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Ron Klain To Step Down As Chief Of Staff; U.S. To Wagner Group A Criminal Organization; Suspect Bryan Kohberger Followed Some Of His Victims Online And At Work; How COVID Misinformation Convinced A Missing 20-Year-Old Man To Seek An Island Sanctuary; Police: FL Woman In Custody After Killing Terminally Ill Husband, Barricading Herself Inside Hospital Room; Tomorrow, Buffalo Bills Face Off Against Cincinnati Bengals. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired January 21, 2023 - 16:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I am Jim Acosta in Washington.

And new today, we are learning President Joe Biden's chief of staff Ron Klain is expected to step down. His departure could happen in the coming weeks and marks a rare and significant turnover for the Biden administration. The news comes at a time when the president is dealing with a classified document controversy and questions about his 2024 ambitions.

Let's get right to CNN's Arlette Saenz. She joins us from Delaware where President Biden is spending the weekend.

Here we go. Some Saturday news for us from the Biden White House, Arlette. What more can you tell us?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, it's pretty big news, as we've learned that White House chief of staff Ron Klain, is expected to depart his post in the coming weeks. Sources said that a transition is expected to happen after the State of the Union Address, which is currently set for February 7th. And really, this comes as there has been very little turnover amongst President Biden's most senior staff.

Ron Klain of courses is within that inner circle of advisers that have been with President Biden since he joined the White House. Klain has worked for Biden before in the Obama administration as well as up in the Senate. And he really was steering the ship through so many of the issues that this White House has tried to tackle, including navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, getting an infrastructure bill as well as historic investments in climate change initiatives.

But of course his tenure has also come with some challenges. When you think of that withdrawal from Afghanistan, troubling news when it comes to the economy, and then also most recently, the administration having to deal with these revelations about the handling of classified documents after President Biden left the vice presidency. Now sources say that those classified documents saga had nothing to do

with Ron Klain's decision to depart. He has talked about it in the past, how this is a very grueling job. It's actually very uncommon for a White House chief of staff to stay in the job for all four years.

Now, as his expected departure is expected to happen in the coming weeks, now much of the focus will be on who exactly will replace him. Officials have been quietly discussing possible replacements for the chief of staff. And that could include of Steve Ricchetti, a longtime counselor and adviser to President Biden. Also Jeffrey Zients who served as the COVID-19 response coordinator in the first few years of the Biden White House.

There's also Anita Dunn, another longtime adviser, and then two Cabinet secretaries who might be in the mix, Tom Vilsack, as well as Marty Walsh. Now so far, that replacement has not been identified. That is something that they are working towards. But this will mark a very significant shift in the leadership at the White House as Ron Klain is set to depart in the coming weeks.

ACOSTA: All right. Arlette Saenz, thank you very much.

Joining me now to talk about this is Larry Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

Larry, good to see you. Thanks so much. You know, Larry, we usually see some turnover at the White House after the midterms. Presidents sometimes want fresh legs heading into the second half of that first term. But Biden and Klain are very close. This departure would come at a time when the president is turning to his expected reelection announcement. Your thoughts?

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Well, Ron Klain has said for a long time that he planned to depart in the middle of the administration. And actually this is a fairly lengthy tenure for a chief of staff, at least in recent times. It's a grueling job. People have said it's second only to the presidency in terms of the pressures of the office.

So I think it makes sense. And of course, wherever he goes, Jim, there probably are telephones. So, you know, he can still be brought in for his knowledge and background. But it is a good time for a change. First of all, the first two years for Biden were incredibly productive. Topped off by a performance by Democrats much better than even many Democrats expected. So if you are going to get off of the stage, it is better to get off at a time like this of triumph.

And second -- the second part of this term will be defined inevitably by the fact that Republicans, even by a slim majority, control the House of Representatives. The legislative productive part of the Biden administration at least the first term is over. And mainly what the new chief of staff is going to have to do is to work around the House and work around the many investigations they are prepared to launch about almost everything concerning the Biden administration. Plus, run the campaign.

ACOSTA: Right.


SABATO: The chief of staff isn't running the campaign, isn't the chairman of the campaign committee, but has a lot to do with how the president approaches that campaign.

ACOSTA: No question, Larry. And you know, we're here on this two year anniversary of the first full day of the Biden administration. "TIME" magazine captured the moment in their own way. When Biden came into office -- you can't see this image, Larry, but it is of a very disheveled Oval Office. The headline was "Day One." I think it's reflecting some of the mess left behind by the Trump White House team.

But, you know, Ron Klain and Joe Biden were kind of joined at the hip in dealing with the aftermath of the Trump presidency. That is in large part how Ron Klain's I guess 10 years chief of staff will be remembered.

SABATO: Absolutely. And he had to help put the pieces back together with the president and other assistance. And it was a mess. I mean, the only thing you can really compare it to would be Gerald Ford succeeding Richard Nixon. Things were in tatters then, too, in August of 1974. So it wasn't easy to get things started again. And we were right in the wake of the horrible insurrection on January 6th.

So stability has been returned. Biden has had a very stable administration. You haven't had that many changes in the senior Cabinet, just like Barack Obama did, but other presidents have had loads of changes. Donald Trump had four chiefs of staff in four years. And I am not sure he listened to any of them.

ACOSTA: Right. I think you're absolutely right about that. And Joe Biden does listen to his chief of staff. We'll see what the next chief of staff brings to the table. It might be somebody who has possibly sharper elbows because they're going to be dealing with, as you said, a Republican House.

Larry Sabato, thanks very much. Appreciate the time.

A critical moment to tell you about now for the war in Ukraine. The U.S. would designate a Russian mercenary organization as a significant transnational criminal organization. It's known as the Wagner Group and it's being hit with new sanctions as the U.S. has released newly declassified photos. They showed railcars traveling between Russia and North Korea. It's believed they were delivering rockets and missiles for the Wagner Group in Ukraine.

The U.S. says Russia's Vladimir Putin is increasingly relying on Wagner with about 50,000 of its fighters deployed in Ukraine right now. Pentagon officials say in some cases they've actually been more effective than the Russian military itself. Russian troops, including the Wagner Group, have so far failed to take Bakhmut, a key city in eastern Ukraine.

And CNN senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, joins me now. Ben, you were inside the trenches near Bakhmut. What did you see


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we saw is that for the moment, Jim, the Ukrainian forces are managing to hold the Russians off. But the intensity of fire into the city and into the trenches around the city is going to be difficult for them to endure for too much longer.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): In the trenches outside Bakhmut, a mortar crew is at work. Hoping to repel Russian forces on the verge of encircling the city.

Drone footage shows the impact of their rounds on enemy positions. The refrain among these troops, we need more.

SPAS, UKRAINIAN ARMY: They all speak about tanks, tanks, thanks. Yes, of course tanks is most powerful for all the time (INAUDIBLE) on the field, but now it's 21st century. You need not only tanks, we need ammunition.

WEDEMAN: Around Bakhmut, slowly and steadily, the Russians are gaining ground.

Thursday, Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner Group, claimed his troops and only his troops took the village of Klishchiivka, just south of the city. In a dugout, this officer nicknamed Koleso explains Wagner's tactics.

They attack at night, the first wave is less trained, but we have to use lots of ammunition against them, he says. The next wave of troops has night vision. They're better trained and better equipped.

Tactics seemingly from a different day and age, inflicting mounting casualties on Ukrainian forces. This soldier was critically wounded when his armored personnel carrier was struck by Russian fire. Much of Bakhmut is now a ghost town. The sound of shelling, the danger.


(On-camera): We're inside this tunnel inside Bakhmut, taking cover because there's incoming rounds just nearby.

(Voice-over): The few civilians left resigned to their fate.

People die from strikes everywhere in Kyiv and Dnipro, says Valentina. If that's your destiny, death will reach you anywhere.

On a hill above the city, the Soviet-era T-72 tank fires into the distance. Its sound and fury perhaps not enough to turn the tide.


WEDEMAN: And the fighting is increasing around Bakhmut. It's also in the Zaporizhzhia region increasing over the last 24 hours according to Ukrainian officials. There are more than 21 missile strikes in that area. And of course, the Ukrainians looking ahead are increasingly worried that when the weather improves, the Russians are going to be launching a multi-front massive offensive -- Jim.

ACOSTA: All right, Ben Wedeman, terrific reporting as always. Thank you so much.

Joining me now, the former commanding officer of the USS Cole, retired Navy commander, Kirk Lippold. He was commander of the Cole when that ship was attacked by al Qaeda suicide bombers back in 2000.

Kirk, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it. This mercenary organization, the Wagner Group, apparently is making some of the only known progress that Russia is known for having these days under Putin there in Ukraine.

Let me ask you this, though. What impact is this going to have? The U.S., other allies, you know, going after Wagner in this way. The U.S. designating it a transnational criminal organization. Does that make more of a difference in terms of the fight against Russia and I guess trying to neutralize organizations like the Wagner Group?

CMDR. KIRK LIPPOLD (RET), FORMER COMMANDER, USS COLE: Jim, I think it is going to make a difference. What designating it, the transnational criminal group, is going to do is allow sanctions to be put in place to once again start shutting off some doors both financially and with armament that is going to ensure that they cannot get those in the long run.

During the short term, they're probably going to continue to be supplied. While they are very combat effective, they also would only be combat effective because the Russian Ministry of Defense has been providing them with a lot of the logistics support, the ammunition, to get out there. They've given them access to the prisoners that have allowed them to fill out their ranks so that they have been able to literally throw bodies at the problem, somewhat similar to what Stalin used to do in World War II.

In doing that, though, it has also been leveraged that they can use Ministry of Defense resources to make some of those battlefield gains. But at tremendous cost in lives and equipment. And then Wagner Group wants to step up and be the heroes of the day. People are beginning to realize that that is costing the Russian people a lot. They are losing their sons in doing this. They are losing their husbands and doing this.

Wagner is really an extension of the GRU which is an internal intelligence organization within the Russian federation, and in Russia. The problem you have is that there is a competition right now into who is going to eventually relieve Putin when he decides to step down or dies.

ACOSTA: Right. And let's take a look at some of these pictures. What you're seeing are images of what appears to be Russian rail cars traveling to North Korea to pick up infantry rockets, missiles, weapons that according to the U.S. went straight to Wagner's fighters in Ukraine. That is troubling. What do you make of that?

LIPPOLD: I think it's very troubling because what it indicates is like just like Iran providing drones that the Russians are using with great effectiveness to attack the critical infrastructure throughout Ukraine, having North Korea now getting engaged in that, what that really is as a roundabout way for China to begin supporting Russia with the kind of arms that are killing Ukraine directly.

And consequently, we, as the West and the United States in the lead in doing that with European countries, we need to begin to hold not just North Korea accountable, but China as well, because that tie, if it is going to become proven, which it already has, and they are going to provide this type of equipment, we need to make sure that that gets cut off.

ACOSTA: Yes, I mean, the Russians aren't exactly turning to, you know, some of the finest members of the international community when they are engaged in this sort of thing. And what do you make of this open dispute between the U.S. and Germany over providing tanks to Ukraine?


LIPPOLD: I think it's somewhat disappointing. I think Germany right now is proving that they might not be quite the reliable ally that we would expect from someone that has a large economy, and is a NATO member like that. I think in the long run, it is going to continue to grow as a fracture. Germany said they wanted to step up and spend more, meet their 2 percent GDP commitment to the NATO alliance, and then they have found reason after reason after reason in the last couple of weeks, to begin to back off of that.

When it comes to tanks, it's a specious argument. They are one country away from being at the front of that war with Poland as the buffer, and yet they will not allow frontline military equipment to go there when they know that Ukraine needs them. Everything that Ukraine needs, they have asked for. The West has taken far too long to get it there and that cost is being measured in Ukrainian bodies. They cannot afford that especially when we're staring in the face at a possible large-scale Russian offensive come this spring.

ACOSTA: Yes. The question might not be whether or not to send tanks to Ukraine, it is whether to do it now or later.

LIPPOLD: How fast and how many? Because they are going to need them.

ACOSTA: Yes. All right. Commander Kirk Lippold, thanks very much for your time. Thanks for the expertise. Appreciate it.

LIPPOLD: Thank you, Jim.

ACOSTA: This just in to CNN. New images show police in Lima, Peru storming a university to disperse protesters. Peru's national police tweeted that the National University of Saint Marcos claimed people had used violence against university staff and took control of the campus. According to the state news agency, several hundred officers entered the school to remove protesters who have been there for three days, at one point using tear gas.

This comes as thousands marched in Peru's capital to demand the president resigned after the country's former president was removed from office last month.

Coming up, disturbing new details about the suspect accused of killing four University of Idaho students in the interaction he apparently had with the victims before the crime.



ACOSTA: A new report says the suspect in the murders of four Idaho college students reportedly visited a restaurant where two of the victims worked just years weeks before the killings. Madison Mogen and Xana Kernodle were both servers at the Mad Greek Restaurant near the University of Idaho. According to "People" magazine, a former employee saw Bryan Kohberger order food there at least twice.

And that's not all, "People" is also reporting that Kohberger followed at least all three female victims online, although they didn't follow him back. The magazine says Kohberger also sent a series of messages to one of the victims and according to an investigative source, quote, "basically it was just him saying hey, how are you, but he did it again and again."

Let's discuss now with Adam Lankford. He's a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Alabama.

Adam, what do you make of all of these details? How might they fit into a larger case?

ADAM LANKFORD, PROFESSOR OF CRIMINOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA: Well, about a year ago, I published a sexual frustration theory of aggression, bias and crime. And little did I know that one of the warnings I gave at that time was about people becoming obsessed with -- especially women they see online on social media, perhaps they glimpsed in public or they see in dating apps.

The problem here is I think the reason social media is such an exacerbator is for a young man like Kohberger, people stare at these young women as often as he would like, for as long as he would like. These are high def photos. And that could drive a very dangerous obsession.

I guess our hope here is that as more information comes out on his online behavior, we'll get a better sense of the cyber stalking and whether that fit with face to face stalking as well.

ACOSTA: And what does this say about the role of social media companies in all of this? I mean, in one of these instances, it appears Kohberger repeatedly message one of the victims over and over again. I mean, how can we get that knocked off in the future? There's just no way to control it? LANKFORD: Well, I think it's a good point. So, you know, when you

think about companies like Instagram, they are allowing people to message young women, in this case, without their permission, right?

ACOSTA: Right.

LANKFORD: So Kohberger may have felt like he was rejected, even if those messages weren't seen. I guess more broadly when we think about social media and the society, according to Pew Research Center, one- third of young women report being sexually harassed online, or being cyber stalked. And those are only the women who come forward with it or even know about the fact that they are being stalked.

So the other thing is this is -- you know, the internet has been around for a while now, but this is a growing problem, particularly in the last eight or nine years. At the same problem we see an increasing number of sexually frustrated men going online, posting misogynistic things, and expressing their frustration in sometimes very alarming ways.

ACOSTA: It's very disturbing. And one of the employees at the restaurant said nothing was suspicious about Kohberger's visit. What does that tell you, that he was able to blend into society so easily?

LANKFORD: Well, you know, it's kind of interesting. Certainly, you know, your average restaurant employee is not kind of on high alert for dangerous things on every shift. One of the things that stands out to me is that Kohberger himself describes himself as having kind of low levels of emotion. Not having some highs and lows emotionally. And so it may have been that he was sitting there being largely expressiveless, while he was kind of thinking darker thoughts, but not showing it on the outside.

ACOSTA: And if you had a chance to sit down with Kohberger and could ask him a question, what would you ask him?


LANKFORD: You know, I guess one way of thinking about this is that there are two kind of major motives in cases like this. When people break into a house and there is a killing, and the person is trying to get away with it, one is pleasure or enjoyment on the one hand, and the other is financial gain.

Now clearly there was no financial gain here. And so my question for him would be, why did you think this would be a pleasurable experience? Because ultimately, all you did was stabbed some young women and a young man, and caused a tremendous amount of harm, not only to them but to the survivors and their traumatized family members.

ACOSTA: All right. Adam Lankford, very disturbing details coming forward in all of this. Thanks so much for the expertise. We appreciate it.

LANKFORD: Thank you. ACOSTA: Coming up, details on the disappearance of a 20-year-old who

believed that rantings of a COVID conspiracy theorist and went missing at sea.

Randi Kaye has that story, next.



ACOSTA: COVID has killed more than one million people in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic. It is currently the third-leading cause of death in the U.S.

And yet, since the beginning, many have chosen to embrace misinformation about the virus on the vaccine.

Randi Kaye now has the story of a 20-year-old who has been missing for more than two years, ever since he succumbed to the teachings of a conspiracy theorist and sought what he thought would be an island paradise.


ABIGAIL DANIAN, ISAAC DANIAN'S MOM: We were out of town. We came back from Chicago, he was gone.

RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Abigail and John Danian haven't seen their son, Isaac, since September of 2020. That's when they say he ran off to Hawaii to follow his so-called guru.

MATTHEW MELLOW, YOUTUBER: I've known about the end times for many years.

KAYE: That guru? Matthew Mellow. He goes by the name Mortekai Eleazar on social media.

Including his YouTube channel, where he offers sermons about what he says is Satan's plan to destroy society and false claims about the dangers of the COVID-19 vaccine, which he calls, the "Mark of the Beast."

MELLOW: Today, People don't even know what the Mark of the Beast is. Those who do, still don't. They think it's a RFID chip or something of that manner.

KAYE: Mellow had posted this recruitment video online, encouraging men, to join him, and sail to the South Pacific.

In it, he suggested society was doomed.

MELLOW: I'd like to extend an invitation. I'm basically the coordinator of this trip.

KAYE: Back home, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, 20-year-old Isaac Danian signed up. His parents say his mental health had worsened since the Pandemic began and that he'd mistakenly come to believe the vaccine was the government's way of controlling the population. Even the COVID test scared him.

He'd been encouraging his parents to sell all their belongings and move to a bunker. At the time, they had no idea he'd been listening to the teachings of Matthew Mellow.

Labor Day weekend, 2020, Isaac left home without warning. He left behind this note for his younger siblings, warning them, "Do not get the vaccine!!! or you won't make it to heaven."

Author and journalist, David Wolman, investigated this case for "The New York Times."

DAVID WOLMAN, AUTHOR, AUTHOR & JOURNALIST: This guru clown, who was based in Hawaii at the time, he convinced them to fly to Hawaii and join him on this journey across a huge portion of the Pacific Ocean.

To find some COVID-free place where they could start again and escape Satan's grand plan.

KAYE: Isaac called his parents on October 4, 2020, from Hawaii to say he'd be off the grid for about 30 days. He would not say who he was with or where he was going.

A. DANIAN: He said it was better if he didn't. But he always said, "I wish I could tell you."

KAYE: This is one of the last text messages Isaac sent his mother. October 4, 2020, a photo of a giant fish he'd caught.

His family never heard from him again.

They would learn later from sheriff's investigators that he'd connected with Matthew Mellow, who had arranged for a couple of boat captains to sail him and his recruits to the South Pacific where COVID hadn't taken hold.

Isaac and another man from Rochester, New York, named Shukree Abdul- Rashed, would go in Captain Mike Schmidt's boat while Mellow left days later in another boat.

MIKE SCHMIDT, BOAT CAPTAIN: They actually had a really good time, these two. We caught a lot of fish.


KAYE: The trip took a dark turn when, after almost two months at sea, Captain Schmidt approached the island of Wallis, a French territory between Hawaii and New Zealand.

Schmidt says, when he alerted local authorities about their arrival, Isaac and Abdul-Rashed panicked about having to take a COVID test to enter. He says they did the unthinkable and suddenly jumped overboard.

MIKE SCHMIDT, COAT CAPTAIN (voice-over): They were afraid of taking the COVID test as it being the "Mark of the Beast."

Now, they had gotten involved with the guru. They were convinced that for sure that the PCR test had that there is things inside, along with the vaccine.

And the vaccine wasn't even really out.

KAYE: Schmidt says he called Wallis Island authorities for help and flagged down a fishing boat to search.

He believes the men had a plan to slip into oblivion with Mellow, giving up all ties to the United States.

WOLMAN: They had really been led astray by this Instagram-era want-to- be prophet guru, who, for some strange reason, just spoke in just the right way and manner and with the right diction to draw these two young men in.


It was really this witches' brew of COVID conspiracy theory, meets end times prophecy, meets kind of DIY Christian fundamentalism, meets a lot of stress and turmoil regarding the 2020 election.

KAYE: Mellow didn't respond to our repeated requests for comment.

According to this French police report, Captain Schmidt was interrogated. And authorities confiscated his .9-millimeter pistol, laptop and Garmin GPS device from the boat.

Schmidt was eventually cleared in that investigation.

SCHMIDT: I never did anything to harm these guys, ever.

KAYE: Dive teams searched the area for the men but found nothing.

Isaac's parents filed this missing-person report with the Kent County Sheriff's Department in Michigan and have appealed to the State Department and French authorities for help.

But years later, they are no closer to finding their son.

A. DANIAN: We do have hope he's alive because there hasn't been any evidence to proof otherwise.

It's possible that he wanted to go off the grid and he's in a manic state. It's possible that he was unwillingly kidnapped. It is possible that he's drowned.

If somebody said to you your child probably died, would you just accept that and move on? It's not something we can do.


ACOSTA: Coming up, we are following a developing story out of Florida where police say a woman barricaded herself inside a hospital after shooting her terminally ill husband.

We will talk to a cardiologist who hid in a supply room during this terrifying ordeal. That is next.



ACOSTA: We are following a developing story out of Daytona Beach, Florida, where an elderly woman is facing charges after police say she shot and killed her terminally ill husband and then barricaded herself in a hospital room where the husband was being treated.

Police say the woman told them she and her husband had planned to do this after his health had worsened.

Police say that they used a flash bang to distract her and take her into custody. The incident caused staffers and other patients to go into lockdown.

Joining us now is Dr. Joshua Horenstein. He is a cardiologist who had to shelter in place at Advent Health Hospital in Daytona Beach while all of this was unfolding.

Dr. Horenstein, thank you for being with us.

There's no doubt that this had to be a frightening moment for you, other staffers. Can you walk us through what happened?

DR. JOSHUA HORENSTEIN, CARDIOLOGIST, ADVENT HEALTH HOSPITAL (via telephone): Certainly. Thanks for having me.

First, I would just like to say how appreciative I am of all of the law enforcement who were there, how quickly they acted, and how they were able to dissolve the situation without loss of life.

It was pretty scary, especially in the early part when we had no idea what was going on.

I was in the Emergency Department when an announcement came on the overhead speakers saying Code Yellow. We get codes all the time that referred to patients having cardiac distress.

But yellow is not something that we have heard before. People looked on their badges to see what it even means. And it says lockdown. So again, looking at something like lockdown, what are we supposed to do about that?

Another 10 seconds later, another alarm goes off saying Code Silver, shelter in place. That is where pandemonium started. But everyone started getting all of the patients behind closed doors. And it enters a new code to get into the supply closet, so she and I

went in there. And we basically just sat there for the next 30 to 40 minutes before we started getting some information off of Twitter what was going on.

ACOSTA: Doctor, we were just showing the video. A few moments ago, we showed it again, the video I think that you took inside that supply room.

I mean, what was going through your mind when you are waiting in there?

HORENSTEIN: For the first few seconds, this is just like any other fire drill. It's not real. But there were a couple of moments when you would hear doors slamming and voices.

And it is hard not to flashback to any video of any mass shooting that we have seen throughout the years. And suddenly, it is your real.

And you don't know it is an old lady on the top floor. All you know is that there's a shooter outside the room.

You saw the picture, the stretcher barricading the door, and you know, you're saying, is that really going to stop the shooter if they wanted to get in here? That's what's going through your mind.

ACOSTA: And, Doctor, your reaction to the fact that somebody was able to -- obviously, this was a tragic situation where the woman and her husband apparently took it upon themselves to do this sort of thing.

But your reaction to somebody being able to bring a gun into a hospital like that?

HORENSTEIN: It is terrible. This isn't even the first time in my career that this has happened.

There was a murder/suicide in San Diego almost exactly like this. Patients who were -- a patient who was terminally ill. And it speaks a lot for gun violence in the country.

Even though they had this pact, is this really the way to do it? It was so violent and so distressing, not just to staff, but all of the patients that are in there trying to recover and hearing what is going on.

I mean, it was stressful.

ACOSTA: Did you talk to other folks there in the hospital who heard the shot?

HORENSTEIN: No. I am on the ground floor in the Emergency Department. As it turned out, this happened on the 11th floor, I believe. So we were very far.

ACOSTA: That's good. And what kind of resources are being provided to staffers there? I'm

guessing that the hospital is trying to deal with the situation right now?


HORENSTEIN: Yes, and --


ACOSTA: And have the police left the area?

HORENSTEIN: Yes. That will become more clear over the next day or two.

The next step is basically trying to return the hospital to some sense of normal operation.

Because there are still hundreds of patients there that we cannot get to floors that they need to get to because police had not done their safety sweeps.

So patient care trumps everything. And following that, I know the hospital will be working with any staff in there. You know, understandable distress.

ACOSTA: And what goes through your mind, Doctor, thinking about the awful situation that so many families find themselves in, where a loved one's terminally ill going through a very difficult experience of passing, and they are tempted to do something like this?

HORENSTEIN: Yes, as part of my job I see people at the end stage, you know, on a very routine basis.

To me, it feels like there are so many options out there. You know, hospice is a great place for patients who are terminally ill where they can be pain free and anxiety free. It is really a great program.

I don't know how someone could get into the desperate level to take on such an extreme measure. But there really are resources out there.

ACOSTA: Absolutely. And people who work in hospice care, they are just heroes. You are absolutely right. They can provide such incredible care for families who are going through these really awful situations.

But, Dr. Joshua Horenstein, I'm glad you're safe, glad everyone else is safe there at the hospital.

Thank you very much for your time. We appreciate it.

HORENSTEIN: Thank you very much.

ACOSTA: All right, coming up, the Bills and Bengals set to face off again just weeks after Damar Hamlin's terrifying cardiac arrest on the field.

A preview of the big matchup and how the two teams have united in the wake of the scare. That is next.



ACOSTA: Tomorrow, the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals will face- off in the AFC divisional round of the NFL playoffs weeks.

The reunion is significant. It comes just weeks after Bills Safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest on the field.

The team's head coach says Hamlin was at the team facility almost every day this week, which is a terrific news.

CNN sports anchor, Coy Wire, joins me now.

Coy, I'm looking at that mural over your shoulder right now of Damar Hamlin. Pretty striking there.

These two teams might be rivals tomorrow but they've really come together off the field. This community has undergone a remarkable change in all of this.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: You nailed it, Jim. No doubt about it.

This Bills/Bengals playoff game in Buffalo will be intense. As you mentioned, that first meeting since the teams faced since Damar Hamlin had that near fatal collapse. That was 19 days ago.

Emotional for Bills players but also the Bengals players, Jim, too. Like Tee Higgins, the player who collided with Hamlin.

Higgens was asked what it would be like if he were able to Damar while his Bengals are here. Listen.


TEE HIGGINS, CINCINNATI BENGALS WIDE RECEIVER: Chock it up, laugh, giggles. Happy to see him. Hopefully, you know, talk to him and chop it up a little.

JOE BURROW, CINCINNATI BENGALS QUARTERBACK: Obviously, what happened was -- you know, that's always in the back of everybody's minds, but, you know, now it's win or go home. I think that's what everybody's mostly focused on.


WIRE: Just the two more wins, Jim, for either team mean as trip to the Super Bowl.

Bengals were runners up last season. Bills are favored in this, 13-1, in home playoff games since 1970. Bills mafia going to be rocking.

Let's get back to more about how this has brought people together, as you mentioned, Jim. Through Damar Hamlin's story, the world has come to know the special

young man he is. He's joyful, full of love, wanting to help others. And that's inspired so many fans around the world to do the same.

I caught up with two women, Bills fan, Erin Oliver, and Emily McGahey (ph), a Bengals fan, who had never met but they came together after Damar's injury.

And created Hearts for Hamlin, a life-saving campaign encouraging people to train for CPR. They're raising money for the American Heart Association.

And Damar Hamlin and his number three have become a symbol for spreading love everywhere.

This mural near Buffalo's Larkin Square is two stories high. People have shown up, about 100 in the past hour, and show up all day long. The artist, Adam Ziglist, says it's dedicated to all who came together, Jim, to support Damar tomorrow in Buffalo.

The power of sport, Jim, bringing people together even from opposing sides to create some positive change together.

ACOSTA: All right. Very good. Glad to see something positive out of this situation. And glad that Damar is on the road to recovery, it appears.

Coy Wire, great to see you. Thanks so much.

A military honor to tell you about now, 50 years in the making.

This week, in San Diego, the Navy secretary presented 97-year-old Royce Williams the Navy Cross, the service's second-highest military honor, for his heroic actions in the Korean War in November of 1952.

The 27-year-old flying a plane like this, the F-9-F Panther, the U.S. Navy's first jet fighter, on a patrol mission over a northern part of the Korean Peninsula.

When, much to his surprise, seven Soviet MIG 15 fighter jets showed up from Japan. Moments later, four of the Soviet planes turned towards Williams and opened fire


But despite being outnumbered and outgunned, the young lieutenant shot down four Soviet MIGs in a 30-minute period, barely making it back to his Navy carrier.

On the warship's deck, Navy crew counted 263 holes in Williams' plane. It was in such poor shape, it was pushed off the ship and into the sea.

This harrowing tale was kept secret 50 years, classified over fear that the incident between U.S. and Soviet aircraft would ignite another world war. And now, more than 70 years later, we're learning the story of a real- life Top Gun.

Thank you so much for your service. Can't wait to see the movie about this one. It's going to be a good one.

We'll be right back.