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Suspect In Jewish Protester Death To Appear In Court Today; 100 Days Later, New Searches For Missing People In Maui; Education Dept Investigates Allegations Of Anti-Semitism And Islamophobia At 7 Schools; Most Powerful Rocket Ever Built To Try Second Launch. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired November 17, 2023 - 14:30   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Authorities in southern California have arrested this man, 50-year-old college professor, Loay Abdelfattah Alnaji. They charged him with involuntary manslaughter in the death of Jewish protester, Paul Kessler.

Earlier this month, Kessler fell backward and he hit his head on the ground following an altercation during dueling protests over the Israel-Hamas war. Alnaji is expected to make his first court appearance today.

CNN's Stephanie Elam is in Ventura County where the district attorney and county sheriff just spoke about this.

Tell us what you've been learning, Stephanie.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, they told us they have gone through some six hundred pieces of evidence and have interviewed 60-plus witnesses to the event.

On top of that, as far as evidence is concerned, they've taken video as well as digital footage and compiled those together to get a timeline of what led up to the altercation that ultimately led to the death of 69-year-old Paul Kessler.

What was interesting here is that they said they were not charging murder because basically they're saying -- I want to read it -- "There is no information that defendant that was arrested actually showed up to that intersection with the intent to kill or harm."

That is why there's the involuntary manslaughter charge. The other felony charge is battery causing serious bodily injury.

But I want to take a listen to the district attorney, Erik Nasarenko, to talk about the reason why they did not go after a hate crime at this time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ERIK NASARENKO, VENTURA COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: We did not file murder because there was no intent on the defendant's part to commit one. We also did not file a hate crime at this time, although that investigation is ongoing.

Simply put, looking at the statements, as well as the words that accompanied the act, we cannot at this time meet the elements of a hate crime.



ELAM: Now they spoke more about this evidence that they compiled together and this forensic evidence, and including findings related to the injuries on the left side of the face of Paul Kessler and putting that all together to get to where they are today.

It was also interesting that the D.A. also thanked the leaders of the Jewish communities here and the Muslim community here in Ventura County for believing them to go ahead and follow through with this investigation here.

But obviously, they're saying more charges could be filed. And they continue to ask for the public's help, if they have any more video, any more images of what transpired in that intersection.

Just again, to reiterate, it was a pro-Palestinian protest where there were a few pro-Israeli protesters, counter protesters, who showed up and that's where they intermingled and something transpired that ultimately led to Paul Kessler's death.

KEILAR: All right, Stephanie Elam, thank you so much. I really appreciate the report.

It's been 100 days and the search is still ongoing for victims of the catastrophic fire in Maui. We'll have a report from Hawaii, next.



PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: It has been 100 days since wildfires devastated parts of Hawaii and claimed the lives of 100 people. Today, there are still a handful of people missing. And now law enforcement officials are launching new searches to find them.

CNN's Mike Valerio has this story.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got to go.

MIKE VALERIO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More than 100 days later, it is still nearly incomprehensible, taking in all that is lost. BRAD TAYLOR, MAUI POLICE OFFICER: You're there with the person as

they're sobbing and you see firsthand the trauma.

VALERIO: Maui Police Officers Brad Taylor and Steven Lansiedel are two of the heroes whose task force has investigated every single missing person's case from the Lahaina fire.

STEVEN LANSIEDEL, MAUI POLICE OFFICER: We're working towards the goal of making sure anybody who has a lost loved one, we're able to find them or give them closure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, come on, come on. Everybody out. Everybody out.

VALERIO: But that has been elusive for the families of four people not seen since the paroxysm of the fire.

Among those who are still missing is Robert Owens.

LANSIEDEL: We learned that he used to work for NASA as an engineer.

Paul Baspritzky, he is a resident of Lahaina. He's a local artist, a boat builder, a woodworker, and he's a published author and also a father of two.

Elmer Stevens, he also frequents Lahaina. He is a father of two, and he does find solace in the quiet pleasures of life.

VALERIO: The fourth still missing is Lydia Coloma.

LANSIEDEL: Lydia is a Lahaina resident. She is a mother, a wife, a well-respected community member.

VALERIO: According to Honolulu's Civil Beat, an astounding eight of Coloma's family members lost their lives in the Lahaina fire.

TONY EARLES, CSI TEAM LEADER: We still are getting family reference samples coming in.

VALERIO: Tony Earles leads the Maui Police CSI team. And he says, as of now, there's one set of human remains, that hasn't been identified yet.

EARLES: We have ideas of who we think it is.

VALERIO: But, he adds, when it comes to putting a name to the remains --

EARLES: I can guarantee it'll be days, if not weeks, or maybe even months.

VALERIO: This week, Officers Taylor and Lansiedel are planning new burn-zone searches.

TAYLOR: Steve and I are still going out into the rubble, into the burn zone. We'll find new information out. And we really -- we want to get the rest of those people.

VALERIO: Officer Taylor told us he knew some of the victims.

TAYLOR: One of the unfortunate ways I found out was we would get the DNA confirmation sheets, and I was reading through it so I could find out who it was.

And I read the name, and it was from a former coworker. She used to work at the police department. And when I started my career, I worked closely with her.

VALERIO: And Officer Lansiedel was already changed, deeply affected by devastating wildfires.

LANSIEDEL: My hometown is Paradise, California. So, they went through this. And so I made it an effort to get into this position so that I could be beneficial for the department.

And be there for the families and friends because I have families and friends in Paradise that lost their homes and everything.

VALERIO: For now, it's been 100 days of work. Both officers remain hopeful there will be answers and eventual solace for the families of the four who are still missing.

LANSIEDEL: When I set out to this, it was, no stone unturned, no one left behind. And I am hopeful and committed and dedicated to make sure that I reach that goal.


VALERIO: And after watching the story, the natural and very delicate question is whether we can assume that four people who are missing were tragically lost in the fire.

And the answer is no. We can't make that assumption yet because we'll take you back to the last week of October,

Maui police first confirmed with us at CNN they found one person who was on the missing list alive and healthy. Ao the missing list went from five, the final week of October, to four now.

Now that is why, Pam, there are still realistic expectations that the worst could be realized, but there is still hope as Maui moves forward.

BROWN: All right. Thank you so much, Mike Valerio. We appreciate it.

And when we come back, a CNN exclusive. The Department of Education is investigating allegations of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia at some of the country's top universities.


And SpaceX is ready for round two. About to launch its most powerful rocket after the first ended with an explosion. We'll have more on that, up next.


KEILAR: We have CNN exclusive reporting about the alarming rise in hateful rhetoric since the Hamas terror attacks last month on Israel.

The Department of Education has launched investigations into seven schools over complaints of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Cornel, Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania among them. But it is not just colleges.

CNN's Rene Marsh is on this story for us.

Tell us about these probes.

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right, so first off, this is so significant. Mainly, because these are the first of the hate campus investigations that we are seeing since the October 7th attack.

And then also to have this many investigations all happening simultaneously within this short period of time coming from the Department of Education, that is quite unique.


But it speaks to the time that we're in and how these tensions are really boiling over on these college campuses.

You mentioned Cornell, Columbia and the K-12 school in Kansas, all of them receiving word from the Department of Education within the last 48 hours that they were under this investigation.

And these investigations are stemming from complaints coming from students, advocacy groups, centered on five anti-Semitic incidents on campus as well as two Islamophobic incidents on campus. Of course, all allegations that they will be looking into.

The secretary of education was on CNN this morning and he had a message specifically for parents. Here it is.


MIGUEL CARDONA, EDUCATION SECRETARY: Your child should be unapologetic about who they are, expressing who they are. They shouldn't have to hide their identity to learn on campus or in a K-12 institution.

And it is our responsibility to protect them and we're doing everything that we can to enforce that.

And if we see that there are places that are not doing it, we're going to open up an investigation. We're going to provide support but we're going to open up an investigation to make sure that we're doing our job as educators.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MARSH: And, Brianna, I started reaching out to these schools under investigation. Cornell, for example, they had no comment. Columbia University saying that they plan on cooperating with the investigation.

KEILAR: This is sort of different. I think people think, oh, it's an investigation. This is a Department of Education investigation. It's not like a DOJ investigation. So how does this work?

MARSH: Right. They are calling this a civil rights investigation because, as the school is getting federal dollars, by law, they are obligated to make sure that students aren't discriminated against, harassed on campus, and they can learn.

So the way this will work is they will go in, get the facts of each of these incidents. And then they will give recommendations to the schools. And if the schools do not comply, they risk losing the federal funding.

And they will be under a period of monitoring to make sure that they maintain an environment where students don't feel like they are being harassed or discriminated against.

KEILAR: It is so important to get to the bottom of these incidents. So interesting to see what the reports say.

Rene, thank you. Great reporting on this.


BROWN: That is great reporting.

All right, now to some of the other headlines we're watching this hour.

Major cities in the U.S. are being forced to implement new rules as the massive influx of migrants continues to put a strain on resources.

In Chicago, the mayor there announced a 60-day limit on shelter stays, explaining the goal is to help migrants become, quote, "self- sufficient faster."

And in New York, officials are cutting the number of services being offered.

Also, Comedian Dana Carvey is mourning the loss of his 32-year-old son, Dex, to an accidental drug overdose. In an Instagram post, Carvey called it a, quote, "terrible tragedy" and said that Dex loved life.

He went on to acknowledge the difficulties of addiction. Saying, quote, "To anyone struggling with addiction or who loves someone struggling with addiction, you are in our hearts and prayers."

And it appears widespread fears of catching Covid is no longer a thing. A new survey found about three-quarters of Americans are not worried about getting sick with Covid this holiday season. About half of those surveyed say they don't plan on taking any

precautions to reduce their risks to contract the disease. And most are not worried about spreading the virus to their loved ones.

The CDC recommends anyone six months and older to get vaccinated for the Covid and the flu.


KEILAR: Counting down to liftoff for the most powerful rocket ever built -- ever. Less than 24 hours from now, SpaceX will give its Starship system another go.

You may remember back in April the first launch, this was the attempt right here, it did not go well. It ended with an explosion. And since then, there has been a lot of rebuilding, a whole lot of red tape to get through as you can imagine.

And we have a live picture actually of the Starship rocket now. This is the launch pad near South Padre Island, Texas.

And that is where we find our Kristin Fisher.

All right, Kristin, listen, two times, number two. This will be the good one, I can feel it. This was supposed to happen today though. Pushed to tomorrow morning. Tell us about the delay.

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE & DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the delay was caused by a piece of hardware on the rocket's booster. A very technical term called the grid fin actuator. It is a little piece that's supposed to help steer the rocket booster as it makes its way back to earth.

This rocket was in its fully stacked confirmation, ready for launch yesterday. They had to take it down, fix it. But now you see, Brianna, it is back up. And it appears to be ready to fly.

And we're counting down to an 8:00 a.m. Eastern time liftoff tomorrow morning. This whole area, the beach behind me, even in the water, is supposed to be packed with hundreds if not thousands of people here to see the world's most powerful rocket on its second flight attempt.


And you were talking about what happened back in April during that first flight attempt. So these SpaceX engineers will be looking very closely to see, within the first few minutes of liftoff, did the launch pad survive?

It was destroyed last time. Huge chunks of concrete sent way down the beach here.

They will be looking to see if all the engines ignite, all 33 engines. Several failed to ignite last time.

And then they are also going to be seeing, does this rocket separate? Is it able to have the spacecraft come apart and the booster fall back away?

So, Brianna, lots for SpaceX to watch and the FAA and the Fish and Wildlife Services as well who are checking to make sure that there aren't any extenuating environment concerns or concerns for the wildlife here because we are right on a wildlife refuge -- Brianna?

KEILAR: We are.

And then just quickly, what are they hoping to do here?

FISHER: This is the rocket that is supposed to allow people to colonize Mars. Elon Musk's goal is to make humanity multiplanetary.

But first, this rocket is a critical piece, a central piece of NASA's Artemis program to land and return humans to the surface of the moon by 2025/2026. So in a very short timeframe.

And if they do not, the NASA administrator says he is very concerned that Chinese astronauts could actually beat American astronauts back to the surface of the moon and, some day, build a base there -- Brianna?

KEILAR: All right, well, fingers crossed for tomorrow.

Kristin Fisher, thank you for that report from South Padre Island, Texas. We do appreciate it.

And coming up, after weeks of U.S. pressure, the Israeli government will allow some fuel to enter Gaza every 48 hours. We'll have details on that just ahead.