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CNN This Morning

Tornado Outbreak Kills At Least Two in Oklahoma; Grandson of White Homeowner Who Shot Black Teen Speaks Out; CNN Team Faces Close Call with Russian Missile in Ukraine. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired April 20, 2023 - 07:00   ET


MICHAEL BAMBERGER, AUTHOR, SECOND LIFE OF TIGER WOODS: Phil won a major championship at age 50.


Phil finished second, and last week's Masters, two ago Masters, at age 52. That's going to be a motivator for Tiger Woods. So, yes, I agree with you, Don, you can never count out Tiger Woods on anything.

We love having you on. Michael Bamberger, thank you so much, I appreciate it.

BAMBERGER: Thank you.

LEMON: CNN This Morning continues right now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yet another shooting, someone who made a minor mistake and got shot because of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're going to have fears that they never thought about in their life that now they're going to think about all the time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is this culture within America that shoot first, we ask questions later.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is going on in this country?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At least two people are dead this morning after severe storms tore across three states overnight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tornado left down trees and power lines creating challenges for first responders to find those trapped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're seeing a number of emergency crews all over this area. Look at all the damage. The inflow is insane.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Access to the common abortion drug, Mifepristone, still legal, at least for now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a really uncertain time for the abortion rights movement, Pandora's Box of potential legal issues. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The real question is, will they hear it? And where are they headed on this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't want a Supreme Court justice in our bedrooms telling us what to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw a missile land very close to our vehicle.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Many thousands have already died in the battle continues to rage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Safety is just a word here and rubble is a place.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't know where they come from, who made them, how they operate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are tracking over 650 cases.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This hearing is unprecedented. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I'm successful we should be able to normalize everything that we're doing and make that part of their mission and their role.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. As you can see, there is a lot of news, UFOs included.

LEMON: We are not alone.

HARLOW: That's for sure, something, whether it's a drone or not, is with us.

But really severe, deadly weather across much of the middle of the country right now, more than 50 million Americans are under threat of severe weather after a tornado outbreak killed at least two people in Oklahoma. This is the small, hard hit town of Cole. It's about 30 miles south of Oklahoma City, homes and buildings ripped apart and flattened. A local meteorologist was right nearby as the deadly tornado tore through that community.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to give you a perspective of what it looks like here in the truck right now. I mean, storm command is rocking like I've never felt it before. Oh, my gosh. Oh yes. Oh, my gosh. This is incredible. Kyle One, back up a little bit more. We're fine. Where we're at the tornado is getting stronger right back over here to the left. It's moving extremely slowly.


HARLOW: You can see just how enormous that tornado is. It was just one of several that struck the region and now the powerful storm is on the move, the severe weather threat extending all the way from South Texas to Wisconsin. Look at that, almost all the way up the country, also across the Midwest and Tennessee.

Derek Van Dam is tracking all of it for us. Good morning, Derek.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Poppy, I wouldn't want to be anywhere near where that storm chaser or meteorologist was. That's too close for comfort for me. These storms were acting very erratic. At one time, there was actually two super cell thunderstorms that we're feeding off of each other, one became the dominant storm and dropped yet another tornado, a very terrifying overnight period for residents of Oklahoma. Take a listen.


VAN DAM (voice over): A large tornado barreling through central Oklahoma Wednesday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tornado is just to our south right here. Damon is pulling in tremendous inflow into it continuing to produce damage. We have large hailstones being pulled into the tornado as well.

VAN DAM: The tornado hit Cole, Oklahoma, killing at least two people, a local official told CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a very, very intense, very slow-moving tornado.

VAN DAM: The tornado left downed trees and power lines creating challenges for first responders to find those trapped. There were over 150 storm reports Wednesday and 15 tornadoes. Eight tornadoes hit Oklahoma, four in Iowa and three in Kansas. Hail damaged this local station's helicopter mid air.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are beat the hell up. I have no windshield. The helicopter is beat up. We are trying to make it to Pauls Valley and land.

VAN DAM: Multiple hailstorms hit parts of Oklahoma, causing severe damage.


Workers at this Oklahoma Papa John's hid in the walk-in freezer that was surrounded by three feet of concrete running pretty hard.

IAN JOHNSON, SURVIVED TORNADO: It was raining pretty hard, and then we heard hail and I walked outside and a piece of hail hit me in the face. So then I went back inside and then we went back into the walk- in freezer.

VAN DAM: The general manager of that Papa John's says her car was thrown across the parking lot.

BEKAH INMAN, SURVIVED TORNADO: My front door flew open and it was like flapping in the wind. So, I ran out there and pulled the door shut and locked it so that I guess to protect us a little more. And then we went all back in the walk-in. And then when it finally comes all the way down, we came outside and, yes, my car is literally not where I left it.

VAN DAM: And this assisted living facility had to evacuate 33 of its tenants after the building was destroyed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the front of this assisted living facility is just completely blown away. There's holes in it. There's no glass. Everything seems to be gone.

VAN DAM: Luckily, no injuries were reported.

SHELEE STEWART, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BROOKDALE SENIOR ASSISTED LIVING: The windows are blown out. And there's water in the building.

The girls had started getting people in their bathrooms and for those that could and then pulling people away from the windows. So, they're the heroes tonight.


VAN DAM (on camera): Can you imagine trying to find your car and it's not where you put it the night before? Just incredible, this is a helicopter view of one of the tornadoes, and let me show you why this is so dangerous. It's actually wrapped within this rain shaft, making it invisible to the viewer on the ground. But one thing's for sure, we know that a massive, what we call a wedge tornado is hidden behind that shaft of rain and actual wedge tornado was wider than it is tall. So, you can imagine the damage path that it creates.

We know these storms have been tornadic. They are not currently tornadic, but certainly strong, gusty winds moving across Kansas City. Here's our severe threat from Houston all the way to Chicago, can't rule out a tornado today. Don?

HARLOW: Wow. So many people have to be concerned. Derek, thanks.

LEMON: An IRS agent is seeking whistleblower protections in order to share allegations of mishandling and political interference in the ongoing Hunter Biden criminal probe. Federal prosecutors have been investigating President Biden's son since at least 2018.

So, joining us now, CNN Political Correspondent Sara Murray, I should have said that the allegations of mishandling, right, allegations of mishandling. Sara, good morning to you. What do we know about this type of information the IRS agent might have?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, we know that this IRS agent, through his lawyer, is going to Congress, Republicans and Democrats saying, I want to provide you information, but so far, they're being pretty vague about what they have to share.

The letter from this lawyer says that his client, the IRS agent, is involved in an ongoing and sensitive investigation involving a high- profile, controversial individual. We know that to be Hunter Biden from a source familiar with the matter. And, again, the allegations are sort of vague. It alleges preferential treatment and politics coming into play in terms of whether to prosecute this case. It talks about failing to mitigate clear conflicts of interest.

You know, we know there has been an ongoing criminal investigation into Hunter Biden for tax crimes, for making a false statement. He has not been charged and there have been disagreements between IRS agents and the FBI about this strength of the evidence in this investigation. So now it's clear that there is an IRS agent who was apparently involved in the case who wants to go to Congress and share what he believes are allegations of mishandling and politics at play here.

LEMON: Well, how likely is this request to be granted, Sara?

MURRAY: Well, it's very clear that Republicans want to get this guy in here and want the information, Don. I mean, I know that we know they are very eager to investigate the Biden family. We know Jim Jordan, the judiciary chair, is very eager to investigate what he believes is the weaponization of the government. So, I think from the GOP side, they are going to try to work to make this happen.

And we should note that we, of course, reached out to the IRS. We reached out to Hunter Biden's legal team. We reached out to the U.S. attorney in Delaware for comment, all of them declined to comment.

LEMON: Sara Murray, thank you.

MURRAY: Thanks.

HARLOW: New this morning, there's a manhunt underway for a suspect in North Carolina. This is a story we were talking about earlier. This person is accused of shooting a six-year-old girl and her father after a basketball rolled into his yard in Gaston County on Tuesday night.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even the other man, why did she shoot my daddy and me? Daddies do (INAUDIBLE).


HARLOW: That leaves you speechless. Her face was hit by bullet fragments while her father is still in the hospital. We don't have any update on his condition yet, but police say that 24-year-old Robert Louis Singletary also entered another neighbor and fled after the incident. They warned he could be armed and is certainly considered dangerous.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will be damn sure to be loud and clear when this case comes to court. And the people in Gaston County will see and hear our commitment to that prosecution.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe that would had gotten me and my husband too. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He just ran out of bullets.



HARLOW: Neighbors say that Singletary was new to the neighborhood, also often threatened children. We will absolutely keep you updated on that story.

This morning, police in Texas have arrested a man accused of shooting two cheerleaders in a parking lot when one of them mistakenly got into the wrong car. Pedro Rodriguez Jr. is charged with deadly conduct. One of those athletes is 18-year-old Payton Washington. She remains in the hospital this morning in critical condition.

Rosa Flores joins us again with an update on how she is doing. Do we have an update?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, good morning. Well, Payton is still in the ICU. And as you might imagine, this is not just a physical challenge because she was shot twice once in the back, once in the leg and the wound impacted her organs. It's also an emotional challenge for her because she's a competitive athlete, and this happened just days before the cheerleading championships, the world championships.

Now, we received a statement overnight from Lynne Shearer. She is the owner of the gym where Payton trains and here's what she said. Quote, she was able to watch your team via FaceTime last night as they had their final practice and show off before leaving to compete this weekend. It was very hard for her to watch and not be there. You know, Shearer adds that Payton is expected to make a full recovery.

As for the latest on this investigation, we've obtained the search warrant affidavit that has extra details. Now, according to this document, the detectives were able to find the suspect because of the surveillance video from that grocery store. They ran the license plates, went to the registered address, and they first talk to the suspect's brother. Then the suspect walked out of the home wearing the same black hoodie that they had seen in the surveillance video, and that's when he was taken into custody.

Police identify the suspect as 25-year-old Pedro Tello Rodriguez. And Poppy, I should add that in that search warrant, once it was executed, they were to recover a gun, ammunition and also other items from inside that vehicle. Poppy?

HARLOW: Keep us posted on Patyon's condition. We're all thinking about her. Rosa, thank you for the reporting from Austin.

LEMON: Now to Andrew Lester, the white homeowner who is accused of shooting a black 16-year-old, Ralph Yarl. He pled not guilty yesterday to two felonies. Lester told police that he was scared to death of Yarl due to his size.

Now, Lester is 84 years old, was released on bond. He is due back in court June 1st. Prosecuting attorney said there was a racial component to this case. Miraculously, Yarl is back at home recovering from his injuries. After three days in the hospital. This is a picture of him taken yesterday with his lawyer, Lee Merritt.

So, joining us now is Klint Ludwig. He is the grandson of Andrew Lester. And we always like to get a perspective on the thinking of someone, someone who knows him, why they might do this. So, Klint, thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.

Thank you, Don. Good morning.

LEMON: Good morning to you. So, what is your reaction? What was your reaction when you heard that your grandfather shot Ralph Yarl for ringing his doorbell?

KLINT LUDWIG, GRANDSON OF 84-YEAR-OLD MAN WHO SHOT RALPH YARL: I was disgusted. I thought it was terrible. Myself and my family stand with Ralph Yarl and seeking justice. And so it's a this is a horrible tragedy, it never should have happened.

LEMON: Folks are going to want to know why you speaking out and apparently against your grandfather.

LUDWIG: It's the right thing to do. This country happens over and over again where people get away with killing unarmed innocent black people and it's a -- I would have had the same energy for any other cases like I've had. Over and over again in this country, like I said, but it's the right thing to do. People need to speak out, not making excuses for this kind of behavior and this violence.

LEMON: So, you said, for killing innocent black people. The prosecutor in this case has suggested there was a racial component to it. Do you believe your grandfather is racist?

LUDWIG: I believe he held holds racist tendencies, beliefs.

LEMON: Why do you say that?

LUDWIG: He's just a stock American Christian male. It's an old era (ph), you know, that's just how they are. It's the conspiracies and the weird random racist things they say. And it doesn't make sense but they're just scared.

LEMON: Listen, you're generalizing a lot here about you said older Christian white males. But what do you mean by that? What do you mean they're scared? Talk to me more, please.

LUDWIG: Yes, just I feel like a lot of people of that generation or caught up in this a 24-hour news cycle of fear and paranoia perpetuated by some other news stations, and he was fully into that, sit and watch Fox News all day, every day, blaring in his living room. And I think that stuff really kind of reinforces this negative view of minority groups and leads people to be alert. [07:15:00]

It doesn't necessarily lead people to be racist, but it reinforces and galvanizes racist people and their beliefs.

LEMON: Now, apparently, correct me if I'm wrong, Klint, you said that your grandfather would say or do things apparently that you did not subscribe to that caused you to distance yourself from him. Say and do things like what?

LUDWIG: That's right. A lot of it was the kind of QAnon level conspiracies about election denying and then they got really weird with some Fauci dogs. I really didn't know what that meant. I pushed back on some of this stuff and he couldn't handle being pushed back on. And at a certain point, we kind of lost touch and I think it was more of his choice than mine.

LEMON: Did he say or do things that you found offensive about minorities or people of color?

LUDWIG: Yes, he would say some things. I think he -- I can't remember exactly now all that happened, but I know he has something about -- I had a really hard take about abortion and how something about black women getting abortions and I didn't know what he was talking about. But I said I don't really want to talk to you about this anymore. This is racist and it's dumb. So, let's move on and I pushed back and he didn't like that either at the time.

LEMON: So, listen, the Kansas City Star also spoke to your brother. Your brother's name is Daniel Ludwig. And he said it seems like a bunch of mistakes in a row that resulted in the tragedy, I mean, a lot of mistakes all the way around. Unfortunately, if you look at the affidavit, there were actions taken that caused my grandpa's side isn't being reported, and he is saying that your grandfather is not racist. He doesn't believe that.

LUDWIG: You can say that. I think he's running defense a little bit. I don't think he sees him for who he is.

LEMON: Did your grandfather have a gun, more weapons in the house?

LUDWIG: They were all over, yes.

LEMON: What do you mean they?

LUDWIG: The guns are all over. They were -- he had him stashed in some spots and had a big locker full of them. And -- but, yes, he was ready to defend his home, as he would say.

LEMON: Considering that the recent history -- I mean, is this a recent history that you found your grandfather? Is that why you pulled away from him? Has he always been this way or is this something new?

LUDWIG: I feel like he's been pretty conservative for a long time, which is fine, but -- and feel like in the last five or six years has really ramped up. He was a huge Trump supporter. And between that and then the galvanizing that people who have been feeling lately with the politicians and ideologues cosigning violence and domestic violence, domestic terrorism, and even pardoning people who murder other people for differing political beliefs, I feel like all that stuff is really ramped up. His beliefs has radicalized him a little bit.

LEMON: I'm just wondering because we have been covering these and there are usually, not always, there are warning signs. Do you feel like the warning signs were there? That's why I asked you if this is something that happened recently.

LUDWIG: Yes, I believe so, the warning signs are there. I wasn't shocked when I heard the news. I believed it.

LEMON: What didn't -- he did live alone?

LUDWIG: Yes. Up until recently, his wife lived there. But, yes, he was living alone at the time.

LEMON: Until recently, his wife lived there. She didn't live there?

LUDWIG: She wasn't there at the time, no.

LEMON: She wasn't there, okay. What message do you have for Ralph Yarl and his family, Klint?

LUDWIG: Yes. I'm proud of you, Ralph. I'm so sorry this happened to you. I understand you're an amazing kid and I think you're going to grow up to be an amazing man and you didn't do anything wrong. The outpouring of support that the country has shown to you, I think, says more than I ever could say. I'm really thankful for Shaun King for making this a national news story, getting them -- and the people getting out on the streets and demanding attention. And, Ralph, you don't deserve to have your life fundamentally changed like you had it and (INAUDIBLE) of justice and my family stands with you.

LEMON: Have you reached out to the Yarls?

LUDWIG: No, I don't really know how. I don't know how to do any of this stuff. So --

LEMON: Well, I think there will make sure that they see this. I just want to know what do you -- what message do you have for your grandfather?


LUDWIG: I really don't know what to say to him. I'm really sad this happened. He didn't need to do this. This didn't have to happen. They didn't need to be scared of a young kid coming to his door and it's absurd. He needs to get his paranoia. And this isn't just for him too, a lot of people in the world. The paranoia and atomizing the society is -- it's going to lead to some really bad stuff. And we're not doing anything to fix it. We're just getting galvanized and staying home alone.

LEMON: Klint Ludwig, thank you for your time. I appreciate it. LUDWIG: Sure. Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you.

HARLOW: Well, coming up on CNN this morning, this. Close call with a Russian missile, a CNN team in Ukraine, Nick Paton Walsh joins us live with actual video of what happened.


LEMON: Well, this morning, Ukrainians living near the front lines of the war taking shelter underground as they listen to the sounds of relentless bombing day and night.


Our very own CNN team got firsthand experience of what the people there must live with every single day when a Russian missile nearly hit them.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh live for us in Central Ukraine with more this morning. Nick, hello, I'm glad you're safe, but I have to ask you, what was that moment like?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, the town of Orikhiv, Don, is sort of in the crosshairs of Russia as it tries to stop a Ukrainian counteroffensive, potentially cut in Crimea off from the rest of Ukraine occupied by Russia. Orikhiv hit by strategic aviation missiles, and we saw ourselves just what that's like for locals when a missile came very close to our armored vehicles.


WALSH (voice over): Close to Ukraine's imminent counteroffensive in the southeast, where Russia has long been brutalizing, pain is commonplace and the damage often everywhere and indiscriminate. The quiet is a blessing that rarely lasts.

We're warned of a missile strike incoming and leave. We can feel the pressure wave from the blast behind armored car. Matt (INAUDIBLE), our producer, is in our second vehicle just past the smoke driver, Igor Madlich (ph) and isn't answering.

The missile landed right between our cars. For ten seconds, we have no idea if they are alive.

Matt, can you hear me?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I can hear you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you guys okay?

WALSH: We're fine. Just leave. Drive out the way we left. We leave together. For so many, that choice of leaving is something imaginary that happens above ground. The only power and water in town are down here.

Life underground here has been hard for quite some time. But it will get harder when the counteroffensive begins pushing certainly in this direction.

If there is space for laughter, it's from this, a screechy slapstick Soviet era comedy about a drunken goofball briefly bending the thickset grimaces here.




WALSH: Guardian angels seem here to flit by in a town where 50 died in the war and 200 were injured. Safety is just a word here and rubble is a place.


WALSH (on camera): Now, that we've seen images of the damage caused by the missile that nearly hit us, a substantial crater, one you see similarly across town near a school for sports that was hit by a strategic airstrike, also to a factory. All of them, it seemed, with very little military utility, according to locals, but part of the relentless bombardment Moscow is putting in place, as they seem to somehow think that might slow down any Ukrainian advance.

We're seeing signs of that in the villages around, Orikhiv, momentum potentially building, no obvious sign. The counteroffensive is underway. But it feels very close, and the uptick in Russian bombardment perhaps a reflection of that, Don.

LEMON: All right. Nick Paton Walsh in Central Ukraine for us this morning. Thank you, Nick. Please be safe.

HARLOW: Yes, remarkable to see.

Meantime, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy laying out his plan to try to get some concessions to raise the debt ceiling. But is it something the Biden administration could get on board with at all? We're going to be joined next by the White House press secretary, Karine Jean- Pierre, next.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: They said they're going to default unless I agree to all these wacko notions they have.