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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Witness in Trayvon Martin Case Speaks Out; Marriage Group Under Fire

Aired March 29, 2012 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. It's 10:00 p.m. here on the East Coast.

And we begin tonight with breaking news in the Trayvon Martin killing. A 360 exclusive you won't see anywhere else, a new eyewitness to the shooting itself, an eyewitness we have not heard from before, what this witness saw and has told police that terrible night now more than a month ago when George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin after pursuing him through a Sanford, Florida, gated community.

Tonight's other big development, new angles and more video of George Zimmerman arriving at Sanford police headquarters on that night. The time, 7:52, 35 minutes after police first got to the scene, and we have since learned it's about a 10-15 minute drive from the scene to the station. That means that George Zimmerman may have only remained at the shooting site for about 20 minutes or less, being treated, police say, for injuries to his nose and scalp.

This is a second angle captured by police surveillance cameras of his arrival. In it, in the original view, you see Zimmerman, hands cuffed behind his back, getting out of the patrol car. As some have pointed out, he needed no assistance and doesn't appear to be moving like an injured or a traumatized man. Police don't appear to wearing gloves that they might be wearing if he had a large amount of blood on him.

On the other hand, some have launched on to this moment as a patrolman touches Zimmerman's jacket, looks down at his own hand and wipes something off it on his pants. Was it blood, dirt, something else? Like in so much of this story, there's no way of knowing at this point. Then there's the moment when an officer checks the back of Zimmerman's head. Remember Zimmerman told police that Trayvon Martin punched him in the face and then slammed his head, as Zimmerman's father says, on to the sidewalk, on to concrete.

Doesn't look like a serious injury, but is there some evidence of some kind of head injury? Perhaps. There's a moment caught from this new angle in which Zimmerman briefly leans against the wall before being taken to be questioned. Is it evidence he's woozy from his injuries, or just the picture of somebody resting briefly after being hunched over, handcuffed in the back of a car?

It's hard to say. What's especially hard to see in this tape is blood, either on Zimmerman's shirt or jacket and there appears to be none on his shirt. One of the officers on the scene reports that Zimmerman was bleeding from his nose and the back of his head and was treated on the scene by paramedics.

As we show you this new video that we have slowed down, of police leading Zimmerman through the corridors, trying to think a closer look at his clothes, his face, his head, decide for yourself what to make of it. What we don't yet know, did police photograph Zimmerman to document his injuries, or will this grainy video be the best and only visual evidence to support or refute his claims of self-defense?

What we do have tonight is a new set of eyes and a new voice. Only on this program tonight, someone who saw the shooting and the aftermath. We're not disclosing this person's identity and as you will hear, we have distorted the person's voice. We spoke earlier.


COOPER: Can you tell me what you saw and what you heard the night Trayvon Martin was killed?

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: Well, it would have been to starting with hearing voices, but not seeing, and then after the voices, opening a window and then seeing with -- two men or two people on the ground, one on top of each other.

COOPER: You say you heard voices. What made you pay attention to the voices? Were they loud? Were they argumentative? What kind of voices?


At first, I heard the voices with my window closed. And pretty much back in that area, people will walk their dogs. And you will hear people talking. And you can hear them very clearly, even when they're not talking loud. So I thought it was rather loud, but I had just shut my window, because it had just started pouring out rain.

And then and I thought, oh, my gosh, who's out there walking their dog in the rain? And I didn't look, and then I went in and did something else and then I heard the loud voices again. And I thought, let me see who that is, and I opened up my window with the screen, and yes, it definitely was a very loud, predominant voice.

As I kind of I couldn't hear the words, but it was like, OK, this is not a regular conversation. You know, this is someone aggressively, you know, yelling at someone.

COOPER: And how much time do you estimate had passed between the first time you heard the voices and the second time when you opened your window?

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: Well, I don't think it was that long, but I definitely would say that there was a gap of time, and the reason for that is because if they kept on arguing, I probably would have opened the window the first time.


COOPER: I'm sorry. You said you went and did something else. That didn't take a long time?

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: Not at all. But there was a time of not hearing the voices.

COOPER: After you opened your window, after hearing the voices the second time, what did you observe? What did you hear?

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: I saw two men on the ground, one on top of each other, obviously thinking, OK, something really horrible is happening.

And at that point, not looking out the window, I heard the yell for help, one yell for help, and then I heard another, as I described, this excruciating kind of yell. It didn't even almost sound like a help, it just sounded so painful.

But I wasn't watching out the window during that. And then the next time I looked out the window, there same thing, two men on the grass, one on top of each other. I kind of felt like that I couldn't see a lot of movement, because it was very dark, but I felt like they were scuffling. And then I heard the gunshots, which, to me, were more like pops than they were like a bang.

COOPER: You say gunshots, plural. Was there more than one, to your memory, or was there just one?

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: Well, the sound that I had from where I was walking, it was more like a pop, and it definitely was more than one pop noise. So I don't know if it was an echo or anything else, but it definitely made more than one pop.

COOPER: And I know you said it was dark. I don't want to ask you how far away you were, because I don't want to give any identifying sense of where you were, but were you able to observe who was on top, who was on bottom? Were you able to see faces or any details of the people scuffling?

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: No, just that it was dark.

I mean, the only reason I can say, if I was to have to say who do you think it was, I would have to say only the larger man, because after the larger man got off, then there was a boy that is obviously now dead on the ground, facing down.

COOPER: What did you observe after the shot?

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: As I said, it was dark. But after the shots, obviously, someone -- the one man got up, and it was kind of like that period of him -- I can't say I actually watched him get up, but maybe only within like a couple seconds or so, then he was walking towards where I was watching.

And I could see him a little bit clearer and see that it was a Hispanic man, and he was -- he didn't appear hurt or anything else. He just kind of seemed very -- I guess -- very worried or whatever, walked like on the sidewalk at that point, and put his hand up to his forehead. And then another man came out with a flashlight.

COOPER: And that would be a police officer?


COOPER: So there was another person with a flashlight.


COOPER: Do you know -- did you actually see the gunshot? Were you looking at -- were you looking at the struggle when the shot went off, or were you not looking at the struggle when the shot went off?

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: I was looking when the shot...

COOPER: So did the shot go off during a struggle?

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: I can't say if there was a lot of movement or not. I mean, the first time I looked, I could see the two men had kind of seemed like they were scuffling, but I couldn't see that clearly.

I wouldn't say it was a lot of movement when I heard the pop noises and the gunshots.

COOPER: Did you see a flash?


COOPER: Earlier, you had said it was two people on the ground, I believe, when you first saw what you described as two people on each other. When the shot went off, were both people on the ground as well?


COOPER: And one was still on top of the other?


COOPER: Did you see the person being shot? Did you see the person that you now know as Trayvon Martin being shot? Did you see him falling backward or anything?

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: Well, when you're looking, you can only see one person on top of each other. You can't really see the person underneath.

COOPER: So you -- so just so I'm clear, you believe the person who shot was on top? You believe the shooter was on top?

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: I can't really say, because it was just -- it was so dark, but, I mean, I'm just saying, in your head, you're thinking, when you see when all of this is now a couple seconds later, you see that person that's alive walk away, you know, you obviously think, OK, he must have got up and he walked away, where the other person is still laying there face down.

COOPER: But it's not clear to you whether he was on top and got up after shooting Trayvon Martin, or if he was on the bottom of the struggle and shot and Trayvon Martin fell or slid off him or he slid out from Trayvon Martin? You're not clear?

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: I did not see any of that, like, who slid.

Just kind of from watching as they're both down there and hearing, and watching the shots, and then, you know, there might have been sort of darkness, or the fading, because there were porch lights on. I will just say a little bit of that time, from the time he got up, which isn't very much time, probably a couple of seconds, you know, then I saw him walking, saw it was a Hispanic man.

I mean, I'm just saying, you only think, OK, the boy, in my mind, I think that the boy's laying down dead on the ground, face down. And the other person got up. You know, I'm thinking that it would be (INAUDIBLE) but I can't say for sure, because I didn't actually watch him get up.

COOPER: Was the -- you saw, essentially, two different struggles, you said. Or two different -- you saw one initially and then you saw a second one. Were they both in the exact same location?


COOPER: And was that location grass or was it sidewalk, was it concrete? Do you know?


COOPER: It was grass. Was there a sidewalk anywhere nearby here, concrete, or was this all on grass or ground?

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: Well, there's grass on both side let's as you know with a sidewalk down the middle. But they were definitely closer on the area where it was all grass.

COOPER: And to your memory, George Zimmerman, after the shooting, did he appear injured to you? Did you see any blood or did you see him walking differently?

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: Not that I know how he walks, just that, you know, it was kind of slow. You're thinking, wow, I'm looking at the person that just shot someone. It was dark, like I said. I could see from a side view that it was an Hispanic man.

And, no, as far as like me seeing any blood or anything else, no, just from a side view.

COOPER: I know this is very difficult for you to talk about, and I appreciate you taking the time to do that. Thank you. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Much more on this story at and more coming up in just a moment on what this tape, a police report, and all the rest have to say about what really happened the night George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin and what should happen now. We will get reaction from a Martin family attorney. Also we will talk to former police officer Lou Palumbo, along with our legal panel, Mark Geragos and Marcia Clark.

Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook, Google+. Follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper.


COOPER: Our breaking news tonight, an eyewitness coming forward, talking only to 360 who saw the shooting of Trayvon Martin and the aftermath.


COOPER: What did you observe after the shot?

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: As I said, it was dark. But after the shots, obviously, someone -- the one man got up, and it was kind of like that period of him -- I can't say I actually watched him get up, but maybe only within like a couple seconds or so, then he was walking towards where I was watching.

And I could see him a little bit clearer and see that it was a Hispanic man, and he was -- he didn't appear hurt or anything else. He just kind of seemed very -- I guess -- very worried or whatever, walked like on the sidewalk at that point, and put his hand up to his forehead. And then another man came out with a flashlight.


COOPER: Joining us now is police veteran Lou Palumbo, currently he's director of the private security firm Elite Group Limited, also Martin family attorney Daryl Parks, criminal defense attorney Mike Geragos, and former Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Marcia Clark.

Daryl Parks, I wonder as you listen to this new eyewitness' account of what happened, of what this person saw, what's your reaction? Does it answer any questions for you, raise any new questions for you?

DARYL PARKS, ATTORNEY FOR TRAYVON MARTIN'S FAMILY: It answers a lot of questions for me, Anderson.

It's very clear that this particular witness saw what happened, and in the early part of his statement, he clearly indicated that the person he saw on top was the gentleman who did the shooting. So it's rather clear that Mr. Zimmerman was the shooter. He saw him. Although he has some parts he doesn't recall quite as well, the first part of his statement that I see is that he saw Trayvon shot on this very unfortunate night.

The other part that really strikes out to me is he seems to not see any apparent injuries from this particular altercation that Mr. Zimmerman claims that he suffered. But, thirdly, although this is my first time hearing his statement, it seems very clear that Zimmerman's statement about Trayvon following him back to the truck is totally untrue, because from this witness' statement, all of the interaction happened in one particular area.

So I think Mr. Zimmerman is going to be arrested very, very soon.

COOPER: I should also just point out, we have altered this person's voice just at their request, because they don't want their identity known.

Mark Geragos, when you listen to this account, does it raise anything new for you?

MARK GERAGOS, ATTORNEY: Well, first of all, Anderson, I want to tell you it was a great direct examination by you. Kudos to you.

Second of all, this is precisely why prosecutors cringe. I bet you when you ask Marcia about this, this is -- or it should be a prosecutor's worst nightmare.

There is so much fodder in there now for the defense to talk about, if he is indeed arrested, if Zimmerman is arrested, for them to play around with now, I can't even tell you. You could spend 45 minutes with this witness and use it to your advantage if you're defending Zimmerman.

COOPER: Marcia, what about that?


The more we have witnesses being interviewed by non-police sources and interviewed under circumstances like this, the more opportunity there is to talk about inconsistencies, to get additional statements and to show the conflicts between them. This is a very, it seems to me, honest witness who is trying to tell you to the best of his ability what he saw, but any normal person is going to tell a story different ways at different times.

You don't say it the same way every time. A defense attorney will have a field day with that. However, it was not entirely clear to me, although I wanted it to be, that the person on top was the person who did the shooting. It may be very well so. That may be the case.

I think we're going to need to do a lot more investigation. I think the gunshot residue on the bodies and on the clothing will tell you a lot more about the angle of the shot, which will be critical to this investigation.

But the fact that George Zimmerman stood up, walked away with no apparent difficulty, no apparent bleeding seems to fly in the face of the indications in the police report that he was -- that he said his nose was broken, his head was beaten in. Yes, there may have been some minor injuries due to the scuffle, but what's being described by this witness indicates that it was no major struggle. Very likely the one who was crying for help was Trayvon. Very likely the one who was being pinned down was Trayvon.

And the fact that this witness said that Trayvon Martin was face down when George Zimmerman stood up is another indication that it was George Zimmerman who did the attacking and that it was a scuffle initiated by him and ended by him.

COOPER: We should also point out, Lou, that another eyewitness interviewed by other news organizations, local news, have -- said that that eyewitness, who's calling himself John or was referred to as John, says that he saw George Zimmerman yelling out for help.

But, again, Trayvon Martin's family insists that it's his voice on the tape calling out for help. What did you make of what this eyewitness said?

LOU PALUMBO, FORMER NEW YORK POLICE OFFICER: I have to agree with the first gentleman.

I think for Mr. Zimmerman, it's quite problematic at this point, because, A., I would like to see the autopsy report on this young man. I would like to hear what Zimmerman's accounting was when he discharged the weapon. Did he tell the police he was on the top or did he tell them he was on the bottom? If he was on the bottom, where did he shoot the kid? Was with it an abdominal hit?

Because that would be possibly consistent with bleeding from the mouth.

COOPER: There should be forensic evidence for all of this.


PALUMBO: And I kind of spoke to this yesterday. Where's the autopsy and where's the forensics on this? I want to know the distance when the shot was fired, the angle of entry, the positions of the body.

This is a lot of questions here, but I think that this punches some holes in Zimmerman's allegation that he was being beaten to the point where he felt that it was appropriate to use deadly physical force.

COOPER: The witness I talked to, Mr. Parks, said that this was occurring on grass, on ground, not on a sidewalk, so if somebody's head was being hit into the ground as Mr. Zimmerman indicated or his family has indicated, it wasn't on to a sidewalk, on to concrete, it was on to the grass or ground.

Mr. Parks, as you know, George Zimmerman's father gave an interview to WFOL in Orlando. And I want to play for our viewers some of what he says happened in the confrontation between his son and Trayvon Martin.


ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, FATHER OF GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: At that point, he was punched in the nose. His nose was broken. And he was knocked to the concrete.

Trayvon Martin got on top of him and just started beating him, in the face, in his nose, hitting his head on the concrete. After nearly a minute of being beaten, George was trying to get his head off the concrete, trying to move with Trayvon on him into the grass. In doing so, his firearm was shown. Trayvon Martin said something to the effect of you're going to die now or you're going to die tonight, something to that effect. He continued to beat George, and at some point George pulled his pistol and did what he did.

QUESTION: So you're saying that Trayvon Martin verbally threatened his life?



COOPER: Mr. Parks, it does seem to contradict what the witness we just talked to said, that the altercation took place in the grass. Whether that means the witness saw it at a later time or was simply wrong or Mr. Zimmerman was wrong, what do you make of what he said?

PARKS: Well, I think that he's clearly wrong.

Number one, the witness has clearly said that they were in the grassy area, both altercations happened in the grassy area. But also, though, the real problem is that Mr. Zimmerman's father says that all of this happened on the sidewalk. We now have pictures of Mr. Zimmerman walking into the police station, and you see no injuries that would have come from abrasions on a sidewalk.

So clearly he's wrong and this witness is right, because we don't see any injuries that would have come from a sidewalk had all of this great physical force happened on a sidewalk.

COOPER: Mark Geragos, do you put a lot of stock into these tapes now from the police station, where at least in those tapes, again, it's bad lighting, the camera angle isn't good, where you don't see blood on George Zimmerman?

GERAGOS: Only if he wasn't treated at the scene. If he was treated at the scene and they cleaned him up at the scene, no, then it's not going to matter one whit. Someone's going to do a timeline. They're going to try to determine what time the witness saw this person. Then they're going to say what time was this videotape played? And if in the 20 minutes in between, somebody cleaned him up, no, it doesn't matter whatsoever.

COOPER: Marcia Clark, a lot of people have e-mailed me saying the police doesn't seem to be wearing gloves when dealing with George Zimmerman. Would that surprise you if there was blood on him?


All police officers know nowadays with AIDS and with all the kinds of diseases that are transferred by blood, that any bleeding suspect or witness or victim, you have to glove up. You don't take any chances with that. I don't see how the police could have been handling him the way they were if he was as bloody as he should have been with a broken nose.

Anyone who's seen a broken nose is aware of the fact that the blood spurts. That leads to a lot of bleeding. You would have expected to see blood on the front of George Zimmerman's shirt. Head wounds by the way are known to bleed profusely. You would have expected to see blood in his shirt collar, blood in many more places.

And certainly the police officer is being more careful. Can I also say, Anderson, that the statement made by, I believe it was George Zimmerman's father that you just played, if that's correct, he says that when George Zimmerman pulled out the gun, then Trayvon Martin said, you're going to die tonight. Who says that? That makes no sense at all.

You're unarmed, someone else pulls a gun, and your first response is to tell him he's going to die. I don't think so. I'm going to say that that statement doesn't make a lot of sense logically and of course it does conflict with an eyewitness' statement who says it all happened on the grass.

COOPER: We have got to leave it there unfortunately just for time.

Lou Palumbo, appreciate it. Mark Geragos, as always, Marcia Clark, Daryl Parks as well.

"CNN PRESENTS" is going to present a special town hall, "Beyond Trayvon: Race and Justice in America," hosted by Soledad O'Brien. That's tomorrow night at 8:00 Eastern and then again tomorrow night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. I hope you join us for that.

Another story we're following, growing outrage over racially divisive tactics promoted by a group that opposes same-sex marriage. Just ahead, we will talk to former NAACP chairman Julian Bond who responds to the confidential strategy memos that call for driving a wedge between African-Americans and gay Americans.

We will be right back.


COOPER: A group that opposes same-sex marriage is undergoing fire after being forced to make public confidential strategy memos. Court officials in Maine ordered the National Organization For Marriage to disclose internal memos that outline the group's plans for fighting same-sex marriage initiatives. The documents do not mince words. One says -- quote -- "The strategic goal of the project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks, two key Democratic constituencies." Another memo says the group wants traditional marriage to become a -- quote -- "key badge of Latino identity."

The Human Rights Campaign, which was first to circulate the documents, condemn the tactics described in the memos as ethnically divisive. The head of the National Black Justice Organization also weighed in, saying, quote, "These documents expose NOM for what it really is, a hate group determined to use African-American faith leaders as pawns to push their damaging agenda and as mouthpieces to amplify that hatred."

The National Organization for Marriage is not backing down. This week it said it's proud of its, quote, "strong record on minority partnerships." It also said, quote, "Gay marriage advocates have attempted to portray same-sex marriage as a civil right. Gay marriage is not a civil right."

Julian Bond is former chairman of the NAACP. He's been a long time defender for equality for all Americans. He was a key figure in the civil rights movement. I talked to him about the memos.


COOPER: I want to read you from some of this internal memo from the National Organization for Marriage. They say, "The strategic goal of the project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks, two key Democratic constituencies."

They go on to say that they should recruit African-Americans to oppose gay marriage, to serve as spokespeople, and then provoke the gay marriage base into calling those spokespeople bigots, which would then drive a wedge. What do you make of this?

JULIAN BOND, FORMER CHAIRMAN, NAACP: It's the most -- one of the most cynical things I've ever heard of or seen spelled out in this way. Now the idea that these people are just pawns that can be played with, the black people who oppose gay marriage, and the black people who support gay marriage, just can be moved around like pieces on a chessboard, it's just scary.

COOPER: Scary?

BOND: Yes.

COOPER: They released a statement that said, quote, "Gay marriage advocates have attempted to portray same-sex marriage as a civil right. Gay marriage is not a civil right." You see the push for equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans as a civil rights movement?

BOND: Very much so.

COOPER: As an extension of the civil rights movement. BOND: Of course. It is exactly the same. It's a right that all Americans have, and no reason why gay and lesbian people ought not to have these rights, too. These are universal rights.

COOPER: But to those who say, look, this has nothing to do with civil rights, and there are many African-Americans who actually get offended by the comparison to the civil rights movement, among African-Americans.

BOND: We ought to be happy that other people, including gays and lesbians, and many other people have imitated the black movement for human rights. They've adopted our songs; we ought to be happy. They've adopted our slogans; we ought to be happy. They've adopted the way in which we went about it, in a nonviolent way, generally speaking. We ought to be proud of that, that we served as examples to others.

And when the others imitate what we did to gain their rights, we ought to be first in line to say, "Can I help you. You helped me. Can I help you?"

COOPER: When this memo went out -- it was 2009 -- polling showed that, among African-Americans, only 32 percent of African-Americans were in favor of same-sex marriage.

There's a recent NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll that showed 50 percent of African-Americans are now in favor of it. Do you feel like the tide of history is moving in this direction?

BOND: Absolutely. Absolutely. As more and more people think, "Gee, that guy who sits next to me in church, he's gay, and he seems to be OK. The guy who works next to me on the job, I think he's gay, and he seems to be OK. So I know all these people who are gay, and they're all right with me."

COOPER: Do you think some people who, African-Americans, who do not like the movement for equality being described as a civil rights movement, do you think they feel that that in -- somehow takes away from the struggle that African-Americans...

BOND: Yes, I think there's a -- wrongly so. Wrongly so. But I -- if they knew that Brian Ruskin (ph), a gay man, was the guy who put together the March on Washington, and it wouldn't have been the success it was, had it not been for him, I think they'd feel differently about it.

If they knew that throughout the history of the black struggle for civil rights, black and white and Asian and Latino gay people and lesbians participated and sacrificed alongside their black brothers and sisters, I think they'd feel differently about it.

Because this is not -- we don't have a patent on rights in this country. Black people don't have a patent on fighting for civil rights. This is something all Americans want to do and should do. And we ought to be proud that others have imitated us. COOPER: It's interesting to me that in the past, you have not had a lot of straight people championing this cause, and yet you have, sometimes at great -- you've received a lot of criticism for it.

BOND: Yes, I have. But I think, you know, I served in the civil right movements beside black people and white people, and gay people and lesbian people, and I often thought to myself, these people are helping me. Can I help them? Shouldn't I help them?

And when the gay movement, which is an old movement in this country, became more and more prominent, and it became something that people like myself, straight people, could join in and participate, I was eager to play whatever part I could. Because this is something, I think, important to all of us. I don't care if you're gay or straight. This is something you ought to be concerned about.

COOPER: Just on another topic, I'd just like to get your thought on the shooting of Trayvon Martin. What is your impression of what happened and of the debate that's...

BOND: I can only go by what I read in the papers or see on TV, that what seemed to happen is this police wannabe followed him, against the orders of the police, got out of his car, confronted him in some way. We don't know what happened then.

But we do know that Martin is dead. He's shot in the chest. He's killed. And I can't imagine what he might have done or could have done that would make that happen, that would prompt that. That would make that excusable.

COOPER: Julian Bond, thanks for being on.

BOND: Thank you.


COOPER: Well, tonight, part three of our report on allegations of abuse at a small Christian boarding school in Montana. You're going to meet an Illinois mom who says her daughter was sent to the school against her wishes after a truant officer gave her daughter a form to sign. She was just 15 years old.


PAULA BOWEN, MOTHER OF PINEHAVEN STUDENT: Cassie called me. She was crying. She said, "Mommy," she said, "I just made a mistake."


P. BOWEN: I asked her what happened, and she said, "I just signed the papers to go to Pinehaven."


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Tonight in our "Ungodly Discipline" series, the disturbing link between a truant officer in Illinois and a small Christian boarding school nearly 2,000 miles away in Northwestern Montana.

Now, over the last few nights, we've told you about allegations of abuse at the school, which is exempt from state oversight. In part three of his report tonight, Gary Tuchman exposes what amounts to a pipeline between five counties in Illinois and Pinehaven Christian Children's Ranch. Dozens of kids from Illinois have ended up at Pinehaven, steered there by the same truant officer. It happened to a teen named Cassie against her mother's wishes. Now, her mom wants to pull her out of Pinehaven, but can't.

Here's Gary's report.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): Paula Bowen of Olney, Illinois, is the mother of seven children.

(on camera) What is the name of your youngest daughter?

P. BOWEN: Cassie, Castile (ph).

TUCHMAN: And how old is Cassie?

P. BOWEN: She just turned 16.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Bowen says her daughter was raped by a relative and that Cassie had tried to kill herself.

P. BOWEN: She took a bottle of pills, and she was placed in Harsha (ph) -- I signed her into Harsha (ph).

TUCHMAN: And Harsha (ph) is?

P. BOWEN: A behavioral center in Indiana.

TUCHMAN: Which isn't far from Paula Bowen's Olney, Illinois, home. But she says one day a truant officer from her town made a trip to that behavioral center to visit Cassie and recommended she transfer to a very different place.

P. BOWEN: Cassie called me. She was crying. She said, "Mom," and she said, "I just made a mistake."

TUCHMAN: What was her mistake?

P. BOWEN: I asked her what happened, and she says, "I just signed the papers to go to Pinehaven."

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Paula Bowen says without her permission, her daughter was then whisked away, more than 1,800 miles to rural northern Montana, to the Pinehaven Christian Children's Ranch, and that's where we met her. (on camera) What's your name?


TUCHMAN: Where you from, Cassie?

C. BOWEN: Olney, Illinois.

TUCHMAN: Bob Larsson is a preacher and the founder of Pinehaven.

BOB LARSSON, FOUNDER, PINEHAVEN: I'd say the two biggest reasons that kids come are broken homes. And they didn't have the normal home background and training with a dad and a mom, and failing adoptions.

TUCHMAN: Paula Bowen admits she's had serious problems with her life, including imprisonment. But says she doesn't want her daughter at Pinehaven because of allegations from former employees at the ranch, like Denise and Dave Bingham, that children were choked and hit in the name of God.

DENISE BINGHAM, FORMER HOUSE PARENT: The kids were being abused at Pinehaven. They were. There's no doubt about it.

TUCHMAN: Allegations backed by former students who say they were choked and hit, not by Bob Larsson, but by people who worked for Bob Larsson.

(on camera) Show me what they would do to you.

JAMES MASON, FORMER PINEHAVEN STUDENT: Up here, like this, then up -- grab the neck, up against the wall, lift you off your feet.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): All looked normal with the children during our visit to Pinehaven.

But if Paula Bowen was worried by what she heard, why not just pull Cassie out? Because she can't.

An Illinois judge approved the truant officer's recommendation and signed a court order declaring, "It is in the best interest of the minor to remove the minor from the custody of the parent, guardian, or custodian."

(on camera) You said to these people, "If you're sending my daughter away, please send her close to me. Don't send her to the state of Montana, which is a good way across the country."

P. BOWEN: Right.

TUCHMAN: And they said?

P. BOWEN: "She signed the papers."

TUCHMAN: Did you say, "She's a 15-year-old child"?

P. BOWEN: Yes. They -- it's a binding contract. They held her to it.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): This is the truant officer.

CHARLIE DUKE, CHIEF TRUANT OFFICER: My job is to get kids that are missing school back in school and then intervene with court services, court-related services.

TUCHMAN: It was Charlie Duke's idea for Cassie to go to Pinehaven. Why? He believes in the ranch and its religious philosophy. He also considers its founder, Bob Larsson, a surrogate father.

(on camera) Nothing in the state of Illinois, nothing in the Midwest, nothing in the entire region of the country comes close to Pinehaven?

DUKE: That is correct.

TUCHMAN: This five-county area is very quiet, low-profile. But it has a most unusual export: children. You see, Cassie is one of at least 29 children who over the years have been sent from this region to Montana's Pinehaven Christian Children's Ranch. This area is a pipeline to Pinehaven.

(voice-over) And Charlie Duke gets the approval of prosecutors and judges to make it happen, to a facility with abuse allegations and employees without any certification or licensing from the state of Montana.

DUKE: I personally know teachers that are there, that are certified teachers from the state of Illinois.

TUCHMAN (on camera): But they're in Montana. And the point being that these kids are troubled and they need counseling. And there's no one trained to counsel them. Does that bother you?

DUKE: I believe they get the counseling they need. When they have a nuclear family structure...

TUCHMAN: I understand they have that structure. But I'm asking you, just as a public servant here in Illinois, you operate by rules and regulations of this state, do you think they should have licensed counselors at Pinehaven?

DUKE: I really feel like you're trying to trap me into saying something...

TUCHMAN: You can say yes or no.

DUKE: ... that I'm not comfortable even talking about.

TUCHMAN: You can say yes or no or you don't know.

DUKE: I don't know.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Charlie Duke says he doesn't believe the abuse allegations. But we showed him a videotape of one of the current ranch employees, Ned Kent, telling us this.


TUCHMAN (on camera): Some of the kids who are now adults tell us that you used to choke them.

NED KENT, PINEHAVEN EMPLOYEE: That's totally false.

TUCHMAN: What is it that you did to them?

KENT: Used pressure points to restrain them.

TUCHMAN: What does that mean?

KENT: You have places on your body where nerve endings are real close...

TUCHMAN: Show me. Where on my body would you...

KENT: Like right there.

TUCHMAN: Show me on my...

KENT: Right there.

TUCHMAN: Ned Kent and Bo Larsson both say the so-called pressure points are no longer done, but Charlie Duke says he'd like to talk to Larsson about this.

DUKE: I'd like to have the assurance that that is something in the past and not something that they condone or would use in the future.

TUCHMAN: The truant officer says, despite what Cassie's mother told us, she approved her daughter going to Pinehaven. But when I asked if he went on his own to Indiana to have the child sign a form to go there, he responded...

DUKE: I'm saying you can't -- I cannot talk about it. It's a juvenile hearing.

TUCHMAN: And for the same reason, the judges and prosecutors won't comment to us at all.

So Cassie remains in Montana. There are 40 children at Pinehaven. She is one of eight from the same part of Illinois. And, despite the allegations, Charlie Duke says if an Illinois child needs Pinehaven, he'll keep on recommending it.

DUKE: In my opinion, it is the finest children's home that I've ever visited.


COOPER: Gary, I mean, it's such a fascinating report that you've done over the last three nights. What does the state of Illinois and child welfare experts have to say about this?

TUCHMAN: We've talked to welfare experts who work for the state and work in private practice, and they all tell us this is unorthodox and upsetting. They say it's standard procedure to try take a kid if the kid has to leave their parents close to their home.

But interestingly, we also talked to the top legal official in the state, the attorney general of Illinois, and this is what's fascinating. This has been going on for many years. The attorney general's office says they knew nothing about this whatsoever. They did some investigating, and they, too, say it was disturbing, but during their investigation, they discovered that this is not their jurisdiction, that only the local state district attorneys can deal with the situation, so, therefore, the Democrat is the attorney general in the state of Illinois, Lisa Mattigan, says she can't do anything.

COOPER: And just so I'm clear, they have no trained counselors, certified counselors at this school to help troubled kids?

TUCHMAN: What Bob Larsson will tell us is he believes these people are good and they're trained and they know what they're doing. But the fact is, they are not licensed whatsoever. The trainers, the counselors or the teachers, not licensed by the state of Montana. It's unaccredited, unlicensed, and uncertified employees.

COOPER: And that's even ignoring the abuse allegations, which you've documented in the previous nights. Gary, appreciate the reporting. Thanks. We'll continue to follow it.


COOPER: A terrifying scene as a family in Colorado tried to escape a wildfire. Their 13-year-old son caught the whole ordeal on cell phone video. We're going to show you the video from the family here, next.


COOPER: Firefighters in Colorado are making progress on a 4,000- acre wildfire near Denver. Some people who were evacuated are being allowed to return to their homes, and roads are starting to open again.

The lower North Fork fire Jas killed at least two people, destroyed or damaged dozens of homes. One family's terrifying ordeal was caught on camera by a 13-year-old boy who shot a video on his cell phone as the family fled the wildfire in two cars. Take a look.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll make it. We're going to be fine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We loaded up the car and the last thing I saw was, you know, this large flame shoot up, and we realized we had to go right then. And we turned that corner and went from daylight into pure darkness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where's mom? What's she stopping for?!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was so dark. And I was fumbling for the lights and trying to get myself together. I think we were all in such a state that it was all happening very fast. I had to put on the brake to figure out that I could get my hand to the lights and turn those on.

And I was also considering that we might not make it through and maybe we needed to turn around. And I was concerned we would just get trapped inside.



Whoa! There it is. Right here. Right here!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's OK. We're out! We're out. We're out.


COOPER: It's amazing how close those flames were.

Let's take a look at some of the other stories we're following tonight. Isha's back with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Syrian President Bashar Assad said today that his government will make every effort to assure the success of Kofi Annan's peace mission in Syria. But as he made that statement, his security forces once again shelled cities across Syria. According to reports, at least 60 people were killed.

Federal officials said today the flight data and cockpit voice recorders from JetBlue flight 191 have been retrieved flights will be analyzed, and the information will be given to the FBI.

Investigators are looking into the disruption aboard the Las Vegas-bound flight on Tuesday, when crew and passengers said the captain acted erratically and had to be subdued.

A CNN/ORC International poll released today show that majority of Americans are worried about high gas prices, and they blame the oil company, not President Obama.

SESAY: And the Mega Millions jackpot now stands at a record $540 million. The drawing is tomorrow night at 11 Eastern. The jackpot may be even higher by then. Tickets will be sold until 15 minutes before the drawing -- Anderson.

COOPER: Isha, thanks.

Coming up, thousands of girls are calling an 81-year-old woman in Texas, trying to track down Justin Bieber. "The RidicuList" is next.


COOPER: Time now for "The RidicuList." And tonight we're adding Justin Bieber's Twitter faux pas. Or maybe I should say phone pas. Because a few weeks ago, for reasons unknown, Justin Bieber posted this on Twitter: "Call me right now," then a phone number with a 214 area code, except with a question mark for the last digit. Well, that was enough to set scores of tween fingers a dialing. You could almost see the pink sparkly fingernails furiously trying out all ten possible phone numbers. Can't you?

And so you can see where this is going. Can't you? For the past three weeks, at least two people in Texas have been absolutely inundated with phone calls, including an 81-year-old great-grandmother in Dallas. Her name is Dilcy (ph). She's awesome. And I think it's safe to say she is not one of Justin Bieber's 19 million Twitter followers.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just one after the other after the other after the other. I'd hang up and it would ring. And I told one young lady, I said, "Do you know where you're calling."

"Yes, I'm calling Justin."

I said, "This is a Texas extension." And I did tell one young lady, I said, "You just don't realize, he has no interest in you whatsoever."


COOPER: Sometimes Dilcy (ph) answers the phones and gives the believers the what-for. That's what the kids call the Justin Bieber fans, right, believers? Anyway, it's a lot of calls. But other times she just lets the machine pick up.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Justin, oh, my God. Call me back. I love you. Justin, Justin, Justin, bieb, bieb, bieb, Bieber. I love you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. I'm just looking for Justin Bieber. OK, bye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Justin, I know you're there. Call me! I love you so much. I'm sorry I called you so late, but I just got your number.


COOPER: "Oh, my God, sorry, I called you so late. I just got your number."

Someone told Dilcy she should just change her number, but she's had the same number since 1966, so instead, she changed her outgoing message.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not Justin Bieber's phone number! Please do not call again.


COOPER: I'm not sure that's going to do the trick, but Dilcy (ph) thinks the calls will stop eventually.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he's just a fly-by-night kid making oodles of money off of the people that are calling.


COOPER: I feel for you, Dilcy (ph), I really do. Never before has there been such a perfect storm in which pop music somehow churned up so many unwanted phone calls, except for the great Tommy Two-Tone incident of 1982.


(MUSIC: "867-5309")


COOPER: People who have that number in various area codes still routinely get phone calls from the '80s music aficionados, apparently.

Even long before the '80s musicians were giving out phone numbers, take the Glen Miller orchestra.


(MUSIC: "Pennsylvania 6-5000."


COOPER: Fun fact for you: Pennsylvania 6-500 is still the phone number of the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City where the Glenn Miller orchestra often played. But that was a different era. No Twitter, no answering machines. The music was real and so were the phone numbers.

That's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.