

We begin the hour in a small, friendly town known for ocean views, monarch butterflies and the clam festival they hold once a year. Tonight, the central California town of Pismo Beach is known for something else, something that wherever it happens, whenever it happens never loses the power to shock or make you ask why.

In this case, why did someone go into a local restaurant, open fire and then take his own life?

CNN's Dan Simon is there. He joins us now with the latest -- Dan.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it's unknown what caused the shooter to go on this rampage, and we may never know because he took his own life.

Authorities tell us that at around noontime, at the height of lunch hour, 60-year-old Lawrence Woods came into this Denny's calmly and then just started shooting at customers. He killed two customers, two elderly males, a 65-year-old man and a 73-year-old man, and he also wounded a married couple. They were released from the hospital earlier tonight.

Investigators tell us the entire incident was captured on surveillance video and that it's a very good quality.

Now, we do have a little information about the perpetrator, 60-year- old Lawrence Woods. We're told that he's a transient, somebody who was living in his car. We're told that he also has a criminal record, but officials would not elaborate about that record.

And we're also hearing that when he walked into the restaurant, he mumbled something, something about finances. But at this point, it's really vague in terms of what caused Mr. Woods to go on this rampage -- Anderson.

COOPER: Dan Simon reporting for us tonight.

Thanks very much, Dan.

Dan is reporting from outside the Denny's where this occurred several hours ago this afternoon.

Joining us now is also Joe Cortez. He's the chief of the Pismo Beach Police Department.

Chief, we appreciate you coming in at the end of what must have been a very trying day for you.

Do you know at this point what the motive for this shooting is?

CHIEF JOE CORTEZ, PISMO BEACH POLICE DEPT.: No, Anderson, it's absolutely bizarre. This gentleman is not known to anybody in Pismo Beach. And we're a small town of 8,500.

Our officers do a good job of knowing who the people are in town, including the transients. We have no background information on this individual. He just -- he just appeared in town, showed up, started shooting. The entire act happened within 45 seconds.

COOPER: Dan Simon was saying he's been living in his car. Do you know how long he's been living in his car? And was his car -- I mean, was he living in Pismo in his car?