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Search Warrant Issued For Deadly Shooting On Alec Baldwin Film Set; Questions Remains After Brian Laundrie's Death; Confirmed; National School Board Assoc. Apologizes For Letter Sent To Biden; Soon, Former President Obama To Campaign In Virginia For Democrat Gov. Candidate; Michigan Town In State Of Emergency Due To Toxic Lead Pipes; Haitian Gang Leader Threatens To Kill 17 Missionary Hostages; West Braces For Heavy Rains, Flash Flooding And Mudslides. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired October 23, 2021 - 13:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello again, everyone, thank you so much for joining me this Saturday, I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We begin this hour with authorities back on the set of an Alec Baldwin movie in New Mexico, collecting evidence in a shooting that left one person dead and another wounded.

According to an affidavit, Baldwin fired what he believed to be a safe prop gun, not knowing actual live rounds were inside. The shot killed cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, and injured director Joel Souza.

In a statement to CNN, a cast member for the movie says sets are by nature dangerous environments, though they had no direct knowledge of the events that led up to the shooting.

CNN Correspondent Lucy Kafanov is in Santa Fe, where the investigation is underway. Lucy, what more are you learning?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, authorities have not filed any charges, they're still investigating. We know based on an affidavit released by authorities that they have seized all of the electronic material on that set.

You can imagine it must have a lot. There's film cameras, phones, Ipads, anything digital that might give them more clues about how all of this went down.

But a lot of interesting facts coming out through that affidavit that help us sort of piece together, the timeline of how these tragic events unfolded.

We understand, you know, Thursday afternoon -- early Thursday afternoon, Alec Baldwin was on the set of this western movie, "Rust," he was dressed in his old western clothing. This was an 1880's period western film. Now, authorities say that Alec Baldwin was inside that church-looking structure onset, the assistant director was outside of that building, he grabbed one of three prop weapons that was laid out by the head armorer on a cart outside of the building, he brought it inside to Alec Baldwin, handing it to him shouting, "cold gun" which in the industry is supposed to indicate that the weapon does not contain any live rounds. And that is, of course, when everything went terribly wrong.

We understand that Mr. Baldwin, according to the affidavit, took the gun and fired Halyna Hutchins, the 42-year-old director of cinematography, a rising star in the industry by all accounts. She was shot in the chest, suffering a fatal wound, airlifted to a hospital, pronounced dead on the scene.

The director, Joel Souza, was right behind her, he was shot in the shoulder. He was taken by ambulance to a local hospital. We don't know the status of his condition.

Alec Baldwin's western-style costume, according to authorities, appeared to be stained in blood. Authorities do tell us that he is fully cooperating with the investigation, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And then, Lucy, the armorer, who was the person who handles weapons on a set, and in this case, for the movie "Rust" was actually on a podcast -- that armorer was on a podcast just last month, what did she have to say?

KAFANOV: Yes, well, the affidavit names her as Hannah Gutierrez. We understand that she is quite young, 24 years old, she was trained by her father, the legendary gunsmith Thell Reed, who started teaching her how to use these prop weapons when she was just 16 years old.

This was her only time -- this particular production, "Rust," was only her second time working as a head armorer. She previously just completed work on a film with Nicolas Cage called "The Old Way."

And that's what this podcast was interviewing her about, in which she shared with the interviewers how she had some doubts about whether she was ready to do this big job. Take a listen.


HANNAH GUTIERREZ-REED: I just finished up working on "The Old Way" with Nicolas Cage, his very first Western --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard about that.

GUTIERREZ-REED: -- And it was also my first time being head armorer as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And how was that?

GUTIERREZ-REED: You know, I really was nervous about it at first and I almost didn't take the job because I wasn't sure if I was ready, but doing it, like it went really smoothly. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KAFANOV: Now, she also, in that podcast, admitted that she found loading blanks into a gun "the scariest thing" because she didn't know how to do it. She told interviews she had to call her dad, and sort of ask for some advice and some help on that.

Now again, this podcast was focused on the Nicolas Cage production but it is fitting in terms of what we're hearing from other cast members, at least what's been reported out there by the "LA Times."


KAFANOV: We understand that prior to Thursday's incident, crew members had actually walked off of the scene, several quitting the production due to safety concerns.

Some of them were COVID safety measures, some of them were long hours worked, the fact that crews had to stay 50 miles away in Albuquerque, but some of the concerns were about gun safety measures on scene.

The local reporting -- the "LA Times" reporting indicating that prop weapons had misfired previously on the "Rust" production, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Well, they're -- investigators, they're maybe looking at any, and all facets, any information, all information is going to be potentially instructive as they investigate this incident. Lucy Kafanov, thank you so much.

All right, now to Florida, where the manhunt for Brian Laundrie has ended after the remains found in a 25,000-acre Florida nature preserve, were confirmed to be his, but the search for answers continues.

Law enforcement experts say items including a notebook and backpack discovered near Laundrie's remains are key pieces of evidence that may shed light on the circumstances surrounding his disappearance and the death of his fiancee, Gabby Petito.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is live for us in North Port, Florida. So, Polo, tell us more about what you're learning there.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, that discovery marked the end of the actual manhunt for Brian Laundrie, but it's important to remind our viewers that the search for actual answers, it is still anything but over here.

That's because there's still many questions that are left unanswered here in North Port, Florida. One of which is, exactly how he died?

Laundrie's family attorney telling CNN that his skeletal remains that were discovered this week, those are now soon going to be in the hands of a forensic anthropologist who will be analyzing those remains, hopefully, provide at least some clues here.

The Laundrie family attorney also has previously said that he had had some conversations with his parents and that they were concerned that he could potentially take his own life after he left his home here last month, and of course, before they found the remains of Gabby Petito last month here.

So, there's still a lot of questions there. And then here's the other one, too is, what if anything that his parents actually know or were they at least told anything before their son left their home?

We do understand that they have cooperated with the FBI here from day one, according to their attorney, but then there are various items that were recovered along with Brian Laundrie's remains. You mentioned a backpack. You mentioned a notebook, as well.

Authorities in Florida saying that they are being careful with those items because they were heavily damaged, so they hope that there could potentially be some information there that could tell us a little bit more.

But in the meantime, of course, you have two families that continue grieving. One of them here, in fact, we saw Mr. Laundrie early today, he left his home and basically staked up some no trespassing signs on his front lawn, not answering publicly any questions.

But again, his attorney saying that from the beginning of the investigation that they have cooperated with the FBI but important to remember that back on -- back in the first couple of weeks, it's September when authorities initially showed up here after Petito was reported missing, that they simply referred authorities to their attorney.

WHITFIELD: All right, Polo Sandoval, thank you so much. What a still a huge mystery.

All right, so, as the Gabby Petito case unfolds, many families of missing black men are pleading for more accountability. The mother of Jelani Day this week buried her son, an Illinois State University graduate student. But she says she won't be able to rest until her son's death is no longer a mystery.

The 25-year-old student went missing in August, his body was found about a week later in the Illinois river, but he was not identified until nearly a month after he was reported missing, the cause of death, still unknown. And Carmen Bolden is urging the FBI to get involved in this investigation.


CARMEN BOLDEN DAY, JELANI DAY'S MOTHER: On the air says I don't know why I lowered Jalani into that ground or what happened to him to cause him to be -- for me to have to lower him to the ground. So, now I need answers.

I need answers because the police departments that were involved in searching for my son, and looking for my son, and finding answers for my son failed me. They failed my child.


WHITFIELD: The FBI field office has declined to answer whether it will answer the request to handle the investigation, citing a Department of Justice policy that prevents it from commenting on active investigations.

All right, still to come, big names on the trail. The latest from the neck and neck governor's race in Virginia, plus, shouting threats, negative billboards, and an influx of cash, why this year's school board races across the country are like none before?



WHITFIELD: The National School Board Association is now apologizing for a letter it sent last month to President Biden. The letter compared protests and threats against school board members to forms of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.

In response, Attorney General Merrick Garland directed federal officials to coordinate with local law enforcement on how to handle increasing threats of violence. The board of directors now says "there was no justification for some of the language included in the letter."

But across the country, school board meetings are turning into screaming matches, culture wars erupting over masks, vaccines, and so much more. And with elections just days away in many states, schools could be in for some major changes. Here's CNN's Evan McMorris- Santoro.


NIKKI HUDSON, WORTHINGTON BOARD OF EDUCATION MEMBER: And then at the end, it says you have become our enemies, and you will be removed one way or other. Have a miserable, miserable day for the rest of your life, you filthy traitor."


EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Nikki Hudson is seeking re-election to the Worthington school board in suburban Columbus, Ohio. Not long ago, she says she received a threatening letter over her support of masks and a diversity and inclusion program.

What do you tell your kids when you get a letter like that?

HUDSON: You tell them we don't live in fear, we don't back down the bullies, and we also make safe choices. So, you don't go places alone, make sure that someone's with you.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Normally, these off-year nonpartisan school board elections are sleepy, the turnout is very low. But that was before the pandemic when school boards were still boring.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're stepping over your line.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't need to breathe for me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's take a recess. The board will take a recess.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: After protests and fury over mask mandates, vaccines, and anti-racism curricula, school board races are the front lines of a national culture war. Candidates are facing heat normally reserved for big-time politics.

RICK VILARDO, WESTERVILLE BOARD OF EDUCATION MEMBER: I wanted to try and bring people together.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Rick Vilardo, a local pastor, and Westerville school member, ended his re-election bid just weeks before Election Day.

VILARDO: I feel like i have -- i feel like I've failed -- I feel like I've failed some people in this community that looked to me to try and be a person who will always listen and will always try to figure it out.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: While Vilardo sees no way forward, others see an opening. Many candidates running for school board across Ohio this year are first-timers, and some candidates say the races are nasty.

BRIAN STEEL, CANDIDATE FOR WORTHINGTON BOARD OF EDUCATION: It's a bit insane if I can say it. I did not know going into this how much partisan issues drive nonpartisan elections.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Brian Steel is one of those first-time candidates. His campaign in Worthington is locked in on a rallying cry heard across the country in these elections.

STEEL: When they actually do a vote, it's supposed to be an open forum, they're supposed to discuss it, there's supposed to have community input. We're finding a lot of these decisions made at the meeting are predetermined decisions.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: The anger that could benefit candidates like Steel is based on the idea that school boards have a shadowy political agenda. Even though all meetings in Ohio are open to the public, protesters demand transparency.

KELLI DAVIS, CANDIDATE FOR WORTHINGTON BOARD OF EDUCATION: We need to be a voice for all of our students. We need to be a voice for all of our families. We need to make sure that everyone is included.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Another first-time candidate is Kelli Davis. She says she got into the Worthington school board race to foster dialogue over issues like race. She preferred to talk about that, but she's had to navigate a murky political fight instead.

DAVIS: And you think it would be something more than a school board race where you're having -- you're having negative ads that are being marketed out there, that people are trying to pull you into that negativity that I just have no desire to be part of. MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Newly formed political groups are spending money in

places like Worthington. Negative billboards, and mailers, now par for the course in school board elections here, across suburban Columbus, and the country.

CHARLIE WILSON, WORTHINGTON SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER: I fear is that this is going to discourage the right kind of people from being school board members.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: After 14 years, Charlie Wilson isn't running for re- election after his term on the Worthington board ends next year. Wilson said he was followed after a particularly contentious board meeting. You felt you had been followed, by whom?

WILSON: I wasn't going to take somebody to my home with my wife there.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: This is a lot of emotion for --

WILSON: It is.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Wilson is worried about the future of school boards. As an officer in the National School Board Association, he endorsed a recent letter to the Biden administration pleading for immediate assistance to help address increased threats of violence and acts of intimidation directed toward school board members. The Department of Justice launched an effort to help combat the trend.

WILSON: When there are threats and when there are disruptions by virtue of violation of federal law, well, the Biden administration, it's time you guys, step up to the job and do your job, frankly. Our democracy's at stake here.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Some of them feel like they're being threatened?

RYAN GIRDUSKY, FOUNDER, 1776 PROJECT PAC: Good, period. I don't know what else (INAUDIBLE) good. They should feel -- they are not physically threatened, their incumbencies are threatened.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Ryan Girdusky leads one of the outside groups hoping to shake up school boards. He's a Republican consultant and conservative media commentator.

From his home in New York City, he's running a PAC that has endorsed some 50 school board candidates in seven states, including several in Ohio. His PAC plans on spending $125,000 on those races.

GIRDUSKY: The money is going to primarily mailers, digital ads, text messaging, stuffs like that. A little money can impact a lot of people.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: His main goal is fighting critical race theory.

GIRDUSKY: It's hidden in other terms like diversity and inclusion. However, it is still critical race theory. [13:20:00]

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: His plan to do it is simple, drive some new voters into the incredibly low turnout elections, take over school boards, and empower the newly elected members to start changing policy.

GIRDUSKY: They will check what textbooks are being used, they'll look at what outside speakers are being presented, what the superintendent is doing, what the inclusion and diversity program is.

I think those are the things that will probably be inspected and looked at first and foremost. I really hope this changes the way school boards and curriculum is being handled.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: In suburban Columbus, early voting is already underway.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will vote out Nikki Hudson.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: The negativity is stepped up as Election Day gets closer, and at least one board member says it's starting to take a toll. A few days after she purrs on a brave face in her backyard, Nikki Hudson gave us a call.

HUDSON: I have found myself in a space where this is -- may sound weird, but I just -- I find myself repeating over and over and over again that I'm not OK, I'm not OK, and I'm not OK.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: What do you think campaigning like this is going do for other people who might want to run for the school board?

HUDSON: I'm truly concerned about the void that's going to be there because who would want to do this?


WHITFIELD: Evan McMorris-Santoro, thank you so much.

All right, let's talk before all of this, joining me now is Charlie Wilson, a member of the Worthington, Ohio, board of education, he's a past president for the National School Boards Association.

We saw you in that piece but we do want to make clear that you're not speaking to us today in any capacity for the organizations. You are representing yourself, your point of view. Thank you so much for being with us.


WHITFIELD: So, Mr. Wilson, what is this really about? I mean, I'm not hearing anything from the -- many people who were interviewed, they're not talking about trying to get enough pencils in schools, books in schools, making sure that kids are getting a balanced education.

But instead, there's a lot of dissension, and we're hearing a lot of detail -- and seeing a lot of detail about how people's lives are, you know, feeling threatened, people being followed, etcetera. What, in your view, is really at the core here? Why has this become so contentious?

WILSON: I think it's a multitude of things, but I think the primary motivation is an attempt by certain dark money groups to undercut public education.

Public education has been under attack all across this nation, and at the federal level for about 30 years, in different places, and I believe that a variety of anti-public education groups are using this pandemic and the crisis to stir up a lot of animosity towards public education and towards very devoted, dedicated school board members all across the country.

WHITFIELD: So, then, what are your concerns and worry about those who will sign up, you know, to be engaged on a school board?

We heard from the one woman at the end of Evan McMorris-Santoro's piece there who said, you know, why would anybody want to do this anymore because it's become a dangerous job?

What are your concerns or worries about who's willing to sign up to be a school board member anywhere in America?

WILSON: Well, my concern is that among the 90,000 school board members that we have across America, virtually all of them got into it for one purpose and one purpose only, and that is to do what is best for students. And that has been the motivation for virtually every school board member I've ever met.

My concern is, now people are getting in for other purposes to drive, either a very anti-historical curriculum agenda or to drive a blatantly anti-public school agenda or just to be disruptive and that will bring on a new type of school board member who will not be putting our children first. And that troubles me greatly.

WHITFIELD: All right. And now to this, while you're the past president of the National School Board Association, this letter was sent to the Biden administration asking for intervention, some help because board members felt like their lives were being threatened.

But then, now, a letter of apology, you know comes out from the school board association saying, OK, we may have, you know, overstepped the bounds of certain language being used.

Did this undermine the effort or the call, or where are you on the letter itself, and then the apology letter that would follow?


WILSON: It's important for people to understand that the National School Board Association is not a political organization. It is not a partisan organization. It is not even a bipartisan organization. It is not even a bipartisan organization. It is a nonpartisan organization.

Almost all the 90,000 school board members that run for election across the country, almost all of them in virtually every state, run without an R or a D behind their names, they're running in a nonpartisan race or nonpartisan purposes. And the National School Board Association runs the same way. It is not a political organization.

So, we were caught by surprise because we don't have a big -- or in this period does not have a big political or propaganda machine.

And while NSBA has sent many, many letters to many Presidents over its 80 years of existence, NSBA never saw any kind of a fire -- pushback or a setting up a fire like that. And so, it is not NSBA's desire to be involved in any type of partisan or political situation. We --

WHITFIELD: The apology letter was kind of zeroing in on the comparison to domestic terrorism, or hate crime, and asking that the Biden administration, Department of Justice, treat this as such in that category.

But you're saying the spirit of the letter, that there are threats being made to school board members, that it's become a dangerous, perilous, you know, job, that there is still need for intervention.

You're still looking for a federal response on some level so that people feel comfortable with their jobs, and they don't feel like their lives are on the line for trying to protect the education or the best welfare of public school students. Did I get that right?

WILSON: Well, let me be clear. As you said at the beginning of your interview of me, I am not representing the National School Board Association, I'm not here as a spokesperson for the National School Board Association, I have no authority to be a spokesperson or representative of the National School Board Association.

I'm here just to tell you that there have been across the country, a number of very serious threats that have been communicated by U.S. Mail, by voicemail, by the internet, and those are federal crimes, and I, personally, as a local school board member have been concerned that the Justice Department was not stepping up and investigating those federal crimes.

I have no reason whatsoever to believe that any of the threats in the Worthington school board district were initiated by parents, or by people who live in our district.

I have a -- I have a reason to believe that these were outside groups funded by outside (INAUDIBLE) that are stirring up this kind of violence and threats in our community.

WHITFIELD: Well, Charlie Wilson, we appreciate you talking with us today live, and then, of course talking to our colleague, Evan McMorris-Santoro in his piece. Appreciate you. Appreciate your time.

WILSON: You're very welcome.

WHITFIELD: Thank you so much. All right, still ahead, another water crisis in Michigan. This time in Benton Harbor, high levels of lead contamination prompting a state of emergency.



WHITFIELD: All right. At any moment now, you will see a former president stumping for someone who is running for governor in Virginia.

This is how high profile it has become, that former President Barack Obama stumping for the Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe. You're looking at live pictures now at the rally getting under way in Richmond, Virginia, where Obama will be speaking soon.

He is hoping to get the crowd excited there for the Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, who is in a surprisingly tight race to be the next governor in that state.

For more, let's bring in Dan Merica. He's joining us right now.

So give us an idea of what the crowd is expecting there and if Terry McAuliffe's team is hoping for some real enthusiasm sparked by the former president.

DAN MERICA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: This is as big as surrogates get at this point. Obama won Richmond, this city, with 80 percent of the vote in 2008 and 2012.

And that really speaks to what this event is about. It's about turnout.

I can tell you talking to voters here, there's a lot of folks who have already voted for McAuliffe. They're decided that they're going to vote for him on November 2nd. There's not much persuasion going on here.

But they're here to see President Obama and to get -- boost Democratic turnout in this election.

That is something Democrats have been worried about. They've been worried that folks who voted for Obama in 2008 and '12 and Democrats really the last decade are not as motivated in this race to turn out and support McAuliffe as they are in these national races.

And that is what we expect Obama to make the case on is just -- just about an hour. We expect him to argue that the same things that brought voters out to vote for him in those presidential elections, for Biden in 2020, are on the ballot.

He's going to acknowledge, as we're told, that this race is tight, and that is exactly why he's here. He wants to make sure that McAuliffe is elected. And McAuliffe is elected by boosting Democratic turnout -- Fred? [13:35:08]

WHITFIELD: And so while we see the Democrats, you know, are bringing all the big guns for McAuliffe, what about for the Republican contender, Youngkin?

Is it likely that he is going to be seeing a former president by the name of a Donald J. Trump, who might be at some point stumping for him in the next 10 days?

MERICA: The short answer is no. There are no planned rallies between Donald Trump and Glenn Youngkin.

Trump did call into a Republican rally nearby here this week. And that really quickly turned into an ad for the McAuliffe campaign.

So even though Trump has not been in Virginia physically, he has certainly been a rhetorical device that McAuliffe has used and all Democrats here have tried to turn Youngkin into McAuliffe (sic).

Actually, McAuliffe told me, way before the primary was over, that he would pay for the jet fuel to get Trump to Virginia because it was so important that he's able to tie Youngkin to Trump, who lost this commonwealth by 10 points.

Now Trump is not planning on coming. A number of top Democrats are. Youngkin has used that as a way to attack McAuliffe, saying that he is the candidate, that he doesn't need people to come in and stump in this state for him.

And that McAuliffe is trying to turn this race into anything but himself.

But it remains to be said that Trump is unpopular here. He lost the state, the commonwealth by about 10 points in 2020.

And I guarantee you're going to hear Democrats behind me tying Youngkin to Trump, even if there are no plans for Trump to come to this state.

WHITFIELD: And so, Dan, I hear the crowd behind you. They're getting a little excited there. I'm hearing the name Obama being mentioned a few times. Is he likely to be stepping out at any moment now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, thank you, thank you --

MERICA: He will be out shortly. I think, sometime in the 2:00 hour, he's planning on coming out.

We're in the pre-program, which is a lot of Democrats from the state. You're going to see McAuliffe speak as well as a few other folks. But I think sometime in the 2:00 hour.

WHITFIELD: OK. We'll be looking, watching, and taking it live.

Dan Merica, thank you so much. All right. Another water crisis in a Michigan city. This time, in

Benton Harbor. Officials there declaring a state of emergency this week over lead pipes contaminating the city's water supply.

Sound familiar? Well, it parallels Flint, Michigan's, water crisis.

Lead in the water is plaguing the city of nearly 10,000 residents, which is roughly 85 percent black.

CNN's Miguel Marquez went to Benton Harbor where residents there are all too familiar with failing city resources.



MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Courtney Sherrod and her family of five go through a lot of bottled water.


MARQUEZ (on camera): A week?

SHERROD: I have three children and a big husband at home.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): She says they sometimes go to the gym in the next town over just for a shower.

SHERROD: My children had to go to school the next day so we went to the "Y" and made sure everybody took showers at the "Y" the night before so that they could go to school.

MARQUEZ (on camera): The "Y" is in a different town?

SHERROD: It's in St. Joe.


SHERROD: Where the water is clean and they pay lower water bills than us.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Benton Harbor, population 10,000, the latest high-profile American town dealing with lead in the water.

TONY SMITH, BENTON HARBOR RESIDENT: I'm really concerned about it because I've heard the danger of it. So we want to stay away from it as much as you can.

MARQUEZ (on camera): What do you use bottled water for?

SMITH: Drinking, cooking, and brushing your teeth.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Since 2018, samples of water taken from hundreds of homes here have shown lead above the federal threshold of 15 parts per billion gallons of water. REV. EDWARD PINKNEY, PRESIDENT & CEO, BENTON HARBOR COMMUNITY WATER

COUNCIL: Nobody, nobody should have water that they can't drink that they have to pay for it. Nobody should have contaminated water.

This is America. This should not be happening. To any community.

MARQUEZ: But Benton Harbor isn't alone. The Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, estimates some 22 million Americans, most in the Midwest and northeast, may be getting their drinking water, at least in part, from lead pipes.

DR. MONA HANNA-ATTISHA, PEDIATRIC PUBLIC HEALTH INITIATIVE: They are concentrated in these older communities which also are disproportionately where we have more vulnerable populations, people who are poorer and predominantly people of color.

MARQUEZ: Michigan's Democratic governor signed an executive directive to expedite the replacement of lead pipes, asking for more money from the state legislature.

The Republican-led state legislature, so far, has responded by opening an investigation into the governor's response to the water crisis.

None of it building confidence for those who live here.

(on camera): The governor says they have a plan. They'll replace all the lead pipes in 18 months. Do you believe it?



SHERROD: Nothing has happened all this time. So why should I believe -- does Flint have new water pipes?

MARQUEZ: They're still working on it.

SHERROD: Okay. There you go.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Miguel Marquez, CNN, Benton Harbor, Michigan.



WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much, Miguel.

Tomorrow night, Lisa Ling is back with an all-new episode of "THIS IS LIFE." This week, she investigators the current debate about decriminalizing sex work.


LISA LING, CNN HOST, "THIS IS LIFE": Why do you use the word "prostitute" rather than "sex worker?"

ESPERANZA, FORMER PROSTITUTE: Because I prefer to call things for what they are.

LING (voice-over): This is Esperanza.

ESPERANZA: I don't want it to sound like this flowery, glamorous industry, second workers work like any other job. It's not. Sex is not work. It's sex.

LING: She knows firsthand what people experience in the sex trade. She survived it.

(on camera): Tell me what it was like when you first began your journey in the sex trade.

ESPERANZA: My friend and I were outside of the club, and she took me by the arm and walked me down the street.

I thought we were playing around until this car swooped up and was this older man, and he pointed at me and said that he wanted me.

LING (voice-over): This was a new experience for Esperanza. Having only recently transitioned, feeling desired as a woman was thrilling.


WHITFIELD: An all-new episode of "THIS IS LIFE" with Lisa Ling airs tomorrow at 10:00 p.m., only on CNN.



WHITFIELD: A Haitian gang leader is threatening to kill the 17 missionaries he is holding hostage if he doesn't get the ransom he's demanding, $1 million apiece.

All but one of the hostages are Americans. And the rush to rescue them is growing more urgent by the day.

Matt Rivers reports from Port-au-Prince.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The threat from 400 Mawozo gang leader, Wilson Joseph, was chilling. If his demands are not met, he says, he will kill the 17 missionaries his gang kidnapped last weekend.

From its stronghold in the suburb, the gang has terrorized this community for years. Kidnapping now a hallmark tactic to make money.


RIVERS: Something French Priest Michel Briand knows firsthand. We met him in a church compound in Port-au-Prince where he told us about the day that same gang took him and others back in April.


RIVERS: He says, "We had to go through there to get to a work event and, on the way there, we were intercepted by young men with guns. The gang forced our driver to follow them. That's when I knew we were being kidnapped. I just kept calm."

They were taken to a more rural area and first forced to sleep outside on cardboard under a tree. Then they were moved to one abandoned house and then another in difficult conditions, to say the least.


RIVERS: He says, "It was like a dark hole, like a prison cell, the last place we were in, with no windows. At the beginning they were giving us food once a day but, by the end, they stopped feeding us. They forced us to go hungry," he said, believing it was a negotiation tactic.

(on camera): A source for Haiti's security forces tells us that he believes these 17 missionaries could be going through a very similar situation right now somewhere several miles down that road.

Made more difficult by the fact that five of them are children, with the youngest being just 8 months old.


RIVERS (voice-over): In the small town where the missionary group is based, a protest calling for their release. Palpable anger rising toward what they see as an incompetent government.


RIVERS: This protester says, "These missionaries do things for us in our village the government doesn't. They've handed the country over to the gang. We demand their release because these missionaries are everything for us here."

People remain angry because there have been little updates from the government as to what, if any, progress is being made. Though a government source says that's on purpose so as not to make negotiations any harder.

But it remains impossible to know how long the 17 missionaries will remain captive inside whatever location the gang has placed them.

For Father Briand, it was nearly three weeks in total.

He says, "The kidnappers play with time. They test the nerves of their victims, especially when they are negotiating. So the victims can't lose faith. They need to keep their hopes up. In our case, our faith was our best ally."

Matt Rivers, CNN, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

(END VIDEOTAPE) [13:48:57]

WHITFIELD: And now to a colossal weather threat -- too much too fast. The west coast bracing for a major storm bringing heavy rain and high winds. Why this is really bad news for areas devastated by wildfires.



WHITFIELD: Ten million people on the west coast are under flashflood watches as an atmospheric river moves into California.

Allison Chinchar is in the CNN Weather Center for us.

This is the first time I've heard of an atmospheric river. What is it?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Basically, it's a column of very intense moisture that's just funneled through. And that's what you're seeing.

This green and yellow tube is almost what it looks like. That's the river. And it just channels all of that very intense moisture into a very targeted location.

In this particular example the target is northern California. Now, that doesn't mean they're the only ones going to get rain. A lot of the surrounding states likely to pick up pretty intense moisture as well.

Here's the forecast going through the day today as well as tomorrow. Because this is going to be several waves of systems making their way through the western state.

Widespread. Look at the orange and yellow colors. You're talking four, six, even as much as eight inches of rain in some of these locations.

Now, on the bright side, 100 percent of California is in drought so they need some rain. The concern really becomes when you get a lot of rain in a very short period of time because that can lead to flash flooding.

When you look at the risks, the red area, that is a moderate risk, level three out of four. But this pink area right here, that's considered a high risk, a level four out of four, the top category.

And I cannot emphasize enough how rare those events are. On average, you only get about 16 high-risk days a year. Yet, they account for more than 85 percent of flood damages. Again, just showing the significance of this particular event.


Not only are we getting rain, you can see right now, on the radar, but it's also snowing. So a lot of those higher elevations are likely going to get a lot of snow. Some area could even measure to two to four feet total.

Now we do have the flashflood watches in effect not only for areas of California but even some portions of western Nevada also likely to end up getting some pretty intense rain as we get multiples of the bands making their way through.

And, again, as we mentioned, also, Fred, a lot of snow. Two to four feet potentially in the Sierras, which is why you have a winter storm watch in effect.

WHITFIELD: My goodness.

All right, Allison Chinchar, thank you so much.

We'll be right back.